Pounds. Ounces. Measuring cups. Tablespoons. Teaspoons. Since I was a child, I’ve been measuring my life in pieces. I’ve struggled with weight since childhood. And I’m not talking about feeling bloated after a burrito. I’m talking about being obese and weighing more than my father at the age of 12. Life felt so out of control and in pieces that the only thing I knew was to pick up the pieces of life and run really hard.
By the time college came around, I became an expert at running with my hands full of the pieces of my life. It was a time of reinventing myself and shedding my shame and my weight, which interestingly enough, existed in the presence of each other. The obese little girl was a distant memory and the shadow of the girl who strode onto campus conveniently stuffing the broken pieces of her life in a designer book bag.
College was a chance to reinvent myself. No one knew I was an illiterate child who shared a bedroom with my sisters and snuck food into closets while no one was looking. No one knew I was poor or made fun of because of where I lived or the color of my skin. No one knew I witnessed the prejudice against my father and his lingering accent. It was a chance to be who I dreamed of being: perfect.
Never to be thought of as the stupid kid ever again, academic excellence was the bar. From color-coding my notes, study groups, re-writing my notes, and note cards, I was obsessed with academia. If the letter A was an item, it was the hidden treasure I sought out.
But my manic behavior didn’t stop there. I became obsessed with dieting and an allusive number on the scale. I became fixated on controlling every aspect of my life. It was my goal to never be made fun of again and to find clothing that was not in the full-figured women’s section of department stores. Never again would I need to wear a plus-size forest green jumpsuit with elastic waistband and faux gold buttons (aka my Easter outfit circa 1993).
As a grown adult, I can’t even begin to recall how many diets I’ve been on. Seriously, it’s embarrassing. The Orange Peel Diet (boil 30 orange rinds for five hours in two gallons of water and drink the tea for the next 48 hours); The Soup Diet (boil every green vegetable in a cauldron of water and eat it for eight days straight); The Meat Diet (the diabolic travesty of my life); The Vegan Diet (I gained weight); The Liquid Diet (I ran to the restroom every 30 seconds); The Pills-from-Mexico Diet (I not only lost weight, I lost sleep, hair, and control over my sweat glands). Sadly, the list goes on.
Unless you’ve struggled with an addictive or obsessive behavior yourself, it’s difficult to understand the pain. Controlling a diet or eating habits may seem easy to some. You know, just simply put down the food. But someone telling me to stop eating or stop obsessively working out or stop color-coding my notes was like telling the sun not to rise. No matter how hard I tried, it was impossible.
So I held on to control like a cobra grasping its prey. I lost 45 pounds, I had a stellar GPA, I had the best clothes, my work was excellent, my professors loved me, and my scholarships kept coming in. I, I, I. My, my, my. Me, me, me. I had become the captain of the ship, the driver to my destiny, the god of control.
Others probably thought I had my life together, but I knew it was a façade. Deep inside I feared one misstep would cause a trapdoor to open and a massive boulder to fall on my head. One mistake would remove the favor in my life and reveal the frightened girl who simultaneously controlled everything and nothing, and the pieces of my private life would be spilled on the floor for everyone to see.
Here’s the truth: you will have moments where you feel like your life is in pieces.
You know all the pieces once made something beautifully whole, but right now? Right now it feels like puzzle pieces you’re forcing to fit together, but refuse to match, leaving you with what feels like empty holes that feel impossible to fill.
And it’s that empty feeling that drives us to fill what we can with what we know: food.
If you’ve ever wrestled with food or food addiction, you might have found yourself saying:
I feel like I’m missing something.
I want to feel complete.
I feel broken and cracked.
I want to feel whole.
I’m so empty.
If I could stop _____, then I would feel okay.
For women unaware they are addicts to food, suffer from disordered eating, and exercise control of their emotions by binge dieting, I’m here to tell you a sobering truth: we are hungry for things food cannot fill. What feels like hunger pains are actually soul cravings.
And sadly, an empty soul cannot be filled with ice cream.
When food/porn/television/alcohol/sex don’t take the emptiness away (like we believe it will), the belief is more will make it better…
One more serving of food
One more hour of work
One more drink
One more episode
The completion of your life isn’t going to be filled binging, purging, or withholding. The broken pieces of our life are only made whole and complete through the love of Jesus. Paul the Apostle wrote to the Colossians and reminded them that in Him you have been made complete (Colossians 2:10). Our desires claim to satisfy us, but only God can make us full. Why? Because food isn’t the real problem, emptiness is.
Jesus has come to life and life to the FULLEST (John 10:10). I wish there was a magic pill I could give you or some new simple answer to those of us who struggle with disordered eating. But this is what I’m learning and want to share with you.
We need to find fullness in God before we feel the fullness of food.
We will mess up and make mistakes. But know this:
No matter what your past holds, it can’t hold you.
You are not who you are when you are weak.
You are not who you are when you fail.
You are not who you are when you sin.
You are a child of the Most High God.
As you begin to put the pieces of your life and issues with food back into place, let me encourage you that being made whole is not only possible, it’s the essence of who Jesus is and what He came to do.
Jesus came to make us whole. Jesus can make us complete. When God looks at you He does not see you in the weakness of your failures, but in the fullness of His purpose He picks you up and reminds you to keep going.
This post was taken from our LO sister workshop: “The Powerful Workshop”! To learn more from Bianca, Shelley Giglio, Alex Seeley, and more (all include video teaching from each contributor!), click HERE and join our community today!
As both a pastor and author who has been in ministry for more than 20 years, Bianca inspires people to live with passion. Her leadership at The Father’s House Orange County has allowed her church to reach people all over the world. As the founder and president of the nonprofit, In The Name of Love, she is committed to serving the incarcerated and equipping them to discover freedom despite their surroundings.
Bianca describes herself as a passionate, Jesus-loving, Bible-teaching, book-writing MexiRican. Experience her energy in her best-selling book, Play with Fire and her most recent book, How to Have Your Life Not Suck: Becoming Today Who You Want to Be Tomorrow, which explores how to win at work and navigate through life’s many decisions.
For many years, I struggled to believe that God had made me beautiful. As I got older, I became increasingly uncomfortable with my changing body. I was an Italian girl growing up in Australia, where most of the girls were blonde and blue-eyed. For some reason, those features were prettier to me. I had thick, curly black hair that, when I let it out, made me look like a wild woman with unruly hair. Combing out those tangles was a nightmare. I used to stare at the mirror and tell myself how ugly I was and pull my hair out from the roots to punish myself.
I remember wishing someone would break my nose, so I would have an excuse to have a rhinoplasty. I was already feeling awkward in my preteen body, but to add insult to injury, my mum would often say, “Be careful not to eat too much; it will make you large and unattractive.” Wow! Just like that, Satan’s lie began to stain my mind. I vowed to never let myself get big, because I was convinced I would be unacceptable and unlovable if I did.
I believed Satan’s lie. He said if I could make the outside of my body perfect, then I would be acceptable to those around me. Preoccupied with how perfect my body needed to be, I became obsessed with what I ate and how I could reverse what I had just eaten. For years, I struggled with my body image. There were times I would be in conversation with people and look as if I were listening, when in fact, I was mentally calculating calories and planning a new strategy of starvation. The thinner I was, the more affirmation I received from those around me. I became addicted to the verbal affirmation about my outward appearance, which fueled the eating disorder that dictated my life. I was so starved for affirmation and validation that I starved my physical body to obtain what I thought would bring me joy. But it was exhausting and never brought me the security I was longing for.
Why do we try to reach an unattainable goal of outward perfection? Because somewhere along the way, we have bought into Satan’s lie that our bodies are flawed and that in order to be loved, we need to make our bodies look perfect. Plastic surgeons are laughing all the way to the bank because of this very lie. Many people are unhappy with their exterior and truly believe if they can look a certain way, then they will be fulfilled.
During those years I certainly was not happy with the way I looked. I had a long list of issues with how God made me. I thought my design was flawed and wondered why God made me unattractive and other girls beautiful. I was so focused on the exterior that I missed the fact that God had tailor-made me from the inside out—and that what He made was very good because He doesn’t make mistakes.
God designed me to be unique from the other girls, not to conform to the one- size-fits-all ideal that Satan tries to deceive us into thinking we must achieve. However, all I cared about was what I was supposed to look like according to what the girls in my classroom and the magazines said I should look like. It made perfect sense in my mind that if I somehow achieved physical beauty on the outside, then my life would automatically be beautiful on the inside and all my problems would dissolve.
What I didn’t realize while growing up was that I was broken and bruised on the inside—which was why I felt so ugly on the outside. Until I came to the realization that God needed to come into my heart and fix what was broken, I was continually chasing a false reality of outward perfection.
So, for years I struggled with rejection and body image issues. I rationalized and justified my behavior, unwilling to admit what was really going on. I hid behind lies and excuses for my eating disorder because I was afraid that if I shared the truth with anyone, they would reject and judge me. I couldn’t bear the possibility of being rejected again. I lived in constant turmoil. I tried in my own way to be free, but I couldn’t seem to gain freedom in the areas of body image and acceptance. I would stare at myself in the mirror, spewing words over myself: “You’re disgusting.” “You’re fat.” “How can anyone even stand to look at you?” On and on went the verbal abuse.
My heart was so wounded by the words that had been spoken over me as a child that I continually reinforced every word about how ugly I was. I put on a fantastic façade, one that could have earned me an Oscar. I convinced everyone around me that I was free when I really wasn’t.
It took me surrendering my whole heart to Jesus and allowing Him to come in and heal the most vulnerable places. Once I allowed Jesus to reveal the core wound and allow Him to heal it, I received healing in a place in my heart that I had not allowed anyone to visit. I realized if a God who is so big and powerful
took the time to be so detailed in creating me, then I have no excuse to be anything but glorious for Him—for I was fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. I discovered that I was good enough as me. It was as if I became a new person, but I was actually just discovering myself—finally. I had thrown out all the junk that had piled on top of who I was born to be. The clutter had been in the way, burying who I was.
Piece by piece, Jesus removed the debris I had accumulated over the years. Every lie I believed about myself was lifted, and I discovered a pot of gold that had always been living inside of me buried deep down. I discovered that I was valuable. I discovered that I was creative and intelligent. I discovered that people loved being around me. I discovered that I had a unique sense of style. I finally saw that Alex was a good person. Everything started to change. I wore what I wanted. I ate what I wanted. I did what I liked for the first time in years, and I didn’t care what anyone thought.
I began to allow God’s voice to become the loudest voice in my heart. After many layers of healing, I had to go through the grieving process of all those years that felt wasted because of my insecurities. When I look back at photos of myself during that season, it’s astounding to see the difference between then and now. I look older and so very sad in those old pictures. I now love who I am and know that I was born to leave a mark that no one else but me can leave.
I can’t believe I used to feel so ugly; I can’t believe I allowed those feelings to skew my ability to trust deeply because I was afraid that those who came close could potentially hurt me. Then I began to see myself how God sees me. I allowed God to heal my heart. By yielding to Him, I entered the process of being transformed into a beautiful daughter who found her security and identity in belonging to my heavenly Father, which has helped me rise above all insecurity and fear.
This post was taken from our LO sister workshop: “The Powerful Workshop”! To learn more from Alex, Shelley Giglio, Bianca Olthoff, and more (all include video teaching from each contributor!), click HERE and join our community today!
Alex is a passionate communicator and teacher of the Word. Possessing a unique ability to reveal how the Word of God is applicable to our everyday lives, Alex shares openly about how the power of God has proven real in her own life. Known for her boldness and tenacity, you’ll love the way Jesus shines through her. Born and raised in Australia, Alex served as an Executive Pastor at a church in Melbourne for nearly 20 years.
Having relocated with her family to Nashville in 2012, Alex and her husband Henry, began to open their home on Tuesday nights. Their heart was for people to worship, encounter God and build genuine community in a city where people’s personal and spiritual lives often succumb to the transient nature of ‘life on the road’. By February 2014, their basement was filled to capacity and as a result The Belonging Co. church was born. The vision of the Belonging Co. is for people to experience Jesus in an authentic way that affects every area of their life. Encounter over entertainment, intimacy over industry and presence over presentation continues to be the mandate for the church.
As Senior Pastors of the Belonging Co., Alex and Henry call Nashville home where they live with their two children, Holly and Taylor.
Note from Team LO: We are SO excited to bring you this month’s post from our LO sister member, Emily Whatley! If you want to be a part of this incredible community, you can join today and get your first week FREE! Find out more about this online sisterhood HERE. And for more info about what LO sister is all about, visit our Instagram Page!
Now, enjoy today’s post from Emily 🙂
If you were to ask me this time last year if I struggled with depression, my mouth would have told you no. But if I had been honest with myself and those around me, I would’ve said that I had been depressed for a while and had shoved it deep down, that it had always been a part of who I was and had just become normal. There are moments in my life where I can pinpoint where I was really struggling yet decided to ignore it, but it wasn’t until this past winter that it had gotten to a point where I couldn’t push it away any longer and was able to let my mouth say,
“yes, and I need help”
Today, a year later, I can thankfully say that I am in the best mental state I have been in a long time and am the best version of myself both physically, mentally, and spiritually. There’s so much I want to and will share about what I’ve learned to get there where I am today, but I know the #1 reason that I was able to get better is because I sought out help, both from a counselor and most importantly God. Through seeking help, I’ve been able to process my feelings better and learn ways to cope and handle my thoughts, and through seeking the Lord, I have been able to learn so much about what it means to have joy, a deep-rooted happiness in the Lord.
This summer I got the opportunity to work as a camp counselor, and during pre-camp, we were asked to pick a word to focus on during our time at camp. Immediately, I knew my word would be JOY. Not because it was a small word and would easily fit on a bracelet we would make the next week, but because I knew that there were going to be days this summer that were long, hard, tough, and exhausting. And for me to do my job well and continue to keep myself well, I needed to have joy and a renewed strength to get through each and every day.
“Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” (Nehemiah 8:10)
The Bible says in Nehemiah that “the joy of the Lord is your strength”. That when we have joy, we can be strong. I’ve always looked at this verse as that, where if I’m happy in the Lord then I’ll find strength. But I think there’s so much more to it than it being that simple. Because to find strength, we have to recognize that we are weak. We have to see that we can’t do something on our own and have to find this inner power to push through and press on. And I think it’s the same way in our day to day lives. That when we understand that we’re tired and need help to put on a brave face, that we’re drained and need someone to give us the willpower to make it to the end of the day, someone who can give us a joy and strength that we cannot experience ourselves.
It took me a while to get to this point myself. For so long, I tried to hide my feelings and do everything in my own strength. I was the one who had to be strong, to take care of myself, to keep moving while hurting so deeply inside. But my feelings had become so strong that they were too big to ignore anymore, and my every day life was being affected. I knew I needed help but kept telling myself that I wasn’t that bad off and would get over it soon. But once I admitted I wasn’t okay and sought out help, God was able to transform my mind and give me a strength that can only be found when we are fully happy in Him. And when we’re able to find joy and escape the sadness, it’s not just something we keep inside; joy flows from the inside out for those around us to see! I wanted to picked joy as my word this summer because I never thought I was good at showing it and needed to work on it, but it ended up being something I was defined by because it had become a part of who I was. I realized that I needed help each and every day of my life, and in realizing my weakness, I was able to find joy and be strong.
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
There are so many long, hard, tough, and exhausting days in life. We all can agree that life is not always sunshines and rainbows. And on those difficult days, we try to ignore our feelings, putting walls up and forcing a smile on our face so that we can be strong. But when we do this, we only leave ourselves more hurt than we were before. When we humble ourselves and seek help, understand that we sometimes can’t do things on our own, and realize that when we are weak He is our strength, we can find this deep-rooted happiness in the Lord because we know that He is all we have and all we will ever need. And that is when we truly will be strong.
If you are struggling with mental health, know that you are not alone. There are many people who feel what you’re feeling and understand exactly what you’re going through. But most importantly, know that God will never leave you nor forsake you, and that you too can find joy and strength in Him.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:20-21
Although I never heard “God will be disappointed in you if you don’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps” in a sermon ~ at least not verbatim ~ I’d seen it demonstrated so often by adults around me that by the time I was in the first grade the scaffolding of my budding theology included a misplaced admiration for self-sufficiency and false optimism. I sincerely thought sad = bad. So, I learned how to wear a happy expression and speak with a happy inflection even when sorrow or fear were lurking beneath my emotional surface like Great White sharks in a cold, dark sea.
Of course, sometimes emotional predators aren’t content to slink around without biting. Which happened when I was sophomore in high school and the migraines I’d been having for a year or two worsened to point of causing me to have blackouts and get violently sick every couple of weeks. After I lost consciousness at track practice one afternoon, mom raced me to a neurologist who immediately had me admitted to a hospital because I had multiple symptoms of a brain tumor.
Fortunately, after several days and a battery of tests, I was diagnosed as having a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid behind my optic nerve, not a brain tumor or anything life threatening. Other than dealing with the awkwardness of several relatives sobbing uncontrollably in my hospital room after hovering outside the doorway and talking with mom in hushed tones (my family isn’t always adept at dealing with grief, but we are quite gifted at drama), my teenage medical issues were a minor hiccup.
I’d all but forgotten about that hospital stay until I was in my early forties and my counselor and I were excavating some of the bigger hills of my adolescence when I remembered an alarming, thoroughly-dismissed-at-the-time, symptom from that long ago health scare. I recalled it vividly because I’d heard Mom tell this story numerous times. While I was in the hospital a child psychiatrist met with me ~ as part of their normal protocol at the time when treating a minor ~ to ascertain whether he thought there were any signs of child abuse.
Following our two-hour visit, he sat down with Mom to go over his evaluation. Once he explained that he found no signs of physical abuse or psychosis, he closed my file, took off his glasses, rubbed the bridge of his nose and said soberly, “Lisa is either the most happy, well-adjusted child I’ve ever met in my life or she’s in deep emotional pain.” Every time my dear mama got to the end of that story at a family gathering or while chatting up a grocery store clerk or a saleslady at the make-up counter in the mall, her voice would rise triumphantly because she regarded the psychiatrist’s statement as proof that I actually was the happiest, most well-adjusted child in the history of the universe.
It took me two and a half decades to realize that compassionate doctor was trying to tell Mom that I was a pretty little liar. That my mirth was mostly a mirage. And while young adulthood brought with it the growing awareness that the painful knots in my soul stemmed from childhood wounds ~ my parents had a very acrimonious divorce, and I was sexually molested by several different men after Dad left our family ~ I had no idea how to deal with them. So, when I graduated from college, took a job in youth ministry and became a “professional” Christian, I felt like I had no choice but to suppress my vulnerability and pretend like everything was okay. Eventually I became a master happy doppelgänger.
You’ve probably heard the platitude “Fake it til’ you make it” and perhaps like me, adopted it as a strategy to survive difficult seasons. But I can promise you from decades of personal experience that the only thing faking makes is more of an emotional mess. Much like that old-school arcade game, Whack-a-Mole, pretending you don’t feel something doesn’t get rid of it. Instead, like those pesky moles, pushing what we perceive to be sad, bad, scary or shameful deeper into the recesses of our hearts and minds causes other problems to pop out. Things like insincerity and isolation and depression and the inability to experience true intimacy with others and with God. Pretense may effectively camouflage our true feelings for a season but ultimately it only serves to exacerbate our ache.
Trusting in God’s compassionate sovereignty means hiking up the hills and down into the valleys of life all while hanging onto the firm belief that ultimately everything will work out for our good and His glory. Faith in the immutable kindness of our Creator Redeemer eliminates the need for a facade. It means that like Job, we learn to shoulder disappointments, grief and loss honestly…with hearts tender enough to be broken and worship pure enough to remain intact. It means realizing that in the economy of Glory, scars can actually become beauty marks.
Speaking of scars, I got to hang out with Wonder Woman recently. Well, not Wonder Woman exactly. Her name is Lori, not Gal Gadot. But she’s incredibly brave despite her lack of knee-high red boots and a cape. Because Lori just passed the three-month mark of being clean from methamphetamines after an eight-year addiction that culminated in a conviction for illegal drug possession and armed robbery charges.
Unlike most of the women I meet at The Next Door (a faith-based program in Nashville that provides recovery support services for women conquering their addictions to alcohol and drugs), Lori looks younger than her age of twenty-three. The first time we met she was wearing a hoodie with a popular logo emblazoned on the front, torn jeans, and metallic nail polish. If I’d seen her strolling through the mall or giggling with her girlfriends at Starbucks, I would’ve assumed she was a happy-go-lucky college student. It wasn’t until she pushed up the sleeves of her sweatshirt, and I noticed the ragged scars from shooting up, that the tragic reality of her former life became apparent.
Because I’ve had the privilege of volunteering with several addiction-recovery programs, much of Lori’s story is sadly familiar. She grew up in a very poor family in a very small town. One of her parents moonlighted as a mean-spirited bully, who claimed to be “knocking the stupid out of her” when smacking Lori around. Of course, she wasn’t stupid at all. Despite the regular beatings she endured at home, Lori excelled in school. She made the honor roll and the cheerleading squad. After putting her hope in the unconditional love of Jesus Christ at a youth rally, she also became an outspoken Christian leader on campus. However, when her parents divorced and she became the sole possession of her abuser, Lori’s world caved in. She eventually ran away from home and moved in with her boyfriend. He introduced her to meth, which numbed the searing pain of the compound fractures in her heart. And the rest, as they say, is history. Horrible, awful, gut-wrenching history.
That is until God intervened with a team of federal agents wearing flak jackets. Lori’s voice brightened when she got to the part in her story where those law enforcement officers burst into her trailer to arrest her. She looked up at me through her bangs and grinned. Then she proclaimed with genuine gratitude, “Miss Lisa, I know God ordained the exact timing of my drug bust, because I’d planned to commit suicide that afternoon. If those cops hadn’t come when they did, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.”
The older I get the more convinced I am that admittedly flawed sinners are the most credible witnesses of the Gospel, because blemished believers can’t fake moral superiority. Our scars make it glaringly apparent that we couldn’t protect ourselves from harm.
Authentic Christ followers with scabby knees, bruised hearts, and even track-marked arms, who sometimes stumble yet always grab onto the arm of His Spirit in order to stand up again, exemplify the redemptive power of divine grace. We prove how miraculous and restorative the love of God really is. We know we can’t make it by ourselves and can only keep it together because of the amazing grace Jesus provided for us through His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection! And with a Prince like that who needs pretense?
“On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars.” Brennan Manning
Lisa Harper is an engaging, hilarious communicator as well as an authentic and substantive Bible teacher that many enjoy hearing in person, or on countless TV and radio platforms. She holds a Master of Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, and a doctorate-in-progress at Denver Seminary. She’s been in vocational ministry for thirty years and has written fifteen books and Bible study curriculums but says her greatest accomplishment by far is that of becoming Missy’s (her adopted daughter from Haiti) mama! They live on a hilly farmette south of Nashville, Tennessee, where they enjoy eating copious amounts of chips, queso, and guacamole.
In her new devotional, LIFE: An Obsessively Grateful, Undone by Jesus, Genuinely Happy, and not Faking it Through the Hard Stuff Kind of 100-Day Devotional (B&H, Feb. 9, 2021), Lisa provides readers with a deep exploration of Scripture that proves God’s grace is more than sufficient for both the massive and minuscule things in life.
Whether we deal with personal loss, ongoing trauma, global crisis, or simply a super bad hair day, the Gospel is more than enough to handle every single thing. LIFE reminds us that God’s faithfulness really does follow us into all the difficult, painful, crazy, and even humorous moments of our every day.
“Whether you’re having a great day or a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad one, the lavish and always-accessible affection of our Heavenly Father enables us to hang onto authentic peace, hope and joy and rest securely in his embrace!” – Lisa Harper.
Visit https://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/life-devotional/ for more information on LIFE!
One November, I received a very meaningful birthday gift from my sister-in-law Kristin, a trusted soul in my life. She had been walking closely with me during a very difficult winter of my soul that year. It had been a season of great disappointment for me, one that included some heartbreaking hardship in some relationships that were very dear to me. Kristin’s gift to me that day was a potted amaryllis bulb accompanied by a beautiful, life-changing letter which God used in a powerful way to help me see all that He had purposed, even in my pain. Her letter read, in part:
We have this common thread in our family—we’re drawn to the rich symbolism we find in the beauty of God-created things, like trees, vines and blooms. The way that a tree takes root, the way that a branch is nourished from the vine, the way beautiful things need necessary tending to bring forth more beauty.
We love the marking of seasons and how we can trust that God is working in ways we cannot see. We know that every season is named with purpose. A season of sowing brings forth a season of harvest, just as the harsh cold of winter brings a season of dying—a necessary bridge to new life. The winter is beautiful under its blanket of white but it is cold and harsh to the living thing determined to grow. Everyone knows that the season for blooming is in the warmth of spring. Its gentle breezes and warm sun send a message to a sleeping world that all things are becoming new.
It would take great courage to bloom in the bitterness of winter.
But there are the rare and beautiful treasures that choose to grow when the conditions are the darkest. In the bleakness of winter, the Amaryllis will spring up, pushing through the soil, displaying the beauty it was created to share.
Sure, it would be easier to wait until the comfort of spring. But the Amaryllis bulb knows it cannot wait. It does not bloom because the conditions are perfect, in fact, the conditions are counter-intuitive to new life. The Amaryllis blooms in winter, even still. It will not look to the world around it and depend on it for nurturing or care. It will instead, obey the world within it and become exactly what it was created to be. To bear the image of the beauty inside itself, set there by a Creator, not bound by time or season.
The letter went on to tell me that my family would be praying “amaryllis prayers” for me, asking that I, too, would have the courage to bloom in winter. I realized in that moment that I had allowed my frozen, fragile state to render me ineffective. To keep me hiding until warmer, brighter days unfolded. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of God and the kindness of His treasured people to help me remember that stunning beauty can rise from even the most devastating winters of our lives. Even a “winter” as brutal as the year 2020!
I waited with such anticipation for something, anything, to break through the soil of that ceramic pot. Finally, one day a tiny, green shoot pushed up. As I watched it grow taller and taller and gloriously bloom, I found myself pondering Jesus more than ever. He certainly didn’t arrive when conditions were perfect. In fact, He arrived in the midst of a silence and a winter that the world had never known—four hundred years of silence, without a word from God. “And when it seemed like we’d never see Spring, Heaven gave a King.” Yes, He arrived when the world least expected it, pushing through the hardness of “winter” on our behalf. His love broke through so that we, too, could have breakthrough.
Beloved, I wonder if even now, God is calling out to you to come awake and bloom! To take your place in all that God has prepared for you, and to lead others to awaken too! He has and always will be the life you long for. No matter how dark and bleak your current season may be, you, too, can bloom with the brilliance of summer—right in the middle of winter.
Christy Nockels is a worship leader and singer-songwriter with a passion for writing and speaking. Her podcast, The Glorious in the Mundane, inspires listeners to see both their big dreams and the seemingly small things in a whole different way. The Life You Long For (WaterBrook, Feb. 16, 2021) is Nockel’s debut book. Nockels has released three albums on the independent label Keeper’s Branch Records. Previously, she toured nationwide with her husband, Nathan, as the duo Watermark, recording seven #1 radio singles and five acclaimed albums. The two also have participated in Passion Conferences since their inception.
Adapted from The Life You Long For: Learning to Live from a Heart of Rest. Copyright © 2021 by Christy Nockels. Used by permission of Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC. Amaryllis Prayer Letter by Kristin Hill.
About the book:
In The Life You Long For, Christy shows us how to let go of hustle and achievement and instead find our identity in the quiet center of God’s love. As we delight in being with Him, we are filled to overflowing with contentment and love that propel us into an entirely new way of being, one in which every act of service and every encounter with the people around us arise from a heart at rest.
With irresistible warmth and grace, this book calls you to step fully into the life you didn’t even realize you’ve been seeking, as you find your highest calling not in a duty to uphold but in a beautiful identity to live out.
For more information on Christy and her book, please visit www.christynockels.com
At 23 years old – Making it to the final four of CBS’ Survivor the Australian Outback was something I never expected. Thirty-nine days in the wilderness brought me to a place of weakness, and ultimately made me answer the question: “Do I trust God in the dark?”
In a place where crocodiles came out at night, nine out of the ten deadliest snakes in the world resided, and spiders were just about everywhere—Do I trust God in the dark?
In the uncertain terrain, amidst uncertain tasks, with uncertain tangible provisions, and surrounded by an uncertain and ever-changing environment—Do I really trust that God in the dark?
In the dark… is where God builds trust.
Sometimes the dark has been a long Australian night, with wet socks and a cold hard ground. Sometimes the dark has been the waiting through the first four years of our marriage for our first baby to be born. Other times, the dark has been a knock at the door, when the producer of The View and an ABC executive informed me that they were not renewing my contract. That my decade long job was no longer… mine.
A moment – being fired- that felt dark enough that even the bright lights of my office made it hard to see and find my inhaler. A moment that enveloped me with shock, asthma, and betrayal all stealing my wind, and my ability to see what could be next.
Yet even in the dark- God allowed some light.
“I’m really thankful for all the years here.”
Gratitude. Like a flashlight in the dark.
I remember feeling thankful. Then confusion. “Why? What could I have done? Was there something I could have done differently? Can I do something differently now? If you would just tell me, I would work on that—and make it better.”
I would have done just about anything to get my job back.
I sat alone in my office for about an hour and a half sobbing, just sobbing. Feeling a dose of betrayal and a whopper of confusion, I felt like the walls of the building were folding in on me. More dark. Why would God let me be here just to fail?? Or just to work so hard to have it taken away?
Perhaps what hit me hardest was this truth: It is almost always impossible to get back what is not yours to begin with.
The day I heard that The View would not renew my contract, my career world fell apart, and it fell apart because it was mine. That was the problem. It was not all mine, but it certainly was not all His yet. That would require surrender. And surrender was not something I knew how to do yet.
God used that time after The View released me to instruct me in not alliance (reliance on others) and in not me-liance (reliance on myself) but in total reliance on Him. Even in the dark.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
All circumstances? I asked myself. Yes, that is what God was instructing. So I gave it a try. I prayed—deeply. I prayed thanks, thanking God for the chance to work at The View, thanking Him for His provision, thanking Him in advance for the next job He would have for me, praying again that I could keep going into work as long as He wanted me in that building, and asking Him to help me stay joyful even in the midst of a storm.
He was my portion. The idea of daily bread became impressed upon my heart. God, give me just enough to get through this day. But not so much that I don’t need You.
He did just that. Because He is my enough.
When I walked through the halls of ABC with my head down, God lifted it up and held it high. Psalm 3:3 became so real to me: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”
But at home, our kids saw a mommy who was sad, confused, disappointed, and rejected.
But they did not see me dejected.
What is clear to me now is that in those moments of weakness, my kids were able to see resilience in me and to realize that things don’t always go your way. In the weeks that followed, they witnessed me choose to trust that God was working for me, even when I had no work. Even when it felt dim. And when the answer to prayer seemed like a “no”. They saw Mommy choose to see things through a thankful lens when I could, and they saw how that got me through this time. And over time, they saw me move from being fired to being inspired. We learned together that leaving well requires an attitude of gratitude. That gratitude brought into sight the “good” in goodbye.
The lesson of recovering well from losing my seat on The View was valuable not only for me, but also for our kids. They got a front row seat to see how we can respond when difficult times come. After all, if we as adults are trying to trust God in the dark, certainly the kids in this world are, too.
After some time, it became clear to me that our family needed a place to let out our worries hopes and fears—in an adventure of hope! A sweet young friend named Caroline, asked me one day if I wanted to see her wall. We climbed some steps up to her family prayer wall – and through her courage to show me her wall- I made one in our home! For our family we began using flashlights to go back to our thoughts and hopes and prayers and names on the wall and shine our “flashlight on” where we see God working, and click our “flashlight off” where we don’t see God working, but trust Him in the waiting. Saying this out loud reaffirms that we do not always get to see- but we always can trust because God is always there!
Whether you are a mom or dad or aunt or uncle or big sister or brother or cousin or friend to a little one, those kids are growing up, and their eyes are on us. They’re watching to see how we handle the dark. How real we can be with God.
Flashlight Night: An Adventure in Trusting God invites kids to join in the fun of sharing all that is on their hearts—on a wall or on the inside cover of this book—an adventure that lets us be honest with God and say-
“Sometimes we see God’s yes, and other times we don’t, but just because it has not happened doesn’t mean it won’t.”
What if the best way we can love the little ones in our lives who carry big worries is to give them a place to be real with God.
What if this adventure in trusting God opened the door for real conversations and allowed us to see what is on their little hearts? And what if they saw us waiting and trusting in the dark, too?
Our prayer is that Flashlight Night will be a story your special little ones absolutely love and that it will offer a way of giving their worries up to God even when it feels dark—trusting that He is there, even in the waiting.
We hope that Flashlight Night makes hope fun and teaches that trust and adventure are worth taking for the hearts of the little ones you love!
Elisabeth Hasselbeck is a Daytime Emmy Award winner and former cohost with The View and Fox & Friends. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller The G-Free Diet, the gluten-free cookbook Deliciously G-Free, and Point of View: A Fresh Look at Work, Faith, and Freedom, as well as the creator of NoGii all-natural, gluten-free protein bars. She and her husband, ESPN/NFL correspondent and former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck, live in Nashville, Tennessee, with their three children, Grace, Taylor, and Isaiah.
Flashlight Night reminds children and parents that we don’t have to hope alone. Our kids don’t have to keep their worries inside and carry them around all day. It’s ok to be honest with God about where we don’t see Him working – but trust that He is.
Follow Elisabeth on Instagram @elisabethhasselbeck