You are Where You are Meant to Be

Recovering from an eating disorder is without a doubt the most difficult challenge those who struggle will ever face. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and unfortunately, the statistic does not seem as if it is going to disappear any time soon. Please allow me to share with you a few more statistics surrounding eating disorders, so that you may understand just how difficult it is to overcome such a disorder.

More than 30 million people in the United States will suffer from an eating disorder.

One in five anorexia deaths is by suicide.

The rate of children under 12 being admitted to a hospital for eating disorders rose 119% in the last decade.

As of 2020, 70% of those who suffer with eating disorders will not seek treatment due to stigma.

Why am I sharing these statistics with you, you may wonder?

First, it is for my fellow sisters in recovery, to say this: I am so proud of you, and you should be, too.

Every time you choose recovery over your eating disorder, you are winning the battle against becoming another statistic, and you should be so proud of yourself for choosing life. When I was first released from my two-year long stint of being in and out of treatment centers, I would often look at my family and friends around me and feel a sting of jealousy. In comparing myself to them, I found that I did not quite measure up because of where I was in my life. While many of them had undergraduate and graduate degrees, I barely had finished my general education courses. While many of them were married with children on the way, I could barely trust myself in a relationship, much less another person. While many of them were solid in their careers, I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. I would look at my life during my eating disorder, and regret the decisions I made and the opportunities I did or did not take due to my illness. I thought to myself, “If I had not struggled with my eating disorder, or had not taken the time to seek help, I could be where they are, too.” It was an all-encompassing feeling, overwhelming to say the least, and extremely discouraging.

I look back on that point in my life and think to myself, “If I only knew what were ahead.”

Through my journey of recovery and healing, I soon became the person I was always meant to be. I became strong, confrontational, willing, and motivated. I ended up discovering aspects of myself I never even knew existed prior to my recovery, which lead me on a path of meaningful discovery. I became closer to my family, found out who my true friends were, and discovered that career and passion can go hand-in-hand. I learned to use my past struggles to help other people, which turned out to be extremely rewarding, and also gave me a sense of purpose.

If I had never struggled with my eating disorder, or taken the time to seek help for it, I would 100% not be where I am today. Now, is my life perfect? Absolutely not. Am I still figuring things out? Absolutely yes. The difference now, however, is that I have a sense of where I am going because I know who I really am outside of my eating disorder.

They say that comparison is the thief of joy, and I have never found a sentence to be more true. Every person on this planet has a different path in life, filled with different struggles. Do not for one minute think that you are less than another person because they seem to have everything you want in life.

Think about this for a moment: if you had everything you wanted in life, but were still struggling with your eating disorder, would you be happy? Really, truly happy? I am going to go ahead and say no. So, please do not ever feel ashamed for your struggle or for taking time to heal. As I mentioned earlier, recovering from a mental illness is a huge challenge, and if you are actively seeking recovery, you are succeeding in every aspect of the word. You are a strong, incredible human being worthy of every dream, passion, and adventure you desire, and you will get there. I believe in you, and you should too.

This brings me to a point I would like to make to the loved ones of those who have struggled or are struggling with an eating disorder: please do not undermine the recovery process. It is so much more difficult to heal when loved ones are constantly asking “So, when do you graduate? Do you have a boyfriend yet? Did you get a new job? What does your future hold?” Recovery is overwhelming as it is. Most of the time, we are just trying to figure out what we are going to eat for dinner. Your loved one will get there in time. Please be patient with them, and do not push an agenda.

There is no stronger feeling than regret. Do not let yourself go there. Your eating disorder was not your choice, but your decision to choose recovery is. However long it takes to get there is worth it, for a fulfilling life filled with light, love, and joy is truly worth the wait. You are where you are meant to be at this moment in time. Have faith in that, and most importantly, in yourself.

“Have faith in your journey. Everything had to happen exactly as it did to get where you are going next.”

Links to My Articles

Hi Friends,

Many of you know that, along with theatre, I am also a journalist. Well, almost. I am in school (almost finished) for journalism and political science. This past semester, I was given the reporting beat of Student Health Services, The College of Medicine, and the College of Nursing at UCF. I wanted to post all of the articles I have written on this page. I will continue to post articles written by me on here as well, so please check them out when I do!

Spring 2020:

UCF’s Collegiate Recovery Community Provides Students with a Place to Go

UCF Student Looks to Change the Way Eating Disorders are Handled on Campus

UCF’s Vice President of Medical Affairs: A Distinguished Woman and Lawyer

UCF, Local Healthcare Providers Switch to Telehealth Appointments Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

College of Nursing Dean Releases Statement about New Plan for Nursing Students

Student Health Services Remains Open, Provides COVID-19 Testing

Fall 2019:

UCF Consent Workshop Informs Students about their Rights

The Meaning of Easter

When I was young, I loved Easter.

I loved the Easter bunny, I loved receiving an Easter basket, and I loved getting dressed up in fancy white dresses and going to church. Of course, back then, I did not really understand the meaning of Easter, but I loved it as if I did.

As I grew older, the Easter bunny and baskets faded, but the dressing  up and going to church did not. Still, I did not quite understand Easter. Yes, I understood that Jesus died on the cross, rose from the dead, and defeated death and destruction in the process. To me, that was really cool stuff, but how exactly did it relate to me personally?

See, when I was a teenager, I was more of a “fan” of Jesus rather than a “follower” of Jesus. I accepted Christ into my life when I was seven, I read my Bible and my devotionals, and I went to church, but more so because it was what I had always done rather than something I wanted to do. I understood the “To Do List” of Christianity, but not the relationship aspect of Christianity. I did not come to understand that part until after I graduated high school.

When I graduated high school, I moved to Orlando, Florida and discovered my now-church, Mosaic. Mosaic really guided me into discovering what a relationship with Jesus looks like, and as I began to grow in my relationship with Christ, I began to fully understand the true meaning of Easter.

Now, in my early 20’s, I had some very rough patches of life. If you know my testimony, you know what I am referring to, and if you do not, just know that I really struggled with my flesh for a good portion of time. There was a point in my life where I truly gave up. I truly felt the reality of brokenness, and I had two options: run towards Jesus, or run away from Him. I chose to run to Him, and it took me recognizing how broken I was to do so. When I did, however, my life changed in every aspect of the word.

Did some miracle occur and I became a perfect human? Absolutely not. Did I feel Jesus enter into my life and change my actions because of it? Absolutely so.

What I felt when I re-entered into a relationship with Jesus was a release of guilt and shame from a troubled past and an overwhelming sense of forgiveness. He saved me from myself when I had no where else to go. He did not judge me or chastise me for what I had done. He said “It does not matter, I am here.”

That is what the cross represents. He took up our sin and put it on Himself. He sacrificed His throne in Heaven to come live life on a fallen earth as a poor carpenter. To minister to the poor, the prostitutes, and the tax collectors. He defied the Religious leaders of the time to love those that they deemed unworthy. He did all of this only to be falsely accused, arrested, beaten, and killed on a cross while the Romans mocked and spit on Him. When He cried out “Father, why have you forsaken me,” He truly felt that His Father had left Him there. And yet, He did not call upon angels to save Him. Why?

Because He saw us. He saw you, He saw me, and He deemed us worthy.

Three days later, He beat the enemy by resurrecting from the grave. When He ascended into Heaven, He sent us His Spirit to guide us in this life. He taught us to love others the way He loved us first. He taught us to fight for the broken and see those we deem as unworthy as worthy.

Jesus is Love, and Love is the most powerful and meaningful language. It connects us all, no matter what we look like or where we come from. He saved us because He loved us, and it is now our job to go out into the world and do the same.

That is the meaning of Easter.

“Now, death, where is your sting? Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated.”

 

Happy NEDA Week!

Happy NEDA Week!

For those of you who do not know, this week is the National Eating Disorders Association Week, working to bring awareness to eating disorders all around the globe.

There was a time in my life when I would have rolled my eyes at the thought of NEDA week. “How dumb,” my Eating Disorder would say.

Three years living in recovery, I no longer feel resistance towards a week that claims victory against my disease. Instead, I celebrate it.

Let me tell you why.

As many of you know, for twelve years, I struggled with anorexia nervosa. It started when I was 10, until it lost control over my life when I surrendered to my recovery at age 22.

I will not go into much detail about the beginning. Basically, I was a middle schooler with a lot of negative thoughts about my body, for many different reasons which I will not discuss. But, nevertheless, it started.

I would go onto struggle on and off until I was 18, when I was forced to confront the issue head-on.

During my 18th year, my life seemed to be sailing along quite nicely. I had just landed my dream role of Ariel at Walt Disney World. I was involved with a community that I absolutely loved. Life was great. But, there was one problem: that nagging voice in my head that constantly told me I was not good enough.

I controlled it for the time being. I pushed it aside. I did my best to let it go. But, as with most problems, suppressing something does not make it go away. Even if it something you have been suppressing for years.

Moving on to age 19. This time, I found myself in a contract with another show at Disney. I loved the show, and I loved the opportunity to do it, but my attitude did not really show it. See, before shows, I was barely eating, overexercising, and taking 6 laxatives a day. I was dizzy onstage (I almost fainted multiple times) and almost having to run offstage to manage my behaviors became a regular item. My blood work was abnormal. My EKG was off. My therapist’s suggestion? Treatment.

I agreed to go, under one condition: it was for depression, and not an eating disorder. I did not have an eating disorder.

Good one.

The next two years were nothing but treatment centers. Five times, to be exact.

Now, treatment is pretty much like you see in the movies, all the bloody details. You are confined by four walls, forced medication, labs taken twice a week, watched until you eat every bite of your food, weighed on the scales backwards, etc. It’s not a pretty sight. It is tough. It is basically like being in jail with your worst nightmare: food. And lots of it.

I had panic attacks all the time. A few times, I was even forced to go to the hospital, sedated in order to calm down.

Let me explain: as patients seeking recovery, we are literally shedding an outer layer of who we are in order to stay alive. Part of us, our eating disorders, are forced to go, and it is hard to identify ourselves without them.

But somehow, we do it.

Eventually, I became so exhausted living my life for my Eating Disorder, I decided to take control. I did the work in treatment, out of a desperate attempt to feel life again, and I made it. The first few months out of treatment were pure horror, but another trauma snapped me into reality shortly after my release, and soon, I was running full-force into a relationship with Jesus.

It has been three years since that happened. I still struggle. I just admitted a huge struggle on this very blog three weeks ago. The difference? I do not let it take over. I keep fighting in every form of the word.

And so does everyone else who has ever struggled with ED. Why? Because ED does not go away. It lives in your head, begging for an opportunity to show itself. The key is to not allow it.

So, this is what NEDA week is all about. It is about a group of warriors coming together, during all stages of the disease, to fight for life. To build each other up. To encourage. To laugh. To love.

To all of my recovery sisters and brothers out there: Happy NEDA Week. Happy fighting week. Happy meet yourself where you are at week. Happy live in your truth week. Happy love yourself week.

Use this week to celebrate your recovery, wherever you are at, and know that you are stronger than you ever thought you could be.

You are loved, loved, loved. And don’t ever forget it.

And to those are just learning about this week? Open your eyes, ears, and hearts to those who may be struggling, even if you do not fully understand it. Sometimes, just being there is all someone needs.

“There is no magic cure, no making it go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore.”

#HappyNEDAWeek

 

 

 

Love…Not Religion

Wow, what a header.

Please, Maddie. No. Not religion.

I have actually been wanting to write a blog like this for quite some time, but I was always too afraid of what people might think of it. Not so much anymore.

So, many of you might find my next statement a bit shocking: I am not religious.

Wait, what? Aren’t you like, always posting about singing on the worship team, bible verses, and blogs about what Jesus has done in your life?

Well, yes, but…I am not religious. I am a follower of Jesus. There is a difference.

If you know me, you have heard me speak of a book I read my senior year of high school titled “Not a Fan.” Basically, the book breaks down what it means to be a fan vs. a follower of Jesus.

Fans like to say they know Jesus. They like to advertise Him like a gold chain around their neck: “Hey, look, I am better than you because I’m a Christian.” Now, I will not speak for all fans of Jesus, but for most of them, they are not actually following the teachings of Jesus from the Bible.

Jesus was not your typical King who walked around with a crown on His head: “Follow me, or I will smite you.” Yeah, He never said that.

Jesus was a poor King. Not poor in spirit, but poor in wealth. He grew up in poor Nazareth, and was a traveling teacher of the Word, who was basically homeless. He did not hang around the religious leaders of the day. In fact, He rebuked them for looking down on the poor, the prostitutes, the lepers, etc.

Jesus did not wear a gold chain by any means. In fact, He stepped down from a life of glory to a life of pain.

I have had my fair share of encounters with fans of Jesus. Fans who look down on others, mock or shame them, for whatever reason. Maybe because they are poor. Maybe because they have a different skin color. Maybe because they are not from the same place. Maybe because they believe differently. Maybe because of their pasts. The list goes on and on.

Fans of Jesus like to hide behind their religion.

Followers of Jesus like to step up. They like to stand up for those who others might like to tear down. They do not hide behind a religion. They follow the teachings of Jesus, the greatest one being to Love.

So, like, only Love people who are like me and with like-minds?

Yeah, no.

Jesus did not specify. He did not discriminate. He said Love.

I never push my faith on anyone. If you believe something differently than me, I will love you just the same. Why? Because that is what my “religion” teaches me. My only hope is that, through my actions, I might show you the kind of Love that Jesus has shown to me.

So, more than the commands, the rules, the regulations, more than all of it, as followers of Jesus, we should strive to be Love.

“God is Love. Whoever lives in Love, lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16

 

An Open Confession from a Recovered Anorexic

If you struggle with mental illness, you will never find a statement to be more true than this:

It does not go away.

We can suppress it. We can hide it. We can make ourselves forget about it. But, no matter what we do, it does not go away.

Now, I am not saying that one does not recover from mental illness. People recover from mental illness every day. When one is actively seeking recovery, one is living in recovery. The problem happens when we stop seeking life in recovery, and we start giving into our mental illness.

I am going to tell you a secret: when I recovered from my eating disorder, I put the eating disorder in my past. I no longer associated with it. In fact, and I am sorry to admit this, I began to view those who struggled with eating disorders as lesser than myself. I recovered. I won. I was the best. My thought process was, “I only wish for you to succeed like I did.”

Then, earlier this year, I paid a visit to my therapist after months of not seeing her. I told her that I went vegan because of a stomach condition I had possessed for a long time. Now, this was true, but when my doctor suggested it, he did not know my history with my eating disorder.

She gave me “the look.” I rolled my eyes.

“It has nothing to do with my eating disorder. I’m recovered. This is what is medically necessary.”

Her response:

“Maddie, you are so clever, that you have turned your eating disorder into a socially- acceptable label and have actually convinced yourself that it is what is best for you.”

After this visit, I started to think, and then I realized: I had been struggling with depression for the previous six months, perhaps even longer.

However, my depression did not look how one might typically think depression should look. I woke up early every morning, I dressed nicely, my makeup and hair were always done, and I was more than on-top of the million responsibilities I had.

I also worked until I could not see straight, hardly attended outside actives that I once enjoyed, rarely saw friends, and had absolutely zero life outside of work and school. At the end of the day, I felt alone and empty. At the end of the day, I was depressed. At the end of the day, I had relapsed into my eating disorder.

And, the week I went to see my therapist, I finally realized it.

Now, I was not about to let myself sink further into the eating disorder hole. I was immediately on top of digging myself out of it by using my resources to seek help.

However, the danger I faced is that I had allowed the bad habits to manifest over a long period of time, all because I really did think my mental illness was behind me. All because I thought I was “over it.” All because I thought it went away.

Friends, mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. More than half of the world struggles with some sort of mental illness. If you are living in recovery, you are succeeding. If you are struggling, but seeking help, you are succeeding. If you are acknowledging your mental illness, you are succeeding. Do not allow your mind to tell you otherwise. Do not view yourself as weak because you struggle with something over which you have no control.

Mental illness does not just go away. You have to check up on it. You have to listen to yourself. You have to ask yourself what you need. You have to take time off. You have to create balance. You have to learn to care for yourself enough so that you do not relapse. Or, when you do, recognize that you are not a failure. You just have to pick yourself up and move forward.

So, here I am. Three years since I was released from Eating Recovery Center. Three years since my two-year stint in and out of hospitals. Three years of growth and success. Three years of failures. Three years of discovering who I am, and who I am not.

On paper, I should be “recovered.” But, I am not. I am simply living in recovery. And, often, I still struggle. When I struggle, my life will not stop. It does not mean I am going back to treatment. My life is still in tact. But, I am not perfect, and I struggle. And that is okay.

No matter where you are in your recovery, it is okay to be there. Meet yourself where you are at, acknowledge what you need, and never stop fighting for the life you want. Just know, success is fleeting. Getting everything you might want will NOT heal you. Only you can do that. You, along with your family, friends, and passions.

Those are the items that matter, and will keep you in the recovery game. They are worth fighting for.

 

 

 

You are Enough

“Talent is not enough. Always remember that.”

When I was young, I will never forget when a certain Broadway actor said these words to me in a workshop in New York City. I had asked if they had any advice for me in pursuing the so-called “acting life,” and that is what they said.

I would not understand until much later in life all of the intricate details woven into this one, small sentence.

In my field, or any field, really, talent isn’t enough. There are so many other elements it takes in order for one to be successful.

First of all: hard work.

That’s right. If you are naturally-gifted in your area of expertise, good for you. Guess what? It’s not enough. There are so many other individuals who are equally as gifted as you are. However, what is the one thing that will set you apart? Working at your craft, every chance that you get. No matter what you do, there is always room for improvement. Love drives us to do immense things, so work for what you love.

Second of all: Recognizing that comparison is the thief of joy.

Seriously. When you look at someone else’s career, longing for what they have, you are robbing yourself of all of the personal milestones in your own life. Be proud of what YOU have accomplished. Everyone’s journey is different. But guess what? No matter what stage of life you are in, know that you are supposed to be there for a reason. And, if you do not like something, change it! The world is your oyster. People spend so much time wishing for someone else’s life, they never make time to stop, look at themselves, and have the courage to make a change in their own life. If you want something, GO FOR IT! You have all of the power in the tips of your fingers.

Third of all: Believe in yourself.

This one sounds so clique, but believing in yourself is the key to success.

When you do not believe in yourself, you stop putting yourself out there, and thus halt any opportunity that may come your way. When you take yourself out of the equation before the equation is even made, you are completely denying yourself of something HUGE! STOP IT. You are your own worst enemy!

When I first got out of eating disorder treatment, I can honestly say that I hated myself. I felt so lost without my eating disorder, and truly felt that I had no purpose in life. Slowly, I began to re-discover the joy of life and all that it has to offer, but part of me still felt that I was not good enough, especially when it came to my career. I have always been very confident in myself as a performer. I was never scared to audition, I was never afraid to make bold choices, and I truly believed that I was talented. Not by my own accord, but because God had given me a special gift to use for His glory. However, my eating disorder seemed to change all of that. For one, I completely lost my vocal range due to my constant purging during my eating disorder behaviors. For two, I was so afraid to be vulnerable, I completely went into my head as an actor. I was anxious, timid, fearful, and just scared to do what I had always loved to do. As I began to heal, I worked hard to get my voice back in top shape, and also started taking acting classes again. To sum it up: I started to do the work. And I succeeded. I restored my voice to my pre-treatment range, and began to let my walls down as an actor. In the meantime, I also did some heart work. I recognized that even though I took two years out of my career to receive treatment for my eating disorder, it did not matter. I was alive. I was in recovery. And that was good enough for me. So what if some of my friends were making their Broadway debuts? I was actually living outside of my eating disorder! For me, that was the greatest success of all.

The only problem: I stopped believing in myself. I became so afraid of being rejected that I just completely stopped auditioning. I stopped performing because I was so scared to mess it up. I lost a part of what made me ME because I did not believe that I could do it. Other people did, but I did not.

After two years of not performing, I suddenly realized that a huge part of my soul was missing. I was just feeling empty, and I could not figure out why. Then, while on a mission trip, God whispered (as He so often does) what I was missing: my passion.

I stopped doing what I love because I stopped believing in myself. And I am certainly not the only one. So often in life, we stop pursuing our passions because we tell ourselves we are not good enough. What if we told ourselves that we WERE good enough? What if we actually had the spirit to go confidently in the direction of our dreams? What if we looked at the equation, and instead of taking ourselves out of it, we PUT ourselves in it? I am not saying that everything is going to work out exactly how we want it. I am saying that we at least have to try. If we don’t, we will never get anywhere.

So yes, talent is not enough. Hard work is not enough. It is a combination of talent, hard work, accepting yourself in the spot that you are in, AND believing in yourself. When you put all of those things together, whether it is what you thought you wanted or something entirely different, I guarantee you: it will be enough.

You are enough. You are always enough. And, if I ever become the Broadway actor giving advice to 12-year old little girls in a workshop, I am going to say exactly that. But, you heard it here first 🙂

As You Find Me

“I was found before I was lost. I was Yours before I was not. Grace to spare, for all my mistakes. And that part just wrecks me.

And I know I don’t deserve this kind of love. Somehow this kind of love is who You are. It’s a grace I could never add up, to be somebody You still want, but somehow…

You love me as you find me.”

When I was seven years old, I made the decision to follow Jesus. Back then, I did not quite understand the fullness of His Grace, but I felt His Presence, and I was intrigued by His Word. I wanted to know Him. I wanted to be known by Him. And so, I chose to follow His teachings.  The next twelve years of my life would be full of so many different stages: stages of light and joy, and stages of darkness and pain. Often, even though I knew Jesus, I chose not to run to Him. I grew up in a community in which “Christianity” was all around me: from church to my Christian school. Jesus became part of my life, but He was very much an after-thought. In my little world, I came first: my dreams, my goals, my desires. Sure, I was a “Christian.” Sure, I prayed sometimes. Sure, I read my Bible occasionally. Sure, I attended church service. But, to be honest, I did most of these things out of formality. In my mind, I had accepted Christ, so I knew I would be good to go with a ticket to Heaven. And, at that point in my life, that was good enough for me.

As I grew older, however, I began to learn that my previous mindset would soon not be good enough. During my Senior year of high school, I grew a bit more curious about this Jesus. Who was He? Why did I follow Him? I know He died on the cross for me, but why? I have never once questioned Jesus’ existence, but I certainly questioned His role in my life. In Bible class, I was assigned to read a book called “Not a Fan” by a Pastor named Kyle Idleman. The book explored the concept of not just knowing about Jesus, but actually knowing Him. Reading it for the first time, I was surprised to learn that there was a difference in the two. To be honest, I did not get it. How would someone go from one to the other? What did it mean to really know Jesus, as opposed to knowing about Him? Little did I know then, but God was about to show me exactly what He meant.

After my graduation from high school, I had the opportunity to move to LA to study acting. While in LA, I was excited to be there, but something about being there did not feel right. Then, two months after moving to LA, an opportunity arose to audition for Walt Disney World. For no reason other than the fact that I had always wanted to work at Disney World, I decided to audition. A few weeks later, I was packing up my life to move to Orlando. It would take me six years to realize why exactly God brought me to Orlando.

A few weeks after my arrival, a new friend I had met invited me to attend church with her. Now, I grew up in a very traditional Southern-Baptist church, so when I discovered that this small church met in a multi-purpose room in a hotel, I was very confused. I was even more confused when I discovered that most everyone was wearing super casual clothing, drinking lattes, and interacting with pretty much every person they saw. Back at my church at home, I only knew a handful of people. Well, it wasn’t long before I began to get to know every member of that little community as well. And, through that community, I began to see Jesus on a bit more of a personal level. I began to attend church, not out of obligation, but because I genuinely wanted to hear the pastor’s message. I began to pray, not because I needed something, but because I was excited to talk to God. I began to understand what an actual relationship with Jesus looked like. I began to see what Kyle Idleman meant by knowing about Jesus as opposed to truly knowing Him. And, from October 2013 to August 2014, I grew deeply in my relationship with Jesus. I did not know it at the time, but that relationship would end up being the foundation that would hold me together for the next few difficult years that were ahead.

In 2015, I relapsed hard into an eating disorder I had struggled with for years. I traded Jesus for anorexia, and my life slowly began to become undone. During this struggle, I literally felt Jesus pursuing after my heart, but I kept ignoring Him. I knew that if I chose Him, I would have to say goodbye to ED (eating disorder), and I just did not feel ready to do that. Not only that, but I truly did not know how. I felt trapped in my ED. Even if I wanted to get out, I didn’t know how. As a result, I made some really bad decisions. I became a shell of myself. At the end of 2016, when I looked in the mirror, I honestly had no idea who I was. Everything that I had stood for previously was shattered into a million pieces. All of my morals, my ideals, my values…gone. Who was I? Why was I so alone? Where was Jesus?

“I am right here, my child. I’ve been reaching out My hand all along…all you have to do is take it.”

So I did. I wish I could describe to you the change I felt in my heart from January 2017 to February 2017. It felt like a dark cloud that had completely covered my heart had been lifted. The next two years would be full of healing: healing from the abuse of my eating disorder, as well as trauma that had ensued because of my bad decisions. Through it all, I kept my eyes fixed on Jesus. I never looked away. I never let go of His hand. Sure, I stumbled, but I never let go.

If you had told me in 2017 that I would be where I am today, I would have never believed you. I am a direct result of what the healing power of Jesus looks like. My life is not what it is today because of religion: it is the way it is today because of an intimate relationship with Love. Through all of my brokenness, through all of my shattered pieces, He loved me as He found me. He never once doubted me. He never once gave up on me. He pursued after my heart until I gave it to Him.

So yes, I was found before I was lost. I was His before I was not. He spared his Grace, He gave His life, for my mistakes. I never deserved His love. But, His love is who He is. It is too good to ever leave me. It is too good to ever leave you.

Jesus will always love us as He finds us, no matter how broken or shattered we are. When we think we are standing alone in the fire of this world, there is another there with us. And He is called the King of Kings.

May we always rest in that truth, no matter how big our battles may be.

 

1945

1945.

A year of much terror, and of much triumph. Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States of America. Truman took over when he passed on April 12th. It was not a good time for our country, for we were at war. World War II. A war in which 70-85 million people died. The United States wasn’t the only nation at war, but the entire world. While we were fighting the Japanese, the European Nation was dealing with the German occupation of Poland, and the declaration of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom. The war began in 1939. It ended in 1945.

As I stated earlier, 70-85 million people perished during this time. 50-56 million by the war military; an additional 19-28 from war related disease and famine.

This past week, I received an upclose view of World War II, particularly of the German occupation of Poland. I traveled to Amsterdam and Germany, where I visited many historical sites directly related to this period of history. While in Amsterdam, I walked the streets that were once stormed by Nazis. I saw the sites in which people were forced from their homes and taken to concentration camps, their only hope to not be sent to Aushwitz, a death camp, but a work camp instead. I visited the Jewish Historical Museum, where I learned about the history of the Jewish people in the Netherlands, from their arrival, to their persecution, to present day. I explored the National Holocaust Museum, where I saw personal items belonging to children who perished in the Holocaust. I walked to the National Holocaust Memorial, where I witnessed an entire wall full of names of Jews who lost their lives to the Nazis. I saw the Anne Frank House, where the Frank family, along with four other Jewish people, hid from the Nazis for two years. They almost made it, but were caught hiding in August of 1944. The liberation happened in April 1945. Finally, I visited Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, where Anne and Margot Frank, along with 50,000 other prisoners, died.

I cannot quite describe the somber feeling that washed over me while I was walking the grounds of the former camp. Overcome with grief, I simply began to cry. If you know me, I don’t cry. I pride myself on being able to hold back my tears. But not this day. This day, I let them fall. I started to pray. I asked God how something like the Holocaust could ever happen. I quickly stopped myself. God didn’t allow the Holocaust to happen. He isn’t a mythical figure in the sky who allows certain things to happen, and others to not. I had to remind myself that we live in a fallen world, where an enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. And that is what happened on the grounds of that camp.

But, I also learned something important. The Holocaust taught everyone on this planet a very important lesson. It is the lesson that Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s Father, sought to bring to light once he returned from Aushwitz and found out that he would have to live on without his wife and two daughters. The lesson is this: to fight for reconciliation and human rights. To not discriminate. To love others, no matter what they look like or what they believe in. We are to respect one another, for we are all human beings.

In today’s world, I see discrimination everywhere I look:

I see it against Christians. In fact, the discrimation against Christianity has increased dramatically over the past few years. People who are not Christians think they know what Christians believe because of what they might have heard. Because of this, Christians are judged. Did you know that 6,000 Christians were killed and 50,000 driven from their homes in Nigeria in the first six months of 2018? And it continues to get worse.

I see it against the Islamic faith. Just within the past two weeks, over 50 Muslims were killed in an attack against two mosques in New Zealand, simply because of what they believed in. Again, people think they understand a certain religion without really knowing much about it. They form opinions based on what another person may have said about it.

I see it against the Jews. In February 2019, a string of attacks against Jewish individuals happened in New York City. Over 50 recorded attacks. 50. Anti-semitism is rising once again, all over the world.

I see it against those with different skin colors. I see it against the LGBTQ community. I see it against Democrats. I see it against Republicans. As I said, I see it everywhere.

My question is: how are we letting this happen? Has history taught us nothing?

As a Christian, I am taught to be love. Not just to a certain group of individuals, but to every human being on this planet. Every. Last. One. However, Christian or not, we should all strive to be kind individuals. It may not always be easy, but being kind never fails. The world does     not revolve around us as individuals. We were born to help and serve other people. At least, that’s what I believe.

As I said before, 1945 was indeed a year of terror and triumph. Terror due to the events surrounding the war. Triumph due to the liberation of the various different German concentration camps, as well as the other war victories that occurred. But let me say this: may we never forget the year 1945. Of what happened to the innocent individuals who perished at Aushwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Belzec, Dachau, Buchenwald, Chelmno, Flossenburg, Gross-Rosen, and the other 20 camps. May we always remember them with light and love, and allow them to serve as a warning of what can happen when we allow discrimination to take hold.

My favorite quote from Miss Anne Frank is this: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Think about those words for a moment. We all have the opportunity to improve this world. We all have the opportunity to impact someone’s life for the better. We all have the opportunity to give, to serve, to love. Instead of tearing others down, let’s build them up. Instead of thinking that our opinion is better than everyone else’s, let’s listen and respect what another has to say. We may not agree, but that does not mean we spread hate. Instead of thinking low of someone for what they believe in, let’s acknowledge their beliefs, recognizing that is is OK if we do not all believe the same things. Instead of looking down on someone for looking different that we do, let’s recognize and embrace the fact that it is our differences that make us unique and beautiful. All of these are steps in improving the world in which we live.

While at the grave of Anne and Margot Frank, I made a promise to never stop fighting to end discrimination and oppression. I made a promise to live my life to serve other people, and that is exactly what I intend to do. I hope that you will join me. Together, we can accomplish much. Apart, we can accomplish nothing.

So, my friends. Go. Be love. Spread light. Lend a helping hand. Give up on something that you might want to give someone else what they might need. Listen to someone else’s opinion that may be different that yours, and try to remember that we each have personal stories that have formed those very specific opinions. We all have a place in this world, and while we may see things differently, we are all one in the same: human.

“The task Anne gave me keeps giving me new strength to fight for reconciliation and for human rights all over the world.” -Otto Frank

 

 

 

Blessed by Hardship

I have been blessed with a lot of hardship in my life.

Wait, what? You might be thinking “Did I read that right?”

Yes. You did read that right. So, let me break it down a bit for you.

I will not bore you with the various different obstacles life has thrown my way. Frankly, I am sure each and every one of you reading this have endured just as much suffering in your life (in different kinds of ways) as I have. What I will do, however, is explain the insane sentence I wrote when beginning this blog.

Why on earth would I count the most difficult things I have been through in my life as blessings? Well…

First of all, the difficult things I have been through have brought me to where I am today. Cheesy, I know, but it’s true. Allow me to define what I mean. I would not be doing what I am doing, or pursuing what I am pursuing in my life today, had I not gone through what I have gone through. Going through the tough times, and overcoming them, has actually shaped my career-path. I am passionate about the things I am passionate about because of my struggles. And, for the record, I am not the only one. Think about it: how many people have become therapists because of a mental health problem they struggled with themselves? How many people become social workers because of the difficult home life they endured as a child? How many people have become doctors because they suffered from and defeated a disease that their own doctor redeemed “incurable?” Life happens. It can get tough. And it is our decision to either wallow in our difficulties, or stand up and fight for what we believe in. And, in overcoming our difficulties, we get the opportunity to help other people. How amazeballs is that?

Second, the difficult things I have been through have shaped my character. Okay, here is the truth: I love who I am. Now, those of you who know me might not believe me when I say that, but here is what I mean: I love who I have become as a result of overcoming my struggles. To begin, I am a very confrontational human. If someone wrongs me, my family, or my friends in any way, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will stand up for what it right. However, I used to not be that way. In fact, back in the day, I NEVER stood up for myself. I would let anyone get away with anything. My struggles taught me to be stronger than that. Second, I am not a conformer. If you have a certain opinion, I will respect you, but I will not necessarily agree with you. Again, the old Maddie would just agree with whatever another person said. I did not have my own opinions. I stayed silent. Now a days, I speak up. Third, I honestly do not care what other people think of me. Now, I do not say that to be mean. I say that to say that I am cool with who I am, and if you like me, you like me. If you don’t, that is fine by me. You liking me will not elevate or de-elevate (is that even a word?) my feelings in any way. My real friends know me and love me for who I am, and that is what matters to me. Also: PEOPLE ARE THE WAY THEY ARE. Nine times out of ten, they will not change their ways, so you can either learn to live with them, or have the courage to leave. Fourth, I am a hard- worker. Now, I have always been a hard-worker, but I used to sometimes put my own needs in front of other people’s. Not anymore. My work means everything to me. If I am given a task, I promise to do it, and do it well. Hard work always pays off, my friends. Fifth, I have come to realize that not everything is about me. In fact, serving other people is far more important than serving myself. That, dear pals, is probably the most important thing I have learned.

Last (and I saved the most important for last), through my struggles, I came to really know Jesus. Now, I have been a Christian since I was seven. I have always had a burning desire to know Jesus, and to be known by Him. When my eating disorder began at the age of 10, however, my relationship with Jesus began to suffer. It would continue to suffer on and off all throughout my teen years. As I continued to struggle into my adulthood, I was once told that I could either A) run to Jesus, or B) run away from Him. I chose to run to Him. Since making that commitment to follow Jesus, my life has been a series of ups and downs. But one thing remains the same: Him. Over the past year, I have grown intimately closer to Jesus. In building that relationship, He has been teaching me so many important things: that His overall plan for my life is far greater than I could ever even imagine, that being love to others, even when I do not necessarily want to, is one of the most important missions, to let go of jealousy and be kind, to not be prideful, but ask for help instead, to be appreciative, to see the good in others…honestly, I could go on. Being faithful to find Jesus has been my most beautiful blessing that has come out of my suffering.

So, there you have it, friends. The beautiful, wonderful, incredible blessings that have come from the hardships in my life. I encourage you, when you are struggling, to find the peace among the chaos. You may not always see it in the moment (heck, it may take six years), but you will see it. In time, you will find it.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12