I can breathe again. 40 to go…

This is my 700th post on this blog. Give me a minute to let that sink in. 700. What? I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around a number that big. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read any of those 700 posts and all those who have stuck with me through so many good and hard moments over the past four years (I had my four year blog-aversary a couple weeks ago. Crazy right?) You’re all so wonderful.

So it’s already been almost three weeks since I’ve gotten back to school and they have been three crazy, exciting, hard, confusing weeks. I’ve found myself getting really homesick and really struggling to feel at home here. I found myself lying awake at night and just crying about the littlest things. I really wasn’t prepared to feel like this. In fact, I was really annoyed with myself for feeling the way I did. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just be happy and content where I was.

Well I had applied for a couple of jobs and this Tuesday I got an email saying I had been hired to work at the Telefund for my school, calling alumni and talking about the school. As I read this email I suddenly burst into tears. The sort of relieved, joyful tears that you just can’t stop. I just sat in my room and cried for hours. I felt the weight of the world lifted off of my shoulders. I knew that I had been stressed about finances and the thought of paying for college, but I didn’t realize how much it was affecting me. I didn’t realize how alone and stranded I was feeling.

One thing I really struggled with last semester and this summer was feeling like God had abandoned me. That he could hear me but didn’t care enough to respond. That he had somehow decided that I wasn’t worth his time or love. Things had begun to change at the end of the summer, but I think I was still dealing with the remnants of those feelings. This job did not come as an answer to prayers, because I’ll admit that I gave up on praying months ago, but it came as a gift: an answer to the terrified prayers I couldn’t speak.

Money has never been something I’ve concerned myself with, I just don’t typically worry about it. But since starting college every once in a while I will start to think about the amount of debt I have already and the fact that it is growing at this very moment and I want to throw myself in front of a train. I live in constant fear of running out of money to pay for school, rent, and food and having to drop out of college and die alone as an uneducated loser. It sounds dramatic, but these are the honest fears I have. These are the fears that are too real to talk about.

So as I’m reading this email saying I got this silly job and I’m sobbing I felt the warmest, gentlest hug I’ve ever felt in my life. I knew it was God’s promise to me that I’m not going to drop out and die alone, and that I’m not going to have to go through this alone. I know this year is going to be full of amazing and difficult things but I know I’m not alone.

I’ve been walking on air for the past couple of days. Everything has been beautiful and happy and I’m just so content in all areas of my life. It’s like I can breathe again. I’m so deeply blessed.

Love you always!

Abby

I don’t know. 45 to go…

I’m living in a perpetual state of “I don’t know” right now.

I’ve been really struggling through some hard feelings recently and the hardest thing about feeling these things is that I don’t know why I feel the way I do. I just broke down the other night and in trying to explain to my parents what I was feeling all I could say was “I don’t know, I just don’t know.” I know that life is good, and that I’m blessed and loved, but that doesn’t make these horrible, irrational feelings any better. If anything, knowing that my life is so good makes it worse, it makes me feel guilty for feeling so horrible all the time. My wonderful best friend Meesh said the most meaningful thing to me last night, she looked at me and said “this is not your fault, this is not some weakness that you have, this is just a hard thing in life that you are going through,” and I’ve never been that happy to hear anything in my life.

I’m also really struggling through one particular relationship in my life which has left me in a constant state of “I don’t know.” As Meesh and I talked last night she had lots of valid questions about this relationship and I just had no answers.
What do you want from this? I don’t know.
How do you feel? I don’t know.
Where is this going? I don’t know.
Do you think this is smart? I don’t know.
GUH I JUST DON’T KNOW

My mentor wants to know where I’m at spiritually and I just don’t know. However, I’m starting to understand this one better. I feel far from God, and for the first time, I feel like I’m not the one who moved. I feel abandoned and lonely a good bit of the time. I’m finding it really hard to not blame God for all of the confusion, frustration, and hurt that I’m feeling right now. It’s really hard to see how God is working this one together for good, it just hurts.

I find myself saying over and over “I just don’t know,” about the hard and important things in my life. I don’t know what I want, I don’t know how I feel, I don’t know why I feel what I do, I don’t know where I am, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to get out of bed, I don’t know.

I wanted to take a second to thank everyone for the encouragement that you’ve been to me. The comments, the e-mails, the Tumblr posts, they all mean so much to me. Thank you so much for sticking with me through this hard time. In these past couple of weeks it has been really hard to see the light at the end of this tunnel, but your support has meant so much to me. Thank you.

Love you!

Abby

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. 64 to go…

So this week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week and this is a cause that I’m super passionate about. I feel like our society both refuses to acknowledge eating disorders as a serious issue and alienates and shames those who are suffering. This is the kind of stuff that makes me absolutely furious. You see, I struggled with an eating disorder for many years and I know what it feels like to be struggling and to feel like you can’t tell anyone because no one understands and no one believes you.

I was always chubby growing up. I remember being teased about it all through elementary school and into middle school. It always hurt, but I always had some comeback to get the other kids to shut up. I remember going shopping with my mom and feeling like I didn’t look good in anything. I remember going to the doctor’s office and being told that I was at risk of becoming over weight. In my mind I didn’t hear “at risk” I just heard the words “Over Weight” echoing over and over again in my head.

There’s one very distinct memory that stands out to me. I remember riding the bus in ninth grade and the guys sitting across from me started making fun of me and at one point one of them turned to me and said:
“Abby, you’re so fat you should probably just kill yourself.”
Kill yourself.

I don’t remember when it started, but at some point I just started skipping meals.
“Sorry Mom, late to school! No time for breakfast!”
“No, I’m not hungry.”
“I already ate.”
“I’m just not feeling well.”
“We’re eating at her house.”

If I felt that I had eaten too much at a certain meal I would just purge it. I would tell myself that I had been weak and that I would be stronger next time. I punished my body for this perceived weakness.

But it didn’t matter what I did, I still felt terrible about myself. I couldn’t tell anyone because I was so afraid of people knowing how deeply insecure I was or knowing how much I hated myself. I covered up those feelings with false confidence and forced happiness. I found my own way of dealing with the deep pain I felt inside. I used physical pain to cope with (what seemed like) the unending emotional pain. And those scars, both physical and emotional, are still healing.

Now I don’t have an incredible recovery story about going to treatment for months and about suddenly becoming happy and healthy. It has taken time and is continuing to take time to become happy with the way I am. It came with making incredible and supportive friends, with building healthier relationships with my parents, and with growing in my Faith. There are days when it’s still hard, this isn’t a pain that just leaves you. There’s no immediate healing. It takes time.

Now I don’t tell my story because I want pity. I tell it for a couple reasons:

Telling our stories gives them validity. I’ve spent years denying my story for fear that it would bring judgement from the people closest to me and for fear of admitting to myself that I was deeply hurting and insecure.
We need to be encouraging those who are suffering to tell their stories and we must be willing to listen. Just by listening to people’s stories we tell them that we believe them and care. We cannot alienate and judge people for suffering. They deeply need us. They deeply need you.

I seemed happy and healthy. I didn’t look like I was suffering. I seemed OK. I look back at pictures from that time and can see that I wasn’t nearly as fat as I perceived myself to be.
If someone comes to you to share their story with you, don’t just assume that they’re lying or exaggerating because they seem happy and healthy. It’s not always the morbidly obese, the abused, or the stunningly beautiful who are suffering (not to say that they don’t.) If anyone comes to you and says they are struggling, you have to believe them. 

My story has the potential help. There are very few people in my life who know this part of my story. And I never thought that it would be something that I would be able to write about, but I was prompted by another friend of mine sharing her story. While I’m not thankful for this part of my story, I have had opportunities in my life to help others who are struggling because I understood. I understand.
If you have a story to share, share it. It isn’t easy and it isn’t fun and sometimes it comes with tears and deep pain, but your story is worth telling and I can assure you that there’s someone in your life who needs to hear your story.

If someone comes to you and tells you that they are struggling do not assume that they are just doing what they are for attention. That is one of the most unhelpful and destructive things you can do in a situation like this. Take the time to listen and be supportive.

If you’re suffering:
TELL SOMEONE: I assure you that there are people in your life who care and want to hear what’s going on with you and want to help you. This person can help you in getting help or can help to keep you accountable.

YOU’RE NOT ALONE: You are not the only person who has felt this pain. You’re not crazy, you’re not a freak, you’re not unacceptable. The worst thing you can do is alienate yourself. I know how deeply it hurts, and you have to know that there are others who have gone before you.

IT GETS BETTER: I promise you, this feeling will not last forever. It hurts and is terrible and seems like it will never end but it will. There is hope for Joy and normalcy and acceptance.  I felt like I was never going to be OK again. I felt like I was dying from the horrible pain and hatred I felt inside but I am OK. I am surviving. I am happy. I’m not saying it is easy or that it won’t take time but I promise that it is worth it. You will get out of this alive and there are people in your life who are willing to help you.

This was really hard for me to write. It’s never easy to tell my story but I know that I’m better because of it and that I am the person I am today because of the things I’ve gone through and the things I’ve learned from them. So let’s not sit idly by and ignore this very serious issue. Talk to the people in your life, do not shame those who are suffering, tell your story. I promise, you will not regret it,

Love you!

Abby

Here are some helpful links:

For those who are suffering
For friends and family
For more information

19 and Crazy. 66 to go…

I turned 19 yesterday… That’s a feeling I’m still trying to grapple with. I don’t feel any different and I think that’s pretty normal. But it occurred to me that I’ll be turning twenty in one year. That’s the kind of stuff that freaks me out. I’m not ready to not be a teenager any more.

But enough of that scary growing up stuff. Let’s talk about this year.

This year has been so wonderful but also so difficult for me. It was full of incredible friends and experiences but also some hard times and pain.

I graduated high school, I went to senior prom, I bought a car, I brought an idea I had alive on stage, my choir won a singing competition, I went to Haiti, I chose a college, I found my passion, I made new friends, I lost myself in life’s little moments, I found myself in a song, I reached 10 thousand views on my blog, I sang the national anthem in front of 20,000 people, I passed Music Theory, I passed Calculus 2, I went to church by myself for the first time, I laughed, I grew, I learned, and I lived.

I want every year of my life to be the best year of my life and I know that while this wasn’t an easy year for me it was the best year of my life thus far.

I had a really hard time last semester, just trying to sort through who I was and what was important to me and even though I wouldn’t want to live through that again, I know that I am better because of it. I know who I am better than I have previously and I’m so ready to jump into this year head first.

It seems that every song written about being 19 are all about being young and reckless and carefree and about doing new things.

Sometimes I feel so alive 
Sometimes I see so clear 
Just like the way we always were 
So young and free from fear 

I want this to be my year. To be young and free of fear. But I also want to continue to learn and grow as a person. I want to be deeply rooted in Peace and want to flower with Joy. (All I want from life is to be a tree. No one understands.) I want to grow in Faith and in Grace. I want to be

Being free, being wild, being bulletproof
Back then we were rebels without a clue
Nothing in the world that we wouldn’t do

So here’s to being 19 and crazy,

Love you!

Abby

Faith. 80 to go…

This past Friday I went to Cru. Both of my parents were involved with Campus Crusade for Christ when they were in college. In fact, that’s how they met. That was the organization that sent my family to Turkey back in the day. It was an organization that had a large impact on my life as a child and continues to affect me, so when I was looking at colleges I really wanted a school that had a Cru movement. Well, I hadn’t gone to Cru since I’ve gotten to school until this past Friday.

It was fantastic! I had an absolutely marvelous time. We met in small groups and talked about the people who had the biggest impact on our lives (naturally, I talked about my fabulous and crazy best friend Meesh.) And then we sang.

If you know me, you know that I love to sing. I’m not great at it, but I love it. I think that Music points to our creator. It’s such a beautiful form of worship, to use what God has given you to praise him. And I just love to harmonize and sing with groups of people. It’s like letting your soul speak on its own. (maybe I’m just weird about it, but I just love it.) We sang one of my favorite songs which always reminds me of being at Challenge.

Your love never fails,
It never gives up
It never gives out on me.

In death, in life
I’m confident and covered by the power
Of your great love.

I love this song. I love the words, I love the melody and I love what it means to me and what it reminds me.

Then the speaker, Katie, gave an incredible talk about Jonah being a control freak. Remind me to write about her talk later, because it was fantastic. But today I need to write about something else. I was reading through old blog posts I wrote (I’m in the middle of tagging and categorizing all of my blog posts so that I can look through them more effectively. It turns out that three and a half years worth of almost daily blog posts is a lot to get through,) and I came across this post that I wrote after CORE Reaction this past year. This was something I had forgotten writing and forgotten feeling. But as I read the words that my seventeen year-old self had written I connected with them in a whole new way.

There was a reason I hadn’t gone to Cru until last week. There was a reason I hadn’t made it to church until my parents visited. It wasn’t because I didn’t have time, it wasn’t because I was busy, it was because I didn’t want to. I was so tired of feeling like I was stuck in this rut of going to church, like it was expected of me. I was running. Running from my parents, running from the tough discussions, running from the hard decisions, running from my fears, running from my closest friends, running from my beliefs and, above all, running from God.

I don’t know exactly why, but I know I was. I did a lot of things that I wouldn’t have previously because I was running so hard. I wanted to escape whoever it was that I thought I had been. I was doing what Jonah was doing, hearing what God wanted for me and taking off in the opposite direction. Not just avoiding God or hiding from him, but deliberately running away.

But here’s where those lyrics come back.

Your love NEVER fails
It NEVER gives up
It NEVER gives out on me.

In death, in Life
There’s NOTHING that could separate my heart
From your Great Love. 

There’s no running away from his unconditional, undying, unadulterated, unafraid, unapologetic, unending love. That is the promise. A promise that I cling to and trust in like no other.

Being at Cru reminded me of what it is I love about my friends and my church at home. It’s the community. The depth of relationship. The constant encouragement. Feeling like the people there care about you and get you.

I’m feeling my faith come alive again. Like I’m being reborn into something beautiful.

I want to thank you. My parents, Meesh, Anna, Gretchen, Emma, Cindy, Zach, Becca, Bethany, Sharon, Eyla, Tabitha and so many others. Over the past couple of weeks you have meant more to me than I could ever say. You’ve re-inspired my faith. You’ve supported and hugged and cared and listened and been better to me than I will ever deserve. And to Mike, Grace and Kelly: your support has been so different, but so important. You probably don’t even know, but just the little conversations we’ve had about faith have continued to strengthen my beliefs and have shown me that I couldn’t have picked better people to call my friends.

I love you!

Abby

It is well with my soul…

90 to go…

Life has been hard. It really has. I’ve made some mistakes and people have hurt my feelings and friends have been sick. It’s been difficult. But it is still good. I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m falling into friendships that are deeply meaningful and are very special. I’m keeping up with old friends.

“Whether or not I’ve got what I want, life keeps moving on.”

It’s incredible how much you can get to know someone in seven weeks, but the truth of the matter is that we aren’t just spending time together. We’re living together. We’re sharing life together. We’re learning together.

The funny thing about my friends here is that they don’t understand the way I keep up with my friends from home. I talk for hours on the phone with Meesh and Cindy and Penelope and so many more, and my friends can’t understand it. They want to know what we have to talk about for so long, and I never know what to tell them. The truth is that we just talk about life and catch up about what’s going on.

I have incredible friendships at home. Friendships that defy explanation. Friendships that defy reason. It’s because these people aren’t just my friends, they’re my life partners. The people who have been there through the good the bad and the ugly. I’m beyond thankful for them.

I’ve been learning a lot about worship. As a missionary kid and as a pastor’s kid it has always been expected that I would go to church every week and that there were certain organizations that I should be involved in. Not gonna lie, those expectations are kind of killing me. This pressure to continue to hold on to my parent’s religion. This is a time for me to find what faith means to me. And I am.

It’s fall here and the whole world is beautiful. The trees are orange and yellow and the air smells cleaner and the world seems brighter. I just sit in the grass sometimes and watch the cloud pass and am reminded that God just isn’t real, but he’s close. He’s all around. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the song God’s Great Dance Floor. 

I feel alive
I come alive
I am alive
On God’s great dance floor.

You never stop loving us,
No matter how far we run
You never give up on us.

I feel alive. I do. I feel it in me. Life that is. I feel life.

I wrote half of a post and then couldn’t write any more. So I started in the middle. I think I got it.

Love you. I really do.

Abby

How do you decide what you believe? 257 to go…

I have a question for you. How do you decide what you believe?

There are so many people and things that are telling us what to believe. Television shows, celebrities, books, YouTubers. Everyone has an opinion. And most people want others to agree with them on their opinions.

I’m an opinionated girl. I think about a lot of things and have started to understand what I believe about life and love and religion and friendship and purpose. But it has taken me time to figure these out. And I’ve spent a lot of time believing what other people tell me to believe. My role models, my parents, my friends.

But beliefs can only be yours once you have thought about things. Faith is important and the ability to believe in things that we cannot see or prove is an amazing thing, but simply accepting what is said to you is not believing. That is assimilating.

Do you ever feel like you’re actually really smart, but you’re the only person who knows it because you’re poor at making your thoughts understandable? That’s how I feel.

Love you!

Abby