Category: Relationships

Breakups, The Greatest Love, & Healthy vs. Unhealthy Ways to Cope with Painful Emotions

Heartbreak: It’s a killer. If you’ve experienced a breakup before, you’re familiar with the emotional, mental, and physical toll it takes on us. Whether it’s the end of a friendship, a dating relationship, or a marriage, the breakup and grieving process can come with intense pain.

A few months ago, I went through a breakup.

Feelings of loss and insecurity especially bothered me at first. These are some of my specifically “triggering” emotions, causing me to think thoughts that made me vulnerable to my struggles. To be honest with you, in my initial moments of weakness, I didn’t choose to use healthy coping tools. I wanted to isolate myself at home, I didn’t reach out to many people, and I even found myself returning to old eating disorder behaviors…

The one healthy thing that I did choose to do was pray for guidance and healing. But even though I was asking God to help me, I still turned inward and turned to my body for security. 

At the gym I tried to make myself feel better. But rather than inflate my self-esteem, I  ended up with the same deflated heart. 

I was trying to console myself on my own – trying to feel “good enough” and “lovable” without leaning on any other person. Despite my rebellion, God swooped in and reminded me that I already am worthy; and that he loves me enough to pursue me.

God pursued me. 

Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those whose spirits are crushed.”

Psalm 121:2 “He heals the brokenhearted.”

The day after the breakup, I felt this gentle nudge on my heart that I should go to an event at church. Surprisingly, I decided to emerge from my cave of grief that evening. I didn’t try to hide my melancholy mood at church, but I didn’t go seeking sympathy, attention, or connection.

However, while I was there, three people came to me and initiated some very special and unexpected conversations. They were people who I wouldn’t necessarily go to for help; yet I received love, validation, hugs, and words of encouragement from them. When I went to bed that night, my heart was full; and I remembered that I’m worthy of love. 

I really felt like God was using his people – the church family – to speak truth and show his love to me when I needed it most. 

The next day, I turned to some of my not-so-helpful “coping tools” again. But God’s love proved stronger than my rebellion. Again, he pursued me through his people. While I was at home, three different people sent me texts saying things like, “Hey Jess, I was just thinking about you,” “How are you?”, “Can we talk soon?”, and “Let’s set up a time to hang out!” 

As much as I wanted to isolate myself during my time of insecurity, people were coming to me, pulling me out of my pity, showing me that I was worth their time and connection, and loving me at the right time.

Those connections, and the words of encouragement that followed, quickly began to build me up. People supported me. They inadvertently made me realize that I didn’t need to be so insecure or question my value. It’s cool to me that those friends reached out to me, not knowing what I had been feeling. I truly think this was an act of God.

Psalm 94:18-19 “Your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

What’s even cooler is that this pattern continued for the next few days: I would turn to my Eating Disorder, but then I would connect with someone; they would encourage me; and I would momentarily snap out of my mental turmoil. 

To end that week, God reminded me of my value in an even more unique and powerful way. I attended my friend’s baptism service. Seeing my friend joyfully and publicly display how Jesus had transformed his life filled my heart with happiness. But what made the moment even sweeter was remembering that I was the one who introduced him to Jesus Christ. 

As I sat there, I could hear God saying to me, “Jessica, not only are you worthy and loved by me and by others, but you have the ability to change people’s lives! The most important thing about you is not your body or what others think about you – it’s that you can draw people into my Kingdom. 

Right then I started to tear up, and I felt the weight of all my insecurities fall off my shoulders. 

There’s two things I’d love for you to take away from this story:

1.) God loves us enough to pursue us! His love is stronger than our rebellion. He can draw near to us in our heartbreak, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy, and remind us that we’re made whole and complete in him. And I think sometimes he specifically uses his people to clearly and audibly speak the truths that we need to hear.

I love that when God chases after us, we get to remember that we’re cared for and seen by our heavenly Father; and we learn that it’s okay to rely on him when we feel weak. Like these verses say:

2 Corinthians 1:4-5, 9 “[God] comforts us in all our troubles. . .our comfort abounds through Christ. . .that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.”

2.)  The other point that I want to stress is this:

The coping tools that I turned to (my eating disorder and isolation) did not cure my insecurities.

I think that a lot of us turn to self-destructive or unhelpful things when we’re insecure, lonely, heartbroken, etc. And those with eating disordered or introverted tendencies especially turn to our bodies or isolation when we feel insecure. But I found that what really made me feel better was connecting with people. Connection paired with a little bit of vulnerability created the opportunity for so much encouragement and healing! 

In Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 13, he urged the Christians not to “think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” I won’t go into full Bible student mode to explain what this means; but I know that turning to my body for feelings of control and security would qualify as a fleshly desire. Paul advised them instead to “clothe” themselves with Jesus and to fight their battles with “the armor of light.” I love this! To me it reaffirms that Jesus is the key to getting through external pressures and trials and to overcoming internal conflicts as well.

So my friend, I want to remind you that you are valuable and loved. If God would pursue me, I know he would easily come after you too! He wants to be the source of your security and for you to feel whole and complete, because you’re his child. the Bible says clearly that nothing can separate us from his love, and that he’s close to the brokenhearted. He wants to hold our hand through the trials of life and for us to depend on his fatherly affection rather than trying to do everything and feel good enough on our own strength.

Comments and questions are welcomed! Have a nice week!

 

Secrets of Sibling Success

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on May 27, 2017.  

I often get comments about how “cute” my relationship with my brother is. I’ve had a lot of friends tell me they envy the closeness I have with John. While I can’t imagine anything less than a best-friend relationship with him, I’ve come to realize that it’s actually pretty rare to have this kind of bond with a sibling (especially a brother/sister relationship). Our small advantage is that we’re the only two kids in our family. So, we only have each other. But I believe that siblings in bigger families can also develop close relationships! Now, speaking from my personal experience and observations, I would like to offer 5 insights on how to have a healthy sibling bond.

  1. Communicate:

The key to any relationship (and nobody will be able to convince me otherwise) is communication. Talking. Using words: Some of the reasons this is so beneficial is because it establishes trust over time; it shows interest in the other person; and it allows you to get to know them on a deeper level. Also, I find that constantly talking with someone lessens the chance that there will be secrets kept. Secrets separate us from knowing someone fully. Secrets (or simply keeping certain topics “off limits”) make fore a more shallow relationship.

John and I don’t really keep secrets from each other. Nothing is off the table for discussion at any time. Of course, we have had to establish enough trust in one-another to feel safe being vulnerable and sharing our deepest struggles and thoughts. This has worked out really well for us over time, and I think it’s the #1 strategy that’s gotten us to where we are now. No topic is too big or too small to discuss.

When we were younger, we talked about who we had crushes on. I remember telling my girl friends, “Yeah, I already told John that I like ____,” and my friends would respond: “What?! I could never tell my big brother that!” So, for as long as I can remember, John and I must have been good communicators.

Now, as adults, we talk about God, heartache, life transitions, stresses, mental health, physical health, funny things, stupid things, and things that the other person doesn’t even care to know. We check in on each other often. We call each other one the phone to share the smallest or biggest news. Whether I’m driving to school in the morning or it’s 11 p.m, I always answer the phone when he calls.

The more we talk, the more we value and appreciate each other. The more we talk, the more opportunities there are to say “I love you!” The more we talk, the more we enjoy and help each another.

2. Be available 

I think that it’s really important to show your sibling that you’ll support them and be available for them at any time.

Yesterday I was struck by how this looks for me and John. Our family was walking around the Disney store at Downtown Disney. He and I separated from everyone else, and he suddenly started sharing his heart and burdens with me. It wasn’t the typical environment to have a heart-to-heart talk, but for me and John, it works. I instantly shifted my focus from Disney merchandise to him and his needs. I made sure to look him in the eyes and show him I was listening.

fullsizeoutput_caShowing your availability to your sibling might look a lot of ways. Maybe it means stopping what you’re doing and chatting with them for 5 minutes if they ask for it. Maybe it means keeping your bedroom door open. These are things that John and I have done. When he lived at home, we would stop into each other’s rooms and say “Hey, how’s it going?” Sometimes it lead into an important talk, and sometimes it was just a simple acknowledgment. Now that we live in different states, it means prioritizing each other on the phone. I always aim to respond to his texts quickly. He tries to answer his phone calls from me, even if he’s walking to a class and only has 3 minutes. And we always end our talks with: ” Talk to you later,” or “We can talk more about this when I have more time.” This shows care and implies that the conversation can keep on going.

3. Be Kind 

Part of why I actually like my brother is because he makes an effort to treat me well. Now, listen…He and I have had our share of conflicts. Sometimes we really suck at being kind and intentional. Because we’re family, we tend to get the worst of each other. We don’t always filter our emotions, attitudes, or words around one-another. However, we’ve never been ones to be hateful or purposely hurtful to each other.

In the movies, siblings are often pictured as being aloof toward each other, fighting, yelling, and name-calling. I hate this…I even see it in real life occasionally, and it breaks my heart. I can remember being at other friends’ houses and feeling insanely uncomfortable seeing my friends fight with their siblings. God gifts us with brothers and sisters, and we have the potential to make them be our best friends! So, why do we treat them like enemies? You can be the exception. Treat your sibling well, and they will hopefully do the same.

    4. Spend Quality Time

Invest in your sibling by spending intentional time with them. It won’t always feel fun. Sometimes you might sit down to do something with them, and you’ll feel like “Umm, why am I choosing to spend time with this person?” But, other times it can turn into such an unexpected blessing. By spending time alone with them, you get to know what makes them happy. You get to know their real self. And you show them you care.

Sometimes John and I go out to lunch, and we have great talks. Other times, we feel like we have nothing to talk about, so we enjoy the food and just applaud ourselves for trying to make it a good date. Sometimes we run errands together and enjoy some music or talk in the car. We also try to do what the other person enjoys. For example, last summer I watched movies that John likes (that I don’t necessarily like), and then he’d tell me why he likes them. Other times, John would take me to Starbucks and go shopping with me. These actions can be so meaningful and allow great memories to be made.

5. Love

This seems like a no-brainer. But are you actively showing your sibling that you love them? Love is an action. Your brother or sister needs to undoubtedly know and feel that you genuinely love them. Otherwise, there’s no chance your relationship can be at its full potential. They won’t come to you, talk to you, or enjoy you it they don’t feel that you love them unconditionally. You have to put effort into them to get the same effort back.

John has also told me the words “I love you” so many times throughout my life, that I will never doubt it. The knowledge of his love for me is drilled into my brain. Even when he’s being lame and doesn’t show his love, I still know he loves me.

If you feel like your relationship with your sibling is a lost cause, it’s not too late. If you don’t communicate well with them now, you can change that. Just be genuine. Don’t fake it. Tell them honestly that you’d like to improve your relationship, and go from there. Or, start the change by simply changing the way you act around them. Be loving.

John, I love you. I’m proud of you. I’m blessed to be your sister and best friend. Thank you for leading the way for me, sharing your heart with me, and helping me through life. Here’s to many more years of memories, hugs, laughter, and occasional trials. 

  • May 27, 2017

To My Friends & Family (6 Personalized Notes To You)

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on May 20, 2017.  It was a cathartic post for me at the time and incredibly personal. A weight was lifted from my shoulders after this, and I felt like I could let go of my old self a bit. 

(Writing this is part of the positive process of moving on from my past.)

Grab a drink to sip and maybe some tissues if you get easily emotional. I feel that this is going to be one of the most important and personal posts I’ve written so far. I’m going to address several specific groups of people in my life and release some thoughts that have been burdening me lately. Please read the beginning few paragraphs and at least the numbered section below that relates to you.

This post is about my mental and physical health struggles and their affects on my relationships with people: With YOU, the reader. I choose to be open about them, because it helps me heal from them.

When I look back, I see that my disorders really began to take hold of me at age 15 – sometime during my freshman year of high school. They worsened during my sophomore year, but I was still somewhat healthy. They peaked at junior year, and I was dangerously ill. At senior year I realized that I wanted to heal, but I felt like it was impossible. I had such unhealthy thought patterns built up, and I was still engaging in disordered behaviors. Despite those barriers to recovering, I did start pursing health during senior year.

Now, I’m a freshman in college. Since this school year started, I’ve been rapidly changing. I’ve been seeing a new therapist, learning so much about my disorders, pressing into God like never before, and facing multiple challenges that come with recovering. I haven’t reached some kind of end-goal and received a prize that says, “congratulations, you’ve recovered!” Though my parents, nutritionist, and therapist have all affirmed my incredible progress, I’m still on the journey. And I will still struggle.

For the most part – in my mind – I feel like such a different person today (in a good way!) However, I know that you guys can’t fully understand the changes I’ve been through in my mind. For you, my friends and family, I’m sure it’s been difficult to understand me at times. Some days I’m doing really well, feeling great, and feeling secure. Other days I’m feeling crappy, struggling, or feeling insecure. My mood is easily swayed by my circumstances. If you’ve ever been confused or uncomfortable when interacting with me, I don’t blame you. I can be unpredictable…It’s frustrating to me, and I’m sure it’s odd for you. But please know that I’m still in the process of learning new things about myself, learning about God, growing, and “being transformed by the renewing of my mind” as Romans 12:2 says.

That is why I’m going to write these notes. To explain the changes you may have noticed.

  1. To My Friends From My Home School Co-op (ELT):

During my time at ELT, I was a mess. My insecurities began to take control of me the same year I started ELT. In fact, ELT was a huge reason my eating disorder came about. Why? First of all, when I joined ELT, I did not feel very pretty. I was overweight my freshman year, and I felt trapped in my body. I was also the new girl, and I had a hard time making friends quickly. I compared myself to every girl in the gym each week (like most high school girls do). I felt awkward, and I just wanted to fit in. The second reason I struggled was because of the stupid nutrition classes I took…I took 2 different nutrition class in the same term, and they fed me a lot of awful information. Because I was already insecure about my body, these classes made me want to “get healthy.” However, the classes were not professionally taught, and the approaches they suggested were not safe. I was vulnerable, and these classes made me want tocontrol my food and exercise. My teachers told me a lot of bull crap about “healthy” food, GMO’s, glass water bottles, and what not to eat. I began to feel ashamed of the ways I was eating and living, because my teachers were not sensitive to the dangerous messages they were giving. Lastly, during the first two years of ELT, I was struggling because of some relationship issues, and they made me feel very insecure. Maybe you recognize the pattern now…I was just a really insecure girl, trying to figure things out. All the while, I was beginning to seek control and validation through my body and outward image. My ability to have healthy relationships was probably damaged a bit because of my insecurities. So, my ELT friends, I’m sorry you had to know me at my very worst state. I was just struggling a lot in high school. I don’t want you to think that I was being a “faker” or anything like that. I don’t want you to think I was crazy. I was still a fairly normal girl, but I was not very confident in myself then. When I took a break from ELT because of my health, you all seemed concerned and tried to understand why I needed to leave. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you exactly why. Thank you for sticking with me through it all. You guys have been some of the most loyal friends I’ve ever had. Brenna, Cassie, Sam, Jonathan, Kezia, Bekah, Bryanna, Sarah, and anyone else (moms included!) who may be reading this: I hope this helps you understand me a bit better. As I’m now figuring out how to be secure in who I am, please keep talking to me about my journey! Keep getting to know me and notice the changes in me. You may encounter me on a great day, or you may encounter me on a rough day. Either way, I am not the same girl I was in ELT. I am on a great journey of healthy change. 

     2. To My Church Friends, Highlife Leaders, and Community Group:

Right now, I’m on a wonderful and hard journey towards whole health. I love Jesus a bunch. I’m pursuing God, and my relationship with him is very strong! But: At church, I often struggle. I struggle to figure out what kind of face I’m going to wear when I walk in the doors. I want to be joyful, inviting, and smile, because I’m at church. That’s how I should feel, right? But some days I don’t feel like that would be genuine. Some days are just difficult, because I’m still recovering from a mental disorder. Every week, I also know that I’m guaranteed to be asked “how are you?” The hard thing for me is that I don’t always know how to answer. Some days I’m honestly doing so great, and some days I’m feeling severely insecure or anxious. I know that church is a safe place to tell people the truth, however, I don’t always know how to explain the complexities of my mind…So during the socializing time, sometimes I just kind of “shut down” and come off as uninterested in people. I’m sorry about this. I’m trying to work it out.

On another note: I want my highlife friends to know that leaving Highlife was a hard but very important choice for me. I loved Jesus just as much then as I do now. I believe I would have been fine and well equipped to keep leading a small group; but leaving allowed me to have the time to go to therapy and to work harder on recovering from my disorder. I know I’ll dive back in to ministry one day, whether it’s highlife or not. When I do, I’ll be even better than before!

     3. To My Skit Theatre Friends: 

During my time at Skit theatre, I was awkward. Haha, it makes me cringe to think of how awkward I probably acted. In high school, I did not know who I was. I was quite “up and down,” and I was beginning to develop a mental disorder because of my insecurities. During Skit rehearsals I compared myself to other girls in the plays, and I felt insecure and jealous in the relationship aspects of Skit. During Anne of Green Gables and Go Dog Go/ JGP, my eating disorder was beginning. This took up a lot of my brain space. And sadly, during Narnia, I was at my absolute worst point. Not only was I having health problems totally unrelated to my disorder, but I was also depressed, anxious, and not eating a lot. That is why I didn’t do a play during my senior year. So, my Skit friends, I’m sorry you had to know me at my very worst state. I was just struggling. Thank you, though, for bringing me so much joy and laughter during that time. Thank you for caring about me and remaining my friend after Narnia. I love that Skit gave me some of the most amazing friends. Christian, Maddy, Katie, Kim, Jacob, Maddi, Drew, Elysa, and everyone else you all rock my world. Now that I’m in a healthier mindset, I hope you’ll not ignore what I’ve gone through, but take me where I’m at. Talk to me about my journey, and make new memories with me!

     4. To My Long Time Friends (from church, childhood, etc.)

Hey you guys. Maybe you were a large part of my story, or maybe we didn’t talk a lot during my struggles. Some of you are my biggest supporters; some of you have offered prayers; some of you have only kept up with me through social media. Whatever the nature of our relationship has been, I just want you to know that I’m still figuring out who I am and how to be totally secure. I really value our friendship and that you’ve stuck with me through all of my high’s and low’s! In the future, some days I’ll be feeling wonderful, and some days I’ll be feeling “meh.” I need you to do something for me, though. Please don’t ignore what I’ve gone through. Please don’t feel awkward talking about it or listening to me talk about it. Ask me questions, pray with me, tell me the truth about myself. I can’t fight alone, and I need friends to keep me grounded.

     5. To My New Friends:

Maybe we don’t know each other super well yet, but I want you to know that while I have a complicated past, I’ve been changed and transformed through the healing of Jesus Christ. I like talking about what God has done for me, and it’s one of the most important things to me. I’m passionate about Him, and He shapes how I live.

    6. To My Family (in Salem, Vancouver, California, and Illinois)

Last but not least……Guys. Each of you has played a different kind of role in my life and struggles. I guess I just want to thank you for your prayers and for not taking my struggles lightly. I’ve realized recently that I’m being “transformed by the renewing of my mind” (Romans 12:2). I’m really relying on God, and He’s still transforming me and changing the way I think today. I hope my life will forever be evidence to you of God’s goodness and power. The girl you see today has learned a lot about life, suffering, joy, healing, and faith. I can guarantee you I’m going to keep learning and being transformed. But I will have bad days. I will feel weak and need you to encourage me. Never assume I’m doing great, and never assume I’m not doing great. Ask me genuinely, and I’ll tell you. You’re the most valuable people to me. I love you. Thanks for loving me.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  – Romans 12:2

What I’ve been up to: June, 2016

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on July 21, 2016. My first post as a high school graduate!

It’s been a little while since I’ve blogged, and so much life has happened since then! I’m now graduated and already thinking about the college chapter of my life. BUT, I try not to live in the future too much; So let me catch you up on just the highlights of the first month of my summer. I’ve been doing and learning a lot.

Graduation Day

I vividly remember an important moment from that day. It happened in my thoughts, but it was pivotal.  As I was sitting in the pew, waiting for my turn to go on stage, I completely zoned out and suddenly everything going on became quiet to me.

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I started thinking about the independence I was going to gain from then on. My future looked unknown, big, intimidating, exciting, and everything else. The gravity of the fact that I was going to start making a lot of big decisions for myself became very heavy. I also realized that without a youth group to go to, It’s really going to be my own choice whether or not to live for Jesus and go to church in my adult years…I thought about how I’m living for something (someone) much bigger than myself. I processed these thoughts for a few minutes and then snapped out of my daze. Ever since then, I’ve thought about the future in a new, more serious way.

I’ve had a lot of joy since then, though! I felt immensely blessed by the love and support i received that day. Thankfulness and a full heart is how I would sum up June 4th. It started my summer on a wonderfully high note!

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Work

A lot of my days have been spent working back at the old Forest…In case you don’t know, I work at Enchanted Forest Theme Park. It has been rough at times, and here’s why:

It can be an incredibly, physically demanding job some days. Other days, I just sit in a gift shop for 8 hours and have way too much time to contemplate life. I sit there, bored, and try to see Jesus in my day. He usually seems hidden when I’m there, and I don’t like it. My co-workers often make me sad, and I struggle to find joy in a place surrounded by fake smiles. I’ve had to figure out what to do when I witness someone lacking integrity…It’s just a very different atmosphere than anything I’ve experienced, and it has tested me in several ways. But the bright side is that it causes me to cling to the word of God.

Senior Retreat

I got to go to Sunriver Resort for a few days with 17 other just-graduated seniors from my church. I feel like this was a turning point in my life. Before the trip I sensed God was about to do something in my life, and I was waiting with expectation. In our devotional one morning, we were focussing on Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

I will spare all the details of how exactly God spoke to me, but this passage had a huge and lasting impact on me. I have read Proverbs 3 almost every day since then, and I just love those two verses the most. I really trust the Lord and his timing now, and I know he is wanting to remind me every day to acknowledge HIM over my own understanding. He says He will make my paths (my future) straight, and I want to accept that blessing from Him!

Also, I got to spend irreplaceable time with my peers, my wonderful mentor, and her adorable baby for those few days. I soaked in the love, advice, encouragement, and laughter and was reminded how filling it is to be with my church family.

John’s Homecoming

Straight up – I’m just real happy my brother
is back from college

 

I get a feeling of normalcy in my life when he’s here. He is my best friend, and I have been so much happier since he got home. Not only that, but we’re focussing on being each other’s best friend and spending intentional time together as much as possible. We have talks about life, we have been catching up, and he has lifted me up with affirmation.

Middle School Camp (Adventure Camp)

Yesterday I returned from 5 long days of serving as a leader of middle school girls. It being my first time as a camp leader, the experience was all new. I would describe it as hot, fun, tiring, annoying, challenging, hilarious, and rewarding. Being in ministry is like nothing else, I tell ya. Being away from cell service for that long allowed me to really be present and listen for God’s directing. Each day I grew closer with 7 young girls. They asked me questions constantly. They cried. They splashed me. They nagged me. They surprised me. They drove me crazy. And most of all, they blessed me.

Initially, I was afraid to go with the flow of the schedule and live in the present (due to my anxiety and desire to plan and be in control). But somehow, I ended up being okay. I surprised myself with how well I adapted. I actually found enough rest in the crazy scheduled week and 6 hour night sleeps. I was refreshed enough by the support of the people I was around and the reward of being there to help my students. I also remembered the passage in Proverbs 3 to “acknowledge him” in ALL my ways. I think what I really needed, whether I knew it or not, was time to be selfless and usable by God. I feel so healthy and free after several days of serving like that, and it’s going to challenge my normal way of living.

Anyways, there’s a whole lot more I could say about camp, but I’ll leave it at that. If you actually read all the way to the end, I’m very impressed. 😉 Thanks for reading! I hope you can be encouraged to acknowledge the Lord and let him lead you on straight paths as I have been.