Sunday, August 18, 2013

In Which I Ask You to Pray

[I know my words in response to returning from India have been few, and that will change soon, I hope.]

But today I want to tell you a story and ask you to pray, too.

I was about a month out from graduating from this residential program where I had fallen in love with Jesus and He had begun the process of redemption in my life after an eight year battle with bulimia, among many other things. One of the steps towards graduation consists of "real-wolrd" plans. Meaning, what is next for you when you leave this bubble? For me, that meant my freshman year of college, meeting with my accountability partner, serving in my church family, and finding a job. I started applying for jobs while in treatment, any online applications I could get my hands on. I was quite familiar with a nanny website called, as I had previously worked for a family I found through that website. I decided to get on there and apply for a few nanny positions near my home.

There was one in particular that stood out and I just remember it sounding too good to be true. Their house was literally walking distance from mine, the hours were perfect and the pay quite generous. That's why it was a shock to me when the mother of these two boys replied to my application the next morning and asked for me to come over for an interview. And an even bigger surprise when I was allowed to leave the program I was in for a night to go have the interview, something that was never really done. But God had a plan it seems; I just didn't realize how overwhelmingly perfect it was until this week.

I remember driving to the interview and talking on the phone with my best friend. As reality began to creep in, I said to her, "Let's just hope they don't ask me why there's been a gap in my employment the past year or two. It's not like I could put 'resident in troubled girls home' on my application and hope they let me watch their kids, huh?" We laughed. The interview went perfectly and God really did give me a great love for their family, even through that short hour long meeting. Somehow I knew this was the job God had chosen for me, even before they offered it.

A few weeks later, of course, the offer did come and I graciously accepted. I started nannying for them late that August, picking up the boys from the bus stop, helping with homework, a few snacks, and some play time. The younger of the two beat me in basketball everyday and his victory shouts over me [yet again] never seemed to get old to him. The boys were both a little older, one pre-teen and the other just shy of it, so we got to talk a lot. About real things, you know? That was cool, since most nanny positions it's not like that.

The boys' parents, well they worked hard and loved their boys more then anything in life. In the winter I got to invite the boys' mom to a women's Christmas tea at my church. That night I finally decided it was time to share with her a little bit of my story, in hopes I wouldn't lose my job after she realized how messy my life was not too long ago, for that matter, that she would still trust me with her kids. I told her about the tough stuff growing up and the way I sought after control of just about anything in my life as a result. I told her how I just want to be good enough, pretty enough, smart enough--and how I just didn't feel loved in those early years. So, I decided to try to earn it. If I could be skinner and prettier, well, then maybe mom and dad would love me. I told about years in treatment programs and hospitals and the night I overdosed in an attempt to be free from the weight of it all. And then I told her how God saved my body from death quite miraculously that night. And how He brought me to Mercy and redeemed my life from the pit of hell. He gave me hope and that set me free after eight years of trying to find it elsewhere.

She listened to my words and cried. That night things shifted in our relationship as we continued to grow closer and to this day I am so thankful for the way their family has stood by me these past four years.

That next summer I had the boys full time as God continued to build tighter relationship between me and this family. We spent long days at the pool, the zoo, eating ice cream and riding roller coasters at Six Flags. That sort of became our weekly routine. I was pretty involved with a youth ministry called ZOE Ministries at the time, so we spent quite a few of those hot summer days up at the ZOE house that summer too. The boys met some friends and started asking more questions about this whole Jesus thing, especially the younger of the two.

We talked about how God spoke the animals, plants and us humans into existence and he soaked it up. I gave him a bible for his birthday that year and he read it a few times. We listened to worship songs in my car and they fought me on it, boy did they ever. In fact, my the volume control on my radio is still broken from a disagreement I had with one of the boys over who controls the music in my car. But then one day in the middle of that summer I looked in the rearview to see them both just singing along to one of those silly worship songs. Tears streamed quietly down my cheeks as we drove to Target.

I moved away to college in Arkansas that fall, and saying goodbye to the boys and thier parents brought as many tears for all of us as saying goodbye to my own family. I wrote the boys a lot and visited every time I came home. That Christmas when it was time for them to meet the boy I was dating, the younger of the two literally followed him around the entire evening with the whole "if you hurt her, I'll kill you" glare in his eye. When we left, I remember the guy I was dating saying that the little man scared him. Hah. That is just him, though. And I am so thankful.

The next summer I came home to nanny the boys again and they had really grown up that year. We had such sweet times and so many crazy adventures that summer. We played monopoly every single day--and I often got beat. More lazy pool days and I think we ate frozen yogurt daily that year. Through a big event at the end of the summer put on by ZOE called Hot Summer Nights, the younger of the two raised his hand to accept Christ as Lord. After two years of praying for this family and just doing life with them, getting to witness this moment was pretty incredible. I went back to college about a week later and continued to stay in touch best I could. I don't know much of what the past two years have looked like for these precious boys, apart from a few visits and photos.

Last week I found out that the younger of the two boys, the same one who beat me in basketball, often championed our monopoly marathons, and scared off the only boy I ever dated--I found out he has actually been struggling with an eating disorder. Most people might be shocked to find out that a boy could be so enslaved to a battle with food and image, but since an eating disorder is most often a whole lot of deeper issues expressed through a distorted view of ourselves and thus relationship with food, it's a shock to me more boys don't struggle with it. And they might, but be too ashamed to seek help.

  • Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.
  • An estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.
  • Men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that they are “woman’s diseases.”
  • Significantly higher rates of eating disorders found in elite athletes (20%), than in a female control group (9%).

Looking back four years ago, I didn't know why God chose to allow me to work for this family just out of treatment. And even through those two years with the boys, there were days I wondered how the Lord brought me here, into this home with these crazy boys, days I wanted to quit! But God always seemed to draw me back to just loving them in spite of myself. He kept there and sustained us all.

I knew when I moved away two years ago I would stay in touch and was so thankful for how God used this family to provide stability and love for me as I wobbled through my first two years learning to walk in freedom from my eating disorder. But I had no idea God would allow me to testify to His faithfulness in my own life as one of these boys battles the same issue four years later. I am humbled today, to just reflect on how perfect and glorious His bigger picture plans really are, you know?

Jesus redeemed my life from the pit of hell. He can do it for this precious little brother too. Let's pray to that end, as James says "If any of you lacks wisdom He should ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith with no doubting..."

Four years later, I just know I am so unworthy, and yet He loves me still. I mess up a lot and sometimes I forget His promises, but He continues to work in my heart and teach more of my identity in Him. I am no longer a slave to an eating disorder or anything else for that matter, because His word says while my sin deserved death, He gave His son Jesus to die on a cross that I might be set free. And that, well, that's my story. It's all of our stories when we truly believe in our hearts Jesus is the way, the Truth and the life.

I am praying with great expectation for the way God is using this trial to draw this beloved family to Himself, just as He did for me. Pray for his mom, especially as she is desperate to help her son. Please join me in praying for this precious family and for their son who is currently in another state at an inpatient treatment program which specifically targets boys battling eating disorders. 

*If you know this precious boy who is struggling and would like to send him some words of encouragement, that would be an incredible blessing to him, and to me. Let me know and I will send you his address.