Recovery is a process.

 

Over the past semester, I’ve learned that recovery is a slow mending process. A process that has no final destination, but rather a journey that follows an imperfect line of growth and process. A journey that leads you in and out of the darkest and brightest moments of your life. A journey that will grow you, break you and put you all back together in the same week. Along that path, that little thing you call your eating disorder will make its presence known, whether you want it to or not, screaming at the dinner table or whispering as you brush your teeth in the morning, however, there are also moments where you celebrate small victories and she’s nowhere in sight. You know, the days where you eat chicken nuggets, ice cream and sweet potato tots or the days where dress shopping with friends doesn’t end in tears? Those moments will all exist and how you listen will be a sign of your recovery. You know when she’s screaming and when she’s whispering, but when you’re on top of the mountain, the only thing you will hear is the encouragement and cheers from those who have been in your corner all along.

The past several months have been filled with large victories and small bumps in the road. I have counted the days, 250, 275, 300, 320… and I have stared in the mirror crying over all the things I want to fix. I’ve been in the darkness and in the light. I’ve walked away from meals with tears in my eyes and celebrated the end of hard days with ice cream. It has been a path that twists and turns with each passing day, but that’s all part of the process.

I always thought that passing day 200 would be the point where I would be “fixed” or “healed” from the past. I thought that I would walk away from unhealthy habits and thoughts and live a life chanting recovery mantras and sharing my story as one of hope. What I didn’t realize was that just like most things you learn in seminary, recovery is both and. It is both the chanting of mantras and asking for help when the urge comes flooding back. It’s both and when the numbers keep climbing and a bad day is thrown your way. It’s both and when you are crying over ice cream, yet celebrating a victory all at the same time. It’s both when you are sharing your story on one of the hardest days you’ve had in almost a year. It is all a part of the juxtaposition that exists as recovery.

I’ve learned more about who I am, who I have been, and who I want to become on the hardest of days. I have learned that sharing meals with people you trust is important and avoiding certain situations is key. I’ve figured out that healthy exercise and control are important and compulsive behaviors are not necessary. I’ve come to realize that people truly care and want to remind you that you are worthy of health, love, and to belong.

I thought that at this point in my journey I would be telling stories about when I used to struggle, but more and more I am realizing that it’s in the thick of the struggle and pain where I find the greatest story that I can tell. When I speak about the hard days, the triggers and the moments where I don’t feel okay, that’s where I see the growth happening, even if it’s small.

It’s a process. That’s the only thing I know for sure. In the midst of counting days, I have forgotten what it’s like to count calories and that to me has been the greatest accomplishment so far. My focus has been taken off of numbers that destroy and kill and placed on numbers that give life a meaning and purpose.

I’m not there yet, but I’m 320 days closer than I was several months ago. I’m closer to that one-year mark than I ever imagined I would be. As the number of days continues to climb, I remind myself to give myself a break, ask for help when necessary and live and dwell in the juxtaposition that is recovery.

It’s a process, my friends, may you find peace in knowing that you are not alone.

Empty spaces, vacant hearts.

We’re all thinking it, but no one is ready to say it yet. This holiday season, there’s an empty space in our hearts and a vacant seat at our dinner table. This year, we will gather to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas without the one who has kept us together for so long. There have been moments throughout the year where I whispered to myself, “you should be here”, but this week and the next month more than ever; I am wishing granny could be here.

 

To fill just a little piece of my heart, I decided to write a letter updating granny on what is happening in our lives. I’ve missed so much, but I think I highlighted what I could remember.

 

 

 

 

Dear Granny,

I want to start by saying I love you and miss you dearly. What I would give for one more Sunday dinner, one more trip to St. Louis, one more holiday. For the past 9 months, I have caught myself on several occasions remembering you and wishing you could be here. At first, I caught myself driving down your street looking for your wind chimes blowing in the wind. Then I became Sunday afternoon and I was upset that we couldn’t argue over who ate more. Then it became last week in class where the room smelled like your house. And now we are here. The day before we are to gather together to eat food and be thankful. I still miss you, still wish you could be a part of the holidays and the things that are happening in our lives. Yet, we gather to be thankful.

 

However, this year we are thankful for 91 years of laughs, meals and holidays. We are thankful for the days we spent packed into your house sitting on top of one another because coming to your house always felt like a homecoming. We are thankful for holidays spent at Tammy’s and grandma and grandpa’s where we have room to move around, take tons of pics and laugh and smile over what Brookie and Jacie are singing in the middle of he room. We are thankful that each of us has a memory that carries us on the hard days.

 

We are thankful for the past year, all of it! The good, the bad, the celebrations and the mourning. We are thankful that we have had moments of great joy, but also moments of great loss. Even when the moments are hard, we are thankful.

 

There have been several high school graduations, dances, new schools, a new baby and milestone birthdays this year! With each passing milestone and event that happens in our lives, I know we are all thinking to ourselves, you should be here. We want you to see how proud we are of Nick and David for graduating high school. How fast time is flying now that all 3 Dublo girls are in high school. How well Taylor is doing is softball. How Samantha is still rocking nursing school. How Brandon is awesome at playing football. How well Tyler is doing in college. How incredibly precious baby Owen is. How much your kids are sticking together and celebrating birthdays and holidays together. How well your grandchildren are doing and what they are doing in their lives and community. The list goes on and on. We are good, we are okay, and we are blessed.

 

Blessed that while we still grieve over the empty chair at our dinner table this year, there is new life and celebration. Blessed that while we grieve that there’s going to be an extra piece of pumpkin pie, there are kiddos ready to eat pie covered in whipped cream. Blessed that while it seems like it has been forever, we know we will see you again one day.

 

This thanksgiving and Christmas season, may we remember what is truly important. May we keep your memory alive in the simple ways and gather together to celebrate the new life and celebrations.

 

We are thankful for you and the values that you have instilled in us. Family is important, meals together are the best and time is precious. May we remember those things over the next few months, as we gather to celebrate the holidays.

 

Until I see you again, granny! We all miss you. This holiday season will not be the same without you.

 

The seat is empty and the void in our hearts is still there, but when we gather together this holiday season, may your memory be kept alive.

 

Love you,

Brittney

An open letter to our beloved, the church.

Ever, Only, All for Thee

This is the time for us to get it together. Whether you stand with her, or want to build a wall, the church has always been a place of refuge. The church has always been a place for enemies to sit at the same table. Our whole lives we have been told to shoot for the stars, stand up for what we believe in, to fight for what is right; we have been told what to buy, where to buy it, what to wear, how much weight to lose, and how to cut and style our hair. We have been talked about as if we are not in the room. We can not gather at the same table of the generations before us, despite them being the ones who introduced us to the church, to the faith. No longer can we sit idly by while our voices, decisions, and opinions…

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And So I Kept Living

This past week, I have been turning pages of my old journals, clicking my way through my old blog posts and looking at pictures that almost make me unrecognizable. I’ve read the words of a broken and hurting soul that was longing to be loved, longing to be heard, longing to be healed. I’ve sifted through fake smiles, insecure stances and goofy face pictures; all hiding something deep inside that was too dark to speak of.

 

I’ve watched social media explode with suicide awareness week posts, stories about recovery, and pictures that show just how far people have come. I’ve read the #ikeptliving tag on all forms of social media and have been moved to tears on so many occasions. I’ve seen genuine smiles, transformed hearts, and the words of close friends and family speaking about what suicide awareness week means to them specifically.

 

But what about now? It’s Monday again and the posters have been taken down, my timeline isn’t filled with #ikeptliving pictures and quotes and the silence around suicide and mental disabilities is deafening yet again.

 

That dear sweet younger Brittney that poured her heart out over journal pages and awkwardly tried to not be at war with her body would have slid under the radar during last week. She would have kept things to herself, closed herself off, and allowed the harmful words she spoke to herself control her.

 

However, that’s not how the story ends. Little Brittney grew. She grew up physically and within the past year, she has grown spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. She has learned about freedom and forgiveness, recovery and grace. She has reconciled herself with her body and the past that distorted how things really were. She sits in seminary classes, drinks pumpkin spice lattes, and laughs without a care as the waves crash against the rocks while the sun beams down overhead. There’s something so different.

 

I still carry that little Brittney around with me. Every once and awhile I let her have her way, but always reminding her that tomorrows are real, forgiveness is real, and grace is extending far beyond the borders that contain my faith.

 

So this week, after all the posters have been removed from the walls, posts on social media are no longer directed at recovery and freedom and #ikeptliving, I celebrate and honor my life.

 

I honor the parts that shaped me, molded me, and transformed me into the person I am today. I honor the tears, the empty prayers, and the long nights praying for drastic changes.

 

I will celebrate me and where I am in the current moment. All the things I am learning and in some ways unlearning. I am celebrating shorts weather, community meals, classes, and a new life that began the moment I was facedown on my floor week one of seminary.

Sometimes we need reminders. We need little glimpses of hope in the midst of struggles and dark moments. While the week may have ended and social media doesn’t have such a large platform this week, I’m still celebrating, still living, still offering hope.

 

I pray that this week you find yourself celebrating, living an offering hope as well. Suicide awareness week is over, but the struggles that exist in people’s lives are not. There are people hurting; people who you wouldn’t even expect to struggle. Be that beacon of hope, the ray of light, that smiling face that looks them in the eyes and says, “me too.”

Labels Mean Nothing

1 Corinthians 12:12-27

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

 

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Each person plays a valuable part in the body of Christ.

We all make up the body of Christ and we play a valuable part in what God is doing in the world.

 

But what happens when we let labels get in the way of that calling? In the way of that unity? In the way of the goodness of God and all that God has to offer this world?

 

Watch this video as an intro to what I will be discussing in this post.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0qD2K2RWkc

 

 

My friends, we live in a world where labels are second nature.

 

Married or single,

gay or straight,

black or white,

poor or rich,

Christian or none-Christian,

liberal or conservative,

too skinny or too fat……..the list goes on and on.

 

In a world where we are all labeled on the daily, it’s easy to get caught up in what others are saying about us.
It’s easy to lose sight of what God believes to be true about each and every one of us.

 

I want you all to know that every part of you, every single part of you, is valued and has meaning and purpose. Things that are visible or things that are hidden in your heart are all unique and special to you. Those things that cause you to look at the world differently, that cause you to have compassion and love, that cause you to see things in a different light, they all make up you and that’s exactly what God intended.

 

You see, while we as a society spend so much time placing labels on one another, God is busy calling each and every one of us His. Calling each and every one of us worthy, loved, and valued.

 

The body is made up of many parts; each part playing a specific role that makes the body function properly.

 

Think about the relationships that you have. The friends, family, acquaintances that you see regularly. Those people are shaping you and sometimes you don’t even know it.

 

There are people who look at you and instantly make judgments about who you are and what you stand for, without even knowing your name. They judge you because of who you are. Things that are a part of you that you can do absolutely nothing about.

 

With a world so full of judgments, people are desperately looking for a place to call home. A place to be safe. A place to call a family. People search until they find that place to belong, they search until their hearts are satisfied and their lives feel safe and at home.

 

What if we started loving instead of judging?

 

What if we started serving instead of shutting our doors?

 

What if we chose to do good rather than join the noisy crowd?

 

The church would be where people come first. A place where they feel safe and valued and nurtured, without having to pretend.

 

My friends, that is our job.

It’s our job to knock down walls, break chains and roll away the barriers. It’s not solely the pastor’s job. It’s a job for the whole body of Christ.

 

We have parts that are missing. Eyes that see better than ours, hands that serve in a different way, feet that are willing and ready to be on mission wherever God leads them. But before they even darken the doorways of our churches, we have to stop judging, stop hating, stop building walls.

 

We have to choose to love, we have to choose to stop labeling, we have to choose that love is greater than hate, every single day.

 

Let’s take that one step further.

We are the body of Christ. A family of believers committed to doing good in a world that is sometimes so incredibly dark and scary.

 

We are the body of Christ and we must stop with the labels. Stop with the groupings, stop with the “us vs them” mentality.

 

My friends, Jesus came so that you and I and our friends in Ferguson, Orlando, Dallas, Portland and Chicago can have the same freedom in Christ, knowing that each of us are perfect just the way we are.

 

We are claimed and owned by the God of today, tomorrow, and forever.

 

I know that your hearts and minds have wandered. Wandered to a place that has caused you to hear the labels that you are called daily. They are ringing in your ears.

 

I hear them screaming in my head. I hear them closing me off, turning me away and making me want to run.

 

But my friends, there is a greater label that I want to put on. It’s a label that claims me and allows me to be free. A label that allows me to love and serve and sing and worship in whatever way I see fit.

 

It’s a label that people all around the world long to hear.

My friends, Jesus looks at each and every one of us and calls us enough. We are enough because when Jesus hung on that cross, he uttered the words, it is finished.

 

If the labels the world places on you are weighing on your heart, know that you have been redeemed and forgiven. You have been called worthy and enough.

 

Spend time searching your heart for the words that Christ calls you. Words that are uplifting, loving, and encouraging.

 

My dear brother and sisters in Christ, you are not your label. You are a valued part of the body of Christ.

Amen.

 

 

Exactly where I’m meant to be.

So, how are things going at seminary? Are you enjoying classes? What church are you attending? Have you grown spiritually and personally? What about the city? Does it make you feel out of place? I have frequently been asked these questions over the past several months. At first I would give the typical answers that you would expect. I love school, I’m growing a lot, I am in love with the church I’m attending, and the city has allowed me to see that there is so much more beyond the limits of the 618.

While all of that is true, I feel as though I haven’t given justice to the experiences that I have had since I have been here. I’ve lost who I was and became who I always wanted to be. I’m a girl that has a past, yet not letting it define her. I am a girl that has gained emotions, feelings, and opinions that have helped to communicate how I feel about it all. I am my own person; a person with convictions and values that are shaping the way I interact with the world and how I do church.

I am not going to lie; week one of this journey was by far the hardest. There were more tears than I ever imagined, my pastors were on speed dial, and I was convinced I wouldn’t make it to the final few weeks. I didn’t have friends, no church to attend, and a big city that made me feel like a fly. I was so overwhelmed with the silence that I was living in. Who I was began to stare me in the face and I was forced to deal with it all. I was out of place and I didn’t belong. Something didn’t seem quite right.

Yet, here I am. Sitting in my regular Sunday spot at the local Panera (yes friends, they call it Panera here, I’m learning to adjust). Drinking my usual Sunday coffee and watching the locals interact over their Sunday lunches, and suddenly I realized I have become a local too. This is my space, my place, my environment and it’s shaping me. I do belong, I am supposed to be here and the fear of silence no longer causes me to tremble.

I have fallen in love with life in Northern Illinois. I’ve become captivated by the way the waves crash along the shoreline and have had honest conversations with myself about who I want to be when I leave this place. I’ve never lived away and the little country girl in me is in love with the vastness that exists in this part of the state. I have dwelled in the silence, examined my life in ways I never imagined and realized that I deserve to live in peace. I deserve to live in freedom; I deserve to exist as Brittney. A human that is broken, scarred, and fragile, yet redeemed by Christ and living in the reality that the cross is more than enough.

Seminary as a whole has been so incredibly good. I have grown in my knowledge of scripture, the church, and God. I have studied under some of the most brilliant minds and have met people that live in love and walk in truth. It’s a new environment that has proven to be so incredibly healthy and enriching. I can’t help but geek out over the knowledge that I have gained. It has expanded my vocabulary and has caused me to look at the church in different ways. It is a growing experience, that’s for sure. I forgot how much I love filling my head with knowledge and writing papers that explain why I believe what I believe. It has stretched me, molded me and transformed me. I’m not ready to leave for the summer, and that my friends is a sure sign that I am learning to love the scary and new experiences that God graciously hands to me.

As far as growth, I would say this is the biggest way I see God showing up in Evanston. I have had to sit in silence, pray, and confront the deepest parts of my heart. I have had to write pages and pages in my journal, cry as I walk along the beach, and accept that I need to let go of who I used to be.

As most of you know, I have been in an ongoing relationship with things that have controlled me for far too long. I have reached for control in the unhealthiest of ways and because of it, I’ve built walls, shut people out, and lived in a dark place masked with glitter, smiles and fakeness. Since being in Evanston, I have lost control to gain freedom. I have intentionally placed myself in situations where eating is a must and purposefully kept sharp objects out of my room. I have been intentional on how I treat myself on my hardest of days. I have given myself space to heal and deal with why I do theses things and accepted that it’s who I was, not who I am. I’ve walked in that freedom for almost 90 days and I have never felt so peaceful. It’s a process that I am constantly learning how to live in. I have given myself grace on the days I don’t feel like walking in freedom. I’ve seen myself release a grip and break the walls. I’ve seen the need for Jesus in a whole new way and I want to extend that same grace and love to everyone I meet. People all bring something to the table, why not make that table a little easier to exist at?

Speaking of all people, I need to tell you all how incredibly thankful I am that I have found the church that I have been attending since I got here. Before coming to Evanston, I was so incredibly hurt by the church. Rumors, hateful words, and accusations that simply weren’t true caused me to want to run from the church and keep running until I wasn’t near it. I slowly learned to like the church again while attending Immanuel, but here I have fallen in love with the church all over again. I’ve watched barriers become broken, people experiencing acceptance regardless of who they are, and have broken bread with people who are so different than I. This morning, Northbrook UMC voted to hold same -sex couples weddings in their church building. That my friends, is where the Gospel comes to life. Christ died for all. Yes, all! Not an all with a star next to it explaining the exclusions that the word has. The breath of relaxation and joy that filled the room as the word yes was spoken, filled the room with peace and the table that we gather around for communion suddenly got a little more crowded. Crowded in the good way, you know, the kind where so many family members come to thanksgiving dinner and you all have to squeeze together because there’s so much love in one place. I’ve seen the good that can come from the church. I truly believe that Northbrook UMC has been the place ordained and set aside for me to fall in love with the church all over again. It’s so good to see growth happening and people being included in all actions in the church.

I love this place, I love the city and I love who I am becoming. I have never loved the person I am, until now. I’ve never loved the church as much as I do right now. I’ve never experienced freedom and growth quite like this, until now.

So, to answer all of your questions, I love this place, these people, this church, and this city. I have found a whole new meaning to freedom and have loved dwelling in it. I have found myself somewhere between classes, church, and hard conversations overly thankful for the grace that is extended to me and the nudging of the people in my life that got me to say yes to this scary and new experience.

It has been the most beautiful 4 months and I wouldn’t trade the painful silences, hard conversations, and new girl stereotype for the world. I’m exactly where I am supposed to be and for that, I am thankful.

 

An open letter to the girl who is struggling.

My dear beautiful girl,

I know you are already rolling your eyes because I called you beautiful. You have mentally made a list of all the reasons why you are not beautiful in your head. Your hair isn’t falling into place today, you have a zit on your nose, and your weight hasn’t been where you have wanted it to be since you were 7 years old.

 

But, I need you to let all those things go, let down the walls and listen with an open heart and mind today. You, my dear friend are loved, beautiful, and enough.

 

There have been things in your life that have tripped you up and caused you to destroy the vessel that harbors your spirit. You have skipped meals, destroyed your thighs with a razor and walked away from people because you think you are “too much.”

 

I get it, I have been there, but I need you to know that there is something so much greater on the other side. There is freedom waiting for you in the breeze of the spring air and within the fresh snow that falls in the winter, blanketing everything in a white sweater, as if it’s to keep your frail and fragile heart warm.

 

The past 45 days have proven to be too much. You made resolutions, yet you already “failed” at keeping them. Grades are slipping, and you’re barely able to keep your head above water, so you turn to control, habits that destroy the beautiful being that is you.

 

I need you to know something…you are loved. You are more loved than you will ever realize. There is a God who has put things into orbit and hung the stars that thinks you are perfect, because that’s the way you were created, flaws and all. There are parents, teachers, friends and family members who think you are the greatest thing to happen to them. You have a support system cheering you on and loving you when you cannot love yourself. Let them. Don’t push them away because you feel unworthy or not good enough. Allow them to love you back to reality, a reality that screams YOU ARE LOVED in the face of an eating disorder, self-harm, suicide and anything else that tells you that you aren’t.

 

There is something else I need to tell you. You are beautiful. You, yes you. You have eyes that are filled with sparkle and a heart filled with passion. You have been crafted and created to be exactly as you are. No amount of makeup, dieting, and clothing will change the fact that you are beautiful. I know it’s hard to hear, because you cannot go a day without picking yourself apart. But I need you to believe me. I spent years destroying myself and telling the person looking back at me in the mirror that I wasn’t beautiful. But let me tell you what I’ve come to realize. Beauty that is measured by the soul extends far beyond clothing, weight, and looks. That my friend, is what you should measure yourself in. Not in pounds, inches, and pant sizes, but in the soul. Your capacity to love, your heart for missions, your ability to let people feel safe in times of need, measure yourself in that.

 

One final thing, you are enough. You are more than enough actually. Sure, you’ve made mistakes, we all have, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy and enough to exist in this world. In fact, without you, this world would be missing a part. You play a huge role in peoples lives, whether you know it or not. You are paving the way for someone else, someone else is counting on your story, and someone is waiting to see you bloom because that’s what is giving them hope. So you my friend are more than enough. You deserve life.

I hope that you find comfort in knowing you are not alone. There are people all around the world who are struggling, needing to know they are loved, beautiful and enough. I love you and I am so incredibly proud of you for still living, breathing, and believing that tomorrow will be better.

 

I’m here, always. Loving you, encouraging you and believing in you. You can do this! You are capable of more than you ever thought possible.

 

Love,

The girl who used to walk in your shoes