True Companion? Loving Someone With Mental Illness

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life.

Over 500K viewers will tune in tonight for the season finale of the Bachelorette. My husband and I watch it together as we mock this simulated imitation of relationships. Because we know that love is nothing like the idolized world of fancy vacations, fantasy suites and a constant stream of passionate lifelong (or so they claim) commitment and mixed with dramatic unrequited love.

Love is actually much more beautifully complicated.

Especially when you love someone with an eating disorder or mental illness.

Beautiful and complicated.

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What do you do when you find your soul mate, the one you love, the one you just know God has put in your life? You do what you dreamed of doing, you marry her and live happily ever after. You have children and you grow old together. It is beautiful and simple and as easy as they make it seem on reality shows.

We were nothing like that simplicity.

Everything was out on the table, my struggle with an eating disorder and my reoccurring bouts of deep depression. In the midst of dating, I went away for months to live in a locked unit trying to get well. Many told him to break free, to find the good Christian girl without the baggage. To find the one who would “let go and let God”, because I clearly wasn’t. And really, what kind of future could he expect if this was how the dating life was going to be? Yet, he continued to stay.

I was a gamble. A risk. But isn’t it a risk every time we love someone? There are no guarantees of this “fairy tale”. You see it on the Bachelor this infatuational love that feels good. This finding of your one true love so that your life is complete. And that is 100% a mirage.

We all come together as one with two broken and fractured souls.

To deny that is to be unrealistic. When we begin to look for our completeness in another person we are drinking from a well that will never satisfy. I am not saying, love and marriage aren’t beautiful and God ordained. They are. And they are beautifully complicated for many. At least our story was and I know many others are as well.

They sent him flowers.

I was lying in the ICU unit of a hospital after trying to unsuccessfully take my own life. I should have been dead. I wanted to die. The depression a black tar that left me deep in a pit. There were no signs of my impending destruction, as I was a master of wearing the mask. Working, smiling, and doing what the world expected. But inside, inside the darkness and the incessant thoughts of shame and self-loathing overwhelmed me to the point of madness.

And by a miraculous twist of fate, he had a stirring in his soul that something was wrong with me. That he must wake up. That he must go to me. He listened. His listening took him to the house I was living in only to find me lying in a pool of vomit nearly dead.

He was the hero. He was the one they sent flowers to. There are no flowers sent to you after you unsuccessfully try to take your own life. I understood.

Once again, he was told to run.

To leave the crazy girl who couldn’t seem to cope. Because really, what if you had children and she did this? What if she did this and you were left as her caregiver?

And he stayed. Because he believed something different than what the world was saying. He believed that underneath the illness was the woman he loved. The woman he laughed and cried with. The woman he continued to believe was his soul mate. Maybe he was the crazy one for staying?

And to be even more unconventional, he asked me to marry him a mere seven months after the suicide attempt. And three months later we walked down the isle as husband and wife.

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I felt the heaviness in the room at the church that day. Felt the thoughts of those who were saying he should have ran and that none of this made any sense. I saw the fear in their eyes and the uneasiness in their “congratulations” and he did too. And we let it go and chose to love. There was no guarantee of a mentally healthy future. No guarantee of a forever. No guarantee of a recovery for me. No guarantee of an “us”.

But is there ever? What is it about love, and more specifically the idea in the Christian community that because we love God all will be well? Yes, all will be well AND very very difficult. You need God to make it through a marriage, a mental, illness, and life.

It was BECAUSE of God, because of our faith that we were able to make it through.

Not make it perfect, but make it through. I wasn’t looking to him to complete me, and he wasn’t either. We both came into the union with scars and brokenness as everyone does. Mine was just a bit more problematic than the average struggle going in to marriage.

And this month we celebrate eighteen years of marriage. There have been no hospitalizations or relapses for me. I entered the maintenance stage of recovery within the first year of our marriage. Some who looked in from the outside said, yet again, he was the hero. That it was the marriage that healed me.

No. It was God that healed me. An eating disorder is not a choice, but recovery is.

And WE did the work. We went to hundreds of hours of therapy and we early on worked through the complicated mess that is love and marriage while also letting the professionals treat my eating disorder. We entered the marriage with not only my grosses parts of my brokenness exposed, but his as well. While I was sick it was easy to allow me to be the one with the problems, for me to be the one that needed help, and for me to be the one that needed fixing. And through the work that we did, we found a common place that was equal parts mess. My mess clinical and diagnosable, but both of us entering the union with or own pain.

Had we not done the work early on, had we not been forced to be rigorously honest because of my illness, someday down the road we would have been forced to, or we would have chosen those moments to run.

Because the mountains we have faced, that any of us face in the union of marriage can be excruciatingly difficult.

We have been through miscarriages, job difficulties, deaths, and financial pits. There have been times of horrible hurt and other times of heavenly beautiful love. And had we not gone through the darkness of our struggles early on, I wonder if the other situations might have broken us?

Love, even love between two Christians is beautiful and difficult. To believe it won’t be is to fool yourself. We know we are and oddity, that many marriages wrought with mental illness don’t survive. And I am also not in any way minimizing the difficulty that these marriages face. A stark reality as many marriages don’t recover and the struggle is horrific and sometimes tragic. But what we do know is that there is a magnetic pull in the direction of hope. I hope you will hear our story and find a grain of hope as one couple that made it through.

It is possible.

We had to do the work, we had to fight our way through with the help of a good therapist and for me a fantastic psychiatrist. We had to lean heavily on our faith community and our heavenly father. And despite the fears of the naysayers and those who didn’t believe we could make it, we believed anyway in our beautifully complicated love.

And we are so glad we did.

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The Blurred Lines of Fifty Shades of Grey

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life.

I grew up in a home where we didn’t talk about sex. We were given strict instructions on how to be a lady. My Southern mother would often instruct us, “ladies don’t sweat, they perspire. Ladies don’t fart, they poof.” So words like “vagina” or conversations about sex were taboo.

A few years ago I was listening to a radio program where the hosts were talking about an amazing book they read. I have this weird thing with books, I never read the blurbs or the back covers. I like to be surprised. Sometimes I will pick a book simply because I like the cover.

I heard them discussing the book and how good it was and later downloaded it on my kindle. I somehow missed them talking about the sexual domination between the mega-millionaire and young impressionable student.

The book was Fifty Shades of Grey. This was before it became the “mommy porn” of the year.

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I was sitting in a hard metal chair at the airport innocently reading my kindle, when I came upon…oh how do I describe it any other way than porn. Yes, words I had never heard, describing body parts I had never heard. I looked to my right and to my left while my face became hot. I picked up my phone and called my husband, “Oh my gosh. You won’t believe this. I downloaded this book and I think it is porn!” I whispered very quietly so no one would know.

I was a christian reading porn! A lady, reading porn!

So, yes I read Fifty Shades of Grey. Judge away.

Did it change my life? No. Did it open my eyes? Yes. Was it a literary masterpiece? No way.

But, yesterday as my Facebook page was flooded with re-posts of the trailer with orgasmic sounds reminding me of When Harry Met Sally, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of deep dread. I have not been sexually abused and have had a very simple experience with sex. One that is good and beautiful.

This isn’t about me.

This is about what this movie promotes, and the lines are very very blurred here.

Sure, Christian Grey doesn’t harm his girl and she is consensual about it. Is that how we justify it?

Is that how we justify this tying up of hands and feet, of using whips and other tools to seek and find pleasure?

Tell me, what happens in the book when in the middle of an encounter in the “red room of pain” Anastasia decides she doesn’t want to play anymore, and Christian is filled with enough testosterone to move a car? Do we think he will be able to stop? Do we think he won’t possibly force himself upon her? They don’t put that in the book.

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Sex sells. We all know that, but I am outraged by the fact that sexual bondage and dominion over a woman is slated to be a box office best seller.

50 Shades of Grey author E.L. James—Snowqueens Icedragon to her fans—is purportedly making an estimated $1.34 million a week off her quaint little country romance novel. Having sold 20 million copies and counting, the trilogy is calmly and methodically shattering every previous sales record in the world.

Maybe you haven’t had any trauma and maybe you are saying, “aww it is just a movie!”

I plead you to think about the other side of this.

Millions of women and men have experienced horrific sexual abuse. Pornography is a problem not only in households, but in our churches. Every night I hear yet another story on the news of a priest who has been convicted of sexual misconduct. And yet, this trailer in one day received over four million hits on the Internet.

Can you honestly say this is no big deal?

Where it hits home most for me is with my patients who struggle with eating disorders. Did you know, “It is believed that 30% of individuals with an eating disorder have been sexually abused.” – NEDA

“In my eating disorder practice, 40 to 60 percent of the men and women who come to therapy for an eating problem have been sexually or physically abused. “It was my father’s best friend.” “It was my father.” “It was my brother.” “It was my mother’s boyfriend.” “It was my mother.” “And so I starved myself.” “And so I binged and purged.” “And so I got fat.” “And so I started using laxatives.”

“What is the connection between sexual abuse and developing an eating disorder? The answer is guilt, shame, anesthesia, self-punishment, soothing, comfort, protection and rage.” Edrefferal              

The stories I have heard from women and men would rock your world as it has mine. The stories I have heard are unfathomable! The amount of sexual abuse in this country is staggering. The amount of pornography addiction is also staggering. Some call the pornography in America a public health crisis

Morality in Media, a group devoted to fighting porn and indecency, blasted out a statement from its executive director, Dawn Hawkins, condemning the newly released trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey. The trailer, she says, “deceives the public with a visually appealing melodramatic love story that romanticizes and normalizes sexual violence.”

I would encourage you to think of this other side. To think of these women and men, and choose as I will, to not support a movie such as this.

God did not create sex to be something in a red room of pain. He did not create us to use and dominate over one another. I imagine the God I love being so sad that something He made, something that is supposed to be so beautiful, has come to this.

You won’t see me in that movie and I hope you will join with me in supporting the women and men in our society who this is harming as well as the message it is perpetuating.

#Notsupportingfiftyshades

xo

Lee

 

 

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When You Feel Like Life Is Going Too Fast

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life.

Over 19 years ago I tried to take my own life.

And now I want nothing more than for life to stay just as is.

I was the baby of the family. At family events it was never a question of would I sit at the kid table, but a question of when I would graduate to that coveted adult table that held such longing. I distinctly remember walking home from school on a hot Kansas day thinking about turning 10. Because 10 was two digits, and how I couldn’t wait to be two digits. When I was a teenager I couldn’t wait to be old enough for Seventeen magazine, old enough to get my ears pierced, and old enough to shave my legs and wear panty hose.

Everything held a number. Everything was a milestone to reach.

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I was always rushing to the next big thing as everything held something more. Because big kid tables and panty house had to be the place where you arrived.

When you are always looking around that next corner, it is so easy to miss the right in front of you.

Until I hit the brick wall of depression and found myself not only unable to be comfortable in my own skin, but uncomfortable in this world. I wanted nothing more than to disappear.

I don’t know that girl anymore, she was so sad and confused. Recovery offered me a second chance at life and I often marvel at what I would have missed had I died that day.

And now, I am asking for the numbers to stop. They are going too fast and I don’t like it. I don’t want to go back to the kid table, but this growing older and this living is going too fast.

Because now growing older means I am every day closer to loss. Every day I am slowly losing my children to maturity and the world. And every day my parents get closer to death and I don’t like that. I don’t like it at all.

Once I didn’t want life, and now I want to savor every moment of it before it disappears.

When it hit me.

I walked in the door I had walked in a thousand times for the past twenty five years. The door opening for me by my Dad welcoming me home. Opening when I was extremely ill, when I was longing for home, and other times when I was so happy just to be home. He is always there ready to greet and hug me. My Dad with his cheerful face always there to wrap his strong arms around me.

This time, was different. I hadn’t seen him since he was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer. His hair was thinner, his face drawn, and the eyes… the blue eyes usually with a spark in them were dull and tired. I sucked in my breath. I pretended nothing was different. Because I didn’t want it to be any different. I wanted it to be as it always was. I wanted him to stay as he always was. To be my rock. To always stand at that door with arms open wide ready to welcome me home. My heart split open as I realized he was aging, and there was nothing but time slipping away.

This month I turn 42. It isn’t so much that I am getting older, but that as I get older everyone else gets older too. Aging happens and is part of life, but watching it happen and watching the adults in my life who have always been the adults enter old age, makes me very sad.

And I am struck by the irony that once I longed to be out of this world and now I long for time to stop.

Just as I did as a kid, I count the numbers. I count the numbers until my firstborn graduates, didn’t I just have him? Wasn’t I just up all night with him rocking him and trying to get him to sleep? Now the years until he is out of the house are small digits. Time slips away so quickly.

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There is nothing I can do about the past and there is nothing we can do about aging. It is a normal process of life and to think that I am somehow unique in this natural process is quite senseless. I am guessing everyone goes through this. But it hurts. It hurts to feel like time is running out. I just want to catch life in my hand and make it pause. Make it stop for just this moment. To savor it and taste it and touch it before it disappears.

Celebrate now. This moment is all you have and it is precious. I am working on doing the same.

“The time to live in love is now.” – Greg Boyd from his book Present Perfect. (I highly recommend this book!)

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To the 43-Year-Old Woman in the Hello Kitty Pj’s,

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life.

To the 43-year-old woman in the Hello Kitty Pj’s,

You were a marketing genius in how you branded the word “skinny” and leveraged it to make a million dollar brand with skinny margaritas and skinny girl books. You capitalized on our American culture. A culture that sinks billions of dollars in a diet industry and another billion in anything to make us look younger. I am not saying any of this is right. What I am saying is you are smart.

You’re marketing skills and ability to tap into the culture, whether it be right or wrong can be considered savvy.

But this photo,  I am not sure what your point in publicizing this was?

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*Image from Twitter

The axiom, “There is no such thing as bad publicity” holds true here.

On the heels of an obnoxious announcement by JCrew to offer 000 sizes to society, you post this photo on Twitter.

And now, there is your name. In all the media stories, talk shows, and blogs. Even I am compelled to write about it. Girl, you are clever. (Click here, here, and here to read.)

Cunning you may be, but this too will pass. Lady Gaga did it, the ol shock and awe. It works for a while. And then it doesn’t. You are using your fame status to perpetuate society and the already distorted ideal of body image and youth idolization.

And it makes me so sad.

Why? Because while you are working towards keeping up your fame and your publicity there are women out there, who will see a photo like that and use it in much more than you intended. Or maybe that is what you intend?

I work every day with grown women who haven’t had their periods in years. Many who will never actually grow taller or have children because starvation stunted their growth. This idea that it is “funny” for a 43-year-old to fit in a 4-year-olds Pj’s is not funny at all. There are millions of women and young girls who are obsessed in this “thinspiration” and “thigh gap” culture you are helping perpetuate. They will pant after your “achievement” like a dehydrated deer looking for water.  They will pick up your books and drink your syrupy tasting drinks hoping to be like you. And that is so wrong.

But, the more I see this obnoxiousness that continues in the media and our society, the more it fuels my work.

To encourage the exact opposite of what you are doing.

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To inspire and motivate women to celebrate the bodies God gave them. For all of us to live fully in our curves, bumps and idiosyncrasies. That is art. Art that was beautifully created. Not one that is to be molded and shaped and poked and lathered into a prepubescent child. Peter Pan never grew up, he stayed in Never Never land. You can take your Hello Kitty P’J’s and your skinny girl margarita and go there too.

I choose to live in my 42-year-old imperfect body and celebrate it.

I hope others will join me in doing the same.

XO

Lee

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Why I Am Irate Over JCrew’s 000 Sizing #notbuyingit

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life.

JCrew has unveiled a new clothing size, 000. Are you irate? I am.

“A spokeswoman for J.Crew said the 000 tag has nothing to do with vanity sizing, a practice used by some retailers where they manipulate sizes to make shoppers feel like they wear a smaller number.” – Yahoo

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They say it is for their Asian market, because Asian women are smaller. And I wonder, what message does this send to Asian Americans?  Because size 000 is sold in the United States too.

Ming Nagasawa was the only Asian American girl in her suburban Ohio junior high school. Looking around, she saw her physical differences — eyes that were small and dark brown, hair that was black — as social death. The boys stayed away. She began to imagine that if her frame was thinner, her eyes would appear larger, she would be more popular. She would look more American.

“For girls trying to navigate their way in a social world where the homecoming queen is always thin, beautiful and white, figuring out what it means to be beautiful as an Asian woman is difficult and confusing,”  - read more here.

As I was fuming over the JCrew announcement, Kim Kardashian comes out with this lovely statement:

When asked by Elle reporter Sally Holmes how Kim defines her pregnancy style and what she recommends for others style-wise, she responded: “I recommend hiding for a good year and having no pregnancy style. That’s what I recommend. If you can do it, hide. Never leave the house.” – Full Article 

I want to write something quote worthy, something loud and profound, something that would scream in a very intelligent way how obnoxious this is.

But all I can come up with is how deeply wrong this feels.

Not only do I work every day with people deep in the thick torture of an eating disorder, I myself once lived in that horrible place. A place where all of my focus went to making myself smaller so I didn’t have to take up space. So I didn’t have to have feelings and so I didn’t have a voice.

Size 000 only reinforces this idea of women needing to measure into nothing. This measuring stick seems to get smaller and smaller. And while most of society might say, “big deal. Don’t shop there,” for someone who is caught in the cage of an eating disorder this only feeds the beast of what we call ED (eating disorder). ED will berate and measure until the victim succumbs to this magical number.

A number that doesn’t exist, 000.

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A number that is made for disappearing. Maybe Kim Kardashian is only saying what everyone feels anyway…that we should hide when we feel less than or when we don’t measure up to societial standards of what a woman should look like.

No way!  I call bullshit! I call bullshit on JCrew and its stupid new sizing and on Kim and her idiotic body shaming words. Furthermore, I am baffled as to why Kim is continued to be quoted and discussed as newsworthy.

I wasted years of my life, jeopardized my health, and ruined many relationships because of my eating disorder as I strived to disappear into a land of zero. I am lucky to be alive and wouldn’t trade life on the other side of an eating disorder for anything. JCrew and Kim Kardashian are only two voices. Don’t allow them to suck you in.

I was grateful to see that the National Eating Disorders Association also spoke out against this,

“The company’s new, 000 sizing will only triple the practice of unhealthy dieting in a society obsessed with skinny,” she continues. “Sadly, some of those vulnerable to eating disorders will compete to fit in this new ‘size.’ And, others will be subjected to even worse self-image challenges, because they can never achieve such an unrealistic goal naturally.” Further, Grefe noted her orgnaization would be happy to meet with J.Crew’s powers that be to educate them on how this can damage consumers, “particularly our youth.” - president and CEO Lynn Grefe announced in an official statement.

Don’t buy into what JCrew is selling. This is so wrong. Body shaming and unrealistic standards yet again sent out into our culture. Write a letter to JCrew. Stop shopping there until they act differenly. Plus, it will help your budget since their clothes are so expensive.

There are other voices out there who are telling us the truth. Other voices out there saying BE WHO YOU ARE. Be the size you are and celebrate your body for what it is.

YOU ARE MORE THAN A NUMBER! (you can purchase these necklaces here.)

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See below for some inspiring voices that ARE making a positive difference:

Colbie Caillat and her awesome new video.

Constance Rhodes and her beautiful video More Than A Number.

You can purchase my book Table In the Darkness – A Healing Journey Through an Eating Disorder here.

Go out and live your life in the size you are. Life is too short not to! 

xo

Lee

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Are You Afraid To Hope?

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life.

Hope.

Are you afraid of hope? Because if you hope, then you are committing to getting up and trying again. You are magnetically pulled in the direction of something more. A place where there might, just might be the thing you are looking for. And then what? When you move into the direction of your dream and your longing and your deepest desire, then you have to believe. You have to risk. You have to trust.

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It is easier just to stay where you are and complain that the world is so unfair. That people have been so cruel to you and that you didn’t get a fair break. It is easier to stay comfortable where you are. Because hoping, believing in something more, something bigger than your understanding…well that just might make you disappointed!

And who wants that. Right?

So you stay in your dysfunctional relationship, or your horrible job, or your addiction. Because at least it is what you know. At least it is something you are familiar with. Maybe it isn’t fun and exhilarating anymore, but at least it is familiar.

I am sitting here writing this to myself really. Because sometimes hoping and believing that God has me in mind is so scary. To believe God actually cares about me and my future can be frightening.

But when the world has sucked the juice out of you and you just cannot get up and do it again you pine for a hope that is buried by living. Over and over you try and fall down and you are sure there is no answer. There is no solution that you can think in your head. So you stay stuck. Stuck in the pain of what is.

But if you hope, if you believe that maybe tomorrow will be different and maybe there will be a sliver of something that might turn the boat around or offer a different perspective. Then what? Well then you are risking. And people will say you are being unrealistic. You are being naive.

I was told all of these things many many times in my life and I sometimes find myself returning to their confining words.

Because who do I think I am to write a book, the voices and sometimes people said. Because who did I think I was with no writing degree and no experience. You can’t just become a writer!  Another person said once, “You can’t just become a speaker! With no training and experience, you can’t do that!” And then there was recovery. “You will always struggle. It will be something you battle the rest of your life.” They would tell me. Or when I was in college, “you can’t major in theatre. Who does that? What kind of life will you have with a degree in theatre?” Or when my husband I got engaged not even a year after my suicide attempt, there were many who were extremely skeptical.

The voices in my own head were skeptical enough about all of these things. The last thing I needed was the input of more negative Nelly’s telling me I couldn’t do something.

Why? Why do we think because we are human we have the corner market on what will or will not happen? Why do people assume that because they live their lives in a box and don’t take risks that I have to too?

Just because you choose to live life in a straight line doesn’t mean I have to.

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”  -Shel Silverstein

Straight lines erase hope because hope comes in squiggles and detours and surprising twists and turns.  Without hope I am left with the idea that there is no more to this world than my thoughts, my actions, and my human understanding. Ewww.

I look at the world and the news and I feel empty of color. Because that is what hope stealers do. They tell you the facts. They tell you the statistics. They give you the step-by-step directions on how to do life. And I turn them off.

I wrote the book. I became a speaker. My theatre degree has been useful in every job I have had. I live life on the other side of recovery and I have been married almost eighteen years.

None of it happened without God and without hope.

Hoping is risking. Hoping for me has been and will always be the belief that the God who created me has my back. That He wants me to dream and create and risk. He is hope.

So I grab his hand and I get up and try again.

You can say that I am Pollyannaish or that I dream too much. That is fine. Many have said that to me before. But this is how I choose to live. With hope. With hope that God wants me to follow the desires of my heart. That God wants me to take risks and hold his hand and jump. God wants me and YOU to turn towards the direction of hope and dreaming and believing.

Without hope the world becomes a place devoid of color, love and risk it is absent of recovery and miracles.

I believe deeply God wants this for you too, to turn your head in the direction of hope.

Won’t you try that today?

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

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Xo

Lee

 

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5 Words To Help You With The 4th of July

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life.

There are things that keep me awake at night. Things that make me worry and stress and fret. Bills that scream to be paid, a house the needs more space, and parenting and relationships mistakes.

I work with patients every day who are tormented daily by fears, traumas, and even more stressful lives than I can fathom.

But, this morning as I awoke early startled by my own anxious thoughts, I took my spinning head down to the lake by our house.

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And as I walked around the shimmering lake and felt the warm sun on my face I remembered yet again, that life is so much more than what I see. And if I could get out of my head and put my worries and thoughts in God’s hands, that is where I find true freedom.

Today is the 4th of July. And I am choosing freedom. Won’t you? Freedom from the stress and worry of everyday life. Freedom that we are so blessed to have in the U.S. to put our trust in God.

You have a choice today. I do too. 
I can go on Facebook and lament the fun things I am not doing and be jealous of the big house with the pool or the people with cabins. Or I can CHOOSE something different. Here are five words I plan on choosing and acting on today and I hope you will too!

1. Joy – Today, may you find Joy in knowing you are in God’s hands.

Listen here to this beautiful song by JJ Heller

When my world is shaking

Heaven stands

When my heart is breaking

I never leave Your hands

2. Gratitude – There are people right in front of me. There are people right in front of you. Won’t you look them in the eye, put down your phone, get off your device and spend time with them. Talk with them, listen to them, and laugh with them. Stop wishing you were somewhere else and love the people right in front of you. And then say thank you. Thank you for the people, and the eyes, and the relationships. Today, choose five things you are grateful for. A book I love that helped me do this is Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts

3. Freedom – Freedom from eating and body image issues. Put on that bathing suit. Allow your body to be what it is and spend time enjoying it. I wrote a post about it here and I love what this woman had to say about putting on that swimsuit.

And…Check out this girl’s amazing video on loving your body!

“Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top!”

4. Peace – Let go of the striving. Let go of the comparing. Choose instead today, to allow your mind to rest. Find something that soothes and comforts you.

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5. Love - Bob Goff. The more I reflect on his book Love Does. The more I am convicted that he hits the nail exactly on the head. Isn’t that what is beneath all of our pain and anxiety? A deep need to feel loved. To feel cherished Yes.

Go love someone today. Maybe it is yourself you need to shower a little love on. Then go do that!

Happy Happy 4th of July!

XO

Lee

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7 Reasons Every Woman Should Love Her Body #AtlasGirl ( plus a giveaway)

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life.

I am thrilled to have the beautiful, talented, and amazing Emily guest posting today.

Enjoy :)

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7 Reasons Every Woman Should Love Her Body By Emily T. Wierenga

Kasher was looking at my elbows.

“What these?” my two year old said.

“They’re elbows,” I told him.

“Oh.” He touched them gently. “I love your elbows.”

I just stood there, staring down at these places called elbows with the wrinkly skin, which I’d never really seen before.

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I’m a former anorexic. I starved myself for seven years of my life because I thought I wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t skinny enough, wasn’t—enough. And having kids who squeal when I enter a room and a husband who begs me to walk in the garden with him when the kids are in bed—this has taught me something about what it is to be loved.

But it’s still hard to look in the mirror.

Isn’t this most of us, mothers? We don’t look at ourselves, do we? And when we do, we cringe—our daughters seeing it all.

We lament our post-baby physique, the loss of firm muscles and slim curves and we forget, the miracle of pregnancy, lost in the folds and the blue veins lacing up our legs like Crayola marker.

But what if our stretch marks were in fact, scars we bore proudly? Because friends? You produced life, glory-be. The Creator wove life within your very womb and you nourished it and held it tenderly for nine months and then broke apart so a human being could be born. That’s something to be proud of.

And yet we hide behind sweat pants and sweaters.

Rachel Jankovic, author of Loving the Little Years, writes,

“You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its eighteen-year-old form. Let it be used. By the time you die, you want to have a very dinged and dinted body… Scars and stretch marks and muffin tops are all part of your kingdom work. One of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of giving your body to another.”

So sisters, here are seven reasons we should love our bodies—reasons to wrap around our mirrors and any piece of glass in our home, reasons to stop and smile at our reflection:

  1. You’ve got a new name now. It’s Mother, and it comes with a new body. You don’t need to go back to who you were because you aren’t her anymore. You’ve been through a warzone, friend, and you wear new armor now. And it looks like a soft stomach and a flatter chest and varicose veins.
  2. Your children thank you. You gave up your life so others could have one. You surrendered your skin, your nights, your waistline so that God could weave history within you. When your loved ones look at you, they look with gratitude, they rise up and call you blessed, because you are the most beautiful kind of woman: a selfless one.
  3. The measure of a mother is not in her dress size, but in the number of her heart rings. Like an oak, your heart rings increase with every smile, every laugh, every tickle fight with your preschooler, every coffee date with your adolescent daughter. Every tearful prayer for the runaway, every kiss you give your husband, every cuddle, every snuggle—these are the true measurements of a life. These heart-rings.
  4. Beauty is not found in the sharp edges, but in the soft corners—those places your family can find refuge. No husband ever wished his wife had more angles—that’s a lie the fashion magazines feed us. It’s all about soft, honey. Soft and inviting.
  5. Your body bears witness to all the giving it’s done. Your skin is an epitaph to compassion, your legs and arms, branches of a family tree. The lines around your eyes are maps to your soul, to your life-bearing, prayerful, caring heart.
  6. Your limbs perform the function they serve. If you’re looking to erase some of those weary lines, some of those dark smudges, gratitude is the best concealer. Look at yourself in the mirror and say “Thank you, arms, for carrying my babies; thank you legs, for carrying my body; thank you stomach for holding my family,” and soon, your skin will be glowing. Your body longs to be remembered, and honored.
  7. And finally, we should love our bodies because we live in them; they host us and hold us, they are home. Let’s be good to our homes.

Anne Lamott writes about how she lovingly spreads lotion into her skin each night, treating herself like a friend.

Let’s do that too, sisters.

Let’s treat these well-worn vessels like beloved friends. For they’ve served us well.

This post originally appeared at Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog.

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My memoir, Atlas Girl, releases TODAY!

When you order it HERE, you’ll receive A House That God Built: 7 Essentials to Writing Inspirational Memoir an absolutely FREE e-book co-authored by Emily and editor/memoir teacher Mick Silva. Just go HERE to enter your book receipt info and it will appear immediately in your inbox.

271654_Wierenga_emailsig (2)All proceeds from Atlas Girl beneift Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree – Preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.

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Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commisioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

 

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The Masquerade of Being The Woman the World Expects

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life.

You hold it all together. Because that is what you do. This gripping of your mask. You try to make everyone see, that you can hold it all in the palm of your hands. Or maybe it isn’t in your hands, maybe it is in your gut or your heart. But it is there. And you strive and perform some more so they see that you can. It is all about what they think, about the impression they will have and what they might think of you.

So you smile and ask the right questions and cover up the earthquake inside of you. Sometimes it appears in the fingers with a little quivering and other times you might hear it in the crack of the voice.

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Years of practice, helps you keep it all hidden. All under wraps.

Because to reveal the truth, the pain, the insecurities, the fear…to reveal the anger and the opinions and the thoughts that; you don’t want to do those things you never wanted to do those things, to reveal it all would be too much.

So there it hides, all hidden behind the smile.

Everyone else can be happy or have what they want, but not you. You are different.

You are here to endure.   

You are the mom, the friend, the sister, the wife who is doing it all. In the enduring and in the suppressing you don’t realize that the you, the you that used to spin, twirl and cartwheel. The you that loved to dance and sing. That you has disappeared into the straight lines of what the world expects of you. How dare you try and do something different. Be something different.

But eventually the shaking, the fear and the emotions, eventually they pour out of the places they had been stored so long. Lucky you, there are things to help you hide. Things like substances or activity to keep the charade up. Or even food. These things become your assistant in your masking of what is underneath.

Do you feel it? Do you feel the you inside trying so desperately to get out?

The you that is now a broken winged bird limping to be set free?

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She is there with dreams and passions and she is longing to be the person that she is meant to be. She is aching to let go of the enduring, the punishing, and the posturing of the person everyone else wants her to be. She is longing to come out and scream about the pain, to cry about the loneliness, and to tremble about the fear. She is longing to stop the enduring and start the living. To have the smile match a renewed joyful fluttering in the stomach and to have the tears be fresh, not ten or twenty years of repressed pain.

But she only can be free if you allow her to take off the mask that so craftily hides the pain.

When you take the mask off, there is deep freedom. But there are also people. People who expect and like you to be the endurer. These people aren’t bendable. So find people who aren’t mask wearers. Find them and slowly remove the layers, share the pain, let go of the trembling so you can be free, and finally be the person that you are meant to be.

XO

Lee

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What Happened to the Ten-Speed-Bike-Riding-Days of Summer?

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life.

Why does it feel like summer is different now? I long for my children to experience the relaxing lazy summer days like I did. Do you?

“What are we doing today?” My 12-year old says with anxious expectation. Because WE are the summer camp counselors. WE are the drivers, the entertainers, the creative come-up-with-something-these-kids-can-do parents. Is it like this for you too?

What happened to the lazy and relaxing  days of summer? They don’t exist. At least not in the world I am living in. If they do for you, then please…throw me a bone and tell me how you do it.

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Top five differences between the summer of my youth and my children’s’ summer:

  1. No alarm clock. I remember sleeping in to whenever I wanted, eating breakfast around noon and then riding my pink bike to the pool. Now, the children have a schedule so complicated you need an excel spreadsheet to keep track. Because my children are in their teens, their days are filled with sports sports and more sports. Yes, we signed them up. But since when did the sport schedules take up every moment of every day?
  2. Bicycle. My ten-speed was my mode of transportation. I rode it to Quick Trip for tootsie rolls and to the pool for the day. My friends and I would ride our bikes everywhere we went and on days when the weather wasn’t sunny we would congregate at someone’s house and play Atari, watch MTV or play board games. Now, we drive an SUV and Mommy is the taxi driver and for the love of summer it is next to impossible to get my kids to look up from their devices!
  3. Money money money. We bleed money. Money for camps money for the pool and money for every other thing they need and want to do during the day. And that darn Yogurt lab…you will be lucky if you can purchase one yogurt cup for less than $5. Then there are the camps. This summer we paid $299 for Cardboard Camp. Really? Couldn’t my children scrounge up cardboard and have at it without paying someone to help them build with cardboard? Geesh.
  4. I am the entertainer. Who knew parenting would require camp counselor skills as well. I don’t remember my Mom being around during the summer. She was…but she wasn’t the one coming up with my agenda. If I said I was bored, I would be booted outside. For the entire day to FIND something creative to do. We did. WE built forts, we played tag, we rode bikes and we went to the pool. That was summer.
  5. Chores. I had chores…lots of chores. And, there was no doing anything until those chores were finished. My children wither at the idea of labor around the house as they have an expectation that summer is all about what they want to do. I told them I am going to send them to a farm for a week so they can experience real labor.

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I understand this is partly my fault. My fault because I don’t have to sign them up for things, I could send them outside and tell them to figure it out, but the reality is…they can’t. Because their friends aren’t around either. They are in some minivan being driven by their taxi-cab-mother to their sports and events like the rest of us. Maybe this all just proves my age, but I sure do wish my kids could have the summer of the 80′s just like we did.

XO

Lee

 

 

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