Good Morning, World. So this little blogging hiatus I've been on is winding to a close. I've spent the last several months cuddling my baby Redd, and it's been all kinds of wonderful. Most of my creative endeavors have been sitting patiently on the shelf, waiting for me to pull them into the light to be seen. This past spring and summer was rich with stories. I like to think that while they sit on the shelf waiting to be enjoyed and shared, they're gaining depth and flavor - like wine maybe? Overused analogy, but there it is anyway.
It's no secret that what I love most about photography is the stories of those I'm invited to photograph. One such story was my cousin Kassandra's. Months ago she called me, long before we talked about a photoshoot, and unfolded a part of her story of which I'd been completely unaware. I've known Kassandra my entire life. And not just casually either. She is family and friend, but before that first conversation I had no idea that she struggled with an eating disorder. As we chatted and she told me about her journey into recovery, I discovered, not surprisingly, that eating disorders lurk unseen in the shadows of many lives. Having an eating disorder has nothing to do with your physical size and everything to do with your mental state and perspective. You can be extra thin or extra thick and not have an eating disorder. You can look perfectly healthy and get two thumbs up from your doctor and have an eating disorder, because it's about the way you see the world. In the conversations that followed, Kassandra told me about how she'd struggled with the monster "ED" since junior high. Lies love to weasel their way into our perspectives at vulnerable times in our lives. They tell us untruths about ourselves, others, the world around us, and unless we know to meet them head on with Truth, we become slaves to them. She was unequipped to fight the lies, so a cycle of binge eating, dieting, and clean eating became a way of life for her. She would feel better about herself when things were "going well" but the root of the issue remained because the lies will ALWAYS demand more. Always. True freedom isn't found in being "thin enough" or "the perfect size." Kassandra's journey into recovery didn't happen magically or overnight. It happened slowly, painfully, one step at a time. It began with calling the lies what they are: LIES. You would think that recognition of the lies would be all it takes, but it's not enough to just know something is a lie. You must learn to fight those lies every time they come into your mind. This is a complicated and messy war. I say 'war' because recovery is not a one time battle. Picture it like territory that belongs to you. You own land on paper. Freedom is YOURS, and though you never meant to allow lies to come in, they did, and they've overrun your life. The war begins by taking back the land that belongs to you one battle at a time, one area of your life at a time. Even after you've taken the "big cities" of your life, you'll have to fight them out of the "villages" and "border towns" of your territory. Fighting lies in your life is as messy as war always is. It's never neat, clean, or easy. It is hard and painful, and you'll win some battles and you'll lose some battles.
1) Learn to be kind to yourself. I've got news for you: Jesus isn't mean. He never uses the language of lies. He is for you, and learning to value His Voice above the voices of the lies is step one and step two and step forty five and step four hundred thirty nine. If you grew up religious, this is gonna be a tough one for you because we think condemnation is conviction. It's not. I know because I've felt both. Conviction is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. I felt the KINDNESS OF GOD so strongly in those moments. Who but God can make you feel so truly loved and valued while pointing out deficiency? Conviction is amazing and awesome and something I actually want to experience more not less. True conviction from God leaves you empowered to change. A tip about condemnation: it comes coupled with fear, anxiety, and powerlessness. It always takes a stab at your identity, and never brings hope for change. You need to learn to recognize the spirit of condemnation, and turn away from it completely when it tries to speak to you because it's not the voice of God. We think we need to give ear to condemnation because some of the things it tells us are "technically right." What we fail to understand is that even if condemnation is telling us things that are correct technically, by listening to the the voice of condemnation, we are allowing it into our lives. Even if it brings "correct facts" with it, it will never bring the power to change. What it will bring is discouragement in droves. I've found that the temptation to listen to condemnation in my own life comes from a place of fear that I won't ever "win the battle" if I don't "take control of my life." Newsflash: You do not need more control. You need need more trust that God will come through for you. He is more committed to you winning your war for freedom than you are. And that's great news, especially on discouraging days when our own strength is failing us.
2) Stay in the fight. That doesn't mean you are constantly swinging your proverbial sword willy-nilly and racing hither and yon trying to do, do, do. That's just stupidity that's probably driven by fear. Winning a war is STRATEGIC. Sure, there are going to be times when you have to fight a battle longer and harder than you have strength for. That's a given. But a big part of staying in the fight is learning to rest really well. Rest in the fact that God has your war. ASK HIM where you are supposed to be devoting energy to win your fight. Then devote your energy to that thing. Check back in with Him for your battle plans regularly. This is a long war, not a skirmish, so manage your energy and rest when He tells you to. Don't waste your energy fighting battles He never called you to fight.
Eventually, you can and will drive the lies out completely. I'd be lying if I told you the threat won't always exist. The lies will always be looking for a way back into your life and territory. The beauty is that in the process of learning to fight the lies out of your land you will become someone you never anticipated you could be:
STRONG. WISE. COURAGEOUS. BOLD. FEARLESS. UNASHAMED.
Kassandra, thank you SO much for inviting me into your story. You are deeply beautiful, and it was such an honor to photograph you.