Beloved, you have lived so much life in your sixteen years. You have experienced such pain and heartache. Your eating disorder was how you coped with the trauma and shame of your childhood. ED made you feel seen and heard and powerful and that meant something to you. But here in these deserts of Arizona, the chains began to break free. You chose recovery and you will continue to choose it every day. It will not be easy; nothing worth having in this life every truly is. But you will have people in your life who will walk with you as you break free from your disease. You do not realize this now, but they will be the ones who will hold you when you cry. They will be the ones who you will call at midnight when ED is screaming in your ear. They will be the ones who will sit with you as you finish a meal and they will be the ones with whom you will experience laughter and joy again. You will experience more joy than you ever thought possible and you will experience heartbreak too and you will realize that you would not have realized the fullness of joy without the depths of sorrow. If only I could tell you everything you will do in this great life but I cannot tell you everything because I don’t think you would believe me. And how can you trust life to unfold as it does if you knew all the answers beforehand?

You will travel, you will dream, you will go and accomplish great things, not driven by the need to perform or strive to live up to your own definition of perfection but you will go and accomplish because of the love you have for your God, this Earth and for your fellow human beings. You will soak up life in all its fullness. You will take risks and face your fears. You will make yourself vulnerable in order to experience the joy that is found in loving and being loved in return. I know you have deep regret about the time that you lost to your disease, the four years you lost where you were not living, merely existing but dying inside. Oh but if you could know if you could only see now how God has redeemed every single second of those years. Nothing, nothing is ever wasted, not even something as powerful as your eating disorder.

You will become a wounded healer. You will walk with others on their road to healing — whether that be physical, emotional or spiritual. And through walking with others on their road to healing, you will heal in even deeper ways yourself. You have a glorious life ahead of you, my beloved one. You will learn to love your body. Not just tolerate, not just like but love. You will not love it not for the size of your hips or waist but you will come to love it for what it has done for you. Doesn’t it seem a little superficial to love your body for the size of a certain body part when it will probably change? Indeed, your body will not look the same at 26 as it did at 16 and it will not look the same at 36 as it did at 26 and so on and so forth. And that’s a good thing! You will embrace the changing seasons of life and the ways in which your body changes in those seasons too. And that’s beautiful! No, darling, you will not love your body because of how it looks but you will love it for the journey it has brought you on and what it has been and will continue to do for you. Your body has been to hell and back. You were admitted to the hospital because your body could no longer live with this disease. Your body had fought and fought and fought to survive but she couldn’t do it anymore. She could no longer continue on the path she was walking. You will regain your period, after living without it for so many years, and you will rejoice that your body is able to function normally again. Believe it or not, you will be amazed what an incredible joy it is—each month your body gives you this gift, a reminder that your body can be starved and abused and neglected and yet can somehow recover. Your menstrual cycle is a reminder that if you so choose, you can bring life into the world. And new, miraculous life will come from the very life, from the very body whose life could have been cut drastically short. But it wasn’t. BUT IT WASN’T! But praise be to God, IT WASN’T !!!! Your body will travel the world, it will hike and run and swim and sing and dance. It will travel to Wimbledon where your childhood dreams will come true. It will ride elephants in the middle of the jungle and eat rice in bamboo leaves. You will witness more beauty and goodness than your mind can comprehend. You will yell at the top of your lungs for your favorite soccer players in Boston and Portland and your body will run up and down soccer fields and across tennis courts. It will lift weights and do squats and lunges and planks and downward dogs, but not because ED tells you to. NO, you will move your body because it gives you immense life and joy and energy and fulfillment and is a daily reminder of the strength and tenacity and endurance you have within you. Exercise is a way you are fighting back against your disorder and in essence saying, “You tried to kill me. Well, look at what my body can do now”. Your body will remind you of the joy and satisfaction you experience after a good workout. It will remind you how wonderful it feels to have a long, good night’s sleep after finishing a ten-page paper the night before. And you will have no shame about not setting an alarm clock the next day because you trust that your body knows when it is time to wake up. You will trust your body to tell you when you are hungry and when you are satisfied and you will trust your body’s weight will reach the weight it is supposed to be it when you listen to your body’s needs. You will throw your scale where it belonged along—in the garbage. You are so young, beloved. You are sixteen years old and you have already faced so many fears, walked through the painful events that led to your disease, lived through the horror of your eating disorder and somehow, someway have chosen to get up every morning, put your feet on the floor and say “I choose freedom, I choose healing, I choose life. Today and every day.” So I want to tell you right now in this moment: go and live, without fear, without worry, without shame. Stop worrying so much! Stop analyzing and questioning and second guessing and just live. Live in the moment and allow life to unfold how it is meant to be. Everything will work out in its own time. Live in this moment and all the moments to come as fully as you can. You are loved, accepted and free, right here, right now, as you are. You will learn to love yourself in a way that you have never imagined. You will do this by living into God’s love, embracing who you are in Him, HIS Beloved, His daughter, his cherished creation. You will experience His love for you in a way you have never known before. It will move you and shake you to your core and bring you to tears of joy. You will discover that God was present with you on those dark days in Children’s Hospital Boston. He was there when doctors would debate about where you should be sent to next and you sat there, feeling like a piece of garbage that needed to be disposed of. And then when one doctor came in your room, looked you in the eye and told you that you can recover and that you have the courage to do it. You looked in her eyes and felt seen for the first time since entering that place. She was Jesus in skin to you, showing you what you could be, advocating for you, believing in your deliverance even if you didn’t believe it yourself. Never forget, God is with you just as much in your moments of immense suffering just as much as He is in your moments of glorious bliss. I am so proud of you. You have overcome so much. You are an overcomer, you are victorious, you are a mountain mover. You sometimes think you come across as too soft, too gentle, too quiet. But you my dear are what I call a gentle giant. You have this quiet, gentle, steadfast strength about you but it is fierce and strong and determined to keep going no matter what. Never lose that. Do not let the world convince you that you must be the loudest person in the room in order to be heard. Sometimes it is the faintest sounds of footsteps that announce their entry. It is your footsteps that keep walking, keep moving, keep saying yes to recovery that keep moving you forward. It is the joyful duty of saying yes, again and again, each and every day that pushes you forward and brings light into the darkest moments. Sometimes no one hears those yeses but you do and that is what makes all the difference. You are enough, right here, right now, in this moment. You are loved and valued and cherished not for anything you have done or will do but simply because you are. Walk in that truth, embrace it and live fully loved. I can’t wait for you to discover what awaits you in this new life. It is going to be so exciting and glorious and deep and beautiful and hard—the best kind of hard, the hard that moves you forward, pushes you to be all you can be. Let’s get started, shall we? Your glorious adventure is just getting started.