1. Title
mystepahead.com

Helping you stay one step ahead on your journey

  "You only have to be one step ahead to help the person behind you." 

Having an eating disorder is bad enough, but struggling with the spiritual side, the Christian side, is even harder. This page is dedicated to helping in that aspect of the struggle. If this is not your faith belief you are welcome to check it out and email me with questions. You are loved either way.


"In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated

nor become a light for others."
                                             - Brennan Manning


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What's a Ragamuffin?!
I had heard of the book "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning in the past but admittedly never finished reading it. It became like so many other books in my room...sitting on a shelf collecting dust. I had heard of the 'Ragamuffin Band' which is the name Christian musician Rich Mullins gave his band, but again, thought little of it. It wasn't until 2014 that I started to identify myself as a Ragamuffin. Color Green Films had made a movie about the life of Rich Mullins and through that movie and a resulting chain of events I now embrace that identity with all I have. I tell people 'the word Ragamuffin doesn't define me; it explains me.' So let me explain.

Plain and simple, a Ragamuffin, according to the dictionary, has a few meanings, but in this case it's "A disheveled or untidy person." Manning says in his book 'A ragamuffin knows he is simply a beggar at the doorway of God's grace." Let me put it to you in my terms. Ragamuffins realize we are broken, we've grown tired of playing the game of masks, and we simply come to Jesus and each other and say "I'm broken, I'm tired of trying to make it look like I have it all together on the outside while I'm dieing on the inside, and I just need Jesus." That's all....no magic formula other than being tired of being tired and being courageous enough to admit we're broken and opening ourselves to letting God's love and grace transform us. Or as I put it, I was learning how to 'embrace grace' for the first time in my life.

That alone is HUGE! As Ragamuffins the voices in our heads have convinced us we're unlovable, that we've gone 'too far' for God to reach us, that we have little to nothing to offer, and we may as well just crawl into a hole and disappear. In my case my story of brokenness just put me under cover. I was so screwed up and had little to no self image, and while I was quietly and desperately
yearning for someone to break through and love and accept me for ME - brokenness and all - and
not leave when the 'real' story came out - I just wasn't sure anything like that was possible. I didn't
think I was that lovable. When people got to know the 'real' me with all my issues and neediness, I
was convinced they would conveniently disappear and I would be back where I was, so I had convinced
myself why try, why risk more rejection at my most vulnerable time. It would put me under. Yet the fight
inside got stronger through the messages of the movie Ragamuffin. I went from 'maybe this grace thing
IS possible for me' to 'Jesus loves ME'. It didn't happen overnight. It's actually been a 2 year transformation
and is still going. But I can tell you this much....when I opened up enough to 'dare to believe that Jesus Christ
is ABSOLUTELY crazy about me' and that God the Father AND His kids actually love me....the world started to open.

Part of this journey has been embracing my eating disorder. Quite frankly it was really just Spring 2016 when I really started to name it for what it is. My counselor again suggested a dietician (for the 3rd or 4th time in the years I had been seeing her) and I again resisted, but she kept pushing. I finally relented a couple months later. EVEN UP TO THIS POINT I wasn't convinced it was an eating disorder, and at times I still fall into that. I've learned to at least verbalize that now. I was hoping I'd be with a dietician a couple months and be on the road. Yeah....about that...five months running so far. I get tempted to quit, and I tell everyone. They say it's up to me but not recommended, and I agree and tell them we all know I'd just end up where I was and come back in 3 months. So I push on.

But as a Christian, there have been extra challenges to having an eating disorder, and that's what I want this section of the site to address. In addition to everything WE tell ourselves there are extra layers of what other Christians tell us, or what we think the Bible tells us. The guilt can be heavier if you can believe that! Yet we are ragamuffins and we fall on God's grace, love, and acceptance, and THAT is the other message where I want to focus and redirect us. You will find information on Walking Stick Retreats, the organization God has been using to speak to me to transform my heart. You will find songs that have been encouraging along the way, maybe some Bible verses, links to sermons or podcasts or whatever. This will be an ever-evolving page. In time I hope there will be others who will share their stories. I want this to be a safe place, an encouraging place, an oasis in your journey where you can rest, regroup and hear God saying He loves you "as you are, not as you should be, for none of us are as we should be." (Brennan Manning)
                                                                                                                                                         - Sue (12/31/16)

"When people got to know the 'real' me with all my issues and neediness, I was convinced they would conveniently disappear."
Music is Healing for the Soul
I don't know about you, but music speaks to me in ways ordinary words can't even touch. Along my journey there have been songs that have been used by God to encourage me, challenge me, help me cry and pray, and even give permission. Artists like Plumb, Big Daddy Weave, Mercy Me, Rich Mullins, and so many others. Keep an eye out for videos and links to some of these songs. Who knows, maybe it will be a language you, too, understand.
Every year a group of rag tag Ragamuffins escape to the woods somewhere in the US for a 3 day retreat to encounter God, grow and deepen friendships, and let down the walls. One unique aspect is the online FB community that is initiated in a private room 2 weeks before the retreat. These rooms are ongoing even more than a year later! They become a safe haven where we are understood, supported, and loved. God has used this retreat program to speak to me in language I would hear, to break through my chains, and to move me along grace's path to KNOW and BELIEVE that Jesus Christ is ABSOLUTELY crazy about me! "Being CONFIDENT in this, that He who began a good work in you WILL carry it on until completion in the day of Christ Jesus." Come, join us. Let down your guard, even a little, and embrace grace. It'll rock your world!
Plumb...Exhale

"It's okay, to not be okay,
this is a safe place"

That single line gave me
courage to start sharing my story in the retreat room...and
it was just that...okay to not be okay! (click for video)
Big Daddy Weave...My Story

"If I told you my story, you
would heard HOPE,
that wouldn't let go"

  A Ragamuffin's hope...'grace that   is greater than all my sin.' This         entire song feels like it explains       my story... (click for video)

Ragamuffin Central Blog

We Speak Ragamuffin

PROCESS

Process. Quite frankly I used to hate that word. Resist that word. Absolutely abhor it! And now I am embracing it more. How? Well, it's been a process.  

Think about it. As humans we want things NOW. Instant messaging. Facebook 'live.' Technology has created impatient people...I think we were already that way; it just came out more with modern technology. And as believers fighting an eating disorder, that call for immediacy hurts us more than helps us.

First, a bit more about 'process.' No one likes to think they haven't 'arrived' or 'have it all together.' Do you like the thought of something being a 'work in process'? Wouldn't you rather have it neat and tidy and 'perfect'? Hate to tell you but there are no June Cleaver's in the world (if you're too young to get that, Google the name). 

No one likes having things pointed out as being in error or incomplete or misguided. No one likes being corrected. No one likes being told in some way that they aren't 'perfect.' 

For those with an eating disorder it's only worse. The voice in our head already whispers to us but the voice brings echoes with it as a believer. Not only is it that 'you're not good enough' because you don't have it all together, but now it becomes 'you're not good enough and God could never love you!' It adds a shovel full of extra dirt to the already deep pile of lies under which we are buried.

When I went on my first Walking Stick retreat in October 2014 I was broken, one person describing my attendance as a 'Hail Mary of sorts' to start believe that God and His kids could love me. There were a lot of walls and fear and hesitations, but seeing others open up and tell their stories in our private Facebook retreat room challenged me. It drew me, and after about 2 days of 'lurking' I took the plunge. I was literally shaking the entire time I typed and held my breath every time I got a notification of a response. To my amazement every response - EVERY SINGLE ONE, and there were many - was positive and encouraging and reassuring. It set the stage for what God did in my heart that weekend.

Fast forward two years. Much like a butterfly coming out of its coccoon, my heart has warmed and opened. That first risk - that desperate attempt to be found loveable - opened the way. But it was a 2 way street....I had to be willing to take the risk to be open and others had to take the risk to reach out to me, and then it came back on me again to receive that love and accept it as just that - love, with no strings attached. Love....unearned. Kind of like God loves us.

As I opened myself up to others - and in essence God - my heart started to soften. It became safe to be 'me' and even acknowledge my fears and doubts and anger and all my other emotions that had been bottled and were ready to explode. And when they finally came out it was the most tender moment. Everyone knew what was going on. And no one said a thing or rushed the 'process.' And my small group just held me as I finally let myself collapse. They were the arms of God.

And once I went to the bottom of the ride the journey back to the top started to get harder at first....and now easier. Again, a process. As with an eating disorder, when we choose recovery we choose to face and feel and stare down those emotions that scare the daylights out of us. We choose to feel when we've shut off our feelings and emotions for as long as we've been 'using' our ED for protection. The year after the retreat - 2015 - was probably the most gut-wrenchingly painful year of my life. Nothing specific happened....other than I had to start figuring out what I was feeling and what to do about it. Many a long counseling sessions dealt with feelings and getting them out. It was a painful process. Each step along the way I had to remind myself of all the things God had done up to that point and the things He had taught me....that He loves me, and He loves me through people, and He created feelings and it's okay to express those feelings. I felt I was going to explode at times and implode at others. My ED was screaming because giving myself permission to feel gave my ED less power. It was a work in process and I was surrounded by  my retreat friends who 'got it' and continued to love me along the way.

The common verse you will hear close every retreat is Philippians 1:6 - "Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you WILL carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." In essence that means to continue to continue to continue...because it is an ever-evolving thing He is doing in us, this good work. And it IS good. That alone was something I had to choose to believe and trust. And now that I am further down the road I am seeing that the word 'process' is not a heavy-laden burden of 'never getting there or being done' but instead a sign of hope...that God loves me, wants the best for me, and will continue to perfect His work in me until I meet Him face to face. It IS a process....and one that demonstrates that God has NOT given up on me or thought I'm too far out of His reach. God thinks I'm worthy and my job as a believer is to pound my wandering and doubtful thoughts into line with His. It's a process, and He is patient...and He loves us so much He won't go.

Wherever you are in your recovery journey, it is a process. You didn't develop your ED overnight and you're not going to change how you handle life overnight. The important thing is to identify and write down so you can remind yourself of what God has brought you through, what He says about you, and people He is using to work in your life. Be humble and vulnerable enough to let at least one person know what God is doing and what you are struggling with, and invite them on the journey with you. They will learn something in the process as well.


"Giving myself permission to feel gave my ED less power."