The End of the Sentence: Becoming Unstuck

I’ve hoped to write this post for a long time. Nearly six years, to be exact. Six years of hoping and waiting and praying and searching out answers. Answers for why: why my body wasn’t doing what it should do as a woman, why my cycle had gone missing, why I was stuck in this period of waiting. And how: how to get healthy, how to get my cycle back – as though it was off exploring the world somewhere, and it was my job to figure out how to bring that wanderer back home.

The name of this blog was born out of these years of waiting. “Waiting for the end of the sentence” referred both to waiting for my cycle to return and the more significant process of learning to wait on God during this period of time and recognize his work in my life. Everything I’ve written on this blog and my book Enough has passed through that filter of learning and observing. Instead of simply asking why and how, I’ve been asking what: What is God teaching me? What does he want me to share with others as a result of what I’ve learned?

In every experience – from dating to sleeping (or rather, not sleeping) – I’ve become keenly aware that God is speaking to me and moving in me. While there were times where I felt stuck, I wasn’t stagnant. And God was moving, working, bringing things back to life.

The lessons he’s taught me, the ways in which he’s been present with me, the love he’s revealed to me…that’s the point. That’s the period at the end of the sentence. That’s what I need to share.

While my cycle has returned – prodigal daughter that she was – I know this isn’t the end of the sentence for me. The waiting doesn’t stop here. No. This is simply a comma, a dash, and ellipse. An opportunity to pause, take a beat, breath, and thank God for the healing work he’s done over the last few years.

So, without further ado, here’s how – after six years of waiting – God has healed my body and is bringing things back into alignment.

It feels like a miracle. And it is. It’s a miracle that I didn’t stay stuck in a cycle of perfectionism. It’s a miracle of small steps and big changes that have led to life. It’s a miracle of grace.

Praying for Wholeness

Back in 2010, I’d reached the point where my heart and body were burnt out from a life of perfectionism. The constant striving and calorie-counting and image management had taken its toll. It was as though my body, mind, and soul were fragmented and misaligned. I longed for wholeness and rest, but I also wanted bodily perfection. And the two couldn’t coexist.

Thankfully, God allowed a number of trying circumstances to bring me to my knees in dependence on him. A broken engagement. Anxiety and insomnia. Fainting spells that sent me to the ER. I had to be emptied and humbled until I was truly willing to pursue wholeness instead of perfection.

I didn’t know where to begin, except in prayer.

“Lord, I’m willing. Help me.”

That’s all I knew how to say in the beginning. After my second disturbing fainting spell, I was willing to give up the pursuit of perfection in order to find healing, but I needed God’s help prying my hands open when I tried to grasp onto again. It began as change often does – with small changes and the support of community.

One day I came home from work to find a copy of Real Simple on my desk with a post-it note. Seeing my angst over my constant need for control, my sweet roommate had flagged an article she thought might help. The author, like me, had been obsessed with counting. Counting calories. Counting the things she had accomplished and the tasks left undone. In my mind, everything could be quantified, and it helped me understand how I stacked up – counting quantified my value. But, as the author discovered, this lifestyle only amounted to a mountain of stress. Once I read her words, I knew I had to quit counting, too.

“I no longer judge myself so frequently or harshly. I spend more of my time doing things than reflecting on what I have tackled already or, worse, angsting over what I have not yet done. I’ve relinquished a little control for a little more serenity, which has provided me with a daily emotional payoff.”

And just like that, I stopped. At least with counting calories. I relinquished a little control for a lot more peace. A small step in the right direction.

With less of my mind occupied by obsessively tabulating my caloric intake, I had more room to rest and reflect. I spent more time in silence and solitude – something I talk about in more detail in Enough. And in those hours and minutes – over a period of days and months and ultimately years – God revealed more of his heart to me. He spoke to me gently, showed me he loved me (not for my performance but because he loved being with me), and helped me rest. Learning to pray and hear God’s voice was instrumental in helping me find wholeness.

Various pieces of my heart started to come back together as I listened to the truth about how God loves me, how he has a plan for me, and how I’m safe in his mercy and grace. My pursuit of wholeness wasn’t something I could do through hard work, productivity, and determination. I needed God to bring me back into alignment, and I needed the support of a loving community.

I wasn’t the only person praying for my wholeness. A number of times over the last few years, everyone from close friends to strangers had prayed a similar prayer over me.

While visiting Ohio last summer, I attended a small house church with a dear friend. The members of this church were mostly young twenty and thirty-somethings with a vision for living life together and serving the city of Columbus. They believed in breaking bread together, living minimally, loving extravagantly, and praying without ceasing. They prayed over me – a woman they’d just met – with such authority, approaching God’s throne of grace with confidence. They prayed for alignment – in my body, heart, and mind – for things to be brought back into their proper place.

These people knew nothing about my story, nothing about my health issues. And yet even they were lifting me up to the Father, asking him for what I truly needed – wholeness.

Prayer has been integral to my healing process, but perhaps not in the way you might think. I don’t think my cycle has returned because I prayed enough or in the right way. Prayer isn’t about saying the right words in the right order at the right time. It’s about opening our hearts up to God, letting him change us as we sit with him, and learning to trust him in the waiting. It’s about letting go and letting him work.

Letting Go

Before true healing could begin, I had to let go. I was stuck in a cycle of perfectionism – obsessing over my faults, getting tripped up by my failures, and never ever satisfied with my present state of being. Thank God for allowing me to come to dependence on him through the aforementioned circumstances. Letting go of my addiction to perfection, letting go of the need to have it all figured out, and even letting go of my pursuit of physical healing was all part of the process of becoming “unstuck.”

Letting go is not a clever way of tricking God into blessing us (as though we ever could!). It’s not like we say, “Okay, God. I’m giving this thing up,” and then he says, “You’re ready! Here’s the thing you’ve been waiting for.”

We do this with relationships and all sorts of desires. People often say, “When you stop looking, that’s when God brings the right person across your path.” I know these people mean well, but I think it sets up a wrong framework in our minds. It’s not as though letting go is the prerequisite to God fulfilling our desires. Rather, we find our desires have already been fulfilled in him when we let go of everything else that’s been cluttering our minds and hearts.

And when we do find peace and joy and rest in him, we are better equipped to receive blessings from him without squeezing the life out of them. We can love our friends, enter into a romantic relationship, and pursue a healthy lifestyle without making it the source of our security and identity.

I’ve seen this play out in my life multiple times over the last year. I like to say that June 1 changed my life. But really, it was just the culmination of plans God had set in motion a long time ago.

June 1 marked the first day of my sabbatical from work – a month of rest, friendship, adventure, and kicking off the first draft of Enough. From hikes in the Colorado mountains to berry-picking in Portland, I gathered up these experiences – each one a uniquely beautiful piece in striking arrangement. By the end of the month, I had a veritable bouquet of memories and reminders of the sweetness of life lived slowly. Life savored.

June 1 was also the day I met James – the biggest and best surprise of my year. Just a few days prior, I’d announced that I was giving up dating. Not out of frustration or hopelessness, but out of trust. I wasn’t going to worry about it anymore. I was simply going to go about living life in dependence on God and enjoying the process. Trusting that “he’s got this.”

And that’s when James popped onto the scene. Because I didn’t have dating on my radar, I was completely oblivious to any interest on his end when we first met over dinner with mutual friends. Our ultimate destination that night was a philosophical and theological discussion at the SF Jazz Center with Peter Thiel and N.T Wright. The forum was riveting, and in my mind, we were all just enjoying a thoughtful evening together. After the forum, though, James and I ended up lingering over cocktails and conversations. And by the end of the night, it dawned on me what had just happened.

“Sarah,” I told my friend who’d been at dinner with us earlier that night, “I think James and I just hit it off.”

Her eyes lit up, and she grinned, “I didn’t want to say anything because I wanted to respect the whole ‘not dating thing,’ but I was hoping you would!”

Over the next few weeks while I traveled on my sabbatical, James and I got to know each other slowly over Messenger and text. Before we even had our first date when I returned to San Francisco later that month, I knew there was something special God was doing with James and me.

Fast forward eight months, and I continue to be humbled and blown away by the incredible blessing that James has been to me. God is incredibly good and gracious to bring us together. I am so undeserving, but so grateful. And his love in my life – both God’s and James’ – has made such a difference.

Learning to Love

In the years of waiting for my cycle to come back, my mom often said, “I think when you find the man you love, it will all come together. I think it will reset.”

As usual, mama was right.

Letting go of my perfectionism, releasing the worries that weren’t serving me, and learning to be still were all critical parts of my healing process. But the love and connection to friends, family, and now James has been just as instrumental. God has revealed himself to me in moments of stillness and silence as well as comfort and connection with loved ones. And I truly believe that allowing myself to be loved has helped bring wholeness in my life.

This started with receiving God’s love, accepting his grace, and opening myself up to his healing work. The same has been true with receiving love from my family, from friends, and now from James.

Love is a constant lesson in vulnerability. We have to risk the pain of being misunderstood at times, but the reward is being truly known and loved. There’s not so much rushing around and striving and hustling – we can rest in who we are, and rest is what allows us to heal. Like a wound or a injured joint, we have to give things time and space to heal. We can’t just keep plowing forward; we have to rest.

And we have to connect. Loving connection has healing properties. Receiving and giving love – like breathing in and out – impacts everything about us. Mind, body, and soul. In fact, new studies illuminate how love fundamentally alters the biochemicals in which our bodies are steeped. For instance, a hug can help suppress your nervous system and subsequently reduce anxiety and pain.

We need love. We need connection. We weren’t meant to be alone.

Let the Healing Begin

Praying for wholeness, letting go, and learning to love were all important parts of my healing process. They did more for me than some of the medical paths I went down. After numerous blood tests, dozens of doctor’s appointments, a handful of ultrasounds, and a cringe-inducing MRI experience, there were no answers. No concrete reason for why my cycle had stopped back in 2010.

The only answer I ever received with any certainty or consistency was this: “Gain weight. Lose stress. And maybe you’ll get your cycle back someday.”

That was not the answer I wanted. I wanted a remedy that let me stay stick thin and yet cycle properly. I wanted a way to hang onto my pursuit of perfection and still be healthy. But after trying and failing for long enough, I finally gave up.

With some help and counseling, I slowly gained weight over time and grappled with the anxiety that came with that process. I took up yoga as a gentler form of exercise and a way of releasing stress. I tried acupuncture, despite a severe fear of needles. And I embraced a slower pace of life, learned to say no, and stopped letting fear get in the way of living a whole life.

This journey of overcoming fear and recovering from perfectionism is the whole point of Enough, and I’m so excited to share it with you in more depth. For now, I want to encourage you that whatever feels broken and fragmented in your life can be brought to wholeness.

While I’d prayed for my cycle to return and knew that God could heal me, I’d honestly started to doubt that he would. Not because he didn’t want to, but because “maybe this was just my story.” I knew that God had been writing my story all along, and it’s not up to me to write the ending. My only job was to engage in the process and to let him lead. Thankfully, he’s allowed this pause in the story. This bit of healing. This celebration.

So, whatever you’re waiting on – whether it be physical healing, a repaired relationship, or the fulfillment of a deep-seated desire – I want to encourage you that you’re not stuck. Things will change. You will grow. Start with a prayer. Keep it simple. Keep it honest.

“Lord, I’m willing. Help me.”

And he will.

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24)

3 thoughts on “The End of the Sentence: Becoming Unstuck

  1. Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story, Laura! It’s it amazing how God works in our lives? “He spoke to me gently, showed me he loved me (not for my performance but because he loved being with me), and helped me rest,” affected me deeply. I’ll be thinking about that this week. I have had my fair share of struggles with perfectionism and feeling like performing was the only way I would be loved and accepted. God has been so gracious to you and I’m happy for what He’s done for you on this journey!

    • Emily, it’s so true. It’s a miracle of grace that he’s allowed me to become unstuck. And he keeps on working on me. I’m so glad my story is encouraging to you and others, too. Tonight I’m reminded of the truth of his love and how it vanishes fear. We love (ourselves, others, him) when we learn how he loves us first. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”

  2. Pingback: What No One Tells You About Letting Go of Perfectionism | Waiting for the end of the sentence…

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