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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

“Mom, Keep Praying”

By Jewell Johnson
July 27, 2014

Look, Mom,” Jenny said, holding her jeans out from her waist. “These don’t fit anymore.”

I laughed as our daughter folded over the waistband, gathering together the loose cloth.

“Eleven is not your size anymore,” I said.

But I didn’t laugh a few days later when Jenny dashed into the kitchen and said, “I ran to the dairy and back. I’m going to do that every day.”

“Jen, that’s 5 miles. Why all the exercise?”

My husband, Lee, and I had known for about a year that something was troubling our 15-year-old daughter. Besides losing weight, there was the frequent smell of vomit in the bathroom.

Yet I had no name for the problem until leafing though a magazine one day. My attention was drawn to a picture of a girl with sunken cheeks and a look in her eyes that seemed familiar.

The article said she had anorexia nervosa, a disease that often afflicts young women. As I read, reality gripped me.

In a household of six children, we did not at first realize the extent of Jenny’s condition. She was a cheerleader, homecoming queen, and the city’s Junior Miss. Her accomplishments masked her continuing battle.

Shortly before Jenny was to leave for college, we tried to convince her to see a doctor.

“No, Mom! I’ll eat,” she promised.

But she was begging to come home after just one semester. We took her to a psychiatrist who identified the disease and admitted her to a hospital.

Although Lee and I didn’t know it, we were embarking on a difficult journey that would involve doctors’ offices and psychiatric wards for 13 years. Our family prayed faithfully while seeking medical help for our daughter. Intervention only brought temporary relief.

“We’re over the hump,” one doctor assured us when Jenny was discharged. A day later Jenny was back in the old cycle of eating and purging.

I began noticing an occasional beer can in Jenny’s car. About the same time I read that people who suffer from bulimia also crave alcohol and are often depressed.

Jenny will destroy herself one way or the other, a voice seemed to whisper.

One evening our younger daughter received a call from a bartender in the next city. “Come and pick up your sister Jenny. She’s in no condition to drive.”

It was then that Lee and I made the most difficult decision of our married life; we asked Jenny to leave home. I cried as I helped pack her belongings.

“How will she pay rent and buy food?” I asked Lee. He had no answer.

One morning the phone rang.

“Mom?” Jenny’s voice sounded hollow. “I have nothing to live for. I’d be better off dead.”

My head pounded as I considered the implication of her words.

“Jenny, you must get help.” My mind quickly ran through a list of people. I pounced on one name. “There’s a chaplain where I work. Why don’t you call him?”

Two days later Jenny called. “I saw the chaplain. He said we’re not perfect, none of us. That’s why we need God’s help. All this time I tried to be so perfect. When I wasn’t, I thought, What’s the use of trying?

Jenny continued to eat and purge. She was extremely thin, and at times she drank. But she assured me, “I’m doing the best I can.” She no longer talked of suicide.

One day Jenny went for a routine dental examination.

Not knowing Jenny had an eating disorder, the dentist said, “When you purge, the gastric juices eat away the enamel. The enamel on the inside of your teeth is thin. I hope I can save them.”

Jenny asked me to meet her at the mall. She had reached a new low of discouragement.

“If I lose my teeth, I’ll kill myself,” she said.

In the middle of the mall, we held hands and cried.

This time Jenny turned to the Bible.

“God says He will restore what the cankerworm and locust destroy,” she said (Joel 2:25). “Can I ask God to heal my teeth when I’m the one who ruined them?”

“Healing is a gift,” I said. “Yes, you can ask God to heal your teeth.”

Soon the dentist began treatments to preserve the thinned enamel.

Every day was a struggle as Jenny relearned normal eating patterns. Often she slipped back into old habits. I stood by, cheering her better days, praying over good days and bad.

“Things are shaky, Mom,” she confided one day. “But God and I together, we’re going to make it. Keep praying!”

Thinking about the nights of prayer, the pain, and the struggles, it’s clear that praying for Jenny has drawn our family closer to God. Lee and I have learned to trust Him more.

In time, Jenny completely recovered from anorexia nervosa and bulimia. She is engaged in a profession, and is a faithful attendee in her church.

Looking back I cry, but now I cry for joy.

JEWELL JOHNSON lives in Fountain Hills, Ariz.


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