“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care will we help.”
Emily Wierenga could be called by many different names: survivor, artist, mother, wife, author, blogger, painter, musician, volunteer and more. But right now with the release of her upcoming book ChasingSilhouettes- How To Help A Loved One Battling An Eating Disorder onSeptember 25 she is about to be known as the woman who holds the keys to understanding one of the most challenging disorders of our day. Emily is a beautiful ray of hope and has a voice that beckons you listen and a heart that needs to be heard. She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband Trenton and four boys Aiden, Kasher, Joey and Jin. Please welcome this very Inspiring Woman to my little corner of the Blogosphere as she shares with us today.
Emily, please tell us a little about your growing up. I understand that you have a great heritage of faith with a Dad who is a Pastor and a Home-schooling Mom. Please tell us where you spent the majority of your childhood, how many siblings you have and a bit about your early years.
We moved around a lot. By the time I hit seven, we’d moved 10 times, and it wore me out but my Dad prayed every morning for over an hour and this held the family together. My mother was a quiet believer and a hard worker with low self-esteem. I have three siblings, and am the eldest. My brother and I were best friends growing up, until we became enemies because of the ED. We were home-schooled until doctors suggested I attend public school in grade five, but that only made me realize how many skinny girls there were and I started getting sicker. And I didn’t trust God because there was so much pain in the world, but I prayed to him anyway.
Your parents were also missionaries in Africa- how old were you and your siblings at that time?
My brother was born in Congo. I was two at the time. We moved back to Canada shortly afterwards.
Did you feel loved as a child?
I knew I was loved, but I didn’t feel it. And being a sensitive, aesthetic type whose love languages were words of affirmation and gifts, growing up in a silent, poor household made me starved for attention.
Why do you think that was?
My father was away a lot, visiting people in the church, and I thought he didn’t like me because even when he was home, he didn’t spend time with me unless he had to. And my mum had never been told she was loved, growing up, so she didn’t know how to speak our love languages. We were home-schooled and fed and cared for, physically, but emotionally, I was an empty basket.
Do you recall a certain point or was it a number of circumstances that caused you to become more self conscience about your body and your perception of it?
My mother is a very private person, an Englishwoman, and dressed neck to foot and her daughters had to do the same. We weren’t allowed to play with Barbie dolls or take dance lessons, and she was so afraid of vanity that it made want nothing more than to be beautiful.
|Young Emily – battling the giant
Where do you feel your relationship with God and the eating disorder were connected and/or disconnected?
My father represented God for me, and so that made Him unapproachable and busy. I feared him, as I feared my father in a sense, but I was also fiercely angry at him. For allowing pain. For not standing up for me. For not being there when I needed him most. And for saying he loved me but not showing it.
Where were you in your relationship with God as you experienced this disorder as far as how you felt in intimate relationship with him or distant from Him? Did you feel God cared about your choices or was it all disconnected?
It was all disconnected. I prayed rote prayers every night before bed, and that was the extent of my relationship with God. I figured since he and my father were so busy, I needed to take care of myself. The only thing that kept me praying was my fear of hell.
What do you think is the one most important thing a person can do if they suspect a loved one has an eating disorder?
That is a hard question, but I think it is just this: BE THERE for them. Dare to walk in the broken place with them. Don’t try to fix them, just be there. Don’t be afraid of their pain; enter into it, too, and show them they are not alone. Sit on their bed and hold their hand. Bring them bouquets of flowers. Write them letters. The key to recovery for someone is receiving a vision for what life can be, beyond the eating disorder. They need to realize they are worth more than the ED says they are, and the only way to convince them of this is to get out of the way (while still being there) and make room for God.
I know you are involved with the organizations NEDA and Finding Balance that offer support and counseling for eating disorders, can you tell us about your involvement, how you became involved and what is offered specifically through them?
I am a trained Navigator with NEDA, which basically means I have taken an online course that allows me to speak with parents, siblings, spouses, friends and relatives of loved ones with an eating disorder, and refer them to institutions, rehabilitation centers and resources. I am also an Official Ambassador for FB; I work closely with Founder Constance Rhodes in facilitating Gatherings and supporting her vision for a balanced lifestyle. I’ve also participated in two of her Hungry for Hope conferences, both on the author’s panel, and as a keynote speaker alongside my father.
|Painting by Emily
|More of Emily’s amazing art work…
Emily, please tell our readers (I confess I really so want to know this!) how you manage to balance it all? I call this my great standard question- four boys under the age of 5? You paint, blog and are releasing your second book for publication. Please tell us how you manage it all!
I have a nanny J I couldn’t do it without her. Yes, we have two boys of our own ages 2.5 and 10 months, and we recently took in two boys who needed a place to stay while their mother received healing and schooling. They are ages 1.5 and 4, and it is a challenge. There is nothing easy about it, but I know we are doing the right thing because God gave me three book contracts shortly after we took them in. This was confirmation. It was him saying, Well done, my good and faithful servant. And so I strive to put these boys first in my life while writing in the gaps, knowing life is short and all that matters in the end is love.
Describe a day in Emily’s life (I am such a newsy- I can’t help myself!):
I get up whenever my son Aiden (age 2.5) wakes me up, normally around 6. We sit on the couch together and he reads books while I do my devotions. Then the other boys rise and my husband showers while I feed the kids toast and they watch Bob the Builder or Curious George or Thomas the Train.
I boil water for my coffee about 10 times while emptying the dishwasher and feeding infant cereal to my baby boy and pulling Jin’s hand out of the toilet. Then as I’m trying to dress the kids using the freshly laundered clothes piled in stacks on the washing machine, our nanny arrives (a local home-schooled high-school student) and saves the day.
Later on, after we’ve spent time doing ABC’s and numbers with the older boys, I lay Kasher (my youngest) down, give the other boys a snack, and then send them off to the library and park with the nanny while I finally get changed, have my coffee, and do some work (writing).
We do lunch together, lay the kids down for naps (Joey has quiet time), and I go for a run while the nanny folds laundry or fills the dishwasher. Then I do some more work on my laptop until the kids wake up.
Afternoons are normally spent outdoors with the kids, playing, weeding the garden, and grocery-shopping. Then Trent arrives home from his day as a math teacher, and there’s supper and Bible story and bath-time (four boys in a tub). They run around naked for a bit while the nanny (who sleeps over at our place three nights a week) cleans up, and then it’s to bed by 7.
Evenings are spent working (writing), but my husband and I always watch a sitcom and have a snack before bed.
And then it all starts again… and always, before we’re ready, but His grace is sufficient. His mercies, new every morning.
Oh, thanks so much for indulging us (me) Emily! I am grateful for His mercies-
How about your best tip to completing the goal of writing a book (for my aspiring writers our there…OK again, I confess- me! )
In short? Write. J
I highly encourage Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” and Stephen King’s “On Writing.” These hold great tips for aspiring authors, but in truth, it’s simple.
Be disciplined. Don’t be afraid. And just start writing. Whenever you can, do it. And don’t look back until you’ve completed the first draft.
Anything you think we should add, Emily?
Since my mum contracted brain cancer 10 years ago, and I returned home for a period to care for her, my relationship/s with my family have improved considerably. I have learned to respect my father, to realize his faith and his heart are indeed, genuine, and to be amazed at his humility in serving my mother day-in and day-out. I have heard “You are so beautiful” more times from my mum since she became sick than I ever did growing up, and my siblings have grown to love and forgive me for ways I hurt them in the past, seeing that I do indeed love and care deeply about them.
There is hope. There is always hope. It may come in strange looking packages, but it’s there. Please don’t give up. I am in love with my parents, today, and my siblings and I are once again very close friends. God is not defined by our circumstances.
Amen to that: “God IS NOT defined by our circumstances.”
I think Goodall’s quote sums up the importance of understanding well. Where there is lack of understanding, communication crumbles, walls are erected and confusion reigns. As believers we are to be compassionate and understanding, ever seeking to bring healing and wholeness to those in need. One of the best ways to increase understanding is to listen to another’s heart. Without criticism or judgement. I pray that through Emily’s candidness and sharing, you have a better understanding of the prevalence and problem of this particularly complicated illness. I also hope that through the book and links you have some resources if you or someone you know is struggling with a similar issue.
|Emily with Trenton and their boys!
Emily’s paintings, journals, mugs and more