Maura shares her life story and how she started her healing journey. Discusses how she was able to find hope and consolation through creating a personal friendship with God and keeping a strong desire to live and be like a saint. She encourages us to be strong, build that friendship and trust in Him, as He will always come through to help you in your healing.
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Printable Study Guide PDF
Printable Transcript PDF
Reflective Study Guide Questions
“If you really want to love Jesus, first learn to suffer, because suffering teaches you to love.”St. Gemma Galgani
- As a kid, Maura felt or perceived that she wasn’t good enough. Have you ever had a similar feeling that you aren’t good enough? What were the circumstances? What did you do about it? While it is true that we are flawed and that we should strive for perfection, we will only attain this perfection with God in heaven. We should not lose our joy and peace over feelings of inadequacy because we know that we cannot achieve perfection here and now.
- Have you ever been a victim of believing in society’s idea of beauty as seen in movies and magazines? You are beautiful. Everyone on earth is beautiful because we are all made in the image and likeness of God.
- Maura cried out to God for help at different times in her life-story and she was answered in small ways that made a big difference for her. When was a time that you cried out to God for help?
- Prayer: Dear God, please increase my faith and help me to clearly see you beside me in the midst of every trial in my life.
Text: Healing the Father Wound, Part I
Hello, and welcome. I’m so happy to be with you today. My name is Maura Preszler, I’m the founder of Made in His Image, a non-profit organization that I started 6 years ago that helps women in their journeys of recovering from eating disorders and abuse. And today, I want to share a little bit of my story with you, talk about God the Father’s love, the Father Wounds, forgiveness, and how incredibly loved and wonderfully made you are. But before we start, I’d like to start with a small prayer.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Heavenly Father, we just praise You for the gift of this day. Just ask Your Holy Spirit to come upon and be with all of those who are watching and listening to these videos, that they would know how incredibly loved and wonderfully made that they are. That they would know that they are beautiful, that they are valuable, that they have what it takes, that they are strong and courageous. And we ask this through the intercession of Your Most Holy Mother, Mary. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen
So I just want to… I want to start by sharing just a little bit of my story with you so that you can get to know me, and then we’ll delve into God the Father’s love, the Father Wound, and forgiveness. So I grew up in Northern New Jersey, I am the fourth of 7 children. I grew up in an incredibly abusive home – I’m the survivor of over 17 years of domestic violence, and these years of abuse really took a toll on my body and how I viewed myself. You know, from the outside looking in, it looked like we were just this traditional Catholic family. We had 7 children, we went to Sunday mass, we never skipped Sunday mass, we went to sometimes even daily mass, and we prayed the Rosary every night together.
And I didn’t understand that, you know, I was learning about God the Father in school, but I didn’t understand, you know, if He was really who people say He was. If He was this all-loving, all-powerful God, then why was He allowing this abuse to happen? And no one talked about the abuse, no one ever talked about it, I never talked about it. A lot of people, no one in our family, extended family, knew that it was going on, and it was just shrouded in silence.
And it really came to a head when I was in eighth grade and I was playing field hockey, and I overheard 2 girls in the upperclassmen, upperclassmen, and they were talking about a girl in my class who was on the heavier side. And I took what these girls were saying and internalized it. They weren’t even talking about me. And I remember going home that night, looking in the mirror, and hearing what these girls said. And I thought that if I was going to be considered beautiful, if I was going to be enough, if I was going to be loveable, then I needed to be a certain weight.
And I remember telling myself that I was going to run more miles, swim more, play more soccer, eat less, and I really started to put these plans that I dictated to myself that night into action. You know, I started skipping breakfast, throwing away my lunch, running more miles, lying about what I had eaten, and I started losing weight, and people started noticing. And I thought that if I lost a bunch of weight, and if I was a certain number of the scale, that I would feel fulfilled, that I would feel beautiful. But the truth was I didn’t, and the more weight I lost, the more miserable I felt.
And I remember one night I was laying on this cold, dark, I was laying in this cold, dark room on this bed, and the doctor took my pulse and it was in the low 20s, and your pulse is supposed to be between 50 and 100. And I’m laying there, and I have this fine hair growing all over my body, and my fingernails and my toenails are purple, and I’m shivering, I’m shaking from being so cold, and my stomach is just rumbling I’m so hungry. And she told me that I needed to gain at least 25-30 pounds, and I remember thinking to myself “Oh my goodness, 25-30 pounds. I will be so incredibly overweight if I gain that weight.” And she told me that my life depended on it.
And I remember going home, crawling into bed, and it was the first time that I really cried out to God for help. Because my pulse was so low, my heart was really struggling to beat, and I could literally feel my heart, like, pumping. It was like a train trying to get up this huge hill, and it was, like, just pumping so, so slowly. And I was afraid that my heart was going to stop. I remember reaching for my rosaries and I started to pray, and I just promised God that if I could just be alive the next morning, then I would start to eat again. And praise be to God, I was alive the next morning, and I started… I remember starting my journey of recovery that day.
And it was incredibly difficult. If you have had an eating disorder or know anyone who has had an eating disorder, you know how incredibly hard the journey is. And it was so hard for me to eat huge bites of food, it was hard for me to put utensils in my mouth. So I just started by eating small portions of food right off of my plate with my fingers and putting them in my mouth. And I slowly started gaining weight, and I put the weight back on that the doctors wanted me to. And I finished high school, and I went on to college, and I still had this incredible yearning in my heart to be loved, to be known, to be seen.
And even though I was a healthy weight, I still really struggled with these thoughts of not being good enough, and I thought that if I could just run a faster mile, if I could just lose a couple pounds, then this feeling would go away. But it didn’t, and I, in college, I walked onto their Division I Cross Country team, and I was constantly being surrounded by girls that were faster than me, we were always having our… we were always getting weighed, always having our BMI checked, and it was a really unhealthy environment for me because of my past and current struggles with identity.
The Impact of Bible Study
And a couple of years passed, my junior year of college, and FOCUS, the fellowship of Catholic University Students came to our campus at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. And FOCUS missionaries are campus ministers. They are usually recent college graduates, they’re trained and then put back on the college campus, and they lead bible studies and large events, and they do one-on-one mentorship.
And I remember a missionary by the name of Mandy. She kept reaching out to me, and she asked me to join a bible study, and I was just so reluctant to join a bible study. You know, I was… I was still going to Sunday mass, sometimes even daily mass, but I just had such a disconnection, a disconnect between God the Father, and my heart. And I was still really, really struggling with all the abuse that had happened, and I just had my back up about joining a bible study. And she kept reaching out to me, and for the first time in my life I really felt loved by this woman. She showed me genuine, authentic love. And little did I know that this was the love of God the Father. This was what my heart was searching for.
And she kept inviting me to bible study, I kept saying no, and 1 night she saw me swimming in the pool, and she was swimming laps a couple lanes over, and she invited me to study again and I just… I just couldn’t help but say yes, because she had really become my friend, and I really felt so loved by her. A couple of weeks passed, I’d go to bible study, and I could not believe how much I loved it. I never missed a bible study, and it was awesome. We, you know, Mandy was a college graduate, she was a couple of years older than the athletes that were in my bible study.
And, for the most part, you know, we talked about… we talked a little bit about the faith, we talked about, you know, the sports, we talked about classes, we talked about guys we were dating, and she was just able to give us, you know, wonderful advice and wisdom, and it was just so awesome. And it was Mandy who inspired me to sign up for FOCUS Missions’ mission trip to India, because she knew that I loved Blessed Mother Teresa. And during this time, I was dating someone who had a sexual addiction, and his addiction really took a toll on me as well. I really believed that, you know, if I was more beautiful, if I was enough, then he would stop and I would be enough for him. And Mandy suggested that I just get away for the summer and, you know, delve into something else, do some service, spend time with God, and just get a break. And I signed up…
An Opportunity to India
I signed up for the FOCUS mission not thinking that I would get accepted. You know, I had never done any type of mission work, I never even served in a soup kitchen. But I remember the night that I got the phone call, and this woman had such a cheerful voice on the other end of the phone, and she invited me to go Calcutta, India with her and 3 other FOCUS missionaries, and I believe it was 14 students from around the country. And I was just so excited that I had this trip to look forward to, not knowing at all that my life was going to be totally and completely changed for the better.
That summer, you know, we went to India, and I served Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying, which is called Kalighat, and it was our job to bring people in off the streets, to show them God’s love, to be there with them when they took their last breath. And it was so incredibly moving, but also so incredibly hard. And I saw on that trip how it could be so easy to, when faced with so much suffering, to turn away from God, but these men and women that we took care of had such great faith. And it was one woman in particular that I took care of who… I was there with her when she took her last breath, and I tried my best to show her, to show her love, to show her God the Father’s love, that she would die with dignity. And that was Mother Teresa’s main, you know, that was her mission, that was her goal, that these people would die with dignity, that they would die knowing that they were loved.
And every day we went to daily mass with the sisters, we prayed a Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacraments. I had never prayed a Holy Hour before, so I’m sitting there, you know, it’s 120 degrees in India, I have pools of sweat underneath my knees when you’re kneeling down, there’s sweat dripping from my face. And I’m looking at my watch and it says we’ve prayed for 8 minutes, and I’m thinking to myself “Oh my goodness, how on earth am I going to sit here for another 48 minutes? What do I say? What do I do?”
Creating Close Friendship with God
But it was that very night that one of the missionaries on the trip, his name was Erik, he gave a talk on God the Father’s love. And his talk really changed my life. And I know people say, you know, like “I went on this mission trip and it changed my life,” or “This was a moment that really changed my life.” But this legitimately changed my life. And he talked about God the Father’s love, and he talked about God as being loving, and merciful, and understanding, and powerful. And I just had tears just streaming down my face in the back of the room, and I thought to myself “This is it. This is what I’ve been searching for. This is what I need. I need to know God the Father. I need to get to know Him.
And I remember going up to Erik after his talk, and I just said to him, like “Erik, you know God. You know God the Father, and it’s so evident by how you speak of Him, and how you serve the poor, and just how you treat others with dignity.” And I said “How can I get to know Him? How can I get to know Him the way you do?” And he said to me “Maura, it’s really simple: You can get to know God just like you would get to know a friend.” And if you have a best friend, or any, you know, you have to spend time with them, you have to talk to them, you have to communicate with them. And he said “You know, here in India we’re praying a Holy Hour every day, but I would encourage you to go home to continue to pray, continue to spend time with your Creator.”
And I told him some of my fears and worries, and not thinking that I was good enough, not thinking that I was beautiful enough, not knowing what it meant to be a daughter of God. And he said to me “You know, Maura, just go to Adoration, go to the feet of Jesus and tell Him these things, just like you’re telling me. Tell Him ‘Father in heaven, I don’t know what it looks like to be Your daughter. Show me what that is. Show me what it means to be beautiful. You say that I’m beautiful. Help me to see it too.’” And I did this. I came home from India, I graduated college, I kept praying a Holy Hour no matter what happened during the day. Whether it was 5 o’ clock in the morning or 11 o’ clock at night, I found myself in front of the Blessed Sacraments, and I just kept delving into what it means to be a daughter of God.
Trusting God’s Plan
And all of this was happening, I was still really, really struggling with the abuse that had happened, I greatly struggled with PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but not knowing what that was. I would wake up in the middle of the night with terrible, terrible nightmares, I would start crying in the middle of the night, not knowing, you know, I would cry in my sleep not knowing, you know, why or what was going on. And I took the opportunity to go to the Institute of the Psychological Sciences in Arlington, Virginia. It was started by Father Benedict Groeschel, and it incorporates the faith with psychology. And I wanted something that was, you know, rooted in mental health, but also rooted in our Catholic faith, since my faith was so important to me.
And I went there, I went there for a 2-day evaluation, and I got a complete psych eval and left that place feeling so incredibly exhausted, so incredibly drained. I went back a couple of weeks later, they told me my results, they diagnosed me with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a Borderline Personality Disorder, which sounded really scary to me, but what it really is, is a Borderline Personality Disorder is 95% of survivors and victims of abuse struggle with a Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s just a need to be close, a need for affection, a need for longing, and it’s like a “Come here, but I’m going to push you away” type mechanism, because there’s such a lack of trust in deep interpersonal relationships, and I really struggled with that.
And I listened to what all the doctors said and I felt so overwhelmed. You know, I felt like I was always that girl who was labeled as “Oh, she has an eating disorder, she has this, she has that.” And here again, you know, I have depression, and PTSD, and all of these things I’m struggling with, and I really tried to trust that this was where God wanted me. And the doctors wrote up a plan, they wrote up a plan for me, they said “We really recommend that you leave New Jersey, that you leave where the source of all of this trauma took place and start a new life for yourself.”
So, I was incredibly fearful, I was really, really scared, but I did what they said. I went home and I packed up everything I owned into my car. If it didn’t fit, I didn’t take it. They helped find me a Catholic psychologist in Nashville, Tennessee. I called the psychologist, they faxed over my psych eval to him, I spoke with him once on the phone, he said “I think I can help you.” And, again, incredibly scared, I was so terrified, but I just trusted that God had a bigger plan, that He had a plan for my life, that He had a purpose for me, and I drove to Nashville, Tennessee by myself.
And I remember halfway through the trip, I pulled over on the side of the road and I thought I was having a panic attack. I was just, like, hyperventilating, thinking to myself “There’s no way I can do this on my own. I don’t have a job, I don’t have health insurance. How is this all going to work out?” And I just heard God’s tender voice speaking to me, saying “Maura, you are My daughter, and I have such an amazing plan for you. I just want you to trust Me.”
And I started praying the Rosary, and I just continued on my journey, got to Nashville. I had an amazing house of Catholic women to live with, and I started therapy, and I found a job – I worked at as a baker and a pastry chef. At times I worked my main job and then I worked 2 other jobs on the side to pay for all the care, the medical care that I needed – my medication, and therapy, sometimes I was at therapy 3 times a week. It’s really expensive, but I just really felt called. Like, I was single, I had this time to really delve into my recovery, and I really wanted to make the most of it, I really wanted to get better, I really wanted to have a family.
I really wanted to get married, and have a family, and just become the best version of myself before entering into my vocation. And I saw a Catholic psychologist in Nashville, Tennessee, and he really inspired me to… the theme of my therapy was to choose to see beauty in my suffering. And I was there for 3 years, we talked about a lot of things, a lot of really hard things, a lot of good things. I grew so much, and I’m so thankful for my time with him. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Therapy was so incredibly challenging, but so worth it. And he really inspired me to choose to see beauty in my suffering.
Goal to be a Saint
And I remember one of the last therapy sessions that I had, he turned to me and he said “You know, Maura, everyone suffers, but it’s what we do with that suffering that will make us a saint.” And that is my goal in life: I desire to be a saint, I desire to be with Jesus in heaven. And, sure, I didn’t need to start a non-profit to do that, but I see my work with Made in His Image as a way for me to help other souls, to encourage them, to inspire them hopefully with my story, with my struggles. Because I know there are so many men and women out there who come from abusive homes, who have experienced domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, addictions, the Father Wounds, and it is my hope that my story will help inspire them to get to know God as Father. And in the next video, I’m going to talk a little bit more about God the Father, and how we can come to know Him as Father and have a personal relationship with Him.
About Maura Preszler
Maura Preszler was born and raised in northern New Jersey, where she graduated college from Seton Hall University. After college, she moved to Nashville, TN where she worked as a baker and pastry chef. In September 2011 God etched in her heart the desire to launch a ministry for women recovering from eating disorders and abuse inspired from her own story. She left her job and founded Made in His Image.
Maura has an immense yearning to inspire others to choose to see beauty in their suffering and in the ambiguity of life. It is her desire to use her story to foster hope and healing in the lives of all she encounters. Maura is dedicated to breaking the stigma associated with therapy and educating women about their inherent dignity, beauty and the love that God has for them as Father. Maura is a former Division 1 runner and soccer player. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband Michael and two sons, Pio and Noah.