Category Archives: healing

God Is Not Threatened When We Leave the Church

{An Abstraction on Lipstick}

 

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It happened standing in Wal-Mart with my daughters. I was buying a lipstick and rubbed the pretty coral color that I fell in love with onto my lips. I didn’t notice the brand–that smell. That’s when the memories came flooding in. Memories of being the focus of ridicule at a school in a whole new state, the memories of the poems left on my desk that said “She wears socks with her clogs in winter. She’s in a bubble and thinks no one can reach her, because her Daddy’s a preacher,” and they giggled at me as I turned red and crumbled up the loose-leaf paper taken from one of their cute binders. But there are darker ones.

Dark memories of a 21 year old youth pastor, who came into the sanctuary when I was playing piano and put his lips on me, held me from behind. He befriended my father, came over to the house, and when we went downstairs to play ping-pong, he forced me to sit on his lap.

And the hits seemed to keep coming. I became chronically ill after having my fourth child. And there were people in the church who wanted to pray for me one Sunday. I made it known that I didn’t want it, that I felt uncomfortable with such a spotlight on me. They assured me it was fine, and it was in the midst of this prayer circle that I was told there wasn’t grace for this sickness, this depression, this anxiety, and that God was asking me to please come back home, to come back to where grace abounded for me.

I recoiled at this. Because I knew that God had not left me and I had not left him and the last thing I needed was for someone in the church to tell me that my illness was because I had done something wrong. The insinuation was that it was a direct result of my having left God. But I knew then, and I know now– that none can pluck me from His hand. It’s not possible.

I did feel very far away from God, and what I needed at that moment in my life was for someone to gently remind me that God was still with me and loved me beyond imagination.

That day left me aching, a hole wide-open in my soul, cold bitter wind blowing through. It left me confused about prayer, and unable to utter any words toward heaven. Prayer had been a means, as far as I could see, to hurt others. And I became bitter and maybe I let my words sting, too, because all I could see was people who wanted to hurt me.

I could tell you more stories–I have lots of them. I could tell you about a time my husband and I were asked by the pastor to be elders  because he was leaving and the church needed someone to help run things in his absence. We hesitated, but we loved our pastor, so we agreed. A short time later, we found out that the leadership of the church had sorely treated our pastor, and was the cause of him leaving. Our hearts were broken. We resigned, left the church, and never looked back. But we won’t talk more of that.

What I want to tell you is that because of a lifetime of those memories, my husband and I have chosen to take a time for healing……

{to read the rest of this post, please come on over to Outside the City Gate— I’m over there today, and I have more to share with you….}

{concrete words link-up is below}

 

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Photo credit: Church and steeple: Cindee Snider Re 

Holding hands: Kelli Woodford

Okay, time for #concretewords! ***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of Awakening to God–this still ties into listening–writing out our story with words that show, not just tell. We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #concretewords,  #listeningtoyourlife and also #awakeningtoGod if you like. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them? Writing alone is no fun–but writing in community? Well, THAT is the stuff!

What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.


                                                         A few simple guidelines:

1. Be sure you link up the  URL to your                                                                       Concrete Words post and not just your                                                                      blog home page URL.
2. Put a link to this post on your blog so                                                                    that others can find their way back here.
3. Try to visit one or two others and                                                                               encourage their efforts.
4. If you don’t know how to do these steps,

please email me for help.

 

Today’s prompt is lipstick. GO!


{**Since I’m posting this mid-week, this link-up will run until next Monday afternoon 2 pm CST, giving you plenty of time to write and link up. Sometime between now and then, I will read your stories and try to highlight one of them on social media! Next week, the prompt will be balloon .}

 

 

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Tainted: Concrete Words {Guest-Host}

 I’d love for y’all to welcome the ever-lovely Ruth Povey, whom I call friend, to this space today. I am indebted to her for her loyalty, her support, cheerleading, and excitement over Concrete Words and my writing. She’s been a true source of encouragement. Y’all give her some lovin’ for her vulnerable heart poured out here and share her words!

                                                   photo credit 

I can see her, fourteen and shirt cut too low, flirting outrageous.  Longing for some affirmation, drawing it out of them the only way she’s ever known. From toddling age, she learned her worth lies in sex and now fourteen and contaminated, her worth lies in tatters.  Love’s understanding tainted by lust, shows a little more skin.  As if their wandering eyes might justify her.

And hardened, the tears never come, so frustrated she cuts her wrists through with a blade. Punctured, she bleeds and the pressure releases.

She’s grown up in church and been filled with knowledge of the God who judges harshly, the distant Jesus with his thorny crown.Condemned, she’ll never measure up to the Sunday School Girls, so she hides in the hallway and melts into walls.

***
A decade on and the songs kept calling to me, singing me home and into the church. And tears came one day as I mouthed broken lyrics, telling how he loves me. A dam collapsed as I suddenly knew it – that he’d bled out to purify me – and week in, week out this heart cried, grateful.

They taught on Isaiah, stood before the throne and how he’d called out:

I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips.

Yet I have seen the King!

Isaiah 6:5

Yet I have seen the king – my spirit was quickened and I read about seraphim who cleansed lips with burning coals and asked who would be a messenger for the Lord?  Isaiah, though he’d thought himself filthy, he’d responded all the same:

Here I am. Send me.

Isaiah 6:8

When mud clings to your soul and love has left you choking. When your worth is scattered, filthy rags about your feet – know this. You are loved with a pure love – the daughter of The King. 
I could tell you I’d felt that truth wash right through, cleansing my inside out, but I’d be telling you lies.  I wish I could say how I walk now, daily holding on to this.  I forget to, so often.  It’s a glimmer of understanding, fanned flaming some days and I hope that one day it’ll consume me.

***

It began with a response:



Here I am – I whispered it first and I sang it out, hopeful: Send me.



ABOUT RUTH POVEY: 

I’m Christian, mummy of two, wife to one, SAHM, and registered nurse. Once upon a time I was a teen mum too and my beautiful daughter is now nine years old. I love notebooks to near inappropriate levels, as well as music and buttery toast. My life has been by no means white-picket fenced but I’m working on my future, one scribbled-down page at a time.      
 Author Website  :      follow on facebook

This post shared with Jennifer for #TellHisStory Emily for Imperfect ProseMichelle DeRusha

***Friends, this is the only Concrete Words post for July. I’m still on break, but will be guest-posting on the 19th of this month (more on that later), and I will also still be writing for Bibledude, so don’t miss out on those. I’ll be back the first week of August for Concrete Words! We will get right back on that horse and have fun doing it! Writing like we can fly, like balloons floating free to the sky, ever, ever higher. I love you all and thanks for sticking with me! Happy summer to you. May you be filled with grace, sunshine, love, rest, the exhileration of adventure, and deep, deep exhales, my friend.

What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.

A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is the Tainted


{Ruth will highlight a beautiful post from this link-up on Friday (and announce it on social media), so visit her place, or her facebook page (link above) to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}


Now let’s have some fun with Concrete words! {Please be sure you’ve used the prompt before linking}

True Revival: The Long-Lasting Kind {And A Call to Concrete Words}



So last year I wrote this, and I’ve been thinking hard on it, how I’ve failed at lent this year, how it’s been non-existent for me, how a diagnosis back in the fall, a diagnosis no one wants to receive, has taken over my life like some dark cloud, a dark, foreboding heavy cloak that weighs me down, seeming like a foreshadowing of what is to come. This illness, it seems to have sapped all the strength right out of me.

It lays on us thick, making the dredging through everyday feel like it’s impossible to force laughter to gurgle up and out. I sit in the cold stillness, sweater wrapped round my body, lambswool blanket my comforting security, and I watch them play, watch them laugh, and some days when they seem tired and docile, I worry about them.

Sometimes it seems like my long-legged girl has forgotten how to smile, and I wonder if she mirrors me.

My tall Lorna has such a strong heart, and there has been a few mornings she has woke her Mama up and brought hot tea. When she does these things for me, I see such a nurturing mother in her, already at almost twelve, and I feel confident and sure for all the future children tucked away quiet in her womb.

Their schooling seems to fall through my hands like too many grains of sand, and I feel the weight of what I cannot carry in this frail body I despise. I tell myself tomorrow will be different, and tomorrow comes and I struggle and they struggle sometimes too and the days blur, and every homeschooling mama knows this hardship.

It’s been three and a half years now, and this illness in my body feels like a mountain I can find no way around, no way over, no way through.

The doctor tells me we will send Lorna to Jackson University to a neurologist for the sudden passing out and seizures that’s happened twice, and I’m glad to have some answers soon, at the same time overwhelmed at all the work that lays before me with long trips to the doctor.

I talk to Husband about possibly putting them back in public school, because I am not handling the weight well, and my heart is in my throat as I say the words. We talk about it, in low tones, and it seems impossible, because one daughter learns differently and needs to be at home, and all the reasons that we decided to homeschool in the first place are what make this decision so hard. Homeschooling is a whole other, strange, wonderful, miraculous animal, and if you believe in it’s principles, then it’s painstaking to think of your child thrown back into the system, labeled “behind”, simply because they learn differently.

Once in a while at night, I drink more than one glass of wine, and I feel heavy, relaxed, and some crazy days it’s the only thing that calms the raging storm inside. Husband lays back on the couch and watches a movie with me, red deliciousness in hand, kids all finally quiet and sleepy for the day, until we hear squeals and screaming and fighting, and we yell “Don’t make me come in there!”

I kiss heads, feel the softness of my lips against their cool, sweet cheeks, and tell them goodnight, feeling the tug to do more, wanting to read with them, but knowing my body can’t handle anymore that day.

Ivy looks at me with questioning eyes as I lean on the counter, “You know Mama, you could just go lay down and take a nap…”

But my heart aches, and I stare at her thinking, and I blink it back, Oh, child, I don’t want you to worry about me. 

The words are stuck inside, a silent scream that I can’t get out: “If only God had not given me this bitter cup to drink!”

My friend tells me that maybe I need to take some time off, some time away from everything, if that’s what it takes to get better, whatever I need to do for myself and for my family.

I swallow down the bitter taste of truth coming from my friend. It’s a painful lump lodged there in my throat. I shake my head and shake it off. Leave them? I couldn’t do that. Sometimes a mother doesn’t know how to do what’s best for her, because all the synapses of her soul only know how to fire off and execute what’s best for her children.

I call Husband and tell him I’m not feeling well, and to bring me some Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, my favorite, or Chocolate Fudge Brownie. He brings the brownie kind. Seriously, Ben & Jerry’s when I’m supposed to be on a detox. And Lent? I honestly have hardly thought about it. I feel like a failure as I swallow down the cold, chocolaty goodness. But the chocolate sludge feels so good going down and makes me forget for a moment the trudging.

And so what more can I tell you, now that I’ve spilled my guts, let you see my soul?

We find the grace in the little triumphs and we find joy in sun-warmed afternoons. I try to remember how to laugh. I try to be brave.

I try to keep smiling when I see my girls looking at me, so intuitively, their eyes questioning, watching me.

We washed dishes today, my eleven-year old and I, and we sang loud to Journey (well, I did–she just stared at me like I was nuts), and we danced and I tickled her with soapy hands until she fell on the ground in a laughing heap.

The girls come to me now, all red-cheeked clamor, “Mama!! Lilly just said ‘Let me go’! I was holding her upside down and she said it! She said it, Mama! A whole sentence!” And it’s better than a foot-stomping, hand-clapping, revival church service.

We cheer for her, clap our hands, and we have a little church right here in our own hearts, in our own home, for these words were a long time coming from my little Lilly. It’s a broken hallelujah reverberating in my heart.

And it feels a little like real Victory, and the bitter cup, a way to learn what truest healing is.

It feels a little like true Revival, the long-lasting kind, the kind that lasts longer than a three hour church service in the altar, it’s the kind that gives children joy even while watching their Mama struggle with illness, the kind that makes Mamas stand up with the strength to continue in the face of adversity.

My friend wrote this at her place, and she asked “Where are the messy, gritty, stories of the still-lost?” I wrote some messy stories, stories that were very hard to publish, here, and here, and here, stories that show a grateful-for-grace-me.

And I will keep writing them, even though my temptation is to write helpful things, to give you 10 steps to a better you–I’m not going to do that. I just want to share my stories, and help you find yourself in them. I want to help you and I, and all of us find ourselves in need of grace.

“We need the blistered cry of honest voices laughing together with tears in our eyes (a desperate prayer, yes?) at how the Light always sneaks up behind us, even when the black is at its inkiest. We need to learn to trace grace’s fingerprint on the horizon, while still walking in the dark.”–Kelli Woodford

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Let’s not cast any stone. Let’s help walk one another home. (adapted from my friend, Tara’s favorite quote: “We’re all just walking each other home”–Ram Dass)

**Please read: Friends, because of this illness, we have some decisions facing us concerning the girls’ education, where we should live {I need to be closer to family who can help, and the girls need more options for their education}, and we are also considering getting someone to help me at home during the week. Please pray as I battle this and as we make these prayerful, very serious decisions for our family?

Friends, on Monday, blushing fire-red cheeks and all, I will be taking Amber Haines’ Concrete Words, and running with it–well, she’s asked me to, probably only ’cause I was the only one who jumped at it. And I’m so honored! She is no longer doing it–at least for now. We will gather here, every Monday, at my place. Since this will be my first week hosting #concretewords, I am using Amber’s words to describe what we do in this community. We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. I have had fun with this, and I hope you will join in and write your own, or drop by to read! Please help spread {since I’m not near as big as Amber ;)} the word via twitter and facebook, and don’t forget to use the hashtag, #concretewords.

Because of what I shared hereI cannot always answer comments and visit very many blogs–although I would love for you to feel a sense of community when you are here, and I hope you do feel right at home–I just think–though we all search for so much interaction and approval from others, that sometimes, maybe in some seasons, sometimes very long seasons, just a quiet place is what we truly need. Just a place to reflect, pray, dream. 

I cherish your words, and the beautiful soul God made you. I am nodding my head, teary-eyed, as I read your hearts here. I’d like you to know that when I see you here, my heart just leaps out of my chest to connect with you–to let you know I hear you! Oh friend, I’m so glad you understand, and thank you for so much grace!  And while you leave such sweet words here, I am probably somewhere cleaning a precious 3-year-old baby girls’ messes, listening to an eleven year old playwrite’s brave words, or teaching my crew. If you are here, know you are loved, and you’re the seasonin’ in my soup. 

This post shared with Emily…

Fear Won’t Stop You {31 Days of Fear–Day #2}

Day 2 of 31 Days of Fear…I ask for grace for this posting from the archives, but I’m working on something, and I plan to take a break over the weekends–weekend posts will be short but sweet–I hope you come back to take a look, to taste of glorious redemption as I soul-search and look for Jesus in the midst of my fears.

I set out, screen door slamming behind, metal vibrating and hear the crunch-crunch-crunch, wet, grainy- smooth underneath my running shoes and I can barely get a good breath in.

As I pound along the road, tightened ribs begin to separate and lungs expand and I suck in the oxygen deep like a milk-starved baby.

I throw my head back and look to the pink and purple sunset sky above and just run like that wild like a child.

And it’s like in this inhaling, I’m breathing in God and the quietness settles heavy on me and a chorus rises, a symphony swells. And I can hear it all–the frogs in the marsh, birds call off to the east and the west, all around and crickets chirp in the grass my feet breeze past below. And it swells and rises up to meet me, lifts me up in it’s crescendoing.

I run past a white-tail deer, leaping and bounding away from me and then the rushing water of the river underneath the bridge. I turn and go back, climb up on the rail, all childish giddiness, peering down into the water, listening to her quiet rhythm, and the flood waters rising, they touch me with their hush.

I run past fields turned marsh with standing flood waters where cows once grazed.

And God said to me, “All these flood waters? They are neck-high because you are drowning in my grace. And that weight that makes you feel you can’t breathe? That’s my glory. Daughter, your drowning is not without purpose–you’re sinking in me.”

I let out a cry and it comes out hard in pants as I run.

And God said, “Daughter, do you see the burning bush? And do you see the thundering mountain? I look up and see two dark clouds in the sky, one like a burning bush and one like a mountain.

“Sometimes, child, life’s flames have felt too hot, the fire has seemed unquenchable and raging, but what you couldn’t see in the consuming fire, was that it was me burning into you. And the mountain has thundered and shaken you. There has been a quaking and everything has toppled down, nothing has felt stable and now life is turned upside down, but sometimes that is the way I move, thundering and shaking. And it’s been me all along. Though you searched hard, I’ve been right with you the whole time.

And God said, “Those trees you see that look as if they are about to slide under the sucking current–what you can’t see is that underneath the water, the roots go deep and strong because they’ve been hit over and over and over by the storm and they know how to hold on.”

Then God shows me a giant black hand in the sky and it’s pointing to a huge black cloud that resembles a storm and covers a vast area of land. “This is how you’ve been guided all along,” He whispers.

And God says, “Daughter, the whole time you felt I was nowhere to be found, even that I had forsaken you and you thought you were sinking, child–I was holding you up. And you see that joy on your face, do you feel that fierce love you have that covers over an offense? Do you sense new level of grace, that new-found freedom that makes you strong of heart, being firm in who you are in me, yet you are able to be Christ’s scarred hands and feet to those who drive the nails in your own hands and feet?–That’s my mark on you, daughter, because in the midst of the strorm, when I passed by as a cloud so intimately near, I left my imprint on you. Do you know you have my imprint? You bear my image, my name, my glory, my power, my resurrection life and there is no end to what you can do, child? Did you know?”

“Yes, I’ve left my imprint on you.

You. look. like. me.”

The bats, they swoop low overhead, and look for prey in the night. The night-song rises and speaks to me. I hear God say, “Daughter, it’s here in this night, in this groping-along darkness that you’ll find your courage, your strength.

And fear won’t stop you.”

Faith swells and I’m swollen pregnant with this promise here in the dark.

                                                                              *Edited post from the archives

Linking up with The Nester, and all the other 31-Dayers.…This ought to be one wild, brave ride…

Do you struggle with fear, friend? What has God whispered to your heart about it? Your comments so encourage me. I draw strength from your kind words and knowing you were here. My faith walk is seasoned with the right ingredients when you hang around…


This post also linked with:

On Awakening To Where Church Is

 

In the Deep South on a Sunday morning, Husband and I sitting on porch swing drinking coffee and resting on the Sabbath the best way we know how, the black gentleman neighbor across the street brings something right up to the picket fence. I can tell by his posture he has come over on a mission.


He never goes to church when his son and wife pull out the drive–he stays behind. And on this day, he has spotted us out on the porch.


My husband goes out to meet him, and Mr. Joseph*, smoking his cigar on this fine Sunday morning, he hands a bag of fish over the fence to my husband, and I can hear him telling of the trip and how he caught them.


He doesn’t do it because he thinks we need the food, or because we are poor, or because the church said to get out and knock on doors–he just does it because it’s what’s in his heart.


Just like a couple of weeks before, when his son showed up on our front step with fresh vegetables from the garden, a big sweet grin on his angel-boy face. I know his sweet mama had plenty of family she could have given that fresh summer bounty to, and for some reason, she chose to share it with us.


From my spot on the lazy swing, in mid-July sweltering Mississippi heat–heat so thick and heavy it makes your throat close up and your lungs just pure forget how to work–I can see him waving his cigar and his booming voice talking of all of us going down to the lake together some time to let the kids fish. We can use his boat, he says. Why he came over on a Sunday morning out of the blue to say all of this, I really don’t know. It’s always hard for us humans to believe that someone may just want to be friendly, no strings attached. Life teaches us to be hard.

My mind goes back to a few weeks before that, when the girls and I walked over in the middle of the day just to show them our new kitten, because we know they love kittens and they know we’ve been looking for one for the girls for a couple of years. When I walked across the yard up to where Mr. Joseph was working on a load he had brought home, he looked up at me and eyes wide as saucers, jumped and let out a foul word. He apologized profusely, of course, and kept telling me he thought I was a ghost suddenly upon him. I said to him, well, I am white enough to be a ghost, ain’t I? We had a good laugh about that.

None of us have really talked much, except the time my husband borrowed a post hole digger, and the time that we had no phone and no heat and I went over to ask to use the phone in the cold–and Mrs. Violeta* said Come over and stand in front of my heater and get warm anytime, baby–and then the time we stopped by on Christmas Eve to bring a warm loaf of pumpkin bread wrapped up with love.

Mr. Joseph is still waving that cigar around and talking up a storm, and my husband just keeps nodding, yes sir, and his voice carrying over on the breeze, going on and on about lakes and the best times to fish, it’s like he’s making up for lost time, right there at our picket fence on the Sabbath.

Maybe he is all the church we needed today, because it is where two or three are, and church can be had over a picket fence. Many in the church would never grace my picket fence–I invited and they wouldn’t come, many would never walk over uninvited just to say hello–but they will bang on my door if I don’t attend service, many would never bring food just because–but they will put me on the list to receive help from the food bank, and they would hardly laugh with me right in the yard over a foul word slipped–because Christians don’t laugh, especially about things such as accidental curse words.

And when I was the one in the throes of deep depression and illness, I felt like a leper no one would come near–when I was the “least of these”, where was Jesus with skin on? Where was the church?

And it just hits me so severely and stuns with it’s power of revelation, right there with beads of perspiration forming, that Mr. Joseph–
maybe he is Jesus to us today.
                            

                                                                 *names changed to protect people in the story                                                                             edited re-post from archives 

                                                                              
This post linked up with She Loves Magazine’s Awake: A Synchroblog.

So I Stopped Eating: Guest Post by Emily Wierenga {And Book Giveaway & Gratitude!}

Welcome, lovely readers–all of you–friends–yes, beautiful you–to a guest post by my friend Emily Wierenga, one of the most loving, gracious, generous writers and bloggers I have met in this blogging realm. She asked me to write on anorexia for her over at her Chasing Silhouettes site, coaxed me through the process–a process which was difficult as it brought up old wounds from the past–and cheered me on–being Jesus’ hands, pulling my talent to the surface, bringing glory to God. She probably didn’t realize she was doing all of that–Emily just loves because it’s in her heart–not because of any notion of “Christian duty”–I love the soul that is Emily. Can you tell? You will like her, too. I promise. It’s because of writers like her that I have had the courage to strip naked of fear and wear brave fierce. Please take a moment to read her story, to browse the links and consider buying (or pre-ordering) her book, and don’t forget to leave a comment telling me about a loved one who is dealing with an eating disorder, or your own battle with an eating disorder and why you would like to win the book–or why or how you would like to win to use it as a resource–in your church, in your school, etc! I am excited to share her book with you! The release date is September 25th, 2012. Won’t you join me in celebrating with her and getting the message out? Share on facebook, twitter–use the links at the bottom of this post! Thanks!

So I stopped eating
By Emily Wierenga


We were moving, for the tenth time in seven years, and I’d seen a bad word on the side of the grocery store wall (but had no one to ask about it) and Mum didn’t tell me I was beautiful and I couldn’t go to public school and Dad was never home, so I stopped eating.

I chewed pencil, tasting lead. Our heads were bent over textbooks, together at the kitchen table, and Mum’s back was turned, while she rolled dough on the counter, and I wanted her to look at me, tell me she loved me, over and over, give me a mirror and trace my cheeks and help me believe I was worth something, but she didn’t know how, having never known it herself, and so I broke my pencil pressing it into prose and tried to find myself in the lines of the page.

I heard the sounds of girls going to school, ran to the door, and saw they were wearing pink backpacks and I wanted to run with them, but my legs were too fat; no one likes a fat preacher’s kid. Besides, we were home-schooled in case we should move again. Also, I had cried when I’d gone to kindergarten, so Mum had brought me home, ordered books, and vowed to teach me. That kind of thing was supposed to tell me she loved me, but I didn’t feel it. Because, to me, love was words and gifts. So I sat down to do my math and tried to forget.

I tried to forget the way Dad laughed with strangers in their pews, listened to them, as if their stories were more important than mine. And the way he closed the door to his study and sighed when I knocked, timid to ask him a question. I tried to forget the way he spanked me not knowing what I’d done wrong, only that Mum told him to because she was too angry to do it herself, and scared of that anger. It didn’t hurt me anymore, not even when he used his belt, because I refused to let it.

A neighbor saw me on the carpet, toy-playing, seven-year-old oblivion, and said, “What a big girl,” and I carried those words around like a bird in a cage, until one day the bird got loose and I stopped eating. Soon I would run on thin legs with the girls next-door.

It was a slow-stop, one that began with saying “No,” and the “No” felt good. I refused dessert. I refused the meals Mom dished up for me. I refused the spreads on my bread and then the margarine and then the bread itself. And it felt good, like the ribs on my fingers, as I practiced my counting.
I was nine and I felt 109. Mom let me go to school again, but I wasn’t allowed to do English class, because the books were too risqué, and she still didn’t say I was beautiful. The days were long and I was tired and no one could hear me, so I starved harder and the teachers couldn’t see me, so I shrunk my words making them smaller, smaller, until the teachers were forced to pull down their glasses and study the prose I’d made, the winning prose, and I aced class and I flunked recess.


 At night, I dreamt of food. Mum found me, hunting for chocolates in my bedspread. I wanted her to hug me and make the fear go away, but then I was worried I’d eat real chocolates, because my guard would be let down with the soft of her touch, so I stopped hugging her for two years. My legs were getting thin, and that was what mattered, but I dreamt about her arms, and woke up hugging myself.

God didn’t care. He made me recite names each night before bed and I couldn’t go to sleep without reciting, because then people would die, and I wanted to die but I didn’t know it until the day everyone tried to force me to eat and I refused it all, and now it was clear to the world and maybe to God too: I was in control.

It was supper and we were seated and Mum was dishing, dishing, dishing and the macaroni and cheese piled orange and white as she handed them, plates plunking against old wood table, and I’d already decided, it tasted like straw, even before I took a bite.

Tonight, I would eat only half, and she’d threaten me with no dessert and I’d tell her point blank, that’s fine. Maybe it would make her worn sweaters unravel and her straight-lined school schedule smear and maybe then she’d take me into her arms and tell me she was sorry.

Sorry for praying that prayer when I was in her womb, the one I learned of later on, the one she said with good intentions not knowing how it would hurt me, the prayer which uttered God, don’t make my baby beautiful, in case she becomes vain. (I can see Mum’s hands trembling on her abdomen in the night as she offered her baby like Hannah did with Samuel, and it makes me love her, yet, despise).

In my own dark nights I worked to reverse that prayer. I’d train as though for war, to see food as nothing but a trap. I’d lie there feeling ribs, measuring wrists, planning the next day’s meals. And if there was to be a party somewhere, soon, I’d eat less in preparation, allowing myself the freedom to snack for then no one would know the difference.

By day, I’d peer into the mirror as if into my soul and imagine myself skinnier, beautiful. I’d creak onto the toilet seat after bath, spend half an hour turning this way and that, analyzing naked bones. Sucking in and pulling skin and strategizing how to become invisible.
Salvation came through imagination.

 The apple grew a face which mocked me, and so I didn’t finish it, for every time I defeated the food, I gained points against Mum, and maybe God, and I was winning. The food had nothing on me. Sometimes I’d trick it, making the piece of bread think it would fill me up then rip it into halves and eat only one, and there was a thrill in leaving food on the plate, as though I could disappoint it. Even the raisins in the tapioca seemed to stare holes, and I would push it away, feigning fullness.

But food was everywhere, and it never slept. It would beat me in my dreams—the cakes, the pies, the sandwiches. In my mind there would be a buffet, high-calorie. I’d gorge, drool, and crumbs would spill over into daytime and I’d wake feeling bloated, spend the next day getting back at food by eating less.

I’d suck in my cheeks in the mirror; I’d suck them in for photos and I’d try not to talk so I could suck them in day-long. It was tiring, this looking like a model, but I was determined to be beautiful. I would weigh myself every time I ate, every time I went to the bathroom; I’d take off my shoes, my socks, my pants, just to see the numbers drop.

And I wept through the pain, wept behind closed doors with my arms wrapped tight, but I couldn’t stop.

                                             


                      (Repost; originally appeared at The High Calling, November 2010)
                                                                                       (**photo added) 


                                                                                                                                        





Emily Wierenga is a wife, mother or four boys (two of whom are hers), artist, and author of ‘ChasingSilhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder’ (Ampelon, 2012) available hereFor more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com.. 

you can:
Pre-Order
here.
View Endorsements
here.
Read Sample Chapters
here.

and i’m wondering… will you help me?

i know many of you have not struggled with eating disorders, but there are 8 million Americans that do… and many of them are young girls, in families that are desperate for solutions… there is only one solution, and that is Christ, and this book points to Him. would you help me get the word out about this?

will you pre-order a copy for your church library? your school library? for the family down the street?

and will you share about this book on fB and twitter? and pray? yes, please pray.

i am also happy to do guest posts/ profile pieces for your blogs to help get word out, too.

(thank you)

Purchase Emily Wierenga’s new book Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a loved one battling an eating disorder within the first four weeks after its September 25, 2012 release date and receive a special invitation to watch an online forum on eating disorders with bestselling author Dr. Gregory L. JantzFindingBalance CEO Constance Rhodes and author Emily Wierenga. Readers must email a scanned receipt, a picture of them with the book or tell us when and where they purchased the book to events@ampelonpublishing.com, and they will be logged in to receive a special invitation to watch the event. They may also submit questions for the panel to answer, some of which will be selected and answered during the forum.



Thank you, sweet Emily, for gracing my blog today with your story and your heart. Friends, I am on a blogging and social-media break this week–sometimes I must pull back–a short hiatus–I always know when it’s time. {You can read here to find out more about this and why most of the time I quietly write here at the blog and the comment box stays hushed.} I am thankful that Emily was willing to help me out with a guest-post today and I’m so *grateful* she put voice to the feelings, thoughts, and actions I had as a young girl dealing with anorexia-bulemia–things I was trapped in and didn’t know how to speak of, she has made palpable here, helped me find my voice after all these years, and she will help so many others find their’s through her book. Even though I can’t answer every comment, we want to hear your story–we want to hear your voice. Speak. We hear you.  *If you don’t want to be entered into the giveaway, just let me know in your comment–but still feel free to tell us your story or your thoughts! 


 


Friends, please watch this beautiful video; you will be blessed! I promise–such redemption!! 


**Don’t forget to comment for the book giveaway! **The giveaway is over on Friday, September 28 @ midnight. I will email the winner this weekend! If you don’t want to be entered into the giveaway, just tell me in the comments–but please feel free to tell us your thoughts, to tell your story, or to just give Emily encouragement! 


Still counting gifts from a merciful God…….{Gratitude # 977-996}

3 gifts ugly-beautiful…
…Not getting to run, but being able to take my girls to Swim Awards Ceremony…
Having to miss CC because two children are sick–one with a fever; all of us taking a break…
…Bella’s fever so high; her sweetness as I take care of her…

A gift folded, fixed, freckled…
…Lorna making quinoa and beans for everyone for lunch…
…my daughter folded into me in the dark, all this exhaling…
…a lone, freckled orange-red butterfly fluttering happily by…

3 gifts in conversations…
…Husband listening to my heart…
…Lilly finally going to speech therapy and signing more words…
…my girls’ whispered ‘i love you’s’…

3 gifts in salvation…
…unmerited grace…
…unmerited favor–I’m a daughter of the King! I’m beloved!…
….the security of the believer…I’m sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption and nothing can take that away…

A gift rattling, receding, reclaiming…
…spiritual sickness rattling against these cages…
…all the unnecessary, all the “fluff”, all the “should’s” and “should-not’s” being pushed back into wide-open grace…
…seeing by faith God’s faithfulness, goodness, and fruitfulness in my life–looking for it intentionally…

3 gifts quiet…
…the moon glowing over tree line in the black of night…
…my soul, watching the fullness of everything, not partaking in debates so easily sparked around me, quietly observing and seeing His truth in everything…
…soft worship lullabies and sweet, quiet children that work as I get my classroom ready…

the grace for another week…

for these migraines and this anxiety I know He will heal…






On In Around button



       

Spread Wide {Five Minute Friday}

Around here on Friday, I try to play along with the Five Minute Friday group at Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog. We let our words fly out of the cage and soar–just for five minutes, without fear of what flies out of hearts through fingertips onto keyboards, no editing, no back-tracking. no worrying if it’s perfect, just from a one-word prompt. Come play along too? Here we gooo……

GO.

She wanders out to soak in the sun beneath an oak,
in the dappled light that traces her skin and makes her feel alive.
She notices the Spider Lilly, just one lone lilly in all it’s beauty
and splendor, tall and strong, defiant right there in the open
It screams red color and life and it’s independence to her
And she knows she’s like the flower, too.
She knows she’s been one lone reed,
She knows she’s even been defiant in her aloneness
Unwilling to break, to bend, to meld into their box,
to cower in their corners they try to back her into.
She knows the rejection the flower must feel
But she looks again and sees how the lilly opens wide
to the air, the breeze, the sun and God above.
She notices it’s spreading and taking in, it’s unfolding
and yes, even it’s love, it’s giving
Shining it’s beauty so brilliant, just there for others to behold
And she knows that like the flower, she must find her way to spread
wide and give and receive.

STOP.

{This week’s prompt was wide}.

Would you like to come play along, to write words and release them from their prison, let them soar? Sheer JOY!!

Five Minute Friday

Together {Five Minute Friday}

Every Friday, we link up with Lisa-Jo of the gypsy mama, and in her words–“we write like we used to run when we were kids. On Fridays we write with gusto, unselfconscious and flat out.” –we write for five minutes only with a one-word prompt– no editing, no back-tracking, and no worrying if it’s perfect!If you enjoy this at all, and would like to see more writing with gusto, click on her button at the bottom and read others’ posts!

Together:

GO.

I’m scared to put fingertips to keyboard and tap out “together” because I don’t understand together like I would like to.

But I do want to get this together, this community, this caring, this relationship. I want to learn it in the synapses, in the heart strings, for the endings to get the message that Jesus came for relationship with me so that I could reach out to others.

This woman, the cancer-survivor champion, she chases after me, and she causes me to reach arms out and up to God. She pours deeply into my soul.

The Life-Surrendered mama, she invests her time richly in me, makes me a better homeschooling, loving, godly mama.

The filipino girl, she makes me soar with the wings she gives with her life-breathed encouragement.

And there’s this Tennessee woman, the Tuning Her Heart woman, who looks into me and sees something of value.

And then there’s the quirky Californian-Asian girl whose love knows no bounds and always sticks by me when I’m at my craziest, and messiest and she loves me more for it.

Maybe I do understand together. They have come and wrapped arms ’round and made me understand.

STOP.

Friends, I would LOVE for you to leave your thoughts–your comments are so precious, and minister to my soul–I am probably in a corner of my home somewhere cleaning up potty-training baby girl’s messes, picking up sticky banana peels off my couch, sorting through laundry and apple cores, doing a Jillian Michael’s workout with eldest daughter, helping my second grader with grammar, or packing all four girls to go off with their grandparents’ for the weekend {yay!} ….I am sorry that I cannot answer every comment, but please let me know you were here, so I can stop by your place and leave some encouragement for you!

    

A Girl Lost In Smoke and Mirrors {What Does God Say About Beauty?}

{There are many things on my heart to say this morning, many things I long to convey, to pour out, but God has placed this on my heart for now and has surprised me by opening the door for me to share something that has laid dormant for so long, that I am really baffled as to how best to share it….Please bring some grace along with you, friends, as you read…I will need it….much love…}

I don’t like this woman that stares back at me in the mirror. This once-young body has been ravaged by the throes of motherhood–all those babies I grew and breastfed–and left a shell of skin that I don’t recognize.

The once glowing, young face has been replaced by wrinkly skin that doesn’t snap back into place when I smile or frown–the lines stay. The glow of youth now just ashen and sagging, my green having seen some pain through the years, peeking out. They’ve learned to not sparkle so much, their fierceness quieted by the hard lessons and harsh words.

My skin constantly breaks out, seemingly with no cure, and the scars bear the evidence that where beauty once so brilliant shown, now time has obviously marched right across my face and staked territory.

“Honey, time marches on, and eventually you realize it’s marchin’ across your face.”
                                                                 -Truvy–Steel Magnolias

I feel like I’m having a mid-life crisis and back in highschool all at the same time.

I’ve found it hard to come to grips with this, to like the skin I’m in, to be comfortable in it, and more than that, to believe what God says about me–that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.

I remember Husband’s words that women in today’s culture seek to be sexy, but the most beautiful woman is a confident woman–a woman who can wear old jeans, pull her hair back in a pony-tail and laugh, and be happy with herself and her God.

I know he’s right–I do, but I don’t feel confident and I don’t feel so wonderfully made when this body is decaying and falling apart.


Old habits die hard.

Growing up, I was always, always complimented on my outward beauty. It was the only thing I got noticed for, and was completely unaware why. I tried hard to fit in, to be apart, took a stab at jokes, tried to find a tight space in conversation to slip in a clever remark.

But I was made fun of and laughed at–this girl who looked out windows, closed eyes in blinding sun and day-dreamed too much and didn’t get the dirty jokes–told that I was a dumb-blonde, that I was so out of it and air-headed.

I knew that they were joking, just having fun, but I was the butt of the joke, and it didn’t feel like fun to me–I was the one who was paying the price for their fun. I felt deflated–worthless–nothing of value in my heart and mind. I’d look back out the window again and drift off some place where it didn’t hurt as bad to be me.

As I grew taller and began to take shape–my face becoming that of a woman, my beauty was all anyone was interested in–I had nothing else to offer. I felt stupidly clumsy, falling all over myself in front of people, not knowing what to say. It was just easier to shut off and not be interested in meeting new people. I didn’t understand this extreme social status game, me this bookish girl all in my own dream world, shyly preferring characters in stories to real people and the pain they inflicted.

Books were my closest friends. I would come home and run to the comfort of my bed where I would fling myself down and read for hours. I would look out the window at the dogwood and think of the nails that Jesus took for me, but unfortunately I did not know the grace that man came to give.

I was so empty.

This is where I took a turn down a long, dark path. This was just the beginning….

Dear, kind friends, this is only the beginning of the story–I apologize for leaving you hanging, but Emily {of Imperfect Prose} has asked me to share my anorexia story and I will be sharing that over at her eating disorder site next Monday. Please come back and read of my journey? It would be such an extravagant grace to have you back here then and if you would like, to follow me to her place to get the full story….

A little glimpse of the beauty to come and some encouragement for you today: …..

 This is what God says about my beauty, about this frail, human body:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days you have ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.” Psalms 139:13-18

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction in on her tongue. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”–Proverbs 31:25,26,30 

 Prayer: 

God, I want real beauty. I want to be a servant with the worn spots of motherhood on me. Let me wear the work apron in place of fine jewels and instead of being obsessed with lashes lavished with makeup and with curling, let me have eyes that are a place of found grace when my kids have fallen into sin, not lingerie-store pushed up and out, but a soft breast for little ones to fall asleep on, and not a perfect hour-glass figure, but a wife and mother that prays on the hour for You to come love them through me, and not a mother who checks herself in the mirror, mumbling insults in front of little ears….

{please come back for the rest next Mon? I will share details from my eating-disorder journey and encouragement on what God says about a woman’s body vs. what our culture says–I promise it is freeing! He gives more grace, friends! Always more grace!}

Sharing with a trembling heart…hitting publish with shaky hands, and as Emily says, letting Jesus write through me…and counting, this week again, through all the hard times, with Ann…..

Gratitude:

#720 daughters and me doing exercise together everyday

#721 that they ask to do things with me

#722 Bella’s pleading 4-yr-old-lisp request: “Pleasth, Mama, can I go with you? Pleasth??” and how even though I want time alone, I can’t resist.

#723 me and Bella smelling the flowers together in the garden center at her prompting

#724 me taking girls out for the day to get my hair done–first time in a year {!} and to take the girls to a skating party–surviving social anxiety

#725 our whole family serving at our church this week–way out of our comfort zonethe beauty of giving versus receiving

#726 an unspoken hard eucharisteo

#727 sun in face, looking up at trees above, light dappled through leaves, tears brimming over, heart heavy and conversation just between my Father and me

#728 an impromtu supper picnic at the lake with friends–conversation, laughter, love, support

#729 my friend’s wisdom and loving encouragement…how she grounds me

#730 our family making. it. early. for Sunday service!!

#731 a dear woman at church asking me to sit with her and discuss homeschooling–her husband divulging his concerns for his 12 yr old daughter–the wild grace that I could have anything to offer this family–only God, only God
#732 that with all my shortcomings, that maybe God can still use me

#733 the opportunity to share my story–something I wasn’t even aware that I needed to do until I was asked–that it will be healing for me and hopefully for others…

Friends, I would LOVE for you to leave your thoughts–your comments are so precious, and minister to my soul–I am probably in a corner of my home somewhere cleaning up potty-training baby girl’s messes, sorting through laundry, helping my second grader sound out words, or talking with wonderful Husband over wine….I am sorry that I cannot answer every comment, but please let me know you were here, so I can stop by your place and leave some encouragement for you!

Shared with Ann in community at…

Emily…

L.L…
On In Around button

and Laura…




Jen…

Jennifer….

Michelle…

and Shanda…

Good-Bye To Winter {Five-Minute Friday}

On Fridays, we link up with Lisa-Jo at the gypsy-mama and we write for only five minutes with a one-word prompt, without worrying if it’s perfect–no backtracking, over-thinking, or editing. In Lisa-Jo’s words, we throw caution to the wind–in my words–FUN! Maybe you would like to join us? Click on her button at the bottom…So here goes…

Prompt: Good-bye.

GO.

Good bye to winter, that season that always brings cold through my soul.
Good bye to old ways and old habits, old days that were no good to me, but God knew
God knew something greater was forming
Good bye to despondency and guilt, depression and darkness
Good bye to the lull and the void
Good bye to days of nothingness and feeling worthless
God knows I am worth something–He knew me and formed me, knitted me
Good bye to the pain of bearing children that I feel inadequate to raise into little ladies into godly women
God knew that He would give me grace enough
Good bye to all those days that wore me down, drug me down with the weight of them and carried me to the depths
God knew that He would save me
Good bye to the days of not being strong enough to teach, shape, learn, listen, mold, love, cherish, honor, celebrate
Good bye to the babies that they were
God knew they would grow up and He would give me more than enough wisdom

STOP.