I’ll Tell You What I Want

Here is a naked truth that I did not even know about myself. As I sort old journals, cull memories and query friends and family, I am realizing how little I actually knew about my own battle with an eating disorder. It’s kind of like taking a shower, an effort to cleanse away the day’s dust, and discovering a birthmark you had never seen before. images

Obviously, it’s been a part of me forever. Since opening the womb, my “me-ness” has been as God sketched it. My soul has born the same imprint. Surely, culture and family and circumstances ebb and flow across each life and erode some things faster than others while sifting silt and revealing precious stones. But I had hardly seen it.

I was told that in writing my book, I must “bleed on the page and be saved in the process.”

Well, sometimes bleeding hurts. And when you’re naked, even the smallest prick can make you bleed.

I WANT.
You see, I grew up the oldest of four girls. One of the anthems that I remember echoing through the halls of our home was, “Abby, you’re the oldest, can you please just give in this time?”  – – or – –
“Be the mature one.” – – or – –
“I expect more out of you.”

And I did, and I was. But denying want does not erase it. In fact, denying want on the surface dug a deep, subversive pit in my heart where I stuffed want and greedily demanded all my desires while on the surface, others observed a starving little girl denying even her need to eat.

Now, I can clearly hear the melody of my heart all those years, the percussion to which I kept time:
I want you to want me. I want you to think I am the smartest, the thinnest, the most beautiful. I want you to want to be me. I want to be enviable. I want to be impervious. I want to need nothing. I want you to know that I am strong. I want to think I am better than everyone else. I want others to think I am self-disicplined. I want, I want, I want. I want all of my parents’ attention. I want to be your favorite. I want you to notice me. I want you to think I am spiritual. I want your sympathy. I want your touch. I want to be able to have everything I want. I want you to tell me I can eat anything I want. I want to be safe. I want to be independent. I want, I want, I want. 

It was so sneaky that even I did not recognize my greed. An anorexic appears to be in need. The life of an anorexic is an exercise is asceticism, self denial, ultimate self control. But for me, it was ultimately a ploy to get everyone else to condescend to all my demands.
That’s a pretty ugly naked. 

Now, lest you think I am unnecessarily berating myself, or attempting to beg pardon, let me tell you the TRUTH.
I was needy. I do want things.
There are a couple differences now, this is not selfishness. I have learned to ask for things – both my  needs and wants. Secondly, I am learning to be attentive to the needs and desires of those around me. And lastly, I have stopped looking for others to notice and fulfill my emptiness.

I have found the bottomless source of gifts. I have found the unquenchable fulfillment of all my desires. I have found the solitary source for the satisfaction of all my needs. And He loves for me to come to Him HUNGRY. 

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. Ps. 145:15-19

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

 

Body Image and the Traditional Family

Have you ever thought about how body image is directly related to the demise of the family in modern society?

The traditional family is not simply under attack, but at this point has been so viscously and repeatedly assaulted that she is no longer recognizable as the institution she was created by God to be. It is also indisputable, even by the most liberal among us, that women’s physical bodies are so manipulated and objectified that frequently they don’t operate as God intended either.

Considering the family, I give you the divorce rate in America, the number of children in single parent homes, domestic abuse, latchkey kids, grandparents raising their children’s children, the disappearance of discipline and the overthrow of family interaction by tiny, handheld computers.

Considering the female body, I give you airbrushed magazine covers, (interesting article here) innocent daughters on diets, (talk about that here) every conceivable product offering a plastic-enhanced, fat-free version, menus touting “guilt-free” so that women have social permission to eat, women who can never have children after putting their bodies through premature menopause due to eating disorders in their formative years (ask yours truly).

Well known, observed facts, all of the above. But what do they have in common?

…great masters [demon tempters] produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be called sexual ‘taste.’ This they do by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses and advertisers who determine the fashionable type. The aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most likely.

Have you ever thought of that?
That our obsession with perfect bodies (at least what the momentary, finicky appetite of sexual desire deems salable) has distracted eligible men and women from proper interests in the other sex based on faith, commitment, intellect and prayer? That an attitude of entitlement lends to severed marriages as one partner selfishly believes they deserve to be happy at the expense of their vows?

We now teach men to like women whose bodies are scarcely distinguishable from those of boys. Since this is a kind f beauty even more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female’s chronic horror of growing old (with many excellent results) and render her less willing and less able to bear children.

As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something that does not exist – making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast.

What astonishes me, is that C.S. Lewis published The Screwtape Letters in 1942. Screwtape was right, what followed was easily forecast. Seventy-one years later, we are fulfilling his prophecy.

What came first, the chicken or the egg? What came first, the decline of the family as the foundation of society or the objectification of the female body? Regardless, if we intentionally address one, will we necessarily affect other?

Unplugged

Trusting in God’s sovereign timing of everything, I can only assume that my computer got “sick” because I’m headed to visit my family for the holidays and if my computer was feeling up to it, I would take him with me. That usually leads to lost moments, wasted time and a preasure to go write. As it is, my computer will be visitng the Apple doctor until at least next Monday.

I’m borrowing my husband’s computer at the moment and will soon be relegated to digital Siberia (only my iPhone for connection.) In the meantime, I hope you enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving and do everything possible to be competely present with those you love.

When I return, I will be writing a review of the book, Church Behind the Wire, by Barnabas Mam. Also, I have some continued thoughts on mercy, injustice and justice. I’m excited to digest these things with you.

Until then, a teaser:

Worn and weary, though mere years old,

His scars and hope the story told.

Of grit and grim and heart and grace,

As life moved on at tortured pace.

To call on Jesus amidst such pain,

Is life to lose and life to gain.

 

 

Guest Post at SheLovesMagazine

Sometimes I think everyone knows my story. Goodness, I thought I knew my story. But as I began to write this piece for SheLovesMagazine, the editor, Idelette, kept sending me small editing suggestions. The more I worked, the clearer my own story became  – to me!

I saw pride in myself, mingled with fear and longing. It was more than a joy to join SheLoves authors in sharing a little bit about what my Jesus has done for me. It was life-giving.

To Need Nothing, Is to be Like God

Truth – in the other half of the story

The Prodigal Son has been bugging me lately – because I’m not him. I think most Christians read this story and try to fit themselves into his shoes. They bemoan their wayward habits; then praise the good Father who welcomes them home with forgiveness. Honestly, the more I read this familiar story, I am starting to think the Prodigal had it more “right” than his good-guy big brother.

Years ago, I remember being irritated with my younger sister who seemed to get everything she wanted. Jen got the go-cart she asked for, the kitty, the overnight at a friend’s house, her favorite story at night and on and on. I remember asking her once, “How on earth do you do that? Why do Mom and Dad always say, ‘Yes,’ to you?”

“They don’t,” she insisted, “but they’d tell you, ‘Yes,’ more often too if you just asked.”

At the time, I huffed that I was too mature, I didn’t need to impose upon my parents’ generosity. I wasn’t going to beg for things. I was simply grown-up, dignified, self-sufficient and respectful. It wasn’t polite to ask for things.

Well… Now I think I had my theology wrong. 

Most of the time, when we read the brothers’ parable in Luke 15, we focus on the younger boy, the rebel. He’s the one who barged into his dad’s office and demanded to have what was coming to him. At this point, we don’t know anything about big brother. He’s probably out in the field, working his weary little fingers to the bone, thinking about how disciplined he is, how he must be Daddy’s favorite, how he deserves everything he gets.

You know the rest of the youngest’s story, the philandering, the famine, the pig food, his devastation and finally his return and groveling before Daddy. But do you remember where big brother was when the youngest showed up on the porch? He was out in the field – again, probably working his weary little fingers, thinking about how disciplined he was, how proud Daddy must be of him – especially since that good-for-nothing little brother of his ran off.

And the party started without him.

I don’t think Jesus intended for us to tune out the rest of the story. A full eight more verses round out the parable. Big brother (me) finally came in from the field sweaty and tired. The sound of revelry grated on his nerves, exacerbating his fatigue. When he found out that his little brother had come home safe and sound, he staunchly (on principle I’m sure) refused to join the party.

After a few minutes, Daddy came out to encourage his oldest. He got an earful. “How dare you! I’ve been the good son! I’m the one who has never asked you for anything. I’ve done everything you’ve asked. I’ve followed all the rules – and you never did anything special for me!”

“All that I have is yours.”

What do you think of that? All along, all of Daddy’s store houses, fields and wealth were available to his oldest son. All of Daddy’s riches, servants and companionship was simply there for the ASKING.

I realize that’s how I behaved toward my parents in many respects and certainly how I (and I venture most life-long Christians) behave toward my Heavenly Father. I believe the reason we don’t see more miracles, the reason we don’t enjoy more abundant life and full joy, the reason that we do not have peace, wisdom and contentment – is because we do not ask.

Matthew 7:7, “Ask and you will receive…”.

Luke 11:9-13, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

I wonder how much God has stored up for our inheritance, that we’ve never even seen, dreamed of or dared to ask for. Do you realize that since Jesus came and died and redeemed us, we are sons of God and heirs of promise (Galatians 3:29), heirs of all that Christ purchased for us – life and joy and peace.

In the story Jesus told just before the story of the Prodigal son, he spoke of a shepherd who was more excited about finding a lost lamb than he was about 99 sheep who stayed obediently within their stall. I don’t think that’s because of simple relief. I don’t think it’s because he loved that stray so much more than the others. I think it’s because suddenly, that little stray sheep realized how rich and privileged he was to belong to a shepherd. After his rebellion, he knew how good his shepherd was and how safe he was in the shepherd’s arms.

Anyone in any relationship knows how good it feels to be appreciated. God finds His greatest joy in us, His children, when we acknowledge, ask for and enjoy all that He is for us. Don’t miss out!

Exploiting Pain’s Privilege

I met Sadie at bootcamp.

A little, blond Curly-locks wandered into the backyard. She was an old-soul. You could see it in her peaceful eyes. Instead of a wild, catch-me-if-you-can grin, like so many kids her age, she confidently walked over to a set of toy trucks and went to work driving over imaginary roadways and through imaginary cities.

Sadie has something I wish had. Sadie has a bearing, a confidence, a quietness, a contentedness, a peace about her. As I learned Sadie’s story, I understood where these qualities come from. Sadie was diagnosed with Stage II Neuroblastoma at the age of 3 months. Praise God, Sadie is now in remission.

Here on Predatory Lies, we have talked a lot about the privilege of pain. Certainly, no one would wish for Sadie’s struggles, hospital stays and the strain it placed on their family. But our Glorious Father has brought beauty from ashes and Sadie and her family have flourished into a sun-ripened, bountiful, life-filled field in the wake of her pain.

I am joining Sadie’s big sister Anna and the rest of their family at the Cure Search Walk for Children’s Cancer, on October 14. If you are able to join us – wonderful! If not, would you consider supporting CureSearch?

I can say with confidence that nearly everyone who reads this post has been touched by cancer in some way. I would be honored and grateful if you would join me as I join Sadie and her family in the fight.

P.S. Brave wants me to tell you that he’s walking too, and he would love your support!

Privilege of Loss

I’ve been blessed to go home to the mid-west multiple times in the last 12 months. My checkbook might not be feeling very blessed, but it did survive!

First Kylie was born!

Then, a couple months later, poor Kelsey got sick. Then Chelle got married! Each time I am swept off my feet by how much I love my sisters… and their husbands… and their daughters… and my parents. I am in love with steamy-hot Kansas and Oklahoma. I am in love with what will always be home.

Quite literally, I live a nomadic life. Patrick and I unpack as little as possible with each move, just to avoid re-packing it later. I am of the mind that if we don’t open in the two years that we live somewhere, everything in the box is disposable. He doesn’t agree. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

When I flew home after Kylie’s birth, I felt buoyant. I had enjoyed every moment, hugged at every opportunity, stayed up late, and soaked all the life out of every flicker of the second hand. But suddenly, as Kelsey drove away, and I stood on the curb outside DFW my heart lunged toward my feet.

Oh how it hurt.

To leave.

To leave Kylie.

To leave my sisters.

Say goodbye for longer than a restful night.

The pain was all-consuming. I wandered into the airport feeling lost and listless, panicked and angry. What time would pass, what days would lengthen Kylie’s little body? What progress would be made toward Rachelle’s wedding day? What tears would drip without my knowledge? What happy moments would I never experience?

Never mind that I would have my own happy moments, tears, friends, joys, growth… my own life. I would miss them. The pain wedged itself in my windpipe and fought each inhale for my whole flight home. Slowly, it loosened…

When Brave ran into my arms at my own front door,

When Patrick came home and we sat down to watch our favorite TV show together.

That’s another privilege of pain I realized. Do you see it? What if there was nothing wonderful about my sisters? Nothing compelling about home? Nothing to long for, look forward to? Isn’t it far better to have someone to cry for than to shed no tears at all?

Recently, my Bible study girls shared prayer requests. One of the girls asked for prayer for her grandmother. Another one mused out loud, “How blessed you are to have had grandparents for over 30 years!” In my self-pity moments after a sad goodbye, I don’t stop to be grateful for the fact that I have someone to miss.

My grandfather died last year and it hurt deeply. But I had loved him and been loved by him for 30 years.

I am certain that I would rather feel the pain of longing, the ache of loneliness and the tears of goodbye than to have no one to love, no one to miss, no one to hug goodbye.

“I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.” Tennyson

Prelude of Worship and a Prayer in Conflict

I’ve been trying to get around praying through Psalm 133. This will sound silly, but it seems to short too be deep. But then, Jesus never once talks positively about lengthy prayers. The only reference is made by Paul when he says to “pray continually.” (1 Thess. 5:17)

I have been reading through the Bible in a year and usually each day requires 3-7 chapters of Scripture. When I opened the Bible on Sunday, the only chapter was Ps. 133. That’s not only just one chapter, but it’s only three verses! So, I asked God. Below, I will share with you our conversation. I have learned that I must come to God with praise and in worship before I begin imploring Him for things, asking for help or presenting my problems. Please, take the time to read the Scriptures I’ve listed, especially if you are in a season of prayer-less-ness. Scripture is the cure, I promise!

“There must be some reason Abba, that you have brought me to Ps. 133 without so much as an explanation or longer passages to ‘bookend it’. Jesus, this very morning will you reveal your glory to me -the manifestation of the Father, the only glimpse that I may take and live?”

“Abby, worship is where I am found. Adoration.”

Oh Lord. Teach me a deeper way to worship you. Your word says that you live within the praises of your people. [Ps. 22:3] So if I want to find you, I must come into your gates with thanksgiving and your courts with praise. [Ps. 100] You promised that if I seek you, I will find you. [Jer. 29:13] So I am coming to hold you to your word. I come bringing a full tithe, a full sacrifice of praise. Your word says to test you in this, and you will pour out more blessing than I can handle. You are all my good, I want the blessing of your presence.                [Malachi 3:10, Ps. 16:2, Hebrews 13:15]

[Prayer in the middle of conflict]

Father, Christians are so often accused of being intolerant and the exclusivity of the Gospel of bringing disunity. But your word leaves no doubt that you are a God of Peace. Your word calls Jesus the Prince of Peace. [Isaiah 9:6] Teach me Lord to be humble toward others. Teach me to think of others more importantly than myself. [1 Peter 5:5, Phil. 2:3] Father, I need your strength to hold my tongue [Job 6:24] in my marriage, toward my friends and family, in the presence of my enemies and in the middle of arguments. In discussions with non-Christians help me to find the balance between boldly defending the Gospel and being gentle. [1 Peter 3:15] In Psalm 133, you promise blessing when we dwell with others in unity. Teach me to seek your favor above that of any other, including my own self.

Project 333

This is a scary post. In fact, I want to write a caveat allowing myself to rescind it later. But, well, let’s just see where this goes.

A few months ago, on Shalom Mama, I read about something called Project 333. I like to think of myself as a minimalist, but after spending 5 days with my in-laws, I doubt I qualify. I grew up on a different planet, but I love they way they live. My youngest sister, who spent a lot of time with my in-laws when she was in college in Stillwater, OK, can attest to the fact that there is an unparalleled peace in their home. There is no pretension, no chaos, no frills and no expectations. My mother-in-law dresses nicely for work, my father-in-law does too, wearing one of 2 pair of identical pants and one of 3 identical shirts. When relaxing, Julie always wears a pair of her running pants and a lightweight t-shirt. Her only accessory, “You’re naked without a necklace.”

Their home is quiet and spacious. There’s a futon to sit on in the living room and only a tiny 13″ TV if you must watch something. If there are too many people to squeeze on the futon, feel free to pull up a floor cushion! I’ve never heard anyone complain. Instead, the feeling of family togetherness is enhanced by fewer distractions.

So, back to Project 333. There are levels to the program, but I’ll start with the basics: Whittle down my wardrobe to 33 items of clothing (including jewelry, outerwear and shoes) for 3 months. I like to think I don’t have too many clothes, but the truth is I frequently find items I had forgotten I owned. Really, I don’t WEAR too many clothes, it’s easiest just to wear the same things over and over.

So, I guess this qualifies as a New Year’s resolution, or a three-month resolution. Do you think I can do it? Do you want to join me? I will add on the resolution to actually take more pictures. That way I can show you what I’m doing. You can laugh at my incongruous outfits or compliment me on my simple style.

Next week, I will lay out the schedule for February’s posts. However, I will commit now to sharing my Project 333 progress with you each Friday. Wish me luck!