Saturday, 21 October 2017

I'll Tell You What


"Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." It's a line that has been overused  by marketing companies and health enthiusiasts everywhere. But is there any truth in it? Well, I think that depends on which side of skinny one finds him/herself.

As most of you are aware, I am on the waiting list for weight loss surgery. I am simultaneously beside myself with excitement and frustrated with the length of the wait. Having already taken beginner steps toward what will be my new lifestyle, I have lost 12 lbs. It's not overwhelming, but it is certainly better than my previous situation of gaining 3 to 5 lbs/month! Given the difficulty and the side effects of achieving this has assured me that it will indeed be a successful surgery! I am not prepared to waste all of the time and energy invested by myself or the (extensive) medical team. I am fully comfident at that time, nothing will taste as good as skinny feels.

Meanwhile, I'm stuck in the waiting zone. It does not matter how little I eat or how much I exercise. My blood sugars and cholesterol have surprised the doctors. Still, hormones will do what hormones do, and I will gain as much from a plate of kale as I will from a small portion of cheesecake. Which would you choose? As long as my weight continues to feel like a losing battle, I'll tell you what tastes as good as skinny feels:

French fries. Crinkle-cut, deep fried and smothered in gravy. Home-cut, pan fried, and mixed with onions. Yes, please.

Ice cream. Drizzled with maple syrup or chocolate sauce. Just a little bit.

Cookies'n'Cream chocolate. In the middle of the worst office day ever, it just makes everything better.

Popcorn. Covered in butter and salt, of course.

Potato chips. With dip. Enough said.

Pepsi. Oh wait - not any more! I have actually beat this one - hooray for small successes!

I think what I'm trying to say is that, for many of us, skinny/healthy is a journey. Unless you know what took someone to their island of struggle, please don't judge them. There is a reason a weight loss team includes a surgeon, several nurses, a nutritionist and a psychiatrist. We are all doing the best we can, and sometimes we need help. I will get to the point where that leopard-print dress feels better than cake tastes; but until I get there, I'll tell you what tastes better than guilt: cheese. Cheeseburgers, cheesecake, broccoli and cheese....


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

A LIFE HIDDEN

I glanced briefly out the large, west window of our living room as I sank into my recliner. For at least the third time in recent days, I noted the flash of blue in the tree at the edge of our lawn. I love that tree, though how it came to grow there is still a mystery.

I grabbed a book, but couldn't seem to concentrate. Reaching for my phone, I scanned social media for updates from friends. Still unable to concentrate, and frustrated by the seemingly ridiculous obsession with the mysterious blue in the tree outside, I rose to investigate.




 Stepping down from our front deck, our walkway is hemmed in by large day lilies. A gift from a dear coworker several years ago, these lilies have really been a miraculous display this summer, given the drought we have experienced. Making a special effort to step over the lilies carefully, I note another unusual splash of color in one of the plants. I pause, bend over and snap a photo.


There, nestled in the life-giving shade of the lily, is a delicate stem of bellflower. I am baffled as to its origin, as my husband and I took great care to uproot our flowerbeds last year, replanting only bulbous varieties. This little beauty, though, has taken root - and refuge - in a place so protected, it has become fully mature before being noticed. Smiling at the absurdity of being outsmarted by a plant, I continue to the tree that is my reason for venturing into the scorching temperatures.

Peering into the heart of the young tree while parting some close-knit branches, I am in awe of the beautiful shock of color in front of me! There, clinging to the trunk of this tree nobody planted, is another mysterious flower in fuĺl bloom. Hidden in plain sight, protected from the burn of the sun, roots shaded in the dry soil held together mostly by the secure frame of a cinder block. 





As is often the case, I find myself singing the lyrics of an old song:
       Hide me behind the cross
       Where my gains become as loss
       And only Your glory is in view
       Your power will be revealed
       The more that I am concealed
       Hide me behind the cross
       So the world sees only You.

I wonder if I could be this: a life hidden. Could I take shelter under His wings, unnoticed until I, too, have matured? Could I grow in grace and beauty, clinging to Him for shelter and support?

 John 15:5 reads,  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (NIV) 
This is perhaps the most visual demonstration I have witnessed of a life hidden, clinging...and thriving. I am instantly stricken by the similarities between these plants and the life of Jesus. You see, we cut that tree down. Twice. We hadn't planted it, so we assumed it was an alder bush. On its third year of persistence to grow, I encouraged my husband to let it be for the summer. 

Jesus also arrived in this world unrecognized. We read in John 1:11, "He came to that which was His own, but His own people did not receive Him." Because He wasn't conceived (or planted) by earthly design, Jesus wasn't immediately recognized for who He really was. They tried cutting Him down, even to the point of death.

On its third season, this tree was granted life. On the third day, Jesus rose to live again. In two seasons of life, this tree that nobody planted has sprung to such vibrant life that it has become a shelter for other living things, like birds and wildflowers. Two centuries after His resurrection, Jesus - unrecognized, cut down and then risen - has ascended to the heavens and become a place of refuge for wild hearts such as mine! I am the life hidden. In Him.

I realize now that despite all my best intentions, I may have been praying the wrong prayer. It is not for me to ask that the world see Christ in me; rather, I pray that they must look twice to see me, hidden in Him.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

I SURVIVED


I survived domestic abuse. I am alive and well. I have a beautiful family, a job I love, and wonderful friends. You could say I am thriving - and most of the time, that's true.

There are some days, though, when I suffer setbacks. Those days are no fun, because they make me wonder if I'll ever get past my past. Maybe the point of it all is that we are never meant to "get over it." Maybe we are meant to use our experience to drive change.

It was a simple joke in the lunchroom that triggered my current state of mind. A comment about speaking to a waitress slowly because "she already had one black eye, so I kinda figured she wasn't a very good listener." I immediately clenched my jaw, grabbed my things and left.

Almost immediately, I regretted my response. Mostly, I regretted not letting myself react. How would that look different, and why would I react, you ask?

Reacting would have meant instead of closing my lips, I would speak. Should I ever face a similar situation again, here's what I hope to say:

A woman with a black eye may be a poor listener, a poor housekeeper or a poor sex partner. I have been accused of all of the above. But the man - or person - who gives her a black eye for any of those reasons is a poor excuse for a human being.

Have you ever been called such vile names in a voice so loud that you tried to drown it all out by singing? Have you ever had a hand wrapped around your throat to silence the singing? Have you ever been choked until you passed out and urinated all over your clothing? Have you ever been beaten black and blue for staining the brand new mattress on which you urinated while being choked? No? Then maybe you shouldn't comment on her black eye.

Have you ever found yourself bent backward over a kitchen stove with a knife to your throat? Have you ever found your only defense against a chokehold to be biting into the arm across your face until you could taste flesh and blood? Have you ever been kicked in the ribs while vomiting as a result of defending yourself? No? Then maybe bite your own tongue before commenting on a woman's black eye.

I am a survivor. I am thriving. I am still angry. I think I always will be to some degree - and maybe that's a good thing. Maybe the only way the world changes is when enough people react. Strong reactions are sometimes called for. Will you join me in being a voice?

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

WORM WOUNDS

Each morning as we leave our home, I admire the beauty of our property. The huge, decades-old, leafy poplars that flank the east and south sides of our home are host to many songbirds who begin and end our days with joyful sounds.

On the western edge of our property, which is the street-facing side, are about 9 young saplings nobody planted. Really - nobody. When the first one sprung up out of the cinder block, we assumed it was an alder bush...so we weed-whacked it. Two years in a row. And then it began to grow for spite; the tree is now taller than I am, in the center of 8 mini-mysteries just like it.



As I behold our property, shrouded in shade, I am deeply grateful for divine favor. You see, we live in a prairie region which is currently enduring its second year of infestation with tent caterpillars. These worms are offensive to both the eyes and ears, and they devour trees. Well, not the trees exactly ... but all their leaves. Much of our neighborhood has been stripped bare by these pests.


Next door to us is an elementary school, where my kindergartener enjoys spending time on the playground equipment. Sitting there with him this weekend, I noticed the unusual condition of the schoolyard trees. 

My husband has taken great care to band our trees with carboard, duct tape and chainsaw oil. This has prevented the dreaded tent caterpillars from climbing and feasting on our trees; however, no such care has been given to the schoolyard poplars. Defenseless, they have become patchy with what I like to call "worm wounds."

"Worm wounds" are bald spots in a tree which testify to the evidence of pests being present. Sure, some branches are still leafy enough to house a home for a pair of hummingbirds or a family of robins. Other branches, though, are like a window to the heart of the tree - its trunk, which is clearly visible, exposed for temporary lack of the standard leafy veil.

That's the key. These worm wounds are, in fact, temporary. I witnessed these trees last July, stripped as naked as though it were mid-December. I also witnessed them blossom in spring, and I see their branches - even in their current state of duress - attempting to bud after each fresh rainfall.

I am humbled as I observe nature reflect my life. There are "worm wounds" in my story which seem to strip parts of me naked and raw with each season of newness and growth. They leave my core exposed: afraid that my past will thunder into my present, that the scorching rejection of yesteryear will char my very soul, and that I will never be complete in my purpose. What if I'm never more than blotched?

As clear as the call of the pigeon from the school rooftop, I hear it. The whisper to my soul from its Creator: "To every thing, there is a season." There is a time for feeling a little naked and on display; there is also a time the soul-sucking worms move on. The key is to keep bending with the breeze, soaking up the sun, and welcoming the rain.



The trees do not refuse the birds a nesting place simply because they are momentarily less bountiful. Rather, they allow the birds to build and turn those exposed areas into arenas for amplified, unfiltered music. Robins, hummingbirds, sparrows and finches - all project their voices to fill the world with song.

Oh, that my heart would do the same! Focus on the thriving branches of life! Become a shelter for others -  a strong, safe place from which to sing their songs. Unafraid of those who may injure hearts but cannot destroy the soul. Realizing that no season lasts forever, and those who sing with joy, are capable of eliminating any worms who attack. 


Friday, 16 June 2017

SPRING RAINS

I have always had a love/hate relationship with spring. On the one hand, I enjoy watching Mother Nature come alive in all her glory: green grass, budding trees, violets, lilacs, and a chorus of birds. Sweet soul food!

On the other hand, however, spring typically means a season of rain. I have never handled this season well. For me, the gray skies bear down with a heavy depression and an urge to sleep until forever. My bones ache, my heart weeps for reasons completely unknown, and my whole being is so disgusted with all. that. mud!

Becoming a mother emphasized the emotional conflict of this annual season for me. As soon as it is warm enough, children want to be outside. As soon as it was warm enough, I wanted to be inside: windows open, kettle simmering, coffee mug handy, up to my elbows in cleaning supplies! A house through which spring breezes blow is a house in which no dust bunnies grow, right? Wrong.

The mother in me was compelled to trade dancing with the mop for ring-around-the-rosy every. single. time. And how is cleaning cobwebs ever more fun than blowing dandelion seeds in the wind? Until the fair-skined became the sunburned, the insect-bitten became the allergy-stricken, and the puddle jumping became mountains of laundry. UGH! Where is this work/life balance you speak of?

I am entirely uncertain what is making the difference these days: the prairie lifestyle or my middle age. For whatever reason, I am finding myself drawn to rainy days. I love to open the window at my desk and breathe in the smell of fresh rainfall. I love the sound of the wind, skies the color of a warm, wool blanket ... and the coffee that warms from the inside out.

I find myself doing a different sort of cleaning this spring. It's a soul cleansing of sorts. A long look at the people in my life and the purpose of my life. I am discovering how to shed unnecessary layers, such as  guilt and shame and unforgiving gossips: I am growing into a more comfortable coat of self-acceptance. I am soaking up times of refreshing, and then - similar to a sponge - able to pour out love on those around me.

For the first time, I look forward to the rainy days. They smell of change and hope. Finally. ♡

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

MY RED DRESS

It was a getaway weekend of epic proportions in our world! We had purchased concert tickets a little more than 7 months in advance. We had arranged babysitting for the mini monster and booked a hotel 5 hours away from home. This would be an anniversary to remember!

It was the day before we were to leave town when I realized: I had never been to a secular concert before, and had no idea what to wear! A co-worker advised that I would see every dress code imaginable there, so anything I would wear to work would be appropriate. My oldest daughter recommended something casual, in keeping with country music. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought for the amount of time and money and planning invested, it might just be worthy of my best red dress and my fake pearl necklace.

I did, in fact, see every dress code upon arrival. There were short shorts paired with crop tops and flip-flops, jeans with tank tops and cowboy boots, leggings with flowy tank tops and ballet flats ... and a ton of maxi dresses. Worn by tall, slender girls with long, thick hair. And there I sat: a middle-aged fat lady in my long, red dress.

The concert was amazing. My husband was great company! Stepping outside, the breeze was refreshing as we lined up for the shuttle bus to return us to our hotel. True to my people-watcher self, I listened and observed the people around us in conversation. The one lady in particular who caught my eye was a middle-aged mother who was clearly older than she appeared, based on the age of her husband and her adult son. I noticed her perfect makeup, her frilly shirt, her wavy hair, her tanned skin and the twinkle in her eyes. And there I stood: a frumpy middle-aged mom in a plain red dress.

We boarded the bus, chatted about the show, and exchanged Snapchats with the kids back home. Arriving at our dropoff point, we walked across a parking lot and hit the walk light that would allow us to cross the street to our hotel. It seemed to take forever for the light to change! I cracked a joke about standing on the corner for a little too long while wearing a red dress.

That's when he rocked my world. My husband laughed, slipped his arm around my waist and drew me close. He told me how great I looked and how much he had enjoyed our evening together. He wished me a Happy Anniversary. And I soaked it all in, standing there in my best. red. dress.


Sunday, 21 May 2017

A MAN, HIS MOM AND MARRIAGE

Although I listen to a wide variety of music, my favorite types are Christian, Country and '80's music. Because my battle with depression mandates that I am careful what I feed my mind, I don't often listen to country music. For that reason, I had not heard Tim & Faith's new song "Speak To A Girl" until this week. Powerful!

SPEAK TO A GIRL
 
She don't give a damn 'bout your Benjamin Franklins, she wants Aretha
She don't really care how you're spending your money, it's all how you treat her
She just want a friend to be there when she opens her eyes in the morning
She wants you to say what you mean and mean everything that you're saying
 
'Cause that's how you talk to a woman, that's how you speak to a girl
That's how you get with the lady who's worth more than anything in your whole world
You better respect your Mama, respect the hell out of her
'Cause that's how you talk to a woman and that's how you speak to a girl
 
She don't give a damn 'bout your pride or the lies that you're hiding behind
She just wanna feel that you're real, that she's near to the man that's inside
She don't need to hear she's a queen on a throne, that she's more than amazing
She just wants you to say what you mean and to mean everything that you're saying
 
'Cause that's how you talk to a woman, that's how you speak to a girl
That's how you get with a lady who's worth more than anything in your whole world
You better respect your Mama, respect the hell out of her
 'Cause that's how you talk to a woman, that's how you speak to a girl
 
 
This song hit a nerve with me, because I have seen this for myself. How a man treats his mother is absolutely indicative of how he treats (or will treat) his lady. Although I knew this to be true, I did not understand the logic or the science behind it. From my personal experience as a mom of boys, I think it's linked to a mother's unconditional love. Especially during the rebellious teen years, a boy can get used to being able to say whatever he feels in the moment and knowing his mom will still love him the next morning.
 
What has surprised me in recent years is the shift. I hadn't actually realized what was happening until I heard the lyrics to this song, but I have observed it to be true: when a man's relationship with his mother changes, his relationship with his wife will also change. It does not matter if it is for better or for worse; whether he draws closer or more distant with his mom, he will do the same with his lady. If he does not feel free to speak his mind to his mother, he will not feel free to be truthful with his wife. They are directly linked.

Ladies, this means it is in your best interests to choose carefully. Be intentional about watching how your love interacts with his mother. Look for someone who remembers his mother's birthday, who honors her on Mother's Day, and who phones home regularly. Observe if he is able to have a respectful difference of opinion with her without disrupting the relationship. You are observing your own future.

Men, this is a call for integrity. Please don't show us one thing and become another. Don't impress us with flowers for your mom if you're going to follow that act with forgetting our birthdays and anniversaries. Don't tell your mother she's beautiful and then reject us for pornography. If the woman who has disciplined you can still be beautiful, the woman who cleans your underwear and sleeps with your night farts should be beautiful to you as well. Remember - beauty is more than physical attraction: it's who she is on the inside. If you have ceased to see her beauty, give her the same courtesy you gave your mom and move on.

It has been noted by mental health professionals that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. I wonder what the world would look like if those words were applied to every romantic relationship between a man and a lady. I wonder if more couples would identify an issue and care enough to break the cycle by seeking counselling. I wonder how many kids would be raised differently ... and how many boys of the next generation would know how to appropriately "Speak To A Girl." Because that's on us.