Apr 17 2018

At the Barre

Originally written for a writing course I took this winter
with instructor Jonathan Rogers,
here is an artistic look at a turning point
in the developing feminine psyche of eight-year-old Melissa.

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At the Barre

Ballet lessons were a highlight of my childhood. The weekly foray into all things poised, wearing the uniform of black leotard and pink tights, made my little-girl heart skip and leap like my instructor Miss Tammy herself, yet the defining memory of my years in that ballet studio has little to do with plie, jete, or curtsy.

The rectangular studio held polished wood floors, two walls of barre, ample floor space for the ten little dancers in my class, and one entire wall of flawless mirror. The room smelled of sweat, hairspray, and leather. We practiced leg and foot positions standing along the wall of barre which faced opposite the mirror, one hand delicately resting on the barre, the other extended in a gracefully draping arc. Legs extended to lengthen muscles as our calves carved shapes along our pink tights, thighs tensed like gazelle necks, toes pointing until the leather of our pink shoes creaked with the strain. Necks were long, shoulders pressed down, shoulder blades squeezed tight on plank-straight backs, chins elegantly turned slightly left—just enough to see our reflections in the mirror, to self-correct poise and gauge how long until Mrs. Henshaw reached us for professional critique and instruction.

Miss Tammy was absent this particular day, replaced by the studio director Mrs. Henshaw. Everything about Mrs. Henshaw was as straight and strict as her name sounded. She moved along the line of dancers as we practiced repetitions of movement to classical records.

Born with German bones and raised alongside a puppy frolicking in an overgrown pasture, often crawling along a creek bed to catch tadpoles, ballet made me feel more lovely and dainty than anything. So there I stood, stately and feminine in uniform and practice, not a red hair fallen loose from the perfectly round bun atop my head, when Mrs. Henshaw reached me. Her gaze exacting, she studied the position and movement of my body, her chin aloft and cheekbones harsh. Without words, her terse hands stretched my leg further than my hamstring knew possible, and raised my elbow ever so slightly to achieve the angle of perfection.

Waiting for her eyebrows to soften and her head to give me the expected miniscule nod of approval before moving on to the dancer behind me, I almost relaxed into the genuine ballerina I saw in my reflection across the dance floor. I felt confidence begin to blossom in my bosom. And then Mrs. Henshaw cocked her proud head ever so slightly, pursed her lips in that confrontational way which makes the neck hair bristle, and reached her index finger out to poke it into my stomach. If her manicure had been less perfect she would have snagged my leotard with the veracity of her nail pressure. “Getting a little chubby,” she said coarsely.

She moved on to the dancer behind me, as though she had not just eviscerated me with the penetrating words of an irreversible cut.

Peony2

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Apr 03 2018

Ducky Doula

Published by under Life

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It is funny how hobbies can sort of just show up on your doorstep one day. And then takeover your bathroom for a month. And pretty soon occupy any spare moments you didn’t even know you had. Haha!

My little birds have reinforced this, if not taught it to me directly.

Who would have thought that I would spend Friday and Saturday and half of Easter Sunday fretting about a little duckling that was malpositioned in an egg, stuck and struggling? And then that I would spend about two hours on Easter Sunday evening learning some ducky doula skills?! If you had ever suggested that to me in the past, I would have giggled in your face. And maybe you now are giggling at your screen. But suffice it to say, this is true.

I had not known the process of how fertilized eggs grew bird embryos, how the membranes functioned, what the yolk did, how the bird draws in the last of the yolk just prior to hatching, how pipping and zipping are to function… I knew nothing about the air pocket at the fatter/rounder end of an egg. I did not know that hatching took so agonizingly long. I had no idea that you couldn’t generally help a bird out of its egg without putting its life at risk. I didn’t even think about the fact that temperature and humidity levels would need to be so very specific in order to best imitate nature and how God does this process with broody mama birds. I now know that having three thermometers to monitor one incubator is a really good idea if you don’t want your fertile eggs to overheat and essentially cook. I now know how to candle eggs. I know what a pip looks like, and where it is supposed to be. I know how awesome it is when a little duckling pips at the right spot, zips the eggshell successfully, and pops out with vigor. I also know how traumatic it can be when a duckling pips at the wrong spot and dies with its little bill poking out the airhole, but gives up trying to hatch because it’s in the wrong spot and can not continue the work of hatching as God best designed it. And because of that, I learned how to spot a troubled hatchling who has pipped in the wrong spot… in fact, my last duckling came out the wrong end of the egg… at first I thought it was completely upside down but eventually learned it was more like what humans would call transverse. So I had to do some quick research on “hatch assist” to see how to give the duckling a chance at life, because it was basically prepared to die. I used a toothpick to give it an airhole after its pip was beginning to dry out and close up, and then waited. A long time. And when it still made no progress I chipped a tiny bit of shell away near its bill and head, and then waited. Another long time. I kept this egg very moist, and checked on it every few hours. The little thing kept wiggling and chirping and breathing, but made absolutely no progress in hatching. When I could tell it was getting tired, I brought out tweezers and suuuuuuper slowly helped it break the shell. Tiny piece by teeny tiny piece. Lots of moisture. Lots of time. And even lots of prayer. Proverbs 12:10 “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast.” I was seeking to be a good steward of this little life God had put into my hands. And when this fragile little duckling finally came slowly out of its shell (rather than bursting forth as the previous two had), it was bleeding from the umbilical area. I had never even thought about the fact that birds would have umbilical cords! Shows how much I knew… At any rate, rather than let this little duckling rest on its own in the incubator, I scooped her up and put a warm paper towel on the bleeding area to apply pressure and warmth. I snuggled the little thing for a good while and enjoyed being a participant in this part of God’s creation. It was a unique experience for me, and not one I expect to experience a lot again in the future (although I recognize you never know, so I will never say never). I was delightedly surprised to see this duckling survived that first night.

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I never imagined that I would have learned quite the things that I learned through my journey of incubating duck eggs over the last month.

Allow me to introduce my little duckling trio to you.
Left to right: Easter, Cheer, and Calliope.

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Duck4.3.g

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It is amazing how a frail little thing hatched 2 1/2 days ago that I wasn’t sure would make it through the hatch, or the first ten minutes, or its first night… is now stubborn and strong, pecky and plucky. No kidding.
This is Easter.

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Mar 29 2018

Reading Aloud is Contagious

It was a little before Simeon was born that I caved, trading in my old handy flip-phone (“sorry, I don’t text – it’s way too hard on this thing”) for an iPhone, and then I think it was shortly after Simeon was born that I learned about podcasts. At first, I would literally just smile & nod when people would talk about listening to podcasts, because I honestly had no real idea what they were talking about but didn’t want to seem as ignorant and old-school as I truly was. But after I got hooked on Sarah Mackenzie’s blog, The Read Aloud Revival and fell in love with her upon reading Teaching From Rest – a Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace, I decided that I needed to figure out this whole podcast thing and find a way to jump on that bandwagon. Because, ya’ll, Sarah Mackenzie had a podcast (was it like a sermon? someone reading a blog? webcamming? I was that clueless…) and I wanted in on that treasure.

That was over two years ago. I’m deep in treasure now.
Since then, I have listened to every podcast episode at least once, pored over her booklists and recommendations, and have seen her out & about in town (like at Nate Wilson’s movie release last week) – because, yep, we live in the same county and go to the same places and know a lot of the same people and use the same library. In fact, my kids and I have been known to compare the size of Sarah Mackenzie’s “hold” items stack at the library to ours! Because, umm, we’re awesome like that.

It was Sarah Mackenzie who somehow got me linked up with a lot of the authors and homeschooling resources that I have been in love with over the last couple of years. She is the one, thanks to her blogs and podcasts, who has trained me to recognize names of authors & illustrators, and how to choose great literature over twaddle or mediocre stuff. She helped us fall in love with The Rabbit Room, especially S.D. Smith and Andrew Peterson and Jonathan Auxier and Jonathan Rogers and Jennifer Trafton… She lead me to resources like IEW, Andrew Pudewa, CiRCE, Cindy Rollins, and Sally Clarkson. She is also the culprit behind the fact that even though my family has four library cards (with fifty checkouts each allowed at a time) we have actually maxed-out our limit before!

She speaks at homeschool conferences and women’s events, and I have wanted to participate in one of her events, but they honestly are usually a plane flight away. And y’all know how I feel about flying, right?
I might be a bit personally peeved that Sarah Mackenzie has not yet helped remedy the fact that we still don’t have a great homeschooling conference in our area… hehe… but maybe I need to help get that wagon started moving. I’m a communicator when I need to be – I can make phone calls and write letters and get details organized. So we’ll see. I so much wanted to attend the Great Homeschool Convention or even Wild+Free. Sigh. My city is growing, and we’ve got tons of homeschoolers who need a superb resource at our fingertips! And I think Sarah Mackenzie just might be our golden ticket.

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But anyway, her new book released yesterday and I got to attend her book release party tonight at a local bookshop called Auntie’s, along with a few friends. Sidenote: this was after I spent two hours reading aloud to my kids this afternoon, and they each read on their own for an hour, plus yesterday I read an entire novel (it was middle grade fiction, but still… the whole thing in one day doesn’t happen very often anymore in my life!) AND half of The Read-Aloud Family. My life is always bookish, but today was no exception whatsoever.
So anyway, she read us a chapter of her new book, answered questions, visited with us & signed books, and shared all over again how she fell in love with reading aloud with her kids to make connections with them & with literature. And since I caught the bug from her over two years ago, it was fun to spend some time with lots of other locals who caught the same bug. It was an energetic group of gals & a super sweet evening, and I am so thankful I got to spend time with these lovelies talking about one of my favorite things in the world!! (….books! but you knew that already, right?!)

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(L to R: Sarah G, my sis-in-law Ashley B, Sarah M, Tina G, and me)

Oh, and if I were cool and trendy enough to have instagram, this would be filled with all the hashtags.
#readaloudfamily #readaloudrevival #homeschoolmamasonthetown

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Mar 27 2018

Making Way

Duck 3

We are moving from books about birds to the birds themselves. And while I will have updates about the chicks soon, tonight I am still flying high on the spectacular experience we had today with our first little duckling hatching. It has burrowed its way quickly into our hearts! After having a very busy weekend followed by a very busy day with our first-ever homeschool science fair yesterday, we took a low key school day today – birds, books, tea & cookies while Mommy read aloud for over an hour, workbooks and piano lessons by the toasty fire, and lots of Legos and running around outside. And although the day in practice was quite relaxed and chill, there was excitement to be had!!

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While the seven duck eggs we began incubating a few weeks ago ended up being overheated (lesson learned: do not trust the incubator’s thermostat… measure its accuracy regularly with additional thermometers!) and never developed their ducklings inside, we adopted five more nearly-fully-incubated duck eggs on Sunday. We have been intently watching and waiting. And little Simeon prays for the ducky eggs constantly, which is perfectly adorable, incidentally.

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I wish like crazy I knew how to add a video from my phone to this blog. I happened to get the actual hatch recorded, and it was downright incredible. My daughter’s reaction was pretty priceless – she cried (actual tears) for joy. The process of watching the duckling wiggling to squirm and stretch, listening to it peep and chirp while still in the egg, was pretty miraculous to all of us. But the actual hatch where it finally broke free of the shell and burst forth like a nocked arrow let loose? It was absolute magic.

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Almost immediately after the duckling was born, Evangeline marched off to find Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings, which is pretty great, to read it to her little brother. While we had been reading lots of books recently about chickens, nests, eggs, where birds come from, etc we had not read anything very duck-specific. Leave it to my five year old daughter to locate the book needed for the moment! While Evangeline was caught up in the story, Simeon was caught up in the illustrations.

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We have also been reading a bunch of Easter books this week, for obvious reasons (#holyweek), and in The Legend of the Easter Egg, this illustration made all of us smile because our little duckling’s empty eggshell looks so similar to this one!

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After letting the little Khaki Campbell rest all day in the incubator to try getting some balance and dry off those little downy feathers, this evening I finally caved and snuggled my little duckling once the kids were all tucked away into their beds. I gave this little sweetie some sips of water, and some snuggle-loves. I love the way baby birds just snuggle into a relaxed hand and fall asleep.

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I am pretty sure this duckling is downright darling. Am I right?!

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So now I have tucked the little duckling back into its incubator nest for the night, where it is snuggled near two other pipped eggs, which I imagine will hatch tomorrow (or the next day, at least). The way it chirrups conversationally with the ducklings squeaking inside those two eggs is positively endearing. It’s like a big sister cheering on the younger siblings, and just makes my eyes widen all over again over God’s amazing creativity, and the details He nuanced in such incredible ways.

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Matthew 6:26
Look at the birds of the air,
for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns;
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not of more value than they?

~~~

Luke 12:6
Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?
And not one of them is forgotten before God.

~~~

Revelation 4:11
You are worthy, O Lord
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.

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Mar 14 2018

Books & Birds

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The glorious sunshine we have had the last couple of days has been invigorating ~ it gives me the hope of spring! Of course we still have snow on the ground, so while we were outside exercising in the sunshine, the kids were throwing little shovelfuls of crystally snow at one another. I was hauling scrap wood from random places into one pile, and kept rubbing my hands into the snow at my feet to clean them off. And when I got hot, it was wonderful to grab a hand full of the crunchy snow and drop it down the neck of my shirt. Cooled my sweaty shoulderblades right off.

So as we are transitioning from winter to spring, praise the good Creator above, we are decidedly working on springtime plans! We have chicks arriving in ten days, which is super exciting for our family. The last time I got chicks was for my fifteenth birthday, and it would not be polite to tell you how many years ago that was. My children are truly ecstatic in anticipation of these precious little fowl. We are getting eleven, and are hoping at least eight of them will survive as dependable layers.

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And then eight days ago I got a random text from a friend asking if I was interested in duck eggs. For a moment I thought she was offering to bring me some to cook up, as she was going to be visiting for lunch the following day. But then she mentioned that she was pretty sure they were fertile, and that she would bring me an incubator as well. I jumped at the opportunity in faith, figuring homeschooling for the win! For sure.
So we have dedicated our kitchen half-bath to the babying of these sweet little eggs. It is about time to figure out if there is life inside, and my kids are wild with anticipation of candling them to check for veins with a flashlight. We have been reading blogs and books to get ourselves up to speed on all things duckling.

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And yes, this means that there will be a coop in the making. I am quite excited. At first, we thought to use the coop my brother built me on my parents’ property when I got chicks the first time… thinking we could include exercise easily in the daily routine that way because it would essentially include a mile walk every time we visited the coop. But as I pondered it further, I realized that is not very realistic and way less fun. I want to have ducks and hens toddling around my own property, where I can see them from my kitchen or my patio, and where I can usher them in to eat weeds and bugs around my fruit trees and garden beds. Also, who wants to haul food scraps and baskets of eggs for half a mile at a time twice a day? Hm.

In addition to the more educational type of poultry sites and books that Gabriel and I have been studying together, we have a pile of bird-themed books from our trusty library. Have I mentioned lately that we now have four library cards in our family? At fifty books allowed per card, I just want you to envision the armloads we come home with every week. We actually do get some pretty funny looks sometimes from people. And I am not sure whether it is positive or questionable that the librarians all now seem to know us by surname, and Gabriel by firstname. In another life, I maybe would have been a children’s librarian. Actually, I might be partially turning into one in my own home. Just check out my growing collection of books and bookcases. No really: ask my husband.

But I need to share a few things with you before I can call it a night here, because these books have already brought us so much joy.

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This is just the bird stack. We also have an Easter stack ~ and since you can only get five holiday books at a time per card, it’s great to have four cards maxed out simultaneously! And a just for fun stack where lots of precious picture books get read and reread and reread ad nauseum before we return them. Here is a closer look at some of these lovely picture books:

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The most basic of the books here is a wordless (but for some numbers, as you count the chicks as they hatch throughout the book) boardbook that is beautifully sweet. Simeon delights in counting these days, and he is super excited about ducks and chicks, so this is right up his sweet little alley. (What book isn’t, though?! I mean, really.)

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Then we have some more nitty-gritty books that are more serious and farm-informational-centric, which the kids find less fun and they definitely look at those as “school” rather than “reading” ~ I know, I know… But anyway, it’s true.

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But I think my personal favorites are the ones that strike a fun balance of informational and simply beautiful. The artwork is stunning and the stories are personal. And they throw in some fun details that I want my kids to learn, but don’t try to fool them into thinking this is “school” because, oh no ma’am, this is just for reading.

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The books throw in wonderful words like incubator, pullets, and coop. Things that my kids need to know here pretty soon!
Sonya’s Chickens even throws in a poignant plot twist where a fox carries away one of the little girl’s hens, and the girl is calmed & reassured by her father’s explanation that the fox is simply looking out for the care of his kits ~ and that it wasn’t a personal affront to her, but a strong provider caring for his family in the best way he knew how. Considering all the predators we will have to contend with out here in the country, I think this storyline is an excellent preparation for the hearts of my own children.

So we will keep reading. And growing our hearts a couple sizes bigger until these precious little poultry babies have pecked their way into our hearts. Oh ~ and if you can’t find me in all the usual places, I’ll probably be reading this stack of books with my kids by the woodstove, out back building a coop, or in the kitchen half-bath babying my duck eggs.

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Feb 28 2018

Hungry for Healing, Part II

Hungry for Healing, Part II

For almost as long as I can remember, two physical features have been identifying features about me. Someone might ask, Melissa? Which one is she? and in a room full of people someone would simply have to say, she’s the skinny girl with the long red hair.

Those two terms have been about as defining to me as my homeschooling, my love of books & music, and my Christian faith. How’s that for a slippery position?! Skinny and redheaded. Because now at 34 years old, I am no longer skinny and the number of greys in my locks increases regularly (just ask my tweezers – we can’t quite keep up anymore).

How is it that I have allowed secular media and modern American culture to speak so broadly into my life?
Why is it that I have not been able to overcome this temptation, this struggle, this idol, this sin?
Where in the world did all of this hurt and pain and shame stem from in the first place?

The first time I viscerally remember feelings of shame surrounding my body was in a ballet class I adored, standing at the barre in front of the wall-sized mirror. Rather than my usual teacher, Miss Tammy, who was soft, sweet, and relaxed, the studio owner was teaching my class that day. I don’t even remember her name, I just remember the feelings of stress and shame I felt when she walked near me or gave me directions. On this particular day that stands out in my memory, she was adjusting my posture and probably some position, but all I really recall is her finger pressing into my abdomen and saying getting a bit chubby… I was eight years old. Eight.
After that, I remember really paying attention to my mom’s exercise routines and Jenny Craig diets. I picked up on the fact that she ate differently than the rest of us did – she ate “diet food” but cooked “regular food” for the rest of us – and I came to believe that that was a goal to tuck in my pocket for womanhood. Skim milk and diet soda were the norm, and the reasoning behind it in my head was to stave off fatness. My grandma always called me her “skinny granddaughter.” These were not things that happened out of purposed negativity – it was simply my life, and they are the things I remember about my childhood.
Then in my teen years I became entangled with a boy. A boy who wanted to be a man and continually fell short. Who manipulated me into believing him when he made compliments like, “you look pretty today – pretty and skinny.” I literally have journals full of these manipulative comments. Sneaking notes to each other in homeschool classes or after church, gigglingly talking about turning 21 someday so we could get married, me listening to turns of phrase that I did not even realize at the time were harmful, manipulating, controlling. It brought me multiple levels of shame and suffering which still infiltrate my life on a regular basis. Not the least of which is the skinny factor that he pressed into me. And as I felt more controlled and manipulated by him over the course of about six years of secrecy, the feelings of being spun out of control turned into actions of grabbing for control over the only thing I thought I could grab with both hands – my body. If I could not control anything else in my life, I was brought low enough to think that at least I could control the number on the scale and the size on my clothing tags.

While I don’t honestly know when I really gave in to letting the spiral control and pull me under, the seed was planted when I was eight, it was watered and fed in my preteen years, then sprouted and cultivated between about 14-18. By the time I entered college the temptation and struggle had taken root enough that I can now say it became a besetting sin and garnered enough of my focus to be an idol.

There are years of my life that are basically gone from my memory banks. I don’t know if it’s from a lack of nutrition and sleep or PTSD or a lethal combination thereof.
My tendency toward anxiety and OCD grew. I cared about a facade of perfectionism, straight A grades, and size 2 jeans. Maintaining the physique that would draw people toward my pretty clavicles, hip bones, wrist bones, and long red hair. Eating just enough in front of people so they wouldn’t question my habits. But flat out refusing to eat when I could, and coming to the point where I would eventually just forget to eat. Even now, I could definitely go 24 hours without anything but coffee before noticing it (and that’s only because I can’t get away from the comfort of holding a warm mug of aromatics). Old habits don’t die easily.

I was telling someone recently that it absolutely astonishes me that as a conservative Christian woman I am flabbergasted by some of the bad words I let take over my life. Want to know what those bad words are? Old and fat. That’s right: three letter, commonplace words that are as abhorrent as ugly itself.
That is where I have allowed our culture and mainstream media to infiltrate my worldview, to my own destruction. And I will be hogtied and hamstrung if I allow it to go on to the next generation and hand it down for their destruction.
In biblical culture – heck, in much of all culture, historically speaking – old and fat are words of goodness, blessing, prosperity, honor.
I want to see through that lens. I want to embrace that worldview.

In Rachel Stone’s book, Eat With Joy, she says, “it doesn’t help that images of extreme thinness are everywhere. Even the most seemingly mundane objects show the trend: the girl on the Morton salt container or on the bottle of White Rock water is thinner than she was twenty or thirty or fifty years ago. My children’s Candy Land game (made in 2010) shows highly idealized, thin female characters and muscular male characters, whereas in the 1984 version I grew up playing the characters were, if anything, a little chubby.” (p90)

Where are the role models for my children to show them the beauty of a wheat-heaped belly? that your navel is beautiful when in a rounded bowl rather than sunken between two jutting pelvic bones? that Song Of Solomon was right in praising the rounded beauty of the beloved bride?

Song Of Solomon 7:1-2
…Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand.
Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine.
Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies.

And here is what I realize now. I am their role model. It must begin with me. It must begin with the things I bring to them. And it can’t just be the words I say, the books I read them, the videos I let them watch. It also starts with my very own body. This physical set of flesh and bones and blood and fat and freckles that God has given me, where I grew these children in my belly, where I nursed them on my breasts, where I carried them on my back, where I cradled them in my arms; where I still snuggle them tight, hug them, kiss them, lift them up; where I teach by example what health, beauty, and loveliness are.

“The words we use to talk about food and bodies matter, as well, because they nourish and shape and feed us — or poison, warp and starve us — every bit as much as food does. Who can eat gratefully and joyfully while thinking, I’m an ugly pig who doesn’t deserve to eat? I couldn’t. Who can eat with real pleasure when the table talk centers on dimply thighs, flabby bellies, calories, cholesterol, and what’s ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’? No one can and such talk actually fuels disorder…” (Rachel Stone, Eat With Joy, p101)

My children make me hunger to be whole, to find healing, to shed the shame.
They make me long to love and embrace things like getting older and getting softer around my corners.
want to stop plucking out my grey hairs. I want to stop worrying about my muffin top.
I want to focus on truth, goodness, and beauty.
And this is my next step along the path of how I pray to get there.

“As Christians dealing with human hurts,
we have to remind ourselves again and again
that we are not called to be successful,
but to be faithful.
Our first directions come from the way Jesus told us to live,
not from what we think will work.”
(Doris Janzen Longacre, More-with-Less)

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Feb 26 2018

Hungry for Healing, Part I

Hungry for Healing, part I

First thought in the morning,
last thought before falling asleep at night,
forefront of my mind every time I prepare a meal or feed my family,
choking me when I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror,
paralyzing me when it’s time to get dressed or put on a nightie,
making me close my eyes when I have to undress – don’t look down – keep the lights off…

I’m fat and ugly, which translates to worthless and unlovable.
~~~

Processing through the written word has long been a healthy tool for me, and I have often thanked God for it. Throughout my life when I have dealt with something big, heavy, hard, complicated, or grievous, I have found my best healing through writing. When grandparents died, when romantic relationships broke my heart, when I struggled through endless miscarriages, when depression and anxiety gripped me ~ I wrote.

Often the writing happened in journals, tucked away for nobody’s eyes, but simply for the use they were in helping me process the burden God had placed upon me, the dark road He was leading me through. Occasionally, I have processed by writing letters with friends, working through a common issue or simply receiving the blessing of their listening ears (or reading eyes). When it has come particularly to my processing of the deaths of my babies and my physical problems resulting in miscarrying, I have been specifically open and honest in sharing my process through the medium of this blog. Of course, it helps somewhat that I have little-to-none as far as readership goes. Perhaps it sounds quite easy to be open and honest when you aren’t actually sure if anyone reads what you say to begin with. But I have not yet shared anything here that makes me feel ashamed. Perhaps I have delicately tiptoed across the questions of depression and anxiety in the past, rather than jumping in up to my neck. But I have had enough real-life relationships where I am comfortable sharing and discussing those struggles that I have not been pushed to the edge of needing to process through a version of public writing. Until now.

This morning as the kids were eating their breakfast and listening to an audio Bible before we packed up for a busy day at our homeschool co op, I was exercising in the back room and streaming a short podcast episode from Jamie Ivey on the subject of if you only knew which is based upon the premise of her new book by the same name.

Jamie shares,

 For so long, I was so afraid that if you only knew the mess I am so good at creating in my life, then things would be different. In many ways, my greatest fear was what you might think of me if you only knew the whole story.

As the chore of guarding the stories of my past got more and more difficult, I found that I wasn’t just hiding my poor decisions, I was robbing others of the beauty of God’s grace that had redeemed these moments.

And I realized that I have preferred to spend nearly twenty years now hiding in shame rather than share my brokenness with you. I have concealed chaos in my life in order to put on a good face and put my best foot forward… but this, in turn, has caused me to present a facade that only shows part of what God is doing. I have not arrived, but deeply hunger for healing. I feel starved for truth regarding goodness and beauty.

And I am not doing any good to anyone by covering up the raw realism and gritty facts.
All I am doing is choking myself with the struggle to maintain the facade and present only the portions I want you to see.

I stumbled upon a rich book a couple months ago called Eat With Joy, and I finally finished it. Today. It was a good read, but sections of it were downright challenging. I have a deeply paradoxical relationship with food, particularly with eating. To say that it is a love-hate relationship barely tosses an ice cube on the tip of that iceberg. This book prodded and picked and peeled at all the right scabs. And I began to bleed.

Backing up about two months prior to finding that book on my library’s shelf, I was hosting a mom’s night for the women who participate in our homeschool co op, and while I was serving up cheesecake and putting together the ooey-gooeyist-most-delicioso caramel chocolate chip cookie bars you can imagine, 0ne of the women mentioned in a haphazard way that she had spent the better part of her life recovering from an eating disorder… but that while you can learn to control the habits, the mindset often remains with you for the remainder of your life…

…and I melted into a puddle of tears.
Those me too tears that authentic familiarity recognizes immediately.

She does not go around sharing that part of her story with everyone, but for some reason God put it on her heart to open up to me that night and show me the beauty of what God has done to redeem that part of her life; her relationship with food, her body image, her fight against what good things God could bring from her life if she would relinquish herself to His hand.

And now I feel lead to do the same thing.
Because I have long hidden in my shame, struggling with self-loathing and a distorted body image that has claimed focus and happiness and health from my heart for twenty years… I have fretted within myself if they only knew, wondering who would blow me off, look down on me, or pat me on the head with a Bible passage while patting themselves on the back for solving all my problems with a Christian snippet.

But I am hungry to heal.
I am ready to reveal the redemption God has slowly been working in me.
I am starving to share my suffering and Christ’s satisfaction.

And if you find yourself thinking, oh man, me too! while you read this ~ as I did when my friend bared her heart in my kitchen, or when I read that book, or when I streamed that podcast ~ send me a note so we can walk this road together.

This is only part one of what I am hoping to share.
But the beginning is this: I am recovering from a tedious, troublesome journey with bulimia mingled with anorexia.
It is by God’s grace that I can hit publish on this post, and share with you that I am following Him through to the other side of the tangled web of eating disorders.

 

~~~~
If you or someone you love needs some beginning resources, I found these additional links a good place to begin:
https://www.ibelieve.com/health-beauty/dear-christian-with-an-eating-disorder-you-re-not-a-failure.html
https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/teens/truth-about-eating-disorders
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/topics/eating-disorders/
https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/an-open-letter-to-my-friends-struggling-with-eating-disorders
https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/gospel-hope-for-self-haters
http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2000/july/9.34.html

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Feb 16 2018

little creator

Published by under Life,Thoughts

If only I could create ex nihilo, using nothing but logos. My image-bearing of the Creator is quite marred, as it ought to be since I am a daughter of Eve. But my deep vein throbbing to create using hands or using words or using breath is a crying out of my soul to imitate my threesome God.

I long to imitate the Father. I long to take dust and mold it into something beautiful. I long to gather together a piece of my own creation to make something fat and sweet and dimpled. To see my image done over again in a new way.

I long to imitate the Son. I long to use words to create life and fill with meaning, to reorient souls and bring restoration into broken places. I long to create healing and relationship and beauty out of written words and shared thoughts, common experiences and extravagant moments.

I long to imitate the Spirit by breath and wind. Song and speech.

~~~

What I find myself creating are meals that fill bellies, messes to wash, piles of laundry to be stacked in drawers. I create restful spaces and warm rooms and drinks to swallow that nourish tongues. I create order out of chaos. I create sounds out of noise. I create lesson plans and to-do lists and stacks of books and bins of art supplies.
I am creating well-rounded people with my body, my words, my breath.

How can such an enormous work ever be enough? How can I ever be enough for it? I cannot be. I need oh so much grace. I need more energy than I ever knew was necessary. This enormous, endless work is simultaneously more than I can comprehend doing every day for the rest of my life and everything I ever wanted to be putting myself into. The largeness and smallness of it all fills me with every sort of feeling every hour of the day.
To be needed is such a gift.
To be needed every two minutes
so that I can not actually spend any cohesive amount of time doing one single thing
is… indescribable.

~~~

I am getting ready to pour myself into a garden.
I am getting ready to pour myself into a wee flock of chicks.
I am getting ready to pour myself into more artistic creative endeavors than I could actually tell you just now.

But it’s kind of like I am trying to pour myself into these things because there is a hole here than I’m trying to fill. And I’m not sure these are the things that are actually able to fill it.
Like filling up a pothole with chocolate pudding instead of cement.

~~~

I am a creator. Made, marred yet molded, in His image.
The Creator’s.

Image result for creator's gonna create

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Dec 28 2017

Holy, Lowly

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Christmas swept into our midst again in its quiet, slow, lowly way. It began to seep in around the edges right after Thanksgiving, as it does, and it simply grew – the days more pregnant with glory and hope and sparkle and holiness after each subsequent night. Advent was minimalistic for us this year, out of happenstance rather than purpose, but in its own lowly way that too showed us the beauty of Christmas Day itself and the glories of this holy week following that holy day. With simple chocolates each night and reading Advent Scriptures & stories when I managed to sneak them in, with a small amount of baking and wrapping of gifts little by little – suddenly it was Christmas Eve. Worship on Christmas Eve morning was bright and sweet, joyful and peaceful. Being on this side of the story gives so much joy even in the here-but-not-yet atmosphere of a day like Christmas Eve. We know what follows on the heels of the Eve.

We spent the day with our church family, eating pizza and cookies and popcorn, ice skating on a hilltop in a backyard rink that made something simple utterly glorious. That evening came with our annual “webcam Christmas” of opening gifts and sharing joys across the miles through the gift of modern technology, followed by watching a movie as a family and flitting around accomplishing last minute touches on food and gifts for the following day.

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Once I had four little ones tucked into bed with books and flashlights, and strict instructions not to leave their beds until 7 o’clock the following morning, we filled stockings, sprinkled chocolate coins around the coffee table, and piled festive gifts around the base of our Christmas tree.

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The tree that is topped with a star, reminding us to follow the light of Jesus wherever it leads. The tree which reminds us of where our story began with Adam & Eve, and where our story will end with the Tree of Life. It reminds us of the fig tree, of the cross on which our Lord was crucified. It shows us so many things. The abundance of pretty packages simply a tiny foretaste of the abundant grace our Holy God pours upon us each day as His lowly children.

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And in the morning: cinnamon roll bread, reading, singing as a family (in three part harmony!!), opening gifts, sharing joys and generosity with one another, words of thanks and humble gratitude spilling everywhere, innumerable hugs and indomitable laughter.
When we said that it was time for presents, and our two year old ran to the tree and started grabbing for gifts and handing them to his siblings, Steven and I looked at each other: there is holy glory here in these joyfully lowly moments.

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I am a rich woman, given tremendous treasures. I am a lowly steward of incredible jewels. There is a holiness here as we celebrate the birth of our King, as we recall one of the earth-shattering events in history that God used to alter both time and creation. The dichotomy of holy and lowly, glory and gore. In a conversation with our children on Christmas morning, we mused about the idea of delivering a baby in a stable… the place where animals lived, ate, shed, and made all imaginable messes. No wonder Mary chose the feeding trough for the baby’s bed! At least it was only the animals’ mouths that frequented that spot! But even our little children, when thinking about it conversationally, could see the lowly humility Jesus willingly enfleshed. The Word Himself, going to sleep in the manger after growing within the body of a human girl and pressing into the world of oxygen through all the pain of a birth canal.

Our Jesus.
Our King.
The Holy Baby.
Savior and Servant.

Lewisquote

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Dec 27 2017

Treasured

Psalm 30:2, 4-5, 11-12
O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You have healed me.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints,
and give thanks to His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
and His favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night
but joy comes with the morning.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing,
You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent,
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

There are few things God has entrusted to me which I treasure more than my children.
In fact, I can not think of a single tangible thing more treasured.
Even my husband, because the children God used us to create are part of him.
So in my treasuring and cherishing of them, he is included at least in a large part & portion.
I guess you could say they are, in fact, my treasured possession (in the vein of Deut 7:6).

Perhaps the largest struggle of my life is contained in my pursuit of motherhood.
Those who know me well, or even those who know me much at all past the truly superficial, know this.
But it isn’t easily contained in something like a sentiment or photograph.

It is such a big part of me that it takes a lot of time, conversation, and heart to deeply know this part of me. I realize and recognize that. I have grown enough through this that I now understand that not everybody is equipped or desirous to take part in that. And that is okay. In fact, that’s probably good and healthy. It is a huge part of who I am and what my life has included, but it is not all there is.

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All of this notwithstanding, I’ve long yearned for an opportunity to capture an aspect of all thirteen of my children in a family photograph. And recently, a friend of mine from church offered to take family portraits for us, and asked what kind of creative aspects we could bring to the table (or the field, as it so happened). I mentioned wanting to do something in honor of my babies in heaven, and Sarah embraced the idea. She so kindly and gently photographed my family with nine white balloons to represent our nine children beyond the veil. My treasures in heaven (Matt 6:20-21).

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And she also photographed me with my nine treasure boxes cradled on my lap. Little wooden boxes my father devotedly created for nine of his grandchildren, most of them cradling the wee bodies left behind from the souls that were escorted by angels to the heavens; all of them waiting to be buried with their mama so we can burst forth from our graves together at the final trumpet sound when our King returns.

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These are sacred moments which perhaps only my own heart could treasure in such a tangible, tactile way. But here I share them with you, because so many of you have watched me walk these roads of tears and terror. It is my honor and my joy to share with you that there are treasures for me along this journey as well.

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Revelation 21:3-4

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

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