30 November 2005

Knowing my limitations

I have a "wonderful opportunity" at work. I would be "foolish" to pass it up.

I'm going to be foolish.

It is something I can do well, but which I thoroughly dislike doing. In the past, I have often striven to do things which make me uncomfortable and unhappy at work. It's how I was raised. I never thought anything of it. The idea that I could actually do what I do best, and earn a good living at it, never occurred to me.

It is a crossroads. If I choose the way which will bring me more money, recognition, and a step up the ladder, I shall be very busy and extremely stressed. I am taking the other way, the one where I immerse myself in the task at hand and, the next time I look at the clock, am surprised that it's an hour and a half later. God gave me the talent to do both; I have to (finally) be wise enough to know which to pick, and trust Him to take care of the rest. Amen.

Thoughts on Blessings

Penni over at Martha, Martha wrote about feeling uncomfortable asking for blessings.
my wise and sage friend suggested that i start praying for God's abundant blessings upon me. i have to tell you, i am not comfortable with that.

not in the least.

i ask for God's blessings upon everyone around me, from family to customers, friends known and unknown. but for me? too awkward to do that.

do you feel it is wrong to ask for blessings for yourself - is that being *self*ish? or do you pray for God to bless you abundantly and not feel bad about that at all? i tend to be more of a "social justice" pray-er and not ask for too much for myself.

do i have it all wrong?
That just took me back... wow. I commented:
Your words take me back to where I was many years ago. I found it nearly impossible to trust God, but I was in a scary place in my life, and I just had to. The alternative was unthinkable.

Laying down my worries and anxieties and cares and fears at His feet was very difficult for me; I kept picking them back up again.

I was finally able to ask for the grace to accept His blessings, even if they went against the grain. It was like a penance for me, because I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable in the ways you so eloquently express.

I finally got to the point where I was willing to let go of my life and let Him take care of me as He saw fit. If it included bare floors and no heat, so be it. If it was to be carpet and central air, fine. If I am honest about surrendering to Him, I need to open myself to His generous provision, just as I commit to accept when things are tough.

As for others' blessings... Jesus took a basket of bread and fish and fed thousands. By giving you what you need, He does not deprive anyone else. There's plenty. He's God. He can make more blessings. Your blessings might not be what anyone else needs, anyway. They might just be for you alone. ;)

I still have the worn Bible from the time when I ended up prostrate before God, finally, finally ready to let go and let Him do what He wanted with my life. It was an awful feeling. I still have my moments (see recent post on feeling separate from Him). But I did it, because He backed me into a corner and I had no choice. It was either trust Him, or trust myself/the deceiver, and I knew the black hole which awaited me if I chose the latter.

It did feel penitential. I was very uncomfortable driving the very comfortable used car I eventually got to replace the tiny, unsafe one. The new house that came along was very hard to accept. I went to Penney's and bought $300 worth of clothes I had to have - my old ones were falling apart - and I almost had a panic attack and had to talk myself out of the store and into the car. At the time, I could easily afford that much. It was just feeling so self-conscious about taking care of myself in that way. Anorexia of joy... anhedonia, they call it. But it was more than just not feeling it; it was fighting and resisting it.

God had to humble me completely, take away everything I treasured in life, before I would turn to Him properly. He was kind, but firm. Still is. He's a good Abba.

27 November 2005

Struggling to get out of the chains

Oswald Chambers is one of those writers who is a real guide for me. I loved this quote: "The Spirit of God has spoiled the sin of a great many, yet there is no emancipation, no fullness in their lives." My Utmost for His Highest, November 27

Even as I smile ruefully at the way he puts it - "The Spirit of God has spoiled the sin of a great many" - heh - I am uncomfortably aware that he's got me pegged.

"Emancipation" is the right word: "to free from restraint, control, or the power of another; esp: to free from bondage."

Paul spoke of our freedom in Christ. Jesus said, "I came that your joy may be full."

Somewhere along the line, I got it in my head that to be happy was a sin of selfishness. If I was happy or comfortable, it meant that someone else was not.

That's a lie.

I am called to joy, which pertains regardless of whether or not I am happy. That said, it is not wrong for me to enjoy what God has provided in my life, and to share whatever I can with others, that they, too, may be happy.

I need to be emancipated from the restraint that whispers, "you should not be so happy." I need to be liberated from the control which mutes my emotions and keeps me from celebrating the good news of my salvation. I've ceded power over my life to the one who hates me and the One who made me; I need to take back that permission, and give power over my life only to the One who loves me and cherishes me and wants me to be delighted once in a while with pleasant, healthful, fun things.

Some of this control gets passed as a consequence of my own curiosity and lack of discipline over my thoughts.

I've recently comprehended that I cannot get involved in the anguish at so many Christian Internet watering holes. I get caught up in the superficial observations and arguments, and completely miss the underlying spiritual truths and fictions going on. There is so much I cannot know, can't possibly understand, and don't have time to research. I have to let go, and let God sort it out with those who are far more qualified than I to do battle.

This is part of what I have to learn about finding my own pasture. I've avoided going to church because I'm almost phobic about it, these days; it doesn't matter where I turn, there's always some "reason" I've read about why that church is not a "good" one. God has kindly shown me that I must resolutely ignore all the magpies and go where He leads me, to a place where I can be fed in the Word. In other words, I have to trust Him.

That is very difficult for me. (hangs head)

Advent is always one of those times of year when I try to start again with the whole church thing. I almost made it this morning. I shall continue to plan and pray and see if I can brave it next Sunday. I need to deliberately turn my back on all the news reports and generalities, and let God lead me to a congregation which is whole in His Word. Pray for me, fellow seekers... some of you know what I'm going through.

A simple proposal to squelch "Happy Holidays"

Most retailers are commanding their advertising houses and clerks to use only "Happy Holidays." This is distressing to many Christians, especially since the retailers continue to use the trappings of our celebration, like Christmas trees, the colors of red and green, and other traditional, deeply meaningful symbols of the season. Presumably that is because someone's feelings might be hurt. I can understand that, actually: it's rude to celebrate the arrival of Our Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord, in front of someone who does not share our joy. How thoughtless! After all, without the gospel, the whole idea of Christmas is pretty tiresome.

Our Christian gift-giving is supposedly done at least in part in imitation of the Magi, who brought gifts to Jesus when they found Him in the stable. Let's face it: to give gifts to each other is not exactly true to that picture, if you know what I mean.

So let's bring our celebration closer into line with that of the Magi, instead of pleasing ourselves and annoying the non-Christians among us.

"So long as you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me." Let us restore the real tradition of Christmas gift-giving by giving gifts to the baby Jesus wherever we find Him in the poor and needy. Let's shower Jesus with cash by giving it to charities, and show our affection to one another with unbought words and acts of love. Let's give small meaningful gifts, like bookmarks, photographs, handwritten letters and ornaments for our Christmas trees. Let's tell one another what we treasure about each other, and thank each other for the good times of the last year. Let's offer our time and companionship and service to those who need our individual gifts of talent, whatever they might be: shoveling driveways, fixing computers, mending, watching the kids for an evening, helping with a term paper, etc.

Without Christian spending, the retailers' stores will stand empty, their servers unused, their phones silent, except for the faxes coming in with orders from charities, ordering in bulk and negotiating huge discounts. Let the oh-so-politically-correct managers strain to hear the tinny sounds of their piped-in holiday music over the sounds of crickets chirping in the aisles.

Let us take a sabbatical from Christmas in the 7th year of the new century. In 2007, let us accede to the wishes of those who fear that someone will feel slighted by the word Christmas. Let us give them what they want! Let us remove our feast from the public square, and take it back into our homes, churches and charities. Ho ho ho!

First Sunday of Advent

Several days ago, upon awakening, I had one of those moments of mental clarity in which some puzzle or problem is suddenly solved. In that dawn moment, I realized I am prone to think of God as separate from me. I have perceived Him as sometimes unloving, or merely indifferent. I suddenly saw clearly how utterly wrong I was, and how foreign that notion is even to logic. God made me. He holds me together in thought. He never wants me to be apart from Him! If he forgot me, I would cease to exist!

The feeling of separateness was banished in that moment. I went out to my study, and looked up the first reading in the devotional I use, and was overtaken by that I-am-floored-but-unsurprised feeling I get when God makes it perfectly clear He has A Point to make, and Would I Please Pay Attention. The passage was from Colossians, and included these verses:
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Col. 1:21-23)
God has not forgotten me. God does not want to lose me or be parted from me. I am a sinner, and cannot be admitted to His presence, because He is all-holy. So He sent his Son to teach me the right way. That Son underwent a horrible death, taking my sins on Himself, just so I would not lose touch with my God so long as I continue in my faith.

I am still mentally, spiritually, sitting there, days and days later, my mouth agape and my heart stilled in awe.

It felt like an Advent present from Jesus, a gift to open before the Christmas madness.

Of course there's more ... later in that epistle, Paul writes:
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
I have a choice whether to "wear" those traits every day, and which to accentuate and accessorize with the others. ;) Then, just in case I was thick and didn't get the previous word, he speaks slowly and uses simple words: "Forgive as the Lord forgave you." I can't avoid knowing that, yes, the Lord forgave me, but not because I repented really well or apologized perfectly. In fact, I'm willing to bet that a lot of the worst sins were some which I never even realized I committed! The Lord forgave me solely because Jesus asked Him to, on the cross, brokenly whispering the words through his extreme pain and desolation.

"And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." And which binds me to God, close under His wings, safe from the one who prowls like a lion, whispering to me and so many others, "He doesn't really love you. He doesn't care." It's a lie!

Jesus hovers around, eager and waiting. He doesn't force His way in, but He waits and watches for the moment when we're open to His love.

This Advent season, I hope I will be waiting and watching for Him, too.

26 November 2005

Grateful days

It is perhaps really sad to say so, but I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my sister and her husband. It's sad because it was never fun with my in-laws; not awful, just not comfortable, on many levels. And my parents are both dead, which helps enormously. I'm sorry if that doesn't sound sufficiently devoted. I loved them dearly and missed them terribly. It's still easier now.

My sister and her husband are quite a bit younger than I. It's cute to see how they care for me, suggesting ideas for ways I could take better care of the house or myself. I feel very much like the tables are being turned. Even as it makes me feel my age, it comforts me to know that they truly care. I'm not only grateful for them, but for the healing which has allowed me to notice their care, and appreciate it.

Over the last few years I've had an emotional awakening. I'd spent many years shutting down my emotions, never letting my feelings show, or even be recognized. Now I'm almost too much the other way... but it helps me to know what's going on around me. I can be grateful for those who love me... I can recognize that they do.

When asked what I want for Christmas, I think of the blessings I've had in the past year, and think there's not much more that I need or want. There's not much left over from my paycheck at the end of the month, but God has blessed me with health and love, appetite and food to eat, the ability to sleep and wake refreshed, a place to walk in the fresh air, and meaningful work to do. I am grateful.

I hope you, too, have lots to be grateful for.

19 November 2005


I know what this means.
The following are some of the characteristics, agreed upon
by one Alanon-Acoa group, that result in problems in our lives.

1. We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures;

2. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process;

3. We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism;

4. We either become alcoholics, marry them, or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs;

5. We live life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relations;

6. We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. This enables us not to look too closely at our faults, etc.

7. We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others;

8. We became addicted to excitement;

9. We confuse love and pity and tend to "love" people we can "pity" and "rescue";

10. We have stuffed our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much; (DENIAL)

11. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem;

12. We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us;

13. Alcoholism is a family disease and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink;

14. Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.

I've had reason this week to revisit this list.

My name is A. Noël, and I am a codependent.

The ENORMOUS challenge of codependency is that we must be co-dependent to live normally. We have to be able to reach out and establish healthy relationships.

It is rather like the addiction to food.

One must eat in order to survive; how to navigate through life without abusing it? One must have relationships in order to live normally; how to navigate without falling into the same patterns?

Only by the grace of God, as we understand Him.

The first step for me was to give up the notion that I was strong. I wasn't. I was out of control, mainlining on others' approval, needing huge fixes of behavior to react to, just to get through the day. If I was with someone "normal," who just sort of muddled through the day as "normal" people do, I became horribly anxious. I could not be a friend. Everything was a performance.

Some days, it still is.

That's the thing about recovery: it goes on for life. You're never done. Ever.

I've had to revisit that this week. I have a dear friend who is in the throes of Step One. This is more than a friend to me. This is a soul-mate, someone I have known since knee socks and saddle shoes, someone with whom I was privileged to share some of the happiest moments of my life. We need each other, and yet are not always good for one another, because we are both extremely codependent. I've been in recovery for years and years; my friend is just now beginning to comprehend.

I encourage and support my friend, often pointing back to therapist, group, book, etc. I often pull away and let the consequences happen.

And I need to recognize with painful clarity exactly what I can reasonably expect from this person, and what I cannot.

I cannot trust this person with my emotional well-being.
This person is not able to take care of me.
If I stay around this person, I will get hurt.

I need to write out #4 and #9 and put them on the refrigerator and the bathroom mirror, so that I cannot escape the truth about myself, because #6 is alive and well in me, and only repeated, consistent working of the Steps will keep me on track.

I see someone regularly who is coaching me on my journey and knows my weaknesses better than I; I have a sister who is exceptionally good at being an accountability partner; and I have my friends, among whom I include those of you who have taken an interest in my meanderings.

This is the toughest test of recovery I've ever been through. I know how dangerous it is for me.

I also know this person very well. This is the kind of codependent which is gentle, meek, and terrified of hurting anyone. I have been through some nasty emotional abuse in my day, the mean, hostile, deliberate kind. It's inconceivable that my friend would act that way. However, my friend is also emotionally abusive, without meaning to be, and intent doesn't matter. I must protect myself, relating the effect on me, then withdrawing.

The realization that "this doesn't work for me any more" is a precious, wonderful gift, and the first step towards a better life; but, damn, it takes us a long time to get there!

It is dangerous. I do get hurt frequently.

And I am not leaving.

It is not perfect. It never is.

Within appropriate boundaries, I can put myself on the line for my friend. Will I look back on this time, and say I made a mistake? I cannot possibly know. I can only take it one day at a time, practice the principles which keep me on the upward path, and let my friend decide the right course to take.

If my friend cannot keep up, or goes down a different road, or turns back, I promise you this: I will not step off the path. It is for God to save the lost sheep, not me. I know my limits. I can walk ahead, mark the trail, sing the uplifting songs, and leave bottles of water and granola bars along the path. I will never turn back. Not even for my friend. I shall never go back to that awful place. It has taken me years to get to where I am. No one is worth losing an inch of that ground.

For some reason, I have found enlightening, moving and meaningful posts in the last few days; I can't help but believe that it's God's way of clearing the cobwebs away and getting me ready for the next step, whatever that may be. I write about it here for the usual reasons, including the hope that you who drop by will keep me accountable and pray for me. My friend needs me. I need my friend. Retreat is not an option. Supporting in humility and constant recourse to the twelve steps for myself is the way I want and need to go, for now.

Just for today.

17 November 2005

What Sign of Affection are You?

I know someone who can verify this is absolutely true:

holding hands
hand holding - you like to be in constant physical
contact with your special someone but you don't
want to take things too quickly.

What Sign of Affection Are You?
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14 November 2005

OK, the flock got too big

I fed it too many ideas and it needed room to grow, so I've opened another blog, which is linked in the sidebar. If you can stand any more of my nattering, you're invited to check it out. Thanks for your feedback and input. I'm really on a roll!

Well-fed flock - dealing with cravings

For so many of us, cravings gallop all over our internal landscape. They bully us and push us off the trail again and again in our quest for peace with food.

For me, a large part of the process of learning to eat well is learning to manage cravings. For me, there are three parts to my cravings, all of which need attention in order to stay on track:

1.) Physical
2.) Emotional
3.) Natural


Look at the food you're craving. See if there's a nutritional component which could be something your body desperately needs.

Part of the process towards peace is managing one's blood sugar. That means gradually learning to choose complex instead of simple carbohydrates; becoming a Friend of Fiber; and figuring out what fresh fruits and vegetables are your faves.


People either get hungry when they're stressed, or can't eat at all. For those of us who hit the snack drawer, consider alternatives. Add options for yourself like low-fat popcorn, biscotti, or other treats, depending on what you like best to eat at those times.


Every now and then I want some favorite dish or food which I ordinarily don't have, but which I like a lot. The Cheesecake Factory's fish tacos or salmon salad - not to mention the cheesecake! Or a Real breakfast of eggs and toast and potatoes. I am not bad or weak or a failure because I like those things. It is natural to want something favorite every few months.

Strategies to handle cravings

Make up your mind right now that you will never deny yourself what you crave. Promise yourself this, most solemnly. If you want something badly enough, you will do everything you can to get it for yourself, or the nearest possible thing. Just knowing this will calm a lot of the craving.

There is no emotional freight to a craving. Resist the temptation to add it to your list of things to beat yourself up about. It's not true, so just skip it. It's a craving, not a blot on your character record.

Procrastinate a bit. Sometimes, if you give it an hour, have some water, do something else, you'll forget about it.

If you still want whatever it is, then prepare to eat and enjoy it. Find a pleasant place for your indulgence. Get the food and prepare it. If it's a dessert, eat a healthy meal first, taking your time so that your hunger will be satisfied before you dig in. You deserve to enjoy all of your food.

OK, now comes the big moment you've been waiting for: your treat!! Here's the key to indulgence: "Be in the moment." I don't know about you, but when I get stressed, I get scattered (or vice versa). I eat automatically, just stuffing myself with food, totally unaware of what I'm eating. The solution is:

Stop Everything. Go get the Hershey bar (or whatever it is you want so badly), and go someplace quiet. Now, savor that treat. Unwrap it carefully and look at it. Smell the aroma and imagine how good it will taste. Feel yourself start to salivate in anticipation of the delicious taste. Now, take a bite. Hold it on your tongue and let the flavor overtake your senses. Enjoy the texture of the food, the fragrance or the aroma, and be aware of the relaxation and satisfaction you feel as you consume it. And take your time. Make it last.

You are on a process which is going to last your whole life, and you must learn to manage your cravings for sweets and other foods without the self-denial and mean thoughts which have robbed you of enjoyment and made you feel so terrible about yourself. You deserve that treat, and you deserve to eat it like a human being, from a plate, in a comfortable place, in a situation where you can focus on it and let it fill your senses for a few delicious bites.

I started out applying these techniques to enjoying treat things, then finally figured out that I should approach all my eating this way.

Well, that explains a lot


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
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13 November 2005

The well-fed flock

I want to offer my acquaintances (mentioned in the previous post) a place to talk about healthy eating, here at the Pasture.

I am not a doctor, nutritionist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or any other -ist. I am a woman who has battled weight issues all her life, along with emotional stuff, and it's been a long journey out of the cold, foggy woods into the light. I'd like to help my friends learn to trust their judgment so they can each find their own place of rest.

Each one of you knows what's right for your body and your soul. Down deep inside of yourself, you know. People may have told you otherwise; you may have gotten bad information along the way; hurts may have accumulated and hidden that knowledge from you - but it's still there.

Thanksgiving is coming, and, after that, Christmas. Lots of challenges.

Over the next week or so, I'm going to post a few of the techniques that work for me. Nothing new or wonderful or wild. It is SO trite, but doggone it, it's true: you lose weight if you eat less than you expend in energy. You keep the weight off if you adopt a healthy lifestyle which fosters weight control. There. In two sentences.

Hah!! (I hear you say, scoffingly.) (Is that a word?)

Well, okay. It's a bit more complex than that. And the toughest part of it is, I HAVE NO CLUE what will work for you. YOU have all that information. The trick is to find out what it is.

I gotta take the trash out and get to bed, so I'll leave some questions which I'll answer in the next post (and which you are invited to answer, too, in the comments, if you like):

What puts your munch switch on "auto"? Stress? TV? Reading?

With the holidays coming up, what's your gazingus food - the one thing you're looking forward to right now and which you'll attack like a starving leopard the minute you're within arm's length?

More soon...

Food for thought about food

I'm pacing the floor. Well, not really... I'm sitting here, typing. But internally, I'm pacing.

Some acquaintances are trying a program meant to curb the cycle of "addictive" eating, I gather. I don't know anything about it... don't want to, either. It's not that I'm closed-minded; it's because I've had food issues all my life, and have now, FINALLY, gotten to a place where I'm at a normal weight and STAYING there after three (three!) years (YEARS!!). Because I am food sensitive and have emotional issues, I'm very careful about what I read, and I stay away from anything remotely concerned with dieting. I'm all about nutrition, these days.

What got me going is that it appears from the acquaintances' account that the book prescribes a fast to start off the process.

Now, I don't question the good intent or the qualifications of the person who put that program together. I do seriously question that advice for people with food issues.

Fasting is very serious. As the body burns fat, it releases toxins into the bloodstream. Even if one handles sugar properly, the drop in blood sugar puts strain on the body's systems. The body goes into panic mode. This shows up first in the emotions, which become fragile, so the person becomes fractious. Then there's the hunger, as the body frantically tries to get more food.

It is a punishing, horrible experience.

Is that really what we want to do to anyone who has an issue about which they're hurting? Punish them and make them suffer?

Why do we treat ourselves this way??

I want to tell them, "Let's back up and start over."

I am on a program which allows me to eat anything my little heart desires. Anything. Really. However, I can't eat too much of my "anything." I can't eat it all the time. I have to fuel my body carefully, learning what it needs and wants, managing my hunger correctly.

And I have to heal myself, inside, and manage that part of myself, too. Lovingly.

The toughest part about food dependency is the love part. We have such fear of being loved, of loving ourselves, of loving another. We have hurts, and worries, and frets, and chocolate really and truly does make it all go away for a little while. So why forbid the chocolate?

The way to health is rehabilitation, not cruelty.

In rehab, you do not drag the wounded individual out of bed and make them run a mile! The first day, the patient gets to sit up, bolstered by pillows and supportive physical therapists. Then the sufferer lies back down and watches TV. The next try is a sit-up for 15 minutes, and so on.

It is only after many, many weeks that the person is able to take up normal life again. Along the way there are good times and not-so-good. There is progress, and there is backsliding.

Why we think we can rehabilitate our eating in less time mystifies me.

Did you know that it can take years before someone is truly ready to let go and eat right? People kick themselves for "failing" at diets, but the truth is, it is how most people go about it! They try it out, think it over, then revert back for a while. They try again, do a little better, revert back. It can take years. It's not a crime.

Two years into my weight loss, I let myself go a little bit. I'd eat a little extra and get away with it for a day or two. I'd see the pounds creep up, but work would be busy, so I'd give myself another pass, etc.

Then I went to see my doctor for a regular visit. She looked at my chart, and said, "You gained five pounds last year." She looked me straight in the eye. "That's not the trend we want. We want the trend the other way." I don't know why, but it was the right thing to say to me, in the right way. Off came the offending five lbs. and they've stayed off. But it was a little reversion... a stepping back.

Along my journey to health, I had to look inside, at the issues that made me fat. I had to understand why I was afraid of not eating, why I compulsively ate too much, why - many things. With God's help, and the program I elected, I figured it out. I had to make serious changes to my life, and I made them... because I was ready.

I was ready to let go of my notions and prejudices. Ready to take babysteps. Ready to really love my body and love my self. Love. Get love right, and health will follow.

These days, I treat myself with great respect. I get plenty of sleep. I exercise, doing only fun things which I truly enjoy. And I have figured out a Lot of stuff about food, and how I can use it to fuel my body and keep my emotions steady and truly enjoy life.

I've had to adopt a new lifestyle, one which requires that I keep track of everything I eat. I have done it for three years. I will do it every day for the rest of my life. When I see it down on paper, in black and white, I don't lie to myself about how much I've had. I pay attention to the nutrition values of the food I eat, and make sure I'm getting the most bang for the buck when it comes to calories. And I never deny myself anything, because, if I do, I will go off the wagon faster than you can say Boo!.

I want to help my friends, but I realize that we must all find our own path to wholeness and health. Perhaps this program is right for them. I hope they won't think it's their fault if it's not.

But I so want to sit them down, and talk it over with them, and help them find their way to using food wisely and lovingly to nourish themselves and nurture their emotions!

God bless all who struggle with obsession with nourishment tonight.

12 November 2005

" I desire mercy, and not sacrifice..."

Some days ago during my Sunday morning Bible study, the readings in my guide included this one:
And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:10-13)

One of the great souls who guides my understanding of God is Oswald Chambers. I've lost track of the number of times the reading for a particular day speaks exactly to what I am wrestling with in other areas of my life.

On November 11, his text was "Take now thy son." Genesis xxii.ii.
...Abraham did not choose the sacrifice. Always guard against self-chosen service for God; self-sacrifice may be a disease. If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace; if He has made it bitter, drink it in communion with Him. If the providential order of God for you is a hard time of difficulty, go through with it, but never choose the scene of your martyrdom... (My Utmost for His Highest)
For most of my life, I believed that I should choose always to sacrifice myself to the preferences of others. My mother was a lot like the Anchoress' Paterfamilias, whom she wrote about in this post, and I wasn't as strong as the Anchoress, and I didn't leave. Instead, I married a man whose behavior felt familiar to me. Need I say more?

The result was not good. It took many years of determined recovery to be able to cope at all normally with life, and I shall always have to be alert to my self-annihilating tendencies - which is why those passages struck me and have stayed with me every day since.

Other Christians in the blog world have lately been ruminating on what is appropriate behavior for Christians who have all "the comforts and conveniences of life" (a favorite phrase from a thanksgiving in the Book of Common Prayer) when presented with beggars or the homeless. It is possible to drown in guilt over this, and to want to deny oneself everything in an excess of zeal. There again, we need to let God decide. Unless we are clearly led to sell all we have and give to the poor, we need to remember that, unless we work and think and consume and build and buy, there will be no work for those who clean offices and make paper and put together computers and grow food and fold clothes and frame houses and stand at checkout counters. It is not wrong for us to make use of the good things which God provides, only wrong to hoard and deny others. That said, I'm with Julie D., and carry bottles of water in the car, offering them to those who ask for aid, in addition to my donations to charities. If I give up working and sell all I have, I shall be miserable and it won't do any good; it's not what I'm called to do. I'm called to work hard and give generously and use wisely and be frugal.

I always felt torn between my desire to give them something ("a cup of cold water") and my husband's strong feelings against doing so. Now that I am alone, I can listen to my heart, and remember this, which Julie D. quoted:
There are those who say to the poor that they seem to look to be in such good health: "You are so lazy! You could work. You are young. You have strong arms."

You don't know that it is God's pleasure for this poor person to go to you and ask for a handout. You show yourself as speaking against the will of God.

There are some who say: "Oh, how badly he uses it!" May he do whatever he wants with it! The poor will be judged on the use they have made of their alms, and you will be judged on the very alms that you could have given but haven't. -- St. John Vianney
Exactly so.We need to take care of ourselves - even to the point of caring for our consciences by doing right when we feel the leading to do so. I am to have mercy on myself, and not decide on my own what to sacrifice. I need to take good care of myself, and others, as God leads and allows.

Who am I, again?

Jules posted this over at Faith or Fiction, and I'm still trying to understand it, which tells me she's done it again, and forged ahead into someplace I haven't been willing to go yet. She's beckoning me to follow her, but I'm not sure where she's going.
As someone who's "been there/done that" let me just say this to all of you who struggle and fight to hide pieces of yourself away because of the dirtiness and sin that comes to all of us throughout our lives:

What is done to you by others - and what it then causes you to do (either to yourself or to others) - is not who you are.

That reminds me of something I read once... where is it? Oh, yes: ...if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Not if, or but, or perhaps, or maybe, or if you're real good and eat all your vegetables; just a simple, flat statement. And what is being in Christ?

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. ... We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, 21)

It is not who I am because Christ made Himself that way in my stead. He let others do to Him what they wanted to do to me. He alone could withstand it, and rise again. I can be myself only when I am completely immersed in, entangled with, and given over entirely to Him.

Oh, yeah, I remember ...

That is how we help each other sometimes, I think. It's not so much that we're telling anyone something new. It's that we're reminding our friends of what satan would have us forget - the beautiful truths we knew all along.

Thank you, Jules!


Pride is a denial of God, an invention of the devil, contempt for men. It is the mother of condemnation, the offspring of praise, a sign of barrenness. It is a flight from God's help, the harbinger of madness, the author of downfall. It is the cause of diabolical possession, the source of anger, the gateway of hypocrisy. It is the fortress of demons, the custodian of sins, the source of hardheartedness. It is the denial of compassion, a bitter pharisee, a cruel judge. It is the foe of God. It is the root of blasphemy.

John Climacus (7th century monk)
quoted in The Cloister Walk
(found at Happy Catholic)

"It is a flight from God's help, the harbinger of madness, the author of downfall." Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

During my marriage, I was trying to live out a way of life which refused anything like help or aid or assistance. My mother considered it to be weakness to ask for help with anything, and she would do so only when there was no alternative. I hope for your sake you cannot adequately imagine what that meant in terms of living conditions, emotional and physical health, and so on.

It took a long time before I realized that people are out there who are willing and able to help, and that they would not look down on me for needing that help.

I ask for help and advice a lot, these days. With each admission of impotence or confusion, I feel the bite of humility as it sands down the hard walls of my soul.

"It is the denial of compassion, a bitter pharisee, a cruel judge." How often I denied myself compassion and judged myself cruelly in terms I would never use to another - to the point where I was incapable of saying what needed to be said! I endured terrible situations while stringently lecturing, berating and chastising myself for every real or imagined transgression of "the way things ought to be."

I am better now. Unfortunately, the pendulum has swung a bit too far the other way, and I am conscious of the need to find center, so that I don't repeat the horrors of my mother's house. However, even in my clutter, I am different from her. My kitchen and bathrooms are spotless. I feed myself well, and see the doctor regularly. I exercise and sleep and do lots of things which normal, healthy people do. And I am conscious of having limitations of time, energy, and smarts in some areas of life, but I no longer think I need to excel in every single thing I do. When I run up against a problem or can't figure something out, I do something which is beginning to feel more normal and natural every time I try it: I ask for help.

God is good. And patient!

08 November 2005

God laughing

... well, maybe just a chuckle.

My work has taken an unexpected turn. I could, possibly, maybe, have a wonderful assignment, completely absorbing and even, dare I say it? fun.

Just God tellin' me to quit looking over the fence and keep working on the patch of garden right beneath my feet ... for today, anyway.

02 November 2005

Another look at the future

I really, truly, do not know what to expect.

Over the last several weeks, it has become apparent that I am to let go, and let God. The more that I do this, the more easily things are flowing.

The life I might lead someday is unlike anything I've ever led before. I just spent some disheartening time combing through employment postings in another time zone, looking at alternatives, not wanting any of them. Actually feeling a sense like, "This is not what I'm supposed to do."

If events unfold in this unimaginable direction, I shall be busy and occupied with a full day's work, but I must let go of the feeling that I must earn a salary. When I listen in prayer, it is just as clear that I must not work in that eventuality, as it is that I must (and want to) if my life continues on its current course.

Moments later, I found my way to this post on Erica's blog:
I will pursue and produce but I will not do it in the frame of mind I have had until now, aka Must Self-Actualize or DIE!!! I am already living the Truth of my Heart. Nothing is ever going to be more dear to me than the ones who occupy my heart already, so why not acknowledge that the rest will be details and icing, stuff to hope for, but not make-it-or-break-my-neck stuff.

I had bought into the idea that because I can, as a young woman, supposedly have it all, that I must do so. And now. For the last few weeks my mind has been full of the things I have not accomplished; the possibilities of the future have become burdens. And spending all day feeling that weight is a real drain on the precious resources of today...
I am no longer a young woman, but, believe me, that feeling of pressure to "have it all" and "self-actualize" does not go away!

This has a kind of FlyLady feel to it: something I'm trying to organize which would be better off released from my life; something which doesn't make me smile. What makes me smile is weaving a world of comfort for someone I love, making sure that the trains run on time in the household, making it look easy and never letting that work impinge on the all-too-short moments we have together; teaching grandchildren to read and bake and think and sing and maybe even pray; knowing myself to be in the right place for me at last, as a woman, a Christian, and a friend.

I don't know if it can happen. I don't know if it will. But I feel more ready now than at any time in my life... and maybe that was part of the Plan.

It is no coincidence, I'm sure, that my current paid employment has just hit a mighty convenient lull this week, just as this mysterious process began to sort itself out in earnest. If there were to be a transition - and I'm not saying there will be, just if - it would be so much easier now than, perhaps, later.

I don't know what my future holds; but I know Who holds my future.