Come, Dine With Me

Maybe your relationship with food has been a rocky one. So has mine. I remember being eleven years old and already not liking this body that housed my soul. My mom is one of those moms who keeps everything. A few years ago she gave me one of my childhood diaries that she had kept. It’s a small, butter yellow diary, still scented after all these years, with some kind of perfume that instantly takes me back to girlhood whenever I breathe it in. One of my childhood best friends gave it to me as a gift on my tenth birthday; her inscription, in girly, child-like writing, rests on the inside cover. My friend’s mom, hot glued cream lace around the front cover and little yellow roses and ribbon bows on each corner. This diary was the keeper of my secrets, and all the drama that goes along with those middle school years. In April of 1991, my little eleven year old self decided to go on my very first diet, because, even at this tender age, I believed that my body already was not good enough. I cannot remember how I knew this about myself, but I just knew that I wasn’t “right”. On a Saturday, I recorded my starting weight of eighty four pounds, and by that Monday I had lost two pounds. I remember checking books out of the library on how to count calories and measure my food, so I began to do this. The first time, it lasted for five days, and I lost five pounds. I was eighty four pounds, and had a goal weight of seventy three pounds. I didn’t reach my goal that time, so it wasn’t long before I would start again, and again, and again, from the time I was eleven years old, my relationship with food has been tenuous. 

Being almost forty and more self aware, I can see things clearer now. I feel an aching, real grief for that little girl who entered that world of disordered eating so early. I feel such compassion for her. I know that she thought that if she weighed a certain number on the scale she would be lovable – loved. It is just now that I understand what she had been -has been- searching for. The reality is that I have been loved my entire life. Of course I have been, by the Creator of the universe Who breathed life into me, and took painstaking care to make every part of who I am – the One Who calls me His beloved. I have always been deeply loved by two parents, siblings, and so many family and friends. Yet, my entire life, I have battled to feel loved. It has presented itself in so many different ways, but one way that has impacted me, maybe the most, is this relationship with food and with my body. So maybe it makes perfect sense that I would write a book on food and the table and the community we find inside of that. Maybe it is a way to do the hard work of finally resting in my belovedness.

It is true that I find beauty and deep connection in food and the table, but I also bear very real scars. I still wrestle the same demons that my eleven year old self wrestled. Maybe the delight and joy that I write of when I share a favorite recipe, and describe the tastes that dance on my tongue, and the way these experiences have connected people around my table sounds foreign to you, because of your own battle with food. That’s okay. There is still space for you at my table. I don’t want you to leave, and I don’t want you to feel alone, because you are not alone. I have been in your seat, and too many days I still am. Let’s stay at the table together. I believe the way forward begins with compassion – compassion for ourselves that in turn turns outward to others. I believe that our relationship with food is a spiritual one, as all of life is spiritual. As much as we claim otherwise, we don’t and can’t live compartmentalized lives. So all of life is spiritual, and this includes coming to the table to nourish our bodies and to find communion in our relationships. It’s our stories that bring us back to the table and it is our stories that keep us there. I don’t have another cure for this struggle with our relationship with food and our bodies that has not already been stated in hundreds of other excellent books and by much wiser people than myself. Of course we have freedom in and through Jesus, but life – our spiritual journey – is a process. In real life, many times, freedom does not just happen over night, or with enough faith. It just doesn’t. So, dear ones, yes, you, the one who stepped on the scale this morning and immediately started the day on the wrong foot, the one who feels immense shame for the extra chocolate chips she gobbled down behind a closed door, the precious ones who love their current bodies, the ones who simply use food as fuel, yes, you, come. Please come. Come to my table, sit awhile, dine with me, it’s our stories that weave us together as we continue to learn the beauty of tasting and knowing that indeed God is good, and we are loved – more loved than we have ever imagined.

{an unedited excerpt from my manuscript}

 

DSC_0051 A page from the scented diary of my eleven year old self.

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The Language I Have Yet to Learn

It doesn’t seem to matter where I go, there is this language that swirls around me that I have never been able to learn. I am constantly just on the outside left flailing around like some awkward penguin. It is as foreign to me as German. For years I’ve tried really hard to learn this language. Okay, okay, sometimes I have tried really hard. But I continue to walk away realizing the reality that I still don’t understand it. The truth is, I don’t think I ever will. I have failed my whole life at this language.

Small talk.

It’s like a secret language that I have never been given access to. I dread it, and every time I head into a scenario where it is expected of me, I die a little inside. I awkwardly fidget and avoid eye contact and pray that I won’t be seen, so then maybe, just maybe, I won’t have to engage in the language that I do not know. The times that I have really given effort still leave my cheeks burning in embarrassment. One of my middle sons is at an elementary school where the parents must walk into the school and wait in the cafeteria for the students to be dismissed. Yes, this means there are many, many days of ducking small talk. Last year, a woman from my church, who I happen to think is a pretty amazing woman, although we are just acquaintances, sat next to me as we waited. Immediately I knew what had to happen. I looked at her, and I smiled in what surely was my signature awkward way, and I proceeded to talk about the weather. Now I have heard people dialogue for literal minutes about the fact that it is raining outside. I thought to myself surely this is safe. How badly could I mess up the weather? I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I am sure it was something as articulate as, this sure is some weather we are having. I tried to continue the conversation, but really what more can be said about the weather?! She politely smiled back at me, and agreed, and then to my horror, we sat side-by-side in utter, awkward silence. I am actually typically comfortable in silence. I can ride in a vehicle with someone and be completely at ease with no conversation, or a need to fill the air with words. However, I got the distinct impression that I was supposed to say something else, but I didn’t know the words to say! I rarely do.

Instead of talking about nonsense that doesn’t seem to really matter or add any value to life at all, I would rather not have these pointless, superficial conversations. Instead I wish I could ask where does it hurt? What is on your heart today? How can I listen to you in a way that will ease that burden you are carrying? I am highly suspicious that asking those probing questions, especially in a student pick-up gathering, would make people even more uncomfortable than my hopeless attempts at small talk do.

Being introspective as I am, I sometimes assume that people must think I am stuck up, as I duck and avoid my way through social situations to avoid talking about the weather. But really I am not. I actually do love people. I especially love listening to people, and making slow, beautiful lasting relationships. I have a desire to gain a better understanding of the people around me, and I do have a deep desire to connect. I think we all do. Small talk, however, has never given this to me.

So, if you meet me in the grocery store, on the sidewalk, or in the cafeteria at an elementary school, duck and avoid along with me, or go ahead and ask me what I believe the purpose of life is. Kidding. Sort of.

The truth is I know deep down that small talk is a necessary evil, and that I do have to participate, as awkward as it may be, in order to reach that connection that I really long for. But I don’t think it will ever be a language that I become fluent in.

Is small talk painful for you, or do you excel in this art?

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Adding coffee to small talk, does make it slightly more bearable!

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My (not so) Hidden Agenda

I picked my manuscript back up. It is an on again off again relationship with it. I tend to be all or nothing, and will be all in for awhile and then lose focus. As I delve deeper and deeper into the enneagram (raise your hand if you are as obsessed as I am!), I am learning so much about myself. The weaknesses of who I am are especially insightful. In typical enneagram two fashion, I tend to let the needs of the people that I love suffocate my own needs. Frankly, I use that as an excuse too often as well. Last week we hugged our oldest son goodbye for at least a month. He boarded a plane to Europe, landed in Denmark, where he will stay a bit before moving on to Sweden, and possibly Portugal. He is chasing some big soccer dreams, and is at the beginning of a huge crossroad. I am so excited to watch his future unfold, and inspired watching him pursue the dreams of his childhood. Before he left, he made me promise to keep chasing my own dream of publishing a book one day. I want to see my children flourish in their dreams, but I believe that they need to see their mama flourishing in hers as well. So, after making that promise, I metaphorically dusted off the manuscript and got back to work. I joined a writing group that is challenging me to write five hundred words a day, and so far, so good. For the first time in almost fourteen years I am finding myself home alone during the weekdays, with no kids to take care of or home school. It’s a good time to write, and the excuses are disappearing.

But why am I blogging? One of the reasons that I allow myself to use the needs of others to neglect my own when it comes to writing is how cut throat the publishing market is. I will be earnest for a bit, and then the reality of the world that I want to jump into sinks in, and I get scared. The truth, from my research, is that publishers, and agents alike, are not looking for quiet, little introverted homebodies who find their voice in writing over talking. I am beginning to think that I was born in the wrong publishing era. It seems as if everyone is looking for writers with a platform, and if the writer is also bubbly and engaging in person, well that is a bonus. I cannot change my personality. I cannot make myself extroverted and a dynamic public speaker, but I can work on a platform as I continue to write my manuscript. At one time, I had a good blog following – back when it was trendy to blog and I spewed a lot of stuff that I no longer even believe. So my motive in blogging is not entirely pure. I need you to come here and read, so that I can rebuild some kind of platform – something that will at least put me inside the pack when the time comes to hire an agent.

I think that I still have a lot to say. It is just different now. I am no longer a mommy blogger. I am no longer certain about so many things that I once was. I am no longer dogmatic about adoption, or willing to exploit my kids for some decent blog traffic. I worry that inspiration won’t come, or that I will keep pushing this dream down for the rest of my life. But right now, today, I am willing to fight for it again. It just might be a series of todays that gets us to the someday where our dreams are fulfilled. So maybe this will be a symbiotic relationship, you can help me build up a platform, and perhaps something I write will resonate with you. I like the connection that writing brings. Writing is one of the only ways I have ever felt like I could affect the world around me, and it helps me unwind my heart and find my way. And maybe, just maybe, we can find our way together in this little space.

What is your dream? Is it unleashed or is it suffocating?

Here’s to the dreamers – I believe in us.

 

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Little brothers talking to their big brother who is chasing a big dream in Europe.

 

 

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