Be and be better, for they existed

“…And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always irregularly.
Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored,
never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be.
Be and be
better.
For they existed.”

~ Maya Angelou ~

Sweet Embrace: A Letter to Elliot

Dear Elliot,

I was browsing through one of my favorite shops in a small North Carolina town when I saw this sculpture. I picked it up and read the description from the artist. This is what it said;
Thankfully I know the owners of the store because I could not hold back the tears that were imminent. While holding the artwork tightly in both hands I was able to tell them about you, your life and your legacy. That makes two more people who know how incredible you are and what a difference you are making in the lives of others.

Mary carefully packed the figure in brown paper to ensure a smooth trip home. That was three months ago. I put the bag in my closet and looked at it several times a day, but left the statue securely wrapped.
I finally sat down and slowly pulled the pieces of tape away from the brown paper. As the image began to appear I was overcome with emotion. It sounds silly, right?

Like certain music, art has the ability to move us from where we are, right back to a moment in time.

I wanted a place where, not only would I see it throughout the day, but others could as well and ask about its meaning.

While admiring it when first getting up this morning, memories began flooding in. Sleepovers with singalongs on our hairbrush microphones and talent shows from the school’s cafeteria stage. Tennis matches in the heat and humidity we had grown accustomed to in the south and seemingly never-ending miles on the church van. It reminded me of the long days of summer and the childlike anticipation of Christmas. A time that was good and innocent. A time when divorce had not been intrusive, cancer wasn’t personal and we were unaware of how incredibly cruel the world can be. I had to smile.

I am quite certain that each time I look at it another memory or emotion will surface. I’m okay with that. I don’t think chance is what took me into the store on that particular day, I think it was God.

Wyatt is celebrating his 7th birthday today. He is so grown up! I love seeing the pictures that Chris posts on your Facebook page. It’s amazing the difference a year makes between six and seven.

El, I still haven’t written those letters. I don’t know how. I don’t know what to say and yet there is so much I want to say. I have things for them that, just like the figurine, remain in a bag, undisturbed. Do you think I will ever have the courage to put my thoughts on paper and stop worrying about whether it’s worded perfectly?

The children are beautiful, Elliot. I know that you are so proud. And Chris is doing a wonderful job. It is evident how much he loves and misses you. We all miss you.

Love and Light,


Related Post:

Oh my soul

To see more sculptures by Cindy Burden click here

The Skinny on the Book ~ by E. Wierenga

It is my honor to feature Emily Wierenga and a glimpse of her incredible story of experience, strength and hope. Her journey is one that everyone should read, especially females, counselors, ministry leaders, teachers, coaches, those who have daughters, a sister, wife, mother…I think that covers everyone. I am blessed to know this incredible woman and pray that God will bless her, her family, her ministry and all those who come in contact with her.

The nurses murmured to each other under fluorescent lighting as I lay shivering on the metal hospital bed, cold. Later, I would learn that they had marveled at my hypothermic, sixty-pound sack of bones, reasoning, “She should be dead.” I was a breach of science; a modern-day miracle. Yet in that profound moment, all I
could think was: “Why can’t I lose any more weight?”

After four years of slow and steady starvation, I had finally quit eating altogether.

It started when I began to squint my eyes for the camera. I wanted to create laughter lines in a laughter-less face. Then, I began sucking in my cheeks. I liked how it made me look thinner. Model-like. I was nine years old.

The next four years were a blur. Anorexia starved my mind, but I’ll always remember the darkness. Days smudged with counting calories and streaming tears. Days filled with frowns, fierce yells and fists pounding against my father’s chest…

Dad loved us by doing his job so well he put ministry before family. He’d kiss us on the cheeks early in the morning and lead Bible devotions and sigh when we asked him questions on Sermon-Writing day. I hated Sermon-Writing day.

I got baptized at age eight because Dad said I should and I wanted to please him the same way I wanted to please God. I associated God with my father—a distant, unemotional man who said he loved me yet was too busy to show it.

One year later, I realized that even though I’d gotten baptized, Dad still didn’t ask me how I was doing, not really, and so God still didn’t care. Not really.

Food was dished onto our plates at every meal; again, I had no choice but to finish it. This inability to make my own decisions killed my independent spirit. Mum meant well; as a nutritionist, she served healthy but plentiful portions. As a result, we became healthy but plentiful children.

Meanwhile, a woman I’d become very close to, ‘Grandma Ermenie,’ passed away. And life became even more uncontrollable, and disappointment, more certain…It’s a scary place to be in, this place where you have no one, so you have to become bigger than life itself, in order to carry yourself through the pain. A nine-year-old isn’t very big. And all I wanted was to be small. Because the world told me that thin was beauty. And maybe if I was beautiful, Dad would want to spend time with me.

I didn’t know about anorexia nervosa. We weren’t allowed to play with Barbie dolls or take dance lessons or look at fashion magazines or talk about our bodies in any way other than holy, so I didn’t know anything except that Mum changed in the closet when Dad was in the room, and made us cover our skin head to foot.

A kind of shame came with this not talking about bodies and beauty became something forbidden. And I wanted it more than anything. So I stopped eating.

It was a slow-stop, one that began with saying “No,” and the “No” felt good. I refused dessert. I refused the meals Mum dished up for me. I refused the jam on my bread and then the margarine and then the bread itself…

At night, I dreamt of food. Mum would find me, hunting for imaginary chocolates in my bed. I wanted her to hug me and make the fear go away, but was worried that if I did, my guard would be let down and I’d eat real chocolates, so I stopped hugging her for two years.

My legs were getting thin, and that was what mattered, but I dreamt about her arms, and woke up hugging myself.

I slipped from a state of not being hungry to a state of choosing to be hungry. I liked how my pants sagged, how my shirt became loose, my face slim, and my eyes, big. And at some point, I became a different person, intent on being skinny no matter the cost.
***
this is how it starts.

Emily’s book, Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder.
View Endorsements here
Read Sample Chapters here
Follow Emily on Twitter and Facebook

“I know many of you have not struggled with eating disorders, but there are 8 million Americans that do… and many of them are young girls, in families that are desperate for solutions… there is only one solution, and that is Christ, and this book points to Him. Would you help me get the word out about this? 

Will you order a copy for your church library? Your school library? For the family down the street? Thank you.”

Facing the Monster

I was walking through the mall shopping for October birthday gifts when I passed by Starbucks and thought, “No, I don’t need an iced chai with soy!” However, like so many times before, I found myself standing in line with several others wondering why this place held such power over me. As I was debating with my inner monologue, I felt someone walk up behind me. Though small, I knew they were there. Doesn’t seem odd, does it? After all, I’m in line at one of the biggest coffee stores on the planet.

I turned and with a smile acknowledged the young lady standing behind me. I turned back around squeezing my eyes tightly shut and pushing down the lump in my throat. She broke away from the line and went to the condiment bar, taking three splenda though she had yet to order a drink. She stood uncomfortably close to me now.

One by one she tore the tops of the little yellow packets and poured them down her throat.
I was uneasy. People were looking at her strangely. I don’t know if it was because of her emaciated appearance or the fact that she was swallowing artificial sweetener by the pack? I knew all too well what she was doing.

She grabbed a fat-free milk and sparkling water from the cold case. I finished paying for my drink and began walking to the other side of the counter. Everything inside me said, “Say something you idiot! Tell her that she’s going to die! Tell her what she’s doing isn’t worth it!!! TELL HER!!!” (I feel rather certain that she’s heard that before.)

The young man behind the register said, “Miss. Miss! You’re $2.20 short.”
“What?” she replied. As if not to understand.
“You’re short. You owe two more dollars and twenty cents.” He said.
She began scrounging and asking if she could put something back.

“I will pay the difference.” I said.
It just came out! What was I to do?
It was the only way I could reach out to her in a way that made sense.
It was the only way to show this stranger the love she so desperately longed for.
(I don’t tell you this so you’ll think I’m wonderful. I was a thief for much of my younger years, stealing things that I can never repay. This was a small penance for years of wrongdoing.)

Her reactions were slow. I honestly don’t know how she was holding herself up.
Her head had to be difficult to support as it was disproportionately large in comparison to her starved body. She could not have weighed more than 80 lbs. and looked to be about 5’6.

As we both turned from the counter our eyes met. “Thank you ma’am. That is very kind of you.” She said in almost a whisper.
There was so much I wanted to say. Knowing it wouldn’t matter and that she couldn’t receive it, I smiled and said, “You are so welcome.” I held her stare.
Her eyes had no light. It was like staring into a dark abyss. The life that was once there had long since departed. She was dying a slow, self-inflicted death.

We walked separate ways and I said a quick prayer. “God…I don’t know her story, or even her name, but you do. You are all-knowing. If by some chance she felt hope in the few moments we shared, please multiply it and speak truth into her weary soul. Please surround her with people who seek to understand and promote healing rather than judgement and shame. Thank you for allowing me to escape the same fate….thank you for saving me from myself again and again. Thank you…

Maybe you know someone who is starving themselves or eating themselves to death or are somewhere in-between. Maybe that person is you? It’s hard isn’t it? It feels as if there is nothing you can do. This is not the part where I tell you to “just pray about it.” It doesn’t feel like enough, does it?

My prayers during the tumultuous years in the prime of my self-destruction mainly consisted of phrases like, “God please help me. Please, please, help me.” “God, if you’re out there, show me what I mean to you. Show me that I’m not worthless and damaged.” Truth is, I didn’t know how to live life. I almost lost everything because of it. Until I learned the importance of speaking truth into my own heart and mind, my behavior would could not change.

Sometimes all people need is kindness. Sometimes a smile will do. Other times it’s $2.20 while expecting nothing in return. We must be the change. We must. Saying the right words isn’t enough and most of the time what we think are the right words, aren’t “right” at all.

Want to make an eternal difference? Take notice of the unnoticeable and spread hope.

If you want to read an incredible story about healing and hope or want more information about eating disorders from someone who survived, visit my friend Emily Wierenga at her personal site and her blog Chasing Silhouettes.

Related Posts:
It’s time to step off the Scale
Ransomed
Wrestling demons
Does this make me look fat?
One Word: Enough
Anyone…anyone
Pardon me while I compare my insides to your outsides
Just like that, a Mother is born
I’m a hypocrite

I’m a hypocrite

Some days… when standing before my reflection stripped of everything… motives, guilt, expectations, past images, I can honestly look at my body and speak the words of Psalm 139 with great certainty.

There are other days when I stand before the mirror and wonder whose body I’m trapped in and when the merger occurred. I look at my curves as too curvy. My hair appears dull. My laugh lines are deep and obvious. My image is distorted.

These are the times when the Father whispers my name, Chosen one. Beloved daughter. I have called you by name. You are mine.

I used to have such a hard time with the phrase, “Beauty is on the inside.” I felt like everyone I heard say it was unattractive and used it to self-soothe. (Mean and judgmental, I know.) Interesting how perspective changes when inner beauty is realized in others and strived for in oneself. It is much more difficult to acquire, maintain and increase than outward beauty. It is the great reminder that this “shell” is temporary. Appearance is fleeting. What’s on the inside will indeed show through…eventually.

I have found it fascinating how the inside begins seeping through the eyes and the smile. The mannerisms and responses. The posture and tone. I know several women over the age of 55 who have a rare beauty that a 20-year-old doesn’t even know to wish for and certainly could not understand. My perception of beauty now differs greatly from when I was 20 or even 26. I don’t think it can adequately be defined. It’s like trying to wrap ones mind around “forever.” It simply cannot be done.

Truth be told, twelve years of abuse to one’s body doesn’t just go away. I know that eating disorders in general are a phenomenon to many. For those of us walking through it, it could not be more real. Some days I wonder if I will ever have a healthy relationship with food. I wonder when I will stop wanting to bend over and vomit every time something passes my lips. I wonder when I will stop trying to force my curves into straight leg jeans. I don’t know?

What I do know is that when I stand up in front of your daughters and mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives and friends and tell them that God made them with a purpose in mind and we should embrace the body he has created for us, I better be living what I’m speaking.

Some days I do. There are days when I have too much confidence. Those who know me well would attest to that. On the days when I’m not appreciating my laugh lines, the curve of my hips or the scar on my belly (that provided a safe delivery for our son) I remember the verse that I have given out to so many women and girls. “I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!” Psalm 139:14

I am not the crease in my brow or the lines encompassing my eyes. I am not the stomach lacking definition or the thighs that will never fit into a size 4 again. I am not the arms that hide from sleeveless shirts or the boobs chest that is, at times, less than manageable. I am not the chin that is no longer well-defined or the insipid, brown hair on my head. The fact that more things jiggle when I walk than I would like, does not decrease my value or deflect me from my purpose. All of these things make up my physique, but they no longer define me.

I am a child of God. Made in his image. Created with great purpose and craftsmanship. I am his masterpiece. Dearly beloved. Beautiful in his sight. Purchased with his blood. Worth dying for.

And darling, so are you.

 

What does Hope look like?

I am so excited to be sharing this story with my readers. It is one that has been on my heart since I first discovered it.

Many of you have heard of Sole Hope. For those of you who haven’t, I would like to introduce them to you today.

This is not a ploy to get your money. It is a conversation starter to make you aware of what is happening, maybe not in our country, but in our world. It is to shed light on something happening to little ones who cannot help themselves. It is in hopes that you will tell others and share what Hope looks like in the form of human beings dedicating their lives to eradicate a seemingly insurmountable problem.
The following video contains graphic images that may be disturbing to some. Please use discretion when viewing and allowing young children to view.

The first time I saw this video it made me want to know more. I had never even heard of jiggers. I read everything I could on the Sole Hope website and blog. I have to be completely honest, I became physically sick while reading and watching what these children are enduring day in and day out because they lack something that I often always take for granted. Shoes.

Asher, as a wife and mother of two (with a third on the way), decided she couldn’t wait for “someone else” to step in. She had to take action. That is how Sole Hope was born. One woman who had a choice either to ignore what she had seen or follow a calling to be a world changer.

I know for me personally, I don’t realize what my feet, or any part of my body for that matter, does until I can’t use it. Many of the children with jiggers in their feet are completely immobilized and confined to their home. Many don’t have parents or caregivers. Many will die.

This is a precious one whose foot is infested with jiggers. Gross right?! I beg you not to look away. This is about the size of one of my children’s feet. If this was my child, it never would have gotten to this point. I would have taken him to the pediatrician long before it was this bad. They do not have that option.

Now rewind. What if this child was wearing shoes. Not the latest athletic shoe, just enough of a shoe to act as a barrier between them and this parasite? What if this preventable affliction was expunged completely? What if you were part of that? What if you didn’t dismiss it with the thought, “Someone else will do it.” or “I already have my charities mapped out for the year.” Please hear me when I say that this is about so much more than money.

Of course they need financial support, but there are also many other ways that you can step in and make a difference in a huge way.

One way is by being a Sole Hope Ambassador in your area. Sole Hope Ambassadors are people who are pumped about Sole Hope and want to help spread awareness in their own community. This is a volunteer opportunity with perks. If you are interested and want more information click here.

Another way is by featuring these adorable shoes in your store, online, or by purchasing them for the favorite little ones in your life. When people ask you what they are (and they will), be ready to tell them.

You can also host a shoe cutting party. For more information, email Info@solehope.com or call 855.516.4673.

I know this is a lot of information. In an effort to allow you time to process what you have read and seen, we will continue the discussion tomorrow with a Q&A from myself, Asher and Drü. I asked the questions I most wanted to know and thought that you too would want to know. Questions like, “What sets you a part from every other organization with a heart for Africa?

Make sure you come back tomorrow for the rest of the story and a downloadable PDF with useful information.

“These feet are waiting for me…and that keeps me moving on the days when I feel tired and don’t want to do much.” ~ Asher

*all media was taken from the Sole Hope Facebook page. Go check it out. And while you’re there, click the “Like” button.
Follow them on Twitter

Oh my soul

Today started out like any other.
Get up.
Make coffee.
Eat breakfast.
Wake the boys.
Make lunches.
Go back upstairs to get the boys up.
Pack their backpacks.
Yell from downstairs for the boys to come eat or go to school hungry.
Go back upstairs.
Get dressed.
Go back downstairs to ensure the boys are eating and hurry them along getting dressed.
Get on our way to school and work (after a few other steps).

And then…out of nowhere….there she is…filling my thoughts.
The clouds in the sky, the sun hitting the early morning pavement. All of it reminds me of my friend who passed away only a few short months ago.

I think of Wyatt, her son, on his first day of school. He’s in 1st grade…just like my son. His daddy packed a picture of his mom in his backpack to show his friends. He looks just like her.

I smile at the picture of Bradford as she holds her teacher’s hand on her first day of preschool. She’s so beautiful in her blue dress with her blond hair pulled back and backpack on one shoulder.

I want to scream and cry and pound my fists on the ground. When I think of how badly she wanted these precious children and how she went to any lengths to give them life, I want to vomit at my hypocrisy and how nonchalantly I became pregnant even when I didn’t want to be (or so I thought). All that I took for granted and still do. All of it is put into perspective when I think about her.

Elliot passed away on a Monday in May and ever since then I have carried around letters for Wyatt and Bradford. Letters that I intend to send everyday, but never do. Letters that talk about the beautiful person that their mother is and how she not only showed love, but also lived it. Letters that make me weep just thinking about little hands opening them up to read.

Today…I’m not okay. I feel all knotted up inside.
Today, my heart breaks for a young husband aching for his wife and two beautiful children with only memories of their mother.
Today, the world is cold, and its demands relentless.
Today, the sun is hidden by the clouds and I want to close the blinds and stay inside.

I miss my friend and all of the time we didn’t have because of all the time I thought we had.

Posts written while walking through Elliot’s journey:
Girl of little faith…Why do you doubt?
When Cancer is no longer a Stranger
When the monster returns, Thy will be done
A Father’s Love
In the midst of the storm
A Tribute to Elliot
Saying Goodbye
21 Days Later
Finding God on the Farm
Five Minute Friday: Beyond
No more pain
Memorial Fund