Tea bud and leaves

Green is…

I’m feeling better. Several hours after writing my last post, I lay down on my living room floor, looked over at my cat, Romey, and asked, “What is my deal? Why am I so full of angst?” I closed my eyes and prayed, “God, help me understand.”

Clear as day a memory flooded my mind from late November 2014–it was week three of my anorexia rehab. I was at my friend Jen’s art studio painting a canvas for a creative non-fiction piece I had written for my friend Kelcey called “Green Is.” I was so nervous; I was afraid of painting something wrong–mixing the colors wrong, making the lines wrong, making a complete mess of the vision that was in my head. The piece was supposed to be green and gold with the writing placed in the middle of the canvas.

As Jen guided me through the process, it didn’t take long to see why God had led me to the studio. Among other things, this session was a lesson in patience.  As I had finished applying the paint to the canvas, I was pleased with what I saw. “Great! All done,” I said. Jen grinned. “Art is never done in one application. You have to go back and fill in all the thin spots.” She held my canvas up to the window and streams of light filtered through my green and gold landscape.

I huffed.

“It takes patience.” Jen said.

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Here I was again, lying impatiently on my living room floor praying to God to help me understand why my eating disorder was triggered. I thought I was better. I’d done the hard work and even went back and uprooted my childhood with my dad. We were healing. What’s the deal, man?

Patience, dear one. I’m not done yet. Don’t let go of Me. 

Then I had the strong urge to revisit the Bible verse that had helped me compose the piece:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Reading it, taking it in, has brought me peace. There are things about my journey I can’t see and don’t understand. It’s going to take patience on my part when I am feeling frustrations of my mental illness.  Despite the mundane-ness, my leaves are still green and I am still bearing fruit… progress is happening and I am being made new.

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“Green Is” is what I call a “color profile” of my friend Kelcey. I write color profiles about people I love, combining the psychological and Biblical meanings of a color with what I know to be true of the person about whom I am writing:

Natural and raw and unmasked, green hides nothing and exposes a balance of the heart. Green is shades of jade, not of judgment and querimonious brood but of life, compassion, and mercy. Abundant in strength and zeal, green constantly flourishes in growth; it boasts endless seasons of spiritual and emotional generosity and spreads a wealth of renewal for withering meadows.  It is the healing Chroma not easily faded, for its peaceful vibrancy remains bold against grey.  Green does not burn in firestorms, rather it braves that which threatens to destroy life and draws upon the waters of faith rooted in the depths of the heart. Green bestows and honors organic love.

Soft are the hues of this lush color in times of revival, planting tender seeds of security and peace, and promising vitality for those who rest upon the nurturing stem of the emerald spirit. Green is a canopy under which lies introspective energy and safety; a refreshing refuge for the weary and fearful.  Verdant harmonies, cast from the warmth of optimism and the coolness of insight, produce the richest of hope for mournful souls. Green is the purest giver of gentle spiritedness among an earthly grove of living treasures.

Purple Is

Cyan Is

Orange Is

Gray Is

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The Mundane-ness of Mental Illness

I’m annoyed with my mental illness. I’ve been trucking along in anorexia recovery for about a year and a half now. I’ve worked really hard to get better, re-feeding my body, re-learning how to listen to and oblige my body cues for food, rest, and movement, digging under the thick layers of pain and distorted beliefs to root out the truth, and traversing through an emotional healing journey with my dad.  I’m better, and sometimes I even feel like I am all better.

Until a random trigger crops up out of no where and rolls around my brain like a pebble in my shoe. I don’t know where the pebble came from, and when I try to shake out the pebble to get on with my life, I realize the damn thing is still in my shoe.

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My mom graduated from Linfield College this past Sunday. It was a challenging and exhilarating six-year feat that my mom conquered with graceful (and coffee-fueled) perseverance. We took lots of pictures, one of which was this sweet shot of my brother, Carl, my  mom, dad, and me:

 

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I love this picture. I hate this picture. The joy and pride and love we have as a family and for my mom is real. Genuine. My heart is happy and warm when I look at this photo as a whole portrait.

But my brain, which has wonky wiring that I’m working hard to reprogram, is spewing all sorts of terrible lies about how I look in this picture. It has triggered up the volume on my eating disorder voice.

You need to know that I hate writing about this and didn’t want to because I am feeling a lot of shame for feeling how I feel. But in an effort to help you (and me) understand the eating disorder, I need to unpack this fresh, real-life moment inside the illness. Because I thought I was better. And I am, but I still have this pebble rolling around in my life called anorexia.

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The eating disorder tells me that in this picture:

  • I look fat and mis-shapen
  • I haven’t been paying attention to my eating
  • I can’t trust my body to intuitive eating
  • I am a fraud with all this intuitive eating shit
  • This body happened without my knowing, without my control
  • I need to lose weight

Shame is telling me:

  • I’m selfish for focusing on myself when it’s my mom’s big day
  • No one wants to hear about my disorder because it’s boring and getting mundane
  • I have become complacent in my recovery
  • Why can’t I just be better already?
  • It’s ridiculous to let an innocent picture trigger me into a tailspin

I spent Sunday fighting the urge to restrict and battling the voice that told me I was weak when I did eat. Monday I tried to work out my anxiety through yoga and running… swearing I wasn’t running to work out my body but to work out my angst and find my healthy voice. I was able to grasp on to enough positive truth to propel me through a good date-day with my husband, who, by the way, was at a loss as to how to help me. He thought I was fine too; this trigger sent us both flailing.

Thankfully I had therapy yesterday, and while my coping strategy with yoga and running worked okay temporarily, my therapist helped me see how the eating disorder manipulated running into a “healthy” choice when my actual healthy self had already questioned the choice as a healthy solution.

“I wonder,” said Tamara, “how things might have been different if instead of running or doing yoga to get rid of the ‘yuck’ you were feeling, you would have… what?”

“Sat in it,” I filled in the blank.

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Sometimes in my illness I try to run away from it. Literally, I guess. When I feel bad, I don’t want to feel bad so I do things to distract or feel better… like running and yoga and cleaning and organizing and even cooking. It’s me trying to “shake out the pebble”– to shake off the shame and shake out the eating disorder. Please understand these activities are perfectly fine when I do them from a healthy space. But when doing them in response to trigger, none of these activities are helpful and can just feed my disorder.

It isn’t until I sit down, still, and let myself feel–usually in prayer–that I uncover what is really going on–why the trigger was such a trigger. I have to take the pebble out with my hands, examine it, figure out where it came from, and decide what to do with it. The process is hard, and after a year and a half of being in recovery… doing this so. many. times., sitting in my feelings feels mundane and annoying because I think I should be all better now. I am better. And what I am going through right now is also normal in recovery. I’m not sick but I’m also not all better. There is no clear box for me to stand in, and I suppose that’s also annoying since I like things organized in their own little boxes.

I don’t have a neat ending to this post. I haven’t yet sat still. I’m fidgety and anxious today, struggling to keep in touch with my body cues. I haven’t approached God yet, and I don’t know why. I usually run to Him first, but I think I am afraid. My brain tells me God is going to tell me I am selfish and self-centered or that I have done something wrong. This trigger is my fault. My heart knows these are lies, but the illness makes me uncertain, and the illness is really loud right now.

 

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Anorexia Recovery: How food changed for my kids

The best intuitive eaters on the planet are kids. My job as a mom is to protect my children’s innate ability to feed themselves well. I wasn’t very good at this until the last year and a half while going through eating disorder recovery. It turns out that anorexia not only affected me, but also my children because I was super controlling of their food and portions. I watched their sugar, fat, and carb intakes; was hyper aware of fruit and veggie consumption; had strict rules about treats; managed snacks; and controlled how much/little food went on to their plates.

That was a lot of work, and really, in the scheme of culture totally normal for a parent wanting their kids to eat healthy. However, it caused stress at meal times. My kids weren’t good eaters–picky, whiny, and adverse to trying new things; everyone seemed hungry all the time;

When I went into eating disorder recovery, I had to relearn how to feed my family and reteach my kids what it really means to eat well. We follow the Ellen Satter Institute principles, which center on getting kids back to their intuitive ability to eat. Do kids need structure? Yes. Do they need to be hyper controlled? No. The nutshell of how this works:

~ Parents choose what and when kids eat

~ Kids choose if and how much/little they’ll eat.

As a mom I had to learn how to:

  1. Give my kids lots of choices of all the nutrients (including sugar, fat and carbs)
  2. Pull back on controlling what my kids put on their plates
  3. Teach my kids how to tune in with their bodies

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What this looks like in our house

We have zero food rules. All nutrients are treated equal, which means ice cream, cookies, and treats have equal value as fruit, veggies, and whole grains. When we don’t put food on a pedestal to be earned or treated as the holy grail of all things yummy, the interest and desire to eat the treats becomes more even keel.

There is no such thing as “good” or “bad” food nor “healthy” and “unhealthy.” We have play food and serious food–all of it good and healthy if our bodies are hungry and asking for them.

We have a zero-pressure environment at meal times. All the choices are put on the table  and then we tune in with our bodies. “What sounds good? Maybe start with a little and see how you feel–if you want more, have more. If you don’t like it, that’s okay. Maybe try a different choice on the table.”

No one has to eat everything on their plate. You don’t have to  try anything if you don’t want to; you can try everything if you want to. Decide what sounds good to you and eat that. If a plate of cookies sounds good… go for it. If your body doesn’t feel good later, we’ll talk about it and see if maybe next time we try less cookies in combo with another choice like chicken or fruit. Maybe our body would like that better.

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What mealtimes look like

Breakfast:

Eat whatever sounds good. Sean typically eats toaster waffles w/syrup or peanut butter; sometimes he’ll have an egg too, if he’s in the mood.

Haley usually eats one or more of the following with a bowl of chocolate ice cream on the side:

  • 1/2 peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Leftovers from dinner
  • Bagel and cream cheese
  • Bacon if it’s freshly cooked

Yeah. That’s right. Sometimes her breakfast is a bowl of ice cream with bacon on the side. Crazy? From a cultural perspective, yes. Biologically speaking, though, her body is reading and absorbing fat, calcium, Vitamin D, sugar and protein–all necessary nutrients to get her metabolism and brain up and running in the morning.

Lunch

Both kidlets get an apportioned amount of dollars  per month in their hot-lunch account. Each day they pick what sounds good–either the hot lunch choice, as per the monthly menu hanging in our kitchen, or whatever sounds good for home lunch. Home lunch will range from dinner leftovers to mac and cheese to a bologna sandwich. They make their own lunches with minor assistance from me. Once in a great while, depending on what’s happening, I will make lunch for them and they are over the moon.

Since ditching the food rules, the kids choose home lunch more often than hot lunch (averaging hot lunch about twice per week).

Snacks

We have a snack shelf in our pantry. They pack their home lunches from that shelf and have free access to the shelf whenever their bodies say “I’m hungry.” After school, they do have to have their snack eaten by 4:15 so they have appetites for dinner later.

I try to keep a bowl of “easy fruit” on the table at all times– grapes, cherries, blueberries–which I refresh every couple of days. Sometimes I switch to carrots, olives, cherry tomatoes. The whole family will graze on these as we’re coming and going through out the week.

Every night we have an optional “last snack of the day” between 8 and 9pm. Sometimes this is something as simple as string cheese or something off the snack shelf or it could be  more involved, like a hot dog or quesadilla. It just depends on the activity we had during the evening. No one needs to go to bed hungry, and, in fact, we find we sleep better when our bodies have fuel for the work it does while we sleep.

Dinner

Dinnertime is where intuitive eating really takes charge. Lots of choices and no pressure. Here’s a visual of what last week’s dinners looked like:

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Monday: Pizza Chicken; arugula salad with the toppings (mandarin oranges, strawberries) separate in case someone wanted fruit but no lettuce; whipped cream (for the strawberries if you want); Go-gurt, Jello, and chocolate pudding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday: My husband cooked Steak & Veggie Kabobs; rice; arugula salad with tomatoes; sliced strawberries. Not much else for choices that night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday: Broccoli Chicken; rice; baked beans, leftover popcorn from snack time; applesauce; cheese and crackers. This night was a total jackpot on the choices! Haley sampled a little of everything; Sean loaded up on cheese and crackers, baked beans, and a little broccoli chicken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thursday: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup; grilled cheese sandwiches; grapes; cherries; pickles. There was also ice cream, but I kept that in the freezer with expressed permission to grab some if desired. Sean’s baseball game had been cancelled due to rain, so we had a rare night at home! I took full advantage of the time by making something a little more time consuming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday: Sloppy Joes; ABC Salad (arugula, bacon, and cheddar cheese); grapes ‘n’ strawberry salad; Spongebob Squarepants fruit snacks; Chips Ahoy. Need I say more here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday: Pizza night! Forgot to take a picture.

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Sunday: Spaghetti Mac w/cheese; chocolate pudding; Jello; grapes and cherries; Go-gurt. I was running low on groceries that day and kind of made up the pasta dish. It was essentially elbow macaroni with meat sauce and shredded cheddar.

It took several months to find a new rhythm and sometimes we run into hiccups if our routine is thrown off, but removing the rigidity and rules (yet still keeping structure) has changed my kids for the better! They eat a variety of foods, including trying more new things; meal times are fun and relaxed; there’s no more begging for treats and snacks; they’re learning how to listen and respond to their own bodies. Now that they’ve reconnected to their intuition, food is fun, nourishing, and enjoyable as it was meant to be!

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No Longer Divided: Loving the LGBTQ Community

I grew up believing it wasn’t okay to be homosexual or bisexual. I had no idea what transgender was until a few years ago. I confess I am still learning the intricacies of what “being trans” really means. I assumed, though, that transgender probably wasn’t okay either, according to the Christian doctrine in which I was raised.

A few years ago I noticed what I had learned in my Christian faith wasn’t matching the feelings in my heart. I was hearing that living as LGBTQ is against God’s will and truth, but I was feeling God’s grace, mercy, and love is applicable to everyone. I’ve sat back for several years now, watching, listening, reading, praying, trying to sort out the confusion within myself. I’ve kept quiet on the matter believing that adding my voice to such a divisive subject only helped widen the chasm between the two sides– it’s right, it’s wrong. It’s sin, it’s not sin. They deserve, they don’t deserve. I’ve seen the Bible verses and analyses for both sides of the topic. I’ve also learned in my own life nothing about God or His word is as clear cut as it appears.

I’ve tried on “hate the sin, love the sinner.” While it seemed to make sense on the surface, it didn’t fit my heart either. To hate a sin means I have to judge something as sinful. It is not my place to judge something as sinful let alone rally around my hate of it, because I am sinful all the damn time. To hate someone else’s sin makes me a judgmental hypocrite. This quote also asks me to put conditions on my love. “I love you, BUT…”  I can’t love that way; I don’t want to be loved that way.

So, I did what I always do when I am confused. I turn to Jesus. What does He have to say to me about the issue: “A new command I give you, love one another as I have loved you.”

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When I look at Jesus, he never threw anyone’s sin in their face. He loved people–radically–despite their sins. He healed them. He talked to them. He ate with them. He stood up for them. He never shamed or condemned people for their sin. Jesus didn’t avoid or withhold respect from people who were seen as immoral or distasteful. He totally disregarded the lines of discrimination and segregation, going out of his way to be in the presence of and love folks who were seen as living “ungodly.” If being LGBTQ is sinful or a religious abhorrence, I Walk to the crosswould never know it by watching Jesus.

Secondly, I don’t need to wrestle with the question of whether being LGBTQ is sinful because it doesn’t actually matter. It’s not my job to decide if other people are sinning or how they are sinning.  The command is to love the same way He did. That’s it. No conditions.

I don’t yet fully understand what being LGBTQ means and what the culture looks like for different gender identities. I am in process of learning. But the Jesus kind of love doesn’t require me to understand. Radical love means I accept, honor, respect, protect, and support people even though something about their lives jolts my brain in a different way. While my brain might be challenged my heart isn’t.

My heart hurts when I see the suicide rates for transgender teens; hear stories of families kicking a child out of the home because of his/her sexual orientation; sense cold tension between mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, brothers and sisters because of gender conflict. My heart breaks when I hear of churches who either won’t welcome or welcome-with-conditions people of the LGBTQ community. Putting conditions on someone’s welcome into a church is a side door to discrimination. Partial acceptance is 100% hurtful to anyone, including Jesus, searching for a fully embraced relationship.

I believe every person has a right to live proudly, safely, and equally with dignity as who they identify to be. That’s just good humanity. As a Jesus follower, I get to offer a special kind of love in addition to all that. I see my faith as pathway to loving LGBTQ lives, not an inhibitor.

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For me as a Christian, to tell someone it’s wrong to be LGBTQ and/or to hatefully chastise them for living what’s normal for them would be no worse than someone telling me it’s wrong to identify myself as a daughter of God and/or to hate on me when I pray to or write about God.  I love my LGBTQ brothers and sisters and fully support them in who they are because God does. I believe He loves them and holds them close. I believe He is grieved by the hate, discrimination, and rejection they face in our world, especially by the church. LGBTQ folks are adopted and adored children of God just as I am. Their desires are the same: to be in relationship and to find happiness. There is no greater happiness than feeling the full embrace of radical love.

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My friend sent me two links to insightful, enlightening, and articulate perspectives from transgender young people, one male (Liam Posovich) and one female (Nicole Maines). I encourage you to listen with an open mind and really hear what they’re saying. My heart was absolutely moved.

Maines:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nicole-maines-tedx_us_57360103e4b060aa781a22a3

Posovich:

 

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Have scale, will destroy

One of the symptoms of an eating disorder, or even disordered habits, is an obsession with the bathroom scale.

Almost like a drug, I craved weighing myself everyday, multiple times a day. I would weigh myself in the buff, first thing in the morning; I would weigh again in the middle of the day (often to my horror weighing more because of gravity and wearing clothing); sometimes I would weigh myself at night to confirm whether or not I had restricted enough. If my weight was up, then I made a firm decision to exercise and restrict calories even more the next day.

I had to weigh myself. I had to make sure I was keeping in control. That my weight was either staying the same or dropping lower. If I couldn’t weigh myself, I would wring my hands with anxiety, swearing up and down that I was gaining weight by the minute, until I could step on the scale again. It was only when I saw the numbers that I could quasi-relax. Even if the number was up, I knew what I could do to control the number back to where I wanted it.

Right before I went into anorexia recovery, my husband removed my scale from the house. I was pissed. I went through anxious withdrawals, tears, cravings, and a lot of anger. It was two months before my anxiety about weighing myself began to fade. In recovery, my therapy team took “blind weight” measurement (they saw the number, I didn’t) to track my progress away from death and back into healthy range. Once I was out of danger, they stopped weighing me.

It’s been nearly two years since I’ve seen my weight, and I don’t plan on ever knowing how much I weigh. My doctor knows, and she is the only person who needs to know.

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AnneRecently my friend Anne and I had a long conversation about body image, weight, Weight Watchers, food struggles, and scales. At the mention of getting rid of my scale, Anne immediately declared she could never get rid of hers. As we dug deeper into the conversation, her anxiety about not being able to track her weight revealed a lack of trust in her own body–a fear that if she couldn’t weigh herself then surely her body would would creep up in pounds.

Anne’s fear mirrored my own past fears. It’s a fear our culture struggles with as a whole: if we don’t keep track of our weight, then we’ll get fat and that is bad. Shameful. Unhealthy. Terrible.

Thing is, the scale doesn’t make us fat or keep us thin. It’s simply a combination of metal and plastic and glass and numbers. The scale has no real power, but we tend to give it the power to destroy our body trust, sense of beauty, and self-confidence.  We hear all the time, “the number on the scale doesn’t define you.” Yet we cling to the scale, allowing our feelings and belief in ourselves go up and down with the numbers.

No one needs a scale. If you have a health condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, that depends on you maintaining certain body weight, I have three points:

  1. Your doctor can weigh you.
  2. You can measure blood pressure and blood sugar without a scale.
  3. Your body talks to you. You don’t need a scale to tell you that you don’t feel good or that you feel amazing. The way your clothes fit will let you know whether or not your body shape is changing. You don’t need a scale to tell you that your pants don’t fit or that your shirt looks fabulous.

You can trust your body, friend.

Scale smash 2Anne and I didn’t want the scale to have power over our bodies or minds anymore. So we destroyed our scales. (Turned out my husband had hidden our scale in the deep recesses of our garage, so thankfully I had one to smash to smithereens!)  Anne and I reclaimed power, confidence, beauty, and trust back within our selves by turning the rubble of metal, glass and plastic into art.

It was an empowering, freeing, and cathartic morning. I Scale Smash 1highly recommend that everyone do it! People have been smashing their scales around the country in an effort to raise awareness about eating disorders and negative body image for a while. In fact, check out this story behind the Southern Smash, which is a non-profit organization annual event.

 

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Mine is on the left; Anne’s is on the right. Our scales are unrecognizable. Glass, wires, and gizmos from the scales turned into colorful and meaningful messages from within ourselves–something far more valuable than a scale could ever express.