Thursday, August 7, 2014


I'm losing my hair.
A big fistful every time I wash it, and a bunch more in between.
It's been happening for a while, but I wasn't ready to admit that it was one of my symptoms... or maybe I just wasn't sure. But I'm sure now-- and at this rate, even though I have (thankfully) a lot to lose, it's not going to take very long before it's gone.

And I am also sure that I will be just fine if I lose my hair-- that I will probably end up a stronger, deeper, more centered person. I'm sure that you, my friends, will still love me, with or without hair. And I'm sure that this mysterious, undiagnosed illness is going to pay severely, because now it's personal.

This is the part of the movie where the character clicks into hero mode. This is the training-for-the-fight-scene climactic montage, with the uplifting soundtrack blaring Eye of the Tiger. Watch out, I'm a lot tougher than I look. Here comes an epic battle.

...At least that's what I tell myself, lying in bed. It's what I tell myself standing on the bath mat, wrapped in a towel, looking down at another clump of my hair in my hands. The truth is that I haven't brushed my hair in days, in the hopes that I can keep it attached to my head as long as possible.

Honestly, I'm scared. Losing my hair doesn't actually make me any more sick or less capable than I already have been for the last eight months-- but it some how makes it all feel so much more real, so much more serious. I've kept this idea in the back of my head that one of these days I will wander into the right doctor's office and I will get a diagnosis and a cure, and bam: within a few weeks, I'll be better. But maybe not.

As much as I would love for there to be a "fight scene" in this story-- a moment where it all gets serious and I buckle down and kick this thing, there is no way to fight when I don't know what I'm fighting. And I don't think I am supposed to be fighting right now, anyway.

Over the summer, Nolan has been taking swim lessons. It always cracks me up when the instructor has him try to float on his back-- his shoulders pinned to this ears, his face all scrunched up in concentration, every muscle in his body tense, trying to float.

But floating doesn't work that way. The funny thing is that as relaxing and peaceful as floating in water sounds, it's actually a lot of work, and it's completely counter-intuitive. If you just go limp, you sink. If you stiffen up too much, you sink. There's kind of an art to it, and it's really hard to explain to someone, but after a while, the instructor starts to let go little by little, and you hold your torso up, relax your limbs, and just... float.

There have been many times lately where I have been laying in bed resting, thinking about what it will be like to lose all my hair, what it would be like to be sick like this for the rest of my life, what it would be like if that was just the beginning, and I continued to get worse... The longer I lay there, the more these thoughts creep into my muscles, into my jaws, into my shoulders, until I start to sink. Every couple of minutes I catch myself, shake it off, release the tension that has gathered in my body and in my mind and try to lift myself up again. "The Lord is my shepherd..." I begin to recite as I take deep breaths and settle in again to the truth that I am not alone.

I don't have a lot of deep, insightful spiritual moments lately. For the most part, when I feel well enough, I am up trying to spend time with my kiddos or catch up on some important thing (like eating) that I have missed; and when I'm not well, my eyes and mind are too foggy to really focus on much. But recently I have had this quiet sense that my Creator is with me, and that He is very good. Simple as that. No promises that it will be alright, no understanding of what to do next-- just the knowledge that He is here.

As simple as it sounds, it takes work. It takes work to let go of the thoughts and fears of what-if, or the worries of all the things that are suspended in mid-air, left undone and neglected.  There is a conscious effort in remembering the moments when God was there throughout the day-- when Jack buried his face in my neck and rested on my shoulder, arms burrowed in, or I caught Chris' eye and saw that he was with me. Releasing the things that cause me to sink, and centering myself on that sense of Presence.

 I confess that I had a good cry this morning after showering and throwing away another frighteningly large handful of hair. And it felt good and honest to cry it out a bit-- to just be scared and to admit it. And there were times today when I was so exhausted and irritable, my legs buckling under me and my mind unable to focus, that I indulged myself in some mopey, martyred thoughts. But then, once I finally stopped and unclenched my jaw and released my shoulders, I found equilibrium again. He was there, and I was alive, full of life, floating.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Rest Can Go Undone

Pounds. Gallons. Miles per Gallon. Miles per Hour. Hours...
 We have ways of measuring things as intangible as wind, speed, and time, but how does one go about scientifically measuring love? Until recently I would have told you that there is no accurate measurement, but now I know that there is: Tupperware.

I know this because I have had about 9 billion units of this measurable form of love pass through my kitchen over the last few months.

I've been sick-- on-and-off since the Fall, but really noticeably unable-to-function sick since about February. We don't know why. After countless doctor's offices and blood tests, we still don't really have any leads.

I'm weak:
  • my immune system: I had a cold that landed me in the E.R. and left me in bed for 3wks
  • my muscles, which buckle under me constantly and leave me unable to pick up my baby or sometimes even stand
  • my stamina: I spend about half of the day in bed and can't leave the house for more than an hour or two without really paying for it later
  • my mind: I am often so dizzy I can't drive, and my mind is usually in a fog that makes me frighteningly (often comically!) forgetful
But one thing I have in abundance is love: love in the form of meals delivered by friends (sometimes even strangers!!); love from friends, family and students who care for our kiddos when I cannot; love in the form of prayers, emails, texts, cards, folded laundry, cleaned bathrooms, grocery store runs, mini-van chauffeur services... The list goes on and on.

It has been an interesting season, learning to receive so much from others, learning how to ask for help, learning how to be still and do nothing. I have not been the most graceful learner, but I am learning nonetheless.

What a strange thing it is to feel so loved and so lonely at the same time. Most weeks, the only time I leave the house is to go to the doctor. There are times when friends come by to help or to bring dinner, and I have to stay in bed while Chris graciously receives and thanks them. Other times I push through my symptoms and have the joy (oh the joy!!) of being around friends, around our students, out in nature. I pay for it later-- sometimes for weeks-- but it is so worth it to be with you, to feel like myself.

There has been such a mixture of gratitude and frustration. Stillness, silence and solitude are things I ached for six months ago, but a doer and a planner like myself can go crazy pretty quickly lying in a dark, low-ceilinged in-law bedroom in the garage while listening to life go on upstairs without her. But then the gratitude--
  • for friends who drive all the way across town to bring a meal (whether it's mac and cheese from a box or made-from-scratch ramen)
  • for amazing health care and brilliant doctors
  • for family members who drop everything and drive hundreds of miles (or even fly across the country!) to "sleep" in the same room as my teething baby
  • for a husband who graciously takes on my job, cares for our kids, drives me to doctors appointments, and drops everything when I need him (seriously, I can't say enough about how incredible he has been)
  • for a job that allows me to focus on my health, rather than demands performance
  • for a backyard that allows me to get my vitamin D and play with my kids while I'm still in my PJ's
  • for millions and millions of other little things like strangers who pray for me regularly, or Curious George, who entertains my toddler for hours while I nap, or Amazon that brings shampoo to my doorstep so I don't have to leave the house :)
And I am thankful that this doesn't seem to be anything life-threatening. Every time I get a negative test result back, I am disappointed that we still don't know what's wrong, but so grateful that it isn't all the awful things I have been tested for. My organs seem to be working, my blood work looks pretty good, I am not in any pain, and my hair has never looked better ;) There are people in this world who are truly sick, truly suffering, and I am so, so grateful for all that I have.

So I wait here in the tension-- being so grateful and so very tired of feeling this way; feeling loved and extremely lonely; learning to receive and learning to be without doing; learning that there are a few things in life-- putting my kids to bed, holding them when they cry, lying next to my husband late at night-- that no one else can really do. The rest can go undone. The house can be a mess, the laundry can stay unfolded, dinner can be delivered, makeup can be left undone, even ministry can go on without me. And through it all, I am still loved-- overwhelmingly loved, just as I am. Without any of the performing, earning or striving that feels so necessary.
It's enough to bring tears to my eyes. Maybe it already has...

Thank You, my friends, my family, my loved ones. Thank You...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

An Experiment

Nazis. Spiders. Public speaking. The season finale of Downton Abbey…
The list of things that are universally hated by the general public could go on and on.

But there is one thing that I am discovering is at the top of the list for many women (maybe men too, but never having been a man, I can't say for sure). It's one of those dark, hidden, often subconscious (or at least rarely spoken of) hatreds that seem to span generations, social classes, and ethnicity. It's one of those things that we are expected to think ill of, speak poorly of, be dissatisfied with. In fact, I have never, to my knowledge, met a woman who could honestly say that she loved this enemy of the female sex.

Our bodies.

Having grown up in Orange County, daughter to a woman who actually taught aerobics at Jane Fonda's studio in Hollywood (In the 80's. With leg warmers. Seriously, it didn't get any cooler than that), grand-daughter to Miss Guatemala (no, I'm not kidding), I'd say I'm prone to worrying about my image-- specifically my body. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it plagues me, haunts me. Constantly.

I didn't have a name for it until I watched a video clip on the media's impact on women in our society. It spoke of the shame and guilt that most women feel over their bodies when they compare themselves to the photoshopped, half-starved images in the media. I had never really thought of my dark, often subconscious thoughts and feeling about my body as being shame, but I realized that's exactly it: I feel ashamed of how I look, ashamed my shape, ashamed of my habits, ashamed of the way that my clothes fit… of so many little things throughout the day involving my body.

A few conversations I have had recently showed me that I am not alone. Beautiful, confident, successful women confessing that they too feel hopelessly trapped in the guilt, shame, and the belief that their worth is unwillingly connected to their reflection in the mirror. And those friends of mine that are mothers to beautiful, innocent little girls were terrified that they would pass along their bondage and false beliefs to their daughters.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I simply do not have to live this way; that it was time to take action. Although it was a simple realization, I knew that the process of finding freedom from the shame, guilt, and hatred I feel towards my own body would take time, intentionality, and honestly an act of God. I mean, what am I up against here: A lifetime of messages, both internal and external, telling me that my very worth and value come from a number on a scale, a size on a label. A constant barrage of images of what and who I should be, how I should look, eat, exercise.

These are not easy things to erase.

Yet, at the same time, they are all a house of cards-- hollow, empty lies keeping me from deeper life, from real, meaningful love, significance, worth, and freedom.

And so I begin my experiment to see if I can truly love my body-- if I can learn to see it as a beautiful creation from an extravagant, loving Creator. This body of mine is not so one-dimensional that its worth can be found in a dress size-- it is full of intricacies, mysteries & complexities that science still cannot explain. In all sincerity, it is an incredible work, and I have the privilege to live in it, care for it, and call it my own.

So here is a fly-over map of my experiment (details to follow), and I would love, love, love for you to join me in any part of it:

  • A New Mindset: Begin changing the way I think about my body by replacing negative thoughts with truth
    • Wake up at least a few minutes earlier every morning to spend time with my Creator everyday, focusing on Him, and not myself
    • Spend 5 minutes every night reflecting on where I saw my Creator at work, and where I could have responded differently to my circumstances
    • Take a break from Pinterest (where I tend to find images & messages that tell me I am not enough as I am)
  • Focus on Health: This is not a diet, this is not a weight-loss plan… but I have been given a wonderful gift in my body, and I want to care for it well
    • Fast from sugar for 30 days to help break unhealthy habits of eating when I don't need to
    • Exercise 5x's a week-- even if it's just for 10 minutes, even if it's a short walk. Some sort of exercise.
    • Finish all the fruits & veggies in our farm box every week
  • Think Less About My Appearance
    • Put away the scale
    • No clothes shopping, browsing, window shopping, wish-listing, etc.
    • Limit myself for one month to a few staple articles of clothing
  • Find the Real Culprit: While I don't need to feel guilt over my body, there is a real crime in the fact that I worry about my weight, while 20,000 children die of starvation every day
    • Spend one month living on half of our usual food budget, sending the extra money to organizations that feed the hungry
    • Spend that month praying everyday as a family for the hungry, and learning about how we can live more responsibly in light of world hunger
  • Share: There is something so very freeing about bringing things to light, to realizing that we are not alone in our fear, insecurities and shame
    • I am going to do my very, very best to blog about my thoughts, progress and experiments every week
    • Start having conversations with others, learning about their struggles, successes, and root issues
    • Invite others into the process, whether it be participating in the experience or simply praying for me & cheering me on
Some of these steps might seem small to you, and maybe they are. I want to be realistic with what I can do as a working mama of two, and while I want to challenge myself, I don't want to set any goals that will fizzle out and lead to more guilt. These are the areas that seemed to be the roots of many of my issues with my body, but it is different for every person. Also, I am going to be taking on these experiments step-by-step, not all at once in order to focus on them and do them well.

I invite you to join in the conversation, and any part of the experiment...

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