Day One: Thankfulness

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Day 1 in Costa Rica

This morning a fat cloud sits on the mountain at eye level as we sit on the porch in the cool of the morning, Colleen drinking coffee and I sipping the precious Diet Coke I managed to liberate from the plane on my flight last On the flight, I watched Genius, the true story of author Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) and his literary editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth). Though the movie was panned by many critics, I thought it did a great job of portraying the exquisite (and sometimes aggravating beyond words) creative dance between authors and their editors.  Granted, most dances (one would hope) aren’t quite so invasive on family life … but then again, genius has its share of big ugly gorillas.

On the drive home, Colleen and I got to talking about her new (second) book, Naked and Unashamed: The Blessing of the Female Body (Franciscan Media). I was her editor for her first book, Who Do He Say You Are? Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels. It is a powerful testimony of the life-changing power of Christ, and of her journey through grief after losing her son Bryce to SIDS and starting (with her husband Greg) the maternity home here.

I was laid off shortly after persuading her to write the second book, and so Colleen and I have been partners in loss. Listening to her describe her experience with the editorial process on the second book, I could feel myself getting angry — a fists clenched, shoulders tight, pit-of-the-stomach smoldering. Finally, I had to choose to let it go. I could not change it … and I knew that somehow God would work this out, too.

It’s been almost eight months since I was laid off at FM and six since rejoining Ave Maria on a part-time, contract basis. Despite the loss of income, I also have to admit that this change has also had its perks. In my old job, for example I could not have taken a month to spend with a friend in this idyllic setting, rocking gently on the front porch and listening to exotic birds as the fog clears from the mountain.

Looking over the valley, I can almost see the top. And I am thankful.

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31 Days to De-Stessed Living, Day 7: Be Thankful

vegetable lasagneWhen was the last time you were thankful for the body God gave you? Now that I’m staring fifty squarely in the path ahead, I can see the wisdom of teen fiction author Melody Carlson, who laments:

Instead of thanking God for my two strong legs that are able to run and jump and climb, I whined about my ‘thunder thighs’ and ‘thick’ ankles. Instead of rejoicing that I have two capable arms that can lift and carry and balance my body, I complained about the flab that hung beneath them.

I have been totally and unbelievably ungrateful for everything. Like a completely spoiled brat, I took my healthy body for granted. I criticized it and despised it. With crystal clarity, I know that I do not deserve the good health that God has mysteriously blessed me with. Not only have I been unappreciative of my body and its amazing working parts, I tortured it by over-exercising, and I put my entire health at serious risk by starving myself.

What on earth was wrong with me? As I watch these kids with their less-than-perfect bodies, I feel so thoroughly ashamed of myself. I mean, how could I have been so stupid and shallow and self-centered?

Melody Carlson in Faded Denim: Color Me Trapped

Okay, so if the truth were known, I tend toward the opposite end of the “starve myself and over-exercise” spectrum. Stress eating and vegging in front of the television at night, when I’m feeling depleted from the day (with a Supersized glass of wine for good measure) is one of my guiltiest pleasures. (Especially when I watch the physically-fit au pair head to the basement for a session with the treadmill.)

So starting today, I choose thankfulness. Thank you, God, for my strong body and active mind. Thank you even for the flab and puckers, the treadmarks of the soul that remind me of the goodness you have poured into my life every single day. Amen.

Photo: “Veggie Lasagna,” which I make for our vegetarian au pair. This year I’ve eaten more vegetables, thanks to her, than in the previous fifty years of my life. Sadly, this does not impress the love handles, who stay firmly entrenched.

Putting It On the Line for Love

line dancingAre you a line dancer? No, me either — not usually. But today I’m gonna “put it on the line for love” for a good friend of mine, and invite you to join me.

Today I got a wonderful note from a dear friend — Friend A — who has had her fair share of heartache this past year. One line in particular warmed me from the inside out, “I admire how you continue to write, putting it all on the line for love.”

Her note was particularly timely, as I’d just gotten off the phone with ANOTHER friend — Friend B — that made me want to beat my head against the desk. We’d had one of “those” conversations, yet again. The problem hasn’t changed, nor has this person’s motivation to do something about the problem, other than auto-flaggilate. Which if you think about it is as painful to do as it is to watch.

“Look,” I finally said to Friend B. “Right now you have a choice. You can’t change ____, and you can’t change ___, but you CAN change one thing: how to spend the next hour. Set a goal for yourself, and while you work, try to think of 3 things to be thankful for. When you’re done, see if you don’t feel better!”

When I was done with the “tough love,” it was time to “put it on the line.” I reminded Friend B of all she had been through in the past year — all the loss, all the stress, all the pressure — and suggested that perhaps it was finally time to deal with all the feelings that had been set aside in order to deal with the immediate crisis. “Sooner or later, you have to deal if you want to get to a happy place. Talk to someone who understands these things. Let it out. You’ll be glad you did.”

Buck up, Buttercup. It’s time to dance!

As women, we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves, whether in the heat of crisis or in the aftermath. Sure, we need to eat right and exercise and rest. But we also need to release that little pressure valve inside us, setting up little victories for ourselves, slipping off those ratty old house slippers and donning our leather-soled dancing shoes.

By now you may be wondering what line dancing has to do with all this. In the chapter “God and Godiva” of Hallie Lord’s book Style, Sex, and Substance, Karen Edmisten suggests we “dance in the kitchen” — and thank God for the “raw and energizing power of music.” Excuse me … I think I’m gonna go dance now. “Line dancing,” if you will.