Side effects and cream cheese frosting.

Between all of my wildly inappropriate responses to completely appropriate behaviors, questions, lighting, flavors, sensations, looks, tones, and temperatures, I am trying to be nice.  More than nice.  I am trying to love.

Loving while disembodied by all the pills I’ve swallowed, while shaking and forgetting every third word, is hard.  But I am trying.  I am thanking my husband for ordinary tasks.  I am hugging my children any moment the thought doesn’t undo me.  I am using excessive emojis when texting my mother.  I am accepting forgiveness as it is offered.  I am accepting gluten free carrot cupcakes as they are served.

And while I do not think the pills are working, the cupcakes seem to be doing the trick.

The first black raven.

When I was twelve, I laid in bed for a month, my head pinned down by the beak of a massive black raven.  I stayed in the dark and refused to speak.  Eventually my mother lured me out with a cherry Slurpee to get an MRI to make sure my brain wasn’t riddled with tumors.  On the way there, as I sipped the frozen, bright red sugar, we talked about what it would be like if my famous curls all fell out.  Would I wear a wig?  Would I choose to be bald?  We talked as if it would be so tragic, but I was secretly hopeful.  I wanted to have something visible, something everyone else could see, something that would force my father to love me and my mother leave me alone, quit shoving me out of my room.  Maybe cancer would feel better than this?

I threw up in the MRI and everyone panicked.  When they found out it was not blood, but Slurpee, the tone changed.  They were annoyed, but polite.

I did not have any tumors, just “chronic tension headaches and depression”.  I kept my hair.

The work of the body.

I was an obese child with a pretty face and a sharp mind.  My parents were preachers, Charismatic, non-denominational preachers.  We learned to speak in tongues at vacation bible school and my babysitters cast out demons as easily as they ordered pizza.  Adults in my life lovingly repeated, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts!”  It’s what’s on the inside that the counts, the inside counts, the outside doesn’t count.  The outside only counts if you are a heathen, or just especially dumb.

Don’t you know all flesh is grass!?

Don’t you know this will all fade away!?

This is how I lived with my body most of my life.  My body was just a thing that didn’t matter, an inconvenient, uncomfortable container that I had to wait inside of, carry like a cross, pray to be delivered from, discipline mercilessly.

 ***

My body.  The stuff of me that exists outside my brain, and wherever my heart is.  My body is almost six feet tall, weighs  around 170 pounds, has gigantic feet stuck to one end, and a somewhat ridiculous amount of hair to the other.  Its trunk is almost longer than its legs, its arms never know how to hang.  It has never had much of a posterior, until the powerlifting.  Twice it has stretched to build and protect other little bodies , and twice it has been cut into, unexpectedly, to rescue the people living inside it.

My body has been producing and/or feeding other people for almost five years straight.  My body loves to deadlift, to squat, to move huge amounts of iron across the room.  My body pushes the old Volvo up the driveway, picks up the sandbox full of rainwater, sprints to catch the toddler running for the street.

My body carried me to school, to church, to band camp, to graduation.  It walked me on stage, off ledges, down the aisle.  It married my husband, made my babies, and pushed every single button that put these very words on the screen.

How does this not count?

***

Remember the part about our bodies as temples, and God valuing the human body so highly that he chose to live in one, and then walk around in it healing bodies, feeding bodies, and eventually letting his own be broken as a sacrifice for the whole world?

***

Your body is important to God.  Your body is important to your husband.  Your body is important to your children.  Your body should be important to you.

Does it get in your way?  Does it keep you from working, from playing, from loving?  Is it stacked up around you like sandbags, keeping the whole world out?  Is it the wall you hit when you’re inspired to do brave things?  Is it the excuse  you make when you are called but to afraid to answer?

Is your body strong?  Does it GO when you say go?  Does it carry you with grace and momentum?  Does it help you do your work?

 

Just can’t fight this feeling anymore.

There are two stories I am clearly avoiding:

  1. The part when my father left.
  2. My obsession with powerlifting.

I’m sure these topics have lots in common, but the most relevant thread is this blog.  I started this whole deal because I was interested in figuring out my story, looking at all the pieces, putting them in order, polishing up my testimony.  I thought the hardest parts were going to be the ones about being a very fat kid, a very crazy teenager, a very fat and very crazy young adult.  Turns out, those pieces came fast and easy.

I just don’t want to talk about my dad.  But that’s what’s supposed to happen next.

I do want to talk about powerlifting.  But that’s weird.

Dilemma.

Here are my options:

  1. Quit writing altogether.
  2. Keep writing stupid filler posts about why I don’t write and what I’m not writing about until I get brave enough to look at the part about my dad and write that.
  3. Write about powerlifting.

Well then.  I guess it’s decided.

Happy New Year from my Jesus loving, formerly obese, bipolar, Paleo, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, homeschooling, POWERLIFTING, mommy blog!

And my guns.

 

The red thread.

Redemption is not alchemy. The blood of the Lamb does not transform us into shimmering, perfect, pain-free morning people who never yell at their kids or get cancer or commit adultery. The blood of the Lamb doesn’t change our story, it makes it a story worth telling.

So I’m just sitting here, trying to untangle this red thread. I run my fingers over the knots, study how they twist and loop. It is tedious, infuriating.

At the start, I am four years old, finally curious about the saltines and grape juice and why I don’t get any. I kneel down with my Mama and Daddy and a King James Bible, say the Sinner’s Prayer, and call Preacher.

Loops, tangles.

I’m 22, laying hands on strangers in a crowd, praying in tongues, following the Spirit as he marks watchmen to be houses of prayer. I am a teacher, a preacher.

Over and under, through.

I’m 12, being nudged by my Mama on our first Sunday as Episcopalians, “That boy up there with the guitar! That’s the boy you’re going to marry.”

I’m 20, hauling boxes out of the apartment I shared with my drunk boyfriend.

I’m 31, leading worship with my husband, that boy with the guitar, after years of maternity leave.

Impossible knots.

I’m 19, manically praying in an olive grove on a hill outside of Rome where I’ve locked myself out of the house in the pitch black night. I beg God to open the door if he really loves me. Even though I cannot work the key, I cannot even find the lock, it opens.

I’m 11, traveling the world with my Daddy as he preaches to ever growing crowds. He is anointed. He is on tv.

Fraying edges.

I’m 21, calling the board of directors of my father’s ministry to tell them he’s run off and left us all, unrepentant.

I’m four again, shivering in my royal blue baptismal robe, my Daddy’s fingers pinching my nose, his arms dropping me down into the water, “Rachel, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…”

Redemption.

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Just talk about your life. Tell everyone what happened, how you felt, who was there, who wasn’t. What hurt? Did it heal? Did you learn?

I have been looking my story in the face, running my hands over it’s edges, feeling it rise and fall with breath, remembering that it is a living thing. I’d much rather tell a story with a tombstone. That morbidly obese mentally ill girl? Dead. Done. She found Jesus and the Paleo diet and now her life is awesome. THE END!

I want to tell the story from a distance, preach around it, insert perfectly italicized bible verses throughout to show you how clearly I see the redemptive hand of God in my life. I want to stand on top of it, proud, victorious. I want mastery. But what I have is the story, the one I am still in.

It is my face I see, my edges I feel, my breath heaving in this chest. Surprisingly, there is no distance between this charismatic mother of two and the fat girl with the knife up to her neck.

Why I don’t keep a valid passport.

The year after I left the mental hospital is mostly erased.  It’s an old manuscript that’s been underwater, pages stuck together, ink washed away, whole chapters drowned by the magic of mania.  I am not intentionally vague, the memory is simply not there.  I used to think it was such a waste to have been so free only to come away empty handed.  Now, I thank God for the mercy of forgetting.

After I left the hospital, my mood steadily climbed.  It climbed and climbed until I was on a plane to Rome, where I wandered for months in a manic haze.  When I ran out of money, I fled to London, where I could stay with family friends and recover.  Instead, I just rode trains all day, back and forth through the city.  Like a crazy person.

My mother sent me care packages full of books, Dr.Pepper, and lithium.  I read my books, drank my Dr. Pepper, swallowed my lithium, and decided to move to California.

To this day I do not know how, but I connected with a metal sculptor based in a little town outside of San Diego.  He offered me room and board and my own studio space in exchange for administrative work.  He was an old man with a reputable business and I was just so homesick and tired and lost.

The manic whooshing gray noise of the London trains followed me to Temecula.  I worked furiously day and night, making and making and making until my mind was finally empty.  I woke up at the table in my studio on a Tuesday night with wood glue and tissue paper pressed into my hands.  It was clear they had been there for a while, but I was just now noticing.   At first I thought the power had gone out, jarring me awake with the sudden silence.  The lights were on, but there was no buzzing, no grating background static, no rushing ambient electricity pulsing in my head.  Everything was just still.

I went outside and looked up.  The stars were still.  The moon was still.  I was still.

Peace that passed all my understanding filled me up like a first breath.  Still gasping, I went inside and called my father, told him I was ready to come home.