Learning to Love Myself (I Do!)

Who doesn’t want to feel beautiful? 
Be loved? 
Experience acceptance?
I do.
Who doesn’t want to look in the mirror, without loathing?
Without wrinkles frowning back from the glass,
but softness reflecting joy in an easy smile.
I do.
Who doesn’t want the assurance that though beauty fades,
the heart that beats within remains vibrant, unique, strong.
I do.
Beauty visits some, evades others, yet thrives where love lives.
Who doesn’t want love that permeates
makes alive,
burns real
not perfect, but with singed corners, tears and crags.
Do I?
Who doesn’t want to know that pain is not wasted?
His economy considers,
what many don’t see, ignore, avoid, shrink back from-
hidden from some but His eyes miss nothing.
Beyond the mirror,
 beyond the scale, beyond the wounds
that scar, blind and bind.
Beyond the labels, lies I’ve lived,
beyond the limits of my mind.
I’m learning to love that little girl-
whose innocence was snatched away-betrayed.
I’m learning to love that young child
who ran away brazen and wild.
I’m learning to love that murderous girl,
who escaped it all in a dangerous swirl-
in the absence of real love.
I’m learning to love that mom
who doubts and fears, 
and parents through tears.
I’m learning to love that woman inside
that I know within does reside.
I’m learning to see as He sees,
through eyes of grace, 
starting with me,
and when I do, I see too,
that I have abundant grace for you.
Because He loves.
I do!
So Emily shared this amazing post (yawn, cause she doesn’t do this, like…every single week, right?) called A Women’s Manifesto and it really needs to be read by every woman. This means you. She also shared A Dare to Love Yourself  themed Synchroblog – well here it is in her words since, after all it was her idea and she can tell it better than I:

*For the next few Mondays, I’m going to be doing a synchroblog (a link-up), leading up to the launch of my new book, Mom in the Mirror. (releasing Mother’s Day 2013).. we’ll be kicking it off NEXT Monday, February 25th, and the goal will be to link up a post related to learning to LOVE yourself... are you in?

It’s a dare, friends. It’s A DARE TO LOVE YOURSELF. Starting now.

Dead Dogs Don’t Cry (Why It All Matters)

I grow weary of walking this side of Heaven. I know I am made for eternity. But there are days when I feel the sting of mortality and am reminded of the anger within me which rages against the reality of the passage. The meaningless and randomness with which death comes in light of an all knowing and loving God. I squirm with sadness, and seek understanding for things I do not understand.
It’s these moments that interrupt and erupt into full blown confrontations with a God who is not to be completely grasped this side of Heaven. 
I am driving back form a trip to the market, my Great Pyrenees-Retriever-Shepherd mix of a mutt is in the back seat because he can’t stand to see me leave the house without him. I am deep in thought about the madness of keeping within a grocery budget and feeling the usual disgust at my lack in this area. He sticks his nose between the seats and watches the road with me. 
We are on the two-laned road heading south toward areas that used to be fertile hunting grounds for Native Americans in Narragansett. Rich with history and wildlife, our coastal area teems with life that is pushed, squeezed and pressed against the brink of death daily. It is no surprise that in these times of metal that carries men instead of horses, these worlds collide. I am not one who despises modern conveniences. I am one who is carried in metal myself, travelling to and fro in a whizzing world of  frenzied activity. But I am not blind to the ever encroaching ignorance that would blind us to the ordinary commonalities shared by all living creatures. Life, death, pain, kindness, suffering, gentleness. I have already been contemplating deep things this day and wrestling out meanings with God about life and meaning am already frustrated before… I see it.
I come around the corner and see the fur in the road, not so uncommon. Lord, why?
I hate that I see what no-one else seems to see. 
Why won’t they stop, Lord?
Then it gets worse.
It’s all so fast. I have cars on on three sides.
Speeding metal all round.
The small dog like figure lies dead center of the two lanes. 
There is a barrier and two lanes going North on the other side.
With a surprising accuracy that I wish I did not have (everyone else does not seem to notice),
I see the small head raise up.
I am full of an uprising that will not be stopped. 
I have pulled over, and suspect it is a small coyote. 
I am in the breakdown lane on the verge of a breakdown of epic proportions.
My mind is racing at 90 miles an hour.
Dozens of cars speed by as I am trapped feeling helpless and holding my phone, trying to think of what to do  and am slipping into a maddening state as I began to hear my own screams erupt. 
I am shouting for someone to stop!
Please stop!
He’s alive. Please help. 
I am madness, and death is hovering over a small wild creature when I witness the pick up truck that seals the deal with a final blow. I move into hysteria. My faithful companion, howls with me and barks out the window looking back as we watch the frail body contort into a merciful state, released from pain. 
My surge of adrenaline and emotion merge into a weeping nauseousness and whimper.
My dog is quiet. 
I am staring at my phone and remembering,
this familiar rage…and helplessness.
The time when I had walked in my East Side apartment after laying my grand mother to rest.
I climbed the stairs. All 52 of them. A slow, dreadful ascent.
 I  closed the door in my solitary place. Leaned my back up against it and slowly slid down onto the floor and wept. I screamed so loud, into the darkness, I am surprised that someone did not call the police, as I raged against death, heaven and earth and the God who made all. How for three days I ranted and railed and cried and wailed. That God would allow the one person I knew for sure loved me to be taken from this life. Helpless. That life would go on. Rage. That was the clincher; it infuriated me, raised up in me a guttural voice of anguish I did not recognize. The audacity and cruelty more than anything, was that the days would go on, just as they had before, yet they would never be the same. And I believed, they should not. Go on that is. That all of heaven and earth should stop and acknowledge this loss. It was maddening and is still maddening to me. 
It birthed in me a longing to be reconciled to God. 
My longing was for victory over death,
that ultimate sting.
A way through.
Safe passage.
A release from the pain and madness of this life.
From that which will never be reconciled this side of Heaven.
Freedom from the driven- ness that permeated my days.
All in a futile attempt to run faster than the moment none can escape.
Yet, there is a way.

God is so merciful.
We can’t fathom the depth of His mercy.

Some days I hide behind His robe.
Other days I seek His face.

Then there are days when the only way I can see clearer, is by looking full well at the Cross.
So I take hold and look up, seeing bloodstained feet.
Feeling the sweat, blood and tears spill out on me.
Hanging on tight to that which defies all logic and reason, yet brings wholeness and healing.
I don’t get it.
Still, I cling to this mercy.
And I rage against death and all that would crowd out His holiness and sacrificial love.

And I trust that there is a beautiful mercy even in the most twisted ugliness, because He has appeared.

Dead dogs don’t cry and neither will I, when we walk through the gates, where all things will be clearly seen through eyes unstained. He shall wipe every tear. He will give perfect vision.
He will pull back the curtain of the moments in our life that made no sense and show mercies displayed we never saw, but that mattered to us. And Him.
Because it all matters to Him who has given everything.

Joining with Emily and Prodigal Magazine for this, my offering-
A Broken Hallelujah today…will you consider joining in?

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Chasing Silhouettes: Author Interview with Emily Wierenga (Inspiring Women Series)

“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care will we help.”
~Jane Goodall

Emily Wierenga could be called by many different names: survivor, artist, mother, wife, author, blogger, painter, musician, volunteer and more. But right now with the release of her upcoming book ChasingSilhouettes- How To Help A Loved One Battling An Eating Disorder onSeptember 25  she is about to be known as the woman who holds the keys to understanding one of the most challenging disorders of our day. Emily is a beautiful ray of hope and has a voice that beckons you listen and a heart that needs to be heard. She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband Trenton and four boys Aiden, Kasher, Joey and Jin. Please welcome this very Inspiring Woman to my little corner of the Blogosphere as she shares with us today. 

Emily, please tell us a little about your growing up. I understand that you have a great heritage of faith with a Dad who is a Pastor and a Home-schooling Mom. Please tell us where you spent the majority of your childhood, how many siblings you have and a bit about your early years.
 We moved around a lot. By the time I hit seven, we’d moved 10 times, and it wore me out but my Dad prayed every morning for over an hour and this held the family together. My mother was a quiet believer and a hard worker with low self-esteem. I have three siblings, and am the eldest. My brother and I were best friends growing up, until we became enemies because of the ED. We were home-schooled until doctors suggested I attend public school in grade five, but that only made me realize how many skinny girls there were and I started getting sicker. And I didn’t trust God because there was so much pain in the world, but I prayed to him anyway.
Your parents were also missionaries in Africa- how old were you and your siblings at that time? 
My brother was born in Congo. I was two at the time. We moved back to Canada shortly afterwards.

Did you feel loved as a child? 
I knew I was loved, but I didn’t feel it. And being a sensitive, aesthetic type whose love languages were words of affirmation and gifts, growing up in a silent, poor household made me starved for attention.

Why do you think that was?
My father was away a lot, visiting people in the church, and I thought he didn’t like me because even when he was home, he didn’t spend time with me unless he had to. And my mum had never been told she was loved, growing up, so she didn’t know how to speak our love languages. We were home-schooled and fed and cared for, physically, but emotionally, I was an empty basket.

Do you recall a certain point or was it a number of circumstances that caused you to become more self conscience about your body and your perception of it? 
My mother is a very private person, an Englishwoman, and dressed neck to foot and her daughters had to do the same. We weren’t allowed to play with Barbie dolls or take dance lessons, and she was so afraid of vanity that it made want nothing more than to be beautiful.

Young Emily – battling the giant

Where do you feel your relationship with God and the eating disorder were connected and/or disconnected?
My father represented God for me, and so that made Him unapproachable and busy. I feared him, as I feared my father in a sense, but I was also fiercely angry at him. For allowing pain. For not standing up for me. For not being there when I needed him most. And for saying he loved me but not showing it.

Where were you in your relationship with God as you experienced this disorder as far as how you felt in intimate relationship with him or distant from Him? Did you feel God cared about your choices or was it all disconnected? 
It was all disconnected. I prayed rote prayers every night before bed, and that was the extent of my relationship with God. I figured since he and my father were so busy, I needed to take care of myself. The only thing that kept me praying was my fear of hell.

What do you think is the one most important thing a person can do if they suspect a loved one has an eating disorder?
 That is a hard question, but I think it is just this: BE THERE for them. Dare to walk in the broken place with them. Don’t try to fix them, just be there. Don’t be afraid of their pain; enter into it, too, and show them they are not alone. Sit on their bed and hold their hand. Bring them bouquets of flowers. Write them letters. The key to recovery for someone is receiving a vision for what life can be, beyond the eating disorder. They need to realize they are worth more than the ED says they are, and the only way to convince them of this is to get out of the way (while still being there) and make room for God.
I know you are involved with the organizations NEDA and Finding Balance that offer support and counseling for eating disorders, can you tell us about your involvement, how you became involved and what is offered specifically through them? 
I am a trained Navigator with NEDA, which basically means I have taken an online course that allows me to speak with parents, siblings, spouses, friends and relatives of loved ones with an eating disorder, and refer them to institutions, rehabilitation centers and resources. I am also an Official Ambassador for FB; I work closely with Founder Constance Rhodes in facilitating Gatherings and supporting her vision for a balanced lifestyle. I’ve also participated in two of her Hungry for Hope conferences, both on the author’s panel, and as a keynote speaker alongside my father.

Painting by Emily 

More of Emily’s amazing art work…

Emily, please tell our readers (I confess I really so want to know this!) how you manage to balance it all? I call this my great standard question- four boys under the age of 5? You paint, blog and are releasing your second book for publication. Please tell us how you manage it all!
I have a nanny J I couldn’t do it without her. Yes, we have two boys of our own ages 2.5 and 10 months, and we recently took in two boys who needed a place to stay while their mother received healing and schooling. They are ages 1.5 and 4, and it is a challenge. There is nothing easy about it, but I know we are doing the right thing because God gave me three book contracts shortly after we took them in. This was confirmation. It was him saying, Well done, my good and faithful servant. And so I strive to put these boys first in my life while writing in the gaps, knowing life is short and all that matters in the end is love.

 Describe a day in Emily’s life (I am such a newsy- I can’t help myself!): 
I get up whenever my son Aiden (age 2.5) wakes me up, normally around 6. We sit on the couch together and he reads books while I do my devotions. Then the other boys rise and my husband showers while I feed the kids toast and they watch Bob the Builder or Curious George or Thomas the Train.
I boil water for my coffee about 10 times while emptying the dishwasher and feeding infant cereal to my baby boy and pulling Jin’s hand out of the toilet. Then as I’m trying to dress the kids using the freshly laundered clothes piled in stacks on the washing machine, our nanny arrives (a local home-schooled high-school student) and saves the day.
Later on, after we’ve spent time doing ABC’s and numbers with the older boys, I lay Kasher (my youngest) down, give the other boys a snack, and then send them off to the library and park with the nanny while I finally get changed, have my coffee, and do some work (writing).
We do lunch together, lay the kids down for naps (Joey has quiet time), and I go for a run while the nanny folds laundry or fills the dishwasher. Then I do some more work on my laptop until the kids wake up.
Afternoons are normally spent outdoors with the kids, playing, weeding the garden, and grocery-shopping. Then Trent arrives home from his day as a math teacher, and there’s supper and Bible story and bath-time (four boys in a tub). They run around naked for a bit while the nanny (who sleeps over at our place three nights a week) cleans up, and then it’s to bed by 7.
Evenings are spent working (writing), but my husband and I always watch a sitcom and have a snack before bed.
And then it all starts again… and always, before we’re ready, but His grace is sufficient. His mercies, new every morning.
Oh, thanks so much for indulging us (me) Emily! I am grateful for His mercies-
 How about your best tip to completing the goal of writing a book (for my aspiring writers our there…OK again, I confess- me! ) 

 In short? Write. J
 I highly encourage Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” and Stephen King’s “On Writing.” These hold great tips for aspiring authors, but in truth, it’s simple.
 Be disciplined. Don’t be afraid. And just start writing. Whenever you can, do it. And don’t look back until you’ve completed the first draft.
Anything you think we should add, Emily? 
 Since my mum contracted brain cancer 10 years ago, and I returned home for a period to care for her, my relationship/s with my family have improved considerably. I have learned to respect my father, to realize his faith and his heart are indeed, genuine, and to be amazed at his humility in serving my mother day-in and day-out. I have heard “You are so beautiful” more times from my mum since she became sick than I ever did growing up, and my siblings have grown to love and forgive me for ways I hurt them in the past, seeing that I do indeed love and care deeply about them.
There is hope. There is always hope. It may come in strange looking packages, but it’s there. Please don’t give up. I am in love with my parents, today, and my siblings and I are once again very close friends. God is not defined by our circumstances. 

Amen to that: “God IS NOT defined by our circumstances.”
 I think Goodall’s quote sums up the importance of understanding well. Where there is lack of understanding, communication crumbles, walls are erected and confusion reigns. As believers we are to be compassionate and understanding, ever seeking to bring healing and wholeness to those in need. One of the best ways to increase understanding is to listen to another’s heart. Without criticism or judgement. I pray that through Emily’s candidness and sharing, you have a better understanding of the prevalence and problem of this particularly complicated illness. I also hope that through the book and links you have some resources if you or someone you know is struggling with a similar issue. 

Emily with Trenton and their boys! 
To Pre-Order Chasing Silouhettes: Click Here Now!

Emily’s paintings, journals, mugs and more 
can be found here: Emily’s Etsy Shop

Linking with Courtney @ Women Living Well, and Ann @ A Holy Experience.

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