Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Liking Myself- Mind, Body, and Soul

By Carla Foote

For more than half of my life I have had an unfriendly relationship with my body. Starting in adolescence, I tried to pretend that my body didn't matter. After all, I was one of the "smart" ones, so I didn't have to pay attention to my body. That's what the "pretty" ones did. My emphasis on brains over beauty was reinforced in high school, when I might get called for help on math homework but not for a date.

When I would think of my body, it was in terms of shoulds - should exercise more, should eat better, shouldn't be sedentary.

I have never used shoulds for my brain - should read more books, should do more puzzles, should figure out more solutions. No need for encouragement there, because I liked using my brain, but not my body. And I was more likely to have to tell myself to stop reading to get onto another activity than to tell myself to start reading.

I'm not sure why I developed this unhealthy dichotomy between mind and body, but I suspect that I'm not the only woman who has chosen one over the other. What I have come to realize in the past few years is that choice, and resulting dislike for myself, has been damaging not only to my body, but also to my soul. Because I was created as a whole woman, disliking part of my whole leaves scars.

Eighteen months ago I decided I wanted to change my relationship with my body. I was prompted by some medical news that forced me to look ahead and I didn't like the direction I was headed as my body aged. So I decided to like my body enough to care about it and invest energy in my physical well-being. And the funny thing is, the more I liked my body as I exercised it each day, the more I cared, and my body, mind and soul responded by thriving under healthier choices.

Along the way, I often wished that there was a magic pill that would be a quick fix for the weak parts in my body, mind or soul, because that's how we want solutions in our culture, now, without the long process. But I do know that wholeness comes from liking how God created me - body, mind and soul. And that redemption is a process, sometimes a long, slow process.

For my 54th birthday last weekend, I celebrated wholeness by hiking up a mountain - a mountain I enjoyed climbing this year - and one I would have hated and not been able to physically accomplish two years ago. I hiked as whole as I know how - still in process - body, mind and soul. No one part perfect, all in process of redemption. But from here on in my journey, I am going to endeavor to live as if I like the package that God created, not just one part. How about you? Smart, pretty, or whole? Body, mind and soul?

Carla Foote is the FullFill blog manager, publishing manager at MOPS International and provides consulting on editorial strategy at www.FinePrintEdit.com. She now enjoys walking every morning, along with periodic bike rides, hikes and lap swimming. And she still loves sitting in a comfy chair and reading a book or The Economist.

Monday, July 22, 2013

When Life Comes Apart at the Seams

Margot Starbuck

The life of a sweet friend recently came apart at the seams.

Though you may not know my friend, you’ve had your own. A home is lost. A disease ravages. A marriage ends. A child dies.  In various seasons of our lives we’ve had these friends and, in others, we’ve been these friends.

Predictably, “Jeanie” has received meals, cards, well-wishes and hugs. Graciously, not too many folks have tried to assure her that God has an awesome plan and her suffering was God’s big idea. Yet — as she’d been warned by another woman who’d walked in her shoes — she has found herself in situations where she has been expected to reassure others who are also grieving her loss.  As I’ve come to understand, all these are par for the grief course.

What “Jeanie” has treasured most during these days, she’s shared, have been the folks who’ve simply been able to acknowledge her suffering.  These wise ones have not become so enmeshed that they depend on Jeanie for comfort. Nor have they been so distant that their silence has stung further. They’ve not insinuated that if Jeanie just had a teeny weenie bit more faith her circumstances would somehow be different.

Instead, the ones who have blessed Jeanie most during this difficult season are those who’ve gathered up their courage, set aside their own anxieties and taken a risk to be present to Jeanie’s pain:

·         One hugged her and said, “Jeanie, I’m so sorry.”

·         One emailed, explaining, “If I were like Amy — that thoughtful friend of ours — I’d have some extravagantly thoughtful something to send you. I’m not her, but I do care.”

·         A long lost out-of-state childhood friend sent an ongoing series of encouraging cards in the mail.

·         One sent a note along with a freezable meal, “I don’t know what to say. But I know that dinnertime for your kids keeps coming.”

·         One simply texted, “Thinking of you today.”

During her most difficult days, Jeanie has not needed anyone to perform heroic feats of care. Rather, she has been most blessed when others have simply dared to acknowledge her pain.

When those we love are in crisis, each of us has our own natural temptations to avoid the pain which others’ suffering evokes in us. Some of us want to rush in and put a smile on the face of the hurting one. We want her to cheer up ASAP. On the other hand, I’m aware that my own temptation has been to remain frozen, stuck, silent. Jeanie’s experience has reminded me that what friends and family most want and need is to be seen. To be heard. Known. Remembered.

Margot Starbuck’s newest book is Permission Granted: And Other Thoughts on Learning to Live Graciously Among Sinners and Saints.  Connect on facebook @ www.facebook.com/margot or at www.MargotStarbuck.com.

Monday, July 15, 2013


By Kiara Jorgenson

In the past, I found approval in accolades given by graduate studies professors, a passing comment from a colleague, or in the satisfaction of serving regularly in my church. Two years ago I became a mother. Since that time nearly every aspect of my life has changed. Not least among these changes is the absence of adult affirmation and social approval.

While in some small ways my identity remains shaped by academic colleagues, my community itself has changed and with it my daily responsibilities and the interactions that come with fulfilling them. My daily duties, no doubt like those of any other mother, include feeding, bathing and dressing my child. They include picking up – blocks, boogers, breakfast scraps and the occasional spread-eagle-temper-tantrum toddler. And bringing down – the inflammation on my child’s bottom and my own temper.

The grounded and somewhat mundane nature of such tasks may explain why earlier this year I cried, no — nearly wept —  during a Superbowl commercial. Johnson & Johnson, in attempts to revitalize their brand as THE children’s shampoo, took twenty seconds to flash images of mothers caring for their children with audio whispers of “Thank you Mom” throughout. Upon reflection it now seems to me that my tears came for a couple of reasons. First, I was touched and surprised by the association of gratitude with motherly care on prime-time television. Aren’t Superbowl commercial slots usually reserved for beer, trucks and energy drinks? Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, in watching the Johnson & Johnson ad I felt affirmed, seen and appreciated. Those thoughts, while breast pumping in solitude over my lunch hour at grad school, of “is it all worth it?” were somehow captured here. The answer was and is yes. The challenge is remembering this truth when no one, babbling baby included, says as much.

Martin Luther, reformer, pastor and teacher, once wrote, “The services that a mother performs for her children are for the most part small and coarse and hardly noble. However, Christian faith opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels.” (LW 45:39)

Most would generally agree with Luther’s sentiment. That is to say that the majority of people find some value in the raising of children. However, what is intriguing to me about the theologian’s comment lays not so much in children as metaphorical jewels, but rather in the opening of the Mother. This prospect of opening makes me ask important questions: How am I as a Christian mother to see differently? What freedom might I find in releasing an identity too dependent upon external approval? And what could I exchange it for? How do I avoid collapsing my life into nothing but the pursuit of motherhood while also steering clear of a never-ending search for “success” as defined by those who follow a different path? Perhaps approval for those of us who are mothers can be found, at least in part, through the asking, wrestling with and answering of these difficult questions.

Kiara Jorgenson is a Ph.D. candidate at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. She is a peacemaker, wife and mother, theologian, feminist, wanna-be artist, gardener, daughter and friend who blogs at http://mammademia.blogspot.com/.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Being Restored From the Inside Out

By Barb Roberts

What do you do when you get really weary - I mean "bone weary"? Sometimes I experience that kind of weariness and I find it a difficult thing to talk about ... let alone to write about. It is a weariness that requires more than a good night's sleep but rather calls for renewal and restoration.

When life gets incredibly heavy and you feel depleted, there are, of course, a variety of ways to fill up an empty bucket. However, if the filling does not include some means of internal filling, the bucket will be "leaky!"

Psalm 23 is a favorite of many, used often when planning a funeral and absolutely appropriate in that setting - "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

He is indeed the One who comforts, and he understands the valleys through which we travel. But looking further - "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul."

Some time ago, this passage was a revelation to me as I pondered that my soul only receives filling when a very loving Shepherd fills up that empty soul. No matter the naps we take; the coffees we have with friends; no matter the funny movies or books or the music - unless he is the restorer of our souls, we will not be truly restored. 

Soul restoration happens when I take time ... time to think, time to pray, time to allow the One who knows me, knows my depletion, knows what I need ... to begin the process from the inside out. This kind of inside-out-renewing cannot be rushed! It is easy to think of things we have tried that should help us feel better. In fact, there may actually be a temporary respite; however, soon the weariness in one's bones returns and it is apparent that renewal is still needed.

God is the restorer. "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-30) It is from him we learn; it is through him we are restored. "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:26) He loves us! He restores! He is enough!

Barb Roberts has been Director of Caring Ministry for Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, CO for twenty-eight years. She is a conference speaker and teacher and has published, Helping Those Who Hurt: A Handbook for Caring and Crisis (NavPress). She and her husband, Ken, have 3 married children and 9 grandchildren. Visit www.barbroberts.comfor her blog and updates on her upcoming new book. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Be Right Here: On Presence

By Jennifer Grant

Maybe it’s the name of the wildlife refuge: “Ding Darling.” Perhaps it’s that the forest grows out of shallow saltwater, tree branches swarming with thousands of tiny, fiddler crabs. It could just be the otherworldly quiet of the place. Whatever it is, when I’m kayaking through the mangroves in Sanibel Island’s Tarpon Bay, Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky comes to mind.
The poem begins (and ends) with the following lines:
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
 Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
 And the mome raths outgrabe.
Mangroves. Tarpon Bay. Fiddler crabs. These sound like they could be figments of Carroll’s whimsical imagination. Published in 1872, Jabberwocky is found in his sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Slithy toves and mome raths? Perhaps they are lurking there in the Florida swamps as well.
Paddling through the wildlife refuge has become the highlight of recent summer vacations, and not just because the experience evokes Carroll’s silly rhymes. To navigate around narrow turns and away from low-hanging branches in the watery path requires focus. My companions and I are, mostly, silent. We are watchful for egrets, cormorants, and herons. No phones ring; nothing calls our attention away from the moment and place where we are. We are present.
Focus. Silence. Presence.
Do these words – in the context of our noisy, multitasking lives – sound like a kind of “jabberwocky”? Despite auto-replies to the contrary, most of us are rarely far from email or a wireless connection to the Internet. Distractions – chimes and buzzes and beeps from our hand-held devices – fragment the moments of our lives.
But this way of living comes at a cost.
The most precious human experiences require us to be absorbed fully in what we are doing. Creating or engaging with art. Listening as someone tells her story. Being intimate with another person. Sensing God’s company. When we only half-listen to – or half-engage in – any one of these experiences, it is diminished.
This summer as schedules shift, if not slow down, let us set our intentions on being present right where we are as much as possible.
·         Let’s take sabbaticals, even for just a few hours at a time or just one day a week, from the incessant buzzing and chiming of cell phones and laptops.
·         Let’s choose to gift others with the very best present of all – our full attention.
·         Let’s believe that there’s no reason to so frenetically attend to the fleeting details of our lives (see Luke 12:27-32).
Let’s choose to carve out more time for silence, for focus, for whimsy, and accept with open hands the gifts that God has for us this summer, whether they are as jarring as a broken tree limb jutting up from the bottom of a swamp, or as capricious as a play on words.
Jennifer Grant is the author of Love You More and MOMumental. She is a frequent contributor to Christianity Today’s her.meneutics blog for women. Read more at www.jennifergrant.com.