30 January 2007

Why My Daughter Might Become a Funeral Director

Upon seeing a dead cat in the road: "How did it die? Why did a car hit it? What are those birds doing? Will the cat's spirit go to heaven? Somebody needs to clean up the road!"

Upon hearing me read the section of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe where Aslan kills the White Witch: "How did he make the witch get dead? Did he bite her? I think he bit her like this [makes growling sounds and pretends to bite my neck.] Did she taste good? [Rubs her tummy and makes eating sounds.] Yum, yum!"

Upon seeing bits of the Gerald Ford funeral on television, and us explaining what it was: "How did he get dead? Is his skin peeling off now?"

You know, I'm not really prepared to explain decomposition to a four-year-old. Where babies come from? I'm good with that. The cause of death and current state of a former president? I don't think that one's covered in the parenting books.

24 January 2007

To Eat or Not to Eat

When I got back here after our long holiday in the States, I got right back to exercising. I felt pretty good about myself, going to the gym after dropping Katrina off at school. After all, this is the person who has rarely exercised with any kind of consistency. Here I am, starting a new year by being an old pro at this working out thing.

However, I didn’t quite get right back to dieting. And by dieting, I mean exercising any self-control over what and how much I eat. Exercise is all well and good, but if I end a workout by eating everything in sight because I feel (1) so hungry or (2) like I deserve a treat for sweating on the stationary bike, the pounds are not exactly going to melt off. In fact, they might even start clinging to me again, especially if the weather is rainy and dark and depressing and popcorn or hot chocolate or brownies sound pretty good right now.

Aye, there’s the rub. If ever I learned to eat when I’m hungry and stop eating when I’m full, I’d have this weight thing licked. But for me, like many of us, food comes wrapped untidily in emotions. They don’t call certain things “comfort foods” for nothing. Mashed potatoes, ice cream, anything creamy, soothes and anesthetizes. Chips, nuts, crunch and salt, is an outlet for frustration, anger, or simple fatigue. Good homemade buttered popcorn is a celebration in itself. And the food we want—heck, sometimes feel that we need—to fill emotional hunger is almost never healthy food. No, those darker emotions come fried in fat and coated in sugar. Whoever heard of a woman craving broccoli when she has PMS?

That’s when I come to the notion of food as an addiction and myself as an addict. If not eating chocolate or sweetened tea or fried potatoes makes life seem dark and joyless, there’s something wrong with my relationship to food. There is an unhealthy pull toward overeating, and eating non-nutritious foods, that I recognize every time I eat “just one more bite.”

Bundled up with that is my gluten-free status. The conversation goes like this:

Healthy Jen: I should eat an apple, not chocolate or ice cream.
Bratty Jen: But I don’t get to eat SO MANY things. I want to eat what I want to eat! I am deprived of crusty bread, so I should get to eat ice cream! Nyah, nyah, nyah! (Bratty Jen sounds a lot like Katrina having a tantrum. I’m sure there are all sorts of psychological interpretations to that one.)

Which "voice" wins depends on the time of day and, really, how my day is going.

Over at The Amazing Shrinking Mom, Mel blogs about her low-glycemic-index diet. The purist in me likes the idea of just cutting out sugar and starch and refined flours. It’s certainly an easier way of eating than writing down and tracking everything that goes into your mouth, like when I was on Weight Watchers (on and off—who can do that for a lifetime? People more organized than me.). But, but, no bratkartoffeln? No brownies? No ICE CREAM?!

The start of the Lutheran liturgy says, “We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” Sometimes I feel like I am in bondage to sugar. Can I free myself? Do I really want to?

22 January 2007

Some Temptations Transcend Culture

We followed a city bus through Landstuhl on the way home from Katrina's dance lesson. On the back of the bus, someone had written with their finger in the grime: "Wasch mich".

17 January 2007

Nearer to Thee

I do life on my own. I have never figured out how to do it any other way. In hard times, I turn to God. In good times, I thank God. I make plans to pray. Sometimes I actually follow through. But the moment-to-moment awareness of God eludes me.

At moments in my life, God has been my breath. I have felt the Spirit right here, thickening the air around me, making each breath a sacrament. The Presence presses in, borne on music or worship or silent tears. And the longing, aching heart, answering the call of the Spirit. Here I am. I am Yours. Whatever my complaints, my questions in ordinary time, they recede in urgency. In the moment, there are only whispered intimacies. You are My beloved. I’m here. Here I am, your daughter. Wash me, make me whole. I AM with you. I missed you. I’m sorry. I love you.

Of course, the emotions fade, the sense of Presence recedes. As I’ve heard in many a sermon on the Transfiguration, even Jesus didn’t live on the mountaintop, but in the grime and complexity of the lowlands. The ordinariness of life always resumes, must resume. And I start to forget. I forget that God is right here. Instead, he feels more and more distant. Little anxieties crowd him out so, so easily. My thoughts are taken up by what we should have for dinner, when I need to pick up Katrina, should we go to the playground today or will it rain? And the transcendent moments fade. And God becomes something else on the to-do list that didn’t get done today.

Days, weeks, months pass as I immerse myself in the everyday, forgetting that God is in the everyday, too. I feel that presence fleetingly, once in a while, when I enter a church, when I listen to beautiful music, when I look up at the sky on a spring-like January day.

I begin to miss him. Even as God seems most distant, most irrelevant to daily life, I remember when the air was alive.

The words come one day, as I write in my journal for the first time in months. Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.

And I make a resolution—again—to pray, to read, to write, to listen, to focus. Even as I feel most resolved, I remember countless times when I failed to follow through. I imagine God as Divine Critic…yeah, sure, I’ll believe it when I see it. But, no, that is me. Those are my words of self-doubt, of a misplaced desire for perfection. God is even now running toward me. Welcome home. I’ve been waiting, my beloved. Draw near to me. Let me hug you. Let the feast begin.

Listening to: Redemption Songs (Jars of Clay)
Read recently: Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man (Claudia Mair Burney)