The Danger of Pressure

20170205_12075122This is my first blog post written in a hospital. Last week, I wrote about my slow processing of learning that there is a lot of value to taking things slow and easy, working in layers and steps instead of pushing to get to the final product all at once.

That idea is being reinforced with hospitalization.

Last Wednesday I got to take a boxing class. For those of you who know about my quest to find appropriate expressions for competitive aggression, my desire to take up boxing will not surprise you. It was glorious. The instructor was very intense, pushing us all with an extreme workout that lasted an hour, with me nearly throwing up at the end, and leaving me with extremely numb arms.

I was the only girl there that day, and even though I had determined before the class started that I was not going to try to prove myself–after all, I was there to learn, not impress–I still gave my all.

Several days later, both of my arms are swollen, my right one very much so. Saturday night I finally went to the ER for what I assumed would be a quick visit to confirm that everything was okay and maybe the dispensing of some muscle relaxants.

I laughed when they told me I had to get admitted to the hospital. The overuse caused some kind of toxins to rise in my blood and they wanted to keep me overnight for observation while they flushed my system.

The ER doctor asked me if I was “hardcore”. I answered, of course, yes.

I didn’t realize it during the boxing class, although maybe the numbness in my arms should have given me a clue, but I was putting too much pressure on my body. I was working too hard, not giving my muscles time to adjust to a kind of workout that it wasn’t used to.

And that’s the danger of pressure. When you want to be Superwoman, it can be easy to push through or push harder and not realize when we need to lighten up or to just be patient with ourselves!

So here I am, in the hospital, on night two of trying to clean out my system. I’m thankful that God designed our bodies to have warning signs for problems and for the good and kind care. Now, I’m hoping that I will remember that too much pressure can be a bad thing, in drawing, in exercise, in everything.

My Mom tells me my motto needs to be: Be Kind to Yourself!

So to me and to you who are reading, let’s try to be kind to ourselves and ease up the pressure so we can avoid its dangers!

 

 

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Easing the Pressure

Lines drawn in the sand can get washed away. Hard lines drawn on a page can be impossible to erase. That is the lesson I learned when I was working on this picture:

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The photo is not the best quality, but you can see that the gridlines are still stubbornly present, refusing to cooperate with the eraser, or me.  I wrote a post about how I had to be patient with myself as I went through the process of growing as a writing, artist, and person.

Growth can take longer than we want. Even though I knew I needed to be careful with the pressure of my drawing, the paper of my next illustration was left scared by my heavy-handed execution.
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True, the grid lines and original sketch is lighter than in the drawing above, but they are still there.

Fortunately, Photoshop exists for those of us who have trouble with drawing lightly.

My issue is that I love intensity. I thrive on it. The other night (cooling down from a passionate debate), I described myself as a “Volcanic Crusader”. My favorite motto, despite knowing it is not true, is “Brute force is always the answer”.

When I work out, I want it to be extreme.

(Consequently, I’m starting to take boxing lessons this week. I cannot wait.)

When I play the piano, I bang. PP’s are FF’s and FF’s are

FF’s!

And when I draw, I lay down thick, bold, and rather unerasable lines.

Sometimes this works okay, especially when I am working in Ink. But as my previous pictures show, this is not always good. After I completed my last illustration of the kid pretending to be a doctor, I was frustrated by my inability to go light.

So I’ve been making a practice of it.

And I’ve learned something. Starting out gentle, light, tentative, leaves room for nuance and gives much more control.

Drawing my grid lines lightly and working layer by layer with the pencil has turned out so much better. And I was still able to bring intensity into it, it just came about more slowly.

So I’m learning that there are times when it’s good to ease up the pressure, on my pencil but also myself.

Because I struggle with wanting to be Superwoman all the time I often put high and unreasonable expectations on myself for performance. Pressure can be a great motivator. I think intensity is a lot of fun. But gentleness and working a little at a time is sometimes the needed approach.Taking thing nice and easy, step by step, being diligent and patient with one’s growth, instead of demanding instant results, can yield better work.

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I have more work to do on this drawing to finish it, but I will continue to work lightly and then go back with layers as needed.

Intensity is still amazing, and I will probably always joke that “Brute force is always the answer”, but I am now trying to practice developing intensity out instead of forcing it. So far so good. We’ll see how long it takes for me to forget this lesson.

 

Accepting the Process

Instant gratification is not enough for me. I want instant perfection.

As a late bloomer, I struggle with the need to “arrive”. When some of my gifts did start to unfold, a need to make up for lost time drove me to succeed. I had to be the best at art, theatre, writing, anything and everything that I put my mind to. The goal: gain perfection in at least one, if not several areas, to hide the shame of being “slow”, “uneducated”, “academically backwards”, etc.

(This is apart of my “Superwoman” complex.)

One of the great frustrations of my life is that blooming is a process not a single event. That should be a comfort to me. We aren’t limited to one blossom opening up and adding to beauty! We grow, and change, and impact the world in different ways at different times all throughout our lives. The fact that rose bushes put out multiple buds, all opening and fading as they will, is a wonderful way to look at ourselves or others.

We have never arrived. We are never beyond hope.

And yet.

And yet, I often get weary of the blooming process. I don’t want to have to struggle for excellence.

I’m tired of having fought so hard for simple things like being able to tell the difference between  P’s and B’s and understanding basic rules of grammar. I am at a loss to understand how sometimes I am able to draw and the next time I pick up the pencil I have forgotten all about the art. Fighting the same sins of self-righteousness, selfishness, and addiction gets discouraging, even in the midst of gaining ground, because it isn’t enough ground, it isn’t gained fast enough.

Maybe you can relate.

The area that has been causing me most frustration at the moment is the area of drawing. Back in 2008 when I took “Drawing II” at NCC with my wonderful Professor Isadore LaDuca gave me feedback about my work. He said many encouraging things, but one thing he noted was that I would seemingly at random produce projects of great caliber and great disaster. For whatever reason my skill was not consistent.

It still isn’t, though I am less likely to draw flops as I was back in 2008. But they still happen. Here are some embarrassing examples.

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This was my second attempt at the cover for my sister’s children book that I am illustrating. The first attempt was worse. There are sections of this drawing I love, but for some reason, I was not able to draw their faces, even though I had just recently completed a good portrait of a dear friend of mine in pastel.

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This is an in progress shot of my current illustration for my sister’s book. The faces are better, but still there are perspective issues, and I drew the grid marks too dark to be able to erase them. Photoshop can fix that when I go to put the book together for publication, but it infuriates me that after ten years of seriously studying art, I cannot draw a grid correctly!

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Here is my second attempt at an illustration cover for my grandfather’s commentary on Galatians. I gave up once the woman’s face was beyond saving.

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This is much better but still flawed.

Artistically, this year has been difficult. I created a greater amount of work that were more technically proficient last year when I was still recovering from an injury that almost severed my drawing hand. It’s not that I haven’t accomplished any good drawings this year, but it hasn’t been as effortless.

Why is this year harder? Who knows? But I’ve learned something over the past 11 months of trying to draw.

Even though my work isn’t attaining the instant perfection that I desire, the process of failing and trying again is valuable.

In the illustration for my grandfather, I learned that while I can come up with a concept and a sketch in my mind for an illustration, I need real faces, tress, clothing, etc., to reference for the actual drawing.

My current illustration project has taught me that I have to be more careful about drawing the grid lines.

To be honest, I don’t know what I learned from the two failed covers, but I know the practice drawing will not be wasted.

Instant perfection would be gratifying, but I would learn little if the skills were uploaded into my brain like the Matrix. So while I’m not thrilled or proud of my failures, I am trying to accept the process.

What about you? What are some areas that you are trying to improve? Does the process discourage or encourage you?

 

 

 

The Return of Star Wars, River Song, and Jesus

excitedThis past holiday season has been one the nerdiest Christmases I’ve ever had. On the 18th, which also happened to be my birthday, I got to see the The Force Awakens (at some point I’ll get round to making an official stance on that movie), for Christmas I was given Star Trek lounge pants and the first season to Babylon 5, and got to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special. The return of Star Wars to the big screen and River Song to Doctor Who filled me with great anticipation for months. Months.

During the season of waiting I compared my excitement of these fictional experiences to my excitement about the coming of Jesus, and just Jesus in general. I wondered if I asked my family and friends to vote on what was most meaningful to me, Star Wars, River Song, or Jesus, what they would say. How would I vote?

Mentally, I know that Jesus is the most important thing in my life, but experientially this often isn’t the case. I’ve had moments, sometimes days, and even weeks through out my Christian struggle where Jesus has been the focus of my mind, heart, soul, everything about me. But honestly, the majority of my life has been characterized by a complacent, deadened, apathy towards my Lord, my God, my Savior.

I know I am not alone in this struggle. I think many Christians deal with a similar struggle. Why is it that things of this world have a greater hold on us than the God we profess to follow?

I can’t speak for others, but these are some of the things I have come up with as I’ve considered why Star Wars and Doctor Who, (and other things like writing, eating, my work…pretty much anything actually) get me more hyped up then Jesus.

1) I have a deep, personal, and meaningful connection with the characters and stories that I do not have with Jesus.

Now, I’m not saying that I don’t have any connection with Jesus. I do, and it is being strengthened as I mature in my faith, but there are times when I honestly think that my attachment to works of fiction is stronger than my attachment to God. I certainly can talk about Star Trek, gush about Babylon 5, and share my passion for theatre, with much greater ease than I can about Jesus. There are other reasons for this besides a lack of connection-fear, doubt, and trying to fit in for starters-but I do think that my shallow relationship with Jesus is a big part of it.

Growing up, my mindset about Christianity was very works oriented. In the words of my pastor, I interacted as though God was my landlord or boss, not my father. Even though I had grown up in a Christian environment, it wasn’t until I was 19 that it struck me that Christ died so that I could have a relationship with Him, not just so that I could impress the world with how perfect I am.

If you’ve followed my blog or know me at all, you know that I still struggle with my desire to be Super Woman. It’s been eight years since that epiphany hit. As God and I have wrestled through my doubt and anger we’ve made some progress in our relationship, but it still suffers from my goal-oriented, self-sufficient mindset.

I think this is because until very recently the thought that God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit wanted to be personally connected with me, knowing, caring, and interested about every detail, joy, and sorrow of my life, never occurred to me. I heard it talked about in sermons and read about it in the Bible, but for some reason I always assumed that deep relationship was meant for  some other person who God was more interested in. I am thankful that I can say God is helping me get rid of this lie. I am just as important to God as all of His other children. I’m excited to see how my life changes as I continue to understand this more.

So, this is a long way of saying that I have grown up struggling with God-issues. While I didn’t feel a deep connection with Jesus, I have always felt a deep connection to my Sci-fi. I grew up with Star Wars, Star Trek, and Babylon 5. I feel in love with River Song even though I am not a huge Whovian (don’t shoot me). The characters/story arcs mean so much to me. I laugh with them, get angry for them, cheer them on to succeed, and I weep, and sometimes wail, when people die-and no, that is not an exaggeration. I am engaged in a deep way.

I’d like to think that some of my attachment to these characters and arcs is because they have nuggets of truth about who God is and what He wants for the world. But…I can’t say that with certainty and is probably just my way of justifying my sometimes obsessive and idolatrous love of these stories.

2) I have invested in them more than I have invested in Jesus.

Part of why I feel so connected to these shows is because I have given them a lot of time, energy, and thought. This is something I really struggle with in my relationship with Jesus. It is much easier to sit down and watch B5 (especially when you just got the first season as a Christmas Present) than it is to read my Bible. Easy to justify too, because we can’t just read and pray 24/7, or we’d be disconnected to the world, hidden away like hermits!

Jesus demands that we love God with out hearts, souls, and mind. I think the mind is an important part of the relationship that we often downplay. We relegate the mind to the “study of God”, the “knowledge of God”, and keep it away from experiencing God. But I think meditation, a key-part of my faith that I have been lacking, can turn our emotions towards God. If I spend a lot of time thinking about something my heart and soul tend to get invested.

So while I am not going to be returning my beautiful Babylon 5 Season 1 DVD’s, (see how much I love this show?) I am working on making a more intentional investment in my relationship with Christ and focusing my mind on Him. This has been easier since I have begun to hope that He wants a personal relationship with me. My devotions are still a struggle, prayer sometimes feels like war, and there are Sundays when I am so ashamed of my lack of authentic adoration of Christ that I want to stay home all day and suppress all emotions with food.

But. But.

The awesome thing is that Jesus doesn’t need or want me to get all my ducks in a row before I come to Him. He wants a personal relationship with me as I am now: doubting, hopeful, angry, excited, focused, distracted. One of my favorite verses is:

So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.

– Hebrews 2:11

Jesus is not ashamed. Jesus is not ashamed of me. This truth has been a balm to my embittered soul as I have struggled towards light, freedom, beauty. And when I think of these truths, then I get excited about Jesus.

So, now that Star Wars has come, and River Song has gone, and Babylon 5 is here to stay, I can look to Jesus strive to be more intentional in my relationship with Him, remembering that He wants a personal relationship with me, so that when I think about how amazing my Sci-Fi is, I will live my life in such away that declares the Creator of Science and Story is so much more.

 

 

 

 

Nano reflections

I am done with Nanowrimo! In my mind I won even though I only reached 30,000 words. That was my goal. I knew it would be nigh impossible for me write 50,000 words in the month of November when I was acting in a show and had major rehearsals for the show I am directing. (which is opening this week. Check out Players of the Stage’s website for information. If you live in the Lehigh Valley you should come!)

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Here I am as Mrs. Boyle writing a letter. If only I could count the words I wrote on stage as part of Nanowrimo… After I was done with my part, I’d lounge in backstage area with my computer and work on my novel. 

Now that I am finished with Nano (Geek alert…every time I see this nickname for the Nanowrimo I think about Borg technology) I have some lessons learned to share.

Trying to be Superwoman Will Burnout Your Brain.

I have blogged about my superwoman complex before, the burning craze to prove that I am successful. Some of it is because I have big goals (ie: get a building for my theatre, write a play that wins a tony, publish four novels that impact culture, and the list goes on) but most of it is because I stake my life and worth in being able to impress people.

This is one of my greatest inhibitors to my ability to act and direct. Before I would go onstage for The Mouse Trap I’d have to rehash in my brain that I didn’t need to impress my director, my fellow cast mates, or the audience. I would have to remind myself that I am perfect in Christ and that gives me the freedom to perform my hardest and with self-abandon, not fearing people’s reactions. Sometimes playing the tapes backstage worked to help me relax before I went on stage. Other nights I had to replay those thoughts while I was performing.

Theater is just one way in which I try to be Superwoman. Writing is another. I put so much pressure on myself to direct, act, get Players of the Stage’s founding documents together, write 50,000 words, and start and finish two drawings in the month of November, while also nannying twice a week, keeping a perfect house, exercising every day and reading four chapters of the Bible, two in the morning, two at night. Throw into the mix fatigue problems from chronic lyme….

Just writing that paragraph hurts my brain. What was I thinking? Clearly I’ve been struggling more with trying to find worth in others and my accomplishments than I was aware…. Every time I slip into fighting to be Superwoman I lose the enjoyment of my craft, and I burn out. Every time.

You’d think I’d learn this by now. If only I could be perfect and be amazing enough to never try and be superwoman again…. Yes, that is the twisted logic of my brain.

Rehearsing All the Dialogue in Your Mind Can Make it Difficult to Write it on the Page

I tend to create my stories by acting out the scenes and conversations that I want to take my characters through. This method of exploring characters and dialogue has been very helpful for me in writing the first draft of my plays, and even helped somewhat in writing Chrysalis, but I spent so much of my driving time rehashing every conversation that I often had trouble transferring the concepts from play-acting to novel-prose.

I would sit down to write a section I knew well. I knew what Marian said and how Robin rebutted. I knew what insinuations Sir Guy would make and the tactful way that Marian would avoid his advances. I thought it would be an easy transfer, but it was not. All I knew was the dialogue, I knew none of the narration that would make the transitions to get me from one concept to the next.

Part of my wanted to just throw down every line spoken by the character and forget about the rest of the book, but that didn’t work either. I’m still not a hundred percent why; it should be a seamless transition from mind to page, but my guess is that having worked out every word and detail of dialogue out before hand hampered my freedom to explore, and thus to write.

My new plan will be to continue to utilize my love of play-acting as a way of helping me create a story line and explore my character’s voice, but to stop rehearsing it once I have a sequence and outline planned out. That way I can play around but not be paralyzed.

The Internet is a Great Tool and a Great Distraction

(or a more honest way of putting it…I’m a social media addict)

This is obvious, right? I knew it before, but the truth of it really came home to me when I was trying to focus on writing my new novel Mercy and Justice. It was too easy to be distracted by Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes I would set a timer on my phone for twenty minutes to see how many words I could get written in that time, which would help me focus…until the timer beeped, then back to twitter I went! As if I really needed to check it every twenty minutes of my life….

I eventually realized that I was addicted to notifications and mentions, tweets and retweets, likes and shares. This ties back into my drive to make sure every one realizes I am superwoman. If I tweet something, or post something, I check compulsively to see if people have liked it, as if the number of twitter hearts and Facebook thumbs up defines my value.

Realizing this and seeing the amount of time that was taken away from writing my novel prompted me to install some apps on my phone and my computer to block Twitter, Facebook and e-mail at certain times in the day when I should be doing other things. I’m still tweaking these blocks, but I can already see how it has helped me reduce my social media time.

Dedication and Discipline go a Long Way

The great advantage to something like Nanowrimo is that it gives you a goal of writing so many words every day. I plan to take that challenge with me into the new year as I will be participating in the 365K word club, with the goal of writing 1,000 words every day, whether that be on a novel, blog post, or play.

Looking Forward

Before Nanowrimo started, I sat down and wrote a five year plan for writing or revising and publishing the four novels, two adaptations, and three original plays that I currently have planned out. This means that in 2016 I will not participate in Nanowrimo, as I expect to be polishing up Mercy and Justice so it can be submitted for publication and working on revising play adaptations I’ve previously done.

I enjoyed the Nanowrimo experience and learned a lot about myself and my craft. I’m looking forward to continuing to work on my writing while pursing freedom from using my writing, or my acting, or my drawing, or my appearance, or my house as a way of validating myself. In Jesus, I am enough. Honestly, that right there is the biggest lesson I need to learn.

 

 

3DNC lessons/CHRYSALIS update

Almost a month has passed since I participated in my third unofficial 3 Day Novel Contest. This is rather late, most of my other friends have already written their 3DNC reflections, but the delay has given me time to think not only about my experience from this year but what I’ve learned about myself over the past three years.

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In the zone at the Coffee Pot. 2015

First a brief recap: My weekend got disrupted with the passing of a dear friend and a wedding reception for another dear friend. Instead of having seventy-two hours to dedicate to writing the first draft of my play and start writing my next novel I ended up with about thirty-six hours. Considering the lack of time and the deep emotions that were stirred by attending my third funeral in a year’s time I accomplished a great deal. I got the first draft of my play written, and I was able to finish going through K.M. Weiland’s Strutcing Your Novel book and workbook. I highly recommend it. Hopefully I’ll be writing a review about the book next week.

I’m thankful that God gave me the clarity of thought to be able to work and the grace to accept the revised writing schedule. It’s still amazing, but God gave me a peace about not accomplishing my ambitious plans. When you struggle with a superwoman complex, that is nothing short of a miracle.

As I’ve continued to plug away at outlining and preparing my next novel I’ve thought about the things I’ve learned from focusing on writing. One lesson that I’ve discussed before is that I can find healing in writing. That has been a huge blessing for me, and if I ever get my novels published or plays performed I hope it will be a blessing for others too.

The best thing that working on writing has done for me has been growing my endurance. I am a mixture of arrogant presumption of my abilities and talents while at the same time being very self-conscious and concerned about people’s acceptance of my work. Writing was no different for me. The first novel that I wrote, Chrysalis, was a story that had lived inside of me for years. It exposed the struggle of my bitterness and anger in a way that satisfied my soul’s need to express it. I was the first one in our group to finish my first draft (if you can call it a first draft at 63,000 words). With my deep connection to my work, the relative ease of getting it onto the page, and the encouragement of my friends I was certain that I had produced a work of brilliance.

After a major revision of my first draft I began to query literary agents. Those early queries are embarrassing. I should post one sometime so you can all laugh with me at how presumptuous and horrific they are! At first I got lots of form rejections, or no answer at all, but as I polished my query I got slightly more encouraging responses, not requests but responses that were personalized. I thought I had finally gotten all my literary ducks in a row, which was good, because I was beginning to peter out. My endurance meter is only so high.

I found an agent who I adored from a fabulous agency and sent him a query. With confident anticipation I waited for his response. It came within a two week window. The positive rejection shocked me. My writing had many charms but he wasn’t connecting enough. I was crushed. I didn’t know what to do. My writing was wonderful, but no one could see it.

Desperate, I contacted an old professor from Northampton Community College (who has just released his debut novel! Read about it here. Go purchase it here.) who had pity on me and read my query material. He helped me realize the weaknesses of my manuscript and encouraged me with its potential. With another round of revisions ahead of me I began to question whether I should continue or not. Keep in mind that I had done a total of two drafts at this point, and I was already ready to throw in the towel.

My fabulous husband told me again and again that I should press on. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to have to work for success. I wanted it handed to me on a silver platter. There were also a legitimate considerations mixed in with the bruised ego. Should I dedicate the amount of time needed to make strengthen this manuscript? I prayed about it and decided that the answer was yes.

God has been very gracious to me in giving me a very successful theater that I didn’t have to work very hard at until this summer when we began the process of becoming a non-profit. For the majority of my six years of directing at Players of the Stage, growth and accomplishments have just happened. I did recognize God’s hand behind the success of Players of the Stage, but I also formed a belief that everything my life should come easily and would require little fight from me.

As I prayed over pursing publication for Chrysalis or not, God impressed upon me the need to learn how to work hard for something that isn’t easy, that has lots of challenges, and that might not make me look good. Since then I’ve pressed on with reading several different books that have really helped me grow as a writer, and I have completed my seventh draft of Chrysalis. The rejections of my revised query materials have become more and more positive, and I have a few queries that I am still waiting to hear back from.

My current plan for Chrysalis is to take a break from it until I get my first draft of Mercy and Justice on Scrivener (hopefully by the end of the year) unless of the agents unexpectedly asks for more material. Once I’ve gotten my first draft completed for my second novel, I think I need to do a draft eight of my first novel. Preparing for Mercy and Justice with K.M. Weiland’s workbook made me want to go through that process with Chrysalis to work out some of structural issues that are present.

I don’t know if anything will happen with Chrysalis. It may get published. There’s a  good chance it won’t. I’ve read of many authors who don’t get published until they’ve written the third or fourth book. I am prepared for that reality and not afraid of it. Regardless of what happens with Chrysalis I’m very thankful that I’ve worked so hard on it. The hours poured into my novel have taught me a lot about endurance which I think is beginning to translate into other areas of my life as well. (For example, enduring through a business plan for our theater….) Even though I’ve never participated in the official 3DNC, I’m glad that it has created the opportunity to experience the unofficial 3DNC weekend, because that was where all this endurance building started.

Stepping Toward Recovery: Part One

Confession:

I wrote my blog post about my struggle with food addition last Sunday evening. I read over it once, scheduled it, and then went to bed. On Monday morning I decided to save the post as a draft instead so that I change some of the wording and also add in a paragraph about how I had been struggling with binge eating as I wrote. That was my plan…but apparently I didn’t actually change the status of the post from “scheduled” to “draft” even though I thought it did. I was very busy last week, so I decided to leave the post as it was and add the details here. Especially the bit about overeating while writing about overeating! Fighting sin is hard, and I think the more actively you fight it, the harder it seems.

maxresdefaultLast week I wrote about my addiction to food and how isolating that felt. Since then I’ve heard from a lot of people who also struggle. That makes me wonder if maybe the reason I felt so alone was because I didn’t talk about it. Thank you for the kind e-mails, text messages, and Facebook comments. It was very encouraging.

Today I want to start talking about the steps that have brought me to this place of owning my sins, both of being addicted to food and in finding worth in my physical appearance. In 2012 I went on a very strict diet to help me with acid reflux. I lost a lot of weight, at one point dipping below what was healthy for my body type. I balanced out to 130. Even though I missed some of the fullness of my previous figure, I was very happy with my new trim figure. I felt empowered in my size 6 pants (a huge accomplishment for someone who wore size 12-14 most of my teenage and adult life). I felt beautiful. I felt worthy. For a time, one idol in my life was satisfied.

Everything was fine until the holiday season of 2013 when I was allowed to eat more regularly. I had gone so long without eating “normal” foods, that I binged my heart out. My idol of food was tired of being dormant and demanded worship. I’ve gained almost all the weight back since then.

In 2014 I started freaking out about all the weight gain. I tried some starvation and extreme exercising to lose the weight I had gained, but in my battle between the god of the figure and the god of food, food has always won. I knew something had to be done, or I was going to end up reaching what I weighed back in 2011!

My mother gave me a book called “The Weight of Grace” by Paula Neall Coleman. I had trouble getting through this book for several reasons: one, I didn’t want to do the hard work of understanding why I was controlled by food and conformity to a specific figure; two, I didn’t really want to give either idol up; three, I didn’t like her perspective on gluttony.

She believes gluttony isn’t a sin. In my case, I know that my pattern of overeating is sinful. I’m sinning because I am believing the lie that food is what satisfies the longings of my heart. I am sinning because I am not glorifying God in whatever I eat, or drink or do. I am sinning because I am more concerned about worshiping my body and my stomach then I am concerned about worshiping God.

On the other hand, Mrs. Coleman’s perspective of gluttony had a refreshing aspect as well: rejecting the label. She talked a lot about how Christians aren’t “gluttons”. Christians are saints. Rejecting the identity of your sin helps overthrow some of its power. She compared it to smokers who have to give up the “smoker” label as apart of their recovery. Even though I disagree with her understanding of gluttony, I have tried to embrace that truth of identifying ourselves in Christ, not in our sins. Last week I said I am a food addict, but it would be truer to say “I am a saint, sanctified, redeemed, loved by Christ, and I struggle with food addiction.” It doesn’t deny the sin, but it takes away some part of the control.

I got about halfway through the book before I gave up. I may try to go through it again, now that I am more willing to fight this issue. Here is the concept that helped me realize there was a deeper issue going on in my struggle.

The Desire to Stay Overweight

In her book, Mrs. Coleman talks about how sometimes women who are overweight want to stay overweight. She gave example after example of women- most of whom had been abused- who found safety, comfort, and peace in being overweight. They wanted to lose weight, but they also didn’t. Being overweight served them in some way and they couldn’t give that up.

At first I didn’t think that related to me at all. I greatly desired to lose weight! I had to get back to my 135 goal (I soon gave up ever reaching 130 again) or I would hate myself forever.  But I soon started seeing a pattern. I would lose three to five pounds, be excited, gain it back, be angry, and repeat. I realized that there was a part of me that would sabotage losing weight.

One reason was that it was a way for me to distract myself. I struggle with a lot of shame and I deal with that by making my shame about my weight. Being able to have a perpetual “weight problem” kept me from having to deal with the real shame of the wounds and sins that I carry. Instead of focusing on heart issues and finding freedom in Christ I could focus on trying a new diet and new weight loss program.

Another reason was punishing myself. If I was angry with something I did, or failed to do, or even for losing control and binge eating, sometimes I would purposely seek to gain weight as a way to discipline myself and make it more unlikely that I would ever reach my goal. I struggled with self-contempt and it manifested itself in my eating. I hated that I had gained the weight that I had lost, but instead of turning to Christ for liberty and worth I would actively seek to deepen my contempt.

Which brings me to the last reason I would sabotage my weight loss: control. It gave me a very twisted feeling of being in control. It was far from true, but I felt as though I could control my weight. I could decide whether I was going to loss weight by starving myself (which I sometimes did), or by over eating. For a while I was able to keep my weight controlled within an acceptable range: high enough to be very angry with myself, but not so high that I was unhealthy.

It’s all very twisted reasoning, but I think they point to the fact that I didn’t want to believe that I was accepted in Christ. I tenaciously grasped for a way to control my own worth. I wanted to be able to determine whether I was doing well or not instead of resting in Christ’s perfect righteousness. Since I had idols of both a fine figure and fine food it made sense (at the time) to seek measure myself against the scale.

Realizing my struggle with self-contempt and control through the “Weight of Grace” was a huge first step in moving towards recovery. It exposed my shame, my resistance to grace, and my rebellion against my dependence on God for everything, including my significance. I still struggle with being afraid of actually reaching my goal weight. I find comfort being able to be upset about something that’s not the core problem. It’s a very convenient distraction from the real issues in my life. It gives me a sense of control. Thankfully, I can say that the struggle has lessened as I’ve grown in accepting that Jesus defines me not my weight.

I still would like to lose the weight that I’ve gained through overeating. But I am moving towards a place where I can work on being healthier, stronger, and more while accepting that Jesus may not ever give me the body I so desire. I’d love to think that as I mature, I can be the ideal 135 pounds without worshiping my body, but I think I can say that I would rather be a little pudgy and have that pudge move me towards Jesus than to look like a supermodel and find worth in my body.

I am working on being obedient to God’s command to not be enslaved to anything, and that means fighting food addiction, which in an ideal world would mean weight loss, but I’m striving to leave that up to Jesus, trusting in His love more than I trust in my scale.

That’s what I got out of “Weight of Grace”. It’s a good book that asks very deep questions and seeks to expose the psychological, emotional and spiritual reasons behind overeating. It emphasizes freedom, a relationship with Christ, and relying on the Holy Spirit to aid you. I recommend it, which means I really should finish going through it sometime….

Next week, I’ll talk about step two of recovery: joining Celebrate Recovery. Thanks for letting me share.

Call me Martha

Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary. – Jesus Christ

I was a lazy child. I didn’t push myself to excel. I didn’t concoct grand schemes. I don’t know exactly when the shift happened. Part of it had to do with my transition from an Art Major to a Theater Major (you can read about that here), but it wasn’t all of it. At some point, for some reason, slowly happening over a long period of time, I decided that I was going to be superwoman, that my worth and identity was tied to my accomplishments.

My rush to become successful has becoming increasingly frantic over the last two years. There has been an enormous pressure to prove myself. Except for the period of depression that followed my hand injury and the death of my dear friend, I have pushed myself in theater, writing, and art, striving to make a name for myself. Sometimes I throw being a perfect housewife and getting in shape in the mix as well.

Trying to find my identity in my work, my looks, my art has been exhausting. It’s isolated me from people, because I am always trying to get work done. When our Pastor preached a sermon about how the love of money can crowd out God, I knew my obsession for success was doing that very thing.  My desire to accumulate achievements (with hopefully some money along the way) has allowed good things to push out the necessary thing.

I’m not sure what the balance looks like. I believe that God has called me to work in theatre, to pursue writing, to create art, but not at the expense of my relationship with Him and others. The jobs He has given me can tempt me to push off devotions, prayer time, service, listening to my husband (really listening), visiting with friends, but theatre, art, writing, housework, and even exercise are often ways that I can experience God and minister to my community.

So, it’s a struggle. It’s a process. I’m afraid it might be a long one. If only I knew what it was supposed to look like! (That’s the “Superwoman-who-gets-everything-perfect” talking.) Some days are better than others. In my ideal world, my day always follows my perfectly arranged schedule with no deviations! In reality, I almost always have shifts. Those shifts are incredibly difficult for me to respond graciously too. Right now, progress looks like me admitting “I’m irritated because things aren’t going my way”. I think there are some important steps afterwards like no longer being irritated, but I’m still struggling with that one.

Not too long ago, our Pastor preached a sermon about the passage when Mary (Martha’s sister) anoints Jesus, and He compared the three different ways that Mary, Martha and Lazarus (Martha’s brother) worshiped. It was one of the few sermons I’ve heard that talked about the growth that we see in Martha in the few passages she’s a part of. That sermon gave me hope that I too will grow. Like Martha, I hope to always be busy serving Jesus, but without the control complex and the superwoman complex and the must-go-according-to-plan complex.

How about you? Is overworking something you struggle with? Are you tempted to put your identity in your achievements? What does resting in Jesus while actively serving Him look like for you? I’d love to read about it in the comments.