If you’re a subscriber, you know I finished my manuscript and sent it off to my editor last week. All I can say about that is I’m glad it’s in someone else’s court and now I can turn my attention to Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. Thank you for praying me through this first big step of book-writing. There are lots more steps in the future, and I’m guessing some of them are going to be quite intimidating, but for now, I’m taking full advantage of this window of time to reconnect with you and to catch my breath.
Cats Scare Me
Everyone has a behind-the-scenes story. Some of that story gets shared, and some of it doesn’t. It takes a clear head and a measured approach and lots of prayer to discern the portions of the behind-the-scenes stories that get told, if any of it gets told at all.
The last few weeks of my book-writing story have a behind-the-scenes story that rearranged my thinking and turned my world sideways for awhile. It’s not all my story to tell. Just a portion of it is mine, but that portion is so closely tied to my daughter’s story that I had to wait until now to share it with you.
Because the cat is out of the bag.
I am not a cat person. The truth is that cats scare me. They are predictably unpredictable. Growing up, my younger sister had cats around the house and I never got used to the experience of having cats strike at my ankles from around a corner or beneath the couch as I walked through the room. I didn’t like it, and it turned me off from cats for good. But, even though cats are not my thing, even I know keeping a cat in a bag is unfair. The cat struggles to get out and its fear is palpable to those looking on.
Of course, this is a metaphor. Despite how I feel about cats, I would never put a cat in a bag. I guess I’m stalling.
The very first week of September, our daughter moved back home. H and I were preparing to move from our rental to a house we purchased on a street a few blocks away. In my mind, I had circled October 15th on the calendar as a self-imposed due date for the manuscript. I was scheduled to speak at MOMcon in Kentucky. We had a lot going on. At the same time, we knew our daughter was in a bad situation in a new job she had taken at a church plant in Chicago and having her come home felt like a rescue mission. Some churches do more harm than good, you know? We were happy she was coming home.
Before our daughter came home, she asked me if I’d set up an appointment for her with the counselor our family uses. I believe in counseling. So there’s that. Our daughter arrived home on a Friday afternoon and, on Tuesday morning she went to her counseling session. I sat in the waiting room, with my earbuds in my ears, listening to jazz, and working on editing Daily Reflections for The High Calling.
I had no idea.
For months, I’d had a gut feeling something was up with my daughter. So, I wasn’t surprised to find out that was true. I just never would have suspected bulimia. It’s the story of my life: never exactly the thing I think it is. I hadn’t been asking the right questions. I had no tools to deal with this admission from my brave daughter who told us through tears about her struggle and how it had been her way out for more years than we would have ever guessed. So brave, this daughter of mine. Of ours.
And so we began. Counselors and doctors and a dietician and blood work and writing that got pushed to the burner behind the back burner and tucking in at night and saying prayers together and eating dinner together on purpose and holding hands and crying and pressing through the toughest conversations while the movers took our lives from one house to another.
Resolute was my word of choice. Whatever it took.
We all committed to getting her well. H and me, her team of professionals, her closest friends, and our daughter herself. Out of the blue, people contacted me via email and Voxer and FB to say we were on their minds. They didn’t know why, but they were praying for us. We told a few of you what was going on. The prayers of the people sustained us. Last week, our daughter moved back to Pennsylvania, and she told her part of the story in her very own video blog.
But something you should know is when one person in a system changes, the whole system changes.
I was on a diet when Alexandra came home. It’s an effective diet. The pounds melt away because of a strictly controlled eating plan that no one in her right mind could sustain for a lifetime. Cursing my thighs and my rear end and my softening belly, I had signed up (again) for the latest weight-loss program, in hopes of looking lean and fit at conferences and retreats and on Instagram and at church and standing in my kitchen, or naked in front of the bathroom mirror. At first, I didn’t think the fact that I was on a diet was in any way similar to my daughter’s struggle with bulimia.
But, helping someone you love get the upper hand on an eating disorder requires lots of talking about food and how we relate to food and how we think and talk about our bodies. One afternoon, sitting in the dietician’s office with my daughter, a little piece of me folded back and the light got in and shined on a memory of mine.
Twenty-eight years ago, on my wedding day, I wore one of those dresses that looked like the one Princess Diana had worn when she got married. It had puffy sleeves and a gigantic bow on the butt and, while it would never pass muster today, it was gorgeous, and I looked beautiful in it. My favorite part was the way my waist looked in the dress. I had survived ballet and cheerleading without an eating disorder, and I had a good feeling about my body. I was always the skinny one in the crowd, and I never had to work at it. I ate what I wanted, and stayed slim. I was strong, thanks to the ballet. It took me forever to get to one-hundred pounds. But I hardly noticed. In fact, I was mostly oblivious to my body, until someone would make a remark about my small waist or my thin frame. It was what it was.
After the wedding ceremony, my in-laws hosted a reception in their back yard, beside the pool, with live music and a delicious buffet and about one hundred of our closest friends. Just after the prayer and before H and I walked through the buffet line, a man neither of us knew, sitting in a chair near the buffet, shook his head and said to me, “It’s such a shame.”
“A shame?” I answered.
“Yeah,” he said. “You look so beautiful today, but just you wait and see. You’re going to get fat. It happens to all the women, no matter what.”
Sitting in the dietician’s office with my daughter, I realized I’d been fighting those words for twenty-eight years. I’d taken that man’s words (a man I didn’t even know!) and accepted them as truth, and then pitted myself against them in my mind. I set a number in my head and vowed never to weigh more than that. I promised I would never wear a certain size dress or a certain size jeans. And so, a few months before my daughter arrived home, I’d enrolled myself (again) in a weight-loss program.
Now I’m on my own journey, and it doesn’t include that diet I was on.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about sex, and I asked, “If you were going to host a bible study about sex, where would you begin?”
Marcy Hanson said, “I think if I were going to lead a bible study on sex, I’d start with food.” I knew she was on to something.
Changing the System
I “lost” ten weeks of book-writing while Alexandra was home. I feared I’d miss the deadline, or that I’d lose my writing edge (I may have), or that I’d disappoint someone (that man in the chair at my wedding reception?), or that the book would be terrible. But all of that paled in comparison to the prospect of not being available to my daughter. And so I was resolute. And I’m not claiming that’s what helped her find her footing and try her hand at putting one foot in front of the other again. But, she’s on the other side of the mountain, and I’m trying to find the footholds on this mountain of my own.
The first order of business is a funeral for Wedding Man. It’s funny. No one knows who he was. Maybe he was a friend of friend. Or something. But he did a whammy on me, in just one short exchange. I gave him too much credibility that day. And I sort of wedded myself to his words at my wedding reception. But, wedding vows are ’til death do us part, and I’m kicking Wedding Man to curb and extricating his words from my mind. Easier said than done. But I’ll get there.
I couldn’t be more proud of my daughter. Everyone on her team of professionals said, “It’s your self-awareness that was your saving grace.” It was. It was also the fact that she asked for help. And God. Definitely God.
My book is with the editor. She’ll tweak it and cull it for what I was really trying to say, and she’ll get back to me with advice and suggestions and requirements to make the book something worth spending your time reading. And I will do the work. I am resolute. But more than that, God is for me. He is for me when it comes to the book, and he is for me when it comes to getting to the truth about the beauty of my body and food and the quality of my writing. He is not only for me. He is with me. And the same goes for you. Whatever lies you’ve believed about yourself, God is Truth, and he is for you.
Maybe I shared all of this to get it off my chest. Maybe it’s because I haven’t written a blog post in a while. But maybe it speaks to you. Maybe you’ve got a Wedding Man of your own who turned you against yourself at some point along the way. You don’t have to let him hang around, taking up valuable space in your head. You’ll be fine without him.
Oh my gosh. Deidra. Man, this is so good. I could write a whole blog post in response. But suffice to say, I love you – I loved watching you and H love your daughter. And even though it was hard, hard, hard, the three of you did good, really good. Your resolute-ness (resolution?) inspired me and encouraged me in my own journey right now – you probably didn’t even know I was watching you walk through the valley and up the side of the mountain, and in just watching, I received so much strength and encouragement from you. So thank you for that. And thank you, too, for this. Bravo! You should make a habit of this not writing on the blog for a while – because when you come out of hiding, you nail it good!
I love this post so much, Deidra. It was worth the wait for these words. You have been such an encouragement to me these last few months, and knowing the other side of your story makes your encouragement that much more special. So excited about your daughters recovery, your book, and the work God is doing in you!! I aLove you, friend! See you soon!!
Brave brave brave. Praying for your brave daughter too…so blessed to read your transparent words and know that God does work all things for good.
I am a bit speechless, Deidra. This is so good and speaking to my own heart in ways I don’t quite know how to share. Praying for your daughter and for you as a family. This food, body image stuff, it’s hard, but it’s so real. I’ve been on the receiving end of it being avoided and looked at as childish. So to read of your love for your daughter and you being there to support her in getting needed help . . . oh my, THANK YOU. I know that Wedding Man well and I know I’ve let him hang around far too long. Bulimia has been a struggle of mine for 15+ years now. So saying big prayers for your daughter, for me, for all, “God is Truth, and he is for us.” I pray we stop believing the lies.
Btw, I have seriously been praying about attending your retreat next year. Because right now I’d really love to hug you, I think I may have my answer. Much love. xoxo
Wow, Deidra! When you’ve got a word… So many of these sentences resonated with me. Whether it was because of my own cruddy relationship with food or just the sure knowing that God is for me, so many words just reverberated in my own heart. I am thrilled to see that your manuscript is off and can not wait to read the finished book! Feel free to stop writing for a month, if this is what happens when you come back!!
Wow, Deidra – this is an amazing read. And might I just say that those 10 weeks off certainly didn’t hurt your writing edge at all. On the contrary!
I am grateful for your words. So raw and real and right at home…all at the same time. I can identify with many of my own “wedding men” that need to be kicked to the curb. I’m grateful to say God’s been throwing the wool off so that I can see the wolf for who he truly is. It’s so easy to fall for his disguise and think of ourselves as prey to the falsehoods spouted off by people like Wedding Man.
I just love your post. My prayers are with you and your daughter. I hope she finds her true beauty on the other side of that mountain!
It’s so funny (only, not – of course!) because one word that I would use to describe you is Resolute… and that was before I read this post! You have within you a depth and strength that makes others feel like they can stand stronger, taller, just by being next to you. A loyalty and unwavering stance for truth. But what I love about it is that you make no mistake about it… it’s God. You know it (and hopefully mostly remember it!) and you let us know it. Because here’s the deal… when we forget that it’s God, we try to hold all the things together in our own strength and that, my friend, is exhausting! (Much like I would imagine holding a cat in a bag would be!) 😉 So thankful that you know this and that, when necessary, you have people who lovingly remind you. So thankful that you are real and bold enough to share the story – knowing that it is not all yours to tell. Such love and honor in that. Such resolution that you are FOR her and with her and my how that stirs my Mama heart! And SUCH a reminder of the power of our words! Lord, let us speak words that give Life and Light and Love.
Praying for all of you and so excited to know that one day, I will hold your words in my hands!
Wow… Powerful… So thankful your daughter reached out before the hole was so much deeper and darker… I knew that hole all to well… But God can and does heal all those lies and the self hatred that tags along. And I love this truth… When one person in the system changes everyone changes …. I think it is awesome that you all entered into her journey… That you did not stand off in the distance “cheering” her on ….offering prayers… No you rolled up your sleeves and opened your hearts… And so our Redeemer could come and not just being healing to her…but to those around her. Too often we look at a person’s problem too individually … We are all related…. One big connection of broken humanity… It’s why He says when one suffers….when one rejoices we all do… I think we sometimes are missing the depth of this reality. So thankful you didn’t …and so thankful for healing and thank you for sharing!!!
I’m simply sitting with you right now, Deidra …
And to all those stupid wedding men we’ve let speak into our lives in some wierd way … get lost. We’ve spent way too much time letting your ignorant words take up valuable real estate in our hearts.
I’m off to go meet your daughter at her online space. Courageous and brave she is. Just like her mama.
I’m so glad that I happened on your blog three years ago and you took the time to visit me back. You and your writing are a giant exhale of goodness in my life. Thankful for your candor, it matters.
God is so good. I love how he uses even the trials others face to point out our own prisons. Now you can share the burden(s) and be even more connected to one another. And that’s what it’s all about… our relationships with Him and with others.
Patricia W Hunter
You are awesome, Deidra. This is so good and brave and real. You must be incredibly proud of your daughter. I have my own “Wedding Man” – two of them, actually. I had an uncle who was just plain mean. I always dreaded seeing him because for as long as I could remember, his first and only words to me were, “It looks like you’ve gained some weight there girl.” And when I was at my thinnest – an unhealthy thin – a man I worked with told me that one day I’d be fat. They’ve both taken up too much “valuable space” in my head. I need to “bury” both of them – thanks for the advice. Much love to you, friend.
Wow, Deidra. Thank you so much for your openness and vulnerability in your sharing here today. This “real life” stuff is so hard, but our God is so good and faithful. Praying for your daughter and your family as the healing continues, and praising God for His mercies and love. (I can’t wait to meet you in person sometime and share a hug with you!)
Please let us know when Wedding Man’s funeral will take place. We own several shovels.
Compelling thoughts, wonderfully expressed as always.
I love you Deidra and your open, honest heart. In your brave transparency you encourage and uplift. I think your daughter comes by her great faith and strength quite naturally.
I had one of those “wedding men” in my life too. I admit to struggling with food – always. I seem to be on a constant roller-coaster ride of lose-gain. I need to follow your example of getting things in proper balance.
Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful words.
P.S. I can’t wait to read your book.
Caryn Jenkins Christensen
Nodding my head to every.single.sentence Deidra…and will be praying for your daughter’s complete freedom from bulimia as well as yours from that stupid wedding man. And this is one funeral where those in attendance will be cheering!
As women, as Black women, as women with hips and thighs and nappy hair, it feels as though we have so much to live up to. And the world can be impatient. Deidra, you have poured out living water with this post and many of us are standing ankle deep in the depths of your honesty. My goodness, I could have written portions of this post myself (including the not so much a cat person) but thank God you wrote this. I’m looking forward to your book!
I’ve been wondering how your girl was doing and praying for you all when your name flits through my head. This is wonderful writing – hard things, good things, necessary things. Thank you for it all, but mostly thank you for modeling, out loud, what right priorities look like. This is a journey without end for you, for your girl – so praying you on the rest of the way.
And here’s a big P.S. – who in the heck do people think they are to make comments like that to ANYBODY. Tell Wedding Man to SHOVE IT. My mom’s worries about my weight sent me over the edge the other way for way too many years – I rebelled with food and I believed that I needed to be ‘big’ to manage my pain and everyone else’s, too. We are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made,’ but sometimes the dang wiring gets crossed, you know?
Jody Ohlsen Collins
Deidra, if I hadn’t been scrolling through Facebook while watching The Voice, I never would have seen your blog post link via somebody else’s page. ‘The cat is out of the bag’ intrigued me; ‘she’s changing jobs, H is getting a new church’, I don’t know, something like that.
But not THIS backstory, one that is so sobering and ‘whoa, wake up’ kinda post.
You know how when you think of someone you’ve met before and they’ve touched a place in your heart and even tho’ you don’t speak to them very often, there’s a warm thought and a kind of invisible smile inside your head when you do?
Well, when I think of you my friend, as I did this week, it was, “That Deidra, she’s always so encouraging, finding the best in others, telling people to follow their dreams and use their gifts.” That’s what I was thinking.
And wow, you’ve been blessing us all in the middle of this battle.
Thank you. Thank you for setting the bar for honesty and truth so high. Thank you for being brave about shining the light in dark places. Thank you for sharing your hard places with us, for kicking the Stupid Lies to the curb, for the example you set by choosing life and family first in spite of a book deadline.
I love you friend. Bless you.
My goodness. Now all of the times you popped into my head while praying make sense. I probably should’ve mentioned that, but just know that I’m lifting you up in prayer, and your sweet girl too.
There’s more to say here, don’t you think? Perhaps someday, you might tell more of this story–how words can destroy, but also rebuild, and how Resolute Mamas save the world, one word and prayer at a time:)
What a powerful expression of faith and encouragement you give us. Thank you! I love that your friends reached out to you, not even knowing what was wrong, because they felt a need to pray for you. I call those “intercessory twinges” and I think they are such a wonderful gift God has given us. A way to give and receive prayers at just the right time when the cat cannot yet come out of the bag. I’m so grateful to have found you – my fellow Nebraska author. You write so beautifully for the glory of God.
Thank you for shining the light in the dark, Deidra. As women, we believe so many lies about ourselves. We all have a Wedding Man… or two or three.
I loved this line “a little piece of me folded back and the light got in” because it is only when we speak or inwardly examine what we believe that the light shines in and chases away the darkness and we can find healing and relief. Blessings.
I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?
American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.
This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.
BOYCOTT AMERICAN WOMEN!
.,., .,/,., /, . ,/,/.
Sandra Heska King
I just love you. I love your brave. I love your daughter’s brave.
I never thought about weight much, though I had a number in my head. If I crept a pound over, I’d skip dessert for a couple nights. That’s all. Otherwise, I didn’t have to try or think about it much. I think about it often now–though I don’t have enough long-term discipline to do anything about it. But I know where I’m at is not healthy for me. I think it started when I was on an antidepressant for a brief time years ago, and the doctor’s response to my 20-pound weight gain was that it was “working.” It’s a fine line, this caring for our temple without being totally fixated on it.
There’s something I’ve been wanting to say to you for a long time and didn’t know how to say it. Thanks to this post, I think I can. It is this: Sometimes, we put our dreams on hold in order to save our children’s lives. Sometimes that goes on a lot longer than 10 weeks and we stop dreaming—except for our dreams for them. Sometimes there are no homecomings and no hugs and silence and hatred, and you still dream for them. I hope someday I will dream for myself again. For now, I am otherwise engaged.