The Cat is Out of the Bag | A Behind-the-Scenes Story

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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.

And so.

Resolute

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.

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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.

Wedding Man

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.

Stupid man.

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.

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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.

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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.

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