Friday, August 31, 2012

Resting, Being


I am noticing that my brain is changed.

I don't know if it's the bed rest or the fact that my doctor expects this rainbow boy to make his debut earlier than expected, but I suddenly have very few words.  (This is why I have not been blogging very much.)  My brain often feels foggy from the combination of rest and the smoke from summer fires that is filling our valley and our home.  My body aches, my gaze has turned inward, and all I want is to simply be

So that is what I am doing.  Resting, reading, feeling, and waiting.  Trusting.

It is kind of amazing, actually.  Profound.  Because suddenly this young woman who has staked so much of her worth on what she does and earns and accomplishes is no longer allowed to do.  The one expectation placed upon me by myself and my loved ones and my doctor is to rest, and rest only.  My most important job is to be gentle with my self (body and heart and mind) and give this baby the time he needs to enter this world safe and whole. 

At first, it was really hard for me to not do.  I chafed at the rest, complained.

But now it is better.  Now I am finding value in this resting.

Maybe this is what life with God is really like.  It's easy for me to feel like I have something to offer Him, that if I'm good enough or if I pray enough or read the Bible enough or volunteer enough or look pretty enough or am skinny enough, He will love me more, that I will become more precious.  That if I tick enough "shoulds" off my list, then my value will increase.

But that's not how it works, is it?  He loves me just as much when I am mean and selfish as when I am patient and generous and kind.  His love doesn't depend on me, on what I do or don't do, but first and only upon Himself.

That is what I am learning this week.

And so I am giving myself permission to write or to not write, to make art or not, to simply be instead of trying to force myself into some kind of not-very-restful-but-always-doing version of bed rest.

I am beginning to discover that God has something for me (and you) in every season, that no span of waiting is wasted.  I am so grateful for this.

Our smokey valley, taken at about 4:00 PM

*  *  *

A few things that I've been wanting to share . . .

While on bed rest I have been able to continue to participate in Jan Avellana's wonderful e-course, Shine Bright.  It has been a wonderful journey, gently delving into how God really sees me and the gifts He's given me (namely, creative gifts).  Jan has another round of Shine Bright starting up in October, and I wanted to let you all know in case you are interested.  I can't say enough about how amazing and needed this course has been for me.  You can learn more about Shine Bright here, and enter a giveaway to win a free spot in the October class here.


This weekend my book, Life After Eating Disorder: How to Have One, is enjoying a price drop.  Instead of $2.99, the Kindle version is now $0.99.  It will be live on the morning of Saturday, September 1.  (I was trying to get it to be free, but Kindle Publishing wouldn't let me -- if you know how to wrangle that, please let me know!)  Also, if you have read Life After Eating Disorder and want to submit your opinion on it, I'd love if you could leave a review on its Amazon page, here.

Monday, August 27, 2012


birthday flowers

This week I turn thirty.

I've heard again and again from various people that your thirties are amazing.  A couple of years ago, I was living for this hope, because an eating disorder and other health issues had made life a living hell.

And then -- God moved, the chains of disordered eating fell away, and I was pregnant with the child we had been cautioned not to hope for.

One year ago, when I turned twenty-nine, I wasn't as desperate for change as I had once been.  But I still looked forward to turning thirty -- after all, it would be the first of many birthdays that I'd celebrate alongside our daughter.

Or so I thought.

I have never been resistant to turning thirty, to reaching this new decade of life -- until the past few weeks.  My birthday, it just serves to highlight that this very important person is missing.  I know what this is -- one of many in the series of milestone "firsts" that you have to endure in the terrible year after your loved one has died. 

But I don't want to turn thirty without her.  And really, I don't want to live without her.  But I don't have a choice, and so I am.  And not begrudgingly.  I am doing this thing called life, as best I am able.

It's hard to feel celebratory, though.  We had a small party with my wonderful in-laws yesterday, complete with birthday cake and birthday pie, but the whole time I felt rather embarrassed because of how little my heart is in it this year. 

But still . . . year thirty.  It is hard not to reflect on how far I've come in this past three decades, how God has brought me again and again through some truly devastating things.  The lines on my forehead and sprouting from the corners of my eyes, the bulge of a the belly that has grown two children, the callouses on my feet and scars on my legs -- these things tell a story of a rich thirty years that, no matter the agony of circumstance, keeps on ending in victory.

That is the truth I am celebrating on my birthday this year.

birthday flowers

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rainbow Update + The Value of Brokenness

More monitoring 

I haven't been blogging much this week because life has been full, and more than a little nerve-wracking.  On Tuesday I had some significant contractions early in the morning that eventually eased off to fairly regular Braxton-Hicks contractions, so I decided to call my doctor and fill her in.  She had me go into the hospital to check for preterm labor.  

Everything looked great and I'm not in preterm labor, and that held true at yesterday's monitoring session at the hospital, too.  However, I am dilated to two centimeters and am 50% effaced.  Also, every time I get up from a resting position, I have contractions.  So I'm now on bed/couch rest, at least for the next four weeks.  I am 32 weeks and 1 day as I write this. 

My reaction to all these happenings has been interesting.  On Tuesday, I was quite cheerful in spite of finding out some things that would be cause for concern in any "normal" pregnancy, and certainly in a rainbow pregnancy.  But I felt very confident that everything will be okay.

Since officially being put on bed/couch rest yesterday, though, I've become a little more grumpy.  Sitting all the time makes my back ache, which in turn makes me afraid that I'll mistake contractions for bed rest discomfort.  And I've also started to feel more scared in general.  It's hard to sleep, and it's mentally and emotionally challenging to track contractions and baby movements with the rather neurotic level of attention that I am.

From that place of fear and crankiness, I've also started to feel sorry for myself.  Look, I find myself hissing at God, I'm broken.  Again.  I'm so fed up with feeling broken, so sick of it.  When are you going to fix me already?

It's easy to feel this way.  I've felt devastatingly, irreparably broken for most of my life.  A dysfunctional and hurtful family life growing up . . . debilitating depression . . . seventeen year's of enslavement to an eating disorder . . . what I call a "broken vagina" that robbed my husband and I of so much of our honeymoon's joy . . . our first child's unexplained death and stillbirth -- and now this.  An overenthusiastic cervix.  It's easy to feel sorry for myself/angry at God/exhausted/shame-filled.  


Then I got to thinking -- what if brokenness isn't all that bad?  What if my broken parts are actually windows into my heart, spaces which God can slip into and heal and powerfully overflow from into our ever-hurting world?

Now, I'm not saying that having an eating disorder or a family who huts me or our daughter's death-before-birth are good things.  They're not.  But what if the pain that these things have inflicted has softened my soul in a very good way?  

Consider this quote that stopped me in my tracks when I read it in the classroom of this really great online course that I'm taking:

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

~ 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (emphasis added)



Maybe this place of feeling broken again, of waiting and watching and feeling and feeling neurotic -- maybe there is strength here.  God's strength.  Strength of my own that I didn't know I had.  Maybe there is Power perfected here. 

I remind myself that my most powerful, most life-altering experiences of God's grace have come in my broken places, in my places of pain and grief and disease.

And so, I try to make myself content to wait here, back already aching from our lumpy couch, because there are so many reasons to hope.  So many ways that God can and does use my brokenness, and yours.  I don't know that this makes the waiting and the resting any easier, but it does make it feel more valuable.

I am resting with my eyes open.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Gift of Grief

Today has been one of the most beautiful days I’ve had in a long while. The kind of day for which there are not words to describe the sweetness.

Three days ago was the eight month mark of my baby’s death. That day hit me hard, and continues to. The tears have flowed freely. Sleep eludes me.

How is it that those two realities can coexist, that such deep beauty and deep sorrow might live side by side? That they might dwell together in the same breath?

I don’t know, really. All I know is that it is so.

When our baby died, so much was lost. It was not just her little life that was snuffed out. We lost a whole future with her, a lifetime of tangled curls and skinned knees and laughter. I lost a part of myself. We are left only with anniversaries of what might have been.

We who grieve often focus on what has been lost, and for good reason. What we’ve lost is beyond value, the loss itself beyond imagining.

But, incredibly, I have found that gifts have come tucked in amongst the grief, too. Surprising gifts, and often small, but no less valuable in their smallness . . .
Today I am writing over at Still Standing Magazine!  

Friday, August 17, 2012

In the Art Studio: New Art + How I've Been Survivng


Thank you so much for the prayers and grace and love you gave me the other day, when I hit 31 weeks of pregnancy for the second time in nine months.  The time has been passing very, very slowly (s l o w l y), but I am surviving pretty well.  It's strange when you suddenly find yourself living in the thing that you've been dreading for so long.  I still haven't been anxious, but mostly feeling heavy and sad.

To occupy the time (and hopefully make it speed along a bit), I've been keeping myself sane with photo dates with myself (more on that another time), extra rest and reflection, and art.  After much procrastination due to fear and perfectionism (again!! bah), I finally finished the above piece.  I see this blonde woman as a warrior princess of God.  Her name -- as with all of us -- is "Chosen."  She's got lots of delicious texture, and hers might be one of my favorite faces that I've made, especially her nose and lips.

Chosen 3

This piece was inspired by some of the concepts of value that I've recently been grappling with, as well as by the first chapter of Ephesians in the Bible.  I love the exuberance and delight we see in God as we learn that He chose us so deliberately and passionately:

"Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son."

~ Ephesians 1:3-6 (MSG)

The original of "Chosen" is up in the art shop (here), as are amazing fine art prints (here). 

trying something way different from my usual...  #mixedmedia #art

In between waiting for "Chosen" to dry, I started on a new painting that is a complete deviation from my usual art adventures.  Unlike my typical creations, I did only the barest of sketches before starting in on this piece with acrylics and watercolors.  It's fuzzy and messy and childish, and I'm totally a fan of it, even though it doesn't look like much at the moment.  I think what I like most about this is that I'm working on it with no expectations of what it "should" look like and without focusing on making a living off of selling my art.  I'm doing it purely for the joy of it.  I was inspired by the adorable creations of Fairy Whisper Art, and decided to leave those "shoulds" behind and just run with it.  So far, this painting is making my heart sing.

The next issue of Sprout Magazine is out tomorrow - and I'm in it! So excited!

Also, this week some of my words, artwork, and poetry was published in latest edition of Sprout magazine!  I am totally honored to be included in this stunningly beautiful publication, and have been enjoying soaking in the artistry of my copy.  You can check it out here.

Whew!  That's a lot of creativity updating!  I'm grateful, though, that this week, which has vast potential to be downright awful, contains so much newness and beauty and life. 

What have you been up to this week, creatively and otherwise?

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

31 Weeks

belly at 30 weeks. I can pretend I can't see my toes. only 9 weeks, 63 days, and 9 appointments to go...

In my experience, pregnancy ends today. 

Abruptly.  Without cause.

It ends in tears.  Shock.  In the kind of pain that never heals, not fully, not really.

Eve died at 31 weeks exactly.  Today I am the same gestation with our rainbow baby.

It's hard to express how that feels.

I thought I'd be scared, but I'm not.  Or if I am, the anxiety is buried more deeply, embedded more intrinsically, than I can fathom.

I am sad.  Very sad.  Grief upon grief.  I miss my daughter.  It's hard to think of anything other than This is when she died.  No matter where I am or what I'm doing or who I may be with, my mind is focused first upon her.

I am sleeping terribly.

I do not feel myself.  I do not feel connected to the earth.  I pretend to everyone I meet.

I am surprised.  I expected the weeks leading up to this gestation to be terrifying, to feel like falling.  But they didn't.  They felt normal.  Good, even.  But now this living feels like dying.

I feel impatient.  I want to meet our boy before he's dead.  Eight weeks more feels like an eternity. 

I am mourning the fact that our son will only be younger than his sister, who should have been older than he for forever, for just a few more hours.  If he is alive at 11:30 PM today, he will have outlived her.  Will Eve still be his older sister if she is no longer technically older?  I feel confused.

I feel angry.  Angry that she's gone, and angry that I couldn't keep her here.  I want to smash things, smash everything.

It is quiet.  I expected today to be clanging loud with fear and dread and disaster, but it is quiet.  Just like her death, and her birth.  The world outside my window is as gray as my heart.  I am glad. 

I hurt.  That's what it comes down to.  What it always does.  No amount of feeling normal, of joy over this sweet boy or anything else, can erase her absence and the hurt that comes with it.

I miss her. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

On the Value of Being Messy

"And you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine." 

"Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. . . .  It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone."


I have been struggling deeply with questions of identity.  And not because Eve died -- although her death certainly made me unwilling to keep on living as if I had no questions when I did, and do.  No, I have been grappling with identity, with who-am-I-really and who-is-God-and-what-is-this-all-about, for my entire life. 

In my experience, childhood and the teenager years are a time when you learn about the world, are shown how to survive, and when you begin to discover who you are, the person that God created you to be.  You play, you make messes, you scrape your knees a lot, and you growing in the scraping and the mess-making.

That is not my story.  The messages communicated to me, both implicitly and explicitly, were quite different.  You are a problem.  You are inconvenient.  You are not loved if you make mistakes.  Your job is to be perfect.  Your job is to be who you are told to be, to do what you are told to do.  Don't ask questions.

The result of these messages?  Seventeen years of disordered eating to cope with feeling beaten down (seventeen years of mental illness that, thank God, have ended), and thirty years of not-knowing-who-I-am, of not trusting myself.  Not trusting my body when it tells me that it's full or it's tired or it's hurt.  Not trusting myself to make decisions, large or small.  Not trusting the beliefs or opinions or ideas or hopes that spring up in my head and heart.  Thirty years of not asking questions.

The only problem is -- the questions need to be asked.  The messes need to be made.  That's what the people who filled my mind with those false messages didn't understand.  Though I'm sure they loved me in their own way, they didn't understand that it is healthy to play and test and ask and fall.  And honestly, I didn't understand that myself until recently.  Losing Eve has brought that truth home even more strongly.  

So, having missed out on the many figuring-stuff-out opportunities the growing up years have to offer, I am asking the questions now.  I am embracing the mess.  Because if I am messy, there's no use pretending that I'm not just to please someone else (someone else who is probably denying their own messiness, too).  Life is messy.  Grief has taught me that. We might as well be honest about it.

This blog has been a part of that asking, that embracing, and it will continue to be.  But I am ready to start asking questions off the page, too, in the midst of life.  So I am trying to notice more -- notice the beauty and the pain and the exquisite mess of it all.  I try to notice how God enters in, how He is not afraid of the mess.  I am reading more poetry, and reading more in general, and more widely.  I am journaling more outside of this blog.  I am exploring through photography (like the one in this post -- it felt so vulnerable and tenuous that I knew I had to share, even though it makes me tremble).  I am trying to be honest -- with myself and with others.  I am done with hiding, done with being afraid.  I'm asking the hard, scary questions of God and about God, because not doing so turns my heart stony. 

More than that, I am choosing to believe that I am who God says I am, and that His love is as extravagant and graceful and depths-plumbing as the Bible describes it to be.  See that quote from Ephesians 1 at the top of this post?  It says that I am chosen (you are, too).  It tells me that the messages of my youth were wrong, and I am fighting hard to believe that.  It says that I am wanted, valuable in Christ.  It does not say, "God chooses as the focus on His love when we are perfect" or "when we are not messy" or "when we've got it all together."  No, it says that He chose us, period.  That I am valued, period. 

So I'm resting on that, and asking the messy, scabby, difficult questions and figuring out how to be the person He made me to be, how to trust that His workmanship is solid.  I know that He can take it.

This post feels clumsy, limping.  But it's an honest start, and that's something.

Friday, August 10, 2012

In the Art Studio: Warrioress, Wood Mounted Prints, & #1,000

{in progress}

Here is my current work-in-progress.  Well, that's not quite accurate -- I have a bunch of pieces that need to be finished, but this one is the most active (and most recent).  I think she's a warrioress.

wood mounted prints

New wood mounted prints are up in my art shop.  They turned out beautifully.  The photos absolutely do not do them justice -- I'm going to try retaking those photos, but I am so pleased with how these affordable, ready-to-hang prints look.  You can find them here

wood mounted prints

Also, this is my one thousandth post.  I started blogging five years ago as a food blogger, and had no idea what I was doing or how many incredible people I would meet through blogging.  I am so grateful for all of the people that blogging has brought into my life.  That means you!  Thank you!

Right now our home feels very peaceful.  I started off the morning by staying in bed with some feelings, and then followed that up with some sweet, silent painting.  The sky outside is overcast and it might storm today.  I hope it does.  I hope it's this quiet and lovely all weekend.

What are you up to this weekend, creatively or otherwise?

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Space Enough For Her

date night

Yesterday I got an answer to my question.  Or at least part of an answer.  If you read my last post, you'll remember that I've been wondering about how a dead child and a living child can both fit into the same life, especially once the grief begins to abate.

I've now had a taste of what that answer might be.  Here's what happened:

Yesterday, I woke up feeling heavy and terribly sad.  Not anxious, and certainly not normal, but sad.  At first I couldn't figure out why.  I thought maybe it was due to lack of sleep, or from waking up late.  My mind ran through a host of possibilities before I realized -- I was missing my daughter.

You see, yesterday I turned 30 weeks with our rainbow baby.  Eve died at 31 weeks.  So this week?  It's the crazy-making week.  The one I've been dreading since seeing that positive pregnancy test back in February.  And even though my conscious mind had forgotten that I turned 30 weeks, when I woke up my emotions and my body were filled with the knowledge of it.

And I was sad.  Just sad.  It's been a long while since the sadness has not come mixed with anxiety or fear or anger or detachment.

It was refreshing, in its own way, because it was a way to connect with my sweet girl.

It took me a couple of hours to realize what I was feeling and why, but once I did, I gave myself over to it.  I got back into bed and cried for a couple more hours.  I remembered all that I know of Eve, and imagined what she might have been like if she'd lived.  From the way she moved within me, I got the impression that she was a strong-willed, brave, impetuous, sassy, wild girl.  I hope that one day, after this life is over, I get to find out if I was right.  But for now, it is good to remember and to wonder.

To someone who hasn't known grief, it might seem strange to hear crying in bed for half a morning described as good.  I'm sure that there are some people who might be appalled hear that I still do such a thing nine months out from the cold day I birthed my daughter's body.  But I did, and I do, and it was very good.  And by "good" I mean that it was healthy and it was needed. 

More than that, it was a reminder.  A reminder that November is coming, and that even with a sweet rainbow boy in my arms that month will still be sad.  The one year mark of Eve's death and birth will still be cavernous.

And it was a reminder of something that I already knew -- that having a second child, a living child, does not "fix" my grief.  Eve's death is not a problem to be solved.  It just is, along with my grief.  Novembers will probably always be hard.  Seeing glimpses of my girl in her brother will probably always pinch at my heart.  And there will always be space enough for her with me.

date night

Monday, August 6, 2012



Since Eve died, I have not felt normal.  And by "not normal," I mean that I have not felt like myself (which is probably good, because how can you stay the same after something so life-shattering?).  I mean that I do not seem to fit.

At times, I haven't felt like a woman.  I haven't even felt like a real person.  I failed -- or something failed within me, or within her -- in this very basic act of procreation, and as a result I've often felt like I was expelled from the human race on the day I birthed my daughter's body.

It's been lonely, even though I know that I am not alone.


Lately I've been starting to feel more normal.  I don't even know what "normal" means now, only that it is different from what normal was before, and that it feels good.

It started with watermelon.

They showed up in the grocery store as summer's heat descended, and I couldn't resist.  We began buying watermelon regularly, and as soon as we got home from the store I'd set about slicing, nibbling while I cut the fruit into chunks.

There's something about cutting up watermelon that has felt very soothing to me, very healing.  Very normal.  Perhaps because it is methodical and physical, the same motions again and again.  When I am cutting up watermelon, I somehow feel more strongly than at any other time that I am providing for my family, performing this very mundane act of love for my husband, my body, and the baby boy growing within. 


Until watermelon came into season, I have not felt very normal.  But with the fruit's advent, I could look forward to this handful of minutes each week, hands sticky with juice, and glory in the calm.  No fear, no anxiety, and minimal sadness.  Just being.

Over the last few weeks, however, these periods of normalcy have extended beyond the realm of watermelon dissection.  They come upon me without warning, and in situations where I would not think to expect them:

Rocking a friend's sweet baby.  Washing one of my children's clothes for the first time in my life.  Enjoying burgers and conversation and deliciously silly games with more friends.  Posing for maternity photos in the gleaming light of evening. 

Had I considered these in advance (and for some of them I did), I would have expected each of these situations to make me feel more other, less normal.  But instead they had the opposite effect.  They made me feel like a person again.  Like a woman, and like a mother.  Like more than a shell.  They made me feel loved, valued. 

I feel like I fit again. 

I am so grateful.  Unspeakably so.  It's hard to muster up and keep mustering up the energy to go on breathing when you feel like the air is wasted on something like you.  It's hard to hold out for healing when you can't feel the hope of it.


But (again).

There is another side to these feelings of normalcy that scares me a little.

Because the feelings of not-normal, as horrible as they are, connect me to my daughter.  My grief is all that I get to have of her in this life.  So I wonder -- as the birth of our second baby draws closer and the joy looms large, will I forget her?  Will I pack her mementos away to make room for the living, the grief eclipsed by the exhilaration and terror of life with a newborn?  And if I do, what does that say of me?

If grief is love, what does it mean when the only tears shed are tears of gratitude and joy?  If I've found a place to fit, is there room enough for her?  How can I be a mother to a dead child and a living child at the same time? 

I have no answers. 

No, that's not true.  I have one -- that I love my children, both of them, with an excruciating, beautiful love that I never knew existed until I saw my daughter's face for the first time.

Somehow, that will have to be answer enough. 


Thursday, August 2, 2012

New in the Art Studio [+ the Giveaway Winner!]

In My Heart 

I've been getting busy in my art studio over the past few days -- probably because the temperatures went down enough so that I could be upstairs during the day without sweating buckets.  I've never been so happy to see fall-ish weather!  I even saw my first fallen yellow leaf today . . . perhaps a sign of an early fall?  I wouldn't mind!

I overcame my fear about making art while pregnant and finished the above piece.  I'm really happy with how it turned out.  I was a bit nervous about the color combination, but it seems to work nicely.  It's called "In My Heart," and the words winding around mama and baby read, "You've always had a home in my heart . . ."  You can nab a beautiful fine art print of this piece here, although I'm still deciding whether I want to part with the original or not. 


I've also been working on some more wood-mounted prints to put in the shop.  The last one got snapped up fast!  I love mounted prints because they require no effort on the part of the owner -- namely, no matting and framing!  When I buy art, it often takes me months to finally display it in our home because I find the process of framing so daunting. 


Now for the giveaway winner!  Thank you all so much for helping me to celebrate my art shop's first birthday.  I can't believe it's already been a year!  As for the winner . . . it is Sarah Ski!  Sarah, please send me an email at epiphanyartstudio (at) zoho (dot) com with your mailing address, and I'll get your print in the mail right away.

Thanks, everyone!  I hope that you all have a beautiful weekend.  And watch for those wood-mounted prints to hit the shop soon! 

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