“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.”
—The Velveteen Rabbit

My four year old sat holding a toy she wasn’t allowed to open until the next week. She caressed the edges of the box, held it up so she could see better through the plastic window, and chatted happily about all she’d do once the toy was out of its casing.
Each day my four year old repeated this ritual. She never complained or whined, just contented herself with holding the box, waiting patiently for the day designated for opening it.
“That’s so cruel!” A friend joked when I told her.
Was it?
Jon and I don’t often try to shield our children from emotional discomfort. We make them wait, we don’t practice fairness, and we encourage them to work out their own problems as often as possible. It had never occurred to me to hide the toys away, because it had never occurred to me to shield my daughter from the discomfort of waiting.

Lately, I’ve been working to accept things in my own life that cause me discomfort. Jon and I are going through changes both as a couple and as individuals, and my life is currently full of questions and situations that almost daily bring up feelings of panic, fear, sadness, anger, and frustration. All my life, I’ve sought to avoid anything that might cause these “negative” emotions, but now, rather than seek to alleviate them, I’m trying to sit with them. Hold them. Let them touch me, then let them pass. They always do, eventually, and generally teach me something along the way.
I think the Skin Horse was right. “Becoming” doesn’t happen often to those who break easily or must be carefully kept. We have to be willing to go to a place where we allow ourselves to be hurt, afraid, sad, even broken, if need be. We have to be willing to enter that place with hearts wide-open, and embrace whatever is waiting for us there.

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse. “By the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Posted in Anxiety, Fear, Parenting, Raising Children Discipline/Discipleship | Leave a comment


“Jon… don’t fuss at me… I think I’ve lost the debit card.”

My husband is a patient man. When I forgot my camera battery before a trip to Florida, he drove thirty minutes out of his way to bring it to me. When I recently (ok, yesterday) came home from the grocery without most of the staple items we always buy (toilet paper, dish liquid, shampoo, to name a few) he went out the next day to get them. When I decided to make cheese for friends and got halfway through the process before realizing I didn’t have a candy thermometer, he drove 20 minutes to our local Amish store to purchase one and when I realized I also needed kitchen gloves, he took a drive in the opposite direction to find them. He rarely gets mad and has an extraordinary ability to take everything in stride. But if there’s one thing he’s very, very particular about, it’s our finances and everything associated with them. I knew he was not happy.
“Are you kidding me? How the hell did you manage to lose the debit card?”
“I don’t know!”
“Are you sure you used it?”
“I’m positive. I used it at the gas station, and was going to use it at the vet, but it wasn’t in my wallet. I’m in the parking lot now, and I’ve searched everywhere. It’s not here.”
“I can’t believe this.”
I wondered idly how he could possibly “not believe this,” considering the past seventeen years as my husband, but thought it unwise to say so aloud.
“Hang on, I’m getting another call.”
The kids and I continued searching as I waited for him to get back with me.
“Rina, that was the vet. They said they have your card.”
“Oh, thank God! I’ll call you right back.”
I ran in, thankful for the mix up. I must have used the debit card, after all, and wished I hadn’t called my husband so quickly. I knew he’d be irritated for the rest of the day, even though the card had been found, and I tried to comfort myself with the knowledge that it could have been worse. The receptionist handed me the card, and my heart sank.
I made my way back to the car and dragged the phone to my ear. “Jon… they had the credit card. The debit card is still missing.”

Posted in Humor, Marriage | Leave a comment

Truth of Beauty

Today I stepped on the scale for the first time in several weeks and discovered I’ve met my biggest weight loss goal, so far: one hundred pounds lost.

I’m elated about this, of course, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have mixed feelings about my body after losing so much weight. A little over a year ago, I wrote an article about how I’ve learned to accept my body, even celebrate it just a little. But I’ve recently come to see this just isn’t true. Or maybe it was true, when I wore shapeless clothing and my body was seen only by the man who’d met me in my early twenties and bore witness to the weight fluctuations, the stretch marks, the slow downward descent of my breasts and outward protrusion of my stomach. Maybe it was true before I started losing weight more rapidly, which has led to loose skin and an odd feeling of deflation. Or maybe it was never true at all, and I wrote that post more from wishful thinking than honesty. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever come to terms with my body. I wonder if I’ll ever stand before someone “naked and unashamed.”

Months ago, I read the story of Lucy Grealy, a cancer survivor who killed herself at age 39 after years struggling to accept herself following over 20 unsuccessful reconstructive surgeries to repair radiation damages to her jaw. As I read her story, both through the eyes of her best friend, Ann Patchett, in the book Truth and Beauty then through her own retelling in Autobiography of a Face, I was struck by a deep and unexpected sorrow. One night as I looked down at my body, I found myself sobbing in my husband’s arms: “I’m sorry! I’m just so sorry!” I said this over and over in my mind, to an imaginary little-girl Lucy. And as I lay there with my husband, crying for Lucy, I realized I was crying for myself as well.

I have spent a lifetime searching for identity in my physical appearance, never quite measuring up, hiding myself from view. Where Lucy tried to hide her face, I tried to hide my hips and thighs, stomach and breasts. Where Lucy was teased about her face, I was criticized about my body. Where Lucy adopted the idea she could never be loved, I adopted the idea I could only be loved if I looked a certain way. And as I realized the tragedy of Lucy’s upbringing, I understood the tragedy of all that had affected me in a similar way, (to an obviously lesser degree.) Society had given us both not just an impossible standard, but a false one.

Lucy writes, of the literary classics she was reading at the time:

“They presented a version of the world in which honor and virtue and dedication to the truth counted. The stories comforted me, though it didn’t escape my attention that these qualities were ascribed primarily to men. The women might be virtuous as well, but their physical beauty was crucial to the story.”

Society has given women a standard most of us have adopted without question: whatever other virtues we may have, physical beauty is one of the most – if not THE most – important. Show me the heroin of the book, tv show, or movie, who is not also beautiful and I will show you the exception to the rule. There is very little place in the media for bodies that are lumpy, bumpy, big, or disproportionate and where they do show up, they’re typically featured as awkward, obnoxious, slovenly, or evil. Mama June. Roseanne. Ursula. Where are the heroins with sagging breasts and pouchy stomachs? Where are the flabby arms and cellulite? We are given as a standard something most women will never be able to achieve and grow up in a world that tells us in order to be virtuous we must also be beautiful according to that standard. Different is considered deficient. This is heartbreaking.

But it’s not the end of the story. At least, it doesn’t have to be. I’m coming to understand that although I can’t fight the world’s definition of beauty, or sit around hoping others will value my physical appearance, I can choose to value myself. Today, I ask myself the question: is it possible to decide—for myself—what true beauty is to me? Is it possible to accept this body, regardless of whether anyone else ever does?

As a friend of mine once said, perception is affected by focus and focus is affected by choice. In the United States, the source of the media’s idea of beauty isn’t true beauty—which includes so much more than legs and butt and boobs—it’s business. Behind every sexy advertisement is an old man sitting in a yacht and behind every centerfold image is a woman struggling to pay her bills. The act of being aware of this – of paying attention to this truth – has the power to change things. Behold the great and powerful Oz…

Behold the man behind the curtain.

This game, like so many others, is rigged against us, and if we want to win we must step away and find another game to play. We can’t change the world’s definition of beauty, but we can change our own.

“Every stretch mark, age spot, dimple, and stray hair I’ve picked up along the way tells a story. It might not be the story I would have liked to tell, of hours at the gym, consistent healthy eating, or regular spa treatments (ha!) But it tells the story of a woman, a family, and a little farm. It tells the story of eight beautiful, healthy children and a life lived, to the best of my ability, walking with God. It’s my story. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.”

I wrote these words a year ago. Can I believe them?

Posted in Perfectionism, PERSONAL | 1 Comment


“If you can see your path laid out in front of you, step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”
– Joseph Campbell

“Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey. There are no general principles for this art of being. Yet the signature of this unique journey is inscribed deeply in each soul. If you attend to yourself and seek to come into your presence, you will find exactly the right rhythm for your own life. The senses are generous pathways that can bring you home.”
– John O’Donohue

“Narrow is the road that leads to life.”


Christianity gave me an excellent script by which to live my life, an excellent map to follow. It told me if I did A and B and C, and if I walked THIS road instead of THAT one, I would be following the footsteps of millions of others who had reached the destination and could ensure my safety. It gave me stability, predictability, an idea of what the future would hold and, to a certain extent, a feeling of control over my life and lack of vulnerability. For years, I followed that map as best I could, doing everything the church told me I ought. Until things fell apart.

When things fell apart, I let go of everything the church, my society, and the world around me had ever taught me about who I ought to be and what I ought to think and determined to travel (to the best of my ability) my own path, doing everything I could to listen to that still, small voice inside, the voice I call (for lack of a better word) My Soul. I have a feeling it could also be called Holy Spirit. Too often, over the years, I’d ignored this voice in an effort to be “right” according to the opinions of those around me. Now, I stopped listening to the opinions of others. Stopped asking for permission. Stopped explaining myself. I started saying “no” more often and started saying “yes” more often. I did the next thing I felt led to do, and then the next, and then the next. Then one day, I ended up in a place I never thought I’d go, a place the church told me God would never lead.

During this time, I struggled not only to understand my experience, but to figure out the “right” thing to do. Finding myself in a place I never thought I’d be, everything seemed too big, too complicated. I couldn’t possibly take THIS one step at a time. I had responsibilities, obligations. Somehow, I had to come up with a plan, find some path to follow, figure out the destination. I spent a miserable few months trying to do just that, until a friend convinced me to do something that, by all accounts, seemed exactly the “right” thing to do. So I did that “right” thing… and everything grew worse. Much worse. Inside, I felt myself screaming and one day I stopped and listened. Really listened. Tears rolled down my face as I realized, she’s been screaming for years.

Suddenly, I knew I couldn’t ignore that screaming voice anymore. I knew I had to stop looking for the destination and start once more to listen to the voice whispering the next right step. Not the big picture, not the five year plan, just the next right step, trusting it to “bring me home.”

I am coming to believe that the destination is not mine to know. I am coming to believe I can only ever know the next right thing, and then the next, one right thing at a time. Not the next right thing for my husband, or my friends, or even my children, but the next right thing for myself. Step by step, day by day, moment by moment. God, The Universe, My Soul, The Holy Spirit, whatever I want to call It, this Higher Power knows about the people in my life and I am coming to believe that by doing the next right thing for me, I am also doing the next right thing for them.

I think I am beginning to understand what Joseph Campbell and John O’Donohue and (dare I say it?) Jesus meant when they spoke of the path as narrow and unseen. Where religion gives a map, The Spirit gives the next step, and only the next step. Should I choose to take it, there will be no one on the other side to cheer me, no one to tell me it’s all going to be okay. Religion gives a picture of the journey. The Spirit extends an empty canvas. And that is terrifying.

I once heard someone say the Universe is always trying to push us toward the direction of our own growth. If this is true, what is happening to me now makes sense in a way few things ever have. It’s as if a match has been lit to a kindling gathered to destroy the straw house religion and popular opinion had me build. My husband recently said he feels I’m not the same person I was when we got married. He’s right, I’m not. I am Phoenix, rising from the ashes.


Related Articles:

Faith Unraveled

Perfect Love

Posted in Criticism, Faith, Healing, Miscellaneous, Perfectionism, Victory Journal | 3 Comments

Newest Addition

Our cow had her first calf today (a little bull) and our oldest caught it on video…

Posted in Farm & Garden | Leave a comment

Till We Meet Again

Lisa opened her eyes and looked around her hospital bed. While she slept, the room had filled and for the first time, she saw the friends and family members gathered there. She arched a brow. “What brings you all here?”
Grief gave way to laughter, and those who loved her took a healing breath as Lisa did what she had always done, comforting those around her, easing their pain even as hers increased.
Lisa spent her last days connecting with everyone who came to see her, struggling to stay awake long enough to talk to each and every person. With labored breaths and broken words, my Aunt asked her friends about their families, about their jobs, about the things that were important to each of them. In her final moments, she told my brother to get his tires checked, reminded her sister to take care of their mother, asked that we all stop crying.
Lisa died as she had lived… caring for those around her, making others as comfortable as she could, loving each and every person with a love that had weathered countless storms and fostered life-long friendships. Those who loved her cared for her in return, traveling great distances to be there, spending every moment they could with her. They cooked, cleaned, and made sure she lacked for nothing. Lisa’s sister cared for her tirelessly, taking more on her shoulders than I think even she thought possible, exhibiting a strength I don’t think she knew she had. Lisa’s doctor, also one of her closest friends, came to see her multiple times a day, answering our questions, giving instructions, repressing her own grief in order to be strong for us. Her brother-in-law stayed up all night watching over her so the rest of us could sleep, her sister-in-law and cousins worked tirelessly to make the arrangements after her death, friends and family members crowded the house to help pack and move her things. So many people loved Lisa through this time, in so many ways, it is impossible to list them all. We stayed up late talking with and singing to her. We made plans for an empanada stand. We cried, and laughed, and comforted each other as best we could.
I never said goodbye to Lisa. I couldn’t bring myself to speak the words.
“Don’t say it,” she told me. “Say ‘till we meet again.’”
And so I did. And so I have. I have met Lisa in a sunrise over water, in the wagging tail of a dog, in the sound of a dove, in the faces of my family members, in the soothing words of her friends, in the arms of a loved one, in the care and kindness she nurtured and fostered in everyone she knew and loved. Lisa will never be gone as long as sunflowers stretch their faces to the sky and waves crash against the ocean shore. As long as incredible women love each other, and care for each other, and hold each other close. For this, I am truly thankful.

“Those we hold most dear never truly leave us… They live on in the kindness they showed, the comfort they shared and the love they brought into our lives.”
– Isabel Norton

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Jon and I have decided to try our hand at a permaculture system that involves planting many different varieties of plant and tree in and near swales, which we’ve dug in our front yard. It’s not pretty, but we’re hoping to get lots of produce from it, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, strawberries, asparagus, radishes, varying types of lettuce, kale, spinach, carrots, and over 200 fruit and nut bearing trees. Can’t wait for everything to start growing!!! Here are a few pictures from today:


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