Monday, July 23, 2012

Chasing Silhouettes & the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.
To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.

Also, SDG retreat registration is live!!  There are only 50 spots total, so please, get your registration in early so you don't miss out.
One of the things I love about being in community is the ability to support each other, to build each other up, to love them, to give them opportunities to be known more fully.  Today, I would love for us to rally around our fellow SDG sister, Emily, supporting her as she launches her new book, and shares her soul with the world.  

Here is Emily...

We were moving, for the tenth time in seven years, and I’d seen a bad word on the side of the grocery store wall (but had no one to ask about it) and Mum didn’t tell me I was beautiful and I couldn’t go to public school and Dad was never home, so I stopped eating.

I chewed pencil, tasting lead. Our heads were bent over textbooks, together at the kitchen table, and Mum’s back was turned, while she rolled dough on the counter, and I wanted her to look at me, tell me she loved me, over and over, give me a mirror and trace my cheeks and help me believe I was worth something, but she didn’t know how, having never known it herself, and so I broke my pencil pressing it into prose and tried to find myself in the lines of the page.

I heard the sounds of girls going to school, ran to the door, and saw they were wearing pink backpacks and I wanted to run with them, but my legs were too fat; no one likes a fat preacher’s kid. Besides, we were home-schooled in case we should move again. Also, I had cried when I’d gone to kindergarten, so Mum had brought me home, ordered books, and vowed to teach me. That kind of thing was supposed to tell me she loved me, but I didn’t feel it. Because, to me, love was words and gifts. So I sat down to do my math and tried to forget.

I tried to forget the way Dad laughed with strangers in their pews, listened to them, as if their stories were more important than mine. And the way he closed the door to his study and sighed when I knocked, timid to ask him a question. I tried to forget the way he spanked me not knowing what I’d done wrong, only that Mum told him to because she was too angry to do it herself, and scared of that anger. It didn’t hurt me anymore, not even when he used his belt, because I refused to let it.

A neighbor saw me on the carpet, toy-playing, seven-year-old oblivion, and said, “What a big girl,” and I carried those words around like a bird in a cage, until one day the bird got loose and I stopped eating. Soon I would run on thin legs with the girls next-door.

It was a slow-stop, one that began with saying “No,” and the “No” felt good. I refused dessert. I refused the meals Mom dished up for me. I refused the spreads on my bread and then the margarine and then the bread itself. And it felt good, like the ribs on my fingers, as I practiced my counting.

I was nine and I felt 109. Mom let me go to school again, but I wasn’t allowed to do English class, because the books were too risqué, and she still didn’t say I was beautiful. The days were long and I was tired and no one could hear me, so I starved harder and the teachers couldn’t see me, so I shrunk my words making them smaller, smaller, until the teachers were forced to pull down their glasses and study the prose I’d made, the winning prose, and I aced class and I flunked recess.

At night, I dreamt of food. Mum found me, hunting for chocolates in my bedspread. I wanted her to hug me and make the fear go away, but then I was worried I’d eat real chocolates, because my guard would be let down with the soft of her touch, so I stopped hugging her for two years. My legs were getting thin, and that was what mattered, but I dreamt about her arms, and woke up hugging myself.

God didn’t care. He made me recite names each night before bed and I couldn’t go to sleep without reciting, because then people would die, and I wanted to die but I didn’t know it until the day everyone tried to force me to eat and I refused it all, and now it was clear to the world and maybe to God too: I was in control.

It was supper and we were seated and Mum was dishing, dishing, dishing and the macaroni and cheese piled orange and white as she handed them, plates plunking against old wood table, and I’d already decided, it tasted like straw, even before I took a bite.

Tonight, I would eat only half, and she’d threaten me with no dessert and I’d tell her point blank, that’s fine. Maybe it would make her worn sweaters unravel and her straight-lined school schedule smear and maybe then she’d take me into her arms and tell me she was sorry.

Sorry for praying that prayer when I was in her womb, the one I learned of later on, the one she said with good intentions not knowing how it would hurt me, the prayer which uttered God, don’t make my baby beautiful, in case she becomes vain. (I can see Mum’s hands trembling on her abdomen in the night as she offered her baby like Hannah did with Samuel, and it makes me love her, yet, despise).
In my own dark nights I worked to reverse that prayer. I’d train as though for war, to see food as nothing but a trap. I’d lie there feeling ribs, measuring wrists, planning the next day’s meals. And if there was to be a party somewhere, soon, I’d eat less in preparation, allowing myself the freedom to snack for then no one would know the difference.

By day, I’d peer into the mirror as if into my soul and imagine myself skinnier, beautiful. I’d creak onto the toilet seat after bath, spend half an hour turning this way and that, analyzing naked bones. Sucking in and pulling skin and strategizing how to become invisible.
Salvation came through imagination.

The apple grew a face which mocked me, and so I didn’t finish it, for every time I defeated the food, I gained points against Mum, and maybe God, and I was winning. The food had nothing on me. Sometimes I’d trick it, making the piece of bread think it would fill me up then rip it into halves and eat only one, and there was a thrill in leaving food on the plate, as though I could disappoint it. Even the raisins in the tapioca seemed to stare holes, and I would push it away, feigning fullness.

But food was everywhere, and it never slept. It would beat me in my dreams—the cakes, the pies, the sandwiches. In my mind there would be a buffet, high-calorie. I’d gorge, drool, and crumbs would spill over into daytime and I’d wake feeling bloated, spend the next day getting back at food by eating less.
I’d suck in my cheeks in the mirror; I’d suck them in for photos and I’d try not to talk so I could suck them in day-long. It was tiring, this looking like a model, but I was determined to be beautiful. I would weigh myself every time I ate, every time I went to the bathroom; I’d take off my shoes, my socks, my pants, just to see the numbers drop.

And I wept through the pain, wept behind closed doors with my arms wrapped tight, but I couldn’t stop.

Emily Wierenga is an author, artist and freelance journalist from Neerlandia, AB. Please pre-order her book, Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, to donate to your libraries, churches or the family down the street in need of hope and healing. Thank you.

(Repost; originally appeared at The High Calling, November 2010)


  1. Jen, thanks for sharing Emily's words. This post makes me sad...but it makes me want to read about the hope. I know it's there because I've read Emily's blog.

    Jen, can't wait to hear how your conference went...

  2. Thank you for sharing this, Jen. Her story is incredible.

  3. Wow, every parent should read Emily's post. SO touching -- I'm with Laura: sad, but you know that hope is coming.

  4. Every time I read these words of Emily's, my heart hurts...for her mum, for her dad, for her...

  5. Wow...I'm almost speechless~ It sure reminds me to love my granddaughters, to tell them constantly with words and with hugs, and to admire them in the ways that will speak to their hearts! Thanks for sharing this~ ♥♥♥

  6. Emily, Your words always dance on the page even when the subject is dark and sad. It hurts to think of you trying so desperately to be noticed. I am thankful for all God has brought you through, for how he has redeemed those times so you can speak to the dark places in other's lives. I pray your book finds its way into many, many hands, so they will know they are not alone, that they matter. You are beautiful, in every way, dear Emily. Thank you for bleeding on the pages. It heals.

  7. Oh, my, I just want to go back in time to wrap my mommy arms around you, to let you know you are precious and that you matter. My heart breaks for where you've been, and yet I am so grateful that you are going to help so many others through your writing.

    Jen, thanks so much for sharing Emily with us today. <3

  8. Emily, your words are beautifully sad. They scare me a little; I wonder if I am unintentionally scarring my own daughters or son. Thank you for sharing and bringing light to a subject that most don't understand.

  9. Those words we hear instead of the words we need - that is hard - and it impacts in ways never intended. Unintentionally leaving huge scares because they just didn't know my heart and mind enough to understand how it would be translated. I've tried talking to my boys about the different ways people "hug" so we can better understand the language people love us in - and it is hard - because we each started life with different language dictionaries.

    Your words hit home - the challenge - mine was not a food thing but an image thing all the same:)

  10. Thank you for sharing the pain in this post,as it will help others fighting this battle to find peace. Thanks for the great post and for hosting the linkup, and God bless,

  11. Can we call words filled with such pain beautiful? I found myself holding my breath as I read. Eager to read her book. Thank you, Jen, for introducing me to it.

  12. Emily, your story breaks my heart. How sad that parents miss their children's cry for love. Thanks for sharing your struggle and giving us insight to your pain.

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  14. Powerful, hearbreaking and anointed words ... her book will be a gift to too many young ladies (and men), out there. Thanks for sharing her words

  15. Such sadness for Emily and her family. It will be good to read the rest of the story.


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