This is My Body

This is My Body by Robynn

Though they may be out there, I have never met a woman who is not consumed with food, and body image. There are those who are clinically diagnosed with eating disorders but all of us are to some degree disordered in our relationship to food and to our bodies. It started, of course, in the garden with Eve and the fruit. It was food and it spoke to her. Granted the fruit didn’t actually talk, but her soul’s enemy spoke to her and the message was mixed in with the food. Temptation with a spiritual marinade, a dipping sauce, a glaze.  Ever since then we’ve battled burgers and burritos; biscuits and beans. Our fight with food has been handed down to us through a long line of mothers.

I am no exception. I’ve wrestled food since I hit puberty. It’s a love-hate relationship. I love to eat. I hate how food gathers and stays on my body. I love the taste and smells of food; the texture, the flavours. I hate the pull and power of food. My history with food includes unseemly weight gain with entering and reentering cultures, with culture shock and stress.

Lately my body has been out of whack. My metabolism is on strike. My ability to burn calories seems to be deterred by fatigue and hormonal changes. I’ve never loved exercising. I love people. I’ll go for a walk if a friend will go with me. But a walk just for a walk’s sake seems like a waste of time. I don’t enjoy it. Now I can hardly eat anything and the weight still seems to creep on. It’s depressing. It’s disheartening.

Last week I was praying again for grace in this…. I don’t want to obsess about it. I don’t want to become consumed with myself, with food, with my body or with my feelings about my body. I was trying to release all that again up to Jesus who understands about bodies. He chose to be bodied, to take on flesh, to become a person. He came for our souls and for our bodies. He healed the lame, gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. Jesus healed diseased bodies, broken bodies, bleeding bodies. He touched bodies that no one else would touch. He associated with bodies that others avoided.

As I was praying for my body and my emotions about it…these words came to mind. “This is your body.” It seemed a divine pronouncement over me, over my agonies, over my physical frame. I repeated it slowly, out loud, “This is my body. This is my body.” I felt somehow it was a remedy for my conflicted distorted soul stuck in this conflicted distorted body. This is my body. I’ve been chewing this over and over. It keeps coming to mind. As the negative thoughts come, this thought has dropped like a sweet warm blanket to cover the ugliness of my beliefs. This is my body.

At the last meal that Jesus shared with his friends he tried again to explain to them that he was about to be executed, that he would die, that he would come back to life. It was a mystery to them. They couldn’t understand it. Using what was right in front of him (the food!), Jesus, picked up the bread, and he broke off a chunk. This was a metaphor they could figure out. It was the language of survival and comfort. It was memory and mystery. It was bread. “This is my body,” he said, “Broken for you. Take it. Eat it.”

Jesus wasn’t just giving them a cute expression, a fun phrase, or a clever speech. When Jesus says, “This is my body, broken for you,” it’s significant. His broken body—his sacrifice—has the capacity to redeem me. All of me. My body. My relationship with food. All of it. His body restores my body. He offers us his broken body for our consumption. We are invited to, “take and eat”. We consume Jesus and we are satisfied. That alone means something for my food issues and my body issues and my brokenness.

In that moment at that last meal when Jesus proclaimed, “This is my body, broken for you,” it makes me wonder if in some sense Jesus himself had to come to grips with his own body and its impending brokenness. He was about to endure the profound breaking of his own body. He leans into it and he accepts it. That has implications for me accepting my own body and my own brokenness.

This holy truth, with its layers and layers of implication and revelation, has been slowly seeping into my soul this week. This IS my body. It’s the body I’ve been given. It’s no surprise to my Creator that my metabolism is malfunctioning. He’s not shocked by my disdain for exercise. He’s not horrified by longings for a piece of cake or a handful of snack mix. He actually loves me completely. From the freckles on my arms to the hair that’s coming in grey and wiry; from my ingrown toenails to my one short thumb; from the ski-sloped nose to my varicose veins…all of it designed and delighted in by my Potter, my Maker.

And it’s broken. Broken because of the Fall. Broken in childbirth for my children. Broken in India for the sake of my calling. Broken in aging. Broken in natural deterioration. Broken here for my holy now. Broken for Jesus.

We follow in his example. We mimic our model. We saw him lay down his body for the sake of his friends and so we lay down our lives for the sake of ours. It’s our way of participating in the redemption of others. We give ourselves up. We give ourselves over. And we experience that brokenness for the sake of others. Our bodies become a type of sacrifice, living and holy.

Part of the mystery includes offering to Jesus our brokenness. Our Catholic brothers and sisters understand this. When they write about suffering some of the first words out of their mouth are almost always that we get to give our suffering as an offering to Jesus. There’s certainly no sense that Jesus takes and eats us. He doesn’t consume us or use us up.  But we do get to offer up our broken bodies to him, our broken and stale bread, our broken and moldy connection to food.

That is a spiritual reality made present and tangible in our physicality. Hurting, aching, bearing, enduring, suffering. All in our bodies. St Paul wrote that he was glad to suffer, for his friends, in his body…somehow he knew he was participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for Jesus’ body, the church. Paul understood that suffering bears fruit. He was “willing to endure anything” –and as preposterous as it sounds–he even considered it a privilege, a divine opportunity, if it would result in the rescue of another or in glory going to God.

This is my body, a holy temple filled with his Holy Spirit presence. Broken it may be. Damaged. Wounded. Lumpy. Chicken pock-marked. But there is a mystery at work in my members. And I give myself up to be consumed by others. I get to participate in that redemption-rescue mission work, where bread is broken and wine is poured.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Rom 12:1-2)

(Col 1:24, 2 Tim 2:10, Phil 1:29)

No Wonder We Have Issues!

No Wonder we have issues! –a superficial exploration of this woman and her obsession with food! By Robynn

What’s with women and food?

crepes, foodWomen have a strange relationship with food. Maybe it’s not just women. Maybe
men have an odd entanglement with food too. But certainly women do. Traditionally men were the ones that killed the food and brought it home. And it seems to me that women have been in the kitchen ever since preparing it.

Is it any wonder that we have issues with food? Food is such a complicated thing.

We need food to survive. We need the nourishment that comes from the nutrients. We need the energy that comes from the calories.

In the west food is everywhere.  Advertisers appeal to our base appetites and instincts. They convince us that we deserve the most delectable treats. We’re worth it! We’re entitled to the tastiest morsels, the fanciest of feasts.  Food is sensual and supposedly satisfying.

And yet at the same time we’re served up such mixed messages.

The media tells us to diet, to become skinny, to lose weight. We’re trained to fixate on food and we’re taught to obsess on size. Supposedly we can have our cake and eat it too!

The plot and the waistline thicken when we consider all the roles food plays.

Food is a central part of celebration.

(Consider the Christmas dinner or the food at Eid; the sweets for Holi and the feast at Thanksgiving!) Food is also a reward. Side dishes of consolation are served up as comfort. Friends get together for meals. It’s part of our hospitality and included in our invitations. “Come over for dessert!”  Food is the subject of countless studies. (Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? What is the role of the family dinner in our children’s state assessment scores? ) Food and it’s production have become highly political subjects as well. High Fructose Corn Syrup sneaks into most things we eat. There are lobbyists in Washington making sure that doesn’t change! Meanwhile down the street Mrs Obama is planting a garden and encouraging us to eat better, more of this, less of that.

Food is nostalgia.

It’s childhood. It’s memories. For those of us who’ve been other places and come to love other foods it represents a deeper type of longing for a place faraway.

Boarding school further complicated my food issues. Food meant status (those who had special imported treats and those who didn’t). Food meant love and connection with home. Sharing our “feastings” was a way to share our families and the love of our families. Reunions always meant food. Mom cooked all of our favourites for each reunion. It was her way of welcoming us home. It was one of the languages she used to say, I missed you so very much. Pending separations were counted down with food. Three more days at home meant three more home cooked meals and another opportunity for mom to lavish love in three more meals of our favourites. The train trip back up to school included shoe boxes lined with wax paper and filled with food!

That travel food was prepared with tears and consumed by little brave travelers trying not to drench cinnamon buns and elephant ear pastries with more tears.

And yet now food becomes practical, and real and down to earth every day. I have to think about it. I have to plan for it. I have to go get it. I push my cart through the shop, load it up, empty it out at the check out, bag it, load it into the car, unload it into the house, put it away and then bring it out again, cut it, chop it, stir it, cook it and serve it!

Food is universal.

Everywhere, every day, we wake up and we think about food. This is true for the rich and for the poor; for the full and for the hungry.

There are those who are sick because of food and the power it wields. Those who eat too little or eat too much. Those trying to drown their souls in their stomaches. Those trying to hold on to a bit of control in a world wild with chaos.

But in a way I think I’m sick with food too. As my metabolism slows and the emotions of yesteryear begin to simmer up inside food somehow grounds me….or at least it pretends too. I realize my reasons for eating are as complex as the personality I’ve been given or the story I’ve been living.

I find food too oppressive. I’m weary of the obsession. I try not to weigh my emotions or my convictions about food as I stand on the scale, naked, vulnerable, weary.

I tried to give it all up for Lent….not food itself…but the longing and love of food. It’s not working.

But today, on International Day of the Woman, I will put aside the obsession and celebrate – celebrate that at the very least food does serve to connect me with women across the globe. Food ties our stories and struggles together. binds us tight with spices and tastes. And that I can and will celebrate.

When a Piece of Bread is not a Piece of Bread –

In 2008 HSBC Bank unrolled a brilliant advertising campaign. Called “Different Values”, the campaign showed three pictures side by side.

Sometimes it was three identical pictures with a different word across each picture:

oriental-rug

Other times it was three different pictures with the same word across each picture:

HSBC_accomplishment

The Armenian Stores of Watertown

When we crave hummus or stuffed grape leaves; when our mouths water for lebne and fresh pita bread; when large grocery stores of packaged and processed foods with too many choices and paralyzing cereal aisles begin to weigh us down, we head to the Armenian stores of Watertown.

There within a couple of blocks are five or six stores, all boasting the foods we love and crave. They are small and manageable filled with all the smells, spices, and goods that represent so much of the wonder of the Middle East.

They sit competitively on Mount Auburn Street in Watertown and are known throughout the area. Their names are words like Massis and Arax and Sevan and all hold tastes of familiarity and home, tastes of the middle east.

As soon as we get home we set out our mezzes in the pottery plate we bought in Jerusalem. The separated parts of the plate are perfect for the variety of foods we have purchased. Mouths watering, we put out our food treasures, anxious to sit down and eat.

And in those moments, as we dip fresh pita bread into hummus laced with pungent olive oil and sprinkled with the deep red spice of sumac, we live out our longing for a place through food.

Accessing Childhood Tastes

The other day a package arrived at our house. It was an eight inch square box addressed to my husband. “What could it be?” I thought. When he got home a smile spread over his face. He had ordered a favorite food from his childhood; a food nowhere to be found on the shelves of supermarkets in the Northeast and a love he has passed on to our children – boiled peanuts.

I’ve written in other posts about those things that we miss when we have settled as adults in a world far different from the one we knew as children. Beyond the land, people, transportation and more is that which we daily experienced – the food. The mere taste of a meal can send us across countries or oceans and suddenly we are back in a childhood home, where dahl and rice are served three to four times a week and chapatis with hamburgers or peanut butter and jelly are far more the norm than bread and jam. Where boiled peanuts or gulab jamuns are on your grocery store shelf, not an airmail package away

So it brings me to the question: how far are you from your childhood tastes? How far do you have to drive to get that Mango Lassi? The fresh hummus and stuffed grape leaves? The Pad Thai or the Paella? Is it just around the corner, two hours away or across the ocean?

Those visceral responses to tastes and smells can be the difference between knowing you can cope and thinking you can’t. Are cities places that are easier for the global nomad to settle simply because they come with their plethora of eateries and ethnic grocery stores? Are these seemingly simple but critical pieces to adjustment in a place far from where we were raised and feel we belong?

So two questions for those who are global nomads, third culture kids, adult third culture kids or anybody who is now living in a place far from their childhood home: How far are you from accessing those tastes?  Does it make a difference in your ability to adjust?

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“Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard is Bare” Salad – Thoughts on Plenty

Old Mother Hubbard and Her Dog
Old Mother Hubbard and Her Dog

Last week temperatures were in the low eighties in this unseasonably warm March, and all of Boston not only thawed but were seen sweating. On Thursday night, after working up a healthy appetite from a long walk on the Charles River, we got home to a cupboard reminiscent of a nursery rhyme: Mother Hubbard’s Bare Cupboard. There was no lettuce, no onions, no garlic, a couple sad-looking tomatoes (good only for cooking) no lentils, – it felt impossible and I realized in this case I was Mother Hubbard, and it wasn’t bones I needed for dogs. It was supper for my family.

Too tired to head to the grocery store, I stood staring in silence at an open, near empty refrigerator, hoping that inspiration would come to me. And an idea was borne. I had a half cup of left over fresh salsa, a can of corn, a box of pasta, a quarter cup of goat cheese, a half a cucumber and 4 frozen chicken tenderloins.

A half hour later I had Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard is Bare” Salad – Delicious.  I thawed the chicken and cut it into small pieces, then sautéed it in olive oil. Placing it in a bowl I added the fresh salsa, corn, chopped up cucumber and goat cheese. While that cooled, the pasta cooked. 8 minutes later I rinsed off the pasta with ice-cold water and added it to the chicken mix.

It was an amazing salad, fresh and delicious. And it got me thinking – about my cupboard and what I consider bare, compared to a good number of people in the rest of the world. I thought it was bare because I didn’t have what I wanted.…not because it really was bare. Truth be told, we ate well and with a bit of fruit salad left over and some fresh strawberries, we even had a dessert.

In even a seemingly bare naked cupboard, I have so much. Through the simple act of creating a meal, I was given yet another lesson in plenty versus nothing. Had I seen only through the poverty of my eyes, I would have continued to see the cupboard as bare. Through left over salsa and goat cheese, corn, chicken and cucumber, my eyes opened wide with gratefulness at all that I have, and awareness of what others may lack. Perhaps the salad needs to be renamed to “Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard Has Plenty But You Need Good Eyesight to See it” Salad. 

Old Mother Hubbard, She went to the cupboard, to get her poor doggie a bone. But when she got there, the cupboard was bare, and so the poor doggie had none!