About that Extra Five Pounds I Gained Over the Holidays

A reminder from the archives; because I need it!

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It’s still hanging around.

I can feel it, and I know when you hold me, you do too.

It was unfortunate that the elliptical broke mid-September and attempts to collect on that warranty proved fruitless. It became a monstrous clothesline—convenient for hanging jackets and sweatshirts on arms and pedals and console. And then the cold snap, with temperatures so low these running legs became paralyzed. Remarkable then, that my right heel bruised tender with plantar fasciitis, protesting with each step. We were sequestered inside with Christmas cookies and muffuletta sandwiches and that extra, unnecessary cocktail.

Those little treats remain with me, reminding of the making merry—echoing laughter around my waist. Sometimes hospitality means a second helping. And so around mid-December I began to feel it—the slight snugging of my clothes, a gentle softening around the edges of me.

We are getting back on track, of course we are. But slowly. There are more important things. Like the way you still think I’m beautiful. How you pull me close, and the way our bodies melt like wax together. It’s a thick kind of love that breathes under fingers, a love that sees beyond the skin, beyond the years, and peers back into the wedding day.

You still look at me with fire in your eyes, because you see the “imperishable” beauty that Peter talked about (1 Peter 3:3-6). And because you love me this way, I also can. I can love myself enough to feel beautiful, to see with God eyes and embrace beauty from the inside out.

I can love myself enough to embrace these extra five pounds. But also enough to take better care of this fragile vessel, this temple for the Spirit I carry within my skin.

So about that five extra pounds I gained over the holidays? I’m not too worried about them. They may be here for a little while longer. But I’m taking my eyes off the scales and looking through Love.

And I doubt I’ll even notice when they’re gone.

Playdates with God: Sunday before Lent

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On the Sunday before the start of Lent, Bonnie and I are up before the sun to make pepperoni rolls for the Souperbowl luncheon at our church. We share this meal every year at this time—soup and sandwiches—and collect donations for the local food pantry. The day before, I forgot I had volunteered to make pepperoni rolls. So, there we are, kneading dough at six a.m. I try to rest on the couch as I wait for the dough to rise, but it’s no good. So I sit and watch through the window as dawn spreads her cloak over the meadow. The frilled tips of the grasses are laced with frost and when the sun hits them, they turn to gossamer—drops of light flashing up the brown of winter.

On Saturday, we celebrated with friends the coming of Fat Tuesday. We at shrimp creole and drank hurricanes and listened to Cajun music. On Sunday morning I think about this tradition of reveling before the forty day fast. This Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, our church will host a pancake supper. It’s a similar tradition—get rid of the rich foods in the house before Lent begins. It seems a strange beginning.

I think I understand why the Orthodox Church calls the season of Lent the Bright Sadness. Celebration and mourning take turns to stir deep places, and eyes are opened to the truth that we cannot follow Christ and remain unchanged.

During Lent I want to burrow away—hide in books and words and prayer. But I know on this journey I cannot do it alone. I need sisters and brothers, to clasp their hands tight and enter into this with strong arms holding me. For… am I not the one who—after waving palm fronds in exultation—will so quickly turn in anger? Am I not the one who will deny and betray the Lover of My Soul? John Wesley said, “Holy solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the Gospel than holy adulterers. The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social; no holiness, but social holiness.”

I sit and watch the sun lift herself up over my neighbor’s house and I feel the weight of those words.

Christmas still feels fresh off the table and I’m not sure I’m ready for the bright sadness just yet. Every year it is the same, Lent surprises with her timely arrival. I think this is the nature of the season. This gentle resistance in my spirit reminds me to notice life, to be very deliberate as I step through the days.

Today, I’d love to hear about how you prepare your heart for the Lenten season. Will you share in the comments any special traditions or rituals you keep? Thanks, dear ones. Wesley also said that he liked to set himself on fire so others would come to watch him burn. A flame spreads. Stand close to the fire. Let’s kindle together through this bright sadness.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Grateful

Last night, as Jeff and I walked under a rosy sky, that moon lifted it’s full body up over the hills of our little valley and set the sky on fire. This morning, when I took Bonnie out, frost still on every blade of grass, I saw the moon had shed his star-tears and left them in pools of light in our front yard. On this day of gratitude, I hear the earth singing praise. Happy Thanksgiving, Beloveds. May all your days be filled with light. You are God’s gift to me.

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Playdates with God: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

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Today we celebrate Jeffrey’s 16th birthday and the house is humming in expectation of a bunch of teenage boys. It’s hard to believe we’ve arrived here; that my baby is sweet sixteen. This morning, I’m remembering Dr. King and also so many happy walks with my boys. It’s true what they say about time accelerating as the years go on. Here’s a story from a few years ago. May you remember well today.

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He was a visionary, I say. He wasn’t a perfect man, but the world changed because of him. We need more people like him. Visionaries.

We are driving to church and I am telling them about the march the following day. A worship service is scheduled in the morning and following it, the people are marching. They are marching to the Capitol for a celebration. Commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

At church, our pastor reads us the story of Samuel—how God speaks to him when he is just a boy. And she mentions Dr. King and says that if God puts a dream in your heart…you must be listening to hear his voice. And she tells a story that I have never heard about the fears Dr. King faced and how he heard God’s voice.

And I am stuck on this: Then the Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

The Lord came. And stood there.

So I tell the boys we need to go. We need to go and march to the Capitol.

Only, I forget that I’ve scheduled two meetings at just the wrong times and there’s no way we’ll make it. So, instead, we march down to the creek and I climb up on the bridge, much to the horror of my children, and I read the last part of the speech from my iPhone—that part that gives me goose bumps—I call it out over moving water, preach it to the gaping windows of my neighbor’s houses.

I have a dream, I say. That one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream, I say. That one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

And I’m standing high and looking down and my boy looks up at me, alarmed. He realizes I’m going to see this thing through. And I am not whispering.

He looks around.

Mom, come down from there, he says.

But I keep on.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

And my neighbor comes outside with her dog. She’s still in her pajamas. It’s the same woman who saw me sitting in my van in the middle of the street at 8:00am. Because Jeffrey wanted me to drive him down to see if the creek is frozen.

But I go on.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

My boy is looking up at me and I can see it. I can see when the shift happens.

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day…

He is looking up and I see him realize. That God came. And He stood beside Martin.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual…

And when I finish, he helps me down. He takes my arm and his fingers linger on mine for a moment.

We read that essay in English Lit. When we were studying persuasive essays, he says.

And I know that this is his way of saying it’s pretty cool.

Well, I say. It’s very passionate.

And, he says. Very persuasive.

Indeed.

And he’s smiling, and I’m thinking, oh yes…the world needs more visionaries.

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

Laura Boggess

Enter into Lent with Joy

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I’m engrossed in trying to paint thanks—filling this need inside of me for color when something behind me falls from the shelf with a clatter. I startle and turn to see my amaryllis on the floor—the bulb my pastor gifted me with for Christmas; the one that whispers red joy to me each time I pass it by, the one whose full blooming glory I’ve been waiting for. Just this morning I noticed that the palms of all four flowers were open wide—finally—and it made me so happy and I thought, “My, that thing is tall. I will need to stake it soon.”
Too late now.
There is peat moss all over the floor and when I gently lift the hollow stems I see that one of the blooms has snapped off clean. The bulb has pulled up out of the dirt and I pile the loose soil back around its base and lean its now lopsided frame against the shelf. I have no idea if it will survive.
It seems the last tiny straw in a series of backbreaking bales and I sit in the floor and pluck at peat moss that has settled in the cracks of the wooden floor. Life has been such a struggle lately and can’t I just have this one moment of joy—dipping my fingers in the paints and letting my mind see what I want them to become?

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It’s hard work to grab for this joy when the studio is the dining room table and dipping in means a constant rearranging of the necessary things. I have to fight for joy—have to want it enough to do the hard work of stepping out of the norm. And it ishard work—isn’t it easier to step around my box of watercolors every day, to think one day I’ll have time for these things?
But this afternoon I choose joy and I am smack dab in the middle of it when that mean old devil has to make a mess of everything. Dabbing at loose dirt with a damp paper towel, I remember what that famous demon Screwtapesaid to his nephew Wormwood. “The safest path to hell is the gradual one,” he said, as he instructed the novice in a demon’s best strategy: to befuddle, confuse, and eventually corrupt. They say the devil is in the details, and it has been all these little things lately that seem to torment.
I feel befuddled and confused. Lord, have mercy.
I sit in the floor and hold the gracefully turned funnel of an amaryllis bloom in my hand. The red of its petals is soft like velvet and there is a small tip of white on the point of each. Yellow flecks of pollen are scattered along the red and I lift it gently to my nose. The scent is faint but sweet and it stirs an ache inside of me.
This week marks the start of the Lenten season and I feel the bright sadness. All these little deaths are reminding me…reminding me of how waiting can prepare the heart. Tomorrow, we will receive the ashes and remember how we died with Christ—how we must die a little every day.                                  
I rub my finger across undulations of softly rippled petals and remember what Jesus said.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Isn’t this our story? Isn’t where the Lenten journey must take us?
We are a resurrection people.
This is the joy we hold onto in the journey to the cross. This is the joy we fight for.
I water the amaryllis and stake her tall scape. Then I go back to the paints.

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