Vanity Fair

A woman models a corset in this 1898 photograph.

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Why does irrationality seem to peak in the morning? Rarely do I bite off more than I can chew in the twilight hours. Somehow as the light grows dim, one generally recognizes inherent limitations and waning energy allotments.  But the morning on the other hand, oh the morning is a different animal.  It is new and fresh and all things are possible. 

All things- like running a few miles after a winter of relative lethargy, donning break-a leg high heels to compliment a gorgeous purple bridesmaid gown, and then subsequently roping in one’s waist with a stringent corset to epitomize a romantic heroine of days past. 

It seemed like a great idea at the time.  We gathered at the bride’s apartment, seven ladies in long flowing gowns that laced up the back.  We took turns pulling each other’s stays (corset lacing to those unfamiliar with historical lingo). 

The tightening was subtle.  “Is that snug enough?” lead to, “I think I can cinch it in a little more.”  And finally, “wow girl, look at your tiny waist.”

After a few rounds of pulling, there we stood,a bevy of lasses with reduced waists, exaggerated busts, hips, and of course, little room to breathe.  But vanity had stealthily crept in to our midst, and though I couldn’t bend over or even sit down for that matter, I felt like a beautiful damsel in distress. I’m pretty sure my voice took on a southern belle drawl.

I looked in the mirror and delighted in my pretty dress and va va voom curves.  I was Scarlett O’Hara, Marie Antoinette, and the infamous Gibson Girl of Bygone Days!

About an hour into the tight lacing, I tried to eat a snack, but my confining attire denied me any sustenance, not even a cracker.  Fortunately, I could drink and so a margarita on ice slid down nicely.

As the wedding hour approached, I noticed a stinging ache down my spine along with the growing compression of my now heaving bosom as the bottom of my lungs began to fill with fluid.  My legs throbbed from post-workout lactic acid pooling in my quads, and my hairpins felt like daggers stuck into my head.  My feet were so swollen I could barely walk.

As I lined up to walk down the aisle, I trembled at the length of what seemed like a never-ending runner.  My husband, the wedding pastor smiled at me like a warm beacon, and guided by his big goofy smile, I tottered towards him semi-delirious in pain but determined to appear graceful and elegant to the large crowd assembled.

After a lovely ceremony, more pictures, and millions of seconds of searing pain, I finally sat down at the dinner table in a heap.  But sitting proved even more restrictive.  An old song played in the background.  It was catchy dinner music tune and in my state of pain induced euphoria I swayed to the crooner’s voice.  Strangely enough, it sounded like the word salad was being repeated over and over. Then again, it could have been my starving belly crying out for food.

“I didn’t know they had such cute songs about salad,” I announced to the table.

My girlfriend Krista, also a corseted bridesmaid, but clearly retaining a few more brain cells than I, shouted, “Did you say salad?  It’s called Solid as a Rock.”

The table erupted in laughter; myself included at the erroneous error, but then along with my laughter came a blackish sort of envelopment.  The table, the guffaws…it all began to fade as I teetered on the edge of fainting.

Indeed, I was a damsel in distress. 

My friend Katherine recognizing my flushed face and dilated pupils quickly steered me towards the lady’s room where she tore at my laces and opened up my lungs for some much-needed air.

Returning to the table, I sheepishly sat down and inhaled my dinner.  Now moderately laced, I was able to eat, dance, laugh and enjoy a big piece of strawberry cream wedding cake without the restrictive garment of my own folly (It wasn’t too much later before Krista was begging me to let her loose too).

I learned an interesting lesson that day.  Vanity is subtly deceptive.  I believed the corset to be glamorous, romantic, and whimsical, but in truth, found it to be agonizing. 

I should know better by now than to be duped by another promise of pretty…but then again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, and they are but pure vanity.(Psalm 94:11 WBT)

Jesus sure has got my number.

“Without vanity, without coquetry, without curiosity, in a word, without the fall, woman would not be woman.  Much of her grace is in her frailty.”-Victor Hugo.

Chocolate Rivers

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

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I started to cook again this week.  

 Food and the preparation of said food, i.e. – cooking, is an uncanny indicator in my life regarding the true state of my heart.  If my spirit is peaceful, cooking seems amusing and diverting, but if my soul is weary and overwrought, the very same task feels like a loathsome chore.

 In the Christian world, it’s common to hear the wise and mature folk ask younger leaders, “So dear, where are you at spiritually?” 

And my response would be, “well, my kids had a frozen TV dinner consisting of macaroni with a side of zapped peas last night.” Translation…my cup over runneth with too much activity and my kids are getting neglected again in the kitchen realm.

It’s such a vague question, really, when considering the totality of a human being, this “Christianise” vernacular of “where are you at spiritually,” as if we could point to a spot on the map or a quadrant and define our status.  Call me complex or multi-faceted as my friend Krista likes to say, but who, in all reality, could ever chart the condition of their heart on a graph?

Husband (9), kids(8), writing(7), cooking(2), status of garage(-10), ministry (7) health (5) workouts(3), quiet times (5), time for friends(1), time for me(-5), talks with God (7), rest(1), work (5), sex life(well, that’s private)

My graph would make Jack’O Lantern teeth; consistent only in the up and down, ebb and flow…of highs and lows and in and outs.  Nothing static…but a tornado of emotions, physical peaks and valleys, and spiritual growth and setbacks all tumbled together under the umbrella of God’s grace.

My points average out to about 2, which puts me right back to cooking.

These days, it’s popular for food to be referenced as a metaphor for emotional undercurrents. Cooking is suggested as an alternate form of therapy, sometimes revenge, and even self-punishment. 

I thought I was above using food as a weapon, but I was clearly wrong, because the first thing I did when my husband recently traveled for a week was to go directly to the store and buy all the food he doesn’t like or approve of. 

My shopping cart resembled the chocolate river from Willy Wonka; peppermint Jo Jo’s, peppermint chunk mocha sipping chocolate, chocolate dipped strawberries, and Swedish dark chocolate. The checker looked at me with disdain, a subtle suggestion that maybe my chocolate binge was hormonal.  I stared back belligerently.

It was passive aggressive at best…a defiant move that asserted my sense of self apart from my husband.  Call me crazy, but sometimes, I need those little moments for my soul to scream out, “I am woman. A chocolate fiend of a woman.  Hear me roar.”

Notwithstanding the  chocolate fiasco, my life has begun to calm down lately.  Rest has moved up the graph and peace has burst through the dam of exhaustion.  

So, where am I at spiritually?

Well, last week my girls and I ate pork-chops with mango papaya salsa and green bean casserole,  Lasagna and salad with fruit and pear-gorgonzola dressing, salmon with chocolate mole sauce, and divine home-made turkey soup from Thanksgiving left-over’s.

Translation…my spirit is fruitful with a little dash of spice, dark, meaty and sweet, sometimes nostalgic and often saucy.

Maybe that’s why God gave us manna, asks us to fast in prayer, and calls himself the “bread of life,” because somehow our spirits are mysteriously and deeply intertwined with food. No pun intended…but maybe we really are what we eat.

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