The new me bakes. As in cookies and biscotti and coffee cake and all that.
I find that mildly hilarious. It's so different from the me-that-has-been all these years. Who had time to bake? When I did, forced to by some school function or feeling guilty because it was Christmas Eve and there was not a sweet treat in the house, I often burned tray after tray, trying to get eighty things done while each sheet baked.
Not baking was a survival mechanism. If there is no pan of brownies, I can't eat them all when I realize it's two o'clock and all I've had to eat so far is a cup of coffee. When there is massive self-sabotage of any possibility for self-control like that, the best way to make sure those binges don't happen is not to have it in the house at all.
So pitifully out of balance.
So, the new me bakes. The kids are thrilled. I even signed up for a cooking class by mail. Mike doesn't know what's gotten into me.
I've been attending a program run through our church, called newfocus, as part of my efforts to get a hold of my life and stop some of the destructive, idolatrous behaviors that have stolen my peace and ruined my health. It's a little sobering, pardon the pun, to check yourself in to an addictions ministry every Friday night and know that the next two hours are going to be painful but cleansing. I still haven't made it through a whole meeting.
But it's coming, and the new me loves it. Loves not having to pretend everything's fine when it SO is not. Newfocus helps by stripping away all the religious trappings, traditions and pretense we think of when we think about "church," and just leaves God's words, straight from the Bible, explained in the simplest of terms by someone who gets it. Somebody else who knows the Dementor's kiss of depression, who struggles as I do to listen to the Voice of Truth and not the whispers of inadequacy and failure and hopelessness.
I can't make promises for tomorrow or the weekend because it all depends on how the night went. The morning can be good and the afternoon the anxiety hits so bad I barely manage to pick up the kids from school. Or the whole day can be peaceful and then the muscle aches hit about eight p.m. and I can't change positions without groaning in pain. But this un-knowing is not all bad. It makes me seize the day when I do feel good. It causes reevaluation of what is important and what can wait and what doesn't need to be done at all. It makes me appreciate little things.
One of newfocus' main principles deals with recovery, and how you know you're making progress. One of those steps is regaining pleasure in the simple things in life. A walk in the woods. The pattern of frost on the glass. The smiling baby in the shopping cart in the checkout lane. Cold fingers wrapped around a funny mug filled with hot cocoa. The way the scenery is distorted through old glass panes. A homemade meal, plain but well-cooked. The array of colors when you walk into the produce department. Stopping to read the historical marker I've driven past so many times. A favorite song on the radio.
Reading. I am almost embarrassed to say it: I stopped reading for fun.
I knew if I went to the library, I'd "waste" hours and hours of time that I "should" be spending on my business. So I never went. I love to read, but I went months at a time without doing it. Famous in my childhood for the stacks of books I went through in a week, always a finalist in the summer reading contests. As an adult, my dusty Kindle was a source of mistaken pride in my dedication to my work.
So out of balance.
So, the new me reads. And watches shows. Yep, that "#1 thing successful people never do"--I watch TV occasionally. Gasp!
I will say, the new me's hair sucks. I haven't been able to go to the salon since June, and it's pretty bad. I pretend I'm growing it out, but it's not true. I just can't sit for two hours in a chemical-laden, noisy room full of strangers and get my sleekly high-lighted professional bob done right now. It's also thinner, falling out due to see-sawing thyroid imbalances. So it straggles to brush my shoulders, and I part it a different way to disguise the color gaps, and that's all part of the new me, too.
I don't know where else the new me leads. We'll find out, I guess. I'm still discovering the OLD-old me, the person I was before my life got so crazily off-kilter. The person who used to enjoy playing the piano--she is still a stranger to me, buried under years of incredibly stressful church ministry I was neither qualified for nor willing to do. The piano keys are dustier than the Kindle ever was.
But the person who gardened, uneducatedly but enthusiastically, I caught a glimpse of her recently.
The girl that planted daffodil bulbs each fall, believing in the distant promise of an eventual spring, she reappeared this autumn.
Old-old, old, or new--the point here is not the girl I was, am now or will become. The point of it all is that Jesus loves her. That incredible mixed-bag of faults and failures, successes and silences, idols and good intentions--they're all me, and I'm all His.
I always have been.
I didn't notice when I quit baking. That book-that-turned-out-to-be-the-last, returned to the library did not spark a sad realization. The person who was too busy to stop at the park or who threw a tray of chicken nuggets in the oven as she dashed out the door was also too busy to think too hard about a life that doesn't even leave time for dinner. But Jesus knew. And he loved me anyway.
See, when the God of the universe loves you, He doesn't quit. There's no up-and-down with His love. It's steady, consistent, eternal (Jeremiah 31:3). He loves me when I'm a mess and He loves me when things are marvelous. Top of the heap, or scrambling to regain lost ground. He loves me even when I'm at such a low that His precious promises are naught but a blip on the radar of my despair.
He loves me even though it's taken me so long to learn this lesson. He loves me despite the fact that, lacking wisdom like a BOSS, epic-ally lacking wisdom to manage my own fallen-apart life, I only just now think of the verse in James that says He gives it freely, without reproaching me for lack of faith and past failure. (James 1:5).
The new me understands that love in a way I could not have unless I'd been the old me. Like the three foster children, pending adoption, who understand my brother and his wife's love for them in a totally different and deeper way than their biological children ever will.
It's a lesson I'll be learning over and over again my whole life long. He loves me. Old, new, in progress, stalled, stubborn, sinful--you name it.
Whatever else has changed, He has not. I am loved, and I always have been.