Wide Open Spaces

It’s official.  The Happy Buddy does not like to be confined in any way whatsoever.

Which is ironic because he didn’t seem to want to come out of my belly – which is as confined as it gets! (You can read about that story here – The C-Section Surrender.)

But when the Happy Buddy was a newborn, the Happy Hubby and I would swaddle him up real tight.  All the baby books said that babies enjoy being wrapped up – makes them feel safe and protected.  Not the Happy Buddy.  The second we laid him on the bed with the blanket he’d start flailing his arms and wailing in protest.  And then once he was securely wrapped, he fought with his life to break free from his chamber of tightness.  The Happy Hubby and I would watch in amusement as our little peanut grunted and squirmed until he loosened the blanket enough for a little hand to poke out.  He has always been quite determined.

Other examples of the Happy Buddy’s dislike for confinement would be the stroller, the car seat, the highchair, the pack and play, and even snuggles!  Buckles, seat belts, hugs, and walls that are too high for him to scale… all pose as threats for potential meltdowns unless proper steps of precaution have been made.  Steps of Precaution:  Give the Happy Buddy lots and lots of food to make him forget that he is confined.

But our boy’s least favorite place to be confined is the nursery at church.  We won’t even be near the nursery door yet and he’ll start fussing because he knows it’s coming.  I dropped him off in the nursery last night and he immediately burst into cries of anguish.  I walked out of the room thinking, “Oh, he’ll calm down.  He’ll be okay.”  But when I returned two hours later, he was STILL crying and, as the dear, sweet, patient nursery workers (who are AMAZING) informed me, he tried to bolt out of the room every time someone opened the door.  It’s almost comical, really, imagining the Happy Buddy breaking free from the nursery and dashing down the hall with a trail of nursery workers behind him.  Him sporting a look of pure freedom and bliss as he bee-lines away from the room that has held him captive.  My son, the fugitive!

As I scooped up my runny-nosed, tear-stained face child, I couldn’t help but feel a spirit of embarrassment and frustration well up within me.  Looking around the room at all of the other babies – three other little guys all happy and cooing and sitting contentedly – I couldn’t help but wonder why the Happy Buddy couldn’t be more like them?

And then I realized that I was That Mom with That Kid.  You know, the one that everyone dreads being in the nursery because he is such a handful.  The one who drains the fun out of it for all involved because absolutely nothing makes him happy – unless, of course, someone gives him Animal Crackers, but I’m pretty sure that trick only buys about 10 minutes.

Before I allowed the thoughts to spiral downward into a self-condemning pit of darkness (It’s all my fault, I should have put him in the nursery more when he was younger…etc.), another thought came to mind – one that was much more redeeming than my Mom Guilt.  A thought from the Lord that turned what appears to be a rather disheartening characteristic in my boy into something that brings the Lord much glory.

One Saturday a few weeks ago the Happy Hubby and I were with the Happy Buddy at the church doing some work.  The Happy Hubby had to use the restroom and the Happy Buddy wanted to follow him, so we all trooped out of the office and into the Fellowship Hall.  Usually the Fellowship Hall is full of people and food tables.  But not that day.  The room was completely bare.  A wide open space of carpet.

The Happy Buddy went berserk.

He took off running.  He ran and ran around that big open room giggling in utter abandonment.  As I watched, I thought about how I used to LOVE running around the carpeted Fellowship Hall at the church where I grew up.  There’s something so magical about a big open room – so many endless possibilities of fun to be had!!!  And then I thought about how I used to love any big open place – a parking lot for biking, a grassy field for cartwheels (hello what I did every day during recess in fifth grade), or a large wood-floored room for spinning and singing to hear my voice echo.

These wide open places were all about freedom.

Right now I am doing a Beth Moore study called Breaking Free. More than anything this study has taught me what it means to identify the things in my life that hold me captive – anything that hinders the abundant and effective Spirit-filled life God has planned for me.  While I’ve worked through a lot of issues pertaining to motherhood (fears about the Happy Buddy and his health and daily parenting decisions), I’ve also come to celebrate the deliverance I’ve had from wrestling with an eating disorder for most of my life.

I’ll spare you the details, but food and my weight have been a struggle for me for as long as I can remember!  I was the “fat” kid in elementary school.  I was teased quite a bit and excluded from a lot of friendships during those years.  When I got to middle school where image becomes so “important,” I readily believed the lie that I was a nobody unless I had a nice figure.  So I started cutting major food groups out of my diet.  First it was chocolate (my love) and bread (my passion).  When I lost several pounds and people started noticing and complimenting me, I felt validated and started to scale menu choices down even more.

By the time I was in high school I had lost my period from being so severely underweight for my body type.  I was put on the pill to help regulate my system, but in all honesty, it just masked the underlying problem – my ever-increasing fear of getting fat.

In college I pretty much lived off of grapes and bananas or yogurt and granola.  I exercised constantly – often keeping my roommates awake to the sounds of me thump, thump, thumping on the treadmill we had in our apartment living room.

The people in my life with whom I am the closest brought me their concerns.  Interventions and Christian psychologists and gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle because it was the only way to get me to listen) confrontations helped, but ultimately I didn’t get the wake up call until the Happy Hubby and I decided that we wanted to start a family.

I went off the pill.  Months went by and I never got my period.  Then I developed aches in my joints and a strange disease called Raynaud’s Phenomenon (where whenever I got cold – which was pretty frequent because I didn’t have a lot of fat to keep me warm – the oxygen supply in my fingers would be depleted, leaving the fingers white).  We went to many, many doctors to try and figure out why.  With each one I asked, “Do you think it’s because of my diet?” and they each said, “No.”  But I knew.  I knew that this one area of my life wasn’t fully surrendered to the Lord.  I knew that I was still living in captivity to a fear of food and gaining weight.  I was a prisoner to the lie that I had to be thin to be beautiful.

Then the Lord put a book in my hands that really changed everything.  Becoming the Woman I Want to Be by Donna Partow.  This book was a 90-day journey of daily devotionals and simple diet and exercise plans that taught me to be healthy – both physically and spiritually.  It was a turning point.  I finally saw how my fears about food were keeping me from truly living free – in a wide open space where who I was and not what I looked like mattered.

Slowly I started changing the way that I lived and ate.  Fat became my friend – fat like the kind in almonds (hello almond butter – my new best friend) and avocados and salmon.  I gained several pounds but really, those healthy pounds came in all the right places.

And then I got my period.

And then three periods later we got our Happy Buddy.

Who was the point of this whole blog in the first place!  His refusal to be confined in any way is a reminder to me of how I should treat my sin.  I refuse to be confined by fear of food any longer.  I refuse to be confined by fear in general.  I determine to break free from the things that threaten to restrain my abundant life in Christ.

Being pregnant with the Happy Buddy was the greatest healer to my fat fears.  There’s nothing like a good pregnancy to put on a few extra pounds!  But I didn’t really care anymore.  I was eating for my baby and for our health.  Being pregnant gave me a freedom with eating that I had never experienced before because suddenly I had someone other than myself to think about!

And now I have this happy and healthy little man who has so much energy and life and determination that even a nursery can’t contain him! :-)  May we all live like the Happy Buddy – breaking free from the things that restrain our joy in Him and running unhindered into those wide open spaces of everlasting glory.

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer;

my God is my rock in whom I take refuge…

I call on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,

and I am saved from my enemies.

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me…

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;

he drew me out of deep waters.

He rescued me from my powerful enemy…

He brought me out into a spacious place.

Psalm 18:1-4, 16-19

12 thoughts on “Wide Open Spaces

  1. Wow Julie! Thanks for your honesty and how you have overcome barriers in your life. We all have fears, and fear is sin, but sometimes it is hard to let go. Your post was very encouraging, thank you :)

  2. Thank you, Julie, for sharing this. You are beautiful, inside and out! I like the encouragement to break free from the things that restrain my joy in Him.

  3. I’m proud of you, Julie, and thankful for the courage God has given you to share your story of what He has done for you. “My chains are gone–I’ve been set free! My God, my Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood, His mercy rains–unending love, amazing grace!”

  4. So amazed by your humble honesty in sharing a part of your story with such beautiful vulnerability!! What an encouragement of what God has done and is doing in and through you, my friend!
    Corban was also “that child” in the nursery. I was SO thankful for loving, patient volunteers Sunday morning that just loved on him (and often had to take him out to walk the halls because he just would not stop crying!)…but what a blessing to me to have that time in church. And, soon he became so excited about going to the childrens area and loving being with the other children and activities–it will come!

  5. Oh Julie–I HATE that I got behind in reading your AMAZING blog!! but I had some time tonight so I was SO excited to come “catch up” :-)
    BOY am I glad I did!! What a WONDERFUL INSPIRING testimony!!! I am SO encouraged and amazed by your honesty and courage and FAITH!! THANK YOU!!! xoxo

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