The holidays were especially hard for me.
All the baking and festive foods were one thing, but the pressure to stay on “track” to not “fall off the wagon” was a whole other stressor.
The mixed messages of the season were everywhere!
One the one hand, there were magazines with magnificent cakes and tempting cookies to behold.
On the other, fitness gurus and movie stars graced the covers with tips on how to avoid temptations and stay trim this time of year.
Even the Christmas movies I watched on Hallmark, where pretty, young women ate Christmas cookies and drank eggnog like it was no big thing….
I had to wonder…
did these women feel as terrified as I did around such treats?
Did they spit the cookies out after each take to avoid the added carbs?
I just could not imagine any woman being able to actually eat festively and not feel anxiety unless they had the metabolism of a super model or the added weight of plus- sized one.
The messages of how to eat over the holidays were as distorted as the very body image I held over myself.
What was clear to me was that each year I wanted to be better than the last.
Each year, I wanted to be more cheerful, more grace-filled, more present with the world I lived in.
I wanted more peace.
Not just with my body but with my very existence.
For years, I failed at this.
Though I desired these things, I desired greater control over my circumstances more.
I let my mind get the better of me.
I let my desire for power take precedence over my desire for peace.
Because I believed that peace came from fitness. Peace came from health. Peace came from control over my body.
Control over my hunger, my cravings, my calories, my carbs, my weight, my eating, my muffin top.
If I could ‘fix” myself, I could have peace.
During a season of miracles, our hopes are highest that we will finally be fixed. Our brokenness resolved. Miracles abound.
Rather than look to Jesus, we fall into the temptation to trust in our own power even greater this time of year because we are sent those messages full-force in every direction from the world.
It is a time that Satan uses to distract us from the true meaning and keep our eyes on ourselves.
More stuff. More gifts. More food. More decorations. More exercise. More focus.
And for me, more “me” meant more of my body. More of looking good. Staying fit. Keeping healthy. Controlling my eating.
I was confused. Anxious. Frustrated. Angry. Bitter.
I wanted cookies. I wanted pies and cakes and full-fat egg nog with rum.
I wanted to skip the gym on New Year’s day. To not feel guilty for missing that workout on Thanksgiving.
To stop looking at my stomach every morning in the mirror when I woke up, allowing how flat it looked to determine my joy that day.
I wanted to just enjoy the holidays for what they were, a time for family, friends, thankfulness, forgiveness and new life…a re-birth of my soul through the birth of God’s son.
What was even more twisted in all this hot mess……I took pleasure in the restricting.
I took pride in the fact that I could not be that “normal” person.
I was “above” that.
As much as I wanted to enjoy the festivities of life, feeling I had power above all that was more enchanting.
It was as though I lived in two worlds. One that my soul craved, the other, my sin.
I believed myself a mess beyond healing. Too confused to see clearly anything beyond the ruins of my restricted lifestyle.
Then, the Holy Spirit spoke to me.
I saw what was really needed in order to have peace.
It came from Christmas cookies.
God showed me that what I needed was to eat and enjoy a darn Christmas cookies this year.
Not to bite into one and spit it out, or to eat fifty of them or to eat just one but have feelings of guilt or shame afterwards.
Not to eat one and question it at all…
but to eat one in TOTAL peace.
To eat one with total pleasure.
To eat one and be present with that cookie, grateful for all the hard work that went in to making it.
All the love and comfort that it delivers me as I eat it.
The knowing that I deserve to enjoy the sweeter things in life, the special parts of the holiday season without dark thoughts to follow.
The deserving part was HUGE for me.
I believed almost a lifetime that I did not deserve anything unless I met my own personal fitness goals, health ideals or eating routines.
It was tiring because I never did meet those goals. Anytime I got close, I upped the anti.
I was never thin enough, fit enough, focused enough, small enough, eating healthy enough.
I was never enough.
What God showed me through the simple act of enjoying a Christmas cookie was that I was good enough.
I did deserve peace and joy and happiness regardless of what I looked like or ate.
The reason I never had the peace before was because it was always balancing on my own works.
I had to EARN IT.
This is so not how God works.
God is about grace.
We can never earn anything as humans because we always fall far below his holy standards.
We must accept this.
We must make peace with our inadequacies.
We must accept that today is the day the Lord has given us.
Let us be thankful.
There is so much “work” put into the holidays.
Still, there is one space always left open just for us where work is not our job.
It is the space where we come to God.
In that space, we are so loved, so chosen, so forgiven. We do not need to be a size two, four, ten, 1x or greater.
We do not need to be vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, or part of a gym.
The size of our bodies and what we eat means nothing.
It is the openness of our hearts that counts.
If we want to find peace with food and our figures, “fixing” and “focusing” is not going to be what resolves our idolatry.
Jesus and only Jesus can teach us the way, the truth and the light.
I pray this this holiday season, God reveals to you your own special, “Christmas cookie” of peace.
Seek his wisdom over your body and pray for the willingness to live it out.