old steps

Gifts in hands and smiles on our faces, we made our way down the five filthy, broken steps that led to the basement apartment door.  It didn’t smell good down there.  Around us we could see broken windows patched with tape, and someone upstairs was yelling.  We knocked on the door and heard Kathy softly say, “Come on in.”  It was her birthday today and she was 12 years old, my middle daughter’s closest friend from 6th grade.  She sat on a faded, old couch by herself, all dressed up with ribbons in her hair, clutching a small stack of paper plates, napkins and cups.  “Happy Birthday, Kathy!!!” we chanted as we walked in slowly.  Something was wrong . . . she was looking away.  It was too quiet.  “Is anyone else coming to the party?  Where is your mom and dad?”  She sighed and replied, “Dad is at work and my Mom has locked herself in her room for the past three hours . . . she is not coming out.  I don’t know what to do.”

The look on Kathy’s face broke my heart as I quickly brainstormed what we could do to help.  Would you like us to help set up?  The plates and napkins you have are so cute!  Why don’t we have the party at the park across the street?  Are the neighbor girls coming?  Would you like me to try and talk with your mom?  Mom wasn’t answering . . . she has had mental and physical challenges for years and is addicted to pain killers.  I realized very quickly that there was no one to set up Kathy’s 12th birthday party.  Kathy had tidied up the tiny, one bedroom apartment.  Kathy had blown up the balloons that were in the corner of the room.  There was no cake, and no presents except the ones we had brought.  Kathy was an only child, Dad was at work and wouldn’t be home for hours.

sad girl

Lord, Lord, where are you?

Lord, Lord, where are you?  How could you let this happen to this precious child of yours?  Why haven’t you saved her from this sad, lonely day?  Don’t you see what is happening here?  My mind took me back to when I was 12 years old, all wrapped up in hormones and self-esteem issues . . . insecure and awkward but celebrated and blessed in a warm, loving family.  Lord, what should I do?  She is beautiful, I thought as we walked outside to claim a table at the park.  I am so impressed with her – so poised, so independent, so intelligent, so amazing in the midst of such a horrible situation.  My daughter said something funny and Kathy’s face lit up in a smile.  Her contagious, high pitched laughter could be heard throughout the park.  I complimented her on the dress she was wearing and she said that a neighbor had outgrown it and given it to her.  It fit her perfectly.

Why don’t you kids play games while I save the table?  I suggested.  A couple of neighbor girls had come over, so they played every game they could think of that didn’t require any materials.  I put the table cloth on the obscenity-ridden picnic table and set out the plates and cups.  There were some cheese puffs and soda, and I thought well – it would have to be enough.  I thought . . . should I run to the store?  Should I go and buy a cake?    But I was the only adult supervising at a park in a rough neighborhood . . . no, I had to stay put.  While the kids played, a man drove up, screamed at a child across the street, whipped him with his belt and drove off.  The kids from the apartments didn’t even look – they didn’t even notice really.  Lord?  Where are you?


When I heard Kathy’s laughter again my question was answered.  He WAS there.  In an impossible situation he had provided a birthday party for this precious 12 year old girl.  He had provided a beautiful dress for her to wear, lovely gifts for her to open and enjoy, a loving adult to supervise and encourage, good friends to laugh, play with and sing the birthday song, a green, grassy park in which to play, and a warm, sunny summer day with no afternoon rain showers in sight.  Best of all He had somehow provided Kathy with what she needed in her heart to go on . . . the strength to persevere in the midst of an incredibly challenging home life that would likely not be getting better any time soon.  I marveled that she was able to set aside her earlier disappointment and sorrow and completely enjoy the happy moments at the park that day with me, my daughters and the neighbor girls she had only just met a week before.  Christ was there . . . His presence was as real as the sun in the sky.

What does this story have to do with food, body image and Thin Within?  Well, not a whole lot really . . . except maybe for one thing.  We live in a broken world, full of disappointment, grief, poverty, injury, illness, painful relationships, unemployment . . . you name it – it’s all around us.  Most of us have issues with food and our body image because we are struggling to deal with the difficult things of this world and wondering if there really is a God out there big enough to handle them.  So here is the good news . . . the absolutely fabulous news!!!  There really IS a God that loves each one of us and desires to be in an intimate, personal relationship with us.  In the midst of all of the crazy messes of this world God is there, ready to love us, guide us, and walk with us through the mess . . . but not until we ask.  Jesus has shown himself to me in so many new and personal ways in the past months during my Thin Within journey . . . why?  I am learning, one day at a time, to take the challenges of this world to my Savior – the little ones, the big ones, the medium sized ones – and ask.  Lord, Lord, where are you in this mess?  I submit to you!!!  How exciting it has been to ask that very question and find Him closer to me than I can imagine, already working my messes into good things for me and those around me.  God meets us in the storm, and surprises us with His love while it’s still raining.  Later in the day I heard the song “I Am” by Crowder and was touched by the lyrics.  There is no space that His love can’t reach, there’s no place where we can’t find peace, there’s no end to amazing grace, in the middle of the storm I am holding on to you, I am!!!  Thank you so much, Jesus!

It was about three hours before Kathy’s dad finally came home.  Mom finally came out of her room and cried because her baby was growing up, a cake of sorts was picked up, and we all sang “Happy Birthday” in the tiny, dark kitchen of the apartment.  We borrowed birthday candles from a neighbor and Kathy’s face beamed as she made a wish and blew them out.  I felt Jesus in the room, loving that precious girl and providing just what she needed, just at the right moment.    God was there all along.

Girl (7-9) blowing out candles on birthday cake

God meets us in the storm and surprises us with His love while it’s still raining.

Psalm 61:1-2 “Hear my cry, oh God, give heed to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not calamity, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.”

Phillipians 4:19 “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

How about you?  Have you encountered a loving God in the midst of your storms?  Do you run to food when your loving Savior is waiting for you to cry out to Him?  What would happen if you brought every challenge in your life before Him, one at a time?  God patiently waits for us, He is a gentleman.  What is He whispering to your heart today?

“I Am” by Crowder

There’s no space that His love can’t reach
There’s no place where we can’t find peace
There’s no end to amazing grace

Take me in with Your arms spread wide
Take me in like an orphan child
Never let go
Never leave my side

I am
Holding on to You
I am
Holding on to You
In the middle of the storm
I am holding on
I am

Love like this
Oh my God to find
I am overwhelmed
With a joy divine
Love like this sets our hearts on fire

This is my resurrection song
This is my halleluiah come
This is why it’s to You I run

There’s no space that His love can’t reach
There’s no place where we can’t find peace
There’s no end to amazing grace