The forest floor is covered in leaves and the sun flickers behind the tops of the trees as I walk.
I’m cold and my fears are pressing at my mind and I can feel myself starting to get cranky.
But Arlow is happy.
He is running, tongue hanging out of his mouth, making sure not to stray too far from his mama.
“He’s such a happy dog!” someone tells me. And I take pride in that, in knowing I’m loving him well, that he’s happy.
Her husband throws a stick for Arlow and their own dogs and I watch them play fetch for twenty minutes.
The sun is shining and my boy is happy.
And all, in this moment, is well.
I feel gigantic.
None of my clothes fit and it’s hard for me to look in the mirror. Even my face is fat.
But I try to love myself anyway.
I love myself by eating Thai food tonight with my friend.
I love myself by not remembering the clothes that don’t fit me anymore.
I love myself by not wondering how people see me and what they think and whether or not I’ll ever feel good about myself again.
And I love myself by resting my hand on my belly after I eat, willing myself not to be repulsed by this body that I’ve been given.
I thank God for my health, for my life, for what He’s doing.
There was a time when my entire world revolved around the need to belong and be loved. My mental health, well-being, and outlook on life were entirely wrapped up in whether or not I felt hugged, secure, wanted.
And there are times still when sorrow grips me. The loss. The questions.
“Who will I spend the holidays with?”
“Who will be there for me in May?”
“What kind of person doesn’t have anyone to put down as an emergency contact?”
But I’m getting better at leaving those questions in God’s hands.
I don’t carry my sorrows around with me anymore, using them as proof that my life isn’t important, that I’m alone and unloved. Using them as reasons to self-destruct.
I don’t even let myself consider anymore whether I’m “alone” or “loved”. Rather, I take my sorrows hand-in-hand with these truths:
She text me a cute picture of her dog.
She invite me to her house and treated me to dinner.
He affectionately punched my arm.
She called, crying, when she needed someone to be there for her.
She text to ask how I was feeling and remind me that she’s praying for me.
He made a point of connecting with me after church.
It doesn’t look the way I wish it would, but I can trust God with that.
And even now, with things exactly as they are, I can acknowledge that I’m wildly blessed.
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”