‘The Past’ Category Archives


On Baking Bread, Part One

by Birdie in Faith, Life, Musings, The Past

This last year has been a year of illness for me. I had my barely functioning gallbladder out in late February after living with terrible pain every day starting in August, and I had hoped that would solve the intestinal upset and other odd aches and pains that plagued me, too. Now, three months later, the pain from that organ is gone, but the almost daily intestinal pain, mouth sores, muscle and joint aches, and other unmentionable issues didn’t go away.

So, a few weeks ago, in a desperate bid to feel healthy again after close to a year of feeling sick, I started paying close attention to what I ate and what seemed to trigger those responses in my body. The culprit? Bread. Or, well, gluten to be precise.

Gluten is in wheat, barley, and rye. Wheat is in the majority of packaged food items on the market. So, just about everything out there contains gluten. This makes it very, very difficult to cut it out of your diet, especially when your family loves bread and pasta and they make up the staples in most meals.

Also, I love bread. And I love eating. Having to cut out gluten has made it hard for me to eat almost all of the things I love.

And, therein lies lesson number one.

Idols and Obsessions

Since about the middle of high school, when I really started to have serious issues with my depression and when I really started to pull away from God entirely, I started to eat. I no longer only ate when I was hungry or in need of energy, I ate all the time. I started to look at food like the panacea for all of my spiritual and emotional wounds. If I was stressed, I ate. If I was sad, I ate. If I was angry, I ate. If I was hurt or scared or lonely or overwhelmed or feeling directionless, I ate. And if I was happy, I ate, too.

When I left for college, that didn’t change. I had already made the damaging habits, and I was caught in a vicious cycle that I didn’t know how to break: happy, eat; depressed, eat; social events, eat; alone, eat. Eat, eat, eat. Even when I found my way back into the fold of the church and started to live out the faith I had always wanted, I ate. Food drove me. I thought about it all the time, and I was damaging myself as a result.

I gained a disgusting amount of weight. I hated the way I looked, and I was totally appalled at my inability to care enough to change. My life revolved around food.

It has taken a developing gluten sensitivity to realize that food has been my idol for seven years. Food has been the center of my life when only God is deserving of such a place. So, He gave me the choice to make room for Him.

I don’t look at this as punishment, not at all. God wants His children to be healthy and happy, and my love of food was destroying any and all chances I had of that. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I wanted to shower with my eyes closed. I wanted nothing to do with my body. And, my weight was extremely unhealthy.

I feel that God has broken the bonds that my food obsession had on me, and in doing so, He has put before me the opportunity to become healthy again, to eat better and to develop a much healthier relationship with my food. Food sustains my body, and it’s okay to take some small pleasure in it. But if food is the center of my universe, my spirit and my soul waste away. I need food to survive, but I need God at the center of my life to live.

In just the few short weeks since I cut gluten out of my diet, I feel healthier. I’m eating better, and I’m eating more fruits and vegetables and lean meats. I’ve been forced to cut 90% of the junk food out of my diet because it contains gluten, and so I have started to lose some of this extra weight. And finally, God is where he belongs: right smack-dab in the middle of my heart.

Read Part Two.

A quick aside: I want to be clear that I’m advocating a healthy relationship with food here, not getting rid of it entirely. I tried to make that clear, but I feel like I might need this aside just in case. I am also not advocating a gluten free diet as a way to lose weight. It is a serious undertaking, and while I know there are current fads that say that everyone should cut out gluten and that it’s a good way to lose weight, that isn’t what I’m saying here. I am gluten free because, in order to be healthy, I need to be. My weight loss only has anything to do with cutting out gluten because I can’t afford all of the GF junk foods they sell, and because it’s given me a new awareness of what is in the food I put in my body as well as a new awareness of how much I need to eat to be satisfied and not over full.



by Birdie in Faith, Inspirations, Life, Loves, Raw, The Past

It has taken all of my courage to write this, and even more to post it here for all to see. It’s long, but it is my heart. It’s time that I share it.

When I first began Suburban Bird and laid the framework for Suburban Bird Studios, I could feel God beginning to move in my life. I wasn’t sure in which direction or to what end, but I could feel Him guiding my path and urging me on in the right direction with those soft nudges like He always does. There were many times that I wanted to write about it, and share it with all of you, but I just couldn’t make myself do it.

When I wrote my first few entries here, and began to consider where I was going to take my business and how this blog was going to fit in with it, I warred with myself on whether or not I would share my faith here. I didn’t want to alienate anyone, or put someone off, or offend people. Quite frankly, I was only thinking of myself and what would be best for me. I wanted to hook and keep as many readers as possible, regardless of creed, and I was afraid to say anything about God or my relationship with Him for fear that I might scare off some of those potential readers.

How absolutely silly of me.

The fact of the matter is, God is as much a part of Suburban Bird as I am. I would not be here were it not for Him, nor would I have embarked on this adventure without His gentle encouragement. He put the desire on my heart to grow in the gifts He gave me, and to do so here where I might find accountability and support that I might not find elsewhere. And in those most formative weeks for this blog, He led me straight to those people who would unknowingly encourage me that it is perfectly appropriate to share one’s faith, and that I need not fear that the readers would not come because of it.

I really must give credit to the women who, simply through their blogs and their wonderful creativity, encouraged me to share what I’m sharing today: Lindsay of Aisle to Aloha; Laura of Along For The Ride; Rebecca of Rebecca Thornberry, Artist; and Jo Annie of Em Jay and Me. I doubt that any of them know that I exist, or that their words and their vulnerability to complete strangers have affected me as much as they have, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that, through some impressive link-hopping that I can no longer retrace, I stumbled upon these blogs and these amazing women who have impressed upon me the importance of being real. Because nobody likes people who are fake.

Which brings me to the point of this entry: I am not okay.

I’m slightly more okay than I was two nights ago (or, rather, three when this entry goes live) when I hit a very low point, and as I write this, I’m slightly more okay than I was even this morning. Things are getting better, little by little, and for that, I have to give credit where credit is due.

I am, by nature, a rather introverted person. I like my space, and I often enjoy my solitude. The problem I have run up against as I’ve gotten older and moved around from place to place is that, when I hit a low point for one reason or another, I’ve gotten far too good at distancing myself from others and pretending that I’m okay. This has left me very alone and very lonely, but I’m so good at faking it that nobody notices. I’ve also shifted away from God and have stopped looking to Him for help and instead looking inside myself for help that I’m not capable of providing. I am inadequate, and I am a disaster. I think I put it best on Twitter the other night: I am a ruin.

And too often, I have blamed God. I have abandoned Him, pushed Him aside, and cursed Him for all the things that have gone wrong in my life. I have raged at Him for the mistakes that I have made, and I have harbored bitterness towards Him for not speaking to my heart what my purpose is. I have been directionless for so long, and as my friends have slowly come into their own and have discovered God’s plans, at least short-term, for their lives, I have hated Him for not giving me the same.

But still He is faithful. When I stray too far, He gently reels me back in and reminds me that, even if I can’t see it or feel it, He knows what He’s doing. And every time I doubt His plan, He uncovers a little bit of what and whom He has purposely placed in my path and in my life. And there is nothing more powerful than that.

Two nights ago, I had one of those moments, and I cannot possibly even begin to communicate the difference it has made in just this little time.

Years ago, I can’t recall exactly how long now, I was wandering Facebook and came across a post on the wall of one of my groups that said something along the lines of, “I really just need someone to talk to, someone who will listen,” and listed an AIM screen name. I didn’t know this girl from Eve, and I didn’t know what I could possibly offer to her other than an understanding ear, so to speak, but I opened up my chat client and sent her a message that was probably something like, “If you still need to talk, I’m here to listen.” And it sounds lame to even type it, but that day, my life really did change forever.

That girl was my Bethie. You can find her over at Flicker of a Flame. We were both so different then, but we connected in a way that I had never really connected with anyone else. Between us, there was never anything hidden. From the very beginning, we bore each other’s scars to ease the pain, and let each other say anything that needed to be said, even if we couldn’t even imagine saying it to anyone else.

Over the years, we’ve both grown and matured, both personally and in our faith. And through that time, we’ve grown closer and closer. There have been times when we haven’t spoken for months at a time, but each conversation, on the phone or online, we’ve always picked back up right where we left off. We drifted apart a year and a half ago, but on May 20th of last year, I got an email from halfway across the world that, for the second time, changed my life forever.

It was unexpected to say the least, to wake up that morning and find an email from Bethie, who was in Mongolia at the time, but when I got to this part, I knew that it was exactly what I needed right at that moment:

I sat down on my bunk this afternoon with a piece of scratch paper and began to list the names of people with whom I would like to be friends forever.  Not of the Michael W. Smith corny persuasion or even the Vitamin C nice-for-graduation-but-actually-means-nothing-and-doesn’t-last persuasion, but the oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-imagine-my-life-without-these-people persuasion.  And, Carly, I thought of you.  I thought of you, and I almost cried.

And that was when I started to cry. The email went on:

Regardless of the time we’ve been out of touch and even the weirdness after Christmas, I feel like we have an intimate connection…and I’m not willing to allow that to float off onto the distant shores of nostalgia.  I want to know you, Carly.  I want you to be a part of my life, because you have already been more of a blessing than I can express.  It’s nothing that you’ve done or said, but everything about who you are and how we relate to one another.

That was so profound to me, to know that I didn’t have to do anything or say anything in particular to be loved, but just by being myself and being who God made me was enough. And even sitting here right now, fighting tears of joy, (my dad is in the other room and I don’t want to worry him) I’m making a connection and understanding a point that God was trying to bring home to me that I just couldn’t comprehend until this particular moment in time: being me is enough for Him, too. There isn’t anything I can do or say that will make Him love me; all I have to do is be me.

God works in such little, intricate ways that lay such strong foundations for the future. Every day, every word, everything that happens has a purpose, and it is so amazing when He peels back the layers and lets me see how He has planned things down to a T so that I end up where He needs me to end up.

But back to my story. After that email, and a whole slew of replies, Bethie and I grew even closer to the point that, even still, we insist that we are the same person. (Even all of the nicknames we have given each other sound similar and start with the same letter: Elphie and Ephie, Quails and Quaillykins, Birdie and Bethie…) And this woman who I have never physically met became my best friend. It just took me a while to realize it.

Two nights ago, I finally did. It was late, and I found myself sunk so deep into a hole of depression that I couldn’t see a way out, but I didn’t think anyone was awake to help me through it. Out of desperation, I sent Bethie a text that said, “Are you there? I need you.” And within the hour, she was there. She listened without judgment to everything I had to say, and said all of the things that I needed to hear but wouldn’t have taken to heart from anyone else. And she wouldn’t let me hide. (Even though I’m far too good at it for my own good.) And I’ve never had to hide with her. She’s the only person I’ve ever really had that with.

As I sit here now, writing this and reflecting on that almost three-hour conversation, God is revealing more and more of Himself to me through her. She loves me unconditionally, and she knows me inside and out. She draws me closer to God every time we talk, and even just one word from her can wipe away all of my loneliness. She is truly God’s hands in my life, and I can see in her a reflection of Him that I have longed to see for so long: that He is the dearest friend I will ever have, He loves me no matter what I do or how far apart we are, and all He requires is that I love Him in return.

I reiterate: there is nothing more profound and more powerful than that revelation.

So, this moment in time, these words that, for the last hour and a half have been pouring from my heart through my fingers, is a culmination of a thousand tiny moments, a hundred words exchanged, and one very, very dear friend. Bethie, there are so many things that I want to thank you for, but I can’t put them into words. But even more than that, I am thanking God that He knew better than I did how much I would need you. You reached out for help, and instead, ended up helping me. Isn’t it amazing how God works?

I may not be entirely okay just yet, but even now I am more okay than I was when I began this entry.

This is exactly why I warred so long and hard with myself over whether or not to be so open about my faith here. And this is exactly why God won that battle. He is moving in my life, and even though I still don’t know in which direction or to what end, I do know that it is a journey that I was always meant to share, and this is the platform I was meant to use.

My adventure is just beginning, and I am finally ready to embrace God’s plan for me and accept that He will always set my feet on the right path. All I have to do is trust that every pothole and unexpected ditch I’ll fall into along the way has a purpose, and He will always send just the right person to pull me out.


The North Bird

by Birdie in Life, Musings, The Past, Writing

North Bird

It’s a perfect day, the thick, ashen clouds rolling over one another, all eager to bring the rain we need so desperately. Overhead, the geese in graceful arcs turn a south-easterly course while one, alone, turns itself to the north, defying the norm. A small part of me doesn’t understand, but then the Emily Dickinson in me takes over and I can see no reason that the rest of the flock shouldn’t turn to follow the North Bird.

Now the birds and world fall away from me and I am trapped in a rather fitting metaphor where I am the North Bird and society my flock, seeking shelter from the winter while I seek change and the chaos of the cold grey envelope of December.

In a strange way I have found home within the strangest feeling, the accurate metaphor of the North Bird, and the abandonment of safety and surety for a more chaotic self-exile. Beneath the gray wool clouds, wrapped in a shawl of clammy September air, I come to this conclusion, and I am satisfied.

And then the rain comes. I allow it to bathe my face and watch as it cajoles the leaves of the old maple to dance.

Monday September 26, 2005

It has been a very long time since I wrote this, and I have no recollection of exactly what was going on in my life at that specific point in time. I was a junior in high school when I wrote this, fresh from an eventful summer during which I had purchased my horse, watched a barn go up in my back yard, spent weeks building a fence, and suffered a head injury that wiped away a good chunk of my short-term memory. (Maybe that’s why I have no idea what prompted this piece.) But when I found this little entry in an old journal this past week, I found it rather fitting.

This is the first time in any of my sporadic journal entries that I make a comparison between myself and a bird, but it’s far from the last. Perhaps this was the first moment that I acknowledged that, despite not knowing where the next few years would take me, I had a strong feeling that I would have a hard time staying in any one place for long. Perhaps the moment I wrote this was the very moment that I understood that I was instinctively seeking something that society couldn’t give me, something that I had to find on my own in the coldest, loneliest, and most desolate times of my life.

Six years later, I’m still not entirely sure what it is that I’m seeking. Maybe it’s a career that will give my life meaning; maybe it’s a husband and a family; maybe it’s that one defining moment that will make everything worthwhile and finally allow me to make my mark on the world. All I know is that, as of this moment, maybe I’ve brushed up against it once or twice in my wandering, but I haven’t quite found it. Maybe I’ve wandered close to it and then away again, but all the while, deep down, I know I’ll never stop seeking it until I have, without a doubt, found it.

For now, I’m content to seek and follow my heart and God’s gentle urgings wherever they take me. It unnerves me, being somewhat of a control freak, to have no idea where I’m heading or what I’ll find there, but I know that no matter what it is, it will be worth all the effort it’s going to take to get there.

I’m still that North Bird, wheeling away from the flock and forging my own future. Suburban Bird is clearly a part of that future, though what role it will play is yet to be seen. I’m glad to have all of you along for the journey, and I hope that you’ll share your own adventures as we go along.

Keep on flying, friends, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re going the wrong way.


New Beginnings

by Birdie in Life, Musings, The Past

I’ve been writing, seriously and diligently, since I was ten. Unless I was out wandering the forest preserve on a make-believe horse, climbing to the very top branches of our little stand of pines, or building teepees out of old branches in the bushes, you would never find me without paper and pencil. And even those times, when I was out letting my imagination run wild, I never really stopped writing. I was composing poetry in my head, or making up songs, or laying out a scene of prose all around me. Sometimes I was the heroine, and sometimes I was the damsel in distress, but there was always a story in my head, and even if I never wrote it down, I still enjoyed telling it to myself.

I can pinpoint the exact moment when I knew that writing was just something that I loved and had to do. I may not remember the day or the month any more, but I know that it was winter, and we had just had a big snow. I had composed a tiny snippet of a story in my head on the way to my childhood best friend’s house and I wrote it in my weekly journal at school. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Johnson, was so impressed with it that she asked my permission to read it to the entire class, and asked me to write more for the next week. And every week, when I included a new snippet of writing or a new poem with my journal, she refrained from editing the spelling or grammar or punctuation and wrote only encouraging words.

In those next few months, she nurtured my writing and helped me to stretch out of my comfort zone. She introduced me to a new way of thinking, and helped me to settle into my niche and into a part of me that would become a thread of sanity and stability in my life when things would occasionally come crashing down about my ears.

Over the years, school, work, and life have all gotten in the way of my writing. I drift away and back again as the seasons turn, and each time I return to it, it’s like a homecoming. It’s like settling into a favorite comfortable armchair in a sunny nook with a dear friend. And always, I wonder why I drifted away in the first place.

So, here I am, sending these words out into the ether in hopes that, in some small way here at Suburban Bird, I can spread the joy that writing and so many other creative activities bring to me. Maybe I won’t get to be a Mrs. Johnson to somebody, but even if I try and fail, at least I’ll have left some small, positive mark on the world.

Welcome to Suburban Bird. I hope you’ll stay a while.