Whistling and gusting wind in the oak trees outside my bedroom window woke me this morning. I tried to stay in bed, but something about the wind felt beckoning to my soul. I came downstairs and opened the blinds, the tree tops ferociously swaying, bending back and forth as the wind had its way with them.
I decided to light the candles that sit in my fireplace. Flickering light and warmth filled the room. As I sat down on the sofa, my first thought was to make chocolate chip scones. My next thought was, “That’s dumb, the girls are gone and I shouldn’t eat scones this morning. All the sugar, butter, heavy cream, and flour…totally a bad choice. How many calories are in those? Hundreds, for sure…and all those carbs.”
Still, the desire remained, unquenched by my judgments.
The pages in my Pioneer Woman cookbook are literally falling off the spine, they are covered in the remnants of flour and butter…staples for nearly every recipe she has. Opening it up to the recipe provoked memories of snowy Saturdays in my Michigan kitchen, when scones and coffee were the perfect way to start a day by the roaring fire.
I began adding the ingredients and cutting the butter into the flour mixture.
My thoughts drifted to a week ago, when I got the call that my cousin had died.
I poured the heavy cream into the bowl and added the chocolate chips, acutely aware of the multiple conversations and Instagram postings I’ve seen in the past two weeks from friends doing “Whole 30” or “Keto” or some other restricted eating plan for the new year.
Tears pooled in my eyes.
I emptied the bowl onto my granite counter top and began forming the crumbly mixture into a loose circle to gently roll with my rolling pin. It was a mess, because scones are messy. The butter has to stay cold and the flour doesn’t totally mix in. This is the goodness.
Cutting and pressing them into the recommended triangular shapes continued to surface my tears. I couldn’t help but put a few of the remnants in my mouth, the sweet and buttery dough melting on my tongue.
There was nothing uniform about them as I slid them into the oven. They looked and felt like an act of defiance.
My grandmother, Marie, died when I was just ten years old. She had anorexia before there was really a name for it. Her doctors told her to drink milkshakes. I have memories of being out to eat with her and she would hide part of her dinner inside her baked potato and wink at me as if to say, “Keep this secret with me.”
Aside from how disturbingly thin she was, I have only good memories of her. I felt known and loved by her. Today I have so many questions I wish I could ask her, things I can’t learn from anyone but her. Amongst those would be about the ache inside of her that fueled her disordered eating.
My cousin never knew our grandmother. She was born three years after her death, and named for my grandmother. I was there when she came home from the hospital, and was the chief babysitter for her and her brothers for the next several years. After I left for college, they moved away from Phoenix and it was years until I saw her again. I never really knew her as an adult, and her life ended at only 40 years old from anorexia.
This morning I sit holding many of the same questions for her that I have for my grandmother.
I had a brush with disordered eating. When I was 21, I found that I could numb the ache and the shame inside of me by staying hungry. There was an odd euphoria and sense of power that came from going without food. At 5’8, I weighed a scant 117 pounds on my wedding day, and no one was asking questions or noticing it. A couple of years later, after miscarrying my first baby, my obstetrician said, “You don’t weigh enough to nurture another life inside of you, let alone your own.” I left her office and started eating again.
On January 1st, I chose my word for this year: Nourish. It came after days of sitting quietly and asking God to speak something into my heart for the coming year.
This morning I made the choice to nourish my desire, little did I know where it would lead. I am glad I listened to it, as opposed to neglecting it. The moments with Jesus, drinking my coffee, eating my scone, and being present to my life have been bittersweet and good.
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories, a reluctant dreamer and the Founder of Red Tent Living. Married for over 30 years, she is mother to five kids and a pastors wife. She loves quiet mornings with hot coffee, rich conversations and slowly savored meals at her favorite restaurants. She is awed that God chose her to mother four girls having grown up with no sisters. She writes about her life and her work here.