Guest post Tuesday, exclamation point! Today’s writer, Lindsey, is a new friend, but if we found ourselves in the same place at the same time, we’d fast declare ourselves besties. So, soak up her words today, ketchup and all. But most of all enjoy the heart – her pure and genuine heart – behind it.
Once a week I cook sizzling ground beef in a skillet, grate a giant pile of cheddar cheese, chop lettuce and fry up fluffy flour tortillas.
Oh boy, it’s Taco Tuesday.
Or Wednesday, or Thursday. I’m not so precise about the day, as long as there are tacos. Cheesy, meaty tacos topped with cool sour cream, fresh avocado and ketchup.
Yes, ketchup. It’s true. The more appropriate choice would be salsa. Or taco sauce. Or even just some freshly chopped tomatoes.
But for me, it’s got to be ketchup.
Taco night was a tradition that started when I was growing up. My parents, my brother and I gathered around the kitchen table, talking about our day over flour tortillas and refried beans.
I was a picky eater, preferring the bland and the familiar. But my mom never made us special meals, we had to eat what was served. So I slathered the spicy beef and crunchy lettuce in my favorite thing of all: ketchup.
Ketchup is the taste of my childhood, of making Mom’s meatloaf swallow-able, of fast food after soccer practice, of burgers on report card day. As an adult, it’s a condiment I rarely use at home, in favor of fresher and fancier tastes like pesto and goat cheese and pico de gallo.
But it always comes out for taco night.
I know – ketchup on tacos.
It’s not quite right, but it feels like home.
There was a time I didn’t eat ketchup. Or tacos. Or much of anything, actually.
Counting calories and measuring body parts became an obsession. Undressed salads, steamed vegetables, and the occasional cup of plain pasta were my drugs of choice, except for brief and wild periods of manic consumption – binging in secret and sitting in shame.
It was the outward manifestation of an inward reality: I was miserable in my own skin. Lost in loneliness and broken in spirit, my secret was killing me slowly.
Until finally, found by a friend and admitted to the hospital, I realized something had to change.
All of my choices, all the decisions I’d made for myself up to that point in my life had ended there, with me in the psych ward, engaged in group therapy talking about how donuts made us feel.
And so, wheelchair bound because of concern about damage to my heart, I sat alone in the hospital and prayed to a God who I’d met as a child, but had walked away from years before.
“If you’re real – help.”
There were no angels. There was no magic.
But slowly, bit by difficult bit, I began to heal.
The God of my childhood became real again –
as I read scripture,
as I asked questions,
as I was loved.
I found meaning in faith, in community, in pursuing truth, rather than the size of my jeans. At least more days than not.
I still look in the mirror and fight the urge to criticize the woman I see there. Coming to peace with my feelings about how I look is a process. I know now it will be life-long.
But over the last dozen or so years since that day in the wheelchair, I’ve realized the incredible gift it is to have a body that’s healthy.
Healthy enough to hold a student through his seizure in my special education classroom.
Healthy enough to run a half marathon around the Golden Gate bridge.
Healthy enough to carry my babies inside me and push them into the world.
My body’s not perfect, but it’s mine to use for my one wild and precious life.
It’s not quite right but it feels like home.
Tonight when I make tacos, I’ll remember my parents and brother, who loved me so well around the dinner table as a kid and walked me through a lot of years of healing later on. Many miles separate us now, but the smell of sizzling ground beef somehow makes them seem not so far away.
And as my own little family gathers around the card table in the middle of our university housing living room, I’ll smile. This is certainly not where I thought we’d be living at this point in our lives but it’s the place God’s provided for now.
I’ll look at the faces of my precious little boys, sure to be covered with sour cream and refried beans. I’ll gaze into my husband’s eyes, acknowledging the weariness that comes after a long day of work and the joy of sharing our lives with these messy little people. We’ll take hands to pray and I’ll be grateful.
For a body that is strong and healthy enough to serve my sweet family.
For a place to live together, even this tiny dormitory apartment.
For the taste of a homemade taco with ketchup on top.
It’s not quite right but it feels like home.
Lindsey Smallwood writes in Boulder, Colorado, where she lives with her husband Chris, a Physics PhD, and their two sons. A former pastor and teacher, she loves to communicate truth through stories. Lindsey blogs at www.songbirdandanerd.com or can be found on Facebook. Cara again: so, what’d you think? Do you love Lindsey’s weaving, storytelling ways? And will you too try tacos with a side of ketchup tonite? Leave her some love in the comment section below!