Learning to Bend: A Wild in the Hollow Guest Post from Diana Trautwein


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Do you see that face over there? If you didn’t already know, her name is Diana Trautwein, and I love her. I want to be like her. For years, I’ve not written a word about which she wouldn’t reach out all the way from Santa Barbara to encourage me or ask if I’m okay. She has prayed for our family in the sick days. Diana has made many of us online feel like we’re here for a purpose, and there’s no doubt in my mind she lives this way in her own community.

Oh, in this series of Wild in the Hollow guest posts, it is my greatest honor to have her words here. I’ve asked writers to share what they know of the broken way home, the beauty of the broken, small, and low way, and I believe Diana has done a gorgeous job. What she shares here is straight up wisdom. It’s gold. Please take it in, and welcome Diana with all the shares you’ve got. I know you’ll love her, too.

If you haven’t already, order Wild in the Hollow and consider sharing your story with us as well. You can always comment here about your own broken way or email me or add a note to my facebook page.

 

 *****

That bathroom floor can be a cold and lonely place. I’ve been there, at the end of myself, done in by doing good, exhausted by my own refusal to ask for help, by my unhealthy relationship with food, by my misunderstanding of the gospel of grace. There are all kinds of ways to be broken and I am no exception.

All my life, I have been the good girl — obedient, careful, helpful, the one who takes care of things and people. I don’t think I ever went through a rebellious phase as a teenager. Maybe it’s because I’m an eldest child, maybe it’s the way my mother instilled certain fears in me at an early age, maybe it’s the way I’m wired. I never tried anything on the ‘don’t do’ list, I never quit going to church, I read my Bible and prayed every day, I toed every line put in front of me, generally without complaint. To most people looking in, I was a very together person.

Along the way, however, I never learned much about self-care, about healthy boundaries, about knowing when to stop. And I learned to use food as . . . well, just about everything: a pacifier, a reward, a comfort, a go-to, quick-fix for any emotional struggle, a boredom-satisfier, a crutch when facing a difficult situation, even a subversive way to be rebellious. And for many years, it worked pretty well.

Except for the unfortunate fact that I carried far too many pounds on this large frame. Despite the copious tears that I’ve shed over that truth during the last 40+ years, I now see that that my size was an important part of my story. Somewhere, deep inside of me, I needed to be big. Big enough to meet the needs of all the people around me, big enough to take care of three little ones who came faster than imaginable, big enough to deal with the busy schedule I always managed to set for myself, big enough to get through seminary at mid-life, big enough to handle whatever curveball my pastoral jobs might throw at me. Big enough.

Slowly, with time and experience — much of it difficult and painful — I am learning to lean into the biggest truth I’ve learned: it’s okay to be small. In fact, it’s necessary to be small — to recognize our own inability to ever be big enough, strong enough, good enough, devoted enough, loving enough, capable enough, sturdy enough . . . enough . . . unless . . . we learn how to bend.

And learning how to bend feels like it takes forever. It takes re-learning things you’re absolutely sure you’ve learned already, multiple times. This truth I know: we keep visiting the same issues, each time from the vantage point of a few more years of life. Hopefully, what we’ve learned in the past will carry us forward to new learning, new understanding, new ways to bend.

What do I mean by bending? Allowing the beautiful, flowing rhythm of grace to soften my stiffness, lessen my resistance, and empower me to be grace-full, grace-ious, a grace-receiver and a grace-giver. Bending means learning to make space in my spirit for the Fount that flows with unceasing love, acceptance and, delight for me — just exactly as I am. It means admitting my own weakness, my own smallness, my own neediness. It means trusting that GOD is enough, and I don’t have to be.

Eventually, it even means celebrating that cold bathroom floor. Because that place where we bottom-out, where we admit our brokenness in the presence of our God — that place becomes for us a place of liberation and embrace, a place of beginning again. Slowly, but surely, I am learning to bend, to lean, to ask for help, to set boundaries where needed, even to release my disordered eating to the loving guidance of the God Who Comes Near. And I say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for divine patience, for God’s loving care across this long life of mine, and for the ways in which learning to bend has brought healing and wholeness.


 

Married for 50 years (in December 2015) to her college sweetheart, Diana Trautwein is ‘Mom’ to three truly remarkable grown children, ‘Diana’ to each of their outstanding spouses, ‘Nana’ to 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 5-24, and “Dee” to her 94-year-old mom, who suffers from dementia. She is also a spiritual director and was a pastor for 17 years before her retirement in 2010. She and Dick live in Santa Barbara CA and have just downsized to a smaller home. Hopefully, they’ll enjoy it for another decade or so. She writes on her blog, www.dianatrautwein.com and at www.shelovesmagazine.com.

 

 

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22 Comments

Diana Trautwein
Reply September 14, 2015

My goodness, dear Amber, what lovely words! Thank you for the opportunity to write in your beautiful space, I look forward to interacting with your readers.

Karen
Reply September 14, 2015

I have admired Diana from "afar" for a very long time and SO wish I could sit with her on the beach in SB for nice long heart to heart! THANKS for sharing today!

Diana Trautwein
Reply September 14, 2015

Hey Karen - you're welcome to come and sit at the beach with me any old time! Thank you for reading.

Jennifer
Reply September 14, 2015

Diana - I have been overweight most of my life. No one ever told me it was okay to be small. I found those words both unsettling and restful. You have invited me to be curious about the importance of size in my story. Thank you.

    Diana Trautwein
    Reply September 14, 2015

    Oh, Jennifer - your adjective choice is spot on!! "unsettling and restful" - yes, yes, yes. About 35 years ago, I dropped a lot of pounds and a friend took a look at me and said, "You know, Diana, you're really quite small, aren't you?" Can you guess how fast those pounds went right back on, plus a few? I was terrified to hear those words. I still had so much inner work to do. So be patient with yourself, okay? It is okay to be small. And yes, it is, ultimately, very restful, indeed. Now I am nearly 5'10" and still weigh more than any chart would tell you I should, but my eating is exactly that these days - restful. Not frantic, much less often emotionally based, and no longer used as a kind of strange weapon against myself and/or others. I'll never be a tiny person, but I am a small one. And happy to be so. I pray this is a forever thing - but as I said to Donna in the comments - we are always re-learning things, at a deeper level each time. Many blessings as you do this work, Jennifer.

Donna C
Reply September 14, 2015

Diana! What a lovely surprise to see one of my favourite internet people writing on one of my favourite blogs!
I whole-heartedly agree with Amber's lovely and true words about you. :)
The part that really spoke to me was about the re-learning. I do hate it - when some issue comes up, yet again, I often feel as though all the other times I've been through this same thing have been a waste of time. They must be, otherwise why would I be here again?! But maybe it's a bit like learning an instrument or a language. My daughter is learning to play the piano, and I was listening to her practising this morning, thinking about how much better she is than a year ago, and enjoying her enjoyment in what she can do. But she is still learning, and still gets frustrated at her lack of ability when she tries something new - just as I do, when one of my 'pet issues' rears it's ugly head again! Maybe I need to think of these times more as a chance to master another small step towards godliness, and less as evidence of my complete inability to ever learn anything. Sigh... onwards and upwards, right? :)

Diana Trautwein
Reply September 14, 2015

Do you know how wise you are, Donna? How gifted in terms of biblical reflection and application? Oh, I hope so! Because this is such a lovely, rich comment. You pinpointed what, to me, was the single most important thing I wanted to say in this piece: the work we do must always be revisited over time. We are never finished, this side of eternity. And I have a hunch, we'll keep right on learning even there. And your metaphor from your daughter's piano playing? Yes! Right on. NOTHING is ever wasted on this journey we take with God and with each other. Nothing. So good to see you here in this thread - thank you for this comment, my friend.

Ro elliott
Reply September 14, 2015

And I say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for divine patience, for God’s loving care across this long life of mine, and for the ways in which learning to bend has brought healing and wholeness. Yes yes and Amen... This is the gift of age... Seeing in deeper ways how longsuffering and compassionate He has been from the beginning to now!!!

    Diana Trautwein
    Reply September 14, 2015

    I hear your thank you, and your yes and your AMEN, Ro - and send them all right back to you. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

Brandee Shafer
Reply September 15, 2015

You're my person, Diana. What do the tests say is your primary spiritual gift? I would've guessed encouragement until reading this post; now I wonder if it's mercy? I think the best parts of us come through our writing but also that, sometimes, we don't get to experience all of one another's gifts via the Internet. Thank you for sharing your wisdom so consistently with so many of us. Exciting to see your words at Amber's, today. Congratulations, Amber, on the release of your book; I look forward to reading it.

    Diana Trautwein
    Reply September 15, 2015

    Interesting questions, Brandee. I think my spiritual gifts shift over time and in differing circumstances. Yes, encouragement is one. Teaching is another, and sometimes healing, if you can believe that one! Since I've been doing spiritual direction, I also experience what used to be called a 'word of knowledge.' Not sure what it's label is currently. Mercy? Don't know about that one. Maybe it's time to take a survey again!

Donna Dixon
Reply September 15, 2015

Amber, I love how you introduced Diana...your words express my own reaction to her writings. Diana, I thank God again for your vulnerability and grace, obviously combined with tenacity.

    Diana Trautwein
    Reply September 15, 2015

    Thanks so much, Donna, for reading and for encouraging!

Dea Moore
Reply September 15, 2015

Diana, Brokeness, it my story, your story, Amber's story---no matter how 'good' or 'bad' we have been it comes to the place where have to look up from that cold floor. But God meets right there and teaches the way forward. The greatest gift God has given us is live loved. I know you know this freedom. Thank you for blessing Amber, me, so many with your care through your words and encouragement. I already read Wild in the Hollow...and I will read it again!

    Diana Trautwein
    Reply September 16, 2015

    You are so right, Dea. As usual, my friend. We are all broken, finding our way home. And yeah, I think reading Amber's book again is a grand idea.

sandy hay
Reply September 16, 2015

I gobble up everything you write. I know I've said this to you before Diana...your words speak right to me, into my depths. They make me pause and think and reflect and pray. "It's o top be small." Idelette wrote yesterday...it's ok to be ordinary. Keep reminding me ladies :)

    Diana Trautwein
    Reply September 16, 2015

    I write to remind myself, Sandy. We all need to keep telling ourselves the truth, as we learn it. And keep learning it! Thanks for your kind words - I appreciate them more than you know.

SimplyDarlene
Reply September 17, 2015

diana! i'm thankful for the gift of knowing you for years out here in cyberLand!

self-care, boundaries, and when to stop <-- i'm rotten at this. and it's only been recently that i've determined why i do it, and now with this post about trusting God to be enough so i don't have to be... yikers, i'm convicted.

thank you for sharing your tender. and truth.

blessings.

    Diana Trautwein
    Reply September 18, 2015

    Back at ha, Darlene! You're welcome - and thank you, too.

Patricia @ Pollywog Creek
Reply September 19, 2015

Oh, Diana! You are one of my bestest girlfriends I've never met. So wise. So beautiful. So real. So encouraging. And goodness --- relearning the need for self-care and establishing healthy boundaries? I thought at 65 that I might have neared mastery by now. Thank you for reminding me that we're in this together.. Love you dearly.

    Diana Trautwein
    Reply September 19, 2015

    Ah, Patricia - agreed, agreed, agreed. Someday maybe we will meet - hopefully this side of heaven, okay?? And we are in this together. And it takes a lifetime, that much I know.

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