by Autumn Lytle
I spent many years of my life trying to be small.
In middle school, I would try to hide behind my hair or disappear into the back corner of class. I’d sit on the very edge of a crowded cafeteria lunch table, close enough to others not to be a target for bullying, yet distant enough to not be expected to participate in any conversation.
That desire to disappear turned my inward focus into obsession. I started hiding food at dinner, started replacing the typical kid-approved food offered at breakfasts and lunches with a singular rice cake and carrot sticks. I would return home from school to run up and down the stairs, lightly and in socked feet so my mom wouldn’t hear, followed by miles on the treadmill. I imagined if I only ran far enough, there wouldn’t be enough left of me for anyone to pay any notice. As my body shrank, so did my world. Tiny and dark, the planet I inhabited did not extend beyond the body I loathed. I was ghost-like, saying nothing, consuming next to nothing, feeling nothing.
It's taken me many years and countless backslides, but the thing that always pulls me out from that darkness is relearning how Jesus calls us to be small. It’s such a wildly different definition than what the world gives. While the world measures small by the size of your waist or the number on your jeans, Jesus calls us to a smallness that allows us to bear witness to the glory of His creation, putting our worries and fears into perspective. It’s a revelation that draws me out of my own isolated world where I am the center of my own universe into a world full of beauty and hungry for love.
I’m not suggesting people struggling with eating disorders, or any other mental health issue for that matter, are selfish. Selfishness is not a cause of mental health issues. These are illnesses; life-altering, sometimes life-shattering, illnesses. My protagonist in the novel, All That Fills Us, struggles with this. She sees her anorexia as abhorrently selfish, yet she feels incapable of breaking free of it, which makes her loathe herself even more. It’s a terrible cycle that I can imagine many of us are familiar with, even if the details of our struggles differ.
But then she steps outside. She embarks on a cross-country trek where she is forced to step outside of herself. She must see others as more than people to compete with for the smallest waistline. She is confronted with the pain and the joy and the persistence that those around her feel every day. The world is bigger than me, she’s forced to realize, and the truth of that finally starts to make her feel less alone.
And then there’s the sweeping grandeur of the Montana sky at sunset. The sway of the cedars as they rustle and whisper above her. The path beneath her feet that has seen thousands of souls and holds their memories forever in the compact dirt. It’s impossible to stay trapped in that dark, lonely hole of self-hatred when you’re constantly surrounded by such powerful examples of God’s majesty. Like my protagonist, surrounding myself in nature always makes me wonder: “How could the same God who created something this breathtaking, this beloved, have made me as well?”
The answer is always the same. Whether it is heard in the laughter of a stream or echoing back from the mountains: You are beloved as well.
That’s one of the things I loved most about writing All That Fills Us. I had to look back at all the ways God worked to remind me that this world is big and beautiful and hurting, and I am not alone in it. He showed me through my mother, who time after time braved the depths of my cold, lonely and incredibly small world to pull me back into the light. He showed me through organized sports, where running can be so much bigger than a form of self-punishment. It can be something that builds teamwork, friendships, dedication and strength. He showed me through countless Thanksgiving dinners and backyard barbeques that He intended food to be so much more than sustenance. There is joy and tradition and love in a meal.
Going over these memories wasn’t always easy. I’d end a writing session feeling drained, feeling like I was one step away from falling back into that hole. But God walked with me through it. Through His big, beautiful plan for healing my small life that I could only guess at while it was happening. And what a glorious walk it was.
About the Author
Autumn Lytle identifies with a strange group of humans who enjoy running long distances and writing even longer books. Along with being a forever-recovering anorexic and exercise addict, she is a weirdly good checkers player and finder of four-leaf clovers. She spends her days thinking up stories and trying to figure out this whole parenting thing with her son. She can often be found out exploring her hometown of Seattle, Washington, with her family in tow. Learn more at www.AutumnLytle.com.
About the Book
Mel Ellis knows that her eating disorder is ruining her life. Broken and empty in more ways than one, Mel makes one last-ditch effort to make hers a story worth telling. She will walk her own road to recovery along the lesser-known trails of the North American wilderness. During the long journey, she meets strangers with their own stories, as well as ghosts from her past who can no longer be ignored.
Did You Know?
Wedding planning, as a formal category of occupation, came into favor in the early twentieth century. The notion of hiring a person to make all those contacts with suppliers, to book a venue and to keep the bride on track for her fittings began in Europe, spreading to the U.S. following World War I.
Cleopatra used event planners, called scribes, who were in charge of ceremony or bath organizations.
After World War II came the formal wedding trend. With more women remaining in the workforce and having less time to plan a wedding, bridal consultants offered their services to the rich, movie stars and political persons.
Today’s weddings are often large in both scope and guests, averaging $28,000, requiring more than 15 types of wedding vendors and attended by approximately 165 guests.
For those who will plan a wedding this year, remember: the wedding is but the first day in a marriage. Focus on many happy and successful days ahead and do not allow one day to supplant the joining of two into one, as God planned.
Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore
“I love shopping at my local bookstore because of the personal touch. The manager always greets me with a smile and makes me feel welcome. After the past several years of isolation, the sense of community at the bookstore is a balm to this book-buyer's spirit!”