Just The Right Size

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F_Diana2

I have often joked that I’ve never been small in my life. Trouble is, I’m only half-joking.

I am a large person—always have been. I have baby pictures with my cousin where I am gargantuan compared to this tiny peanut of a babe. I was the tallest in my class until the boys started to catch up. I was awkward and uncoordinated with difficult skin issues and stick straight hair that my mother tried to curl with permanent wave solution. It did not work.

I was also loud, bossy and usually anxious about something—not the best combination for developing a strong sense of self. All these things made me feel overwhelmingly large in any social situation, so I decided that I might as well BE big, the biggest of them all.

I worked hard. I studied, got great grades, and learned a lot of different things. I became a master at cooperation and learned to blend in. I did what was expected of me, trying not to stir up the dust as I worked. I kept it up for decades.

I was the quintessential “big girl” absorbing everyone’s expectations, their grief, neuroses, demands, anger, neediness. Somewhere along the way—about the time I started to have babies—I became a really, REALLY large woman. I enveloped myself in a layer of extra pounds that kept me safe, well-padded and sturdy in the midst of the turmoil around me.

I remember successfully losing about 60 pounds one year and going for a dip in the pool at a friend’s house. She turned to me with a surprised look on her face and said, “Wow, Diana, you’re actually quite a small person, aren’t you?” Can you guess how fast those pounds came right back on?

Small? ME? No way. I was repulsed at the thought and shocked to think she might be right. I could not be small, you see. I could not. I did not know who I was as a small person. How would I possibly manage all the pain I carried if I were small? So I made sure I was big enough to shoulder the load.

And at the same time, I agonized over it. Incessantly. I tried to lose weight. I kept daily journals, counted calories and beseeched God for help. I lost weight with Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, but gained it back. Every single weight loss remedy out there went on my list. I tried all the special diet foods and the dance went on and on and on.

I have a hunch it always will, on some level. This is my albatross, my nemesis, my story. But as I’m living it, I am slowly coming to grips with some important core truths. At the top of the list is this one: the willingness to be small—to own my insignificance—is not only a good thing, but also a necessary one.

I am not God. Seems obvious, right? Well, yes and no. With the rational part of myself, I can readily admit this truth. But with the deeper self, the in-process pieces of my soul, it’s much more difficult. I can speak and teach and preach the truth, but living it? That’s another story entirely.

I slip into ingrained patterns too quickly—taking charge, being strong, offering care/advice/support/ encouragement/help. Very quickly, I start to believe the lie that it really is all up to me. I’m the big person in the room. I can handle this.

Ooof!

Talk about a vicious cycle! At this late stage in my life, I am learning to stop earlier in the spiral, to pull back from the pattern I’ve etched so firmly into my life and breathe. I breathe the Jesus Prayer, that beautiful, ancient reminder that what I need is mercy, not bigness:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Saying this simple prayer reminds me that I am very, very small. Only God has shoulders strong enough to carry the load, only God is big enough. I cannot do it and I don’t have to.

When I acknowledge my smallness, I tell myself the central, life-giving, core truth: smallness is a good thing, not a handicap. It is a gift, not a curse. When I let myself sink into that truth, I can let go of my unending quest for significance, for size. I welcome my truest self. I can touch that small girl inside, say soothing things to her, and turn her eyes to the bigness of the sky and the sea and the God who made them.

And in that moment, I am exactly the right size.

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Diana Trautwein
Married to her college sweetheart for over 40 years, Diana is always wondering about things. She answers to Mom from their three adult kids and spouses and to Nana from their 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 3 to 22. For 17 years, after a mid-life call to ministry, she answered to Pastor Diana in two churches where she served as Associate Pastor. Since retiring at the end of 2010, she spends her time working as a spiritual director and writes on her blog, Just Wondering. For as long as she can remember, Jesus has been central to her story and the church an extension of her family. Not that either church or family is exactly perfect . . . but then, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
Diana Trautwein

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  • sarah

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! I see myself in every word here. It seems like the only prayers I pray are about my weight. I feel like large ladies have no voice in most communities and this is certainly the first time I’ve seen it in a Christian context. I almost didn’t read it because I thought it would be another article I would walk away from feeling shamed somehow.

    Thank you for your voice, Diana, and thank you for including this essay, sheloves.

    • pastordt

      It just makes my heart happy to read this comment, Sarah. I’m so glad you feel like you found a voice here, and I too, am grateful for SheLoves and the community here, that accepts all of us and welcomes our stories. Blessings to you.

  • Yes! The small way is closer to the Jesus way… I love the idea of stopping earlier in the spiral. May we all receive the mercy that comes as we realize more of who God is and more of who we are.

    • pastordt

      Amen and amen, Charlotte. Thank you for this comment.

  • I love this. I am a small person – have always felt the need to be louder, more energetic.

    • pastordt

      Well, here’s the thing, Tanya. You don’t have to be anything other than who you are. I think that is one of the strongest cries of my heart as I have pastordt people over the last 20+ years, and as I try to listen to the Holy Spirit at work within me. The work of God in us is to help us be who we are, without apology. So embrace your smallness, and your gentleness – they are God’s gift to you and to the rest of us, too. Thank you for reading today.

  • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    For awhile I thought “small” was my word for 2015 – I’m not sure now, but I keep finding an invitation to return to less, to allow for weakness and humanity. For me, that is the lenten journey. I hate the idea of being large and yet I’ve often felt the need to be large enough to protect myself and the fear of being too large.

    • pastordt

      I love all these little reflections contained in this comment, Kelly. The whole thing connected to size is really interesting to unpack. All of us are a size, either large or small or medium. And somehow size has a lot to do with how we view ourselves. And I think that applies to our internal self, as well as our external self. Thanks for your usual insightful reading and commenting, my friend. Always glad to hear from you.

  • Helen Burns

    ‘And in that moment, I am exactly the right size.’ what a perfectly beautiful revelation. I love every word and thought in here Diana… thanks for sharing your life and story with all of us here today. It just makes us love you more and more. Blessings to you xoxo

    • pastordt

      Thank you for your kind words, Helen. For me, the journey of life, has been centered around this issue — Learning to be the right size, and to live at peace with that.

      • pastordt

        You’re welcome, Gwen. Thank you for reading.

  • Stefanie

    Oh, I love this, Diana. Thank you for sharing this wisdom here!

    • pastordt

      You’re so welcome, Stefanie..

  • Donna-Jean Brown

    Thankyou for your soul-baring story here, Diana. In our culture, it feels like, for women at least, there’s absolutely nothing more shameful than being overweight. Better you be a drug addict or a prostitute than be judged fat! and it’s one “failure” that’s impossible to hide. Weird that it can spring from either the desire to be “big” or the desire to disappear.

    • pastordt

      There’s a lot of truth to what you say, Donna Jean, and not a very pleasant truth, at that. And that’s a really interesting point, that sometimes this struggle with weight can be connected with the need to disappear, as well as to appear large. I think it’s kind of mixed together, don’t you?

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  • “I was the quintessential “big girl” absorbing everyone’s expectations, their grief, neuroses, demands, anger, neediness.”

    SOB

    ““Wow, Diana, you’re actually quite a small person, aren’t you?” …. I did not know who I was as a small person. How would I possibly manage all the pain I carried if I were small? So I made sure I was big enough to shoulder the load.”

    GASP

    So much of this resonates with me. I paced around in dizzying circles in my kitchen reading this, Diana.

    Thank you for articulating things I’d repressed my entire life.

    This was a “Ouch Hallelujah” (as Pastor Helen would say) post.

    Love you at every size,

    Teen

    P.S. ” I made sure I was big enough to shoulder the load.” <— These words haunt me!

    • pastordt

      Now that’s something I never would’ve guessed, Tina, looking at the pictures of beautiful you. But I think all of us, no matter what actual, physical size we are, deal with this issue. It’s a really big one, and one that we need to face into with honesty, and openness. So please, don’t be haunted, but do be reflective. And continue to acknowledge your own need to relinquish control, and to let God be God. Lots of love to you.

      • Erin Wilson

        These were the lines that hit me hardest too.
        Wincing and full of gratitude.

        • pastordt

          Hey there, Erin. You kinda snuck in here and I almost didn’t see this one. Thank you for both the wince and the gratitude. 🙂

  • Gwen Acres

    I pray, ” Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a human.”
    Truly, one size fits all, when it comes to the struggles we humans share.
    Thank you Diana.

    • pastordt

      Because I’m on retreat today, I’m doing my comment replies on my telephone. And it doesn’t always work perfectly. The response to your kind comment, Gwen, is actually up above. So sorry.

  • Saskia Wishart

    What wisdom is packed into this post Diana. Thank you for sharing.

    • pastordt

      You’re welcome, Saskia. Thank you for your encouragement.

  • I can barely believe my eyes, and am having one of those, “I thought I was the only one” moments. Also trusting for grace to “welcome my truest self,” and thankful to have received this kick in the seat of the pants today.

    • pastordt

      Not meant as a kick, Michele. Not at all. Only a reminder, maybe a call, to discover who we are, and to remember who God is. Grateful for your reading, and for your encouragement.

      • Kick, reminder, or call — sometimes I just need the Holy Spirit to jolt me out of condemnation and into “life in Christ Jesus.” Today He used your story. Thank you for telling it.

        • pastordt

          You are so welcome, Michele.

  • Donna Meredith Dixon

    Because of conversations we’ve shared through the years I forwarded the post to a good friend… her response? I should charge her with plagiarism. Another excellent blog.

    • pastordt

      Thank you Donna. And I’m glad this resonated with you and your friend.

  • And now I’m crying. It’s really beyond explanation- some Holy Spirit work going on, and this touches all the right points. Thank you.

    • pastordt

      Part of me is sorry for your tears, Jamie, but another part realizes that the tears are a gift. Thank you for letting me know that this touches you in important ways.

  • What an honest, heart-rending post this is. Our physical size and shape are not the only reasons we may feel small, but they do impact our lives hugely. I’ve come from the opposite end of the spectrum as a small person in weight and height and one who felt invisible to boot, or wanted to make herself so. My life has been spent barely daring to raise my head above the parapet or share my weak voice with others. Life and God have combined to make me a little bolder now.
    As I read your words here it struck me how large you are in all the areas that really matter, Diana. You have such a largess of wisdom, a largeness of heart and tremendous care and compassion for others. Those are areas we all benefit from hugely. Keep on being wonderful you. We all love you exactly as you are. Blessings. xox

    • pastordt

      Thank you Joy for your usual kind and loving words. And I do know that those on the opposite end of this particular problem deal with many of the same issues. I have a daughter who is short, and I come from a whole side of my family that was very short. I have good friends who are small, so I know that some version of these issues shows up what our size is. The commenter who mentioned the Goldilocks story was really onto something, I think. We all do suffer from that syndrome.

  • Eva Sullivan-Knoff

    Thank you Diana for your vulnerability, wisdom, and beauty. Your words are meaningful. Blessings.

    • pastordt

      I was sure I had responded to your kind comment, Eva. But I don’t find it here. I appreciate your reading, and your encouragement. I am currently writing responses from a hospital bed! I was taking a walk today at our local cemetery, which is one of the most beautiful places in all of Santa Barbara, and I didn’t see a break in the concrete and tripped and fell flat on my face. Because I take blood thinning medication, they want to observe me overnight. Prayers from the SheLoves team would be most appreciated. I have had to have stitches at five places on my face. And I’m getting a huge blackeye. Fortunately the initial CT scans came back clear, and I did not break my nose, which I was pretty sure I had done. So I’m sore and I’m tired, but I’m extremely grateful.

  • Jemelene

    Thank you Diana, This is so very beautiful and full of truth.

    I too have always been the big girl. After my “Love Letter to My Body” a couple of years ago I began to find physical health to go along with the sweet focus that letter brought to my soul. Pounds have been shed, not nearly as many as I had strove for in the past but enough to make a difference. It has drawn so many comments that I’ve struggled to just stay on course. I don’t mean the “weight I’ve lost” course, I mean to remain spiritually healthy and emotionally sound. My resolve to focus on the eternal gets shaken when I’m distracted by the pressure to meet some physical standard of size.

    This was the piece you spoke straight into me:

    “When I let myself sink into that truth, I can let go of my unending quest for significance, for size” I’ll be mulling that over for a long time.

    Thank you.

    • pastordt

      I am grateful this resonated with you, Jemelene. I pray it resonates with many women, and that together we can find our way to healthy self acceptance, and a healthy lifestyle. Thank you for your good words.

  • NoOrdinaryWomen

    Diana, Thank you for this. All too often womanhood is like the Goldilocks and the 3 Bears story. We’re too big, too little. . . too loud/too quiet, too much/not enough. It becomes a constant quest for just right–and often it feels impossible.

    I am excited to share your words with our No Ordinary Women readers via Social Media (www.noordinarywomen.org). For them, like me, I believe your words will be a balm.

    Many thanks. Sally

    • pastordt

      Thank you so much for these kind words and for sharing this post. I appreciate it very much.

  • I’m sure that more than once I’ve said,” this is my favorite post you’ve written”. I’m saying it again today.

    • pastordt

      Thank you, Elizabeth. It was surely one of the hardest to write.

  • Eva Sullivan-Knoff

    Diana, I am so sorry to hear. Prayers for a speedy recovery.

    • pastordt

      Thanks so much, Eva. It’s been an interesting day, that is for sure!

  • I love you, Diana. You are so dear to me – just the way you are. You will always be big in my life – in the very best way. xoxox

    • pastordt

      Thanks, my sweet friend.

    • Glenda Childers

      I so agree, Patricia.

      Fondly,
      Glenda

      • pastordt

        Thank you, Glenda.

  • Bev Murrill

    Well, you’ve made a really big impression on me, Diana. I read your heart and feel it’s largeness every post! Your big heart and your humility are two of the most gracious gifts the Body of Christ could receive. We thank God for you.

    • pastordt

      What a lovely thing to say, Bev! Thanks so much. And right back at you, friend.

  • Katie Andraski

    I love how you weave physical size into the idea of being a big girl. I can sure relate to your struggles with weight and with shouldering the load all the time. There is so much wisdom here in what you say about learning to pull back and breathe. There is encouragement in how we can work out of old patterns and relate to the world in a more healthy manner. The Jesus prayer has saved me many times.

    I’m working out what it means to be small as far as my work promoting my novel goes. Here’s my blog post that joins this conversation from a little different angle. http://katieandraski.com/meditation-success/

    • pastordt

      Thank you, Katie. And thank you for the link, too! Wonderful ruminating on the nature of success and the importance of being faithful rather than ‘successful.’ Truly thoughtful.

      • Katie Andraski

        Thank you so much for reading my post. And thank you for writing this one. You give me some stuff to think about.

        • pastordt

          I’m glad! And you did exactly that for me. And that’s what I love about these internet communiques.

          • Katie Andraski

            Thank you. I so agree with how wonderful these conversations can be. I had worried about being rude by adding the link but have seen others have done it and wanted to share what I’m thinking about this stuff. How are you feeling from your fall?

          • pastordt

            I am very tired and sore today and as my granddaughter (who will be 5 on Wed) told me yesterday, “Who do you look like, Nana? I know! You look like an old lady wearing face paint.” Pretty much sums it up.

          • Katie Andraski

            Good humor from your granddaughter. Hope you feel better day by day!

          • pastordt

            Thanks, Katie.

  • This is a beautiful and truthful post, Diana – I so appreciate your vulnerability here.

    • pastordt

      Thank you, Michelle. This is probably one of the most painful parts of my own life journey and it’s hard to write about it.

  • This is just so beautiful, Diana. I’m grateful for you.

    • pastordt

      Thank you, Bethany. And I am grateful for you.

  • Wow Diana. Very informative to tell man peeking into this space. I’ve had a lot of women say its men’s fault that women are so conscious about weight. I can’t speak for all men, but I really dont care – never have.

    But seeing and reading this from your perspective helps me better relate to the ‘big girls’ in my life

    • pastordt

      Thanks for reading, David – and for this good comment.

  • Lisha Epperson

    I think we all do this to one degree or another. In trying to offer the world the biggest (read : best) version of ourselves we neglect the most authentic parts. Hooray for the God who embraces it all. Hope you’re feeling better today Diana.

    • pastordt

      Thank you, Lisha, for these wise words. And yes, I am better today – I look worse! – but I am better. Got home before noon, did a little laundry and have basically resting the rest of the day. I plan on a couple more days of that!

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    “Exactly the right size…” what a perfect line. I’ve put on some weight in the last couple of years (like 15 pounds) and spent many, many months beating myself up over it. All I could think about was my weight. Then it dawned on me I was obsessing about my physical body when I should be focused on the ‘real’ me==the part that knows Jesus and gives life away to the world. Then I went and bought some clothes that fit my new size. And I’m a lot happier and more free. Great post, friend. Awesome.

    • pastordt

      Beautifully put, dear Jody. Thank you so much.

  • smoothstones

    I love this so much. And you.

    • pastordt

      Ditto, pretty lady. Ditto.

  • HisFireFly

    “I can let go of my unending quest for significance”
    oh, this.
    still struggling to do the same.
    our life, our purpose
    is IN Him
    and how often I forget
    Sending you love
    one big woman to another
    big hearted, small in His arms

    • pastordt

      EXACTLY – small in God’s arms. Glad this resonated with you, dear Karin.

  • You’ve hit on so many things for me here. But I’m drawn to the small, wanting to be small. But how does a person with a loud mouth and controlling ways get small? Accepting the I’m exactly the right size sounds like a good place to start. Thanks Diana. I’ll be praying the Jesus prayer now.

    • pastordt

      Yes, Debby – that is the very best place to start. Blessings to you on this journey of self-discovery.

  • Kim Hyland

    “I welcome my truest self. I can touch that small girl inside, say soothing things to her, and turn her eyes to the bigness of the sky and the sea and the God who made them.” I LOVE this! What a precious and delightful way to live. Thank you, Diana!

    • pastordt

      Thank you, Kim!

  • Diana, your honesty and vulnerability and therefore your strength, is so beautiful to me. This is such a powerful post.

    I often pray, Lord, help me see things in their right size, as well as, Help me be my right size.

    So, this is just perfect.

    I think I love you even more than I have before.

    • pastordt

      Ah, thank you so much, Idelette. I’m glad I chose to first write about this difficult piece of me in this good place.

  • Diana, thankyou for this article. I identify completely with always having to be the ‘strong one’. It’s my life story….sometimes other people and circumstances force that on to us, but as you say, we soon become convinced that we can’t be anything BUT strong. It’s a hard call. Thankyou for sharing so bravely and honestly and making some of us look more closely at ourselves.

    • pastordt

      You’re so welcome, Cheryl. And I know there are lots of us who identify with this particular kind of problematic thinking. It’s a daily process of letting go.