Monday, June 29, 2015

God Hates Fat People (Part One)

I am fat. modern nomenclature tells me that actually I am a fat person. Or a person who is fat.

End result is the same.

I've struggled with my size almost all of my memory; I was as tall as my teachers by the 4th grade, average adult size as well. But the fat label had been with me for years by then, though it would be another 6 or so years before I was technically overweight. Another 10 years before I was obese.

Around 15 or so food became my god. I spent a lot of time thinking about it, how to get it, how to have it so others wouldn't find out. I sought food when I was happy, sad, mad, bored. Food was my comfort and my resting place.

Oh, and I am a Christian.

I was a Christian at 15 too, though I wasn't striving to emulate Christ. I was mostly just afraid of going to Hell.

The next 20 years were a series of triumphs, failures, victories, bad decisions, joys and heart breaks.

Food served me well then. It was my constant. It made me large enough that I felt somewhat protected when I was in danger. Bold enough that I could work hard. Food brought me joy when little else did.

Then, I met Jesus again face-to-face in the parking lot of a Winn Dixie. He and I had had chased one another for the past two years, me seeking Him when there was a fear or a need, Him genuine in His pursuit. That day I gave it up. I told Him no matter the cost I wanted to be His.

So I went to my Savior, my parents, my child, and my then-sort-of-boyfriend (now husband) broken and humbled.

That occurred a little over 4 years ago. The Lord has restored so much in me. So much so there are moments I feel dumb-struck.

Then there are moments went I catch sight of something. Something that does not reconcile at all with the reclaimed woman God has made.

It is almost always when I am alone. Usually I am angry or afraid.

And there with the Savior next to me I seek my comfort in food. Entire large pizzas consumed in the front seat of my car with the windows down and AC on full blast so the smell won't linger. It is when I am sitting in the parking lot of one drive-through with a burger in one hand and when it is finished I go through another drive through next door. Sometimes it is late at night with an entire box of vanilla wafers dunked three at a time in cold white milk.

But frequently, I recognize it before I am a dozen bites in to my favorite comfort food. I recognize what I am about to do and plow ahead anyway.

As a Christian I have shared this struggle before, that gluttony and making food my idol is a daily battle. I laid it at Jesus' feet and picked up over a dozen times in the last two years alone. I don't recall it ever being taken seriously. It has been dismissed ("I had two pieces of egg custard last night, that doesn't make me a sinner.'') It has been made into a joke, frequently by me.

Usually it is just ignored.

Not one of my Christian brothers or sisters or teachers or pastors has ever pulled me aside to talk to me about it.

No one has posted any of the following comments under pictures of my morbidly obese self on facebook

           "You make me ashamed to be an American."

My husband and daughter also struggle with their weight. No one has ever accused me of ruining my daughter's life because she caught her mom eating an entire vat of cheese balls.

Even when I found my way back to the Lord and subsequently to His church, I was never confronted with these labels either ADULTERER. FORNICATOR. LIAR. GOSSIP.

Even though I struggled mightily with most of them while being a member in good standing.

So the last three nights I have lain awake wondering why no Christian I know has confronted me about my obvious willful and habitual sins. We so frequently taut the phrase "Tell the truth in love. Hate the sin. Love the sinner." Yet, no one has picketed Wendy's holding a sign that reads, "God hates fat people."

And then I asked someone. Her response, "The Holy Spirit's job is to convict you."

And that's true for much of our private church sins: pornography, gossip, gambling addiction, alcohol addiction....there is no one holding a banner there either.

I am so fortunate that I have never been met with a sign that reads, "God hates fat people." or its cousin "God hates the sin of gluttony."

No  one I know would deem this an acceptable or Christ-like thing to do.  No one I've seen in Facebook or Instagram or in the news.

We are a unified front of prayer and love for those of us struggling, even those of us trapped in obvious Bible-defined sin. We love thy neighbor and turn thy cheek.

Unless we substitute fat for gay. Most Christians don't have a lot of grace for gay people.

Thanking God I'm fat.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why I'm Rearing a Fearless Broad

My mother is pretty. Quite pretty, actually.

After almost 40 years I have the landscape of her face imprinted in my mind. Though I no longer recognize it as distinct, those new to her face may notice a scar from the outside of a nostril down through her lip.

The scar has been hers almost since birth; the story repeated often enough we all know it.

My grandmother cooking in her 1940s kitchen, her baby girl old enough to sit up, but not yet crawl, playing on a blanket in a corner. Close enough to watch, far from the heat and knives of cooking. Glass meat trays were common then, I'm told. Long before polymers were commonplace. It slipped from my grandmother's hand (I imagine because they were wet from washing or slick from Crisco) sending shards in all directions.
Any mother knows her baby's cries; they can frequently determine the problem just by the breath she takes before letting out a sound. So I know my grandmother turned cold when she heard this primal wail from my mother. Colder still when she saw blood and the hanging lip. I can't imagine having to help hold down my child while they hurriedly sew her flesh, the gap deep enough that her top lip is now two pieces, no anesthesia, no twilight sleep. But that is what my grandmother did.

Always at the end of the story she said, "The worst thing that ever happened to Rebecca happened by my own hand under my own eyes. There was nothing else of which to be afraid."

     There was nothing else of which to be afraid.

I don't ever recall thinking there was something I COULDN'T do; there were things I shouldn't do and things I didn't want to do. But nothing ever seemed impossible.

As a little girl, I didn't realize how rare that was. It was only in the 6th grade, when I said I might like to be President one day (Collective sigh of relief that that never happened!) and someone responded that only men can be president, that I realized my thinking was different. I remember walking to the encyclopedia on the shelf, pulling out the P volume (was Q attached? Maybe O.) and reading the qualifications for president to the class. Being a boy wasn’t listed. No one in the class agreed, even the teacher said the President has to be a man.  It doesn't speak well of my stubborn streak, but I argued with facts, albeit not precedents, on my side until everyone let it go. Even then I wasn't deterred. I remember thinking if there wasn't a girl president already, then I would just have to be the first.

It is this fearlessness, this confidence, this boldness that I want my daughter to see.

I don't believe I have to teach it to her, though; I know that deep down we are all born with something innate that allows us to be brave. It is only through custom and conformity that it is dampened.

1. I want her to have her own adventures, far from me and the home she knows.

Just two weeks ago I sent baby girl on a week-long school trip almost a day's ride away to Washington, D.C. Parents were invited and encouraged to go, but she and I both knew she needed to go alone. And she did. Climbed on the bus. Waved good-bye and didn't look back.

A few days into the trip I had lunch with a friend who asked me if the trip and separation was harder on me or baby girl. I answered as honestly as I knew how, "It is probably only hard on my mom."

Not that I didn't miss her some or gladly look at the pictures and videos her teachers shared, but I never wanted her to feel that there isn't life outside the woman who bore her and the walls where she grew up. Never as a parent has it been my aim, to have my daughter NEED me.

2. I want her to believe that she can do things without knowing how.

I am not a cook; I know how because I can read; but I don't enjoy it, and I'm not at all adventurous or spontaneous in the kitchen.

I have never taught my daughter to cook, but I never told her that she needed to be taught either.

When she was 10 or so, cooking became an interest, so she went in the kitchen and started to cook. (Lest you worry out there. She has been taught safety in the kitchen since she could crawl; stoves and ovens are hot. Knives are sharp. How to use a fire extinguisher.) Her first meal ever was chicken stir fry and rice. No recipe, no help. Just her in the kitchen and trial and error. She has made countless things in the years since. She never knew she needed to be taught how to cook, so she simply cooked.

The same logic applied when we moved to a new house and wanted to paint her room. Husband showed her some basics and she proceeded to paint 75% of her room alone. It looks fabulous. There is no paint on the floor.

3. She has what she needs inside of her.

The world can be scary. (However, the world is statistically safer than the days you and I grew up in, adults!) While it is not likely that someone would try and abduct or physically harm my child, it is possible. From the time she could talk, I told her that some people aren't nice and that if a not-nice person is hurting you with words, walk away. If a not-nice person is hurting you with force and making you uncomfortable then do everything in your power to stop the situation, including but not limited to yelling, cursing, spitting, scratching, hitting, peeing, and kicking someone in the tweeter-tots (I'm a nurse. she knows the real names.).

We were walking home one evening when she was in the 5th grade; it was fall and already dark at 5:30.

"Mama, I need to tell you something I got sent to the office today."


 "J_____ took my pencil and when I told him he couldn't have to give it back, he threw it at me. Then he took it back and I reached up and grabbed it from him, and everyone laughed. Then, Mama, he got mad and hit me in the face three times."

(My baby was SLAPPED. IN THE FACE. THREE TIMES. Even now, my stomach turns as I type. One day I want to tell you how the school handled it (no phone call) and what I was told. One day. But in case I can never type it; here's the gist:
There is a rampant "boys will be boys" attitude in our culture.
 It is dangerous and deadly to our daughters.)

I stopped then in the middle of a street and looked  at her. "Go on."

"And then I stood up and punched him. Hard. He didn't hit me again after that."

 (There was a lot more to this discussion, too long and too fresh for this page. And while I am not na├»ve enough to think that domestic violence would cease if survivors used violence against their attackers or that violence is always the way to settle something, what I learned in that moment were two very important things

 1. My daughter knew she deserved better treatment, both than stealing her pencil and being hit.

2. And my daughter used what she had inside of her to distance herself from a bad situation.

I would be wrong if I didn't admit that I've thought of that little boy's face over the years, imagining him smirk when she stood up, thinking she was going to run away, and then the smirk clouding as she rares back (remembering she has at least 6 inches and 50 pounds on him), and then her voice so matter-of-fact, "Do not hit me again.") )

 Later, I asked her what she could learn from what happened. She told me that she didn't want to hit anyone again (and to date she hasn't), but that she knew that she could if someone were hurting her.

4. I want her to have her own opinions.

Usually. Most days. There are moments when I silently wish that whatever voodoo Michelle Duggar has to make her children fall in line, was for sale but those moments are fleeting.

It was a hard blow when I discovered my child didn't share my love of reading. Or that really enjoys being outside in the hot, sweaty sun.

It has been trying, at times, when she is pushing boundaries and trying to discern what she really thinks.

My mom and I talk about it often. She remembers well our epic battles. And though it isn't mentioned as often, the subsequent heartbreak that can come when you have to let your child fail miserably, all alone, and learn from the hurt.

I thanked both my parents recently for never making me feel afraid. As a 6 year-old I was told the truth when my thoughts were right and wrong. As a 15 year old I flew to a conference in Washington all alone, no one from my school, no adult. At 17, I drove states away to visit a friend for her high school graduation. (These were the days before cell phones and internet. I had a map and change for the pay phone.)

Never once, was I worried that there would be something I couldn't handle.

No one taught me to be fearful, so I never was.

5. And I want her to grow up and leave me.

One day, she will likely move out. Maybe far away. She may travel or end up on the opposite coast. Or she may live two streets over in the same small town. Regardless of any geographical distance, I want her to live her own life: her own family (Weekly Sunday dinners just won't be a thing.), her own career/calling, her own beliefs (though I will  complain to anyone who will listen if she's a Republican), and her own space.

It pains me sometimes to see families of grown people so uncomfortable with anyone who differs even the slightest bit (try being the odd-man out if you're the only stay-at-home-mom or the only brother who doesn't fish). I want her to never have to worry about what I will think if she does something different, even radically different.

And to know that she was reared for these very moments-to leave and make her own way.

And while I hope that she will visit from time-to-time; I hope more that she climbs on board, waves good-bye, and doesn't look back.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

When You're the Weird One (or Why I think my Husband is Sexy in Sunday school)

When the hubby, baby girl, and I were moving (again) one of the choices we had to make was where to attend church services. Many facing a move deal with the same challenges; a lot visit various churches in their chosen denomination and decide among those. Others have recommendations of friends and family. Some pick one and stay put.

And then there is us.

We aren’t confined by any specific denomination; we have never really sought the input of others when deciding where to worship and though we were content to buy the first house we actually saw; we weren’t willing to make that gamble with a church.

So we did what we do best: I got on the internet and visited over 20 churches in our relatively small town. I sent links and screen shots to my hubby. I picked out the one I wanted to join based solely on its online presence.

We visited it. I was wrong. My hubby had a choice. We visited it. He was wrong.

But then we talked about it; what we felt led to in a church and came up with a rough list
1.      A clear, conservative presentation of the Gospel
2.      A church that had Bible instruction (in addition to worship) for kids older than elementary and adults (Oh my! We wanted Sunday school. How many Sundays did I get drug to Sunday School, early against my griping? But here I was naming that a prayer-led non-negotiable for our new church. The idea started two years ago Easter when we visited my parents and went to church with them. My dad suggested we would enjoy the younger adults class. My husband came alive in Sunday school; he has a vast knowledge of scripture and loves to discuss ideas and concepts. I sat in this small Presbyterian Church and looked at my husband with new eyes! Might I add that I thought he was incredibly sexy in Sunday school? Can you even say sexy and Sunday school together, especially if you’re protestant?)
3.       I longed for diversity in a church…racial, socio-economical, even ideological.
4.      Music. I’m not a music person; I like songs I know. But my hubby missed a choir.
5.      A church involved in actively being the hands and feet of Christ at a local level. Any number of ministries applies; soup kitchens, homeless shelters, education classes.
Our three previous churches (We have moved a lot.) had offered a mix of much of this. We were fortunate to find small, community churches that were reasonably diverse, were mission minded, presented the Gospel, and made us feel at home. The look was probably more liberal and “community” than many; the churches met in an art museum or a movie theater. The pastors frequently wore jeans; at least one or two people on the platform were heavily tattooed or pierced or wore skinny jeans (We are looking at you Jay.)!

But in our new city our new search was coming up empty with the type of churches we had been fond of; the smaller community churches lacked a dedicated teaching hour (small groups are wonderful, but we wanted this in addition to an instruction time each week) and most did not have youth classes.

So we set out visiting more churches, and none seemed like it.
Then we went to a very local (less than a mile) small-ish (by my First Baptist standards, larger by hubby’s rural Baptist standards) Southern Baptist Church. And the first people we met were Sunday School teachers for a class “that looked just about our age.” (Brownie points to them that the class age is early 30s!)

I started praying fast, “Lord, please anywhere but a Southern Baptist church!”
They invited us to Sunday school; random people said hello and remembered our name the next time we went back. The minister of music asked if anyone in the family liked to sing. There were Sunday school classes for youth. The preacher was Gospel centered and knowledgeable.

We talked about it as a family; we prayed about it. Even baby girl approved (“I don’t hate it every minute I’m there.”)

We all knew this was where the Lord was leading us. The only problem?
I didn’t want to go.
I would miss me jeans and t-shirts on Sunday mornings; these ultra-conservatives would not be a place where I would find friendships; they don’t let women be pastors; I don’t agree with some of what they as a convention believe.

I. I. I. I. I. I.    
I would be the odd man out in a pretty conservative place. And I am opinionated and out-spoken. And my hubby would never get elected deacon because I won’t sit quietly by.

I.I.I.I.I.I. i. i. i.

I must decrease. I must decrease.
So to the Baptist church we went, and joined, and are becoming involved.

And what I've learned so far is a reminder that God works out every detail for what we need:  

1.       If you miss blue jeans and flip-flops (or dress suits and hats), wear them to church anyway. While I’m usually more casually dressed than most, I don’t think ANYONE notices! As long as you’re not dressing to get a reaction, you probably won’t.

2.       So in a group of very conservative looking women, there are probably more diverse opinions   that you realize. Some I am in agreement with; some we have agreed to disagree. (I come off looking really bad on this point. I was very judgey!) And I have found some ladies who are challenging me, growing with me, laughing with me, and some who want to have a Bible Study field trip to the tattoo shop!

3.       Seek to change/explore/grow only the things God leads you to, only those things that matter to Him.
Our little church isn’t very diverse, not in any category that I can find. But I have discovered that others want to see the body of Christ grow and join with others who differ. We may have different ideas about what that means (joint services, outreach programs, partnerships with other churches), but the Lord is working His plan out.  By the way, our church got a little more diverse when we joined. I think I am the only heavily tattooed, feminist, Democrat on the roll books.
And there is a hunger, especially among the women, for local mission and ministry involvement.

4.       Don’t be impatient and be open.  I wanted a church that already had a soup kitchen so I could go help once a month. That didn’t happen. So I’m waiting and learning and growing.
5.       Don’t be afraid to talk to people and ask where you can plug in. I asked the pastor for a meeting because I wanted to share with him what we had gained by joining the church and some areas I felt led to help. I didn’t hand him a laundry list of things I wanted in the church; I just asked where there areas that I could be useful? Were there areas that were dealing with some of the needs on my heart?  I came away from that meeting more encouraged than I had been in a while.  (I also may have told him that I thought my husband was most sexy during Sunday school?? 90% sure I changed the word to attractive, but still.)

6.       The Lord will surprise you and comfort you even if you were worried He was wrong.
 Over the last year, our family has been studying and incorporating Biblical feasts and traditions into or in lieu of more traditional holidays. Advent was the first one, and we dove head first, loving the quiet reflection and celebration. I was speechless when I walked in the sanctuary the first Sunday of advent, and there it was an advent wreath pictured on the screen. The word advent in the bulletin. The preacher gave the congregation advent gifts. The Lord isn’t wrong; He will remind you of how wonderful His plan is, if you are obedient. Even if you are secretly hoping it doesn’t turn out. (And because God has a sense of humor; I know ALMOST EVERY SINGLE song that has been played in church. 20 years in the Baptist church as a kid and a really good memory. So I’m even good with the music.)

7.       And being the weird one isn’t bad at all. A Sunday school friend has actually said. “Oh my gosh every time you speak you confirm your weirdness.” And I’m buying us a STAY WEIRD t-shirt so we can be twins.

I will be wearing mine on Sunday morning with jeans and flip flops