Muffin Top

Sometimes I write about issues not because I want to, but rather because I feel like I need to in order to help someone else. This is one of those blogs.

When my husband and I were dating, one of his family members came up to me, grabbed my sides and said, “you’re getting a muffin top there” (*for those not unfortunate enough to have even been labeled with one, a MT is what happens when your waist gets bigger and spills out over the top of your jeans. It’s stupid. It’s also no one’s business).  I know this was just a passing attempt at humor that failed horribly, but it hurt me deeply. Anyone who knows me knows I’m pretty tough. I don’t hesitate in giving back venom after I’ve been struck, but this was different. I froze. I knew they were right. But I also knew something they didn’t know-I had recently battled an eating disorder.

The reason for my sudden “muffin top” was that my body had been on an insane journey from which it was struggling to recover. My organs, now so dependent on weight loss pills and diuretics, literally stopped functioning normally when I tried to give up all my weight cutting measures. To understand how I got to this point, you need to know where I started out. I want to share this painful and embarrassing part of my life in the hopes that this could both steer my friends away from these measures and help families know the signs they should look for.

In my early twenties I had zero self-esteem. A list of what I saw as devastating disappointments paired with an emotionally abusive relationship left me feeling out of control.

Control.

That’s the key word in this whole mess. My bulimia was never about my weight or the food  I was trying to blame for my problems, it was about control. I couldn’t control anything going on around me, but I could control what happened within me-or so I thought.

When people hear “bulimia” they immediately think of throwing up. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but that was a major part of my disorder. But so was the abuse of pills and so was excessive exercise and so was drinking a gallon of water at a time as fast as possible and then lying on the floor unable to move.

Please know, I’m not glorifying who I was. There’s nothing pretty about an eating disorder. It makes you a hideous, obsessed mess. I know the pressure. I know you think you can just do it until prom or graduation or your wedding or whatever event you have to “look your best” for, but hear me-you cannot be your best by abusing your body. That’s what it is-abuse. Instead of getting out of the abusive, toxic relationships I was in, I transferred that abuse to my body.

And as for that need to be in control? It wasn’t long until my body revolted against what I was doing and I lost ALL control. Medications that are only meant to be used occasionally were being used daily for weeks at a time. My body got used to them and I had to up the dosages until they didn’t work at all. Eventually my digestive system shut down. According to my doctor, my intestines were essentially dying and if I didn’t stop soon, there would be no recovery.

Thank God, one day after purging I looked in the mirror and realized I didn’t recognize myself anymore. Changes that were imperceptible to others were mocking me from my reflection. I had to stop. With God’s help, I was able to. He helped me see what this was really about. He helped me see that the control I was killing myself to gain didn’t belong to me, nor did it belong to my boyfriend, or my life situations-it belonged to Him.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had moments of temptation. There are triggers, like the “muffin top incident”, that make me want to start again. Then there are minefields, like pregnancy weight gain that makes me think the only solution is diving head first back into my disorder. But I can’t go back. I refuse.

I hope this blog has served its purpose of pointing out the dangers of eating disorders. I hope this familiar face helps those struggling with these issues to know they aren’t alone and that there is hope ahead. I hope this makes a point about why weight jokes are dangerous, not funny. And I hope this helps my friends in recovery to embrace their new bodies, muffin tops and all.

Ohana

Disney’s Lilo and Stitch tells the story of a young girl being raised in Hawaii by her older sister after their parents died. Throughout the movie we watch as Lilo’s older sister struggles to know how to be both sister and provider for their family as she fights to keep them together. In times of worry or frustration, the girls pause to remember the Hawaiian word, “Ohana”. The little girl explains, “‘Ohana’ means family; family means no one gets left behind, or forgotten.”

My family watched this movie last week, so this idea of “Ohana” was fresh in my mind this week as my church moved to a new location. I write often of how the Church is meant to function as a family. We are to care for one another, to be there in the good and the bad. We share the joy over marriage, birth, and graduation, and we share the grief over divorce, death, and life disappointments. But this transition has reminded me that the Church is supposed to be a broader since of family-an Ohana type of family-one that doesn’t leave anyone behind.

As youth pastor, this move is thrilling. A gorgeous sanctuary I can’t wait to preach in and a gym that gives us lots of room for growth. A new, safe location with plenty of room for outdoor events. It’s hard to imagine anyone would have difficulty packing up and moving on.

But then I remember my Ohana.

I didn’t grow up in this particular church. Other than our son’s dedication and first birthday party, I don’t have many emotional attachments there. But my Ohana have been in that location for almost 40 years.

I see a sanctuary that is too small for growth…they see their child’s wedding chapel.

I see a fellowship hall that suffocates us…they see their family reunion site.

I see a youth and children’s area with no room to do activities…they see the place their children learned how to be angels in countless Christmas plays.

See, as easy as it is for me to see a brighter future, it’s just as easy for them to feel like they’ve been forgotten. Like we have this new vision and they are being left behind.

But that’s not what Ohana does…we don’t leave each other and we definitely don’t forget one another.

Yes, my mission is geared towards youth, but I would be a fool to think I didn’t need those who came before us. Far too often, those of us who are “young harvest” minded allow the enemy to put a divide between our congregations. It’s “us” against “them” and if the older people can’t get on board the vision train, they can just get left at the station. How is that right? I would hate to think that in another 40 years I would be told my time was up and that my contributions were meaningless. The ironic part is that mine is a generation that wants to highlight being “relational”, but we want to ignore this most beautiful concept of “ohana”. A church that leaves people behind just because they can’t see what we see is not relational at all.

Am I saying we should deny progress if a few protest? Of course not. Nor am I naive enough to think there aren’t some people who are just down right obstinate and can’t be reasoned with. But I am saying that a true leader knows how to pick the right battles and get enough people to buy into what really matters to move forward. A great leader doesn’t have to be callous in order to accomplish their goals. A great leader does all things in love.

God help us to be sensitive to the feelings of our ohana and help those who struggle with change to not feel like they are left behind.

From: Your Anxious Mama

I’m sorry. I’m sorry you didn’t get the perfectly filtered mom only found on Instagram. You deserve her. You deserve the carefree mama who laughs at the messes and realizes that being around the perfection of you is worth every moment of stress.

But that’s not what you got.

Most of my life I have been intrenched in a fairly well-hidden battle with anxiety. This is, in fact, the first time I have discussed this fight in such detail, but I need to for your sake. I need you to understand this issue because you need to know that IT ISN’T YOUR FAULT. When I get stressed and have to walk away for a minute to collect myself, IT ISN’T YOUR FAULT. When I have to get very quiet and focus on my own breath, IT ISN’T YOUR FAULT. This problem didn’t start with you. It is MY ISSUE and not yours. I’ve tried very hard to make it clear that it’s my cross to bear because I don’t want you to live the way I have to live.

This is an especially hard truth to share as many will no doubt comment that I just need to “pray it off of me” or scold me for not heeding what I know are multiple Biblical commands regarding fear and anxiety. I want you to know that I spend a great deal of my time praying that God will heal me, and I believe He will, but until then I am trying to understand what good could come of this…and I’m hoping that perhaps this public admission is the start of some of that good.

When you were growing in my belly, I consistently prayed one prayer over you-that you wouldn’t live in fear. I pleaded the blood of Jesus over your mind that you would not be controlled by worry the way I have been at times. I spoke against generational curses that would try and destroy you. This is why I actually rejoice at your daredevil tendencies and cheer that you have “never met a stranger”.

You are EXACTLY what I prayed for those nine months you lived within me. As long as I’m alive, I will keep declaring that you will live without worry about tomorrow. The truth is, I would gladly live the rest of my life in this prison of anxiety if it meant you never had to stay there for one day.

But staying this way is not the solution I’m looking for. Just as I spoke God’s peace and favor over you, I declare it for myself and my friends who struggle as well, because I know this sickness is not the abundant life we are entitled to.

So today, I’m holding fast to these scriptures for myself and my readers:

“I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.” Psalm 118:17

“…our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

“Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:18-19

War

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

These are the words of Jesus, uttered on the Mount of Olives, and recorded in Matthew 24. This was His response to a private meeting with the disciples after they had asked how they would know Jesus’s return was near.

In light of recent events here in America, I’ve heard people say that no one could have predicted where we are now. But that’s not true. Jesus told us exactly what would happen before His return, and it’s happening before our eyes.

I don’t recognize my nation anymore. National news reports show government corruption, brutality by those in authority, and retaliation by those seeking vengeance. Our streets are flowing crimson with the blood of those assumed guilty. Evil is celebrated and the faithful are called bigots. Our God is no longer the Lord, instead we have made ourselves gods, putting our desires above all else.

Walking through this passage has opened my eyes in regards to my country and how close we are to Christ’s return:

“…you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.”

This scripture is being fulfilled in a couple of different ways. Firstly, it is no secret that America is hated. We have been the target of ire by many by virtue of our once strong affiliation as a Christian nation. Secondly, we Christians are now hated by our own countrymen when we take the Biblical stance on social issues. Supporting the right-to-life or “traditional marriage” as it is now referenced means you are an uncompassionate bigot.  Believing that the non-negotiables of birth, such as gender, are not up for debate mean that we are heartless idiots. Leave no room for doubt, we are hated for carrying the name of Jesus.

“And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. “

The word “Lawlessness” comes up later in this monologue, but it bears bringing up here because it is a spirit that has invaded not only our nation, but our churches as well. Over the last couple of years there has been an all out social media attack on the Church, brought by those claiming to be fellow believers. They release blogs, posts, and videos denouncing the need to gather together and explaining why they are justified to do so. They tell that the Church is nothing but hypocrites who don’t really care about others. They whine about not getting their way in services. They complain about structure and they even get upset because the Bible is being upheld (this complaint is easily explained-it’s called “conviction” and it comes from the Holy Spirit, not a minister). They try to act like they are the enlightened ones, but their words are filled with such bitterness and hate towards Christ’s Bride, the Church, that I can’t believe they are the one’s who have seen the light. All across our nation we see churches splitting over petty arguments and congregations staging coups against their shepherds. All this is symptomatic of the spirit of lawlessness, not wanting to be under anyone’s authority-not even a God-placed pastor.  Due to this desire for independence, many are easily seduced by the false prophets of our day telling congregants whatever they want to hear, as long as the money rolls into the coffers.

“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”

This spirit of lawlessness has taken hold in our government. This week started with news that one of our Presidential nominees had broken the law and lied about it, but would not be charged. This person believed they were above the law-and they were proven to be correct. Then the news shifted to stories of young men who were killed by police officers and the story quickly became that it was in the name of racism. A few days later, angry citizens, believing our officers were acting as judge, jury, and executioner, took matters in their own hands, executing several police officers. The narrative is that we have a “race issue” in America. I believe racism is a sin that has no place in the heart of the believer, but I think this is so much more than that. It is this spirit of lawlessness that has caused our heart ache. Citizens believing they can break the law without consequence and officers believing they can decide innocence or guilt on a street corner, it’s the same spirit. And because we have lived as though there is no higher law, our love is all but gone. We don’t love our neighbors as ourselves and that’s why we have no respect for human life and we haven’t for a long time. We aren’t shocked or saddened by blood in our streets because not that long ago we were standing in the same streets celebrating another victory for the pro-choice movement. We mourn when an animal is killed, but disregard the thousands of innocent children slaughtered in the name of “choice” and “freedom”.

My nation has not only gone out of its way to exclude God from our decisions, we have decided to do everything we can to prove our backs are turned against Him. When I watch the news I don’t see the country that was so special because she was good, instead I see a war zone. We were supposed to be the safe ones. I guess war doesn’t seem so bad until it lands in your yard.

The only peace I can gain in this time is knowing that all this strife is proof of two things: 1. God’s Word is proving itself more indisputable everyday by its prophecies coming true.2. Jesus is coming soon, and as long as we endure, we will be saved.

To the Unappreciated New Daughter-In-Law

Congratulations on your marriage. Condolences on your new relationship with your mother-in-law.

I get it, it’s confusing and frustrating. How could the man you love so infinitely have  been raised by a woman who seems to disdain you so deeply?  How could it be that the things your husband considers your best qualities-your independence, your free spirit, your strong-will and determination-make her shake her head in disappointment?

And while we are on the subject of disappointment, how can someone be so judgmental about housekeeping? What difference does it make if you use fabric softener or wash your dishes by hand or vacuum on a regular basis? And why should she care? It’s not her house. They aren’t her clothes or dishes or carpets.

I know what it feels like to hear stories of women who have good relationships with their husband’s mom. It feels like a knife in your stomach. You sit and wonder “what’s so special about her? Why does she get the respect and I get the commentary on my inadequacies? Why does she get welcomed into the family with open arms while I get thrown under the family bus?”

It hurts. It hurts more than you want to admit. As tough as you are and as much as you don’t need her to like you, deep down you know you want her to like you. It would just make things much easier. It would be nice to not get nauseous at the thought of spending holidays together. It would be cool to be able to tell your in-laws where you live and not live in fear that they may stop by.

I want to share with you, my headstrong sister, what the Lord showed me about this oft-painful relationship…

Her feelings toward you aren’t actually about you at all. In fact, they were created long before she met you…perhaps even before you were born. She decided you were a problem the day your husband was placed in her arms. That love is unmatched. No one (in her mind) could ever love him like her. Not only did she give up rights to her body for nearly a year to carry him, she gave up her dreams and plans for the next decades to keep him safe, happy, and healthy.

You didn’t do that. You can’t even comprehend how to do that.

She gave her life for him to have one of his own.

None of this occurred to me until I had a son of my own. I pray for his future happiness. I pray for his spouse and want nothing more than for him to find a good woman who will love him and love the Lord even more. But…

it is NOT POSSIBLE for this GIRL to know how to take care of him like I do.

I’m the one who cools his macaroni and makes the perfect blue bubble bath. I’m the one who heals boo-boos with my kisses and taught him to walk. What will this GIRL know how to do other than how to get a husband waaaaayyyy out of her league???

These are seriously my thoughts…and my son isn’t even two yet!

See, his future wife isn’t the  problem, and neither are you.

The problem is that when a woman becomes a mother, raising her  child becomes her career. Whether she stays home or works three jobs, this becomes the most important role. And now here is this woman who has poured her heart and soul into this “business” and now, at the pinnacle of her success, her job is being outsourced. Her job is being handed to a rookie who has NO CLUE how to met the job requirements. Can you see now why she may be a little upset? The housekeeping and cooking concern her because she knows what her son is used to. She wants him to be comfortable and content, and it’s hard to accept that another woman can fulfill that role, so instead of accepting it, she criticizes it.

It’s probably not that she hates you…it’s just that she loves her son and she’s too blinded by this change to realize that loving him means she should love the one he chose.

And that’s another thing to remember…he chose you. You already won his heart, so don’t turn everything into a battle over it. But you have a responsibility in this victory…a responsibility to be gracious and remember that some day, God willing, you will be in the same boat.

Pray for her. Pray for peace of mind that her son will be okay. Pray for confidence that she will realize she still has purpose.

Pray for yourself. Pray that you will have confidence in your new role as wife and daughter-in-law. Pray that you will develop a genuine love and admiration for your mother-in-law even if she never changes her mind about you.

Then put legs on your prayers. Reach out. Ask her to teach you how to make one of her special meals. Spend time together. Ask her about stories from your husband’s childhood. Applaud the job she did in raising a man so good that you choose to give your life to caring for him, and assure her that your goals and her’s are the same-to see him happy.

Romans 12:13-18 may be a good passage to put up in your home,

Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Try to see this scenario through her eyes, and your world may change.

Signed,

A Wife Who Wishes She Understood This Sooner

Pull Over

In my formative years growing up in a small town in the American South, I have vivid memories of a somewhat strange act that seems to be giving way to progress and our newly hurried lives-the pull over.

This act involves pulling one’s car over to the side of the road and waiting, often in silence, as a funeral procession moves by. As a child, I knew exactly what would happen when we spotted a hearse and cars with headlights on in the middle of the day-we would stop, no matter how rushed we were in our own lives, because it was the right thing to do.

I’ve heard much debate over the legitimacy of the practice and the reason for it. The general consensus is that it’s out of respect for the dead. To me, it isn’t about the dead at all. It’s a sacred act carried out for the living who were left.

One of the most painful parts of losing a loved one is the frustration or even anger that the world just keeps moving, as if your world didn’t just fall apart. Pulling over is symbolic. It’s me saying to a stranger, “I will stop my world for a moment to acknowledge that yours will never turn the same again.”

Jesus “pulled over” in John chapter 11 after the death of Lazarus. Jesus appears almost cold upon hearing of the sickness and subsequent death of Lazarus.  In reality, His attitude was informed by the fact that He had a plan all along, and that plan necessitated that He wait so that the miracle could not be questioned. Because Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, He journeyed back to Judea, a place of great danger to Jesus, to perform this miracle.

He ignored His own safety. He ignored His own agenda.

He pulled over.

When He arrived in the midst of the mourners, He shows His first hint of emotion over the death of His friend. Verse 33 says, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” A couple of verses later we read that “Jesus wept”. He didn’t weep for Himself, as this wasn’t guilt over waiting to come to Lazarus. He didn’t weep for Lazarus, as He already knew his resurrection was on its way. No, Jesus wept for Mary and the friends who were grieving.

He pulled over.

It occurs to me that many in the Church have forgotten the importance of pulling over. When there is a death, we may bring food after the service if we aren’t too inconvenienced, but we don’t really stop in a sign of solidarity with those left behind. And know that death is not just defined by physical death, it’s any time one among us feels like their world has stopped turning. This can be the result of a divorce, hurtful decisions made by family members, the loss of a job, addiction, etc.

We have to pull over.

If you hurt, I hurt. If your world stops, mine should as well, even if only for a few minutes.

Lord, help us to see past our own agendas and plans. Teach us to stop and be near to the grieving, just as You are.

 

To the Mother of the Wild Child in My Pew

Hey girl,

I see you. I see you trying to keep your kid on lockdown during prayer. I see you dodging flailing arms during worship. I see you, jamming gummies in your kid’s mouth trying to keep him from yelling back at the preacher during his sermon. I see that look of failure as your child attempts to storm the platform. And yes, I see the side-eye you’re getting from the other parishioners as you sit helpless in the face of your tithe-envelope throwing hymnal scribbling, matchbox car throwing offspring. And I have one thing to say to you…

I’m proud of you.

I’m proud of you for raising your child in God’s house even when every voice in your head (and perhaps some whispers behind you) say you should’ve stayed home. I’m proud of you for filling your child’s ears with the sound of worship and their mind with the Word. I’m proud of you for recognizing that you CANNOT raise a child in this world in your own strength. I’m proud of you for acknowledging that without God’s help, you can’t be the mom He called you to be.

I know it’s hard. I know that every time someone looks your way you assume it’s because they are annoyed. Those sensitivities come naturally in a world where moms are judged constantly. The fact is, I don’t know if you’re right or not. But I know this-it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you and your baby need to be in church. If those people really don’t want you here, then that’s an issue between them and God since the Word demands that we welcome children among us.

But know this, if I look at you it isn’t out of judgment, it’s out of respect for a woman who got up way too early on a Sunday to make breakfast, fought your child to get dressed, and tried to make yourself look presentable enough so that no one says “have you been sleeping? Because you look awful” during the greeting portion of the morning.

I know motherhood is lonely. That’s why you need to be here. You need this community. You need me. You even need Sister side-eye. And this community, including side-eye and myself need you and your baby to be a part of our family.

So don’t give up. Don’t let the enemy convince you that everyone is better off with you locked up at home. Like any predator, he’s trying to separate you from the herd so he can devour you-don’t let him.