Where Are My Thoughtful and Outspoken Liberal Friends?

caged

Caged?

As you probably know, today Planned Parenthood faced the latest of 4 videos accusing them of selling body parts of aborted babies.

CNN put out an article on the 4th video, which I read and angrily posted with snarky remarks.

But, then I considered: I don’t want to be written off because I say things in haste or anger and do not think them through.

So two minutes after posting it, I deleted it, because being civil in public discourse is really important to me. I try very hard not to vilify my interlocutors and I weigh their points. I have actually been convinced of my opponent’s point in a few Facebook conversations! I truly value the dialogue we can have when we treat each other fairly and have open discussion. Many of my Facebook friends engage me on different points, from political nuance and policy to religious specifics.

So I am curious why so many of my friends, those who are normally so outspoken about justice and righteousness, have been quiet about the goings-on revealed by the videos of Planned Parenthood doctors.

Are you cautious about saying something hastily and alienating friends who hold staunch views about abortion rights?

Are you afraid that whatever you say will be misconstrued as ignorance or closed-mindedness?

I have had these fears, too.

But when we fail to speak out against injustice, we are guilty of being accomplices. Sometimes, when we say nothing, it matters more than if we say something poorly.

Everyone who knows me is clear that I am no fan of Planned Parenthood. When I post things about abortion or PP, I try to use reputable news sources and not pro-life sites alone. I try to be responsible in fact-checking. I hope that others do the same.

My thoughtful, freedom-loving liberal friends, there are suggestions (and possibly evidence?) that Planned Parenthood is trying to suppress the release of the investigative journalism that has yielded the videos. This is not responsible citizenship. Censorship is never okay. But I am not hearing you speak out against it like you normally do!

Social and cultural critic Camille Paglia nails the problem in an interview for Salon:

“When the first secret Planned Parenthood video was released in mid-July, anyone who looks only at liberal media was kept totally in the dark about it, even after the second video was released.  But the videos were being run nonstop all over conservative talk shows on radio and television.  It was a huge and disturbing story, but there was total silence in the liberal media.  That kind of censorship was shockingly unprofessional.  The liberal major media were trying to bury the story by ignoring it.  Now I am a former member of Planned Parenthood and a strong supporter of unconstrained reproductive rights.  But I was horrified and disgusted by those videos and immediately felt there were serious breaches of medical ethics in the conduct of Planned Parenthood officials.  But here’s my point:  it is everyone’s obligation, whatever your political views, to look at both liberal and conservative news sources every single day.  You need a full range of viewpoints to understand what is going on in the world.”

Conservative or liberal, we cannot ignore these videos and the accusations they bring.

Speak out. Call for an investigation of these practices. Don’t let fear cage you in and make you be inconsistent with your vision of truth for the world.

Every Mary Needs a Martha

Hostess with the mostest

Hostess with the Mostest, circa 1993

Today, I am awaiting the dreaded phone call: the results of the glucose test that will reveal if I have gestational diabetes.

I am 26 weeks pregnant with baby 3, a little girl named Lucy.

She is a kicker, and I am her home for the next 13 weeks.

Today, in addition to being the big diabetes reveal day, the Catholic Church is celebrating the feast of St. Martha, the sister of Lazarus and Mary of Bethany.

As I read the passages about Martha, in Luke 10:38-42 and John 11:17-27, I am struck with a new image of this beloved friend of Jesus. For a long time, I have longed to be like Mary of Bethany, sitting at Jesus’ feet and soaking up His presence. Indeed, doesn’t Jesus commend Mary for choosing ‘the good part’? I love Jesus so much and enjoy sitting in His presence that I am rarely wont to leave and get back to ‘the real world’ of running a home and caring for my 3-year-old and 20-month-old.

I have always seen Mary and Martha contrasted in this passage, and I read it like this: “Mary good, Martha bad.”

But today for the first time, I realized that is not what is happening.

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.

Martha welcomes Jesus into her home, this wandering teacher with dirty feet and a cadre of unkempt accomplices.

And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.

That ‘also’ is important, because by her actions, we can see that Martha greatly values what Jesus is saying and doing. She values it so much that she opens up her home, the intimate details of her daily life, to this man Jesus.

Martha makes it possible for Mary to sit at Jesus’ feet. 

Martha runs the home; she fixes the meals; she coordinates the sleeping arrangements; she cleans up after everyone. I think I can hear the joking in her voice when she finally approaches Jesus after days of all of this.

Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me!

Martha knows that Mary doesn’t listen to her sister as eagerly as she will listen to the traveling rabbi. I hear Jesus answer her, not as a public rebuke, but with a laugh in His voice as well.

Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.

Busy? Sure. Being a hostess for any length of time requires attention and energy. But distracted? What was Martha distracted by? Maybe it wasn’t just all the serving. Maybe she was concerned about other things. Being a single woman in a man’s world?  Feelings of responsibility for her sister? The cost of perpetually opening her home to those in need? We don’t know specifically, but we do know that Jesus knew. And He caught her attention.

But one thing is needed…

She is a hostess. She runs her house well. She opens her doors to those in need. She creates a place for Mary to receive the one thing of which Jesus speaks.

Maybe I’m way off, but I hear Jesus saying this to Martha underneath the words on the page: “Martha, don’t take away the good thing Mary has right now. Let her soak in what she is needing. Take care of the details so that she can enjoy the necessary. You love her too much to take that away from her. Peace. Be still.”

And on this day, awaiting the diabetes test results, I hear Jesus saying this to me:

Amanda, peace. Be still. Fretting and worrying about so many things- – -like what you could have done differently to avoid an unwanted diagnosis- – -takes you away from the task at hand, to provide a home for your little girl where she can sit and soak up My presence as I knit her together in your womb. Like Martha, you have provided a home for Me and a home for this little Mary. I receive the gift of your hospitality, and I will bless you for it. Thank you for your willingness to host those in need of shelter. Don’t be afraid, and let not your heart be troubled.”

Will I receive those words today, as the anxiety builds and the dread of the unwanted diagnosis hangs over me?

Martha chose to receive Jesus’ words. We can see this clearly in her beauty and faith after she has lost Lazarus and she faces Jesus in the midst of her pain.

Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house.

She knows she has to be with Jesus, to see Him, to talk to Him.

Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

She is raw and open, but she affirms what she has learned in the secret place. Listen to those words! What a sound they must be to Jesus, who has been rejected and spat upon throughout Judea…”Whatever you ask of God, God will give you!” She has come to know Jesus in a deep way and has seen, somehow, the depths of intimacy that He has with the Father.

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

I am struck by the intimacy that Jesus uses with Martha in the next thing He says:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Her brother is dead. 3 days gone. And Jesus risks being a little pushy with this grieving woman.

But Martha, the hostess with the sense of humor and the willingness to open herself, her home, her life, to others in need, declares who Jesus is. She receives His words and proclaims the truth, in her broken estate.

She said to Him, “Yes, Lord. I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”(John 11:17-27 NKJV)

May we all provide a place for others to be loved by Jesus and to be safe to worship Him with authenticity and integrity. May we all have the faith and the joy of Martha today, no matter the circumstances we face. And most of all, may we all press deeply in to intimate relationship with Jesus, so that He can meet us and feed us where we are. He is the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world to save us and who is coming again.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

When My Three-Year-Old Drives Me Crazy…

  
I’m not alone in my frustration in parenting a three-year-old, right?

It is one of the hardest things I have ever set my mind to do. I have been struggling over the last month or so with how to treat Lily with the kindness and firmness appropriate to her position as my daughter in the flesh and as my sister in the family of God. My natural responses are strict and have a way of coming off as harsh, which gives me great pain as I see her little face respond to me. She is very sensitive to how Zachary and I speak to her, and I can crumple her little spirit with a few words spoken without grace.

I have been repenting a lot lately, to her, to my husband, and to the Lord.

A few days ago, the Lord dropped a passage of Scripture into my heart as I was praying through how to love and discipline Lily better: Colossians 3:12-17. It is something that I had printed out on my wall as a freshman in college, and I honestly haven’t thought of it much sense the 2002-3 school year. But how fitting it is for my season of life right now!

The Lord spoke so gently to my heart: “Amanda, be kind and gentle with her, like you have not been with your own self. Learn to love yourself as I teach you how to love her.”

So, when my three-year-old drives me crazy, I am choosing to remember this:

Lily is the elect of God, holy, and beloved. 

And so am I. 

Because Jesus has chosen me, loved me, and is making me holy, I can clothe myself with
tender mercies, 
kindness, 
humility, 
meekness, 
and long-suffering. 

I have the power,
through the Cross and Resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit,
to bear with her, 
to forgive her whenever I have a complaint against her, 
because Jesus has forgiven me. 

And above all these things, I choose to put on love, 
the bond of perfection. 

I choose to let the peace of God rule in my heart, 
because this is what Jesus is calling me to. 

I choose to be thankful for my daughter–
She is so fun to be with!
She is funny!
She is sensitive!
She is kind!
She is beautiful!
She is smart!
She is delightful!

For her sake, I will let God’s word—both Scripture and specific words He has spoken to me about her—
dwell in me richly. I will set these words and promises before me often so that I can learn wisdom as a mother. 

I will teach her, 
with silly songs, 
hymns, 
and spiritual songs,
letting my voice be filled with grace and not harshness, 
as I mother her. 

And whatever I do, 
as her mother, 
as her father’s wife, 
as her siblings’ mom, 
as her sister in Christ, 
I will do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father through Him. 

Planned Parenthood, it’s time to change your definition of courage

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You’ve probably seen something about Planned Parenthood selling baby parts on your Facebook feed today. There is so much to say and so little at the same time. Some are questioning the validity of the video, which is purportedly of Dr. Deborah Nucatola, the Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood Federation for America.

Planned Parenthood has responded to the allegations brought forth by this video. Gawker responds to the accusations laid against Planned Parenthood today, saying that there is no money unethically changing hands in regards to fetal tissue donation. Even if the accusations of selling fetal remains is unsubstantiated, the attitude of both the Planned Parenthood response and the Gawker article reveals the inhumanity that is engrained in the abortion lobby and industry:

“In reality, the donation of fetal tissue is no different than any other situation in which a patient might donate tissue to scientific research. No money changes hands, and the donation could help pave the way to any number of medical breakthroughs” (Gawker article).

Let’s be clear: there is a huge difference for someone–of their own free will–to donate their own remains for science or for the preservation of another’s life and donation of the body of a baby human dismembered in the womb.

Planned Parenthood’s president Gloria Feldt, quoted in the Gawker article, said this in an interview several years ago, concerning the ethics and practice of using fetal remains for research:

“Planned Parenthood supports research using fetal tissue in accordance with legal and ethical guidelines and are deeply concerned about the attempt by some to profit from the humanitarian contributions of courageous women.”

There are two major issues in Feldt’s statement: that fetal remains from abortions are being used for research, and that abortion is portrayed as something courageous.

There is so much to be said today on the first issue, but while everyone else is debating the ethics of that, I am choosing to focus on the second issue tonight: the idea that abortion is courageous.

I know that many women who consider and opt for abortion have a huge struggle. It is a HUGE deal, not a decision to be entertained lightly. Abortion is not a light subject. Anyone who tells you so is either lying or deceived.

Women faced with unexpected pregnancies are often scared. We need to tell them to have courage, yes–but it is not courageous to have an abortion. It is a quick medical procedure with longterm emotional and possible health consequences.

Planned Parenthood, you have to change your definition of courage.

It is courageous to find out you’re pregnant and carry your baby to term.

It is courageous to be a home for this little one inside you for 9 months and to care for it, even when it is scary.

It is courageous to give birth to your baby.

It is courageous to raise your baby in this crazy world,

and it is just as courageous to give your baby to another family through adoption when you are unable to care for it.

There is help for you when you face an unexpected pregnancy. Consider contacting Care-Net (www.care-net.org), a network of pregnancy centers all over the US that are staffed by caring people whose full-time job it is to get help for women in your situation.

And know that you’re not alone. http://paintedwithoutmakeup.com/songs-for-the-unborn/

Courage

Listening Starts with Family: Why We Desperately Need Interdenominational Friendships

Family Time

That’s a picture of my family up there—well, part of it, minus a bunch of people (my son—because he was not yet born at the time this was taken—a sister, her husband, and her kids).

Family. Ahh. I have this unique ability to get annoyed by my family when they ask me questions. Does that ever happen to you?

I am learning to listen to their questions, though, and to ask questions of my own. It’s WAY better than assuming, because you know what happens when you assume, don’t you?

It has taken me a long time to really believe that I am loved and accepted by my family. That’s not their fault; it has been mine. But as I have come to accept and know that I am loved by them for just being myself and that they accept me, as strange as I am, our relationships have gotten so much deeper than they used to be. The conversations we have had about so many things—serious topics, funny topics, and uncomfortable topics—have pushed me and challenged me greatly to be more consistent in what I think and say and to be more caring and compassionate.

Listening starts with family.

If I don’t learn to listen to the people around me who call me “sister,” “daughter,” “cousin,” or “mom,” I will never learn to listen to the people who are outside of my family. Over the years, I’ve learned that the nature of family is unquestioning acceptance… with the caveat that we will call you out on your b.s. when we smell it. That doesn’t mean it gets shoved in your face every time you say something inconsistent, but it does mean that the inconsistencies in your thinking and acting will be fodder for conversation, discussion, and hopefully resolution.

As followers of Jesus Christ, the Church is our family. We are brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers to one another. And if we can’t communicate and dialogue when the going gets tough, if we let uncomfortable conversations divide us, then there is not really a hope for good communication with those outside of our family.

Let’s talk about an experience that is not uncommon in a church community. I attended a dynamic community church during and after college. The people were warm and genuine and extremely passionate about a Bible-centered and gospel-sharing-driven relationship with Jesus. I learned so much in that community, especially about how to share my vulnerabilities and ask others to meet me where I felt weak.

But I have some friends, who after struggling through a lot through different issues of theology and personality, decided to switch churches. It was a good decision for them to make and it has borne good fruit for their family. But unfortunately, switching churches caused them to lose a great number of people who had once called themselves ‘friends.’ It was almost as if, since this couple decided to go to a different church, that they weren’t the  responsibility of those ‘friends’ they left behind, and relationship faded almost instantly. That is a sign of two things: 1) relationships with other people are hard and take energy to continue, and 2) the mentality of many Christians is that once someone moves to another church, there’s not much left to talk about.

But we have SO MUCH LEFT TO TALK ABOUT!

The thing about this couple is that, even though they are attending a Baptist church right now (which, unsurprisingly, is very different from the Catholic Church of which I am a part), they have so many deep treasures about the heart of God to share with me, because they have been walking with Jesus for years. And even if they didn’t have a decade-long history of following the Lord, they are still unique human beings with a unique perspective on the world that I can learn oodles from. A change in or a difference of denomination or church does not take away all those pieces of wisdom and love they have garnered over that time. If I let our denominational differences get in the way of continuing relationship with them, it would be my loss!

In writing about friendship in The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis says, “In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets” (61). We need a variety of friends in our lives to shed light on all of the facets of ourselves and on the facets of the Most High.

Think about your circle of friends: how many friends of different denominations do you have?

Baptists, how many Methodist friends can you count?

Episcopalians—Charismatics?

Protestants, how many Catholic friends do you have?

Catholics, same question?

If the answer isn’t one or greater, it’s time to start making friendships.

When we come together around the basic tenets of orthodox Christian faith (as expressed in the Creeds, Nicene and Apostles‘), we have room to start asking nuanced questions about why we do what we do in relation to God. The freedom of being in family is that we can start a conversation on common ground (a love for the Holy Trinity and a basis in the Creeds), and then we can ask questions about differences.

Why do you believe in infant baptism?

Why do you only believe in believer’s baptism?

Why do you only take communion four times a year?

Why do you take it every single day? 

Why do you have a Pope? 

To whom do you look for direction on centuries-long debates within the Church? 

When we can finally stop deciding that our brothers and sisters have it all (or at least, have very important things) wrong, we can start to wonder why they believe the things they do. There are usually good reasons behind their thoughts, and these positions have–quite possibly–been considered and prayed through. It’s definitely worth our time to investigate and learn. And maybe even change our minds on some things, or at least on how important they are to a loving relationship with Jesus.

Practical pointers on having a conversation with Christians of different denominations? Lay down your weapons.

Instead of asking a Catholic, “So, why isn’t the Bible enough for you?” ask, “Can you tell me more about how you value Tradition and Scripture?”

Instead of asking a Baptist, “How can you prevent people from drinking wine when it’s obvious that Jesus drank?” ask, “Why is there a practice of not drinking in your denomination?”

Instead of assuming everything you have heard about other denominations is true, ASK YOUR FRIEND. And ask with compassion and kindness.

Once we learn how to ask sensitives questions and receive sensitive answers from those we call family, we will be much more prepared to ask insightful and honest questions to our neighbors around us who don’t have a relationship with Jesus, because we have practiced hearing to understand and not listening to merely respond. We will value the people we interact with because they are flesh-and-blood humans with feelings and intellectual thoughts and prejudices and quirks, just like our brothers and sisters.

How thankful I am for all the friends who have asked me good and hard questions as Zachary and I left our familiar Protestant church settings for membership in the Catholic Church! Such good questions and how many deep conversations have we been able to have because our friends have valued us for who we are, not for the church we attend.

If we never have uncomfortable or challenging conversations–without the threat of excommunication–within the family of the Church, how can we ever be expected to handle communication with others well?

So, go out and make a new friend in a different denomination. Or, if you have one already, ask her that question about doctrine that has been on your mind.

But ask with the purpose to learn, not to convince. 

Listening starts with families, and family members love each other for who they are.

What’s in a Name?

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What’s in a name?

I’m kind of obsessed with names. If you’ve met me in person, the odds are that I have had some sort of conversation with you about your name. It’s because they are so darn important.

A name is the first gift you are given. Even if it is just “baby,” it’s a name and it means a lot. Having a name means that you are YOU, a special person, and there is no one else in the world like you.
Names are prophetic. Some people think that prophecy is foretelling the future, but it is really just what Jesus is saying (Revelation 19:10). He knows our hearts and He knows the future, so there can be some foretelling aspects to prophecy, but most of what Jesus is saying is how much He loves us and what He loves about us. When we’re doing something that hurts us or others, He speaks to call us out and to deal with that problem. That’s the kind of prophecy that gets the most attention from many people, but that’s not the kind of prophecy I’m talking about here.

Whether your parents knew it or not, they named you prophetically. Sometimes, your name is a puzzle to figure out. Sometimes the meaning is as clear as day.

Let’s start with my name, for example.

For my first name, my dad decided he liked the name of a TV show character (a la The Scarecrow and Mrs. King), and Amanda I became. My mom loved French names, so my middle name is fairly run-of-the-mill: Marie.

There are two ways you can start thinking about your name, and it doesn’t matter which order you do it in. First, you consider the meaning of your actual name.

Amanda is the Latin command form of “to love.” So, I imagine myself being placed somewhere and God talking about me—“Look at her! Such beauty and spunk. How can you not love her? Love her!”

Marie is a bit trickier. It comes from the Latin root that means “bitter.”

Love her—the bitter one? It is true that I have struggled with bitterness in my life, and I have found great comfort in the reality of my name, that God still loves me, the bitter one.

There are more layers to explore, though. A little research (on Wikipedia, master of collected knowledge) yields some interesting results. Marie is the French form of Mary, which in Hebrew is Miryam. It can mean ‘bitterness,’ but interestingly that word is related to myrrh, an aromatic resin from a thorny tree. It has antiseptic properties and has been used throughout history as a perfume and as incense.

Suddenly, this name becomes more active. “Love her, the one who is strong-smelling and bold, who offers herself as incense.”

(As I type this, I am learning so much for myself. This is connected to my point in a previous post about weakness!)

Another route, if the literal meaning of your name leaves much to be desired, is to look at people in history. You can claim another person as your namesake, even if that is not necessarily what your parents intended.

For example, I learned the other day about St. Amand. He’s the patron saint of beer, which is pretty nifty. Also, the name Marie is so full of history—Mary of Bethany, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Queen of Scots…you take one that interests you and learn about the life of this person. We all have faults, so taking someone as a namesake does not mean you will be just like them, but it is a root-deepening exercise to learn about those who came before you, bearing your name.

So, what about you? What does your name say about you?

Running From Something

I have literally hung this bird-feeder up at the past two houses I have lived in, leaving it empty because I am too cheap to buy bird food and because I don't want bird poop to collect on whatever is underneath it.

We are all running from something, and it’s name is suffering.

Well, in my case, I’m only figuratively running, because I have a foot problem that makes it really painful to actually run. This pain in my feet drives me to avoid a lot of things—shopping, for one. I cannot stand to ambulate slowly around a store and look at things that I can’t afford, because it literally hurts me.

There was one time in college that I had a friend push me around Target in a wheel chair because we needed to do some shopping, and at the end I had to admit it—I kinda liked this whole shopping thing. For a long time, I had held a holier-than-thou attitude in my disdain for shopping, like it was some sort of spiritual badge that kept me from further pollution by the world.

But it turns out, I was avoiding shopping because I was avoiding pain.

The question has swirled in my mind since yesterday… What am I avoiding now?

What pain am I taking steps to avoid in my life?

What suffering am I navigating away from, purposefully?

Don’t get me wrong—I am in no way advocating that someone seek out suffering for her life in order to become a better person. But in the course of human events, in the path of choosing to love the person in front of me (even when that person is me), suffering will come. And when it does come, I have two choices: I can choose to endure it or I can choose to avoid it.

Avoidance of suffering looks like wisdom a lot of times. Running hurts my feet? Then I won’t run! Putting a bird feeder on the back porch leads to a pile of bird droppings for my kids to step in? Then I won’t fill that stupid feeder with any food. (I have literally hung my bird feeder and left it empty in the past two places I’ve lived for this reason.) Spending time with an old friend opens wounds that I’ve dealt with, for the most part? Then I won’t accept her phone calls.

But I realized that if I focus my world around the avoidance of suffering, then I will miss out on so much life.

To save my feet from pain, I will never experience that feeling that runners talk about or the burst of endorphins that keep them coming back for more and more.

To save myself the task of cleaning off my kids when they have trotted through a mound of bird poop, I will miss out on the mockingbird’s song and the sight of the cardinal and his wife coming to visit our house.

To save myself from the uncomfortable and unwieldy awkwardness that is a friendship that has grown cold, I will lose a mirror of my past and a friend who has challenged me and forced me to dig deeper into my identity as a child of the Most High.

At some point, I have to acknowledge that the way of suffering is the way of the Cross. If I spend my whole life avoiding uncomfortable or painful situations, I am robbing myself of walking with Jesus through the pains and the deeper resulting joys of life.

Suffering will come, whether at my own hands or the hands of another. But it is not something to avoid when I discover it. Suffering is an invitation to walk with God and to learn that He leads me beside still waters. Jesus is not afraid of suffering with me. He does not shy away from it. He knows that in the fire of suffering, I am opened up to receive from Him in a way that is not possible if I avoid it at every turn.

If you read my last post, To All the Fat Girls, you heard me say that our wounds are our treasures. We need to let go of the fear of the pain and suffering in our lives. When we are confronted with our own weaknesses, the confrontation is an invitation. In our pain and suffering, Jesus teaches us who He really is for us.

Don’t run away from it.

~Amanda

P.S. This song below is called “How to Deal.” In it, I wrestle with suffering that I have caused for myself and the pain the others have inflicted on me. The thesis of the song (if a song can have a thesis) is that Jesus is not an escape—He walks with me through suffering and teaches me who He is in a greater capacity than I could ever have imagined.

To All the Fat Girls, Part II

Take Up Your Pen

The response to my blog post yesterday, To All the Fat Girls, has blown me away.

Obviously, my experience is not an isolated one.

You women have been broken and weak, and you have been beautiful. Others have overlooked you because of what you look like or sound like. But there is a treasure inside of you that needs to be shared.

I would love to hear your stories and to help share them with other people. Would you want to do that?

Your story is powerful. It is worth listening to. You are full of beauty and wisdom.

Write down your story. Tell me what you have experienced and what you have learned from it. Show me how God has met you in weakness.

Let’s talk about weakness and how valuable it is.

Let’s talk about being broken and finding Jesus to be enough.

Maybe the stigma you’ve lived under is that you’re fat. Maybe it’s that you’re unstable. Maybe it’s another one of a hundred possibilities.

I want to hear it, to learn from it, and to share it with others who are also learning to in weakness and beauty. Email me your story at paintedwithoutmakeup@gmail.com.

Remember—And they overcame [the accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. 
Revelation 12:11

To All the Fat Girls

 

A doctor called me fat once.

My husband wasn’t in the room. In the previous appointment, when my husband had been present, the doctor had used words like “overweight” and “obese.” Still not pleasant words to think about, but professional and appropriate for the situation.

He waited until my husband wasn’t there and then he called me fat.

He wasn’t even satisfied with using that word to describe me. He wanted me to acknowledge that it was part of who I was.

“So when did you get fat?” he asked me, looking directly at me. It wasn’t even an uncomfortable question for him. He was bold in his rudeness.

I explained that I had been at a certain weight for many years, but in grad school I put on weight.

He commented on the previous weight, that it was still not a satisfactory weight. And there I sat in his office, 70 pounds heavier than I had been before the weight gain.

I felt like a piece of chewed up bubble gum.

This morning, this episode came to mind as I was going through today’s lectionary reading.

“…as having nothing but possessing all things.” 2 Corinthians 6

When someone sees the outside of me, they might assume that I have nothing to offer.

That man, that doctor, who was charged with helping me with a life-altering condition caused by the weight gain, avoided an opportunity to encourage me to be healthy or to be anything more than fat.

The memory of this still bothers me often. 4 years later, 3 pregnancies later, lots of inner healing later. It occurred to me this morning that for me, being called ‘fat’ is very much like being called ‘slut.’

Think about it–as a society, we use the word ‘slut’ to describe a woman who wantonly allows anyone to presume upon her physical body. She lets it out to be used and mistreated, from what we assume is her own free will.

But we are learning now that many women who have received this denigrating title have had little to no control over the choices they appear to have made. It is not as easy at it seems to come out of a lifestyle that is familiar. It is not often as black and white as we have made it seem in our heads.

I have never (to my face or to my knowledge) been called a slut. And if I were to encounter a woman who is carrying that around as part of her identity, I would ask her to rethink her definition of herself. That label is not who she is. It is not her name. It is not her identity.

Over the years since the episode with the unkind and unprofessional doctor, I have thought a lot about the current condition of my physical body. I have learned that food addiction is real and that it is hard to break. I have come to understand that so many choices, food choices included, are made out of a place of mere surviving and not with the mindset of thriving. I have realized that issues with weight are far more complicated than “calories in, calories out” calculations.

And yet, like the neighborhood slut, I–the fat girl–hide in the background when I’m around religious people, not believing that I have anything worth saying. And even if I did have something to say, why would someone listen to me? I’m so fat. Automatically, my words are discounted, because OBVIOUSLY I don’t have it all together.

I have believed that fat people are not worth listening to, that people who struggle inordinately with their weight have nothing to say that is of value.

I would never say that out loud, would I? I have many friends whose weight struggles do not discount their words of love and advice to me. But I do believe it, deep inside, where the light of truth has yet to shine.

Say it with me: Being overweight does not discount my wisdom, my experience, my story, my worth. 

Replace “overweight” with whatever adjective you have taken for yourself that needs to be discarded.

Say it with me: I have something worth saying and worth listening to.

Listen to the words of the apostle Paul from earlier in 2 Corinthians:
Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh…

What is seen in the flesh does not define me.

I have to let go of that “fat” word and applying it to myself. Yes, the fact is that I am overweight. But that does not define me. I am Amanda, and OH, the wisdom of my parents and of God, whose name means “Worthy of love.”

You have to let go of the word that you define yourself with: fat, old, weak, depressed, anxious, crazy, unstable, afraid, small, stupid…

Whatever that word is, it is not who you are.

You are valuable, precious (of great price), worthy of love, beautiful, and wanted.

Consider the story of St. Lawrence, who lived from 225 AD to 258 AD. Under the emperor Valerian, Roman authorities demanded that Lawrence, a deacon in the church at Rome, gather all the treasures of the church to hand over to the state. So, obediently, Lawrence went and rounded up all the treasures of the church—the lame, the beggars, the blind, the suffering. The weak ones, he knew, were the true treasure of the Church.

You, my friend, in your weakness—whatever that might be—are the treasure of the Church. Your wounds are precious. Your story is valuable. Your voice is needed for the rest of us to know more fully the love of Jesus Christ.

Paul continues in his second letter to the Corinthians:
So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.

You have something worth saying. You are an ambassador for the Son of the Living God. 

Reject the lie that you have nothing to say or that no one will listen because of ______________ (fill in the blank). You have so much to say and it is so powerful that the devil will do what he can to stop you from sharing it. In as much as you have a story of pain and redemption, you carry a word of God for someone who needs it.

And they overcame [the accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. 
Revelation 12:11

Follow-up: If this has moved you and you want to do something about it, share it and then go read To All the Fat Girls–Part II.

The things of June 11: Your Input Needed

It’s June 11, which means several things this year.

It means that it’s my birthday as well as my dad’s. He’s 63 and I’m 31. Happy birthday, Dad.

It means that we have known for a day that our third baby is a girl. Big sister Lily is very excited, while big brother Brennan was excited to get a pink cake pop out of the deal.

It means that my friend Mary K. and I are about 5 weeks out from pitching our book to several publishers at a writer’s conference. That is, I will be at my sister’s wedding while Mary K. does all the hard work.

Our book is currently titled Staying in Love with God: A Guide for Lovers. We have received some feedback that the part about lovers is confusing (is it a book for couples?). We were going for lovers of God, but maybe that can come across in a different way.

We want to write about how creating a personal liturgy (a rhythm of life, not necessarily a schedule) cultivates the seeds of love that God has sown, allowing our hearts to stay in love with God even in a busy season and when a relationship with God doesn’t look like it used to (in youth group or college, when things were much more intense spiritually). Can we really be as in love with God as we were back when we had more energy and less distraction? (You can read the answer in the book!)

Creating a personal liturgy helps us to create space in our life to be intentional, to be mindful of the small moments and the stability that repetition can bring. We stay in love with God by giving space in three ways–for God to be Himself (space to stay), for me to be myself (space to seek, to create, and to remember) and for others to be themselves (space to interrupt). This pattern gives us a precious simplicity that is relationship-focused and ultimately, a way to bring the kingdom of God out of the abstract and into our intensely personal flesh-and-blood reality.

So, for your help. Can you answer a few questions in the comments? You can comment on Facebook or through WordPress, or feel free to email me at amanda dot marie dot beck at gmail dot com.

1. Does the title “Staying in Love with God” appeal to you?

2. Thoughts about the possible subtitles below?
“Creating a rhythm of life that connects you to God”
“How creating a personal liturgy keeps our hearts on fire”

3. Other suggestions for title or subtitle?

Thanks for your help! Pray for us as we prepare for the pitch to the publishers!

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