Living in a Material World (When You’re Not a Material Girl): Part 2

So, the world is obsessed with our weight. (It’s also obsessed with our age, our youthful appearance or the lack thereof, our incomes, and our political affiliations.) It has its own opinion of us, but we have to embrace that, while other people may hold their opinions of us, those opinions are not facts.

I wish the world was more concerned with the condition of our hearts, but that’s not the job of the world. That’s God’s job. In part one of this post, I shared what the world says about us in regard to our weight. Now, I want to share some descriptions that God, who made us, has used about us. These are not just my imaginings…they’re from His holy scripture. If you click on the words (underlined and highlighted in blue), you can read the scripture that addresses each of these descriptions. These are God’s opinions of us, and His opinion is the only opinion that is a FACT.

God does not make worthless thing

If Jesus is our Savior, each of us is God’s child. We are friends and confidantes of Jesus. We have been justified and redeemed by grace so that we are blameless. Because we are set free from the laws of sin and death, we are fellow heirs to God’s throne. God has called us saints (God’s holy people) who have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.  God loves us so much that He has sent His Spirit to live in us. We can live in victory and triumph over all things because we belong to Him — there is no such thing as defeat when you are a child of God! We are part of God’s plan and He has made us promise keepers! We are chosen, holy, and loved.

If you grew up in Sunday School, I’ll guess that you were taught the story of creation many times in your life. There are reasons we read, re-read, and re-study God’s word — there are lessons to be learned every time. There are nuances that we may miss or that God chooses to reveal to us at different times in our spiritual lives. I want to share something that I believe God revealed to me in a study of Genesis while I was teaching a class for three-year-olds about two years ago. This was not an accident. This was an on-purpose, God-delivered, simple revelation that He sent to me right before my own health crisis was revealed during a medical appointment in June 2015. It changed my whole perspective about how God sees us, His creation…His handiwork.

I love that, after God made each part of His creation, He surveyed His work and declared it good. Of course it was good! God made it.

On that sixth day of creation, God made humans. He wasn’t arbitrary about our composition. He didn’t wing it and hope He came up with something that was pleasing. He made us in His own image! And when He had made us and surveyed his work, He didn’t just declare that we were good, He said that we were very good.

Why is that important?

It’s important because who we look like in our physical selves is a defining factor about who we are individually. If you observe parents with their children, especially after a baby is born, someone is always trying to see who the baby looks like. Sharing physical looks with parents or other family members helps us know who we are and to whom we belong.

Despite all the physical factors that come together to give us our facial features, body type, and body components, we ultimately ALL look like God because we were created in His image. To be fully and completely His, is to accept how God’s made us physically and become like Him spiritually by becoming more like Christ.

Thomas-Merton-Quote-To-say-that-I-am-made-in-the-image-of-God-is

The world will never get that. It’s why we cannot be agents of this world, conformed to its ways and slaves to its obsessions. It’s why I will never be a material girl, even though I live in this material world. I am God’s masterpiece, His very good handiwork. So are you, friends.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, else matters.

shr

 

 

 

 

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Living in a Material World (When You’re Not a Material Girl): Part 1

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

I started a social experiment about image on July 24, 2017. Armed with a legal pad and pen, I decided that for a week, I would keep a list of all the references about being overweight I heard on television and radio, or read in print and social media. My intent was to continue this experiment for the entire week of vacation, but here I sit after only THREE DAYS and I’ve already heard and seen so much that to complete the week would be an exercise in redundancy.

There were very few programs I watched on television that didn’t make some reference to being overweight. There were NO publications I read during the last three days that didn’t have at least one article about how to lose weight, and every article promised that this was a sure-fire way to shed the extra pounds.

Let me share with you part of my list. Keep a tally of how many you’ve heard, whether it was on a media outlet or spoken directly to you or about you.

Every time I heard or read these particular words, it was in the context of weight: fatty, chubby, fat pig/fat hog, lard ass/fat ass, fatso, tubby, chubby chaser, tub of lard, chunky girl, broad as a barn door, fat slob, blubber butt, jelly belly, fat squab (courtesy of Gordon Ramsey on “Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares”), over-grown slob, porky, south end of a northbound truck, chank (short version of chubby skank), pudgy, stout, cow/fat cow, buffalo butt, buffarilla, doughboy, whale/beach whale, heifer, fat boy/fat girl, hoss, fatty fatty 2-by-4, “not normal,” fat fanny, healthy girl/boy, wide load, 2-ton Annie, rotund, wide as he is tall, pot belly, beer belly, portly, whopper, lardo, sow, and Omega Mu (said by a frat boy in a movie about a girl, a reference to an imaginary sororiety whose members are all overweight).

strength to forgive

To put these words into a more personal perspective, I asked close friends and Facebook acquaintances to share with me some of the comments that have been made to them about their weight. I shed tears of frustration and anger as I read them, knowing how some of these vicious, uncalled for words cut my friends to the core. Please remember that these are OPINIONS and that they were not spoken out of  true concern for anyone’s well-being.

“Ewww…I feel so fat! Kill me now!” (This was said by the sister of a friend. The friend had just started her weight loss journey. Her sister is thin and not overweight in any conceivable way. Her message to her sister was clear: people who are overweight don’t deserve to live.)

“Don’t say you’re fat! You’re beautiful!” (This was a remark to a friend who was being honest about her need to lose weight. Her mother thought she was offering a supportive compliment, but it was taken much differently, as if being overweight was a commentary on beauty, as in fat=ugly.)

“Have you lost weight? Because you look fabulous!” (Lynn DeArgo, who had NOT lost weight at this point, felt the person who said this was well aware of the fact that she had, indeed, not lost weight. Lynn is happy to report that she has lost 22 pounds in the last three months and has joined a gym. She says that she feels fabulous, and that’s even better than looking fabulous.)

“Is that on your diet?” or “Are you sure you should eat that?” (Actually spoken directly to me, I despise it when people take an inventory of my meals! I think after losing 60 pounds, I know what I can and cannot eat.)

“I don’t think you should wear skinny jeans. I mean, they’re for skinny girls. It’s right in the name.” (This is an actual comment made to a Facebook friend, LaNeita, by a sales clerk at American Eagle.)

“Be careful. I don’t want you to have a heart attack today.” (A Facebook pal, Connie Rodriguez, submitted this to me. After losing almost 120 pounds and walking as exercise for a year, this was said to her by the person who checked Connie in at her very first 5K race packet last October. People just ASSUME things!)

“I just don’t see how you could allow yourself to gain this much weight! I mean, didn’t you look in the mirror every day?” (Submitted by Andrew, this was a remark made to him by his sister, whom he had not seen in two years.)

“Once you lose weight, dating will be so much easier! Nobody wants to marry a fat girl.” (Single mother, Tasha, submitted this. This is a direct quote from her mother.)

“You know, they can perform surgery to help you lose weight. Just think how pretty you’d be if you weren’t so heavy!” (Spoken to my friend, DiAnna Ligon by a TOTAL STRANGER at a benefit auction she attended. This upset her so badly that she left the benefit. I am pleased to report that she’s now lost 65 pounds in the last six months and is well on her way to reaching her goal.)

“I suppose she rolls down instead of walks!” (While out and walking for exercise, my friend was huffing it up a hill when a car of rude guys rode by and yelled this out of their truck window. Now she’s lost 40 pounds and in her own words, she’s “winning the battle.”)

“My goodness! What have you been eating?” (Pregnant with her second child, this is how the doctor and his student-intern greeted Theresa. She knew she had gained weight, but felt the remark was degrading and insensitive.)

What God Thinks about me 2

I share all of these vile words and statements with you because I know life is not only unfair, it’s often cruel. People have their own agendas and their cruel messages are more about the condition of THEIR HEARTS than YOUR WEIGHT.

What I want you to embrace is the fact that you are God’s masterpiece. You are a work of outstanding skill and artistry. You are His very best piece of work, His magnum opus. I invite you to return for the second part of this series because I want to share with you what GOD says about you. What God says about you is far more important than anything society says about you.

shr

 

 

 

 

Support is More than Just an Underwire Bra

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…Hebrews 10:25 NLT

When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation that God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.  1 Corinthians 14:26 NLT

It’s been said that church is not a social meeting for Christians; it’s a hospital for sinners. Going there doesn’t absolve anyone from their sins, but being with other believers is a good place to stand in God’s presence and repent.

In the throes of my youngest son’s “teenage-ness,” he boldly confronted me by hurling this accusation at me, “You think you’re so much better than everybody else just because you go to church on Sunday!”

“If I’ve given you that impression, then I’ve been doing this motherhood thing all wrong,” I said. “I go to church so that I can be around other people who are sinners and celebrate the fact that I am saved by grace. I go to church because when I look around the congregation, I’m certain I need to be there more than anybody else.”

And I mean that with all my heart. I find that worship in church is a God’s way of healing me from the sinful way I’ve conducted myself during the week. I don’t have to go to church to repent and come back into a good relationship with God, but it sure does help.

TOPS_Logo-BW

I feel the same way about my weight loss support group in TOPS. Taking Off Pounds Sensibly is more than a name — it’s a motto and a way of life. I celebrated my one-year anniversary on April 5, 2017. It’s been an exhilarating year with lots of ups and downs, but overall, a year of tremendous progress emotionally and physically.

If you know any of my background, I started this weight loss journey way back in 2010…and in 2011…and in 2013…and finally, in 2015. I have a great support system in my immediate family. When I finally took charge of my health in 2015, I lost half the weight with the tremendous support of my mother and my husband, Kelly. The only problem was that neither one of them were trying to lose weight WITH me. There’s only so much support you can get from someone who’s not going through the same experience as you.

My great friend, Trisha Smith, her husband, George, and several others organized a new TOPS chapter (NC 947) in January 2016 that met just three miles from my house. I read each Facebook post she shared about this new chapter and thought, “This sounds like fun. Maybe I need to join.” But I didn’t.

I would comment on her posts and even tell her I was thinking about joining. I told her than it January, in February, and in March. Every Tuesday night during their meeting time, God would nudge me and I would ignore Him. Kelly said several times, “It would probably do you a lot of good to join.” I ignored him, too.

Ignore, ignore, ignore…until I gained back some of the weight I’d worked so hard to lose. I stood on the scale that Monday morning, April 4, and stared at the scales, devastated. EIGHT POUNDS! Some of you realize how hard it is to lose ONE pound, let alone EIGHT. And then to gain it back? God pushed me that morning, and it was not gentle. “Do it now,” He said.

And before I could talk myself out of it, I contacted Trisha and said, “I’ll be there tomorrow night!” Even though you’re allowed a free visit before you decide to join, I came with national dues in hand and paid that first night. I was not going to give the devil a week to talk me out of it.

Can I just be honest? It’s the third best decision I’ve ever made (behind choosing Jesus as my Savior and Kelly as my husband). I belong to a group that is more like family than some of my biological family. It’s been the real source of my success, over and above any way of eating I’ve chosen.

Of course, I recommend TOPS and if you want to get more information on this organization, just click here. If you do a Google search, you can find other groups as well. Perhaps there are local groups that meet at a health facility or area churches that you could attend. For lasting results of weight loss, you need a support group. You need a support group like you need a great underwire bra! (Maybe more!)

If you’re ready to look for a group, but don’t know what to look for, let me offer some advice. I’ve narrowed down my “must be” list for a great support group to just four guidelines.

  • Your group must be EMPATHETIC. Empathy isn’t something we’re born with, but it’s something that can be easily learned if we practice it consistently. Basically, empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes…to view their situation through their lens, not through your own. That means we cannot pass judgment, but instead, embrace all that someone else is experiencing without pitying them. This, by far, is the most important requirement for finding a support group that will work for you.
  • You need a group that ENGAGES and ENCOURAGES each other. There has to be a great deal of positive reinforcement in a weight loss group. It’s morale-building and soul-soothing.
  • Your support group needs to have an EVALUATION PROCESS, based on honesty but spoken in love. (It all goes back to empathy.) Evaluation keeps you accountable to yourself and other group members. Without honest evaluations, both individually and group, then your support group experience will be as useless as a flat tire — it certainly won’t take you very far!
  • Finally, a support group should EQUIP YOU WITH REAL POWER, not “power-over.” (Real power versus power-over is the topic of an upcoming post, but if you’re interested in getting a head-start, let me recommend I Thought It was Just Me (But It Isn’t) by Brene Brown. It’s a game-changer.) Real power comes from within yourself and is borne from empathy. You cannot have real power by stealing another person’s power. (That’s power-over.)

These are the same guidelines our family used when we were looking for a church home. They’re great guidelines for a reason — they help you find a place where your needs will be met, where you can find comfort, where you can blossom, and where you will ultimately find your greatest successes.

If you have questions, please share them in the comments. If you belong to a great support group, please share that as well. Tell me why you love your support group!

Thanks for reading. God bless y’all!

-shr