Giving Testimony in the Messiness

A friend recently exhorted in his writing that we should give our testimony often. And it’s funny, because I had something good happen, and I thought, I should give testimony about that! But, then that something good twisted and ended up not being so great. And my desire to share kind of faded away. Because it didn’t turn out all smooth and neat the way I was hoping. It’s still messy. Still incomplete. Still a work in progress. But there is so much to give testimony about, especially in the messiness! 

Once again, it’s been a rough week. At one point in time, I felt like I had walked to the very edge of the abyss and was looking down at the sure promise of great sorrow and anguish. And I had no words to pray. I found my mind just repeating over and over again, Mercy Lord. Have Mercy. And the analytical side of my brain chimed in, “Why are you saying that over and over again?” and the parable that Jesus told about the widow who nagged the Judge for justice came to mind. I will nag and nag and nag until I get justice simply because the judge is tired of my nagging. Except it wasn’t justice I wanted. Just mercy. 

And God was merciful. In small measures. 

The situation is not resolved. I don’t have a tidy neat package where I can point and say, Look, a miracle! Isn’t God good! 

Instead I have the testimony that I am alive and moving. My children are alive and moving. Hope still reigns. I am still determinedly putting one foot in front of the other. The world is still turning. Night and Day are still happening. There is beauty in each day, along with sorrow. God’s word is still true. His promises still stand. 

And so I stand in the Assembly and give my testimony of God’s goodness to me today. My eternity is secure. I am not alone. And each day I move an inch or two closer to knowing more about God and his goodness. 

It’s What We Make of It

This morning I had to drop some of my teens off at the church early. Since I was in the area, I headed over to Victor Ashe Park to get my run/walk in. I love Victor Ashe Park. It has a giant playing field that is used for soccer and ultimate frisbee, it has several miles of walking trails, it has a disc golf course along with a dog park, a playground, restrooms and a big pavilion. 

It was eight o’clock in the morning on a Saturday, but there were already a lot of people there. There were women walking in groups, talking just as fast as they were moving. I saw several solo dads out walking little babies in strollers. There were couples holding hands as they dawdled along. People walking their dogs. There was one super-fit couple who were running together, briskly outpacing everyone. There was an elderly gentleman who was out jogging and our paces were just similar enough that we kept overlapping each other. He would jog a while and then walk and while he was walking I would jog a while and then walk. It got a bit awkward. 🙂  I found myself mentally urging him on, Run faster! Run faster! Just cause I didn’t want to pass him again when he was walking. 

When I got back to the pavilion at the end, there was a drumming exercise class going on. The instructor was obviously doing her life passion as she taught this class. She was pumped, excited, hooting and hollering as she urged her class on. They had really fun music and I really wished I could join them. I went over to a paved area and sat and stretched and watched the class. There was another couple not far from me who looked like they were at the very beginning of their fitness journey, but they had exercise mats and weights and were working out together. And it felt like the entire attitude of everyone there was, We are here to exercise and enjoy nature! And everyone smiled and nodded at each other. And it was very inspiring to be a part of this energetic group. 

Lately I’ve kind of been feeling like I’m living in two duel universes. There is the universe of Social Media. In that universe, people say mean things to each other without a second thought. We talk trash about people in leadership. We share mean jokes. The news is always bad, the world is about to end and it’s all EVERYONE ELSE’S fault. We hear all about the bad things that are happening at home and everywhere else in the world. And people just seem not-so-friendly. 

And then, there is the unplugged universe. Daily life walking around my city. Going to the park where regular people are enjoying themselves, nodding and smiling at strangers. The more gregarious ones start up friendly chats. Dogs on leashes wag their tails. The grass is green. The trees are majestic. The exercise class has their fun music blasting. Kids are running, giggling, down the pathway. 

Honestly, the daily life of the unplugged universe is a lot more beautiful than the plugged in one. And yes, I know, I’m posting this blog on the internet, sharing it on social media. It’s a bit hypocritical. Except, the plugged in universe is what we make it. I would say, for me, I am trying to learn how to unplug often, and when I am plugged in, try to bring some of the beauty with me. 

Which, I guess, is why I tell you all about the everyday stuff. Like walks in the park. 

POST SCRIPT: I know that life isn’t just roses and sunshine. There’s tragedy in the unplugged universe. And I appreciate the plugged in universe’s power to connect us together so we can help out in urgent situations. As always, it’s about balance.

Murder and Human Worth

Well, I had a first today. I served as a witness in a murder trial. 

I promise I’m not making these things up. 

I did not play a major role in the trial. Just came in and confirmed it was me in the 911 recording and then explained again what I had seen. Total of five minutes tops. The cross-examination was one question. (As an avid reader of John Grisham, I found it pretty amazing to be “cross-examined”.)

As thrilling (or rather, nerve-wracking) experience as it was, it was also very sad. Six years ago our neighbor’s nephew was shot when he was walking home from work. It has taken SIX YEARS for this to go to trial. And his parents and relatives are still deeply mourning his death. I pray that the trial ends with justice and closure for all those who are still mourning. 

As I was walking out of the courthouse I was pondering human worth. This trial is a big example of how we place worth on people. Someone’s life is taken. The suspect is taken into custody. Witnesses come forward. The entire bulky justice system sets itself into motion to ensure that justice is served. Time, money, resources, all set in motion to say, this person’s life had worth and we require justice because it was ended wrongfully. 

And then, at the same time, the trial took SIX YEARS to happen! Which sends a totally different message. This is important, but maybe not THAT important. 

We do this with children. We have CHILD SERVICES that are present to ensure that children are not being abused or neglected. Entire bureaucracies devoted to the safe-guarding of children. We have NICU units in our hospitals, devoted to saving the life of prematurely born babies and other infants suffering any kind of malady. All declaring that children have WORTH. Time, money and all manner of resources devoted to showing worth.

And then, at the same time, we’ve decided that if a child is in the womb, the mother can decide that the child doesn’t have worth at all and simply abort it. Not THAT important after all. 

We do it with our elderly. Though, as I sit here, I can’t think of too many ways that we show our elderly their worth. Maybe we just talk about our elders having worth. Our subpar nursing homes, inefficient Medicare and tiny social security payments don’t show a lot of worth to our elderly. But we TALK about them having worth. 

It’s no wonder that we are so confused about self-worth. 

Our social structures give us very mixed messages about our worth. And our overall culture does the same. We idolize people in entertainment who look a “certain” way. (Whichever way happens to be popular at the moment.) And the problem is, that “certain” way is not how most people look. And then we compare ourselves to this touched-up, photo-shopped, made-up version of what we think is beautiful, we don’t look anything like it, and then we feel subpar. Not beautiful. And in our society, not-beautiful equals lesser importance. 

So, how do we step out of this confusing mess of mixed messages that we live in? 

Well, I’m going to point you back to the Bible. Again. Cause it’s the only thing we have that speaks truth. What does God say about you? 

You are Loved by God John 3:16

You are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus Ephesians 2:10

You are Created in God’s Image Gen 1:27

You are Forgiven through the work of Jesus on the Cross Colossians 1:13-14

As a follower of Jesus You are Heirs of eternal life 1 John 5:13

As a follower of Jesus You are Blessed with all Spiritual Blessings Ephesians 1: 3-6

I could go on and on and on. All about how much worth you have. I would say that any place in our society and culture that declares to you your worth as a human being, you can thank God for those being there. And any place where you are being devalued, that is the Enemy, known by many names, whose only mission is to seek and destroy all that God has created. 

It’s late. I’ve had a really long day. But before I go to bed, I just wanted to let you know, You are Beautiful. You are loved. You have Great Worth. 

Fat Fridays: Week 26 You are Beautiful

Hey Everyone. Hope you all are well. I am doing fairly well. I have not stuck to much of a diet, but I have made some good choices. Stop eating when you’re not hungry. Choose the healthier option. Don’t have junk lying around your house to tempt you.

What has been on my mind this week is body image.

When I first started this diet I had this secret desire. I wished that I could just like myself and the way I looked no matter what weight I was. I wished that liking my appearance didn’t have to be dependent on how much weight I had lost.

There is a pervading attitude in our culture that you must weigh a certain amount before you can even be considered to be attractive. Or at least, that’s the idea the magazines sell. But, actually, if I’m honest, my issues with body image started way before I started putting on weight. I remember as an eleven year old pinching the extra skin on my stomach and thinking to myself, I’m so fat. I remember as a skinny little teen thinking I was so much bigger than all the other girls. I remember before my wedding, silently lamenting that my stomach wasn’t as flat as it should be.

Now, of course, I look back at photos of myself and gasp at how tiny and skinny I was. How cute I was. What a perfectly normal, nice-looking person I was. And of course I then latch on to that past young me as the unattainable thing I wish I could have. If only I could have my twenty year old body back. There is a meme that sums it up perfectly:

fatmeme

Yep.

But, realizing that I wasn’t fat as a teen still doesn’t solve the underlying problem. Not liking the way I look.

So, I actually went through some pretty devastating soul searching in the past couple years as I dealt with some of my issues, and the way that I see myself. I had a lot of long talks with God. A lot of journaling. A lot of talks with my husband. I talked it all out, until I finally got some clarity. Understood why I thought the way I did. And slowly, some of those raw areas started healing.  But, I still had a habit of just not liking the way I looked. And I kind of latched onto the idea that when I lost all my extra weight, then I would be happy with my looks. But secretly, I wished that I could like myself no matter what the scale said.

Well, I have been noticing this week that a shift seems to have taken place, probably over a long period of time, and I’m just now noticing it. I look in the mirror and I smile at myself. I turn this way and that, pat my hair and think, you look nice. I realized that I’ve been taking little selfies of myself occasionally and sending them to my husband, just because I feel happy with my looks and I know it will make him smile to get my picture in his messages. I put on a dress and think, wow, that looks really nice.

Today, I was standing in front of a mirror, pleased with what I saw, and it struck me how momentous this was. I like Esther. I think Esther looks pretty. Miracle of miracles. Even now, I get a bit teary-eyed thinking about how far I have come in this area. I feel like this deserves some kind of public proclamation. So here it is.

For all of you reading these blogs because you also are on a weight loss journey, I pray that you too can learn how to look in a mirror and like what you see. You are beautiful, just the way you are.

 

 

Fat Fridays: Week 20 The Dreaded Clothes-Shopping Trip

It’s late. I just got back from seeing the movie Endgame with my husband. Awesome movie! And of course we have a house full of teens/kids who are Marvel fans and my son was lying in wait when we got home, wanting to hear our opinion of the movie. (He and his sister went on opening night. Then he took his younger brothers. My husband and I are some of the last to see it in our family.) It was a great date night. We went to the restaurant Tomato Head, a Knoxville specialty, that has lots of vegan and gluten-free options. I was wearing a new outfit. Wonderful evening.

So, about that new outfit…The subject that has been on my mind today is clothes shopping. How many people like clothes shopping? I happen to be one of those people that hates clothes shopping. I would almost rather go to the dentist than have to go buy new clothes. Almost. I avoid it like the plague. That of course, is a simple thing to do when you are a stay-at-home mom with lots of kids and a limited budget. Win-win for me. Don’t like to shop. Don’t have money to shop. Don’t have time to shop. It works. Except when I need new clothes. And I use the word “need” in a literal sense. As in, I don’t own any shirts that aren’t stained or ripped, or any shorts that I’m not constantly hitching up because they are too loose. Getting too small for your clothes is a good problem. Right? Except that I hate clothes shopping.

Well, the stars all lined up perfectly this week. I had time, money, and a need. I went to the store with the specific chore of buying a couple shorts, t-shirts, and a simple dress. Nothing fancy. I walked around, found a couple things that looked ok. As in, I don’t think that will make me look Too Hideous, let’s try it on. I took my armful of clothing and went to the changing room. That’s when the voice spoke up. There’s this really mean, horrible voice, that sounds a lot my own voice, and it’s pipes up in my head every time I go and try on new clothes. Look at you. You look horrible. You are so ugly. Nothing looks good on you. Why are you even trying to buy clothes? You’re too fat for clothes shopping. You should just go home…Even now, writing about this, it manages to evoke an emotional response. I suddenly feel worthless. Ugly. Less than. I hate it.

None of the clothes fit right and I felt very discouraged as I left the changing room. I don’t even think discouraged is the right word. I felt like someone had knocked me to the ground and then kicked me. There’s a reason I don’t like clothes shopping. I tried again to find something that might look right, failed again. The voice got louder. I was ready to give up. I’ll just keep wearing my old clothes. It’s not that big a deal. And then suddenly I was able to step back a minute and view the scene with some perspective. Why are you listening to that voice? Why are you talking so horribly to yourself? Why are you attacking yourself? I didn’t have an answer, and that’s probably a subject for a good therapy session, but I was able to stop. Step back, and look at the problem logically. I need some new clothes. Somewhere in this store is probably at least one pair of shorts and one t-shirt that will look ok. Try again. And so I did. I found a pair of shorts, two t-shirts, and on the way out, found the last dress of it’s kind in my size. Victory.

I imagine I am not the only overweight person who struggles with clothes shopping. Despite the fact that the average American woman nowadays is a much larger size, the fashion industry still focuses most of its attention on the skinnier sizes. I look at the magazines, then I look at myself in the mirror, and I obviously don’t match up to the standards of Beauty and Fashion that they are promoting.

There is a woman that I know, and she is my hero. She is very overweight, but she is beautiful. She does her hair fancy, applies her makeup beautifully, and is always wearing the most fashionable outfits. She is confident and happy. I want that. I want to look in the mirror and like what I see, whether it’s a size 20 or a size 10. I want to feel like I’m worth the effort to take some time with my hair. I want to feel like I am important enough, no matter what size I am, to set aside some money and go hunting till I find the clothes that look nice and fashionable. I want my self-worth to not be dependent on my weight. I’m not sure how to get from where I am to that level of confidence and self-acceptance, but maybe, even being aware enough to make it a goal, maybe that’s the first step.