Saturday, April 25, 2015

Life from Inside the Fat Suit Part II -Fighting Back

A while back I wrote the beginning of this story providing a little insight from a fat girl's perspective. You can find it HERE. Writing that piece was a plea of sorts to those who find themselves passing over the less outwardly attractive people. A plea to pause and take a closer look inside of people they may not ordinarily look at. Writing those words, I knew I also needed to examine myself, not on the outside, but way down deep on the inside. Here is my sequel to that story and what I've learned since then.

Our Pastor has been talking about bondage lately.  I have a rather sordid past, but I walk each day knowingly redeemed and restored and forever in love with a God who did that for me. Until recently, I have really not seen myself as one who remains in bondage any longer.  I have simply viewed myself as someone who struggles to maintain her weight and eats just a bit too much just a bit too often among numerous other infractions.  Pondering the true meaning of bondage has required me to examine myself more closely. I feel while I've done some housekeeping and the house looks pretty tidy, there are some corners and cobwebs I've missed. When I look up the definition of bondage, I find this:

  1. 1.
    the state of being a slave.
    "the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt's bondage"

This causes me to realize that food is not just a pesky nuisance in my life. It is my captor and it has enslaved me. It is merely a symptom and when I look really closely at it, here is what I find-

I have a love affair with food. I love the way it looks, the way it smells and the way it tastes. I love to prepare it, I love to present it but most of all I love to eat it. Food and I have a most complex relationship because for all the affection I have for it, it has become both friend and foe, a comforter and a relentless taunter. It has become a thief. It has become my worst enemy. Or rather, the tool of my worst enemy. Of course it's a perfect tool.  And there is where I venture deeper still.

Paul writes in Romans, For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. And I know exactly how he felt. Brief and fleeting moments of pleasure and comfort resulting in lengthy periods of self-loathing. A cycle of self-loathing. Acknowledgement of self-loathing only requires the peeling of yet another layer of why this has such control in the first place. I easily become exhausted peeling back the layers.

The source of self-loathing can be traced back to a myriad of things. In my nine year-old self sexually assaulted by a friend's father, or in my regret of not finishing college, or in my continual slew of bad decisions in my youth. I can factor in my ex-husband's alcoholism and abuse and subsequent affair and abandonment. I don't have to describe the havoc these things wreak on one's self-worth. And it all sat like a dormant volcano with the capstone of silence for fear of what people would think if any of it were spoken aloud for many years. And although food was not my choice for comfort in my earlier years, as I became a follower of Christ, it seemed to become the only acceptable one.

I have justified my weight with the years of prednisone and chemotherapy drugs and by my disease. I have rationalized my obsession with food as a penchant for cooking delectable dishes and my Italian upbringing. But if I really want to be free - I need to admit choosing the wrong foods often, eating more than I should or more often than I should is the result of self-medicating with a socially acceptable drug. It's the result of not liking myself and not relying on God in all of the ways that I should. It imprisons me and hampers a full life and relationship with the One who saved me from all of it in the first place.

Maybe you live here, too. Maybe you peek out from inside the fat suit hoping someone will dare to look in. Maybe your suit looks different.

What I've learned since my last post is this- God will hold my hand as I do the hard work but I must choose to do the hard work in this area, too. What has taken years to build must be deconstructed and rebuilt. Just like everything else did.

 I knew in the first moments I returned to the gym I had decided to fight back and choose the hard work. Every bead of sweat that drops is my spit on an enemy I have allowed to imprison me far too long. Every ounce of restraint, every adjusted mentality, every new choice screams freedom and leaves defeat in my dust.

I remind myself of the following words. A piece of my mantra. Words that have reminded me who I am in the sight of a Lord who died for me. A reminder of what has brought me down a road to redemption so many times before.

I will not be defined or held captive by my past, by regrets, things beyond my control, by disease or by other people. I do not listen to an enemy who sits on my shoulder and whispers words that only an enemy would spew. 

I am not his captive. I am Free.

You may be overweight, but it is not bondage that holds you there and this is not your story and that is okay. It just happens to be mine. But if something does hold you in bondage today-like this or something else. Choose to do the hard work. God did the hardest part already and He will hold your hand. I promise. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

This is Our Story

Celebration of Life for Lauren Leone

When my now fifteen year-old daughter was eight, she and I sat in a school theater together watching 100 students perform Pocahontas.  I'd been invited to these youth theater shows a half a dozen times before, but until that day, had declined those invitations assuming it may be a waste of time. We loved plays and musicals, but if I was going to see a show, I wasn't sure I wanted to see a bunch of kids sing off key and forget their lines.

However, it was only a matter of moments into the first act I realized this was not just any youth theater group. Songs in perfect pitch, complex and spectacular choreography, as well as bold and soft-spoken scenes evoked emotion one expects from a theater experience. In fact, half-way into the first act, I was so absorbed I had forgotten I was watching kids.

It took merely seconds after the final bows for my daughter to turn to me and say, "Mom, I want to do this. I really, really want to do this."  I could hardly ignore how enchanted she was with the magic of it all.

And so it began.  A plunge into the frenzy that is theater.  The seemingly endless hours of rehearsals, and the distinctly endless hours of parent volunteer time.  10 shows in 2 weeks and sometimes even 10 shows in 4 days. Selling tickets, raising money, setting up, tearing down.  Theater is grueling in ways I hadn't expected.  You have no idea what goes on behind-the-scenes to bring about those stunning shows.  But in all honesty, for all of the beauty that is evident on stage, what goes on behind-the-scenes far exceeds it tenfold.

Ours is a Christian Youth Theater group.  Spotlight's tagline is: Reflecting Christ through the Performing Arts. While not everyone that participates is a follower of Christ, there is no getting around that Jesus takes center stage.  One need only to witness the camaraderie among these kids, the nurturing the older kids provide the younger ones, and the friendships that bloom between parents, to know that Jesus has fashioned an exquisite tribe of his followers here.

Earlier this year, and just a few weeks into our production of Shrek, our tribe lost beautiful, fifteen year-old, Lauren.  Her passing was preceded by a medical emergency that left her in a coma for days. During this time, countless hours of prayer were spent upon our knees beseeching mercy from our Mighty Physician.  Lauren's tragedy rippled through every one of our homes and families. Our kids rallied together heartbroken but hopeful.

If you have never been surrounded by dozens of teens, imploring God for a miracle, claiming verse committed to memory and professing complete faith, hope and trust in God's perfect plan despite the outcome...

It was without doubt, one of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced in life.

In Lauren's passing, the faith of these kids grew louder. Where it would have been easy to demonstrate doubt and angst, our kids proclaimed peace and promise.  Tears without question, but through the tears manifested something among us I can't quite articulate. On the day of Lauren's Celebration of Life service, our Shrek cast closed the ceremony with a song from the show.  They sang that old Monkee's tune, I'm a Believer. A lighthearted tune that scarcely seemed appropriate for a time such as this. But as 100 kids took the stage of the church outfitted in vivid colors worn in Lauren's honor, and did what they do best, it seemed no other act would have been more fitting to send off one of their own. With arms outstretched and fingers pointed to the sky, our kids honored our glorious King and the place in which Lauren now stands before Him.  I witnessed the boldness of that faith awestruck and humbled.  To learn from our children who seek the Lord and all His comfort has to offer in dim and clouded understanding has changed me.

Our productions always end with a Strike party.  It's a time we celebrate the preceding weeks including the moments we have seen the hand of God.  Last night I watched this transpire through a different lense.  A more appreciative one; with a deeper fondness for this group. An even greater respect for these kids who give every last ounce of themselves both onstage and off.  I'm reminded these kids are the future of the Church and I am so grateful for that.  At the end every Strike, we join hands in prayer and sing the song, How Great is our God.  As we closed this chapter, we sang those words with tears accompanied by a silent acknowledgement of all that has been.  It seemed it took longer than usual for us to disperse this time. Or maybe it was just I who elected to linger a little longer.

We have all been changed by one girl's story. One family's story-amid a thousand circumstances all seemingly orchestrated by God. When you see these kids stand with arms outstretched and fingers pointed toward Heaven, know that the beauty of this Youth Theater extends far beyond the stage. Know that behind the scenes, there will forever be a story.  This is our story. God bless us, everyone.

Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Timothy 4:12