Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Confessions of an Atypical Fat Girl

Since the awkward years of puberty, I have always been overweight. It’s been a thing my whole life. I was that 13-year-old girl who was called “fatty” by bullies at the public park. And I was the 20-year-old girl called “fat ass” by a really cute boy in a room full of other really cute boys. I have the sad stories. I have the stories of public humiliation. Social equality fanatics would have a heyday with the body shaming I’ve endured for 30+ years. But despite all of the evidence society has stacked against me…the opinions of literally millions of people and an entire industry devoted to defining standards of beauty…even as a young girl, I couldn’t shake the deep belief that my FAT had absolutely nothing to do with my VALUE.

Yeah, you read that right. I’m a lifetime fat girl with healthy self-esteem. 

I’m not talking about the big girls who wear short skirts and midi-shirts so the world can admire their rolls and cheer “you go girl.”  I’m not sure I would qualify that as self-esteem, so much as giving the world the middle finger. Nah. I’ve never claimed fat as the new “sexy.” I believe in dressing for the body you occupy. Which means I live by the mantra: “Just because it buttons, doesn’t mean it fits.”

You see, I’m pragmatic. Fat is just fat…connective tissue used to store energy. And, yeah, some people have more of it than others. Maybe from hormones. Maybe from over-eating. Maybe from unlucky genetics. Maybe from Lays potato chips being a-hella-lot cheaper than wheat grass smoothies. But, yeah, regardless of how it was acquired…fat is just a lifeless, biological function of the body. Which is why…even in the midst of heart-breaking public shame…I could never understand HOW IN THE HELL connective tissue had the power to define my worth.

So, at some undefined moment in life, with endless encouragement from my parents…I decided that the world was stupid. And in order to live my best life in the body I was given, I was going to have to cling to the truth that my value and my body were completely and dramatically UNrelated.

Don’t get me wrong. Being a lifetime fat girl with healthy self-esteem doesn’t mean I’m STOKED about having cellulite and jiggly arms. Nope. I avoid mirrors when I’m naked. I get my feelings hurt when people say “you have a pretty face.” I wish I had one or two less chins in candid photos. And I’ve had my fair share of scary moments wondering if I was going to exceed the weight limit on amusement rides. I feel the feels of being overweight. I just don’t stay there.

I don’t hide in over sized potato-sack clothing. I don’t lower my dating standards because I think I don’t deserve an attractive, amazing man. I don’t try to make myself invisible. I’ve never cried in a changing room while trying on swimsuits. I’m not ashamed to stuff my face with donuts in a public place. I don’t assume everyone in the room is thinking about how fat I am. No, in fact, I just assume NO ONE is thinking about my weight. Which gives me the freedom to simply offer the best parts of myself.

I have deep, meaningful friendships with people who love every part of me. I have a great job where I have influence and am valued for my contributions. I embrace adventures near and far. I love fashion and makeup and all things girly. People laugh at my jokes. And there are many kids in this world who adore me and think I’m the coolest thing since Legos. Yeah, I live a full, full life. Divorcing my value from my body was a great decision.

But, you see, somewhere along the line…I over-corrected. I wandered so far away from my physical self, that I completely abandoned the temple that I was given stewardship over. I am Imago Dei…created in the image of God. To separate myself completely from my body meant that I separated myself from God’s holy creation. Which is why, over the last year, I have spent many counseling sessions crying large crocodile tears over the broken relationship I have with my body.

If you want to hear that story…stay tuned…for more confessions of an atypical fat girl.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Love Story

I’m not sure where to start. So, I’ll just jump in with the most interesting bit: I am in love. Totally, completely in love. And my love story starts with a vision…about a train. Intrigued? Keep reading.

Here’s the thing. I’m not a vision person. And I certainly don’t think I have the gift of prophecy. I mean, yeah, I get it…visions are a thing. They’re Biblical. I’ve just never had one. So, when I had it…I thought I was either dreaming or…having a mental breakdown.

I think it’s important to pause the story here and give you a little context. Some of you may have noticed I haven’t blogged anything in quite some time. Since right after my dad died, actually. I know, it sounds totally cliché. But the truth is, slogging through grief is freaking hard…and the last thing I wanted to do was expose my grief to the world wide web. People say really good-intentioned, yet stupid things to grieving people. And I didn’t want to open myself up to more spiritual platitudes about my Dad being in a better place. So, instead, I sought professional help. I needed a transactional relationship…someone who was under no obligation to try to make me feel better. So, for the last year and a half, I’ve been faithfully spilling my guts to a licensed counselor. As these things go, the grief counseling eventually turned into deconstructing 40 years of life down in this twisted, broken world. Heh. I found that I had a lot to talk about.

For over a year, I’ve been feeling things that I had never allowed myself to feel. Like the crippling fear of dying alone. Like the acute pain of loneliness. Like the fear that I’m “too much” for people to handle. Like the shame of living life in this body. Week after week, month after month, I’ve been digging around in a cesspool of untouched emotion. And yet, I still felt like I hadn’t broken through to THE thing…THE important thing. I mean, even after all this good, eternal heart talk…I still wasn’t talking to God.

And then I was lying awake in bed one day…and I had a vision:

It’s nighttime. I’m standing on a railroad track. I can’t see anything but a single pin drop of light directly in front of me. The sound of a train…rails shrieking as metal scrapes against metal. The pin drop is getting bigger. The train is coming closer. At this point, I’m not really afraid…I know I have plenty of time to get off the tracks. Until I hear a voice. A man’s voice. He says simply, “don’t move.” Now at this point, I’m aware that the voice is from God. I’m also aware that I now have a choice to make. Obey God…or get off the tracks. That’s when the fear hits me. And that damn train is getting closer. I heard the voice again, this time it’s right in my ear…like He’s standing behind me. He says again, “don’t move.” The train gets louder…I can hear it. But I don’t move. All the sudden, it’s upon me. I close my eyes, waiting for impact. But it doesn’t hit me…it goes through me. In the vision, I can FEEL it passing through me. I can hear people in the cars, laughing, talking, yelling. I can hear the clinking of glasses and dishes as the dining car passes through me. It didn’t hurt so much as overwhelm me…like the pressure of a train was going to break me into a million pieces. I remember thinking the train would be stuck in me forever and that I would be tortured for eternity. Until…all of the sudden…it was over. The last car passed through me…and once again I was standing alone on the tracks. I can hear the train behind me getting further and further away. And standing on the tracks is a man. I can’t see His face. I have no idea who he is. I only know that I feel a bone-deep peace…and my life has somehow been altered by that train.

It took me awhile to tell anyone about that damn train. But then, I had it again. A shorter version, but the message was the same. I had to let a train pass through me. I can’t express how annoyed I was by this vision. As a classic overachiever, I HATE not knowing the answer to things…and this felt like a big ‘ol mystery that I was too tired to solve.

But a week or so later, I got up the nerve to tell my counselor. He asked me a somewhat typical counselor question, “How do you FEEL about this vision?” Well, I have two feelings…how long is this effing train going to pass through me and who the HELL is the man? He asked me who I hoped the man was. I remember saying, “This is probably wrong to say…and I feel a bit sacrilegious for saying it, but I really hope the man isn’t Jesus. I hope this isn’t just a big spiritual lesson that ends up with Jesus being the only man I end up with. I mean, to be honest, I hope the mystery man is my future husband.”

Something I haven’t mentioned yet. The picture of a train is actually pretty significant to me. You see, my childhood nickname was “Locomotive.” It was a nickname I hated with every fiber of my being. It comes with extensive levels of shame. And it’s why I developed a deep, deep fear of being “too much” for people. If you want to read about it…I blogged about it once HERE

So, the train was never in question. I knew what the train represented. I had to let my deepest fears pass through me. I had to stop stepping off the train tracks to avoid the pain. I had to stand still while the fear and shame overwhelmed me.

In the weeks that followed, I had opportunity after opportunity to stand on the tracks. Wave after wave of events tested my fortitude. More crippling sickness on a European trip of a life time (for the first instance, read HERE). In and out of the doctor’s office for weeks battling acute bronchitis. Laying in a hospital bed with the SAME heart symptoms that eventually killed my dad. Watching another parent being wheeled to surgery through those horrible double doors. And more lessons…too personal to share here. Lessons that forced me to reckon with my deepest fears. Fears around being alone. Fears around being broken. Fears around dying. All of them just came crashing in on me in a matter of weeks.

I guess, in a way, the vision itself was a great mercy. It allowed me to find purpose in my misery. The pain wasn’t intended to break me…it was intended to make me stronger. To lead me to peace. So, I stayed on the tracks. And I chose to respond differently to the pain. I chose to talk about it. I chose to ask for help over and over again. I chose to allow myself to rest. I chose to open my eyes and observe the fear rather than clench my eyes closed until it was over. And the darnest thing happened…I saw God’s mercy EVERYWHERE. He was with me the whole time…standing right next to me on the tracks.

Enter Wednesday, July 19, 2017. Just an average workday. Nothing that morning indicated that I was about to realize my greatest desire. I was about to find out who the man on the tracks was. There I was, just making my morning commute. Thinking about the day ahead of me. Worship music playing in the background. I can tell you exactly what part of the road it happened. It started with goosebumps. Then the hair on my head started to tingle. Then I was filled with the most blissful warmth…it filled every fiber of my body. I was on the tracks again. The train had just passed through me and there was light everywhere. I saw him standing on the tracks. It was Jesus. He was waiting for me.

I didn’t feel disappointed. I felt complete and utter RELIEF. Of course it was Jesus…of course! He’s literally the only man that can fill my heart with such peace. In that moment, just driving to work on a random Wednesday…I knew Jesus was the only man who could destroy the loneliness.
Later that day I had a counseling appointment scheduled. Which I now know was a Divine appointment. Brian, my counselor, was the first to hear the news. Which is fitting, as he is the one who helped me stay on the tracks. One of his first questions was, “how did you feel about Jesus being the man on the tracks.”  I started to cry with pure joy. “I feel precious. Like I’m part of one of the greatest love stories ever told. My pronoun has changed from singular…to plural. My “I” has become a “we!”

We celebrated in that little counseling room that day. We both felt like we were on Holy Ground. The God of the Universe wooed me back to His side with the very fear and pain that I thought would destroy me. He could have removed the fear, the loneliness, the pain at any time. Instead…He used it to reintroduce me to the Lover of my Soul and set me free. I'm the heroine in an epic love story.

And that’s a story I couldn’t keep to myself.

P.S. God and I are talking again. 💗