Archive | sacred life

imagining meggie

 

EP-imagining meggie

When Meggie was here, it was Christmas.

Ah-of course it was! It will feel like Christmas when she returns again. And now, six long months have passed. We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of first laying eyes on her. We are so anxious for this adoption to be done at last. Other families whiz by and we wait, and wait.

It’s hard to imagine Meggie sleeping in an orphanage or boarding school while I go about my day. Children were not meant to sleep in orphanages. I know, because I’ve met her. I couldn’t know just by reading the facts. The facts make orphans sound like some other species, quite un-human. Children sleep in warm beds where parents watch them breathe. Orphans live in orphanages just like foxes live in foxholes.

But Meggie isn’t an orphan, she’s a girl. She has soft skin and shiny hair and an affinity for fake nails. She has a bright mind and a soft heart and wit. She isn’t statistical, she’s delightful. She cannot be an orphan.

And yet, legally, she is. And she will be until this boatload of paperwork is done with. It’s hard to imagine her in an orphanage because she’s Meggie. I have seen many orphans in my day. Some of them give you the idea that they aren’t quite human, I’ll admit. They fall asleep in dog piles of unkempt bedmates, slurp down the same gruel every day without a thought, fight to survive with little sympathy for others and seem to take little note of the outside world. These are children who have been made prisoner. They are worrying about things only parents should be worrying about. They are unable to have a childhood because they are so constantly fighting for survival.

And then there’s Meggie. Perhaps she has never been in danger of starvation or been involved in a civil war, but her life has been a series of sad stories. She really does live in an orphanage in a remote part of Eastern Europe. She really is bussed to a boarding school during the weekdays. She really comes to us wearing a bright red cap, identifying her as one of the many orphans on the plane.

She really does write us the occasional letter or email, the most recent stating that she is crying and needs to come home.

She is not a dog in the pound or a face on a commercial, tricking you into donating your money. She is not the star of a moving music video about some Christian band doing good deeds. She is not a mindless, heartless drone in the shape of a child. Most of all, she is not a number.

It is hard imagining Meggie in an orphanage, because it feels like imagining myself in an orphanage. If, by some tragedy, I had been orphaned and wound up in her country, under her circumstances, that’s how I would feel. I would actually lie in bed and imagine an adoptive family somewhere. I’d cry for my Mommy and pray that she’d come find me. I would enjoy reading and drawing and dress up, just as Meggie does. And I’d know I was an orphan. And I’d hate that.

I do hate it. I hate that Meggie has lost a family and still waits to gain another. I hate that she is at school right now and will go back to the orphanage for another lonely night tomorrow. I hate that she doesn’t know how hard we are trying to get there or why other children are leaving and yet, day after day, we do not come.

I hate that Meggie is one of 153 million children in the world right now who have lost one or both of their parents. As I imagine Meggie in her little bed, with the few belongings to her name, looking just as sweet and precious as the day she left, yet being classified as just another orphan, I try to remind myself: there are millions of “Meggies” out there. Their childhoods are passing quickly under their tired feet. They are walking from one foster home to another, from the boarding school and back to the orphanage. From tragedy to pain to hopeless future.

There is no time to waste. As Meggie anxiously anticipates my parents coming to bring her home, millions of other children only dream of having such a dream.

EP-153 million

5

you are not a body

I have had so many thoughts on body-image swarming through my mind lately. After some of our team members at Kindred Grace opened up about it in April, my sisters and I had a long conversation about how we really talk to ourselves. Since then, every glance at the computer screen seems to be met with articles about eating disorders, health, pornography, lust, accepting one’s self, the approval of man and all of the many other topics that I’m realizing spurn from how we each see our own bodies.

It is one of those things I wonder if I could write a book about (but quickly realize many people already have!) because the more I think about it, the bigger the topic becomes. I used to think of body-image as something we talked to junior-high girls about to help them through their awkward stage. After that, my philosophy was always something between “God loves you, no matter what you look like” and “get over it already!” In short, I saw little value in discussing something so shallow and carnal as how a person sees his or her own physical body.

But then I grew up. And by grew up, I mean, made it through puberty. Was the body image message dead to me now? I felt pretty good about myself. I mean, I was no supermodel, but that was okay with me. I wore what I wanted and continually thought less and less about what my peers thought about me. I had this body image thing in the bag!

And then I started gaining weight. For the sake of honesty and clarity, I will say that I went from being a very small, underweight (though healthy) person, to being a slightly more average-sized person. In other words, I wasn’t fifteen anymore. Sit-ups were no longer second nature. Dessert no longer vanished into thin air. Then the strangest thing began to happen: I realized I had never been truly confident in my identity in Christ after all. I had been confident in my thinness.

While telling myself that I didn’t care what society told me to look like, I was secretly comforted by the fact that I happened to fit much of society’s criteria. Primarily: I was skinny. Maybe I was also pimply, flat-chested and gangly, but no one could call me fat. That made me confident, and the slight change in the scale pulled that rug right out from under my feet.

I began to realize how negative my self-talk was. “Well that’s lovely.” I’d say to my morning mirror. I’d get angry trying to fasten my jeans. I’d untag myself from unflattering Facebook pictures in which I thought my stomach was bulgy. I was nit-picking my own appearance.

And this from a girl who has been raised in a great, Christian home by parents who had always called her beautiful. This from a girl with super supportive friends who never criticized her appearance. This from a girl who weighs less than average.

Is this not the result of fashion magazines and photo-shopped movie stars? Is this not the crazy sort of thoughts that bring about eating disorders? Why are we ever shocked by those who starve and gag themselves when their whole lives, the world has been telling them they’ll never measure up? And what’s worse, that they’re unloveable. Look at the check-out line and you’ll find two things on nearly ever magazine: how to lose weight and how to get men and be sexually satisfying to them. The two are inseparable. It’s not about health, but about market value.

My mind reels with thoughts about innate worth and sexism. My heart weighs heavy with stories of girls on hospice, literally starving because they’re convinced, deep within their spirit, that they are fat. And life is just not worth living if you’re not a beanpole with balloon boobs.

I am linking at the bottom of this post to some recent posts that have inspired me and given me food for thought. As I said, the topic just gets broader and broader the more I think about it! Through all this, one thing has finally come to the surface of my mind and that’s what I’m going to close with.

Whether you are fat or skinny, confident or mortified, black or white, tall or short, selling yourself or hiding your skin, health-nut or couch-potato, there is one thing we must all remember: You are not a body.

You are not disfigured just because your body is disfigured. You are not unacceptable just because your body has been rejected. You are not unpresentable just because you’re hair is never like you wish it would be. You are not lacking just because you’re thin, you are not too much just because you’re heavy. You are not wasted just because you’ve shown yourself to the world, you are not unlovely just because nobody’s ever told you so. You are not a body.

You are a soul.

A living, spiritual being. Your body is simply your place of residence. A body is not a house. Tea is not a teacup. What use is a teacup without the fragrant, warm tea to be poured inside?

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all the eyes turn away, are you ugly? Our eyes can only see the exterior! O, if we could see your soul!

Interesting links:

Food/Eating Disorders:

What is Your Foodview? by Jenni Marie

Dear Miss Indiana: Thank You for Loving Your Body by Emily T. Wierenga

Understanding Disordered Eating by Neeva Walters (also: Disordered Eating: Hope for Healing)

On body-image:

Women & Daughters: When You’re Tired of Media Voices Telling You What Beauty & Love Is by Ann Voskamp

On Body Image and Self Worth at Design for Mankind

Moms, Put On that Swimsuit by Jessica Turner

How to Teach Beauty in a World that’s Blind  by Natasha Metzler

What Makes You Beautiful  by Bailey B.

Health:

Is Physical Health a Spiritual Issue? by Tyler Huckabee

How sexism plays in:

Women Swiftly Running Out of Things that Aren’t Sexy @ Patheos (*minor language)

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I say “feminism,” you hear…

roles of a woman

man-hater, anti-family, loud-mouth, bible-basher, pro-choice, bra-burning floozy. 

Fill in the blank. I know I did.

Some of you might know that in 2012 I pitched a book to three Christian publishing houses about feminism and legalism in the church. All three rejected it, but one agent stopped my pitch and told me about a conversation she had in the backseat of a car about her niece and college and how hard it was for her to hold her tongue so, “thank you for writing about this.” She almost gave me the deal, but I’m so glad she didn’t. God knew that there was much to teach me, there will always be much to teach me. I hold on to Madeliene L’Engle’s words:

“I do not think that I will ever reach a stage when I will say, “This is what I believe. Finished.”

What I believe is alive … and open to growth”

Oh to be open to growth all my life! That book had some good ideas and some poor applications. In general, it was too small for the topic. All of those words up there? They could apply to a feminist. But just because someone identifies as a feminist doesn’t mean any of those words apply to them. Feminism is one of those hard words that means something different to everyone who uses it. Sarah Bessey’s book, Jesus Feminist rubs people the wrong way with just the title alone. There are people who think, “How dare you put Jesus’ name next to that horrible word?” and people who think, ” I ran away from Jesus for the sole purpose of becoming a feminist. How could the two ever mingle?”

Can we take a deep breath and listen to each person’s definition as we get to know them? Bessey uses feminism to mean “the radical notion that women are people too.” It sounds silly at first, doesn’t it? Like it’s so simple, she’s certainly got the second part of her definition up her sleeve. And yet, with Bessey’s definition, I see Jesus and the word “feminist” going together perfectly. Jesus was completely radical in his treatment of women and those that The Spirit inspired to write the scriptures were extremely brave in how many times they mentioned women in honorable, humane instances. Jesus changed eternity, but he made huge changes to the current reality for women. He gave us dignity for the very first time since Eden.

If your definition of feminism is that women are better than men or that women don’t need men, then I have to disagree with you. If you think that men and women are generally the same or that their roles should be completely reversible, we’re in two different boats. But if you believe that women are highly valued by God and equal to men in their ability to know God and be used by God, I’m with ya. If you think that this world needs to stop objectifying, using, abusing and stifling women, you’re speaking my language.

Being a Godly women doesn’t have any checklists, despite what our Bible study books might tell us. You don’t have to be a wife or a mom to be a Godly woman and you don’t even have to want to be. Biblical womanhood has nothing to do with marriage or motherhood unless that’s what a particular Christian happens to be called to. Bessey writes:

“If the title can’t be enjoyed by a woman in Haiti, or even by the women hailed in scripture, the same way it can by a middle-class woman in Canada, then biblical womanhood must be more than this.”

She also reminds us that if biblical womanhood means being a helpmeet to a man, this excludes 60% of females in the U.S. alone. It can’t be interchangeable with “stay-at-home mom” when the grand majority of women in this world do not have the luxury of choosing whether or not they want to work outside the home.

If you believe there is a certain job description for a biblical woman, you have a lot of Biblical characters to correct. Scripture doesn’t solely glorify motherhood as a role for a woman, but also prophesy, teaching, entrepreneurship and more. These women were merchants, patrons, land-owners, businesswomen, tent-makers, messengers, writers (just taking examples from the New Testament alone!) Women were present during all of Christ’s pinnacle moments, even when the men had fallen away. Jesus used women as a vital part of his ministry and gave them honorable roles. Timothy was taught by his mother and grandmother. Priscilla even corrected Paul in some of his theology! In Philippians chapter four, Paul writes that the women “have labored side-by-side” with him. Is this what feminism means to you?

You see, even though I’m not sure I agree with Sarah Bessey on every point, I loved her book because it encouraged me to live out what Jesus taught us about…us! I am a stay-at-home daughter who aspires to be a stay-at-home mom, but I don’t do these things because I think they’re biblical; I do them because I think they’re good. Just like going to college is good for my friend Megan and overseas mission work is good for my friend Brianna and running a ministry to strippers is good for my friend Kellie.

Are you single? God wants to use you. Are you married? God wants to use you. Do you have kids? God wants to use you. Do you want to travel? God wants to use you. Do you want to study? God wants to use you. Are you a leader? God wants to use you. Are you a teacher? God wants to use you. Do you have business skills? God wants to use you. Do you see the pattern?

The world doesn’t need another loud-mouth, another hater, another burning bra. The world doesn’t need anymore abortion or pride or competition. But the world is in need. Women and girls make up 98% of trafficked people worldwide. Over 50,000 women are trafficked in the US alone each year. 78% of trafficking is for  prostitution or another form of sexual exploitation.

statistic 1

Annually, more than 350,000 women die of pregnancy or birth-related complications. Studies show that 53% of the children denied an education worldwide are girls. Violence against women causes more deaths among women worldwide than war, malaria or traffic accidents. If “feminism” means putting an end to this, then count me in.

Whether or not you believe women should be in places of high authority in our churches and government, can’t we agree that we need to be better represented there? I firmly believe that when we stand before God, He will be silent on the subject of feminism or anti-feminism, complementarianism or egalitarianism or our roles in the church and family. I don’t think we’ll be worried about old blog posts or Facebook arguments. I think, as I stand in line and wait to walk through the throne room doors, I’ll ask myself, “Did I humbly depend on the Lord for my salvation and love like Jesus loved?”

(read my review of Jesus Feminist here.)

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on earth as it is in heaven

This is the final post in the Gather Up the Fragments series on ending waste. 

I doubt there is such a thing as recycling or “upcycling” in the kingdom of heaven, but I am sure there is no waste. As a final part of this series, now that Christmas has come and gone and epiphany is here and your Christmas tree is either being disassembled or sitting by the curb, I want to reflect a bit on what we’ve learned together and encourage you and I to spend the new year spending less, wasting less and being much more grateful.

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will would be done here on earth as it is done in heaven. You may not immediately think “go green!” when you hear that prayer, but I think that a healthy respect for God’s creation goes right along with it. God himself wastes nothing and in an attempt to reflect Him a little better, we should waste less…less than last year. Even though the green peas on your plate probably cannot be shipped to starving children in Africa, you eat them or share them because to throw them away would be to dishonor the hungry. Waste does hurt people. How to end it? Side with it’s archenemy: gratitude.

You’ve probably heard of the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. I’ve gathered some inspiration for us as we keep these three R’s in mind for 2014.

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  • The lovely Bethany  of Letters from Home writes often of “living with less” and mending and making do. I particularly love her post Where Nothing is Wasted (Or Why my Mother is Awesome) but anything under her tags of “living more with less” or “waste” is excellent. You’ll find lots of inspiration therein and probably a kindred spirit. “Banishing waste not only gives my parents the freedom to do the work to which they have been called, but also enables generosity. At its best, a home should teach its children about God, and I learned a lot about God’s providence from my mother’s watchful gathering and saving.”

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  • My dear old friend Tonia (our friendship is old, not you!) writes more and more these days about simplifying more and wasting less along with caring for the animal kingdom and being grateful. (Very applicable, yes?) I loved this post about new grocery shopping habits and plastic packaging alternatives. I also love any post with a picture of a little red-headed girl. She’s a pretty awesome friend of mine. :-)

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  • Have you heard of Sole Hope? I’m pretty excited about them ever since I heard their founder speak last October. I have attended a shoe-cutting party and hosted a shoe-cutting party and I am planning on hosting another at the end of this month or beginning of next. This is a wonderful way to recycle old jeans or other durable fabric, plastic bottles or folders. They explain it better than I do, but Sole Hope allows us to recycle instead of waste while creating jobs in both the U.S. and Uganda, giving relief and follow-up to people suffering from parasites and preventing them from being reinfected by giving them a pair of shoes.

What your ideas and suggestions for wasting less in 2014? How do you care for nature in your every day life? 

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in my father’s footsteps

father's footsteps

“So, will any of your kids follow in your footsteps? Will any of them be doctors?” Several people have posed the question over the years. “Not if I can help it.” My dad responds.

As a matter of fact, my dad has been so open about the pitfalls of becoming a medical doctor that he has talked many students out of going to medical school (so many, in fact, that there was a Facebook group for all of the converts!) Many nurses and physicians’s assistants do what they do because my dad convinced them that becoming a doctor isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Obviously, the world needs doctors, just as the world needs fighter pilots and miners and astronauts, but none of us have turned out to be any of those either. My dad works as an emergency room physician in a busy college town and he is amazing at what he does. His schedule is never the same, sometimes days, sometimes nights, without so much as a cubicle to take a break in. He has to be a leader, a thinker, a calm presence at all times to perform well. He sets bones and prescribes medicine and comes home sore from CPR and yes, he has to watch people die. He has to tell parents that their child didn’t make it. He stops and prays with the family and sometimes, around the advent wreath, we all cry as he tells the story.

Because yes, your doctor goes home and cries. He goes home and kisses his wife and prays with his kids and falls asleep wondering if he should have done anything differently. He spends his days with runny noses and contagious disease, his nights with drunks and suicide victims. He restarts hearts, sews up wounds and delivers babies in the ambulance bay. His job is anything but easy.

Like I said, none of his kids will be MDs, and yet we do follow in his footsteps. You see, I might have a little more medical knowledge than the next girl, but the main thing my dad taught me was to love Jesus and to depend on Him at all times. God is often called “The Great Physician.” Jesus said he came to heal the sick. These days I hear people calling the church a hospital. We are the church and we make house calls.

Just like my dad gets weary and we all wish he could catch a break or make a breakthrough that would allow him to do something else before he does break, my siblings and I come home and we are weary. We wonder how many more of our friends we will talk through divorce? How many more friends will leave the faith? How many more times we’ll sit at Starbucks and listen someone say that they just can’t hold on any longer?

We have no briefcase, no scrubs, no diploma on the wall, and yet God continually sends us to the sick and needy. He continually puts the medicine in our hands and says, “Go and minister.”

I think of an ordinary day and my older sister is texting the single mom and my brother is on the phone with a friend whose marriage is on the fritz, my little siblings are all praying at dinner for the man in the coma and I’m penning letters to the lost and lonely. Where was the sign up sheet? Are we qualified for this job? Will we be paid?

When I see what my dad does, day after day, I think he doesn’t get paid nearly enough. And I think the same about anyone who does their job to the glory of God. We put in more than we’ll get out on this earth. Going the extra mile can make you sweat and being somebody’s only friend can exhaust you and praying with the dying can drain you, but it can also come back around and bless you. God works in mysterious ways, they say. Man, that’s true.

The stuff we never would’ve signed up for had there been a sign up sheet, the stuff we never would’ve felt qualified for had our calling been on the phone, the stuff no amount of money could ever pay for, it is the most valuable kind of work. You don’t get paid for it because you can’t get paid for it. There is no method of payment for compassion. No fund or grant for empathy. It’s a different line of work that didn’t originate here and you can’t go to school for it. People think you’re weird for doing it and they probably tell you to just stop. You wouldn’t know it by your bank account, but it pays better than the NFL. You pay in your time, your blood, sweat and tears, your comfort and blissful ignorance, but at the end of the day you don’t regret it.

I may be squeamish around blood and disinterested in a degree much less medical school, but I do follow in my father’s footsteps. My dad’s money goes many ways, but he seems okay with that. After all, we can’t take it with us, he says. Our eyes are on a different goal.

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