I Choose to be Fat

burger

Lately, I’ve been struggling with my weight again.  Well, I shouldn’t say I’ve been struggling with my weight, as I’ve been doing absolutely nothing about it (other than working diligently to increase it.)  I’ve been struggling with my image of myself because I’ve gained so much weight and today I realized something.  I am choosing to be overweight.  After all, no one is holding me down forcing me to eat Oreo’s and double cheeseburgers.  I don’t have a medical condition that causes me to gain weight despite consuming nothing but salad and vegetables.  I am, at the present time, choosing to live a lifestyle that is contributing to my weight gain.  And you know what?  I refuse to be ashamed of it anymore.

Being ashamed of the choices I’ve made and the results of those choices is a lot like going to the store, picking out a dress, paying for it with my hard-earned money and then feeling embarrassed for wearing it out in public.  If I don’t want to wear it, then I shouldn’t buy it.  After all, I don’t have to buy it.  There is no rational reason for me to buy it, other than the fact that I must like something about it.  And if I like it well enough to take action toward it, then I should wear it without shame.  The truth is – when you get right down to the very bottom of it – I’m choosing to eat more than I should, and the wrong types of things.  I’m choosing to have clothes that don’t fit, I’m choosing to feel tired and I’m choosing the health problems that come with being overweight.  I’m not saying I’m making the right choice, I’m just admitting to the fact that for better or worse, right or wrong. that is the choice I am currently making.  It is my decision and no one else’s.  And I refuse to be miserable about that.  I refuse to act as if I don’t have a say in the matter.  I refuse to pretend that this is something happening to me instead of something I am actively embracing.  And I refuse to be ashamed.  Convicted?  Yes.  Shame?  No.

So the next time I look in the mirror, I’m going to smile at myself.  Because no matter how uncomfortable I may be with what I see in the reflection, that is me.  Right now, in this moment, that image is a reflection (no pun intended!) of who I am and the choices I’m making.  And you know what?  God loves me, even where I am right now… even in the midst of all my sin, of which gluttony is only a small portion.  It would be silly for me to do otherwise.

And after I smile at myself… maybe, just maybe, I’ll go for a walk.  Or maybe I’ll eat a cheeseburger.  Either way, the choice is mine.

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Mark of the Beast

fire

It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. (Rev 13:16,17)

Do you know the first question I am asked by the majority of people who find out our kids don’t have social security numbers?  They want to know how our kids are going to get a job, drive a car, and otherwise function in society as we know it.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was talking with a friend of mine about the mark of the beast.  I think it’s highly unlikely that a future president/ruler is going to stand up some day and proclaim:

“We are now requiring the Mark of the Beast to be worn by every citizen!  Please report to the nearest Antichrist Station for your 666 tattoo!”

No, people will receive the mark (in whatever form it takes) because it seems harmless, is accepted by society at large, and they feel they have no other choice.  If it’s true that we won’t be able to buy or sell without having the mark, then it stands to reason that most of the world will receive it blindly because that’s what society tells them they must do.  And if functioning in society is a person’s main concern, they’re not likely to resist or even consider resisting, just as most people have never even considered not giving their children social security numbers.  (It’s telling that the reasons people question us [sometimes harshly] regarding our kids not having SS#’s are the exact same reasons people will “need” to receive the mark of the beast.)  And while I’m not equating social security numbers with the mark of the beast, the conclusion is exactly the same, and it’s a frightening one.  People allow themselves and their children to participate in the social security system without a second thought because it’s the only way they know how to function in society.  An alternative is not even considered, the assumption is that there is no other option.  And maybe there isn’t, if we want our children to be able to drive cars or get a typical mainstream job or buy a house on credit.  But is that the only way for our children to live a happy, productive life? If we believe that it is, it’s not surprising that the bible tells us the majority of the world – Christians included – will line up to receive their mark. 

Today I read a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Ben Hewitt.  In response to an article by Rebecca Solnit called “Abolish High School” in which she asks why children should be “confined to institutions in which [bullying and high suicide rates] are so common,” he writes:

“Because their parents can’t imagine something different. Part of the reason they can’t imagine something different is because they can’t afford to imagine something different. And partly, it’s because they’re afraid to imagine something different – in my experience, that fear is oriented primarily around their children’s social and economic prospects. In short, they worry that if they don’t send their kids to school, their kids will become outcasts with few prospects for gainful employment….  They are not aware there are other paths to walk.

…When people read interviews with me and criticize what I have to say about education, I often wonder what they see in the institutionalized school system that is so worthy an alternative. Are they thinking of the 72% of children who aren’t bullied? I mean, hey, that’s a majority! Nice work. But what of the bullies themselves, if one can be so compassionate as to think of them? I’ve known a few bullies in my life; I even know one or two now. None of them seem very happy to me.

Or are they thinking of the economic opportunities they presume unschooled children won’t have? They are, or at least they say they are, and in a way, this makes me saddest of all, because it suggests that a child’s education should first and foremost be subservient to their economic interests….

Still, sometimes I wonder if the reasons stated for their opposition run even deeper. As Solnit writes, school has become a definitive part of the American experience. It is apple pie, it is Fourth of July, it is part and parcel of our faith that the story we’ve all grown up inside, the story we are all – to varying degrees and by varying levels of complicity -invested in is the right story.

Therein lies the crux of the matter.  How many of us have never even considered whether or not we ought to be homeschooling (or giving our kids SS numbers or keeping the Old Testament commandments or using birth control [or, or, or?])  While there are certainly many people who have investigated and prayed over these matters and come to different conclusions than our family has, there are far more who have never even considered these questions – who refuse even to entertain them – because they simply aren’t willing to make these types of changes.  It would cause too much angst, or work, cost too much money, or set them apart from their peers too much (or, or, or.)  (And I’m not saying our family is immune to any of this, because I know there are things we haven’t considered.  In fact, to my shame, there are things on the table right now that everything in me is resisting looking too carefully at.)

But isn’t this the very definition of setting our minds on worldly things, which the Bible clearly tells us (over and over again) not to do?  In light of this, it’s not hard to see how many will be deceived.

One of my favorite people, George Muller, was once questioned by a few Christian women about his beliefs regarding believers baptism.  He replied that sinced he’d already been baptised as a child, he saw no reason to be baptized as an adult.  In response, the women asked him if he’d ever prayerfully searched God’s word on the matter and he confessed that he hadn’t.  Upon hearing this, one of the sisters said frankly “I entreat you, then, never again to speak any more about it till you have done so.”  Here is how Muller responded:

He therefore determined to study the subject until he should reach a final, satisfactory, and scriptural conclusion; and thenceforth, whether led to defend infant baptism or believer’s baptism, to do it only on Scriptural grounds.

The mode of study which he followed was characteristically simple, thorough, and business-like, and was always pursued afterward. He first sought from God the Spirit’s teaching that his eyes might be opened to the Word’s witness, and his mind illumined; then he set about a systematic examination of the New testament from beginning to end. So far as possible he sought absolutely to rid himself of all bias of previous opinion or practice, prepossession or prejudice; he prayed and endeavored to be free from the influence of human tradition, popular custom, and churchly sanction, or that more subtle hindrance, personal pride in his own consistency. He was humble enough to be willing to retract any erroneous teaching and renounce any false position, and to espouse that wise maxim: ‘ Don’t be consistent, but simply be true.’ Whatever may have been the case with others who claim to have examined the same question for themselves, the result in his case was that he came to the conclusion, and, as he believed, from the word of God and the Spirit of God, that none but believer’s are the proper subject of baptism, and that only immersion is its proper mode.

…Years after, in reviewing his course, he records the solemn conviction that ‘of all revealed truths, not one is more clearly revealed in the Scriptures – not even the doctrine of justification by faith – and that the subject has only become obscured by men not having been willing to take the Scriptures alone to decide the point.‘”

- George Muller of Bristol, His Life of Prayer and Faith” by A. T. Pierson

I believe we should all follow his example.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)

 

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Playing Unto God (and not the TV audience)

Today I was contacted by a television producer expressing interest in the possibility of collaborating on a TV show about “large families who are living a faithful life and how that relates to their work.”  I won’t pretend that I didn’t entertain the idea for a little while – the egotistical part of me would LOVE to be part of a TV show and quite frankly, I think we’re a pretty entertaining family and we all know there are all kinds of things we could be teaching the world… leading by example and all that.  I mean, really, have you read the blog lately?  ;)  In all seriousness, though, there are a myriad of reasons we wouldn’t want to be a part of something like this.  It made me think of this article I wrote several years ago and I wanted to re-post it today…

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I read an article the other day about an experiment done in Washington, D.C. involving one of the worlds best musicians. Those conducting the experiment wanted to know what would happen if one of the greatest violinists in the world performed incognito before a traveling rush-hour audience. So for nearly 45 minutes, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell performed six classical pieces in a crowded metro station as over a thousand people passed by. Only a handful stopped to listen.

Sometimes I feel like that violinist. As a stay-at-home mother, there are times when I feel overlooked and under appreciated. Home skills aren’t highly valued by our society and homemakers are rarely, if ever, given public recognition for the work that they do. As I shared this article with my husband, and the feelings it provoked in me, he listened quietly and then asked: “how do you suppose it made that musician feel, to have everyone overlooking him in the station that day?” It was mostly a rhetorical question; an attempt to express empathy for my position. But later that night, God brought the question to my mind again. How did Joshua Bell feel about himself that day?

Did the lack of attention make him feel that perhaps he wasn’t as good as he’d previously thought he was? Did it make him want to reconsider his choice in a profession? Did he begin to wonder if perhaps his Stradivarius violin wasn’t quite as valuable as he’d once imagined it to be, or that the piece of music he was playing wasn’t really a masterpiece, after all? Of course not!

Joshua Bell is an internationally acclaimed virtuoso. His status as a musician didn’t come from the streets of Washington, but from the Halls of New York, Boston, and London. The tragedy of this story lies not in the incompetence of Joshua Bell or in his inability to draw a crowd. The tragedy lies in the sadness of a people too preoccupied to “stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written.” It lies in the shame of a people unable to recognize the worth of the music just in front of them. Two weeks after this experiment, at the Music Center at Strathmore, Joshua Bell played to a “standing-room-only audience so respectful of his artistry that they stifled their coughs until the silence between movements.” But in the eyes of those who saw him that Friday in January, he was just another beggar, “competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work.”

You see, Joshua Bell’s music was never meant to be appreciated in the middle of a Metro Station during rush hour. It was meant to be appreciated in the opulence of a Symphony Hall. Each one of us has gifts and talents that God has given to us, talents that few in the world will ever recognize or appreciate. God asks us to stand up, take center stage and play for Him the piece that He has written for our lives. There are many who will not understand it. There are those who will not appreciate it. There are some who will even scoff at it. But God would have us play, nonetheless. And as we play, we must remember that our audience is not meant to be the pedestrians of Washington, but the patrons of Carnegie. We are not playing for the masses, we are playing for the Master.

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

 

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My Dream

Every week, my kids look forward to their “day” with the baby.  Contrary to popular belief (which seems to be that older kids will resent having to take care of their little brothers and sisters) my kids were having arguments over who would get to take care of her!  So, at the advice of one of our midwives, we decided to assign each of the older kids their own day with the baby (and on “their” day, they share her with one of their younger siblings.)

My oldest just looked up at me and said:

“What I love about having the baby in the carrier is that I can just lean my head down and kiss her whenever I want to.”

baby carrier

I took this picture after she said it, and she said I should entitle this post “my dream,” because: “I’ve been dreaming about carrying the baby around on my day!”

People who frown on large families really don’t know what they’re missing.

 

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You’ve got the cutest little… SISTER!!!

Manuela and I have had the privilege of photographing “E” and her little brother since they were born, and we recently got to meet their new baby sister!  These kids are so incredibly precious, and they all look so much alike!  Here is the newest adorable addition to the family!

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And last but not least, here are two special pictures that may look very familiar to long-time visitors!  (See the big brother and sister versions Here and Here.)

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Adorable!!!

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Am I my brother’s keeper?

example of a “neglected” child: “dirty AND unbathed”

 

(this was written almost a year ago.  It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but these same conversations [and cases] keep coming up and I feel it’s finally time to discuss it.)

“I think we have a general problem in our society when our first response is to call on a government organization instead of attempting to TALK TO THE PARENT(S) and offering help.”

I’d just written this in response to someone asking if they should call CPS on a family when I heard a knock on the door.  Our local sheriff was standing on the porch and in an eerie twighlight-zoneish scene, I listened in shock as he informed me that someone had made an allegation against our family.  I don’t want to get into too many details, but suffice it to say that although the charges were declared unfounded, our world was turned upside down and for better or worse, I don’t think we’ll ever be the same again.

The comment I made just before the sheriff came to our door was in response to someone in a facebook parenting group asking if they should call the authorities because a child was overweight and “smelly.”  (According to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services the answer, by the way, is no.)  Shortly after that, I saw this little gem being shared around facebook:

CPS

Dirt and “unsuitable clothing” are signs of neglect?  Really?!  According to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, listed among reasons NOT to call CPS are:

“A child who is improperly dressed, but the clothing deficiency does not result in harm to the child” and “hygiene, that although not optimal, does not adversely affect the well-being of the child.”  Children being “unsupervised” is incredibly subjective and as for #3, if a child is really hungry and parents are struggling to feed him/her, should our response really be to call in the authorities?  Or should it be to help a struggling parent?!

Since I made that statement, this same group – comprised mostly of so-called “Christians” – has been mired in more debates over whether it’s appropriate to call the authorities for various situations and I can’t help but be saddened by our obvious willingness to report each other rather than help each other.  Over the course of the week, I heard the following reasons given as a justification to call CPS, rather than help:

“I don’t have time”

“It’s not my responsibility”

“If parents are dumb enough to ___ (insert parenting decision you don’t agree with here) _____ the parents deserve to lose their kids.”

And we’re not talking about physical abuse here, we’re talking about situations where others have looked in and judged that something is inappropriate or “unsafe” without ever speaking to the parents or attempting to gather any facts.  You don’t have time to help?  It’s not your responsibility?  These are lies straight from hell and this is not how Jesus admonished us to treat each other.  Is it worth a few hours of your time, to help a family in need?  Is it worth being late somewhere, skipping an event or two, or missing your favorite TV show to ensure that a family isn’t wrongfully accused of neglect or abuse and children aren’t wrongfully taken away from loving parents? 

Is it worth a little inconvenience to actively love those around us? 

I think it is.

Our actions have consequences.  Several parents during the course of these discussions made the point that “if the authorities are called and nothing is amiss, nothing will happen.”  Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Although many social workers do everything in their power to help families, abuses within the system – within any system – do happen.  Mistakes are made and families lives can – and are – ruined by false accusations and assumptions. Am I saying that the authorities should never get involved?  No, I’m not.  But I am saying that as so-called “Christians” (as the majority of people in America still claim themselves to be), as neighbors, and simply as decent human beings, there is absolutely no excuse for not making the time to help those around us whom we perceive as being in need.

There is no excuse for reporting someone to a social worker simply because they have a different parenting style than you.  There is no excuse for reporting a family if you haven’t taken the time to find out if they really need help.  And there is absolutely no excuse for reporting a family who does need help if you haven’t already done your level best to help them.  There is no excuse for commissioning the government to take care of a problem that Jesus Himself commissioned YOU to help with. 

But, of course, we don’t have time to do that…. and it’s not our responsibility.  Every day, we echo the words of Cain: “Am I my brothers keeper?

I mentioned in the beginning of this article that thanks to the person who called CPS on our family, our family will never be the same again.  Our children learned about prejudice, apathy, false accusation and (dare I say it?) cowardice first-hand.  Their innocence, their trust in the world and those around them, has, in some ways, been taken from them.  As for me, it’s impossible to describe what it feels like to have your worth as a parent weighed by people who don’t know you, yet have the power to take your children away from you and there is nothing you can do about it.  It’s impossible to describe what it feels like when every day you find yourself thinking of a hundred different things someone could misunderstand or judge you for… if our 1 year old plays outside in only a diaper… if our yard gets messy… if the kids have bruises from climbing trees… if they play outside unsupervised… WILL SOMEONE CALL AGAIN?  It’s impossible to describe what it feels like when you no longer feel safe in your own home.

But we also learned about true love, and what it means to be a family in Christ.  Friends we’d known for years, friends we’d met only recently and complete strangers rallied around our family, offering both physical and financial help to help us meet the demands of the social workers – and even go beyond what they’d asked us to do.  Without hesitation, they took time out of their day to support us in every way imaginable.  They cried with us and laughed with us and prayed with us and loved us in unimaginable ways.  We got to see love – true love – in action.

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading [of it]?” So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain [man] went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded [him], and departed, leaving [him] half dead. “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. “Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. “So he went to [him] and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. “On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave [them] to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

– Luke 10:25-37

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Related Article (outside link)

Would you call 911 on another parent?

 

 

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Thursday’s Thought – A Folk Tale About Worlds

A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment.

“What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”

“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.”

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.

“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”

“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”

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