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What NOT to say to a “skinny” person

“You’re so skinny!” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that statement directed towards me in the past eight years I’d have a very flush bank account.

Unintentional weight loss was at the genesis of my health saga. I dropped thirty pounds in less than three months and unsolicited commentary from friends, family and complete strangers soon followed. In response to questioning and (oftentimes callous) comments I used to freeze up. Being accused of anorexia or some kind of eating disorder hurt me. I could barely swallow let alone talk, thanks to the lump in my throat. To cope I’d crumble internally and cry externally once the offending commentator was out of earshot.

It has taken a long time (I’m a slow learner) but God has faithfully been teaching me how to handle low weight comments and questions. I’m learning that it is better to extend forgiveness to those who know not what they do and say rather then hold a grudge or be hurt by their words. It is far better to give grace and educate instead.

By opening up in honesty about my diagnosis and health struggles I’ve discovered that most people have no idea that weight loss can be a symptom of Lyme disease. In fact, most people don’t seem to realize that low weight can be a symptom of a whole host of chronic illnesses. The fact of the matter is low weight does not necessarily mean a person is not eating or that they have an eating disorder. Low weight can be a debilitating symptom of chronic disease… Like it is for me.

In an effort to educate with love and grace I have compiled my top three comments that should not be made to someone who is visibly underweight. Although these comments are specifically directed towards low weight the principle behind them applies to all chronic illness. We should all treat each other with love and grace, in sickness or in health.

So, without further ado, the top three comments you should never make to a person who is obviously under weight. And one tip on what to say….

 

1.     Don’t say, “You look like a Holocaust victim.”

Yes, it’s true, I have been on the receiving end of this comment.

It should go without saying that this statement should never be made to anyone, ever. 11 million innocent Jews were killed in the Holocaust at the hands of evil. Telling someone they look like they have been or are in a concentration camp is not only rude it is callous and disrespectful to the immense suffering of millions.

2.     Don’t say, “I wish I were as skinny as you.”

No, actually you don’t. I can’t sit for long periods of time because my butt has no cushion. My feet have lost all the fat on them causing the bones to rub against my shoes, producing constant pain. Because of my low weight I have an extremely low blood pressure, low body temperature, infertility and hair loss.

I could go on but you get the point… Be careful what you wish for. And don’t wish to be as skinny as me.

3.     Don’t say, “You should eat more.”

If only you knew how much and how often I eat then you might change your tune. Unintentional low weight cannot be remedied by drinking more milkshakes, as a doctor once suggested. The food type and amount is not the issue. The problem is the body’s ability to metabolize, digest and use the food. For eight years my body has not been utilizing food leading to blood sugar drops, gallbladder troubles and inescapable stomach pain. If eating more could solve my problems I would have been healed long ago.

4.     Do stay quite about the obvious ailment.

Let me be clear. I do not mean that the underweight person should be treated as if they do not exist. Being treated as invisible can be hurtful, too. Simply treat the underweight person like you would a normal or overweight person. Do not treat the individual as if they were an alien with a mental problem. Treat them like a precious individual with a heart and feelings. Treated every person, regardless of weight, with the dignity and respect you would like to be treated with.

So, in other words say, “Good morning!” and not, “You’re so skinny!” Or say, “How are you this bright and sunny afternoon?” instead of, “You should eat a Big Mac.”

 

For those who have been on the receiving end of callous comments regarding a physical condition or weight I urge you to “forgive them for they know not what they do.” Responding in anger only perpetuates the hurt and does not help you heal. Opportunities to enlighten and educate can be missed when we allow rude comments to build walls and burn bridges.

Instead, let us respond like Christ and turn the other cheek. Instead of lashing out, crying or storming off in anger (all of which I have done), choose to extend forgiveness and show mercy. Even if the person making the comment never asks for forgiveness – which they most likely never will – give it anyways. Extend the grace that has been given to you.

 

At every weight and in every physical condition may the encouragement from Ephesians 4:29 guide our speech and heart in every conversation: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

 

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The Joy that Freedom Brings

It’s here. The day children wait for all year. And no, I’m talking about Christmas. Jesus’ birthday didn’t suddenly move to June.  The highly anticipated day I’m referring to is none other than the first day of summertime freedom. It’s official. School’s out for the summer.

All year long students have been held like caged birds trapped in small, stuffy classrooms. Confined to uncomfortable desks and a dictatorial bell schedule they have not been free to flit around and fly. For one hundred and eighty days they have waited for summer and all the fun it brings. Now it is here and students are giddy with relief.

In commemoration of the final day of school children and adults of all ages are gathering at amusement parks and picnic pavilions to celebrate. There will be rejoicing on roller coaster rides and suds of fun on water slides. Ice cream will be eaten for lunch and funnel cake will be devoured for dinner. For one day shouts of glee will be encouraged and no one will be shushed.

On school picnic day children are full of the joy that freedom brings.

 

In June or January, while stuck at a desk or basking in the sun, I aspire to live with the joy of a child enjoying the first day of summer vacation. I long to embody a child-like delight and glee as I rejoice in endless freedom.

I have every reason to be full of joy because Jesus Christ has set me free. God has released me from the guilt of my past. I am no longer caged by sin and shame. The door to salvation has been opened and on the other side is an eternity infinitely more glorious than summer.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

We are free to be full of the joy that freedom brings.

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Turtle Rescue {because God cares about reptiles too}

Why did the turtle cross the road?

To get rescued before he made it to the other side.

In the past two weeks I’ve witnessed two extraordinary turtle rescues and heard of a third.

The first turtle in distress was standing stock still in the middle of a busy two lane road. A daring member of the military stopped his car in the midst of the traffic, hopped out and alerted oncoming cars to halt. Then, in full Navy uniform, he kindly guided the confused turtle off the pavement, over the shoulder and into the abutting woods where he slipped into the protection of a pond.

Turtle rescue two occurred in the same location, minus the military uniform. This time the citizen rescuer came prepared with experience. He had saved turtles in that precise location a time or two before and knew just how to guide the turtle off of the street and back into wooded safety. With the help of the reptile rescuer it only took a moment for the lost turtle to find his way back to the pond again.

Turtle rescue three took place on a two-lane street where there was no pond in sight. This time an SUV stopped in the middle of the road and two men hopped out of the back seat. From afar I could see one of the men carefully lift something large and round from the middle of the road. Sure enough, it was yet another turtle rescued from a devastating, crushing fate.

After each turtle rescue I drive away in awe. The fact that the turtles survive on the street amazes me. How the turtles end up in the middle of the road without being crushed by a passing car is a miracle in and of itself.

Next is the miracle of being spotted by drivers passing by. The turtles could easily be missed. The tortoise’s shell blends in so well to the dark pavement. If not missed entirely, the turtles could easily be mistaken for a stray piece of trash or left over rubber from a tire. But the turtles were not missed. They were spotted, recognized and saved by heroic men who willingly stopped and saved the stranded turtles. They risked their own safety and stepped into harms way to protect the turtles. They delayed their own journeys to ensure that the turtles in these stories had a happy ending to theirs.

In the turtle rescues I see the wonder of my own salvation and am struck by the awe and wonder of my Hero, my Savior, my Rescuer, Jesus Christ.

 

From up on high God saw me in distress. I had wandered away from safety, standing bewildered and in harms away. I could have so easily been crushed at any moment. I was completely oblivious to the dangers whizzing all around me. I was trapped in sin, blending in so well with the rest of the world and yet God spotted me. While I was a lost sinner God recognized me as one of His own and sent His Son to rescue me. By the power of the cross, Jesus defeated death and guided me into the glory of His eternal safety.

I am in awe of Jesus, my rescuer.

 

So why do the turtles cross the road?

So God can rescue them.

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The Most Amazing Come Back Ever

Nighttime waking has become a regular occurrence in my life. Since beginning Lyme treatments my body has taken to battling the disease under the cover of dark while I would much rather be sleeping. Many nights I’m awoken with hunger pains that I gladly remedy with a bowl of “healthy” ice cream (Halo Top is not the world’s most perfect health food but at night all food rules are off the table…especially since I eat my ice cream in bed.)

Last night it wasn’t two AM before I was awoken by a different kind of pain that is not easily cured with a bowl of ice cream. My arch nemesis was back… Literally.

The lower back pain was excruciating. No matter how much tossing and turning I tried I simply could not get relief or a moment of sleep. After moaning, groaning and making all sorts of pathetic sounds I reluctantly rose from bed and ran a bath.

A middle of the night bath is not an unusual occurrence in my tub. It has become my go-to strategy for pain relief when sleeplessness strikes but on this particular night the bath proved ineffective. When I stepped out of the tub I was still stuck in pain. There was no way I would be going back to sleep…. Not yet at least.

So it was on to pain relief plan B. 5:00 AM at-home yoga

“Yoga for the Spine” was a pleasant video and a wonderful stretch for the back but when it ended a dull throbbing remained. It was 6:00 AM when I rolled up my yoga mat and looked out the window with a heavy heart. I was frustrated, discouraged and tired. After a year of battling Lyme I had hoped these sleepless nights would have ended or at least lessened in severity.

Before I had even spoken a word in prayer my gaze was drawn to the window. Outside the sun was just beginning to rise, casting beautiful rays of the light through the leafy trees. At that moment Plan C came to mind like a light bulb turning on above my head…

Get out there and run.

Running (or in my case jogging) goes against conventional wisdom and, arguably, common sense, for a disease battling, eighty pound woman who is in severe back pain. It defied logic and a doctor’s orders.

But I ran anyways.

One short mile later I was sweaty, out of breath and, at last, out of pain. Pounding on the pavement must have knocked the aching out of my back because by the time I returned home I was experiencing sweet relief and collapsed in celebration on the front porch swing.

Right before I finally drifted off to sleep the thought of Jesus on the cross came rushing to my mind. When Jesus died on the cross it didn’t make sense to His followers. They could not understand why their Messiah had to endure such agony. They could not see what God was up to.

What the follower’s of Jesus had yet to realize is that Jesus’ set back into the grave was the set up for heaven and earth’s most amazing come back ever.

 

Jesus has defeated the grave, ascended into Heaven and forever He reigns on high. Since I have been united with Him in His death I have the glorious assurance of His Risen life. I need not fear a single pain or sleepless night because the resurrected Christ has secured my victory and in Him I have eternal rest.

Because Jesus is alive this suffering you see is not a set back. It is the perfectly planned setup for an incredible come back for the glory of our great and glorious God.

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Thirteen Pounds of Proof

Fourteen months ago I stepped on the scale and read the numerical reality of my physical condition. Sixty-seven ailing pounds.
At twenty-seven years old I was wasting away. According to body weight and BMI charts I should have been dead, comatose or at least bed ridden. My frame was so sickly and skeletal I could no longer look in the mirror. It was simply too upsetting. So, for the sake of my faith, I had to suspend my sight.

Now, after a year battling my arch nemesis, Lyme disease and its accompanying co infections, the pounds are naturally returning. Since I began this fight fourteen months ago I have gained thirteen pounds of beautiful, healthy weight. A thin layer of fat has returned to my bones and my skeletal frame is at last being covered. I can look in the mirror again. I am no longer cringing!
After eight long years my body is exiting the danger zone and entering the road to recovery. The downward spiral has been stopped dead in its tracks. The diseases that have been slowly destroying my body are being eradicated. I am being healed. I am being made new. And it’s just getting started! God isn’t finished yet.

Dear friend, are you facing a devastating reality? Is it so shocking and troubling you can hardly bring yourself to look at it? Have you been avoiding the sight of it?
Hold fast to the Lord! He is mighty to save. He is faithful and able to carry you over every hill and through every valley. As long as there is breath in your lungs and a beat in your heart, there is hope. God is not finished yet. He is the healer who redeems and restores.

 

Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble but to take heart because He has overcome the world. Being stripped down to sixty-seven pounds has caused my body trouble but has lifted my Spirit. I would not trade this ravaging experience because through it I have been witness to the incredible sustaining and healing power of God.

Now I know by sight what by faith I always knew to be true. The Lord our God makes all things new. I have thirteen pounds of proof.

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Dandelions: A Beautiful Weed

For the past week I have been wrestling with dandelions and struggling to find the right analogy that describes what I see in them. I’ve tried to flee the very first analogy I saw in their weedy, lawn invading behavior but it has relentlessly chased me down. I am weary from running and can no longer escape the dandelion analogy that is staring me in the face…

Dandelions are to the lawn what chronic illness is to the body: a beautiful weed.

In every dandelion I see another invasion of sickness and disease. The yellow flowered weeds pop up without warning. As they grow they are a nuisance to well-manicured lawns. Dandelions are like disease at every stage of their life cycle. They bloom and then go on float into the air where they replant. Untamed, the pesky weeds go on to grow indefinitely, overtaking entire lawns.

Picturing an entire field covered in dandelions is a pretty image but not the lawn I had hoped for my life. I had always hoped for a manicured lawn with green grass cut on a diagonal. And to be perfectly honest I didn’t imagine myself as the one doing the mowing. In the dreams, I imagined a husband would be handling the lawn care. I had visions of planting flowerbeds with roses and watching children catching fireflies in the yard.

Those were the hopes and dreams I had for the lawn of my life, but now those hopes and dreams are covered in weeds. My life has been invaded by dandelions of disease. I’m covered from head to toe in symptoms and ailments that grow wild and free. I don’t have a bed of roses or even a single well-kept pot of flowers. All I have are bunches of dandelions. All I have is the brokenness of disease. All I have are weeds.

My yard full of dandelions had me defeated until I remembered a fondness I had of dandelions when I was a child. As a young girl I used to roam the yard picking them to make into bouquets. I would then go on to present them to my Mother. When my humble weed offering was given as a gift of love my Mother accepted them with joy and placed them in a special vase. She set the beautiful weeds on the windowsill right by the kitchen sink, right where my Mother could see them best.

In my Mother’s house the dandelions I picked were received like the finest of flowers. 

 

When picked with joy and gifted in love, my dandelions of chronic disease are accepted and cherished by my Heavenly Father. In God’s house my humble offering is received like the finest of flowers.  

My Lord does not see a weed in my symptoms and suffering. He sees a beautiful flower worthy of a vase and a place on the windowsill, right where He can see them best. All He asks is that I keep gathering my dandelions and presenting them before His throne with the faith and love of a child. All He asks is that I love Him and rejoice as I offer Him every one of my beautiful weeds.

 

In the dandelion I see a beautiful weed. I see the finest of flowers. What do you see?

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The Dog Wash

The dogs desperately needed a bath but the groomer was booked three weeks out. Pippy and Molly would have gladly waited that long. They dread the groomer. Pippy shakes the whole way there but I could not endure three more weeks with two stinky schnoodles. My girls desperately needed a bath so it was on to plan B.

The upstairs bathtub. Although convenient, at home washing never gets the job done. While kneeling on the floor and bent over the porcelain surround I can’t scrub well enough to really eradicate the dirt. Then there is the problem of the water pressure when it comes time to rinse. The girls hate the faucet and panic when we get too close to its powerful stream. Pouring water from a pitcher is the only inefficient option.

On to plan C.

The Dog Wash. The girls were excited when I grabbed their leashes and opened the front door. They thought we were headed for a walk but when I went straight to the car Pippy’s face fell into a panic. This wasn’t a mission for a walk. This was a mission for a bath. I could see the anxiety written all over her furry face. She thought she was headed for the groomers.

For the next seven minutes on our way to the dog wash Pippy panicked as if her life were about to be over. I did my best to reassure her. I said, “You are not going to the groomer.” And added, “Or the vet.” But Pippy was relentless in her fearfulness. She refused to settle down.

Until we arrived at our dog wash destination.

The moment I opened the door and Pippy jumped out of the car with relief and joy. She could smell the air and it wasn’t the groomers. She could see the pavement and it wasn’t the parking lot she had dreaded. Pippy pranced with glee because I wasn’t about to leave her behind to be shampooed by a stranger. I was going into the dog wash with her and I would be staying the whole time.

Fifteen minutes later the dogs and I had completed our cleanliness mission and were back in the car headed home. Both dogs behaved beautifully in the bath tub and Pippy never panicked. All three of us enjoyed the ride home in peace.

 

Poor Pippy, her fearfulness isn’t her fault. As I watched her panting in the backseat I realized that she’s just behaving how she was taught from her Mom. Pippy learned how to be fearful from watching me.

The truth is, I am fearful and prone to panic. While riding on the road of life I shake and pant with all of the anxiety of an unsettled Schnoodle. Even though God is behind the wheel I become anxious and tremble as if something terrible were about to happen. Even though the Word of God reassures me that the destination ahead is going to be good and glorious, I hold onto my concerns. Even though the Lord commands me not to worry I refuse to release my fear.

Until we arrive at God’s destination.

When the door is opened and God’s plan is revealed I leap into the future with joy because the reality is never what I feared. My anxiety disappears and all shaking is settled because God is not dropping me off at the groomers. He is not leaving me behind. Every time He opens the door the glory of His presence is revealed. God isn’t going anywhere. He is staying right there with me.

There is nothing to fear and no reason to panic. God is not about to abandon you and me, His precious children, at the groomer. Christ is going with us into the dog wash. The restorative, redemptive hand of God will go with you into the tub. The Spirit of God will surround you in every cycle and see you  through until His work is done and you are clean!

Thank God the groomer was booked and the tub at home wouldn’t do. As it turns out I’m the one who needed the trip to the dog wash so God could cleanse my heart of panic and fear and restore peace as I ride in the backseat with Him.

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…Yet

A heart to heart from the journal

I asked God to give me a sign and tell me what this is all about.

“What are you up to?” I asked.“God, can you give me a sign? Some reassurance that everything is going to be alright? I’m weary, but you already knew that. I need your strength to hold on. I’m asking Lord for you to come and rescue me in your Mighty way. Overcome my weakness with your strength. Defeat my enemy with the victory of Jesus Christ. I am sounding the trumpets, I expect and know I will see your face. Come quick God and reveal to me your way!”

I was hoping God would show me a glimpse of His plan or reveal a tiny sneak peek. A clap of thunder or chiming of bells would have been a nice touch to reassure me that God is still there and that He cares.

But when I asked God I got nothing. For months I heard not a peep. All I received was a still, small voice whispering ever so quietly. When I finally stopped to listen I could hear Him say, “I don’t want you to know anything yet.”

Yet…that word hung in the air and arose with glorious tones. Yet. There is a yet. God isn’t finished…yet.

I had feared it was all over. That is why I had prayed so desperately for a sign. My trust wasn’t standing on solid ground just yet. My faith was still holding out for sight.

And then I heard God speaking that glorious yet and my vision changed.

God does not want me to know what comes next. He just wants me to trust and believe that He has written me a glorious future and it will unfold page by page. All He asks is that I surrender in faith and rejoice in His story.

 

PS…Because He isn’t finished…yet.

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Frenemy on Facebook

I have six hundred and thirty-eight friends on Facebook and one frenemy named Satan.

I never intended to add the enemy of heaven and earth to my friend list. I don’t even recall receiving a friend request with his name on it. Yet, there he is, cluttering up my newsfeed with envy and dissatisfaction.

The enemy first slithered his way onto my social media while I was feeling weak and lonely. Before I knew it he was in nearly every post, hijacking updates of joy with his malice and discontent. My frenemy is so deceptive he has even invaded likes and shares. He even exerts his evil influence in smiley faces and pictures of furry pets. How dare he.

When my frenemy is online he fills the comments and likes with jealousy and discontentment. For far too long I have scrolled by the enemy’s posts and given him the evil pleasure of stealing my stillness and peace with his social media sabotage. I’ve clicked “unfollow” here and there, but I’ve never blocked him entirely.

Until today.

Today I am unfriending the enemy and blocking his influence. With the joy of the Risen Jesus Christ I am kicking Satan off of my social media and out of my soul. To simply “unfollow” isn’t enough. The enemy must be blocked entirely.

In order to remain united with my very best friend, Jesus, I cannot tolerate a single post from His arch enemy, the destroyer of eternal peace. The destructive influence of Satan must be forcibly removed and only the power of Christ’s Risen life can do it. Only God can effectively and entirely block the enemy from my heart, mind and soul.

 

The love of Christ cleanses my Facebook of the enemy and rids my feed of his hate. Transformed by the Savior’s redemptive mercy, my social media is made new in the presence of His amazing grace.

I still have six hundred and thirty-eight friends on Facebook and one best friend named Jesus Christ spreading abundant, everlasting joy all across my eternal feed.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:4-7

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A letter to my Mom on Mother’s Day

Dear Mom,

This Mother’s Day a store bought card just wouldn’t do. To be honest, I didn’t even look for one in the store because I knew that nothing written in a card could capture what you and I have been through in the past year (not to mention the past 28).

You, more than anyone, know how difficult this past year has been. Treating Lyme Disease has been a roller coaster ride crazier than anything I could have ever imagined. The journey has been insane since the very first dose of treatment and yet you’ve kept your cool. I don’t know how, because heaven knows I haven’t. Through it all you’ve remained steady and sure. You have never wavered in your belief that I will be healed and restored. All the while you have been the hands and feet of God in my life – literally – graciously comforting my calloused feet with essential oils and my burdened spirit with fervent prayer.

I’m not always the easiest person to love. In fact, sometimes I’m down right grouchy and cold, yet you keep loving me. When I am short and unappreciative, you give me grace. When I take out my frustration and anger on you, you forgive me. You love me unconditionally. You love me with the love of Christ.

I know this year you said, “Don’t write anything sappy.” So I won’t. I’ll just write what is true: You are an incredible Mom, my very best friend and you have taught me how to love and support someone “in sickness and in health.”

I know our relationship isn’t perfect. It has its ups and downs but I wouldn’t trade it for anything because by being your daughter I have been taught how to love. By how you care for me I have been showered with sacrificial love that is drawn from the very source of love, Jesus Christ.

On this Mother’s Day I  want to thank you most of all for your devotion to Christ. Thank you for coming alongside me in my battle and encouraging me with scripture and faith. Satan’s attacks have been real, fiercely trying and testing my faith, but you have surrounded me with prayer. Every day you put on the armor of God to defeat the enemy on my behalf.

God doesn’t make mistakes. He had a plan for me as your daughter before I was even born. He had a journey plotted out for you and I  before you knew if I would be a “Stephanie” or a “Steven” (or some other boy name). God knew what He was doing when He put you and I together. He knew I’d need a Mom who would be willing to fight for me and with me.

Mom, I know someday you are going to hear those glorious words, “Well done good and faithful servant” because you are good and faithful and you are a servant. You serve Him everyday by the way you care and love for me.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Proverbs 31:25-26