Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Transgender Bathrooms: Part 1

I'm going to walk the proverbial plank here, and post my honest thoughts about a highly volatile current issue.
Transgender Bathrooms

In order to do that I'm going to need to first set the stage with my observations about the concept of someone identifying as transgender. 

I'm a Christian: not in the raze-the-holy-land-take-all-the-loot sense; not in the our-church-has-the-right-to-tell-the-government-what-to-do sense, and not in the obnoxiously-protesting-tragedies-with-unparalleled-insensitivity sense.  I'm a Christian, in that I believe the Bible is true, Jesus died on the cross for everyone's sin, God is love, and Christians are supposed to be the shining example of that love.  

That being said, whenever I see or read or hear about transgenders I get sad.  I get sad because I honestly believe that someone who is actively turning away from their natural born gender has either been the victim of extreme psychological abuse, or is suffering with a downright harmful hormonal imbalance.  Unfortunately looking into the majority of cases, the first is more often the cause than the latter.  Here are few examples:

Let's start with the glaringly obvious Kaitlin Jenner: 
Caitlyn Jenner
Here was a man's man.  Someone who embraced his strength and physical prowess. Excelling in sports as a teenager, he went to college on a football scholarship, and transferred to track and field after a knee injury.  After winning Olympic gold in one of the more grueling races, the decathlon.  He continued to earn his place on the Wheaties box by becoming a race car driver.  No one could argue about his masculinity, that is until his second wife and daughters decided to start their own reality show.

Keeping up with the Kardashians is probably one of the most blatant displays of Bruce's psychological abuse.  As the man of the house, he was ignored, walked over, downplayed, and in every way disrespected, and all on national TV.  I don't know how any man would be able to stand up to the kind of rejection he dealt with day in and day out as his wife and daughters made millions out of his mockery.  It's only natural that a smart man like Bruce would eventually come to the conclusion that he only way to redeem himself in the eyes of the world would be to become more respected revered and honored by becoming an empowered woman.

Another recent tragedy is the suicide of Leelah Alcorn.
He grew up in a conservative, religious home. His father modeled the traditional patriarchal masculine model, and his mother was the submissive, obedient wife.  When he decided he didn't want to be a boy anymore, his parents did what most deeply religious parents would do.  They reacted strongly and attempted to force the boy into accepting his natural identity through obedience to religious observance.  Rather than treating him with love and understanding, they isolated him, punished him, and eventually pushed him over the edge into greater insanity resulting in his death.

I have to admit I'm not really sure how I would react if one of my kids rejected their God given gender.  Hypothetically I would pray a lot for them to feel loved and walk out their calling in life through whatever means God wanted.  I'm pretty sure there would be long talks with them asking them what made them reject their gender and asking them if there was a way to embrace their uniqueness without having to alter their physical form.

Here are a few, less direct, examples:

Young girls and boys are forced to display their naked bodies to their abusive peers in locker rooms. The anti-bullying information currently coming out has shown how psychologically damaging this can be. Quite honestly I don't understand how the whole locker room situation hasn't been changed yet.  How many children have to become victims before we change the system.  If it wasn't for the generally poor quality of the education available, I would still homeschool my kids just to save them from the embarrassment of the locker room.

Some are the casualties of physically abusive parents.  A little boy rejects his masculinity because the only example he has is a father who can't control his temper and a mother who is angry at him but unwilling to leave.  These scars during his developmental years will encourage him to hate his masculinity.  A little girl sees her mother being sexually and mentally abused by multiple partners, and can't understand why she has to continually be under attack. Her developing mind sees that men are more powerful and, to put it bluntly, if you can't beat them, join them.

Some instances of abuse aren't as obvious.  Take for instance a little girl who grows up in a patriarchal church and is only ever taught that the path to fulfillment is to become an obedient wife and baby maker.  A little boy hears his mother complain about the stupidity of his father.  Day after day he hears female peers and other women talk about the overall incoherence of the male sex.  What desire would these people have to grow up to become what they are taught to despise?

Then there are the children of parents who are outwardly supportive of their children's desires to embrace the intrigue of the opposite sex, but unwilling to validate their natural born state.  These parents sound socially savvy.  They make statements about not labeling their children's sexuality or talk about the difference between their natural gender verses their chosen one.  Sure it sounds nice and accepting, but what if they are really pushing their children's developing psyche into transgender roles.  What if these parents are quietly encouraging their children to reject their physical gender and hurting their child's ability to embrace their physical gender.

I would like to just give one more example from the TV show Sense8.  While I recognize that the story of Nomi Marks is fictional I think her back story in Season 1 Episode 9 is a prime example of the painful past many transgenders suffer with (Warning: this clip shows overt bullying and is a bit intense)

I hope I've explained sufficiently why transgender stories sadden me.  I wish I could heal the hurt in every one of these people.  I wish that I could go back in time and stop the abuse.  I cannot do that, however, so I am burdened with the task of being the change I wish to see in the world.  I must begin the process of re-educating those who will listen.  

To those men who would give anything not to be male anymore: please don't give up.  Being a woman isn't going to get rid of the frustrations you feel.  It's only going to change how you look on the outside.  You will still be you, and I have the utmost respect for you.  Know that there is at least one person in this world who loves you, the REAL you. The world needs people like you to show what being a true man is, and that is embracing the diversity that is masculinity.  

To those women who would give anything to be male: I get it.  No really, I do.  I was raised the only girl with a bunch of boys and there were so many times when I thought my life would be easier if I was one of them.  I understand the crap that comes with birth control and periods, and hormone swings.  It's not fun.  But there are so many benefits to being a woman, especially in this day and age.  We have never been more powerful, and have worked so hard to achieve this level of equality.  You have so much to offer the world, be empowered and be the woman that you are.  

To those religious folks who think the way to deal with the GLBT "threat" is through more Bible thumping and hatred: go back and re-read that book you claim to follow.  Read all of it, not just Leviticus and Romans, and realize that you are still a son or daughter of Adam.  You are nothing without the God of Love who rescued your sorry butt. Then, realize that these folks are your mission in life.  They need love and healing, just like you did.  Become the shining example of love and forgiveness that Jesus was.  He ministered to tax collectors and sinners, and told the pharisees that only the truly sinless could stone the adulterer.  Be like the Jesus who showed love and compassion to the woman at the well who had several ex husbands and was living with her boyfriend.

If you're not completely offended by now, please continue to Part Two, here.

Transgender Bathrooms: Part 2

So apparently there's all this uproar about the possibility that a guy might be allowed to use a women's bathroom.  On the one side there are what I like to call the fearful righteous, and on the other side are the loving illogical.  Once again I find myself smack dab in the middle.  Having seen the plethora of arguments from both sides of the issue plastered unnecessarily all over my social media page, I've finally decided to weigh in on the issue, and all I have to say is,  "What is the big deal?!?!"

For those on the fearful Christian side, who know me as your sister in Christ, this might shock you. It might cause you to doubt my spirituality.  It might cause you to question our relationship built on mutual belief in the same Bible and the same God.  I assure you my fruit has never spoken louder, nor has my friendship wavered.  I've read the same book and I understand your points perfectly.  I just choose to disagree with your response to the current cultural pendulum swing.

For those on the lovingly illogical side, who know me as a free thinker and a loving human being, you might be upset. Because you know I love people no matter what their religion, sexual orientation, or way of life, you might wonder why I'm not more offended by the law in North Carolina, or more actively arguing for love and acceptance.

Take a step back with me and let's look at this situation objectively.

To the fearful religious:  Why are you so afraid?  Does the God of the universe not care about your child?  If you truly believe that God is powerful, you will not worry about your child.  In light of history, this is really not that difficult a situation.  Imagine the fear Jewish parents in Poland dealt with as Hitler assumed control of their country.  Now that's a tricky situation, and yet God used over 500,000 Poles to help smuggle Jews out of the country.

You may argue that we still have the responsibility to try to protect our children as much as possible.  To that I say, are you teaching your children how to defend themselves?  Are they taking martial arts? Basic self defense classes? Carrying pepper spray and aware of how to actually use it?  If you truly think their greatest threat is a man pretending to be transgender raping them in a bathroom, then you better be giving them the tools to defend themselves against attack.  Consider this, what if they are just as likely to be raped by an insane lesbian?

To be clear, I'm not advocating stupidity.  I typically don't allow my 7 year old to use a public toilet by herself.  I prefer even my 13 year old to be accompanied by someone trustworthy when using a public restroom, but sometimes that's just not feasible. My girls also take martial arts and have been taught how to handle dangerous situations. Even so, I must trust that beyond my reasonable control, God can take care of them.  I'm really not worried about my girls.

Perhaps you argue that it's the Christian's duty to make sure that laws are put in place to keep the LGBT community in check.  I would argue that the best way to deal with the LGBT community is to be the light of love in their community.  Perhaps instead of wearing a WWJD lanyard to your next political rally you should read the book "In His Steps" and actively try to change the world by actually acting like Christ, not the pharisees who crucified him. To be honest, most of the laws like the one in North Carolina are the result of hateful bigotry, not true Christianity.

To the lovingly illogical: Have you really thought about this issue, or have you just been emotionally reactive to all the hype?  The only real issue here is if transgender children should be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice in schools.  That's the only area of society where any real enforcement is an issue.  Allow me to illustrate:

Last month I was happy to work at the Florida Renaissance Festival.  I finished a particularly hot tiring day and went to Taco Bell with some of my renny friends.  When I got there the place was almost empty.  I just wanted to change out of my costume and into my street clothes, but there were only single use bathrooms.  I knew my friend wanted to change as well, so I asked one of the employees if they minded if I used the men's room while my friend used the women's room.  She smiled and said that would be fine.

When I was a teenager my youth pastor's wife took a bunch of us girls to Panama City Beach.  It was took several hours to get there, and during that time we had to make several potty breaks.  I remember several times the large group of girls took over both the men's and women's bathrooms to make our stops go faster.  No one batted an eye.

I realize both of these stories center on girls using a boys bathroom, but honestly it goes both ways.  the only reason men don't typically use a women's restroom is because there aren't any urinals.  Well, that, and fear of other men questioning their masculinity.

If this is truly an important issue, the free market should correct itself quickly.  I foresee a future where most public bathrooms will be single rooms with locking doors available for male or female use at any time, with the security of not being intruded on.  Transgenders aside, I would love to see this improvement in our society.

Perhaps you argue that it's not fair that these folks are being segregated by narrow minded bigots.  Newsflash, life isn't fair, and there will ALWAYS be prejudice, segregation, and bigotry.  Making a law isn't going to stop people from abusing their fellow humans.  Even the law in North Carolina was an exercise in futility.  The only thing it does is make it a little easier for folks to justify their hatred.  What business owner is honestly going to ask people for their birth certificates?  Are they actually going to post police officers at every restroom door and ask to see every single ID before letting anyone in?  Besides, anyone who has finished transition is going to fly under the radar anyway.

The best course of action is to just let this be for now, and the angst will die off quickly.  Then we can get back to our normal lives where lesbians who looks like men can use whatever toilet they want in peace, and transgender women can walk into the bathroom unnoticed like they've always been able to do (whether or not they've realized they can).

Now schools, that's different.  I've already stated my opinion about the negative consequences of exposure to abuse via locker rooms, here.  Quite honestly the entire education system needs to be overhauled, but no one is willing to do it. Instead each year parents get angry and try to change the things they didn't like when they were there, and they keep tacking on things and taking away other things and you end up with a vomitous mass of indecision propping up a failing model.

The real problem then, isn't "should transgenders be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice," but "how can we fix the education system so children are protected not only from their peers, but from parents who aren't protecting them and adults who aren't paid enough to really care for them.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Just a Harmless Islamic Phrase?

Once again, a major news source, one that is supposed to be trusted to bring you unbiased news has spun a story to support only one side of an issue.  For those of my friends who may be tempted to buy into CNN's intentional editorializing of this article, let me explain why this is a much bigger issue than this article makes it seem.

If your child was homosexual and his teacher asked him to write, "Homosexuality is evil, and homosexuals are going to burn in hell," you would be angry.

If your child was Jewish and her teacher asked her to write, "Hitler was a kind man who tried to help German Christians have a better life," you would be angry.

Just as you would want the school system to allow your child the freedom to believe what they want without bullying or condemnation, Christians want the same.

Perhaps you're thinking that the Christians should be able to write the phrase as long as they don't actually believe it.  Well, first of all, if you asked a Muslim child to write, "Allah is a false god. Jesus is Messiah.  He is the only true god," you would not only piss off the Muslim parents, but the Jews as well.  Second, Christians believe that acknowledging any God other than the God of the Bible is so wrong that many throughout history have been martyred before they were willing to do so.  Third, If you think martyrdom is going too far, perhaps you still haven't grasped the fact that just because you don't believe it doesn't make it less viable to those who do.

We have gotten to the point, whether you believe it or not, that the majority of Christians in the USA feel persecuted and discriminated against.  They feel attacked and picked on.  I personally don't send my children to public school partly because I feel they would be in a harmful environment.

Let me say that again.  The system that is supposed to be here to help my children get an education, the system that I support with my tax dollars has become so toxic toward people of my faith that I cannot, in good conscience allow my children to go there without fear that they will be damaged.

According to the article, they are going to replace the Islamic statement of faith with a different Islamic phrase. My question is this?  If the school system is truly trying to eliminate any religious affiliations to the point where kids are asked not to bring religious books to school, why in the world would they choose a religious phrase for the children to copy?

I love, love, love the idea of introducing the children to the beauty and complexity of calligraphy.  I myself have studied calligraphy over the years and enjoy using my, perhaps less than perfect skill from time to time. This was intentional.  This was an educators test to see how much the school system will allow.  This was someone putting a purposely anti-Christian phrase into a textbook to see if it would slip by unnoticed.  I know I sound like a conspiracy theorist right now, but if you step back and truly look at this objectively you will see that this could have been very easily avoided if the authors of the textbook wanted to be benign.

So, yes.  This situation caused a lot of chaos.  You will probably see angry Christians talk about this on social media.  Your first reaction, if you read the CNN article will be to dismiss the Christian uproar as being unnecessarily agitated.  You may even be tempted to post snarky retorts about the ridiculousness of your Christian friends reactions.  But before you add to the hate and the anger, please consider that if it was you being discriminated against, if it was your child who was asked to do something you are vehemently opposed to, if someone you loved was going through this type of unnecessary, easily avoidable persecution, would you still laugh at their pain?  Would you dismiss their anger and their frustration?  

Sunday, December 6, 2015

When I say I'm gluten sensitive...

Let me start by saying I'm not.  Gluten sensitive, that is.  However, gluten sensitivity affects me, because it affects many people I hold dear.  I can think of at least 5 people off the top of my head who I know are gluten sensitive.  One is a confirmed celiac case, the rest are technically non-celiac gluten sensitive.

These folks are sweet and unassuming.  They aren't pushy or obnoxious, but in each case I've heard some pretty awful stories of things they've had to deal with in regards to this glitch in their immune system.  Some of these experiences were stories of the horrors of how their bodies deal with gluten, and some were accounts of insensitivity from other people who jump to conclusions, or simply suffer under ignorance of how to deal with their issues.

Three of these people have expressed repeatedly that they don't want to be jerks about their disease, or make anyone uncomfortable.  The other two are children, who really are at the mercy of the adults who care for them, and don't have much say in any of it.

Because these are all people I love dearly, I am going to be their voice for a moment, and try to shed some light on this odd, seemingly new issue.  So, bear with me for a moment, as I put myself in their shoes and speak a bit more boldly than they ever would.

1) Gluten makes me sick.

I'm sure by now you've heard horrible accounts of children who have died from peanut allergies.  Well, even though gluten isn't going to cause me to go into anaphylactic shock, it really does make me sick.  A few of the more frustrating symptoms are joint pain, diarrhea or constipation, gas, vomiting, and abdominal cramping.  This is just the tip of the iceberg. Just because I don't tell you I'm not feeling well all the time, doesn't mean I feel great. It just means I'm sensitive enough to the people around me not to announce when I have a massive bout of diarrhea.

2) It's not in my head.

There are a myriad of recent studies claiming that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is either a psychological condition, or so rare that it belies the volume of people who claim to have it.  Please realize that just because I haven't been officially diagnosed with celiac disease doesn't mean I don't have it, and just because lots of people are self diagnosed as NCGS doesn't mean they aren't celiac.  The current medical procedure for diagnosing celiac requires that the subject must eat the equivalent of 4 slices of bread each day for a minimum of 1 month, then undergo an endoscopic biopsy.

Let's think about this for a moment.  If you knew that eating bread gives you massive abdominal pain and nausea, would you be willing to eat it for a month, then have a piece of your intestine cut out and analyzed just so you could tell your obnoxious friends and family that you really do have the official celiac disease?  I know I'm not willing to do it.  So although the number of folks with the official diagnosis is really low, I'm guessing that a lot of us probably do have celiac but aren't willing to be put in the medical record book if it means a month or more of intense pain.

One more thing.  If it's all in my head, why in the world would I have sudden and intense issues within an hour of eating something I thought was safe, only to go back later and discover that there was gluten in it?  Seems to me that "all in my head" should mean that I could eat gluten and, as long as I was oblivious, it wouldn't affect me.

3) I don't need you to cook for me.

I will make sure I get enough food for myself or my gluten sensitive child. I don't need you to bend over backwards to try to cater to me.  If there is a naturally gluten free option on your menu I will gladly partake of it.  Otherwise, it's ok.  I don't feel slighted by your decision to put gluten in your food.  If you invite me to a party, I might ask to use your microwave to heat up a frozen entree for my child.  I won't feel left out or make a big deal about not getting a slice of birthday cake, and you certainly don't need to add the extra expense of buying a gluten free cake just so I can have some.

However, if you do decide to cook for me, please make absolutely sure it really is gluten free.  I will ask before I eat it, so if you tell me it is, be prepared for my barrage of questions about ingredient lists and cooking methods.  And, please don't be offended if I end up not eating your gluten free dish.  There have been so many times something was given to me that was "gluten free" and then later felt like I had food poisoning.

This leads to my next point:

4) Before you tell me something is safe, here is a quick list of things you can look for.  

Wheat (including wheat berries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat, einkorn wheat
Malt (including: malted barley flour, malted milk or milkshakes, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring, malt vinegar)
Brewer’s Yeast

Here are some sneaky offenders you may not have thought of: Soy Sauce, that little bit of flour in gravy, the vermicelli pasta in rice'a'roni, most thickening agents, and beer.  That's right, even putting a little beer in your pot roast to make it more robust is going to screw up my digestive track.

But again, let me say, I don't need you to cook for me.  I really don't mind bringing a snack, and there are lots of foods I can safely eat.  All vegetables are safe, all fruits are safe, all meats are safe, all natural cheeses are safe.  I can eat yogurt and ice cream (unless it has cookie dough in it), cheesecake without the crust, corn and rice products, and any nut.  I may skip the brie wrapped in a puff pastry, but I can certainly enjoy the cold cuts and pickle tray.  I'm even willing to bring a gluten free treat to your party so you won't have to do all the cooking yourself.

and finally,

5) Please respect me

Even if this whole gluten sensitivity thing is a fad, even if scientists find out years from now that it wasn't gluten that was causing the problem.  Even if you read an article saying it's all in my head.  Even if you heard from a reliable source that it's really just yeast that causes the issues.  Please don't patronize me, or try to convince me that I'm wrong.  Keep in mind that you might be really convinced that I'm missing out on life because I'm believing a lie, but you need to respect the fact that I live in my body and I know what makes me feel sick and what doesn't.

If you knew someone who had undergone an injury and was doing physical therapy and their therapy was going great and you had this very strong belief that they were psychologically clinging to their walker when they really didn't need it anymore.  Your strong belief doesn't give you the right to take away their walker or try to trick them into not using it anymore.

Finally, you don't get to choose what my kid eats.  Perhaps it's not me, it's my child.  Perhaps you don't like it when I won't let my kid eat a piece of birthday cake with the other kids.  You need to come to peace with the fact that it's my child.  I have to deal with their vomiting later.  I have to deal with their hyperactivity.  I have to clean their soiled underwear after a bout of diarrhea.  I have to snuggle with them and stroke their aching tummy long after we've left the party where you thought it would be ok to give them a bite of cake because you thought you knew better.

Note: my primary source of information for this blog was taken from Celiac.org.  If you would like to learn more please check out the wealth of information on their page.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Physical Boundaries and the Petulant Child

If someone posted a 5 second video of the way I've had to deal with my 2 year old children, I would probably be black balled by the internet as well.  What they would miss is the loving care I give day in and day out, and the moments after those five seconds were up where the children I've dealt with have come to terms with their obstinate behavior.

There was even a time, dealing with my 2 year old foster child, when I had to hold her in her bed in order to get her to lie down at night.  She was exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally, but was adamant that she didn't need to be in bed.  She had skipped her nap, and her behavior was deteriorating, so I held her hands and forced her to lay on her pillow.  She was in no danger. I certainly left no bruises, but I allowed her no physical option but to comply.  When she finally calmed down about ten minutes later, and I let go of her hands, she cried in distress for me to hold her hands again. It gave her a sense of security.

She was a little child and I far outweighed her.  I was stronger and could easily have taken the situation to violent levels, but didn't.  I understood that she was young, and foolish, and needed an adult to show her the meaning of boundaries.  She had no physical choice in the matter.  I decided for her that she was going to lie down. Given her own way, she most likely would have continued to fight sleep until she hurt herself.

Because I chose to enforce boundaries with my children when they were two years old, they have learned to operate within the boundaries placed around them.  Because I chose to enforce boundaries with my foster child, she has learned to operate within the boundaries of the rules in my house, and has been content since then.  Of course she doesn't always like going to bed, but she knows that she must comply.  

Proverbs 22:15 is clear: "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away." Many interpret this verse as a literal rod, other's see it as more of a metaphor.  While I have no problem physically spanking my biological children, I am not comfortable spanking a foster child, nor am I legally allowed to do so.  Like the cop in the video, I have had to find other ways to physically restrain a petulant child who refuses to respond positively to authority.

If you have never been in this position with a child, then perhaps you shouldn't pass such harsh judgment on the cop who was put in this position.  The girl was acting like a two year old.  She was breaking all the rules.  She was emotionally distressed and had probably never been forced to understand the boundaries of authority.

After you have dealt with this kind of behavior without resorting to physical force, please let me know what you did, how long it took to come to a peaceful agreement, and how the child responds to you weeks and months after the incident.  I would especially like to know if the child respects your authority, if they seem happy within the boundaries you've agreed on, and if the incident has ever come up again.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Our Obsession with Beauty

This is what showed up under an article I was a reading this morning.  That's right. Two articles are about ways to get skinnier. Three are about women who "weren't pretty enough," so they decided to succumb to someone else's ideal. Two of these women did so primarily for revenge on an ex. The last one is a click bait type article showcasing a scantily clad "sexy" woman. Every single article shares one glaring message: you aren't pretty enough.

I'm a heavyset person.  According to my BMI I am obese.  I wear plus size clothes.  I have dimples around my elbows.  I have an extra half chin.  I have to buy wide shaft boots because my calves are too thick for standard ones.  And yet, a lot of my friends tell me I don't look "too fat." When I had jaw surgery a year and a half ago I lost about 20 lbs.  When I was finally given clearance to chew food again, I told my doctor I would be getting a burger on the way home.  He told me not to go overboard because I didn't want to add all the weight back on I'd lost.  I didn't  realize I felt that way.

I'm becoming more and more aware of the visual obsession in humanity.  I used to say it was just our society, but as I do more research I realize it's been an obsession since the fall of mankind.  Don't believe me?  Check out Genesis 3:6-11


With the fall into sin, mankind became obsessed with appearance.  Using the Bible as the original history book, you will find passage after passage that talks about our obsession with our appearance. Judah's daughter-in-law, Tamar, uses her beauty to trick him into sleeping with her.  Joseph is imprisoned on false charges because his boss' wife thinks he's hot.  David's daughter, who just happens to also be named Tamar, is raped because some slime ball thinks she's pretty. Did I mention the whole Bathsheba episode?  How about Esther and the beauty contest?

The obsession continues in the New Testament.  Jesus called out the men in his sermon on the Mount, saying that if they look lustfully at a woman they've already committed adultery. Here is Romans 1:22-27 

Then, there's James chapter 2, 1 Peter 3, and others.

Just a quick glimpse into fashion history will reveal that the Bible isn't the only place where our obsession with appearance shows up.  Cleopatra was considered one of the most beautiful queens. Historians have documented all sorts of beauty rituals she followed.  The Greeks and Romans used vinegar, goat fat and ashes to bleach their hair, as blond hair was considered more beautiful.  From powdered wigs, to crinoline cages, to breaking little girls feet, history comes alive with example after example of mankind chasing an unattainable standard of beauty. Even more recently Hitler's obsession with Aryan Beauty caused the death of millions.  

Let's not forget the crowning achievement in the pursuit of beauty: the corset.  They were originally made of iron or animal bones. They were worn with such regularity that women's bones eventually shifted and warped to the shape of the corset.  Even some girls were expected to begin corset training at nine years old so their figures would be the right shape as adults.

Along with our historical obsession with beauty, comes an overbearing sense of shame.  Our sin nature likes to remind us ad nauseam that we aren't good enough.  It's the same attack that forced Adam and Eve to cover themselves with fig leaves.  Ad campaigns like Dove's "Real Beauty" are intended to help us get past our shame, but in light of human history, they are limited in their capacity.

So, where is the hope in all this?  How do we overcome such overwhelming oppression?

First, we must recognize that we are cursed.  You can't break a curse until you admit it actually exists.  I realize this probably sounds very mystical and archaic to some, but it needs to be said.  The curse of sin is real.  Jesus is the curse breaker.  The only way to overcome the curse of sin and death is to admit and accept that we are cursed and then ask Jesus to take it away.

Second, you have to actually believe the curse has been lifted.  You can't think of salvation as a one time deal that just gets you into heaven.  That is not victory over the curse.  Sure, it's nice to know that there is a heaven awaiting you after death, but what about now?  If the crucifixion only covered our ultimate fate post mortem, then why pursue it right now?  Oh sure, there's the whole, "You never know when you might die" argument, but that whole line of thinking comes across kind of pessimistic and fear based.  How is anyone supposed to look at God in a positive light if they are being told that they should ask him for fire-insurance in case of accidental death.  Salvation from the curse is for now, and freedom from shame is just one of the perks.

Third, you have to start renewing your mind.  This isn't a new concept.  Every culture in the world understands this concept.  The Yoga practice of Savasana teaches students to symbolically lie in a death state and let everything negative fall out of us into the floor.  The Hindu's celebrate Dwali as a time of renewal.  The Buddhists have Fusatsu, a time for renewal of vows and purification. There are more.

Let me be clear here: I don't recommend any of these religions.  I think they are like taking ibuprofen to cure cancer. I think they take bits and pieces of God's redemptive plan and elevate them to become just another distraction from true freedom from the curse.  I'm simply showing that mind renewal is not a new concept.

As you allow God to renew your mind, several things will happen.
  • You will begin to see yourself through God's eyes: His beautiful creation, as He intends you to be, not as fashion dictates you should attempt to be.  
  • You'll begin to realize that beauty isn't defined by the rich and famous, but by personal preference. 
  • You will realize that diversity is not just about gender or skin color or sexuality.  It's about everything from the size of someone's calves to the way their eyelids close.  It's about God loving everything He made from Jennifer Aniston to the Duggars to Tess Holliday.  
  • You will not only stop feeling shame for yourself, but you will start to see value in others. The people you once saw as undesirable and unlovable will suddenly have more worth in your eyes.  
These are only a few of the benefits of freedom from the curse of shame.  Everything you do will start to change, even how you eat and exercise. You will stop seeing yourself with the shame of the curse, and begin to see yourself through the eyes of a loving God who wants to have a relationship with you.

If you want to know about how to begin the process of healing or want to share some ways you've found freedom from shame leave me a comment below.

Friday, July 17, 2015

When God Says Wait... a response

Dear Laura,

I read your guest post on Bobi Ann Allen's Blog.  For the most part I knew exactly how you felt.  I too struggled with secondary infertility.

I know the pain of having people ask, "When are you going to start trying again?" when you've already been trying for over a year.  I understand the embarrassment of being outspoken about loving kids and wanting lots of them only to have people question when that big family is going to materialize. I know the frustration of gaining weight post Cesarean and having folks congratulate you only to explain that it's just fat, and you aren't carrying a baby.

I understand the guilt of feeling like you have no reason to complain when you have a beautiful child to hold in your arms.  I understand the confusion of trying to decide how to live your life with just one child when your entire life plan centered around raising many children.  I understand the doubt when the specialists recommend drugs and your Christian upbringing questions the use of chemical fertility treatments.  I know the frustration when the doctors are just as baffled as to the cause of the infertility.  

The only thing I cannot empathize with is the miscarriages.  By God's grace I never lost a baby.  I understand second-hand the pain and sorrow of losing a baby, as my best friend went through this multiple times.  However, I cannot personally say that I've experienced this.

How many times must we sit through sermons about the blessings of children and question our standing before God?  How many times are we reminded of God's gift to the righteous only to search our souls for a sin that is preventing God's blessing?  I bet you have Psalms 127, 128, and 139 practically memorized.  I bet you're pretty sick of hearing about Isaiah 54.

I don't know you.  I don't know what God is teaching you through all this frustration and struggle.  I just know that there were some things I needed to learn from my journey.

1) I learned to love my son.  
When I initially started dealing with infertility, I didn't realize how my discontent reflected on my son.
He was strong willed and difficult.  My parenting style revolved around splitting time between siblings.  All my mentors were women who were great at managing large numbers of children.  I was planning to homeschool my brood, and having an only child limited that decision.  I didn't realize how angry I was with God for forcing me to change my plans.  It took three years for me to really fall in love with him.  By the time he turned five I was finally ready to focus all my energy on just him.

2) I learned to love my husband.
I didn't realize until I was staring 18 years of motherhood in the face that I was going to be alone with my hubby for a very, very long time.  We got married when I was just 18, and I assumed there would be a good 15 years of childbearing ahead of me.  I assumed that we would probably have children around the house until I was well into my fifties, and then we would have loads of grand kids to babysit.  It wasn't that I didn't like my husband.  He's a great guy.  It was simply the fact that I didn't think I'd need to work on one-on-one time until later in our relationship.  I'm so thankful for that time we had to really connect.  He truly is my soul mate and I love that I get to be with him for the rest of our lives.

3) I learned to be a blessing to others.
Because I had so much time on my hands only managing one child I realized I was in the perfect position to provide support to moms with more kids.  I had a friend who lived in my neighborhood who had three small children, and many times I would call her up and offer to take her kids to the park so she could rest or get some organizing done.  When other ladies in my church were having babies I offered to come take care of the newborns for a couple of hours so Mommy could get some sleep.

4) I learned to be a mother to the motherless.
Realizing that my body refused to bear another child, forced me to consider other avenues to motherhood.  During that time my husband and I were able to have realistic discussions about adoption and fostering.  Although we decided at that time not to pursue that path, those discussions have finally born fruit.  We are now fostering a 2 year old and hope to continue this ministry for a long time.

4) I learned that trials equip you to minister.
Perhaps the best lesson I learned is that overcoming a trial gives a person greater authority to pray for others.  Faith is like a sapling, and the more trials you overcome the bigger and stronger that sapling becomes. Aside from empathy, I can now offer hope.  After 4 years of trying to get pregnant, God gave me my second child.  Then 20 months after that, He gave me a third.  Three years after that He gave me a fourth.  Because of this experience I have been able to pray in faith for other women dealing with infertility and they have gotten pregnant.

I agree with James 1 and pray that you will have many healthy children in the years to come.  I pray that God will restore to you seven-fold everything the enemy has taken away.  I ask for supernatural protection over your home that you will be able to bring forth every blessing God has in store for you and that the locust would not be able to destroy anything in the future.  I pray that you will learn every lesson God has for you through this difficulty and that you will reach the peak of this mountain you are climbing in victory.

Perhaps God is planting seeds of ministry in you.  When you finally do give birth to your next child, I hope you will be encouraged to pray over women dealing with infertility and continue the cycle of hope.

God Bless,
No Longer Barren