Sunday, January 18, 2015

My 600 Pound Life

Have you guys seen the show "My 600-lb Life" that comes on TLC? I am ridiculously obsessed with it. I will watch reruns, marathons, and cannot miss a new episode. These people, all of whom are at least 600 pounds, allow a camera crew to follow them for a year as they journey to lose weight through Gastric Bypass Surgery. It is riveting and heart-wrenching, and I cannot look away. 

Many of them begin as prisoners of their own beds and houses, unable to stand or walk more than a few steps on their own. They are often reliant on a caretaker and can do very little for themselves, including bathing and, ironically, cooking. So often, there is a fascinating dependent relationship where a caretaker becomes an enabler, cooking extremely unhealthy meals or bringing in unlimited fast food. I'm no psychologist, but the psychology in that fascinates me and could be another post.
James is 37 years old and weighs 750 pounds. "My ...

At 597 pounds, Zsalynn said, "My daughter is an innocent ...

Tara's life has been very difficult. When she was young, ...

For some of the people featured, the end of the year means many pounds lost and regained independence. For others, though, the surgery is unsuccessful because they never face the real reasons they gained such weight in the first place.

I'm fascinated by this show for many reasons, but I think the greatest is that it's not really about weight. Absolutely, being hundreds of pounds overweight is, at some level, a weight issue, but at the core, the issue is much greater than just food and exercise. It's about more than just calories consumed and inactivity.

For so many of the men and women on this show, a trauma or tragedy earlier in life was the starting point of their battle with weight. Failed relationships, sexual abuse, divorce, neglect as children... There is always more to the story than just food. There is always a deeper issue. Even for those who did not face an extreme tragedy, there is still an emotional component. They eat because they cannot handle stress; they eat because they feel alone; they eat because food is where they get their greatest pleasure. The external pounds are just the visible symbol of the internal struggle. 

I am not 600 pounds. I am not overweight, and I have never been one to turn to food when life gets hard - I do the opposite. But make no mistake. I, too, have a 600 pound life. In fact, most of us do.

See, here's the thing. For every person, there are internal struggles that, even if others know they exist, they don't understand the depth of what those struggles do to us. There are emotional hardships that consume and devastate us but that remain unknown to even those who know us best. And those internal hardships - please get this - if not surrendered and submitted to the Lord, will always manifest themselves externally as well. For some, it's food and weight. For some, it's alcoholism. For others, it's anger or pornography or excessive shopping or work or a myriad of other things we do to avoid dealing with the reality that begs to be faced.

The external manifestation of the inner struggle is sin. It's just not always obvious sin. 

For the 600 pound people, the excess pounds are obvious. We can see them and judge them and feel superior because we don't have (and can't understand) that struggle. But friends, if we have unconfessed sin that we refuse to face or struggles that we try to cope with through external means, we are spiritually and emotionally 600 pounds as well. We are just as obese and just as sick and just as in need of help as those people we gape at and watch featured on a popular TV show.

It's not politically correct to address obesity as sin. But handling our stresses and struggles with anything other than Jesus is sinful, and that includes food - both too much and too little of it. My struggles with undereating and over-exercising are just as sinful as overeating and under-exercising. My reacting in anger because I'm emotionally depleted is just as sinful as overeating or using drugs or sleeping too much to escape reality. However you and I try to handle life on our own, without surrender to Christ, is sin. Let's call it what it is and refuse to let it be the story of our lives.

I am always so sad for the 600 pound people who have lost years of their lives. They have been recluses trapped behind walls and imprisoned in mountains of flesh. They talk about wanting to leave the house and walk out into the sunshine, and when they finally do, the joy on their faces is unbelievable. Can you see that you and I are also missing out on years of our lives? Maybe not physically trapped, but emotionally? Maybe not unable to walk, but still feeling dead?

There's nothing harder than facing ourselves and admitting that we have a problem. But there's nothing worse than remaining trapped in a prison of our own making that our Creator wants to destroy for our own good.

What is your 600 pounds today, friend? What will it take for you to face it and lose it? Whatever it is, surrender it. Lay down the weight, literal or metaphorical, and allow the God who made you to remake you into what He desires. Those 600 pounds are not what He intended.

All photos from

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Let's Do Unconscious

There are two words that more accurately describe being a working adult than any others in the English language: perpetually exhausted.

I'm just tired, y'all. Like 'I could go to bed at 5:00 p.m. and not wake up until noon the next day' tired. Or 'if I sit still for more than 30 seconds, I'll fall out' tired. Also known as 'if my husband has the remote and watches the riveting show Treehouse Masters, I'll be snoring in 8 seconds.'  (Funny story: autocorrect just corrected snoring to scoring. Um, no. I'm too tired.)

This is definitely my idea of a good Friday night! I’m settled down for the night and I have a hot date with my DVD player as I just got the movie Transcendence starring Johnny Depp, so that’s what I will be watching tonight! I wish you a peaceful evening and as always heavenly dreams. Many blessings, Cherokee Billie

What has happened to me and my formerly energetic self? Work. That's what. And children and bills and responsibilities. Back before my hair turned gray and my knees cracked when I walked up stairs, I could stay awake past 8:00 p.m. with nary a yawn. I could be awake for 4 hours without praying 'please Jesus, let me put my head on this desk for 5 minutes with nobody noticing.' I used to want to go places and do things. Now I just want to go to bed. And do unconscious.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Jesus, the Mall, and $385 Sandals

So apparently I can't even go shopping without Jesus getting in the middle of it.

My husband and I went away for the weekend to celebrate his birthday (and coincidentally had one of the best weekends ever - sometimes you just have to suck it up and pay the money to get away from the laundry and dust bunnies that haunt you if you stay home.) 

We ate a delicious meal and inhaled incredible cheesecake.

Then we decided we'd do some shopping. As we walked around the mall, I was simply overwhelmed. Everywhere I looked were fancy stores with incredibly expensive items. And to be honest, I wanted some of them. Or many of them. The consumer in me wanted to buy some of the designer clothes to bring my Pinterest closet to life. The stuff was beautiful. But y'all. It was expensive.

Maybe it's because we weren't at the mall that we usually go to and I was seeing designer stores that I usually don't see, but I just felt really sad. I picked up a pair of sandals - the same brand that some of my 9th grade girls wear - and the price tag was $385. For sandals. Don't get me wrong; they were cute. But that's more than our car payment. 

We passed the American Girl doll store and saw baby dolls that cost more than my weekly grocery budget. That's just the doll. Tack on the clothes and beds and strollers and accessories, and you've surpassed my monthly grocery budget, too.

Now, listen. Here's what bothered (still bothers) me. I like to dress cute. My own closet contains way more clothes than are necessary, and I'm too embarrassed to tell you how many pairs of boots I counted in there last night. I've paid more than I've needed to for stuff I don't need. The number of scarves I own is laughable. It would take months of me wearing different outfits every day to wear it all. Maybe my clothes aren't the expensive brands in those stores I saw, but inexpensive items added up are still expensive. It bothers me that I want my daughter to have the doll that her school friends have, that I don't want her to be embarrassed if hers is the off brand. 

It bothers me that stuff is so important to me.

This is the tension I felt as I passed the Lacoste and Michael Kors stores and as I peeked in the windows of Louis Vuitton: it's not wrong, not a sin, to shop in those stores. But is it right for me? Is it the best way to spend my money when I have seen with my own eyes people who have only two sets of clothes? 

A hard part of living for Jesus is living with the knowledge that I can't live however I want and simultaneously glorify Him. I can't buy whatever I want if I feel convicted that it's wrong to spend my money on those things. 

A list of rules of what to buy and what not to buy would make all of this easier, wouldn't it? Not having to make these judgment calls would be a whole lot better, huh? But that's not how living for Christ works. Instead, we have to communicate with Him and learn what's right for us as individuals. So my not spending $385 on sandals is what's right for me. But perhaps not spending $30 on sandals is also what's right. I have to stop and ask - in either case.

My husband and I talked about how far the money being spent in that mall could go to feed the starving children we have held. But it's not just the money in that mall, is it? It's the money in my own two hands. Making it personal makes it harder

It's not wrong to spend money. But if I'm going to honor God with the money he has entrusted to me, I have to ask if it's right. Quite frankly, I don't do that often enough - and I think that grieves my God.
Maybe you're thinking I sound incredibly hypocritical here. After all, we paid for a hotel room and a nice dinner out in this city. We did some shopping (although it was in less expensive stores). We indulged in ourselves while there are hungry and cold people out there. Yes, we spent money on ourselves, but no, I don't think it was wrong. My husband and I needed to invest in our marriage. We needed to get away from some stress that has attacked us and reconnect in this season of life. It cost money, true, but the expense honored God as it strengthened our marriage.

There are rarely easy answers in a life lived for Christ. There are some very clear black and whites, but there is also a lot of gray. My desire is to honor my God - even in the gray.