Hungry all the Time

In 1999, Ana Carolina Reston crossed the stage in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  At thirteen years old, she had just been named Queen of Jundiai, the winner’s sash draped around her slender figure.  Her mother and father, watching from the audience, beamed with pride.

“The other girls were podgy and had bottoms,” Mrs. Reston stated, “She won because she was slim and elegant.”

But in 2004, when Ana Reston answered a casting call in China, she was told she was “too fat”.  So by 2006, standing at 5’8″, Miss Reston weighed only 88 lbs and had a BMI of 13.4 (the World Health Organization considers a BMI of 16 to be starvation).  She died of complications related to anorexia nervosa and bulimia at the age of 21.

She was the second model to die from anorexia-complications in the year of 2006.  The first, Luisel Ramos, died of heart failure after living on a diet of lettuce and Diet Coke for three months.  Miss Ramos was participating in a fashion show and had just walked off the runway when she fainted and suffered a heart attack.  She was only 22.  Her sister Eliana, also a model, died in 2007 of malnutrition.

What is even more tragic about stories like these, is that these women are among the standards of beauty in our society.  Every little girl wants to be beautiful, and they look to models and celebrities to set the bar for that beauty.  Women like Ana, Luisel, and Eliana.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized as a psychiatric illness.  Sufferers develop an eating disorder, an extreme paronoia of obesity or weight gain, and an unrealistic perception of body weight.  Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by “binge” eating and subsequent purging.  Both are often accompanied by fasting and excessive exercise.

The increasing prevelance of these disorders in our society has got some people saying, “Enough is enough and this is madness.”  But not everyone agrees.

After reading an article in Newsweek about pro-anorexic (“pro-ana”) groups, I searched on Facebook for groups related to anorexia.  I was so saddened to see a number of pro-ana groups.  Some were listed under “Beliefs & Causes”, others under “Beauty”, still others under “Food & Drink”.  Many had default pictures of skeletal supermodels, called “Thinspiration”.  Members as young as nine asked for “fasting buddies”.  “Remember nothing tastes as good as thin feels!” one member wrote on a group wall.  Others offered tips for weight loss, or excuses to use on concerned family and friends.

Obsession with beauty is nothing new.  Every culture in every era of history has been concerned with physical appearance.  The standard of beauty may differ from society to society, but the pursuit of it is a universal human passion.  Our Heavenly Father acknowledged this in 1 Samuel 16:7; “Man looks on  the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

Many people call anorexia nervosa a disease, and perhaps it is.  But, in another way, it is a symptom of a much larger disease.  We starve ourselves in the pursuit of something more than attention and beauty.  We are looking for worth and love, purpose and meaning.  We are looking for something to fill the huge hole inside of us.  Those who suffer from anorexia are no different than the rest of us in their longing to fill this emptiness; they only differ in their attempt to do so.

Anorexia nervosa is essentially a hunger, and it is a hunger which cannot be satisfied.  Not just a physical hunger for food, but a hunger for perfection, satisfaction, worth, attention, and acceptance.  But it is a neverending hunger.  No number on the scale is small enough; a pair of jeans sized 00 is still too big.  Men and women literally starve themselves in their efforts to lose weight.  They look in the mirror, and where others see thin, emaciated skeletons they see obesity.  It is a tragic picture of the struggle existing in each one of us apart from Christ; an insatiable, unquenchable longing for more.  We’ve seen it in celebrities and billionaires and even our beautiful, successful friends and neighbors who “have it all” and yet are always searching for that elusive happiness.

Why is nothing good enough?  Why is there no body perfect enough, no man or woman loving enough, no friend loyal enough, no luxury satisfiying enough, no lifestyle good enough to make us happy?  Why are we constantly wearing ourselves out in this incessant, unending pursuit of something better?  We are we constantly trying to end this ravenous hunger inside of us, and why are we always empty, no matter what we do?

The reason is because we are looking in all the wrong places.

In my high school health class, I had to spend a lot of time studying anorexia and related eating disorders.  My textbook said that being anorexic meant being hungry all the time.  But the strange thing is, we are all hungry all the time.  We are hungry for love.  We are hungry for purpose.  We are hungry for a relationship with our Maker.

This is natural.  Just as our bodies were designed to be fueled by the consumption of food, and we experience pain and hunger when we deprive ourselves of that nourishment, so our souls were designed to need a relationship with Christ.  Without Him, we are hungry.

What are you trying to feed this hunger with?  Maybe you struggle with an eating disorder, or self-injury.  You may try to fill this emptiness with a relationship, or a sport or talent, or a search for wealth and success.  You may search for it in drugs, or sex, or alcohol, or partying.  Whatever your pursuit, whatever your distraction, you know better than I do how unfulfilling it truly is.  Before I surrendered my life to Christ I thought that material things and relationships with other people could make me happy.  But they always left me empty.  Only Jesus Christ can satisfy the hunger that only He was meant to appease.

Dear friend, there is so much pain and sorrow in this world.  You know this first-hand.  Whatever your struggles are, I beg you to bring them to the feet of Jesus.  He is faithful.  If you need someone to talk to, or if you have questions, please feel free to email me (Keely) at sisterskeepersjournal@gmail.com.  I would love to talk with you.

 

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;

and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,

and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food.

Incline your ear, and come to me;

hear, that your soul may live…”

Isaiah 55:1-3

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November 4, 2008: Election day

McCain and Palin

Today’s election will change your life, whether you vote or not.

It will affect the lives of your children and your children’s children…a generation not yet born.

Some of tomorrow’s children will not be born…unless our nation changes.  No matter what you believe about politics, politicians, and elections in general, let your heart be God’s heart today.  Think of the innocents.  Think of the voiceless, the helpless, the silent…the truly oppressed.

They are the unborn.

Senator John McCain is opposed to Roe vs. Wade and upholds the sanctity of all human life, which begins at conception.

Senator Barack Obama promises to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as one of his first actions if elected President, making a woman’s right to kill her unborn child a fundamental American principle.  This will mean more abortion clinics dumpsters will be filled with the bodies of God’s cherished creations, each little girl and boy designed individually and lovingly by Him (Psalm 139).  Read this article on MSN’s website about the difference between the two candidate’s abortion stances.

Do not neglect your duty and your privilege.  Cast your vote.

If you are not old enough to vote or are otherwise unable to cast your ballot today, please join me in prayer for our nation today.  God bless America. 

Check out this article by John Piper on single-issue voting.

America Remembers

Click here for photos of the commemoration ceremony held at Ground Zero today, September 11, 2008, the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Never Forget.

We curled up on Grandma’s bed, flipping through TV channels, looking for cartoons.  It was a fine Tuesday morning in September, and we were on vacation in Southern California.  The next day was my birthday, and I was going to be ten years old.

My 8 year-old sister held the remote.  It was hard to find cartoons that day.  I kept seeing weird scenes…pictures of huge clouds of billowing smoke seemed to be on every channel.  “Mama said something happened,” Michaela said, “Some planes crashed into a skyscraper.”

I didn’t think much of it.  I was 9-almost-10 and I already had a vague realization that news on TV was always bad and surreal and unimportant.  Finally, I tumbled out of Grandma’s bed and tiptoed downstairs.  The house was eerie in its quiet.  In the kitchen, Mom sat before the TV, watching something.

“What happened, Mommy?” I asked.  Rarely ever, before or since, have I seen her so shaken.

Soon, the whole world knew the truth.

Early that morning, all the way across the country, nineteen men had hijacked four commercial airliners.  Some of them were headed to San Francisco, near my home, the others to Los Angeles, near where I was at my Grandma’s.  But instead, two of the planes had been driven into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, New York.  American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the Pentagon in Virginia.  The fourth, destined for the U.S. Capitol building, was crashed in a Pennsylvania field thanks to the bravery of its passengers.

On that Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, some 2,975 people died, including 411 emergency workers who sacrified their lives trying to end the fires and save others from the rubble and burning buildings.  24 people remain missing.  At least 6,291 people were injured.

Today, I awoke to the sound of voices from my past playing over the radio.  The woman crying as she told of her daughter, calling her on her cell phone, saying, “Mom, there are men on this plane, and they say they have bombs.”  A New Yorker, his voice unsteady with emotion; “The towers are burning.  There are people jumping out of the windows.  I can’t believe this is happening.”

Today is September 11, 2008.  Tomorrow is my birthday, and I am turning 17.

Some things never change…some things will never be the same.

There is a hole in New York City where once the World Trade Center towers stood, tall and proud, reaching to the sky.  There is a hole in the hearts of thousands of people who lost a loved one on that cold September morning.  There is a hole in the feeling of security and safety here in our nation, whose trust has been breached and whose innocence has been shattered.

But September 11, 2001 was not a day of defeat.  On that day, we were hurt but not defeated.  We were bruised but not broken.  We were crushed but not destroyed.  We have fallen but we stood strong again.

In New York, thousands of people were used to the sight of the magnificent Twin Towers.  They were a beacon, a symbol of beauty and unity and strength and everything good in this nation of ours.  And then one day, in a cloud of smoke, they were gone.  No one knew how and no one knew why, but everyone realized that their world would never be the same.

No one felt safe that day.  Even on the other side of the country, in sunny California, near LA where some of the flights were supposed to have landed, we all felt vulnerable…insecure.  Nothing was sure.  No one knew why this had happened and no one knew what would come next.  Driving home to Northern California shortly afterwards, we passed guards standing watch on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  No one knew when or where the next attack might be.

Even in this time of distress and turmoil there were heroes.  The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) lost 341 firefighters and 2 paramedics.  The New York City Police Department lost 23 officers; the Port Authority Police Department lost 37 and a K9 dog.  8 EMS and paramedics from private units also lost their lives.  As hundreds of people flooded out of the Towers, swarming the stairs, panicked to get out…these brave men and women were going up.  Fighting the flow, they were looking for those who were too old or too weak or injured…those who couldn’t get out.  Many of these brave people never came down those stairs again.

Numerous individuals gave of themselves during this crisis…many of whose stories will never be told, who will never be recognized as the heroes that they are.

 

I turned 10 the next day.  It wasn’t a happy day.  At first, almost everyone forget.  It just plain wasn’t important.  On that day, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, sweethearts and friends, children and grandchildren, aunts and uncles, cousins and neighbors, were still crying.  Some were waiting for news of their missing loved ones.  Desperate to know.  Rescue workers were searching through the rubble for anyone who might still be alive.

President Bush read Psalm 23 to a nation of hurting people.  His words calmed our hearts…words that were not his own, but were almost as old as pain and suffering itself.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…

Pray for the families and friends of those who were lost.  Today, they are remembering.  Pray for our soldiers, fighting our enemy in a faraway land…away from those they love…so that something like this will never happen again.  Pray for our leaders, that they have wisdom and boldness.  Pray for God’s people, that they reach out to those who are hurting.  Pray for our country.

And never forget what happened that September morning.

God bless America.

Purity Popularity

Jonas Brothers

At last Sunday’s Video Music Awards (VMAs), there was quite a buzz.  This isn’t unusual, the popular awards show is often the scene for shocking scenes and scandals, but what was unusual was the subject of all the attention.

The purity rings worn by the popular boy-band, the Jonas Brothers.  Kevin, Joe and Nick each wore a simple band on their ring fingers to symbolize their commitment to sexual purity until marriage.  This receving an offensive string of comments from the show’s host, Russell Brand, whose inappropriate words in turn earned him a scolding from singer Jordin Sparks and hotel heiress Paris Hilton.  Jordin, an American Idol winner and fellow purity ring wearer, said from the stage after accepting her award “it’s not bad to wear a promise ring”, while Hilton told Brand not to “pick on them”.  Mr. Brand later apologized.

Jessica Simpson, Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez, and other stars have also worn similar rings in the past.  Many Christians like to use the rings as symbols of an inward commitment to save themselves for marriage.  Christian manufactors like Factory 79 make purity jewelry.  Organizations like True Love Waits support abstinence, purity rings and pledges.

Of course, the real issue is the commitment.  Susie Shellenberger, editor of the popular Christian magazines Brio and Brio & Beyond for teen girls, writes, “Of course, it’s important to remember that your commitment to purity is in your heart and mind — not a piece of jewelry. The jewelry is simply a statement of your pledge.”  In other words, you don’t need a pretty ring in order to make the decision to obey the Bible’s mandate that the marriage bed be pure.  But a ring can be a special reminder of that commitment, and even a conversation starter as to why you believe what you believe.

I don’t know the Jonas Brothers, Paris Hilton, or Jordin Sparks personally.  I can’t answer for their faith or their level of commitment to Biblical chastity.  But I am glad that Kevin, Joe, Nick, and Jordin chose to be vocal about their pledge to save themselves, and that Paris defended them.  In an age when teenage sex and pregnancy is supposed to be accepted, here are some young “pop stars” who have the guts to say, “I believe in something better.”  As for Russell Brand, that he would attack these young men for their stance is very disappointing, but not unexpected.  In the dark world of pop culture, it’s nice to see a little light.  Pray for these young people and their commitments…despite Mr. Brand’s unfortunate remarks, maybe doors have been opened in young hearts throughout a nation desperately in need of a firm belief in the beauty of virtue.

Sarah Palin

These days, it seems like everybody has something to say about Sarah Palin.  Talk about overnight success!  One minute she’s practically an unknown, and the next she is launched to nationwide superstardom.  A couple of weeks ago people didn’t know anything about Sarah Palin, now everyone has an opinion on who is the mother of her four-month-old son and whether or not she tried to get her state trooper ex-brother-in-law fired.  Sarah identifies herself as a pro-life, pro-gun, pro-drilling, pro-tax-cuts, mother of five, devout Christian woman.  She is also a high school basketball star who led her team to state championships, an Alaska beauty queen, a lifetime National Rifle Association (NRA) member, a moose hunter, a feminist, and a marathon runner.  She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications and is an excellent public speaker.  She grew up in small town Alaska and attends Wasilla Bible Church.

I’m not a political commentator and don’t pretend to be…I’m not even old enough to vote!  And I don’t want to turn Sisters Keepers into a political blog, because I do believe that my kingdom is not of this world, and it would be better to spend time focusing on Heaven rather than America (as much as I do love my country, and as thankful as I am for the freedom I have here).  But as citizens of the USA, I also believe we have a certain amount of responsibility, and I think it’s OK to talk about politics so long as our allegiances don’t get out of balance.  I truly am excited about Sarah Palin’s candidacy.  I’ve been reading some articles about her today, and thought that, rather than try and voice my own opinions, I’d share the words of others who have already done a fine job.  Here’s a short list.  The blog name or author name is written in bold.  Please note that I do not necessarily endorse everything said by each author, and certainly not any other material shared on their websites (I’ve not had time to preview all of them).  But I did find these pieces interesting and enlightening in different ways, and worth reading as well. 

Radical Womanhood: The Questions Swirling Around Sarah Palin

Carolyn McCulley shares her views on some Sarah Palin controveries from the viewpoint of a Christian woman.  I found this article scholarly and thought-provoking, and, most importantly, Biblically-centered.

Albert Mohler: An Unexpected New Motherhood Debate

Pastor and author Albert Mohler discusses the debate surrounding Palin’s unmarried 17 year-old daughter’s pregnancy, and also comments in general on her candiacy, particularly from a Biblical viewpoint.  Should a woman lead a nation?  What does the Bible say about female leadership in the secular arena?  A Biblically solid and insightful post.  (Check Pastor Mohler’s August 2008 archives for an article on the birth of Palin’s handicapped son, Trig…written before Palin obtained the VP slot.)

The New York Times: They Raise Children, Pray and Support Palin

Although not written from a Christian or a conservative viewpoint, this newspiece gives some interesting information about the folks who support Palin, and a little about the governor herself.

Fox News (Susan Estrich): Sarah Palin and the Double Standard

Again, this isn’t written by an author with a pronounced Christian worldview, but her insights are still interesting.  We may not share a Biblical viewpoint on gender roles, but Ms. Estrich still raised questions about the double standard of our nation’s acceptance of women in politics that were thought-provoking.

Young Ladies Christian Fellowship: Mommy and VP?

An article by a young Christian blogger, wife, and mother who supports Sarah Palin.  I really liked what she had to say.

Ann Coulter: The Best Man Turned Out To Be A Woman

Ann Coulter is both loved and hated for her no-nonsense, occasionally biting conservatism.  Some squirm at her bluntness and sometimes less-than-elegant choice of words, others rejoice because she is unapologetic and honest about her convictions in an age of pandering.  And so, last but not least, a very Coulter-ish viewpoint on McCain’s VP pick.