How Sweet It Is

You may eat freely from every tree in the garden…but one.”

Over the years, I’ve learned to recognize God’s voice when He speaks. It is usually profound, concise, and startling in its clarity. He most often takes a Scripture and applies it to a current situation in my life.

So when I kept hearing this verse repeating in my mind one mid-October morning, I recognized the Messenger. I just didn’t like the message. 

I knew that God had given Adam and Eve these instructions when He placed the pair in the garden. They were free to eat from any tree but the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” We all know how well THAT went. (See Genesis 2.)

But now those words were directed at MeMy garden. My tree.

I even knew the name of the tree He was referring to.

“Sugar.”

No, I didn’t like this message at all.

In my work at our local pregnancy center I’ve encountered alcoholics and drug addicts. Some are in recovery; others are in denial. One pregnant client admitted that she was a heroin addict, but was reluctant to pursue treatment, even though she knew her baby would be born addicted. When I hear the word “addict,” stories like these come to mind.

But there are many kinds of addictions. Some are perfectly legal and socially acceptable. Like my own.

I’ve always said I have a “sweet tooth,” and have often joked about being a “chocoholic.” I’m a “Life’s uncertain. Eat dessert first.” kind of gal. Did you know that most alcoholics can remember exactly when they took their first sip? Well, I can recall the taste of my first chocolate Easter egg.

I’ve fasted from chocolate a few times in the past. But give up Sugar? You’ve got to be kidding!

I googled “sugar addiction.” At the top of the results page, in bold, was this:

Scientists have found that sugar is addictive and stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain as cocaine or heroin.”*

In fact, studies showed rats preferred sugar over cocaine**.

Whoa. This was no joking matter! Sugar was my drug of choice. Could I be addicted?

The Holy Spirit was clearly convicting me. But He was also pointing the way to freedom. It was drastic, but it was beginning to make sense.

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you…” (Jesus, in Matthew 18:8, NAS)

Ouch. This is a difficult teaching. But when dealing with an addiction, there is no middle ground. When hearing from God, there is no place for compromise.

So I did something I never thought I’d do. I cut down the cane tree, and cut processed sugar out of my life.

Next week will mark five months “sober.”

Going sugar-free has had its bitter moments. Five weeks into my journey, my family went on a Thanksgiving cruise, and I had to navigate around the ever-present desserts. Then came the sweets-laden Christmas season. But I learned that I could enjoy baking–without partaking! With every “chocolate holiday” on the calendar, I’ve bid a fond farewell to each of my holiday favorites. (So long, Hershey’s Candy Coated Milk Chocolate Eggs.)

But you know what? It’s actually been much easier than I thought it would be! After I heard so clearly from God, it became a simple issue of obedience. There is sacrifice, but also great joy in surrender. I’ve experienced a freedom I’ve never known before. Once I accepted that this particular tree was off limits for me (at least for this season), I felt at peace.

I doubt I’m the only one who struggles with this addiction. Perhaps the Lord is using my story to put His finger on this–or some other–area in your life. If so, here’s what I would say to you, my friend:

When God speaks, listen! Even if you don’t like what He’s saying. Even if He asks you to give up the one thing you think you can’t live without.

You can do it! He will help you.

On the other side of a hard obedience is an amazing freedom.

Oh, how sweet it is!

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, NAS)

 

*From an article titled “Are You Addicted to Sugar? Here’s How to Break the Cycle” by Sarah Elizabeth Richards at www.dailyburn.com.

**From a NCBI–National Institutes of Health report: “Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward” by M. Lenoir, 2007.

 

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Pass the Fruit

fruit of spiritA dietician declaring “No More Dieting?”

Aren’t dieticians all about diets?  The word “diet” is in their name, after all.

Not dieticians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, to the surprise and relief of the diet-weary.   In their book, Intuitive Eating, they share stories of real life change that have resulted from their unconventional approach.  You may recall that it recently inspired me to make my own “Declaration of Dieting Independence.”

While the book is not written from a distinctly Christian perspective, I was struck by the way its principles seemed to echo many biblical themes, like grace and freedom.  I kept noticing references to the “Fruit of the Spirit,” that oft-quoted list of nine godly character qualities found in Galatians 5:22-23.*

It just never occurred to me to serve this kind of fruit at the dinner table!

Here is a sampling of quotes from the book, along with their corresponding “fruit.”  Perhaps it will whet your appetite for more.

Love

“If you don’t love it, don’t eat it.  If you love it, savor it.”

(Eating should be pleasurable!)

Joy

“It’s not about going to the gym to exercise, it’s about finding a realistic way to provide regular, joyful movement in your life.”

(For someone with an aversion to exercise, this sounds so much more enJOYable.)

Peace

“Make peace with food.  Call a truce; stop the food fight!  Give yourself unconditional permission to eat.”

(Food was never meant to be a battlefield.  The war is over.)

Patience

“Please be patient with yourself.”

(There are no “quick fixes.”  This process may take awhile.)

Kindness

“She learned to give herself nurturing messages and make nonjudgmental decisions about her eating.”

(Why is this so hard to do?)

Goodness

“Scream a loud ‘No’ to thoughts in your head that declare you’re ‘good’ for eating minimal calories or ‘bad’ because you ate a piece of chocolate cake.”

(My “goodness” is not based upon my performance.)

Faithfulness

“Progress, not perfection, is what counts.”

(Being faithful does not mean being perfect.)

Gentleness

“We call this approach gentle nutrition.  Taste is important, but health is still honored, without guilt.”

(I like this.  Gentleness, not rules and rigid standards.)

Self Control

“She was thrilled that ‘without trying’ she was eating less food, feeling satisfied without deprivation, and not dieting.”

 (Who wouldn’t be thrilled?!)

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives…” (Galatians 5:22a, NLT, italics mine)

It’s called “the fruit of the Spirit” because it’s HIS doing!  We can’t manufacture it on our own.  But as we yield to the Spirit’s control and influence, the fruit will bud, blossom and eventually grow to maturity.

I’m encouraged by the little buds I see emerging in my own life.

I may not be dieting, but I’ll gladly take another serving of that fruit!

*Qualities listed are from The New American Standard Bible.

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The Leap

Diet

For Lent, I’m giving up…DIETING.

Actually, I’m giving it up for good.

Let me explain.

Almost a year ago I wrote a blog post titled “Imperfect Progress,” where I shared about my crazy weight loss teeter totter ride.  I felt quite vulnerable in doing so.  (Much like I feel now.)  In case you missed it, I’ll summarize.  It went something like this:

Gain.  Lose.  Gain.  Lose.  Gain.  Lose.

Gain.

That’s right.  The teeter totter went back up, as teeter totters are prone to do.  And feelings of self-worth and acceptance went down.  Way down.

Imperfect Progress?  More like Perfect Regress.

At a friend’s recommendation I recently picked up a book called Intuitive Eating.  To my surprise, authors and nutritionists Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch were familiar with life on a teeter totter.  Only they called it “The Seesaw Syndrome.”  On one end sits Deprivation (the essence of dieting) and on the other end, Guilt (the result of overeating).  Chronic dieters know this maddening and merciless cycle all too well.

The solution, according to the authors?

JUMP OFF.

Stop Dieting.

For Real.

“…just as when one kid decides to get off the seesaw, the other is forced to stop playing.  When you give yourself permission to not be deprived, you simultaneously let go of the guilt!  By giving yourself permission to eat, you stop playing the futile seesaw game.”

The initial leap off of the teeter totter is both terrifying and exhilarating.  But rather than continue to perpetuate this self-defeating cycle, I am now turning my energies towards developing a long-term, healthy relationship with food.  I am learning to be patient with myself in this process, resisting the temptation to go for the temporary “quick fix.”  God has given me “new eyes” through which to view myself and food.

It feels a lot like…Grace.

The following caught my eye on Facebook yesterday, because it captures, in a nutshell, what the Lord has been so patiently teaching me:

I need to be skinnier love myself.

I am thrilled to be off the teeter totter and onto a new path.  There is much still to be discovered.  I hope to share more as I continue on this journey with Him.

Anyone care to join me?

The godly eat to their hearts’ content, but the belly of the wicked goes hungry. (Proverbs 13:25, NLT)

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Imperfect Progress

I am a recovering perfectionist.

This may surprise those of you who have visited my home and observed my less-than-perfect housekeeping habits firsthand.  The problem with perfectionists is that we get trapped in this “all or nothing” mentality.  So if we can’t do something perfectly, we don’t want to do it at all.

I’m going to swallow my pride and share a current illustration of this in my life.  A little over three years ago I embarked on a weight loss journey.  It should not surprise you that I followed the program to a ‘t.’  As a result I lost over 30 pounds!  (34, to be exact.  We perfectionists like to be exact.)  This was huge for me (no sarcasm intended)!

Well, the weight stayed ‘lost’ for a while, but then the pounds started finding me again.  I finally recommitted to lose the extra weight again almost a year later and managed to shed ten of those unwanted pounds.  Unfortunately within the following year they paid me a return visit, only this time they each brought a friend!  So, once again, I re-enrolled in my weight loss program, bid twenty pounds farewell and (once again) arrived at my goal weight after several months of faithfully sticking to the plan.

Now, is it just me or did you notice a pattern here?  In case you missed it, let me highlight it for you:  Gain.  Lose.  Gain.  Lose.  Gain.  Lose.  I’m quite experienced in the weight gain department.  I had grown in my ability to lose weight.  But I was tired of this teeter totter.  Pounds up.  Pounds down.  I needed to develop a new skill: maintaining a healthy weight.

About the time I was longing to jump off this playground ride, a verse jumped out at me during a Sunday morning sermon.  It was Philippians 3:16, from the New Living Translation:  “But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.”   I had made progress in my weight loss journey.  The challenge now was holding on to it!

When the pounds start creeping back on, my perfectionist tendencies kick in.  I feel like a failure and quit trying.  The scales then tip (no pun intended) drastically in the other direction.  I relinquish nearly all the progress I have made.

But I’ve recently adopted a new mantra, one that is helping to change my unbalanced,  “all or nothing” approach to life.  Lysa TerKeurst shared it in her new book, Unglued.  Fellow perfectionists, recite with me:

“Imperfect progress is the goal.”

It has taken me awhile to really believe this.  Little by little, however, I’m becoming more comfortable accepting my imperfections.  I have good days and bad days.  But I’m learning to pick myself up and forgive myself when I fail.  I don’t have to let one bad day turn into a month of bad days.  God’s mercies are new every morning.  (Lamentations 3:23)

I’m still learning how to maintain a healthy weight.  I have my ups and downs.  (Pun intended.)  But God sees my heart, and knows that I’m sincerely trusting Him to help me change–even when the number on the scale is moving in the wrong direction.  His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect(!) in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)  I’m so thankful for that.

It’s a battle sometimes (okay, all the time!).  But I’m still in it and I’m not giving up.  For me, that in itself is progress.

So here I am, no longer swinging from one extreme to the other, learning to live somewhere in the messy middle.

Imperfect, but making progress.

His work in progress.

And you know what?

I think I just might be perfectly okay with that.

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