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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Excuses, Excuses!

soak-wet-rain-umbrella

I drifted off to sleep to the sound of pelting rain Friday night and awakened Saturday morning to the same. Perfect weather for staying in jammies all morning. Which was indeed my cozy little plan.

And then I heard this disconcerting distress call from my MOPS group’s Facebook page:

SOS!!! Is there anyone that can go help Kristin with our convention fundraiser?!? Our basement is flooding. She is there now and I know she needs help! Please?!?!”

These two resourceful moms had organized a large tea party to raise funds to help them attend the national MOPS convention. Days earlier I had been more than happy to help, sharing a few recipes and packing up several tea-related items for them to borrow.

But now, on this soggy Saturday morning?

I was suddenly much less than happy to help.

Excuses began pouring out of me like an overflowing bucket of rainwater.

It’s cold and rainy.

I’m not a morning person.

I haven’t had my tea yet.

I already helped.

I don’t have any make-up on.

Service is not my spiritual gift.

That last one is my personal favorite. We Christians are often too quick to let a lack of gifting lead to a lack of responsibility. And while it is true that serving does not come naturally to me, I know that in Christ I am called to live a super-natural life and rise above my natural inclinations.

I also knew deep down that none of my excuses really held any water.

And then I thought about my daughter’s upcoming wedding. What if we had an emergency and needed assistance? What if I sent out a desperate, last-minute SOS? Wouldn’t I want others to respond to my call for help?

Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31, NIV)

God’s clear voice has a way of piercing through the fog. My excuses evaporated like rain puddles in the sun. I knew exactly what I needed to do.

I went.

Disregarding the time, the weather, the lack of caffeine and make-up.

I did for others what I would have wanted them to do for me. Truth is, there really wasn’t that much to do by the time I got there.

But I’m glad I did it anyway.

I may have looked a bit rough on the outside, but I felt good on the inside.

Maybe next time I’ll do it sooner, without complaint or hesitation.

Or maybe next time I’ll be the one sounding the alarm, and you’ll be the one coming in response to my need.

And I’ll be ever so grateful you did.

Because, really, is there ever any good excuse not to?

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Invitations

“I want God to talk to me,” Laurel declared one afternoon not long ago, after reading one of my blog posts.

A few “light” conversations followed.  (Exactly how does one embark on a quest to hear the voice of God?)  I encouraged her to read the Bible, since it contains His words.  I also explained that sometimes the Lord might impress something on our hearts that He wants us to know or to do.  We prayed a few times during the past month specifically that God would speak to her.

So when she came out of church this past Sunday with a satisfied little smile on her face, I inquired about it.

“God talked to me,” she stated contentedly.

“Well!  What did He say?”  Now it was my turn to be curious.

“He told me to invite Jamie to church tonight,” was her simple and straightforward reply.

Ok, then.

She didn’t seem at all deterred by the fact that her friend Jamie had turned down recent invitations to church, preferring instead to read or go shopping.  She wasn’t a bit discouraged by the fact that Jamie wasn’t even home that Sunday afternoon, but was out horseback riding, taking advantage of the extra hour of daylight.  Laurel called her cell phone and invited her to church.

And Jamie accepted the invitation.

Jamie accepted another invitation that night too.  Hand in hand with a wide-eyed Laurel, she waited in line to bravely profess her faith in Jesus through baptism.  I’ll never forget the look on Laurel’s face as she waited on the opposite side of the horse trough (read:  Wyoming baptismal tank) to hug her shivering, but happy, friend.

I also won’t forget the lessons I learned from my daughter that day:

~God delights to respond to a heart that is seeking Him.

~When He speaks, listen and obey.

~He invites us to participate in His plan.

~Be sure to R.S.V.P.

~Because any event HE is hosting is one we don’t want to miss!

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