My Whole30: Idolatry and Learning

   

34 days ago, I decided to do a detox. That detox, more popularly known as the whole30, was an incredibly intense, huge jump into the world of vegetables, and honestly, I didn’t expect it to do much good. However, after four weeks and 4 weekends later of being neurotic and cautious about the foods I ingest, I’ve come out on the other side. Food has changed. I have changed.

For those who don’t know, the Whole30 is a 30-day regimen that completely cuts out grains, dairy, legumes, soy, alcohol, added sugar, and various additives that appear in processed foods. It’s intended to help you realize what kind of effect these foods have on your body; the goal is not to lose weight, discover food sensitivities you didn’t know you had, or give you more energy (though those are all side benefits, alongside many others).  The main goal is to alter how you view and consume food.

Pre-Whole30: Approaching the 30 Days

Going into this process wasn’t a life-altering decision. I already knew that we ate fairly well; we loved vegetables, our energy levels were normal, we cooked and ate most of our meals and shopped the perimeters of the grocery store, avoiding a lot of processed junk without cutting it out entirely. I didn’t expect to have a crash midway through the detox, because I thought we were pretty close to the mark already.

Largely, this was true, but it surprised me to see how much I depended on food for that rush.

During: Idolatry and Addiction 

I researched pretty intensely during the first week (how many ways can I cook eggs? Do I really have to give up Season-all and Lemon pepper? What kind of bacon is allowed? That thing has added sugar?!?), trying to find interesting recipes. It was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be, and I honestly caught myself thinking – will this really be that hard?

Answer: Yes. Yes, it was hard. The second week hit and I was mean, y’all. The first week I was a little sad, particularly when I had to give up brownies and ice cream, and couldn’t steal any of Mike’s fries when we went out for dinner one time. But on the whole, I was good.

Anyways, during the second week I was irascible about everything I couldn’t eat, unreasonably convinced that my life’s purpose was to eat donuts, and very exasperated about not eating cheese, which, like naptime in kindergarten, I didn’t realize I loved so much until its presence disappeared. (It did not help when I discovered Mike had bought and hidden an entire bag of Butterfingers that I couldn’t have. That was not a pretty scene. Normally I don’t even like Butterfingers!)

It was after that point that I realized how strongly food had taken over my life: not only taken over the last two weeks, as far as preparation and finding compliant recipes, but how much I depended on food for happiness. Why was it that I so desperately wanted what I told myself I could easily give up? I was doing this in efforts to be healthier and nourish my body well. Rationally, there was no reason to be upset. However, if I was willing to flip out over not eating donuts, candy bars, and sweetened coffee, what did that show about my mind and my heart?

It told me that I viewed food far too importantly. The Lord showed me an idol and an addiction I didn’t know I had.

How timely it was, then, that He appointed me to read and study Daniel 1-2. In these chapters, Daniel and three (among many) others are taken into training for the king’s service, and they ask to eat only water and vegetables rather than disobey God’s laws and eat the royal food.

I felt a lot like Daniel at this point, but one of the lessons in this passage for me was that Daniel, rather than making food his idol (or pleasing King Nebuchadnezzar as an idol, who might have taken issue with their dietary choices), he served his true King and gave up that food without a second thought because he wanted to be obedient. What would my response be?

Let me be clear: I didn’t start doing the whole30 out of obedience to God (I started it more out of curiosity), but in the midst of it I still wanted to be obedient and joyful. Even the Pharisees were called not to be somber while they fasted, but to be mindful of their Father.

After learning that from Daniel, I asked God to show me how to be joyful and not whiny about what I couldn’t eat. And today I’m deeply thankful for all the ways there are to prepare healthy and delicious food. God is so kind! (Particularly when He made vegetables and healthy fats like cauliflower, avocados, and sweet potatoes. Thanks, Lord.)

After Whole30: 

Now, I’m typing this on day 31, and I fully intend on introducing the foods I avoided back into my diet, because: 1. For real, bread = amazing; 2. There are things that are worth eating; and 3. I can go back into eating “forbidden” foods with a brand new mindset.

Food is not meant to be my master. When Jesus appeared to Peter and in Acts 10 and freed the Jewish people to eat all the food banned from Leviticus, that represents freedom for me as well. Eating food is not sinful, but my mindset can be. I will not be dominated by what I choose to eat or not eat, but I can consciously choose and make good decisions because I have been set free to follow Jesus and His example. [Side note:as far as I’m aware there’s nothing in the Bible about Jesus eating cheese, but the principles are in there nonetheless.]

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a slice of chocolate cake to go eat. ūüôā 

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New Chapters & Longing for Home

We bought a grill today.

Mike and I have been speaking of buying a grill pretty much since we first got married, but we were patient. We waited to pay off loans, we have been putting away our money with care, and we have been plotting what to do with it. Normally, we err on the side of caution when it comes to spending, but with the July 4 holiday coming up and a garden of vegetables to be consumed, we bit the bullet. And so, in the spirit of pragmatism and enjoying the fruits of our labor (both the money and the vegetables), we took advantage of the July 4th sales and purchased a grill and charcoal. Life has never seemed so inviting… fresh vegetables, longer days, warm weather…! I can scarcely wait to start cooking on it. It doesn’t even matter that the Baltimore forecast  on the 4th is cloudy and calling for thunderstorms. I will run between the raindrops to enjoy this new purchase!

It is strange, but part of my excitement about this grill is because it will change part of our lifestyle. We are no longer restricted to cooking indoors; we can try out a myriad of new recipes; our food can be introduced to a whole new flavor.  It is something new.

Now that we are nearing the end of newlywed season, new chapters are continually brought up, and none of them are about grills. People ask of children and houses and careers and our plans for them. Rather than being annoyed, these questions bring to mind the future and how excited I am. I was excited at the beginning of our marriage, but I’ve only gotten more excited as we’ve grown up and seen how God has already worked. Questions of the future make me look forward to what else He will do.

Yet even amidst this excitement for the new, I can’t shake the anxiety it brings, can’t seem to resist comparing myself to others. So many other couples already have a growing family, a house, their dream job, or all of those things. It’s a huge temptation to just compare, but this only leads to lost joy in the moment and missing the lesson of being content.

Anyone who’s talked to me recently has probably heard me waxing poetic about buying a house. I cannot wait for this, in part because it will represent a number of firsts Mike and I get to do together, but mainly because in my mind “buying a home” equals that elusive “adulthood” status I so crave. (Never mind the fact that I just turned the ripe old age of 27 and can’t stay up past 11:30 anymore… in my heart I’m still 23!)

It has been such a ministry to my heart that Jesus sent two articles my way, each on the specific topic of homes, but they reach a deeper truth about new places and nesting and recognizing these things for what they are.  Susanna over at Revisionary Life and Ashley over at Not Without Salt both speak to this welcoming space called “home,” and help remind me that not all satisfaction is found in a time-consuming, work-laden, debt-ridden, 5000-square-foot residence. Susanna phrases it this way:

…That longing for home [is] the ageless quest for paradise, whether it was the children of Israel seeking the Promised Land, hopeful immigrants looking to pursue the American dream, or my searching for the ideal 3-bedroom apartment. We‚Äôre all looking for that space of rest, a place where we belong.

But that place has already been purchased for us, and that space is no longer defined by geography and borders, as it was for Israel, but by a person, and that person is Jesus.

Ashley also gives an apropos lesson: “I want to strive to see the joy in the mundane, find its beauty amid the mess and care more about loving the people who walk through its doors than the house itself.”

Even in this season of searching for a place to call “ours,” (which is really an illusion), I still have an opportunity to invite people in. Home ownership is not the ultimate goal. Fooling myself into that way of thinking sets up an idol that interferes in the pursuit of better goals.

And in the meantime, while continuing to search for a new space – not to mention endless decorating ideas and paint swatches – I can learn how to use this grill well and invite people over for life-changing vegetables and meat. (Maybe I can also make some of those raspberry scones, because seriously, how amazing are berries of all kinds in the summer?!)

Until next time, friends.

He Supplies

He covers the sky with clouds; 
he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. | Psalm 147:8 

Y’all, it is officially the middle of June, and I am tired. June has been, thus far, a long, wonderful, slightly arduous month. I am anxious for July.

Life has been very, very rushed the last two weeks, and it has taken a toll on me. Not in huge ways, but more in the little ways: I am more prone to frustration and anger, focused on a list of tasks and not resting well, cryptic, cynical, weary. This is not to say that the last two weeks haven’t been wonderful; there have been many good things (weddings! bachelorette parties! seeing family! eating delicious steak from Texas! chocolate cake! long weekends!). Yet I am discovering anew that I cannot go very long without learning how to rest well.

One would think I had learned this lesson already from making it through college and planning a wedding. Apparently it’s a lesson to keep relearning.

Tonight is the first time I have sat down and had quiet time in at least two weeks, probably closer to a month. After a frustrated quarter of an hour trying to pray, the Lord brought it to my mind that I should pray through a psalm, and I opened to the end of the Psalms to the above chapter (147). Verse 8 stood out to me for many wonderful reasons.

One, the verse is sequential: the Lord waters the grass and enables it to grow, but first He causes the rain to fall, and before that, He casts the clouds out over the sky. I love seeing the natural order of things here, but He initiates the end result.

Two, everything is provided for the growth. Grass could not grow without water; water must be provided. The Lord provides even for the grass that grows. He provides all I need, too: rest. Lessons when I need them (which, by the way, is always). Joy. Forgiveness. Conviction. Earlier in the chapter, verse 6 reads “the Lord sustains the humble, but casts the wicked to the ground.”

Three, clouds (often regarded as bad tidings) will¬†come to help the growth along. I am not happy to learn how bad I am at resting well, but chances are I will not get any better at resting if I’m not tired first. I also won’t grow in quite the same way without some rain.
I don’t say this to negate the value of work. I love the way Elisabeth Elliot phrases how rest and word depend on each other:

“Work is a blessing. God has so arranged the world that work is necessary, and He gives us hands and strength to do it. The enjoyment of leisure would be nothing if we had only leisure. It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures.” Elisabeth Elliot,¬†Discipline: The Glad Surrender

And so I rejoice to learn in whatever way the Lord sees fit.

Fourthly (and lastly!), the grass displays the glory of the One who sent the clouds. When I learn well at the Lord’s hands, His grandeur may shine a little more brightly. That is something I want to learn more and more of in every coming season, busy though some may be!

Hiding

I thought about deleting this blog a few minutes ago.

I almost did it, too, for all the usual reasons: I never update it. Nobody reads it, probably because I don’t share my posts on social media (which I update almost as rarely as I update this).¬†The contents of my head – and, subsequently, the contents of my posts – veer toward topics that meander around, lost tourists in a huge city. A few minutes ago, when I contemplated a future with no blog, I reread a number of old posts and almost felt ashamed. Was¬†this what I wanted to share with the world? Were these words really the parts of myself I wanted to share?

This thinking is not at all uncommon in our culture, which subconsciously trains us from a very young age to only show the parts of ourselves that are nice, neat, respectable, polished. Vulnerability is difficult; honesty, hard to come by.

And yet, rampant though this thinking might be, it is not where we must reside. Mark Doty writes one of my favorite quotes about this vulnerability:

Intimacy, says the phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard, is the highest value. I resist this statement at first. What about artistic achievement, or moral courage, or heroism, or altruistic acts, or work in the cause of social change? What about wealth or accomplishment? And yet something about it rings true, finally‚ÄĒthat what we want is to be brought into relationship, to be inside, within. Perhaps it‚Äôs true that nothing matters more to us than that.

When I hesitate to share myself, I hide myself away and prevent others from seeing and knowing me. This usually goes both ways and results in me not seeing or knowing others as well. What happens when we allow ourselves to be shoved into a corner? Nothing good. I am constantly reminded in my marriage that a lack of communication and a lack of friendship destroys the good and fosters the bad.

Most wonderfully, I can move forward and be vulnerable because the God of the Universe has already seen and known me, and yet still loves me and died for me. What a freeing thought. He sees the contents of my brain and forgives when I am vulnerable, honest, and humble with Him. Shall I fear rejection when the greatest King has already welcomed me?

So, today I did not delete this blog. I chose to leave this spot and let my words remain (vapid though some of them may be). I can endeavor to write more , striving to let the glory of the Son shine through my words.

2015

It’s ten days into the start of 2015. Somehow they have gone by quickly and yet it doesn’t feel as though 10 days have gone by!

The months since I posted last have been quiet. Nothing big has happened. We had our first married Christmas, our first anniversary (of many), we cooked and baked and ate together. I’ve re-watched all 5 seasons of The Good Wife (not sure if that’s a good or bad thing).

Since¬†life is so quiet these days, it seems hard to know what to write about. There are so many times I think “Oh, that’s something I should write about” — often in the middle of a workday, or a sermon, or something Mike and I are talking about, or recipes we make — but¬†the proverbial pen never makes it to the proverbial page. That might be a good thing. It might not. I’m not sure if writing down the mundane will be something I value later or if it will only be fodder to sort through.

Nevertheless, here are small moments coming to mind right now that I want to remember:

–Thanksgiving: We were with Mike’s family. Black Friday marked two years since we were dating, two years since I had gone there to meet his family. Those two years ago, I remember leaving their house thinking that spending time with his family¬†was pretty much the same as spending time with mine. And now they are my family, just as dear to me as my birth family.

–December 6: we went to Annapolis for a fancy date night. We used a wedding gift from our friend, on whose recommendation we went to Maggiano’s. After that we went to the Naval Academy, to see the Messiah. It was the first time I’d been back in the chapel since singing there seven years earlier. Wonderful to hear.

–Christmas morning: we woke up and made our own mini breakfast before going over to Mom and Dad’s. We slept in (sort of) that morning. We used our wedding china.

–Our anniversary was wonderful. We went to church and then went home. We had a lunch of vegetables and hummus (we ate the entire container), and then went to My Thai for dinner later. We played Forbidden Island and Pentago. We feasted on cake. We gave each other cards. It was the perfect “us” day. I love that after a year together we are both so content with our life! I can’t wait for future years!

–We made pizza for Alan, Mom and Dad. Alan had never had our homemade pizza before. He loved it. Every slice was gone by the end of the night.

–Making fried rice in our 12″ skillet was pretty epic.

–Jan. 6: the first snowfall of 2015. Mike got up with me and¬†started cleaning my car before I was ready to go. I love that man.

It’s hard to believe a year’s gone by – a year of being married, a year of watching some of our dear friends get engaged, growing closer to each other and to Jesus – I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings. It’ll be a hard year. But I’m looking forward to seeing what I learn.

when anger flares

I am an angry person.

I love that Jesus is honest about anger. It’s a good reaction when there’s something to be legitimately angry about. But too often I am angry about self-focused things. I get angry when I think about sin done against me. I am more angry at the people (which can also sometimes be right), but too often, for me, it can result in a hard heart against the person and make it harder to be kind, gracious, calm. That is not what anger is intended to do, I don’t think. If my anger gets in the way of me acting like¬†Jesus¬†to the other person, my anger can turn into a curse instead of a good thing God uses to show me how things are intended to be.

And I’m also finding that my anger against others can show itself in how I treat others close to me.¬†If I am angry at one person,¬†I tend to find myself “rejecting” others they are close to. I lump¬†more people into the same category as the one against whom I¬†nurse this feeling, and close myself off to feel less pain, often avoiding even talking with the person.

Lord, this isn’t how anger is intended. I am sinning in my heart which results in sinning as far as how my anger is executed. Show me the value of kindness. Let me not forget that you could be far, far angrier with me and instead you’ve chosen to pour Your grace over me, not once, but daily. Help me to not just let go of my anger but to give it over to You.

reasons for gratitude

This morning, Mike and I both woke up at around the same time. I stagger my alarm clocks (first one goes off just after 6, and I get up between 6:45-7:05) to help myself wake up slowly, but this morning, it only took one for us to be awake.

We didn’t get out of bed right away, though… we¬†talked. It was the best kind of talking, slow, sweet, not urgent. Neither of us interrupted each other (and by that, I mean I didn’t interrupt him, which is usually the problem). We held hands. We cuddled. And we prayed¬†together.

We have gotten better about praying together since we’ve gotten married. It was something we did together while dating. But living together has allowed us to pray more. It’s wonderful.

A dear friend said recently that she’s so excited she gets to pray for her future husband for the rest of her life. And that same excitement is growing inside me, too – Mike and I will be together for the rest of our lives. And I’ll get to pray for him for all of it. What a blessing! But praying together is so poignant.¬†Praying by myself is wonderful, and praying corporately is also wonderful. But praying¬†with another person who knows me so intimately brings a different kind of¬†joy.

Most mornings we are both so tired that I end up getting out of bed groggily and very unhappily. This morning was different: I still didn’t want to get out of bed, but mostly because my very warm husband was still there, and the room was filled with the Holy Spirit’s sweet aroma.

Those moments… they’re beautiful. I’m thankful to have them. I’m thankful to lose time in the mornings praying in bed with my husband, the second-best gift I’ve ever received. Lord, thank you for these little-huge gifts. ¬†Thank you that all good gifts come from You.