Why a Manger? (the part of the Christmas story I missed for 40 years)

Sugar-free for 63 days, and I have reached the bargaining stage of my grieving its loss. Creeping as close as I can to its boundary. Nibbling the edges of sobriety by wondering if allowing myself the crumbs of something sweet would send me back to Day 1.

Wanting my cake. And eating it, too.

Looking to for the literal “sweet spot” where I can enjoy both satisfaction and sobriety.

Which really isn’t the point at all.

I have long known that true freedom from food addiction — a complete recovery — would have to be radically different from any diet or food plan or eating habits or exercise program I have used before.

Because while some of them were helpful, even momentarily healing, none were a cure.

Had they been, I would not be here now.

Which my mind understood to mean that returning to my previous medications for my food wounds would not be enough. For a final clearing of the dis-ease between me and food, a complete heart transplant would be necessary.

I have spent the last 63 days using various spirit-filled resources to aid in this transaction. The trading of pounds for peace. Choosing to overflow my soul instead of my stomach. Moving from death to life.

I am slowly learning to distinguish between physical hunger and soul hunger and feed each appropriately. Food as fuel for an empty stomach. Jesus himself as sustenance for a growling spirit of stress, loneliness, boredom, or feeling out of control.

I am eating my Daily Bread of His Word and lapping up the Living Water.

I am tasting and seeing that HE is good.

And still the struggle to surrender my whole body and its feeding habits is very, very real.

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For more than 40 Christmases, I have heard its story.

A very pregnant Mary. A donkey ride to Bethlehem. A star-filled night. An over-booked hotel. A birth in a barn. A bed of straw.

Animals and Angels. Shepherds and a Star.

But I have always missed this part.

“You know that at Jesus’ birth He was immediately placed into a manger, right? But do you know what a manger is? It’s where the food is placed for animals — Jesus Christ was placed into a feeding trough! His birth makes a statement that He came to be fed upon.” (Feasting at the Lord’s Table, Mike Cleveland)

From His first minutes of life as a human, Jesus made a way for us to be filled. Sustained. Satisfied. In every way.

He would later testify that He came to bring us life. Abundant life.

Not life full of tiptoeing around a buffet or beating our bodies into submission. But a life satisfied first and FULLY in Him.

I admit I am still learning this process — discovering what feasting on the Lord and His Word and His Spirit means as it pertains to when to lift my fork and when to lay it down.

But I can tell you this. My hunger is building. It has never rumbled in me more than it does today.

Not for food. Not even for sugar.

But for a moment with the King. The one in the manger.

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TWWbutton200x200_zps62610d74Linking with Kristin Hill Taylor and #threewordwednesday (Click the logo to the left for insights from more wonderful writers and friends.)

What “Fall Back” is Teaching Me about the Dark (Five Minute Friday: Turn)

stock-footage-full-moon-emerges-from-spooky-cloudy-night-sky-pEven the full moon hides its face in the clouds. It’s darker than it could be.

The clocks turned back only an hour.

It feels like a complete reversal of day and night. There is so much more dark in my day.

I ache for a summer evening. The kind where the light lingers well past dinner and into the late innings of a baseball game. Where you can pack it in at the first sign of dusk. Plenty of time for life before the dark catches up to you.

And even then, the fireflies dance — forcing the blackness to back off and serve only as a backdrop to their joyful display.

But now that the days have been surrendered to the shadows and the haunted hallows lurk beneath the barren trees, I cannot escape the absence of light. It comes before the worker’s whistle blows.

I cannot outrun it. I can only get home by going through it.

And it weighs heavy on my soul. This darkness. This valley.

This place of limited vision in which I must shorten my stride to avoid a hidden hazard. In the void of light, I trip even on the path so easily blazed what feels like moments ago. Before the change.

I am left with the knowing that the darkest days are still ahead. Steadily the blackness will invade the light until the shortest day of all. Until the dawning of the morn where there is more day than night. Dark and light. Day and night. They weave together and dance their steps again and again.

And I let myself be led by them.

What if, rather than succumbing to the season, I seek traces of light. Adjusting my eyes to allow in the flickers that get missed during the bright days?

What if the darkness is here to lead me to the light?

Updated: Or maybe the work of the dark is meant to be surrendered to. On the same day I publish this, my dear friend Amber graces us with these words on her own darkness (READ HERE. I’ll wait.) And how not to be afraid of it. And I find myself wanting to make sure the darkness does its full work more than I want to have the light come back. Because the dark is stealing my ability to see, but not to hear or taste or smell or touch. And there is much to be learned when I let go of the seeing.

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Sharing today at Five Minute Friday.

My Most Important Interview Ever (Word of the Week)

psalm 139_23-24 neutralI have never really understood the phrase, “Know it like the back of your hand.”

Because I have no idea what mine really look like.

I know there is a mole near the center of one. The left, I think. I take a peek. Nope. It’s the right.

Because the left is where I have a small scar from a vacuum cleaner (don’t ask.)

Turns out that’s the right hand, too.

Which means I don’t really know myself well at all. I, like others who know things “like the back of their hands,” may be kidding ourselves about what we actually know at all.

We build facades to impress or to hide or assimilate to a group. We often don’t know we’re doing it. And of all the people we wear masks for, perhaps we fool ourselves the most.

Early in any relationship, we ask a lot of questions of the other party.

Where did you grow up? What was it like? What were your dreams? What are your goals? What was your relationship with your parents like? Do you like your job? What do you enjoy doing outside of work? What’s your favorite food/color/ice cream/movie/….

We instinctively know it’s the best way to get to know someone. Questions. Listening. Time.

And we neglect all these things for ourselves.

We don’t ask ourselves who we are or what we want. We certainly don’t take time to listen to much of anything our inner self is trying to say. We fear time alone not knowing what we may discover.

And we learned a long time ago not to ask questions we don’t want to know the answers to.

So we walk through our lives not as our real selves, but as those we think we are. Which keeps everyone at arm’s length. Even our truest self — the one just bursting to make herself known.

I am challenged as I move forward in my recovery to take a full and fearless inventory of myself. My memories. My motives. My strengths. My stumbles.

As a trained reporter, I’ve asked many people many kinds of questions — even the kind you don’t really want to have to ask. I am a professional asker. It’s the answering part I have less experience with.

But here I am, poised for the most important interview of my life. The one with myself.

I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I have had multiple births in this lifetime. And I’m in the throws of contractions for yet another — the Beth who is free from thinking that filling herself with food will satisfy her soul.

The earlier versions of myself were bringing me to her, but the imprisoned me is not who I really am. Certainly not who I was designed to be. They have a lot of baggage to leave at this stop for a forward path of freedom.

I do not say this in a self-deprecating way. Not as a way to dig up dirt on myself or point fingers or scold any earlier Beths.

But I speak as an excavator now aware that ALL the root must be removed before a new tree can thrive in its place. As a surgeon who can leave NO infected piece behind lest the wound never fully be healed.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV)

The Message version says it like this:

Investigate my life, O God,
    find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
    get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
    then guide me on the road to eternal life.

This excavating — this surgery — it may be messy work. Discoveries I would prefer to leave hidden. There may, too, be beautiful finds in the deep places.

There’s only one way to find out. Let the interview begin.

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I return each Sabbath for a fresh Word of the Week. For the God-breathed pages to come alive in a phrase or two on which to spend a 7-day feast. To meditate upon. To use as a jumping off point for whatever other words God would have me hear during the week. I would love for you to join the Word of the Week (WOW) discussion by adding your selected verse to the comments … or reflections on any scripture reading. 

Linking with Unforced Rhythms — a wonderful community of writers who gather each Monday to share with you HERE.

 

31 Days Sugar Sober Recap (Get caught up on the whole series in under 10 minutes)

sugarsoberoctober

I have been so very blessed by those who stuck with me on this 31-Day blogging and Sugar Sober journey. If you’d like to read in more detail, the links to all the full posts are below.

But I’m also including a highlight from each day, so you can travel with me through 31 days in about 10 minutes.

Intro: The WHY behind this series: BE SOBER. There was no question what He was telling me. That my life, my purpose, my calling could go no further until the chains of addition were broken. That they forever would hold me back from reaching anything more. That already, imprisonment to my flesh had kept opportunities and relationships from becoming all that He intended. And my addiction is food.

Day 1: Beginning Again. Again.: There is a Chinese Proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now. I wish I could say that I got free from sugar and other addicting food habits 20 years ago. But I didn’t. So all I have is now.

Day 2: Ground Rules.: Sugar Sobriety, to me, means eliminating sweets, desserts, sweet tea, sugared drinks, donuts, anything frosted/glazed/sprinkled, sugared additives like chocolate syrup or sugar in coffee.If you are joining me on this journey, and you feel directed to make a different choice, that’s great. There are many paths up the same mountain, my friend.

Day 3: The Secrets We Keep.: Sometimes light creeps in little by little, so we can adjust. But sometimes it just blows the lid of the darkness and exposes everything all at once. Committing to this journey and the blogging of it feels a little like both. Everyone near me now knows Sugar is off the table for me. But the mustiness that lies deeper is getting the light one layer at a time.

Day 4: This Isn’t My First Sober Rodeo.: In the past, I would approach chips, or bread, or sweets, or a menu, or any other temptation of the moment as a “I can’t have that” … as if some food policeman was going to haul me to jail for breaking a rule someone else set for me. Frankly, having some other force tell me what I can and can’t eat just makes me want to give them the finger and eat an entire pizza. That’ll show them!! But what I realized over the last few days is that I HAVE A CHOICE! I don’t have to give my power to a list of Eat and Don’t Eat foods. I don’t have to give my power to what other people order and encourage me to eat. I get to decide what I want to put in my body and what I don’t.

Day 5: Resetting Your Taste Buds.: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. (Psalm 34:8,10)

Day 6: Saying “No” to What Holds Me Back; Making Room for a Better “Yes”.: I am finding, however, that every “No, Thank you” builds my muscle against the next challenge. Plus, I’ve had plenty of time for Yes, as well. Yes to feeling hungry and not having to fill it at all costs. Yes to feeling full and stopping without cleaning the plate. Yes to the quiet reconnection of my body and my soul.

Day 7: Tuesdays are Ok for Do-Overs, Too.: I wish I could tell you I made a healthy lunch choice. But I didn’t. I even upsized. And it wasn’t anything close to worth it. Maybe for Monday it’s enough to have noticed the way the enemy attacked. Scratched, but not fatally wounded, on Tuesday I will be better prepared for the battle.

Day 8: If it’s Worth Eating, It’s Worth Tasting.: Perhaps one of the biggest wastes in regards to the volumes of food I sometimes consume is that I don’t taste most of it.

Day 9: Pause. And Breathe.: I think rest’s an important part in the process. Giving my mind and soul a moment to rest and clear some of the clutter that can occur with an overabundance of information — no matter how good and purposeful it might be.

Day 10: Let’s Be Honest. This is Hard!!: And it will be hard. And you will wish it didn’t have to be this way. And you may even question if it’s worth it. And in some moments your honest assessment will be “No, it doesn’t feel worth it.” And you will think that breaking into a million pieces seems like a very strange way to make your life whole. But so many who have walked this before assure you it’s the only way. That letting go of yourself is the only way to find yourself again.

Day 11: Making Peace with the Word “Addict”: And when I finally came to terms with the truth that if I used cocaine or heroin in the same way I crave and consume food, that I would likely be one of those folks with sunken eyes, a destroyed marriage, and few job opportunities, I considered that perhaps Addict and Sober WERE appropriate and NECESSARY words for me as well.

Day 12: For When the First Tear Falls: Like Lazarus, I have been dead inside. Like Mary & Martha I have asked the Jesus weeping at my tomb of my heart, “Is it not too late? I have already begun to stink. This will be messy business.” And, like Lazarus, He calls me by name. Beth, Come Out. So I start to emerge from my stupor. Staggering, still unsteady, towards recovery.

Day 13: The Gift of Daily Bread.: Daily bread. Today enough for today. Remembering yesterday He gave me enough for yesterday. Faith that tomorrow will bring enough for tomorrow.

Day 14: Ignore Your Scale and Stop Focusing on the Weight: I REALLY need my mind and heart to understand that this is NOT really about the weight. This journey is too, too important to be distorted by math. And I’m too easily swayed by the numbers that indicate my gravitational pull to the Earth, but not the state of my soul.

Day 15: Pecking your way to a New You (aka The View from Inside the Shell)I am a moth cocooned. Seed breaking open in the earth. Match flame flickering on cave walls. A waxing crescent moon. A chick sodden in birth’s yolk, pecking her way out to a bigger life.

Day 16: Food as a Love Language: By the time I got married, I was already well versed in loving myself with sweets and other foods, so, naturally, I loved my husband with food as well. Loving him this way nearly killed him.

Day 17: Don’t Trade One Addiction for Another: So I am careful, this time around, while I am pursing full freedom from the power of food over me, not to just fill my needs with something else. Not even something “healthy.” Not even this blog. Not even you, my dear and precious friends. No, I do not want to trade one addiction for another.

Day 18: Making Our Escape — Together: One of the most unexpected blessings of these last days has been the grace of how God works. How he simultaneously hands me keys and calls me to drop them for my fellow captives. While also using their strength and stories to light the path for me.

Day 19: Even if Sugar is Not Your Burden, PLEASE Read this Post: I cannot run your race. You cannot run mine. It is marked specifically for each of us. And EVERYTHING that hinders and entangles must be cast off.

Day 20: A Letter to my Tastebuds: You don’t get to be in charge any more. The rest of my body wants a say in how we’re doing this food thing, too.

Day 21: The Little Things DO Matter: Some like to think God doesn’t worry himself with things like that. The little stuff. That He’s too busy with world issues and more important people. Truth is: that’s EXACTLY the things God concerns himself with. He concerns himself with the number of hairs on our head and today’s color of our eyes. He concerns himself with the condition of my heart and the way I give it away for a bite of something sweet.

Day 22: Working “The Steps” of Overeaters Anonymous: Step One is “We admitted we were powerless over food — that our lives had become unmanageable.” Unmanageable. The word punches me in the gut. And “Powerless” comes right behind it with the uppercut. This even as I am trying to steady myself with the word “Recovery” — something I only recently have been able to consider I might need. Once again I must admit… I am not Ok. That I cannot do this on my own. That I need help. That I am out of control.

Day 23: Books worth Reading on this Topic. And others that are feeding my spirit.: I usually am reading multiple books at a time. Here are a few that have been stirring my soul during the month of October.

Day 24: If I Knew Then.(Why it’s Good to be a little Naïve before you start): I wasn’t ready. But I was brave enough to think I was. And maybe that’s how recovery starts anyway. Because if we knew in advance the pitfalls, the pain, the temptations, the disappointments. All the ways things wouldn’t go as planned. The two steps forward, one step back-ness of it all. Well, we’d probably never start walking.

Day 25: Addiction is a Beast (Coming to terms with being powerless): When I begin to think of food addiction as a foreign invader in my space (no matter how comfortable I have become with it), it is significantly easier to consider the need to exorcise it from my being in order to restore myself to health — in body, mind, and spirit. It brings me to a place where I am ready to say that I have no more control over my addiction than I would over an attacking lion. I cannot save myself. Praise God, I have a Savior.

Day 26: The Lions Circle. But I have a Good Shepherd.: “Be well-balanced (temperate, sober of mind, be vigilant and cautious at all times, for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring (in fierce hunger) seeking someone to seize upon and devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 – Amplified) Fortunately, the sheep are never asked to fight the lions alone. That is Shepherd work.

Day 27: Letting God Lead (God is my 3rd Base Coach): He directs my actions. He is the guard at the gate of my lips. Saving me from myself. On my own, I might make decisions for the moment, not for the good of my long-term self. So I check in. I follow His lead.

Day 28: What Does God Sound Like? (The joy of discovering His voice): The sheep hear his voice and come to him; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  He walks ahead of them; and they follow him, for they recognize his voice. They won’t follow a stranger but will run from him, for they don’t recognize his voice. (John 10: 3-5)

Day 29: Escaping Temptation … There is always a way out.: Sometimes “Just Say No” works to push back the lions of addiction. Sometimes God gets creative with a way of escape. But there is always a way. If I take it.

Day 30: On Giving into the Scale, but Still not Letting it Rule Me: The number is lower. And that feels good. But it doesn’t change my knowing that the miles ahead are still many. And that numbers aren’t the best way to measure them.

Day 31: The End of the Beginning and the Beginning of the End: But something about anticipating that I’ll be trotting up and down those steps until it simply becomes a natural dance makes it easier to forgive myself when the inevitable re-learning happens. Down, but not out. Not ever again.

The End of the Beginning. And the Beginning of The End. (Day 31: Sugar Sober Series)

What size shirt do you need for the event?” 

I cringe at the question.

Not only because it feels vulnerable to speak my size into the space. But because it’s not a question about today. The event is not until April.

And I panic. What size will I be six months from now?

I’ve been burned on this one before. Last summer my parents, husband, and I all volunteered at the US Open golf tournament in Pinehurst. It’s a huge undertaking, and volunteer information was collected almost two years in advance. It was more than 12 months before the Open when they asked my size for uniform shirts.

I made a projection that I would be smaller.

And the calendar changed, but my size didn’t, and I had to exchange the “fantasy” shirts for the ones that would actually fit.

I tell myself it’s different this time. I think it is.

Because back then I only had a hope that something would be different. But it was always too far in the future to gain any traction. Until it was too late.

And now? Well, now I have 31 days of Sugar Sobriety under my belt. And a dedication to freedom from addiction. And a surrender to God’s power in me instead of counting on my will-power alone.

I request the smaller shirt.

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I think it’s a little ironic that the stages of a 12-Step program are called steps. Because a “step” infers a moving above, moving past. And this month has not felt like that AT ALL.

I wonder if it will really be more like juggling. A new ball thrown into the mix, challenging my coordination and my dexterity at each stage. Because I’ll never be “done” with accepting my powerlessness. Surrendering to God isn’t a Mark-it-Off-the-List event.

Each step, while building on the other, will likely stay in continuous motion for me for the rest of my life.

It’s not that I worry about dropping the balls. I am fairly sure that is bound to happen from time to time. I am confident there is grace for that.

But something about anticipating that I’ll be trotting up and down those steps until it simply becomes a natural dance makes it easier to forgive myself when the inevitable re-learning happens.

Down, but not out. Not ever again.

And so here I am at the end of the beginning of Sugar Sober. 31 Days. Both doing it and writing about it. Mission Accomplished. And that feels pretty darn good, I admit.

But so, too, is it the beginning of the end. The end of struggling silently and ashamed. The end of self-medicating followed by self-deprecation. The end of addiction’s unbreakable hold on me.

The end of battling alone. The beginning of letting Him take charge of even my food.

My beginning and my end. With the Alpha and the Omega.

Yes. I think that will work.

 

p.s. I simply cannot express what it has meant to me to have so many of you joining with me, cheering me on, and sharing your thoughts over these days. It’s a blessing I never even considered until it happened. But you guys made it happen, and I am so grateful. October is over, but the journey is not; neither is my calling to keep telling my stories. All the ones He entrusts to me, so please come back and hang out with me more and let’s keep walking each other home.

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sugarsoberoctoberIn response to the 31 Day blogging challenge, I will be publishing EVERY DAY in October while I stay sugar-free. You can read previous posts HERE. To be alerted to new posts, please follow me on Facebook or Twitter using the links on the right side of this page. Or Subscribe to get posts sent to your Email. Feel free to Tweet your own experiences with #sugarsoberoctober as well.

PLEASE use the comment section to share your own thoughts, questions, or experiences. Like any road, sugar sobriety is one more easily walked with friends. I do my best to reply to every comment.

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