I may have set a new personal move-in record this time around.
We received our household goods on a Friday and we were about 90% moved in by the following Tuesday! It took several pots of coffee and sunup to sundown devotion from Sailor and me, but we got it done. A couple things contributed to our quick unpacking:
Getting rid of so much stuff. We had about 2000 fewer pounds of stuff than when we moved to NC in 2011. I guess my dabbling in minimalism principles really did make a difference. We’re still nowhere near “minimal” though. I prefer to think of it as “streamlined.”
Living in this small space was definite motivation to get all the boxes OUT. In the past I unpacked a little each day over several days, but this time I was unpacking even as the movers were still bringing in boxes! I wanted to get back to a semblance of normal A.S.A.P
Older kids are a big help! For our 2008 PCS I had an 16mo. old, and for our 2011 PCS I had a 2 and 4 yr old. This time around I could enlist the boys to unpack their own toys and clothes (with some supervision) and also send them up and down stairs to place things.
We’ve been here for 2 full weeks now and I really like it so far! The city of Virginia Beach (not to be confused with the beach itself) is very well-maintained and family-friendly. The streets are wide, clean, landscaped and have sidewalks! There is a thriving parks and rec division that offers so much for kids to do. The libraries and community centers are updated and active with programs and classes every day of the week.
There is no shortage of restaurants and shopping (if that’s your thing, it’s not really mine.) And traffic aside, the people are all very nice and courteous – like, they’d probably cut you off on the road, but then allow you to go ahead in line at the Home Depot, it’s funny like that.
I’m not sure why we heard so many tales of bad experiences here. So far it’s 2 thumbs up from us! Granted, Sailor hasn’t started his new job yet, he’s still at a school for the next couple months. He might be singing a different tune once he gets to his command. But as far as the area goes, I think we’re going to like it here.
This past weekend we hit up the beach and the farmers market. This weekend we’re going to go to the park and maybe the pool. The big downside to living in a condo is the lack of recreation space for the boys to run around. So I feel that I need to make up for it on the weekends! Mama enjoys it too, I wont lie!!
Over four years ago I hit ‘publish’ on my first blog post as a Cackalacky Transplant. We had just moved here from WA, and although I wasn’t quite sure about NC at first, I knew it would hold great things for us. And I was right!
While every PCS (Permanent Change of Station) process is different, the pattern is much the same.
You arrive in this new, strange place and immediately set about getting your bearings.
Where is the grocery store?
How do I get back HOME from the grocery store?
What is the quickest and easiest way to get to the base?
Where are my kids’ schools?
Sidenote: The part of PCSing that I hate the most is filling out the emergency contacts on my kids’ enrollment forms. It’s enough to make my heart pound and breath quicken, because it feels like failure every time. “No, Ms. Secretary, I can’t give you three local contacts. I just moved here and I have no friends. I repeat. I. Have. No. Friends.”
People who are fortunate enough to have lived in the same place all their lives don’t understand. They put down the name of a few family members, or a neighbor, or even a trusted co-worker. Heck, if need be, they could probably come up with 20 people that could be trusted to pick up their child from school in an emergency.
To not even have one name is very humbling.
Eventually though, you stop relying on GPS to get you everywhere. You learn the places to go and the places to avoid. You learn the local customs (yes, the South has customs too) and start to feel like less and less of an Outsider.
In the last four years we’ve gotten to know NC pretty darn well.
We’ve hit up the ocean a few times. We’ve camped in the woods. We’ve been to museums, the zoo, Carowinds, Great Wolf Lodge, and Myrtle Beach. We’ve tried dozens of restaurants (Pik-n-Pig is still my favorite!) and taken part in local festivities.
We bought a house. Found a church. I got my associates degree. Sailor made Chief. We got a dog and a cat, and even some chickens.
And I even have those 3 emergency contacts for my kids!! Success!!
In short, we made a life here.
But, as is the life of the military family, just as you settle down, it’s time to leave again and build a life somewhere else.
Next month we will be leaving NC for orders to VA. While it’s not a great distance to travel, it is still all new people, schools, and roads to navigate again. A new grocery store to find. New enrollment forms to fill out and the dreaded emergency contact lines to leave blank.
One thing these PCS experiences have taught me is to travel light. Keep possessions to a minimum. And for the first 8 years of our military journey I did really well with that.
But when we bought our house, I sorta loosened up on that rule.
Guys, I unpacked my wedding china. (Military wives will understand the significance of that. You usually don’t do that until your spouse departs from the military….even if that is 25 years after your wedding.)
I really wanted this house to feel like a home and I suppose I equate “home” with accumulating stuff. Besides, it is so much more fun to decorate something that is YOURS! And maybe, deep down, I felt that perhaps the candles and vases and throw pillows might prevent the inevitability of another PCS. But, of course, they could not.
You know, one of the first things I noticed about Norfolk is how much more expensive it is than here. Like, stupidly high rent. It is ridiculous how much rent you have to pay for so little! We looked into places of similar size to our current house and they were WAY out of our price range. Or they were in very bad school districts.
As such, we’ll be moving from our nice, comfy, 3 bed 2 bath, 1750sq ft house with a large garage, to a 2 bed, 1200 sq ft condo. We basically have to get rid of everything in the guest room and garage, and then pair down everything else by half.
So, with no other choice, we’re embracing minimalism. We’re only keeping the essentials, and giving away the rest. As they say in the minimalism community:
“Make room for people, not things.”
I’ve learned that an easy place to start when you have to pare down items, is to zero in on duplicates of things. For instance, I have two 9×13 casserole dishes. I have 3 bamboo cutting boards. I have 2 teapots and about 14 coffee mugs. On and on. At first glance I feel that I like both items equally, and I want to keep them both. But when I’m honest with myself, I realize that I almost always prefer one over the other. So my current motto is “Choose what you like the best.” I keep my favorite, and put the other in the give-away pile. Or if I have a lot of something – like candle holders and coffee mugs – I will let myself keep 6 and give away the rest.
I think this process could apply to more than just cutting boards and hand towels.
In life we are faced with so many opportunities. So many ways to spend our time. So many things clamoring for our attention. With only 24 short hours in a day, we can’t possibly devote our time to every single endeavor we want to pursue. But at first glance it feels that we want to Do All The Things! However, if we’re honest with ourselves, there are somethings that we instinctively know are more important than the rest. There are things that feed our souls and give us purpose.
And we should do those things.
Pursue those things.
Spend the precious time we have left on those things.
Do you have one, too? (Or, if you’re a guy reading this, does your wife have one?)
All together, I probably own about 12 vases that I’ve collected over the years. I own everything from little $2 bud vases to a big 10 lb. mammoth vase that could probably kill my dog if it ever fell over onto her.
But despite their differences in size, appearance or value, all my vases have one thing in common – they all just sit there. That’s just what vases do.
Occasionally I’ll pull one out to hold a bouquet of birthday or anniversary flowers, but inevitably those flowers die and the vase is returned to the cabinet to sit again. Empty. Collecting dust.
When you really think about it, vases are pretty useless objects. They take up space, are prone to breakage, and really don’t contribute anything to our everyday lives! Why do we even have them??
While you’re contemplating the merits, or lack thereof, of vases please follow me out into my garage.
In our garage you’ll find several shovels. Now, I’m sure you’ve already made the connection here, but shovels are the opposite of vases. Essentially everything a vase is, a shovel isn’t.
Shovels are not pretty. They are not delicate. They aren’t for decoration, they are for USING. All of our shovels in the garage show signs of use. These shovels have cleaned out our chicken coop, dug countless holes, turned compost, shoveled snow, spread manure and even created the final resting places for a couple of beloved house pets.
Shovels work and vases sit, and it was with that realization back in 2014 that I wrote these words in my prayer journal: Christians should be shovels, not vases.
What Does it Mean?
Ok, it isn’t hard to see that there is a huge difference between a vase and a shovel. But how does faith fit into it? What does a “vase Christian” look like as opposed to a “shovel Christian.”
Well, look at these two pictures:
Look at that nice picture of vases. Such variety! All different colors, shapes, sizes. But what are they doing? Not a whole lot. Just hanging out. Taking up space on the shelf.
Now, what about this image:
A vase Christian sits in their faith, a shovel Christian works in their faith.
Faith Without Works and Yadda Yadda
I want to make clear that this post is first and foremost FOR ME.
It’s a concept I’ve been wrestling with for almost 2 years and I’ve avoided writing about it because it’s not something I’m excelling at currently. I’m not out on the street corners feeding the homeless. I’m not painting trim and hammering nails for Habitat for Humanity. I’m not ministering to battered women, clothing the fatherless or doing much of anything “for the least of these.”
But, let’s be honest, neither are you.
Unless you are, in which case, please tell the rest of us how we can get involved with your organization.
I don’t take a legalistic view of this. I don’t believe that I’m unsaved for not feeding the homeless, and I don’t believe you are unsaved for not hammering nails. But I believe we are lazy in our faith. I believe we are lacking passion and urgency and we’ve been failing to grasp the totality of the Gospel. Sure, we’ve prayed prayers of salvation in the church, nodded our heads during convicting sermons, and one time we even put an extra $20 in the collection basket for the missionaries doing that exhausting work in Zimbabwe.
We’re not bad people.
We’re just not all that good either.
And I think that is a primary source of the problem.
Hanging out among the “least of these” reminds us that we are not good. It reminds us that we are not that far separated from the drug addict, the runaway and the shut-in. Looking at the forlorn and forgotten among humanity feels a bit too much like looking in a mirror.
We don’t like funerals or cemeteries because they cause us to come face to face with our own mortality. And in the same way, we don’t like to serve the destitute because it reminds us that we too are practically destitute. Maybe our depravity isn’t as overt as theirs, but it is there. There is a fine line between our circumstances and theirs, and frankly, that’s just a little too close for comfort. Being a shovel in this world is too hard.
We have our faith, but we just want to sit in it. God has taken our sin away and made us beautiful, right? And what better place for a beautiful child of God than high and lifted up for all to see. Come look. Come be amazed at our success. Our prosperity. Our pious put-togetherness.
We just want to be vases. Elevated where we can’t be dirtied by unwashed hands or broken by careless observers.
But church – nobody needs vases. Empty, useless vases. Dust collectors. Able to be knocked over and broken at any moment. Too fragile to function.
The world needs shovels.
How Did We Get Here?
The early Church were the epitome of shovels. They loved, they served, they endured. They built and expanded. Every person great and small contributed to the expansion of God’s Kingdom.
Somewhere along the way, Christians decided that serving people and building God’s Kingdom was the job of the church. Not the “capital C” Church made of people, but the “lowercase c” church that is 501c3 tax-exempt. And the church couldn’t find people to help serve, so they said it was the tax-payers job and got out of the service business.
So the church that used to be a beautiful “shed for shovels” instead became a gallery for vases. Cold and beautiful vases all sitting in rows.
Most Churches Prefer Vases
I know that leaders of these vase galleries known as churches probably wish their congregants would contribute a little more, but there doesn’t seem to be a big resurgence for the Church of Christ to go back to being shovels. In fact, the modern American churches seem to be happy with all those vases sitting in chairs on Sundays. And why?
Well, first of all, vases are cleaner than shovels. Can you imagine if a bunch of messy shovels were strewn around your church? Dirt and who-knows-what would get everywhere. We can’t have that. Church is supposed to be clean, sanitary and sterile. We don’t want people making messes on our polished floors.
Also, vases look good for the guests. When we get a first-time guest we can walk them around our vase gallery to look at all the pretty pieces we’ve collected over the years. They will be impressed and happy with the image and they will want to come back and be a vase on the shelf, too.
And lastly, vases don’t ask for much. They just sit quietly and passively observe what is going on. When we need a few to serve our purposes, we give them something to hold onto for a while until it dies and then the vase will go back on its shelf until we need it again.
Shovels, on the other hand, always want to be digging stuff up. They want to break new ground, move the Earth and get to working. Church leaders don’t like shovels goiong around messing with their well-crafted plans and agendas.
But perhaps worst of all, shovels have needs. They get dirty and need to be washed off all the time. They get dull edged from use and constantly need honing and sharpening. That upkeep is exhausting!
Ok, ok, enough with the sarcasm. I’m done. What I’m saying is…..if you want to go against the status quo: Be a shovel.
If you’re tired of the consumer church and the whitewashed tombs: Be a shovel.
If you don’t want to just sit down, be quiet, nod in agreement and go through the motions: Be a shovel.
Be A Shovel and Find a Shed
You’ve gotten this far and you get it.
You get that being a vase isn’t the goal. You get that faith = work.
You get that you don’t want to be up on the shelf like everyone else.
You want to be a shovel.
But how? What does that even LOOK LIKE?
Maybe you’re familiar with the book of Nehemiah. In a nutshell, Nehemiah wants to rebuild the broken wall around Jerusalem. It had been broken for generations and rebuilding would be a monumental task. The people didn’t know how to conquer it.
Sound familiar? Serving the world feels like re-building the wall must have seemed to the people of Jerusalem – utterly overwhelming. Where do I begin? HOW do I begin?
Nehemiah divided up the burden and put everyone to work on just their portion of the wall. Nobody was tasked with building the entire wall, they just focused on their assigned portion. They picked up their shovels and their spades and got to work. And the wall was completed in 52 days.
That’s it. They just jumped in, entirely on faith, and got to work. And I think we should follow their example. I think it really is that simple.
Whatever God has put on your heart to do in order to serve others, do that thing. It doesn’t even have to be a “typical” type of service like homeless outreach or mission work. God made us all creative and unique to fulfill every conceivable need. Be obedient to what He has called you to do, and go do it.
Most pastors (mine included) teach on Nehemiah and urge their congregation to PICK UP their shovels and get to work, and that’s a great message. But I’m urging each of us to go one step further and BE SHOVELS as a way of living out our faith.
Because if you think about it, a shovel can always be put down again. We might get all fired up for a project, and make some progress initially…and then human nature steps in. We lose passion. We go back to the way things were. We put the shovel in the corner and forget about it and go back to being a vase.
But if we become shovels, then our entire lives are about serving others. We can’t put the shovel down without putting ourselves down. Being a shovel becomes an integral part of our days left on Earth.
Be a shovel, do work.
Be a shovel, dig deeper.
Be a shovel, lift up.
Be a shovel, break new ground.
Be a shovel, get dirty. (You know what I mean, don’t take that and run with it, people.)
Be a shovel, be useful.
And lastly, if you’re walking around your church and all you see are vases around you – go out and find a shed. You’ll never survive as a shovel in a gallery of vases. That’s like being a bull in a china shop and you’ll probably be asked to leave anyway.
Go find a church of people actively working out their faith. Find a place where the head pastor isn’t a delicate vase himself, but a sharpener of his shovels. A repairer and restorer of his shovels. One who knows that if he is going to put out a call for shovels, he needs to be ok with having a little dirt on the floor.
Thanks for reading, now let’s get to work.
For more information and inspiration, check out ‘Crazy Love’ by Francis Chan and ‘Radical’ by David Platt
If you give a mom a Pinterest, she’ll need a cup of coffee to go with it.
So she’ll search for ‘organic coffee creamer’ until she finds the perfect gluten-free, nut-free, no-refined-sugar creamer amongst the thousands of perfectly photographed pins.
And while she’s searching, she’ll see dozens of adorably cute coffee mugs with witty sayings drawn on them with sharpie. And since coffee tastes better in an adorable mug, she’ll immediately set out to find one of the fourteen black sharpies she has bought in the last year….and come up empty-handed.
And if a mom comes up empty-handed, she’ll have to take to Pinterest to find a substitute. She’ll find that chalkboard decal coffee mugs are EVEN cuter, and she’ll remember she has half of a can of chalkboard paint in the garage, leftover from an attempt at a chalkboard chore chart that she used for one day and never looked at again.
Setting down her cold coffee on a stack of dusty Family Circle magazines, she ventures out to the garage.
And if a mom goes into the garage she’ll notice how messy it is, so she’ll type “easy garage organizing” into that handy Pinterest search bar and become overwhelmed and depressed by the hundreds of pictures of perfectly peg-boarded garage walls and hanging storage systems.
And when a mom becomes overwhelmed and depressed, she’ll need chocolate.
So she’ll tap on the search bar again, but search for brownie recipes this time. Reheating her cold coffee in the microwave (that she cleaned with that 2-minute sponge steam trick) she’ll curl up on her couch to scroll through endless photos of drippy, gooey, underbaked brownies.
Of course, if you give a mom a brownie recipe she’ll have to make some immediately.
So she’ll grab the nearest bowl and start melting butter and chocolate chips (out of baker’s chocolate, so good enough) only to realize she only has one egg and the recipe calls for three. So she’ll type “vegan brownies” into that trusty search bar and find nine dozen recipes for eggless, cruelty-free brownies.
She’ll grind her flax seed for her “egg” and as she pours the finished batter into the pan, she’ll start to wonder if she could go vegan. Like, reallyvegan. For real this time.
And if a mom decides to go vegan, she’ll need to find vegan recipes and menus to follow. So she’ll tap that familiar scrolly ‘P’ icon and search for “easy vegan recipes” and “vegan for beginners.” She’ll learn 50 ways to cook lentils and how to pan-fry tofu to a crisp golden brown, but while she’s pinning her 39th plant-based recipe, the timer will go off for her brownies and she’ll realize she really likes junk food and couldn’t realistically stick to a diet of just vegetables.
So she’ll start looking up meat-based recipes and wonder if she should just go Paleo instead. She searches for “paleo diet” and sees that every single item contains almond flour, which reminds her that she still needs to get her toddler tested for a nut allergy.
And if a mother suspects her child has a nut allergy, she’ll have to search for how to succeed at nut-free living. So she reheats her coffee again and puts a brownie on a plate so she can relax on the couch scrolling through “nut-free snack ideas for toddlers” pins.
But then she’ll get a notification that somebody re-pinned her chalkboard chore chart pin and it’ll remind her about her plain old coffee cup.
I am still working my way through this writing challenge, determined to finish. Only a few more prompts left! Thanks for sticking with me so far, the 3 of you who read my blog posts. Ok, maybe there are 5 of you…
Today’s prompt is ‘A Challenge You Face’ and I knew immediately what I would write about.
The struggle is real.
Now, let me first say that I think I won the husband lottery as far as the essentials go.
He is kind, patient and thoughtful. He is smart and has a sense of humor that can make me laugh ’til I cry. He is a wonderful dad. He is good-natured and not given to sour moods (for a very long time, anyway.) He is a hard worker who provides for our family. And we have that je ne sais quoi that every good relationship has – that little something that just works. Fits. Feels right. You can’t name it or describe it, it’s just there.
We have stuff in common.
We are both Christians.
We laugh a lot together.
We do nice things for each other.
So marriage ought to be fairly easy, right?
Oh, dear reader, it is.
It’s the easiest thing in the world.
For 8 hours a day…
While we’re sleeping.
We are humans. We are deeply flawed. Selfish. Begrudging. Hurtful. Prone toward misunderstandings.
We are also individuals. With our own opinions, ideas, dreams and desires. We did not come into marriage as half people, but as whole people shaped by our experiences and circumstances. Then the wedding bells stopped ringing and we were faced with the prospect of blending our two separate existances into one shared heart and mind.
That is the great issue of marriage: How do you take two wholes and make from them one whole?
Ooooh it’s hard.
The inevitability is that we must each trim by half in order to make one cohesive whole. Wait, did she just say that???? Yes, I did. I know it flies in the face of our independence-worshiping society but it is what is required. Now, put down your pitchforks and read this next line very, very carefully.
How you divide is very important.
Using the illustration of a human being, we can either divide him horizontally at the waist – and then be left with the dilemma of which half to keep and which to disregard – or we can divide vertically cutting from head to toe.
When each person is divided vertically they are still all of themselves, just half as much. How different is your right side from your left? We’re mostly symmetrical, so choosing between keeping your left or your right is nothing like having to choose between whether to keep your top or bottom.
But you say, “What good is one leg? What good is one eye? We need two of everything!”
Ahhh. And that’s my point exactly. You WILL have two legs. You WILL have two eyes. When placed together, both halves make a functioning whole. You still look like you, your spouse still looks like him or her, but you have joined together to make a new body and you’ll share in the possession of that body together. The eye you contribute is just as important as the one they contribute. The hand you contribute is just as important as the one they contribute.
Mark 10:7-8 ” For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh; so then they are no longer two but one flesh.”
If you’ve ever been in a 3-legged race then you know how difficult this is. Learn to cooperate, or be dragged. Learn to move in unison, or spend the entire race tripping over one another and crawling on bloodied knees. We don’t want to accommodate someone else. We don’t want to give up any part of ourselves. We think we can remain whole, separate individuals and still be united in marriage…and it just wont work. At best you will live parallel lives, close in proximity but lacking in true intimacy.
Marriage is a challenge. It’s a struggle. Contrary to appearances, it comes easily to no one. It is a daily battle because despite our best efforts and intentions, at the end of the day we’re sinning sinners who sin. We’re lying liars who lie. And we’re hurtful hurters who hurt.
Marriage is acknowledging that each of us are sinners, liars and hurters. Saying to your spouse “I would never sin/lie/hurt you the way you’ve done to me!” is a worthless statement because of course you wouldn’t – you sin/lie/hurt them differently. But make no mistake, you’ve still done them wrong.
At weddings we often hear the passage from 1 Corinthians 13 recited. You know the one.
“Love is patient, love is kind….”
Yes, I do like that passage and it is a wonderful reminder of how we ought to love one another. But may I offer an alternative wedding passage? One that I think fits with the appropriate struggle that a marriage is:
Colossians 3:12 “…put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another. If anyone has a complaint against one another, even as Christ forgave you so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…”
Being a wife for almost 10 years has been my biggest challenge, not because of who I’m married to but because of the sacrifices required of marriage itself. I don’t really understand how something can be both unbearably frustrating and undeniably satisfying all at the same time, except to say that it is one of God’s great mysteries and blessings. And it is worth it.
I just came across an article that said in honor of Women’s Day last week YouTube was asking women to upload a video with advice or encouragement directed at their younger selves.
This was perfect timing, because for the past few days I have been wracking my brain for some creative way to write my next blog prompt which is: Write about life at age 7.
Well, I can hardly remember what life was like at that age (does anyone??) and what I DO remember would be terribly boring for anyone else to read. Now, thanks to the internet I have been inspired to write a letter to my seven year old self. That was right around the age I started to gain self-awareness and realize that I’m a little weird. Even at such a young age, I felt all the other girls had somehow taken ”How to be Cute, Pretty and Popular” classes and I hadn’t. And these feelings would continue into my early 20s.
Oh how different life might’ve been like if I’d received this in the mail 23 years ago…..
You are seven years old today! I know you enjoyed your pizza party, even if you did hit your head coming down the ball pit slide.
I am writing to you from the couch of your future home in NC. Your children (two amazing boys!) are playing nicely in their room and your husband is at work. I tell you this to assure you that you will go on to do alright for yourself in the marriage and family department, so don’t worry about all that right now, Ok? Your Prince Charming does arrive, but he is nothing like what Disney movies portray and trust me when I say, that’s a good thing.
Here is what I DO want you to focus on right now: Being yourself. Believing you are enough just as you are. Yes, I know you feel terribly out of place right now. You look differently, talk differently, and seem to think and feel differently than everyone else. You have a hard time making friends, and many of the other girls make fun of you for things you have no control over, but it’s not your fault. There is nothing wrong with you.
One day soon you are going to get so upset from being teased on the playground, that you’ll leave school grounds and attempt to walk home on your own. As you sit crying in the principal’s office, she will tell you something very important and you need to listen to her: You are going to do great things one day.
Kid, you just keep doing what you’re doing. Keep reading everything you can get your hands on and don’t worry when you’re called a ‘nerd’ or ‘goody two-shoes.’ There are far worse things to be called…and eventually you’ll be called those things too. Learn how to ignore the noise now, because it will come in handy later.
Keep talking to God and believing He is with you, because He is closer than you realize. Every step you take, He is with you. Through every mistake, every letdown, every hard time, He is guiding you even when it doesn’t seem like it. Keep looking at the stars. Keep singing to yourself. Walk to the beat of your own drum, even if everyone else is playing guitar, because the worst thing you can do is exchange who you ARE in an effort to be how you think you SHOULD be.
Stay strong Veronica, you have good things ahead of you.
Keep finding the strength to begin again.
p.s. Keep running with your brother. If you quit, you’ll regret it. I promise.
I’m breaking from the writing challenge prompts today to write about something very personal.
I still owe you a post on “my relationship with food” and one of my upcoming prompts is about “an addiction” so I may as well just come out now and say it:
I’m a sugar addict.
There was a time when sugar completely mastered me. I wont go into much detail now, because my whole story will be in a post coming later, but I wanted to confess that I’m very imperfect and easily disordered in the area of sugar consumption.
This was more than having a sweet tooth, this was a conscious (and subconscious) using of sugar to self-soothe and self-medicate. It was a very deeply-rooted problem for me that has taken the past four years to overcome, and I am still overcoming.
Over the years I’ve worked through this issue using books, an online therapist-led system, discussion forums with other sugar addicts, and most importantly – my faith. I am now miles from where I once was and the difference in my life has been truly amazing.
Have I mastered it? No.
But it no longer masters me.
However, despite all the progress I’ve made up to this point, there is still something I have not done: I have never given up sugar completely.
Now, how can I say I’ve gotten better if I’ve not given it up? Doesn’t an addict have to give up the object of their addiction completely?
Well, living without sugar for the rest of my life has never been my goal. I’ve wanted to learn how to coexist with sugar in a healthy way. Freedom, for me, has meant moving from a place of –
“Oh my gosh, sugar! I have to have it right now!”
“Oh look, sugar. I can take it or leave it. And if I choose to take it, I’ll have a small bit and be done.”
I’m almost there. I succeed on most days in how I relate with sugar, but I’ve never gone a significant length of time having NO sugar at all. I have always had to have some amount of sugar on a daily basis in order to feel “right” whether it was sugar in my tea, a bite of chocolate, or even just a generous smear of jam on bread.
Oh sure, I’ve tried. (Half-heartedly.) I’ve attempted to go without sugar in the past and by Day 4 or 5 I’ve always made some lame excuse of why it was okay to eat some sugar. My heart has not ready to give up my sugar idol. My faith was not yet strong enough to be my only hope in life.
I’ve always lived with an underlying “sugar safety net” that I knew could catch me if I fell.
But this past Sunday at church I knew it was time to go all in. I made a prayerful decision to completely give up sugar for 30 Days. This does happen to coincide with Lent, but that isn’t why I’m doing it. I’m giving it up because I felt God’s urging that I do it.
And can I be totally honest? It’s been really hard.
Today is only Day 2 and I’ve already wanted to reach for a sugary snack a dozen times. It’s been lots of deep breaths, focusing prayers, and trusting so far. It’s frustrating for me to realize how deeply sugar still has a hold on me. But it is also encouraging.
Because the heavier the chain, the lighter you feel when it is taken off of you.
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1Cor. 6:12)
“I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1Cor. 9:27)
I’m finding a new master. I’m moving from a cross made of sugar, to a cross stained with blood and pierced with steel. It may seem silly, trivial or insignificant to you. Maybe you don’t struggle with a food addiction or any of the Big 6 addictions (By the way, those would be alcohol, drugs/nicotine, gambling, pornography, food, shopping) but we all struggle with something. What can you work to give up that is mastering you?
Pride? Or maybe it’s cousin – perfection?
(And if you think you’re mastered by nothing, and you have it all together, go back and look at pride once again…)