A month without bread – what I’ve learned

Nearly a month ago, after barely surviving a sugar-filled, and casserole-laden Christmas season, I realized some practical moderation in the area of food consumption would most likely be in my best interest.

The funny thing with food is that you don’t realize it’s become a problem until it’s already a problem. I thought I was doing well. I work at a food co-op for goodness sakes! I ran a half marathon one time…months ago. I never go to McDonald’s and I can’t remember the last time I drank a soda. Plus, I work out A LOT!

But something wasn’t right. And I don’t just mean I had a few pounds to lose. I was tired all the time. Waking up was challenging, falling asleep was challenging, staying awake throughout the day was challenging!

Enter Paleo (recently popularized), and known as the ancient diet of our “caveman ancestors.” Which literally means we can eat whatever the cavemen could successfully forage in the wilderness. Apparently cavemen didn’t have access to cows, or wheat or beans…who knew?

Some people call this the bacon diet, because bacon is allowed. But I would gladly offer up all the bacon in the universe if I could just have my delicious bread and pasta back.

Let me tell you, it’s been rough. 

I had a breakdown Friday when, hungry and bored with salad, I nearly burst into tears. I went home and ate a sweet potato. And that has basically been my life for the past 26 days.

“Hello, my name is Sarah and I haven’t had bread in 26 days…”

But I digress… this post is not just one of thousands of blog posts out there talking about the pros and cons of Paleo.

Whether or not I continue with Paleo isn’t really the issue. It’s not really that important. I’m not writing this to reveal before and after pictures or to gain sympathy from my readers who are currently sinking their teeth in a giant cinnamon roll (my food of choice).

Rather, I’m realizing that though this bread-free diet is a small thing, it’s still a hard thing. 

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A couple of years ago, several teens and young adults in our church started going through the book “Do Hard Things” by Brett and Alex Harris. The book is a charge to youth (especially) to oppose a culture of laziness by purposefully seeking out the more difficult and challenging things in life. This could be as simple as putting down a video game to help your mom with the dishes. Or taking the time to say “hello” to a stranger. Or looking for ways to serve your church. Or leaving the comfort of home to go on short-term missions trips. Or giving your Christmas money to a person in need. The possibilities are endless. The charge is serious. Do hard things. Start small. Make it a lifelong goal.

So I spent a day complaining inwardly about something that is actually good for me spiritually (funny how that works). How can I be faithful to fast (for instance), if I can’t even give up bread? How can I be faithful to pray for others, if I don’t even make personal time with the Lord? How can I faithfully serve the church if I’m barely even in the church?

There’s a lot to ponder here.

My mom always said (especially on days when I didn’t do my chores), that “he who is faithful in the small things will be faithful in the big things.”

field2How can I be a faithful and effective witness for the Gospel if I can’t even be faithful in my own home with my day-to-day responsibilities? How can I learn to truly desire God if I never dig deep?

How will we learn to eat if we are NEVER hungry?

I have wasted time thinking about my physical hunger, and failed to realize my spiritual hunger. I am hungry! But I’m hungry for so much more than bread, and cheese and cinnamon rolls. I’m hungry for truth and I’m desperate to be used for His glory, to do hard things, to look for opportunities, to be a blessing.

SO completely by accident, my 26 days of going without has brought me back to the theme that has encompassed my life for the past few years, inspired by Elisabeth Elliot, and reinforced by the things the Lord has brought me through and the lessons He has taught me:

“We need to learn to live by the supernatural. Ordinary fare will not fill the emptiness in our hearts…How else will we learn to eat it, if we are never hungry? How educate our tastes for heavenly things if we are surfeited with earthly?”

So rather than dwell on whatever hard things I may be enduring and treating them as obstacles, I want to view every single hard thing (minor and big) as opportunities to be “discontent with ordinary fare.” I want to truly learn how to hunger for the Supernatural, so much more than how I hunger for earthly bread and cheese.

I want to be spiritually hungry so that I can learn to spiritually eat.

Resolutions old & new

For the past few years, my family has made an effort to gather together around the new year and go over past goals and make new ones. There’s something about a new year. Like Anne Shirley said in Anne of Green Gables, each new day is a fresh start with no mistakes in it (yet). That’s how I feel about new years. They provide opportunities to dream big, hopefully develop new habits and achieve reasonable, healthy goals.

I have to admit, however, most years I don’t get very far. In January, I’m amongst the crowd at 6 a.m. clamoring to jump on the treadmills and kick start my new running plan. But by February, my gym attendance is drastically down and my calorie intake is up!

Last year was different though. In 2014 I decided to stop making empty promises of running half marathons and just go ahead and sign up. If I spent $100, there was no way I wouldn’t go through with it. In January 2014, I’d never run more than six miles at one time. But running is more mental than physical, so they say. I was certain if I could run six, I could run 13.1. In April, I ran my first 10-mile race – the Tar Heel Ten Miler in Chapel Hill. It was a gorgeous day and I felt amazing. Until mile eight. The dreaded quarter of a mile straight up what appeared to be a towering mountain nearly killed me. But by golly, I finished. My legs were like jello, but I finished! One month later, on a dreary and chilly Sunday in May, I completed my half marathon goal – a full seven months ahead of schedule! I didn’t realize until that day just how many hills there are in Greensboro. And by the end of it I was like a ravenous wolf, just dying for waffles and a very long nap. Goal complete. It felt so good!

 

I haven’t run many long distances since then. But January is officially here and I have once again set a few self goals. I learned I’m capable of far more than I think I am. I also learned races are fun and the t-shirts are a nice perk! I also have a very athletic husband who drags me with him to the YMCA, the Tobacco Trail in Durham, the Glencoe Trail along the Haw River and just about anywhere he can find to get a run in.

I write all this to say, goal setting can be a great idea. And by goal setting, I also mean planning. Having a goal and developing a plan to follow through is imperative. Want to run a half marathon? There are so many available weekly running plans on Pinterest and the Internet for whatever level you may be at. Want to lose weight (in a healthy and natural way)? Make a meal plan, create a grocery list and hit the gym (if you’re able)! Maybe you want to memorize more scripture or read through the whole Bible in the coming year. In this day and age, there are hundreds of helpful guides and even apps! So set a goal, make a plan and follow through!

Of course I am preaching to the choir, as I’m not the most organized person in the world and I really dislike planning. But I have seen how the lack of planning in my own life has attributed to many past failed goals! So this year, Lord willing, one of my many goals is to be more organized. And I’m going to start by purchasing a really pretty planner 🙂

I want my goals to be healthy and to provide some much needed discipline in my life. I don’t want to make a long list of unrealistic and petty goals. But I do want to set the bar high (in some regards) because I need to be pushed. I need to do hard things, whether that’s waking up early, eliminating sugar, spending more time in prayer, running further distances, or being more willing and available to serve the needs of others.

I have so much growth ahead of me and I hope this will be a great year for it. I want to stop wasting time, and instead concentrate on the things in life that truly matter:

2015-goals

  • Read through the Bible
  • Read more books
  • Pray faithfully for my husband
  • Journal intentionally
  • Write more letters to people
  • Wake up earlier
  • Eat more vegetables
  • Run more races
  • Build my Etsy business
  • Draw something everyday
  • Make art
  • Be creative
  • Be all there

Reflecting

I can’t believe that we have arrived at New Year’s Eve. Is 2014 truly almost over? It’s true…life passes quickly the older we get. I feel like I’ll blink and discover Jordan and I have been married for a decade!

As crazy as it is that we’re on the cusp of a new year, I’m also incredibly thankful. 2015 is a blank canvas, with a vast array of possibilities and new opportunities. We spent our first year together dreaming and praying about a future we only could only partially anticipate. And now, with January looming just hours away, those dreams and visions may indeed become reality very soon.

God’s timing is always, always, always best.

One year ago, I could not have anticipated the way our life would pan out. We’d been married for nearly two months. I was working in Greensboro and Jordan was working in Burlington. We were busy with my long commute and his heavy workload. I was weary of the corporate, cubicle environment, tired of the drive and longing for more time with my new husband and more opportunities for creativity. I felt so stifled!

(I’m thankful for the few snow storms we did have because they provided some much needed extra time together we otherwise would not have had). 

Somehow, we made it six months of barely seeing each other (at least that’s how it felt). And finally a new job opened up for me, 10 minutes from home and just down the street from Jordan’s workplace. My new job has been infinitely better on our marriage. I’m off by four with time to hit the gym and make dinner almost every night. I spend every day in historic downtown Burlington. I absolutely adore downtowns and I’m thrilled to be working here, surrounded by some of the original architecture from decades past. Our house, though often untidy, is in much better shape than before. Our puppy Lucy basks in the additional attention she now receives. And I finally have time to spend on crafty projects, and dream about future endeavors. We now have lunch together every week, and he often stops by at random just to say hello. Sometimes I bring him coffee and leave notes on his car window. I’ve realized what an incredible privilege it is to finally work close to my husband. I feel safer, secure and content.

2014 was busy, but not terribly so. We traveled a little, completed some home projects, painted to add color to what was once a very brown bachelor pad, watched a lot of The Office, attempted a garden, adopted our sweet puppy, spent a lot of time with our wonderful families, went hiking, ran a few races, did a lot of laundry, experimented with homemade pizza and cinnamon rolls, discovered some new places, studied The Word together, and fell even more deeply in love.

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At any rate, we’re entering 2015 like everyone else. Ushering the new year with friendship, laughter and probably a lot of yawning because we’re older now and staying up until midnight isn’t so easy anymore.

So, here’s my tribute to 2015! A year full of more accomplished goals (I hope), spiritual growth, more Bible reading, many, many more memories, lots of good coffee, tons of hugs and more laughter than tears.

To love deeply is sacrifice

Sunday afternoon (an unseasonably warm afternoon compared to last year’s very, very cold one), my husband and I celebrated our one year anniversary with buttery, cranberry pancakes, tree shopping, decorating and Home Alone II.

10868142_10152592123503041_5974480919472752230_nWe have officially entered year #2 of marriage.

How is it possible that our four-month long engagement felt like an eternity, but one year of wedded bliss flew by? I still feel like a newly wed, still struggling (even a year later) to figure out this whole married thing. There are days when I find this struggle discouraging. Why is it so hard to serve my husband, put him first, die to myself and listen to him (rather than run him over with my opinions)?

And then I remember that I am human and for 25 years I lived husband-free.

For 25 years, I had no earthly idea what marriage would feel like. I only knew what I observed from my parents and others around me. As I grew older, I witnessed couple after couple, leave their eras of singleness and enter new eras of matrimony. Most of these couples didn’t “practice” marriage beforehand.

Jordan and I didn’t “practice” being married either. Even now, as a less naïve adult, I’m still astounded by the increasing number of people who opt for shacking up over marriage. Just this week, I overheard a group of older gentlemen talking amongst themselves over breakfast about how essential it is to “test the waters” before committing to someone. One even quipped, “after all, you need to know how she’s going to roll the toilet paper.”

I so badly wanted to turn around and interject.

Those petty annoyances, quirks and bad habits that come hand in hand with being human, are not enough reason to disregard the beauty of marriage for a fake imitation of the real thing.

By choosing not to practice marriage, Jordan and I knew we were taking a risk. He had no idea, for instance, that I have a bad habit of leaving gobs of toothpaste in the sink and that I always forget to clean the lint out of the dryer. He didn’t know that I’m most comfortable when the temperature is set to 80 degrees in the winter, or that I hog the covers at night. He didn’t know that I hit the snooze button 12 times before waking up, or that I drool in my sleep, or that I would take over his entire closet because I own far too many shoes. And there are so, so many things I didn’t know about him (like how he listens to the same songs over, and over, and over again and washes my clothes – almost every time – in hot water, and keeps empty drinking glasses in the refrigerator and chews with his mouth open, etc.).

We were in for so many surprises when we said I do. It could have been bad, I mean, what if he couldn’t handle being married to a woman who forgets to empty the dryer lint?

In one of our pre-martial counseling videos, the pastor made a very interesting statement that has stuck with me since. He said no one is compatible.

I hadn’t really considered that before. I assumed since Jordan and I loved each other and wanted to honor the Lord in our marriage that inherently made us compatible. But truly, we are two incredibly flawed human beings capable of great selfishness, disrespect and unloving tendencies.

We fail more than we get it right.

We struggle daily with incompatibility. The world would say maybe we should have “practiced” first.

Honestly, this past year has been one of the hardest of my entire life. I’ve never hurt so deeply or been so disappointed. But it’s not my husband who has caused the hurt (not that he hasn’t ever hurt my feelings), but nine times out of 10, I’ve been broken hearted by the sin that has been exposed in my own life. Now my husband knows the truth: I am not easy to live with, I fail daily and I’m not compatible. It goes beyond forgetting to clean the lint from the dryer. Marriage has made me completely vulnerable. And under any other conditions, with any less commitment and without a covenant of marriage, one or both of us, in an imitation “practice” marriage would not have lasted this past year.

Because love, true love, Christ-like love requires death. And death hurts.

That’s why imitation marriage isn’t marriage at all. Living with someone doesn’t make you committed. There’s no charge to die, no expectation to sacrifice.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote, so wisely that “it is impossible to love deeply without sacrifice.”

If I have learned anything this year, it is that.

I’m thankful for the heartbreak of sin, without it I wouldn’t understand the significance of Jordan’s love for me. He doesn’t love me because I deserve it, or because I do things right, or because I make him dinner, or because he’s attracted to me, or because we’re compatible. He loves me for my imperfections, regardless of our incompatibility, and in spite of my deepest sins. He married me without knowing what he would find.

He took a leap.

He led me to the minefields.

Loving another human being sacrificially is not a natural act. The beauty of marriage is that it provides grounds for continued patience, the opportunity to try and fail time and time again.  It’s a farce to think anyone can ever achieve compatibility and it’s a travesty that so many choose imitation marriage instead of the real thing. Marriage isn’t easy. With marriage comes the opportunity to die many “little deaths” (as Elisabeth Elliot said) every day.

But this death is not to be mourned. It’s a glorious death. It’s a sacrificial death. And that death is holy.

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“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.” ~ C.S. Lewis

 

Unity in Humble Thanksgiving

 

“…we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”

George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation

Delicious Autumn!

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“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” 

~George Eliot

For as long as I can remember, this time of year has always been my very favorite, even before Pinterest made sweaters, fallen leaves and pumpkins popular. I LOVE autumn for its brisk temperatures and gorgeous hues. Snuggling inside by a crackling fire, sipping hot chocolate on a cold autumn night is one of my favorite things in the whole world (especially now that I have an amazing man to share the experience with).

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For me, the climax of this season is Thanksgiving. Though so many bypass the holiday by decorating for Christmas before Halloween even hits, I prefer to take it a little slower and relish this day of thankfulness. Thanksgiving has traditionally been a welcome holiday for me. As a child, I loved reading the historical illustrated children’s books about the first Thanksgiving. I spent hours drawing pictures of turkeys, pilgrims and indians. And we’d count down the days in anticipation for our annual trip down to Georgia where all the family would gather and work collectively to prepare lots and lots and lots and lots of delicious food (it is only once a year after all). Many wonderful and memorable traditions ensued over the years, from annual picture taking, to scavengers hunts, and Black Friday shopping. I’ll never forget those years. They are some of my very best memories.

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As we’ve grown, traditions have changed. A few years ago I wasn’t even in the country for Thanksgiving, and let me tell you, hunting down a turkey, carrying it around a foreign city in 90 degree heat, traveling with it on a 30 minute boat ride back to an Caribbean island all for the sake of a traditional American Thanksgiving meal was totally worth it!

Last year, Jordan and I got married two days after Thanksgiving. What were we thinking? It was chaos, and yet, it was beautiful. Not only did I marry my true love in autumn, but I also married him just days after my favorite holiday.

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And because of the busyness of wedding week, we opted out of our traditional Thanksgiving festivities. So after 25 years of a home cooked Thanksgiving meals, we went to Golden Corral.

But you know, it was truly, honest to goodness, the BEST Thanksgiving ever. Because two days later, on a freezing cold November day, surrounded by our loved ones, in the presence of God, we pledged ourselves to each other and vowed to uphold the covenant of marriage until death parts us.

Nearly one year later, and my heart is still bursting with gratitude.

I’m grateful for our new little family and new traditions. I’m so grateful for the best in laws imaginable. I’m grateful for my own family and how they have continued to love and support me in this new season. I’m grateful God gave us autumn and for the promise of new life even in the midst of death. I’m so grateful for God’s grace and His mercy. I’m grateful for so many things, too many to list and even remember.

I’m grateful for gratefulness because if anything, it reminds me of the goodness of God. I don’t deserve the blessings He’s bestowed, but still, I am grateful.

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.”

~ Psalm 95:1-5

Hello Again Blog World

Shortly after getting married nearly one year ago (!), I decided I wanted to re-vamp my blog  and start blogging for real. I’ve been blogging since college but my blogging has been sporadic at best and mostly political and heavily opinionated. Not that there isn’t a place for that, and I’m definitely passionate about all of the topics that I have written about. But quite honestly, writing about such controversial topics just ended up making me angrier and stressed out. Also, it often took me hours to compose one blog post because I did a lot of research leading up to publishing my posts.

So I’ve scrapped the old blog and I’m starting fresh. It took me long enough but here I am, writing for all the world to read and desperately hoping someone will. The birth of this new blog is in conjunction with another project I’ve been working on, and can finally say is in the works.

I’ve been talking about going into the online crafting business for years now. But I’ve put it off. Mainly because business is stressful and the threat of failure scares me. But last night, I decided to conquer my fear of failure and launch my simple and oh so basic business: Southern Press.

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It’s not much to look at now. But maybe one day it will be and if it fails horribly and no one ever visits or buys a thing, at least I can say I tried. And then get on back to my day job.

In January, just two months after marrying my amazing husband, I made some resolutions. I do this every year as most Americans do. But I try to use the new year as an incentive to set good, healthy and beneficial goals. Ten months ago I said I wanted to run a half marathon. By the grace of God (and the encouragement of my hubby), I not only completed a half marathon but also ran a 10-miler. Before this year I had never, ever run that far. So that goal’s been taken care of (thank goodness).

My other goal was to start blogging consistently. Not because I’m that interesting or have much to add to the blogosphere. Lord knows there are a bajillion blogs out there that are way more interesting and aesthetically pleasing than mine will ever be. But since high school, writing has been therapeutic for me and I’ve missed it.

As much as I love to write, I’m the world’s worst at remembering to. This is why I have TWO (yes two) gorgeous, but empty journals sitting on my desk right now, just waiting to be written in.

A lot will change in the next few months for my husband and I. We’ve had an amazing year together in our little home, with our little dog-child (I say dog-child because she legitimately thinks she’s our child). There are exciting things ahead and I want to record them here at Southern Press.

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