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Almost 3 weeks into my month without wheat or sugar. Have I had slip-ups? Sure.

First there was Easter. What are you going to do when there is strawberry mango pie? I figured it was a feast day and enjoyed it thoroughly. Then some little things like the tapioca pudding in the box lunch at a workshop I went to, and the breading on the chicken in my salad Saturday. On purpose I put wheat bran in the granola I made Sunday.

The chocolate covered dried cherries did me in, although I stretched them out just a few a day. Two Saturdays ago a couple of us were working on a very stressful project at work, and when someone offered to get a pizza, I was in. There were also fun-sized dark-chocolate Mounds bars. On the plus side, I’m allowing maple syrup to replace sugar, in the granola and in my homemade plain yogurt.

Fresh fruit dipped in yogurt is just as good and better for me than that caramel apple dip. I could eat sweet potato wedges coated in olive oil, mustard, and spices, and roasted, every day, but I won’t. The chicken soup thick with veggies I made tonight is pretty darn good and will carry me through several days. A breakfast of an egg, leftover brown rice, and an orange is pretty good. I don’t have to have toast.

Am I feeling better? I think so. I am noticing that when I indulge in candy or pie, I feel sluggish. Can’t afford that. Also my gut is happier without the wheat.

On the spiritual side, I had envisioned myself deep in study of scriptures about bread and the sweetness of God’s love. Must say that has not been the case as much as I thought. And yet it does feel like God is moving in me and for me. I’m just too tired tonight to tie it to my food fast in some deep and meaningful way. So I’ll take it by faith and go to bed.

I’m trying an experiment. It’s inspired by Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, in which she chronicles her journey of a different kind of fast for each of seven months. Why would she do such a thing? Isn’t that kinda crazy and extreme? She writes that her decision came out of the question, ” Where have I substituted The American Dream for God’s kingdom?” Her plan for 7 was to be “an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.”

Now, in many respects I’m already Ms. Simple. Some of Jen’s fasts wouldn’t make sense for me. Clothes, for instance. She writes about how appalled she was when she actually inventoried her wardrobe and was faced with how obscenely abundant her clothing options and therefore her clothing spending were. I, on the other hand, for example own three pair of jeans: one paint-spattered and holey, one blue denim, and one black denim. I’m still wearing my husband’s black socks to work, and he died six years ago. Hey, they’re warm, have worn like iron, and mostly don’t show under my slacks. No, they don’t work with dress shoes, but I barely ever wear dress shoes. Bunions and hammer toes are not welcome in my life. Just sayin’.

But going on this kind of a journey, opening up space for growth and movement with God, really appeals to me. Maybe my frugal nature will mean that my discipline somewhere along the way will be to add something instead of taking it away. I don’t have it all figured out yet. But I’m starting with food.

Jen carefully chose seven whole foods to limit herself to for a month. I already eat very little processed food and meat, enjoy lots of fruits and vegetables, and major on whole grains instead of highly refined. My goal will be to go without wheat or sugar this month. April 1 was the first day, and my first challenge came within hours, when my colleague Sean delivered to my desk the bag of dark-chocolate covered dried cherries I’d ordered maybe a month ago from his daughter’s high school band fundraiser and then forgotten about. “After this,” I told myself, and opened the bag. So good. I’ve had some each day. Until today. Because I felt so sluggish yesterday after I indulged in some. So they’re going away. Then my dear friend/cousin/soul-sister Becky and I decided to share Easter dinner, and the first thing out of my mouth was “Let’s just order pizza.” As good as that sounds, we’ve made a different plan. My part is to bring broccoli salad from the deli. It probably has sugar in the dressing. I’m at peace with that. it’s Easter after all.

Along with the dietary change, I want to see what exploring the concepts of bread, wheat, and sweetness, metaphorically speaking, reveals to me.

Today I read Psalm 81 because my concordance told me it has a reference to wheat in it. Just starting simple, you see. And by golly, it speaks to sweetness too. Sweet music, specifically, expressing joy and praise. So hmm, what if when I get the urge for chocolate or pie, I at least turn on music or better yet make some? Take a joy break? Consider the sweetness of God’s love for me?

Further in the psalm God says he desires to feed his people with the finest of wheat. That set me to wondering what the finest of wheat was in Biblical times. Thank you, Google, for filling me in. Given how different modern wheat is from ancient grains and how it’s prepared now, it makes sense that the vast majority of the types of carbs we eat have such an adverse affect on our health. We are settling for dust — too often contaminated dust at that.

I’m also on a quest to find raw, unfiltered, local honey.

I hope you’ll read Jen’s book, but be warned, it could shake you up. And that’s a good thing.

I’ll let you know how this goes.

‘Tis the Season

I’m thankful today for:

Spring air and birdsong and the sight of grass again.

Music and space at my house to move around to it. Raises my spirits every time. Why don’t I remember to do this every day?

Ingredients for granola, an oven to make it in, and the snacking all weekend on it. It’s not just for breakfast, you know.

Paint left over from an earlier project in a color that worked for the wall in the guest bedroom that had to be patched. Looks pretty good if I do say so.

God communicating to me through a constellation of scripture and current authors, stirring my heart about justice and mercy, hope in the face of despair. Love and grace win, and I’m entrusted to live that out. Excited to see what all that means in the future.

Rebirth. Refreshing. Awakening. ‘Tis the season. Bring it on.

Margins

I like the actual physical act of writing with a pen, if it’s a decent pen. And I keep a journal in addition to blogging. As I’ve been writing with a fountain pen in my journal, I’ve noticed something interesting. I’m observing the right margin again. See, for years I’ve ignored it in the interest of making the book last longer. Ever the good steward, that’s me. Thrifty. Don’t waste paper and all that. But fountain pen writing slows me down, and the look of the page seems to matter more. Why is this?

Margins set off the words like matting sets off the picture in a frame. Is it that the act of writing with actual ink awakens the artist? I wonder.

I’ve been pondering those margins. Too much of my life is running clear to the edge, ignoring the need for margins. Hence life lacks a certain attractiveness and I crave beauty. Too much is crammed onto each line, or into each day, and I feel mentally messy and chaotic and exhausted. Burnout is a lack of white space.

Good steward, did I say? Hmm, maybe of paper. But not so much of myself. Which is more valuable? (That’s a rhetorical question, just to be perfectly clear.) Will I ever finish learning that lesson?

There is something to be said for living full out. I have written many times in my journal that that is my desire, made it my prayer. And yet. I must also create new margins in my life and rediscover the beauty of old ones in order to sustain a full out life.

in The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, Tony Schwartz has written that we are made to pulse, not to run continuously like machines. Full out, then rest and play. Repeat.

Sounds like margins to me.

It’s been a week

You know how sometimes things get worse before they get better? Yeah, that.

I moved into a newly remodeled, bigger office last week after being shuffled through two different temporary spaces ever since my old office wall came down to expand a classroom back in August. Most of my stuff has been in boxes, just like when you move residences. I got to pick a paint color and tell them how to place my furniture. The new space has great light from big windows. It feels good to finally unpack and begin to settle in. But it also feels overwhelming.

I always like to sort and purge as I pack for a move. That’s how through multiple home moves I have kept the accumulation under control. But when a move comes on top of normal job responsibilities, some very urgent, you don’t get the luxury of sorting through things.

I had a dream once where we had to move in one day, so we put all our household belongings in grocery bags in the back of a pick-up truck. At least this wasn’t that bad.

So now as I unpack, I’m trying to sort and purge. When I took this job, I inherited several other people’s files and never reorganized them to integrate into my system, which admittedly needs improvement. This must be wrestled to the ground. Keeping in mind document retention guidelines, so far I’ve filled a wastebasket and run to the shredder several times, and my table is covered with piles. The office that looked so fresh and clean before I moved in is now controlled clutter. And in the midst of this, regular work must get done. Nevertheless.

One thing became abundantly clear yesterday. A lot of stuff I thought was essential to print out 4 or 5 years ago because I was sure I’d use it or reference it has not seen the light of day ever since. My temptation is to read it all through again and hang onto it like lost mementos, when it should probably all get pitched. After all, it’s all no doubt still available online.

Life lessons in all this?

Often things have to get worse before they get better. And they will get better only if we persevere through the ugly times. Keep looking forward.

We create surroundings that reveal and reinforce our inner condition. If I lack focus, how can I expect to keep organized?

Clutter squanders energy, and who can afford that? I’m still learning this lesson.

Patience. God, the God of order, is patient with me in my process. I need to be patient with myself.

Where I work we have a women’s empowerment training program called Soup of Success. Part of the funding comes from grants, and the other day one granting organization sent a team of interviewers to gather stories of success from graduates of the program. I was privileged to sit in on two of those interviews. They were powerful and uplifting and spiritual. I handle a lot of the communications for our agency, so I was hoping for some good quotes we could use. I heard that and then some.

One woman whom I’ll call Angelica now leads a class for women in prison called Beauty for Ashes. One of the things she tells them is that “It’s only midnight for one hour.” Persevere, and on the other side of the darkest hour we start moving toward the next day and sunrise. I can only imagine what it means to be in prison and have a gritty woman come alongside you with that reminder.

That night turned sad for me. Sad and tired. My life looked impossible, against me, overwhelming. I finally just went to bed, hoping to see daylight in the morning. And you know what? It came. In fact, it’s now two days later and thanks well up in me for the sunlight coming in my window, for a friend to call and compare our weeks, and for God who cares deeply enough about me to remind me that he loves me through the midnights and will bring back the light.

Oh, and for the resale shop where I found a bigger crossbody bag today. Leather even, and with today’s sale of 30% off, only $16. black leather crossbody bag

Sometimes self-care means carrying the right purse.

My big slouchy green one looks good and holds a lot. But it strains my shoulder and most likely throws my posture clear off. I’m sure my massage therapist can tell when I’ve been carrying it. I’m feeling it, so it’s time to switch.

My little red cross-body looks good too, except that it’s kinda worn. I’ve resewn it myself where the zipper started to pull loose. It’s much kinder to my posture and doesn’t put all that stress on my shoulder, especially since it’s lighter. That’s because it won’t hold much. Neither sunglasses nor hairbrush fits. My house keys make it bulge, and my business cards are going to end up dog-eared and dirty from being crammed in.

The answer seems to be a crossbody just a tad bigger that looks decent. Think I can find one at a resale shop?

I don’t want to carry baggage, unnecessary weight. Yet I don’t want to feel cramped either. And I for sure want to stand up straight. Such is life.

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