My Daughter Is Not Jesus, And Other Ways Food Makes Me Goofy

Sweet potatoes and yukon golds, roasted in the oven.

Delicious and definitely on the “approved foods” list. I’m back to eating the right stuff after flinging myself off the wagon over Thanksgiving.

I ate, little bits of everything I wanted to taste. It was delicious. I really didn’t overeat at all.

But I didn’t eat the “good stuff”. And I didn’t feel well. I didn’t necessarily feel badly, but sluggish. Bloated. Foggy. Slow.


And the sugary stuff sent me over the edge. My body is really sensitive to sugar.

Who knew? I was eating so much of the stuff, all day long, indulging every whim, that the pump was always primed. Now that I essentially eat no sugar at all, that little bit of pecan pie packed a powerful punch.

And here’s what I noticed: the first bite led to the craving. Every hour, I wanted another taste. Another hit. It took a lot of self-control, all day Sunday, to break that habit. But by Monday, I was good and clean.

I feel better today. I continue to react strongly to caffeine; a slight re-introduction to morning coffee indicates that the boost I thought I was getting might actually be contributing to mild headaches and a lack of focus.

I couldn’t talk today. I referred to my daughter Sydni as Jesus, in what seemed like a logically constructed sentence. Maybe caffeine makes me a little goofy.

Who knew?

I’m wearing pants that I haven’t been able to fit in since last year. That feels good, but it’s more like a great side effect. I’ve tried to keep that in mind: I’m not on a diet. I want to be healthy.

It makes a difference in my attitude. It makes it just a bit easier.

Have you detoxed from anything recently?

Praise God On High

I am writing this post with my “Mom” hat on, so indulge me for a moment or two.

One of the greatest joys of my life is seeing my kids nurture their love for music. All five of them are passionate about music, with very diverse but authentic tastes.
Honestly, I haven’t really pushed them hard in this direction. They’ve just been around it all their lives. I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t even insist on piano lessons for any of them; they all can pick around a bit, but I didn’t want to turn them into mini-me’s. In hindsight, I wish I’d pushed that issue a bit more; as a piano teacher, I wish someone had helped them acquire those life skills the way I help kids do the same now. I’d certainly do that part differently if I had a do-over.
Today at church, some of my favorite people played on the worship team. Great musicians, each and every one, they connected with God and with one another in a way that made it easy to bypass distractions and be very present in the moment. (You can watch the service here – the music and the message might bless you.) One of those favorite people was my daughter. 
Obviously, I’m biased – she’s my kid, and my job in life is to be her biggest cheerleader. That, I am. But I’m sincere when I say that she is, by far, one of the most effective worship leaders I know. When she sings, her worship is pure and focused and authentic. She is humble and her leadership is gentle; she simply sings because she loves God, and her voice sings His praise. She leads me to an authentic encounter with God – she always has.
I think one of the reasons Sarah’s worship resonates is rooted in her life experience. At a very young age, she’s wrestled with some challenging stuff: her parent’s divorce and the ensuing issues there, and a late-adolescent battle with bipolar disease (you can read more about that here.) Her dependence on God at this season of her life is authentic, and that seeps into her musical worship.
Recently, I stumbled upon a recording of one of Sarah’s very first experiences leading worship, over a decade ago. We listened together this afternoon, after church; our hearts swelled and our eyes filled with tears. We all talked, just for a moment, about how far we’d all come. With Sarah’s permission, I’m sharing that recording here.
She was eleven years old. We lived in Cleveland, and worshiped at Fellowship Bible Church. That’s me, playing piano, and the FBC choir singing, and Sarah leading the verses. The style is drastically different from PCC, our current church; but the heart is the same.
Sarah started there. She’s come a long way. God led her. It’s been a good journey.

Note: If you are here via an RSS feed and the audio file below doesn’t show up, please click on through to the actual post and give it a listen!

Now Let Us All Give Thanks

I just hit the start button on the dishwasher for the second time today. We filled it to the brim, both times, with the remnants of good food and a full table.

Today was the 26th day of my 25 day food detox. I saw the doctor yesterday, and told him I really wanted to eat my mom’s cornbread dressing. Among other things. He gave me a stern look, and told me to go ahead. Start again tomorrow.

So I ate, tiny amounts of everything with no regard to sugar or gluten or dairy.

And my gut is not so happy. But I tasted everything I put in my mouth, and to some degree – even though it was a full frontal assault and a barrage of tastes and flavors and inflammatory things that I’ve avoided for several weeks – I could tell what was good for me and what was not. Awareness is such a valuable tool, and I’m thankful for it.

Even though I keep burping.

But it’s not as if I did something horrible or fatal. There’s something about the fullness of family and friends and years of tradition that brings good health. And so I refuse to beat myself up or worry about not sticking to the program or feel the tiniest bit of guilt over what I ate today.

This is my life, and I get to choose, and I choose health and good fuel for my body, except on this day when I chose to savor the taste of my history and my memories and a shared sense of the community that is my family.

We had all the kids, and my parents, and Travis and his mom, and Max, and our new friend Sam from church, and two tables – one for the kids and one for the grownups, except we’re all so grown up now that it was more like a table for the “seasoned” folks and one for the fresher faces. We had new tablecloths that will be part of my traditions, and my mom’s good stoneware came from my cabinets to the table this year and looked beautiful. We had candles and Shannon’s sweet potatoes and Daniel’s dump cake and Sarah’s peanut butter pie and Bitsy’s green bean casserole and Mom’s turkey breast and cornbread dressing and giblet gravy and we burnt the rolls, like we do every year. We stood in a circle, held hands and gave thanks. We sampled lemon pie and cherry pie and pecan pie from a cast iron skillet while we went around the room one at a time, doing our “Thankful for…” tradition.

I am thankful this year for my home, for my husband who refused to settle for anything less than awesome for it’s heart – our kitchen; for daughters that are well and good in lives away from home and yet still want to come home. Thankful for my parents, who guard their health and are strong and here. Thankful for my sons, who are becoming amazing young men. Thankful for Max, and Travis, and the way I am learning to love each of them, although it feels dangerous at times. Thankful for Bitsy and her friendship. Thankful for the man who calls me his wife, and his steadfast love and commitment to our family.

I am thankful indeed, for second and third chances and a life full of grace.

Give Me Faith

It’s an oddly shaped week; strange meeting schedules and rehearsal on a Tuesday night.

But, oh, what a great night it was.

I am biased toward the Powhatan Campus this week, as my daughter Sarah is back in town for the holiday. She has enough leeway in her schedule (after running around doing a lot of photography for folks) to lead worship with us. With most of our college students home for Thanksgiving, we were able to put together a band that included Sarah, Travis and Tanner. Matthew and Sean are anchoring things, and Walter and I get to be the old guys on the platform.

Several folks involved in various college ministries around the area have been encouraging me to introduce a new song. Actually, it’s not that new, but it’s certainly new to us.

Sometimes, songs just have a certain something; in old-school spiritual terms, we’d say that a song is anointed. Something special just happens in the singing, regardless of what’s happening in the melody (sometimes nothing special) or the chord progression (sometimes quite standard). I think How He Loves is such a song; Majesty by Delirious is another one. You Are Good. He Is Yahweh. 

And now there’s Give Me Faith. The lyrics aren’t anything new or sexy. The progression is not unusual. But there’s just…something.

And it fits our current series in a unique way. We’re talking about being stuck, and the things we can do to get unstuck. But ultimately, we have to remember that the power of God has the potential to do incredibly more than anything we do; and without it, our lives are out of balance.

I may be weak
But Your spirit’s strong in me
My flesh may fail
My God, You never will

Give me faith 
To trust what You say
You are good
And Your love is great

In rehearsal tonight, this song came alive. It was incredible and indefinable.

That’s a part of faith that is appealing and captivating and utterly fascinating to me; there is a supernatural component to believing in the One who created everything. 

We had a powerful moment in rehearsal, and then the kids came home and we brought extra people with us and built a bonfire and sang it again. Along with a bunch of other stuff.

Sunday is going to be a very good day. My hope is this: If you are headed to PCC, give this song a listen or two. Get familiar with it. And then come Sunday, ready to add your voices to the chorus.

And by the way, I heard some folks talking last week about not singing – about how they don’t want to offend anyone because they don’t sing well.

Sing. It’s not about your neighbor. It’s worship, and God made that voice, along with the rest of you. He loves to hear you sing.

Come. Sing. Be part of something powerful. And trust me: if you give it a listen or watch this video and think, “What’s the big deal? It doesn’t do much for me…” – well, just trust me. It’s got that something….

What songs do it for you? Which ones would you say have that special something?

I’m about 23 days into a different way of living. Motivated by minor pain and a sense that things just “weren’t right”, I’ve adjusted my eating habits rather drastically.

And what a difference it has made.

(You can read about it here.)

After three weeks, the physical changes are becoming the norm. I still don’t struggle much with cravings, although as I sit here surrounded by packages Sarah brought from the Savannah Candy Kitchen, I’ll admit to a bit of minor desire for something chocolate…and sugary….

But the desire isn’t enough to provoke action.

(Although I did eat a bit of chocolate last night; the Candy Kitchen makes this stuff called Gophers and they are TO DIE FOR and so I asked for one little piece, just a tiny bit. Tony – my biggest cheerleader – broke off a piece and handed it to me. And listen to this, people: I sucked on it for about 20 seconds. I swirled the chocolate taste in my mouth and oh how I wanted to chew up the caramel and the nuts and the dark chocolate but I didn’t. I gingerly spit it into a napkin and threw it away, much to the horror of the candy-loving people around the table. I just couldn’t eat it. I think I earned some major points with that bit of willpower…)

Here’s what I’m learning:

  • What I eat has a powerful impact on how I feel. I have introduced – carefully – caffeine, with a cup of homemade Chai tea Friday morning. The caffeine sent me through the roof.  I could feel the impact of the caffeine on my body. It wasn’t necessarily bad – or good – but the point is this: I put a stimulant into my body and I was aware of its impact.* To me, this is huge; I’ve spent years pouring caffeine and sugar and everything else into my body without any awareness of how it changed my mood, my energy level, my thought process, my ability to focus. By stripping everything down to such a raw level, I am back in touch with how my body works. I can’t begin to describe how freeing this is, and how empowered I feel. Plus, I am healthier – it’s obvious.
  • What I eat has a powerful impact on my confidence. I feel better. I have lost a bit of weight, but I’m still way far away from the skinny, size 2 I was several years ago. But it’s not about the size of my clothes. I’m learning that feeling in control of my eating habits and being free of the numbing influence of sugar and carbs and processed junk has done wonders for my self-esteem and confidence. It’s impacted my work life and my relationships at home and my ability to get up and tackle the day. It’s impacted my spiritual life; there’s some sort of righteousness that comes with honoring the body God gave me. I like this.
I am convinced that I walked around for years in a fog, numbed by Pringles and Oreos and yogurt and cheese and steak and sugar and Starbucks. Somehow over the course of my adult life, I gave my power away. I ate what was in front of me, what the commercials and the slick ad campaigns touted, what I craved. I ate what good Americans ate, what surrounded us, what was easy and available and quick and convenient. Indulgence was king.
No more. It is not convenient to buy fresh vegetables, to stop at Food Lion for red peppers and hummus when everybody else is eating pizza. It’s not convenient to eat oatmeal every day, without sugar. It’s not fun to drink only water. 
But there’s this: I feel great.  Spiritually, physically, emotionally. I am present in my life. Honestly, I’m not sure there’s any amount of Oreo’s that could get me here.
I’m thankful. This is good. Amen.
*By the way, I also experimented with eating just a bit of red meat in some chili. No major issues, not much of a noticeable impact. However, not so for the soup I made for the family last night. It included homemade cornmeal dumplings, and after working so hard to make them, I decided to eat just a few. The impact on my stomach was quick and not pleasant. My body doesn’t like corn, or flour. We’ll figure that out as we go along. The point is – now I know. When I eat certain things, I don’t feel good. So, the choice is mine. I can choose the temporary pain, or I can avoid the food and feel better. 

This is good.


Changing The World, One Conversation At A Time

Just the girls today…the boys were off shooting things…

My kids are all home.

That means all five of my babies, the ones I rocked and nursed and cuddled and cried over and laughed with – they’re all back in the house. They’re together. There’s something awesome and beautiful about that, what they make when they are together. It is a sure and steady thing, the most brilliant and amazing tangible evidence of love I’ve ever seen.

And then there are the extra pieces that come along, the bonus bits of energy in boyfriends and best friends. They round out the day and bring joy.

The house is full. It is loud again. And it is good.

But it is loud, I’ll admit; and that’s a bit jarring. But I am glad for it.

So I rested, today; after a beautiful service at church and some good time with my youngest girl, we came home to a chaotic lunch and a nap for me. After two hours on the couch, with the chaos swirling around me, I awoke refreshed.

The service today lingers in my heart, for many reasons. It was a very interesting, unusual message on prayer – not quite what you might have expected. Brian talked a bit about his experience with centering prayer and the influence of Thomas Keating on his spiritual life. He mentioned having a “mantra” – a keyword that helps “bring you back” when your mind begins to wander or you find yourself distracted, and Brian went on to say that learning how to refocus, reduce anxiety and redirect energy with this “centering word” has become part of his everyday life – not just his prayer life.

Because I work closely with Brian on a weekly basis, and because often our work is anxiety-inducing (THE MESSAGE IS TOO LONG! WE’VE ACCIDENTALLY OFFENDED SOME PEOPLE! THE MESSAGE IS TOO SHORT! I DON’T KNOW HOW WE’RE GOING TO END THIS SERVICE! WE FORGOT TO TELL THE WESTCHESTER TEAM WHAT WE’RE DOING! ARE YOU CRAZY? FINANCES ARE GETTING TIGHT! ONE OF THE LIGHTS IS BROKEN! I HAVE TOO MANY EMAILS! HELP!!!), I just wanted to share my perspective on the spiritual practices he has put into place since his sabbatical.

They work.

I have literally watched him, in the middle of a conversation, reach back into a place that he didn’t have before and find that calmness, some strength, a sort of peace. I don’t say this to simply add my testimony to the truth he brought today, but to tell you that the practice of centering prayer can not only change your life, but impact your relationships as well.

Imagine being in a conversation in which your anxiety levels are rising; think about what could happen if things get heated and out of control. Imagine that you are struggling with something that’s been said and you find yourself unable to listen.

And now imagine that you have practiced the art of centering your mind, calming yourself in centering prayer. Although your experience is in the presence of God, in silence, you find that you can calm yourself and return to the conversation – be present without your emotions or your adrenaline rising.

Brian is doing this now on a regular basis, and it’s had a profound impact on our working relationship. There’s something incredibly safe about working with someone who can bring this kind of influence to your dialogue. It builds trust. Ultimately, it benefits the  Kingdom as we work together more effectively, with more focus.

As believers, what if we were the ones who brought peace into heated conversations? What if, when things escalate and tension begins to creep in, we were the ones bringing a calming light? In the midst of challenging invective regarding politics or social issues or relationship stuff or religion, think of how things might change if we became bringers of peace.

We could change the world, one conversation at a time.

So give it a try. Trust Brian, as he said today. Trust Him.

We ended the service today with one of the most powerful songs I’ve heard recently. You might add this to your time with God; it can gently lead you to a place of remembrance, embracing the comfort and reality of who God is and how He regards the human race. Let Him speak to you.

I am the Lord your God
I go before you now
I stand beside you
I’m all around you
Though you feel I’m far away
I’m closer than your breath
I am with you
More than you know

I Lived

My husband is making music in the living room, playing an old acoustic guitar that is seasoned with millions of notes and the resonance of life. I think I am hearing snippets of “Beautiful Things” and it is, indeed, beautiful.

I am exhausted, after one of those 13-hour days with no breaks. My brain sort of stops working at some point and I just long for stillness and quiet. I have it this evening. The house is still, as the kids are hanging with their dad and the girls went back to Harrisonburg after a quick trip home. The guitar sings through the quiet house and all is still, and well, and good.

We made real music this morning, played the blues this morning that opened up a time of honest and authentic praise and shouting and prayer to God. I think the church is absolutely a suitable place for the blues, because what are the blues if not the deepest cry of our souls? Don’t tell me David didn’t write those Psalms as blues lyrics, mournful and heartfelt as any 12-bar renditions you’ll hear today.

We played good music tonight, hearing from different people who are singing their own songs and standing tall in the gifts they’ve been giving while bowing down to offer themselves to God.

And in the middle of it all I shared a meal with my family, my mom and dad and husband and all but one of my children, at a table big enough to hold us all, over biscuits and roast and potatoes and carrots and gravy. I made it all but ate none of it, because I cannot partake as I stick to my conviction that changing the fuel for my body is changing my body and my mind and perhaps, even my heart.

It was a good, long day, and I have a large, throbbing bruise on the heel of my hand that hurts now and will hurt more tomorrow. My shoulders are yearning for a deep, long massage and my hand hurts and my eyes are dry and I feel like I am alive, like this day we were given was used up to its very core, every crevice licked out and shaken until there was nothing left.

I feel satisfied in my Savior today, in the glory and grace of a day I lived.