Mistakes Are What?

Responses to this question get me a combination of enthusiastic chants and rolled eyes. Both for the same reason: my students know the answer very well.

Mistakes were first re-framed for me by the amazing Larry Silverberg in his first workbook in “The Sanford Meisner Approach” series.

“THERE ARE NO MISTAKES.”

That was the mantra he set in the first several pages of his book. (And yes, it was in all caps.)

“On stage,” he continues, “there are no mistakes, you must accept and embrace everything that happens!”

This was the first concept from my study of Larry’s work on Meisner that I incorporated into my training at my theatre. Working with young kids and self-conscious teens, the fear of doing something wrong is one of the most common and debilitating block to their enjoyment in acting and growth as actors.

So we started working on viewing mistakes differently — as opportunities!

I’ve found it really helpful to approach mistakes on the stage as a chance for me to have an unexpected new moment to respond to – something fun and exciting, rather than something to be feared.

While I certainly don’t encourage my actors to be flippant about their work and lazily use mistakes as a way of not putting in the effort needed to do their absolute best, I also don’t want their dread of “failing” and “doing it wrong” to immobilize them.

I’ve found that when my actors can embrace the idea that mistakes are opportunities, they are much more relaxed and focused. (And as a byproduct, usually have fewer mishaps as they aren’t stuck in their heads!)

I’ve found that the lesson can be applied to other areas of my life as well.

unnamed
Untitled. India Ink, India Ink marker, acrylic paint. 2017.

The above is one of my favorite pieces of work, one that is developing through the mistakes I made on it. It’s not finished. This is merely the first draft. At some point, I will re-create this piece, some of the unintended aspects I will keep, others I will correct.

The piece came about in out a desperate longing to connect with Jesus and thinking about all the ways that C.S. Lewis makes parts of Him accessible through the allegorical character of Aslan.

I didn’t want to draw a picture from the stories (for one reason the illustrations to the series are already so beautiful); instead I worked to draw Narnia as I envisioned it then on that February day. Everything went pretty well, the trees, the lamp post, the snow, until I tried to add the imprint of Aslan to it.

The idea evolved from including a lion relief on the lamp post to making the shadow of the lamp post cast the image of Aslan, as though everything in Narnia is bursting to proclaim the King of Beasts, the one who sang their world into being.

(Even though the lamp post is from our world, I’ve got to think that the many years being in the woods, it has to have come to understand who Aslan is….)

I still am very found of the idea, but the execution…well, that’s where mistake number one and two come in.

#1 – The perspective of the shadow is not right, so it looks more like the black blob is hanging from the lamp post arm. (Or as my one friend described it, “Singing in the Rain meets Narnia”.)

#2 – Even though I watered down the ink, I didn’t water it down enough. It is too dark and looks much more like a distinct creature than a shadow on the snow.

Both of these mistakes ended up being really important for me. #1 confirmed for me that I have a lack of understanding about perspective and how to work with a light direction in a piece. Wanting to be able to avoid such mistakes in the future was part of what lead me to decide to finish my Fine Arts Associates.

Because the “shadow” ended up looking much more like a black blob than a lion, and because there was no way to go in with darker ink to add the detailing of the mane, face, and paws, I had to improvise.

Utilizing my gold paint was my solution. One I really liked.

While part of me wishes I had worked in small, incremental layering and done the shadow in a blueish gray like I did the footprints, I’m glad I didn’t. If I had, I might not have used the gold to make the suggestion of a lion. And I also might not have made mistake number three!

#3 – I was careless in squeezing out my paint, which ended up squirting out a large streak on the page.

At first I was mortified. This was a mistake that I could have so easily avoided if I would have just slowed down and gone through the extra effort of caution. (This is something I really need to work on. I am way to found of cutting corners.) But even the mistake borne from laziness (the worst kind of mistakes in my opinion) brought about something in the piece that I really like: lines of gold darting across the page.

When I get to work on my second draft of this piece, I will keep the gold streaks and detailing on the lion and fix the perspective and coloring of the shadow.

Until then I have it framed in my kitchen, to remember that sometimes you correct mistakes by learning how to avoid making them again, and other times you learn from them by embracing them and incorporating them into your work.

That’s much easier for me to accomplish in my practice of art than it is in my daily life.

Messing up in life causes greater harm, greater embarrassment, and don’t usually offer the chance to do another draft. Whether I make an innocent mistake or a full blown sin, the impact is not easily dealt with.

I think about the ways I have hurt my friends, overspent my money, wasted my time, rebelled against Jesus…I can’t just draw another version of those moments and throw away the reality of what I’ve done.

My shame of sin often gets in the way of my needed repentance and restoration. I’ve had relationships go through long periods of awkwardness or tension because I was so embarrassed by the fact that I had hurt or failed them (thus proving I was not perfect) that I often didn’t want to even face them. This did not help matters.

In the spring, I taught a Meisner class for my younger actors, and we often talked about how mistakes were opportunities. I like to apply as much acting technique to every day life as possible, so as our question and answer routine got hammered into us, I thought a lot about how mistakes provide opportunities in my relationships.

When I realized that my pride prevented me from being able to honestly face the ways I had hurt my friendships with people, I began to see how I needed to practice the humility of admitting I was flawed and to accept their grace and forgiveness.

Much like the first streak of gold that marred my drawing, my sin against others mars them. When I can put aside pride and seek to make amends and they are able to forgive me, that wound can get incorporated into our story in beautiful and amazing way.

The other thing I realized was that my mistakes and sins in my day to day life are opportunities of remembrance. If I can get off my high horse and let go of my pride which insists on trying to prove how perfect I am, I can view my blunders as reminders of how much I need Jesus to save me.

Now, I’m not suggesting we should be flippant about how we hurt others or fail to worship God with all our soul, (The apostle Paul makes it pretty clear in Romans that grace is not a free ticket to do whatever we want) but I have found that in striving to accept the grace that Jesus and others offer when I fail makes it easier for me to actually learn from what I’ve done wrong.

Instead of my horror at my lack of perfection driving me to hide in shame, or trying to seek my own absolution by beating myself up for how terrible I am, I can be more focused on the ways that I have hurt others and Jesus, more concerned about them then any exposure of own imperfections. Accepting that mistakes and sin are opportunities to practice humility, to depend on Christ, make it easier for me to go to people when I have wronged them and be grieved by the wound I’ve caused. All this drives me to Jesus.

It’s tricky to both extol the grace that covers all my sin and at the same time strive to conquer my sin. It’s easy for me to either beat myself up over my mistakes or to view it as not a big deal because Jesus has paid for it all.

The past several months, I’ve struggled a lot with my binge eating again. And for a while, I was so convinced that I was finding something like life in over-eating that I did not want to change. I wanted to just sweep it under the rug because Jesus is so gracious.

But because Jesus is gracious, He began to show me how my binges ended up driving me away from Him. My decision to seek life in food instead of Jesus actual made it really hard for me to experience the grace I told myself I was living under by just eating however I wanted.

I realized that I need to learn from my mistake, my sin, of turning to food instead of Jesus.

Does that mean I’ve stopped bingeing? No. This past week in some ways has been worse than other weeks.

But as I’ve struggled this week with over-eating, sometimes successfully, often not, each time it’s a chance for me to reaffirm that I am not able to save myself. That’s something really needs to sink into my soul. And while I don’t want to purposely to show how desperate I am, God exposes my need of a Savior to me in the aftermath of my sin.

Another area of sin that God is using an opportunity to revel Himself to me in a deeper way is my anger towards Him. I struggle to trust God’s goodness, I doubt that He actually cares about me, and I have spent most of the last sixteen years of my life hurling accusations against Him, while at the same time desperately clinging to His grace and patience.

The last two and half years in particular, my anger and sometimes straight hatred of Him has given stark contrast to the fact that Jesus left the glory and grandeur of heaven to die for me, someone He knew would doubt Him again, and again, and again.

I wish that I had a greater faith in Jesus, that I could trust His goodness even when His sovereignty is hard and confusing. It’s something I pray about often and continually seek to grow in. But as frustrating (and sometimes infuriating) as my struggle with mistrust and suspicion of God is, it has become a reoccurring chance to remember that God is faithful even when I am not.

So as I go through life and seek to live in a way that honors Jesus and blesses others, I am trying to grow in the quick humility that recognizes sin, repents of it quickly, and embraces the reminders of my dependence on grace and God’s faithfulness.

What are mistakes? Opportunities: to learn, change, remember, lean on and magnify Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

N is for No.

It’s been awhile. I’ve been finding other things that are more interesting to write about then my journey with food. But it’s time to come back to it. As a general update: right now I am concentrating on staying away from foods that make me feel ill (such as dairy, too much sugar, too much wheat) and losing the weight that I’ve gained through bingeing. But, to try and balance that out, I am also working on enjoying the food that God has made. For a time I am going to viewSunday as a feast day, not a eat whatever I want day, but a day where I can relax and eat some foods that I wouldn’t normally eat through out the week. We’ll see how that goes.

N is for No.

Am I able to say no to this food, even if I know that I can eat it without sin? “I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:27

This is a hard one for me and the one that shows the extent of control I have given food. I sometimes struggle to say no to foods I don’t even like! Most of the time I choose to say “yes” because I am more concerned with pleasure than with obeying God, but there are times when it feels impossible to not eat that cracker even though I’m stuffed.

Elyse Fitzpatrick suggests occasionally denying yourself food even if you can eat it to practice self-denial. I thought it was a great idea when I first read it, but honestly, I haven’t tried it very consistently. Usually if I am at all convinced that I can eat something I eat it.

I’ve tried fasting as the obvious way of saying no, but I struggle with fasting for the right reasons- learning to focus more on Christ. Fasting can be a form of penance for me. “Whoops. I overate. Therefore, I must fast to make up for the extra calories and prove to God how sorry I am.”

That’s not a great reason to say no.

But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t say no.

It’s easy in America to always indulge. We have so much abundance and luxury, even those of us who are only moderately well off. Self-denial is not a often talked about Christian virtue in our culture even though Jesus made a big deal of it.

Food isn’t the only way we can deny ourselves, but it’s an area where I seek to fulfill myself instead of going to Christ, so fasting, be it from a particular food group, or meal, or day, with the intention of using the longing for that food to point me to Christ would be a valuable way to “buffet my body”.

Anyone have suggestions on how to fast? Every time I try seems to end in disaster.

 

 

 

Praise and Illustration

We are nearing the end of the Disciplined Eating questions. Four more to go after this post. Hopefully they’ve been helpful to more than just me, or at least thought-provoking. Sometime I want to reword the questions to be more general so that they could apply to any area of life, because I think they are good questions to help assess the motivations behind actions.

p_104_lgis for Praise

Can I eat this food with thanks and gratitude?

“Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected. It is received with gratitude.” 1 Timothy 4:4

This is a straight forward principle, but I often neglect it. Even though I pray before most meals and thank God for the food there is a lack of gratitude. The obsession with how many calories the meal might be, or the fact that I wish I could eat something else, or the feeling that I deserve this food, is a more typical attitude than gratitude. There is a presumption that God owes me, so there isn’t anything to be thankful for.

Or sometimes, I am so eager to sit down and eat the food that I think will satisfy my soul, that I rush past the prayer because I have forgotten that it is a gift from God, that God is the one who is my satisfaction.

I think if I slowed down and took the time to really thank God for my food and acknowledge that Jesus is the Bread of Life, I would not struggle as much. Focusing on Jesus before I eat, centering myself on His work, recognizing the gifts He has given me would free me from the obsessing and the control.

It would also help give me a more balanced perspective to food. The verse from Timothy reminds us that everything that God has created is good, and I can receive it with thanks. If I find myself in a situation where I am confident that I can eat something without sinning through idolatry or covetousness and it’s not harmful to my health, then I am free to eat it with praise.

I know that, but often I struggle with being consumed by the fear that the food will make me gain weight. I eat it with worry instead of gratitude and, instead of enjoying one of God’s gifts, bitterness and frustration is the result.

Task for this week, and really for everyday: practice gratitude not just with food but everything in my life.

2d70754c2fc50ebc62cf1f5a4a61e774 is for Illustrate

Am I modeling good eating habits for others?

“Show yourself an example to those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:12

I don’t know how many people notice when I am struggling with my obsessive eating habits in public or with being more interested in the food then in their conversation. Some might. Those that notice see the brokenness of a woman who succumbs to looking for food and beauty to give her meaning and the war that creates inside of her.

I have work to do on being a better example of not stressing so much about the physical manifestation of beauty, of gratitude and restraint. Even though I am not the best examples in those areas, I hope that I have been growing in the example of vulnerability and opening up about our deep struggles and shames in the hopes of finding freedom and community.

It has been interesting blogging about my addiction to food. It has started a lot of conversations, and since then I’ve meet a lot of women who are struggling too. It’s good to not be alone. If you are struggling with something, be it food, or depression, or anything, find a group of safe people that you can talk to. It is worth it and you will be a good example of God working through brokenness.

 

I and L (skipping over P)

It’s been a month since I’ve blogged about the questions from Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book to help with food addiction. I would much rather stop this series, to end the reflection about the heart issues behind my eating habits.

Part of my desire to be done is because I am a quick results type of girl. I don’t like things that take time. I’m your typical American woman who is used to instant gratification. And this is stretching on a long time. (I am going to speed it up by combining a few letters together, because I don’t know if I can’t take it much longer!)

But I’d also liked to move on because by God’s grace I am doing better. I have been experiencing victory. Not every day. This weekend has been a emotional food binge fest, but most days I am able to have a more balanced relationship with food. It’d be easy to pat myself on the back and decide I’ve arrived, and I can move on.

But.

I know that the heart issues that fueled my drive to binge or starve can seep into other areas of my life. That’s why I love these questions from Elyse: a little tweaking can make them apply to any idol you are fighting.

The only reason I am continuing the think through these questions is because I said I was going to on my blog. I want to keep my word. For those of you who follow and read this, thanks for keeping me accountable.

Alright, enough ramble. Time for I and L. (We’re skipping over P, but we’ll come back to it. I and L combine better together.)

I is for Inroad

If I eat this will it create an inroad for sin?

Romans 13:14 “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”

I see this question as a pre-emptive strike, a good one, if such a thing is possible. It’s the type of question that goes requires absolute honesty and humility. The question of doubtidolatry, stumbling, and covetousness can be wiggled round with a mixture of legitimate and illegitimate reasons. But the question of an inroad goes straight to the heart. It is basically asking me “Will eating this (whatever it may be) make the lusts of my flesh stronger?”

It’s a difficult principle because it requires me to own my weakness and realize that even though I want to be strong enough, I may not be. Even if I am able to control the physical actions after eating a trigger food, will I be creating an inroad for the sinful attitudes of idolatry and covetousness? That is probably the biggest struggle.

In trying to root out inroads in my life I have been practicing abstinence from trigger foods. For me those are starch and sweets (and for me sweets are anything that are more than 5 grams of sugar because my body cannot handle sugar). It’s not that I never eat them, sometimes I make exceptions, but as a general principle I abstain.

Yesterday I was really craving toast. I had shoveled a lot, and I wanted something hearty to eat. So I decided that it would be an okay treat, which it was. I had absolute freedom to eat that toast. But afterwards I found myself struggling with desiring more, obsessing over having more toast, or chips, or brownies, or anything that would satisfy my need for pleasure. It was not sin for me to eat that toast but it made the rest of my night a struggle with idolatry and covetousness.

Maybe a better way to phrase this question would be: Is it worth it to eat a food that will create an inroad for sin?

L is for Life.

Would eating this food harm my life or health in anyway?

“You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13 (Elyse holds to the broader understanding of what this commandment demands in that it is wrong to do anything that harms your life. Hence the reference)

L relates really well to I for me because they are both questions that keep in mind one’s health: spiritual and physical. I deals with spiritual, L deals with physical. I am fortunate that the foods which create inroads for me are also the foods that harm my health.

Wheat/starch makes me feel bloated, exhausted, achy, gives me brain fog, and packs weight on me.

Sugar gives me piercing headaches, fatigue, stress and packs weight on me.

Dairy is a food that I can eat without creating an inroad, but it almost always causes me muscle inflammation and digestive issues when I eat it, so I refrain- usually.

This principle sometimes causes me frustration. I get angry that God has given me a body that responds to such delicious foods the way it does. Not that I don’t have desserts and treats that I can make which don’t cause me physical pain, but they aren’t “those other” desserts which “everyone else” can have, so I get jealous (ie. I covet.).

But this question hits on the fact that my body doesn’t belong to me and God can do whatever He wants with it. Also, that life here on earth is about service, not gratification. The question challenges us to do everything within our power to preserve our health so we can serve God to the best of our ability as He allows.

(That last part is important. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle is rapidly becoming an acceptable idol within Christian culture. It’s based on a good desire, but if we lose sight of the fact that God is in control of our health and life span then our healthy pursuits are meaningless.)

I don’t think the principle of eating for your health rules everything out all the time. The Bible commands feasting. We should feast and enjoy the wonderful foods God has given us. I think the tricky part of living in American culture is that we could feast every day of our lives. When do we feast? When do we fast (either in part or in whole)?

It’s a difficult question, one that needs to be answered on an individual basis, but I know for me it means that for most of the time I am going to need to refrain from starch, sugar, and dairy, not only to resist temptation, but also to stay healthy.

 

 

 

 

 

S and C

It’s hard to sit down and write a blog post about my struggle with food when I’d much rather sit down and write a post about Star Wars…but… here we go. Two letters today from Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Love to Eat, Hate to Eat.

106-letterS-q75-456x500 is for Stumble.

“If I eat this will it cause a weaker Christian to stumble?”

Romans 14:21 – It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.

I’ve haven’t thought very much about this question, because it didn’t strike me as relevant. As far as I am aware none of my friends are going to stumble into binge eating if I binge…. But I can strive to set an example of complete surrender and freedom in Christ by how I approach food.

That’s something to think about.

I’ll try that and maybe blog about it in the future. But until then, onto “C”.

 

big-c

 

Is for Covet

“Am I eating this just because I saw someone else with it, and I am coveting it?”

Exodus 20:17 – You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Coveting is usually what gets me into food trouble. I often eat things for no other reason than someone else is eating it, and I am angry that I can’t have it when someone else can. My desire isn’t for the food itself, but to possess the food. I eat, even if I don’t enjoy it. Even if I despise it.

One of the summer parties we went to earlier in the year ended with ice cream. I like ice cream, but ice cream and I often don’t mix well together. But, I had decided it was a special day and since I am free to eat ice cream, I would have some. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that in itself, but what started out as a simple desire to enjoy some dessert with friends turned into silly coveting.

The ice cream they had was coffee. I do not like coffee ice cream. At that point, it would have made sense for me to eat a chocolate brownie instead of the ice cream as my special treat, since I don’t usually respond well to dairy, and it wasn’t a flavor of ice cream that I like.

But did I?

No.

Jealous that there were people who were eating ice cream, I decided that I would not only eat frozen burnt beans (how I view coffee ice cream), but since I didn’t really like that dessert I would also eat a brownie as a treat. One brownie wasn’t enough to satisfy my coveting of deserts, so I had two. Being a person who rarely eats sugar, I went home feeling rather unwell.

Sometimes, coveting makes me overeat on foods I do enjoy. This happens when I am full, watching people consume more of what I love. Instead of being thankful and content that I got to enjoy something tasty, I am jealous that others can enjoy more than I did. To remedy my covetous desire, I eat as much, if not more as everyone else, ending up feeling bloated, dissatisfied and terribly guilty.

Covetousness and idolatry are some of the biggest fuels for my addiction. I’m not exactly sure how to combat coveting, but here are ideas. Please share if you’ve got any!

Idolatry requires repentance of worshipping something other than God and turning to Him to adore Him and feast on Him. This is not easy, but I am have a clear how to tackle it (in the power of the Holy Spirit of course. [Which, of course, I will forget to do, because I am always so eager to earn my own salvation]).

Covetousness on the other hand…maybe thankfulness is what I need to place coveting. When I find myself wanting someone else’s food, instead of feeding my jealousy, I can thank God for the food He has given me.

And then what? That seems a simplistic answer. Any ideas? How does one combat covetousness in general?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I is for Idolatry

Now that National Novel Writing Month is complete, I am back to blogging. In between writing Mercy and Justice, performing, and directing, I’ve been thinking about lots of things that I want to blog about. Not to expound upon my wisdom, but as a way of processing. Before I can get to new and exciting things, I must return to Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Disciplined Eating questions.

I’ve had an interesting month with my food addiction. Some days were great. The last two weeks have been very tough with the added stresses of theatrical productions. With everything that’s been going on I haven’t taken the time to reflect and pray for discernment about why I struggle this way. This is really just a symptom of a deeper problem, my commonplace but horrific tendency of making everything in my life more important than God, thus quickly pushing Him out of my schedule. This happens because I worship pretty much everything more than I worship than my God, which leads me to the second of Elyse’s acronym.

I is for Idolatry.

“Does eating this particular food demonstrate either a heart of independence- ‘I can do whatever I want’ or a heart longer for pleasure?”

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”

The first half of this question strikes home for me more than the second, and is less conflicted. Often when I over eat, I am over eating because I tell myself that I should be allowed to eat whatever I want, without regard to whether it is God honoring or if it makes me feel sick.

For example, I get angry that God has given me a body that, at least at this moment of time, does not respond well to dairy products. If I eat dairy, especially milk and ice cream, my intestines cramp and my muscles spasm. There are times when I will purposely eat dairy to prove to God that I am in control of my body, and that I can eat whatever I darn well please.

That works for about a day. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, the reaction holds off for a while, giving me the brazen courage to eat more of the forbidden fruit. In the end, the reaction always comes. It’s just a matter of time and a question of severity.

Pavlov’s dog was smarter than I. He learned how to connect the dots and respond appropriately. Whereas I stubbornly shake my fist, refusing to give the foods that negatively effect me a wide-birth. I believe this falls into the idolatry of control.

The second part of the question is more difficult for me, and I am still trying to figure out whether it is a balanced way of approaching food. I may have misunderstood her, but I believe in her book she promotes only eating when you are hungry. If I always followed that logic, I’d never enjoy chocolate, unless I throw away the principle of eating for sustenance and health.

Maybe this is my stomach, not my soul, talking, but I feel like there must be some room for enjoying food just for the mere enjoyment of food: its taste and texture, its sweetness and saltiness, the way it can bring people together.

The Bible talks about eating honey, but not too much of it lest you be sick. There are provisions in the Old Testament for families to go to Jerusalem and buy whatever they want to feast before the Lord. So I have trouble with the idea that we are never to feast (which may not be what she is saying). Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that we are feasting all the time in America.

 

For me personally, I think I struggle more with using food as an idol of comfort than of pleasure. I often will got to a binge when I am upset before praying or even talking to other people. I idolize the “freedom” that food can give me from my problems, whether it be found in comfort, pleasure, or an activity to numb the pain.

So when I go to eat, I can ask myself “do I have any doubt that I am free to eat this right now?” If yes, I can wait a bit to discern whether my doubts are justified or a lack of grace. Or I can ask myself, “Am I eating out of idolatry, worshiping this food because I believe that it can do more for me than the God who died for me can?”

Now if I would only take the time to ask myself those questions.

 

Interestingly enough, last Sunday (11/30) my pastor preached on idolatry, and one of the ways he described idols was the means by which we try to get right with God. That made me realize I have another idol mixed up in my relationship with food.

I’ve got the idol of comfort, independence, and pleasure that prompt me to abuse food by overeating. I’ve got the idol of beauty and acceptance, which prompt me to abuse food by mistrusting it, fearing it, and sometimes refusing to eat it. And I’ve got the idol of control and perfection which prompts me to believe that if I can only get my eating and my weight under control, I’ll be right with God and everyone else. Essentially, I’ve been abusing food as a means of self-worship and self-righteousness.

I’m glad the Holy Spirit has made me aware of that. I’m hoping that it will help me in my struggle to overcome the addiction and to rebuild a proper understanding of food and body. If I can focus more on Jesus instead of trying to earn His favor, I may find it easier to rest in Him rather than in other idols.

Regardless of how much ‘success’ I achieve in my battle with food, I am very thankful that Jesus has paid it all, and that I am perfectly loved and accepted as I am now in Him. Jesus is not ashamed to call me His sister, and God is not ashamed to call me His daughter even if I struggle for the rest of my life with addiction and sin…which I will in one form or the other. Praise Jesus for His great love and for His great sacrifice on the cross which makes His love possible.

 

 

D – Doubt

It’s been a month since I first blogged about my struggle with food addiction. Talking about it has been freeing. Confessing it and being reminded that my sins are covered in Christ has helped take away a lot of the shame that I experienced when I was struggling alone. In the words of Brenda Leigh Johnson, “Confession is good for the soul.”

Besides the weight of shame being lessened, I have been experiencing more victory as well: less obsessing over whether I eat food or not, and less overeating in general. Not that it isn’t still a struggle- it is- but no longer feeling alone in my struggle helps. I’ve gotten an accountability partner lined up, and I officially joined a TOPS group last Tuesday.

Knowing that I would be sitting down and blogging through Elyse Fitzpatrick’s acrostic DISCIPLINED Eating (which has a question to help you process your food choices for each letter) in “Love to Eat. Hate to Eat.” has also been something that has encouraged me to not be controlled by food. I started to process through these questions in my journal, but quickly allowed myself to get sidetracked. Thankfully, this blog gives me a good reason to go through them again! Without any further preamble, here is the first letter. D.

vitamin-dis for Doubt.

Do I doubt (for whatever reason) that I can eat this food without sinning? Romans 14:23 He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.

I was familiar with this concept before reading her book. I struggled a lot in my deciding whether to eat or not, wondering if doubt was conviction from the Holy Spirit or from a spirit of legalism. I’d struggle for fifteen minutes or more over something as simple as a piece of bread. The mind games would go something like this:

“I’m hungry. I’d really like a piece of toast and butter.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have a piece of toast and butter. I don’t feel as well when I eat lots of wheat.”

“But one piece of toast isn’t going to hurt me.”

“But if I eat this piece of toast, I will be more likely to gain weight, because I always gain weight when I eat starches.”

But I shouldn’t be so darn obsessed about gaining weight. So I should just eat it.”

Maybe I shouldn’t eat it and view the abstinence from it as a kind of fast.”

“Or I should just eat it as an experience of Christian liberty and not being so obsessed over my food!”

I would almost always decide to practice Christian liberty rather than abstinence, with the result of guilt and usually followed by an excessive amount of eating or a straight out binge to suppress the feeling of guilt. It was not at all a healthy way of relating to food. But I honestly didn’t know what to do. I knew that I was controlled by food in both ways: the control of not being able to say no and the control of fearing the effects of food. I wanted to fight for liberty, but almost every time I stepped out to embrace “freedom!” I felt more enslaved.

Reading Elyse’s fleshing out of question “D” helped me find some relief from the mind games. Her principle basically was – if you have any doubt that you shouldn’t eat something, don’t eat it. Her corresponding verse talks about how anything eaten in faith is sin, and I can see in my own cycles of eating when I doubted followed by a binge how eating without faith, gratitude, and confidence in Christ can suck you into a whirlpool of sin. The context of Romans 14:23 is about food offered to idols and the question of whether Christians should  eat such food or not, but I think it can apply to me.

What I loved about her reasoning was the freedom it gave me to embrace both sides of my doubt: the valid and the invalid. She writes:

Now, you can seek to grow in your understanding of scripture and strengthen your conscience, but until you can sincerely say, ‘this isn’t sinful for me any longer’ you had better abstain.

It killed the mind game, because any time I doubt that I should eat a particular thing, or at all, I don’t have to obsess over it. I can tell myself, “You’re doubting, don’t eat it.”. Sometimes, I end up eating what I had said ‘not right now’ to later in the day when I’m sure I’m hungry. Sometimes I pray that God will give me freedom from striving after an idolized beauty, because I sense that my doubt is from fear of gaining weight. Either way, it gives me the ability to walk away and continue on with my life instead of standing in front of the fridge with the door wide open for ten to twenty minutes! (Saves on electricity too.)

I don’t always follow this. Sometimes I refuse to acknowledge that I am experiencing doubt, and I dig in anyway. Sometimes I struggle because I don’t like that so many people are free to eat whatever I want, and here I am stuck doubting whether I should eat that baklava or not. (That struggle corresponds to another of her points, which has been huge for me, letter C). Regardless of the fact that I don’t perfectly follow all of these principles “D – Doubt” has helped me recognize two things:

  1. When I’m evaluating my food choices, I am only evaluating MY food choices. I don’t have to follow anyone else standards for restraint or enjoyment, and I don’t need to wish everyone else followed my standards for restraint and enjoyment.
  2. That even though some of my reasons for abstaining from certain foods are motivated by my idols of beauty and acceptance, I must accept that I am weak in this area and pray for God to give me faith before I can enjoy His gift of food in freedom.

So there is letter D. It’ll probably be a while before we get to any other letters because NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is about to begin. I’m hoping to get one more blog post in about what my NaNoWriMo project is, but after that there will be no blog posts the month of November.

Thanks for reading and letting me share with you.

Stepping Towards Recovery: Part Three

TOPS Update: Last Tuesday I did go and visit one of the local TOPS groups in the Lehigh Valley. The group was made up of many sweet senior citizens. It was a little awkward because one of them kept asking me whether I really wanted to be there or not, insisting that I wouldn’t need the group, but other than that it was fine. They aren’t meeting tomorrow, so I’m going to check out another group and see which one feels like a better fit.

Every year my family gathers for vacation. The last two years my brother and his wife have surrendered their large home to us, allowing eight adults and two children to take lodgings in their home. It’s the best place we’ve had our vacation at, and I am very grateful that my brother and his wife are so hospitable.

This year my brother and I went on a canoe ride. While we paddled I talked to him about struggling with food addiction and how lost I was in the fight against it. We had a long compassionate conversation about it. Afterwards he lent me a book. A really wonderful book. One that resonated with me and that I plan to buy and read again. The book was called Love to Eat. Hate to Eat. by Elyse Fitzpatrick.

I devoured (pun intended) the book. On the first page I was impacted by the truth that God the Father is in the business of  giving us deliverance from our sin, giving me deliverance. Unlike the other book I had worked partially through, The Weight of Grace, Elyse Fitzpatrick wrote about the abuse of food as sin. I know there are people who don’t view gluttony as sin, and I don’t want to cast judgement on anyone, but as someone who was convinced that my relationship with food was sinful it was very helpful to read a book that understood that and wanted to help me overcome that sin pattern.

There were two things in the book that were really helpful. The one was a series of questions to help you evaluate your eating and the other was a series of truths to help you evaluate your thoughts.

A while ago I started to journal my reflections about each question. I got part through the list and then stopped. I am planning to pick up on it again, using the blog to help keep me accountable about actually processing the questions and determining what’s helpful and what isn’t. Some of the questions had immediate impact on my eating, others don’t feel like they apply to my situation. Even though I have had trouble remembering to, or have chosen not to, utilize the tools that I found in the book it helped me  believe that freedom is possible. Now I just have to decide whether I want to do the hard work of being the master over food instead of letting food control me, whether by a binge or following an unhealthy diet.

It’s been a while since I’ve seriously worked on addressing my struggle. Blogging about it has been a helpful reminder that I need fight the good fight, not to lose weight (although I’m going to be honest – that’s part of it) but to be able to enjoy the gift that God has given me through food. It is often exhausting because food is everywhere, and I can’t just cut out food from my life. It is very easy to throw in the towel. In my better moments, I appreciate that Jesus is with me, and that He is teaching me things about myself and about endurance and perseverance that I need to learn. So…here we go, fighting for a pattern of obedience one bite at a time.

Stepping towards Recovery: Part 2

Preamble

On Friday I posted about how writing has taught me the importance of endurance, not giving up at the first rejection. I thought about what I wrote all day. I thought about it as I talked to my Mom on the phone about struggling with food addiction (while I binged on some popcorn.) I thought about it on Saturday as through God’s grace I successfully pushed through a potluck without overeating and without being envious of what the others ate. I thought about it when I got home later Saturday night and needed a snack. That snack started out legitimately but progressed into a binge. I had done so well earlier in the evening that I deserve a treat. Faulty thinking, eh?

This weekend as I struggled with overeating I realized that I need to apply what I learned about writing to my battle with food . I need to persevere, accepting that I can’t control the outcome, and trust God with what happens. In my easy does it, quick results, minimal effort brain, I thought that eating properly and losing weight would be a snap. I’d have one week of control, but when I stepped on the scale the following Monday, I’d throw in the towel, because I wasn’t getting the results I wanted.

I’m thankful that God has helped me to see that I need to practice perseverance in my struggle against sin and also that He reminded me, again, that I’m not fighting my addiction to food to lose weight. I’m fighting to no longer be controlled by food and my weight so that I can rest in Him. If you think of it, pray for my endurance!

Web-Slide-Celebrate-RecoveryNow that the preamble is finished I want to share a little about my experience at Celebrate Recovery with you all. I started CR in August of 2014. I didn’t go because I was looking for help from food addiction. I went to deal with my sins of pride, self-righteousness, my judgmental spirit, etc. I loved the large group meetings and was very excited to start a step study last November.

Going to the weekly  study helped me to realize that my issue with food was out control, and that I was powerless to do anything about my struggle. But! But, it gave me hope that there was someone who could help me. Jesus, my Lord and my God, wants to change me and is able to change me. Being in a group that recognizes the seriousness of deeply rooted sin patterns helped me to take ownership of the fact that I struggle with being addicted to food.

That didn’t happen at the first meeting though. Robbie kept encouraging me to answer the questions in the CR workbooks in light of my struggle with, but I didn’t see how they related. I didn’t see that my efforts to control my eating on my own were failing.  Not even after the horrible binge season of I went through during December – May. I couldn’t stop eating. I overate on the delicious muffins that were given to me but also on green peas. I would eat when I wasn’t hungry. I would eat things I didn’t like. When I was alone I often found myself unable to finish praying to thank God for my food before I started eating, and when I was with Robbie I would usually pick at my plate before we both sat down to enjoy our meal.

It finally hit home when I was talking to one of my CR friends who called my struggle with overeating what it was: an addiction. I’ve been processing that for the last several months. During that time I read an amazing book called “Love to Eat, Hate to Eat”, which I’ll be blogging about soon, and I prayed over whether I should join a food addicts group.

I put it off for a long time. The thought of going to a support group was really embarrassing. It still is…but I’ve decided to try an accountability group out. I’m going to try out TOPS (take off pounds sensibly) next Tuesday. It’s more focused on losing weight than on food addiction, but I think it will provide the support and structure that I’m looking for. I’m excited to try it. I’d go tomorrow, but I have a follow up appointment with my surgeon that I kind of have to keep.

All this to say that while I didn’t go to Celebrate Recovery specifically to address my food addiction, CR helped me to recognize my addiction, to feel comfortable in owning that, and to be willing to admit that I can’t fix it. Celebrate Recovery is a great beginning in learning how broken and unfaithful we are but how capable and faithful God is. If you’ve one in your area I recommend checking it out. It’s open to all sinners, so everyone is welcome!

Thanks for letting me share this journey with you!

Stepping Toward Recovery: Part One

Confession:

I wrote my blog post about my struggle with food addition last Sunday evening. I read over it once, scheduled it, and then went to bed. On Monday morning I decided to save the post as a draft instead so that I change some of the wording and also add in a paragraph about how I had been struggling with binge eating as I wrote. That was my plan…but apparently I didn’t actually change the status of the post from “scheduled” to “draft” even though I thought it did. I was very busy last week, so I decided to leave the post as it was and add the details here. Especially the bit about overeating while writing about overeating! Fighting sin is hard, and I think the more actively you fight it, the harder it seems.

maxresdefaultLast week I wrote about my addiction to food and how isolating that felt. Since then I’ve heard from a lot of people who also struggle. That makes me wonder if maybe the reason I felt so alone was because I didn’t talk about it. Thank you for the kind e-mails, text messages, and Facebook comments. It was very encouraging.

Today I want to start talking about the steps that have brought me to this place of owning my sins, both of being addicted to food and in finding worth in my physical appearance. In 2012 I went on a very strict diet to help me with acid reflux. I lost a lot of weight, at one point dipping below what was healthy for my body type. I balanced out to 130. Even though I missed some of the fullness of my previous figure, I was very happy with my new trim figure. I felt empowered in my size 6 pants (a huge accomplishment for someone who wore size 12-14 most of my teenage and adult life). I felt beautiful. I felt worthy. For a time, one idol in my life was satisfied.

Everything was fine until the holiday season of 2013 when I was allowed to eat more regularly. I had gone so long without eating “normal” foods, that I binged my heart out. My idol of food was tired of being dormant and demanded worship. I’ve gained almost all the weight back since then.

In 2014 I started freaking out about all the weight gain. I tried some starvation and extreme exercising to lose the weight I had gained, but in my battle between the god of the figure and the god of food, food has always won. I knew something had to be done, or I was going to end up reaching what I weighed back in 2011!

My mother gave me a book called “The Weight of Grace” by Paula Neall Coleman. I had trouble getting through this book for several reasons: one, I didn’t want to do the hard work of understanding why I was controlled by food and conformity to a specific figure; two, I didn’t really want to give either idol up; three, I didn’t like her perspective on gluttony.

She believes gluttony isn’t a sin. In my case, I know that my pattern of overeating is sinful. I’m sinning because I am believing the lie that food is what satisfies the longings of my heart. I am sinning because I am not glorifying God in whatever I eat, or drink or do. I am sinning because I am more concerned about worshiping my body and my stomach then I am concerned about worshiping God.

On the other hand, Mrs. Coleman’s perspective of gluttony had a refreshing aspect as well: rejecting the label. She talked a lot about how Christians aren’t “gluttons”. Christians are saints. Rejecting the identity of your sin helps overthrow some of its power. She compared it to smokers who have to give up the “smoker” label as apart of their recovery. Even though I disagree with her understanding of gluttony, I have tried to embrace that truth of identifying ourselves in Christ, not in our sins. Last week I said I am a food addict, but it would be truer to say “I am a saint, sanctified, redeemed, loved by Christ, and I struggle with food addiction.” It doesn’t deny the sin, but it takes away some part of the control.

I got about halfway through the book before I gave up. I may try to go through it again, now that I am more willing to fight this issue. Here is the concept that helped me realize there was a deeper issue going on in my struggle.

The Desire to Stay Overweight

In her book, Mrs. Coleman talks about how sometimes women who are overweight want to stay overweight. She gave example after example of women- most of whom had been abused- who found safety, comfort, and peace in being overweight. They wanted to lose weight, but they also didn’t. Being overweight served them in some way and they couldn’t give that up.

At first I didn’t think that related to me at all. I greatly desired to lose weight! I had to get back to my 135 goal (I soon gave up ever reaching 130 again) or I would hate myself forever.  But I soon started seeing a pattern. I would lose three to five pounds, be excited, gain it back, be angry, and repeat. I realized that there was a part of me that would sabotage losing weight.

One reason was that it was a way for me to distract myself. I struggle with a lot of shame and I deal with that by making my shame about my weight. Being able to have a perpetual “weight problem” kept me from having to deal with the real shame of the wounds and sins that I carry. Instead of focusing on heart issues and finding freedom in Christ I could focus on trying a new diet and new weight loss program.

Another reason was punishing myself. If I was angry with something I did, or failed to do, or even for losing control and binge eating, sometimes I would purposely seek to gain weight as a way to discipline myself and make it more unlikely that I would ever reach my goal. I struggled with self-contempt and it manifested itself in my eating. I hated that I had gained the weight that I had lost, but instead of turning to Christ for liberty and worth I would actively seek to deepen my contempt.

Which brings me to the last reason I would sabotage my weight loss: control. It gave me a very twisted feeling of being in control. It was far from true, but I felt as though I could control my weight. I could decide whether I was going to loss weight by starving myself (which I sometimes did), or by over eating. For a while I was able to keep my weight controlled within an acceptable range: high enough to be very angry with myself, but not so high that I was unhealthy.

It’s all very twisted reasoning, but I think they point to the fact that I didn’t want to believe that I was accepted in Christ. I tenaciously grasped for a way to control my own worth. I wanted to be able to determine whether I was doing well or not instead of resting in Christ’s perfect righteousness. Since I had idols of both a fine figure and fine food it made sense (at the time) to seek measure myself against the scale.

Realizing my struggle with self-contempt and control through the “Weight of Grace” was a huge first step in moving towards recovery. It exposed my shame, my resistance to grace, and my rebellion against my dependence on God for everything, including my significance. I still struggle with being afraid of actually reaching my goal weight. I find comfort being able to be upset about something that’s not the core problem. It’s a very convenient distraction from the real issues in my life. It gives me a sense of control. Thankfully, I can say that the struggle has lessened as I’ve grown in accepting that Jesus defines me not my weight.

I still would like to lose the weight that I’ve gained through overeating. But I am moving towards a place where I can work on being healthier, stronger, and more while accepting that Jesus may not ever give me the body I so desire. I’d love to think that as I mature, I can be the ideal 135 pounds without worshiping my body, but I think I can say that I would rather be a little pudgy and have that pudge move me towards Jesus than to look like a supermodel and find worth in my body.

I am working on being obedient to God’s command to not be enslaved to anything, and that means fighting food addiction, which in an ideal world would mean weight loss, but I’m striving to leave that up to Jesus, trusting in His love more than I trust in my scale.

That’s what I got out of “Weight of Grace”. It’s a good book that asks very deep questions and seeks to expose the psychological, emotional and spiritual reasons behind overeating. It emphasizes freedom, a relationship with Christ, and relying on the Holy Spirit to aid you. I recommend it, which means I really should finish going through it sometime….

Next week, I’ll talk about step two of recovery: joining Celebrate Recovery. Thanks for letting me share.