Monday, September 20, 2010

Hungry for More

I'm now about 2-1/2 weeks into my new low-carb diet recommended by my doctor. I'm past the intense sugar cravings, and I've settled into a kind of protein-veggie rhythm, punctuated by sweet potatoes and unsweetened yogurt.

It's been a curious experience to reroute my appetite like a riverbed. My once bread-based diet has changed, and the benefits are noticeable.

One change that has surfaced above all else is that my overwhelming desire to feel better has trumped the once captivating allure of comforting desserts. It's become much more important to have a deeper level of constant well-being than to settle for the highs and lows of blood sugar spikes and crashes.

Realizing this has given me more resolve to continue with my treatment plan and to stick to a diet I once thought I could not maintain for more than a day or two tops.

This deeper level of physical peace is very similar to the deeper level of spiritual peace that God is trying to teach me. Today, I read a short article on the "Desiring God" blog called "The Sin of Not Wanting Enough." The heart of the article is that we need to want more from God than just the circumstantial comforts of health, well-being, and a pleasant life. Like sugars, these things are wonderful and satisfying for a time, but when they don't last, the cycle of high-then-crash can be painful and rocky.

When it comes to desiring God, we have to desire him for who he is - his truth, his promises, his saving grace. When we hunger for Jesus and take him in regularly through reading his word, we maintain our "spiritual blood sugar" and can have peace in all circumstances, even during the most distressing and terrible trials. Jesus provides long-term comfort that does not fade or wear out.

I have to be real and admit that in my humanity I spend a lot of time praying and hungering for better circumstances, for a "normal" life, for happiness that is due to what's around me rather than what's inside me.

Reading this quote today reminded me of where my heart needs to look in order to be anchored and how powerful I can be when Jesus gives me peace that can't be shaken.

By faith we are comforted that all things, no matter how painful or sweet, will work together for our good, reaping eternal benefits that are so wonderful that they can’t even be compared to our grief (1 Peter 1:6, Romans 8:28). True faith believes that God is good and rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

If as Christians we are called to endure difficult trials and yet always receive temporal blessings like health and safety, our peace could not rightly be called the “peace that passes understanding”. It would actually be quite reasonable.

If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are you! (Matthew 5:6)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Weak in Battle?

While doing some studying yesterday, I came across this verse which encouraged me.

"For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."
2 Chronicles 16:9

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sweets Surrender

My doctor recently advised that I temporarily cut carbohydrates out of my diet. No fruits, grains, or sugars. This sounds simple until you try it. I have never before in my life realized how much I depended on bread, pasta, cereal, and desserts to get me through each day.

And as for the advice that drinking more water helps fight off sugar cravings? It's bogus.

I am fighting a battle constantly to overcome my desire to blow my diet and chow down on a piece of cake, warm toll-house chocolate chip cookies, brownies...heck, at this point, I'd settle for a bowl of oatmeal.

And it's only been one week. One week!

While eating every fathomable combination of meat and vegetable, I've had a lot of time to think about my craving for sugar - how I gravitate toward carbohydrates for comfort and how I don't like the feelings of deprivation that this diet brings. In some sense, I feel more in control by squashing my low blood sugar, eating more nutritious foods, healing my stomach. But in other ways, I feel this is one of the more frustrating limitations stacked on top of so many others in my life right now.

With chronic illness, it's easy to be focused on what I *can't* do. Being limited and restricted compared to others my age is the name of the game. In some sense, I've grown use to it, but when a particular restriction (like no sugar) prevents me from doing something I desperately want to do, it hits me in a weak spot. I tend to lash out and have a temper when I feel out of control, and yesterday was no exception. I was overtired, lonely, and hungry for just a taste of what I used to eat all the time, but I was faced with a choice - to take the doctor's advice and try to keep going, or to give in to my craving.

I'd like to say I took the high road, but I ate a soy dessert bar.

Today, I woke up and figured I might as well have a few chocolate-covered almonds since I'd broken my streak. I just barely stopped short of eating more than four, realizing I wasn't going to make my failure worse by opening the floodgates.

Struggling against my craving for sweets can be brutally difficult, especially when I falter like I did yesterday. But it comforts me to know that I can start over today. I don't have to give up completely. As a perfectionist, that's a classic excuse of mine - "I already failed, so I might as well throw it all away." In order to fight that, I've had to cling to the promise that through faith in Christ, my failures are all washed away - my temper, my mistakes, my bad attitude. Repeated new beginnings are so important to persevering. Whether the struggle is with illness, a job, maintaining a diet, or surviving a tough patch emotionally or spiritually, it seems that stumbling in the pursuit of a better life is part of the process. Right now, I'm learning that truly meaningful victory is composed of a series of failures and new beginnings, not a long run of perfection.