Well, only one more night to live without sugar! Yayayayayayayayay!
Just kidding, I already stopped abruptly five days early. And I don’t feel guilty for it either. You’ll see why, but you’ll need to read on.
It was super good for me to go without something I like, and I learned a lot about myself. It became clearer to me than ever that this is not my preferred way to live. I already knew it, but yeah. For sure now. I spent too much time fantasizing about all the great desserts I’d make when February 1st hit. Still, I have no regrets on fasting for the month. It was rich.
I learned that dessert was much easier for me to give up than sweetener in my coffee and tea – and SALAD DRESSINGS! I’m not a slatherer in either department, by any means, but I do like that half teaspoon of sugar or honey in my hot drinks, and what is salad without dressing? Roughage that falls off your fork, that’s what. Nothing to bind it together. I tried some kind of homemade Italian thing, with only a touch of honey, heavy on herbs and Parmesan cheese – which soured after a couple weeks. Yuck. I bought a bottle of artificially sweetened vinaigrette and couldn’t get past the cloying sweet-sweet nastiness. Not for me.
Those things – lightly sweetened drinks and my favorite salad dressing – were what I missed most.
I made intentional exceptions when I was out with others, like enjoying a muffin with one friend, and pancakes while at Cracker Barrel with another – which is what Cracker Barrel exists to create, in my opinion. When I cooked lightly sweetened main dishes for dinner (Five-Spice Chicken Stir Fry, or Pulled Pork), I ate the main food. Stuff like that.
But crucial lesson. I learned that what I eat as habit, or while in the company of other people, I easily forget to monitor. I drank like a pint of Sierra Mist with my traditional Saturday night pizza one week, without even knowing it. Oops. And when eating with other families, sometimes I just forgot. Oops. Oops.
That sounds like I ate whatever I wanted, but I assure you there were plenty of semi-painful abstinences along the way.
For myself unto myself, I tried hard to be utterly strict. I didn’t eat a single one of the warm chocolate chip cookies I baked, nor one of those chocolate chips that hung out so tantalizingly on the island. When I needed to taste-teste my creations, I did it with miniscule amounts on my fingertip, and did not lick the drop of chocolate frosting that fell to the countertop. Good JOB Shari. Wow, look at me growing by leaps and boundaries.
But I learned that when you cut in one area, you eat more in another. So don’t imagine a great weight loss program or anything. I toned up in the first week, but didn’t drop anything after that. I found myself eating seconds more often. Or reaching for other high-calorie snacks, like nuts.
I learned I ate less bedtime snacks, because most of them involved sugar at some level.
I found some great sweet snacks that aren’t sugared. Bananas on cereal were a good substitute for honey. Raisins instead of craisins. And dried apples for snacking. My favorite substitution was finding I was quite happy to eat cottage cheese with fresh fruit, instead of yogurt.
So that’s how things went in the abstinence department.
The Bible reading was straight-up joy. I learned that if given a choice, I would far rather be the kind of person who reads a book of the Bible in a sitting just once a week, than a chapter-a-day person. I tried both, and I realized the wide gap in comprehension and investment and Holy Spirit understanding when I sat down long enough to read more – to capture larger themes and get the scope, the arc, the takeaway. Hebrews is a brilliant book.
I also learned that clearing my mind of clutter before I read, and asking Jesus to show me himself in his word, helped me to connect with the text too. He wants to be known.
I read through Hebrews in more traditional translations twice, and in The Message once, and copied down my favorite passages, which turned out (surprise!) to be exactly what I needed to hear from the Lord this month – and I mean a small spanking too, not only comfort. He is genius, guys, and I love how he uses all of my decisions for good or ill to accomplish his purposes.
You can read my favorite verses here.
My praise goal was fun, though harder to get ahold of. I wrote some journal entries of praise, spent time focusing on long playlists of songs that lead me most meaningfully to worship, and tried to turn my heart to the Lord more often throughout my days – especially when life was extra hard, or extra sweet.
My favorite praise song this month was Matthew West’s Truth Be Told. I don’t know your music style, and mine is quite eclectic, as I may elaborate in another post if I get brave. But his words met me this month, and filled me with longing and courage. The music video is worth watching.
I made it all the way to January 26, and then my life took a sudden turn, and as I headed to the hospital, I told my husband, “I am taking granola bars along for easy snacks, and if I find any sugar I’m eating it.” That is because I was heading to the hospital to meet a very precious new person, and to become her mommy for a time. Suddenly.
Then Jesus and his medical staff and his church people started loving me through food, and I chose to eat it all.
Well, not ALL. I left a little for my family.
I will tell you more in my next post. But meanwhile, how was your January?