Sweet Sugar-Free Life

At various points we all face the challenge of pain: do we make desperate attempts to escape, endure with a stiff upper lip, or work towards healthy change? Even when it’s uncomfortable, most of us tend to stick with the status quo until we simply can’t anymore. Today’s guest post might be that dose of creative courage someone needs to make transformative, life-giving change.

re:create recess #3: Cara Meredith

It all started with a question, an unknown, a search for answers.

“Do you think sugar is the cause of your inflammation?” my best friend asked me. I’d been off gluten for eight months by that point, convinced following the Whole 30 diet that gluten was the cause of joint inflammation in my back.

But an intolerable ache had returned. For nearly three years, I’d woken up almost every night with back pain – and I was done being sleepless in Seattle. Done with heating pads and moving to the couch and popping Ibuprofen at 3am because the pain kept me from sleeping.

So, I stopped eating sugar the next morning.

Like, cold-turkey stopped eating almost all processed foods (because, y’all, sugar is in everything), stopped slurping down a daily glass of wine, stopped adding a spoonful of sweet goodness to my coffee in the morning.berry-sugar

And for the first time in a long, long time, I slept through the night.

“It’s sugar!” I shouted into the phone, to my sister, my brother, my parents and every other family member who’s struggled with inflammation due to arthritis.

“It’s sugar!” I said to the rheumatologist, and she shook her head vehemently: that was NOT the cause of my pain. 

“It’s sugar!” I texted and tweeted and whispered to anyone who’d pay heed and give me the time of day.

This new journey of living a sugar-free life has been the new normal for two months now – so much so that eating this way has sparked a world of creativity within me. I read every label. I fill my grocery cart with whole, natural foods. And unlike before – when I dieted to lose weight, when I ate a certain way to avoid gestational diabetes, when I cooked according to doctor’s orders – this time in the kitchen has shaped and formed me in a new way.

Because this time, the impetus for eating this way is entirely mine. I’m not eating differently because someone else tells me I should, but I’m eating differently because I want to – and somehow, when the onus is on me, it’s easier and better and maybe, just maybe, more sustainable in the long run.

And it’s like I’ve been born again, but with wooden spoons and coconut oil and a handful of snow peas as my spiritual companions.

I look forward to Sundays, when I sit down with a stack of torn pages from magazines and cookbooks and online food blogs, and create the week’s meals. I look forward to heading to the grocery store in the afternoon, and filling my card with spinach and yellow bell peppers and a pound of fresh jumbo shrimp to boot. And I look forward to creating a holy mess in the kitchen, as I prep Mason jar salads to eat every day that week for lunch and a feast of sugar-free goodness for dinner that night.

Creating is no longer limited to the time I spend in front of the computer with my words, even though that is oftentimes one of my most creative spaces.

But now it extends to my hands and to my mouth and to my stomach – when I hold the knife, chopping, dicing, slicing, and when I extend a bowl of steaming broccoli cheddar soup to my lips, and when my insides smile at healthy food consumed.

Because for the time being, I have answers to the questions I’ve been asking.

And that, I declare, is good. 

cmeredith

 

Cara Meredith is a writer, speaker and musician from Seattle, Washington. She is passionate about theology and books, her family, meals around the table, and finding Beauty in the most unlikely of places. A seven on the Enneagram, she also can’t help but try to laugh and smile at the ordinary everyday. You can connect with her on her blogFacebook, and Twitter.

Better Together

I’ve been thinking about community…

Recently a friend posted about setting “Better Together” goals with her husband. It got me thinking (thanks, Cara!). I’m not much of a goal setter, too generally scatter-brained. But Guy’s more organized along those lines. What if we set goals together and held each other accountable?

During my Inauguration Day media fast, another friend called and said, “Our church is divided because our country is divided. We need to come together to pray for our country.” Her words rang true in my soul. As we chatted, we realized that we stand on opposite sides of the political divide. And we stand together in prayer.

Last night I scrolled through Facebook and saw pictures of friends all across the country peacefully marching in solidarity with one another. The heaviness in my chest lifted some, replaced by hope. I’m not alone.

I didn’t march. Instead we attended our friends’ son’s bar mitzvah. Despite having taken a few years of Hebrew in seminary, I quickly gave up on the transliteration and instead read and prayed along in English. It was a beautiful service, fascinating and moving and so different and like what we do at church on Sundays.bar-mitzvah-1

Two things especially struck me throughout the day. First, we all ought to speak heartfelt words of blessing, over our children and to one another. How different might our families, our communities, our world be if we noticed and spoke into the best parts, the uniqueness, of the people in our lives? And secondly, I am so grateful for my friends!

As we celebrated the rite of passage that welcomed this boy into Jewish manhood, we talked. We laughed. We danced and ate and drank. But because we also do life together, we asked hard questions. We whispered prayer and rubbed salve on the aches we know our friends carry. We rejoiced together all the more because we have also suffered together.bar-mitzvah-2

Before it started raining this afternoon, Guy and I took the dogs for a quick walk. He remarked, “I really like our neighborhood!” I agree. I like our street, our section of town, this geographic community we call home. And I like our neighbors and friends, the community that fills our hearts. I think we’re better for engaging in life in this place, at this time. I hope others would say the same about us.

So tonight, despite the dumping rain, despite my introverted self running on full-weekend extrovert overload, I will drag myself out of my cozy cocoon to gather with other friends, our church Community Group. We will talk and laugh and discuss and pray. Because I need them in my life. We’re better together.

Come & See
Week 3 – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Connect
Which part of your body do you think is most important? Which would be hardest to live without?

Study
Read aloud 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.
Notice who has responsibility for assembling the body parts (vv. 13, 18, 24, 27). How does that knowledge reorient our perspective?
Rephrase the statements in vv. 15-16 as someone might actually say them. How would you respond?
Sadly, how do we communicate “I don’t need you!” to certain members of the body? How can we change our attitudes and actions?
How would you explain to someone who hadn’t read this passage why we need each other?

Live
What are some of the Church’s favorite body parts? How do we demonstrate that?
How would you describe your place in the body? Have you ever wanted to be a different body part? What and why?
There should be no division in the body, but we can all point to examples. How should we address division when we see it?
How do we practically suffer and rejoice with one another?
How can we strengthen our connection to the body?
What does this passage communicate about what it means to be Jesus’ disciple?
What is Jesus saying to you through this study, and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray for stronger connections with other members of the body.

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Ritual: Cation House

One of my favorite weeks of the year is coming right up: our annual trip to the Cation House. I originally wrote this post for my friend Cara Meredith‘s blog during her 2015 guest post series on rituals (please go check out her blog – great stuff happening over there!). I can’t wait for another week of beach-y rest, relaxation, and walking down Memory Lane even as we create new memories.Cation House

Writ large on the walls of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Pablo Neruda’s words strike a chord in my soul: “I spin on the circle of wave upon wave of the sea.”

My life has felt like constant spinning, waves of joy and laughter, wash of chaos and drama, waves of peaceful beauty. My parents’ lives spun on disorder and turmoil until they spun into each other and, quickly, marriage. They attempted to overcome the tidal pull of established patterns; they did their best to remain upright in swirling waters. Still, my Airline Captain father flew in and out of our lives on air currents rather than water.

While I attended college my parents purchased a Time Share blocks from a NorCal beach (we lived a short drive from SoCal beaches). Recently I asked my mom, “Why?”

“To create family memories, to have a place we could come back to year after year.”

My parents, siblings and I never spent a week there as a family. My family, however–my mom and nephew, my husband and sons–has spent a week there every summer since Teen was two years old. We call it the “Cation House.”

We look forward to the Cation House all year, one of our most significant shared family rituals. The three kids have each created school essays and projects about the Cation House. Each generation swimming against currents of the past, I asked my boys which traditions, rituals, have meant the most to them in our family life: Cation House!, their unequivocal shared response.

When we all lived in SoCal, we rented a minivan and made the ten-hour journey a road trip. Now that four of us live in NorCal, the others fly up and extend their stay on either end for a longer vacation.

Each vacation is the same. We go to the same beaches (Lovers’ Point, Asilomar). We walk the same streets (Lighthouse Ave and Ocean View Blvd). We take the same pictures (kids in wet suits, holding sea stars). We do the same things (“journal pages” before dinner, hiking at Point Lobos, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Farmers’ Market, beach, beach and More Beach!).

Each vacation is different. The kids grow (drat that, both blessing and curse). The toys change–Thomas the Tank Engine has been replaced by an inflatable kayak. Some years we paddle boat, others we maneuver a surrey-bike. Scheduling has gotten harder as kids get older, with more demands competing for their time. We have had to drive/fly the older two in late, allowing them to miss days without missing the whole experience (always a cost to us and to them, but the week is a priority and so we flex). Last year, surprisingly?, the boys could not only tolerate but enjoy a lecture on sea turtles by the American Cetacean Society, held at the Stanford Marine Research Center. How can we possibly have gotten here?

Rituals help us remember and reflect. Each year we remember years previous: the first trip when Teen and Nephew laughed “diapo” back and forth for the whole drive, their 2-year-old diaper “dirty joke”; the many times enthusiastic boys stripped naked and charged lapping waters before adults could grab suits and towels; the time boys slipped behind the bakery counter and helped themselves to cookies; the year boys felt sufficiently confident for Guy to take them kayaking.

Each year we reflect on who we have been, where we have been, how we have changed and where we are going. Kids have grown, demonstrating God-given gifts, strengths, aptitudes. So have adults. Several years Guy and I walked late at night, wondering if God would grant us only one child; other years we pondered job responsibilities and changes. During the years we’ve visited the Cation House, my dear dad and precious grandma have passed; siblings have married, cousins have been born; my family moved most of a long state away. Mom has cheered family in different directions while her big once-family-filled house has emptied, filled, emptied again.

Fifteen years ago, realizing my frazzled Mom needed a vacation, I queried: “Don’t you have a Time Share? Could we take the babies and go?” So we did, and It Was Good. We moved at kid-speed. We walked and played at beaches and play grounds. We prepared easy food. We relaxed and read and talked, good for our souls. We pondered, “Why don’t we do this again next year?”

Next Year became Every Year. What began as a vacation became a ritual. With The Kids we have created family memories, a place they can come back to year after year. These kids plan to come back, again and again, year after year, together and, eventually, with their own families. Undoubtedly, they will go to the same beaches, walk the same streets, take the same pictures, do the same things. Each year it will be the Same and Different. They will Remember and Reflect. They will spin on the circle of wave upon wave of the sea…and of family ritual.

Get Your Butt in the Chair

Today’s guest post comes from a friend with whom Guy and I laughed ourselves silly during The Great 2010 Washington DC Snowpocalypse following the National Prayer Breakfast (we might have, at moments, engaged in the alternative–tears and hair-pulling–but laughter proved more helpful). We prayed together and then got stranded together in the gorgeous hip-deep snow we waded through to enjoy DC monuments and distract ourselves from where we were supposed to be. And yes, we did participate in the (we heard) record-setting snowball fight in Dupont Circle.

Create Challenge #26: Cara Meredithhome-office-336378_1920

I spent 45 minutes crafting a single sentence last night.

You see, the perfect idea existed somewhere in the back of my brain. I knew where I wanted to say it. I had an idea of how it would help the article come together, but the actual practice of clearly communicating what I wanted to say took more than a little while to get there.

I don’t think I’m the only one.

Anne Lamott, my writing saint of saints, says that it’s merely a matter of getting your butt in the chair. But taking the time to sit down, to wait for inspiration and creativity to come, is oftentimes the hardest practice of all.

On Saturday, I sat across from a young woman who wants to be a writer. She has a book idea down pat, so much so that she’s even carved an outline of its contents.

“So, have you written the book yet?” I asked her. She looked at me and laughed.

“No,” she replied. “I’m waiting.”

I, of course, continued to ask her questions. After all, she asked to meet with me about writing; she wanted to know how I’d gotten from Point A (teaching) to Point B (ministry) to Point C (writing). Naturally, I wanted to know the secret of her waiting game. It wasn’t a matter of time: working part-time, she knew she had more than enough hours in the day.

She was waiting for someone to want her. She was waiting for someone in the publishing industry to hear her great idea and offer her a book contract on the spot. She was waiting for the world to see and hear and believe in her potential, even though she’d hardly done any of the work to get there.

I leaned across the table and locked eyes with her.

“You have to do the hard work, my friend,” I told her, as gently as I could. And then I told her my story.Every-writer-I-know-has

Words have always been my thing. I read. I write. I say things. That about sums it up.

As a student, I dreaded math homework but looked forward to English assignments. Given the option of a standardized 80-question test or a five-paragraph essay, I’d choose writing every time. And through writing, I found what my insides really thought and felt and wanted to say. Through writing, healing came. Through writing, I discovered who God intended me to be all along.

Sure, I dabbled in other professions first: I taught high school English, expounding on all the great writers of American and British history. Could I be a great American writer too someday? Surely that wasn’t in the cards. Surely God would have made my path clearer and put a blinking, neon “Be a writer, Cara!” sign in front of me.

Then I spent eight years in outreach ministry to high school and middle school students. At one point, a mentor asked me to tell her three things that gave me life in my job.

“Being in students’ worlds. Mentoring young adult leaders. And writing and speaking – at club, at summer camp, in monthly newsletter communications.” I paused. “If I could do anything in the world, I’d write and speak. That’s what gives me life.”

She paused our conversation this time.

“So, why don’t you?”

Eyes wide, I stared at her, every bone in my body like a deer caught in the headlights. Surely, this wasn’t possible. I couldn’t make money, at least not enough to live in the Bay Area. I couldn’t leave the job and the ministry I’d known for almost twenty years by that point. Who would I be? And all of this would take time: time to find my voice and trust my words and discover the message that was mine alone to give. I’d have to get my butt in the chair and make it a priority – and this was something I couldn’t give at that point in my life.

I wasn’t ready. But mostly I wasn’t ready to give up fear.

I wasn’t ready to say yes to the heart-thumping thing that gave me life. So, for a long time I played it safe, hoping an opportunity would instead come my way, that someone would find my blog and see my words and say, Yes! We’ve found her: the next best writer the world has ever seen!

The latter never happened. But eventually, I began to write, almost every day. Eventually, I began to trust that the Writing Muse would visit me, when the time was right. Eventually, I began to put my work out there, even if I received more rejection letters than is humanly possible.

And eventually, I discovered the creator I was destined to be all along: a maker of words, a crafter of phrases and sentences and paragraphs alike.

So, what is it for you?

Who has the Great Creator made you to be?

And what, I ask, is keeping you from getting your butt in the chair and doing the hard work to get there?

CMeredithCara Meredith is a writer and speaker from the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Co-host of the Shalom Book Club podcast and a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, she is passionate about racial justice and reconciliation, the great outdoors and dinner around the table with people she loves. She holds a Masters of Theology (Fuller Seminary), and can be found on her blog  Facebook or Twitter.