Saints keep trying and sinners give up {with Ignitum Today}

Saints keep trying and sinners give up {with Ignitum Today}

Saints Keep Trying; Sinners Give Up (2)

Confession: I haven’t always lived the shiniest life ever. As Freddie Mercury so emphatically sang, ” … and bad mistakes/I’ve made a few.” Or five hundred.

But since my reversion process began, with many starts and pauses along the way, I’ve really tried to walk as a child of the light, and part of that walk, for me, means taking care of myself by not smoking, not drinking to excess, not using illicit drugs, and staying true to my marriage vows.

Am I perfect? Excuse me while I go laugh myself completely off the page. No. I am absolutely not perfect. Just ask my husband and my children. But I keep trying. And trying. And trying. Ad nauseum. My Mom used to tell me growing up that saints keep trying while sinners give up. Well, I haven’t completely given up yet. I surely have a long way to go, but I hope it’s a shorter climb than it was when I was living as a agnostic hedonist 20 years ago.

And there are plenty of temptations, even as a mostly clean-living person. That used to surprise me: “I’m doing the right things! I love Jesus! I pray! I go to Mass every Sunday! I go to Confession! Why am I still being tempted?!” After some prayerful reflection, however, the ongoing temptations made so much sense: Of course I’m being tempted. Usually the enemy will try to get you where he’s gotten you before, and if you aren’t vigilant, BOOM! You’re taken completely off-guard by temptation that you thought you’d conquered years (or months or days) ago. The enemy of our souls doesn’t want us in the game of life at all, and especially not a life surrendered to Jesus, so he’ll use whatever he possibly can to take us out of the game.

Usually any desire I have to backslide is eventually trumped by my desire for Heaven.

Except. I still struggle. For several years now – maybe even for most of my life – the devil has been doing whatever he can to keep me out of the game using something that we all need to survive: food.

It’s not like there’s something morally wrong with food, as can be argued with other addictions. If someone handed me a bottle of vodka, I could graciously decline by saying, “No thanks, I’m cool.” I don’t NEED alcohol to survive, although after long days with lotsa kids, it surely can feel like it! 😉 But with food, man, it’s hard. We need food to survive. Granted, do I need mint M&Ms and pork rinds and chocolate cake to survive? No. But the stuff that nourishes always seems to be right next to the stuff that doesn’t on the buffet table. And so I take some. And eat it. And then I want more, so I eat more. And then I feel badly. So I eat more again. And on and on it goes.

Not only do I have a hard time with self-control and food choices, I really don’t care for exercise. Like, I hate it. That’s not a good combination. After five pregnancies in nine years, I think I probably could stand to lose about 75 pounds. The extra weight I carry contributes to feelings of depression, anxiety, fatigue, worthlessness … so many things. And yet, I continue to struggle.

One of my babies accidentally took this picture of me typing at the computer the other day. This is my fat.

For some reason, I especially struggle with keeping sugar at bay. It’s like my kryptonite or something. Seemingly, a pattern was established from early childhood: I remember the neighbor girl taking me across the street to buy sweets at the corner store. I remember using my garage sale money to buy ungodly amounts of candy. I remember my grandmother greeting me with a box of Red Vines whenever we’d visit. I remember going out for ice cream after each band concert, piano recital, play performance …

Last summer, I really and honestly rallied to make a permanent lifestyle change. After the cloud of post-partum depression from my fifth pregnancy finally lifted, I decided I was tired of being a food zombie, mindlessly eating whatever, whenever, and joined a national weight loss program. I lost weight. I stuck to my guns and lost more. I felt really, really good about my progress. Then we were hit by a cloud of stress including a surprising cross-country move and some other really tough things, and the weight started creeping – and then leaping – back on. I tried to go to meetings, but my previous resolve seemed so very far away and outside my ability.

I don’t know if my attachment to food – specifically to sugar – could be classified as an addiction, but maybe? I sometimes feel powerless to its allure. I have all the resolve in the world … until I don’t. I feel empowered … until I don’t. I exercise amazing self-control … until something like this happens on the day I have a Mother’s helper and am supposed to be working on 5,000 words for my end-of-the-month deadline:

kolbe pantry

And then I want to drink all the sugary coffee drinks in the world to make myself feel better.

Yet …  I only feel better for a tiny window of space and time, and then … I don’t. I feel awful. I’ve fallen. Again. It makes me feel so dumb and helpless. I’m a smart person! I love Jesus! I have overcome so. many. things! Why can’t I overcome this??!

I spoke with my Spiritual Director about self-control the other day. It was interesting, because as I lamented how I frequently don’t feel like I have the power within me to say,”no,” he sagely suggested: “Perhaps, Heather, you need to do this for someone other than yourself.” What he was suggesting was that I offer up my cravings and self-discipline in food choices and exercise as a sacrificial prayer for other people, causes, and intentions. He was encouraging me, in essence to nail my temptation to the Cross.

Little did he know, I have attempted this maneuver before. I even wrote about it on this here blog, and it got a bit of a spruce-up for my very first article (just published) for Ignitum Today. <<EXCITING!!!!!

Bottom line? Perhaps, dear readers, it is time for me to pick up my cross and try yet again. Will you please, please pray for me? I would very much like to know how I may pray for you as I’m on this journey. Maybe you’re struggling with something that’s really tough for you, too, and just don’t know how you’re going to overcome it. Maybe you just need to know that you’re not alone. Feel free to be specific or just say “special intention” in the comments. Thank you, thank you, thank you! <3

Oh, and by the way – yes, I did buy that gorgeously blended coffee drink (above) today. But it is sugar-free, half-caffeinated, with non-fat milk. Baby steps, y’all.



The sugar wars – who will win?

The sugar wars – who will win?

A couple months ago, the associate pastor at our church announced that he would be taking three months off to go to Mexico.

Now, before you sigh with envy and work to squelch your urge to covet, Fr. Pablo isn’t off to bask in the luxury of taskless relaxation in Cabo. On the contrary, Fr. Pablo is probably working harder than he ever has, seminary studies included. You see, Fr. Pablo is currently facing his personal struggle with food by participating in a health management boot camp of sorts.

The bulletin announcement, written by Fr. Pablo himself, explained that, during a recent doctor’s visit, the M.D. was coming up with all sorts of excuses for Fr. Pablo’s health concerns. The doctor, in his attempts to be kind and “sensitive” to Fr.’s feelings, failed to address the proverbial elephant in the room, which was Fr. Pablo’s dangerous weight as the cause for his various ailments.

After reading the announcement, I was so proud of Fr. Pablo. Proud of him for confronting his demons. Proud of him for being courageous enough to share his struggles with us. Proud of him for knowing that these struggles, once overcome, would help him to better-attend to his vocation.

I also felt a bit convicted by Fr. Pablo’s forthrightness, to be honest.  You see, God has been talking to me about my health for some time now. While pregnant with and nursing my three children over the past 6 years, I had given myself permission to not monitor my food intake. “Oh, I’m eating for two,” I’d say, rationalizing the extra helping of dessert or bread or whatever. I wasn’t really thinking of the baby’s – or my own – real needs. I was thinking of my how good it felt to eat three or more scoops of ice cream or some other dessert on a regular basis.

Only, it wasn’t really feeling good anymore.  Small allowances became habits, and then cravings. I’d overeat, then hate myself for doing it, then eat to make myself feel better, only to start the cycle all over again. 

This spring, I was hospitalized several times due to complications from kidney stones. I had two procedures and missed about a month of my “regular” life. Mercifully, I was able to recognize these incidences as a gift from God – a clear sign to change  my unhealthy ways. I needed a better diet, more water, and more exercise. Sure, I tried for a while to “do better” (perhaps a week or two), but inevitably, I slipped back to old habits and probably caused God to give Himself an open-palmed slap to the forehead while rolling His eyes.

I saw Fr. Pablo’s commitment as a new opportunity for conversion. I reasoned that if Fr. Pablo could make some changes in his life, so could I. To my husband’s overwhelming delight (he’s been on my case for years), I decided to give up sugar as a sign of solidarity with and support for Fr. Pablo. No sugar means: no dessert, no sugary snacks, no soda, no sugary coffee drinks (AK!), etc.  Every time I think of sugar, desire sugar, am around or in close proximity of sugar, etc., I pray for Fr. Pablo’s success in his endeavor to win his health back. I also pray that with each small “no,” God will help me detach myself from, truly, a relationship that had become disordered.

“Great timing,” an acquaintance said, when I explained my plans. “Do you understand you’ll be going through Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas? That means no Halloween candy, no pumpkin or apple pie, no candy canes or sugar cookies or fudge?” She looked at me like I was crazy. She laughed as she added, “Let me remember you the way you were,” implying that there was no way I’d be happy without chocolate.

Well, it’s been 36 days so far. Halloween, with its bowls of Reese’s peanut butter cups and Tootsie rolls has come and gone, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I wish I could say that saying “no” to sugar has become easier. I wish I could also say that I have lost 20 pounds. I CAN say, though, that I think I have more energy now to chase my kids around. And I think my complexion might have improved. More importantly, I know that with God’s help and by His grace, I can use my small sacrifices to help another. And I CAN overcome anything through Christ who strengthens me – even sugar.