Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, the season of self-reflection, fasting and penance in preparation for Easter Sunday. I've observed Lent for as long as I can remember, since my elementary years when fish sticks were served in the school cafeteria every Friday and giving up potato chips was the biggest sacrifice I can muster. In my adult years, I've given up everything from social media to sweets, coffee to complaining. This year, I spent a good chunk of time really praying about what my Lenten observance should be this year. What was God calling me to? The biggest question: what is holding me back from holiness?
Of course, there's one hundred answers to that question, because I am a sinner living in a fallen world. Anything and everything holds me back from holiness. But for Lent, I wanted to focus on one main thing. What is keeping me from growing in my relationship with Jesus and therefore, my relationship with others? And I kept coming back to one answer: food.
Don't think me too crazy - I am not fasting for forty days straight. I am however embarking on what I'm calling "40 days of real food" modeled after 100 days of real food. Because here's the reality: I do not have a healthy relationship with food. I eat emotionally in unhealthy ways. I gravitate toward certain foods when I'm sad or stressed, or even happy and wanting to celebrate. For years, I have been ignoring the way God made me - with specific dietary needs and food sensitivities. I eat whatever I want, then my family and friends pay the consequences in the form of my attitude and actions. The food I eat makes me feel certain ways which makes me act certain ways and it's all a vicious cycle. I am called to be a wife and mother and to serve my family with my best self. I can't be my best self when I'm not fueling myself properly.
So it might sound crazy, but I'm giving up everything but REAL FOOD for Lent. I'm saying adios to added sugar, processed everything, alcohol, takeout, pizza, snack food, chocolate, chai lattes, all of it. I'm saying yes to doing the hard work of honoring the way God made me, and relying on His strength and grace to overcome my cravings, sugar addiction and self-entitlement when it comes to food. To the right are the official guidelines I'm sticking to (and you can read a bunch more on the 100 days of real food blog).
Why 100 days of real food? I've done whole30, I've researched keto, we've embraced paleo for awhile. I know veganism is all the rage right now. I saw the 100 days of real food blog and account pop up here and there on instagram and was curious, so I checked the book out from the library and read through the whole thing, and it just made so much sense. It echoes everything I've been learning from all the nutrition research I've done, and seemed a lot more doable than the super-strict whole30 and without the obsessive counting of keto (no hate for keto lovers - but I know it'd easily be a slippery slope for me.) For years I've been trying to adopt a balanced approach to food. One that encompasses everything I've earned from my food research, but that is more realistic and doable for everyday life. I like that the "100 days of real food" pledge focuses on quality food - knowing WHERE your food comes from and buying food that was grown/farmed in a responsible and sustainable way. We are working with finite resources here on planet earth and I do believe we have a duty to be good stewards of what God has given us. Unfortunately, our modern conventional food practices are not what I would call "good stewardship." I'm also really curious about including 100% whole grains and 100% organic, grass-fed, full-fat dairy in my diet. In 2013, I was diagnosed with sensitivities to dairy and gluten via allergy testing. But I've been curious about those diagnoses for awhile. I guess I'm not totally convinced that I have a true allergy or sensitivity to wheat and dairy across the board. I'm curious to find out if 100% whole grains really cause an issue for me, or if it's a sensitivity to conventional bread products, which are full of fillers and junk. Same with dairy - am I truly sensitive to dairy, or is it all the sugar and additives and preservatives that my body can't handle? I don't know, but I'd like to find out.
I'm excited for the 40 days ahead. It's going to be hard, refining work. To learn to lean on Jesus instead of chocolate or wine or coffee or cookies. To lean into His strength when it's 7pm and Matt is working and bedtime was hard and all I want is delivery pizza despite a fridge stocked with healthy food. I have a lot of emotional stuff to work through surrounding food and it's going to be hard to face those feelings head-on and bring them before God. But, that's exactly what Lent is for. For the soul-scrubbing, hard work that leads us to holiness. My prayer is that at the end of this season I'll be a tad bit healthier and a whole lot holier. Soli deo gloria - for the glory of God alone.