Saturday, December 31, 2011

new blog feature!

for those of you who follow this blog regularly, you might benefit from the latest feature: email subscription!  with this, you will get an email with my latest posts whenever i post.  personally, i use google reader to follow all the blogs that i enjoy, but if you don't have a feed like this, email is the best way to go to make sure you don't miss out on anything!

to subscribe via email, you can sign up in column on the left at the top. 

also- someone mentioned trying to comment but the comments not showing up after writing them.  if you are having trouble with this as well, let me know (thru facebook or email: sarahdothopedotcosta (at) gmaildotcom).  thanks :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

intentional living in the new year

i never made new years resolutions until a few years ago.  even now, i wouldn't exactly call them new years resolutions, more just reflections on ways i want to grow in the upcoming year.

this has been a really healthy practice for me.  i love praising God for how he has moved in my life over the past year, confessing my sin of the past year, and praying through ways i want to grow in the coming one, and even setting specific goals for the new year.

if we aren't careful we can just drift through life without ever pausing to reflect.  today's culture makes this especially difficult as we have every manner of diversion (tv, iphone, computer, internet, etc) to keep us from thinking.  i encourage you to take a mini-retreat sometime within the next week to pause and think about your past year and upcoming year.  sit down at home or at a coffee shop with your favorite hot drink; and let your mind go to dream, journal, pray, read and think.

here are some questions you could ask yourself to get your thoughts moving.

thinking through the past year...
what am i thankful for?
how has God grown my character since last year at this time?
what steps of faith have i taken? what has God done through that?
what sin patterns do i need to repent of?
what major events happened this year?  how have these impacted me?

and looking ahead to the next year...
what steps of faith is God challenging me with?
next year at this time, what do i want to be true of my life?
what aspects of my character do i want to pray for God to work in?
how can i be a better spouse/employee/parent/etc?
how can i grow in my ministry? who's lives do i want to be a bigger part of?
what is my plan for reading my bible?
what do i want to learn more about this year? what books do i want to read? 

i'd love to share with you some of my reflections and goals, in hopes of inspiring your mini-retreat.

this past year, God has grown my character in many ways:
*decreasing my selfishness... i am able to spend much more of my day focusing on others
*helping me to memorize more scripture
*increasing my trust in him, recognizing his sovereignty more deeply, trusting his fatherhood and provision more
*BIG increase in my joy (an answer to prayer!  and i am praying that he does more in this area!)
*making the gospel, the good news that jesus saves sinners, the main thing in my parenting
*giving me more opportunities to point to jesus in my conversations with those who don't know him
*increasing my humility, reminding me that the way i do things isn't always THE way things have to happen

this upcoming year, i am asking God to help me grow in these areas:

spiritually [walk with God]
 *i want to read through the bible with the m'cheyene schedule, and read from for the love of God daily [i have the book, but you can also get it for free from the blog i linked to.] my goal is to read at least 2 chapters of the bible per day before reading any other books or getting on the computer.
*read operation world daily and pray for the nations i read about
*pray for God to grow my trust in Him, help me to take steps of faith, increase my love for others, increase my wisdom and increase my eternal perspective

vocationally [keeping our home]
 *increase the nutrient density in the meals i make by cooking with more bone broth, organ meats, and veggies.  i also want to start making water kefir on a regular basis [a wonderful probiotic drink, similar to a natural soda]
*create a housework schedule [i thrive on routine. this should also help me prepare for our family size to grow]
*start getting up at a regular, early time [something between 6 and 7 in the morning.  this will be a must after we get chickens, but i hope to start before that]

academically [reading and research]
*continue to research vaccines
*read nourishing traditions by sally fallon 
*read God so loved, he gave: entering the moment of divine generosity by kelly kapic [i asked for this for christmas last year... hopefully i will actually finally read it!]
*read a book about infant potty training [not sure which one yet]
*research backyard chicken-keeping
*research and learn more about herbs and essential oils, in order to incorporate these more in our natural health and wellness regimen

ministry [pointing others to the love of jesus]
*prepare [physically, mentally, spiritually] to welcome another [foster] baby into our home with joy
*i have a goal to have daily interaction with people who dont know jesus.  i dont want to be stuck in a bubble of people who are just like me.
*increase my focus on discipleship and building into other women from church, helping them to know and love God more and fulfill their role that he calls them to.
*pray for more opportunities to be involved in our neighborhood and community

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

ron paul, 2012. yeah, yeah.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.  -German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.

for years i have been frustrated by politics.  i remember when i was little, we had one of those fake school presidential voting things.  i voted for ross perot, merely because he wasn't one of the major guys.

when i turned 18, i dutifully registered to vote, exercising my freedom and fulfilling my role as an American citizen. each election i try to research the candidates and issues, and i cast my ballot.  however, there is always a feeling of let down after i vote. are things really going to change?  probably not, is what i have always felt.  additionally, i am especially frustrated by the fact that i will never find a candidate that i fully agree with (or even mostly agree with, it seems).

it doesn't help that we plan to live overseas one day.  i guess i like the feeling of escaping the political madness here.  (though i have come to realize that as long as i am an american citizen, what goes on here will always effect me)

i dont know exactly how it happened, but there is someone that i am finally excited about this year.  really excited about.  he's not the savior of the world or even of our country, because the root of all of our problems is sin (only jesus can remove sin and its effects).  but i know that things will start to move in a much better direction if he is elected.

that person (you can probably guess if you know me) is ron paul.

and i want to commend him to you.  if you aren't familiar with his line of thought, i truly encourage you to study up and learn more about it.  before i started to learn more about politics in the past two years, i was fiscally liberal and socially conservative.  but now i lean pretty strongly libertarian.

but, labels aside, i want to share with you a few of the reasons that i really like ron paul, in no particular order (with some videos sprinkled in.  videos are fun).

1. ron paul supports raw milk freedom.

this is one of MANY freedoms that american people should have (the freedom to consume whatever food we want) that the government tries to regulate. 

i find it interesting that the FDA wastes tons of money cracking down on healthy, nutrient dense raw milk because of the extremely small chance of pathogens that may make people sick.  however, they completely ignore the epidemic consumption of pop which study after study has shown the massive health consequences from.  what is the difference?  coca-cola is one of the largest companies in the world and can afford tons of lobbyists and lawyers.  raw milk producers are generally small time farmers with no lobbying group and little money to influence congress. (though, to be clear, i think people should also be free to put pop into their bodies, though i personally think its a horrible choice.  i dont think the government should have the power to regulate milk, pop or any food.  to do so is to steal the liberty guaranteed to us in the constitution.)

more freedom and less regulation means less opportunity for special interests to get their foot in the door in washington.  less freedom and less regulation means more wasted government money and more government control over our lives.

2.  he supports moving medical care out of the public realm and into the private sector.

i mentioned previously that i used to be fiscally liberal.  i used to support obama's health care reforms, but now i have realized that, while they have good intentions, they will never pan out as we hope.

basically any time the government starts to control things, they become less efficient and more expensive.  on the more extreme end of things think communism, which has been marked by weak economies and lower living standards than more free economies.  any time we move away from capitolism and towards government regulation, things become less efficient.

compare, for example, the electronics industry with medical care.  both have seen massive improvements in technology, but health care costs have skyrocketed, while the prices of TV's and computers are always going down. why so?  one of the reasons is that the government has a heavy hand in the medical industry (medicare, medicaid, VA hospitals, etc.) but not so in the electronics industry.

another reason, personally, that i support his views on medical care is because i do not agree with much of main stream medicine and i want the freedom to make my own choices in this area.  i want the freedom to choose which vaccines to give and when, to treat illnesses homeopathically, and to focus on wellness rather than health restoration.  furthermore, i think that lots of americans make stupid choices about their health, and i don't want to pay for the dumb things they do, thank you very much.  in fact, alex and i are considering getting rid of our health insurance, but if obama's health care plan doesn't change, we will be required to get it again in a year, which i find infuriating.

to be clear, i agree that it is very sad that many people dont get the medical care that they need.  i just dont think that more governement regulation is the answer to the problem.

3. ron paul believes in austrian economic theory. 

i almost majored in economics.  i'm SO thankful that i didn't.

when i studied econ in high school and college, all of the talk was about keynesianism.  they brought up austrian economics on the first day of class and then swept it under the rug like it was nothing to take seriously.  alan greenspan (one of the key reasons we are currently in a recession) was revered as practically a god (this is no exaggeration).

long story short, after studying more on my own, i have realized that there is no reason to be certain that keynesianism is true, and all of the evidence that i have seen points squarely at austrian economics being true.  some people (like me) are starting to realize this, but ron paul has been saying this for years, and even predicted the economic downturn.

in fact, there are many very specific, and pretty unpopular things ron paul has been saying during his 11 terms in congress and his message hasn't changed much.  that's pretty unique for a politician.

[if you don't know the difference between the keynesian and austrian economic theories, google it.  its too long to explain here.  but to summarize, keynesianism got us into the current economic mess, which runs deeper than most people realize and is being made worse by government stimulus]

4.  at age 76, ron paul still exercises regularly, walking and biking several miles a day.

this is more of a personal thing than a political thing, but ron paul still exercises and is probably more fit than many of his opponents.  some people have poked fun at his age, but i bet he will outlive many of the people he is running against *cough*newtgingrich*cough*

i guess i just feel like i can trust him more than other candidates because he makes his personal health a priority.  it is one of several ways that i can tell he thinks similarly to me.

5.  the establishment is scared of him.

do you wonder why media outlets and fellow politicians generally ignore him even as his popularity is growing?

the best way i heard it put is this:  the american government is on an IV drip of money.  paul will stop the flow.  politicians and media corporations are scared of that happening. 

6.  ron paul is hardcore about personal rights and liberties, including the rights and liberties of unborn babies.

people have a right to live.  this includes people still residing in their mother's womb.

i love the fact that as an OB/GYN he can speak to this issue from personal experience.  he would still be right even if he didn't have personal experience, but he does have that experience, which is an added benefit.

and just like with so many other issues, he takes this unpopular stance firmly and without wavering, unlike so many flip-floppers out there who just want to say what people want to hear.

i highly recommend this video.  definitely my fave ron paul ad:

Friday, December 23, 2011

i miss you, ohio/indy

it has been great to be back in the midwest.  while i love living in california, being away from the midwest for 2 years has made me miss some of the things from here, which i have really noticed this trip back.

i miss the smell of christmas!  its not a very specific smell, in fact alex says its more like the feeling of cold air in your nose than an actual smell.  either way, when i breathe the air outside, it smells/feels like christmas in a way that i just dont feel in cali.

and there is plenty of outdoor air to breathe, because yards here are frickin' HUGE!  we could probably own like 10 chickens with room to spare in an average sized yard here.

and people aren't completely anal about having their yard perfectly manicured, like in cali.  i'm sure people also dont send anonymous notes to you when your yard is slightly weedy, telling you to clean it up, or call the city officials and report your property (yes, both of these things have happened to us in long beach).  yes, our tax dollars hard at work.

yesterday, alex and i drove ten minutes from where his parents live in indianapolis (a major city) to an organic creamery with 100% grass-fed cows and raw milk products. ten minutes away!  and we even got to pet the cows! :D

i usually hate having to go to the store for even the smallest thing during this time of year, but alex and i have had to go to several stores the past couple of days.  yes parking was nuts and the stores were crowded, but it felt like normal compared to what we are used to.

this year indiana had a strate budget SURPLUS.  'nuff said.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

terror and joy

in the sixth month the angel gabriel was sent from God to a city of galilee named nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was joseph, of the house of david. and the virgin’s name was mary. and he came to her and said, "greetings, o favored one, the Lord is with you!" but she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 
luke 1:26-29
reading this passage this week, i was struck.  gabriel, an angel that sits right next to God himself (luke 1:19), comes to mary and basically says "you are favored!  God is with you!"  and her response is to be troubled.

why is this?

it could be because angels are terror-inducing.  unlike the shiny, happy people they are portrayed to be in our culture (for example, in the painting above by famous artist fra angelico),  angels are portrayed in the old testament as frightening warriors.  people fall on their face when they see angels and are tempted to worship them.

but i think mary's response may be for a different reason.  maybe she knows that God has a specific plan for her, and she wonders how painful it will be, ignoring the good that God will bring from it.

when God uses us in a big way, it is rarely a comfortable situation for us.  look at the prophets of the old testament:  they had to run and hide from those who wanted to kill them, they were often crying or depressed over the state of Israel (God's chosen people group), they had to stand up against masses of people who hated God, they had to go hungry and homeless, and some were killed for speaking the truth.  or look at the apostles, the founders of the Church.  all of jesus' disciples except for one were martyred (killed for their faith).  even while they were alive they were often homeless, poor, persecuted, chased out of towns and beaten for their words about Jesus.

the angel had good news: mary would mother God come to earth!  why would mary be terrified?  

in truth, mary did end up having a hard life because of the angel's news: she was ridiculed and called a whore for claiming she got pregnant as a virgin, she had to watch her sinless first born son endure an extremely painful execution, she watched many of her people turn away from God.  but do you think she cares about that now?  no, she is with God in the intermediate heaven, praising Him for what He has done and eagerly awaiting him to remake the earth and remove all the sin so that she can live there again.

are we afraid of God's plan for our lives?  this is a good question to ask ourselves.  are we afraid to take steps of faith that God is laying out for us to walk in?  why are we terrified?  maybe it is because we, like mary, may be more focused on the here and now than the eternal joy God is preparing for us.  set your eyes on eternity, beloved!  "and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace" (from the song "turn your eyes upon jesus")

a few months later, God gave mary a right perspective on her pregnancy, despite all the hardship it might bring.  here is her response:  

    and mary said,
    “my soul magnifies the Lord,
        and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
    for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
        for behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
    for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
        and holy is his name.
    and his mercy is for those who fear him
        from generation to generation.
    he has shown strength with his arm;
        he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
    he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
        and exalted those of humble estate;
    he has filled the hungry with good things,
        and the rich he has sent away empty.
    he has helped his servant israel,
        in remembrance of his mercy,
    as he spoke to our fathers,
        to abraham and to his offspring forever.”
luke 1:46-55

let us praise God like this with mary!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

3 breastfeeding recomendations i just dont do.

1. avoid spicy foods

if you know me, you know that i dump put hot sauce on everything i eat (except for dessert).  so did i stop when esther was born?  heck no! spicy food is traditional, and in many societies the majority of the food they eat is spicy.  women in these societies dont stop eating normal foods when they start to breastfeed, so why should i?  in fact, some experts believe that eating a wide variety of foods while breastfeeding gives baby a more versatile palate, making them less likely to be picky eaters in the future.  since i make lots of spicy foods, esther needs to get used to the flavor, and the sooner, the better :)

2. supplement vitamin d

doctors are starting to see many babies that are low or deficient in vitamin d.  this is a concern, since vitamin d is one of the most important vitamins (from my research I would say it is far and above the MOST important one!), and vitamin d deficiency has been linked to diseases from type 1 diabetes to cancer to eczema to obesity.   the solution? recommending vitamin d supplements.

these doctors have one thing right: breastmilk is often deficient in vitamin d. but their solution is wrong.  they should be working to up mom's vitamin d (the root of the problem), but instead they take the easy route and prescribe artificial vitamin d (which isn't well absorbed by baby anyways).  in addition, they need to encourage more time in the sun so that baby can produce more of his/her own vitamin d.

the problem is, to up mom and baby's vitamin d, they would have to go back on two common medical falsehoods: recommending low fat milk and avoiding the sun.

when esther is older, i will start giving her cod liver oil at some point.  but for now, i am concentrating on getting her out in the sun a lot (the best way for her to get vitamin d) and boosting my own vitamin d, so that there is enough in my milk (i do this by drinking full fat milk (raw when it fits into the budget), eating fatty fish, pastured butter and liver, taking cod liver oil, and spending plenty of time in the sun).

3. avoiding "gassy" foods (like broccoli, cabbage, beans, etc.)

again, traditionally people have always eaten these foods. i see no reason to avoid them.  some doctors just like to impose lots of arbitrary rules on pregnant and breastfeeding moms.  i dont follow them :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

are you an excellent wife?

"an excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones." proverbs 12:4

"an excellent wife who can find? she is far more precious than jewels." proverbs 31:10

take the day off from praying for stuff. dont pray for Gods provision of money or health or any tangible thing; pray for your character to be like His. pray that you would become an excellent wife.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

what are you waiting for?

earlier this week, i sent a message to some friends asking for prayer requests.  the responses i got made my heart heavy.  lots of my friends are waiting for some pretty significant things: employment (in the midst of financial hardship), the salvation of family members, a spouse or for God to move in some specific, much-needed way.

i felt burdened as i read each of the requests, wanting so badly for God to answer, wondering why He hasn't yet.

more importantly than ever, we need to focus on the discipline of waiting this advent season.  christians do not wait without hope, we have a Father who is all-powerful and loves us.  while we wait, let us pray for God to refine our character.  moreover, let us remember what we should be looking forward to most expectantly: the return of Jesus.

i will also recommend a great sermon to you on this topic.  many people i know who have listened to it have been greatly impacted.  you can find it here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

3 reasons to take daily walks

ever since we got our foster kids, i have tried to take regular walks, daily when possible.  sometimes i walk and pray, sometimes i walk to church, the library, store or the park, sometimes i walk with alex to connect and talk about life and sometimes i walk while talking to a friend on the phone.  whatever the purpose, i am coming to realize that walks are great for mental and physical health.

1. walks are a great form of exercise.  back in the day when i was an avid runner, i scoffed at the idea of walking being considered exercise.  but now i have come to realize that walking is actually one of the best forms of exercise: your heart rate doesn't get so high as to release cortisol, a damaging stress hormone (like it does while running), it increases your endurance and it is low impact on your joints.  It is an especially great form of exercise during pregnancy.  It is also easier than some other forms of exercise, making it less likely to be avoided.

2. walks help you focus. a walk in the morning can help you think through your plans for the day (dr. ron paul does this. yet another reason i support RON PAUL 2012!!! :) ).  a walk in the evening can help you reflect back on how your day went.  walking with another person helps you to focus on the conversation.  walking while praying eliminates things (like the internet, housework, or television) that distract us away from praying.  all of these things are great for our mental health, and walking expounds the benefits.

3.  walking increases your vitamin d (which is made from sunlight), a vital nutrient for your health.  doctors and scientists are now starting to realize that many americans are deficient in vitamin d, contributing to diseases such as cancer (especially skin cancer... ironic!) and general low immunity, leading to colds and flu (one of the reasons people get sick during dark winter months).  they are even seeing a scary return of rickets in children (a disease previously thought to be wiped out in first world countries).  to increase your vitamin d production, maximize your skin exposure to the sun during your walks and do not wear sun lotion.  even though it is cold, walks are even more important in the winter, for this reason!

for these and many other reasons, i love to take walks!  i always feel good when i am done.

how often do you take walks?  what do you love about walking?  what benefits have you seen in your life?

Friday, December 2, 2011

eating sugar to the glory of God (part 2 of 2)

'Sugar' photo (c) 2006, Uwe Hermann - license: we explored sugar and its effects.  should you indulge this holiday season?  i would say yes, if you are doing it to God's glory.

how do we eat sugar to the glory of God?

i am writing to christians here, because for me the heart of this topic is purely spiritual.  one time, i heard john piper speak about how to eat pizza to the glory of God.  he suggested that one way to do this is by not finishing all of your last piece of pizza, just to show that eating pizza is not ultimately satisfying, but that God is (you would have to hear him say it... he put it much better than i can).

i think we should think about sugar the same way.  the best question a christian should ask is how can i eat sugar to the glory of God?

the heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge
but the mouths of fools feed on folly.  -proverbs 15:14

understanding what sugar is and what it does to your body is a great first step.  we know of lots of diseases (as i mentioned previously) that are caused by or contributed to by sugar.  but knowing the physiological effects of sugar helps us to see the underlying mechanisms that lead to the disease (as the disease is merely a manifestation of other things going wrong in the body).  the effects of sugar are pervasive, meaning that it effects many systems in the body, which is part of the reason its effects on the body are so damaging.  two of the many systems that are effected are gut bacteria and the liver.

sugar and gut bacteria health

sugar contributes to gut disbiosis, a fancy way of describing abnormally high bad bacteria (and conversely abnormally low good bacteria) in the digestive system.  every adult has about five pounds of bacteria in their body, most of which is healthy and helpful (even necessary) to our bodily functions.  however, sugar feeds the bad bacteria, causing it to overpopulate the body (crowding out the good guys). 

the understanding of bacteria in our body is an emerging field, but scientists are starting to see that gut disbiosis interferes with hunger and satiety cues (leading to obesity), immunity (high good bacteria is the first line of defense against outside invaders), digestive health (heartburn and ulcerative colitis are implicated in gut disbiosis), food allergies (low good bacteria leads to a "leaky gut" that leaks the allergens out to the body) and auto-immune diseases.  in "gut and psychology syndrome" dr. natasha campbell-mcbride theorizes that gut disbiosis is also a major contributor to mental illnesses such as ADD/ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, diabetes and fibromyalgia.

fructose and the liver

as i mentioned yesterday, the fructose component of sugar is actually toxic to the body, and the by-products of its digestion lead to various health issues.  this is a recent discovery by a doctor at UC-San Francisco names Robert Lustig.  the science behind it is pretty heady, but i will try to break it down in an understandable way (if you want to see the biochemistry of it worked out for yourself, here is a link.  its 90 minutes long.  yes, i watched the whole thing).

sugar is made up of two molecules: glucose and fructose (high fructose corn syrup has a similar chemical make-up, about half of it is fructose).  fructose cannot be digested in the stomach/intestines like most food is, so all of the fructose we ingest goes to the liver.  now, if you have ever take a physiology class, you know that this is pretty much the definition of a toxin (something that the liver has to break down for the body).  the breakdown of fructose in the liver has several bi-products, including VLDL ("bad" cholesterol that leads to heart problems), uric acid (which contributes to gout and high blood pressure), free fatty acids (which increases insulin resistance and fat storage) and it disturbs leptin production (the chemical that signals satiety to the brain, telling you to stop eating).  these chemicals are the reason that fructose consumption has been shown to lead to hypertenstion, heart diseases, obesity, insulin resistance (leading to type 2 diabetes), fatty liver and increased hunger.

whew! did i lose you there?  and that was even the simplified version... long story short, fructose is recognized by the body as a toxin and digested in the liver, which leads to the production of a lot of bad chemicals in your body that lead to various diseases.

"but, wait!" you might say.  "isn't fructose the type of sugar naturally found in fruit?  doesn't that make it healthy?" yes, fruit contains some fructose.  small amounts of fructose aren't bad.  before world war I, americans ate about 15 grams per day (mostly from fruit).  now we are eating about 75 grams per day (mostly NOT from fruit), and our health has never been worse.

prayer and self-control
it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. -hebrews 13:9

knowledge is a good first step towards glorifying God as we eat sugar.  you probably already knew that sugar isn't great for your health, but i hope that i have shown you that sugar is actually pretty much horrible for your health.  some of you may now be thinking that the best way to glorify God with your body is to reduce the amount of sugar you eat.  but you may be discouraged by how hard that will be (especially since, as i mentioned sugar is addictive).

but be encouraged: for the Christian, God has already given us all we need for life and godliness.  yes, it will take self-control to avoid sugar, but his Spirit gives christians self control when he lives in us (galatians 5:22-23).

i encourage you to pray.  not only seek God for wisdom in this area, but ask him for the self-control to limit your sugar.  it will likely be a battle, and it will take God's power to help you turn away from it when your body is craving and needing it.  God has made it clear in the bible that He is the one who makes our character more like Himself, and we can ask him to do it.

be thankful, and use sugar well (don't let it use you)
"All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be enslaved by anything.  -1 corinthians 6:12

every december for the past 8 years (except for last year) i have had a christmas cookie making party (four times in columbus, one time in germany, and this year will be the second time in california!  yay for traditions!).  should i stop this tradition?

no way!  i have so many great memories of these parties, and they have always been so fun to invite good friends to, and a great opportunity to spend more time with people that i am reaching out to. this is one example of a way to use sugar, without being used by it.  there are many other ways: sharing a dessert with friends, celebrating a birthday with a cake, going out on a date and getting ice cream (or if you are like alex and i, make it at home!).

the key is to not be enslaved by sugar (or any kind of food... or anything!).  if you find that you are mastered by sugar or that it is not helpful, you may choose to completely give up your right to eat it.  another key is to be thankful for it, recognizing it as a gift (and limiting your sugar intake helps you to be especially grateful when you do have it).

there are many beautiful and good ways to enjoy this gift from God.  i hope that you are able to eat it to the glory of God this year!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

eating sugar to the glory of God (pt 1 of 2)

'Sugar' photo (c) 2006, Uwe Hermann - license: christmas season is upon us.  and with it, as many sugary delights as you could ever want or imagine.

the more research that i do, the more that i realize that sugar is one of the most damaging foods to human health.  being the very black and white, all good or all bad thinker that i am, it is easy for me to want to completely reject sugar and condemn everyone who eats it (which is pretty much every american every day... especially considering that the government suggests that up to 25% of your daily caloric intake come from sugar... another reason we need to downsize government!!  let me step off of my soapbox...)

but it is hard to divorce myself from our sugar-saturated country, especially during the holidays.  and the truth is, the more i have thought and prayed about it, the more i have realized sugar is not all bad.  nutritionally, it would be hard to argue that it is anything but bad for our bodies.  if your sole goal in life is to live as long as possible, avoiding all sugar would probably be a good choice for you.  but as a christian, i want to live long and healthfully, without worshiping food or health.  i do think that God has given us different foods for different reasons, and one of the reasons for sugar is celebration, which is especially appropriate during this time of year.

the main problem is overindulgence.  in america, sugar is a very cheap food item and our bodies are wired to crave it.  some health professionals have even gone so far as to call sugar a drug, which is an appropriate comparison in my eyes since it is very addictive and habit-forming, and most people go through withdrawl symptoms when they completely go off of it.  moreover, sugar (specifically the fructose component) is now known to actually be a toxin to the body (more on that later), which makes the drug comparison even more appropriate.

because we love sugar and it is cheap, most people eat sugar every day, multiple times a day, which has lead to many of our health problems (sugar has been implicated in diabetes, obesity, multiple types of cancer and there are even theories it is linked to autism).  this overindulgence (and potential addiction) is particularly concerning for christians, since we want to show the world that we worship nothing but God, as God is far and above the most satisfying thing on earth. 

a better way to handle sugar is (in cookie monster's words) to make it "a sometimes food" (and the rarer the sometimes the better!).  not only is this MUCH better for your health, but it also helps you appreciate it more when you eat it (which makes it more celebratory, a much more appropriate use for it).

my journey with sugar

in the beginning of college, i decided to start eating healthfully.  unfortunately, my definition of health at the time was very american: low in fat, low meat, with lots of low fat dairy, fruits and veggies, whole grains and carbohydrates.  fruits and veggies are expensive, and i was a poor college student, so my diet consisted of a lot of grains (like cereal and bread), which usually contained sugar, or were paired with sugar, for flavor.  i knew sugar wasn't incredibly healthy for me, but i justified it as a flavoring aid to whole grains (as well as low-fat dairy, like yogurt).  any time was tired or hungry, i turned to my sugar fix, which lead to lots of high/low blood sugar cycles.  this happened a lot since i was constantly sleep deprived in college.  little did i realize that low-fat dairy and grains are almost the same to the body as sugar (and just about the same amount of nutrients) and so i was truly addicted to sugar.

about a year after i graduated (still eating like this) i began to have really bad GERD/heartburn.  at age 23, i was on the strongest daily prescription medicine for heartburn!  long story short, i changed my diet pretty dramatically and my health improved.  currently, i eat sugar about every other day, and usually in the form of unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup and raw honey (which are slightly better than white sugar, but should still be limited).  also, i usually eat sugar in my own homemade items, in which i use much less sugar than store-bought items (or stuff that other people make).  i am to the point now where i get heartburn when i eat desserts or sweets made by other people (because they are much higher in sugar), which is a good motivation to avoid them (a blessing in disguise!).  however, i do choose to indulge every once in a while, such as on thanksgiving (though i did pay for it the next day... with heartburn!).

why artificial sweeteners are NOT the answer

i have to add this caveat... in typical american form, we want to have our cake and eat it too.  in other words, we don't want to practice biblical self-control, but we want to indulge frequently without any consequences.  in response, food companies have developed chemicals that taste sweet without the calories or carbs contained in sugar.

long story short, these chemicals are not the answer, and they actually cause WORSE health problems than sugar itself (and interestingly enough, studies show that artificial sweeteners do not aid in weight loss).

the exception i would make is unrefined stevia (read more on that here if you are interested), which actually isn't artificial (if it is unrefined) but usually gets lumped in with chemical sweeteners.

so what is the answer?

glorifying God is the answer.  more on how to do that tomorrow.