things i thought i knew

You are about to hear something most people never, never, ever hear come out of my mouth. (Or computer, in this case.) I want to give up. I’m failing.

Stubbornness being one of my main personality traits (wait, I meant perseverance. That’s so much holier, right?), giving up is something I’m about as likely to do as stick my fork in an outlet trying for a new hairdo. But February is only half over, and this only seven foods thing is getting me.

Giving stuff away? Easy, sadly enough. Wearing only seven items of clothing (that’s March)? Not too tough. But this? This is hard. 

I imagined it would be great. Three of the foods for us are apples, berries, and lettuces. I would learn things and lose weight, too, right? Win-win for me. 

Nope. In fact, the weight has gone back the other way, and I feel lousy. And I would probably wrestle a salmon barehanded in the Arctic if it meant I would actually get to eat it right about now. 

So what am I learning from all this whining? I am understanding the diet of the poor better, for sure. I already had a mental understanding of the few choices they have and the even fewer affordable choices, but now I empathize, not just know intellectually. Two of our items are bread and pasta, cheap and easy to come by. Also really bad for you as a steady diet. Living the bulk of your diet on bread, pasta, and cheese can really mess with your health. But that is the kind of diet most poor people in this country exist on. It’s what they can afford. It’s what’s available. It’s nutritionally disastrous.

According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1) “The highest rates of obesity occur among population groups with the highest poverty rates and the least education.” Why? Because 2) “Energy-dense foods composed of refined grains, added sugars, or fats represent the lowest-cost option to the consumer.” and 3) “Poverty and food insecurity are associated with lower food expenditures, low fruit and vegetable consumption, and lower-quality diets. Such diets are more affordable than are prudent diets based on lean meats, fish, fresh vegetables, and fruit.”

Researching this, I found a blog of someone who had done another interesting food experiment. After realizing the average poverty-level family of 3 has $6 to eat on per day, this person tried to do the same. It’s a fascinating and challenging read.

Its hard to look for a job when you feel lousy. It’s tough to pay attention in school when you can’t stay awake or you’re hyped up on refined sugar. I get these things now. So I won’t give up. Because they can’t. 

by bread alone

I have discovered one thing during the last 13 days of being able to eat only seven foods. OK, I hope I’ve discovered more than one thing. But this one thing stands out. I would make a lousy legalist. This is good news, since not so many years ago I think I made a fairly proficient one. It wasn’t a good idea then, either.
There are so many grey areas in this month’s Seven. (See last week’s post if you have no idea what I’m talking about.) Like, is tomato sauce a condiment or a separate food? (We call it separate, for the record. Tomatoes just seem so, I don’t know, individual.) Is a conversation heart really food? What about drinks? I mean, tea is pretty much dark water, but a Jamba Juice? That’s, like, five different foods right there. And, as Pastor Andy maintains, eggs are totally chicken. Who could argue?
I am not cut out to split hairs. Details often don’t even make my radar screen, let alone become obsessions. While middle child wishes to maintain a strict adherence to the law, I breezily accept that chocolate chip banana bread is most certainly bread. I repeat—this is not the person I used to be.
I used to want to keep all the rules. I used to want to perform perfectly. I used to want to judge other people who didn’t. In my lesser moments, I still do.
But what I want us to learn from 7 is not how to keep rules and hold others to them. It’s how a choice of lifestyle affects all of life. How what we think changes what we do. How I can take small steps closer to the human in community God wants me to be. It’s not how, if we diligently make sure we don’t ever consume one candy heart, we’ll somehow be holier. 
That last one is so, so much easier, though, isn’t it? It’s quantifiable. Check-offable. Black and white holiness. But it has no effect at all on my heart. Or mind. Which, darn it, are the things God always seems to want to change the most. 
So, I’m glad 7 is teaching me that abandoning legalism (but embracing holiness) was a good idea. Now, while I figure out what else it’s teaching me, I’m off the find those frozen bananas.

whine and cheese party

I had my last Starbucks until March on Tuesday. It was a tearful goodbye. Which, I think, the guy behind the counter might have found unsettling.

Some of you may remember our family embarking on the experiment of not buying anything but food and toiletries for six months in 2010. It was challenging, fun, and above all, fodder for lots of stories. Our family likes experiments. So when we came across the book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker (, it didn’t take long for us to be all in.
7 challenges families to reconsider American excess, much like our first challenge. Every month, the author chose one area of excess to focus on and radically streamline. Among the areas are: food, shopping, clothing, media, “stuff,” stress, and the environment. We’re on our month two—food.
What does that mean? It means we have chosen seven foods that we will eat. All month. No exceptions. When the lady behind me at Dominicks saw my cart full of bread and cheese last week, she asked where the wine was and if she could come over. I told her sure. I didn’t have the heart to tell her if she stayed for long, bread, cheese, chicken, apples, pasta, and lettuce were all she’d get. There may be quite a bit of whine, though, I’m thinking. And yes, you are correct, you math whizzes among us. That does add up to only six. Each person is free to choose his or her seventh, we decided. Different people need different diets.
So first, who knew you could get chicken so many ways? Whole chicken, boneless chicken, ground chicken, chicken in a little foil pouch, chicken in lunchmeat. Somehow, I’m not sure that plethora of choices right there really teaches much about excess. Or perhaps it does.
Of course there are the loopholes. I am pretty sure that, in some country, cookies are considered bread. Just have to figure out which one. Then, what about condiments? Sauces? Spices? Chocolate? It’s very grey territory. OK, I know chocolate is not a condiment. But there is such a thing as chocolate cheese. And despite the sound of it, it’s quite good. Just have to find some . . .
Obviously, we’re still working on figuring out details without becoming legalists. Maybe that’s part of the exercise. I don’t really know yet what we’ll learn. But it’s exciting to learn it together.