lessons from a restricted diet

Hey, everybody! I’m over at Kindred Mom today, sharing about a part of my summer. Feel free to read the whole thing here or read on for an excerpt! 

Dinner at our house has always been idyllic. Not “June Cleaver” perfect, but I’d make a simple meal, and the family would eat it—or at least try it—regardless of individual opinions about peas or soup. In general, I rotated a small number of easy-to-make meals, all of which were nutritious enough to serve but appealing enough to be eaten. On rough days, I threw spaghetti on the stove and broccoli in the microwave, and everyone was fine. I never forced anybody to finish, though they needed to eat what was on the plate before they had anything else. Dinner was low-drama. There was noise and laughter and love and tears and “she touched me!” and every other lovely, messy thing I ever imagined dinner with a big family to be, but the food part was easy.

And then I wrecked it.

With one doctor’s appointment, our simple dinner routine turned upside down.

I had some health concerns, so my doctor prescribed a super restricted diet. It was annoyingly nonstandard for me. I had about eighteen ingredients to work with at the beginning. Beets. Carrots. Kale. Chia seeds? What am I supposed to do with those?!? It would be hard, but I was willing to put in the effort for a chance to feel better.

I set myself up carefully. The day before I started, I spent hours making meals from the provided recipes and chopping vegetables to have on hand. I congratulated myself on my preparedness and perfect game plan. “I am strong. I am resilient. I am going to kick this diet’s ass!”

To keep reading (and find at least one more occurrence of the word “ass,”) click here!


when January’s goals become summer’s total nonsense

I love a new year. I don’t do the resolutions thing in general, but I like the excuse to examine the year that’s gone and think ahead to what I want for the coming one, and make some plans to move forward.

January of 2018 was no exception. If anything, I was ready to launch with even more enthusiasm than the prior years. I was doing it at the beginning of January, which seems pretty basic, except that since 2012, I’ve waited until our family vacation late in the month to do any of this stuff. We didn’t take a vacation, so I had no reason to wait. Also, I tried Powersheets for the first time, which is basically a really in-depth goal-setting workbook. It is pink and has multicolored leaves on the front and some gold embossing. So inspiring and hopeful! I was SO READY TO OWN 2018.

I set up my SMART goals (Specific! Measurable! Attainable! Something that starts with “R”! Time bound!) and got to work. (Relevant. R is Relevant. Thanks, Google.)

Then the end of February came and knocked me on my backside. My health tanked. All progress was undone. Any future goals were forgotten. I was underwater, just hoping to find my way to the surface for air.

I’ve got some medical support now, and I’m feeling a little less like I’m drowning, so I decided to take another look at my goals and the action steps I’ve supposedly been taking for more than half of a year by now.

Um… Yeah. Not so much. The one about daily time in the Bible is working out because I found a way that works really well for me. But everything else has fallen to the wayside in favor of “just make it until bedtime.”

So I have these goals, that seemed so good, so God-appointed in January. And then I have this actual life. The two don’t match at all.

So what do I do with it?

Talk to God about it at length.

This has probably been the hardest part for me- I was so sure I heard Him say I needed to work on my health [weight] this year. What I actually heard was “we’re going to focus your health this year.” Well. I guess that’s what’s been happening, but there is no way I could have imagined what that would mean in January. It makes sense that in January, “health” would have looked like the one thing that doctors have been hammering my whole life: my weight. I didn’t even think to question it. Of course the two aren’t equivalent.

Assess where I am.

I’m in survival mode with my kids still. The months of complete inability made way for some really bad habits for everyone and, while my parenting is slowly improving, there’s a long way to go.

I wanted to be intentional about connecting with Andrew, but evenings were pretty low-energy. I rarely had anything intelligent to say or energy to do anything besides read or space out online.

My health goals make the least sense. Weight loss is so far down the list right now. I’m eating weird food (I’m on an elimination diet at my doctor’s direction) and I’m still tired and all those awesome muscles I got in January and February are gone.

Figure out where I can reasonably go.

Getting the kids sorted is going to take a lot of time and a lot of self-discipline, honestly. I have some tools that I’m trying to implement, but if there’s an available quick fix, I don’t know what it would be. But I have some goals for each of the kids and I’ll keep plodding.

Connecting with my husband is simple enough. We’re good friends; we just need to do stuff together. We busted out some games the other night, and it was good for my soul. (Also good for my soul? Rewatching The Office with him.)

I need to learn to eat again. I need to get strong again. I need to keep rest a priority.

And now I just walk in it. These goals are boring. Not even a little sexy. But they reflect my reality now.

A boring goal that fits my life is better than a fun one that only reflects wishful thinking.

Please tell me… What were your January goals? Are you walking toward them? Do you need to pivot a bit?

Lilly Mae is two

Hey, little Lilly.

You’re a light and a joy.

I love your silly and your sweet.

I love the way you love your siblings.

I even love (though I’d never admit it) the way you hurl yourself on the carpet when you’re told “no.” It’s so funny. I’d never encourage it, because it’s not an especially healthy way to handle frustration, but for now when your words are limited? Kudos for finding a way to tell me exactly what you think about that. The carpet does understand, love.

Right now, you are saying ALL THE WORDS. Well, no. You’re saying parts of each word. Mostly the vowel parts. Mostly in a whisper. It’s endearing and nearly impossible to decipher, especially in the noise of this house. “Oooh ah” means either “shoes on” or “shoes off.” It’s anybody’s guess. “Eee uh” means either “cheetah” or “Grandpa” or perhaps “teeth brush” or “Jesus.” You could make it easier, but I can’t imagine it being any cuter.

Your scrunched-up nose smile KILLS ME DEAD. Every day. Whether I’m asking for the cheesy smile or you just give it (usually in place of words you don’t feel like saying), it makes me laugh every time.

I love your determination. And sometimes it’s a pain. But that’s okay. It’ll be good… in several years. I think. (Good heavens… you and Brian are hitting the Will Of Iron phase right together and I think it might wipe me out. We’ll find out if I’m really good at handling the spunk of you little ones from all the practice or… if I’m just really tired from the bigs.)

I am still kinda thinking you’re the last baby I’ll carry and birth, and I’m just SO aware of how fleeting all these little stages are and I’m loving them so much. Your funny, waddling toddler run looks just like a baby monkey. (In the sweetest, most endearing way.) Your little baby belly and your baby curls and your dimples and your happy squeals… they all bring me so much joy. I know they won’t stay forever, but I sure love them now.

And really? It’s okay that you don’t stay little forever. I LOVED your teeny newborn self, and she’s gone now, replaced by a two-year-old version. While I miss that squishy, floppy baby phase, I like you even more now, and I have more than 7 years of raising your siblings to remind me that you’re gonna just keep getting cooler. (And also, if we’re being honest, more of a pain. Because every stage has its challenges, too.)

Baby, you’re lovely. And you’re growing up just right. I love you to pieces. We all do. You’re the littlest baby, so you have (by plenty) the least of my one-on-one attention. But you have SO MUCH LOVE from SO MANY PEOPLE.

I can’t believe you went from this…

the birth of lilly mae©SarahLewisPhotography-129
©Sarah Lewis Photography

to this…

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©Sarah Lewis Photography

to this

©Sarah Lewis Photography

so quickly.

Happy birthday, my delightful and lovely Lilly Mae.

resting and Spirit

I’ve spent a lot of time the last few months trying to decide if I should be still or move forward, letting His strength be made perfect in my weakness. I don’t mean this in a metaphorical sense… I actually can’t tell when to sleep and when to stay awake. Sometimes it’s clear: it’s Saturday afternoon and Andrew is home. There’s work to be done, but I can no longer function. Nap is an easy choice. Or: it’s 9 am and the two littles both need a bath for diaper-related reasons. The big two are fighting. I can barely function, but the choice is made for me: I push.

But what about the more questionable times? I have an afternoon where the babies are down and the girls are watching shows. There are a million things to do. The house is making me crazy with how behind I feel, and it’s cutting into my peace. I feel tired, but not completely nonfunctional. A nap is an option, but it’s not going to be high-quality on the futon with How To Train Your Dragon playing. Or I could knock out some of the things that are driving me nuts, but also potentially sap my ability to manage bedtime in a few hours.

I’ve looked at scripture. There’s no clear template to tell me when I should rest and when I should push. So I look at Jesus. He did both, but again, there isn’t a really obvious way to determine under what circumstances he did which. I don’t know when to honor God’s design of my body with its cues and when to honor the life he’s given me by living it rather than sleeping through it.


And then I remember that Somebody can.

My theology of the Holy Spirit is relatively solid, but my application has been extraordinarily weak. I come from a cessationist tradition (so “sign gifts” like prophecy and tongues were definitely not a thing) and any actual interaction with the Spirit felt suspect. While I no longer hold  that piece of  theology, I still carry a lot of “who do you think you are?” when I want to ask Jesus about day-to-day stuff.

But here’s the thing. I have to ask about it, because He didn’t spell out in scripture whether I should nap or work this afternoon. And I actually need to know, more or less constantly. Sure, I can make the call on my own (I often do), but it feels arbitrary to do so when I really could go either way. We’re talking about my use of time, and I only get so much per day. There’s never really a great surplus. My sister mentioned how nice it would be if God had included an appendix in the Bible for stuff like this: “Hey, guys! This part doesn’t have much to do with salvation, but here’s some helpful information on how to navigate areas not specifically covered in the rest of my book.”

But he didn’t give me rules. He gave me a relationship.

And isn’t that the gospel all over again? I want the law, because the law feels safe and followable. Never mind that safe can’t save… I want boxes to check. But the Law has been fulfilled (by Someone else, because it feels like I could follow it, but I would never be able to) and what I have is GOD HIMSELF. In me. And me in him.

So I’m slowly learning to make peace with this very awkward practice of asking Jesus pretty basic questions and actually expecting a response. I’m not at all good at it yet. A couple months ago, I had an intense and important conversation with a dear friend and we had precisely 90 minutes and could. not. waste. any. Throughout the conversation, I had this ongoing side dialogue with the Holy Spirit going on. “I have a thought. Should I share that? Was that You or me? You or me? You or me? You gotta tell me… You. But not yet. Okay. I’ll hold it.” It was clumsy and ridiculous, but God honored my bumbling and was glorified in that 90 minutes.

I don’t know how to do this “walking in the Spirit” thing. I don’t know how long it will be before I do. I suspect it’s one of those things that doesn’t get perfected this side of Heaven. But I do know this is the way I should be headed.

Relationship over rules, you guys. Even when rules seem easier.

what we learned Spring of 2018

Emily Freeman (possibly my favorite internet writer for the last decade) has made a practice of rounding up what she’s learned each quarter. I’ve been doing “what I learned” posts yearly for a while, but I need to make time to remember more often, so I am, and I’ll get to link up with a bunch of others who are doing the same.


Dry shampoo.

I know. I’m so far behind on this one. And yes, it has aluminum starch in aerosol form, which is terrifying (and who even knew that aluminum had starch?) but y’all, my hair takes for-friggin-ever to wash and condition. I don’t bother drying it- I just sleep with it wet and it’s at least almost dry by morning. If I can do that whole thing as infrequently as possible, it’s a win.



I told Andrew when I was pregnant with Brian that when I was done having and nursing babies, I was going to need to go somewhere and sleep for a while.

Four years later, I made it. And it was glorious. I got cheap mileage tickets to California (with a layover to see some of my people in Seattle) and rented a car and found an Airbnb in Santa Barbara. I visited a dear friend and mostly… I rested.


I don’t say this to brag about my rad life (although it was pretty awesome). I just want to throw out there that it’s worth it. It was costly and the logistics were a pain, but it’s worth celebrating eight years of childbearing with a week of sleep, and now that I’ve been home awhile, I can say that the benefits are real and lasting. I was afraid that the rest would actually make everything worse: the shock of my regular life afterward would just push me over the edge. It did not. Reentry is no joke, but I had enough downtime to sort of evaluate what is essential in my regular life and pare down a bit so my regular life can be more restful.

Press n Seal.

For reals. I heard this mentioned in passing in an early episode of The Lazy Genius podcast, and I froze where I was standing. I was in my kitchen with orange counters overflowing with dishes and detritus and 40-year-old orange-and-gold linoleum that perpetually needs a broom, and I just stood stock still for a second or two with the realization that this was about to change. my. life. FOREVER.

It’s not just press n seal. It’s press n seal in the FRIDGE. Cover the fridge shelves in the film and when it’s time to clean the refrigerator, just pull it off and put new film down. Pro tip: if your fridge has removable shelves, it’s much easer to seal the plastic to shelves that are room temp and dry than cold and collecting condensation.

YouVersion Bible App

This, like press n seal, is old news. I’ve had this app since I had a smartphone. The new part is the audio. That’s not really new, either. Just new to me. I started listening to it in the morning before I got out of bed, but I was really prone to falling back asleep, both missing my reading and wrecking my morning.

What I’ve learned to do instead is listen at night before I sleep. I almost never zonk in the middle and it fixes my heart on Jesus as I fall asleep. The bulk of my reading currently is some crazy crap going on in 1 Samuel between Saul and David, but I find myself drifting off to sleep talking to Jesus about what is going on. (Even though I know how it ends.) I love reading, but I’ve read the Bible a lot, and I have a tendency to skim now. Listening to it (at normal speed, not 1.8x) is an unexpected way to allow the words to actually sink into my heart.

Also? I’ve spent most of the years of my life trying to have a morning “quiet time.” You know, “start your day in God’s word.” Like 90’s Christian subculture said we should. But the Hebrew day starts at sundown, and I’m learning there’s value to framing the day this way. I don’t know why it matters, but when I look at the evening as the start of tomorrow rather than the dregs of today, I feel calmer and less frantic about everything. Including my timing for scripture reading.

If you enjoy reading what I learned this spring, head over to Emily’s post– there’s links at the bottom to a whole community sharing their lessons.

easy like Sunday morning

blah, blah, blah, eeeeeeasy. Easy like Sunday moooooorning….

These are literally the only four words I know of this song and I get them stuck in my head every week. It feels like it was written strictly to spite me. (I’m so vain, I definitely think this song is about me.) This person CLEARLY does not understand my life. My friend Kat told me there were probably plenty of drugs involved in the writing, so I guess it makes sense that his Sunday morning felt easy enough.

The truth of my Sunday mornings is this:

We all turn into absolutely horrible humans between 8:30 and 11:10am every. single. week.

I’ve tried various strategies to fix this over the years—different morning routines, different schedules, different services, different preparations the night before—but to no avail. Sunday morning between waking and church is the worst. I keep doing it because assembling together is part of obedience and it is good and right and necessary, but it is, almost without exception, utter chaos and the most trying time of my week.

It always shines a huge spotlight on my inability to live and parent righteously, despite repeated cries for help. It’s like a rhythm. A weekly liturgy. Saturday is family day, but it ends in dread with the knowledge that Sunday’s coming and with it an unavoidable close-up of my own sin nature and insufficient character.

Andrew gets up and leaves before anyone else is up. The kids and I wake and mayhem ensues. Breakfast is spilled and fights break out and kids get hurt. This week, I stepped on a generous glop of cold strawberry jam on the carpet. At some point they’re all either screaming or crying at once. There are constant random prayers: “Jesus… what the hell is wrong with my people? I need help!” followed by lots and lots of trying really hard and ultimately some degree of losing my ever-loving mind all over my kids. There are bad words muttered under my breath and bite marks on my tongue to keep them from being shouted. (At no point are bad words more likely to simply be the right ones than Sunday mornings.) 

Eventually, we make it to church almost on time. Kids are deposited in appropriate rooms for childcare learning about Jesus, and I drag my broken and insufficient soul to the coffee bar where, if I’m lucky, there is still some caffeine available.

I meet so many friends on my way through with kind smiles asking “how are you today?” and all I can manage is a weary grimace and “I’m here.” I look around at these lovely souls—smiles, reasonably well-put-together outfits—and look down at me. I adjust my pants again. My abundant muffin top is attractively showing itself between my jeans that were flattering (four days of wear ago) and the shirt that was cute before breakfast happened.  I shrug. It’s 11:05am and I am simply out of energy to even care… I don’t need to hide from these folks. (Well, except that one… oh well.) It’s fine. They don’t notice or care what my jeans are doing. I grab a bulletin (“communicator” at our place) from yet another sweet friend at the sanctuary door and lumber into the sanctuary around the end of the first song, feeling entirely used up.

And then I hear the music. We’re singing of a God who is good, a Son who rescues, a Spirit who indwells, a love that pursues. My voice cracks (from disuse in this range, not tears) and I sink into the worship, fixing my eyes on Jesus. He knows I’m only dust and he doesn’t shy away from my brokenness. I remember that my lack of merit is precisely what makes the Gospel good news to me to begin with. If I deserved it, it’d hardly be news at all, let alone good news. A pastor opens the Word and I remember again the truth of who God is and how much hope I have.

So here I am every freaking Sunday, brokenness on display for a few hours leading up to church. I walk in a hot mess of “not enough” and “I hate everything” just to collide with the truth:

He is enough and He loves me still.

One of the things I often pray for my babies at bedtime is that they will see their need for Jesus and His love for them. Sunday morning accomplishes both in my heart. It also regularly gives me an opportunity to apologize to them for sins committed in the gap between my need and my recollection of His love. It’s space for the gospel to come into my house, and it’s built into every psychotic Sunday morning. I won’t say this liturgy is pleasant—these are the hardest hours of my week, every single week—but I’m thankful for it in spite of this.

Katherine turns 6

Hey, spunky girl.

I love you to bits. You know that, right? The sprinkle of freckles on your nose that you got from me and I got from your Grandpa. The resentful, huffy way you put your glasses on your face. The songs you make up when your baby sister goes to bed.

Baby Lilly, I love you so much
Sometimes you hurt me
and sometimes you cry
and sometimes you’re just ANNOYING,
But you’re my family, so I still love you
more than anybody else
who’s not in my family…

And then there’s the one that you made up a few months ago that you sing almost every night, without pesky hindrances like, say, words that make sense or a fixed key:

The mountains are quiet
The hills are bright
The sun beats powerfully on its little light
So sleep, sleep, little one
Sleep, sleep, little one
Sleep, sleep, little one, sleeeeeeeeep.

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Photo: Sarah Lewis Photography

Seriously, kid. Where do you come up with these? But you sing them with every ounce of earnestness you have which, believe me, is a lot. Every time I try write down the things you say, I have to use caps lock for about half of your words. Because you JUST have SO MUCH to SAY and it’s ALL so VERY IMPORTANT. There’s NOT A THING that comes out of your mouth that you don’t COMPLETELY OWN. You are ALL IN.

All in.

That basically sums you up, Katherine. And I adore you. This year, we’ll keep working to make that enthusiastic will of iron work to your advantage, okay? I see benefits already.

A couple weeks ago, it was Mother’s Day. I opted out of church because I’m a big ball of neuroses about this particular holiday and we went to a playground instead. I heard a boy say something truly awful to you:

“Your mom doesn’t even want you. Not really.” 

At first, I thought I misheard. Surely he said watch and he was commenting on my parenting (happy Mother’s Day to me), but we talked later and I learned that this isn’t the first time he’s tried to convince you that I don’t care about you.*

You are unfazed. Bless your oppositional little heart. I love this about you. You’re so sure of your place in your mama’s heart that there’s NO WAY this insecure child is going to get into your head or under your skin.  I don’t want him saying it to you, and we talked about it for a bit, but I’m floored by how legitimately fine you are. You remind me of your daddy. He knows who he is and he’s not especially bothered by people who don’t. (It’s not like this is the first time I’ve seen the similarities between you and him.)

I wish I were more like you.

Katherine, you are strong and you are brave and you are generous. (You keep giving your favorite buddies away to your siblings, certain that they’ll be as blessed as you are by your stuffed cheetah. You give gifts that cost you, and I love seeing your heart in this.) You are growing in self-control and wisdom and truth.

You’re a force, little girl. You’re going to change the world.

I know this already and you are only six. (Shoot, I’ve known it since you turned three.)


Use your powers for good, not evil, okay? I know you can. I know you will. And I love you always. You’re growing up just right.

*side note for those following along at home: please don’t get too bent out of shape about this. It’s an awful thing to say, but I know just enough of this kid’s story to believe that he’s just transmitting his own stuff. We choose grace (with boundaries) and I look for a chance to speak life to this boy.