April 12, 2023
A Note from Pastor April
It was mid-January when my doctor called me with the news.
“Your blood tests came back, and I’m sorry to tell you that you are pre-diabetic. We’ll need you to be on a strict diabetic diet for the next three months to see if we can get those numbers back down.”
It wasn’t entirely a surprise. I had gone to the doctor that day after a few unusual blood sugar incidences. My grandmother had diabetes. Both my mother and I had gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
Still, this was terrible news.
Have I mentioned yet how much I love sugar?
While I’ve only recently taken up baking, I have always had a deep appreciation for anything sweet. Whether it’s my mother’s amazing blueberry pie or the Holy-Spirit-infused Black Raspberry Chip ice cream at Graeter’s, I haven’t met many desserts that I don’t enjoy. If ever I needed that extra little pick me up in the afternoon, a sweet treat always fit the bill.
During the pandemic, I had taken up a lovely afternoon ritual of drinking cold brew coffee (brewed with brown sugar) and topped with a lovely splash of vanilla almond milk. (I’m including a link to the original recipe entitled Magical Coffee for good reasons!)
All of that was gone overnight. No sugar and limited carbohydrates for three months.
While the news was certainly not what I wanted to hear, there was a part of me that felt some relief to finally understand a bit of what had been going on with my body. I had been feeling extra sleepy and hungry for months, so this explained some things.
My word for 2023 is LISTEN, so clearly my body was trying to tell me something. It was time to listen.
For the first few days, I was motivated. I thought to myself, “You’ve done this before when you were pregnant, and you can do this again!”
In typical April style, I began writing in a daily journal about how I was feeling each day and what foods seemed to be helping my body feel good. I found a local coffee shop with great sugar-free options for their coffees. I stocked up on staples like brown rice, beans, and salad. Lots and lots of salad.
About a week into this experiment, the inevitable happened. The cravings. Serious cravings. I’m talking insatiably relentless cravings. I was listening to my body and it was telling me – “Drive to Graeter’s immediately and order a milkshake!” (This is when working across the street from this establishment can be hazardous to your health!)
No amount of salad, or roasted nut mix, or even organic peanut butter and apples could alleviate the absolutely maniacal desire to drop everything and stuff my face in a bowl of chocolate.
To say I was a bit grumpy throughout these months is a bit of an understatement.
Some days were more uncomfortable than others, but there hasn’t been a day since this started that I didn’t wish I was eating some kind of sweet treat or drinking my deliciously sweetened coffee.
About six weeks in, I inadvertently consumed some foods that had more sugar than I realized. My body did not respond well. At the same time, I was discovering that my body wasn’t tolerating the sugar-free syrups very well.
I felt so discouraged and angry. If this diet wasn’t making me feel better, what was the point?
My amazing husband sat patiently with me while I railed at the injustice of the situation.
“This is stupid! It’s not even working! I am going to wake up tomorrow and make an appointment with my doctor and tell her — just give me some medicine to make this go away! Then I can go back to eating and drinking whatever I want.”
Instead, I woke up the next morning with the extremely annoying and nagging question my spiritual director had asked me when I had spoken to her earlier the day before:
“What do you think all this discomfort is trying to teach you?”
As I sat with that question, I realized that I hadn’t been listening that closely after all.
The truth is… I don’t like discomfort. Who does?
More than that, I’ve not built up a lot of practice with staying with physical discomfort. My impulse has always been to find a way around it. A shortcut. A substitute. (A delicious piece of lemon poppy seed coffee cake!)
Anything but staying present to the discomfort and looking it in the face.
What would it mean to LISTEN to this discomfort as if it were also my teacher?
Something shifted in me that week as I realized that this was a choice I was making.
I could choose something else. I could choose to go back to the doctor and request medicine.
Or I could choose to stay in my body, listen to what I hadn’t yet listened to, and see this through.
Jesus & Discomfort
Last week, we walked through the central stories of our faith in God through the person of Jesus. The stories we journeyed through during Holy Week take us into the far reaches of physical discomfort… much further than anything I had been experiencing this year. At each step of the journey, Jesus stays in the discomfort.
He stays in the temple even after he has turned over tables and created deep animosity from the authorities.
He stays at the table with the disciples knowing that Judas has already betrayed him and that others will desert him.
He stays in the Garden in prayer even when his friends fall asleep and he is in utter anguish.
He stays on the cross even though he knows that he has not done anything to deserve this.
The Easter Story
The Easter story emerges out of the willingness to engage the suffering and discomfort… recognizing that there is something beyond the pain, something more lasting, and something bigger than our own stories.
If you and I find this to be challenging, we find ourselves in good company with the disciples. They struggled to stay awake in the Garden, they scattered when they saw that Jesus was being executed (what if they were next?), and they weren’t exactly lining up at the tomb to come check on Jesus on Easter morning.
It wasn’t until after the resurrection and the return of Jesus that they slowly began to understand what this was all about. Still, as Matthew’s Gospel tells us, some doubted.
Staying with the discomfort takes a lot of practice.
It’s like learning a whole new operating system.
A new way of being.
One day at a time.
Ten weeks into this experiment, and I’ve learned a lot.
I still want a piece of cake.
I’m learning how to hold that discomfort alongside the many other things I’m feeling at any given time.
The discomfort has opened up a fair amount of vulnerability and creativity and EMPATHY.
And my new friends at Qamaria Yemeni Coffee Company have opened up my world to a delicious new way of drinking coffee without any sugar, spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger.
Leaning in to Life & Love
During this Easter season, friends, may you choose to lean into the pathway of Jesus toward life and love, allowing the discomfort that emerges along the way to be your teacher and not an obstacle.
I’ll be right there alongside you.
The Rev. April Blaine