Well readers, remember that nice Christian post I wrote about my travel anxiety, brought on by an upcoming trip to New York City to visit my sister, and how I was going to trust that God would take care of me? Well, as the trip drew ever closer, I realized I have done a terrible job of practicing what I have preached. And in addition to my anxiety has come another emotion I am embarrassed to admit: anger so strong I can feel my face heating up if I think too long about the trip. The anxiety comes from the fact that my commitment to eating a strict, healthy diet for both health, and spiritual reasons has been so successful, and I fear that this trip, which will involve many meals in restaurants, will screw it all up.
I thought I had the perfect plan to mitigate this anxiety. As I have written about before, I drew much of my inspiration for my new lifestyle from Dr. Fuhrman, a cardiologist who coined the “nutritarian diet”, a diet that has reversed diabetes and heart disease in obese people. In November when I committed to this lifestyle change, I decided to purchase a membership to Dr. Fuhrman’s website, which would give me discounts on his line of nutritarian convenience products, which include cartons of soup, fruit and nut bars, sauces to spice up vegetables, and salad dressings. Even with the membership discount, his products are overpriced, and I can see where my family is coming from when they tease me and compare Dr. Fuhrman to a cult leader. I would have to go back to work full-time if I wanted to order his products regularly, but I don’t want or need to do that. I actually enjoy preparing bean soups and smelling them simmer in the crock-pot all day, and for salad dressing, I use a 100-calorie individual cup of Wholly Guacamole, or a 150-calorie cup of Hummus from Costco. These products definitely have more sodium than Dr. Fuhrman’s dressings, but guacamole and hummus contain healthy fats, so I view these products as a nice compromise between oil-based dressings which have no nutritional value, and Dr. Fuhrman’s overpriced dressings. I also like the fact that they are pre-measured, so I don’t have to worry about accidentally pouring on way more than one serving of dressings. Even with Dr. Fuhrman’s dressings, I would need to be mindful of the portion I pour on because although they are made with ground up nuts and seeds, which unlike oil, have nutritional benefits, they are still high in calories. In December I ordered three jars of Dr. Fuhrman’s sauces simply because I was curious and wanted to try them. He has a salsa which really spices up scrambled eggs, a Thai Curry sauce which is delicious over riced cauliflower and a Mushroom Alfredo sauce which is delicious over spiralized zucchini. I might re-order these sauces once a year for a nutritarian treat, but because I am blessed with incredibly supportive parents, and our community is blessed with an amazing spice store that carries a large variety of salt-free spices that are amazing on vegetables, Dr. Fuhrman’s sauces aren’t necessary for amazing vegetable dishes. But I viewed the membership as an insurance policy for situations like a vacation when finding and preparing healthy food can be more challenging. In the event that I needed convenience food, his soups were superior nutritionally to any other brands of canned soup I have looked at, especially in terms of sodium content. As I have written about before, I tend to have low sodium levels because of underlying medical conditions, so I don’t have to watch my sodium as closely as other people. Therefore, I will eat Amy’s chunky vegetable soup which is high in sodium, but otherwise extremely healthy. However I still try to be mindful of sodium, and two cans of soup in one day on vacation would put me over the recommended daily amount.
Toward the end of January, in what I viewed as a stroke of divine luck, I received an e-mail that Dr. Fuhrman was having a sale on his bean soups! How perfect! I would order 3 cartons of nutritarian chili and have it shipped ahead to my sister’s apartment so that I wouldn’t have to even worry about it leaking all over my suitcase during the flight, or getting confiscated by security for some reason. If we were going to be at my sister’s apartment for lunch, heating up this soup would be no problem, but even if we were going to be on the go come lunch time, I would be able to just grab a carton of soup, a disposable bowl and plastic spoon to stick in my purse, and no matter what restaurant the rest of the family wanted to go to, I could just pull out this soup and eat it cold. Of course, it would probably taste better heated, but food is for sustenance, not for pleasure, and away from home, you do what you have to do. My goal was not to compromise on my health at all, while at the same time not causing any difficulty or inconvenience to the rest of the family. For breakfast on the trip, I would pack Bob’s Red Mill classic oatmeal cups, a sugar-free instant oatmeal that also has flax and chia seeds, in my carry-on bag. Then when we got to New York, it would be easy to just buy some fruit to supplement the soup and oatmeal, and for dinner, I was confident that no matter what restaurant the family chose, I would be able to get a plain salad, steamed vegetables or a piece of grilled chicken or fish. This trip would be a breeze! But on the evening of February 1, I received a text from FedEx saying that the product could not be delivered and would be held for five days at a FedEx site in Manhattan, where I would need to present a photo Id with a name that matched the package recipient name to pick it up. My sister had just moved to a new apartment that didn’t have a doorman, and I didn’t realize this would make delivery difficult. I called FedEx and explained that I had put my name as the recipient on the package but wouldn’t be there for another month and a half, and thought I had authorized my sister to pick it up. My sister was having a difficult week that week and couldn’t get to the site until the fifth day, but when she got there, the clerk couldn’t find it and wouldn’t listen when my sister tried to explain the situation. To make a long story short, I ended up just contacting Dr. Fuhrman and asking them to redirect the package to Wisconsin, and the soup has come in handy here when I was feeling lazy and didn’t get my crock-pot soup made. But my parents promised they would go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients to make bean salad. Perhaps God allowed this FedEx annoyance to test whether I really trusted the words of Matthew Chapter 6 verses 25-27. I have been especially convicted by Jesus’s rhetorical question of “Is not life more important than food?” When the soup couldn’t be delivered, throwing a curveball into my perfect food plan for the trip, and then again a few weeks later when my sister made reservations for a restaurant with a fixed five-course dinner as opposed to the traditional a la carte menu, I flipped out on my parents, pleading with them to no avail to just let me stay home! I would pay them the flight cancellation fee! I was perfectly fine with missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Hamilton in New York City, not to mention rare time with the entire family, to not have to deal with my anxiety about food. But over the past month, and especially this past week, I sense God has been trying to tell me that my response to this anxiety, and the anger I am going to talk about next has been ridiculous. I am sorry lord that I have wasted so much precious time on these self-centered, petty views on life leading up to this trip, but also on past similar situations in my life. But from this point forward, I am going to strive to behave better.
My anger has come from just thinking about the degree to which I will be on-leash that whole week. Since I will be missing work that Friday and only work three days a week as it is, I felt a moral obligation to work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I know I used to work full-time, but now that I have gotten used to having every other day off, the prospect of working three days in a row is exhausting. Then, my mom is the type that likes to squeeze every last minute possible out of trips, arguing that it costs so much to get there, we should make the most of it. If she had her way, we would have taken the last possible flight home Sunday night, dragging the bare essentials into the house and crashing into bed at midnight. Getting up for work the next day would be a struggle, but sometimes, in her opinion, it’s worth it to get the most out of a vacation. If I could have my way, we would fly home Saturday afternoon, and have a pleasant Sunday at home where we could go to church, relax and unpack before going back to work the next morning. My dad the peacemaker got Mom and I to compromise, although to me it is still a compromise that favors Mom more than me. We are taking the second-to-last flight home Sunday, and if this flight is not delayed, we should get home at 7:15, so I will have a little bit of time to unwind before going to bed, but not much. Even as I recognize the need to repent from this self-centered thinking, it still infuriates me to know that my brother who is a lot like me when it comes to travel, will be flying home Saturday because he lives on his own and doesn’t have a disability that makes navigating airports and getting home from the airport independently impossible. Sure, I could make arrangements with the airline to help me, and I have friends that even said they would be happy to pick me up from the airport when I vented to them, but even I recognized that imposing on my friends like that, and working out the logistics of requesting assistance from the airline just to get home a day earlier was a bit ridiculous. That’s not even mentioning that airline fare to New York is more expensive than I realized. If I was going to rebel against my parents and fly myself home early, I would have to pay for it, and did I really want to spend $420, which is more than I earn in a week, to get home one day sooner when I was blessed to have parents that were paying for everything on this trip? But even though I knew intellectually that I was being ridiculous, I couldn’t help being angry.
One day in my young adult bible study, we were talking about how to think about life from an eternal perspective, and one person mentioned how she hated doing dishes, but would motivate herself to do them by reminding herself, “if Jesus could suffer on the cross for me, I can do the dishes. I loved this insight. For a couple weeks, I was able to dissolve my bitterness by reminding myself that since Christ sacrificed his life for me, I can sacrifice one weekend for my family. But before long, my irrational anger overrode this beautiful insight. But then on Saturday March 2, when my mom and I attended an annual women’s conference at our church, I was really convicted when one of the speakers talked about how many Christians profess to love Jesus, enjoy praying the prayers and singing the songs, but their lives aren’t really transformed. This was exactly my problem! I love singing worship songs, and when I watch the news, or even if I am just having a difficult day at work, it is extremely comforting to know that God is ultimately in control, and someday, everything will be made right by the restoration. But the bible makes it clear that if we want to enjoy the reward of the restoration, we must live like Christ, and living like Christ requires loving one another. The book of 1 John 4:20 says, “if anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” And as Jesus demonstrated to the extreme, part of loving others is making sacrifices, putting others first as opposed to living according to the worldly me first mind-set. And sacrificing for others has never been something I did with a happy heart. Not when I was a child, dragged to all my older siblings’ volleyball and basketball tournaments, not when several times over the last few years, Mom has asked me to give up an occasional weekend to come to Indiana with her so she wouldn’t have to drive the six hours each way all by herself, not even when my grandma’s 100-year-old sister came to visit Grandma last summer and wanted me to stop by and visit. Why didn’t my other siblings have to give up their Saturday afternoon to visit? I fumed. The fact that they lived far away wasn’t an acceptable excuse. I felt a little guilty for this attitude when Mom pointed out that this aunt sent me presents when I was going through my brain tumor as a baby, and I would feel a little bit of guilt when my mom would leave for the drive to Indiana all by herself. But this guilt was no match for my bitterness at still being roped into things I didn’t want to do just like when I was a child, while my siblings lived merrily on their own. But it so happened that the topic in last week’s bible study was Matthew Chapter 18, where Jesus says that we must become like a child to enter the kingdom of God, and in our small group discussion, we talked about how this does not mean acting like a child, which I have been doing with the tantrums in my mind. Becoming like a child means having the open-minded faith of a child, and living a life of humility and surrender. I never quite understood what the abstract-sounding phrase of surrender to God meant in practical terms, but that day it occurred to me that maybe it means just as we must show our love to God whom we do not see by loving our brother whom we can see, surrendering to God simply means surrendering to others, sacrificing your preferences every once in a while for the benefit of others.
After hearing the speaker at the women’s conference, God brought to mind a chapter from The Purpose-Driven Life which I read in high school, but clearly need to read again. In this book, Rick Warren points out that life is a test. God continually tests us to determine our commitment to him. And just like those computerized exams that re-phrase questions answered incorrectly, God gives me this test of my willingness to sacrifice a weekend here and there, again and again. I really want to start doing better on this test because while weekends spent just chilling around the house with no demands being made of me are wonderful, I cannot think of a scenario more devastating than losing out on the eternal rewards of the restoration because I wouldn’t sacrifice just a few short weekends for others in the here and now. On that note, my goal for this upcoming trip is no pouting when the family wants to do an activity or eat at a restaurant I don’t like, and no pouting or mental pity parties when my brother says goodbye and heads back home Saturday. To help with that, I will try and remember to say a prayer when I feel myself starting to get upset. I will also try to keep in mind an awesome talk I heard from Alastair Begg that I heard on Family Radio while writing about the position with the organization for the blind. It so happens this talk was also titled Becoming Children of God. In this talk, Alistair Begg refers to Philippians 2:14 which says, “do everything without complaining or arguing.” To illustrate this, Alistair talked about how he used to get so ticked off as a kid when he would grumble about being asked to do something like take the garbage out, and his father would sing a Scottish song that went, “come leave your house on Grumble Street and move to Sunshine Square.” Like me, in his anger he wanted to tell his father what to do with Sunshine Square, but with maturity, he appreciated the message of this song. Nothing good comes from arguing and complaining, and even in the most menial chores, there are blessings that can be appreciated if you look for them. While taking the garbage out, he could appreciate that his legs work, or even that the garbage can has wheels on it. So that is what I am going to try to do on this trip and on future trips, look for the blessings. If I feel myself about to grumble, I can appreciate that I have a family who loves me unconditionally when there are so many orphans, and people living in hostile or abusive families. I can appreciate the fact that I am healthy enough to travel when there are many people who long for a vacation like this but are too frail or disabled to travel. I can be grateful that we have the money to take vacations now and then when for many people in poverty, getting the chance to travel to New York City is only a dream. I can even be grateful that I work part-time, so if the flight home is delayed and I am exhausted Monday morning, I only have to get through one day of work and then I can rest on Tuesday.
My parents want me to view the trip as a fun experience, and look forward to it like a normal person, and I honestly am the closer it gets. The nature of anxiety is that the anticipation of something is way worse than the event actually turns out to be. But if all else fails and things just aren’t going well and I cannot find my way to Sunshine Square, I will do my best to pray and “fake it ’til I make it” and consider it a sacrifice that will pay off come the restoration.