Saying Grace 04: My Dad's Intervention

It was one year ago today we did an intervention on my dad.

Just day's before, we got the call from an innocent bystander who found him incoherent at a truck stop in middle-of-nowhere Arizona. My dad had been driving his truck and fifth-wheel, drunk, and literally lost his way...as well as all consciousness.

When the ambulance arrived, his blood alcohol count alone should have taken his life. Worse, his ongoing reckless behavior could have cost someone their life. But by the grace of God, my dad was spared and our biggest fear of him putting someone else's life in jeopardy was temporarily at rest.

In the days that followed, my dad was airlifted to Phoenix to receive treatment. Having had a triple bypass surgery barely a year before, years of poorly-managed type 2 diabetes and associated nerve damage, plus increasing signs and symptoms of wernicke korsakoff syndrome, we knew we had to make this hospital admission count.

We had to get him help.

My brother had flown into Houston for our birthday weekend just hours before we got the call from this kind stranger in Arizona. No sooner than my dad being air-lifted away, my brother was on the next plane out to go begin analyzing what our next steps were. Within 48 hours, I had childcare figured out and I was on my way to meet my brother and my dad in Arizona. I couldn't leave my brother alone for what we knew was to come.

After multiple attempts over the years to get my dad help for his alcohol addiction through means like meditation and hypnosis, support through organizations like AA, and even inpatient rehab during my senior year of high school, this was it.

My brother and I, alone with a social worker, had to say enough was enough. We scheduled an intervention to face my dad's disease head on.

No longer could we let my dad destroy his own life while putting others in such danger. The stress we felt on a daily basis over where he was, his condition, and what care (if any) he was taking for himself was more challenging than raising two small children. Our hearts had been tormented by his disease since the day our parents divorced and our eyes were first awakened to the depth of his alcoholism. He had nearly ruined our lives on numerous accounts and was too close to doing so completely with his.

Yet somehow, in the weeks before all this happened, the Holy Spirit had been prompting me to pray for my dad. I wasn't sure exactly why at the time other. I had prayed to forgive him, to love him, and to find ways to try and help him so many times before, but this time was different. I felt God leading me to a verse for my dad that I wrestled with greatly in the weeks leading up to this event and ultimately, the intervention:

"I praise you God because he (my dad) is fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:14

As soon as the severity of this all started to set in, how grateful I was for these words. This Truth. The perspective of God's love for a man that I had such jaded lenses to see in such a way. Beautifully and wonderfully made were never words I would have used to describe my dad after years upon years of hurt and destruction set in. But in what became his final year of life, how thankful I am for God's goodness to provide His Truth and the lens of His love for my earthly father in such a time as this.

On my red-eye flight to Phoenix, I was able to reflect on this Scripture as the basis for what God led me to say at the intervention. Amidst many tears and tangents, I tried to share God's love again with my dad, someone who had repeatedly denied God and yet so desperately needed a Savior.


Dad,

I don't know the words to say to you. My heart breaks even thinking about having this intervention and yet the thought of losing you altogether hurts tremendously worse.

I don't know how Jon and I can keep letting you live like this though. This is not freedom. This is not the retirement you dreamed of nor the life you should desire for yourself. You are shackled to your sin and it is slowly but surely, killing you. I can't stand to see this go on any longer.

Over the years, I feel like I have done everything I can do for you. I have tried to physically, emotionally, and spiritually help you and yet you continue to refuse to help yourself. I can't help but wonder - is this what you want your story to be? Is this truly how little you value your self worth?

That's why I am going to take this minute to get real and be honest with you about something.

You may have heart disease, vascular disease, type 2 diabetes, wernicke-korsakoff syndrome, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cirrhosis. Yet even with your heart, arteries, pancreas, brain, kidneys, cells, and liver all on their last leg, still God declares you beautifully and wonderfully made. And if God declares this about you, his son Jeff who has still not yet accepted His Son Jesus, I will too fight for you and declare you as beautifully and wonderfully made. Even in as ugly as a moment as this.

The irony is Dad, I have been praying for you over the past few weeks before any of this even happened. In doing so, this verse in Psalm 139 is what God put clearly on my heart about you. I have been meditating on why this was what Truth God impressed upon me towards you. All I can keep coming back to is this verse. I don't consider it coincidence that days before you made some of your dumbest choices to date, God still spoke to me of your value.

This is not your value because of what you've done, Dad, but because of who He is. This value is not because of who you are, Dad, but because of what He's done. I could count 1,000 of your mistakes. I am so tempted to keep a record of all the times you've wronged me, my brother, my mom, our extended family, friends, and put the public in harms way. My natural instinct is to do so and to just let you suffer the consequences of the repeatedly poor choices you have made. And yet every time I pray, I continue to come back to this:

You are fearfully and wonderfully made, Dad.

Maybe not in my eyes at this moment, but in the eyes of the Creator of the Universe. Maybe not in your eyes after years of abuse, but in the eyes of the One who formed your inmost being. So if this is true, which I fully believe it is, I will put all trust, all hope, and all faith into fervently believing this about you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, Dad.

Jesus says that even one lost sheep is worth looking for. Worth fighting for. Worth rejoicing over when that lost sheep returns. Let this be you, Dad.

I hope you will see how you have been looked after, fought for, and can be rejoiced over with a change in your heart and a change your ways. I hope you will stop destroying not only your life, but also those around you as well. I hope you will see that this is your chance to receive God's grace as your unmerited favor. I hope you will receive the opportunity to turn things around, starting today.

While I have so many wrongs I want to pin on you in my flesh, I know with deep and convicting faith that the price for all the pain you have caused as already been paid. Jesus paid the price for you. He assumed that huge price I so feel you deserve to have to pay. In doing so, he also declares that while we were STILL sinners, he stood in our place to pay that price - not just for you but also for me. Whether you are living amidst your sin now Dad or already have received His unmerited favor as I have Dad, we both need Jesus. We need His grace. We need His favor. We need His freedom from sins that so deeply shackle us. We can both start living in light of this today.

Because I have faith in a God who does give this kind of grace, favor, and freedom Dad, it is my duty to bear witness to it. I sit here before you to say, I believe you are fearfully and wonderfully made Dad. I believe you are worth receiving God's grace. I believe God's unmerited favor is as much for you as it is for me. I surrender all list of wrongs I have pridefully pinned on you under the same forgiveness I too need and know in Christ. For if I am commanded to not only love my God but also to love my neighbor, I can't help but be humbled enough to ask myself:

How much more am I to love my earthly dad?

You are hard to love sometimes, Dad. Really hard to love. But you are worth fighting for. And even if you choose to give up on yourself, I am not giving up on you. I am fighting for you. I am declaring your fearfully and wonderfully made until the day God welcomes you home. I just hope and pray that you will receive His grace and go from your old ways so someday, you can go home and find peace with Him in Heaven. Choose to believe this about yourself, Dad:

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Please choose to believe this.


There is no doubt this is a personal topic, likely the most personal one I have shared to date. To most, this is also something that should be kept very private. Please know that I share this after much prayer and consideration though. For whatever reason, I feel God calling me to share these deep, desperate prayers in hopes that they may help even one hurting person. Alcoholism and its affects on a family can be an isolating, overwhelming, and unbearable to deal with. But as I begin to sort through all of the emotions, the hurts, the heartaches, and the hardships of losing my dad this last year, I need to shed light on where God is still good and how He still has always showed up. I don't want to bring shame to my dad nor to our family, but also I don't want to fail to give glory to God for the love He has for each of us, including those who at times can appear or act like "the least of these."

If you ever need someone to listen, talk to, ask about the Christian faith, or pray for you (or a loved one), I am here. My inbox is always open: ashley@veggiesandvirtue.com.

Saying Grace 03: Well-Watered and Why We Named Our Daughter Brooke

It has officially been one year since the desire to "Say Grace" was put on my heart.

I'll admit, I still am not really sure why I am making public an area of my life that so many feel should be left private (my faith), especially on a professional website that centers mostly around another more PC-area of our lives like food.

All I know is that this is an undeniable area God has led me to step out in boldness to include as part of the Veggies & Virtue platform. I know it may not be for all of you, and I am okay with that.

But I still have to surrender to that nudging of the Holy Spirit.

Otherwise, I know I will forever wonder why He laid this on my heart.

So I hope you'll either excuse or embrace what comes for this Saying Grace series. 

 


I know we are at the one year mark of my initial nudging to write posts for this series because it was through the birth of Brooke that God first led me to put to words what was on my heart. Not so much as a dietitian, but also as a mom.

Brooke

Brooke is a family name on my husband's side. As a third generation family business owner, Brooks was the last name of my husband's grandmother - the founding matriarch behind their business. This was a name contender my husband mentioned with our first daughter, but I quickly shot it down.

While I didn't hate the name Brooke, it definitely wasn't my favorite name while pregnant with either daughter. But as we wrote out lists and lists of name options, I just kept asking the Lord for peace. Peace about the name HE had chosen for our daughter. My indecisive nature felt we may never settle on one and if we did, I was afraid we would do just that: settle.

I wanted our precious baby girl to be named intentionally, with a tribute to family, a life verse or purpose implied, and in a way that could and would honor God to others (whether obviously or when explained). This list of "wants" made me weed through several options with few ever fitting the bill.

Then one day during my quiet time at around 33 weeks, I read these verses in Psalm chapter 1 and it just clicked:

"Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers."

 

The word Brooke means, "a small stream," "water," and one definition even explains it as, "lives by the stream."

In the moment that I read these verses, I had an overwhelming peace.

Our daughter would intentionally be named, Brooke.

Her name would be a tribute to her great-grandmother, honoring great-grandma Brooks for being a leader, visionary, and provider for generations to come.

Her life purpose would grow forth from these life verses in Psalm 1:1-3.

Her name would be a daily reminder to myself and others to be well-watered in His word, the Living Water.

I knew God was preparing my heart to not just welcome a new child, but a new way of life, one that was well-watered.

 

Well-Watered

What I originally created as a series titled "Well-Watered" (on my old site), has now become this which is called, "Saying Grace." At the root of it all (pun intended), was not just a fading desire but a dire need to myself near spiritual water sources, or brooks.

In life, in marriage, and especially in motherhood, God kept bringing me back to this concept during my pregnancy with Brooke. I had been feeling this sense of being parched - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I would "run on empty" and then "take a drink" so to speak. The problem was, I never felt "well-watered." I knew my ability to carry out my growing maternal role, marriage relationship, professional aspirations, and other commitments were greatly being compromised by such a parched heart.

So I began to consider, what if I walked, I stood, and I sat not amidst the Godless things of this world that exhaust and deplete, but rather near the water source of His word that refill and rejuvenate? What if where I found my delight truly was in Him? What if what occupied my mind and mental space was His word?

Then what would my life and legacy look like?

Saying Grace

My life would begin to be like a tree planted by the water. I would bear fruit. I would be able to exude love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control on those around me, most commonly being my young daughters. Rather than "havnig nothing to pour out," I would be able to pour out abundantly on those God had entrusted to me. I needed to have no fear of a second child, a growing career, nor the decades of what ifs ahead. I would have roots in a watering system that would never run dry: His word.

I was far from being well-watered a year ago. Reflecting now, I know it still doesn't look like this to the extend I aim. But what I so loved in this uber-pregnant point of waiting for Brooke's arrival was how God revealed to me such beautiful plans through this sweet baby for what is to become my legacy. While I wish all that the name "Brooke" encompasses to be true for her, my heart has also been opened to what kind of life this means I am to live out on her behalf.

Just as we raise our child to eat healthfully, have manners, and help out in family affairs, I know that teaching my daughters to Say Grace is yet another aspect that is not just taught, but caught.

I want my legacy to demonstrate to our daughters what it means to be rooted in Christ. I want my legacy to prove that where we plant ourselves and what we drink from matters. I want my legacy to remind my girls not of how draining life's messes and motherhood can be, but how to stay unweathered in the face of dry seasons. I want my legacy to be one that is fruitful and finds purpose in pouring out on others. I want my legacy to remind my daughters that even before them, it was in Jesus I found my utmost delight.

 

Happy first Birthday, Baby Girl.

So today, I say grace and thank God for the life of this precious daughter of mine. More so, I thank God for using her and her name to daily instruct me, encourage me, and inspire me to Say Grace and stay well-watered.

 

 

Saying Grace 02: For the Formula Feeding Mom

This is a post I think needs to be written to all you moms out there with infants.

Within mom groups, I see so often the struggle many of us share with breastfeeding. While many of us envisioned it would be this beautiful bonding experience with our baby, we have found ourselves struggling with something that was supposed to be so “natural.”

We talk rather openly about the struggle of low milk supply, infants who won’t latch despite lactation help, challenges with tongue and lip ties, the agony of bleeding nipples, the stress of exclusive pumping, and how to make breastfeeding a manageable part of life for both the stay-at-home or work-away-from-home mom.

This support and the ideas generated always inspires me to the power of community, especially among moms.

I love how much these online mom threads often give moms a second wind to keep at it with breastfeeding. The conversations are so honest and encouraging, helping others to consider attempting new approaches and renew hope in something they maybe haven't tried yet.

What concerns me however, is what is left unspoken: the topic of introducing formula when your breastmilk just isn’t enough.

Rarely do I ever see moms openly ask about what formula to use in such forums. While I would like to think it is because everyone exclusively breastfeeds for their infant’s first year, I know better.

I know because I have been in those shoes, twice now.

No mom wants to admit that they aren't giving their baby the best, as in "breast is best." Even those unable to nurse may have exhausted all options of exclusive pumping, only to still realize their dream of this nourishing, natural experience with their infant to be totally unrealistic and inadequate.

I can relate.

With our first daughter, I wound up with reoccurring high-grade fevers turned mastitis turned antibiotic-resistant abscess turned I&D surgery turned toting around a wound vac with breastmilk oozing out of the wound while chasing a newly mobile 10 month old. When my breast specialist doctor told me it was either put myself at risk for reoccuring staph infections or no longer proceed with breast-feeding, yes - it was a no brainer. I had to quit.

With our second daughter, I faced a hormonal roller coaster postpartum that made me reconsider what was truly healthier: a sane, stable mom or an extra month of breastmilk. After trying to pray my way out of it for months, hoping the anxiety would get better versus worse, and eventually visiting with my OB about it all, I knew what my answer again needed to be: I had to quit.

That meant with both daughters, I fell short though.

Despite exclusively pumping and a deep freezer full of breast milk, I didn’t have enough to carry us until one year with either child. Realizing that and calculating the quantity of breastmilk stored oh SO many times, I had been deeply hopeful. But I knew we would still. be. short.

And that feeling sucks.

As an advocate for breastfeeding, I so wanted for my girls to be breastfed, and if unable to breastfeed (i.e. nurse, which neither of my girls could do successfully), I was still committed to giving them breastmilk no matter the cost to me.

But as life happened and my health took very different turns for the worse after each pregnancy, I too faced the dilemma that many moms face:

Do I keep breastfeeding? Or do I quit?

So around nine months with each girl, I quit.

Thankfully, we had about 2-3 months of frozen breastmilk stored up for each daughter. But even still, the decision was hard. It felt like failure. And most of all, it made my pride face it's greatest fear:

That I would still be a good mom even if I came up short.

Y'all, even typing that now with the time that has passed for me to process this still feels hard. Admitting, "I quit" and putting that period at the end of the sentence hurts. Remembering that range of emotions was rough. I wanted to be proud of myself for how long we had made it exclusively pumping. Yet, it was my pride that just couldn't fathom using formula in public.

So I remained largely quiet and private about it. I didn't ask my own questions. I didn't vocalize my own concerns. I didn't publicize my own choice.

In the shadows of every "breast is best" advocate out there, I sat in the shame that I had quit.

What I would assume is, so have some of you.

So instead of sharing all the "natural," "beautiful," or "bonding" aspects of breastfeeding when formula enters your reality, let's create a forum of support rather than shame.

For whatever reason you fell short, it is okay.

For whatever reason you quit, you are still more than enough.

For whatever questions you are keeping in the shadows, let them be brought to light.

 

I want to be a pediatric dietitian that encourages each family to consider breastmilk first and foremost. I want to be both a health practitioner and parent that provides families with the right tools and personally-tried tricks to help you breastfeed as long as it is mutually beneficial to you and your baby to do so.

However as a mom of two who knows firsthand how real that struggle to breastfeed can be, I too want to address the topic of infant formula in a shame-free and supportive way. That's why this post on What is the Best Infant Formula? will help get you thinking a bit about your options. This post also includes a FREE What I Buy and Why Guide on Infant Formula as a download every mom needs in her back pocket...just in case breastfeeding doesn't work out.

Starting to Say Grace

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This series has been on my heart for a while now.

From the daily messes of motherhood to the seasons in life that really just rock you to your core, I can’t help but want to shine a little light on our reality:

There is a lot of life that isn’t served up in a bento box nor happening as intended on our meal plans.

While those are the areas I am passionate about professionally, I can’t pass up the opportunity to also provide a human element here too. I think our health demands it. There is no meal that affords us the deep-down health benefits of time spent sitting across the table from a true friend. Even if you and I have just met, I hope you may find that a small piece of my story encourages you in yours.

I understand this segment of Veggies & Virtue goes outside the norm. It stretches to those secret corners of life that social media rarely shares. It touches on topics of faith and family in a way that most would consider unrelated to food. It is more transparent than polished and gives testimony to life being about a process over perfection. I know some aren't used to "saying grace" in a traditional, Christian sense, but I think there is still something we all share: the human element of health.

 

My hope is “Saying Grace” will be a small spot on my site that reminds us to:

  • Take those few minutes before a meal to slow down
  • Bow our heads
  • Bring ourselves into a vulnerable state where we speak Truth over today
  • Say thanks, even if for nothing beyond the blessing of the food in front of us
  • Show our kids how to choose gratitude over grumbling
  • Find strength to finish off the day
  • Put ourselves amidst those we love and in front of the One who loves us more than anyone

 

Just as meal times can be messy, full of mistakes, unpredictable emotional outbursts, and with uncertain outcomes, life can look this way too.

What a difference it makes when we stop to first say grace.

 

I’m starting today. I hope you’ll join me and find a bit of encouragement as you do.