It’s a good thing he stood out of arm’s reach. Otherwise I would’ve slugged him.

“Dairy,” the doctor said, matter of fact. “Your body isn’t able to handle dairy. You’ll need to cut it out of your diet.”

This wasn’t the slugging part. Still.

What about the cheese and  yogurt I eat every single day? Not to mention the butter. Smoothies. The cream-based pasta sauces. And the ice cream. Oh, sweet Blue Bell, the mother of all ice creams.

“Dairy? Are you sure?” He must be mistaken.

He assured me he was not.

But here’s the deal. I’d made the appointment because of his professional expertise, to get his advice about some pesky health challenges and the chronic pain that just wouldn’t let me go. I was tired of hurting, desperate for a solution.

So I gulped, agreed to commit for two full months. And immediately craved a fat hunk of sharp Wisconsin cheddar.

Little did I know it was about to get worse. Much worse.

He did one more test, and when I saw his face scrunch up I knew he’d found more bad news.

Please, oh please! Not chocolate!

“Coffee.”

Whaaaaaa?!?!?!

“Yes, sorry. Coffee is a problem.”

No, it is NOT a problem.

He continued, oblivious to the violence in my eyes. “Your body doesn’t like coffee. You’ll need to give that up, too.”

Noooooooooooo! 

And that’s when I nearly slugged him. You don’t tell a weary, working mama of six kids (who is in the middle of writing two books) that she can’t drink coffee. Unless you have a death wish.

I looked at him, incredulous, waiting for the punch line. Instead, he wrote his “doctor’s orders” in black ink on a prescription sheet.

Holy sweet-and-smoky dark roast. This is the beginning of the end.

That morning’s cup had been my last. If I would’ve known, I would’ve downed the entire pot. Maybe made a second. Instead, I sipped it (with cream) like I had every morning for most of my life.

No more.

So I drove home, stuffed my nose deep into a bag of Starbucks Cafe Verona coffee beans, and very nearly cried.

Those first couple of weeks were brutal. Eliminating both dairy and coffee from my diet left significant holes. How would I finish my book edits without my grande, non-fat, no-foam lattes? Or get up before dawn to make breakfast and lunches for a billion children? Or write my second book? Or DO ANYTHING AT ALL FOR THAT MATTER?!?! 

As it turns out, there is life on the other side of coffee. It’s been a full month now, and I didn’t, in fact, die (although there were a couple close calls). For the most part, I’ve adjusted. I still occasionally dream of a cheesy omelette or stick my nose in the bag of coffee beans. But, after all my whining and moaning, I discovered a secret:

Contentment isn’t merely resigning myself to what’s been lost. It’s savoring what I still have.

Rather than obsessing over dairy and coffee, I started listing all the foods I could still eat. Like apples and avocados. Roasted chicken. Strawberries. And chocolate. Turns out the list of what I have is far longer than the list of what I lost.

Hmmmm. The same could be said for the family that doesn’t look quite like I thought it would. And the children who haven’t quite turned out like I imagined. And the dreams unrealized and relationships undone.

This is our challenge, isn’t it? To day after day choose to savor what sits on our table rather than wish for what does not.

My friend, I know you’re deep in the middle of less-than-ideal circumstances, and you’ve suffered countless unfair losses. A friendship gone awry. A special needs child who needs more strength than you have to give. A job opportunity missed, a church or ministry or marriage in crisis. In each case, the losses are real and valid. Please hear me: Your losses are real and valid and worth every tear you shed.

But if you and I want to make peace with it, to find a measure of satisfaction even while nursing a gaping hole, we have to make a shift. To reach for what we still have, the goodness and riches that are still within our grasp.

To see the feast even when facing a famine.

Do you need to make peace with a loss? How could a shift in focus help? 

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