“In the first week of the Honey Project, the way I tried to explain the fast to my friend Cora was in the language of hardy greens. “If it were up to me to cram God into a flavor,” I told her, “I would’ve picked something like asparagus.” God is sturdy and good for a person–that’s how this metaphor worked itself out. God should be the source of energy and strength. It would make sense that parents would feed God to their kids, that people would tell their friends about him. Asparagus, I told Cora. The obvious problem being, earlier that day I had been pining for saltwater taffy and peanut M&M’s, not vegetable stalks.” [pg.55]
Several years ago I sat on a padded pew in a cozy old church listening to a children’s message about honey. The pastor quoted Psalm 119:103: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Reaching for a nearby basket, she pulled sticks of honey from our local farmer’s market, distributing them around the tight circle of criss-crossed legs and outstretched hands. Pausing, she asked the kids, “Do you really think you could view God’s Word as being sweeter than honey?”
This, essentially, is the question that Lisa Velthouse poses in her lovely sophomore debut, Craving Grace. Building from her experience during a six month fast from sugar, Lisa draws us in and out of seasons, building chapters in the present and then taking us back through time to pull back the curtain on her life. Lisa shares that after having written her first book Saving My First Kiss years earlier, her faith had been reduced to things she either did or did not do. It had been become a rubric comprised of shallow duties. Obligations. God was a distant scorekeeper rather than the loving, grace-filled God some claimed him to be. Could faith be about more than just “doing it all right?” Could it actually be sweet?
The sugar fast, which she named The Honey Project, was the new beginning she was hoping for. The months she spent munching carrots and steaming broccoli showed how quickly we all are to accept counterfeits in our lives. How quickly we settle for cheap imitations rather than holding out for God’s best. She is loved painfully well by a community of friends who invite her to live with them–rent free–while she works on financial goals and writes. She experiences the acceptance of her friend and spiritual mentor after she loses sight of her own commitments the night of her sister’s wedding. She soaks up the generosity of strangers on an airport shuttle and eats food grown and prepared in loving friendship.
This kind of grace–these unspeakable moments of wonder–filled Lisa with the awe that comes when we feel so well-loved and at the same time, so dreadfully undeserving. How could God pour out this kind of grace on any of us? And how, Lisa wonders, could he pour it out on her after falling so short? That, of course, is just the beauty and mystery of grace.
Lisa’s memoir, published by Salt River/Tyndale, is a beautifully written, often humorous, thought-provoking book that will have you turning pages and dog-earing them for further reflection. Her insight and delicate balance between Scripture, Biblical history* and personal story is spot-on; her word poetry, stunning.
Craving Grace is a wonderfully honest look at what it really means to beg for God to show up as more than a Sunday patriarch. It pleads, in its transparency, for us all to desire God more fully and crave his grace with urgency. It demands, upon reading, that we examine our faith and ask hard questions about what it looks like to love and extend grace and live with purpose. It asks us to be truthful with the question, “What am I craving?” And it invites us to answer with boldness and certainty: It is you, God. It is your grace.
For more information about Lisa or Craving Grace, visit Lisa’s website: www.lisavelthouse.com. Many thanks to Lisa for the invitation to review this book, and to Tyndale for furnishing my copy.
* [I found the Only Brotherly chapter to be fascinating]