Every year growing up I looked forward to one big event—The Carr Family Reunion. This was the time when relatives I didn’t even know I had gathered at the most beautiful country church I have ever seen, Perche Baptist Church, near Clark, Mo.

I wish I could say I enjoyed gathering with my family every year because of the companionship. I have an awesome family, but sadly I came for the food. More on that in a bit.

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Perche Church has beautiful stained glass windows. Here Dad and my sister, Renee, rehearse for her wedding which was held there.

The reunion was always held the second Sunday in September. It began with many family members attending the little un-air conditioned church, stained glass windows open to the fields and cemetery, filled with many of my ancestors, surrounding it.

As a kid I remember sliding across the pews and feeling the smooth feel of oak on my bare legs, because of course I was wearing a dress. I was fascinated by the cardboard fans with wooden sticks. I would fan my Grandma Dene during the sermon or the program afterwards.

After church and lunch, the children would put on a talent show. I even played my trumpet one year. I was a horrible trumpet player but every adult there told me what a great job I did. It only served to make me believe my family would support anything I did no matter how bad I was.

Then the reunion president gave little prizes for the one who came the longest distance, the one with the most family members, etc. My grandma, who was well past 70, usually won for the one with the most family members because, well, there were a bunch of us and we all lived close enough to come.

One year, Uncle Sam, who was a real clown, was sitting near her when she got the prize. It was a round rather thin shaped object. She turned it over and over before opening  it and said with a serious expression on her face, “I wonder what this could be?”

Uncle Sam leaned over to her and said loud enough for all to hear, “It’s birth control pills, Dene!” She laughed so hard I thought she’d never stop. I don’t remember what it was, but it certainly wasn’t that.


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Perche Baptist Church, on Route F near Clark, MO.

Although the program was the end of the day, it wasn’t what I came for. I came for the meal. My family members were by far the world’s best cooks.

I won’t list the fare because you would begin salivating and that is not good for someone trying to stick to a healthy eating plan.

I will just say I had some aunts who baked for a living. Others who were known as the community’s best in their particular specialty. The main ingredients in most everything was flour and sugar.

I never saw a green salad or fresh fruit on the table at one of these events. There was plain meat, such as turkey, but many times other meats included extra sauces or gravies.

I don’t fault my family for their culinary masterpieces. They all were either farmers or from farm backgrounds. My grandfather worked from sun up to sundown most every day of his life.

If he wasn’t doing something with livestock or crops, he was at his desk filling in his ledgers. My grandmother cooked hearty meals to make sure he had the nourishment he needed.

I, however, didn’t do the kind of work my grandpa did nor did many of the younger generation. Times have changed since the main occupation was hard labor. Still even back in times past individuals did not consume as much sugar as they do today.

“Two hundred years ago, the average American ate only two pounds of sugar a year. In 1970 we ate 123 pounds of sugar per year. Today the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar in one year. This is equal to three pounds of sugar consumed in one week,” according to the New Hampshire Department Health and Human Services,

Included in types of sugars listed are high fructose corn syrup, con syrup, sorbitol, corn sweetener, sucrose, brown sugar, dextrose and regular sugar.

Part of the issue these days is the amount of sweeteners added to processed foods. We think it enhances the flavor however in some cases it is just what we have become used to.

Growing up I definitely preferred, actually craved anything with sugar. The sweeter the better. Now that I have been sugar-free for three years, any time I accidentally taste something with a lot of sugar, it repulses me.

It’s taken me 60 years, but I finally know what squash, artichoke, avocado, strawberry or even a real green bean tastes like. I enjoy a good salad with red onions and grilled chicken, steak or shrimp.

If the Carr Reunion was still in existence today, I would attend for the beauty of the church, the joy of talking with family members, the laughter, the songs and the prizes. I’d love it if all my relatives who are no longer here could join us again just for the second Sunday in September. Uncle Sam would have to be there to harass Grandma.

I’d go just to hug every one of my family members once again. I’d go because I love being alive. I’d go because I would hope that joy of living would be contagious.

I’d go to bring a healthy green salad, a good fruit salad with lots of strawberries and some grilled chicken breasts. I’d go to let them know I have changed now. I no longer live just to eat. I eat so I can live longer.

They would immediately notice I have changed a great deal from even the 1980s when the reunion was going strong.

I’d go just to answer questions about how I lost weight and what I did to make that happen. I’d go to let them know surrendering what you crave can make such a difference in the quality of the life you live.

Because it can you know. What I wouldn’t give for my relatives to be here today. Could eating healthier have lengthened the days they were here with us?

Perhaps not. Many were elderly when they passed on.

However, I know this for certain, it can and will lengthen your days and make your quality so much better.

Because I’d like to be sure you make it to your family reunion for many more years to come.


Teresa Shields Parker
Teresa Shields Parker is a Christian weight loss author, coach and speaker, who has lost more than 250 pounds. Her book, "Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God's Favor", is the number 1 Christian Weight Loss Memoir on Amazon. Her other books include: "Sweet Journey to Transformation: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Live Healthy", "Sweet Freedom: Losing Weight and Keeping It Off With God's Help", "Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation" and "Sweet Hunger: Developing an Appetite for God".

She also offers Overcomers Christian Weight Loss Academy and VIP one-on-one coaching program, both available under the weight loss tab. To book Teresa for your next event, check the Speaking tab on her website. Also check out her blog and Sweet Grace for Your Journey podcast under the tabs by those names.