On Fasting When You Have to Eat

Thursday, January 16, 2014  ::   3 important comments

This is Second Mile's tenth annual week of prayer and fasting. I know it is cliche to say, but I really can't believe we've been doing this for ten years. It blows my mind just a little. The act of gathering as a church with one heart and mind to start the year praying through the same topics and fasting from a variety of pleasures bonds us, strengthens us, and challenges us.

Through the years I've fasted for different lengths of time from food. One year I skipped the internet for the week, but decided it didn't draw me closer to Jesus in the end. For me, fasting from food forces me to experience emptying myself and relying on Jesus in mysterious ways. The clarity and worship not eating brings to my heart, mind, and soul lifts me up. Therefore, last year when people who love and care for me brought up the fact that I should probably eat during our special week because of the health issues I was facing, I felt crushed and left out. In God's mercy and omniscience, I learned to engage in the week in different ways and I grew in compassion and understanding for those who cannot fast for a variety of reasons.

The excitement for this year's week of prayer and fasting has been building in my heart for months. Go big or go home, right? Since I didn't fast from food for the week last year, I figured I could just go ahead and fast a few days longer than the week this year. To be clear, my motives were not to make up for lost time, but to celebrate the healing that's taken place in my body and to rush into the presence of God. However, my sweet, loving husband who does more than I could ever explain to take care of me, especially since I don't often take care of myself, sat me down a couple of weeks ago to gently bring up the fact that I'm taking blood thinners, that fasting from food may not be the best option considering the potency of the medication, and that I should do some research. If you know me, you know I was instantly in the state of "Whatever! I will deny myself food if I want to!" That's kind of an ironic statement of rebellion if you think about it.

Long story short, Chad was right. Shocker. He's right most of the time. I love it and it drives me crazy. I can rely on him completely, but I can rarely win a debate on details and logistics. Again, if you know me, you're laughing at me debating details and logistics. Let's just say those two words do not translate well in my view of the world.

I'm writing this little blog post for those of you who may be thinking and wondering about how fasting pertains to you. Some of you are on medication, or are nursing babies, or take care of sweet littles and not eating could endanger them, or work in very stressful or strenuous jobs. We are all at different places in our lives. Important notice: This is not a blog post to give anyone an excuse to not fast from food if God is leading you in that direction. There are people in our church who have stressful jobs or take care of sweet littles that fast from food. You must run your own race! You must seek God in this area, ask him about fasting, and obey.

I'm letting you know what I will be doing for this year's fast to invite some of you to join me. I've taken some ideas I've found on the internet, as well as Jen Hatmaker's 7 book to come up with my own personal plan.

Starting soon, I will only be eating apples, chicken, broccoli, and brown rice, using minimal olive oil, sea salt, and pepper to cook the broccoli and chicken. My stomach needs something or my blood thinners will turn on my body. We don't want that. For me, I will be limiting my quantities for each meal, but if you choose to join me, you should check with your doctor about your necessary caloric intake.

Eating only these four foods for a week will force the issue of simplicity, which is important in fasting, will cause me discomfort, which comes with fasting, and will make eating about sustenance and not so much about pleasure, which food is almost always about pleasure for me.

If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or shoot me an email or Facebook message. I will promptly reply. What are your plans for fasting? What has been your experience in fasting and prayer? How can I help, encourage, and pray for you through this walk of obedience? 

Let me end this post with these important words:

Romans 14:17  
The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. 

Hebrews 3:12-13 
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of us has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the Living God, but encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that 
none of us may be hardened by sins deceitfulness. 

Hebrews 10:23  
Let us hold unswervingly to the HOPE we profess, 
for He who promised is faithful. 

Grace in Progress

Friday, January 10, 2014  ::   3 important comments

Pain is the stuff of learning. It either beckons you to your bed to hide, pushes you to the middle of the ring to fight, or forces you to your knees to surrender. It's easy for me to write all about the beauty and wonder of 2013, but when I look back I also see circumstances that caused me to hide or to fight and eventually, to surrender.

To read wistfully chipper blog posts, look at artfully crafted photos on Instagram, and see perfectly crafted confabulation in friends Facebook feeds often leads me down the ugly road of comparison. Many years ago a friend shared a story of well-respected women who became embittered toward each other because of comparison that led to competition. Ultimately, God brought sweet redemption through grace in teaching them to run their own race, to keep their gaze fixed on Him alone, to encourage one another in the race He had set before them.

If you've been around me at all, you will know this has become a life motto for me.

"RUN YOUR OWN RACE" percolates it's way through so many of my conversations, or teaching times, or admonishments to the women I'm allowed to lead. I say it to myself as a mantra whenever the green-eyed ugly sin monster of envy creeps its way into my heart.

Do you not know that in a race only one runner gets a prize? Run in such way as to get the prize.  1 Corinthians 9:23 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 

My last blog post was full of loveliness, wasn't it? So full of beauty, healing, and peace. Each story is true and full of hope and light and love. I'm thankful beyond thankful for each experience. The lump in my throat as I ponder each moment testifies to gratefulness that overwhelms me.

I summed it up to say the year left me feeling "more grounded, self-aware, reliant on Jesus." Because it was tied to the end of all that peaceful beauty, the implication was those sweet stories took me to that point.

Yes, they definitely had a hand in my feelings of peace and contentedness.

Yes, they definitely leave me in awe of God's continued grace to me through joyful circumstances.

Yes, they definitely speak to only half the story of what God has used in my life that sometimes makes me want to hide, fight, and hopefully, eventually, surrender.

Friends, His grace to me over this last year was also demonstrated through pain and heartache. So many of the lessons are still fresh and raw.

Through 2013 God gave me opportunity after opportunity to be more grounded in who He has made me to be, to stop trying to meet all the needs all the time, to know that He is a God who delights in kindness, justice, and righteousness on the earth. A forced sabbatical left me alone most days until September. To be alone with my thoughts, sin, and grief was terrifying much of the time. To see people around me still struggling and not be allowed to help caused me to question my identity like never before. To see people heal and grow without me caused me to question my value like never before. Through tears, prayer, and trust in His refining through fire, I grew to know that my grounding is in the Rock that is higher than I. 

My soul finds rest in God alone. My salvation comes from Him. He alone is my Rock and my Salvation. He is my Fortress. I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1-2 

Again, through God's grace, self-awareness came by way of truly seeing how much pain my sin causes the Spirit and my people. Oh, but grace. My heart swells to know that as I become more aware of the ugliness of my heart, it can never outpace the depths of His grace. I'm more aware than ever that apart from Him I have no good thing.

Last year I humiliated myself with extreme emotional reactions. I said hurtful, cutting words to people I love and that love me. I yelled at my kids too many times. I scoffed at the pain of others. I ignored the Spirit's beckons for time in His word. I hid lazily to avoid dealing with life and loneliness. But in the depths of His great love, through seeing all the muck of my heart I became more and more and more aware of grace, that I cannot run full steam ahead to gain his favor, that I cannot earn his love through working harder, that I cannot work hard on behalf of those I love, trying to convince them to run harder, faster, longer in order to know more of God's grace to them.

One of my favorite worships songs says this: "What else can I do but worship? What else can I do but bow? Because all I really long for is you, all I really need, Lord, is you." Yes. Self awareness that leads to much, much God-awareness.

My need for reliance on Jesus came in the form of having too much time alone and then was lit like a fire in the form of jumping with both feet right back into the lions den of relationships . True, ugly confession: In my younger years of ministry I unknowingly believed that I had something to do with people's heart change. It wasn't that I wanted credit for what God was doing in their life, I just believed that if I said no, or didn't speak up, or didn't meet "just one more time" I would fail the person, or worse, fail God.

The gospel I preached was faith through grace. The gospel I lived was work, work, work, plea, plea, plea, carry, carry, carry, and then hopefully, if God is pleased, faith and change happened.

I'm exhausted even just typing out that strategy.

After sabbatical the painful reality of the depths of pain people endure hit me right square in the face. My eyes were black for a couple of months if you didn't notice. As I sat and cried with people, or worked to point people to Jesus, or begged God in prayer on their behalf to change it all, I began to feel the load of work, work, work, plea, plea, plea, carry, carry, carry. The gifts, groundedness and self-awareness, shined the light on the lie of my old strategy. Reliance on Jesus rose to the surface as my greatest need. His grace brought me through many dangers, toils, and snares, not my own work. I'm continually facing the choice of relying on my own work ethic, or my own ideas of right and wrong, or my own desire to see change in the world around me OR relying on the fact that His grace will lead me, hold me, sustain me. The more I believe this for myself, the more I believe this great treasure for those around me.

Asking about my top moments of 2013 brings a smile to my face and a tranquil sigh from my lips. Pure beauty. Asking about my most painful moments of 2013 brings a deeper, thoughtful look to my face and a deeper, longer sigh from my soul. So many of these moments aren't moments at all. They are on-going, still fleshing themselves out, still a grace in progress.

If there was any part of my last blog post that caused your heart to wonder about the pain you may be experiencing in your own life, please know it was a only a window into my life and home. Pain is the stuff of learning. The value of my pain is neither greater nor lesser than others. It is simply my own race, the one God has mapped out for me. And through His great grace I want to run it with perseverance, groundedness, self-awareness, and complete reliance on Jesus.

How are you learning to rely on Jesus? If you don't rely on Him, on what or whom do you rely? What is one thing you've learned about yourself and/or God over the last year? Share your thoughts if you'd like.

Hole-y Orange Focused Lady Time

Tuesday, January 07, 2014  ::   Be the first to leave a comment!

The memorable moments of 2013 have been a consistent point of conversation in my house over the last two weeks. Our friends, Matt and Susie, asked us to dinner one Sunday after Second Mile's gathering and engaged our family in great discussion. Susie asked everyone to name the top moments of the year. We all participated, but the beauty of the question came in the days to follow. It led me into some great reflection and introspection which forced my kids into reflection and introspection. It's kind of a fun tool of torture to make them talk about all sorts of things. I'm pretty sure they don't mind.

As you may have noticed blogging isn't necessarily my friend anymore. I'm not sure what the problem is other than lack of motivation and material. I recently googled blog topics and one of the ideas was "What celebrity would you invite for dinner and what would you serve?" Seriously? People actually read that stuff? In my book that's a big fat WHO CARES?! All this to say, I've had this post rolling around in my brain and decided to force myself to type it out. And guess what... I already have another idea for my next blog post that will include a give away, so you won't want to miss out.  (I haven't forgotten that I need to complete this series. I will. I promise.) 

I cannot rank these moments. They are important in 2013 for different reasons. If you attend Second Mile, Chad shared some of these same events. If you would like to listen to a great message to catapult you into reflecting you can watch it here or just listen here.  

Less Hole-y
As we started 2013 we were still very much in the dark of why I had a stroke. I met with both a neurologist and a cardiologist in Tucson that could find no reasons for what had happened to me. Thankfully, my Tucson neurologist was humble enough to share with us that he felt like he was missing something and wanted us to see a stroke specialist neurologist in Phoenix. It took longer than I wanted to have an appointment with him, but once he examined me and all my records he was convinced that I had a hole in my heart and that the first cardiologist missed it. This neuro doctor was also able to explain the process of healing my brain would take. It was a huge relief to hear his words and look at the graph he drew. When I asked him if certain issues I was experiencing were symptoms he responded by reassuring me that anything I was now experiencing that I did not experience pre-stroke was a symptom and that I was not crazy. I felt like I had the "big fat you're crazy giant" kicked off my shoulders and out of my thoughts. It was a tremendous relief, but at the same time a reality check that I was indeed dealing with real symptoms.  

As you know the cardiologist did find a hole in my heart and it was patched in February. I like to say that it is an adamantium patch, but it's really just nickel and titanium. Having my heart fixed is definitely a great point of 2013. All of the nightmares of recurring stroke instantly stopped. I had faith when I was awake to discipline myself not to worry, but apparently my subconscious was not faith-filled. 

Orange and Gray
When we bought our house we knew it needed some love in the form of updating. We chose to purchase a large home with the purpose of hospitality and family fun. Big and new was not an option for our budget, so big and 1970s fit the criteria. For most of 2012 we lived in a shell of a house. We couldn't hire out the work, so it had to be done as Chad had time to do it himself or enlist skillful friends to help. Mixed with all my health stuff meant renovating was slow going. In 2013 we (Chad mostly) finished a huge portion of what we were working on. It's not complete, but it is livable, comfortable, and enjoyable. We are at a great resting point until more time and money show up in our lives.

The Big 4-0 
Yep. I'm 40. People ask if it feels different and my answer is yes, but I think it has to do with multiple life circumstances coming together that has made me feel more grounded, more self-aware, more reliant on Jesus. Chad threw the most amazing masquerade bash ever. To see my friends and family dressed up, smiling at me, dancing, enjoying great food, and celebrating my life with me is something I will never ever forget. This 2013 highlight is most definitely a whole life highlight. It was amazing. If you want to remember or read about it for the first time you can read this post and this post.  

Focused Time
Our family took three significant trips together this year. We went to Disneyland right before my heart procedure. San Diego became one of our favorite places through a trip in July and another one in November. These times with my family recharged and refreshed me. Calling the trips a mere highlight doesn't do justice to how meaningful it was for us. I am so blessed to have four great kids that actually enjoy spending time with their dad and me. We are all a bit crazy which makes our time together joyful and goofy. The older they get the better our relationships. Each stage of maturity requires shifts and change, but Chad and I have committed to navigate the waters of family change with prayer and hope for healthy adult relationships with each of our children. Trips like these contribute to fulfilling our hopes for the future. 

Lady Time 
Retreat de Moxie challenged me greatly this year. More women attended than ever before. The 2012 retreat was a blur because of the health challenges I faced, so I felt fearful as this retreat approached. God blew my socks off with what he taught me through his word as I prepared each session. I was so hopeful it would translate as I shared my heart with my friends. In my opinion, the retreat was a great success because Jesus was lifted high, women drew closer to him, new friendships were made, and old friendships were deepened. Retreat de Moxie will probably be a highlight every year. 

I hope you've already spent time thinking through 2013. Looking back in a reflective way gives us an opportunity to be thankful for the blessings and the trials. We learn and grow emotionally and spiritually with each situation, relationship, experience we endure. My prayer for you is that you will allow God to reveal himself to you as you enter 2014. 

As for me, I'm trusting God for what he has in store for my family and me this year. I know it won't all be easy, but I believe if we allow him to carry us, guide us, mold us through this year we will be more like him as 2015 begins. 

LKM photography

What are some of your highlights from 2013? I would love to hear about something you experienced and/or learned over the last year.