3 Things I Learned {then Forgot} Through Fasting

And then Silas threw up on me…

Anyone else sensing a trend?

Thursday night last week, rather than spending the evening out at some fancy restaurant celebrating my ten year anniversary with my husband, I was sitting in a vomit-soaked sweatshirt at Urgent Care with Silas. He has pneumonia. Yes, it’s sad. Yes, he’s getting better. No, I’m not telling you this to get sympathy.

Last week was rough. Uncharacteristically, we had something every night of the week. We cared for our children and tried to catch a few hours sleep, rotating between our overcrowded bed and the living room sofa.

We kept saying we missed each other.

Today I figured it out.

It’s been a week since we finished our 21-day fast. For three weeks Josh and I shut off the media to spend time together seeking God; praying, reading scripture and classic devotionals, and worshiping. There were some nights that didn’t turn out the way we’d planned, but for the most part we experienced moments of peace together after our children were in bed.

It was lovely.

Then last week happened.

And I saw how quickly I can abandon the good habits God cultivates in me. We were distracted, rushed and overwhelmed…in a week with only four work days.

I forgot the very things God was speaking to me during my fast:

{Live sacrifice.}

Put down the book/remote/computer/smart phone/distraction and spend some time grafted into Him.

{Conflict isn’t always an attack from the Enemy…}

Sometimes it’s God dredging up the gunk from the bottom so it can be skimmed off the surface. Instead of looking at times of tension or frustrations with Josh, the kids, a situation as a hinderance, I need to pause and ask God if He’s showing me something that needs to be discarded.

{Expectations are not the same as expectancy.}

When I have expectations for how I think life should go, I limit God and others from working in my life in unforeseen ways. Expectancy is thinking and hoping that something will happen.

::

In John 15 Jesus talks about our relationship with Him, using the example of a vineyard. We are branches attached to Him, the vine. When grafting in a branch to the rootstock, cuts are made. Then the grafted branch gets tied to the root, held there in place until it can remain on its own.

Cuts have been made in my life, and right now God is holding me close to Him; supporting me as I press in further and grow attached to the root, Jesus.

Rather than feel discouraged about my inability to support myself, I lean fully into God and draw closer to the source of my strength.

Now it’s time to shut off the computer…

For those of you who joined us in our time of fasting,
I would love to hear a testimony of what you experienced!

If you weren’t fasting with us, what is something that God showed you over the weekend?

{Speaking of testimonies, I am sharing today over at the Everyday Testimony Project! Come find out the thing that I still don’t get about God.}
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P.S. I Love You

Expectations can kill relationships. An unspoken bar is set; a vision of what perfection entails becomes what must be. When Josh and I were in our pre-marital counseling, one of the exercises we participated in was systematically laying out those expectations we held as we entered into marriage.

Who would do what around the house?

How would we treat each other during a fight?

What would love look like?

Despite all of the talk about Meyers-Briggs results, love languages and family history, there was still something messy and complicated about two individuals coming together. Preparation is necessary, but incomplete. As much as we try, life cannot be scheduled and perfectly planned.

::

As we enter into this final week of our 21-day fast, I find it appropriate that today is Valentines Day. A day for love. When we sacrifice, voluntarily go without, it becomes difficult to not grow distracted by our very sacrifices. To forget the reason behind the sacrifice. Rather we think:

Look what I’m leaving behind. See how I’ve worked for you. I will show you my love and devotion through my actions.

Expectations then come into play; reciprocation becomes the name of the game. God, you must show up in the way I need because of what I’ve done for You.

When really, it’s all about love. Drawing near to the One whose love for us can not be measured, contained or broken. Setting aside the checks and balances that try to keep everything even.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. {John 15:13}

Hasn’t He really made the bigger sacrifice? Can anything we do compare? Isn’t it all praise from this point forward?

We love because He first loved us. {1 John 4:19}

This weekend I allowed myself to be caught up in a tornado of ingratitude. My mind spun out of control, focusing on those things I felt deprived of. Rather than abiding in the perfect will of my Father, I wrestled and fidgeted in it. The focus became the sacrifice and not the love behind it. This morning as I woke, I felt like the auto-focus had righted the picture. Once again to know God was the goal:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… {Philippians 3:7-8}

As this week progresses, my desire is to be less focused on the sacrifice;

to set aside my expectations for what God will do, and instead listen to the love story He would tell.

Have your expectations for God gotten in the way of what He’s doing?

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{photo source}

On Reading

{courtesy of photobucket}

Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. {Stephen King, On Writing}

I have been doing a lot of reading lately.

Reading has got to be one of my favorite hobbies, and one that I have neglected this past year. Anyone remember the book reading challenge I was doing? My goal for 2010 was to read 35 books I’d never read before…I failed. This year, I have not set a number, but I think I may have already exceeded last year’s number.

I wanted to share with you some of my favorites so far…

1. On Writing, by Stephen King

I read this book in one day. Nuff said. Ok, I’ll tell you a little more. Part memoir, part writing class; I was hooked from the beginning. A number of people have said this is the one writing book you should read if you’re serious about writing. My thoughts are this is a book you should read, period.

2. One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp

Where King’s book is “on writing,” Ann’s book is “on gratitude.” King uses his life experiences and lessons to teach you how to write a better story, Ann is doing the same to lead you to a better relationship with God. The first chapter had me crying. The second chapter really made me think. I can’t wait to see what chapter three brings. What I’m really enjoying about this book is that (In)Courage is going through it as part of their first Bloom book club. What does that mean? Hundreds of other women are reading this book at the same time as you, and you can all discuss it together on the message board. Also, Ann has filmed a short video for each chapter, along with Angie Smith and Jessica Turner, where they discuss the chapter. When else do you get to walk through a book with the author? I would encourage you to join up, we’re only on chapter 2, because it has really been a unique experience.

3. Made to Crave, by Lysa TerKeurst

One of the sacrifices I knew this year would include was related to my eating habits. God is forcing me to look at “why” I am eating, not just “what” I am eating. Then I began seeing people talking about Lysa’s book. I’m so glad I bought this. I’m only in chapter one, and already what she’s said is so applicable to what God is already doing in my life:

With Jesus, if we want to gain, we must give up. If we want to be filled, we must deny ourselves. If we want to truly get close to God, we’ll have to distance ourselves from other things. {Lysa TerKeurst, Made to Crave}

This is just in the introduction! And can you see how it corresponds to more than just dieting? There are so many things in our life that we can turn to instead of God. I would recommend this book for anyone who feels like they’re fighting a losing battle with their temptations.

4. A Deeper Story

Ok, this isn’t a book, but you really need to check out this blog! It is a collection of some of my favorite lady bloggers, and they’re talking about the tough things in life and faith: divorce, death, cursing, self-criticism, hatred, politics, sex, aging. They aren’t pulling their punches and the comments sections are full of life and truth. When I grow up I want to write like them…

::

I didn’t really talk about the fast much this week, so I thought I’d put a little recap up here. Basically, God is teaching me to lay my expectations at His feet. I had a plan for how I thought these three weeks would go; things have not turned out as planned.

When Josh and I committed our evenings to seeking God together, I secretly thought it would foster lovey-dovey feelings right in time for Valentines Day and our 10-year anniversary. Ha! We have discovered that when you invite God into your life to shake things up and draw you closer to Him, He takes full advantage of that invitation. He’s cleaning out the stuff we shoved under the bed. Our conversations have been painful, raw and healing.

The main thing we learned this week is that what you might view as an attack from the enemy could actually be God stirring up the depths to bring the broken, flawed and harmful things to the surface. It’s not fun, but it’s healthy.

What are reading now, or have read lately?

If you’re fasting, what did God do in your life this week?

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//

Pepper Jack, Food Network & Being Two

I’ll never forget the day I discovered pepper jack cheese.

An extended relation on my dad’s side was getting married. With the pronouncement of Mr. and Mrs., the guests rushed from the outdoor garden to the reception area; escaping the heat and the bees. Weaving my way through dancing couples, I approached the buffet table and found an assortment of square cheeses on tiny toothpicks.

Not a fan of cheese, I picked the non-cheddar one to sample. Instead of the dry, crumbly texture I was used to, this cheese felt smooth on my tongue. My curiosity about the red and green flecks was satisfied when the cheese bit me! This cheese fought back! The spice took me by surprise, but I liked it. Loading up my plate with six or seven more cubes, and the obligatory carrots and ranch, I headed back to our table.

My dad seemed familiar with this species of cheese when I showed it to him, which bugged me because I wondered why we’d never had it at home.

Pepper jack.

I’ll never forget that moment.

::

As a new mom, I discovered that my life consisted of  a lot of sitting: to nurse, to rock, and to hold while he slept, because he’d wake up if I moved him. This was with my first child, I have since learned how to put them to bed without waking them up. All of that sitting meant I watched a lot of TV. Food Network became my new best friend.

During our first few years of marriage cooking proved to be something I had a talent for. Not having much need for it before my marriage, I was as surprised as anyone at my ability to turn out food that was not only edible, but delicious. Wanting to increase my knowledge and abilities, I watched everything; 30 Minute Meals, Everyday Italian, Barefoot Contessa, Iron Chef America, and Good Eats were my favorites.

Slowly the culinary world opened its doors to me, and I began to discover new foods.

Pancetta, béchamel, extra-virgin olive oil and pesto.

With each new discovery, I wanted to learn more. Cooking was exciting. I felt like an explorer in some uncharted territory.

I’m still discovering new foods, new techniques and new recipes, but it’s not as easy for me to get excited. No wonder professional chefs and food critics are so snotty; there’s not much they haven’t experienced. Losing that joy in discovery changes it somehow.

::

Ezra’s in one of my favorite stages right now.


He’s two.

Two is inquisitive and excited about life. Questions are two’s main form of communication, and there’s always more to figure out.

See y’at, Mommy?

Guess what, Mommy?

How spell? {this one is because an older six-year-old brother is learning to read and write, so “How do you spell…?” is a common question}

And if something isn’t a direct question, it becomes a question in the mouth of a two-year-old:

Ezra, do you want a sandwich?

Sandwich?

Yes, do you want a peanut butter sandwich for lunch?

Butter?

Two has me cracking up, and wrapped around his pudgy, sticky finger. His eyes light up with joy at things familiarity has made mundane: a motorcycle, two birds flying in a dance together, bubbles popping and leaving a wet circle on the ground. Every day his vocabulary increases, and a new word or phrase has to be tried out at least a hundred times before it feels comfortable in his mouth.

::

New Christians are like two-year-olds, or budding foodies. They are eager about everything. All things have become new.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. {2 Corinthians 5:17}

Over time, the shine tarnishes and the colors fade on what we once saw as new and exciting. It’s easy to look at ourselves, beings that have been declared “new creatures” and see old. We lose our hunger for God’s word; our search to discover who He is, who we are and what He has to say becomes stale.

We think we’ve seen it all. We become stodgy and dull in our walk, with rare moments of that first excitement. Believing that there’s nothing new under the sun, we give ourselves up to a life of same-same and hope we can make it through to the end. Our hearts aren’t in it and our minds aren’t stimulated by it.

Today let’s look at the world around us through the eyes of a two-year-old.

See the new things God is doing around you. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Reach for the pepper jack instead of the cheddar.

 

For those of you fasting with me, today begins our second week! The newness of the idea may be wearing off, and the day-to-dayness of it setting in. How can I encourage you today? How can I pray for you? What has God shown you? I would love to hear it through a comment below or in an email.

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