Friday, January 24, 2014

Fast Thoughts: Halfway There

We are halfway through our 21 days of Prayer and Fasting, and so I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on my experience thus far. If you want to read about the idea behind fasting, you can check out my previous post here. After some thought, I knew for sure I was going to give up Facebook, social media, and just use my phone for texting and calls (what a concept!), but I wanted to challenge myself a little more, so I added to it. Just for the sake of discipline, and really needing to lean on God (as well as to prepare myself for my connect group this year… more on that later) I decided to give up sugar and processed foods. Natural sugar, such as that in fruits, is okay, but anything with added sugar not so much. I also realized awhile back that our family goes through the drive-thru WAY too much (which becomes apparent when your son asks if we're going to "Chick-Fi-Way" everyday when you pick him up from school), so in an effort to save money and eat better, the kids and I are fasting fast food, whether they like it / know it or not. Here are a few of my observations this far:
  • 21 days doesn't seem like much, but man, it's a long time
  • I am a much happier person without Facebook. I can't explain it, but there is a newfound freedom  around here! Not feeling like your phone is calling to you at stoplights and first thing when you wake up (pathetic I know… but can you relate?)
  • Speaking of freedom, I also feel free of comparing my life to others, having to have my photos "liked," and that sort of thing. My happiness is more based on what the people closest to me think, as it should be!
  • I did miss birthday messages this year, but it doesn't even out the above. Those who know me best made sure to call, email, or text.
  • I do miss Facebook a little for life's big events. For example, one of my best friends had a baby on my birthday (this is the second time this has happened with one of my best friends… pretty awesome friends I have!) and I would love to see all of the pictures. Thankfully she has texted me a few, and I've already gotten to snuggle that sweet girl. 
  • I feel like I have so much time now! My house is cleaner, my kids and I play more, and I even took a nap during the first week! I also feel like a better disciplinarian to my kids since I'm more aware of what they're doing.
  • I wish I could say that I've spent less time on my computer, but unfortunately that's not the case. I think I've spent less time on my phone but more time on my laptop. Granted, we've had a couple of really big weekends at TurningPoint and have a ton of events coming up, so it's understandable. But I can't imagine how I would've gotten it done if I was doing this and Facebook. Plus, the kids were home every day this week for snow days. Crazy!
  • Although I cheated on my birthday and ate the sundae they brought me for dessert, I have had a craving for birthday cake ever since. It just doesn't feel right without it. Thankfully we will be celebrating my nephew's birthday right after the fast ends!
  • I miss chocolate. A lot.
  • I've found that a tall glass of ice-cold milk curbs my cravings for chocolate and sweets. I think my belly associates milk with cookies.
  • When giving up the drive-thru, I did not take Starbucks into account. In essence, I am fasting Starbucks. Mama wants a latte.
  • Larabars are the greatest non-granola granola-type bars ever. They sound gross since they're made primarily from dates, but man are they good! Except the cappuccino flavor… I am warning you in advance. But if you're looking for an all-natural sweet snack, check them out! My favorite is the coconut cream pie flavor!
  • The toughest part of my day is when I make the kids a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich. I usually lick the knife (when I'm done of course!), but I just can't right now. Those two ingredients smell heavenly together!
  • I don't miss bread at all. I'm not sure that I'll really add that back into my diet actually… my belly feels a ton better without it! 
  • Although I still haven't fallen in love with cooking, I find that the end-result makes it worth it. I really like knowing what my kids are putting in, and I LOVE sitting around the table together regularly. We've probably had dinner together 5-nights a week here lately. That's a HUGE win!
  • My kids will try (and like) just about anything. I'm super proud of them, and it makes me realize that I relied far too heavily on pre-packaged foods before this.
  • Checking the weather or logging a run on my phone is a slippery slope… any app just about can suck me in. But it's nice to know that I can leave my phone where it charges when I'm home and not have to carry it around everywhere I go (and lose it).
I know there's more, but this is already a lengthy list, so this will do for now. So far I don't feel like I have read or prayed as much as I would like to get in the habit of doing, although it has increased, so that's a good start. So far I really just feel like I've reclaimed my time with my family, and that in itself is enough to make this whole thing worthwhile. One more cake-free week to go!

For those of you doing this, too…. how's YOUR fast going??

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

21 Days

Each January, our church starts the year off with 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. The idea is to give God your first fruits… in other words, fast from something that takes you away from God and replace it with daily prayer. In the Bible you see this a lot, and it's always food-related. Moses did a total fast (no food or water) because he needed to hear from God. Daniel stayed away from certain foods- the delicacies- which is where the Daniel Fast, one of the more commonly practiced ones, came from. Even Jesus fasted, which in my opinion is the biggest testament as to the impact that a season of fasting can have on our lives. The idea is that by "starving" the physical or emotional part of you, you can grow in the spiritual. For example, last year I did the Daniel fast, which basically meant that my diet consisted of fruits and vegetables, nuts, and whole oats. I cut out meat, dairy, sugars, coffee (!!!), and wheat, which turned our diet very close to that of a vegan. I am a girl who loves to eat, and I have an exceptionally big sweet tooth, so three weeks of this was H.A.R.D. But I adhered to the idea that every time my body craved something that was not on the menu, it would be a reminder to pray. The whole concept teaches you to rely heavily on God, because we cannot get through it alone, and I definitely could not do that alone. I can't say that I did it perfectly (especially with my birthday falling smack dab in the middle!), but it definitely stretched me, challenged me, and I did find myself spending a lot more quiet time with God. I felt like I was more aware of every minute of every day, and much more dependent on Him. The majority of the first month of the year was dedicated to HIM, and helped the rest of my year fall into place. We believe in this so much that we do it every year.

This year it did not take me very long to figure out what I needed less of, in order to get more of God. Last year I spent time in prayer, really seeking what to give up, and a food-related fast seemed to be my only answer. I had never tried anything that required that much discipline, and I certainly needed some new-found discipline in my day. And I admittedly feel a bit ashamed now for thinking that doing this type of fast was somehow "more" spiritual than someone who gave up, say, Facebook for a month. I mean, how hard could that be, right??

In true God-fashion (He really does have the best sense of humor), without hardly any thought, all I can hear this year is GIVE UP FACEBOOK! Really, God? Are you sure?? And then to take it one step further I heard, No, I'm not sure. Give up all of the extras on your phone, too.

Here is my mama-confession for the day: I have spent way more time in the past few months on my phone than I have with my kids. Granted, I have not calculated it, but I just feel, well, disconnected. People claim they love Facebook to be more connected, but honestly, having the distraction of my phone and all its fun little apps makes me more disconnected from the people in my own home! I used to love to sit and watch the kids play in the tub. Lately, I use that time to scroll my newsfeed. I used to love to build train-tracks with Jakes. Now that Lilly is pretty good at playing with him, I can sit back and check Instagram or Twitter. My excuse has always been that my Bible and my books are on my phone, but I don't have the discipline to use those and not the other stuff. So starting Friday, for 21 days, my phone is for what it was originally made for… phone calls and texts. I'm going to get back to basics… reading my Bible out of my actual Bible, so that I'm not tempted to look at other things. Waking up in the morning and saying a prayer, rather than checking out who posted what in the mere 8 hours since I went to bed. Being engaged with my kids, participating in their play-time, teaching them new things, and not missing out on them while they're little. How can I expect Jake not to want to look at the phone and watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse at the same time when he sees his mama doing the same thing? Sure, I don't really want to see Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (for the umpteenth time… pretty sure I've seen them all by now), but I could just as easily read out of a book at that time. When he sees that as his other option, I can only hope that it looks appealing to him and he develops into a boy who loves to read as much as his daddy does (and his mama tries to). I need this change, and I honestly hope it helps me develop a better self-discipline when it comes to such things in the long-term.

I think sometimes we feel like God is being silent, not listening to our cries and concerns. Here lately, I just think that the world has silenced Him out of my head, and I'm missing the many blessings He gives me daily. When I was deciding whether or not this was the fast I was going to do, I sat down and told my husband and two friends what I was considering. As I was talking, I started to tear up as I told them about how I felt like I was missing my kids, even though I'm with them everyday. When the emotions started to well up, it confirmed this in my heart. He isn't silent… we just need to listen. He'll confirm what we're feeling and answer the cries of our hearts when we humbly go to Him. I may "lose" many voices that were in my world for at least the next three weeks, but I am so thankful that I am going to zero in on the One that matters. 

On a related note, I stumbled across this article last night and found it interesting: Finding Balance in a Wired World. A lot of this definitely struck a chord with me and just confirmed (again) how badly I need to do this! I'd love to hear if this resonates with any of you, too!

And just so you know, yes I will still be blogging (I hope… I'm on a roll you know!) and posting my Project #365Grateful photos to Instagram over this time (although I will not be checking out everyone else's!). 

And for those of you who are interested or are considering a food-related fast, you can check out the post I did about that last year by clicking here.

Monday, January 6, 2014


It was so exciting… the idea of an impending snowstorm, inches of accumulation predicted, sub-freezing (and even some sub-zero) temperatures to make sure the snow stayed around for awhile… I was so excited to go to bed last night! The wind was howling and it was coming down as I closed my curtains, but when I opened them this morning, I could STILL. SEE. GRASS. Now that just ain't right. In my opinion, if it's going to be this crazy cold (we had a high of three today, which is unheard of in these parts) we need to have snow. And lots of it. Instead we had this:

Are you kidding me, weatherman?? To call this a snowstorm is laughable. 

As a side note, our kids are polar bears. We went outside simply to try the freezing bubble trick, which really did not work for us, and they would have stayed out for an hour. My face felt like it was going to fall off after about 10 minutes, so the kids had to come inside, too. At least we burnt a little energy though!

This town acts like the apocalypse is coming whenever there is an impending snow. Granted, the city does not have much removal equipment, so the roads aren't cleared as quickly as they are up north. But seriously, I think everyone and their mom was at Wal-Mart the night before buying milk and bread. Apparently that's all you eat during a snowstorm. I didn't know that until moving here. Perhaps I've become a bit of a winter-snob, if there is such a thing, after spending a couple of years in a  town that truly has winter. So today, to reminisce, I revisited this post:

I'm not sure which made me more sad… seeing that gorgeous house we loved so much, the winter wonderland, or the little chunky-monkey baby Jake. My how he's grown since then. Those sweet cheeks definitely take the cake on that one.

I know there is a lot of winter left, so my fingers are crossed for at least one good snow this year. In the meantime, if there is not going to be snow on the ground, can we at least be in the 40's? Please, and thank you!

Friday, January 3, 2014

365 Days of Gratitude

I am pleased to say that this family is pretty good about focusing on gratitude. When things are tough, we generally remind each other to take a step back and look around at what we do have, and suddenly that bump in the road does not seem so bad. We pray with our kids before dinner and bed, and aside from a few random requests from Jake (as well as some lovely ones, like "help us to serve better" and "keep us safe"), 99% of their little prayers are pure thanks. "Thank you for Mommy, Daddy, Jacob, and ME!" (if Lilly is praying) and my favorite, "thank you for the church, thank you for the steeple, and thank you for opening the doors and there's all the people." I definitely need to record them so I can keep that precious memory with me always… hearing their little voices speak to the Creator is something that is so very sweet and never gets old. It can turn any bad day right around. But even thought we do a pretty good job, I do wonder how many little things I miss in a day because I am running the kids around or I am stressed because I have nothing to make for dinner, or just because I got up on the wrong side of the bed. I saw this video today and fell in love with the idea… I have tried a Project 365 before and failed miserably (mainly because I was trying to take "real" photos with manual settings from my "fancy camera" rather than just snapping shots with my iPhone), but I am hoping this will be easier because of the heartbeat behind it. Check it out:

I am sure in the course of a year I will repeat many things over and over, but I look forward to discovering those patterns. I look forward to being more thankful. And I look forward to putting more positivity out in the world… not to boast, but rather just to remind people to stop and look around for a minute. I'm going to try and use my Instagram account, and if I can ever get the feed to work right again I'm hoping they'll appear on the sidebar, but if I can find the time then I will try and post them here once a week or every ten days or so. And since I've already missed two days of the New Year, I'll catch you up:

January 1st:

Definitely most grateful for my relationship with Christ, which grows daily. Since I did not have a picture to really use for that, I'll go this route: grateful for my daily devotional (and the YouVersion app for making so many accessible). This one is from the Rick Warren devotional I read last year (and am a little behind, so still have a few days left). I love it because I can read it anywhere, and sometimes it's the only little bit of spiritual truth and/or scripture that I get in a day. I'm always working on that, but like everybody, some days it just gets put off to the point that you wake up the next day and realize you never did it. This year I am starting a Joyce Meyers one this year called "Power Thoughts" and want to do a better job of reading "Jesus Calling For Kids" everyday with the little ones.  That one is probably my favorite if you have ever considered doing a daily devotional plan  

January 2nd:

Oh how I love these three people. More than life. More than words can express.

Have you ever done a Project365 or the 365Grateful project? Let me know if you'll be doing one in 2014 so I can follow along!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cheers to a New Year!

Happy 2014! While it is obvious that my brilliant "Twelve Days of Christmas" idea fell flat, and I haven't even posted about Christmas itself, I figured that I can just put 2013 behind me and simply look forward. I'm going to stop putting so much pressure on myself when it comes to blogging (how often, what about, etc.) and just get back to my roots… writing when I felt like it, when I found time, about what I felt like. That seemed to work once upon a time, and it actually made me like blogging! Who needs unwanted pressure anyway? Especially pressure that you're only putting on yourself?? Now that's just silly.

So anyway… 2014… a new year… a fresh start. I posted this on Facebook a couple of days ago, but want it here so I can refer back to it when I need to. Here are my hopes for this upcoming year:

In 2014 I want….

More of God and less of me.
More self-discipline and less mind-numbing distractions.
More chats with my husband and less time on Facebook.
More quality time with my kids and less time with my phone, housework, etc.
More time in the Word and less in front of the TV.
More good stuff going in and less junk and fast food.
More muscle and less fat.
More intentionality and less selfishness.
More self-discipline and less laziness.
More focus on the present and less worrying about the "what if's."
More words that speak life and less opinions that tear others down.
More enjoyment of my blessings and less thinking about my finances.
More laughter and less stress.
More encouragement to others and less judgement and criticism.

2013 was a really good one, but just like any other year, it was not without its ups and downs. I still opened my big, fat mouth when I probably shouldn't have, unintentionally hurt feelings of those I love, said that thing that would win the fight, yelled at my kids out of my frustration, questioned my decisions and opinions,  and definitely spent way too much time with my phone in front of my face when I should have been on the floor playing with my kids or spending quality time with my husband. I wasn't intentional with my time, always wondering how I got to the end of the day and did not manage to work out, cook dinner, or read my Bible, even though I did manage to peruse my newsfeed, check Instagram, and watch a rerun of Friends (or two). And I know that I will never get it all right, but I love the promise of a new year, and the fact that we can evaluate our priorities and shift our focus. And 2014 is already shaping up to be a pretty darn good one… here are some things that are already on the horizon, or in the works:

  • After waiting 5 years, we are taking a much-anticipated (and promised) honeymoon in Northern California. I. CANNOT. WAIT.
  • As if that's not enough, my mom is kindly generously treating me and my sisters to a week-long cruise in the Mediterranean! I'm still in shock… and totally plan on sleeping in EVERY. DAY.
  • There may or may not be a marathon in the works. I think I just need to get over myself, pull the trigger and sign up already. 
  • Excited to go to the ARC Conference and the GROW Conference again this year, with a few ARC trainings thrown in (I hope). 
  • We're working on an opportunity for Josh to go on a mission trip to Africa this year. It's my dream mission trip, so I'm a bit jealous, but I know that my days will come, too.
  • Praying about expanding our family… either the old-fashioned way or through adoption. We have no plans currently, but I know that we're moving in that direction.
  • Finally selling our house in Illinois… it's under contract just waiting on approval from the bank. Honestly, my hopes are not up, but this is the furthest we've ever gotten in the process so we'll just wait and see!

Excited. Expecant. Anticipating… LOVE a new year! 

I pray abundant blessings over your 2014- may it be your best one yet! Go after that scary goal, say "yes" to something you thought you'd never do, seek God in all you do, and spend your time with those you love. I figure that if I do that first thing right (having more of God and less of me), the rest of this stuff will just fall into place.