Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Present is a Gift

It's funny, how when you are moving towards wonderful things your sights seem to be so focused on moving forward that you forget to enjoy the scenery where you are.

As we are picking up speed, and the Steeds are actively moving towards our long term plan of a move closer to family, we are so excited about what is coming. We are closing in on a week, when we will be loading up the truck and heading out.

Despite our excitement for what is coming, we are sad to leave those who we love so dearly here. I have never had a geographical home base, until now.

Being the daughter of a minister/missionary, we moved every 2-4 years growing up. Home was where mom was, and wasnt as much about our house or the town we lived in. We were always home as long as mom, the Amish dolls and the yellow pot were all in the house or in that town.

All that changed when me and my newlywed husband moved to SC just about 9 years ago. We moved here pre-kids, just getting things started. We have had three babies here, my husband has started a new nursing career and we have made many wonderful friends.

My natural tendency is to focus so heavily on what is coming that I dont remember where I have been, or what I have around me right now. Where I have been is years of wonderful friendships, a loving church family, a steady-flexible full-time then  (very) part-time job in a Critical Care Unit (where I came pre-babies, left for a bit, came back, left again and came back ..then brought my husband into the craziness!), a close drive to the beach, many opportunities to serve and a place to make roots that will only extend slightly to the west with our move to Tennessee.

We have had the most wonderful 9 years here.

Where we are currently, is spending a week of child-mandated playdates, mommy coffee-time, getting together with friends as much as possible, help with childcare, friends collecting boxes and sharing in our excitement even as they lovingly mourn our coming separation. We are so blessed.

Where are going is closer to family - we will be living withing 20 minutes of my husbands family, and within driving distance of much of my family (the ones who arent in Singapore). We have a lifestyle of simplicity, and a wonderful rental house waiting for us. We have a bright futures and wonderful blessings just waiting to show themselves.

God is good. His plans are perfect - past, present and future.

I know that so many of us are looking foward to good things. With Christ comes hope and anticipation of good plans to come. Let us never forget the blessings of the moment, though. Let us never forget to embrace this moment's joys for tomorrow's hope.  Dont forget to dwell, to embrace where you are, where God has you right now in this moment. Its a good place, and its part of the plan too.

{Deep breath}. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

7: Stress - Part Two

We are moving in 10 days. In a week and a half we will be moving our little family from Charleston, SC to Nashville, TN. SC has been our home for 9 wonderful years. My husband I moved here as newlyweds, made three babies here and here we decided to embrace the simplicity of life it turns out we both crave. We are moving closer to family, and towards good plans that God has planned for us.

We are so excited about our next steps ...God is good.

This week will no doubt be one of the most stressful ones of our year so far - we have an abundance of packing, sorting, getting rid of (after all, we also fasting from excess in our possessions ..a great time to think about that is when you are packing it all up into individual boxes!) and other details (like getting  a JOB!) to think about as we prepare.

What a better week to focus on the best stress reliever ever?

Part One of the 7: Stress fast was a week or so ago. Part Two will be this coming week where I will focus more diligently on taking time to embrace the seven pauses that JH talks about in "7: an experimental mutiny against excess"

It will be awesome to see how focusing on God will affect this week of stress :)

I will post in real time this week ...

Day One - Week Two

One of my favorite pauses is The Awakening Hour. Its the first one of the day, and it is the one I have found is the easiest to do. That is, assuming I beat the kids up and get to enjoy some quiet before the day begins. On my prayer blog (my version of a prayer journal) I have taken more time to focus on this time of day, at least in written form. 

I love to ponder what the day holds, and to ask blessings on all that both we and God have planned for us. I also love the "new mercies every morning" part. This one strikes me especially as a blessing because the week since we started the moving process I have woken up every morning around 4am in a panic. My brain won't let me sleep, and I keep rehearsing lists of things I need to do and things I should have done already. Its also in this hour, in my compromised mind and heart that Satan takes a chance to remind me of all my failings in the day past. He reminds me of my harsh words, and my unkind gestures towards my kids. He recalls my weaknesses and highlights for me in 3D color. 

The Awakening Hour is my chance to put all those things to rest - to give the reasons for anxiety to God and embrace the promise of new mercies on this day. 

Thank You, God for new mercies. 

Day Two - Week Two

Today was one of the most stressful ones so far in this move process.  It seemed always fated when my alarm would go off to remind me of a pause, since they seemed to ring at the times when things were peaking and the stress was mounting. 

Yesterday, during Twilight Hour, we sold our little car. It had been posted on Craigslist for 10 minutes before I got the call from the guy who bought it.   Coincidence? Maybe, but I think God was working on it for us! :)

One thing that I am noting, as I had noted my last week to really work on it, is that a "pause" often is just that. It is not an hour of prayer, or a full-fledged devotional. It often can only be a small pause in the day - a deep breath where I give it all to God and then jump back on the crazy train. 

But even these small moments are beneficial - they are heart and mind focusing. They, more than once, have stopped a downward spiral to anxious/fearful thinking. I didnt observe each and every pause today. Often they came in the middle of a phone conversation or something where I couldnt really focus my brain the moment. I will work more definitively pausing tomorrow - even still, the last pause of the night before I drift off.  Good Night.

Day Five - Week Two 

As the weekend approaches, the last long weekend before our big move (we pull out a week from today), I am grateful for reminders to pause this week. 

My most difficult pauses are the noon time one (The Illumination Hour) and the early evening one (The Twilight Hour). These ones seems to pop up at the most stressful parts of our day when even a short pause seems crazy. These are some of the loudest times of our day - with things being a bit nuts and usually attitudes are the least productive for a good, thoughtful pause. 

I guess it's these times when recognizing these pauses are the most important - but man is it hard to go from yelling at kids to standing before the throne of God with a humble and contrite heart. Its hard to go from 75 to 0 in seconds flat. 

How crazy is it that such moments are so hard to come by? And how sad that its my own state of mind and state of heart that makes it hard? How wonderful to one day remain in such a state of heart as I am in now, when at the beginning of the day when my heart is humble, submissive and willing to lay anything and everything at the feet of Jesus?  What a day when these pauses are just a supplement to my hearts constant prayers and when these pauses do not stand in stark contrast to my current state of mind?

Wrap Up:

Well, according to my phone and its reminders I have been working on using the 7 pauses for about three weeks. Yes, these are literally some of more stressful weeks of my life this far in 2012 - but the pauses have kept God and the True Source of Peace in the forefront of my mind through all of them.

We are moving in three short days. Things are coming down to the wire - we have all that little, irritating stuff left to do.  In order to survive it all, these pauses are going to be most necessary. 

While my first line of defense against stress is to do what we need to do to get rid of the things that make us that way, there are so many times in our lives when getting rid of those sources just doesnt work. So often we find ourselves in the midst of chaos that we have no control over, that is nothing about how we managed anything, or how organized we are. Its just part of life.

These are the moments when we have the ability to tap into the unlimited supply of God's grace and peace. These moments are the ones where peace makes no sense, and that's why we end up in praise to God for providing it anyways.  

The 7 pauses were a great chance for me focus on that - to stop in the middle of my chaotic day and remember He whose child I am, stressful moments or not. 

7: Stress - Part One

Stress. Well, fasting from stress is pretty much my thing.

My desire to separate my life from the stressful stream that surrounds us is what started the "Living Peacefully Less Stressed" effort. It's the motivation behind the Everything You Need bible study and speaking topic.

JH takes a totally different approach, however to her fast from stress than I have. Her fast is more focused on bringing in moments of peaceful quiet, rather than getting rid of stuff. She works in her month to incorporate 7 'pauses' into her day, each with a purposeful mindset of prayer.

Taking times throughout the day to pause, to reflect and to pray draws the spirit into a place of calm even amongst the chaos of our daily stresses.

Now JH puts this fast at the end of her list of fasts. It is the last one on her list and clearly it fits there perfectly for her. I love her month of embracing less stress. I found her chapter on stress and the seven pauses such a blessing I couldn't put those at the end of my list. I have actually been working on them ever since I read it.

My posting for this week will be two parts ...Week One (also, Part One), is the week or so ago that I started implementing the pauses. Week Two, (Park Two) is this week in real time. This week will be one of the most stressful ones of my year so far so I wanted to really focus some attention on stress and the pauses.  I thought you many want to do that with me :)
I am looking forward to making these pauses part of my days in my week!

Day One -Week One

The seven pauses that JH calls us to are focused on intercession, asking for wisdom, requests for blessing, recognizing moments of awareness, offering gratitude and several more purposeful mental reflections at set times of day.

I set my iphone to the times of day that each 'pause' corresponds to. I hope to use my phone to help me focus more, rather than distract me. With the need to fit 7 pauses in within my waking hours, I am reminded every few hours to pause and reflect. Being as my phone with me 100% of the time, my alarms will help remind me to take those moments ..maybe even to put my phone away to do it (insert my feigning shock).

I will admit that this feels a little weird, it feels like I am praying all the time.  Hm.. seems like there is something in the bible about that ...

Day Two - Week One

Kim sent me a journal for my birthday today! She has broken it up into seven sections, each with a simple illustration and wording noting each of the 7 pauses. She has also written a prayer and some of the verses given in the book.  I am excited to have a place to go to help center my mind, and a simple place to jot down prayers when I take my pauses.

Today, using the alarms on my phone I was able to at the very least have a simple pause to recognize each of the times.  Sometimes it's just a deep breath, but I can tell that those are helping center me a bit.

Day Four - Week One

Two different times today I have thought to pause just seconds before my alarm goes off! I am anticipating those moments that I get to pause and reflect for a moment.  Yay me.

I am finding that The Twilight Hour is one of my hardest times. This is during the busiest, most frustrating parts of my day.  The "Twilight" hour corresponds perfectly with the time when my two year old is at his grumpiest, my kids are at their hungriest, my husband is at his most needing to get out the door for his night shift at the hospital,  dinner is the most needing to be on the table and I am over all of it.

Of course, this pause is really the one that I need the most. Its the one the my mind is least ready for, though. When that alarm goes off I will not lie and tell you that I literally give God an eye-roll.  

Really? Right now you want me to pause?

Joshua is screaming, Canon is talking my ear off with an occasional crying fit, Ty is bouncing off the walls and every elevated surface, Adrian is watching the news loudly because of the noise level, I am (trying to be) cooking dinner, Josh just pulled one of the plates off the counter, I have to wash some of the dishes just to feed people, the oil is smoking and I think I am going to cry...and you want me to pause.

Okay. Fine...but just so you know this is a sacrifice.

Day Six - Week One

We just got word that we will be moving in three weeks! AGH! I am so excited for what God has planned for us! 

I can't help connect this week of focused prayers to the timing of God's movement for us. We have been anxiously waiting for his encouragement to make this move, and after a week of focused prayer I feel he has answered it perfectly. 

These pauses will no doubt come in handy in the next three weeks especially!

Day Seven - Week One

Ya'll, I have been pausing a lot since yesterday!  ...first, because my anxious heart needed it, then because God is showing off and I can't help but give pause for praise and thanksgiving!

Get this. Back in April we visited our new little town, hoping to soon have plans solid enough to move forward with our plans to move there. We looked at properties and rentals and dreamed about our new little life. We did find a house and property that we thought would be perfect for us, though we couldn't actually rent it because the timing wasnt right just yet. 

It had three acres of property, a very nearby fishing pond, woods to play in, a short drive to work/church and a community pool. It was a comfortable size for our family, and included a space for a school room. It had a front porch that overlooks an incredible view was wonderful.

When we got home we contacted the owners and shared our love of their home and asked them to let us know how things go as far as their renting it. We heard back from them pretty quickly, saying they would love to rent their house to us and they would let us know. We chatted back and forth over the next few weeks - they offering to hold the house, us deciding that we would let God lead us as to timing of the move and passing up on that offer. We knew that God would help it be available when the time came if it was the house for us. 

Yesterday, after finding out that our house here in SC was rented, we contacted the owners of that home immediately. We were sad to find out the house had been rented 3 days before! Bummer. Yet, we knew that God had a plan for us.   I observed all the pauses yesterday! 

Then, not four hours after we contacted the owners ...they wrote us back. Would you believe that the people who had rented the house just three days before needed out of their lease? What? 

Yes, indeed. The house is ours {insert giddy squeal}.

[Insert here a week or so of stressful moving details ..cancelling utilities, setting up new ones, working on jobs, packing, cleaning..etc. Fast forward to 10 days before we pull out from our home of 9 years ....]

Then, here is a part 2 regarding a fast from stress :)

7: Possessions

In her fast, JH does wages war again. This time she fights the good fight against stuff.

I dig this one.

I am in the perfect spot to focus a week (or more) on this fast from things, since I am in the process of preparing a houseful o' stuff to be mobilized across the country. Its amazing how aware of all the stuff you have when you are trying to fit in all in an obscenely huge moving truck.

This one strikes a cord with me this week as I mentally prepared because while we were driving this past week, hubs pointed out the size moving truck we will be using for our move. This thing was grossly huge. More concerning was his remark about how he was concerned we would fit in it. What?!

Looking at that truck while sitting at the stop light, I thought ..."surely we could live with less!"  Granted, we are talking beds for 5 people, dressers, furniture ..etc. but what we 'need' has really changed a lot for me.

Getting rid of things this week is not going to be an issue. So much so that I wonder if I could even call it a fast from excess, except that it has already changed my thinking a bit. I am thinking of things in terms of what we need more than what I can fit into a truck, and what we can sell so that we can spend less on moving it, caring for it, etc.

It has changed how I am packing and moving - so I will embrace this week of letting go.

Here we go ...

Day 1 -

Getting rid of stuff has never been an issue for me. I love to release myself of stuff. One challenge I have found since reading JH's book is that she talks about getting rid of things purposefully to people who need them, rather than absently dropping them off a charity center. Not that that is bad (its what I have always done) but that it would be so much better to seek after the individuals who really need things we are casting off. Connecting this way may even inspire more sacrificial giving.

I think this will be true for my children, and so we have been looking for opportunities to give to real people.  I think this one is important for them because I really thing my kids think I made up this  whole "there are kids who dont have anything, that is why I am loading up all your stuff and taking it to Goodwill."  They need to see the faces of the kids they are giving to.

I feel a little sad because our time is so short this week we arent going to be able to actually couple all of the things we are giving away with actual people.  We will likely being taking loads and loads to Goodwill or some other such place instead. But I would like to plan to do something better with all of it in the future. I love the concept of direct giving, rather than the abstract kind.

Day Two -

Honesty, "giving" of my possessions has been more about getting rid of stuff I dont need or want any more. To say it was a "donation" kinda seems like I am sacrificing stuff, which I dont feel like I am at this point. 

This kind of giving doesnt hurt really.  I am pondering that today. Do we need to give until we have so little it hurts? What about the intrinsic sense of peace that comes with doing God's will? Does it have to be that suffer in our giving? Or is it simply that we give to the point of sacrifice?

Meaning, does our sacrifice have to hurt or can it be something that though we are giving up we get so much good feeling from it that it doesnt even feel like sacrifice?

I think of those times when people serve me - when I feel they are going above and beyond for me. I know we have been the benefactors of some wonderful blessings in terms of money and other thiings in the past few years. I know that sacrificially it wasn't something that really "strapped" them, but yet the blessing for us was awesome. It was still such a reason for thanksgiving for us.

Sacrifice, yes (of course I am thinking of the widow and her two mites). But hurting in terms of actual suffering for that sacrifice? ...not sure yet.

I feel like its such a blessing to be good with less. Its so satisfying to know I just gave up a closet full of clothes for those who need it more. It doesnt really hurt that bad - so does that make the sacrifice less valuable in the long run?

Hmm. Gonna ponder that this week. ..thoughts?

Day Four - 

As suspected this whole getting rid of possessions thing is no kind of sacrifice.

We have moved a shocking amount of furniture out of here this week - loving the idea of going from two couches, a loveseat, a recliner, two tables (one in the kitchen and one dining room), a large dresser drawers and a filing cabinet,  to hopefully one larger couch and one table. I love it. 

We also sold our car - partly because it was a good idea before it worth nothing, and partly because we didnt want to pull it behind the moving truck. We had it sold in less than 10 minutes from the time I posted it on Craigstlist.  Yay! 

Because time is creeping quickly by, my ability to really go through everything and get rid of stuff as I go is quickly diminishing. I am a little bummed about that but we are still making strides in getting rid of stuff. 

It feels good to release ourselves of the burdens of it. 

One thing I have noticed is how often I think "I can get another one" ...or "I need to pick one of those up ..."  ..really, most of the time I don't need to replace anything, or I really dont need to pick up that thing afterall. Its a habit though. 

{Update April 2013: looking back after almost a year I see I never finished blogging about this one. I guess it was because I was in the getting settled still. I am realizing that while I participated in all the fasts on some level that I stopped blogging about it during those crazy few months. I am a little sad about that! No worries, I am about to start this whole crazy thing again!}

Follow one more fast ...Stress

Saturday, May 19, 2012

7: Clothing

JH focuses on clothing for her second month.  In her chapter she wages war on how many clothes she has, and is determined to sacrifice her choices for the benefit of this fast.  Her reasoning is focused on how much she has, has bought before, and how much she didn't wear. By limiting her clothing to just 7 pieces (not including undies/bras) she is challenging herself to live more sacrificially for the month of her clothing fast.

This one I think I am going to change up a bit, because I would like to make it more about the excessive focus on appearance in our culture. I want to do that largely because this excess can often affect my own mind and heart, and I think it will be a more meaningful fast for me.  I am not a huge clothes person. I dont love buying clothes, and my fashion rule of thumb is to wear what fits and what I don't have to iron.

Limiting my clothing to 7 items will be a bit difficult but not terribly so, since I dont have much more than that I really love and wear anyways.  However, I will start this week off by getting rid of the excess I do have in that area. This excess is mostly related to clothes that don't fit, or ones that I keep for various reasons but still don't wear.

I will limit my clothing  to 2 summer dresses, a pair of jeans, 2 t-shirts (a black one and a purple one), a pair of yoga pants and a pair of flip flops (its summer in Charleston, SC people).

Variations that I would like to add to this fast is related to all the other stuff that I add to my "appearance" excessiveness. I would also like to add a 7 limit on my beauty supplies. I would like to focus on not spending as much time, energy, thought and concern on my appearance this week. So, I am going to limit my beauty supplies to:  face wash, moisturizer, powder, mascara, sham/conditioner combo, blow dryer and round brush.  Not included in the count, but certainly a part of things is my toothbrush/toothpaste and deodorant since this is more for my husband's and my relationship more than a beauty thing.

I will be doing this fast the same week as my food fast- as the two seem to go well together. I will post at the first of the week, then add to the same post throughout the week!

Day One -

My five year old helped me prep for this week by shattering my 4 foot dresser mirror this weekend. Mercifully, I dont have to actually look at myself from the waist up during this whole thing :) How nice of him. 

Today was a crazy busy one, as it is the first day of business after finding out we are moving out of state in three short weeks. This morning was carpool to preschool, home for a bit, get some moving stuff started (housing, jobs, etc), back to preschool for a 4-year old graduation (wow, the things we celebrate nowadays! :),  to the grocery store to stock up on my 7-food list, home for more moving details, cook dinner for husband before his night shift at the hospital, then off to karate.  All the while I wore a summery dress with flip flops (and toenails that need painting but ..alas, its not on the list). 

I was tempted to change a few times but decided to just hang in there. No biggie. 

I did love getting ready this morning - my usual morning routine was cut in half with my using 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner and my makeup being a cinch. It was nice. Hair went to a clippy blow dryer even needed. I need extra points please.

Day Two - 

I am going to celebrate my fast from beauty excessiveness by going to get a hair cut. I had this one planned a couple of weeks back, and so as not to offend my spending freeze I should note that it will be a "free" cut since I and a friend did a product swap with ThirtyOne products. 

In my defense, I feel like it makes good sense have both clothing and a hairdo that allows for little resources to go towards it, but still look kempt and attractive. I have been noticing alot lately that if a gal goes the simple route it seems she has to look like something transported from the 1800's. Since going too old school may not be attractive to my husband I really want to be able to find a wardrobe and a beauty routine that allows for modesty and simplicity while still taking care to look nice. 

I am hoping to get a cut that requires little to no products or excessive time. I want simple, but cute :)

Day Three -

Mission accomplished. I got a cute cut that I can still do an not break my 'fast' from beauty products! I think once I am not being so limiting I will probably add back in some mousse for ease of working with it, but it works well even without it. yay!

Last night, right after I got home from my new cute do I got a surprise at my front door ...four of 'my girls' where there with balloons in hand to kidnap me for a birthday dinner :) While my hair was super cute, I was wearing yoga pants and a dirty tshirt I had been wearing all day while packing. My limited makeup had long worn off and I looked pretty nasty in comparison to their "night on the town" cuteness :)

They, of course, gave me a chance to freshen up (had actually allowed extra time before our meetup with other friends to let me change :)...gotta love these girls.  I had a momentary crisis when i realized that of my two sundresses that I had allowed myself for the week, one was past recovery in the laundry (as I had worn it the day before) and one I had just worn on Sunday.  The dilemma! I wear something else that I havent worn in the last two days? Do I wear yoga pants and a tshirt? 

I opted for the rewear of the Sunday dress, one they all seen not two days before. I have to say that while the feeling only lasted a moment, it was not a comfortable thing to show up wearing the same thing dumb is that?!  These girls are some of my best friends in the world. They love me the most, and care not one bit about what I have on. They had worked to surprise me, pay for my dinner, collect each other, buy balloons, coordinate with my husbands schedule and all sorts of wonderfulness so that I could be blessed this way ...they dont care what clothes I have on!

It is nuts. I mean really. A significant portion of the world would just look at us and say "Are you kidding?"   were I to verbalize such insecurities. 

When my family and I lived in Russia (when I was 15 and 16), we had a translator who wore the same outfit every single day for the entire season. He literally had one outfit for the summer, and one for the winter.  Strange thing was, he was always clean and his clothes always looked brand new. I am not sure how he did that.  

I remember him a lot, when I struggle with the same thing my bff mentions in her blog this week. That is, the struggle with what to wear on Sunday's and when I feel bound by society's rules about when and how to wear something.   I wonder what blessings will come with shaking those rules off. 

I bet I am more aware of what God gave me, and what less about what others think. Hmm. Its worth a try.

Day Four -

I am a huge supporter of Christian women (read, any women ..but especially Christian women)  being modest. I love modesty. I love the effort that an attractive lady goes to make sure that what she is wearing is not distracting to my husband. I love when a teenager with perky 'girls' uses discretion in what she wears on them, for the sake of my boys who are starting to notice these things.  

Its funny though, I am trying to work through my own culturally-affected viewpoint about what that means and where we cross the line between being modest to being so modest that we draw attention to ourselves. 

I think that its possible that one is so 'modest' that it leads to attention that takes it off balance. You know what I mean? I think that sometimes more attention is drawn by trying to cover up every inch of skin.

We grew up with a definition of modesty that has stuck with me ..."Immodest dress or accessories are anything that draws your attention away from a person's eyes" seems a bit strict at first but as I get older I get it. 

Its not just about wearing clothes that are too low cut or too tight. Its about wearing things that make a person look at what your wearing before looking at your face. I like it.   It has lead away from choosing clothes that are too distracting, even if not to areas of my body that are typically inappropriate. For instance, if I wear jewelry or something that constantly draws a person's eyes to my neck or chest (not cleavage necessarily) ...then I feel like I am wearing something immodest. 

Also, when someone is wearing something that covers so much skin that I am constantly paying attention to what they are wearing I feel like it could be immodest. When it is 100 degrees outside and for the sake of modesty a gal is wearing a long sleeve shirt, pants or a skirt to her ankles and has her head covered with a hat I feel suffocated for her. I am so distracted by how seasonally inappropriate it is that it fits into that definition of immodesty for me.

I get why so many chose to do that. I just wonder if sometimes the whole purpose gets lost at times. 

Like I said, I am still looking for where that balance is. Is modest dressed neck to toes? Is it simple, but not distractingly so? Is it socially appropriate, but (clearly) on the more conservative side of things?  Does modesty require nothing be attractive or that I cannot wear anything colorful? 

What does it mean to be modest, but still attractive and not distracting? 

I think it affects my anxiety about wearing the same thing over and over again. Because based on this definition, if I show up wearing the same thing over and over again to church every single Sunday, to the degree that people are thinking "what is her deal? Is she too poor to get something else to wear?" then that would feel immodest to me.  So, then how do I couple being simple and not being distracting?

How do you define modesty?  

Day Six -

Dilemma. We have a social thing today. Its with friends that I have spend some time with this week. I have been able to pretty much juggle things so that I don't see the same people every time I wearing the same thing (am I the only one who does that? ..please say no.) - but today my options are out. 

Anything that I wear today has already been worn in public at least once this week.  Everyone there has already seen all my limited wardrobe (some of them twice already at the birthday dinner), even with no ill judgement intended surely it will be noted that Courtney seems to be wearing the same thing over and over again?

What craziness has happened to my brain? How has this culture affected me so much that I am actually anxious about this decision? Or that I have given any thought to it whatsoever? 

I am kinda appalled. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

7: Food

So, the first fast of the 7 project is about food.

This is not a typical fast, in that it is not abstaining from all foods but rather limiting our foods to a specific list for the week. I feel like JH's list is pretty doable for me, so I will keep her list but add a variation or two.

Her list is chicken, avocados, sweet potatoes, spinach, apples, bread and eggs. She limits extras to olive oil and salt/pepper. She drinks only water; no coffee, tea or juice.

I am going to add spices to mine, partly because I am going to try to include my family in some preparations for meals (I don't have independent eaters yet) and no spices at all would just not get a lot of support.

I am going to make the sacrifice of coffee, which honestly may be the most difficult of all the limitations.  I love my coffee time in the morning. I am better person when I drink coffee. I know it is going to require a few things. First, I am going to have to eat breakfast. Coffee is my breakfast most days and it fills my tummy enough to trick myself into thinking I don't have to get up and actually give myself something good to eat. Second, I am going to have to really fight the urge to be grumpy because it will make me that way.  Who knows, maybe I will be better for it? ...she says as she sits with one of her last cups of steaming yumminess.

Okay, so I think I am ready to do this thing ...Oh, and I think that I may post for the week and then add to the same post all week long. There is something about following the experience in real time :)

Day One:

Worst day ever not to have coffee.  

So, that thing we were waiting for? It is finally moving forward like a whirlwind. Over the weekend we got word we will be moving in the next three weeks. We are excited, anxious and have a TON to do! 

It was the reason I stayed up until 1am this morning. Then, around 3:45 my two-year-old came to bed ready to tell me all about how he wanted cookies, milk and his daddy (who is working night shift this week). He was a chatter box for a while, then settled back down a bit after 4am. He was up again around 6am.  Laying in bed thinking of all our normal Monday holds, then adding in the stress of our pending move ...then realizing that coffee was not on the menu. 

Aw man!  

My lack of caffeine fog, coupled with the stresses of the moment, the hormones of the week and several other factors I am feeling a little on edge. I just got a reminder to pause for the "Blessing Hour" (JH talks about this in her chapter on stress). Its good timing. 

Day Two:

After waking up at 3am with no hope of returning to sleep after 2 hours of laying wide awake, God and I talked and my 7 is now 8. Or at least I am going to give up apples so that I can have my coffee. 

We decided between the two of us that if I am going to do this moving thing and my kids still like me when its over,  then coffee needs to be on the list. 

We understand each other.  

Day Three:  

Well, last night was a bust in terms of this whole fast thing wonderful friends kidnapped me for a surprise birthday dinner!  We went to a really great restaurant where I lost all sense of commitment and conviction and ate something that had nothing at all to do with restriction and limitation. Actually it pretty much represented excess was yummy.

So, being three for three ...I am not doing so hot at this whole thing if you think about it terms of legalistic rules. I have broken them already. 

However, while I would not want to decrease the importance of commitment or would argue the strength of character it takes to not compromise on such things ..I feel like my heart and mind are still very much in tune with the purpose behind the fast. I could just throw in the towel now, since I have 'failed' already ...or I can still take hold of the lessons and the limitations that I have given myself for the purpose of awareness and mental focus. 

Because it is giving me that, even with the coffee and awesome birthday dinner :)

Day Six:

As I am winding down the week a bit, I have to say that it hasn't been extremely hard. Granted, I wasn't 100% the rule follower. Even still, I did pass on several meals and ate almost 100% of my breakfasts and lunches using my "7" limitations. I keep thinking that even my somewhat restricted foot list of the week has more variety than most third world countries. I keep in mind that my list has a wonderful variety of healthy foods that feed my body healthily and that I could survive on, were I to need to. 

Even in my limits, I am more blessed than the greater percentage of the world around me. How humbling to be so aware of it. I think we are so surrounded with excess that we dont even comprehend the idea of anything else. 

To think that the Israelites ate the same thing for 40 years? Manna and quail ...and it was sustaining. I am sure they that must have supplemented with vegetables and fruits from the nations around them. They would have had milk and such things (I dont know..did they drink the milk from their animals? Surely?).  But even still, the main part of their sustenance  was that limited offering from God. 

How spoiled we have become, that we fail to see our constant blessings for want of more variety? 

I have been also limiting my clothing and beauty supplies. It has been interesting to think how often I have said that 'I need' such and such. I 'need' more summer clothes, or I 'need' more shoes. When really, I dont 'need' more of those things I just 'want' more variety in my choices. 

That is not a bad thing, necessarily. I do think though that the more options we have the less we recognize who our real 'needs' are already taken care of. 

These lessons for sure will need to keep simmering!

Meanwhile, on to fast #2... clothing!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Five Second Rule

Inspired by 7: an experimental mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker, I have really started paying attention to the wastefulness of our culture!

I have been kinna irritated about it for a bit, but it hasnt really been something I really paid much attention to until reading about JH's fast from wastefulness. Her focus is more about waste as it relates to the earth, and she refers more to the amounts of trash we accumulate in our society. Her book opened my eyes to that for sure, and then it bumped up my "kinna irritated" about other kinds of wastefulness to "rather frustrated" about it.

We are a seriously wasteful nation.

Take our ever-popular "5 second rule". Every normal mom has this rule. Its the one that says that if your kid drops something on the floor, as long as you pick it up in '5 seconds or less' its still okay. This, by societal law relieves any mother from guilt for feeding her kids food off the floor.

Being 'real' myself, I admit to using this rule quite often  (while I call mine the '5 second rule' its more like ...well, longer than that).  Its a good rule.  But ...then again, the need for it kinna reflects the state of mind of our culture. It is a great representation of how we are so inclined to throw away, do away with, get rid of anything that has been tainted or otherwise is less than perfect and pristine.

I know some of you germaphobs may scoff at my example since it relates to food, but go with me for a bit. In a world that food is growing more and more scarce, we Americans are so quick to amass large quantities of it and then throw it away without a second thought for any number of reasons. I regularly throw away overripe fruit and veggies, leftovers, etc. We are so blessed that we dont think twice about letting our leftovers go bad, while so many go hungry right down our street.

What about clothing? We have so much that there is not a one of us who can't admit to struggling the upkeep of laundry. Its a whole job that requires management of its own. We have to write laundry on our to-do lists and "clean out the kids summer clothes" on our spring cleaning lists. We have so much that we have rotate clothes, store bins and bins of outgrown clothes in the attic, and put stuff way for when we can 'fit into it again.'   Meanwhile, there are people all around us who don't have more than the clothes on their backs, literally.

I threw away a pair of Crocs this week when my 5-year old showed me a hole had worn through the bottom of one of them.

Then, I saw this picture on a blog..

These little piggies belong to a child in Ethiopia.

How wasteful are we?

Not that we should make our children to walk around with their shoes disintegrating around their little toes. I am not suggesting that we should. But I think we need to me more attentive to those things that we are simply unnecessarily wasteful about. What could we reuse, recycle, give to those who need it or otherwise get them from being stored away for our future use instead of shared?

I have held on to a stack of jeans that I fit in only briefly before getting pregnant with baby #3. I just couldnt give them away, they were in great condition and surely someday I would fit into them again. How selfish I have been - so wasteful of the resources I have when there are those so close to me who could use them.

They are the to-go pile as we speak. Now, to find someone who can use them all. I can't wait.

I am asking myself this question right now ...what am I hoarding that God could use to bless others? What resources do I waste simply because of my abundance?

I don't think we should writhe in guilt over such things, but rather be moved to an acute attentiveness to what God may have given us our abundance for. This helps us become more Christ-like, guilt creates a barrier to that.

I just can't keep from thinking ..." You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." 2 Cor 9:11 ...oh I hope so! Don't you?!

I am working on becoming less wasteful of what I have it food, clothing, money, time, possessions, plastic or shoes.  It's not going to be easy, because being wasteful is a part of my makeup. But I think it will be worth it.

It keeps coming back to 'having everything you need, you may abound in every good work'. I don't want some of that everything to be put away in an attic somewhere not being shared with those who it was meant for to start with.

{Sigh.}. Man, when the Spirit starts moving in a gal He can cause call kinds of ruckus!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

7: Getting Started

So, it feels like the 7 project has come along at just the right time for me!

In my period of waiting for God to move my family forward it seems a perfect time to focus my mind and energies on considering things of Him. In times where seeking God is on the forefront of our hearts and minds, it seems the right time to fast and pray for his guidance.

I have loved reading of Jen Hatmaker's journey through her 7 fasts. I have loved to see how she grew through each one, and the changes that she ultimately made because of them. I have loved to see how her personal struggles exhibited themselves in her decisions about what to fast from and her level of determination in fasting from each area.

I find her determination and motivation quite inspiring. Even still, I know that even as I start to consider how these fasts look for me I know they will look worlds different from hers. Even though I intend to use her list of areas to excess to fast from, I anticipate using some variations as they fit our needs, my heart and as the Spirit leads :)

Aside from variations on the individual fasts themselves, there are a few things I will do a bit differently as far as the project goes.

* I will do my fasts a week (7 days) at a time ...this fits into my current season well, and allows for big changes were God to decide the next few weeks are the ones where we make them! :)

* I will combine some of the fasts. I am not sure that I would tell someone to do it this way, but I am loving the idea of bring a few of these fasts together and working on them simultaneously.  I am going to put the food and clothing fasts together (thinking of limits on the body, inside and out),  the possessions and shopping together (thinking of decreasing spending and getting rid of things at the same time), and stress and media (thinking of decluttering outside stimulation and focusing on inwards peacefulness). The fast on wastefulness will be an ongoing thing throughout the month.  This only makes up 3 weeks total, but I figure that allows for life to happen and who knows ...maybe we will find something else to fast from for that week :)

* My family is only involved to a limited degree (read, so limited they may not even know it). I have decided that it isn't really fair to drag my husband into this without it being something he chooses to do, and while he is a good listener for my crazy schemes he isn't really committed to them as of yet :)  We will see if he notices me wearing the same things for a solid week! ha!

* I anticipate starting on Monday ..which really offends my sense of orderliness because I would like start at the beginning of the month or perhaps some other "beginning" that makes more sense besides not-the-middle nor the beginning of the month. But, Monday will work for the time being.

* I will post at the end of my week of fasting instead of as I go, hoping that will make for easier reading were anyone to want to read it.

If you are perhaps fasting in some way, either as part of the 7 project or not ..I would love to know to be praying for you!

I am excited to see what God has planned for the next weeks ahead!

{Update: You can follow my efforts on fasting from food here!}

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