The Year of the Fast

We need to go back in time a little to recap on a few events from this fall.

On September 22, I had the privilege of sharing our 7 fast journey with the women of The Moody Church.  Three of the other ladies who joined me in the fast also shared, and we had a really rich discussion.  We shared our many failures as well as the things the Lord has shown us and continued to show us.  It was such an encouraging morning!

 

The discussion opened first with the 7 trailer video, and it was almost surreal to think that we actually did all those things over seven months.  As I prepared in the days before the conference, I realized how much happened over the course of those months.  Each month there were so many lessons, and it was so nice to take time to reflect on that experience.  The fast ended somewhat abruptly for us and in the middle of the post-adoption fallout that we never had a chance to really debrief and process what we had learned.  The conference was a great opportunity to go back and look through the old blog posts and recall the crazy journey.

I still can’t believe that we did it, and I really can’t believe that other couples joined us!  When I originally saw the book, I thought I was crazy for wanting to try it myself.  Apparently I am friends with other crazy people!

It’s been amazing to see the response from other women at our church after hearing us speak.  I’ve had a number of women come up to me on Sundays to share their journeys.  One woman proudly declared that she wore the same outfit for three days in a row and that it wasn’t too hard.  Another woman cornered me in the bathroom to talk about how hard it would be to give up wearing accessories.  I love these hearts!  Most people would hear this idea and just brush it off.  By letting the Holy Spirit creep in ever so slightly to challenge, these women are ready for God to do amazing things.

These are my sweet amazing friends! Apparently I am some sort of giant.

Mary Welchel, our director of Women’s Ministries, pushed us to reduce excess in our lives in some way over the coming months, even if not through a 7 month fast.  I personally was again challenged since I’ve been off of fasting for almost two months now.  We are kicking around some big ideas for 2013, but in the meantime, I’ve been re-challenged to confront excess.

We have kept a lot of our habits from our 7 experience.  We are still recycling, keeping car use to a minimum when we can, eating in, avoiding shopping, and stretching those groceries as far as they will go.  I’ve been trying to learn more about products that are regularly produced through slave labor, the biggest culprits being chocolate, coffee, sugar, and clothes.  As a result, we are having a fair-trade or non-chocolate Halloween.  I am threatening to give out pencils, but we are slightly concerned about getting our tires slashed.  As I research baby clothes/products and maternity clothes, I am avoiding brands that are known to use slaves.  Also, we are planning on using cloth diapers to cut down on cost and waste.

One big area where we are trying to avoid excess is in baby preparations.  So far, we’ve managed not to acquire any baby products in our apartment (although I suspect more than a few people who will remain nameless are stockpiling stuff in their basements).  The purpose is two-fold.  First, we want to focus on the present and not plan for the future.  This process is in God’s hands, and He has made no promises that a baby will be born in January.  We are trusting in Him and not living in fear, but we also want to respect this reality.

The second reason is that we don’t need anything yet.  One of the big lessons I took away from 7 was that I only want to buy what I need.  [Now, granted, my needs are often wants in disguise.  I try and be reasonable, and this is an area that is personal.  We all define needs differently.]  The point is that I am the type of person who would buy three bottles of shampoo so that I wouldn’t have to go to Target again for 6 months.  I once found 6 cans of shaving cream under the bathroom sink.  Apparently I was fearing that the recession might cause a nation-wide shaving cream shortage.  Bottom line is that in the world of baby preparations it seems that it is absolutely reasonable to talk about which tricycle to buy a fetus. I am trying to stay away from that discussion for as long as possible.

The other big 7 takeaway for 2012 will be felt at Christmas.  We have decided to fast from Christmas gifts this year.  I am scared and excited.  If you know me, you know that gifts are my love language and that Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year.  I love love love gifts.  I love buying them, wrapping them, making lists of what I want, seeing them under the tree, and unwrapping them in excitement.  When I was a kid, I would wake up every hour and creep downstairs to see if Santa had come yet.  This is going to be hard for me, but I am anxious to see what God will do.

The idea was really born last Christmas with my parents and sisters.  We talked about how it would be nice to have a Christmas not focused on gifts so it was an an easy sell to them this year, and the whole fam is on board.  We’ve decided that we will do some sort of family event to celebrate the day (either fun or service or both).  My parents are in charge of scheduling that, so I’ll have to let you know what they decide.  I am also excited that we will have some extra money that we will be able to donate.

This gift-free Christmas is not totally born out of a desire to keep Christ in Christmas or some silly slogan like that.  Although the amount of money, advertising and focus on gifts at Christmas is nauseating, I do realize that there are lots of benefits to gift giving.  I’m sure I’ll share more posts on that in the future.  The main point for me is to keep focusing on areas of excess and detox from my obsessive consumerism.  There have been too many negative things associated with gifts at Christmas, so we need to take a step back and reassess.

These 7 lessons continue to pour out and infect my life.  I can’t get away from the lessons learned, the opening of my heart to the world, and the communion with my Lord.  I almost want to do it again…

Thank you!

I can’t thank you all enough for your lovely notes, texts, FB messages and comments.  It’s lovely to feel so supported.  I started this blog as a way to remember the adoption and to process through all the crazy things that we were learning.  It’s evolved to a broader spectrum of topics and a way for me to journal all aspects of my life.  Thanks for reading!

I hope to keep blogging about adoption and orphans even though we aren’t officially in the process anymore.  We are currently researching foster care, and all options for growing our family and loving orphans continue to be on the table.  Our eyes and hearts have been opened to some big issues in the world over the past few years, and we feel a little overwhelmed about what our response should be.  In some ways we are just throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks.  We pray that God will continue to use our lives for his kingdom work, and we are open to anything. It’s possible that it will be something much different than adoption.

Currently, we are feeling God pull us into local ministry here in our neighborhood.  BB is reading Brandon Hatmaker’s book Barefoot Church (http://www.amazon.com/Barefoot-Church-Serving-Consumer-Exponential/dp/0310492262), and it’s safe to say that our Hatmaker love continues to grow.  One of the topics in the book is serving local needs and not necessarily through your church or other Christian organizations.  We live in a neighborhood with lots of needs.  It’s a neighborhood with lots of violence, drug use, prostitution, and homelessness.  The schools are under-resourced, and there is a large population of people with mental illnesses.  While it sounds discouraging, in all this hurt, there are so many opportunities to show God’s love.  We’ve barely scratched the surface.  We are excited to see where God leads us.  We’ve already formed some relationships with some of the homeless people in our neighborhood, and we have been beyond blessed by those interactions.

In the meantime, I’ll still be here blogging about the mundane things in my life, encouraging you to change the world by not purchasing mainstream chocolate (http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2012/10/the-inconvenient-truth-about-your.html), engaging in Jen Hatmaker-hero worship, talking about reducing our consumerism, and sharing my experience with pregnancy.  Keep reading!  I love being the center of attention!

 

Transitions

I’ve so enjoyed my first week off!  I’m calling it the honeymoon phase because we haven’t yet felt the financial hit.  So far, just fun.

What did I do all week?  Read, began Season 1 of Downton Abbey, long walks, yoga, some cooking and cleaning, and lots of painting.  I started on Tuesday by saying that I *might* want to re-paint the apartment.  DH has been begging to repaint for years, but I always say no because it’s so much work and costs money.  As soon as the words came out of my mouth, he was hauling paint cans, rollers and brushes up from the basement “just in case.” My fate was sealed.  So far, all I’ve accomplished is painting the hallway and half of the dining room.  Hoping to finish the dining room today.  I am actually really enjoying the physicality of it after 4 years of sitting behind a computer.  My shoulders are sore, and it’s nice to actually accomplish a project. Plus, it feels cleaner without actually cleaning!

We finished the 7 fast.  As I think I said before, we did not finish strong.  But, God was very faithful in answering our prayers in their weakness.  All of the families we did the fast with had some crazy life transitions happen at the end (some good, some bad, some both), and I don’t think that it’s a coincidence at all.  I really believe God has been preparing this group for something amazing, and we are already seeing some of that fruit.  I think I can speak for everyone when I say that our faith has been tested and challenged and come out stronger on the other side.

At the beginning, I wondered whether there would be any lasting impact of some of the reductions we made.  I can say that there certainly have been.  We are spending less, giving more (time, talent and treasure), using what we have, and most importantly, praying and seeking God more regularly.  Space has been created.  There’s no way I would have had the courage to quit my job without the fast.  It’s really been the culmination of the fast for me.  I had been praying all year that God would break the idols that ruled my heart – security, comfort, approval, money, and that He would show me where He wanted me to go with my life.  He has done a mighty work.  Don’t get me wrong – the idols are still there, but He has shaken them and shown me how weak they are compared to Him.

Right now, I feel like He’s shown me where He doesn’t want me to go.  I can’t say that I have clarity on the path ahead, but I’m not sure God ever really provides that.  He wants me to get out of the boat even though it looks like I might drown if I do.

Happy 4th!

Our as Chris Rock says, Happy White People’s Independence Day.  It’s crass, but I like it.  I’ll save my ramblings about patriotism for another day.

Instead, I will tell  you about how we spent our day yesterday.  After blueberry pancakes, smoothies and The Iron Lady (great movie!), we took to reading aloud from Jen Hatmaker’s books, Seven and Interrupted (because that’s how I roll).  We are in month 6 of the fast, and this month, we are limited our spending to seven places.  Thus far we have only chosen three – gas, online bills and a specific grocery store.  We’ve been reading all these books about how to actually live out this gospel we supposedly believe, how to be counter-cultural and really be salt and light.

So, instead of watching another movie and eating a whole pan of brownies, we decided to actually leave our apartment and engage with our neighborhood.  First stop, the local rehabilitation facility for patients with physical limitations.  We had been there once before and really enjoyed our visit.  Yesterday, a group of people were out on the patio having a BBQ and playing Dominos.  We pulled up some chairs and not long afterwards, a staff member rolled out a cooler filled with water balloons for a water balloon toss.

It didn’t take long for an all-out war to begin.  We sat back and enjoyed watching for a little bit until one young woman, who happens to be blind, started chucking water balloons in our direction (with surprisingly good results).  Immediately the moral dilemma begins – is it ever appropriate to throw a water balloon back at a blind woman?  Luckily, we didn’t have to make that choice because her compatriot “Major” (not blind) proceeded to hit me in the stomach and the leg, so all bets were off.  We ended up drenched and laughing hysterically.

It’s not every day you get to have a water balloon fight with people in wheelchairs.

We ended the day with apple pie and neighborhood fireworks with our friends.  It’s hard for me to believe there’s an economic crisis going on when every average Joe seems to have at least a hundred dollars to blow on fireworks, but I guess that’s what Independence Day is all about.

 

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Yesterday I rode three trains and five buses.  This no car in the city thing is not easy, but at the same time, it is.  I don’t miss parking or figuring out how to get places.  I don’t miss fighting about directions or paying for gas.  I’m hoping this habit sticks.  It’s quite pleasant to ride public transportation.

Composting is gross.  I’m not going to lie to you.  We don’t have  a good system for it, so it’s pretty much a jar of rotting food on the counter.  I have a feeling this habit won’t last unless we come up with a better plan.

I have loved learning about consumption.  It started with the possessions month, but this month has really brought it home.

I think I am going to have to stick with purchasing used clothing for a while after reading this article. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/fashion/2012/06/the_salvation_army_and_goodwill_inside_the_places_your_clothes_go_when_you_donate_them_.html

The key lesson for me is that I need to redefine how I use the word “need.”  Do I really need a new pair of shoes or do I just want a new pair of shoes? I also need to combat my own laziness.  Yes, it’s quicker and easier to use a paper towel (in some ways), but if I really care about God’s creation and being a good steward of what he’s given me, using a cloth towel may be a better choice.

It is hard because there’s no way to not consume at all.  Even using a cloth towel results in using water for washing.  I don’t think it’s that easy to quantify.  But, I think being aware and trying to make good choices go a long way.  I am setting an example for the next generation, and I want my children to know about how to care for their environment.  I want them to know the difference between a want and a need.  I want to take seriously God’s command that we steward the earth, and I want to know how my choices affect other people.  I can generate all the waste in the world and not be affected because I am white and rich.  I never have to see it.  I certainly don’t have to live next to it.  But someone else does.

I want to follow Jesus’ command to love others as I love myself.  I don’t want to live next to a landfill, so why should I let someone else?

Some lightheartedness

We interrupt this pity party for a little fun.

Have I adequately explained how much I am obsessed with Jen Hatmaker?  Seriously, I haven’t had a celebrity crush since grade school and Joey from NKOTB, and that was unrealistic.  We could never get married.  He was so old.  Plus, he would have been threatened by my own musical talent.  It would have never worked out.

This is serious.  I think Jen and I would be best friends if she knew me.  Maybe not BEST friends, but friends.  We are so alike. Some obvious similarities:

1. Brown hair

2. Adoption

3. We are both hilarious.

4. Christian

5. Married

6. obsession with delicious food

Did I ever tell you that she messaged me? On FB?  It was amazing.  I messaged her about the first month of 7, and she responded!

I feel like I can relate with her celebrity status.  While I am not technically a celebrity, I am used to be bombarded by questions from people.  I can’t make it through a church service without answering 50 questions about adoption.  And, people invite us over ALL THE TIME.  I’m not being vain.  People just like hearing about adoption. Once I get the kids, it’s going to be even crazier.  We won’t be able to leave the grocery store without being mobbed.  So, just another way Jen and I could relate to each other.

We could be friends.  I swear I would tone down this obvious hysteria and act normal.  She wouldn’t have to know about this blog post…