Used

BB and I are dying to know – is there some sort of study that has proven that babies prefer the sound of the pan flute as opposed to actual orchestration? Why don’t these baby toys just play Beethoven’s Ninth by the full orchestra?

I’ve been warned.  Being pregnant, giving birth, nursing, all these things will ruin my body.  I’ll be all used up by the time Fred is 6 months old.  It makes me wonder, what would I be saving myself for? 

I want to be used.  My body was designed (in part) to bring forth life.  My breasts were designed to provide food.  My body is here for a function.  Even if it wasn’t child-bearing, my hands are meant to wash, build, create.  My feet are to meant to walk, run.  My back should be bent.  I’m not a priceless work of art, meant only for observation.

Our culture strives to preserve – save your money, use the candlesticks only for special occasions, keep your skin out of the sun, wear rubber gloves, keep your shoes out of the mud.  We don’t want to get dirty.  We don’t want to be used.  We want our bodies, homes, cars, brains, kept fresh until….until what?  What are we saving ourselves for?

We are about to embark on another 7-style purge of our home.  This one’s going to be bigger, deeper, more painful.  I’m scared.  I love my stuff.  It’s not all materialistic – some of the love comes from the memories the things hold.  The warm coat that’s insulated me at the bus stop, the running shoes in which I’ve logged miles, the skillet that has cooked many a meal, the platter given by a friend, the sweater picked out by my mom.

But then I kick myself.  Here I’m giving away so many items that I was saving for something special.  Why didn’t I use the wedding china more often?  Why have I only worn that necklace once?  I didn’t know that one day I would be called to give it all up.

Our vats are overflowing, and we build another barn to hold it.  Spend it.  Use it.  This life is fleeting.  You can’t take it with you…not in the next life, and sometimes in this one.

We save our money for an emergency.  But (as Francis Chan once asked), is it only an emergency if it affects our family? 

We save our time like misers.  We have to work hard, and we will serve others later.  We will have that date night with our spouse next month.  We will spend more time with the children once we get this last errand run.  What if later never comes? 

Spend it.  Wear it.  Use it.  Jesus’ body was broken, used.  His blood was shed for us. 

Media Fast

One of my favorite months of the Seven fast was the media fast.  It was hard.  I am pretty addicted to media – tv, music, blogs, Facebook.  I don’t like to think that I am.  I like to think that I a purist and above getting sucked into media, but it’s all false.  It was a great experience to detox and have to quiet my mind and thoughts.

Our pastor gave us a challenge this week to detox from media for three days this week, and I’m excited to accept it!  I really need this right now.  Since I’ve been away from work, I spend a lot more time on the internet and watch a lot more tv.  With Baby Bean’s coming arrival and a few other decisions about the upcoming year on the horizon, a fast is absolutely right for me.   I need to hear from God right now.  I need the quiet of my mind so that He can speak to me and prepare my heart for this transition. 

I’ll be back on Thursday!

Humbled

It’s official.  I have a problem.  The first step is admitting it.  I am addicted to chocolate.  I think Baby Bean is also addicted to chocolate, which explains why my addiction has escalated over the past months.  Chocolate totally grossed me out during the first trimester, and I had hoped that maybe the love wouldn’t come back so fiercely.  Alas, not to be.  The only thing that’s keeping me from eating three candy bars a day is the knowledge that slaves are used to harvest cocoa.  Unfortunately, there’s such thing as fair trade chocolate.

I don’t think I can move on to any other steps except admitting that I am powerless over this addiction and not ready to change it.

Remember when I didn’t eat chocolate for an entire month?  That was hard.  There were times I didn’t think I would make it.  I wanted to quit so badly.  Well, I have a friend about to start the 7 fast in January.  Pray for her (and those fasting with her).  You can follow her journey here:

http://diveintoseven.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-gentle-pull.html

I love that there are nutty people out there trying to really live the gospel.  I’m so challenged by these amazing friends.  Another friend was telling me yesterday about how she and her two daughters had breakfast with a homeless woman on Sunday.  What a blessing to her daughters, to model such love.

My other sweet friend met a former stripper last week and is taking her to a Bible study with Eve’s Angels (http://www.evesangels.org/) tonight.  (I was supposed to go with but this baby keeps disrupting my sleep making me turn into a zombie around 6 pm!  Argh.  Maybe next time…)

Between these ladies and my adoptive-mom friends and so many others, I am humbled.  Yes, there’s more to do.  There’s so much hurt and suffering in the world, but there is hope shining through.  God is working, and it’s awfully fun to watch. 

Go Kat!  We can’t wait to hear what you learn from 7.  Enjoy those Christmas cookies while you still can.

 

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…

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.