The end of another 21 day fast has come and gone. Although it was difficult it seemed to go a lot faster than last year. If you keep up with my Instagram stories (and no worries if you don’t…I tend to go on and I know I usually don’t watch stories with the sound on anyway so I really don’t expect other people to either) you saw some of my meals and some of the things I was learning. Some of the things I learned were the same as last year and some of them were brand new. So new that I am not really sure what they mean yet. If I had to sum it up in bullet points (for those of you who love bullet points as much as I do) they would probably be something like this:
- Prayer time is anytime
- New year with a new word
- It’s a trinity, not a duo
For the physical part I can say that the first week was, in a word, painful. Detoxing from sugar and caffeine just plain hurts. The second week was better, broken up by a trip to Florida with my husband where I mostly stuck to the fast but not completely. I mean, how often does a mom of four get a kid free weekend to a warm climate with her husband? I would imagine it’s even less likely than the odds I ever get to pee alone again, or that the Lions will win a Superbowl. The third week was where I saw the most growth, and not coincidentally had the most cravings. Have you ever noticed that in the midst of or before a breakthrough, things seem to get harder? Temptation comes at a more rapid pace? Not a coincidence people, we have a real enemy. As for working out, I slowed down all my physical activity. I did a three week yoga course that I actually enjoyed. I used the time on the mat to do some prayerful meditation. Listening instead of talking at God is something I have always had a hard time with.
Some days were a struggle, not just because of the hunger or cravings but because I felt like I just couldn’t really get enough time to pray and focus on the real reason for this time. Then, I listened to a podcast where Stephanie Gretzinger, a singer and worship leader with Bethel Church was talking about how she felt like she wasn’t able to get enough time alone with God due to her everyday life demands (hello, was she inside my brain or something??) What she said was that she learned that her time of prayer and revelation from God (and she is a songwriter and prophetess so it’s kind of important for her) is something she does ALL DAY. Not just while she’s alone on her face with God in a quiet room. Let’s face it, for a lot of us the only time THAT happens is while we are unconscious at 3am. Even then a lot of us probably have a two year old kicking us in the spleen or laying on our full bladder that we have been ignoring hoping it would just go away so we could get a few more minutes sleep. So, from then on I stopped trying to do this fast “the right way.” I realized it looks different for everyone and while I may not be able to journal sit by myself in those times when hunger or cravings hit, I could pray right where I was and ask for revelation and endurance. Jesus knows our lives, he sees our struggle and he is gracious enough to meet us where we are, either in a quiet prayer time or while we are cutting up hotdogs or sweeping up cheerios for the millionth time of the day. I started to incorporate prayer more into our daily life. Praying as a family more times than just before dinner. Creating an atmosphere where praying out loud is not awkward, does not feel forced. As a child I always felt that whenever someone prayed at home it felt super weird and out of place. I decided that the best way to change that environment in my home was to pray out loud and often, speaking to God as a friend or a father, not as this unknown entity in the sky. It was when I was performing a super glamorous task of motherhood (aka changing a poopy diaper) that I was hit with a word for the coming year. Who knew that even when we are (literally) elbows deep in crap…God can still speak to us and through us? (other than the prodigal son, I guess he kind of set the standard on that but anyway…back to my word)
When I first heard this word I honestly had to look it up. I have never really prayed about or asked for a “word of the year.” I was hoping if I ever got one, it would be something cool that I could get put on one of those bracelets or necklaces or something. Or even better…make it into my next tattoo. What I got was a word that surprised me (and no husband, I do not feel led to go get this word imprinted on my body so no worries…for now.)
- the point at which a plan or project is realized.
- the state or action of producing fruit
Now, I have no idea what I am want most of the time. Ask me what food I feel like having and you may get an answer now or never (most likely never). If I’m supposed to pick the restaurant or activity for the evening…you might as well put your sweatpants back on because odds are we are staying home. The same rules apply when I’m asked to make a “dream board” or set goals or do whatever else Rachel Hollis has been asking me to do. I have sat many sessions staring at a blank screen that said “goals.” I sort of felt broken. What was wrong with me that I don’t have this aspiration to set goals and be a “goal digger” or “boss babe” or whatever else I felt like I was supposed to be? I know what I like to do, I like to encourage people. I like to laugh (mostly at myself). I like being a mom and I like coming alongside other women to show them that motherhood and life and womanhood is not one size fits all and it’s not perfect like we see on our screens. I have thought about a website or expanding this blog but to be honest, it all seems a little overwhelming. When I got this word I felt that it was giving me some confirmation that this last year of growth is going to give birth to something this year that is going to produce good fruit. What that is going to look like? I’m not sure about yet. That thought is both encouraging and terrifying, which is basically sort of how everything in my life feels so at least it’s consistent. I am looking forward to a year of plans coming into fruition.
Lastly, I realized that I wasn’t acknowledging the third component of the trinity. I mean, I feel like I have the “Father, Son” part down pretty well but when it comes to that third part, the Holy Spirit, that part is a little bit more mysterious therefore I tend to shy away. I would do things like pray and ask God for discernment and hear nothing. I had not really considered that as part of my relationship with Jesus. I was reminded of something Priscilla Shirer said in a bible study once that stuck with me. Why did God seem to show up in these huge and dramatic ways in the Old Testament but then, not so much today? Well the answer, in short, was the Holy Spirit. Jesus called the Holy Spirit a “helper” His Spirit that can live on the inside of us at all times (John 14:26). In the Old Testament, before Jesus went to the cross, they did not have the Holy Spirit, they had to cast lots, listen to talking animals, burning bushes, etc etc etc. The spirit of God could not remain in a person for the long term. This is why we see David saying things like “do not take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalms 51:11). See we have the amazing right through Jesus’ death to have his Spirit in us at all times. The even better part is, once it’s there, it doesn’t leave. Well for me, I knew that I had the Holy Spirit but I had been ignoring him so long that I kind of grew used to not really consulting or listening to him. I would read the bible and get nothing, I would pray and hear nothing. I would fail again and again and no matter how much I tried, my frustration levels with my kids were off the charts. Frustrated with myself, I would drown in guilt. Then I would start to think, maybe God had washed his hands of me. Why was everyone getting so much out of the Word? Why did I just fall asleep whenever I read it and when I did read it, not understand basically any of it? Well I wasn’t inviting the Spirit of God to go before me first, I was trying to do everything on my own. Well, we know how it goes when we try to do anything relying completely on our own power right? We can get far, sure. God gave us brains and strength and grit and tenacity but even the strongest person will fall and fail at times. I learned, over these past 21 days to invite the Holy Spirit into every part of my life. Did I still mess up and ignore the newfound discernment that the Holy Spirit gave me and continue to make bad choices, lose my patience, act unkindly? Yes. I’m a work in progress…it’s a marathon not a sprint here people. However, I can say that as I started to actually do this, to actually invite the Spirit into the conversation the Bible started to come alive in ways it had not in a long time. I re read chapters in Romans that suddenly seemed like they were written specifically for me. I was reminded again and again that there is NOTHING that we can do that can separate us from God, who loves us (Romans 8:38). I parked in Hebrews, a book that I had previously not spent much time in and found I was actually able to understand it. Verses like Hebrews 10:22; “let us draw near to God, with sincere hearts and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” freed me from the guilt over past sins. Hebrews 4: 15-16 reminded me that I am not alone in my struggles and that I can boldly approach God, asking for the help I need. I found myself wanting to read more each day. I ordered a bible study to do on my own, not because my church is doing it, but because I want to do it. And the best part is, this is only the beginning. Now that I have realized that I have been ignoring and leaving out this very important part of the trinity, I can only expect even greater things. Most importantly evidence of the fruit I am promised if I allow the Holy Spirit to take up space in my life. If you need a reminder, that fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (and notice that it is fruit, as in singular, as in if you have one you have them all). There is not one thing on that list that I am not lacking in. Some more than others but all are things that will come to fruition (see what I did there…) if I adopt the spirit of Christ as opposed to following my own flesh. That my friends is the best news I’ve gotten in a long time. I honestly don’t think I would’ve gotten there if I had not taken these last 21 days to fast and pray.
Now, I know fasting food isn’t possible for some people. For several years I was either too pregnant or too close to an eating disorder to really feel comfortable doing it. I think you need to use your discernment on this one, maybe ask the Spirit for some help since He is the one who gives the best advice. It was only the last two years (and really just this year if I’m being completely honest) that I have been in the right head space to fast for the right reasons. My pastor always says “fasting without prayer is just a bad diet.” If fasting a meal or limiting your food is triggering for you as you deal with an eating disorder, don’t do it. There are other things to fast, other ways to clear your head space and free you of distractions so as to more clearly hear from God. Do those things. If that isn’t you, if you are not in that place, I highly encourage you to fast and pray at least once in a while. Jesus says in Matthew 6:16 “when you fast…” he does not say “if you fast.” It’s important. It allows us to get out of our own way, to empty ourselves of physical things and ask God to fill those hungry spaces. I am so thankful for this time every year. The real challenge is carrying the lessons I learned into the rest of the year. Whatever 2019 brings, I have confidence that I will be able to face it with more of all things we are promised by the God who loves us.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16