Sunday, October 28, 2012


It's my understanding that after giving up an addictive substance one goes through a time of withdrawal that is "typically accompanied by distressing physiological and mental effects." (Thank you, hard copy of the Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition which has not been off my bookshelf in years.)

As I anticipated Seven Week 4: Media, I predicted the biggest factor for me would be not checking Facebook each day. Okay, multiple times a day.

It turns out that I am spending significantly more time with my computer than I thought. It's ridiculous.

Typical Day:
Wake up and check Facebook.
Get ready then check personal email and possibly school email and Facebook.
Go to work and take lunch break, check email and Facebook.
Finish work day then check email and Facebook for messages before leaving to get kids.
Get home and check Facebook and my blog.
Throughout the night Google topics as needed
Post on Facebook cute things the kids do or say.
Read on Facebook the cute things my friends' kids do or say.
Check out blogs of favorite authors, etc...
Put kids to bed then hang out online looking at friends' pins on Pinterest.
Sometimes watch a show on Hulu.
Read friends' blogs, etc...
Check Facebook one last time before bed.

What is the deal with me and Facebook?

Why am I obsessed with social media?

Why do I continually post things about my children or life?

Why do I care if people "like" my posts and comments?

My commitment for Week 4 was to fast from Facebook for seven days and to limit my use of the internet to email, blogging, and job-related sites.

My media fast started Thursday morning, and I blew it in the first 5 minutes of the day. I received an email from a friend that she had read my blog and had linked my blog to her most recent post. So, of course, I had to click over and read what she wrote, right?

I thought back to my food fast and how a wise friend had referred to the profundity of Ignatius of Loyola who encouraged very specific and clearly defined commitments concerning a fast. I knew I needed to be equally as vigilant regarding my media fast.

So, I started turning my computer monitor off. I checked email fewer times throughout the day and sent emails as needed; but I found I had a lot of extra time on my hands to finish going through closets and cabinets, to clean and organize the house, and to spend with the kids (Read: take a nap with Josiah on the couch).

Now that watching a movie as a family is not an option, I hope to replace that time with activities our family can do together: games, books, projects, cooking. I want my kids to choose playing Racko to watching Ratatouille.

The harder part for us has been the radio. Since it *is* a form of media, it was included in my media fast.

And I miss it.


Perhaps most of all on our hour-long trip to visit friends in Noblesville Friday night.

I planned ahead. I took card games and electronic Twenty Questions.

Elisha started playing the electronic game, but that didn't include everyone so we transitioned to old-fashioned Twenty Questions. Me and three children: 4, 6 and 9.

I guessed Elisha's object in under 3 minutes. It went something like this:

Elisha: It's a thing.

Me: Is it alive?

Elisha: Yes.

Me: Is it an animal?

Elisha: Yes.

Me: Does it have 4 legs?

Elisha: Yes.

Me: Does it have fur?

Elisha: Yes.

Me: Is it a type of pet?

Elisha: Yes.

Me: Is it a dog?

Elisha: Yes. What kind of a dog?

Me: Is it a Yorkshire Terrier? (the breed of his dog)

Elisha: Yes.

And then there was Madelyn's "animal" which we couldn't guess and it turned out to be an alien. (Or was that Josiah's?)

This quickly degenerated into children not taking turns and arguing and loud voices which inspired me to impose a "No Talking Time" while I called my friend who is also participating in Seven and asked her when it becomes more necessary to turn on the radio and keep mom sane than to complete the seven media fast. She kindly suggested we all play the Alphabet Game.

We all started looking for letters which lasted approximately 5 minutes at which point the younger two gave up. Fortunately, they started playing Go Fish while Elisha and I spent the next 30 minutes finding G through Z.

We arrived at our friends' house and enjoyed dinner together. I decided to allow a brief recess from their fast since we were guests, and the kids ended up having a dance party, playing a Cars video game and watching Madagascar 3. I rationalized that, ultimately, this is my journey and they should not have to be subject to the same level of dedication that I am.

So it seems like we have been on Week 4 for around two weeks, but it has only been 4 days. I am looking forward to the end of this fast but am contemplating what balance looks like for me and my family in the area of media.

Any words of wisdom and discernment from the blogosphere would be welcome. What's working for you and your family? Anyone?

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Seven week three has continued into week four.

Once I started purging, I just couldn't stop: bookshelves, closets,, sheets, blankets, magazines, books, dishes, college notebooks, bags, hats, puzzles.

I have an entire corner of my living room piled with boxes and bags of donations.

God has connected some of my stuff with people who can use it, but there is so much more that still needs to find a home. I'm excited to keep searching for people who need these items.

But, look what I found during this process...

That's right.


Empty space.

Shelves that were crammed with books have extra room.

Closets that had boxes stacked under the hanging clothes have nothing on the floor.

I have written before about margin, and that is what is now reflected in our home: blank space around the edges. Room to breathe.

I love the way it looks.

But I love the way it feels even more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Does anyone else get overwhelmed walking through stores, looking at shelves and shelves of "stuff"?

Maybe it's just me, but I often find myself wondering how stores can possibly sell all of the items they stock.

And where do customers put it all?

And where do we put the things we have to make room for more stuff?

I'm starting to hyperventilate just thinking about it.

(Deep breathing.)

So this week's focus was on possessions. Stuff.

My commitment was to get rid of 12 things a day for a total of 84 things.

Like I mentioned in the last post, I regularly sort the kids clothes and hand them down to friends. I already sorted my clothes and gave them away. I thought I might have a little trouble coming up with 84 things, but I had a backup plan: books.

This is where I confess that I love to read. And my family loves to read. My brother was an English and Writing major, remember. He actually worked at a bookstore for several years and use to surprise me with packages of books delivered to my door. (Thanks, Joel!)

In fact, it has become a Christmas tradition for him to buy the kids classic books: Flat Stanley, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, Don't Let the Pigeon Stay up Late.

So, if all else failed, I would sort through our shelves of books and make up the difference.

Then, I started looking through my cabinets: dishes, vases, crystal serving plates, bowls, more dishes, things I rarely or never use.

And I felt God urging me to let go of my stuff. Good stuff. Beautiful stuff. Useful stuff, even.

But stuff that I do not need and that someone else could use.

I have no idea how much I have given away this week. I know it is way beyond 84 items, but I don't plan to count because it's not about a number.

It is about the freedom in my heart and in my soul. A freedom from possessions and a freedom to share and give generously in God's name.

It's not comfortable.

It has been painful.

But God keeps reminding me of a conversation with a wise friend that adjusts my perspective and reminds me of why I am doing this.

Me (realizing that I am wearing my only pair of jeans to build a fire Saturday night and that I planned to wear them to church the next morning): "Oh, I'm going to have to wash these. This is all kind of inconvenient..."

Wise friend: "So is being poor."

Thursday, October 18, 2012


My food fast ended Sunday evening; and although the timing was when I had planned, the meal wasn't. I knew we would be ending our Sunday School class activity with pizza, but I guess I envisioned sitting down and eating at a leisurely pace while enjoying deep conversation (or something.)

Instead, I was helping determine the winners of the race and ended up grabbing a piece of lukewarm pizza and some carrots while helping clean up the mess.

I was grateful for the chance to eat other foods again but felt like the breaking of my fast needed to be a bit more meaningful and intentional. Now that I know more about what to expect, I think I can plan my next fast more effectively. We'll see.

Even though the fast is over, I have found myself thinking more about the foods I choose to eat. Do I really need a snack-size Snickers candy? Am I hungry enough to have a another muffin or does it just sound good? Do I want a Starbucks mocha loaded with sugar? Usually, the answer to these questions is no, and I refrain (although I will admit to having two muffins.)

I hope to continually evaluate my choices with food, if for no other reason than to ensure that I am eating healthy and balanced meals and snacks and honoring God in this area.

Oh! And a final note: I realized today that I have not had a bowl of cereal in over 2 weeks. That may be the longest I have ever gone since I was physically able to chew. I LOVE cereal. It's quick. It's easy. It's inexpensive. It tastes great. have 12 essential vitamins and minerals!

But, it's not "real" food - basic, grown from the earth, less than 5 ingredients, blah, blah, blah. So, I'm trying to live without it. So far, so good.

And now for this week's challenge: Possessions.

I have to admit that I thought this one would be easy.

I go through clothes and cabinets a couple of times a year to organize and sort and give away.

I pass down all of the kids' clothes to friends who can use them.

I raid our pantry for food items to set out for fill-a-bag-for-hunger when the postman picks it up.

In fact, I just went through my closet and gave away a ton of clothes.

I actually wondered if I would be able to find enough things to give away, but I made my commitment:

I will give away 12 things a day for a week.

That's 84 items.

I thought if I got desperate, I could give away some of the kids' books.

Then I started going through cabinets and closets tonight.

I think I need an intervention.

Seriously, where did all of this stuff come from? And why am I keeping it?

I'm creating a pile of items to share and am certain I will have no trouble meeting my goal of 84 items.

Now I need to know the best way to find someone who needs it. Facebook? This blog? A list posted at school?

Again, I'm open to ideas. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012


We Americans seem to view choice as a good thing.

Give us options, variety, a vote. Choice is a right.

While it has been challenging to limit my food choices these past 9 days, it has also been strangely freeing. No longer do I have to decide what to have for a meal. The kids' leftover sandwich scraps stay on their plate. Snacks and extra treats are bypassed. In my crazy life, it has been one less thing to think about.

But then I realized: this is still a choice. My choice. One that millions of people do not have. 

I stood serving food to sweet families at St. Martin's last Saturday and was overwhelmed with compassion for those in our own city who have no choice.

I know some would argue jobs and politics and welfare; but the fact is that whatever has created and perpetuated their situation, there were people who needed a meal. St. Martin's leaders and volunteers met that need. 

Then there are those in other countries: brothers and sisters in Christ, our neighbors, by Jesus' definition. I keep thinking to myself, "If I were a parent without food, unable to feed my children, how generous would I want a fellow Christian to be?" Would I struggle knowing the huge discrepancy between my life and theirs?

Knowing this, what is my responsibility? Most of the time we are told that as long as we do "something," we are doing our part.

I'm not sure I believe that anymore. (Maybe I never did.)

Maybe "something" is not enough.

Maybe I am called to do more.

I'm still struggling to discern what that means long term; but for this week, it means I will add clothing to my fast. I have narrowed down my wardrobe to 12 items ("outerwear") that I will wear for the next week: work, church, sleeping, mowing, mom's birthday lunch, volunteering at St. Martin's, Sunday School event. All of my activities in the same 12 articles of clothing:
  • one pair jeans
  • one pair black dress pants
  • one pair tan cords
  • one red v-necked sweater
  • one black long-sleeved t-shirt
  • one rose v-necked long-sleeved t-shirt
  • one gray long-sleeved shirt
  • one teal Frances Slocum t-shirt
  • one old soft burnt orange t-shirt
  • one gray hooded sweatshirt with "San Diego" on the front
  • one black zip up jacket
  • shoes: black dress shoes and tennis shoes
And here's what I'm leaving behind:
  • jewelry
  • belts (had to use a safety pin this morning
  • scarves, hats, other accessories 
I just realized while typing what I won't wear that I have to wear a hat to St. Martins while I work in the kitchen or else I have to wear a hair net. After one week in a hair net, I quickly decided to wear a hat from that point on. So I have a choice: exchange an item already on my list for a hat or keep my 12 selections and wear a hair net. 

The fact that I even mentioned this reveals the vanity in my heart. Rats. We'll see what happens. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


I'm seven days into "7" and I'm still alive.

I haven't messed up. (Unless you count Saturday night: I dreamed I was walking down the hallway at school and someone had left a Starbucks drink on the floor. For some reason, I assumed it was for me and started drinking it only to realize that in doing so I had broken my fast! It was a terrible feeling even as a dream. And it might have been worse if I had acknowledged my sin of theft as well.)

Overall, choosing to only eat from my list of foods has not been as hard as I had anticipated. I struggled with an eating disorder for several years in high school and college, so restricting food is not a new discipline for me.

In fact, it is due to those tendencies that I have never chosen to fast from food for an extended period of time. I kind of gave myself a pass and skipped on to other spiritual disciplines.

I'm discovering, though, that dieting and restricting food is altogether different from fasting. (Or at least it should be.) The distinction is motive.

When I diet, the focus is me: my weight, my body, my self-esteem.

When I fast, the focus is God: His sufficiency, His Word, His power.

In case you are wondering exactly how this has played out, here is what a typical day looks like. (I am assuming if you don't care, you can scroll down or click off my blog. No one is forcing you to be here, right?)

Breakfast is often toast and milk, maybe a banana. I found a whole wheat bread that I really like and plan to continue buying even after this 2 weeks. I have been drinking 2% milk instead of 1% so I don't lose too much weight (a couple of friends were worried about this), and could definitely adjust to that taste.

Almonds or string cheese provide a good grab and go snack. Or sometimes after school, I have an apple.

Lunch usually consists of cheese, a hard boiled egg or chicken, an apple, and sometime a banana, depending if I had one earlier.

Dinner can be eggs or chicken, more fruit and bread or sometimes a smoothie (frozen strawberries, frozen ripe bananas, plain yogurt, frozen orange juice concentrate, and milk.)

Part of me likes the predictability of knowing what I will and won't eat. It saves some energy and brainpower.

I thought the kids might wonder about what I am eating, but we must have been eating a lot of eggs and toast or chicken and sweet potatoes before because they haven't asked about anything. I do fix them other things. So don't worry that they are stuck eating just what I am.

My verdict after week 1: I think this is a good thing. I feel healthy. I am not wasting money on extra snacks or fast food (although I should admit that I was once tempted by Culver's flavor of the day), so that is better stewardship. And I have spent some of my meal times reading the Word and talking to God. Which is the point, right?

Well, that and realizing how much excess I live with and learning to make godly choices regarding that excess. More on that tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, we are  meeting tomorrow night to discuss week 2: clothes. Seven clothing items. Or twelve even. I'm not sure how that is going to play out with work...we'll see. Any suggestions?

Thursday, October 04, 2012


"Seven" week one has begun. I met with the girls last night and we hashed out details of our fasts: How many foods? Which foods? How many meals? How long will we fast? 

Due to some miscommunication, I started my fast yesterday morning and my friends are starting today. Last night, I already found myself thinking, "What am I doing? Who picks certain foods and decides to eat only them for an extended period of time?" Evidently, four moms in Marion, Indiana. 

Below are my 12 foods. I'm not sure why I chose 12. It seemed like a "biblical" number: 7, 12, 40, right? Seven didn't seem like enough and 40, well, that was too many; but 12 was (say it with me) juuuust right. So here they are:
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Plain yogurt
  • Milk
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Almonds
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Orange Juice
I'll fast every day, all day for 12 days, breaking my fast on Sunday evening, October 14 when my Sunday School class has an social/outreach activity. It seems like a fitting time to end since part of what I hope to gain from this time is more compassion for others, a deeper understanding of their needs and how God can use me to meet those needs. 

My heart is overwhelming with gratitude for the blessings my family enjoys: health, home, friends, family, food, heat, clothing, a job...God's physical provision. But also for the unseen gifts he so generously bestows: joy in the very midst of trial; peace in any and every circumstance; hope for the future, both earthly and eternal.

I'm learning that these blessings are not mine to hoard and enjoy. It is my responsibility, my privilege even, to share these. I want to know how to do that. What does that look like for our family? I'm trusting God to make some of these answers clear in the next several weeks as I journey through "Seven." (Or should I call it "Twelve"?)

I'd appreciate prayer. I want to be faithful to this fast. I was talking to a co-worker yesterday and she was eating a caramel-apple sucker. (I love those!) I was thinking how I'd love for her to offer me one, then suddenly realized I might have eaten it if she did. Yes, I forgot in under 12 hours that I was fasting. Brilliant.

In case any of you are planning to fast, Bill Bright has some great thoughts on fasting. And I'd recommend talking to friends who have fasted for advice and perspective. A wise friend called last night and shared some verses and insight that helped me finalize my plans and expectations for this time. 

I'm excited. I'm a little nervous. But I'm anticipating great things. 

"He must become greater; I must become less." -- John 3:33

Monday, October 01, 2012


The summer of reading has continued into fall. I recently started 7: an experimental mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker. Wow.

Not only is it a challenging book with ideas for reducing and giving and re-thinking "stuff." But she quotes (and actually met!) Shane Claiborne. 

See how God is weaving together all of these books and themes? Very cool. 

A few friends and I created an accountability group surrounding the book and are planning to focus on each of the 7 areas Jen addresses: food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress. Below is the description from the book cover to give you and idea of what we are getting ourselves into:

"Jen and her family would spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe "seven sacred pauses." So, what's the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It's the discovery of a greatly increased God - a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends a social experiment to become a radically better existence." 

This week our group's focus is food. I want to approach this as a fast: intentionally sacrificing what I would normally eat in order to gain a deeper understanding of who Christ is and what he desires of me.

My question is what will that look like? I have less than 48 hours to discern this since my group meets Wednesday night. No problem, right?

I have thought about choosing 7 foods; but to be honest, I think I could live quite happily on cereal, milk, eggs, peanut butter, bread, potatoes, and apples. In fact, that is often what I eat when the kids are not home. Let's be honest, it's mostly what I eat when the kids are home.

However, those foods are not amazingly healthy; and I'd like to encourage more "real foods" in our diet. So I have also considered doing a nutritarian diet where "90% of your daily diet should be comprised of nutrient-rich plant foods with health-promoting phyto-chemicals."

Confession: I didn't even know what a nutritarian was until yesterday.

I think I need to pray about it. It feels weird to type that. I'm not sure why. 

I'm sure God has an opinion and a preference, but I often don't ask him about things like this. Which I should. And I plan to. Now.

I'll report back after our first meeting. I'm looking forward to it (in a this-will-be meaningful-and-life-changing-but possibly-not-fun sort of way.)