Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Week seven of "Seven" is officially over.

For some reason, out of all the weeks, the week of prayer and Sabbath seemed to be one of the most difficult for me.

Maybe it's because with seven commitments to pray throughout the day, including midnight and 6 am, failure seems probable.

Maybe it's because deciding to pause and breathe intentionally takes effort.

Maybe it's because adjusting one's schedule to pray is often inconvenient ("...so is being poor." Thanks, Ryan.)

Or maybe it's because regularly inviting God into one's day and week has the potential to be so life-changing that the enemy will use anything and everything to prevent it from happening.

At the beginning of the week, I was confident (with pride, not humility, unfortunately) that I would easily do all of the prayer times. I mean, how hard could it be to pause for a few minutes to pray seven times throughout the day, right?

Piece of cake.

So I set my phone with seven alarms:

Midnight: Night Prayer
6 a.m.: Morning Prayer
9 a.m.: Midmorning Prayer
Noon: Midday Prayer
3 p.m.: Midafternoon Prayer
6 p.m.: Evening Prayer
9 p.m.: Bedtime Prayer

And I woke up at midnight.

Half-asleep, I reached for my Bible and read Psalm 42, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Where can I go and meet with God?"

I wish I could say that this first prayer time was incredibly meaningful and that I had some sort of spiritual breakthrough.

Unfortunately, I don't remember much about it except struggling to stay awake through the passage and being relieved to turn off the light so I could roll over and go back to sleep. (I know. Shallow and very un-spiritual.)

A mere six hours later, my second alarm rang.

Six a.m.

Psalm 19, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."

Amazing words.

Even now as I type them, my spirit swells considering the glory of God and his creation. I think most of that wonder was lost that morning as I stumbled through the passage.

"What is wrong with me?" I thought. This is suppose to be easy. And meaningful.


At the same time.

A friend graciously offered to let me borrow "The Liturgy of the Hours" for "Ordinary Time" (as opposed to "un-ordinary time" Confession: that thought seriously crossed my mind. Sad, but true.)

This book had prayers and scripture for each hour written and ready to go. Score! So each hour, I opened the book to the appointed prayer and read.

I had no idea what I was doing, but I did it anyways.

Noon: read and pray (and eat).

3 p.m.: read and pray.

6 p.m.: read and pray.

I developed a sort of a rhythm...a bit awkward and unrefined, but consistent. Until one night when I didn't get up for midnight prayer.

The alarm went off and I...turned it off and fell back asleep. Nice.

Then the 6 a.m. alarm went off. I did the same thing! Huge fail. It's embarrassing to type.

I got back on track with daytime prayer but realized that it was too late. I had ruined my track record. My perfect score.

Then God revealed my self-sufficiency.

And my self-satisfaction.

And self-confidence and self-admiration.

(Are you sensing a pattern?)

Since when did prayer - or any spiritual discipline for that matter - become about me? If it's not about God, then what's the point of doing it?

I decided to let go...

of keeping score.

of comparisons.

of tracking and goals of perfection.

And I embraced grace.

Sweet, generous, overwhelming grace.

And I kept praying...not to prove or win or do.

But to be.

And that is enough.

Friday, November 23, 2012


I wrote this poem 10 years ago. 
I am so thankful God has been working to transform me 
and to free me from the expectations of society 
and the curse of commercialism. 
Christmas has become a time when our family 
tries to find ways to give gifts to Jesus Christ...
since it is His birthday, after all. 

"...whatever you did for one of the least of these 
brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Matthew 25:40

“The Month Before Christmas”
by Jaena Womack

‘Twas the month before Christmas and all through the town,
Every person was busy – no joy to be found.

With their calendars full and great plans made with care,
They knew that the holidays soon would be there.

I’m all ready to go, with my red Santa’s cap
Though I’d rather hole up for a long winter’s nap!

The family is coming for turkey and pie;
There is work to be done; there are groceries to buy:

Cranberries, plum pudding, mincemeat and hams,
Flour, sugar, eggnog, marshmallows, and yams,

Cashews and pretzels and chocolate for dipping,
And full-caffeine hazelnut coffee for sipping,

I can’t forget ice cream -- six quarts, Neopolitan --
Good grief! I may need a sleigh just to haul it in!

Yes, it’s happened again: preparations gone wild,
And I’m half-Martha Stewart half-Julia Child.

Yet there’s still more to do! Let me show you my list –
I have shopping and wrapping and my kids insist

That we spend one whole day finding just the right tree,
Then we finally select one at least nine foot three

Which we drag to our house through the ice and the sleet…
(Never mind that our ceiling is only eight feet.)

Now it’s off to the mall for a fourteen-hour sale
With holiday coupons received in the mail.

With such bargains around…well, it isn’t too hard
To max out my VISA and Discover card.

So I head for our home with my presents in tow
And if this year is much like the past years, I know

As I pull in the driveway and walk through the door,
I’ll be greeted by sounds of my husband’s loud snore.

My children have fallen asleep on their beds
With clothes still on bodies and hats still on heads.

I grab the remote and turn off the TV,
Collapse on the couch, almost too tired to see…

I’ve run myself ragged with plans so sublime
Now I ask, “What’s the point? Is it all worth my time?”

In the silence I treasure a brief interlude;
My thoughts become clear, and I humbly conclude

That it’s not in the presents wrapped under the tree,
It’s not in the friends or the family you see,

Of course it’s not Rudolph or old Santa Claus,
Or donating money to some worthy cause.

No, it all traces back to the night long ago…
To the mother and child and the story we know

But we often forget as we bustle around,
The true meaning of Christmas can only be found

In the birth of a baby – the long-promised king
Who caused shepherds to wonder and angels to sing.

That’s why we celebrate, though some don’t know,
Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, and so…

What I whisper aloud as I turn out the light
Is not, “Merry Christmas, to all a good night.”

Rather “Glory to God in the highest” and then
“Peace on the earth and good will to all men.”

Monday, November 12, 2012


The last chapter of Seven has started a little early in the Womack household.

(I always was an overachiever.)

The title of chapter seven is "stress," which means we will try to reduce our stress by adding resting and prayer to our lives. The author's family started being intentional about taking a Sabbath, beginning with a family meal Saturday evening and continuing through Sunday. She also committed to pausing to pray seven times throughout the day.

While the idea of honoring the Sabbath intrigued me, what inspired me to actually implement the practice was spending an evening with some dear, new friends who live in intentional community in downtown Marion. Residents of the Incarnation House invited me to join them for a Sabbath meal several weeks ago. (Shout out to Amanda, Annie, Emily, Jared and Ryan!)

I was told that they "kind of dress up" (what does that even mean?) and have dinner together, followed by some type of activity (an opportunity to interact and build community).

So, I got "kind of dressed up" and went.

It was a perfect introduction to Sabbath.

Reading the liturgy.

Lighting the candle.

Passing the cup.

Breaking the bread.

Sharing a blessing. 

We ended the evening carving pumpkins together, talking and laughing.

It was a beautiful evening.

I invited them all to celebrate Lord's Day Dinner at my house the next weekend. They accepted.

We read.

We drank.

We ate.

We shared.

Another beautiful evening.

The next step was to involve the kids with Lord's Day. Providentially, a friend's family was also starting this tradition, so we combined our families for the evening, hoping the togetherness would add an extra measure of fun, convincing our kiddos that this was a positive change.

Let's just say that celebrating Lord's Day with six adults is slightly different than celebrating with six children under the age of ten.

We read.

We laughed.

We planned who drank so there would be no arguing about who had to drink after the others.

We tried not to laugh as the kids cringed at drinking after others (even though we wiped the cup.)

We broke bread.

We laughed about the gigantic pieces of bread the kids took.

We shared blessings: dogs, family, friends.

We ate.

We laughed some more.

It was loud and a little crazy.

It was beautiful.

Last Saturday was our family's first Lord's Day dinner on our own.

The kids asked if we could have someone (anyone!) over for Lord's Day, but it didn't work out.

So we sat.

Four around the table.

We set the table with our Lord's Day dishes (my great-grandmother's vintage Fiestaware).

We read the liturgy (four year-old Josiah echoed the words).

"The Lord himself is with us,"

"The Lord Himself is with us"

"to refresh us"

"to refresh us"

"and to strengthen us."

"and to strengthen us."

We drank juice (the children out of tiny plastic medicine cups which ended the "who goes last" discussion).

We broke bread (a slice of whole wheat sandwich bread because I forgot to get a loaf).

We shared blessings (dogs, family, friends).

We laughed and ate.

And it was beautiful.

Thursday, November 08, 2012


I got a little ahead of myself and thought last week was week six, meaning I only had one week to go in "Seven."

I was wrong.

It turns out that last week was only week five (it just feels like week six), so I have two more weeks to give things up: spending this week, followed by stress the week after.

So, spending...

My plan is to spend money at no more than twelve places for a week. I know that sounds like a lot, but as you will see below, I am including in that list every place our family spends money to live - even if the bill will not actually be paid this week. Here's what I have so far:

  1. VIA Credit Union (mortgage)
  2. Vectren (gas)
  3. AEP (electric)
  4. AT&T (internet and phone)
  5. Verizon (cell phone)
  6. Western Reserve (insurance)
  7. Wabash Valley (trash)
  8. BP (fuel)
  9. Meijer (food/everything else)
  10. Reserved - to pay a soil specialist that is coming Monday to check our backyard for the $8,000 to $11,000 septic system I have to have put in! I may be sticking to this week's spending plan forever.
  11. Midwest Coffee Company - this was a "free"spot/TBD until today when I bought coffee for a gift. I decided since I was already spending money there I might as well buy a cookie for myself. At least the food week is over.
  12. This was a free/TBD spot until now when I realized I have to pay my babysitters for the week - 3 different people. Rats. Okay, I am going to try to live within the spirit of the law here and not the letter of the law. All three sitters will be covered in this last space. That's okay, right?
I thought I had this all figured out. 

I already had a friend* suggest that using my Starbucks gift card might need to count as a place on my list since it is "spending" and "consuming."

*Formerly known as my "wise friend" but I'm rethinking that description after the Starbucks advice. 

Just kidding. 

Kind of.

Until today, I would have considered my spending habits fairly restrained. But, I have discovered it is kind of like the food week: I take little bites of things here and there and barely notice I am doing so.

For instance, I made dinner for the kids but didn't eat myself so when I ran to Meijer at 6:30 to grab some medicine for Elisha, I hadn't eaten yet. Normally, I might have allowed myself to grab a taco or something. Instead, tonight I grabbed a rotisserie chicken at Meijer and came home and made myself oven fries. Not quite as convenient but definitely a healthier option and more cost effective since I now have 2-3 cups of de-boned chicken in the fridge for dinner Saturday night.

The kids want to shop at the school book fair tomorrow and don't have quite enough of their own money to do so. Normally, I might give them a few dollars each so they can purchase a book. I sometimes even go ahead and buy books ahead to save for future gifts. As it is, I am hoping their grandparents will buy them a book since they will be visiting the school or Grandparent's Day. (Do you think it's too forward of me to email them this link tonight?)

Bottom line: this is good. Focusing on spending is making me consider each and every purchase I make. Spending, like eating and media, is becoming intentional; and that intentionality is what I hope to carry on long-term to help transform our family.

Sunday, November 04, 2012


We are on week six of Seven, which means our focus is "Waste." In her book, Jen Hatmaker commits to seven habits for a greener life:

  1. Gardening
  2. Composting
  3. Conserving water and energy
  4. Recycling
  5. Driving only one car
  6. Shopping thrift and second-hand
  7. Buying only local  
Although we already incorporate several of these practices into our daily lives, we still have a long way to go before I would consider ourselves "green."

Since my journey through the book has been the slacker version, "Twelve," I thought about coming up with twelve ways to be more earth-friendly. If I counted each type of material we recycled, I might be able to come up with enough:
  1. Recycling cardboard
  2. Recycling paper
  3. Recycling glass
  4. Recycling aluminum
  5. Recycling steel
  6. Recycling plastics #2
  7. Recycling plastics not #2
  8. Conserving water
  9. Conserving electricity
  10. Conserving fuel
  11. Being intentional about extra/leftover food
  12. Reusing things
Okay, I'll admit it. I made that last one up just to get to twelve. 

I don't know what else to do.

I can only drive one car.

I garden during the summer, but it's now fall.

I don't know how to compost. But I guess I could look that up and get started. Maybe.

To be honest, the past five weeks have been a little rough, so I'm happy for an "easy week."

That's not to say I think taking care of God's creation is unimportant. I'm becoming more and more convinced that it is a responsibility I have neglected.

Recycling might seem "unspiritual" to some, but taking care of God's creation and thinking not only of ourselves but what's best for others sounds like sacred work to me.

I was reflecting the other day on how strongly I feel about littering. I would never just throw paper down on the floor or sidewalk, expecting someone else to clean it up. It's my trash. My responsibility.

I questioned how different that is from throwing my trash into a landfill, expecting future generations to deal with it. It's my trash, and it should be my responsibility.

So that's how I am approaching this week. I am trying to focus on each piece of paper and plastic that can be recycled, each leftover bit of bread that could go to the birds instead of into the trash, each light left on that could be turned off.

I think every action counts both for today and tomorrow.