Saturday, January 31, 2009

Can a Double Cheeseburger be Reduced to Liquid Form?

Updated to add: This morning (2 days post-fast), Jason said to me, "Remind me before the fast next year of how I feel right now. Post it on your blog!" Yes, husband. He says he has so much more energy and isn't feeling sluggish in the mornings AND only wanted to have one cup of coffee today. To those who know my hyper-caffeinated husband, this in itself could be proof of God's existence. So, spiritual benefits aside, fasting seemed to be a kind of detox for him. And me? I hardly even want Diet Coke anymore. (For now. I'm just sayin'.)

A few weeks ago, Jason brought home a book that I was surprised to discover is on the New York Times' Bestseller List. It's a book called "Fasting", and covers the spiritual reasons behind a fast, different types of fasting, and the biblical support offered for it. I wouldn't have thought enough people would be interested in such a book to enable it to become a bestseller. I'm not knocking the book or the topic--we are in midst of a fast right now, but it's not usually something people get excited about, you know? Fasting involves determination, self-denial, and lotsa juice, as you'll see below.

I was talking to Becky and Matt about this the other day, and they mentioned that they'd be interested in a post about fasting--how one does it, specifically.

Well, we are certainly not experts on fasting--you can read that guy's book, and many others, for that. All we know is that fasting is one of those mysterious things that really does make a difference in life and matters of the spirit. I was thinking about this and it reminded me of how, years ago, I would ask people, "How do you know if you're in love?" And they would say, "You'll just know." That response was so irritating to me. I mean, how unhelpful is that? However, I ultimately found it to be true. So, how do I know fasting makes a spiritual difference in life? Well, I just do. Are you irritated yet?

(I'll get to the mechanics in the next paragraph. Just one more thing.) If you follow or read the teachings of Jesus, you know that He outlined three things that Christ-followers should do. He said, "When you give...When you pray...When you fast." Not if, but when. This is a somewhat painful realization. Giving generously, praying at inconvenient times, and denying yourself through fasting are meant to be regular practices of the spiritual life. And as much as I'd like to make it multiple choice, there doesn't seem to be that option!

So this week, for instance, Jason is doing a liquid fast. That means for 7 days, he is only drinking fluids. Water, Juice, Chocolate milk (yum), Decaf tea, Chicken Broth, Juice, and water. And did I mention juice? That too.

Towards the end of the week, he has a milkshake or two. There's no rule or regimen of what to drink when , but he mainly has water and juice in the mornings, and then seems to gravitate towards warm things--chicken broth and hot tea, in the afternoon and evenings. By the way, if you're fasting, chicken broth is like a gourmet feast. Just magical.

Being five months pregnant, my fast is different, of course! We don't believe God calls us to endanger our physical selves in pursuit of spiritual things. Self-Denial is not the same as endangerment. I am eating 3 squares a day, but have cut out "extras"--sweets, my beloved Diet Coke, and stuff I really don't need. I am also cutting way back on TV. If I get hungry between meals (baby needs food!)I have a piece of fruit. Actually, what I'm doing shouldn't be called "fasting". It should be called "Eating Like A Grown Up Person".(Except with Diet Coke, please.)

Some people in our church are fasting from meat and sweets, others are eating one meal a day, and others are adding "extras", like television. If you've never done that, I recommend it! The sound of silence is a nice thing from time to time. The idea is not to legislate what others' fast should be, but for each person to decide what is right for them to do, within reasonable guidelines. We always tell people to consult their doctor if they have any health concerns.

So how does it feel to go 7 days without eating? Well, the first couple days are rough. You feel sleepy, and a little irritable. And your stomach, used to being filled at certain times, protests. Caffeine headaches ensue. However after a bumpy start, a kind of clarity comes. That statement makes me think of stories I've read about mystics who, after a rigorous regimen of fasting,go to the mountaintop and have fantastical visions.

Well, it ain't really like that for us! It's more of a sense of being more "tuned-in" to God and what He is saying. Again, maybe this is just one of those "you just know" kind of things.

We just know that it makes a difference for us. Not just the actual not eating part, but the change in lifestyle that that brings with it. We find that we have more time to think, pray, and talk with each other. It is a fantastic way to start the year. And Jesus teaches it, which matters to us. Fasting...Try it!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Amy, Destroyer of Worlds

(wait for it, it will all be made clear)

So, today after parking a few blocks away from the school to pick Ava up, and walking briskly carrying Nate in 90+ degree heat (all while gestating a fetus, THANK YOU), getting Ava and walking back to the car, I was, well, glistening, as we say. (Do we say that?) So the kids and I got home and immediately put our bathing suits on and headed for the pool.

Yes, it is summer here. Most of my Northern Hemispheric readers have difficulty grasping this point. I promise, it IS summer. And hot. Free your minds, nordic ones! When we first moved here, I thought that summer in January would be like a fake summer, like "These people know it's not really summer, right?"

Am I still talking? Okay. So anyway, here in Australia, the land abounds with much flora and even more fauna. Spiders. Lots of spiders--living in your backyard and ocasionally making their way into your house. Most of them are harmless, a few are poisonous, and many of both kinds are large. So everytime we go back to the pool, we are on spider alert. It doesn't matter if we just went into the backyard two hours ago, a newly constructed web can be built in that time.

Just last week (close your eyes, Dad), Jason found a live funnel web spider in our pool. And another at the base of a tree a few days later. Isn't that the most awesome thing you've ever heard? It sure excites me. Yo, check it:

The funnel web is one of the more venomous spiders in the world, and proudly calls Sydney home. So, you can imagine, I have become a fairly indiscriminate killer of spiders. I'm just not good enough at telling which is a goodie and which is a baddie. So, after we swam, the kids went over to the swingset where there was a truly enormous spider web between the top of the swingset and the roof of the house. "Mom--spider web!", Ava called out. Dutifully,I grabbed the broom and walked over in my dripping bathing suit to take the web down.

And here's a funny thing. I always have a hard time doing this. Wanna know why? Good Lord, if you're still reading this, you must want to know why. It's not cause I'm scared or squeamish. It's because these webs are really stinkin' impressive. This one was at least 4 feet wide and 3 feet long. I always stand for a minute, and admire it. Over the last few years, I have been put in the position to appreciate, and I mean really appreciate, what it takes to build something.

In our case, we are building a church--a local congregation of people united for a purpose. And it is hard. So when I see something, anything: a spider web, a house, a business, a well-crafted speech that is done well, I stop and admire. It takes determination and heart and vision and it sure doesn't come easily. (No, you cynics, I'm not saying a church is like a spider's lair! Stop that!)

As I stood there this afternoon and looked at that web, I actually said outloud, "Sorry, dude. Nice web." Then I took the broom handle and gently disconnected the web from the swingset. The kids think I'm nuts, of course. But one day, they'll be building their own family or business or whatever, and I think they'll get it then.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

1 Down, a Kajillion to Go

Well, Ava is now a kindergartener! She went to school, she came home, and magically, the earth continued to turn on its axis. Huh. Who woulda thunk? She seemed to have a great time, but was reallly overtired at bedtime, as evidenced by the meltdown that she just finished having in her room. (Like a good mother, I administered threats until she stopped.) Here's a few photos of our day...(meltdown not included)

Getting Ready...

Set Phasers to "Adorable"

They all look like turtles with these packs on!


All-Important Post-School De-Brief at Local GJ's (Typical Ava answer to our questions: "Um, I don't remember." Satisfying!)

All in all, a great start. I met some lovely mums at the Parent Committee's "Tea and Tissues" after the drop-off, and what do you know--Ava didn't come out of school immediately saying "zed" and "tomahto". Maybe this won't be so bad after all!

Soon to come...the low down on fasting, as many of our readers have requested. (Uh, hi Matt!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

That for Which the World Has Waited

Hi friends. Welcome to my first display of blogginess! It’s a bit of a busy week here. Here are a few things that are going on…

1. We are fasting this week!!!! Can I get a whoop-whoop?

This week, our church is taking part in our annual, weeklong fast. Those who aren’t in ChurchWorld (sounds a bit like an amusement park or circus, doesn’t it? Sometimes it is.), aren’t always sure how to react to that statement. Many think it’s a practice reserved for hermits in a cave somewhere,

or that it’s like a detox diet, or even that it’s dangerous. Really, it’s just a way to clear our focus and remove some clutter from our lives to hear from God more clearly. Refraining from eating is just a part of that. If you’ve never fasted, you’d be amazed how we use food to mask how we’re feeling, as a buffer from real conversation, as a distraction from things we need to think about. So, fasting—however one chooses to do it, is a way to slow down, listen up a bit, and allows God to pinpoint things He wants to talk to us about. It’s a good time, but a challenging one as well! Of course, being preggo, I will not be doing a traditional fast, but will be giving up some “crutches” I use during the day (Diet Coke! Snacks! Ice Cream! The Daily Show!) Lord, have mercy. And He will.

2. Jason and I are planning the church calendar and talking vision for 2009.

Boy oh boy, that’s another post in itself! Our leadership team has a lot of great ideas and excitement, so we are working on putting some things on paper. And somewhere in the midst of all that this year, Baby #3 will enter stage right. (Nate says she will be named Tinkerbell.) So it will come as no surprise when I tell you that at the top of my prayer list for this fast is more discipline and structure in my life! I need to work smarter and not spend too much time on the Internets. (Oops.)

3. Ava starts kindergarten on Wednesday.

I can hardly believe it! We have been talking about “big school” for months now and the day is finally upon us. We are ready, I think. Management of expectations? In process. Uniform? Bought and ironed. School Shoes? Ready to go. Official school backpack? Yup. Big, ginormous sunhat? Got it. (That’s a requirement in this part of the world.) Having gone to public school in the States, all this uniform stuff is very novel to me—I had to get remedial help from some of the other school moms.

I never thought of myself as an overly clingy, sentimental mother, but I am ambivalent about Ava starting school. I am hoping that we’ve made the right decisions about where to send her, that we’ve prepared her for this, and mostly that I’ve enjoyed my time at home with her like I should have. Nothing like a heaping spoonful of mom-guilt added to the mix! She is so very excited though, and really thrived (thrived? throve?) in a classroom setting at preschool, so I think she will do well. I’ll keep you posted!

4. Nate is getting ready to start preschool next week.

Just one day a week, so not so drama-infused. But I have been feverishly potty training him so that I can pretend by next Wednesday that he’s been out of diapers for ages. ‘Cause I am so on top of things. We keep talking preschool, he wants to know what I’ll say when I drop him off (“Bye Natey, have fun--I’ll see you this afternoon!"), and what he’ll say, (“Mama, noooo! Mama, where are you?”) At least, that what he says he’ll say. I keep trying to edit that. Need more management of expectations, I suppose!

Anyhoo, welcome to my blog, folks. More to come on living down under, raising a family, and being in ministry. And other stuff too.