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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Seven-Month-Fast Confession

Here goes...

I'm a rule follower.

That might not be much of a confession, but it's really not all that great of a quality all the time.

It means that in high school I thought being a Christian was all about the rules: making sure I did all the right things, or, more importantly did NOT do any of the wrong things. I made sure I didn't swear, didn't drink, didn't listen to secular music, etc. And I made sure my friends who weren't joining me in NOT doing those bad things knew that wasn't okay.  I think I was kind of intolerable, actually. Ugh. I would so not be friends with high-school-me now. God bless my high-school friends for putting up with me.

It also means that, as an adult, I freak out when I do break rules. You should see how hard I cry when I get a speeding ticket. You'd think it would make the police officers not give me the ticket, but I don't actually start the crying until AFTER the ticket is handed to me.  I need to work on my timing...

I have such a hard time breaking rules once they're set. And I have a hard time not making the rules important.  True story: in Ethiopia, we realized that no one was timing us on our one-hour visits with Amani. We could have stayed two hours with him and no one would have said a word. But I got nervous after we'd been there even five minutes too long and we made sure we left on time.  I think there's a word for people like me: weenie.

And now, in the midst of doing a seven-month hard look at all the excess in my life, my rule-follower-ness isn't helping me any.  Because in this journey, the rules aren't really all that important.  The point of this isn't to prove that I can go seven months and give up a bunch of stuff. The entire journey isn't even really about me anyway.

It would be easy to make the next seven months all about the rules: I can't do this, I can't have that, I must do this.  And I would be in danger of making it look like following Jesus is all about the rules (like I am certain I did in high school).

But the truth of the matter is this: there is grace for all our broken rules.  Being a Christian has nothing to do with following rules and everything to do with falling in love with Jesus.  This fast is going to create a bunch of temporary rules for me for the next seven months. But they're temporary and made-up. I am imposing them on myself in order to take a small stand against the excess in my life and give myself opportunities to miss those things. And, more importantly, opportunities where I have to rely on God instead of on some material thing.  And I think God can do some cool stuff with that.

But here's the deal: there is nothing I can do to make God love me more and nothing I can do to make God love me less.  That is true for all of us.

I'm not on this crazy journey to gain approval. Not from God or from anyone else for that matter. I already have approval from the One who matters, even when I break the rules.  I have an opportunity to do something that will take me out of my comfort zone(s) and closer to his heart.  And I wouldn't pass that up for anything.

But heaven help me if I break the rules.
(which, while I'm confessing: I accidentally ate a piece of cheese while making the kids lunch on day 2, and I have been routinely licking my fingers after making foods that are NOT on my list... like the kids' pb&j sandwiches to take to the pool today).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Mommy Network vs. Mommy Wars

I know, I know. I'm late in the game if I'm just now posting about the Time Magazine article with the extended-breastfeeding mom nursing her three year old on the cover. I actually didn't plan to write about it at all.

The cover wasn't all that shocking to me. One of my closest friends nursed her daughter until she was two and maybe even longer. I'm not sure 'cause it just wasn't a big deal. I nursed my first two babies until they were 18 months and only that long because that's when they both stopped (weird that they both stopped at the same age!) But my youngest was not only formula-fed, he wasn't even FDA-approved-formula fed.  And you know what? Another of my closest friends nursed for just a few weeks before deciding that the best thing for her and her baby was to switch to formula.  And all of our children are thriving. And all of us are good moms.

I think covers like the Time Magazine only serve to fuel the Mommy Wars. Full time mamas vs. stay-at-home mamas. Cry-it-out mamas vs. Co-sleeping mamas. Pain-med-free mamas vs. "please-give-me-that-epidural-before-I-kill-you" mamas.  Bio mamas vs. Adoptive mamas.  The list could go on and on and on forever.

And magazine articles like that highlight those wars.  And those wars rage on, I'm sure.  But I don't think they're as prevalent as the media would like us to think.  There is something stronger in Mommy-World:

The Mom Network.

I've blogged about this before.  I have a network of mamas all around me that I know I can rely on at any given moment.  I know exactly who I can call when I have a diaper-rash question, when I have a discipline issue, when I need to talk to someone who knows what it's like to lose it and yell at your kids.  And I can do those things without being judged.  I can honestly say I've never had any real personal experience with the Mom Wars.  The Moms around me do all of those things on that list up there: cry-it-out, co-sleep, formula, breast-feed, work, stay-at-home, you-name-it.

It's just that a story about how moms really work together and support each other in raising our kids isn't going to sell as many magazines.

I am writing about this today because this happened on facebook:


And the list went further than that, I'm just not technologically saavy enough to figure out to capture a screen image if I have to scroll.  And did you see that? I got advice, offers to keep my kids, support, encouragement, and a sweet nostalgic memory.

So here's to the Mommy Network. I think it beats the Mommy Wars.
Hands-down.
Every time.
Even if it doesn't sell magazines.

And a giant THANK YOU to all of the mamas in my life. The journey of motherhood is not one I'm walking alone and I thank God every day for the other moms he has put in my life. I love y'all. Lots.



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Seven Month Fast: Day Three

I'm three days into the seven-month fast and I'm learning that I get one of two reactions when I tell people what I'm doing:

1. Weird looks, awkward silences, and the word "oh."
2. "That is so cool! I want to do that!"

I originally asked four of my friends to be my "council" and just keep me sane while I did the fast.  All four of them are doing it along with me.  And so is one of our awesome youth from church, two more friends of mine from church, as well as most of our husbands (Jeff is a wimp and that's totally okay). And I think I have a friend who's going to catch up with us and start when we start the clothing month. That's eleven people, not counting me. Wow!

I think lots of people feel bogged down by all this excess in our lives; by how hard it can be to find Jesus through all the extra stuff we have going on.

And, three days in, I thought I'd update y'all on how it's going.  The first two days were HARD. I mean HARD.  Mainly because I was in serious caffeine withdrawal and honestly thought my brain was trying to pull itself away from my skull. I had to take a nap both Sunday and Monday because I couldn't handle life!

But today has been really pretty great. I went for a run, which I consider a victory because honestly, I think my brain had come loose and I was unable to run on Monday because it was rattling around inside my skull. Really.  And I made myself a crazy-delicious lunch and was able to make a crazy-delicious dinner for the whole family and EVERYONE ate the same thing. Well, except that Rob has cheese on his list so he & the kids got cheese on their dinner. It helps that I happen to like healthy food.

But I've been thinking... why is it so hard to give things up? This part of the fast is really only four weeks. I'm only eating seven foods for 28 days. It's really nothing.  But why is it hard for us to even consider doing something like this... why is it hard for me only three days in?

I think we get so used to our abundance that we take it for granted. And start to consider our abundance, our excess, a right. I should be overwhelmed with gratitude to God that I can go to the grocery store and pick out whatever I want or go to a restaurant, or order take-out, or delivery.  Instead, I have the audacity to look at my full pantry, full fridge and full deep freezer in the basement and utter the words "we have nothing to eat. I have no idea what we're going to have for dinner tonight."

Only getting to eat seven foods is a lesson in gratitude. The only fruit on my list is apples. I have three kids so I have a house full of blueberries, watermelon, pears, and grapes right now.  Trust me, I am so thankful that in four weeks I can eat whatever fruit I want.  At lunch today, I fed Amani this super-yummy natural sausage that I get when it goes on sale at the grocery store. I couldn't have any. I am so thankful that a day will come soon when I can eat some with him.  I'm thankful that I have the option to break the fast at any point if I wanted to. In my life, I don't have to worry about where my next meal will come from. That is something to be thankful for, yet I take it for granted every day, three times a day.

My prayer this morning on my run is that I will really be able to rid my life of a lot of excess. Don't get me wrong, I fully intend to go back to drinking coffee when this is all over, but I want to use each and every difficult moment to draw closer to Jesus. When I'm grouchy 'cause I miss coffee or I am really wanting some kind of a sweet snack, I can take a moment and draw closer to my Creator.  It creates a friction in my life that wouldn't be there otherwise and with that friction comes an opportunity to rely on Jesus.

So... what would you NOT be able to give up? What has a hold on you that you just can't shake? This month for me, it was coffee.  So I ditched it, at least temporarily. This isn't a hard month for me... but it's coming. The month we give up pretty much all media will be hardest, I think.  If there's anything that distracts me from Jesus, from my family, from myself, it's the internet.  So I'm willing to give it up for a month. To jar my life a little, shake things loose, in order for me to gain a better handle on things.

Today I'm grateful.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Our Next Journey

Oh my... the Cassells are about to embark on another journey.  When we were in the process of adopting, I would tell people, "this is the hardest thing God's ever asked me to do." And I think most folks would assume that I meant it was the hardest thing God would ever ask me to do.  But I knew differently.

Over the past years, God has really laid it on our hearts to plant a church.  We've known we would eventually do this before we even started the adoption process, we just never really knew when. After lots of prayer, we know now is the time.

We are leaving our current church family at the end of the summer to plant a church here in Greensboro. 

Holy cow!  I am so excited and I know God is going to do some amazing things through the people He calls to join us. I need to get Rob to do a guest post so he can explain all the plans.

And, of course, I'm a little scared. Some of my prayers sounded like this, "Okay God, I trusted you through an international adoption... don't you think I've learned enough from that?!?! Haven't I proved that I trust you??"  We are stepping out on faith again, not knowing exactly what Rob's salary will be, having no idea at the moment how we will all have health insurance this fall, but trusting completely that God already knows how it will all work out.

While I am beyond excited to see what God's going to do next, there is a big part of me that is sad to be leaving the church where we have served for almost seven years. We love love LOVE the youth and their families. I have some very dear friends there. Today was a hard day, first telling the youth and their families that we are leaving, then telling our whole church.

But you know what? I think that's okay. I think it's fine to be excited and nervous and sad all at the same time. I know without a doubt that God led us here to Greensboro, that we were supposed to serve at our church here. And while I am sad to leave, I know without a doubt that we are called to move out to something different.

And on another note: today was the first day of the seven month fast!  That means I had to endure my very emotional morning without any coffee! Let's be honest: today's been a little rough.

But we were actually running early for church this morning and as we drove, the kids spotted a homeless man with a sign at a stoplight. He was on the opposite side of the road but we had time to spare, so we pulled into the parking lot. I got out of the car and was able to give him one of the little snack bags the kids put together.  I had been thinking about the coffee I was missing; but after talking with the man (his name is Thomas), I learned a little about him, asked how I could pray for him.  And I continued on my way, humbled.

This is what the seven month fast is all about. I'm not looking for more rules to follow. There is nothing I can do to make Jesus love me more; it's not about gaining favor with God.  It is about making myself open to opportunities, to cause some friction in my life so that I HAVE to rely on God.

So stay tuned. I guess this adoption blog is going to have some church-planting flavor from now on :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Still hard

We just hit our one year referral-versary this month.

It is so hard to believe that a year ago I first saw this sweet face:


That was such a crazy day. When you are adopting, you read a million adoption blogs every day and your favorite posts are always entitled "The Call." You read them, you cry, and you dream of the day you get to post your own "The Call" post.  Ours was here:  http://casselljourneytoafrica.blogspot.com/2011/05/call.html

We got seven pictures of Amani that day and I immediately had them printed out and carried them with me everywhere. I studied those pictures. I pored over them, memorizing every feature of that sweet boy.

Want to know something weird? It's really hard for me to look at those pictures now.  I was looking at them, trying to pick one to put up on facebook on our actual referral-versary and I had to stop for a minute. My heart hurt.

I still miss that baby.  My heart still hurts that I never held him when he was tiny, never carried him when that was his only means of moving around, never got to do those bleary-eyed late-night feedings, snuggled up in the dark. I will never know his first-year milestones. When did he roll over, sit up, crawl, and walk for the first time? I don't know because I wasn't there.

My heart still yearns for the 15 months of his life that I didn't get to live with him.

Don't get me wrong, we are loving every moment we have with him now (okay, maybe not every moment. My child did rub hummus in his hair today.)  I still look over at him sometimes and my heart skips a beat, realizing he really is home.  He has a habit of grabbing my face with his hands and turning it towards him and saying "Mommy!" when he really wants my attention. I melt every time.  He has really picked up on "thank you" and is the only one of my three kiddos who says it unprompted, every time. He loves shoes, dancing, and his bear Washsha , (It means "dog" in Amharic - a funny story, actually). He has a "silly face" that he knows he can use to make us laugh anytime he wants.

The adoption journey doesn't end when you step off that plane. In truth, it really begins. He's been home seven months now. Life is SO much easier than it was at first. He is settling into our family, feeling safe, letting his guard down with us. But I know we aren't out of the woods.  We will ride that adoption rollercoaster for the rest of our lives, to some degree, I'm sure.

But these are the kinds of pictures I get to look at now:


I think it's appropriate that we got our referral right around Mother's Day. We'd been trying to figure out when we wanted to set aside time to honor his birthparents and we've decided we'll do it on our referral day.  There is another woman in my life every year on Mother's Day now. Amani's birthmother forever has a special place in my heart. I love her in a way that I can't quite explain.  I want Amani to know that his birthmother and birthfather will always be honored in our family.

And that means we will be having injera tomorrow night for dinner. Can I tell you how happy it makes my heart that all three kids LOVE Ethiopian food?  We are Habesha at heart. :)

**A quick note to any waiting families that might still read our blog: I am forever praying for y'all. Always. I have not forgotten, nor will I ever forget, how hard it is to wait. Adoptive waiting families have found their way permanently onto my prayer list.  Hang in there, you are not alone!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Counting down to SEVEN

My crazy seven month fast starts Sunday. I'm mostly excited... except for when I look at my coffee maker. Then I start to cry a little inside. ha.

I'm excited mostly because I can't wait to see what God will do when I start to intentionally reduce junk out of my life in order to make more room for him.

My best friend from college, who knows me better than most folks on the planet, just gave me the BEST gift ever: Kisses from Katie, Katie Davis' book. I read (and adore) her blog The Journey.   And, of course, I read the whole book in less than a week.

And, fresh out of reading the book, I've been thinking a lot about the whole "God bless America" thing.  Is it safe to admit that that phrase bothers me a bit? Well, it does. More than a bit, honestly.  Mainly because I think lots of folks are thinking about material things or political things or patriotic things when they say it. I fear we are a country of rich people praying to get richer.  Don't get me wrong, I want God to bless the people of America, too, but maybe not in the way we usually think.

We live in a place where it is very easy to take credit for the things we have: we work hard, we have jobs. I can drive myself to the grocery store and pick out exactly what I want.  If I don't feel like cooking, I can go out. Or even pick up the phone and have food brought directly to my doorstep. I have the freedom to practice my faith in whatever form that takes without fear. My love of Jesus is not going to get me imprisoned or murdered or banned from my community. I have a roof over my head, clothes for my kids.

Those are all blessings, yes.  But maybe they come at a price.  Remember my new homeless friend who, when asked what he needed, all he wanted was a Bible in his own language? Have you ever met a Christian in a third-world country? When I met with the Swazis in the community where we worked, their faith isn't shaken because they are hungry or because they have no electricity. In Ethiopia, they are a FAITHFUL people, even though Ethiopia is on the list of the 10 poorest countries in the world. The Christians I met there rely on God every day. And when miracles happen - like enough food for everyone to have a full belly - they can see it comes from God, because it certainly wasn't by their own hands.

And I think about this blog post called Cancer Can Be Awesome I just read from a girl I went to college with: http://www.lilblueboo.com/2012/05/cancer-can-be-awesome.html

She is a few years older than I am and has cancer. Bad cancer, like needing chemo and almost dying kind of cancer.  She says that having cancer brought her closer to God, that she trusts him now more than she ever did before she had cancer. She doesn't say it outright in her blog, but I wonder how she would answer the question - if you could go back and not ever have cancer, would do you it?

Maybe the blessing that America is missing is hardship?  Maybe what we call "blessings" - all those material things, our safety here, are really keeping us from being close to the heart of God.  When we are in the hard places, the dark places, and all we have to turn to is God, and that's when our faith is strengthened. I live somewhere where I could come up with a million reasons why my life is so easy and I can credit it all back to me if I want to.  But when a homeless man asks me for a Bible in his language, when I could so easily have brought him shoes, blankets, a bus ticket, anything, I have to take a step back.  You may think it's coincidence that I would show up shortly after he arrived at that tent city and that I was the only one who spoke Spanish. But I don't think so. God shows up in moments when we think we're lost. Imagine how my friend felt... I have no idea how long it had been since he had last been able to have a conversation with someone.

All of this is fresh in my mind as I start my seven month fast to get rid of excess in my life.  I want to take a step away from all the stuff in my life and see if I can see more clearly.

And in case you are wondering, I have a final list of seven foods. Here we go:
Quinoa
Black Beans
Sweet Potatoes
Eggs
Spinach
Apples
Whole-wheat bread

There we go. My friend Meredith challenged me to go meat-free, so I did (I'm not counting the eggs since they aren't going to get the chance to ever be meat).  And I really really am trying to cut back on coffee in preparation. Yesterday I only had 2 3 cups. So far today I've only had 2. And I'm about to go dump out the coffee in the pot so I'm not tempted. :)

Please pray for my husband and my children those first few coffee-free days!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Not a Room Mom

Let me confess something: I have three children, two of which attend preschool regularly, one who will begin in a year and a half.  I plan for all of them to go to school until they graduate.  That's not the confession. Here it is:

I am not now, nor do I ever plan to be, the room mom for any of my children.

If you don't have kids, let me explain who the room mom is.  The room mom is the teacher's right-hand woman; she's the one who organizes class parties, teacher appreciation, and, in elementary school, helps ensure the classroom doesn't run out of school supplies.

Don't get me wrong, I'm involved in my kids' classrooms, I know (and love) their teachers, and I attend every class party and help out as much as I can.

But I am not room mom material.  And that is just fine by me.

The room moms for my kids' classes are awesome. They have seriously got it together. For example, I just got a personalized envelope with everything in it for the end-of-the-year gift for the teachers this year, including typed out instructions. Each paper was in its own plastic protective sheath.  I have to complete the project with my daughter and return it in two weeks.

Want to know when I'll do it? One week and six days from now, most likely.

I am just not that "super-on-top-of-things" mama.  I think I started out trying to be.  When my oldest started preschool, the list for "room moms" was already full when I got to the table to sign up for stuff (I didn't know then that you have to be quick to get on that list). If it had been empty, I would have put my name down.

I'm convinced that was God intervening on my behalf.

There is a lot of pressure to be "room mom material."  Pinterest shows thousands of handmade crafts done by moms in trendy outfits and cute shoes who live in pristine houses and pull off elaborate, educational crafts with their children while a gourmet, made-from-scratch dinner simmers on the stove.  Facebook statuses crow about children's (or mom's) achievements, along with picture-perfect family pictures.  These online communities allow us to show only what we want, or sometimes even portray a reality that doesn't exist.

So let me be honest for a minute, in case you are not yet convinced that I am not room mom material: I do crafts with my kids in a house that is more often messy than clean. Our crafts may even be educational, but then I neglect to explain the educational part (or didn't exactly understand it in the first place myself).  I forget when the kids' parties are at school and, although I've never missed one, have had to do some last-minute plan changes in order to attend.  I honestly am not sure what I'll do without one of my best friends next year when our boys are in different schools for Kindergarten - one woman has single-handedly kept me afloat schedule-wise for three years at preschool.  We eat really healthy meals... when I cook.  When I'm on my game, I cook something most nights of the week; when I'm not on my game, we eat Annie's Mac & Cheese with broccoli or edamame. Or even order pizza from Dominos.

The truth is, I will probably never have it together enough to organize something like end-of-the-year gifts for teachers and get the info out to families two weeks in advance.  I can't even ever remember when everybody's field trips are, and just last night, we just completely forgot to go to soccer practice.

But that's all okay. My strengths do not lie in room mom qualities. I am so thankful that there are room moms out there! So thankful. I firmly believe it takes a village to raise children and the room moms in my life are helping me be a better mother.

This Mother's Day, I hope we all remember that there are about a bazillion different ways to be a great mom.  We need to stop comparing ourselves, stop caving to the pressure, and be the beautiful women and mothers God created us to be.  Mamas, parent the way your heart guides you, do the activities with your kids that you enjoy and don't worry if it looks different from other families. Don't be fooled by pinterest... in the corner behind the camera are some dust bunnies, I promise!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Better than dirty laundry...

I needed to do laundry today. I don't mean this in a "oh I have a full basket I should wash some stuff" kind of way. I mean in a "if I don't do laundry today, we might all be naked soon" kind of way.

I washed no dirty clothes this morning.

Guess what I did instead? Remember my Brothers & Sisters post? Well, I meant it. I have been praying like crazy over what I am supposed to be doing for the people in my community. I feel very well established with our commitment to Heart for Africa - it is a major part of our lives and we will always continue to support that ministry and travel to Swaziland to work. Always.  But what about in the meantime? What about my brothers and sisters here? I kept praying, knowing that was not enough.

Boy did I get an answer to prayer today.

I went out with Streetwatch today, an outreach ministry to the homeless here in my city.  I had heard of them years ago and the name never left me. I sent them a message on facebook and they graciously invited me to join them going out this week.

So instead of doing laundry, I spent the morning putting together hygiene bags and snack bags and then went out with Michele & Melissa, two of the incredible members of Streetwatch, and visited some of their homeless friends in a tent city.  I was beyond bummed when I had to cut out early in order to pick the kids up from school.

And guess what happened while we were out? Something crazy amazing.  I knew I wouldn't be super-helpful today. Most of their focus is on the relationships they build with the homeless people in our community and since I'm brand-spanking-new, it was just my first chance to start those relationships.  I guess God knew how much I wanted to be of service today.  There was one man at one of the tent cities who only spoke Spanish. He'd only just moved to that particular location three days ago - the only place I was able to visit today.  The Streetwatch folks have known about him for much longer and had been really wanting to talk to him.  I had never told them I spoke Spanish when I volunteered.  It only came up when I was standing right in front of him.

Turns out he'd been wanting to talk to the leader of Streetwatch for awhile. I was brought to tears as he went on and on thanking her, sending her blessings, telling her he prays for her family, how he can tell she has a strong and noble heart.  We talked with him for awhile, listening to him. I can only imagine how often he actually gets to have a conversation, given that he's homeless and we found him today in a tent city where no one else speaks Spanish. Streetwatch provides snacks & basic supplies but also asks people what they need specifically. Guess what he wanted? A Bible in Spanish. He only has an English one.  A man living in a tent city when given the chance to ask for something, asked for a Bible in his own language. That's all.  Humbling. So humbling to me, especially since when I got home there was a package on my front door from amazon.com - a new hair straightener.  I wanted to kick the box.

In all honesty, I didn't do much to help the homeless population today.  Instead, God used me to interpret a message of thanks and gratitude to the woman who has been working tirelessly with them and advocating for them for well over a decade.  Wow.

Yup... the Cassells might all be naked soon, but I still think this morning was a better use of my time. :)


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Food, glorious food!

Let me make this clear: I really love to eat. There aren't really any foods I don't like (except maybe really fishy-fish).  And right now, food is a big focus for me. For two reasons.

1. I'm trying to figure out the 7 foods I will eat for my first month of the 7 month fast. Please note the "I really love food" part of the above statement. This is gonna be tough! :)

2. We are slowly but surely getting to the heart of Amani's food issues and things are going well. I really wanted to share this post with other adoptive families because this is an attachment trick that has really helped us a lot.

I blogged before about our first visit to our attachment therapist (who is really amazing). She gave us the "Skittle Trick" which I turned into the "Chocolate Chip Trick" and I really have enjoyed giving all three, but especially my youngest, some moments of sweetness to help with attachment.

What I didn't blog about was the other strategy she gave us. I didn't blog about it because, honestly, I didn't do it.  She told us to start having Amani eat while sitting on our laps. Sounds like a great idea, right? Just have him sit on my lap for meals.

Uh... have I mentioned I'm a mom of three kids five & under? I don't sit down for meals.

Seriously. The only meal I sit for is dinner and that's only after having popped up a million times to get refills of drinks, or grab whatever I forgot to put on the table in the first place, or clean up a spill. I often am finally sitting down for good after getting someone else seconds.

So while I thought her idea sounded great, I just couldn't figure out how to put it into practice. And I guess I didn't think it was important enough to put into practice.

Then comes our next visit with the therapist. She asked how that was going and I hedged a little, not wanting to admit I'd only done it once or twice. Then I got into the heart of the matter: we were still really struggling with food issues. Amani was having meltdowns at the end of every meal. He was shoveling food into his mouth as fast as he could and begging for more. I was starting to really worry about his food intake.

And she reminded me that he isn't "food hungry" he's "love hungry."  That his flip outs over meals really didn't have anything to do with the food itself (and that was why it didn't matter how much I fed him, he always wanted more.)  And, like a true great therapist, she said "I wonder what would happen if you started feeding him on your lap."   She could have said "I told you how to fix this earlier and you didn't do it."  Have I mentioned how awesome she is?

So we started that very day.  Here's the technique: just like with the Skittles trick, I say Amani's name and wait until he makes eye contact and then give him a bite of food.  And he sits on my lap facing me so that we can snuggle and hug and be close during the meal.

That's it. It's that simple.  And you know what? It worked the VERY FIRST time that I did it. I wanted to jump for joy (and pull out my hair for not having done this sooner).  When he sits on my lap and we basically snuggle our way through meals, making TONS of eye contact, he has no problem whatsoever when the meal's over and we leave the table.  Night and day from before.

You know what else? I thought I couldn't sit with the kids at breakfast and lunch 'cause I was too busy getting ready for the day/unloading the dishwasher/etc.  But when I slow down and take that time to be with my children while they eat, the day still goes on just fine. I find other times to do those things.  What I thought would be a challenge and a time-sucker has wound up being a blessing! I think the older kids like it when I'm there at the table with them, too. That doesn't mean I'm doing it three times a day - let's be honest. I'm still a mom to three kids five & under! :) But we are doing it at least two meals on most days.

And as for #1 on my list above. I'd love some input. I'll be eating only seven foods for the first month of my seven-month fast.  Here's my list as it stands right now:
1. Quinoa
2. Chicken
3. Spinach
4. Apples
5. Bread
6. Sweet Potatoes
7. - here's where I need help. Should I put milk, eggs, or cucumber here?

What do you think?


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Seven months of fasting.

I mentioned before that I read the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker.  I loved it. I love her.  My husband calls me "the Jen Hatmaker of North Carolina." I don't know if he realizes how giant of a compliment that is for me. Someone once put two links up on their blog: one was to Jen Hatmaker's blog and one was to mine. I almost fell out of my chair at the thought of being linked next to her. I might have a problem. :)

For me, her book wasn't groundbreaking new ideas about faith and the church. It was confirmation of some things I've been struggling with for a long time. And, after much prayer and consideration, I've decided to do a similar 7 month fast!

Before you freak out and think I'm not eating for 7 months, let me explain:

Her book is about examining the excess in our lives, specifically how much excess she personally has in her life and whether, as a Christian, it is okay to live that way.  She fasted from seven different areas of excess over seven months (one per month): food, clothing, media, possessions, waste, shopping, stress.  And her book is like a journal, written in real-time as she goes through the fast.

A long time ago in my Sunday School class, we briefly visited the idea "is it a sin to have nice things?"  Most of the consensus of the class was that it is not. Owning nice things, having nice houses is not a sin.  I think I agree, but I also struggle with this. So much.  I know we are supposed to enjoy this life; God doesn't call us to a life of misery.  But I also know that we are to find our joy in the things that really matter; that we are supposed to care for those who have less.  Is it a sin to have two nice coats in my closet? I don't know. But I know that there are people freezing to death while I have two nice coats in my closet. I know there are people starving while I throw away food that has gone bad in my fridge because we never got around to eating it.  I know children go to bed every night with no parents to tuck them in while I still have an extra room in my house.

And that is not okay with me.

So for the next seven months, I'm going to fast from those same seven things, one per month. My life is full of a lot of junk and I am really excited about what God will do when I get rid of that junk and let him fill me up instead.  And I have a "Council" of a few friends alongside me to keep me sane. Some of them are fasting along with me and I have their permission to share some of their experiences with y'all as well.

Our start date is May 20th. And we're starting with food.  For one month, I'm only going to eat seven foods. Then we'll take a two week break for reflection/preparation for the next month and continue on to the next fast.

Coffee's not on my list of 7 foods... good gracious -what am I doing!?!?