We are back from an awesome vacation to Tennessee and Alabama. What an amazing trip filled with blessings from God, spiritual invigoration, intellectual stimulation, marital rejuvenation, and gastrointestinal delight. (can you tell I’m working on expanding my vocabulary?) Seriously though, the trip had it all.
We left on Tuesday morning and drove to Nashville (or Nash-Vegas, as my husband calls it). We stayed at the Best Western downtown and walked to the strip. We had some delicious bbq and then watched some live music at The Stage. Wednesday morning we drove around Vanderbilt and then on to Birmingham. In Birmingham, we toured the Civil Rights Institute, walked by the 16th Street Baptist Church, ate at Green Acres and stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast. Thursday, we drove to Montgomery, saw the State Capitol, and visited the Dexter Ave. King Memorial Church and parsonage where the Kings lived while he was the pastor. Our tour was conducted by a woman who is a member of Dexter Ave. and was while King was pastor. She had some great stories to share! Friday morning we had an amazing personalized tour of the First Baptist Church (and met Johnnie Carr’s daughter and son-in-law. Johnnie Carr was a friend of Rosa Parks and a major Civil Rights leader – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnnie_Carr.) We also toured a really cool ministry called Common Ground that works with kids in a lower income neighborhood in Montgomery (http://www.commongroundmontgomery.org/). Then we drove to Selma and saw the site of Bloody Sunday and the Voting Rights Museum. Saturday, we drove to Memphis and went to the incredible National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, walked Beale Street and ate delicious ribs. After an uplifting time of worship at the St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, we drove to St. Louis to spend the evening with family.
These are just the facts, but the experiences and the feelings from the trip are hard to put into words. We were face to face with the reality of racism in America, and it was not pretty. We also met some incredibly inspiring and wise people who lived through the movement. We were also convicted to take a serious look at our lives to see where we are turning a blind eye to (or actively engaging in) discrimination (based on race or anything else). It’s so easy to look at the past generations and say that they were ignorant and we would have never acted in that way, but that’s just not reality. We kept asking each other – where would we have been? (And thus, where are we now?) Scary questions to ask. I have so many thoughts on this stuff, but for now, that gives a taste. The most important thing I learned was that this history is incredibly relevant and worth of exploration. Those struggles and the current, ongoing racial struggles are now going to be mine more than ever since they will be the struggles of my children. Turning a colorblind eye is no longer an option.
God so blessed us on this trip. Historically, we have not vacationed particularly well, but we had some major breakthroughs on this trip. One major change we made was budgeting. We set a really realistic and firm budget that gave us lots of freedom to spend without worrying that we were out of control. We also spent a time of time talking through our list of life discussion items and worked on our 2012 Family Business Plan. Plus, we got to celebrate our good news of court approval!
More to come…
To God be the glory.
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
(Luke 1:46-55 ESV)
The timing is perfect. My God is perfect. He answers the prayers of sinners. He gives me the desires of my heart. My soul magnifies the Lord. I am delighted in the Lord.
I can say with assurance that sin has been revealed in my life over the last four weeks – from the obvious to the not so obvious (at least to me, probably obvious to everyone else). Initially, it was perfectly obvious that I idolize food and pleasure much more than Jesus. It only took about 2 hours for that to be revealed. I ended day 1 literally on the floor crying because I could not imagine eating rice cereal for a whole month.
About halfway through the month, I became extremely convicted about the excesses of my life. I began to see how many of the choices I make to satisfy myself at the expense of another. Quite literally, I have too much. I have been given more than I need. God has a purpose for giving me more than I need. News flash – it’s not so I can buy myself more stuff!! This seems obvious, but it’s so hard. I am addicted to my life. I truly believe that I cannot live without the comforts on which I rely. I do not trust that God will provide. There’s nothing in the Bible to suggest that it’s ok for me to live a comfortable rich life while people have unmet needs right outside my door (please tell me if there is because I would love the justification!). If I lived the life I do in a third world country while starving children knocked on my door unanswered, there is no doubt that everyone I know would think I was the most heartless, evil, cruel being that ever lived. How is that not exactly what I am doing right now?
If that revelation wasn’t enough, the repentance really got personal. In the last week of this month’s fast, I’ve been aware of my seriously negative spirit. DH challenged me on my complaining, and while it hurt to hear. He was not wrong. I do complain often and he usually gets the brunt of it. When I am stressed out (which is a lot these days), I take it out on him, and I do it self-righteously, expecting him to be compassionate and listem to the latest litany of complaints (which he usually does with a gentle spirit). It’s certainly a burden that he need not carry.
While I could go on and on with the list of the sins revealed, that may be depressing, and no one would want to continue reading my blog.
As difficult as these revelations have been, I am so encouraged and grateful. Encouraged because I know that I serve a God who can handle my sin. Grateful because his grace abounds.
So excited for Month 2 (and to celebrate the end of month 1 with a cookie!).
Throughout this month, I have been brought to my knees more than usual. Most times that I start craving something or feel that temptation coming, I immediately repeat Scripture, a phrase from a praise song or some other mantra to keep my eyes on the Lord. Some of my favorites – “man cannot live on bread alone but on every Word from God,” “I need thee, oh I need thee,” “Your grace is enough,” and “Jesus will satisfy.” These mini prayer moments were so helpful and joy-filled. I need these throughout my life.
I’ve been reading through some Spurgeon sermons on prayer, and it’s been challenging me to boldly pray. I’ve been challenged to pray such that I actually trust that God will answer me. Imagine that? I need to move prayer from the task list to the needs list. I want God to move in me such that I can’t get through a moment without turning to Him.
Tomorrow we depart for vacation. Heading to Tennessee and Alabama to visit sites from the Civil Rights movement. We have been reading so much about race in America, and we wanted to really dive into this area of history about which we know so little. Unfortunately and appallingly, as a white American, this part of history has never seemed relevant to me. I’ve been walking through life thinking that race didn’t matter (easy to say when you are in the majority). I’ve been learning how wrong I have been! It’s so hard to learn what really has gone on (and continues to go on) in our country, a place of which I’ve always been proud. I still believe in the greatness America, and I’m proud to be an American, but those feelings have definitely tempered over the past few months. Even though I will never truly understand what it means to be Black in America, I owe it my children to learn as much as I can.
I’m pondering the response to being confronted with sin. What is the proper response? I know we need to turn away, rejoice in God’s forgiveness, thank him for grace, but what are we supposed to DO? I’m a type-A person. I need an action plan. Give me a 5 step program.
When I get confronted by my sin, I immediately say to myself, "ok great. I will never do that again." Of course, this is delusional, but what else are you supposed to do? When you are a child and you get in trouble, you promise to your parents that you will try harder and will never hit your sister with a metal baseball bat again (totally hypothetical…). That’s what you are supposed to say. So when your husband says you complain too much (also, totally hypothetical), shouldn’t my response be that I will try harder and not do it anymore?
But the Bible says we can’t do it of our own will. I will fail. Guaranteed. And then I will hate myself for failing. (And then I will complain about it….ugh!) Luckily, my husband has almost as much grace to give as Jesus does, so I will be fine. Is prayer really the only answer (again!)? I suppose so.
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
(Romans 7:15-25 ESV)
Another weeks of ups and downs. The best part was that four dear friends began the journey (we had to start early because we are going on vacation at the end of the month, and I am not eating only 7 foods on vacation). It has been such a blessing to hear the things the Lord has been doing in them. We have all had moments of real brokenness and moments of real closeness with Jesus. We are learning every day to turn to him with our cravings, anxiety and stress. We are learning to surrender and stop relying on our own strength.
Lately I’ve been realizing that life is not really hard because of this fast, life is actually always this hard. I just use things like food to mask the difficulty and to cope. Isn’t that what all of us are doing every day? We just try and get by, whatever way we can. We use all these different methods to dull the pain of life – food, alcohol, vacation, exercise, socializing. These things are not evil in and of themselves, but we turn them into our gods. We run to them for relief rather than running to the only God who can really satisfy.
I remind myself daily that as enjoyable as that [coffee, cookie, diet coke] would be, in a few hours, I will need more. It won’t truly satisfy. What if I really craved Jesus like I crave chocolate? Don’t you feel like the real warriors of Christianity did?
In adoption news, I am having a really hard time right now. I see the days tick by with no news. We are going on four months since we accepted the referral. Instead of the children coming home in the spring, now it’s maybe summer…soon it will be fall. I am struggling to see the purpose in this waiting. Meanwhile, I am processing a lot of sadness. It pains me that we live in a world where children have to be placed in adoption. I don’t know exactly what to do with this sorrow other than to lay it at the Cross and say "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22:20) When he comes, there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more orphans. (Rev. 21:4)
We completed Week 1 of the Mutiny on Sunday. Our foods are: chick peas, chicken, kale, sweet potatoes, brown rice, apples and
wheat/white flour (to make bread). We are also allowed to use salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon and yeast. Water and apple juice for beverages. We are also allowing anything pre-made that basically only uses those ingredients, i.e. apple juice is ok.
The first day was definitely the hardest, but it was also hard throughout. The first day was particularly heard because I didn’t eat enough, so I was basically hungry all day. Not a good way to start. Right from the get go, my addiction and obsession with food was revealed. I’ve had so many opportunities this week to call on God, and I don’t think I normally would have. DH asked me the other day if I’ve been praying more, and the answer was a definite YES. He agreed. Even on Saturday night, I sat and prayed for 30 minutes. To you prayer warriors, that doesn’t sound like much, but for me, that was a huge step.
I am praying that God will use this time to create a real desire in my heart to know him more and to seek Jesus. It’s definitely happening. I don’t think I missed a day this week of reading my Bible. I am also praying for repentance – that’s coming like a waterfall. It’s becoming very clear how little I rely on Jesus and how small the portion of my life I give him. It’s exciting to think where these insights can go.
My food snobbery is definitely going away. I ate lukewarm soup on Sunday, and I just ate some microwaved chick peas for a snack. Not particularly appetizing, but hunger wins, and the choices are slim. We were SO excited to find sweet potato chips and rice cakes at the grocery store this weekend. How we have missed snack food! I still feel weird eating an appetizer of sweet potatoes and chicken before eating a dinner of more sweet potatoes and chicken.
The other unexpected issue is how much time/energy it’s taking. I feel like I am cooking non-stop. There’s not a lot of instant food in this diet. Plus, we basically can’t eat out (a plain, dry chicken sandwich at a restaurant is about as delicious as you can imagine). We are constantly making bread, rice, applesauce, hummus and roasting veggies. I thought this was supposed to make life easier! There definitely are fewer decisions to be made, though. Our family joke is “what do you want to eat for dinner?”
There are four other couples joining us, beginning today. I am praying their first day isn’t as rough as mine was!