Fasting {Weeks 4-10}

Sometimes I can’t even comprehend the passage of time. I wrote about weeks 1, 2, and 3 of this 24 week fast but somehow totally glazed over weeks 4-10.

I have been on a path of healing, but what exactly does that look like? Weird.  It’s a physical, mental, and spiritual healing and they’re are intertwined and knotted together.  I pull on one string and think I’m getting somewhere only to find it leads to another knot that must be tugged and loosened and finally unbound. Then it happens again.

I’m currently reading a book called Mind Over Medicine by Dr. Lissa Rankin and everything in it rings true. For the last 20 years I’ve been trying to redirect my negative thoughts and actions, weeding out toxic people from my life, seeking whole healing. It started with a book called Happiness is a Choice. I read that one at 19 when my first husband left me. I haven’t always been diligent in seeking this healing (meaning I haven’t focused on it daily for two decades) but it has always been a goal.  More of a pipe-dream, maybe, because I’m not sure I fully believed it could ever happen. Add to that the constant message from the church that says we’re broken people, we sin, we can’t help it, we won’t be whole until we get to heaven.  Thanks church, for that uplifting message.  Or this one Christ heals, but not like He did in the New Testament. That’s over. But hey, you go ahead and pray for healing, see how that works out for ya.
I’m not saying we’re not broken, or we’re not sinners–but really, this message is *not* the Good News message that Christ came to this earth to teach.

I’ve been struggling lately with this idea of going back to church. There hasn’t been a Christian thus far who hasn’t tried to say that being with a congregation-at-a-local-building is better than being without one. They site the same passage, the only one I think there is.  And while I believe that a community of like-minded believers IS important, I do not believe that I have to find it at the local church building. I’m just not convinced God has called me to the cookie-cutter ways of what passes for “church.”  If it works for you, great! Keep it up and do your thing. It’s not working for me. It has never worked for me. It has been horrible and unloving (except one family) and negative. On the other hand, the people God brings into my life for me to mentor, the ones he has brought alongside of me to hold me up and encourage me, pray for me, and point out truths–those people have brought me undeniable joy (even in the hard times and hard lessons.)

I am more and more convinced that in this season of my life, at least, I am not supposed to be involved with a local congregation. I’m sorry if you think that’s a sin. I have discussed this at length with God and I’m positive He is not calling me to find a local, weekly meeting place to be a part of.

I think He’s got me on a journey, one I can’t yet explain, but one that has me closer to Him than I’ve ever been before. And sometimes He does things that others deem wrong. (y’know, like when Jesus healed on the Sabbath.) There were times Jesus was called away from people and if I’m to live following His example, it makes sense that God could (and would) call me away for a season.

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned thus far in this fast (along with the other fasts I’ve done) is that obeying God above people is hard. In one ear people are shouting endlessly who God is and what He does (and does not do) and when I shut them out, God is there saying the same thing over and over, “I AM.”

I’m choosing to trust Him and not what people say about Him.  That’s a pretty desolate road, but one I’m sure is the right one.

{restore} I’m back

Some of you know me as a writer/editor, some know me as a visual artist.

I haven’t done any significant writing or editing since the summer of 2010 when my mom passed away. I sat in her hospital room daily working on final edits for my first foray as Editor-in-Chief.

After it went to print and after just a small bit of promotion, I dropped the gig. It was too much. I had too many responsibilities and too many people to be accountable for and I could barely be accountable for myself.

I was proud of it. One story was given an honorable mention for The Year’s Best Horror (Box by Dan Keohane.) Other Editor’s Choice winners have gone on to book deals and awards and very rewarding writing careers. My (graduated) intern is working at a division of Hachette in New York City, my other (graduated) intern is working on staff at Willowcreek South Barrington. So much good came out of this one little thing.

But it was too much at the time.

Then the art happened.  And flourished. Wow it just explode or what?! So I’ve been focusing on that since 2010.

A couple weeks ago an opportunity was presented to me and I immediately said, “No way.” Then things happened rather quickly and I found myself in a position of no longer being able to say no.

So. The official news is I’m back…I’m the new (again) Editor-in-Chief of The Midnight Diner. I’m assembling a team, working on strategy, examining changes that need to be made, brainstorming what the future will look like, setting goals, and being nervous!!!!

When I chose {restore} as my word for 2013, I hadn’t an inkling of a clue that I’d come back to writing, editing, and publishing.

Wow.

And yes, I’m as shocked as you are.

Blogging Through My Fast Seems Wrong

I kinda thought I was over the whole arguing-with-God thing.

I keep asking Him, Are you sure this is what you want me to do? And after two weeks of prayer, the answer keeps coming back the same.  Yep.

So even this morning before I started writing, I asked again. The answer was the same, and I said, “Ok. What about this then?”

And whenever you are fasting, do not look gloomy and sour and dreary like the hypocrites, for they put on a dismal countenance, that their fasting may be apparent to and seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full already.

But when you fast, perfume your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may not be noticed by men but by your Father, Who sees in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open.

Matthew 6:16-18

 

My thoughts were directed to motive. In essence, He was asking me if I was acting like the people cited in this passage. Are you doing this for show?

No.

As a matter of fact, I’ve been fighting and struggling with this for weeks now. I want nothing more than to obey, so here I am. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I am going to blog about the fast God has called me to while I’m going through it.

Do all things without complaining

It started with this vision.

I saw all kinds of pieces of things, pottery, rocks, glass, ceramics, etc…different shapes and sizes (all on the small side though) all over the floor. I was mesmerized by all the colors and looking down at the broken pieces. More pieces were being dumped and I looked up and it was God. He said, “They’re your broken pieces. Now pick them up and make something new.”

 

I was talking with a friend after my Mosaic vision and she said she kept thinking of 2 Chronicles and how detailed God was with the building of the temple. I took time to read through most of 2 Chronicles and prayed. I asked God what this new thing is and he pretty much said, “not yet.”

And then I got direct instructions to fast one day a week (Wednesday evening through Thursday evening) from now until the end of August. He kept saying, “Prepare,” over and over.

I know it sounds weird, this hearing from God, getting messages and instructions from Him. There was a time that I believed with all my being that it could not happen, that it was made up.  The only way you’re going to know for yourself is to seek Him, ask Him, and be prepared for answers.  I don’t know if God will communicate with you the same way He does me. We’re all so very unique. Fearfully, wonderfully made. He knows how to get my attention and I’ve learned His signals to me.  In this particular incident, He used a trusted friend who makes it a point to be in constant communication with Him. When she read about the vision, she immediately started talking with me about it. When 2 Chronicles came to her mind, she told me about it. I followed that lead and read through the book. As I was reading, if something tugged at me, I underlined it and made note of it in a journal, then prayed. And in this prayer, I was asking God what He was trying to say to me. I heard (in my mind) a voice that was not mine.  I understand this can be confusing. Most people ask how they can know if it is their voice of God’s.  I am no expert, I’m still learning…but what I know is if you belong to God, you have the ability to speak to Him *and* hear from Him.  The Holy Spirit lives in us and guides us. Jesus promised that.  And just like I know my husband’s voice, my brother’s voice, my child’s voice, and can distinguish them–I can pick them out in a crowd without a doubt–I have spent so much time communicating with God, that I have learned to discern His voice when it’s speaking through the Holy Spirit to me.

So as I was praying, I heard fast.
I asked how long.
End of August.
Wow. Really?
Wednesday dusk to Thursday dusk.
Ok. What kind of fast?
Social Media and meatless.
Now through the end of August?!
I admitted I was afraid
Do not fear. Prepare.

In the conversations that followed with my friend, I thought maybe I should cancel my upcoming art shows (Indy in May and Hammond in June through the end of August) It seemed to be the same time frame as the fast and several other things were leading me to think I knew what God was asking.  Notice–God said nothing about art shows or canceling.  Good think I can pray and ask, right? I did and in no way did God indicate I was to do such a thing.

I said something to my friend, jokingly, about how God obviously thinks I have all the pieces and it made me think of my Jesus Dream, at the very end:

I knew everything I was supposed to know. It was an immediate transfer of knowledge, understanding, wisdom, everything. With just one touch. I was entranced and awestruck.

With His hand still holding my arm, He stood and gently led me to do the same. He hugged me and then stood back a bit, this time, both hands on my arms. He looked me in the eye and said, “Now go.” His voice was gentle, almost a whisper. And He smiled.

I took a deep breath. I did not want to leave, but I knew I’d see Him again. And I knew that He had given me instructions and knowledge and wisdom and authority.

 

Then in the bathtub the other night, I was relaxing and praying and the fast came to my mind and I kept hearing “Healing” so I talked to my friend again and we discovered a pattern in the messages that seem to be bombarding me.

Mosaic pieces/Ashes of the pain–pretty obvious, I think.

Healing–seems obvious

Make something new–that was the part that messed with me, the part I wasn’t understanding and trying desperately to understand.  My friend talked about how when your body heals it discards the bad/dead/broken cells with new cells. So what you put into your body (ie: protein, vitamins, minerals) will be turned into something new: new cells.

Since discovering that connection (and since I’m deep in the process of trying to HELP my body heal instead of harming it more) it seems that God is trying to guide me down a path I was thinking wrongly about. So thinking in terms of healing (physically) such a long fast could possible be beneficial to my body and the fasting from social media will aid in the mental, emotional, and spiritual healing that seems to be happening.

So as I prepared to eat meatless and log off of social media, things started happening. First, I was in such an extreme state of physical paint, I woke crying and it just continued through the day.  I read quite a lot about “retracing” and “healing crisis” where, when given the right nutrition, a body in adrenal failure/fatigue as mine is will release toxins that have built up.  While painful, thankfully, it doesn’t normally last long.  Then, a tiff with my husband. Then, twice within the span of a few hours, texts from two different people bringing up the same name. A person and situation God had me fast about last year. The same person that made many, many false accusations about me–I thought I was done with the person and situation until last year when he was hired on at the church we were attending and we chose to leave that congregation.  But before I knew it was coming, God led me to fast for 6 weeks. Within days of the fast ending, I’d been thrown into this situation with this person coming back into my life. I felt the fast, while unknown to me, was to prepare me to fight this battle. The lessons were many. I recognized all of this as a spiritual attack of the enemy after receiving the second text. I prayed for strength, wisdom, knowledge, and discernment for the duration of the fast.  And I unplugged.

So here I am (a year and a week later) being led to fast again. This time for 24 weeks.  And then, being led to blog about it.  I fully admit, I don’t understand, I don’t know why, and the only words I know I’ve been given are “healing” and “prepare” and have been told to pick up the pieces of my broken past and use them to make something new.

 

Mosaic Pieces

I had a vision last night. I was having a hard time falling asleep last night and that almost never happens. I truly am asleep within seconds of laying down.

I was tossing and turning and having weird anxiety about weird stuff and I prayed and prayed and tossed and turned.

Then I had this vision.

I saw all kinds of pieces of things, pottery, rocks, glass, ceramics, etc…different shapes and sizes (all on the small side though) all over the floor. I was mesmerized by all the colors and looking down at the broken pieces. More pieces were being dumped and I looked up and it was God. He said, “They’re your broken pieces. Now pick them up and make something new.”

Completion

God has this thing with numbers. So do I. It’s part of the language He uses to communicate with me. Phil and I were talking about this move to Cedar Rapids. We agreed, life has been both difficult and rewarding these last seven years.

Early in 2006 our lives took some very heartbreaking turns (and I’ve blogged about them all) A small recap would include the death of close family members (my uncle, his paternal grandma, my maternal grandma, my best friend, his maternal grandma, his paternal grandpa, his dad, my mom,) our income was chiseled away until today, we stand at making less than half of what we did then, both of us have had some hefty health concerns, the betrayal and ultimate loss of four very good friends, we’ve moved 3 times, in 2006 we left our church because the pastor made horrid accusations against me, this year we left a second church because that same pastor was hired on…we’ve been hit in the spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional areas…and hit hard.

We closed this chapter of our lives on the first day of Lent–the 40 days leading up to the Resurrection of Christ.

My word for this year is {restore}

“For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord, because they have called you an outcast…”

Jeremiah 30:17

This word “restore” in this verse in Hebrew means

to ascend,

to spring up,

grow,

shoot forth,

to come up (before God,)

to bring up,

draw up,

train.

This feels like birth. Phil’s new job, the way they’re transferring us to a new place, taking care of the move, new home, new city, new friends–real friends, Godly friends, a new (to us) vehicle, a surprisingly good tax return, a bonus from work, my art career, the ease of this huge change and everything falling together at this very moment in time, our health concerns addressed and healing, mind, body, and soul healing.  Like morning sickness in the first trimester and the full, achy, wobbly, exhausting third trimester. Like the contractions, the pain of birth. At once everything happens at once and there is relief and love and tears and overwhelming joy.

that’s what I feel like.

I talked with Phil about the Israelites wandering the desert. How I feel like at the beginning of these seven years, I was a young and immature believer, I complained, I expected things, I demanded, I was insulted if I didn’t receive, and now? I feel God has taught me what it means to Follow Him. To truly listen to His voice and only His voice. How both of us have learned to listen to Him and not argue and fight. We just obey. Like we’re entering a spiritual Promised Land. Phil said, “I’m sure glad it didn’t take us 40 years!!”

but I am 40.

and maybe it did take me 40 years of wandering.

Then last night, after the movers finished loading our belongings and drove off, after we packed our vehicles with what they wouldn’t transport, after cleaning the house we’re leaving behind, after taking a final sunset picture from Indiana and saying goodbye to my family, after all that I was flipping through the stations and Pastor Rodney Finch was giving a sermon about how the Israelites had only an eleven day journey  from Egypt to the Promised Land and yet, it took them 40 years.

And how we are built in affliction.

This morning, I remembered that 2006 was seven years ago and that God’s meaning in seven is

completion,

to bring to a close,

to fulfill,

fullness

Things feel different. We have had no fear during this transition. Anxiety of the unknown–yes. But fear? Not so much. We’ve willingly stepped out in faith each with each new situation we’ve been faced with and also with the repeat trials. We’ve faced some pretty serious giants and we’ve stood firm. And even though there is still much unknown, I don’t feel the overwhelming sense of dread cloaked over us.

 I’m praying that the deepest darkness has now passed.

That this is indeed the beginning of a new time. A time to come up before God. A time of restoration.

a time of healing

my soul yearns to be restored.