Thursday, September 12, 2013

He is steadfast when I am weak. (Seven Fast)

Along with my friend Sammy, I'm undertaking The 7 Experiment by Jen Hatmaker, a Bible study that encourages Christians to shake away the clinging idols of excess!  The Bible study features seven fasts that focus on areas of American excess: clothes, possessions, food, media, spending, waste, and stress.

This week, we've been eating from only seven foods (and only drinking water).  While it's so natural for me to complain, I'm learning more and more about how blessed I am every single day.  On Monday, I shared about the first three days of this challenge.  Today I'll share about the next three.  Tomorrow I'll talk about my final meals and about my learning experience as a whole.

Day 4: Monday

I'm probably a horrible example of healthy living, but I rarely eat breakfast and I didn't today.  Compared to my discouragement yesterday, I am feeling better today.  God is faithful.

For lunch, I was actually craving the wheat rolls I've been having every day!  I picked at my rotisserie chicken a little bit; I've lost my appetite for this particular meat for a while, I'm afraid.  My raspberries are getting old, but I managed to get a fairly fresh handful.  I'll have to run to the store tonight to get some more.  I finished out my meal with two slices of Swiss cheese and a big A&M/SEC-style cup of ice water.  Got to be preparing for the big Alabama/TAMU game on Saturday, right?

Evening came with so much joy.  It hit me that vanilla yogurt comes in more than one form... what about froyo?  So today I had a lovely sweet meal of vanilla froyo with raspberries.  I don't think I've been so excited to have frozen yogurt in a long time.  I even took a selfie to commemorate the occasion.

A bowl of vanilla froyo and raspberries was my entire dinner before I headed off to Life Group.  The biggest temptation there was that they served dinner and it looked and smelled quite good!  Afterwards, they all went out to have ice cream and sodas.  I bid farewell and returned home to head to bed a little early.  For a late night snack, I had a wheat bread roll.

Today has certainly been a day of much-needed encouragement.  When I am feeling drained or frustrated, God has always been faithful in reminding me of His unfailing love and His ability to sustain me in all things.  Whether it's through a cup of froyo or a cool, cloudy afternoon, the Lord is good to me.

Yesterday's Jesus Calling words of encouragement were right on point.  Check out this paragraph.  "On some days, your circumstances and your physical condition feel out of balance: The demands on you seem far greater than your strength.  Days like that present a choice between two alternatives - giving up or relying on Me.  Even if you wrongly choose the first alternative, I will not reject you.  You can turn to Me at any point, and I will help you crawl out of the mire of discouragement.  I will infuse My strength into you moment by moment, giving you all that you need for this day." 

See?  God is so sweet to me.

(Edit: Someone brought up in the comments the concern that Jesus Calling isn't actually the direct words of God.  I completely agree and want to make sure everyone who reads this knows that I believe Jesus Calling is a fictional book (with many Biblical truths and references within) written by Sarah Young and only used in the context of this blog with as much significance as an inspirational quote, as if I were to quote a passage from 7.  The first-person writing of the devo book is a stylistic quirk, but I would in no way replace my quiet time with this, nor would I feel comfortable quoting it in any way with as much significance as direct Scripture.  It is merely meant for encouragement and inspiration.)

Day 5: Tuesday

Be proud of me.  I had breakfast today!  It was small, but it was something.  A little cup of vanilla yogurt was a nice way to start out the day.  Sitting down in my car to eat it before I walked to class may have made me a couple of minutes late, but it was worth it.

Today I caught myself daydreaming about food.  Until now, I've tried very hard not to even think about the other foods I'm craving.  Daydreams will only offer temptation and frustration.  Plus, I don't want to be distracted from prayer and meditation on what the Lord has given me!  But today, after class, I was lying in bed and caught myself daydreaming about foods that I love.  I'm not sure how long I was there, but I imagined Reese's Cups, tacos, and a cold can of Coca-Cola.  After a little while, I caught myself daydreaming and tried to flip open my Bible instead. 

For lunch, I decided to attempt to cook chicken without the George Foreman Grill.  I took three small strips of chicken breast and placed them in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil.  I'm sorry, I don't know any cooking terms, but I cooked them over the stove-top until they were no longer pink.  Overall, I'm pretty proud of my cooking abilities with this one.  I also made a little spinach salad with Ranch and a typical bowl of vanilla yogurt and raspberries.  My favorite part of the meal were two delectable wheat rolls.

I have to admit that I am getting so incredibly tired of chicken breast.  Every single day, eating dry and season-less chicken breast is wearying.  I was reading Jen Hatmaker's journal that she shares in 7.  She did this fast for an entire month, and on Day 8, she wrote: "Hey, guess who I hate?  That's right, you, Chicken Breast.  I can't believe I ever had feelings for you.  You're so dry, and you only taste good when someone covers up your blahness.  Salt and pepper is just lipstick on a pig or, in this case, a fowl."  Seeing how Jen Hatmaker struggled in a lot of the same ways I am is comforting.  This isn't easy and she isn't ashamed to admit it.

At the beginning of this week, I had absolutely no appetite.  I was tired of eating the same old foods, so I wasn't hungry.  At all.  Now, I'm hungry all the time.  I'm eating at least two meals a day, but my stomach is constantly growling.  It's asking for more than spinach and raspberries.  If I am growing hungrier after eating the same things, I can't imagine how it feels for those who eat only a small bowl of rice each day.

I'm hungry as I write this, but I am asking the Lord to use this time of minor hunger to focus my eyes on Him and His sustenance, as well as give me a further perception into the reality of global starvation and poverty.  

For dinner, I went over to my friend Bekah's house.  While she had tuna and guacamole and pita chips, I stuck with the usual: a chicken, Swiss cheese, and whole wheat bread sandwich; cup of vanilla yogurt; slice of Swiss cheese to eat on the side; handful of raspberries; and of course, my big, blue water bottle that I've taken everywhere as of lately.

Sammy and I were both busy today, so we didn't spend time together.  We talked on the phone for a little while this evening and found that we have struggled with many of the same things.  Sammy is experiencing hunger and frustration and daydreams about Pepsi.  We talked about how this entire experience has increased our thankfulness for food so much.  I will never take my variety of meal options for granted again.

One of the funniest things I've heard was from Sammy.  For as long as I've known her, she's hated to drink water.  In fact, a friend of ours once paid her $20 to drink something like 30oz of water.  We were discussing our newfound feelings for dry chicken breast and Sammy said, "This week, I've been drinking more water than I ever have in my life.  I would rather drink an entire bottle of water than eat another dry chicken breast."  So there's that.

Ali (my sister) texted me and said that she and her two best friends are joining in this fast, a few days late.  Her food choices were: bell peppers, spinach, watermelon, chicken, milk, protein powder, and coffee.  Choosing coffee against the rules means that Ali is cheating a little bit, but I'm sure she will still learn a lot from this challenge.

Day 6: Wednesday

I can hardly believe this week is nearly over!  I'm ready to taste some variety in foods (or at least some seasonings), but I am thankful for this experience.  I am so much more appreciative of food than I think I ever have been.

I didn't have breakfast.  I woke up feeling a bit sick, in all honesty.  When you have a sore, scratchy throat, dry chicken and spinach does not sound appealing at all. After contemplating meal choices, I relented and went to a froyo shop. I got a cup of vanilla frozen yogurt with raspberries.

Daydreaming about food has been a temptation again today, but I want to spend my time daydreaming about my love, my Husband, my Father, Jesus.  I don't need to be daydreaming about earthly things when there are so much greater things in store for my day!

I was reading Jesus Calling this morning after my quiet time and stumbled across: "Rejoice in Me always!  No matter what is going on, you can rejoice in your Love-relationship with Me.  This is the secret of being content in all circumstances.  So many people dream of the day when they will finally be happy. ...Fantasizing about future happiness will never bring fulfillment, because fantasy is unreality.  Even though I am invisible, I am far more Real than the world you see around you.  My reality is eternal and unchanging.  Bring your moments to Me, and I will fill them with vibrant joy." 

For dinner, I had chicken breast again.  I tore off a few small chunks and tossed them in with my Spinach salad and added a bit of Ranch dressing.  I had three rolls tonight (getting crazy over here) and a cup of vanilla yogurt.  The meal was actually the most filling I've had in several days.  Although I am tired of chicken breast, it was tender and not overly bland.  The bread was by far the best part of the meal.  I haven't gotten tired of these rolls yet.

The hardest part of tonight happened only a few minutes ago.  I was driving home from the library after spending a few long hours in concentration and studying.  I was a little hungry and stressed.  Forgetting about the fast completely, I began to plan out the cup of warm chai I would make when I got home with milk and sugar, Kenyan style.  It wasn't until I walked through the door of my house when it hit me that I can't have tea for two more days.  That ached a bit, I have to admit.

Going to bed tonight, I'm feeling a little empty from hunger.  I'm sure missing that tea.  But I'm about to spend some time in prayer and focus on the meaning of all of this, my precious Savior.  And He is worth so much more than my meager sacrifices.

Two years ago: Cafeteria Food, Dorms, and Church in College
Three years ago: Does marriage scare you as much as it does me?


  1. Emily, I have some doubts and concerns about using a book of sayings attributed to Jesus, apart from the Bible, as a daily devotional. Has anyone raised that issue with you, in relation to "Jesus Calling"? Do you see any possible danger in it, and if so do you have any ideas about how to avoid that danger? I see that you've cautioned readers to be sure not to become entangled in routine or allow our devotionals to be more important to our daily quiet time than the Word, but that doesn't address all my doubts and concerns about using that kind of book as a daily devotional. I'll try to explain after I think about it some more. For now I'll just say that I might be much less concerned if it were presented and treated as a work of fiction.

  2. Emily, rather than trying to better understand and explain my objections to using that kind of book as a devotional, I'll just give an example of a way of using it that seems more healthy to me. It seems to me it would be better to regard those sayings not as actual sayings of Jesus, but as daydreams of the author, imagining Jesus talking to her. They may or may not be more or less inspired by God, but certainly not entirely so.

    I can see a lot of possible value in reading a book like that, but I have some doubts about using it as a daily devotional.

    1. I definitely agree with what you're saying. I may have used an odd wording when I described it as my daily devotional. I might edit this post and add that in as to not cause confusion to anyone else. I only read a day's Jesus Calling AFTER I spend some time reading the Bible and praying, which was why I called it a devotional, but when I read autobiographies of Christian missionaries, I consider their books as part of my daily devo as well, even though their words are certainly not directly inspired by God either. I suppose I use the term daily devotional a bit loosely. But I wouldn't consider reading Jesus Calling on its own as a real quiet time, nor would I agree with quoting Sarah Young's words as directly quoting the Lord. They are certainly inspiring words that often quote God's promises in the Bible, but they are not Scripture. When I shared them here, I certainly meant it similar to sharing an inspirational quote and not like sharing direct Scripture. I hope this makes sense.

    2. It makes very good sense. Thanks for clarifying!

  3. To post a little bit on topic: Currently, following Montignac, I'm abstaining from fiberless carbs, and trying to avoid having carbs and fats in my bloodstream at the same time. I'm trying to imagine resisting my temptations as opening windows to a new life and new horizons.

    Going off on another tangent: I'm trying to learn to make better use of the Internet, to help spread the knowledge and love of God, and to support and encourage others in the work. Forums and social networks seem to me to be almost completely useless for that, although I haven't given up on them entirely. The best possibilities I see now are in the blogosphere. Even more than the question of where, though, I'm puzzled by the question of how. To help me with that, I'm looking for stories about interpersonal experiences on the Internet that have helped open people's hearts more to God, and attract them to the Kingdom. Along with the stories I'd like people's ideas about what it was in the other person's character and conduct that affected them that way.

    For example, I remember an experience in an Internet forum that was so wonderful for me that I felt like I was "touched by an angel," just like in the TV series. A woman was looking for help in learning to believe in God. I don't remember much of the details any more. I remember thinking, when I first started reading her posts, "Here we go again, another person who's shopping for a religion the way a person might shop for a car, searching for a religion made to order especially for her." Then the more I read in her posts, the more I was touched and moved, and she kept saying things that looked like intimate personal messages from God to me. Even more amazing, once when I tried to offer her some ideas, I suddenly saw my own words as a personal message from God, to *me*!

    What was it in her character and conduct that affected me that way? What stands out in my memory is that, as much as she ached to believe in God, she steadfastly resisted the temptation to substitute an imaginary God in His place, as I've seen so many people doing.

    I'll be thinking about what lessons I can learn from that experience, in learning to make better use of the Internet. I'm hoping that maybe you'll like this idea well enough to post about some interpersonal experiences of your own, on the Internet, that have helped open your heart more to God, and increased your attraction to the Kingdom; and invite others to do the same.

    1. That's a very interesting thought. I will definitely be pondering what you've written and consider what I would write about this in a blog post.