Sunday, October 21, 2012

The desire to Africa.

I had every intention to sit down and write a thorough, heart-felt post about my desire to go to Africa, to simply go and do, to be God's hands and feet.

However, life happens.

I am stressed over grad school stuff, not just completing my assignments, but completing them to the best of my ability. I am exhausted and at times overwhelmed thanks to my busy schedule consisting of internship meetings on nearly all Tuesday and Thursday evenings, additional grad school assignments, full-time employment, volunteering/serving in different areas in my church (which I LOVE doing), and responsibilities at home. Oh and I am married to a pretty fantastic guy who I like spending time with when he is not too busy scrambling around trying to finish up his last semester in grad school while sometimes working overtime to help keep things running as smoothly as possible at work.

This is not a post complaining about life. I love life. Hear my heart:  

I am blessed beyond measure.

I am thankful for every opportunity that has been given to me, for every journey I have committed to and attempted to gracefully complete. I have been blessed with the opportunity of higher education, with the chance to work with and support mentors who can make all the difference in the life of a teenage mother. I serve (openly) in a local church who loves God and wants to share his love with others. I work in a place full of people who advocate for young children, children who may not have anyone else fighting for them or anyone else that believes they can succeed. I have the chance to love them, to make a difference. I have a beautiful home filled with food, clothes, warmth, and so much more. I couldn't ask for a more amazing, supportive family, including my in-laws (what a blessing, right!?)!

Then there is my husband. Words can't describe how much he means to me and how thankful I am that he was a part of God's plan for me.

Again, I am blessed. And now, another opportunity lies in front of me, the opportunity to go to Swaziland, Africa. To love on some kids, work with local churches, and share hope with a community full of people made in God's image.

C and I want to go to Africa, but we need help getting there. Prayer. Encouragement. And, unfortunately, lots of money. So...I have tried to spend some time here and there making some crafts to help raise funds.

If anyone actually reads this and wants to buy something shown here or simply wants to help us set our feet on African soil, please let me know! I hope to have a website for donations up and running soon.

Hair clips & more to come. Ask me about them.
Hair bands + accessories that slip on and off.
Mix and match!
Colorful studs or sweet rosettes. 
Who doesn't love pumpkins?
 Future posts coming with more details about the incredible trip and what we hope to do.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

God, possessions, & kiddos

I find it interesting that possessions month happened to fall on the weeks that I went back to work, where I had the honor to go on home visits to visit with the families of the children enrolled in my Pre-K class. Many of the students attending my school are below the poverty line and some are even homeless.

Walking in to those homes was an experience I will always remember. Contrary to what one might assume, the state of the homes is not what stood out the most. What stood out were the families. Families who exude happiness and pride. They were just downright sweet. Their attention was completely given to their children, not to their circumstances.

They focused on the things that matter.

These are families trying to do the best by their children, just as my parents once did and as I hope to do when the time comes for me to have little ones. I think it is fair to say that those families did not choose to be in poverty. They all did not choose to live in unsafe homes with little to no furniture, broken windows, and wrecked kitchens. They did not choose to live a life where they would have to choose between paying bills and paying for food.

In our society, I’m more likely to be considered poor than wealthy. I basically live in an apartment. My car is over 15 years old. I don’t own any pets. I don’t have traveling funds set aside. I don’t own an ipad, tablet, or any smart technology for that matter. But all of those things don’t matter. Well, okay someday I do want a house and precious pup, but my point remains. I don’t want to look through this world’s eyes any longer. I’ve done that for far too long.

I have all that I need. I have an amazing husband. C and I have all the space and things we need. And to be frank, I’m tired of people telling me, or just saying in general, that if I obey God and follow Him, everything will fall into place and life will be okay.

Ten years from now my life might not be okay. Five years from now my life might not be okay. Tomorrow my life might be far from okay, but I need to accept that and rest knowing that, no matter what, I will be okay in Christ. I need to find peace in Christ and in him alone. Not in my circumstances, my possessions, my gifts, or even in potential prosperity. I don’t want my faith and trust in Christ to be wrapped up in false promises of a secure life or in comfortable living (if they were, I'd NEVER have kids!).

Do those families in poverty, the ones struggling to clothe and feed their precious little ones, are they responsible for their living conditions because they didn’t follow and trust God? Or are they obeying and following God, yet he fails to provide for them?

It doesn’t have to be one of those, right?

He didn’t promise security here on earth nor did he promise an easy life. Yes, God does provide, but not to the standard that many of us may desire or imagine. God provides peace, love, and eternal life and that is f-a-r more than enough for me.

That love fills me up and it is my deepest desire that it overflows into the lives of those around me, especially to the children in my classroom and their sweet families. They may not know my God, but they can know his love and he can use me to touch their lives as they have touched mine already.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Month 3 of this journey of 7.

This month, the idea is to give away 7 things (possessions) each day for a month or what is equivalent to 7 things per day by the end of the month.

C and I are not being legalistic about this month, as in we are not keeping a tally of everything we give away. Instead we are earnestly praying that our eyes and ears are open to the needs of those around us. We have a growing pile of bags filled with clothes and small household items that we do not wear or do not use often or at all. However, we don’t want to simply pass on the unwanted, old, and useless items, then pat ourselves on the back and call it a day.

I’m learning more and more that a true follower of God lives sacrificially. Giving is a part of living. That means I am to give sacrificially. What if we all lived as people who give the shirts off their backs and the shoes off their feet for all who are  in need? People who give of their own resources in order for others’ basic needs to be met and in order for others to simply feel loved and appreciated. Would not the world be a different place? Would not our community or our church look different if we loved our Creator above all else, above our cars, TVs, smart phones, ipads, homes, etc.?

That is who I want to be. Someone who gives until it hurts, until my time, energy, and money is all spent; someone who loves God and lives like it.

George Bernard Shaw doesn’t sugar coat it:

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish little selfish cod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

Jesus loves people. He lived a life that proved it. I want that life, too. I want to be a part of that story, living a life marked by love and sacrifice.

Friday, August 17, 2012

When the going gets tough...

...face the tough. I’ve seen that not facing the hard moments just means running from it until it catches up to you.

As I enter my last semester in grad school I’m forced to look back at my journey, both because in the coming months I have to synthesize all my gained knowledge along with my internship experience and because I’m big on self-reflection.

I started grad school about 2 years ago and boy was it tough. The hard part wasn’t really the work. Chris and I were in our 2nd year of marriage, which was wonderful, but we were balancing the desire to spend a lot of time together + our grad school work (each taking at least 2 classes) + pretty much working full-time.

Okay, so not much has changed from two years ago, but it will s-o-o-n. YAY!

A lot was going on during that first year. I was doing a ton of reading for class, completing lots of projects, trying to figure out what it all meant and how the info was supposed to impact my life. I was also figuring out what it looked like to be married, living in Greensboro, away from the close friendships I had developed in Chapel Hill.

My school readings were fascinating, filled with information about finding strengths in people and living a life of purpose, encouraging others to live intentionally. My school readings combined with my faith left me desperately desiring to live out a life of purpose. However, in the midst of it all, I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that I was not equipped to be much of anything. This little voice told me that maybe I’m just not smart enough, pretty enough, talented enough, that I had nothing worth much to anyone. How could I be used? Who would pay attention to me?

I fought this feeling and…well, I wish I could say it just took a few weeks and I got over myself, inspired others, and together we all changed the community. Unfortunately, it went nothing like that.

It was a struggle for months and months. Looking back on all of it, I have realized several things. Since I was bummed about the lack of time, skills, or talents I had to offer, I put my energy into encouraging others to use the blessings or gifts that I saw in them. However, though my intentions were (mostly) good + pure, instead of simply encouraging or gently challenging friends to pursue the strengths or talents I saw in them, I probably came across a bit pushy, even judgmental. I saw so much potential in others, talents that they could use for others, time that could be used out in the community serving others, wealth that could be shared with those in need.

My desire to see others use their gifts and talents was and is not a bad thing, but I’m certain my words and actions did not accurately convey my intentions. Instead of lifting my personal worries to God, being an example, and simply encouraging others in their gifts…I complained, my frustration grew, and I focused entirely too much on what I felt I lacked. I didn’t inspire people or even gain pity. Instead, a few friends pulled away.

It was a hard time.

So, what came from all of this?

I’m learning s-o-o many things…

  • I’ve realized the selfishness in all of it. My pride was bloated. Finally the light came on and I realized how much more I need to believe and trust God. He made me just the way I am, no mistakes. He is in control and my life is good, no actually it is great. I can be used and I will be used to glorify Him. I am being used, even if I can’t see the fruit of that. Simply put: more God, less me.
  • There is a way to be an example and to influence others, but at the same time love them and meet them where they are. More importantly, I can learn from others. I need to learn from others. Lately, I can really see how God is working in the lives of those around me and He sure is working in me.
  • When I see someone who may be experiencing what I was, I want to be there for them. Ask them what’s going on underneath it all. I want to listen, to love, to not turn away from them, but together turn towards God. That is community. Being honest, vulnerable, and real enough with each other to face the hard and the ugly, to be the bumpers that keep each other from rolling down a dark and lonely path.
  • When committed to someone or something, fight for it. Whether it is a friendship, my education, or my church, I want to be the billboard for genuine commitment. When it gets tough, I want to dig in and fight for it. That is the kind of thing great people in history have done, greatest of all being Jesus Christ, himself. He never turned his back on what mattered most. 
  • ALWAYS go to God first. He can handle me and all my crazy ways better than anyone else in this life. Vent to God first.  Then, if they ask or I wish to share, discuss it with friends/family. 

There will never be a day when the learning stops. Sanctification, becoming more and more like Christ, is a continuous process. That process can be hard, filthy, and often requires a look into the ugly parts of me, the weak flesh that so desperately needs less of me and a whole lot of Jesus.

I’m thankful for God’s love. I’m thankful He chooses to keep molding this jar of clay. I’m so incredibly grateful for the people in my life that continue to offer support, encouragement, and love. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Grace + Mercy

When Christians, those who follow Jesus Christ, stand up for their beliefs it should not be surprising when the world does not respond well. There will be boycotts, exclusion, discrimination, etc. The bible even speaks of this.

The thing is, when the world stands up for their beliefs or even challenges Christian beliefs and values, how do Christians respond? We know how the world responds. Do we act as the world acts, as if we are of the world? Do we arrange boycotts? Do we discriminate, hate, or judge others? Do we exclude others or belittle them?

How are we setting ourselves apart?

I have a different worldview from those who do not know Jesus Christ or those who have chosen not to know him. I cannot expect others to submit and align themselves with my worldview if they don’t know Jesus, because Jesus is the foundation of my worldview.

In order for others to understand why I believe in what I believe and why my values are what they are, they must understand the foundation of it all: Jesus. And, how will they know the foundation if I don’t tell them?

As a Christian, I want to act as Jesus acted while walking on this earth. I want to love sinners. That includes everyone, every single human on this earth. I want to serve those around me, the ones who are hurting, who feel lost, who feel hated and excluded.

We say that we must hate the sin, not the sinner. But do we throw out the sinner along with the sin when we try to put that saying into practice? We’ve all been there. It is not something easy to live out, but we have to try. I know I want to try.

If you read the bible, Jesus most often rebuked believers, not other sinners. He didn’t dissociate himself from prostitutes, slaves, thieves or other “lowly” individuals, but he embraced them and loved them. He demonstrated grace and mercy, which is entirely different from condoning or condemning.

That is what I want my life to look like: pouring out grace, mercy, and love to all people.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Choosing to wear clothes...

Clothes month update…

On the surface, this month has actually been great. Since I’ve been so busy being glued to my computer with daily group or online class meetings for grad school, I have not gone out much or done much mingling on week nights or weekends. This has made it fairly easy to wear the same clothes over and over again. Even the times I’ve been out, I haven’t really considered others thoughts about my clothes. I’ve even surprised myself with how little I’ve thought about it.

My weakness isn’t in the love of clothes or accessories.

The thing is, going into this whole month, I knew that fashion isn’t my thing. On an average day, I only wore basic accessories – watch, earrings, and wedding rings. I picked comfy clothes and shoes that I wear most of the time anyways. So, I have actually enjoyed the lack of variety. Simple, comfy, and quick. That is how I do clothes.

Now, that is just the surface level.

I really do care about how I look. It is deeper than the clothes I wear. My weakness is in how much I care about being very pale, as in Casper white. It is in how much I care about being short, yet not so petite. I use clothes to try to mask these things. It isn’t about how cute the clothes are, but about how much the clothes can hide the parts of me that lead me to struggle in the beauty or looks department. I'm not even sure why I struggle so much. Who cares about skin color or body size, right? Society, I guess. Jesus wasn't even a handsome guy (Isaiah 53:2). Nevertheless, I struggle. is really hard to type this knowing that other people might read this, but I guess that is a part of being real and vulnerable.

This is me, weaknesses and all. If you pray, please pray that I can continue to confront this and continue to know that God sees me as beautiful and that is all that matters.

Oh, and as I read this to my hubby before posting it, he reminded me that he loves me and finds beautiful and that matters too. :)

I truly want my focus to be on a different kind of beauty…“I want to belong to a Christian community known for a different kind of beauty, the kind that heals and inspires.” – Jen Hatmaker

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I’m sure I’ve said this a million times, but I’ll make it a million times + one: balancing grad school + working full-time + married life (love it!) + home-owning (condo, same thing-ish) + every other aspect of life…it can be quite the challenge.

Despite all of the mental and physical exhaustion, the frustration over missing social events, and the countless times I’ve wanted to kick technology to the curb, there are s-o-o many blessings and sweet moments that have come about as a result of choosing all of these things to balance.

I’ve learned more about myself as well as about the people around me. Right now, I am overwhelmed by the support, love, and encouragement I have received from family, friends, and co-workers. I’m blessed to say that I have people around me who will go out of their way to help me work out a realistic, doable schedule, people who will do the little things just to make me smile on a hectic day, people who will sacrifice so that I can function better, people who just plain understand and extend love and grace my way.

This process, this whole time in my life, it is humbling, without a doubt. I stress. I worry. I freak out…I know, I know, old news for anyone who knows me. But through this process I’ve grown in knowledge, experience, and skills. And I don’t just mean this in an academic sense. I’ve learned that my family is very understanding. I’ve learned that my co-workers just plain rock, that’s all there is to it. I’ve learned to not only accept help from friends, but to even ask for it (yea, it’s a slow learning process). I’ve learned to buckle down and push through. I’ve also learned to cut myself some slack from time to time.

I’m still learning...each and every day brings a new lesson, whether it is a lesson in time management, a lesson in discipline, a lesson in humility, or a lesson in the amount of blessings I have – from the people in my life or just the opportunity to pursue higher education and keep a full time job just so that I may continue enjoying a roof over my head and food in my belly. Wow, what a life I have.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Embracing Change

Just around the corner there are many things changing, things that really affect my life. And in the midst of it all, God is working in me. Boy, is He is r-e-a-l-l-y working in me. There have been some ugly moments, definitely. But, wow, having God chip away at the things that have a hold on me, opening my eyes to things that need to change…it is a powerful thing and a really great place to be.

I have a long way to go in this journey of sanctification, becoming more and more like Christ, but I’m excited to see what God has in store. I’m excited for my friends planting a church and all that comes with that. I’m excited for my church family, for what the future holds for us and what God is doing there. I’m excited about my husband and I BOTH GRADUATING from grad school. No school for either one of us! That will be a first. Most of all, I’m excited about the opportunities that come with change.

Yes, change is scary and unpredictable at times, but it is also an exhilirating adventure! I’ve already seen people stepping out of comfort zones, serving others, spreading encouragement, and most importantly, showing the love of Christ to others, spreading the good news.

I am being broken (slowly, but surely) of the many things that I let have a fierce hold on me. I’m realizing the idols in my life and the things that really keep me from true intimacy with my Creator. I want to say with full confidence that I am a follower of God, not just a fan.  There is s-o-o much more to say on that, but I’ll save it for another day…

Friday, July 13, 2012


We recently entered month two of the 7 month journey. Remember that 7 month journey of radical reduction? This month I am reducing what I wear down to 7 articles of clothing. Yep, just 7. We are a little loose with the interpretation of one “article” of clothing, but it is still a huge reduction from the norm.

My 7 consists of:
(1) a maxi dress
(2) a pair of dark jeans
(3) a pair of lighter (work) jeans
(4) my heart for Africa t-shirt
(5) a (sorta) teal fitted shirt
(6) my FABC shirt
(7) shoes – wedges, sandals

In regards to clothes month, I resonate a lot with Jen Hatmaker: I’m not a big fashion guru. I don’t have different shoes and accessories that go with individual outfits. I rarely buy new clothes or accessories and I definitely don’t spend a whole lot of money on one item. In other words, you can consider me fashionably challenged. Or cheap. Or both.

However, I won’t deny that I have an undeniably large amount of clothes and shoes stored away in my bedroom. I certainly won’t deny my desperate desire for approval when it comes to the pesky ol’ looks department. All my life I have felt as if I’ve been surrounded by beautiful people. You know, the kind that others either want to be or want to be with. I’m ashamed of how often I’ve let the age-old desire to somehow “fit in” seep into my mind...and make a home. What I let these thoughts do to me…oh, it is just downright shameful.

I know my identity is in Christ, but I am definitely one to get caught up in how I “should” look, according to the world’s standards, at least. The world tells me that I should have my hair just right. I should be skinny and tan (don’t get me started on that, ha). I should wear the latest fashions, which I’m typically not up to date on (remember, lazy and cheap). This society seems to value style and outer beauty more than integrity and character. The evidence for this piles up as I scroll through facebook and pinterest. Not sure about this? Go check it out.

Don’t get me wrong, fashion, style, beauty – none of them are evil in and of themselves. Just look at all of creation. God is the expert on beauty as He created all things beautiful. The problem is that we tend to worship created things far more than we worship the Creator.

My Creator created me in His image (Genesis 1:26-28). I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” regardless of what the world may or may not say (Psalm 139:13-14). God creates beauty and He created me. You know what that means…I am beautiful (as are you, if anyone reads this). God looks on me with pleasure.

This month I want to learn to live this truth. My identity is in God, not clothes, shoes, jewelry, or in others’ opinions of me. I know it won’t be pretty, but I’m ready to confront my weak flesh and so desperately cling to God.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fasting: a Spiritual Discipline. By Chris White

Throughout our journey through 7, the issue of fasting has often come up. Is it really 7 months of fasting? Since it has been called a fast, why are we making it public? Is that biblical? First, we must affirm that 7 is not, in total, a fast in the most traditional sense. It does, however, contain elements of a fast, but only in part. As such, understanding fasting has become very important for us, though we recognize that all the biblical principles tied to fasting will not apply to our 7 experience. But before we get to the principles, we want to first layout a thesis that will help clarify some points of discussion that may be found in future posts about fasting.

Our thesis (at least for this first post) is this: we believe that the spiritual discipline of fasting should be a part of every Christian’s walk with God. By stating this, we must answer three questions: (1) what is a spiritual discipline, (2) what is fasting, and (3) why should it be a part of every Christian’s life?

(1) What Is a Spiritual Discipline?

A spiritual discipline is a personal and/or corporate practice that promotes spiritual growth. There are several different spiritual disciplines. Bible reading/study, prayer, giving, evangelism, service, and, yes, even fasting are all examples of spiritual disciplines. Each discipline is designed to help us grow to spiritual maturity in Christ.

In addition to Christian-to-Christian accountability and our experiences, spiritual disciplines are the primary ways by which we can increase in godliness. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 says, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Note that godliness is not an automatic thing for believers. Spiritual maturity does not happen overnight. Rather it is something we attain by God’s grace through training. In short, spiritual disciplines train us to rely on God as our sole source of strength and guidance. As we come to depend on Him more and more, we become more and more like Christ, who, by the way, completely depended on the Father (cf. John 5:19).

Unfortunately, not every believer zealously dives into the spiritual disciplines (and believe us, we are no exception!). The reasons for avoidance are certainly varied and complex. It could be because of apathy, or the fear of attempting anything difficult, or simply having a lack of vision (i.e., not having the end goal in mind). But if we learn anything from 1 Timothy 4:7-8, we can know that being spiritually disciplined has both present and eternal benefits. It will not always be easy but it will always be worth it. Thankfully, we serve a gracious God who will supply our every need to help us stay disciplined so that we may grow closer and closer to Him!

(2) What Is Fasting?

Fasting is most commonly understood as the voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. Other things may also be given up for a fast, such as involvement with other people or certain forms of media. It can be either corporate (cf. Joel 2:15-16; Acts 13:2) or private (cf. Matt. 6:16-18). It can be either partial (cf. Dan. 1:12; Matt. 3:4) or complete (cf. Ezra 10:6; Matt. 4:2; Luke 4:2). It can either be long (40 days, for example) or short (30 hours). No matter what form the fast takes, each should aim for spiritual purposes. These spiritual purposes can be varied, but all of them should share one single purpose: so that one receives God as their ultimate treasure.

Fasting from food says, “I value the life that comes from God more than the life that comes from food.” Fasting from your smart-phone says, “I value communication with God more than communication with others.” In other words, fasting is the practice of intentionally giving up things we value to grow deeper in love with God. Doing so says we value God and are dependent upon Him far more than the things we fast from. To avoid doing so leaves us prone to our idolatrous tendencies we all struggle with by which we will end up worshiping what is created rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:25). And believe us, it will happen!

(3) Why Should Fasting Be a Part of Every Christian’s Life?

The answer to this question is surprisingly simple. Take a look at what Jesus says in the beginning of Matthew 6:16: “Whenever you fast...” Look also at the beginning of verse 17: “But you, when you fast...” Notice Jesus does not say “if” but “when.” It seems clear enough that Jesus expects His followers to fast at some point in their spiritual journey. And Jesus knows best! Those committed to following Him in all areas of their lives would do well to listen to His words and realize that fasting is an important spiritual discipline designed to place God as the primary object of affection and worship in the hearts and lives of believers.


So, let’s bring it all together, shall we? Because fasting is the voluntary abstinence of anything we value in order to receive God as our ultimate treasure, it is an important spiritual discipline that trains us for godliness, and Jesus fully expects His followers to do it. As we fast, we learn to rely less and less on the good gifts God gives to us and learn to rely more and more on the One who gives. We can certainly be thankful for what we have and can use our gifts to honor the Lord, but there is something to be said for surrendering those things for a time in order to remember that every good and perfect gift comes from one place – the very hand of God (James 1:17). Is fasting difficult? It can be. Is it worth it? If it means greater intimacy with God, you bet it is!

For additional reading, we highly recommend John Piper’s book A Hunger for God. He does masterful job of handling the subject of fasting at length, and he really makes it both understandable and applicable. Additionally, Donald S. Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life not only helps in the understanding and application of fasting as a spiritual discipline but he also covers a vast array of other important spiritual disciplines that, we believe, every follower of Christ will find challenging yet refreshing. Both works (in conjunction with the Bible as the primary text) were instrumental in helping us understand this issue as a whole.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

the WHY behind this whole 7 thing

Now that life has slowed down a bit for my sweet husband, he has taken some time to lay out our thoughts on why we not only agreed to this 7 month journey, but why we jumped all in, thrilled to experience every bit of it. Here is a guest post that I believe was well worth the wait:

“Our primary reason for pursuing this whole 7 journey is so that we may experience the presence, grace, and love of God in a more intimate way. We realize that by doing so, certain things about us will have to change. Why? Because God is holy. But what does God’s holiness have to do with us changing?

It has everything to do with us changing.

Remember, holiness means “otherness,” i.e., as much as we are God’s image-bearers in this world, we can only portray who He is in an extremely finite way. But God is infinite. We do all things imperfectly. God does all things perfectly. Recall what God said through the prophet Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” (Is. 55:8-9, NIV).

Simply put, God is vastly beyond what we can ever imagine or understand, and His holiness makes Him the absolute standard for righteousness. Therefore, when we grow closer to God, simply being in His glorious presence reveals to us our own sins.

Turning again to Isaiah, this prophet of God understood and repented of his own sins when he encountered the presence of God (Is. 6:1-7). The more light that shines upon us, the more aware we are of our own shadows. And we are reminded that God does not fellowship with darkness (cf. 1 John 1:5-7).

Therefore, experiencing God in a more intimate way will cause us to change, and that is a good thing! We desire to be challenged and convicted by the Holy Spirit. We want to be awakened to the sins and injustices in our own lives. We want to make those changes that will cause us to fall more deeply in love with our Creator-Savior. We do not want to be blinded by what our society says is normal or okay, but rather we want to realize what it is we have been taking for granted and hording for ourselves.

We truly want to be a light unto the world and a blessing to others for God’s glory. That journey only begins when we repent of our sins and give ourselves over wholly to God’s presence and purposes.”

As my husband has so eloquently shown... this is why we have embarked on this journey and hope to make it a life-long journey. We do not intend to change our lives in some particular way for 4 weeks at a time, but to make room for God to change us each month, a change that will last a life-time. A forever kind of change.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Life after month 1

The first four weeks of the 7 month journey is over. Up next: two weeks of reflection and preparation for next month. 

I've been thinking about these past four weeks...God is working in me. I can say one thing for sure: never in my life have I ever been more thankful for food and beverages...such an enormous, delicious variety all around me. I seriously pray to continue buying and eating with intention. Keeping out the unnecessary and avoiding excess, in hopes of not only continued thanks to my amazing God, who provides it all, but to bring Him glory by putting hands and feet to the message received so loud and clear: all that I have is not within my reach simply so that I may bask in it, feeding my flesh, but so that I may reach out to those without. God is breaking my heart over what breaks His...out of the overflow of my heart I want to (and ought to) serve those who do not have options, those who do not have the luxury of choosing to go without for a matter of weeks, but who live that reality each and every day. I was not created in order to enjoy God's blessings alone. 

This brings me to an important point. As I've said before, I have not shared my experiences and thoughts with all who lay their eyes upon these pages so that I may toot my own horn or gather praise from anyone. So why share? Why do the whole 7 journey? Why do the 7 foods? These are questions I've been confronted with over the past few weeks.

I've tossed around these questions and my motives. I've considered scripture and how its interpretation influences my whole take on this experience and why I'm doing it. I still don't think I'm fully capable of stringing words together that truly convey my heart on this matter. And for that reason I am going to end this post with a cliff hanger... 

For now, I will share false reasons for my participation and open sharing...

It is not because I am interested in being Jen Hatmaker, the author of 7, or because I agree with everything she says and does, both in her books and on her blog. In fact, I view some things differently, but that is okay. 

It is not because I want attention or because I want others to see me as a good Christian, one who commits acts of righteousness for all to see. 

It is not because I think my works or actions will bring me closer to God. I can only remove things that keep me from turning to Him and Him only.

oh there is so much more to say on this, but I'll end here...

My amazing husband plans to help share our hearts on this issue (yay for a guest post!). Until then, questions and comments are always welcome...

Monday, June 4, 2012

7 months of radical reduction: Seeing food differently

It is just over halfway through the first month of this 7 month journey and God has already shown me so much. Many people have asked me how I'm still sticking with it: eating only 7 foods, every day. Well, I've put some thought into that question...

I will make the same confession as many people have made to me: I have a discipline problem when it comes to food. I've never been able to keep myself on a diet. I love food. It just tastes s-o-o good and it can bring on so much comfort too.

However, in the past two weeks I have eaten only 7 foods and drank only water. Admittedly, I have stretched it a bit when out with family and friends, but I have stuck to the same core foods. I don't say all this to focus on me, to boast (my flesh is weak, trust me), or to toot my own horn (more about this issue in a later post). I say this because this is a big deal. I, who have a major weakness for food, have stuck to 7 foods for sixteen days. 

What this tells me: my GOD is MIGHTY. I can do all things through Him and for Him. The difference between this current change in my eating habits and anything I've done in the past is that this time, I'm not doing it for myself. I'm not limiting myself to 7 foods so that I can lose weight. I'm not doing it so that I can feel better about myself. In fact, I'm doing it so that I can think of myself less. More God, less me. 

At social gatherings, especially here in the south, there seems to always be cake or cupcakes, cookies, pies, etc. This time of year commercials and billboards advertise milkshakes, ice cream, and all sorts of delicious sweets. It is all so hard to resist. My ready response has always been, "you only live once, why not enjoy it." 

I've prayed for discipline, for strength, and for my eyes to be opened. And God is delivering. Now, when I catch myself having an inner pity party about not savoring all these good foods around me, my mind goes elsewhere. God brings to mind the people who don't even have 7 foods to choose from. He reminds me of the children I work with who hardly get enough food to eat at home or the ones who rely on food at school because there isn't really food for them at home. He reminds of the families who eat McDonald's for nearly every meal because that is all they can afford. All of these people live right here in my county, many in the same city. What am I doing about that? Not much, to be honest.

Who am I to complain about food or lack thereof? God is teaching me to see food through new eyes. These foods that are so amazing to me are a gift. I ought to consider chips and salsa, seasonings and herbs, coffee, and all of the other delicious treats I miss as precious gifts from God that He created for us to share and enjoy. What a great God, right? Creating such great things simply for our enjoyment. Amazing. 

Imagine your life without your favorite foods. Some people are living that life right now and have far less than we have ever known. I know that I want that to change and I want start doing something about it. You only live once, why not make a difference...Boy, am I reaching a whole new level of gratitude. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

7 months of radical reduction: Day Seven

One week down. Three to go. I wouldn't say this first week has been t-o-o hard or frustrating, but simply inconvenient. In our society, social gatherings are almost always centered around food. We gather with friends and family over lunch or dinner. We meet for coffee. We have cook-outs. We go to parties, showers, and weddings. Where people are gathered, there is typically food, especially here in the south. This month alone, I will take part in almost every single one of these events. It is so much more convenient to indulge in it all. Who wants to wait, go home, and cook just to eat the usual?  

I thought it would be hard to be around everyone else enjoying delicious food while I eat the same old food, but relying on God and keeping my mind on higher things has been such a blessing. I'm sure I've said this, but I really like food. I mean I r-e-a-l-l-y like food. Until 7 days ago, I looked forward to each meal of the day, thinking about the delicious food my body will gladly consume. Now, I don't really think about my upcoming meals since I know exactly what it will consist of and how it will taste. This is actually a good thing since it frees my mind up to think of other things. I do still enjoy my 7 foods, but I certainly look forward to a variety again and oh the herbs and spices I intend to enjoy...

Today was a bit challenging, but with challenge comes reliance on God and that is a beautiful thing. The bit of friction that comes with discipline and sacrifice is exactly what I need. It brings me to a place where I fully rely on God and focus on the important stuff, not all of the minor junk (+ each excuse) that creeps into my days. We (the hubby and I) went to the farmer's market today, which is definitely a GREAT place to go on a beautiful Saturday. But talk about temptation...peaches, strawberries, fresh-squeezed lemonade, peanuts, baked goods, ice cream, and did I say peaches. Oh they smelled so good. NONE of these items are on the approved list. We were there with my family, who were enjoying the treasures that the farmer's market has to offer. They even offered to share, forgetting about our 7 foods. I politely declined and rested in the joy of being with family. My brother and sister-in-law were there too, which made it extra sweet. 

In the evening we went to a dear friend's hs graduation, where the speaker shared 1 Tim. 6:6 - "But godliness with contentment is great gain." What a great message...still chewing on that one. We then joined her family out for dinner at one of our favorite mexican restaurants. One of my absolute all-time favorite foods is chips and salsa. Since high school that has been on the top of the snack list. It is why the hubby and  I even go to mexican restaurants. Sad news: chips and salsa are not 7 approved. I sent out a text to friends going through the 7 journey with me and informed them of my impending struggle and welcomed any encouragement. My friends rock. Their comments were great. I leaned on God and simply enjoyed the company, who are quite amazing people. It was such a blessing to eat and fellowship with them. God is so good.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

7 months of radical reduction: Day Four

I'm four days into 7 months of radical reduction and my eyes have already been opened. 

The fact that it took days to develop and finalize my list of 7 foods shows that I have s-o-o much around me. It was pretty hard to come up with only 7 foods, especially for someone like me who really, I mean really, likes food. a lot. There are very few things that I don't eat. And even then I don't hate it. I'd just prefer other things. 

In this society I'm not considered filthy rich, yet I have an abundance of food and things surrounding me each day, which leads me to my next point. Being limited to 7 foods has opened my eyes to (1) my eating habits (2) just how much food is at my fingertips each and every day. 

Already, 4 days into it, this month has made me thankful for all the little bits of food and generosity that is sent my way every single day. On the first day, I sat watching family eat pizza and ice cream cake celebrating birthdays (of course I enjoyed their company and didn't sit their drooling). On the same day, I stood around yummy food (just looking, not tasting) and enjoyed watching a sweet friend open up presents in honor of her sweet baby boy who will grace us with his presence any day now. On the second day, left and right I was offered goodies and snacks from coworkers. Let me tell you, there is always food in the work room and it is not always easy to turn down. Cream cheese danish...yum (just 24 days). I realize how often I can grab a little bite to eat and not think about it. After these 4 weeks I hope to continue the routine of saying no to excess food (not all of it, but most, ha). However, I do plan on having a big cup of coffee in 24 days. Is it weird that I come home everyday and smother my nose into a bag of coffee beans? I really miss coffee. 

Having to explain why I can't eat all the things offered to me has brought on several responses:
(1) Really!? That sounds really can you do that?
(2) Whoa. That sounds crazy (followed by awkward silences and attempts to say something positive).
(3) Wow! That sounds really rewarding. Keep me updated. I might need to try that out! 

I'm trying to keep in mind what Jen Hatmaker said: "this is suppose to be uncomfortable and inconvenient...because the discomfort creates space for the Holy Spirit to move." 

I haven't been too terribly uncomfortable and just a bit inconvenienced, but I'm sure there is much more to come. I pray that I turn to God more and more in those moments, praying for what is on my heart and thanking Him for all that I have. Unlike many around the world, I get to return to a variety of food before too long. I don't want to take that for granted. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Our journey of 7 begins...

Today I began a journey that fills me with excitement while also filling me with anxiety and fear. I will reduce + simplify for 7 months. Yes, 7 months of purging excess. 

Recently a friend of mine approached me about embarking on a challenging 7 month experience. I know...seems radical. But sometimes radical is exactly what we need. The idea for this fast comes from the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker. Jen writes about how she is overwhelmed by the amount of excess in her life and how she decided to do something about it. She shares her family's experience battling against excess, specifically in 7 areas: food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress.

Each month she takes on one of these areas and fights against excess, ridding of all the mess that distracts her from God and from the point of our lives here, in this crazy world. She desired more of God and f-a-r less of herself.  

We have so much excess in our lives. I know I do, without a doubt. However, when I was asked to consider this journey...I'll be honest...I didn't exactly jump up and down screaming, "YES!" but I simply thought about it. I thought about it for days and days. As usual, there were many thoughts and emotions swimming around in my mind: oh, how inspiring. how daring, but what a challenge. wow, convicting, for sure. scary, oh so scary. can you say no to something like that? Ridding of junk in exchange for more of God, more room for the Holy Spirit to move. I was ALL in. 

So here I am embarking on this journey with some dear friends and pretty amazing people, I might add. We will encourage each other, pray for each other, and consult with each other on any gray areas.

Kirstin Cassell, thank you for being in my life and bringing all of this to my attention. I am so thrilled to start living with more simplicity and sacrifice. 

I intend to use this space to document my experiences during this journey. I so desperately desire to rid of distractions, to simplify, and to seek God more and more. More of Him and f-a-r less of me!

For the next 4 weeks I will be sticking with:
chicken, cheese, bread, eggs, apples, spinach, quinoa (keen-wah, for those of you, like me, who were unsure on exactly how to pronounce this) 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Diving in

I've been throwing around the idea of a blog for quite some time now. A place to write out my thoughts and feelings. All of it being in one place, easy to refer back to. I am not much of a witty, entertaining writer and the idea of others having access to my writing...yikes. However, I've decided to swallow my pride and dive right on in.

Now is the time. Right before I embark on a 7 month fasting journey (more on that later). I'm thrilled to finally document all of the things that swim around in this crazy head of mine: my experiences. my struggles. my life.