February 21, 2014

Preparing for a Fast

When I was growing up, there were times my church leadership would encourage the church to fast for one reason or another.  I didn't really understand the purpose of it all, and honestly, the few times I tried it, I failed miserably.  No one told me that you can and should prepare for a fast.  Preparing for this type of spiritual act will ensure a higher level of success and help you carry through what you feel called to do.  

Here are things you can do to prepare for a fast in a spiritual and physical way.  

Prepare Yourself Spiritually
Fasting is a time to draw near to God and pray to Him.  In order to do that, you need to prepare your heart to receive His words and blessings. 

            Repent—Before you start your fast, take time to repent of any sins that have a hold on you.  Have any conversations you need to have with God and your family/friends.  Give yourself the opportunity to fast with a clean slate.

            Lay Aside Worries—We all have problems that occupy our time and energies.  You may have a loved one that is ill or in pain.  You may have a life changing choice to make.  You may be struggling financially.  These are all important things, and God may speak to you about them during your fast, but make closeness with God your main goal.  You cannot solve any of these problems.  Only God can.  We can give those worries to Him before we fast. Here is one way to do that:  Quiet your heart, and close your eyes.  Ask God to bring to your mind anything that is occupying your thoughts.  As you think of each one, picture yourself taking that situation and handing it to God.  We know the problem is still there, but we can entrust that situation to God.  Resist the urge to take it back.  Do this for each situation.  When you are finished, you will have a clear head and be ready to receive what God has for you during the fast.

            Take on the Full Armor—The Enemy will attack you during your fast.  You are weak, and he will try to undermine you or make you think what you are doing doesn’t matter.  Prepare yourself in advance by submitting yourself to God’s authority and protection.  Rebuke Satan, and say out loud that you are protected by the blood of Christ.

Prepare Yourself Physically 
Fasting will tax your body.  We should not underestimate the impact fasting has on our physical selves.  In essence your body will shut down as you fast.  Just like a runner trains for a race, you should train your body for this fast.

            Start Small—Fasting is a discipline.  Do not set yourself up for failure by making your first fast a 40 day fast.  Start with a one day and work up to a longer fast.

Begin Pulling Back from Food Before—Before you fast, begin cutting back on food quantities.  Reduce caffeine and sugar; if possible, completely eliminate it.  If you are fasting for 3 days, begin to do this 3 days before.  If you are fasting one day, do it the day before. 

Know Your Body—Decide what kind of fast you will do and know what the risk factors are.  If you are younger than 18, older than 70, pregnant, nursing, or menstruating you should not fast.  If your job requires heavy manual labor and you want to fast, consider taking off work.  You do not want to tax your body.  Your body will dehydrate during the fast, so make sure to drink lots of water.  You may also decide to do a juice fast, and drink juices during your fast.  If you do a liquid fast, you can drink decaf herbal tea, juices, and broth.  The best juices are apple, grape, celery, cabbage, and beet juice.  

Expect the Unexpected—You are going to feel weak and somewhat cranky.  Little things may irritate you.  This is an opening for the Enemy to make you feel frustrated.  Be prepared.  Keep your day simple and avoid stressful situations. 

Have a Schedule—Plan what you will do during your fast.  When will you drink your juices?  Plan scheduled times of prayer and mediation for when you may feel weak. 

Avoid Protein and Fat—If you decide to do a juice fast, check the ingredients list on back.  Drink sugar free juice (or only juice that has natural fruit sugars in it), and make sure protein and fat are 0.  If you drink juices with protein, sugar, or fat, your digestion system will begin to move and you will hunger pangs stronger than ever.

Breathe Deep—You oxygen level is impacted by the lack of food.  Take the time to breathe before any activity, especially as the day goes on.  Before you stand up, take a deep breath.  This should reduce risk of blackouts or dizziness.

Plan Your Come Out Meal—When you break your fast, plan a meal that is light and packed with nutrition.  Try to have components of all the food groups, especially protein and carbohydrates.  Avoid saturated fats.  Eating junk food after a fast will cause major havoc on your digestion system.  

By following these tips, fasting will be more manageable. 

January 05, 2014

Product Review: SAF Organics feat. Lotion Bars

I wanted to write about a line of products I've just been introduced to called SAF Organics.  The founder is actually a personal friend of mine, so I've received some samples.  I was so impressed with the products, I wanted to let my readers know about them, particularly the lotion bars!!!

I have very sensitive skin that always becomes very dry in the winter.  I always complain that my hands look like "old lady" hands in the winter because they develop scales from the dry, cold weather.  I also get dry feet, which I hate.  Regular lotion doesn't help; it just seems to absorb and last only a short time before my skin feels dry again.  The last thing I tried was a hand cream.  A nurse recommended cream rather than lotion because she said it was stronger.  So that helped a little.

When Stephanie Ferguson, owner of SAF Organics, gave me a lotion bar, I was skeptical.  I have never liked bars of any kind.  Once I discovered liquid hand soap, I never went back to soap bars.  I wasn't sure that a bar would release lotion of any kind that I could rub into my hands.

However, I am in love with these lotion bars. 

December 27, 2013

We Love Because He First Loved Us . . .

Today, I was reading some of the love passages from the Bible:

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:18-19)

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love." (John 15:9)

This morning I was thinking that no one is born knowing how to love.  We are taught how to love by someone else.  I have a great nephew right now.  He is only 4 months old.  When I hold him and hug him and kiss him, the truth is that he does not love me.  I love him.  I have only met him a few times, yet I know that if it came down to it, I would lay down my life for that baby.  I would protect him with every inch of my fiber.  He does not love me.  He does not know how to love.  He will be taught to love by the people who are around him.  They will show him what love is.

They will feed him, protect him, hold him when he's scared, and dance with him when he's excited.  They will sacrifice for him.  Or not.  Some children are not taught how to love.  They learn that love means pain or longing.  They learn that love is selfish and is only self-serving.

The same goes for my niece.  She is 13 years old, and by herself, she does not know how to love.  She will learn what love is from the family she is raised in and in part, by the friends and other adults who are in her life.

These scripture passages clearly teach that love comes from God.  When I was young, I learned what love is from my parents.  They loved me the best they could, and they were a model to me of what love was.  However much they love me, however, they are imperfect beings and only learned what love was from their parents.

When I took on my identity as a Christian, I was born again, and now my Father is God.  I know how to love from Him.  God is love.  We learn what love is from God.  We only know how to love because he first loved me.  When I love someone, it is not me who is loving them, but God.

How do you know how to love?  Who showed you?  And how did they get their model of love?  In this world, we want to soothe ourselves, heal ourselves, and be self-sufficient.  Without God, we can't truly know what love is.  If it comes from ourselves, it will be flawed and incomplete.

What a responsibility then have I, who knows what love is, to love others and show them what this means.  Just things I am pondering today.  

December 25, 2013

The Big Letdown: Post-Holiday Blues

Have you ever had the experience of a feeling letdown after a big event?  Let's say it's after Christmas.  Christmas dinner is over, and all the gifts are unwrapped.  You are feeling let down or even depressed.  Less than 24 hours before, you were giddy with excitement, anticipating the big celebration on Christmas Day.  Now that it's all over, you struggle to find joy.  This used to happen to me every year.  On Christmas Eve, I could barely get to sleep.  The next day,  I would wake up, eager to start the family celebration.  There are so few times all of us are sitting down together in the same room.  After the presents had been opened, everyone would disperse to different rooms in the house

Or let's say there's a wedding or a big performance you have been practicing for.  You have been anticipating the big day for weeks.  Now it's over.  The wedding is the ultimate symbol of Christ uniting with His church.  It is so beautiful so see the moment when two become one.  And when the happy couple drives off, you feel just a little empty inside.

Today it's Christmas Day, and most of us have been up, opened presents, and had Christmas breakfast with family.  For the rest of the day, there might be a family meal or two, and kids will put every single battery into their powered up gifts.  And on the inside, you might feel just a tad empty. 

You are experiencing the big letdown.  The big letdown is that empty feeling you have after a big celebration.  Why do we get it? 

I had a wonderful daily reading sent to me about family reunions and celebrations.  It said every reunion, wedding, and celebration is just a shadow of our ultimate reunion.  One day, we will be joined with all the heavenly hosts, all believers, and the Lamb for the ultimate homecoming and reunion.  And when we have these celebrations here on Earth, they are just shadows of the reunion that is to come. 

I believe every human has a hole in their heart, and it can only be filled with the love and presence of God.  And our ultimate desire is to be reunited with Him in heaven.  Until that day, every big celebration is just a preview of what is to come.  Afterwards, we feel letdown. 

But there's hope.  Just know that something better is coming.  The big letdown is just preparing your heart for the thing that is to come.  And that celebration will never end.  Make Jesus your ultimate gift.  Merry Christmas everyone.  Let your letdown be your heart's cry for Him.

December 14, 2013

Giving with Esteem

I know I skipped a day.  I was making merry on my birthday, and a blog just wasn't in the program.

Yesterday, I was reading my Language of Letting Go Daily meditation, and there was a great post on giving.  It was talking about healthy giving.  If you struggle with codependency, this is another tough area.  I like the definition of healthy giving, which was giving with esteem for both the giver and the receiver.  Giving is note the same as caretaking.  We can give with esteem.  I want to explore this topic today. 

The Giver--Real giving requires sacrifice.  However, it is sacrifice of a thing of value not my value as a person.  It is sacrifice of something I might enjoy, such as money or time, for the other person.  When I am a giver, I am showing love for another person.  We give with esteem for ourselves when we don't give what we cannot afford.  Here are ways you could give without esteem for yourself, the giver:

December 12, 2013

Lessons on the Eve of My 37th Year

Just a quick post today.  Tomorrow is my birthday.  Yes, it's true, I am turning 37 years old.  It's hard to believe I am definitely on my way to 40.  Just a few more years now.  I don't feel like 37.  A few years ago that wasn't true.  I remembered feeling so old and tired.  I have more energy now and more hope for the future, and that's a good thing.  I just thought I would share with you a few things I have learned in this past year, since I wrote about moving forwards from crisis and recovery to success.  Some of these things I have already experienced before, but they were just solidified this year.

A year from now, not everyone who seems important in your life will still be important.

When I look back on who I abided with a year ago, it was a totally different crowd.  And that's cool.  I don't have any broken relationships.  I strongly believe God puts people in our lives and we need them at that moment.  But it might not last forever.  You have to be intentional about relationships, and if they slide or become less important, it is simply because they are not the ones that will help you reach your goals at this season in life.

When God gives you a crazy idea, just go with it.  If it sounds impossible and really difficult, really go for it.  And don't worry about orchestrating it; He will do it.

Bringing my niece from Indiana to live with me in North Carolina was a crazy idea.  I had never had kids, and for two months, I learned what it was like to be a Mom.  Not just a Mom, but a Mom to a teenager.  It was exhausting.  But it was also so good.  It was so good for her and for mme.  And also my sister and my brother-in-law.  It was a life changing experience.  And I didn't have all the answers.  It was a total faith thing.  I wasn't sure how it would work, but it did.

God will give you people to help you with those crazy ideas.  These people are extremely important and demand your utmost respect.  God gives you these angels.  Every night, squeeze your eyes tight and don't try to hold back the tears as you tell God how grateful you are.

Even if I try, I won't be able to fully describe what all people did for Chloe, Carrie and I during this time.  There were prayers, oh yes, prayers.  There were also babysitters, and people who held up my arms when I didn't think I could take one more step.  There were people who loved on Chloe when I couldn't.  Who gave her gifts to show her she was loved.  They invested in her.  

Parallel to the first lesson, you never know who will become important in your life.

When my sister started dating this one guy, I told her I wanted to meet him in three months.  Well, it ended up being sooner because he was a caregiver for my niece.  I met him and a couple months later, he was family.  My brother-in-law is one of my angels.  So glad to have met him.

God will provide.  always.  every time.  no questions.

I had to find a place to live.  After searching frantically for a month and refusing to settle, I found a place.  It's home.  It's safe, and it's the best  options I could ask for.  I am grateful for that gift.  It was not finalized until 2-3 days before I was scheduled to move.  That is not the way I operate.  This time it was.

That thing you have been praying about for years and years and shows no sign of happening?  Yeah, that prayer can be answered when you least expect it.  Never quit.

I reconnected with someone this year I have been praying for.   A year ago, this person did not want anything to do with me.  This year, I received an opportunity to talk and see how God is working in his life.  Awesome.

When you feel frustrated that you haven't done something that you know you need to do that you haven't done yet, be kind to yourself. You will do it when it's the right time.  

I have been needing to start writing again.  Now I am doing it.  It's nice, and no one had to make me.  Eliminate self-judgment from your life. 

Your life can chance in the blink of an eye. 

Lastly, set good boundaries with family but always keep them within arm's distance.  The relationships will go from good to bad, and they won't always be perfect, but keep your family around anyway.  When it's good, it's really good.

December 11, 2013

Moving Past Crisis-Recovery Cycle to Success

Yesterday I was in a staff meeting at work and the chief bigwig was talking about a work issue that has relevance to my personal life.  In describing the past couple years of our organization, he mentioned that we have moved from crisis to recovery.  However, instead of just resting in recovery and waiting for the next crisis, he wants us to work towards managing success.  It was one of those a-ha moments that really resonated.  I don't want to just move from crisis to recovery to crisis to recovery in my life.  I want to move from recovery to success or preparedness.

I see this all too often, to be honest, with certain friends.  There are people I talk to that are always recovering from some crisis.  Hey, we all have them, right?  The wolf is at the door, waiting to swallow you at any moment.  However, if you are always moving from one crisis to another with no mountaintop moments or plateaus, there is something really wrong.