An Amazing Journey

I've wanted to write about my Lenten journey ever since it began seven weeks ago, but part of my Lenten sacrifice was stepping away from my computer.  I thought certainly I would still write the 'old-fashioned' way with pen and paper, but nothing evolved.  I gave some serious consideration to splurging on an iPhone just for the convenient dictation app so I would have all of my thoughts actually recorded and transferred to a document with the push of a simple little button.  I didn't buy one.  So here I sit with so many thoughts swimming through my head that I don't even know where to begin beyond the statement that God is an awesome God. 

For weeks before Ash Wednesday, I'd been giving some thought to unplugging from email, Etsy, and the blogging world for Lent.  I had also been contemplating doing a Daniel Fast because my brother did it a couple of years ago and was thinking of doing it again.  I wanted to do something hard this Lent, and these two things would be more challenging than the usual pop or TV or coffee I typically abstain from during this time.  I needed something to kind of rock my spiritual world.  Enter friends.  At a random dinner out with friends, BOTH of these things came up.  What are the chances??  I was aware that some of my girlfriends were thinking about elimintaing or reducing computer time, but the Daniel fast?  I jumped in with both feet.  Now I could do something hard, but alongside others to encourage me and help hold me accountable. 

I was excited and had grand expectations.  This would be hard and would force me to turn to Jesus for help...probably hourly if not more. On Ash Wednesday, I was prepared and just waiting for the challenge and the spiritual growth that would come with it.  It would take pages to recall the 46 days that followed.  I realized that I was on the front end of an addiction.  While I'm not comparing my routine of coffee and sugar and screen time to an alcohol or drug addiction, I certainly was begining the process of detoxifying.  There are still withdrawl symptoms that went along with all of it, but likely not the same magnitude.  I realized how many times I probably unconsciously walk by my computer and brush the mouse so I can "check in" and how many times I lick the honey from my fingers or nibble on the last leftover bite of the peanut butter and honey sandwhich the kids didn't eat, or that a cup of coffee was needed more for comfort than for caffeine. 

I had some real disappointment in the first week though, because after the first 24 hours or so, I didn't feel like it was hard enough.  I thought I was going to really struggle and that would force me to my knees in prayer.  That was the beginning of discovering many things about tendencies, my weaknesses, my strengths.  I substitute one vice with another.  No computer?  TV...except that I gave TV up too.  Texting then.  I probably sent more texts in six weeks than I have in six months.  No sugar?  Medjool dates became my treat of choice to satisfy my sweet tooth.  I thrive on structure.  I had to build a new routine, but also modify my expectations.  I was disappointed that after a week I didn't feel renewed and oh-so-much-closer to God.  I don't know what my problem is always thinking that things are going to be instant.  I was also getting a little annoyed with the scale.  For a week, I had no sugar, no meat, no bread, no dairy...nothing really but fruit, veggies, nuts and whole grains and I gained a pound???  Tim (jumped on board at the last minute to do this with me) lost five pounds and by the end 18!  I remember that my brother had lost a significant amount when he first did this and I had heard other stories about 30+ pounds lost.  And then I reminded myself that weight loss was not the reason for this fast, so I gave up the distraction of stepping on the scale. 

We ate well.  I like cooking and being creative with food and making it taste good wasn't the challenge. I checked out every Vegan cookbook I could find from the library.

Fruit pizza

Spinach stuffed mushrooms with spiced carrot soup

Mushroom ragu with polenta and spinach stuffed roasted red peppers

Whole wheat apple pie

 I won't sugar coat it and say that it wasn't irritating or challenging at times.  I wanted the convenience of fast food and pizza and not saying no to cake and pulled pork at the many celebrations during this time.  (There were two birthdays, three confirmation, and three first communions).  I wanted a cup of coffee when it was a bad day.  I wanted a granola bar when time was short.  My biggest frustrations were convenience related.  Thank goodness for friends.  The encouragement and recipes swapped and prayers were huge!  We prayed together weekly at an abortion facility as part of our group effort. 

Initially I thought it would start hard and get easier, but it actually started easy and got harder in a way.  Funny how half way through Satan teased all of us with "you've done well for three weeks, just relax a little!"  We laughed when we compared notes!  Spiritually, I recognized growth.  It just didn't happen in the manner I expected it should have.  It was slower...but God knew it needed to be.  Of course!  This is where I can't find the words to describe.  During this journey I read "Left to Tell".

It is a book written by a survivor of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 that had/has amazing faith and devotion to Jesus.  The whole book touched me, but one statement that she made resonated loudly.  She was hiding in a bathroom the size of a linen closet with seven other women for 91 days and when she was finally free, she found herself longing for that time again only because when she was in hiding, all she had was the opportunity to pray and talk to Jesus.  I think of this every single day and it gives me even more desire to make time to pray.

Did our kids eat this way with us?  Often, but not always.  Even this morning I realized that I could actually have toast too as I was making theirs.

Will we continue to eat this way?  Yes and no.  For myself, I need structure and so I think I will designate one day to "Daniel fast" and one day to indulge...ok, mabye two and overall, we'll just make healthier choices.  I'm not planning to add soda back into my diet, but I will have coffee.  :)

Was I excited to eat on Easter morning??  Of course, but surprisingly even the food that I thought I would be so eager to indulge in again kind of lost their luster.  Coffee?  It didn't, and neither did chocolate.  (And the blackberry kuchen my mom saved for me was divine)

Am I glad to be free of restrictions?  Yes and no.  I'm a little fearful.  The self-denial that I learned was necessary and powerful.  I don't want to lose it.

Did I lose weight?  Yes.  Three measily little pounds.  Was I disappointed?  Yes.  I'm over it.  :)

Will I return to my computer?  Of course.  Email for sure.  My own blog, obviously.  Other blogs??  Some of them have lost their luster.  I truly don't have a desire to fill my entire day with the happenings of women I don't know, even though six weeks ago I couldn't wait to find out what was new in their lives. I want to be inspired beyond decorating and taking amazing pictures and executing Martha Stewart style parties...I have blogger friends that do that and I will continue to read their blogs regularly and other blogs less frequently.  My computer will not however be as high on my priority list as it was.

TV??  I really am eager to catch up on the last seven episodes of "Chuck", but we don't plan to plug the TV back in upstairs. 

Did I get a lot done since I wasn't online or in front of the TV?  Not like I thought I would.  The day was simply less cluttered and more calm.

Will my fire dwindle?  Of course it will.  I recognize that as realistic and I look forward to stepping it up or knowing that I might recognize it earlier.  I'm happy to want more here!

Will I do it again?  In a heart beat.  I'm sure the results will be similar but that I'll realize new things too.

How did these things affect my prayer life?  My spiritual growth?  My relationship with Jesus?  I seriously don't have the words here.  All I can say is I'm anxious/eager to talk to Jesus and continue to do more, offer more and grow more with him now as I was to click on an online link a month and a half ago.  I feel as though I can listen to Him and hear Him better.  I feel like I can ask more and talk more and share more. I feel like I recognize even more the things that are from God's hand and am thankful for even more.  I feel like my offerings are more genuine and that my daily evaluations are deeper.  I feel like my heart is more full.  I feel like Satan is busier, but that I have even more ammunition to defend myself.  I feel I have more clarity and more contentment.  I feel like I have grown, but recognize that I have so far to go and I am excited for it.

I'm so glad to have experienced this journey with friends...and of course with my husband.  I feel that special bonds were created and I will cherish this experience always.  I love each of them so very much!

Easter morning with five of the six of us 'friend's of Daniel'

Easter Monday breakfast to download our summary to each other

Easter was over the top beautiful.  Every part of it, including the suffering.  Easter always has been an emotional season for me.  I have strong emotional memories of traditions, celebrations and worship from my own childhood, but this year it was even more.  The sights, scents, feels, sounds and this year even tastes were more glorious than ever. I am literally moved to tears when I reflect on what a truly amazing Lenten journey it was.   One friend said simply you get out of it what you put into it.  That is true and excites me for just how amazing it really must be because I have so much more room to put even more into it. 

God is SO GOOD...all the time.