What is Fasting? (And Why Am I Fasting From Makeup?)

Today should be day 7 of 40 of my makeup fast, but since I’ve already declared day 7 as a do-over, I thought I’d hijack today’s makeup-fast post, talk a little bit about fasting, specifically, and explain a bit why fasting from makeup is a step that I needed to take.

What Is Fasting, And Why Should I Fast?

“Fasting” (abstaining from all or some kinds of foods or drinks, especially as a religious observance) though common in the biblical times, is not as common among contemporary Christians. One reason, I think, is that we’ve forgotten (or never learned) why one might fast in the first place. I really like Jen Hatmaker’s explanation of fasting, in her book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.” Jen explains

“A fast creates margin for God to move. Temporarily changing or routine of comfort jars us off high center. A fast is not necessarily something we offer God, but it assists us in offering ourselves.”

She also lists six circumstances in which one might initiate a fast to “summon God’s movement in [their] life:”

  • Mourning
  • Inquiry
  • Repentance
  • Preparation
  • Crisis
  • Worship

Fasting From Makeup

I can definitely identify with fasting for repentance. Jen Hatmaker sees fasting for repentance as “a tangible way to bow low and repent of greed, ungratefulness, ruined opportunities, and irresponsibility.” To which I say yes, yes, yes and yes. Though I consider myself as grateful and not greedy, upon further inspection, some of my habits prove the opposite. My dependency on makeup is just one example. In my greed for external beauty, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars and just as many hours applying makeup to cover-up and alter what God has given me.
What am I saying to God when I refuse to be seen without makeup on? What am I saying to others about God when I refuse to be seen without makeup on? If I was grateful for the face God gave me, would I feel ashamed of it? Would insist that I know better–that the world knows better–and feel incomplete without altering my appearance? I like to tell myself that I am grateful, but if I’m going to be honest: I’m not. I do not like my naked face, and I’m embarrassed to be seen in public without makeup.
I can also identify with fasting for preparation. If something as simple as being seen barefaced is such a challenge for me, how prepared am I to reflect God to the world? Through this fast, my prayer is that God will continue to equip me for whatever work he has set before me. This fast is one way that I can show him that I’m serious. That I want to be less concerned with myself, how I look, and how others perceive me, and more concerned with Him, his purposes, and his will for my life. That I am ready to set my earthly comfort and desires aside and follow Him wherever he leads.
It is in fasting for inquiry though, that I am already seeing the most dramatic change. Here is something I wrote before I started this fast:
“I feel as if I’m at a crossroads with my work, yet I can’t see a clear path ahead of me. I have a cloudy picture of where I might be headed, and I want to know for sure that it’s something God is calling me to do, not something that I simply want to do.”
I want to know whether it is God’s will that I pursue writing, and I want to know what he would have me say. And can I tell you something? God is making that cloudy picture I had very clear. He is faithfully answering my prayer.
The incredible response to the post “50 Shades of Magic Mike” is sudden and alarming proof. I finally agreed to step out in faith and say “yes” to the words God put on my heart, and, at the time of writing this, that single post has received more views and comments than my blog as a whole received LAST YEAR, or the year before that. God’s heart is all over that outpouring of support, the beautiful encouragement, and the strengthening correction I’ve received from my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I hope that explains some aspects of fasting a bit better, and you understand a little more why it is important that I’m abstaining from makeup for 40 days. And before you go telling me that I’m taking myself too seriously, I encourage you to read the very first post in my makeup-fast series. Many of your concerns will be addressed in that post, and it will save you the time of commenting on something that I’ve already discussed.
xoxo,
mj
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On a side-note, here’s the project I did at work yesterday, which is why I had to wear makeup and am calling day 7 a do-over.
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So This is Love? (Follow-up to 50 Shades of Magic Mike)

I’m sitting here at my computer, collecting my thoughts, and on the surface, everything is exactly the same as it was yesterday. Same feeling of disapproval when I look at my face in the mirror (explanation). Same anxiety about leaning into the words that have been put on my heart. Heck, I’m even drinking from the same coffee cup (I washed it, don’t worry).

But below the surface, I’m overwhelmed. I’m completely humbled by the incredible outpouring of love and support I’ve received from strangers.

You know, when I first sat down to get that 50 Shades/Magic Mike post out, I’m going to be honest: it felt as if I was unloading a burden. I didn’t write it so much to please God, as to get him off of my back. (I wish I could say I had more righteous intentions.) I put off writing it for several days, but whenever I’d sit down to blog, or work on my book, or email a friend, I couldn’t write the words I wanted to write, because the whole 50 Shades/MM thing kept bubbling up. So late one night, annoyed that I couldn’t get any “real” work done, I finally addressed the issue that had been niggling at me for the past week. And I am so glad that I did.

God is Proving a Point

It is interesting, how even in the community of believers, one can feel so alone. At least, that’s my experience. I didn’t see much purpose in writing that post, beyond showing God that I was willing to let him interrupt my plans, even though I didn’t see a real point in it. (Though I’m well-known in my field, outside the tech-world, I’m nobody special, so the its not like anyone was going to read it anyway.) And in hindsight, I wonder if God’s purpose for me wasn’t necessarily just to address the 50 Shades/MM issue, but to show me that I’m not alone. That there are sisters (and brothers) all around me, and that I don’t have to feel so isolated.

So thank you. And “thank you” are pretty measly words, compared to how I feel. I am so grateful to each of you who has extended herself/himself in support, and has encouraged me to continue saying “yes” to God’s “interruptions.” You have blessed me immensely, and God is using you to prove a point to me: I can trust that I am not alone. I can find community and love in a group of people who used to intimidate me. A group that I used to openly despise. (Maybe sometime I’ll talk about my pre-Christian life a bit. What a change.) That I’ve been adopted by such a father, into such a family, moves me to tears. What a beautiful, beautiful gift that I absolutely do not deserve.

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This is not to say that there has not been resistance. I knew when I wrote it that it was not going to please everyone (and would probably upset some), but should pleasing people be my primary concern? Like so many people, I place too much value in how others regard me, and I often prioritize others’ comfort to a fault. Saying “yes” to the words that were placed on my heart was a way of willfully pushing myself out of my comfort zone, recognizing my error in allowing others’ opinions of me to dictate my identity, and deciding to place my security in the opinion of my Father alone. And it was hard. And just because I did it one time, doesn’t mean that it’s over. I’m afraid and excited that in this regard, my journey has only just begun.

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Feel-goods aside, I’ve learned a lot from the spectrum of responses I’ve received.

  • We can turn nasty when our earthly desires are threatened.
  • We are prone to justifying behaviors to satisfy our ideas of what is good, rather than God’s.
  • Many people have said that admonishment of wrong behavior is “why they left the church.”

“It’s people like you that caused me to leave the church.”

That third point, “Many people claim that admonishment of wrong behavior is “why they left the church,”” is an interesting one. I can see a lot of myself in that statement. Like I said earlier, even in the community of believers, I often feel alone. There is a lot that bugs me about Christians; some of it is vestigial frustration from my pre-Christian experiences, but some of it is rooted in legitimate concern. Probably the greatest factor that has influenced me to stay in the church over the past several years is that at one point I realized that authentic faith is not rooted in one’s feelings about Christians; deep, meaningful, authentic faith is rooted in one’s love for God their Father. 

If your faith is tied up in people-pleasing, and following rules in order to be accepted by people, your faith is in trouble. I used to resent Christians, because I didn’t feel like I needed to live a certain way in order for God to love me. And that’s the truth. God loves you, no matter what. But here’s the thing: if you believe that God, your Father, loves you, and only wants the best for you, it follows that you would, out of respect and love for Him, do your best to live in a way that honors Him, and brings glory to his name. It is IMPOSSIBLE to be happy living that life if you are looking to others for validation. So many of us have tried doing just that, and failed miserably.

So to those of you who would say that being admonished by other believers is pushing you away from God, I encourage you to reorganize your priorities, and begin making decisions through the lens of God your Father. If you love God, seek after Him, and his will, and his purpose for your life. It will follow naturally that you will make decisions based on His approval alone. (Though that doesn’t make those decisions easy.) Once that becomes your new normal, I believe you will have a whole new perspective on admonishment from other believers.

God, The Dictator

If you’re trying to live under God without loving him, or without knowing his love for you, you’re missing out entirely, and you’re going to feel like you’re beating your head against a wall. If you feel as if God your Father is demanding, and oppressive, and you’re constantly struggling to please him, you’re not getting it, and my prayer for you is that something will happen that will reveal God’s overwhelming love for you, because it will change your life.

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Thank you, again, for encouraging me, and for correcting me that sharing God’s truth doesn’t have to be “quick, like a bandaid,” (my words), but “loud, and clear, like a trumpet call” (words of a particularly inspiring commenter.

I love you. I really do. And that’s the first time I’ve ever felt that for our big, crazy, sometimes loud-mouthed family. (Even though there are a few of you that fall into the “crazy uncle” category, and a few of you who I’m SURE would argue with me about politics over the Thanksgiving turkey.) 🙂

So this is brotherly love, huh? It’s a whole new world.

Xoxo,

mj

50 Shades of Magic Mike (In Which I Am VERY UNCOOL)

This is a post that will not make me any friends, and will alienate some of my existing friends, and generally make me look like a complete stick-in-the-mud. Do people still say that? Stick-in-the-mud? How about killjoy/spoilsport/wet-blanket, etc? You get what I mean.

Explanation

The only reason I’m writing this at all is because I feel compelled to do so. I’m not sure if you ever had this feeling, but sometimes there are words that I need to write, only I don’t want to write them. So I push them deep down, underneath all of the other words I actually want to write, and beneath my mental-list of chores and errands, so far down that I think they basically don’t exist anymore. But that’s never the case. Something always causes them to spring back up, and this will continue happening until I sit down and write the words out. Then I can move on with my life. That’s what this is.

“Mommy Porn”

“50 Shades of Grey” is an erotic novel, and “Magic Mike” is a movie about male strippers, and both are very, very popular with women right now. In fact, they’re being called “Mommy Porn.” (I won’t go into more detail, because there is enough about them both on the Internet already.) I can’t check Twitter or Facebook without reading another enthusiastic update about both of them. Seems like every woman I know is into one of those works, or both. I am not surprised that both of these works are being celebrated so openly; there are so many equivalent works that are aimed at men that garner major public attention that I’m actually surprised it took women this long to get their own “thing.” I am surprised, though, at how completely accepting Christian culture is to both of these works. I’ve read a few dozen different updates from Christian women regarding “50 Shades” and “Magic Mike,” and the verdict? They love them. I mean they really looooove them. They can’t stop talking about them.

(Quick, like a bandaid:) This is not okay.

Christian women need to reject both of these works, and instead, use our voices in support of what is good, right and true. It is our responsibility, as daughters of the Heavenly King, to remain set-apart from the poisons of our culture, to rebuke temptation, and to celebrate and honor righteousness.

Some Scriptural Support

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

If your enemy thinks he can snare you with something as “acceptable” as 50 Shades or Magic Mike, you better believe he will take advantage. Don’t let the culture’s acceptance and celebration of these works confuse you, or put you off your guard.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-9

(Emphasis my own.) Do not conform to the patterns of this world. In other words, just because everyone else is reading it/watching it, that doesn’t make it acceptable.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23

Is what you’re putting in front of your eyes healthy? Is what you’re putting into your imagination healthy?

Put Yourself in His Shoes

To gain another perspective, imagine your husband (or father/brother/church leader) going around bragging about how much he loved reading last month’s Playboy magazine, or rallying all of his guy friends to go see “Magic Meghan” for the third time. If our husbands were drooling over a movie about female strippers, we would be livid. It wouldn’t be tolerated. Church leaders would be publicly denouncing men’s sudden acceptance of pornography and erotic films. (Why aren’t church leaders publicly denouncing 50 Shades or Magic Mike, by the way?)

Make Good Decisions


If you’re a Christian woman, and you’re reading this, know that I am not judging you. (I own 50 Shades myself. I bought it before I knew what it was, on the recommendation of a friend, and after reading some pages and discovering that it’s pornography, I cast it aside.) We all have poor judgement sometimes, and leave ourselves open to temptation. But we can also use our agency to make good decisions. Like throwing 50 Shades away (don’t re-gift it!), and not going to see Magic Mike. (Or if you’ve already seen it, stop encouraging all of your friends to go see it.)
Rather than causing each other to stumble by putting our sisters in the path of temptation, what if we decided to use our voices to celebrate our marriages? Or the marriages of your friends and family? What if we championed healthy relationships?

Taking Things Up a Notch

(This next paragraph talks about sex a little bit, so stop reading if you don’t want to read about sex.)
What if we invested our time and energy into spicing things up in our bedrooms? Rather than spending $12 on that movie, or the book, why not save the money, and instead, wear something sexy to bed, just because? And what if all the time that you would have spent reading 50 Shades, you instead spent making love to your husband? (Though probably not all in one day…unless you’re, like, training for a marathon.) We can definitely kick things up a notch without resorting to reading pornography, or lusting after celebrity-strippers.

Non-Christian Perspective

It is not okay to sexually objectify people. Just because evidently this summer we’re all about objectifying men, that doesn’t make it okay. It’s not like there’s a scale, and all these years, it’s been heavy on the objectification-of-women side, and we need to balance it out by objectifying men now. It doesn’t work that way. The only way we “balance the scale” is by quitting objectifying anyone, and leaving the scale empty. Oh, and that saying “you are what you eat?” I’d say the same thing goes for media: you are what you consume. Pornography is unhealthy. There, I said it.

Do I win some kind of prize for being the least popular person on the Internet for this? Like I’ve said: I did not want to write this. Please be nice to me in the comments, because if you know me at all, you know that this is totally out of character for me. I don’t preach at people…well, ever. I’m just glad these words are out so I can finally write the things I want to write.

xoxo, mj

[Edited to add a link to a follow-up post I’ve written]

So This is Love?

If your faith is tied up in people-pleasing, and following rules in order to be accepted by people, your faith is in trouble. I used to resent Christians, because I didn’t feel like I needed to live a certain way in order for God to love me. And that’s the truth. God loves you, no matter what. But here’s the thing: if you believe that God, your Father, loves you, and only wants the best for you, it follows that you would, out of respect and love for Him, do your best to live in a way that honors Him, and brings glory to his name. It is IMPOSSIBLE to be happy living that life if you are looking to others for validation. So many of us have tried doing just that, and failed miserably.

[Edited to add additional links on the subject, if you’d like to read more]

A Nun Reviews “Magic Mike” – From Sister Helena Burns (If you only read one additional post on the subject, make it this one. Sister Helena NAILS IT.

Why is a nun always* talking about sin? Because sin is real. And it’s bad. And it hurts us. And it’s mean. As “Sister” from Late Nite Catechism sez: “Sometimes we feel guilty because we are.” Guilt is good! It’s an indicator that something is wrong! And then we can do something about it! Yay, guilt! Just like we get aches and pain as symptoms that something is wrong in our bodies. But of course we need a healthy conscience, not a lax or scrupulous one. That’s why we need “formation of conscience.”

I’m Not Reading Fifty Shades of Grey – From Dannah Gresh at purefreedom.org

Over time your body becomes conditioned to self-stimulation and gratification. It’s not just a preference. It’s physiological. The lust cuts a literal pathway in your brain tissue that’s kinda like a rut. A rut you better be prepared to get stuck in. While at first a little bit of erotica might give you a taste for your spouse, overtime that rut reminds you how great you are at self-stimulation and how powerful your imagination can be.

Fifty Shades of Great Sex With Your Husband – From intimacyinmarriage.com

The landscape is cluttered with shiny things masquerading as pathways to authentic intimacy, and I’m fairly certain that Fifty Shades of Grey is merely finding its place in the mix.

Escape into Grey – from the-generous-wife.com

The problem is that reading erotic novels is like eating Twinkies to stop your hunger. It’s sweet. It’s gives you a sugar high. It makes good food taste bland. It doesn’t give your body the nutrition it needs and all you do is crave more sugar, more Twinkies.

The Fifty Shades of Magic Mike – from Fatherhood and Other Unknowns

I will be the first person to tell you that we, as men, are called to a much higher standard and have to do our best to protect our ears, our eyes, and our mind from the gutters of junk that surround us on a daily basis and we also have a responsibility to, by doing that, protect the hearts and image of the women in our lives.

Shades of Grey: Media Choices and Marriage – from Mulberry & Magnolia

Praise God (for own my broken self and for every other broken person out there) that GRACE ABOUNDS and repentance is just a prayer away.  Let’s all aim to be quicker to recognize danger zones and flee from them, and let’s turn to God and do our best to filter all of our decisions through His Word.  Will we do it perfectly?  Heck, no!  But, I think if we ask, the Holy Spirit will file the junk far away before we come close to damaging our hearts or our husbands.

Fresh-Faced for 40 Days: Because You Should Love What You Look Like Naked

Fresh-Faced For 40 Days Icon

Feel free to share this button to link back to the challenge!

First, the point: I am quitting makeup for 40 days. I began today.

(Actually, I’m calling it a fast, but for those of you who do not subscribe to a set of spiritual beliefs that engages in fasting, you can just think of it as quitting, and that’s fine by me.)

Next, the ugly truth: I do not like my naked face. I think it is ugly. Showing my naked face in public terrifies me, and that makes me sad, and I think that is a problem.

And finally, the rules: I will not wear anything that alters or obscures the natural appearance of my face for 40 days. (June 27, 2012 – August 6, 2012)

  • This includes all standard makeup products, but also tinted moisturizer, tinted lip-balm, and pore-reducing or anti-shine lotions and potions. If it feels like cheating, it probably is.
  • This does not include: my standard moisturizer or regular old chapstick. A girl’s gotta stay hydrated, am I right?
  • On days where I am to appear on camera at work: I will arrive to work barefaced, apply my makeup just before filming, and wash it off once we’re through. (Washing it off will take every last ounce of my will power. God help me.)
  • I will not avoid having my picture taken while barefaced, and I will continue to video-blog, au naturale.

Okay, that’s basically the gist of it. The rest of this is supporting exposition that I’d love it if you read, and I insist that you read before you make any sort of comment whatsoever.

The rest of this is the story behind this insanity.

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Lies.

We all tell little lies. The biggest lie I tell every day is my face. My face says I’m well-rested (I’m not), that I’m well-hydrated (I’m not), and that I am poreless, and without blemishes (I most certainly am not). My face says I’ve got it all together (I don’t), that I’m not aging (I am), and that being pretty is effortless (it isn’t. Well, it isn’t for me.). I put so much time and energy into telling lies with my face, that it’s making me sick. What a complete waste of time and money, and what a terrible example to set for the women who know me. And what an affront to the God who created me. (N.B. You and I might not subscribe to the same spiritual beliefs, and that’s completely cool. Please do not let my spiritual beliefs stand in the way of you, perhaps, learning to love your naked face a bit more than you do now. Deal? Read on, friend, read on.)

I know, I know, you’re thinking that I’m being too hard on myself. “It’s JUST MAKEUP” you’re saying. “We ALL do it.” Trust me, I hear you. Really, I do. But something inside me has snapped, and there’s no going back to the way things were.

I Love Makeup.

I LOVE makeup. I’m a makeup-aholic. Is there anything more fun than taking the time to do your makeup really well? Sephora is my favorite store of all of the stores, and every time I walk in there I get giddy with the excitement of hunting out a new product and sampling all of the goodies. I love the artsy quality of makeup. I love what can be communicated by makeup: how you can be a blushing, natural-looking girl-next-door one day, and a smoldering femme fatale the next, just with some smudges of highlighter or blush, or some well-placed lashes. I enjoy makeup for many of the same reasons that I enjoy fashion. Many of you already get me on this point, so I’ll leave it at that.

Applying my makeup in the morning, while enjoying a cup of coffee, used to be one of my favorite parts of the day. It was fun, and somewhat artistic, and who doesn’t enjoy looking lovely? But at a certain point, I can’t really pinpoint when, I began putting on makeup not because it was a mode of self-expression, but because I felt that I needed to cover things up, because I wasn’t proud of my face the way it naturally looked. It became less and less about choosing to put “my best face forward,” and more and more about keeping up appearances (and yes, I can appreciate the irony of this). Rather than making an informed and empowered decision, I had become a slave to my daily makeup routine; I watched as hundreds of dollars slowly dripped out of my checking account, and hours were lost in front of my bathroom mirror, painting over my blemishes and accenting my best features. I’m not sure when it happened, but eventually I lost sight of all of the good and healthy reasons why women use makeup, and I had become dependent on it, maybe even addicted to it. It became so that I could not see myself as pretty when I wasn’t wearing makeup, and that’s where I’m writing from today. (Of course none of you have this problem, right? Riiiight.)

I think makeup is an amazing tool that women have at their disposal, and it can be used to increase confidence, but at some point I traded my actual confidence for my makeup bag. I’m not sure why it never bothered me before; maybe I was really good at justifying my makeup use to myself, but when I think about how much I dislike my naked face, and how scared I am to be seen in public without makeup, I get really really angry. Who is this unconfident, sad little woman? And why is she so afraid to bear the face God gave her? Does she really think she can improve upon the creation of God? It’s a terrible comparison, but I keep imagining somebody walking up to the Mona Lisa and gluing on some false eyelashes, or increasing the size of David’s “manhood.” Am I saying that I am unique, and beautiful, and artfully created by the Master of Creators? Well…Yeah. (Aren’t we all?) So why can’t I look at my face in the mirror, and thank God for it, and tell him I like what I see? (Something in my head is broken, that’s why.)

Confronting My Fears

Nowadays, the idea of leaving the house without makeup is (literally) terrifying. And this is a big, ridiculous problem. For perspective: Looking back through my photos, I can’t find a single picture since junior high where I wasn’t wearing makeup. Summer camp, 12 hour dance rehearsals in the heat of the Texas summer, doing missionary work in rural Mexico, I’m wearing makeup in every single picture. The photos taken during the labor and delivery of my child? I’m totally wearing foundation, bronzer and mascara. (I remember applying it before my contractions got too painful to concentrate.) It’s the bronzer-whilst-birthing that makes me realize I have a serious mental-problem.

I remember my reasoning for applying makeup before I gave birth to Ellie: “these pictures are going to be around for who knows how long” I told myself. “They define this moment of my life. Why not have an even skin-tone and pretty eyelashes?” It all sounds harmless enough, but if a woman can’t feel at ease with her face while she’s giving birth to a child, what hope does she have for feeling at ease with her face in any other circumstance in life?

Are You Like Me?

If you’re not getting me yet, here’s a fun little exercise: if you’re a woman, close your eyes, and imagine yourself as a man (maybe your husband, or your father, or your brother, or even a coworker). Now imagine yourself getting out of bed, and getting ready to go to work. What do you do? You probably shower, shave your face, brush your teeth, apply some deodorant, and fiddle with your hair (if you have any) for about seven seconds. If you’re fancy, you splash on a bit of cologne. Then you get dressed, and leave for work. You don’t think to yourself, “my eyelashes are so light, they’re practically nonexistent!” You don’t inspect your pores thinking “if only I could make them smaller.” You certainly don’t apply that lip-gloss that makes your lips sting because of its “plumping agent.” Doesn’t that minimalist morning routine sound absolutely liberating? (And to you women out there who already have very minimal morning routines: I salute you. I also hate you a little bit, because I envy your confidence and grace, but it’s a loving kind of hate, if that makes sense.)

I feel like I need to repeat myself again, because someone out there is not hearing me: I love makeup. I love being pretty. I love making a good impression. I love “going the extra mile” and polishing my appearance. I love that with a few products from my makeup bag, I can stack-up against the likes of hollywood starlets. I’m a die-hard makeup fanatic; I get all of the reasons why makeup is awesome, and I am not judging you, or your relationship with makeup. But my reliance on makeup not just to feel beautiful, but to feel acceptable to be seen in public, is crushing my heart, and is preventing me from seeing myself the way God sees me. The only way I am going to break free is to give up makeup cold-turkey. Not for forever, but for long enough that my vanity can be completely uprooted, and a healthy appreciation and respect for the face that God gave me can grow in its place. I approximate that this will take (at least) 40 days.

Why 40 Days?

Surely a week or so would be good enough, right?

I have a couple of reasons for setting 40 days as the minimum duration of my makeup-fast.

  1. I am stubborn, and it takes me a bit longer than some other people to get over things.
  2. Most research says that habits can be broken or formed in 21 days, and since 40 days is roughly double that, I feel confident that real, lasting change can occur.
  3. In the Bible, a 40-something time period, whether days, months, or years is always a period of testing, trial, probation, or chastisement (but not judgment) and ends with a period of restoration, revival or renewal (for example, Jesus 40 days spent in the desert, fasting and being tempted by the devil). There is a lot of hocus-pocus-ey sounding stuff on the Internet regarding the significance of the number 40 in the Bible. Honestly, a great deal of it sounds superstitious to me, and I am not an adherent to any kind of superstition, but, if Jesus chose to fast for 40 days, I see no problem with mimicking him.
  4. But mostly numbers 1 and 2.

The Seed

For several months I’ve prayed that I would grow to love my naked face more than my “made-up” face. And guess what? God has not blessed me with an appreciation for my naked face, which comes as no surprise to me, because that’s not really how God works. What God did do, however, was push Jen Hatmaker and her book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excessacross my path, and slap me in the face with this question: “What, in my life, if taken away, would alter my value and my identity?” Yikes.

And you know, at first, the only things I could come up with as an answer to this question were 1. My husband, and 2. My daughter. (Then I gave myself a mental-high-five for being so level-headed, and so in-tune with God’s priorities for my life.) But then, later, as I was putting on makeup to take Ellie to the pool (yes, I’m that mom), it hit me: I am the most vain person I know. That is not an exaggeration. I don’t think I’m the hottest lady on the block or anything, but I place so much of my value in the fact that, when made-up, I can be very pretty. My identity? When made-up, I am a Pretty Lady. What kind of crap identity is that? And temporary, to boot. Once I realized this, I might have shame-spiraled a bit, and sought comfort in my guys Ben & Jerry. (Don’t ask me why I’m confessing this to you. I guess when I start telling the truth, it just all comes out.)

So that’s the seed that sprouted this whole insane, scary, exercise in self-torture. Jen’s book “7” inspired me in many, many other ways, but the only thing that actually scared me was the idea of going makeup-less. I know how trivial of a problem this might sound to some of you, and I get that. I get how trivial and petty and self-absorbed I sound. “Privileged white-girl from beautiful Coastal California chooses to fast from her makeup collection that probably costs more than some people’s cars.” Please believe me when I tell you that I know this exercise epitomizes the expression “first-world problem.” But I also know that each little step I take is valuable, and just because other people might think it’s silly doesn’t mean it’s not important. I need to get over my vanity. I need to get over myself.

Concerns and Expectations

What will people think of me when they see me barefaced? Will people assume that I’m lazy? That I don’t care enough to put effort into my appearance? Can I handle being told I “don’t look so good” every day? Or that I look tired? Or being asked if something is the matter with me? Will people hear about my fast and think I’m some holier-than-thou crazy-lady? Or a militant feminist with an anti-makeup agenda? Will people look at me and think, “Gosh, if she just tried a little, she could be kinda pretty?” Or, “I feel sorry for that uggo’s husband?” It’s my obsession over what others will think about me that really upsets me. My primary concern shouldn’t be what people will think of me, it should be what my Creator thinks of me. This verse keeps coming to mind: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14) And this lyric by the David Crowder Band: “You make everything glorious, and I am yours. What does that make me?” I know in my head that’s what I should believe, but my heart puts so much value in how others consider me, that this whole idea of simply not putting makeup on has my stomach in knots. It’s ridiculous, and that’s why I have to do something about it.

What do I expect at the end of the 40 days? For one thing, I expect that I’ll be thrilled with how much time I’m saving by abstaining from makeup. And of course I’ll also be saving some money. But bigger than that, I hope I’ll grow to love what I actually look like, without all the cosmetics, and come closer to seeing myself the way God sees me. And I hope that I’ll have more grace for the rare makeup-less women I come across in the world.

And for the record, my husband thinks this is my best idea yet. He thinks it’s crazy that I don’t like my bare face. He’s a keeper, that Mr. Godsey.

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So, for the next 40 days I invite you along with me. You can participate as passively as cheering me along (I will need lots of encouragement), or as actively as joining me in fasting from makeup for the full 40 days. I would love to have some ladies on this journey with me! If you’re interested in joining me, I’ve made a Facebook group where we can keep each other updated on our progress, post links to our blog posts, and generally hold each other accountable. Obviously, we’ll all be starting on different days, so it’ll be fun to cheer each other on through the different stages.

If you’re joining me on this fast, of course you can be as flexible as you want to, but I encourage you to go Full Monty on this one. Also, feel free to use the button  I’ve made (up at the top of this post, or in the sidebar) to link-back to this insanely long post, so you don’t have to do all of the ‘splaining to your friends if you don’t want to.

Or, you can just subscribe to my blog over there in the sidebar, or follow me on twitter @melissajenna.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to share them. I always love hearing what you guys have to say.

xoxo,

mj

You Probably Own Stuff That’s Made By Slaves

I can’t say for sure, but more than likely, you do. We all do.

I hammer the issue of sustainability in tech design pretty hard, and one thing that surprises me is how few people can actually hear the problem when I explain it. 75% of respond with something like “I don’t care if my computer is fixable, because I’ll just buy a new one.” THAT IS THE PROBLEM. I want to grab that 75% and shake them by the shoulders until they get it. Where do the precious metals and minerals in your technology come FROM? (Mostly smuggled out of developing countries who don’t see any of the profit.) How are they sourced? (Often by slaves, who are often children.) What happens to these gadgets at the end of their usable lives? (They release toxins into the groundwater of wherever they’re disposed, which is usually a developing nation. Children light them on fire, to burn away the useless parts, releasing carcinogens and harmful chemicals into the air, breathing them into their lungs. Then they pick through the charred remains for precious metals.) Can the product be recycled, or even responsibility disposed of? (In the case of Apple’s latest Retina MacBook Pro: no.)

This is a problem. This is a huge problem. It’s about more than repairability; it’s about sustainability, and being good stewards of our planet, and about massive social injustice. So please, stop telling me how you have no problem “just going out and buying a new one,” and try to hear what I am saying. What so many people are saying. We are responsible for what is happening to these people. We need to demand change.

Here is a two-minute video that scratches the surface regarding slave labor and the mining of precious metals for our gadgets. Please watch it, and pass it along to your friends if you think it’s important that people are made aware of the crisis.

If you are not feeling anything for the people whose lives are being affected by this crisis, you need to start wondering why that is. How does this injustice not make your heart sad? How is this not an outrage?  What is the matter with you, that you’re not upset by this? I know it is totally not okay to be so politically incorrect, but I’m not so sure that political correctness is getting us anywhere. I’m not so sure that political correctness is restoring the lives of slaves.

I hate to rail on and on like such a Negative Nancy. It makes me uncomfortable. Like when I have to go next door at three-o’clock in the morning and ask them to keep it down. But isn’t it time that the party’s over? Can’t we agree that we had our fun, but it’s time to begin making better decisions?

mj

What is The Functional Purpose of Love?

View from the bottom of a vineyard in Paso Robles

Why are things beautiful? I mean, what’s the functional purpose of beauty? Of a breathtaking sunset? The truth is, in and of themselves, sunsets are not beautiful. So what’s the difference between a real-life sunset, and a picture of a sunset, or a drawing of a sunset? The only real difference (that I can discern), is that real-life sunsets poke a spot in my brain that recognizes beauty. Other things that poke that spot in my brain include: wildflowers, the ocean, fields of tall grass in the wind, Zion National Park, the starry sky when I’m far far away from manmade lights, etc. And I only find them to be “beautiful,” because my brain tells me it thinks they’re beautiful. Makes sense, right? But why? Why do we have a spot in our brain that is excited by beauty? What functional purpose does it serve me as a human that I recognize beauty?

Same goes for love. We certainly don’t need “love” for the purposes of procreation (we can look at the stats on random hookups and pregnancy for that one). As a matter of fact, animals do just fine without love. Why are we capable of love when we could be wired, like animals, to instinctively procreate and nurture our young until they are self-sufficient? What functional purpose does love serve to the survival of the human species?

Same goes for fun. Same goes for pleasure. Same goes for grief, and loneliness, and laughter and tears, and music and dancing and celebration. What functional purpose do any of those serve?

When people ask me to explain my belief in God, I can’t do it. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I can’t. Something deep down in me–in my heart, or in my head, or both, I can’t tell–compels me to believe, but I cannot explain why, just like I cannot explain the purpose of beauty, or love, or grief or laughter or tears. We’re endowed with a capacity for feeling life, and an ability and instinctive desire to love others. God is in that. I think that’s a tiny glimpse into the very heart of God, and he’s given it to each of us, freely and abundantly.

I believe that the functional purpose of each of those miraculous gifts is to help us to begin know and understand a God that is so much bigger than ourselves, and so far beyond our understanding. We will never comprehend the fullness of God, but we can comprehend the beauty we are surrounded with, the love we feel for our children, and the love we feel for each other.

Summer of 7: Jamie Sets Me Right

A “Summer of 7” sister, Jamie, of  Six Bricks High, recently posted some thoughts about “stress week.” She took a much wiser approach than I did, and, like I told her, I WISH I could have read her post before I began “stress week.” Talking about making time to read the bible, Jamie writes

It’s amazing how I have the urge to just get the laundry started and then I’ll sit and read.  Or let me just get the dishwasher unloaded first then I will sit and read.  When I’m spending time on Pinterest I never have those thoughts.

When I’m spending time on Pinterest, I never have those thoughts.

When I’m spending time on Pinterest, I never have those thoughts.

When I’m spending time on Pinterest, I never have those thoughts.

What is wrong with my head, that I check Pinterest borderline obsessively, yet I feel compelled to do every chore in my house before I sit down and read my bible? I know I’m not the only one in this boat, and I am SO grateful to Jamie for holding up a mirror to this particularly bad habit of mine.

Maybe you’re not a Pinterester; do you sometimes find yourself putting off reading because you have “too much else to do,” but still check facebook (etc) compulsively?

With every day that passes, I know that “media week” is going to be very very hard for me. But in a good way. In the way that training for a marathon is hard.

I am both eager, and terrified.

How to Be Joyful When Nothing is Perfect

Dude. Life is so good, isn’t it? I feel like I’m living in the sweet-spot lately, and it’ll be nice, when October rolls around, to look back at days like today and remember that I’m capable of being this joyful. I’d say “happy,” but to me, “happy” is to “joyful,” what “pretty” is to “beautiful,” you know what I mean? And yes, while I am “happy,” more than that, I’m deep-down-in-my-bones joyful, and that’s a whole other thing entirely.

Melissa Jenna and Ellie Godsey

We just got done swimming and were giddy from all the excitement.

Am I saying nothing is wrong or bothering me? Absolutely not. There are plenty of things that aren’t the way they would be “in a perfect world,” and a few situations that I would wave a magic-wand over if I could. (You guys: the first time I typed that sentence, I typed “magic wang.” And then I snickered like a twelve year old boy.) But, and I think this is the trick to “joy” versus “happiness” (if I may be so bold as to claim that I “get” joy): those temporary things do not matter, and I know it. Like, more than head-know-it, I heart-know-it. And, at least for me, it doesn’t matter how much I “head-know” something; if I don’t “heart-know” it, it might as well not even be true.

I’m joyful in my housework, and errands, and snail-hunting (garden’s full of ’em), and in swimming with my kiddo, and my silly little blog, and sharing dinner with my husband. And in probably the darkest, most psychologically upsetting circumstance of my life (my mother “disowned” me over a year ago, and continues to remain divorced from me and my family to this day), guess what? I’m joyful. It’s electric.

Past versions of myself would be ears-deep in depression right now, looking for a thing or a person to throw myself into, to lose myself in the midst of my anguish and multiply pain upon pain. But that person died, and continues to die over and over again, as my present and future self continues to be reborn. (My husband would call this “circling upward, rather than just going in circles.”) It’s amazing, and beautiful, and I’d say “unbelievable,” except that I have to believe it, because I am living it.

Do I “get” it? Why I have this deep wellspring of joy? I mean, why me, and not so many others? I certainly don’t “deserve” it. I wish I could give it away to everyone I know, but if I tried, I’d hand them a box, and they’d open it, and it’d be empty. Because the source of my joy isn’t a thing I can contain, or a thing I can impart on anyone, no matter how much I want to share it; the source of my joy has always been, and will always be, and is right there in front of each of our faces, just waiting, patiently, to be noticed.

But many of us are so focused on other things, red-herrings of joy, that we miss it, that plain, soft-spoken voice that patiently calls to us. We peruse those red-herrings, and each time we realize that the source of joy that we’re chasing is inauthentic, a phony, we simply begin chasing another red-herring. I did that for years. Some people do it for a lifetime. How exhausting. How depressingly and frustratingly exhausting. Why not consider giving up the chase? Take a break, and examine that patient voice that is waiting to be heard. You’ve got nothing to lose. And trust me, the red-herring chase will be there if you decide you want to go back to it.

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I really didn’t mean to get all spiritually weird on you with this one. I honestly just sat down to explain that the reason I didn’t follow any of the “Seven Sacred Pauses” for my “Summer of 7” today, was because I am so gosh darned joyful, that that book was actually messing me up in a bad way. (And that, my friends, is called burying the lede.)

This is seriously not a cop-out: the book was screwing with my biorhythms, okay? I had to put it down. So today, to remain faithful to cutting out the excess stress in my life (per my “Summer of 7” requirement), instead of obeying the “Seven Sacred Pauses,” once Ellie went down for her nap, I did my housework, then laid on my front lawn in my bathing suit and listened to an audio book. AND I FEEL NO GUILT.

I smell like warm Hawaiian Tropic and sweat, and I couldn’t be more joyful.

So there.

xoxo, mj

Oh, one more thing. Storyline Conference in TWO days! I am pretty gosh darn excited. You know who wrote a funny thing about Storyline? Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary, that’s who. Never read her? You’ll love her, trust me. See you soon, Westmont!

Summer of 7: Stress Week, Day 2 of 7

The Summer of 7 Melissa Jenna GodseyThis week is not going how I envisioned it. Though looking back on it, I’m not sure what I was thinking? If I could go back in time and talk to myself last week I’d say something like “So let me get this straight. You’re going to stop everything you’re doing, 7 times a day, for a time of focused prayer? Sounds great, but what about when Ellie is smashing strawberries in her fists and rubbing it all over her face? Or when you your husband gets home from work, and you’re thrilled to see him? Will you simply hand Ellie over to him so you can have your focused prayer time?”

As lovely as the book “Seven Sacred Pauses” is, right now it is actually causing me more stress than I had before. That’s the opposite of what I was going for.

I enjoy the readings very much (though I’m not encountering them as deeply as I was hoping to), and I fully believe in praying throughout my day, but the thing is…I kind of already do that. No, I do not have alarms set on my phone called “The Wisdom Hour”  or “The Hour of Illumination” normally (hours from the book), but–at least for my stage in life right now–I like my usual prayer-life better.

I won’t say that I “pray continually” as described in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (“16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18) because I know that I don’t. But the idea of living in an uninterrupted spirit if prayer and gratefulness is one that I hold dear. And it’s that gratefulness for all things that keeps me relatively stress-free. What’s happening is that the “scheduled” prayers of “The Seven Sacred Pauses” are overwhelming me to the point that I’m not praying continually like usual.

A short story about how I learned to pray “continually:”

I really enjoy cleaning my house, but it has not always been this way. I used to hate it. Every dried-up spill I scrubbed, I’d imagine my husband carelessly spilling something on the floor, then choosing to let it sit there and dry up rather than bending down to wipe it up for himself. Every time I scrubbed the bluish goo mixed with shaving gunk from his bathroom sink, I’d see him in my mind’s eye, brushing his teeth, and then walking away from that disgusting mess without a second thought about it. Never once thinking “you know, if I just swished one tiny handful of warm water down the drain after I shaved or brushed my teeth, my wife would never have to scrub this blue gunk off of the sink again!” Every piece of dirty laundry on the floor. Every set of gunky fingerprints on the remote control. You get the idea. At the end of the day, I was fuming, but I never said a word about it.

But one day–I’m not sure why this happened–something just clicked in my head. Sometime in December of 2010, I think. As I was waiting for the dishwater to warm  up (I will only wash dishes in the hottest of water), I found my mind wandering to the mothers in Africa who have to walk miles to fetch their water. Water that I would never even think of cleaning my dishes with, let alone cooking with, because it’s so filthy. And there I was, frustrated to tears because my husband didn’t dump his food scraps into the trash AGAIN, while standing over my sink waiting for the clean, clear water to get hot enough to wash our dishes. POOR MELISSA. Cry me a fricking river.

Something inside me clicked, and I began to cry. (Also, you should know that until about August of 2009, I was not a crier. Maybe I’ll tell that story another time.) I cried because I felt ashamed at my self-centeredness, and my feelings of entitlement. I cried because I was angry that I was still so immature. I cried because it’s just not fair that so many people die because of lack of access to clean water, and here I am, letting so much of it rush down the drain because I don’t think it’s hot enough to wash my dishes. I cried because I was a spoiled brat, and it took me so. long. to see it.

Since then, I’m delighted on a daily basis with how many things I have to be grateful for. We’re blessed abundantly, and I’m not shy of thanking God every single time I notice something. No, my prayers are not sacred readings that I do at a dedicated time of day, but to me, my “dishwater” prayers are more sacred. God is changing my heart day by day, hour by hour, and every time I say “thank you Father for blessing me and my family with not one but THREE sinks to clean, all with hot and cold running water,” I feel my heart soften.

So while I will continue with “Seven Sacred Pauses,” I’m going to stop beating myself up when I feel like I have to rush through my readings because Ellie put a foreign object into her mouth, or dinner is burning, or whatever. Also, I’m recommitting to living in an unbroken spirit of prayer and thanksgiving. In celebration of getting my head right again, here are some prayers I’ve said today. Maybe you can identify .

(When I miss my husband and he’s away at work, or working later than usual) Father thank you for my Husband and all that he does for our family. Thank you for blessing him (and us) with a job, and one that he loves.

(When I feel want for some material thing. Lately it’s a digital camera, since Ellie broke my old one) Father, thank you providing for us no matter what our circumstances are. When I had Ellie, we knew that me staying home was what was best for us, at least for the first few years, but we were scared. You’ve provided above and beyond our needs, even though we’re basically living on one income. Thank you for blessing our lives so abundantly; please direct us in how we can share our abundance with others.

(When Ellie is being a stinker, or I’m feeling anxious for a “bigger” life) Father thank you for this incredible child. She’s the greatest blessing in my life, and we do not deserve her. Thank you for giving me all of this time with her- time that we’ll never get to do over again. Thank you for making me into a good mother for Ellie. If you never sought me and adopted me as your own, I’d be failing Ellie as a parent right now. Everything I know about love, and patience, and mercy, and grace, and forgiveness I learned from you, because you show those to me every single day. Thank you for the opportunity to reflect those qualities onto Ellie, that she might see you in me, and grow up with you as her foundation.

(When I’m watering the garden, washing my hands, showering, doing the laundry, rinsing some fruit, flushing the toilet, etc. Basically whenever I’m using running water) Thank you Father for this amazing gift. Many (most?) people in the world do not have access to clean water, let alone clean water in their homes. As I use this gift, I’m thinking about all of those for whom obtaining clean water is a struggle, and my heart breaks for them, and I’m angry, Father. It’s not fair. Please continue stirring up a restlessness in me for those who need water, and lever let me forget this injustice. Please continue to show me how we can use our resources to bring them the basic building-block of human life.

This is just a few that I can remember off of the top of my head. Do you say tiny prayers throughout your day? What’s your most common one?

Summer of 7: Stress Week, Day 1 of 7 (I Stink at This Already)

This is it. My very first official “Summer of 7” post. It’s on, y’all.

This week I’m supposed to be cutting out excess stress in my life, and you know what? I’m stressed about how unprepared I am to CUT OUT STRESS. Gah. Am I unteachable? I’ll get to why I’m unprepared in a moment. First, an explanation on “Stress Week.”

I’ll be following the example set by Macrina Wiederkehr in her book “The Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day.” Here’s a brief description I yanked from Amazon (where I purchased the book):

Macrina Wiederkehr’s bestselling book invites readers to learn how to pray the hours through the practice of consciously pausing at the seven sacred moments of each day, making their daily passage through time a more sacred pilgrimage.

Using scripture, poetry, reflections, personal stories, and quotes from a rich array of spiritual teachers for many religions, Wiederkehr helps readers become more attuned to living in the present moment and develop a kindred spirit with the rich tradition of the sacred hours. Seven Sacred Pauses is a wonderful gift to those who seek to find balance in their busy days and to bring the practice of the Divine Hours home to their own hearts.

Sounds good, right? Except that I spent all day today wine tasting with my mama-friends, and only just bought the book on my Kindle, because all the stores that sell real physical books were closed, and I didn’t plan ahead. I have basically zero idea what I’m getting into here, because I haven’t even begun reading the book yet. SO. At the very least I need to read enough of the book tonight to know when I’m supposed to stop and pray tomorrow. (How is this supposed to help me rid myself of excess stress again?)

Never one to idly whine, here’s why I think this whole “Seven Sacred Pauses” thing is going to be a valuable practice:

  • I love rituals and traditions, and I think that unless I’m more purposeful about my prayer life, I’m totally missing opportunities to celebrate and reflect throughout my day, simply because I’m rushing right through them.
  • love that the book uses poetry, reflections, and quotes from all over the place, in addition to scripture. Being a word-person, creative and beautiful use of language really hits the spot for me.
  • While I say countless small prayers throughout the day (while brushing my teeth/washing my hands/warming up the dishwater I’m always thanking God for the blessing of clean running water, and remembering those who are not as privileged as us to have clean running water), I lack a focus or direction sometimes. Because “Seven Sacred Pauses” is guided, I’ll at least have a focus for seven prayer-times throughout my day.

I don’t intend on writing a daily update on how “Stress Week” is going, but who knows what will happen. I’m already feeling overwhelmed, and it’s only day 1. I guess de-stressing and refocusing that energy on God is harder for me than I thought. Is one week really going to be enough to change me in this regard? I’m still skeptical.

Booyah. A “Summer of 7” Revelation.

The Summer of 7 Melissa Jenna GodseyExcuse my while I share a revelation.

Summer of 7, in a nutshell: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” –John 15:1-2

And this:

Pruning (via wikipedia): Pruning is a horticultural practice involving the selective removal of parts of a plant, such as branches, buds, or roots. Reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping (by controlling or directing growth), improving or maintaining health, and both harvesting and increasing the yield or quality of flowers and fruits. The practice entails targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, or otherwise unwanted tissue from crop and landscape plants.

Doesn’t this just sum-up “Summer of 7” perfectly? ‘Targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound’ bits, in order to shape (by directing growth), improve health, and “harvest and increase the yield or quality of fruits?”

Booyah. John 15:1-2 manages to communicate what took me, like, 2,000 words, in a single sentence. Our “Summer of 7” is about pruning, both physically and spiritually. Cutting the ties of the earthly things that bind us that we might bear more and better fruit.

One more bit of spiritual smack-talk, then I’m done.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” –Galatians 5:22-26

Booyah (again). A reminder that we’ve already won, and if we’re living by the Spirit, that we need to “keep in step” with the Spirit, not becoming conceited, ie. this isn’t about me and my struggle in being pruned (“Ohmygoshyouguys, summer of 7 is so haaaaard!”). The story in our Summer of 7 is how what we’re being changed into, and by whom.

xoxo, Melissa

*** Not sure what I’m talking about when I mention the “Summer of 7?” Well, go here the post in which I ‘splain all about it, and here to read all about it from the perspective of the gal who wrangled me into it, Katrina from thepoorganiclife.com. ***

Join Me in Living “The Summer of 7!”

The Summer of 7 Melissa Jenna Godsey

Remember back when I said I was “being haunted by a book?” Well, I’m not the only one being haunted by “7: An ExperimentalMutiny Against Excess.” Turns out that “7” (by Jen Hatmaker) is ruining the lives of families across America! (Just in case you can’t sense my sarcasm, let me just tell you that I’m kidding. No need to go getting all nasty on me in the comments about Jen Hatmaker being a Saint. I know. I’m on Team Hatmaker. I even read her husband’s book, okay?)

Here’s the gist of Jen’s book “7”: most of us live lives of crazy excess. We might not see it, and we might, in fact, want more stuff, but that’s kind of the point. We’re so caught up in the pursuit of “stuff,” and the image of having lots of stuff, that we don’t even realize what we’ve become: a people who exist for the purpose of obtaining and enjoying comfort. Sloths, basically. Sloths with closets full of clothes we don’t wear, and stuff we don’t use, existing on diets of processed food. (My words here, not Jen’s.) And that–if I may be so informal–totally sucks. So Jen took seven months, and focused on eliminating excess from seven categories: food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress (which is where the subtitle comes from: “An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess). If I could force you to read the book I would, and though her journey is a spiritual one (Christian, specifically), the lessons learned, and the realizations acquired are worth reading about, regardless of your personal religious affiliation.

Why give stuff up?

If you’re familiar with the idea of “fasting,” (abstaining from all or some kinds of foods or drinks, especially as a religious observance) then take that concept, and apply it to things other than food, and you “get” the idea behind “7.”

Jen explains fasting well in 7: “A fast creates margin for God to move. Temporarily changing or routine of comfort jars us off high center. A fast is not necessarily something we offer God, but it assists us in offering ourselves.” She also lists six circumstances in which one might initiate a fast to “summon God’s movement in [their] life:”

  • Mourning
  • Inquiry
  • Repentance
  • Preparation
  • Crisis
  • Worship

Like Jen, I can definitely identify with fasting for repentance. Jen sees fasting for repentance as “a tangible way to bow low and repent of greed, ungratefulness, ruined opportunities, and irresponsibility.” To which I say yes, yes, yes and yes. Though I consider myself a thoughtful and grateful person, my actions simply do not match my view of myself. In so many ways, I’m a hypocrite, and I need to repent for that big-time, and will have to continue repenting for that all the days of my life. I’ll never be “perfect,” but that’s not the goal. I want to become more and more like the one who created me; that’s the goal.

And again, like Jen, I can identify with fasting for preparation. Like I may (or may not?) have mentioned previously, I feel as if I’m at a crossroads with my work, yet I can’t see a clear path ahead of me. I have a cloudy picture of where I might be headed, and I want to know for sure that it’s something God is calling me to do, not something that I simply want to do. So I guess I’m “fasting” for preparation AND inquiry. Even better!

So what does this all mean?

So yeah, here’s the kicker: I’ve joined a blogging group, y’all. Next stop: couponing, watching The Bachelor and, throwing linky-parties or whatever. (Does one “throw” a linky-party?) If you’d have told twenty-three-year-old me that in five years I’d be “serious” about my faith, or a mother, or PART OF A BLOGGING GROUP, I’d be all like, “this gypsy fortune-teller has got me all wrong. Doesn’t she know that I, like Miley Cyrus, Can’t Be Tamed?”

SO. I’m banding together with a group of bloggers (who are basically strangers to me, as much as anyone can be a stranger on the Internet) to try our hand at a summer-length version of “7.” I’ve considered going whole-hog on this thing, but I have a tendency to jump into things with two feet, only to realize that I’m in way over my head, and then I somehow have to weasel my way out. (I know, I know: I’m so honorable.) So rather than burning myself out and quitting halfway through, I’m committing to our “Summer of 7” project enough to give it its VERY OWN CATEGORY in my nav. bar. (Is this the blogging equivalent of getting your own drawer at your boyfriend’s house? Like, he’s “committing” to you, but not enough to put a ring on it quite yet?)

Digressions aside, I’d like to invite you all along with me on a mini-journey. A blogging-roadtrip, if you will. Here’s my (very flexible) “Summer of 7” schedule, and I’d love it if you participated right along with me!

Summer of 7 “Schedule”

(Details and rules and the like will be posted on the first day of the week. Or maybe the day before the first day of the week, I’m not sure.)

June 3-9, Stress: I’ll follow Macrina Wiederkehr’s “structured” prayer schedule in her book “Seven Sacred Pauses,” thereby forcing myself to pause throughout the day for prayer. Something tells me this is going to be more difficult than I imagine, what with chasing around a toddler and all. Also, I’ll be attending Storyline Conference this week, and I’m a little concerned about the timing of the sessions, and how they’ll coincide with Seven Sacred Pauses.

June 10-16, Food: Only eat seven foods for a week. I don’t have to eat them all in one sitting, and condiments count as foods. When Food Week begins, I’ll post a list of my seven foods. (Bear in mind that I’m going to be as nutritionally well-rounded as possible.)

June 17-23, Possessions: Each day I’m going to purge things from our closets, cabinets and garage, and at the end of the week I’ll bring them by a local women’s shelter.

June 24-30, WEEK OFF: I might be traveling to VidCon this week, and thinking back to how insane the week leading up to VidCon was last year, I’d be crazy not to take this week off. So, a brief intermission from “Summer of 7” is in order. If I don’t go to VidCon, then I’ll adjust my schedule and let you know.

July 1-7, Clothes: I’ll wear seven items of clothing for the week, which I’ll list at the beginning of the week. This one isn’t going to be difficult, because I live in California, and it’ll be summertime (“and the livin’s easy…”). I have plans to ramp this one up considerably, but I’m still hashing them out, so second half of this one is TBA. (Be excited.)

July 8-14, Spending: We will only spend our money in seven locations. I’ll kick this week off with a list of those places.

July 15-21 , Media: No Twittering, Facebooking, blog-reading, Instagramming, Pinteresting, TV-watching, video-game playing, etc for the entire week. BUT, and this is a big but, part of my job at iFixit is to be ever-present on social media, so when I’m being paid by iFixit, I will do my job as usual. It will take every once of my will-power not to log in to my personal accounts, but so help me, I can do this. I’m still not sure how I’ll update the blog on my progress for that week. Maybe I’ll journal it all on pen and paper, scan it, then upload full-res images of my scanned journal pages? That might be fun. We’ll see.

July 22-28, Waste: I’ve always wanted to start composting, so maybe this will be the week that I do that. Also, we’re TERRIBLE at recycling, so this might be a good time to establish solid recycling practices in our house. This is also Ellie’s birthday week, so I’ll figure this one out a bit better as I have time to think about it.

Things That Make Me Anxious About “Summer of 7”

(In no particular order)

  • I’m concerned that people will see this as simply a test of will-power, like “CAN I only eat seven foods for a week?” rather than an exercise in purposeful reduction in order to examine the condition of our hearts. How will limiting my buffet of choices make me feel? How will the very human part of me that cherishes comfort react to new boundaries? Of course I CAN do each of these challenges, but if the focus is just a matter of “how strong is my will-power?” then this whole thing is totally pointless. Fasting and restriction is not the point, but a means to an end.
  • Is my insecurity going to make me feel the need to explain every weirdo thing I’m doing whenever I feel uncomfortable? Or worse, will I end up bragging about it? Am I going to make this more about me externally, than me internally? A week is a short amount of time, and if I’m not careful, I could very well spend the entire week mourning my creature-comforts and not actually be changed on a heart-level at all. Double pointless!
  • Is a week really enough time to be affected? Won’t I just spend the whole week counting down the days until the next week of suffering begins? I’m not really sure that a week is enough, but I’m going to give it an honest shot.
  • I’m in a blogging group.

PLEASE let me know if you’ll be participating at all. I’d love love love to cheer you on, and hey, accountability is important! And if you’re not going get crazy and do “Summer of 7” right along with me, then leave me some encouraging words of support, because I will need it.

Last thing, promise: ‘member that I’m blogging with a group? Here are the other crazies that are blogging The Summer of 7 along with me:

Katrina from The Poorganic Life (whose post you should read if you want more info on The Summer of 7 and all the ladies involved)

Kay from Kay’s Counseling Blog

Steph from Only Here, Only Now

Amy from Permission to Peruse 

Alene from Positively Alene

Jamie from Six Brick High

Rachel from Occassional Boredom

Amy from Amy in Wanderland

And, well, me right here at melissajenna.com of course.

Love you all! xoxo, Gossip Girl

Just kidding.

xoxo, mj


Today Was Ordinary

Today I watered the vegetable garden while Ellie trailed behind, “watering can mama. Ellie water!” So I filled Ellie’s watering can, and she watered some radishes, and then her feet. Mostly her feet.

Ellie Bean GodseyToday, we sat at the park and watched a man driving an excavator dump a huge pile of sand into a trench. Ellie was fascinated. “Scoop mama! Biiiiiig scoop. LOUD scoop!” Then Ellie fed me “soup” (sand) out of a “spoon” (dirty old plastic shovel). She climbed into my lap, said “kiss! smooch!” and gave me the biggest, longest, sandiest smooch. Then she took an amazing photo of herself, which I promptly Instagramed.

Today me and Ellie played “chase” all the way home. “Chase” isn’t about hiding or seeking, or even catching. Just chasing.

Today it got too too hot inside the house, so I filled the bathtub with cool water, and we got in and splashed each other and laughed for a good thirty minutes straight. Until our feet shriveled up and got super wrinkly. Then she ran around the house yelling “nakeeeed! naked naked naked!”

Today was so full of those moments where you breathe deeply and realize that you couldn’t be any happier than you are right now, and that you are so darn grateful to be alive. So grateful for today. I can’t believe how blessed I am, not just for today, but for having so many days like today. Every single day is better than the one before it, and what did I ever do to deserve that? I’m humbled at the thought of how little I deserve, yet how richly and abundantly I’m blessed.

Here’s to hoping that your tomorrow is even better than your today. 🙂

I’m Being Haunted By A Book

It’s rare (at least for me) to be so aware of a shift in (personal) seasons as it’s happening, so, for my own benefit, I thought I’d write down some thoughts and feelings before they evaporate.

This book is ruining my life.

Okay, yes, that’s a gross exaggeration, and I’m trying not to exaggerate as frequently. How about this:

This book is haunting me. It’s set-up a semi-permenant camp in the back of my mind, and is basically eating-up all of my spare thoughts. It’s constantly churning my quiet-time, generating a sense of immediacy that I cannot ignore.

This book is completely messing with my head. It’s making me uncomfortable in my own skin. It’s stirring up a deep sense of dissatisfaction within me. I feel as if this book is holding a brand new mirror in front of my face, and I do not like what I see.

None of the above sounds good, but I promise you, those are all good things. It’s what I’ve been yearning and praying for. I don’t know about you, but I am far too comfortable, and when I’m comfortable, I don’t grow much. I certainly don’t change much. Comfort is…paralyzing, in a way, and I am practically itching for growth. Thank God (seriously, not, like, in a figure-of-speech way) for Jen Hatmaker and her totally uncomfortable book, “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.” I am ripe for change, and this book has lit a fire underneath me.

I realize I haven’t said anything actually about the book yet, but that’s because I haven’t finished reading it, and what I have read is still “digesting,” if you get what I mean. You can (and should!) click over to the book, read the description, buy yourself a copy, and get yourself uncomfortable, too. I’ve got about 75 pages left, so we can finish it together!

If I were a shrubbery (oh yes, I went there), I’d have grown wild, and would have ceased bearing fruit a long time ago. It’s time for a good clean pruning, and I couldn’t be more looking forward to it. Don’t get me wrong: I am scared. I feel anxious. I don’t know what I’m going to be pruned into, but I’ve been through enough of these seasons to know that in order for me to do the works that lay ahead of me, a change needs to happen. I need to be refined. (I need to stop mixing metaphors. :/ )

I am so excited for what’s to come: to be free of the dead-weight of my broken ways of thinking and untrue beliefs about myself that play on loop in my head. To (once again) relinquish control of situations that I never had control over in the first place. To bear good fruit again. What an adventure!

My Daily Heartbreak

Girl sewing heartSometimes (nearly every day) someone says something to me (usually via the Internet) about my faith that’s insulting, ridiculing, or just plain rude. Usually I say nothing in response, because I don’t want to be baited into an argument, and generally, that’s exactly what those people want. But sometimes I do respond, because what I have to say might benefit the person I’m speaking to, and it appears they are not looking for just an argument.

Today, someone made the comment on Facebook that how I teach my child about God might not sound disturbing to me, that it does sound disturbing to my child, and to people outside of my faith. Then he said that “religion poisons everything.” Here is my response to his comment:

While your opinion is just as valuable as mine, and I wouldn’t dream of censoring it, you can’t make statements like that and believe you are being truthful. The truth is that you’ve never heard a word of what gets said in my house, so you can’t possibly know what it sounds like to a child, someone outside my faith, or anyone for that matter. All you know is what you’ve experienced personally, or heard second-hand, and while those experiences are completely and totally valid, they’re not representative of everyone’s experiences. To speak in such generalizations, and make such sweeping authoritative statements is short-sighted and prevents any sort of genuine discussion from happening. Opportunities to have meaningful, non-destructive discourse with people of differing perspectives are becoming rare, and it’s a shame to waste such an opportunity by poisoning fertile ground.

I know it’s easier to believe things about groups of people, and to just assume that everyone you label a certain way will always and forever behave the way you think they will, but in doing so, you rob people of their individuality, and you willfully inhibit the broadening of your own perspective. It takes time and effort to always be reevaluating people and beliefs, but humanity deserves that.

I wish I could always be so eloquent, because usually I get so immediately frustrated with that kind of judgement, that I can’t even find the words. But the thing is that I really do value the discourse I have with people of differing backgrounds. It’s how I learn, and how I grow. It’s how I’ve developed into the person that I am, and how I’ll develop into future versions of myself. And more than anything, it’s how I find grace and mercy for those that are not “just like me.” The guy that comments that “religion poisons everything” is just as much my brother as the guy sitting across from me in church, and the chances are that I can learn more from the judgy-commenter than from my church-brother.

I need more patience. I need more grace. I need more understanding. I need more love for people who don’t like me or what I stand for. I need the courage to speak when called to do so, and the wisdom to choose the right words. I turn to God in tiny bursts of prayer so many times each day because my heart hurts for the never-ending stream of people who have been wounded by religion, and religious people. They say these kinds of hurtful things because they themselves have been hurt, and I know it has absolutely nothing to do with me, but it still breaks my heart. These people need healing, and they need to know the true love of God.

If you’re the praying type, please pray for the people who have been wounded by The Church, and those of us that call ourselves followers of Christ. And pray that we, as the hands and feet of Christ himself, would only ever bring glory and honor to his name.

-mj

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