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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
—————
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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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?

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

Trading Fashion for Wisdom: A Small Prayer Answered in A Big Way

Image from thecherryblossomgirl.com

A few weeks ago I made the decision to suspend my reading of my favorite fashion and style blogs. I never had much time for them anyway, five minutes here, ten minutes there, but after spending some time thinking about a thing some bloggers do called “What I Wore Wednesday,” (WIWW) I was inspired to make a change in my internet consumption. While WIWW is cute and fun and born out of the best intentions, to me, I can’t shake the way it seems to epitomize the me-centric culture of the Internet. (Maybe I’ll write more about that another day.) So I’m clear: I love the bloggers that participate in WIWW. I still read them on the daily. But WIWW just rubs me the wrong way, is all. (Bunkering-down in preparation for backlash.)

Before I go any further, you need to know that as much as quitting reading fashion blogs might not seem like a big deal, it’s actually somewhat of a sacrifice for me. I love the art of fashion (especially “high fashion”), and how subtle choices in personal style have the distinct power to communicate one’s personality and values. But my innocent penchant for blogs of the sartorial type was stirring a dissatisfaction in my heart. (I find “want” to be the root of most of any unhappiness I feel, so I’m very sensitive to snuffing out “want” when it rears its buttery cashmere or italian-leather head.) Thus, my decision to abstain from the world of fashion and street-style.

By quitting indulging my desire for fashion and style content, it was my intent to make room for something greater, but I didn’t really know what that greater thing was.

So I prayed. (Seems to me that that’s almost always the beginning of a life-changing story, no?)

I committed the time I gained by not reading fashion blogs to God, and told him that I trusted him to fill that void with something Him-focused. Something great. Something WOW. And guess what? He did!

A few days went by wherein I simply had a little more time in my day to use however I saw fit. Mostly I did housework. Sometimes I read scripture. But really, I wasn’t feeling God pointing me towards anything in my new-found “free-time.” And I really wanted to sit down and read thecherryblossomgirl.com. But instead, I kept praying, telling God that I’m happy to wait as long as he wants me to in order to discover more of His heart.

familylife.com family life today

Logo courtesy of familylife.com

One day, in the moments after I finished my morning housework and before Ellie woke up from her nap, I sat down at my computer, but instead of going to thecherryblossomgirl, I went to familylife.com (home of my favorite radio program, FamilyLife Today), and WOW! I’ve been listening to FamilyLife Today for over a year now, but I had no idea of the wealth of information available on their website. I struck gold in their “audio” section. Literally hundreds of hours of podcasts from years past on topics ranging from parenting, to feminism to guarding your safety on the Internet, all for free! I downloaded everything. We’re talking gigabytes of audio podcasts, and each of them is so good.

Through the archive at familylife.com, I’ve “met” Susan Hunt (who I wish would adopt me as her honorary granddaughter), Carolyn McCulley (author of Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World, and an absolute treasure), Dr. Tim Kimmell (author of Grace-Based Parenting), Dannah Gresh (author of What Are You Waiting For?: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex) Nancy Leigh DeMoss…I could go on and on.

The wisdom shared in each episode is nearly overwhelming, and has provided so much food for thought and conversation with my husband. What an incredible answer to prayer! I’ve grown so much just in the past three weeks– it’s more than I could have ever thought to ask God for, and has spurned a whole new passion for my calling as a wife, mother, home-maker and woman. What a blessing! I love the way God knows my heart, and knows exactly what I need and just doesn’t hold back. I feel like a kid who asks for a serving of ice cream for desert, but instead her parents fill a kiddie-pool with it and say “go nuts, kid!” I never could have imagined God would respond this way.

One last thing. Get this: I look forward to washing dishes, steaming our floors and folding our laundry, not only because it blesses my family, but because during those times I get to listen to the wisdom and insight of so many leaders on FamilyLife Today, growing me up as a daughter in Christ. Anything that can get me excited to steam the floor has got to be a good thing! And I can share the fact that I downloaded, literally, gigabytes of their past episodes without shame because I made a donation in support of their ministry. If you happen to get into their podcasts and love them as much as I do, won’t you also consider contributing? I’d love for them to stay on the air for forever. 🙂

I’ll tell you what: trading Dior and Alexander Wang for dishsoap and some podcasts was totally and completely worth it! And I cannot wait to see what God has in store next.

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