When You Fast

Topic - Fasting

A SCRIPTURAL INTRODUCTION

Our culture has bought into the propaganda of gluttony, believing we mustn’t allow ourselves to experience hunger. It doesn’t take a medical professional to recognize the over-eating trends in America. The CDC reports 69% of adults over age 20 are overweight. It could be surmised that much of the remaining population is engaged in chronic dieting and eating disorders. Food itself is not evil; we have willingly allowed it to master us.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
(I Corinthians 6:12-13)

Scripture is speckled with examples of fasting, comfortably alluding to its routine presence in the lives of God’s people. Old Testament Jews practiced regular fasts. These fasts were oftentimes held in conjunction with times of mourning or lamentation, repentance or intercessory prayer. (See Joel 2, Daniel 9, Jeremiah 36, Psalm 35, Esther 4, and I Kings 21.) These examples indicate the transformative nature of the discipline of fasting. Through the fast, participants may demonstrate their awareness of the distance they’ve strayed from the Lord’s guiding hand and their desire for His sovereign shifting of their lives. There is an anticipation of God’s work being done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). Continue reading “When You Fast”

Truth is,

Child of Mine, my heart is on a roller coaster every time I go on Facebook. The truth is, I’m probably on Facebook far more than I should be. The truth is, even though I know I’m going to see 90% of my newsfeed overflowing with beautiful babies and ultrasounds and birthday parties, I can’t seem to look away.

Perhaps it’s because I want to share in the joy of my friends. I am truly thrilled for the new life that is springing up so frequently in the stage my friends are in. You can’t deny these child-bearing-years. I haven’t struggled with hearing pregnancy reveals or baby shower invitations or receiving those adorable factoid cards in the mail after the birth. It can only be credited to God’s grace that my heart hasn’t become entangled in these moments.

But my voluntary exposure to the baby craze is perhaps a little too risky. I am in a very vulnerable place right now, hoping beyond hope that this surgery is the solution to our barrenness. Praying that our years of waiting will soon be over.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone tell me, “Oh! as soon as so-and-so adopted they got pregnant!!” I would seriously have a few hundred bucks. I’ve heard all these accolades and more: “It’s all in God’s time.” “You’re going to be a wonderful mother.” “I just  know you’re going to have children of your own someday.” “Now that you’ve moved in that big home and settled into life, it’s got to be the right time.” “Just relax and it’ll happen.” “I got pregnant right away after we did such-and-such.”

And typically I can stop the emotional upheaval in time to recognize the sincere concern each of these people is trying to show by their words. I feel the love, I really do. But the words? They’re just empty. There’s nothing I can say, nothing my husband can say, nothing our families or friends can say that will make this better. 

The only fullness left is Jesus.

He’s not my magic wand or the whisperer of answers. But He is my peace, my burden-bearer, my ever present help in times of trouble (Ps 46:1).

The truth is, I’m not all that shaken up right now. I’m not angry or inconsolable. I’m just over itI’m tired of the jealousy I battle every time I see another one of my dear friends’ beautiful children. I’m tired of the hopelessness I’ve sunken into over the past 52 months. I’m tired of being poked and prodded. I’m tired of answering the same questions. I’m tired of updating the people who want to know the latest scoop. I’m tired of my loss of privacy, albeit voluntary. I’m tired of it all. 

More and more frequently women I meet ask right away if I have children. And perhaps my response is too much, too fast, but I’ve become accustomed to honestly sharing our infertility. Just get it all out on the table. More often than not, these ladies share their own journey with endometriosis or trouble conceiving. Child, this is a rampant problem that’s kept a secret by so many. It’s so private, so painful. But in sharing my own story, others are released to share theirs and we both leave encouraged. It’s just good to look someone in the eye and know they get itThe interesting pattern I’m discovering is how removed these women have become from their days of infertility. And I wonder what I will be like if and when we have our own children. How quickly will I move on from this pain, this thing that’s become my identityI don’t want to leave these stage unchanged. I don’t want to forget what it was like.

Barrenness is a scary, dry, lonely place to live. And it has left me with only Jesus

And I don’t ever want to forget.

Mama

The Love of Discipline

To say the Spiritual Disciplines are a source of passion seems a little self-deprecating.  The word “discipline” has mostly negative connotations in modern America, evoking instant rebellion at the thought of being constrained or controlled. And yet, living a life characterized by discipline is precisely what Christ followers are to do.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

But what does a disciplined life look like? The first step is recognizing your need for more of God. To see yourself as you really are, recognizing how far you’ve strayed from the fold of the Good Shepherd, you begin to desire something deeper, something more. And that’s where Spiritual Disciplines enter the scene. These are ancient practices, tested and tried for centuries. They have proven effective for pilgrims wishing to draw near to God and to be characterized by his holiness. In these Disciplines, our weary souls discover the place in which they can meet God. And they won’t want to leave.

Before we begin to understand individual Disciplines and how to practice them, we must also realize that self-discipline requires choice. Each day brings new opportunities to tune your heart to the voice of God. We can make a choice to get out of bed an hour earlier than necessary, to give the first moments of your day to God. We decide whether to maintain our hasty lives on the Sabbath or to rest. It is up to us to discipline our hearts to encounter Almighty.

Each day can be shaped by experiences with the Disciplines — examen, lectio divina, fixed hour prayer, fasting, confession. These practices and many others seem confusing and out of place in our 21st century culture. We struggle sitting still for a few moments and cannot fathom meditating for an hour. Convinced we’ll miss something pivotal in life, we wouldn’t dream of taking time for solitude. Our appetites are nearly non-existent for we never allow ourselves to experience hunger, fearing emptiness.

Surely there are many who long for a deeper connection to God – seminarians, pastors, stay-at-home moms, teenagers. Begin examining your lifestyle, noticing your feverish pace and hasty decisions. Pay attention to the moments when you could have sat in stillness, but allowed fearful excuses to triumph. As we begin to see our lives with objectivity, ask God to spark in you a flame of desire. That small spark is all it takes to begin a journey of spiritual transformation.

Doctor’s Report

Dear Child of Ours,
We had our post-op visit with the doctor last Friday, October 10th. It may sound weird but I was so happy to discover she had found problems – because knowing the problem means there is a likely solution. During the laparoscopy she found mild endometriosis as well as abdominal adhesions. She also performed a hysteroscopy and a D&C, and we’re so glad she did because she found multiple uterine polyps which could have been acting as an IUD (in her words). All of that “mess” has been cleaned up, and I’m happily reporting to all who will listen that my insides are back to “factory original settings.” :D
Her prognosis is hopeful, yet our hearts are fragile. The devastation we both experienced after two unsuccessful rounds of IUI in May/June was almost more than I could handle, and I anticipate even greater emotional response to the next few months of “failure to conceive” given the invasiveness and the success of my surgery. It’s very hard to remain hopeful, without getting hopes too high; to expect God to work, without setting expectations. But God is always at work, and he is always worth hoping in; the results may or may not be what we intended, but experience tells me His plan is perfect.
Waiting on you, Child.
Waiting on Him.

My Pastor-Husband

Dear Child,

Here’s a confession: it’s a little bit strange to have your pastor also be your husband. Or have your husband also be your pastor. I’m sure you’re going to have an interesting life ahead of you has a PK – pastor’s kid. (Hey, that’s funny…PK is also what your dad often goes by…short for Pastor Kevin.)

In the first year or two of this ministerial process, there were Sundays when I sat in the front row and verbally corrected my pastor-husband if he misquoted a reference or something. I am totally ashamed of these moments. I can’t even believe I’m telling you this, other than to pray you’ll learn from my errors.

After learning the art of respect keeping my mouth shut, I proceeded to wonder what it would be like to listen to my husband preach each week.

I’ve had to learn how to sit all by myself in that front row, missing his arm around my shoulder. It’s like we play “tag” on Sunday mornings – I’m on stage, leading worship and praying, and as I go sit down he moves from his lonely spot in the front row to his place behind the pulpit. (Thanks for the warming the pew for me, Dear. Seriously. I was really cold last Sunday and it was just a little warm from your residual body heat.)

Child, I’m so pleased to tell you the truth of the matter. I have a pastor and he happens to be my husband. He is an outstanding shepherd of God’s people, caring for and corralling my heart along with the rest of the congregation’s. He wears many hats in our relationship. There are some times we have to have business meetings with the intent of discussing church stuff. There are times when I seek his counsel and wisdom, his critic and rebuke as a parishioner to her pastor. There are times I just need him to wear his husband hat and be with me, listening, holding my hand. In all my wondering of what this life would be like, I never anticipated my husband-who-is-a-pastor would also become my pastor.

What a gift.

Following this reflection on life as a full time ministry couple are photos documenting Kevin’s ordination ceremony. It was a moving occasion, a true commissioning. I’m so thankful to be standing at his side.

 

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Kevin’s family made the long trip from Michigan to participate in the service. (L-R: Yvonne and Ralph Eccles, Melanie and Kevin, Gordon, Linda and Brian, Wanda and Mert Arvidson)
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The Elders of the Genesis Conference of the Free Methodist Church laying hands on Kevin as he is ordained
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Bishop David Roller presided over the ordination
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Bishop David and Yvonne Roller – friends from Kevin’s growing-up days in Spring Arbor, to his ordination
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Rev. KM Eccles – a nod of respect to Kevin’s great grandpa Kenneth Merrill Walton who went by “KM” and was an ordained minister in the FMC
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This certificate beautifully explains the office of Elder to which Kevin has been set apart

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So your mom had surgery…

So you’re probably wondering how the surgery went that your mom talked about. Normally she writes all sorts of blog posts about nearly everything. When I think of something worth writing about, I usually log in to find out she wrote about it two days earlier. Well in this case, she’s going to be unconscious for most of the proceedings, so I think I might finally beat her to a post.

***Editor’s note*** I did not beat her to the post.

Also, there are a lot of people who love and support your mom and I. She told me tonight (Monday night) after I got back from band practice that I should keep people updated during the day tomorrow, so I’m opening a file now to remind me to document the process throughout the day tomorrow.

PS – that band concert? It’s going to have awesome music from great movies like Captain America, Superman, Star Wars, and others. Going to band practice is actually pretty awesome. You should play an instrument, it’s way more fun than singing in a choir like your mom does… **ahem**

So here I am the night before, trying to remember how things have been going.

September 29

9:25 – dismissed from band practice, heading out to the car

9:27 – wondering if the woman in front of me realizes that her skirt may match the color of her top, but that does not make it a good outfit.

9:31 – out at the car

9:44 – heading in from the garage, only to hear your mom sounding really happy to have me home

9:45 – finding her downstairs buried under a ton of blankets with Glee paused on the PS4.

9:46 – Admiring just how “fabulous” some of the costumes on Glee are

9:53 – Deciding I need a snack, we head upstairs

9:54 – I remember we have Mexican Sunrise Bread (my mom makes it…it’s awesome. It’s like a taco baked into a loaf of bread, and it’s glorious)

9:55 – I find the last piece of cheesecake in the fridge that Donna made for us last Friday.

9:56 – I accuse your mom of “hiding the cheesecake by omission” since she’s had two pieces since I last saw it.

9:57 – we agree to stop discussing the idea of “hiding by omission”

10:01 – I eat delicious cheesecake while my toast is making your mom jealous.

10:05 – we clean up dishes and I head downstairs to start typing this out

10:20 – I head to bed, hoping tomorrow goes well

10:21 – I tell your mom about this minute-by-minute idea, and she seems skeptical

10:25 – we fall asleep.

September 30

5:00 – Alarm goes off on both cell phones, we turn them off. Mom hits snooze.

5:05 – Alarm goes off again.

5:10 – Alarm goes off again.

5:15 – Alarm goes off again, Mom heads to do devotions, I hit the shower.

5:40 – We trade, and I go to drink cider (apple cider is the best!), make coffee, and get ready to leave.

6:09 – The coffee is delicious, but I forgot your mom can’t have any. Oops.

6:12 – We grab last minute things, and pack up.

6:20 – We arrive at the outpatient surgery place, and we’re the only ones in the parking lot…

6:22 – Relieved to see more than a few nurses in the waiting room, apparently they park out back

6:30 – Check-in completed, nurses chatted with, and they take Mel back for prep

6:50 – I get called back, your mom is in a **styling** hair net and hospital gown (seriously she makes it look good), and we get to talk together while we wait for the doctor to arrive.

6:55 (ish) – we warn the doctors that Mel is a “lightweight” when it comes to anesthesia…

7:05 – We notice that the nurses and doctors running around are having a “normal” workday. What’s big and a bit scary for us is what they do every day. It’s comforting to know that they’ve done this a hundred times (or more!)

7:10 – the doctor arrives a bit early to say hi before they take her back for surgery. A few basic questions later and she’s ready to go!

7:15 – I’m back in the waiting room typing this out, admiring the 80 Mbit/sec download speeds, and waiting to see your mom again.

7:16 – I check the clock

7:17 – I check my watch

7:18 – I check the clock

…you get the idea.

While I was waiting, I think God was teaching me something. As I waited for the Dr. to come tell me how the surgery went, I knew exactly what I’d say to me if I were worried. It is a “minor” surgery. The incisions will be small. There was almost zero chance something would go seriously wrong. God was in control. I had just told her 20 minutes earlier that she’d be fine. I believed that.

I was still nervous. I still couldn’t shake the feeling of “what if something goes wrong?”

I think God taught me that having Faith isn’t the same thing as having no worries…it’s trusting God even when you’re worried and scared.

What felt like a small eternity later (but was really about an hour and a half), the doctor came and took me back into another room. Even though I’d just realized that I could trust God, and that everything could be ok, just about every scary thing raced through my head in the eight seconds it took me to walk twenty feet to that little conference room. When I sat down, the Dr. was smiling.

At this point I had a Charlie Brown moment. If you’ve ever seen the old Peanuts comics, the adults always mumble and drone on. That’s exactly what happened to me when the Dr. started talking. “When we saw the *mufflemuffle* then we did *mufflemuffle* but I’m very optimistic. I think this will really help you.”

In that moment I finally heard her. She was not only saying that Mel was ok, she was also saying that it went well, and she was optimistic. That was a word I had learned to not associate with fertility or pregnancy. I’d learned that we would try and try, and nothing much was going to change. But this doctor was now saying she was optimistic.

I don’t know exactly how this is going to turn out. Your mom is recovering right now (last week…). She’s doing pretty well, although it still hurts her if she forgets to be careful and not poke herself in the stomach.

But we have new hope. I hope to meet you soon.

What’s Going Through My Head?

Dear Child of Mine,

As I sit here, postured in such a way as to avoid painful abdominal responses, I am posing questions like:

What now?

Are our chances of getting pregnant really good?

Should my hopes be up?

Am I afraid? 

What in the world do these graphic images of my internal organs even mean?!

And I have to admit, I’m kind of torn on how I feel about the subject. I honestly didn’t think much beyond Tuesday morning. In fact, I didn’t even have the surgery scheduled until my first appointment with Dr. Ahadi which was….*looking at her google calendar because she can’t remember*…September 16th. As I was leaving that initial appointment we talked about the laparoscopic surgery and I remember thinking, “Sure, why wait? The sooner the better.” I mean, we finally have insurance (praise the Lord) and it’s only been 51 months of unexplained infertility…what do we have to lose?!

I didn’t consider the fact that I was having surgery. I’ve never had surgery. I wasn’t even nervous. Just a teeny bit. But not a normal-Melanie-level of nervousness. I didn’t even get queasy and passy-out-y from the IV (for the first time ever.) I didn’t consider needing recovery time, nor did I realize I probably wouldn’t be able to work or host that girls dinner or have worship practice or prayer meeting. For real, Child, I was sending emails Sunday night telling the worship team about rehearsal Wednesday, not realizing that having general anesthesia and two holes drilled into my abdomen might maybe lay me up for a little while.

Sitting amidst a pile of music and chord charts, prayerfully preparing for the week ahead. What a gift, what a responsibility. #RealLife of a #WorshipLeader

Silly me. I’m normally so prepared. I drive your dad nuts by the amount of advance planning I find necessary. I think through all the angles. Calculate. Recalculate. Double check everything.

Not this. Not surgery. I just walked into the Surgical Institute like it was a dental cleaning or something. What in the world?!

Psychologically there must be something behind all of ^that.^ Perhaps I didn’t allow myself to think ahead for fear of what this might mean. What if I didn’t have endometriosis? What if there really is no cause of my infertility? What if all of my soul-crushing cramps over the years have just been your normal-every-day-no-big-deal kind of pain, and I’m just a wussy? What if I do get pregnant? What if we’re not ready? What if, what if, what if?

So I just didn’t think. I just did it. 

I’m so glad I did. I’m so thankful that I do have endometriosis (and perhaps even PCOS…we haven’t met with the doctor for follow-up, so I have no idea what they actually found or what answers or conjectures she may have for us.) It’s just nice to have a problem to solve, as weird as that sounds. But now we’re in that weird place of hopeful-not-too-hopeful again. We want to be expectant, believing God’s hand will bring about life from this internally-altering procedure. But to have hope also allows room for more pain, more rejection.

Rock? Meet Hard Place.

But that reminds me of this old spiritual we sang in choir at SAU.

My God is a rock in a weary land, a Shelter in a time of Storm.

I suppose He’s got this.

Waiting for You. Waiting on Him.

Mama