Posted in Rambles

Fasting for Spiritual Reasons, Part 2: My Blogging Fast

Two Fridays ago, I shared about my first fast, which had nothing to do with food.  Click here to read about it.

I also made two main points:

  1. Fasting is a personal thing, and may take many different forms.
  2. Fasting can be a way to wean ourselves from things we rely on too heavily, and focus on God instead.

Another type of fast that has become quite popular (and often, necessary) is to fast from social media.  Experience has taught me, as yours probably has too, that the perils of this medium are many.  Facebook was particularly bad for me – so bad, in fact, that I’m fasting from it…well, permanently.  (That’s another story, for, perhaps, another time.)  Today, however, I would like to focus on blogging.

Many of my current readers may not be aware of my blogging history, up until this point.  I am a fairly new blogger, as you may have guessed, but this is not my first blog.  I began in 2017 with a blog entitled Little Moment Meditations.  I couldn’t believe my luck, when I started blogging – not because my blog was all that successful, but because I enjoyed it SO much!  Finally, I had found a creative outlet that was not only extremely satisfying, but also allowed me to connect and dialogue with other writers.

However, after a few months, things had gotten a little out of balance.  The amount of time and energy I was spending on my blog left me with too little of either to spend on my husband and kids.  I also noticed that I was reacting emotionally to the likes or dislikes of others concerning my writing.  Views on my stats, likes or shares on my posts, and even the exhilaration of receiving inspirations to write became ‘highs’ that I was chasing.  Behaving like an addict, my feelings spiked or plummeted sharply depending on how people were reacting to my writing, and on whether I had my next idea or not.  I knew this wasn’t healthy.  And confusing the issue, for me, was the fact that I partly viewed my blog as a ministry.  But was I actually doing it for God?  Or was I doing it for myself?

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It was the book “Secrets of the Secret Place” by Bob Sorge that enlightened this question for me.  In chapter 45, entitled “The Secret of Intimacy First,” he explains that even ministry can be like ‘wine’ when the pleasures of serving God become more important to us than our relationship with Him.  Serving God should happen as a natural response to His love.  It isn’t supposed to be about chasing the intoxication of His anointing, the accolades of people, or a ‘fix’ to help us feel worthy and valuable.  God loves us just as we are, before we’ve done anything for Him.  That’s the funny thing about God; the thing we don’t tend to expect.  He’s more interested in us, in ourselves, and in relating to us, than He is in our efforts and our work.  I am so thankful for that!

In order to let this truth soak into my bones, and to wean myself from the “highs” of blogging, I took an extended break.  About 7 months passed before I published another post.  By then I wanted a fresh start, with a slightly different feel to my blog, and “The Manitoba Mom Blog” was born.  I often visit the topics of God and spirituality, because that’s just a part of who I am.  But I’m not doing it to earn favour with God.  (I already have that…praise Him!)  And because I do have that, the opinions of my readers no longer make or break me.  (Although I appreciate all of your support, of course!)

Since most of my readers are also bloggers, I would love to hear your perspective on this topic.  Have you ever taken an intentional break from blogging?  And why?

And if you would like a more thorough explanation of the Biblical basis for fasting than what I provide here, and some of the reasons/purposes behind it, a pastor at my church has been teaching an excellent series of sermons on the topic.  Here is the link to listen to them:

https://mysouthland.com/messages#Prayer_and_Fasting/Prayer_and_Fasting

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Dead Time – Guest Post on Boondock Ramblings

“Have you ever had that sense of: “You’re done here.” – before you were actually done? A feeling of finality. Like a premonition: the book is going to close. You’re in the last few chapters. Maybe even the final pages. And you know in your bones, it’s going to end, and you will be starting another book. But first, you have to finish this one.”

To read the rest of my guest post, please visit Lisa R. Howeler’s awesome blog “Boondock Ramblings”!  Many thanks to Lisa for hosting me as a guest on her blog.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Just Snow me in Already

The other day, as I was making waffles, a glass measuring cup fell out of the cupboard onto my mixing bowl and cracked it in half.  Flour and eggs spilled onto the counter, poured down the cupboards, and pooled on the floor.  Something about flour and eggs, when they’re mixed together and spilt – they become like cement.  For about a half hour I scraped, vacuumed, scrubbed, and swept, and still didn’t get it all off.

By evening, I had recovered from my supper catastrophe.  The batter had been prepared again, after mourning the loss of four entire eggs and the fact that I would have to go out the next day and buy more to replace them.  The pudding was mixed up, the farmer sausage hurriedly fried, and the fruit chopped.  The family fed.

But I was still feeling frazzled.  I had spent the morning of that day helping in the kids’ area at my church, after which I had been at home with my own two for the afternoon.  Kids are beautiful and wonderful and energetic and wild and just about enough to drive me to madness some days.  

In all of this, there was one recompense: the weather was calling for snow.

FINALLY.

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Why ‘finally,’ you may ask?  Well, I could use a snow day.  Couldn’t you?  A door-busting blizzard, altering the world to a frigid wasteland where no one dares to venture.

School?  Nope, cancelled.  Work?  The roads aren’t safe.  Car won’t start.  Can’t get out of my driveway.  Got frostbite.  (Insert your best excuse here.)   Sorry, I won’t be in today! 

Grocery shopping?  Errands?  Appointments?  Are you crazy?  Not in this weather!

Best to just stay warm in bed.  Let the world stop for a little while.  Hunker down, wait for it to be over (or wish that it would last longer).  Message each other about it on social media.  Compare pictures of whose car is more buried, whose snow cliff around the driveway is higher after shovelling or snowblowing, whose droopy trees are prettier, and whose puffy fence post tops are puffier.  Nothing sounds nicer to me!

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I remember as a kid, a snow day just before Christmas time.  I sat and made a ‘wreath’ by tying garbage bag strips around a bent-open coat hanger.  It was marvelous.

There’s nothing like a day of unproductiveness being forced upon a person.  Especially when you’re a little tired of the chaos; when things have somehow spiralled out of control again – despite your best efforts to keep life sane.

Realistically, I know that now, as an adult, snow days aren’t the same as when I was a kid.  There may be a few lazy moments with my sons around the breakfast table, as we realize that we don’t have to rush out the door like we thought we would have to.  But otherwise, as a stay-at-home-mom, I’ll still have all the same duties and chores – maybe even more, because of that darn snow.  And for those who work outside the home, chances are slim that they would ever get the day off.  There are extension cords, block heaters, battery boosters, snow plows, winter tires, sanding trucks, and tow trucks a-plenty, leaving no real reason to stop the madness for a little while and catch your breath.  (Sigh.)  People, and their stinkin’ resourcefulness.

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But, a person can dream.  Or, at the very least, look out the window, watch the white winds rage, and come to terms with the fact that, “Hey – I could really use a break.”  Because we could, right?  Probably, most of us could.

Have you gotten any real snow dumps yet?  When’s your next vacation?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Fasting for Spiritual Reasons, Part 1: My First Fast

At the church I attend, January of each year is a month of prayer and fasting.  This was new to me a few years ago, but thanks to the teaching and direction the church has provided, it has become something that I look forward to.  There’s still a lot about fasting that I don’t understand.  But today, and in the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts and experiences on the topic.

First, I’ll tell you about what I believe was my very first fast.  It may not be what you think, because it had nothing to do with food.  It was a fast from shopping.  Some may find this laughable, but it highlights one of the points I am trying to emphasize: fasting is a personal thing, and takes many different forms.  There aren’t ‘rules,’ and you certainly can’t judge the quality or value of another person’s fast because it may seem ‘easy’ to you.  A fast from shopping, at the time, was hard for me and helped me to grow in my character.  On the other hand, a fast from video games or alcohol would have been a breeze – I don’t really use those things anyway.  But that kind of fast may be difficult for others.

In the same way, one person may fast from food for one or two meals, and another may fast for three or more days.  They are all valid.  Each person knows what will stretch them and cause them to lean on God for strength, and the Holy Spirit will lead you into the type of fast He knows that you need.

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I didn’t actually call it a ‘fast’ when I quit shopping.  I was in my early 20s, and I loved clothes.  I did my best to keep up with the latest trends.  But they come and go very quickly, and if you’re going to stay current, you’ll spend a lot of time and money doing so.  If you purchase the top, you’ll need the pants to go with it.  Which need the shoes, which need the jacket, which need the purse, which need the necklace.  It’s never-ending.  The wardrobe will never be complete!  It’s a brilliant business strategy on the part of clothing designers, isn’t it?

Since I was newly married, and we lived on a miniscule income, I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue like this.  I also didn’t like the way I never felt satisfied with what I had, even though I had lots of clothes.  I thought about clothes more often than I should have, and wondered if it was becoming an obsession.  I knew that the only way to stop my constant craving for material things, would be to avoid going to malls altogether – for a time.  I didn’t know how long it would take, but I made an inner commitment to stay away from them until I felt some freedom from my impulsive wants.

Looking back, I now realize that this was a form of a fast.  1 Corinthians 6:12 says: “‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything.”

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Fasting can be a way to wean ourselves from the otherwise good things in our lives, that we have come to rely on too heavily.  They monopolize too much of our thoughts, time, or efforts, and they stand in the way of God’s work within us.  This is a form of idolatry.  An idol is anything taking a place that rightfully belongs to God.  When we put limits on these things, or even cut them out entirely, we free up much-needed breathing room in our schedules and often-distracted thoughts.  This may leave a void at first, but if we give our emptiness to the Holy Spirit, pressing into Him through activities such as meditation on scripture, prayer, or worship, we will sharpen our awareness of His movements and His words.  He may even free us from wanting so badly the things that we desired before.

I would say that my shopping fast was successful because, after a few months of avoiding shopping malls, they weren’t such a draw for me any more.  Now, I select clothes very carefully based on my actual needs.  I still want them to look nice and be current, but I choose practical items that suit the way I live, and I don’t spend more than I should on them.  I don’t worry about trying to follow every trend that I see.  What a relief!  This frees up much-needed energy that I can now spend on other things.

I’ve heard of people fasting from all kinds of things besides food.  Social media is a big one – which I’m planning to talk about in an upcoming post.  Anything that occupies a large space in your life can become something to fast from: TV, perhaps, or video games, or other hobbies (like blogging!).  Some people, who really love to exercise, have even fasted from that.  (This wouldn’t be relevant for me…haha!)

If you want to fast from something other than food, you may ask yourself: Is there anything that has a stronger hold on me than I would like it to?  The first thing that pops into your head, may very well be the answer.  How much time, energy, or perhaps even money would be saved by giving it up for a time?  And what would you like to do with the surplus?

Have you ever fasted from something other than food?  What was it?  I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Until next time, warm wishes, and happy fasting, if you choose to do so!

Lisa

Posted in Meditations

Love Blockers

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 ESV

Well, the holidays are nearly over.  Feeling a little grumpy?  Feeling overwhelmed?  I know I am.  Clutter, noise, excitement, being away from home, socializing, and breaking from the gentle routines that soothe me will leave me feeling depleted.  I see it in my kids, too.  Yesterday my 3 year old cried nearly the entire day and didn’t seem to know how to do anything except get into trouble.  My 8 year old didn’t want to leave the couch (and I didn’t make him).  They both went to bed an hour ahead of their usual bedtimes.

I didn’t do much better – just drifted around the house, and very slowly picked up, sorted through, or cleaned the aftermath of all our merriment – trying to ease my anxiety by restoring order.  (First world problems, right?)

Christmas was fun, but man, we’re tired.

And it’s at times like this that we’ll lose sight of why we did it all in the first place.

Why did we celebrate Christmas?  Isn’t it all about love?  Jesus and His love, and the way we’re all supposed to love each other?

I don’t always feel like being loving.  As I laid in bed the other night, I confessed this.  And I asked the Lord: what is blocking me?

The answers may lie in a chapter of the Bible that has been made famous by weddings everywhere.  But let us be clear: these words are not only for weddings!  They hold the keys to the things that trip us up; that throw us off of our love game.

Impatience

“Are you done or not?” “Hurry up.” “Either do this or I’ll do it for you.”

Few things tax my patience like assisting a 3 year old with his frequent, long-drawn-out, slow-pokey trips to the bathroom.

But patience, is what is required.  Impatience, is a love-blocker.

Envy

Don’t even get me started on this one.  Everywhere I look, there is something to envy.  Homes, relationships, physical attributes, clothes, wealth, success, talent, recognition, vacations, accomplishments…even spiritual experiences!

It’s a daily struggle.  It’s a love blocker.

My way or no way

“It’s fine if you want to get together, but if it’s not on my schedule, then too bad.”

“Oh gross, didn’t we eat (fill in the blank) last year?”

“What a lousy gift.  Why did they even bother?”

“There’s no way I’m driving that far.”

Let me be clear, personal boundaries are allowed.  If you can’t accommodate the way others want you to do things, there is a way to decide that with a clear head (after you confess your offense/anger to God and let it go).  And then, to communicate your decision to them kindly.

But getting in a huff over it, and holding on to resentment, and NEVER being willing to adjust your plans or preferences to accommodate those of others?  Major love blockers.

Rejoicing at wrongdoing

“Uh, what’s that juicy bit?  Tell it again, I may have missed it.”

Proverbs 18:8 (NIV) says that “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.”  I think this is a very vivid, pointed verse.  Are you familiar with that little leap of excitement you feel on the inside, when you hear about some kind of scandal?  Especially if it’s someone you’re angry with or envious of, because their wrongdoing or misfortune either substantiates your position, or makes you feel better about yourself.

I am learning to check my heart, and if there’s anything in there besides love and concern for the person being spoken of, not participate in the conversation.

Impatience, envy, “my way or no way,” and rejoicing at wrongdoing.  4 major love blockers.  I’m acquainted with them…are you?

Response

Lord, I confess that I’m rarely as loving as I want to be.  Thank you for these verses, which help me to understand some of the reasons why.  I’m sorry for being impatient, envious, wanting my own way, and rejoicing at wrongdoing.  You are the only one who can help me to conquer these things, so I ask you to help me, please.

I know that to me, nothing feels better than being truly and genuinely loved.  Please give me the capacity to extend that to others, in an authentic way, so they can experience the amazing feeling of being loved, and so I can be of good use to your purposes while I am here on earth.

Amen.

Posted in Rambles

5 Sanity-Savers for the Month of January

Well, here we go – out of the freeze, and into the deep freeze.  Or in other words – out of December, and into January.  January and February may not be longer than any other two month block, but sometimes they feel like they go on forever.

On the plus side, our winter thus far in Manitoba has been fairly mild.  There was about a week in December when the temperature scarcely rose above -20 degrees Celsius.  But other than that it has been very bearable, with not too much snow.  Over Christmas time it has been about -5 or -6 during the day, so I’ve even been able to steal a few moments outside with the kids.  If I can be opportunistic about getting outside when it’s warmer, the winter doesn’t feel nearly as long.

Nonetheless, keeping a positive outlook this time of year can be a challenge for me.  So rather than plug my ears, close my eyes, and pretend it’s not coming, I may as well face it head-on!  Here are some things I’m planning to do in the upcoming month, to give myself something to look forward to and stay in my best possible health – physically, mentally, and spiritually.

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1. Prayer and fasting

This is a tradition in my church for January of each year, and something we focus on as a community all month long.  At first, to be honest, I thought it was kind of a bummer.  But after participating in it for a few years now, I have come to look forward to it.  It’s a great way to “detoxify” from all of the excess and noise that may accompany Christmas time.  And I think there’s no better way to begin the year, than by focusing deliberately and intentionally on prayer and intimacy with God.

Fasting may take many shapes and forms, and may be done for a variety of spiritual and physical reasons.  I have some thoughts about it, which I’m planning to share on the blog sometime in the coming month.

2. Exercise

I’m not a fitness buff by any stretch of the imagination.  But I have to put this one on the list because if I don’t make a point of it, I simply won’t do it – especially in winter.  And I know how much better I feel when I do exercise.

In the town where I used to live, there was a sign outside a physiotherapist’s office that said “Exercise is medicine.”  I drove by it several times per week, and I suppose the message has been imprinted on my mind.  Because that’s exactly what I tell myself, each time I get on the treadmill: “Time to take my medicine!”  If I think about it that way, I don’t go overboard with expectations of bodily changes, or requirements to do more and more each time.  “It’s just my medicine.”  I want to feel good, stay as healthy as I can, be strong to take care of my family, and maybe even do some other things too.  If 30 minutes per day at a brisk walk can help with all that, well…it’s definitely worth it!

3. Salad, salad, and more salad

I really love salads.  All kinds of salads.  And in January, I try to trick myself into thinking it’s summer by filling my shopping cart with several types of green leaves.  Sometimes I even indulge in things I wouldn’t normally have on hand to put in my salads: avocados, kale, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, etc.

This kind of goes along with the fasting thing, because I don’t often do a complete and total food fast for very long.  It doesn’t agree with me…I feel ill, headachy, and faint…or, perhaps, I’m just a wimp.  Either way, I usually end up doing a partial fast, like eating only fruits and vegetables for a time.  We sometimes call this a “Daniel fast” because it’s similar to how the Bible says Daniel ate when he was taken to Babylon (see Daniel chapter 1).  Salads come in really handy if I decide to do this kind of fasting.

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4. This blog

This blog is a huge sanity saver for me.  It is my creative outlet, and what I do for a break from housekeeping, cooking, and taking care of kids.  It gives me a chance to slow down, process my thoughts and feelings, and create something from them.  It’s a platform from which I can find people with whom I have things in common.  I can learn from and enjoy the posts of others.  And I just love it when someone puts into words exactly what I have been feeling or experiencing!  I’m not alone, I’m not the only one!

As I mentioned before, I’ll probably put up a few posts in January on the topic of fasting.  In February, I have a post entitled “Groundhog Day” that some may find a little dark, but hey – we all have dark moments.  A couple of poems, perhaps, including one for Valentine’s Day.  Otherwise, there will be some room for sponaneity: those topics that spring up, seemingly out of the blue, and keep me up at night until I write them down.  Realistically, I may miss a week from time to time, but I feel like I have enough of a plan for the next two months to keep me reasonably on track.  It will be a great distraction from the long winter.

5. Trying something new

I’ll be starting a new music therapy contract in January, which will also be a great thing to occupy my thoughts and energy.  I haven’t done music therapy in a few years now, but this contract is small, so it’s a good way to get my feet wet again.  It’s also in a school!  This has me over the moon, because it’s been my goal from the beginning to work in schools.  Those jobs, however, are hard to come by.  I’m very grateful for the opportunity.

All things considered, I think I have a lot to look forward to as we move into January.  No matter how cold it may get!

What are the next two months looking like for you?  Do you have specific plans for your blog, or for yourself?  What’s the weather been like where you live?  I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes for an excellent 2020!

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Making Peace with the Messy

I had all kinds of thoughts about publishing a post this week with pictures of the pretty Christmas things around my home – the tree, the wreath on the door, our little penguin collection, and the advent calendar that our kids love.  Maybe I would get a batch of cookies baked and take a picture of them, too.

But first, I would have to adjust the tree ornaments the kids have moved around.  Pick up the ones that have dropped on the floor.  Smooth out the tree skirt.  Clean up the mish-mash of blankets, pillows, and teddy bears surrounding the tree.  Push aside the dirty dishes to reveal the advent calendar sitting on the counter behind them.  Glue together the decorations that have broken.  And so on, and so on.

Which got me to thinking about something more interesting, to me, than those picture-perfect Christmas displays: the messes.  Not awful kinds of messes, but the big, beautiful ones that come along with lives being lived.  The messes that you see when you enter the home of a family that has young children.  Gravel on the entrance floor.  Dishes on the counter, and maybe the remnants of lunch.  Toys scattered about.  Small people dashing from room to room.  Half-way completed craft projects shoved into corners.  Pieces of laundry to trip over.

I get embarrassed when my house looks like that, if anyone unexpectedly drops by.  However, if I walk into another person’s house, and it looks like that, I breathe a sigh of relief.  Ah…they, too, are normal.  I don’t think about how they should have picked up the mess before I dropped by.  I marvel at the messes – at the stories the messes tell.  The kinds of foods their children like (or don’t like), and the dishes they eat (or don’t eat) out of.  The creativity displayed by their projects on-the-go.  The powdering of flour and icing sugar on the floor, and the smell of cookies hanging in the air.  What they had been doing outside, before their wet mittens and boots were hurriedly deposited at the door.

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My son attends a weekly kids’ club at our church.  I feel a little overwhelmed, when I walk into that room to pick him up.  8 year-old boys hardly ever stop moving, so the entire place seems to shift ceaselessly, like an anthill.  The air is saturated with the smell of laundry soap and fabric softener, because the kids keep so busy that their bodies heat up and release the fragrances of their clothes.  There are, er…other smells too – some not so pleasant.

And in the midst of it all, are the volunteer leaders.  Adults in the mix of children, a couple at each table.  They smile, and chat with the kids, and make sure they’re not causing too much trouble or getting hurt.  They seem relaxed – tired, perhaps – but at home within the big, beautiful mess.

It makes me think of God.  Isn’t that kind of how He is, in-amongst the big, beautiful mess of people He has created?  Read through the Bible, and you will find things in there that would make most Sunday school teachers cringe.  It is messy business, this thing He is doing.  But He’s committed!  So much so, that He made His home within the mess that we all are.

It’s not always pretty, or clean, or orderly.  But it’s real, and amazing.  It’s Christmas!

With the warmest of wishes for a big, messy, beautiful Christmas –

Lisa