We're in for a treat today. I've invited my friend, Heidi St. John, to tell it to us straight. Because it's hard to parent gently and from a place of peace and calm when we're bouncing around on the dramatic waves of our feelings every day! Are you addicted to drama? Is it effecting the way you parent? The way you feel? The way you walk through life? And are you exhausted by it all?Read More
Our guest today is very special to me. In fact, Christy Nueman has taught me more about Praying and Fasting, and therefore seeing God in the everyday moments of a simple life, than anyone else. More than any book, any blog post, any other friend. And so, I find today's story especially sweet because, in a way, I had the same experience her son had... I saw the way his mother would fast and pray, and the joy she received coming to the Lord this way, and I wanted to emulate her as well.
Fasting Like a Child, by Christy Nueman
My 6-year old son matter-of-factly announced, "I'm going to pray and fast. No bananas for 4-days."
I stopped talking mid-sentence. Silence settled. I shot a sideways glance across the dinner table. My husband stiffened like a bronze statue. He stared at the ceiling. His forehead crinkled and eyebrows furrowed.
I sipped some water to stall. My head felt like a 15 pound bowling ball resting on my clinched fist. Questions flooded my mind. Can a child fast? Does he know what fasting means? What will he do without his favorite snack for 4-days?
My son swallowed his last bite of buttered pasta. “Mom, I’m all done. Can I have dessert now?”
He started fidgeting in the chair. I stammered, “Sure, sweetheart. We’ll have dessert soon. But are you sure you want to fast? You know that means no bananas for 4-days.”
He confidently answered, "Yeah. I want to fast because I want to get this close to God." He pushed his pudgy palms firmly together to emphasize, “this close”. Somehow with those four words—THIS CLOSE TO GOD—our simple supper became sacred.
I locked eyes with my son. His hazel eyes beamed. Mine brimmed with tears.
“When do you want to start?” I asked.
“Tomorrow” he answered.
And he didn’t eat a single banana for the next 4-days.
Almost immediately, we saw the Lord begin to move in unusual ways during and after our little one's fast. Funny to me, he gave up fruit and suddenly we saw spiritual fruit in his life. However, this ripe “fruit” initially looked blemished and bruised.
Let me explain. About a week after his 4-day “no bananas” fast, my son got sick. We had just moved cross-country and my husband was on an extended business trip. I sent a desperate SOS text to a brand-new friend in my neighborhood. And before I knew it, she dropped off a bunch of bananas, a coloring book and medicine at my doorstep. I had only asked for prayer. And like a flash flood this storm-of-sickness passed.
A couple days later my son scribbled a single sentence. He read it out loud, “I can see Jesus.”
I scooted next to him and said, “You know. That’s like the verse from Matthew 5:8. Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.”
Then a thought illuminated my mind like a bolt of lightning. It was an image of Jesus calming my son’s storm-of-sickness—just like He calmed the furious squall on the Sea of Galilee for His fearful disciples.
My heart instantly warmed. Praise pulsed from my head to my toes. I exhaled deeply and blurted out, “Hey! Do you remember right after you fasted bananas for 4-days you got really sick? And I sent that prayer request to my friend and she brought you that big bunch of bananas. We didn’t even ask for bananas.”
His eyes widened. A gradual grin formed and he said, “Yeah, yeah! I remember. That’s a miracle!” I nodded whole-heartedly.
Yes, I do believe God performs miracles every day—miracles ordinary and extraordinary. Sometimes I think the greatest miracle is awareness of the nearness of our “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Dear Friends, are you in need of a miracle? Are you needing to sense the nearness of God in your life? Fasting improves our spiritual senses. Just like looking through a magnifying glass helps us see an object in greater detail—fasting magnifies God. We begin to see God everywhere—His presence, power, peace, provision, and protection our lives. Jesus was called Immanuel which translated means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). And He promises us, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
Do you want to see a miracle? Have you considered joining this fast?
Today marks day 24 of this “no sugar” fast. which means that if you start today, you have a glorious (albeit challenging) 16 days ahead of you! It’s not too late for you to join.
Maybe you’ve heard about this fast from family and friends, but you’ve thought, “This isn’t the best time for me. I’ve never fasted before. And I can’t possibly fast from sugar that long.” But you just can’t silence that persistent urging to give it a try. Join us!
Or perhaps you began this fast leading the pack, but you stopped because of stress or sickness. And now you feel disqualified. Let me assure you there is nothing that can make you ineligible to fast. Join us!
But if you’re still not convinced that fasting is for you, can I tell you a funny fasting faux pas?
When I casually mentioned this 40-day fast to my husband, he looked hesitant. But without wavering, my son said, “Yeah, Daddy! Let’s all fast together!” He couldn’t resist my son’s infectious enthusiasm. So fasting became a family affair.
However on the first day of the 40-day fast my Kindergartener bashfully admitted he ate a cupcake at school. So we made this age-appropriate exception: our son’s fast started when he got home every day.
And this is good news for two reasons: God’s grace never changes and there’s not just one-way to fast. Keep in mind that Biblical fasting is going without food, but other examples of fasting are abstaining from things like: sugar, caffeine, alcohol, TV, social media, sleep and even sex for a period of time.
After his cupcake confession, my son looked deeply into my eyes and said, “Well, I think it’s going to take two or three fasts for me to get really close to God.”
I paused and prayed for wise words. “You know. God loves you so much. And He is always with you. But in this life, we’ll always desire to feel closer to God—no matter how many times we pray and fast. Our earthly eyes can only see God like a dim reflection in a mirror, but in heaven we’ll have new eyes that can see Him.”
My son’s eyes brightened and he said, “I can’t wait to see Jesus!” And in the very next breath he said, “Mom, will you make me snickerdoodle cookies when this fast is over?”
I tickled his tummy. Tiny giggles erupted.
“Of course, I will!” I answered. And I sealed the deal by kissing his round cheek.
Lord, I want to see miracles. Help me to walk by faith not by sight. I desire supernatural eyesight to see You working all things together for good in my current life storm. Teach me lasting lessons from this simple story about fasting like a child. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child…For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” 1 Corinthians 13:11, 12 (NKJV)
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’” Matthew 18:1-5 (NIV)
Don't you agree? Isn't Christy just the most darling example to follow as we tentatively learn to draw near to God in this new way? Of course, she'd blush in my literal Living Room if we were all sitting around together today. But here in this virtual space... I can gush as much as I please!
Christy Nueman lives a simple life deep-in-the-heart of Texas with her college sweetheart and son. She’s passionate about marriage, motherhood and ministry. She’s co-founder of A.B.I.D.E. Adoption and Infertility Ministry and on the Board of Directors for Sarah's Laughter. She warmly welcomes guest bloggers from all seasons of life to share their stories on her blog called The Write Season.
I met Julie last fall when I came across her engaging blog series The Poetry of Raising Boys. Because I sort of love poetry & have three boys - and she loves poetry & has 2 boys, we figured we were destined for friendship. Therefore, having her join us today in my virtual Living Room is especially fun. My only heartbreak is that SHE DIDN'T WRITE THIS POST IN RHYMING COUPLETS! Next time, she promises!
"A shadow of the real – spiritual truths from physical cravings" guest post by Julie Kieras
He leaned in and whispered, “Do you want some ice cream?” After a hard night of getting the boys to bed, my one thought was, We deserve this time together... and a treat!
So he handed me two scoops of in a porcelain bowl. It wasn't just cold and creamy sweetness, this ice cream spoke LOVE to my soul. My husband's love language is service and he was serving me ice cream. Yes, please. Before I could think “sugar fast” I'd already dug in, a slow savor of each cool drop.
Oops. Sugar fast, right?
When Wendy proposed a 40 Day Sugar-Fast a few weeks ago, I thought, “I’ve done the Whole30. This’ll be a cake walk!” Ah, but see, there’s the rub. No sooner do I commit to being off sugar, then I bring up… cake!? (Apparently, I have a serious sweet tooth.) I should have known up front that this was going to be a challenge, but I jumped onboard, expecting things to run smoothly. And they did. For the first couple of days I was pleased with my success. I purposefully left the sugar out of my coffee, said “no thanks” to a friend’s offer of a mint, and drove by the coffee shop (because their offerings of blended-frozen-caffeines would certainly be my undoing).
Yet here I am, 19 days in, confessing with chagrin the times I’ve caved. When the cravings won out.
When I read this post here about falling off the wagon, I was both smitten and encouraged by the idea that “life doesn’t just happen.” That bowl of ice cream, that's just one example of the excuses I made. But there's always an excuse. And I always have choices.
That was sobering. So I've been thinking through it all - nearly halfway in.
What was so important about having that ice cream? Why did I out of habit drop a spoon of sugar in my coffee without realizing it? Why did I choose to indulge instead of deny? What were those choices saying about my life, my dependencies, and in turn, my walk with God?
Immediately I berated myself for how I'd failed at self-control, but then I read this and found my ability to do this religious thing was never God's heart for me:
He wants me fixed on Him - on what He has to teach me throughout the fast.
As I sat there beating myself up for the times I stumbled, God showed me I had the wrong focus… I kept looking at the choices, the food, the results, and those things in my control. But that was never God's plan for me at all. He wanted to talk to me about my deep desire for perfection, and that natural instinct I have to gut-it-out in my own strength… that's what He wants to do in me. The food was just a shadow of the real heart stuff He was getting at.
“How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)
David clearly saw the connection between physical experiences and spiritual experiences - physical sustenance mirroring our deep spiritual hunger! My deep hunger. The physical world simply a dim shadow, a hazy reflection of what is to come.
Therefore, let us look closely, then, through the lens of food, at our spiritual lives.
Bodies naturally crave sweetness, just as souls were created to crave the sweetness of His fellowship. Jesus spoke of "those who hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) and we believe it, so let us look to both sides of this same coin. Just as we were “made to crave” physical sweetness when we have emotional needs... can we learn to feast on His righteousness instead?
- I’m sad.
- I’m distracted.
- I’m being social.
- I deserve a treat
- I’m taking a break
Can the reality of our natural cravings prompt us to consume Spiritual nourishment? Wow! What a thought! So much simpler than figuring out what spiritual cravings look like and feel like. That sounds very elusive, don't you think?
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, my God... (Psalm 42:1)
No, actually, I don't have holy cravings all the time. And I can't seem to manufacture them either! But what if we use these physical cravings to remind us of the deep spirit-cravings that are harder to identify?
When my husband serves me that delicious, decadent bowl of ice cream… I am overcome by a raw desire to taste the sweet… so much so that I cannot resist… I want to desire Christ like that. But until I do... I'm asking God to use these hunger pangs like an invitation... To feast on Him, draw near to Him, to “taste and see” how very good He is.
I am most grateful for the physical blessings the Lord gives. For the pleasure of food. But I need to be careful that the pleasure of life doesn’t distract me from indulging in pleasure for the soul. Life, and all its sweetmeats, can never fill me.
I’ve had failures in this fast, maybe you have too, but I’m not going to let the failures overshadow the lessons. Remember, this fast is just a shadow... pointing us to the only One who can ever truly satisfy.
As much as I love a bowl of ice cream, and it satisfies my “sweet tooth,” that too is just a shadow of the spiritual sweetness I can enjoy in His Presence.
Crave Christ. Give in to the sweetness of His Words. But until you do... let the earthly cravings point you to Him. I'll be chasing hard right along with you.
*Written in collaboration with Wendy Speake!
Julie is a former English teacher turned boy-mom. She entertains the idea of a novel in her head, while making up her own lyrics to popular nursery songs to entertain her young boys. In between the mess, she has a heart’s desire to see her family and home grow happy and strong in their faith. She writes about natural living, raising kids in faith, family activities, and motherhood musings at happystronghome.com
I was a very young woman when the realization came upon me, that this Christian life ought to be lived EXPECTANTLY. Single and struggling with contentment, the word stuck. In all the aches and crevices, I knew my God was kind, and deep within my bones I held the blessed assurance of His eternal nearness, and so, I came to expect good and not evil from His hand each day. Even when I could not perceive the good I began to expect it.
Expect it. Expectant.
ex·pect·ant / ikˈspektənt/ (adjective) having or showing an excited feeling that something is about to happen, especially something pleasant and interesting. (noun) a person who anticipates receiving something, especially high office.
It's an adjective, an experience, a way of life; living this way, with hope and sweet anticipation. But it's a noun too, a person, with eyes upturned and heart inclined.
It is also the word we choose to describe a woman, getting ready to receive into her heart and home a newborn babe.
Today, I am pleased to introduce you to my friend, Julie Sanders, who has devoted page after page and prayer after prayer to this latter definition, the expecting mother. However, today amidst the Christmas season, Julie is helping us each to slow down and take a lesson from Mary - the expectant mother of our Lord.
Welcome to this Living Room space, Julie Sanders
No experience has the power to stir a woman’s hopes like that of becoming a mother. Whether she enters in through adoption, infertility, or traditional pregnancy, a mother learns to sacrifice her expectations for the gift of raising a child. Instead of being paralyzed by the sudden uncertainty motherhood brings, confidence can be found in knowing, “There will never be a time when our children are out of God’s sight or apart from His presence,” (from EXPECTANT, Calling the Shots). Every journey is unique, but every heart is expectant.
Her betrothal was still fresh when her expectations dissolved in the light of the angel’s arrival. To be old enough to be promised was to be mature enough to bear a child. Before Mary even had time to adjust to changes in her own body or warm up to the name “Joseph,” everything she anticipated fell away. There would be no joyous gathering of girlhood friends, envious of her new status. None of the other girls wanted to swell with a child before uniting with a husband.
At the first sign of a change, Mary was troubled and frightened. She had questions. Before she had time to learn the physical ways of womanhood or enjoy intimacy with a man, her body would be taken over for purposes bigger than she could conceive. “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. ‘”(Luke 1:30)
Most of us have plans for this Christmas season. No one anticipates interruptions like job loss or a life lost. Unexpected events never appear on our wish list. Advent readings rarely dwell on our suffering. But when our expectations are erased and our decisions dissolve, God has the opportunity to display His grander plan. He takes our hand, leading us to unwelcoming inns, simple stable accommodations, and to exile in our Egypts. Our Father lets us glimpse the greater glory found when life encircles the Prince of Peace.
Motherhood causes our expectations to fall away. From the moment young Mary received her angelic message, nothing unfolded as she imagined, but she found the greater glory in God’s greater plan. “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
We must hold loosely to our expectations, for Christmas will probably not be according to our plans. Let’s look for God’s greater glory with hearts that are expectant.
Father God, I want to treasure Your actions in my life that bring about the glory of being part of Your story. Help me hold my expectations loosely and welcome your better plans for me.
Julie lives where tea is sweet and grits are cheesy. She and her husband of 25 years have two nearly grown kids. EXPECTANT: 40 Devotions for New and Expectant Moms was born when God brought a group of young couples into their lives, just as they began to long to grow their families. Julie loves to teach God’s word to women in her hometown and across the globe; she is passionate about fighting human trafficking and helping women of all tribes and tongues find God’s peace for life. Check out Julie’s blog home Come Have a Peace (www.juliesanders.org) and Marriage Mondays to find reasons for peace and information about her ministry. EXPECTANT is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ComeHaveaPeace Twitter: @JulieSanders_ Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/juliesanders_/