Two Weeks In

This Thursday, October 31st, marks two weeks since our worlds were turned upside down by three children ages 3, 2 and 1.

Some things we knew to expect. Other things we had no idea. All of it has been more than worth it.
We have been blessed by our community, blessed by friends, blessed by family, and wrapped in a sort of love that words simply can not explain. There have been dinners provided, free babysitting, clothing donated, diapers delivered, car seats installed, and gift cards/money received. The prayers have been felt and continue to be felt and needed.

In the past two weeks, we've ventured out to Chik-Fil-A and the park as a family of five. I have managed to get all three littles dressed and to school (by myself) by 8:30am. Justin has managed to get all three little to sleep by himself; he has also managed to pick up all three littles from school (by himself) and has ventured out to the McDonald's PlayPlace with only the three littles. Clearly, he is the braver of the two of us.

We constantly (or maybe I just constantly) find ourselves wondering how we can keep this up. Three littles, two dogs, two full-time working adults, and one part-time graduate student. And yet... Here we are.

We made the decision, before these three walked into our house, that we would be committed. To them and to the plan that DHS decides to pursue. When asked how long we will have these three, our answer is silly but honest "a few months to forever."

And really, it could be just a few weeks. There's simply no knowing. This is both comforting and terrifying.
At the end of the day, it's not up to Justin nor I to save these three. It's not up to any foster parent to save any child. All we can do is stand in the gap and love the children in foster care with a fierceness that stays with them long after they leave our homes - even if they don't quite understand that love or remember our names or faces.

Our three littles, Baby T, Little C and Little A, were apprehensive (at best) when they first walked through our doors. Their eyes were wide, and it was evident that they didn't know exactly who we were or what was happening. Justin and I decided to call one another by our first name's when talking to the littles and talking about one another to the littles. They, however, decided we were Mama and Daddy.

All three have come out of their shells in the less than two weeks we've known them and loved them. We've discovered Little A loves to dance. She only falls asleep after I tell her a story and pray with her. She asks where I am if Justin picks them up at daycare without me. She will try any vegetable but spits out anything that isn't corn (and also picks through her food when I hide vegetables in it - like spinach in spaghetti and peas in macaroni and cheese).
Little C got sick over the weekend with a double ear infection. He is the most sensitive of the three, so we're trying to tailor our parenting to better meet his needs. He likes to fall asleep with someone stroking his hair (or his face). His favorite food is strawberry yogurt and he will lick the container empty.

Baby T is just now 18 months. He is still crawling though he will take the occasional step so long as he thinks no one is watching. His favorite thing to do is play with the remote controls and mess up whatever Little A is watching and also to crawl up and down the stairs. He also likes to "race" me up the stairs at night. He will eat just about anything, but he loves to feed the majority of his food to our dogs.

The past {almost} two weeks have been anything but perfect. I constantly feel as though I'm in over my head. I question every parenting decision, every conversation, and even the outfit choices. I wonder about the birth parents and how they're handling all this transition. I pray multiple times throughout the day.

It would be easy to walk away. Easy in the sense that life could return to normal. I could study whenever I wanted. It would be no problem to simply run out for dinner or for ice cream or for coffee. We could enjoy date nights throughout the week.
But the thing is, even with as stressful as this all can be, the last thing I want to do is walk away.

I have a lot of peace about our decision to foster these three. Justin regularly remarks how this all feels as though it was meant to be, and I have to agree. We're not looking too far into the future and are instead enjoying now and enjoying the stability we can provide for Baby T, Little A and Little C.


Jumping Back Into Foster Care

I stumbled across the Mother Theresa quote pictured above a few days ago, and it resonated with me. The words reminded me of how important it is for us all to live missionally and reach out to others. Then, I listened to a sermon regarding the purpose of life by Jen Hatmaker on Sunday morning, and it hit me in a way I needed. Both Mother Theresa's and Jen Hatmaker's words were a reminder that we are created to do things - not to just think about what we should do or to find our calling in work and home life. But instead we find our calling in Jesus and then we go do.

On Sunday evening, I sent an email to our foster care worker and explained that we were ready to open our home back up. We requested one child but said we could consider two children under the right circumstances.

The call came Monday morning - not even a full twenty-four hours since our re-commitment to foster care. There were three children - all under the age of three. And then the question "would we consider taking them?"

I wanted to say no. But I also found myself wanting to say yes. Sometimes you have moments of clarity and all of sudden you just know this is an adventure you are supposed to take. This was one of those moments. I explained that we would likely be open to two children but that I wasn't sure about three. I said I would talk to my husband and see what I could discover about child care.

And then I took to Facebook. Within minutes, I was flooded with tangible support from friends. Offers to help clean, offers to cook, questions of what do we need, and I knew we couldn't say no. I also found a daycare, within minutes of our house, willing to take all three children. It took a few more hours for my husband to call back, and when he did, he said he also felt like he couldn't say no.

So we said yes.

The children are supposed to be placed on Thursday evening. We still don't quite have everything we need. Some items we had before have gone missing, and we are trying to replace those while also trying to acquire more big ticket items - like a toddler bed, a dresser and changing table combo, car seats and a glider/rocking chair. And then there are the items we will need lots and lots of - diapers, food, bottles, formula, milk.

It's not the children being placed with us that is overwhelming me. It's the money and the things. It's all the questions of how are going to afford this or that. I understand the concept of God giving me (and us) the strength to do all things, but I struggle to grasp the concept of Him also providing in other ways.

So I'm leaning into Him. I'm praying for wisdom. And I'm just praying - period. Because this journey we're taking is not one to be entered into lightly. This journey is not one that makes any sense. And this journey is one we wouldn't have picked for ourselves. God, though, has picked it for us.

We wouldn't be taking this all on if it weren't for the friendships we've been blessed with. In the past 10 months, we've grown close to so many and found true community with some of the most generous and caring people. We've also received grace and offers of assistance from friends of the old. And we've been overwhelmed - knowing that God's hand is truly on this adventure.

Neither Justin nor I like to ask for help. We'll gladly take it but reaching out and saying "hey we need THIS" is not something we're particularly good at. Our pride is being left out in the cold now, and we are actively seeking help. Just last night, Justin said he doesn't feel guilty asking for help now - not like we have in the past - because this is an instance in which we'll need more help than we could ever even ask for.


The 7 Challenge - Day Eleven {Food}

Today is the eleventh day of the 7 Challenge and the twelfth day of The Nester's 31 Day Challenge. I consider writing each and every single day, but words continue to fail me. It seems I am going through an identity crisis of sorts with writing and with blogging.

You would think that after so many years of writing and of blogging (or at least keeping an online journal of sorts) this wouldn't happen. But what I'm learning and discovering through my own personal mutiny against excess is that there is nothing that I can do to feel prepared for every single life situation. I also am learning that I will never be done growing or changing or learning who I am.

Life is rather settled right now. My husband and I are enjoying our house. We're spending time together, and time apart, and searching both of ourselves. We're both realizing that life needs meaning. Not a meaning that comes from anything I could do or that he could do. But a meaning that comes from a God who loves us enough to bring discomfort to our lives and loves us enough to go after all the heart issues that we like to hide from.

There was a time when I craved settled. When all I wanted was to come to a point in my life where everything was going well, where I didn't have to worry about the future, where I was able to simply breathe and live my life.

Now? I'm craving change. But I don't want just any change. I want the change, the adventure, that God is calling me to.

The problem is that I don't exactly know what the change and adventure is. And I'm hesitant to dip my toe into just any change or adventure for fear of getting hurt and for fear of chasing after the wrong thing.

I'll never really know what the change and adventure is that God has for me, though, if I continue to reside in my settled life. If I simply wait for clear direction, the kind that lends absolute certainty to what my next steps should be, I'll live the rest of my life being settled, safe, and not truly learning what God has in store for me.

It comes out in a million little ways. School. Discovering my calling in social work. Foster care. Adoption. Even weight loss.

All of these things I first did because I wanted to do them. But there's no point in any of these things without first looking to God.

I want to work hard at school to bring glory to Him. I want to work in the world and provide a light of any kind to the people I come into contact with. I want to draw my strength to foster from Him. I want the stories of our adoptions (and oh how I am ready to adopt sweet babies) to reflect His story of adoption. Because adoption is not just about the baby but it's about every individual involved.

And weight loss? It's not so I can look a certain way but so that I am healthy and can carry out His calling on my life for as many more days as He might give me.

7 is a stepping stone. An annoying one at times but a stepping stone still. It's the first, and only, time I've truly sought God in a tangible way. A tangible way in which I'm living out my faith every single second of the day.

Six years ago, as an almost college senior, I traveled to China and needed to depend on God there, but in a way, that was easier. I was out of my comfort zone. I was forced into a new land where I was a foreigner. I needed God to make it through that. I didn't have any comforts to fall back on or any luxuries to seek out. I had an uncomfortable bed, clothes that I left in Beijing due to being stretched out, and no way to escape.

But here? I have a comfortable bed, Amazon Prime, a shopping mall, and the list goes on. I simply can not turn to those things; I have to turn to God. I need His strength to keep me from turning to those things. I need His strength to guide me through the next several days as I continue to eat foods I'm struggling to like.

I'm thankful for this journey. A little frustrated and wishing I had ice cream or cheese listed on my 7 foods. But knowing that God is breaking me apart and piecing me back together in the ways he sees fit, make the frustration disappear and remind me it's better to eat the 7 foods I've chosen then to try and finagle my way out of this mutiny.

Does God have you on a journey? The answer is yes - even if you don't know exactly what the journey is. Lean into Him. Listen to His voice. Bid adieu to all distractions. And trust that, even though it's difficult and even though it may not make complete sense, everything will have a purpose.

The more we lean into Him, the more we give to Him, the more He will lean into us and give to us.


The 7 Challenge - Day Eight {Food}

I want to move. I don't want to sell our house and hunt for a new one. I simply want to move.

I'm ready to pack a small suitcase (two max) and move. Leave every single belonging here and just go.

I'm trapped by the amount of things we've accumulated. I'm trapped, more specifically, by the amount of things I've accumulated. All these tee-shirts I can't seem to part with. Bookcases filled to the brim with books (all stacked in numerous ways just so they'll fit). Shoes that I really shouldn't (or don't) wear but hold onto because they're cute and because I might just wear them in the next few months years.

My house is a wreck right now. And not because we don't clean it. Because we do. But because there's too much here. The pantry is a mess. Our bedroom is always in a state of disarray. And our closet? Don't even get me started.

I'm only on the food portion of 7. And yet I find myself looking at my life and seeing, even more clearly, the need and desire to trim back in every other area of my life.

These things do not matter. I have more Keurig K-Cups than two adults need. I have countless DVDs and Blu-Ray movies I have not watched since purchasing. And my bank account? We've have 39 separate transactions since the month started. That's entirely too many for only two people especially when we are in the midst of mutinying against excess.

This isn't the first time I've felt this sudden urge to flee and take next to nothing with me. I've felt it (and ignored it's existence) many a time before. The thing is, though, I can not keep ignoring this urge. Because when I ignore it, I eventually purchase more things I do not need.

Justin and I were blessed with the home we live in. We picked out the floor plan with the sole purpose of caring for children. We've decorated bedrooms for the same reasons. But right now, those bedrooms are empty, and we're left wondering what our next steps will be.

At some point, we have to stop wondering and we simply have to start doing. It's the same thing with letting go of items. At some point, I have to simply do it.

I've invested so much time and energy into accumulating things. I have an armoire bursting with tee shirts and shorts. My husbands dresser drawers are also overflowing with tee shirts and shorts. This all after we've gone through our things and given multiple bags of clothes away. But instead of living with less, we go out and consume more.

So I could leave. I could pack a bag or two and leave the rest of it behind. But I would just go out and spend more money, buy more things. It's better for me to go through every room of our house and bid adieu to the items. It's better for me to stay and to not consume - as hard as it will be.


The 7 Challenge - Day Seven {Food}

I'm hangry. Not starving child hungry (obviously) but hangry.

I'm also feeling a tad bit guilty regarding the two Pumpkin Spice Latte's I drank - one from Starbucks and one from McDonald's.

And I'm tired.

Hangry, guilty, and tired. All on the last day of the first week of month one of the seven month 7 challenge. Or all on the first day of the second week of month one of the seven month 7 challenge. One brings me closer to the end, so I guess it's a glass half full way of looking at things.

Hangry, guilty, and tired doesn't really bode well for the west of the upcoming week or for the rest of the month. It's a far cry from the joy I felt this weekend. Instead, it's steeped in reality. A reality of saying no to yet another placement - this one an emergency situation for four children. The reason we said no? I had class all night.

After class, I overwhelmed Justin with the need to figure out what we're doing with foster care. I want to know what ages, which gender, and when right this moment (or right that moment). Guess what? We still don't know.

This is when I need a direct line to God where I know He'll pick up and verbally respond to my questions. This is when I also need to take a moment and just breathe and remember that God's just a bit bigger than I am and might know exactly what His plan for my life is.

I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine today, during the twenty-minute break from class when I left my house in search of coffee. I was driving home with the McDonald's Pumpkin Spice Latte (since we live in the suburban country and the one local coffee shop closes at 8pm) and we were discussing writing.

I let her know I was jealous of her writing. And that I was glad I was her friend before she made it big because then I can really be her friend. (I also told her how excited and proud I am of her lest you think I am really that inconsiderate.)

And she said she loved getting to see me live out my passions. I glossed over that statement (sorry, Laurie) and went on to talk about how I was also passionate about writing and how hard it was to not be able to just do everything all at once. But I considered her words through class and then after class. Because I am living out my passions. I am living out my calling. I am stretching myself at work and in school and stepping into roles I never knew I would play.

I'll pick writing back up eventually (novel writing that is). And maybe something will happen with it in the not so distant future. Until then, though, I'm going to try to remember to breathe and allow myself to live in the moment God has for me.

I'm also going to try to not be so hangry all of the time. But no promises on that one.


The 7 Challenge - Day Six {Food}

On Saturday morning, we attended an equipping. In attendance were other community group leaders and individuals who serve our church (and the other two {soon to be three} congregations). Shelley Giglio spoke, alongside two other women who attend and serve at Passion City Church in Atlanta.

Going into the meeting/equipping, I had no idea who Shelley Giglio was. I knew of the Passion movement but knew nothing about the people behind it. I'd heard of Passion Church but again knew nothing about the behind-the-scenes. I also considered not attending. I thought of reasons not to go. But there was something (and someone.. {ahem, Justin}) who reminded me that I should go.

I was so blessed on Saturday morning. I was also greatly convicted. And I left with a sense of continued desire - a desire to do more and be more than I have been. It's the same desire God has been stirring up in me for the past several months. It's the same desire that has pushed my heart and my life into the throws of foster care and adoption.

Listening to Shelley and the others speak awakened a love for people. I've always loved people, but I've also been hardened through my time in social work. It's so easy to just see the bad, to only expect the worst, and to feel like you know exactly what will happen.

Justin and I left Saturday knowing we didn't want to play it safe any longer but that we weren't quite sure what that meant. It's something we will be wrestling with all week. How do we make sure that we aren't taking on too much? Is there a point where it's okay to say "no" and what is that point?

When I went to bed last night, I did so praying. I wanted to hear from the Lord. I wanted clarity as to what we were to do, and I wanted it in an obviously large way.

I didn't get that clarity. At least not in a way of a booming voice telling me exactly which path to follow. Instead, I received a sense of thankfulness when I woke up this morning and sat down to breakfast - eggs with tomatoes and chicken breakfast sausage (and coffee).

So many weeks have been spent rushing around and rushing through a drive thru. Our normal Sunday mornings involve rolling out of bed 30 minutes before we have to be out the door for church, stopping at Panera Bread, and eating a bagel smeared with cream cheese (the smearing done while sitting in the parking lot). We call it a tradition. I'm not sure it's quite that, though.

Panera Bread was, in the not so distant past, one of the six or seven times we would eat out on weekends. We ate out a total of three times this weekend. A little gluttonous while participating in The 7 Challenge? Perhaps. (PS: I did stick to the 7 friendly foods. My own "council" and I decided fried sweet potatoes counted so I consumed a lo of those and a few chicken sandwiches.) And the eating out from this weekend? It was really the first of any eating out for the (short) life of this challenge. There was a time when we would eat out nearly every day of the week. For me, that included breakfast and lunch, too.

We got into a rut. Or a routine. However you want to view it. That rut and routine (and an expensive one at that) involved questions like "What do you want to do for dinner?" and "Should we eat what we have or go out?" More often than not, we'd choose a dinner out even though our fridge had food in it, our pantry was stocked, and the freezer was overflowing. Maybe it was the convenience of it all. Or maybe (most likely) it was the need to somehow find worth, meaning, and identity in the act of leaving the house and going to a restaurant.

I liked getting up over an hour before church today. I had a chance to wash dishes, wipe down the countertops, cooks my breakfast, and sit in silence. I enjoyed my food and enjoyed my coffee and enjoyed what God is doing and teaching me through this time.

I also liked eating dinner at home Saturday night and tonight. I loved that we sat down at the dining room table and enjoyed our food. I love that we're breaking the rut of rushing through a drive thru and eating fried food while sitting on the couch. I love that I have to be intentional about what I eat and cook - that my first instinct is now to go to the refrigerator versus the question of "What do you want to do for dinner?"

We've found a love for sweet potatoes, chicken and spinach. Strange to say it, but when you spend so many meals wondering what to eat and always wanting something "different", it's hard to imagine liking simple foods. But we do. We're just hoping we don't completely dislike these simple foods come November. (The dogs are also enjoying the scraps of sweet potatoes someone {not me} is feeding them under the table and right before the dishes are rinsed and dropped into the dishwasher.)

Today is only day six. There are twenty-five more days. And then there's the next month. If God has already refreshed me and taught me so much, I am at a loss for what the next days and months will hold.


The 7 Challenge - Day Five {Food}

I don't quite know how to explain the "why" behind the 7 challenge. So when people ask me, I stumble over my words.

It's this thing. And it lasts for like 7 months. We're on month 1, and we're just eating 7 foods. Then we'll have one month where we just wear 7 articles of clothing.

It is those things, but it is also so much more.

God has been wrecking me the past few weeks. He's tearing away everything I find (or have found) my identity in. And He's begging me to look to Him for my identity. He's calling me to a life of more. Not a life of more stuff or more food, but a life of more meaning. A life of purpose. A life lived out for Him, a life lived following Him, a life lived with purpose and intention.

I don't know exactly what it looks like. Just like I don't quite know how to explain the "why" behind the challenge. I'm constantly stumbling over my words and stumbling over the works. I'm messing up, asking for grace, receiving that grace, and learning how to live the rest of my life out knowing I've been (repeatedly) touched by grace.

I don't think the 7 Challenge will solve everything. But I do feel like I am gaining more clarity.

The more I strip away the more I can hear Him. The more I stop seeking my identity in things the more I can be lead by Him (and by my husband). The more I pray the more I can take the steps He would have me to take.

Right now, I'm getting there one avocado, one apple at a time. Next month, I'll get there one pair of jeans, one cardigan at a time (and laundry multiple times a week). Then, I'll get there by saying no to the need to spend money in more than 7 places.

Every step of the way, Jesus will be there, guiding me and teaching me how to let the "right things" die.


The 7 Challenge - Day Four {Food}

I thought the 7 Challenge was going to be easy. Not to put Jen Hatmaker down or anything (because her book made it obvious that it wasn't easy). For whatever reason, I decided it was going to be easy.

Not easy as in I could do this every day. But easy in the sense that I wouldn't have to stretch myself too far. There would be some hard days but overall I would feel accomplished. I would overcome. I would succeed at the 7 Challenge without breaking a sweat.

Y'all, it is only Day 4 and already I am wishing I were doing The 7 Experiment, not The 7 Challenge, and only eating 7 foods for one week. Because that would only be three more days. I would have a rough time surviving those three days, but it would only be three days. Instead, I have 27 more days.


Clearly I'm losing it. The headaches are setting in. My stomach is a little upset over avocados every day and plain chicken. I'm missing Diet Coke something fierce. I'm having long, internal monologues over what constitutes as bread.

For example, while I was driving around the city today, I had the following conversation:
What's for lunch today? Chipotle sounds good. I could eat a burrito bowl without the rice. Even though rise and bread are similar. They're both made from a grain. And if I got brown rice, it would be like eating whole wheat bread since they're both brown. But then I couldn't get tomatoes because I said tomatoes OR bread. And I just don't think I can do chicken, tomatoes and guacamole only. Unless... Could I make lettuce look like spinach when I took a picture of it? After all, spinach and lettuce are both green leafy vegetables.

That's nuts. Rather than deal with any guilt about what I might eat at a restaurant, or have to physically restrain myself from ordering a Diet Coke, I proceeded to drive home and ate a lovely chicken breast with smashed avocado on top of it.
It was delicious. Or at least that's the story I'm sticking to.

Oh how I wish I could say that this is the first time I've ever incorrectly assumed something would be easy. But it's not. Rather it's been a running theme in my life for the past few years.

I thought weight loss would be easy.

I thought recovering from knee surgery would be easy.

I thought, having been a social worker for 5+ years, that foster parenting would be easy.

Those things have been and continue to be difficult. And I've tried everything I can think of to take the easy way out.

With weight loss, I've tried South Beach, I've tried Weight Watchers, I've tried Herbalife. And nothing's worked. It's not that anything is wrong with those programs. I've just tried to make them into something they're not.

About a week before the 7 Challenge started, my loving husband came to me and said he was concerned. He has watched me try and fail and then sometimes try again (and sometimes not try again). He knows my heart. He knows me.

I ignored him and told him this time it was different. That the 7 Challenge was not about weight loss. It was about Jesus.

I am eating my words now, y'all. That's probably the only reason I'm not switching to The 7 Experiment versus The 7 Challenge. It's probably the one thing that stopped my internal monologue today and guided me home for lunch.

There's no way I will make it through this next month if I lean only on myself or try to just white knuckle it. And I have to stop looking forward at the months to come and instead focus on the month of right now.

I can apply that to my entire life, really.

Nothing is going to be "easy" but the hard work will be well worth it. Jesus is much better than my own strength (and much, much stronger) so it's better to depend on Him. And I am here right now. It's time to enjoy the right now and not just think about the what next.

The 7 Challenge - Day Three {Food} + What 7 is Teaching Me about Foster Care

{Please note: I wrote most of this post before I took a nap on the couch last night and then forgot to wake up until this morning.}

Can I be completely honest? I ask because there's always that part of me that doesn't feel quite right with opening up. And I ask because I need to remind myself that it's okay to be open and honest with things.

The past few months have been incredibly hard for me. I've heard it said that becoming a foster parent forces you to realize the things you both like and dislike about yourself the most. I can attest to just how true of a statement this is. And even though we're not currently fostering, we're still foster parents, and I can tell you that I continue to realize just how much there is for me to work on.

There's a huge push in Oklahoma for more foster parents. The number of children in state custody is outrageous, and there are not enough beds for any of them. Not only that but there are over 300 children simply waiting for an adoptive home, 300 children hoping someone will want them and call them theirs.

And it's good. It's good that so many want more to foster. It's good that the Church is rising up. It's good that there's talk of how non-foster parents can support those who are called to foster.
But foster care is hard. When you open up your home, you also open up your life. And not just the present moments and the future moments, but the past as well. A past that you, as the foster parent, have to have dealt with at some level. A past that has made you who you are. A past that may be vastly different, or eerily similar, to the children placed in your care.

You also realize just how much you need people. I'd guess that it's the same for biological parents and adoptive parents.

I don't like needing people. Sure I enjoy friendships and laughter. I enjoy deep, heartfelt conversations. But I don't like having to open up my life in such a way that when I call I have to do so to ask for help. It eats at me and sticks with me for weeks. Or it used to. I can't say I actually enjoy those calls now, but I'm more okay with them than I ever really thought I would be.

I need to be healthy, too. That's why the 7 Challenge is so important to me right now. I've lost weight since starting it on Tuesday. And I feel better. I also feel like I'm starting to get more clarity. Amazing how that works.

I don't think I've necessarily been completely unhealthy during our journey with foster care. I just don't think I was fully prepared. But I also don't think anyone can ever be fully prepared.

We've been talking a lot about when we'll start fostering again. We've discussed ages, numbers of kids, and how it will effect our lives. And y'all, I'm ready. But I am also terrified. Not because of the thought that they may leave (that's not under my control so I just have to trust that God always knows best). And not because of how exhausting it will be. It's a terror that stems from one simple thought (or not so simple thought): what if I'm not good enough?

That's where this sudden need to simplify comes into place. It strips me of all the items I've found identity in. It strips me of all the preconceived notions I have about how life is supposed to be. 7 is helping me to focus on now. To focus on who I am in Christ and to let who I am in Christ be who I am always.

7 isn't easy. Neither is foster care. None of it is. But that doesn't mean it isn't still worth it.


The 7 Challenge - Day Two {Food}

Apparently, I can not say no to Turkey Tom's from Jimmy John's, Potato Chips from Jimmy John's or Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I can, however, say no to bottled diet coke and diet dr. pepper. I'll celebrate that small victory over commiserating my failing to stick to the allowed foods.

The day started off early and well. I had a meeting in Tulsa, so I was on the road by 6am - all so I could see Laurie's shining face. And eat homemade scrambled eggs with grape tomatoes (which were delicious). If only I could have (or would have) packed a lunch instead of simply eating what was provided at the day's meeting.

I also consumed more coffee than initially planned. And some of it came from Starbucks (in the morning) and McDonald's (in the afternoon). I figured the money spent on much needed caffeine, which resulted in my being able to stay awake for the entire drive, was well worth it.

I felt a lot of weightiness today. A lot of thoughts about how am I going to do this for 30 days. Wondering if I can even make it through this month let alone the six that follow. I could choose to do each challenge for only a week, but I feel so convicted in needing to do all seven for a month each. It's time to leave my comfort behind.

There's only way I am going to make it through this month and the months that follow. And that only way? Lots of prayers. The trouble with that is that I struggle with my prayer life. I don't want to struggle, but sometimes (a lot of times) it feels as though nothing is happening. I get distracted by the million thoughts running through my head. I feel selfish for praying through things. And I feel like I'm not quite "Christian" enough for my prayers to matter.

But I know they do matter. There's no such thing as needing to be a super Christian for your prayers to be answered. It's time I release that mindset, forget about the wonders over whether or not I measure up as a Christian, and simply pray.

That's what I worked on driving back from Tulsa. Or at least it's what I planned to work on. A two-hour trip seemed like the perfect opportunity to pray and let God do some work. Except that as soon as I got in the car, I froze. I had a hard time even thinking through what my prayers would be. And I found myself not so sure about what I wanted from my prayers. Or how I wanted to pray. I overthought every bit of it.

And then, I stopped at McDonald's where I ordered a large, vanilla iced coffee, considered eating Chicken McNuggets and settled for a low-fat ice cream cone instead. That was a reminder of why it's time to turn to 7 and to turn away from excess.

It's the excess that's blocking me. I have too many options, too many ways to distract myself. Too many opportunities to busy myself with things other than prayer. It's time to limit those options, to lessen those distractions, and to just slow down.

There's movement in the Church right now. People clinging to Jesus and asking for radical things to be done. There's change in foster care. And hope for the future. And all of those things are deeply on my heart. But I can not do any of those things alone. I need Jesus.

Food is never going to be enough. Not even the Jesus approved, trans fat free, fried in peanut oil Chik-Fil-A. Not even the avocados I am still excited to consume. And never the gloriousness that is Jimmy John's #4.

But Jesus? He's enough. More than enough. He's everything I need.


The 7 Challenge - Day One {Food}

I didn't cheat today. Even without having any real groceries in the house this morning. And even though I was running late all day. Even when I went to the grocery store, on the 1st, at 2:00pm without having eaten lunch.

Guess that means I can just stop the challenge now. I overcame every single challenge that could possibly present itself. Right?

Oh. Wrong. I'm not doing this challenge to prove something to myself or to overcome things. I'm doing this challenge to move a little bit closer to Jesus. Guess that means I'm not quite done.

It took me a little while to figure out what 7 foods I was going to eat. And by a little while I mean a few weeks.

Starting this challenge wasn't something I just decided to do on a whim. It's something I have considered ever since I first read Jen Hatmaker's book about 9 months ago. And even though I've had plenty of excess (hello buying a new house, new car, new MacBook, new iPhone, new iPad mini, and the list goes on), I've constantly thought about simplifying. I just have never really done anything about it. Until now.

Jen Hatmaker admits that she is an extremist. And I am too. God often has to hit me over the head with a 2x4 multiple times for me to get something. And even after I get it, I often forget it. Then the process starts over again.

I've been extreme with weight loss (hello South Beach and Herbalife) and seen traction in the way of weight loss. I've been extreme also with weight gain (hello Chik-Fil-A and Panera Bread every single day for a week). But I've never been extreme with simplifying. And I figured now is as good a time as any to use my extremeness for something good. I figured now is the best time to let God work through the extremeness.

These are the thoughts that have been in my head for months. I just quieted them with vanilla lattes, diet cokes, and macaroni and cheese. But at some point, thoughts like these simply can't be quieted. Also, oddly enough, at some point your hips get a bit too wide for all your pants.

I know this is the right time to do the challenge because I have prayed about it. God has orchestrated it all (including blessing me with other people who will be miserable right along with me). It doesn't mean that the timing is what I would have picked. But I'm not Jesus, so I don't know best.

Jesus knows best. And Jen Hatmaker knows best when it comes to which foods to eat for a whole month. I am following her lead and eating the same 7 foods but with a few exceptions.
My foods are: Chicken (of any kind) - Can season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Maybe a little garlic. May also eat chicken sausage. Avocados (guacamole is included). Spinach. Apples. Eggs. Sweet potatoes. Tomatoes OR Bread (can have one or the other but can not consume at the same time).

This morning I ate three eggs. For lunch, I ate two avocados, a whole package of all natural chicken lunch meat, and a piece of fresh baked bread (from the grocery store not from my house). For dinner, we had spinach (which I BLANCHED!), sweet potatoes, and roasted chicken thighs. And then I ate an apple for dessert.

All of my food tasted like real food. I bought everything organic, and as much as I hate to admit this, there is a huge difference. Apples taste like apples. And the spinach was so good. The chicken... My husband said he would be okay with eating the chicken a lot which is good since it's going to be my only meat option for the next month.

I also have more energy. Amazing what lots of water (even if it does have flavor added to it) and real food will do, huh?

I started the day with quiet time, and I am going to end it the same way. Because ultimately I am making more room for Him. I'm making space so that He can work in me and speak to me. I'm cleaning out the cobwebs and turning from all the things I've used to block Him out.
"I won't box Him in or assume I know what He'll say. I'm not going to project my goals onto His movement. I have simply said: "Jesus, may there be less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom." I will reduce, so He can increase." - Jen Hatmaker, 7


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