3 Benefits to Fasting

It’s January, and my husband and I are in the middle of our beginning-of-the-year fast to coincide with Canvas Church’s 21 days of Prayer and Fasting (click the link for ideas on what to fast).

We don’t particularly enjoy fasting, but because we have seen such tremendous power and breakthrough in fasting, we’ve come to look forward to it each year. What will God do this year? What breakthrough will we experience? What will the Holy Spirit speak to us during this time? What will God do in our church? The beginning of the year brings anticipation.

Before I explain the benefits of fasting, let me pause to explain what fasting is. Cleansing and dieting are trendy, but to be clear – fasting is not a diet or a cleanse, it is a spiritual act. It’s when we deny our flesh, its indulgences and appetites to take more time to focus on God through prayer. We sacrifice something such as food, saying no to our bodies and yes to our spirits.

Many people ask me what they should fast. My answer is: whatever is going to be a sacrifice to you. We choose to fast something that reminds us to pray. When we get a hunger pang, an urge to browse Facebook, or watch television – that’s the time we pray. We don’t fast something we shouldn’t be doing in the first place. For example, we don’t fast things such as gossip – we shouldn’t be gossiping anyway. If we want to eliminate a bad habit from our lives, it’s more beneficial to make that one of the focuses of what we pray about during the fast.

Here are 3 reasons why we look forward to fasting each year:

  1. We fast for breakthrough. In Matthew 17, the disciples asked Jesus why they weren’t able to drive out a certain demon. Jesus replied (vs 21, HCSB) “This kind can come out by nothing by prayer and fasting.” The most incredible breakthroughs we’ve experienced happened during a fast. We’ve had marital breakthroughs, relational breakthroughs, parenting breakthroughs, church breakthroughs, personal breakthroughs, the list could go on. I encourage struggling believers to try fasting if they feel stuck in one area or another. We also don’t just fast for our own breakthrough, but for breakthrough for others. Isaiah 58:3-7 says “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to se the oppressed free and break every yoke?” Fasting helps us take our eyes off ourselves and on to God, and when our eyes are on God our eyes are also on those in need. We might need personal breakthrough, but we also have in mind breakthrough for those around us; our local church, co-workers, family members or needs in this world. When we feel helpless in meeting someone’s need, I’ve heard it said, “prayer is not the least we can do, it’s the most we can do.”
  2. We fast to hear from God. We can hear from God any time, we do not need to be fasting to hear from God. But for me personally, I seem to hear from God more clearly during a fast, which is why I look forward to fasting in the beginning of the year to seek direction and clarity. I believe the reason is twofold. One, my mind isn’t clouded with social media. Two, I’m making more room for God to speak by spending more time in prayer and the word. God is always speaking, we just need to be willing to make the space to hear.
  3. We fast to detox our minds and bodies. No, fasting is not a diet or a new years resolution to consume less media. However, after the holidays, I’m ready for a fast. I look forward to my body being reset and my mind taking a break from the noise of the world and being renewed in the word. Studies have shown there are health benefits to fasting, God designed it to be good for us. And as addictive as media can be, it’s good for our minds to detox from the cravings of mindless entertainment.

Fasting is not resting in our own ability, it’s relying on God’s. We aren’t more holy or spiritual by how lengthy or sacrificial our fast is. Fasting shouldn’t be a burden we brag about carrying. In fact, I hesitated to mention our fasting practices in a blog because I didn’t want to make it about our efforts. However, I couldn’t shake the passion in me to help equip and encourage believers who feel stuck to experience breakthrough in fasting.

There is one more week left in January, want to join me? If so, comment below what you will be believing for and I will partner with you in prayer.

Building A Treasury of Ways to Connect

We recently took a trip to Aiken, South Carolina, where the food was rich and the scenery was grande. We had a great time visiting Grammy and Hawpa. The kids threw around piles of leaves (we don’t have many fall leaves in San Diego), climbed trees, and were awestruck by all the critters. I teased with my husband that my interest in critters is about a 2 out of 10. The kids did great on the plane ride, even though it was the longest trip we’ve ever taken with them. We saw the historic homes of Charleston, the riverfront of Savannah, and even squeezed in a date night at the renowned Wilcox Hotel & Restaurant in Aiken. Visiting family was the best part though. The kids bonded with their cousins as if no time had passed at all.

 

[Things Dad let’s the kids do when Mom isn’t around…]

 

One of the highlights was my husband taking our oldest daughter out to breakfast. We try to be intentional about taking the kids out on one-on-one dates. Our oldest is starting middle school in the fall, and her personality can be hard to crack. She’s quiet, an avid reader of fantasy, and she needs alone time to recharge (like her momma). There wasn’t any notable conversations during the breakfast date, but she thanked her dad about seven times for taking her out. She might not be a young woman of many words, but she made sure to reiterate her appreciation.

We’ve noticed the older our kids get, the more they need to be reminded of their individuality. It becomes important for them not to always be lumped in with their siblings but to have their own unique relationship with mom and dad. We’ve found this intentional one-on-one time fills their cups in a special way. The conversations might not be groundbreaking every time, and their choice of activity might always be our favorite — but this time together cannot be underestimated. The individual time together is a reminder we are on the same team. It’s a reminder that we value them and care about their unique heart, personality and interests. We’ve also noticed our one-on-one time with them grows their level of respect for us. They listen better when our interactions with them are not solely based on us being an authority figure in their life.

2016 was an interesting year. On one hand, it was one of the best years yet for our family. On the other hand, there was an underlying sting as we lost many friends. Our kids asked questions and cried, and we asked questions and cried right along with them. While we were in South Carolina we kept saying, “As long as we have Jesus and each other, I think we could be happy anywhere.” 2016 provided the reminder that people will walk in and out of our lives, but Jesus will remain. Deuteronomy 31:8 says “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” We wish we could shelter our children from loss, but we can’t. We live in a transient city; people move, families get deployed, people change sports or churches or schools. Sometimes we will stay in touch and other times we won’t.  We can’t shelter them, but we can try to cultivate an unshakable connection with them and God, giving them a firm foundation to stand on during times of transition, uncertainty or hurt.

In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says “With children, actions speak louder than words. When we stop requesting invitations into their lives by asking about their day, asking them to tell us about their favorite songs, wondering how their friends are doing, then children feel pain and fear (and not relief, despite how our teenagers may act). Because they can’t articulate how they feel about our disengagement when we stop making an effort with them, they show us by acting out thinking, This will get their attention.”

 

 

When I first became a parent, I wanted an arsenal of discipline strategies because I assumed that’s what I needed. Now that I’m in the thick of parenting, I find myself building a treasury of ways to connect. It has become a rhythm over the years, my arsenal dwindling and my treasury brimming. I believe in discipline, but the more time I spend training, shepherding and connecting with my children, the less discipline they seem need (thank you Parenting is a Ministry). One day, I will stand before God to give an account for how I did raising His children. I wonder what that conversation will look like — what questions will God ask me? I picture myself standing in front of Him, words don’t come out of His mouth or mine, but we are communicating perfectly. I feel His presence like an echo, and although His words are not verbal, they fill my stomach and soul. I know what He’s asking:  “Did you reflect my heart?”

 

 

Adoption Update: We Wait

It was June of last year when we pushed send on a preliminary application for adoption. My husband was adopted as a baby and I was adopted as a teenager. Adoption has always been a part of our lives, our story and our future dreams. For us, it wasn’t a matter of if we would adopt, it was a matter of when. In June, we decided to take tiny, exploratory steps. We weren’t expecting to feel more peace with every tiny step.

The tiny steps led to bigger steps within a long process, but our agency did a great job preparing us for the wait and the workload. Being “paper pregnant” has been much different than a physical pregnancy. With my other three children, I ate and they grew, and as 40 weeks approached, they came out. The paper pregnancy has been an active process. The steps of the process haven’t been as glamorous to document (belly pics were fun) but it’s still just as exciting. We’ve been through psych evaluations, background checks, mounds of paperwork, classes and certifications (pool safety certified even though we don’t have a pool!), book reports, home inspections, interviews and more. Every hurdle we jump through solidifies our eager desire and growing love for this child. We’ve teased about the arduous process, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. The process, as extensive as it is, will make prospective parents say either “this isn’t worth it” or “I would jump through a thousand more hoops for this child.”

We’ve now sent our dossier to the country from which we’ve chosen to adopt. Upon approval we enter the referral process, which means a life changing match could happen in a month, next year or two years. We wait. Many have asked if we are anxious or impatient; we aren’t. We feel at peace.

Although we are excited for that life-changing day when we get to see our child’s face and pray for them by name, we are enjoying the journey with the three little ones already under our roof. Christmas – Advent – reminds us that waiting doesn’t have to be a strain, waiting can be a joy. The kids counted down the days until they could open presents and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus (with pumpkin pie, of course). They bounced around the house like wound up toys, singing songs about our savior and using ornaments as action figures.

The Christmas Eve service at Canvas Church was beautiful. During the first worship song, I got teary-eyed looking around the room at the village that will help raise my children. One young man sat in the front row, my son looks up to him immensely. A young girl was helping lead worship, my youngest daughter leaned over and said, “I want to be her!” Their little eyes gaze at role models who lift their hands to praise our King. Our friends and family mean more to us than they will ever know. To us, they remind us we aren’t doing it alone, the waiting and the raising.

Advent may be over this year, but the waiting for the Millers is not over. We wait for the piece of mail that will unavoidably bring us to tears. We wait for the day we book the most anticipated flight we’ll ever take. We wait for the day we board the plane and take a frivolous amount of pictures. We wait for the stepping stones that lead us to the arrival of our special person. We wait, but we don’t wait alone.

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” Matthew 1:23