On Flumageddon, Family Fruit, and Fasting.

Pardon my absence, friends.  Just before Thanksgiving our family was hit with a string of illness where each and every member proceeded to contract Influenza B over a couple weeks.  At least one person held down a fever every day for three weeks.  And let me tell ya, it was nasty.  No essential oil could stop the freight train of contagiousness.  I’ll spare you the details, but when Mom has a fever for eight days straight and is in a fog for several weeks, it’s bad.  It’s how “things happen.”  Like when King James and I both were down, the children got themselves ready, breakfast prepared, lunches made and packed and were out the door to carpool for school unbeknownst to us sleeping parents–three mornings in a row!  Or like when I was ordering a cute picture of Prince Charming and meant to get six copies for each of all the grandparents’ Christmas gifts, I accidentally didn’t delete the original 1 from the ordering box and lo and behold, received SIXTY ONE copies of the same picture.  So if anyone who knows little buddy would like a copy, send me your address and I’ll mail you one. Lord knows I have enough. Haha!prince-charming

After Flumageddon was over, we were also hit with a lovely 48 hour stomach bug which wrapped up just in time for us to mad-dash cleaning, shopping, decorating and prepping for Christmas. WHEW! It was just a wee crazy.  However, we did have a love-filled Christmas with family, as well as some good down-time.

One of the things we did just before New Year’s as a family was to set aside a devotion night for worship and seeking God together.  I thought I would share about this experience because it has significant meaning and “fruit” for or family.  At the end of 2015, we did the same thing, taking time to praise God through music and singing and to also ask Him what He might want to tell us about 2016 (both for our family and as individuals).  We wanted to hear from Him any scriptures, words, pictures, etc that would specifically help guide us in our decisions, give us strength throughout the year, and also to allow the kids to experience listening to His voice (and the many ways He speaks).  Oh, how SWEET this time was–the older girls closing their eyes to listen, thumbing through their bibles, and writing down what they were feeling.  The younger girls drew pictures or jotted down a few words.  After about 30 minutes, each person shared what they experienced so we could encourage one another, be a witness or confirmation to what God was doing in the room, and be united in what He spoke.  Beautiful things were shared and prophetic pictures given.  Little did we know how clear God would be.

Ya’ll. Those words and prophetic pictures CAME TO PASS!  Here is a bit of back story just to help you understand.  Towards the end of 2015, for many reasons, Jim and I were assessing our school situation/plan for the kids (I had been homeschooling) as well as a seemingly growing opportunity for my attention/focus to be elsewhere part-time, and we were considering sending a few girls to a nearby school for the fall 2016 year.  We had NOT discussed the idea with the kids at all.  It was still sort of a “what if, maybe, let’s pray about it” type deal.  Well, one of the pictures Princess Rapunzel received was of her sitting in a classroom full of desks and students with a teacher at a chalkboard.  When she shared it with us, she was saying it with a confused tone because, obviously this was not the current reality and also because she didn’t necessarily want to go to a school.  Jim and I glanced at each other with eyebrows raised and said, “Wow, sweetie!  We should pray about what that might mean.  We believe God is speaking to you!”  Later, when some more things became clear about the school decision, we were able to refer back to that night and say, “See, God knew what the right thing for this year would be and he spoke through YOU to help confirm it to us all.”  This was a huge moment for Rapunzel.  She experienced God in a tangible way that led to tangible results.  Another picture she had that night was of three plane tickets to Tulsa being laid on a table.  This did not immediately mean anything to any of us.  Jim’s folks live in Tulsa and we sometimes drive down there, but we would need to keep that picture on the shelf until God decided to tell us more about it.  Well, a couple weeks later, Jim received a phone call from his dad presenting an opportunity to acquire a Smoothie King in Tulsa with part ownership for us.  One thing led to another and we moved forward with the deal.  Fast-forward to the end of 2016 and as we looked back, we realized that the endeavor required Jim to make three trips down there before the launch of the new store, and that the co-owners found two other locations that would be amazing for two more stores.  Again, we were blown away at God giving us direction and confirming that He has ordered our steps.  We had great discussions about hearing from God with the kids through it all.

There were other scriptures and things shared at our devotion night that we clung to last year as well.  So when we talked about doing the devotion night for 2017, the kids were all excited!  What would God do this time?  I decided to record a portion of the music/worship time we had where the girls are also learning to sing the word.  I highly encourage people to try this, even if you aren’t musical or don’t play instruments.  You can find/buy/download instrumental music (like this) and play it, pick a scripture passage and explore singing it.  Not only does it help you to remember it, but God begins to do things in your heart, mind, and soul as you meditate on it.

Now, just in case anyone thinks we do this devotion night every night of the week and they always go perfectly, think again.  We are a busy family of 7 with varying schedules, occasional illnesses, things that come up, and days where we’re just exhausted.  There are times when two kids get in a fight about who is going to sit next to who during the worship time and we begin the meeting frustrated.  But I encourage believers to shoot for at least once a month.  Work your way up to more frequently.  You will see good fruit in your family–even if it’s just that those two kids let go of their anger and are being kind again. LOL!

Speaking of fruit, I thought I would also offer some encouragements on fasting.  I do not boast in fasting or try to make big public displays when doing so, however our church is doing a 3-week season of prayer and fasting in January as a body.  It’s called Meals/Mouth/Media (one week each of food, watch what we say, and media/entertainment).  We participate, with the kids doing varying degrees of it.  Since Jim has been doing fasts since he was a teenager, he can do several weeks of no food.  The kids and I, on the other hand, not so much (especially if you’re like me and have spent many years pregnant or nursing).  You have to work your way up to longer and more intense fasts.  But the value we see in having our kids participate is rooted in a couple of ideas:

  • The Bible instructs us to do so.  And in some cases, we can ONLY see breakthrough by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21).  We want our family to know how to seek God and pray, especially in times of crisis, shaking, or uncertainty.
  • We want our spirit to lead, not our flesh.  Practicing saying no to the flesh results in our spirit growing stronger.  We tell our flesh it will not have power over us because our body is a temple of the Lord.  Children fasting sugar or video games for three weeks feel the sting of the flesh, and there will most likely be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  But in a culture that says to FEED the flesh, MORE is better, if it FEELS good do it…we could stand to tell our flesh “no” more  often so that our spirit be more in tune with The Creator and the Holy Spirit.
  • Fasting can “reset” things.  Whether it’s our body cleansing, or a person/family remembering priorities, breaking bad habits, and making better choices–fasting is revealing.  It reveals our weaknesses, behaviors, attitudes, etc.  And even children notice this when fasting.  This leads to incredible opportunities for discussions with kids or as a family.

Sometimes it’s helpful to know how others incorporate fasting and prayer in their life so families to get ideas on being successful.  So here are some things we have done or learned:

  • Ask your kids what they think they need to fast.  Get them involved.  They may surprise you! Start with a couple days, then a  week, then try several.
  • Water only food fast:  adults (and older teens) can do this.  I usually do 3-5 days.  Older kids could do one day.  Moms/caregivers that have to prep and be around food while serving it to others will find this very difficult to do long term.  Don’t set too lofty a goal and feel bad when you “fail.”
  • Partial food fast: This is often times more doable for families.  Remove one or more things from your diet that your flesh will feel and that you hate to give up…coffee/soda, sugar/dessert, bread/carbs, meat, etc.
  • Liquid/Juice fast: Give up chewing…no meats, breads, or food of real sustenance. Drink only water, some juices, bone broths.
  • As a family do a media fast:  either give it up completely or set “no media” zones/times.  Turn off the news, social media, TV/Movies, etc.  Only cell phone usage would be for calls, work, important messaging.  Have everyone charge their devices in kitchen (or non-bedrooms).
  • Use the time normally spent on media to worship, pray, read the bible or related books.
  • During our church’s “Mouth” fast, we become accountable to each other about what comes out of our mouths.  Jim and I give the kids permission to (in love) tell us when we are slipping up.  Maybe you need to stop cussing or constantly speaking negatively. Maybe you should give up talking about politics/sports/religion and see how it affects your soul.  Maybe you need to purposefully stop road rage and talking to other drivers.  Maybe the kids should watch their whining, or how they talk to siblings.  Possibly, you may need to actually open your mouth to proactively encourage others because normally you don’t ever share good things.  Whatever it is, make a pact to humbly and in love correct one another in spirit of Jesus.
  • For families with young kids, plan a celebratory night for when the fast is over.  This can help motivate everyone to persevere!  Sometime they like to do a countdown to the day (on the refrigerator or calendar).
  • Also for moms/caregivers…we often can not take the time normally spend eating and go spend it alone with God because we are serving others during that time.  So just be conscious of the Lord throughout your day, make mention of him often, be thankful during the serving, set alarms/calendar alerts to gather the kids together to thank God for something or pray, pull up a scripture passage on your phone/computer and briefly look at it several times a day or repeat/memorize it.  Even in the little acknowledgements of God, we draw closer to Him and He is well-pleased.

Till next time!

-Jess

On Chocodiles & Meal Planning.

If you missed my last post, you didn’t read that I have a weakness for chocolate covered twinkie delights formerly known as Chocodiles.  I actually forgot about them for many years. When Hostess went out of business and everyone lost their minds buying up every last HoHo, SuzieQ, and Ding Dong, selling Twinkies on Ebay for ridiculous sums of money, I wasn’t expecting for the company to somehow come back to life with limited products? So when I saw the Chocodile on a gas station shelf again, I was instantly transported back to my childhood and mornings with Dad when he would run my brother and I by the Hostess Shop on our way to school.

Note:  He grew up around the corner from a bakery. We think the sweet tooth is genetic.

So, my childhood was certainly not devoid of sugar by any means, and looking back maybe it was part of the reason I had strep throat more times than I can count since sugar decimates the immune system.  Although my mom was a fantastic cook, we also led busy lives with ministry, school, traveling, and we ate our fair share of meals in restaurants, airports, and the like.  For the most part, we were healthy and I suppose genetics/metabolism offset the bad stuff we consumed.

Fast forward to married life with a couple kids and we entered a time where we made many changes to diet and health. I will post more about that at a later date, but a mix of knowledge, information, prayer, experience, science, and history all contributed to making small, medium, and large changes to lifestyle over a long season. We continue to make adjustments as we go today.  And we occasionally fall off the health wagon and have to get back on it. More details to come.

But I say all that to say, once you have knowledge and information about something, you are responsible for it.  If the Bible instructs us that our bodies are a temple for God and we are to take care of them so that we may glorify Him, then what will we do about that?

One major thing that my family tries to adhere to as a rule is “If it’s not in the house, then we can’t consume it.” So if we don’t buy it, then it’s not in the house.  With occasional exceptions to this rule, it means we don’t buy soda and keep it in the house…or Chocodiles.  By and large, we avoid most of the inner aisles of the grocery store where cookies, sugary items and such beckon to the sweet tooth. The “treats” we allow are mostly a have-to-leave-the-house-to-get-it type thing.

So meal planning has become very important to keep us on track, to make sure we eat at home as much as possible, and also to KEEP THE FOOD CRAZIES to a minimum with my children. Lord, help me, sometimes food is such a battle! Either we “have nothing to eat” despite the full fridge/pantry, or they “don’t like it” even thought they ate it just fine last week, or something is “unfair” because one person got something someone else didn’t, or just because they had expectations that were not met.  I looked into meal planning memberships, or even free plans found online, but so often they are either not healthy or on the opposite end of the spectrum into “all we eat is leaves and berries” land, which does not fly with kids very well.  We would need to change those and it would become more time-consuming to customize/edit or re-figure for a family of 7.

meal-plan-half-sheetEnter in, my Weekly Meal Plan sheet.  I googled that phrase looking for one that someone else might have already put together (because why re-invent the wheel?), but nothing seems to fit the exact specs I was looking for.  So I took part of an image I found and customized my own sheet using photoshop.  We wanted a place for the date, for three meals and one snack for each day, a grocery list area with shopping categories, and a place for special notes.  This sheet is 1/2 page so it’s big enough to stick on the fridge with magnets and for everyone to be able read, but not so big that we waste paper/ink.

Y’all, it has changed our life.  We mostly plan on Friday or Saturday, shop on the weekend so everything is good to go for Monday, and are able to get mostly fresh food that really only last for a week anyway.  Everyone knows exactly what is happening so I don’t have to answer a billion questions about what’s for dinner. Each day, lunch is already planned and the kids make their own lunch accordingly.  Breakfast is a no brainer with no arguments because hey, “It’s on the sheet. The sheet is King.” And snacktime…SO much better! If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it, but there are no negotiations or mom wandering around to figure out what we have.

Now, it’s not completely perfect and has not eliminated ALL the Food Crazies, but it has helped a ton.  We’ve also had opportunity to have many conversations about choices (or lack there of), planning, thankfulness, budgets, etc as we have submitted to the plan.  I thought I would share in case any readers need or could utilize it. If you’d like a copy, you can click the image to download. It is two of them on one full sheet so you can print and then just cut in half.  Happy meal planning!  And may you avoid the Hostess aisle!

meal-plan-template-master-copy