Saturday, March 28, 2020

Please Join Me in a Worldwide Day of Fasting and Prayer

Tomorrow, I'll be participating in a worldwide day of fasting and prayer to bring needed relief from the effects of the novel coronavirus. Because I've experienced the blessings of fasting and prayer in my own life, I wanted to invite you to participate and experience those blessings, too.

How do I fast and pray?

To fast, you purposely refrain from eating and drinking for a set period of time. I plan to fast for approximately twenty-four hours, so after eating dinner tonight, I won't eat again until dinner tomorrow.

But fasting is so much more than just not eating. To have the best fasting experience, consider combining it with prayer. When I begin my fast, I'll ask God to please moderate the effects of this new coronavirus, to strengthen the immune systems of those who've been infected and those who are working tirelessly to help them, and to relieve the suffering of those whose lives have been upended by this pandemic. I'll renew this prayer several times throughout the day, and then, just before I eat, I'll close my fast by thanking God for this opportunity and by asking him one more time to bless those around the world who've been negatively impacted by the coronavirus.

I'll also donate the value of the meals I didn't eat--and probably even more--to a charity that's working to assist doctors, nurses, and hospitals and/or relieve the physical, mental, or economic suffering brought on by this pandemic.

So to sum up, here's what you do:

1. Stop eating and drinking for a set period of time, usually twenty-four hours.
2. Pray to whichever deity you revere for needed relief from this pandemic.
3. Donate the value of the meals you didn't eat--or even more, if you're able to--to a charity like the American Red Cross, No Kid Hungry, or your local food bank.

What if I can't fast for a medical reason?

There are several subsets of people who shouldn't fast for medical reasons. For instance, pregnant women and people with certain chronic illnesses shouldn't go without food or drink for any length of time. But everyone can participate in the spirit of a fast by praying and donating to a worthy cause.

What if I don't make it the full twenty-four hours?

That's totally okay! The first time I tried to fast, I turned into such a blubbering mess that I had to go home and eat lunch. Fasting isn't easy; things worth doing rarely are. So even if you don't make it the full twenty-four hours, you can still say you fasted. God will still honor your effort.

Is fasting painful?

Yes, especially if you've never done it before. You ARE going to feel hungry. Your stomach IS going to growl. But these sensations only serve to remind you that you're fasting, that you're sacrificing something to benefit your fellow humans and to plead for God's help.

I didn't see this blog post until after the fact--can I still fast?

Absolutely! You can fast and pray on any day for any reason. God never takes a break:)

Who came up with this idea?

I'm not completely sure, but I'm going to say God. In fact, fasting is an element of many of the world's religions. I especially love what Isaiah had to say about fasting in Isaiah 58:

"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

"Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

"Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.

"Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

"And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:

"And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

"And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in."

Aren't those amazing blessings?!

If you choose not to fast, I completely understand. But if you do decide to try it, thank you, thank you, and good luck. I hope you have a unique and inspiring experience.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Presidential Primaries and Lucky--or Unlucky?--Losers

Confession: I like politics. I DON'T like politicians and their frightening inability to get anything done, but I like following the news and generally being informed. I have opinions on most issues and, of course, most candidates. I don't share these opinions often, but at this pivotal juncture of the 2020 election cycle, I thought it might be worth digging into some relevant data.

First, a bit of background: I was a registered Republican until President Trump became the leader of the party in 2016. Now I'm an unaffiliated voter who leans right or left of center depending on the issue. Since I will never, ever vote for our current president, whose character I think thoroughly disqualifies him, I've been following the Democratic nomination process with more than just a passing interest.

It occurred to me last night that voters have been nominating what I'm calling lucky losers. So what is a lucky loser? It's a candidate who finished second in a presidential primary, then went on to secure his or her party's nomination in a subsequent election cycle. There are multiple examples, including John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton, to name the most recent few. In fact, since 2004, the first presidential election in which I was eligible to vote, nearly half of the major parties' nominees have been lucky losers, as you can see below:
(i) = incumbent, (i*) = un-elected incumbent, ** = candidate who won most delegates but lost nomination
I've bolded the names of my so-called lucky losers so they're easier to spot. As you can see, Republicans have been much more likely to nominate lucky losers than their Democratic counterparts. In fact, Hillary Clinton was the first Democratic lucky loser in almost fifty years.

But what do John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton have in common? NONE OF THEM WERE PRESIDENT. Lucky losers haven't won a presidential election since George H. W. Bush in 1988, and the only other lucky loser who eventually won the presidency was Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Why am I bringing this up now? Because Bernie Sanders looks poised to become the second Democratic lucky loser in as many election cycles and, as history has taught us, lucky losers tend to lose. Now, in Bernie Sanders's case, this wouldn't make me feel too bad. As much as I admire him for sticking to his principles, I can't in good conscience endorse most of his policies. But I also can't imagine reelecting Donald Trump, which is exactly what I fear will happen if Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

In Pursuit of Patience

Three and a half years ago, in the fall of 2016, I got the impression it was time for Chris and me to try to have another baby. This was kind of monumental. From the time Monster was small--from the time he was born, really--I'd assumed we'd have another. I could almost hear her footsteps pattering around the house, and when I looked for my kids, I constantly looked for a fourth.

The timing had never been right. During most of 2013, spilling into 2014, I'd been majorly depressed. I felt like I SHOULD have a baby, but I didn't WANT another, which just made me MORE depressed. I'd been taught for years and years that children were a gift from God and that having and raising them were two of life's main purposes, so if I didn't want another, I was clearly horrible.

After going to a therapist once or twice a month for more than a year, I went back on medication. That put baby plans on hold, as I was under the impression that you couldn't have a baby while taking antidepressants. I was part relieved, part sad.

By sometime in 2015, I was feeling pretty good. I weaned myself off medication without talking to my doctor. (This was NOT a good idea.) Then 2016 struck. As I detailed in this post, Chris received a job transfer that really threw me for a loop. Still, I came to the conclusion I included in that post:

"I believe God was doing more with my life than I could do with it on my own. It's hard to let go, but I believe He loves and cares for us as a father loves and cares for his children. And because fathers are anxious to see their children succeed, He will help us steer our ships if we're willing to trust Him. In other words, when we let Him in, He won't ever let us down."

Three months after writing that, I was getting the impression it was time for Chris and me to try to have another baby. I was nervous but excited. As I detailed in THIS post, Chris and I had had to deal with infertility before. But this time, I was sure we were definitely doing what God wanted us to do. I was confident that meant the sailing would be fairly smooth.

I smile as I write that now. Hadn't I already learned that God carried out His plan, not what I thought His plan should be? I should have, but I hadn't. I was in for a crash course.

One month went by, then two. A sister-in-law announced that she was pregnant. I was mad despite myself. This sister-in-law had always gotten pregnant on the first or second try. Why had she never had to work? I shared some of these feelings with another sister-in-law, one who's miscarried several times. She completely understood.

Then, a month later, SHE announced that she was pregnant.

I cried a lot that winter, tried to get inside God's head. I hadn't really expected to get pregnant that first month, but what about the fifth or sixth? And why was God dispatching babies to every other family in our family? Was there something wrong with us? Were we less faithful, less deserving?

By the time March rolled around, I thought I was all cried out. Then a third sister-in-law, who'd put off having kids for years, announced that she was pregnant, too.

It was right around this time that I admitted to myself I was probably more depressed than I'd ever been before. I would go on crying jags that would, like, compress my chest and make it difficult to breathe, and my suicidal thoughts were slowly developing into suicidal plans. I spoke openly with Chris about the problems I was having, but they never went away. By April, I conceded to seeking medical help. We scheduled an appointment right away.

Chris went into this appointment thinking our window had closed. We'd tried. We'd failed. Time to move on. That said, I was less convinced. Why had I received that prompting if our family was complete? I know God sometimes allows us to take steps down the wrong path so we can pinpoint the right one, but that answer didn't sit. I was hopeful that the doctor would provide a better one.

Maybe you've already guessed what I learned at that appointment. As it turns out, I was wrong--there IS an antidepressant childbearing women can take from conception to delivery. Multiple studies have shown it has little to no impact on developing babies, and it's safe to take for days, weeks, months, even years.

This changed everything, of course. I walked away from that appointment feeling like I'd found the answer I'd been looking so hard for. And sure enough, a few months later, once this wondrous medication had had time to take effect and I was feeling good again, I got pregnant on the first try.

I could almost hear God's voice speaking softly to my heart: "THIS was the way for you to go. THIS was the path I chose for you. Wasn't it better than the path you would have chosen for yourself?"

What did I say after our house in Mesquite finally sold? "And because fathers are anxious to see their children succeed, He will help us steer our ships if we're willing to trust Him." You see, I ALREADY KNEW that God's way always works out. But when the next storm arose, I forgot and wrung my hands. What will we do, what will we do, what will we do, what will we DO? And yet I already knew: keep calm, carry on, and let Jesus take the wheel.

God allows us to pass through faith-promoting tests and trials just so they'll promote our faith. And if we let them work in us--in us, through us, and around us--then the next time we're confronted with a faith-promoting test, we'll be able to press forward and, if not rest fully easy, then at least rest easier.

Why am I sharing this now? Because I'm waiting to hear back on a non-writing endeavor that would mean the world to me. And because I've been on submission with one project or another for the past almost a year. I HATE being on submission. It's dumb and demoralizing. But as I hope I've FINALLY learned, I know how to handle it.

Have I had difficult days? Sure. Have I prayed for an end? Of course. But more often than not, I've prayed for strength to persevere, and that's made all the difference.