Saturday, May 21, 2011

Day Five: Privileged

The last day of the challenge was a weird one.

I woke up feeling motivated and continued to feel immensely thankful as I listened to some good worship music on the way to work. I really felt God present during that drive and was able to set aside my normal high-stress road rage for a half hour of thankfulness to Him. Came To My Rescue by The Bridge Band really resonated with me as I reflected on the challenge and what our church is doing to seek justice and service here in Richmond and in other countries. "In our life.. be lifted high. In our world.. be lifted high. In our love.. be lifted high."

Then at work I crashed and burned. Stomach growling the whole day, and barely able to get down a half cup of rice. I think the babe might have a bone to pick with me when he/she comes out for sure.

That night Jeremiah and I went to a little celebratory get-together at church to conclude the challenge with other participants. As we talked with one another about when and how we were breaking the challenge, I felt a huge tension, much like the tension I experienced all week thinking about being pregnant. On one hand not feeling right withholding recommended nutrients from our babe, but on the other hand recognizing the reality of pregnant women's situations in places where there's no access to said nutrients. Neither felt right, not even creating a balancing act. All in felt indulgent, all out felt negligent. A balance felt half-hearted.
So the time came when we were free to break the challenge. Some people were going out for dinner that night, others talked about waiting until midnight, and some holding off until breakfast. No option seemed right to me. I knew that these kids and families starving across the world don't have the option of waiting til midnight and then being able to gorge. They don't wake up to a new day suddenly able to eat more than rice and beans. But I can. I feel privileged, extremely privileged. And I feel guilty. There comes a point when we can go back to what we know as normal life, but now it doesn't feel normal. It feels excessive and unfair. It feels like there's no good time to do it, because the reality is that no matter when I eat what I want, there will be about 983 million people who can't. It's frustrating and unsettling.

And all that being said, Jeremiah decided to go grab Cookout for dinner on the way home, as many other Hopers were doing as well. It felt gluttonous. And we didn't rejoice, we didn't speak actually. We ate. And then felt sick. And it was all kind of anti-climactic, as if this thing was all about me, like there should be a big pay-off for me in the end. And today I can go out to eat or to the grocery store and pick up our normal groceries. It's strange.

I believe the pay-off will literally come on Sunday, when participants give the gap. We will rejoice together knowing that the money we saved by sacrificing our excess will go towards fighting hunger and giving souls hope.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Day Four: Mental Note For Next Year

I was just about to write about what a horrible night it was. And then, just as my tired fingers hit the keys I thought, perhaps it was actually a great night.

Tonight was Robious Night at the Flying Squirrels baseball game. Jeremiah and a bunch of his 8th grade teaching posse and spouses were planning to attend the game, so naturally I tagged along as well. I was looking forward to a night of being away from my kitchen and having something to occupy my time.

Clearly, the challenge is affecting my brain and intellect. And I have to think that pairing that with pregnancy absentmindedness is a deadly combo.

How quickly I forgot that once you pass through the pearly red gates at the diamond you are punched in the face with all the sights and smells of delicious, delicious food. Within a minute I felt like I was trapped in that room on Lost where they strap people to a chair and have them watch this crazy loud and bright screen that essentially brainwashes them. If you haven't seen Lost, moral of the story is it's bad and hard to escape and messes with your mind. Luckily, the couple I was with headed straight to our seats. Jeremiah was working the will call booth so he wouldn't arrive for about an hour.

And never was I so aware of the power of scent than tonight. Why oh why so high up and far from the food does it smell so good?! As more friends came, dinner talk grew from a murmur to something compared to Christmas morning. And oh was I tempted. As a friend offered me a fried pickle I thought: ah there's no harm, there's only one more day to go, not much harm anymore. And then it hit me. That voice that has been following me all week. And I thought of Jeremiah. For the off chance that he would be upset, disappointed, or discouraged in his own sacrifices, I decided it wasn't worth it. And just a few minutes later Jeremiah got a text from someone at Hope. I had a feeling this could be it, the dreaded point of no return. And it was. This friend texted Jeremiah to ask if we'd consider sharing about our experience this Sunday during one of the services. P-A-R-T-Y K-I-L-L-E-R. There was no turning back now. But the same things that poured on my food parade that night ultimately bring maturity and accountability and humility, which even I must admit far outweigh the joys of greasy food.

And this is why I dub this the worst night ever... but maybe also the best. As people continued filing in with hot dogs wrapped in foil (my fave!) and funnel cake and dippin' dots in baseball helmets and curly fries I just wanted scream. But here I am, at 10:45pm with a hungry, unsatisfied stomach. So it was awful, but yet something's happening. This is so unlike me to resist such goodness, especially food, especially when I'm pregnant and hungry and miserable.

So, just a mental note for next year. Although the Spirit may allow one to conquer the minor league baseball concessions, I'd stick more with the whole "flee from temptation" idea.

Day Three: It's A Choice

I came home from work to an empty home...for two hours.
I had free reign over the kitchen. Jeremiah was working the Flying Squirrels game so I wouldn't see him for quite some time. Hmmm.

But not much to my surprise, as I went in for the kill the Holy Spirit zoomed in ahead of me. He reminded me He was with me by bringing some things to mind and allowing my heart and my mind to make a conscious choice to sacrifice.
He reminded me that I was off to small group/book club/Bible study in a couple hours. He reminded me that there I would be surrounded with a handful of women who were all in with this challenge, too--who had been sending honest and encouraging emails all day, helping me to press on. He reminded me that my actions go deeper than I think they will. He reminded me that people are watching and learning, being encouraged or hindered. It's no coincidence that an old youth retreat leader from when I was in high school commented on Day Two and then posted a link to this blog on her own, proclaiming what my church is doing to help feed starving children. How could I give up the fight now? So not by my own strength, but by the Holy Spirit's, I was able to walk away from that dang Twix. And it's actually getting "easier." It's not easy, but it's become more of who I am this week, of what I'm living for. Funny, I suppose that's not so unlike our faith and character that God is shaping. Application point, check.
Blaring in my mind while I was alone in the kitchen was something my Bible study leader told me in college. Righteousness and obedience is not our natural tendency. We have to choose things that bring life, that honor Christ. It's exciting to know that God's truly doing something here, helping me yield to the Spirit. "He must become greater, I must become less."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day Two: Thankful for Jeremiah

Accountability can be a real party killer in the face of temptation. But I guess that's the whole point of accountability.
I stood in front of our pantry staring at the big vat of Utz Party Mix and the Chocolate Frosted Mini Wheats with a stomach growling for food. I actually I think I heard it say "eat the chips." Perhaps that was the baby talking. Or perhaps it was my weak and susceptible will power, about to fail me once again. And it most definitely was a reminder of why I can't face life's obstacles alone.. without God and without other believers in my life.
You see while I stared down those tasty treats with my right eye, I stared down my faithful husband with my left. There he was, cooking up a fresh batch of rice and preparing his tortilla and beans. He was rejoicing over a mango snack. Unlike me, Jeremiah has been doing this challenge 100%. Tonight's dinner was his sixth meal straight of simply rice and beans, with an occasional tortilla and mango. But who was the one bellied up to the pantry? And who even tried to talk Jeremiah into allowing himself a little wiggle room? Shamefully, me.
Thank God for my husband who God is using to teach me a lesson or two. I could have easily eaten out of excess and advantage and taken this whole thing for granted. But fortunately, I sat down to a disgustingly bland meal of rice and beans wrapped in a tortilla. I hate beans and I can barely get through rice. It was the slowest meal I think I've ever eaten. Hardly any food, but took awhile pacing myself through each bite to keep it down. The water chaser wasn't much of a help either. But I did it. And I'm hungry and unsatisfied. For now.
I think God's teaching me something. It's not all about me. I don't have to constantly be full and satisfied with life... food, clothes, money, etc. It's not about my comfort. And as much as I think I can, I really can't do it by myself. As much as I may strive to do or think what I should, I can't do it without relying on God and faithful people he puts in my life.

Two Weeks

Two weeks people! Boy or girl, what do you think?!

Breaking and Entering

I guess we can't legally be charged with the offense since it involved breaking and entering into our own home. Nonetheless, we looked pretty sketchy (and pathetic) trying to bust through our bedroom windows on Sunday afternoon. It was bound to happen, and I for one am surprised it took four and a half months to come to this.
In our new place we have to go into the building before then being able to go in through our front door. We lock our door religiously and also need a key to get into the building itself (theoretically). Because I've been fearful of this exact scenario, most days when we leave the house together I annoyingly ask Jeremiah if he has the keys. Sunday was no exception. I suppose a better question would have been to ask if he had all the keys--even our house key I lent out to his family while they were visiting for the weekend. Oops! Jeremiah freaked and I laughed. What does one do when they lock themselves out of their own house?? Can't call AAA (speaking of, we need to get signed up for that). Can't ask a neighbor. Shoot.
Luckily, my mind quickly raced back to mid-slumber Friday night when it started storming. I groggily got up and closed all the windows we had open, but didn't want to waste my precious sleep time locking them (those things require some serious elbow grease). There was hope! Until we trekked through the landscaping and bellied up to the window only to find you couldn't really grasp the screen. But by some miracle, Jeremiah got ahold of it and proceeded to bend it until it popped out. What a guy! I think it's his new found handy self. If it were up to me to get us in, we would've spent that night at a shelter. Unfortunately, the screen didn't go back in quite as well as it came out and the frame ended up snapping in half along the bottom before Jeremiah slid it into place. Fortunately, it doesn't look nearly as ghetto as one might expect from the outside.
I'm not sure whether it's a good or bad thing we live on the first floor. On one hand, there would have been no way to break in if we weren't on the ground floor. On the other hand, I guess we'd be a lot safer.

And that my friends is a lesson learned. Actually two lessons learned.
1. It's easy to break into our place.
2. We need to hide an extra key.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day One: A Rough Start

The novelty of the challenge quickly wore off about an hour into my workday. So hungry. My breakfast consisted of plain rice krispies with a little bit of milk. That'll curb anyone's hunger for oh say 25 minutes tops. I had a little snack of about half a cup of watermelon. Again, not the most filling of foods. I couldn't believe I was actually looking forward to rice for lunch. A massive headache set in around 10:30am and is still lingering as I speak. I've been getting these migraine-like headaches for several weeks now, which I'm chalking up to pregnancy since I never experienced such agony before. Not sure if the headache today was due to the lack of sustenance or just another day in the life of being with child. By 11:30am I got one dry-heave out of my system. I had packed layer lettuce salad leftovers from a cookout the day before. In light of the challenge, I didn't feel right about throwing the rest of it out. I considered this to be a very fortunate treat for me. That consideration came yesterday. Today, the thought of opening up that tupperware of salad made me cringe, and even in my desperation at 2pm I couldn't stomach it. Thankfully, there was a box of popcorn at the office. I confess, I popped a bag and prayed the headache would go away. It did momentarily, but came back full-force post popcorn. I indulged because I was starting to feel like this may be a big mistake with the youngster sucking up every last nutrient that sparsely entered by body and probably craving for more. I had next to no other food options and didn't want to give up so early, so I pressed on until 5pm. Came home to a 4 day old bagel for dinner and napped for a bit over 2 hours. I could really go for a Klondike bar right now.

Jeremiah just came home. He's going hardcore with this challenge and I commend that. For breakfast and lunch he had rice and beans. A mango for snack. At his small group tonight they had rice and beans on a tortilla and mango and banana for dessert. A cup of plain, decaf coffee to follow. He's bored. He had a headache all day.

Cold turkey is a killer.

No revelations right now, but doing a lot of thinking about how fortunate we are, how excessive we live. Doing a lot of thinking about pregnant women living in poverty and the 983 million other people just like me who experience each new day hungry.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Five Day Challenge

Jeremiah just returned from the grocery store with all the food we'll need for the next five days. He didn't even take a list. And the real kicker, he spent less than $20.

See we're joining dozens of other Hope-goers in take a five day challenge to forego our abundance and experience need, want, faith, and sacrifice. Rice and beans for five days. Then give the gap: donate the money you saved on groceries this week to support a cause. Millions of people are starving throughout the world as I eat my double chocolate Klondike bar to round out a day of three full meals and plenty of snacks to supplement.

I hate rice and beans. Well, I can gag down a few forkfuls of white rice (topped with butter, salt, and pepper), but I absolutely can't stand beans. Ugh, the texture is all wrong and the taste is unbearable. So when Hope announced its upcoming challenge, I threw up a little in my mouth and racked my brain for excuses. As luck would have it, I'm almost halfway through my pregnancy, so I sighed a big sigh of relief knowing I wouldn't have to participate. Jeremiah was excited about it, but I felt confident and good about my decision to opt out. Although, a decision usually comes with some thinking, analysis, or debate, doesn't it? I suppose this wasn't a decision at all. I didn't put much thought into it, and surely didn't consider the full picture.

This past Monday a slight revelation occurred to me. Pregnant women in other countries don't have special privileges. They don't get to sit down to a Thanksgiving feast while the rest of their family and friends gag through rice and beans. As quick as the thought came to mind, it was gone. I hate rice and beans.

Then this past Tuesday we went to our bi-weekly dinner gathering with friends. The topic of conversation a friend offered was our thoughts on Hope's five day challenge. What was our initial reaction? Were we planning to participate? As we all shared our honest feedback on the subject, we realized our reactions were pretty telling of what really goes on in our hearts. We talked about how we couldn't be inconvenienced, about how deserving we think we are. We talked about how it's not that much change, about how we don't have to sacrifice. We talked about wanting to keep the money we saved, about the fear of trusting God for provision. "Can't we add a little bit of chicken? I'll only do it if I can pick what types of beans. Can we just do the challenge for dinners?"

We have a lot to be thankful for. I can say I hate rice and beans because I have other options. We can add in fruits, vegetables, and meat. We can choose what type of bean, what kind of rice. We have the ability to give the gap.

How fortunate we are that we have a choice. As Jeremiah mentioned on Tuesday, these people just want to eat. Period.

I hope you'll read through the heart of this challenge on Hope's website. I also hope you'll consider what some of these things mean for you, for your faith. I know that I can go through the motions of this and miss out on a lot that God would have for me. I'm praying that this will be a time of maturity, humility, sacrifice, and faith. We'll let you know how we're doing.

Note: we are considering what are wise yet sacrificial choices for us. And likewise for those who want to participate. Maybe it's foregoing the daily lunch breaks out, maybe it's only eating what's already in your house, maybe it's 15 meals of rice and beans.