The best intentions

Today was the day I had originally slated to begin a juice fast. With the advent of the new year I had decided to set aside some special time to fast and pray. However, winter blew in a ferocious snowstorm which landed my younger daughter, her husband and their dog at our doorstep. So I made chicken and dumplings instead.

Oh, and I also may have baked a loaf of molasses wheat bread, too.

And about four dozen chocolate chip cookies.

Not exactly what I had planned, but you seriously can’t expect a household of people which includes a pregnant woman (my daughter, not me) to exist on a diet of juice and water when it is -17 degrees outside. We’re used to cold winter weather in the Midwest, but yesterday the temperature was actually warmer in Alaska than it was in Indiana. The land of igloos and sled dogs would have been balmy compared to what it felt like outside my front door.

So instead of fasting, I feasted. There’s something about a houseful of family that beckons me to the kitchen. A homemaker at heart, I love to cook from scratch and serve up heaping portions to whomever gathers around our big dining room table. I can’t help it. It’s like it’s programmed into my DNA.

But then, of course, I know that I was designed by an awesome God who put me together just the way He wanted. He is the One who placed the desire in my heart to love and care for others. And He is the one who taught me that by serving others I can show His love for them. So I’m not going to guilt trip myself into feeling bad about not beginning my fast today. The year is still young and there will be another day soon to devote to fasting.

Just as soon as those cookies are gone.

Hungering for God

Every day for the past two weeks my kitchen has looked as if an explosion has taken place in it. I have always been an enthusiastic cooking-from-scratch-kind-of-chef, but since engaging in a Daniel fast for the last fifteen days my methods of cooking have drastically altered. The Daniel fast is a completely plant-based diet, but also restricts caffeine, sugar and any sort of processed food. Things like milk, butter and eggs have gone by the wayside and my pantry has been stocked with all sorts of new and exotic organic foodstuffs.

Before I go any farther I want to say that I know that the fast is not about the food. The real principle of fasting is to develop your spiritual hunger for God and to grow closer to Him. These past two weeks have been a remarkable time of spiritual growth for me as I prepare to speak at a women’s conference in October. As I have quieted myself before the LORD, he has poured out His love over me and I have been incredibly blessed.

That being said, living a vegan lifestyle has been an adjustment for me. For instance, I made some Daniel fast approved “oatmeal raisin cookies.”As I pulled them from the oven I quickly found that the bumpy brown circles of oat flour bore no resemblance to my regular oatmeal cookie recipe. I’m sure Keebler never put anything like them on the shelf. Of course, had the recipe been more truthfully titled such as “lumpy oatmeal blobs” I guess I wouldn’t have tried it.┬áMy mantra has now been “keep your taste bud expectations low and you won’t be disappointed.” (Don’t judge – I promise you I said it with a smile.)

I am really not trying to be negative here, just realistic. Eating a restricted diet is a spiritual discipline that I am using to worship and honor God. So no matter what I try to whip up in the kitchen, it isn’t going to taste like anything I am used to eating and I have decided that it’s OK.

On the positive side, I have had some really nice culinary discoveries like quinoa. Who knew that a tiny seed that looks like something I would put in my bird feeder could be so tasty? And dates! Those plump little fruits are incredibly sweet and sumptuous, especially to someone who has been without processed sugar for a few days. And thankfully without refined sugars, my palette has adjusted and fruits taste so much sweeter than they used to.

And I have also found that as my daily dependence on God has increased, the time we spend together has become so much sweeter. His words to me are clearer, my purpose in life has been redefined and my desire to work for His glory has been reignited. The small things that I have given up during the 21 days of fasting in no way compares to what He gave up for me. He stepped down out of heaven to dwell among men so that we could have life eternal. He gave His life for me because of his great love for me. And now each day I have the opportunity to draw near to Him and gain instruction for the journey He has prepared for me.

I’ve had a few people ask me if I am going to continue my vegan diet after I break my fast. Honestly, I don’t know how much of the diet I am going to continue. I like not being addicted to sugar and caffeine. Physically I feel much better without them in my life. But one thing I know that I am going to continue is my desire to seek a closer relationship with Jesus. I went into the fast seeking more of Him and I that’s what I got. And that is something I would never be willing to give up.