Yesterday though, prior to our date, I worked all day cleaning up the yard from Ernesto, which breezed through North Carolina last week.
We have 13 pine trees in our back yard, so there was a lot of clean up to do. Lucas helped me too. As I was doing all that raking and hauling off branches, I thought of how strong my African sisters have to be who don't have the luxury of machines to do so much of their work. My African sisters who know how to clear a field and plant and weed and harvest. I worked all day long and finally got it cleaned up. Then I took some Advil to help stave off the sore muscles I knew I was bound to have, for I am definitely NOT that strong! And I've continued to take my Advil every four hours, which has enabled me to be only slightly sore considering how hard I worked. I realized what a blessing it is to have such easy access to something as simple as Advil. I have a bottle of it in my medicine cabinet. And if it runs out, I'll just go to the store and buy some more. What a luxury and a convenience. And my backyard, while small in comparison to some, is a sanctuary that only a lucky few around the world possess. After all my hard work, I can kick back and enjoy something that most people in the world have no potential to ever own.
So, now that we've been through an entire week of fasting from consumerism, what has God done in my heart thus far? For the first couple of days, I could feel guilt trying to push its way into my heart. Guilt over the fact that I waste more in a day than some families have in a week. Guilt over the fact that life in America is so easy for me. I have so much while others have so little. Then, after the guilt started, I started to question why it is that some have to struggle so much while others just walk in blessing everyday of their lives. But, I know that God does not want us to feel guilty. So, I asked Him to help me understand what it is that He wanted me to be getting out of this experience. I'm starting to understand.
The guilt is gone. Well, mostly. Instead, I am finding myself more grateful and cognizant (aware) than ever before of the many blessings in my life. It's as though God is opening my eyes to a realm of blessing that I didn't realize I possessed. I'm so rich in so many ways. I'm noticing the little things God has given me. My clean sheets that smell like my favorite fabric softener. The shade in my backyard. Lucas snuggles in the morning. Kaitlyn hugs in the afternoon. The fact that soon (Nov. hopefully) I will have two more little ones running around. My husband. My patient, loving, gentle, strong husband. Adventure and unpredictable excitement in my life. Cold, clean water with ice in my glass. A relationship with God that fills me with love, faith, and peace like I've never experienced before. Flowers. Friends. The blue sky. Air conditioning...I could go on...
God has given me all of these things just because He loves me. But the hard part to reconcile is that God also loves my sister in Africa who walks five miles each day to get water for her children. He loves the "invisible children" of Uganda who walk 20 miles each night just to find refuge in the cities from terrorists. His heart breaks for the baby girls of China who are discarded as though their beautiful femininity were a curse when He meant it to be a blessing. I know that tears fall from His eyes each time another Emaye (Mommy) dies from AIDS in Ethiopia. How does one reconcile that and actually feel the liberty to enjoy the blessings that we have in America?
I don't have all the answers yet. I do know that some of the blessings we keep to ourselves are really meant to be shared with those who don't have. I do know that God loves the hurting people of the world. I do know that the things that break God's heart are widows, orphans, the poor, the downtrodden, the oppresed by society. I know that He intends for justice to be carried out in the lives of these people. I know that at any moment, He could reach down and squash like a bug those who are perverting that justice. Yet, I also know that He's not a tyrant. While He intends for all of those things to take place, He intends to use ordinary people to carry out that justice. We're all intertwined in a way we can't exactly see. He blesses us because He loves us. He blesses us because He loves them. He blesses us so that we can bless them. And as I knew on Sept. 1, this 30 Days of Nothing is just the beginning for our family. Not that we'll fast from consumerism forever. But there is so much more for us to do in the world...Hmm...I wonder where I'll be in another week?!