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Monday, March 28, 2016

Since fasting, I’ve become more aware, even alert that people all throughout the world go without food every single day.

So, what got me through my first true day of fasting?
Here I am November 2015, six weeks before I started my experience with intermittent fasting.
Desperate, the answer surprised me. 

After sending the kids off to school, I cleaned up the breakfast dishes when the first wave of hunger hit.  The hunger was an earth-moving force and I gripped onto the side of my kitchen counter.  My stomach felt like a black hole and there was soreness.  The actual muscle of my stomach ached, but nothing about the hunger made me crave food. 
Soon after, the first hunger pains subsided and I carried on with my day.  Dishes, laundry, and of course taking care of the most adorable baby ever when at 2:00pm I became hungry again; hunger like I’d never felt before.  The hunger felt like a monster growling from the inside out.  The sensation frightened me.  What was I doing?  Going without food didn't seem healthy.  Something was wrong with me when in my mind I cried out to God.
“Please, I need to eat.  I can’t do this, it’s too hard.”
“Not yet,” a voice in my mind said. 
“Then when can I eat,” I asked. 
“4:00pm,” the voice answered back.  
Two more hours without food? It didn’t seem possible.  I started to feel the weight of what I was doing.  Was this even safe?  The uninvited guest of self-doubt barged into my mind, reminding me of past failures.  Was this just another time to commit myself to something regarding food only to fail later?  Something inside me nudged back, something that was battling my self-doubt and I recognized it as the spirit of God.  
It said loud and clear:
“Do not be afraid of hunger.  You need to feel this.”

I knew I needed to fast, but the commitment felt like sugar running through my fingers.  In theory, fasting was a nice concept but actually playing it out wasn’t something I could do.  I couldn’t do it in the moment, let alone for 30 days.  I was in a kitchen full of food but there was nothing I could eat.  I had every food imaginable yet there I stood starving. 
“I’m starving,” I shouted in my mind when I felt the influence of someone.  It was a girl; a hungry girl.
I searched out this painting and the era of this beautiful girl somewhat resembled what I saw in my mind.
1800 Louis Leopold Boily (French painter, 1761-1845) Young Woman Ironing
Her presence came upon me quickly and there was an urgency to her arrival.  So insistent was she on gaining my attention, I spoke out loud to her.  “I know you’re here,” I said, startled I was speaking to a spirit.  So real was she, so very present was her influence I could see every detail.  In my mind I saw a tall blonde English girl with a light blue apron tied to her thin waist and a kerchief wrapped around her mousy blonde hair.  She was poor and desperate.  She was starving and through her expression and physical appearance, I could see her pain.
She needed to tell me something, but could only do it through prayer.  “Yes, I’m going,” I said kindly to her as I rushed in my room and fell to my knees.  She wanted me on my knees.  I understood and started crying because I knew she was hungry.  She’d been hungry for a long time and my own hunger became insignificant. 
“I’m sorry,” I said to her.  “I didn’t understand what it meant to be hungry.  I didn’t understand what you went through; what you suffered for me, for my mother and grandmothers.” 
            In my mind, she was holding a bucket and stood by a well.  She was worried and weak.  There was no other option for her and in my heart; I felt she knew her fate.  She wouldn’t make it.  She’d seen loved ones die; her pain had been real and great.  I imagined for a second what it must have been like to be literally starving when in my mind I saw myself attending a wedding reception.  Wearing a tight dress, I was uncomfortable because I’d eaten too much food.  Although I was too full to eat, I’d helped myself to a second piece of wedding cake.  Using my finger, I slopped a glob of frosting onto my tongue and quickly forced it down.  I didn’t take the time to taste it and wasn’t present enough to appreciate it, but I went and took another bite anyway.  Another smudge of frosting with another subconscious swallow and I had downed the entire cake.  With the presence of this starving ancestor watching me in her desperate condition, I felt sick. 
I’d been so selfish.  I was a selfish person who for years ate food without a thought to those who went without.  I thought I understood the poor, but I didn't.  Food, no matter the quantity, time of day, or needs of others was to be put in my mouth as fast as I could get it there?  When had that happened?  Why was I stuffing myself with food when others had little or none?  I felt like a drunken king with a greasy turkey leg and a dripping glass of wine all the while demanding more food.  How many plates had I filled with food only to later throw away?  Hundreds?  Thousands?  Such a pitiful act was not right.  I had no idea how hurtful this might be to someone who was starving.  There had to be some validation for those who went without. 
I needed to feel how my ancestors felt when they were starving. They were not able to self indulge every time they had a craving.  They had to work for what they ate and they had to feel hunger pains when there wasn’t any food. The experience made me so sick at myself, the very thought of food made me dry heave.  Never had the feeling of hunger screamed so loudly at me.
The message came clear as sunlight breaking through a rain cloud.  I needed to feel hunger.  I needed to feel comfortable being hungry.  Hunger need not rule me.  I was to rule hunger.  I had more power than hunger.  More importantly, I was to deeply feel the physical symptoms of hunger; the rumbling of the stomach, the fizz in the brain, the fatigue in the bones, the mental awareness that food was not an option – I needed to feel this for those who lived with hunger, those who died hungry – even starved to death.  I could feel them all around me.  I had ancestors in my genealogical line that had lived with hunger and had died because of it. They were with me.
  A starving girl in a house full of food knows she’s not really starving, she just thinks she is.  Through fasting, the suffering of others has become very real to me.  I fast for 16 – 18 hours and then get to eat, but some people go without food and are uncertain where their next meal will come from.  
Starving sisters sitting on the pavement in the Warsaw ghetto, Poland. The small girl died after one week
The picture was taken by Heinz ., a German soldier (Wehrmacht) posted in the Warsaw area in 1941.
Going without food is a humbling experience and for me, it’s a necessary reminder to pray for the poor, give a generous fast offering (money to help feed the poor) and be humble in the blessings I’ve been given.  
No longer do I say "I'm starving."  It's sacrilegious to those who truly are suffering.  Instead I say, "I'm hungry" or "I'm ready to eat." 

Intermittent fasting and prayer is the first time in my life eating has nothing to do with losing weight or body image.  It is about praying for others and having gratitude for the blessings in my life.  It is absolutely glorious.  I sing praises to the creator of the fast, it truly is inspiring.  
Easter 2016 and I've been practicing intermittent fasting for 80+ days.

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