Caity Shinnick is wife to Will (worship pastor, extraordinary cook, great dad) and mom to Hattie (almost 5 years old) and Liam (3.5 years old) and Violet (8 months old). Caity leads the creative and communication efforts here at Ethos. The following blog was written by her — her hope is that it inspires other pregnant or nursing moms to join in during this season of prayer and fasting.
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Let’s start at a raw and honest place…
WHY I DON’T WANT TO FAST
Because I’m nursing an 8 month old baby.
It’s too hard to restrict my diet when I’m nursing (or pregnant).
I don’t have the time to prepare and put that much thought into it.
My life is hard enough as is - three little kids, working, keeping a house.
I just don’t want to.
I only get a few things that are just mine - my treats and small bits of time alone are some of them.
I crave certain things and can’t stop thinking about those things!
Surely this wasn’t meant for pregnant women or new moms.
These were the first thoughts that came to me when I heard the word “fast.” It took me only a few seconds to rattle off a list of reasons that could easily get me out of fasting with our church community. But I think there’s more to be had…
THIS STAGE OF LIFE
Sometimes when I am pregnant or have just had a baby, I hear the call to join or show up for something, and I immediately start to opt out. Thoughts like “well, I just had a baby,” or “that sounds too hard,” or “they probably didn’t mean pregnant women,” start to flood my mind. I can find myself creating loopholes to avoid challenges, or I let my baby (or my pregnancy) be my shield and my excuse to not have to get involved.
I don’t say any of this to bring shame or guilt. These are my honest thoughts and have to do with me. You may relate to some, you may not. So hear me on that.
But I have felt this conviction over the last year or so…this gentle nudging from the Holy Spirit…that sounds something like this,
“What makes you exempt from me and the work I desire to do in you? Who has told you to hold yourself back from me?”
And I realize that fear, or exhaustion, or apathy, or my circumstances, or my desire for control have held me back at times from the work of the Holy Spirit in the days of babies and pregnancy. I know I want more of God, but sometimes I set up my own barriers that prevent me from going deeper. I fear losing control, or I selfishly don’t want to give up what’s easy in a life that seems pretty challenging most days, or I just think things will be too hard. So I stay put.
But I want more of God now, as a young mom with three little ones — and I want more of God when Violet is up at night, and even in the midst of the sleepless days (and nights) — and I want more of God later on when my kids are in school and life is a new kind of crazy. I don’t want to miss out on the work of God in this (or any) season of life.
(And I totally understand that every pregnancy and every baby is different! Some circumstances are so much more challenging than others. So examine where you are in life, ask God to show you where he desires to work in your midst, and lean into him!!)
WHAT’S RIGHT FOR ME AND MY BABY?
This is a question only you and your husband can answer — and also your doctor if you are thinking of making changes that are outside the norm!
Whether you are pregnant or postpartum or nursing, your body needs care and nutrition around the clock. When I was 21 weeks pregnant with Violet, we started Fast Forward in 2017. And I knew the nausea would set in around 8:30am if I hadn’t eaten at least a small meal by then. And then came the headache…and then I was down for the entire day.
So as I have been examining my heart and my life as I prepare for Fast Forward this year, I have conceded that I will not be entirely fasting from food. (If you haven’t read Dave’s eBook on Fasting and Prayer, go read it! Particularly pages 37–49 about the types of fasts and being prepared.)
Hattie is almost 5 years old, Liam is 3.5 years old, Violet is 8 months old. Our house is a little crazy with three little kids, and then you add in a work-from-home mama…and it only adds to the craziness most days!
We are still working through and praying about what it looks like for our family to fast — to intensely lean in so that we can create space for intimacy with God.
Here are a few ideas for this stage of life — Partial Fast and Soul Fast.
Dave defines this in the eBook as “a fast where you give up only certain foods or certain meals during the course of your fast.” This might look like giving up sweets, treats, and sodas. It might look like altering the meals you prepare to be simpler and healthier, to mark a change in your eating patterns so that you create awareness and space for God.
My hope for myself and my kids is that we will physically mark our mealtimes differently by the food we are eating and be reminded over and over again what we are doing — entering into a time of prayer and intimacy with God!
If you are nursing — you will want to make sure you keep up your milk supply! If you feel like you aren't taking in enough calories or your milk supply is decreasing — make adjustments! (I don't recommend skipping meals for nursing or pregnant mamas, rather choosing different foods or abstaining from sweets and treats for example.)
You also can change up what this fast looks like. You don't have to do the same thing for all 30 days. Maybe dedicate every Saturday to be more challenging if you know you'll have more help from your husband on the weekend. Or every lunchtime for 30 days could be the time you really change things up!
Already, my brain is saying things like, “but you love drinking a Coke in the afternoon to get you through!” or “but you’re nursing, don’t deprive yourself of the things you like!” And that’s my human nature…to seek self-gratification, not self-denial. But right there in Mark 8, Jesus talks about this very thing! Denying oneself and following him!
Yes, I will survive without an afternoon Coke, and my kids will be ok without Goldfish. And there will be moments when it’s hard…because denying ourselves is hard. Our culture operates around self-gratification and excess. So in these hard moments, our hope is to turn to God and let his presence and his ways satisfy us. For his heart for us, for our community, for our world to transform us.
Here’s what Dave has to say on Soul Fasts in the eBook, “Technically speaking, in the Bible, fasting only refers to abstaining from food and/or drink for a spiritual purpose. However, some people due to health reasons, choose to fast from things other than food. Some people will give up television, social media, or other activities for a Soul Fast to focus on prayer. Each of these can be a very valuable way of connecting with God more deeply.”
Just as we might simplify our diets to make space for God, we can also simplify our lives to create new space to spend with God.
I’ve been asking myself, “Where do I spend the majority of my personal time?” Which implies that I even have personal time, ha, because some days it doesn’t feel like it exists! But when my kids’ heads hit their pillows at nap time or bed time, and I am left with minutes alone…what do I usually do?
I usually check my phone, scroll through apps, watch Netflix while I do laundry, etc. (None of these things are bad, by the way! They represent little pieces of time that I reserve for just me.)
So…what does it look like for me to lay down what I love, to lay down what I hold close, to deny myself the small pleasures…all for the purpose of devoting myself to God in prayer and fasting? What does it look like for me to give him the spaces of my day to engage with him in greater intimacy?
I’m still fleshing this out in my own life. I’m asking God to make it known to me through his Holy Spirit. What I do know is that this should be hard. It should feel like it’s costing me something. And even as I write that, my skin starts to crawl and my anxiety sets in. Because, again, it’s not my natural tendency to deny myself what I want.
But I’m hoping that as I listen to the Holy Spirit and I trust his voice — knowing that God is the keeper of promises and true to his word and has never led me astray — that I will find greater reward in my obedience to him and the call he places on me.
Soul Fast Ideas — Cut Out (or Reduce) One or More of the Following:
PRAYER & INTIMACY WITH GOD
One area of this 30 Days that applies equally to all people in all life stages is Prayer! No matter what you choose to fast from (or for how long), you can intentionally pray and spend time with God for the full 30 days.
This might require you to wake up a little earlier, or to ask your husband to care for the kids for a chunk of time each day. You could go on a walk (with or without your baby), spend time journaling, or use time alone in the car to spend time with God. If you are a working mom or pregnant & working — you could use your lunch hour to eat alone some days and dedicate that time to God! This can take on all forms — get creative!
HOW DO I SUPPORT MY HUSBAND WHILE HE IS FASTING?
For us, supporting Will during his fast will require preparation on my end. I will have to meal plan! I will take on the majority of preparing meals for the kids. It will require meal planning in advance and a little more effort than usual — but I believe this will help all of us be more successful! Amy Etheridge wrote a great blog for families with young children, and it has lots of practical information in this area of food prep!
This is an area that only you can decide for your family. You may need help preparing meals for the kids or even for yourself while you are pregnant or nursing, and that’s completely ok! Pray about this, ask your husband to support you as well! We are in this together!
IDEAS FOR SUPPORTING YOUR HUSBAND
- Pray for him in his fast.
- Don’t talk about the food you ate.
- Be considerate about the foods you cook (don't cook his favorite meal!).
- Think about the smells that will remain in your house & be considerate.
- Try to clean up the kitchen area so that remnants of your meal aren’t around.
I think the best way I can support Will is to be involved with him! Praying together. Reading together. Listening to the Holy Spirit together - or individually - and sharing what we hear. While we may operate separately at meal times, we can be as involved in each other’s spiritual journeys as we choose to be! Just because I am not fasting the same way as him doesn’t mean we aren’t doing it together!
There’s a tendency to feel like I am not fasting at the “same level” as him if I don’t completely fast from food. This is where it’s important to assess what God is calling me to, and if I don’t feel like it’s challenging or stretching me, then maybe I need to ask God to clarify or confirm!
Being pregnant can be hard. Having a little baby and nursing can be hard. But there is more of God for us, for the expecting mamas and the new mamas and the young families. Our Father is kind and merciful — and he is gently leading us as we care for our young (Isaiah 40:11). Lean into him, let him lead you in places that may seem challenging, and trust that he has your best at heart! Ask him how you can fast and pray in this season — and trust he will provide for you!
I am praying for you. I believe in you — and I truly believe in the promises of God and the things he longs to do in your life — even now, in these days that seem hard and never-ending and sleepless. He’s with you. He’s gone ahead of you. And he’s good.
Pregnant or nursing mamas, need support or encouragement?
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