Everyone from church kept asking me "so, are you going to do the New Year Fast?". "Yes yessssss I would begrudgingly respond, I just don't know what I'm going to fast from, God hasn't told me yet."
"Maybe social media!" they would nearly always exclaim.
"Meh. I don't know, I'm sure there is something else God wants me to ditch for two weeks. Plus, I've got a business to run! I can't avoid Facebook for that long, what if I get a LEAD? I'll pray about it..." I would respond, with truly NO intentions of committing a legit prayer session to the matter, I just wanted my friends to get off my back for crying out loud. Misery loves company DON'T YOU ROPE ME INTO THIS ONE, TOO! But then I did pray about it. And, like He almost always does, God responded.
"What oh WHAT should I fast, God? Food? I'd love to come outta this thing skinny. Or Social Media? But you KNOW I have a business to run. Please don't say go liquid please don't say go liquid...."
"You know what" he whispered to my heart as I pulled out of the Target parking lot.
Yep. I got it. Done deal. Right then the day before the church wide fast was set to begin He kindly helped me uncover the three things I was immediately convicted to ditch for two weeks: Social Media, Television and unnecessary spending. I then promptly went home and bought all the things I had in my Amazon and Sephora shopping carts.
Day 1 was turning out to be a breeze. I read my devotionals, spent the day cleaning, rotating my listening pleasures between Hillsong worship music and the Magnolia Story and honed in on what I should focus my prayers on during the upcoming days. It was glorious -- until 11:45pm when it wasn't. Days 2-3 were restful recovering zones for the grueling emotional toil I let the enemy (a less "you're a crazy person" sounding name for the devil, I suppose) wreak havoc on day one. DAY ONE, where my fingers battled the phantom motions of mindlessly scrolling my phone for the Facebook and instagram apps without my brain being cognisant. I'd even find myself typing out the Facebook website and once my profile popped up I'd scream "AH! HOW DID I GET HERE?!?!?!" and quickly close it out as if someone was watching.
Eventually I got used to being out of the loop and relished the additional time I had. I listened to three and half audible books as I edited client photos. I called my friends and chatted during my lunch break. I read more of the bible in the evenings and printed iPhone photos. I caught up with friends in person because I genuinely wanted to know what they were doing in their lives. I even felt the urge to BLOG. BLOGGGGGGGGGG, the bain of most photographer's existence these days. Suddenly I had all this time to do things and the energy and desire to do them. One time I even gave into the CNN news click bait that Kim Kardashian spoke out about her robbery and when I saw the television promo was disgusted. Me! DISGUSTED at the flawless face of Kim Kardashian! WHAT IS THIS MAGIC?!?! Quickly I learned, it ain't magic, honey, it's the Holy Spirit, and He can do that and a WHOLE lot more if I just give Him my time and attention and, well, heart to do the working on.
Some things didn't change. I still fought the urge to curl up and watch a movie with Marshall in the evenings and stood in the Target aisle for 10 minutes contemplating wether or not to buy a $19.99 Sugar Paper planner when all I came for was squash and milk. But lots of things did change. I asked the cashier to take the planner off of my bill (VICTORY!), I spent time studying the gospels and journaling all the wild and incredible things I was hearing so much more clearly from the Lord, and I my trips to the restroom were much, much shorter.
God began to reveal to me that by giving up the desires of my flesh and these three things, I would in turn get so much more from him. I learned that, if I'm not careful (which, when AM I?) social media has significant influence over my decisions, from how to spend my days, where to take my business and even what to buy. Instagram makes me spend MONAYYYYYY. (If I was a great marketer I would totally use that to my business advantage, but homey don't play dat). Television isn't as influential, but it had been a waste of time. Evenings that could be spent around a bonfire with friends, spending quality time with my husband or making house chores enjoyable teamwork were more often consisted of searching for a movie on Netflix or binge watching a television series. And, well, my money. If you follow me on Instagram Stories (oh you KNOW I'll be back at that!) you'll know Whole Foods buffet is my jam. But now I was praying about so many things, lots of them rooted in 'financial freedom', and how could I trust God with my finances if I myself wasn't being a good steward, something God had been harping on me for years "Your middle name isn't Stuart for nothing" He once said to me REAL loud)? I needed a heart change, that was clear. So, thankfully, He did it. God put the lock down on me so much so that it was literally PAINFUL when I went back to target and dropped $19.99 on that Sugar Paper agenda once the fast was complete (because I really could use it. Let's be for real, didn't you see that one coming?). Most of all, I cut my dependency on perceived validation in the form of Instagram comments, likes and conversation and instead made efforts to learn to get all I needed to fill the void of loneliness/doubt/worth/anxiety/love from my Creator -- not the internet. Like, legit.
The truth is, I went into the fast reluctant. Wondering if I would make it through and if my photography would suffer from the lack of activity. But I wasn't on social media and my business didn't explode. Matter of fact, I love my own work again and feel rejuvenated with a mind full of room for natural creativity, not ideas or resentment sparked by others. You don't have to be led by the church to fast, and you don't have to be in church or even believe in anything to fast from social media. Once you make the decision to temporary step away or disciplined act of setting strict boundaries, you can clearly see the effects it can have on us and how freeing it is to live without it's influence!
In the words of pastor Mike Kai I am "exiting different than I left", I will not go back to the old condition and am thoroughly excited to see all the promises and 'big picture' come to fruition in our future, promises ignited through the fast. Life is so much sweeter when I just commit more time to listening to God and tune out all the rest. After all, He created this earth, and me! Why in the world wouldn't I trust him with my dreams? Sometimes I just think I can do better, but better than God? BETTER THAN GOD, ASHLEY. pshhhht. I'm walking out of that fast with prayer and praise, seeing things from a different perspective.