Cheetos are engineered to be irresistible. I recently noticed a foreign exchange student had quite the affinity for them. I wasn’t sure if she was on her way to a Cheetos addiction or if Cheetos are one of those things that know no borders.
Regardless, it reminded me of the story of The Cheetos that Pierced my Heart, a story that validated for me the power of fasting.
Eight years ago I joined a peaceful 40 day prayer campaign for an end to abortion called “40 Days for Life.” It encourages participants to not just pray, but to also fast for this special intention. Being a cradle Catholic I had fasted during Lent my entire life. I saw it as a voluntary sacrifice, an offering to Christ for all he sacrificed and a way to unite myself to Him in a small way. I never saw it as a spiritual tool, never had used fasting for a cause or special intention. I quickly grew and learned that fasting gives my prayers wings and amplifies them in my effort to storm heaven.
Well, I had a special intention that I really wanted to intensify in prayer. After having my own children, I was really struck by what a gift a child is. I could hold up my baby and it was just so obvious that this child came from Heaven and God’s heart. Scott and I weren’t the average couple that gets pregnant within 3 months of trying. It was painful personally and as a couple, as anxiety and uncertainty about our fertility mounted month after month. Thus, my special intention was a dear friend “Anna” (and her husband) and their family planning. You know the couples- the 1 in 8 that struggle with infertility for years. I had fasted off and on for her a day here and there in traditional Catholic style- two half meals and one full meal, no snacks. But I wanted to give something up.
Now, I see where you’re going, it seems lame to give up Cheetos, right? Well, maybe it was. But at the time I had introduced my young daughter to them and found myself buying them two bags at a time! With next to zero nutritional value, I had previously resisted Chester Cheetah and his tasty crunchy snack, but once I started with the “kid food” I opened a flood gate of desire from those salt-loving taste buds! So, I decided to give up Cheetos for Anna and her family planning, keeping in mind that the endpoint of this fast was indefinite.
In addition to 40 Days for Life teaching me about the power of fasting, it really did cement in my spiritual life the power of prayer as well. So as the months turned to more years for Anna I organized a prayer campaign! Not 40 days, but 9 days (Catholics know this devotion as a Novena, but I wanted to keep this ecumenical). I created a Facebook event entitled “Prayers for Anna” and invited any Facebook friend that wouldn’t be offended by being asked to pray with me. I also emailed people like my aunts and mom not on Facebook. Would you believe she got pregnant?! Sadly, she miscarried the baby. The prayers and the sacrifices increased on my part and I extended my net to include all those struggling with infertility. She did get her bouncing baby boy eventually! In the grand scheme of things, I wondered, did giving up Cheetos for ~5 ½ years really matter?
Last summer, I got my answer. Ian my then 3-year-old son had to have another open heart surgery. When you have HLHS or half a heart any surgery is major. But his surgery was especially so because not only did they re-route blood changing the blood flow of his body they also unexpectedly had to reconstruct his aorta. Two major surgeries in one. The recovery was quite rough. You could tell he just felt like garbage. Our poor boy was super nauseous and vomiting for days and days. The medical team tried everything g-tube feedings fast and slow, enemas in case he was blocked up, nothing worked. He would not smile, he was super close to having a psych consult because he was so depressed. Even Daddy and Paw Patrol Marathons couldn’t cheer him.
Finally, one of the Nurse Practitioners said no more g-tube feeds, put him back on his normal diet on his terms. She advised me to go to the grocery store next door and get some low fat potato chips (part of his post-op protocol was a strict low fat diet), something we can get him excited about. I go next door and they don’t have any Baked Lays…BUT I found Baked Cheetos. My heart just leapt when I saw those. I knew these were going to be perfect. Bright orange, crunchy, messy and irresistible. Sure enough, six days after surgery, the first thing that Ian ate and held down of any significant quantity was Cheetos! That night he asked for food for the first time. He was sitting up in bed for short periods, smiling and we even got him to laugh. We were able to be discharged a few days later! God winked at me through Cheetos. And that answered my question. Yes, our prayers matter and our sacrifices make a difference. I’m so thankful for all those praying and rooting for us from heaven and earth. Padre Pio and lots of other prayer warriors helped us all pull through that difficult time.
40 Days for Life is gearing up now! Join hundreds of thousands of prayer warriors at one of 505 location world-wide! Visit 40daysforlife.com The next campaign to end abortion using prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil starts September 25th!