Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bananas, detox, and the discipline of fasting.

Did you know that bananas are technically a berry? Weird, huh?(thank you @UberFacts)
We eat a lot of bananas in my house, And bananas are tricky. Buy too many and they go bad before we eat them; buy too few and I start to get snippy with the kid that just grabbed the last one. The One I needed for baby's breakfast. I don't always notice these kinds of details, but food has been on my mind lately. My bible study has been doing a book together by Jen Hatmaker, called Seven. The main premise is how we live in major excess and how fasting in these areas opens up our hearts to joy and freedom in Christ. This first week was focused on food and the goal was to pick seven foods and eat only those for seven days.
So, like most "homework" in my life, I have a tendency to do just enough to get by and make a lot of excuses for what I don't do. I am the queen of justifying my choices. I might have turned this into a list of nine foods rather than seven and somehow justified my daily cup(s) of black coffee. My fast wasn't exactly by the book. That was the point, though. You don't fast for the sake of fasting, but so that you create for God to work. I also learned that I eat I lot of little things that easily go unnoticed by everyone except my waistline. Bite of cheese here, a spoonful of peanut butter there. And isn't that the way it is with God? It isn't the big stuff keeping us from joy in Him, but the little distractions. This week of less sugar, less choices, less unhealthy stuff has led to more headaches, more complaining, and more selfish itsallaboutme behavior. Apparently, sugar is like crack to my system and taking it away sent me on a downward crashing spiral that ended in my screaming at my kids. But when the detox subsided and my body started to feel healthier, my soul started to experience the same cleansing. I have listened more, trusted Him in new ways, and seen how he speaks to us in our daily routines. When did food become more than just a blessing and a fuel for life? When did it become the answer for stress, pain, and boredom? What about the person that doesn't have the kind of excess I have or even goes days with out any food at all? Am I so selfish to think I deserve that sleeve of thin mints?
Pete Bowell said something at Hope today that had me thinking. We have become too central in our own stories. Why do we do that? Why is it all about me sometimes? In Colossians 1:17 it says in Him all things hold together. I am newly aware that He is at work in even the little details. It isn't a coincidence that I have had so many opportunities this week to talk about what He is teaching me. When the junk is cleared away, we have space to fill...and when we are filled up, we have overflow to share. I don't want to be living the barely scraping by, empty bucket kind of life. Less of me, more of Him: keeping that sentence on repeat in my brain.
This week, bananas were on my approved food list and I have enjoyed each and every one I ate. When you take away the junk and start to only eat a healthy list of foods, your body starts to savor the good stuff. Frozen bananas were like a dessert to me, maybe even better than dessert. Just like the good food that fills, I long for the good Word that fills(cheesy...I know. But true)
I feel like life this week has been sweeter.
And I didn't need high fructose corn syrup to get there.

Monday, January 23, 2012

One of these things is not like the other....

This holiday season, when we would go look at Christmas lights around Richmond, we had an ongoing joke about our arrival back home.  Scott would say something like "Wow, look at this house!  It is sooooo cool.  These people must be really awesome."  And then the rest of us would comment on how great the family that lived there must be and how we should park in their driveway and go meet them.  In the midst of our comic routine, Josh would always remind us that it was just a joke and actually, we live in this house, not a strange family.  Thanks, kid.  I guess this is an important stage in child development...understanding real and make believe, right? 
The boys have decided to keep the storyline going through the winter and will often make up imaginary people that they will meet when we open the doors to our house.  They talk about the ages of the kids and what rooms the kids sleep in and what toys they will play with when they meet them. Sometimes they even pretend to talk to the other kids.  A little goofy, but all in good fun.
sidenote: I am also hoping this is a part of normal child development.  You know, imaginary play and creative story telling?  Right, that's exactly what it is.  I don't really need to call any child psychologists over to our house, right?  My kids are completely normal.  Yes, we will go with normal.  
So, here is where it gets a little weird.  The names for the imaginary kids often change.  Sometimes we will meet another "Danny", or a  "Josh", or a "Joseph", or (real) Danny's favorite "Roger".  The names usually are connected to a story we read in the bible or a book.  Sometimes it is names of (real) friends.  Pretty typical names....
Every kid has to have some imaginary friends, right?
And every kid names their imaginary friends, right?
Ok, so how many of your kids have an imaginary friend named Hot Fire Car?

(silence)  (awkward pause)

Any one got the number of a good child psychologist?  I have a 3 year old that he/she might need to meet.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I wish my dog could talk...

I just finished watching UP with my kids on this rainy, stay inside kind of day.  Before we began, I wondered if I was making a bad choice with the PG rating and intense moments throughout the movie. I was even more hesitant about my choice when I had tears streaming down my face in the first 10 minutes and I had to explain to my very sensitive 5 year old why mommy is crying. 
Not that crying is unusual or abnormal for their mother. 
It's the pregnancy hormones. 
I swear.
Except, what is my excuse for being quick to cry for the other 28 years of my life that have not involved me being with child?  I am a little on the weepy side when it comes to matters of the heart.  And I am especially sensitive to anything involving growing old, grown men showing pain, and heart wrenching musical interludes....ok, so UP is probably not the best movie choice for me. 
Fortunately, we survived the movie and the boys went on to play and leave their mascara stained mom to go play in the playroom.  They are pretty resilient, unlike me. 
Then enters our dog in the room with his best "mommy, please play with me, love me, give me attention" expression.  He probably just wanted to eat, but I like to think it was affection for his master.
It got me thinking about what a cool invention it would be for dog's to have a voice box, just like Dug in UP.  I get that it is just a movie and not a possible scenario, but think of the possibilities.  All that affection and unconditional love able to be expressed through a voice?  To know what is behind those longing and soulful eyes of my furry best friend? (feed me, feed me, feed me?)
I feel bad that we often pretend to talk for our dog and it is in a voice that is not very flattering.  We love our sweet Pollack, but we don't think he is the smartest puppy. 
He is faithful, loving, and wonderful with our kids, but he eats poo. 
Poo-eating seems to qualify him for a lower IQ than his non-poo eating peers. 
But I really would love to hear what he has to say.  Not so much about the poo eating, but all the other general observations from his point of view.
I also love that he has been more aware of me lately.  He is following me around more often and more attentive to my needs.  I often wonder if he can sense my increasing needs and is trying to care for his pack.  He was such a good dog with the first two boys.  I felt like he immediately looked at them as a new part of our clan and wanted to protect and care for them.  Maybe it was just his love for the taste of baby spit-up, but he was always around, always protecting.(Seriously? Poo eating? Spit-up licking? Our dog has issues)  But I am ever thankful for a dog that we completely trust around our kids.
And I wonder what he thinks about all of us?
If only we could get a doggy voice box....

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The view from our table

My children discovered a new favorite football movie, Facing the Giants, over the holiday break.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is a great family movie, despite the low budget and no-name actors.  After the fourth time of viewing it, my children had happily embraced the message and truth.  And after the fourth time, mommy was ready to hide the dvd.  But I was happy that they were enjoying the positive message.  At one point in the film, the coach tells his team that "If we win, we praise God.  If we lose, we praise God."  Good stuff.
Skip ahead to a few days after Christmas and our usual trip to the Henrico dump to dispose of our holiday trash and attic clean-out.  In the process of throwing out boxes, my engagement ring made its way into a truck sized dumpster.  As soon as we discovered that it was missing, we made plans with the staff at the dump to arrive back the next day at 7:30am to dig through the dumpster in search of my ring.  That evening at the dinner table we were prompted by our son to pray that we might find my jewelry the next morning.  During the prayer, I said something along the lines of "no matter what happens, we trust You God."  My 5 year old perked up and quickly made the connection between what I prayed and his favorite part of the movie.  "Mommy, we could say...If we find the ring, we praise God.  If we don't find the ring, we praise God."  I was deeply moved by the moment and realized that my child had just spoken great truth to me.
That next day, while I stood at the top of the Henrico dump, freezing cold with tears of frustration streaming down my face, I was given hope by those words my son spoke.  Despite hours of digging and searching, we never found my ring, but I believe we have gained something worth more than all the diamonds in the world.  Even in the tough times, my family was united.  We didn't shelter our children from the frustration we were experiencing, but we embraced it as a moment to grow together.  And thankfully we took time to listen to our children, because it was their words that had us remembering all that we have to be thankful for, even in tough times.  We were given a gift of truth through our children and it was a moment at the table that gave us the strength to persevere.
I do not know what your New Year is like and what your family is dealing with as we move into 2012.  In the grand scheme, a lost ring is so minor in comparison to some of the pain and suffering people are experiencing around us.  But I encourage you to go through it with your family.  Invite your kids into the good and the bad.  Talk about what God is teaching you and listen to what they have to say about His truth.  This is what keeping the end in mind is about.  Faith isn’t about our current circumstances, no matter how painful they are, but remembering that God will work through our lives in ways that we can't even begin to imagine.
In facing a time of trial in Daniel 3:16-18, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said these words as they were about to be thrown in a fiery furnace.  "17If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."  Basically, this was the lesson we were learning at our dinner table.  Whether we survive our trials, win the game, find the ring....or not, no matter what He is worthy of praise.  I believe that God is doing something big in our hearts, even through our suffering, and He can do the same for you.
Today, let's begin embracing those moments of family time together.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Who gets my best?

I asked myself that question today.  Is my family getting my best?
Before I lead you to assume that I am advocating perfection, I need to clear that up.  I am NOT talking about perfection.  This is not a post about being cookie-cutter little families who aren't honest about their issues.  My story I want to share is actually about a moment of confession and humility from my child.
I rarely have an opportunity to stay and visit with my son's preschool class, but today I was pressured by the longing eyes of my child to stay for a little bit of circle time.  Our 5 year old has an amazing teacher at Agape who welcomes families to stick around and see how they spend 5 days a week, from 9-noon.  She began circle time with different types of prayer to God; things they were thankful for, things they were sorry for, opportunities to ask for God's help.  As you can imagine, the conversations were sweet and comical. "I am thankful for being able to stretch my fingers like this"(demonstration included.)  "I am sorry for not listening to my sister and for telling her that I only have one sweater"(huh?)  Then my child raised his hand to share.  As the mother, I shifted uncomfortably as I wondered what he might share.
My child proceeded to tell an "I'm sorry" prayer about something that happened in our home last night.  I will spare you the details he shared in class, but the basis was an event of him not obeying and how truly sorry he was for being disobedient.  We had a sweet mommy/son moment and the teacher recognized that I was touched by his confession and the fact that he seemed truly remorseful.  She proceeded to pull me aside and tell me how he often shares things he is sorry about and also asks daily for his class to pray for his baby brother growing in my belly.  She started cry, I started to cry, and I leaned in for another hug from my son.
I realized in that moment that my child's teachers and classmates got to see a side of my son that we do not always see.  Even though it was a moment of confession, it was a good moment.  They see daily what I sometimes miss: humility, kindness, a gentle nature.  Not the world's view of a perfect son, but his character through good and bad.  Why don't I always get to see that?  Why do we argue instead of apologize?  How come teachers and classmates get to see the best?
Then I asked myself, do I always give my best?  Or do I let my guard down with my family, because I know they will love me no matter what?  In times when I sin and hurt  them, am I quick to ask forgiveness and admit my fault?  The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  We can't deny that sin creeps into family situations, but how we trust God in the midst of it is what matters.  Do we continue to pull from the emptiness of us or do we cling to the fullness of God and all He has to offer us.  His fruit is for us.
I am proud of who my son is becoming and the part of his character that is reflective of God's fruit.  And I am going to ask God to help me offer the best to him and to all of my family.  Our children are going to learn so much more from our humility than from our attempt at a perfect picture. 
Let's offer our families HIS best today.

tap. tap. Is this thing on?

Who are those cute little pumpkin heads?  That would be my big boys, who are growing up too fast.  I like to tell D and J to stop growing, which brings laughter and a rolling of the eyes from a 5 and 3 year old.  "C'mon mom, we can't stop growing.  It just happens."  You are right, son, but I wish I could bottle up this cuteness to be brought out at a later date.  Say, maybe those teenage years when you aren't quite so cuddly?
I am anticipating a re-entry to the world of personal blogging in the next few months.  (yes, and the other 3 people that read this will be thrilled!)  I will attempt to give comical updates to the world of the Gaskillrascals as we work our way down the path of parenthood.
One reason for my long break was a job that seems to take much of my time.  I love what I get to do at Hope.  It seemed like the perfect job for someone with my skills.  I get to work with families, yet my scenery is constantly changing.  I advocate in my church for a family ministry perspective, while working with some terrific women.  I have a schedule that is flexible and I am able to be home more often than not.  But life is ever-changing and this next stage is going to bring more challenges than this mom can handle.  I am taking the wise advice of my friend/co-worker and blogger Nicole once said to me....when you start something new, sometimes something else has to be dropped.  And for us, the entry of another rascal to our family qualifies as a reason to drop things.  When we have our third boy in February, I imagine lots of things will be dropped.  But those of you out there with a minor case of adult add can relate to my need to be doing lots of things.  I like having many balls in the air.  So, blogging will be one of those balls.  Maybe we could say an outlet for my energy? 
Looking forward to sharing some funny stories...better go fix breakfast, so that one of those stories is not about me being late to drop off my kids at school.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My kids are old enough for school?

Really, are they that old? 
They were such big boys today.  No tears for them. Kisses for Mommy and off to play.
Then Mommy drove off with the tears.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Guest Blogger: Nicole Unice

So, remember when I got to be guest post on a friend's blog? crazy, right? Well, the Gaskill Rascals are excited to welcome that friend, Nicole Unice, to be our guest post for today.
We feel honored to be a part of her blog tour!
If you have not had the chance to meet Nicole, then you are missing out. I introduced her a few weeks ago here. She has recently published a Study of Jonah called The Divine Pursuit. You need to check it out. Like right now. (btw: 100% of the proceeds from the study support International Justice Mission. very cool)

So, here comes the good stuff......

Becoming a counselor is a weird sort of schooling. What other graduate program teaches you how to listen, ask good questions, and read interpersonal dynamics? Who but future counselors study nonverbal cues, birth order, and “solution-focused questions?” Counseling techniques easily transform into entertaining party tricks: “Let me guess,” I imagine saying to my unsuspecting acquaintance while swirling my drink, “your deepest fear is turning into your mother, whom you find yourself resembling more each day?”

There’s another side to studying therapist techniques. Developing questions that pry back even the hardest shell takes practice. And there’s only one person that accompanies me to sleep, to the bathroom, to work—other than my toddler. It’s me. I am the unwilling recipient of my own therapy.

So I paid attention when I got all emotional about the story of Jonah. Do you know him? The bible Jonah, the telling-God-N-O Jonah, the swallowed-by-a-fish Jonah? Think way back to Vacation Bible School. You probably sang a song about him or maybe smoothed him up on a feltboard next to a smiling whale.

Jonah disobeys and isn’t loving, or at least, that’s the point when we tell the VBS version. But when I prepared a teaching series for a women’s group on the book of Jonah, I found myself stirred up, almost resentful, of what Jonah had become in those children’s stories. Like Jonah is a flat caricature painted by a heavenly hand to make us feel good about ourselves. Hey, at least I didn’t have to be swallowed by a big fish to listen to God. At least I wouldn’t defy God like that.

I got emotional because I thought Jonah could have had some reasons for running. That maybe following God’s orders and going to Nineveh was something excruciatingly hard for Jonah, something that felt impossible to do.

And then the therapist in me listened closely and asked a piercing question: “Hmmm….interesting. What are your Ninevehs?”

Hmmm is right.

I pondered my own Ninevehs and the Ninevehs of those I’ve counseled. I thought about the pattern of fleeing, obeying and resisting God found in Jonah—and found in me. I considered the things in life that would make me want to lob a fat N-O in God’s face, modern-Day Ninevehs like:

Living joyfully in difficult relationships.

Struggling through a hard marriage (or waiting on a good one).

Fighting with addictions.

Battling fear.

Making peace with the past. Wrestling with unforgiveness. Learning to wait. Embracing uncertainity. Raising difficult children. Choosing to care for aging parents. Going back to work when you want to stay home. Having children. Not having children. And the list goes on….

Holy Spirit calling: Jonah is me.

Jonah is you, too, if you’ve ever wanted space from God. If you’ve ever escaped from Him in heart or in action. Jonah is you if you’ve ever wondered how or why God would talk to you—and if you would obey. I know one thing: Jonah’s not a platitude to mount on a cross-stitch and hang in the bathroom. It’s raw, real life. It’s one of the many things I love about God--the way He enters our disheveled reality. The way He knows our crazy souls. And the way He shows us His soul for us, and for all his creation.

If you can relate, take heart, and take another look at Jonah. You might just find a friend.

Nicole Unice is a counselor and blogger working in family ministry at Hope Church in Richmond, VA. Her six-week guided study of Jonah, The Divine Pursuit, is available as a printed version on her website. An online community using The Divine Pursuit begins 9/15.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My new digits

I got a new phone number a few weeks ago.  Finally I am committing to Virginia as my home and said good bye to my 404 friend.  We had a good run, that number and me.  We were never as close as that amazing college number.  Seriously, you won't believe what is was, but I will give you a few hints. 
I had a number that was the same 6 numbers plus one other number.  As in, ###-##&#. 
I often think I was invited to do fun stuff only because my friends remembered my digits. 
Who should we call?
Well, there's always Anne, because I DO remember her number.

The reason I am sharing this bit of information is to tell you how surprised I am at the short break my Atlanta cell phone number took.  Someone has already been assigned my exact number.  And would you believe that his name is Daniel.  What are the chances?  Poor guy.  I wonder if he has gotten any interesting calls from long lost friends who are very confused at the time line of my child's birth when they hear a manly voice on the message saying, "you've reached Daniel. leave a message"  No, folks. My child does not have a phone and I will keep it that way until sport's practices and driving require the safety of a cell phone.
He's not even in Kindergarten yet, so we have some time.
(wiping tear away as I think about my baby growing up)

At least this Daniel fellow won't get calls from bill collectors like we did with our VA home number.  After about 50 of those, I was tempted to start asking random women if they were named Erin Blevens, and if so, would you please go pay your bill.  Debt free is a good life goal, Erin.  Don't let your slip-up be our dinnertime interruption. 
And friends, if you happen to chat with this new Daniel,  please be kind!
We chatted a few days ago and he seems like a nice guy.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

updated with evidence: Covered, Diced, and Capped

Danny asked for me to make breakfast for dinner the other day. I decided I could do better than breakfast at our house. Time for the boys to try lunch at the waffle house!
We had my favorite cheese eggs with grits(and raisin toast, of course) plus a waffle and an order of hash browns. Danny was pretty impressed at how fast our food came out. And they both were wishing I had ordered more food than that. Both boys seemed surprised that their mommy had once worked at this kind of restaurant.
(Here's a photo if you didn't believe me!  My summer trip with Campus Outreach.  I have some stories to tell.)
The best part was when I stuck a quarter in the jukebox and found a Hank Williams Jr song called Family Traditions. Our waitress started humming the tune and Danny yelled out for the whole store to hear "Mommy, we love this song!"
Maybe I need to think more about my music choices in the car?
nah...he has good tastes.
And he fits right in at the waffle house!