Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What I learned about "fasting"...

What I learned about fasting...  Hmm...

I stink at it.

Seriously.  It should not have been that hard.  But it was.  Excuses like "Malia is in town and I don't get to have good BBQ that often" actually floated threw my head.  (What?  I live in Birmingham!  I could have good barbeque every day of the year if I wanted!  How ridiculous.)  I came up with all sorts of excuses why I needed to cheat.  And I did.  It was very obnoxious to be in my own head all week.  (If I'm being honest, it's a little obnoxious a lot of the time, actually.)

In all seriousness, here's what the start of this little "experiment," and the prayer and study I have been a part of,  has done for me:

Renewed my awareness of the millions of people who are literally starving (you know, instead of just starving because it's been two hours since I've eaten), enslaved, abused, etc.

Reminded me that Jesus is enough - affection, love, conversation, and (especially for me) validation.

Caused me to recognize that I am, in fact, more like one those entitled snobs that none of us can stand than I thought I was.  I want to be able to eat what I want and when.  I do not want to wait.  I want things to be convenient.  I do not want to stop doing what I'm doing because there is something bigger/more/different outside of me and my Gowing bubble.

I have realized that for all the wheat, whole grain, fresh foods, etc. I feed my family, we are not nearly as healthy as I thought we were.

Let's face it: my body is a temple to the Holy and Risen Lord.  Scripture is clear on this fact.  We do not have to go somewhere and ask someone else to talk to God on our behalf; because that covenant was changed with Jesus, my body is the temple.  Do I always treat it as such?

To that point, does God cringe when I pick up ________ from Publix?  I feel better about the whole wheat blah-blah-blah my kid is eating, but there are still 26 ingredients in it, 14 of which I cannot pronounce.  Is it really what's best?

A woman sitting next to me at Bible study tonight pointed out that when God was chastising the Jewish people in the Old Testament, at least once He called them "arrogant, overfed, and uncaring."  How true today.  So, as we continue in the spirit of a fast (after all, the next week is clothes; I promise I'm not fasting from clothes. No one wants that), I am asking that God open my eyes to the areas where I need to care more.  If my possessions steer my heart (as Jen Hatmaker so aptly put it), I pray I'm using what He has given me for His glory.  Not mine.  In 2 Chronicles 20, God's people fasted with expectation.  I have a lot of expectation.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why I should quit before I get any further behind...

If you haven't been here a while, here's a summary of what has been going on in my crazy life: at the insistence of the Holy Spirit, I am doing Jen Hatmaker's 7: an experimental mutiny against excess study.  Today began the week calling for some sort of food-related fast.

Any normal person doing 7 would have looked at the list of suggestions this morning for the "food fast" this week and changed her mind.  One of the choices listed was skipping a trip to the grocery store and using what you have in your kitchen to feed your family all week.  That would probably have been much  more applicable to me.  Especially as I added up all of the food items in my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, and came to over 279!  (I say "over" because I forgot to count the chips, bread, and cereal.)  I am pretty sure that is ridiculous.  I, however, had already prayed over my list of items I was choosing to eat and decided they were appropriate if a little too lenient to be considered a true fast, so I decided to stick to my guns.  Ugh.

The morning started early - I rolled over around 4 I think, and dozed until 6:30.  I read my Bible and did a portion of today's study.  Then before I even got out of my jammies I messed up on the fast thing: I started to get my coffee ready, but remembered at the past second not to pour.  When I fixed oatmeal for all of us, out of habit I put in the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and craisins in my oatmeal along with everyone else's.  Oops.  I ate it anyway.

It is freezing out.  Literally.  Snowing.  See.
our back porch
Of course in central Alabama, when it snows things complete shut down.  Apparently I do too, as all morning long my brain has been pounding "need coffee. need coffee. need coffee."  The funny thing about this is that I drink one small cup a day.  I love coffee and could drink four cups, but limit myself to one.  Why is this so difficult then???

After dropping Addison off at school and Audrey in the nursery, I worked out for like a second.  Afterwards I ran into several friends from Sunday school dropping their kiddos off.  They're all doing a Bible study that I decided not to do because of this 7 fiasco.  As I got in the car I thought, "should I quit 7 and start the other?"  Here's the thing: I've been praying fervently for opportunities to get to know women around me better.  I have said a hundred times that the thing I miss most about Pensacola is the deep friendships there.  I have friends here, don't get me wrong.  Wonderful, sweet friends.  But what I have been praying for is the "oh you're sick?  Here let me bring you some soup..."  The "I forgot to thaw out chicken for dinner and now I'm too lazy.  Want to meet us for Mexican instead?"  The "Myhusbandandorkidsaredrivingmenutsbutyouknowmewellenoughtolovemeanyways" kind of friends.  So I drove away stumped.  Wouldn't that opportunity have been it? What I have been praying for?  Why, then, all the push from the Holy Spirit to do 7?  I came home a little bummed out.  (And un-caffeinated!)  I realize part of the point of a fast is for prayer, so I start seriously praying.  Not because I'm burdened or sad or lost or angry.  I just want there to be a point  to all this!  I heard Jen say on the video that accompanies our study yesterday that sometimes our attachment to what we feel entitled to (i.e. "I want my food how I want it and I want it now) is a mask for our need for approval, love, validation.  That's it.

That's it for me.  Don't I already have all that I need?  Haven't there been enough folks pouring into my life?  Isn't it time for me to do that for someone else?

Or better yet, haven't I already been validated?  Loved?  Is it not enough that Jesus died on the cross for me?  What more validation, what better friend do I need?   

Part of this study is becoming more aware of the poorest of the poor around the world.  The trafficked, the enslaved, the abused, the hungry and starving.  I am thrilled and anxious about this part of it.  That leads to my prayer for myself during this "experiment":

Lord, may you break this spirit of entitlement in me, and in its place may there be less of me and more of Your Kingdom.  Give me a right perspective, and wisdom, discernment, and mercy.  Help me care about the neediest, and learn how you want me to act.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

This 7 thing is going to kill the last bit of sanity

Have you looked up 7 yet?  You should!  Or check out Jen Hatmaker's blog.  The book intro is pretty funny.  (It is a little like having a conversation with my good friend Barbara Burks: upfront, completely honest, not alone, and leaves you wishing you had the boldness to say more things out loud.)  The blog and book together are leaving me more and more uncomfortable with how I spend, wish, live, etc.

Tomorrow starts a week of this "experiment" where I am supposed to come up with some sort of food-related fast.  This will be difficult for me for lots of reasons:
I love food.
I have never turned food down.
I am currently cooking for a husband, a picky 2 year old, and nursing a baby and I simply do not think I can function while cooking 3 sets of every meal for a week.

Yesterday I tried to sit down and make a list of the foods I thought my entire family could survive on.  Things like " if I list tomatoes, can I include tomato sauce?" ran through my mind.  (Perhaps this misses the point of a fast.)  My smoke detector started going off during nap time (it's overly sensitive and goes off every other time I use the iron; I wish this could explain why my family looks wrinkled on a regular basis but it doesn't).  The alarm startled both of my semi-sleeping girls, causing about twenty minutes of frantic screaming from both at the same time, and leading to an hour of the baby only not crying if I was holding her (very unlike her).  I had a nap-time list of things to do about a mile long, so by the time I got everyone settled down I was stressed out and hungry and still trying to think of foods I could live on for a week.  What did I do to calm down?  Quickly devoured 4 oatmeal raisin cookies.  Seriously.  (Did I mention that I don't turn food down?  They were asking to be eaten!)  I then proceeded to make three successive mistakes on an evite that I sent out, spilled the crayons I was trying to clean up, made a mess on my up-to-that-point clean white kitchen floor, and remembered that I had laundry in the washer quickly molding.  I was completely at a loss and thought to myself "there is NO WAY I am going to get through this week without candy!"  Then I tossed back some M&Ms to make it till dinner.  (Its a wonder I am not diabetic.)

In all seriousness, I am interested in this fast thing.  It's something I've never done, and I'm excited about what the Lord has to show me.  I have been praying that I don't turn this study/experiment into a list of "to dos" to check off - as the obsessive compulsive side of me has a tendency to do - and instead allow it to be an opportunity for less of me and my stuff, and more of God.  The sections of this "experiment" are:

Aren't we all in need of down-sizing in at least a few of these areas?  Besides the sugar addiction, food is not really something I struggle with, but I regularly have to repent of coveting others' clothes and stuff.  I am on Facebook WAY too much, and I'm sure Brad can't wait for me to go through the spending part of this.  I am pretty sure I'll have to give Brad up during the stress week though, as he is typically what stresses me out.  (Just kidding... a little.)  So if this turns into something more than a few weeks of time set aside for prayer, and becomes a life of a little less Maile out there, I am absolutely positive it's for the best.

So here it is, the 13 foods I think I'm going to live on for a week:
Tomatoes/tomato sauce
Cheese/milk products
Whole wheat bread
Whole wheat pasta

To keep my sanity, I may be forced to make adjustments along the way.  Please note: zero caffeine and zero sweets.  Ugh.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

4 Months, 31 woman, and 7 things I'm a little anxious about

I kind of can't stand shots for my kids.  Scratch that.  I really can't stand them.  Scratch that.  I kind of can't stand visits to the pediatrician.  Scratch that.  It's really just well visits that I don't like.  Scratch that too.  It's really just that I cannot stand, get unbelievably annoyed, see red about the fact that I made an appointment over a month ago for my kid to be here so I know you knew I was coming yet we were still here for almost two hours, the nurse looked at me like I have a colicy baby but really I just have an infant who doesn't need to sit in this sterile, bright room in only her diaper for forever waiting to be stuck by multiple needles and missing her naptime, and I'm super nervous anyways about shots because I read that Jodi Picoult book about the kid who wasn't autistic until he had shots as a kid.  Phew!  It felt good to get it off my chest.  (English teacher friends - forgive me.  But if you have ever had a conversation with me you know that this is exactly what it sounds like coming out of my mouth.)

Just so you don't think I'm crazy and dumb: I like my pediatrician.  And I love that every time we have gone in for a sick visit, it's a super short wait.  That's why we still go there, in spite of the ridiculous wait sometimes.  And I will, of course, continue to vaccinate my kids; I would of course choose life for them over the debilitating diseases we're vaccinating against.  And, yes, I know you don't "catch" autism; I'm just a little nuts and look for reasons to be nervous about my kiddos.  Today was Audrey's four month check up.  And it was a doozy.  Can you tell it stressed me out a little?

On another note, I have been meaning to write about some things on here, but have been waiting to work out how it all fits together in my brain.  I do not have that figured out yet, but here goes.  Bear with me.

Have you ever read Proverbs 31?  "A woman of noble character, who can find?..."  (Gee thanks.)  It has popped up on my radar several times in the last month, which usually means I am supposed to do something/learn something.  I sort of ignored it at first.  I mean, I've read this chapter about a hundred times. I know it's supposed to be challenging women to do a bunch of great things for her husband and family.  I kept reading people's blogs, and hearing about this girl on the Today Show, all who tried to do each of the things in the chapter and  failed miserably.  (Who wouldn't?  I mean, "In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers." vs. 19  What in the world is a distaff?  And I can sew but I certainly don't own a spindle.)  It seemed to me that these women were being overly analytical - a habit most women I know struggle through - and were simply missing the point of the chapter.  So on Tuesday when I walked into Moms and More, a monthly Bible study my pastor's sweet wife leads, and saw that the topic was Proverbs 31, I rolled my eyes.  (Is a minister's wife allowed to roll her eyes about the Bible?  Not sure.  Shhh.)  But, as all things involving the Holy Spirit do, it was exactly what I needed.

In the spirit of starting the new year, well, new, I've been mentally reviewing and rethinking the way I do my job.  Since my job is my kids, my husband, and our house, I've really been thinking and praying about the way our days are laid out.  Talking to other stay at home moms and reading blogs (this pesky internet will be the death of me), I began to think all my time could be better spent.  What?  All?  Yes, all.  I re-thought trips to the store with two kids, showering while the girls are awake (read: showering ever), how I choose what I buy for our family, etc.  This brief review of Proverbs 31 was, for me, an encouragement.  In a nutshell, here's what it takes to be that "woman of noble character":
Fear the Lord. (vs. 30)
Be trustworthy with my marriage relationship, the lives & minds of my children, and strive to manage our home well.  (vs. 11-12)
Make wise choices when shopping; teach my children, no matter what I'm doing; work vigorously and eagerly (read: don't take two day to finish laundry, quit griping about the clutter, etc.) (vs. 13-14)
Give freely to the less fortunate and provide for those who serve (vs. 20 and 15)
Prioritize (vs. 27)

In other words, keep up the fight girls.  Use your time wisely.  Put your family first.  And when you need a nap or a shower, take one.  (Especially the latter.)  And quit beating yourself up about stuff.

On a similar front for me (and I use the war-like term on purpose here, folks), I have started the Bible study 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  I am excited and nervous and annoyed about it, all at once.  A few weeks ago I looked at a list of Bible studies being offered this semester at my church, and this was one that peaked my interest, but I was on the fence.  I mean, I don't feel like we live in excess.  But that's beside the point.  Within a week of hearing about this study, I had heard from three other people (without my soliciting their advice) that I should absolutely read the book and do the study.  (Holy Spirit.  Ugh.)  I balked, though.  "If you compare our little family to ________ who lives down the street or across town, or who sits down the pew from me, or who I follow on Pinterest, I am practically living in poverty."  That's something I might say to myself.

But the thing is that the Holy Spirit is not interested in how I match up to folks around me.  What matters is how much of me is doing what I've been called to do.  So I'm swallowing my anxiety and reading up on others around the world.  And pouring through scripture with the author, Jen Hatmaker.  And becoming obsessed with her blog.  (Read it.  Now, please.)  And sort of wishing that I had never heard of this craziness.  (I mean, I am going to have to fast from food.  Actually not eat some stuff folks.  It sounds sort of insane to me.)  And also getting excited that God is drawing me into what He is doing in His church.  Think about it: Francis Chan.  David Platt.  Jen Hatmaker.  A ton of other folks at Passion Conference, for two years in a row.  Something radical is happening here y'all.  Not just here, but all around the world.  The Bride of Christ has been called to be the hands and feet of our Lord, and we can't continue to pretend that we don't really know what that looks like.  Or that our lives are actually challenging or persecuted.  (If you have no idea what I am talking about, please go immediately to or your local library and buy/borrow Chan's Crazy Love, Platt's Radical, or look up Passion Conference, 2013.  Be prepared to feel uncomfortable.)

It may take a few years before all of this new way/old way/the-way-Believers-should-have-been-in-the-first-place becomes commonplace, or frankly it may never be, but I want to be a part of it.  And I am thankful God nudged me to at least be on the edge.  (To be honest I have been praying that Jesus comes back ASAP, like before my children hit puberty, but that's a blog for a different day.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy New Year... a little late

Did the holidays completely wear you out?  The weeks in between Thanksgiving and Christmas are always a little hectic - even for me who makes it a point to do as little "Christmas shopping" during the actual Christmas season as possible - with parties and visits to Santa and Christmas services, etc.  Add to that the seemingly unending Crud that we Gowings were passing around and it just seemed draining!

Our Christmas trip to North Carolina was a blast!  Mom put together a beautiful setting for us to celebrate Christ's birth, with a couple of new family members.  We got to spend time with my dad, back from Iraq for a few weeks, my brother and his fiance, and my sister's sweet little family.  Audrey loved the extra attention, and Santa Claus (and "RaRa") nailed it with the gifts for Addison, who cannot stop playing with her new princess toys.  We normally watch a little too much TV, and December I was worse than usual: instead of a few episodes on Disney and a movie now and then, we enjoyed those Christmas movies that were playing almost nonstop!  Apparently Addison misses them: on Sunday she informed me, "If the Grinch's mommy would just give him a bath, maybe he could be pink instead of green.  If he were pink then he would be happy, like Christmas, and love Jesus."  What?!?

 Right after we returned, I threw the gals and some laundry in the car to head south the Pensacola for "cousin camp" with the McPherson side of the family.  What a crew!  I loved getting to visit with the kiddos, watch Addison attempt to wrestle with the big boys, "ice" skate at the Blue Wahoo's winter wonderland, visit with some sweet friends, and generally enjoy a house full of loved ones.

Thinking about the year that has passed is a little overwhelming!  So many changes...
Our little family of three was in a new town

Then there was a baby on the way

New House.  New Adventures

Addison turned two

And started preschool

And learned where my make up is

We welcomed sweet Audrey Lynn

Addison loves her baby sister

And we started functioning as a family of four...
We are learning how to manage.

Happy New Year!  I pray you have a blessed 2013.  And that you're finding places to put all your Christmas stuff.