Changes/The Last One

It has been a while since I last wrote something for this blog, the reasons for which are many. I became discouraged that I was not reaching anyone, because honestly it appeared as though no one was reading what I wrote; to include people who seemed excited about this idea at first. I also discovered that I had developed a gluten intolerance and a Vitamin D deficiency, this was after months of not feeling well. Add in a demanding bachelors degree, family time, an epic summer European travel, and moving back to the states; and my year has been quite full.

Today I felt the need to add one more post to this blog, because so much has changed since the last post; which was written shortly after seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In the post I wrote about Anakin’s lightsaber making a cameo, Kylo Ren’s intentions, and Anakin’s possible appearance in the new Star Wars movie, expected to hit theaters next summer. My main concern being that Anakin’s legacy will dealt with properly, not to mention his true character. I have not thought about Anakin much sense then, aside of a occasional find on Pinterest; but he is and will always be my favorite hero, followed closely by Killian “Captain Hook” Jones, William Barret Travis (the commander of the Alamo), and Bucky “The Winter Soldier” Barnes.

I have learned a great deal about myself over these past few months, the “ins and outs” of my personality, my strengths, my weaknesses; and how I can use this information to better myself. And most importantly to be okay with what makes me, me. This is something I have struggled with on a regular basis, I sell myself short, I hold back when I should have said/done something; and I have a hard time making friends, or at least I think I do. Which of course makes our recent move from Germany to New York that much more difficult. I long for our routine, the sense of belonging, the feeling of being settled, being familiar to people, and people being familiar to me. Perhaps this is why I have focused so much on bettering myself, because me is something that I can always take with…well…me.

What does this have to with Anakin you my ask? Honestly I am not sure. Anakin had struggles, he felt lonely, disconnected, and probably felt as though “normal” was always just out of his reach. Moving half way around the world, having 1 out of every 4 or 5 things go wrong, and having a “to-do” list a mile long, can feel a bit like chaos. But the good news is that, the place where we felt settled, the place that provided the belonging that we so long for; was once where we felt lonely, disconnected, and unfamiliar. Yes it takes time, but this new house will one day soon be home. The old saying, “this to shall pass”, is full of so much truth. The tunnel may be long, but the light is always there.

I have written nearly 30 posts for this blog over the past 3 years, I feel that it is time to say that this will be the last one. I hope that you have been inspired, encouraged, and blessed. I hope that you have spoken against your own doubts and fears, that you have quelled your own anger, and perhaps tried to become a little more patient. Along with Star Wars, I have written about, Killian Jones from Once Upon A Time, Spiderman, the ending to How I Meet Your Mother, Texas history, and our own family’s adventures/mishaps. I have enjoyed finding little bits of wisdom and nuggets of truth, in these real and fictional stories. I hope that you will be encouraged to look to your favorite heroes, movies, historical accounts, or right in your own backyard, and find what speaks to you.

May you be blessed, happy, and healthy. Thank you for reading!

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Legacy

Good day readers! I hope that you all had wonderful Christmas and stand ready to accept God’s full blessings for you throughout this New Year! Yay 2016!

**Contains Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens spoilers**

As I am sure most of you know, a new Star Wars movie came about a few weeks ago, and I hope you got to/will get to see it because it was quite good. Except for that one part that was quite sad, I won’t say what that was because if you did not see the movie yet, I don’t want ruin the surprise (for lack of a better word.) Anyhoo…I enjoyed the movie, and find myself looking forward to Episode VIII, and how this new story develops, and hopefully getting to hear Luke say…something…anything really would be awesome. One thing that still concerns me however, is how Anakin’s legacy will be handled in this new story line, especially after reading that Hayden Christensen will possibly be in Episode VIII. I truly hope that his appearance will be less about Darth Vader and more about Anakin, and what he did to save himself, Luke, and galaxy; from the tight grip of evil.

In the new movie, a new evil has arisen, and is attempting to once again take over. Kylo Ren, who is Han and Leia’s son, is the new bad guy and vowed, while talking to Vader’s half melted mask, to finish what Grandpa Vader started. Two things bug me about this scene: first, listen here sonny Darth Vader is not your grandfather, Anakin Skywalker is. Second, where on God’s green Earth did he get that mask?! And third, what Vader started was brought to an end when Anakin came back, someone needs to finish what Anakin started, and leave Vader’s nonsense where it belongs in the past. Okay so that’s three things, but I can’t help it Anakin is my favorite. I know big surprise, right? : )

My favorite thing about the movie was seeing Anakin’s lightsaber again. And not just seeing it, but watching it being used by a good guy. This amazing weapon, that Anakin built himself, and was also used by Luke, found itself once again in the hands of good. While just a small part, his lightsaber was and is apart of his legacy. Something that was given to his son, something that connected Luke to this father, and instilled the confidence of a Jedi. While yes I know that it was not Anakin’s intention to leave his lightsaber behind. Protecting it from his bad turn, is what allowed it to get into Luke’s hands. What would have happened to it if he had kept it? Would it have been destroyed? Redesigned? Hidden away?

This got me thinking about the things that I may leave behind, things that will inspire, connect, or encourage. My stories, my pictures, the things that I write down, can all be used by those that come after me. Objects and mementos that could possibly help my kids, my grandkids, and beyond find themselves, and all the wonderful things that God has in store for their lives. And these things need to be made available to them, not hidden away, or redesigned, or even destroyed because of lack of perfection. Because an important aspect of legacies, is we don’t get to keep them, others do. The Bible says in Psalm 78:4, “We will not hide them from their children, but to tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and wonders He has done.” In 1 Corinthians 12:1, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.”

So allow your gifts, your talents, your things, to be passed on. Allow them inspire, to encourage, and to connect. And like Anakin, they just might help you to rediscover a piece of yourself.

Hope

The Thanksgiving season is upon us and in preparation for that I have been posting onto my Facebook page something that I am thankful for, and it is not always easy. There days when I really have to think hard to find something specific of which to be thankful. And I have used things like my kids, my parents, even indoor plumbing. While doing this everyday, there have been terrible things going on in the world. Events that can cause people to be fearful or even angry, which in face of so much bad news it can be difficult to resist those feelings.
A friend of mine posted on to his Facebook yesterday, about how he is having trouble staying positive in the midst of all the violence and heartache. This got me to thinking about Psalm 112:7 which says, “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” To me this verse means, good will win even when it seems that evil has the advantage. Which it often times does, but in the end good wins, even if it takes a little while. And of course, when Jesus returns the ultimate good will win.

On the show Once Upon a Time, Snow White/Mary Margaret often speaks about good winning, and one time even states, “..just as it always does.” She also encourages the others to have hope, because hope is powerful thing. Hope speaks life, it encourages, it counteracts fear and doubts. Hope is something that resides in every positive person, every hero, and should reside in every Christian. Because as the popular hymn declares, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Now, the tricky thing about thankfulness and hope, is that they can wither away in the face of bad news, setbacks, or pain. And that is just what evil wants, people with out hope.

Luke Skywalker was relentless in his quest to hold on to hope, after he was “The New Hope”. Luke believed with every fiber of his being that the situation was not hopeless, and that Anakin could still come back. Yet even with his strong hope and faith, he was tempted by the Emperor and, even if just for a second, thought that maybe good would lose the fight. The Emperor would say things like, “You must know by now that your father can never be turned.” And made Luke stand there and watch all the good guys fall into the trap that he had set. It may have only been for a moment but that was all the Emperor needed, fear and anger flooded in and Luke came awfully close to killing his father. Thankfully good stuff like hope, love, and faith are stronger than ANY evil. (Which is something that evil wants you forget.) The Emperor was defeated and Anakin did come back to fulfill his calling and died a hero.

The evil that is at work in the world right now wants us to be discouraged, to be fearful, to be powerless. But I will encourage to look to the source of our hope, a source that will not run dry, a source that is perfect and everlasting. Because in the end good will win, it always does. And the hope found in Jesus will lead you to the greatest happy ending of all.

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” -Psalm 31:24

The Pursuit of Goodness

“Mama, what’s your favorite TV show?”

This is a question that my daughter asks me at least once week and I always give her the same answer. Yesterday she asked me again and I gave her the usual response, “I Love Lucy.” then I added, “But I think Once Upon a Time is becoming a contender for that spot.” Now I am not big on watching television, to count the number of shows that I have watched enough to have extensive knowledge of, I wouldn’t need to go past my fingers. (Actually I just counted the number is seven.) Every now and again, however, a show comes along that I deem worthy of my time, and Once Upon a Time certainly fits into that category. During the first two seasons, my favorite characters were Prince Charming and Snow White. I love their story. The love and the commitment they have for/to the other. No matter what has been thrown at them they always find each other, every time. It truly is a beautiful thing.

After watching season three and especially season four, my favorite character changed to Killian Jones, also known as, Captain Hook. This leather clad pirate burst onto the screen at the beginning of season two and he was a villain, joining forces with Regina’s questionable mother Cora. He was consumed by vengeance and was relentless in his pursuit of it. During season two, I found him frustratingly amusing and oddly likeable, I was trying to not like this guy but still did, perhaps hoping that he would change. The season two finale showed that he could change, and the next two seasons proved that he not only could be but that he was a hero.

Killian Jones became my favorite Once Upon a Time character for the same reason that Anakin Skywalker is my favorite Star Wars character, they are both more than just a villain, or rather a guy who became a villain. They were both victims of circumstance and more importantly their reaction to those circumstances. The death of Killian’s brother made him a pirate, and the death of Anakin’s mother made him angry and opened up seeds of doubt. The death of Killian’s first love, Mila, produced in him the pursuit of revenge and he would do anything to get it. The fight with Obi-Wan and especially the death of Padame, caused Anakin to fully give himself to the dark side of the force. Each man needed a reason to see themselves differently, a reason to change, and a reason to do something heroic. For Captain Hook it was Emma, and for Darth Vader it was Luke. Killian and Anakin both figured that the desires of Hook and Vader would bring them satisfaction, but it wasn’t until they began to pursue what is good that they truly were fulfilled.

There are a few Bible verses that discuss the pursuit of goodness, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, tells us to, “Hold fast to what is good.” Matthew 12:35 says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored in him.” To me this says that if one is to see the good that is in them, then goodness will surely be brought forth. However, the opposite is true if one sees themselves as evil or bad. And sometimes, like Killian and Anakin, one may not necessarily see themselves as evil, but rather encourages the evil or the desires of the flesh. Being angry, fearful, or pursuing revenge is easy, it takes strength to push that aside, to be the hero and to fight only for the good. Now when I say hero, this also includes everyday heroes, something that we all have the capacity to be. So if you are going to be relentless in your pursuit of something let it be for the good, let it be hope, let it be charitable, let it be to help your fellow man. For in that goodness, which is God breathed and Spirit led, you will find fulfillment.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” -Galatians 6:9

Well Equipped

A cheerful and excited “Amen!” rang from the balcony of our church this past Sunday. It came after a “Can I get an Amen?” moment, in which the adults of the congregation responded with a collective “Amen” of a respectful, inside voice tone. But my four year son who had come to church that day dressed as Spider-man could not resist giving it more “umph”. This excited the young guest pastor, who had stated earlier in his sermon that he enjoyed an energetic crowd, and everyone got a laugh when he pointed out that “Spider-man” had given an “Amen” from the rafters.

My favorite super hero is Spider-man and my kids who have recently discovered Spider-man can’t get enough. This would explain why my son went to church looking like Spider-man. I love that Spider-man or Peter Parker, was just a regular kid, given an incredible gift. It wasn’t because he was rich or from another planet, it because one day he got bit by a genetically altered spider. And while he did use his powers for good and saved people from “regular” bad guys and epic comic book bad guys, he still faced the same daily struggles we all face. Money problems, balancing work, school and relationships, all while being Spider-man. He also didn’t have (at least in the movies) tons of gadgets, or fancy vehicles, just what was with in him. His abilities were all he needed to be Spider-man.

This got me thinking about the gifts that God gives us to fulfill our place in the Kingdom. Little things (and sometimes big things) that give us courage, grace, and help us to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Sometimes we may feel like we need add-ons, extras, strengths from the world or our own “two cents”. But the amazing thing is God gives us everything we need to be the person He needs us to be, we don’t need extras or gadgets. God supplies our needs and surrounds us with the people we need in our lives that help us stay on track. The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:10, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” What really sticks out to me in this verse is the call to faithfully administer God’s grace, faith requires a steadfastness, a focus on staying the course. Being faithful means not swaying, not looking else where, simply standing on the promise and the gift that has been given. And knowing, trusting that the gift from God, is enough.

Anakin during Episode II, was beginning to look else where, he was losing his faith in the Jedi and the light side of the Force. He didn’t feel like it was enough, he believed that he needed more to accomplish tasks that he wanted to accomplish. The Jedi, like Spider-man, did not need a whole bunch of “stuff” to be Jedi. While yes I know that they had spaceships, comlinks, and few other gadgets, but they could still be Jedi even with out those things. To be Jedi, all they needed was the Force and to a lesser extant their lightsaber. From the Force, breathed everything they needed to be the peace makers of the galaxy, they didn’t need anything else. Anakin lost sight of that, lost himself, his gifts were twisted, and were used to serve the evil emperor.

How often do we allow other things to get in the way of following God’s plan, wander away from the place where we stand on His promise, and lose faith in the gift that has been given. Thinking that it needs something else, and we may not even know what that something is but we go looking for it anyway. Like the Jedi, whose strength came from the force, our strength comes from God. Like Peter Parker, who only needed what was with in him to be Spider-man, we only need our God-given gifts to fulfill our place in the Kingdom. With God on our side, we are well equipped.

He is enough, nothing else needed.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” -James 1:17

Reaching Out

“So…you did that yourself?!”

This was a question asked of me by a fellow mom after she learned that my kids and I had traveled to Sicily just the three of us. We had tackled this long trip to go visit my husband who has now been there for almost four months. In the moment I answered, “Yes…I guess so, but it was worth it.” As I thought about the question later that afternoon however, I realized no, I did not do that all by myself. My source of help, encouragement and strength, was by my side every step of the way. And it’s a good thing that He was, because the trip had its rough points.

It was worth it for sure, but it was not always easy. The day that we spent traveling there was by far the worst, full of traffic, delayed flights, standing in (the wrong) long line, and a suitcase that was suck in Milan for a few days. We had run really, really fast across the Milan airport in order to make our connecting flight to Sicily. I had also forgotten Howard (our GPS) so we had to navigate the old fashioned way using road signs and a paper map. We got sunburned pretty bad, our rental broke down one evening-thankfully it was right after we got back on base-and the twisty, hilly roads of one town turned our stomachs upside down and caused our standard transmission rental car to stall out twice, and maybe start to roll down hill…backwards.

The Bible says in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.” Standing on God’s promise can help one to see the “fingerprints” of His goodness even when things are not going very well. Yes there some things that went wrong, but there was so much more that went really well. We made our flight, we were on base when the car battery died, my husband was able to get the car started and back up the hill really quickly, and although we got sunburned, we had a fun day at a water park. It’s important to not let rough waters cause you to sink, or give up, or be “shut down” by anger or frustration. And its more important to reach out for help, from God and from those around us.

While thinking about reaching out for help, and how I really did not do this trip on my own, I was reminded of a line from Episode III. In the scene Anakin and Padame are noticeably a little nervous about their current situation and how having a baby will make it harder to continue to keep their secret marriage well, a secret. Padame suggests reaching out to Obi-Wan for help and Anakin responds with out hesitation and with full confidence, “We don’t need his help.” Anakin-aside from that one scene with Yoda- did for the most part keep his struggles to himself. When he did confide in someone it was, as you know, the wrong person. And this person put Anakin on the path to Darth Vader. While we really can’t be certain what would have happened if he did reach out to Obi-Wan, I think we can all agree that it would have been better than confiding in Palpatine.

God puts family members and friends, in our lives to help us and to lift us up. Anakin had a friend in Obi-Wan and a strength in the Force, two things that he turned his back on thinking he could do it himself. Humans are social creatures, and we are not meant to go about this life alone. So I would encourage you to put your trust in God first and foremost, but also in those that He surrounds you with, they are there to help. I will also encourage you to stand on His promise even when things are not perfect, because things will never be perfect. You can trust that no matter what He is everything He says He is, and you don’t have to go it alone.

“I wanna walk on water, take the leap, and step out knowing you won’t let me sink, I wanna trust you deeper, live life believing, that You are, everything You say You are.” – “Walk on Water” by Family Force 5

Who Controls Your Box of Crayons?

There is a song called “Write Your Story” by Francesca Battistelli. The song is about allowing God to be the author of your story. At one point in the song Francesca sings, “My life, I know its never really been mine. So do with it whatever You like.” It is powerful lyric, but one that rings true. If one is really going to fulfill their place in the Kingdom, they need to give control to God. Which I know that that can be difficult because we humans like to have control, we like to know what will come next, we like to plan. But if one is going to follow God’s plan, control is one of the first things that needs to be let go of. And I can say that, for me, letting go of control has been nothing but awesome.

By now you may be wondering, just what is up with the title. I got the idea after watching the series finale of How I Met Your Mother, which I had some problems with. I was presented with a completely colored in picture, and I didn’t like some of the colors that they used. God brought to my attention the idea of one’s life being a picture that gets colored in bit by bit, and whoever is control of the box of crayons has control of how the picture looks. Who is it that could be eligible for control, or who at any point holds all or some of the crayons? Possibilities could be, the individual, God, other people, the ways of the world or even the enemy himself. All these possibilities can influence how a season or series of seasons in our lives can turn out, the choices/mistakes that we make, the joys and the heartaches. The Bible says in Psalm 143:10, “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” This verse speaks about trusting God, and allowing Him to color your picture. And I would encourage you to trust Him, because He can produce some pretty awesome artwork.

What can happen when someone other than God colors pieces of your picture? Well lets consider Anakin, someone who quit trusting in the light side of the force and started trusting in something and someone else. This was not something that happened “over night” but rather something that took a period of years. It was 13 years to be exact, before the Palpatine influenced picture was completed when Anakin became Darth Vader. The process was gradual, Palpatine was building a foundation (coloring in Anakin’s picture). Sometimes Palpatine had complete control, other times he would encourage Anakin to put down one crayon and pick up another. Like when he convinced Anakin to kill Count Dooku or told Anakin that his killing of the Sand People in Episode II was justified.

While there were times when Anakin noticed that something was not right, like when he told Padame in Episode III, “Something is happening. I’m not the Jedi I should be. I want more. But I know shouldn’t.” Palpatine was continuing to gain control because of the foundation he had spent years building, Anakin was becoming less like himself more like the future Darth Vader. Try as Obi-Wan and Padame did to show Anakin that this was not okay, he still put down his blue crayon and picked up a red one. Coloring all over his life’s picture with Palpatine ready to supply Anakin with another red crayon, whenever one would run out. And his life became something that, especially after he met Luke, he started to like less and less, probably wishing there was more blue than red.

This thing called life is not our fight to win. We are here to bring God glory, which He richly rewards. But that can’t happen if we allow anyone, other than God, to write our stories. So take that box of crayons out of the hands of human desires and ways of the world, and give it to God. And I promise you something beautiful will be created. It will be legen….wait for it (because God encourages patience)…dary. It will be legendary.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” -Proverbs 3:5-6