A Christmas Story

I do love the Christmas season. The music. The movies. The opportunity to bake, and cook, and give gifts. The special decorations, especially the Christmas tree. In the process of getting ready for this Christmas, my thoughts turned to last Christmas; to the one that did not really go as planned. The Christmas that inspired a blog post called “Red”, which a song that is about focusing on the true meaning of Christmas and the only thing that really matters at the end of the day.

We live far from our families because of my husband’s job, and our Christmas celebrations as of late have been (based on the worldly vision) less than ideal. Thankfully we have been blessed with wonderful friends, whom have given us company and/or a place to go. Last year however, because of sickness, it was just the four of us. In the midst of constant coughing and having to cancel plans, it seemed as though that Christmas had been “ruined”. But looking back on it after the dust had settled, it was in fact quite perfect. And the reason was, Jesus. He had still been born, He still brought joy, and He still gave us something to celebrate. This year we are still with out family gatherings, although we do get to see two members of our family, the family aspect is still largely missing. And this got me thinking about expectations. Expectations, about the ideal Christmas, or the perfect Christmas. Images of snow, family sitting by the fireplace, and the perfect dinner. This is the view that the world has for Christmas, but the truth is Christmas is about a Baby, a Baby who brought true and lasting joy. All that other stuff, although awesome, is extra.

This is the comfort for those whose Christmas is less than ideal for whatever reason. And if you are in that position believe me, I know how you feel. But I will encourage you to not allow your expectations to cloud what is right in front of you. Focus on who is there, rather than who is not there. In the absence of family, think of someone whom you could bless, someone that you may not have thought of, if your family was present. Heaven has a knack of invading our ideas of Christmas, and in my experience, I have found that Heaven has much better ideas. Expectations tend to steal our joy, and we could miss something important.

One could say that Anakin allowed expectations to steal his joy. He had envisioned in his head the way he thought his life should be, or what he thought his opportunities should look like. He was left wanting, he had no peace, he felt like he was owed something, and when it did not come in the package he expected, he fell. Luke, on the other hand, when he decided to save Anakin, went into it with no expectations. He was just going to love on Anakin in best way he knew how, complete with a “come what may” attitude. And the result was something beautiful, amazing, and for some (to include Anakin) unexpected.

I hope that you will allow yourself to be moved by the pulse of Heaven, which is joy. The joy of Jesus. The joy that the celebration of His birth brings.

May your Christmas not be weighed down by expectation. May your Christmas be focused on Jesus. May Heaven’s ideas invade your ideas. May your Christmas be joyful. May your Christmas be blessed.

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.” -Luke 2:10-11

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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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

Let It Be You

My son was watching Spider-man 2 today, one of his favorite things. He even wants Spider-man as the theme for his birthday party again, even though it was the theme last year. Both of our kids adore Spider-man, and why not? He is a hero after all. Then it came to the part in the movie where Peter Parker is struggling with his Spider-man role, not sure if he even wants to be Spider-man anymore. And he chooses to give up being Spider-man for a time. It was during that scene when Aunt Mae (unknowingly) encourages him to resume being Spider-man, or at least think about it, that was when I heard God speak these words. “Don’t count on someone else to do it.” By “it” He meant, my place in the Kingdom.

Suddenly my mind went back to when I had my doubts about this whole thing, and was uncertain whether or not I would actually write anything beyond simple notes. I questioned why God would put this, as in what would become Hope, Faith and Star Wars, on my heart rather than someone else’s. Perhaps I felt someone else was better equipped because, I have never considered myself a writer, mainly because of my (in my mind at least) poor grammar and spelling skills. But the thing is, I was the right person for this divine appointment, because if I had never written any of the 20 something posts that are on this blog, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. God knew what He was doing when He chose me, I just needed to see it.

Then my thoughts went to Anakin, while he didn’t necessarily depend on someone else to fill his place, what he did was forget it all together. And worse, lessened the chance that someone else would attempt to fill his role. You see, no one could have defeated the Emperor that way that Anakin did, his unique talents and all of his “isms” where what was needed for the task at hand. But Anakin lost sight of that, he didn’t just hope that maybe someone else would do it for him, he hoped to ensure that the role would never be filled.

Anakin Skywalker, Peter Parker, myself and you too, have one thing in common, we have a role to fill. A place in the Kingdom. A divine appointment. And all the “isms” that make us, us are what is needed to fill said role. Why it is true that some else can fill the role, no one can do it like you. Anakin is the Chosen One, Peter is Spiderman, I am a writer, and you can say, I am [insert your role/calling here]. People are chosen for the roles that they have for a reason, and it is my prayer that you and I and everyone else will not loose sight of that.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”
-Psalm 143:10

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

The Perils of Parenthood

I have given a great deal of thought to parenthood lately, mainly because I am a parent and with my husband being gone, I have been shouldering the responsibly myself. My husband has been gone for nearly three months (which is the half way point, yay!), but that also means that there are three more months to go. I’ll be honest I have had my days where I wasn’t sure if I would make it to bedtime, I have lost my cool, and I have been overwhelmed with my role. And sometimes it can cause me to wonder whether I indeed am the best mom for my kids. After all, isn’t it me who can be driven crazy be their silly car game? Wasn’t it me who allowed them to eat chocolate cupcakes (which were homemade, in my defense) with peanut MnM’s on top, um…3 days…um…in a row? Would some other woman be better able to handle their questions, their energy, or their “them-ness”?

The answer is honestly, maybe. But would she be the perfect mom for them? The answer is most certainly, no. Why? Because the God that I know and serve, doesn’t make mistakes. His ways are perfect and He knew what He was doing when He gave me the kids that He did. The Bible says in Psalm 18:30, “As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.” His ways are perfect, His calling for my life is perfect. Do I always execute perfectly? No of course not, I am human, and great thing is that that, is okay. God doesn’t expect me, you, or anyone else to be perfect. What He does expect is for us to trust Him, and to turn to Him for strength, and to find His perfect will and His peace amongst the chaos of the day to day.

Another thing that I have come to realize is that my kids are a perfect mix of my husband and myself. Meaning that, their personalities are something that they, largely, got from us and have combined into something uniquely them. And if they had different parents they wouldn’t be the same people, they wouldn’t have the same energy or the same sense of humor. This got me thinking about two other people whose traits combined to make some awesome kids, Anakin and Padame.

There are some that might say that these two, well Anakin mainly, were not meant to be parents. But when their good qualities came together, it produced Luke and Leia, leaders of the Rebel Alliance. Leia, is so much like her mother, she was strong, brave, and had her mother’s relentless spirit. And Luke, is so much like Anakin, he had a thirst for adventure, the desire to help others, and Anakin’s bravery. Luke, like Padame, also had the ability to see the good in Anakin, and fought for that good relentlessly. Leia and Luke were instrumental in the fight to save the galaxy from the clutches of the Empire, and they got their “them-ness” from Anakin and Padame. Therefore, Luke and Leia had the perfect parents.

Parenting is hard, and I think that most of us have had our days when we felt that someone else could probably fill the “mom” or “dad” role better than us. But that is simply not true. No one can parent my kids better than me, and no one can parent your kids better than you.

Will have my days were my patience is lacking? Yes. Will I have my days were I wonder if I am a good mom? Of course. But I will rest in the promise that God does not make mistakes, I will recognize the joys in the midst of the chaos, and I will parent my kids to best of my ability, because I am the perfect mom for my kids. And it is my prayer that you will stand on the same promise.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”
-Psalm 127:3