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

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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

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

Who Am I?

There is a new song out by Blanca (formerly of Group 1 Crew) called “Who I Am”. The song is about who we, as believers, are in Christ. The lyrics speak out how no matter what anyone else says, who we are in Christ does not change. This even applies to what we may say about ourselves. “I am strong, beautiful, I am good enough. I belong after all, ‘cause of what You’ve done.” Our identity is found in Christ and Him alone, and if one can be confident in that identity, rather than one the world may assign, that person can be capable of amazing things. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” You read right, YOU are a part of it, a part of God’s amazing plan. YOU are loved and treasured, beyond measure, and God has a divine assignment for each one of us, including you.

Sounds awesome, right? Now you may be asking what is the catch? There isn’t one really, not from God at least. If that is the case then, what or who, can get in the way of walking in this truth. The answer is, humans, you and me. How often do we get in our own way, doubt ourselves, or even our connection to God, and lose our identity. We find ourselves searching the ways of the world for our identity, or justification, or even purpose. And when we do this, we will mostly certainly come up short.

This got me thinking about Anakin, and the moment when he lost his identity. His identity was that of a Jedi, and a pretty awesome Jedi, and the Jedi found their identity in the light side of the force. This identity emboldened them with the mission to be peacemakers, to right the wrongs, and help those who could not help themselves. Problem is, Anakin began to look elsewhere for his identity. To look elsewhere for ways to accomplish the afore mentioned missions, believing that perhaps there was a better way, or a way that allowed for more possibility. He lost himself, and turned off of a path that would have fulfilled his purpose and his hopes. Meaning that he would have become a Master Jedi, of that I have no doubt, and he would have helped to bring “peace, justice and security” to the galaxy, the right way.

I have wrote in previous posts about Anakin’s pride, impatience, fear and anger, all things that where encouraged by Palpatine that led to Anakin turning to the dark side. An act that helped no one, least of all Anakin. Well no one expect for Palpatine. As Darth Vader, Anakin’s victories were bittersweet at best, certainly did not have the greater good in mind. Yet, his true identity was still locked inside of Darth Vader, and this is the most beautiful part of Anakin’s story. His identity was not found in his mistakes, and neither is yours. He lost his identity, or perhaps a better word is forgot, his identity for a time, but it was not lost forever.

You may step away from your identity in Christ for a while, and I think we all do to some degree, because human desires can be quite appealing to well, humans. This is why it is so important to pray, to stay in the Word, to worship, and to fellowship with other believers. A community of believers is there to encourage and to lift up, to listen and to hold each other accountable.

So who am I? I am a child of the one true King. Blessed, favored, treasured, loved, and here to accomplish a series of divine appointments, that are a part of His perfect plan.

Who are you?
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”  -1 Peter 2:9

Plan B

“To quote Anakin Skywalker in Episode III, ‘I will quickly discover the truth of all this.’” I said these words to my husband on the day that I would finally find out how my beloved TV show How I Met Your Mother would end. And I was super excited to see the outcome that I knew was going to be legendary. Problem is that like Anakin, on the other side of those words I found disappointment, heartache and few tears.

The ending left me speechless, and not in a good way. To me it just didn’t make sense. And you may be thinking why would talented writers spend years constructing a great story only to deliver an outcome that didn’t make sense? Well, when watching the special features (I am a HUGE special features nerd) I learned that they decided how the show would end during season 1. Since this was their plan they needed to do one of two things:

A. Write a beginning, middle and end that would support that outcome

or

B. Recognize that their story had changed in ways that they hadn’t expected in the beginning and tweak the ending to reflect those changes.

They did neither.

What they did do was stubbornly cling to an 8 year old idea. While their excuse could be that the character, Ted, was telling the story in the future, it was being written in the present; and things change in the present. Response from fans was less than positive, and as a result they put out a Plan B for the ending (available on the DVD box set), which I think is much better.

This got me thinking about Plan B’s in life, and how they are better. Because Plan B’s become necessary when we step away from God’s will, or act on human desires. While God’s plan should always be Plan A, sometimes when put in chronological order, we find that God’s plan didn’t come first. The Bible says in Psalm 128:1, “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways.” But how often do we find ourselves unable to let go of something that just doesn’t work anymore, or something that we need to let go of for our own good or the good of those around us. Whether it be a destructive relationship or a plan that is outside of God’s will, it needs to be let it go.

Picture one step or a series of steps in God’s plan as a puzzle getting put together piece by piece, but when you first started you put one piece aside. Over the years your puzzle has changed and maybe even grown in ways you didn’t expect, and new pieces have come in to enrich your walk. Now its time for the final piece before moving on to the next step. Problem is, it doesn’t fit anymore, you can try to force it but it becomes clear that you can’t shove an outdated piece, into a newly crafted hole.

Your puzzle could also end up looking like Anakin’s, one that never should have existed. A puzzle built with fear, anger, doubt and/or desires of the flesh. Anakin’s Plan B, was to finally fulfill his calling and regain his true self. Which I think we can all agree should have been Plan A. He too had feelings that he had a really hard time letting go of, but when he did everything was better.

Whatever it is that you are holding to, I encourage you to let it go, and embrace God’s perfect will. Put down your Plan A and pick up God’s.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone and the new has come!” -2 Corinthians 5:17

Finding Purpose In Something That Makes You Sad

**Disclaimer** This post contains HUGE How I Met Your Mother spoilers!**

So for the last 10 weeks I have been (practically) binge watching the TV series How I Met Your Mother, which I loved, for the most part. I loved it until the finale. The finale left me stunned and honestly a little broken hearted. I just sat there on the couch starring at my TV in disbelief, then I cried a little, then (as embarrassing as it is to say) I had trouble falling asleep. And the next morning was no different. I realized I had not felt this way about fictional character since, Anakin Skywalker on that fateful day when God got a hold of my heart using the story of the guy who became Darth Vader.

The thing about the HIMYM finale that upset me the most was, Barney and Robin getting a divorce after 3 years of marriage. I loved Barney and Robin together, because they made so much sense and were adorable. Barney Stinson in love, is one of the most heartwarming things I have ever seen on TV. While having my morning coffee I found myself browsing through the HIMYM pins on Pinterest, and could feel tears welling up in my eyes whenever I saw something having to do with Barney and Robin. Then I realized that there was something that I needed, and that God was using this lousy series finale, to help me see that I really needed it. And that was….a good cry.

You see, my husband has been gone for several weeks, 10 in fact, and those weeks were starting to get heavy. So I went upstairs and sat on my bed, and cried my eyes out over a fictional couple (that I adored) not being able to stay married. At least I started out crying for that reason, I was also crying because I hadn’t hugged my husband or seen him in person in over 2 months. Even though I promised myself, the last time he was gone, that I wouldn’t cry when he wasn’t home; mainly because it just made me miss him even more. But today I needed it, and after releasing my built up heartache I felt better and lighter.

I was then reminded how Luke’s heartache and a revelation that certainly made him sad, inspired someone who was lost, to find himself again. God used a TV show to help me see that I needed to release some tears, that I had been stubbornly holding back. Barney and Robin’s failed marriage produced this unbelievably adorable scene with Barney and his daughter:

barney and baby

Like I said Barney Stinson in love is one of the most heartwarming things I’ve seen on TV.

Does this mean that sadness is super fun? No it doesn’t. Luke, for a time, wished that Darth Vader/Anakin was not his father, I don’t like being separated from husband and the episode where Barney proposes to Robin will always be my favorite. But what it can do is give us little moments that we would not have had otherwise. Luke gained a love for Darth Vader, I (and my husband) have a chance to truly appreciate what we have and Barney finally did find the girl that would change his life.

So the next time you feel sad, I encourage you to allow God to show you the light at the end of the tunnel and the rainbow after the thunderstorm.

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever.” -2 Corinthians 4:17