Wednesday, February 19, 2020

From Not Enough to Full of Life

I grew up in the church and from birth until now, I've gone to at least 11 churches in my life with all the moving and adjusting, and I would say a majority of them were amazing places.  While my current church is home, my childhood church in Ohio, still is my church in a lot of ways, because I not only learned about God, but I felt safe there.  I felt accepted and loved and I trusted the people to not only know the Bible, but to live it.

Even with that love, I was the girl who went forward for prayer or to confess something every week at the end of the service.  I lived in fear of messing up and some of the dysfunctional experiences I walked, messed with my sense of self and skewed the filter that I used, to view life and even the Bible.

That skewed filter kept me thinking I was doing something wrong.

"I must have too much fear if I don't feel the love of God."  

"I must not be trusting God enough because I don't feel his peace."  

"I must be wrong because I don't fit in that Christian box I see everyone else living in." 

I was reading my Bible, going to church, and was in Christian school and some of the things I thought I was supposed to get, do or be as a Christian just weren't happening. 

I recently listened to a sermon online by Steven Furtick on trusting God's timing. In his message, he mentioned some things we believe in that simply aren't true.  At one point in his sermon he said: 

"Your mind is collecting evidence for a verdict that is no longer accurate." 

The bell went off in my head.  I am the woman I am today because of the Bible plus good counseling and a team of supportive people in my life. Here's the thing, Jesus is the answer; God's Word is the lamp unto our feet, but if we've been through some hard life and have ended up believing in lies about who we are, we aren't in the place to receive the Word of God in our lives.  Some good Christian counseling helped fix the filter that was impacted by the sinful world I was born into and I believe God walked me through it all.  The Bible and a bad filter, can make the Bible a weapon in our hands instead of the good news of the Gospel (Gospel literally means good news).  Jesus' saving us in the greatest act of love is an amazing gift.  

This simple reality is what motivated me to write the book I'm working on now entitled, "Mesearch," self-discovery might not be our ultimate pursuit in life, but it may be a necessary journey to get on the right path in seeking God.  

God is gracious to me.  He created this world and said it was good at each turn (Genesis 1) but sin also entered this world and so many of us encounter lies about our world and ourselves that cloud the ability we have to see the truth.  We are in fact doing what Steven Furtick is quoted as saying.  We have believed in a lie, maybe unknowingly, and we are collecting evidence to now support it.  

Instead we need to reach toward truth, and sometimes that takes something like Psychology to get us to the point of seeing the truth.  God created it all and that includes the minds to think and the science behind how our world (and we) operate.  Counseling is not bad, in fact, when you seek counsel from someone qualified and in line with your belief system, you are only aiding your spiritual life.    

I know we can take the self-care and self-discovery too far, but I also know denying it or assuming those around us come at life from the same place we do, is naive.   I know for years I felt unworthy of compliments and self-care.  I wasn't denying myself to serve God, I was doing so because I didn't think I mattered enough to have it.  Now, standing in a much different place, a healthier place, looking back, I see that sometimes the instruction I received in how to do life through the word of God, was limited not by God, but by the person sharing from their limited viewpoint.

When I stopped long enough to address the mess inside of me and fix the filter, then those words in scripture that once made me feel not enough, felt full of life.  Are you stuck somewhere and can't figure it out?  God is pursuing you.  He may need to touch the pain in your heart and guide you to a new filter before the fullness of life he promises can be yours.  Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Spy Adventures

If you don't know, I love party planning.  The thing is, I don't want to do what everyone else is doing, I like being unique.  We don't do parties for our kids every year, because that seems like a lot and then when they do have a party, its special.  I also love inviting everyone or as close to that as possible, so its a lot of work.  Two years ago, my son celebrated his 7th birthday with a Nerf Wars party.  I loved it because it was fun and so easy.  I made a few cardboard barricades and ordered bulk Nerf bullets on Amazon.  I asked the boys to bring their guns and let them free for all in the field at our church.  It was great!

This year my son was going to have a party again.  At first he said he wanted Nerf Wars again because he loved it and several of his friends were doing Nerf Wars this year, but I told him we already did that, so we just needed to pick something else.

We landed on Secret Agent and Spy Adventures theme.  I created the invite, then began to look online for ideas.  The Pinterest board was filling up and so was my idea list on Amazon.  So here is what we did.  I tried to make it fun and unique and I think I accomplished that.

When the kids entered, they headed to Headquarters.  There they could get into disguise, decode their secret agent name and code number, gather their evidence bags and supplies for their missions.  

I just used old labels for the name tags and found a list online to create the secret agent names. If you would like to use what I did, let me know and I'd be happy to email it to you.  I also had them add their thumb print on the name tag so I got a fingerprinting pad, but any black stamp pad would work, just don't forget to put wipes by the stamp pad so they can clean off their fingers.

Hats and mustaches were on Amazon. You could also do sunglasses and there are plenty of options online for those.

I found a roll of stickers on Amazon that I could just put onto white paper bags.  Then I got the top secret pencils and notebooks as well as magnifying glasses.  In essence the kids put together their goody bags throughout the party.  So that saves you work, though you will need to sharpen pencils so they can use them.

I even joined in with my very own code name (Red Cobra Dragon), hat and mustache.

I bought some crime scene tape and cut out related images on my Cricut Machine (Explore Air 2).  It was pretty easy decorations.  I also got all of my table coverings from Dollar Tree and used black ones on the eating tables and just put the crime scene tape down the center.    

We invited a ton of kids and most of the parties online are for small groups, I figured I could divide them into 3 groups for some of the missions, but I wanted one that they all did together and I know this sounds crazy, but God gave me a game idea in a dream.  I call it Spy Tag.  I bought some play gemstones at Dollar Tree and had the kids divide into two teams.  One team was the bad guys and the other was the Spy Team.  The bad guys had a gemstones.  They had to secretly pass it back and forth on the field as they were chased by the Spy Team.  If the spy team tagged the criminal with the stone, they one, but if no one got tagged in the time alloted, they won.  We switched teams so that everyone could do both sides.  
I had one crew working to find who stole the gemstones in the Musuem Heist.  They had to crawl through the laser beams (hard to see in picture, but I just used red string), then find the fingerprint on the podium, then go find the hidden 5 suspect cards and match the fingerprint.  

The second mission was minefield.  They had to cross the minefield as a team, but if someone stepped on one of the mines they all had to start over.  There was candy waiting for them to be added to their evidence bags if they completed the task. 

The third mission involved these cool spy pens they added to their evidence bags in the library.  They had to follow the invisible clues with their special pens to the missing diamonds from the heist.  

The kids ate pizza and jumped on the bounce house.  I got simple cupcakes and added toppers I made with my Cricut and this top secret stamp.  I added file folders, a simple and cheap decoration. The last thing I did after Caleb opened all his gifts was had them pop the bombs (black and red balloons).  Three balloons had a number in them that they had to figure out to unlock the lock on a duffel bag that had candy bags for them to add to their evidence bags.  The lock I got had 3 numbers so I did 126 my son's birthday.  All it all it was success.  The kids had fun and I loved being creative.  

Now onto my daughter's 5th birthday this month - Unicorn Tea Party :).  

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Resetting Life Expectations

Life is hard, isn't it?!  I feel like I was always looking for the time in life when it would be easy, but even in this amazing stage of life I find myself in, I am still struggling with challenges.  I wanted the white picket fence, the perfect family, house, etc.  Here I am living it and its just not the problem free reality that I envisioned and desperately hoped for as a girl.

Don't get me wrong, I love my life, but where along the way did I pick up the notion that the good life was a perfect life?  Where did I gather in the info that a problem-free existence was possible.  I've been a Christian all my life, and I've studied the Bible, but does it say that anywhere in that book?  No, in fact, it says just the opposite.  We are told about the problems of life.  It shouldn't be a surprise!

John 16:33 
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world."  

Its no accident that John 15 comes before this verse.  John 15 talks about God as the vine and us as the branches.  He discusses the vital truth of being close and connected to God to grow and thrive.   We need this truth in order to survive life. 

There was a time in my junior high days that the first chapter of Jeremiah struck me with a nugget of truth. Read part of it with me: 

Jeremiah 1:4-10 

The Call of Jeremiah

4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

6 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Now go back and look at verse eight.  Do you see that word, "rescue?"  God doesn't promise we won't go through the "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day," or days as it usually goes in life, and he never promises the perfect, scripted life.  Instead he promises never to leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5-9, I Kings 8:57, Genesis 28:15, Hebrews 13:5)  and he promises to rescue.

Why does God promise that?  Because he knows when life is hard, we feel alone, defeated and inadequate. Jeremiah wasn't just some random guy having a bad day, Jeremiah was a prophet that God sent out to share his truth and love, knowing Jeremiah wouldn't be received with open arms.  He knew he would be treated badly, but he still sent him because God loves people and wants the best for them.  God also loved Jeremiah, which is why he assures him he will rescue him.

Often in scripture, God sent people on missions by giving the job description and then promising to be there.  He doesn't say it will be easy, he promises his presence, which means something when you are an all-loving, all-powerful God.  When God says he will do something, he will do it.  It doesn't matter if the promise seems impossible.  Man and God don't operate in the same realm.  He doesn't have our limitations.  In fact, our God didn't just send us, he also sent himself in the form of Jesus, who did everything he told us to do. He led by example.

Also, have you ever noticed the richest life usually comes as a result of the passage through the "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad" experiences?   The sweet life isn't being a Stepford Wife - in fact there perfect existence is in reality, no existence at all.  Messy life is the best life.

I can't finish this without reminding my Christian readers out there, that this Bible filled with people like Jeremiah doesn't just stop with the men and women in this book.  We have been given a mission.  Matthew 28:16-20 is God's mission for us.  Go read it if you don't know it, and if you do, go get reminded.  These promises are still for us today as we walk the same road that has already been walked.  As you struggle to love that woman that trash talked you, face cancer, stand up for truth in a loving way, share love with the homeless, listen attentively to that annoying talker, invite that friend to church or Bible study, be loving to a spouse that is on your last nerve and the list goes on, remember you are on a mission from God.

So what are the keys to a good life?  I think its pretty simple.

1. Know Your Mission
2. Know Your God
3. Enjoy the Beauty Amidst the Storms
4. Press On In Love

Maybe its time to throw out the childhood expectations you had for life.  I know I need to and re-calibrate what I am aiming for.  God will rescue you if you let him.  Being his means having a peace in the one true God no matter the circumstances, but it doesn't mean problem free. Sometimes I need reminded of that reality.  God loves me and he always has.  He loved the girl with the abusive stepdad, with all the baggage after divorce and abuse as much as he loves the wife and mom I am today.

Do you need to reconnect with God today?  Do you need to clarify your mission and get to know your God, your master, a little more?   Do you just need the encouragement that you aren't alone and you are seen?  Take this truth and keep on.  You are needed.  Happy Wednesday!  - Carrie