15 June 2015

Can You Handle It?

Your baby has cancer.

She's not quite a baby anymore, but she's your only child... a miracle birthed from years of infertility and hormone treatments. She is the center of your world. You spent her entire childhood protecting her as best as you could. You prayed for her daily. You raised her up in the ways of the Lord. You've watched her grow into a beautiful young woman who is compassionate and caring. She lights up every room she enters and she truly has been a blessing from God. You are so thankful that God has allowed you a daughter so precious, but there she lies in that hospital bed and you are unable to make it better. This is one boo-boo you can't kiss. You'd trade places with her in a heartbeat,
but God has not granted that request thus far.
She's not upset, but you are.
The mounting medical bills,
the straining to hold onto hope that she will be healed,
the days you've missed at work that have led to excessive worrying about your job security,
your marriage is cracking beneath the pressures of this crisis...
it's all too much.
Your mind keeps playing a loop of something you've heard your whole life
and a seed of resentment begins to grow in your heart.

"God will never give you more than you can bear."

"Why God?! You promised you wouldn't give me more than I can handle.
But this, God?  I can't handle this."

It's something often quoted at the precipice of a difficult time, in the midst of a darkened tragedy, and even when grieving for lost life. Everyone says it. People who don't even believe in God say it. Christians say it, and I don't just mean the people who only attend church on Christmas and Easter, but those who earnestly seek God. And sadly, most all of those who share this phrase with others believe it is true. 

The problem with believing it's true is that it's not.
It's not true at all.

The fallacy above comes from a misinterpretation of Biblical scripture.
That of which I am referring to appears to us in 1 Corinthians 10:13. It reads,
"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity.
God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able,
but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape
so that you are able to bare it."
The Bible never states that God won't give you more than you can handle, but rather never more temptation than you can bare, and with that temptation He provides a way out of that temptation. 

What people fail to see is that God does, in fact, quite often, allow us to endure things in life that are way too much to bear. We often face things in life that feel unbearable. The weight of the life's circumstances sometimes feel as if we'll easily be crushed beneath the weight of it all. It's when this happens that those who believe in the saying feel betrayed and lied to.
But these are the moments we were created to press in.
These are the moments we were created to turn to our Creator.
These are the moments we are to devote to prayer, fasting and reading the Bible to
gather our strength from God.

When we take time and dig into God's word for ourselves, we find amazing comfort and strength!!

Psalm 73:26 reads:
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but
God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever."

Even better are the scriptures we find in Isaiah 40:28-31 which read:
"Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Yahweh is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the whole earth.
He never grows faint or weary;
there is no limit to His understanding.
He gives strength to the weary
and strengthens the powerless.

Youth may faint and grow weary,
and young men stumble and fall,
but those who hope and trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and not be faint."

Maybe your baby doesn't have cancer. Maybe that's not the battle you are facing right now.
Perhaps it's finances. It could be employment issues. Maybe it's family troubles. Maybe your marriage is facing some really tough trials. Perhaps it's anxiety or depression. Maybe you're dealing with the loss of a spouse or loved one.
You're not alone.

First and foremost, God is with you. There is a lot of power in prayer. Believe me. I've prayed and prayed until I got an answer. Sometimes we just have to seek His face with unwavering faith and submission to His will for our lives.

There are also people out there who care about you. If you need prayer, feel free to submit a request in the comments. I will pray for you!! We are called to lift each other up in prayer. We need to start being honest with ourselves and with each other. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but we need to put our sibling rivalry to bed and pick up the compassion we are called to exude.
There is also great power in team prayer!
 The Bible says in Matthew 18:19-20:
"Again, I assure you: If two of you on Earth agree about any matter that you pray for,
 it will be done for you by My Father in heaven.
For where two or three are gathered together in My name,
I am there among them."

My pastor used to say something after he'd give a message that I hope would stick with you as much as it did with me. He said, "Don't take my word for it. See for yourself!"
It's so important to not just take the word of others when it comes to God.
It's our job to open our Bibles (or Bible apps) and see for ourselves.
People are flawed and we make mistakes. Sometimes misquotes about God become sayings that can turn hearts from God. Be careful when you are comforting others by using God's name... be sure what you are sharing with them is Biblical!!

1 Peter 4:11 says:
"If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words;
if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides,
so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything.
To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever.

25 April 2015

Raising Arrows

I was reading in Psalm tonight and I came across a scripture that amazed my heart. It stuck with me in a wonderful way. Nathan and I have been slowly readying our home for the blessing we know God is going to give us and Psalm 127:3-5 just reminded me how children are a sweet reward from Him. It also reminds me that when we raise children, we raise arrows. We are raising warriors for God's tribe. We are raising soldiers for God's army. I want to raise arrows. I want to be that mom who equips her children with the love of God and the virtues necessary to be not only efficient, but mighty opponents of the enemy. I want our kids to be ready for anything the world throws at them because their roots will be deeply planted and watered by the Word of God. I want them to not only be reactive, but to be proactive members of the body of Christ. I want their testimonies to shine brighter than the glitz & glam the world uses to lure our youth in. I want them to be effective and sharpened arrows of God.

With this revelation, I wanted something in the nursery to place in front of the glider where I will be feeding my children to remind me of the powerful warrior I hold in my arms and the precious calling God has placed upon my life to help shape that arrow in my quiver, to guide it down the path it should take when it comes times to release it into the world. So of course I turned to Pinterest and it yielded this amazing print (of course no longer available). It did inspire me however to create a word art all my own to display in the nursery (I'll post it when it's completed). 

My search also rendered this really cute tank that I really want when the time comes!!

If you're raising children and haven't thought about the fact that your children are like arrows in your quiver, think about it now. Have you sharpened those arrows with the word of God? Have you treated them like the precious gift they are while preparing them for the war we fight on a daily basis in this world? Have you pointed that arrow in the right direction before you've let it go?
I am so grateful that God is teaching me these lessons early and I will pour over any advice the Bible has to give... and there's still a huge possibility that I'll screw it up (and I probably will). BUT-- I know my God is helping me and guiding me in my journey to becoming a parent and I know that He's impressing these things upon my heart now before I am bombarded with all the diapers and distractions that having a baby brings. This is so important.
I know He is busy molding me into the mom he wants me to be.
And now I know that I want to be a mom that raises arrows.

04 April 2015

Lovealee Thoughts

Why a blog?
I started this blog with an eclectic take on content. I have no one specific thing I want to share with the world, so I don't feel it fits into any category. I also know that the internet is full of blogs with specific purposes and intentions and I feel it overwhelming to try to fit my blog into a category... so I won't. I know that people probably don't care and I'm not sure how many people would be interested enough to read through my ramblings and writings, but I needed an outlet where I could share myself. I look at this as my digital scrapbook. The collage of my life. And although I will try not to get too personal (we all know the dangers of sharing information online), it will be an extension of my interests, beliefs, and imagination. Thank you for even traveling to my little corner of the internet. I hope this can be a place of encouragement and inspiration for you.

A Little About Me
I am the wife to an amazing husband after God's own heart who is currently completing his education to become a special education teacher. For now, I am one of the unit clerks for the busy neonatal intensive care unit at our local hospital, but once Nathan finishes school I'd love to cut back my hours there and spend some time at home starting our family. Together we are the Youth Pastors at a church called Church of God of Prophecy Madera where we are active in all kinds of ministries including: music, teaching Sunday school, conducting children's church, and even preaching on occasion. 

I'm really excited to start a family and this year is full of preparing for a new addition. Truth is, having a baby is something my body is resisting. The doctors may say one thing, but God has promised us a child and we are believing and resting in that promise. So instead of being worried about what might or might not be, we are trusting in God to carry out His promise by finishing the house improvements and getting the nursery ready for our little miracle.

What is "Lovealee"?
Lovealee Thoughts comes from my favorite scripture in Philippians 4:8 which says, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." This scripture reminds me not to think on the negative things that my mind so easily wanders to, but instead to think on things that are lovely (love-a-lee) and pure. We all have those moments when our minds want to dwell on the ugliness all around us. We internalize things people say to us or ideas that are planted by the enemy, and that's why this scripture is so powerful and important. We can't let our minds wander off to negativity-town, but we need to train our minds to think on God and all the loveliness He brings. Even if God is not your thing, it still makes sense to focus your thoughts on positive things over negative things. It's important to have the right frame of mind in order to get through the rain fall of life's hardships. I pray that you learn to train your mind on things that are lovely and pure and cast off those times of self-loathing and poor-thinking. 

02 March 2015

So You Think You Can Dance?

If you know me personally, you probably know that I once aspired to teach dance. I knew I wasn't good enough to pursue it professionally, but the passion was there and my thirst for knowledge of technique surpassed anything I had been interested in before. During my second year in college, I was involved in a car accident that left me with an injured knee, several fractured vertebrae, torn cartilage in my chest and the new knowledge of my allergy to CT contrast. Sadly, the bones were not my only fractures...

My planned career would no longer be something I could accomplish. I tried to return to my advanced classes, but after only a few weeks, the pain increased and my doctor advised against dance. I felt lost and had no idea what I was supposed to do with my life. It wasn't until I poured myself into Youth Ministries that I felt the call of God strong. I knew that losing dance helped me gain GOD's vision for my life. I was so focused on what I wanted to do, that I failed to see what GOD wanted for my life.

Although I have moved on from dance, the appreciation for beautiful expressions of movement still remain. Every year I look forward to the newest season of "So You Think You Can Dance?" to find my fix for expressive dance. These are some of my favorites!! I hope you take the time to enjoy the beauty in our humanly ability to portray messages without words.

SYTYCD Season 7 - Bryan Gaynor Audition
Bryan is a talented guy with spina bifida. I find him truly inspiring and amazing. Even if this style of dance is not your cup of tea, I hope you can appreciate all he has overcome.

SYTYCD Season 10 - Teddy Tedholm Audition
Teddy is an amazing dancer and I love watching his work, but his audition piece in 2010 was by far one of my favorites.

SYTYCD Season 5 - "Gravity" with Kayla Radomski and Kupono Aweau, Choreographed by Mia Michaels
It's a Mia Michaels piece. Need I say more? Nope, but I'm gonna. I thought this dance was a quite effective portrayal of addiction and what it does to people. The epic battle between the abuser and the drug, fraught both with need and need to escape. Kayla and Kupono do an amazing justice to this wonderfully choreographed piece.

SYTYCD Season 5 - "Cancer" with Melissa Sandvig and Ade Obayomi, Choreographed by Tyce Diorio
I'm not a big fan of Tyce Diorio in general, but this piece inspired by Breast Cancer really spoke volumes to a sensitive side we didn't know existed in him. Sadly, we live in a world where we ALL know at least one person affected by cancer, if not more. It was moving to see the struggle in terms of dance. I know it definitely touched my heart.

SYTYCD Season 7 - "Collide" with Lauren Froderman and Kent Boyd, Choreographed by Travis Wall
I didn't feel like I had the experience I should have had at my high school prom, but looking back I was grateful that they were not my glory days. I never dreamed of having the crown so many girls fought over.. I didn't even really want to attend the darn thing.. But this performance made me feel what they were portraying. That young love full of adventure and hope and amazement, faced with the future pulling them in different directions. I think these wonderful dancers did a great job.

20 February 2014

Disney Party Invites

I recently began planning a surprise 30th Disneyland themed birthday party for my favorite person ever, my handsome husband Nathan. Being adult, as I am, I started to plan things out about 5 months in advance. When you're on a budget it's important to plan early, purchase piece by piece and have a clear vision.

The first step was to decide on the invitations. While thinking about my options, I considered the fact that my husband and I created our own wedding invitations on Microsoft Excel and they came out great! We had so many compliments and they fit our theme perfectly, so why not explore some homemade ideas?

I remember seeing something some time back on a wedding blog where a couple used Disneyland Fastpasses as their seating cards. I went in search and found them available on Etsy, but when I saw the prices I almost had a heart attack! $60 for 40 Fastpasses... and these were just the PDFs, mind you. This did not include the paper and the color ink to print them out. Outrageous!!! So I did the next thing anyone in my shoes would do, search online for a free template. To my dismay... nothing.

Although my thoughts of doing this easily and pain free seemed far off, I was pretty confident in my skills to pull this idea off on my own. First thing I needed was a few pictures of the Fastpasses available at Disneyland (and even maybe a few from Disney World - since there are so many more there), so I did a simple Google Image search for Disneyland Fastpass.
It took me awhile to comb through the possibilities, but I saved all the clean, usable images that I could find. I opened my favorite free online photo editor Pixlr (also available in a Chrome App) and selected one of the saved images to begin. 
I first needed to crop out the unwanted black areas (some of the images included fingers and/or backgrounds they were photographed on). You can do this using the crop feature or in some cases the eraser tool.
I then chose an image size I wanted to work with. Since all the images I downloaded would be different sizes, I knew it was important to pick one (I decided on the original size of the first image I worked with- which was 280x465). You can do this by selecting IMAGE from the top left of the horizontal menu and them selecting IMAGE SIZE from the drop down menu.
Once I did this I knew it was important to find the right fonts to make it look as legitimate as possible. If you do not have a lot of fonts installed on your computer, this might be a harder process than what I experienced. To do this, I opened the text tool and began typing in the info I needed next to the existing text. 
I then scrolled through my options until I found the desired font. (It may not be right on, but just get as close as you can.) Below are the fonts I chose to use for mine.

Once I decided on my fonts, I removed the rows of the words that were originally printed on the images and replaced them with the invite information. This was to insure proper set up and placement of the information. I wanted it to look as close to the original as possible. (In the following picture, I chose to just replace the word "Return" with the word "Arrive" in order to keep it as close to the original as I could. Also, remember to select BACKGROUND under the LAYERS box on the right when erasing things from the original image.)
I repeated this process for each line until I was satisfied.
Once I completed the first Fastpass I saved it like 20 times to make sure I really saved it. Then I used the crop tool to crop out the information. This will be used for the rest of the Fastpasses.
Once you've cropped as much as you desire, just double click in the center of your selection and save it under another name, such as "PARTY INFO."
Next, open up the remaining fast passes one by one, crop and resize to your preferred size.
Erase all the info you are going to replace. I used the eraser tool, but if you have a pass with a background color other than white, use the dropper to obtain the correct color, then use the brush tool to simply paint over the unwanted text.
On a few I had to use the eye dropper tool to color match and then use the brush tool to blend some edges. 
Next, select FILE from the horizontal menu and then select OPEN IMAGE from the drop down menu. Select the picture file with the Invitation Information. 
Once you do this there will be 2 images available to manipulate. (Note: When working/adjusting/altering an image, make sure you select the image you want to work with by clicking on the top title bar of that image. When you do this, the information in the boxes on the right will change to match that item.)
Go ahead and make sure the info image is currently highlighted. Select EDIT from the horizontal menu and then SELECT ALL from the drop down menu.
Select EDIT again from the horizontal menu and then select COPY from the drop down menu. This means that you have selected all of that image and now want to copy everything you have selected.
Next, highlight the Fastpass you are currently working on (you will know you have highlighted the correct image by the info displayed in the boxes at the right of your screen). Select EDIT from the horizontal menu and then select PASTE from the drop down menu.
All we need to do now is adjust and touch up. Use the move tool to move the info into the desired place on the Fastpass. This is why it is so important to maintain the same size for every Fastpass. This will ensure that your info will fit perfectly into each and every Fastpass you make.
Repeat as many times as you seem fit!!! I'm sure there are others ways to accomplish this without so much work, but this is just how I personally chose to do it. I'm not a computer whiz and I can't afford special programs, but I work with what I have. I think they turned out pretty good though. Check them out! I've blacked out some information of course. And in case you're wondering why the invite says Leah, these invites were a decoy to throw my husband off the scent. I actually made 2 complete sets of invites. One with his info and one with his cousin's info.


Just for fun...
In case you wanna make your own Disneyland Fastpasses but the entire process seems like a little too much, here are the fast passes I deconstructed. I hope this helps add that perfect little detail to your next party or event. Just right click on the picture to save it and open it in a photo editing site/program to add text. You could also open a Word document and insert the images into it. Just get creative.