Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Faith Like Flying

Finding A Feather

The week following Christmas, my family took advantage of a warm afternoon to put our feet in the sand and smell the sea.  It's such a blessing to live here close to the water- to be surprised by sunny days in the middle of the dreary wintery ones. I find it nearly impossible to feel stress when the sounds of the waves shush my busy brain. 

My mom was with me on this particular escape, keeping my littlest son on the lookout for treasures.  I listened quietly nearby at their conversations while I watched for photo opportunities (my own version of treasure hunting).  

They found broken pieces of sand dollars, an assortment of small shells, and coral.  Washed up sticks were transformed into art utensils, weapons, or canes.  We searched at the edge of the water, being careful not to get our feet too wet or mucky from the December ocean. Ultimately, though, the ripples were too irresistible for shoes. My kids braved most of the walk barefooted.

Back and forth we traveled- from the sea to the dryer sand dunes, where we picked through the high tide's scattered leftovers. 

That's where I found the feather.

I know feathers are all the rage right now.  They make pretty art subjects, resembling lighthearted whimsy and lofty daydreams.  There is something inspiring about feathers and birds. They represent freedom. We wonder what it must feel like to fly with clouds on top of the wind.  Seeing things from so high. Being above the chaos and clutter of the earth.

We wish we could be so fearless. So uninhibited. So carefree. 

But that feather floated to the sand from a hard, steady climbing and a persistent balancing act. A fierce motivation and trained instinct kept a determined bird aloft. A creature covered in hundreds of those feathers, resisted fear and pushed through physical adversity on its journey above us. It's not all a vacation in the sky.  It's not always an escape into the blue.  Because it's not always a breezeless, sunny day.

Sometimes it's cold and harsh. And when it is, the bird becomes more intentional. It perseveres through headstrong winds because it knows there's a calm on the other side of it. Maybe a little higher, they can relax those feathers and find their destination. 

Each trip requires well-earned, single-minded faith. But the bird's had practice. Experiencing all types of weather, it flies in confidence, not fear. It's fallen feathers are like badges of honor.

Learning to Fly

I once watched a nest full of baby wrens hatch and grow on my back porch. The day one fell out of the nest, I anxiously waited and wondered what would happen. Where was the little one's mom? From my side of the window, I worried over the survival of the young bird bouncing and flapping around my two-story porch. It's siblings fidgeted and frantically chirped from the nest. Watching.

Then the momma bird arrived and assessed the situation. She must have heard the commotion and found her floundering offspring nearby. But instead of hovering or trying to rescue the baby, she directed.  It was like the mom was coaching the young bird to keep going.  "It's okay.  I've done this before.  Let me show you how to fly."

The chirping increased, as the family communicated with one another.  The mother hopped away to the edge of the porch and waited for her charge.  He fluttered and fell short distances, but she would catch up or come back to encourage him along.  After several minutes, the pair of birds had made their way down from our deck onto the grass, then onto a low branch of a small Maple tree, and over to the ledge of a fence, and finally to the woods beyond.  

For the rest of the day, our family watched as each baby bird dropped from the nest, following the first brave sibling.  Their mom returned to help them reach new higher perches.  They practiced strengthening their wings and trusting their abilities.  And not one of them went back to the nest.  In fact, we never saw the wrens again.

The amazing thing is, that not one of those little birds had flown before.  They had seen their parents come and go.  They had probably wondered what was outside of their safe little bed of twigs and feathers.  But until one of them peered over the edge and took a leap, they never experienced the thrill of flying.  Ultimately, they would have also never realized their God-given propensity for taking to the sky.

Faith Like Flying

Looking at a feather, thinking of those little birds, I am struck by how they represent something other than easy aspirations.  That first flight took immense faith and trust in their parent, in their Creator, in their abilities.  I know I'm not a bird, but I can imagine that there must be some fear too, when standing on the edge of the unknown.  Don't we all evaluate risks and experience anxiety over what could happen, if we jump out of our comfortable places? 

The thing is, faith is only a good idea until we decide to do something with our belief.  It's intangible until we show that fear will not deter us.  James 2:17 says that "faith, by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead."  If we don't ever do something in faith, than faith is basically obsolete.  It doesn't actually exist.  Is a bird without wings even a bird?!?

We've heard that "love does," but so does faith.  What would happen if we treated our belief, our trust, our faith like verbs instead of inactive nouns? The Bible is clear that "faith without deeds is useless (James 2:20)." So why don't we start putting our faith into action?

My theme for the year is "Faith in Action."  I'm determined to dig into the faith heroes of the Bible (Hebrews 11), learn from examples of faith around me today, and practice working out my own faith muscles.  It requires me to trust God to take care of outcomes while I take obedient steps, despite my fears.  He will use my efforts and test flights to accomplish His purpose. In return, my faith will grow (Galatians 5:22-23, Colossians 2:6-7).

And you will know that I am less talk and more "walk"...or in this case, "fly" (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

Comment here or join me on instagram or facebook to share your faith stories with #FaithLikeFlying and #TheMomSeason, so we can all be encouraged (Romans 1:12)! I would love to hear from you!

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Four-Year-Old's Star Wars Party

My youngest turned four last week, and because he has a big brother, he chose a Star Wars theme for his birthday celebration. How do you make Darth Maul and Lord Sidious cute?! I know. I'm a girl. But as a mom, there are just some story characters and movie elements that I'm just not in love with. 

So in order to have a party erring on the "light side," I decided on some simple decorations and fun preschool activities. 

First, I took a picture of my little guy in his best Jedi pose and did some editing on my phone for his email invitations. Honestly, it was faster and the easiest way for me to be in contact with other parents for RSVPs and any changes in plans. Plus, it was free!

For a preschool lunch visit during the week, I bought pre-made brownies, slapped some thematic pieces on top and made my son and his tummy perfectly happy (without all the fuss). 
I also put together a little party favor for each of his classmates for less than $1.00 a piece. A starry bouncy ball and two "light saber" glow sticks in a little black gift pouch.

The cake was just a boxed chocolate mix baked in two round pans then iced with a dark gray tinted frosting. My son thought it would be cool to have a "Death Star" cake, so I browsed online for ideas and contemplated the simplest way to do this for a non-professional cake decorator (me).
I bought pre-made white fondant and rolled it out, cutting out shapes resembling the main elements of the ship. Then I sprayed it with an edible silver color spray (shortcut), and stuck them into place on the frosted cake! 
It passed the boy test, which is a huge compliment, since I only know what a Death Star is because I have sons ;-)

I wanted the party decorations to use the Lego Star Wars characters because they seemed more age appropriate, but I could not find plates and napkins for a reasonable price. I ended up printing out some images to set out and then kept with a blue, silver, black color scheme.

My older two kids were wonderful helping with cutting out paper stars and using some glow-in-the-dark stars for table decor. We also looked around the house for Star Wars toys we already had to display. The boys were proud to show off some Lego sets and figures they've collected.

The biggest part of this celebration was planning the activities. It's usually cold in January, and we've had several stretches of rainy weather. So having an inside party requires some creative preparation!

Thank you, Pinterest parents, for sharing your ideas. I used some of those for the following games:

The pool noodle light sabers were a big hit. We cut red (Darth Vader), blue (Luke Skywalker), and green (Yoda) pool noodles in half. Then I wrapped the ends in black and silver duct tape, using blue round price stickers for buttons. When the kids arrived, we let them decorate the   light sabers with star stickers and letters for their names.

With their new (and safe) weapons, they defended the earth from asteroids. The object was to keep some grey balloons from touching the ground with the light sabers.


What's more preschool than playdough, right? We just used blue, black, and white colors to coordinate with the party. Then we let them mix them and cut out stars with cookie cutters.

We drew storm trooper faces on helium-inflated white balloons with Sharpies and let the kids shoot at their enemy targets with Nerf guns.  My older son was more than happy to help with this activity.

For this busy activity, I printed out images I found online and had them laminated to be waterproof. Then I covered the bottom of a plastic container with aluminum foil and filled it with water to represent the carbonite that poor Hans Solo is frozen in. 

It took about 12 hours to harden, and I froze four blocks so everyone would have a chance to free the Star Wars hero.

The kids took turns pouring salt and warm water over the ice, then used spoons to chip away the ice, ultimately rescuing the prisoner!

The party went smoothly, thanks to help from my family and lots of prep during the week! And the kids had a fun playdate. I love #celebratingmypeople

Mission complete :-)