Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday: God's Plan

I was listening to the radio this morning and the announcer said that Good Friday is good because all evil combined against Christ, brought Jesus to the cross and then it was overcome.  I disagree with the connotation in part of that statement. 

Yes, evil was overcome at the cross (defeated already at the cross but it will be fully expelled when Christ returns), and, indeed, our payment for the evil and sin we do was paid in full, but evil didn't place Jesus there.  Jesus submitted to the cross and was led there by God the Father.  Yes, God put Jesus on the cross. There is a big difference between understanding Jesus chose the cross in obedience and thinking Jesus was just a victim of the evil in the world, a victim who later overcame it. 

If we think Jesus was a victim, a martyr of bad humanity, then we don't fully grasp His love and sacrifice for us.  In Luke 22:42 He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane,“'Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.'”  Jesus submitted to the Father's will to pour God's wrath upon Him so we would be covered, forgiven, clean, debtless and reconciled in Christ Jesus.  He stepped up to the cross with full knowledge of what He was doing and facing.  It was the plan all along.

He willingly humbled himself for us.  God USED our evil, the taunts and pride of Christ's accusers, for His good plan.  God is sovereign and all powerful.  Evil NEVER had the upperhand or decided the plot in Christ's time on earth.  God has control.  He is the I Am.

God could have long ago wiped us out like in the days of Noah.  God could have erased us and our evil in a single word.  Someday He will indeed judge and cast away sinners--those who do not repent and turn to Christ in faith--to Hell.  In addition, though, because He is just and loving, He had a plan of reconciliation from the beginning.  He was PLEASED to pour His punishment upon His own son for us.  He is kind and good enough to offer LIFE to those who repent and trust in Christ.

Isaiah 53:10-11 says, "Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.

So remember today that Christ was not a helpless victim, a martyr or a powerless man nailed to the cross by sin and evil.  He is God--purposefully come in the form of man--so He could willingly submit to God's wrath and free us.  He chose the cross because He knows He, God, is just.  He knows there is payment for sin and we humans are wicked--all of us.  We are dead in our transgressions.  He chose the cross because His justice is side by side with His love.  He desires that we all may come to repentance and be saved.  We may be raised to life with Christ.  Glory to God!  Praise Him!  Jesus is Lord!

Philippians 2:5-11
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(emphasis mine)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Romantic Spots at Disneyland Park

As you, my readers, know, I love Disneyland.  My parents and older sister all worked there when they were teenagers, and I grew up in Southern California, attending Disneyland often. 

Last night my hubby and I enjoyed a nice dinner at the new Carthay Circle Restaurant and then strolled around both parks for a date night.  It was very enjoyable and romantic.

It got me thinking about all the quiet, romantic spots in Disneyland that I enjoy.  I've read other lists, but, though some are spot on, I don't always agree with all the spots listed.  Haunted Mansion?  Not so much.

Let's make this interactive.  After you read through my list, tell me your favorite spots! 

So, here are 10 spots that I think are romantic and special if you happen to go on a date at Disneyland.  (or just some quiet spots for a breather during a long day enjoying the park . . .)

10.  The walk by the Rapids in CA Adventure--Now, rapids don't sounds relaxing or romantic, but the pathway that meanders by the rapids can be both.  Unfortunately, at peak times, it gets heavy with foot traffic, but you can find benches or little niches here and there to enjoy the area.  The path is surrounded on both sides by pine trees and the Grand Californian Hotel.  It has the feel of the Sierras and Redwood Forest.  You will either find piped, soft banjo or guitar music playing relaxing folk songs, or you might luck out and get there when there is a live musician playing acoustic guitar to songs like "Riders on the Storm."  Either way, the sound of rushing water from the rapids, the soft music, wind rustled pine trees, and shade spotted path all lend themselves to an enjoyable pause and look around.  My favorite time of the day for this spot is in the late afternoon when the breeze picks up and the rapids crowd starts to dwindle.

9.  Pirates Cove Island--My husband did not agree with this one, so maybe it is just me, but I think the little picnic areas all along the edges of Pirate Cove Island (or Tom Sawyer Island to anyone over 30 like me) are so nice.  Bring your lunch or picnic food over to the Island, hunt out a secluded bench or picnic table and put your feet up.  Watch the Mark Twain, the canoes or the ducks swim by on the Rivers of America and watch the crowds streaming around across the way in New Orleans Square or Frontierland.  This is a great spot for a relaxing lunch.  I like the picnic benches across the Island that face Frontierland, as they offer a little shade and are away from the loading and unloading dock.  They close the island before the sun sets, so this is not a night spot.

8.  Snow White Grotto--My friend got engaged here.  I mean what is not romantic about a stone well with the song "I'm Wishing" playing every so often?  Fountains surround, the castle backdrops your spot nearby, and swans swim around.  It is usually not very crowded, though occasional character appearances or tour groups may cause a temporary swarm.  You can find this spot on the right of the castle as you face the front drawbridge.  Take a penny and make a wish in the well. 

7.  The Big Wheel in CA Adventure--The line can be long for this ride, so go early or just buy a snack to enjoy in the line if you go when it is crowded.  I personally LOVE the swinging gondola on the wheel, but I know many of my friends hate it and get queasy even thinking about it.  There is a stationary gondola also offered on the wheel.  Great views are offered at either and you get to sit for awhile next to the one you love.  This is a great view at any time, though you get more snuggling and pretty lights in the chill of evening.

6.  The Fireplace in the Lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel--If you haven't wandered around the grounds of the beautiful Grand Californian Hotel, you need to do that.  Whenever we buy annual passes, we try to stay here once a year and do a mini vacation with the kids.  We eat breakfast at the Storyteller Cafe and enjoy the great ameneties at the hotel.  One of our favorite things to do is find a cushy rocking chair in front of the fireplace in the lobby and just talk.  Especially after a long day in the park, it is easy to just melt into the seats and chat with your spouse.  There will often be a live piano player in the lobby to make the experience even more special.  If you do happen to have your kids with you, just nearby and in eye view if you sit a little further back from the fire, is a little kid seating area and a TV playing classic Mickey cartoons.  Have them sit and enjoy Mickey while you get a moment or two with your sweetie.

5.  The side of Flo Jo Cafe walkway where you can view Racers in CA Adventure.  This has to be done at night to be romantic.  During the day, you will just see swarms of people and, though a cool backdrop on the ride, it isn't "pretty."  At night, though, they light up all of Cars Land just like Radiator Springs, but the "canyon" and red rock environment of the Racers Ride is lit up beautifully.  Since the viewing area is a bit removed and off the main road, you can find some quiet, enjoy the lighting and sit to chat with your date.  There is either seating on the side of Flo's Cafe where you can snack and still see the view from your table, or you can just go stand by the Racers viewing area and take in all the Disney magic and beautiful lighting for a few moments.

4.  Fireworks Viewing from the back of Fantasy Land/by Casey Jr.--Some of you might think I'm crazy for not recommending the fireworks from Main Street, but I am not a crowd person.  Though you get the full music and lighting effect of the fireworks show on Mainstreet, you also get a lot of people and, inevitably, someone standing in front of you affecting your view.  I like to go stand by Casey Jr. and watch the fireworks there.  You have to turn to the castle to catch the pyrotechnics from time to time, but most of the fireworks, and all the larger fireworks, are launched from behind Small World and the Toon Town area.  If you look in that direction, you get most of the action.  There are tables where you can sit, and the crowds are a fraction of a fraction (is there such a thing?) of what you would get on Main Street.  Unfortunately, you might have a harder time getting out of the park right away when the fireworks end (they close off the castle drawbridge during and for awhile after fireworks), but if you plan to just go on a few rides and leave about 45 minutes later, you'll be great.  Plus, you'll avoid the crazy tram ride lines that way.  I highly recommend viewing fireworks from a ride if you can time it correctly.  I've viewed them from Thunder Mountain (which is currently closed at the time I wrote this post), the Tea Cups--which is a great ride to be on during the parade, by the way, and Casey Jr. Train, and they are all fun places to view the fireworks. If you want the music, the narration, the lighting and the full effect, you have to join the many people on Main Street, and it is worth doing at least once.  If you just want to sit with your honey, escape the commotion and see some pretty lights in the sky, go to my spot, relax and enjoy the moment!

3.  Carthay Circle Restaurant and the surrounding terrace--As I said, my hubby and I enjoyed the new Carthay Circle Restaurant in CA Adventure for the first time yesterday.  I had salmon and he had a ribeye.  They were both delicious.  What we loved most was the departure this restaurant had from being very "Disneyland Parkish."  Though we have eaten at Club 33 and Blue Bayou, both very nice restaurants for the Disney visitor, the tables are usually all close together and the food is very standard. Carthay felt much more luxurious and special, and the food was definitely different from other park food.  The pace was slow, the waiters were pleasant and helpful, and the nod to classic Hollywood in the 30's was fun.  If the terrace isn't open when you go, ask the waiter or hostess if you can go stand on the terrace and they will open it.  We did and then enjoyed several minutes snuggling and watching the visitors and views from our perch above.  It was magical and fun.  I recommend this experience for dinner time when you can get the lights view.

2.  The Dining Patio in the Back of CA Adventure--Okay, the resort map I found online doesn't even LIST the name of this eating area.  They added this location when they remodeled the park last year.  It is in the back of the park by Goofy's Sky School.  There is a huge terrace with pretty decent food choices.  The best part of this area though is the shade and live music offered.  We have stopped here several times to listen to various bands play live-- Big Band style music, Irish band music, and folk music.  They were all FANTASTIC and it is never very crowded.  If you have kids, they can dance around and play while you keep an eye on them, relax and listen to the live bands play fun and soothing music.  If you go at normal times for lunch or dinner, you should catch a performance.

1.  Rancho del Zocalo at Night--Seriously I love this place.  The food is ho hum, though I do LOVE the Mexican Chicken Caesar Salad I order every single time.  I grew up and still live in Southern California, so I'm a Mexican food snob.  The tacos and refried beans they serve cafeteria style never had a chance.  However, the ambiance is AMAZING at night.  They have colored glass lanterns and metal cut lanterns all hanging fabulously overhead.  It is so romantic and dreamy. One area has an indoor/outdoor fireplace (shared on one wall) if you can snag one of those two lucky tables.  We always sit by the wall that hugs Thunder Mountain so my boys can wave at the trains that go by while my husband and I enjoy the dim, colored lights and outdoor patio.  There is no waiter, so you aren't hurried as you relax and listen to the acoustic guitar strums of Spanish music being piped onto the patio.  This used to be a little bit off the beaten path, but now that the new Fantasy Fair opened nearby (as of this week, actually), there might be a bit more foot traffic.  So sad!  I love my little hidden patio with romantic lights.

So those are my favorite romantic, quiet spots.  I know everyone has their own ideas.  What about you?  Is there a spot I didn't mention that you love?  Share with us in the comments!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Blue and Orange Baby Shower

My sweet sister in law is having her first baby--a boy!  I'm so excited to be an aunt again.  We just celebrated this baby and momma at a baby shower I co-hosted last Saturday. 

She is doing a darling nursery in tan, white, navy and splashes of orange.  We decided to do a similar color theme for the baby shower.

I was in charge of the game, the favors and a banner for the mantle.  I didn't get a good picture of my game board, but I have a tutorial on the game and a similar board from an owl themed baby shower I co-hosted.  You can read it here.

Enjoy the pictures!  It was a beautiful day!

We had the guests write in Sharpie on their mason jars.  I never knew sharpie comes right off of glass!

I used Mentos mints in the favors and wrote "It mint a lot that you came to celebrate today!"

I made the much loved sea salt, browned butter, Nutella cookies.  You can make them too--the Ambitious Kitchen shares the recipe here.

My sweet mother in law reading a loving note to the momma to be, her daughter.

Congratulations, Katie!  We can't wait to meet this new blessing!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Painting a Picture of Your Son's Future Spouse

I often pray for both my boys to not only come to salvation in Christ, but that they would be wise in their choice of spouse if God leads them to marriage someday.  Like King Lemuel's mom in Proverbs 31, I so greatly desire to point my sons to picking a godly and wise wife.

I realize, as an adult, how much a spouse affects your marriage, ministry and life.  The choice of a good spouse is extremely vital.

I waited 28 years to meet the right spouse and marry him, but, though that was longer than I planned, it was such a blessed wait and fruition.  My spouse is a godly, encouraging, sacrificial and loving leader.  Because of him, I can be busy in ministry with joy, rearing boys in a Biblical manner and grow in my own spiritual maturity.  He protects me from worldly influences that will harm me and slow down my sanctification, and he cheers me on when I am obeying God--all with a huge dose of love and humility.

Of course God has a perfect plan for both my boys--including their choice of spouse, but, even in His sovereignty, He wants me to pray about my requests, instruct my boys in Biblical wisdom and do my best, with the strength and direction of the Holy Spirit, to model righteous behavior of a wife in marriage.

You might ask, "What can I do as a mom?"  Mine are almost 4 and 7.  Isn't it a little early to be thinking about their marriages and spouses?

Not at all!  They are watching and taking mental notes!  How am I modeling how a Christian wife should act and speak?  My boys are at home a lot, and they constantly see how I interact with my husband.  Do I want them to find a wife who acts like I act?  That is a powerful question, and a very important indicator of what they will consider "normal". 

If I am submitting to my husband, helping him in life and ministry, and encouraging him as a helpmate, my sons will see this as the "norm" for what a wife does.  Later in life, if they find themselves spending time with girls who argue constantly, girls who assert prideful authority over them, and girls who concern themselves with her own interests over God's or my boys', they should bristle with the sense that this is not right.  They will realize they need to end that kind of relationship.  That kind of girl should feel "off" and "uncomfortable" to them.

Most importantly, I pray they find it very normal and familiar to find a girl who loves God more than anything--putting her love into action and obedience to Him.  May they seek a Christian not just in title and church attendance, but a Christian in reality--having a changed heart, loving God with her all, bearing fruit in her life, including in how she is interacting with anyone courting or dating her.

I want them to be blessed by finding a girl who behaves like their mom.  Am I living up to the description I list above?  How do I know?

Well, first I need to inspect my time.  Most importantly, is God the center of my life?  Is this apparent in the time I spend in Bible study, prayer, devotions, serving at church, fellowshipping and training my children in the Word?  I KNOW I want my sons to find a wife who puts importance and priority on God and the pursuits of His kingdom.  Am I training them that this is how she should behave and spend her time?

Also, regarding time, am I spending a majority of my time on selfish pursuits--participating in pasttimes often for my own glory or selfish pleasure, spending time with friends to the detriment of my duties and family's needs, shopping excessively to please my vanity, being obsessed with my appearance, or making an idol of my beauty routines--or, rather, am I spending a majority of my time serving God and my family?  Am I counting others more significant as myself as Philippians 2:3-4 commands?

Is my time spent helping my husband with a happy heart?  Do I clean without complaining?  Do I make meals with love, often considering what meal will bless my husband with health and enjoyment?  Do I ask him how I can help him that day with a sincere hope that there is a way I can, even if it means an extra errand?  Do I demonstrate joy in my role as a homemaker and wife? 

Second, I need to inspect my speech.  Am I building up my husband?  Do I portray him as the leader and decision maker to my son?  Do I say things such as, "Daddy works so hard for us.  What a blessing to us!  Let's pray for his day."  "This is a big purchase.  Mommy needs to ask daddy if this is something he wants our family to buy."  Do I apologize when I make a mistake?  "Mommy did not speak the way God wants her to speak.  I should not have complained, or have gossiped, or have lost my temper.  Please forgive me for sinning in my words and actions." 

We all fall short.  Of course, when we do, we repent and confess our sin before God.  Then we trust He has given us all we need for life and godliness and we pick up tools we need in scripture to make progress, all with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Then our aim is to grow in these areas. 

We have to have a plan--we battle against sin with the help of the Holy Spirit and effort.  Put off any sin and PUT ON righteousness--this is work!  The work doesn't bring us salvation, but it is a natural behavior when one is a new creation in Christ.  Stop watching the questionable TV show and spend the time doing devotions with your boys.  Stop spending the money your husband would rather you didn't spend, and instead of the time you used shopping/spending, serve others with a specific, planned service.  Come up with a specific plan and PRAY about it. 

Realize that you are daily contributing to painting the picture of what your son will consider normal and good in a wife.  If you have girls, you are helping to paint the picture of how they will behave in their own role as a wife.

May the brush strokes I add to the picture today be glorifying to God and a powerful influence in bringing a good and godly wife into my son's life someday.

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