All You Care to Eat

When it comes to vacationing, we’re all geared a little differently. Some are drawn to the mountains and snow, some to the beaches and sand, some to museums, some to amusement parks, some cruising on the ocean blue, and some enjoy hitting the open road wherever it may lead them. And then there are those who enjoy it all. Over the last seventeen years, Brandon and I have had a bit of variety in our get-out-of-town trips. We’ve hit a few big cities visiting museums and seeing shows, we’ve enjoyed a cruise (no surprise Mickey was on the ship—we just love that mouse), we’ve soaked up sun on a few beaches, and we’ve continued to feed our Disney addiction, cultivating one in our children, with return trips for fun in the parks.

Whatever it is we have planned for vacation, one feature is always at the top of our list--- where we’ll eat!

I realize not everyone may look forward to food as much as we do, but stick with me. Even if you’re not a passionate eater, there’s still something here for you too.

On our recent vacation to Disney’s Aulani resort on Oahu, we enjoyed a character dining experience called Menehune Mischief at their Makahiki restaurant. Oh my! The food!

Our family tried to remember all the different items on the buffet. There was mac and cheese, watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, ham, chicken tenders, a salad bar, pork lion, pizza, ahi tuna, teriyaki chicken, stuffed tortellini, potatoes, sushi rolls, salmon, shrimp, crab legs, prime rib, apple cobbler, mud pie, cheesecake and more! Now is the time I should admit that this was the list of items consumed by our family alone!

I’m not proud to say, but I walked out of there so stuffed I felt sick. The buffet said, “all-you-care-to-eat.” Growing up, I always thought a buffet was all-you-can-eat. But it didn’t matter, because there was what seemed like an endless feast before me, and I enjoyed every last bite. Especially the crab legs!

You may be wondering what this has to do with anything. I want to thank you for hanging in here with me to find out.

While there were many, many people who partook of that meal, I ate as if it were prepared just for me. I wanted to try a little bit of everything. (And seconds of some—like the crab legs.)

And I came hungry. In anticipation of that meal, I had been chintzy with my intake the entire day. I wanted room to receive of all the goodness that was going to be set before me.

Could you imagine going to someone’s home for dinner, walking in and seeing a buffet of dishes they prepared for your visit? Now, could you imagine seeing those beautiful dishes, the heart and excitement of the one who prepared it for you, and then choosing to only eat a protein bar?

I eat protein bars. And I eat them for nourishment, not for delight. A buffet is pure delight. It goes beyond meeting the basic nutritional need, and adds enjoyment to it.

Are you with me?

It’s exactly the same thing God does for us.

He has prepared a feast for us!!! The buffet has every good thing you can imagine—peace in the midst of problems, trust facing the unknown, joy in the presence of sadness, comfort, security, courage, strength when we feel weak, grace for our mistakes, hope when times are hard, happiness after hurt, and much, much more!

Can you imagine walking in, seeing a buffet with those items and deciding not to get a plate?

We do it a lot. We walk around hungry, burdened with the trials of this world, all the while the Lord is inviting us, “Come sit down with Me, take in My plan. Take in what I have prepared for you. Get close to Me and you will smell the aroma of what I have in store for you.”

When it comes to an all-you-care-to-eat buffet, you may want to be a little more conservative than I was, but when it comes to receiving from your Heavenly Father’s buffet, get a plate, a big one, because He has so much goodness prepared for you!

Psalm 23:4-6 NLT Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me. Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Join me for a Women’s Night at Coweta Assembly of God this Sunday November 6th at 6pm as we dig in to the words we need to receive, repeat and those we need to rebuke in order to walk in the label the Lord has given us. All are welcome to attend. And if you know a teenage girl, bring her along too!

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I am so Jealous

We are Once Upon a Time fans. I know, probably not any surprise considering how much we love Disney and embrace fairy tales. Last season the writers creatively connected Wizard of Oz characters to the Storybrooke scene. If you watch the show you’re with me already, if not, hang in there, this post still has something to offer. Do you remember how the Wicked Witch became green? Well, Once Upon a Time told us her and the Evil Queen, Regina, were half sisters. Regina was favored, in the fact she wasn’t abandoned by their mother as the Wicked Witch was, and furthermore, because Rumpelstiltskin chose to make Regina his apprentice over the Wicked Witch. Creating the perfect soil to sow seeds of jealousy. Hence the saying, “green with envy;” the Wicked Witch began to gain her color.

I realize it’s mostly just a saying, but I feel a bit saddened when I hear the phrase, “I’m so jealous.” Philippians 4:13 is often quoted, but look at the scripture right before it, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” Philippians 4:12 (NIV). Look at those words, “the secret of being content in any and every situation…” This is why I use the word “sad” to describe how I feel when I hear people so freely express feelings of jealousy. No matter how little we have, we can still count what we do, and no matter how much we have, there is always someone who has more. For me, it’s an issue of contentment.

But recently I identified with a feeling of jealousy and it became real to me from reading this passage.

“Jealousy isn’t a character trait that we sing about or write about often. We ignore it because we don’t understand it. Jealousy has a negative connotation because for us it’s usually the by-product of pride. But jealousy is a beautiful expression of God’s love. It’s a jealous love that wants all of you- all to Himself. And if you’ve ever been in love, you know it’s the most passionate form of love there is.” Mark Batterson, All In

I rejoice that the jealousy I felt was not rooted in pride. The words came off the page to me because they are basically words my husband and I had ourselves said in regard to our family vacation. We are fairly guarded when it comes to taking time for our family. We budget in a family vacation every year. We put money back each month as if it were a bill to pay. We strive to avoid what Ellie and Carl did from the movie Up who never made it to Paradise Falls, because they had to keep busting their coin jar for unexpected needs which would arise.

A few months back my Mom made a comment in good humor, but I took note. She said, “One thing is for sure, when you want us to go you invite us and when you don’t, you don’t.” I felt a little selfish. We didn’t want anyone to go with us this year. We hadn’t had a vacation with just our kids in three years. We have less than five years until our oldest will graduate from high school and we all know how the nuclear family changes after that. Brandon and I love when our parents have joined us on vacations. Like in January 2003 when my Mom & Dad and Brandon’s Mom & Dad went with us for Brooklyn’s first trip to Disney World. It was a trip we’d never get to all do together again. My Dad passed away two years later. Another one was in September 2012 when Brandon’s parents, my Mom and my Aunt all went with us to Hawaii to celebrate my graduation from nursing school. I kept saying, “I am so thankful we all are here together.” It was such a celebration, a gift of being together, much of which we had sacrificed for my time at OU.

But as much as we have loved having those big family vacations, it adds a different dynamic to the trip. Our attention is divided, in good ways; nevertheless, still divided. This time we wanted to give all of our attention to our children and we wanted them to give us all of their attention. It sounds selfish doesn’t it? It sounds like we’re jealous for them? And honestly, we are.

I get it. I get how the Lord is jealous for us. Exodus 34:14 NIV, “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

“God isn’t just jealous. And when God says something more than once, you need to think twice about what it means. You don’t belong to God once. You belong to God twice. Once by virtue of creation. Twice by virtue of redemption. He gave us life via creation. And when we were dead in our sin, He gave us eternal life via redemption. We don’t owe Him one life. We owe Him two lives! And that is why God is doubly jealous.” Mark Batterson, All In

In reflecting on the eight days we had with our children, I’m glad we’re jealous for them. I’m glad we’re over the top about allotting time together. I’m glad we don’t allow them to make family vacations, friend vacations. I’m glad we go without some things through the year, to go all in for a week. What we got in return? Seeing Brooklyn and Caden walk through the park holding hands on day 2 and still seeing those moments when Jaron took Gavin by the hand on day 8. Brooklyn giving Gavin a piggyback ride when his little legs just got too tired. Sharing Caden’s massive ice cream sandwich while waiting on the Spectromagic parade. Getting in an enormous family sized raft at Blizzard Beach. Standing in lines and talking. Observing the magic come alive to our five-year old and still see our oldest impressed.

It doesn’t have to be Disney. It’s not about Mickey or parades or fireworks or delicious dinners. It’s about focusing on the precious people we have for the priceless yet limited time we get.

Seasons change. Enjoy each one as it comes. Soak up the moments. And remember, as much as you want to be with your children, so your Heavenly Father wants to be with you.


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