NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

A Cure for Fear and Ability to Forgive

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So there was a bombing in my neighborhood last night. I didn’t even know it had happened till friends started texting me. Then I saw the news. It was weird. I’ve heard plenty of stories about bombings or attacks around the world, my country, state, and even my city. But this one hit close to home. I told my friends I was safe, but part of me didn’t feel safe anymore. I went to bed with helicopters circling overhead and the knowledge that I wasn’t allowed to leave my home until daylight while the police and FBI investigated.

It’s hard to feel like your sense of comfort and security is taken away. But as I thought and prayed about the situation, I was reminded again and again of God’s presence. He promises to never leave or forsake His children. His love drives out fear. His security never fails and even in the midst of these bombings, He is in control. I can’t see all that He sees and I don’t know exactly what He’s doing. But I know I’m not alone and that I belong to Him and I’m safe with Him. He doesn’t promise I won’t face hardship, pain, grief or suffering. But He promises to be with me through it all. And that knowledge gives me hope and peace.

And so my fear has subsided, and my trust and faith in God has been built up. And even though whoever is doing this should be caught and stopped, I also know that whoever it is needs Jesus too. We all need His peace, comfort, love and forgiveness. Just as Jesus forgives and redeems, I want to forgive whoever did this. So, yeah, I’m still processing what’s happened but I thought I’d share my feelings. Maybe someone else out there needed to hear this today.

So if you’re scared, spend some time with Jesus. If you’re worried, rest on His promises. And if you’re facing an enemy, choose to forgive, just as Christ forgave.

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Pondering Pets

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, it’s been a rough week. One of my cats got very sick and stopped eating. We took him to and from the vet multiple times and he ended up in an animal hospital over the weekend, but finally we had to just face it. He wasn’t going to pull through and it would be better to just put him down. I’ve never gone through this with a pet before. We used to have indoor/outdoor cats so they usually just disappeared or got hit by a car. We never had to be the ones to make the decision. And now I can see how hard it really is, and how drawn out the process is. We kept having hope that he would get better that different treatments would work, but they didn’t help. And even though I’ve cried more in this past week than I have in… a long time, I’ve also learned something.

I think sometimes how we love our pets can be a picture of how God loves us. It’s not a perfect picture, but there are several similarities. Like a pet owner, God owns us, we belong to Him and He wants what’s best for us. He loves us even when we make messes or need help and He delights in giving us good things that we enjoy. A book I’ve been reading called “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller goes into this further. In it I’ve seen how much God loves and cares for us, like a shepherd does for his sheep.

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And although we may get annoyed by that incessant meow, bark, or whimper, God never tires in caring for us and wants us to speak to Him in any circumstance through prayer. And though we may not know exactly what our pets are trying to tell us, God knows your very thoughts and exactly what you need.

And I think that just like I enjoy when one of my cats shows me affection and wants to be near me, get petted and maybe sit on my lap, God enjoys when we just want to be near Him and spend time with Him and sit in His presence.

So anyway, hope you are reminded of God’s deep love for you by my random thoughts today.

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Coco versus The Book of Life

I got to see Coco over the weekend and I really enjoyed it but it couldn’t help but remind me of the Book of Life. Since these two movies have so much in common, I thought it would be fun to compare them. So in case you haven’t seen these films and want some context, here are two previews:

So let’s start off with their similarities. In both films, the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead and remembering your ancestors is a big part of the story. And both films show dead relatives coming back to visit on the Day of the Dead and involve the protagonist getting to see the dead’s world and then coming back to the real one. There is also a large emphasis on music and our protagonist in both films wants to be a musician even though his family is against it. These movies are also both geared towards younger audiences because they are family films and are animated.

Now let’s look at some of their differences. First off, the animation style is very different. Most of the Book of Life is told as if the characters are puppets and so their proportions reflect this and they can look a little goofy. It works in the story, but I tend to enjoy the more realistic style of Pixar’s animation in Coco. Pixar has a way of just making beautiful scenes in their movies and this happens again in Coco.

Speaking of breathtaking scenery, the scene where Coco first sees the Land of the Dead is quite breathtaking. But these two films, though based on the same mythology, take a bit of a different twist on what this afterlife is like. In Book of Life, the Land of the Remembered is where people go when they are remembered and it is a colorful place ruled by the benevolent La Muerte. Whereas the Land of the Forgotten is ruled by the less lovable Xibalba. However these rulers are not mentioned at all in Coco, and it’s world seems more based on reality with many similarities to our own world. Also, when someone is forgotten, they simply disappear from the land of the dead. It is even suggested that everyone will eventually be forgotten which is heartbreaking.

There is also a big difference in how these two stories play out. Book of Life revolves around a romance and a love triangle which makes sense with our older main character Manolo. In the end he proves to his family and Xibulba that he doesn’t have to kill the bull to win but instead he can use his music to win and show love. In essence he is proving his family wrong. I love the story, but I really like how Coco takes this a step further.

Miguel in Coco is much younger than Manolo and is not interested in romantic love. Instead he wants to pursue his passion for music and become a musician. But his family has a deep hate of music and he ends up running away to pursue his dream. Miguel does get to prove his family wrong in the plot, and show that music is not bad and as his family, they should support him. But he also learns a lesson; that family is more important than music, and chasing after a dream at the cost of family is not worth it. I really like that everyone learns a lesson in this film and I think it brings more depth to the movie.

The music in both of these movies is very good. Book of Life uses a lot more popular music with a Mexican twist in addition to a couple of original songs while Coco has exclusively new music written for it’s story. I don’t know if I could choose one soundtrack over the other, but it is fun to hear new songs from Coco.

And the last thing I’ll say, is that while both movies have their twists and turns, and both have well written stories, I think Coco is more surprising than Book of Life. It’s pretty easy to guess where the love triangle is headed in Book of Life’s story and even though there are obstacles along the way, it’s easy to guess the ultimate outcome. Coco, however, has several unexpected twists that I don’t want to ruin for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet. So I’ll just say I think Coco did a better job at doing the unexpected. But since Book of Life came out first, they might win on originality.

In any case, both of these movies are very enjoyable and I hope you get to see them sometime soon. Though I don’t believe in this version of the afterlife and I’m glad that my happiness is not dependent on someone else remembering me, I did enjoy the stories these two films tell.

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Response to Evil

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Our world constantly bombards us with sin and its effects. Shootings, riots, murders, natural disasters, hate, racism, prejudice, envy, cynicism, pride, selfishness and so much more. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. A lot of times I don’t know what to say, how to react, or what I should do in response to these things I know are wrong.

On the one hand, I want to speak up against the evil, say it’s wrong, and point people to do what’s right. I’ve seen a lot of this type of reaction on social media in the aftermath of Charlottesville. And I agree that staying silent is not the answer, trying to pretend these problems don’t exist is not a Christ-like response. Jesus entered into our pain and problems, into this sin-filled world and He chose to love.

The more I’ve been reading in God’s word, the more I see Jesus not only pointing out sin and it’s root: our hearts. But I also see Him choosing to love the people who are sinning. Along with standing up against evil and saying this is wrong, I think us Christians also need to speak in humility and love and pray for people. Without Christ, this is where we’re all headed; to selfishness, pride, sin, and hurting the people around us.

I could have been one of those people rioting except by the grace of God, I could be a murderer, except by the grace of God. I am no better than the racists, murderers, and judgmental hypocrites. My only hope is Christ, and this world’s only hope is Christ. We cannot make ourselves be good, we cannot make ourselves care for other people, we cannot make ourselves live the way we should. God has to change us at the root of the problem: our hearts.

We have to realize that we can’t beat sin on our own, not in our culture or politics or classrooms, or neighborhoods. We have to let Christ remove sin in our own hearts, and pray, asking Him to do the same in our friends, relatives, congressmen, neighbors, and even in the racists and hypocrites.

And we do not have to despair about what is happening in our country, because we know that this is not our home. Although we can try to make it the best it can be, this place will never be perfect. But one day Jesus will return and He will set up His perfect Kingdom where there will be no more slaves, no more marginalized, no more poor, no more racists, and no more selfish sinners. He has promised His followers this perfect future, and we must believe Him and put our hope in Him. And while we are living here, we must live for His eternal Kingdom and point our world to the only hope there is.

So anyway, that’s how I want to respond to this most recent violence. I’m stumbling and fumbling along to do it Jesus’s way, to love, forgive, pray and seek opportunities to speak truth in love. And even though I fail again and again, He has changed me and He is continuing to transform me. And one day I know He’ll take me home. So I hope this post encourages you today to not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21).

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I am a Teapot

So I was sitting in church on Sunday and for some reason I started thinking about a teapot. Maybe it’s because I had been reading/watching some movies and books based in Wonderland and tea seems like a big deal there. But anyway, I started thinking about how God pours His love into our lives but it’s not meant to just stay in our hearts, we in turn should pour out His love to others. It’s kind of like how a teapot is pretty useless if you just put warm tea in it and let it sit there. But if you pour it out into other people’s teacups, everyone can enjoy it. I know it’s not the greatest analogy, but for some reason it came to mind and I thought I’d write a poem about it. Also, I kept noticing references to pouring throughout the church service, so maybe God was trying to tell me something. In any case, I hope you enjoy this short poem.

I am a Teapot

I am a Teapot
short and stout.
Not meant to sit pretty
but to be filled and poured out.

God pours in His love
and I pour it back out.
And find I’m most full
when I’ve shared love about.

But I must never forget
the love that I give,
comes not from myself,
but from Him who first gave.

And so I return to be filled once again
and pour out His love that never ends.

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The Idol of Marriage

I’m a single lady and I’ve gotten all the questions about when are you going to get married, is there anyone you like, etc. I’m sure there’s some single guys out there who can relate as well. But I was thinking about it the other night and I just got kind of sick of how our culture views marriage, so I decided to write this blog post.

Our culture has set up marriage as this huge goal for life. All of these movies and books and TV shows have marriage and romance as the goal. People pick up on this and eventually relatives and friends begin to assume that you can’t be happy till you’re married, or in a romantic relationship. And it’s not that I don’t want to be married someday. I would love that. But I also know that anything, even a good thing like marriage, is not supposed to be what we base our life on. It can’t fulfill my desire for happiness any more than money or a successful career can.

And as I’ve seen more and more of my friends getting married, I can see it’s true for everyone. Marriage is a good thing and there is a lot of blessing and happiness in it. But there is also a lot of hardship and frustration. One person cannot make you happy all of the time, even if they try really hard. And the “happily ever after” fairy tale is a lie. Life is hard, and so is marriage and often times it involves deep hurts, disagreements, hard situations and working through that is tough. It’s even tougher if you’ve built up marriage into a myth and idol to strive for that will somehow make you happy and fulfilled. Even though I’m not married I can confidently say marriage cannot make you happy. Because nothing in this life will. The only thing, the only One who can is God. Nothing can replace Him. He is where we get meaning, fulfillment, happiness, joy, peace, love and everything good from.

So no, I’m not married. And I honestly don’t know if I will ever be married on this earth. But that doesn’t mean I am unhappy or unfulfilled, or even sad. Sure there’s a part of me that would still like to be married and might be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. But it’s not what my life is all about, and I won’t be crushed if it never happens. Because I do have God, and I love Him with all my heart and soul. And He loves me more than I can imagine, and better than a husband ever could.

So, sorry for the rant. But I’m sick of this culture pushing marriage on everyone as the only way to be happy. Because it’s not the only way, and it really isn’t a way at all. Without God, nothing will satisfy you, not even marriage. So if you’re married, congratulations, and I hope you enjoy it but remember to look for your ultimate satisfaction in Christ. And if you’re not, please don’t set all your hopes and dreams on finding that one special guy or girl. No one can fulfill your life like that. Only God can.

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The Life of a Flower

Since it’s Spring now and I’ve been taking lots of pictures of flowers, a friend suggested to me that I should take a picture everyday of the life of a rose. I didn’t quite make it everyday. But I was pretty close. It was so cool to see the small changes over time of the rose. Usually when people get roses from the store, they look like what the first picture shows. But really, that’s only the beginning of this flower’s beauty. When still on the stem, roses open fully and slowly fade and sometimes they get darker spots before finally losing their petals. Or at least that’s what this rose did. So I hope you enjoy these photos. I’m also going to add my poem Rosebud at the end of the photo time lapse. I know I’ve posted it before, but it’s been awhile and I really like it. Enjoy!

Rosebud

 

You’d think I’d be proud.

Everyone knows the rose:

I’m always wanted for weddings,

apologies, Valentines, even the tango.

 

But you don’t know me at all.

I’m sick of that kind of attention:

I don’t want to be clipped,

pruned, removed,

sitting in a glass vase,

dying slowly.

That’s my worst nightmare,

 

locked inside, or worse yet,

hung upside down till I’m  a dry

crisp corpse, then put on display

yet again.

 

You know the real reason for my thorns?

They’ve grown to keep you away.

 

Why can’t you let me grow

and die in peace with my friends?

Simply satisfied

in smelling our sweet

scents mixing in the spring air.

 

Please find a different symbol

for love,

one that doesn’t require my death.

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Giving Tuesday

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Well today is Giving Tuesday, where lots of nonprofit organizations really push for donations. Several places have matched donations for today only, so if you give, the gift gets doubled. It’s funny to me how so many days surrounding the holiday season have come to have new titles: Black Friday, Cyber Monday and now Giving Tuesday. But of all the days, this one struck me. It might be because I’m currently working on a Lesson about Giving vs Getting for my middle school students, but I thought I’d share my thoughts.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about getting your Christmas shopping done early and saving money. It’s a great thing for a lot of people even though some shoppers can go a bit overboard with their enthusiasm. But Giving Tuesday focuses in on giving things that matter. That new TV would be great and whoever you’re buying it for will probably be very happy to receive it, but it isn’t a necessity. Most of the organizations promoting Giving Tuesday are seeking to give people around the world, things they really need: like food, clothes, clean water, education and the list goes on and on.

There are a million things on this planet that you could buy, for yourself or for others, but some things just keep their value longer. And I don’t just mean physical things. When we give to God, our gifts count for eternity and store up treasures in heaven. Treasures that never fade, or rust, or break, or get lost.

But for me, that is not the main reason I want to give to these non-profit organizations. It’s easy to have the mindset of what am I going to get out of this, even when we’re giving. I’ve done this plenty of times, like giving gifts to my siblings so that I could play with the game or take part in the gift myself. It was almost like I was really giving the gift to myself. So I don’t want to give because I’m thinking about a mound of treasure waiting for me in heaven. Especially when I’ve been learning that what God calls treasure or riches usually has to do with people and relationships, not more stuff.

You may have noticed the picture at the top of this post. It’s from a mission trip I took to Haiti about 4 years ago. While I was there, I got to hang out with some kids and I ended up making some little drawings for them of different animals. It wasn’t a huge gift, but they were so excited to get one. Their faces would light up and they’d laugh and dance around. And I got to see a glimpse of the joy of giving.

So, here’s the reason why I’ll be participating in Giving Tuesday:
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

When I give to the poor, I’m giving to Jesus. And Jesus is the One who loved me when I was selfish and broken, who took my place on the cross and gave up his life for me. His love is more valuable than anything I own, and He’s given it to me freely. I want to love Him back, to give back to Him, to treat people the way He has treated me and show Him how grateful I am for his gift.

So, if you would like to join me, here’s a couple of the organizations that I’m giving to today:

Austin Disaster Relief Network

Giving Tuesday

 

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Miracles From Heaven Review

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So I saw this movie last week and since I couldn’t think of any other topic to write about this week, I thought I’d review it. This is another in a long line of Christian based films that have come out in recent years. It is nice to have high quality films in theaters that have faith based messages and compelling stories. This particular movie is based on a true story of a girl in Texas with a horrible stomach issue that was slowly killing her. In the course of the film she undergoes several tests, treatments, and a lot of pain. She gets to the point of not wanting to live anymore and her family takes her home for the time she has left with them. And then she has an accident and falls inside a dead tree. Miraculously she does not have any serious injuries from the fall and is also cured from her disease.

It is a heart wrenching story and I admit I cried several times during the film. I have had family members and friends go through horrible heath problems and it’s so hard to feel like there is nothing you can do about it. But what I really loved about this film, is that is shows not only the big miracle of this girl being healed, but it also showed the little miracles or ways that love was shown throughout the film: A friend taking care of the remaining kids while the parents rushed off to the hospital, or a waitress taking off work so she can show the mother and daughter around her hometown and lift their spirits. All those little moments of caring for someone else more than yourself, was a little miracle, a little reminder that God cared.

And what excites me about this, is that we all can be a part of God’s miracles, of His work in this world. We can show love in those little ways by encouraging a friend, praying with them and for them, bringing over a hot meal, or even crying with them over what’s happened. God’s miracles are all around us and He wants to use us to do them. He invites us to be a part of what He’s doing. So I’d like to encourage you today to say “Yes!” to Him and obey when He asks you to do something. It may be as simple as opening the door for someone, or smiling and saying thank you to the cashier. It could be buying someone a meal or watching someone’s kids so they can have a night out. Whatever it may be, God can use your little acts of obedience and love to do amazing things that affect eternity.

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Eragon and Superpowers

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So I’ve been reading the Inheritance Cycle series recently. I finished book two, Eldest this past week and began reading the third book, Brisingr. Usually I’m not too fond of reading about magic in books but as I was reading these books it came up over and over. And it got me thinking about how common it is to have some kind of special powers in books and movies as well. It seems that we all have a desire to be special and kind of wish we had superpowers. Whether it’s Percy Jackson being able to control water, or Eragon healing a wound with magic, or a superhero being able to fly or read minds, we enjoy the possibility of people being superhuman. And I think we all kind of wish we were able to do these things for ourselves; that we had a secret power that helped us overcome obstacles, face our enemies and do heroic things.

Unfortunately, it’s all make believe. Or is it?

I was reading a passage in Romans and something stuck out to me as I read Chapter 5. “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (Verse 5 NIV). God has poured out His love into our hearts and given us the Holy Spirit. If we are alive in Christ then we have access to the greatest power in the universe.

It reminds me of this song by Jeremy Camp called “Same Power” specifically the chorus:

“The same power that rose Jesus from the grave
The same power that commands the dead to wake
Lives in us, lives in us
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks
The same power that can calm a raging sea
Lives in us, lives in us
He lives in us, lives in us”

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So even though I can’t use magic, or manipulate water, or any of those crazy things in books and movies, I am able to confront my circumstances with the greatest superpower ever; God’s love. No matter what I face, I can turn to the One who loves me and seek His help. For with Him, nothing is impossible. And it’s not make believe, or imaginary. He is very much real and His power is limitless.

So anyway, I was thinking about that this past week and thought I’d share it with y’all.

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