Graffiti in Rome, Paris, and Barcelona

I’ve been to Rome.  It’s a beautiful city full of culture, history, and graffiti.  I suppose that’s what you get with an older city; the beauty, the history, and the marks of many lives well lived with feast and famine, death and life, sorrow and joy all within its boundaries.  On the other hand, I’ve always wanted to go to Paris.  My husband has been there and has promised that we will go to Paris together someday.  He assures me that we will love it because of the history, the romance, and of course, the fantastic wine and pastries they are known to produce. I’ve envisioned our vacation; a castle stay overlooking a beautiful vineyard, midnight strolls down cobblestone roads, chocolate pastries in the morning, champagne in the evenings, ahhhh Paris, the city of love.   He also tells me that although Paris is beautiful and full of culture and history, it too has an ugly side produced from centuries of lives well lived within its walls, death and life, feast and famine, sorrow and joys; just like Rome.  

I recently submitted a first draft copy of a manuscript I’ve been working on for over eight years to a few friends for some honest feedback.  The story begins with my pregnancy with Luke and it has evolved into a story of healings.  A healing for Luke, a healing for my late husband, and a healing for myself – none obviously holding with the traditional limited view of healing that our frail human minds often think of.  At the end of the story I give my perspective on what it’s like being a mother of a special needs child.  
                It’s like saving your whole life for a dream trip to Paris.  You’re so excited, you buy the ticket, you plan all of your activities and excursions, you map out the best hotels and places to eat and finally the day arrives.  You check in, board the plane, sit on the plane for hours on end and then the plane finally lands but there’s been a huge mistake!  Instead of landing in Paris, you land in Rome! What do you do?  You planned for Paris, Paris is your dream, Paris is where you had your heart set on going.  You don’t know anything about Rome or what to do in Rome or where to stay or eat in Rome but you decide to, in spite of your disappointment, make the best of a bad situation and begin your vacation in Rome.  After a few days you realize that Rome is not Paris but Rome has a beauty all of its own. Sights, sounds and traditions that make it lovely and magical and it’s a spectacular vacation in its own right.  It’s the same with the special children that God gives us here on earth.  At first the news brings devastation because it’s not Paris, it’s not the “normal” healthy child that everyone wants and what it seems like everyone else is blessed with, it’s different than what we plan for in our lives, but in the end we realize that Rome and these kids can be just as beautiful and fulfilling as Paris or a normal child.  It’s all on the same continent; just in different cities.  
I’ve been thinking about this analogy lately and how it can apply to so many situations in life.  As a little girl I dreamed of the perfect nuclear family.   I would meet prince charming and marry him and we would live in our dream house with the white picket fence and raise chickens and lots of babies.  I was completely and totally on track with that plan until 2004 with the news that I was carrying a very special baby, Luke, and then again in 2007 when my late husband was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and passed away three years later. I planned for Rome because Rome seemed to be so perfect and beautiful and so full of promise.  I planned and planned and planned and God sent me straight on a plane for Barcelona.  I am now in a blended family with 7 children of which none is a mixture of mine and my husband’s gene pool. I sold my dream house with the picket fence and never looked back. I’ve found, in the process, that although I planned my whole life for Rome, the perfect family, the perfect house, the perfect job, and the perfect picket fence, that Rome was just not meant to be my forever.  It was a short term vacation, filled with feasting and famine, death and life, sorrow and joy. Rome had loads of beauty but it had its fair share of graffiti as well.   Now I’m in an unknown city, the city of Barcelona, and as I walk through it my heart is enraptured by the beauty and the newness that I see and as I get past the cleaned up tourist areas I’m surprised to discover that Barcelona has some graffiti as well. It is also a life of stretching; pain and growth, sorrow and joy.  Barcelona just has graffiti in a different language, a blended family language, a new marriage language, a grief language; but the graffiti is there nonetheless for the growth, stretching, and joy of becoming more and more Christ like.  I think we all find ourselves yearning for our Romes, our childhood fantasies, the days before divorce or death or suffering and when our immaturities ruled our hearts and minds.  But we don’t grow in immaturity, we don’t become more and more like Him in our immaturity, we need to get down in the graffiti of it all and trust that He will send us to whichever city he sees fit for our lives in whatever particular situation we are in. 
“This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” Ephesians 4:13
Someday, hopefully soon, I’ll get to truly experience Paris, Rome, or Barcelona but in the meantime I’ll enjoy my own little life of romance, love, and graffiti right here in my own backyard.   
Just keep livin!!

Who Am I?

“But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1
Coming off of some recent struggles and questions detailed in the last post Testosterone Filled Female, I decided to finally bring my question to Him, “Lord, who am I to you?”  I knew the routine Christian answers about being a new identity in Christ, being seated with Him in heavenly places, being above and not beneath; all of those powerful attributes of being in Christ, but I wanted to know who I was specifically to the Lord of the Universe; how He created me differently than anyone else, but I had never actually asked him until one defining moment on the elliptical and then my whole outlook on life changed instantly. 
 My life has been tough, not like third world country starving on the streets tough, but tough in terms of our comfortable American standards.  I’m not complaining, just explaining. My teenage/college years were difficult and often wrought with emotional and spiritual damage.  Being a mother was hard. I was told that my second child would never be born due to a stroke that he suffered in utero causing severe hydrocephalus, and I was cautioned repeatedly to abort that pregnancy because I would only be asking for heartache if I continued with it.  My marriage was tough.  My tennis professional, personal trainer husband was diagnosed with brain cancer at 30 years old and fought for three years until he passed away at the age of 33.  Life as a widow was hard with four young children completely dependent on me for a while, and my new life is good but hard.  I married a widower who had three young children added to my four young children (to make 7 young children!) and although we love each other deeply and are 100% committed to making our marriage the best it can be, we have had to work through our new life together, grieving together, rising above that grief, learning to make our marriage about the two of us and how that was going to look and feel, and learning to trust God’s heart for us again.  So life has been less than idyllic at times, but I’m a hacker. 
 I fight desperately; always have and always will.  I refused to believe the lies the Devil brought against me in certain aspects of my life, I refused to accept anything less than healing for my unborn child, and when the Lord told my heart that my late husband’s healing would be in Heaven, I fought to accept it as God’s perfect will. I believed that there was still a promise land of blessing for me as a child of His if I would just remain faithful. I’m committed to fighting daily for my marriage, my children, and my life. I’m a fighter to the core. I love tough movies like Braveheart, Gladiator, and Lord of the Rings, and my favorite movie scene of all time is when Eowyn, the princess in Lord of the Rings, slays the beast that “no man can kill.”  Without fail, every time I see it there is something that rises up in me and I think, “Oh yeah, she rocks!”  I love it – passionately love it. I love songs like Bon Jovi, “It’s my Life” and the lyrics that go along with it, “You better stand tall when they’re calling you out, don’t bend, don’t break Baby, don’t back down” and Natalie Grant’s song, “I Will Not Be Moved.” I love working out hard and adding more and more weight just to see what my own limitations are. I love living passionately and at times this does not resonate well with “good girl” Christianity. As a woman I’ve struggled with not being very churchy, and I don’t do well with the Christian gibberish that people often proclaim to sound like they have it all together.  I am not the first girl to call if you have a bake sale or need someone to teach Sunday school or volunteer in the nursery; those things do not appeal to the core of my heart.  I don’t enjoy potlucks or hymn sings or organizing vacation Bible school, never have and probably never will and apparently there is a good reason for it; it’s not how God wired me! 
Back to my moment on the elliptical, my iPod started belting out Jason Gray’s song “Remind Me Who I Am” and I thought in that moment, “Who am I to you Lord? What did you make me for?”   Immediately He spoke to my heart, “You are my warrior princess.”  A smile began to hesitantly creep across my face and my spirit did a cartwheel, “Really God, I’m your warrior princess?? Really? I am that princess in Lord of the Rings? A princess with a beauty to behold and an unyeilding spirit that fights for what she believes in? A beautiful vulnerability wrapped in armor?  That’s who I am to you Lord?”  
I heard him speak quietly to my heart, slowly reassuring my unbelief, “Yes, you are, you are not made for bake sales, Sunday school, or potlucks, you are made to pick up the sword of the spirit, pray without ceasing, and pray some people out of bondage, out of the Devil’s claws, and out of their own private pits of hell.  You are made to plead my blood over hopeless situations and use your faith to move some mountains.” 
WOW…Everything He said rang true in my spirit.  It’s how I fought my late husband’s cancer, my unborn child’s terminal diagnosis, my childhood, and my new life.  As I slowly accepted this truth over the coming days and weeks all condemnation, guilt, and shame over not being all of those other women I had always envied, the bake sale organizers, the Sunday school leaders, and the nursery workers, literally fell off of my heart and mind. There is a freedom, unlike anything else, when you truly hear how God sees you. I am a warrior princess to the King of Kings and He made me this way.  I don’t have to feel guilty over the other stuff because it’s not how He made me and we as women DON’T have time for it all anyways.  We need to figure out who we are in Him and how He has wired us and work from those gifts – not from how someone else has been gifted and not from how religion will often guilt us into feeling. 
  Ironically, when we receive our answer from the Most High God we actually want to use our spiritual gifts.  I want to pray hard coming against spiritual bonds that hold people captive, and I want to use the blood of Christ as my sword and wreak havoc on the Devil’s playground of people’s lives.  When you bring your question to Him, and when he answers and He will, it will free you like nothing else can for there is no one alive who can answer your question like He will and validate the innermost being of who you are.  
Bring your question to Him today it just might change your life. 
Happy 100thpost!  Thank you for reading!!
Just keep livin!!  – Here’s a link to the song that changed my life, enjoy!