How Daily Time with God Will Change Your Life

Last New Year’s I decided to start the year off with a spiritual bang and commit a formerly-believed act of cheesiness by choosing a ‘year verse’ for myself. Why not. 2015 was less than memorable, aside from the blessings we take for granted like our children’s health and a steady job. Oh, and the kittens that still pee on the laundry. Super thankful. But I thought to myself, I really want this year to have more God in it. More of his involvement and spiritual ‘umph’ to my every day. So I made Matt. 6:33, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all else shall be added to you” my verse. I decided for the first time in a decade, to have ‘quiet time’ (Christian-ese for locking the kids out of your room for 20 minutes) and read the Bible, pray and worship every day.And within one single year- every dream of my life has come true.
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Dear Varicose Veins…It’s Been Real

IMG_0557There are certain unseemly rites of passages mothers experience, usually within their mid to late thirties and most always after multiple babies. For some it’s the dreaded stretch marks that defy nine months of aggressive coconut oil lubing. For others, it’s hip fat that’s here to stay despite every Paleo Diet promise or boobs that have waved the white flag to gravity after breastfeeding through a decade. For me, it was varicose veins, a hereditary blessing that results in thigh-long engorgements ruining any chances of wearing shorts, swimsuits or Victoria’s anything without visually offending the masses.

It’s awful for all, but I felt especially grieved when making it to my third child before looking downward one day to discover the first trace of bulging capillary. What the-awww HECK no!!! I’ve drunk a gallon of water a day, jogged through winters in CT to ensure circulatory perfection and this is what I get: green, veiny treachery running from my crotch to my knee cap. This mutiny against my own body might have been less disturbing if I had any other womanly assets intact. But since I’ve basically evolved to a 5’9 version of Skeletor, losing any boobs after nursing and any trace of Anglo-Saxon booty when I hit 32 (like, seriously, what the heck?), this veiny attack was unacceptable. The stems are all I got. Take them away, and I’m basically reduced to an extended femur bone. So with a few emboldened clicks on the worldwide web one solitary eve, I found my haven of hope: The Vein Center of Connecticut. Removes veins in the matter of hours. Hmmm…..

I felt a hardy sense of guilt, pondering this option at first. Spending money on such a vain endeavor.  Being haunted by that II Peter verse with a virtuous woman’s beauty coming from the inside. Reminding myself I’ll never be a Sally Hansen Legs model, and the check engine light that’s been on since August begs more maintenance than my legs. But then I realized that wasn’t a sense of guilt I felt. It was the ever-present pressure weighing my dern leg down because of my gimpy blood flow. Nope, I’m not adorning my hair with jewels, or measuring my worth in fine linen, dear Peter. I’m takin’ back what the devil stole: my ability to wear trendy spring rompers this season.

So when I awoke last Friday I felt the exact opposite of the typical dread one might feel the day of microsurgery. It felt like Christmas, come early. I sped to that office with the gusto of a spring breaker set for Cancun.

“Are you nervous Ms. Kastner?”
“Heck no, yank these suckers out!” Kind of like childbirth being a “good pain,” where you know you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful baby at the end of the journey. Except in this case you get two summer-ready legs and a Motrin prescription. God is good, in both cases.

The only thing I slightly regretted was refusing the Xanax prescription for anxiety. Jesus is on my side, people, pedal it elsewhere. However there were moments, just fleeting moments, between the random poking of holes through my legs when it might have helped to have industrial strength flow of alprazolam to ease the tension.

But all in all, operation hot legs was a good experience. After the first hour of “prep,” when you’re needled to numbness, Magda the vein tugger takes over, literally pulling strands of veins through spaghetti sized holes in your legs. This woman plugged away at that leg with the fever and precision of a concert harpist. Hands from heaven, I tell you.

And the next three hours turned out to be the most productive, enjoyable time of my week. I knocked out a day’s worth of emails by propping my laptop on my stomach(my non-existent bosom enabling complete typing mobility, of course), then was moved to tears watching an online John Piper sermon, and even found a lawnmower on Craigslist. All while trading house hunting stories and pizza topping preferences with Magda.

Thank you Magda, and thank you Lord, for putting me on the Earth during a technological age allowing us to remove unsightly genetic fails, and thank you varicose veins, for carrying me through the birth of three children and 37 years of adventure. May you RIP.

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Ode to Disney

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During the half day I spent sitting in the airport with three kids after missing our 7 a.m. flight home from Orlando, I took a sliver of what seemed like eternity to reflect on good, the bad…the magic, of Disney.

For me, going to Disney is just one of those things you do because that’s where your parents took you, as a kid. So, come mid-April, we joined the thousands of other families choosing to spend school vacation at Disney. Grab your wallets and SPF 70…family fun, here we come.

But just as other childhood experiences go, like getting a family pet you never have to walk, and a pool you never have to vacuum, Disney takes on a whole other dimension from the eyes of a parent. There are a few more trials, challenges and truly hilarious experiences no brochure or YouTube link prepares you for. Here are my faves:

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I don’t care where in Disney heaven your path leads-Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot or the home of the mouse himself, you will without fail sight some dad so desperate for shade, he’s rocking a Minnie Mouse hat, or a Wall Street type sporting mouse ears, or even better, some severely overweight individuals huffing around in excessive mouse apparel, looking one Peter Pan flight away from a cardiac arrest. Disney consists of 5 lands on 10-mile property and it’s an all-out survivor race to get to your fast pass stations on time. There should seriously be some kind of pre-training to prepare these folks for the physical trials that await.

This comes in at a close second to those visitors clearly having the most fun on Earth, and they’re not afraid to show it. While waiting for 20 minutes for a soft pretzel in Tomorrowland, I spotted a dad making the very most of a live, interactive dance show led by Buzz Lightyear himself. This man-picture George, from Seinfeld- was doing the “watch me whip/nae nae” with his kids like his life depended on it. I mean, every step, hands in the air like he just don’t care, kind of boogying, in front of hundreds of on-looking strangers with a smile wider than Texas. He paid $500 to get the fam through those rodent gates, sacrificed the yearly golfing trip for this nonsense, and dern it, he’s getting his Disney on. Priceless.

When the Magic Turns to Mush  IMG_0381
Proving God is as gracious as he is good, there were miraculously shorter lines at all the parks, despite going during the busiest time of the year. Either that, or the Obama economy has officially rid the world of family fun. However even when lines are manageable, there is always waiting. Waiting for food. Waiting for character signings. Waiting for…wait what ride is this again? Oh yea. Waiting for the Country Bear Jamboree. “No they’re not real bears, guys, but they’re spectacular. Trust.” Waiting for the endless pilgrimage it takes to get to Magic Kingdom-the parking lot tram-remember: Simba row 4, Simba row 41…- that eventually leads you to the gargantuan choice of traveling by monorail or ferry boat that complete your odyssey to the final park entrance. I swear illegals traverse the border with more ease.

And even when the lines are short, you will without fail become more acquainted with mutual line dwellers than your neighbors of 10 years after the Jungle Cruise temporarily stops for what seems like the new dawn. Spousal fights-“did you seriously not bring the sunscreen?!,” toddler meltdowns, and if you make your way to the more youth-driven Universal Studios…you’ll get a dose of PDA from the Brazilian couple that’d make a sailor blush. This is the Harry Potter ride, not Carnival, people…hands above the waist.

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I hate unnecessary spending. Hate it. So my voyage to Disney included 10 pound backpack full of Luncheables, snack packs, soda and water I thought would resourcefully save the easy Benjamin it costs to feed a family of four for one day. Never happens. Your CheezeIt packs and warm PB & J stand no chance against Mousescream cones, super pretzels with mouse ears and strangely savory turkey legs the size of T Rex femurs around every turn. Same goes for the gifts. Guests are funneled through themed-gift shops after nearly every ride, decreasing your resolve to only buy ONE special souvenir for each kid for the whole vacation. My return home included a pirate sword, three Disney-themed Lego sets, two stuffed animals, an authentic Marvel comic book and some horribly overpriced Star Wars paraphernalia. And let’s not leave out the $10 rain ponchos you’re forced to buy for the whole fam after it suddenly pours buckets for two hours of tropical goodness. Yep, an easy $40 for hooded hefty bags that leave you smelling like rubber for a day.

Where the Yankees go to Fry       YouDoodleDrawing
Anyone traversing to Florida from CT in April, where it snowed a week prior, might as well be journeying from northern Canada to the equator itself, and should plan on nothing less than repetitive applications of SPF 50. We, unfortunately severely overestimated our pasty skin’s tolerance for six hours at Cocoa beach, and paid the price for the next five days. The kids were okay, thank God, but not only was I so burned I couldn’t touch hot tub for the entire rest of the week, I was reduced to wearing my black yoga pants to Disney in 89 degree humidity. I think part of me melted on the west side of the Haunted Mansion. Near second degree burns.

Lost and Freaking Out
And of course no family trip goes disaster-free. When we were little, it was my sister having her first asthma attack the day we were scheduled for Disney. This year as an adult, it was my technologically-dependent teenager losing is iphone on Disney’s Carousel of Progress…never to be found that day. They found the phone two days later, thank God, but those days without was like witnessing a meth addict detox cold turkey. “Mooooom did you call lost and found again yet!?” Oh. My. Gee.

Yet the Magic Prevails      IMG_0443-3
But somehow, despite the burns, blunders and investment properties you had to sell off just to visit, Disney is always worth it, and is still magical, especially for parents who grew up going to Disney. Something about it just makes you feel like a kid again. The tikki tikki tikki room. The Swiss Family Robinson House. When my boys refused to go in Cinderella’s castle, I might have made them anyways. C’mon guys, it’s the way to Frontierland anyways!

Especially in a world where most things change, and very few experiences and people stay the same, Disney remains classic, timeless and dedicated to the family. I love how in my favorite ride, Pirates of the Caribbean, that same dog is sitting there with the key in his mouth, taunting the prisoners for the past 30 years. That boat ride in Epcot’s Mexican restaurant still has those cheesy fake fireworks blazing the Cancun skies. And there’s that first and last glimpse of the castle after you arrive and leave I practically tear up leaving…”say goodbye to the castle guys…sniff.” The way every “cast member” says have a magical day/time/dinner/trip to the bathroom, and darn it, that’s the way it should be. It’s the one place that despite the heat, crowds, incredulously priced popcorn, and fanny-pack touting platoons of foreigners, you really do feel an indescribable sense of happiness only Disney brings. Worth every ounce of sweat and Aloe, I tell ya.

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Why Today is the Day to Share Your Faith

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I’m 37 years old, and within the past year, three of my closet high school friends have suddenly passed away. Most people would be riddled with the why’s and how’s associated with so many unexplained, early deaths. But the only question I’m burdened with after every subsequent loss is this: why haven’t I shared my faith with the people who knew me best, before I knew the Lord? Read more…

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Sometimes the Best Prayers are the Unanswered Ones

In an instant-gratification-addicted world, where we need and want answers, meals, information and almost everything instantly, we sometimes treat our prayer life the same way. If we don’t get an answer or see a situation change in about a week, we assume God’s either not listening, or it’s just another failed prayer attempt. But looking back on life, I see now that some of my best prayers have been the unanswered ones. Read more…

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Top 5 Hardest Moments to Maintain Your Christianity

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For some, admitting you’re a Christian is tough. I’ve never had that problem. I used to be a self-absorbed binge drinker with obsessive tendencies, and thanks to the Lord, I’m now a people-loving Jesus freak. However what the secular crowd doesn’t always realize about Christians is that we’re still human, and we have weaknesses that can still surface under certain arduous circumstances. All very first-world problems of course, but here goes…Read more

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6 Worst Church Moments, Ever

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For people of faith, church is one of the best times of the week. The gathering of the saints. The only place you’ll hear freestyle electric guitars played by a 60 year-old investment banker during a non-denominational worship jam. And the only place where strangers lay hands on you without fearing second degree assault. However, in my 14 years of avid-church going, I’ve seen, and experienced some pretty unpleasant moments.

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4 Things to Avoid when Christian, and Single

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Keeping a pure thought life and remaining celibate until marriage can seem almost impossible, when we’re surrounded in a sex-driven world full of temptations and messages urging us to toss our convictions to the wind. We manage to stay strong through prayer, scripture, and in my experience, by avoiding four especially torturous scenarios for the long-suffering single.

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