Saturday, March 26, 2016

No Fear

    What is your greatest fear? Pain? Suffering? Death? Fear always has to do with loss: of a loved one, of your pride, of your reputation, of your health, of your life. But most of all fear has to do with loss of faith.

    Good Friday, which I always want to call, "Black Friday", not because I confuse it with the shopping holiday, but more of a Freudian slip: in my mind, it had to have been the blackest of all days. It was so chock-full of loss it was literally bursting at the seams. The disciples lost their leader, Mary lost her child, and the Father lost His Son.

   And Jesus? He lost everything. His reputation was in tatters, His power seemed to have deserted Him, His followers had fled, He was literally having the life beaten out of Him. Ultimately, He would lose the only thing no human has the power to replace: His life. We all know how the story ends: His Father restores Him to life, but that had yet to be revealed to those wading knee-deep through the most painful loss any of them had ever experienced, or would ever experience.

   And you know what goes hand-in-hand with loss? Fear. Swamping, swallowing, sweeping fear. The kind that opens its gaping maw and gulps you down whole into its acid-filled gut. The ugliest, most consuming kind anyone could imagine because it took every kind of loss and built an invading army out of them-and they were standing powerless, weaponless, before it.

   Who could survive that? Who could come out alive on the other side? Well...the answer is: no one. Not even Jesus went through that alive. But He could conquer it through death. What? It doesn't make sense on the surface. How could death-the most feared loss of them all, ever result in anything good?

    Over and over and over the Lord tells us through His Word, "Do not be afraid." "Do not fear." How is that even possible? In our own strength, it never will be. In our own strength, the best we can hope for is to dilute fear, to manage it, to sometimes cover it up. But we can never be without it.

   So that's why He sent Jesus. Because we could never do it on our own. But Christ beat every fear all hollow! He faced them down, one by one, to show us Who is truly the Victor.

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:18 NIV
He is love. He drove fear out with a crashing whip, and a stunning show of strength. He did not even let the most cumbersome of fears, death, slow Him down.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55 NIV
  That doesn't even seem feasible to our feeble humans minds. Death is pretty much the most fear-ridden thing we can conjure. It is the greatest loss we can imagine, or experience. Good thing we serve a God who isn't bound by the constraints of our humanity. From the beginning of the Bible to the end, He tells us over and over, like a Father to forgetful children. "Do not fear..."

   And then with Christ, He showed us how it is done. Through absolute faith and trust. Through perfect love. Fear isn't something to manage, it is something to expel. Black Friday. Good Friday. Our blackest fears turned in the the greatest victory. Our greatest loss equaled our biggest win. He walked through every dark place, and He triumphed. He suffered every type of loss and was victorious. And He didn't do it to prove His worth-there was no need for that. No, He did it for us. He did it to fulfill every promise and to prove to us that His endless chant could become a vibrant reality for those who believe. Good Friday=No fear.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,    they will not sweep over you.When you walk through the fire,    you will not be burned;    the flames will not set you ablaze.     For I am the Lord your God,    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." Isaiah 43:1b-3a NIV
   He doesn't ask us to do anything that He hasn't already done. He showed us the way, and He is the way. Good Friday...the day the door was opened so that we could be free from fear, and free from true loss. This Easter, this Resurrection Sunday, wake to new life-one absolutely, divinely, perfectly free from fear. Don't let it scare you-He has already been there, and He will be with you...

Need further convincing? Every single one of those verse references in the image above is a whisper (or maybe a shout) from your Father who loved you enough to give up His Son for *you*! Don't let your fear keep you from the greatest love ever. He is waiting to take your fears away, today.

P.S. If you would like to make the image above a printable, simply right-click, select save and then print from your saved location. Happy Resurrection Day!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Willy Wonka Birthday Party

     It has been a little while since I have posted about a party I've planned, but it isn't because I haven't done any events, I have just been too busy to post about them. I did a "Cupcake Wars" party for my daughter in November and a meet-and-greet with a gorgeous white-and-gold fall theme. I also did one of the simplest events I have ever done, a Christmas carol sing with childlike craft/nativity decor in December. I did enjoy all those things, but the birthday party we threw for my dad last week was definitely the most fun, so since I'm the boss around here that's where we're going today!

    My mom wanted to throw a surprise party for my dad and, as is my entire family's M.O., it came together at the last minute. Literally, we planned this party in a week. I followed lots of my own "rules" (I wrote about them here.) and they really do work. All credit goes to my sister, Lisa Dawn, for suggesting the fantastic theme: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The old seventies version with Gene Wilder is one of my dad's favorite movies and truly screams for an over-the-top birthday reincarnation.
  I was happy to oblige! We coordinated ideas via Pinterest (Lisa Dawn and I don't live in the same town) and she came in the day before and we worked for 6 hours the day before and 8 hours the day of to pull it all together. And it was totally worth it!

     Lisa Dawn and I each had different ideas for major decor areas, so we each worked on our own space with input from the other. I wanted to pull from the scene where the ticket holders walk into the "Paradise" area. I made a "chocolate river" out of plastic tablecloths, and supplemented it with plenty of fake plants and pillars. I made giant "mushrooms" out of cups and bowls painted with white dots (Most of them are from the Dollar Tree-I thought the scalloped-edged ones were particularly charming!) I incorporated daffodils (That is what Willy Wonka drinks out of in that scene.), as well as some Christmas candy cane lights, as those are also prominent. The scene opens with a staircase decorated with urns of giant candy balls, so I duplicated those with a planter filled with ball pit balls.

 I made giant "lollipops" out of Dollar Tree pool noodles wrapped in cellophane, and some smaller ones out of styrofoam circles with dowel rods as sticks. We threaded marshmallows as garland for this tree.

This tree was my favorite. We looped fishing line around larger-than-normal gummy bears. These Trolli Big Bold Bears aren't nearly the size of those in the film, but they were still cute and colorful. We got them at Walmart for a little more than $1 per bag and I was thrilled with them.

 I duplicated these edible cups from a photo on Pinterest. I sawed off the bottom of a cake cone, and glued it to a peach gummy ring with icing, and then to a Dollar Tree butter cookie. I cut a peach ring in half for the handle and attached it with icing. I filled them with candy, and they paid homage to the edible daffodil cup that WW bites into in the film.

 WW is chock full of WONDERFUL quotes. I could have done 50 without batting an eyelash! However, I was limited by time, so I snagged a few printable ones from the Web and typed up three of my own that I couldn't find versions of to suit. I plan on offering the ones I did later on, but I am hoping to try a new PDF style for printing, and I need to upload some things before it will work. This one I pulled from a Google search and I cannot find it again! I try to pin all those things so I will have the link, but I was pretty short on time-working at 11 pm!
 We decorated the wall with these oversized candies. They were definitely bang for our buck! They were styrofoam disks from the Dollar Tree and came two to a package. We covered them with colored cellophane from DT and Walmart, each roll was about $1. We stuck pre-cut dowel rods from Walmart's craft section in some of them to make lollipops. They really helped the ugly walls of our church basement!
    The Oompa Loompa "topiary" heads are completely Lisa Dawn's handiwork. She painstakingly put them together out of jelly beans. I supplied the printable, which I designed. I think that quote is hilarious, because if children disappearing in every act doesn't constitute dangerous, I don't know what does! I picked up the fabric for $1/yard at Walmart and we used it for the centerpieces for the tables, also. I threaded candy from the Dollar Tree that was the perfect colors (brown, white and green are all on the Oompa Loompas) onto fishing wire to make a garland and filled the containers with more.

   We kept the centerpieces simple. We stuck three pipe-cleaner lollipops into a bowl filled with regular and mini fruity marshmallows and then scattered Rolos and colorful hard candies onto a piece of the fabric. We covered the tables with orange plastic clothes for easy clean-up.
  Of course we had to design a contract! I used brown kraft paper and a sharpie. If I had had more time I would have made it much more ornate, but I still think it turned out well. That is one long contract!
 For the food table we kept the decor to a minimum so there would be plenty of space for my mom's tasty offerings. I filled a few glass containers with candy and added a printable I designed. Another WW quote that I love!
 I loved these giant suckers out of balloons! They were so easy to make, just balloons, dowel rods and cellophane. We popped them in a jar filled with gumballs. The printable is a freebie I got from here.

With our time crunch the backdrop wall wasn't exactly what I pictured but it turned out well. The accent wall was amusingly already brown, which was perfect for our color scheme. We added purple, lime and orange streamers and then criss-crossed it with garlands of lollipops, colorful mini candy canes and hard candies.

  Lisa Dawn's focal area was our interpretation of "Bill's Candy Shop". We put a spin on the candy buffet concept by using a nine cubby organizer. It made it look more like the tall shelves in the movie. We made "Wonka Bars" by covering Hershey Bars with these wrappers. Of *course* Nestle is phasing out using Willy Wonka on its packaging, but we were fortunate to find Everlasting Gobstoppers (must have!), Nerds and Laffy Taffy (That's in the giant jar on the side.). We filled it in with colorful gumdrops, suckers, gummy bears, licorice ropes and gumballs. Working with candy is!

 I was thrilled to find these giant suckers for $1 each at Dollar Tree. We pulled the ugly wrappers off and re-covered them. Lisa Dawn put together the adorable candy button chain from supplies from Party City.

      I specifically designed this quote for the Bill's Candy Shop area, since it is a line from the song he sings. My sister Lisa Dawn loved it so much she took it home to hang.
  Lisa Dawn tweaked this sign from the movie, in the original it is Store Room 54, but since it was my Dad's 55th we changed it. She loves this quote so she handlettered the sign.

  Of course we had to have the troublesome "Fizzy Lifting Drinks"! We added these labels to bottles of Mountain Dewshine. My sister Kelly helpfully resized them on the computer to the perfect fit. We used white balloons to simulate bubbles.

 I pulled the "Bubbles Everywhere" quote from the Web, again I forgot to pin it! I'll have to hunt down the links. This one didn't copy super well, it was fainter than I wanted it to be. We piled it onto a white cake plate with the drinks.

We set up a scale from the "Egg Room" scene, complete with golden eggs, which fortunately are easy to find this time of the year! We got ours for $0.50 each from Walmart. I handlettered the chalkboard sign based on one that I saw on Pinterest. One of my sisters was surprised that it added up to 105%! Ha!
 We couldn't pass up the opportunity to let the movie inspire our outfits. Can you guess who each of us is? My sister said we reminded her of those "inspired-by" Polyvore boards on Pinterest-not exact duplicates, but more of a nod to the original.

  We played a peanut-shelling game. For true fans of the film, you will remember that Veruca's father owns a peanut factory, and during the giveaway, the workers switch from shelling peanuts to shelling chocolate bars. We timed the contestants to see who could get the most peanuts in a minute. We also did a fab movie quiz my sister Katy put together. My mom handed out envelopes to those with correct answers and at the end of the game we opened them to see who had won "golden tickets" which entitled the winners to prizes. Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of those!
 My talented teenage cousin free-handed this AMAZING Oompa Loompa photo prop. It made for an adorable photo area.
    It was such a fun party, and really goes to show that you don't have to start planning six months in advance to throw a great event. My dad was really pleased, and all the guests were delighted with the tiny details. It does help that I have my own tribe of party "minions"-both Joel and Jordan, Lisa Dawn's husband, were great and Kelly was amazing as always. My mom supplied all the funds, and thoughtful opinions. I am so thankful to have such a great family that helps bring my visions, as crazy as they are sometimes, to life and allows me to flex my creative muscles!

   So which one do you prefer? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Or the crazy drug-trip of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? I'm old-school all the way-I haven't even seen the Johnny Depp version! ;)

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