Leveling up with Super Mario Brothers

Matt and Jackson love playing games on the Wii!

Lately my husband and son have been working diligently to defeat the bad guys with Mario and his gang. Almost daily, one of them comes to me with a glint in their eyes, asking if it would be okay if they play the Wii.

As I have watched them get excited over conquering a chapter in the game, finding gold coins or solving a puzzle, one aspect that has resonated with me is how the characters powers can “level up” after they have defeated a certain number of bad guys, giving them increased attack power to be able to more easily face their foes. It is as if Mario receives extra energy to continue his quest.

Have you ever needed to “level up”? Are you facing the journey, fighting off attackers or jumping through obstacles and need a fresh boost of energy and zeal to keep going? Does your passion level for Christ require a reboot? Could you use a burst of faith to continue walking in the vision God has given to you?

Me too! There are times when I allow distractions to take my attention away from the ultimate goal. I don’t realize how much I crave the presence of Jesus and instead stuff myself with responsibilities and expectations. The enemy keeps attacking, and all I’m using is a shield and not the sword.

In preparing to unify with my Christian brothers and sisters in the Lord’s Supper this weekend, God and I had a needed heart-to-heart chat on the way to and back from the grocery store. I actually had that time alone (thanks to my husband), and began talking out loud with my Heavenly Father. He opened my heart to areas I needed to follow through and change. He encouraged me in His purpose and place for me. He provided me an action plan. Frankly, just to hear His voice and feel His presence was enough to send my passion levels soaring!

Renewed energy and faith come through communion with the Savior. If you want to get to the next level in your spiritual journey, you must spend time with Jesus. Get into His Word, consistently and with expectation. Talk with God. Connect to His heart in prayer. Listen to His voice and obey Him.

That is the only way you will finish well. You cannot win the game in your own strength.

Level up!

Jackson’s Zoo

Ever since we visited the Potter Park Zoo in Springfield, Mo., earlier this summer, Jackson has poured over the zoo map he picked up there. The edges and folds have worn as he has explored it, played with it and shared it with many other people, describing our adventures there. He has spent many more hours playing with the zoo map than we did at the zoo.

Knowing how much he enjoys imagining going through the zoo and seeing the animals, I helped Jackson design a zoo of his own, with an accompanying zoo map.

We spent more than an hour finding animal pictures online together, with Jackson handpicking which species he would feature in his zoo. He decided where each exhibit would go and how people would want to walk around the zoo. He even specially chose animals for an interactive petting zoo.

This is the first draft of Jackson's Zoo. We plan on adding a train, bathrooms and restaurants on the next map!

Jackson could hardly wait as the map printed, and jumped up and down when it was finished! He made his own zoo!!

As I was finishing up a few things on the computer while he began playing with his new zoo map, Jackson disappeared upstairs. After a few minutes I heard him bound down the stairs, jumping the last step and landing with a thud.

“Mommy,” Jackson said, holding his old Potter Park Zoo map, “I don’t need this anymore. I’m going to put it in the trash can.”

I was floored! This map had traveled, literally, everywhere with him. I would daresay it was one of his most treasured possessions, which he carefully placed on a shelf each night in such a way that it was one of the first things he would see every morning. And, now, after having created a new zoo map, he was ready to let it go?

I gave my permission for Jackson to throw away the old map, and the deal was done. He hasn’t referred to it since.

I don’t know many people who can move forward so wholeheartedly and decisively!

We each have dreams and plans that we pour our lives into, designing and crafting each aspect. So what happens when God diverts the path in which we have invested so much of ourselves and gives us a new map to follow? What is our reaction?  Our response may include some sort of tantrum, pity party, intense cross-examination or initial flat out refusal of God’s course correction. Maybe we move forward with God, but we keep looking back at the past and dwelling on what “might have been.” Or, perhaps we only halfway accept God’s dream for our lives, keeping pieces of our heart just for ourselves and what we want.

It is hard when God asks us to embrace His life and His plan. When God’s will goes a different direction than where we have been, we must leave our former life behind and run after Him.

Give me one pure and holy passion.
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You

To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your disciple in your truth
This world is empty, pale and poor
Compared to knowing you, my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you

Listen to this song

God has definitely guided me to places I thought I’d never go and given me roles I wouldn’t have chosen for myself. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan. But, when we follow hard after Jesus and make Him our passion, life is incredibly sweet. When we walk hand-in-hand with our Savior, experiencing the fullness of His love and peace, I guarantee there is nowhere else you would rather be.

Pitch the old map. Accept God’s personally crafted plan for your life.

You will never regret it!

Jackson and his new zoo map!