Archives for April 2013

The Real Neighbors of Ladera

Ladera Post

“Mom, you and dad do what? What’s this “crazy” business all about?”

My son stares me down as his eyes peep over the newspaper in his hands.

Weak Smile and Change the SUBJECT

**Note to self** Remember the words you write before you let your kids read it in the newspaper.

Here’s my last article from 4/19/2013.  I actually wrote this a while back but it just got published. Fortunately, I am out of the diaper stage, but I remember those days all too well!

THE REAL NEIGHBORS OF LADERA
By SAMANTHA KELLER

FOR THE OC REGISTER/LADERA POST

I bumped into a cast member from “The Real Housewives of Orange County” at the Pavilions in Ladera Ranch the other day.

This lovely lass from Bravo’s hit reality show is my neighbor, if you count her living in the tract across the street as living in part of my hood, and I do, because somehow that makes me cooler.

We both had three kids trailing at our heels and our eyes met in a moment of “Lord have mercy on me,” or at least that’s what I was thinking with a crying baby, my son begging for coconut water that costs $5 per eight ounces and my daughter trying to assemble the perfect cake-making materials to create an atomic particle (will somebody please tell me how the heck to make positive ions out of frosting?).

Right about then it hit me who she was.

Trying not to be too obvious, I snuck glances. She was dressed in fancy workout clothes and her long blonde extended tresses were flowing around her shoulders. She had gobs of makeup on and was a perfect shade of bronze.

I, on the other hand, am proud to say I did not have snot or poop or baby barf on me.

It was a good day.

After checking out she walked up to a white BMW in the parking lot and then realized
it wasn’t hers.

She started mumbling cuss words under her breath and for the first time I saw a
“real” woman. The scenario was funny and dumb and something I would do.

And for a moment, I connected with a normal chick who struggles to remember where
she parked the car.

I loved it! I loved the messiness!

What I really want is a REALITY show where moms act like real moms -not dance moms
or cheer moms or duck moms -just moms.

I want to see a show where real women drive the 3 p.m. carpool in pink monkey
pajamas with bold panache.

How about a show that depicts the parents pretending to be asleep and then calling
each other names in the middle of the night as they fight over who will get up for
the third time with baby?

A show where parents turn on “Yo Gabba Gabba” and park their baby in front of the TV
and get crazy in the bathroom for five minutes because it’s the only time they have
to be intimate.

I want to see the show where real Ladera Ranch neighbors bawl and hug because it’s
been a bad day and we pull out the Skinny Girl margarita mix and encourage each
other to forgive and forget.

Where real mommies and daddies fight and make up and laugh at each other’s jokes,
because mommy thinks daddy is hysterical and adorable and the best thing that has
ever happened to her.

Real housewives do live in Ladera and our unscripted lives are infinitely more
interesting than a reality show that strives to capture our mommy “mojo” and falls
so far from the mark.

–Samantha Keller is a Southern California native, freelance writer, blogger, JSerra
High School football mom and local speaker on dating and relationships. She lives in
Ladera Ranch with her husband, Pastor Tim Keller, and their three children. Visit
her blog at scrappysam.com.

Bad at Goodbyes

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I’m not good at goodbyes.

Sometimes God has to light a fire under my butt to get me to move on.

The moment of truth hit me hard as I prayed and reflected at Catalyst ( a leadership conference) this week. 

I kept picturing a donkey with my face on it.  Over and over I heard references to Balaam’s Ass.

Could God be talking to me?  Was I the ass?

I knew, if I was brutally honest, I was operating like a stubborn mule about leaving our church to follow my husband to his new assignment.

For the last month, I have justified staying at the church we started in Mission Viejo instead of transitioning gracefully to my husband’s current position as singles and young couple’s pastor on the Irvine campus.

“It’s because of the kids.” I tell people (and lie to myself). 

But my last stand was starting to feel yucky.  Once the church in Mission Viejo announced Tim’s departure (four weeks ago) I should have packed my bags, followed my man and waved goodbye.

Instead, I stuck my heels in the sand.

And it’s confused people.  For the last few weeks, parishioners at MV have approached me quizzically, “I thought you left?” they ask.

And I answer sheepishly, “Well, uhhhh….(stutter more and stammer), you know, my husband did, but I’m staying with the kids who are sooooo connected.”

Blank stare.

I’m like the poster child for Sarah NOT following Abraham.

But this has nothing to do with Tim, who is my HERO, it’s about ME letting go of something I love.

Even though it couldn’t be clearer it’s time to move on.

This MV campus, the one we discovered after driving around every Saturday for six months in a car with two kids is doing just fine without us. 

It’s vibrant and sustainable and our part is over. 

But walking away from the church we have poured our lives and the deepest recesses of our hearts into isn’t easy. 

For two years my entire family lived and breathed this church.  From early morning until late at night our home became the church walls.  I labored 14 hours with Kolby at the church.  My kids did their homework and explored every nook and cranny of the cavernous building.  The church building was their playground, home base and their life. 

Five nights a week and six days, the five of us (along with the Alexander’s and the Ramsey’s) built a community of believers and volunteers.  We were the spiritual version of “SEAL Team 6”  fighting to build the walls of Jerusalem in Ladera Ranch. 

About one day a week, usually interrupted by a leaky church roof or some other crisis, we collapsed comatose on the sofa exhausted and ate pizza again–the diet of a church planter.

I worked three jobs during that time –thirty hours a week as an account manager for an IT company, twenty hours a week freelancing as a writer and another 20 hours at the church as the women’s pastor and assistant to my hubs. 

And as exhausting as that sounds, it was AWESOME.

We had a clearly defined mission and purpose that made every task worthwhile and a joy. 

I cleaned almost thirty toilets each week the first few months until we had budget for facilities. 

And I loved it –every stinky, challenging, conflict-ridden second.

Eventually the church stabilized, lead teachers were brought in and we were allowed to pull back and resume normal life.

But it’s never really normal after an experience like that. 

And maybe that’s what I miss the most and ultimately what I yearn for.

Adventure.  Purpose.  Meaning.

A journey so grand it’s IRRESTIBLE.

I didn’t go back to MV this weekend; I attended our new (old) church in Irvine and opened my heart and arms up for the next season.  I might have cried a little too and mourned the past as I simultaneously embraced the future.

And Like Isaiah I cried out, “Here I am God, use me (again).”

Because the crazy wild life of following God is worth every heartache and tear and even though I left a little part of my heart in MV, I can’t wait for the next mission impossible.

Have you ever struggled to let go of something you loved as God moves you into the next season? 

Courage is Not the Absence of Fear

courageI feel pretty confident as a writer –it comes naturally and it’s in my wheel house, but public speaking on the other hand, has been a long process over the last ten years of trial and error, practice and more practice and an unfailing trust that God has got my back even when I’m TERRIFIED.

I used to be one of “those” people they quote in statistics; you know the ones who would rather die than get on a stage and open their mouth?

Clearly God has a sense of humor about my current occupation as writer/speaker.

So, I’m finally to the point where I’m mostly comfortable up front and can laugh and joke and poke fun with the crowd, but I’m still learning how to handle the unexpected without getting my feathers flustered.

Like last Monday night at Frister’s when the powers of evil tried to take me out in the women’s restroom.

I pulled up to Yorba Linda Friend’s church a few minutes early and managed to get lost in the massive worship center before I located the area I was to speak for the young women’s group.  Then I searched for the bathroom. 

Not to be too graphic…but I had to tinkle –BAD.

Yep, I was doing the potty dance and when I finally located the long bay of restrooms I ran in with great relief. 

And since I had a really full bladder, I figured I had a minute or two to check the Twitter feed on my iPhone for the Boston Marathon bombings.

(No judgment please)

Within a few seconds, I was totally engrossed in the news and pictures and terrible sadness when all of a sudden the lights turned off.

And it was pitch black, darker than dark.  

I’m not kidding –it was the absence of all light.

No windows existed in the cavernous ladies restroom of the Friend’s Church and I couldn’t see an inch in front of me except for my trusty iPhone.

I managed to button up and stand, slightly panicked, when my tiny source of illumination and hope flickered out.

My iPhone died.

Seriously?

Now real panic set in.

I figured I was in one of those bathrooms where the lights are triggered by motion.  So I frantically waved my arms around like a crazy person.

BAD IDEA SAM.

This resulted in bone crushing pain to my right arm but still no light.

Clutching my arm and purse I finally got the lock open on the door, staggered out and crashed into the sink. 

As I howled in pain, jumped up and down and dropped more BAD words than the FRIENDS probably ever heard, the lights FINALLY turned back on.

I glanced in the mirror and groaned. 

There I stood, three minutes before go-time, with black mascara and tears streaming down my face, hair and clothes completely disheveled and an arm I couldn’t lift.

How was I supposed to pull this train-wreck together?  I was pretty sure my arm was fractured. 

And then I thought about the marathon runners in Boston who gave blood after running 26 miles and the rescue workers trudging on and the people fighting for their lives with blown off limbs.

And I knew the power of a God who raised Christ from the dead could get me through the next hour.

Seconds later I walked out of the bathroom from HELL and did the job God called me to do. 

Fast forward sixty minutes and now I’m praying with a young girl in tears convicted to end her life of promiscuity.  It was humbling and healing and so REDEMPTIVE.

And I thought about our responsibility as ministers and representatives of Christ.

My job is not to entertain or put on a show or dazzle with words. 

It’s really just to show up –real and wounded and raw. 

And somehow, in spite of all our fears and clutziness and epic bathroom debacles he uses the scared and the weakest of these to show HIS glory.

 

How does God show up in your weak moments? 

Little Things

rope swing 

I heard the roar before I opened the door –a posse of kids and moms in my front yard. 

A line had formed around the rope swing and our tree was groaning with the weight of toddlers furiously pushing to and fro.  On my steps sat two of my neighbors cuddling infants and relaxing in the sun.

It was Saturday morning, and although I rose early to write and clean and prepare a large breakfast for the family, it was now pushing noon and I still had yet to dress.  I slowly ventured out in my fuzzy pink chenille bathrobe –knowing it was inappropriate for the hour and yet not really caring either.

I chatted with my friends, got razzed by a few male neighbors (who seemed to be concerned our property values might drop by my wanton appearance) and watched our kids frolic. 

A few minutes later, my husband popped out the door with champagne flutes for all the moms and filled our glasses to celebrate our wedding anniversary. 

I felt a little decadent.  Champagne and jammies in the afternoon is vacation-land not my reality.

Suddenly, the kids bolted across the street to jump on my neighbor’s bounce house.   So, I followed (still in my bathrobe) with ten kids in tow and clutching my flute.  And there we sat for an hour (or two) and reveled in the day.

It was magical.

The kids shrieked and bounced and got boo-boos –as all kids do in a jump house, the mom’s all added orange juice to the champagne to make mimosas (more because we all light-weights than for taste purposes), and life seemed to stand still. 

And I didn’t have to think about anything other than being present and celebrating the little things. 

And I thought about the rope-swing –borrowed from our neighbors and now permantly planted in our front yard. 

And it’s a silly “little thing” that helps me to remember the important stuff -my neighbors, relationships and our children who are small for such a brief moment in time.  

The rope swing helps me to recognize the best parties are impromptu, start on the front porch, and the only invitation is a smile, a little champagne and time to share.

That evening my husband and I donned our fanciest attire and stood out on the lawn taking pictures to commemorate the day.  We posed on our front porch with kids and dogs and the rope swing in full motion.

And although I didn’t take a picture with my camera of our little mommy soiree –I have it locked in my mental scrapbook of “best days  ever.”

Do you have a “little thing” that helps you to remember what’s truly important?

Inspiration

Keller Dating 1

He’s always surprising me…

I walked downstairs yesterday morn to discover a delicate floral arrangement and our wedding program on display.  There was a sweet anniversary card celebrating our 5th year together.  But by far, my favorite gift was a poem my husband reprinted for me.

Tim wrote this poem when we were dating.  For fifteen months we walked or better yet crawled to the altar in purity.  We didn’t compromise sexually and it wasn’t easy because the spark between us was INTENSE.

During that time we were forced to learn to communicate in other ways –nonphysical ways–and we had to use words to tell each other how we felt.

This is what came out of my husband.  He’s not a literary beatnik kind of guy, but love made a poet out of him. 

Inspiration

Written 3-26-2007 – Reprinted 4-5-2013  by: Tim Keller

Inspiration is a word

That means so many things,

its true 

It clearly describes the way I feel

When I’m spending time with you

You bring me emotion, joy and passion

I’ve never smiled like this before

I can’t imagine life without you

I desire you daily more and more

From God inspiration is holy influence

Exerted on the mind and soul

From you it is like morning coffee

Invigorating, consuming, feeling whole

I feel alive when were together

Your smiles, your kisses, your joys your fears

I long for the days and nights together

Sharing breath for all our years

Our hearts have been so knit together

I look forward to all that life will be

It’s overwhelming when I am with you

Like God himself made you for me

wedding kiss 

Is it any wonder why I am so in love with this man?

–Samantha

Twice Lost

lost: Unable to find one’s way: a lost child.

I was twenty-two years old the first time I lost my brother. Eighteen years later I have lost him again.

The first time he disappeared my parents left me in charge of the twelve-year-old squirt while they vacationed in Europe. I came home from college one Spring break to care for him and failed miserably in my first attempt at pseudo-parenting.

One afternoon he took off a skateboard to play with the neighbor kids and didn’t return for dinner. After searching door to door and calling all his friends, I finally contacted the police in desperation. Close to midnight, I stood in the darkness outside of my parent’s home and with tears and sobs and groans of utter despair -I begged for God’s mercy.

Something overtook me then–something holy and mystical –a presence of sweet and utter peace. And I knew God heard me.

Two hours later, after the police combed the neighborhood with dogs and helicopters, my brother was found. He had fallen asleep on the floor of the next door neighbor’s house in their third floor playroom. Somehow in the panic of the search and managing their own five children, my brother had slipped by unnoticed by the neighbor’s and only woke with the roar of helicopters.

I took my bargain with God seriously. The next day was Good Friday and I stood up at the altar call and officially sealed the deal with my Savior.

It’s almost twenty years later and in a weird twist of irony it’s Easter weekend again.

And once again my brother is lost.

It happened in the blink of an eye. He started using drugs. He lost his job and girlfriend. The highs became higher and the lows became lower.

On Palm Sunday my father called me from the hospital and choked out the horrific details.

In a violent and vicious drug rage, my brother attacked our parents and almost killed my step-mom. He was arrested for felony assault to elders and incarcerated.

My father, suffering from dementia tried to protect his wife and call 911 as he was forced to defend himself against his own son throwing blows at him.

I’ve never felt more helpless, shocked and honestly –ashamed. I wanted to hide and tell no one.

Good Friday came. And once again I stood and lifted my arms to God. When it came time to write out my sins, I sat there in my chair and scribbled one word –UNFORGIVENESS.

If my heart ever felt hardened to a human this was it. Love and hate intermingled with betrayal.

I dragged my feet up to the cross and slowly lifted the hammer to nail it in. And I forced myself to remember how much God has forgiven me through each thump of the hammer.

It’s been a long week of picking up the pieces of a family blown to bits by evil. My step-mom has multiple fractures in her shoulder and arm. She is bruised from her chest to the tips of her fingers. My father is dissalusioned, sad and scared. And even though the physical wounds are painful, the bruises to their spirit are far deeper.

To make matters worse, my brother was let out of jail on Thursday by an accidental clerical error. The charges had to be re-submitted. Once the warrant goes out he will have to be re-arrested. He was defiant upon release and showed no remorse. Although there is a restraining order, his instability doesn’t leave my family feeling secure.

In the meantime, he was spotted wandering through a trailer park high and incoherent.

Easter hit me like a ton of bricks.

The resurrection we celebrate on Easter morning means everything to the followers of Christ. We base our lives and hopes and beliefs on it.

But the resurrection means EVEN MORE to the wandering souls who reject him although they may not know or care; because in the worst of times there is always the possibility of hope and a return to the father.

Our God died for us while we were still sinners and he continues to pursue the lost until they are found. And even in trailer parks and prisons and to the ends of the earth, I believe God will pursue his lost son.

It’s not easy to share this story. It’s still raw and prickly, but I believe there are many families out there just like ours battling for their sons and daughters (and brother’s) hearts. The one thing I have learned by tentatively sharing and asking for prayer is that I am not alone in this. Please don’t isolate –reach out to your community and church for support. These tragedies are too big for you to handle alone. If your family member is suffering from an addiction and has turned abusive or violent, please find help.

–Samantha

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ Luke 15:22-24

 

Photo Source: google.com via Ashleigh on Pinterest

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