The Problem With Marriage

wedding kissI have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

–Mother Teresa

Our marriage is probably like many of yours—sometimes effortless and occasionally the hardest work I’ve ever done.

I’ve been married for eight years now. The first six flew by in a breeze. We didn’t have to make it work because it wasn’t that difficult. There were romantic getaways and shared dreams, giggles and tickle fights and a growing family. We started a church and had a baby; we bought a home and moved to suburbia. Life was abundant with service and ministry and blessings. Sure, certain obstacles came our way, but our confidence in each other was high.

And then REAL life hit.

Tragedy and drama and human weakness at it’s finest.  Our fragile foundation rocked and rolled like the San Andreas fault.  My parents were suddenly both taken by fatal disease, Tim injured his back and faced permanent nerve damage and partial paralysis , there was spinal surgery, a long and painful recovery, and our constant battle with infertility that wove itself through every story—miscarriage after miscarriage. Add in a blended family and teenagers in to the mix and for two years we fought to keep our heads above water.

Maybe marriage wasn’t so easy.

Maybe it took work. Hard work.

Fortunately, I married a persistent man who never, ever, gives up. Week after week he showed up at the counselor by my side ready to tackle the broken parts of him and us and me. And even when I was drowning in sorrow and weary, he never let go of my hand.

While I wish certain outcomes were different, because I sure miss my mom and dad (and all the babies I won’t meet until eternity), I don’t regret the journey it’s forced us to travel. Pain brings out our best and worst traits. My husband has seen me unraveled and paralyzed with fear and yet he continues to love me. I have seen him blustering and red in frustration and yet I get up and choose only him every day.

So many people avoid pain. They run, they hide, they cope. I was a master at this.

But with a 72% divorce rate in Orange County, I don’t really think this strategy is working out too well for most of us.

If I learned anything from years of therapy it’s this…don’t avoid the pain–do the opposite–lean in.

Pain has made our marriage better. Adversity overcome together creates the glue of relationship. Pain forced us to restructure our boundaries, to surrender to one another sacrificially and to leave our selfish natures behind for something better—a relationship built on rock and not sand.

Every day we can either deposit love or steal life from one another. It’s a choice we are all given.

Today I sit here and write after another failed pregnancy, and a heartbeat that slipped away, with tears and sadness, and a surgery to remove the remains of another sweet baby. One more soul added to our little tribe in heaven.

But I am content. Not because it doesn’t hurt—oh boy it does, but because I’m facing the pain with my best friend at my side. The friend I have fought for and who fights  for me on a daily basis.

I am what we call in our family “happy/sad.” The sad is obvious, but the happy is because I have fallen in love with my husband all over again through this yucky experience. I am crazy about this man who shares his whole heart unabashedly and shines his light so bright it makes the dark not so scary for me. He holds my hand and whispers prayers when I need encouragement, he points me back to God when my faith wavers, and he makes me laugh through my tears.  I can only hope I will choose to fall in love over and over with this same man for the rest of my life.  I want more than anything to focus on the good and not dwell on the bad, celebrating the smallest victories and offering forgiveness quickly.

The problem with marriage is that it’s not easy.

We have to choose one another every day in spite of the pain and the brokenness of our humanity.

I’m so glad we didn’t give up on the mountain of hard, because the greatest joy was reached only by cresting this summit together.

–Samantha

Peep Roast

FullSizeRenderIt was a simple command, really, but I suffered a mini-meltdown in my seat.

“Think of one friend you know that you can invite to the Peep Roast and send them this card.”

I looked down at the ground, I casually glanced around at everyone else thinking and writing and I choked in the death pause of uncertainty.

I couldn’t think of one person.

The truth hit me hard, painfully hard and it ached in places I didn’t know I could ache.

Here is my reality right now, I live in a Christian bubble.

No one put me here, it just happened because I let myself get comfortable.

And it’s revolting to me. It’s against everything I believe to be true about the gospel.

My kids go to Christian school. My neighborhood all goes to the church we helped start in our local area. I see the same people day in and day out. And I love this community with all my heart, but sometimes I need to get out of it a little too.

How can you invite new peeps to the Peeps Roast when you don’t know any?

When your husband is a pastor and you are a Christian writer, every conversation begins with, “Come check out our church.”

But I invite people so casually, I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s like “How are you?”–or some other greeting I drop like I don’t really mean.  It’s just a rote expression I do by routine.

When did I stop being intentional about meeting new people that are different from me?

………………….

I will never forget the night Tim when asked me where I wanted to go to dinner and I replied “Mutt Lynches.”

He looked at me like I was cray-cray, because Mutts is a rowdy bar on the boardwalk of Balboa Penninsula.  I was pregnant at the time and could barely stomach the smell of beer, barf, or people in general.

But I nodded yes vehemently because my intuition or (prompt from God) was powerful.

That night we met a group of guys and one in particular we connected with. Over too many beers on his part, he confided that his wife had filed for divorce and served him papers that day. He had come home to an empty house void of his little ones and all he held dear.

He started to tear up as he shared that he deserved it. He had put his family’s needs below his quest for success and climbing the corporate ladder. He had erroneously believed they would always be there until they weren’t.

His friends had taken him out to tie one on. But it wasn’t helping. It just magnified the pain. His friends were stunned at his admission but too drunk to know what to do.

Then he jumped up and ran out the bar.

Tim and I huddled up and decided that Tim would go after him and I would stay with all my sweet drunk friends who would protect me or vice versa.

Tim found the guy walking towards the water’s edge.

Tim walked up and asked if he could pray with him and the guy collapsed on the beach weeping.

“I was ready to kill myself,”he confessed. I was going towards the water to drown myself. I cried out to God, “If you are real, give me one sign that you love me.”

“And you found me.”

They spent a long time on the sand simply crying out to God together and lifting heavy hearts, as the waves crashed and I played beer pong with iced tea back in the bar with the guys.

We later heard from the guy that he was working hard to repair his family. He thanked us over and over.

But the gift of that evening was just as profound for us as it was for him.

I, we, want to be available when God is moving. I want to get my hands dirty and wipe the tears of the broken and spiritually wounded.

And I don’t think staying comfortable is helping.

It’s probably time to start venturing out and hanging out with some rowdy folks again. Maybe you need to get your hands a little dirty again too?

–Samantha

 

Maybe no one has invited you to an Easter service this year?  Can I?

Saturday March 26th at 5:00pm

Easter Service at Mariners Mission Viejo (with our annual Peep Roast following the service)

26862 Crown Valley Parkway, Mission Viejo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throwing Stones

girl-sad-101artsSqueals erupt from the playground as a pack of pint sized girls tackle the monkey bars. The moms gather close, gobbling up grown-up time like precious pearls.

A small voice shrieks, “Mommy, sister said she hates me.” Tears fall.  A little sister sobs in frustration–she just wants to hang with the older girls. Be cool like them.

The lovely young mother administers a hug and kisses to her four-year-old, then calls the five-year-old over for a reckoning.

I watch the other girls stop their play. Somehow the word “hate” shocks us all out of our reverie. It get’s very quiet.

(When you play at the church school playground, it’s like God is watching)

I walk over and kneel down. A storm is brewing over their tiny countenance.

The girls are looking to lay blame.

“She said she hated her sister,” points out one little pig-tailed cutie. “That’s a bad word.”

I nod yes. “That’s true. But are you always nice to your little brother?” I probe, ever so gently.

A guilty smile sneaks out of the corner of her mouth. “No, she whispers.”

I turn to little Kolby. “Sometimes you and your sister fight, right?”

Kolby agrees sheepishly.

And suddenly they realize the “bad word” is in them too.

“Sometimes I say awful things I wish I could take back.” I confess.

I think of me sitting in the counselor’s office telling my husband his pride is an issue–as if I am somehow exempt from the very same malaise. 

And we all look down at our feet and the focus shifts off the bad child to the bad in us.

The next day the mom tells me her older daughter shared with her how she fears her friends like her little sister more than her.

In all truth, her little sister is a bit of a tot-sized hottie. She is vibrant and gorgeous with long golden hair and a winsome personality. She will probably be cheer captain and princess of everything.  I’d probably want to punch her in the face a few times if she were my sister too.  “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia ..”

Who wants to live up to that?

(I’m sure Jesus’ siblings struggled a bit too)

And then the mom laughs and said my little Kolby tried to empathize with her older daughter. Her daughter apologized for the bad choice of words and my Kolby explained that she too battles with jealousy towards her older sister Faith.

Kolby patted her on the back. “It’s tough, I know.”

The two hugged–closer now because of the rupture and the restoration.

I shook my head in disbelief. These are kindergartners–not thirty-five year old women. And yet somehow they are learning to self-identify and give grace and empathy to one another, not in spite of their brokenness but because if it.

I’ve learned down the long and bumpy road of life (and with a billion hours of therapy) that our broken pieces heal ONLY in relationship.

What a gift we give our children when we teach them to look within before casting stones and to share their hurt instead of bottling it up inside to fester and grow darker.

The mom and I hugged too–closer now because of the shared journey of parenting our girls together.

And I am grateful for friendship, forgiveness, and the sweet gift of grace we all desperately need.

–Samantha

 

Secrets of the Father

Secrets ImageIt took me a year–365 days of scratching out words and finding precious minutes to squirrel away and become someone else on paper.

But for Paul Aubin, it took a lifetime to write this story.

Many days I felt like a voyeur–like I woke up in the morning and put on a strange pair of pants. It’s probably what an actor feels taking on the nuances of a character. At times it was a little creepy. Paul and I would sit down together poring over the manuscript and he would say, “Let me tell you about this and that, or so and so…”

And I would interrupt, “Yeah, I know Paul.  I know all about you.” (cue eerie music)

His cheeks would flush.  And I would move my chair a few more inches away–because internalizing a person is just plain awkward.

But the truth is, on some level, I was a priest and I was Paul the little boy and the grown man too. Every day, I racked my head to think, emote and respond like two very different men. I sat in Starbucks and wept at times as the words tumbled out.  I railed at the injustice of a religious system built on a house of cards and I put myself in this heartbreaking love story destined to fail.

And over the course of that year, I fell in love with this beautiful and tragic tale of loss and redemption.

Paul’s story is the classic hero’s journey.  The life he once knew crashed and burned as he is confronted with a serious health crisis. Now with a ticking clock, he is forced to search for the parent’s who abandoned him and in the process discovers a scandalous cover-up within the Catholic church in a small New England town.

This is the astonishing and true story of a man who uncovered a thirty-five-year-old secret–and only he was the missing evidence.

I encourage you to discover it for yourself.

Click here to buy the Kindle version

Paperback now available to order.

–Samantha

Into the Hole of Stage Parent Shame

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Over the tips of skyscrapers and a slight OC haze, little Kolby spots the artificial snow of Matterhorn Mountain, “Mommy, is that Disneyland?”

“Yes, sweetheart,” I reply.

“Mommy, I need, I want, I muuuuuust to go to Disneyland. I’m the only kid in the world who’s never been.”

I look in the rearview mirror at her peaked little face and feel a minor prick of guilt. For a year, I took her older siblings (who are now teens) to the happiest place on earth every single stinking weekend with our mega access passes—which is why I now avoid the place like the plague.

(And just for the record, the measles outbreak gave me another good reason to put it off)

Kolby’s bow shaped mouth turns downward and then tightens into a pout. I tread lightly with my response because she’s not feeling well and EVERYTHING is irritating her.

I think hard. We are on our way up to an audition in LA for a commercial for a kids shoe company. I am doing pulling out every trick in my wheelhouse to transform a grumpy and feverish five-year-old into a friendly and outgoing kid actor/model.

But my lullabies and packed cooler full of organic Cheetos and chocolate almond milk are not cutting it in light of her Mickey Mouse depletion.

“Baby, let’s try and book a job this summer and then maybe we can go to Disneyland. It’s pretty expensive.”

Kolby nods. “Ok, I just have to be happy at the audition, right?”

“Yep, just do your best darling.”

The car goes silent. She leans back in her car seat and closes her eyes. The rest of the drive we play “I Spy” and find letters on license plates.

We drive into West Hollywood and I navigate through the crowded roads to the casting agency. Of course there’s no parking—because I always wanted to make a sick child walk a mile to wait in a crowded room for another hour.

I spot a Starbucks and we head around the corner to prep. Inside the store bathroom I change her into a little white floral dress and brush out her long golden locks. On top of her head I gently place a flower crown and sigh with delight.

Her attitude might be a wee bit sour but she looks like a dream.

I grab a drink and we head back over to the audition.

It’s the usual scene—about 50 kids with nannies and handlers and clueless grandpas juggling headshots, iPads and combs. Kolby starts talking with another little girl and I make a mental note of the room.

They are lining up the kids down a hallway. Some go in with parents and some without.   When Kolby’s name is called the lady in charge says the casting agents want to see the kids alone.

What? ALONE?

Many bad words come to mind.

Kolby’s eyes grow big and teary. She grabs my leg.

“I don’t want to go in there alone, mommy.” Big tears threaten to slide down her face.

She sets off the other kids in line.

It’s a group MELTDOWN worthy of an Oscar.

Now no one wants to go in alone. The lady glares at me.

The door opens and I grab little Kolby’s hand and push past her.

We walk into a mini American Idol type setting. There are three scowling casting directors behind a table. A hip but harried photographer motions for her to stand in front of a backdrop.

I give her a little encouraging pat and she walks over.

“What’s your name?” the lumber-sexual photographer inquires.

(Oh great, he’s got a beard. My kid is terrified of men with beards)

My little lamb looks at the ground and whispers, “Kolby.”

“Kolby, can you smile for me. I’m going to take a few pictures.”

And my dear child who is generally my biggest ham forces a pained grin that looks far more like disgust than joy.

I want to crawl in a hole.

“Can you give me a big smile?” he cajoles.

Kolby tries again. Now she looks constipated.

“Can you jump?” he asks.

Kolby looks at him and lets out an exaggerated sigh. Her body language screams, I don’t feel well and my mommy dragged me here and now you want me to freaking jump.

I can see the future teenager seed rooting.

She gives a half-hearted leap.

I crawl deeper into the hole of stage-parent shame.

The photographer grabs the shoes and asks her to try them on. She slips them onto her feet.

“Do you like the shoes?”

Kolby pauses. “Not really, they are too big.”

Her tone is pure annoyance.

The casting elite illuminati give me the look—the “You’re wasting our time look and I grab her hand and we shuffle out.”

She smiles the second we leave,

“How did I do Mommy? Can I go to Disneyland now?”

“No baby, I said we needed to book the job first remember? Anyway, you weren’t very friendly sweetheart.

And my five year-old turns on me and yells loudly down the street, “Other kids don’t have to get a job and go to work to go to Disneyland. Anyway, you told me not to talk to strangers and they were scary!”

And I am left both ashamed and stumped at her pre-school logic.

The two buff men heading into the gym in front of us choke up and try not to laugh, but I can hear their snickers and eyes on me as I duck into the car.

And I know it’s one of those mom moments. Make it or break it time.

I feel pulled between caring for my kid’s emotional wellbeing and teaching life lessons to a small person who may not have the ability to hear me in this moment.

How do I explain to my kid that I’m trying to fund her college tuition with her ridiculous cuteness? How do I teach her the value of a hard work ethic and the beauty of delayed gratification as she saves towards a goal? And most of all, how do I teach her to do hard things even when she feels like quitting?

And I realize while those are all things I want to teach her, this is NOT that moment.

I pick her up and cuddle her. “Today was tough. I’m proud of you for trying even though you were sick. Next time if you smile and act friendly even when you are scared mommy will give you $5 to save for Disney.”

I think some more.

“And if mommy introduces you to the person, then they aren’t strangers and it’s ok to be nice.”

She puts her little arms around me and we both sniffle and cling to one another.

Over the next few weeks Kolby works hard on introductions. She learns to say, “Nice to meet you” and hold out her hand for a firm shake.

She practices smiling and posing. We play the casting director game and take turns asking questions.

A month later Kolby books her first modeling gig.

When I share the news with her she screams, “I can’t believe it! Mommy, we are going to Disneyland!”

And I am humbled. The lesson I tried to force she learned all on her own.

This time I will be proud to wear the Mickey ears because I know how hard we both worked to get them.

 

A Dad’s Best Investment

KolbyK_selects_007

About a year ago my husband Tim came home from a soccer meeting bubbling over with plans to join an Adventure Princess tribe with our youngest daughter Kolby.

(FYI…Adventure Princess used to be known as Indian Princess, but apparently “Indian” is politically incorrect now)

All I know is that it’s a daddy daughter group that includes games, monthly meetings, harbor cruises, camping and money invested in the process of all these grand adventures.

I confess I was INITIALLY excited for them, until I saw the schedule of trips and the fees—then a part of me felt slightly resistant and maybe a little jealous.

Where’s my eight trips a year?  Can I spend the same amount of money bonding with our other kids?  Faith and I like to shop—just saying.

So my husband embarks on this new endeavor with Kolby and they join the “Wolfpack” circle.  The first meeting they return home with purple sweatshirts and patches, crafts and fringed vests.  Kolby acquires the ability to howl and Tim seems to truly enjoy time with the other wolf dudes.

Kolby is now known as “Sparkling Unicorn Princess” and Tim is “SOARING FALCON.”

They camp, they bond and I take it all in—mildly skeptical.

It doesn’t help that a friend tells me some gossipy things about the Ladera dads and their excuse to get away and party after the kids go to sleep.  In general, I try not to listen to second-hand-info, but because it’s a group I’m NOT invited to, the juicy tidbits create a little more distrust in my spirit.

I grill my husband when he returns from his first trip but he assures me all is well.

Hmmmmm…

Unfortunately, halfway through the year my husband has emergency spine surgery and the Wolfpack activity is put on hold until daddy recovers.

And now it’s June, and the last meeting of the year. But Tim is out of town on a football trip with my son Kyle, so the pack leader suggests I bring little Kolby to the meeting.

Come again?

The Wolf Dudes want me to bring my five-year-old girl to a pool party meeting with men?

Now I’m really feeling VERY AWKWARD but my baby girl wants to go so I acquiesce.  I bring Faith with me as backup and a good book.  I wear a modest bathing suit and put on my pastor’s wife game face–the “no funny business” one.

I show up at the pool leery.  I have visions of Animal House with the little girls in a corner doings crafts while the dad’s deal cards.

But to my surprise, the first thing I see is a big jolly guy with a huge smile in a neon orange shirt schlepping water toys down to the pool with two adorable little girls.

He introduces himself as the leader and invites me to join them.  This man is like Santa—he’s so good-natured and affable.  The girls run shrieking for the pool and the leader guy jumps in and plays water games with ten little girls attached to him for the next hour.  The other dads stand around quietly talking and catching up.

There is no alcohol.  No crazy stuff.  No strippers.  Just pizza and maybe a little too much sugar with the brownies, juice and otter pops—but that’s the extent of the shenanigans.

After the pool games wrap up, the men and girls gather in a circle and each child introduces herself and her dad and they share a small story.  It’s hard for some kids, but the dad’s encourage and guide them.  I help Kolby and although she is the youngest in the group she is brave and speaks up in a small sweet voice.

Then the girls run off and play—jacked up on sugar—and the dad’s talk “ADULT BUSINESS.”

“OK.  Now it’s coming, I think.  I tense up.  This is the juicy stuff my neighbor warned me of.

Except what happens next is the dad’s get serious about planning the next camping trip.  They talk food and grills and the architecture of sailboats and sandcastles.

And I am left in my seat for a very long hour—both humbled and ashamed—as I watch these kind good men take the time to invest in their daughters and create lasting memories.  

Yes-these man boys are a little competitive and some of the wild stories of paddle board races and stormy nights scare me because of my over-protective mama bear tendencies—but I also know that a little rough and tumble adventure with a dad is what every little girl needs to feel loved and cherished and empowered to believe she can make it in the world all on her own.

I sit in my seat and pray—and ask God to forgive me for judging that which I have no understanding of.  I confess how easy it is to listen to the “bad things” instead of “believing the best” about people.  And a tear runs down my face as I think about my husband and his desire to father and love our children to the best of his ability.

Boy, I can be a real schmuck sometimes—God help me!

Kolby and I Face Timed Daddy that evening night and told him about the meeting.  I apologized for my doubts.  Of coarse, my sweet husband forgave me and I could see his relief that I was now a supporter instead of a skeptic.

Ok, so I was wrong.  (BIG GULP)

The Wolfpack rocks.  And today my husband is camping with our little girl while I write this.  On the sand, with a hurt back–probably dirty and cold.  And those two monkeys are probably loving every minute of it.

As Father’s Day approaches, and I desperately miss my own dad in heaven now, I think about how important the love of a father is.

I think about my own distrust towards men and how is husband is changing my heart AND MY DAUGHTERS one deposit of love at a time.

And I am grateful.

–Samantha

What could you do to create lasting memories with your child?

How to Get Your Teen To Do Hard Stuff

Christmas 2014 10

This might sound a little unconventional–but hear me out.

After three years of begging and pleading and threatening–we have finally found the key to behavior modification with our kid.

Five bucks a day.

Yep, five bucks a day–that’s what it takes to change a habit in my teenage son.

Every day he does the thing I want him to do–which is stretch his hips–and I reward him.

So why the money?

Because, quite frankly, NOTHING else was working.

My son, as many of you know, is an elite athlete.  And don’t get me wrong, Kyle is fast, but he could be even faster.  Even a tiny gain (2/10 of a second) can mean a big deal in football.  Speed equals explosiveness and open hips give him the the ability to change directions fast.  As a linebacker it’s crucial.

It also means less injuries, because a flexible person is bendy and when they get hit hard–they bend.

But Kyle could not, would not be forced into doing anything.  This is what they call a TEENAGER.  And it’s so fun as a parent trying to work with a belligerent donkey.

We were stumped…

A few weeks ago, my husband heard the author of The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, at a church conference talking about the formation of new habits.  He came home with the book and the information excited to try it out.

So we gamely played along and let Kyle be our first case study in the Keller home.

According to Duhigg, the key to habit change is to:

1. Make it easy to do the thing (for example, set out the yoga mat for him to stretch the night before)

2. Have an instant positive reward ($5 deposit into his high school checking)

Truthfully, Tim and I were doubtful.  Kyle already burns the midnight oil and trains relentlessly along with studying into the wee hours of the night.  It was just “one more thing” we were harping on him to do.  He already stretches every day and now we were asking him to do more.

Kyle, like all of us, wants to have good habits.  His intent is good but he just needed a kick in the pants and a reason that didn’t suck to go above and beyond the ordinary.

I’m here to give the praise of Mr. Duhigg, because his system worked.

Every day our kid gets up 15 minutes early and stretches.  And every day I deposit the money in his bank account.

For all those parents thinking I don’t have an extra $150 to give my kid a month, the reward doesn’t have to be financial.  It just has to be something small and easy to give immediately.

For my five year old it could be reading her favorite book for the hundredth time for five minutes or playing Barbies.

But for us and with this kid, the money made sense. Now that our son can drive, we probably spend that amount on him anyway because he’s always asking for money for gas or to hit Starbucks and Chick-Filet.

According to Duhigg, the best habit changers in the study group were were runners who allowed themselves a small piece of chocolate after each run.  It was an immediate and tangible reward. And for those people who love chocolate…very effective!

The people who wanted to gain a running habit laid out their running shoes the night before and rewarded themselves immediately after.

And presto…new habit formed.

I for one, can’t wait to see all the things we can accomplish with our kids as we put this system to work.

And honestly, I also can’t wait to see all the things I accomplish, because sometimes, I need a kick in the pants too!

(And a little glass of a good Cabernet or a tasty chocolate sounds like a lovely reward to me)

–Samantha

Letting God out of the Box

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Why do I limit God? 

My husband and I sit in a café and discuss buying a car.

Tim is the type of guy who becomes an expert on something before he pulls the trigger.  So by this point, he can now tell me the make, model and location of every top-rated used car under 10k in the OC area.

We’ve narrowed it down to two options—one is new and one is used.  The new car is a 2015 Hyundai Elantra and it’s AWESOME and has all the bells and whistles we “po’ ministry folk” are unaccustomed to.  It’s a deal beyond a deal but it’s also out of our budget.

The used car is well, ummm…used.  It has great gas mileage and it’s a 2006 Prius and more fiscally responsible—meaning we can afford it. it’s also good for the environment—right?

(did I mention the new car has a back-up camera, so cool!)

“What would our friend’s do?” My husband Tim asks.

“”Well we can’t compare ourselves to our neighbors because we make about a third of their incomes.”  I reply.

“Ok, who do we compare ourselves to then?” Tim responds.

“We compare ourselves to the Ramsay’s.  John is a pastor.  Deanna is a singer/speaker and works part time.  That’s an appropriate comparison.”

Tim looks at me wide eyed.  “Yeah, but Deanna won a car on the Ellen Show.”

I nod.  “Yeah, that kind of stuff doesn’t happen to us.”

We hold hands.  Our tummies churn and we contemplate our finances.

……

This whole car business started because of a few numbers.

  1. 366,000

A big number, certainly, It’s also the amount of miles shared between our two aging but faithful SUV’s.

  1. 16 ½

That’s how many years my son has been alive.  Not so big—but a big kid milestone.  In two short weeks, my almost senior boy/man gets his license and like any teenage boy, Kyle is ready to roll

So we start a search for an another automobile that get’s more than the whopping 12 mpg of our 2004 Expedition or the 15 mpg of my newer 2006 Xterra.

The budget is limited.  We have some money saved—enough for another really crappy car—but we also have mounting expenses from Tim’s hospital bills (spine injury and subsequent surgery), three kids this year in private school and college looming. Truthfully, it’s a tad overwhelming.

Tim finds some cars online and we debate each one’s merits like it’s a resolution in the UN.

Tim’s sweet father, upon hearing our car predicament, offers us a large chunk of change.  We are thrilled and so blessed to be cared for so lavishly!

Now we had enough to get a NEWER used car.  (And yes, for all those wondering, we could have financed a newer car but are committed to keeping our overhead low rather than raising it)

Through the car ministry at our church we are put in touch with the owner of the Hyundai dealership in Tustin.   After a great phone conversation, he invites us to his dealership and we test drive a used Elantra and with a little prompting from the salesman a new one.

(ok, it’s not like he had to push real hard)

With the tremendous discount the owner of the dealership offers us (did I mention he is a generous volunteer at our main campus?), the new car is only 3 thousand more than the used car, but still, 6 thousand more than our budget.  They are going above and beyond to bless us.  The discount is even more than employees get.

Now what do we do? Do we justify spending more because it’s a great deal?

We go and sit in the 2015 model and pray, lifting this car dealio up to God. The people in the dealership probably think we are Jesus dorks—whatever.  We close our eyes, hold hands and talk to God.  We surrender up the decision and go to lunch.

…………..

Back at the cafe we make the painful choice to let the shiny new car go.  It stings a little because it’s SO AWESOME, but we probably shouldn’t have been shopping in the lot we couldn’t afford to begin with.

I leave the restaurant and call my step-dad.  He asks what I was doing at the dealership.  I tell him about the two cars and how we have decided to stay within our budget, honor our financial goals to lower our overhead, and be responsible with the precious gift Tim’s father has given us.

“Why, don’t I give you the money?  Six thousand–I’ll just give it to you.” My step-dad offers happily.

Silent tears stream down my face.  “I wasn’t asking for money.”

“I know honey, he replies.  “I love you.  It’s a gift.”

And I think back to my own words.  “That kind of stuff doesn’t happen to us,” And like Peter I am blown away at my doubts and God’s provision.

The next day we return to the dealership and climb in the new car before we write the check to take it home.  As the ignition fires up a song blasts through the car.

God in my living, there in my breathing
God in my waking, God in my sleeping
God in my resting, there in my working
God in my thinking, God in my speaking

Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything

God in my hoping, there in my dreaming
God in my watching, God in my waiting
God in my laughing, there in my weeping
God in my hurting, God in my healing

Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything

Christ in me, Christ in me
Christ in me, the hope of glory
You are everything

Christ in me, Christ in me
Christ in me, the hope of glory
Be my everything

Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything

God in my hoping, there in my dreaming
God in my watching, God in my waiting
God in my laughing, there in my weeping
God in my hurting, God in my healing

Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything

Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything

Christ in me, Christ in me
Christ in me, the hope of glory
You are everything

You are everything, You are everything
You are everything, You are everything
Jesus, everything, Jesus, everything
Jesus, everything, Jesus everything

We look at each other in amazement.  “You think God is trying to tell us something,” I weakly laugh swiping away at the tears running down my cheeks.

Back inside the dealership, Tim asks the salesman, “Did you turn it to a Christian station because you know I’m a pastor?”

The salesman replies, “No, generally the boys in the back play the thump-thump music when they get the cars ready.”

We give each other the look—the “OMG, I’m freaking out inside look.”

I call my step-dad on the way home and tell him the story.

“I’m a part of an answered prayer?” he says.

“Yep, you are.” I whisper.

“Huh.”

I can picture his bemused grin over the phone.

Later I thank God in my prayers.

And I think about the love of a father—Tim’s father who blessed us, my step-dad who surprised us so generously, and our Father God who blew us away with this gift.

We didn’t ask.  We didn’t beg.  We aren’t worthier than any other person out there.  But God through our parents gifted us anyway.

Everything.  He is my Everything.

One day later we sit in church and the last song of the service sounds familiar.

God in my living, there in my breathing
God in my waking, God in my sleeping
God in my resting, there in my working
God in my thinking, God in my speaking

Coincidence?—I don’t think so…

–Samantha

Push ’em Out!

 

Christmas 2014 8Once a week I get my butt kicked.

Officially—it’s called “Bootcamp”—but, seriously…it’s an hour and a half of pure hell and I can think of many names more appropriate (and inappropriate) for this insanity.

The rules are this: Lunge, squat, jump (try not to cry or chum) and never put the weights down.  Finish the class! In the back of my mind I count the minutes off in incremental segments and dream about throwing my weights at the instructor.

I’m almost…almost, to the point where I’m considering adding in a second torture session a week—now that I can walk by Wednesday, a vast improvement of the groaning cowboy shuffle I displayed until Saturdays in weeks past.

It Pays to be a Winner

My trainer is Meghan.  She is very mean in the best of ways.

Sometimes when I get out of the shower and see myself naked I decide I might like her a teeny tiny little bit because my abs are emerging from a long winters rest, but mostly I hate her.

It’s a complicated relationship.

I saw a cross on her ankle and told her my husband was a pastor and that we started the church around the corner.  I thought I might get a little extra grace.

Class went an extra fifteen minutes that day.  Now, I avoid all eye-contact.

“It May, or May Not, Pay to be a Winner”

Yes, bootcamp sucks—WAAAH WAAH!

But then my son comes home and mentions he’s been invited to a Leadership Retreat for a selected few members of his football team.  He says it involves military drills and I have to dry-clean his suit.

Ok.

Last Friday after school Kyle changed into his freshly pressed suit and tie and joined his team for Mass.  The boys were then bussed over to Marbella Country Club for a nice dinner.  They returned to the school and climbed into their sleeping bags.  Lights out at 11:00pm.

At 2:00am the boys were awakened to a blasting Bose speaker spewing out unpleasant military chants.  In minutes, they were dressed in a t-shirt with their last name and SEAL cargo pants.

The boys boarded a bus and were driven down to the beach in Encinatas.  It was 33 degrees when they were dumped off on the coast in the middle of the night.  For the next nine hours they were put through NAVY  SEAL training.  They swam, ran, carried logs, sandbags and each other for endless miles, in the dark, in the dirt, all the while getting hosed in the face and freezing—that is until the sun came out and then they were burning up.

‘We’re Not Going to Stop Until We Get at Least One Quitter”

Some of the boys puked.  Others cried.  At one point or another they all lost it.

“Nothing Lasts Forever”

My son Kyle had quarter finals this last week.  He studied every night until past midnight.  He also had a bad cold.  The kid was run down going in to this gig and yet somehow he pushed through every mental and physical barrier imaginable.  Not bad for a sixteen-year-old!

“You Don’t Have to Like It, You Just Have to Do It’

He also kept a smile on his face for most of the time—except for when he was paired with three skinny receivers and they dumped a log fully on his shoulders.  He might have frowned then.

“It’s All Mind Over Matter, If I Don’t Mind, Then it Doesn’t Matter”

Kyle came out on the other side—sunburned, sand burned, nipples chafed and unable to eat for almost twenty-four hours.  He now has bronchitis and double pink eye.  The doctor found sand deep in his ears.

‘On Your Backs, on Your Bellies, on Your Backs, on Your Bellies. Feet!”

But he made it.  And he says he’s glad he did it.  It taught him something valuable about himself.

He can do hard things—and survive.

My little weekly boot camp pales in comparison to the hell Kyle endured last weekend–but it’s hard for me.

Winston Churchill said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

My dad used to say, “keep on, keeping on.” Same thing–less profound

Am I willing to do the hard stuff?  Am I willing to endure more than I think I can in order to grasp hold of the extraordinary intangibles of a life well lived: courage, endurance and fortitude—characteristics that will set me apart from the pack.

‘There Are Two Ways to Do Something … the Right Way, and Again’

Often, I’m forced into the hard.  It’s not something I usually sign up for.

But what about when I’m invited to do something bigger and more strenuous than I believe is possible?  Something God sized…

Do I say yes?

Kyle’s training made me think about the hard things I’m not forced into but invited into.

The little nudges from God to tackle really big things—the whispers to take a big risk, or fall down and get back up again.  The knot in the back of my throat saying to engage, speak up, forgive, or step up.

I believe the best things in life aren’t easy—which is why only a few experience the view from the top.  80% of SEAL training volunteers don’t make it over the course of six months.

Most people quit.

I refuse to be one of them.

I don’t think God invites us to live a comfortable life—he’s asking us (like Kyle) to get sand in our ears and get messy.

‘Anybody Want to Quit?”

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
― Randy PauschThe Last Lecture

What hard thing has God put before you right now? 

This is the training Kyle went through–although not his school. J Serra’s video is not yet available.

 

Sources: 10 Inspirational SEAL Quotes

Re-sil-ient

It’s 2:15pm on a Monday afternoon and I’m already yawning—which is why I’m stopping at Starbucks for a little caffeine treat.  Standing at the coffee bar doctoring up my Americano, a little note pinned up on the community board catches my eye.

 Starbucks image

The writing is haphazard—a jumbled thought tossed out for the world to read (you know, like how we used to communicate before social media)

It says: Can we stay open in a world that grinds and chews—can we keep our hearts?”

I can picture the scragly unshaven college student with rolled up jeans and boots who wrote this.  (Think Lumber-Sexual)  He’s frustrated and angst ridden.  His girl has dropped him for a thirty-year old-financial planner.  His heart is crushed.  He brushes an errant lock of hair out of his weepy eyes as he stabs at the board with a push pin and leaves his note for the world to engage with.  Then he grabs his guitar and journal and trudges back out onto the mean streets of South Orange County.

I chuckle at my imaginations.

But his (or her) question haunts me. I go back and I snap a pic so I can ruminate on it further.

(Because that’s what writers do…we create drama in our minds)

I don’t know this guy’s story.  Maybe he’s in the worst pain imaginable.  Maybe he’s struggling to go on.

Maybe his heart is shattered and he wonders if he will ever love again?

And I want to wrap my arms around this hurting kid I’ve conjured up in my mind and hold on tight.

I’ll pat him on the back (just like when my own son is sad) as he cries guttural howls of pain and hiccups with snot pouring out of nose on his hipster boots.

I’ll hang with him (or her).

I’ll tell him I see your crushing sorrow.

And I will mourn with him.

Because I too remember the moments I thought I would die from pain.

Loss, betrayal, divorce, death…

But hope intervened.  Hope steered me to the shore.

So, my friend, Can we stay open in a world that grinds and chews—can we keep our hearts?”

Yes…

Yes we can. But it requires effort.

It requires an emptying of self—a (symbolic) sacrifice on the altar of entitlement where we release all the anger, bitterness and perceived control.

It requires a belief in a greater love—a hope in something bigger than the pain.

It requires eyes to see all the ways God cares and reaches out to us in the darkest night.

I think of my dear friends and loved ones who’ve walked me through trauma—certainly glimpses of Jesus with skin on.

But if I had closed myself off from them, I would have missed all the mystery and bigness of God reminding me I am never alone.  I am never forsaken.

I had to let them in.  I had to reach out for their hand in the storm.

And hold on.

An open heart embraces community.

My counselor recently commented that the healthiest people engage.  They cry easily and feel intensely—joy, sadness, and frustration.  They are present in the moment.

They are open, tender, raw and real.

They are RESILIENT.

I gasped when she said this word. Because it was a word I keep sensing in prayer.

RESILIENT.

So, my darling Starbucks friend, Can we stay open in a world that grinds and chews—can we keep our hearts?”

Yes, Yes and yes!

And I think the mere fact that you reached out on a board at Starbucks is kind of awesome.  It’s an open, bold and risky kind of move.  It shows that you aren’t giving up.

It shows resilience…

Here is the link on the card if you want to join the discussion.

(And here are a few verses to remind you of how loved you are!)

re·sil·ient

able to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens. : able to return to an original shape after being pulled, stretched, pressed, …

God says

 

 

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