Never Say Never

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I stood outside on the patio at church on a Sunday a few months ago, and vehemently stated, “I will never volunteer in kid’s ministry again.”

My eyes filled with tears as frustration coursed through my body. Now “NEVER” is a bold statement for a ministry wife who is expected to serve with a smile, but at the time I meant it. I was done. My bucket—empty!

It’s not that I don’t like munchkins—I love kids—but a bad experience with a parent got under my skin and it messed with me. A new parent not familiar with our childcare system lost his claim tag to pick up his kid. If you’ve ever been to Chuck E Cheese or Ikea you know the concept—basically you drop off the kid, get a tag, and pick up the kid with the proper check in ticket. This alleviates child abduction by a non-custodial parent and no one but you takes home your precious little angel (or monster) depending on your parenting paradigm.

Anyway the guy lost his claim tag and I very nicely asked him to get another one. I had a large class of kids and I obviously couldn’t leave them, so I pointed him in the right direction to the kiosk. He refused and then got in my face, whipped out his ID and demanded I give his kid back. Again, I calmly refused to hand over the package. So he yelled a little louder, clinched his fist and puffed up like he was going to smack me. Fortunately my fearless teenage daughter walked up at just the right moment and hustled him out of my face to help him get a new tag. Faith—you are my hero!

Somehow I managed to get all the kids back to their parents without losing my spit. Then I staggered outside and broke down in a defeated heap. How did teaching first-graders about Jesus almost turn into a beat-down of Sam?

After a few days of venting, processing and praying with my husband I remembered a few important things about the plans I make for myself and the “NEVERS” I so casually throw out:

Oh Yeah…I’m not in Control

In a perfect world we would all play along with my Sunday school agenda and everyone would play nice. The kids would put their toys away at the end of class (instead of chucking blocks at each other) and recite their Bible verse to their parents on the way home to make me look good. Oh, and those very same parents’ would thank me profusely for watching their kids for free while they got to sit in an air-conditioned church and relax. And then the unicorns would dance and we could all eat the Crispy Crèmes and stay skinny because my perfect little world doesn’t exist on this planet.

On any given Sunday, the kids are messy and squirrely and demanding. If a few listen to the lesson and learn the verse I do a happy dance. Some of the parents are chill (thank you!) but there are those who wait impatiently in line and hate the claim check process because—darn it—they have brunch to get to.

But I am not in control and honestly I don’t want to be. I believe God knows every detail and is in every detail of these Sunday morning adventures. But when I lean on my own understanding instead of surrendering to the chaos I struggle. I operate out of fear instead of faith and nose dive into anxiety.

The truth is that it’s in the messiest moments that God does his best work.  I have no idea what good was in the crazy encounter with the scary guy—but I can rest in the hope that a plan beyond my own was at work.

Your Ministry is Where the Greatest Need Is

I love it when people say they will NEVER completely surrender control to God because then he might send them to Africa to work as a missionary—so they give God 90% over and hold back the rest. I get it—it’s scary to cede over the reins for some crazy “God calling,” but that’s where I think most people have a warped idea of what ministry is. True ministry is simply identifying a pressing need in front of you and getting your butt off the sofa to help out. Ministry can be raising babies with purpose, loving a broken spouse and investing in a marriage or relationship. It can be as small as caring for a neighbor or as big as boarding a plane and taking on the social injustice God impresses on your heart. It might be Africa but it’s probably more likely something right in front of your nose.

I’ve done lots of different things in ministry—some big and some small—but right now, the need in our growing church is for helpers in children’s ministry. Ladera Ranch is the Disneyland of suburban Orange County and we have a plethora of parents that reproduce more than the average American family. So, from a church perspective that means we have more kids than most churches our size do and we need extra leaders to help guide these tiny tots to Jesus.

And if you think, “Yeah, whatever Sam, I would still Never help out with kids.” You might be surprised at what God can do with your Never.

“Never” Might Be the Opportunity You Need

Once upon a time I said I would NEVER marry a pastor. You might not know it wasn’t an easy decision for me to make. I didn’t want to live in a ministry fish bowl with people judging me all the time. I wrestled with God over it. Sure I loved God but it was the 90% thing holding me back. I wanted to marry a rich guy with a yacht who would hand over the credit card and sail away often, letting me raise my babies in peace. But God had a different plan. My life looks very different than what I thought it would be. It may not be fancy but it’s exactly what I need.

I have a wonderful husband who is up in my grill at all times, who simultaneously drives me crazy and makes me laugh—bringing endless joy to my life. Our love is messy and complicated and more than I could ask for or imagine. My silly NEVER was God’s BEST.

And Sunday School? I went back the next week to drop off my kid and the teacher wasn’t there so I felt compelled to step in and help. It was initially nothing more than pure obligation and a desire to do something alongside my teenage daughter who is a faithful volunteer.

Then I signed up for more because somewhere along the way my heart got ripped open wide and raw by these stinking little kids and I was hooked. Yes, they are exhausting, but these kids are also glimpses into God’s Kingdom—into an innocence and wonder we lose as life beats us up.

One of the little boys in my class has autism. He’s named after an angel and I don’t know what fairy dust he sprinkles over me but I am mush around him. This child has taught me to slow down and go easy on the transitions. When we switch rooms for worship and lessons he clings to my hand and trembles. Then I give him a gentle hand squeeze and he takes a deep breath and leans in to the scary. Somehow we get each other—I don’t like transitions either. I also have laser focus and get overwhelmed sometimes. Maybe I see myself in his eyes?

Another sweet girl has cancer and her bald head and joyful spirit are a sacred offering to the class. She is fragile and yet powerful—a six year old and who lives in the present—not the “shoulds” or “have to’s”, not the “hurry ups,”just the now. She teaches me to BE. I want to hold her and weep all at the same time and yet I see the haunting gift that God wields through this child to those around her and I am wrecked and taken to a Holy place in this classroom I said Never to.

Now I don’t EVER want to leave…

What are the NEVERS You need to lean into?

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

 

How to be an Obnoxious Parent

I wrote this post five years ago and it feels like it needs to be updated.  Because maybe you don’t know how awesome my kids are now in 2015?

Random person-“Wow, your baby is really smart (pretty, adorable…amazing)!”

Me-“I know, right?”

Am I really that obnoxious parent who unashamedly brags on her kids?

Yep. I am. I can’t stop myself. I hear the words slipping out and I want to grab them back, whip out my lasso and coral them in, but it’s too late. Once again, I have over-shared regarding my kid’s total awesomeness.

(2010) Have I told you about Kyle?  We call him six-pack in training, our movie-star handsome, 4.0 GPA, nationally ranked football player, stud pitcher, kindergarten volunteering, gentle, loving, Godly, ridiculously humorous almost thirteen year old son?

lu7a0170Five years later…

(2015) Kyle is a 17 yr old senior in high school at J Serra.  He still loves football–although he is now a linebacker, fullback and tight end, instead of a center. He is in the process of getting recruited for college ball–more on that to come soon. He is a captain of his football team, still movie-star handsome, a good student, not playing baseball now and thinking of playing a little lacrosse in the spring?  He has no girlfriend (heck yeah!), is still soooo funny, even-tempered, hard-working, and is a county music, Jesus loving boy.  He’s building houses in Peru next spring, driving our old gas guzzling Ford truck around, and enjoying every minute of his friends and youth. Strangely enough, he is now violently allergic to his favorite food–sushi?  Suckaroo!  Kyle loves the beach, working out and snowboarding. If he’s not at football practice he is usually hanging out somewhere with Brad and Kelly.

(2010) What about my little beauty Faith? Let me tell you about my sweetheart girl who dances like a fairy, cheers like a maniac, is smart, fun-loving, a talented actress(recently starred in Peter Pan as the Indian Grizzly Bear), is a great big-sis, and leads worship with gusto? Did I mention she is shooting a spec commercial for the Vizio tablet this weekend?

(2015)  Faith is a freshman at J Serra and joins the Lions with her brother.  She is a JV cheerleader and is on the yearbook staff.  She is artistic, fashion-minded and dedicated.  She works hard in the classroom and wants to pursue photography as a career. Faith loves Campus Ministry–mainly because the worship director is “so beautiful mom,” which I totally get, because I think pastor’s are hot too!  Faith’s personality is mostly sunshine with a few storm clouds thrown in for good measure.  She is extroverted to the extreme and so beautiful, inside and out.

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(2010) How about the Kolbster?  Baby Kolby is so freaking cute! She is months beyond her year, crazy clever, reads letters, knows every animal sound (including “hop” for bunny because I don’t know what the heck the bunny says), has killer hair, and talks incessantly about her big brother.

I just love Duck Chili mommy!

(2015)  Yep, Kolby still has killer hair.  I think we are all a little jealous.  Kolby is in kindergarten now–a real big girl–and the joy of our lives. She is clever and silly and smart as a whip.  Kolby plays soccer, does ballet and cheerleading, and is a part of a Daisy Troop.  She still loves her bro Kyle but talks about other boys now too (gasp!) On any given afternoon she rolls with the Claymont Street girls gang of blond beauties. She loves to color, play with Shopkins, read books with mama and play Barbies.  Kisses from Kolby are magical and her snuggles have true healing power.
KolbyK_selects_017I know. I know. Someone stop me from bragging. I have diarrhea of the pompous mouth when it comes to my munchkins. But, I’m guessing most parents feel thisway. They love their kids so, so, so much, they simply can’t help themselves.

But in my defense, even God brags on his boy a bit. “Have you seen my son Job?” he tells Lucifer. “He’s a total stud, blameless, upright and courageous.” (Slightly modified by Sam from Job 1:8)

Sounds like some swagger wagon to me…

So maybe my crazy love for my kids is annoying, boastful, and even bombastic.

But maybe it’s also… sort of a God thing.

How do I explain this Crazy to my Kids??

My friend is at the airport on her way to Hawaii.  Her family is pumped because they are heading to the Disney Island Resort of Mickey awesomeness.

But, six hours is a long time with three kids on a plane, so she herds her adorable brood of blond tots to the potty for one last go.

And this is what she encounters…

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Text from Friend: “How do I explain this to my kids?”

I won’t treat you to the text I wrote back because it’s politically incorrect.

But I will say this.  Be very careful near airports!

There are apparently uniboob half-skirted creatures walking around with surly expressions and no one can stop them from making weird faces and peeing in this airport bathroom because the government says you can pick your gender and expression.

I must confess some confusion over the peeing part.  If you are a dude and you get a sex change, do you lose or keep the unit?  Some do and some don’t right?

(In all honesty, my parent’s wouldn’t let me see the “Crying Game” which I’m sure would have explained some of this.

Do they have fake vajayjay’s?  And how do the doctors re-pipe?  Anatomy didn’t cover this and I’m afraid to Google it on my work computer.  It’s like Jr. High again.  I laughed with all the other kids about the “69” graffiti on the wall but I didn’t actually know what it meant until college.

So how do mommies and daddies explain trans-gender to the kids when we are clueless too?

I know there are a few TV shows on the Family Channel now to help us make sense of our changing culture–“I am Cait” and “Help..my dad is turning into a woman.”  But, strangely enough, I haven’t found compelled to watch.

So, here’s what I’m telling my kids.

Mommy doesn’t personally understand the motives to move towards trans-gender, but she does understand brokenness and its ramifications.  She know sadness and loneliness and the extreme measures people will go to find the elusive happiness that eludes them.

Your purpose and meaning go far beyond your sexuality.  Your identity is not in your maleness or femaleness or even in ambiguity.

Your identity is in Christ alone.  But  culture is sending a very different message to you.

The world says we can choose our identity by choosing our gender.  Mommy disagrees.  

Male and female God created them.  In God’s image.  We are all a reflection of our creator.

Our identity is in CHRIST ALONE.

I believe Trans-gender is throwing us all for a loop but it doesn’t have too.

It’s pretty simple.  Our job is to love God and love our neighbor.  And yes, that means the trans-gender neighbor-even if it’s awkward and confusing.

The truth is we are all in some type of bondage to the lies of culture.  Some of us just wear the chains on the outside and it’s more obvious.  I too have bought into the lies of sex, beauty and materialism equaling my worth.  Only a belief in something bigger can deliver us.

Trans-gender is complicated and messy and its’ really hard to explain to kids. But it’s a conversation we all need to initiate because it’s not going away. 

I hope you wrestle with this dialogue too.  Let me know what you think and how you are explaining it.

 

–Samantha

And please, I’m cool if you disagree but keep it clean. Only grown-up comments please.

 

 

 

 

A Dad’s Best Investment

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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?

Spiritual Band-Aids

Band-aid My hands move fast, busy about the kitchen.  I cut, prep and toss bits and pieces of veggies and spices into the pan to make chili.  Frank Sinatra croons on the radio and I strain to hear Kolby’s giggle on the swing out on the front porch.  Faith is doing her homework in the next room and Kyle is about to arrive home any minute after football practice.

It’s my normal fast-paced evening as I pull double-duty with three kids while daddy works late.

Suddenly, something red catches my eye on the bowl in my hand.  It’s a bright crimson, almost like strawberry juice—a smear of blood perhaps?

I stop in my tracks.  I slow down and peer closely now.

I gasp.  The red is everywhere.

Panic rises up in my throat.  I think of dead bunnies from Fatal Attraction, psychos and ex-boyfriends.

Why is there blood all over my kitchen?

The white cabinets have streaks of sticky red on the doors on the cabinet pulls.  The china plates on the table are hit.  The fridge and the dishwasher and the cabinets all reveal stains of red.

I look down at my feet and gasp.  Red splotches leave a trail from the stove to the table and back again.  Ooooh gross…I’m walking in it.

The calm side of my brain finally takes over.

“Ok, Sam, assess the damage.  Where is it coming from,” I tell myself.

(I also look for the knives in case I need a weapon)

Am I hurt?  I don’t feel anything.

I do a body check and notice my left hand is covered in blood.

WHAT?

How did I miss that?

I run my hands under cool water and the gash appears on my index finger.  It’s deep and bleeding profusely. I grab a paper towel and make a Viva tourniquet, putting strong pressure on it.

Finally, finally…the pain comes—an intense throb, then sting and the relief of knowing there wasn’t a stalker hiding behind my cupboard.

About an hour later, after dinner, it stops bleeding and I’m able to bandage the wound.

……

My finger boo-boo is constantly on my mind—probably because I’m typing with a bandaged finger, but mostly because I am shocked that I was so oblivious to an injury on my body.

It seems a little crazy; here I am I imagining scenarios that had nothing to do with reality.  I walk around and drip, drop, drip blood and yet assume it’s something beyond me and my person because I didn’t feel the sting.

And then I think of how often I do the same thing in other areas— in matters of the heart—not physical, but spiritual wounds.  Someone hurts me and I either ignore or avoid the pain.  I gloss over it and pretend it’s no big deal—until it starts seeping out in other areas.

I get sick or I withhold from the person who hurt me.  I get defensive or shut down my heart in self-protection.

The wound finds a way of making itself known even when we don’t acknowledge the pain.

……

My husband and I sit in the counselor’s office and we talk about an issue.  It’s maybe my least favorite thing in the world to talk about but my husband digs in.

I’m uncomfortable.  I squirm in my seat.  I hate pulling out this muck from my soul.  I stall and stutter and finally he pushes hard enough and I blurt out, “It’s because you said this “thing” on our honeymoon and it made me feel ashamed.”

Bamm.  The words are out there.

The counselor looks at me wide eyed.  Tim shakes his head in shock.

“I’m so sorry,” he says.  “I had no idea.”

And suddenly I’m back in the kitchen and I’ve found the wound.  Only it’s been years and years of marriage that I’ve been seeping out the blood.

Now I’m ashamed even more for unconsciously holding onto my pain like a prized medal to beat my husband up with.

And as my husband apologizes and holds me as I cry, I finally rip off the spiritual band-aid and start to heal.

……

It’s been seven years of marriage for Tim and me—seven years of figuring this “uniting into one” stuff out.

Can I just say it’s hard?  Clearly marriage is not for the uncommunicative or the martyr—both attributes I exhibit at my worst.

But the more we dig into the cues and wounds of old—the more we can find our triggers and how to move past or avoid them altogether.

Two steps forward—one step back. A daily dance of beauty and intimacy as selfishness hovers nearby just waiting to intrude.

……

I meet a young woman at a party.  She is bitter over a divorce. 

Her words are harsh, “I married potential, I divorced reality.”

I’m shocked at first, but if I’m honest I recognize myself in her.

I have the potential—with God—to be all that he created me to be.  And I have the potential—in my own strength—to fail miserably

I will never get it all right.  But I pray my husband can see both—the good and bad—and love me in spite of it, choosing every single day to stay on the same team and believe the best about one another even when we act our worst.  

……

I know so many of you are hurting and in pain.  You are in the storm.

The blood is all over the kitchen.

And I’ve been there with you.  I’ve walked through the hell of divorce.  It’s a relational death like no other.

But I’ll tell you a secret.  It won’t be easier on the other side.  You will still take “you” into the next relationship.

And if “you” are anything like me, you still need some fixin up and hard edges polished.

Band-aids need to be ripped off so you can heal and be the best you.

I know it’s hard work. And it means letting go and forgiving beyond yourself.

But I believe God won’t leave you in the mess if you are willing to do the hard work and find the wounds.

Christine Caine puts it this way, “On the other side of every disappointment is a God appointment.”

And sometimes the greatest pain is simply a mercy in disguise.

–Samantha

Where have you stuck a band-aid on a wound in your relationship that needs healing?

 

The One Thing You Need to Give Up For Lent

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What the Rhema?

They call it Rhema—those really bizarre tingles down your spine you get when you go to church and it’s like the pastor is speaking directly to you.

You look around, casually wiping the sweat from your brow and mildly freak out.  Seriously, did the dude read your journal?  Does everyone know this is your message?

No…they don’t.

But it’s a real thing—a God thing.

It’s Rhema.  When the spoken word of God penetrates into your soul and moves stuff around in you uncomfortably.

You get convicted.  Inspired.  Repentent,

Rhema.

And Rhema happened this week to me.

The sermon was on judgment and forgiveness.

Oh, wait my favorite topic. Not.

Un-forgive-ness

It coincides with an occurrence in my life where I’ve been asked to forgive something big–a debt incurred against me of a large magnitude.  

Did I say it was big?  Yeah.  BIG.

And I’m sorry I can’t be clearer.  I really hate it when people are vague, but to protect those I love, I’m asking for grace on this part.

Anyway, I alone can forgive this penalty.

Hot tears of sadness fell from my eyes when I was asked for mercy—because the truth is I want a little vengeance or at the very least control of the situation.

“Are you freaking kidding me?”  I thought.

Flashes of hurt washed over me.  I considered the fear, the uncertainty and the overwhelming burden I carried for years regarding this matter.

And a part of me revels in the fact that the consequence for this sin is too big to ever repay.

Too bad sucka… you messed with the wrong girl.

I sit in church on Sunday.  I’m not even at my church; I’m at a different one.  It’s like God is following me.

Forgiveness.  Judgement.  Hello Sam?

Na, na, na, na na…I can’t hear you Jesus.  Not listening.

And then God whispers, will you forgive this person like I forgive you?

More tears.

No God…it’s too much.

And then I think of MY too much.

How much I’ve been granted mercy.  Not once, not twice but seventy-times seven.

God promises to forgive my past, present and future sin.  I’m covered for the crummy stuff I will say tomorrow (which I inevitably will) and the hurt I will cause to others because I’m human and fantastically flawed.

What about my debt to God and others that is big to ever repay?

Letting Go

My husband shared a true story with me not too long ago about a guy he knows.

Let’s call him Todd—truthfully I don’t even remember his real name and Todd if I’ve jacked up your story, please forgive me.  It’s an analogy based on truth.  Don’t judge me buddy.

Todd was difficult at best.  He struggled to maintain relationships.  He had a harsh and brittle spirit, was generally demanding and rather unpleasant to be around.

Ever heard of that saying—hurt people hurt people?

Well, at some point, Todd got hurt and everyone else was going to pay for it.

Todd, like many of us, internalized his pain and unforgiveness and became a bitter hard shell of the person God created him to be.

One day Todd was struck down by a widow-maker heart attack.  For a short period of time Todd was clinically dead.

During the time of his non-responsiveness Todd recalls he was lifted up to heaven and then straight out of the pit of hell a chain came flying up and wrapped around his ankle pulling him down.  He heard a voice say, “You do not offer the forgiveness I’ve shared with you.” God identified individuals that he had not forgiven throughout his life.

And Todd cried and begged for a second chance.

Todd woke up from his unconscious state after a quadruple bypass surgery and turned his life into a radical testimony of grace and forgiveness.  He went to each person and exacted forgiveness to each one, releasing his bitterness. My husband says his personality is now radiant, like pure sunshine.  Todd has transformed into a loving, warm and caring person.  Todd chose to allow forgiveness to transform his life and he gives all the glory to God.

I imagine the next time Todd dies—the flight up will be easier.

I thought deeply about Todd’s story this week.

I want to be like Todd.  And hopefully, I won’t have to have a near-death experience to understand this radical type of forgiveness, but I do believe I will have to spiritually die to self—once again.

(Oh Whoop-de doo! Does this Christian thing ever get easier?)

I use the mental imagery I read about in a book on controlling anxiety.

I imagine myself walking up to a waterfall with a heavy bag of burdens.  They are like boulders I carry around.  I pry open the sack and pull out self-righteousness, then hold it out onto the streaming water and let it wash away.  I hold out vengeance, then anger and bitterness.  And I drop them one by one into the raging waters.

I leave it all in the waters of the spirit in a symbolic language of release and redemption.

And the hurt washes away in the waters as I am stretched…open…wide.  Ravaged by my own indebtedness to my Savior and convicted of my own sin.

How can I not let go of this debt?  How can I truly follow Christ if I am not willing to extend the mercy given to me?

It’s the Lenton season.  Will you join me in ridding your heart of unforgiveness? I can’t think of anything more important than this one thing  holding us back from living  abundant and joy filled lives.

I know it’s hard.  And I am in this with you.  We get hurt and we hold onto the pain tightly like a prize to validate our identity—but God has a better way.

The truth is forgiveness sets me (and you) free—not the one who hurt us.

–Sam

Will you pray for me this week?  My darling husband Tim is having spine surgery on Wed the 25th of Feb.  Please lift him up!  

And please let me know how I can pray for you?

 

Matthew 6:14-15New International Version (NIV)

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 

How it’s SUPPOSED to Be

supposed to be

It’s never obvious but it’s there all the same—lingering expectations—the unstated kind.

And it starts from day one—at least it did in my marriage.

Because we all believe marriage is supposed to be…

(fill in the box)

We stand at the altar and unknowingly dump unspoken expectations all over one another.

And we  cloak our aspirations in pretty words and flowery promises.

The pictures don’t lie.

Tim(my husband) cried during the ceremony and my grin is the size of Texas.

Because we erroneously believed marriage was supposed to (fill all our sexual, emotional, and relational needs)

We solemnly read our vows –nervous giggles spilling from my lips and Tim furiously wiping his watery eyes.

We promised to put the other first (and lied).  The crowd coos and sighs.  Then, we make a commitment before God and our guests and say “I do”, sealing the deal with a swoon and a kiss.

Reality vs. Ideals

But what if instead of PROMISES to love and cherish one another, we showed up at the ceremony with our true expectations.

(Play along with me)

“Tim, I promise to freak out when you are late, all too often put the kids first, over-react if you don’t like my cooking, chide you about parenting teens, snap when you forget to say I look pretty after an hour getting ready for our date, and go into hysterics when you ignore me when I am sick or hurting because I have severe abandonment issues.”

Samantha, I promise to get irritable when I forget to eat, expect you to manage all the housework, put work and ministry first (all too often), and snap if you ignore me when you get too caught up in your work because I need your attention too.

It would certainly make for a more honest wedding day.

Real, honest, sometimes selfish and more often than not –patterned expectations of what a marital relation SHOULD be like (in our eyes)

From our family of origin and past relational wounds we each bring an overloaded bag of expectations based on past hurts.

And each of us subconsciously EXPECTs our marriage will look like this.

Yet when all hell breaks loose and feelings get hurt—when we end up in opposite corners instead of on the same team—why, oh why are we so surprised?

Getting Honest

The questions to ponder are this: Are we bound by generational brokenness to repeat the patterns of our past?  Is it possible to strive for a different type of relationship?

Expectations –good or bad are a powerful force in a relationship.  They can influence and sometimes even determine our future because our behavior propels us towards the very things we either hope for or fear.

Expectation Management

My husband Tim loves to explain EXPECTATIONS this way…

Many years ago a friend of his dragged him to see the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s.”  The movie was panned by critics and Tim expected it to be a total dud.

But instead of hating it, he thought it was hilarious—maybe not Oscar worthy, but laugh your butt expectation fun.

So, Tim decided this was a good plan—to manage his expectations by keeping them low.

In his mind it’s better to be pleasantly surprised than terribly disappointed.

And this is a great plan as long as he knows what they (the expectations) are.  But sometimes it takes intense reflection and work to know the deeper areas of our hearts—the expectations we carry without realizing it.

In marriage, like movies, it’s vital to be honest about your expectations (to the degree that we know them) for your relationship—because without transparency there is ONLY disappointment when the other person fails to meet your un-communicated needs.

Do you hate fighting and believe ALL conflict is bad?  Are you always waiting for the shoe to drop and disaster to strike because you lived through a divorce?  Do you believe marriage is a prison or a ball and chain holding you back from the good life?

Or do you believe marriage has its ups and downs and you are committed to seeing both through?

Don’t underestimate the power of these expectations.

But don’t overestimate their power either, because there’s a power that’s even greater than expectations: God can heal our brokenness and it’s usually through the comfort and arms of the spouse pissing you off the most.

Healing the Wounds

Yes, I did say YOUR spouse will be the one to help you heal.

But you have to choose the marriage.

Choosing to behave differently than your past is possible.

We don’t have to live lives as victims of the past.

John Townsend and Henri Cloud say this,

Those who blame external circumstances for their situation do not find what they want.  Those who work on themselves, take responsibility for dealing with their circumstances, and then take action, have success.”

Motivation moves towards personal responsibility.

Marriage experts agree that both before and after you marry; you must be intentional about growth in your relationship.

Tim and I are very open about seeking counseling in our marriage.  It is a non-negotiable with us.  It keeps us growing personally and relationally.  It also keeps the fires lit and the hope strong.

The best decision we have ever made is to invest in our marriage.

We have decided to learn everything we can about ourselves and each other, as well as practical tools to build our skills and strengths.

We study relationship books.

We go to relationship classes, support groups and seminars.

We take the time to do relationship inventories and assessments.

We found a good counselor.

And we are never above humbly asking for prayer and guidance when we hit the sticky spots.

We don’t have it all figured out—quite the opposite—but we are committed to the journey of figuring it out together.

If you expect to hit some rough patches but have intentionally equipped yourself and your relationship to handle them, you’ll be able to navigate anything that arises. You’ll also know what your resources are and be able to ask for appropriate help as needed. If you intend to learn more and more about yourself and your partner as years go by and follow up those intentions with action, your relationship will stay fresh and current. If you expect that the investment of time and energy in marriage pays off, and add intention to your expectations, you will do what is needed and required to develop a strong, healthy relationship.”

 

Resources: All-in-One Marriage Prep: 75 Experts Share Tips and Wisdom to Help You Get Ready Now, www.allinonemarriageprep.com

Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Tim Keller on his 45th Birthday!

 

I wrote this 4 years ago!  (Geez we looked good back then Keller)

Tim, you have walked by my side through the loss of both my parents, too many miscarriages to count, the raising of our three amazing kids, babies and Tweens and teens, planting a church and building a home. I love you more now than ever because our journey has taken us through the fire and though we are a little crusty and singed, we are burnt toast together! Always together! 

Baby you rock my world!  Happy 45!

–Samantha

10.   Ex-tro-vert…for complete definition: refer to Tim Keller.  This man is the Red Bull of relational Kool-Aid.  His distinct insignia, a loud vibrant voice, can generally be heard in a large crowd or on a microphone.  Tim has more friends than anyone I know, and yet somehow manages to make each one feel special, placing a high value on personal relationships.  People energize Tim and he becomes more fully alive engaged in the social realm of humanity.  It just isn’t a party until Keller arrives!

9.  Sauce—Otherwise known as “Condiment Keller” or sometimes “Saucisaurous.” Keller is a sauce connoisseur, a guru of taste, a man who knows what he likes and will take an hour schooling a waitress to get it just right. There is no room in our fridge for food, thanks to the Costco sized vats of condiments.  Think Sally, in the movie, “When Harry met Sally.”  Get the picture?

8.   Style—though fatherhood, marriage and church planting may have added a tad more conservative tone to the Tim Keller ensemble, the dude still has panache.  From the ocean view bachelor pad, closets full of hip clothes, to the blue convertible caddy, wicked cool sunglasses, passport full of exotic stamps, retro decor, and the fact that he only dates hot models (past tense), Keller is suave incarnate.  When he walks down the street, you can hear the James Bond theme song playing in the background.  Who else could carry off a man bag with such“je ne sais quoi” bravado?

7.  Club Music—from the underground of the Seattle scene, Keller emerged as a pastor who likes techno, trance and house.  Imagine waking up every morning to thumping base and complex rhythms repeated over and over and over. Now this may sound like a non-sequitur…pastor and club music, but Keller manages to pull it off with unique flair, completely confidant in his individuality and discerning taste.

6.  Die-hard Mariners Fan—this man is loyal. Clearly, the worst team in Major League Baseball will not detract him.  He knows every player, stat, and RBI in the history of the Mariners program.  He even flew back to Seattle five days before our wedding for the opening game of the season.  Most grooms are fretting over the last-minute details…but Tim knows that without his presence the Mariners might not win, I mean lose again.

5.  Eagle Scout—Tim actually earned this esteemed Boy Scout honor.  And, as an adult, it plays out in his high-capacity to find solutions.  He a “get it done” type of guy and a great person to have around if you get lost in the woods and need to fight off a violent posse of raccoons.

4.  Poker Shark—Someday the World Series of Poker will bow before the kneel…that is, Keller will show the world who’s the real Ace!

3.  Fun—We like to say that Pastor Keller puts the fun in funeral and the first two letters in FUN!

2.  Tim is a is Hero— Only a man called by God would take on the burden and care of a single mom with two little kids, and then love them…truly love them like they are his own.  His hair might be a little grey from all the stress, but his heart, oh…his heart grows bigger daily, especially now that baby can say, “Hi Daddy” and claps when he walks in the room.

1. A Great Pastor to Many—Tim is humble, authentic, committed to His Lord, and has a true minister’s heart.  As a caring shepherd to his Mission Viejo flock, he creates an environment of celebration and acceptance.  He is a lover of God’s people and an inspiration to those around him. He carries the heart of our church in his pocket and we, the church, carry Tim in ours.

Happy Birthday Tim Keller!

Love, your adoring wife, studly son, beautiful daughter, and pretty baby.

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