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.

When Your Normal is My Crazy

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This is me.  This kid…this is my inner-(mini) me.

And NO, it’s not my mom talking.  It’s my pastor husband.

This picture is HOW I FEEL after church—like I want to bang my head against the wall because my husband won’t stop talking.

Being married to a relationally gifted man of Christ certainly has its perks.

  1. Everyone is a friend
  2. No party is boring
  3. Often we are the party.
  4. (Unless the party is in a foul mood…then we are the party pooper)
  5. We can go to a mall, Starbucks, restaurant, golf course, etc… and come home with five new best friends.
  6. There are no off-topic conversations. EVERYTHING is up for grabs.

But there is a dark side too.

  1. I rarely leave church without my three kids and I experiencing debilitating hunger pains. It’s usually 2:00pm before we get out of the parking lot.
  2. I’ve heard, “I just have to talk to this one guy” a bazillion times.
  3. There is an unspoken acknowledgement between the kids and I that if Tim forgets something at church and has to “run back in real quick” we will probably wait another 30 minutes with the engine running.
  4. And of course, every conversation is for Jesus, so how can we argue?

 

I adore my husband but sometimes he drives me bazonkers in the best of ways.

And he looks at me, wide eyed in befuddlement?  “Why are you irritated darling?  What’s wrong?”

(Because this is HIS normal)

And I want to scream, “Your normal is my crazy!”

But instead I just pray for patience. And every week I suck it up with a weak smile.

And then God gives me this little gift to tell me he hears my heart.

And I finally feel understood.  Heard.  Affirmed. Validated.

Because God knows, I’m just tryna leave!

And he loves me  anyway…

–Samantha

Why Mom’s Can’t Get Sick

Christmas 2014 13

“Are you sick?” my friend inquires.

“Yes,” I squeak out through strained vocal chords.

She gives me the look—hands on hip, waving a spatula with a baby on her hip and toddlers whizzing by her feet. “Mom’s aren’t allowed to get sick. You know that right?”

I weakly smile back and nod, gather my wads of snotty Kleenex and sneeze seven times in a row as she boots my coughing, snurfling self out the door so she doesn’t catch my bug.

I get it. I get it.  I am a mother of three with a husband and a dog.

My life verse is “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season you shall reap if you do not lose heart.

Mom’s can’t get sick because mommies take care of everyone else. But what happens when, despite mommies best intentions, her immune system fails her?

All week as I sniffle, my big kid’s joke I have Ebola. Ha Ha. Very funny.

Then my four year-old cries big gulpy tears after pre-school and comes to me in confusion because the kids at school say it’s the plague.

“Mommy, are we all going to die from Ebola?” my little one inquires.

I reassure her and tell my middle daughter to stop telling her it’s Bible Prophecy.

One week in and my cold/flu takes a turn for the worse. My head hurts so bad my teeth ache and my eyes crust over and seal shut. My fever soars and I can’t move my neck. My voice is gone.

So, on Sunday morning (with pastor hubby gone with a full day at church) my teen son drives me to urgent care. Kyle is gentle and sweet. He helps me get settled, laughs at the mask of shame the nurses’ force on me and takes selfies of the two us to post on Instagram.

The doctor says its bronchitis and a bad sinus infection. He prescribes antibiotics and quarantines me to home and bed for 36 hours. (Yippee! Doctor’s orders!)

My son drives me home, tucks me in bed with hot tea and commands me to rest, picks up my meds, goes grocery shopping, comes home, feeds and walks the dog, babysits both his sisters and makes us all lunch and dinner. He also somehow manages to get his middle sister to do the dishes, set the table, do a few loads of laundry and keep the house quiet for mom.

Seriously?

(My husband can’t do this magic)

That evening, over a dinner of homemade chicken soup and crusty rolls, Tim asks Kyle about his day.

“Well, this mom-sitting thing was real tough. I walked one day in her shoes and I am EXHAUSTED. All I did was work and work it never stopped. Boy mom, you do a lot”

Tim and I looked at each and fell over laughing—and then the kids laughed, because my laugh (without my voice) sounds like a dying animal.

And then we affirmed Kyle and the all kids for taking such good care of mama.

I am so proud of this kid and I honestly feel a sense of relief about aging with him around!

So, maybe moms aren’t allowed to get sick with toddlers in the house or even husbands in the house—because sometimes they are as much work as a kid(not mine of coarse!)

But I’ve learned if you train even one of your rug rats well–to be a nurturing and caring person, YOU can get sick when they turn 16!

In due season…you will reap!

Hang in there sick mama’s!

–Samantha

 

The Man Thing

Tim

They say women are complicated. And I agree—wholeheartedly—but I don’t think men are as simple as some suggest.

It’s not just sex, food and more sex that makes a man tick.

There’s something else I can’t put my finger on. All I know is that I don’t know what it is.

But it’s there—the man thing.

On Sunday, I sit in the back of a pre-marital class my husband runs waiting with the kids for him to wrap up so we can go to lunch.

Tim is moderating a talk on personality differences.

The speaker is Dr. Edward Mendez (my favorite counselor) but I wasn’t paying attention because I’ve heard this talk many times by now. (Sorry Buddy)

But then, Dr. Mendez speaks words I haven’t heard before.

“One of the most thrilling things I’ve ever heard from my wife other than “let’s get it on” is “I study you.”

What?

I stopped and held my breath. What does that mean?

“I study you…”

This is what excites a man?

To be studied?

For Dr. Mendez, this means his wife spends time trying to understand him–to know him, to research and delve deeply into his emotions and heart.

She cares enough to go the extra mile and understand his personality and what makes him tick.

Oh noooo…I think. This is way harder than sex and cooking.

I’m not so good at this part.

I’ve got some issues here.

My dad was, at times, a very difficult man to get along with as I grew up. And although he changed into a gentle guy at the end of his life, in the early years his explosive anger often shut me down into a turtle shell of self-protection.

And sadly, old wounds linger and seep into adulthood.

Sometimes, when my defense goes up, I retreat. I stop trying to know my husband and understand him. I hide in my turtle shell and refuse to come out.

And honestly (God forgive me) I don’t always believe the best about my man.

The next day Tim and I work on a project together. Its three days past deadline, but with our busy schedule and Homecoming high school drama we were left overwrought and without ANY margin this weekend. Finally we sit down and address it.

Tim was tense—short even—and snippy with me.

I am light-hearted for about an hour. Then I get weary of being nice to a grump.

And Everything in me wants to power up and launch back surly for surly.

But then I think about Dr. Mendez’s words and instead of moving to the defense, I carefully measure my words and watch him.

I stay neutral. I don’t retreat or engage. I study him like a history book.

Once we hit send on the project, a huge smile crosses over his face.

“Ahhh babe, Now I can relax and be with you,” Tim sighs.

His countenance changes—storm clouds to sunshine—and he picks up my hand and squeezes it.

And I realize his terse behavior isn’t about me at all—it’s about the task at hand.

Holy cow!!! I learn something new about this man.

What you see with Tim (his behavior) is not necessarily what’s going on under the surface.

This is super ironic because I’m tumultuous inside and calm as a cucumber on the outside.

We are polar opposites when it comes to expressing emotion.

It would be easy for me to write off my husband off as over-reactive (and honestly, easy for him to dismiss me as a non-emotive ice cube.)

But when I take the time to study him–to look closer and read his cues, I see another story.

I see a different personality than mine, certainly, but a man with good motives who loves and cherishes me but operates very differently.

It’s evening now. I lay beneath his feet by the sofa, reclining back. Tim plays with my hair for a solid hour as we watch the Patriots get whooped on by the Chiefs.

And despite the fact our fantasy football team (the amazing Ladera Lambyasoures) is losing because the Patriots defense is a bust, I purr like a happy kitten as Tim speaks my love language of affection.

This studying thing was a good investment because I’m pretty sure if I had been bitchy back, I wouldn’t have gotten the princess treatment later.

Maybe men are not so complicated.

Maybe all my man needs is sex, good food, more sex and a woman who truly seeks to KNOW him.

If only I could get this right more often!

Thanks Dr. Mendez…

–Samantha

How do you study your spouse or significant other?

Why it’s Time to take off the Beer Goggles

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On the outside looking in, my life is Insta/FB worthy.  I’ve got three great kids who are healthy and functional, a job I love, a new dog, and a husband/bestie who is a pastor.

There are 59 kids in our neck of the woods of Ladera Ranch.  A rope swing dangles on a tree in our yard. It’s picturesque and our Christmas card’s don’t suck—thanks to the golden locks of my little lamb, my gorgeous son and cat-eyed girl.

It sure sounds pretty, right?

But this is so far from the WHOLE story.

If you only see my life from this angle it’s like you’re wearing beer goggles. 

The details are foggy.

But in the morning, when the makeup rubs off and the bathroom smells like puke, the rest of the picture comes in crystal clear.

Our family is pretty ordinary, slightly neurotic and occasionally downright crazy.  I think it’s awesome but it’s a far cry from perfect.

Christmas 2013 4

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m not divorced—a shuushed word in the ministry realm.  I also wouldn’t mind forgetting past depravities and burying some of those wretched decisions of my youth in the sand (Can I just say I am so freaking grateful I didn’t grow up in the social media era!)   

I am highly sensitive and I FEEL stuff intensely.  It’s probably why I write.  I create drama in my mind.

I also dated REALLY badly as a Christian. 

Yep, I’m the one the Good Christian Girls pointed their fingers at.

Whisper, whisper, whisper, “Sam wore a bikini to the singles retreat.”

It’s true.  

I didn’t know the Christian rules or I ignored them occasionally when I felt they were dumb.

I did missionary dating—that’s where you to try and convert a hot, rich guy who’s not a believer into one and then you lie to yourself and pretend you have something in common.

I did gold digger dating.  No comments necessary.

I did “try really hard at purity” dating. 

I made so MANY mistakes during my time as a single Christian woman.

Much of what I talk and write based off of me blowing it, turning to God in desperation, and finally surrendering my dating life to him.

And when I finally stopped to listen, there was a repeated theme that God kept bringing me back to.

My identity was broken.

And this gaping wound was causing tremendous pain, ruining my dating life and destroying any chance of meeting the man God had for me.

So what was my big sin that kept me from God’s best? 

Not seeing myself through God’s eyes.

Beer Goggles vs. God Lenses (Note* Beer is a metaphor.  I don’t drink beer although I do like a good Cabernet on occasion)

I incorrectly labeled myself and others because my lenses were distorted.

I pigeonholed people.  I pigeonholed myself.

We think we are so politically correct.  WE would never label anyone,

And yet…I see it all the time in dating.

I believe it’s one of biggest obstacles we face as singles.

We write people off all the time by their outside appearance, job or demeanor.

The problem: a label is a description applied from the outside, rather than something intrinsic to the labeled thing. 

Labeling discounts character, spirituality, intelligence, humor and heart.

I was so guilty of this not only outward in my judgment of men but also towards myself.

So where does this start?  As kids we get labeled by our well meaning parents, coaches and friends.  A child incorporates the label into their identity and then feels the thing they were told they are.

The Results?

  • They stop taking risks
  • Forget what God created them to be
  •  They believe the lies someone else fed them.

What were my LABELS?

$$, achievement, image was MOST IMPORTANT 

And although I knew God’s truth, I still operated (or defaulted) to broken thinking and a false identity based on a worldly view during times of stress.

Gal 1:10 says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

I had an approval problem and a label problem.

And because I believed lies about my own identity and self worth, I then judged others through a faulty lens. 

 I labeled myself and I labeled others.

If you do not know who you are, you will struggle your whole life to know what is right and what you should do. If you know who you are in Christ, you will know what to do.

So God, in his infinite mercy challenged my thinking.

I dated out of brokenness but expected health.

I was the girl who kept saying, “There’s just aren’t any good ones out there who are spiritually mature and have good character.”

What I really meant was there are NO wealthy hot guys who love Jesus like I do.

Then came the enlightenment moment! 

I was at dinner with guy I met online.  He was a wealthy business guy.  And we had nothing in common.

The Epiphany—I was looking to replace one bad relationship with another.

I hid in the bathroom called friend –“call me and pretend it’s an emergency.” 

She said, “Why? Is he awful?”

I said, “No he’s just awfully familiar.”

I cried uncle. 

I surrendered… 

I stopped dating.  I needed to heal the broken parts.

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.

Proverbs 4:23 puts it this way:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Our external life comes out of our internal life.  Therefore my ability to judge character would only be as good as my beliefs about myself.

I needed to learn, who I was in Christ. 

I needed to dig deep into the lies I believed about myself to uncover my true identity.

God was saying to me, “What do you believe about me?

Do you believe I love you?”

I honestly began to search my heart, study His Word, I concluded He did love me—but conditionally.

Which was why I kept taking over in the dating area because I didn’t trust he had my back. 

I also needed to unpack the lies and personal labels I’d been stamping myself with and rip them off.

  • I needed to know that my desire to be with a spiritually mature man was good.
  • That my heart for God was not shameful or less than, but good and worth fighting for.
  • That I was more than the way I looked and that I had value and worth to add to a relationship.

I had to stop comparing myself to others and look to God for my self-worth. 

We must take off our horizontal glasses and put on our vertical shades.  Look up not out.

Here is what God showed me during my dating fast:

Recognize Your Value—

There is difference between having an inflated ego and simply understanding your significance based on your God-given gifts and value to Him.

God knew what He was doing when He created you. He gave you everything you need to do everything He wants you to do.

Stop focusing on all that you cannot do.

Take an inventory of your gifts. Embrace these and maximize them!

Stop Harmful Thought Patterns—consider some of the thought patterns and other factors that are leading you to believe lies about your worth.

“Jesus came to announce to us that an identity based on success, popularity, and power is a false identity—an illusion! Loudly and clearly He says, ‘You are not what the world makes you; but you are children of God.’”—Henri Nouwen

Begin New Thought Patterns—each negative thought can be countered with God’s idea of your value.

Scripture tells us to take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5). Counter every negative thought with the truth that God reveals about you in His Word.

Rom 12:2 says:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Be Patient—healing does not happen overnight.

It will require replacing bad thought patterns with good ones. It will take daily dedication and conscious effort to stop believing the labels and lies and embrace your identity in Christ.

Read God’s Word—study what the Bible says about your worth to God. Explore what He says about His love for you and His purpose for your life.

We must replace the lies with truth…

God, our Creator, sees us has having great worth because He created us in His image.

◦He created us a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7).

◦We are crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:7).

◦We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14).

◦We are valuable enough to be purchased with the blood of His Son (1 Peter 1:18-20).

The more you reaffirm who you are in Christ, the more your behavior will begin to reflect your true identity.”—Neil Anderson

Story of Bookstore:

First met Tim.  Thought he was cute and smart but I didn’t like the pastor idea. 

Let me run this by you.  I wanted a man who was spiritually mature but I told myself a pastor was not an option.

Here are the lies I believed:

Pastors are poor therefore I would have to work and couldn’t be a stay at home mom.  Pastors live in a fishbowl and everybody watches you. Pastors are boring.  My parents and affluent friends will not approve

Lie #1: God won’t provide

Lie #2 Good moms stay at home

Lie#3 I am not worthy of spiritual leadership

Lie#4 Man’s approval is more important than God’s best

So my friend sees Tim sitting with me at lunch at the café and she does everything she can to interfere because she wants me to marry a rich guy and be like her.

So, she corners in the bookstore at Mariners and makes me Pinky swear, “I will never marry a pastor.”

And then apparently God laughed. 

On our first date, which took a while because I first said yes to going out with him, then changed my mind (because I had this nagging feeling this was a God thing)

Then called him back a few months later and said let’s do this.

Balboa Island –Dazzle me

But I had to wrestle with God some more before I agreed to be his girlfriend.

And part of that was because I was still holding on to labeling others.

Because what do we do?

  1. We judge ourselves wrong
  2. We judge others through distorted lens

So Tim wasn’t my type:

He wasn’t wealthy. 

He wasn’t big and dark haired and he didn’t look like Superman

No boat or a Porsche or huge business. 

Tim was about the exact opposite of my type.  He was the same height I was, slim and muscular with light hair and glasses and when I wore heels I was about 3 inches taller.  Tim was quirky and he liked retro fashion, house music, and he had a 1969 Caddilac the size of a boat.  He was smart and loud and charismatic.  And Tim was really fun.

I spent an entire night on my knees praying for guidance. 

And God challenged me on my type.  I had to trust that God would provide for me financially.  I had to trust that I would still feel sexy and small and taken care of with a man who didn’t dwarf me in size.  I had to trust that good character and honesty, a heart for God and spiritual leadership were more important than my type. 

I had to surrender to God. 

He brought the right man to me but I had to recognize the good gift right in front of me.

So I said yes to God and yes to Tim.

I recognized that being obsessed with what people think of me is the quickest way to forget what God thinks. You will never be able to please all people. But, you can live a life that is pleasing to God.

Matthew 7:1-2 says:

Judge not lest you be judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

We do this so often in dating.  We make quick rash judgments based on looks, career, height, and bank account.

And we miss out on some of the greatest people because of our broken thinking.

Matthew 22:37-39 speaks to this. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I don’t like to be labeled!  I’m a Pastors Wife.  That’s like a comedy routine of awkwardness just waiting to be scripted. 

People confess to me.  They tell me their church attendance.  Then they swear and swear some more apologizing at their gaffe.

It makes me want to swear just to make them feel better. (Ok, maybe I just like to say a bad word occasionally)

So why do I judge other people if I hate it so much?

When I catch myself discounting people.  I stop, recognize the lie and reprogram my brain with the truth.

I am so happy I took a risk on a guy that wasn’t my type.  I’m so glad I ripped off the labels on myself and the ones I put on him. 

I love my pastor husband.  He leads me spiritually, he is fun and open and easy to talk to.  He’s a great daddy.  He respected my purity and helped to restore much of my dignity after a devastating divorce.  He loves my kids and he loves God.  I am the one who was blessed.

So here is my advice:

Let go of the labels!

Go out with anyone once and then go out again (unless they are a stalker or crazy). 

Reflect on your date. 

Pray, pray and pray some more. 

Open yourself up to real humans not labels.

Get rid of the beer goggles.

We need to see through God’s eyes.

The great theologian Blaise Pascal says this:

Not only do we not know God except through Jesus Christ; we do not even know ourselves except through Jesus Christ.”—

What would it look like if we stopped operating out of our brokenness when we dated and instead operated out of love? 

 

Why you need to forget the “t”

105I have a confession.

I am still very attached to Mariners Mission Viejo Church—the church my husband and I planted four and a half years ago.

(My husband doesn’t work there anymore—he’s back pastoring at the main campus again)

But I miss it—the sounds, the smells, the AMAZING peeps.

When my husband is out of town, like he was this week, I take the kids and we sneak back in to our old home away from home and CHILLAX.  No pressure here.  I’m not the pastor’s wife–just Sam.

I also keep up with MMV.  I do a Bible Study here and read the Compass newsletter that lead Pastor Jeff Maguire sends out.

Last week, he made a comment at the end of his letter that had me in stitches.

Jeff was referencing how he responds to people when they ask how the service went on Sunday.

And in the newsletter he responds—if everything went well—“I was good.”

I stopped and read it again.

ok…

It’s not really something Jeff would say.  He’s a pretty humble guy.  More of a foot washing type than a kiss my butt kind of guy.

But he’s also ridiculously funny.

At a wedding once, an old lady asked me if he was a professional dancer or a comedienne.

“No Mam, that’s the pastor.”

Yep, he’s That FUNNY.

So, when I read his words, I figured he was being a bit of a smart ass.

But at service this week, he shared it was a typo.  What he meant to say was: “It was good.”

One little “t” makes all the difference between perceived arrogance and humility.

Seriously, I don’t even know how many people actually read the church newsletter.

But I imagine Jeff’s blood pressure probably shot up.

Because mine would have.

My people pleasing personality (that I rebel against with everything I’ve got) would be freaking out!

I would pray and beat my chest and wail, “Why God? Why?”

I would head to the beach and stick my head in the sand.  I’d be embarrassed.

At least for a day or two until everyone forgot my doofus move.

But I’ve thought about it some more and maybe saying “I was good” isn’t the worst thing ever.

What if it was ok to own that that our God does awesome things through us on occasion?

If the definition of true humility is: knowing who we are in light of Christ, then we must acknowledge that a Good God uses us (broken, lame, normal people) to accomplish his good works.

Marianne Williamson writes, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world…We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Pastor Jeff, I think you are pretty good! Maybe, really good! In fact, I think most people would agree with me who go to MMV that you are a great pastor.

Not perfect, but pretty dang good.

So, don’t worry about the typo.

Maybe God simply wanted you to know how much he loves you.

Maybe he wants us to know its ok to be a little good.

Not “Good” like a Holy and Perfect God Good, but good because of God within us good.

Jeff, what if God was using you—as a catalyst perhaps—for the rest of us who are struggling and insecure about our gifts and image in light of God?

What if someone looked in the mirror because of your typo and said, “I could do something good for the Kingdom of God too.  I am an image bearer.  I won’t let my fear define me.  Maybe I have some good to offer the world if my faith is bigger than my insecurity!”

(I might be stretching here, but roll with my point)

So cheers to the typo. I think we all need to forget the “t” on occasion and remember who we really are.

A little good, a lot broken, and loved by a big God.

 

What if it was your last day?

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Barbie dolls line the wine holder—a doll in each individual wine slot.

“Kolby, what’s going on with your dollies?  I count about nine blond heads, “Why are they all in the wine holder?  It’s kind of creepy.”

“Mommy they’re dead.  That’s their coffin,” my preschooler replies.

“Oh?

“They got hit by a car and they died,” she chirps, unmindful of my startled face.

Oh Boy.  I sit down and cuddle her close.  “Let’s talk about dyeing, ok baby?”

 

Big eyes probe mine; tiny hands cup my face and questions tumble out, so big for such a little girl.

I guess she overheard us talking.

Maybe this is a gift, but it’s a conversation I’d rather have because her pet goldfish died, not because it was almost us.

……….

It’s Saturday night and Pacific Coast Highway in Downtown Laguna is jammed—the rhythmic thump of drums spill from packed clubs, girls giggle, catcalls fly, and wave’s crash in the distance.

With the window open, I point and search for just the right joint to stop at and grab an appetizer to cap off our date night.  We want good food—foodie food—with flavor and intensity

“There,” I pointed, “let’s stop there at Mozambique.” I know the food won’t disappoint.

Tim glances over at the hopping restaurant I gesture to, and pulls off PCH .

But he swerves to the left instead of the right and makes an abrupt turn onto the ocean side of the street.

“Honey, what are you doing?  Now we have to cross PCH.”

Tim shrugs, “If it makes you feel better we can walk back to the light.”

So, we hike up a block to the light, push the walk button, wait for the light to change and step out into the street.

My heels catch a pothole and I hold on to Tim tight for balance.

Then I hear the roar—a car accelerates fast.  Pedal to the medal, tires flying down the hill gaining speed from the steep incline of the cliff.

It’s so dark.  Lights blur my eyes—the headlights of the car descend on us.  It’s like an avalanche.  There’s nowhere to go.

I picture my body hitting the windshield. It’s going to hurt.

Then the push.

Tim yells and shoves me as hard as he can—still within range of getting hit, but more likely to hit the edge of the car, bounce and crack my noggin rather than go under.

My legs wobble.  I fight not to fall.

Then the shrill honk of a car trying to warn the oblivious driver, blaring sound, tires screech.

The car slams on the brakes, from 70mph to stop.

And right on top of us, the car reels back, like an attacking animal reigned in.  We jump out of the way as the front bumper brushes my legs.

I wave my hands around and scream “You Jackwaggon. “

(I might have said another bad word too)

I’m full of piss and vinegar.  I want a fight.  I want to sink my heels deep into her flashy red sports car and make her pay. I want justice.

The driver waves her hand at us and takes off. No apology.  Nothing.

I wonder if she’s grateful she won’t serve time for vehicular manslaughter?

Tim takes my hand and leads me to the other side.

“Are you ok?  I didn’t know how to protect you.” His voice is raspy and thick.

I wrap myself like a child into his chest; gulp in familiar smell, big hands smooth my hair, and he whispers, “its ok.”

Then the tears come—relief, shock, and finally thankfulness.

Thank you Lord.

Thank you to the angel in the car who laid on the horn like a lighthouse keeper warning a ship about to hit the rocks.  You are our hero!

To my husband, who tossed me (mostly) out of the way in the sweetest attempt to save my legs, I adore you forever.

I’ve had some close calls with danger, but nothing like this one.

Not both of us together.  Not leaving all of my kids without a mom and a dad.

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I’ve thought about it over the last week.  I’ve prayed and considered and reflected on our near brush with death or dismemberment, at the very least.

And I’m grateful I don’t have any unsettled matters—at least that I’m aware of.

I’m glad I say “I love you” and kiss my kids and hubby every chance I get.

I’m glad I get to do what I love.

And I trust my heart is right with God.

Not perfect, not even close, but right in the sense that I’m desperate to know him more and at peace that I will join him.

Dying isn’t the scariest thought for me these days—even scarier is living badly.

I don’t want to be so caught up in the rat race that I forget to follow my dreams or live a half-life of complacency.

I don’t want to take any of this for granted.

I want to know that what I do, as a mother, as a wife, and as a writer makes a difference in the Kingdom of God.

I want you to laugh and cry and think differently about a God who pursues you to the ends of the earth and loves you lavishly.

So, if I haven’t told you in a while, THANK YOU.  Thank you for being you!  Thanks for joining me and engaging with me and journeying with me.

Thanks for taking the time to read these words.  Thanks for making this life of mine rich and full of countless blessings.

And if I’ve pissed you off recently, let me know.

I can grovel.

We never know when our time is up.

And I sure am glad I get to have the dead Barbie conversation with my little girl and not someone else.  No matter how awkward and hard it was.

What if it was your last day?  What would you do differently?

 

 

A Time to Plant

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As soon as day breaks, I hear the pitter patter of little feet slide open the back door to head outside.

“Mama, daddy and I are going out to the garden,” Kolby whispers in my ear.

I love the way that word sounds—“garden”—it implies so much more than an ordinary backyard.

The ordinary backyard is what I’m most familiar with. A few rogue bushes the professional gardener maintains and no more. I’ve kept my backyard simple and streamlined because life is busy enough (or maybe I was just too busy to care?).

In all truth, I’ve struggled to even keep a house plant alive. Orchids flee when they see me coming. My thumb was nowhere near a shade of green—black perhaps?

And I’m not sure I cared very much. Our backyard wasn’t a place we often visited. Yes, we barbequed and yes, we were blessed with some lovely patio furniture—thanks to our generous neighbors—but it wasn’t an inviting place. It was a square box with a large expanse of wall—yawnable at best, the before version of any good makeover story and a perfect blank palette for an episode of Backyard Crashers.

I didn’t find rest there. In fact, I didn’t really go out there.

But I do now.

It started with a trip to Home Depot and then many more trips to nurseries and Lowes. Soon, we couldn’t stop planting. I found some Hello Kitty gloves for Kolby and mini tools for tiny hands. We bought roses and fruits, herbs and vegetables. The siren call to get our hands dirty and engage in the dance of soil, sun and water won us over.

And I’m learning far more than how to grow a jalepeno, I’m learning how to live differently.

Lessons from the garden:

1. Gardens nurse a broken spirit back to health

One of my favorite books as a kid was The Secret Garden. It’s about some children who discover a walled and locked garden, break in and learn to care for it. Through their efforts they bring it back to life. Not surprisingly, they too transform in the process—one child moves from a sickly and withdrawn orphan into a lively and engaged girl, another takes her first steps after a terrible accident paralyzed her and the father of the paralyzed girl finds redemption in the restoration of his lost wife’s passion—the garden.

The garden is a metaphor for God’s deliverance—from weeds of sickness and bitterness to roots of liberation.

And just like the book, our little garden is moving within us and changing our hearts too. It has become a place of healing and recovery. In the garden we find solace and respite. I am able to pray and release hot tears to water the soil with hope and anticipation of the beauty just under the surface.

We watch our plants grow, we do all we can to assist them (water, water, water)—but ultimately we surrender to God’s will and provision—the elements are his alone. We can coax the plants to grow but not control them. We can plant the seeds but ultimately God bears the fruit.

After a brutal season of turmoil, chaos and death, our garden is a symbol of new life—both tangible and spiritual and a reminder that despair is not the end of the story.

2. The Garden awakens Delight

The garden is a place of whimsy and toil, of watching our nine tomato plants sprout baby green fruit. It’s a place where we battle rats (six down) and fight for our strawberries, a daily adventure of nurturing and culling patience and finding enchantment in the smallest buds. It’s where glorious roses parade their blooms and show off displaying their vibrant colors—like a strutting peacock’s plume.

Food tastes better when you grow it. We savor the fruits of our labor. And I know it’s organic because I grew it! We ate cilantro with our carnitas tacos the other night and the smell of the fresh herbs made the whole house smell like a taco bar.

I also find myself connecting with my husband differently. The garden is a shared project—a journey we take together, separate from work and kids sports and hurried life. When he turns and lazily smiles at me, wiping away a sweaty and dirty brow, my tummy flutters with butterflies of desire. In the garden we can be our truest selves, working side by side as partners and friends.

3. The garden connects us to the seasons of life

Living in the land of constant summer—AKA Southern California—I forget that life is not a balmy 73 degrees every day. I forget that reality is far from the Disneyland suburbia I call home, filled with Real Housewives and athletic families in yoga pants. I become anesthetized to pain because life is pretty dang comfortable and I know how to play this game all too well.

My garden reminds me that to everything there is a season…a time to plant and a time to harvest (Ecc.3:2)

And even in Orange County—land of eternal sunshine—there is a time for pain and death. I will have to replant my tomatoes in the spring because they too will wither and die.

When I forget the rhythms God placed in my life to remind me of time, I lose track of my purpose and focus. I think it’s all about the here and now (and all about me) instead of harvesting a thankful spirit. I forget to prepare for the winter and store up during the summer bounty because I think the frost will never come. I focus too much on leaving a legacy or being “more” awesome instead of drinking in the bigness of God and simply enjoying the obscurity of following a far greater light than I could ever aspire too.

How about you? Is it your time to plant a garden?

“There is always music amongst the trees in the garden but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it”.—Minnie Aumonier

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Counting the Gifts

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“I keep waiting for the phone call,” I whisper to my husband as we snuggle in bed early one morn, reluctant to get up, get going, and start the day

Tim rolls over and pulls me close to him, “What phone call?”

“You know the one where they tell me, ‘We don’t really think you’re ready to be out in public yet.”

“Who’s they?” he asks.

They are out there—the judgers.

Tim’s chest starts shaking, and my head, burrowed in his neck region—eyes cast downward—bobs up and down with his peals of laughter.

“Honey, no one is going to call you. They might think you’re a little sad and introspective, which is normal for your situation, but I don’t think they’ll pick up the phone and call you out on it.”

I pout, “You never know, they might.”

………………………….

Despite his words of encouragement, I feel this way on the tough days—vulnerable and raw—like my soul was scratched by a stubbly three-day-old beard.

I know it takes time—the grief cycle cannot be short-changed. But I can’t keep avoiding people until I decide I am normal again.

(Normal, meaning “not obviously sad”)

So I decide to sign for a women’s bible study and stop hiding from the “judger’s I conjure up in my mind.

I’m tentative in the group. I hold back at first, then talk too much. I cry. I tell them I just lost my mom. I tell them I just lost my dad. I hiccup. I’m a mess.

But no one calls and tells me not to come back, so I show up again.

We are reading Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts.”

The study is about living in Eucharist Deo—joy through thanksgiving.

I’m intimidated—one thousand gifts—that’s a lot of gratitude for a temporarily melancholy girl.

Can I make a list of that many gifts? My thanker might be a little beat up–cancer and atrophic brain disease have a way of doing that.

Can I open my eyes wide enough (in the midst of pain) to see that both the suffering and the blessings come from the same hand?

I pray against my inner skeptic and the creeping doubts whispering “this chick is nonsense” in my ear.

But I stay. I listen. I try not to laugh at the weird parts in the video (Ann is a wee bit eccentric) and I force myself to engage, stop rolling my eyes and open up.

Maybe she’s on to something?

So I start a gratitude list because that’s what my homework tells me to do.

Sam’s gifts

#1. I didn’t cry today

#2. Jasmine tea steaming in a mug when it’s 100 degrees outside with the air conditioner on. (another heat wave in So Cal)

The first 20 are hard. Then it flows.

It doesn’t take long—maybe a week or so? And something starts to change in my spirit. The seed of joy burrows in, roots deep, and waits for me to water it.

Time slows, just a tiny bit. Probably because I am forced to stop and notice the details.

#23. the blooming of my garden

#24. the hot sun warming my toes

#25. the abusive Santa Ana winds that make me spend more time in my garden watering. Oh shucks!

I notice I have to be EXTRA aware. More present. If I focus on the past too much or the future I miss the present—the gifts are right now.

#56. the tiny lizard running by my feet as I type on the porch

#57. the sounds of my husband puttering around the garden setting rat traps to protect our tomatoes.

#58. my daughter Faith slams the door—home from school. She will be out here soon, bugging me, asking if we can watch a Hallmark movie together—her favorite treat.

………….

Today at Starbucks, they remember my name.

I stare at my cup.

SAM

Three little letters that fill me with ridiculous joy.

SAM

They didn’t ask me for my name or my credit card. They just knew me and my drink.

#100. the SAM cup makes me RIDICULOUSLY happy.

It’s a gift.

I am known.

And I praise God who creates community. Even this microcosmic Starbucks community—this hodge podge crew of baristas and caffeine addicts that accept me and love me despite the fact that I usually hog the leather chair next to the outlet.

#127 My tall Americano with room

#128 My comfy chair that I share (almost never) with other Starbucks peeps

#129 The friendly dad’s with the local sports page in hand who root for my son on the football field and chat up sports with me.

All of these go on the list

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………

I scroll through Facebook and all of a sudden there’s a picture of my dad staring back at me.

What?

A family friend posted a picture of him (from last year) posing with their daughter Emmy (whom my parent’s adored) at her graduation.

Dad’s smiling his dad smile. Emmy is in her her robe and honors swag looking gorgeous. My step-mom Fran is proud of this sweet girl who spent her high school years living with them. And they are so happy.

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It’s out of the blue. And whack, I am stunned with emotion.

The tears jump like crickets out of my eyes and wet the keyboard–plop, plop, plop.

I stop, I look, and I remember my daddy—all the joy and the love and yes, even the sorrow.

#201 …And I thank God for this gift even though it hurts.

Ok, Ann Voskamp, you got my attention.

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Throwing Stones

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I’ve been a bit of a gym rat lately.  I run, I lift, and I work off the grief and stress. 
 
I also look around a lot–I mean there’s not much to do on a treadmill other than watch the three TV stations available.  I tire of Fox News or The Housewives ripping each other’s hair out.  Sometimes I simply prefer to watch gym people–it’s just as entertaining.
 
So, I’m running along the other day, bopping out to Pandora, when a woman catches my eye.  She’s twentiesh and tiny with long hair swishing down past her itty bitty bum.  Offhand, she looked Philipino to me, or Islandy (Islander?)…let’s just say she was some exotic  blend of tan skin and  petite features. 
 
That is until she turned and I caught the side view.  Island Girl’s bust was GINORMOUS.  Huge is an understatement.  I actually gasped in astonishment.
 
I tried not to gawk but her machine of choice was in my direct  line of sight, so then I thought it would look more obvious if I twisted my head and avoided looking forward.
 
Sam’s self talk goes something like this, “Just be casual.  Don’t stare.  Don’t stare.  Don’t stare.”
 
(I’m sweating more from angst than my actual workout)
 
I glance up, oh so nonchalent, to my first full view of the woman.  It looked like she was wearing a Hello Kitty Top with her yoga pants. 
 
A “mall stroller” came to mind.  For those of you who aren’t mom’s of babies, let me explain. 
 
You know when you put all your shopping bags and the diaper bag and your purse on the back of the stroller and everything is fine and dandy until you pull the baby out and then the stroller falls over?
 
That’s what Island Girl reminded me of–a mall stroller–and I waited in apprenhension for her to topple over.  She was so top heavy she defied gravity.
 
Then her t-shirt came into view more clearly.  And I was wrong.  It didn’t say Hello Kitty.
 
It said Hello Titty and the kitty face was morphed into a strange kitty boob concoction.
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When the slogan hit me, I almost fell off the treadmill.  I punched the arrow key and lowered the pace trying not to laugh out loud but making strange gurgling noises in the process.
 
I hate to admit what I thought next–maybe she’s a porn star?  But then  I thought about it again, “In Ladera Ranch?”  It didn’t make sense to me.
 
Now my brain is humming a new refrain, “Don’t judge circus girl.  Don’t judge.  Don’t judge. Don’t judge.  Oh God help me, I’m judging just trying not to judge.”
 
And sadly, I couldn’t look at her without throwing mental stones.  I knew I needed some help.
 
So I got off the treadmill and walked a safe distance away to pray and get a grip on my inner bitch.
 
And I tried to think how God would see this girl. This desperate girl screaming out for attention. 
 
And God whispered, “What if she was your child?”
 
What would I do if my daughter went in for three surgeries and became addicted to the knife in some desperate attempt to feel beautiful or loved? 
 
What if my daughter believed the lie that even negative attention was better than no attention so she disfigured herself to try and find it? 
 
But let’s be honest here, what would make a girl even go in that direction?  Sexual Abuse? Neglect? Abandonement? 
 
Then I felt another nudge from the Spirit, “Where are you in this girl?”
 
Really?  Ouch!  Well, I guess, I too fall into the trap of wanting to be beautiful, to be relevant and to matter. 
 
My definition of beauty might be different than hers, but I still want to take my husband’s breath away.  I still want to be pretty despite my age (41).  I enjoy looking young”ish” even though I’m grateful for the years of growth and maturity. 
 
In all truth, I’m still vain deep down in my core despite my efforts to supress it.
 
Are my desires so different from hers?  I might not wear a booby shirt and flaunt my 32 ZZZ’s at the gym but I understand the desire to be loved and pursued and adored.
 
And it hit me, If she were my daughter, I’d love the socks off her.  I’d love the good parts and the broken parts and the really big parts.
 
(Although we would definitely have a conversation about the Hello Titty top)
 
I got up and walked over near where she was working out.  I picked up some weights and smiled at her when she caught my eye.
 
A friend smile.  A smile that hopefully said, “I see you–not the boobs–just you–and maybe I can lift weights next to you and we can chat without anything wierd between us.
 
No agenda.  Just gym stuff.
 
And I felt God removing the log from my eye, a really big 2×4 that let me see this woman a lot more clearly.
 
I looked up the shirt when I got home.  It’s a BREAST CANCER logo. 
 
I will not even go into the awkwardness of some of their campaigns but I will give the gal props for raising awareness!
 
 
 
 
 
 
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