Keller, I had a Crazy Dream

Poker-Titl.jpg (500×334)“Keller, I had a crazy dream. I dreamed we got the old poker gang back together,” Dan shared with my hubby Tim.

Don’t you just love crazy ideas?

It seemed an impossible feat. Over the last ten years the group of single thirty somethings (now forty somethings) had moved and married, divorced and proliferated, faced health challenges, job transitions and relational crisis–basically the gritty basics of life assaulting us.

My husband shook his head in disbelief, but his wide grin revealed his excitement at the possibility of reconnecting with old friends.

“Yeah, let’s do it! Tim replied.

Dan worked hard to pull the event off and surprisingly it seemed to all fall into place until the house he rented for the party flooded at the eleventh hour.

Seriously?

Opportunity or Disaster?

Just as I was walking out the door to take Kolby to an audition the call came in. “Keller, we need a place to hold the party.”

I looked at my husband and sighed. I knew the answer immediately. “Offer up your house Sam,” God nudged at my heart.

Come again? My dirty messy house. The one that overwhelms me and reminds me of my failure to balance work, kids, endless sports, ministry, and a husband who fills our house to the brim with his knack for thrifty bargain hunting.

I look around and see clumps of dog hair in the corners, textbooks and laptops everywhere, Lego’s, Emoji’s and American Girl chaos in competition for biggest disaster area. I know the toilet in the guest bathroom looks like a pack of truckers stopped by and the dishes are piled high.

And my heart aches because my house is like a snapshot of my soul–me at the end of my rope, reaching out for rescue like a small child with arms held high. Hold me Jesus. I’m struggling to wade through this wonderful, exhausting, roller-coaster life.

Choosing The Best Mess

“Let’s do it here.” I say.

“No, I’ll look at the clubhouse.” Tim pipes back.

I know my husband will fight me tooth and nail because my heart is acting cranky again and I’m supposed to be on a diet of low stress–whatever that means because I clearly suck at it.

I immediately start stuffing clutter in cabinets as if  tidiness can hide my brokenness. And then I just stop and release, “Ok God, I get it. Messy is Ok.”

My husband protests and I bark back, “Just have the party here. It makes sense. God gave us this house to bless others. Just clean up a little, please?”

My husband gives me the crazy look, but I know this crazy is the right crazy.

Letting Go

I grab my little girl and we hit the road for a two hour drive, extended by an additional thirty minutes after my GPS sends me in the wrong direction. After I quietly berate my phone, I settle down and pray, reminding myself that in the big picture relationships matter more than a clean house and being on time in LA is a suggestion.

After the audition (which my baby nailed), I call to check in with Tim who is happily hosting the party–my darling extrovert in his element.

And I feel a sense of peace and strangely enough, rest. Not because my life is anymore less chaotic but because God revealed himself to me in the center of the mess.

A Message

When we arrive home later that evening, the roar of laughter hits my ears as I open the car door in the driveway. I open the front door and am enveloped in hugs. No one cares about the floors or the toys. I see beautiful faces and I am so glad I said “Yes.”

But then I sense something more–an undercurrent of restoration. Things are happening. Strained relationships are mending. Friends who let time elapse too long bond again. The old jokes and ridiculous names they call one another are music to the soul.

I sense the bigness of what’s going on. I’m just an observer but even I know this is more than a party, it’s a redemptive offering. I can’t believe they all showed up. I can’t believe a crazy dream led to this night.

I retire early and fall asleep with the party still in full swing, snuggled up next to my little girl, content in the sounds of laughter and revelry downstairs knowing that old friends are making new memories and hearts are full. 
What crazy dream do you need to say yes to?

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Into the Hole of Stage Parent Shame

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

“Yes, sweetheart,” I reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yep, just do your best darling.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What? ALONE?

Many bad words come to mind.

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

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

She sets off the other kids in line.

It’s a group MELTDOWN worthy of an Oscar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want to crawl in a hole.

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

Kolby tries again. Now she looks constipated.

“Can you jump?” he asks.

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

I can see the future teenager seed rooting.

She gives a half-hearted leap.

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

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

“Do you like the shoes?”

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

Her tone is pure annoyance.

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

She smiles the second we leave,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think some more.

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

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

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

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

A month later Kolby books her first modeling gig.

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

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

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

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 42

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Truth–every time Taylor Swift’s song “22” comes on, I crank up my radio, sway in my seat, drive a little faster and sing along with gusto.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22 42.”

Yep, I change the words…mainly because it rhymes, it’s fun and I’m 42. Except now I’m not 42–today’s my birthday, now I’m 43.

I guess I need a new song.

My son gives me a card this morning and it says “Happy 29th for the 15th time!”   It’s supposed to be funny, but I secretly wince.  How come 29 + 15 sounds old too?

So here are my thoughts on 43…

1.  It SOUNDS worse than it is.  It’s actually not that bad.  Last week, I traveled with my son.  He looks far older than his 16 years–probably about 20ish.  I could pass on a good day for mid to late 30’s.  After, multiple days of people assuming we were a couple, I felt like a total perv, I told my son I was getting a t-shirt that says, “I’m the mom (not a cougar)”

2. Ok, I do miss the energy of youth (and maybe my perkier parts)…but that’s about it.  A few wrinkles seems a small price to pay for all the benefits of maturity.

3.  I have time now to enjoy my life.  When the big kids were small, when I was a single working mom, when we started the church and I was trying to get my writing going…all I did was hustle, hustle, hustle.  There was constant rushing and scrambling.  Now–I can relax a little bit and appreciate all those years of wiping snotty noses and working late.

4.  I treasure the wisdom I’ve gained over the years.  You couldn’t pay me to go back to my twenties.  All the emotions and turmoil of youth fade in light of parenting all the emotions and turmoil of my own teens.

5.  I’m getting way more nostalgic.  I used to set goals for myself for every birthday.  Each year was a litmus test of  accomplishments–the great grading scale of the American Dream.  Graduate college. Get married by 25.  Have babies by 30.  Finish masters degree.  Start church.  Develop ministry.  Blog.  Write book by 40. Start women’s ministry. Run marathon.

Boy have things changed…

I forgot to include divorce, and career change and loss–and all the tragedy and circumstances that mold and shape us into people of depth and character.  I never finished my graduate degree and I never ran that marathon, and truthfully, I could care less.

My yearly round-up is much simpler now.

I thank God I get to crawl into a toddler bed every night with my little girl and read her favorite books and growl and do all the voices of her favorite monsters and animals.  I thank God for letting me go back East last week on an Ivy League football recruiting trip with my son.  I will never forget laughing our butts off on the mountain roads of Vermont as we almost floated away in a hurricane in a rental car.  I thank God for my lovely daughter Faith who will be a cheerleader next year in high school (just like her mama) and has the sweetest most loving spirit in the world.  I thank God for my second marriage to a beautiful man, for the glorious redemption of having a family again and the ability to write and do what I love.  I look at the people around me and pinch myself for the blessing of friends and neighbors and family.

I guess 43 is filled with perspective.

Here’s mine–Each day is a gift.  

Fortunately, Taylor Swift is now 23–maybe we can get a new rhyme for 43?

What’s your perspective on middle age?

 

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.

 

Re-sil-ient

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

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

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

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

I chuckle at my imaginations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll hang with him (or her).

I’ll tell him I see your crushing sorrow.

And I will mourn with him.

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

Loss, betrayal, divorce, death…

But hope intervened.  Hope steered me to the shore.

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

Yes…

Yes we can. But it requires effort.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And hold on.

An open heart embraces community.

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

They are open, tender, raw and real.

They are RESILIENT.

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

RESILIENT.

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

Yes, Yes and yes!

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

It shows resilience…

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

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

re·sil·ient

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

God says

 

 

How it’s SUPPOSED to Be

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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

Why Mom’s Can’t Get Sick

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“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? 

 

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.

504

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?

 

 

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