Not So Cheap Thrills

I should have known I was in over my head when the woman in reservations asked for my credit card to hold our brunch seating.

But after all my diligent research I figured it couldn’t cost TOO much to celebrate our Daddy in style.
I threw out my old gift giving ways this year.  No ties or sauces for daddy, no sports visors or knick-knack items –this year I wanted to dazzle my man with creativity. 

 My husband Tim adores Bloody Marys so I did a little sleuthing.  I discovered the famous drink was initially formulated by the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan, New York.  I also found out the St. Regis in Monarch Beach, not far from our home, offered a three-tier Bloody Mary bar on Father’s day. And the best part…each custom concoction was only a mere $10.

It sounded reasonable, so I called and made a reservation at Motif –the main restaurant at the hotel.

Father’s Day arrived and my hubby was dressed up and amped up for his special DAD activity. After an early breakfast in bed, church, and dropping off the big kids, Tim and I and little Kolby headed over to the stunning hotel overlooking the azure blue sea.

The valet whisked our car away and we entered the grandeur of the St. Regis.  Vistas and views met our every turn and rich people glided and tottered by in impossibly high heels.  We found our dining establishment and checked in with the hostess who handed us glasses of champagne while we waited.  I people watched and played with Kolby who climbed up and down the majestic staircase.

Tim ventured into the restaurant to take a peep at the Bloody Mary bar.  His eyes were big when he came back and he bubbled over with energy as he described the decadent condiments and accoutrements.  Then he casually inquired how much the brunch cost.

“I’m not sure,” I replied.  “The drinks are only $10 so it can’t be that much, maybe $45 a person?”

This seemed like a large number to me.

Tim wandered away again as I downed my bubbly and played with my little girl.  He came back a few minutes later with a giddy and dazed look on his face.

“You must really love me,” he stuttered.

Quizzically, I turned.  “Yes, I do…why do you say that?”

“Because the brunch is a bit more than your highest estimation,” Tim gulped.

“How much is it?” I whispered.

“It’s $115 a plate and the Bloody Mary Bar is on top of that,” he frantically giggled.

I furtively looked around.  “Maybe we can run?”

Then I remembered they had my credit card.  We were stuck.

My eyes filled with tears.  “I’m so sorry; I didn’t know it was so much.”

Tim looked at me with laughter, kindness and mirth.  “I know honey.  It’s ok.  But we are going to get our money’s worth today.”

We stayed for almost three hours and ate and ate and ate and ate.  And truthfully, it was the finest buffet experience of my life.  Kolby even took a nap and they brought her a blanket to lounge.

I’m realizing over and over again, that although I have plans, God loves nothing more than to mess them up.  His ways are mysterious and daring.  He invites me to trust and to lavish love on my husband. 

It wasn’t in my budget.  I had to charge my almost $300 brunch, but my husband felt treasured and esteemed in a different way than normal.  It was extravagant love and maybe that’s reason enough to be a little crazy and a lot of broke.

Oswald Chambers said…

“It is more and more impossible for me to have programs and plans because God alone has the plan, and our plans are only apt to hinder Him, and make it necessary for Him to break them up.”

The Real Neighbors of Ladera

Ladera Post

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

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

Weak Smile and Change the SUBJECT

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

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



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

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

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

Right about then it hit me who she was.

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

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

It was a good day.

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

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

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

I loved it! I loved the messiness!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Keller Dating 1

He’s always surprising me…

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

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

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

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


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

Inspiration is a word

That means so many things,

its true 

It clearly describes the way I feel

When I’m spending time with you

You bring me emotion, joy and passion

I’ve never smiled like this before

I can’t imagine life without you

I desire you daily more and more

From God inspiration is holy influence

Exerted on the mind and soul

From you it is like morning coffee

Invigorating, consuming, feeling whole

I feel alive when were together

Your smiles, your kisses, your joys your fears

I long for the days and nights together

Sharing breath for all our years

Our hearts have been so knit together

I look forward to all that life will be

It’s overwhelming when I am with you

Like God himself made you for me

wedding kiss 

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


The Honey-do List

I struggle with certain forms of communication with my hubby –namely how to ASK for anything on the honey-do list.

It’s a lose/lose scenario for me. 

I know my man works hard.  As a pastor he puts in six days a week and on top of that goes to seminary on his day off.  When he is home, the kids vie for his attention along with their demanding sports and activities schedule. He doesn’t have much time off and I feel guilty asking for more, but there are just certain things around the house only a MAN can do.

So I wait and wait and wait.  Then I try to do it all and burn out.  The frustration builds and builds.  By the time I get around to asking him for help, it never comes out right.

I can’t even pin-point where I go wrong, but according to my sweetie every time I say, “Hey Tim, can you please clean the garage or put away your clothes that have been sitting out on the dresser for a month?” it comes out whiny, nagging, or a like a guilt-trip. 

I hear sunshine, he hears bi—yatch.

I think I’m being diplomatic –cautious even, but it comes across as something completely different.  He says it’s my tone.

What tone? 

I tell him my tone is rooted in fear that I will never have a clean garage.  My tone is the sound of a mommy martyr who carries the weight of the world.  My tone is “do you see me slaving away over here while you kick back and watch football?”

Per our normal routine, I asked the wrong way for him to clean the garage.  But this time, I lost it –big time.  I threw a tantrum…over the garage.

(Not my finest moment)

I ended up on my bed sobbing like a child who lost her blankie.  And then I realized it wasn’t about the garage.  It’s never about the “thing” you fight over.  It’s always ten layers deep.

This meltdown was about my dad and his waning health and the reality that my time with his is limited.  This is about surrender and God and trusting him despite my fear.  This fight was about my heart full of aching emotions seeping out.

My husband held me, quieted my tears, and then went downstairs and started cleaning the garage. 

And I think this is what marriage is like.  We bumble things like “tone” and “communication” but we know innately when the other is hurting.  We know when to be an anchor and to hold on tight to our beloved in the midst of a storm.

I love how my husband KNOWS me. 

Marriage is like best friends with benefits, only better, because it is true and intimate and mysteriously interconnected.  It is a naked and unashamed love. It’s love that sees past the dragons and still climbs into the castle window to rescue the wounded princess.

I will probably always screw up the ASK on the honey-do list, although I imagine if I put on the lingerie he bought me for my birthday I might get a different response?





Every morning my son Kyle wakes up at the crack of dawn and stretches for thirty minutes. He also puts in another thirty before bedtime. He does this on top of six to eight hours of daily football practice. So why is my thirteen year-old such a masochist?

It’s might be because my studly boy is determined to play college ball and he knows that in football being inflexible is a deal-breaker.

Now my son takes after my side of the family, the non-Gumby side. My husband jokes I am about as flexible as a two-by-four. So, Kyle doesn’t come by this naturally, it’s a painful and labororious process.

Gumby or Two-By-Four?

I too am getting stretched metaphorically. In the last week, Tim and I submitted a book proposal, which means Tim talks and I write my behind off to catch his brilliance…and then add some thoughts of my own. I also built a website to go along with our book.

(more details to come)

So the writing part wasn’t a big stretch for me, but writing with my husband was! We had to listen and listen some more, and compromise and get endlessly edited and it was hard and wonderful and a true growing experience for our marriage.

There were moments I wanted to punch him and better moments where I was floored at his insight.

And then there was the website construction itself. If you look deep inside my eyes today you might see HTML. Yes, I’ve been that obsessed.

I, Sam, book smart and wordy but often totally clueless, I actually built a website! Are you as astonished as I am?

When I initially set up my blog Scrappy Sam, I blundered through the free WordPress mumbo-jumbo and then when I eventually had to move to a self-hosted version, I paid a web expert to set me up.

This time I paid me.

It feels like I put the big girl panties on, developed some brain muscle and even grew a few inches.

Me. Wow. I can’t believe it. I set up a stinking website with e-commerce, bought and transfered a domain, with video capability, widgets, plug-ins, customized a theme, header and logo.

I’ve been obsessed with both these projects to the detriment of my home, floor, figure and fridge -but gosh darn it I did it!

(I did manage to feed my family and take baby to the pool most days, though we might have watched a lot of Mickey Mouse this week)

Sometimes it feels so good to do something new and big and challenging. And even though my yoga mat was neglected, Kyle and I are on on the same wave-length. God is bending and stretching our muscles and we are growing and developing into the people we long to be.

What area is God stretching you in?

Husband Bashing

The second the words left the woman’s mouth, floating in the air like a little bomb on the cusp of detonation, I knew I had to chime in.  While her comment was probably not malicious–if left unchecked –the game of husband bashing could do irreversible damage to the Christian ladies gathering.

I’ve noticed this sport usually starts with a hefty dose of female empowerment masked in affirmations and coy compliments… “Ladies, I have been so blessed by this group and by these AMAZING female friendships to the point where I feel like I don’t even need a man around anymore.  Don’t you agree?”

Subtle wink…dainty pout …lips parted with just a hint of an invitation.

And then each woman, happily married, bitter and single, or somewhere in between… makes an instantaneous but crucial decision –do I jump on the bandwagon and annihilate my husband’s (or ex-husband’s) character or defend him and take a stand against the crowd?

Unfortunately, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.  I was the bitter chick for a few years after my divorce that turned tea parties into toxic parties and now I cringe at my past behavior. 

(Hurt people hurt people, right?)

Just as the first few lovelies dove onto the slippery slope of male abuse, I jumped in and loudly interrupted, “Look ladies…the beauty of healthy female friendships is how it enhances marriage –not replaces it.  When our uniquely feminine emotional needs are addressed by empathetic girlfriends who understand us then we don’t place false expectations on our man to decipher our complicated hearts.”

I paused and waved my arms around for emphasis.  “This allows our husband to operate as a real man who loves to fix and struggles to listen to chick-speak without the burden of fulfilling our every whim.  My husband is a tremendous man who both refines and compliments me.  And while I certainly love all of you, I am first and foremost my husband’s biggest fan and I refuse to act like he is big dolt or a Homer Simpson wannabe.”

The table went silent and tongues poised to launch a volley of verbal assault paused and retreated.  The claws went back in and then a chorus of agreement chimed in.  “Oh yes, we do need our men…they are so wonderful…I do love my husband.”

I sat back down in turmoil –glad I had spoken up but frustrated I even needed to.  Sadly, I see this happen all too often –women gossiping loudly about their husbands faults and complaining to whoever lends a willing ear.  I know if the shoe were on the other foot and I discovered my husband trash talked me in public I would be devastated.  So why do women act like we have a hall pass in this area?

In an ideal world there would be no double-standards in marriage.  And though I far from perfect in this area and still consider myself a recovering gossiper, I try to remember I can’t expect my husband or our children to act differently than the behavior I model.  So what am I teaching my son and two girls when they accidentally hear mommy dissing daddy on the phone to her BFF?

What if we –as wives –chose to affirm our husbands instead of nit-pick?  What if we saw the best and let go of the little irritants?  What about truly forgiving and FORGETING, instead of forgiving and then repeating the offense to the gals in Pilates to get a big laugh?

I want to be the type of woman who champions her husband at all costs.  I try to speak of him and about him in the highest regard.  And I’ve found, quite inadvertently, my words and actions are helping him become the man he wants to be because he feels supported–even when he makes mistakes and even when he struggles.  This allows him to take bigger risks and move towards the best in life because he knows I am his team-mate and not a passive aggressive opponent licking his face and simultaneously peeing on his leg.

Harold Macmillan –a British politician once said, “No man succeeds without a good woman behind him.”  I think Harold is on to something.  And I think starts by being an advocate of marriage and learning the art of keeping our mouth shut.



Christians and the Birth-Control Controversy

Two weeks before my wedding I paid a visit to the lady doctor.  She poked and probed me and then asked me, “What sort of birth control do you use?”

“None,” I replied.

“What?  Aren’t you afraid of getting pregnant?” she suggested in a horrified tone.

“Ummmm…no, I haven’t had sex with my fiancé, so it hasn’t been a big issue.”

The doctor looked at me and frowned.  “Well now that you are getting married, are we putting you on the pill?”

“Nope, we want kids.” I said.

“Ok, after the kids.  Then what?” she asked.

And then I shrugged and sighed and shook my head.   Because the truth is I get confused about the birth control issue and Christian evangelicalism.  It’s a big blurry gray area of dividing ideologies and as time passes even my own paradigm shifts with new revelations, not to mention my own painful experience with different approaches.

What I do know is abortifacient contraception is not an option for me anymore. 

Recent evidence suggests abortifacient contraception –the Intrauterine Device (IUD), the day after pill, and even the regular birth control pill distort the natural design of conception.

So if you believe (like I do) that conception begins when an egg and a sperm meet and a spark of life ignites, then who am I to play God and get in the way of his plan?

For a great in-depth look at this topic -read Albert Mohler’s, “Can Christians Use Birth Control?

But even without this controversial argument, every method of birth control I’ve ever used (besides a diaphragm, condom, or family planning) has always screwed up my body so much, that if I’m honest, I innately knew it wasn’t good for me.

The truth is birth control is just like all of those drugs advertised on TV.  Your initial symptom might go away –but beware of the twenty more issues you will now have… Like all those poor Propecia guys, who tried to grow more hair but now can’t get an erection.  Personally, if I was a dude I’d rather be bald!

And so it goes with birth control and the promise of consequence free sex.

When I took the pill in college, I not only gained weight but got so depressed I hid in a corner curled in a ball weeping.  Then I tried Depo-Provera -a nightmare of synthetic chemicals injected in my behind.  The side effects were so bad it was questionable if I would ever even want to have sex again.  I gained weight, became severely anemic and could barely get out of bed for three months –definitely not sexy!

Then there was the abortion I hid (like all my friends did in their early twenties).  But ironically, Planned Parenthood forgot to tell me and thousands of other young women about the consequences.  They didn’t mention how almost fifteen years later the recognition of what I had done would hit me like a tsunami, drowning me with devastating waves of grief and sorrow I then had to process.  Somehow I repressed the emotions long enough to justify my behavior –until I couldn’t anymore and the pain seeped out like a hidden vault of toxic tears.

All of my efforts to play God with birth control and taking life had detrimental consequences to my body and my heart.  It’s the reason I champion life now and speak to teen moms and parents of unplanned pregnancy. 

Pain changed my paradigm about birth control and life.

Maybe if we saw sex in marriage as a gift and as a potential life creating union it would mean more to us.  Maybe if we looked at children as a unique treasure and not as an imposition it would alter our selfish tactics.  Maybe we should question the price of “sexual freedom” and think twice about destroying our bodies for the sake of promiscuity.

As for my husband and I, we have chosen to use natural family planning methods.  For us, this makes sense with our belief in God’s design.

But it hasn’t been an easy road to navigate and there are no pat answers. 

What do you think about the birth control issue within the Christian evangelical realm?

Real Dude Spiritual Leadership

When Christian husbands hear the words Spiritual Leadership they often cringe and move into an emotionally defensive ninja posture. They cover their ears and hum “nu nun nu nun” to drown out the sound of the “oh so subtle” but fully loaded assault they know their wife is about to lob at them.

“Did you hear what Pastor Awesome did for his wife for their anniversary? OMG…he flew her to a chapel in Tuscany where they ate biscotti and strawberries dipped in crème fraiche. Then he knelt before her, gave her a monogrammed gold leaf bible and prayed for world peace. Wow, what spiritual leadership!”

And then this sweet, loyal and loving husband, who goes to work every day, provides a home and provision, plays horsie with his kids, coaches baseball and takes his wife to brunch every Sunday after church hunches his shoulders, looks morose and feels completely inadequate.

And the reason he feels like a schmuck is because too many women confuse Spiritual Leadership with a cross between Fabio and their youth pastor –a Jesus-y James Bond sort of guy with a golden tongue who waxes poetic spiritual metaphors about car-care and the football draft from his pre-dawn quiet times with the Lord.

All too often, Christian wives inadvertently adopt a distorted idea of Christian manhood as a spiritual measuring stick for their husband. They take a few examples of biblical application regarding humility or faith (or any fruit of the spirit for that matter) from the pastor’s Sunday message and apply it with a broad stroke to beat their husbands up with after the service.

They don’t envision a real man, a real life and the day-to-day decisions which encompass true spiritual headship of a family. Pastors aren’t all saints or perfect husbands (although my man is a rock star) and a guy doesn’t need to work for the church to be a true minister of Jesus Christ and strong spiritual leader to his wife and kids.

What men do want to aspire to (and their wives can gently encourage them to) –are spiritual disciplines which will help them develop a closer relationship with God and therefore build strength and leadership within the marriage. So, I’ve got a few ideas culled from the plethora of awesome men I have the privilege to know (and yes…I’m talking about you Mariners MV men) . These are the traits and attributes I see exhibited in their lives which bless the socks off their adoring ladies!

Sam’s Tips to Develop Real Dude Spiritual Leadership

1. Get to Know God

2. Pray with your spouse

3. Intimacy (Christian code word for SEX)

4. Serve One Another

5. Parent with Purpose

6. Rethink Love as an Action Verb

The next six blog posts will address these traits and give helpful suggestions for Christian couples who are honest enough to pull out the jammed logs blocking their vision and get real about their marriage, the state of their own heart and what it means to love like Christ did.

And just in case you think this is a series written only for men…I want to challenge you with this.

I believe, above all these tips, the most important factor in a man’s spiritual leadership is his wife’s ability to AFFIRM, stop nagging, pray, forgive, and become her husband’s biggest champion allowing God to transform her husband into the man of her dreams in his time.

Care to join me on the journey?

Heads, Tails or Fleece?

Got Fleece?

Some decisions are too big to flip a coin over and so we pray and plead and ask the big guy for a sign.  But in marriage this gets a little murkier when one person clearly hears God and yet their spouse remains unsure.

So is the case in the Keller relationship.  We have a big whopper of a choice to make but there has been disparity between the two of us as to when to pull the trigger.  I’d tell you what this big superdeeduper decision is but then I might lose my special agent status and possibly compromise national security. 

Anyway, God was clear with me on the details but fuzzier with my hubby Tim.

We faced one another sitting Indian style on our bed one night (certainly the best way to compromise) discussing the pros and cons of our issue and Tim suggested we ask for  fleece from God. 

Now fleece harkens back to the tale of Gideon in the Bible, who asked for a sign from God after an angel appeared asking him to lead the Israelites in battle against the gnarly Midianites who were terrorizing the Israelite people and forcing them to hide in caves after overrunning their country.

Gideon was understandably freaked out at the angel’s suggestion.   He promised to obey the command: but before commencing the battle he oh so casually requested a sign from God that the Israelites were certain to win the battle.  The sign Gideon asked for was this –that when he laid a fleece of wool on the ground, if the victory was with Israel, then the fleece would be wet and the ground dry.

He placed the wool on the ground, and taking it up the next morning found it wet, although the ground was dry. So he knew God was saying “get your sword out dude.”

But Gideon was still uncertain. He pleaded with God for a second sign. This time the ground was to be wet and the fleece of wool dry. God, who is infinitely more patient than me gave him the desired sign and then Gideon humbly obeyed and went out and kicked some Midianite butt.

Now Tim –just like Gideon –was requesting fleece.  It would appear he was simply asking for a sign, but I know my husband and in the back of my mind, I thought, “OK GOD, YOU HAVE TO PROVIDE FLEECE.”

Maybe a stinky sheep wool sweater or a wet stuffed Easter lamb on the lawn would suffice?  I know how literal my husband is and all the various ways God was clearly speaking to me weren’t making an impact on him.

So I’m on the freeway a few days later and I glance up at this white van in front of me and the license plate reads, “GOT FLEECE?”

It was my Evan Almighty moment!  My burning bush, my donkey talking! YESSSSSS!

Shaking and laughing, I risked peril and near death to reach for my iPhone and snap a few pictures to prove the sign to my husband.

Tim studied the pictures intently that evening and agreed this was indeed a sign.  He gave me that wise pastor look, “Sam, clearly God has spoken through a van on the 5 freeway.”

But then Tim (being Tim) smiled at me and said tongue in cheek, “Ok, now we wait for a second sign.”

Jinkies!  I know my husband is willing to follow whatever God calls him to do, I mean the man left his six-figure corporate income to go into ministry.  But come on…recognize the awesomeness of the van!

But then I am reminded how in marriage we don’t always see eye to eye and his quest for clarity might be a gift from God to balance out my more spontaneous nature.

Ok Jesus, got anymore dry fleece?



Is it Love or Infatuation?

One of my readers asked a great question the other day –What differentiates the really happy couples from those who are just getting by?

It reminded me of an article I came across regarding the longest married couple in the United States –they’ve been together close to ninety years.  This sweet little couple with the wrinkled faces claimed their secret weapons to marital bliss were saying I’m sorry and compromise.

Sounds easy, right?  I think it’s even more basic than that.

Simply put –LOVE IS A CHOICE.

But real love might be one of the hardest things in the world we choose to do.  And the honest truth is that many of us are so deceived about what love actually entails we get it wrong before we even begin. 

We think we love others but really we love ourselves.  And since we love ourselves so much, we tend to think we love people who love us back and give us what we want.    

But we are wrong.

This is because most of us have a warped idea of love.  We believe love is a feeling.  We think sex is love.  We think our happiness comes from love and we think we can fall in and out of it as if it were a place instead of calling it what it really is –infatuation .

Love is none of these things.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. 1 Cor. 13

Infatuation is hooking up now to get your needs met, it keeps you guessing if he’s not that into you, it makes you doubt and keeps you on your toes, it seeks the hottest chick and the richest guy to feed its ego, it keeps one eye roaming just in case there is someone better around the bend, it is jealous, and intense and it burns out fast –usually within a year of marriage.  Infatuation needs a constant source of more deviant sex to keep the fire going, it manipulates to get a ring, it leaves when it gets tough, it gives up when it’s not happy, it’s selfish, and it seeks personal gain above all else. 

Infatuation might get you to the altar but LOVE IS A LIFELONG CHOICE.

The closest many of us get to real love is with our children. We are willing to sacrifice, to move beyond ourselves and to lay down our life to protect and cherish their hearts.  But all too often, what we are willing to do for our babies we are not willing to do for our spouse.

When my husband Tim is huffing and puffing around the house like the Big Bad Wolf and I’m wailing and weeping like a little kid that got her ice cream stolen -“I’m sorry” and compromise are a little tough to choke out.  But if love is a choice those are the exact things I need to lean into.

Laying my own needs and desires down and putting my husband first is how I show him love.  Respecting Tim, even when I think I’m right is real love.  It’s meeting his physical needs despite being exhausted.  It’s when I give up my agenda for the day to get stuff done and I’m spontaneous and present, and it’s getting up in the middle of the night to care for the baby so he can sleep, even though we both have to be at work the next day.

For Tim, real love is taking all three of our kids to Costco so I can finish writing when I’m stressed.  It’s asking me questions and pulling out my prickly emotions I struggle to identify.  It’s doing the dishes and playing with the baby and rubbing my back for the nine-hundredth time.  It’s when he chooses to be tender even when it’s easier to be harsh.

Real love is hard and sacrificial and painful to our crusty selfish hearts. 

I received a letter the other day that was the antithesis of love.  It was from a man I dated in the past.   It’s tough to admit, but there was a point in my life after my divorce where I was so starved for love I let myself settle for scraps.  It’s not that he was a bad guy but he didn’t treasure me or my heart.  He didn’t give me security in the relationship.   He took me for granted and only when I disappeared out of his life did he fully appreciate all that I gave to him and who I was.

And now six years later he is married and he writes me a letter claiming he is still in love with me.  On top of all the awkwardness of having to share this with my husband, it also made me sad because he is so deceived. 

Love is a choice not a feeling.

Sending me a message like this is not love – its disrespect to my husband and to our marriage.  It’s disrespect to his wife.  Love is choosing to care for the spouse he chose to marry not longing for another man’s wife.  

But Hollywood has told us there is one soul mate, one serendipitous love of our life and we keep looking for it instead of learning to love the person in front of us.  My heart breaks for HIS wife because he clearly hasn’t grasped what real love is.

LOVE is choosing to love your wife even when it’s not easy.

They say President Lincoln was one of the greatest president’s ever.  Few people know his wife was one of the most trying women of all time and struggled desperately after the loss of their son with bitterness and anger.  And yet President Lincoln loved her tirelessly and had patience far beyond his own strength. In the battlefield of marriage he became a man worth following.(1)

Lincoln became an epic leader because he learned how to love and sacrifice first at home.

Lincoln chose to love.

One of the best books I EVER read on marriage was Stormie O’Martians Power of a Praying Wife.   It’s a simple little book and much of it is taken from scripture –BUT what got me by the tail feathers and rocked my world was this. 

Stormie was in an awful marriage.  Her husband was emotionally distant, unloving and downright mean.  She suffered from depression and emotional trauma from childhood. It wasn’t a match made in heaven since they wanted to kill each other. 

One day God nudged Stormie to stop praying for her husband to change and to start praying for herself to be the wife he needed her to be.  She began praying for God to give him the wife of his dreams and to let it be her.

It was a radical prayer that changed the course of their marriage.  She stopped picking apart his faults and worked on her own.  She respected him EVEN when he was unloving and she moved at him every day with genuine care and concern DESPITE his behavior.

And her Christ like love couldn’t help but change his heart.  Over time he started to try harder to love her.  He became more sacrificial and eventually became the husband of her dreams.

When I read this I wept because I knew if I was ever going to be a Godly wife I had to bury my selfish desires and let go of my pride.  I had a lot of work to do and a lifetime with the man I love to figure it out.

Real love is counter-cultural and reeks of Jesus –a God that humbled himself and died on a cross for a people who rejected him.

So what is the secret to a happy marriage? 


1. Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

2. Power Of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian





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