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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Why Dodge Ball Matters

dodgeball-blog-jpg_180529_zps6e2f5270A ball whizzed by my nose. I squealed and jumped out of the way protecting the tiny infant in my arms from the rocking Dodge ball game on my neighbor’s lawn.

Holding my neighbor’s baby in the middle of a pint sized ball war wasn’t safe but it sure was fun.

As both our families fought to gain control of the ball and escape the pounding of hard rubber, my daughter Faith mentions how much fun it is to play the “real” game instead of the watered down version she was forced to play in school.

“What game did you play in Jr. High instead of Dodge ball?” my neighbor and good friend asks.

“Evasion ball.” Faith replied.

(My friend and I subtly give each other the WTF look…)

What’s Evasion Ball?

“It’s like Dodge ball but no one gets out.  Once you get hit you become a goalie.”

We look at each other in disbelief.

Let’s get this straight.

No one gets out.  No one faces the wrath of the ball or the pain of getting picked last.  Everyone wins and no one loses.

Now I certainly don’t like adversity or suffering, no one does at the time, but there are certain rites of passage that help us move into maturity and grow up.  Mastering the rules of the playground and how to survive helps a child navigate the ups and downs of life.

Who doesn’t remember the thump of the red ball on the face?

Why, why, why are we teaching our kids to “evade” reality?

kwdEe4TBy taking away the trials and avoiding the struggles we are raising a generation of kids unprepared for the harsh realities of the world.  When we remove loss and pain and disappointment from our children’s lives we also remove the ability to cope with loss and pain and disappointment.  And when those painful emotions inevitably hit, our kids (overwhelmed and unequipped) turn to drugs and sex and unhealthy self-soothing methods because they can’t process losing and sadness.

As a mom with a senior in high school. One of the recurring themes I hear over and over from colleges is that kids today are not “emotionally prepared” to handle life on their own. 

Well-meaning mama’s, you are not doing your kids any favor by doing all their laundry, dishes and chores.  Stop paying for their speeding tickets, stop doing their homework, and stop rescuing them when they get in trouble.

Be with them when they get their hearts broken.  Don’t call the parent and do an intervention.  Take them to a movie and buy them an ice-cream cone and help them process not avoid the pain.

Ground them when they come in late.  Have the balls to say “no” occasionally.  Also, have the balls to say “yes” even more than “no” and let them screw things up.  It’s far better to let them make a few mistakes under your roof than get hauled off to jail later.

I hear the martyr mom’s brag about their devotion and how spoiled their kids are—as if the mama’s who actually train their kid’s to function as future adults don’t love their kids as much as they do.  I say baloney!

Have we forgotten the goal is to LAUNCH these kids—not enable them to live on our income or sofa?

So I am raising the gauntlet…

Let’s teach our kids how to rebound and get back up after they get smacked by a ball.  Let’s let them suffer a little. (I am not advocating child abuse here, just natural consequences)

Let’s make our kids work for the trophy and for grades and even for relationships. Nothing good ever bloomed from apathy.

A long long time ago in grade school, I got punched by a bully, who then ran away and hid after I smacked him back. It was both traumatic and empowering. Was I scared? Heck yeah!  I cried as I fought back, but, he never messed me with again. Maybe he even respected me?  Gasp!  Thirty-five years later we are friends on Facebook.  That’s the dance of life.  It’s about confrontation and resolution, not evasion.

Sometimes getting whacked by the ball stings.  It hurts our pride and makes us cry.  But finding the courage to get back in the game and play says far more about our kid’s character than avoiding the game altogether.

I think Dodge Ball matters.  Bamm.

—Samantha

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?

 

A Dad’s Best Investment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmmmm…

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

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

Come again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok, so I was wrong.  (BIG GULP)

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

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

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

And I am grateful.

–Samantha

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

Spiritual Band-Aids

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

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

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

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

I gasp.  The red is everywhere.

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

Why is there blood all over my kitchen?

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

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

The calm side of my brain finally takes over.

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

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

Am I hurt?  I don’t feel anything.

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

WHAT?

How did I miss that?

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

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

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

……

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

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

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

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

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

……

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

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

Bamm.  The words are out there.

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

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

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

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

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

……

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

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

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

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

……

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

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

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

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

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

……

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

The blood is all over the kitchen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Samantha

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

 

Re-sil-ient

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

 Starbucks image

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

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

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

I chuckle at my imaginations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll hang with him (or her).

I’ll tell him I see your crushing sorrow.

And I will mourn with him.

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

Loss, betrayal, divorce, death…

But hope intervened.  Hope steered me to the shore.

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

Yes…

Yes we can. But it requires effort.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And hold on.

An open heart embraces community.

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

They are open, tender, raw and real.

They are RESILIENT.

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

RESILIENT.

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

Yes, Yes and yes!

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

It shows resilience…

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

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

re·sil·ient

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

God says

 

 

How it’s SUPPOSED to Be

supposed to be

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

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

Because we all believe marriage is supposed to be…

(fill in the box)

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

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

The pictures don’t lie.

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

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

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

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

Reality vs. Ideals

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

(Play along with me)

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

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

It would certainly make for a more honest wedding day.

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

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

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

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

Getting Honest

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

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

Expectation Management

My husband Tim loves to explain EXPECTATIONS this way…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t underestimate the power of these expectations.

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

Healing the Wounds

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

But you have to choose the marriage.

Choosing to behave differently than your past is possible.

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

John Townsend and Henri Cloud say this,

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

Motivation moves towards personal responsibility.

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

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

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

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

We study relationship books.

We go to relationship classes, support groups and seminars.

We take the time to do relationship inventories and assessments.

We found a good counselor.

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

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

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

 

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

When Your Normal is My Crazy

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

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

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

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

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

But there is a dark side too.

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

 

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

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

(Because this is HIS normal)

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

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

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

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

Because God knows, I’m just tryna leave!

And he loves me  anyway…

–Samantha

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?

The (married) Sex Challenge

Christmas 2013 1

July 2014

There’s an article traveling around social media. It’s one of those kinds of blogs—you know the sexy kind.

It catches my eye. I fervently look to the right, then to the left, then do the fast swivel to make sure no cameras are watching me… then I click.

It’s called “5 Reasons Why You Should Have Sex with Your Husband Every day.”

Offhand, I can think of way more reasons not to, but since Tim and I’ve been arguing lately and struggling to connect, I think maybe I should read it again.

I go back and re-read it slowly.

And then I mentally battle with it. This chick only has one kid and I have three. She’s young-30 and I’m 42 and freaking exhausted.

She’s probably a man.

Then one of my male friends sends me the article later that day.

It’s multiplying male propaganda.

The article is haunting me.

Now, admittedly, I’ve been a proponent of more vs. less sex in marriage. I speak on marriage and I even teach young couples that it’s good for a relationship.

In fact, I could have written the article

But that was before this year—before my heart broke.

……………..

July 6th, 2014 (from my journal and no God does not speak to me in an auditory voice)

God, are you trying to tell me something? Are you hinting that I need to have more sex with my husband? Because I don’t want to.

“Why?”

Tears roll down my face.

Our sex life took a hit when I watched both my parents die brutal deaths this year. I’m still in shock. I’m still reeling and I miss them like hell.

And honestly, I haven’t felt anything resembling horny in months.

It’s not that my husband isn’t sexy. He is. In fact, I am more attracted to him than ever.

It’s not him. It’s me. I’m the messed up one.

Some days it’s hard to get out of bed and brush my teeth much less get my jiggy on. I don’t feel sexy. I feel sad. And misunderstood. And alone.

And then I feel guilty for feeling depressed because I’m supposed to give all my worry and anxious thoughts to God. So then I end up feeling guilty and depressed and frigid.

Grief is NOT HOT. It’s just not.

But maybe there is something I’m missing in my marriage by keeping my husband at arm’s length.

When I’m sad or we argue the last thing I want to do make love.

But maybe it’s what I need?

July 10th, 2014

I decide to try the sex test to see what happens. I want to know if sex will not only reinvigorate my marriage but also help me grieve.

Week 1: I make an effort. Maybe not daily but at least every few days. I have to force it at first. I’m grumpy and I feel like a sham. I want to say, “Touch my boobs and you die.” But I don’t.

Result: My husband is smiling more. We argue less.

Week 2: He is gone on a work trip. I’m surprised how much I miss him. It catches me off guard, this wave of intense emotion. Then I get mad at him for leaving me alone with three kids. I waver back and forth between desire and pissed off(ness). When he returns home I demand a back rub and a good night of sleep before I let him back into my arms. Truth…reconnecting is wonderful.

Result: I actually feel a wee bit sexy. And when he holds me afterwards I cry hot tears of release. His arms are a refuge for my hurt. He seems happy. He’s walking around with a big goofy smile.

Week 4: Our sex life is regaining speed. Still trying for daily but it’s more like every other day. I am noticing my husband’s body more. He’s lost weight. He looks good. I think about him at work. I think about him a lot.

Result: We are much more connected. We hold hands, we snuggle and I feel loved. I’m talking more about my pain and processing it with him. It’s been five months now since the funerals and the tears are finally flowing. Geez…I’m such a stuffer but it’s coming out now.

Week 5: He’s gone again visiting his family in Seattle. We talk on the phone every day. I tear a muscle in my hip running. When he comes home we have to be careful because of my sore hip but we figure it out and yes…its fun!

Result: I’m generally not annoyed at my husband anymore. For a while, he took the brunt of my anger over the loss of my parents. I can see this now. We are communicating better and I’m getting the affection and empathy I wanted desperately but didn’t know how to ask for. Despite the fact that I’m a writer, I’m realizing I’m a suck communicator when it comes to my marriage.

Week 6: It’s a good week. I remember how much I love sex! I ask Tim to start praying with me daily again like we did when were dating. I feel God prompting me to lean into more than just physical intimacy but spiritual as well. Tim agrees and every day we cuddle up, hold hands and pray together.

Result: No more arguing. For a while, I thought the neighbors would turn us in for yelling at each other. Yes, our sex life is humming along, but more importantly our relationship is healing too as I accept my parent’s death. I wanted to blame him for being a jerk and not understanding my grief but I can clearly see much of it is me—pulling away—holding my heart at a distance. I wasn’t the only one hurt; he was hurt too by my withdrawal.

Week 7: Tim goes out of town for work. I think I might be pregnant? All of this sex has worked a little too good. We giggle and laugh and dream of another baby.

Result: The praying has sealed the deal! Every day we affirm each other, ask if we have done anything to offend, ask what we can do for each other and then ask how we can pray for one another. I have become bold in asking for affection. I tell him when he pisses me off and we clear the slate. Tim asks for sex more often and I’m more willing to please him because both our needs our being met.

Week 8: It doesn’t look like the pregnancy is good. After two weeks of hoping, it doesn’t work out. I’m too old for this (without medical intervention) and my uterus has cried uncle.

Result: Although I’m sad, I’m not spiraling. Tim and I are in a good place. We are praying daily. When I need a hug his arms are near. I have a posse of kids waiting for me in heaven and I hold onto that hope. We have make up for “no baby” sex. Now I’m the one smiling.

Sept 10, 2014

The intimacy I feared is the intimacy I crave.

I feel alive again. Not so sad. The depression is lifting. I’m grateful to have a husband to hold and children to love. I miss my parent’s but it’s not overwhelming me anymore. I think I can face the holidays with joy instead of dread.

And I imagine that’s what my parents would have wanted for me—to live and to love and to ENGAGE in life without guilt. And yes even in the sexual arena.

(that feels really weird to say)

Sex is a great way to connect a marriage. I just needed to take some of my own medicine.

I don’t believe any of us are prepared to cope with great trauma alone—but that’s exactly what we do when we isolate.

The truth is, I’m only alone if I choose to be. God gave me a wonderful and very human husband to grieve with. And the spirit in him ministers to me—if I allow him to.

Sometimes it just takes a stupid article for me to take the hint.

So, I dare you…to pray together and to love one another physically. A sort of (married) sex challenge!

Please don’t take the gift of marriage for granted.

Blessings,

–Samantha

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