Love is Not a Feeling

Here is our first of four video blogs about dating now viewing on Christian Mingle…

(The first one was rejected by the editors because yours truly used a slang word for oral sex.)

I know, I know…Sam we can’t take you anywhere!

After some magical editing, I am now fit to be shown in middle America.

Let me know what you think.

Blessings,

Samantha

 

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.

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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.

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

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

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

I’m glad I get to do what I love.

And I trust my heart is right with God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can grovel.

We never know when our time is up.

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

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

 

 

Dance, Daddy, Dance…

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When I was a little girl my dad would put me up on the table and say, “Dance, Sammy, dance!”

And the two of us would dance like maniacs. 

Not too long ago I caught him doing the same thing with my youngest daughter Kolby.  And she giggled and cracked up as she watched her Papa Ken dance like a big goof with all his heart.

If you ask little Kolby, “Who’s your best friend?  She will say, with no hesitation, “Papa Ken!”

Because she knows whose got her back.

……

As a little girl, it was obvious to me that my dad was different than the other daddies.  He got up earlier and he worked later.  He was ambitious, the proverbial Type A personality who drilled into me the importance of the P words!—Perseverance, Persistence and PPMF (Piss Poor Planning Means Failure). 

He was movie star handsome, charming and extremely loyal.  He was a good provider and strong leader.  He was also a bit of a brat (and that’s putting it nicely).

But in the last ten years—slowly at first and then rapidly—my dad changed dramatically.  Oh, he still had all the great qualities that made him a successful doctor and man, but he added to that the inner qualities that set great men apart from the rest—humility, patience, kindness and gentleness. 

If you asked him what the difference was, he would have said God changed his heart.  Many people will say this but my dad lived it out.

Where there was once darkness now there was light. 

I talked to my dad almost every day –although in the last six months because of his brain disease he would forget and say “I miss talking to you Sammy, and I would laugh because we’d talked for an hour that very morning. 

And during our talks he would remind me of our special stories—which usually meant some form of torment for me. 

One of his favorite tales was skiing at Park City Utah.  I was six years old and my step-mom Fran was stranded back in the hotel room with a broken tail-bone—probably relieved to get a break from the slopes with my hard driving daddy. 

We ascended to the toughest run on the mountain.  It was a triple black diamond run with “ski at your own risk” signs and “possible death warnings.”

A group of about twenty men stood at the tip of the cornice and peered over the edge which dropped straight down.  An arctic wind whipped up icy swirls taunting the timid.It was a 30 feet drop to hit the snow. 

Some men were brave and gathered enough courage to jump, but most turned around and went back to the lift with their tail between their legs.

I was terrified and pleaded to return to the lift.

My dad looked at me and said very firmly, ‘You don’t have to ski down, but you will walk. And it’s a long way back to the hotel.”

I glared at him and a deep well of anger churned in my belly. 

And indignation launched me right off the cliff. 

The entire crowd started cheering for the little girl who took the mountain.  My dad said that once he recovered from the shock, he then had to catch up with me—because I didn’t slow down to wait for him.

This same story out played over and over again throughout our lives.  He dared, or teased, and I took the bait.  It’s why I went to UCLA to spite his USC and it’s why I had a chip on my shoulder all those years to prove that a girl was just as good as a boy.

Maybe he knew exactly what he was doing, because it drove me to achieve, but in the end it didn’t matter–in the end I had nothing left to prove.

Once my dad changed, the chip on my shoulder turned to mush. 

I knew without a doubt that he simply loved me for who I was, not for what I accomplished, or the things I accumulated, just unconditionally.

And his love was life changing to a grown up woman with a little girl’s heart still seeking the love and approval of a father.

Some people never realize what they have until it’s gone.  Not my dad.  In the last few years Ken not only recognized his many blessings but he became a huge blessing to those around him.

On Thanksgiving Day this year, my dad said at the dinner table he was most grateful for his relationship with God.  I prayed for fifteen years to hear my dad say those words. 

If I had been honest, which I wasn’t because I am protective of my tears and didn’t want to cry like a baby over the turkey, I would have said, “I am most grateful for finally having the relationship of my dreams with my dad.” 

It might have taken 38 years—but the last few years made up for a lifetime.

On the night my daddy died, I sat and read to him.  He squeezed my hand as I read this verse from Eccles. 3.

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

It was right at a time to dance that I got the squeeze.  I jumped up and I kissed his forehead and he raised his eyebrow.

(Pretty good for being in a coma)

They say it’s not how you start a race that matters; it’s how you finish it. 

I believe Jesus is now holding my dad’s hand and putting him in a place of honor.  He is saying well done, my good and faithful servant. 

And I can hear the sound of a million angels singing.

And my dad is dancing on the table like a big goof.

10 Things Happy People Do Better

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On the cork pin-board at my Happy Place (AKA Starbucks), I noticed a sign –10 Things Happy People Do Differently.

So, I took a picture of it, and elaborated.  Because, although I have the eternal joy of the Lord, a few tips on happy never hurt. 

Here is what Happy People Do better:

1.  They Express Gratitude

When you are grateful for what you have, what you have appreciates in value.  My Sr. Pastor Kenton Beshore puts it this way, “Who is the man who is more content –a man with five kids or the man with none?  The answer is: The man with five kids, because he doesn’t want any more.”

If you aren’t happy now, you won’t be happy in the land of “IF ONLY…”

2. They Cultivate Optimism

Be the exact opposite of Bella in Twilight.  If Edward bails on you, recognize that Jacob is JUST as hot(although nowhere near close to my husband) and move on with your life. 

Expect good things to happen and keep your chin up during trying times.  Focus on the big picture, focus your eyes on Jesus, pray hard, and think positive.

3.  They Avoid Social Comparison

I love this!  Ladies, this means sometimes we might need to take a hiatus from Pinterest, Facebook, or Insta (as my kids call it), if we can’t stop the overwhelming feelings of “craft” inadequacy, or “travel” envy, or whatever your issue is…

Remember, MOST people only post their awesome stuff (or occasionally) the really bad stuff going on in their life.  All you get is  a snippet of their top 10%.  The rest of their life is lived in the 80% of normalcy.  Don’t compare your normal to their awesome.  It’s not apples to apples.  Also, I read some statistic recently, that said people lie all the time on social media. Don’t fall for the lie and don’t lie to look better.

Just be You!

4.  They Practice Random Acts of Kindness 

Helping people always makes you feel better.  One great way is to pay for the person’s drink behind you in line at Starbucks! 

5.  They Nurture Relationships

Happy people have friends.  Find a buddy.

6.  They Develop Healthy Coping Strategies

It helps to have healthy ways to deal with stress in your arsenal, before you lose it at Happy Hour and turn into Sloppy Sue. I made a Coping List a long time ago when I was a single mom (a word that says it all). 

Some of my “go to” ways of dealing with stress are: Taking a walk, hitting the gym, praying, pouring it all out into a journal, calling a girlfriend, reading, watching Little Bear with my toddler, drinking a cup of hot tea, and (now that I’m married) asking my husband to tell me ten times in ten different ways why he loves me.

7.  They Forgive

Holding onto anger and unforgiveness only hurts you.

8.  They Live “In the moment”

Put your phone down.  Interact fully with people.  Give your conversation or task all your attention. Be present.

9.  They Savor Special Moments

Now that you are focused on the moment, try not to hurry or rush through them.  Take mental snapshots of special moments and let yourself FEEL joy.

10.  They Commit to Goals

What do you want to do?  What’s stopping you?  Find a way to work towards what brings you joy.  For me, it’s writing, serving my family and glorifying God.  If I can do one or all of those things each day, it’s a pretty good day.

What makes you happy?

Work, Mommy Guilt, and Box of Macaroni

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I’ve been accused of dropping off the planet the last few weeks.

My blog has been neglected, my home a train-wreck (until my lovely housekeeper paid a visit yesterday) and my husband and I have passed like ships in the night.  Grandpa paid a visit to help me contain the chaos, but until I finish my project, the turmoil seems inevitable.

So, what detracts me?  What takes me away from reality?

I’m ghost-writing a book and my deadline is Oct. 1st.

No pressure for a mom of three smack dab in football and soccer season, ministry kick-offs and oh, another two jobs.

So, I came up with a scheme (and probably the only way I could finish the book on time) which was to pack my bags and head for the hills -or La Quinta, in this case, to my parent’s giant home in the desert.  I could get away for a few days, write like a fiend and finish the book.

I also thought I might rest a bit and refill my bucket.

But it didn’t work out the way I’d hoped.

Stinking Mommy Guilt interfered.

Oh, she is a nasty thing.  The morning I left, the “Berenstain Bears,” one of Kolby’s favorite shows was on and featured Mother Bear getting a job and not being there for her family.  Father Bear and Brother and Sister were left to flounder and fend for themselves in the wake of Mother’s ambitious dreams.

Kolby looked up at me with big eyes,  “You’ll never leave me, right Mama?”

“Uhhh, oh, ummm.  I love you.” (As my bag is packed and in the car)

Seriously PBS?  Is it a conspiracy?  I thought you were a pro-woman liberal show and now you make me feel like poop!

As soon as I arrived in La Quinta, I put on my pajamas.  These are the same pajamas I lived in for two and a half days.

After a few hours of work, I called home at bedtime and Kolby bawled in my ear.  “I want you to come home now Mama.” My big kids groaned…”We miss you, Mom, please hurry up and come home.”

And Mommy Guilt washed over me in waves of fury.

All I wanted to do was make the wails of my children go away as fast as possible.

So, instead of working and taking leisurely breaks to swim or leave the house and eat or shop, I holed in like a burrowing groundhog and worked twenty hour a day.  In my pajamas.

I took a few breaks to replenish my coffee cup, eat a few old crackers and demolish a box of macaroni.

I didn’t walk outside, watch TV, read, eat much or EVER relax.  Stupid Mommy Guilt turned me into a stark raving mad woman possessed by the desire to get home fast at all costs.

I was like Benji separated from his family and the mountain in between me and my babies and hubs was a pile of words.

I could taste home and it was all I wanted.

I drove home Tuesday evening and finally relaxed, reveling in the arms of my kids and husband. (And maybe crying over the state of my house)

And then one of my neighbor friends -a lovely mommy with three little ones said to me, “I hear you went out-of-town to write a book.  I’m jealous.  I want to write books too.  I want to go away by myself.”

And I shook my head and laughed.

Without a partner in crime, with no margaritas or a pool to lounge by with a friend, with ALL work and looming deadlines…getting away is highly OVER-RATED.

Work and vacation aren’t good friends.

And MOMMY GUILT is a horrible companion!

 

 

What Your Marriage Really Needs

love is

There have been few days in my life so impactful they are singed into my memory as “best days ever.”

The birth of my kids, the day my ex-husband walked, the day I ran down the aisle into the arms of Tim Keller…

Ravishing love, unbearable sorrow, joy beyond imagination – I recall every detail swirled with emotion.

This last weekend I added a new “best day ever” to my mental picture book.

Tim and I attended Relationship BootCamp and it rocked my world.

I’ve always thought marriage was hard work and I just needed to buck up and put in the effort. 

I tell myself, “Don’t give up.  Try harder.  Ok, that didn’t work…Sam, try EVEN harder!”

(After one failed marriage, I have NO intention of a repeat performance)

But is working harder at doing the same thing over and over anything more than a spinning hamster wheel of frustration? Certainly, relationship takes effort, and yet my soul groans for something more –understanding, compassion and a deeper connection.

Why are relationships so difficult?  Why do I struggle (at times) with the man of my dreams?

Why, why, why Jesus?  Why don’t Christians have awesome marriages?  Aren’t we supposed to be getting this right?

I believe I have a good marriage, but in the back of my mind I long and thirst for a glimpse of heaven.  And I feel guilty for wanting more.  I hate the repeated arguments about the same dumb thing.  I hate the communication gap.  I despise the feeling that we are so close to getting this right –and yet a million miles away all at the same time.

I discovered a lot from Relationship BootCamp.

Most of all, I recognized I desperately need healing from past wounds (that I drag into my marriage!) and a huge dose of forgiveness if I want EPIC instead of just ok. 

Surprise, surprise…relationship issues are not about dealing with the difficult people in our life.

Relationship issues are about dealing with the face in the mirror.

I saw five couples this weekend either seperated or with divorce papers signed who turned it around and recommitted.  I saw miracles happen.

I also saw my husband have epiphany after epiphany, right along WITH me. 

I ahhed and oohed too many times to count and I cried desperate tears as I saw my husband in a new light. 

And in the dark recesses of my heart, a glorious unlocking began and HOPE kicked out the despair I didn’t even know I stuffed in there.

I ALMOST NEVER recommend you buy or do anything on this blog, but if you want the relationship you’ve always dreamed about, I highly recommend you consider signing up for a BootCamp!

You’ll probably run into me volunteering and I’ll hug you through the hard parts! 

I believe our country is going through a marriage and relationship crisis.

And I want to be a part of the R3Volution! 

Click Here to find out more and Register!

Sexual Matters

There is something sacred about stumbling upon an older couple sneaking kisses or holding hands.  In our counter-cultural age of fast-food relationships over before the kids have reached kindergarten, seasoned love is a treat to behold.

I don’t know about you, but I crave this “old people in the park holding hands kind of love.”  I want my husband to desire me at 41, 51, 61 and 91 (Lord willing we attain this age).

But sex is such a tough issue to broach in the church.  We clam up, get awkward and pretend that good Christians don’t really need it.

(As if God didn’t create us to be sexual beings)

We forget that sex is a crucial factor in romance and it is the glue that keeps a marriage chugging on and on over the years.

It is also the one vital factor which separates friendship from love.

Sex matters in a marriage!

Sex helps you feel more connected to your partner, it makes you feel cared for and comforted, and, hello ladies, it’s fun, remember?

My friend reminded me of a comment I made to her years ago.

Sex is like working out.  It’s a pain in the ass to schlep all your gear to the gym and to drag your butt on to the treadmill or into the Zumba class, but once you get there and get warmed up you remember how much you actually like it and then you relax and enjoy the ride (no pun intended).

Yep. Sex is like working out.  And we all know the benefits of a regular workout routine.

The problem is (with both sex and exercise) we make excuses to not be active.  Because, let’s be honest, it’s far easier to be lazy and pretend to be asleep when our husbands make a move toward us.

Life certainly invades…

Through the years, we all change both physically and emotionally, and the days become chaotic with family and sports and demanding work schedules. But, even with the inevitable curve balls we will all encounter in and outside of our relationships, it is possible to keep the sparks flying (or at least smoldering!)

Many couples erroneously believe that the natural attraction and sexual desire they enjoyed during the honeymoon of their relationship will seamlessly carry over, without any effort, throughout their marriage.

Sorry folks…this is a lie.

Romance, desire and sex, will cease to exist unless it is both honored and nurtured by both parties in a couple.  

As neuroscientific research has proven, during the first six to eighteen months of a new relationship, our brain excretes a variety of neurochemicals, which helps to accelerate our biological mating dance.  Our brains are flooded with serotonin and dopamine, which keeps passion ignited, with very little effort on our part.

Then, as mysteriously as these mating neurochemicals arrive, they depart. And when this happens, usually within eighteen months of the start of a relationship, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and work a little harder when it comes to our sex life.

So if sex is a priority, (which it should be!) then we need to make it important and red flag it on the calendar for the one we love.

Maybe it means taping a favorite show or going to bed earlier or putting the kids in their own room…

According to Rachel Sussman –author of the Breakup Bible, you can keep passion alive and thriving through regular and productive (no blaming, shaming, or complaining, please) communication with your partner about sex.

Be sure to discuss the following:

  • Make a commitment to make sex a priority!
  • Take the time to discuss what sex means to each of you.  To my husband sex=love.  To me it equals affection.  His need might be a little more pressing than mine.
  • If you lead a busy life (and who doesn’t) it’s perfectly OK to put sex dates on the calendar. Don’t worry that scheduling may become “formulaic” –looking forward to sex is a treat for a guy.  And ladies, if you put it on the calendar…do not change the playdate without a conversation and a reschedule. (It’s like telling your kid you are going to Disneyland and canceling because you  have a headache.  Be kind to your man!)
  • Shake it up.  Try something new.  I’ll leave it at that!
  • Worried that you won’t be “in the mood”? Allow yourself a “transitional time”. If sex is in the calendar tonight (or if you’d like it to be) – prepare yourself earlier in the day. Send your spouse a flirty text. Take a bubble bath, grab a glass of wine and allow the days stressors to slide off. Light a few candles, grab your iPod and set the mood.

Have fun, enjoy the love of your life, and make your marriage a priority!

Will Your Kid Leave the Church?

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It’s been a hot topic lately –“why kids are leaving the church.”  Over and over it seems church pundits want to blame old pastors wearing skinny jeans as the culprit.  Apparently, the sight of a forty year old with a goatee and paste on jeans makes our youth want to barf and disassociate from the gospel.

They say the church isn’t authentic enough… “Relevant” yes, but lacking meat and potatoes. They say it’s a McDonaldized version of the world with a happy meal Jesus.  The church entertains but fails to teach.  The atheists come at youth with science; the church comes at kids with rules.  The church is judgmental to their gay friends and we focus too much on sex and marriage and “looking good” vs. being good.

This anti-church message propagated on the radio by the rapper Macklemore, whom my kids love, claims the church paraphrases verses out of a 3500 year old book to shame and browbeat those outside the religious parameters.

And our kids are listening. They hear celebrities and artists who lift up and associate Jesus with everything BUT the church.

And it makes me sad, because this hasn’t been my experience with ministry.

(If you go to one of these terrible places that treat its youth with disdain, then leave.)

My experience with the church and youth ministry has simply been befuddlement.  Why are so many kids leaving the church and not coming back?  We try so hard and yet we are losing them?  What is the secret sauce to draw them back?

While I believe some of the millennial critiques hold credence in a sad and awkward way, I’m not buying the laundry list of nitpicky justifications young people use to reject the church as the real and underlying reason. 

All of the millennial criticism I hear boils down to one thing.  (And I don’t need a top ten list to tell you with neat little bulleted points)

So why kids are kids leaving the church?

I believe it’s a lack of love.

Remember Jesus?  He’s the guy who ate with sinners and gangsters, hookers, pimps and hoes.  Jesus is the man who loved the sexually immoral (pretty sure this includes gays too), turned over tables and healed the seriously messed up.

The church in its efforts to gain the youth and save the “lost generation” have forgotten the main thing.

Love

We focus on new buildings, more awesome bands, food trucks and large crowds.  We think we need just one more thing to get them to come back, but when we do this we get lost and caught up in the swirly whirly distraction of the world.

I know great parents who have sent their kids to the mega awesome Church to be DAZZLED and instead their kids come home with a drug addiction from dealers in the church parking lot.

Just because a church attracts a big crowd doesn’t mean Jesus is moving in the lives of our kids.  The draw at these BIG TEEN EVENTS might be good drugs, hot chicks and free food.  Last time I checked, I can send my teen to a rave for a $10 fee.  I certainly don’t need my tithe money to cover it.

What about love?  What about people who care about our kids?  What about parents engaging with their kids and serving side by side with them and using less words and more action? 

We can’t just tell our kids to be good; we need to be honest about our own brokenness and the healing power of Christ. 

We need to be let down our perfectly pinned up church hair and remember our struggles with temptation as teenagers.  We need to let them know we went down some dark roads too and that God’s love is relentless in its pursuit. 

I didn’t make it through high school with my innocence intact and quite honestly; my brokenness is what leads me to Christ. 

The kid that tries drugs or pre-marital sex or even walking away from Christ with unanswered questions may actually be closer to God than the devoted and quiet student who shows up every week to Sunday School and serves in Children’s Ministry.

Who are we to judge the state of a man’s heart?

I hold on to the verse, ”Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Why do we gloss over the “when he is old” part?  There is a gap in between the youth and old.  Maybe the gap includes living and loving, hurting, questioning, and finally returning to the arms of the father.

Why do we punish our kids for the gap years?  Why do we focus on the prodigal son and forget that God gave us two stories –one of a kid who followed the rules and one who ran away –and yet both were loved.

We need to allow our kids to question the mystery and bigness of God and we need to stop acting like we have all the answers. (Read the book of Job again if you think you know it all)

The appeal of Jesus to anyone – a millennial, a young family, a divorced woman, or an old codger is love.  We are to love God and love one another.  We aren’t instructed to put on a show and work our ministers to death so they are so exhausted and grumpy and so un-loving that our kids see just another man (or woman) in a monkey suit (insert skinny jeans) working for achievement.   

When a pastor or a CHRISTIAN doesn’t have time for a hurting kid, we missed an important step along the way.

My son met a kid at the Spectrum (about 15 years old) who passionately spoke his mind about Jesus and God and love. After that night, my kid has looked at his relationship with Christ a little differently.  He prays more.  I find his Bible (gasp) open in the morning next to his bed. 

This is a kid who also has a chip on his shoulder about the church.  My son is a pastor’s kid and survived a church plant.  And while some kids make it through puberty thinking the church is AMAZING, my son has seen some of the darker sides of ministry. 

And yet he is still drawn to Jesus.  When he saw another kid s passion and love for the Lord, it made an impact.

Love burst forth from this kid and mountains moved.

We need to teach our kids that we can’t judge Jesus by the church.  Jesus loves the church and died for the church, but we are a broken lot who mess and muddle up love on a regular basis.  We need Jesus to forgive us for misrepresenting him.  And we need to ask our kids to forgive us for giving them a half version of the gospel.

Jesus is to be our model of love.  The church is the place we try to work it out in community.  Do our kids understand this?

I don’ think kid’s care so much about “cool church” as we think…

My middle daughter is wooed to Jesus through the relationships in her life. I have been consistently overwhelmed at the women surrounding her (female youth pastor, worship leader, and BEAUTIFUL neighbors) who are pouring into her heart and showing her what love and God look like on a daily basis.  She is encouraged to serve alongside them, care for their children, worship God with all her heart and model their love in action.

She could care less if they are cool.  She cares that they love her and they love God.

I remember the same thing in college.  I heard a young pastor explain Jesus in a simple way.  He was bursting with fire and exuberance.  And I was drawn to the person of Jesus Christ.  I couldn’t help but connect with authentic love, relevant sacrifice and a purpose to seek and save the lost, the broken and the disenfranchised of the world.

It’s about love –not REASONS why the church is blowing it.  Those are just distractions.

When I hear someone go on and on about what moves them, I can’t help but get excited.  It’s why we sob at weddings and act like idiots at football games. 

We engage in a story that’s bigger than ourselves and we remember what it feels like to be alive.

And we fall in love all over again. 

I don’t think our kids are leaving because we (the church) haven’t tried.  We have tried until we are blue in the face.  I just think we have forgotten the main thing.

We think kids want skate parks and nifty bracelets, Chick Fillet and hip lounge chairs.

Really?  I think a crappy old sofa with a caring young adult eating PB& J’s would suffice.

When we allow Jesus to not only transform us but to move within us, love becomes the fabric of our being.

And it changes lives.

I believe the biggest obstacle to our kids not finding Jesus is not the failure of the church…I know the church has tried, it’s a failure to remember what drew us to God in the first place.

What do you think? 

For further reading: Why Millennials Need the Church

Photo Source: http://www.csulb.edu/divisions/students2/intouch/archives/2007-08/vol16_no1/01.htm

Is Purity Even Relevant Today?

There are many reasons to wait for sex –good reasons, lame reasons, and even churchy reasons.   But there aren’t many compelling reasons to actually deter most of us from the dirty deed. 

Sex feels good and life is hard enough, so goshdangdarnit, what kind of overbearing big brother meanie wants to take away all our fun any-who?

I never had to deal with all the Christian angst of dating the first time around.  I was just a big old sinner.  After a solid year in a sorority much of my anxiety swirling around sex dissipated.  I determined I was a decent person “morally,” compared to the other slutty coeds, because I reserved sex solely for relationships (which might have included friends with benefits too).

I picked up my ex-husband in a bar when I was twenty-one.  Three and a half years later we married and sometime in between meeting him and saying “I do,” I fell in love again and brought another guy into the relationship.

It was Jesus.

About a year into the whole Christian dealio, I tried to get on board with the fire and brimstone “purity” message I heard preached at my church –apparently to scare all the singles into behavior modification.  So I tentatively asked my (then) fiancé if we could cease having sex and wait until we were married to resume our intimacy. 

He vehemently said “no,” Ummmm.  Ok.

Ten years later when my ex-husband departed into the arms of another woman and left me with two small children I finally got my chance to try dating as a Christian.

But I don’t know if I was in any way more prepared despite the Christian sticker on my bumper.

Yes…I had given my heart and soul to Jesus.  I knew all the Bible verses, taught women’s Bible studies and was even enrolled in seminary.  And yet I still slipped up in the sex area.

I wanted to honor God.  I earnestly tried HARD in my dating relationships to avoid sex.  And it worked –once.  I was in one relationship where we were both committed to purity and didn’t compromise (and then I found out he was still “technically” married and that ended fast).  But the other five relationships, during my time as a single Christian woman were a little murkier.  We might not have had intercourse, but then again President Clinton redefined modern sex anyway, right?

When I met Tim Keller, now my darling hubby, I was living in this wishy-washy land of sexual compromise.  I wanted to be pure but I’m not sure I believed it was even possible.  I didn’t meet many men, even supposed good Christian men, who actually walked the talk. 

Pastor Tim Keller was an anomaly –an attractive single straight man of thirty-six years who didn’t grab my boobs on the second date.  And even though he wasn’t wealthy from a worldly perspective, usually a non-negotiable in my materialistic heart, he was hot, clearly loved Jesus and had CHARACTER (something lacking in most of the men I dated).

When Tim asked me to be his girlfriend, about five weeks after we started dating, he slipped a purity ring on my finger and fell to one knee.  He implored me, “to wait for him, to wait for God to bless our relationship, and to give “us” a chance to build true intimacy without sex complicating things.”

It sounded like a lot of waiting and I’m not that patient.

And so I freaked out (internally of course) and smiled and cried tears of sheer terror, thinking “How in the heck am I going to remain sexually pure when this man is so yummy?”

Tim also told me he had a zero tolerance policy for error.  If we messed this up: (A) he would not marry me, and (B) he would resign from the church for moral failure.

Now I didn’t want the poor man to lose his job, but dangling the condition of “sex=no wedding” really sealed the deal.   I was head over heels in love with Tim by then and I wanted to marry this man so bad I would wear a habit and chastity belt with a big lock impervious to his washboard abs if I had to.

But something drastic happened to me during our fifteen month courtship.  Something so radical it rocked me to the core.

First, I became aware of how often I pushed to be physical because I needed reassurance that Tim cared for me and was committed to the relationship.  I saw how I used my sexuality to manipulate, to hold power over and to get the attention I desperately craved.

Without sex I had to learn how to ask for what I needed.  I was able to see how Tim treated me even when I didn’t meet all his physical needs, what it meant to work out our problems with no “make-up sex” to gloss over the deeper issues, and I had to learn how to compromise –because I couldn’t hold out on the booty to get what I wanted.

Poor Tim!  I tempted him in the beginning.  I was so bad.  I wore a pink string bikini to a singles ski retreat we both attended and had the audacity to rock it at the hot tub –heathen temptress that I am.  But he held fast, kept his hands to himself and didn’t get out of the Jacuzzi for a very long time.

And slowly I realized by his not being physical, he was actually showing me he loved me.

Real love.  Not SEX/LOVE…the kind of love that holds your hand when you are losing the fight to cancer.   It’s love that sees beauty under the wrinkles and bald spots. It’s love that protects and heals and cherishes.  It’s the sort of love that doesn’t leave when it gets tough and its old people in the park holding hands kind of love.

And Tim was telling me by his behavior I was worth waiting for.  With every smile he told me I was a beautiful treasure and he would not steal from me until it was time to enjoy this gift from God –within a committed marriage relationship.

And somewhere along the way I started to buy into it.  (Not so easy when you have abandonment issues) And I saw, really saw, for the first time in my life the way God sees me.

Valuable.  Treasured.  Worth dying for.

And I believed it –because someone showed me a glimpse of the divine.

Purity isn’t just about being a good Christian and playing by the rules.  It’s about treating another human being with dignity and respect, even when they don’t deserve it.

Purity restored me. 

I am a different person because of my husband. Tim Keller walked the talk. 

And maybe God tells us to wait for sex not because he’s mean, but because he loves us more than we love ourselves.

Sounds like a compelling reason to me.

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