Remember the Past

1077990_memoriesThis past weekend, Jeremiah broke out some of his old CD’s he had stashed away. He played a CD that impacted him a lot during some really hard times growing up. He got so excited about it and shared with me a story related to that song. The crazy thing was that some of the same songs he loved, I loved too. Yet we were in two different places. I was in North Carolina and he was in Michigan and we knew nothing about each other.

Listening to the words of those songs brought back so many memories for me. It reminded me of where I’ve come from and where I am today. I was encouraged and actually strengthened by the lyrics just like I was several years ago. I was reminded of some of my frustrations, struggles, dreams, and even that longing to find “the one” some day. I think that’s what I always thought about in college at least.

Remembering the past really is critical for today. In marriage, it’s easy to just live life and forget your history together. To just be comfortable. To lose that spark. And sometimes not “feel” in love. But marriage must be based on truth and not on temporary feelings. After listening to Jeremiah’s CDs, I looked at some of our honeymoon photos and journal entries and reflected back to when we were dating. It made me excited and encouraged by all that we’ve gone through together and to see where we are today.

I’m starting to realize even more that in my relationship to Christ, it’s so important to remember the past to be encouraged today. Walking by faith with someone you’ve never seen can get hard. The fire that was once kindled so brightly can quickly burn out. Mediocrity can creep in. And it’s easy to forget God’s work and to quit on getting to know Him in his word. It’s easy to not let others into your world. All of the latter is something that I fear so much that I’m trying to do everything I can to “stay at it” and to persevere in my faith. But I think I make it much harder than it needs to be. I want my faith in Christ to be more of a delight in a person, and not a mere Christian duty.

Continuing to reflect on the past every once in a while in my marriage and relationship to Christ will hopefully carry me all the way through to finish strong… with few regrets.

Authentic Thoughts

994404_love_letterI’m writing an article for an e-zine that’s due at the end of the month on being authentic so I’ve been trying to gather some thoughts on this topic. It’s actually a topic I’m extremely passionate about, but I still have a lot to learn in what it means to be authentic myself. I’m a little nervous typing very slowly to even flesh it out in this post.

I think for quite a while the church has been a place where far too many people have been afraid to expose their weaknesses, struggles, and sins for fear of embarrassment, criticism, and all out rejection from other believers. Simply because… they’ve experienced it and they want nothing to do with it (I don’t blame them). So the result has been that we continue to live our lives in isolation. We become our own island, thinking this is the best way to keep from being wounded and hurt. So we never get past those struggles. We don’t give ourselves fully to other people and we’re never truly known by anyone.

I think in the past years however that we’re seeing a tiny shift away from this where more people are embracing “authentic community” and are learning to live lives “bare naked” in front of each other where sins are confessed, prayer is genuinely happening, and healing and restoration is taking place (James 5:16). So that ultimately, God is glorified in their lives.

It’s because of the healing that God wants to give us that we’re called to live authentically. I’ve experienced this in my community group at Watermark that consists of young married couples. We’ve been doing life together for over two years now. One day I was challenged and approached by Julia who saw something in my attitude towards my husband. My behavior was wrong and she let me know about it in love. I however, thought I could hide it. It hurt so bad to hear (I had a lot of pride) but it was exactly what I needed. Her authenticity with me helped cover a multitude of other problems.

Through a process, I’m learning that I’ll never become the person God wants me to be by hiding behind my struggles and not bringing them to light. I’ll never know just how “bad” my sin is when it’s not confessed, owned up to and measured with God’s standard. I’ll never be able to move forward or be victorious without acknowledging it and asking for help and accountability from other people.

Well… these are my thoughts for now at least.

How has living in authentic community with others brought freedom in your relationship with Christ and with others?

What do you wish the church understood about the struggles people have? Do you think the church has really missed the mark when it comes to embracing people where they’re at?

Love Your Choice

501144_dreamLately, I’ve been especially grateful to the man God gave me to be my husband. I just absolutely love doing life with him. Over the years, I appreciate him more and my respect and love for him grows deeper. This isn’t at all to say that our marriage is perfect. It isn’t to say that we don’t have our arguments, disagreements, frustrations, annoyances, and times where we’re just not on the same page and want to go crazy. But this is to say that since the day we began dating, we’ve really strived to put God at the center of our relationship. And I can say confidently today that He is at the center.

Honestly, I don’t know any other way to do marriage. I don’t know any other way to have a successful marriage. In the months before our wedding day, I had to realize that Jeremiah would never complete me. Only God could fill the deepest parts of my heart. I had to understand that marriage was going to be hard work. But I didn’t know the degree of hard work until I experienced it. Melding two imperfect sinners under the same roof for life just isn’t easy because sin is messy and in marriage you see it magnified all the more.

At Bluefish, we recently interviewed NFL football player Kurt Warner and his wife Brenda for our upcoming marriage series. I couldn’t believe that no matter how successful, talented, and famous Kurt is, he shared candidly how he still has to work through hardships and struggles in his relationship to Brenda. They both still have to work through unmet expectations, trust issues, and communication. It’s just not this magical relationship because of who he is. He has to work at keeping Christ in the center. It was also neat to hear them say that football is never even mentioned inside the walls of their home.

It’s been encouraging to hear stories like these and stories of friends who are striving towards a godly marriage. They’re aiming to love unconditionally, sacrificially, and selflessly- regardless of how hard it is. I saw a sign yesterday that had something to do with marriage that read, Choose your love, love your choice.

I love that. It reminded me of being committed for a lifetime. To keep loving your choice- in sickness, health, good times, bad times, when you don’t “feel” like it… There should never be another option.

I’m really thankful for the gift of marriage and I’m determined to keep working at it as I work on my own issues first.

Happy Nine Months, John Samuel

IMG_9639I was sitting on a comfy chair outside Starbucks on Monday evening for a meeting Jeremiah and I had. John was with me sitting on my lap. And there was a young man in his 30s sitting across from us plugged in to his ipod. He kept staring down. I kept looking at him wondering how he could keep from looking at the adorable baby looking at him. I kept waiting for him to look up.

“Oh no!” I yelled. John had spit up. And it went on him and then all over my jeans (this is a regular occurance). The guy was still looking down but he was chuckling under his breath. He had to have seen it.

A few minutes passed and then all the sudden, the guy decides to look up. He smiles. And starts waving hello to John. John is smiling and cooing at him. Then the man says goodbye and walks away.

Well I can’t believe the baby we brought home from Baylor Hospital 9 months ago is now interacting with people at Starbucks, crawling at full speed, making “ma-ma” and “da-da” sounds, opening up drawers, and cutting two bottom teeth.

It’s so hard to believe how fast time goes by when you have a baby. As a mom now, I can’t imagine life without John. I love holding him, playing with him, laughing with him, singing to him, reading to him, and kissing his cheeks all over. Every day I just want to eat him up.

Even in the hard times of motherhood like tantrums, fussiness, sleepless nights, difficulties eating out, not getting my to-do list done… It’s all worth it. Because nothing compares to giving of yourself to your child.

And I am so thankful God has given John to us as his gift to steward well and to love well.

Happy Nine Months John. Your Mommy and Daddy love you and you are loved by God, with an Everlasting Love.

Give me Prudence

1199870_old_style_doryJeremiah and I are facing some pretty important decisions that could impact us financially, relationally, spiritually, and our overall sanity. We were encouraged this morning to hear a leadership podcast from Andy Stanley on decisions and being men and women who are prudent.

We were reflecting on the last three years of marriage and the choices we’ve made that have gotten us where we are today. Some good and some bad. Now, we’ve reached a point where we see potential dangers.  These “dangers” might not necessarily be what you’d think as serious but in the long run, they could very well be. They have to do with allowing margin into our life, making wise financial decisions, putting family time as priority, and choosing to deal with some of our hurts, habits, and hangups that could eventually snowball in the future.

Andy makes the point that many people say, “Oh yeah I need to do that or I should do that.” But when it comes to action, stepping out of the boat never happens. So 10 years later, they can’t believe how they got to where they are. This could involve not getting into God’s word, an unhealthy relationship, a negative habit/pattern, an affair, addiction, our health and well being, entertaining sinful thoughts. The list goes on.

Well, back to this word PRUDENCE. Proverbs, the book in the Bible drenched with wisdom and brutal honesty, says: A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it (Prov. 22:3). Prudence is exercising sound judgment in practical affairs. It’s the ability to have wisdom looking into the future so you can make a good choice for today. It can also involve caution and not taking too huge of a risk. I love the word refuge– it’s an umbrella of protection. Someone, however, who is “simple” and makes rash decisions without counting the cost, could end up in a bed of suffering without even realizing it. And the consequences could be overwhelming. That’s why God has given us prudence to protect us and because he loves us.

I really want to become a woman who’s prudent. Sometimes it’s so difficult when I’m in the midst of a situation to see the future implications.  I often wait for a sign or prodding from God, which could definitely happen, but more often that not God gives me principles to help me make a wise decision. And it’s often that I forget that wisdom is in my pocket, waiting for me to dig her out.

Well, hopefully by the end of this week we’ll be able to say that we counted the cost and will have made a choice we won’t regret!

Marriage Interview w/ Dave Ramsey

Brian & Phil with Dave Ramsey

Brian & Phil with Dave Ramsey

This morning, I walked into my office and to my surprise the book The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey was on my desk. I giggled under my breath because my boss Brian and our VP of Video Production Phil were just in Nashville last week to interview Dave Ramsey himself.

I opened the flap and there it was. Dave’s signature in black ink that said To: Samantha. Romans 12:2: “Transforms!”

For a Monday morning just barely awake, this was the best gift ever. Dave had given Brian and Phil some books to bring back. Brian knew how much I loved Dave and the impact he’s had on me and Jeremiah with finances. Through Financial Peace University, Dave’s helped bring us into the light in understanding money and making wise decisions. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ve seen parts of our journey in beating debt. (also more posts under the Finance category).

Dave’s interview will be featured in a DVD series we’re creating at Bluefish called Marriage: Built to Last. Dave’s story along with Kurt Warner and Josh Hamilton are the high profile interviews a part of the series. Chip Ingram is going to do the biblical teaching in the series and we’ve shot around 20 real-life marriage stories. Maybe I’m biased, but I think this series is going to be one of the best marriage resources out there and I think you should get it whether you’re married or not!

I can’t wait to see the rough cut of Dave’s interview and to dive into this book.

Finances, Debt, & Freedom

piggy20bank1It’s been far too long since I’ve posted on finances. Can you tell the very word makes me nervous? Maybe it does for you too especially in our economy’s present condition. Well the good thing is that for us, right now, things are going really well.

Jeremiah and I are down to $1,000 left on his school loan and around $10,000 towards our car. A year and a half ago, we were about 30-40K in debt. Now, we’re $11,000! Jeremiah has mentioned how simple it would be to pay the whole car off in a matter of months but with the season of life we’re in (with him in school, internship, ministry, etc.), it’s best to wait and chisel away at the debt as we can.

We would not be where we are without the help of Dave Ramsey and my Mom spurring us to take his 12 week class- Financial Peace University. Finances is just one of those things, like sex, that not too many people discuss and many families don’t talk about growing up. So the result: ignorance. And it’s bliss. I’ve been there.

I’ll never forget a few months ago when our community group at church sat down and we went through each couple’s budget- every detail from car maintenance to cosmetic allowances. I hadn’t done that with anyone, ever in my life. But something about it was so freeing. There was accountability there and we knew we had each other’s best interest in mind. Our goal was to steward whatever resources God had given us the best we knew how.

Even now, I admit the struggle to constantly be aware of what I’m spending. What I’m saving, etc. It’s not easy or always black and white to know what God would do in this or that situation. But I do know for sure, that plummeting away at this debt is bringing him glory. It’s getting us farther away from bondage and closer to freedom.

We can’t wait for the day to call Dave Ramsey’s radio show to say, “WE’RE DEBT FREE!”

A Father- the Family Shepherd

1123144_walk_on_pierI’ve heard it said that a father is the family shepherd of the home. I just love that title. By God’s divine order, the father is head of the house. His role is to tenderly lead and guide his family like a shepherd would for his sheep.

The great truth however, is that a family shepherd isn’t perfect. He’s an imperfect man who follows a perfect God. He isn’t afraid to confess his sins or when he’s screwed up because his ultimate goal and desire is to love and fear God. His ambition is to genuinely live out his faith in front of his wife and children.

When I first got married, my husband asked me one day, “How’s your heart?” Those words really caught me off guard—I’d never been asked that before or at least asked in that way. But knowing that my husband cared about my heart meant the world to me. Three years later, he’s mentioned his desire to make sure our newborn son John, will know in the future that he can bring his whole heart before his father. And that John will have that security knowing it will be protected.

Proverbs 20:5 says, The purpose of a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out (ESV).

It’s the business of a father to draw out from his wife and children the deeper matters of the heart. While this takes time and some humility, his role is to draw this out so there will be healing, love, respect and harmony among his family.

If you’re a Daddy on this Father’s Day, remember that you are the family shepherd and what an awesome role that is!

Thanks for all you do and Happy Father’s Day!

My “Straight A” Husband

dts-754138So today calls for me to brag on my husband a bit.

A little over two years ago, we moved to Dallas for Jeremiah to attend Dallas Theological Seminary to further his study in God’s word and to better prepare him for full-time ministry. This past semester, I worked part-time at Bluefish (still do) and put him through school so he could focus on his studies, internship at our church Watermark, and our apartment ministry without wanting to pull his teeth out.

I’m really proud to say that Jeremiah just got his grades back and he got 2 A+ and 2 A’s! So, straight A’s! All semester, he worked so hard in his reading, studying for tests, and writing papers while simultaneously propping up a bottle for John or studying with him on his lap.  DTS isn’t an easy school and it’s one of the best seminaries in the world. Some of our favorites have come out of there like Andy Stanley, Tommy Nelson, David Jeremiah, Tony Evans, and Dennis Rainey.

Jeremiah wasn’t concerned on getting the best grades necessarily but on learning the content. We’re still unsure of what God has for us ministry-wise in the future, but for now we’re trying to live in the present. We don’t really know what the upcoming semesters will look like work-wise and time wise, but we’re thankful for God getting us through this far.

[Photo: Campus of DTS]

Finding Love in my Son

IMG_9289Last night, for the first time, John Samuel fell asleep on my chest. Typically, I nurse him before his bedtime and he falls asleep that way. But last night was so special. I rocked him while he was still awake, sucking on his green soothie. His big brown eyes just stared into mine. It was a moment for just the two of us- Mommy and son. He was calm and so content. Then eventually, his eyes just closed.

My eyes welled up with tears because of the joy that lie in my arms. And to think that God loves us the way a mother and father loves their own child. The love is so deep and profound that it’s difficult to handle.

God is our Abba father who tenderly guides and protects us in his arms. His love is so wide and so rich. I am just now starting to get a glimpse of that love through my son. I truly can’t imagine life without him and I’m so thankful for the gift of motherhood and how it reminds me so much of Christ’s love.

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