Marriage: why it’s hard work

Recently, Jeremiah and I have been going through 1 Peter together before bed. After I turned out the light last night, I asked him in frustration:

“Honey, why does marriage have to be such hard work?”

This question was birthed out of the petty arguments we had that morning on the way to church (an argument I started). He thought about it for a minute.

“Because I’m screwed up. And you’re screwed up.”

I laughed and couldn’t agree more.

“Do you think anyone has a marriage that isn’t hard?” I asked, really really wanting to know.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Dead people.”

Well… next Thursday will be our four year anniversary (we’re so excited) and this is the year I think I’ve figured out why marriage is hard work. More than ever, I’ve realized that I’m broken, sinful, and selfish. I don’t always love God and if you had the supernatural ability to open the blinds to my house from the outside in, you wouldn’t always see a pretty woman.

You wouldn’t always see someone who’s allowing the Spirit to control my life, but it’s what I desire.

The Apostle Paul said that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:22-23)

God has given me everything I need for life and godliness and his Spirit is in me to empower me to love my husband and to love those closest to me. I am thankful that God is patient with me. He knows I’m in a process of sanctification. He’s come to set me free from my sin and brokenness- to embrace the gift of marriage as part of his will to conform me into his image.

He’s given me my best friend, lover, soul-mate and the only person in this world I want to be with as a gift to steward, love, respect, and serve well.

Marriage is really hard work because of me.

Sinful. Fallen. Human. But through Christ’s strength and empowerment, my marriage can be beautiful. It has been. It is. And it will be.

And I don’t have to wait until I’m dead for it to be that way either. And that is so encouraging.

So what about you… do you think anyone has a marriage that isn’t hard work?

To Twitter, or Not to Twitter?

That is my question for today friends.

I know, I know. I’m probably the last person that’s not joined Twitter. Or maybe not. (I still know quite a few people who haven’t!)

But, for the past few months, I’ve been thinking about taking the plunge to share tweets about my blog posts, where I’ve written new articles, what’s going on at Rightnow and Bluefish, inspirational thoughts, God thoughts, and other fun, completely random stuff.

I think I’d like joining Twitter for a lot of reasons regarding some of my hopes and dreams as a writer and more importantly to connect with you (my readers).

BUT, I fear the whole addiction thing and really whether it’s necessary for me personally or not. A while back, I told the facebook world that I’d never get on the Twitter bandwagon. (I have this issue with not wanting to do things because everyone else is). Besides, who needs facebook and Twitter?

The reality though might be that I have to get over my hesitations because I know it’s an awesome, powerful tool to connect lots of people and information. I also really enjoy seeing the tweets on some of your blogs.

I know… you still can’t believe I’m not on it yet.

What about you?

Are you on Twitter? What do you like about it?

I can’t wait to hear.


Latest article on Permission to Speak Freely

Anne Jackson has a book releasing in 2010 called Permission to Speak Freely: Essays & Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace. We’ve been in touch here and there since we had lunch together at the RightNow conference.

Recently, Anne asked if she could publish my article An Uptown Confession (originally published on Ungrind.org) on the blog of her book.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the story (over there), and explore a little bit about her upcoming book and wildly popular blog Flowerdust.net. You can check it all out here.

I think you’ll be glad you did.

Being on Mission in Holiday Madness

While at Whole Foods the other day, I had to overcome some fears and I had to do it quickly.

As my cashier Jaime was loading my groceries into the bag, I asked him how the crowds had been with the Thanksgiving rush… He said they weren’t too bad.

I told him I shop at Whole Foods on special occasions. My husband was in seminary and our budget was tight.

“What’s seminary?” he asked.

Trying to think of a simple answer to what seemed like a complicated question, I said:

“Well, it’s a school where you learn more about the Bible and eventually become a pastor or something like that. My husband wants to help teach others the Bible… It’s a non-denominational, Christian, evangelical school.”

“Oh okay,” he replied.

I could tell the people behind me were anxious to get their groceries on the belt, but I had another question for him and those people were annoying me so I just blurted out:

“Do you have a church background at all?” I said extremely fast.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Did you grow up in the church at all?”

“Well, my family is Roman Catholic and I grew up in that but I’m not into the whole ceremonial stuff. You know…”

“Yeah I understand… Well, the church my husband and I go to is more about a relationship with God than it is about religion. It’s laid back and it really doesn’t look like a church at all. You wouldn’t think it was one.”

“Where’s it located?”

“It’s a big building off 635 and 75. We’re still in the building phase actually.”

He said he thought he’d seen it before from the interstate.

“I think you’d really like it!” I added.

He stopped and looked at me.

“Well I’ll promise you this- I’ll go and check it out sometime.”

I was shocked. Really? You would? I thought.

I smiled, said that would be awesome, and wished him a great Thanksgiving.

As I left that day, I was ecstatic that God used that 2 minute window for me to talk to Jaime. I often get this knot in my stomach before starting up a spiritual conversation. Even though Jesus is the most important person in my life who I want to proclaim to the world every day that I live, I still have fears. I still struggle with getting past “me” and other insecurities.

But I’m learning that the greatest way to overcome that fear is to dive in wholeheartedly, no matter the risk.

To lovingly engage people in conversation.

To live on mission.

To get past the distractions so that God can receive glory, even during the holiday madness.

I pray that Jaime will remember our talk and check out Watermark so he can learn what it means to have a relationship with God.

I hope you’ll pray with me too. In the mean time, I’ll be checking up on him the next time I need a treat!

Being Thankful = Remembering

A few months ago, Jeremiah and I drove to Half Price books to purchase a very special book for our family. He’d been talking about getting a “Blessing Book” for a long time. So for $4.99, he picked out a brown and orange vintage floral journal.

We decided that we needed to start recording God’s faithfulness and his answers to our prayers over the years and that the Blessing Book would be the official landing place to write out those things simply because…

It’s easy to forget God’s work in the every day details of our lives.

Since then, we’ve recorded a lot of answers to prayers and twice now, we’ve gone through it so we can Remember.

Remembering God’s faithfulness and provision in the past has given me an overwhelming joy, thankfulness, and gratitude. It gives me great hope to face the uncertainties in the future.

There are all kinds of ways to reflect and remember. I stumbled upon Megan’s blog the other day and she’s created a Thankfulness Banner. I absolutely love this idea- especially as it really helps your kids tangibly see God’s goodness in their life.

One Thanksgiving when I was home from college, I printed out each of my family members’ names in big, bold writing on separate pieces of paper. All of us wrote a brief note saying how thankful we were for that person. It was a bonding time for our family and provided a ton of affirmation.

Well, I can’t wait when John can understand what our Blessing Book is all about so that he can share in what God has done and is doing in our family.

How do you remember God’s faithfulness and blessings during this time of year?

Not by coincidence

Every day, we’re given a blank page to write- another page in God’s story.

Today is a day that He’s given you and I to live for his glory and his kingdom. Yet how often do we forget that the circle’s he’s put us in are exactly where we’re supposed to be to shine his light?

I was just thinking the other day how the nursery care worker at my gym that we see regularly is not by accident. The grocery baggers at Kroger that we see every week isn’t by chance. The people I live near and the certain friendships I have are a part of God’s plan. And it doesn’t just happen to be that it’s the year 2009 and my family and I live in the city of Dallas, Texas.

Many times, I ask God to bring the people he wants into my life so I can share his love and grace. But I forget that often, they’ve been planted right in my midst- in the every day places.

Even in the tiniest details of life, nothing is an accident.

It takes hard work to be aware of this every day and it’s amazing that God chooses us to be the vessel to help grow God’s kingdom here on earth.

Was there a time when you knew that something was not “by accident” but was a part of the story God is writing?


Jesus is Better than Comfort

I’ve been asking God a few times today why he chooses to work through trials and why trials make us depend on Him.

I’ve been learning a lot lately about my own comfort levels. And I can’t believe how much I love them. I love a well stocked savings account, a beautifully decorated home, a consistent bed-time, an overflowing pantry and refrigerator, friends that love me, Christmas songs that remind me of childhood and hug my soul, a warm black tea latte, job security, babies that don’t cry, a well-heated car, and the list goes on…

But is that alone what God calls me to?

Yes and No.

He has made all those things. He wants me to enjoy them and to enjoy this life to its fullest. That’s evident all over the book of Ecclesiastes. But, he doesn’t promise  that I’ll be comfortable all the time or exempt from trials. And he never said that comfort draws me closer to him.

Suffering and trials do.

Oh, but I don’t want them when they come. It’s so difficult to live by faith!

But I’m learning, in all my imperfections, that it’s not so much about the trial, but about loving and knowing him because He is better than all the comforts the world has to offer. He is the one who fills my soul and deepest longings. And He is all I will have when this life is over, not all the things I try to hold onto.

Well… I guess that’s His answer to my questions. Now it’s time to trust him in this trial!

Who’s image is it?

1156610_36788246A few weeks ago, I found a guy named Andy Blanks through a wordpress search. As the content editor for Small Group Trader, I frequently search for blogs that have quality content that can be used on our site as articles. And I asked him if we could use his post, Image vs. Mission which is now live on our site.

Andy wrote some things that I deal with but might be ashamed to admit.

At times, I care more about what people think then I do about spreading the gospel and being about God’s kingdom.

At times, I care if I look “this or that” way to someone.

And I’ve missed opportunities to share what Jesus is doing in my life with an unbeliever because my “image” has been of first importance.

Being all about image is an ugly thing because it puts all the glory on self, and not on our Savior. It can even consume us if we let it and before we know it, we’ve completely neglected God.

But the reality is that any good looks we have, stellar talents, skills, relational ability, intelligence… all come from God- for his purposes.

I told Jeremiah just before bed the other day about a conversation Anne Jackson and I had about writing. I’m afraid of pride if I were to ever be really successful, specifically in publishing my own book. It’s a huge fear of mine.

He said something I’ll always remember: “Samantha, your gifts are not yours. They are God’s.”

A light bulb went off in my head. I took that as: my gifts don’t just come from God, but they are God’s.

What a difference. So in that knowledge, how will the ways I use my gifts be different? I think it has to do with image. Will I choose to reflect his glory by making him my prized treasure instead of glorifying self, being worried about what others think, or even being concerned about my own pride?

It’s not about Samantha. It’s about God. It’s that simple.

RightNow Conference Highlights

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Kay Warren, Lonnie Smith, Matt Chandler

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me and Donald Miller

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Kari Jobe, Lonnie Smith, Amena Brown

I feel like I’ve been saved all over again. Well, that’s what I told Jeremiah on the last day of the RightNow Conference.

The theme of our conference: Trading in the pursuit of the American Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ, spoke to me in so many ways and I don’t want to live my life any other way than to be a “trader.”

Here are a few highlights, nuggets, and take-aways I got this past weekend:

1.) I am selfish and don’t naturally think of others every day, so I must make a conscious effort to trade in my selfishness to help others who need physical healing and help, but most of all, who need the gospel.

2.) Even Francis Chan has wanted to quit. If someone like him can admit that, we should too. Leadership and ministry is a difficult, messy, but well worth it road.

3.) Living for and following Jesus requires a dangerous surrender. Kay Warren encouraged us on Fri. evening to surrender our life to the cause of Christ and to be willing to die for it. Her boldness inspired me and I don’t think anyone left that room unchanged that night.

4.) Matt Chandler’s passion for the gospel is unmatched. He helped us to get the gospel right and I can’t even begin to describe the magnitude at which the Holy Spirit uses him when he teaches God’s word.

5.) Eating Bar-b-que with Kari Jobe and her band. Jeremiah and I had a good time getting to know Kari and her band during dinner. Kari led our worship at the event and it was beautiful and God-exalting. Hearing her sing Revelation Song, Healer, and I Live to Worship You live was the best. She was a joy to meet in person. Check out her music at karijobe.com!

6.) Getting to see Brian Mosley, Marc McCartney, Lonnie Smith, Natalie Drew, and all our video producers in action. Brian is my boss and the Founder of Rightnow. Marc is our Dir. of Events. Lonnie is the Dir. of Church Relations. Natalie was in charge of all the details of recruiting volunteers and tons of the behind the scenes stuff. Every day in the office, I see their passion for our generation, but this weekend I got to see it on stage and among thousands of leaders. It was awesome!

7.) Spending an hour with Anne Jackson over pizza. We had so much fun talking about writing, her upcoming book, marriage, and things we struggle with. It was great getting to know her husband Chris as well (aka her road manager for the trip). Just in one hour, I felt like I’d known her all my life. Now I know why the world is so crazy about her!

8.) Getting a personal note from Kay Warren, and her book Dangerous Surrender. I received a very sweet note from Kay along with her book. I never had the chance to meet her though until after I got the book. She told me someone told her about me. I was shocked and humbled and right now I really want to thank whoever did that. 🙂

So the conference is over and now we are packing all the video and content from the main sessions into the upcoming RightNow Leadership Development Kit. We have lots to do and are so excited to get the experience out to many more leaders.

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