Random thoughts and babblings of me

Marcos: His birth, life & celebrating him…

Tuesday, November 8, was Marcos’s birthday. 
I had planned to write a blog about him and his life and what he means to me. 
And then something crazy happened. 
I think you all know where I’m going with this…the election. The craziest election I can remember in the longest time. Maybe ever. 
A reality TV star and a woman, both running for president. 
I knew someday this would happen, but I didn’t think they would happen at the same time. 
And as I watched the election results, the blog began to change in my mind. I sat in disbelief late into the night watching Donald Trump’s numbers rise and rise and rise and eventually win the election. This blog was still most definitely going to be about Marcos, but with a twist. I know, I know, it doesn’t make much sense. What does this election have to do with Marcos’s Birthday? I promise you, it will all make sense. His birthday and this election have EVERYTHING to do with each other and are tied in ways we never could have seen coming.  
If you had told me 20 years ago that a reality star/pop culture famous-never-been-in-politics-guy would become president, I would’ve said, “no way!!!” Though I’ve said for years, it would be great to have a non-politician, business-type as president to run this country more like a business, I certainly didn’t mean Mr.Trump. I’ll admit, embarrassingly enough, I watched the first season of The Apprentice and was entertained by it, but not enough to ever watch another season. 
When I was younger, I remember the question being asked, “what will we have first, a woman president or a black president?” Hands-down I voted for woman because I felt that there were still too many closed-minded racists in this country that would never vote for a black man sheerly because of his race. 
I was clearly wrong on every level. 
I know it’s been 3 weeks. 
But I had to process. I had to come to grips. I had to try and wrap my mind around the reality we are about enter into. 
I had to find a way to put into words everything my heart was feeling. 
Politics has never interested me much until we moved to a small town in Humboldt County and we both began working jobs and serving our community in a capacity that opened our eyes to the importance of local politics and being involved in change. Politics became VERY important to us as we saw loopholes that began to free people to continue evil acts; and loopholes that kept hurting people who were desperate for change, slaves to the system. 
This year for the first time we sat with our oldest daughter and watched the news on many different channels, we watched the debates, we researched, we read everything we could to make an informed decision. 
And it was not easy. 
I walked into the voting booth on November 8 not knowing who I would bubble in for president. It was a last minute decision I made. 
I filled out the rest of my ballot and then came back to the presidential candidates and stared at them forever. 
And with a lump in my throat I filled one in. 
It doesn’t matter now WHO I voted for, but it wasn’t Trump. 
I couldn’t pull the trigger on a man who seemed so racist and temperamental. 
I couldn’t vote for a man who wants to deport so many innocent people trying to make a better life for themselves and children. 
Now, hear my heart-if there is someone here illegally NOT trying to become a citizen, and they’re a criminal-absolutely, I have a problem with my tax dollars paying for them to be in prison, and there should be avenues to remedy that situation. 
BUT was this entire country not founded by immigrants? Don’t most of us have a family history of immigration? My dad’s family came here 3 generations ago to better the lives of their families. And I’m so thankful they were able to do so. 
What would this world look like if we closed our borders to the broken and hurting? 
On Wednesday, November 9, I text Marcos this:
“I’ve been so close…like SOOOOOO close to shutting people down today…like we really think trump is a good idea? Really?!? Thank God-and I mean this from the depths of my soul-thank GOD you were born in California or I would be in absolute terror right now that you would be taken from me. And NO ONE should ever have to feel that way and my heart is breaking for people that are facing that…And to listen to people talk, it’s not even a thought. Maybe because they’ve been so sheltered? I can’t let myself think that people who have any experience with anyone NOT White would be ok with this.”
And I know I’ve already upset someone. 
But this election is real and really personal for myself and many people I know. 
I wasn’t raised around many white people, though I’m white. 
I was raised in and went to schools from the time I was in junior high where the majority of students were “minorities” of many different races. We were one of MAYBE 2 or 3 “white” families in our churches and neighborhoods. 
I never thought much about it. 
Why should I? It didn’t make a difference to me who my friends were. I just loved them and they loved me and welcomed me into their families with open arms of acceptance. I loved the exposure to other cultures and foods and traditions. 
My parents taught me that color was never, ever a factor in life. We are all human. We are all sinners who need a savior. End of story. 
I shared on my blog here earlier this year, the ways I’ve seen racism in action since I’ve married Marcos. And even then, it’s so limited because we live in such a liberal state. The majority of people we’re exposed to on a daily basis don’t have issues with race and interracial relationships. 
So this election season was rough on me. 
I saw and heard things that saddened me. 
On the news, online, social media…the ignorance we were being exposed to was astounding. People speaking in generalities using such hateful speech. I heard more racial slurs than I thought possible – on BOTH sides – There was chauvinistic speech, pointing fingers, blame game, inability to REALLY talk and see from any other viewpoint and an unwillingness to listen with an open heart and mind. 
My children started asking tough questions and we were forced to have many uncomfortable conversations. 
I found myself becoming angry and sad and upset. 
I stood to the side of many conversations thinking, “if only you knew how I really felt, you would shut your mouth.” 
I fully believe people became so blinded by anger and hurt they started to say and do things out of character and our brains just fully stopped working. 
People who KNOW my husband is not white and that we have 2 mixed sons, said the most hurtful things in front of me about immigration, stop and frisk, and Trump’s plan for “law and order.” And every mother I know with sons who aren’t white are terrified at the thought. I have a son who drives and I can’t even LET myself think about him out driving at night or getting pulled over and what could happen. He may not be black, but he certainly isn’t white and as a white woman, I understand and know that white privilege absolutely does exist and so does racism. Sadly, I know that more than ever after this past year. 
After I text Marcos that day, he told me how he shared his story with an intern at the center who was saddened and heartbroken by the political climate of our nation the day after the election. He sent me his response to her and it was so beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. 
I’ve never shared Marcos’s story on here. 
It’s deeply personal to him, and he doesn’t tell many people and it wasn’t my story to tell, but that day he gave me permission to share. 
It is not pretty. 
It is graphic. 
And it’s a perfect picture of God making something beautiful out of something evil. 
It’s a story of hope. 
It’s a story of a destiny that could not be stopped. 
It’s the reason I so passionately advocate for immigrants, that they be allowed to stay and make a better life & future for themselves and their families.
These were his words:
I woke up this morning still in shock about last nights turnout. I can’t believe how foolish I was to think that America would NEVER vote for such an inexperienced, sexist, bigot!!! How naive I was to think it would’ve been decided early. 

If Trump was President 37 years ago then I don’t think I would be here. I’m not saying that to sound dramatic but I honestly think there’s a good chance I would NOT be here!!! 

I don’t normally share this with anyone but I think it helps put things into perspective of our potential future and the lives that can be affected with Trump as President. 

I was adopted as a baby. My biological mother worked for a wealthy guy in Mexico that owned a ranch. He forced himself on my mother, raped her and I was conceived…Her dad approached the wealthy man and he bought his silence and was trying to persuade my mom to have an abortion to keep his reputation in tact. She instead decided to flee Mexico and try and make it to the States to offer me up for adoption once I was born in hopes of giving me a better life….Long story short, she made it across the border and found some missionaries that helped her get to the Bay Area where I was born and immediately placed into foster care while awaiting adoption. 

I was given a second chance at life and was given the opportunity to fulfill the “American dream”. If Trump were President at the time, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have met my beautiful wife and I wouldn’t have any of my awesome children. 

My prayers will be for those genuinely fleeing their Country for hopes of a better future for them and their families that they will still get the opportunity they deserve. 

This is just one of my MANY issues with Trump but I know God is in control and He and He alone can make America great again, not Trump. 
My life has been made so much better because of Marcos. No one could have seen 37 years ago that that story would turn into a story of grace and love and hope. 
Marcos was placed with his parents when he was 1 week old. There was another couple who had more money, more affluence in the community and on paper, most judges would’ve placed him there. Both families desperately wanted a baby. 
But by God’s grace, the judge chose my in-laws because my mother-in-law was choosing to be a stay at home mom. 
It was no accident. 
God had a purpose and a destiny for Marcos’s life. 
He was made to be a daddy to my 4 babies. He was made to be my best friend, encourager, leader & husband. 
He was made to live out the gospel with a passion for the unloved, unwanted and forgotten and make them feel loved, wanted and known. 
I don’t know where his birth mother is today, but I know she would be proud and would have no reason to ever regret choosing life and illegally coming to the United States to give Marcos a better life. 
I know that I, my parents, his parents, our siblings and our kids thank God everyday for the life he was given and the opportunities he’s had as an American citizen and a follower of Christ. 
Looking back over his life and knowing that every step was ordered by the Lord and gifted to him so that he could be the man he is today leaves me in awe. 
So, when I hear people talk about other races and people who came to this country by any means necessary to have a chance at a life like my husbands, I’m all for it! 
When I hear people speak passionately about fighting for equality for every single person, I applaud it. 
Our country is in a weird place. 
People are in a weird place. 
But I have hope. 
I have hope for unity. 
I have hope for the church to rise up in love and be the leading voice for change and love and equality. 
I have hope for our future, because it’s not in Trump’s hands. It’s not in our governments hands. It’s in God’s hands and we already have the victory in Him. 
So, in a world where a reality star is president and I can’t understand what’s happening…baby, I’m so glad you were born and people like you give me hope and bring light into my life!


…But I’m grown…

Yesterday I was able to spend the whole day with my girls. Because I procrastinated, we were shopping for their Halloween costumes. It was a fun day of shopping and laughing and girl talk…which always leads to talk about the future. 
Julianna is a junior, so more and more people are asking and she’s thinking about her future. What she wants to do, who she wants to be, what she loves, where she wants her life to go and how she’s going to reach those goals. 
Every now and then when I stop and think about how little time we have left with her, it makes me so sad! My baby is growing up and it feels like she needs us less and less. 
As crazy as life was at times when our 3 oldest were little (there’s less than 2 years between all 3 of them) and we had 3 toddlers, 3 car seats, 3 little humans completely dependent on us for everything and I would DAYDREAM about the day we could just go to the grocery store without all of them tagging along and telling stories that lasted entirely too long, there are days I miss them being that tiny. I miss tying their shoes, cutting up their dinner, getting their snacks, reading to them and watching Cinderella or Ninja Turtles for the gazillionth time. 
And then I have days like yesterday when I realize, they’ll always be my babies and they’ll always need me…even if it’s for the small things. 
It went something like this:
Julianna: That was so fun today at the thrift store. I swear when I get my own place in college, I’m doing so much of my shopping there. 
Me: I know! They have some great stuff!
Julianna: Days like today, I feel like I’m totally ready to have my own place. I’m going to be good at life!
Me: (*smiles while thinking: yeah, I don’t know how ready you are for that…)
BUT I SAY: You WILL be good at life. 
Julianna: (standing in front of microwave) Wait, mom, which button do you push for popcorn on here?
Me: (killing every desire in me to make fun of her) Ummmm, the one that says popcorn? Then press start. 
Julianna: oh ya! Wait, which side do I put this on?
Me:The one that says “this side up” faces up. 
One minute and 25 seconds later…
Me: It smells like that’s burning. 
Julianna: What the heck?!? It was a defective bag, look! It didn’t even pop. I swear both sides said this side up. 
I managed to NOT roll my eyes – major mom win – and made her a new bag of popcorn the correct way. 
Later, I was telling Marcos what she did and ended the story with, “but yeah, she’s TOTALLY ready to move out on her own.”
Every time this story crossed my mind today, I giggled. 
I love my daughter. She’s funny, she’s smart, she has a wicked quick sense of humor that’s always been far beyond her years. She’s sassy, creative and all of the emotions that come with that gift…
But there are times I’m mystified by the things she says and does. She can seem so mature one minute and the next it’s like I have a toddler again. She’s constantly torn between wanting us as her parents to parent her and do everything for her and the need to do it all on her own. 
And then I started to get that sneaking suspicion that I’m just like her…
That we’re all just like her…
When it comes to God and the things of God. 
We want to grow, we want to mature, we want to be independent and do things on our own, in our own way. 
And while God DOES desire a maturity in us, he DOES want us to grow into well-functioning adult Christians who don’t have to be told every step of the way what and how to do things, He never EVER wants us to outgrow our dependency on Him. 
Every new season of life we find ourselves in, we need Him. We need His guidance, His goodness, His grace, His wisdom and above all else, His mercy & forgiveness. Because we’re never going to achieve perfection. We’re never going to arrive at the point where we’ve got it all under control and we can do it on our own. 
And we’re not supposed to. 
I’m a mom in my 30’s with 4 kids of my own…and I STILL need my Mom & Dad. There’s some advice from them that I still crave…they’ve been through a lot more life than I have, been in ministry a heck of a lot longer, and faced more than I have in life. Looking back they can tell me, “here’s where I went wrong and what I would’ve done to change that.” They have a deeper and longer relationship with Jesus and I value their input in my “real” life and my “spiritual” life…and how to make those 2 pieces of my life come together seamlessly. 
And it’s the same in our walk with God. 
We start as babies and we can do nothing ourselves, we move on like children where we still need help and guidance and often times, correction. Then as we continue to grow and learn to read God’s word for ourselves, we see how to apply it to our lives and the areas we fall short without the constant need for an outside source to show us. We learn over time to make better decisions based on where we want to end up in our Christian walk and where we feel God is calling us. 
And this is where we fall very short…
We think we have it alllllll figured out, and we want to do everything and make all of these decisions on our own. 
And we can’t. 
We still need guidance from other, more mature Christians. We still need to depend on God because without him we can do nothing! Nothing of substance and nothing with staying power will happen apart from a relationship with God and a life completely intertwined with Him. 
And that’s what I learned yesterday from my daughter. 
I want to be grown. 

I want to make my own decisions. 

I want to say I don’t NEED anyone or anything. 
But my actions prove everyday that I do. 
I need mentors in faith. 

I need friends to walk beside me to encourage me, cheer me on and help me back up when I fall. 

I need to be those 2 things to other people. 
But most of all, I need high doses of Jesus day-in and day-out in my life. 

In every circumstance. 

In every conversation. 

In every action & reaction. 
I need nothing more than to be completely devoted and dependent on God. He’s a good & loving father who will never lead me astray. 
Even when I think I can do it all on my own and God is rolling his eyes at my attempts to be everything I need all by myself…he’ll never leave me & he always has been and will always be faithful to hold on to me and help me grow. 
“Stay joined to me and I will stay joined to you. No branch can produce fruit alone. It must stay connected to the vine. It is the same with you. You cannot produce fruit alone. You must stay joined to me. “I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I to you, you will produce plenty of fruit. But separated from me you won’t be able to do anything.”

‭‭John‬ ‭15:4-5‬ ‭ERV‬‬

The Where: Part III 

When Marcos walked through the doors of the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center the first day, we knew it was temporary. His position was for 6 months and a chance to learn Social Work in a hands-on way. 

Betty, the founder, is a personal hero of mine. Born in China she was homeless for a time as a child.  Her story is so incredible, it could be a movie or a book! It’s not my story to tell, but her heart goes out to the broken and lost because she’s been there. She comes from a place of complete understanding. The center is a safe place for people who are homeless, displaced, underprivileged & hurting. 

Working for her, Marcos is able to have a hands-on approach to ministry. Meeting these hurting people right where they’re at and meeting immediate needs. They provide an address and mail service for people who need it on resumes or to get mail or for job applications. They help people who’ve lost everything get new copies of birth certificates, ID & Social Security cards so they can even START trying to connect with agencies that can help them re-train, find jobs, find housing & really give them a hand up into a new life.

They offer parenting classes, resume assistance, mock interviews, hire attire where they can get an outfit to wear to an interview, Coach to Career, GED help, computers for job & housing search, an after-school program for children that are vulnerably housed where they get homework help, love, attention and a healthy dinner. You cannot walk through the center without becoming emotional at the support they offer people. 

Clients that come in are at their complete lowest and end of their rope. 

As Marcos began to learn more and more what the center offered and how everything worked, it began to open opportunities for me to get involved as well. It started off small, helping every now and then with the kids, making a video for an end of the school year dinner for the kids & their parents & lending a hand at fundraisers for the center. 

We started to get sad that his 6 months as a WEX were almost up, but grateful for the time and confident that his work there was a huge stepping stone to a new life and job opportunities within our community. 

As the time came to a close, Betty pulled Marcos aside and told him (paraphrasing here) “I’m going to do everything I can to keep you here. This is more than a job for you. This is a calling and a ministry. And your heart for God & people is so clear.”

Through Marcos humbling himself, going on welfare and accepting the help they offered, he had found his calling. Betty was able to pull some strings – because no one says no to Betty – and they were able to make Marcos’s position permanent. 

It came with a huge raise! Things were finally looking up. So much happened in that time, but the biggest changes were us resigning from the church we were at, we were able to move out of my Gramma’s house, God blessed us BIG with the most amazing house, my job became full-time, we worked so hard and were able to completely get off the system, we saved enough money to FINALLY buy a car. One thing after another began falling into place, but we never wanted to forget where God brought us from and out of. We kept praying for an opportunity to give back in some way. 

This year, there has been a lot of unrest in our little community. Homelessness is a HUGE issue & it has caused our town to be divided. There was a huge homeless camp behind our mall that was nicknamed “Devil’s Playground.” And that’s exactly what it was. Drugs, violence, human trafficking, you name it, it was happening. People didn’t want to go back there out of fear. There were 200 people living back there, including children. Everyone was afraid-everyone except Betty. She knew the people back there. She had relationships with them. She knew their stories. She checked on them, she fed them everyday, she stood up for them & fought for them. 

Through a whole series of events, the city announced a plan to evict everyone from the camp. Believe me when I say, our entire community was in an uproar. No one wanted them to stay behind the mall, but no one wanted them in their neighborhood. People wanted them to “just get jobs” but no one was willing to hire them. They wanted them to clean up first, but they had nowhere TO clean up because they couldn’t afford homes with no jobs. It was a vicious cycle. 

Betty to the rescue. 

3 weeks before the evictions, a plan fell into place to open a temporary shelter made out of shipping containers they converted into rooms. Everything started moving full speed ahead. 

Marcos and I spent HOURS down at the new site. Building cots, making beds, putting together toiletry kits & cleaning. It was finally a way for us to give back. 

The day the shelter opened was amazing. We were able to help people move in and go over their paperwork, let them into the showers and get cleaned up, find new clothes and just begin to get to know them. For so many, they had been homeless for years. And as odd as it sounds, they were used to it, they were comfortable and moving into a place with a roof over their head was scary. 

I kept having to walk away and gather my composure again & again. The stories I heard brought tears to my eyes time and time again. These people who have been judged and shut out by society were so broken. Many of them HAD jobs, they HAD homes, families & children. Changes in the economy, deaths in the family, running & hiding from abusive situations…these were their stories. They had nowhere to go and found a new family in Devil’s Playground. 

As the shelter took off, the staff there were able to teach them again about healthy community, being a good neighbor, working their way back in to society, paying bills, they take them for medical and dental appointments, haircuts. They do movie nights, grow gardens. Things that are so normal to you and I, and something they forgot how to do. 

Betty was also working on opening a family shelter next door to the Day Center and she was overworked. 

Marcos and I prayed all the time that we would be able to give back more & more. That we would be able to enlarge our outreach and do more hands-on ministry, that we would be able to serve others and take the stress off Betty and open her time to do other things. 

One morning our prayers were answered. I got a text from Marcos that Betty needed our help serving meals and he told her yes because he knew there was no way I’d say no. It made sense for her to ask us. Marcos is a staff member, I’m already fingerprinted, the residents of the shelter were comfortable with me because they had known me from Day 1. 

So, that day at 4:30 I showed up to the center to help Marcos load up Betty’s truck full of trays and trays of food. We prayed on the way over to the shelter that we would shine bright the love of Jesus to everyone we came in contract with. That we would make a difference. That our territory of ministry would continue to increase. 

When we arrived we unloaded the food and began to serve dinner to the residents. We began to greet them by name with a smile. We asked how their day was going, regular things you talk about with friends. We laughed and joked with them and it was turning into the best day ever. 

When we finished serving in the shelter, we drove the truck around to the alley outside where there was a line of people like I had never seen. Most of them waiting on the ground for Betty’s Blue Angel. As we pulled around the corner I heard people yell something and found out later that when they see her truck they yell, “Betty up!” And everyone knows it’s time to line up for dinner. 

These are the homeless that are camping out. They have nowhere to go. They have nowhere to shower. They have nowhere to keep their belongings. All they have is each other. 

Some days the line is short…20-30 people. Some days it seems never ending as we serve hundreds of meals. We’ve seen it all. Mom’s, dad’s, children, old, young, clean, filthy, high, drunk, fights, depressed…you name it. 

We sat in the truck one night and watched a man hold his food in one hand and shoot up with the other. Weed is abundant. And you know what? Who cares? If I was camping on the street with no hope and no end in sight, I’d probably numb myself with drugs, too. I get it. But it breaks my heart. It makes me want to cry for the pain people are in. 

One night we watched as a police officer show up with a county worker and took a child right out his mom’s arms because the child couldn’t be cared for properly. I broke down as we were serving. Watching a baby be taken from its mother and listening to the heart break was too much. Was it best for that baby? Yes. But what a terrible feeling as a parent. You’ve already lost everything, and now your child. It’s unimaginable. 

As we’ve served, we’ve learned names and stories. Some days people tell us their victories ( a couple we’ve helped since Day 1 in the shelter is moving into their own home TODAY! For the first time in 6 years, they’ll have a home) some days people break down and cry and share how hopeless they feel. 

One couple in particular touched our hearts. They had been staying at the mission and unfortunately, husbands and wives can’t stay together. One night he had a heart attack while he was there and thankfully survived and they chose to be together after that even though it meant sleeping on the street (literally). We learned their names, we saw them everyday. We always made sure they had enough to eat and gave them sandwiches to have for later on in the night. I don’t know what his job had been, but she had been in banking for years and was entitled to retirement & social security. As was he. Fighting for back pay when you have nowhere to live and nowhere to get mail is impossible. 

Through a whole series of events, Marcos was able to sign them up at the center and get their mail sent there and help them try to sort out the mess. 

I looked forward to seeing them everyday and just talking about life with them. Marcos and I felt honored to be able to pray for them by name everyday. As a result of fighting the cold and the depression, they had begun heavy drinking. I prayed for a quick resolution to their money issues and for them to be able to get back on their feet and find happiness withOUT alcohol. 

The best text I EVER received was the day she received her Social Securty check that was all of her back pay. They had a plan to go back home and reconnect with family and get sober. 

It’s been months since we’ve seen them. We had fingers crossed and prayers up that they were doing well. 

2 weeks ago Marcos got a call at the Center from the husband. I can’t even type the words without tears. 

They are settled by family,they detoxed, they found a 2 bedroom mobile home. Then he said amazing things.  

“Thank you. Thank you for all you and your wife did for us. For always treating us well. I believe in God again because you gave us hope. You provided help when we needed it most. I’ll always pray for you, your wife and Betty. Thank you for taking care of us.” 

And this is our ministry.

It doesn’t happen at church. 

It’s not even related to church. 

We never preach. 

We don’t say, “God bless.”

We never once said the name of Jesus to that couple. 

We SHOWED Jesus. 

We LOVED like Jesus. 

We preached a message with our actions. 

And he was glorified and faith was restored in a family who had lost their hope & faith. 

So many times people pour their hearts out to us and then say, “I don’t know why I told you all that.”

And that’s when we tell them: 

it’s because we care. We’re their friends. It’s because we’ve been in their shoes. We understand their struggle. We have walked through their pain. We’ve stood in lines for food boxes. We’ve had nowhere to go. We’ve lost it all. So we know. 

When people are at their lowest, darkest times and hurting so deeply, they don’t want to be preached at. They don’t want to hear us quote scriptures. It’s counterproductive and insulting. They need something tangible. They have immediate needs to be met and they need them met with no judgement and no strings attached. 

So here we are. We are in full-time ministry and we never preach. We never say the name of Jesus. We never read a bible to our people. But they are encountering the love of Jesus every single day. 

Our mission is to make them feel safe. To make them feel loved, heard, HUMAN again.  To feel needed & wanted in a society that has told them they’re useless and a waste of space. We hug them even when they smell bad. We find one thing we can compliment them on. We tease them. We encourage them. We listen. We give godly advice when asked without taking about God. 

It’s unconventional. 

We are so in love with what we are doing. 

God allowed us to go through hell and we allowed him to soften our hearts and be opened up in a new way to people that I never could have connected with on the level we do now. 

You can empathize with people all day, but something changes when you’ve walked the same road. An instant connection and understanding. 

I’m forever grateful for this road 3 years in the making. 

Last night as we were leaving dinner and I said goodbye to the wife of the couple moving out today, she hugged me so tight and I felt like neither of us wanted to let go. I will miss them so much! But I am so proud of their hard work and hopeful that this is the beginning of something amazing in their lives. 

I’m thankful that Betty saw a calling on our life that we were too broken to see at the time and that she has always believed in us. That she’s pushed us to do more and more and shown us how to love well. 

I’m thankful for my husband who walked this road so graciously and humbly and never let anyone distract him from doing what was best for us and seeing something in me that I didn’t see in myself. 

I don’t see myself as loving and gracious, but God did and it took brokenness to pull it out of me. A love for people that I’ve never had. A humbleness that could only come from him. 

I can’t wait to see what’s coming. 

The What: Part II

All of the reasons we ended up here in Eureka, they seemed cut & dried. We made our plans, accepted that the move had to happen and moved on. 

We rolled into Eureka on a super rainy day in August, but we were ready for a cooler climate and a complete life make-over. We knew 2 things for sure…we would have a roof over our heads and we would be able to (finally) be in full-time ministry. A dream we’d had forever. We came to terms in our hearts that everything fell apart for one reason: to push us into our destiny. 

We started out with a bang! We got the kids enrolled in school, we got everything moved into Grandma’s and storage and settled into our new office at the church. Marcos started meeting with school principals, we were planning our first outreach and we flipped the old church chapel into a youth room. I’m being generous when I say we started with 5 teenagers-2 of them being our own- and started to build a youth group from scratch. It wasn’t easy, but we were loving it, and soon we were running between 15-25 teens weekly. (Yesssss) Eventually I took over the worship, but the very BEST part was that my Gramma, whom I’d prayed for for years began attending church with us regularly. And not just attending, getting super involved. I remember even telling Marcos, “if that’s the only reason we moved here, so Gramma could find Jesus, it was all worth it.” 

We settled into a routine at church and home, I was working part-time for my Aunt and it seemed like everything was just the way we planned. 2 years prior, my Great-Grandma had passed away, but my Great-Grandpa was still with us doing better than ever!! A little grouchy, always ready to give anyone a hard time, spunky for sure and super active. We got to see him all the time. Marcos was still drawing unemployment, looking for part-time work, because by now we realized Gods plan was much bigger than OUR plan. We didn’t know how long we’d be here, but we knew when the year was up, we were going to stay.

On the last day of February, I was coming home with the church ladies from a conference when Marcos called me. I thought it was strange because he knew I was in a car full of people. If he didn’t text me, something was wrong. It was the day before my Great-Grandpa’s 92nd birthday, we were planning a dinner with him, and when my Grandpa drove down to his house to get him, he found him in the hallway where he had passed away early in the morning on his way to turn off the heater. (He was retired navy. We ALL knew his routine and he never diverted from it). He told me what had happened and I sat in a car full of women I hadn’t known long and cried my eyes out. Thank you God for ladies who can gather around us in hard times and say nothing at all, because nothing can fix it, and just pray and let us cry it out. 

It was the longest ride home, ever!!! 

When I got home, it was so good to be with family and hug my Gramma and tell her how sorry I was. It was her dad that had passed. To say it was sudden sounds funny because of his age, but he had had a physical that very week and was given a clean bill of health. It was sudden to us. And his age didn’t make it hurt any less. 

I remember getting up on stage the next morning to lead worship, feeling like I was going to lose it and making eye contact with Gramma in the 3rd row. She was crying, but smiling at me and she gave me the strength to do what I had to do that day. 

It was a crazy week as the family began to make decisions about his house and belongings. Where do you even begin packing up a lifetime? Meanwhile, we took a break 4 days later to celebrate my Gramma’s birthday with a family dinner. Everyone was happy, tired, a little stressed, but it seemed like we would all be able to move on.

One week later, Marcos and I drove into the driveway and gramma was sitting in the carport, unable to move, her breathing was shallow and she hadn’t been near a phone to call for help. She had not been feeling well for months and the Dr kept reassuring her that she was fine. One look and we knew that wasn’t the case. 

She wouldn’t let us call an ambulance, so Marcos left to get my Grandpa and the kids, I called my aunt and told everyone to meet us at the hospital. All the while, gramma insisting that she was fine. 

She wasn’t. 

For a week we lived in the hospital waiting room, one day she’d seem better, the next, worse than ever. It was a roller coaster for sure, all while still dealing with the loss of Grandpa. It was not fun. It was exhausting. To make a long story short, they decided to fly Gramma down to Stanford for heart surgery that was “routine” and she would have another 20+years with us. 

1 week after she got down there, things were not getting any better, they were getting worse and no one could explain. On Friday they decided to schedule her surgery for Monday-there was an end in sight-then on Saturday they put her in ICU. Saturday night she was on life support. When I got done leading worship on Sunday morning I had 2 missed calls from my mom. Gramma’s body had completely shut down and they were going to have to take her off life support. At noon on March 30, 29 days after we lost Grandpa, Gramma Penny went home to be with Jesus completely unexpectedly. 

Now we were trying to tie up all the loose ends on 2 people, one of whom we lived with. It was a nightmare. Gramma was like a 2nd mom to me. She was 37 when I was born. We had always been close, just like mother & daughter. All of us grandkids that lived near her were super close with her. We all took it hard. I’ve never, ever lost anyone that close to me. I’d never had to come home to a house and have someone missing from it forever. I hated coming home to her house without her in it. It made me angry, sad and depressed. 

As soon as Gramma’s funeral was over, Marcos ended up in the ER for the 3rd time that year with excruciating stomach pains and they finally diagnosed him with Gallstones. He was going to have to have surgery to have his gall bladder removed. He was soooooo sick. They put him on bedrest for the 4-6 weeks before his surgery. 

That took us right through Easter, our anniversary & Mothers Day. I don’t know how much you know about church, but Easter is the Super Bowl of Christianity (or World Series, you get my drift. It’s BIG) it was not a good time for him to be sick. But, what could we do? We did what we always did, we pushed through. The few times he made it to church, he paid for it dearly in the days after. I tried to pick up the slack as best as I could and do both of our jobs. 

The day of his surgery was INSANITY!!! The nurse couldn’t find his vein for his IV,  he became unresponsive and passed out. And I mean, he was looking at me and alert, then his head started to roll, his eyes went blank, I was calling his name and he just fell back on his pillow and stopped moving. I FREAKED OUT on that poor nurse. And I do mean it.  I yelled, “What did you do to him? Wake him up! What’s wrong with him?!?” Tears, snot, panic, the whole deal. Let’s just say, they rushed in, woke him back up and I never saw that nurse again. (My bad if you’re reading this, nurse. My stress level was through the roof!!!) 

When his surgery was over and the Doctor came to find me, the good news was he was fine. The bad news? It was much worse than they thought. They had to pry his gall bladder off of his liver and his recovery went from 2-4 weeks to 4-8 weeks. No lifting over 5 pounds, bed rest as much as possible. 


 It wasn’t a great time in our lives. 

But, it got worse. 

Marcos’s unemployment had run out, he was applying for jobs all over the place. And he was receiving ZERO feedback. I was only working part-time, we were still keeping the youth group afloat and now he was recovering from surgery. 

Finally, it came down to this: we had no choice. We had to humble ourselves and see if we qualified for welfare. Neither of us had ever done that. Our parents hadn’t. Our grandparents hadn’t. It certainly wasn’t what WE wanted. But we literally were left with no choice. 

I don’t even understand how people can cheat the system. The sheer amount of paperwork was overwhelming, stressful & depressing. Thank God we were matched with a worker who brought no shame to the situation. He made us feel human and I actually left that meeting feeling better than when we went in. 

It wasn’t something we were proud of, but it was something to help us get on our feet. Once you’re dependent on the system, you are matched with a worker who helps you look for work, helps with your resume and even helps you retrain if needed. 

We didn’t go around telling everyone what was going on, we only told one couple and we were met with:

“Marcos, you’re a man of God. Men of God don’t go on welfare. They don’t put their families in that situation.” As if we planned it and it’s what we wanted. He also told him, “why are you looking for work and your wife is working at the cafe? Why aren’t you working there?” Ummmm…in what world can a man go in and demand to take his wife’s job??? And then the worst, “if a man doesn’t work he shouldn’t eat. You aren’t taking care of your family. You should no longer be trusted in the ministry.” The final blow in an already completely disastrous situation. 

It was too much. 

We had prayed. We had fasted. We had buried ourselves in Gods word. We had asked for prayer. We had sent out resumes. We had reached out to different contacts in the area. We had tried everything we could think of and nothing had worked. Welfare literally was our last resort. And to be shamed by people we thought were our friends was humiliating, especially for Marcos. As if he wasn’t feeling terrible enough. Meanwhile, even IF a job came along he was still in recovery and couldn’t be up and around working for 8 hours a day. It was a no-win for us. 

We hadn’t had time to stop and breathe, let alone grieve and deal with what had been happening in our lives. On Memorial Day weekend, I got the sickest I think I’ve ever been. I was in bed for a week straight. I couldn’t hold anything down and all I wanted to do was sleep. I think my body just shut down. I felt like I was on the verge of a complete breakdown and something had to give. 

We went on sobatical at the church.

We had to spend time focusing on our family. 

We had to begin to heal. 

We had to look to the Lord for the next steps. 

I’m so thankful that through it all, the stress never came between Marcos and I. I always lecture everyone on the importance of being friends before you’re involved with someone and this situation proved my point. He is my very best friend I’ve ever had. We have no secrets. We know it all-the good, the bad and the ugly. And we were able to vent, to laugh, to cry,  to pray, to say bad words when it was just too much (yes, it happens to the best of us) to  joke, to share our deepest worries and fears and really walk through it all together. 

And looking back, I’m thankful. 

I’m thankful for the hurt, the pain, the disappointment. 

I’m thankful for the haters. 

I’m thankful for a man who loves me and our family enough that he would not be shamed into letting his pride win when he felt that God was telling him to humble himself and take the help being offered through the county systems. 

I’m thankful that in this situation we had the clarity, even though we felt so lost, to block out the noise and the outside voices and just DO what we knew we needed to do, even when others disagreed. 

I’m thankful that God uses every crappy situation for our good, even when nothing about it looks good. 

 I’m thankful that everything we went through was for a purpose and that our purpose became clear so quickly. 

As Marcos began to meet with his worker, it became clear he no longer wanted to work in the same industry he had been in in the Bay Area. He wanted to work with people and be in the ministry. 

It was about that time she told him 2 things: 

1. There was a mistake on his resume and two of the numbers on his phone number were inverted. (Could explain why he NEVER got a phone call with all of his experience.)

2. She knew of a place that was looking for someone and she thought he would be perfect. It was through the Work Exchange Program (WEX) and the county would pay his salary and he would be placed there for 6 months to train in social work if he was interested. 

I don’t believe in mistakes. 

I believe in purpose.

 I believe he was never supposed to hear about another job and settle. 

I beieve he was 100% correct when he felt God had humbled us to go on welfare despite what others said. 

Marcos was about to walk us into our destiny and FINALLY all of the struggles, the loss, the homelessness, hitting rock bottom-all of it-was about to have a purpose. 

His worker set him up for an interview and he went that morning. They told him it would take a few days. 

An hour later they called and offered him a position at the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center and our lives changed forever. 

(To Be Continued) 

The Why

Many of you don’t know the “why” behind the life Marcos and I have chosen. You don’t know what went on in our lives the past few years that pushed us to make the decisions we’ve made. 

To many, it may look like we turned our back on traditional church and ministry life, or family, even friends. Maybe you think in some way we’ve fallen away from everything we were taught, because our life no longer fits in a neat little box. And nothing, absolutely NOTHING could be further from the truth. 
We are tighter with Jesus than ever, we are closer to each other, we are more fulfilled. We have (very) quietly been pouring into others on a daily basis in a way that has humbled & wrecked both of us. Probably forever. I’m so good with that. There have been tears of joy as we watch some succeed and tears of sheer sorrow as others fail so magnificently that it seems made for TV, but we still hope against hope, that their stories will still have a happily ever after. 

We haven’t posted anything on social media, we haven’t told a ton of people, we were waiting for just the right time.  We have recently begun to open up and share with family and friends what we have been up to for the past 9 months.  We had no interest in telling people the ministry we were doing just to validate that we were still “saved” and “ministering.” Confidentiality is a huge part of what we now do.  It honestly felt wrong to tell anyone.  We knew at some point, we would share our whole story and then finally the world would understand how we got here.  

But, none of it will make sense if you don’t know the truth behind what brought us to the place we’re at now.

3 years ago, we made a crazy, life-altering decision.  We were going to leave behind everything we had known for YEARS, and move our family from the Bay Area up to tiny, cold, secluded Eureka, California. It seemed sudden to most, including ourselves. It probably seemed extreme and rushed to people on the outside looking in. Trust me, it didn’t make a lot of sense to us, either. 

We were leaving a church where we had been involved in ministry for 17 years. We were leaving the only church and city our kids had ever known. We were pulling them from their schools and friends…even worse, we were leaving our oldest son behind. It broke my heart. Leaving Devante, our friends, our church family, how could it be easy? We tried to put on a happy face. We had been through so much and we KNEW this was the right step for our family, but it still hurt. It was scary, unsure, sad & sometimes down-right depressing as we began to tell our friends, family and pack up our house. The house that only a few months before we had been pre-approved to purchase. There were a lot of “God, I trust you, but I don’t like you or your plan,” moments if we’re being completely  honest. 

What most people didn’t know, is that our lives completely fell apart in the months leading up to our move. And I firmly believe that this  was probably (read:definitely) God’s plan for our lives, and we were so focused on doing what we deemed important: ministry, family, church & more ministry, that if our lives hadn’t have fallen apart the last few months we were in San Jose, we most likely would’ve completely missed what God ultimately had in store for us. 
We loved our life there.  We were involved in youth ministry with our best friends.  I was on the worship team and I loved it for the most part. We had been given tons of responsibilities that kept us busy, fulfilled  and satisfied. We had no reason to constantly be in prayer about direction for our lives, we had gotten comfortable.  I’ve learned the hard way that comfort zones are the very worst place to be.  That’s when we relax, we stop striving to be better, we stop relying on God and begin to rely on ourselves because we’ve done the job for so long, we could do it in our sleep and not make a mistake.  We think we can get away with praying a little less, loving people a little less and being a little less devoted because we have life and ministry all figured out.  It’s dangerous.  That’s when burnout and poor judgement begins to take a place in our lives and we do things we wouldn’t normally do, and there are souls at stake when we begin to sleep-walk our way through the ministry.  

At the beginning of 2013, God had very plainly spoken to Marcos and said, “get ready to be uncomfortable.” We had no idea it would mean that our lives were going to flip so completely upside down.

At the end of January, my position in the company I was working for ended unexpectedly a year earlier than projected..It was a little worrisome, but I figured something would come along soon enough, after all it always had.  If nothing else, plans to buy the house we were living in would just have to be put on hold for a while.  But that, my friends, was just the beginning…to make a long story short, by July of that year, everything was falling apart and we were on the verge of losing everything we had: Our house, we had already had to sell our car and were stuck with the ugliest rust bucket you ever saw (talk about HUMBLING), we had no family that had room for us to stay with them, and we became desperate.  

You know what increases your prayer life? Losing everything. Watching everything you’ve worked so hard for slip away from you.  Not knowing where your next meal will come from or how you will pay for gas to get your kids to and from school.  Having to decide which are the most important bills and paying those instead of all of them, and finally,  no longer being able to afford rent, and REALLY not being able to afford to move, even to a smaller place.  We had to accept the fact that we were about to be homeless with 4 kids.  Facing homelessness can open the heart to a lot of questions: 

“Why? We’re doing everything we know to do, and yet this is how it’s turning out? What did we do wrong? Why is God angry with us? Why would he allow this to happen?”  We were paying our tithe, we were faithful at church, I was steadily looking for work, what were we doing wrong?

And in the interest of complete honesty, it wasn’t the first time.  Once before, we were forced to move in with my parents.  And again, after that, we found a place to live that wasn’t going to be ready or 2-3 months and we were forced to couch surf with friends and family…for a time, we were even separated from our kids. We had the baby with us, and the older ones were with Marcos’s  parents.  And by definition, any time you are living in a hotel/motel, couch surfing, forced to stay with friends or family, you are homeless. Homeless does not only mean you live on the street. It’s not fun to admit to homelessness. 

And after hours, days and weeks of tears and talks and prayers, we had to admit, maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be.  Maybe there’s a purpose in all of this.  Maybe this is pushing us towards something that we never would have done on our own. And as soon as we admitted that and began to open our hearts to a new possibility, thing began to fall into place.  Don’t you just love God? When we are stubborn and refuse to hear to his prompting, he finds a way to get us to listen.  
I finally opened up to my Grandma about what was going on, and she called me back the next day with an offer…we could live with her for the school year and I could help her take care of my Great-Grandpa and help her after a few surgeries she had coming up.  I could help my Aunt by working at her café she had just opened up.  If Marcos had to quit his job because of relocation, he was eligible for unemployment.  And there was a church up here with a new Pastor and they were trying to establish a youth group and we could help do that…it’s like everything was absolutely, 100% meant to be!!!

Was it perfect?? No. Was it scary? Yes.  Saying yes to new things is always scary.  Was it uncomfortable?   In the worst way!

But the moment we said yes, everything changed.  There was a sense  of peace that was greater than the discomfort of what we were about to do.  And we had everything planned right down to the timetable…we would stay with Grandma for 1 year, we would be the youth pastors and build a youth group for one year, we would then pass the baton to someone new, we would save our money and bring our kids back to their home in the Bay Area…all in one year.  We tied it all up in a neat little bow, satisfied with OUR plan.

2 weeks later, we packed up everything we owned and said goodbye to the life we had lived for so long.  A month after that we were driving down our little Main Street in town and looked at each other with the same thought, “this is going to be a whole lot longer than one year.” By saying yes with our own agenda, plan & timetable, it had gotten us to the place we belong.  By opening our hearts to new things and letting go of our plans, it was going to take us further than we could ever imagine. 
Thank goodness we decided to just say, “yes” to God, and thank goodness we decided to ditch our own plan…and thank God that we couldn’t see the future and that everything was about to fall apart one more time to take us to the place we were REALLY meant to be…

On Words…how I failed 

You guys, I’ve failed. Miserably. 

At bridal showers they always ask the married people to give words of wisdom to the bride, who honestly, is so involved in planning her wedding and honeymoon, let’s be real…she’s not listening. 
Someone always says, “Never go to bed angry” it’s great advice in theory, but sometimes you haven’t resolved it all, and you will go to bed sad or discouraged. Hopefully not often, however.
My 2 favorites to give are things that I strive to live for daily…(strive:trying, sometimes failing)
1. Always speak highly of your husband (spouse) and never put him down to others..Especially when you’re upset with him. Speaking well of him when you feel frustrated will remind you of all of the reasons you love him.

2. If you are feeling upset or hurt or angry…don’t speak. Pray that if it’s a true issue that needs to be brought into the open, God will naturally open the conversation in a manner that is calm and you are both receptive. And if that doesn’t happen, that God will change your heart. Because maybe the issue is yours. (Or not as big as you’ve made it in your head)
I like the showers where they have you write it down, then when the bride is more level headed and a few months, years or arguments into her marriage, she can go back and look at what years of marital trial and error has taught others who have gone before her. Because marriage really is a bunch of trial and error. What works for one couple, won’t for another. 
And that’s ok! Every family is different. Every husband is different. Every wife is different. I know for myself, there’s LITERALLY no one else I could even stand to live with…and I’m sure most people feel that way about me…”she’s great in small doses, but my GOD her poor husband!” 
I’m loud. 

I say whatever pops into my head.

I’m sarcastic. 

I think body part words are hysterical. (I’m immature)

I think documentaries are the most interesting. 

I don’t like talking when the game is on. (Warriors, Niners…now you know…)

I could sit at home all weekend and be totally happy. 

I tend to obsess on things…

You get the picture. 

I’m no picnic. 
But, I’ve been happily married for 12 1/2 years to an amazing man who takes that all in stride and loves me in SPITE of those things. And he does it so well. 

However, that wasn’t always the case. 
When I was the very mature age of 18, I thought it was a good idea to get married. I was young, in love and just knew that it was going to last forever. 

 Now, you know how it is, I wouldn’t listen to any of the people who waved red flags in my face. After all, I was way more wisdomous than they were, I knew better. I didn’t need to take a step back and see the huge issues that were being pointed out to me, things were going to work out like sunshine and rainbows and butterflies!!! 

I should’ve known, it’s usually a sign when more than a handful of people come at you with the same warnings. But they were all wrong.
Just kidding…they were all correct. And believe me, I was no picnic to live with either, I’m sure. As immature as I still can be, I’m sure I was a million times worse back then. And we never learned how to communicate and speak TO each other instead of at each other. And as more and more issues began popping up, we had set ourselves up for complete failure; there’s little that can be done at a certain point to save that. Things become broken beyond repair, there’s no communication, there’s even less trust, no love, not even like, there’s no respect for one another and we were left with a gaping hole of regrets, what might have been and what never will be, anger, betrayal, hurt, and sadness between us.  
After 2 children, at the ripe old age of 23, I found myself a divorced single mother. And the ONE thing I knew for sure, at some point, if I ever got married again, I did NOT, absolutely NOT with ALLLLL THE CAPSSSSSS, want to make the same mistakes. My hope was for communication, respect, love and a best friend that I could get old with.
And when I wasn’t looking, not even thinking about it, I found it…my lobster (Friends reference, you guys! Look it up)
I found my man…he made me feel safe, loved, adored even, respected, trusted, encouraged and all of the words that I longed for.  
And he had come out of an incredibly long and serious relationship at a young age as well, and had a son 6 months older than my oldest daughter.  
The great thing about being best friends when neither of us were trying to date, was that we knew it all. Probably more than we wanted to know once we were a couple to be honest, haha, but we knew it all. We never had to hide who we really were, our weaknesses, our failures, our strengths, we laid it all on the line before we ever went on one date. I knew his failures and his wins in his past relationship and he knew all of mine.
Things progressed quickly, we were married within about a year and a half after a very long and arduous 2 week engagement 😉 – no, I was not pregnant…there were a lot of reasons that aren’t pertinent to this story.
And it’s not always perfect, but I would say that it is fantastic 99% of the time. We aren’t arguers. We aren’t yellers. Neither of us gets riled up super easily, I would say I do way easier than him. And he knows how to handle that and calm me down and make me laugh quicker than anyone I’ve ever known.  
But, I started with this, so let me finish: I messed up
I didn’t take my own advice.
I got super riled up, built something up in my head, let it fester and I never once, prayed about it. I never stepped back and thought of it from any point of view but my own. And then I blurted. It all came spilling out and half of it didn’t make sense, and I talked in circles and made the hugest deal out of the tiniest issue…I forgot to mention above that I can tend to be dramatic from time to time.
And it turned into such a huge deal. Because of me. I didn’t take heed of my own advice.  
It didn’t turn out well.  
Were we able to talk it out? Yes.

Did it turn into a huge yelling match? No.

But I did hurt my husband. And in turn, that ripped my heart out. He’s the last person I ever want to hurt.  
I woke up at 3:00 in the morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. Thinking of all the things I should’ve said, all the things I shouldn’t have said, when I should’ve let it drop, when I should’ve let everything go…because once it was out in the open, it sounded as stupid as it actually was. Which I would’ve known had I TAKEN MY OWN ADVICE!!!!!
Aye yi yi, when will I learn?
Then I opened my devotional, and wouldn’t you know…it was about watching what we say, praying before we speak and not allowing MY negative words to hurt others or myself. I just love when the word of God slaps me in the face and disciplines and corrects me.  
Totally kidding. It’s more like a love/hate thing. I hate it because discipline hurts and change hurts, but I love it because discipline brings growth and stability to my crazy nature. It helps me see where I still need lots of help.
The bible says that God disciplines those he loves, just like we do with our own children.  
As a child I didn’t like it, as an adult I like it even less, but I don’t want to be on a destructive path. I don’t want to be destructive to others. I don’t want to be immature in the ways of discipline and how I carry myself and how I learn and move on from mistakes. I don’t.  
I want to be everything that God set out for me to be, and everything Marcos needs and deserves in a wife, and everything my kids need in a mom. And that only comes through change and making mistakes, both big and small, and learning from them.
Does that mean that I’ll never struggle in this area ever again? Probably not (but fingers and toes crossed that just maybe?) But I’m praying that if there is a next time, I will stop myself before I just word vomit a bunch of disjointed and incomplete thoughts.
I leave you with this…
If you’re about to be married, listen to the advice of those who have gone before you and walk in their positive footsteps and try to avoid their land mines.
If you’re not, this advice still is true for all of us, because we all have difficulty sometimes voicing how we feel when it could cause friction and none of us are perfect at it.
So, here’s to learning and growing and apologizing and moving on, never to return to the yuck that has already happened.
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18

On Starting Over…Again & Again


I’m always reading these inspirational quote online…
*Tomorrow you’d wish you started today.
*One day she woke up and lost all of her excuses and found her reason.
*A year from now, you’ll wish you started today.
*Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re great. Fabulous. I could see how they’re inspiring, they’re just not for me.

My problem is starting over and over and over again.

I don’t know if it’s the OCD in me, I’m wired weirdly, or I just have issues (read: all of the above, I know, you don’t have to tell me!) my problem isn’t never starting. It’s the -can’t-move-on-if-I’m-not-perfect-yet (ing) you know, I’m great at starting, but if I miss a day, it’s wrapping my mind around the fact that I’m not a failure and just moving on from there. That’s where things begin to go insanely wrong for me.

Please, tell me I’m not the only one…lemme hear a shout of agreement in this place! (Sorry, I’ve been raised in church my whole life, I like crowd involvement)

And it doesn’t matter what subject we’re talking about…journaling, writing, blogging, working out, eating right, reading my Bible, organizing…I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. It’s great for my cupboards and closets when the mood strikes, which is often – that goes back to that OCD thing up there – but it’s not so great for other areas of my life.

I’ve learned there are certain things that I cannot, and never will be able to control – ministry, jobs, others, my kids as they get older and able to make their own choices (though that keeps me up nights if I’m being truly honest – that’s a process, I tell ya!) But, then there’s all those other things.

90 days ago, I went back to my Dr for blood work and a conversation about my health that had nothing to do with me getting older, just with genes and a disease that sucks the life out of you, oh, and hey…surprise!!!!! You’re gonna have it forever no matter what you do, there’s no getting around it, there’s no controlling it and there’s no starting over with this one…it just is what it is…but here’s a mess of pills you can take and let’s talk about dramatically changing your diet because that can HELP, but it won’t HEAL 100%. So, there I was in her office, she was holding my hands, looking me in the eye telling me, “You are sick, you will always be sick and you cannot control it no matter how bad you want to. But YOU can take these meds to limit the side effects and try some of these things…”

Oh God, here we go…I’m now officially granola…and not just because I live in Humboldt County, (though thank God! It def makes it easier with all of the earthy people around here who believe preservatives are straight from Satan himself)

Things I was no longer allowed to have: Gluten (I’m so trendy without even trying) Dairy (Ummmmm, I’m an admitted cheesaholic) Caffiene (you GUYSSS…I have 3 teenagers and I’m saved, what other vices do I have?) So, what in the world do I eat if I can’t have all that? It was a little depressing, but I went that day and bought myself new food that I could actually eat. (And spent more money than I knew was possible on a tiny basket of food)

I’ve known for years, since my 14 year old daughter was born that I have Hypothyroidism. Not that I wanted it, but I certainly wasn’t shocked. I think literally every adult woman on my mom’s side of the family has it. The upside is, there’s support there from women that understand, the downside is, ya, we all have it and struggle badly at different times.

The NEW news is that what I actually have is Hashimoto’s and that’s kind of a different ball game when it comes to nutrition and even exercise. Luckily we live in a world that’s always changing and evolving and knowledge and science are growing faster than we can even keep up with.

So, after 60 days on my meds and changing my diet, there was no change, except one…high cholesterol? Which has never, ever been an issue for me and totally stunned me.
Thank God for a Doctor that doesn’t believe meds are the answer to everything, she said, “Hey, let’s keep the new diet changes, but take out some more stuff!” Like I wasn’t already kind of dying with what I was having to do anyways…

So, I’m sitting there thinking, “How in the hell is that even possible? I did EVERYTHING I was supposed to do…and ZERO changes in my thyroid levels, I actually gained 9 pounds and now I have high cholesterol? This is depressing.”

And then I remembered…

You see, it was Mother’s Day and I wanted a cheat day. And that led to a cheat weekend. And then it was Memorial Day weekend and I wanted another cheat weekend. Then it was Fathers Day and we had out of town family and Humboldt Creamery was giving away free ice cream at the Oyster Fest…

I kept deciding to start every Monday, then I’d have one “cheat” along the way, then I figured, “well, I already cheated once…” And that’s how that went. And that’s how I found myself back in my Dr’s office 2 weeks ago and she decided I should cut all grains and processed foods for at least 6 weeks and see what happens.

She made me paleo and I don’t think she even knows how hipster and trendy she’s making me visit by visit.

It’s been a week of that.

And you know what?

I feel amazing.

I haven’t had any cheats…for me that’s just the devil’s playground and he’s had his fun, ya know????

Will I ever have a cheat? At some point, but not right now. I had to become aware and admit my weakness and ask for help. For me, I’m lucky. My husband Marcos is taking this journey with me and has been so strong and motivating and doing all of this right by my side. Maybe you don’t have that, but there’s someone in your life that will do this with you…whatever your “this” happens to be.

I missed the gym a few days last week, but instead of that freaking me out and starting over and cheating for the rest of the week, I embraced it, stayed as active as I wanted, ate well, and for the first time in years, I didn’t have to start over today. I just kept moving forward.

I’ve missed a few weeks in one of my daily devotionals.

Instead of starting over, I counted ahead to today and began to read from there. And I’m not even freaking out about it.

I didn’t blog at all last week and missed my goal.

Today, I picked up from where I left off, and at some point, I’ll finish what I started writing last week and post it. But I’m not sweating it.

Today, I did half the dishes before I needed to do something else. And you know what? I’m happy I have less dishes to finish when I publish this blog.

You get the point.

No matter if you’ve never started, or you’ve started and stopped a million times, it’s ok to be right where you are.

I can’t do anything about my health 3 months ago, it’s gone and out of my hands…I can’t go back and undo anything about it.

You can’t go back and undo anything you’ve done. You can’t make up for lost time. You can’t hurry along healing in a relationship. You can’t blast past necessary steps in your relationship with God, in your relationship with grief, in lessons in life, you just can’t. There are ZERO shortcuts.

The joy is learning to be ok with that.
And ok with where you are.
And OK with who you are.
Right now.
In this moment.

God saw this moment before you were ever a thought in this world, and he’s ok with you. But He loves you too much to let you stay in whatever rut you’re in.

Ask for guidance.
Ask for help.
Ask for accountability.
Ask for wisdom.
Ask for strength.

I don’t know a lot, but I know that God is so faithful and love us all so much!! He will give us the strength we need, the friendships we need, he will remove the ones that do us no good when we let Him and He will help us see it all through.

I don’t want to keep starting over and over and over. It’s old, it’s boring and frankly, I’m over it. I’m way too old, and no longer have the energy…

I just want to keep moving forward and be better today than I was yesterday.
Or even an hour ago.
You know, baby steps y’all!!!

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

On Hate: Only Love Can Stop This 

It’s the only word for it. 
It’s like, every morning I go on Twitter and my stomach hurts before I open it all the way because I’m afraid to see what’s happened in the world overnight. 
Was there more senseless killing? Is another child missing? Has some parent killed their child? Did a father lose his mind and kill his whole family before killing himself?
I woke up Sunday and Marcos asked me, “did you see? There’s been another shooting.” 

I just looked down, picked up my phone and clicked on the first link I found and began reading the horrific story of another 3 officers gone forever and 7 more critically injured. 
It brought instant tears to my eyes. 
This is not ok. 
Killing black men for no reason. 

Killing police officers. 

People abusing their authority. 

Men abusing & killing their families. 

Women torturing their own children. 
This will never be ok. 
None of it. 
But right now? Right now I’m focused on this hatred and this pull between black lives matter and the police. 
Who is winning?
The answer: No one. 
No one wins when people keep dying for no reason. 
And I get it. 
The 2% of officers that have that thing in their brain that makes them hateful and racist and makes them think they have the right to mistreat people…that’s the percentage of people in the Black Lives Matter movement that I believe will fight back with violence & murder & hatred.  
The problem I have with it all is that there are now more homes in America where dads will never be coming home again. There are more orphans who will never see their dads, never speak to them, never get to ask for advice, never get another hug, never have another game of catch, never see their dads at their graduations, weddings, the birth of their children, never have a chance to say, “I love you,” ever again. 
And that’s not ok. 
Haven’t we had enough of a fatherless generation because of divorce and men making babies that they don’t care for, don’t support and won’t raise? 
And now, we are perpetuating this problem with senseless killings and revenge killings. 
Hate, caused by hate, perpetuated by hate, growing into more hate = HATE  
My heart is made happy by the reports I’ve seen of police officers making a huge effort in their communities to bridge the gap and work together for peace and a sense of togetherness. 
I get it. There’s fear on both sides. 
But only love can conquer fear. 

Only love can conquer hate. 

Only love can help us not just listen, but actually hear and grasp and understand what others are saying. 

Only love can bring change. 
My prayers are full of asking God for just that: love. 
Let me love my neighbor. 

Let me love my enemy. 

Let me love the ones I don’t understand. 

Let me love the ones I understand. 

Let me love the way God loves and see others the way God does. 
Let me love enough to drown out the sounds & actions of hatred. 
Let me love enough to be an example to others that are afraid of change, that aren’t ready for change…let me love enough to soften their hearts. 
“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.”

‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:17-21‬ ‭MSG‬‬

On Love: Dad’s & God 

I love donuts. They’re like tacos. I mean, is there ever a day I DON’T crave them? 
The answer to that is, “NO!”
They’re delicious. Gimme all the carbs and sugar. (That I’m no longer allowed to have…moment of silence)
The only person I know who loves donuts more than I do, is Malachi. He wants to own a donut shop when he grows up. And that’s been his thing for years. 
One of my favorite donuts? Powdered sugar with raspberry filling – The only kind of filled donut I’ll eat – and the only kind Malachi wouldn’t try. Ever. 
We’ve been trying to get him to try them forever, knowing he’d love them.
He didn’t believe us. 
We bought some a few weeks ago and as I finished mine (well, my 2nd one if I’m being honest) he said, 
“Mommy, you’re making that look good. I almost want to try one!”  
“Do you want me to get you one?”
“No, that’s ok. I’ll just have a bite of daddy’s.”
“And of course you think daddy will just share a bite with you?”
“Of course!”
And then the thought ran through my head, “well, if that won’t preach, then I don’t know what will.”
Malachi had zero hesitation, zero concept that the answer could have been no. Maybe daddy didn’t want to share? Inconceivable. (Princess Bride, of course) 

He had all the confidence in the world that his daddy would share all the good things with him. He is loved. He is secure. He is happy. He knows that his daddy would never deny him when he asks for something like that. It never crossed his mind that daddy would ever say no or not share his treat with him.  
“Daddy loves me and what’s his is mine.” That’s the mindset he lives in.  
If he needs a meal, it will be provided. If he needs new shoes, pants, jacket, it will be provided for him. If he wakes up afraid or sick, he can come wake daddy up and he’ll be there for him. No complaints, no second guessing. He just knows it as a fact and lives in that place of contentment.
When do we stop living in that place?
We know that God loves us, we know he’s a loving father. We know he’s a provider, a healer, a friend, the lover and creator of our souls. We know it in our minds, but there’s a disconnect somewhere along the road of life between our minds and our hearts and we have no longer reconciled that we are loved and God wants to give us good things. He wants to share all that he has with us. He wants us to be content in his love and in His plan.  
And just like a good father, sometimes God has to tell us no. When something is going to hurt us, when it’s not what’s best for us, when it’s going to cause heartache and pain. But it’s always done in love.  
And just like a good father, sometimes God has to bring discipline and correction into our lives. Never in anger, never to be mean, never to make us unhappy and miserable, always, always for our own good.  
What Malachi understands at 10, most of us cannot understand and grasp as adults.
When do we begin to lose sight of the goodness of God?
When do we begin to see him as ugly and mean and out to hurt us and take away all of our fun and inflict pain? When do we begin to view him as the bully in the sky that enjoy watching us suffer?
How do we shift from believing with everything in us that God is so good, to questioning whether He’s really for us? How do we begin to wonder if he’s against us? How do we begin to think of Him as a man that is removed from us and our feelings and loves to mess with us?  
Maybe it’s when things begin to seem unfair.  

When life begins to hurt.  

When we begin to lose people and things that mean so much to us.  

When people turn their backs on us, leave and abandon us.  

When we lose our jobs.   

When finances are too tight for too long.  

When nothing seems to go right.  

When we get sick and the doctors don’t have answers.  

When we pray for things and those prayers seem to go unheard.  

When we desire something that seems so good with our whole heart and it seems to be denied to us time and time again.  

When we spend hours crying out to God and feel like we are doing everything right and everything still goes wrong. 
I don’t know the answer for you. Maybe it was a slow slide into despair. Maybe your world was turned upside down all at once and your faith was shattered.
I know for me, it was years of pouring into a relationship that was irrevocably broken, and coming to terms with the fact that that was going to have to be ok. Even though it hurt and, in my mind, it couldn’t possibly be God’s plan for my life, there was still a good plan in place and all I could do was continue to move forward and begin to accept the next step and the next and the one after that until I found that I had walked right into my healing and what God was holding for me in his goodness and mercy and grace…a life that I could never have planned or imagined for myself. A life that I would’ve missed out on had I continued to hold on to my past and my hurt and my bitterness.
God had something so good for me.
I just had to believe. I had to believe that even in my sin and ugliness and my mess, he was still good. And he still loved me unconditionally. And I was still good enough for him to call me his own. I was enough being completely helpless and surrendered to him.
I had to ask – and trust – that whatever the answer, it was for my own good. Whether I liked the next step or not, I could trust it.  
My prayer for all of us: Lord, make us like Malachi again, with that child-like faith. Let us trust in your goodness and grace even in our failures. Let us believe again – or maybe for the very first time – that whatever good thing you have, you want us to have and will joyfully share with us. And when you say no or bring correction, it’s BECAUSE of your love and your mercy. Never are you a bully.  
He is such a loving father and the most faithful friend.  
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way…Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:2-4‬, 17-18 (MSG)

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