2016…A Success Story

2016…A Success Story

For many 2016 has been a year of incredible anger, sadness and loss. I’ve seen more posts about how people are happy to have 2016 over than any year I’ve seen before.

The election was a horrendous mess.

We lost many amazing people who contributed to our society in so many ways through science, government or the arts. The hardest one for me was the beautifully talented Carrie Fisher who was an important part of my childhood.

Yet for me personally, 2016 has been the most redemptive year to date.

Now before you continue reading this, please note that this is long. Please also note that I do not see myself as some high and mighty holy person. God has done A LOT for my family and I this year. My writing/posting this is done in gratitude for what He has done. It is my hope that it is a seen as an example of what He can do, and that potentially someone finds some inspiration or strength from this.

So 2016…it started off in the worst possible way…

I began the year unemployed for the first time in 16 years. Despite applying for well over 100 positions I had heard nothing, from anyone, except for one. Even then it was looking like a long shot.

My wife, kids and I entered 2016 not sure what lay ahead, and didn’t have a lot of confidence.

Then it got worse.

Satan took advantage of my pride, anxiety, depression and attacked me relentlessly. I kept reaching out to God, but my mental illness made it 100 times harder. I could not see the forest through the trees and I couldn’t believe that the tunnel had an end.

I was praying. I was diving into the Bible every day but nothing seemed to be working.

Then it got even worse.

I hit absolute rock bottom.

So rock bottom that my wife didn’t have the strength to be around me and needed to get away. So she did what was best for her and left. So not only did I not have a job, but my wife was gone and nothing was looking up.

I couldn’t understand what was going on, or why God was allowing this to all happen. I still had faith in Him. I still believed in Him but I couldn’t understand why He would allow so much pain to come to me.

The reality is that God was doing His work. He was working in ways that I could not even comprehend.

During that time…

I had to genuinely search myself while connecting with God. No more surface level prayers. This was constant soaking in His word ALL DAY long through devotionals, books and my Pastor’s Daily Hope podcasts. It was the deepest I had gone since I had committed my life to Him.

I was forced to work out so many issues I thought I had long dealt with through almost daily therapy. I also finally connected with a wonderful psychiatrist who got me on the right medication.

My wife and I worked together on our marriage through therapy and an amazing book called “Beyond Ordinary” by Justin and Trisha Davis. My wife came back home a few weeks later and our marriage got re-built on the solid ground of God’s word. Our relationship is now better than when it first started 5 years ago, and connected on a level we never thought possible.

God surrounded us with family and friends (some thousands of miles away) who not once told us to throw in the towel, they encouraged us to keep going, to keep fighting for our marriage and our family. They had the rough conversations they had to have with us. They prayed for us. They loved on us. They built us up. They helped make us stronger.

God made sure our finances were covered. Every bill got paid. Every meal was taken care of. All of our needs were met. Some of it was Him moving others to provide me with piece meal work. Some of it He moved others to secretly send us gift cards. There are still expenses that got covered that if you looked at the numbers on paper they shouldn’t have been. The numbers wouldn’t balance out. The only way to explain it is God. PERIOD.

Then He decided that I was ready to begin work at Saddleback Church. The ONE and ONLY job prospect I had, finally worked out. Shortly after Easter weekend I signed on as a contractor and got back to work.

There I found my new work home and family. I was not only appreciated for my talents, but my heart and personality. Even better the work I was doing was an important part of bringing people to Him. Helping them connect with Him and tap into the incredible love, power and strength that only HE could provide. So not only am I able to provide for my family, I’m able to do so through helping others.

On a side note, I have to mention that a large part of me getting into this position was because of my step-daughter’s father Rommel recommending me. Not only that but saying that he’s okay with working with me. Yes, that’s right I work with my wife’s ex-husband. That is ABSOLUTELY GOD IN ACTION.

On November 8th (yes, election day) I officially became a member of the Saddleback Staff.

On Thanksgiving I got to enjoy my first paid vacation time in over a year.

Last week I got to serve at Christmas services as Saddleback Staff. I welcomed as many people as I could wanting them to have a great Christmas service experience, with the belief that every “Welcome”, “Merry Christmas” and “Hello” mattered. Then I had the privilege of  getting to pray with someone who came to service after attending Celebrate Recovery. I was blessed to be able to help someone who was going into their own year of recovery.

So when I look back on 2016 I see a different story than others do. I am reminded of two pieces of scripture that God made sure I saw quite a few times.

The first was while reading “Beyond Ordinary”.

He ground my face into the gravel.
    He pounded me into the mud.
I gave up on life altogether.
    I’ve forgotten what the good life is like.
I said to myself, “This is it. I’m finished.
    God is a lost cause.”
I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
    the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
    the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

– Lamentations 3:16-21 MSG

It forced me to let go. It forced me to acknowledge that I had hit rock bottom and that God needed me to hit it. It’s not that He wanted me there, it’s through my choices and/or lack of choosing that led me to that point. It was the only way I was going to let Him do his work. It was a reset button on how I looked at and lived my life in every way shape and form. The beauty of that verse is the last lineBut there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:”.

That hope is God and His promises, which leads me to what has become one of my life verses.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
– Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

He very much fulfilled that promise through all of 2016. Now some might say, but He let you go through those rough times. My reply to that is “No, I put myself in that situation through the many decisions  I made or didn’t make in life. I got myself there. He got me out.

God is like any parent. He’ll keep letting you know in various ways that you’re going down the wrong path. You choose to listen or not. He wants you to willingly listen to Him or come to Him. He’ll never force you to be in a relationship with Him, but He will always be there for you when He ask for Him. Keep in mind that He’s not a magic genie to summon and magically make everything better. You have to work for it, but His strength and love is greater than anyone or anything will ever be able to provide and IT WILL GET YOU THROUGH.

If you listen to Him, He will teach you things that you never thought you needed to know. There are lessons He’ll give you that will help you avoid making the same mistakes over and over. As our Pastor Rick Warren tells us…if you don’t learn the lesson the first time, you’ll keep going through it until you get it.  2016 forced me to listen really well.

2017 will have its ups and downs. I don’t expect it, or the rest of my life to be perfect. He never once promises that. I still have a lot of growth to do as an individual, husband, father, friend, employee and co-worker.

That’s where my second life verse comes into to play..

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
-Philippians 4:13 NLT

When I need strength I will look back to 2016 as a shining example of how He can get me through anything.  If He can get me through this. He can get you through whatever you’re going through.
In closing I would be remiss if I didn’t give thanks to all of the family and friends who supported us every step of the way. Every little thing you did helped God do His work here on earth. I would list all of your names, but there were thankfully so many I’m afraid I’d accidentally forget someone. You all know who you are and Jenny and I will forever be grateful for each and every one of you.
If you’re reading this and finding yourself in the same or similar place I was, please know that you can do it. Please let me know in a comment and I will pray for you. Better yet, I’ll ask a lot of other people to pray for you as well. Yes, complete strangers will pray for you. That’s how it works.
Thanks for reading…now as my favorite Coach, Bill Belichick might say…”We’re on to 2017!”

From Pain Comes Joy…A Letter To My Seven Year Old Self…

Hey there Chris, it’s me, well really it’s you, but like 36 years in the future. No, dude, it’s not that old.

I know right now you’re going through a lot of pain. Mom and Dad are getting divorced, and your life is turned upside down.

So since I know how you like news delivered, first I’m going to tell you the bad news.

Before I do, you need to know NONE OF THIS is your fault.

You didn’t do anything wrong. You are a great kid and this is all Mom and Dad’s fault.

So the bad news…this is all going to be long, hard and drawn out. You won’t know what to do and there won’t be much help you get dealing with your pain and frustration. You are going to be unique among your friends in that you’ll have divorced parents. Fortunately, or unfortunately you won’t be alone in that boat for much longer.

Mom and Dad are going to keep fighting. A lot.

They’re going to hate each other and send really bad messages to each other using you as the messenger.

There’s going to be court stuff that goes on, that stresses Mom out and you’re going to try and be helpful and help her out and get involved. You really shouldn’t, but I know us. You’re going to anyways.

 

I wish I could say, that’s it. It’s not.
I’m sorry, but you need to know.

Dad is going to get re-married. You’re going to get a step-mom, a step-brother and eventually a half-brother. You’re going to hurt a lot as you watch Dad give them more love and attention than he seems to give you. There are happy times there, but it’ll seem more hurtful than happy.

I know you’re thinking, I’m never going to get a divorce. I won’t make my kids go through this, but I’m sorry to say it’s going to happen to you too. It’s going to be painful, expensive and stressful.

Your mind has got to be racing right now, trying to think of ways to avoid all of the pain that lays ahead of you. I know this is a lot to ask a 7 year old, but I need you to be strong.

Right now you see God as someone to be afraid of. Someone that won’t let you into heaven unless you do EVERYTHING right.

So here’s the first of the good news.

He’s not like that at all! God is an amazing being and He’s watching over you, even when you turn away from Him. You’re going to come to know Him and find strength from Him in so many different ways. Think of God like “The Force”, just without the ability to do Jedi mind tricks or wield a lightsaber.

I want you to remember this scripture, because it’s going to help you through days when you’re not sure you’re going to make it through.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4 NIV)

Want more good news?

You’re going to have a great kid named Josh. He’s incredibly smart, loving and is into Legos. He’ll even enjoy Star Wars with you. He is going to make you so proud.

There’s more.

You’re going to meet and marry an amazing woman named Jennifer.

No, it’s not the Jennifer you live next to right now. It’s a different Jennifer. But it’s kind’ve cool because you’re going to have your first kiss with Jennifer next door and your last first kiss will be with a Jennifer.

She’s going to have a daughter named Kaylin who you’re going to love. She’s going to be the daughter that you always wanted.

She will slowly but surely get into Star Wars as well, she’s even going to get to the point where she knows more about some of the characters than you do. Crazy ehh?

Wanna hear something even cooler and you might even think I’m nuts?

You’re going to become amazing friends with Kaylin’s Dad Rommel and Step-Mom Lisa.

You’re going to become such good friends that you’ll wind up greeting each other with genuine hugs. You’re going to enjoy spending time with them and talking with them. You’ll even play around with Kaylin’s little half-sister Madelyn.

This is actually all of you together celebrating Kaylin’s birthday…

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You’re all going to take Kaylin to a Divorced Kids Care class at Saddleback Church and you’re going to see how kids that are in your situation get the help they need. I wish I could bring you from the past to take this class, but we still can’t travel through time.

Wanna hear something even crazier? Rommel is going to support you getting a job at Saddleback Church. Yes, you will be that close.

You’re going to be part of this amazing Step-Family Small Group and meet Paul, Michelle, Tiffany, Aaron, Paddy, and Christina. They will be friends who are there to support you and your wife through the challenges you’ll go through together. You’re going to be there for them too and it’ll make life that much sweeter.

And that’s when all of the horrible stuff that you’re going through right now will make sense. You’ll come to understand what that scripture means.

You may wonder why God doesn’t just stop it all, but there is the beauty, He gives us all free will. We can do what we want, He doesn’t try and control us. He provides guidance, but it’s up to us to take it. Mom and Dad have been oferred it, but they’re not taking it. He’s going to give it to you too and you won’t take it for awhile.

But He’s working on setting your path right to make up for the mistakes that Mom, Dad, you and others will make in your life. He’s going to give you the strength to make it through and He’s going to take everything and give you what we have today.

Your life WILL BE BETTER for having gone through it and you’re just going to have to trust me on that.

On top of that you’re going to be an inspiration to others. You’ll give other kids the hope that they can have a happy life after divorce and show other parents how divorced life doesn’t need to be a fight. To drop their selfishness and focus on making a better life for their kids.

I’m sorry for everything that you’re going through right now Chris. I wish I could take all the pain away, but we need it to get to where we are today and to make it through the challenges we’re going to face in life. I promise you it’s all totally worth it.

Just know, you’re an amazing kid. You are loved and you will make it through.

Love,

Your Future Self

P.S. Empire Strikes Back is going to ROCK! It’ll actually become your favorite and there’s this awesome moment you won’t see coming. There are also  5 more Star Wars movies that are going to come out between then and now. Star Wars will go on for a very long time and you’re going to find a lot of hope and inspiration in it.

Love and Marriage vs. Life Challenges

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Three years ago I committed my life to this beautiful woman and our life together as husband and wife started off in the best possible way. We were in love. Our kids loved each other. We had good paying jobs. We had an amazing wedding surrounded by our family and friends, and then headed off on a dream honeymoon.

Anyone with half a brain knows that life will throw challenges at you and your marriage. But despite that, there is nothing that can really prepare you for those challenges or how to handle them when they occur. God knows, we didn’t fully realize what was ahead of us.

We’ve had a lot of AMAZING things happen to us and so many good memories that have been made. But challenges have come whether we liked them or not.

Over the past three years we’ve dealt with job losses (hers last year, mine this year), job changes (4 for her, 2 for me), credit card bills that got out of control, crazy rent increases, my autistic son moving in/starting college, and my depression rearing its ugly head once more. This is all on top of the regular challenges that affect every marriage.

CHALLENGES SUCK.

But today as I reflect on the past 3 years as a married couple (4 years as a couple), I’m not reminded of the bad. I see the woman who has stuck by my side and continued to love me, truly for better or worse.

I know living with me is no cup of tea everyday, but she still chooses to do it.
She still does it with a smile on her face and love in her heart.

She does it when she makes silly faces or belts out some tune off-key.

She does it when she cleans dishes or makes a meal.

She does it when she holds me and says that everything is going to be alright, even thought it feels like the world is crumbling around us.

She has placed her absolute faith, trust and love in me and believes in me when I don’t even believe in myself.

Sometimes, I question why (because my mind is whack like that) but I just try and accept/appreciate the fact that she does, and hasn’t failed to in the 4 years we’ve been together.

8 years ago I saw the movie Juno and came to love the following line…

“Look, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with.”

I had wondered if it was possible to find a person like that, or if it was another movie fairy tale.

Today I realize it’s no fairy tale and I’ve got that kind of person.

So today I say to the woman who is still just a beautiful today as she was 4 years ago. Thank you.

Thanks for choosing me to be your husband.
Thanks for loving me as much as you have and continue to.
Thanks for sticking by me and continuing to believe that the “sun still shines out my ass”.

Happy Anniversary Honey. Here’s to the rest of our life.

I love you Jennifer Lynn Tellez. Yesterday, Today and Always.

The Wonderfully Perfect Family Mess

When my wife and I got married, seeing as we were joining two families we decided to involve the kids in the ceremony. We like many other re-married couples with kids, wanted to show it wasn’t just about the two of us. It was about ALL of us.

After searching through all of the possibilities, we decided on using a special picture frame that held sand. Each of us would have our own color sand to represent us.

The big day came and the kids and we took turns pouring our sand into the frame. Kaylin first with her usual pink, followed by Josh’s “Mario” red. Jenny came next with her favorite color green, and I completed it with my favorite blue.

20121111 - 462 of 1134 - IMG_9455Once we were done, we had created a PERFECT and beautiful pyramid of sand.

20121111 - 476 of 1134 - IMG_9464Soon after we were officially a family, and went to celebrate with family and friends.

As the celebration wound down, I spotted Kaylin carrying around the frame, except now instead of the perfect pyramid it was a big jumbled mess.

Me: “Kaylin, what are you doing?”

Kaylin (with a super innocent face): “Mom said I could mix it up.”

I looked over at my wife

Me: “Babe?”

Jenny: “Yeah, it’s fine..”

Me: “Okay, Kaylin, just be careful with it, don’t let it break”

I walked away very frustrated. I had loved how it looked and the symmetry of the lines. It was going to look gorgeous on our mantle. For a brief instance I thought we could do it again. Then realized the significance of doing it would be lost.

As time went on, it sat there on our mantle, still missing the rest of the sand and in its big mixed up state.

photo 2I’d glance at it and some of the frustration would return.

Then one day after we had been through another one of the family challenges life had thrown at us, it hit me.

This mixed up state is exactly what being a family is all about. In our case it’s 4 different personalities, preferences, attitudes and beliefs all working together.

Sometimes we’re clashing or revolving around each other in what I believe is best described as controlled chaos.

Then there’s the incredibly awesome times where we’re blended together so strong that we’re super bright and vibrant. We’re more colorful together than we are apart, and we create colors, and joy that some people would never think of.

So after almost a year and a half later I finally added in the remaining sand. A little more of Kaylin, a smidge more Josh, a helping of Jenny and a healthy amount of myself. Then I shook it up really well to come up with a unique pattern that will never be duplicated but so aptly reflects all of us.

I don’t expect the sands to stay in the same place and have no doubt that as time moves, and we change that it too will change. We’ll have our messes. We’ll have our perfection. We’ll have our jumbled states of chaos and happiness. Most importantly we’ll have what’s most important, an amazing family built on the love God has for us, and the love we have for each other.

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