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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God Listens. God Answers. God Loves.

As someone who is a practicing Christian, living up to God‘s word isn’t easy.

I know He doesn’t expect me to be perfect, but my personality doesn’t let me shoot for anything less than that.  Oh, I don’t hit perfect. Never will. Doesn’t stop me from trying.

To say God has blessed my life is an understatement.

I’m married to a woman, who is amazing just in the fact that she puts up with me. Then she’s amazing in so many ways on top of that.

I’ve got two wonderful children who I couldn’t be prouder of.

I’ve got a job where I have the potential to do so many amazing things with co-workers that challenge me and keep me laughing.

I live in a nice home, eat good food and have friends and family that love and care about me.

Recently we received another blessing. My wife got a new job.
It freed her from one where they didn’t appreciate her and left her feeling like crap at the end of the day.

Really what do I have to be upset about in life? Nada.
There are A LOT of things that could be wrong in my life, but they aren’t.

But like so many people, even for those that seem to have it all there are days that stress the ever-loving crap out of me. That’s especially so when it comes to finances.

There was just one small hitch with this new job…it would mean that we’d have to get our own health insurance or pay for COBRA which is incredibly expensive.

We’re trying to be responsible and tackle the debt we accrued so this expense was going to put us in a tough position, possibly leaving us without health insurance.

Saturday night as we reviewed the options and my stress level jumped, my wife was loving and supportive reminding me to lean on God. For  a split second I thought, but didn’t shout out “How the heck is God going to put that money in our bank account?!!!

Yup, I really thought that. Mr. loving Christian…totally doubting his God.

After filling out the massive online application for two medical insurance providers and a couple of drinks, I prayed.

Then over the course of the last few days it felt like all the financial weight of the world was upon me. Yesterday on a long drive to San Diego, I had a long conversation with God.

My simple prayer was “I don’t need more money. I don’t want more money. I just want to be able to take care of everything and make ends meet.”

Then immediately after I was done I got a phone call that created more financial stress. I looked up and cried up “Really? You call that help?”

Yes, I verbally questioned God. I was pissed with Him. Why after spending the time to talk with Him, could He let that happen? I started questioning, why have faith in something that didn’t seem to deliver? Why keep praying and asking for help when I felt like I kept hitting brick walls?

This is the challenge that people make, somewhat rightfully so. How could this all-powerful, awesome, loving entity allow bad things to happen?

Shortly after 9/11 I had a conversation with my boss. Him being a devout Catholic, I asked him “How could God have allowed that to happen?”. His answer was simple “Because He’s fighting the devil, and sometimes the devil wins”.

Yes God is powerful, but bad things happen, they will always happen and He doesn’t make them happen, He doesn’t allow them to happen they just happen.

Sometimes out of pain and tragedy comes something so much better. Sometimes after having your world rocked, good is shown to you and reminds you of what you have to be thankful for and reminds you that there is so much more good in this world than bad.

We saw that after 9/11. We’ve seen that after so many of the tragedies that have taken so many from us and hurt so many. We’ve seen heroes rise from the ashes. We’ve seen people be blessed in ways that they wouldn’t have, had the bad things not happened.

I’ve learned over time  and have been reminded recently by our Pastor, Rick Warren “God wants to turn your mess, into his message. God takes your test and makes it your testimony”.

This morning I said a far simpler prayer. “God, I don’t know what your plans are, or where you’re going with any of this. I don’t understand it and I can’t control it. But I guess that’s just it. I’m trying to wrestle control over something that only You can handle. So I’m going to let You take it from here and stop questioning You.”.

About 30 minutes later I got a call from my wife. Her new employer was going to let us take advantage of the health insurance immediately. It would go into effect immediately after our current insurance expires.

Problem solved. Crisis Averted. God comes through…AGAIN.

Not only had God helped us get the insurance we needed at a price we could afford, but He also showed us how even more amazing my wife’s new job and boss was. She’s working for people who care about her and our family.

Yeah, I felt like a heel having gotten so angry, and even having doubted Him.

But then I remembered that He loves me no matter what. Even though I had gotten angry at Him and thought He was a bad parent. As it is when my children do this, I still love them and He still loves me. He’s still looking out for me. He’s still making sure that my path ahead leads to something good.

The path won’t be without bumps. It won’t be without challenges. It won’t be without pain, sorrow and loss, but He’s there with me to give me strength, love, support and protection that no one else can.

With this, He’s made my mess his message, and turned a test into a testimony.

Folks, God doesn’t make sense and He never will to us here on this planet.
The great thing is that His love knows no bounds. His forgiveness is powerful. His support is like none other.

When I look at the big picture of my life I see how He’s done some pretty astounding things, and seen the person He’s transformed me into despite who I am and how I’ve talked to Him. My life has been much more amazing since I let Him in it.

One of these days I will learn to let go better. I’ll stop trying to control things I can’t. I’ll stop trying to understand Him and just trust in Him.

So why did I write all of this? Am I trying to convert people? Am I trying to thump a “virtual Bible“?

No, I wrote this for two reasons:

1. To give thanks to Him for saving my butt, yet again in the most public way possible.
2. To help others see how He’s worked in my life in the off-chance they could become interested in learning more about Him.

Even if I never achieve my second goal, I know that my first goal is accomplished and that’s what matters most to me.

“So we don’t focus on the troubles we see right now; instead we look forward to what we don’t see yet. For the troubles we see now are temporary, but the joys to come will last forever.”
2 Corinthians 4:18

 

Goodbye Grams, and Thanks.

Today we celebrated the life of my Grandmother Verna Mattox who passed away on April 25th.

I know it’s been awhile since I blogged and I am certainly way behind on posts, including one about my incredible wedding.

But today, today is about Grams. The following is the eulogy I delivered and a memorial video I put together for today. It’s a long one, but she was an amazing woman and deserved every bit of it.

Eulogy For My Grandmother, Verna Mattox.

Many, many years ago my grandma made me promise that when the time came that I’d speak about her at her memorial.  It was a promise I easily made, but didn’t realize the challenge that I’d have in front of me until a few weeks ago.

Without writing something as long as War and Peace, how do you summarize 96 years of life, 40 of which I was so blessed to be a part of?

Then I did, what I know what she would have done …I talked to God.

As He has so many times before, and He did throughout my Grandmother’s life He provided guidance, inspiration and support.

So today I’d like to talk about, how this one woman, who words will never be able to properly describe, changed the world through her dedication and love.

Since I was around 8, I was amazed at her work in the political field. I didn’t fully understand what she was doing but I knew that she worked with important people that I had heard about on the news.

As I got older I came to learn and more fully appreciate what she had actually done and who she had worked with

She held titles like
Republican Convention Delegate
National Platform Committee member
State Volunteer Coordinator for Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign
GOP Nominee for 52nd Assembly District
Campaign Manager
Electoral College Member, not once…not twice, but three times.

People like Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Bob Dole, Ronald Reagan, and George H Bush knew, and communicated with my grandmother. Her viewpoints. Her ideas. Her friendship was of great value to them.

Add on to this, she served her community through the many local groups she was involved in. Perhaps most important to me, the Torrance Sister City Association where she took high school students to Kashiwa, Japan and eventually held a seat on their board.

It is because of this incredible and unselfish service to her country I am honored to announce that Senator Mimi Walters of District 37 will create a memorial resolution, and adjourn a California Senate session  quote “in memory of Verna as a great American, a patriot and a timeless force in California party politics who served many presidents and governors in her illustrious tenure.” end quote. It will then be documented for history in the Senate Journal and archives.

While she was proud of her service, it was ultimately her love for her family, and wanting to make sure that the world they lived in was a better place that inspired everything she did.

I am incredibly proud of all that my grandmother accomplished, but it is the love, and memories that she gave me that means the most.

Just below God, my Grandmother was one of the most influential people in my life

When my parents divorced she was there to take care of my brother Lee and I.  She was my solid rock in a sea of incredible pain and uncertainty. She was a source of love and understanding that I couldn’t have lived without.

She taught me manners and personal conduct that serves me in every social situation I’m in. As a kid you think it’s all nagging, but in the end it all makes perfect sense.

From a restaurant, to hanging out with friends, to the board room. She taught me so much that now in observing others, I’ve come to the conclusion that many could have used a Grandmother like mine, and the very manners she taught me.

Her involvement in the Sister City Association spurred me to take part as well. That led me to a journey that would change me from a boy who felt incredibly unpopular, to a young man who had a greater amount of confidence in who he was, and where he was going.

She instilled in me the desire to want to be a responsible, ethical and determined man.
As a result I have been blessed with incredible success and achievement that continues to flourish to this day.

She has also left me with some incredible memories that will forever be in my heart…

Memories of…

Calling her up and asking her if she wanted to go “mall crawling”. She’d then keep me out of the toy stores and I’d keep her out of the shoe stores. All the while yelling at me “I’m not your papoose” if I started walking too fast.

Going to Hawaii with her, and my cousin David. A trip where her nickname “Grams” was bestowed upon her and used until the very end.

Sitting on a cruise ship crossing the Pacific, enjoying pizza and beer while talking about the life she lived.

Having her present when I was baptized again, and seeing the happiness in her face that I had fully accepted the Lord, something she had been wanting for me for so long.

Perhaps the favorite memory I have is during her final time on earth where she was fully conscious, aware and chatting up a storm.

I stood there with my wife, my son and my step-daughter and we had the best conversation we had had in a couple of years. I was able to tell her about my new job, an upcoming trip to Australia and everything going on with the kids. Most importantly she was able to see her grandson happy and excited with a brand new future in front of him. I was able to give her the peace that I was alright and was going to be just fine until the day we meet again.

Grams,

I will never be able to properly express my love, gratitude and deep admiration for every little thing you did for me, the family, and the country. I know you are in an incredible place up there with so many amazing people.

I hope that you’ll check in every once in awhile on me and the family. Jenny, Josh, Kaylin and I love you, miss you, and hope you’re having an incredible time up there, we all know you fully earned it.

As a final tribute to Grams, I have put together a memorial video.
When I first starting creating this I struggled with what music to use.

Again, I did what Grams would have done and I prayed to God for help.

I eventually decided on a beautiful piece of music by Michael Giachinno, appropriately titled “Moving On”. While I am sure Grams up above is so happy with everything we do here this morning, ultimately her final wish would be that we happily remember her life, the memories we made with her, and that we move on with the lives that she’s helped support, guide, and inspire.  

So with that I invite all of you to remember, celebrate and rejoice in the life of God’s gift to us, my grandmother Verna Mattox.

Happy 35th Birthday My Love!

My dearest Jenny,

Today I along with your daughter, step-son, parents, friends, family and everyone you’ve touched over the past 35 years celebrate a day that has wonderfully impacted our lives.

Over these 35 years you’ve accomplished so much and you continue to do so with each and every day.

You are an amazing mom to Kaylin, balancing love, patience, tenderness and caring discipline to help her become an incredible young lady. Being a single mom has not been easy with numerous challenges thrown at you, yet each and every one you’ve overcome while at the same time teaching Kaylin valuable lessons about life and love.

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You’ve taken that same incredible skill as a parent and shared it with Josh. I know he’s learned a lot from you already and has experienced every bit of that same love you give to Kaylin.

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Despite having a couple thousand miles in between you and your family you are still a supportive, caring and loving daughter, sister and aunt. You do everything for them that’s within your means and even then you’ll go above and beyond that. You may not be able to see them as often as you’d like, but they know how much you love them and how you’ll do anything within your power to be there for them each and every day.

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Friends like the ones you have are not easily gained, and even harder to keep. You are always there for them with a listening ear, a loving hug, cheers of support or a wealth of reasonable advice and guidance. You love them like an extended set of family, each and every day, with every Facebook post, phone call and text message you make. To them you’re not just a friend, you’re a sister to them all with a big heart and bright smile.

And then there’s the woman you are to me….

You give so much to so many others, yet you still manage to give me so much each and every day. I get everything they all get and so much more!

You are patient and understanding with me like no one has ever been before. I can seemingly drive you nuts, yet your love for me never falters.

You have shown me love.  Pure, true, wonderful and totally unselfish love that I thought was just something that was made up in movies.

You continually inspire me and help me see how much more I am capable of accomplishing. Just when I think I haven’t got anything left, you help me find that I can do so much more and then help me do it.

You have made and continue to make me a better man in every way shape and form.

I cannot wait until the day I get to call you my wife, and look forward to getting to spend the rest of my life with you.

Jenny, you are so much to so many people and none of us will ever be able to properly show or tell you how much you truly mean to us. Had it not been for that day 35 years ago that God blessed the world with you, life just wouldn’t be the same.

Happy Birthday My Love! May God bless you (and us) with many, many, many more!

Countdown To A New Life…T- 6 Months and 3 Days

In a little over 6 months I am going to get married to an absolutely incredible woman.

ImageA woman who reminded me how incredible she was over the last couple of days and continues to show me what a mature and healthy adult relationship is like. She’s even able to put up with me, which can be no small feat sometimes. 😉

After having a really good evening with Jenny last night and feeling a little more in the creative writing mode I decided to work on my vows while on the train ride in.

I had already written a good part of them and I went through and refined it, added a little here and there and took out some of it so they don’t go on too long. While I think they’re mostly done, I imagine over the next few months I’ll continue to touch them up. In the end though my my ultimate challenge will be getting through them without tearing up.

After working on my vows and reading a Mashable article on using Pinterest to help plan a wedding, I thought why not journal some of my experiences as we get closer to my wedding day? So with that I’m going to start threading in blog posts about my journey towards the beginning of a new life.

We are for the most part pretty well done with the essential parts of the wedding planning.

The location, DJ, photographer, florist, baker, best man, man of honor and rings have been chosen and deposits made.

Her dress is sitting in a closet that I am making sure I go nowhere near and at this point pretty much everyone I know has seen it, but me (of course).

I think this is where it gets interesting though…all the little details.

We still have as yet to do our tasting and set the menu. The flowers while generally thought of aren’t totally selected. The music playlist is something we’ll actually let some of our friends and family help select…just NO CHICKEN DANCE and NO MACARENA!!!

There’s a multitude of other details and selections as well as a special project and a few surprises for our guests that have as yet to be done and I intend to share that experience here so it should be interesting.

So stay tuned…this is gonna be fun!

Happy 15th Birthday Son!

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Today is my little boy’s 15th birthday!

While I’ve wished him Happy Birthday on the phone and on Facebook and we celebrated this last weekend, I had to blog about it too.

C’mon…what kind of tech Dad would I be if I didn’t blog about it?

While growing up I certainly had my dreams about being a Navy pilot or Astronaut, I also had a dream that not many young boys have. I wanted to be a Dad. Even moreso I wanted to have a son.

That dream was realized 15 years ago when Josh came into the world and was placed into my arms. I can still vividly remember every part of that day, from the way the weather was to the sounds and feelings I went through. It was and will always be one of the greatest moments of my life.

Over those 15 years we’ve had good times and we’ve had bad times. He and I have both grown in so many wonderfully different ways and we continue to grow every day. While like most teenagers he can be frustrating, the majority of the time he makes me incredibly happy and proud. He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s loving, he’s caring and he has an incredible spirit that I like to think is a result of the best parts of me.

I am proud and honored to be Joshua Tellez’ dad and happy to again celebrate a dream come true.

Happy Birthday (Son/Bugaboo/Buddy/Kid)! I love you and thank you for being my son. Love, Dad.

The Best $5 I’ve Ever Spent!

I do believe that the occasional homeless person we encounter is a test from God.

This morning as I was riding the red line a homeless person entered the car, held out his hat and went around to people hoping to get some amount of money.

Earlier in the morning I had been reading a chapter of “The Purpose Driven Life” where it said that one of the key things we need to do as followers of Christ is to love one another. That putting out love is one of the things that pleases God the most.

Having been inspired by what I read I decided to go into my wallet to see if I had some dollar bills.

When I opened it though I found I had two fives.

I’ll admit there was a little bit of hesitation to give out a five, it was more than I usually gave.
In that moment of hesitation the following things flashed through my head…

– My incredibly loving, strong, supportive and all around wonderful fiancee’

– My awesome and very healthy 14 (soon to be 15) year old son and 7 year old future step-daughter

– My amazing friends who have seen me through so much and stuck around no matter what

– My loving family, current and future

– My really great job that I’ve been blessed to have for so long with such a good company

– The many things I am fortunate to have as a result of that job…a roof over my head, healthy food, nice clothing, vacations, evenings out, a car and all the wonderful tech gadgets I get to play with

It was then that I very happily pulled out the five dollar bill and placed it in his hat.

Seriously…what is $5 compared to everything that I have? It’s nothing.

The homeless man said thank you, started to walk away and then looked down in his hat. I could see the surprise that came over his face when he realized I hadn’t tossed a dollar bill, it was more than that.

He then turned back around to me and said thank you many more times. He told me that I was a great person and that God would not only reward me in heaven, but had a wonderful place for me there. He then thanked me many more times and said “God bless you!” as he walked away.

For the incredibly small amount of $5 I not only helped someone out, I made his day. I reaffirmed his faith that there are still good people out there that care and demonstrated to God how DEEPLY THANKFUL I am for what I have.

That was the best $5 I’ve ever spent!