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…

11870697_10207818124230882_4095947133510797330_n

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 offerred 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.

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.

photo 3

Got A Happy Thought?

I have always loved the character of Peter Pan.

First of all he could fly. Really, of all the powers I could have flying would be the first one I’d want. No more TSA security screenings, no more traffic, seriously I think it’s the best power to have.

Second, he personified the idea of enjoying life to its fullest. Something that seems very hard to do nowadays for many.

in the book by the brilliant J.M. Barrie, Peter teaches the children that to fly all they need is a little pixie dust and to think of a happy thought.

In the pseudo-sequel Hook by my hero Steven Spielberg, Peter Pan has grown up and become a cold hearted business man who is now afraid of taking chances, fears everything and doesn’t know how to relate to his children. He has become the exact opposite of everything he stood for and seemingly lost his true soul. He has lost all of his happy thoughts and is grounded from flight by reality and responsibility.

While I think that reality is incredible important to keep in mind, you still have to live. It’s one thing to be responsible and to be an adult, but it doesn’t mean that you need to be that way all the time nor do you have to carry it to such extremes that you make everyone around you miserable.

Life is so short and as a popular quote goes “each new day is a gift, that’s why they call today the present”. I’m not saying you need to go about your life with reckless abandon or no responsibility at all but to ground yourself completely and not let your soul breath is as I learned in my own life, no way to live one.

I for a period of time in my life became too grounded in reality. I lost the freedom and joy I had once afforded myself from time to time and became so serious and intense that I made others miserable. I had not just grounded myself I had firmly planted my roots in the ground and become a weed. I had lost my happy thoughts and was shriveling up.

I chose to pull myself up and get more out of life. Over the past 6+ years I have slowly pulled myself from the ground and have slowly but surely found the things in life that made me smile and am now feel more free than I can remember feeling in a long time.

I have a job that I am passionate about and work with some pretty remarkable people that challenge me in so many different ways and help me continue to grow.

I am the father I wanted to be with a son that knows he is loved to no end.

I am a friend who people want around them.

I am a person who is trying to make a difference in the world and knows that every little thing counts.

I have learned that perfection is great for many things but you don’t have to nail it every single time.

I have learned that failure brings on success.

Over the course of the last couple of months my girlfriend Jenny and her daughter Kaylin have helped me know what it is to be loved for exactly who I am. They have reminded me that it’s okay to be the geeky dork that I am, to be silly, to laugh until it hurts and that it’s okay to sing out loud and to dance as if no one else is around.

They along with Josh have become my happy thoughts and I have learned how to fly again.

So what’s your happy thought? What gives you strength? What drives you and helps you fly?

Let me know what gets you off the ground. Perhaps your thoughts can help remind those that lost them of their own and together we can help them start lifting off the ground because we all deserve to fly.

Happiness…Just Accept It

Happiness is a really interesting beast.

According to our founding fathers, we’re free to pursue it.
Based on the Will Smith movie, we’re allowed to misspell it.
Once we’ve got it we tend to question it and wonder if in fact we’ve found it.

Then we try and hold on to it so tight that we do stupid things and it slips away from us and we are off on the cycle of trying to get it once more.

Recently I’ve had a lot to be happy about. So happy that at times it seems almost surreal and I wonder how it could be happening to me.

Seriously the thought goes through my mind of “How do I deserve this?”, “Why would I get to feel as happy as I do right now?”.

I ponder if my happiness is true or just perceived. If it is true how much longer is it going to go on (aka – when is the bottom going to drop out?).

The fact of the matter is that I need to just listen to what so many people have told me, especially friends that have been INCREDIBLY RIGHT when I was so wrong and just enjoy it.

Don’t question it.
Don’t analyze it.
Don’t wonder why.

Just accept it for what it is, don’t try and make it something more (or less) and live in the moment.

Accept that I’ve worked very hard to make a lot of other people very happy. I’ve put a lot of good karma out there, and now I get to enjoy it coming back to me.

God has granted me this period of happiness because I’ve earned it and put a lot of my heart and soul into helping it come to fruition. I’ve also gone through a pretty deep, dark forest to get out to this beautiful clearing.

Now this is a bit of a challenge for an over thinker like myself, but it’s a challenge I fully accept and look forward to. The best part is as I take it on I get to feel things I haven’t felt for the longest time and some I’ve never felt before.

So today I thank God for this happiness (especially the people that are a source of this happiness), I choose to Just Accept It and will enjoy it for as long as I possibly can.