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 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.

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