Patience in the Meantime

At Christmas time as a kid, I was crazy impatient. Who am I kidding? I’m still impatient. I’m the guy that buys a gift for my wife, wraps it and then wants her to open it right away because I know this year, it is going to be the best gift she has ever received. I want it to blow her mind, “Oh my gosh, Sammy! How did you know I wanted this? It’s so perfect!!!” all of this while running through the house leaping for joy. Or at least be as over joyed as Jonas who says, “I’ve always wanted one of these.”

Back to my story as a kid. I, like every kid, impatiently waited for Christmas to arrive. As I got older, I became more keenly aware of all of my mom’s hiding places for our gifts. I just had to make sure I was getting what was on my list. I, also, became really good at my “surprised” expressions on Christmas morning. (Mom, if you are reading this, I’m sorry. It only happened a few times.)

I just couldn’t wait to know what I was getting on Christmas morning. I only did this a few times though, because it really ruined the surprise and lure of Christmas. Part of the excitement of Christmas is the uncertainty of the gifts received. 

As adults, we tend forget this fact because we don’t give or get presents that are not on a list written by us or the one whom is giving us a gift. We don’t want to be the giver or receiver of the wrong gift. (My father-in-law actually liked to get socks because there was always a sale on them around Christmas. He always made me laugh. He was a practical gift giver. It was always something you can use.)

Many of us don’t do well with uncertainty in life. We want to have a controlled environment, a controlled life. Anytime there is a feeling of not knowing, we get uneasy and sometimes we do whatever we can to regain control. I believe it is one of the reasons it’s harder for adults to accept the message of Jesus. Ultimately, a life in Jesus is giving up control in order for a better way of life. Trusting God is giving up control.

The hardest time to trust God is in the meantime. What do I mean by this? Meantime, according to dictionary.com, is the intervening time. It’s the time between where we were and where we want to go. The meantime is the space between starting a new career and seeing the success we desire in that field. It’s the time between the diagnoses and the healing. It’s the time between surgery and recovery. The meantime is the years between a prayer and it’s answer. In the meantime.

The meantime is monotonous. It’s flat out boring. It’s the humdrum of life. The meantime is the daily routine that gets so repetitive that you long for something, anything different to come along. It’s the job that seems to be going nowhere fast.

In the meantime is when we ask ourselves, “Is this it? Is this what I am going to do for the rest of my life? Day after day, week after week, year after year? There’s got to be more than this God. I want something more.” And the meantime can last a day or an entire season of life. The meantime happens when we pray and it seems like God isn’t even listening. It’s the prayers that seem to hit the ceiling and reverberate back to us that there is no end in sight and we might as well give up. How do you I not get impatient for what God has for me next?

In his book, “A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23”, W. Phillip Keller (here’s a link to amazon, you need to read it.) describes in full detail what life as a shepherd is like and goes verse by verse helping the reader to understand what David is trying to convey in Psalm 23.

If you are not familiar with Psalm 23, it starts out, “ The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” Every time I get to the part that says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. For you are with me.” I’ve always picture seasons of life being highs, on the mountaintop, or lows, the valley below the mountain. And we are on a lifelong journey of these highs and lows. But, Keller describes the valley in a more clear way that gives us hope in the meantime. 

The valley, according to Keller, was actually the location of a river that shepherds would guide their sheep along on the way to the plateau on the mountain that was sure to have greener pastures. It was a place of incredible foliage that would feed the sheep and sustain them on the journey up the mountain. The valley was always a place of great danger because wolves could stand on the edges of the valley and pick off any straggling sheep. This causes the shepherd to be more keenly aware of what is going on with his sheep. He knows them by name, how they are doing, if they are wounded or in need of anything. All the while, he is leading his sheep to a place of great reward.

The meantime is our valley on the way to where we are going. God does his best work in our lives in the meantime. The meantime is our opportunity to work on being even more close to Jesus, our Shepherd. The foliage that we need to sustain us is the Bible, God’s Word. It is our, “ever present help in times of trouble.” The enemy is prowling around like a wolf looking to see whom he can pick off.

Abraham was 75 years old when God promised him many descendants and 100 years old when his wife, Sarah, gave birth to Issac. In the meantime…

Moses tended sheep for 40 years before God told him to go set Israel free. In the meantime…

Jesus waited 30 years to start his ministry. In the meantime…

The meantime isn’t fun and exciting. Many times our prayers are for God to show us what’s in the box. What is the next great surprise? I’m learning that part of the excitement of life is the uncertainty of the gifts received.

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Difficulty and Reward

Sammy Floyd family

After 15 years of marriage and two kids, I’ve learned one thing to be true…the most rewarding things and the most difficult things in life are usually one in the same. My wife and I will tell you that there are peaks and valleys. There are times when it feels like you are so high that nothing can touch you. But, there are also times that you have to wage war together.

In marriage, you have to work at your relationship daily. You’ve got to make daily deposits in order to feel all the feels 15..20..50 years later. It’s work because sometimes you just don’t feel like giving anymore.

As men, we just want to fix the problems away and we feel like it should be that simple. Analyze, assess, and execute. But, life doesn’t always work that way. I am learning that sometimes Alissa just wants me to “feel’ through it with her. To feel the emotions she is feeling and process my emotions along the way.

I’m a fixer and a doer by nature. If Alissa is upset, I either want to fix the situation right away or do something, like clean the kitchen or bathrooms or the whole house, just to help make things better. It’s the only thing I know to do because I’m not great at processing my feelings.

I’m learning, however, it isn’t about my fixing and doing. It’s taking the time to actually listen and to understand how she is feeling and how I or someone else has made her feel. It’s putting myself in her shoes with her emotions to understand and empathize. Then, and only then, can we truly connect and work through whatever comes our way.

Love isn’t a feeling, it’s an action and a choice. You don’t always feel like it, but working on your marriage is a daily choice. You gave an oath to do it for the rest of your life. Don’t take the easy way out. If love is worth it, it’s worth the work.

In parenting, a lot of the same principles of a loving relationship apply. To be a great parent, you have to be willing to empty yourself and give until it hurts and then, give more.

From sleepless nights to toy room fights, patience plays a huge role in everyones survival. Early on, your children are completely dependent on you and when you get one child to a stage of some semblance of independence, you have a second. Your second child is nothing like your first, in the way they act, feel, and respond. You have to unlearn what worked for the first child because it doesn’t work for the second.

Through all the ups and downs of parenting, it is hard to not lose your spouse in the shuffle. It’s as if you are two robots, constantly meeting the needs of your two pint-sized owners and you only see each other in passing. By the time you get your kids to bed, it feels as though you have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and came back down all in one evening. Your bodies begin shutting down from exhaustion. Where in the world am I going to get the energy to work on my marriage?

As I am learning, in this current stage of life, you’ve got to be intentional with your time. If you don’t plan it, it won’t happen. Not only is this true with your kids, but especially true with your spouse. Become creative in how you spend time together. We can’t afford a sitter every week, but we can still plan an evening of putting the kids to bed early so that we can just talk, connect, and be a couple.

I’m not perfect as a husband or a father, but I am committed to one thing…working through all the difficult parts to bask in the sunshine of love and marriage.

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Perception is Reality

After months of having a hard time reading the chalkboard at school, signs which we passed by on the highway, and getting headaches from squinting, I got glasses when I was in 8th grade. What a world of difference it makes to be able to see the world clearly, especially for the first time in a long time. I had to wear glasses for an entire year before the eye doctor would let me even try contacts. If you’ve ever worn glasses, you know how cumbersome they can be at times. So, a year later when I was able to get contacts, I welcomed the change!

The goal of every refraction is to get you to see 20/20. When your eye sight is as near-sighted as mine, without contacts or glasses, everything is incredibly blurry. Dark rooms are even harder to see what or whom is in the room. I’ve mistaken people as objects or for someone else completely. Glasses and contacts help me to see the world as it really is.

A truth I have learned, and even more so as I get older, is perception is reality. Our perceptions, whether they are accurate or not, become the reality in which we base our judgments. For instance, on the playground at school, if you were to be punched by the class bully and you retaliated and punched back and were the one caught, you were the one that got in the most trouble. Why? Because they teachers perceived reality is that you are starting a fight. Everything you say after your actions becomes a “he said, he said” debate, especially if the bully denies his actions. For the principal, whatever the teacher perceived to be the truth is all they can draw on to render their verdict.

As a Jr. High and High schooler of the 90’s, it seemed that everyone’s family structure was incredibly sound. I only knew one person whose parents divorced, but by the time I met Brandon, his parents were remarried and it all seemed to be going really well. But, in our worst moments we don’t see the dysfunction in others lives, because we can’t see past our own. The water is murky, especially when it is crashing against you like a tsunami tidal wave.

When my parents’ divorced, I didn’t want anyone to know. I was incredibly ashamed. I no longer invited friends to my house, because I was completely embarrassed. And on top of the embarrassment of divorce, the reason for the divorce, my dad going to jail and the grotesque reason for going to jail, further propelled me into embarrassment and shame. I didn’t let people in to see the mess that was my family. My perception was that my family is more dysfunctional than any other and no one would want to be around me if they truly knew what was going on at home.

I constantly steered conversations away from me. Through my teenage years, it was easy for me to help people through their struggles, because I knew if we were talking about their lives, they wouldn’t ask me about my own. They wouldn’t know about the deep, dark secret in my family life.

I did everything I could to cover up what my dad did and to just blot it out from my family life. I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I wanted nothing to do with the parts of me that were like my father.

A year or so after dad went to prison, I was about 13, and an aunt of mine, nonchalantly made a comment comparing my personality to my dad’s and said, “You are going to be just like your daddy.” By that comment, I thought I was doomed to make the same mistakes and life choices in which my father made. That comment sent me on a trajectory to rid myself of anything that resembled my father. I didn’t want to have anything to do with being “like my daddy.” I was embarrassed. I couldn’t handle it. My perception of what she meant set me on a life-path as far away from reflecting my father as possible.

Today, I know she meant nothing by the comment and didn’t even remember saying the statement. She meant that we had similar personalities and that we were both a joy to be around, but in the throws of the embarrassment of my father going to jail and my family being the only people I knew of having to deal with this situation, it wrecked me.

We have to be careful in the assumptions we make and in our perceptions. We have to make sure we fully understand the situation and get all the facts. In this instance, not getting clarity, was my fault and that is an assumption and hurt that I lived with for over 20 years. Not until last year, was I willing to look past my perception to find out the truth. Our perception is our reality, but it may not be the truth. Seek truth over feelings.

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Fatherless Father

I spent all of my teenage years fatherless. I do have some memories of moments shared with my dad, but those are few and far between. Vaguely, I can remember some of the times I spent with him learning to fix things around the house, playing video games on Atari and Nintendo, fishing, and going bowling (this was before they had no smoking in public places and you could see a line in the air from the cigarette smoke).

I wish I could say I had all of these grandiose memories and times that I spent learning what it meant to be a man, a father. It was just ripped away from me before we had the chance to get there.

My dad use to be around from time to time, but it wasn’t the same. Now, we don’t even talk. If we do it becomes a blame game about why our relationship is horrible. It’s hard to pick up where we left off. I’m not the same and so it feels like we are two separate people, on two different planets when in fact we are in the same room.

For the last 26 years, it has been hard to be in conversation with people when they talk about how amazing their dad is or tell tales of adventures they have shared. There is a sense of envy, when a friend says they are going to grab lunch with their dad. It hurts deep down when someone tells me that their dad is their best friend.

What’s that like?

What is a father suppose to be in someone’s life?

Here in lies the reason it took me several years, 10 to be exact, to be ready for Alissa and me to have kids. I honestly didn’t know what a father was suppose to be like. What is a father suppose to be? I was a little afraid that since I didn’t have a father present for most of my life, I would mess up as a father myself.

How do you teach a boy to be a man?

How do you treat a girl properly?

What does a dad do for his kids in a way a mom cannot?

To be honest, these are still some of the questions that keep me up at night.

How do I do this fathering thing?

Who can I turn to?

How does the fatherless learn to be a father?

I can’t say that I have learned everything I know on my own, nor that I don’t make mistakes from time to time. I have had some pretty incredible father figures that I have met throughout my life. Seeing how they interact with their kids built confidence that I could do the same. I’ve always known that I’d want to emulate some of those characteristics I see in their relationships.

A wise man isn’t someone who learns only from his own mistakes, but someone who also learns from the mistakes of others.

Ultimately, looking at how God loves us and is our Heavenly Father is the best way for me to learn as I go. There really is no greater example.

So, I’ve jumped into fatherhood with both feet. My son is 5 and my daughter is 2. I’m not perfect. I’m not called to be perfect, just called do the best I can.

I’ve learned to be the father I always wish I had. I try not to take for granted any of the moments I have with both of my kids. Being a dad is the hardest thing I have ever done, but it also the most rewarding. I do my best to put their needs ahead of my own.

I want my kids to learn that I will always be there for them and they can always count on me. My goal is to help them experience life and be adventurous. I want them to see that it is ok for a dad to be soft and kind to them, and to also know I mean business when I correct them. I want to make memories with them that we can talk about for years to come. My kids always know they are not a far away thought from my mind, but that I care deeply for them and would do absolutely anything for them.

I finally understand why God loves me so much and would send Jesus to die for me. Everything that I want for my kids, He wants for me and even more.

How can a fatherless man become an incredible father?

I’m not exactly sure, but I’ll let you know when I get there.

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This is My Story

Sammy and Ray at home

I come from a broken home.

We had a pretty normal life. I am from a lower-middle class family. We moved often all around the West Tulsa and Sand Springs area. My parents did everything they could to make ends meet.

Looking back, in those moments, life the way we were living it, seemed normal. Nothing out of the ordinary for sure. My dad would take me fishing on occasion or let me help with whatever project he was working on around the house.

I attended, from time to time, a Baptist church in Sand Springs with my aunt. I specifically remember learning about Jesus on a flannel board and then being bored to tears sitting in “big church”. Playing cars and coloring down on the floor beneath the pew was the only way to pass the time. When I finally got to go home, I’d plead with one of my parents to not make me go back.

I occasionally went to Vacation Bible School with my cousin and even got baptized once or twice. Even still, I never fully understood what Christianity was all about.

I was a good kid, excelled in school, and loved life.

Then, something unbelievable happened that turned my world upside down. My dad went to jail.

As an early adolescent, I had a tough time understanding how something like this could happen to our family.

I remember placing blame, not fully understanding the weight of my words on those around me and just being hurt. Words can’t describe the roller coaster of emotions I went through.

In those following months and years, I was pushed into a role that was never meant for a child. There are so many insecurities and identity issues to contend with when you grow up without a father. I left so many opportunities to have amazing experiences on the table because I was too afraid to take the risk. It felt like my responsibility, duty even, was to help raise my brothers and help them navigate life, and to protect them from outside forces.

I looked for acceptance and influence in any relationships with guys that were older, to be a part of what seemed to be a family. I spent about a year hanging out with a couple of teenagers that were a part of a gang on the north side of Tulsa. The acceptance I felt made me want to be a part of this gang. Fortunately, my friends never let me join. Maybe because I was a white boy amidst 20 hispanic boys or they truly knew I didn’t know what I was getting into. All I saw was a family of guys of which I could belong to.

Eventually, mom remarried and we moved nearly an hour away. Most of my teenage years I had a really hard time connecting with my step-dad and step-brothers. Once you become the alpha male of the house, it is very hard to relinquish those reigns. Especially, when you feel you are more fit to lead your siblings than the next guy. I never looked to my step-dad as an actual father figure, but more of a person with whom to coexist.

A teenage life in a blended family. I struggled to figure out how to become a man and find my identity and to fit in this new family. Constantly, I wrestled with protecting and leading my brothers and helping them to become something I had no clue how to become myself, a man.

My parents started going to church because they wanted to “raise us boys right.” I commend them both. It would be hard to handle six boys and raise them to be good men without a community to influence them.

When my parents started going to church, I was 15 yrs old and well capable of taking care of myself and my little brothers. My sister had moved, so I was the oldest of my siblings and step-siblings in the house. I came up with every excuse you can think of to not go to church. I remembered church as this place I’d waste most of my day at for something I didn’t really understand. “Coming down with something” was a regular occurrence…until my parents forced me to go.

I went to this new church my parents had found. I gave my heart to Jesus. It wasn’t an unusual day for the church, just a normal Sunday. For me, however, it was a day that forever change the trajectory of my life. I finally found acceptance. I finally found the love of a father, of which I had never known. Since that day, my life has been on a course to align my hopes and dreams with that of God’s for my life.

The Holy Spirit has helped me break down a lot of the barriers that have kept me from letting people in and has enabled me to become a better version of me everyday. I don’t claim to be perfect or think I will ever reach perfection, but I know that God loves me just the way I am.

Knowing Jesus, fully, has given my life meaning, given me a purpose. I don’t know how I would ever live without Jesus in my life. I am so thankful for the blessings God has given me and the way He always sees me through the difficult times. It’s why I still believe today.

When all seems lost, Jesus is more real to me in those moments then any other.

God has placed some pretty incredible men in my life at just the right time to help me with every aspect of becoming a man, husband, and father. Here is a thank you to Scott Price, Aaron Malusky, Tim Beitzel, Justin Graves, Scott Heckeroth and countless other men whom have and are living their lives as an example for so many young men to emulate. I wouldn’t be who I am without each of you.

Lastly, I am thankful for my Heavenly Father, for showing me a father’s love. Learning that I have to continually lay down my life for my kids has shown me what it means to fully love them.

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