A Day for Thanks

A Day for Thanks | By Victoria Gomillion

I would like to start off by saying I absolutely love this time of year! The cool weather, plaid, food, and family is my happy place! I am a high extrovert, so the more people the better. The only idea better than having all of my friends and family living on my street would be if they lived in my house. I love decorating (though I am not the best at it), and I love cooking, and eating. I could write a whole blog on my high, unrealistic, over excited optimism about the holidays, but I would like to share something a little deeper. I want to share why this day is so precious and should be looked at with eyes of excitement instead of dread.

My favorite moment in the day of beautiful chaos, called Thanksgiving, is when everyone shares what they are most thankful for. I love watching people’s “thinking” face as they IMG_3675mentally go through their life trying to categorize the best part. It’s quite humorous. A lifetime of blessings comes down to a five second platform to share something that has made or changed your life forever. How can I name just one thing that is a blessing in my life? Why is it only Thanksgiving Day that we share these deep truths with each other? Why are we not proclaiming all year long, “I am so thankful for my family, friends, food, shelter, freedom”? I’ll tell you why, because sharing what you are thankful for does not mean you have a thankful heart. Believe it or not, there is a huge difference, and that’s what I want to remind us of. When we have a thankful heart it overflows into every aspect of our lives, even the way we think and feel.

Having a thankful heart means we smile with joy and appreciation when we can only afford the lesser quality version of something we really wanted, or when a husband helps out around the house even if it isn’t the way we wanted. A thankful heart means we are truly content with what we have and where we are at, period.

IMG_3840In the Bible, Paul told the Philippians that he had learned the key to happiness and that was contentment in all things. He mentions he knew what it was like to be rich and poor, full and hungry, warm and cold, and at the end it all comes down to contentment. I feel convicted even writing this because of how many times my attitude is anything but thankful. The Bible is full of verses on thanksgiving and the importance of having a thankful heart. Probably because life has a way of throwing a huge pile of poop (aka trials or hardships) on the most perfect of days. Are we going to try and focus on the day we wanted so badly to be perfect, or the stinky poop covering it? Though loving Jesus is easy, following Him is not. We want things our way: perfect, happy, blessed, and stress free. So how do we still enjoy ourselves when things don’t go our way? How do we hold onto contentment with a thankful heart?

I know this holiday season is difficult for many people. Maybe someone you loved passed away around this time of year, and when you look at happy people or laughter all you can remember is how you used to share in that kind of joy with them, and now you will IMG_3956never get that chance again this side of heaven. Maybe you are in such financial hardship that even thinking about buying a turkey or decorations seems like a burden, reminding you of just how poor you are. Or maybe your family is toxic and abusive and this time of year means constant fighting and hurt feelings, covered by fake sentiment and crying in a closet alone. I have experienced all of this so I know how hurtful this time of year can be. What should be “the most wonderful time of the year” can quickly become the most dreaded. It’s one thing to go through the holidays, but it’s a whole different story to try and rejoice about it.

I really, really want to rejoice in hard times and make God look good! He deserves that. After all, He made me, pursued me, saved me, redeemed me, and then empowered me! At the end of the day, no matter how good or bad, if we can remember this I think it’s the first step to a thankful and grateful heart. So, when you feel the frustration rising, the chaos beginning, and the expectation of a perfect day dying; try to take five minutes for yourself and say out loud, “Thank you God for not only my crazy family, some food and shelter, but THANK YOU Jesus for never giving up on me, but instead pursuing me relentlessly because You love me so much.” Reminding yourself of who you are and where you would be without Jesus is a sure way to get back a thankful heart! Let’s do our best to be the bright shining lights God created us to be in a dark world! Let’s be the people that rejoice even when it’s hard, laugh when things go wrong, and have love for those that sometimes make it difficult. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, bring on the fat pants!


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Victoria Gomillion has followed Jesus Christ whole-heartedly since the age of 19. All of her success, fruit, blessings, and life she owes to Him. She fostered a child for two years, was married to her Prince Charming last year, and pregnant a month later. The same month she found out she was pregnant, her first daughter’s adoption was finalized. Victoria has had the blessing of finishing nursing school, leading worship, speaking prophetically, and teaching mentor classes. Her full-time joy is now as a wife and mother.

 

Love & Tragedy

Love & Tragedy | by Bethany Luchetta

My heart starts to race. I am angry. I let it linger, fester, grow into outright rage. We are human; all susceptible to whims of fleeting emotions. But, where is my trust during tragedy? Do I fire-off political unrest, race induced beliefs, religious anger, conspiracy theories, or lobbyist topics? Where do I put my energy? How can I bring my elevated heart rate back down to a trusting place and learn from what I am feeling? How can I learn about myself from my own thought patterns and feelings? After all, they are my own. I stop to consider this, but I come to the conclusion that it’s easier to banter about someone else’s thoughts and feelings and actions and words, than consider my own. So, I fire off a social media post attempting to relieve myself of my own fear on a public platform hoping for validation. I achieve momentary satisfaction from people who agree with me, but am again quickly angered by those who do not agree. The cycle is addicting because it takes me away from the issue; my own heart.

We are only responsible for our own elevated heart rate that could indicate fear, insecurity or anger in the recesses of our heart and mind. Once we feel this elevated emotion ignite, it gives us the ability to locate where we confide our trust. We can change the world one heart at a time if we begin inside our chest.

170907-st-martin-irma-mn-1140_16097ca5c5bf8814cb38d752367c5636.nbcnews-fp-1240-520Grieving people may take offense to this topic being submitted in the twilight of their loss. I am not writing to hurt anyone, but to offer peace. It takes my breath away in deep sorrow for the three people I know who lost someone last week at the hand of evil. There are people grieving today from the loss of their homes from fires, and still others in dire straights from recent disasters. Every person has a different vantage point. People are passion inspired from original stories of their own. It’s helpful to stop and listen; to build relationships while we are here, where you can. You love me and we bond over our similarities, but we can disagree and yet respect our differences. It’s respect of differences that makes us the same.

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We thank God for the ones who were spared
from fire, flood, and gunshot. We thank God when we are spared. And we should be thankful. I struggle with thinking someone was spared only because they had Faith in God. Many who have faith in God are not spared. The Bible speaks loudly to the fact that those who believe are still exposed. So, yes, be thankful for being spared, and for those spared around you. But we already know those who believe will fall along with those who do not believe. Destruction and death leaves us grieving. It hurts, I am not denying that. It seems so cliché to quote the Bible when people are hurting.

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So, we blame God for those who are not spared
. Have you ever been in a relationship where you were forced to love the other person? Sounds toxic and suffocating, doesn’t it? Not much of a relationship if you ask me. Well, if you believe in God, aren’t you glad you aren’t forced to engage, or agree, with Him? From what was etched about the philosophy of God, we are created to act in ‘Free Will’. A ‘Will’ to believe in Him, or not to believe. We have a capacity for good or evil; for thinking. Case-in-point; people choosing to be evil. We are capable of great and wonderful feats of amazement! Just look into the eyes of your child (if you have one), the proof is right in front of you. It may be too much and you decide there is no God. If you don’t believe in God, you may also be glad no one can force you to believe otherwise. At any rate, you may agree that life is precious. We want to point blame when tragedy happens. History is full of sorrowful, sensual, thoughtful and profound acts created by ‘humankind’, and nature alike. The question may forever be asked, ‘why’? This question may never be answered, or then again, the answer may resonate inside of you. The God I know begs you to ask this question, if not to tear down walls and become vulnerable, maybe to find His heart in an answer to your own soul.

vessels-ministry-the-heart-of-god-lightSo, if God is real, then who serves a God who made a human race capable of horrid things? How can nature destroy senselessly? This is a deep conversation; possibly the one that divides faith, religions and belief systems so severely. Who am I to argue with your conviction? I can only tell you what I believe, you may shake your fist indicating, ‘she’s an ignorant believer’. I am a believer. I am a believer in a God who made my Universe; the Divine. I am not a believer in religion, or church, or a denomination. I am a believer in Love. I believe I was made to love. I believe this little light of mine was made to shine. I believe in a God who loves bigger than I can ever express and who granted us faith to trust that His eternal plan is greater than the temporary physical life we sensationalize (literally experiencing with just our 5 senses). I believe that believers die too; sometimes horrid deaths. God is not here to be a magic potion for our human problems. We can’t pray away the Earth’s pangs. We all are subject to physical decay and death, accidents, misuse, abuse, bad choices and so on. I believe when we trust God, we are able to have a solid knowing that life is eternal. We are here to grow with each other, to experience relationship with other humans; to grow our forever spirit. I believe that when evil takes lives, life doesn’t cease to exist. I believe we are far more than physical beings, we are spirits beings. I believe spirits live forever… And in this truth, I hold my hope and trust.

In moments of heighten emotions during tragedies take note of your own heart, breathe and refocus to the most important thing: souls. Take the time to locate your pain, offer compassion to yourself and others. And most importantly, remember that LOVE is still greater.


IMG_2727Bethany Luchetta is a writer of life and love and tragedy. In hopes to connect with the humanity around her, she writes from her heart. Bethany just celebrated 7 years of marriage with her love, Vince Luchetta. They are both on their second marriage. Life has not been without challenge in their personal lives and career lives, yet they strive for growth in love and tragedy. They share three beautiful daughters, Makayla (17), Paige (13), and Livvy Lou (3). If you see them, reach out and say hi!

How to Plan an Epic Adventure

Three valuable tips for your next outing, getaway or grand vacation | By Josh Clements

You don’t have to be a superhero to have epic adventures with your loved ones but after following the tips in this blog, you’ll probably be mistaken for one.  

When asked about epic summer adventures in July, in San Diego, I was drawn to a comic book analogy like like Superman is drawn to shouts of “help!”, like Tony Stark is drawn to a mirror and like Stan Lee is drawn to, well draw anything…(things just got a wee bit nerdy, I’m sorry, please hang in there).  BlogPost3However, what I’m really saying here is that when I hear the word “epic” I immediately think of heroes, quests and the exciting things that happen and the memories that are made as a result. 

A wise man once gave Peter Parker some sage advice: “with great power comes great responsibility.”  This is very true.  However, when thinking about “summer time” I thought of a phrase that contains the essence of this advice combined with my own philosophy: “with great amounts of time, comes great opportunity.”  The question you may have is “opportunity for what?” All of us have an opportunity to have an “epic summer adventure,” however, just because it is summer, and it’s a vacation, doesn’t automatically make it “epic.”

It is on an epic quest that our heroes; find their purpose, overcome challenges and finally achieve their goal.

For anyone planning an outing, getaway or grand vacation remember to do these three things that epic heroes have done before us in literature and film:

  1. Define the purpose.
  2. Identify and prepare for challenges.
  3. Achieve something great for our family and friends.

I believe that all of us do a great job of the first two.  

We make a plan: “This summer we are going to Disneyland so we can go on the rides and meet the characters.”  

We prepare for challenges: “We will pack a backpack full of snacks and water so that ‘little Johnny’ doesn’t have a tantrum while waiting for Dumbo.”

However, we can look to our hero for advice on how to shift our summer outings from mere vacations to epic adventures by achieving something great:  

BlogPost6After his third year at Hogwarts, Harry routinely visits the neighboring village of Hogsmeade to partake in warm and tasty drinks at The Three Broomsticks and pick up some candy at Honeyduke’s Candy Shop.  Does he go alone?  BlogPost7No, he travels with his best friends Hermoine and Ron.  While there, they enjoy their time.  However, they also take the time to connect with each other.  They share the experience of partaking in everything that Hogsmeade has to offer, but they also talk about many things, are transparent, and, as a result, become better friends because of these conversations.

Does Harry plan his travel? Yes.  Does he take in the sights and sounds “the foreign land?  Yes.  Does he rush off to “check something off” his itinerary?  No.  

This is essential.  

He spends time with his best friends.  He talks with them about what is on his mind.  He shares the experience with 

them.  They sit.  They bond.  They develop their relationship.  This is what we sometimes miss while on vacation; focusing on using the time we are given to build relationships with the people whom we care about.

It’s easy to think  “oh man, I spend $300 on tickets, $1,000 on airfare, and have only five days to experience it all. Sooooooooo we only have 15 minutes to sit on this beach before we “have to” move on to the next thing.” BlogPost8Another wise bearded man (no, not Dumbledore) said “All you have to do is decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”

No matter how much money you spend ($5 or $5,000), it is essential to focus on what is most important; who you involve, the words you speak and the relationships you build.  No matter what, you will take pictures of the sights and of your fellow adventurers.  Later, when you and your travelling companions look at these photos, what will they remember?  Will they remember you pulling them along to look at an exact replica of a Nimbus 2000 or will they remember the conversation you had before you ate a handful of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans and the face you made when you tried a lawn clippings flavor?

Different locales are amazing; various beaches, different countries, even hidden parts of our own city are perfect settings for your adventure because they allow us to create shared experiences. What will you share? What will you do to make your time epic?”

The time will go by like The Flash (sorry, I couldn’t resist), how will you make the most of it?

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image1Josh Clements is an excellent planner of fun family outings, day trips and long, eight hour dates with his wife, Hannah. As an Eagle Scout, he knows how to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Together Josh and Hannah help raise Adam (15), Gracie (11) and Aidan (8). Josh has been a professional educator for 12 years and is currently working at San Marcos High School where he teaches 9th grade English and is the yearbook advisor. Josh and Hannah own the “little green house on the corner” in historic Escondido from which they often “adventure” to buy donuts from Peterson’s Donut Corner.

Our Fathers by Bethany Luchetta

Our Fathers – Our Identity | By Bethany Luchetta

Father’s Day Month! Month?! Why did I agree to write about fathers this month!? I will start by admitting that I slept through the Father’s Day breakfast that my mom had planned for her husband (my dad, Thomas). You might be asking yourself why I called him “her husband.” He’s the dad who raised me. And really the only guy whom I call Dad. But he didn’t make me. I also have a birth father, whom I call Chad. Anyway, I was depressed about Father’s Day and how it makes me feel, so I slept through the morning.

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April (younger sister), Bethany, Dad (Thomas), Heather (older sister)

Luckily for me, my dear-sweet-redemptive-father-example (aka my own husband) was home hanging out with our little Livvy Lou. I did eventually drag myself out of bed because Vince had to work some Israeli Defense gig at the Point Loma Synagogue. (I guess the Israelis don’t celebrate Father’s Day?!) After getting myself out of bed and lounging around, I was eventually convinced to play at the pool with my magnificent 3-year-old. So, this is me, and maybe you?

I am trying to be graceful with my sentiments. I am growing, and some years are better than others. I am working on being intentional at finding the good in any situation. In the meantime, it’s hard to pretend how I feel about my identity in relation to the connection—or lack of connection—I have with my fathers. I keep telling myself to write gingerly—family will read this, friends, my community. But, if I am not real, who can

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Vince, April (younger sister with her son), Bethany, Thomas (dad)

resonate with this part of my humanity? I admit, I don’t have the worst story I have ever heard, but that doesn’t discredit my struggle. And it doesn’t discredit yours either—good or bad or indifferent (or somewhere on the continuum). The fact is, I feel displaced on Father’s Day. Trying to celebrate makes me feel fake.

The facts are: I was adopted by my dad (Thomas) and never knew my birth father (Chad). My birth certificate was changed, and I was not even told I had a “birth father” until I was 10 years old. I knew something wasn’t “right” all along, but I could never put my finger on it. I felt displaced, disconnected and alone for most of my childhood. How can someone feel these things with two sisters and a mom and dad in the home? At 18 years old, I met my birth father and then a whole rash of horrible events within my home rolled out against my soul.

When I met my birth father, it brought up old history for my parents—insecurities and both passive-aggressive and aggressive behaviors that seemed to be directed at me for rocking the boat. My older sister, who shares the same birth father, wasn’t ready to meet Chad, and my little sister, who doesn’t share the same birth father, was feeling oddly

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Livvy Lou, Bethany, Chad (Birth Father)

displaced from me and my sisters’ situation. I don’t want to expound too much; they have their own stories. Nonetheless, my experience of the emotional struggles here began to shut down part of my heart. I didn’t feel safe with the world around me, and I started working even harder to gain God’s approval for my worth. I ventured even farther down the road of shame and confusion.

It is said that we get our idea of God from the father(s) we had. I have been in a spiritual crisis; fathers are distant, unreliable, untouchable—they walk away. I can work really hard and do really well, and still it’s not enough! I see how I have put this stigma on God. I am attempting to learn God is indeed good. He doesn’t force us—or our fathers (or mothers)—to do what He requires. He gives us all free will to choose; therefore, we end up with “humanity,” fallible humans walking around attempting to base our choices on our own definitions of right and wrong. I used to say, “Grace given, for grace desired” because I wanted it myself so badly. It seems to be ringing true once again in my ears.

I queried my birth father this week for this blog. I got to ask him if he missed me when I was young and what it was like for him as a Father not to have me around. I explained to him how I have an issue with ‘out of sight – out of mind’ based on the fact that I have never resonated with the ‘missing’ feeling. I figured if a Father could leave his daughters,

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Chad (Birth Father), Livvy Lou, Bethany

and not seen them, is it even possible to miss people? Do we just get shut out? Hear me out for a minute. I hear people say, I miss ‘so and so’ and I judge them; thinking to myself that they are being dramatic. People say they miss others because it’s the right thing to say when someone is gone. I’ve learned that. But, I don’t feel that. How can someone really be missed if my own father was out of my life and never connected with me. I am not worthy of being missed, and I wasn’t missed, so how can this be a real thing. The closest thing I can relate it to is grieving the loss of my first husband. When he died, I grieved. I am not sure if I missed him, or I missed the hope of what could have been for him. Or missed how he made me feel or the history we had. But, did I miss him? I watch my daughter miss her father (my husband). I say to myself, does she really miss him? It seems like she does. This is why I had to ask my birth father, “Did you miss me all those years?” He said, “Listen I was pissed off at a lot of people for a long time. It would have been different I suppose if I never saw you, but I saw you, we connected.”  The fact is, I was missed, I am worthy of being missed. I overflowed with crocodile tears. That spoke to my soul.

God is gracious to me. He gave me an amazing husband who is a great father to his three daughters. I tell him constantly that he is raising the little Bethany in me. Jamie Humphrey said in her recent blog, “what is submission, if not by free will.” Submitting to love is our choice, not coerced upon us. What is love if not by a free expression of our soul? God is good alone in the fact that He doesn’t force us to love Him, or anyone else. I am starting to get it. Even with all the daddy issues the people of this world carry, God is still good and available for a relationship to teach us what Father love looks like. That in itself is spectacular to me as I am learning to trust Him as a Father.


IMG_1943Bethany Luchetta is married to her love, Vince. She mothers her growing toddler and two beautiful girls from Vince’s first marriage. Bethany runs her own Property Management and Real Estate Brokerages. The love of personal growth and theology pushed her to explore her deeper calling. Attending Dr Henry Cloud and John Townsend year-long Life Coaching Program in 2013, she was inspired to plan for her future career in Theology and Family Therapy at Bethel Seminary. Bethany is preparing for her revocation through Life Skills International, a 32-week personal growth course in San Diego.

Stay at Home Dad!

Stay at Home Dad! | By Eric Loper

I never thought I’d be where I am now as a father and husband.  But here I am.  As my wife, Christine and I rolled with the punches of life, we ended up not so textbook.  I guess I would say it began when we moved back to San Diego from Las Vegas.  In Vegas, I IMG_0255worked full time in a casino, while Christine had a part time gig in Human Resources.  But you see, I wasn’t going to start over in the casinos and Christine found a reputable, full time job in HR once we moved back to San Diego.  I tried the whole starting my own business thing, but having not put much heart and thought into it, that got thrown into the “never mind” pile.

While still searching for what it was I was going to do, Christine worked the 9-5, Monday through Friday.  We did not want to send our kids to day care, so I watched them while Christine was at work.  This didn’t seem permanent as I was looking for where and what I was supposed to be.  My foot landed in the door of a restaurant/brewery as a delivery driver with the intention of working my way up to bartending while I went back to school.  While bartending, I was given an amazing opportunity to take over as the brewer.  This was perfect!  A job that I had a heaping truckload of passion for, and was flexible.  IMG_0267I could get to work early, in order to be finished in time to pick up the kids from school.  Meanwhile, Christine was tearing up HR.  Her experience and pay kept increasing.  Eventually we made the decision to homeschool the kids.  With my job being the flexible one, naturally I would take on schooling. While this works, it’s definitely not the easiest way of doing things.

On days the kids are homeschooled, if I have to work, I get up at 2am to start working before the word “early” is even awake.  Christine then drops them off at my work on her IMG_2458way into the office.  This way I am usually done around 10am and we have time to go home and hit the books.  Normally, we hit history and literature by noon.  That’s about when I feel the increasing weight on my eyelids, “OK kids, after history you two can have a recess while dad takes a nap.”  These naps justify the 2am alarm clock.  It’s like 30 minutes of heavy heaven.

Now, while this works, it’s not what we had planned.  I mean I never imaged that I would be working part-time, as well as part-time homeschooling my kids, while Christine worked a full time gig,  Monday through Friday.  I did not expect to be the one texting my wife to see if she was going to be home on time, or making sure the house was clean before Christine got home from work so we could all relax and hang as a family.  We just kind of fell into this.

 

As time went on, this path became more cemented.  There was a bit of panic as the cement hardened.  We felt trapped.  Christine began to struggle with the idea of being a IMG_0165working mom when so many of the people that she looked up to were stay at home moms.  As relatively new Christians, this situation didn’t seem to fit what we thought the Christian family should look like.  As Christine was crafting ideas of how she could make a career for herself at home, her career in HR continued to excel.  She received more and more favor and provision, which was a huge blessing to our family.  At the same time things were going well with my work.  I was also able to be involved with coaching my kids’ sports.  We had time for ministry and the right balance of family time.  Things were actually pretty good.  You’d think we would have seen God’s hand in all this goodness, yet we were searching for a way out.

 

Thankfully, God showed us what we couldn’t see even though it was right in front of our faces.  Christine attended a women’s retreat where Pastor Tracy was teaching on a woman’s identity.  In that, she spoke that the focus isn’t whether a woman works inside IMG_1503or outside her home, but rather where her heart is aimed.  The Holy Spirit showed us this is exactly where we needed to be.  Since then everything seems so settled.  Christine is still amazing at work and just the mom that our kids need.  Sure I don’t get to have the kids yell “Dad!” when I walk in the door from work.  That’s reserved for mom in our house.  But hey, I get to work part time at a job that I love, help my kids learn, coach their sports team, and lead our family.

We’ve learned that marriage is a partnership and “roles” are what you make of it.  I’m pretty darn good at cooking and I love to do it; Christine is great at cleaning.  I’m more of the disciplinarian while Christine is the peacekeeper.  I like to play and be rough with the kids, while Christine is the one they want when they need the tenderness of a mom.  Although some of our roles might seem like they are turned around, it’s very much God’s handiwork at play here in this house.  We love, trust and serve God; He leads, we follow.

 


IMG_0699Eric Loper is 39 years old and has been married to Christine Loper for 14 years and together; they have a 13-year-old son Keith and an 11-year-old daughter Jade. He works at Oggi’s Pizza and Brewing in Carmel Mountain Ranch as the brewer. He also homeschools his kids and helps with their sports by coaching. He loves sports, cooking, and gardening.