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This weekend I attended the Relevant Conference in PA and came away with two very important points I personally needed to be reminded of and take action on:
- Submit to God’s plan for both my life and my blog
- Share my story
As I met new people at almost every meal and workshop, part of my story would unfold amidst the conversations. I quickly realized that the story of my life, whether interesting or not by anyone’s definition, needed to be shared. And not so much because of the places I’ve traveled to or because of the things I’ve accomplished, but because my story may help others write their story.
You see, I’ve always been passionate about mentoring and passing on what’s been passed to me, but I’ve been remiss about sharing on this site some of the very personal and tangible ways God has both blessed me as well as held me in those moments I’d rather forget.
So as the sun rises here in Harrisburg, won’t you indulge me in allowing me a few moments to share a bit about myself? Moving forward, I promise to unpack some of these tidbits a little further and actually reveal what I’ve learned about God and myself as a result of each of these experiences. I hope too that you will find the strength to share your own story, perhaps even on this site in the days and weeks to come. But for now, let me open my life up to you with some (little known) facts:
*I was born Samara J’aime Strauss in Chicago some 35 years ago. Samara means “guarded by God” in Hebrew and J’aime is literally “I love” in French. My father is a first-generation, Jewish American whose parents hail from Eastern Europe & the Ukraine; my mother is a native of England. This was my father’s second marriage, he was 49 when I was born and my parents are 20 years apart. I am an only child (though I have 3 older half-brothers) and my parents divorced when I was seven.
*I skipped K-2nd grade and entered public school as a third grader when I was six.
*I competed in a variety of sports growing up, but eventually decided to focus on tennis, where I competed in high school (as a very short first singles player) and college (at Emory) and eventually became a professional for some time, which afforded me the opportunity to work for Club Med and travel/live in the Baja of Mexico and Paradise Island, Bahamas until a back injury took me to Florida.
*I have a passion for performing – singing, dancing…you name it! I just found out the show “Glee” was patterned after my high school show choir, New Directions (though I don’t see myself in any of the characters) I founded and coached a collegiate dance team during my time as a professor at Northwood University in Florida (go Blue Storm!) and love to encourage others to let loose on the dance floor, even if just at weddings and conferences J
*I earned my BA in Education & French from Emory University in Atlanta then went on to earn my MA in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (so what if my main motivation for going there was because Michael Jordan did too? Don’t judge me.) I started on my doctorate just before getting married, but that quickly came to a hold after my first daughter was born.
*After moving to Florida, I worked at the MLB Spring Training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and the (then) Montreal Expos. Being a Cubs fan, the former was difficult for me to work with, but loved the underdog Expos where my ability to speak French especially came in handy.
*During my time at Roger Dean Stadium is when I came to truly know the Lord…which led me on a Missions trip to Mexico in 2000 where I would ultimately meet my sister-in-law (though I wouldn’t meet her brother/my husband until two years later) and leave my job at the stadium to become the Director of Cultural Arts/adjunct professor at Northwood for five years.
*Once told I was going to die because of an unknown disease during my collegiate years, I would eventually be diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue syndrome in the late ‘90s. After two years of suffering, I found a specialist who helped transform my health naturally and three months later I competed in the Ms. North Carolina USA pageant (a step up from having won “Young Woman of the Year” in Chicago when I was 15!)
*Because of my illness, I was told I’d never be able to conceive a child much less carry one to full term. Once again, I surprised the medical community and now have two beautiful children who were born within 19 months of each other.
*My husband and I have a passion for mentoring newly married couples. As we’ve both been products of marriages that have ended in divorce, we recognize the dire need for support, accountability and transparent communication when it comes to thriving within a marriage relationship. We don’t necessarily know the right answers, but we’re happy to share what we’re doing in an effort to help others grow in their relationship with each other and God.
*After four moves in a 12 month period, we are finally happy residents of Nashville! Through my blogging and writing, I’ve also been afforded the opportunity to become the “Frugal Mom” on NewsChannel5’s “Talk of the Town” where I get to share my tips with others on how to maximize their life and focus on sharing experiences rather than gathering more stuff.
Again, I share this not to boast or draw attention to myself, but to encourage you to share your own story and give you a transparent look into mine. I’ve learned MANY lessons along the way and look forward to sharing them with you over the coming days, weeks and months as long as you promise keep an open-mind and be willing to also turn the magnifying glass around into your own life and find the purpose God has for you.
While we may not always understand in the moment why we must walk through the path God has us on, we can trust that He will always walk alongside us. I challenge you not just to look down at your own footprints, but to look ahead at others who may be trying to pave the way for you as well as those who may be following you. When you pursue your life with passion, your life will be filled with purpose.
Until next time,
I loved reading your story. It’s always interesting to see the different paths God has us on. Somehow I missed meeting you this weekend. Hopefully we can meet another time!
SO glad we were able to meet IRL. Loved reading this. I mean in our numerous random convos I got bits and pieces but this is good stuff. But I am not seeing any mention of MTV nor Vanilla Ice on 4th of July. 🙂
and to ANDREA – HI, oh our random connections! Yes, you must meet Sami IRL She MAY even be cooler in person….. possibly…. maybe… 🙂
Ok, I’ll have to do a “My Story 2” with all my random MTV appearances and weird celebrity spottings mixed in 😉
Great to finally meet you too! Let’s do it again soon!
I had to stop by and read your recap since Toni (HappyHousewife) told me we were a lot alike, to which I said, “What, you mean she’s gorgeous and brilliant.” Totally kidding (of course.. ;). But, after reading this, I gotta say your story is so different than my own, yet our “here and now” is so much alike..like many others. You said it perfectly,
“While we may not always understand in the moment why we must walk through the path God has us on, we can trust that He will always walk alongside us.”
So glad to have connected with you on twitter…now it’s just a f2f we’re needing 🙂
You’re hilarious! Toni told me the same thing so now it’s only time before we MUST meet! Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to keeping up with you on twitter!
Meeting you was by far the highlight of the conference for me!!!! I loved reading your story and finding out even more about you! So sad you weren’t able to sing Part of Your World at Relevant. I think you should do a vlog and post it…. 🙂
Aw girl – you be makin’ me blush! Ditto from my end 🙂
I will totally vlog it as soon as I pin down a camera man! – and you’ll be the first to know!
Hey Sami! So good to meet you this past weekend! We need to get together in town.
Okay, I’m 36 and grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago!!! Where did you live? So funny that we were growing up near each other!
Let’s keep in touch… I would love to network with you here in Nashvegas!
You too! Can’t believe we had to go to PA to meet! I went to Rolling Meadows High School…what about you?
It was wonderful to meet you this weekend. I SO enjoyed our chats and all of our quirky little connections. Most of all, I loved your warm, friendly and unpretentious personality. You are a true sweetheart. So glad to know you!
I have a pic of you on my blog!
Oh, and the vitamin B was great. Although, it was hard to tell if I had so much energy from that or from not having two cute boys hanging off of me??!
LOVED Relevant. Maybe there will be a next time?! Hope to meet you there again!
Darlene – can’t believe how much we have in common…and imagine how much more we could uncover 😉 looking forward to continuing our conversations!
Oh, and so glad you liked the Vitamin B – I told you it works!
Your story is so interesting. Thanks for sharing some of it.
Thanks Rebecca – it’s funny how you can feel like you share so much on a blog without really sharing anything about yourself at all 🙂
Sami – so good to meet you (briefly) at Relevant. It was fun to sing with you too! You have a really sparkly personality and thanks for sharing part of your story here. It’s a great take-away from Relevant. Bless you for choosing to share yourself and what God has done in and through you. ~ Mela
You did such a great job up there and i can’t wait to listen to your CD!