October 26, 2016

Rattlesnakes and Auditions

Rattlesnake Bottoms.

That's the tongue-in-check moniker I've donned upon the open space in which I regularly run. About a mile from our house, Rattlesnake Bottoms is several acres of dirt paths, a dry river bed, and a horse-riding enclosure.

And rattlesnakes. Lots and lots of rattlesnakes.

Or so I've been told.

I've probably run down there 40 or 50 times, and I've never seen a rattlesnake. In fact, I saw my very first snake just last week, a harmless gopher snake sunning herself six feet off my path, completely disinterested in the sweaty dude tip-toeing closer to inspect her tail for a rattle.

Look, I hate snakes. Even the ones that can't kill me. I wasn't thrilled to see a head on that surprisingly malleable-looking stick. And to be perfectly honest, I can't say definitively I didn't see a rattle. Like I'm gonna get that close to check.

At any rate, assuming it wasn't a rattlesnake - and for the purpose of my illustration, let's assume just that - I have defied the odds by running rattlesnake-free in an area that multiple locals have told me is ripe with rattlers.


Defying odds is great when it's in our favor. I feel fortunate to have avoided rattlesnakes at Rattlesnake Bottoms. I'm also thankful for every year I've avoided a direct lightning strike, each McDonald's meal that doesn't destroy my digestive track, and all the bug bites that weren't from West Nile infected mosquitoes.

But I still can't seem to defy the odds of landing significant auditions as a no-name average Joe.

I've yet to audition for a network or premium cable scripted show or major studio motion picture. I've been repped by well-respected agents the whole time I've been in L.A., but I've simply had too much working against me.

There's a pecking order out here I wasn't expecting, and I'm the krill trying to swim out of the baleen. When I got to Los Angeles, I had a ton of acting experience. But I didn't have any recognizable credits, a remarkable (or ethnic) look, or friends/family that could get me "in the door." Thankfully, two of those roadblocks are starting to be cleared.

I'll never be ethnic or remarkable-looking, but I'm gaining credits and making more friends. Something's bound to give. Hopefully.

Notice I haven't mentioned anything about talent? Talent does not a career start, but a career it sustains. I've yet to display my talent (or lack thereof) in front of the major players. I'm not dismissing the crime reenactment shows I've done, because they've all been a lot of fun, and I worked with great people on each of them. But they don't pay the rent.

Sure, I worked three days on NCIS, but the situation surrounding that whole opportunity is unique and something I'll write about another time. And it was barely a role, so it doesn't count.

As I defy the rattlesnake odds and succumb to the audition odds, I forge ahead, hopeful for stasis in the former and a change in the latter.

Mr. Berle (quote above) should be pleased with me. I've built many doors, but I still need the right people to open them. Opportunity is hard to come by out here, but when it comes, man, I'll be ready.

October 13, 2016


"Most of us don't think about miracles that we could possibly do. We don't have a vocabulary of how God works with the specific things that He does, and we don't know how to align ourselves with what He is doing so that we can be His vehicle on the earth to deliver a miracle." - Bruce Wilkinson

I met a dear actor friend recently at Echo Park, my first visit to this valiant attempt at natural serenity in the heart of Los Angeles. Our walk around the "lake" placed us in the perfect spot at the perfect time to snap a photo of the fountain, the Good Year Blimp, a commercial jet, and the moon at the very moment they aligned perfectly together.

Trivial luck? Inconsequential coincidence? Silly throwaway moment? Yeah. Probably.
But it triggered a thought. And that's a dangerous thing in my malleable mind.

As conversation with my friend vacillated between acting jobs, life in LA, future projects, health, and God, the coincidental alignment in the dusk sky illustrated almost too perfectly our struggles as creatives. So many moving parts have to align for us to even have a chance at any kind of success.

Ricky Schroder said this about his full runs on NYPD Blue and 24: "It's great work, but everything has to align. The producers have to want you; the network has to want you; there has to be great writing; and it's not as easy as it may appear to the outsiders to make all those things align."

Just cuz you eat with silver spoons doesn't mean things come easy, eh?

Casting Director, David Rapaport (@RapaportCasting), recently posted on Twitter the graphic on the right. Out of 3,638 actors submitted for a specific role, only 272 were scheduled to audition. Don't get me wrong, 272 is a TON of actors to audition! But simply getting the opportunity to get into the room is a miracle.

Let's have some math fun. Make Danica McKellar proud.

Of the 3,638 actors submitted for whatever role Mr. Rapaport was casting (anything from a guest star on Supergirl to a co-star on The Flash or a principal on a yet-to-be-released pilot), 7.5% were invited to audition. Of those auditioning, assuming this is for one role only, the chances of earning the role are 0.37%. If we take a step back and calculate the odds of earning this role based on the full number of submissions, we get 0.027% odds.


Just for fun, do you know what the odds are of winning $100 in the Powerball? 0.007%. The grand prize odds are 0.00000034%.

But I'M the crazy one for pursuing a Hollywood career instead of playing the lottery.

I digress.

Back to the alignment of the fountain, the blimp, the jet, and the moon. Sounds like a Narnia sequel, doesn't it?

I've spent so much time treating myself like the moon in this alignment. The top. The pinnacle. The achievement of the goal thanks to the alignment of the pieces below.

But then I got to thinking - What if I'm the fountain to someone else's moon? This doesn't have to be all about me. I'd prefer if it wasn't, actually.

As I've mentioned before, so many unbelievable things aligned in order for my family to get out to Southern California. Yet as we face scary uncertainty in the months ahead, it's hard to avoid circling the track of second-guessing. What if we really did blow our entire life savings only to retreat empty-handed back to Minnesota to start all over again?

But then I step outside my own goals and ponder my involvement in somebody else's goals. Maybe I'm here not to reach a personal goal, but to help somebody else reach theirs.

You know what? I'm cool with that.

I'm just a vessel. I'm in a rented body breathing borrowed air. If God needs me to help align somebody else's stars, I'm thrilled to be the fountain or the Good Year Blimp! Fat jokes notwithstanding.

As a matter of fact, I'm in the process right now of launching some projects that could prove very valuable to others. I'm anxious to share more about the projects, but for now, let me just say that without amazing alignments of circumstances, these exciting opportunities would never have blimped their way under my moon. Now there's a visual.

I've connected with some amazing people out here and I can't know fully the impact I've had on them, if any. Again, it's not about me, but about my position in others' alignments that I'm focusing on now.

Somehow the thought trail from the alignment of the fountain, the blimp, the jet, and the moon landed at Genesis 22 where God told Abraham to bring his son, Isaac, to a mountain to sacrifice as a burnt offering.

I've always reflected on Abraham's part in this story. Until now.

What about Isaac?

Look, there is no way Abraham could have kept completely cool about the intended outcome of this journey. Isaac had to have suspected something, right? I get that Abraham was being an obedient servant, but come on! If he didn't stop a time or two with nervous diarrhea or anxious up-chucking, I would be shocked.

So let's not overlook Isaac's role in this lesson. He was a part of God's plan to align Abraham rightly with the Will of God. Isaac could have fled or put up a fight or brought up his suspicions to his mom. But he didn't. Isaac willingly went along regardless of any suspicions he might have had. Must have had.

We all know the story ends with God providing a ram to sacrifice in Isaac's place, but neither Abraham nor Isaac knew of God's plan as they willingly obliged to the call.

Maybe I'm more of an Isaac than an Abraham. Maybe I won't be blessed with many nations, but I will help an Abraham be blessed with his.

At any rate, I'm just willing to be used in whatever way God wants to use me.

And right now, I feel like He wants to use me to tell a joke.

You see, what most don't know about Abraham and Isaac is that before the journey up the mountain, Abraham needed to upgrade his GPS software. Unfortunately, his iPhone didn't have enough processor power (old phone, ya know?) to run the new software. Isaac told his dad not to install it, but Abraham insisted, saying, "God will provide the RAM."

I'm here all week. Try the salmon. It's delightful.

September 12, 2016

This is 40

"As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do." - Andrew Carnegie

As I've hinted many times in this blog, I don't care for big talk. I appreciate big action. I'm turned on by hard work, passion, energy, effort.

I loathe laziness and entitlement, which seem to go hand in hand.

Quit reading if you feel the world owes you something. This message isn't for you.

But if you're on the fence about making a change, taking a risk, trying something different... please let me encourage you. After all, unsolicited advice from a non-expert is what today's Internet is all about.

The picture on the right was snapped mid-run on my 40th birthday. My 20-year-old body is long gone, but I'm okay with that. For 40, I'm doing alright.

There are plenty of 40-year-olds in far better shape. And I'm fine with that. This isn't a comparison game.

This is me. Justen Overlander. A guy who loves ice cream, Mountain Dew, and chocolate-covered espresso beans. I have Osgood Schlatter Disease in my knees, chronic back pain, a surgically repaired arm that's worse now than before the surgery, and asthma. Oh, and three high energy kids.

I have plenty of excuses to sit on the couch. To crash early. To recharge my batteries in a catatonic state with reruns mumbling in the background.

But that's not me. And I don't want it to be you.

I can hear the rumblings already. You think I have a better metabolism. You think I have more time. You think I'm genetically predisposed to have a leaner body mass. Or you think I should spend a few more months working out before offering fitness advice.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Maybe.

Metabolism is changeable. Don't believe me? Google it.

You're too busy? Cut something out. Quit Facebook a day or two a week. Skip the reruns once in a while. One trick I do, as a huge sports fan, is I DVR games so I can skip all commercials and much of the time between plays. I can watch a 3-hour football game in an hour and a half, if that.

Now... genetics. Yes, they play a part. It sucks. If obesity runs in your family, you have a bigger (no pun intended) challenge. But here's the thing... my family history is not lean, muscular creatures, as you can tell by looking at me. I have a bigger frame and a propensity to carry extra wait in my waist. Look at the bottom of my picture up there. Doesn't it look like my butt starts just below my rib cage? I hate it. And I don't know if the next five pounds I'm trying to lose is going to get rid of it or not.

Ugh. This isn't about me. This is about motivating somebody, somewhere who needs to get back on the healthy track.

So here are three tips from a dude that's doing okay, but still needs to do better (the tips are for me, too):

1) Stop eating when you're satisfied. Simple enough, right? Yet in today's world where super-sizing is expected and large portions are the norm, it's way too easy to overeat. Nowhere is this more challenging than on the set of most film and television productions in L.A. Man, the food! I'll blog about that one day (after we've all lost a few pounds, of course).

2) Drink more water. At home I have a glass of ice water with me always. Literally always. If you don't know how important water is in dieting, please Google it. One thing I'm trying to do more when I crave Mountain Dew is take a big swig of water. Usually it satisfies me enough to resist the soda. At least momentarily. Hey, it's not a magical elixir, but it's the single most important dietary supplement there is. Thank you, God.

3) Stop saying you're too busy. Seriously. No matter how busy you are, you are going to feel doubly busy when your state of mind dwells on it. I feel very blessed that I have so much to do. I love what I do. Acting, writing, spending time with my family, volunteering... heck, I even tolerate L.A. traffic because I love podcasts and audio books. I don't have much of what I would call free-time. Even when I'm watching a movie or a television show, I'm studying it. I only read books for education, encouragement, or potential screenplay adaptation potential. And I love it. I don't need free-time. I don't want free-time. I want to keep working hard. Making time for exercise is part of that.

I get it. You're scoffing at my words. You think I'm stretching the truth. You think I'm delusional. So be it. I just hope and pray that there's a purpose behind this writing, and this blog in general, and that it inspires somebody along the way.

Just in case my mediocre words and nearly adequate picture don't inspire, I decided to check in with my friend, John Hennigan, who's slightly more fit than I. Slightly.

You may know him as Johnny Nitro or John Morrison from WWE or Johnny Mundo from Lucha Underground. I just know him as a heck of a guy with incredible God-given talent and dedication. When his self-produced parkour action/comedy, Boone the Bounty Hunter, comes out, I'll be bragging it up big time. Such a fun movie!

Anyway, I asked John for his number one fitness tip, and he summed it up in one word: motivation. He elaborated, "If you don't have specific goals in mind when you get out of bed, you're going to be less productive than you could be. If you don't have goals in mind before you get to the gym, you're wasting your time. Find your purpose. Train to meet it. That's where motivation comes from."

I'll never look like John. Few will. But he hits the nail on the head when he talks about motivation. That's one thing that can't be taught. I don't know how to instill motivation into a person who lacks it. The knowledge we have about health and the dangers of obesity should be motivation enough to establish some sort of workout regiment and healthy eating plan. Right?

The satisfaction of a giant bowl of ice cream every night should not outweigh the importance of taking care of your body. Our bodies are temples, a fabulous gift from God. When I give my kids a new toy for Christmas, I expect them to take care of it, not treat it harshly. God expects the same in the way we treat our bodies.

Ugh. I know I ughed earlier, but I need to again. Ugh. This writing, read in the wrong tone, could come across the wrong way. I sure hope it's not received as a pat on my own back at the expense of folks who struggle with something that I've never really struggled with. I take that back... I actually do struggle with my body. If I quit running and ate and drank all I wanted to, I'd have 20 extra pounds of flub in no time flat. I really don't have a magical metabolism. At least not naturally.

What I wanted to do with this blog entry... what weighed on my heart (again, no pun intended)... was to just send encouragement. Not to 22-year-old gym rats that still have time on their sides, but to people like me who are climbing in age and maybe can't get away with our former eating and activity habits.

If this encouraged you, great. If not, just move along. I'll start blogging about some actual Hollywood stuff one of these days. That'll be fun. Maybe.

But I hope my heart is evident in this blog. I want the best for those around me.

Now, if you're looking for something a little more intense... if John's picture inspires you more than mine (I know it's such a close call), take a look at Out of Your Mind Fitness (http://outofyourmindfitness.com). It's a fitness program designed by John Hennigan and fitness trainer, Jeff Carrier.

When the motivation hits me (i.e. when I land a role that requires it), I would love to get into some more intense training like Out of Your Mind Fitness. For now, I'll settle for my hilly Santa Clarita runs and one Mountain Dew per week. Okay, two.

Oh, and for the record, John Hennigan is three years younger than I am. Wait'll you hit 40, Johnny. See what gravity has in store for your B cups.

August 29, 2016

Why am I still here?

"Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take." - Proverbs 3:6 (NLT)

Man, I prayed hard the last several months, begging God to tell us whether to stay in California or move back to Minnesota. Actually, I didn't limit the prayer to familiar geography as I just pleaded for direction to find work anywhere. Atlanta? Alaska? Albequer... Albaquer... Alabama?

And which path did He tell me to take?

Seriously, if anyone heard Him, please tell me, because I missed it.

According to the Proverbs verse above, He should have shown me which path to take. Right?

"Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take."

Am I not living up to my end of that bargain?

I mean, technically, I'm probably not seeking God's will in all I do. That's a tall order, don't you think? Am I naive to think I can wipe my butt according to my own will? I have a method I favor, after all.

Butt wiping aside, of course I fail daily in seeking His will. It's not His will for my I'm-mad-cuz-you-did-something-stupid face to make appearances on the highway. It's not His will for me to pout when I continue to have doors closed on me in this town. And I'm pretty sure it's generally not God's will for me to envy those who've accomplished by age 20 more than I've done at age 30 (plus a decade or so).

But on the whole (not a wiping pun), I am seeking God's will. I truly want to do whatever He wants me to do. Whatever that is. Wherever that is.

The tricky part in my life is this dream I haven't been able to lose or fulfill. Does my seeking of God's will get hijacked by this Hollywood dream? Is the dream God's will for me or is it His will for me to give up the dream? Chasing it this long without receiving the success for which I'd hoped could certainly imply God prefers I focus my attention elsewhere.

The Hollywood dream is huge to me, but it's anything but huge to God.

What's huge to God is that I'm actively living His will no matter what I'm doing, where I'm doing it, or with whom I'm doing it.

My first year in Los Angeles has yielded only five principal acting roles, none of which were of the high-paying ilk. Most of my time on set has been as a background actor. An extra. An out of focus piece of meat there to give the illusion that Meredith Grey works in a real hospital.

But what's cool about background work is that I meet new people on every job. I have had abundant opportunities to share God's love with strangers and new acquaintances and friends. I've earned the reputation on multiple sets of being "the nice guy." I can live with that. To me, being a nice guy is the first step in sharing the Gospel. Sometimes it's the only step God needs me to take.

I don't wear religion on my sleeve. I try to wear love on my sleeve. Maybe that's why God has me here. Not to shove scripture down people's throats, but to live my faith and be an example of what God's love can do. Not to have success as an actor, but to be a servant who relies on charm and good-looks... um... charm and... um... well, not being a douchebag.

It's amazing how many expert extras there are here in Hollywood. I've become an expert nodder-and-smiler. Sometimes that's all you can do while the "expert" in the room explains that this is the first background work he's done in ages because it's the first day he hasn't had a principal audition in six months.

I don't preach the gospel to them. But I try to show them love. By giving them space. And finding a different corner of the holding room to hang out in.

But seriously, aside from the obvious attention seekers, I've met great people that I've hopefully impacted in a positive way. I feel like that's God's will for me right now. Be a nice guy, show love, and don't be a douchebag.

Theologically speaking, I know being a "nice guy" isn't the end-all, be-all of what we are called to do.  I've met plenty of nice atheists, after all. I'm just simplifying here so I don't ramble.

No, I'm not rambling. This isn't rambling. Rambling is when... oh... never mind.

So why am I still here? To be a nice guy on set? To plant seeds in others so they seek God? I can do all that in Minnesota. We should have moved back to Minnesota. It's cheaper. Family is there. It's more familiar. And there are plenty who need to be loved there, too.

God didn't tell me to stay in California. But He didn't tell me to move back to Minnesota. He remained largely silent, which leads me to believe He didn't care so much about where I was, but who I am. More specifically, whose I am.

I am His.

And He is not going to abandon me. We are scheduled to run out of money in a couple months. All our money. Literally. As perpetual planners and safety-net-employers, this is scary for us. Yet, God is bigger than all of this. I trust Him. No matter where we end up after Halloween, I trust God knows what's best for us.

But ya wanna know something exciting? I do believe success is just around the corner. It may seem contradictory to what I mentioned above, but I believe I'm supposed to be right where I am right now. Not because God needs me here more than He needs me elsewhere, but because I've been faithful in seeking His will and He desires to bless me with my heart's desire.

It makes sense. My heart's desire doesn't contradict scripture. It doesn't defame God. The desire isn't a pipe dream that I'm not qualified to achieve. It's my God-given gift.

It's also the right of anyone reading this to disagree with me. Go ahead. But mark my words: My dreams are coming true.

"Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your heart's desires." - Psalm 37:4 (NLT)

He's a good God. And that's why I'm still here.

July 10, 2016

What others say about me

"What you say about yourself matters very little, but what others say of you means the world."
-- Hugh Halter, from his book, Flesh

I don't sleep well. On a good night, I'm asleep within an hour of going to bed. If I wake in the middle of the night, I'm usually a couple dozen tosses and turns from my next dream. During the day, I can close my eyes, but rarely do I get past the "whoa, did I just doze off?" stage of slumber.

Why? Is it too much caffeine? Too much sugar? Too much excitement in my life?

Um. No.

It's because I can't shut my stubborn brain off. My thought control skills are on pace with Johnny Manziel's common sense skills. Below remedial.

If I'm not navigating creative waters, I'm treading the depths of self-doubt, God-doubt, and why-did-I-eat-so-much-ice-cream-doubt.

One prevailing narrative is the questioning of my value. Regardless of what Clarence taught George Bailey, I still find myself sinking into questions about my purpose.

On a micro level I know my kids need me. I believe my wife needs me. Still, it's hard not to consider the life my wife could have had with a more successful husband. A more stable husband. Someone who accepted his role in the blue collar world or maybe white collar world. There's nobility in working hard to bring home a paycheck.

But that's the thing. Man am I working hard. So hard that I'm getting burned out.

"I'm so busy" is a phrase that's thrown out almost as much as "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?"

More? Yeah, probably more.

I don't expect everyone reading this to believe me when I say I'm working my tail off. After all, what do I have to show for it? I should share my tax returns here to really humiliate myself. By my calculations I've made about $0.27 an hour over the last 10 years. I made that number up. I'm too busy to calculate it for realz.

We're a results oriented society and the results just haven't been there for me. My family has suffered because of this. My ego has suffered because of this (which is technically a good thing, I know). And there are times I lie awake wondering if the worst is still ahead.

But the question prevails.


Why have I been allowed to work so hard for so long and not see the results I'd expected -- dare I say -- deserved?

I don't know. This silly little blog that I started before blogging was "in" (I think blogging is actually "out" now thanks to SnapChatteragram or whatevs) was supposed to be an inspirational account of one man's journey of overcoming the odds to prove that dreams really can come true.

If you didn't read that last line in your best movie trailer voice, here's another chance...

One man's journey of overcoming the odds to prove that dreams really can come true.

The late, great, Don LaFontaine,
king of movie trailer voiceovers (born in Minnesota!)
I've developed a counter theory to all of this now. I don't know if it's any truer than the former, but it's something I'm gnawing over. In the middle of the night.

What if my story is the anti-dream-following story? Despite Joel Osteen's claims, not everybody gets everything they want if they just believe it to be true. Maybe God needs me as an example that safety is sometimes the best route. Maybe my story is supposed to inspire in a way that contradicts my original intention.

If that's my reality, all I want is for people to say is that in spite of adversity, I am a hard worker. A good father. A worthy husband. A faithful servant.

Of course, that's all I want people to say about me regardless.

But the hard worker part is particularly sensitive to me these days. Really, I'm starting to question if the work I'm doing is useful. All the hours of research, networking, and creating -- are (were) they all worth it?

If I give up my Hollywood dream, I don't care if people assume it was because I wasn't talented enough. What I do care about is if people think it's because I didn't work hard enough for it. They'd be wrong on both accounts, but there's a sense of pride in hard work done well. I feel I've done that. And that's the example I want to give to my kids, my family, my friends, and anyone with whom I interact.

I don't know why God has me on the path He has me on, but I so desperately want to be an inspiration to everyone around me. Yes, I have an everybody-must-like-me complex, but my people-pleasing curse isn't driving my concern of what others say. It's simply that I want to be a positive influence. Not for my sake, but for the sake of the greater good.

But what does it matter what I say? What matters is what others say about me. Am I giving others reason to call me a hard worker? A good father? A worthy husband? A faithful servant? Regardless of whether I make it in Hollywood or not, at this point, all I care about is representing my faith in a pleasing manner to God.

And, really... is Hugh Halter's quote accurate? Does it matter what others say about me? Well, on a macro level, no. What matters is whether I am pleasing God. Where Halter's quote comes into play is that if we are pleasing God, by default, others will say good things about us.

May 4, 2016

The reason I'm here

I've lived in Los Angeles for about 9 months now.

Popular recommendations for [already working] actors moving to Los Angeles for a [more significant] career in acting is to allow at least two years before giving up. It takes time to build relationships and find your way out here.

So who am I to have thought I could accomplish in a year what the "experts" say takes at least two?

Well, let's push aside the notion that there are actually experts who know definitively how long it takes to make it in Hollywood. We can study statistics and trends and add a little gut-instinct to form a theoretical equation, but every path is different.

Every. Path. Is. Different.

I was hedging my bets that my path would defy the experts. And it still may. After all, I had so many things going for me back in August when I made the move. I had a theatrical agent ready to sign me as soon as I got to town. And a reputable agent at that. How? I had a Los Angeles Casting Director who believed in me and set up a meeting with the agency. That doesn't happen often to small-market actors moving to LA. Unless you're ridiculously gorgeous. Which I'm not. Or remarkably unique. Which I'm not. Or related to Francis Ford Coppola. Again, which I'm not.

I'd made friends with successful actors out here, recognizable faces from film and television. Certainly they could help me kickstart things. They still may.

Even if the acting thing didn't pan out right away, I had screenwriting to fall back on. Heck, I have two scripts right now that have turned some heads. I mean, one of them has to hit, right? They may or may not.

I've produced two feature films. That must mean something, right?

I've appeared in dozens of commercials and hundreds of projects overall. I'm not completely green. I know what I'm doing in front of the camera and behind it.

But most importantly, I was convinced God brought me out here. He wouldn't bring me out here to fail, would He? If the 2-year-rule applied to me, God would have given us more money so we could afford to be out here more than a year, right?

Besides, how many people come out here without God and still find success? I'm pursuing this career for the right reasons. It's not fame or fortune I desire. It's happiness in doing what I love and sharing God's love with an industry that needs it.

God needs people like me in this industry.


Okay, here comes the revelation I have just recently experienced. No, let me rephrase that... here comes the revelation I finally realized.

God brought me out here not to fulfill my desires but to fulfill His desires for me.

Look, I still want to succeed in Hollywood more than most folks could fully understand, but I'm rearranging my thinking, even as I type this.

Let me paint the dots I'm now connecting in reverse.

Before moving to Los Angeles, I scouted many potential landing spots. I settled on Santa Clarita because the schools are outstanding and it's more affordable to live here than Burbank. I was specific within Santa Clarita of where we wanted to be according to school boundaries. A house was available in one of our chosen areas and I connected with the rental company. A woman named Kim was my contact there. We clicked right away, but when I admitted we were moving from Minnesota and were going to live off our savings and didn't have jobs lined up, she said they couldn't help us.

And yet, somehow we ended up in this lovely house on a quiet street without even seeing it in person before signing the rental agreement.

Did I mention our realtor in Minnesota, a friend of more than a decade, didn't want to put our house on the market because he didn't see any chance of it selling in time? It sold in time.

Now, another thing I'd done from Minnesota before moving out here was connect to a couple pastors of a Lutheran Church in Santa Clarita. Getting involved with a church right away was important to us and we were all set to visit that church on the second Sunday we were here.

The only problem was getting out the door in time. Kids have a way of delaying departure times. With the church being 15 minutes away and us being 10 minutes late, we decided to visit a nearer church.

Did I mention that Kim from the rental company is a Christian and had texted a few church options in our area? Yeah.

Five minutes from our house is a Baptist Church. Grace Baptist, to be exact. My wife and I grew up Lutheran. We sit in the back. We don't raise our hands during praise and worship. We don't shout "Amen" while the preacher preaches.

We also didn't know the difference between "Southern Baptist" and "Baptist."

But Grace was close enough for us to make it in time. We'd give the Lutheran church a chance next Sunday.

We've never looked back since visiting Grace that morning.

I've been a church goer my whole life. There's never been a time that I haven't attended a church, at least semi-regularly. There's also never been a time when I could say whole-heartedly that I love my church. Until Grace.

I love my church.

It's funny... My wife and I had a conversation a couple months ago talking about our future and whether we'll be staying in SoCal past the summer or back in Minnesota. We both admitted that if nothing else, at least being here and getting involved at Grace has strengthened our faith. So even if I fail in the movie industry, at least a bi-product of our journey to Santa Clarita will be a strengthened faith.

And that is where the revelation happened. That misguided statement of a strengthened faith being the bi-product of our journey west.

I now know that a strengthened faith is not the bi-product of our journey out here. It's the absolute reason God brought us here! I don't doubt that even a tiny bit.

God brought us here for Grace Baptist.

If I succeed in the movie industry, that will be a bi-product of us coming out here to strengthen our faith. I had it backwards before.

If you're not a man or woman of faith, I expect you to be skeptical of my claims here. Heck, I've been a man of faith my whole life and I would have been skeptical of this claim even a few weeks ago. But I'm telling you, I have not felt this close to God since before losing my sister in a tragic car crash nearly 13 years ago.

The practical side of all of us will scoff at the price my family paid to come out here. If we have to move back to Minnesota, we will be doing so with almost no money to our names. Gone is our savings, our equity, our stability.

But you know what? God is bigger than money and material things. He's never been unfaithful to us before and that's not going to change. I'd rather live poor and unsure of my next paycheck with a good relationship with God than live rich and apart from Him.

After all, Jesus tells us in Luke 16:13 that we cannot serve both God and money. I hate that I've spent so much of my life serving money instead of God. What did it get me? Less of both!

I still don't know where my family and I will be in August, but isn't it exciting that God is already there waiting to reveal Himself in a way I cannot even imagine today?

The dots I've connected in the last several years are amazing, and maybe I'll share more about them in a future blog entry. But for now, I'm just excited to connect tomorrow's dots the day after tomorrow.

I love you, Lord. Thank you for bringing me back to You.