Showing posts with label Daughter Letters . Show all posts
Showing posts with label Daughter Letters . Show all posts

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Letter to My Daughters :: About the isms

Dear Daughters,




The isms. Words that have become part of our everyday language. Issues that scream for our attention, our compassion, our consideration. Issues different from one another, but important just the same.

And that s not to mention so many others we talk about.




Ageism. (I m kinda sensitive to this one.)

A quick online search for a list of isms will produce over 200 words that have become their own distinct belief systems. But, more than that, they are ways of categorizing people or keeping them apart from one another. Worse yet, they become ways of discriminating against people who aren t like us.

Today s isms have created an us against them world, and these ways of defining people confront us every day, pointing out differences, promoting hate.

In just the past two weeks we have seen racial violence of the highest order and a terrorist attack like none other. Not to mention that the country of Turkey (and how many others?) is in upheaval.

It leaves us wondering, How much more can we take?

I mean that quite literally. When we are bombarded every single day by news of one terrible occurrence after another, all of which we are told to care deeply about, I think we start to wonder how to do that.

How do we stay emotionally engaged with our world when there is so much violence and destruction calling for our attention? How do we love in a world so divided by -isms? We just want a little peace already!

Girls, I want you to know something in order to both guard against it and to deal with it when it happens to you. Compassion fatigue is a real thing.

Sometimes, in response to all of the tragedy around us, we lose our capacity to care. We act indifferent. We may even shut down.

It s not that we don t care, it s that we simply cannot.

So let s say you have a family you will probably spend the bulk of your emotional energy caring for the people under your roof. That s as it should be. And then, say, a family member gets sick or you have some big decisions to make about work. More emotional energy used up.

But that s not all. You have close friends with needs that you should also rightly care about. And a church family full of hurting people who need your attention. The circle of care widens, stretching its boundaries until you think it may burst.

Maybe your community is affected by racial violence, like many in our country did last week. You hurt some more. And then you look around and see that the world is falling apart and protests occur loud and strong, and you realize that there is just so much to care about until your emotional energy is spent.

Our bodies and our minds weren t made to handle this much sadness. We may even watch the news and feel despair or fear about the days ahead.

My darling daughters, here s what I want say: Do not give in to despair. Do not fear. (How many times does Jesus tell us not to fear? A LOT!) And do not give in to compassion fatigue.

God, in his wisdom, has given us just what we need to combat the fears and stresses of the world we live in. That s the great thing about the Bible it s timeless. It always speaks to where we are today.

Just last week I read this verse: In this world you will have trouble; but take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Do you know how comforting that is to me? When I worry about your futures or the futures of the grandchildren I may someday have, when I think about the tragic occurrences of the past two weeks, I can remember that Jesus has it covered. He came to overcome the world and all its trials and tribulations.

He knew there would be terrorism. He knew about racism. He knew that hard days would come, but he s got it covered already because of his death on the cross.

Here s what I also want you to know: God does not want us to give up on compassion, but he understands compassion fatigue. Even Jesus had to pull away for a while, to get away from the crowds to pray.

So how should we handle the isms calling for our attention these days? How do we handle compassion fatigue? I have a few ideas (you knew I would!).

Michah 6:8 says, He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

1. Pray. We cannot know God s will for us if we re not talking to him about it, so pray that God would show you the isms that he has placed on your heart. We can t do everything, but we can do something right where we are, so pray for compassion for the issues God has equipped you to care for. And don t worry about the rest that s why there is a huge world with people who care for different things.

2. Continue to seek justice in your everyday life. Again, we cannot solve every problem or fix every person, but we can be people of integrity who watch out for others. This doesn t mean that you have to stand in on a protest. It simply means that whatever you can do to seek justice, do it. Refuse to overlook injustice when you see it.

3. Be kind. Oh, how our world needs a little more kindness. And it can start with you. Forget cynicism (another ism!). Forget backstabbing gossip. Forget lying. And just be nice.

4. Walk humbly. Learn from others as you learn from God. Listen well. Love well. Take your eyes off of yourself and make those around you feel like they are the most important people in the room. Pray for humility.

These are the things God requires of us. Nothing more; nothing less.

Girls, as you go out into the world each day, don t be overwhelmed by the trials. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, seeking God s will for your life, following his call, and the rest will take care of itself.

He is with you always. Even until the end of the age.

I love you so.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Letters to My Daughters: Let s Talk about the Election

Dear Daughters:

There s an election coming up, have you heard?

That s a joke. How could you NOT have heard? It s talked about on every television channel, in every hallway at school, around every water cooler, and at every playground in America. You can t escape talk about the election, even if you wanted to.

A couple of nights ago as we watched the evening news I actually said to Julia (out loud!), I m starting to not care who becomes the next President.

Part of my comment was borne out of sheer frustration: I can t do much about the outcome anyway. We live in Illinois, the heartland of corruption, so no matter how I vote it won t make a difference. And I m so sick of thinking, hearing, and talking about this that I m done with it all.

You and I have every good reason to throw our hands up in frustration this year. This entire country has become a circus. The choices seem either dreadful or heinous or a combination of the two. Namecalling, lies, and now even violence have become de rigueur this year I ve never seen anything like it.

But another part of my comment to Julia came from my reading of scripture recently, and that s where I d like us to park our brains and our hearts during these turbulent days.

I recently read the book of Numbers. (I know. So weird, right? But when you read through the Bible in a year, you can t exactly skip it.)

Anyway, I got to Numbers 14 , and I had to stop, read it again, and then read it again. I ve even gone back to read it several times since then. It just seems to reflect so much of what is going on in our country today.

Here s the situation. In the previous chapter, Moses selected twelve men to spy out the land of Canaan God s promised land to the Israelites. They came back and reported that the Canaanites were a big deal. Literally. They were giants. Huge.

But the land. Oh the land! Flowing with milk and honey and grapes the size of your head. Plus it was the land God told them to possess and promised that He would help them do it.

You know the story. Ten of the spies said, No way. Can t do it.


But Joshua and Caleb said, Wait a minute. God told us we could do it, so let s believe Him and take the land.

Besides, it s kind of what God commanded.

You know who the Israelites believed, right? We get to Numbers 14 and we read that the entire community of Israel has been up all night , crying and wailing and begging Moses not to make them go into the Promised Land. They are scared. Totally frozen with fear.

And finally they come to the conclusion that it s not their lack of faith that is their problem, it s their leader.

Yeah, that s it! We need a new leader! Let s ditch this Moses guy and get somebody else.

Do you see the problem here, girls? The Israelites took their focus off of what God wanted them to do (take the land) and could certainly help them do (defeat the Canaanites), and instead they blamed leadership. They exchanged their faith in God for a faith in a person and things went downhill fast.

Moses is completely demoralized. Wrecked with self-doubt.

And God? God is MAD. In fact, God is ready to destroy them completely and start over with new people.

But Moses falls on his face in front of God and prays what I think is one of the most amazingly honest prayers in the entire Bible. (You can read it in verses 13-19.)

He appeals to God based on three things: God s reason ( what will the Egyptians think? ), God s own words ( you said . . . ), and God s character ( in keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love . . . ). And God is swayed to forgive the people, but not without some pretty significant punishment they would have to backtrack and would never live to see the Promised Land.

How does this relate at all to our current situation? Well, here s what I think.

1. We cannot put our faith in a leader. Period. Leaders are human. Politicians will let you down. Eventually this election cycle will end, positions will be won or lost, and hopefully people will stop shouting at each other.

In the meantime, however, don't take your focus off of what God wants you to be doing in the place where He's put you right now.

And do not think for one minute that a certain woman or man or political party will be the answer to this country's problems.

2. We can put our trust in God. Moses wanted the Israelites to look heavenward toward a God who had answered all of their prayers, delivered them from slavery, and who promised to bring them into freedom if they would just follow Him. God had already proven trustworthy, yet every time the Israelites took their eyes off of Him, they got into trouble.

Psalm 56 says, When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. . . . I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?

I know that mere mortals can make life pretty miserable here on earth. I m not naïve enough to know that whoever runs our country doesn t make a difference. Yes, policies could cost us something. The character of our leader does matter. And, yes, I think we should vote.

But in the end, we need to have a bigger perspective than just this election. We need to take a stand that says, I trust in God. I refuse to let fear drive me.

3. We can and should pray with fervency and honesty to God for our nation. Moses isn t afraid to get really honest with God (go read it!), and I don t think we should be afraid of that either. God isn t afraid of our honesty He can handle it. In fact, I think He relishes it.

And the best part is: He answers.

So if you re feeling fearful, frustrated, or fed up like I am, remember girls, that life, the future, even our country is not about a leader. It is SO not about the leader.

It s about a God who is totally, completely, fully trustworthy. That s where our faith should lie at all times, maybe especially now. Your future is secure in the hands of a sovereign God who sees all, knows all, and hears all.

Take courage.

I love you,



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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Letter to My Daughters :: On Red Cups, Enemies, and Taking Offense

Dear Daughters,

I ve been out of town for a few days, as you know. And, as you also know, when I m out of town I don t always keep up with the current trends in culture or in the news. So when I resurfaced from my trip yesterday I started reading all kinds of posts about red cups and how somebody, supposedly a Christian, got offended by them because they don t say Merry Christmas or something like that and how somehow because something was left off of a red cup all of a sudden it s an affront to Christians everywhere.

That was one thing.

But what I saw more than that were posts lots of them from other Christians bashing these supposed ticked off Christians for getting offended about the red cups.

And, after resurfacing from a few days away and trying to piece this story together, I felt a sudden and pronounced disconnect: how could I not find anything from this supposed bad guy whom everyone assumed got upset over a red cup? And how could I be reading more and more posts from the self-acclaimed good guys who were offended by the bad guy being offended?

I didn t get it. I felt like I was missing something.

Girls, I mean this with all sincerity: don t get involved in stuff like that. Don t be a part of the problem, pointing fingers at other Christians for what they may or may not have done. Don t get embroiled in name-calling. Don t get so easily offended, especially by other believers.

Because here s what I know: The world is not our enemy. The world is lost. That s all. The world loves darkness more than it loves the light, and in scripture, Jesus took pity on people like that. He wasn t afraid of them He just loved them because they didn t know the truth.

Here s another thing I know: Other Christians are not our enemy either. Oh, we see lots of backbiting and fighting among Christians today. It s like we ve lost sight of the true battle, the real enemy. This is nothing new even in the Bible the Pharisees and the disciples argued among each other (a lot!), but Jesus told them to just stop it (see John 6:43).

What I also know is this: The enemy is our enemy. And right now I see the enemy working overtime to get Christians to destroy each other. All he has to do is sit back and watch, laughing at our harsh words, daggers, thrown at each other over something so trivial, so inane, that the rest of the world shakes its head and walks away. The enemy wants us to eat each other up (or, in this case, drink each other down) over semantics and rumors and flat out lies so that the world will have just one more excuse to not see Jesus.

This isn t about red cups or coffee or even Christmas. It s not about who got offended by what or by whom. Truthfully, this whole ridiculous thing that will be gone in a week makes my head hurt.

And that s partly my point.

Getting caught up in name calling, especially in name calling against other believers, is a tactic that the enemy uses over and over again. It makes Christians look small, like we have nothing better to talk about (or fight over).

But you and I know the truth there are so many more important things to talk about. Like children sniffing glue underneath a highway in Sao Paulo. Or Christians being beheaded in orange jumpsuits on a beach in Egypt. Or children being abandoned right here in our very own city.

Bad stuff happens every day. Big stuff. Important stuff that is worth our time and attention.

Stuff that is an affront to our Lord and should be an affront to us.

Yet another difficult truth is this: we can t solve all of the big problems in the world It s all too much, too big. In John 6, the disciples told Jesus that they really wanted to follow Him, but they thought they had to DO something, to FIX something, to FEED someone. They thought that following Him meant work.

But Jesus answered them with words that make me stop every time I read them. He said, This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent ( John 6:29 ). That s it. Just believe.

Because when we truly believe, everything else falls into place. We know our calling, we know our job, and, most importantly, we know our enemy.

Red cups? Enemies? Taking offense? You re probably wondering what all this has to do with you.

Here s what I want you to hear today, dear daughters: there are so many things in this world that you could choose to get upset about. Getting your feelings hurt isn t one of them.

Keep believing.



Monday, June 29, 2015

Letters to My Daughters: God's Word

Dear Daughters,

From the day each of you was born, I felt a deep responsibility to prepare you for the world in which you will live. I ve tried to model for you what I believed to be best for your life, but, on occasion (OK, many occasions), I have failed. Oh boy, have I failed. If you were to rely on me as your sole model and guide for your lives, you would be in a sad place indeed.

I know my failings, and yet, I also know God. I know that God, who loves you more than I ever could, who sacrificed His only son so that he could have a relationship with us, has given us the best guide for our lives: his word.

Now, I know that God s word is sometimes confusing and hard to understand. I know that sometimes it says things we may not want to hear. But I also know that it has stood for thousands of years as a beacon of hope in a lost world. God s word is perfect. God s word is sure. God s word is the only anchor we can hold on to in this stormy world. In it we not only read things we don t get or maybe don t like, but we also read things that bring us comfort. And every page of God s word speaks of His great love for us.

Here s what I want you to know, dear girls, as you walk through life and encounter various trials: God s word, His love letter to us, never fails. People will fail you. I will fail you. Culture will fail you. But God s word will never fail. It has endured because God Himself has made it endure, and it will continue to do so no matter what happens in our lives.

I m ashamed to admit, girls, that I didn t always believe it I didn t always trust that God s word was enough. But years of living in this world and through various trials have shown me that God s word is the only security I have. I ve read it front to back a few times, and every time I see something new and every time it speaks to me in different ways. Sure, some things confuse me, but I keep digging, reaching further for understanding and insight into the God who loves me.

Girls, I have no idea what the future holds for you. I have no idea what the world will look like in 10, 20, even 50 years. What I do know is that God s word has not and will never change. Oh, there are plenty of people who would like to change it, but they can t, they won t, succeed because God won t let them. We can overlook the parts we don t like and make cutesy, Pinteresty signs for the parts we do, but the fact remains: God s word will never change. You can trust it. You can stake your life on it.

I read something this week from a Christian Millennial: Many of us are bucking the conventional thinking of the churches we grew up in, our parents, our [Christian] colleges. . . . Just think about that! What is the conventional thinking that these Christian Millennials are bucking? It s essentially the Bible. Basically this person is saying, I m rejecting the Bible and its teachings. I m going my own way. What I think I know is better than what God has already told me. When we get to that place, girls, we are on shaky ground indeed.

My darling daughters, I love you with every fiber of my being. I think you are amazing every bit of you. I have always been astounded by your incredible minds--especially your minds--but do not ever be fooled into thinking you know more than God.

The days and years ahead will be interesting. The future will look very different for you and for your children than it has for me. Culture, even fellow Christians, may shake their fists at you, call you names, call you closed-minded. You may lose your job. You may be called to take an uncomfortable stand. Just make sure that you are standing on the Rock and that your foundation is based on God s word.

Here s what I think about the days ahead:

We don t have to fight we are called to love.

We don t have to win the war is already over.

We don t have to rant or scream or cry the work is finished. Our God, through Jesus, has done it.

Don t worry. Don t be afraid. Hold on to what is true. God's word will stand for you just as it has for generations before you.

Now, go out and LIVE.

I love you so,


"Letters to My Daughters" is an ongoing series around here. In case you're new (welcome!) or if you've missed one, a complete list of my letters is listed below. I'd love for you to check them out!

And if you like what you see, why not sign up for email updates? I'd sure love to have you join me on this adventure!

Letters to My Daughters: Introduction
Letters to My Daughters: Take a Stand
Letters to My Daughters: Letting Go
Letters to My Daughters: Pressure
Letters to My Daughters: Be a Giver
Letters to My Daughters: Persevere
Letters to My Daughters: Decisions
Letters to My Daughters: Sexual Purity
Letters to My Daughters: Choose Joy, Part 1
Letters to My Daughters: Choose Joy, Part 2
Letters to My Daughters: Ten Things

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Letters to My Daughters: Ten Things

Earlier this week I was searching for something in some of my old posts, and I happened to come across a post I wrote in November of 2009 titled "Ten Things." I read it through and realized that it would be perfect as a "Letters to My Daughters" post (something I've been trying to resurrect recently due to some very kind comments from some of you). I've edited the original just a bit to fit our circumstances now, but most of it remains the same.


Dear Daughters,

A long time ago, either before you were born or when Kate was just a baby, I attended a writer s conference. The keynote speaker was a relatively unknown Christian writer who had an idea that he floated to us during one of his talks. Something about the rapture, the antichrist, and the end times.

You might have heard of him? Jerry Jenkins?

Before Jerry Jenkins ever wrote the Left Behind series, he had already written several books, including the book that I purchased called 12 Things I Want My Kids to Remember Forever . I actually stood in line to have him autograph my book (the only time I've ever done that!) because, as I told him, I bought that book (and not one of his 25 other books on the table) for the title of one chapter: Women Work Harder than Men.

Think about that for just a second.

I have loved that little book over the years. It s the book I wish I could write for you. It's kind of what spurred me to write this "Letters to My Daughters" series.

You are, all three, in the process of leaving home. In just a few years our house will be empty, our walls will echo with memories, and my head will suddenly remember all the things I wish I had told you but forgot.

So, a list. Just so I don't forget to tell you.

1. I have to say this first because it really is the most important thing: Know Jesus . Really know Him. Love Him with all your heart. Take Him with you wherever you go.

When you were little I always made you hold my hand when we crossed the street. When you got a little older you started to get embarrassed about that, and you shrugged me off. Very soon I won t be there to hold your hand all the time. Hold on to His. And not just when you re crossing the street; hold on all the time.

2. Marry a man who loves Jesus more than he loves you. Because in doing that, he will love you best. After that, make sure your husband makes you laugh every day . Because, believe me, laughter can get you through some tough days.

3. Be kind to the outsider . We all know how it feels to be the person on the outside looking in, so try to include others. Bring people in. Be warm. Be welcoming. Be hospitable.

4. It s not about you. Ever . I know this phrase has turned into a bit of a cliché, but it is so true. This life, this world, is so much bigger than you. Don't be afraid of it; just dig in and see what you can do to help.

5. Debt is NOT your friend . It will suffocate you like a blanket and, once under that blanket, it s really, really hard to get out from under it. Debt removes options from your life, and I want you to have options. Stay far, far away from the allure of debt, and the best way to do that is to live below your means.

6. Some stuff that people say matters really doesn t matter at all. But then, there is some stuff that some people don t care about that matters a lot. Life is often about having the right perspective.

7. Learn how to make a couple of dishes really well. Make them your signature dishes. That way, when you have company over you ll have a recipe or two that you can make really well and you won t have any disasters like the double-charred, hard-as-a-rock ribs I made for friends one time when your dad and I were first married.

8. Find a church and commit to it. This is your body, so do everything within your power to help make your body healthy and strong. Serve. Confront. Help. Unless there is heresy being preached, try to stick with it. You will be blessed so much if you do this.

9. Don t complain. Now, I realize that I spend my fair share of time complaining about the weather, but I know I shouldn t. There s nothing I can do about the weather. But this is bigger than the weather. Nobody likes to be around a person who complains all the time. Instead of complaining, try to make the world a better place.

10. Finally, always remember that you are so special . Each one of you is so very gifted, and by that I don t mean just intellectually. Each one of you is so beautiful, inside and out. You love well. You give a lot. You are good friends. You have taught me so much. Never, ever forget how special you are because there will be some days when you won't feel special. You'll think that you have nothing to offer this world or the people in it. You'll wonder what you can do to make a difference. Believe me, just because you're here the world is a better place.

I know I said I d give you ten things I want you to remember, but there s one more thing. . . .

Never forget that I have loved you with more love than my heart can hold. It overflows. It spills over into everything I have done. And there s more there. Always more. You are the work of my life, and I m so very proud of what I ve accomplished.


So how about you, dear readers? What would you add to this list?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Letters to My Daughters: Choose Joy (Part 2)

Dear Daughters,

Last time I wrote this: A deep, abiding joy will serve you well in life I encourage you to find it.

Still here.

Still encouraging.

Find joy.

Joy is a people-magnet. Joy is a relationship-builder. Joy is a life-giver.

Find it.

So you re probably wondering how. How do I find joy when I am feeling so out-of-it at school? How do I find joy when I m not sure what I m going to do with my life? How do I find joy when I feel like there s a limited supply and everyone around me has my share of it?

Some days I feel like I m not the best person to answer these questions I ve asked them all myself. Some days I feel the least equipped to talk about finding joy because I let all of those Cs take over and my soul is sapped.

And on those days, I run, RUN, to my Bible.

Recently I flipped to the concordance in the back of my Bible and looked under the word joy. What I found astonished me, I m ashamed to admit. I should have known.

Nearly every reference to joy in my Bible concordance was tied to God or Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit. Yes, there s the famous verse in which Paul encourages the Philippians to make my joy complete by being of like-minded, but mostly that has to do with their dedication to Christ, their unity in Him.

Do you see where I m going with this? Joy is tied up with our relationship to God. He is the source of true joy.

I ve told you this often, but I think it bears repeating here: the only life worth living is one totally dedicated to Christ because only in Him will you find true fulfillment.

Or true joy.

Just check your concordance.

So if God is our source of true joy, lasting joy, real joy, let me be very obvious here and talk about what will not bring you joy.






More stuff.

You get where I m going. Every day you probably see people trying their best to find true joy by pursuing things, but I m telling you it s fruitless. The celebrities you see on T.V. can t find it. People who look to bigger houses or flashier vacations can t find it. Even we ourselves can t find it apart from Christ.

Think about the travels we ve taken as a family. Some of the most joyful people we ve met have been people who have barely anything that this world would consider significant or important. But they have Jesus, and that makes their lives rich.

Remember Iris in Brazil? This single mom had one son of her own and was hoping to adopt two Brazilian children so that they wouldn t have to live on the streets. She didn t have much, but she had a roof over her head that she longed to share with others.

Iris was also a fantastic baker, and she shared her skill with us when she baked Kate s birthday cake that year. I still remember the smile on her face when she brought the cake over to help celebrate her birthday. Even though Iris had very little in the way of earthly possessions, that woman knew real joy.

You know this lesson in your heads we ve preached it to you your entire lives but take it into your hearts and know this for certain: true joy can only be found in one place.

Seek it. Pursue it. Find it.

Choose it.

I love you,


Monday, May 20, 2013

Letters to My Daughters: Choose Joy (Part 1)

Dear Daughters,

Remember this? Make a good choice, my friend!

It rings in our ears, makes us smile, and sometimes even makes us roll our eyes. This phrase became a joke in our family, even though it was no joke to the teacher who repeated this phrase over and over again in elementary school.

But, you know, she was right.

The choices you make today will affect how well you live later on.

Today I want to talk to you about a choice you can make right now that will affect your relationships both today and in the future. This choice will help guide the way you live both now and tomorrow and it will affect every relationship you have.

Choose joy.

Yes, this might sound like a cliché, but I tell you as one who did not make this choice for many years: choosing joy brings life to you and to those around you. A deep, abiding joy will serve you well in life I encourage you to find it.

First, though, I want to warn you about three joy-suckers that will kill your soul . Watch out for them. Flee any temptation to give in to them. Your life will not be rich and full if you allow these joy-suckers into it.

What are they? Comparison. Criticism. Contempt.

Comparison. This one sucks the joy out of you because it makes you feel less-than. When we look around at what others have or what others have achieved, thinking that we should have the same or better, we assume God has slighted us, dealt us a bad hand.

This is a lie because the Bible tells us that we are His beloved and that He watches over our coming and our going. God also asks us to trust Him to lead us. Why should we want what others have when God has our own best interest at heart?

Criticism. This one sucks the joy out of those around us, hurting our own hearts in the process. It s a subtle form of comparison that, rather than making us feel less-than, makes us feel superior to others.

This is a lie, too, because the Bible says that no one is perfect, that all have sinned. When we criticize, we act as judge a job we have not been given.

Contempt. Contempt can be a two-pronged problem because we can view either ourselves or others in this way. Contempt says that God made a mistake when He made us or those around us.

What a lie! God says that His creation was good and that His people are His delight.

So how do we find joy?

Joy comes, I think, when, rather than compare ourselves to others, we join with others , seeing the good in them, seeing potential for a bigger life and a greater adventure.

Joy comes when, instead of criticizing, we choose to build someone up in love.

Joy comes when, instead of treating someone with contempt, we choose to treat them with kindness and that kindness is returned.

Joy comes when, rather than sneering with contempt at what God has made, we choose to rejoice in His blessings . Even something as simple as the weather (which I do tend to complain about sometimes) can be a good indication of where we are with God. Are we saying, This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it ? Or are we grumbling and complaining, when all that really does is tell God that we think he could do better?

My dear girls, today I encourage you to choose the path of joy because this is a path that leads to contentment and peace. Trust me, your life will be richer and the lives of those around you will be blessed if you choose joy over comparison, criticism, or contempt.

I love you,


P.S. I have more to say about joy, but I ll share it later this week.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Letters to my daughters: Sexual Purity

Dear girls,

Let s talk about sex.

I know, I know.

I know you. I know you re rolling your eyes right now. I know you re thinking, Mom, we ve talked about this, and I m done with it.

I know.

But humor me for a minute.

See, last week the blog world sorry, the Christian blog world blew up over the topic of purity or premarital sex or chastity or whatever you want to call it. Lots of posts were written and, sadly, lots of flaming arrows were thrown.

I don t want to get involved in all of that.

What I do want to do is to make sure you know what s what about sex. No, not technically I ll let you have the joy of figuring that out on your own one day should you get married. But even though we ve talked about premarital sex before, and you girls know clearly where your dad and I stand on the issue, I want to make sure you re really clear.

Really. Clear.

Because, you see, I noticed something about the discussions that were going on around the blogosphere last week. Many people talked about issues like the purity culture and shaming and guilt and creating a theology of sexuality, but most left out the most important place to begin a discussion of humanity and sexuality and marriage:

The Bible.

God, as the creator of sex, has something to say about how He d like us to use that gift. These aren t my rules; they re His. And as Creator, He has every right to make certain demands on His creation.

You know the demands. They are clearly given to us in several places in Scripture, particularly in I Corinthians 5 and 6. Paul uses words even I wouldn t use it s a little hard to read but it is the word of God and we need to take care with it. There are many other places in the Bible where God deals with the issue of sexual purity this is just one of the biggies.

So God s word is clear: He doesn t want us to have sex before we re married. Period.

But why? Why is this such a big deal? Especially if someone is in a committed relationship and they plan to get married, why shouldn t they be free to show their love to each other?

Well, there are a few possibilities given to us in I Corinthians 6. Our bodies belong to Christ, if we believe in Him, and He doesn t want us to use them in this way before we are married. I guess that s one reason.

Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19) that could be another.

But I really like the answer Paul gives in the next verse (I Cor. 6:20): God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

See, He loves you so much that He sent His one and only beloved Son to die for you. You are worth it. And because you're worth it to Him, He wants to guard you from sins that might harm you.

This is one of those sins.

We might not understand why God has given us this command to stay sexually pure before marriage, especially since it s a command that seems so difficult to keep, but we know one thing for sure: He loves us enough to die for us. If the life of His Son was the price He had to pay for our sins, doesn t He have a right to request no, demand our obedience?

In all things, even this?

When you were little we lived on a busy street. I hated living on that busy street because it was always such a chore to keep you in the back yard, which was not fenced, and to keep you from running to the front yard where you could possibly get hurt by running into the street. You would always try to sneak away, around the corner of the house, pushing those boundaries to see how far you could get before I caught you and made you come back to safety.

In a way, that s how I think it is with God and our sexual purity.

He knows the danger to us, both physically and emotionally, so much better than we do. He loves us enough to give us boundaries and to tell us clearly what those boundaries are. Marriage is the boundary. Not a committed relationship (you have no idea how many people who were just sure they would be married ended up breaking up). Not outside of marriage. Just marriage. Period.

Now hear this, my darlings. You might mess up. You ve pushed boundaries all your lives, so this is one that might be particularly difficult for you. I hope it won t be, but you never know. But hear this: nothing is outside the grace of God.

And nothing will keep me from loving you. Ever.

We are sinful people prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. There is not a single day of our lives that we are not in need of the tender, loving forgiveness of our Father. Praise Him that He so freely gives it. And know that this is not the one unforgiveable sin. There is grace.

That s not to say that we should sin so that grace will abound . No. Our love for Jesus and His love for us should be our guiding light, always.

Last thing. Remember this: sex is an act of the body; purity is an act of the heart.

Work on your heart.

I love you so.


Linking this post to Richella's Grace at Home party.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Letters to My Daughters: Decisions

Last year I started this series and, like most things on my blog, it kind of got dropped for a while. These are some of the most fun, most meaningful posts I write (to me, anyway), and they are on my mind a lot. So I decided to keep going. I'll probably post a "Letters to My Daughters" post once a month or so. We'll see how it goes.
* * * * *
Dear girls,

When I was a senior in high school, I had a big decision to make: should I go to the college I had already committed to, or should I completely change direction and go where I felt God was leading? It was a hard decision because it involved money (my parents would lose the deposit money they had put down at School #1) and it involved the unknown (I didn t know much about School #2).

In desperation one day I asked my mom what she thought I should do. I ll never forget her answer: I can t make that decision for you. You re the one who is going to have to live with it, so it has to be your decision.

To be honest, at the time her answer frustrated me, but today I see how very wise she was. My mom knew that where I would end up going to college would be life-changing . . . for me, not for her. In fact, my decision wouldn t impact her life much at all. She also knew that it was time for me to own my decisions. If I ended up in a place where I was unhappy, she didn t want me to look back and blame her for it.

What I remember most about that time in my life was wrestling, really wrestling, with making a decision. And if I m honest, I d have to say that I still wrestle with decision-making even today. I play around with the possibilities, rolling them around in my mind, questioning the outcomes, wondering what if I do something wrong or, worse yet, make someone unhappy?

I m kind of a mess.

But you know that already.

Anyway, I ve been thinking that you are going to have some big decisions to make in the coming years.

Where to go to college?

What should you do after graduation? Work? Grad school? Where? Doing what?

Even, maybe, whom to date and possibly marry.

The decisions you make will only get bigger as you get older, and I can t make them for you any more. Just as my mom wisely taught me, you have to be responsible for the decisions you make.

But you might be wondering, how do you make a good decision? I have a few guidelines that have helped me through the years. Maybe they ll help you, too.

Pray . You really shouldn t make any decision without prayer. Philippians 4:6 (NLT) says, Don t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for what He s done.

Pretty good instructions for decision making, don t you think?

Do I always do this? No. But I ve grown a lot in this area. When I was in my 20s, I thought I had so much control over my life that I didn t bother God with mundane things like my decisions. But I ve learned that when I pray, I m telling God that I really do want what He wants for my life. So now I come knocking on His door regularly.

Listen. After we pray, we really need to learn to step back, take time, and listen to what God might be telling us. He doesn t speak audibly to us anymore, of course, but He definitely speaks. The more in touch I get with Him, the more I can tell that He speaks to my heart. He prompts me. He guides me. He directs me.

Sometimes He uses other people. As I have conversations with people, sometimes I gain a better understanding of a situation. God definitely uses others in my life to speak to me.

And He uses His word. Part of listening is being in the word, reading what He has to say to us, and heeding His advice.

Finally, and maybe the thing I ve learned most about making decisions, is to move ahead without fear . When your dad and I were trying to decide how to educate you girls, we felt a prompting to send you to public school, even though most of our friends were choosing Christian school for their kids. We prayed about it and felt strongly that we couldn t make a decision based on fear. How many times does Scripture say, Do not fear " or " Be not afraid ? A lot. God is not a God of fear, so if we re praying about our decision, and we listen for His answer, we should not be afraid to move ahead.

So, three steps: Pray. Listen. Move.

Trust God s love for you, my dear girls. It is so big. He promises never to fail you nor forsake you. Doesn t that imply that he will walk with you through your decisions?

Finally, girls, I want to remind you that you are never alone. Sometimes you ll make great decisions, and we ll all celebrate together. Sometimes you ll make a decision that needs tweaking, maybe even completely reversing, and we ll walk that road with you, too. No matter what, we will be on your side, cheering from here.



P.S. I ended up at School #2. You know the rest of the story. . . .

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Letters to My Daughters: Persevere

Dear girls,

When you were very young, we used to drive to Texas every summer.

With your cousins and your grandma.

Without your dad.

I m sure you remember those road trips well. Destruction on wheels, I think it was.

The first time we did this, Julia wasn t even born yet. I think I had four little girls under the age of 8 in my car (Kate, Caroline, Kira, and Paige). (With Grandma. I don t want to discount her she was a huge help.)

I do remember a few trips that got a little hairy, but overall, I was really glad we made them. It was one of the few times I could see my sister every year, so it was worth it to pack you guys up, strap you into car seats, load you up with books and snacks and anything else that might help keep you quiet. This was, after all, in the years before we had a DVD player in our car.


Funny thing was, when I would tell people that I was driving my three very young girls (and sometimes their cousins and grandmother) all the way to Texas by myself! people looked at me like I was crazy.

Why would you do that? they would ask. Like they ve never imagined doing . . . anything.

Others would simply say, I would never do that. Like I was crazy or something.

Over Thanksgiving I had to make the trip by myself again. (And, well, with the three of you.) No Dad.

Now, granted, you are all much older and much more well-behaved in the car than you used to be. And you could help me out with the driving.

[May I just stop here and say that back then, in the mid-90s, I could never, ever begin to imagine the day when you girls would help me with the driving. How did I get here?]

Even before we left for Thanksgiving, knowing that your dad wasn t driving home with us, I dreaded the trip with every fiber of my being. But the point is, I didn t let the daunting trip stop me. It was too important to me. To all of us.

And I think there s a lesson here.

Yes, Texas is a LONG drive from Chicago (16 hours back when you were little). And, yes, it s HARD to take three little girls on a road trip that long by myself. And, yes, sometimes I didn t want to do it.

But in the end, I was so glad I did it because the reward of being with family was so worth it.

My dear girls, is there something in your life that you want really badly? Maybe it s a job. Maybe it s an experience. Maybe it s just to get through whatever difficulty you re going through right now.

Whatever you want, here s what I have to say: Go for it.

Don t let the doubts of others stop you.

Don t let your own doubts stop you either.

And certainly don t let the anticipation of a long, hard journey stop you.

Because those naysayers? They re just life-suckers, out to suck the joy or the fun or the adventure out of your life because they don t have any in their own.

Don t listen to them.

Just put one foot in front of the other, take it one step at a time (or one mile at a time, to continue the analogy), and you will get there.

I guess if I were to sum it up in one word, I would say: persevere .

One day, after lots of your own small and large accomplishments, you ll look back and see that you were in the driver s seat all along.

I was just the navigator cheering you on.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Letters to My Daughters - Be a Giver

Dear Daughters,

I want to talk to you today about giving.

Not your money . . . yourself.

I had an interesting conversation with a college girl the other day, and she told me that since she has begun volunteering with a campus organization this year she has a new appreciation for those who serve. She's learning that serving is hard work! See, she s having trouble getting people to help her with the events she s planning. And when she plans an event, people inevitably complain.

My friend just can t figure out why people her age (your age!) don t want to get involved.

(Let me tell you, girls, people can be a royal pain.)

And so can serving. But I want to encourage you to keep doing it, keep serving, because it shapes the person you are becoming and the person you are going to be.

As my friend talked, she said, I ve realized that these people who won t do anything my generation are also the people who someday will have to be involved in our communities . . . and in our churches! Who is going to do all the work if nobody wants to get involved?

Right on, Sister!

I told her that in this world there are givers and there are takers . (Again, I m not talking about money I m talking about our time.) Sadly, it seems like today there are more takers in this society than givers.

So who will get involved? Who will be the givers of tomorrow?

I ll tell you who you will . Because you have, I hope, a sense of responsibility to the world around you. And because you understand that there are many people out there who, for some reason or another, just can t do it, but you can. And you also know that sitting at home watching T.V. is no way to live a rich and fulfilling life.

I can't waste time or energy worrying about all those other people out there who aren t getting involved in their communities and in their churches. (Those, by the way, are usually the people who complain the loudest when things don t go quite according to their expectations. Be forewarned.) What I need to focus on is me. What am I doing to make my community and my church a better place?

I was raised with parents who were always involved in some aspect of community and church life. One time I asked my mom why they were always doing so much, and I ll never forget my mom s answer. She told me, If there is a need, and I can fill it, I ll do it.

If there is a need . . . and I can fill it . . . I ll do it.

How much better would our world be if more people had this philosophy of living and giving?

Sure, there are times when we are stretched so thin that we absolutely cannot fill a need. I get that. God understands. We all need healthy boundaries.

But when you see a need, I would hope that, rather than automatically dismissing it as someone else s problem, you would at least take a moment to consider how and if you can help fill that need.

So far, girls, you are doing great. You ve all been actively seeking ways to serve others. Keep it up and make it a lifelong habit.

Be a giver.


Linking this post to Richella's Grace at Home party and Amanda's Weekend Bloggy Link Up .

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Letters to My Daughters - Pressure

Dear Daughters,

It was my senior year of college. I was engaged to your dad, planning a wedding, looking for a job and a place to live, oh, and trying to finish up classes.

About a month or so before graduation I was having a bad day, so I called home. My dad answered the phone, and before I knew it, I was crying.

Blubbering is more like it.

Dad, I don t know where we re going to live we can t find an apartment. And a job? I don t even know what I want to DO with my life. B and I just had a huge fight, AND I HAVE AN EXAM IN AN HOUR AND I HAVEN T EVEN STUDIED!!

I still wonder how my dad must have reacted on the other end of the phone. He must have truly wondered if I had lost my mind, sniffling and snuffling and bellowing out my problems in the most unrefined of ways.

Yes, I remember college. I remember some really fun times. I remember the great friends that I made. I remember awesome professors.

I also remember the pressure.

Girls, all three of you are in different stages, but you will all experience intense pressure at one time or another, even this year. Academic pressure. Financial pressure. Peer pressure.

How will you handle it?

I recently read the most amazing story in II Chronicles 20. King Jehoshaphat of Judah was under intense pressure three armies from surrounding countries had declared war on him at once. It s kind of long (you should really go read the whole thing for yourselves), but bear with me it s important.

1. He knew where his strength came from.

As soon as he heard that not one, not two, but THREE armies had declared war on him, the Bible says, Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. (v. 3)

Jehoshaphat took the threat seriously, but he also took the Lord seriously, and he responded appropriately. Yes, he was terrified. There s no doubting that what lay before him was a seemingly insurmountable problem. But rather than sit and cry or run away, he begged the Lord for guidance. And because the threat was especially serious, he fasted and asked everyone around him to fast as well.

When pressure comes, run to the Lord.

2. He prayed.

Jehoshaphat obviously knew the Lord well because his prayer reflects what his heart knew: O Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! (v. 6)

He must have known himself pretty well too, because his prayer goes on to say, We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help (v. 12).

When pressure comes, pour out your heart to God.

3. He trusted.

After Jehoshaphat prayed, he listened to the words of the prophet Jahaziel who told him these important words: Don t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God s (v. 15). Jahaziel also told the people of Judah, But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. . . . Believe in the Lord your God and you will be able to stand firm (v. 17 & 20).

Really? Just stand firm? With three armies coming after you?

What happens next is truly amazing. The three armies that had come to invade Judah all turned on each other and began fighting among themselves! Pretty soon they had killed each other, and Judah just stood there watching. Crazy, huh?

When pressure comes, trust God s word.

4. The result of trusting in God.

So this insane stuff happens. The armies all run around killing each other while Judah stands and watches it happen. And then, after all the armies are dead, Judah rushes down to the battlefield to claim the spoils. But the best result comes in verse 30: So Jehoshaphat s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.

The result of trusting in God?

Peace. And rest.

In His faithfulness and goodness, God had delivered His people and had given them peace.

There s nothing better.

Girls, you will experience pressure in this life. Sometimes the pressure will be more intense than others. But how you handle the pressure reveals a lot about your character.

Will you run to the Lord? Will you pour your heart out to Him? Will you trust His word?

If you do, I guarantee you will ultimately rest in His peace.