Sending you to Ecuador

Dear Lydia Ann,

In just a few short days you are heading to Ecuador for the first time by yourself on a 3 month adventure all your own. We’ve talked and planned for it so much in this past year, but now that it’s on the horizon…within sight it seems a little surreal doesn’t it?

I’m writing to reassure you…you’re ready. You absolutely are. Yes there will be things that are stressful. Times when things don’t work out and you might not know what to do without asking for help, but the good news is…we adults, well we pretty much know how it feels to be stressed out, unsure of ourselves and in need of help daily and it’s ok. The sooner we all admit it…the sooner we can find solutions and come to peace :).

You’re going to make new friends and you are so ready for those friendships. I want you to know…anyone who chooses to be your friend is incredibly lucky to have you as a friend. You are such an encourager and loyal person. You are a good listener and even though I don’t always laugh at the jokes you would like me to, I can tell you I have laughed my guts out from time to time because of how hilarious you can be. Believe in yourself. You’ve got what it takes to make friendships for life. You have experienced great joy, great pain and loss, great triumph, etc. all of these experiences, the entire first 18 years of your life will give you exactly what you need to move into this next season of life.

Find what you have in common with other people. Especially the people of Ecuador. Honestly, we all have far more in common than we tend to realize. Don’t highlight the differences…instead focus on the common threads that pull us all together like love, belonging, wanting the best for ourselves and our families.

You are ready to deepen your walk with God in a personal way. This excites me greatly! I know with confidence that He is going to be at work in you in a special way this next 3 months. I look forward to hearing all about it. Stay open. Listen to His still small voice. Journal. Pray. Reflect. Pay attention. Don’t live one day on autopilot. Expect to hear from God. He will heal you in ways that you don’t even know you need right now.

Lydia…we’ve had a good time the past couple of weeks putting together our puzzles, coloring, watching Grantchester, cooking in the kitchen, going out for coffee, etc. I have cherished every moment with you more than you know.

I am very proud of the woman you’ve become. Honestly…very proud. I believe in you. I want the best for you always. I want to give you wings to fly and to fly high. God has plans for your life and this is just the beginning.

I want you to know that home base is always here for you. Your roots will remain no matter what comes. Your safe place where you can let go and just be yourself without fear and know that you will be loved forever is right here within these walls where I’m typing.

Lots of changes coming. I know how you feel about change…Excited and yet traumatized :). It’s going to be ok. I promise.

Cling to God. Trust in Him. Focus on loving others. Take good care of yourself always. We can only give out of the overflow from our own hearts. If we don’t take care of ourselves there is nothing to give. Sing. Praise God. Keep being totally yourself.

I love you. I loved you when I saw you the first time. I have loved you every step of the way, even on the days that were hard, we’ve had a few of those :). I love you more today than I ever knew I could…love is funny, it just continues to grow and multiply the more it gets used. I know I will love you even more as the days and years go by.

I’m excited for you. You know me, nutty for adventure! I expect to hear some hilarious stories…that means you’ve got to take some risks and live with complete abandon. (Pretend like I’m right there with you 🙂

Much love, Always and forever, from your momma that will soon be putting you on a plane to South America!! Who knew that this would be part of your life story even a little over a year ago?!? Not us…but God knew…

Compelled by love

Dear Wren and Lydia,

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and written out words to you two. A long time since I’ve woken up in the night and in the dark of the wee morning hours felt compelled to get up out of bed and sit in a dark kitchen by the light of the computer screen to pour out my heart to you. Not because I haven’t woken up in the night or had words I wanted to share but simply because instead I’ve chosen to pray. But this morning I felt compelled once again to come to the blank screen and write. The love of God compels me.

So hear it is.

The fact that Jesus came to this earth as a baby. The fact that He became one of us…Emmanuel, makes all the difference. The fact that He grew up and lived a perfect life, followed by crucifixion and dying for us to save and reconcile us to God, changes everything. Absolutely everything. The fact that He not only died for us but was raised from the dead and has overcome death is the game changer for our every day life right here and now. The fact that He did all of this for us while we were still sinners, surely not worthy of saving, is beyond comprehension.

I as your mom would never lay down your lives for other people in this world willingly. I can tell you…it just wouldn’t happen. My love for others is not greater than my love for you. I can be honest about this. God willingly did this…

When we grow up in the church and around these truths our entire lives we take them for granted. We go to church every week. We take part in communion over and over. We sing the songs, hear the stories and know so much blasted truth within our brains but often it is hard for these things to go from our heads to our hearts. When we know truths but they don’t reach our hearts…only our minds, we live in our own power and strength, sapped of the joy, the peace, the love and wonder why. We read the promises in the bible. Or maybe we never even open the book because we’ve been around it so much we assume we already know what’s in there. And then we can’t figure out why we struggle so hard with sin. We manage behaviors and seemingly do the right things on the outside but we know that if this is all there is than what difference does any of it make anyway? Church becomes a social thing and a group of people to whom we belong but there is no real life change.

We can literally reach the point where we say we believe it all…even the fact that Jesus died and was raised to life and think it doesn’t really apply or change our day to day life. It can become something that changes our eternal destination but has little to do with the here and now.

This is gut level, honest truth even if it does sound crazy.

I know…I grew up in the church and knew all the right answers. I knew how to behave. I knew what was expected of me. I knew how to serve and do the right things without the feelings. This is what happens when we just ‘go through the motions’. If most of us are honest, we all have seasons of this type of living. It can lead to real disillusionment all around. Nothing like talking about how much Jesus has done for us, singing about it, hearing about it and feeling nothing, to cause a person to chuck the whole thing in.

We may even look at others and be mystified at how they are feeling something and we’re not.

I remember how I felt as a teenager. Honestly, even the whole decade of my 20’s. One of my greatest struggles during that time was really feeling, embracing, resting and trusting the Love of God. I would have moments here and there where things came together between my heart and mind, but many, many moments where I was simply going through the motions, behaving in a certain way, following social norms, relying on answers that I had been taught by rote.

I lacked the power in my life and didn’t really understand why.

Sometimes I thought others who were tapped into the power and were living differently than me just didn’t understand my set of circumstances or were just clueless, I suppose.

As so often happens, when we judge others, it always tells us more about ourselves than about those we judge. This is a lesson I have had to repeat in my life over and over and over.

At some point…if we set aside the structures, habits, expectations, right and wrong answers, etc. long enough and get down on our knees or whatever posture is most helpful, and seek God…not just seek what we think we know about God, but honestly seek Him in desperation, He will be found.

The love of God can honestly take your breath away. He can literally free you from the inside out. The love of God will compel you to think of others before yourselves. The love of God will change everything. It will cause you to sing out in worship, to raise your hands, to act as if no one else is watching simply because the opinion of others will matter less to you. The love of God will give you hope, hope that makes no sense, hope that will be what carries you through your darkest days. The radical love of God will take you from darkness to light, it’s literally that life changing. The love of God will give you peace, even if nothing about your life circumstances changes or even if those circumstances get worse. You can experience peace right in the midst of it all. The love of God will give you love for others, even people who have hurt you. You will find that as His love fills you it naturally overflows onto others. The love of God will compel you to interact with strangers, to smile and extend a helping hand. The love of God will cause you to realize that nature is beautiful and that you are not simply a number on this planet, one among billions of people. It will cause you to realize that you are the apple of God’s eye. Your name is written on His hand. He gathers every tear you’ve ever cried. He created you. He knows every day of your life before it comes. He is beside you, behind you, in front of you, over you every day and every night watching over you, leading you, loving you, guiding you, wanting the best for you always. The love of God is why you can take your very next breath and the next one. The love of God is faithful, always. The love of God is always redeeming every broken thing in your life for your good. Always. The love of God can be trusted. Literally, there are very few things in this life you can trust fully. Very few things that are fullproof trustworthy, but the love of God is absolutely trustworthy. You can bank on it all the time.

But here’s the thing. If you decide that life has to go a certain way, that God has to be who you think He should be in your life circumstances, has to answer prayers in a certain way or try to put God into a box in anyway you will miss out on the love of God.

Love doesn’t work that way.

Why would we want to harness the love of God into just bits and pieces when we can let it just run uncontrolled through us ruling us, changing everything if we just have faith and trust in it and in God completely without needing to control it?

As I said early on in this letter…growing up in the church is a wonderful thing. Being around the faith is a beautiful gift. I’m thankful that you are very aware of the truth of the bible and who jesus is. But…if you think about it…what better thing could Satan do than take those of us who have grown up in the church and been around the awareness of jesus all of our lives and cause us to live powerless, lifeless lives? What benefit is it if we attend church, take communion or even serve others if it’s all a mental exercise without the heart? The world does not need more people attending churches, mentally aware of God but not plugged into the radical life changing love of God.

And it’s just not a fun way to live.

You guys know…I’m all about persevering and powering through, to the point where in just a few minutes I will put on a few layers of clothing and head out into the cold morning air to run a few miles this morning. You know I’ve got some crazy stories from my life because of this quality where I’m willing to put my shoulder to the grindstone and do crazy things…but, your faith is not to be lived out this way. Yes you will need to persevere and there are times when we need to just push through in faith. But more than that…your faith is meant to be plugged into the source, fueled and powered by the love of God, the very presence of God within you…Emmanuel.

One of the coolest things about Dane to me is the way when I talk to him about the love of God he so totally ‘wallers’ in it. Dane literally trusts and believes that God is crazy in love with him. We could look at some of the stories Dane tells us about his past and wonder how he can so totally know that God loves him. I mean his behavior was definitely not in line at all times :). But for Dane, that doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. He knows completely and totally that Jesus loves him. Just last night we were talking before falling asleep about it and he told me that he just basks in Jesus’ love every day.

Can you imagine basking in the love of Jesus every day? Can you imagine just laying there on the floor and letting go of everything and just embracing and totally resting in the love of Jesus for you?

This requires a daily infilling of the Holy Spirit. It requires being plugged in, not just mentally, but heart and soul as well. It requires letting go of expectations, required behaviors and man made rules. It requires letting go of the right answers and being open to God. It requires coming to the place where you realize that even if God never did another thing for you beyond sending His Son to die for you, that truth, that love, in Jesus coming to this earth is more than enough for the rest of your life to be life changing. It requires you to look at your faith with new eyes. Fresh eyes.

We take so much for granted every single day. We stand in worship and sing songs. We pray prayers and hear scripture. We take the bread and the juice. We know the stories. And yet…we can miss the entire point when we operate our faith on auto pilot. In much the same way we can spend years of our lives in the same home and take one another for granted. It’s just human nature.

Wake up. Nothing should be taken for granted. Definitely not the love of God. Before you breathed one breath on this earth the love of God was already present.

Two people can live the very same set of circumstances and depending on their faith, their trust in God, their openness to receiving and embracing God’s love, there lives can look incredibly different. One can be defeated, the other victorious with not a single life circumstance changing between them. The difference is pure and simple. The Love of God changes everything.

I’m writing this not to chastise. I know at your age it’s easy for it to feel that way. That’s why these days I try to measure my words more carefully. No, instead, I’m writing this because girls I want for you to be fully alive, fully loved, fully connected to the power, the hope, joy, love, peace that is available to you. I can’t bear to stand on the sidelines and watch you flounder, to watch you choose to live a half life. People do it. Lots of people do it. I don’t want anyone to live that way, but I’m not their mom. I am your mom. And to my dying day I will be writing, talking, singing, praying and telling you and your children about the compelling love of God.

God’s love has changed everything for me. I am banking my entire life, my past, my present and my future on it. God’s love has given me strength, hope, love, joy, and peace when my life circumstances were surely not giving me any of those things on their own. He has made the difference and is always enough. Always.

You will trust in something. If you trust in yourself…you’re doomed. If you trust in others…you’re doomed. If you trust in this world…deep sigh. The only thing that is worthy of your entire trust is God. Period.

You can’t trust in God if all He is, is a mental exercise, some stories and traditions, codes of conduct and a weekly place you go. You can’t bank everything on God if you vaguely believe that He died for you, but honestly, that is discounted because after all that was for the entire world and you’re really just a number, a faceless number at that. You can’t fully experience the power unless you let go and surrender everything. God wants to not just save you but to be the Lord and Master of everything.

Does that sound scary? Sure. I mean…what if He doesn’t want to do things in your life the way you would like things to be done? What if He changes the plan? What about all of those hopes and dreams you have? Can He really be trusted with those? Where do you think those hopes and dreams come from? They were created in you before you were even born. God’s ways are best. Always. I’m not talking about ease and comfort here…I’m talking about best. He knows you. Knows you in a way that no one else ever will. He knows you better than you know yourself. He made you. His every intention for you is good.

I love you, always have, always will, but I can tell you there are days when my motives, words and actions are skewed. You know this already. God is never like that. He doesn’t have bad days. He doesn’t lose His temper or not get enough sleep. He doesn’t get hangry. He doesn’t struggle with sin. His love for you is absolutely perfect.

We don’t understand that kind of perfect love. In this world, even those closest to us hurt us. It’s the sad reality. But God’s love is not like that. God is never malicious, or selfish. God is never anything but good, faithful, just and compassionate.

When you can immerse yourself in that kind of love, when you can be open to receive it, to embrace it, bask in it, rest in it every day no matter what you know about yourself from the past, it will change everything. And I truly mean everything. You’re entire outlook will change. Almost like the grinch whose heart grew 3 sizes :).

You’ll still be human. You’ll still struggle with sin more than you would like. You’ll still have days when you act selfishly. But what will begin to happen more and more quickly in your life is the love of God will compel you to make things right, it will compel you to not go as far down that road as you used to. It will compel you to find true delight in loving others and serving them. You won’t need to be told what to do, it will come naturally and the giving and serving will actually start blessing the socks off of you in ways you can’t even imagine right now. You will live fully in your present. You will take less for granted. You will be at peace, full of joy no matter what the day brings. You will have power, grace, and love that is different. People will take notice and wonder at the change in you. You will walk as lights in a dark world. Oh how the world needs us to be lights.

There is a very real struggle that goes on. A battle. You’ve heard about it enough that it might just seem like mumbo jumbo to you. You have a niece that has a favorite shirt that says “Not today Satan, not today”. It’s easy to say that tongue in cheek and just kind of as a joke, but there is truth there. You must stand up and declare that you are going all the way in this faith thing, nothing held back, not one foot on the land and one in the water, not six inches deep in the water of life. You must walk forward step by step holding onto the hand of Jesus getting swept away in the current of His love and trust that He will be all you need.

Know that I am right there too, cheering you on, praying for you, just wanting what is best for you. I have the gift of years and experiences. I can declare the faithfulness of God because I’ve seen it first hand, time after time. I hope that as I call back to you to let go, to trust, to lean into the love of God, to trust that He has good plans for you, that you will believe my first hand experience.

That’s what the gospel writers were trying to do. They were simply telling what they had seen and heard and hoping their stories and eye witness accounts would be enough to cause others to want to receive the good news. I am declaring the good news to you. God loves you. He is absolutely in love with you. And He really knows you. There is nothing to hide. God delights in you. In ways that no one else can. God will never leave you. Never. God is always for you.

May you know the height, width, and depth of the love of God. May you be rooted and grounded in His love for you all the days of your lives. May you comprehend that He is doing more than you can ask or imagine. May you trust that He is working all things for your good. May you rest in His promises to never leave you or forsake you. May you taste and see that the Lord is good. May you be so filled with His love that His love compels you to love others around you in ways that are supernatural.

Love your momma who is compelled by the love of God to write these words and to live in ways that I hope speak daily of the love of God and the radical difference it has and is making in my life.

 

 

Trust

Dear Wren and Lydia,

I’ve been thinking about trust. I read somewhere lately about the reality that while  it maybe somewhat ‘easy’ to forgive it’s not easy to trust again.

While I would not say it’s ‘easy’ to forgive…I have realized that it’s far easier for me to say I forgive someone than for me to actually trust that person again.

The truth is…we shouldn’t trust everyone. Not everyone is trustworthy. And sometimes forgiveness happens without trust. We can release someone from the penalty of an offense but also acknowledge that they no longer have a place in our inner circle of trust.

Which is a scary truth…it means there are times when I ask for forgiveness and it might even be granted, but I’ve lost trust in the process.

Are you trustworthy? Who knows they can trust you?

We all hurt people. Literally everyone of us hurts people on a daily basis through intentional acts and also just plain ignorance or indifference. Even those we love the most.  Maybe especially those we love the most.

If you interact with other human beings you will experience hurt. You will hurt others and they will hurt you. It’s inevitable. Forgiveness will be necessary for you to live at peace with God and others.

And that’s a hard enough process in itself…but to trust others? Wow…now that’s a reality check.

I would venture to say that most of us have very few people we really trust.

I mean people we trust with our real, honest self. People who we believe are honestly interested in our best and have our backs when times are hard.

There are levels of trust. Most of us have people who we live in community with and we know they care about us, but I’m talking about a deeper connection than that.

This morning in our devotions we read about how the main purpose of Jesus and the Christian life overall is for reconciliation with God and reconciliation with one another. That requires an immense amount of trust.

When I don’t trust someone I’m not my natural self with them. I resort to small talk. I don’t share any struggles or pain. When I don’t trust someone I don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. I lean towards hurt rather than assuming the best. When I don’t trust someone I find every action…the words I say, where I look, etc. being something I have to think about. I can’t relax with people I don’t trust.

Trust is earned. I think we all realize over time that no one is perfect. We can allow for off days and moments. We know we need grace and surely others need it too. But trust is definitely earned over long periods of time and experience and quickly lost in moments when trust is broken.

I’ve experienced this. Oh you can say your sorry and ask forgiveness, but somehow you know the relationship will never be the same.

God can and does heal. But I want you to understand how important your words and actions are towards others, even your thoughts.

There’s not much worse than knowing you have broken trust with someone you love and knowing that it will not quickly be restored. Or if it will ever be restored.

It’s easy to see it when you look at other people’s lives. It’s so clear and you wonder how they don’t see it. But it’s not so easy to see the same in ourselves sometimes.

Blending families has been really tricky in this way especially. Family is all about trust. Sometimes it’s been hard to know how to take things and a variety of hurts have happened over the past two years. I want you to know that this is not just unique to blended families. All families experience broken trust and hurt. There is no perfect family. But I do think it is a special, unique situation for blended families to build trust with one another.

Sometimes apologies have been made and I think forgiveness has even occurred from time to time but trust has been hard to come by.

We are two years in now. It’s better than it was, which gives me great hope. But I know honestly if we all sat down with one another we couldn’t wholeheartedly say that we trust one another. It’s ok. We can be honest about this.

I’ve been praying, thinking and processing about how this can move forward, baby steps, so that more trust is built between us.

I’m an eternal optimist. Never realized this about myself until the past two years. I believe that when we all love Jesus that makes a difference and that He is always at work within all of us and leading us toward healing. Reconciliation is His main business.

I just wonder today…who do you trust? Who do you feel completely safe to be yourself with? Who do you feel has your back? Who can you give the benefit of the doubt to, even if they maybe send mixed signals sometimes?

I’m asking myself the same questions. And I asked Dane the same questions today too. I think you will probably find that you have a very short list of names that come to mind.

How could we grow in our trust of others? How could we be more trustworthy ourselves?

If we desire reconciliation…(and yes I hope we always do), than trust must be the foundation. Without trust no real reconciliation occurs.

I think this means an end to self protecting. An end to rehearsing old hurts. And end to clamming up and going on the defense. I think it means great vulnerability and openness. And I think it means most importantly a steady and amazing trust in Jesus.

Another post for another day…do we trust God? That’s probably where this whole conversation needs to start.

Love your momma who knows you can’t and shouldn’t trust just anyone, but surely wants you to have people in your life who you know you can trust…even when they’re imperfect. I hope you know you can trust me. And I hope you know you can trust Dane and each other.

(P.S. if trust needs to be rebuilt…the first step is realizing that it does and then being open and vulnerable to have those conversations with the person who you feel has broken trust. This requires an immense amount of love and grace, and honestly it can only happen through the miraculous healing of Jesus. And then I think it’s about baby steps…time…more love…more grace…time…=redemptive healing possible.)