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.



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

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?

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,


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. 

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.

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. . . .

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.

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.

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.


Letters to My Daughters - Letting Go

Dear Daughters,

I understand why they do it. Those moms who hold their children close—so close that they can’t even breathe.

I know why they stand at the kindergarten door, hands cupped around their face, nose pressed against the glass, just hoping to get a glimpse of their little one as he marches into the classroom for the very first time.

I know why they sit on the sidelines for every. single. soccer practice and that, while it looks like they’re reading a magazine, they are really watching their middle schooler run and kick and slide because they are so proud that they made such an amazing person who can do those things.

I know why they volunteer for every opportunity they can—the marching band or the dance team or the school play—because it gives them just a few more minutes to be with their high school child; just one more point of connection with a kid who will very soon be gone.

I know why, when they drop their son or daughter off at college, they look over their shoulder and say, “Your room will be waiting for you when you get home!”

I get it. I’ve been it, that smothering mother. (You probably think I still am.)

But there’s a difference between some of those moms and me: I have raised you to let you go.

On the day I first became a mother I knew in my heart that I wouldn’t—couldn’t—hold you near me forever. I wanted to give the three of you wings. I wanted you to discover all that this big, wide world had to offer, and I wanted you to make your own path through it.

As much as I could, I showed you the world: Brazil. Switzerland. England. I did this intentionally, to trigger your imagination, to encourage you to see the possibilities. Mostly, though, to help you see that God is in all of it and that His plans for the world include you.

Yes, I believe in letting go.

That doesn’t make it easy.

This is a big week of transitions for us. A week in which it would be easy for me to stay under my covers, blocking out the fact that two of you are starting new schools and one of you is taking big steps toward adulthood. This is a week that seems important and huge and permanent. This is one of those weeks that I hope I’ve prepared each of you for, and yet, a week that I wish I had not been so intentional about.

A week in which I wish I could say, “Come back! Stay here!”

Those moms? The ones who hold a little too tightly? Me, if I’m honest. They hold on because they love their kids. They hold on because they want to stay involved in the lives of their kids. They hold on because they think that if they don’t, their kids will leave them forever.

They do it because it hurts so very much to let go.

Needtobreathe has a new song out—when I heard it for the first time this week I stopped in my tracks. I needed this reminder to keep holding you not quite so tightly.

Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown till you
Keep your eyes open, my love
So tell me you’re strong, tell me you see
I need to hear it, can you promise me to
Keep your eyes open, my love

Girls, the “great unknown” is out there, waiting for you to make a difference in it. Keep your eyes open and do that—make a difference.

Prove me right.

Letters to My Daughters - Take a Stand

Dear Daughters,

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Alexander Hamilton

I’ve heard a song on the radio lately that seems to be getting a lot of play. If I’ve heard it, you’ve probably heard it—it’s called “Some Nights.”

The first couple of times I heard the song I was kind of shocked that someone would be so blatantly honest about their “lostness.”

“Oh Lord, I'm still not sure what I stand for, oh
What do I stand for? Oh what do I stand for? Most nights, I don't know.”

There’s a story there, and the interpretations are many (trust me, I Googled it). The meaning behind the song doesn’t really matter to me. What really stands out is that the songwriter obviously does not have a purpose in life. Over and over again he asks: “Who am I?” “What do I stand for?”

It struck me as I listened to the lyrics that these are the questions of your generation. Not just yours, of course—many generations before you have asked the same questions—but especially today, right now, many people seem to lack direction.

Quite simply, they’re lost.

Hey, I’m glad this songwriter is asking the question. Thinking through these issues is much better than just sitting on the front porch waiting for life to just come along. What’s frustrating to me about this song is that it seems like the songwriter is just waiting for someone or something to tell him what to be, what to think, what to believe.

Girls, I want you to hear this: you can’t wait for “life” to come along and tell you what you stand for. You have to decide. You don’t have to ask, “Who am I?” You have the power to determine that for yourself.

Do you want to be a person of integrity? Then be that.

Do you want to be a person who keeps her word? Then start practicing that today.

Do you want to be faithful to your husband? Then determine before you are even married that you will be a faithful wife.

Do you want to be a loser sitting on a front porch waiting for life to come along? Then do nothing, sit waiting, and you’ll be that too.

This song reflects a real sense of hopelessness, and that’s what makes me sad. It’s like the songwriter feels that he has no power. But I wonder if, really, the power has been given away—if so many of us have become accustomed to just having “life” handed to us that we’ve begun to rely on others to even tell us who we are.

Believe me, if you don’t know who you are, the world will happily decide it for you. The world will tell you that you are not enough. The world will tell you that you are a loser. The world will tell you that you aren’t worth it. The world will tell you all kinds of lies, some much worse than these.

You know this, but it bears repeating. God tells you clearly in His word who you are: chosen, beloved, cherished above the heavenly beings, forgiven, redeemed, called. There’s more—much more—but you get the idea.

There will be days when you will ask the question “Who am I?” We all have them. When those days come, run to God’s word, because therein lies the answer. Just look at the sacrifice that was made for you on the cross. The answer to the “Who am I?” question is clear: You are worth it.

God decided a long time ago who you are. You don’t need society or friends or even your parents to tell you who you are.

Once you determine that God decides who you are, then you’ll have the answer to the main question of the song: “What do I stand for?” If you are God’s beloved, chosen, redeemed by His sacrifice, and if you claim those titles for your life, what you stand for should be pretty clear—you stand for Him.

Is that an easy stand to take in these days? No. Absolutely not. And I would guess that it will become a more and more difficult stand to take in the days ahead. But if you really think about it, if you really get your head around the gospel and who you are because of Jesus, you have no other choice.

Will that stand look differently in each of your lives? I’m guessing yes. God will call you down different paths, to different careers, and to make different choices. But ultimately the decision is yours.

Will you choose to believe that you are who God made you to be? Or will you choose to believe the lies of this world?

Much different lyrics this time, but the question remains: “What do I stand for?”

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

What will you stand for?

Letters to My Daughters - Introduction

They’re growing up—quickly! This fall, my youngest daughter will enter high school, my middle daughter will enter college, and my oldest daughter will begin the second half of her college years.

Very soon they will be headed toward internships, marriage, careers . . . what some call “real” life.

Maybe you’ve felt it too, maybe you’re feeling it right now, but lately I am well aware that my time with my daughters is getting short.

And yet, it feels like there are so many life lessons that haven’t been talked about, that still need to be shared. It feels odd and uncomfortable to sit them down and talk about these things—I prefer lessons to flow naturally out of everyday life. Yet it seems that more and more I find myself thinking, “Have I told them that?” “Do they know how important that is?”

From “how to make a great spaghetti sauce” to “how to choose a husband,” I’m constantly wondering, “Have I given them the tools they need to live a fruitful and fulfilling life?”

Obviously, real life conversations with my girls are ongoing. Of course I am, hopefully, teaching them many life lessons every day. But here I want to record some specific lessons that God has taught me, most of which I have had to learn the hard way because my heart is stubborn and doesn’t like to listen to instruction.

I may have made a mistake or two that I’d like to help my girls avoid.

As I write this series, I am also thinking about the many other “daughters” that God has brought into my life. My nieces. Girls from small groups and mission trips. And my daughters’ friends whom I have been so blessed to know.

Three amazing daughters of my own. Many “adopted” daughters. So much estrogen in my life!

How could I be so blessed?

My hope here is to bless back. To impart just a little bit of wisdom so that these girls may find life just a little easier to navigate. To give them a sense that someone else had ridden this road and that everything is going to be O.K.

So tomorrow, a new series called “Letters to My Daughters” will begin here. I don’t know how long it will last. I don’t know exactly what I’ll say. I don’t even know how often these posts will come out (probably whenever I feel like it, but most likely on Monday or Tuesday). I do know that writing this been on my heart for the past couple of months, so it must be something I should do.

Will you join me? I’d love to have you come along on this journey. Feel free to follow me or sign up for email updates in the sidebar.

And while you’re still here, are there any topics you think I should cover? I have a lot of ideas right now, but I’m open to suggestions. Feel free to add those in the comments!