Dear Ones,

Sometimes I think to myself that you cannot possibly teach me more than you already have.  And then you do…

When I stepped into motherhood I simultaneously packed my baggage and embarked on another journey.  These journeys would run parallel for a time, and eventually intersect.  Along the way I would become whole, and real, and eternally grateful for the chance I got to become a better person so that I could be a healthy parent.

I could have never foreseen the intense amount of pain that I would go through.  I was ripped up, chewed up, and burned to the bone.  Every day I was learning how to dress and clean the wounds, old and new.  I did this because I knew that if I didn’t something was going to get infected.  Infested.  Poisoned.  And eventually: polluted.  More than anything I did not want to pollute my family.  There were parts of me that I needed to access and carve down, recycle and reuse; there was a bonfire inside of me, all day, every day.

My first prayer for you is that you never think you won’t ever need help.  There is always room, and time, for self-improvement.  Every day we should be working on ourselves, from the inside out, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Do not be a person that is chronically against admitting that they can be wrong, or are perhaps suffering, or even that you may need to change.  These people wind up chronically hurting and using the people in their lives, often even losing them.  The earth is constantly going through seasons.  The planets are continuously orbiting and rotating.  The animals are adjusting themselves according to all of this.  Why wouldn’t we?  There are always opportunities in our lives to step back, look at ourselves, evaluate and assess.  I pray that you can take healthy criticism, but mostly that you can criticize yourself in a healthy way.

As I left myself to become someone else, someone better, someone stronger, someone more beautiful, I discovered the intensity of how much Jesus wanted to come through for me.  He wanted to be the same Jesus who put coins in the mouth of a fish, instead of just pulling them out of His pocket.  He wanted to be the same Jesus who not only redeemed the woman caught in adultery, but also told her to go and sin no more.  The same Jesus Who spent His life doing nothing but good, even while people made fun of Him, and targeted Him, and eventually killed Him. 

He showed me that He knew my pain.  His generosity was met with skepticism time and time again.  His grace was mocked.  His mercy was twisted up and used against Him.  His love was accepted and then discarded by His closest friends, and He was taken advantage of by ones who claimed to love Him back.

More importantly than knowing my pain, though, He showed me that there was a purpose for it.  That I was actually not supposed to leave this world unmarred, unstained, and unscarred.  He didn’t.  Even after He was resurrected His scars remained.  I never thought of that as significant before.  I just assumed that of course He would bear the marks of His ordeal.  However, His body had been restored.  It didn’t need to maintain those marks.  The Father allowed them to remain as a testament, as a story, to show the purpose.  This is what happens when we lay down our lives for others, for Jesus, and it is beautiful.  Every scar I bear transforms me that much more into the image of Christ.  They are beautiful on Jesus.  They are beautiful on me.    

I am so thankful for that. 

May these truths be true in your lives, dear ones.

The sweetness of surrender leads to the most empowered freedom possible.  I pray that you come to know this.  That you can embrace responsibility for yourself.  This is a two-fold wonderful process.  First, it means that you can experience injustice, but that you don’t need to justify yourself.  That day will come.  The battle has already been won.  Accepting this releases us from all of the pain, the strain, and the stress that we would otherwise incur.  You will spend your whole life waiting to get something back that cannot be returned to you.  That is the core of forgiveness: acknowledging that whoever has wronged you cannot give back what they have taken, and then moving on.  “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”  We must accept Christ’s forgiveness on the grounds that we simply cannot repay Him.  Also, we must extend forgiveness in acknowledgement that we cannot be repaid.

Humility is the practice of not always needing to be right, or heard, or understood.  It is no one else’s job to make you feel better, or right, or beautiful. 

Grace is a tricky thing.  It goes hand in hand with forgiveness, truth, and love.  It is the sister of mercy, and the mother of humility.  But grace is not a free pass.  For anyone- including yourself.  The Lord extended His grace to us, and we must then choose to conduct ourselves in a grateful manner.  How tragic to take advantage of Grace!  At the same time, don’t let others trick you, even using the name of Jesus, into not keeping boundaries.  As human beings we are flawed and selfish.  Others will often expect you to fill the holes in their lives that they can, and should, be filling on their own. Maintain boundaries, dear ones.  We must openly acknowledge when someone else is treating us in an unhealthy way.

Sometimes the Lord will ask us to extend grace that we think will be impossible to extend.  This is where you must allow Him to bridge the gap.  He knows the hearts of everyone and sometimes, based on what you do not know, He will require you to pursue someone that you hate the thought of pursuing.  Sometimes He will tell you to take a step back.  Same as Jesus’ love is relentless, so must ours also be.  Ask Him to show you what that looks like.  If someone shows a change of heart, we must be ready to receive them.   

All of this has been monumental in my life.  As I have applied what I have learned I have felt the mountains move inside of me.  I cannot move the mountains inside of anyone else, nor do I want to, but by now I know the truth of Philippians 4:13, which says that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

Remember: we cannot expect someone, anyone, to believe that God is love, that Jesus loves them and all of us, if we are not displaying that same type of love. 

This means that we cannot hold nonbelievers to the same standards that we live by.  This makes absolute sense.  Someone who does not embrace the same life choices will not live the same life choices.  This is not the same thing as saying, “To each their own.”  It is crucial that we maintain our integrity.  But that doesn’t mean that we should only interact with people who have the same values.  Choose your closest friends as people who share the same beliefs, and will help you nurture and protect them.  But show love and respect to anyone and everyone, same as Jesus did.  Every last one of us was created in God’s image.  We have an obligation to represent Christ accurately.  We can learn how to do this by studying the Gospels.

Which brings me to a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.  Jesus was the most generous individual.  He donated His entire life to the health and well-being of others.  If we are to be like Him, we must do the same.  Your father and I are always looking for ways to help others: with our time, our resources, our words.  We never say, “We have no money… We are broke…”, even in a joking way.  That would be such a lie, and inherently ungrateful.  We have experienced times of financial strain, and times of financial surplus, but we will always have more than most people in the world, and the Lord will always provide.  Trust in Him to fill your needs.  That may not look a certain way, a way that you might want it to, but He can use you in any and all situations.  

Be content.  Be at peace.  Both of these are choices. 

The ultimate way to find fulfillment in this life is to see a need and fill it.  We don’t have to expect to change the world.  Just that one person.  I hope that someone would find you worth it, if you had a need.  So also, I hope that you find others worth it.

I pray wisdom in your relationships.  That you would never be intimidated by peer pressure, and succumb to it.  That you would accept your responsibility, and leave others to accept theirs, and that you would never allow yourself to be manipulated.  This means that I wish you would never be a people-pleaser, allowing yourself to be mistreated to pacify someone else, and that you would never be cold, thinking that someone else is not worth your time.  Don’t give in to the instinct that you must be heard, and that you must be understood.  We can never take back our dealings with others, and may that instigate you to be compassionate and careful.  Don’t say something just to say it, based purely on emotion.  Let your words serve a bigger purpose, and be beneficial to all parties.

I hope that this is how you know me as you grow up.  I was recently reminded that every day that I know Jesus should see me looking more like Him.  I don’t want to become harder, and more set in my ways, the older that I get.  I know now that I do not know everything, or deserve everything.  It is my goal to keep knowing that.  If anything, the older I get the softer I should become, as I will more intimately know the endless possibilities of this world and life. 

I will read this often, dear ones, to be reminded of what I am trying to teach you.  I hope that I can raise you to be honest with me.  To be able to communicate to me if you feel that I am not hearing you, or treating you in a way that is not ministering to you.  I want to be able to love each of you in a way that will reach each of you individually. 

When I tuck you in at night I pray that you will become people of strong character.  This is not a catch-all type of prayer.  It takes great courage to believe in something in this world.  It is so easy to become careless and complacent.  It is much easier to shrug your shoulders and decide you will do what everyone else is doing, or only what you want to do.  Be warned that you can still have a successful and happy life, even if you are not holding onto convictions.  But you will not have joy, and you will not have peace, and eventually you will not even realize that you are missing these things, and you will accept that living half of the life you could be living is okay.  This is not how we were meant to go along.  We were meant to live in favor with God and man.

There is nothing wrong with having personal convictions.  People will try to make you think this.  We don’t need to validate others, or be validated in return.  It is good to listen to others, and it is always right to be respectful, and we must never judge one another.  But we must also be able to say, “I disagree.  I have an opinion, and it is different than yours.”  Or even, “Don’t sell out on yourself, or on God.”  I say again, it takes great courage to believe in something in this world.  It takes strong character not to make excuses for the people we are close to. 

There are always answers.  I have spent a long time studying the Bible, and getting to know Jesus.  I pray that I spend every day doing so.  Before you let someone try and shame you into turning from your beliefs, before you find the wrong answers in the wrong places, please hear me: there are always answers.  The Bible is always right.  I have invested my life, my heart and soul, in pursuit of the evidence, and the evidence is overwhelming.  Pursue the evidence.

Why do I say pursue the evidence?  Because your heart and soul and mind will not always alignInstead of re-writing your life every time this happens, take is as it comes and cling to the truth.  Everything around us is constantly changing.  With millions of people on the planet, how could it not?  We are just one person, constantly interacting with others just as insecure as we are; it is foolishness to think that things must look a certain way, or that we must feel a certain way.  It is then that we must cling to the Truth all the harder, and go back to the Evidence.

Never base your life on your feelings.  It leads to desperation, and then to selfishness.  Feelings change constantly, because our stimuli is constantly changing.  Don’t hold tight to those feelings, as if they must be protected because they are yours.  Accept that our feelings are not always reality, regardless of how real they feel inside of us.  There is great release in being able to feel something and then say, “I do not accept that for my life.” 

The most hurtful people I have known are those who demanded to be treated a certain way, who sought to be heard first and agreed with, who deigned to prove points in their relationships, and who tried to rewrite natural laws to better accommodate themselves. 

Seek to be strong; seek to be healthy.

That was the greatest journey I ever embarked on.  To be a strong, healthy person because I realized that I was going to be setting the tone for your lives.  We only get one life.  We only get one chance.

What are you choosing to do with yours?

There is always a choice.  We don’t get free passes.  Excuses don’t cover us: our age, our stage, our phase, our right… Instead of focusing on others, on what they are or aren’t doing, focus on you.  Invest in you.

Always, LOVE.