Because you’re following in my footsteps…

Dear Lauren and Lydia,

In the story of the prodigal son…I am the older brother. I admit it freely. It’s not a compliment and he’s definitely not the person to follow in the biblical story…but if I am left to my own devices…that’s where I will go.

I am in the Father’s House but not celebrating or feeling loved and connected the way the Father would like me to. I am prone to envy, bitterness, resentment, pride, etc. All of the stuff you feel when you don’t trust the Father’s love to be big enough for older brothers AND for prodigal sons.

I am only bringing this up because I have this feeling I have probably led you down the same path and you might very well struggle with some of the same feelings I’ve had over the years.

The constant in the story is the Father’s Love. It’s always available to both sons throughout the entire story. The variable is our perception of the Father’s Love.

When we don’t get a clear picture of His love we live in ways that show it. We start believing there is a scarcity on love. Only so much to go around. And so we grab for ourselves, even if we don’t do it blatantly, we find subtle ways to be selfish.

It’s only in the last 2 years of my life that I think I’ve finally gotten some grasp on the whole thing. I’ve stopped long enough to examine myself closely and to take the effort to figure out why I respond the way I do to things that happen around me. Almost always my responses have far more to them than what appears on the surface.

Be careful to notice how you respond to life. If you struggle to rejoice with others, to be happy with your own life, to be content and fulfilled, to love the life you live…it probably means that you’re experiencing the older brother blues.

It might very well be time to celebrate, play, rest and embrace the love of God more fully.

Responsibility is a good thing. Having a standard is fairly healthy. But don’t let responsibility triumph over love. Don’t let having a standard keep you from experiencing and giving grace.

Love and grace are two of the best things I have experienced in my life in the last two years. Blessed relief.

One more thought…when you notice the weaknesses of others, be careful…the fact that you notice probably suggestions that you are struggling with stuff that is very similar. I almost always find that my finger pointing is pointing back far more strongly at my own stuff that needs to be dealt with. As much as you can…let people off the hook. They’re probably doing the best they can at any given moment of the day. It’s all any of us can really do.

I love you girls…and always just want you to come to the abundant life earlier and more fully than I have.

Love your momma

Your sin cycle

Dear Lauren and Lydia,

I haven’t written much lately. Life is more full these days and I’m more occupied with living it rather than writing about it I guess.

Lauren, you’ve started college in the past month. You’ve transitioned wonderfully…I couldn’t be more proud of the way you are adjusting, taking your classes seriously, doing your homework and wanting to do your best. 17 and you have a great head on your shoulders…going into English, wanting to be a best selling author and at the same time thinking about the jobs you might do in the meantime. I can tell you’re going to be just fine in the grown up world you’re entering into. For this momma that is blessed relief.

You called me just the other day after a class and told me the good news of how your professor recognized you in class publicly in a good way and how good it made you feel. It made me feel incredibly good that you would want to call me and tell me all about it. Your joy became my joy.

Lydia, you’re plugging along with homeschooling…maybe not what you would’ve chosen at this juncture in your school career…but you’re hanging in there. You’ve had a lot more ups and downs lately with your feelings. Being 16 is hard. Actually that whole 15-17 things is hard. I have a feeling that often after you’ve had a down you regret it…but it just feels like a vicious cycle you can’t seem to get out of. All I can tell you is…it’s normal. It will pass.

Last night we were reading out loud (I was reading out loud :) from the book “The Cure”. The chapter was about sin and the process of how we go down the path to sin. It talked about how resisting sin is not really the answer. A radical thought. I have always been taught that resisting temptation is what we’re to be about. Instead…the author suggested that we tell on ourselves…before we commit the sin. Not confession afterwards…but confession before. It will break the power of sin in our lives. We are unable to resist…we don’t have the strength, power or smarts to do it…but if we tell on ourselves before…somehow the sin is no longer near as alluring. We become more aware of Christ in us.

I’ve found this to be true lately in my own life. It’s only taken me 44 years of living!

First you have to even figure out what your cycle of sin is. We are all prone to a handful of sins it seems in great measure. For me…it’s insecurity. On the outside it doesn’t sound like much. Almost not even a sin. But insecurity leads me to jealousy, gossip, envy, covetousness, comparisons and a whole host of other yuck things. It leads me to doubt that I am loved.

Our view of God is the cause of our sin.

So…for me, if I doubt that God really loves me…I mean…REALLY loves me…than I am prone to being insecure. For whatever reasons, wrong or right…I seem to carry this world view with me. Even though I know one of the earliest songs I ever learned was Jesus loves me.

It’s caused me to do some crazy things over the years. Especially in relationships closest to me. Your dad had to deal with it when I was at my worst! Gotta love him for that :).

These days…for whatever reason, maybe just because I’m being loved well…really well, and I’m finally ready to see myself clearly, I recognize the cycle. I can almost see it coming. It’s not gone. I still feel those feelings…but in recognizing it and being able to admit it before I go too far down the path I can deal with it before it becomes full blown.

I tell on myself.

Especially to Dane. I tell him when I’m feeling insecure…even the smallest little things. The stuff that I used to try and shove down and tell myself to ignore. That shoving down thing just doesn’t work. You can’t deny the stuff you feel. But when I tell him…he gives me a rational voice of love to counteract my insecurities and puff…the issue resolves itself.

When your dad and I were married we were young and didn’t have a clue about a whole lot. Life takes a lot of time and perspective to see clearly. So when I would cycle through this stuff I would just expect him to figure it out. Or I would tell him and he wouldn’t know what to do to reassure me so he would withdraw or get angry. We were kids. It’s alright. I love him just the same.

But now I see…in my efforts to keep my insecurities hidden and shoved away…they became sin.

It’s been incredibly freeing for me to ‘tell on myself’ in the midst, the very early stages of the cycle and see how insecurity is becoming a very rare and small thing for me anymore. Dane moves towards me when I need him to and because we spend so much time together and feel connected soul to soul, he picks up on any weird vibes from me almost instantly.

I’m telling you all of this because you have cycles too. I could give you an idea of what they are…but if you think about it you already know. You have cycles of feeling good, something happening, not feeling so good, getting deeper entrenched, sin happens, not knowing what to do with the repeated sin, feeling like a failure, feeling hopeless, confession, desperation to change with seemingly little power to do so. It’s the human condition.

I encourage you to learn to tell on yourself in a safe place.
Before the sin occurs.

For example…if you know you’re about to blow your top and get angry and say or do mean or hateful things…learn what that feels like in the very beginning stages and tell on yourself. Don’t stuff it, don’t ignore it…just say…I feel angry and maybe even let the other person know you don’t want to feel that way…but you do. Might very well lead to a break through.

Or if you have an addiction (I honestly believe that every one on the face of the planet has a few of these). Tell on yourself before you go there. I know there is shame tied to the telling. Addictions tend to be things we hide and do in isolation. But take the risk and tell someone you trust and you might just find that if you tell on yourself ahead of time the cycle might be broken…or at least lessened.

The bad news…you will cycle through sin the rest of your life. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t have a clue. You will never be perfected in this life time on this earth. The good news…you don’t have to be. Just come to know yourself and your cycles of sin. Be aware of what triggers you at the beginning and start talking about that. Don’t hide. Absolutely do not hide, withdraw or go into isolation. Everything grows when we take on the world by ourselves.

You have each other and you have me even if you don’t have another person on the face of the earth…and I know you have some other people you could go to also :).

Don’t think you can willpower your way through.

Don’t think you can get it figured out and be smart enough to conquer your sins.

Recognize them for what they are…part of the human condition and start being honest about it and telling not after the sin is committed…but before. I have a feeling the grace of God might just surprise you and heal you in ways you can’t even imagine right now.

That’s what I’m experiencing in my life as a 44 year old woman. Maybe it’s unrealistic to experience that as a young adult…I don’t know, but if there is any chance you can get there before I did…I want to write these words and encourage you onward and upward.

Live in the room of Grace…not the room of Good Intentions.

Consider what your sin cycle tells you about yourself, about your view of God and how you see the world. Deal with that stuff…get to the core of it and deal with it.

Start here…

God loves you. Just as you are today. You are enough. Not too much, not too little…but just enough. God delights in you and has good plans for your life. Plans that will take your breath away and surprise you.

Just trust Him to do what He has promised.

Love your momma who is getting a little less insecure each day :)

Sweet 16

Dear Lydia,

Happy Birthday booboo (remember those days :) schmoo schmoo (sorry I couldn’t resist).

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On this special day when we celebrate you I just want to write and tell you how much I love you. This is no surprise to you. I’ve been telling you daily for 5,840 days now but I still feel the need to tell you again.

When you were born you were amazing right from the start. And I mean from the first second anyone laid eyes on you. That red hair. I had no idea how unique it was until I had you. I grew up in a home with several red headed people. But from day 1 everyone around us has noticed your hair.

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Your eyes…wow…they just pop, and you have the good style and personality to pull off really cool glasses to go with them.

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You’ve got a contagious laugh and I have many, many memories of hearing you laugh uncontrollably that make me smile. And dance :)

And you have courage and personality to go with it.

Such a tender heart. It’s been hard to have a tender heart…easy to get hurt and then hard to know what to do with that hurt…but girlie…keep it tender anyway. God will help you deal with the hurts.

You are a wonderful daughter and sister and friend. All who know you are blessed because of you.

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You’ve loved music from day 1. I can still picture you at age 2 sitting on the couch with your feet down between the cracks of the couch cushions rocking back and forth with headphones on listening to “Jesus is life”.

On this day I will give you some presents. We will celebrate with friends. Go out to eat at the steak house you like. Go watch a movie (Annie) and in general just have a good day celebrating you. We will go to a family christmas party and to our church service just because that’s what we do.

But…

16 marks the start of the possibility of dating. You’ve never had a boyfriend so far. Which in this day and age seems strange I know. But I’m glad for you. Your dad was really big on you not dating till you were 16. We’ve kept that promise.

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At this point though…more than anything we give you today I am wishing for you to be loved and cherished someday extravagantly well. I know it seems over the top right now. I know you see Dane and I kiss and cuddle and think we’re crazy…but Lydia, oh how I wish for you what I have some day. I don’t know a single woman on the planet who doesn’t want to be cherished and loved for who they are.

My prayer today is that wherever that young man is…he is learning well to hold doors, and help put on coats, and have manners, and to want to hold you close, to delight in your presence. I am praying that he loves God and can’t help himself from loving you. That through a dating/marriage relationship someday you will experience the very presence of God through love that is unconditional and beautiful.

I look forward to watching it all unfold. And I admit…Dane and I look forward to watching you kiss someone and smiling. Love is a beautiful thing.

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Sweet 16…oh how things will change for you in the coming decade. Through every change and transition I will love you and you will always be mine. I believe in you and will come visit you no matter where you go or what you do (even South Korea!).

Happy Birthday girl.

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Love Always and forever,

Mom, Dane and Lauren