Letter to my 13-year-old self

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
My daughter is 13 today. Thirteen years ago on Easter morning (at sunrise to be exact) God changed my life completely. I never knew love at first sight the way I did that morning. My daughter was perfect in every way ... so I kept her! Fast-forward to today and I am so humbled and thankful for the woman that she is growing up to be. She has wisdom beyond her years and a blossoming faith in Christ.

In honor of this momentous birthday, I'm offering the wisdom I would give to myself at 13 if I could sit down and talk with Linda back in winter of 1993...

Dear Linda,

You are 13 today. While you are busy planning your birthday bash, your mom is panicking in the other room. You don't really understand why but you will one day. This is the year you make a commitment to Jesus. Your heart will be open to the gospel and you will receive Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and savior. But don't let me spoil the fun....Instead, here are some words of wisdom for the journey ahead:

Remember that life is complicated and simple all at the same time. You will understand deeply profound truths about the world and be completely confounded by the simplest act of faith.

You are a really good writer. Learn to love the red marks your teachers put on your papers. They are tools to make you better at what you love. See them as a challenge and a blessing.

You are an intellectual. God made you that way. It's good...it's His will... You will be the champ at every game night. Just don't let your brain get in the way of your heart. Allow God's love to touch the deepest part of you and love Jesus with reckless abandonment.

You don't have to try so hard. God loves you the way you are and he delights over you with singing. Drop the extracurricular activities, sit at his feet and let him minister to your heart. It's all that is needed.

Ride a roller coaster. Seriously! Don't be scared! What's the worst that can happen...whiplash? Do it!

You may find this hard to believe but you will grow up to be a morning person. Seek God in the morning before doing anything else. Read the words of the Bible as you would a love letter... It's personal and it's relevant. (Oh...and drink coffee. Without coffee you're actually a non-morning person).

People will say to you that "tough circumstances make you stronger" and "God will never give you more than you can handle." This will annoy you... and it should. Trials are not about making us "stronger"... they are about making us see just how weak we are and how much we need Jesus. He brings us through difficult times to show others how awesome he can be in the life of a believer who is totally sold out and surrendered to him. Be that girl that let's Christ shine through in the tough times.

You are not the sum total of your mistakes. You were bought at a price. Do not waste the grace that God has given you. Rest in his mercies that are new each morning but don't waste your life! You can do big things for Jesus, especially when you are young.

Your walk with God is only beginning but you will have to learn to trust in God's timing. He is slow and fast at the same time. He is gentle and unexpected all at once.

Satan will try to steal your joy daily. Don't let him! He is stupid. (enough said)

Mostly, remember that you are beautiful. You are so beautiful that God named you Linda. Pimples and frizzy hair will fade but the beauty that Christ has declared in you will never fade. Seek to be a woman of conviction who is gentle and firm and kind and uncompromising all at the same time.

Have fun and I pray a lot!

- Linda

Joy Stealer - Self-Sufficiency

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Joy Stealers – Self-Sufficiency

I got up this morning and poured a hot cup of coffee into my new mug from Christmas. I read my Bible and wrote in my journal. I read my email and contemplated how I would find the time to finish all of the tasks I needed to get accomplished today. I made breakfast and I got myself ready for the day.

Now, re-read the sentences abovethey all began with one key word…”I. If were honest with ourselves we all come to realize that in America we live lives that dont require much faith. I didnt wake up this morning wondering where I was going to get waterI poured plenty into the coffee pot to make my morning cup. I didnt fear opening my Bible because I know I live in a country where Im free to do so in the privacy of my own home. I didnt worry about whether my children and I would have enough food. Food is plentiful and the grocery store is conveniently down the street if there was ever a temporary famine in my home.

It is easy to forget about God as we go through the motions of the day. It is easy to forget that in Him all things consist and He holds all things together (Colossians 1:16). It is easy to forget he alone is our provider, deliverer, restorer and sustainer. It is easy because we are very self-sufficient. We thrive on self-esteem, self-improvement, self-actualization and self-help. (keyword self)

The mother of all self-sufficient women was Eve. Sometimes I try visualizing what it would be like to live in Edena place unhindered by modern-day worries and stresses. No rush hour traffic, no cell phones, no emails, no two-year old having a tantrum in the back seat while youre trying to make a u-turn. (not that Ive experienced that or anything). Even without all of the pressures of life, Eve still chose independence over dependence on God. She wanted to be like God and take care of her problems (as if she had any) on her own. She wanted to be a self-made woman.

We still bear the consequences of Eves decision. But, through the amazing grace that God gifted us with, and the mercy He showed to us by sending His son Jesus to die for our sins once and for all, we can trust God with our lives. However, we often run ahead of him when prayer is unanswered and when our goals seem attainable by our own means.

Back to my morning routingIt all came crashing with a mighty force today! I had been juggling so many balls in the air that even circus clowns would have bowed a knee to my awesomeness. But then came the final blowone final requestone final check box on my to do list and I LOST IT!

I cried out to God and in His sweet, still, small voice he said Youre empty.Only I can fill you.

So began the end of my self-sufficiency. I needed to be filled by HIM. I needed to be guided by HIM. I needed to be changed from the inside out by HIM. I needed to adjust my attitude because of HIS grace, by HIS love and with HIS power.  (keywords: I NEEDED HIM)

It takes a lot for a self-sufficient woman to say she is needy, but there was nothing left of me! He wanted it that way so he could do the transforming work He needed to do in me today. My energy from that point of surrender soarednot because of another cup of coffee but because I laid down the self-sufficient wonder woman bit to my loving, heavenly Father. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I was reminded of His attributesHis greatness, His vastness, His enoughness along with my weakness, my finiteness and my emptiness apart from Him.

I pray you cast your burden on Him today because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). I pray you take captive every thought into obedience to His truth (2 Corinthians 10:5). I pray you worship Him today knowing that He holds your life in His hand (Daniel 5:23) and He knows you intimately (Psalm 139:1). I pray His grace would be sufficient for you today (2 Corinthians 12:9)!

If you need to be reminded of His attributesHere is a great video for you:

Joy Stealer – Perfectionism

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Joy Stealer – Perfectionism

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” –Isaiah 26:3

Funny how starting a blog somehow makes you feel like you have to be an expert at blogging. I spent the last 3 days researching and reading what the Bible had to say about joy. I wanted to not only express myself but also impress my audience. I wanted everything to be right, true, accurate and, shall we sayPerfect!

Its the perfectionist in me that wants my day well-planned, my home well-ordered and my children well-behaved. Its also that same perfectionistic streak that struggles to begin a project, procrastinates in the planning process and then never finishes what I start. Why? Because it has to be just perfect.* For example:
  • Before I can join a gym I have to lose 10 pounds to fit into my cute gym clothes (God forbid I might actually look ridiculous sweating in my fat clothes).
  • My diet needs to start Monday (not Wednesday or Tuesday). Monday is a perfect day to start. After allGod started at the beginning didnt He?
  • Ill start on that writing project once I have everything completely organized (my home, my family, my sock drawer, and (while Im at it) my tax returns from 2003).

Can you identify with any of these statements? Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. At first glance its not a bad thing. I mean, dont we serve a perfect God? Dont we want to be more like Christ? Of course! But perfectionism left unchecked can be paralyzing. It masks itself with good intentions and steadfast resolve while hiding pride, idolatry, vanity, self-righteousness and fear of failure. It cripples us by focusing the attention on ourselves rather than our amazing God who keeps us in perfect peace when our hearts are focused on Him.

Im thankful I dont have to impressIm not here to be perfect but to point you to the one who is perfect. Christs love for you is perfect. When He pours His perfect love into your imperfect heart, the result is joyexceeding joy! Im thankful that He accepts me; my mistakes and limitations. He sees how undone I am and still holds out open arms gently whispering come to me you who are weary and heavy burdened. (Matthew 11:28)

His peace is waiting for you too. He wants to fill you with joy in His presence. Lay down the burden of perfectionism and know that Jesus wants to take everything that is imperfect about you and replace it with his righteousness. John 15:9-11 says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Joy is complete when we are complete in Him alone…not in our own pious, empty efforts.

Lord, I want to experience your joy again. Please help me to lay aside my need to be perfect. I confess I have been consumed with the cares of this world. Forgive me and cleanse me. Fill my imperfect heart with your perfect peace, love and joy so that I may be a blessing to others. Help me to accept others as you accept me: broken and imperfect. I love you and thank you for your love for me! In Jesus name, Amen!

* Editors Note: As I write this Im staring at a massive pile of laundry and a stack of unopened mailAnd my diet will begin on Tuesday!

Joy Stealers

Tuesday, January 3, 2012
"Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God." -Robert Schuller
Joylessness is often fueled by thought processes that are happening below our level of consciousness. I want to unpack and expose some common "joy stealers" over the next few months. (By the way "stealers" is not a word...for those of you with perfectionistic/analytic tendencies...read on!) The enemy of our souls wants us to stay bound in our joylessness by using common and uncommon tactics. Nevertheless, I want to expose the lies we tend to believe about ourselves and our faith that steals our joy and hope; ultimately putting a wedge between us and our creator.

Common Joy Stealers (the obvious ones):

Physical Pain

Uncommon Joy Stealers (The not-so-obvious ones):

Lack of Contentment

Joy has been chasing me down!

Sunday, November 13, 2011
Joy Joy Joy!

Not one time...not two times...but five times this week God has been chasing me down with JOY! Even in my dreams God reveals joy to me. As I'm driving on the road, He reminds me of joy. As I go about my mundane tasks, joy is the theme. It is a fruit of the Spirit. It is a divine Gift from my creator. It is accessible, conceivable, and permissible. It is real! It is true! It is right!

Why all of a sudden does God want me to have joy? Well, quite honestly, I was not raised to experience joy often. I endured harsh criticism, abandonment and rejection from each of my parents. I could not make the connection of a God that was loving to the same God that was just. It was either He was a harsh, cruel and distant or He was loving, merciful and near. The attributes of God's righteousness and His goodness could not co-exist because in my world I had only known the former.

But what about joy? Where does this fit in to God's plan for my life? Did it mean I have to be "happy'? Does happiness = joyfulness? Do my circumstances dictate whether I could in fact experience joy? Certainly this seemed too fickle.

First, I had to come to the realization that God was not mad at me. When I sin, He is waiting with open arms to receive me back to him. He wants me to confess, repent and be forgiven of sin. He will never say "I told you so!" or continually bring up past iniquities. His Word is true and it says "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2

Secondly, I had to come to the realization that God wanted good things for my life. He wanted to fill me with faith, hope, joy and peace in the midst of any circumstance. "May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope." Romans 15:13 (Amplified)

Lastly, I had to come to the realization that I was powerless without Him and I needed His joy to be my strength. Apart from God we can do nothing. Apart from knowing and obeying His perfect Word, His Spirit indwelling me, and my ultimate surrender to His sovereign will, I cannot truly experience joy. "Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10

I am excited to see how God is going to show up in my life and completely amaze me with shamelessly radiant joy! I pray He does the same for you!

"I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my (anxious) fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces." Psalm 34: 4-5