Posts tagged son
FROM MY JOURNAL: off to school

Yesterday the iconic yellow school bus stopped outside our house, gathering up students in backpacks and new shoes. Trembling, eager, smiling, worried, both mothers and children couldn’t decide just how to feel about the start of a new school year.

But me? I couldn’t stop remembering. My children are all grown now, no new school books or yellow pencils clutter my counter. Somehow I thought this day would never come.

But just so you know I really was that mama, here are the words from my journal from long ago….


Today my little boy went off to school.

He was afraid. I was afraid.

He was excited. So was I.

He was brave. I cried.

We chattered cheerfully in the van on the way to school.  He looked so fresh and grown-up in his new haircut, plaid shirt tucked neatly in, appropriately cool baggy pants and black suede tennis shoes.  I took pictures in front of the flagpole.

He smiled.

Walking into the classroom, he gripped my hand in sweaty palm and sat oh-so-quietly at his pint-sized desk.

“Don’t leave yet Mom.  Wait ‘til all the other parents go…”

I rubbed his back and labeled his supplies.  Crayons, scissors, lots of glue, a binder covered in G. I. Joe stickers.  I took a picture of my little boy at his desk.

No smile.

Time for Mom to leave.  One last squeeze of his shoulder.  One last kiss on his cheek, and out the door.

That’s when the tears betrayed me.  Unbidden, they pushed against my eyes, threatening to embarrass me completely.  Gulping them back, I waved with false cheer at a neighbor and drove in my empty van to my empty house.

So quiet.

No chaos, no arguments, no laughter, no messes.

I have looked forward to this day.  I have plans.  For years I have said, “When my children all go to school…”

Yet today I can do nothing.I grieve an end of an era.  An era I have loved, filled with memories I cherish.

I did my share of complaining to be sure. “Can’t I even go to the bathroom alone?!” But I loved the unrushed morningcuddling with blankie and bear and my squirmy little boy.

I loved the Lego creations and the storybooks and Wee Sing tapes. I loved sidewalk chalk and popsicles dribbling down dimpled chins.  Rainy days spent building forts in the family room with blankets anchored with encyclopedias.

Most of all, I have loved the absolute trust in his eyes.  He knows I am here for him to protect him, to be proud, to understand.

For I am Mom.  Matthew’s mom.  The Best-Mom-in-the-Whole-World.

That is who I was yesterday when I held him as a babe in my arms.  It is who I am today as I leave him at his desk at school.  And tomorrow, when he is a man, I will still be…


From my heart,


LETTERS TO MY SON: the manipulator

 Strength and dignityare her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Proverbs 31:25 NASB

Dear son,

These words of advice from King Lemuel’s mother to her son hold a wealth of wisdom. She is painting a picture of a wife who “will not hinder him but help him all her life”. In fact, this kind of woman “will greatly enrich his life”. (Proverbs 31:10,11 NLT)

And that is what I want for you, Matthew— a wife who will greatly enrich and bring help and delight into your life.

But there are other kinds of women, dear son. Women who hinder. Women who bite. Women who cannot be depended upon because of hidden ugliness.

For the next few weeks I want to help you learn how to spot some of the subtle attitudes common in women who hurt rather than help their men.

And I know these things, dear son of mine, because I recognize them in me.

These uglinesses I am about to describe are common to every woman. But we each have choices to make— will I give in to my urge to control and manipulate and demand and punish, justifying my sin and blaming others? Or will I fall on my face in deep repentance and beg the Father to take my brokenness and make me beautiful?

Here are the four most common ways women “hinder” (NLT) or “do evil” (NASB) to men:

  1. Manipulation
  2. Neediness
  3. Drama
  4. Shame

The Manipulator:

Every woman falls into this trap, Matthew. It is our default mode when we don’t get what we want, or when we suspect we might not get what we want, or when we want to make absolutely sure we will get what we want when we want it and then some.

And honestly, it works!

We do this so subtly that most men have no clue what’s really going on. They just feel a vaguely uncomfortable sense that something is not right. It’s confusing, I know, but if you will pay attention, the patterns are not hard to spot. Here are my own observations:

How to know when you’re being manipulated:

  1. Manipulation almost always involves extreme temperatures. Hot, volatile anger or cold, rigid bitterness.
  2. A manipulator leaves the targeted person confused. He knows something is wrong but he cannot for the life of him figure out what.
  3. The manipulator focuses on one flaw in order to justify her anger.
  4. She’ll often make a big deal out of a minor mistake in order to get what she wants.
  5. The manipulator does not understand you. She does not give grace to cover over your less-than-idealness. She wants you to change, to be who she wants you to be.
  6. Sometimes the manipulator will crumble in a heap of feminine despair. “I’m so bad nobody loves me…” But she wants your sympathy, your encouragement, not your honest evaluation and certainly not true repentance.
  7. The manipulator will use her sexual allure to get you and keep you before you are married.
  8. Then she’ll use your sexual hungers to control you by requiring you to jump through her hoops before she’ll give herself to you.
  9. The manipulator is not straightforward. She cannot tell you exactly what is wrong, nor will she accept her own responsibility in conflict.
  10. 10.  The manipulator often tries to separate you from your friends. But sometimes she will try to endear herself to your friends. Confusing, I know.

Matthew, it takes time to identify manipulation. It is a subtle sin. If you are alert and you give yourself time to live life together, to walk through conflict, to experience ups and downs, to be less than perfect, you will be able to spot it.

Trust your own warning signals. If you often feel guilty and confused after a conflict listen to that caution. Ask the Spirit of God to give you insight below the surface.

And ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does she like you exactly as you are? Or does she like the general idea of you but wish you would change?
  2. Can you be fully you in her presence? Or do you find yourself quieting down, being careful, withdrawing a little?
  3. Does she get mad at you a lot? Does she withdraw into a cold shell of indifference? Does she rage?
  4. Does she entice you and then push you away?
  5. Do you feel subtly pushed by her? Is she trying to move the relationship forward faster than you are comfortable with?

Part of me wishes I didn’t even have to talk about this. Like I am unveiling ugliness and exposing you to what I wish I could ignore. But I love you too much for that, Matt. And I want so much more for you. I want for you a wife who will be your helper, your partner, your friend and your joyous lover.

Be wise, my son. Listen to your heart. Listen to the Spirit. Ask for wisdom and then wait for God’s clear answer. He promises to give generously to those who trust in Him.

From my heart,


PS: Dear girls who are listening in,

I laid awake last night worrying about the two young women who wrote to me yesterday with sadness lacing their words. They felt defeated and discouraged by my description of the manipulative woman, seeing far too much of themselves in that list. I vascilated in those middle of the night hours between feeling a heavy ache for their shame and a holy anger at the evil one who would twist my words to tempt these precious women to defeat.

How dare that enemy of ours suggest to these girls that they are incapable of redemption! How dare he shame them into hiding, suggesting that no godly man will want a woman who is struggling her way out of this sinful pattern!

But he did and he does and that makes me so angry!

So here’s what I want you to hear:

In no way do I mean to imply that if you fall into this common trap of manipulative control, your boyfriends should dump you! We’d all be single if they did that! Is there a woman alive who does not see herself somewhere on this list? I’m still, after 4 decades of walking with Jesus, seeing my patterns of manipulation come back and bite me. And yet my godly husband loves me and leads me and often times calls me on my not-so-subtle attempt to control.

At the same time, may I gently advise you to take your fears to the foot of the Cross, allow Jesus to cover those patterns of sinful manipulation, and confess those doings as wrong? That’s the only way to freedom. Then lets gather our closest friends around to help us be women of truth. We have got to be honest with each other and with ourselves.

And dear girls, please don’t let the enemy shame you any further. His grace is able to change even the most deeply rooted tendencies. Isn’t that the whole point of His death for us? He is a Redeemer!

I love you dear seekers of His heart,



LETTERS TO MY SON: growing up

  Dear Son,

Your room is crammed with boxes, overflowing with piles of towels and sheets and supplies. Teetering towers of t-shirts and extra socks take up every square foot of space in what has been your man-cave for many years.

In just a few days you will sweep all that messiness into the back of your car and drive off to make a home of your own.

When you leave I will take all my mama-grief and scrub every corner of that square of space. I’ll patch holes where you poked pins into the wall to hang your posters. Cob-webs will come down, memories will be loosened, all our long talks will echo as I dust and shine and try to find a way to place all those memories somewhere safe.

And every moment I’ll be wishing I could have stopped the years, that I could go back again and tuck you into bed at night, run my fingers through that bristly shaved head you insisted on every summer when being a boy meant sweating and swimming and certainly not messing with such a silly thing as hair.

I’ll breath deeply of the scent of manhood and remember the boy you were. The nights of worrying that diabetes would rob you of the freedom you craved. The mornings of waking you for school and answering that question that came bubbling to the surface the moment you opened your eyes: Where is everyone?

How I loved your love for all of us! Your determination to keep connected, to know where your brother was and what your sisters were up to. Your full-fledged involvement in each member of this crazy crew we call a family.

I will miss you Matthew. And the tears rim my eyes even as I push hard to put them back.

This growing up is good, so why does my heart grieve?

And I know the answer, dare I say it?

I grieve because the full birthing of love always brings loss.

To birth you into the man you are called to be I must lose the boy you were. And I know because I’ve done this before. I know things will never be the same. That the closeness that comes from living and laughing and making you meals and waking you early and worrying when you’re late… will change.

You see, dear son of mine, I have loved being your mom. And I’m a mama still, I know, but it’s the every day I have loved best.

The serving and the soothing and the listening and the hoping and the teaching and the reading and the cleaning up of little boy messes and the wiping away of big-boy tears.

I have loved how you bound up the stairs , and how your bring your friends home and crowd into your tiny room to talk about who-knows-what and pretend I don’t know that you’re talking about girls.  And maybe they like you and maybe they don’t and oh how you and all your friends who are men now wish they would and someday… someday someone will.

Matthew, I have been writing these letters about that someone. That someone who will like you and love you and hope for you forever.

May she relish who you are as I have.

I love you Matt,


LETTERS TO MY SON: confidence

She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.

Proverbs 31:18


Dearest son,

It is early as I write these words. The summer sun is just tinting a smattering of wispy clouds with the barest glimmer of translucent light. I sit outside watching the world awake.

Upstairs three of my grandchildren lie sprawled in that deepest of slumbers only happy children know. They are safe and they are loved and they know it.

When they wake up they’ll clamor for more of the fun that comes from having a Pops who is still a kid at heart. Maybe they’ll want “awful waffles” (Phil’s title for frozen waffles in a box) for breakfast. Or a sip of “Pop’s wa” (the sparkling water Phil drinks). And they’ll ask with confidence, knowing full well that these two grandparents pretty much never say “no”.

I think we used up that word on our four kids and now just don’t have the heart to ever say it again!

Jude and Mo and Sunday have absolute confidence in our love for them. They know beyond even the slightest doubt that we have their best interests at heart, that we want only good for them, that we will go to great lengths to make sure they have all they need and more.

They are safe here, fully able to rest and be who they are. Confident.

And that is what I want to talk to you about today, Matt.


Your dad and I have laid a foundation of safety and security for you. By God’s grace our home has been a place of refuge—far from perfect, but fully stable.

Unlike so many fathers, your dad has been faithful and present. He has fulfilled his role as Priest of the home, as Provider for his family, and as Protector of all of us. You have a rare gift in that, Matthew.

But now you are launching out on your own.  You have to carve your own way, make your own decisions, choose for yourself how you will live.

You will no longer have your Dad just a few feet away to warn you of danger, nor will I be there to soothe away the hurts that come from living in a world of sharp edges and bumpy roads.

But you will have Jesus. That One who is your real safety, who is always watching over you, who fully knows who you are and who you can be.

He knows how He wants to use you in His story of redemption for a world that needs more of those stories in real time.

My son, if you will live fully in the presence of this One, if you will place all your hope and confidence in Him, inviting Him into every aspect of your life, then and only then will you experience the confidence that comes to those who revere Him. “For the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” Proverbs 3:26

A man or a woman who places their entire confidence in God is neither insecure nor dependent on others for approval. Such a man or woman has this underlying sense that “her gain is good” Proverbs 31:18. She does not have to prove herself or boast about her accomplishments. Such a man knows that he is on assignment from God, that he has work to do and if he does it well and faithfully he will hear just the sweetest echo of the words he longs for: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” And that’s all the reward he craves.

Only a close and honest walk with God can give you that kind of confidence, Matthew. Not perfect grades, not stellar reviews, not pats on the back from important people.

You will never be as good nor as bad as some people will paint you to be.

But if you will learn to put your confidence, your sense of who you are as a man, in God—if you will look to Him for approval, knowing His grace covers you and carries you where you lack—then you will experience that same sense of safety and well-being my grandbabies are experiencing right now.

Perfect rest. Trust. Peace.

And Matthew, marry a woman who has found that same confidence in the only One who can give it fully. Do not marry a woman who looks to you for her sense of self or beauty or approval or worth. Do not marry a woman because she makes you feel better than you are. Marry someone and be someone who is safe simply because you have found real safety in Jesus’ startling love for you.

How will you spot that kind of woman?

Here are some  questions to ask yourself as you watch her life (and your own!):

  1. Is she the same person no matter who she’s with?
  2. Does she get her feelings hurt easily? Or do you get mad easily?
  3. Does she have a sense of purpose? Do you?
  4. Does that purpose help her/you make wise choices?
  5. Is she able to be a graceful woman in intimidating social situations?
  6. Is she able to follow with finesse or does she control and manipulate to get her way?
  7. Does she/do you need the limelight? Or can she/can you let others shine?
  8. Does she/do you need to be right all the time?
  9. Is she interested in other people? Does she ask questions about them, about you?
  10. Is she proud of you?

Last night on the way home from church, your dad showed me in full color what this confidence in the Lord looks like. He’d just finished preaching four times throughout the day. He was tired, poured all out. But instead of giving in to his need for quiet and rest and assurance that he’d done well, he became a human juke box. First Jude requested a song, then Moses. Sunday got to shaking her imaginary maracas as Phil launched into all their favorites.

This man who had spent his day preaching to thousands, gave his night to singing to a rapt audience of three.

Why? Because his confidence, his sense of who he is, has been fully formed by Jesus. Whether waxing eloquent about the true definition of joy found in Philippians or showing the true meaning of joy to three giggly grandchildren, your dad knows he is honored to serve His Savior.

That’s what this looks like, son. May you know such soul-lifting confidence in your Savior and may you find a wife who knows it too.

From my heart,









Proverbs 31:17

She girds herself with strength

And makes her arms strong.


She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.


She is energetic and strong,
a hard worker.



Dear son,

You were born into a family of hard-working women. Not a lazy, bon-bon munching, soap opera watching one among us.

Do you remember how your Gramma Ruth used to hustle about the house? Always slightly out of breath as she tackled her tasks? Yet when we’d come for a visit she’d have all the time in the world to sit and listen and laugh in delight at her family. In reality she’d prepared for days in advance, baking, shopping, making up beds, dusting and setting out flowers and fresh towels.

So when we got there she could just enjoy us.

And how about my mom? She’s made quilts for each of us— long hours of cutting and sewing and designing just what we want. Basketball quilts for your cousin, cozy quilts for Rebekah, airplane pillow covers for you. And we won’t even talk about her cookie baking, lest we both start to salivate right here on the page.

And there is a purpose to all their hard work, Matthew.

They both poured their strength into making their families’ lives better. 

This woman described in Proverbs 31 did the same. And we get a hint how in this verse and the ones to come.

First of all, she inconvenienced herself.  She had to tuck her long, flowing robes into her belt so she could work hard and efficiently.

Secondly, she humbled herself. Remember, this was the wife of a king. When she cinched that belt up, she was intentionally choosing to set aside her position of royalty and get to work.

And she strengthened herself. And while this must have included physical strength training, I think it was more than that. I think she purposefully chose not to be whiney and weak and demanding and needy. Instead, she got up early every morning to put on strength of spirit by connecting herself with God and choosing to serve Him by caring for her household.

Matt, look for this kind of woman. And be this kind of man. 

Because this is just what Jesus did when He walked into the Upper Room, just hours before He knew He would die.  He saw (and probably smelled) all those dirty feet of His disciples, knew that none of them were about to tackle the unsavory task, tucked His robe up into His belt, and washed their feet.

And in so doing, He strengthened all of them for the days ahead.

Matthew, ten years from now you’ll most likely be married with a baby and maybe a toddler or two and more work than you can possibly get done in a day. If you have a wife by your side who is willing to put her shoulder to the tasks with you, who cheerfully and vigorously pours herself into whatever needs to be done, who is willing to do more than her fair share just because she’s that kind of woman— well, my son, you’ll be singing her praises just like King Lemuel did.

How can you tell if the woman you date is “energetic and strong, a hard worker”?

Here’s my list for the day: 

  1. She makes lists in order to figure out what needs to be done.
  2. She keeps a calendar in order to fit it all in.
  3. She adds that extra flair to what she does.
  4. She whistles while she works- seriously!
  5. She knows when to set aside her task and sit and listen.
  6. She is all about making others comfortable.
  7. She is planning for a future that involves helping others.

I think you can see from this list that the purpose of this woman’s work is not to get rich and famous. She works in order to make the lives of people she loves better, more comfortable, happier... beautiful.

From my heart,


P.S. Do you have a story of someone who worked for your benefit? Someone who set aside her comfort in order to make your life better?




LETTERS TO MY SON: how to help your wife thrive

She considers a field and buys it;

From her earnings she plants a vineyard.

Proverbs 31:16

Dear son,

I’m a little nervous about writing this letter. Because we’ve allowed these bits and pieces from my mother-heart to be made public, I run the risk of being misunderstood, of having people cut and paste and take my words to you out of context.

But you know me. You know my heart to help you and to lay a foundation for a strong and beautiful partnership with your wife of someday. God’s Word is infallible, perfect, right, true—but my words aren’t. And so, I ask you, and everyone who reads this to give me a little room. These are my thoughts, my take on what I believe the Scripture teaches, not a rigid box that every husband or every wife or every family must fit into in order to follow after God.

That said, as my son, I want you to know some things about women that many men seem to be unaware of.

We are strong, resilient, adventuresome, loyal, willing to take risks, persistent, and unafraid of great sacrifice for our families.

Who do you think really settled the West? While men most often led the adventure, it is the women who brought their families, their ingenuity, their perceptive skills and adaptivity to the wilderness. Women created homes, carved beauty, cared for fragile lives, and brought control to the chaos of an unsettled land. They work alongside their husbands to make their dreams come true.

And we haven’t really changed. We’re still pioneers at heart, willing to do whatever it takes to see our families thrive.

That’s the kind of woman you will marry someday, Matthew.

And yet, at the same time, we are fragile creatures. We feel deeply. Grief, rejection, pressure, stress, fear, anxiety. We have this capacity for relationship that makes us take responsibility for how everyone in our lives is doing. And sometimes we get lost in the process. Sometimes our men fail to see the vulnerability behind all that strength.

We are impressively capable and yet we are fragile from all that feeling that is inherent to who we are.

So… what has that got to do with this description of a wife who evaluates and plans for the buying of property and then develops it and works it and prospers?

Simply this: In the overarching story of your lives together, your first responsibility is to be the primary provider for the wife you want. Given the right circumstances and the protection and provision of her husband, your wife will thrive, and in that soul strengthening freedom, she will surprise you with her success. But it’s up to you to watch over her lovely, loyal, hard working drive to succeed for the benefit of her family.

First of all, here’s what I don’t mean: that wives should never work outside the home. And here’s what I do mean: that you must guard your own desire for nicer things from pressuring your wife to set aside her family priorities and work more and harder and longer than she should.

Now, life is messy and stuff happens. Men get sick, they lose their jobs, they need further education, they start businesses and need support. I get that. Life, real life, is full of seasons that demand every resource we can bring to the table in order to survive.

What I want to impress on you is the vision of a man who is looking at both the big picture of values and goals and provision for a lifetime, and at the care and nurture of a wife who will, at times, work harder than is good for her in order to make those goals happen. Just watch over her.

Be in charge.

Know your budget.

Stick to it.

Be thankful for what you do have.

Don’t always need more.

Lead your family well.

Let your wife flourish and thrive and think of creative ways to use her gifts to enhance your lives— not to provide for your needs.

Make it your goal to see your wife in her sweet spot. That place where she wakes up with a smile on her face because she gets to be both productive and creative, at the same time knowing that her family is growing and thriving under her care. Make that your goal, Matt, and you will be copying what Jesus does with us, the Church, His bride.

Husbands, love your wives,

just as Christ also loved the church and

gave Himself up for her,

so that He might sanctify her,

having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

that He might present to Himself the church

in all her glory,

having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing;

but that she would be holy and blameless. 

So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.

He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh,    but nourishes and cherishes it,

just as Christ also does the church,

Ephesians 5:25-29

I know this is a lot of weight to put on a man’s shoulders, my son. And yet I also know that God has given you what it takes to imitate Him in this kind of loving. Be strong and courageous. Be smart and responsible. Work hard and think ahead. Be willing to fight for your family’s well-being, to dream ahead of the way you want it to be, to plan a path to make it happen.

Above all, let God be your provider by laying your life before Him and asking Him to lead.

I love you!

From my heart,


P.S. Caution: Don’t read more into these words to my son than I mean.

Women have always worked- hard. Sometimes they even get paid. (!) The Proverbs 31 woman was a successful investor, she made money, lots of money. She was good at what she did. But there are years of a woman’s life when she needs the freedom to pour all that drive and intelligence and giftedness into her family. It is the wise man who does what he can to make that happen.~ Diane

LETTERS TO MY SON: from drudgery to delight

She gets up while it is still night;

she provides food for her family 

and portions for her female servants. 

Proverbs 31:15


Dearest Matthew,

Last week in my letter to you I let you in on the secret so many women share— the whole intimidation factor in the Proverbs 31 description of a “worthy woman”. Since I read the chapter of Proverbs corresponding to the day of the month most mornings, I get faced with her seeming perfection once a month.

Who can do all she does? And if I tried, wouldn’t I get lost in all that work? Become a mindless machine, lose my own creativity, shrivel up inside, and have a massive identity crisis while failing to be perfect?

The fact is, this is an overview of a woman’s life, not what she did every day. Kind of a portfolio of one woman’s description to her son of what an intelligent and godly woman’s achievements can look like over a lifetime and how those doings can benefit her husband and family in such a way as to enrich their lives incredibly.

But notice her first act of the day— getting up early.

It was many years ago that I learned my need for those early morning hours alone. I’d tried and failed time and time again to be disciplined enough to get up early and read my Bible. I knew it was the right thing to do, but with babies up at night and a husband whose ministry mostly happened in the evening hours, it just seemed impossible. The thought of losing precious sleep to cross Bible reading off my list just wasn’t enough to rouse me from slumber.

It wasn’t until my world began to unravel that I discovered the truth this woman in Proverbs 31 lived every day— that it wasn’t more discipline I needed, but more desire. And that when I craved hearing God’s intimate speaking to me more than I craved a little extra sleep, and when that craving actually woke me up in the morning and propelled me into His presence, He had treasures of wisdom waiting for me.

The Bible often likens the Scriptures to food.  Jesus spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life, able to fill and strengthen and nourish us deep within. In the Psalms, God cried out to His people, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it…. I would feed you with the finest of wheat; and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” (Psalm 81:10,16)

He longed for His people to listen to Him, to hear and obey the instructions He was waiting to give them.

The wise woman knows God hasn’t changed through all the days of history. He still longs for us to listen. He has tasks for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Directions and impressions to lay on our hearts, wisdom and understanding to satisfy our longings.

Matt, I would wish for you a wife who is hungry enough to get up early and feast on God’s words.

A woman who listens carefully to the wisdom God gives and then goes to meet the needs of those whom God has given her to serve.

A woman who listens with a pen in hand, making a list of how the Father wants her to love that day.

A woman who sees need before anyone else does and applies the strength she’s already received from God to rise to the challenges of real life.

And son, I would wish for your someday-wife that she would have a husband who shakes off those sleepy morning cobwebs, gets out of bed, starts some coffee, opens the Scriptures, and listens.  Every morning.

I don’t have a list to leave you today. What I do have is a record of my own journey towards this kind of early morning listening. Maybe it will help you to see where you are headed as long as you keep crying out for more of Jesus. And maybe my own list will help you to lovingly lead a woman as she seeks to do the same.

I started with DRUDGERY,

grew up a little into DUTY,

tried but failed for a long time at DISCIPLINE.

Then life led me to a place of DESPERATION,

and that’s when DESIRE

for more of what He poured all over me

led to absolute, unending, every morning DELIGHT.

From my heart,


P.S. For those who are reading these letters:

Are you stuck in the DISCIPLINE phase?

Mad at yourself for failing too often to manage your life in such a way that getting up early to read the Scriptures and listen to God actually happens?

Let me give you a little motherly advice: ask the Father to do whatever it takes to fill you with enough DESIRE so that you will know the DELIGHT of rising early to listen for more.

And if you’re already there- will you tell us your story? I love stories, and I especially love hearing how God moved others to want Him more.


LETTERS TO MY SON: ways a wise woman can make your life way easier

She selects wool and flax

 and works with eager hands.

She is like the merchant ships,

bringing her food from afar.

Proverbs 31:13,14

Dearest Matthew,

So far I’ve been writing to you about concepts and character. Things like trust and words and carefulness and goodness.

In this letter I want to veer off for just a bit and talk about some of the things a wise woman does to make a man’s life easier and better— that whole helping aspect of a woman.

As you well know, I believe that the Book of Beginnings— Genesis— sets the premise for the role of a wife in a man’s life. She is designed to fit into her husband’s vision and calling as a “help-mate” or a “corresponding” partner.

Unfortunately, teachers from generations past have tried to micro-manage the role of a wife and have often come up with a one-size-fits-all approach to what a wife ought to do. Many have drawn a picture of a June Cleaver-like woman, using Proverbs 31 as a structured pattern that every woman ought to follow precisely at every moment of her adult life until death gives her a break! In doing this, we have crafted the Perfect Wife.

And let me tell you, Matt, we women despise this Perfect Wife! We know we can’t possibly live up to her ever-industrious and at the same time always-nice perfection. The idea of accomplishing everything listed here and at the same time looking always beautiful and together and being nice and successful gives us nightmares. We want to run and hide or give up in despair.

But I don’t think that’s what Lemuel’s mother meant at all when she listed some of the doings of this woman. I think she was simply pointing out to her son how much a woman of worth could and would benefit his life as a leader in his kingdom. She was steering him away from a beautiful bimbo who would simply smile and look sexy but leave him without the help his life and career so desperately needed. She wanted him to know and recognize a woman who puts her intelligence and skills to work in order to sort of grease the wheels of his stress-filled life and make everything run better.

Titus 2 gives us a similar pattern. Older women are instructed to train younger women in the management skills necessary for the running of a household in real time. A woman who does this well is able to free up a man to pursue his career fervently while avoiding the train wreck that so often happens when home is neglected at the expense of career or ministry.

In our current culture that might take any number of forms, according to the unique gifting of the woman, and the unique needs of the man. One of your roles as a husband will be to “cherish” your wife (Ephesians 5:29). I think that means that you will set out to discover her gifts and strengths and help her to craft her role as your wife accordingly.

You help her to see and value who she is.

You celebrate her unique contribution to your life.

But here’s what to look for: a woman who is eager, who is surging forward with initiative and drive, a woman who delights in doing, who loves her role as helper, who is creative and innovative and confident that she can accomplish what is good and best for her family. The kind of woman who goes the extra mile instead of settling for the easiest thing.

Who does whatever she does well and beautifully, with eagerness and delight.

How will you know? Unless she is already running a household, how will you identify these traits, these doings in a woman while you are dating? Well, here’s my to-be-expected list…

1. Look at her space

By that I mean any place she has control over. Is it lovely? Has she created beauty? Are there indications of extra care, special touches?

2. Look at her work

Does she simply show up and do what is expected or is she the kind of woman who adds immeasurably to her work? Do you see her make everyone at work (both clients and coworkers) comfortable? Is she trying to help?

3. Look at her downtime

Is she creative? Does she learn and educate herself in what interests her? Does she have dreams and ideas?

4. Look at her self-care

Believe it or not, Matt, it takes a good deal of work for most women to look beautiful. There are few “natural beauties”. Most beautiful women have made the effort to cultivate their beauty. Is she clean and soft and developing a style that suits who she is? Does she match on the outside what she’s like on the inside?

5. Look at the way she gives.

Does she leave a trail of loveliness behind her? Gifts and cards beautifully thought through, acts of generosity and kindness on purpose, that little bit of extra help to anyone who is fortunate enough to be her friend?

Again, these are all traits I see in your sisters.

Tammy is an artist. She creates beauty in John Mark’s life, soothes the owies of her children and friends alike, finds something lovely to say every time I see her. Rebekah is the best gift-giver I’ve ever met. The Jetson’s DVD’s for Dad’s Father’s Day, a just right book of poetry and a picnic in the park for me, a whole luxurious house cleaning for her sister just because she had a little extra from all her hard work and she wanted her to know she’s there for her… And Elizabeth, who gives by cooking the good stuff and then taking all the time you need to listen well and answer wisely.

All of them, eager doers, givers, women who bring delight into the lives of those they love.  That’s the kind of girl to look for, Matthew. Because she’ll bring you more than a little help— she’ll bring you all that she is.

From my heart,



LETTERS TO MY SON: can you trust this woman with your heart?

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.


The heart of her husband trusts in her and he will have no lack of gain.


Her husband can trust her and she will greatly enrich his life.


Proverbs 31:11

Dear Matt,

On July 15th, 1978, your dad and I stood in front of our friends and family to pledge the rest of our lives to each other. We made grand promises to be faithful, to love, and to honor forever.

While he held my hands in his, I felt just the slightest tremor go through your dad’s body. As if a moment of undeniable fear shook the length of who he was. And then he squeezed both my hands, fastened a joy-filled grin on his face, and held on tight.

And for the last 34 years he’s been hanging on tight, opening up his life to me, choosing to love me every day no matter what.

He trusts me.

I trust him.

We both trust God.


Someday you will stand in front of an invited group of your friends and family to pledge the rest of your life to a woman. But before you make those promises, you must be absolutely certain that you have found a woman you can trust.

And by that I mean a woman in whom you can wisely place your confidence because you know she has your best interests at heart, and because you know she believes the best in you and will handle your heart with the greatest of care.

And so, knowing your penchant for lists, I’ve come up with…


#1 Take a long time to get to know her.

Just as a man presents his best self to a woman as he’s dating her, so a woman knows how to hide her less-than-lovely parts in order to attract the attention of a man. And yet, as I’ve said before, the purpose of dating is find out what a person is really like and then ask yourself the question, Can I live with that? Can I thrive with her?

That takes time. Lots of time. You’re going to need to see her when she’s tired, when she’s discouraged, when she’s stressed, when she’s mad.

When she’s not perfect.

Because nobody is, my son. And so you’re going to need to take an honest look at her flaws and at your capacity to love her just the way she is.

And you’re going to need to be realistic about her capacity to love you just the way you are- and to even like you when she sees those flaws.

 #2 Listen to your fears.

The Hebrew word, a, translated trust here, “expresses that sense of well- being and security which results from having something or someone in whom to place confidence.” [1]

You need to be honest with yourself about how you feel in her presence. Can you trust her with your failures? Will she accept you as a man who is learning and growing, one who is being redeemed daily but who has not yet arrived? Does she get that?

Or is she “helping” God to fix what she doesn’t like about you? Making sure you know when you did wrong, what you should have done instead, what she surely would have done if she’d been in your shoes.

That will wear a man down faster than the worst kind of enemy.

Because, my dear son, every man needs and craves respect. And acceptance. And hope.

If you’re getting that nagging sense that you cannot trust her to think the best of you, listen to that fear because its not going to go away. 

#3 Look at her long-term relationships.

Do her friends blossom in her presence? Does she put people close to her at ease? Or do you get the sense that everyone around her is being ultra careful not to push her buttons or disappoint her?

How about her dad? Is she sassy or respectful?

What about her annoying little sister? Is she kind and considerate or rude and edgy?

#4 Observe her attitude towards others.

Watch especially closely how she responds to those in authority over her. Does she resent her boss? Is she always second-guessing people? Correcting them? Scolding?

The Scriptures unapologetically teach the loving authority of a husband over his wife. Has she learned how to do that when she doesn’t agree? 

#5 List what she likes about you.

I know, I know, I know, this point sounds egotistical. But the truth is, you need to marry someone who really likes you. A lot. And you need to know why she likes you. You need to know specifics; character qualities she notices, accomplishments she admires, strengths she observes.

While you are still dating you need to know what it is she sees in you and if she is able and willing to put herself out there to tell you.


Matt, it is no small thing to trust a woman. May God give you the wisdom and insight to see clearly.

And may He gift you with a woman who is so filled up with God that she can’t help but spill joy and hope and help onto you every day of your life.

From my heart,


Women, mothers, friends, girls, guys- do you have something to add?

Remember, we’re not talking perfection here, just that sense that a man’s heart is safe with such a woman.

I’d love to hear your take on this!







[1] Harris, R. L., Harris, R. L., Archer, G. L., & Waltke, B. K. (1999). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (101). Chicago: Moody Press.

LETTERS TO MY SON: how to spot a strong woman

“A wife of noble character who can find?

    She is worth far more than rubies.”

-in letters to King Lemuel from his mother-

(Proverbs 31:10)

Dearest son,

Like the King’s mom, I am writing to you for a specific purpose: to paint a picture of the kind of woman you will want one day to be your wife.

And like Lemuel’s mother, I am assuming that you are actually looking, that you have rejected the laisez faire attitude I see so often in men. That uber-spiritual sounding stance that “God will provide and I don’t have to do anything but wait”.

Because I don’t believe that. In fact, I believe that it is the honor for a man to actively search for a noble woman to stand by his side and join her strength to his.

Apparently, Mrs. Lemuel felt the same. She recognizes that women of “noble character” are few and far between. Valuable and rare.

And that such women are worth finding.

Hayil, the Hebrew word translated in the NIV as “noble character”, is used throughout Scripture to depict a man or woman of strength, wealth, influence, might, and firm character.

A strong woman.

A woman like Rebekah.

And Elizabeth.

And Tammy.

Three strong women of vastly different personalities and gifts and interests who have set a standard for you of this kind of excellence.

Rebekah is extremely intelligent, she loves to learn and read and research and discover. Right now she is throwing all her skills and drive into making her husband a success. She believes in him passionately and is sacrificing her own interests to build their business around Steve’s gifts and calling.

Tammy is kind and steady, with a wealth of wisdom about people and relationships. Her intuitive insight into the souls of the people around her adds incredible strength to your brother’s ministry. And she is relentless in her loving on and caring for John Mark.

Elizabeth is a woman who does life with excellence. She doesn’t just cook, she researches and learns and creates, using fresh, healthy foods to both nurture and nourish her family. She pours her intelligence and drive into every aspect of motherhood and lavishes her beauty on her family.

Three women of strength… of noble character.

And so I’d like to leave you with a list in my own words.

What A Woman Of Strong And Noble Character Looks Like In Everyday Life.

  1. A strong woman is trustworthy. (vs. 11)
  2. A strong woman doesn’t feel compelled to dominate. (vs. 12)
  3. A strong woman uses her gifts and time and talents to give to others. (vs. 12,13,20)
  4. A strong woman goes the extra mile. (vs. 18)
  5. A strong woman is always thinking ahead. (vs. 15,21)
  6. A strong woman takes care of herself with confidence. (vs.22)
  7. A strong woman is capable and smart and hard working. (vs. 24,27)
  8. A strong woman is hopeful. (vs. 25)
  9. A strong woman is wise and kind with her words. (vs.26)
  10. 10. A strong woman is in awe of God. (vs. 30)

And may I offer you just one more word of advice?

Do not be afraid of strength in a woman. Because, Matt, you will need a woman of this kind of soul strength to catch the vision God is developing in your heart.

Yours is a big vision, one that you cannot do alone. Just like Steve’s and Brook’s and John Mark’s.

And as long as she “gets it” and is able to see how her own gifts and talents fit in with yours, she’ll add to your strength rather than compete for her own way.

And when you find her, dear son-of-mine, cherish her.

From my heart,