goodbye, VOICE…

I once had the opportunity to ask well-known missionary and author Elisabeth Elliot one question: “What do I do when I have feelings for someone that won’t go away?”

“The things we love best,” she replied, “are substance for sacrifice.”

That two-minute conversation encapsulates a lesson that God has been teaching me throughout my life.

pitcher illustration

Many of you have heard me share my testimony at VOICE about how God asked me to give Him my love for volleyball, my hopes for education, my security at home in America, my feelings for someone I thought I’d marry… And now, God is asking me to give up one of my greatest passions: VOICE.

I spent the last twelve years developing VOICE into what I thought might be my life work. I made a lot of mistakes, but I got to see God do incredible things in your lives and mine. A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to take care of my sick family and get ready for this conference when God used a book I was reading to ask if I would be willing to give it up for Him.

“What?! Give up VOICE? How? Why?”

I write this with tears in my eyes. I wrestled with this decision as one can only wrestle with an idea that seems completely contrary to reality, but at the same time, it felt so familiar because I had been in this situation before. So I cried. I prayed. And I asked Him to confirm it to me through my personal devotions the next morning, and He did. In the words of a song, “Everything I once held dear, I count it all as loss…”

So what does this mean for VOICE? It means that #VOICE2016 may be our last conference. We hope you’ll pray with us that God will bring the people He wants to grow from the VOICE experience. If you have family or friends who have been thinking about attending “some day,” tell them this is the year they should go. If you’ve been wanting to come for V2, let me know.

Lastly, remember, VOICE is just a tiny chapter in God’s story of the world. We did everything we could to help you understand the Gospel and develop a personal relationship with Jesus. So now it’s your turn.

God is real. Live like it.

pursuing the fairytale



Recently, I’ve been wrestling over the decision of what to do about Arianna’s education.

Now if you don’t have children, please don’t write this off as a parenting post just yet. Last year, I was able to put off this decision, because we weren’t sure where Luke would end up. Now that he’s living his dream as a full-time student, it’s time to focus on the next student in our family.

But there is nothing straightforward about this decision. For one thing, there are hundreds of options here in Saint Louis. For another thing, right now this decision is more about me facing the fears and doubts in my heart than it is about discerning what’s best for Arianna.

I spent most of my school years in good private schools, but we can’t afford private school on a graduate student budget, so that means we consider either public school or home school.

When I was a junior in high school, my parents made the difficult decision to start home education. That created nothing less than an uproar in our home—and in our community. God worked in my heart, and I eventually came to terms with what I believe was God’s will for our family at the time. But now those old misgivings have come flooding back.

That’s not all. I’ve been in the homeschooling community long enough to hear plenty of negative opinions on the public school. So here I am surrounded by other people’s voices and the fears in my own heart.

Luke and I are making this decision together, but part of that means letting God confront those dark corners of my heart. It means asking Him to free me from my fears and help me trust Him one step at a time. It means wanting whatever He wants regardless of how things turn out in the end.

That’s hard—whether you’re deciding your child’s education or pursuing a specific career or figuring out a relationship or choosing a university or major. Most of the time, I just want the path of least resistance. I want the outcome that will encounter the least amount of problems. I want to live a “happily ever after Christian life.”

I am learning that while God gives us promises in the Bible, He never promised us a problem-free Christian life. Instead, He became flesh so that we who were doomed to death might have life. He gave us His presence that we might find strength to face the darkness in this world. He bore the weight of our sin that we might experience the hope and freedom of His resurrection.

That is our fairytale. That is how we face life’s problems and decisions one day at a time.


An Uncourtship Story

“Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.” —Psalm 32:7 (KJV)

I searched the Bible for character qualities my future wife should have…and some I should have.

I made commitments to “courtship” when I was 12. I had crushes, accompanied by prayer and journaling. I read blog posts about “being the right one” rather than “finding the right one.” I looked for more character qualities I should have.

If I did what was right, I wouldn’t hurt others or be hurt myself, right?

Then I tried to “court” someone.

That’s when I discovered well-intentioned people treat one another shabbily, even when—maybe especially when—they’re trying to do everything right.

Along the way, I heard lots of advice. There were admonitions to be “serious” about relationships. But being “serious” didn’t guarantee I wasn’t also selfish.

There were admonitions to “pursue” relationship, that relationships take work. This idea pointed out where I focus on myself rather than another person. But my initiative and effort did not guarantee relationship success.

The shame became the hardest part.

While my friends were getting married and then having kids, I wondered why my relationships would last a while…and not work out.

In the two and a half years before I met my wife, Tina, at VOICE 2013, two 8-month relationships came and went—one mostly on Skype that couldn’t survive meeting in person, one relationship I ended for reasons I still struggle to articulate.

Even my good desires were all mixed up with something else. I’d think myself in the right…and realize how self-righteous that thought meant I was. I would decide my life direction didn’t match someone else’s…and then I would realize how much fear was influencing my decisions.

So when I met Tina, I didn’t experience it as answered prayer. I hadn’t thought to pray…although the guys on my team at VOICE did.

I didn’t “love Jesus more,” or receive a “rhema,” or get myself to a place where I had “no will of my own,” though those sound like good things.

Knowing Tina has been more like a sudden rain than like turning on a faucet, more like being forgiven than like “clearing my conscience,” more like grace than anything else.

Now that we’re married we need each other’s forgiveness even more. And the other’s forgiveness makes God’s promised forgiveness feel more real.

Maybe that’s the point.

Maybe grace is not “the desire and power to do what is right” but the work we discover God was doing all along. Maybe what we’re meant to know isn’t “how to live the Christian life” but to behold our Savior.

Decisions, Decisions

I’ve always hated decisions. Mostly because I know that by choosing one thing, I’m automatically saying no to all the other choices in front of me. It doesn’t matter whether I’m choosing between outfits, food, or what color to paint my walls, I hate the pressure and responsibility of decisions. I’m always plagued with the thought of “But what if I choose the WRONG thing and end up tragically unhappy for the rest of my life all because of one bad choice?” I’m being dramatic, but you get the point. I hate making decisions. decision-1

Because I fear the consequences of choosing incorrectly, I tend to shy away from commitments and decision making of all kinds. When it comes to finding “God’s will” for my life, I often feel completely overwhelmed and burdened with having to choose what to do. 

A couple weeks ago, I faced a big decision as I was trying to decide whether to stay in America or go back to Taiwan for the year. While both were great options, the more I thought through them, prayed, and received counsel from my parents and friends, the more indecisive I became. Which one was God’s will for my life and how was I supposed to know when it seemed like either could be God’s will?

Eventually, I made the decision to come back to Taiwan. Why? As scandalous as it sounds, I came back because I wanted to come back and because I think God put that desire there for a reason. Surprisingly enough, what led me to that freedom was actually a clearer picture of how Christ, through the gospel, has already secured all of my satisfaction and success through His life and death; I could throw off my fear of failure or fear of making the wrong decision because everything that I needed or could ever want was already found completely in Christ. I was free to do what I wanted without looking for satisfaction from my choices. I was free…simply because Christ had made me free.    

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…” [Galatians 5:1]

This concept of freedom is still a lot for me to wrap my mind around, especially after living so long burdened in my indecisiveness. But I’m coming to find that freedom really does change everything. I don’t have to fear the consequences of making the wrong choice because in Christ it really doesn’t matter what decisions I make, if I’m walking in His ways, I’m free to choose what I want. I’m free to step out. I’m free to change my mind. I’m free from my own expectations and the expectations of those around me. Free. Simply because Christ has set me free.

Revisiting the Lily Field

Most of you know me the way I am now—you’ve watched me teach songs in the Children’s Institutes, you’ve spent a month (or more) with me at VOICE

But none of that was part of my plan. I had life all figured out—until my parents decided to start home education my junior year of high school. When the rest of my friends went off to college, I found myself going to Taiwan for a “short-term missions trip” with my family. No one ever told me it would last 13 years.

For this post, I want to share something I wrote a couple years after high school. I didn’t know what the future held, but I can tell you now that knowing the One who holds your future makes all the difference.

We huddled together on the curb, sheltered from the drizzle by a few umbrellas. I looked back and forth between the long graceful calla lilies just peeking over the edge of plastic buckets and the wire-fenced field six to twelve inches deep with water where I could pick my own. I pulled on rubber boots and overalls, then sloshed down the aisles, choosing the tall ones, just beginning to show their white petals, but not yet in bloom. My fingers followed the stem to its base beneath the water and carefully tugged upward until the prize came free into my hands. Three elegant hand-picked lilies now bloom in plastic juice bottles in our dining room. They remind me of something I recently read in My Utmost For His Highest:

“‘Consider the lilies of the field’—they grow where they are put. Many of us refuse to grow where we are put, consequently we take root nowhere. Jesus says that if we obey the life God has given us, He will look after all the other things.”(Oswald Chambers) 

For the past couple years, I have been praying that God would reveal His purpose for my life. Why did He take me out of school? Why aren’t I in college? Why did He move me to Taiwan? Will people look down on me, because I don’t have a “proper education”? Will I ever get a “real job”? What in the world am I doing here?

As I looked at my lilies, I realized my faithlessness. If centuries of lilies have blossomed under the kind hand of our Creator, how much more my Father cares for me! Through the years, He has given me the same answer to my questions, “Seek ye first My kingdom…and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) So I am the Lord’s lily, and He wants me to grow and blossom for His glory no matter where He chooses to place me.


One Wrong Choice

He coached 409 games over a span of 46 years. From 1966 until 2011, he invested in the lives of thousands of young men, challenged them to succeed in academics and football, and he even equipped many to play in the National Football League. While many of you may not know who he was, Joe Paterno, the football (美式足球) coach at Penn State University, was a man who was well recognized and respected by many people in America. Joe Paterno died last Sunday at the age of 85 from lung cancer. Although more than 100,000 people showed up at his funeral, sadly, most individuals will probably not remember him for the great things he did – but for the one thing he didn’t do.


You see, back in 2002, an assistant came to Joe Paterno and told him that he had just witnessed another assistant abusing a young boy. Joe told his superior what had happened, and allegedly nothing else was done. The authorities were not called, nor did Joe follow up about what happened. Now, nine years later, it had been revealed that the assistant abusing the young boy had been allegedly abusing many boys, and the conversation between Joe Paterno and his assistant finally came to light. Penn State University believed that their response had to be strict, so in November 2011 they fired their hall-of-fame coach because Joe had not done more to stop the abuse that he heard about firsthand.

Now, how does this relate to us? God has been impressing on me how critical it is that I live above reproach – meaning, that every area of my life is being lived out with a clear conscience and in complete purity. Part of that comes down to what true character really is: who I am when no one but God is watching. Whereas the other part is striving to walk in integrity no matter the cost.

Although I’m not sure about whether or not Joe Paterno was a Christian, my heart aches for him just the same. His entire life, legacy, and integrity were thrust to the ground all because of one mistake. While that may not be fair to him or his family, that’s the sad truth: our choices do matter. I’m convinced that Joe Paterno did not just die from lung cancer, but also from a grieving heart.

If our God is alive and real in our lives, what are we doing to ensure that our decisions are not bringing damage to His great name?