A Special Relationship

I’m leading a team of kids at the Vacation Bible School this week at our church, and my two oldest children are on my team. The organizers said they put my kids with me on purpose, and at first I thought, “Oh, ok, that makes sense.”

But throughout the morning I was treated to my kids constantly trying to assert their privileged relationship for attention that took away from the team. Asking to be allowed to sit out of activities. Yelling at me while I was trying to teach a Bible verse: “Daddy! Daddy!!! DADDY!!!” I happen to know that if they were on a different team, they would follow along very well with their teacher and happily take part in everything.

So my initial reaction was to think that my kids would learn better on another team, and I’d have an easier time teaching, so…why not that? They expect favoritism from me, and even if I don’t give it, that expectation makes them act and talk in ways that seem to take away from the team experience. And of course they do get better treatment some of the time: even if nothing else, there’s my being much more familiar with their names and the different meaning it has when I use their names as opposed to what it means to one of the other students. But doubtless there’s plenty more than that.

But then I thought…maybe God does play favorites with us. After all, God certainly cares about everyone in the world, even affirming that it’s legitimate to say that we’re all God’s children (Jonah 4:11; Acts 17:28). But he then gives a special relationship to those of us who accept Christ, complete with special grace, favors, attention…favoritism! (I won’t list out those special privileges here, but I trust you can easily find a full page or two mentioned in the Bible. Email me if you can’t!) My relationship with God is not all that different from how my kids treat me on the VBS team – “God, don’t you think I’m special? Listen to me! Look at me! I need, I need, I need!!!” And as near as I can tell, God says “ok” quite a bit!

Not to say that I’m planning to have a double standard with some of my students this week, but it does seem a bit more like the organizers might have had a good idea after all. My relationship with my kids is different from my other students, so the way I love them should be different. I think I’m seeing that this doesn’t take away from my ability to appropriately love and care for all of my students. After all, if it’s good enough for God, who am I to judge?

of baby moons and the Gospel

one monthElliot recently turned one month old. That means my Chinese baby moon is over.

In American culture, baby moon usually refers to taking a vacation before the baby arrives. In Chinese culture, however, it means dedicating a month after the baby’s arrival to rest, recover, and focus on caring for the newborn.

Mom & kidsI’ve had the privilege of having Mom help me with three baby moons. The first time was a bit of an adjustment as I learned the do’s and don’ts of Chinese baby moons—do stay in bed, do stay at home, don’t expose yourself or your baby to cold drafts, don’t eat cold food, don’t let your hair air dry (or even wash your hair if you can stand it)… The list is endless, and I confess I do some of it but not others. The part I love is that Mom does all the grocery shopping, all the cooking, all the dishes, and all the laundry. She also cleans up after my kids, burps my baby so I can eat in peace, and gets up early to keep my toddlers out of trouble so that I can sleep in—a luxury I desperately need when I’m getting up several times a night. There’s nothing like being mothered again once you’ve become a mother yourself, and I’m very grateful to both of my parents for loving us in this way.

But I must confess there’s an aspect that’s hard for me too. I have a little voice inside that says I should be taking care of my own family. I should be paying for the groceries. I should be helping my mother and not leaving all the work to her. But the reality is, I can’t. I’ve been too exhausted to keep up with my kids much less maintain the house. And our graduate school budget covers only a fraction of what my parents have spent on us this month. Deep down, I feel like I don’t deserve this at all, because I know I can never repay my parents for all the ways they have showered us with love—this month and my entire life.

In the same way, as I’ve been growing in my understanding of the Gospel, I’m beginning to see that Christianity is not about how I live my life but about how Christ lived His for me. He did the work I could not do. He died the death that I deserve. He did all of this not just because I am His daughter, but to make me His daughter. That’s a love I can never repay but is worthy of gratitude for the rest of my life.


“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13 ESV)

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.


Loving Fathers

Merry Christmas!

2013 has been a year of dramatic change for me and my family. On June 7 my first son, Lewis, was born. Watching him grow and learn has been one of the greatest joys of my entire life. I could easily bore you with far too many tales of his exploits, but I’ll try not to…

Rowan & Lewis

Having a son has also opened up my eyes to new ways of understanding old truths of the Bible. I have always known that God is a father, but I only knew about one side of the father-child relationship. I always understood that Jesus was the Son of God, but I didn’t know what it was to be the father to a son.

Lewis is a dare devil. He is, as yet, unafraid of anything. He dives, lunges, crawls, topples, and bonks his way through every day, pleasantly unaware of all the near-pain experiences he has. Today he learned a new trick. As my wife and I were sitting on the floor with him he would pull himself up on us from sitting to standing and then let go, falling into our hands. He did this over and over for 20 minutes, slowly learning how to stand up, but still not capable of balancing on his own. Never once did he fall and hurt himself, because his mom and dad caught him every time.

This amazes me when I think about my Heavenly Father. Scripture says that God’s love for us is greater than a mother [or father] for her child. (Isaiah 49:15) I love my son enough that I will catch him when he [almost] falls off the couch or can’t quite balance on his own. Usually Lewis isn’t even aware that I’m hovering over him, alert to keep him safe.

God loves us enough that He promises, not to catch us every time, but to turn every situation for our good and blessing. (Romans 8:28) I don’t have a clue how this promise will work out for me or for you, but I do know that it cost Him deeply to fulfill it. The only way He could was to send His Son to Earth, to live a perfect life and to die in our place, as the Redeemer.

It grieves me that I cannot protect Lewis from pain or suffering, but I am so grateful that God would give His Son to care for mine!

the mommy dilemma


On Februray 4th, God blessed us with a beautiful daughter, whom we named Arianna. In the months leading up to her arrival, I did everything I could to get ready– I read books on what to do, talked to friends about their experience, exercised and ate a baby-friendly diet, which is probably why she weighed 8 lb 10 oz at birth– more than my brother when he was born!

Even with all that preparation, I wasn’t quite prepared for all the conflicting opinions. American doctors say I should eat one thing; Chinese medicine says that would be bad for my body. Some say babies should sleep on their tummies; others say they should sleep on their back. One group says babies should be fed on demand; another group says babies should be put on a schedule.

What to do? How do I know if I’m making the right decision for Arianna and for our family? The more I talked to people about what they did, the less certain I felt about making a decision. I began worrying that my decision might have a negative effect upon our daughter.

When family came to visit, I worried that Arianna might get sick from all the germs people were bringing into our house. Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief after they left, Luke caught a cold. Every time he sneezed or coughed, I winced. What if I catch his cold? What if Arianna gets sick?

In the midst of my worries, a verse broke through like a light in the darkness: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3). Even though I don’t know for certain what’s best, God does and He loves my daughter far more than I ever will.

As a new mommy, living like God is real means remembering that fact and trusting Him to lead us one decision at a time.


Irrational Love

I remember our baby in a crib who’s fast asleep,
He doesn’t see my tears, can’t hear me weep
And I wondered, “Was it worth it that we chose his life not yours?”
And I felt you smiling with me and answer, “Of course.”

It was the first day of VOICE. I was sitting in TESOL auditions as my brother unveiled one of the most important songs in his newest musical The Inheritance, based on the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. In Tim’s adaptation, the father finds himself wrestling with the rebellion and desertion of his younger son as well as possible professional ruin, so he questions whether he and his wife had made the right choice in giving life to their second son at the cost of her own at childbirth.

At the time, I was nearly 11 weeks pregnant, so the song touched a very sensitive spot in my heart. All my life, I’ve been learning to love others– family, friends, classmates, teachers, colleagues– but most of it was based on the other person giving or responding similarly at least in some small way. Even with Luke, I fell in love because he first loved me.

At this particular point in Tim’s story, however, we’re faced with the quandary of reconciling the sacrifice of a loving mother for her ungrateful and selfish son, who was recklessly destroying his father’s life work. Part of me cringed from the injustice of it. The other part of me, however, experienced for the first time what it means to be a mother– to love someone I have never met, not because of any merit of their own or because they love me, but simply because that is how God first loved us.

That is what Christ has done for us. He doesn’t love us because of anything we have or can do for Him. He didn’t choose me because I was a good girl. No, God demonstrated His irrational and wasteful love in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

An Intrusion of Grace

Last summer, one of the VOICE students returned to Oklahoma City with us. Since Chris is an American citizen, his father wanted him to finish high school in the US. I recommended Christian Heritage Academy, a good private school in town with an exchange program (headed by my friend Audra). It slipped my mind, however, that Chris would need a place to stay or a way to get to school…

…until his parents came to Oklahoma City to help him get settled. That was when Luke and I realized that Chris needed a host family.

Neither of us were ready for parenting– much less teen parenting. We had guarded our first year of marriage carefully, but with our anniversary around the corner, we wondered if this was God’s next step for us.

After talking seriously about it, we told his parents that we’d pray about it. I’ll never forget the look of relief in their eyes as they shared how they had gotten up at 4:30 that morning to pray that we might take Chris into our home.

That was nine months ago. Serving God this year has meant taking Chris to school, cooking for three, cutting his hair, tutoring him in Shakespeare and grammar, picking him up after football practice, helping him get his motorcycle license, and talking through important life issues.

An intrusion to our lives? Yes, but it’s been an intrusion of grace as we’ve been learning to let God use us as a channel of His irrational, extravagant love.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (I John 4:10-11)