A Romanian Bride and the Bigness of God

247585_10151581273069528_753205824_nTonight we attended the rehearsal dinner of an American groom and a radiant Romanian bride, and I remembered again what I love so much about culture.  When I was little and my family went on furlough, I could step off the airplane and literally smell America.  I can’t put my finger on it, but every now and then it comes back to me.  Out of nowhere I’ll exclaim, “Clint!  Do you smell that?  That’s what America smells like!”  Clint doesn’t smell it.  But I do.  It’s the smell of specialness—all the specialness of America.

Tonight I felt the specialness of Romania, and I’ve never even been there.  When the bride’s grandfather made a toast, I felt it in the lilt of his accent—in the beautiful way he said her name.  And when her uncle and her grandmother spontaneously played the piano, I felt the peace and joy of a culture that knows how to celebrate.  A culture less bound by agendas than by the heart.

The truth is every culture is beautiful in its own way.  When I think of starkly different cultures, such as my mother’s Chinese culture and my native Filipino culture, I love them both.  I love the efficiency and order of Singapore, as if the entire nation understands the value of taking pride in all that you do.  I love taking my shoes off at the door, and eating my Aunt’s Chinese food in the kitchen.  And I love the exuberant chaos of the Philippines—the bustle, and life, and joy of a culture more enamored with people than tasks.  I recently went to Chick-fila with some Filipino women and listened to them talk in Tagalog, and reminisce about Jollybee, and felt for a moment as though I’d come home.

But my very favorite aspect of culture is the way in which it enhances the bigness of God—the vastness, and creativity, and incomprehensible depth.  With every glimpse of a different culture, I catch a glimpse into the heart and mind of a God more infinite than I can explore.  I will never forget visiting Botswana as a teenager, and witnessing throngs of African men and women worshipping God in their native language.  It was the first time in my life that it really dawned on me that God isn’t American.  And just like that, He was so much bigger, and so much more mysterious than I’d dared to imagine.  And all I wanted to do was worship Him right along with them.

Tomorrow morning, Bret and Sabina will be married.  And together we will rejoice in the God of Romania, the God of America, the God of all the cultures in all the world!  The God of the Universe.

P.S. Here is a picture from the ceremony.  The cute pastor is my husband.
P.S. Here is a picture from the ceremony. The cute pastor is my husband!

The Mom Who Lies


Believe it or not, your chatty toddler is not the most talkative person in your life.  You are.  To quote Paul David Tripp, “No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.  Whether you realize it or not, you are in an unending conversation with yourself, and the things you say to you about you are formative of the way that you live.”

I’ve been thinking about this statement all week.  And I find it very unsettling.  The more I analyze my thoughts, the more I feel like Charlton Heston discovering that Soylent Green is actually dead people.  THIS is what I’ve been feeding myself?? 

The only conclusion I can draw is that by and large, I am a liar.  Unless I am very intentional, the steady stream of self-talk running through my mind on a daily basis is unbiblical.  Especially when it comes to parenting.  As a result, I often feel discouraged, afraid, and insecure as a mom.  Here are the two biggest lies I believe:

Lie #1: My children are a reflection of my worth and identity. 
Believing this lie is the surest way to climb on a rollercoaster and never get off.  I know I believe this lie when I ricochet between pride and despair depending on how my children behave.  Even worse, this lie produces selfish parenting.  I’m driven to control my kids because my identity is riding on their behavior.  At the end of the day, I’m not motivated by love for them, but love for myself.

And here’s a sad thought—how are we going to counsel our child through his identity crisis when our identity is wrapped up in his identity?  No kid needs a mom who falls apart every time he struggles.  He needs a mom who’s steadfast because her hope is in the Lord.  Only then can she lead, counsel, and be a model for him.

The sweet truth is, Jesus Christ bestows my worth and identity. O Lord, may this be the thought I tell myself the next time my children shine or disappoint.  May I grieve their misbehavior and be motivated to parent well because I love them and because I love You, not because I am insecure in my own identity.  

Lie #2: The greatest determining factor in my child’s spiritual growth (or lack thereof) is my performance as a parent.
If lie #1 leads to selfish parenting, I think this lie leads to fearful parenting.  And boy is this one deeply rooted in my heart.  It’s why I constantly feel guilty for turning on Dora instead of reading the girls a Bible story.  It’s why I pat myself on the back when we do a biblically-integrated craft or have a spiritual “discussion.”  It’s why I resent the fact that ungodly parents can raise godly children, and godly parents can raise ungodly children.  If I were completely honest, I’d admit that I want a guarantee.  I want to know that if I do X-Y-Z, then my children will grow up to love and worship the Lord whole-heartedly.

But the Bible teaches that salvation has and always will be in the hands of the Lord.  John 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”  Yes, I am called to raise my children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).  Yes, I am called to train them up in the way of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6).  But it is not my training that will save them.  At the end of the day Jesus saves.  Not Bible stories and sheep crafts.

Rather than be scared by this, I am choosing to be freed by it.  Because the sweet truth is, nobody is more passionate about my children’s spiritual growth, or more capable of producing it, then Jesus Christ.  God, forgive me for foolishly thinking my children are better off in my hands than yours.  Surely I can entrust their spiritual growth to You.  I pray that You would draw them to Yourself, and empower me to demonstrate the gospel in our home, by Your grace and not my own inadequate abilities.

Final Thoughts
What would change in our lives if we started telling ourselves the Truth about everything?  Not just parenting, but the truth about our future, the truth about our status before God, the truth about our acceptance and forgiveness and hope for change?  What if we told ourselves the truth about the value in all the menial things we do all day?  The truth about God’s ever-present grace?

What if we started just by listening to our thoughts?  By thinking about what we’re thinking about.  And then choosing to think in a more Christ-centered way.  My guess is that you and I would be a lot more joyful.  A lot less fearful.  And a lot more fun to be around 🙂

April Favorites

BOOK: EAST by Edith Pattou 
161887[1]If you have 9-13 year-olds, this is the kind of rainy-day, read-aloud novel they can lose themselves in.  It’s folklore, mythology, and adventure all woven together and impossible to put down!  In it, Ebba Rose, a young girl with a secret destiny (hidden from her by her parents) journeys to an enchanted castle to break an evil spell.  The story is beautifully told through the voices of multiple characters, and though it was written for children, I fell in love with it in my twenties.

MOVIE: Olympus Has Fallen 
I think I held my breath for 2 hours straight watching this movie!  Ex-special ops agent Michael olympus_has_fallen_ver10[1]Banning (played by Gerald Butler) has the opportunity to redeem himself when the White House comes under siege, and the President (Aaron Eckhart) is taken hostage.  Morgan Freeman plays the Speaker of the House, who is forced to serve as acting President during the crisis.  It’s Die Hard meets Executive Decision, with Morgan Freeman thrown in as a bonus!  On a negative note, the movie earns an R rating for language and violence (which is substantial).  In my opinion the trailer gives away too much, but if you’re one of those people who just has to see it before making a deicision, here it is:

PRODUCT: The LG Tone (HBS700)
WClgTone[1]Somehow my husband’s boss always manages to buy him better presents than I do.  I know virtually nothing about bluetooth technology, but I can tell you this–this headset has become my husband’s permanent man necklace.  He LOVES it!  So if you have a birthday or anniversary coming up and want to learn more about why many consider the LG Tone the best bluetooth headphones under $150, click here.

ACTIVITY: Making Eric Carle Prints 
This is the most fun craft I’ve done with the kids.  It’s a 2-day project, the result is stunning, everyone can participate (including baby), and you can read Eric Carle books alongside.  For full directions, click on the link (“Making Eric Carle Prints”) above.  Be sure to check out the blogger’s idea for cutting your child’s initials out of the finished prints and framing them.


Click here to view more monthly favorites.  Happy April!