An Ode to my Twenties

My dear twenties,
Photo Scan for JeanneIn seven days I will celebrate the start of my last year with you.  29.  My farewell year to a decade well spent.  I’ll have you know I’ve liked you a lot more than the teens.  You are the decade that got rid of acne, gave me a job that didn’t come with an apron, and taught me how to spread my wings and fly away from home.  You introduced me to love, turned me into a bride, and washed away the insecurities of adolescence with the affection of a man I never deserved.

ry=480You are the decade of burnt dinners, tiny apartments, and tender beginnings.  The decade that laid a little body into my arms and in one swift moment made me a mother for life.  Where adolescence taught me to be strong because I have not, you taught me to be strong because I have.  You tutored me with kindness instead of pain.  With blessings that made me ache to be better than I am.  No matter what the future brings, I will remember you as the decade that gave me the gifts that would come to define my life and my legacy.

My dear twenties, you have been merciful to me.  A decade of joy, lavish with grace.  I used to view you as the ticking-clock decade, the race-to-the-deadline decade…in which case I would have just one more year to run a marathon, write a novel, and finish having children!  But I know better now.  Your goal has never been for me to gather accomplishments and pin them to my chest before I’m thirty.  Because you are not the finish line, but the starting line.  If childhood and adolescence is the “ready” and “set,” you are the gunshot decade that gives us a swift kick in the pants and tells us to “Go!”  Take your life and your blessings, and live!  Put wings to your dreams, and courage to your feet, and don’t be so afraid to stumble along the way.  Thank you, dear twenties.  I look forward to one last year with you!

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Freedom from Fearful Parenting

photo-22Fear was the first thing that ever drove me to God.  It wasn’t fear of God, it was fear of everything else.   As a small child I lived in constant fear that my parents would die.  By the time I was eleven-years-old I had developed an enslaving fear of demons that I would battle for nearly four years.  I remember telling my mom I didn’t believe I would ever break free.  But I did.  One painstaking day at a time, my parents taught me to quote Truth in the face of fear over and over again, sometimes thirty times a day.  And then twenty.  And then ten, as the bouts grew smaller and my faith grew bigger.  Until one day I realized I couldn’t remember the last time a fear of demons had controlled me.

That journey radically influenced my perspective of fear.  It took the “fear” out of fear because it taught me that fear is conquerable.  It taught me that fear is really all about deception.  It’s about fooling us into forgetting the character and reality of God.  I love the way the Jesus Storybook Bible captures the account of Jesus calming the storm.  “Why were you scared?”  Jesus asked.  “Did you forget who I Am?  Did you believe your fears, instead of me?”

Even as I type the words, my heart whispers yes.  Yes, Jesus, even as an adult I forget who You are.  I am tempted, continually, to believe my fears instead of You.  Recently, a new mom contacted me to suggest I write about fear, specifically in parenting.  This is a portion of what she wrote:

Since becoming a mom, one thing that I didn’t expect was the fear that has accompanied my  new role.  Fear that I’m not doing a good job, fear that I’ll hurt him, fear that I hear him crying while he’s napping and I’m in the shower, fear he will wake up in the middle of the night screaming, fear that he’s not eating right, fear that he’ll have allergies…the list goes on and on.

Can you relate?  I sure can.  Parenting has this unique way of opening up worlds of fear we didn’t even contemplate pre-children.  And unfortunately (as wiser moms have taught me) the temptation to fear doesn’t bid you farewell when your kids get older.  It only grows and expands like spaghetti in a pot.  Either get a handle on it, or call Strega Nona!

So how do we get a handle on it?  The same way I did seventeen years ago.  By claiming the Truth in the face of fear, moment by scary moment.  In regard to parenting, here are some common fears I’ve brainstormed.  (Feel free to add more in the comments below.)

Common Fears Trustworthy Truths
Physical Life-threatening sickness or injury will befall my child. “All the days ordained for (my child) were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”  Ps. 139:16
My child will fall into the hands of evil people (kidnapping, abuse…etc.) “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of (my child’s) head are numbered.  So don’t be afraid; (your child) is worth more than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10:28-31
Something will be “wrong” with my child developmentally. “For You created (my child’s) inmost being; you knit (him/her) together in (my) womb.  I praise you because (my child) is fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Ps. 139:13-14
My child will experience unique suffering because of a disability. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore (my child can) boast all the more gladly about (his/her) weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on (him/her).  For Christ’s sake, (my child can) delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when (my child) is weak, then (my child) is strong.”  2 Cor. 12:9-10
Emotional/Social My child will be rejected by peers. “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Gal. 1:10
My child will experience failure in school that damages his/her self-esteem. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  Rom. 8:28My child’s identity must be rooted in Christ (Eph 1, 2 Pt. 2:9).
A trauma we’re going through in our family (such as divorce or chronic illness) will adversely affect my child’s emotional well-being. “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him…”  2 Tim. 1:12
Spiritual My child will reject God. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”  Jn. 6:44“(The Lord) is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9
Ungodly peers will influence my child. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Pro. 22:6“…He who began a good work in (my child) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Phil. 1:6
I am an inadequate spiritual leader; I will “mess my child up.” “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph. 2:8-10
The sinful strongholds in my life will be passed on to my child. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  2 Cor. 5:17

Obviously, I don’t believe we should claim these verses then sit back and do nothing to prepare our kids for ungodly influences, or counsel them through family trials.  The Bible calls us to train our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4).  But ultimately, their lives–the days and experiences allotted for them–are in the hands of God (Acts 17:24-27).

Years ago, my mother spoke a Bible verse over my life.  “Him shall you fear, Him shall you dread, and He shall become your sanctuary” (Isaiah 8:13).  I didn’t understand it at the time, but it’s beautiful to me now.  The secret to freedom from fear is fear of God.  If you and I tremble at the power, dominion, and Lordship of God Almighty, we will tremble at nothing else.  We will remember that the Captain of the Storm is still in the boat.  And He will become our sanctuary.

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Give Thanks with a Broken Heart

A photo I snapped on our walk today.  Someone small who fills me with BIG gratitude!
A photo I snapped on our walk today. Someone small who fills me with BIG gratitude!

Today I was overcome by gratitude.  It came from the most surprising place.  Not from sunny toddler dispositions or sudden good news.  Instead it peeked its head out of broken-heartedness.  Have I mentioned that lately I’ve been a little brokenhearted?  I’ve been reading Psalm 23, wondering how God would refresh and restore my soul in this season.  I think I expected Him to refresh it with joy, and instead He refreshed it with sorrow.  He gave me a glimpse into the lives of two women relentlessly pursuing Jesus in the reality of their suffering.  One of them prayed over me in a parking lot.  The other touched me through a computer screen.

You will probably never meet the beautiful woman who loved me like Christ in a parking lot.  But you can meet Larissa, the one who touched me via technology.  I heard her story for the first time last year, but watched it again today when it ran through my Facebook feed.  This time I found her blog and cried as I stepped into her world–a world so different, and yet so similar, to mine.  Larissa is married to Ian, the love of her life who suffered a traumatic brain injury while they were dating.  I was moved by their video (posted below), but even more so by their blog.  While the video shares the big moment of their wedding, the blog shares all the hundreds of small moments to follow.  The small battles for contentment, faith, and gratitude in the wake of tremendous loss.  I’ve never been closely related to someone with significant disabilities, yet Larissa’s journey to see God in the reality of her life is so like my own.

As today wore on, I found myself overflowing with thankfulness.  I praised God for using believers to refresh the hearts of one another (Philemon 1:7).  I praised Him for messy lives that bring Him great glory.  For His never-ending love.  For the hot water in my shower and the pillow on my bed.  It’s like my eyes were opened, and everywhere I looked I saw thanksgiving.  A garment of praise instead of despair, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a crown of beauty instead of ashes (Isaiah 61:3).  Isn’t God incredible?  Who else could pour sorrow over sorrow and turn it into joy?

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If Only Everyone Could Just Like Me

Alone in a Crowd

True confession #879: I long for the approval of people.  I mean long for it.  There was a season in my life when I felt the anxiety over people’s approval so acutely that I called my mom one night and told her, “Every night I go to bed and the last thing I think before falling asleep is that I hope I don’t wake up in the morning.”  As usual, my mom surprised me.  Rather than panicking (which I thought would’ve been entirely appropriate), she challenged me.  “I don’t believe you don’t want to live another day, Jeanne.  You just don’t want to live another day in this bondage.”  And just like that, I felt the first rays of hope.  Because I realized it was true.  I did want to live; I just didn’t want to live like this.  

Living in the idolatry of man’s approval is like living on a weathervane.  You swing here and there, back and forth, your emotions as unpredictable as the wind.  Then one day you realize that in all this time you’ve gotten nowhere.  You’ve just been spinning in circles.  Everybody loves me!  Everybody hates me.  I’m brilliant!  I’m foolish.  I’m wanted!  I’m rejected.  It’s always the same song, sung over and over in a thousand different scenarios.  And the star of the song is always the same.  Me.  

I used to view the idol of approval as “people-worship.”  I was worshipping other people’s thoughts and opinions.  But the truth is, I’m not just concerned with their thoughts and opinions…I’m concerned with their thoughts and opinions about me.  Which means the idol of approval isn’t really about people-worship but self-worship.  The person I’m bowing down to is me.  The person who consumes my thoughts is me.  The person holding me captive is me.

So maybe it’s time I started singing a different song.  Here’s one that’s been humming through my mind all morning–

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face!
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Do you believe it?  Do you believe that Jesus is so radiant, His grace so glorious that when we fix our eyes on Him, the things of earth–all those circumstances in which we’re so concerned with our own dignity–will grow strangely dim?  Do you believe HE can outshine you?  Outshine your problems?  Your reputation?  Your insecurity?

I do.  I do because I’ve experienced it.  Turning your eyes upon Jesus is like jumping off the weathervane and dancing in the rain.  It’s cleansing and liberating and refreshing.  Not only does Jesus Christ define my worth (2 Cor 5:17, John 1:12, Ps 139), He calls me to Himself (Gal 1: 10), reminding me that the story is so much bigger than whether or not so-and-so likes me.  The story is as BIG as His love, as AGONIZING as a bloody cross, as POWERFUL as an empty tomb and as URGENT as a coming King.  Surely that is reason for you and I to take our eyes off our bellybuttons, and together with the Psalmist David, declare, “My eyes are ever toward the Lord” (Ps 25:15).

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Dangerous Daydreams

daydreamFor as long as I can remember, “imagination” has had a good rep.  And I have had a good supply of it.  As a kid I didn’t just “wrap Christmas presents”—I performed surgery on anxious patients with nothing but pink safety scissors and a roll of Scotch tape.  I didn’t “iron clothes” for my mother—I hosted a televised special on how to get wrinkles out of an Oxford.  Imagination, I quickly learned, was a great way to pass the time.  And the sorrow.

If I didn’t make the team, I imagined I was the star player.  If the cute boy didn’t like me, I imagined that he did.  And if the cute boy turned out to be a real jerk, well that was the beauty of imagination!  In five seconds flat I could turn him into the man of my dreams.  I always assumed I’d quit daydreaming once some of these dreams were actually realized.  After all, when I had the amazing job, and the exciting life, and the man of my dreams I wouldn’t need to daydream, right?

Unless I didn’t have those things.  Unless somewhere along the way I had created dreams so lofty no reality could compete with them.  No man fulfill them.  No set of circumstances live up to them.   I was probably in my twenties when I finally realized daydreaming could be dangerous.  That it could pave a fast track to discontentment.

I think a lot about it now as I raise two young girls—girls who have already fallen in love with the notion of princesses and fairytales.  On the one hand, I’m a major advocate for imagination.  If I were a fictitious character I’d be Anne of Green Gables, scarcely able to fathom the dreariness of a world without imagination.  But as a woman who’s a smidgen wiser than I used to be, I sidle up to it warily.  Imagine we’re in a fort cooking dinner out of pine cones?  I’m all about it!  Imagine we’re digging for dinosaur bones?  Let’s do it!  Imagine one day every fairy tale wish will come true and life will be perfect?  Don’t do it.  Oh, my sweet little girls, don’t do it.

Because the truth is, you and I were never made for the fairytale.  We weren’t made to live comfortable, easy lives that always make us feel good.  We were made to live one real life, with a real God, who offers real hope in a real and broken world.  My previous post has opened up a floodgate of real Moms sharing their real stories.  It has made me cry, and pray, and rejoice that I am not alone.  I am not journeying with Cinderella and Snow White.  I am journeying with real people—overcomers in Christ with real testimonies.  And I believe that’s exactly the way God intended it to be.  Shortly before leaving His disciples, Jesus warned them that suffering was coming.  He said He was preparing them for it so that in HIM they may have peace.  And then He made this promise: “In this world, you will have prince charming, perfect kids, great hair, loads of free time trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

The answer to the reality of pain—the reason we can stand up under it—has always been and always will be found in Jesus.  That’s the mistake I made so many years ago–when I didn’t make the team, when the cute boy didn’t like me.  I didn’t run to Jesus to remind me that my worth is securely kept in Him.  I didn’t let Jesus satisfy my longing to be known and loved.  Instead I crafted a really puny version of fulfillment and daydreamed about it.  And as soon as the daydream was over, so was the satisfaction.

If there’s one thing I’m realizing the more I blog, it’s that I don’t know your story.  I don’t know whether you love to daydream, or haven’t done it since you were five years old.  I don’t know if the life you’re living right now fills you with joy and peace, or if it leaves you empty and longing for more.  The only thing I know, with wholehearted certainty, is that Jesus is passionate about you.  He is passionate not only to rescue you (John 3:16; Romans 6:23), but to give you an abundant life in Him (John 10:10).  Don’t settle for the daydreams, the way I did for so long, foolishly believing they’re as good as it gets.  They are just a shadow of joy and fulfillment.  Jesus is the real thing.

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On Leaving a Legacy

I ate an energy bar tonight thinking it was a granola bar, and two hours later I’m still wide awake.  The house is unusually quiet, and for some reason my mind has drifted back to an old friend, one I find myself thinking about often.

199944_4308977105_6032_nWhen I was in Bible college there was this unbelievably beautiful girl in my education classes who one day slid her lunch tray beside mine and struck up a conversation.  You know the kind of friend who grows on you slowly?  Aimee wasn’t like that.  She was more like a diamond you find at a gas station–an extraordinary treasure in a completely ordinary world.  She spoke fluent Mandarin Chinese, had dreams the size of Antarctica, zero pretenses, and a heart as genuinely alive as her bright blue eyes.  That day we talked and laughed at the lunch table until every last scrap was cleared up and put away.  And from then on, I loved Aimee Powell.

We would go out to eat, order something loaded with carbs and talk about all the things college girls love to talk about–class, and boys, and friends, and Jesus, and all we hoped to do and be.  I saw her giddy, and I saw her heartbroken.  And I never once doubted that Aimee would lead a very grand life.

Then three years after graduating from college, on a boring January morning Aimee was killed in a car accident.  And just like that, in two seconds flat, I learned that she was gone.  You want to know the truth?  Part of me still can’t believe it.  Three years later I still cry when I think about her.  I cry for myself because I miss her.  I cry for the future I imagined she would have.  I cry for her family because I know that if in four years she brought such joy to my life, she must’ve been sunshine in theirs.

But amid all the tears, I have a profound sense of peace when I think of Aimee.  On the one hand, it seems maddeningly unfair.  She never got to marry the dashingly handsome man I just knew she was destined for, never got to raise a house full of children or become famous and change the world.  But as I watched the newscast about the accident, I listened to an anchor woman who didn’t even know Aimee testify about Aimee’s life–the students who loved her, the mission trips she took, the Facebook page that shared her passionate love for Jesus.  And like lightning it struck me, Aimee did it.  She ran the race all the way to the very end, and she crossed the finish line, faithful.  

She hadn’t led the extraordinary life I always imagined she would lead.  Instead she’d led one ordinary life, with extraordinary faithfulness.  You know what?  I think that is more inspiring than marrying a dashingly handsome man and changing the world.

Tonight I am proud of my friend.  I am grateful to have been part of her beautiful life.  And I am encouraged to follow her example and live this one, ordinary life of mine with all the extraordinary faithfulness only Jesus can supply, so that one day I, too, will cross the finish line victorious.  This one’s for you, my beautiful friend.  Wish you were here with me tonight.


The Woman I Wish I Could Be

Do you ever feel like there’s a gigantic gap between the woman you are and the one you want to be?  I do.  The woman I want to be lives in my mind, somewhere between the endless to-do lists and the names of all the Sesame Street muppets.  She is innately patient.  Fearlessly radical.  She believes that God is faithful, even when it feels like He’s forgotten her.  She always chooses the better thing–to feed her soul instead of her flesh, to submit instead of defy, to rejoice instead of complain.  She never snaps at her children or nags her husband.

In fact, the only person she ever irritates is me.  She eludes me and haunts me at the same time.  She is the woman I think about five seconds after I say the thing I shouldn’t have said.   The woman I think about when my kids are in bed and I’m wishing I hadn’t been so impatient with them.  I think about her when I meet someone really sunny who never seems to doubt God.  And I think about her on the really cloudy days when I feel guilty for not climbing out of my own discouragement.

I used to think I could bridge the gap between her and me in one giant leap.  Maybe a Beth Moore conference?  A weekend prayer retreat?  But I never could make the leap.  At times I thought I had, and then inevitably I would disappoint myself.  Struggle with the same old sin.  Fail in the same old way.

Sometime this summer it finally clicked with me.  The journey from me to her is a small step journey.  It is not made up of grandiose conferences or life-altering experiences.  It is made up of millions upon millions of tiny moments.  Paul David Tripp taught me this when he wrote, “the character and quality of our life is forged in little moments.  We tend to back away from the significance of these little moments because they are little moments.  [But] these are the moments that make up our lives.”

In context, he was writing about all the little thoughts, words, and choices that shape a marriage and set the stage for the future.  But I am finding this “small-moment approach” is a great way to live all of life.  I have come to pray a very simple prayer throughout the day.  Whether I’m believing a lie, battling idols, or itching to erupt, in the heat of the moment all I pray is, “God, help me win this small-moment battle!”  That’s all I focus on.  I don’t think about overcoming every battle, or making a personal sanctification plan, or donning a cape and painting supermom across my forehead.  I just focus on the one small battle before me, and by God’s power with Christ’s help, I fight to win.  Then, ten minutes later, when the baby dumps a bowl of spaghetti onto my mother-in-law’s carpet, I pray, “God, help me win this small-moment battle!”  And so it goes.

You build a house one brick at a time, write a book one word at a time, and live a life one moment at a time.  You and I don’t have to become the Proverbs 31 woman tomorrow.  We just have to throw ourselves upon the grace and power of Christ to live faithfully today.  To make the wise choice.  To say the kind thing.  To reject the awful thought.  To repent and get back up again.  And one day we will look back and realize that over a lifetime–over a million small moments–God grew us.  

Mother Theresa, Adolf Hitler, Martin Luther, Jessica Simpson–they all have one thing in common.  They became who they are one small moment at a time.  And so will we.

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To Those of Us Who’d Like a Fresh Start

imagesCABXM5D0It’s hard to believe summer is almost over.  When I was a teacher I always loved this time of year—unlocking the door to an empty classroom and starting all over.  Stapling up bulletin board paper, organizing my desk, filling out a brand new grade book with brand new names and dreaming big dreams for a brand new year.

This summer I’ve had a small taste of the same feeling—a sense that God is doing something fresh in my life.  Instead of decorating a bulletin board and organizing my desk, I’ve gone on a mission to organize our whole house (courtesy of the first housekeeping book I’ve ever read in my life!  More on this in a future post.)  I’ve allowed myself to dream big dreams with my husband.  And most importantly of all, I’ve taken an honest look at my life and decided I want a lot more out of it.

There was a time when I took God at His word.  I mean literally took Him at His word.  As a kid in the Philippines, my parents used to give me ten pesos a week in allowance.  They taught me to tithe one peso to the church.  I still remember the day I told my dad I wanted to give 100 pesos to the church.  He asked me if I was really sure, and I can remember feeling excited and pragmatic at the very same time.  It made so much sense to me.  If Jesus is the most valuable thing in the world, and eternity is all that truly matters, what could be better than giving my money to Jesus’ church?  I got it as a kid.  I wasn’t afraid to follow a radical God with radical faith.

But as I grew older I began to realize that Christianity could be a lot more convenient if I sort of took God at His word.  So I gathered His mandates and mixed in a couple of qualifiers, added some safety precautions, threw in a few exceptions, and pretty much developed a comfortable blend of Christianity that could co-exist with my own desires for a secure and easy life.

But this is what I’ve discovered–if you want to water down God’s calling, then you also have to water down the blessings of obedience to God’s calling.  You have to settle for an average marriage, relative peace, mediocre satisfaction.  And I don’t want any of those things.

I want ALL that God has for me.  I want the joy that comes from genuine devotion to Christ.  The peace that comes from true submission.  The love that comes from walking with Jesus.  I want the freedom that comes with surrender.  The hope that comes with faith.  The perseverance that comes by grace.

I want a fresh start.  Not a legalistic attempt to never make another mistake, or a resolution to “try harder.”  Just a quiet, moment-by-moment surrender to Jesus.  A humble prayer to regain some of the wonder I once had as a child.

What about you?  Would you like a fresh start?  Don’t be afraid–because of His grace, it’s yours for the taking.

Is There Such a Thing as Calling?


A friend asked me this question several months ago.  In context, I knew she wasn’t referring to a “general” or “primary” calling to live for Christ.  She was asking me if I believe there is such a thing as a “specific” or “secondary” calling, like the calling to become a doctor or a missionary.

I understood the question because people talk about this sort of “calling” all the time.  They say things like, “I just felt called to do it.”  Called to marry him.  Called to plant a church.  Called to adopt.  Called to give.  Some people love to talk about calling…so much so that you wonder if they go to the grocery store and feel “called” to buy Crest toothpaste instead of Colgate.  These sort of people used to frustrate me.  It felt like they had a private line with God, and He just told them everything to do, say, think, eat, and moisturize with.  To be honest, I was jealous.  Many times it felt like I begged God for discernment and heard crickets in the background.  I always wanted to exclaim, But how do you know you’re called?  

Suffice to say, I’ve pondered my friend’s question long before she asked it.  I usually find myself thinking about calling in one of two life scenarios–either before making a major decision, or in a season of difficulty and discouragement.  In the former scenario, I’m hoping not to make a mistake.  In the latter, I’m wondering if I already did.

The funny thing about “calling” is it’s deeply tied to our view of God.  The person who is wondering about calling is the person who is secretly hoping God actually has a plan for her life.  Secretly hoping she hasn’t somehow fallen out of His hands.  Secretly hoping He loves her enough to be intimately involved in the details of her life.  I should know, I am that person.  So instead of rambling on inconclusively with my friend, this is how I wish I would’ve answered her question:

Yes.  I believe God has a specific calling for every single person, including you and your husband.  I believe this because the God of the Bible is vastly personal, with the power to bestow wisdom (James 1:5), to direct your steps (Pro 16:9), and to equip you to do His will (Heb 13:21).  The God of the Bible is so completely sovereign that even the sparrows don’t fall to the ground apart from His will (Matt 10:29).  He most surely has a sovereign will for you and your husband–people created in His image, whom He rescued at tremendous cost.

BUT, the tricky thing is, He may not reveal it to you right now.  If there is one thing I have learned from this year’s BSF study on Genesis, it’s that callings from God are revealed and fulfilled in His timing.  Abraham waited twenty-five years for God to give him Isaac.  Joseph was seventeen years old when He had a vision of his brothers bowing before him, and he was thirty-nine years old when the vision came to pass.  Clearly the presence of waiting is not the absence of calling.  In fact, it might be the hallmark of it!  I cannot think of a single instance in the Bible where God revealed a calling in its entirety, and then fulfilled it immediately.  Which brings me to the second thing I’ve learned from our Genesis study: Callings from God are not free of suffering.  Look back at Joseph again.  It amazes me to think that while he sat in prison, he was in the very center of God’s will for his life.  I would’ve been begging, “Surely there is a plan B!  This cannot be Your plan for my life!”  But it was.  It just wasn’t the plan in its entirety–it was a piece of the plan.  It was a dark and painful season that transformed a cocky 17 year-old boy into the God-fearing governor of Egypt.  In other words, there is a purpose for the suffering!  There is a purpose for all the waiting, and all the painful growth.  It’s not a deviation from the plan; it’s part of it.  In the meantime, you can plant your hope firmly in the fact that callings from God are for His glory and our good.  All along, God loved Joseph.  All along, the plan was intended to glorify God and to bless Joseph, something Joseph himself understood when he told his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen 50:20).

Dear sister (or brother), if you belong to God, you will never fall out of His hand.  You will never be big enough to thwart His will, or ruin His ability to use your life for His glory.  There is always a plan.  Even in the silence.

While you wait for God’s specific calling for your life to come together, the Bible overflows with His clearly revealed general calling for all people.  He has called us to holiness (I Thess 4:7), to share the gospel of Christ (Matt 28:18-20), to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18), to love and forgive like Christ (Jn 13:34, Eph 4:32) to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances (I Thess 5:15-18).  God has called us to Himself.  To a relationship with Him, in which we become like Him by His own power and grace.  He has called us to surrender, to be at peace with the things we do not know because we are at peace with the One who controls them.

Lest you think I am writing this from a position of great comfort and security, I am not.  I am writing it from Joseph’s cell–from that place of quiet and painful patience.  But the more I do what Joseph did–embracing the season, serving the cupbearer and the baker and working with all my heart as unto the Lord–the more I see that this is a place of great freedom.  This is the place where fear runs and hides, because it is the place where you finally believe that nothing can separate you from the love of Christ.  It is the place where character deepens, faith blossoms, and hope overcomes.  It is the very center of God’s will.

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!