Archive for October, 2011

A Good and Perfect Gift
October 24, 2011

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” — James 1:17

From James:

So Young’s brain tumor is shrinking! We had a follow-up MRI today that seems to show a significant reduction in its size, the first ever since the diagnosis almost a year ago. We pressed Dr. Redmond to quantify it, and she said that if she was forced to guess, she would say that it has been reduced in size by 30%. This is amazing to us. They have been telling us all along that it is unlikely that it would shrink because of the type of tumor (an astrocytoma). I asked Dr. Redmond again today, and she said that it is possible for them to shrink but atypical. The doctors have always said that if it stopped growing, we would be happy with that. But to shrink? And this much? We are flabbergasted. We have prayed for it to shrink but never really expected it to, and certainly not by 1/3 in three months! It seemed like too much to ask or expect.

So thank you for your prayers. And continue to pray! Pray audaciously. Ask that it will go away entirely and that So Young will be completely restored.

As a footnote, they are saying that these are preliminary results and that the official radiologist’s report will be released tomorrow. But this is the first time they have really made a big deal about that report. Even the technician was talking about it as soon as So Young got out of the MRI room. It seems as if they noticed something significant right away. Dr. Redmond then also looked at the MRI itself and confirmed what the preliminary report was saying. They said they will tell us if the final report is any different, but that seems unlikely.

So Young and I are overjoyed, as are the girls and all of our family and friends. I overheard and participated in some very joyous telephone calls today. It shows me just how much those who love us don’t just share in our sadness, but in our high points as well.

This miracle comes as a surprise to us, even as we realize that we have nothing to be surprised about. We asked. Our Father gave. So we won’t stop asking.

We won’t be back at Johns Hopkins until the cold month of January. We’ll be having three-month follow-ups for the next two years. At this rate, with the improvements we are seeing to So Young’s eyesight, she might be able to drive herself there!

God is Good All the Time!
October 23, 2011

This is So Young’s testimony, which she presented at the Women’s Fall Tea at Ambassador Bible Church yesterday.

We come into the world so full of hope, filled with child-like faith, dreaming up big dreams. The kind that grownups chuckle at, that would make them roll their eyes. And somewhere along the way, we grow up and we forget about our dreams. Somewhere along the way, our hope and faith get strangled out. In a sense, we forget who we are. We forget that we belong. We start believing the devil’s lies. The lie that we’re no good. The lie that we’re not good enough. Let me turn it around now and confess that the “we” in this story is really me.

I have always said that I was born a Christian, because I don’t remember a time I didn’t believe in Jesus. I was raised up in a Christian home. There was my father, a devout Southern Baptist minister, my wonderful mom, two older brothers, So Me my sweet younger sister, and Paul my spoiled baby brother. I was the “monkey in the middle.”  

I grew up in the Church. It was my second home. I grew up on “Jesus loves me, this I know/For the Bible tells me so” and “God is so good.” Without a doubt, I will die (God willing, a long time from now) with those two songs in my heart and on my lips. I grew up hearing my mom and dad singing spiritual songs and hymns at home and went to church every Sunday for more. Sounds like an idyllic life? I don’t want to air out dirty laundry here, so I won’t be  going into details. I’ll just say we were dysfunctional with a capital “D”! Immigrating from Korea was hard for all of us.  I came to the states when I was 1½. Communication was tough because of the cultural and language barriers in our home. Much of my childhood was spent in confusion and misunderstanding, because the world outside my home was so very different. Who am I? Where do I belong? I didn’t understand the critical attitudes of the Korean culture. I faced constant scrutiny over what I looked like, how well I was doing in my schooling, was I going to make my dad proud and become the piano virtuoso he had hoped for? No. Not! Dream on. Much of my early life was spent in confusion. I felt scared. I felt trapped, at times depressed. It was dark, but I still had Jesus, and He was my light. My once innocent dreams turned into desperate longings to escape, to be free!

Since then, so much has happened, good and bad. I got married to James, the love of my life, got pregnant nine months later, and welcomed our firstborn, Shannon, who by the way is turning 13 in a couple of weeks. My mom died of a stroke nine days after Shannon’s first birthday. That was so heartbreaking. I still miss her very much. We bought a house in Woodbridge. We had two more  precious daughters, Lindsay and Audrey. So much has happened, so quickly. Life was just happening, and then it just seemed to come to a screeching halt. I hit a huge bump in the road. My marriage was being tested. James and I started having marital problems. It plunged me into a pool of dark despair. I turned into someone I hardly recognized anymore. I was full of bitterness and rage. I was angry at the world, angry at God, but mostly angry with myself. I thought finding my prince would mean “happily ever after.” I thought it meant I had value. I thought it meant I belonged, that I was finally good enough. I was so naïve and maybe trying to cover up my wounds, my brokenness.

I spent the past six years just trying to survive. I was depressed and on some days it was very bad. I couldn’t see the good things that God had given me. There was little joy and I questioned whether God was good. On the surface I acted like everything was fine, but on the inside I was slowly dying.

I remember asking God, “What difference do you make? I can’t even feel you. Are you even here? If you are I need to hear from you now!” I closed my eyes and prayed and asked God to speak to me: “Please help me make sense of all of this.” At that moment I saw the numbers 2 and 25. OK, what was I supposed to do with that? So I started to do that close-your-eyes-and-flip-through-the-Bible-and-point-to-a-verse-thing. I don’t recommend doing that, but it worked for me this time! My finger fell on this verse: “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” Can you guess where it’s from? It’s from Joel chapter 2, verse 25.God is so good. I claimed that verse as God’s special promise to me.

Just as a reminder to myself, I bought a plaque at a women’s retreat to hang over my front doorway. It says, “God Keeps His Promises.” So in the midst of a lot of heartache, depression, and counseling, God reached out to remind me that He’s still my refuge and strength, that he is the light in my darkest night. God had been saying what I knew all along that HE makes all the difference in me. It’s in these hard moments, times of loss, times of sorrow, times of affliction, times of devastation, that our faith is put to the test. It’s when the devil wags his dirty little finger in your face for the thousandth time, saying, “Who do you think you are? You’re a nobody. You’re not good enough. No one loves you. You’re all alone. Where’s God now?  Is He even here?”

It was around this time that I rediscovered running, something I had done on and off throughout my life. Before I knew it, I had run my first race — a ten miler — and eventually I ran four consecutive marathons and many other races.

I realize now that God gave me running as a gift to help me cope through those tough times. It’s true that running makes you feel stronger, and the miles and finished races give you a sense of accomplishment (the “bling,” the medal you earn is pretty nice too). But it was more than that for me. Many times while I ran, I felt a deep sense of communion with God, a joy that was much more than a runner’s high. I also found a community of support among other marathoners, an extended group of friends that continues to build me up to this day.

In late September/early October of last year, 2010, I was sitting on my living room floor organizing my coupons. I was questioning what my purpose was in this life. So is this all? I’m just a mom and a wife. Am I just a cook, a cleaner, a limo service, a nurse to bandage up cuts and scrapes? A referee to break up fights? Master underwear folder? Bad attitude! Surely I was made for more than this! I wanted to make a difference for Christ. As a Christian, I knew God made me for his good purpose and plan, but I didn’t know what it was. So there I was, organizing coupons when I realized that they were blurry. I told James that my eyes were acting funny. At one point later on, I almost drove into oncoming traffic. In late October, I almost completed my fifth Marine Corps Marathon, but I had to stop after 18 miles because I couldn’t see and just didn’t feel right.

We suspected my antidepressants were the cause, as blurred vision was listed as a side effect. I slowly weaned off of them. It didn’t help. The neurologist didn’t think it was a “brain thing,” but on November 12, I went in for an MRI as a precaution. Within a couple of hours, it happened: the phone rang. It was the doctor reporting that I had a brain tumor, most likely a glioma. We were in shock. We both cried, and I kept asking the poor doctor over and over again, “Am I gonna die?” Yeah, like he knew. The diagnosis turned my life upside down. The news was unreal. I never thought something like this would happen to me.

The days and weeks following the diagnosis were dark for me, emotionally and physically. James and I cried a lot, thinking about our life together and as a family, and how it might be cut short.  I had to adjust to my vision loss, which became so bad that at a certain point I couldn’t walk very far without stumbling. Then came the treatment, which involved driving hours to and from Baltimore from Woodbridge and having my head strapped to a table while my brain was irradiated. I was constantly taking one medication or another. I couldn’t stay awake or couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to eat or was voraciously hungry. A few times, I had headaches so painful that I found myself calling out to my mom in agony.

But in the darkness there was light. God did so much to heal my relationship with James during the months after diagnosis. Day by day, He worked to restore what was broken between us. Also, I was completely surrounded with the love of God from my friends and family, like a loving embrace from our heavenly Father. It is impossible to list or describe everything people did for me. An army of people drove me to Johns Hopkins for six weeks, made meals for us several times a week for eight months, took me grocery shopping, bought our kids Christmas presents, sent us cards and care packages, and most importantly, prayed for me and spent time with me to encourage me.

Even my running buddies have pulled together to support me. One of them, a Marine named Jimmy, is running the Marine Corps Marathon for me next Sunday. He’ll be wearing a shirt that has my running nickname “Ruby” on it, so that people will be cheering me on for the whole race: “Go Ruby, go!”

Those are just a few things people have done and continue to do for me and my family. If there is anything I’m convinced of after this experience, it is that God loves me deeply, as unworthy as I have often felt to receive his love.

We’re coming up on a year since my diagnosis. It has been an incredible year.  It has been a rollercoaster ride, but through it all I have never felt more loved. How could it be that this lady who has cried so many tears through her life is now laughing at the days to come?  Hello!? I have a brain tumor. You’d think I’d be rolled up in a ball over in the corner, but through this affliction God has shown his goodness to me and my family. The love and care I have received during this time is a testament to God’s unfailing love and goodness. I want to live each day for him, making each day count.

That day in November was a day of awakening. God used that day to transform my life and to heal my brokenness, to heal my past hurts, my regrets, my family, my heart. He’s my healer. I wouldn’t trade this year for anything. It’s because of HIM, I know who I am. It’s because of HIM I finally know where I belong. It’s because of You, Jesus, that I am more than “good enough.” Thank you for giving me a renewed purpose that extends even beyond this earthly life. I’m so grateful that we have a God who “keeps his promises.” God makes all the difference in the world. He IS the difference. If you have hope in him then you have everything, lacking nothing at all.

I don’t know what God has in store for me. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know this. I know that He loves me and what He has for me is always  good. I can cling to God and trust He has good for me because I love him. I’m choosing to walk each day in faith, praying for God to heal my brain, praying for a miracle! Until that day, I’ll keep on trusting and serving him. I’m not waiting for my vision to be restored. I’m not waiting for a clean bill of health. The time is now, just as I am. Serving him in the home as a wife, serving him as a mom. What an honor! I’ll joyfully fold the endless loads of laundry, serving him wherever He leads, telling everyone what He has done for me, running this new race He has set before me.

“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.” – Romans 8:28

Big Weekend for So Young
October 21, 2011

From James:

This is going to be a big weekend for So Young. On Saturday, she will be speaking at our church’s annual Women’s Fall Tea. She has been keenly focused on preparing for the event for the past few weeks, writing and revising her testimony, which is currently over 30 pages printed, which sounds like a lot until you consider that the font is 40 points! So Young is both excited and nervous. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her to tell her story to so many people. She’s praying, and hopes that you will pray, that God will use her testimony to make a difference in people’s lives and for his glory.

This Monday (October 24) is going to be another follow-up MRI and appointment at Johns Hopkins. The follow-ups are always stressful for So Young, although we are hopeful that the progress in her vision means that something good is happening. Again, we covet your prayers.

We’ll be sure to update the blog early next week. I’ll tweet something on Monday afternoon after we get the MRI results. I’m hoping for a boring tweet!

Also, there is another issue of The Irregular Prophet in the works, if we can only get our editor-in-chief to wrap it up! Middle school can be so demanding.