Archive for the ‘Love of God’ Category

Gifts Beyond Measure
July 25, 2011

From James:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” – Romans 12:12

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” – Psalm 34:8

Today we received tremendous news from Johns Hopkins. So Young’s brain tumor is no longer “lit up” on the MRI. This means that it does not have evidence of fast-growing cells anymore. Dr. Kristen Redmond, our radiation oncologist, described the MRI as “perfect” and said that the white area on the tumor is “diminished significantly, if not gone.” It turns out that the previous MRI showed a short-term side effect of the radiation that was more an indication of tumor cells being destroyed than new tumor cells growing. The tumor has not gotten smaller and is not expected to, at least from the perspective of the doctors. Also, we continue to pray that So Young’s eyesight will be restored.

So Young has a Grade 2 astrocytoma, and that type of tumor can become fast-growing (Grade 3 or 4), but hers has not. We got a taste of what it might feel like if such a thing were to happen. But more than anything, today we also got a taste of God’s goodness.

Early on, many people dropped everything to drive So Young to Baltimore. Still more people provided meals for us, for almost 8 months straight. Now they have given up food and sleep to pray for us. That is the most tangible and significant gift they could have given: faithfulness, trust in God, self-sacrifice, prayer, and hope. You really bore a great burden with us. We would be lying if we said we were never afraid, but we felt protected and confident all along because of you, our family.

So many good things happened this week. Over fifty people fasted and prayed. Wednesday was So Young’s birthday, and her friends lavished her with love and honor. A couple who has already been so kind to us offered (unsolicited, a surprise to us) to let us use their beach house later in the summer, free of charge. Those are just a few examples from this week among many. And I don’t know why, but I honestly felt like all the good things meant that something bad was going to happen, like God was cushioning the blow for bad news. He was not. He was preparing us for more blessings.

Isn’t that just like God? He isn’t only merciful, holding back punishment from us, born his enemies. He is abundantly gracious, lavishing gifts beyond measure on his adopted children.

How do we respond? How are we going to live our lives differently after God has given us so much? These are questions that So Young and I have been asking ourselves since this all started. We don’t have concrete answers yet, but we know that we want to pour out the same love we have received.

I don’t know that we will be able to keep up.

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Can’t Touch This!
July 12, 2011

From So Young:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

I have been spending these days and months pondering the sweet truth of the Word. I don’t know where I’d be without the hope and joy found in it, but lately the mystery of his love for me.  Why me? Why should He love me? Why would He send his one and only Son to take on a penalty that I/we fully deserve?  It seems that when we need him most, in our darkest hour, He meets us where we are, providing what the world cannot give. He comes to save us, to rescue us from destruction. What a  merciful God! What a loving Father!

The enormity of love He has for me, for us, is like I’m hearing for the first time something I’ve known all my life. Sometimes I think this time of affliction has been a blessing in disguise. God has the best sense of humor, for in my blindness I see him most clearly.  He’s revealing so powerfully that Jesus is the true treasure that I seek. Moth and rust… Ha! Can’t touch this!

Chasing glory!

So Young

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:22-23

P.S.

This is a really inspiring video (Chris Tomlin’s I Lift My Hands) that you should check out:

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=FJ0J9CNU

Race Report: Marine Corps Historic Half 2011
May 17, 2011

From James:

Short version: Sunday was our first non-metaphorical race together. So Young has run many miles alone. On Sunday, she ran 13.1 long miles shoulder-to-shoulder with her best friend. And then fainted. And went to the hospital. (Don’t worry. She’s fine.)

So Young's Bib: 20/20

Long version:

This race started months ago. I figured out the day we needed to start: February 21.  That was just three weeks after radiation ended, but So Young had been walking or running throughout treatment, so she was ready. When training started, she ran three times per week, sometimes less if circumstances didn’t allow or she was too tired. Two short runs, one long run. We even ran together maybe two or three times, culminating in a 10 miler on May 8, one week before the race.

It is very difficult to run all of those miles exclusively on a treadmill. At first, I questioned whether she could run alone outside at all. Could she see cars if she had to cross the street? Would she trip and fall? What if something happened to her far away from home and nobody knew?

I took So Young on a couple of test runs.  I was extremely cautious at first, holding her hand most of the time in case she fell and calling out cracks and curbs before they came. This became very irritating to her. She would tell me to stop, she would stumble, and I would start again. We figured out that the key was for her to lift her feet more. The stumbling stopped, for the most part, although to this day she still trips on irregularities in her path.

So Young also passed the car test. She could see cars driving down the road with 100% accuracy. She just had to pause and look carefully. Finally, she was not allowed to leave the house without her cell phone.

I write the above as if she waited for my approval to run, but honestly, she did not. I would call home and she would be running without my permission many times before I had a chance to test her. She was ready to hit the road.

With almost three months of training behind us, we left for Fredericksburg Saturday morning. There was great complexity in the childcare this time. So Me, Laurie, and Mom and Dad juggled pick-up times and endured much inconvenience to cover for us.

On the day before the race, you go to the expo, get your bib number, and are plied with MCHH gear, fitness products, and sport food samples. There also always seems to be a pull-up contest that I can’t resist (and lose). So Young and I spent the rest of the day on an extended date, carbing and resting up.

We awoke at 4:45 a.m. on Sunday morning. We ate a small breakfast — a bagel and a banana, So Young less so than me — and rushed to WalMart. WalMart is the epicenter of the MCHH. It is very close to the start line, so a lot of people park there and everybody (it would seem) takes a pre-race potty break there.

We didn’t plan to meet anybody before the race, but at WalMart we accidentally ran into many of our friends who were there to run with us or cheer us on: Tongil, KT, Alvin, Sungjin, and John. Paul (So Young’s brother) and Scott (a colleague from work) were also at the race. We saw Paul but never Scott, for reasons that will become obvious later.

Group Shot

The race, which was run by over 5,000 people, started at 7 a.m. So Young ran strong for the entire course but slowed down as it progressed because of pain in her feet that she has had for several years. I think that the after-effects of radiation slowed her down considerably as well. Still, she never walked and was in good spirits until perhaps the last three miles, when the pain became almost unbearable for her.

I have to admit that I was like a giddy tourist for most of the race. I have never run a race this large or this long. I have only seen the MCHH as a spectator (four times). I carried my camera throughout and took pictures so numerous that as I write I wonder what I was thinking while I was taking them. I’ve included a few of the better photos below. This is decidedly not a boring race.

Couple Shot

Looking Very Energetic Before the First Mile Is Done

Big American Flag

American Flag Above the Course Between Fire Truck Ladders

Tongil

Tongil Rushing to the Finish for Reasons that Remain Unexplained

Tiny Pony

Miniature Horse Near the Halfway Point

Reenactment

Poignant Reenactment of Famous Hugh Mercer Statue

Marine and Reenactors in Old Town

A Marine and Reenactors in Historic Fredericksburg

Real Marine

A Real Live Marine Gives So Young Her Medal While Paul (Also a Real Live Marine) Looks On

We Made It

Bling! We Made It!

After the race, we met up with Sungjin, John, Paul, and Alvin. (Tongil had already left because — like a superhero — he was off to his next gig, which was leading his small group.) We had planned to spend some time together afterward, but we briefly parted ways.

Paul, So Young, and I took the very long walk to WalMart, limping along. I told Paul to stay with So Young while I went to get the car. Moments later, I saw Paul running toward my car. He told me So Young had passed out. I parked and came running. People were calling 911. She was still sitting on the ledge but was clearly disoriented. A woman who was standing there happened to be a nurse from Fairfax. She helped to get So Young to the ground and elevate her feet.

Very shortly, an ambulance arrived. So Young was conscious and now was more aware of her surroundings. They asked questions and examined her. The EMT said that, because So Young has a brain tumor, he recommended that she be taken to the hospital as a precaution. He didn’t think it was anything serious, but just in case. They drove her to the hospital in the ambulance (emergency lights off), and Paul and I followed.

We spent what seemed like an eternity at the hospital. The doctor took great pains to explain that we might be there for a long time, maybe even overnight. So Young underwent many tests: a chest X-ray, bloodwork, a CT scan of her head to check for bleeding, pulse and blood pressure monitoring, etc. Everything turned out normal. They pumped her full of fluids. She felt great. Meanwhile, Paul and I were pretty sure we were going to faint too from a lack of food and end up in rooms 24 and 25 next to her.

We were very surprised to see Dad in a short while. I had called him but didn’t expect him to come down. When I called, he was in church and passed a note to JP saying that So Young had fainted. The entire church prayed for her at the end of the service. 

Dad, if you are reading this, I want you to know how much you encouraged my wife — your daughter — on Sunday. She was very heartened that you cared enough to be there. We really needed somebody right then. Paul and I were pretty spent and useless at that point. You were the right man at the right time, as usual. So Young is still talking about how much that meant to her. Thanks also for the candy! We had run out of money for snacks and were starving.

When it was all over and we were on our way home, So Young remarked that it wasn’t great to go to the hospital, but it sure made for a more interesting story. We also continue to feel very loved by our family and friends through all of this. The many phone calls, text messages, and tweets we received proved it to us, as did the dear friends and family who prayed for us and even physically showed up to be with us.

When we arrived at home, there was a big poster on the door signed by all our neighbors, the kids, and Mom and Dad, along with a bunch of balloons. The poster said, “Way to go So Young! So brave. We’re so proud.”

Front Door

Our Beautifully Decorated Front Door

So Young jokes that she wonders if God is making her go through all of this to convince her that she’s popular, an answer to prayers she’d prayed in middle school. I think it’s more likely that He’s making us go through this long and difficult race to prove that, in the end, He loves us.

For By You I Can Run In The Night
March 27, 2011

From So Young:

The best runs are the really hard ones, where you just want to stop.  Your arms are pumping; the legs want to give out from under you.  It’s challenging. It’s sweaty, exhausting! I love it! Makes me feel alive. When it gets really difficult, I often find myself worshipful. I’ll start praying, and then just the right song comes up on my iPod.

This happened just yesterday, during my long run. I was running home after a 6 miler when Run In The Night from the latest Jars of Clay album came up. In no time, I was reduced to soft sobs and tears, as the lyrics pierced my heart with their meaning, especially as it feels like I’m sometimes running in the night.  What’s just around the corner? What’s up ahead in a mile or two? Who knows? Only the Lord knows and that makes me feel safe and secure.

Run In The Night  (Psalm 27)
by Jars of Clay

I know who I am
Once I was nameless, alone and You found me
You formed my knees to bend
You called me beloved
I am perfection

All my failures won’t condemn me
Or leave me paralyzed and bound
And when I’m at my worst
Your love, it finds me first
By You I can run in the night
For by You I can run in the night

For I am such a man
Seized by the power of a great affection
No matter where I am
Peace spreads below me in every direction

Ambassador Bible Church: Truly a Place I Call HOME
March 5, 2011

From So Young:

God is on the move and using Ambassadors to make a powerful impact on me and my family. I have heard that we followers of Christ are his hands and feet, but never witnessed the  real-life demonstration of what this means.  If I hadn’t accepted  Jesus as my Savior long ago, as a young child, I would have fallen on my knees and placed my faith in him in these last few months.  Our brothers and sisters at Ambassador believe in a God of compassion, generosity, service, and above all LOVE.

Many friends outside of our church are amazed when they hear about all the good things you have done and continue to do for me and my family. I’m asked, “What kind of church is this?”

Thank you for being his light and his people.

I consider it a true honor to serve with you, spurring one another on toward love and good deeds.

Thank You, ABC!
March 4, 2011

From James:

Our pastor, John Park, recently sent an e-mail to the congregation asking that we relate any stories we have of how we have seen God working through our church, ABC. For the longest time, I have wanted to write such a post, so I’m going to make my reply to him public…

Dear JP,

When you ask me that question, I don’t even know where to begin. Our ABC family has meant so much to us over the years. One would think it just started four months ago, when we found out about So Young’s brain tumor, but as I reflect on it, God has been working through ABC constantly for the last 13 (almost 14) years.

ABC was the first church So Young and I went to as a married couple in 1997. It is the church in which we have raised our three girls, from when they were in diapers to now, with one of them in the youth ministry today. Through all that time, ABC was a constant source of spiritual nourishment for all of us. I realize now, looking back, that during all the years of relative calm, God was teaching us and preparing us for more difficult times.

ABC was there when So Young’s mom died too early, at age 51, 11 years ago. She lived long enough to see her first grandchild, Shannon, turn one. We were so incredibly touched to see so many of our friends from ABC at the funeral. I had no idea until that time how much it means for people to show up for something like that. So I would say that when ABC showed up, it was as if God showed up, too.

ABC was there when So Young and I went through some very rough years in our marriage. I remember meeting with Kenji right in the thick of it, at my lowest point and the worst moment. He embraced me (literally), and that embrace has embodied the grace of Christ for me ever since. So many men at ABC rallied around me during that time, sharing their own struggles transparently and praying for So Young and me. So Young has a similar story to tell as well. It took her longer to open up, but when she did, she experienced nothing but God’s grace from the women of ABC.

ABC was there when So Young was diagnosed with this terrible illness — literally there. Kenji took the first, tearful phone call. (Well, the second, after Mom.) You (JP) prayed with me the next morning. Rose and Yoon showed up with dinner the next day — and with that gesture, the spiritual feeding became physical feeding, which (unbelievably) lasts to this day.

We became the recipients of such overwhelming compassion from ABC. We got in touch with our neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins through ABC. Hayong set up a schedule for meals and visitations for So Young, and eventually even prayer and fasting. Literally over a dozen people banded together — most of them from ABC — to drive So Young to Johns Hopkins every day for radiation. Amanda and Ashton recorded two songs for us that we blasted on the way to Baltimore. Money for medical bills started pouring in from ABC. Ashleigh rallied PrimeTime to help us with various things, most notably some really intense babysitting. Small groups prayed for us, brought us care packages, and even helped with the Christmas shopping. And honestly, that is a very short list that doesn’t do it justice. People did so much that I often wonder if it is possible to keep track of it all or thank everyone.

We got the message loud and clear! God was telling us that He loved us and would not leave our side. So Young  and I always pray two things: please heal So Young and thank you for showing your love for us so clearly through these people, and especially through ABC.

So you ask how God has worked through ABC? That’s the short answer from my perspective. I could write a lot more.

God bless and thank you, JP, for everything you continue to do…

James

Meditation on God’s Mercy
February 19, 2011

From So Young:

“The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘Therefore I have hope in Him.'”

— Lamentations 3:22-24

It’s been 16 days since my last radiation treatment. Praise Jesus! I’m trying to get back to living a “normal” life.

As I walk each day by faith and not by sight, I am constantly amazed at the God I serve. I see so clearly his tender mercies for me, especially when I don’t deserve it, when I slipped up and blew it in impatience, anger, frustration, etc.

Some nights I am reduced to tears because I’m weak, too frail, and I’ve failed again. With the morning comes the truth that You pick me up again and set my feet on the rock. Mercy is alive!

What a Treasure
February 8, 2011

From So Young:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” — Romans 8:37-39

In the quiet of my kitchen, in the stillness of this place, I prayed for an extra measure of joy and peace today. Suddenly I felt God’s presence filling any empty spaces, and tears fell.

Honestly, your generosity, kindness, and love had me shell-shocked. I remembered this morning and realized how, in big and small ways, my Jesus is meeting my/our needs. In unexpected ways, your love and goodness are transforming me and compelling me each day to put one foot in front of the other in victory.

Thank you dear God for loving us extravagantly. What a treasure you are!

How It Began: Part 3
February 4, 2011

From James:

This is the third in a series of posts describing the events leading up to the biopsy, when we began writing this blog.

After the initial diagnosis, the hours and days that followed were intense and emotional. First, there was a deep sense of shock and sadness — a feeling that So Young’s life was being cut short. We cried and prayed a lot. Second, a sense of urgency took over me. I somehow realized that time was of the essence in terms of selecting a neurosurgeon and pursuing the next steps, whatever they might be.

Just after we got off the phone with the neurologist with the news, I immediately called my mom, who I swear rushed over in 10 minutes for what is normally a 20-minute drive. She was there with us during the hardest time, just as she always is.

I also called Pastor Kenji, who I’m sure was dumbfounded but prayed with us over the phone.

Shannon arrived home shortly. It was a strange situation. She had a slumber party scheduled for that night for her twelfth birthday, but obviously the moment was too intense for us, and there was no way we could handle that. We had to cancel it quickly, which meant that we had to tell her about So Young’s condition. She is bright and asked a lot of questions. We tried to keep it vague but could not. I just remember sitting in her room, telling her the best way I could, and then her sitting on the floor and crying. Nothing prepares you for that.

Dad soon came over, too. We had pizza, and Mom and Dad left.

So Young and I cried ourselves to sleep that night and woke up crying the next day. It’s hard to describe the emotional intensity of that time. When you receive a diagnosis like that, it is as if you are already grieving, but of course you don’t really know the outcome. Also, we became very reflective about life, particularly our life together and as a family. We cried a lot about the kids and the potential of them losing their mom. We cried about losing each other.

Underneath it all, when you go through this kind of thing, you get a very heavy sense of the sovereignty of God that we are all subject to. He can allow whatever hardship in our life that He wants, whenever He wants to allow it. We can’t predict or understand it completely. Still, through all of this, we have realized not just his autonomy and power, but also his love for us.

<< Part 2 | Part 4 >>

Radiation Ends
February 2, 2011

From James:

Today was So Young’s last day of radiation treatment!

We spent Monday through Wednesday in Baltimore on a “retreat” of sorts that we planned early on, anticipating that So Young would be more tired than ever as the treatment concluded. Ending radiation is a huge milestone for us. It means so many things.

Ending radiation means that we have ended the major treatment phase of So Young’s illness. God willing, she will never undergo surgery, chemotherapy, or any other treatment for this illness. If she does, it will mean that the tumor has become fast-growing (i.e., “malignant,” although anything growing in the brain — slow or fast — is malignant), which is something we are earnestly praying it will not do. So this is it. This was the one shot we had to fight the tumor medically, although of course we still believe that God is the physician who can heal it no matter what is done medically. So Young was treated with the maximum dose of radiation (5,400 cGy) for the brain. It is highly unlikely that they would treat her with radiation again, and then only as a last resort. 

Ending radiation also means that our life gets to return to “normal” to some extent, or at least we are hoping so, although we all need to adjust to So Young’s visual impairment, should it continue. The good news is that her eyesight seems to be improving.

Finally, ending radiation means that we have a new perspective on God’s love for us, because we have seen many people standing up for us during this time. If anything, I consider it to be a wonderful argument (albeit on a small scale) against those who would condemn Christianity for the crimes committed in its name throughout history. All of the people who drove us were not related to us by blood, but related to us through Christ. They were acting out of compassion because of their beliefs — because of Christ living in them in a real, supernatural way. They are just as much our family as our parents and siblings.

So what is next? We are meeting with the radiation oncologist (Kristen Redmond) again in six weeks or so for a follow-up MRI and appointment. She said that So Young’s tumor is likely to look bad at that time — “angry” is the word that she used. The swelling caused by the radiation is likely to make it look big and fast growing, which won’t be true. It will take some time for things to subside (six months is the conventional wisdom), and then we will see whether it has become smaller. That is the hope, although most often that is not the case. Still, the very gradual restoration of So Young’s eyesight is a hopeful sign.

After that, we watch and wait. At first, an MRI is performed every three months. After perhaps five years, the MRIs become an annual event. For Grade 2 astrocytomas, we are generally talking years of watching and waiting, hoping that things don’t turn for the worse. This kind of monitoring is not unique to brain tumor patients. Cancer survivors of all kinds endure it with painful regularity.

Today was a very emotional day for us. The last three days, frankly, have been wonderful for us, realizing that this major leg of the race has come to a close.

At Hopkins, every cancer patient gets to bang a gong that they have in the facility when radiation treatment is over. Everybody applauds when you do it. There are cheers and hugs and good wishes from everybody. So Young asked how many times she could hit it. Usually the patients hit it once. The nurse said, “As many times as you want!” So Young must have hit it a dozen times.