Archive for the ‘Praise’ Category

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

iUpdate on iSoYoung
September 24, 2011

From James:

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or have talked to us recently already know some of this, but I wanted to post it on the blog.

The biggest news is that So Young is “going public” in saying that her vision has improved. That means she’s convinced that there has been a real, lasting improvement in her eyesight. She still can’t see well enough to drive, has difficulty reading normal-sized letters on a page, etc. She struggles, but the struggle isn’t as great.

We sincerely believe this is an answer to your prayers. Paul Miller writes that the way we expect answers to prayer is analogous to when you describe Disney World to a child. They want to go the next day! We know that our Father might not answer all our prayers immediately, but we keep praying and waiting patiently nevertheless.

The other great news is that So Young has started her own small group. (A small group is a gathering of people committed to learning about God, praying for each other, and becoming more like Jesus.) I’m so proud of her for this. She told me that God was saying, “Why wait?” Why wait to serve until your vision is restored? This is so convicting for me: a person who can barely see is taking on a task that generally requires decent eyesight and that most people are reluctant to do anyway. She says she also wants to “give back” some of what has been given to her. She meets with three of her best friends, Jin, Grace, and Laurie, every other Friday.

Technology, specifically the iPad and Audible.com, have been a big help to So Young in this endeavor. I downloaded the ebook version of the book they are studying (A Praying Life  by Paul Miller) to the iPad. She opens it in the Kindle app, which enables her to zoom into the text. Touch screen devices are much easier to use for visually impaired people than mouse-and-keyboard-based computers. Reading is possible but laborious, however, so she also listens to the audio book on her iPod. She uses so much Apple technology, maybe we should call this an iSmallGroup…

A few days ago So Young fell down the stairs. This was caused by a combination of bad eyesight and wearing socks on polished wooden stairs. I was right behind her but of course couldn’t stop her fall. All the way down maybe four or five steps, her left leg was extended and her right leg was bent back. Her right leg just above the shin hit every step in succession with the full weight of her body — BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG. It was shocking to watch. I was sure she had broken her leg and possibly damaged her knee because of the impact with which she hit each step and the way her right leg was contorted behind her. But in a further testament to her toughness, she’s fine. Only bruised. I wonder if those years of running strengthened her bones. We’re grateful that she was upright the whole time and didn’t tumble and hit her head. She went running a couple of days later, of course!

The “new normal” of our lives continues, as the issues of the Irregular Prophet attest. School has started, and So Young walks the younger kids up and back most days, unless the weather is bad, and then Mom helps. Laurie drives Shanny to and from the bus stop. Mom is godlike in her ability to be everywhere when we need her, taking So Young shopping, picking the girls up during thunderstorms, driving Audrey to soccer practice, and granddaughter sitting all the time. We continue to be grateful for our big family, which consists of people far beyond those related to us by blood.

Audrey's Kicking the Soccer Ball

Audrey Kicks the Ball During Her First Soccer Game Ever

A couple of prayer requests for others:

  • Pray for my cousin Elizabeth. She recently lost her baby. We mourn with her and her family for their loss.
  • Pray for KT and Elaine. They left for Cambodia a couple of days ago to serve as teachers at an orphanage. They are newlyweds and will be there for two years. We asked for your prayers for Elaine recently for a tumor they had found. She is cancer free.

Happy Birthday, So Young and Mom!
July 20, 2011

From James:

Happy birthday to my two favorite ladies in the world! (For those of you who don’t know, my mom and So Young share the same birthday.)

I hope you enjoy your day. You deserve much honor today and every day.

So Young, you are a gift from God to me, the girls, and so many others. When I read this passage recently, it really resonated with me and how grateful I am for you: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22). You surpass them all. Also, the amazing thing about you is that, no matter how many years go by, you still seem so young! (That joke just never gets old…)

Mom, I “arise and call you blessed.” You continue to be an unsurpassed blessing to all of us. The way you live your life — in service, love, and self-sacrifice, without complaint, just striving to follow Christ — is so worthy of our God. Every day you show so much love for us in so many ways.

 

 

So Young and the Girls on SY's B-day

So Young and the Girls after She Opened Her Presents on Her Birthday

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I hope everybody will join me in praying for our friend Pannie’s mom, who is very, very ill with stomach cancer. She hasn’t eaten in two days and is sleeping constantly. Things seem dire, but we know God can do all things. So Young and I have been heavy-hearted this week with all of the needs we see around us, but we’re praying for many people and lifting them up to God.

At least 30 people have signed up to pray and/or fast for So Young this week as we await a follow-up MRI on Monday. This is an amazing blessing to us. So Young says that she feels a lot of peace, even more so because of the prayers being lifted up for her.

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

Anticipating Monday and Typical Kindnesses
March 20, 2011

From James:

So Young’s first follow-up appointment and MRI after radiation treatment takes place tomorrow. I would say that we are waiting for this appointment eagerly, but it is with mixed emotions. The doctor has already told us that the tumor will likely look “angry” on the MRI, so it probably won’t be encouraging to look at, although of course it might also have retreated by that time.

Meanwhile, So Young has increased her dose of steroids to 2 mg after weaning to 1 mg, and now she is not experiencing headaches in the morning, with seems to prove that the headaches were the result of radiation-induced swelling. She is sleeping a lot more these days, almost to excess, as she was starting to do in the weeks preceding radiation treatment. I suspect that it is caused by the tumor itself. Some types of brain tumors are known to cause tiredness. Hers is in the thalamus, which affects the sleep cycle. And then there is the fact that she just recently got blasted with radiation, which can be tiring.

Yesterday was a typical Saturday at the Gage household — typical primarily in the kindness we received. Dad, Ka-loon and Sam (from church), and Ricky (our neighbor) came over to fix a falling fence in the backyard, which turned out to be a project within a project within a project that won’t be entirely complete for a few more weeks. Dad was the foreman for the job, always more than up to the task (he was made for this kind of stuff). Everybody gave many more hours than they probably anticipated but seemed glad to help.

While they labored away, we went to So Me and Jeremy’s house for Jacob’s 100 day celebration, a Korean tradition, and had tasty Korean food. Later, So Young watched Jacob and Nathanael while their parents went on a date.

Just before we left for the party, we discovered that the minivan was not operational. After a failed attempt to jump it, we almost had it towed, but the tow truck driver got it running again, so I was able to drive it to the repair shop. It could be as simple as a necessary tune-up.

In the evening, Justin and Lauren drove all the way from Arlington with a delicious, home cooked dinner for us. We invited them to stay and help us eat the meal they prepared. We have done this a couple of times with people who brought food, and the reaction we get is priceless. It’s an awkward suggestion. The (understandable) reaction is sort of like this: “You want us to eat the food we brought for you?” But it turned out well, allowing us to get to know this delightful couple much better than we otherwise would.

We talked a lot about our years at Ambassador Bible Church, which will be 14 this summer. So Young and I later reflected that we saw ourselves in them, as a young couple just starting out.  We didn’t know how things would turn out then — three kids, a lot of ups and downs, best friends even now. We still don’t know how things will turn out in a lot of ways, but we know that despite all the change, good and bad — like Lindsay prayed last night before bedtime — “God is good, all the time.” Yesterday was still more proof.

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!