[click on image to download] A friend of mine once told me that, all through one of her pregnancies, she prayed God would give her a beautiful little girl with blue eyes and dark hair.
God granted that request, but the little girl was also quite stubborn. She was so headstrong, in fact, that by the time she was two years old, my friend was wishing she’d spent more of her pregnancy praying for her daughter’s character than for her physical features!
Of course, I don’t think praying for a baby is like ordering off a menu, but I do know that God delights in giving us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4-5) — especially when those desires are in line with His own.
While it never occurred to me or my husband to pray for a child’s hair or eye color, or even for a particular…
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In our previous blog, we wrote about our visit to an ob-gynecologist and how we felt that our hope was crushed when she told us that there wasn’t anything she could do about our case and it was hopeless to undergo work-up. We were strongly advised to go for IVF. The doctor even volunteered to personally call our former surgeon to set up an appointment for us. We respectfully declined, telling her that we needed to pray about our next step.
After the visit, I (Joan) poured out my heart once again to the Lord and reviewed every infertility story in the Bible. I recalled a scene from the movie, “Faith Like Potatoes”, where Bro. Angus Buchan declared that the condition for a great miracle of God is impossibility. I also hung on to the verse in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God!” which was an angelic proclamation over fertility issues (Mary’s virgin conception & her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy in spite of old age and barrenness).
Another promise that I held on to was a personal conviction in my heart that at the age of 37, God will make me a mother. If anyone would ask me what’s my basis for believing this, I could only say that it’s a divine impression between me and the Lord. I never attempted to share this to anyone because it may come across as presumptuous. I only shared this to Reuben since I wanted him to trust God with me for the fulfillment of the promise.
As Reuben and I processed the ob-gyne visit, I reminded him about this promise as well as the faithfulness of God through His revelations in the Bible stories I’ve studied. My husband’s heart, however, was now leaning toward adoption. He has seen four years of tears and frustrations from me. It’s with compassion and conviction that he felt that it was time for us to consider opening our hearts and home to an adopted baby.
In my desire to submit to my husband, I agreed with his choice. But I asked that we start the adoption process by January 2015. I told him that God might still intervene in our situation as we waited.
We began telling our family and friends about our decision to adopt so they can start praying with us. We praise God that many were very supportive and helpful about the things we needed to know and prepare for. An excitement in our hearts began to grow as we started embracing our future as adoptive parents-to-be.
But God had a different plan.
During Holy Week I started noticing a delay in my usually-regular period. I initially thought that I must be stressed. The one day delay turned to two, then three…and reached up to ten days. By the time we were in our annual missionary conference in Caliraya, Laguna, I was experiencing vomiting and headaches on a daily basis. These symptoms made me think of the possibility of being pregnant, so I became very careful with my movements and decided to skip sessions when I was feeling sick.
We came home from the conference on a Friday. I asked Reuben to buy me a home pregnancy kit. I decided to wait four more days before taking the test.
But something happened during Saturday. I bled. Once again I felt my hope being crushed. I also felt betrayed. Bawled before the Lord and Reuben. I poured out all the grief in my heart. But in spite of the grief, I forced myself to see my situation from God’s perspective and thanked Him, by faith not feelings, for His sovereign goodness in my life. I claimed Habbakuk 3:17-19, where the writer says:
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even through the flocks die in the field, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.”
This passage comforted me. I started calming down, and the bleeding abruptly stopped. I was able to sleep soundly afterwards.
The next day, Sunday, we decided not to delay any longer and took the pregnancy test. Lo and behold! You can imagine our elation! For the first time in many years, we saw two stripes! Reuben can’t help crying the whole day and the days following this discovery. Another wonderful gift from the Lord was seeing our baby’s heartbeat and healthy condition during our ultrasound the following day.
Here is my personal prayer as a mother-to-be:
“Father in heaven, I cannot fully describe the joy and thanksgiving that I have for what You’ve done on our behalf. We really don’t deserve this beautiful gift of life. This is only by Your grace and sovereign will. You are so good to us, Lord! Thank You for fulfilling Your promise to me. Thank You for being a God who is fully alive and resurrects the hope of His children who put their trust in You. You are victorious and glorified in our circumstance, Lord. This is entirely about You and we take no credit for the miracle of life that You’ve given us. Deepen our love, knowledge, understanding and faith in You as we continue on in our spiritual journey. We love and worship You, Lord, our God and Savior. In Jesus’ name we commit our lives and the people who read our story for Your glory and purposes, amen!”
For three years after my back-to-back surgeries (2010 & 2011), I was able to successfully avoid ob-gyne visits. But there’s this little belief that I shared with the Lord that finally gave me that inner push to have myself checked again. And I’m sharing it here, in a very public post: I believed in my spirit, against all odds & doom-sayings of medical science, that I will become a mother at the age of 37.
So there! My little secret is out in the open.
I am now less than three months shy of turning 37. It’s time. I was so excited for my miracle! To prepare myself, I decided to go for work-up. Went to a Chinese acupuncturist whose clinic was conveniently located near our home.
After this week-long regimen, Reuben & I visited an ob-gyne. We opted for someone who is a Christian & was able to help other women in CCC with their pregnancies.
In the clinic, I began describing my last diagnosis from my surgery. The doctor was kind, but brutally honest. I had a closed tube. My endometriosis was profound. Her recommendation was for us to go back to my former surgeon, who was known in ob-gyne circles as the father of reproductive medicine & surgery in the Philippines. She encouraged me to ask him for a very charitable discount for an IVF procedure. Or to raise support for this, pointing out to us on her wall a picture of a missionary family who was able to raise P6M for their child who underwent liver transplant. In my mind, “raising support” for IVF was out of the question because it’s not the kind of cause that ministry partners would consider investing in. Plus, I have already made the decision three years ago not to pursue IVF out of personal convictions.
With heavy hearts, Reuben & I left the clinic. There was a sense of loss that started welling up from my discouraged heart and found its way as tears in my eyes. That afternoon, I reviewed every infertility story in the Bible to revive my hope. I still wanted my miracle.
But Reuben was determined to move on. He has witnessed four years worth of waiting, tears & disappointment on my part. He’s had enough. It’s time for us to consider other options.
(To be continued…)
Five years ago, my father died due to cardiac arrest.
While he was struggling to stay alive in ICU, I prayed to God that first, I’d be by his side (I was in Manila and he was in Dumaguete that time). Second, that He’d heal my father, and third, that I’d be assigned in my hometown to personally take care of him. I had this beautiful vision of him and I taking an evening stroll in our quiet boulevard, and I claimed that vision.
The night before my scheduled flight, Papa left us.
I have taught about the value of prayer and gave numerous examples to students on how God answered me whenever I called on Him. On that dark night, my faith was severely shaken.
During the days of heavy mourning, the ONLY miracle that I can attest to was that my heart was not embittered toward God who seemingly went deaf to my desperate pleas.
On Papa’s burial day, I fully released a torrent of shameless sorrow, and even exposed anger at the betrayal I felt. My poor family took the brunt of my anger. I felt it was totally unfair that they had the chance to be with him in his final days.
I guess I was liberated to feel the full force of my pain on that day. The officiating pastor encouraged it. He even asked the mourners to understand us as a family as we expressed our sorrow. And he reminded them that even Jesus wept when one of his dear friends died. The Author of Life, the Resurrection, the all-powerful Creator, wept in the face of death! (John 11)
(image from crossinthewilderness.blogspot.com)
The sting of Papa’s death has long been gone. But I still dream about him. I know I will always miss him.
In my father’s death, I learned to surrender to a God who cannot be boxed by my ideals and preferences, and yes even by my most earnest prayers. I also learned not to be afraid to ask God the difficult questions that crowded in my heart. Finally, I learned not to be ashamed to reveal that I can also be very emotionally messed up before fellow mourners who knew I was a missionary. I’m glad they witnessed that hurting side of me, and I hope they realize that properly expressed grief is spiritual, too.
If you are grieving right now, I pray that your loved one’s death will somehow become a turning point toward a shaken and sifted, yet strengthened faith. I pray that with every tear and labored heaving, you’ll find comfort in God’s very real embrace through His Word and His people. I pray that you’ll experience the freedom of being real before the Lord, with all your raw emotions, questions and fears. And finally, I pray that as the days of mourning pass you by, you’ll experience His inner peace, enduring comfort and increasing strength.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
During our ministry assignment in Dumaguete City, we befriended a Korean Lady, Ate Milly, and her kids, Anne & David. They came to our country for the kids to study in Silliman University. Anne became Joan’s student disciple for two years while David was under Reuben for a year. To our joy, we discovered that Ate Milly was a CCC disciple back in her student days in Korea, and she has a sister who’s a CCC missionary, preparing for Korean missions.
With their permission, we’re sharing some stories about our Korean family that we’re sure will warm your hearts and inspire you to live for Christ’s cause.
Milly & Her Family
When Milly came to the Philippines, she determined in her heart to bless through generous giving and simple living. She and her husband (a professor of law in South Korea) adopted a Filipino son and they offered him scholarship to take a medical course in Silliman. The son however took advantage of their kindness and went off-semester. With sadness in their hearts, the Kim family let go of this wayward Filipino son.
During their stay in our country, Milly purchased a property in a province which she entrusted to the care of her adopted son’s father. Then she discovered that even the father was lying about the use of the property. She decided to sell it, but up to now, found no suitable buyer. This has caused a delay in their plan to return home to Korea.
Milly asked the Lord, “God, what is your purpose for prolonging our stay in the Philippines?”
The answer came in the form of Korean boarders in her home, all of whom became her spiritual sons.
Donggyu, Donguk & Bill
Donggyu & Donguk are brothers who come from a family who follow Confucianism. Typical of Korean culture is the high honor they give to elders and the practice of ancestral worship. For an entire family to convert to Christianity, the patriarch must be saved first. Then the rest will naturally follow.
Donggyu & Donguk were the first to become Christians when Milly shared the Four Spiritual Laws booklet with them. At first, they thought it would be difficult for their elders to convert, but on their grandfather’s deathbed, the gospel was shared to him and he accepted Christ. Their grandma immediately followed. As for their parents, they recently got divorced due to major financial problems. Donguk was not supposed to continue schooling after graduating from high school but Milly offered to his dad to sponsor him. This act of kindness touched their dad’s heart. So when Milly presented the gospel to Donguk, he was open and they spent an hour answering his questions (e.g. what is his life for, what happens after death– Confucianism doesn’t offer answers to these basic questions) until he decided to accept Christ into his life. Milly believes that their father will become a Christian soon.
Bill comes from a Buddhist background. As the eldest male child, he enjoys the privilege of being treated with high honor in his family and among relatives. He became a Christian along with the brothers and is undergoing follow up Bible study with Milly. An evidence that he’s growing spiritually is that when we were about to leave Milly’s home, she handed us an envelope. Inside was her financial gift AND Bill’s financial gift. She checked on Bill if he understood what he did, and he responded by saying that it was his offering for God’s work.
Will you pray for them?
Milly and her family are just waiting for David, her youngest son, to graduate on March 2014. Then they will leave the Philippines for good.
–Milly- continual guidance, protection and God’s wisdom upon her as she oversees her physical and spiritual children. Pray that she and her husband will experience God’s presence, power & plan for their lives.
–Grandma Sarah (Milly’s mom)- good health while in the Philippines.
–Ann & David- good career opportunities when they go back to South Korea. Pray that they will submit to & desire God’s plan for them. Ann wants to become a lawyer and has a heart to become a missionary using her profession. David wants to be a historian, and he wants to write about the role of Christianity in shaping Korean history and culture.
–Donggyu, Donguk & Bill- God will lead them to spiritual parents and spiritual community who will help guide & care for them as they pursue their studies in Silliman University. May the seed of God’s Word flourish in their hearts!
Top row: Joan, Anne, Grandma Sarah, Milly, David
Front row: Lee Donggyu, Reuben, Lee Donguk, Bill
This is a video of Mr. Cleo Dongga-as, PTV 4’s General Manager. Pray for him and our team as we continue to pursue a partnership in establishing God’s kingdom agenda in his area of influence.
A short video about the history and ministries of Campus Crusade for Christ International.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!
Philippians 4:4 NLT
Many daily gifts easily slip our attention because they’re so common, plain, ordinary or simple that we forget to be joyful in and thank God for them. No wonder we struggle with envy, discontentment and lack of peace in our hearts!
For me, it’s easy to coddle my restlessness by focusing on my personal desires, dreams and ambitions. It was ok at first because I saw myself as a passionate person who wants to make a difference where God called me. Nothing wrong with that. But there’s something definitely wrong with losing my peace, patience and purpose when things don’t go as expected. It could indicate that my big S (self) is starting to stomp its feet, wanting its own way.
Had a moment of truth one night with my hubby. I shared my frustration of not going on cross-cultural missions (“Why am I still in the Philippines?” I whined). Reuben asked why I didn’t go for it when I was still single because I had all the freedom and opportunity to do that.
There was silence.
Then I admitted, “God didn’t call me.” (I was also about to say, He called me to marry you, Mahal.)
God wanted us to serve as a couple, not as individuals. Happy deal!
I valued listening to the Lord and obeying Him. But I didn’t realize until then that this was one area where I was pushing my dream on Him. It took some time for me to swallow this hard fact.
One day, I finally said to myself, “Joan, why are you always restless? It’s ok to dream big, but do you have to miss out on the potential for joy in what a day brings and in what God allows right now?”
I made a resolve to be intentional in rediscovering every potential for joy in my life. Don’t want to miss out on thanking God for them as they come, by His gracious hand!
Have you ever been badly “bitten” by careless, thoughtless or hurtful words? Are the bite marks deep and soul-ripping?
I had a fresh experience with that today when I received a comment about a personal dilemma that I was powerless to change.
Even after talking the issue over with the person concerned and releasing forgiveness, the wound from the biting words still stung.
Tonight I asked God to help me become spiritually fertile for His Word so that my life would be good ground for heavenly produce. In my recent hurt, how can this be applied?
I can choose to be honest with the person about my hurt and be ready to release forgiveness. I can believe what God’s Word says about who I am in Christ, rather than believing what people or circumstances say about me. I can trust God for healing. I can also learn from the situation by being careful and thoughtful with my own words (kindness), asking for forgiveness when I ‘bite’ (humility) and putting myself in other people’s shoes (empathy).
Biting words hurt, but they don’t have to have the final say over our lives. God can use the marks to further strengthen our faith and identity in Christ.
Will you let Him?