Charlotte Louise and Esther Grace – God’s shining glory.

NICU Pic Smiles


A New Year, A New Us

happy new year

Lots of people take the opportunity at the start of a new year to make resolutions – commitments to certain new actions; Nam and I have never been these people.  However, the opportunity of a fresh vantage point is a neat thing.  So, in our family, we have a discussion time of what challenges we anticipate facing in the year ahead.  We commit those to the Lord in prayer asking Him to go before us in all of it.  And, this year, we’ve decided to add a verse for the year: a family motto, so to speak, that will call us back to how we want to approach challenges.

Here are some of the challenges we anticipate this year:

  • The logistics of having two new babies to care for.  How do we balance being the sole care providers for them with the reality that they are not to be the ultimate center of our household?  (Especially in the face of being Isaac and Samuel’s parents…how do we not just crumple under our enormous love for these girls?)  What things can we do now that set a good precedent for how we want to later approach things with them?
  • The financial change of having two new mouths and bottoms to tend to, as well as the decision about being a one- or two-income household.
  • A changing marriage: certainly our marriage has been colored by infertility and loss for so many years that having that veil lifted will be a new chapter.  Pregnancy has been a unique time, too.  We look forward to restoring a new intimacy to our marriage, but we don’t want to be naïve that our hearts will not automatically and wholly be pulled to girls, girls, girls!  We remember how our own hand-holding changed when Annie came into our home – and she’s just a puppy!
  • Extended family dynamics: these are always interesting, but we love our families so much that we wanted to ask the Lord to intervene.  As our family has changed, so has our extended families’ lives changed.  With the addition of Charlotte and Esther, our interactions and roles with them will be different.
  • Nam has a business opportunity that we would really like to pursue.  The particulars may be challenging for a number of reasons.
  • Nam will be taking on a formal leadership role as deacon at our church.  We expect this to paint a different type of target on our family’s back for Satan.  We want to be vigilant of this, but stand firm in serving where God has called us.
  • For me specifically, I feel the need to be precious in a new way.  For so long, I’ve been a medical pincushion, a radiation sponge, or a baby vessel.  I’d like to be just me and feel treasured just that way.  Plus, while my stretch marks might be beautiful to some now (NOT me!), I’m sure they’ll be far less appealing without sweet little girls kicking them from the inside.  I admire my friends who call their stretch marks victory, but I am not in that category of gals.
  • For Nam specifically, he needs to feel treasured and honored as the leader of our family – not just as a financial provider or worker bee in our house.  On our list of challenges, this one holds a top spot.  A husband respected as head keeps the family well-led.
  • Finally, a changing relationship with the Lord will occur.  He is taking us out of the desert and into the Promised Land.  Not only do we not want to forget the intimacy we’ve had with Him in the desert, but we do not want to follow the steps of our forefathers and forget all He’s done for us.  The luxurious amount of time we’ve had to steep in God’s word is certainly going to lessen as bottles and diapers become necessary, but that doesn’t change our own need for feeding.  So, continuing to relate to the Lord but on a new plane will be another top priority.

Our family motto for the year comes from Philippians 4 – And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

We want our family to be to others as the Philippians were to Paul: concerned, caring, knowing what it is to be in need, and knowing what it is to have plenty.  And at the end of all of that, we want to assert trust in our Lord that He will meet all of our needs.  When babies cries are never-ending, we want to expect Christ’s soothing.  When the Dave Ramsey budget isn’t balanced, we want to have the peace of Christ’s coming provision wash over us.  When I am covered in two day old puke crying at being overwhelmed and longing for being back in my classroom (Ha!), I want to remember God’s provision both past and future.  When Nam comes from coaching to a filthy home requiring more work, we want to remember and ask God to meet the needs of his heart.

And maybe none of those things will happen.  Maybe we will be a storybook family.  But either way, we know that God will meet all of our needs (even in unexpected ways) because of Christ, just as He has always done.

Happy New Year to you and your family And our God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.

Aaron Shust

My Savior, My God – great video of Aaron Shust performing this modified hymn

To Be Continued…

Two years ago this week, Nam and I were pregnant with our precious miracles, Isaac and Samuel.  Two years ago this week, we experienced cruel pPROM and my waters broke way too early.  We had a few days to say goodbye to our boys and to prepare for their births.

Two years ago this week, our sons were born and died.

What a horrible thing to write.  What a horrible thing to experience.  And it really is and really was.

If that were the end of the story, Nam and I would not be able to go on.  We would be forever stuck in the despair, the muck, the mire of coming home to an empty house with an empty womb.  We would harden our hearts, feed bitterness, and settle for crumbs.

Thank the Lord, their death is not the end of the story.

What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”[a]
the things God has prepared for those who love him—

That will be the end of the story – an eternity not only with our sons, but with our God.  And, I have to trust Him and those ahead of me that our suffering will be redeemed.  God always redeems His children.  No doubt He’s already redeemed Isaac and Samuel.

We love our sons; we miss them desperately.  The current joy of being pregnant with our twin daughters now doesn’t do a thing to erase any of the storm we went through.  But, we can and do recognise and praise God for what He’s done in just two short years through our sons’ passings:

  • Our marriage is strengthened.   Without God’s faithfulness and care, we would have crumbled and walked away from each other.  Oh, we probably wouldn’t have divorced, but we would have worked awful hard to unwind ourselves from any unity and simply become tolerable roommates.  Instead, we have been melted together in the fire and forged stronger as one.  Who knows where Nam stops and I start.  And we’re glad for it.
  • A medical ministry has been formed that has already helped save many babies’ lives.  In losing Isaac and Samuel, I was able to discover the silent killing condition called Cervical Insufficiency.  God led me to find out about the options of medical intervention for that, including the cure of a TAC (transabdominal cerclage).  Not only is TAC the reason that I can carry these precious girls now, but I’ve been able to share with women all over the world about it and watch their babies be born full term and healthy because of this!  And, of course, I am in contact with hurting mamas and papas who’ve lost their little ones.  I get to share love and gentleness with them.
  • Nam and I have made lifelong friends.  We have formed deep connections not only with others like us, but with people whom – if our paths ever crossed – we probably would have moved right by them.  Instead, we’ve been able to invest in meaningful friendships that touch every part of our lives.
  • Our faiths are strengthened.  God says that trials do this to us: test us to show the purity of our faith.  He has done that here.  Our character has been shaped.  Impurities have been sifted.  Compassion, grace, gentleness, courage, and an unmovable stance for the Lord have grown.
  • Finally – and perhaps the most impacting – we know our Father more intimately.  He chose to share with us the most vulnerable part of His heart: what it’s like to lose a son.  That grief and hurt can’t be explained to anybody who hasn’t walked it.  And, God gave us a picture of the path He chose to walk solely for a relationship with us.  We’ve seen and felt how much our Father loves us through His sacrifice of Christ.  We truly understand our value as simply being called His and nothing we do adds anything.  God is always faithful and will always be faithful.  We have nothing to fear ever the rest of our lives.  We learned this at the high cost of Christ and the high cost of our sons.  And we cling to it and stake our lives on it.

As we go through this week, we are surprised by the difficulty of remembering.  Satan surely has not left us alone – not that we are surprised by that – and his attacks are becoming sneakier and more stealth.  It’s hard to be the ones who remember every detail, hard to be the ones who mostly remember at all.  It’s hard to see the lack of our sons’ impact on others whom we thought were forever touched…not a slight at our sons, but just the reality of sin and the hardness of others’ hearts.  It’s hard to remember the ugly comments made to us by those close and feel the distance since created. For me, it’s mostly hard to remember the single tear falling from my husband’s face Thanksgiving morning as he crumpled under the weight of grief.

We’re incredibly thankful for the friends and family who have called and written to share that they are remembering with us.  Thank you for not being afraid to face the hard things with us.

We praise God this week for comforting us and for highlighting joy after the storm and for providing rescue to our sons forever and ever.  And we praise Him for keeping the story end open to something wonderful we cannot yet imagine.

October 15 – Infant Loss Awareness Day

I remember my sweet Isaac and Samuel for today’s Infant Loss Awareness, but I light only one candle today. My candle represents Jesus Christ, their Savior and Lord, and mine and Nam’s, too.

Because of the light of Christ, we have healing and joy over our sons. We have the promise that they are in Eternity at our Father’s feet, and that we will be with them in but a breath.

All my sweet sisters who know this heartache and joy, I am honored to call you sister and I praise God for our connection and the way He works through all of you! You and your children are a beautiful part of my life. XX

And God does it again…

Hello, 2nd tri, we meet again. This time I will beat you to a pulp thanks to God’s surgical hands on A.F. Haney and my TAC!
Twins coming…Feb 2013 (Mmm…or Jan!)
Sisters, there is HOPE, regardless of your situation!  The God of all Creation has the final say in all things…including peace that surpasses all understanding, regardless of your circumstances!

Debt Free!

Take a look at that picture.  It’s a screen shot of my last credit card account.  ‘Debt Free’ is now stamped across our personal finance files.  There’s such relief…freedom…elation that comes from that label!

Not only are we not dragged down by owing others, we are freed up to pursue other things!  A full emergency fund of six months expenses.  A full retirement fund of at least $10 million dollars.  Kids’ college tuition paid for.  Next house purchased with cash.  Dream vacations paid for up front – and not eating at McDonald’s only while on vacation!  (hold on, let me pick my jaw up from that realisation!) And not just stuff for us, but for others.  We will shortly be able to give generously to help others adopt, seek medical treatment, send their kids to school, eat, pay the electric company, pay a mortgage, get a root canal.  And on and on and on.  What couldn’t we do financially?  NOTHING!  Without this debt on our backs, we can take our money anywhere.

Financial peace.  That’s what being debt free has brought us.  Financial peace and financial freedom – the freedom to do what is best for us and others.  We will even shape the way our children think about money.  They get the blessing of starting off with financial peace!  Just think what a difference that could’ve made to our generation!

It’s odd to me what a prevalent way of life debt has become to this country.    At least it’s odd to me now.  Before our financial paradigm shift from the Dave Ramsey course, I thought debt totally normal.  I didn’t quite realise the heaviness of my future being accounted for already.  I was always working to pay the past.  Oh, sure, sometimes life would come up and it’d be a kick in the teeth to take out a new loan or put something else in Citibank’s file, but mostly I carried that debt strapped on well – it wasn’t going anywhere!

The paradigm shift happened slowly (well, okay, in a matter of a few weeks, but it wasn’t, like, instantaneous).  But it definitely happened.  I called the credit card company to cancel our last card.  The lady asked why and I told her to pick a reason: we’re debt free, we’re cash only, we’re not working for your company anymore, Dave Ramsey said so.  Instead of a pat response, she squeaked, “Really!?!”

Then, the worker at this credit card company proceeded to ask me how we did it, who’s Dave Ramsey, and how can she get out of debt and have financial peace?  She soaked up everything and emphatically thanked me before we ended our call.  Another life changed.

I am debt-free.  Thank you, Dave.

It’s not unnoticed in our home that this debt status change is happening on Good Friday and Easter weekend – the time we recognize Jesus dying on the cross and then rising from the dead.

It’s the exact same thing:  Paid in full.  Debt free.  Peace.  Freedom.

Just like debt is the dominant mindset in our country, sin is the way of all humanity.  While God created us perfect in His image to have a forever relationship with Him, He also gave us choice.  We all choose the wayward path.  We all choose the selfish way.  We all choose the opposite of what is best for us.  We are marred.  Dirty.  Sinful.   “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one ….” (Rom 3:10)  We all fall short of the glory of God.

And what does sin cost us?  What’s the interest rate?  What’s the principal?  Sin costs everything.  Paul tells us in Romans that “the wages of sin is death.”  (Rom 6:23)  Sin is a debt we can never repay.  We can never be good enough or do enough good works.  Sin demands perfection as payment, and we’ve already tripped the breaker on that.  It dirties us and we cannot then be around a holy, perfect God while carrying that debt.  Which we can never get rid of.  So, what does sin cost?  It costs us an eternity in Heaven with the Lord.  It costs us a life of peace and joy right now.  The debt of sin weighs us down all the way to Hell.  Forever.

But not for me.

The debt of my sin is cleared.  Somebody else paid it.  He is Jesus.

He knew I couldn’t pay it.  He knew that I’d owe it.  He had this plan all along – since before the beginning of time.  He didn’t even ask me – like trying to make an exchange such as He’ll do this if I do that.  He just did it.  He is God.  He is perfect.  That only acceptable payment for sin: perfection.  And He sacrificed Himself to have my slate wiped clean.

I am a sinner.  I incurred a debt I could not pay.  Jesus stepped in and paid it for me – in full.

He paid it for you, too.  All you have to do is know that you personally owe this debt because of your sin and then ask Jesus to apply his debt forgiveness to you.

“For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16)

That’s debt payment.  And, it’s forever.

That’s soul peace.  That’s soul freedom.  You see, once that debt is lifted, peace floods in.  Hope reigns in the heart.  Freedom arises to pursue pure and righteous things.  Future generations are blessed.

And, just like I shared my elation with the credit card lady, my joy and elation extends to you.  This gift is free.  You can have your debt removed.   Just ask Jesus to stamp you Paid in Full. 

That’s what Easter is: it’s when Jesus paid the bill and made me debt-free.

I am debt-free.  Thank you, Jesus. 


The King and I

This gallery contains 1 photos.

I’ve found myself quite temperamental lately.  And this isn’t really normal for me; I’m usually pretty laid back.  At first, I thought it was hormones (not that that’s any excuse), but the month has come and gone and I just … Continue reading

Lost & Found

Yesterday my little puppy girl went missing.  It’s quite a harrowing experience to come home and discover missing affection.  We talked with all our neighbors, put up signs, and did a lot of praying.  We said over and over to the Lord, “We know she is your creature.  You know where she is.  Please care for her, comfort her, keep her out of harm’s way, train her in this, and please please bring her home!”

All night I sat with my brow furrowed and staring off.  My husband said, “You’re trying to spiritualize this, aren’t you?”

“Yes!  What does God want us to learn from this?  What?  What?  What????”

Nam wisely pointed out to me that I needed to chill out and remember that we live in a fallen world and crappy stuff happens, afterall.  Yes, God will use this for us, but it doesn’t mean He made this happen.  Oh….duh!  In my obsession to figure it all out, I’d forgotten that pretty important part.

I woke up every hour of the night and prayed for my little Annie, and during one of those times, God’s love startled me:  Jesus cares five million billion gazillion more times about one of us wandering astray than I do about Annie missing.  I was willing to go to the ends of the Earth to find my girl – my heart was completely saturated with loving and missing her.  God’s love, then, is unfathomable in it’s totality.

I am comforted to know that not only does our Savior love us so much more, but He’s much more capable of finding us!  Unlike Annie, we aren’t running around the neighborhood – or even the world.  It’s our hearts that run fast away.

King David aptly describes God’s abilities in Psalm 139

You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Annie’s time away probably started off as an adventure.  When darkness and hunger came – or maybe it was busy cars speeding by – she was frightened, confused, lonely and desperate.  And the more she searched for escape, the further she wandered from home.  Sound familiar?  Ever step out on the Lord for a quick walk on the wild side?  Do you realize when you’ve slipped all the way down the slope, or does it take a pretty rude awakening?  Ever tried to rescue yourself?  Akin to quick sand, huh?

(side note: this is another reason I love the Lord.  He gives us parameters ahead of time: don’t do this, don’t go there,  equip yourselves this way.  He prepares us for rough times but also warns us how to avoid putting ourselves into harm’s way.  He’s not a fussy, busybody, old nag of a god.  He’s a wise, loving father giving us a map to avoid the quick sand!)

Annie was returned to us this morning by a wonderful lady (a fellow gardener, so you know she’s great!).  She was found wandering around Greek Row at UTA and she spent the night in the abandoned backyard next door to this gardener.  I am sure she wanted to be found, and her response to coming home was pure joy.  Her whole body shook with glee and it was a wonderful homecoming for all of us.

Do you want to be found by the Lord?  What is your heart’s response when the Shepherd finds you and prods you home?  That’s what David articulates at the end of his Psalm:

17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

If you are lost, lonely, frightened, confused, desperate, dissatisfied, lacking, wanting, grieving, spiteful, hateful, bitter, or anything else – ask the Lord to find you.  Ask Him for swift rescue.  He will always come.

If you have not yet given your heart to Christ by telling Him you know you are less than perfect and you recognize that it was He who died on the cross for you to pay for that sin so you don’t have to, then now is the perfect time.  He will come and get you while you are yet in your sin.  He will take up residence in your heart and begin the transformation of changing you for eternity.  He will find you for the first time and keep you close always.  (more on this here)

If you are already one of the Lord’s children and you find yourself away from your Shepherd, turn back!  Cry out!  Our Father promises He will not let you go ever – even if it means putting you in the belly of a whale!

Annie is curled up fast asleep at my feet as I write this.  She’s been bathed and her belly is full.  She is found and loved, as am I.

 Thank you, Jesus, for finding us always.


I am a gardener. 

When I first started gardening, my mother talked to me about “winter interest”.  Yuck, I thought.  I want to plant for action all the time!  Over many seasons, though, I’ve matured into appreciating the subtle change that happens in the winter garden.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that winter is when all the important stuff happens.  Without winter’s changes, no other season would exist!

When I first became a Christian, everything was new and exciting; I was seeing the world through the lens of freedom!  I was looking for the big things: God, what should I major in?  What should I do for a job?  Who should I marry?  And those are all good things and God gave me good direction.  But then there was a deeper stirring in my heart – a desire to not just order my life, but to grow and change from within.  I started learning who God wanted me to be and what it might look like to love the Lord with my whole heart.  I prayed God would bring about these changes in my heart.

He was faithful.  He allowed infertility.  He allowed miscarriage.   He allowed our sons’ deaths.  He allowed my brain tumor.  He allowed winter.

Just like winter in a garden, it’s through winter in our lives that God brings about the biggest changes in our hearts.  In our suffering, in our lack, in the absence of…that is when God can grow us the most.  While the above suffering may seem nothing but horrible and awful to the untrained heart, the heart trained in God’s ways knows what to look for, knows how to see God’s gentle, loving embrace.  The heart trained in God’s ways knows how to listen for His whispers of encouragement and reassurance.  The heart trained in God’s ways knows winter is paramount to eternity.  It’s when all else is stripped away that we see the “winter interest” – what we’re most made of…what there is for God to do, and what He has already done.

I’ll admit that this particular winter of continued infertility since my sons’ deaths has seemed to be a long one.  At times, I’ve felt it dragging on.  As always, though, when I cry out to God to make it be over, to prove He’s still around and, by the way, does He even still care, He sends provision and warmth that make me snuggle deeper in His embrace.

I pray whatever winter God may be graciously allowing in your life, that you will know indescribable intimacy with the Father that prepares you excitedly for the spring that is yet to come.

27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

-Isaiah 40: 27-31



Say ya wanna dance, Don’t ya wanna dance?

Today, U.S. pop star Whitney Houston passed away.  I’m sad for her family and her struggles, but she grew up singing in the church, so I’m hoping she gave her heart to Jesus at some point and is rejoicing with her savior now.

Who I immediately thought of was my radiation therapist, Jason.  He and I had a good conversation about Whitney Houston one day because he’d had one of her CDs on for the previous patient.  I told him I was sure he loved Whitney, and, come on, Jason, you know you were jumpin on the bed to Dance With Me when you are 5!

Nope, nope he wasn’t.  (So he says.)

I miss the people I got to intersect with for a brief time.  Jason, Barb, Stella, Dr. Timmerman, the receptionists, the valet guys, the other patients.  I wonder how Shirley is doing.  And Patch Man.  And MJ.  I know the Lord has taken care of them for sure because He does something with our prayers!  I think prayers for giving others peace and comfort are prayers the Lord doesn’t resist.

I pray they are filled with His peace.  And, once again, I stand in awe of how something like an ugly, rare brain tumor could be turned into one of the best, most peaceful, and exciting times of my life.  Only Jesus can do that.  Only Jesus.

Wonder what He wants to do in your heart?  Go ahead.  Ask Him.  You can be sure He will respond.