Two years ago this day, we were in the hospital visiting Anna. It was the day before Christmas Eve and we were praying and hoping that the doctors will give her a clean bill of health and allow her to go home before Christmas. We were hoping against hope. But hope never fails.
Anna was admitted to KK Women and Children’s Hospital on 22nd December 2013. She was only 6 days old. We had noticed that she was having trouble breathing during the day, especially when feeding. Her chest was sinking in really deep as she looked like she was struggling to get enough air. That was reason enough for us to get her to A&E that evening. It was a painful and dreadful time of our lives that we’d be happy to keep in the recesses of our memories except for the message of hope and salvation that it brought.
Anna was born with a cleft palate and feeding was a challenge for her. When we brought her to A&E that night, the presiding doctor threw us another diagnosis – Pierre Robin Sequence (PRS). It was due to PRS that Anna was having trouble breathing well, especially when she was feeding. We’ve never heard of this before and in the days that followed, we learnt a lot about this diagnosis that brought us through a roller coaster ride of fear, uncertainty, sadness and regrets. But not hopelessness. In the midst of the darkness, there was always hope.
The doctors told us a lot of other syndromes and problems that may be related to PRS. The Internet told us even more worse stuff. Things did not look good. It came to a point that we had to tell the doctors to stop telling us all these issues and to just focus on the immediate concern at hand which was to make sure she was breathing and feeding well and to let us go home to process all this. Anna had to be tube-fed and her oxygen levels monitored day and night.
As we went through those days of having to leave her behind in the High Dependency Ward at night and seeing her again in the morning, we were brought to our knees in prayer, mostly in tears too, asking God for help, for healing and for understanding of the whole situation. Even as we went through the pits of emotions, we couldn’t deny nor ignore this light in us that glimmered. It was the light of hope.
We hope not in what we can do nor what the doctors and medical science can do to help Anna.
We hope not in our prayers being loud or long.
We hope not in having many people praying along with us although that was true and a blessing.
We hope in Who God is.
We hope in His goodness.
We hope because He is Jehovah Rapha, our Healer.
We hope because we know He is in control and He knows the end from the beginning. Even though we don’t know why we had to go through this trial, we can trust that He knows and that He has a plan for us.
We hope in His unwavering, unconditional love.
We hope because He is the Rock of our refuge.
And this light of hope, this little glimmer of hope, could not be put out.
We may not have had the greatest faith to believe in complete and supernatural healing immediately. But even in our lack of faith, we could hope. And it was this hope that shed a light for us out of the darkness.
So I say, dear friends who are going through difficult and dark times, don’t give up hope. Or if you are looking for hope, I hope you will find that Light. Especially in this Christmas season when we are seeing all these beautiful displays of lights, may it remind us that it is only when we look to the True Light, Jesus Christ, that we can find hope. Who else or what else can we hope in? Nothing else. No one else.
As we celebrate Christmas this year, I just wanted to share our story of Hope and the testimony of Anna’s life. It is a story that reminds us Hope never fails.
Anna just celebrated her 2nd birthday last week and I’ve been thinking about this message of Hope. It was since Cameron shared the message of Hope and the testimony of Anna’s life in a service in the Philippines 2 weeks ago. I’m reminded how when Anna was born, God told me in a still small voice that “Anna” means “Grace”. We had no idea how much grace we needed over the next few months. But His promise of Grace was assuring and kept us throughout the tough year.
Last year when Anna celebrated her first birthday, it was a time of Joy. We were thankful for all that God has done, for His complete healing of Anna’s condition with no remnants of any symptoms or issues that may be related to PRS (after her palate was repaired). It was a time of celebration that we had a healthy baby girl. She is God’s gift to us.
And this year, it’s this message of hope that’s been recurring in our hearts. And we know this story of hope will encourage others. Because God is God, we can hope in Him.
Here’s a beautiful hymn about Whom our hope is built on…
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
For more posts on Anna, you can click on the category Annalog.
I sing to Anna every night when putting her to bed. But tonight, the first 2 songs I sang to her ministered to me too! It’s like God was talking to me through the songs.
I started with “He’s able” in Chinese.
He’s able, He’s able
I know He’s able
I know my God is able to carry me through
It was a long, tiring day and the end of 9 days without the daddy around. So I was really tired, physically and emotionally. When I started singing this song though, I was reminded of the truth in the song. My God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or imagine! And He has given us the grace and strength to go through the week, in the midst of the haze and our schedules. 🙂
The second song was “He’s got the whole world in His hands” and the message I was reminded of was totally different and unrelated!
I was going through the different verses and when I sang “He’s got the itty bitty baby in His hands”, I suddenly thought of all the little itty bitty babies – those who are still in the womb, those who are born premature, those who are newly born – and I was reminded how God knows each and everyone of them. They all matter to Him, He who holds the whole world in His hands.
I’m also reminded what a terrible thing abortion is. It’s the killing of little itty bitty babies who are as human as you and me. And yet people explain it away with no regards for morality. Saying it’s not murder is nonsense because by now, everyone in the educated world knows life began at conception. Our hearts start beating even before our bodies have taken shape. And no one refers to an expectant friend’s baby as ‘that lump in your womb’. “Hey when is that lump in your womb due?” No! We’re all excited for our friend’s baby!
Abortion is an abomination and murder. The enemy is killing so many of the future generation through abortion. This is something God put in my heart many years ago. The enemy is out to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) and one way he kills is through abortion. In the days of Moses and in the days of Jesus, the ruler of their days commanded baby boys to be killed. It was the enemy’s scheme so that the plans of God for redemption will be thwarted. Today, the enemy also wants to stop God’s plan to raise up an end-time army. (Another way the enemy is killing the future generation is through suicide. Suicide rates are rising among youth and children today.)
But God will prevail. And His church must take a stand against abortion.
Besides itty bitty babies lost through abortion, I’m also reminded how those itty bitty babies who didn’t make it to see this world due to miscarriages are now seeing the light of the Father’s face. Because He holds them in His hands.
I know, it’s quite a bit of a heavy topic to go through my mind as I sang my baby to sleep… but it’s a good reminder. Or 2 good reminders. So as my baby lays sleeping, I’m just penning these thoughts down. And I’ll keep singing my baby to sleep as long as she wants to so that I can also tune my ears and heart to hear the heart of God. 🙂
It’s not easy to ‘carpe diem’, or seize the day, when you have young children. On most days it’s just hoping for the day to pass and for you to have survived another day. (How many of you are like me and keep checking the clock and counting the minutes to bedtime?!)
Sometimes parents put their dreams and ambitions on hold to focus on giving their children the best they can, both in monetary terms and in time. That is noble and truly sacrificial.
On the other hand, there are parents who neglect their children in the midst of pursuing their own careers and ambitions. I think none of was want to be in this group.
Although it is noble and sacrificial to put our own dreams and ambitions on hold for the sakes of our kids, sometimes we lose sight of those dreams. Sometimes these dreams move further and further away and we begin to settle.
I don’t wish to settle.
I don’t think I’m overly ambitious, but I do have my dreams that I hope to see come to pass. One of my desires is to travel on mission trips. I did that every year through my university years, but I got married a year after graduation and had my first kid the following year. Traveling on mission trips was put on hold for a whole 5 years. I did get back on traveling at least once a year after the second kid was 2 years old. (The perks of being married to a missions pastor – lots of trips to go on and a husband who supports and believes in missions!)
When I share with others my love for travel and missions, some of them would tell me, with every good intention, that I can travel more when the kids are grown up, even more when they are out of the house. And yes, of course that’s true and I nod in agreement, but deep down I’m thinking, “I don’t want to wait that long!”
I think we need to carpe diem, when we are young, even when the kids are young.
Involve the kids in ministry
Like I said, I did go back to traveling some, and it’s been such a blessing and privilege to be able to do that. I’m thankful for the help I get for the kids when I travel. My husband and I hardly travel together (I only travel about once a year) so that at least one of us will be home with the kids.
The key, I feel, is to share every experience with the children; to carpe diem with the children. It is not, “This is my thing, my career, my hobbies” but to make it “our thing”.
This is important when it comes to being in a minister’s family. We have heard of pastors/missionaries’ kids who grow up not liking the ministry because they feel that they have lost their parents to the ministry. We pray, by His grace, that our kids will never feel that.
God first, family next. And ministry (or what we think is ministry) is not God. It cannot become our idol.
So we make sure to involve our children in the ministry we do as much as we can. They are there with us in church services, in volunteer programmes, in dinner meetings, even in church clean ups. And last year, we brought the whole family on a mission trip to visit some orphanages in Surabaya, Indonesia. (read Caleb’s post about it here.)
We explain to them the things we do. And I think we send a powerful message when we model serving God. If they see our love for God through our ministry for Him, we hope they will also have that same love for Him and desire to serve Him. They have to see that we put God first above everything and that if God wants us to serve Him in some way, we will all serve Him together.
I have seen how letting our children into our lives have really benefitted both us and them. For one, we spend more time together since we bring them where we go when we can.
When we were pastoring the African Congregation in church and I was teaching Children’s Church, my boys would tell me I’m their favourite Sunday School teacher (I’m sure that’s not a biased statement!)! I’m not sure I’m the best, but at least I’m their favourite. 🙂 And the funny thing is they behaved for me as if they were in ‘school’, not quite the same as they would be at home, even though they’re good boys. 🙂
Now that Caleb is older, he would go to work with Daddy sometimes and they spend a lot of time in general talking about different things. Daddy also brought him on a trip to the Philippines last year. One thing Daddy does is to let Caleb read his sermon notes, so Caleb knows some of his recent sermons. A few weeks back, Caleb showed me a sermon he had written. He really surprised me, it was so good! It sounded like something I heard in my theological studies! It was about the Pharisees. But the funny thing is he outlined his sermon like his Daddy does for his sermons, including a story, some questions pointed at the audience, down to an altar call at the end! (tears…)
Talk about your life and your dreams
When I come back from work, I talk to the boys sometimes about what’s happening at work, especially about the youth I work with who come from troubled families. I can see that the boys are developing empathy as they ask questions about my students. I also tell them funny things that happen in school and we enjoy laughing about what happened in school for me and for them.
I believe in what I’m doing, and I want my children to be right in it with me. I don’t want them to think they’re losing me to work or to ministry. Sometimes when I ask them about whether they’d want me to go to work or stay home, they’d tell me I should go to work. One of their reasons is so they can come to my staffroom and visit (kids’ logic??) and another is so that I can continue helping the students who need help.
So instead of begrudging what we cannot do when we are ‘tied down’ with young children, let’s begin to involve them in our lives, in the things we do, even in the mundane tasks. (Even though they are boys, my boys love to help me in the kitchen. I think they have grandiose ideas of being Junior Masterchefs!)
So go ahead, carpe diem with your children. And share with me how you do it. 🙂
It’s always nice to visit and have time to chat with my mother-in-law. We see eye to eye on many things, including parenting. It’s been hard to find time to chat with kids constantly running around, so it was nice to get some time to chat one night just before we came home.
We were talking about the wisdom that God gives to mothers when it comes to their kids. She told me the advice she always gives young ladies is to “Expect the Lord to speak to you about your kids”. And she told me a few stories about how the Lord showed her things that were happening to her children (my husband and his younger sister) and how He would lead her to pray for them.
I’m of course interested in and amused by the stories I hear about my husband. Don’t we all love to hear stories about our spouses or friends from when they were young? He’s told me some of these before. So here’s one I’m sharing to show how true her words are, to expect God to show us things about our children so that we can pray for them.
When Cameron (my husband) was about 19 years old, he went to Bible School in Waverly, New York. One day, his mom woke up with an impression of something having happened to him. She saw him walking up the hill to the school in the winter cold. She thought he must have wrecked his car. And he didn’t have a coat with him so he was freezing! Not long after, he called, and he told her he was picking up bread for the school in the school’s van, and the van had gone off the road in the snow and he’d had to walk up to the school to get help. And… he didn’t have his coat on so he was freezing the whole way up! But he wasn’t hurt. No one was hurt. 🙂
This is just one story of many and it’s so true that the Lord shows things to parents. I have a story of my own to tell too.
When Caleb was about 6 months old, he was sleeping on our bed with us one night. I dreamt that he fell off the bed, and within the next minute, I heard a thud and he had indeed really fallen off the bed! I remember being jolted out of my sleep and thinking, “God must have been warning me but I didn’t respond to the warning!” And my baby fell off the bed. Nowadays I take my dreams more seriously. Over the years, God has given me dreams about different people so that I can pray for them and maybe even give them advice on something they’ve been praying about.
God works through dreams. He’s done that in Bible times and He still speaks today. So for all believers, do stay alert to what God is saying and may we recognise Him when He speaks to us.
And to moms, pray for your children, trust that the Lord will give you wisdom for your children. He will also hear the prayers of a praying mom. And expect the Lord to speak to you. 🙂
(For children of praying parents, you can’t run away! Oh and btw, from my experience, God can also speak to your youth leaders and pastors. It’s really by His grace and mercy that our sins get found out before it’s too late and we get to a point of no turning back. I’d rather get found out and repent than to lose my salvation because of a hard heart that refuses to repent.)
Here are some pictures of my dear in-laws with their grandchildren!
Today I had lunch with my mom and this interesting topic came up and we had a good time sharing our views and talking. She said some people have asked her about Anna, that I got the baby girl I wanted but she has problems (the cleft palate) and we have to go through the surgery and taking care of her and all that. Do we regret having her and are we angry at God?
It may seem like some ridiculous questions but indeed there have been people thinking that. And so I would like to share what I think about all this. But no, we are not angry at God and have never been. He has blessed us with this beautiful and wonderful baby girl. What more can we ask for? But I want to share how grateful we are to have her and what we have learnt so far in these last few months, so that you can also share in our joy to have Anna Joy and see why God is still good and sometimes gives us blessings in disguise.
On the morning that Anna was born, as I was praying, God dropped this thought in my heart, “Anna means grace.” I didn’t know then how much of His grace we’d need in the next few months and how much of His grace He did give us as we go on this journey to take care of this gem He’s given us.
When we found out Anna has a cleft palate and she was hospitalised at 6 days old and diagnosed with Pierre Robin Sequence, we went through a time of crying and feeling like we’ve done something wrong. But if anything, her condition is genetic because I was also born with a cleft palate and so is my uncle on my dad’s side. We came through that time trusting more in God knowing that He has His plans for Anna and He can take care of her better than we ever can. We know that this is a journey He has put us on and He will go through it with us.
As Anna’s palate surgery was coming up, we were praying for a miraculous healing for her palate so that she wouldn’t even have to go through surgery. We have been praying for her healing from the start, all the way till her surgery. I know that God can heal her immediately if He wants to, but I don’t question why He would or would not. In my heart, what Daniel’s 3 friends said to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:17-18 as he threatened to throw them into the fiery furnace resonated, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” My heart was saying, My God is more than able to heal Anna instantaneously, but if He doesn’t, it won’t change our heart in trusting in His goodness and sovereignty. Leading up to the surgery, I was praying one day and asked God if it was His will for Anna to go through the surgery. And I felt that He was telling me Yes, and that it is going to be a blessing to others. I know it’s not going to be easy, but I also know He is going to walk through this with us.
Already I know that us having to go through this journey is giving us gems that we can share with others so that others can be blessed. I’ve been able to share Anna’s stories and good reports on Facebook and encourage some people. And I’ve had friends who also have or are having cleft lip or palate babies talk to me and I’ve been able to share what we’ve learnt with them. It’s something that we may not understand nor be able to do if we have not gone through this journey.
With the promise that this is going to be a blessing, we went on Monday 13 October to admit Anna for her surgery. As we were waiting for our turn, a domestic helper brought a baby and sat next to Anna and me. We started talking and I found out the baby also has a cleft palate. Her mom came over soon and we talked. She’d just started getting her baby to see doctors at KKH because they’d just come from the States. They’re Chinese nationals and she didn’t know many people who could advise on getting care for her baby. We exchanged numbers and she was glad to have someone she could go to with questions and for help. Her baby is 4 months old and scheduled for surgery next year. I was amazed and excitedly told my husband about the meeting. Already this is becoming a blessing to others, even as Anna was being admitted for surgery! This meeting would not have happened if Anna were not going for surgery. I do believe in God’s sovereignty and He knows much more than we do. I just want to be a part of what He wants to do. If out of His love for this lady, her baby and her family, He wanted to send His servants to love and help them, let it be that He would send us! Since the surgery I’ve spoken to the lady a couple of times and shared our experience with her.
This is only the beginning of our little girl’s life. We look forward to seeing her grow and thrive and our prayer is that she would grow up loving the Lord and fulfilling all that He has prepared for her. Even as He has used me, a cleft palate baby, to be a teacher and counsellor to my students, and to teach His word in church, He can also use Anna as His messenger. What the enemy meant for evil, God can use for good (Genesis 50:20).
We are very thankful to have Anna and anyone who has met her will agree what a joy she is and brings to those around her. So as I go to squeeze with her on a mattress for the second night in a row as I cuddle her and comfort her as she recovers from the surgery, I will remember what an amazing gift this is and my heart overflows with love for her. (And I hope she sleeps well tonight!)
I hope you have been blessed even as you read this!