Insomnia: a good time to pray

I’m going through the mundane motions of everyday life and thought I was doing okay. Then, I started to feel the side effects of days-long insomnia, which I didn’t even know I had.

Falling asleep at 4 a.m. from sheer exhaustion and a mind feeling wobbly were just not normal. This kind of explained the daytime restlessness, fatigue, and irritability.

My mind and body sometimes don’t act as a team. Painful emotions show up through psychosomatic symptoms, and bursts of sadness that make me cry when I’m driving or walking to the mailbox tells me something is not right.

This insomnia was that psychosomatic response. This COVID-19 is unprecedented profoundly affecting people’s lives. Big unanswerable questions linger; you realize people are suffering. When this danger diminishes, how will life change? When we emerge from our homes and resume activities, what will stay the same? different? Do I need to seriously consider growing my own vegetables? How long will the recovery take? Will this virus keep us home for many more months? Ack!! Only speculations and little to no answers.

During meal-time prayer with the kids, we thank God for provisions and we pray for peace, healing, and health. I end by asking God for a miracle in this situation. I don’t know what that miracle would involve or if God will do it. But after a conversation with my mother-in-law (which begins with concerned lecturing about how we are to wear and sanitize our masks, did we finally buy those bottles of Vitamin C, are we gargling day and night with lukewarm salt water, etc.), I realized that my view of a miracle is shortsighted.

She then asked how the kids were handling this situation. I told her that kids have been asking questions and they’ve been praying for a miracle. I mentioned that specifically, because I could imagine her nodding with approval.

After a pause though, she said miracles are not always the big and earth-shattering things. We have to trust God’s plans. I forget exactly what she said, but it had something to do with miracles happen in small sizes too.

Even though she disagreed with my view, I was grateful for this perspective shift.

It must’ve been my night of clearing up webs in my heart: a quick text message to a good friend turned into a long conversation about how my life is going. My friend D., who is my buddy and second line of contact after Chris, shows me how a friend sympathizes but also challenges you to go farther in your faith. She’s seen me at my worst: when I’m in the throes of hospital emergencies for Ellis, or the most recent incident of being stranded in a dark parking lot after flinging my keys into the metal donation bin. In all those times, she reminds me to pray. It’s not what I want to hear but it’s so true. This was in connection to my recent insomnia. Why didn’t I bring it to God first?

I know…I don’t want to admit that I waste a lot of time scrolling through social media and entertaining myself with the unfolding drama of the royal family. I thought God would call me a fool for being a bad steward of time and tell me I deserve having sleep troubles…time and time again.

In desperation last night, I prayed in bed waiting for sleep and just talking to God finally thanking him for Easter and saying sorry for ignoring him. It wasn’t a miraculous falling asleep, like conking out at “Dear God,” but it was a restful sleep without nightmares. Again, he doesn’t withdraw but draws closer in my weaknesses.

God is good. Instead of a thunder bolt each time I sin, he gives me peace and grace. He loves me, us, so much that we have Good Friday as a reminder of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for sinners.

With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

For I am the Lord, who heals you.” Exodus 15:26

Some rambles in quarantine

* this post has been through many edits. I keep seeing holes here and there, thus the rewording and reorganization. Just letting you know. And of course, thank you dear readers for reading and for being here!!

Our family is made up of homebodies. We spend a lot of time at home, but this sheltering-in-place and social distancing are taking it to the extreme. All the news inform that staying home is the best solution: it’ll flatten the curve and hopefully prevent further spreading of this super contagious COVID-19. But even if you wanted to go out, it’s a scary prospect. You could catch it from non-symptomatic individuals or we could be carriers and unknowingly spread it. Too risky!

So we feel grateful to be home and for our health. We are extra vigilant to protect Ellis too: her underlying medical condition makes her more vulnerable. Though many people are stuck at home riding out this pandemic, there’s mounting fear concerning the present situation for ourselves and family, health issues, job situation, economy, and what the future holds. Click on a new’s story and be prepared for a meltdown; death toll keeps climbing, new cases mounting, protective gear in low supply for medical workers, and surgeon general’s warning that this upcoming week will be the “hardest, saddest.” Unreal. Cue…panic attack.

A lesson I’m learning through all this is that plans are only plans. I’m not a planner at all: the word itself gives me a migraine. But I still have broad ideas of what we would be doing the next couple of months, in terms of homeschooling, appointments, summer activities, goals to achieve etc. Then, when the first quarantine happened, my very vague plans suddenly became nothing but a past concern. Now, it’s a day-to-day thing.

For the past 2 weeks, I feel my mind sorting through this deadly reality. It’s all a confused, incoherent jumble at present. So much to digest as life turns inward and reality flipped upside down. But my plan (eeek, I said it!) Is to use this solid block of time to make memories with my family and dig up old things to do again. I aim to do that in bits, because this making memory thing is a laborious process testing my patience when kids get into everything and simple activities become elaborate disasters. Will we have stories to share when this is behind us.

Through it all, I’m working on strengthening my affirmation that God is in the business of performing miracles and bringing goodness out of awful situations. He’s done them before in amazing ways. However, the walk was and is not easy…so many perils, questions, unknowns, losses, and paralyzing fears. Reassurance is that a powerful God who raised Jesus from the dead walks with us through the darkest valleys. He’s that kind of powerful. I’m sticking with him.

Praying that you stay safe and healthy. And here’s an empowering thought from pastor Jud Wilhite’s sermon yesterday:

“You can make yourself miserable or you can make today memorable.”

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6

7 years in a nutshell

Seven years ago tonight, I arrived at the hospital to get induced for labor at 36 weeks. It was a fearful night full of unknowns and insecurity. The birth plan was for the baby to be born the next afternoon, so she could be taken to the NICU for care before the shift change for the medical team.

I didn’t know if the next day was going to be the worst day of my life: would we see our newborn and begin the medical care to bring her home soon, or were we going to leave the hospital with news that every parent dreads?

For 16 weeks, our family prepared for the best and the worst. When we first found out that our 20 week fetus had a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), we were terrified from the news and prospect of how we would be able to navigate the future. Doctors sat us down telling us the hardships ahead: surgeries, emergencies, hospitalizations, oxygen saturation, weight and eating issues, feeding tubes, etc. We were lucky to have found out early on, because she could get timely intervention after birth. In some unfortunate cases, the condition is discovered after birth and doctors can lose valuable time to give appropriate care. If no surgical intervention is involved, the condition is fatal.

After the first surgery, the most precarious time would be the first year with survival rates of 20-60%.

Our faces turned white and breathing short. After the doctors explained the diagnosis of this condition, we were counseled with the option to terminate. Feeling like I was in a dream, I had to ask the doctor how much time I had to decide. Chris and I said nothing to each other on the drive home. We picked up lunch, ate at home, and took a nap. Elliot, 1 1/2 year old at the time, was mad that we had the audacity to nap and not give him attention: he came over and bonked us on the head with an empty plastic milk carton. That was his nonverbal cue for ‘I want milk.’

It took us a few days to process the news. We didn’t talk about it, and when we finally discussed it, we both agreed this baby was God’s special gift and he had good plans for us: difficult but good. And the rest is history. It’s been indescribably difficult with lots of unexpected hospital trips, constant nightmares, depression, and a heart held in fear of the worst.

Yet in the storm, God has blessed us so much through her. We call her the ‘game changer,’ because our lives turned upside down when she arrived. What we foresaw for the future stayed in the plan phase. I couldn’t have imagined this kind of life or have wanted it, but now I can’t imagine something different. In difficult times God never lets us down. This is weird to say yet some of my fondest memories are these hospital stays, which made me realize that memorable moments do not only mean happy experiences but hard ones too. We talk about those times with tenderness, disbelief, and humor in recalling what happened. On occasion, Elliot still talks about the day I cried and had to drop him off at our neighbor’s house when I had to drive Ellis to the E.R. He says the chips he had with our neighbor that day was the best ever.

These experiences try our spirits and stretches our faith. We kick and scream, metaphorically, when we think Ellis is getting sick again casting a dark gloom over me. Chris knows that I get super sensitive and start yelling. Don’t ask: I just do because he asks questions, that seem non-common sense about what to do. We know this is my coping mechanism, so he’s aware it’s not a personal attack.

But I love my little girl with her funny laughs, wild hair, and spunkiness. The best is when she hugs me and loves on me at random times. One time I had a nightmare and cried in my sleep. It was late at night but she woke up, turned over, and patted me on my back saying, “Mommy, it’s okay. You’re just tired.” The she fell back asleep. It’s like she was the comforter that night.

We’ve been through a lot together and have seen each other at rock bottom. We’ve cried holding each other for different reasons, but fear was the underlying motivation. But when I feel her warm arms around me, I’m reminded how God has made her stronger and bigger all these years. A miracle.

God had different plans for us; plans we wanted to refuse at first. Still, we don’t know what the future holds but we trust God by looking at how he has brought us through the sudden storms. Moments when my heart drop from terror of the worst outcome, I can do nothing but sigh and give it to God. I don’t do this because I’m super holy or have great faith. The weight of the issue drowns me and it’s so deep that I can only give it to God for keeping my heart safe.

Reflective poems in midst of uncertain times

What is happening to the world?! How has it come to this?!

When I first heard about Coronavirus crisis it seemed like a faraway issue until it affected our own community. Within a matter of days, we were notified that everything, besides essential work, will be shut down till April 7th. All schools, gyms, shops, places of worship will be closed: possibility of that date being postponed too. We are practicing social distance, 6 feet apart, and issued to shelter-in-place (stay home as much as you can).

Hopefully, this extreme strategy will slow the spread of this contagious virus and give hospitals time to process and recover from an influx of patients. But lots of people and businesses are hurting with each passing day.

For our family, this kind of bubble-like existence is familiar and we’re coping with it okay. It’s just weird that everyone else is doing the same thing. If you know our clan, we are paranoid of coughs and germs. Ellis’ underlying heart condition puts her in the high-risk category and we know how sick she can get. This means our immediate family cannot catch something or else she will catch it too. So stressful: these things are out of my control as much as I try to control the environment. So when we hear a cough, we slowly distance ourselves and start running for the hills.

I’ve heard many people say that ‘it will get worse before it gets better.’ I hope that we will soon leave the worst place and transition into the upswing of this situation. The aftermath will be difficult as we grapple with the effects the shut down will have on people’s finances, plans, and life situation.


My sage friend from NYC sent me these two poems and their words and imagery speak vividly about the reality we are currently in. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

โ€œAnd the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.ย 

“And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.ย 

“And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”ย ~Kitty O’Meara

Image

My prayer is that we will become a healthier, more resilient, and compassionate people as a result of this. God, help us weather this sudden storm!

In this time of forced hibernation, if you haven’t done so yet, let’s read God’s words, pray for wisdom, discover his promises, and find ultimate security in God’s presence.

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV New International Version
Image from bible.com

Fresh start to a new decade: reflecting back on this past decade

A decade almost over. To think that I’m decades old is definitely sobering. ๐Ÿ™‚

My goodness, life has been an adventurous ride for our family these past 10 years. It would be nice if I had a memorable saying, insight packed message to share with you, but the mind goes haywire trying to narrow it down.

Every end of the year, I reflect on all the big highlights. So this time around I’ll try to point out some major ones that rocked my world this decade. There’s more, but for brevity sake the following is a quick snap of those experiences.

  1. Realized the academic route was not for me. Painful to realize at the time after so many years dreaming and preparing for some future unknown role in academia. Thought my degree would transform my life…graduated and discovered that nothing changed. Very anticlimactic.
  2. Wanted to pursue freelance writing, like writing essays or articles, but the path seemed laden with unknowns. Where do you even start? Too overwhelmed. And all the talk of building a social platform freaked me out. Blogging wishes stirred but it took me six years to actually embark.
  3. Became a lucky mom to my 2 amazing and loving kids. I didn’t know this kind of happy love was possible until they came into my world. On the other hand, I’m learning that being a mother means not always being liked by your kids for saying no and teaching them…looking out for their best interest makes you boring and not the most likeable person. That’s ok with me though…
  4. Chris and I have been married for over a decade and we still like each other. He’s my forever and I’ll choose him all over again. Ok, this is corny, but here it is. I mainly drink iced coffee since years back. So…he is the ice for my coffee that brings the drink to a perfect coolness. When we squabble over how to load the dishwasher or other irrelevant things that seem relevant at the time, I tell myself (as learned from our marriage bible study series) “my spouse is not the enemy.”
  5. Raising a special heart child tests my emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual life that goes beyond my strength. It affects Elliot too as a heart sibling when there’s an emergency. But I trust God will fill in the gaps. Through Ellis’ condition however, we have been blessed in tremendous ways rather than hindered by obstacles. Yes, it’s tough all around with social
  6. constraints that seem like excuses. I’m always apologizing that we can’t do this or that. But people are gracious to understand and still invite us.
  7. We begin homeschooling and are in the middle of our fourth year. It’s an exciting learning journey and kids mainly lead in what they want to learn. But I won’t lie. There are days when I feel outnumbered, out stretched, ready to call the whole thing off. Too much flexibility and freedom can paralyze decision making. I feel it a privilege to homeschool and I’m learning do much as well.
  8. I start blogging in 2017 with lots of doubts. Thankfully, I have found an amazing community of other bloggers, made new friends, and kind of badgered my old friends to follow me to pull up my follower numbers. Thankfully, they accepted and still encourage me by reading and commenting.
  9. I get help for depression and anxiety. It’s the worst kind of agony to go through when you feel that the world would be a better place without you. It’s painful and isolating but sharing this fear with loved ones makes it less daunting. This trial gives me more empathy for others going through similar emotions and teaches me that you can rarely tell what someone is going through just by their exterior.
  10. Realized the strong bond connecting family members. As with every family, issues and tensions test your patience, but at the end of the day, you love them dearly for who they are and what theymean to you. Now that I’m thinking about it, I could be that annoying person and not even know it. lol. ๐Ÿ˜‰ No one is perfect.
  11. Friends and people we have met through our adventures affirm that God is always at work. God has a special plan in entrusting Ellis to our family and all four of us have grown in different ways. We have been repeatedly surprised by God’s goodness and faithfulness. We’re not exempt from the troubles, but He walks with us (or pulls/drags me gently) through the mucks of life.
  12. Growing deeper in faith and learning to be a bold follower. God is pretty awesome in that he hears me, provides for me, leads me, and teaches me (don’t like this one too much), and loves me despite my flaws. His grace is amazing.

If you’ve read this far, thank you! That became longer than I thought.

Wow, I also feel like I need to have earth-rumbling new year resolutions as 2020 will be here in 1 day. I’ve got a whole bunch brewing in the back of my head, but will I actually go through with it?? Instead of a list, I think it needs to be a shift in perspective or attitude. Need to think about this more.

“As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.” Psalm 138:3

And dear readers, thank you for your support, encouragement, and friendship! Incredibly blessed by this blogging community of most people I’ve never met. I didn’t know this place would be so conversational and inviting. Thank you again, and happy happy new year. Wishing you the best and good health in entering the start of a new decade!