I hope you are doing well as we near the end of October. This post will be brief, but I wanted to share that Grace has been struggling with new health challenges related to her traumatic brain injury (TBI). As she’s mentioned in previous posts, Grace’s doctors finally found a medication that controls her seizures enough for her to go outside without sunglasses, watch some movies, and enjoy some other “normal” activities, although she does still have a few seizures every month.
In the past weeks, complications with Grace’s TBI have brought me and Grace’s family into a new stage of caregiving. We are still working with doctors to find a medication solution for these new complications. Grace is not ready to write again just yet, but when she can she’ll provide some additional details regarding these new developments.
In the meantime, she asked me to post this devotional that I shared with my colleagues as part of a devotional series at the VCS Conservatory a few weeks ago; I hope it will encourage you. Thanks for continuing to walk with us through hills and valleys!
Hello friends, I wanted to give a brief update about Grace’s status. Back in February, a resident in our condo complex complained about a “maintenance issue” that the previous owners had left unresolved. The resident also became aware of Grace’s disabilities, and began harassing her daily while I was at work. This behavior continued even though the “maintenance issue” was being addressed; Grace was so distressed and intimidated that she couldn’t adequately communicate to me the severity of the situation. Unfortunately, this meant that it lasted over a month before we addressed it decisively.
Although the resident has stopped their harmful behavior, their actions imprinted on Grace’s brain to the point that Grace is unable to function at her normal baseline. Grace’s TBI symptoms are still highly aggravated, and she’s undergoing professional treatment to help her return to daily life without being in a constant state of “fight or flight.” She misses you all, and looks forward to writing here again as soon as she feels better. Thank you so much for your prayers and support!
Hello friends, I hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend 🙂 Grace is going to be taking a break from posting on the blog for some time because we’ve encountered some circumstances since our move that have really aggravated her TBI. We appreciate all your prayers and support so much and look forward to returning once things settle down a bit.
God is good, and no detail of our lives escapes His notice, or falls outside His plan. His grace is always more than enough, and each day brings us closer to our true home with Him in Heaven. Blessings to you all as we start a new month!
Dear friends, we find ourselves at the end of 2020. Books and movies will chronicle the events of this past year, but each of us has our own unique record in our hearts and minds. A new year is around the corner, filled with hopes? Fears? Or the unknown?
But also filled with God’s unchanging, unending love, mercy, and grace. Our Lord will never leave us nor forsake us, and that includes during 2021.
Proverbs 16:33 tells us, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” And James 4:13-17 reminds us that we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, and therefore should commit all our plans to God’s will.
With that understanding, I’d like to share some of my goals for next year, to encourage all of us to wisely use the time God has given us. We cannot determine what happens to us, but God has given us the ability to respond.
At the macro level, with God’s help I intend to keep serving Grace as her husband, keep teaching my junior high and high school students at VCS, and keep integrating at our local church, Hillside Church in San Jose.
At the micro level, here are some more specific objectives:
Complete my dissertation. I began my first doctoral class in June 2018 and am now entering the dissertation phase of my degree. Lord willing, by the end of 2021 I will have completed my EdD in Organizational Leadership at Grand Canyon University.
Memorize Psalm 119. The plan is to memorize 16 verses per month, with the other days of the month being review days. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)
Read The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Pilgrim’s Progress, and Brave New World. One of my ongoing personal quests is to read major literary works that are “gaps” in my personal reading. In 2020 I read Anna Karenina, Augustine’s Confessions, and The Aeneid.
Learn French. One of Grace’s and my dreams is to travel to Europe, and so I’d like to attain at least a basic conversational level.
Friends, God brought us through 2020, with all its losses, challenges, and heartbreak, for a reason. There is still much need for salt and light, much need for workers in God’s harvest field, much need for the feet of messengers to bring the good news of God’s salvation.
What are some of your goals for 2021? We’d love to read them in the comments below.
Let us enter the new year gratefully, humbly, trusting God to keep His promises and enact His will in our lives.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'”
It’s the middle of 2020, but for many of us it might feel more like the middle of an eon of undeterminable length. Our familiar boundaries of work-life and home-life have been stretched if not erased, and the hope of returning to normalcy varies by day.
There is no denying the difficulties which have engulfed our communities and our nation, but I am so thankful that God cares for each of us individually. He also wants us to keep encouraging one another, and Grace and I are thankful for your prayers and support which remind us that we have a family of believers who intercede for us consistently.
So a brief update on how Grace and I are doing: healthwise, Grace has had no major changes in her neurological conditions. For now she continues to interface with doctors and maintain a stable baseline. Grace and I are both continuing our online education, and I am preparing to start my fourth year of teaching at Valley Christian in August. Praise God for three completed years! The leaders at VCS have been working around the clock to prepare for the upcoming school year, and while many aspects of schooling remain undetermined due to circumstances, I am thankful for their godly leadership of our school; their love for God and for our students, parents, and teachers is apparent in everything they do.
Finally, Grace and I are excited to announce that we purchased a condo last month! The actual unit is still being built, with an estimated completion date of sometime in November. Our apartment lease is up early next month, so Grace and I will stay with her parents until our condo is ready. Praise God for His provision, even and especially during difficult times. A move is a big transition under normal circumstances, but Grace’s TBI makes it more difficult for her to handle. She’s asked me to share the good news about our move in the hopes that she’ll be able to share more of her perspective in the upcoming months.
Thank you again for your prayers, cards, and encouragement. Please know that every kind word and deed is noticed and so appreciated! God bless us all as we continue to pursue Him first in all aspects of our lives. I’ll conclude with one of my favorite Scripture passages, so applicable right now for many of us:
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Politics, masks, vaccines, the economy. Are these the metrics of life as we know it? Life and death and everything in between have been on the forefront of our collective minds for weeks now. The stakes suddenly got higher and we now have so much more to lose.
Or do we? Death has always been around the corner–what are 80 or 90 years compared to eternity? Jobs, relationships, and health have never come with a lifetime warranty. But perhaps what has changed in the past weeks is our awareness of how fragile the pillars of our lives are, how little is actually within our control.
VCS has been on Easter Break this week, and so I’ve had extra time to think about all that’s happened recently. These verses came to mind:
“O Lord, what are human beings that you should notice them, mere mortals that you should think about them? For they are like a breath of air; their days are like a passing shadow.” (Psalm 144:3-4, NLT)
What does God owe us during shelter in place? What can we rightfully claim from the world and each other? How much of who we are, what we own and what we enjoy is only by the unmerited mercy and bounty of God?
Nothing, nothing, everything.
I find that I need to be careful not to feel entitled to things for which I actually have no entitlement. All the goodness to be found in life comes not from myself, or from others, but from God:
“So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.” (James 1:16-18, NLT)
Hope during times of peace is an ideal; hope during duress is real.
Strength, character, faith, joy, peace, kindness, and a host of other godly virtues can be tested and revealed now in our lives in ways that simply would not have been possible before. Our losses during this time are greater–for some of us, immensely more so–but so is our experience of redemption in Christ.
Apart from Him, these days only serve to remind us how contingent our lease on life is. With Him, these days and all earthly days to follow are just the prelude to our true life.
And for that–for Who He Is and all that He’s done–there’s everything to thank Him for, coronavirus notwithstanding.
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21
Happy Valentine’s Eve everyone! When I posted my last blog post on January 19, Grace and I were still staying at her parents’ house and our plan was to not move back home until I could chew again, which wouldn’t happen till my arch bar was removed. At that time, we were still working with Kaiser to set a date for that procedure, so we thought we had at least another two weeks with Grace’s parents. We ended up moving back to our apartment the next day.
Among the many obstacles Grace has to face every day are the lingering effects of her traumatic brain injury (TBI) which she picked up at the time of her accident. TBI comes in many shapes and forms, but since Grace’s is in her frontal lobe, her symptoms include difficulty with executive functions including planning, decision making, and emotional processing, among others. You can imagine how hard these past few weeks have been for her after my accident on December 15, when she had to care for her caregiver.
The morning of January 20 proved to be a turning point for Grace; as hard as her family had been working to care for both of us, Grace’s brain needed to return to her apartment, the place it was most familiar with and in which Grace could best function. This development took all of us by surprise, and required some problem-solving to figure out how to maintain my recovery diet now that we were in two locations. Grace’s family has continued doing everything they can to help us settle back into our “normal” pre-jawbreaking routine. Thank you guys!
It took Kaiser about another two weeks after our move to finally schedule my arch bar removal, which took place last Friday, February 7. I had originally opted for using anesthesia for the procedure, but ended up choosing the non-anesthesia route in order to gain three days of appointment scheduling. Looking back, I’d have stuck with the anesthesia option; but the procedure worked out, and I got to enjoy an In-N-Out double-double with grilled onions, mustard fried, with animal fries and a chocolate shake, the next day (I had to cut up the burger, but it turns out deconstructed In-N-Out is still amazing).
The days following my procedure were eventful, to say the least. On Saturday, Grace’s sister Anna got engaged to her now-fiancé Robert! We are so happy and excited for them and can’t wait for them to embark on this new chapter of life. Talk about a pre-Valentine’s Day surprise!
This past Monday my ENT doctor confirmed that my right ear canal is healed. Praise God! However, I have since developed multiple sores on my gums and tongue as a reaction to my arch bar removal. One of my maxillofacial doctors has prescribed a special mouthwash, so hopefully that will help, since the sores have actually prevented me from eating and talking normally.
They say life is a rollercoaster, and it feels like Grace and I just traversed a section of the track full of loops and drops and unexpected turns. But the final destination is more than worth it! Thank you all as always so much for your prayers and support. We mean that more every time we say it. God blesses us through you, and we continue to pray that God would use all of us to reflect His light into a world that needs it.
Hi everyone! Happy Sunday 🙂 Fun fact: Grace’s family are ardent Packers fans, and as I type this the Packers-49ers game has just started. Where does my football allegiance lie? With Arsenal FC.
Yes, it’s been rough going for several (read “many”) years for us Gunners fans, but who knows…
Anyway, here are some updates on my jaw recovery:
Last Monday was my first day back at VCS. Although I’m not teaching classes yet, I’m spending more and more time at school and in the classrooms. My coworkers at school have gone above and beyond to make accommodations for my recovery. Thanks guys! 🙂
Last Thursday I had a follow-up appointment with my surgeon, who said that despite the severity of my fractures my recovery is progressing surprisingly well! Praise God. I still can’t chew, so smoothies and blended meals are still the order of the day, but hopefully in two weeks or so I’ll have a procedure to remove the metal wiring in my mouth (in my gums, actually) and return to the Land of Solid Food. No visas required.
Also, at a previous follow-up appointment my ENT doctor confirmed that my right eardrum is ok! When I fell my jawbone punctured my ear canal outside the eardrum, which is why I was bleeding out of my ear, but the eardrum itself is ok. I am very thankful for this outcome especially as a musician and music teacher.
So between now and the procedure in about two weeks, my surgeon gave me a jaw stretching exercise to regain full range of motion. I’ll continue to work on building up stamina so that I can return to full-capacity at work. Our current plan is to stay with Grace’s parents until I’m back to regular food.
Grace and her family are tired but doing ok, still taking care of me cheerfully and willingly! Grace is still dealing with seizures and migraines, and a heavy workload from school, but she continues to demonstrate incredible inner and outer strength and beauty every day. She inspires me and I learn so much from her!
Thank you all as always for your prayers and support. God brings us into each other’s lives so that we can encourage one another and spur each other on to good deeds. May God continue to shape us to become more like Jesus each day!
Hi everyone, thanks so much for your prayers! These past few weeks have been interesting, to say the least, but I am at a point where I hope I can write to you all (somewhat) coherently 🙂 .
My recovery is progressing on schedule. Praise God! I just finished my first round of post-ops, and the results are surprisingly positive. All the doctors I’ve seen have commented on the severity of my jaw fractures–not to mention my concussion, loose teeth, and punctured ear canal–so I am very thankful that the surgery on December 23 went well, and that so far I am hitting all my recovery milestones on time. Also…I can now talk! My jaw is no longer wired shut, so speech is back. But I still can’t chew for another month, so my daily nutrition consists of smoothies, shakes, and blended foods. I may be marginally responsible for any recent increases in Jamba Juice stock.
Thank you so much for all the tangible and intangible expressions of love my family and I have received from all of you! Grace and I are still staying at her parents’ house, and despite the exhaustion of caring for me and helping Grace, we have all been lifted up by your care and generosity. From the prayers, messages, cards, gifts, and food, to the overall encouragement and well-wishes–thank you! Truly the Body of Christ is a wonderful thing to be a part of.
Grace and I will continue to keep you all updated as we can. Grace has resumed her online Master’s degree after her Christmas break, and I will start to ease back into my responsibilities as I am able throughout these upcoming weeks. Happy New Year to everyone, and may God be glorified more and more through us as we move forward this year!
Dear friends, today marks three years since December 3, 2016, when God allowed a rogue driver to drastically change the course of our lives. In preparation for this post, Grace asked me if we are where I thought we’d be three years out from the accident. She asked me how I felt at the three year mark, and where we see ourselves going from here. My initial response to her questions was, “I don’t know.”
When something as terrible as Grace’s accident happens, the stakes in life suddenly get much higher. The balance between “needs” and “wants” shifts pretty dramatically and almost all your time and energy becomes devoted to keeping the boat afloat. At least something like that has been my experience. Have I had time to pause and feel what the accident has been like? Yes and no. I wouldn’t describe myself as shutting out the painful feelings associated with hardship, but at the same time my experience has been one focused mostly on just trusting God to get me and Grace through each day.
Wake up, go to work, go home and help Grace, do my own doctoral schoolwork, sleep.
The reason I don’t know if we are where I thought we would be at the three year mark is that Grace’s recovery has not followed a typical upward trajectory. To be sure, we went through the initial critical phase and have long since been in the plateau phase; but Grace has had some unexpected seizure developments during that plateau, and we are still working with neurologists to get a better understanding of what is going on with her brain and what we can do about it.
Where do I see us going in the next five, ten years? Health-wise, who knows. Hopefully we can continue to tweak Grace’s medication so that she won’t have a seizure every time she encounters a bright or flashing light. Lifestyle-wise, both Grace and I are in school, so I would look forward to finishing our degrees as our next significant life goal.
As difficult as the past three years have been, I wouldn’t change a thing about them. Not because I wouldn’t rather have had an easier, more pleasant time; but because God’s always in control and His plans are always best. Hard times do have a way of helping you realize just how much you need to rely on God and His help.
So if I could share, here are some reflections from the past three years:
The accident was not an accident. God is Sovereign, and everything He does is for His glory and the ultimate good of His children (Rom 8:28).
Human understanding is frightfully limited; God’s understanding is limitless. The “accident” didn’t change the course of Grace’s life as God had planned it; it only changed our understanding of how we thought Grace’s life should go (Prov 16:9).
No one is entitled to an easy life. In fact, Jesus promised us that we would have trouble on earth (John 16:33). But Jesus also reminded us that He has overcome the world with its many sorrows and troubles.
We all know there must be a greater good out there. The brokenness of this world serves as a cosmic sign pointing toward the redemption offered to us by God (Rom 8:19-24).
This life is short; Heaven has no time limits. All the suffering we experience now cannot be quantified against the infinite goodness of living in perfect harmony with God and those who have accepted His gift of eternal life (Rom 8:18).
We could go on and on about God’s boundless goodness, mercy, and grace. The more I reflect on these things the more grateful I am that God would love us enough to care for our eternal wellbeing so passionately. He didn’t leave us to suffer; He took on our suffering and made something beautiful out of it (Isaiah 53:5).
Friends, we are grateful for your prayers and support thus far and can’t wait to keep moving forward with all of you. Please know that Grace and I also pray for you, that God would help all of us serve Him well and bear faithfully the tasks He has entrusted to each of us during our time on earth. Our prayer is that God would continue to renew our hearts and minds each day so that we will better know Him and understand His purposes throughout both the big and little moments of this life (Phil 3:8-10).
Remember, the battle has already been won! Rest in that truth, and don’t forget to let others know! 🙂