THROUGHOUT MY LIFE, it has just been the three of us — mother, father, and daughter. We were a Christian family living a comfortable life — traveling, going to church every Sunday, and volunteering in different ministries. I had a Christian education from pre-school up until college. During my last semester at Biola University, I was excited about new adventures and had dreams to work in L.A. or intern in Washington D.C. Life was good. My family was happy and had great times together, but we had no idea about the trials to come that would challenge us to grow closer and to find our complete joy in the Lord.
I remember the early morning of February 16, 2009, when my mom and I were still chatting in bed. I glanced at the clock. Oops, we were supposed to wake up an hour and a half ago to get on the freeway back to La Mirada from Victorville. When my mom sat up, a spark came from her implanted cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) as her body was tossed back on to the bed. I screamed for my dad. Shock after shock after shock went straight to her heart. My aunt immediately called 9-1-1.
That was the first time I saw a hint of worry in my father’s eyes. Although he is a doctor of medicine, we could do nothing to deactivate the device. The ambulance arrived and my mother was screaming as the ICD shocked her heart. Tears rolled down my face as one paramedic looked me in the eye, also fearful, because he didn’t know what to do to stop her pain.
“Lord, God! Please help my mom!!!” I cried and prayed so hard. My cousin held me tight as they put my mom into an ambulance to rush her to the local hospital.
My father quickly followed the ambulance to the hospital as the rest of us got ready and made our way there as well. I was anxious, not knowing what I would do if she were to die. My body felt numb and all I could do was pray. Although we had experienced some trials with my mom’s health in the past, this was a test of faith to believe that God could take care of her.
“Lord, heal her. Please take away her pain. God, I don’t understand why this had to happen this way, but Lord, I KNOW you have a plan for this. I know that you are doing something for your glory. I know we can trust in you. In Jesus’ name, Lord, please take care of my mom. Please take care of my dad. Please take control of all of this.”
10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)
Approximately 20 rounds of electrical jolts had directly shocked her heart before the doctors were able to de-magnetize the ICD. One of the leads had broken …
While we were in the waiting room, I texted everyone on my phone to pray. We were watching the weather news update on TV. Parts of Highway 15 were closed due to snow — all in and out traffic was blocked. My heart sank and I cried as we realized that it was a blessing from the Lord that we had slept in. If we had woken up on time, if we had gotten on the highway as planned, we would’ve been stuck in the road block, and my mother would have died for sure.
It’s been almost three years now since that cold morning, and although challenges have been piling up for us, so have the blessings. All I can say is what a mighty and loving God we serve! But what we thought was the biggest wake-up call was just the beginning of many more trials to come.
When my parents returned to San Francisco, my mother had another surgery to implant a brand new cardioverter-defibrillator. The after-effects plagued her with anxiety attacks and paranoia over the terrible occurrence. She couldn’t sleep, afraid of pain that could happen when she woke up, or that she wouldn’t wake up at all. She was also fearful of being awake and feeling pain at any moment.
An additional effect of the heart medication was the damage done to her kidneys. My mother’s kidneys were failing and her heart was trying to cope with the pain. Although transplant was an option, hemodialysis three times a week was now the routine added to our schedules. And even with this solution to one problem, the cleansing of her blood via this method was still laborious for the heart. On some days her heart was so strained and her heart rate so faint that we almost had to take her to the emergency room.
My mother had to retire from her job, which she had been with for 25 years, as commuting to and from work was strenuous on her heart, in addition to the regular work pace. Our savings and investments were drained as full coverage of medical and dental insurance was no longer a part of our benefits, and medical bills needed to be paid. Our family’s source of income was slashed, and we now lived primarily on social security, disability checks, and what we could combine together from two paychecks.
Even making plans and traveling were no longer a pastime for my parents, as my mom’s condition was unpredictable. Before this, we thought that our lives were great and that we were doing a good deed even through our struggles, but God had a different plan in mind. He opened our eyes and hearts to a different level of trust in Him.
Moving back home after graduation was tough, and I felt as if my dreams had hit a brick wall. Due to the challenges that my family had to face, my ideals and goals were not going to be met by my own planning. In these last few years my eyes have finally opened to just how precious my family is. For awhile, I had not valued my parents as much as I should have and even tried to build my life around others’ families.
With the changes in my mom’s medical condition, I finally realized that I didn’t want to be anywhere but back home with my family. The Lord worked on my stubborn heart, and my dreams were no longer to meet this fantasy that I had planned out, but my desire was to surrender what I thought was best for me and to really seek out what His perfect plan was for my life.
The Lord moved in my heart and used my passions in areas of ministry that I had not imagined. He had me working for His glory right here in San Francisco, with my parents. My mom and dad are my gifts from God, and I thank God for them every day.
At times, my mom does get frustrated knowing that her independence is a thing of the past and that she is now reliant on others to help her do even some of the simplest tasks. But now I also see how my mother’s strong spirit yielded to being taken care of by her husband, and how God helped her each time she wanted to give up.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26, NASB)
There’s a love and compassion in my father that has become even more evident. I see how much he loves my mom and how he’s adjusted his life to never leave her side. I am so blessed to have them as a daily example of how God works in those who completely place their faith in Him, and I admire them as they have found their source of strength in Him.
22 Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22, NASB)
We as a family are surrounded with support and love from our family and friends. God has used the most unexpected people in our lives to help us in our times of need. We keep sharing our story of how it’s only by the grace of our loving Father that we’re able to get through each and every moment.
We share how He’s humbled us and how blessed we are to be able to completely rely on Him. We know that it’s nothing that we could have ever done on our own, but it’s only He who is in total control of our lives. We don’t get happy on vacations; we find joy in how God uses our trials right here, right now, and show His victory in our lives to impact others for His glory.
When we struggle with disappointment, we find thankfulness in knowing just how many people are daily lifting up my mother’s health and our family in their prayers. When we feel frustrated, what a privilege to be able to lift our cares to a faithful father who provides His peace!
Through everything that we have experienced, we’ve been showered with blessings, and the Lord continues to provide for us everyday. If you met us or if you just saw us as a family laughing in a restaurant, you would never guess the rollercoaster that we’ve been through and are still going through, only because we’ve found our joy in the Lord.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB)
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.