Friday, 29 January 2010

Bible Study Review: Fireproof Your Marriage

(written for our church newsletter, but still worth sharing...)

Last year my husband’s parents sent us the Fireproof Your Marriage Bible study set. We’ve since had the opportunity to use the study with our small group and were quite surprised by how much we enjoyed it and grew from it.

Fireproof isn’t your typical Bible Study. It begins with a full-length movie; a Kirk Cameron movie at that. Many people will remember him from his early acting days on Growing Pains, or even more recent, lower budget Christian movies like Left Behind. With this in mind, our small group laughed at the thought that this movie could lead to serious discussion and growth.

After some gentle persuading, our group sat down for an evening to see what this study had to offer. The movie began with typical, low budget style: unknown actors, unoriginal characters and cliché writing. We groaned together with the predictability and laughed often at how over-dramatic it could be. We soon found ourselves wrapped up in the story and characters, relating to their struggles and becoming hooked… we wanted to know what would happen! At the end, despite our preconceived ideas and comparisons to Hollywood movies, we were actually impressed.

The theme of the movie is a couple who have grown so far apart they consider divorce. Captain Caleb Holt is a firefighter who believes the saying, “never leave your partner behind.” While his work life advances, his home life deteriorates and both he and his wife have forgotten their true “partners.” The challenge comes when Caleb’s father asks him to take 40 days and follow a book called The Love Dare (which is a real book, also reviewed in this newsletter issue). The Love Dare is a book for couples with a challenge each day to do something selfless and show love to your partner. Caleb accepts this challenge, and therein lies the struggle (and often humour) of the movie.

It’s important to watch the movie first to understand the context of the study as each session of the study shows a clip from the movie which illustrates a key point. The sessions begin in prayer then onto some general discussion to warm up. Second is the movie clip, followed by some simple questions about the movie characters and a short passage to read together.

Next we dive into Scripture; and here our small group found ourselves talking for hours about what it these passages mean and how to apply them. There are Scripture passages and questions specific to men or to women, which gives us a chance to look at these situations from another perspective, and even challenge for each person. For example the first week asks us to “resist the urge to point fingers at each other. Focus on finding and correcting your own flaws so you can personally become more like Christ…”

The sessions include themes like:

-God’s love for you and how it enables you to love others,

-marriage as a lifelong covenant,

-breaking free from temptations,

-forgiveness, and

-understanding unconditional love.

For anyone who is married or planning to be, this study can be very beneficial. What is also great about this study is that you can do it as a couple or a small group, though I believe the conversation is much easier and full of insight as a group.

We are called to love our spouses and reminded repeatedly in scriptures that love is the greatest commandment. This is especially difficult in marriage, and we need to take the time to consider how to become better husbands and wives. By learning to love our spouses selflessly we follow God’s command for us and bear witness to the world what marriage truly means.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

being a healthy "branch"

So much on my mind... so much on my heart... and I often feel too tired and overwhelmed to sort through it all. >.< The last week has had so many "big things" to keep my mind occupied. On a physical level, I've been monitoring my blood glucose level as my doctor had concerns about high glucose and gestational diabetes. Much of my days have been spent thinking about sugar, measuring my blood, worrying about what to eat (when I really don't want anything at all) and so on... I had a second appointment today and was nervous that my results may not be up to par ~ and was surprised to hear him say that everything looks perfect! He advised me to continue to monitor my blood glucose level each day and to continue eating healthily and staying active.

I can't understand how people can neglect to take care of their physical health. I can't understand people who know that their health is declining and yet do nothing. For me, I may not have always made the best choices, but when it comes down to it I want to be healthy and I will do what it takes. Even more than that, I want my children to be healthy and I will do what it takes. Being careless with your own health is bad enough, being careless with the health of your child is... well, to me, nearly criminal. I just cannot fathom it.

This leads me to think about my spiritual health. When we do not nourish our bodies, it is easy for different body systems to malfunction and become impaired. Our bodies are not as strong as we imagine they are, we are breakable, we are mortal. So too is our spiritual self. When undernourished or forgotten it is easy for it to break down and become weak. No one wants to be weak... so how come it's so easy to neglect?

Prayer, studying the Word and fellowship all help to build up our spiritual selves and allow us to grow. This year I really want to take the time to work on these things and not let them fall to the back and be neglected.

John 15:5 says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

Nourishing our bodies and nourishing our spirits follow the same principles, when beneficial things go in we flourish and grow. When our body is fueled by nutritious food it will perform well; and when our spirit is fueled by God's Word and prayer, we will bear much fruit.

In addition to these thoughts, the past few days have also been difficult emotionally. Baby Emma has passed away and a community is in mourning. This morning was the burial, though I wasn't able to be there.

In times like these it's easy to see the darkness in life, the injustice, the death and destruction that comes leaving many to feel hopeless. It it all the more important for us to stay encouraged and stay strong. Our Father mourns with us, He doesn't conspire against us.

In this time it's important to draw near to God, cry out in prayer, be encouraged by His Word... and when you do this you're not only honouring God, but you're also becoming a light to others in a dark world.

I pray I can continue to grow closer to my Father and grow in understanding of His plans; To seek what is good and beneficial and to be as healthy as I can be, both physically and spiritually; and that I can be a light in the world and help bring glory to God.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

pondering miracles...

Today I'm left pondering miracles, healings and resurrections...

As a Christian we're taught of the many great things Jesus did while on Earth, as well as the glorious power of God. It is not at all uncommon that when someone becomes ill, people pray for them to recover quickly, or to be healed and restored to health. Even when faced with serious illnesses people pray in faith for miracles ~ and this is common.

Even people who are not grounded in faith and who may not know Christ will stop and pray for great miracles when faced with illness and death.

So why then do we not pray for resurrections? Why when this is mentioned do people doubt or question?

In John 11 we learn the story of Lazarus.
"1Now a man named Lazarus was sick." When Jesus heard this he said, "4This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." Jesus told his disciples that they should go to him in Judea, but his disciples had fear as they had already faced persecution there. Jesus told them, ""Lazarus is dead, 5and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."

When they arrived they were greeted by Lazarus' sister. '21"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." 23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ,b]">[b] the Son of God, who was to come into the world." '

Though at first she didn't understand, she never doubted Jesus.

When they took Jesus to see Lazarus' tomb, Jesus wept. Many people wondered why Christ hadn't come to heal Lazarus before death. Jesus asked to enter the tomb, despite the odor or death and the doubts of some of the mourners.

"40Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" 41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." 43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

We read of another resurrection in Mark 5.

Mark 5:35 "While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?” Their faith had expired when the girl died, they lost all hope of seeing a miracle. Then (Mark 5:36) Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

5:41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” and (verse 42) Immediately the girl stood up and walked around.

We see here that people had faith Jesus could heal illness, but then doubted that he could resurrect the dead. But really, how can we distinguish what miracles are "rational," "believable," or "common" and which are not? Are any miracles described as "rational," "believable," or "common?" No, because then they wouldn't require faith.

In James 5 James writes, "13Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

We are called to pray continuously, to pray in faith and to bring everything to our Father... so why not bring our deepest requests, fears and sufferings to him? Why not pray for miracles?

If we can believe in the works on Christ and his disciples on Earth, and if we can believe in the power and glory of God, why can't we truly believe that all things are possible through our Father?

For more listen to John Piper talk about (briefly) about miracles on YouTube:

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

ugh... more complications (34 weeks)

So I had an appointment with an endocrinologist yesterday because of my inconsistent blood work over the past few weeks. I went to the hospital at noon and didn't see him until 2:30, but it wasn't that bad.

We briefly discussed my history, and he was pleased with my knowledge of the topic. I shared with him that my father is diabetic, but his diabetes was caused by other factors (pancreatic shock). We looked over my past blood results (most of which were fine) then discussed my glucose test from the week before.

Basically I went to the doctor and they took my fasting blood glucose level. I then drank this drink which can only be described as similar to undiluted McDonalds orange drink (does anyone remember this from when we were kids?) BUT even sweeter and more disgusting!! After that they measure my blood glucose level after 1hr, 2hrs and 3hrs from the time I had the drink.

My fasting result was a little high and my 1hr result was quite high. At 2hrs it was going down and 3hrs was normal.

My own theories are that a number of factors messed up my results. First I didn't sleep well the night before, it was a very busy day, I had a lot of stress and concerns on my mind and finally I was in a lot of pain that day. Because baby big head is so low, he's been resting on my pelvis for a while and I believe I've done some damage to my pelvic tendons or ligaments... whatever it is, it hurts!! >.<

When I inquired about stress and pain affecting the results, the doctor fully agreed. However, at this stage in the pregnancy and with this being Korea (the land of over medicating) he told me he was going to admit me into the hospital for a week (A WEEK!?!) of observation.

After I began breathing again, I calmly explained that I wasn't going to do that (I don't think Korean doctors have been told "no" before) but I came up with a compromise. I suggested they lend me a glucometer for me to test my sugar at home and I would report the results to him. If things didn't look good, I was willing to come back in and be admitted.

Well, this also isn't common, but he found a sample unit that a pharmaceutical company had just dropped off so he lent it to me with instructions to test 4x a day.

And that's where I am now.

Last night before dinner my sugar was a little high, but after dinner was fine. And this morning before breakfast was great! Since last week I've been eating more frequently and being sure to avoid higher sugar items and get more protein. I've also started mixing a spoonful of cinnamon in a cup of milk and drinking it after meals.

I read that cinnamon can help insulin to utilize glucose, and so far this appears to be true. At this point, I'm willing to try whatever works... and for now I can handle mixing my chocolate milk with regular.

Friday, 15 January 2010

my new obsession: the sweetie

So I have found a new food to become obsessed with: the Sweetie, also known as an Oroblanco!

What is a "sweetie" you might ask? Well it is a newer hybrid citrus fruit... it's actually a cross between a white grapefruit and a pomelo. Pomelos are delicious, but giant! And white grapefruits still have a more tart or sour flavour. But Sweeties are grapefruit sized, green and sweet with large pulp.

I like to slice mine up and eat it like an orange. Others cut it in half and eat it with a spoon. Still others peel it, though this is more of a challenge due to it's white, pithy membranes are thick and bitter.

This makes me wonder what other hybrid foods they can come up with... and while both the grapefruit and the pomello are citrus fruit, will they cross non-similar fruit as well? If so, what would I like to see?

I wonder if they could cross a blueberry with an apple ~ imagine that, a blue sweet apple... yum!

Or pomegranate and blueberries... oh. apparently I'm having a craving for blueberries...

Avacado and peach? or avacado and tomato! (the avamato or tomocado!!)

Maybe even a watermelon and...

Ok, I'd better stop. This is really giving me some mad cravings... I think it's time for lunch.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Gestational Diabetes >.<

So after 33 weeks of pregnancy, I've just discovered that my doctor thinks I have Gestational Diabetes.

The baby has been measuring big for a while now, but nothing overly concerning. He's had a big head ~ but so does his dad, and that was something we were expecting from the beginning. (Really, when Ryan was 9 and went to Disneyland he had to buy an adult hat!)

My first test was the GD screening, and I didn't know what to expect so I'd eaten and had a full cup of hot chocolate before the test... needless to say, the glucose levels came back higher than they expected. The second test I had my fasting glucose levels taken, then had a regular meal and went back for more blood work ~ this was normal despite all the bread and potatoes at lunch (YUM! Greek food!). My third test was the 4 hour glucose test. Using the glucometer, two of my scores were normal-high and two were high. Finally the doctor said the lab work from the same day looked high (I never saw the numbers) so she recommended I be classified as "high risk."

My first reaction is that I'm ticked ~ with the doctor, with her info, with myself... I've done a good job at eating healthy food (as much as you can over the holidays), and up until the past month remained fairly active (this month has been so cold and snowy, I've been bored of things to do in my little apartment). I even weigh less than I did BEFORE pregnancy!!

The problem is this: frequency of meals is just as important as what you eat.

It seems simple, but battling nausea over and over again over the past 8 months I've become lazy at eating. I was a meal skipper before pregnancy, and though I hate to admit it I'm a meal skipper now if there's nothing I want to eat. I found the more I forced, the more I was ill. Now I find out I should be eating every few hours, and I'm working hard to fix that ~ I really am! What stinks is that I just don't have an appetite...

Ok, Ok, enough complaining. What's next??

Well, to start: eating more often. Also, carefully watching what I eat. The house is stocked already with granola, oats, and cream of wheat (all things that go down easily). We also are trying (despite the costs living in Korea) to keep a good variety of fruit and veggies here (carrots, cucumber, apples, pears, bananas, etc.) as well as my new obsession: the sweetie (a grapefruit / pomello hybrid). In addition we have tons of cheese, yogurt, milk, tofu, and fish... so I'm hoping I can get my protein in without much meat.

As for exercise, I'm waddling slowly these days because of pelvic pain and strained ligaments ~ so my walking is slow, but I'm trying to get back in the habit of walking each day (cross your fingers). I'm also trying to talk Ryan into going to the public pool ~ the only problem is kids are still on vacation... >.<>

I know this posting hasn't been the most interesting, but putting this out there saves me from repeating the same stories and also gives me some accountability...

well time for another snack...

Monday, 4 January 2010

The Story of Emma

I've been wondering what I'd say about the New Year, I often feel like I have little new to say. So my first post of this decade is not about me. This is something that our Pastor and friend, Eddie Byun, wrote about his preemie daughter this week. So here it is:

Princess Emma's Story

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful daughter of God named Hyun who was expecting two more beautiful daughters in her womb (Princess Emma and her identical twin sister). But sadly, a few months into the pregnancy, because of how beautiful she was, God wanted Emma's sister to go home to heaven a bit sooner than Emma, so the family had to say goodbye to Emma's sister. But Mommy and Daddy were still excited for their wonderful Christmas gift that would come later that year, for Princess Emma was due to be born on December 26th.

Suddenly on October 20th, during a regular check up, the doctors asked Hyun to stay at the hospital because of some concerns they had when monitoring Emma. Then early the next morning, Princess Emma (Emmanuel Lee Byun), who takes after her Dad and likes to get things done early, was born 10 weeks early on October 21 at 5:50am at 990grams (2.18lbs). I believe it was because Emma heard rumors that if she were to be born near Christmas, she may only get one "big" present for both Christmas and her birthday instead of two! Also she heard that many of her friends may not be able to come to her birthday parties because of the holiday season so it was time to come out!

But being born at 30 weeks had it's share of challenges that most preemie babies face. Various organs were underdeveloped, especially her lungs. But after a quick operation, her lungs began functioning a bit better and slowly but surly the rest of her body seemed to be growing healthy and strong. After one month, Mommy and Daddy were actually feeling peace about this stressful ordeal. Mommy visited Princess Emma on Sunday November 29th in the afternoon and everything seemed peaceful and fine.

Then suddenly Mommy and Daddy received a phone call Sunday night from the hospital that something happened to Emma. Princess Emma was going through septic shock ( - an infection in the blood stream that shuts down all the organs and often times leads to death. From that day forward, Emma's life and her parents lives would never be the same. After several surgeries, many blood transfusions, and 2 weeks of kidney failure, Emma was going through some extreme inflammation and her whole head and body were bloated. They decided to releave the toxins and excess liquids from her body attempting a dialysis approach through her stomach. This was going well and she was able to get many things filtered out of her system.

Then suddenly instead of urine and and clear liquids coming out of the dialysis tube, blood was showing up. Something was seriously wrong. They discovered that at least one of her organs must have burst and needed to do another surgery. But after all the other surgeries she had been through already, they were very hesitant. But after a few days and realizing things were not getting better, they had to go in. They found that her upper intestine was ripped and they successfully stitched it up again. But now they could no longer do the dialysis through her stomach area anymore because of the possibility of that area re-opening. So Emma started getting bloated once again with extreme inflammation. And with her kidneys still not working, there was no way for her to get her bodily toxins out of her system. Another challenge to face.

With her condition getting to serious levels, there was one final option - something that had never been done to a baby that size before. They unsuccessfully attempted some of things on other babies but there was no other option. They would try a blood dialysis through her veins to help filter her system. But the problem was that the filter tubes are made for babies 3kgs or more, but Emma was 1.6kg. With a great deal of prayer and hope in God, the surgery was successful! A record for this country and possibly the world.

So now, 8 surgeries later, Princess Emma has surprised even the doctors in the hospital by making it through this far and still showing so much strength. As of now (January 5th), Emma is scheduled for surgery #9 this afternoon to find a larger vein for the medication to be placed into. Today is day 76 of God's grace over Princess Emma's life (and FYI, her Korean name is Byun, Ha-Eun, which mean's God's grace). She has urinated very small amounts 3 times but overall, it has been about a month that she's had kidney failure.

The main prayer requests remain for her:
#1: Her brain. Pray that there would be no long-term brain damage from all the challenges she's faced.
#2: Her kidneys: Pray that her kidneys would function in perfect health to filter her body and produce urine on a daily basis.
#3: Her intestines: Pray that this would also heal as soon as possible.
#4: The doctors told us today that her lungs seem to be getting a bit weaker the past few days. Pray for strength and health for the lungs too.
#5: Her heart: Her heart rate dropped quite a bit several times the past few days. Pray it would be strong again.

Overall, Mommy and Daddy are hopeful and believe God can and will heal Emma unto perfect health. Each day has its share of challenges but they are learning to lean on each other and especially God each day.

Princess Emma, her Mommy and her Daddy thank you all so much for your prayers, love and support.

Your prayer support is Emma's life support.
Eddie, Hyun and Princess Emma
Acts 20:24; Prov 31; John 11:4