Love and Marriage

My husband, the caregiver

I have always been used to my mom taking care of me after surgery, well for most of my surgeries, that is. After three of my surgeries while I was in medical school, she had to stay with me for 2 weeks or so to take care of me postoperatively. I was in LA for last year’s surgery, so it was my Auntie Becky and family who took care of me. This time, there’s only me and Sam, and friends, to whom I’ll always be grateful. To those who have brought us meals and flowers, and offered encouraging words and prayers, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Dealing with post-surgery recuperation is never fun. There’s the pain, of course, then the post-anesthesia effects (which includes the horrible consequence of extremely difficult bowel movement), inability to use that specific part that just underwent surgery, the inability to move around and do things, sleepless nights owing to difficulty finding the least painful position, nausea, vomiting, not being able to bathe normally on your own, oh the list is endless. For that, Sam had to skip work for two days after my surgery to stay home with me.

At first, I was worried that Sam wouldn’t be able to fully take on the caregiving role. But this past week just proved me wrong.

During the day of my surgery, he decided not to skip work because he wanted to distract himself from worrying too much about the surgery. But when I wasn’t out of the operating room on time because the procedure took longer than the doctors expected due to the extent of damage in my shoulder, he told me he couldn’t help but worry. When the nurse finally called after 3 hours to inform him that I was already in the PACU and instructed him to buy my meds, he went out and came back with 2 grocery bags full of food and drink. He wasn’t sure what to feed me once I woke up, so he bought all of my comfort food- macaroni and cheese, Reese’s peanut butter cups, orange juice, and chocolate jello. The first 2 nights, I had to sleep in a rocking chair, and then on the couch. It was too painful and uncomfortable to sleep flat on the bed. He slept on the floor, beside me. Of course, sleep is an overstatement. Eventually, he told me he had not been sleeping because he would get up every hour or so to make sure I didn’t turn on my left side, or take the bandage off in my sleep. He cooked for me, fed me, did the dishes and the laundry, gave me sponge baths, helped me get into my clothes- he practically did everything for me. On my third post-op day, he went back to work. Although I had to wait for him to get home before I could do anything major, I didn’t have much difficulty because he had already cooked and left me some food before leaving.

Sam did everything for me this week, and never complained. Last night he told me his body had been aching, probably brought about by sleeping on the floor of the living room. And that was the only complaint I heard from him all week. I did tell him he could go to sleep on the bed and that I would be fine on the couch. But when I woke up this morning, he was asleep, thank goodness, but still on the floor.

When I think of how much patience and hard work it takes for him to work and provide for me and then to come home, take care of a debilitated me and do the chores the way I do them, in that excruciatingly ceremonious way, I think of how exhausting it must be for him. And yet here he is, taking care of me, hanging on to that last ounce of patience he has. Shame on me for worrying and doubting his capacity to take care of me. He may not be as thorough as a nurse or as smooth and gentle as my mom, but I know he’s doing the best he can, in his own rough and tough way. And that’s enough for me to say that he’s the best caregiver right now I could ever have. Thank you, my love.

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One hour prior to surgery
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Life

How to cope with physical pain

Tomorrow I will be having my fifth surgery. The surgeon will be repairing my left shoulder, which, 2 weeks ago, dislocated (on its own) while I was asleep. Don’t make any conclusions yet, Sam didn’t have anything to do with it, he was at work. It’s been dislocating on and off for 7 years now. The first time it happened was while I was dribbling the ball back to home court in a basketball championship game in medical school. But this has got to be the worst episode. I woke up with sudden severe and shooting pain on my left shoulder, recognized right away that the ball was out of the socket, manipulated the joint on my own and reduced it effectively, after 3 failed and painful attempts. I know, it’s gruesome. I couldn’t feel my hands at one point. I was sobbing on my own, called Sam, and finally asked our friends to drive me to the Emergency Room at 1 am to get an X-ray done. So on top of my Rheumatoid arthritis flares and my endometriotic pelvic pains, I get to endure shooting pain coming from my left shoulder. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself this time. Believe me, I don’t laugh alone because my husband usually laughs at me first. So, because of all this physical pain that’s come my way, I’ve cooked up something that could, hopefully, help you deal with whatever physical pain you are in right now. The title should’ve then been “How to cope with physical pain the way I do.”

  1. Know that everything comes to pass. It will eventually come to an end. Look forward to that freedom from pain. It’s like looking forward to the light at the end of the tunnel. Aside from the prayers that I cry out to God when I am in pain, I usually say, “This will end,” over and over again. And when it does end, learn to appreciate those pain-free days more and whisper a prayer of gratitude.
  2. Know that pain is your nervous system’s response to damage or injury to any body part. It’s like an alarm system. It tells us that something is wrong. And it leads us to take care of our body even more to avoid having to feel that same way again. Take heed and listen to your body. If it means having to change your diet and lifestyle, then by all means do. Not everything works though. Sometimes, some things make the pain even worse than when you even started doing, eating, or drinking it.
  3. Remember that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. When you are able to endure pain, you are stronger than most people in the world. My husband always tells me that I’m stronger than him, well, in terms of enduring pain, that is. But of course he’s my husband.
  4. Thank God for the pain. Remember when the Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians to give thanks in every circumstance? Well, that includes being in a painful situation. It reminds us that God is our ultimate Healer. It reminds us that His strength is sufficient. It allows us to look forward to that time and place where… “God will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain…” (Revelation 21:4)
  5. Know that you are not alone. There are people around the world who are dealing or who have dealt with the same amount of pain that you are dealing with, some even worse. An epic example of this (one my husband always reminded me of) would be Job. ““And now my life ebbs away; days of suffering grip me. Night pierces my bones; my gnawing pains never rest.” (Job 30:16-17) Oh my, I could imagine what he went through. Yet he still praised God.

Believe me, dealing with physical pain has never been easy. And yes, for some people, it makes suicide a very viable option and an easy way out. But that would be a selfish thing to do. Really, if there is one thing that has kept me up all this time in spite of the amount of pain I have to go through everyday, it is knowing that God is still sovereign. And even for this kind of life He has afforded me, I know that He does have a purpose in mind. I may not understand it now, but He will let me know eventually, in His own time. And besides, this physical body is just temporary after all. Sometimes even I would forget that; I would wallow in my self pity, and just plunge into nothingness. And guess who always pulls me out and reminds me that God does listen to my cries? Sam, of course. I hope and pray that you wouldn’t have to go through what I’m going through. And if you do or if you already have, please let me know how you’ve coped with your pain. There is always comfort in sharing.

The Alaska Night Sky *photo taken by sam*
Love and Marriage

How God wrote our 2013 story

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For some, 2013 had been a year of joy, marriage, birth, life, reunion. For some it was a year of sorrow, heartache, loss, tragedy, death. For most people active in social networks, it was a year of selfies. For even most, it was just like any other year. For Sam and I, 2013 was a year of change, the kind of change that enabled us to grow and marvel at God’s faithfulness together.

We could never really fathom how much God has been faithful to us ever since we got married. This year had been exceptionally awesome. I still remember us saying goodbye to 2012, both without jobs, praying, waiting, trusting, and hoping for the best. This time, we say goodbye to 2013 with the deepest gratitude, as God had answered our prayers, and specifically at that. And so we document the highlights that have brought color to our 2013, those that have spelled God’s love, faithfulness, and most of all, His majesty.

First, Sam got the job we specifically prayed for. Although I wasn’t particularly excited about living in Alaska because of the cold, it was Sam’s dream and he very much felt led. So where else does the wife go? That’s right, anywhere the husband goes.

Second, I had my third surgery for endometriosis in July, and I recovered pretty well. Insurance covered 98% of the total hospital cost.

Third, I was able to start chemotherapy for my Rheumatoid Arthritis and I’ve been better with less fatigue and more activities, although with almost the same amount and intensity of joint pains. But then again, insurance covers 99% of the total monthly cost. The path to healing has been rough for me, physically especially. Pain has become my friend; it has allowed me to cling onto Him for strength.

Fourth, We’ve been praying for a church where God could use us and whom we could treat as second family here in Juneau, and yes, God has answered our prayers by leading us to Auke Bay Bible Church.

Fifth, we’ve seen the Northern Lights right above our heads! The Aurora borealis reminds us of His majesty and how the heavens declare the glory of God. You could almost see how His hands move as if directing the rhythm of the dancing lights.

Sixth, Sam has learned how to snowboard and is slowly getting better at it. He’s now convincing me to learn how to ski.

Seventh, I started to blog this year. This has allowed me to find something to do besides reading and baking cupcakes. It has also helped me discover new support groups for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Endometriosis. My blogs have become a way for me to increase awareness and advocate support for RA and endometriosis research.

Eighth, we’ve met new people and developed new friendships. I guess this is important for anyone anywhere.

Ninth, we’ve found opportunities to pray for certain people and help them, especially during the Yolanda tragedy. Sam and I have always held on to this particularly important formula in our lives- that we are BLESSED TO BLESS.

Last, we are thankful for our families and how God continues to strengthen and uphold each of their ministries. We miss them a lot but we are confident that God is taking care of them. It is being far from them that moves us to value them even more and appreciate them as they are.

There are more things to thank God and praise Him for but I’ll leave the specific things to memory. God has taught us many things out here- patience, grace, lovingkindness, and more- practically everything we lack, and He still continues to teach us everyday. Yes, 2013 was indeed a year of change for us as we ventured into an entirely different environment and culture with different people. It was hard, but we have trusted in Him and He has made all things beautiful. God has always been and will always be faithful. And so we look forward to 2014 with the same hope that we had a year ago, and the same excitement that He is indeed going to fulfill His promises and unfold another chapter in the story He has written. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

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The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), the first time we witnessed it.
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Sam’s First Snow

Of all the things I love documenting, it’s my husband’s firsts i love the most. This week we experienced our first snowfall, and boy what a snowfall that was! Reports tell us we had a total of 14 inches in 2 days alone, but I think it was more than 14! As if I knew. Since it was our first time seeing a lot of fresh fluffy snow (we’ve seen fake snow, and snow on the ground, but nothing like fresh fluffy snow!), Sam had all the energy plowing the entire driveway! And of course I also had the energy to instruct him on how to do it better, which didn’t help at all, by the way. So, since my “instructions” didn’t help at all, and because I really wanted to help, I just ended up taking the hand-held snow plow (also spelled as snow plough)  from him for short periods of time to allow him to rest. So,  it’s hello again, painful joints for me. Anyway, here are some of his reactions as we waited for our first real snowfall:

Day 1:  It’s snowing! Yay! Snow! Snow! Snow!

Day 2:  Have you seen how much snow there is outside?! You’ve got to come look!

Day 3:  (when he came home from work at 6am) I couldn’t find my car under all that snow! Oh no, and it’s only the first day of snow!

My reaction: You wanted snow, God gave you snow 🙂

Look at him:

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Cupcakes For #TeamBanggi

We’ve been following Dr. Evangeline Cua’s efforts for the past weeks since typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the Visayas Islands. A few days after the disaster, she posted a facebook status asking for help as she planned for a medical relief operation on her own to Tacloban, and she got an overwhelming response from all over the world! I won’t talk about the difficulties and stumbling blocks she encountered as this would spark another interesting discussion on my comment feed. I would rather talk about how much they were of help to the victims who were sick, injured, and…wait for this…pregnant! I exaggerated the last part a bit because, get this, she’s actually a surgeon, a very good one, in fact, and yet the most featured picture (and newsclip) of her on TV was when she delivered the “Yolanda” baby. Needless to say, we are very proud of her. She was my surgery chief resident during my younger days as an intern in medical school. The team she led consisted of a chef, a physical therapist, a midwife, a law student, a Social Action Officer, an OR nurse, and two more doctors. They were able to help around a thousand sick and injured (don’t forget pregnant) victims. If you want to see her in action, click here. She’s the one in blue scrubs carrying the newly delivered baby. You can also listen to her interview with BBC here.

So, since I’m all the way here and couldn’t help on the ground, my husband and I decided to help by fundraising for Dr. Cua and her team as they prepare for their second and third trips. So we started CUPCAKES FOR A CAUSE, proceeds of which will be wired to Dr. Cua’s “Yolanda” bank account and will be used to procure medicines and surgical supplies for her team’s medical-surgical mission to the typhoon-affected areas. Five dozens of cupcakes gave us $220 in return, at (supposedly) $2 a piece during the first two days! So, we thank you- Bartlett Regional Hospital Laboratory and Emergency Room staff, employees of First Bank (Mendenhall Valley Branch), and the people that have helped us around at such short notice, the Arsuas- for supporting this cause. If you’re from Juneau, Alaska and you want to help, you can contact me, or place a comment below. We are yet to collect from some more people who have pledged their donations, and we will be wiring the funds next week.

To Dr. Cua (or Doc Banggi as we fondly call her), may you and your team be safe, and may God bless your hearts even more!

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THE LAST THING WE FILIPINOS OUGHT TO DO

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photo taken from cnn.com (http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/10/world/asia/typhoon-haiyan-developments/)

When news of the aftermath of Yolanda(a.k.a. Haiyan) reached us, we were devastated. My facebook newsfeed was and is still full of pictures, videos, news updates of missing people, notes from survivors- everything that painted a picture of the shocking destruction made by the supertyphoon and the tsunami-like storm surge that killed an estimate of almost 10,000 in just one area, left thousands homeless, and wiped out entire cities. Not only that, my facebook wall has also been full of personal opinions on how the affected should be helped, complaints on delayed relief efforts, derogatory remarks about the government and the president- even of volunteers, media people, fellow doctors, and the Red Cross– blogposts on people being insensitive about what they post on their facebook walls, attacks on churches and religious organizations, and disputes, yes quarrels on social media about anything pertaining to the use of social media in such a time as this. And this too, is heartbreaking.

Dear fellow Filipinos, the whole world is watching us. We claim to be strong in the face of adversity; we claim to be heroes for withstanding the strongest typhoons, earthquakes and other natural disasters beyond our imagination, but we seem to go on lashing out at each other- judging people by the content of their facebook walls, judging victims who have looted grocery stores, attacking the president or any other politician, attacking churches and whole religions, complaining, oh, endless complaining about almost everything- from the delay of relief operations, to the blackouts, tv programs deemed insensitive- almost everything. Please, let us stop.

Let’s not judge the president for his seeming lack of sensitivity and reported lack of manners by walking out. We don’t know exactly what was on his mind. Let us not judge the church who reportedly refused to help survivors, we do not know what really happened, and if they did really refuse victims, it is not for us to judge them, they are not accountable to us. Let us stop making or even exaggerating the stories about politicians from the affected areas who are also victims of the tragedy. I am sure they are doing their best in helping. Let us stop complaining about the delay of relief operations to the affected areas. We do not know exactly what it entails for the volunteers to travel to the affected areas. We also do not know what it entails for truckloads of relief supplies to reach the area. We know nothing about the logistics. Let us stop judging volunteers if they post photos of themselves helping out on facebook. We are not aware of their intentions, and even if it were to brag, it’s not for us to judge them, at least they’re helping out. Let us stop judging victims who have looted groceries, helping themselves to whatever is left- food, clothing, even appliances- these people have lost their homes and loved ones, and have gone hungry and psychologically traumatized for days. Let us not judge the media for still allowing “happy” shows on television amidst the mourning. They might just want to cheer us up. If you can’t take it, you can turn your television off. Let us stop judging our electric companies for the blackouts, it was actually caused by a lack of power supply due to damage of electric lines and powerplants- and I know this because my brother and of course my dad both work for the National Grid and they haven’t slept (and gone home) for days. Let us stop arguing about the cause of Yolanda, whether it was man-made or divinely appointed. Only God knows why it happened. Let us not blame God for this disaster. We do not know His purpose. We can only trust and hope. Let us not put the blame on the victims for their sins either, it’s like saying the whole earth deserves to be wiped out right now. We are no better than them.

Let’s stop judging. Let’s stop blaming. Let’s stop complaining. Let’s stop arguing and attacking each other. This is supposed to be a time for unity, a time for solidarity among the Filipino people. We ought to love and forgive each other. We ought to help each other, move together, hope for the better. We ought to pray. We ought to live up to our own reputation of being strong (and happy) in the face of adversity. The last thing we ought to do at this time is attack a fellow Filipino. This isn’t war, people, this is a tragedy.

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Chasing Aurora

Last weekend, Juneau gave us the show of our lives! I’ve been waiting for the aurora since we got here. I’ve read about it, visited all the notification sites and waited for news on a facebook page that gives realtime updates on aurora sightings all over Alaska. And we finally witnessed it from where we are. So, who (or what, but I like referring to it as a who) is this aurora that people (photographers, especially) keep on chasing around? According to Wikipedia, “an Aurora is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere; In northern latitudes, the effect is known as the aurora borealis (or the northern lights), named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, by Pierre Gassendi in 1621.”

I’ve been gazing out our bedroom window every night whenever it was clear, to check if the lights were out. Finally, Sam’s boss called on an early Friday evening to inform us that he could see the aurora from where he was. We immediately rushed out of the house in our cold gear with our camera in tow. It was breathtaking! Literally. It was so dark and cold that we fumbled with the camera at first, but thanks to this kind man we met, he taught us how to set our camera right and invited us to join the Juneau Photo Club. Here are some of the shots that Sam took:

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I think the camera was tipped to the side on this one. Ha!
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Breathtaking!
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Being the helper God designed me to be

2 weeks ago Sam and I had an argument about whose turn it was to cook. Both of us actually cook and we both have our own specialties, but because he has more love for it than me, he has done most of the cooking since we got married, and so my role has been the cleaning up afterward (and not just in the kitchen). The situation happened 2 weeks ago- I was cramming for an exam and he was tired because he came from work so nobody went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. We were silently waiting for each other to make a move, until I asked him (expecting him to cook something), “So, what are we having for dinner?” And he replied, “I’m really tired, can you do the cooking? After all, you are the woman.”

That got me. All of a sudden, all the lectures on gender equality and feminism from my college days flooded my mind. Of course I didn’t mention it to him, until we drove somewhere after dinner and we were silent in the car the whole time. I broke the silence by telling him about his lack of gender sensitivity by assigning a role (cooking) to me just because I am the woman when in fact both of us cook and he has actually done most of the cooking ever since. As usual, he responded by citing Bible verses about my role as a helper. I didn’t contest the biblical fact that I am supposed to be a helper. I just didn’t want him to assign the cooking role just because I am the woman. Wait, is cooking specified in the Bible? Well , good thing it wasn’t really a heated up argument and we did arrive at a compromise in the end: If he needed me to do the cooking or anything else for that matter, he could just ask for my help, not tell me to do it “because after all, I am the woman.” It turned out to be just a technicality; he just needed to omit that line. Or was it really just a technicality?

In the Philippines, we literally had a helper, more like a maid, who did most of the household chores when I was too busy attending to my patients’ needs in the hospital. She wasn’t really that efficient when it came to cleaning, so I would often pick up after her when I had the time. Also, because I love (and I do mean that, my friends could attest to it) doing the laundry, handwashing that is, I would usually do the laundry before she even gets to collect it from our laundry basket. Some people just don’t do things the way you do no matter how much you teach them.  That would be my obsessive-compulsive mind speaking. In all fairness, she really did her job by doing the chores that would otherwise be difficult for us to add to our already busy week. In other words, during the first 3 years of our marriage, we didn’t really get to the point of arguing over whose turn it was to cook dinner because we had help then- in the form of another person who wasn’t me. I guess I got so used to being busy in my roles then as a doctor and many other things like managing the wedding shop and being a makeup artist, that I’ve forgotten my role as a wife and a homemaker. However, God is dealing with me right now on that specific aspect and let me tell you that the journey has not been easy.

Sam and I both worked in a Baptist mission hospital back home. We lived in the hospital compound and were being called on during the most unholy hours to attend to patients’ needs. He worked in the lab and of course I was a doctor on call who did 24-hour (and more) shifts. To serve in this hospital was our calling when we were still single and younger (we’re still young ). In fact, the hospital was where we met. After we got married, we continued to work in the same hospital for 2 more years until we felt God urging us to move out. We were uncertain of our would-be circumstance once we quit our jobs, but after almost a year of waiting Sam got petitioned by the hospital in Juneau, and so we moved here.

Bottomline is that right now, Sam’s got a job. I don’t. For me, to be unemployed and not be able to practice my profession- well, to be honest- have been quite a struggle. How long am I supposed to wait until I can be a doctor again so that I could help those who are sick? I have run out of options and the waiting has become unbearable. I have been cleaning, organizing stuff, doing the laundry, paying bills, cleaning again, and doing all the other things that Sam doesn’t get to do, and I still feel that it’s not enough. My life’s mission is in a healing profession. Housekeeping is not fulfilling enough. What I have been doing for the past 5 months (I know, I know, it’s not that long a time) is just not enough. I have been ranting (mostly in my mind) about unemployment, complaining to God and asking Him about direction. Well, not until Sam got sick 4 days ago and I had to do most everything, even getting up at night to give him his medications and massages to staying up all night to watch him and make sure he was breathing normally (he has asthma), to going out in the freezing cold to start the car and the heater so he wouldn’t feel too cold once he gets in and drives to work. Then, it slowly started to sink in. Maybe this was going to be the role I would have to accept and take right now. Maybe this is what God wants me to do- to be a wife to my husband; to be the helper He designed me to be, RIGHT NOW. Although Sam is encouraging me to still pursue further medical training and then perhaps establish private practice, I need to stop stressing over the hows and the whys of that right now. I need to stop grumbling about how much longer I would have to wait until I get that accomplished. I finally realized that I needed to lay aside my own goals and give priority to this higher calling right now. It IS hard. Who said it was easy? I am still struggling, but I know God will give me strength and show me how.

I finally gathered my guts and attended the women’s bible study at church yesterday. And guess what the topic was? “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’” (Genesis 2:18)

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“For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.” 1 Corinthians 11:8-9

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You wanna share a room?

I took an exam in Anchorage more than a week ago, and what was supposed to be a daytrip turned into an overnight action-packed adventure. Excuse the exaggeration. The flight from Juneau to Anchorage at 6 o’ clock in the morning was rather uneventful. It was my return flight at 8 o’ clock in the evening on the same day that turned out to be a shocker. Since I took an exam, you could imagine how much stress I’ve been through the past week, not being able to sleep much, let alone eat 3 meals a day. And so as expected, by the time I was on the plane back  to Juneau, I was exhausted. And because I couldn’t wait to get home and sleep, I let out a huge sigh when the captain announced that we were preparing for landing. I didn’t see much outside the window since I was on an aisle seat. What I saw were clouds and some lights. As the plane descended and while I was counting the minutes and happily looking at the visible lights and rooftops out the window, longing to be in the comfort of my own bed, the plane suddenly shifted and pulled up. What had happened?

“Sorry folks, 0 visibility down there, we will be landing in Sitka instead.” Groans and irritated chatter. By the time we were at the airport in Sitka, everybody was on their phones talking to their concerned loved ones about the change of plans. Honestly, I was lost. Do we wait for the fog in Juneau to lift? How long could that take? Do we sleep at the airport? Just as I was going to ask a crew member, we all then received news about having to pay for our own hotel room because the airport was closing in 30 minutes and “weather difficulty” didn’t count for airline-sponsored accommodations. Everybody was angry. This lady was really mad at one of the crew members and said, “I will never fly Alaska Airlines again!” And then I thought, “Isn’t this the only interstate airline in this part of the country? Does that mean she’s never going to visit Alaska ever?” I was waiting on the sideline, hoping something good would end up happening after this angry lady complained about not having enough funds for a hotel room (which was pretty much the same as my predicament), but I ended up being told by Sam to just get a hotel room and get some rest rather than stress about the cost and end up getting sick.

People started looking around for potential roommates and so I found myself searching for one as well. I approached this really nice lady and asked, “You wanna share a room?” To my relief, she gladly consented. From then on, we talked nonstop. Even when we were already both in bed, we continued to talk about our families, how she came to live in Juneau, common friends, her daughter, and a whole lot more. We fell asleep at around 1 am, woke up at 4 am and headed to the airport, since we were told our flight was going to be at 6 am. But of course we waited for 5 more hours at the airport. Foggy weather being as unpredictable as can be, we left Sitka at around 11:30am. Boy was I relieved to see Sam’s smiling face in the driver’s seat as he parked the car on the airport arrival curb. His “Welcome home!” was enough to remind me how exhausted and hungry I was, and so I broke down in tears.

Given the number of times I have to travel in a year to and from LA to visit my aunt, my rheumatologist, and my gynecologist, I would suppose this experience will definitely not be the last. Next time I will be more prepared. If it hadn’t been for Sam  telling me to grab a couple of granola bars before leaving Juneau, I would have collapsed from hypoglycemia before we even got back. Pessimism aside, you remember when the apostle Paul told us to “give thanks in everything”? Well, I am definitely grateful for this experience. I am thankful for the opportunity to visit Sitka, even if it wasn’t the most ideal tour package, at least the hotel shuttle driver was kind enough to give us a little history. I am also thankful for having met a new friend. She’s Asian, Thai, actually, and she was really nice. Most of all, I am grateful because the pilot decided to land the plane safely in Sitka rather than risk all of our lives landing on an invisible runway. Although this last item- the risks involved in landing a plane without being able to see the runway- had to be explained to me by Sam over and over again before I could understand why the plane didn’t have fog lights or if it did, why it didn’t help, or why the pilot had to actually see the runway before being able to land, or why the fog couldn’t be “fanned” out of the runway. Yes, I can be that naive.

Rocky Gutierrez Airport (Sitka)
Rocky Gutierrez Airport (Sitka)
At the Departure Area (Sitka)
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Alaska- who would have thought?

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Most of you probably don’t know how and why we ended up living in the Last Frontier. Well, I don’t know either. One thing I’m sure of though, is that God plucked us out of that comfort zone called Bukidnon, and relocated us to an even colder place (as if Bukidnon wasn’t cold enough) called Juneau, Alaska. It has been 4 months since we left the Philippines and a lot of things have already happened. More than a year ago, we were in a period of perplexity, some disillusionment I might say, for not knowing where to go, and what to do. We both quit our jobs in a mission hospital, convinced that God was leading us somewhere else. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. It seemed as if we were waiting forever. It was during that period of waiting that we were tested- of our faith, our patience, and most of all discernment. I was the first one who got discouraged and doubted. I was convinced that we did everything we could to find Sam a job in the US. I talked to hospital HR departments; I called recruitment agencies, talked to some friends to help us, and sent online applications. After 6 months of waiting for that magical email or phone call, I felt that all my efforts were put to waste. And just as I was about to give up, as if hearing our plea, a friend suddenly informed Sam of a job opening. And then after that fateful referral and job interview, everything started to fall into place. Even if at one point we thought we lost that job because they never called Sam back in 2 months, and even if those 2 months of silent treatment brought about discouragement (this time it was Sam’s turn), everything miraculously worked out in the end. And it all happened in less than a year! Talk about answered prayer! Of course we are eternally grateful to the people who have helped us come here- our families, Michelle, BRH lab, admin and HR staff. Alaska! I mean I was planning to spend the rest of my life in hot, sunny (California) weather, or that group of tropical islands called the Philippines, but this? Who knew we would end up in Alaska?

Apparently, God did. He knew it all along. This brings me to Jeremiah 29:11. I will never get tired of this Bible verse, it gave us much encouragement during that period of waiting- “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Although God was speaking to the nation of Israel, it was as if He was speaking to Sam and I too. He already had plans for us, just as He had plans in restoring the nation of Israel. And He didn’t mean that plan would unfold right away. Whether it be less than a year or 40 years, it’s HIS plan, so He implements it HIS way in HIS time, no matter how much effort we put into it. In fact, this is supposed to take a lot of stress off our shoulders. We don’t have to worry about anything! Our job then is to wait and to continue seeking His will, discerning and desiring what He desires, trusting that whatever it is He gives you in the end, or wherever He puts you, it is always to prosper you. Easier said than done, though. I know that waiting is hard- many times we lose hope easily, or we could doubt God’s sovereignty. But you know what, during those times, it will be helpful to remember how God has been faithful to the nation of Israel, or how He has been faithful to you all these years. Why wouldn’t He be faithful to you now? “For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.” (Psalm 33:4) You may get what you’ve always wanted and prayed for, and sometimes you may not. Everything might not end up as you expected, but it IS God’s best for you, and that is what’s important. Because, honestly, most of the time we don’t even know what’s best for us. We didn’t expect to live in Alaska ever (okay, maybe just me, because Sam loves it here), but God thought it best. Who are we then to refuse?