God has Truly Responded

Truly he has answered and changed our lives dramatically as well as answered in all the ways that my wife explained. We have this precious gift of a beautiful daughter who adores us and wants us close. We found that out the first night when I tried putting her back down after calming her down. She calmed down in my arms, but as soon as she realized she was not in my arms, she began crying again. She wanted to be in the arms of one of her parents, nothing less would suffice as she wasn’t hungry and didn’t have a dirty diaper.

We have a new member of our family that melts our heart. My first thoughts beyond the panic of having our baby breech and messing up the plans for a natural birth that Christina had were surreal. I had a hard time grasping the reality of a new little girl entering our life. Yeah, I knew I was going to be a daddy, but I don’t know how better to prepare for something like that. I wondered when it would hit me, the fact that God answered our prayers for a child…

I knew she was coming and all, but when would it seem real since a year ago we felt so far away from every having a child. About a year ago, we finally watched the movie Facing the Giants and I related most directly with Grant’s struggle to have a child. I wished I could just imitate his response and give everything to the Lord the way he did and bingo God answers the prayer. Grant, the head football coach for the little school in Georgia that led his team to an improbable state championship needed God to answer one personal request to have a child as his wife and him tried for years to get pregnant. In a moving moment of the film, he poured his heart out to God saying no matter what happens, he will give God everything. I wished, I could just ask God in the same way to get the answer I wanted even if I knew that isn’t the point of surrendering everything to God.

At that time, we were preparing for our furlough and processing the difficulty of getting pregnant. We decided to take a break from trying, since we were going to travel and stay in undetermined places for the three months of summer. We did not want to add to the burden of fundraising and visiting family and friends the stress of picking the precise times to be intimate in order to have a baby.

One year ago, I thought a daughter or son was a long way off for us. We had exhausted the medical options before IVF and couldn’t contemplate the idea of extra measures yet. Without a miracle, the idea of a child was so distant and unattainable. But when I held her in my arms about 10 minutes after she was born, the reality sunk in that I am the proud father of a special little girl named Eliana Ann Opie. She melted my heart.

Wow, in the matter of a few minutes, I can now say, what a difference a year makes. I feel like the Shunamite woman in II Kings 4:16 when Elisha told her next year at this time, you will have a son. I would have been as shocked as her if I thought that would be me in one year. Don’t fool around with me and offer something that means so much to me without fulfilling your word.

Today, I have a whole new perspective on life. I have a daughter in my arms who depends on her parents for everything now. I am learning to hold her correctly with a little tweak to how I put my arm around her to keep her head supported. I am figuring out how to put her clothes on without disturbing her too much. Tina helps me not roll over on our daughter when she lies between us. And despite my objections, I am learning how to change her dirty diapers. I guess there isn’t anything that says I love you more than wiping poop away from a little baby’s bottom when they are helpless to clean their own bodies.

All I know is this little miracle has forever changed my life and begun to mature me more than I can consciously comprehend.

Eliana: God has Responded

Our first child was born a few days ago. We have been praying for God’s blessing of a child for several years, and now he has responded and given us a beautiful little girl. After much thought and prayer, we decided to name her Eliana, which means the Lord has responded. We are calling her Ellie for short.

God has responded in Eliana’s birth as well. Ellie had been head down in the womb since about 7 months along; but when we went to our check-up for week 36, Ellie had flipped and turned breech (feet down). Now in Thailand, doctors won’t even try to flip a baby, so we looked up some noninvasive things to encourage her to flip. We found that even in the womb babies don’t like cold heads, so you should put an ice pack on the top of the uterus and talk, or play music, to the bottom of the belly. We tried this. Ellie moved a tiny bit, but wasn’t happy and went back breech as we went to bed.

She stayed breech the following day. That night, after a full day of organizing the nursery and shopping for household items and snacks for a planned trip to the beach, my sister and I met Andy at Our Home Chapel for a night session of a multiplying leaders seminar with Ralph Moore. Just when we got to Andy, my water broke (at 6:20pm). We went to a quiet and private place and called our doula, just a little bit panicked. At that moment, we had to assume that we were going to have an emergency C-section that night.

Andy went and called a taxi, I borrowed a towel and then we went to the hospital. On the way to the hospital, we prayed that Eliana would flip back to head down. Ellie was quite active as we bounced along the road. When we got to the hospital, we made a quick game plan for a C-section while we waited for our doctor to arrive.

At 7:45pm our doctor arrived and did a quick ultrasound to check where Ellie was positioned. He found that she had flipped again and was head down. With a sigh of relief from all of us, including the doctor, we went over to the labor and delivery room to check into the hospital. I wasn’t dilated at all but had started contractions, which were weak and about 5 minutes apart. The doctor decided that labor was weak and probably wouldn’t fully start until the morning. He sent me to a private hospital room to rest for the night and he went home to sleep.

After we got to the room, I sat down with Andy and made a list of what to pack for me and the baby. Our doula added the items that we almost forgot, like our passports. Kathy and Andy then left for our home while I tried to rest. When they returned at 11:30pm, contractions had gotten a little stronger but were still very manageable. I ate half a PB&J sandwich and then laid down for a nap. Everyone else laid down also. Not long after, Andy, Kathy, and our doula were sleeping but I couldn’t as contractions just kept coming. I labored peacefully by myself for the next few hours.

At 4:20am, I decided that contractions were pretty intense and we should go down to the labor and delivery room. I woke everyone up and they went to get a nurse and a wheelchair. When we got there I was almost fully dilated and they called the doctor. Just a short time later, Eliana Ann Opie was born at 5:12am.

God answered our prayers for a child and he continues to answer our prayers over her. She is perfect in every way and a beautiful gift from God.

Sweet Pea and Daddy’s Voice

Sweet Pea, our little bundle of joy, loves her routines even now, before she is born. When Tina eats food, about 30 minutes later, she starts to move around—all the more so when Tina eats fruit or food with a lot of sugar. She loves to wake up in the morning, even if Tina is trying to sleep in on a particular day, and kick around as well as move a lot in the evening and just before sleep.

One of her routines that I particularly enjoy includes me as the dad. I started making a routine of telling her a story every night before bed to prepare myself for all the bedtime stories she will hear after she is born. I also knew babies get comfortable with familiar voices and sounds while in the womb.

The stale facts that a baby can recognize voices came to life the other night for me. Tina was reading one of her books on babies just before we went to sleep as I waited for our regular pattern of telling a story to Sweet Pea and praying together as a family before we fall asleep. I know my wife never sleeps as well if she misses her nightly prayer with her husband. However, the long week of preparing to move and recently finishing a couple of intensive classes for my Master’s program caught up with me, and I started to doze off before Tina, something that rarely happens. I told Tina that Sweet Pea already heard me tell stories that evening as I preached for the Friday evening service at Our Home Chapel.

With that in mind, Tina let me off the hook as long as we still prayed together. Apparently, Sweet Pea wanted to be consulted before we made a change to her routine. She started kicking and moving around with a vigor to get her mommy’s attention and hopefully her daddy’s as well. Tina quickly nudged me, saying you didn’t tell Sweet Pea her story. Can you please tell her a story, so she will let me go to sleep? Sweet Pea kept on moving to let us fully know about her dissatisfaction in her bedtime. So I turned over and put my hand on Tina’s belly, which keeps on bulging out more and more, and told Sweet Pea a quick story.

Tina told me our little girl settled right down. Turns out that the research speaks accurately. Our precious little one already has bonded with me, and I with her.

Looking Ahead to 2011

As the New Year swings into action, I wanted to pause a moment and look forward with a year in anticipation post. 2011 is a year of God birthing new things in our life. Coinciding with the amazing miracle of a little daughter coming at the end of March, hopefully just ahead of opening day for the 2011 Baseball season, we are following God’s draw to birth a new church in one of the Urban centers of Bangkok.

God works in mysterious ways.

When Christina was born, her parents began their first church in Mission Viejo. Now when Christina has her first child, we will be birthing a new church. It is amazing how God uses metaphors to illustrate his love for new life. We see God’s hand on the timing of everything that is happening right now in our life, even though we would not have chosen the present timeline for anything that is happening now. If it was up to us to decide how life unfolded, the story would turn out quite differently.

Our plans looked different than God’s idea. We thought we would be in Thailand for only 1-2 years, not for the 3 ½ that we have already been here. We wanted to be planting a church in an urban center of Chicago after our time in Thailand. Then we wanted to have a baby three years ago. Now through a series of events and the mysterious working of God, He has blessed us with a child that we already love so much and has compelled us to see a new church that reproduces itself again and again birthed in Bangkok.

The year 2011 will mark some milestone moves in our life. First, we move into the realm of parenthood and the joys that come with that. We get to care for a precious young baby who will grow up watching everything we do. Wow, that hits you right in the gut with a humbling reminder to be the same at home and out of the home. Even now, we can see her playing in the kiddie section of the pool at our new condo and making new friends. We see her asking us questions of culture living as the child of missionaries, a third culture child. We also look forward to see her grow and develop in a bilingual environment. We are starting to build the patterns of time and relationship into our daughter even now as I tell her a story every night.

Second, we will be moving into the role of senior leader. Understanding that title doesn’t make a leader, but relationship and influence mark a leader, we will have a new group of people looking to us for guidance and spiritual authority. Again this smacks of a humbling place to be right now as we scan the horizon of the future.

We rest in that tension between the vision God has placed in our heart and the moment we are in presently. The dream to see God’s work unfold in front of us. We stand between the now and not yet as we look toward the future. We see so much as we stand on the hill and look out at the horizon of the time to come. What a beautiful thing the future is.


Thoughts on a Father’s Day

Today, Thailand celebrated Father’s Day and honored their King, the symbolic father for the nation. Being Father’s Day, I wanted to reflect on becoming a father for the first time. The thought of having a new little girl in less than four months stirs a myriad of emotions in me.

Recently, I was talking with my sister about the word ‘Dad’. I told her that I am having trouble wrapping my mind around the idea that ‘Dad’ now applies to me. Forever that word applied to one person in my world, my dad.

My dad has set a great example of what a dad consists of. He loves unconditionally, works hard and listens well. Some of my fondest memories include playing catch in the front yard and having my dad hit me fly balls. While I was growing up, my dad enjoys the things I love. Even today, we often call each other around the world to talk sports and other things in life.

I look forward to life as a father with my precious, little daughter. I look forward to holding her in my arms just after she is born and listening to Angels games together. I look forward to showing her new toys and playing with her. I already tell her stories every night before bed. I look forward to wrapping her tiny hand around my finger and looking at her with a big, loving smile.

At the same time, I struggle with many of the same thoughts other expectant father’s have: what do I do if… and will I be as good of a father that she needs. What if I let her down? I guess that all I can do is do the best I can, while showering her with love. And most importantly, I will work to connect her to knowing the love of our heavenly father.

On top of that, I bring to the table a set of skills slightly different from other dads. I know I won’t be able to read stories to my daughter the way my dad did for my sisters and me growing up. Also, I won’t be able to say she looks beautiful on a special night like the prom or homecoming dance. We are already thinking of adaptations that help me. One thing we will do is tie little bells on her shoes to help me not lose her when it is my turn to watch her, but what if that is not good enough? This is where I have to learn more intricately the ways of relying on God and putting my trust in his grace. In the end the important parts of a dad often reside in the being over the doing.

Therefore, I look forward to teaching “Sweet Pea” the values that we have as Christians, the way to know right from wrong, and how to think wisely in life. I want to set a good example for her and allow her to follow in her parent’s footsteps. I look forward to her growing up and taking me by the hand as I lead the way for her in her life. I believe that we will enjoy the journey together.

My Bird and My (Soon to be Born) Baby

When we moved to Thailand, Andy and I packed our stuff in storage, gave it away, or got rid of old junk. We had numerous pets when we moved; 2 Amazon parrots, a hermit crab, and a newly found turtle, which had been living in our backyard. We gave the turtle to our niece, and were in the process of giving the hermit crab to one of the girl’s in my Sunday school class when it died. I just couldn’t part with my wonderfully sweet birds, which are like family. So, going against what most missionaries do, I found a person to bird-sit them for an extended time.

Every time that we visit the US, I also go and visit my birds, Pepper and Sally. Sally only tolerates me but loves our bird-sitter. Pepper, on the other hand, just adores me, and always has. Our wonderful bird-sitter has re-hand tamed both the birds so they love to come out of their cage and sit on your arm.

While visiting my birds this trip, I was holding Pepper and talking with our bird-sitter. Pepper was just talking away…well, cooing and clucking…while we sat and visited. At one point in the visit, baby Sweet Pea started to move around in my tummy. When she started to move, Pepper stopped talking and looked at my tummy. He continued to stare at my tummy for the whole time that baby Sweet Pea (only 21 weeks along) was moving around.

I can’t wait to introduce baby Sweet Pea to Pepper when we go back to the US next!

Is it a Girl or a Boy?

There are many old wives tales that help you determine if you are going to have a girl or a boy while pregnant. Most people, who chose to find out their baby’s gender, do so at the 20 week ultrasound. Living in Thailand and going to a top hospital, I get an ultrasound at every doctor’s visit…well, who wouldn’t when their only $30. That means that we had less guess time about our baby’s gender and found out at 16 weeks.

Going back to predicting gender, there are many different ways that people use to guess a baby’s gender. Every time we talk with our family, they are always asking questions to try and figure out if it’s a boy or girl. How fast is the heartbeat? Are you carrying high or low (like I can tell with such a small baby bump)? And on the questions go.

As of late, many people in Thailand have been telling me that we are going to have a girl. When I ask why, they tell me it’s because of my face. At that moment I get a little self conscience because my face has been breaking out quite a bit…(which is a “predictor” for having a girl…she’s supposed to steal the mother’s beauty, or something like that)…But the Thais all tell me, it’s because I look more beautiful (I like that). My face hasn’t gotten any darker, a definite sign of ugliness in Thailand, and I don’t have dark circles under my eyes.

What I find interesting is how two cultures can look at the same face and one find it more beautiful while the other finds it not as much as before, and come to the same conclusion…a baby girl.