On These Pages Are The Stories Of Our Family We Go Together ! Welcome To The World As Viewed Through Our Eyes
Lynette .......... Caedmon .......... Libby .......... Tom

Friday, May 30, 2008

Chinese Names???

What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet... William Shakespeare “Romeo and Juliet” ~1595

Since I (Tom) was able to get rid of my Chinese name when I, as a child, became a naturalized citizen, isn’t it strange that my mom decided to come up with Chinese ones for Lynette & Caedmon??? My mom apparently had been thinking about it. She tried to come up with Chinese characters that were close in phonetic pronunciation to their American names. This is what she came up with...

Lynette’s name : 張 麗 蓮

Zhāng - stretch, extend, expand

Lì - beautiful

Lián - lotus flower

Caedmon’s name : 張 凱 明

Zhāng - stretch, extend, expand

Kǎi - victory

Míng - bright

That brings me to the name that I, Tom, gave up : 張 逸 平

Zhāng - stretch, extend, expand

Yì - flee, escape, break loose

Píng - flat, level, even, peaceful

Recently (without going into details) I asked my parents what the name meant. They told me that it meant “peace” without giving any further deeper meaning. However, in looking up the meanings of the individual characters, I’d like to think that there was a hope expressed perhaps subconsciously by them. Embodied in me, for our family name to continue to 1) stretch, extend, expand (beyond our natural Taiwanese boundaries)... through my rebellious, non-conforming nature (at times to my detriment) to 2) flee, escape, break loose (from the norm and what was expected)... only made possible through internal stability by being 3) flat, level, even, peaceful. Psychologically, it opens a window to my very nature as I reflect upon the various choices and paths taken in my life. However, I find it relevant that my parents only chose to tell me that my given name meant “peace”. Perhaps in their eyes, the struggle in my life to stretch, extend, expand, flee, escape, break loose was and not what they felt necessary for me... perhaps all they ultimately wished for me was to be flat, level, even, peaceful... and find happiness, interesting, eh?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lesson From Crown Financial Ministries

Therefore if you have not been faithful

in the use of worldly wealth, who will

entrust the true riches to you?

Luke 16:11

Our time of being involved with leading the Crown Financial Ministries study reminded us that our lives, if lived in the light of Christ, should prove in the end for us to be but visitors here on earth while being good stewards of what God has provided us, as we look forward to spending eternity with Him. For truly, God created everything, owns everything, and controls everything. We have been blessed with having our needs met. Our TRUE needs consist of food, clothing, and shelter.

God promises to provide our (true) needs. Matthew 6:25-34 ... 25"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27"And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28"And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30"But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' 32"For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Everything else are WANTS. If only we could stop blindly pursuing WANTS... our path should always be pointed to striving for holiness... “for without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Some concepts we have come across which have impacted us greatly follow below:

As Ashley Hodge, our 1st Crown Class leader & good friend used to say, “Everyday choices have eternal consequences.” When we live with our limited human, sinful, shortsighted, earthly vision, our final destination is hell. With an eternal perspective for Heaven, our everyday choices will lay up treasures and rewards in heaven. Perspective is what is wrong with many of us living in today’s society. If we persist in holding a short-sighted earthly perspective of seeking heaven on this earth, then our final destination will be Hell. If instead, we hold an eternal perspective, then our final destination is Heaven.

The theologian Jonathan Edwards in the 1700’s said, “Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die… Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if, I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments.”

So how do we get there? JC Ryle, another influential theologian in the 1800’s said Jesus’ death and resurrection secured our salvation, and we can do nothing to add to that, Christianity has been preached in too one-sided a way many times. We preach on believing in Jesus and that is that, but don’t forget to warn people what it will cost them. Matthew 7:13-14... 13 "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Luke 13:23-25... 23 And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, 24 "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 "Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, open up to us!' then He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know where you are from.'

In his sermon titled “Holiness”, there is a chapter called, “The Cost” – Ryle asks, What does it cost to be a true Christian? What does it cost to be a really holy man? …It will cost man his PRIDE, his SINS, his EASE, his POPULARITY. A religion that costs nothing is worth nothing. A cheap Christianity, without a cross, will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown. Would you be willing to give up Heaven, to give up God all because you were unwilling to count the cost?

In addition, in John Bunyan’s, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” written in the 1600’s, He (Pilgrim) answered, "Sir, I perceive, by the book in my hand, that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to judgment, and I find that I am not willing to do the first, nor able to do the second." Then said Evangelist, "Why not willing to die, since this life is attended with so many evils?"... Then said Evangelist, "If this be thy condition, why standest thou still?" He answered, "Because I know not whither to go." Then he gave him a parchment roll, and there was written within, "Fly from the wrath to come." The man therefore read it... So I saw in my dream that the man began to run... and ran on crying, “Life! life! eternal life!”.

Furthermore since this life is but a preparation for Heaven to share in etenity, the prize as only CS Lewis can so put it is well described in his great work written in the last book of “The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe” series, “...When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow of the copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here, just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world… It is hard to explain how this sunlit land was so different from the old Narnia… The reason why we loved old Narnia is that it sometimes looked like this…the further up and further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside… like an onion: except that as you continue to go in, each circle is larger than the last… It was the unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right hoof on the ground and neighed and cried: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now... Come further up, come further in!... For them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Happy 35th B-day, Lynette!

Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be...

Robert Browning 1812-1889

When I (Tom) was on-call last Thursday night, I had seen Lynette’s email responses to a yearly questionnaire sent by one of her college friends which basically asked different questions about what was going on in life and such. I got it into my head that throwing her a surprise birthday dinner party with some of her close friends would be really fun (since 2 of her questionnaire answers were that she enjoyed having birthday parties and that she had wanted to go to a local restaurant called “62 Main”). 8 of 12 emailed were able to attend. Today was actually very low key. When we woke up, we went out for a Bagel & coffee breakfast. This was followed by her going to the salon and having her hair cut (she had arranged that on her own weeks before), while I took Caedmon for a private 15 minute swim lesson in preparation for him moving into the next level of swim class where the moms do not get in the pool with the kids. Caedmon did awesome, by the way. Afterwards, he & I stopped at the florist and picked up a simple arrangement of fresh-cut flowers consisting mainly of a few roses and lilies. The afternoon was somewhat slow as we went out for pizza then returned home for Caedmon to take his usual nap, while we twiddled away the hours. As dinner-time approached, I told Lynette that I was taking her to 62 Main and that Amy & Ashley Hodge (our good friends & across the street neighbors) would be watching Caedmon while we were out. The restaurant was only 3 miles away from us, so it took no time in getting there. The dining room was on the 2nd floor. When we got to the top of the landing and entered the dining room, there they were... her friends from play group & MOPS yelling a great big “SURPRISE!”. I don’t recall that Lynette had much to say. She was quite in shock. I left her there in their care, also leaving for her a yet to be unwrapped present on the dinner table (a new 9.1 MegaPixel, 10x optical zoom, 28mm Leica wide-angle lens Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 digital camera - to replace the one I got her just a few years ago, the 5 Megapixel, 4x optical zoom Canon Powershot G5), to go back to pick up Caedmon and put him to bed. Turning 35 will be a great memory for her!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Building Our First Dream House

Unless the LORD builds the house,

They labor in vain who build it...

Psalm 127:1 (NASB)

It has always been something of a wonder to Lynette how differently our minds work. After we were engaged in the winter of 2002, we set about making plans to finally be done with apartment living and to purchase a home where we would begin our married life. Tom could not let Lynette’s parents think that he was moving their daughter 1200 miles away without a solid roof above her head. With the help of our friend (and newly certified realtor), LeeLee, we moved into a newly renovated 1930’s home in the city. It was a beautiful location in an older part of town with lots of stained glass incorporated into the beautiful tudor and eclectic style homes within walking distance of a lake. It was a lovely home on a triangular shaped 1/2 acre corner lot where we first entered the joys of home ownership and began our life together. Many firsts were experienced there - first dinner parties, first out of town guests, and first gardening experiences. As well as our first car, a new 2003 Honda Pilot SUV and our first puppy, Piccadilly, an Airedale Terrier - she was full of energy and quite a handful when she got to be 50 pounds.

It was also where we brought home our first child, Caedmon. However in the last few months of Lynette’s pregnancy, rather than enjoying a house that had been settled into, furnished, and made into a home for us over the course of the previous 3 years, we began to consider an opportunity to build a new home. Building a home was something that we had always talked and dreamed about but usually with the idea that it would happen several years down the road. However, our good friends Ashley & Amy,
whom we met while attending a Crown Financial Bible Study that Ashley led at our church, were beginning the process of building a home in a developing community. Tom was especially intrigued by the prospect of building a custom home, especially because of the opportunity to join with them, developing intentional relationships as Christians together in community. Also, we were realizing that our beautiful 2300 square foot, 3-bedroom home would be quickly outgrown with the addition of children and our constantly revolving door of company from our friends and family around the country.

Despite Tom’s excitement, Lynette was not quite as enthusiastic. She could not quite reconcile making a conscious decision to add more upheaval and change to their life as they were already preparing for one of the biggest life changes they had yet experienced in their married life - a baby! She could not imagine having to be worry about making sure the house was ready to be shown, moving out, and moving into a new home all while adjusting to their new role as soon-to-be parents. After 3 years in the city, she had also finally developed some good relationships with some girls in Bible study and at church. The thought of having to find a new church and new friends was not so exciting. While her wifely & motherly instincts were valid, the excitement and strong arguments from her ever-dreaming, adventuresome husband could not be overcome. Like the saying goes, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” And besides that, we were in prayer about this huge decision and while God’s ways are not always expected, they are best, so Lynette humbly accepted the guidance of God and her husband.

Since we had no prior experience in home building, we used the same builder as the Hodges. Our new home was to be in the suburbs. Both of our families purchased lots in a new development. Our builder was unique in the way that he worked. His fee was $10 per square foot of the house size. All other costs came directly out of our pocket. In other words, we paid cost for supplies, labor, etc. We arranged to have architectural plans drawn, obtained a construction loan, and would see exactly where each penny of our money was being spent. Our builder convinced us that he was being as fair and transparent as possible. There was no mark up as we paid what he was billed by his suppliers and subcontractors. He felt that a house was a house and we shouldn’t have to pay any more for him to build a home regardless of whether it was a starter home or a multi-million dollar affair. It seemed like an interesting way to build since after the Crown Financial Ministry classes (which we also ended up being class leaders at the church), we were convicted to be better stewards of God’s entrusted money to us. For if we truly understand that that WE do not truly own anything, but that it is GOD who is the real owner & creator of all, then what we think we have has really been entrusted to us by Him... therefore we have great responsibility of God’s stuff. It seemed that this was an opportunity forus to make an effort to live as wiser stewards of all that God had blessed us with, putting into action the lessons learned from God’s Word through our Crown classes.

Just two months after we brought our new baby home from the hospital, our city home was put on the market by our friend LeeLee. Within the first week it was under contract, and we prepared to move into temporary housing in an apartment complex 3 miles from the build site. Unfortunately, the same week we were moving into our apartment, our contract fell through and we left our house empty but yet unsold (...fortunately, it did finally sell 4 months later - on the last day of 2006!). When we moved into our apartment, we were expecting ground to be broken on our home any day. However, several weeks passed and it was not until mid-September that construction finally began. In the ensuing months, we were at our homesite at least once a day but often several times. Caedmon spent much of his first year of life in the Baby Bjorn carrier helping mommy to supervise the building process.

We were assured the entire project would take no more than 6 months, but as the building began, we realized how inefficient, unreliable, and untrustworthy our builder really was. He made us feel like we were his number one priority when he was with us, but his real world actions proved otherwise. He lied to us outrightly on several occasions and would not return phone calls or emails for days (sometimes weeks) thereby making him frustratingly unreachable. We learned many things through the whole process, but one of the biggest lessons was how important it is to be a person of integrity! Our loan quickly became depleted and we were stuck with the accrual of high interest rates on a nearly maxed out building loan 3/4 of the way through the build. The winter came and past, and March was quickly flying by. Our apartment lease was almost over and so were the six promised months. However, while our builder continued to make promises of an impending finish, it was obvious that so did spring, and as the summer months approached we were given the go ahead to make plans for ending our apartment lease... so we moved into temporary housing at an extended stay hotel at $100/night. At this point we were under the impression that the house would be finished in a week or two. However, a few weeks quickly turned into a month and eventually 9 weeks! Imagine a nearly 1 year old toddler who was confined to a child-pen area of approximately 2 feet by 10 feet! We had a bedroom which we shared with his pack-n-play crib and a small living/dining area with a kitchenette which we really couldn’t usefully cook at. In fact over the course of the 9 weeks we had to leave the hotel on countless occasions at all hours of the day & night due to hotel guests setting off the fire alarms in their rooms, while awaiting the fire department to come and inspect the hotel. Lynette’s one hope was that we would be able to celebrate Caedmon’s 1st birthday in our new home. Both sets of grandparents had already purchased plane tickets for the celebration and again and again our builder told us it would be no problem to be in our new home by then. However, as the date approached, it was obvious that the birthday celebration would take place elsewhere. Caedmon turned 1 year old with a birthday celebration in the lobby of our hotel. The menu consisted of a spaghetti meal cooked out of a borrowed crock pot, bread and cake. It will definitely be a birthday that we’ll remember!

Eventually, after much persistence and frustration, we received special permission from the city inspector to move into a liveable (although unfinished) house on June 9, 2007. While we were excited to finally be in our permanent residence, the excitement was tempered by the daily convergence of workmen interrupting Lynette’s & Caedmon’s routine. Now, almost a year later, we have finally settled in but our house is still on the books as “unfinished!” Our last hold out is that according to the city inspector, the two doors which lead from our interior home into the garages are not fire rated. We are still waiting for the builder to provide the promised paperwork verifying their fire-rating or replacement doors and until we get that, we do not have official building occupancy approval...

We’re Having a Baby (#1)!

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward... Psalm 127:3 (NASB)

I (Lynette) always wish that conceiving a child was an easy surprise for us but with both pregnancies, it took a little longer than we expected. Of course, that is all relative and for some people, our experiences sound like a piece of cake. Anyway, when we first thought we were ready to get pregnant, we saw my OB who ran blood work that revealed that I had an undiagnosed, asymptomatic case of hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid. Thus, instead of trying to get pregnant, we immediately had to find a course to treat my condition, which eventually meant waiting almost a year before trying to conceive. While this was disappointing to us, we were so thankful that the hyperthyroidism was discovered prior to symptoms appearing and that I was able to receive excellent medical care to get my body back on track. God knew best and we were able to enjoy a fun year of travel (Japan, Ireland and Scandinavia).

When we were finally able to try to conceive, the process took about 5 months. Each month was an emotional roller coaster for me - 2 weeks of hoping for a viable pregnancy, a day or two of disappointment and then waiting and starting the whole process again. In August 2005, we spent a week in Victoria, British Columbia, with our friends Tom and Maureen. It was a great week of enjoying the beautiful Canadian outdoors and fun time with our friends but it was slightly emotional for me as I awaited another round of disappointing news. Alas, the negative confirmation never came. We arrived home late on Sunday evening and Tom went back to work early the next morning. I decided to take a pregnancy test that morning when I awoke. Imagine my shock and surprise whenit came back positive. I walked around in a stupor all day! I couldn’t wait to tell Tom, but I wanted to share the exciting news with him in person, not on the phone. I made up a little card for him telling him all of the things that I love about him and on the last page I told him what a great daddy he would be. When he walked in the door after work, I handed him the card. We both cried tears of joy! God is good...His timing is always best... I am blessed with easy pregnancies. My only first trimester symptoms are tiredness and occasionally feeling slightly nauseous. We shared our news with our family when we traveled to PA for my 10 year college reunion. I was 9 weeks pregnant.

Both Tom and I enjoyed preparing for the baby’s birth. At the time, we were living in the city in a newly renovated custom home which was originally built in the early 1930’s.

I dove into decorating the nursery and Tom became an expert on all things baby - strollers, cribs, car seats, etc. Initially, I did not want to find out the sex of the baby. I really thought that it was one of the last great surprises in life and was totally prepared to be surprised. Tom reluctantly went along with my plan. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to take advantage of the technology that was available but he was willing to let me enjoy my surprise. The sonogram in which we could find out the sex was scheduled for mid-December about 2 weeks before Christmas. I was holding fast to my desire for a surprise and Tom was fine with that. However, one day an idea popped into my head. Tom is notoriously hard to buy presents for. He just isn’t the type to want anything and if he sees something he really wants, he’ll buy it for himself. So back to my idea...with Christmas around the corner, I thought that the best present I could give him would be to surprise him with the gender of the baby. I knew it would be something completely unexpected and something that he would really be excited about. I decided that giving up my surprise to present the perfect present to my husband was definitely worth it. I called my OB and told him my plan, and he and the sonographer worked with me to make it happen. My OB, who happens to be a good friend of Tom’s, called Tom back into his office to chat while I was starting the sonogram. The sonographer made it his first order of business to determine baby’s sex. I had told them that I wanted my surprise to come on Christmas day too so the result was to be placed in a sealed envelope, which I would wrap in a box and place under the tree. Fortunately, baby was cooperative and everything went according to plan. I was full of anticipation for the next two weeks - both anticipation of Tom’s surprise and of knowing what sex our little one was. On Christmas morning, Tom opened his present. When he opened the box and then the envelope, he pulled out a sonogram picture. He commented that he’d already seen the sonogram and handed it to me. Aaagh! I had to tell him to look at it and read it. At that point I was so excited to find out that I couldn’t believe I had to wait another 30 seconds for him to catch on! He was completely surprised when he saw the words “It’s a BOY!” on the sonogram picture.

I don’t know if he was more surprised to find out the sex or that it was boy...apparently he had been thinking we were having a girl. Although I initially didn’t want to know the sex of the baby, I was really excited to know and appreciated the opportunity to prepare to be a mommy to a boy, which for me, having been raised with only sisters and mostly girl cousins, was going to be quite a new experience. To add to the busyness of preparing for baby #1, we somehow also decided to build our own home and bought the lot in February 2006. The last months before baby’s arrival were spent pondering when to begin the building process and put our home up for sale.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant, our OB discovered that the baby had flipped into a transverse position and for 2 weeks we anticipated the possibility of delivering via C-section at 38 weeks.

However, at 38 weeks, baby was back in proper position and we spent the next 2 weeks hoping that I would go into labor. About 3 days after my due date, I was admitted to L&D at Methodist Hospital for an induction...and then the (NOT SO MUCH) fun began ...The day of my induction was fairly uneventful. I think I spent the morning with friends from Bible study for a brunch. I vaguely remember having a conversation about the fact that I would be having a baby within the next day or so. I actually drove myself to the hospital that evening. Tom had to work all day so he hitched a ride to work with a co-worker and I met him at L & D in the early evening. I was admitted to a room (actually a suite with a beautiful view of the skyline...

and if I wasn’t lying in a hospital bed in one of those stylish open-backed gowns, I might have been able to convince myself I was staying at a fine hotel). My OB placed the Cervidil around 8 p.m. and then we settled in to try and get some sleep before the real induction started in 12 hours. It was a long, uncomfortable night and I don’t remember sleeping much, whether that was because of the anticipation or simply the uncomfortable bed, I don’t know...probably both. The next morning, the pitocin was started and my epidural placed. Tom really wanted to place my epidural. However, his partners were not too keen on the idea, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure that I wanted him to do it either. I knew that he would do an excellent job. However, I wanted him to be my husband and to lean on him instead of having him be my doctor at that point. Despite his protests, his partners prevailed and one of them (against Tom’s wishes) placed my epidural. Actually having it placed was not a big deal but my body did not react well and the next several minutes were quite traumatic. All I knew was that I did not feel well. I got a headache and I don’t remember what else but I felt awful! It wasn’t until much later (fairly recently actually) that Tom told me the true severity of the situation - it wasn’t in the correct place and even a small dose of medications made the epidural a life-threatening event. Fortunately, he had prepared for every scenario possible and had the right drugs to correct the situation and get me stabilized. From there, my labor progressed VERY slowly. I was dilated to about 2 cm and didn’t really change for most of the day. I remember experiencing some painful contractions but really it was more uncomfortable than anything. Tom had warned me that an epidural would not relieve all pain so I didn’t think anything of what I was experiencing. I just assumed it was how things were supposed to be. I couldn’t sleep or rest very well so we listened to music or watched TV and the day really seemed to drag on. Late in the afternoon, my doctor broke my water but I still wasn’t dilating much...maybe 2.5 cm. The baby’s heart rate was a little irregular and come early evening, there was talk of a C-Section. By that point, Tom had realized that my first epidural was not working properly. (apparently I have a higher threshold for pain than either of us realized). My doctor and he decided that he should replace the epidural. That way if I did need a C-Section, I would be able to be awake for it. Tom replaced by epidural at about 7 p.m.. It was fantastic! (needless to say, I already have him signed up to be my personal anesthesiologist this time around!) I could finally relax and actually slept a little. Somewhere around 9:30 p.m., they checked me again and found that I had dilated to 10 cm! As they say in Texas, “Yee-haw!”. A few minutes later I was ready to push and by 10:18 p.m. Caedmon Joshua Chang came into the world...all 6 lbs 8 oz of him. His name, Caedmon, means “wise-warrior” in Gaelic. Caedmon was alert from the beginning and made sure he let us know that he was here. It was such an amazing experience to finally hold him and see those feet that had been kicking me for the past 9 months. Tom got it all on video (which will NOT be shown on this blog!!).

How We Met (What SHE Said)

Delight yourself in the LORD

and he will give you the desires

of your heart... Psalm 37:4

So we’ve jumped into the world of blogging...Everyone else is doing it so why not join in? That may have been my attitude a year or so ago but Tom was not so eager to broadcast our life to the world, and perhaps that is a good thing since our reasons for starting a blog are more personal and intentional now. The one thing that has intrigued us about the blogs of our friends is the interesting history that is being recorded for their children. I love to read books that are written from the private journals of some person long since gone and honestly, I think it is great fun to read my journals from junior high, high school and beyond. It is intriguing to get a glimpse of someone that is so unfiltered and authentic. I’m sure most people that keep a journal don’t really expect anyone but themselves to read it so it reveals the true person, warts and all. I’ve also found that my own journals reveal a lot of growth and more importantly, God’s hand in my life through good times and bad. I haven’t kept a journal in many years but I guess this is the journal of the 21st century...it won’t be necessary to publish it in hardcover for any interested souls to read in the future but perhaps my children will enjoy looking back and catching a glimpse of what mama and daddy were like in their younger years (is 34 years and 364 days still considered young?). With that said...

The title of this entry is “How We Met,” but I guess since it is the first I’m writing, I should give a little personal background. For most of my childhood years, I grew up in a stable two parent family in a small town in Pennsylvania. Of course, if you’ve read the “About Us” page of our website, then you know that I was actually born in Maine. I only lived there for 2 years while my dad was active duty in the Air Force. After that, he worked full time in the Air National Guard which meant that he was still full-time military but we weren’t subject to the typical move every 3 years. Instead, my parents settled close to my mom’s family and only a 45 minute drive from dad’s family. I’m the oldest of 3 girls, each of us 3 years apart in age. During my teenage years, life was turned upside down when my parents separated (note: while they were separated for many years, they are now happily married...but that’s their story and I’m supposed to be telling mine) and then, one year later, my middle sister (at age 13) dove into our backyard pool, injuring herself and becoming a quadriplegic. However, God was at work in my life and used those traumatic events to draw me to Him. At the age of 15, I committed my life to Jesus Christ. Since then, I have been blessed to meet many people and be placed in situations that have helped to deepen my walk with the Lord. I spent my college years at Grove City College, where I was taught to have a Christian worldview, mentored by amazing people of faith and befriended by some of my best friends to this day (and a given great education on top of all that!!). Following graduation with a BA in Elementary Education, I scoured the eastern seaboard for the perfect teaching job. However, God had other plans...I spent the first few months of the next school year teaching at a Child Development Center (a.k.a. daycare). Not what I had planned...but perhaps the only way to get me to the next two destinations in God’s plan for me - the first across the country and the second across the ocean. In December, I had put into motion plans to quit the daycare and substitute teach after the holidays. But, one morning, my mom called to share what she had heard on a Focus on the Family broadcast. She proposed that I apply to attend the Focus on the Family Institute (at the time, called the Institute for Family Studies). Since it sounded better than daycare work and included an internship at Focus on the Family, I applied, was accepted and 3 weeks later, drove across the country to Colorado Springs. I spent January through May of 1996 learning more about having a Christian worldview and interning at Clubhouse Magazine. It was a wonderful place to grow as I prepared for the next big adventure in life...a move across the world.

During my junior year of college, my friend Eve and I discovered a mutual interest in missions work and teaching overseas. We met weekly throughout that year to pray about God’s will for us regarding this desire of ours. My focus changed during my senior year as I became busy with a dating relationship, student teaching and other responsibilities. However, as the job search began, Eve stayed focused on overseas teaching and eventually chose to serve as a missionary at Okinawa Christian School International (OCSI). In October of 1995, while I was deep in the throes of daycare work, I heard that OCSI needed teachers for the 1996-1997 school year, and I also heard God calling me to apply to teach there. My plans changed from finding the perfect well-paid teaching job not too far from home to raising support to be a missionary teacher across the oceans. In August of 1996, I boarded a plane to small island of Okinawa, Japan, my home for the next 3 years. It was one of my most life-changing experiences. I taught 4th and 5th graders reading, writing, arithmetic and most importantly, about having a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

After three amazing years there, I felt called to return home and attend graduate school. I moved back in with my parents (something I said I would never do!!) and began work on my Masters of Education in Reading at the University of Pittsburgh, starting with a one year intensive program to obtain a certificate as a reading specialist. The following year, I was hired as a Title I Math Specialist (go figure!) and spent the next 3 years teaching. I was also able to move out on my own once again. I was settling into my adult life, but obviously my mom felt there was something missing (husband? kids?) because she called one day with yet another insight from Focus on the Family...Dr. Dobson had just interviewed a man named Neil Clark Warren (wasn’t he the same guy who wrote the book she recommended while I was in college - Finding the Love of Your Life) about his new website, eHarmony. Internet dating, mom, come on?!? She convinced me that I should at least take the personality survey as it might give me some insight into myself and the type of person I should look for in a spouse. I admit that back in the fall of 2000, on a boring Saturday afternoon, I did take the survey and it was interesting, but there was no way I was going to sign up for “Internet dating.” Once or twice over the next two years, I used a free month of the service to entertain myself but never did I imagine that I would meet a live person...especially one whom I would marry. Isn’t it interesting how God takes your “nevers” and makes them reality?...

In the fall of 2002, at the ripe age of 29 with no dating prospects at all, I (yes, this time I was the one listening) happened to hear a Focus on the Family broadcast about a happy couple or two that had met on eHarmony. My first thought was “I can’t believe these people are relying on the Internet instead of on God”...and the next testimony I heard was a girl sharing that she had the exact same thought! However, she kept praying and thinking and realized that God works in many ways and that eHarmony maybe wasn’t all that different than going to different church’s singles group or allowing a friend to set you up on a blind date - it just broadened the scope of who God introduced you to. With my nice, little philosophy squashed, I decided to try eHarmony out one more time...I wish I could say that Tom was the first person I encountered as a match, but actually that would make the story slightly less interesting...I was matched with a few guys who I communicated with on the website and I actually did have one date, someone who lived in the Pittsburgh area. It was a huge flop (he had no conversational skills and then expected me to explain in detail why I wouldn’t accept a second date - I felt like I was trying to break up with a long term boyfriend instead of a person with whom I’d only had one date) and some would say that I should have jumped ship at that point, but I persevered and it was more than worth it...

Toward the end of September of 2002, I was worn out from my first weeks of teaching and had decided to lay low in my apartment for the weekend. A few weeks before, I had viewed the profile of a guy named Tom from Texas. Although he had made the first step in contacting me (eHarmony has a several step process), I had dismissed the profile because of the whole Texas thing. You see, although I was willing to entertain the notion of moving if the perfect man came along, I was quite certain when my prince arrived, his steed would not be carrying me to Texas. (for all of you Texans reading this, before you blast me, read further...) Let me explain...almost all of the pastors at the church I attended were graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary. The young adults pastor, in particular, made it a habit of singing the praises of Texas just about every time he spoke. I know several people who will confirm that on at least one occasion he compared the bluebonnet fields of Texas to Heaven. Anyway, many people have preconceived notions of Texas which may or may not be true, but mine were definitely colored by this pastor’s frequent comments and I had no desire to have anything to do with the Lone Star State (once again, never say never! I now claim a Texan - and another on the way - as part of my immediate family!). With all of that said, I did eventually swallow my misconceptions of Texas, and respond to Tom from Texas. Why, you ask. On most of the profile pages at which I looked, the guys answered simply and quickly with one word answers: Occupation: Teacher...3 Favorite things: coffee, music, eating...You get the idea. However, Tom from TX actually wrote in sentences...or at least complete thoughts and what he wrote was actually interesting and thoughtful. For example, he wasn’t just a “physician” but he actually took the time to explain what he liked about his job. So...after viewing the profile several times and dismissing it, I finally decided maybe I would test the waters. After all, maybe a Texan wouldn’t be so bad...So back to that fateful weekend in late September...

Apparently, Tom had nothing planned for that weekend either. We had made it through the first several steps of the eHarmony process and were to the point where we could communicate on their email system. And communicate we did! We both spent the weekend emailing back and forth long messages (novels, may be a more appropriate term) about ourselves, our families, our experiences, our dreams and on and on. It turned out that Tom wasn’t truly a Texan but besides that, we found that we had a lot in common and really enjoyed our Internet communication. So much so that Tom asked if we could move to phone conversations...Ha! What kind of girl did he think I was...after only 2 or 3 days of email? I did agree to let him email me at my regular email address...and not too much later, to call me...and before I knew it, we were making plans to meet in person. When Tom asked if he could come visit, I had no idea that he intended to drive the 1200 miles nonstop from Texas in his Jeep Wrangler. Of course, his explanation was quite brilliant - it was a built in escape route in case I was not the gal he dreamed of.

One autumn day in 2002, Tom drove into town and met me at a local coffee shop - La Bella Bean. Love at first sight...no, but still, a great experience. It was so exciting to finally meet the man behind the words. He sweetly presented me with a little Texan teddy bear, bought me a coffee and we sat down to talk. I was shocked when a few minutes later he leaned over for a kiss. Honestly, I was interested in him but not quite ready for that...maybe even more so than the kiss itself was the fact that I had at some point in the years prior, prayed that the next man I kissed would be the man I married. I wasn’t quite ready to think that this was the man I was going to marry...I certainly couldn’t expect that God would answer my prayer in such a direct way. We spent the rest of the evening having a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant, walking through a bookstore and finally having dessert at a local diner. I wasn’t sure what to think...he was nice and all but it certainly was different to be together in person. We had really become emotionally attached in our phone conversations but face to face was a different experience. The next morning, Tom arrived at my apartment early and whisked me off to a day of hiking. Then, he informed me that he had planned a night out complete with dinner and a show. Instead of resting for the few hours in between events, I snuck off to the mall to find the perfect little black dress - I had nothing in my wardrobe fit for a night out on the town (is that a sad testament to my dating life up to that point or what?!). We enjoyed a nice dinner downtown and great performance of 42nd Street. Okay, girls, I know you are already thinking I’ve found my prince - what a romantic! but wait, it gets better...

After Tom returned to Texas, our relationship continued to blossom. We kept American Airlines in business with frequent trips one way or the other. In January, Tom arranged for his whole family to rendezvous in South Carolina so he could introduce me to everyone. Then in February, he planned a trip to Seattle so I could meet his close friends, Tom and Maureen. Little did I know that my romantic beau was scheming again. We planned our visit during Valentine’s Day weekend...and Tom had done a little more planning than I realized. On Valentines Day, we spent the day with Maureen and 2 1/2 year old Jayne sightseeing. Throughout the day, Tom kept surprising me with little Valentine’s Day surprises - a poem, some stuffed animals, a heart paperweight, flowers, etc. That evening, we went to a cool Asian-fusion restaurant in downtown Seattle. Maureen & I were savoring our dinner (especially Maureen, being sans kids) when the two men informed us that dinner was over and we had to leave immediately. We ladies tried to put up a fight but we were whisked out of the restaurant to an awaiting horse and carriage complete with a bottle of champagne. Our trip through the streets of Seattle brought us to a beautiful view of the Space Needle where Tom & Maureen disembarked but Tom told me to wait. He, then, presented me with a Valentine’s Day card and the next thing I knew, Tom was on his knee and I was being blinded by a beautiful diamond. I think I was coherent enough to say “yes!” but after that they all joked that I was in shock. If that wasn’t fantastic enough planning, Tom proceeded to tell me that we would now need to call Pennsylvania to inform all of our parents that we were engaged...yes, he had flown his parents to PA for the weekend so the parents could all get acquainted. I don’t know if I was more surprised that they were there...or worried that my apartment was a mess (since his parents were staying there!).

In the autumn of 2003, one year from the anniversary of our first date, we were married in PA surrounded by family and friends. So there it is, my long-winded version of the beginning of our love story...a story which will continue and get better and better for as many years as God gives us together here on earth...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How We Met (What HE Said)

Finding the love of your life...

It has taken much self persuasion to finally decide to actually create a website/blog, but in thinking about leaving a legacy of who we are for future generations... I, Tom have undertaken to just begin. I am writing while I have a week off for vacation while Lynette (now in her last few weeks of pregnancy with L-girl) and Caedmon are taking their afternoon naps.

Was there a time I wish to remember without Lynette? Yes there was, but not without too many memories I truly wish to recall or admit to. In finding a starting point I would choose the events of September 11, 2001 which were still fresh in the lives of every American. It was a significant date for me, not so much so because of the dawning of a new age of terrorism, but because my baptism the Sunday after the attacks was overshadowed by it. Our country’s long standing image as the #1 superpower on the planet was being challenged and as a nation we knew our lives would be forever changed. It was a time of much reflection upon choices made in life and roads not taken. I had missed out on being baptized as a rebellious teenager, but God had continued to reach out to me patiently through the years. From here we fast-forward to one year later... to the autumn of 2002, I was 34 at the time. I cannot begin to tell the story of how I met Lynette without telling the story of who I was. For only through conjuring up my past could I look forward to my future.

Tom, that’s me. I was born in Taiwan and given a Chinese name 張 逸 平 (張 - stretch, extend, expand... 逸 - flee, escape, break loose... 平 - flat, level, even, peaceful). This “foreign” name I quickly gave up when I decided to omit it from official documents when I became a naturalized citizen. My parents gave me the freedom to choose to deny the name they gave me, but forewarned me that I might someday have regrets. My parents met during college in Taiwan and were teachers prior to emigrating to the US in the early 1970’s. They tell me that my paternal great-grandfather was the first Christian in my family and everyone in our family subsequent to him was a believer. He was clock/watch repairman in his town, they say. I never knew either of my grandfathers for they were both deceased prior to my birth. My dad arrived first in the US and worked in the Empire State building until he could provide and send for the rest of us. He earned a business degree in his spare time and in my youth, pursued several different jobs in NYC from starting an import/export business, owning and running a stationary store and later a butcher shop, being a restaurant manager, to ultimately owning and maintaining a small motel in Waterloo, South Carolina with his sisters. My mom was a seamstress in her American life until she retired in 2007.

My childhood life had been one of great rebellion against my ethnicity and family. Though my parents brought my siblings & I up in a safe Christian home where our needs & wants were provided for, somehow I always felt dissatisfied and strived for my own life apart. I hated being Asian... never quite fitting into the American world, being taunted by others because of race. It was in Taiwanese church that I felt “normal”, but then there there were subtle status distinctions that even a child could sense as the children of doctors seemed to be socially on a higher level than I. There I actually felt “special” due to my athleticism (in softball & table tennis church tournaments) and charisma. The other kids looked to me as a leader in many ways. However, I wanted MY American dream - of being blonde, blue eyed, tall... the all-American boy. I was raised with my siblings (fraternal twins 3 years younger than me) in an extended family consisting of my parents, my paternal grandmother, 3 of my dad’s sisters , and also my cousin of similar age to me ( whose parents at the time lived in Taiwan). We were provided for at the expense of the blood and sweat of all the adults in the household. Selflessly, they tried to give us lives that they could only dream of when we turned our television set on or looked at our neighbors and saw how American children should live. Somewhere along the way, I lost my childhood innocence and realized that I didn’t quite fit in into this image.

New York City in the outskirts of Harlem (by Riverside Church/Park & Grant’s Tomb) was where my memories mostly began. It was where I attended 1st - 3rd grades, and later when my family moved to Jackson Heights, Queens, I began 4th grade and so forth till I left home for college & beyond. My youth held times of the fun & excitement. We went on family vacations in the summertime all piled up like sardines 10 persons in the family car, played in the local parks, went to Burger King for birthday celebrations where my birthday treat would be to order 2 Whoppers, fries, and an apple pie to eat, and for a few years we even had a pet chimpanzee named George!. However, it was the racism I felt that led me to want to be NOT ME. I have a memory of my brother & sister and I having just coming down a hill on a new skateboard my dad had given us when a group of African-American kids on bicycles rode up, taunted us, and snatched the skateboard from us and rode off. Another memory of the Caucasian bully around the block chasing me on his bicycle and yelling racial slurs at me when I rode my bicycle around the block. I always had to look around when I was riding and never felt truly safe riding around the block in those days. I recall another memory of another African-American kid putting a gun to my side as I left for home at the end of a junior high school-day. I would add to this list the countless faces of those who uttered racial slurs at me as I passed by them in daily life. These experiences carved deep impressions into the psyche of a young boy producing a warped perception of self & family (as if walking through a house of mirrors at a carnival and seeing distorted versions of myself) thereby hindering my ability to truly understand neither myself, nor my family’s sacrifices. I wished so much to be a different person in a different family. I never looked back much once I finally broke free of those oh so awkward early teenage years as I left for college. I never appreciated how much we the children were provided for and cared for, never recognizing how blessed by God I was to have been part of my family. At the time, I could not understand that I could not possibly have been spared from those growing pains faced early in life. The experiences could not have been controlled by my parents, nor could they have protected me from them. They were more a sign of the cruelty of children, the times we lived in, and growing up in the tough streets of New York City in the early 70’s and 80’s.

The next 17 years from college - to medical school - to residency - to finally starting my career as an anesthesiologist were full of selfishness. My mom used to tell me that the harder you work with your head when you are young, the less you will have to work with your hands when you are old. Education and a career in medicine eased many of the prejudices I perceived earlier in life. However, I existed only for myself and lived as if I were my own family. Losing the weekly influence of the church of my youth, I was much the prodigal son... essentially living as if I had renounced my family, experiencing the many vices of the world, taking and not giving, striving after success in the eyes of the world and achieving it... outwardly I had made it. It was by all accounts another successful American immigrant story. However, inwardly as a child of God, I was lost.

The next chapter of my life, which I did not see coming, occurred one fateful evening in the autumn of 2002. I was in my apartment, when I happened across a radio program. I wasn’t even one for listening to Christian radio, but the young couple on the “Focus on the Family” program seemed so genuinely happy and sincere as they were talking with Dr. James Dobson about how they had met. “eHarmony”, a unique web-based service created by Dr. Neil Warren Clark, sought to match couples with an ultimate goal of creating unions that would last in this modern era of marriages of convenience. Despite the early stigma of internet based matchmaking, they spoke of how it was not unlike any other venue of meeting someone in the real world... and ultimately, isn’t it God who is in control? Through the website, Lynette & I emailed in great depth over a long weekend. Our emails progressed over the next few weeks and we began talking on the telephone, eventually I asked her if I could visit her in Pennsylvania. I ended up driving all the way from TX to PA (approximately 1200 miles, 21 hours non-stop in my 1994 Jeep Wrangler)! I arrived in the early hours of the morning, checked into a hotel, and had only a few hours to sleep before we were to meet at a local coffee shop, La Bella Bean. Lynette thought I was quite bold, as I kissed her on our first meeting - I think I told her that it just felt right. I had a present to give her as a token of our first meeting. It was a teddy bear dressed in Western apparel. Later that evening we went to a performance of the traveling Broadway production “42nd Street”, and afterwards for coffee to plan our next day. I picked her up bright and early before dawn and we went hiking for the day. It was a wonderful weekend to finally get to meet the person behind the words. Initially it was a bit awkward because even though we felt like we knew much of one another, we had to begin the relationship all over from the start when we actually met in person. After I returned back to Texas after another grueling drive, our correspondences continued and our relationship blossomed. Approximately 4 months from the date we first met, on Valentines Day, we traveled to Seattle, Washington to visit my very close friends Tom & Maureen. I had already concocted a scheme of including them in a surprise marriage proposal. I had already mailed the engagement ring in advance to their safe keeping, but Tom was the only one to know the details of how the proposal would unfold. We went out to dinner at an Asian-fusian trendy restaurant, but before the ladies could fully savor and enjoy their meals which were just served, we had to leave because our horse & carriage had pulled up outside the restaurant to their shock & surprise! The champagne served in the carriage lessened the disappointment of having to rush through our meals. It also cheerfully warmed us as we departed into the nippy winter night. The city lights seemed to sparkle extra bright as we wound our way through the streets, hearing the clipitty-clop of the horse’s trot. When we arrived at our destination, the Seattle Space needle, Tom and Maureen got off the carriage first and as Lynette turned to also get off, I assumed the classic position, “struck a pose”, and offered her the token of my affection and asked the question that would lead us onwards towards the rest of our lives. Lynette said after the fact that the minor pause in her acceptance reply of “YES!” was due to the champagne making her thoughts merry and how she was so startled by the blinding, dazzling diamond! As the excitement began to subside, I surprised her again by letting her know that that same day I had arranged for my parents to fly in to Pennsylvania to meet with hers for the very first time and they had already been getting acquainted over dinner that very same evening! It was a night to remember. We were married in Pittsburgh 8 months later, in the autumn of 2003 (exactly one year from the day we first met) and jetted off to honeymoon in the exciting cosmopolitan city of London, UK and then to relax and take it slow on the island of Madeira, Portugal. From there, as they say... the rest is history or shall I say more correctly, OURstory.
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