Having my sister, Candy, here for the last year and a half was like a dream come true for the Tan-Chi clan. When my bother, Peter, moved back to the Philippines with his family four years ago, we hoped that Jeff and Candy would do the same so we could all be together.
Candy lived in the US for a good number of years after graduating from University of the Pacific in San Francisco as a dentist. (And being honored as Valedictorian, too. So proud of her! I just had to add that). She married Jeff Mc Comb shortly after, a great guy who loves the Lord. Then they settled in Sacramento, practicing dentistry and raising their three sons.
Since we are all incredibly close, it was difficult to have Candy so far away. Often, she would express to the family how she longed to come back to Manila. We would tease Jeff and attempt to convince him to move out here (but it’s not easy to leave a dental practice).
Jeff actually invested in trips to Manila, making sure to visit with Candy and the boys. So it wasn’t like Candy vanished for the last twelve years. Jeff very generously provided for these trips which we all appreciated.
Although Candy struggled in the beginning of her marriage, wishing she was back in Manila, she surrendered this desire to the Lord. She stopped bugging Jeff about it and came to a point of contentment and peace.
Surprisingly, three years ago, Jeff talked to her about the idea of living in the Philippines for two years. After praying about it, Jeff was convinced that spending extended time with the family in Manila and learning from the leadership of CCF (our church) was something he felt called to do. We were all shocked in a good way!
So they planned and saved enough income to last them two years. A few months before coming to Manila, they also sold their belongings in faith, with the possibility that they may not return to Sacramento if God should lead them in that direction.
When Jeff and Candy arrived May 2015 with their suitcase and boxes, our family was ecstatic! Since they pretty much sold all their stuff prior to coming, we hoped and prayed that their two year plan would extend to forever!
Candy and I spent countless hours catching up and hanging out. Our kids played together whenever possible, and family dinners on Sunday night were chaotically fun. Finally, we were a complete 29. These gatherings often happened in my parents’ place, where us siblings and our spouses sat around a huge table, conversing, eating, laughing, telling stories, sharing struggles and victories, and praying together. It felt a little bit like heaven to see each person in attendance.
Throughout the rest of Candy’s time in the Philippines, it was like I had a new friend, buddy, and confidant. We had similar perspectives on marriage, raising kids, homeschooling, ministry, etc. Where we differed we sharpened one another.
Even if she is younger, I learned a lot from her and rediscovered what a special person she is — kind, thoughtful, generous, friendly, and loving. I could be honest and vulnerable with her knowing she would set me straight if my perspective or actions were wrong. I also knew she would understand when I shared my feelings, even if they were sometimes stupid and childish. Most important of all she encouraged me to love God more.
However, my happy bubble burst about six months ago when Candy told me that their plans had changed. After much prayer once again, Jeff decided they should return to the U.S. by August 2016, cutting short their original two year plan. He was eager to resume his practice and take back what he learned from the discipleship ministry of our church.
Waaah!!! Why?! My heart was crushed. To be honest, this turn of events was a big disappointment. Jeff is American so I totally get that he feels called to a culture that he can better identify with. And I respect him for the way he has sought the Lord through every major decision he has made for himself and his family. He is a man who walks intimately with the Lord so I don’t doubt that God impressed this on his heart.
But…as much as I love Jeff as a brother, a part of me felt like he was taking Candy away again, and I felt troubled. (I already confessed this to him.) Candy’s perspective silenced my negative thoughts quickly.
She said something like this, “I really want to stay but I trust Jeff. I know God speaks through Him so I will follow. If God wants us to come back in the future, it will happen.”
Candy is an opinionated and accomplished woman. She has no problems speaking her mind or airing her thoughts. But in marriage, she has learned to speak her mind to the Lord instead of forcing her way upon Jeff. She has learned to have a spiritual perspective on circumstances rather than rely on her own logic.
Even if I am heartbroken, I am proud of her for having the faith to declare that she trusts God by trusting in Jeff. She lived her dream for the last 18 months — being complete as a family, her kids playing and homeschooling with their cousins and building memories, vacationing, bonding, and doing ministry along side one another as siblings and with our parents, and even having the bonus of house help! Now, she must release this dream once more, and probably more tearfully too because she lived it.
It’s easy to say we trust God when we submit to our husbands because they aren’t asking us to give up something we really want, or to do something that is difficult. But Candy taught me anew that real faith is evidenced when we can say, “Lord, not my will but yours be done. Lord, I have longings and desires but I will look to you as I obey my husband and support his leadership.”
In a week Jeff and Candy leave. I teared several times today just thinking about it, whispering to Edric during various moments, “I feel sad…”
I am going to miss Candy’s cheery voice at the end of the line when we phone each other during the day, the random visits and sleepovers, her big smile when she comes through a door, her beautiful spirit and ever amusing quirkiness, the joy of seeing our children play together, and sigh…just being able to be sisters and do things as sisters like I always wished we could.
I had a piece of that these past 18 months and it hurts to let that go. Yet Candy’s faith consoles me. She is a woman who trusts God by trusting in Jeff’s leadership. Therefore I too trust that she will be blessed, that her marriage and family will be blessed.
And perhaps someday, if God should will it, we will be together like this again, and there will be no more saying goodbye because the dream will have no end. For now, I too must say, “Lord, not my will be done. I want my sister and her family to stay but you have called them back to the U.S. So I will thank you and trust you even if it pains my heart to because you are loving and good, and your will is always better…better than any dream or hope that I have.”
“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.” Jeremiah 17:7 NLT