Vulnerability

It’s funny because our culture is all about looking good, like we’ve got it all together. But we don’t. Whether it be the choices that we make or the circumstances that come our way, no one lives a perfect life. It’s when we admit that we’re not okay or that something is not right with us that others’ hearts are softened to let us in as well.

Writing about the miscarriage was a way for me to process and pull all my thoughts together. I needed space to make sense of my emotions. I didn’t think that people would respond the way they did. A flood of texts, Facebook messages, emails, cards, and even an encouragement from a total stranger. Many women shared with me their own stories of miscarriages and their pregnancy struggles. I felt honored that they allowed me to be a part of such vulnerable parts of their life. I learned that if you let people in, more often than not, they will overwhelm you with love. When you are vulnerable, others will be vulnerable with you too.

It’s also in these moments where our empathy for others grow. We are all broken and hurt but many times we fake it by trying to be poised, keeping our backs straight and our heads up high. But posture is tiring. Life is so much more fulfilling and freeing when we can look at each other the way we really are — sometimes bruised and bandaged up, and hobbling along. We need people to let us know that we are not defined by our bruises or what we may have gone through. We all need a circle of friends, a posse, your people, fam bam or whatever you want to call it, in our lives. We need people who will walk with us and let us know that we are not alone. We need friends who will listen to us and comfort us. We need others to speak truth into our lives when our spirits are so crushed it hurts to hope again.

But no one will ever know if you need encouragement, a prayer, or even just a listening ear if you don’t let others in. When you are ready, let people in. If you’ve got the right circle of friends, they will love you and take you in.

When my previous post went up, a friend of mine texted, “You’re the bravest person I know.” I laughed because she’s the one who runs marathons, hikes (on very steep parts of mountains) and goes on crazy adventures. I’m pretty happy just walking around Target and calling that exercise. There are so many other people who come to mind when I think of the word “brave” but my friend helped me to see that what I had gone through was not something small. It’s not that I walk around now thinking I’m this amazingly confident person, but she made me feel significant, heard, and understood.

Maybe this is what you need to hear today.

You are brave. You are seen. You can be vulnerable. And you are loved just the same.

Brokenhearted

The weekend before my birthday my mom made me miyeok guk (seaweed soup). In Korean tradition seaweed soup is eaten on birthdays. As a child I didn’t know why. I just knew it was a thing to do. I later learned that Koreans eat miyeok guk on birthdays to remember their mom and how their mom ate the soup to recover from labor. In Korean culture, new moms also eat it for several days or even a whole month after giving birth because seaweed is supposed to have lots of nutrients that will help the mother recover after labor. But my mom didn’t make me the soup because we were celebrating another year or new life. Instead, it was because I had just lost life.

I was recovering from a D&C, a procedure to remove tissue from my uterus since I had found out there was no heartbeat. The doctor called it tissue but that’s where a tiny, tiny heart had beaten. Where life had formed and had stopped. So that weekend, the weekend before my birthday, my mom came over to feed me a home cooked meal and help me recover from surgery.

My husband and I discovered that I was pregnant on Mother’s Day. We were excited and it seemed so fitting, so poetic, that I would discover that I would be a mother on the day when moms are celebrated. We sat in the doctor’s office surprised and overjoyed. Excited and thankful, we drove home and prayed. We sat on our couch together, thankful that the Lord had granted us life — that He had entrusted us with a gift. We had heard stories after stories of women who had tried to conceive but weren’t able to. And to make this even more of a reality for us, just a few months prior my doctor had told me that the road to pregnancy may not be so easy. I am in my mid-thirties and I have a hormonal imbalance. I remember hearing those words and feeling disappointed but taking it all in because well, it was reality and I knew that God would come through somehow. So when I heard that I was pregnant I thought that this was my “somehow” moment. God had some how made a way and now the adventures of pregnancy and motherhood would begin. We immediately told our parents but decided to wait to tell others until the first trimester was over because that’s what people do.

But how can you really hold back excitement? My husband and I looked up pregnancy websites and watched YouTube clips on the different stages of pregnancy. We looked forward to what was to come. The doctor wasn’t able to determine how many weeks I was so through an ultrasound we tried to determine how far along I was. After our first ultrasound, I taped the picture on our fridge. I was amazed at the tiny little life that had been formed. It looked like a tiny bean and it was ours.

The day after our first ultrasound the doctor called to let me know that the baby’s heartbeat was low and that it looked like the baby was not growing the way that it should be. It was half the size it was supposed to be. There was a possibility that this pregnancy would end in a miscarriage. I appreciated his honesty but I wished that what he was saying was a lie. I listened to his words but everything sounded so distant, like I couldn’t hear him properly. I hung up the phone and cried.

To be honest, I thought that if I said enough prayers and hoped and hoped that things would turn up. As a mother I felt that it was my duty to fight for the life that was inside me, but I was also confused as to how to accept God’s will.

The next week I went in for another ultrasound. This time there was no heartbeat. The doctor stepped outside the room and I cried in my husband’s arms. He was trying to be strong for me but I knew that it hurt for him too. During that same visit I scheduled a D&C. I wanted to walk out of the doctor’s office. I wanted to shut the world out but the nurse handed me a paper to fill out and sign, confirming that I would go through with the surgery to remove the tissue. I freaked out at all the legal terms and said a low “yes” when she asked me if I was free on Thursday for the procedure. It was Tuesday and I could barely take in all of that morning’s information. I couldn’t think about having surgery in the next 48 hours but with the doctor’s explanation and rationale, I signed my name.

The procedure went well, so the doctors say but I didn’t feel well. My heart was broken. It’s hard to move on or get passed the miscarriage some days, even though today is the three month mark. It’s difficult to move on from the loss when there are reminders — the bleeding that had continued weeks after having a D&C, the medical bills that keep coming in the mailbox, and the blood tests I had to take even almost two months after the D&C to check that my hormone levels were in the right range.

I wanted to plead with God and remind Him of all the prayers that I had said. All the hope and faith that I had mustered up for a week — the week between my first and second ultrasound. And then I thought maybe I had done something wrong. I didn’t pray enough or maybe I had eaten the wrong things. Had I gotten too ahead of myself? Was this all a big lie? But the change in my body would tell me otherwise.

The grieving process is long. The memories keep coming back. Most days I’m fine but some nights it’s still hard to fall asleep. It’s only after I’ve shed tears that I can go to bed. Other days it hits me in the middle of the day. No warning sign. Just a flood of tears.

I don’t understand why, I just know it’s hard. I can’t think  about the lesson that’s to be learned. I guess there are many things God is always teaching me, but today I want to be quiet. Today I don’t want to think about why or what if’s or even about the future. Today I know this: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:18). He is here in my sorrow and pain. This is the truth I hold onto today.

Mourning

Tonight I mourn.

At the end of last month I got a text from my dad saying that my grandmother was hospitalized. She had been mugged waiting for her church bus to pick her up for Sunday service. The driver, a pastor of the church, found her on the ground and carried her to her apartment. She had to have hip replacement surgery last week — not easy for a woman almost 90. A couple days later my dad called me. I naturally thought he was going to update me on my grandmother’s condition. Instead he told me that a family member had been murdered. I hung up the phone in disbelief. I had just come out of my own personal time of grieving loss a couple weeks prior.

In Ecclesiastes it reads, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” I am in a season of mourning. My heart feels heavy as I try to understand and take in painful news after painful news.

Tragedy is all around us. Turn on the radio, go on the internet, flip on the T.V. We are surrounded by it and to an extent, if I am honest, I think my heart is hardened by it at times. There’s a lot to take in — domestically and globally. It’s too much. But when tragedy makes its way into your life, you can’t run away from it.

Tonight I am at a loss for words.

When evil seems to win, what do I do? I am reminded again and again how fragile life is and what a broken people we are. My hope comes not from just thinking positive thoughts, but it comes from knowing that even in the saddest moments of loss and pain, Jesus is here.

He is here and he weeps. He mourns. And he allows us to weep too.

Today I mourn for loss. For pain. For the judgments that I had passed. Today I mourn for the long months ahead. Today I mourn for a lost soul. Today I mourn for the things that have been taken away.

Tonight I mourn and I take comfort in knowing that Jesus wept over loss too (John 11:35).

 

Drawing Close to God in Pain

The past few weeks have been difficult. It was in this difficulty that I was forced to stay at home as I needed time to heal emotionally and physically. I have been longing for rest for probably a couple years now. I know, it’s sounds a little strange — not a day or two, but a couple of years, and yet I think that a lot of people can relate to this. It’s the routine in life that you find yourself in. It’s the day in and day out. Meeting deadlines and trying to extinguish little fires that grab your attention.

It was in this rest that I picked up a book I found from underneath my coffee table. I had been eyeing a book from my husband’s spiritual formation class. Now that his spring semester is over I took the liberty of reading it. This book, “Beloved Dust” by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel, is exactly what I need to read in this time of my life. Do you ever feel that way — that you happen to pick up a book or a someone hands you a book that speaks to your season in life? I often feel this.

I haven’t finished the book yet but one thing that has stood out to me is this: “All our limitedness, our frustrations with ourselves, and our inabilities are gifts from God. They are all moments of grace calling us to depend fully on God and to proclaim, ‘Without you I can do nothing!'”

The world tells us that life is about being independent, healthy, fabulous, productive, hard working, beautiful, filling up our life with more gadgets and noise. Some of the things I just rattled off are not bad things at all, if we don’t let the world define those things for us. The reality is that life does not turn out the way that you dream it to be. No matter how much we strive, we will always fall short. No matter how much we plan, organize, and calculate the costs, there will be something that we couldn’t prevent or foresee. And yet in every step of disappointment I realize that every disappointment leads to a reflection and a knowing of how small I am. My abilities are limited. My smarts can only carry me so far.  In “Beloved Dust” the authors call these things “gifts from God.” In the moment these do not seem like gifts. These disappointments we go through feel like curses. It feels as if God doesn’t care. But I wonder how I would handle and view these seeming roadblocks in life if I thought of them as God’s grace. God’s gift to me.

The world teaches us to strive harder when we’re knocked down and maybe crush some people along the way, to rely on ourselves even more, and to fill our lives with things that make us busy. But the Lord is telling us to lean on Him. To rest in Him. To talk to Him. To know that this is all a gift.

How utterly paradoxical and upside down from the world.

These are some thoughts these days as I process pain, sadness, and disappointment. I’m not at all saying that pain or hurtful things in life should be viewed simply as lessons from God or that we should not recognize our grief or even just brush them off and pretend to be happy. On the contrary, I’m learning that in the lowest points of our lives, God is with us and as we talk to Him He takes us into a deeper understanding of who He is and who we are in light of Him.

And sometimes, as in my case, He forces us to rest and face our emotional and spiritual state head on. It’s not pretty, but it’s quite liberating to know that you are completely known by Him and yet completely loved by Him.

“Beloved Dust.” Isn’t the title beautiful? It’s sobering to know that the God of all the universe is interested in us, mere dust, and desires to heal our pain and share with us His heart. We have nothing to offer Him and yet He calls us beloved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Reliant on Him

I started a new job about eight months ago. It was an unexpected opportunity but my husband and I felt that it was the right choice for me. So we moved from Los Angeles to Orange County. If you’re not from Southern California you don’t understand what a difference that county line means to us Southern Californians.

A new job meant I had to learn new things, understand a new work culture, and build new relationships. I’m still learning but when I stepped into the office for the first time several months ago, I felt overwhelmed and fearful. I was scared that I was going to fail or more than that, disappoint my husband and others around me. It wasn’t just about the job, but it was about other things as well. I had gone through a lot of changes in the months prior to the new job. I had started attending a new church where I was learning to love and understand a new community, I had gotten married, moved jobs, and moved to a new city away from those closest to me. With every change came a lot of emotions and processing. It takes me awhile to process even a small decision during the day so it was pretty stretching for me to have all these life-altering events happen all at once.

I remember feeling drained, not because these things were bad, but because I was out of my comfort zone. And that’s when I prayed. I prayed that the Lord would help me to  get through the day or to get through a new task or event. I prayed that God would give me courage to open up to new friends and to love my husband more each day. Now that eight months have gone by, I realize that I had made a bigger deal out of all the things I was afraid of. On the other hand, I also find myself being less reliant on Him and more reliant on myself. It’s in the moments when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing that I turn my focus on Him because I know I don’t have the strength to do it on my own.

My hope is that I would continue to be desperate and earnestly seek Him even in the routines of life because I never know when God will take me out of that routine.

Created For Relationship

In my last post I wrote about some things that I had learned (and relearned) from an online writing course that I had taken. I wanted to expand on #2.

I am more than one talent.

Over 10 years ago I had started working for a ministry. Not a church, but a non-profit ministry where we worked in partnership with churches. The thing that got me hooked to this job was that they were looking for a writer/editor for their small publication and I had thought God had answered my prayers! Here I was in my mid-20s with no real writing and publication experience so I thought that this was my ticket so to speak. I was going to gain all this experience by writing and editing and then I’d move on and eventually publish and make connections and live a fabulous life as a writer. I saw this job as a stepping stone to something greater.

It wasn’t fabulous. Well, not fabulous in the way that you would think it would be. It definitely was not glamorous. It was hard work. The devotional journal we were working on was new and since it was a small publication I was doing a lot of work, which was great, but it also meant a lot of sleepless nights or nights sleeping in the office. I had never interviewed people before but was sort of thrown into the job. I fumbled my way through a lot of those. I had actually just come back to attending church regularly only a couple years before this job so I felt like I didn’t have much knowledge on Christian authors, speakers, and artists. I researched and read like no other. A little after a year the publication folded.

I stayed in that ministry for 10 years. I ended up doing a lot more proofreading than creative writing. I became the queen of shortening bios! Not so thrilling, eh? There were many days when I walked into that office wondering if my dreams of being a writer were mere ideas in the clouds. But looking back I see how much God was molding and shaping me to be the person I am today.

I learned to work with others in ministry. I learned how to talk to people, how to interview, how to listen, how to organize a conference, how to forgive, how to pray, how to laugh in the midst of chaos, how to weep with others, how to be honest with myself, and how to create boundaries. I learned from many spiritual giants who enriched my life with their wisdom and friendship. I learned about myself — my personality and my strengths, not as an excuse for myself, but to understand that God has created me uniquely for His purposes. Do you see what I’m getting at? I thought that my path on this life was going in one direction (and it is in the sense that I am going towards God) but I thought that God was going to use me in one line of work for the rest of my life and that I would fulfill all my hopes and dreams and that would be that. It was all about me, me, me.

Life is not about me. It is ultimately about Him and there are many twists and turns along the way. If I had become a writer in my early 20s I think my writing would’ve been really bad and pretty pessimistic. I wouldn’t have known how to deal with rejection or how to go about to work on a team with different personalities. God was and continues to show me that more than one talent or any talents, He is chiseling away at my heart and spirit to make me more like Him. I was so focused on myself for so long that I had forgotten that I was really created for Him. It is through my intimate relationship with Him that He’ll use me.

Now I am at a point in my life where I believe He will use me to encourage and bring hope to others through my writing. It may be through this post or through a letter I write to a friend and that’s okay. It’s not about my name or glory. Because he didn’t create me for one talent. No, he’s created me for so much more than talent.

He’s created you and me for relationship.

 

 

 

 

 

Raise Your Hand

One of the first times I became self-conscious of my desire to write was in high school. My 11th grade English teacher asked if anyone wanted to write a book one day. I was about to raise my hand but quickly scanned the classroom first. All the other students stared blankly at my teacher, so I did too. I was surprised that no one else wanted to. It wasn’t until college that I considered being a writer for a living. But even then people asked me what I really wanted to do with my English major. You want to be a teacher, right? The last year of college I picked up a minor in education because I sort of freaked out. I had guessed the critics were right. That was the only path for me. I took a couple tests to be a teacher and was even an elementary school TA for a quarter but it just wasn’t for me. My heart wasn’t in it.

In the beginning of the year, while tapping away on Instagram hashtags and scrolling through pictures, I found myself on a blog that mentioned an online writing course with Ann Swindell, a writer whose articles I had read on various sites I follow. Here was a woman who was writing for all the publications I would one day like to write for. There shouldn’t have been any questions. But before I signed up, I did have my doubts. Would this course be helpful? What if I didn’t have the time for all the classes? What if I didn’t finish? What if, what if, what if… That’s when I had to ask myself how much I really wanted to write. For years I had pushed writing aside because I felt like God would open up the doors when it was the right timing. I pushed it aside because no one else was raising their hands. I pushed it aside because I was scared, tired,  busy,  critical,  lazy, prideful,  distracted, unfocused and/or overwhelmed at different points of my life.

Here are some takeaways and things I’ve been reflecting on after taking the online course (not in order of importance):

  1. Writing is a gift. God has allowed me to have this desire and gift to write. To not write would be a waste.  I often thought that I wasn’t doing meaningful work with my writing when I wasn’t doing anything creative with it, but now I see that all the things that I had done in ministry while using my editing/writing skills were still being used for His purposes. I need to steward my gifts well, whether it be writing or something else.
  2. I am more than one talent. I thought there was only one thing I should seek from God regarding my career path or talents/strengths but I’ve realized I’ve been thinking too small. God has given me so much and each of those things can be used to serve others.
  3. Living in reality. The reality is that I will get rejected by magazines, publishers, websites. Writing is hard work, but most things in life that are worth it take hard work. Writing should be a priority. Sitting down to type on my computer or write in my journal is not only good for my soul, but it’s the only way I will actually accomplish something. I’ve always admired artists and creative people who get paid to do what they do. I may not be one of those people, but that’s okay. And that leads me to my next point.
  4. I am a Christian. My identity is not in my writing. It’s because I am God’s child that I can write with confidence. This is why I can rejoice with others when they are advancing in their careers or publishing articles. My first calling is to God, not in what I do.
  5. Creative community. No one will truly know how passionate you are about your passion, unless you’re with others who love the same thing. I felt very alone in the Christian writing world because I had never met others who had shared the same heart to use writing as a ministry. The past several weeks I listened to Ann and (cyber) met others with the same passion. It was both incredible and humbling.

Today I’m raising my hand.

 

 

 

 

Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah 9:6 has been everywhere lately. My husband gave a sermon on it last Sunday, I see it displayed on a neighborhood church sign every time I drive home, Instagram posts have been quoting it.

In a world where we seek wisdom in all the wrong places, are left feeling powerless to life’s tragedies and heartaches, witness the temporary and fragile state of our physical world, and our spirits are worn out and tired — in the midst of all of this, God says He knows what we need.

“And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor
Mighty God
Everlasting Father
Prince of Peace.”

For this, let’s celebrate. Thank you, Lord for the greatest gift of all.

Merry Christmas!

 

Thankful for Grandma

If I had to choose a favorite holiday, it would be Thanksgiving. The family time, the turkey, the cranberry sauce, all the sides, cider, pumpkin pie…oh, yeah, and being thankful.

Thanksgiving was always special to me growing up. I know a lot of Korean families who have kimchee on the side but my family never did that. Maybe it was because my grandparents lived in San Diego when they first immigrated to the States, where there weren’t many Koreans. We stuck to the “American” style Thanksgiving meals. I loved it! Thanksgiving is also my maternal grandmother’s birthday. Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November and changes every year but we always celebrated on Thanksgiving Day. Growing up, it took me awhile to realize that the date was never the same. To this day I don’t know my grandma’s real birthday. We just celebrate on Thanksgiving because it falls somewhere around that time.

If you’ve followed any of my posts, you’ll know that my relationship with my grandmother is deep, strong, and complicated. I realized that I never followed up with anything about her after my wedding. To recap, she had given me a wedding gift before I got married because she thought she wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding because she would either have passed by then or be too frail. I thought she was being dramatic, but she really was frail. She caught the shingles a couple months before my wedding date. There was a high probability that she would not have made it, but she was better and she came to the wedding. One of my happiest and saddest moments that day was seeing her struggling to walk down the aisle with her cane as she came down to join the rest of the family in our big, family picture. She had a smile on her face because she had lived to see me, her first granddaughter finally get married — a wish she had desired for more than a decade.

I had often complained that the only thing she would talk to me about is getting married. I was often mad at myself for not being better to her, sometimes feeling guilty that I didn’t do more. I am thankful for her constant love for me though our days together have been fewer and fewer.

And I’m grateful my grandma is a fighter. She made it to my wedding, didn’t she? She is also so much more. She has shown me how to be affectionate and loyal to loved ones.

Though I had labeled her as being dramatic, I guess it’s because I knew deep down inside she would be at my wedding. I’m so glad she made it. Cane and all.

Happy Seven Months, Love!

Today is our seventh month mark. Seven months ago we committed ourselves to one another in front of God and a lot of people. Seven months ago we started our life together in a small apartment in the city of LA and today we moved out to live in a very suburban area in the OC. When I was younger I thought that the suburbs were boring, too quiet, and not enough flair. Thus, I had often mentioned to you that we need to live it up and have “city life adventures.” Thank you for amusing me by walking in the city to restaurants, coffee shops, and dessert spots whenever we had the chance.

But I must say, after living in the city  I am looking forward to plazas and not paying for parking. Did I just say that? Who have I become? Though I love boutiques and mom and pop shops, who am I kidding? This girl grew up in the ‘burbs her whole life. I guess I just wanted something new. Thanks for not bursting my bubble.

This year so far has been full of changes. You found a new ministry job, we delved into a new church community together, we got married, we lived in a dorm room for six weeks, and I got a new job. Thanks for making the past seven months seem like seven minutes. Though we are with each other all the time, I always feel like I have seven more things to share with you. I love you seventy times seven and more.

City or suburban. LA or OC. 1 bedroom or 2. Doesn’t matter. Just glad we’re on this adventure together.