An Ode to my Mamas

We arrived after a 12 hour flight and all the additional hours that accumulate when armed with four bursting suitcases and an active 11 month old baby. We opened the door to our new, empty home. With vision and dreams reignited, opportunities granted, and peace transcending through – my husband and I, with our daughter in tow, had moved back to America after living abroad for the entirety of our time together.

We moved back to a city that was new to me but was a slice of home for him. After six years, my husband was returning back to a place and to a community that he sincerely loved. I, on the other hand­­, did not know what to expect.

During our first Sunday service, I was carrying my daughter who was getting antsy in my arms. I stepped outside of the sanctuary when a sister walked up to me and gingerly asked, “Do you want to sit with us on the lawn?” I strained my neck to peek around the corner as my eyes located the lawn. The sun generously poured into a grassy area where I saw a few mamas sitting on picnic blankets. Some held small babies, some watched their squirming little ones while one mama comfortably leaned back with her baby snug in her womb. Grapes, cookies, and cheese found their place in between babies, diaper bags and shoes. Shyly, I shifted my eyes back to the sister who extended the offer and nodded. She led me to the lawn and immediately, I felt like I belonged.

This was just the beginning. A few days in our bare home with a single chair plopped in the middle of the living room, the doorbell rang and a family barged in with a box of pizza. They ate with us, kept us company, and celebrated our new season. The next weekend, a group of friends showed up at our doorstep. One arm carried flowers and strawberries while the other arm was kept empty for a hug. We ate pastries, breakfast burritos, laughed a ton, and they helped us build our furniture. They invited us to their homes and their gatherings. They doted on our little girl. In their actions and in their intentionality they locked eyes with us to say, “We’re here with you. We are family.”

There were locked eyes and then there were those that ushered me into their hearts by the hand – almost demanding that I come with them. This undeniable pull came from the community of moms. They showed up at my door to shower my daughter with hand-me-down toys, books, and other knick-knacks. They sat with me, marveled at my birth story and laughed at our shared day-to-day struggles. They showed me around the city as we attempted at mommy-daughter dates amidst interrupted conversations of babies grabbing our shirts and calling for us at the top of their lungs. I had a go-to mama I would ask questions to over text. She wouldn’t (note: couldn’t – she is a mother of two energetic toddlers, can anyone relate?) reply immediately, but within a few days I would receive a full, lengthy, thorough, and heartfelt essay. The essay always ended with a prayer she would lift up for me.

Mom guilt is a harsh reality that is itching to creep up on you at any given opportunity. Mom guilt is even more pronounced when well-catered and crafted mediums like social media allows you to, after 37 outtakes, post the perfectly posed photo of your angel (who never throws tantrums) with her darling outfit (which always stays in pristine condition). Mom guilt is available to surface in any granular detail – from type of diapers to approaches in discipline. But these moms shimmied to the side, away from these picture perfect moments. They met me in their honesty, vulnerability, and humility. They laughed over their dark moments whilst feeding in the middle of the night and asked for prayer when their toddler was, once again, sick and thus unable to come to church. Time and time again, in our shared anecdotes and conversations, we sought Jesus. We reveled in the honor it is to be a mother. To steward a soul God has entrusted us with. We were honest of our struggles, but because of the beauty of the gospel, we nudged each other to let out a sigh of relief in the deep rest that is our Savior. Far from perfect, fully flawed, but relying on His sure and daily mercies, we sought to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” Philippians 2:2. In embracing their weaknesses and humanness but pursuing like-mindedness, these mamas pointed to a Jesus far greater than the community of Jesus.

When I linger upon my interaction with this community of moms, my jaws drop to the floor. My feet shuffle backward, my eyes peel upward to look at our good, good Father. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” – Psalm 133:1. Unity, being richly knit together in love is repeated time and time again in the Bible. In this day and age when we see so much division, polarization and accusation, I can’t help but turn back to this community I’ve been immersed into and realize it is a gem of a slice; a glimpse of what Jesus intended when He hung on the cross for the Church. We are vastly different. The nuances in our political opinions and theological leanings vary. Our family histories come from all corners, our skin colors stretch across the color spectrum, our children’s temperaments are hot, cold and everything in between. But they, under the common thread of being genuine followers of Jesus, have loved and loved extravagantly. They have demonstrated the cross in the commonplace, in the minute ways that become grandiose. They have demonstrated the cross by laying down comfort and self-preservation for the sake of welcoming a friend, of extending hospitality, of demonstrating love.

We are mamas and we are perpetually tired. We feel like we are playing an unending full-contact sport and we crave luxurious moments of self-care. So how is it that, in the past year, I have experienced Jesus – the beauty of the unity of His people – so deeply? They pull, they plunge forth into, and they stay put in the inexhaustible source of our God. Here’s to you, mamas, who are in the thick of time-outs and tickle-fests but take a moment to look beyond yourselves and your child to emanate Christ’s love. Your love has changed me.

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On 2017,

(wrote this post in January and forgot to publish)

2017 was a year that called for all my energy to be compressed into every given moment (i.e., the daily delights & demands of raising Emma-Joy) as well as allowing (or choosing to be okay with) all my energy to be dispersed & scattered over there, right here, and far over yonder.

This was disorienting. I wanted order and things to follow my stream of logic. I wanted all that I had assumed to be done with to be neatly packaged in a labeled corner – a bright red ribbon on top to flash its finality. But as disorienting as it was, I realized the only way to prevent myself from getting seasick & nauseous was to look at what was going on in the eye (however much I wanted to avert eye-contact). Straight in the eye, I looked and I saw a God who unravels in waves. A God who redeems, redirects, rejuvenates, and reconciles. This meant I had to make a resolve. To walk away from my natural instinct to swing to one extreme and make myself at home. It meant to swing in higher frequencies of lesser degrees, comprised of trial + error, in a place that is (a word my clients will roll my eyes at) the tension. The resolve to sit in it under that which I proclaim to be truth, to be absolutely worthy. This meant reaching for the tucked away dusty boxes, unpacking the tight wrapping and revisiting what was held inside. Locking eyes with the terrifying fear of disappointment (yet again). Standing my ground in very foreign territory. This meant telling myself: resurfacing does not negate all that has been to this very point. And it does not translate to being back at square 1.

It meant: Hi, past Yoon. Meet current Yoon. You two look wildly and dramatically different. Night & day, really. But the reality is, you two are the same person built upon your day-to-day history with God. There is a continuity of you – past yoon – to you – current yoon. And that continuity strings seamlessly because of His narrative over your life. And that’s something worth attention + celebration.

2017 was a year of stringing the then + there to the here + now – holding fast to the living hope for what lies ahead.

On Our Transition II,

But my mind still runs actively, like an old heater in a worn down home. At first, it whirs loudly. And then with the preoccupation of things elsewhere, it travels down a few notches to a gentle hum. And somehow, overtime, it becomes white noise. The constant, endless activity of my mind. The myriad of things dancing to and fro (actually, it probably doesn’t look like elegant dancing, but more along the lines of frantically running about). I wiggle myself in – as if I’m here to stay – because it feels comfortable and familiar. No spare moment passes me by without carrying with it a thought, a worry, a to-do list, a prayer, a question. And before I can catch my breath, another moment occupies the forefront of my mind.

Until I drew the curtains. It was as if I sat in a small room surrounded by sheer curtains. The sun still came in. I could even catch the glistening of the sun and the dancing of the leaves. The muffled conversations outside my walls. But some things were hazier than others. Then one day I jolted up from a dream (or two) and realized some cleaning needed to be done. Some flushing out of white-noise and some fine-tuning of my five senses. I guess when the busyness of your here + now bombards you, you sometimes need vivid dreams to jolt you awake and make you realize that the old heater is indeed whirring. Quite loudly, actually. So I stood up. I examined my space, my surroundings. Took a quick inventory, nodded my head, walked forward, and drew the curtains. Then the sun poured in. Warmth immediately permeated my body – head to toe. And the light – piercing – tumbled into my small room and I became (once again) entirely, completely captivated. 

 

On Our Transition I,

2 months ago, our little family made a huge transition. We packed up all our belongings (imagine: many many days spent executing the Kon Mari “spark joy” method on our surprising amount of accumulated… things) , shipped the big ones, took the smaller ones, and braved on a plane with our little one (thank you pororo for saving us during helpless moments of the 12 hour plane ride).

We closed a significant chapter of our lives in Korea. 7 years for me, 6 for him. Year 2 was when our narratives began to intertwine, and God swooped in to bring two dynamic stories into one. I was in the thick of pain and sickness. He was in the thick of hardship and uncertainty. Meeting our future spouses was the last thing on both of our minds. We were frantically running about our respective situations at hand. But God. In His grandiosity + sovereignty, pulled our seemingly uncomplimentary colored lives together and our busy feet came to a screeching halt.

Every moment onward has been bombarded by significance, pain & sorrow, beauty, disappointments, victories, crises, thanksgiving & praise. So much of the past five years comprised of locked eyes, clasped hands, and “Okay, let’s do this. We’re in this together.” and running forward, onward, and upward.`

I’m sitting in our new home with the sun generously pouring in, adding freckles to my no longer pale-stricken face. Our little one is napping in her room. Every spare moment has been actively occupied until now. So much of the past two months demanded errands, to-do lists, settling in, figuring things out and attending to our baby girl. And now, our busy feet have come to a screeching halt.

On Leaning In,

On a normal day, I wake up to scoop up my baby girl from her good night’s sleep. I kiss her good morning, change her diaper, wash her face, slather lotion all over her chubby body, and kiss her some more. Then I proceed to make her breakfast, pray our morning prayer, feed her, clean up after her, sing with her, play with her, scarf something down for myself in between, and then put her down for her first nap. This is all before 8am.

Afterwards, I have 1.5-2 hours. It’s my golden time; mornings are my favorite time of the day. The seconds linger longer and the minutes expand fuller. This time has begun to dance before me as of late – without an agenda or destination to robotically rush to. Sometimes, I just plop right back to bed with a book. Sometimes I’m lying prostrate or fetus-position with a most important appointment. Sometimes it’s a Skype counseling session. Sometimes, I head to the living room and squeeze in a 30-minute workout. I try a different combination & mixture each morning. Most of the time, i lean in. To (cognitively & counterintuitively) steer away (also, counterculturally) from my desire to speak. Ultimately, from my desire to be heard. I’m listening. Listening to an author, listening to a client, listening to my body, and listening to the Lord.

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There are times when I sense a, “but but!” rapidly racing up my throat. I mentally take a step back, chew, & swallow. There are times when I feel indignation, loneliness, frustration begin to ooze into my mind, ready to ignite the tongue (or at least, my facial expression). I mentally take a step back, acknowledge, and breathe (sometimes, this process requires countless repetition. oftentimes, i fall short at step 1). There are times when hurt blinds my vision. Once again, I take a step back and tease apart that which was said, that which was unsaid, and the heart in which all was delivered.

Leaning in has made me appreciate some of the things contained within. Not in a way that amplifies its sensationalism, but rather in a way that gathers delicately into my being. Not in a way where it burdens my shoulders, but in a way where a sure sense of weight falls somewhere deep inside. It has highlighted all that which I do not deserve (i.e.: everything), but all that I have freely received. I close my lips and open my ears. Leaning in, I feel the gentle nudge, I hear the sweet whisper, and I see the fine tuning. & above all, I rest in His warm embrace.

On Motherhood I,

I’ve embarked on this challenging, mind-boggling, demanding, and beautiful thing called motherhood for nearly 9 months now. I could add 17 more adjectives to that list. I have carried her in this world as long as I have carried her within my womb. I have had moments of sweet bliss. Moments I want to pause, capture, print + laminate. I’ve also had moments where I’ve had to navigate. Where gazing at my joyful baby girl’s face with my heart swelling to a capacity I did not know possible is mixed with the flurry that is within. Real emotions screaming for my attention, real thoughts bombarding my vision. I’ve had to navigate. To see, acknowledge, and tune in. But also to move forward, to shimmy to the left & right. Because I know where my destination is.

Previously, when navigating was necessary, I responded in a familiar rhythm: sit down in a quiet space with my journal and a cup of coffee. And then write away. Channel the amalgam of things in my head and heart through my fingers to the very pages. Then I would observe. The heaviness would get lighter, gravity would take its role less seriously, and I would let out a sigh of relief. Navigating was easier when I had the space & time to do it my way & when I had the flexibility to reintroduce the right lens and recalibrate where I’m going while appreciating how far I’ve come.

But with the commencement of that which encapsulates ‘motherhood,’ my rhythmic response has been far from natural, but rather a luxury.  Particularly so when I have such an active baby who loves attention (especially mommy’s) and physical touch (also especially mommy’s). I want to be fully present with my daughter. In attempts to do so, I try to capture and elongate the in between, transient moments (i.e.: nap time, brief moments she is entertained by a toy). To process the emotions and hush out white noise thoughts at lightning speed. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I am then at a tension where I am full to the brim as I spend time with my daughter while simultaneously experiencing the flurry within. It’s messy and it’s not my way.

The mess has done a few things: highlighting the highlights and catapulting gratitude.  Sometimes, oftentimes, that which we need in every breathing moment is not from a formula, but rather from a deliberate choice. The mess has counterintuitively made it terribly simple: the destination is His love. The mess has thrown my rhythm out the window but it has reminded me that – heel to ball to toe – I will keep on walking (both navigating + being) with sweet moments and difficult ones, all in His love.

& all else falls into place.

On 2016

The 365 days that amounted to 2016 were incredibly full – each moment swelling to the next moment. Possibly, probably – no, firstly, because of heightened awareness that blanketed my 2016. It was as if I had tried to endure the harsh winters of the past decade with a measly blanket. Shuffling my feet, crunching my body into fetal position in attempts to sustain the body heat. When in reality, the cold air seeped in and vacuumed away the pockets of heat I tried to contain in my small space. & then as 2016 rolled in, a new blanket gently laid over me. This one was thicker, heavier, and weighed down on me in a way that made me feel so very safe and so very, incredibly warm.

The moment to moments swung back and forth within the entire spectrum. From the heartaches to the disappointments to the hurts and to the misunderstandings. From the quality times to the quality people to the heart bursts to new life. From this to that and that to this, 2016 was the summation of all that was this past decade. It was characterized by a stream of answered prayers – both the desperately hoped for along with the entirely unexpected. There were milestone events & testimonies that had us floored, shuffling our feet back once again with our necks strained upward. It had us in our bed at night looking at each other and asking over & over again, “Isn’t our God so, so very kind?”

2006-2016 was one heck of a decade…to say the very least. There are details and moments and circumstances I want to compress, bury and forget. Sometimes the pain & emotions that accompany these memories still strike a (literal) heart pang, driving me to tears. But they are also details and moments and circumstances that I will forever hold onto because of how they etched an awareness that I would have never been able to conjure on my own. Because of how they sketched into me an unction to move forward, a burning to push onward, and a resolve to hope upward.

And as God outdid Himself to the very last day of 2016, my husband and I spent a quiet evening at home and cleaned our closets. We let out a sigh. A sigh of gratitude, of breathing in & out all that was, and a sigh of peace. We kissed our baby girl to sleep, ate tangerines and enjoyed the buzz of the TV & various conversations as the last moments danced, meandered and passed on by. Would I do those 10 years again? I don’t know if I would have the guts to. But all that has been from then that brings me to the here & now, I wouldn’t trade for anything. It was worth it. My God, you were surely and entirely worth it.

On Sunday Mornings,

Possibly because I am currently pregnant and suddenly bombarded with thoughts about parenting and becoming a mother and you know, stuff that’s not that big of a deal, I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood and how I grew up.

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We had a Sunday ritual. Every Sunday, I’d mosey my small body into that week’s long-awaited favorite, floral-printed dress. My Sunday best. I would then go to my mom and tell her which hair style I thought would fit my outfit for the day (or more like, “Umma, today I want pig-tails”). My small height barely allowed my eyes to peep over the countertop to see myself in the mirror. I loved watching my mom do my hair and tidy me up. And then I got giddy and antsy. Not necessarily to go to church but because of what was next in line in our routine. After umma gave me a nod of approval, I would run to the living room where dad would be dressed, sitting on the living room couch and waiting for the rest of the family. That was my time. It was our time – for me and appa. Without hesitation, I ran to his center vision, stood right in front of him, and gave him a good sweeping twirl. Week after week, twirl after twirl, appa did not reserve his enthusiasm and adoration. Every week, I shocked him with how beautiful I was in his eyes. & for me, that’s all that mattered.

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I know I had dressed up for Sunday service but those moments placed all other moments and agendas at a standstill. The simple importance and weight of the current moment – of being loved and adored by my father and delighting in his love + adoration – that was all that I wanted and needed. I did not need to go anywhere, I did not need to get anything done. I was not in a hurry to fulfill the function & purpose of why I woke up, dressed into my favorite Sunday best and got my hair tidied. He was near with his eyes on me, and we were enjoying one another. And that’s all I really wanted.

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요즘 II,

20대 후반인 나는 마음이 선듯 급해졌다. 항상 마음이 조금 급한 편이긴 하지만, 30대가 코앞을 다가오며, 어떤 면에서는 아직도 어리고 어리고 어리지만, 괜히 마음이 급해졌다. 어떻게 이후의 길이 펼쳐질지 궁금하고, 내가 원하는 길로 빨리 나서고 싶고, 주님이 주신 꿈을 향해 얼른 달려가고 싶다. 마음같에서는, 일어나자마자 눈꼽만 닦고 다다닥 달려가고 싶은 심정이다. 그렇지만 희미하고 안개가 낀 현실이기에 아직 나아가고, 달려갈 때가 아니라는 것을 너무나도 잘 알고 있다.

가끔은 40대 후반인 나를 생각해본다. 그때는 어떠한 길을 걸어가고 있을테고, 쌓아가고 배워가는 나의 모습 보다는 배풀고 무언가에 기여를 하고 있지 않을까 생각이 든다. 그때 되서는 지금 나의 모습이 짠하고도 어떤면으로 그리울 것 같기도 하다. 아직 많이, 아니 아주 많이, 모르는 안개쏙에서 남편이랑 친구들이랑 미래를 궁금해하고, 같이 꿈꾸고, 상상해보는 지금이. 너무나도 몰라 주님을 매일매일 매달리듯이 살아가는 하루하루인 요즘이. 배우고, 쌓고, 상황적 반전에 아직 말랑말랑하고 적응해가는 20대후반이.

그러면서 다시 오늘 나로 돌아와 시간이 더 빠르지도 않고 더 느리지도 않은 이대로 갔으면 한다. 서두르지 않으면서도 지금 현재로 감사하고 감사한 마음으로 돌아온다.

On Unfolding

Rare and transient are the moments when you say & feel, “yes. I’ve made it.” The majority of my moments that swell into my days has been the in between ones. The ones where I am fighting, moving, dreaming, envisioning, planning, laughing, and crying. The ones that don’t instinctively settle in comfortably because you want to be instantaneously over yonder and you want to yell, “yes. I’ve made it!”

But recently – through strain-against-gravity type of intentionality, trial and error, and even more failures while waking up to sure and new mercies –  I have been slowly learning to embrace the unfolding in & of the in between. It is bizarre and oftentimes frustrating & annoying, but carries this undeniably odd sort of beauty & delicacy. To not flail my arms in trying to push away the fog but to allow the mystery and majesty of it sink into my skin. I only know my next step, that’s as far as I can see. But I will work my heart out & plan my butt off as if I’m running full speed, full throttle – even if my secured destination is only one step forward. I have realized that the best moments are the unfolding of the in between: the staggering surprises to the ones you’ve contended day & night for.

& then there are the sweet (& worthwhile) ones. The sweetest of moments when you look around during the in betweens and see who is standing alongside you. When you find moments to laugh together, cry together, and simply be together through the awkward, rough, terrifying, and delightful. The sweetest of moments are in the walking alongside one another and you see, hand in hand, what He unfolds in His divine timing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhYQeZr3Ofg

cause being, becoming is all about unfolding. Unlearning and layering, uprooting and building.