I am a Threshold of Flesh and Blood

Image Credit: Foundry Co from Pixabay

Originally written for The Mudroom.

I was young when I first realized that my biracial existence inhabits liminal space. 

We piled into the sticky church van, and left the Californian mountains where I’d spent a week at an Asian American Christian summer camp. It was my first experience at a summer camp, my first experience with a large group of Christians, and my first time exclusively surrounded by other Asian Americans. As we drove down the mountain, away from late night campfire worship songs and Bible stories I’d heard for the first time in my life, a friend in the van turned towards me and announced, “You should’ve heard how some of the boys talked about you in our cabin last night. They are obsessed with mixed girls like you.” I could tell he thought the comment was something I should be happy about, but all I felt was the heat rising between my skin and cheekbones.

Years later, thinking about that comment would make me feel small and shriveled up inside. It weaved itself into everything. It was clear that being obsessed with “mixed girls like me” meant being obsessed with the power of whiteness more than anything. I tell a friend about it, but she asks why I’m upset and making things about race, and claims she would be happy to have the attention—however it comes.

Even before I knew his name, white supremacy was waging a war around me and within me.

Without any formal training, I learned to resist my Koreanness like I was on a strict diet. I cut things out, hid what felt most like home, brushed and beat the wild out of my mixed hair, and said no to things I’d always loved. I tried to starve the Imago Dei in me. 

It took many long years before I began to realize that my biracial body was a beautiful bridge of existence.

Head on over to The Mudroom to read the rest of the post!

Listen to the Flowers


Yesterday the clumps of unremarkable leaves that line the side of our front walkway were suddenly sprinkled with periwinkle.  Our Woodland Phlox had begun to flower.  I am struck with how startled I was to see them again.  Although I’d become tired of the plain brownish-green stumps of plants they had been for months now, it’s as if I had forgotten the beauty they were capable of.

Today, the flowers on top opened and there were even more pops of periwinkle sprinkled across the plant like pinky promises. Their modest but sure arrival was begging me to pledge to notice them when they fully bloom, and believe they were always on the way, even when I couldn’t see their reality or imagine them last month.

After the joy of the first snow of Winter early on last season, I spent months wishing for the end of it.  After weeks of gray-skied, lip-cracking, static filled days, I became decidedly weary of Winter and waiting, quickly forgetting what Winter was working hard to bring about again.

When Spring finally spreads through our neighborhood, noticing is uncomplicated. The birds sing wildly in the now early morning light, and the Crabapple tree in our front yard lets loose a million white flower petals to the wind as if our streets were made for a wedding celebration instead of the everyday grind of commuters, yellow buses bringing hungry kids home, and mail trucks filled with bills and impersonal ads. It’s as if Spring has perhaps always been and exists on it’s own, unrelated to the long, mostly unseen work of Winter.

It’s not just the seasons. I feel this way about the character God is growing within me and my children when there are months without any evidence of it despite so much intentional work. I feel this way about longing for racial reconciliation within the church. I feel this way about the important relationships in my life that aren’t in the places I hope for them to be. I feel this way about my aging body when changes seem slow to show, despite work and desire to grow and become healthier and stronger.

The more I begin to recognize the way that what’s seen and unseen are two necessary parts of a whole thing, the more contented and convinced I become, no matter the season. The more I look beyond the surface of what is seen, the more I see the world around me, even the day to day mundane and the seemingly still unchanged, with hope and wonder. Click to tweet  The more I surrender to the way that each of the seasons is irrevocably connected, the less I try to pull and pick them apart from one another, resisting their bond.

I often think about the way Jesus was prophetically described in Isaiah as someone who would be tender, lacking in physical beauty or majesty, melancholy, rejected and disliked. His family, friends and followers were asked to see beyond what was seen when he was living on Earth, from his humble birth to his death on the cross and everything he did in-between.  His description seemed opposite of what anyone would ever expect while knowing who and what He truly was.

The memories of past Springs remind me that our little Phlox flowers won’t stay for long.    The birds will finish their busy morning songs and our Crabapple tree will lose it’s snow-white flowers one by one. Most celebrations in life are short and sweet no matter how we hang on.  The Phlox petals will fall back to the earth they rose from, leaving plain green plant leaves to stay throughout the rising heat of Summer.  If I pay attention, I know I will be asked to remember every part of their imperative rhythms as purposeful; and if I listen closely to the voice that matters most, I will be wooed towards greater faith and sight until they rise again.

The Posture of Preparation

On the heels of every Thanksgiving, Christmas season expectations peer at me from around the corner of November like a small army, eager for battle. As if on cue, after the piles of Halloween candy have been consumed and the leaves have begun to change colors, my family begins planning: tree shopping right after Thanksgiving weekend, tubs of Christmas books and decorations travel down from the attic where they’ve been sleeping, and I will find my Sunday readings for Advent and imagine myself calm and contemplative.
At the beginning of November, I am full of hope. I imagine how things will go, mentally commit to doing things better this year, and get excited about the traditions we keep, from cranberry muffins on Christmas morning to taking turns lighting our Advent candles.
Despite the hope and motivation that arrive with the crisp autumn air, I inevitably come up short with all of my plans by the time December is here. I am easily distracted. I forgot to move our Kindness Elves more than once last year. Another time, we didn’t make it to the post office in time to send extended family gifts by Christmas. Should I mention what could go wrong with Christmas cards or how brittle our tree usually becomes in a home full of brown thumbs? And the tree. Since we don’t have a great place for a nice big tree and we still have boxes full of preschool-made ornaments, the result is usually something that resembles a grumpy, mismatched old lady with too much jewelry. It’s never a sight fit for the clean, minimalist squares of Instagram, no matter how well I zoom and crop. And all of that is just a list of things gone wrong on the
In my distraction and ever-growing list of unmet expectations, I easily lose sight of what God truly wants me to be prepared for. I live as if preparation has to do with my own perfect planning as a mama, when it actually has everything to do with expecting God to show up right where I am – willingly opening myself up to what he wants to birth in and through me.
It isn’t just the holiday season when I am tempted to live this way. Throughout too many family seasons and transitions to count, I’ve grasped hard for control as a remedy for both the outward clutter and chaos in our home, and my own inward anxiety. But here’s what I am slowly learning: My inability to live up to ideal plans is actually paving the way for me to see things differently. It’s my own seeming failure to keep up that leads me to a crossroad of perspectives. I can choose to see things through a lens of despair and head down the path of give up or try harder. Or, I can choose to see and walk on the road that reminds me I am known and loved by a God who began a good work in me and will be faithful to bring it to completion in every season.
God wants me to toss my hindering distractions and worries this season aside so that I can be ready to receive. Listening to his voice is where I will find true gifts of abundance that my family and I need. I don’t have to wrap these gifts or stay up late assembling and fussing over them. I don’t have to tuck my mom guilt into the corners of their packaging.
I think of that first Christmas and the way Mary’s heart was so willing; her disposition so humble. What readied her arms to hold the God of the universe as a crying, unpredictable, dependent baby? Surely she didn’t expect the difficulty and heartache that would inevitably come with the gift that God chose for her as a “favored one.” Yet, when she found out what God was going to birth in and through her, she listened and was ready to surrender to it. Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 2:36-38)
I can best prepare for this season and all that unfolds within it by listening for the right voice and being willing to receive and surrender to it.
So, while the aisles of every local store begin to fill with all things commercial for Christmas, I ask myself this one question: What good (and possibly unexpected) gift does God want to birth in and through me this season? I am praying for a heart-posture of servanthood and surrender to receive it, whatever it may be. I am beginning to believe that the most prepared of us aren’t the ones who plan perfectly and get it all done with filtered photos as proof, but instead the ones who listen and receive with open hands, open plans, and a surrendered, courageous heart.

Originally posted on The MOPS Blog


Good observation is never fast; as a child, I was an excellent observer.  I noticed things and I remember feeling as if there was never enough time for all of the things I observed and was curious about. Shortly after my family moved overseas, when I was 6 or 7, I saw teenage students mocking an older homeless man as he lay on a bench on the busy streets of Tokyo. I couldn’t take my eyes off of what was happening.  The world had stopped so that I could feel my heart ache.  I remember my Dad pulling my hand, reminding me that we had somewhere to go and to be. All I wanted was to stop and help the man we saw, scold the teenagers and talk with my Dad about why this older man was all alone in the state he was in, and why the teenagers were acting the way they were.  It
burdened me for weeks, bringing tears to my eyes at each remembrance of it.
In elementary school, a teacher described my reading as slow.  I’ve written about this elsewhere before, but it took some time for reading to catch on for me. But before I understood how the letters made words and words, sentences, I remember noticing the curves and lines of every letter and how some stood tall and confident, while others sat round and kind, and how our English letters differed from the characters I saw in everyday life as an expat child living in Japan.
At some point along the way of “growing up,” I realized that the world was asking me to move faster and I surrendered to the felt request.  I heard the silent expectation for me to move fast or get out of the way.  I believed the unspoken rule that going slow meant missing out on life.  Apparently, the good life only happened in the fast lane.  It didn’t take long for me to believe that slow was something to avoid and something to be ashamed of.
Over the last few years,  I have been realizing just how frantic and frenzied my spirit has become. I’ve realized how wrong I was to believe that slow is bad.
The last 6 months in particular have forced me to slow down in a fresh way.  I’ve been homebound and free of commitments outside of home and family in a way that I haven’t been for 5 years.  I knew it would be necessary for our family, but I had no idea how much I personally needed to push the pause button.
I’ve come face-to-face with my impatience and the unkindness in me that flows out of it over the last 6 months.  It hasn’t been pretty and I’ve spent time apologizing to my family and lamenting over the hurt that my impatience and unkindness has caused more times than I would like to admit.
When we move at a frantic pace, we don’t have time to see
the reality of brokenness in our world.
When we live life in a frenzy, we don’t have space to see
the brokenness and sin in our own hearts.
When our pace of life is only fast, we don’t have room to
lament and grieve or repent and receive.
If we want to truly become more like Jesus and we believe that He is the answer to every broken place in the world and within, there’s no other option but to slow down so we might truly see and respond to what we see.
As a new school year and Fall season peers around the corner at me with plans and new commitments in hand, I am aware of my pace.

This past summer, I’ve been reaching back for that little girl who noticed injustice on the streets of Tokyo, and telling her that it was okay that she stopped to let her heart ache.  I’m reaching for her and finding that Jesus was there, pursuing her heart, and giving her a glimpse of His own heartbeat in those slow and broken places.

More than ever, I am embracing slow as a beautiful and necessary description for my own healing and for the healing we all long to see in world.