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!

My Mom’s Love Letter: Ojinguh over Fire

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When I was a teenager living in the Midwest, I ate dried squid in the winter.  My mom would roast the ojinguh in our fireplace while cups of Swiss Miss hot cocoa grew cold waiting on a coffee table close by. Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus sat on our mantel above the fireplace where she took the dried squid flesh out of the flames and pulled off long, ragged strips resembling pale-yellow beef jerky. My parents, my sister, and me huddled together on the floor next to the fireplace, leaving the couch lonely. We eagerly gnawed on these strips, our teeth working hard on the tough texture to get to the chewy bursts of sweet and salty.

It was on the coldest nights of our midwestern winters when my mom would ask my dad to get a fire going with ojinguh on her mind. He obliged, putting aside whatever he was doing, the same way he almost responded to her requests. Squatting in front of our white-washed brick fireplace with the fire screen wide open, he placed new logs on the log pile and shifted the old ones around with a poker.

The smell of wood and ash mixed with an inescapable scent of burnt sealife took over the entire lower level of our home on nights like those. I love remembering those nights and the way my family of upbringing shared food. It wasn’t just the sharing of food I treasured. It was the language of love my mom spoke effortlessly, knitting our multi-cultural, bi-racial family together.

When my mom held a large squid in the fireplace, her eyes lit up with dancing flames. I could almost see the seaside vendors in her simultaneously-happy-yet-ever-lamenting eyes. They reflected the fire of hunger she held close no matter how the time, distance and understanding between then and now stretched. The same fire fueled her everyday desire to make sure my dad, sister and I were always more than full. It was this fire in her that packed my dad carefully-curated lunches every day for as long as I can remember. No one told her she was supposed to be a Proverbs 31 wife. She did it, because she knew what it was like to have nothing but the hope of a few seconds of warmth from someone else’s fire, and only the scent of what roasted over it to feed her empty stomach and aching heart.

Read the rest of this post over at SheLoves Magazine.

Listen to the Flowers

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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.