0

michael.

eHarmony didn’t find me my husband, but it did find me a friend named Michael.

I had been single for almost two years and decided that I would try this ‘online dating’ fad that seemed to spread like a hormonal rage of a wildfire. I was uncomfortable with exposing myself to the hungry eyes of single men across the online hemisphere, and I didn’t know whether to fear for my life or to bounce around with excitement at the potential of meeting my future partner. Either way, it was a brand new experience that I was willing to try out.

The first thing I noticed about Michael in our messages was the absolute positivity that exuded from his charisma. I remember telling my friends how intimidated I was because he looked like he came straight out of a cover of Bodybuilding Magazine, but at the same time, it was so refreshing to talk with someone who carried himself so well and he knew exactly what he wanted to pursue. He spoke of his dreams and executed them with that wonderful smile on his face, and simply didn’t care what obstacles lay before him.

He was so determined about his dreams to become a Korean pop star. He had a vocal coach, let me listen to his tracks, and went on and on about every minute detail of what would get him to that finish line. The twinkling in those eyes shut up any doubts or uncertainties within me, and I really had no choice but to be in awe of his mindset. I shared about God and he had tons of comments and questions, all without any judgment or bitterness. Seriously, it was one of the most interesting first dates I had ever been on. I’ll never forget that day of easygoing freedom to share wonderful stories with each other.  

We became friends, and I invited him to check out my church. He came in with his sister at his arm, and the love that he expressed to and about her was a quality I rarely saw, and the two of them held such a high level of respect and selfless care for each other that it almost seemed like I was getting an insider’s exclusive look at something very intimate and raw. He would share about the battles that his mother’s body faced everyday with such a steadfast faith that even though I felt shaken by mere words of what she was going through, he had a fierce commitment to making sure she was always in good hands and always knew how much her son loved her.

We had lost touch for a little while, and I started attending a new church. Imagine my surprise when during a holiday presentation, Michael ran into the sanctuary in the middle of a flood of children. They mimicked his moves as they all danced quite messily (but the messier it was, the cuter it seemed), and the pure state of elation on Michael’s face moved me into a sense of pride and a spidey-sense inside of me indicated that Michael had been transformed in some way and I wanted to know what it was. We caught up and he shared about how he was going to go to seminary, his relationship with Christ had been restored, and he had finally found a home church to call his own. I was so happy for him, and we had a great time of reminiscing about that night at Yardhouse when he was solely focused on becoming a superstar in Asia.

It was awesome seeing Michael here and there at our church and seeing his group of solid friends grow. He was serving and loving on people as naturally as he knows how. He had found his niche in showing the world his extraordinary dance skills, and during one of his performances, he had one quick moment to sit right by me and I remember so distinctly a quiet smile that was traded, and it said, “How far we’ve come.”

I invited him to a mixer I had helped to organize, and we exchanged plenty of hilarious dialogue about how stupid online dating really is, and how these mixers could possibly be even stupider. But lo and behold, he had found a girl there that he was attracted to, and he had hit gold with her. If I had an older brother and he had brought home a girlfriend, I would have felt that exact same feeling about Michael and this new gal.

I moved away and didn’t see him for a stretch, but we had recently started talking again because I wanted to help him find homes for his pups whom he adored. Through all of that, I thought I was the one who was looking out for him, but he always managed to sweep in a “How are you doing these days? What can I pray for you about?” This guy who had gone through surgery, was so far from home, and a lot of crap to deal with, cared about anything about meIt blew my mind the depth of his love for people, it really did.

It was an honor for me to have been able to call Michael my friend. I’m going to miss him, and I’m so thankful for these wonderful moments that I got to share with him. He was one of a kind, and such a unique and talented individual who loved passionately and infected people with his childlike zest. It makes me so sad to think upon this loss, but I know that this is not the end.

See you later, Michael. You’re so loved.

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0

only.

ImageThere’s a lot that you could be thinking of, and all of it weighs so heavy that it feels like your heart is splattered all over your feet. You drag them along leaving a streak of brilliant red that doesn’t seem to wash or fade away with the onslaught of the bullet-like rain that reminds you over and over again that you’re only human and you could disappear in a glitch of destiny. A lot of people say that your destiny is determined and you’re moving towards this one thing that decides what your life has always been about, but couldn’t that possibly be such bullshit?

Getting through every single day knowing that you did your best, knowing that you loved fiercely and represented the glowing embers of your soul… that has to be the best destiny possible for that day. To be shooting for the stars and working your ass off to get to the moon, you then realize that maybe you should go a little further, see how far you can really go. You’ve miscalculated your limits, the limits of your humanity, and by the time you glance back and find the fierce paleness of the moon fading as quickly as your oxygen, it’s too late and you’ve already drifted too far.

The angst that you carry inside of your shirt like you’re hiding a bowling ball causes an insurmountable desire to release everything and run away, but you have to keep lugging that shit around without any hope of salvation. But the burden can actually be a blessing, like the blessing I was within my mother’s womb for nine months that were probably the worst time of her life, only for us to both fall in love with each other upon the first glance. Except. Falling in love wasn’t really with each other, but with that moment of “Damn, we’ve been through hell and back, and look where we are now.” I am her and she is me, and that’s where we’ve fallen into this forest of buds called love, where through wildfires and drought, we’ve had to nurture and care for it with dedication and commitment, which happens to be viable ingredients to stay afloat with someone you may hold without any regard for anything else in this world that can be so nasty and cruel.

There are times when you may feel like the world totally reads you wrong, as if you were those supposedly scandalous books of the past that had to be burned. But as the flames lick up your stories and swallow up your voice, the ashes rise and all that’s left is your withering look of discontent that is illuminated by that computer screen, gazing at your face in a darkened room and pityingly trying so hard to envelope you in any breed of light.

7

swim.

ImageI recently started noticing messages in my inbox regarding my upcoming high school reunion. This made me feel awkward in three ways: 1) I didn’t technically “graduate” from this high school and I think 99% of the people I considered my friends at the time didn’t know what actually happened to me, 2) I hated high school, and 3) it freaks me out in a small way (similar to perhaps an adorable baby mushroom cloud) that it has been ten years since I was 18. Ten. Years. That’s a whole decade worth of drama, growing pains, and good things. Wow.

As haphazard as my decision-making skills are and as wild as a rollercoaster my emotional and spiritual development has been, I must unfortunately state in a contradictory manner that I was always an equal balance of safe and reckless. I feel cocky to call myself a big fish in a small pond, but I really did act as if I knew everything about this feeble body of water in my massive tuna of a body.

In practical terms, I came out of high school thinking I knew it all. I considered myself to be a professional wiper of life’s shit, and as long as I had these “street smarts,” it didn’t matter that in every other term, I didn’t have anything figured out. Dreams to be accomplished, jobs to be pursued, careers to be made… I had no clue what I was destined to do. I know a lot of people don’t have it figured out, and I know that it’s one of life’s fun mysteries to discover what your purpose in life is and how you can make a niche in this crazy world today, but as much as I enjoyed struggling through this identity crisis, I stayed in it even after I knew what I wanted to do.

I knew I wanted to write. I talked about it all the time. I talked about blogging, moving to New York to pursue a Sex and the City-esque life resembling Carrie’s, working my way up in a publishing house, and even going to school to get my master’s in writing. I blah-blah-blah’ed my dreams into one giant puff of a cloud that simply followed me around and didn’t take any shape. I became complacent with working in professions that I knew that I was good at, but didn’t particularly get excited over. My heart bled for the written word, yet why was it so hard for me to snap out of my passive comfort to pursue what I knew was woven into the DNA of my being?

As I erratically jumped from job to job, I realized that there were times I did this because I was afraid. I was afraid of becoming a big tuna in an even bigger ocean, where rejection and criticism were much more common, and I wouldn’t be surrounded by the safety of what I was already confident with. The predictability of my life choices began boring me to tears, and I knew that I needed to face my fears and start applying to jobs where I can start writing and hone in on this passion of mine that loomed over me for the past ten years.

I didn’t get callbacks and started getting discouraged. I even accepted a job offer for this job that was completely out of left field and wasn’t at ALL what I was expecting or looking for, but it seemed like it would be a great asset to my professional development. But to keep a long story short, I heard back about a writing position literally the weekend before I was supposed to start. God is so funny, and He loves to surprise me with His faithfulness.

It’s finally happening. Not only am I going to write full-time, but I’m going to be moving to a new city too. I feel like this is going to be the beginning of conquering fears and fulfilling dreams.

My oceans will continue to grow, so may I become bolder to swim.

1

mother.

tortoise-hareYou wouldn’t believe this, but I used to be a professional storyteller.

By “professional,” I mean that I used to enter these weird storytelling competitions as a child, and it was like any talent show you can think of, except instead of singing or dancing or juggling kittens, I recited a folk tale in Korean. The judges based your score on accuracy (word by word based on the manuscripts they had available), engagement (how well the child worked the crowd), and pure personality (come on, I had this one in the bag!). Now, each story is not like those ten-page books with the giant pictures and the Berenstain Bears running across the cover, but these were legitimately lengthy books.

I had done pretty well for a while, and I was being recognized by old, decaying men who would smack their lips at me and coo about how great it was that I was making a name for myself. I would be immensely grossed out, then feel the power of fame creeping into my heart like a fire. Then, the Holy Grail of competitions dawned upon me. Korean children would flock to this rickety church in Flushing from all the boroughs of New York, and they all desired the prize that was meant to be mine: A brilliant, golden trophy (made of plastic, but shiny gold plastic!) and a whopping one thousand dollars! I was assigned Tortoise and the Hare, and for someone who was at this time much more comfortable with English than Korean, I was one heaping mess of sweat. To this day, I believe I placed in the previous competitions just because the judges found my thick American accent adorable.

I don’t remember a word from that story now, nor do I remember the glitz and the glam of the photographers taking my photo a million times to be in the Korea Times (it was probably a local, unknown paper but I’d like to believe it was the Korea Times) as I held that 2nd place trophy proudly in my hands. All I remember from that experience is my mother, and how much she beamed proudly as she stood next to me on that stage. She looked like a movie star, with bright red lipstick and a chic black pantsuit. I also recall the numerous hours my mother put into helping me memorize my lines, and even as she relentlessly worked a few jobs each day and came home at inhumane hours, I remember vividly us laying in bed and telling the story to each other, line by line. I would swing my tattered puppy slippers over the edge of the underwater-themed comforter, contorting my tongue violently to pronounce each syllable impeccably. My mom would laugh, then slowly drift to sleep. That was probably one of the very few times I actually got to spend quality time with my mother, which makes it that much more valuable to me.

I sat across from my mother today during dinner, and couldn’t help but feel a swell of thanks for this woman who I had the hardest relationship with in my life, but she also blessed me in more ways than I can count, and she made me so very much who I am today. There were several times during the course of our lives that we almost lost each other, and I am so glad God kept bringing us back together.

To me, this Mother’s Day is not about mothers specifically, but I believe wholly that this is about celebrating the people who cared and sacrificed for us, as well as challenged us beyond the scope of what our mere eyes could swallow, all in the name of Love.

4

homeward.

homewardI used to own the Homeward Bound VHS as a kid and watched it a crazy amount of times whenever I felt moody and was having my typical internal tantrums. My favorite thing about this story was that these three very different animals started off in three very different places, but through this arduous and treacherous journey to find home, they became friends with a bond that no one else will ever understand. I longed for that when I was a child, but because I was so busy hiding within the confines of my shame and wounds, I had no idea what it entailed to have my own Shadow, Chance, or Sassy in my life.

Even a year ago, I had a lot of trouble with this. I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint who I can really talk to if I was feeling down, and scrolling through my contacts to desperately find a human connection with no success really put me in an absolute shithole every single time. I somehow came to believe that maybe this was a matter of making new friends and hoping those wouldn’t disappoint me. But again, I just ended up adding more names to grievously browse through.

Then something unexpected happened. God started bringing in some friends who I had all along, but they were actually on the sidelines, even benchwarmers to the events of my life. They came in like ninjas and made themselves known through one little occasion after another, and soon I finally began to immensely love these men and women who, likein the case of our furry friends I mentioned, started off being close and around each other in proximity, but took quite a while to even really get to know each other.

With the rollercoaster I had been on recently with my health and matters of the heart, I have been so blessed to have wise and wonderful friends to cheer me on and pray for me. To even hear a resounding agreement among them of certain paths I should take or important accords I should consider, I take it as seriously as hearing the chorus of the angels encouraging me to act.

So thankful for these few, these amazing people who love and know me. My heart feels full, and I’m grateful you’re on this journey with me, and I feel closer to home every day that I think of you.

3

bubbles.

Soap_bubbles-jurvetson

I took a bubble bath for the first time in years recently, and I was all of a sudden a delighted child fascinated by the textures of the giant bubbles that surrounded me. I recall as a little kiddo, my grandmother used to give my cousin and me bubble baths, and the reactions were always hilarious to her. I was absolutely placid, dunking my face into the translucent wonders and giggling as they popped, but my poor little cousin would fight the bubbles as if they were trying to exorcise her, screaming and thrashing like a shark out of water. It caused quite a chaotic occasion, and the whole bathroom would be soaked by the time we were bundled up in our terrycloth robes.

What was always so strange to me was that my grandmother simply laughed at my cousin when she was so terrified, and I flat-out ignored her. There was no amount of comfort shown, and eventually, my cousin knew this. She caught on that no matter how many tears she shed and how many baby-gibberish words she created, no one would save her. She would start noticing that the bubbles only created the illusion that the water was extremely deep, but they were actually light as air and totally harmless. She then discovered that although plenty, they weren’t as scary as she imagined and they were actually quite beautiful. As the months went by and the only time I got to really spend with her was in that bathtub butt naked and adorable, she calmed down and started relishing those moments being bathed.

I recently started a study with some girlfriends called How We Love, and a big topic was comfort, and what kind we received growing up, and what kind we give now. One of the opening questions were to remember a specific time when we were comforted by our parents, and I couldn’t think of a single one. Honestly, my biological father nor my stepfather were any good at comforting anyone, and they were both extremely prideful to show any affection. My mother was a professional at providing “tough love,” and she was the type of mother who would gaze at me without a single facial movement if I fell or cried, and wait until I pulled myself together. I can’t help but wonder though… is it absolutely devoid of maternal instincts that my mother didn’t comfort me, or were those times when I fell and laid on the floor wailing necessary to discover my strengths and the reality of how bad it really wasn’t?

If I think about the prayers that I had been lifting up to God the past few months, I can’t help but feel like my cousin during her inaugural bubble bath. I hurled fear and uncertainties covered with unfamiliarity up at Abba, completely terrified of what I didn’t know. But what it comes down to is when we can cradle and examine each event that occurs, then determine whether we’re going to let it dictate how we experience anything.

No one else is going to hand me solutions nor will anyone give me the answer I’m looking for. I can talk to tons of people and try to “figure myself out” as quickly and sanely as possible. Soon the splashing will subside, the water will still, and I will see that no one (human or animal) is there to save me. I have to believe that God has my back wherever I boldly step. That’s the beautiful thing about God — he gives me the freedom of choice, and even if it’s the crappier choice, He still loves with grace.

I guess the best way to put it is that I’d rather see my circumstances as ‘soaking in opportunities‘ rather than drowning in problems.

4

reach.

ImageI was watching the sunset yesterday and one thought pressed deeply into my brain:

How is it possible that something that looks so small can touch everything around me?

The sun is obviously a massive phenomenon, but you’ll never really know that unless you’re floating in space and taking in the full view of its entirety. From what we see in our daily lives (perhaps moreso in California than others), the sun can fit in our hands and we can pinch it ever so playfully with our fingers. Yet it’s bigger and much more powerful than any of us can muster.

The sunlight was lessening on my skin now, and the cold was prickling through. As I got up to leave, I had to pause to imagine what significance this small, dust mite like me was making. How far was my reach when it came to my influence, how wide were my arms to give and collaborate on Love’s grounds, and am I living my days exposing to the world the brilliance that I know God had infused in me?

It doesn’t feel that way these days. I feel like there’s a lot of weariness in the way I move my feet, bitter complaints seeping through my heart as it pumps life into this vessel of a body just because it has to, not because it wants to. The thing is, many people can share inspirational quotes and shoot me encouraging high-fives, and I can experience so many things that show me the true beauty of the world we are fortunate to live in, but I am currently in a state of juxtaposed dysfunction between my heart and body.

This “happy medium” people talk about, that seems overly mundane to me. I don’t want to be “happy,” nor do I want to be in the “medium.” I desire an “overjoyed high,” but is it possible that I may be shooting for something so far up at all times that I’ll always feel like I’m stuck in the darker depths?