22 years later in KidMin

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My very first paid position in children’s ministry was in August 1994. I was only 21, and I had no idea that I even wanted to go into ministry. However, my college pastor saw the potential in me, and hired me as an intern… to run preschool – elementary of about 80 children. Honestly, I don’t know what he was thinking… but I’m glad he gave me this opportunity. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I’ve changed as a children’s pastor over 22 years.

22 years ago, I felt the need to prove myself. I mean, how is anyone going to take a 21 year old seriously? I was obviously not a parent, so why would parents trust me? I immersed myself in creating the best events–Fall Family Festival (man, college students really do have lots of time… we transformed our sanctuary into the inside of an airplane and handmade 100 luggages, luggage tags, passports, etc. We transformed our sanctuary into a castle, a spaceship, etc.), VBS (2 nights/3 days of VBS Olympics–seriously, what were we thinking?), field trips, not to mention “Summer Camp” for 8 hours/day for 6 weeks. Man, I must have had lots of energy back then. And to be honest, they were great events because I was fortunate to have an amazingly talented and committed team. They really made me look good. Parents and volunteers gave me praise for a job well done.

When I started seminary and became a part-time staff, I thought I knew all the answers to the tough questions of ministry. I was excited about all the things I was learning, and I desperately wanted to impart my newfound knowledge to those who didn’t have the privilege of attending seminary. Each Sunday, I taught elementary kids on the theology of prayer, the Trinity, survey of Old & New Testament, etc. These weren’t all that bad… but I was focused on the knowledge.  Parents and volunteers gave me praise for a job well done.

Everything I did 22 years ago wasn’t all that bad. But when I look back, I was often driven by my insecurities. I did’t have a firm grasp of why I was doing what I was doing. I simply said “I want to teach kids about the Bible!” However, I rarely shared the gospel. I rarely talked about God’s grace. I was focused on knowledge and great events!

I still believe knowledge and quality events are important. However, the most important is giving kids Jesus! I want to share about the sacrificial love of Jesus every chance I get. I want to share about God’s undying love every chance I get… because my calling is to bring kids to Jesus so they can live for Him as soon as they can. It’s not my job to convert these kids, but it is my responsibility to seize every opportunity to share the gospel… afterall, we never know who’s experiencing and hearing the gospel for the very first time. Now, my events and lessons are based on giving kids Jesus… and not driven by having to prove myself in any way! I still feel the need to prove myself–don’t get me wrong! After 22 years, I still feel the need to make sure parents and volunteer approve of what I’m doing. I want that praise. However, our mission of bringing kids to Jesus has to be #1. Our value of investing in relationships has so we can share Jesus has to be #1. And that has to drive what we do… because Jesus said “Let the children come to Me.” So 22 years later, I find myself very focused. I find myself discerning more about what we provide in our ministry. I find myself unapologetic for not pleasing everyone. Thank you God for the last 22 years of this journey so I can bring Jesus to kids!

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Life Interrupted 2015

Okay… I have to be honest… I was starting to itch a little in the beginning of 2015. I was feeling a bit tired of the same city, the same routine, the same apartment, the same everything… But as I’ve always said, “I’m going to enjoy and live life to the fullest wherever God puts me… until He takes me someplace else.” I still very much enjoyed my ministry at the church I was at… but I was also starting to feel really comfortable there. Well, God knew my restlessness… and He had some crazy plans brewing…

My comfortable life was interrupted in a BIG way in May when I was given an opportunity to serve in a new church. This would mean moving 350 miles north–away from family and the place I had called home for the past 17 years. This would mean starting a new ministry in a church way bigger than what I was used to. This would mean starting a new life in a new city all by myself. This would mean no more Disneyland and Hollywood Pantages Theatre.

So this is the thing… I was feeling the itch and I had even prayed to God to bring new challenges in my life so that I would be stretched… but when I was given this opportunity, I froze! All of a sudden, everything new felt scary and daunting… and I wanted to retreat to what was familiar. Thankfully I had friends that prayed for me and counseled me… but most of all, I felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit that said “let your life be interrupted!” So in July, I purged so much junk that I had accumulated over 17 years in Los Angeles, and packed up what would fit into my new 525 sq ft apartment and left for a very suburban town in the Bay Area.

And I have to be honest… I had romanticized my new church, my new ministry, my new apartment, my new city, my new life… oh boy… in reality, it’s been a rough transition. I had many moments where I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life! My new ministry seriously kicked my butt the first few months! I hated how quiet this town is. I missed my family and friends in LA. I missed my favorite foods in Los Angeles (especially my favorite Thai place that would deliver). I missed Disneyland.

But 5 months later, I’m starting to embrace my new life! I still can’t get used to this suburban life… I actually miss the sounds of helicopters and sirens in the middle of the night. I still miss so much of what I had in LA. But I’m reminded that I asked God to stretch me… and He is doing just that! He completely interrupted my life, took me out of my comfort zone, and placed me where I would be challenged and stretched. So lesson learned–be really careful what you ask for!

So this explains why I haven’t been active on my blog. I had so much to process and think through… and I couldn’t bring myself to write it all down! But I’m finally feeling like myself again… and have so much in my brain that I wanna get out… so I’m sure I’ll be writing a lot more in 2016.

Well, 2015 also had some cool highlights!

  • For the first time, I had a premium annual pass to Disneyland and used the heck out of my pass… their record indicates that I went to Disney parks 37 times in 2015. I event spent the whole night at Disneyland for their 60th anniversary and left the park at 6 am!
  • I got to spend precious weekend with all three of my mom’s sisters at the same time! That rarely happens since they all live in different countries… but I learned so much more about my mom through their stories! It was indeed precious!
  • I continued to write in publications and lead workshops at various children’s ministry conferences. This is life giving to me… and I love the people I get to connect with through these events!
  • I went to TWO U2 concerts in the same week! and I stood in line for 8 hours to stand right up against the guard rails! Yes, it was worth it!
  • I was on Jen Hatmaker’s launch team for her newest book “For the Love,” and I got to party with her at her house!!! Not to mention, I got to meet and interact with her 3 times this year! Yes, she is one of my favorite authors!
  • Most of all, I was the recipient of amazing love that was poured out to me by so many friends and family… especially with the big move! I’m truly blessed with so many amazing people that love me!

Looking forward to 2016–perhaps more life interrupted!

The Distance Between the Mind & the Heart

We should handle it the best way we know how and get on with it. That’s what my mind says, I just wish somebody would explain it to my heart.
~M’Lynn, Steel Magnolias
 

This is one of my all time favorite quotes from the girliest movie that I actually love… Steel Magnolias!  The reason why I love this movie so much is because it has so many awesome quotes, tearful moments followed by laughter…. and besides how could you not love anything with Sally Fields?

4play-Heart-vs-Mind2The first time I heard this line by Sally Field’s character after her daughter’s funeral, my heart just sank because it resonates with me so much! I always feels like there’s a long distance between my mind and my heart… Over time, I’ve learned to build my mind to be strong and focused (probably as self-defense mechanism) but I haven’t honed in on building my heart as much. My mind often feels strong but my heart often feels weak. I get hurt easily. I get disappointed easily. My mind says not to mind what other people say or do… but my heart can’t help but to feel sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, hurt, and unsettled.  I know in my mind what I should do… but I wish somebody would explain it to my heart because it often doesn’t accompany my mind. I often wonder why God made the mind to think differently from the way the heart feels. It would be so much easier if they just cooperated and worked together.

This morning as I was thinking about this quote, I was reminded that my only source of direction and answer is talking to God and turning to the Scripture. I always wish it was “yes” or “no”… but I often don’t get those direct answers from God, but I know that He has given enough truths for me to follow. Besides, I was reminded that “yes” or “no” isn’t what God wants us to have, but  He wants ME to seek Him… and that’s when He grants us clarity! Now, let’s go tell my heart that!

What Is Enough???

To change the world, we must change our country. To change our country, we must change our city. To change our city, we must change our community. To change our community, we must change the room. To change the room, we must change the table. To change the table, we must change the conversation. The greatest way to change the world is to change the conversation. The more world-changing conversations we have, the greater chance for the world to change.” -Jim Doggett, excerpt from More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger

2 years ago, I read a book that completely rocked my world… so much that I went on a 7-months of fast, and I chronicled my experience starting with this post. What was amazing to me throughout these 7-months was that the less options I had, the easier my life was! For example, knowing that I could only wear 7 items of clothing saved me so much time from standing in front of my closet, trying to decide what would be the most fashionable, most sensible, most flattering outfit to wear. And it hit me that my life was easier when I had less… However, living in Los Angeles, bombarded by fashion, brand names… and being around people who had nice things to wear, brand name purses and shoes… it all influenced me to want more and better things! It’s really not other people’s fault. I’m just not strong enough to resist some of those things. I may not be a big shopper, but I still love my purses and shoes. It was the same for food, technology, etc.

more or lessWell, just last week, I finished a book called More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger, and it rocked my world again! Jeff reminded me that “my enough could mean more for someone else who has less.”  What a concept!!! I know, it’s not rocket-science… but it seriously rocked my world because I was reminded how excessive my life is. I may not live in a mansion nor even a house.. yes, I still live in the same apartment I’ve been for the past 10 years… I may not spend lots of money on shopping because I really hate going to the mall… but I still have more than what I need. My life is not inconvenienced in any way… and let’s face it–all my problems are really first world problems–like wanting a new iPad because mine is three years old and the home button sticks!

The good life is not found in luxury. Rather it’s found in the life that enhances the life of another human being.

Generosity is not about giving money. Generosity is a lifestyle that seeks to understand the needs of others in strives to end that suffering. True generosity is a choice. Generosity seeks to live with less so others can have more. (both excerpts from More or Less)

Sure, I try to do my share of helping others. I am passionate about sponsoring kids through Compassion International and World Vision. I try to help people that I see in need such as homeless that surrounds this city that I live in. If I have food or even leftovers, I’m usually in the habit of giving it away to them. However, I usually give out of excess that I have and because it’s convenient for me to give. I don’t think about what’s actually enough for me… and I haven’t made real conscious to live on less so I could do more for others. That’s what really messed me up!

I won’t lie… this isn’t as easy as it sounds. As I decided to sponsor one more child this past week, I thought to myself “I could just eat out once or twice less per month.” And then I started to think about where I go out to eat. I really do enjoy trying out new restaurants and fine dining. And I sure enjoy my sushi, oysters, and crab. I thought about giving up my favorite dining experience, and I immediately started to feel sad… How ridiculous that I’m getting sad about eating less sushi or seafood when I could be feeding a child for a whole month? It’s an internal struggle…

So… I’ve decided that some things really need to change! I need to do something to make conscious decision to determine what is ENOUGH for me! I need to make conscious decision to understand and meet the needs of others to help end their suffering. It’s a choice!

As I’m still processing all this… I took my first step: I decided that I could surely sponsor another child overseas. That’s why I took one more child through World Vision last week. I’m also starting to clean out my life–to declutter, to donate what I don’t need… and I’ve been thinking through “an enough experiment” that I want to do… I don’t know yet, but stay tuned. As soon as I get that figured out, I shall be sharing! That way, other people can keep me accountable, and I can share my experience and how God has worked in my life.

But for now… go read this book… or at least ask yourself “WHAT IS ENOUGH?” for your life!

Failing does NOT make me a Failure!

failing

The feeling of failing SUCKS! There is really no way to sugar coat it… because no matter how you try to justify failure, the yucky feeling is still there! In the past few months, I’ve had to deal with few failures I had the “privilege” of experiencing. Each time, my heart just sinks to the very bottom of my stomach, and it hurts… sometimes it hurts like hell.

However, I’ve always been a big advocate of failure.  I won’t lie… it sucks when it happens to me… I think about the time, money, energy, heart, and resources that were “wasted” but I still wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a constant reminder that I went out of my comfort zone… and I took risks. It’s a constant reminder that I’m not perfect nor invincible. It’s a constant reminder that I don’t know it all, especially the future. It’s a constant reminder that life isn’t easy. It’s a constant reminder to persevere and try again when I fail. It’s a constant reminder that I need to rely on others for help and grace, and most of all, rely on God for wisdom, guidance, healing, and refuge.

I’ve had sleepless nights. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve shed tears. I’ve been disappointed. I’ve been angry. I’ve been sad. I’ve been hurt. But I still wouldn’t have it any other way… because without failure, I wouldn’t understand the glory of success as well. And failing does NOT make me a failure, it makes me human…  who won’t settle for less nor complacency, but who is determined to persevere and have great expectations in this life… because I believe God has amazing plans for my life!

misfortune…

sws-one-murphys-law-wordsMisfortune = bad luck, and unfortunate condition or event.

Since I was a teenager, I’ve been told that my life was doomed with misfortune.  It’s not a very nice thing to say, but I think it’s a Korean-cultural thing… I suppose it’s because I lost my mom at a young age, which was the beginning of chain reaction of events that led to more unfortunate events in my life.

Not much has come easy in my life.  I’m not naturally book- smart (I know, shocker… right?)  I actually had to work and study in school (yup, I guess I’ve just broken the Asian-stereotype too!)  Even decision about college came at a high price (that story is for another time).  Even getting financial aid (when everyone else’s checks were just ready for them when semester started) was difficult and required many hours of standing in line to fight public school bureaucracy to get my grants and loans before getting kicked out of school.  Many life decisions did not come easy for me… it involved pain, agony, and many tears.  I really don’t like drama–seriously!!!  But drama just follows me… from drama-filled dysfunctional family to dealing with drama-filled people at workplace to my personal life!

Murphy’s Law seems to be the anthem of my life!  When things go wrong, my friends automatically blame me (sometimes jokingly… other times, seriously!)  It’s a miracle that I’m still alive and not badly hurt… after all, whenever anything can go wrong, it often does in my life… I can seriously write a novel about this–in fact, few friends keep telling me to because most ridiculous things happen to me–NO JOKE!

With all the misfortunes in my life, it’s amazing that I can still keep my head up and smile… because to be honest, there’s a lot of reasons to bury my head under the blanket and just sleep my life away!  However, God’s been reminding me with not-so-gentle nudges that that’s life!  Life wasn’t meant to be easy–especially as a God-fearing, God-loving person.  Life isn’t all about sunshine, but it’s often the storm that brings out the true self.  Life isn’t always smooth sailing, but weathering through rough  waters is what builds character and strength.  Life isn’t always about the good times, but the difficult times help us to understand how blessed we are to have had better days… and there’s hope in better days to come again.

The misfortunes in my life has helped me appreciate the good things. It has helped me not to take laughter for granted.  It has helped me understand the blessings in my life.  It has helped me to be grateful for what I have.  In fact, misfortunes have helped me to be the person I am today… and I’m thankful for all the misfortunes that I have experienced–even the really, really bad ones because it’s made me to become the stronger Gloria Lee that wasn’t there before.

Flying Solo…

ImageIn June of 1983, at the tender age of 10, I flew on an airplane all by myself from Kansas City to Los Angeles to visit my dad for the summer.  I didn’t want to be treated like a child, so I carried “an adult purse” and carried “The Girls of Canby Hall” and “Sweet Valley High” books with me on the plane to look mature.  The flight attendant literally put a tag on my shirt… and I’m not kidding you–it looked like a luggage tag!  It was HUGE!  They needed to make sure that I was delivered to the right owner, my dad!  So little did I know at the time that this would be the first of many, many solo flights to come in my lifetime.

Between ages 10 and 18, I flew to and from Kansas and California every summer.  Once I went off to college, I flew (or drove 8 hrs) to and from Los Angeles and Berkeley multiple times a year.  When I started seminary in Los Angeles, I served at a church in San Francisco… and yes, this is crazy… but I flew on a weekly basis from LA to SF/Oakland for three years. I’m really good at 1 hr naps now… and thankfully, I have the gift of sleep, so I’m also good at falling asleep before the plane take off and waking up right when it lands!  After seminary, I started exploring the country and the world… so I had the privilege to travel… and I even flew by myself from Los Angeles to South Africa with 18 hr layover in Frankfurt, Germany (that wasn’t by choice… it was because my friend’s flight was delayed and re-routed to London instead of Germany).

People often say “you must hate flying…”  Well, the truth is… I love airports.  I love flying alone.  I love people-watching.  I don’t even mind sleeping on the plane.  The only thing I don’t enjoy about traveling is the security line… otherwise, I’m an excellent traveler (if I do say so myself).  I landed in LAX just about 4 weeks ago after KidMin Conference in Ohio… and when I landed, I sighed a sigh of sadness because I knew I was done traveling for the year.  I was going to miss the hustle and bustle of this place that everyone hates so much!  (okay, I’ll be back on January 1, 2014… but still… I’m done for 2013!)

Why do I share this story?  For 2 reasons…

  1. People often talk about how much they hate traveling/flying, thus they would assume that I also hated the whole traveling process… and because it seemed like people expected me to say “yeah, I hate flying…” I would say “yeah, i hate flying” although it really wasn’t true.  Well, I’m finally coming out and saying “I love flying–and I even love flying by myself!”  It’s okay to say what I really want and feel even if people think I’m crazy for it.  This is probably a bigger/longer blog for later… but finding confidence in speaking up for what I really feel and believe even if it’s not the popularly held belief is very liberating!  I understand the some people stress over traveling/flying… but I that’s not me!  I really enjoy the process… even the packing sometimes!
  2. It occurred to me recently that God had been preparing me since childhood to fly/travel alone.  For me to enjoy something that most people dread is a blessing.  To have the gift of sleep is a blessing (yes, I can just about sleep anywhere in any position).  God knew all along that I would spend a good deal of my lifetime at airports and planes… and I think I was in training since age 10.  God is so cool that way…

so right now, I sit here just browsing through flight specials because I’m itching to get back on a plane (I know, I’m crazy and weird that way)… but that’s okay… because that’s how God made me, and I’m totally comfortable flying solo…