Crazy Pills…

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged… Life has been pretty busy, to say the least… I feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster ride for the past several months!  And yes, I’ve been feeling like I’m taking crazy pills (remember this from Zoolander?)

If you’ve been around me lately, you have probably heard me say this a lot!  I have always struggled with my identity growing up.  Trying to fit in when you’re not part of the majority has not been easy.  When I was the only asian girl in my elementary school in Kansas, I desperately wanted to wake up one morning with blonde hair and blue eyes.  When I moved to Los Angeles and found myself among other Korean-Americans that looked like me, I realized I was very different from them but desperately tried to fit in by acting like them.  When I found myself in the midst of Korean-American Christian community in college, I struggled to fit the cookie cutter mold of what I perceived to be the perfect Korean-American Christian girl.  I was pretty lousy fitting into that mold, although I’ve always been really good at faking it!

In my late 30s, I no longer care about fitting into a mold.  I just want to be the best ME that God made me… I thought that would be easy, but I’m learning that it’s not easy being me (I’m sure Kermit the Frog can relate).  It’s not easy being me because I don’t fit in any mold that has been expected of me (for the most part).  I’m coming to terms with the fact that I don’t think like a typical Korean-American, a typical Christian, nor even a typical girl (I guess that’s why I’ve been considered one of the guys most of my life–which is NOT a compliment to a girl nevertheless)!  People tell me that’s what makes me unique and that’s what makes me ME… but when I see people giving me crazy looks after I open my mouth, all I’m thinking is “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.”  Thankfully, I have met some kindred spirits along the way… but for some reason, God has not placed me with my kindred spirits currently…  so right now, I’m learning.  I’m learning to be patient.  I’m learning to communicate in ways that people understand.  I’m learning to hold my tongue.  I’m learning to show mercy.  I’m learning to be kind.  I’m learning to forgive.  I’m learning to love.   I’m learning to trust in God’s leading.  I’m learning to feel normal even when I feel like I’m on crazy pills.

CRAZY-PILLS

honesty

They say honesty is the best policy…  I think most of us would agree, but do we really live by that policy?  In my opinion, I don’t think most people live by what we consider to be the best policy.

I’ve come to value honesty so much in the last few months.  We live in a society where we have to be politically correct, nice, and not hurt other people’s feelings.  Don’t get me wrong–there is nothing wrong with these things… we should be nice , not hurt other people’s feelings, and sometimes be politically correct.  However, sometimes that takes precedence over being honest with people.  We live in a culture where we think being a good friend is always validating their feelings no matter what– and we call that support.

In the last few years, I’ve learned that being a good friend is someone who is honest with you even if it hurts sometimes.  Of course I want my feelings to be justified too… but thankfully I have friends that will be honest with me.  In the past year I’ve had friends who told me that I was being prideful, that I need to get over my hang-ups, that I was being overly sensitive or not sensitive enough, and that I had my head in the clouds.  It’s never pleasant to hear these words from friends… however I know that they speak to me with love and care… and when I really think about it, these are the exact words I need to hear at times because I’m far from perfect and I need correction and a dose of honesty from people who love me!  I’m thankful for these friends because they have had profound impact on me this past year!

I believe God often speaks to me through these amazing people in my life… and I’m so thankful for true community and real support!  Just imagine what our communities would look like if we were more honest!!!  By the way, honesty has to come through the right delivery–with tact and out of love!  I LOVE my honest friends!

Identity

I was born in South Korea, and immigrated to the US as a nine-year old.  Although my dad and I first stepped off the plane in Los Angeles, I was dropped off in Olathe,Kansas within a month to live with my maternal grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousins.  I had to try my hardest to learn the language and the culture right away.  Surprisingly, this came very easy for me.  I quickly picked up English and found myself assimilating to the midwest culture.  No matter how hard I tried though, there was one thing that I couldn’t change–that I look and still carry some Korean culture within me.  When you’re nine, the last thing you want is to stand out as being different (although everyone else at my school embraced me… almost like a novelty!).  At nights, I would scheme up ways of how I could look “more American”–bleach my hair and I prayed for color contacts to be invented by the time I got older.

The summer after 7th grade, I moved back to Los Angeles to live with my dad.  By then, I pretty much had adapted myself as an American. However, on the first day of school, the only girls that would talk to me were Hispanics and Asians.  I had absolutely no interest in being friends with them.  I wanted to be friends with the “white-American girls.”  However, I learned quickly that in order to survive in school, I would have to make friends… and began to hang out with a group of mostly Asian kids.  In LA, I quickly learned that the different ethnic groups are more segregated than assimilated…  Now, the new name for me was “Asian-American” or “Korean-American.”  Since then, I found a place to belong with other Asians who didn’t quite have love for “our own people.”  We identified ourselves as 1.5 Korean-Americans… and we could make fun of “the fobs” or other old school cultural things.  As time went on, I started to reject Korean culture more and more because I’ve had SO MUCH negative experiences with Koreans that really irked me.  Don’t get me wrong–I’ve, for the most part, come to be comfortable in my own skin and be proud of being bi-cultural.  However, I would look down upon other Asian-Americans.  The irony is… I still have and hang out with A LOT of Korean-American friends.  When I resigned from my last church, I told God that I would go anywhere but to another Asian-American ministry.  I’ll save this conversation with God for another blog.

Well, it took my trip to the Dominican Republic to realize something big about myself.  It’s really, really easy for me to love everyone whether they’re Dominican, African, other Latino, European, etc… but it’s really hard for me to love Asians, and especially Koreans.  One of my conversations with one of our translators was about his love, compassion, and pride for his country, people, culture, and life.  At that point, I was deeply ashamed that I didn’t feel the same way towards my Korean heritage.  If anything, I’m often embarrassed by the Korean culture.  After that conversation, I began to converse with God about my feelings toward Asians… and I was convicted of my need to forgive, let-go of my old hang-ups, and embrace Asians-Americans, and especially Korean-Americans.  That was a big challenge and a turning point… and funny that it took a trip to the Caribbean and a simple conversation to really make me think…  this is just the beginning of my crazy journey.

By the way, upon returning from the DR, I had to fly out to Loveland, Colorado, another place where I stand out as the only Asian in the room.  So I had been away from LA for close to 2 weeks when I went to meet my friend for lunch at a Korean restaurant, and upon seeing a crowd of Asians, I stopped on my tracks, gasped, and took a DEEP breath, looked up as if to say “here I go, God!” and walked into the restaurant.  This journey continues… so stay tuned!

indebted…

I am ridiculously blessed…

I have been a recipient of unimaginable kindness and generosity of family and friends throughout my life… I thought about writing them all down, but it would literally take me days, but here are few to give you an idea:

  • My grandparents along with my aunts & uncles took me in and raised me for four years after my mom passed away.  At the time, I had no idea how much they gave… but they put me through school, very expensive piano lessons from a college professor, and everything else I needed.
  • 2 Grandmas and 7 aunts stepped in to take on the role of my mom… they did a bunch of mom-duties such as taking me to get my ears pierced, taking me shopping, life talks, etc…
  • A relative wired me $2,000 when my financial aid took forever to come through during my sophomore year in college.  With that money, I paid for my rent, food, books, etc…
  • Many friends put me up on weekends when I attended seminary in LA, and commuted up to SF to do ministry for three years!  All of them were gracious hosts, and some even gave me a spare key.
  • My friend gifted me a $500 digital camera when I mentioned that I wanted a camera to take photos on my trip to Brazil (this is when digital cameras first came out, and costed this much–that was for 5 mega-pixels, and we were “wow” over it).
  • My friends lent me their car to drive for months after my car was broken into for the 3rd time out of my driveway.
  • And of course, I have to mention countless free meals I have enjoyed from my pastors, friends, and family members… and this is important to mention because FOOD is my love language!
  • I’m constantly told that I’m being prayed for… via email, text, facebook, phone calls, and in person!
  • And the latest… a friend voluntarily paid for my airfare to Dominican Republic, a service trip coming up in less than 2 weeks.

I have mentioned a lot of BIG things above… but I’ve been blessed in so many small ways as well… including all the rides my friends gave me to airports, which is A LOT!!!  When I think about how much I have received from so many people, I feel indebted to them… and there isn’t enough “thank you’s” to express how grateful I am.  What’s even more amazing is that they all did it without expecting anything in return!!!  Seriously???  Each one of these amazing people in my life have extended the love of Jesus to me in tangible ways!  It’s overwhelming to be on the receiving end!

I know some other people in my life whose mantra is “don’t let anyone do anything really nice for you because they’re always going to want something in return.”  They calculate everyone’s kindness… and it makes me sad.

I couldn’t possibly repay everyone for their generosity in my life.  I feel indebted to so many.   Most of all, I’m indebted to Jesus, my Savior.  Thankfully, Jesus willingly died and rose again for my sins, and He doesn’t expect me to repay Him.  What He wants is for me to love Him with my heart, soul, and mind… and to live a life that overflows out of my growing love for Him.

I have been incredibly loved and blessed by so many… I can’t help but to feel indebted, but it’s being replaced by this thing called love & grace.  It’s not about feeling the need to repay, but being humble enough to graciously accept love and generosity of others… and to extend that love and generosity to others…