September 15, 2016

Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with God

I’ve been reflecting a lot on this verse in recent days.  What does seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God look like in the face of so much injustice in the world today?

Well, let me digress by sharing with you a little tidbit from my own childhood.

As an immigrant child, I was no stranger to being bullied and getting picked on simply because of what I looked like.  Kids pulled my hair, shoved me in the back, yelled out racial slurs, made fun of the way I looked, and called me names like "chink" and "gook".

I remember one specific incident when I was working at my grandfather’s store one summer as a young teenager.  A very unhappy customer pointed his finger in my grandfather’s face and told him to "Go back to where you came from!"  Just writing that still stings.   It’s an awful feeling knowing you're not welcomed, feeling you have no place where you belong, not fitting in and being treated differently just because of the way you look.

The sad reality is you get used to this kind of treatment.  When being bullied and taunted becomes a fairly regular occurrence, you find ways to avoid those crowds, take detours around those streets, tune out those hateful voices.

But at some point, you say enough is enough.  I was a scrawny kid so I learned pretty quickly that retaliating with my fists wasn't the answer.   I learned to use my voice and speak up instead: "I'm not a chink, I'm a gook.  If you're going to be racist, then get your terminology straight!"  [Thanks to comedian, Margaret Cho, for teaching me that line.]  Then I would run like the wind, as fast as my scrawny legs could carry me.  Sometimes that worked.  :)  Sometimes it didn't.  :(

I remember telling a friend not too long ago how I was bullied as a kid, and she was in complete disbelief that this kind of blatant racism actually exists in this country.  Yes, it absolutely does.  But what I endured is nothing compared to the injustice people of color experience on a far more frequent basis and with far deadlier consequences.

So when I see an athlete kneeling down during the national anthem in peaceful protest to bring awareness to social injustice, I get it even though I may not agree with the method.  It takes courage to go against the grain and to stand up (or kneel down in this case) for something you believe in.  Taking a stand against injustice is never going to make you popular, and with absolute certainty, it will come with great ridicule.

[Colin Kaerpernick and Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers kneeling during the national anthem.]

I've read the articles and posts on this very heated issue.  Worse, I've read the comments.  Hatred spewing off the pages.

"Show some respect!  If you don't like the way things are in this country, then leave!"   
"Stop your whining, you're a disgrace to our country.  Get out!"  
"Let's line them up [athletes who kneel during the national anthem] and shoot them."

Wow.  Really?  His actions aren't a display of disrespect for the veterans who have fought for our freedom.  He's exercising the very freedom our military fight so bravely for, to peacefully protest and speak his mind.  That's the very beauty of America!  Ask the North Koreans.  Except they wouldn't be able to tell you what they feel or think without the fear of being executed.  They are basically forced to pay homage and respect to a dictator who thinks he's god.   Is America really coming to that?  Salute or die?  Are we to live in fear that expressing our beliefs could get us shot and killed?  It's a very alarming prospect.

This man is saying enough is enough.  He's trying to bring awareness to an important issue with the hope it will help spur on change in the system.  A system that is clearly broken.  When a privileged white kid charged with rape gets a slap on the hand while a young black man is sentenced to years in prison, there's a flaw.  Whatever your beliefs and wherever you stand on the issues, you can’t refute the fact that there is much room for improvement in the criminal justice system, in our healthcare system, in our education system.  Voicing your concern and trying to shed light on issues in this country doesn’t make you unpatriotic.  Trying to bring about positive change in those areas makes you exactly the opposite.

I do understand the critics who say pointing to the problem without offering real solutions or working towards one isn't an answer.  Some have argued Kaepernick's actions have only perpetuated the issue, causing more bitterness and a greater divide.  But how can we work towards a solution when a vast majority of the population doesn't even consider it a problem because it doesn't personally affect us?  Or worse yet, we know there's a problem but we turn our heads the other way.

I know for most of us, it’s easy to take sides, to judge and point fingers when we haven’t walked in the other person’s shoes.  In this case, I can't imagine how difficult and how frightening it is for both the police officers and the general black population.  How hard it must be for the good, honest police officers who risk their lives everyday to uphold and enforce the law, to protect the citizens in their community, to have to make split-second decisions that could mean life or death.   And on the other hand, how hard it must be as a minority in this country just trying to go about life, knowing people will make split-second decisions based on preconceived misconceptions about who you are solely on the premise of what you look like.

Healing and reconciliation can only begin when we step outside of ourselves and take the time to try to understand one another.  When I hear stories and see images of police and the black community, and communities as a whole, coming together, taking the time to LISTEN to each other, and WORK TOGETHER to get to the root of the problem and work towards a solution, it gives me hope.

[Sgt. Bret Barnum and 12-year-old Devonte Hart share a hug during a Black Lives Matter protest in Portland, OR.]

And maybe, just maybe, this is what humbling ourselves, seeking justice, and loving mercy look like.

July 29, 2014

Cold Soba Noodles with Egg and Vegetables

This is one of my favorite meals to prepare during the summer.  It's quick, filling, nutritious, and a great way to get your kids to eat their veggies.  It only takes a few ingredients to whip up this healthy meal for the family.

The essential ingredients are the soba noodles (Japanese for buckwheat) and the soba dipping sauce (available at most Asian supermarkets).   My favorite brand for the soba noodles is from Sukina, and the dipping sauce I use is Danya's Soba Tsuyu.  The sauce is an excellent blend of soy sauce, rice wine, vinegar, and sugar with the slightest hint of bonito (dried tuna flakes) and dried mackerel.

Buckwheat is considered a superfood and has incredible health benefits:  it's gluten-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free and is a good source of nutrients like manganese, iron, zinc, lean protein, and thiamine.  To learn more on the health benefits of buckwheat noodles, you can read about it here.

Simply place the noodles in boiling water for about 6-7 minutes.  Rinse the cooked noodles with cold water and drain well.  Place a serving of noodles in a bowl, add a tablespoon of the dipping sauce (add more to taste), and top with veggies like lettuce, sliced carrots and cucumbers.  I like to add sliced boiled eggs for an additional source of protein.  Then I usually sprinkle a touch of black or roasted sesame seeds on top to complete the dish.

To say my boys love this dish would be an understatement.  They practically inhale it, and that makes me one happy mama.


April 4, 2014

What I Know Now

Nothing prepares you for the realities of parenthood.  Even the best written books, parenting websites, seminars, and advice can only equip you with so much.  Everything in theory sounds doable, manageable, even a breeze!  What's so hard about it?  The truth is parenting is an everyday learning (and humbling!) experience which begins when that little person enters into your life, for the rest of your life.

By no means am I an expert on the subject, but here's what I've learned about parenting thus far:

  • In the early years, it drains every part of your being - physically, emotionally, and mentally.  Some days you're barely just getting by, and some days you do what you gotta do just to get by (i.e. TV makes a great babysitter, microwave dinners every now and then won't kill anyone).

  • But parenting also fills your heart with a love like you've never known on a human level.  Even though many days your children may drive you absolutely bonkers, there is nothing keeping you from going to the ends of the earth for them.

  • If you thought you were a relatively patient person, news flash!  You've probably never experienced the "broken record syndrome" and had to instruct a little person to do something 10 times in the span of 5 minutes ("time to get ready"..."okay, did you brush your teeth yet?"..."it's time to get ready"...."let's get your shoes on"...."come on, let's go!" or "don't touch that"... "I said don't touch that"....repeat and repeat again).  I lost my patience just typing that.

  • Treasure the moments!  It goes by quickly.  Long-time parents told me this all the time, but I just couldn't wait until the next phase when things might be a little easier.  While I was waiting and waiting and eagerly looking ahead, I missed out on being present and enjoying many sweet moments with my children.  And then before you know it, that beautiful, precious baby is off to school, then college, then down the wedding aisle (okay, so I personally still have a number of years before all of these events take place, but I'm sure it will happen in the blink of an eye).

  • Kids are super observant and pick up everything you do!  And I do mean everything.  The way you sigh, the way you wag your fingers, the way you pull your hair in frustration, or the way your voice goes up 5 notches when you're mad.  The way you spend your downtime, the way you greet people, the way you drive.  The way you talk to friends and family or your spouse.  When my older son gets upset, I see a little mini-raged version of myself, and boy, is it humbling!  My children constantly remind me that I need to walk the walk and be a good example for them.

  • Kids are fickle.  One day, they'll love the meal you spent 30 minutes preparing for them.  The next time you prepare it, it's as if that meal caught cooties and they won't go anywhere near it.  One day, they love blue.  The next, red is their favorite color.  Every day is a surprise....which leads me to the next point.

  • Every day is a surprise.  As much as you may set up routines, schedules, structure, there is always something that comes up that throws you a curve ball.  You never know what's in store.  And for people who need to know (like I do), it's a learning experience to be flexible, make the most of the situations that arise, and try to just go with the flow.  Speaking of surprises . . .

  • You build a tolerance for things you never thought you would.  Like poop, explosive diarrhea, vomit, bloody gashes.  I personally hate the sight of blood.  My younger son was quite sick last summer and had to be taken to the hospital, where he vomited a couple pints of blood.  It was the nastiest and most frightening thing I ever saw, and yet God gave me incredible strength to hold it together because I knew I needed to for my little boy.  As for explosive diarrhea, I think I would still scream like a little girl if it happened (thankfully, my boys have outgrown that phase... I think).

  • Who knew there was a Mount Everest of laundry to be done?  Seriously, it seems we do laundry every other day in our house.  Putting the dirty clothes in the washer & dryer isn't too big a deal.  It's folding the clothes and putting them away each time that's a huge chore!  So we usually have baskets of clean clothing lying around.  It seems pretty efficient to me, until it gets mixed in with the dirty ones.  Which may explain why we have so much laundry in the first place.  Hmm.  Something for me to think about.

  • When it comes to parenting, your spouse is your greatest ally but can also be your toughest foe.  You and your spouse may not see eye-to-eye on every issue that comes up in parenting.  So good communication is even more essential now than ever!  Talk things through, make sure you're on the same page, and be a unified front when it comes to raising your children!  Like I said before, kids are extremely observant and they can sense when there's a rift or a gap between the parents.

  • On that note, parenting is not meant to be done alone!  The wise old adage that it takes a village to raise a child is spot on.  If you and your spouse are trying to parent on your own without a good network of other parents, relatives, friends, you're doing yourselves and your children a huge disservice.  We need that support, encouragement, help, and friendship to guide us and help us grow as parents.

  • You will start to sound like your own parents.  Even if you swore you'd never be like your own mother or father, it's crazy when you catch yourself saying something they've said to you.  They were our example of parenting, so it's natural for us to follow their lead.  If it wasn't a positive example for you, then it takes extra work and effort to be conscientious of it and try to do better.

  • Pinterest is an amazing resource but can also be an ego-crushing one.  I won't lie.  I get a ton of fabulous ideas and inspiration from Pinterest.  But at the same time, looking at all those amazing crafts, homes, meals can lead to envy and feelings of inadequacy.  And this is when you have to remind yourself not to compare.  Each person is uniquely gifted, so find what yours is and hone it!   Maybe yours is doing laundry, in which case, call me, maybe?  :)  And if you're not gifted in anything (which I highly doubt), that leads me to the next point . . .

  • Give yourself grace upon grace upon grace.  If you're a perfectionist like me and/or tend to be hard on yourself, you have to give yourself some slack.  Remember every day is a surprise, things don't go the way we plan, the kids are fickle and sometimes out of control, and we are just mere human beings (and broken ones at that).  There is no such thing as "all put together" and "have everything right".  If you do believe such things exist (which my imagination often leads me to), do yourself a favor and throw that notion out the door.   

  • Take advice with a grain of salt, including mine!  Every kid is unique.  Every family is unique.  What works best for one family isn't necessarily what will work best for yours.  And what works for one of your kids may not be as effective with the other one(s).  If an individual is particularly vocal and even pushy about his/her stance on a parenting issue which you may not agree with, you can just kindly say, "Thank you.  I appreciate your viewpoint."  Usually, most people will respect that.  And if they don't, de-friend them on Facebook.  Just kidding!  

I'm sure there's much more to add to the list, but my memory is not what it used to be (I guess that could go on the list, too).  What valuable lessons have you learned?  I'd love to hear them.


January 22, 2014

Learning to Live a Grace-Filled Life

From a very young age, my eldest has always had a love for creating and building things.  I hope he never loses that.  And more than that, I pray I won't be the one responsible for dashing his creativity or dreams.

One of the things I've recognized about my life over the years is that I don't offer myself much grace.  But the more damaging reality is that I don't readily extend it to my children, either.

I realize one of my many jobs as a mom is to encourage my children in developing their gifts and their character.  To help build them up as 1 Thessalonians 5:11 calls us to do:  "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up."  I admit it's often times been easier to criticize and find fault than it is for me to praise my children.  It's the ingrained perfectionist in me - the need to do all things well and now I find myself expecting the same of my children.

But that's not what I want for them. I don't want them to expect perfection nor give up on their dreams when things don't go the way they expect.  I want them to live a grace-filled life; one without the pressure to perform or need to do everything just right.  One built in confidence of who God created them to be with the assurance that they are always loved and accepted no matter what - even if they should royally fail or fall flat on their faces.

But in order to teach that to my children, I have to exemplify that for them.  I have to expect and allow for mistakes and learn to accept them graciously.  I have to offer myself and the children the grace God gives us every day, being reassured no matter how messed up things get, He still loves us beyond measure.

In my head, it's so easy to say "give grace".  But in practice, I find myself struggling in this area every day.  If my kids don't behave the way I expect them to, if they make a mistake in their homework or projects, I find my patience wearing thin.  I expect things to be done a certain way.  And when it doesn't happen, my natural inclination is to point out the flaws, wag my finger in disapproval, and raise my voice in frustration.

But the truth that humbles me and makes me apologize to my children is that God doesn't expect perfection, He doesn't shake His head in disapproval, or make me feel like a great disappointment.  He sees Jesus in me.   He sees the perfect Lamb.  He sees righteousness and goodness that isn't mine but was made mine when Jesus died on the cross for me.  When He looks at me, He sees His child, His creation, His beloved who He would go to the ends of the world for.

And that is what I want my children to know.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Lord, help me to know this truth in my head and in my heart.  Help me to see Jesus in me and my children every day and to love the way You do.


September 4, 2013

First Day of Kindergarten

My oldest son, my firstborn, the child who first made me a mom five years ago, went off to Kindergarten today.  Truth be told, I didn't sleep a wink the night before.  I was obviously much more nervous about it than he was!   I'm so glad my anxiety didn't rub off on him.  After praying in the car this morning and parting goodbye with a kiss and hug, he marched along and didn't even turn back.

He surprised me.  I thought for sure, at the very least, he would tear up and quiver his lips.  But no, he just went in and followed the teacher without even so much as a blink.

It's funny.  I always thought I'd celebrate and dance in the streets the day I could send my children off to school full-time.  But it's actually quite bittersweet.  I want to do everything in my power to protect him, keep him safe, keep him from feeling sad, lonely, or alienated,and falling prey to peer pressure or bullying.  But I realize I need to let go of my own fears instead of imposing them on him.  God is watching over him.  I know that.  And I have to trust that every day.

I did miss him for those few hours.  And I know my little guy missed him, too.

CJ is happiest when he's with his little brother.

And daddy was so proud this morning!

And so was Grandpa.

And we can't forget Grandma and even our dog, Jazz.

All in all, the day could not have been better.

CJ, we are so incredibly proud of you on your first day of Kindergarten!  You usually have such a hard time adjusting to new things.  At the Kindergarten screening back in June, you cried and refused to participate.  The guidance counselor, other teachers, and I had to calm you down and coax you in.  What a difference this morning was from just a couple months ago!  You were so brave and did such an amazing job!  I was worried, because if you had a hard time, I knew I would, too.  If you broke down in tears, so would I!  But if you could be brave, then I could, too.

I praise God for giving you (and me) courage and peace today.

Love you, my big, brave boy!


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