Weekend in Hwasun

by Grace Ko

We’re going on five years here in Korea. But waiting on, banking on contracts to be renewed or extended or the reality that it could possibly not be has been a source of uncertainty and anxiety.

But the silver lining through it all has been knowing my parents are here. (If all goes wrong, at least we could move in with them for a time.) :)

Over MDW, we made the three-hour drive to visit my parents. Their home feels like just that, home, but simultaneously like a beautiful retreat, tucked away in the mountains of Hwasun. I’m so thankful J gets to grow up here in Korea and have the luxury of not just one backyard but two. He spent the weekend planting and watering flowers and trees with grandma, enjoying a ball game with grandpa. And it dawned on me, it’s the most amazing thing being able to witness J start to enjoy the very things I enjoy. The joy doubles, triples when I get to see him enjoy the things my loved ones enjoy.

As soon as we arrived, J was overjoyed, over-the-moon to see grandma and grandpa and to be at their place. It was contagious and set us off to a beautiful weekend that I’m still reliving. I felt thoroughly spoiled with my mom’s delicious home-cooked meals, and the coffee my dad would brew for me first thing in the morning. We spent an evening cheering for our favorite baseball team, the Kia Tigers, and even fit in a day trip to 화준적벽.


Motherhood: Self-Care - "Me before you"

by Grace Ko

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the proverbial airplane air mask analogy when it comes to self-care - "In the event of emergency, put your oxygen mask on first before you help others."

This is something my dear husband has had to remind me of often. But let’s be real. When a child is utterly dependent on you for life, when he needs to be fed, when dirty diapers need to be changed and clothes need to be washed, caring for yourself gets placed on the back-burner. Even the most basic needs like eating and hygiene get lost in the shuffle. Not to mention that when I was really really new to this “mom” thing, I somehow let lies get to my head, that if I took care of myself first, I was less-than. The lie was that if I cared for myself and my needs and desires, I was “selfish”. But thanks to loving friends and dear husband, I’ve come to realize that you truly do need to care for yourself first. When we’re filled, we can love from a place of overflow, not from emptiness.

So, what have I learned about self-care? What does it look like for me?

  • Do something for yourself once a day/week/month: This could mean taking 15 minutes to read a book you’ve been meaning to crack open, or getting your nails done or making a monthly commitment to have a “mommy date” with a friend.

  • Embrace joy: Motherhood rocks your world and your identity. It’s been grounding, energizing and life-giving to go back to things I enjoyed pre-motherhood but also to try and find new things. For me personally, this has been going to Zumba class, practicing yoga at home or devouring books of all genres.

  • Create a routine that works for you: I’m a sucker for routine. And structure. But it felt like that all went out the window with motherhood (especially in that newborn/infant stage). But over time, I’ve found little things here and there that have created routine and stability in the chaos of parenthood: a morning routine that involves waking up before everyone else for a bit of me-time, an evening routine that I look forward and that helps me unwind (usually involving a good book or show with the husband).

  • Ask for help: I’ll confess, this is one that’s been really hard for me, one I’m still working on. For those familiar with the enneagram, I’m type 2. One thing the enneagram has helped shed light on is how often I find my worth in helping others and when left to its vices, it’s often at the cost of myself. The internal tape in my head is one of “I’m worthy to be loved if I’m needed”. But what about when I need others? It’s hard asking for help, letting down my guard and being in need. Whether it’s asking someone to watch your child so you can enjoy a date night or some alone-time, going to a lactation consultant for guidance on breastfeeding or seeking professional help in counseling to better navigate the vast emotions, hurts, pain that surface with parenthood, asking for help doesn’t show weakness. It takes courage and strength.

  • Find your inner friend: Recently, I watched a video uploaded by one of my favorite YouTubers, Do it on a dime. She’s a mommy of two boys and posts content on organization and low-budget lifestyle. But in this video, “An open letter to mediocre moms..” she urged us to “find your inner friend”, to show yourself the grace you so easily show friends. Be a kind and gentle friend to yourself.

  • Stay curious: At the beginning of this year, I signed up for life-coaching. Though I’m a counselor by trade, it was the first time I received coaching or counseling of any kind, outside of work/training. After receiving life-coaching from Jenn and the many conversations I’ve had with my family and friends as a result, a new motto I’ve adopted is, “Stay curious”. Staying curious means creating space for communication - not just with others but within myself, allowing myself space to explore and grow in self-awareness.


by Grace Ko

We’re made for connection. Just take a look at any study on attachment theory or the effects of neglect and trauma. Our need for connection runs so deep, is so innate.

But this is an odd season, living quite a distance from family and friends and I frequently find myself in a funk, one filled with a constant, lingering FOMO that spirals into jealousy and bitterness.

I’ve tried different things to combat these diseases ailing my heart but one weapon I’m learning to wield is gratitude.

My present life may no be filled with the coffee dates and dinner parties I so desire.
But today, I discovered a neighborhood park.
Today was one of those unicorn days here in Korea with blue skies and clean air.
Strolling along a meandering path lined with wild flowers and rice paddies in the distance.
I enjoyed a walk accompanied by Michelle Obama’s voice in my ears as I listened to her read aloud her book, “Becoming”.

I’m grateful:

  • early morning me-time

  • facials

  • Zumba classes and the ladies I’ve met through it

  • daily yoga practice

  • the current podcast I’m listening to that’s rocking my world (“Emotional Healing” by Mike Plunket at Risen King Church)


I’ve grown a deep appreciation and fondness for rice paddies. Living in the country with our house surrounded by them, we’ve been observing the rice paddies through the seasons. The labor of love they are. And lately, the rice paddies are a lush blanket of green.

Every time we arrive home, it’s become somewhat of a thing to look for the lone crane perched somewhere near the paddies, as if to be greeting us home. Maybe it’s its stark contrast of white amidst the pool of green that I find calming. Maybe it’s that I can relate to it in its aloneness. Maybe I desire to be like it, so at peace in its solitude.

One evening, the three of us sat and watched the crane when it suddenly took flight. It gracefully began soaring over the fields. And I felt like it was whispering to me, “This too shall pass.” This season in limbo, this season of waiting, holding, containing will lead to a season of flight.


Motherhood: Mommy guilt

by Grace Ko in

As soon as I birthed the child I had carried in my womb for ten months, a new realm was opened to me, a whole new world of emotions both in breadth and depth spanning from joy and pride to anxiety, fear, guilt and shame. My highs felt higher, my lows felt lower, everything a bit stronger, deeper.

Someone once asked me what was most surprising about becoming a mom. I think it’s how easily the mommy guilt came. How quickly and loudly I began hearing the little devil sitting on my shoulder, shouting, “Do more! That’s not enough! How could you? How dare you?” I’m still working at quieting that voice.

“I should be able to exclusively breastfeed. What’s wrong with me?”

“I should keep him home. Why am I sending him to daycare? That’s selfish.”

“He’s sick, again. It’s because I’m failing as a mom.”

“We had fried chicken and French fries for dinner. That’s awful. If I cared about my child’s nutrition and development, I wouldn’t be feeding him this.”

If I could rewind and go back to those first few months that felt so sweet, so precious but so vulnerable, raw and unwound, I would whisper to myself, “Take time to lean on and lean in. Be “good enough”. You’re navigating unchartered territory. It’ll take time and space to grow into this role, this new identity, this new part of you. You’re doing the very best you can. And that’s more than enough.”

Once, after an emotional talk with my mom, she turned to me and said, “You’re a great mom. How could you give, do any more than you already are?” I wept. In the deepest corners of my heart, I was afraid I would never measure up to my mom, my hero.

There was another time I distinctly remember my dad was talking to some of our relatives. He told them, “Y and G are pouring out everything into being the best parents they can be for J.” This affirmed me in the deepest parts of my heart. My inkling is to hang my head, shaking it, saying, “Oh, no, no, no… You see, there’s this and that I could be doing, should be doing…” But I’m learning to just nod and say thank you and to acknowledge that it’s all by grace.

Strangely enough, I’ve realized guilt wasn’t magically birthed into me as I birthed my child. It was a pre-existing condition of my heart, only exacerbated and accentuated by hormones and the highs and lows of motherhood.

I’m not writing this because I have the panacea for mommy guilt. I’m not at the other end having defeated it. It’s still a daily battle. But I’m chipping away at it, with my pen and paper where I go to war against my internal tape, with the help of those that speak truth over me, with daily reminders to myself that “I am enough”.

Reflections on Good Friday

by Grace Ko

you knew then. you know now.
the depths of my sin.
the sin before me.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterspouts; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
— Psalm 42:7

but you still call us home.
open arms.
a father’s love.

the downcast.
the outcast.
the weak.
the meek.
the proud.
the loud.

your embrace is for us all.

your depths are deeper.
your heights are higher.
the muck in my life
is powerless before you.


in the fire,
in the mess,
the cross remains.

you remain.

-reflections on Good Friday