A new chapter

by Grace Ko


“So, are you guys coming back?”
”Are you coming home?”

It only reiterates the longing in my heart to run away, and return. To the familiar, to where things always seem as I have left it. 

But to answer these questions has become a tricky thing, waging a war on the inside, unbeknownst to those asking. Reality is, we can't answer these questions. Because we don’t know. 

What I do know is that each year here, living “overseas” has been an adventure, full of twists and turns, the unexpected, the uncertain. We’ve gone year by year trusting there’s a way and a plan for us   That there’s a reason we left behind the comforts of “home”, family and the dearest of friends into unchartered territory. And there’s no doubt we’ve received more favor than we could have dreamt of. With it, we’ve caught a glimpse of His immense heart for this nation, our motherland, our origins. We’ve been given visions and feel called to things that aren’t always easy to relay when you’re still growing into the idea of such things yourself. But we now dare to dream and hope and dare to pray, that we would bloom where planted and let down our roots slowly. 

It's been hard living in limbo, never knowing if we’ll go back to New Jersey, “home”, while trying to be fully present. I’m prone to always think of “Plan B” as returning, oh you know in case things here don’t “work out”. My safety net, my shield, to keep things here at an arm’s distance. What we’ve left behind, for what we thought was temporarily, call out to me. But my heart needs a check-up, of the emotional/mental/spiritual kind because it’s keeping me from calling where my feet are planted “home”. 

What is “home” and where is it? They say, home is where the heart is. But what if your heart is in more than one place? What then? Grieving, longing, is what. 

It's been a week since we’ve left Seoul, the only place we’ve called home here in Korea. The first “home” J has known. A place where we made new lifelong friends and reunited with old ones. Where we hosted dinners and breakfasts and lunches, where we spent countless hours huddled around our dining table breaking bread and debriefing.  Where we dreamed and cried and shared. Nicknamed “The Lookout”, I spent many hours and days looking out onto a magnificent view of Seoul and pondered what I was being called to in this season. 

This past season didn’t leave much room for looking out. It’s been a trying one, one that has tested our limits as a family and has had us crying out in desperation and exasperation. One where my heart has been leaning into the lies that creep in, convincing me that I’m alone, that no one cares or understands. My heart has not quite caught up with all that has changed and all we’ve had to say goodbye to. What was safe before has felt uncertain, what was familiar now foreign. All this catch-up has left me fatigued and confused. 

But in the past week, I’ve quickly realized that He does go ahead of us, and He knows just what we need. I came here kicking and screaming, refusing to accept life “in the country”, but turns out it’s just what I needed. The golden cotton candy sunsets, emerald green of rice paddies, the splish-splash of J in his kiddie pool. It’s the rest I’ve so wanted. 

A new chapter in a new home. It’s a lot to adjust to. But something tells me, everything is going to be okay. Praying this new season will be one of peace and calm, rest and rediscovery. And lots of books, time to pick up calligraphy again and blog-writing, hopefully more of the light-hearted kind. 


Enough

by Grace Ko


Two weekends ago, I went on a "staycation" with a girlfriend. Months in the works, the anticipation was killing me. Plans were to milk our "lounge access" and stuff ourselves to our hearts' content and then bask in our plush hotel beds donning our bathrobes, sheet masks on our faces. I was most excited about some good old alone time, eating without interruption, and personal space. You know, like going to the bathroom without a toddler clinging to your leg. 

But as I said goodbye to my little baby for my first night apart from him, a strange feeling started trickling in. Even though I had spent well past a year without a day apart from him since he was born, it's funny how quickly the "mom guilt" tape goes off in my head. Giving a goodbye kiss to him, I started feeling bad about parting with him and that tape - the one of guilt, lack, "never enough" - started to unwind. 

Now that J is one, the question I'm most often asked as of late - by friends, family, acquaintances, the random lady on the street.. - is, "When are you going to have a second?" It's one of those things that doesn't settle well with me, not because I don't like being asked, but because of what it implies: Why are we always in such a hurry to get to the "next best thing"? Why are we always asking each other about the next season in life and never ask how we're doing in THIS season, the present? Why do we as a society, as a church, as people, ask each other when we'll start dating/get married/have kids/have a second? Why can't we encourage one another to be present, to fully embrace our respective seasons, the here and now? Why can't we say to one another, "You're more than enough where you are", rather than the subtle, underlying message of "You really should here/there/wherever-you-are-not-currently?" 

It also bugs me because, you see, when you ask "When are you going to have a second?", you're implying that the when and how of having a second is in my control. But "family planning" is "planning" used loosely at best. Those that know our story know that these things can't really be "planned, controlled and executed" the way we desire. 

But the irony in all of this is, it's still a question that's worth contemplating. And in contemplation, my mind is focused on my lack. 

I already feel like I'm trying desperately to stay afloat (or stay awake most of the times) with a busy toddler walking, no, running around. I'm working on teaching him boundaries, like not to hit the TV, his own head, or my face. I feel like a good chunk of my day is spent telling him, "No" or "Don't do that". 

I'm trying. 
I'm trying my best to get him to eat veggies and introducing him to a variety of food.
I'm trying to teach him about his emotions.
I'm trying to maintain a relatively clean house.

And all this trying is hard work and exhausting. 

So a second child to all of this? It's overwhelming, scary and seems borderline masochistic. They say having a second isn't double the work, but exponentially more. This simple question that people so often ask me as of late makes me stop in my tracks because it hits home to some deep fears in my heart: "Can I really do it?" "Am I enough?" I'm already constantly fighting the urge to self-diagnose as a "bad wife", "a bad mom", unending lists of things I haven't done, ways I don't measure up. 

In one of my current reads (because I've recently adopted the practice of reading multiple books at a time), Brene Brown says

The opposite of ‘never enough’ isn’t abundance or ‘more than you could ever imagine’. The opposite of scarcity is enough...

My mom once returned to our place after a workshop on Drivers Personality Inventory. She had Y and me sit down to take it, then she explained the five personality types and shared our results with us respectively. Mine? It was BP: "Be Perfect". 

I will never forget what my mom said afterwards. She said that BPs need to practice telling ourselves, "그만큼이면 됐어..." "That's enough..."

I almost immediately burst into tears.
Have I EVER uttered those words to myself? No.
Have I EVER told myself that that was enough, that I was enough? No.

Whether I'd like to admit it or not, I guess I've always been a "glass is half empty" kind of person, one with a scarcity-mindset. I'm prone to thinking about, fixating on the things that are missing, what I'm lacking, what I could've done, should've done. 

But sometimes, we all just need to sit back in our plush hotel beds and learn to say, "그만큼이면 됐어..." 

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"That's enough."
"I am enough." 


For light, for hope, for love

by Grace Ko in ,


I blinked and baby boy turned one.

Last weekend, we celebrated his 돌 (dol: a Korean tradition celebrating baby's first birthday). I was running around like a headless chicken with preparing for the party (remind me, why did I think it would be a good idea to do everything ourselves...?) that my heart and my head were not able to process the weightiness of reaching this milestone.

As I jogged my brain of all the happenings this past year, in the midst of celebrations, my heart felt a strange sadness. "Joy", "wonder", "bliss" - these are often the words used to describe the magic of motherhood. But no one told me how much "grief" would be part of it. A grieving, knowing you'll never have that particular moment, that day, that stage, that season again. And so I have desperately wanted to catch them, document and capture them, encapsulate them into bottles to be stored in my memory's shelves, in the recesses of my heart to be cherished and revisited.

I've grappled with the idea of permanently gluing my phone to my hand as to not miss a moment, while my instincts have whispered gently, "Be present, be fully present." I've struggled with fully "momming" while realizing "mom" is not all of who I am. I've contemplated about "community", what it means, how it's changed, what I want it to look like.  I've struggled with the fact that others may see my life and think "She's got it all", dismissing me of any "right" to share, but inside there are deep questions of identity, calling, feelings of loneliness, anger, jealousy and fear.

I've been at my parents' this past week, resting, recovering from all the festivities and the prepwork leading up to it all. While here, Y and I took J on his first visit to an art museum. Exhibits named "Nostalgia" and "Light" stirred emotions and the courage in me to write this post. We strolled along, reflecting on how with light comes shadow and how light brings things from the dark to the surface. Without darkness, we would not appreciate light.

I've spent much time wondering why I was struggling with so-called "dark" feelings in a season that has been so full of joy. But Henri Nouwen's words in Reaching Out spoke volumes to me:

We do not have to deny or avoid our loneliness, our hostilities and illusions. To the contrary: when we have the courage to let these realities come to our full attention, understand them and confess them, then they can slowly be converted into solitude, hospitality and prayer.
— Henri Nouwen

J was born on Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday. We spent the actual day reading him books on Dr. King's life, listening to his "I have a dream" speech and I picked up my calligraphy brush pen for the first time in a while to write these words:

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I leave to return home with heart refreshed and hope restored.


A new year, 2018

by Grace Ko in


As a child, I always followed my parents to 송구영신 예배, midnight service on NYE. We always lived quite far from church so we would leave the house and pack into the car come 10PM, give or take. I never knew the glitz and glamour typical of NYE - confetti and hats, sparkle and dazzle. There was no countdown or champagne or a kiss when the clock struck midnight. Rather, we would meet midnight in quiet meditation and prayer, reflecting on the past year and giving thanks. I grew up never having once seen "the ball drop", and for the longest time I didn't even know what that meant or looked like because growing up, I ushered in the new year often sleeping on my mom's lap in the pews. 

It's funny how in adulthood, you start to long for things you took for granted in childhood. Like home-cooked meals, piano lessons and even midnight church services. 

Since coming to Korea, Y and I have adopted a few of our own New Years traditions - one being praying through different topics and setting goals and visions. I've recorded these things and they've served as benchmarks to be reread and revisited and celebrated. 

During the holiday season in years past, I would carve out time to sit at a cafe with a big cup of joe, pull out my journals and planner and reflect back on the year. I would list out all the year's events, answered prayers and expectations for the upcoming year. But being a SAHM (stay-at-home mom) with a very active, almost-one-year-old child, that's an ideal far from reality. And I'll be honest. I sometimes long for those days of cafe visits, dates with my husband to the movies, sleeping in, being able to go to the bathroom without a little human being clinging to my leg. 

But if I'm going to be really honest, part of me has pushed this task of reflecting on this year aside because of fear it'll trigger too many emotions, that it'll be too raw. 

2017 has been quite a year. It started off with a bang, giving birth to baby boy, an answer to many prayers. And since, it's been a year of transitioning into motherhood. A year full of magical firsts that came and went too quickly, leaving me to have to learn to grieve while remaining present so more doesn't pass me by before I know it. A year of living through the eyes of awe and wonder of a child. 

But it's also been a year of tumultuous changes and learning to transition my heart posture. A year of raw, never-before-felt depths of sadness and loneliness. A year of struggling with body image, comparison and fears. A year of coming to terms with expectations and disappointments. A year full of goodbyes. A year often filled with regrets, "should've, would've, could've's". 

But in hindsight, I wish I could go back to those first few days and months after J was born and tell myself, "It'll all be okay..." I wish I could pat myself on the back and say, "You're doing great." I wish I had taken more pictures with baby, not worrying about how I looked or felt like a cow and told myself, "You'll get your body back." 

I can sit and dwell in the regrets of 2017, the things unfinished, things not accomplished. Like, how is the last time I posted on here eight months ago? What happened to documenting baby's growth and development monthly and sharing my journey of motherhood here on this blog? 

But that's also why my heart swells with an excitement for the new year. It's not a blank state starting afresh. But a continuing, a building on, a going from glory to glory. 

It's been a year of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but somehow it always ends with a wake-up call to more thanksgiving and daily reminders to "praise" (Judah). 

 Ho Chi Minh City, Dec 2017

Ho Chi Minh City, Dec 2017

Here's to 2018! Here's to finding my song again. Here's to a year filled with more laughter, good books, more travels. (And hopefully more blog posts.) Here's to fullness of joy!