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..." 


"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:


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! 

On beauty and self-love

by Grace Ko

Confession: I have been having an awfully difficult time loving my postpartum body. 

My wonder and amazement at my body during pregnancy, being able to grow and birth a baby, quickly turned into a self-condemnation, a self-loathing. "My hips are too wide, my stomach is so flabby, my legs are still swollen, my face is still puffy."

My body did not (still does not) feel like my own, joints weakened and vulnerable, back and shoulders aching from the constant hunching over to nurse and hold baby. Once I hit the 12-week-postpartum mark and began exercising regularly again, I was met with even more frustration that I couldn't do simple things I once was able to. I tried doing the famous BBG program and began following many moms on Instagram who "got their bodies back" in hopes of getting motivated, but truthfully, I would often only feel discouraged and overcome by a spirit of comparison. 

One day, as I was sitting in my rocking chair nursing baby, I looked over at our all-purpose cart that houses all the necessities: diapers, baby lotion, burp cloths, swaddle blankets, thermometer... On it, held up by a magnet, was a piece of cardstock with a verse my husband had written: 

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
— Proverbs 31:28-30

I got choked up, reading and rereading this verse... because though my husband had told me over and over again that I was beautiful, I hadn't believed it myself. And rather than focusing on fearing the Lord, I spent much of my day obsessing over my weight and my appearance. Rather than being patient with and grateful for this body that grew, nurtured and birthed this beautiful baby boy, I was so anxious to get my body back. Working out was not about getting healthy and fit but solely about losing weight. I would step on the scale daily in hopes that the number had gone down. I got frustrated at myself and even angry at all those that had said the weight would melt off with breastfeeding, because it wasn't. I even avoided going out for quite some time in fear of what people would think of my postpartum appearance. And most recently, with postpartum hair loss, I have found myself frustrated with the strands, clumps of hair left behind in my hairbrush, on the floor, in baby's hand. 

For Baby J's 100th day, a dear friend gifted him a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit. Despite it being a classic, I had actually never read it. While baby napped, I read it and was struck by a passage in it that seemed so appropriate, so relevant, so raw and real. 

When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt... Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.
— The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

As of late, baby has started this thing where he looks up at my face in the midst of nursing, almost as if to check that I'm still there. He'll look into my eyes, give me a smirk, a smile, sometimes a chuckle and go back to nursing, only to do it again a few seconds later. It's become a "game" of his. 

The thing is, baby doesn't care if I'm losing my hair. Or if I still have quite a bit of baby weight to shed. He looks up at me with amazement and love so real. And he's teaching me to love myself, not for how I look, but just because of who I am. I may be "loose in the joints" and looking a bit "shabby" with dark under-eyes and all, but I am still deeply loved.

I'm still tempted to step on that scale from time to time. I'm still tempted to base my worth or beauty on my outward appearance. But I'm learning. I'm learning to love myself.