Be Brave and Be Kind

Be Brave and Be Kind

Dear Readers,

Someone once told me, “be brave and be kind,” and I have loved this saying ever since.

A beautiful way to live, I thought, that’s what I want to be. 

That is also the very thing I had to keep repeating to myself as I struggled to finish up this book that I have been working on for the last couple years. Because it wasn’t easy.

It was, in fact, one of the hardest things I have ever done. The hardest part, however, was not scrambling to find time to write in the midst of mothering 3 babies, or painstakingly trying to pinpoint the right word out of the hundreds of thousands out there, or even maintaining the persistence to push through every phase of this grueling and seemingly endless process (although all of those were very real challenges as well).

No, the hardest part of this whole journey of writing a book was finding the courage to put myself out there. Although thousands of authors do this everyday, I felt like a tiny fish in a big pond trying to muster up the courage to dive off the deep end, timidly asking if I could perhaps, pretty please, take a small seat in the back and join this big league of published authors.

It was quite intimidating.

But when I say it was hard putting myself out there, I don’t mean just putting myself out there to be scrutinized as a writer, but I also mean putting all my business out there as well… because that is exactly what this book does.

I first entertained the thought of writing this book almost 10 years ago in 2008 after an intense season the Lord brought me through that involved taking off my makeup, and that is when the title of the book was born–No Makeup.

I excitedly pulled up a new Word doc and began typing away this story about lust, sin, and repentance, and when I was done, I had all of about one single-spaced page written before me. 

There was then a seven year pause before the Lord reminded me of the story I once started and called me to bring it to completion.

But this time, I was hardly excited. It was more in obedience with fear and trembling I began to tell my story because in those seven years, much more had surfaced and transpired in my life, things I could hardly confess to the Lord, let alone the rest of the world.

There were hidden secrets I held onto, but more than that, secrets that held onto me and kept me in bondage. Hidden behind my put-together exterior, I had been moving through life as if on “good-Christian” autopilot for so long, I honestly could not truly see the depth of the sin within me for which Christ had to die.

I could name the “nicer sins” which were obvious and common to everyone, but when I began to struggle with the “worser” ones that are hardly ever uttered, especially not in the church, I felt the need to hide. And because they’re never mentioned, they do indeed feel like they are, so to speak, worser.

And what happens in hiding? Lies enter the scene, your mind becomes a dark playground for demons to toy with, and you remain chained to the very acts that are destroying your life.

I saw for myself a glimpse of these very things taking place in my life as I faced the hidden vices that I had lived with for so long, even since my childhood, this dark thread that had managed to remain quietly within me and was now coming out and tearing me and my family apart.

There was no more hiding, ignoring, or being blind to this all consuming sin which was there all along but suddenly seemed to be unleashed and in control, causing me to witness a side of me that was terrifying. Because it wasn’t just the one or two major sins that came out, but rather, as I followed the thread of these sins to its roots, I not only faced the reality of my dark past and present state, but I was led to peer down my very soul that was Sin.

was sin. No better or worse than any known sinner in the world but possessing the very same devastating condition that was bent on destroying and dragging us all to hell.

This is the story I share. The absolute worst of me, which although I was cowardly ashamed of, I willed myself into submission and obedience to share in this story because in thinking of you, dear readers, I knew this was the very same Sin within each of you.

And reader, I wish you freedom.

The same freedom, absolute and pure, that comes only through Christ in wholehearted confession while inviting the Lord to search your hearts and unveil the vile Sin within you. Indeed, it wasn’t until I was brought to my knees in absolute knowledge of my sin and utter confession of my need for Christ that I began to receive true freedom.

Freedom, I found, involves–no, requires–confession. A scary thing to do.

But I did it before the Lord, and I do it again before you now because in remembering the call to be both brave and to be kind, I realize this is the kind of love God commands of me. Love that is kind and requires a brave heart to act despite my own fears and reservations. So in thinking of you, dear reader, I pushed myself on and gladly obeyed the Lord in sharing my wretched yet beautifully redeemed story with you.

I pray you not only see my life, but it causes you to see your own, and if you haven’t already, that you find complete freedom in the Lord. He is our only hope and He is absolutely bent on setting us all free. 

Yours Truly, 

Irene Kim 

So thankful for my family and friends who have encouraged me and celebrated with me in this one step of obedience.  For Your sake, Lord, I choose to love and to be kind and brave every day, and I pray this story is used for Your glory and that Your will be done in all our lives. 

No Makeup: Once Concealed Now Set Free
 

 

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Shattered at Home

Shattered at Home

Sometimes, I can be nice, compassionate, patient, and kind. I’d like to think that these are the words that describe me best, but really, this is just what most people see on the outside.

It’s easy to be nice when people are watching, but how about at home?

Sure, I can be nice at home, too. We have plenty of good times. I’ve even been caring for another kid, so how bad could I be. But home is also where my flesh–my temper, my bouts of rage, my impatience, and selfishness–all the ugly stuff comes out as well. At the flip of a switch, I can snap. My words of love and grace can turn to knives, and I can be downright mean and hostile. Just push my buttons the right way and you’ll see.

Maybe it’s because I’m most comfortable at home. Or maybe it’s because I’m around ones who I know will love me no matter how terrible I act. Or maybe, it’s because one of Satan’s greatest desire is to destroy the home–the very place we are to build a family that reflects the greater family of God–and he is attacking us whenever he can, especially in our weakness.

Last week, my son and our Safe Families son were kicking around a ball in the kitchen. I have told them repeatedly before that all the balls should stay in the basement or outside. Before I could even give them a warning, however, one of them kicked the ball a little too high and it went crashing into a mason jar sitting on the counter.

I winced at the sound of the shattering glass on our tile floor. And I was done.

They weren’t trying to disobey me. Really, they were just having fun. But of course, this also happened to be my last straw. 

Prior to this moment of “fun,” 3 out of the 4 kids had been sick for over a week, the baby was screaming in pain from an ear and eye infection combo, everyone was grumpy and constantly bickering or crying at the top of their lungs, someone had pooped on the floor, and another peed in bed. I was also sick myself. To make matters worse, the one car we shared was in the shop and while it was over 90 degrees outside, our AC was not working. Now, I had to clean a kitchen full of tiny shards of glass that had slid all over the floor into every nook and cranny… with a crying baby on my hip.   

I wanted to crawl up into a ball on my bed in fetal position or just walk out of the house and not look back, but those unfortunately were not real options.

So instead, I lost it. I went full force in my flesh. First, I directed it all to my oldest because he should understand, he should be more responsible, and he should be able to take the heat.

So in the meanest, loudest, and scariest voice I could manage to find, I tore him up with my rebuke. I could immediately see the remorse and fear in his eyes, but my fury could not so easily be appeased. So I kept going. And as out of control and reckless I was with each loveless word that came flying out of my mouth, I knew in the back of my mind that great damage was being done. Much more than the cup he had shattered onto the ground, I was shattering his spirit, wrangling it, and leaving it for dead. Then with nothing but anger in my eyes, I stared at the rest of them as they whimpered and tried to hide behind the one who had been attacked. Not an ounce of mercy seemed to survive the rampage. I could not disarm myself, and I think I even felt a shade of that dark color called hate. Whatever it was, it was not love and who knew that could be possible with your children. 

Not wanting to deal with any of it anymore, I demanded them all go downstairs while I huffed through an hour of picking up all the broken pieces. As I did, I trembled through my frustration because it all felt too much. It felt impossible to pick up every piece of broken glass and it felt impossible to live this life right. I thought of how hard this was and how I’m a terrible mom and how my children and especially this child who is not even my own should not be in this kind of home. I wished I didn’t have to deal with his behavior anymore, and in fact, I wished he would just be gone and return to his home, now, if that were possible. Then I thought, wow, I’m nothing but a fake and this is not what I signed up for. I actually thought I could do this? No, I can’t do this anymore.  I felt so defeated and done.

 I agreed with all the lies.

And I wondered what life would be like if I did really walk out. I wouldn’t have to care for anyone but myself. I could do whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. But then what?

But then I would’ve missed out on this.

After I finished cleaning up and gathered myself, I quietly walked to where all the little ones were now quietly playing. They looked nervous and weren’t sure what to expect from me, so without hesitation, I scooped them up just barely able to get my arms around all four kids. I felt so ashamed and humbled to have to confess that I was wrong to my children, but I knew I had to. I reminded myself, my job is not to be some perfect authority figure to them, but it is to love them and to show them we can’t… but that Jesus can.

Once I apologized, they also teared up in relief and leaned in to be held closer. They even wiped away my tears and whispered softly that they were sorry too. Even the newest addition, who I was now sure hated me and would never look at me the same again, whispered, “I love you, mommy.” Thank you, Jesus, I thought. Then together, we confessed our need for Jesus once more as a family and there was peace.

“This” is the joy that comes in the morning. “This” is the light of dawn after the night. “This” is resurrection, reconciliation, and restoration that comes when we are at the end of ourselves and finally dead to ourselves as well. “This” is Jesus being made strong in our weakness and doing for us what we can’t do on our own. And “this” is the house full of laughter, giggles, and cuddles I woke up to today. The little boy even kissed me on the nose and said, “you’re cute mommy.” 

And I told myself, I wouldn’t miss this for the world.

If I turn away from what is difficult and broken rather than turn into the hope of Jesus, I would miss out on ALL of THIS… the FULLNESS of life that only comes when you persevere while witnessing Jesus’ saving work in our lives and in our families.

God knows I can’t do this on my own. Sometimes He just has to make that a little more clearer through shattered glass. So I surrendered once more, and I was so glad that I did because I got to experience all “this” and more.

Of course this is just another snippet of the journey. There are battles everyday to come against the devil and my flesh. So I pray for God to uphold our families, our marriages, friendships, and any other relationships He has established along the way. Together, we can taste heaven. Don’t listen to the lies. Don’t agree with the enemy. Don’t for a second believe that your situation is not worth it.

Because I know that Satan hates what is happening in our home right now and he tries to shatter it. He hates that our household is one with Christ and he hates that we have dared to even invite another family into our literal house as well as our spiritual house of God. And although Satan’s attacks may be great and my flesh my fail, we press on and we press into the goodness of God. Then even more than Satan’s displeasure and the damage he can cause, I feel the exceeding pleasure of the Lord who loves us even in our weakness and also knows how to pick up shattered pieces and make us whole again.

Let us grow in love, even in our homes….especially in our homes.

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh… the acts of the flesh are obvious: …hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions…. but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  Galatians 5:13-23

Yes, Two Rings, Not One

Yes, Two Rings, Not One

It finally occurred to my daughter this week that I was wearing not one, but TWO rings on my ring finger. She had woken up earlier than usual that morning and wouldn’t allow me to coax her back to sleep. But she, of course, knew how to coax me and asked if we could worship. Can you say no to that? Not really … and I think she knows that.

So I dragged myself into our closet where she had already darted into with my oversized study Bible which looked just about as big as she was. Then as she plopped onto my lap with unexplainable energy for five in the morning, I began to pray and fight the spells of sleep coming over me.

My heavy eyes still shut, I could feel her playing with my fingers and rubbing my diamond ring. She does this often and the only reason she no longer asks if she can wear it is because she has given up. After being denied so many times, she finally understands that it is from daddy and it is special to mommy. But this day, as she looked down once again at all the sparkles and fine details of the ring she longs for, she suddenly gasped. After taking a closer look, she screamed, “umma you have TWO!”

Then, right on cue, came every three year old’s favorite question.

“Why? Why, umma? ..Why do you have two?”

Although usually pretty straight forward, sometimes her “why” question requires, begs, deserves, or simply invites deeper thought. This was one of them. Although she probably only asked because she hoped it might be an “extra” one to share, I ignored her burning desire for it and sat and thought and decided to really ponder the reason for these two rings. The next few moments of dawn were then transformed into full blown story time, still right there in my closet. We forgot we were surrounded by hangers and hangers of clothes and got lost together in the story instead.

I told her that the first ring was bought by daddy when he chose to marry me and be with me forever. He wanted to make it special, so he took me to my favorite place with lots and lots of horses. After taking a moment to talk about all the pretty horses, I continued on. When he asked me to marry him, I said yes because I loved him and chose him too. Now I wear the ring everyday because everyday my answer is still yes to be with him forever. Then I told her that I got the second ring on our wedding day. Standing with family and friends and God, I said yes to daddy again, and this time, it was my promise to God that I would be with daddy forever.

Sometimes I think about that moment of exchanging rings and vows–lofty promises really. I used to cower a little thinking about them because I knew I had broken them many times in the moments I failed to honor, cherish, and love my husband well. Even while standing at the altar that day, repeating those words eight years ago, I should’ve known then that I wouldn’t be able to keep all those promises. But you never make a promise thinking you’ll break them.

Such are the promises I’ve made to God. Especially when I first said yes to Him, I’m sure I spewed out many a grand promises to Him along with those buckets of tears. And still today, there are many things I want to do for God well and many I hope and say I’ll do. Other things I’m too afraid to even utter, God forbid I cannot carry them out. But I don’t think the point is so much in the promises, much less the success, but in the heart to do them and in the grace we find along the way, even as we fail. And maybe wholehearted broken promises are just part of the plan because I have just seen too much good come from my weak yes’s and failed attempts at life, so many times that it makes me wonder if this is just the way it is supposed to be.

To fail is humbling for sure, but maybe not so bad when grace is involved because it has truly been in my weaknesses where I have been seeing God’s perfect strength to be a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, etc. These days, I am learning what it is to be less. And more than my promises to Him, I am desperate to understand His promises for me. Still, I won’t be afraid to say “yes.” Everyday, my answer will be yes. Why? Well, because I love Him. And I choose Him and want to be with Him. Forever. Like He first chose to be with me.

Marriage–The Best Kind of Hard

Marriage–The Best Kind of Hard

I Want a Divorce

There was a time this thought visited my mind. I never said it, but I silently wished it. At the time, it seemed like the only answer and the only solution to the deep black hole of a mess we found ourselves in. But it was also a terrifying thought, one that I never imagined I would ever have. I don’t think anyone gets married imagining they might have a divorce one day. No, if you’re walking down that long, beautiful aisle, this marks the happiest moment of your life because you are thrilled you finally found the one, and divorce is really the last thing on your mind.

Yet just as soon as I got married, I immediately came face to face with the grim reality that no marriages are perfect, not in the least. I was shocked to see that divorce was everywhere and even more shocked to find I was one day considering it myself. It had been a tough year full of hurt and misunderstandings and after going around in circles over and over again over the same disappointing, enraging, and heartbreaking events and realizations, I wondered if we had made some horrible mistake.

Then everything inside me wanted out. I wanted to get out of the house, walk out of the marriage, and if it were at all possible, walk straight back to the days of being single and free. I wasn’t just trying to take the easy way out, but I honestly thought it might be better for the both of us.

The way that this thought came so naturally, however, was scary. It was as if it had been waiting at our door just looking for the opportunity to rear its ugly head into our home and present itself as the better alternative. And for a moment, I thought about it.

Thankfully, after a great deal of grace, prayer, counsel, and hard work, I stopped entertaining the idea of divorce in my home. I walked it to the door and after saying goodbye, my husband and I were able to find our footing and trek our way out of the thick of things. We’ve come a long way since then and continue to learn a great deal about marriage even now, but what I’ve learned the most is that marriage is not easy. It is without a doubt hard..really hard, excruciatingly hard, and yet, it is the best kind of hard.

Those moments and days and seasons and years of difficulty can be…difficult.  Dying to your own desires for the good of the other is sometimes like swallowing lemons and other times like a few good jabs to the stomach. Learning to love a person who is always changing can seem like an impossible feat. Not letting your mind and your flesh wander away from your first love involves perhaps more training, stamina, and mental discipline than is necessary for any extreme sport. Constantly working for closeness can be exhausting, but the moment you stop trying is the moment you start drifting. And learning to overlook offenses and to forgive quickly even when great hurt is involved can feel like a job only cut out for Jesus Himself, but we are called to do so nonetheless. Realizing the weaknesses, the faults, the utter sinfulness of your spouse and then of yourself. Illnesses, financial difficulty, infidelity, etc, all of which can rob every last ounce of joy and love that you never thought could leave your marriage. All this and a million things more are hard.

This may sound rather depressing, but there is of course the bright side and it is this. In the little experience I have had with marriage, I found that perhaps BECAUSE marriage is so hard, I have come to love Christ all the more.

I love Christ and how in the midst of imperfect love from imperfect beings, God can still show His perfect love. I love how the greatest hurts can be washed and transformed to blend into the most beautiful picture of reconciliation. I love how God can pick up all the pieces of shattered hearts and make it whole again. I love the long nights where tears mixed with pain and utter frustration turn into tears of laughter just as the dawn comes and we both know it was only God who could work such a miracle. And most of all, I love all the work, all the muck, and all the mess because when I turn around, I see that we are no longer who we once were, but we are one step closer to Christ and one step closer to reflecting His image.

I know not all marriages have worked out and not all always will, but one thing I know is that there is always hope. I have hope for my own and hope for everyone else who has or ever will find themselves in the beginning, middle, or possibly nearing what looks like the end of this really crazy thing called marriage. And I hope that when all is said and done, we will all have greater love, even greater than what we first imagined on our wedding day, and then it would all be worth it .