Lunch Money

Lunch Money

A couple weeks ago, I went to Kindergarten orientation for my son. Amongst many other things, they explained how buying lunch works. Basically, every child has an account where the parent can deposit money online and when the child goes to buy lunch, all they have to do is enter their pin number and they can use the money that has already been put into their account.

How nice, I thought. These kids have it so easy. They don’t have to worry about a thing. Life is so good for them. Little did I know, I was about to find out that I had it just as good too.

That orientation happened to take place right when we were in the process of going under contract for selling our home. I never knew how difficult selling a house could be. There were so many variables that went beyond our control, so many unknowns, so many setbacks, and most of all, so many dollar figures. Still feeling new to this “adult” thing, I was shell shocked to see how much money we had to dish out just to sell our home. Fees, taxes, repairs, appraisals, and the list went on and on.

Every week something came up, and we were literally scraping up every last dollar we could find. Then just when we thought we had handed over everything we possibly could, we got terrible news. It was a Friday night around 10pm, just one week away from our settlement date. I was sitting in the middle of my basement with a roll of packing tape in hand, just barely able to see beyond the boxes of our packed up belongings when we got the call from our realtor.

Without delay, he went straight into it and explained that because of this and that, we basically needed to come up with another X amount of dollars in order to close the contract–an amount with  many zeros and surpassing DOUBLE the amount we had already just barely managed to gather. We did not know what to do and could not say much, so we were given two days to see if we could come up with the money. I think we all knew though that it was pretty much an impossibility.

How were we going to come up with this in just one week? Would we have to pull out of the contract? Hadn’t the Lord told us to move? Did we hear wrong? What should we do?

There were many more questions racing through our minds, but soon enough, the peace that had so abruptly left us from that phone call returned with the thought, God will provide. Over and over for the next two days, we held our breath trying not to worry as we repeated these words. And we prayed.

Then I got a phone call from someone I hadn’t seen in a while, inviting our whole family to come over for dinner. She said she missed the kids and wouldn’t take no for an answer, so we decided to make a quick stop at her place before we would have to meet with our realtor.

When we arrived, we were warmly greeted and fed right away with a delicious home cooked meal. Sitting there in her humble, yet perfectly peaceful little home, I admired the simplicity of her modest lifestyle and soaked in the solitude of the sanctuary she had made out of her home. It was a nice change of pace from the craziness of the week, even if just for one meal.

As I finished up the last few bites left on my plate, I looked up at the clock knowing we would have to leave soon. However, just as I was about to call the children over to get ready to leave, the lady came right beside me and began to ask me about our home. Right away she could hear the uncertainty in my voice and became more direct, urging me to tell her if money was short and how much we needed.

I was almost too embarrassed to say, mostly because I was afraid to make her feel bad for us. But after beating around the bush a minute or two, I finally blurted out the exact dollar amount that we would need in order to close on our home… and trailed off by sheepishly asking for prayer.

Immediately, she took my hand and led me to another room where she sat me down and quietly ruffled through her drawers. Then with an envelope in hand, she turned to say, “You were praying, weren’t you? The Lord has answered your prayer.”

Confused, I searched her eyes looking for further explanation, so she then began to tell me that she had been saving a dollar here and a dollar there for years, and the amount that I told her was the exact amount that she had saved up this moment. She had felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to give me the money the moment we had walked through her door, even before I had told her anything, and the matching amount was confirmation.

You can say that I lost it. I lost it completely. Together, we wept, knowing this was the heart of our Heavenly Father for His children. To think, God already knew the exact amount I would need on this day, years ago when this woman first started saving. It was as if God had deposited the money into my account way in advance just for me to pay what I owed this day.

Overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of His love and grace, we have not been able to stop giving the Lord thanks. But the crazy thing is, this is what God has always done. From the beginning of time, God knew every need we would ever have and has had plans to meet them all. Even before we were born, Jesus saw our faces as He hung on the cross and it was His joy to provide what He knew we would need–our eternal salvation. He goes ahead of us and always makes a way.

So now more than ever, I have confidence in knowing God is preparing the next house for us which we still need to find. But of course even more than that, I look forward to the heavenly home He has prepared which we will get to enjoy for all of eternity.

And while growing up is sometimes hard to do, all I can say is, thank you Lord for always providing my “lunch money.”


Overcoming the Lurk of Night

Overcoming the Lurk of Night

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

I don’t like talking about demons, not because I don’t believe they are there, but because I know that they are. For that reason, I hate acknowledging them in case I somehow affirm or empower any of their wicked deeds. They are scum and they are nothing in comparison to God and the bottom line is, I hate them. But I also find it necessary to address them and put them in their place sometimes.

It has really only been in recent years, however, that I have come to know more and more how real these dark spiritual forces are. Before that, I was mostly unaware.

I remember the years my mother sank deep into a low debilitating depression and I wonder now what part Satan had in it all. Those days were so painfully dark. The mom I once knew to be strong in faith, steady in peace, and full of joy had crumbled into a fearful and lifeless being who could hardly do anything more but to sit in our dark living room by a dusty lamp while casting her still shadow onto the floor. Even now, this picture of my mom is still burned into my mind whenever I think back to those dismal years.

I’ll never forget the night I blew up at her in the parking lot by the lake. I had spent an hour prior to getting there trying to convince her to go for a walk with me. It was something we used to do several times a week, but ever since her depression had hit, she refused to leave the house. Of course, this wasn’t the first time I tried to get her out, but for some reason, this particular night I was especially adamant and would not take no for an answer.

After expending every bit of persuasive energy within me, I somehow managed to get her into the car. Thrilled with the victory, I backed us out of the garage with a big smile across my face and a fresh breath of hope. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the dark clouds to return.

As soon as we pulled into the parking lot by the same familiar lake we always used to walk around, I looked over to see my mother frozen in her seat. I knew this was hard for her, but I refused to give up. Without a word, I got out of the car and walked around to the passenger side and opened her door, pretending not to notice her hesitation. She looked up at me, searching my eyes for mercy to return home, but when I gave no response, she eventually got up.

Relieved, I walked a few steps ahead of her, hoping she would follow closely behind. Yet when I looked over my shoulder, she hadn’t moved an inch. Staring back at her, I looked at who was supposed to be my mother, but in that moment, she looked like a little child, so timid and unsure and with great fear in her eyes. Gently, I asked her a few times to come. Nothing. Then walking slowly back to her, I prompted her a few times more to which she finally opened her dry mouth to faintly ask if we could go home.

That’s when I lost it. Within a matter of seconds, my heart began to race, my head began to spin, and my voice escalated to the point of screaming as tears streamed down my face and I found myself dragging my mother by her hand across the busy parking lot full of strangers. But it was no use. After several moments of intense, disruptive bustling, I finally came to terms with the fact that this walk was not going to happen and let go. Silence once again filled the night air and I returned to our car utterly defeated.

When I think back to that time, I am definitely regretful and sorry about the way I essentially man-handled my own mother who was very sick. In the name of frustration and disappointment, I lost all control. But more than that, I regret that I was unable to discern what was really happening in her life. The very real spiritual oppression, the “powers of this dark world,” “the spiritual forces of evil”–Satan and his demons. I should have dragged them across the parking lot and thrown them back into the pits of hell, but no such thing crossed my mind.

Still, God was faithful and He redeemed that season to be one of greatest trials of her life which ended up saving her marriage, restored her faith, and then launched her into her calling to be a missionary in Africa with my father. As for me, I learned a thing or two since then about spiritual warfare.

Then about a month ago, a girl whom I had briefly met several years ago called me out of the blue. Caught in the grips of one of the darkest times in her life and on the brink of death, she reached out to the only Christian she knew around her and we began to pray together. For the days and weeks that followed, we continued to meet up and talk regularly, and as she divulged more and more of her story, I learned she had been tormented by demons and curses for all of her life. Listening to her talk, it was like hearing the most terrifying horror movie you could think of and I could physically feel the eerie presence of darkness around her.

Naturally, I was disturbed and a bit freaked out and a part of me honestly just wanted to protect myself and my family and show her to the door. But I knew this girl was a victim and the enemy was present.

And then I caught a glimpse of the fear in her eyes. Although different in many ways, it reminded me of the same fear I had seen in my mother’s eyes that day in the parking lot and so many other times after that. It was the same kind of fear that was not of God, but of Satan, but this time I was ready to fight and to go to battle.

So we welcomed this girl into our home and have daily been dismissing and casting out every demon and every spirit of darkness that has oppressed and tried to take a hold of her life. We have cut off agreements with the devil and prayed for freedom and restoration and life. And the result? In just a few short weeks, we have witnessed both the devastating condition that lays waste under the enemy’s bondage as well as the most beautiful and pure transformation, freedom from chains and shackles, and impenetrable peace in Christ that takes place when we in FAITH take hold of the Kingdom of God.

But we cannot stand back and be shy or timid nor waste time struggling with flesh and the things of this world. Instead, being thankful that we are living in the days of Kingdom power and authority that was given to us to use for working out our own faith and for the good of others, we are to forcefully advance the Kingdom of God over the dark forces and we don’t quit and we don’t give up until we receive what is rightfully ours. We take all that was purchased for us on the cross–freedom from evil, darkness, sickness, demons and the like.

Through all of this, in no way do I intend to magnify the darkness lurking around us, but rather, I stand to reflect the great brightness of God. Just as the waters sparkle, radiate, and then reflect the magnificent sun, I desire to reflect the glory of our great God in exceeding measure over every ounce of darkness that dare cast its shadow over us. In a world where sometimes it feels like this darkness is just caving in on all sides, I take heart knowing that the Kingdom of God is here and is victorious over all. And although it has already been won, there is still a battle to be fought, and it all begins on our knees.

Why I Love My Full House

Why I Love My Full House

Ever since I moved in with my in-laws almost three years ago, I’ve been asked many times how I can live with so many people in one house. They think I’m a little crazy because my immediate family already consists of two adults and three small children–that alone should be pretty snug for a little townhome, yet on top of that, we have managed to squeeze in with my husband’s parents as well as my husband’s two younger brothers. With that, my children have had the absolute privilege of growing up with their doting grandparents and the most fun-loving uncles they could ever ask for, and altogether, we have made up our very own east coast, Korean style version of the old classic sitcom, Full House.

And yes, sometimes it is very full…too full—full of dishes piled up in the sink, mounds of laundry waiting to be washed, and trashcans overflowing to the brim. Some days, the only thing this house seems to lack are vacant bathrooms when there is an urgent potty call (we’ve had way too many close calls), privacy even if it is just to take care of that business in the bathroom, and ok, that much needed peace and quiet, especially when the baby is sleeping.

But I still love our home and would not choose to have it any other way. It was not a “failure to launch,” as some may think, or something we are doing because we have no other choice, but it was a careful, thought out decision we made after we felt prompted by the Lord and it has been one of the best moves we have ever made.

I will tell you why.

Today, Micah got a nasty splinter. It was one of those really deep ones embedded completely beneath the skin. When tweezers didn’t work, I got out my sewing needle, but after scraping around not really knowing what I was doing, I let go of his poor pulsating finger. By this point, Micah was screaming and crying and Kindle was traumatized just watching her older brother in such distress and ran to her bed to hide under the blanket.

Finally, I resorted to google to find other ways to remove the splinter and was soon standing in front of a counter crowded with Elmer’s glue, duct tape, baking soda, and vinegar. I wouldn’t have looked so foolish if one of these so-called remedies actually worked, but the stubborn splinter would not budge. So what did we do? Put a Band-Aid on and wait for grandma to come home. Everyone knows grandma has the magic touch and this time was no different. In less than one minute, the splinter was out, and this time, no tears.

More times than I can count, grandma and grandpa and uncles have come to the rescue and assisted me in dire times of need. They have held crying babies, taken the plunge into clogged toilets, chipped in for broken appliances, and helped shovel out cars in blizzards of snow. All this and more, they have done for me and my family.

Still, these are not the main reasons why I love living in our home. It’s not about the delicious home cooked meals, the free childcare, or even the ability to save money just by living together….although those are all great perks too.

These are some of the things I really cherish:

Having conversations with my in-laws which always take a turn to be stories of the faithfulness of God. I see a bigger picture of life through them.

My son being around not only his dad, but also his uncles who can run around with him playing Avengers one minute and then softly hold his hand while laying around the next minute. He is seeing that guys can be both tough and tender at the same time.

Grandparents being able to see their grandchildren literally grow before their eyes. It is their greatest delight in this world, and food for the soul, especially when life can be less than they expected.

The endless number of OTHER people who are regular guests of people in our home and whom we have also grown to call family. All our hearts have expanded because of both the sheer quantity AND quality of these friends.  

Being able to pull up a chair to the table and eat at any hour of the day because there will always be someone there offering to share their food with you. Relationship is built around breaking bread around the table, even if it is just one bowl of fried rice and three spoons digging in.

Seeing the Bible being studied regularly and songs of praise on the lips of so many. It’s all about loving God first and loving God the most here.

And even…

Witnessing and being part of frequent run-ins and conflicts and then being able to forgive and still want to live with each other. It can be the hardest to get along with those you live with, but if you can do that, I’m convinced you can love anyone.

And just one more…

Laughing. Laughing at the toddler who randomly smacks the grandma’s rear in passing, the uncle who is running around looking for his misplaced wallet, the other uncle who farted in the corner, and the grandpa who is passed out and making weird noises on the couch.

I love it all.

We are learning about life, we are learning about people, and most importantly, we are learning about love.

We may not always live this way, but until then, I remain thankful for this rich and sweet time of being one big happy family in our oh so overly full house, full of wonderful lessons and memories that I will never forget.


Tick Tock

Tick Tock

Time is so…interesting. Sometimes I wonder why a God who is outside of the confines of time (at least time as we know it) put this ticking clock in our lives. I wonder, did He give us 24 hour days because that’s really all we can handle at a time before needing to shut down completely and rest a while? Did He give us years that reset through the same 12 months over and over again as a way for us to remember and celebrate significant moments that happen throughout our lives? Like how we’ll always remember 9/11 every time 9/11 comes around each year or how we’ll always remember Christmas and the birth of Christ when December comes around. And did He give us a “new year” every year to give us a new chance at a new beginning because sometimes just feeling like we have a new beginning gets us up on the right foot and is just what we need to keep going? And maybe that’s even why we have a new day every day because every day can be that chance at a new beginning to do things differently and maybe to do things better than the day before.

Whatever the case, whatever God’s reasoning, we all live with this ticking clock that our lives have to be organized around.

When I was younger, time seemed to move slow as molasses. I remember being the restless little girl that I was, constantly staring up at the clock waiting for the next fun thing to do. On long, quiet Saturday afternoons, I remember my restless self laying upside down and hanging over the ledge of our black leather couch staring up at our cuckoo clock for what felt like hours while harassing my poor mother every 10 seconds about when it was time to go play with so-and-so. In school, the time would go by even slower as I spent the mornings eagerly waiting for recess and the afternoons painfully waiting for school to be let out, especially on Fridays when I knew I had horse-back-riding lesson after school.

Now, I suddenly have three kids of my own and the oldest is constantly asking me when we can do this and when we can do that, to which my answer is almost always, “Soon, Micah. When it is time.” To him, that means very little because he is four and he can’t conceptualize time yet, but he usually ends up finally walking away, still uncertain of when, but reassured that it is in fact coming and coming “soon” as I promised.

And this Easter weekend, as our family reflected on the stories of the crucifixion and of the resurrection in their colorful children’s Bible, my thoughts turned to the great Messiah who is risen and seated at the right hand of the Father and I reminded the kids that Jesus is coming again soon.

“Soon? How soon, umma? When is soon?”

While I do not even know for myself the answer to that question and when exactly that will be, I just know that God also promises “soon,” and just as a child believes his mother, I believe my Father. And for this day I live my life to wait for.

And then when it is time, time for Jesus to return, it’ll be the end. But not really the end because it’ll actually be a new beginning….but a beginning that has no end. ..

So interesting.

Mess Ups

Mess Ups

In an effort to finally fix my daughter’s attempt at cutting her own hair the month before, I got out my scissors the other night to take a stab at it myself. Although I have cut hair many times in the past before for literally everyone in my household including my son, husband, mother-in-law, father-in-law, and brother-in-law (yes, I live with all of them), cutting the delicate wispy bangs of a squirmy two year old girl proved to be much harder than I thought.

Still, I tried. And after bribing her with a dozen gummy treats, nicking her slightly on the forehead twice (only enough to turn red, but not bleed..), and reassuring her over and over again that I was making her beautiful like a princess, I got in maybe a total of about ten little snips, and even that was more than she could handle. On the verge of a tantrum, I finally let her climb down the stool, but before she could run away, I tried to get in a few more snips to even it out. Then before I knew it, I had cut so high that her new bangs were now just barely covering her hairline and totally uneven.

Shoot. What have I done. My face must have shown that something was wrong because she suddenly paused and stared into my eyes, searching for what was the matter. Then, when she finally asked, “what umma? what??” …in her sweet, innocent, naive voice, I felt like I needed to apologize profusely and beg her for forgiveness for doing what I swore to myself that I would never do …give her those horrendous, infamous, awkward looking bangs that I’ve seen so many other mothers inflict upon their young daughters.

But I couldn’t break it to her and tell her that her hair looked like a disaster. So, I quickly gave her the biggest smile I could find and with bubbling excitement yelled, “…you look like a beautiful princess!” Lucky for me, she is still at an age where she believes everything I tell her, so she totally bought it. Her eyes lit up with wonder and smiling from ear to ear with dimples all over her face, she screamed, “Yay! Princess!!!!” She then wrapped her short, pudgy arms tightly around my neck and even proceeded to thank me. Poor child…I deserved no such hug.

This kind of thing happens to me all the time. I make some huge mistake, fail miserably at some task, or walk away feeling like I totally blew it, but when I turn around to see the damage done, I unexpectedly find grace instead. It is like landing the job after a disastrous interview, bowling a strike after the bowling ball slips awkwardly our of your hand, getting an A when you guessed at every single question on the exam, or being able to mend a broken relationship years later when you thought it could never be restored. You expect to get what you deserve, but instead, you get what you don’t and that is grace. From the little things like a child forgiving you for the worst haircut of her life to the bigger things like Jesus dying on the cross for my sins, I have experienced so much grace and experienced it enough times to be able to say there is grace in literally EVERYTHING. And I can honestly say I have no regrets or disappointments in my life because I have seen that if not right away, than in time, all things are not only forgivable, but they are able to be redeemed and even made beautiful in His time.

Since the hair mishap, it has taken a lot of self control not to cringe a little every time I look down at my daughter’s bangs. However, she on the other hand, continues to flash that same smile of delight every time she passes a mirror, and I know she is thinking to herself, “beautiful princess.” And I can’t help but to also smile myself, and thank God for grace because who can deny the beauty that is still all over that precious little face.



He Didn’t Look Back

He Didn’t Look Back

Today was the first warm day in months and the first time we were all able to step outside with just t-shirts on in forever. This winter I had hibernated more than usual because I had given birth to our third child, Moses, and even glancing out the window had made my bones shudder. Now, finally being able to step outside without putting on a dozen layers and actually being able to breathe in the sweet smell of spring was absolutely refreshing.

At first, we played around in our front yard with every single toy on our porch that had been neglected through the long winter, but before long, my son, Micah, asked if we could go to Page Elementary School. It’s a standard question he asks almost every other day. We don’t have a playground in our neighborhood, so Page is usually where we go if we want to play on one, but that wasn’t the main reason we were going there. Micah is my extrovert and although he did not say it, I knew he wanted to go because there are always new kids to play with there.

So we all piled into our minivan, and a quick two minutes later, we pulled into the school parking lot. It was only a little past 5 p.m., but the sun was already beginning to set behind the big playground that Micah was eagerly walking towards. Kindle, my 2-year-old, likes to take her time and was slowly taking steps to make her way over too, but of course it had to be in between picking at grass, singing made-up songs, and telling me “look mommy!” at every single thing that fascinated her. I love this about Kindle.

As I followed close to Kindle and pushed Moses along in the stroller, I kept my gaze on Micah who was now an entire field away from me and still walking steadily along to the playground. At first, no one else was in sight, but before he could even set foot onto the mulch, a huge group of bigger kids came out of nowhere and stampeded across the black top, filling the playground within a matter of seconds.

And for a moment, I could not see little 4-year-old Micah in the crowd of kids overshadowing him. Being my oldest child, I always saw him as a big, independent, self-sufficient boy, and I hardly ever worry about him. But size is so relative and suddenly he shrank into the likeness of a tiny, helpless baby, and all my protective motherly instincts came screaming out like an ambulance, police, and fire truck siren all in one.

Were those good kids or bad kids? How were they raised? Did they learn not to use cuss words and more importantly, that hands are for hugging and not for hitting? What were they saying to him? Would they accept him? Would they let him play with them like I knew he desperately wanted to? Please, for his sake, someone play with him, and dear God, let it be someone nice.

All these thoughts and more whirled through my mind, and then I remembered that they were actually a continuation of the same string of anxieties I had been having all week long. You see, Micah turns 5 this year which means it is time for kindergarten. Kindergarten? Really???  Wasn’t he just born the other day??

Yes, that’s right. Kindergarten. Feels more like I’m sending him off to college, if you ask me. And not only that, but you’d be surprised with how much more comes with raising a little 4-year-old child. Everyday, Micah starts countless conversations on topics I am unprepared to talk to him about–why there are orphans in the world, how airplanes fly and big boats float, and why we can’t bring home the homeless man down the road. He has already grown faster than I can keep up with, and while I never imagined that raising a child could be any harder than when they are infants, I am finding that older kids require much more complex parenting skills that frankly, I am not sure I have.

And for a moment this weekend, I panicked. Really, really panicked, causing me to beg the question, “how do I do this???” I thought about how God entrusted these children into my hands and how I was supposed to make all these decisions that will shape and prepare them to make it in the world as Spirit-filled, well-adjusted, kind, hardworking, loving, responsible people. What school should they attend? What friends can they play with? I can’t even make it past whether or not I should allow video games and certain television shows, God-forbid they see something that will give them nightmares.

And now here I was, seeing it play out right before my eyes. Micah in the real world and he didn’t even look back.

And you know what? He looked ok. More than ok, actually. In fact, before I knew it, Micah was on the field throwing the football he had brought from home, back and forth with several of the older boys. This should not have surprised me. He has always had a gift of making friends quickly and I have seen it time and time again where we enter some unknown territory, and having more boldness than I ever had, he moves in without hesitation, never shrinking back. It’s how God make him. But a mother still worries and that I did–for the last several days, that’s all I did. Yet now, for the first time in days, this moment brought a huge wave of peace, and I felt the Lord speak to me tenderly.

He’s going to be ok. Entrust him back to me.

Although in my physical care, I had to remember that Micah belonged to God first and foremost, and God was reassuring me He would take care of him. He reminded me of the time I got into an argument with my mother back when Micah was a wee 5-month-old baby and not sleeping well. We were going at it about the best way to put him to sleep–on his front, on his back, with two layers or one, etc. Then in the heat of the moment, I took Micah into my arms and with great entitlement, asserted that “this is my son.” It was then only half a second later that I heard the Lord say the very same words to me.

“This is my son.”

I was so humbled that day and honestly relieved to realize this simple truth. Micah was God’s son, and indeed the same is still true today. Micah is God’s child and although he may not always be safe from hurt or harm nor will he always look back to me, that is ok, and I hope and pray for the day he learns to look to God and God alone, just as I am learning to do so myself.