Welcome 2022, embracing the reality but remaining hopeful
I want to share my heart with you all as I reflect on a not-the-easiest year and welcome new year.
Overwhelmed and numbed, like a Zombie
Episode 1: It’s 9:30pm on Wednesday night. Finally kids went to bed after countless fights. House is a mess. I yearn for an intimacy with wife, but she fell a sleep with kids after a long, tiring day. I’m alone in the living room. There are four people in this house but I feel utterly lonely. I open up the phone and start playing “Royal Crush”, a simple mindless puzzle game. It’s not that much fun, but splendid sound and multi-combo hits are enough to take my minds off from the reality. Moments passed, it’s already past midnight. I know I will feel bad about myself tomorrow morning but I can’t seem to stop playing this stupid game. Oh, I already feels terrible.
Episode 2 : It’s 10:00am on Sunday morning, two hours after Min left to Church to prepare her Sunday service. Feeding and prepping 3 kids in the morning were never easy, but today, it’s another level. Haru is crying loudly, blaming everything around her after a fight with his brother Hayul. Hayul is keep triggering her further with his patent-filable rambunctious move. Haim just made a whole mess and pooped again. Knowing I’m at the end of my patience level, I’m begging Haru to stop yelling but she is not listening. And boom — I lost it. “STOPPPPPPPPP. SHUUUUT UPPPPP!”. After a moment of silence, the atmosphere is completely changed with sense of fear. Frustrated, I stopped talking and kids are silently sobbing. I seriously debated whether to just stay at home. By the time I came to church, I’m done for the day. I completely shut down my mind and feel miserable for the entire day.
This was the glimpse of countless moments when I was overwhelmed and numbed. Dave Gibbons calls it “Zombie” in his book, Xealots.
You do stuff because you fee like it
you sleepwalk through routines
you live for the weekend
you talk about your future and live in the past
you yearn for intimacy but few people actually know you
you keep feeding yourself with entertainment but you never have enough
Yes, I feel trapped by the predictable nature of the routine. I medicated by keeping occupied, starting at some screen or another. When productivity illusion phased out, I zoned out. It was a seductive trap that I fell prey to. I share my deep compassion towards whomever can relate to a life of a “Zombie”
Permission to be imperfect — the power of vulnerability
However, I decided to face my struggling reality, accept it as is, and share my life to my friends. Why? Dr. Brown explains perfectly in her viral Ted Talk called “The Power of Vulnerability”.
- Vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage.
- People who practices vulnerability don’t say it’s easy. They just know it’s Necessary.
- Without vulnerability, you can’t truly connect with yourselves nor others. And there can’t be a true sense of joy, happiness, and meaning.
Yes, this is my courage in an attempt to engage and connect with myself and you.
The source of my hope — Faith in him who knows me and loves me
Before I get into the details of how our 2021 was and our plan for 2022, let me share the source of my hope. Here are some “sparkling moments” in 2021.
Episode1 — Observer and playfulness.
“San, I see you constantly observing and playing.
A pastor, who barely knew me, shared this word with me in one of the faith-based fellowship night. I lost words. Those words gave me the vocabulary to understand myself. Yes, I’m always observing and digesting new information. And yes, my deepest desire is to have fun, playing with all those information and stories I collected. I felt known. I felt heard. I felt accepted.
Episode2 — Are you treating everyone equally?
It’s Friday dinner and I’m at church with my 3 kids. My wife is preparing for children’s program and I feel overwhelmed again. I’m not in a mood to talk. I nod mechanically after people’s greeting, longing to get out of the church building. Luckily, the mother-in-law came to watch kids, and I’m free to go to GSB-Korean welcoming party. I quickly drove to the place with excitement and anticipation. And suddenly, a voice hit me.
“San, are you treating everyone equally? You are trying to show your best-selves in front of the people you deemed to be interesting and influentials. But how about those so-called “normal” people you met at the church? How are you treating them?
I lost words. It wasn’t a cold rebuke. It was a gentle invitation to acknowledge what I’ve been missing out. I felt deeply convicted. I committed myself to a life of treating people equally, and devote special attention to marginalized people with contrite hearts.
You might wonder — what’s so special and sparking about these episodes? Here’s my answer. It’s because I felt I was being caught by a divine force. I was seen. I was known. And when I was given with the language to understand myself, I stopped screaming and start living. Dave Gibbons put it this way in his book “Xealots”, calling the status of being liberated called “flowing”.
“Life isn’t about leaving the legacy, It’s about flowing with the spirit. And flowing begins when you are known”
After being caught by all-knowing, all-loving spirit, I was able to flow. I lost myself and playfully lived in the moment; presenting ML and Life at passion Talk, MCing GSB welcoming party, Saturday night zoom conversation with friends, Devouring Praxis’s teaching and Will smith’s book, And playing with kids and connecting my wife…
While 2021 was filled with many moments of feeling like a “Zombie”, I am reminded once again that I’m known and accepted. Deep inside, I have a faith that the God of the universe is in control. And he knows me and he loves me. In him, I can be a little boy, just like my 4 yr old Son. His hearts gives me peace. This faith frees me from inadequacy. It gives me hope. It gives me strength. It gives me a new spirit and strength. It makes my life a gift to live out, not a challenge to conquer.
Here’s how my family lived 2021 and what we are hoping for the 2022. If our reflection makes you smile and/or be any kind of encouragements, that’d be our privilege and joy.
2021 was a year of “overwhelmed but holding on”. San definitely struggled a lot — the muscles that carried him so far no longer operated well. He made countless mistakes and screwed up multiple-times. However, he held on to his faith. He stayed ground where he should be. He continuously showed up, and never gave up completely.
- Faith: It was a year of “great inputs but somethings are not quite latching”. A lot of great inputs — FDE, Praxis, Dave Gibbons. However, things weren’t quite clicking. Big part of the NCBC F&W fizzled. Charismatic and intercessory prayer feels distanced. Regular worship became obsolete. Family worship was life giving but often we were too tired. Daily routine is all messed up, and Sunday was often the most stressful day of the week. That said, there were not-so-small number of fruits, especially from the F&W ministries he served in his church. As he sow in other people’s lives with encouragement, curiosity, and faith, San witnessed multiple life changing moments that San cherishes dearly.
- Family: In 2021, San grew as a husband and dad. San teamed up with Min to parent his 3 children. Every Friday was a time of reflection, bonding, and strategizing as a couple and parents. San’s heart grew as a dad — he ached when his kids struggled. Kids still love “Dad-playground” at home. San often dropped Haru to school, giving her a small candy in secret with a big dose of love and smile. San occasionally bursted out his anger when Hayul triggers him, but he got quicker to making things up. And San truly enjoyed his 1 yr old Son, Haim. There were tough moments and unpleasant arguments with Min as they navigate 3 kids under age 6— 2 jobs life in bay area, but at the end of the day, Min continuously gave him favor and San remembered that they are one team: that her glory is his, and she is a gift from above that needs his favor and care.
- Work: First time PMing was not easy. Some of the feedback were tough to swallow, and the career trajectory often seemed much slower than his peers which concerned him occasionally. However, San constantly found surprising amount of joy and fun when he geeked out on data and embarked a logic battle with math PHDs. Also, San loved apprenticeship— his manager’s succinct but to-the-point questions makes his jaw drop. It’s an art for him. San produced his “ML and Life Talk”, merging Theology and Technology (even though he had single digit view on youtube, he still loves it). He is constantly dreaming about another chance to orchestrate multiple disciplines — and he can’t stop but wonder what product he will be stewarding.
- Self: He rarely exercised. There were multiple life-taking routines (flipping through instagram, lusting over phone screen, mindlessly playing puzzle game to numb) he fed himself after putting kids to bed when he got too-tired to do anything but too-stressed to just go to bed. But he also found multiple hidden gems, life giving stories and thoughts such as “Will”. Oatmilk latte from Peet’s coffee and Airpod pros are still his go-to-friends. He can still do 10 pull ups (surprisingly), he still writes on his blog occasionally (and yes, it’s too long), and he mastered how to cut his hair by himself.
In 2022, San wants to restore Sabbath in his life and his family, a dedicated time when they do nothing but resting and worshiping. San is also hoping to regain early-morning time and physical strength. San keeps dreaming about writing a book and/or starting his youtube channel. And San is hoping for a life giving community and fellowship.
2021 was a year of “busy but grateful”. She was really busy; raised 3 children, taking lion-share of kids duty herself, served local Church as a part-time pastor, continued studying, and took care of her complex husband. But she was also energized and grateful for her life even more than ever.
- Faith (Ministry): She cherished her ministry — she often felt deep sense of awe and joy as she led VBS, Awana, and Sunday worship. Loving kids and seeing their growth were such a blessing. Late night prep time, when she pull-together the music, the craft, the message, and everything together, was her moment of “flowing”. Counseling kids were her hidden gem. Towards the end of 2021, she made a difficult decision to step down from her ministry. Even with the all the joy and fruits, she felt assured that stepping down from the ministry is where lord was inviting her into. She felt sad but relieved, scared but assured, and bitter but grateful. She delivered a sermon titled “crown of joy” at Women’s worship; she witnessed how God changed her biggest scar into the “crown of beauty”. It was one of her highlights in 2021.
- Family: Watching kids and managing household was no joke. It was countless repetition of never-ending works. She felt deep relief by San’s growth as a father. She cherished modified date-night with San; but, quite often, she also just wanted to be alone, having late night snacks and watching Korean drama. Handling a complex emotions of Haru remained challenging, but she learned to close things quickly. Hayul’s aggressive behaviors were a huge stress once, but she is very grateful that he is a lot better now. And Haim’s illness was one of the most stressful things in 2021 — but this too, has gotten a lot better. She imagined what if having another baby as she noticed her adorable baby was growing out of toddler, but she quickly tabled the idea.
- Self: Min had a moment of “transcendence” with her Tuesday Jazz dance class. Min enjoyed fellowship with other pastors who serve for the next-gen at her local church — and also occasional 3 hour talks or eating out with her a few close friends were one of her favorite times. Connecting with other friends/moms over Instagram remained to be life-giving.
In 2022, Min looks forward to continuously nurturing family while dancing on Tuesday and enjoying late night alone-time. Be physically healthy and in better shape is one of her top goals for 2022. Min feels slight fear about not-having a ministry anymore, but she is excited for how God will lead her new chapter. She feels fully committed to support and empower San to lead.
She grew a lot. She can now speak English quite well. Her favorite TV shows are evolving (as she can understand Eng). Haru has become a big sister, especially to Haim. Haru loves dancing even though she is shy. Haru enjoys Korean school but her math homework isn’t her favorite. Haru did HelloKitty theme in her 6th birthday. Haru continues to love videos and screens — she even said she loves “Steve Jobs” as he invented iPad. And she is learning to control her fragile emotions — yes, she is definitely growing.
In 2022, Haru wants to keep learn “ballet”, play more games. Also, she can’t wait to start correcting San’s accent.
Hayul’s favorite activity is to play fighting game with his dad, and making toys with blocks and legos. He demanded his dad to print coloring pages almost every day — guess it was his loving language. Hayul sometimes makes other siblings to cry with his aggressive energy, but he is quick to apologize. Hayul is learning math and English — he prefers Math a lot to Eng or Korean class. His favorite TV is Ttobot and Transformer. Hayul still loves Snakes, Spiders, and all sorts of reptiles.
In 2022, Hayul wants to go to Korea. Hayul also wants to get more Robot toys. And he will start going to school!
Haim struggled with eczema and asthma in 2021 but he is becoming better. He still eats everything, and poops +4 times a day, but finally there is food he refuses to eat (something green!). He mastered a few words that pronounce with one syllabus. He sometimes fight back to his brother, and he totally thinks he is stronger than her sister. Haim has that killer smile. He still sleeps well.
In 2022, Haim will learn and speak more words. He will start being party trained. And he will start goes to day-care!