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By Rachel Ambasing

By Marco Verch Professional Photographer

Few things in my life have been harder for me to accept than the gift of my emotions.

I’ve always been a very emotional person. But like many Asian American women, women in general, or women working in ministry, I have for a long time tried so hard to control my emotions through various means of suppression because I have often viewed them as a stumbling block: an obstacle to overcome in order to be the person God needs me to be.

When I was a child, though I felt and knew both then and now that I was deeply loved by those most important to me in my life, and that everyone who had a hand in raising me did their best to respond and love me in a way that would support a healthy, happy human being, I also had a feeling that my emotional displays were bigger than the average child’s, and that many people didn’t always know how to receive them. And so I used to hide my face or myself by running out of a room whenever I failed to successfully hold back tears.

When I was growing into my womanhood, sayings like “act like a lady, think like a man” or “act like a lady, think like a boss” were popular both in my own social circles and in popular culture. Female emotionality and vulnerable expressions of disappointment, hope, longing, desire, or even joy, were always transmutated into a hardened ambition, industriousness, aggressiveness, or cockiness. If I wanted to be a “strong woman,” or a “bad b*tch” (which seemed desirable to me at the time), there was no space for tenderness or softness. I tried to entomb my more compassionate emotions in walls built of sarcasm, snark and sass, all held together by a generous slathering of “devil-may-care” bravado.

Later into my adulthood in my 30s, as I returned more regularly to church culture and resumed a regular Christian practice, I was relieved to find plenty of support from new and old friends and community members in the liberation of some of my long-suppressed emotions such as joy, hope, compassion and love. After years of fearing that I would be judged as “weak” or “less-than” for being tender-hearted, it was life-giving to feel that it was safe to express my feelings.

However, while I was welcome to express joy, hope, compassion and love, I can’t say that was the case for some of my “heavier” emotions. What of sadness or despair? What about anger I felt at personal, communal, or systemic injustices? What of confusion or frustration? Some well-meaning and devoted friends told me to pray those feelings away – that to “give in” or explore these feelings would be to give in to the temptations of the enemy. And so I was careful to try to only talk enthusiastically about my more “inspiring” witnesses of God in the world, taking care to make sure that each story was wrapped up with a positive spin on it. Vulnerability and the exploration of my shadow emotions only seemed to be acceptable if it had a happy, clean ending.

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By Millie L. Kim

Photo by Mayr

What is the acceptance criteria for Harvard or any Ivy League schools? You can google it and find answers such as an SAT score of 1580+, a GPA of 4.18+ and/or a list of accomplishments and extracurricular activities. Those are outward and visible criteria, but there are also inward and invisible criteria such as your race, status, family, wealth, etc.  If they were to adhere solely and strictly to the outward and visible criteria, there would be many more Asian and brown students at these schools.  

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By Charissa Kim Allen

Photo by Pedro

One of my favorite quotes is by writer and activist, Anne Lamott: “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” Receiving grace requires acceptance of our present form. While grace eventually leads us to change and transformation, it must first make contact with our untransformed state. 

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By Eunhyey Lok

Photo by Nathalie

Those who look to the LORD are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. Psalm 34:5 

Many years ago, my InterVarsity staff worker gave me this verse. It was one of the first times I understood that grace and acceptance apart from my effort existed. Hearing it brought me to tears because my own voice was telling me I had so much more to do in order to please God. This verse brought relief in ways I couldn’t quite grasp or articulate at the time.

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Recovery: Equilibrium

By Casey Iwanaga

Photo by Nathalie

Equilibrium

This year has passed fast and slow

At times, I’ve wanted to say “whoa”

My footing has gotten lost

I’ve tried to regain a normalcy at any cost

Mom getting sick, love woes, graduating, faith crisis; recovery seemed out of reach Cynical became my beach

My safe place to sleep

A place I could scream, laugh and weep

This year is coming to an end

A time people make goals, promises and amends

I’m hoping to regain my ground with the new year

Letting go of the fears, tears and holding on to those dear

Placing both feet on the ground

Knowing I’ve support all around

I’ll find my new beach

A place I can heal and be at peace

Casey Iwanaga is a senior at the University of California in Merced. Her father is a retired pastor currently serving as Chairman of the OMS Holiness Churches.

By Sarah D. Park

I recently went on a cross country trip to visit some friends while 16 weeks pregnant. It was a part of a flurry of decisions I made earlier in my pregnancy when I was determined to do and see as much as possible before I physically could not anymore.

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By Diana Kim

Photo by TheWalkingDead CastPictures

There is a difference between recovering and not doing anything. Oftentimes, we think that it is in not doing anything — being a couch potato, lounging around all day — that we recover after a long day or week. While there may be a time and place for such leisure, this will not always be the optimal way to recover.

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By Wendy Choy-Chan

Photo by Nathan LeClair

A friend shared with me an operation that left him with an open wound on purpose. If the doctor had stitched up the wound in this particular situation, the scar would easily lead to another tumor growth. Therefore, the wound was left to be healed by having the body regrow the flesh from below. God’s design of the human body is amazing! I wonder if some emotional wounds need to be healed this way — in that forcing the wound to close up would potentially lead to more turmoil in the future. Thinking back, I have had a similar experience. 

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By Tina Teng-Henson

Who knows whether the present storm

Is something the Lord will quiet with a whisper

Who knows whether He will quell the raging seas 

and the tumult within you both

He knows the stormy paths 

that brought your lives together

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Togetherness: Join Me

By Emi Iwanaga

Photo by Jeff Vincent

““The rich man also died and was buried. 

In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up 

and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 

So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me

 and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water 

and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’”

…between us and you a great chasm has been set in place,

 so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, 

nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭16:22-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

JOIN ME

The extreme togetherness

The ultimate togetherness

The final togetherness

One place or the other

One person not the other

One Presence or total absence

Togetherness extreme, ultimate, final.

Reset, adjust, expend

Accordingly

Emi Iwanaga served thirteen years as a missionary in Amazon Valley in Brazil, over 20+ years as a children’s ministry director, women’s ministry director, and pastor’s wife, and is currently a spiritual director.

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