By Jerrica KF Ching

Photo by Brad.K

I believe that the idea of “excellence” can be a very complex idea that sticks with some of us throughout our entire lives.  For me it was within the world of academia and later my occupational well-being.  When I was in elementary school, report card grades consisted of S- (less than satisfactory), S (satisfactory), S+ (more than satisfactory), and E (excellent).  If we received E’s for all four quarters of the school year, we received a Certificate of Excellence that was printed on special paper, and our names were called aloud at a school assembly.  I cannot recall my parents ever pushing my siblings and I to strive for E’s, so perhaps my desire to earn E’s for all quarters was due to a competitive streak between classmates, wanting to know what having status felt like, and being motivated externally due to my age. 

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Confidence: Proven Hope

By Melanie Mar Chow

Photo by David Spinks

O Lord, you alone are my hope. I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood. Yes, you have been with me from birth; from my mother’s womb you have cared for me. No wonder I am always praising you! My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection. That is why I can never stop praising you; I declare your glory all day long. –Psalm 71:5-8 NLT

I am still amazed at God’s goodness being demonstrated.   In my continuous service to college students, I hear myself reminding students that I have experienced a lot of things. My words to them are not to give them anxiety but instead to rest and hold onto the proven hope we have in God.  I want to inspire confidence in them that His works indeed are good.  I have seen God work again and again, faithfully. February brings the reminder of the beginnings of my mom’s days on earth, almost 90 years ago.  How she loved the Lord and how her grandmother’s faith continues to live in me – from the days of her youth in an internment camp, to being a grade school teacher, wife, mother and in her last days of life, as a newly retired elementary school librarian who died of terminal cancer.

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by April Yamasaki

Photo by Igor Spasic

How confident are you about ____________?

I couldn’t get past that first part of the questionnaire. In fact I had already stopped listening after the first four words “how confident are you….” I’m sure the rest of the sentence went on about something, but whatever it was couldn’t hold my attention. 

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By Ajung Sojwal

Photo by Joseph Davies

Bamboo poles stuffed with marinated pork stood cooking around the fireplace. A cooking method dying in a world where folks have no time to mind the bamboo poles that need turning ever so often over a controlled fire. My brother-in-law had woken early to prepare the delicacy in honor of my visit after four long years of covid travel restrictions. How does he even know when things are cooked inside the bamboo poles? How does anyone know what the right time is for anything? I thought of the months that became years waiting for the right time to travel with confidence. Finally, three vaccine boosters later I landed to see my parents. They walked a little slower, spoke a little slower and my sense of loss was palpable.

When I got home to NY and met with my spiritual director, she asked, “How was it to be back home in the land of your ancestors?” I thought about the endless hours of not doing anything in particular, talking about everything and nothing in particular, visits with relatives and friends, gathering from one feast to the next. I thought of the jokes we laughed at as if it was still 1988, us siblings and friends laughing about folks and situations beyond our understanding. This time around, we laughed at ourselves. We laughed about how we feel betrayed by our aging bodies, we laughed about our mistaken beliefs, we laughed about the quirkiness of every family member and all the while, we waited, waited for the right time to mourn for our oldest uncle who lay speechless on a hospital bed surrounded by our cousins. A week after I said my goodbyes at the airport, the call came to say our uncle was gone. Even death seemed to have waited in respect of the long overdue visit to the land of my ancestors. How was it to be back home in the land of my ancestors?

I looked at the fading pictures of uncles, aunts, grandmas, grandpas, cousins, family weddings, funerals and plain old boring days scanned unto my iPhone and there I saw, a great cloud of witnesses cheering me on as I prepare to start my new call as Priest-in-charge of yet another church. Like bamboo poles stuffed with everything I love, cooking over a slow and steady fire under the watchful eyes of one who cares, I realize, I’ve been turned at the right time from consuming fires by someone. In the land of my ancestors, where I tasted joy, where I tasted honor, where I tasted sadness, regret and disappointments, I feel a love that dares to trust everything cooking within me to turn out just fine. Surely, this is confidence—to know someone is always there minding the fire around me…trusting. With my ancestors I pray, let that fire be the Holy Spirit, let that someone be the Body of Christ with whom I too dare to trust.

Ajung Sojwal has been called as the next Priest-in-charge of All Saints Church, Palo Alto, CA. She takes charge of the church on March 1st, 2023.

by Angela Ryo

Photo by Nai Sukanant

A study done at Emory University in 2010 concluded that children who knew about their family history had higher self-esteem and were better able to deal with stress. When children knew their families, they had a strong sense of identity. Another study done at Emory University found that children who have a strong family narrative enjoy better emotional health. It’s hard to feel alone when you know that you are part of something bigger. When children know what challenges their families have faced and overcome, they are more confident to face their own challenges. They are better adjusted and more resilient.

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By Leona Chen-Wong

Photo by Nenad Stojkovic

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

— Reinhold Niebuhr, Lutheran theologian (1892–1971)

Being a new mother this January made me learn three powerful lessons. The acceptance of self-potential, the acceptance of self-limitations, and the wisdom and courage to accept my given season. 

The first lesson is learning self-acceptance of how I am a woman created and designed to be able to give birth. This acceptance allowed me to tap into the potential I had never known was possible. In fact, I was so proud to be able to experience the process of labor without any pain medication. It was hard for me to recall the memory of pain the moment my son was placed on my chest. I experienced what it means in John 16:21 “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come, but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.”

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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.

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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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