Grandpa -- a birthday tribute

this man

he began working at age seven, beside his father after school

he took care of his younger brothers, 
as his mother was gone early and his sister left home

he grew up with very little, and gave it all to others

his journey to Korea began as nothing short of a death sentence, 
but a last minute decision granted him time

time to live, and love

he married my grandmother, and returned home with a family

time to grow that family

i was their first grandchild, born on his 50th birthday
my three cousins and sister would soon follow

 time to rest

when he and my grandma retired 
he took her to the woods and claimed some of the most beautiful land in Michigan

and that time dwindled

taking his awareness and memory with it

his last year was the worst, and my grandmother stood by him
caring for him, feeding him, loving him

his rehabilitation facility became her second home

and he left us on December 7th.  He was 82.

through 60 years of marriage my grandmother endured every emotion with my grandfather.  

Every. Single. One.  

while he became more sick, and forgot just about all of us, she cried and said she'd take even the worst years all over again to just have the chance to kiss him and see him smile.  that is the kind of love, honor, and forever i'm holding out and praying for in my own marriage.  

no matter what they endured, i know they came through, found forgiveness and joy, 
and went on to celebrate decades of bliss.  she said it was all worth fighting for 

and I believe her.

watching her cry over him turned my heart inside out because, all I could think of was the kind of life I'd miss if I ever gave up on my marriage and never knew something that real. 

just because we are certain to make mistakes in our lives doesn't mean we are exempt from happiness.  not one moment of suffering is anywhere near big enough to cost me decades of bliss as a couple who has conquered.

last Christmas she sat like this for sometime 

while i think she misses that last year or decade even,
i see she is looking much further back

she is missing a man i never knew.  that no one else could know.

she is pining for her first love, and holding on to every memory her aging mind allows.

i just cannot imagine how she will begin to move on.  

when all you've known for 60 years is one person, one other life..
how do you go on?

and now her broken heart fuels mine to be more for my husband
more forgiving, loving, understanding, caring, strong, supportive and steadfast. 

her words are my new reality:

 "no fight is worth it, honey.  love him everyday."

her song is my hope:

"i can only wait to see him again.  it's all i have."

she gave him her entire life, and held his hand as he gave her the last of his.
i can only hope and pray i'm fortunate enough to reach my own forever with my husband.


this is why, when Thomas asked me what I wanted for a birthday gift, 
I told him "a marriage." 

i want us to fight everyday, and make-up every night;
disagree and hold our own, then let it go to meet in the middle with a compassionate kiss;
i want us to get through the desert moments and bask in refreshing celebration,
knowing we pushed through the worst and can call the outcome our best. 

this birthday is my first without grandpa, but he has been deep in my heart the whole day. his life with my grandma, and all they accomplished, is what i wished for when i extinguished birthday fire with Eli.

a life full of love, hope and time.


firstfruit (a 31 Days post)

today's joy is both simple and complicated in nature. 

it came in the form of a completed project--the first major project i've been part of in my new position--and it just feels plain great to see it in hard copy. 

at the same time, i cannot help but recall the past couple months of wondering if it would ever make it to this. 

the process of waiting on God's message, leaning into valued leaders, considering the hearts and minds and faith walks of thousands of attenders... it just became overwhelming. even a bit scary!

we are a big church prepared to do big things. we've been given much and so, we know God expects much from us. this project reflects that. without spoiling too much i'll just say, it's a spiritual formation piece for a stewardship event. it bridges the goodness of God's blessing with the struggle to be obedient. it's more than an elaborate request, but a humble invite. 

getting to this point, however, was so hard. in one ear we had the wicked one telling us that we were crazy and ineffective. in the other, we had an ear trumpet, hoping to catch God's messages amidst enemy fire. day in day out we wavered between confidence and conviction. we never gave up, but bordered on becoming careless--which is pretty much the same thing.

seeing it through meant seeing God around every corner. each draft submission carried fresh faith with it. each approval meant thanks, and lots of them. this is the firstfruit of our big project at NorthRidge, and my joy is in sharing this picture of its completed form.


sibling love (a 31 Days post)

he drew his first picture of himself and "Baby Ella." 

(if you don't already know, we are not finding out the gender of this baby. but since day one Eli has referred to my belly as "Ella" and so we go along with it)

i loved this little demonstration of acknowledging a relationship. before he even knows what it is to be a big brother, he sees that he is big and strong, and the baby is smaller. he sees that they look the same. he sees that they are close.

maybe i see too much into things, but how could i not? he is so pure and innocent, and as deeply rooted in the present as he'll ever be. whatever he does, i hope i never miss seeing it through his eyes. today, this little image of him and his sibling-on-the-way brought me so much joy and hope and love. 

little one, we cannot wait to meet you :)


proof of life (a 31 Days post)

:: bedtime at the Cho House ::

Me: Eli, let's lay down.. it's time for sleep..

Eli: Momma I'm trying to get the sand out of my pocket.

Me: What sand?

Eli: This. ::he pulls tiny bits of gravel out of his pocket::

Me: oh my gosh! Where did that come from?!

Eli: From the park with MinJoon. I saved it.

We hadn't been to the park in over a week. 

I quickly unzipped his hoodie (the one he begged to wear to bed) and headed to the bathroom to clean out his pockets. as sure as he explained, he saved some of that last visit.  

i had to laugh a bit. i mean, we can never really understand what is going on in our little people's minds. we think big toys and elaborate jungle gyms are what entertain them.. meanwhile, they are stuffing rocks in their pockets with their friends.

it's a small mess.. thank God i hadn't yet washed that sweater.. but it's the proof that we are living. it's proof we are getting out of the house and enjoying the world. it's proof we are experiencing time with friends, and helping Eli meet new people and create his childhood memories. 

today's joy was found in a pocket full of the stuff we would normally shake off our boots at the back door. so much so that i staged it on my bathroom counter for this post and laughed the entire time. 

(and of course, i cloroxed that counter after...


smitten by the city (a 31 Days post)

today was the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon. our man ran the half in just under two and a half hours. i couldn't believe it.. he made the commitment back in January, trained and then completed his goal. he continues to amaze and inspired me.

while that was a truly exciting moment, it's not where i found my joy today. i found it in a moment i usually fear.. a moment that often brings me great anxiety; visiting the city. 

we rarely head to downtown Detroit. it's never that we don't want to, it's just that life is busy and we do more on the local level. but whenever we do, i often feel nervous and protective. i've lived in the Metro area my whole life, and through the news i've been shown the negative side of the city. so naturally, heading down there makes me a bit shakey.

but this morning was different. the city was alive with thousands of people, motivated by a common goal and filled to the point of overflow with the feelings of encouragement. everyone was excited. people were cheering. 

and Eli was soaking it all in. 

at first the masses scared him, but soon he found his little place in the big world and began looking outward. we held hands as we followed crowds to the starting line, listening as wave after wave of runners was sent off into the dark of the dawn. after one last kiss from papa at the gate, Eli was ready to eat and sightsee and just do everything we possibly could for the next couple hours. as his wonder expressed itself, my comfort grew. 

this shot of him looking outward from the people mover was my true joy moment. he is oblivious of the things I know of the city--of the darkness in the world at all. he only saw big buildings, moving cars, rooftops, and a skyline. he saw the world from a different angle and maybe had the thought that he would want to visit that place again. 

and because of his peace in the unknown, so did i. 


a whole different partnership (a 31 Days post)

when we first moved into our home, my dad handed Thomas a pair of worn leather work gloves. they were familiar--not in a sentimental way but in the way that you look at something and you know what its job is. those gloves were for hard work.

growing up, i watched my dad put that style of glove on for digging up roots and transplanting bushes, removing trees and handling rough objects. he could grip spikey things and stingy things, something even hot things with those gloves.

as we began to work on our own yard and indulge in our own hard work, i tried many times to fit those gloves on my hands and they just slipped off. years of wear and tear molded them into the perfect shape of my dad's hands and it would never be enough to just layer up and hope they fit. i needed my own.

i bought this pair at the local hardware store. as i was cashing out, the associate said, "these are great gloves. they'll probably last longer than you will!" 

strange expression to make regarding work gloves, but i could hear his message in it. these were made to withstand the demand of a home--our home. they were crafted specifically for protecting hands that wished to dig in and be part of the process. and that first plunge into dirty damp ground was truly bittersweet. 

i marked up that soft, yellow leather, but with it i began to see the stains that could never be lifted.. the stains i never want lifted. i saw evidence of rose bush thorns failing to press through, and the beginnings of a crease here and there. green weeds, wet earth and rough roots hit the bottom of a compost bag and my gloves never slipped. 

today i found joy in the process of preparing our home by removing the dead things and making room for the new--and the beauty of a trusted partner along for the journey. 


circumference (a 31 Days post)

finding joy in the expansion. that is where i am today..

while it was no surprise that i would become this shape, it is still a very shocking and humbling experience. i embraced my growing belly when i was expecting Eli, and this baby is also loved completely.

but with Thomas and i in a very different place in our relationship, my growing body feels like one more hindrance. 

now, i don't want to go into too much detail on the matter, but i will go so far as to say this: it is hard to feel beautiful and desired as is, let along with a profile like that. many men find their expecting wives glorious. i have never received such a compliment from Thomas; he just isn't that kind of guy. 

and while i accept that, i still wonder, "does his silence stem from disgust, too?"

the act of bringing new life means certain challenge for the existing ones--the woman most of all. we wear the evidence and feel every change. meanwhile, our husbands live in the vicarious, at best. we develop amplified emotions and sometimes growing worry or fear. our men think we have gone off the deep end.

and we swell.. with the miracle of it all. we feel the kicks, and the hiccups, and the swirls and the stretches. we have little conversations that race between our heart and our belly down a sacred road paved with faith moments and daydreams. 

so this is where i am seeking joy today, in my shape and my husband's silence. it's a difficult place to be, and a place you live in for a long time, and even when the circumference shrinks, the aftermath isn't much better.

the physical is difficult to embrace, for me at least. but the behind-the-scenes really is so amazing.