Welcome To The World, Milo Kang

Yeah.

He waited long and good and hard, and I have the silver stretch marks on my body to prove it.

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I woke up at 2:30 in the morning on January 15, 2017 with a tightening around my stomach that I’d never felt before. The contractions came in waves—first eight minutes apart, then five, then three. Within two hours, I was breathing through a rippling pain that would come at me non-stop, every two/three minutes for the next 30+ hours.

I labored in the beginning for 12 hours only to find out I was just one centimeter dilated—that’s like working a 12-hour shift with no lunch break and coming to find you’ve only earned $1.00 for your hard and honest labor.

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My desire was to deliver naturally, vaginally, without having to be induced and without the use of pain medication. But, sometimes after 12 hours of getting nowhere, plans change. And that’s okay.

I welcomed morphine through an IV drip and remember the cool liquid slipping into my veins. There was the hand of a nurse on my forehead, the sound of my husband’s voice, and my eyes blinking wide, then waiting, then closing shut.

I awoke hours later, tired and in a daze. But I was 6 centimeters dilated. Rest, just like my midwife suggested, had been a good idea for me. I spiked a fever, and though my eyes had that short bit of sleep, the rest of my body felt like one big whirlwind of weakness. I clutched my husband’s shirt…barely having the strength or attention span to speak in the short time that passed between contractions.

I asked him what he’d think of me if I took the epidural. Would it render my experience any less natural, my story any less strong?

I silenced the voices in my head that said I’d be a bad mom or a weak woman if I chose to have an epidural—6 to 7 to 8 to 9, my body lingered as long as it could at each stage and,  I?

I hated that I didn’t feel one bit of it.

But I was stable and I was present.

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It’s hard to connect my present back to the past—that moment I gave birth. It was a blur; it happened fast and yet, at the same time, dangerously slow. I remember the faces of strangers—women I did not know, and I had no choice but to welcome them in. I let them be and sit and stand and watch in the presence of my bare and naked body. They were the voices that spurred me on in my pushing. They didn’t even know me, and yet they screamed for my success—they yelled, they cheered, they pushed me to push my son.

I never felt more loved, known, supported, empowered.

I didn’t know I’d come out the other end of birth holding a special bond with my midwife. I kept my eyes glued on her for the hour and fifteen minutes that I pushed. She spoke calmly, encouraged strongly. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the feeling in the moment, but looking back now, I know what to call it.

I felt trust. 

That’s what I remember most about my labor and delivery. Not the pain, not the fear, not the apprehension, or the dread, or the joy, or the love or the needles. But the trust. I remember sitting on a bed and trusting every person examining my most intimate insides. I remember laying my arm out for the IV needle to be poked through my skin, trusting that she’d get it right—even if she had to take it out and do it all over again. Trusting the person putting medicine in my body, the person pulling Milo from my body, the person injecting the needle near the spine of my body, trusting my husband’s whispers before drifting off into deep sleep, trusting the God who created my body to safely and sacredly deliver the body that had been created and formed within my own.

A whole 30+ hours of recklessly letting go of every last bit of self-sufficiency and dignity that I had left. No time for fear, no time for backing out. There was only going forward and pushing until a life was born and that hollering baby cry was heard, until he was in my arms—until we met.

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Milo Sahn Kang

January 16, 2018
12:13PM
7 LBS & 20 INCHES

His first name, Milo, means mild, calm, peace. And that is exactly what Shin & I feel (and trusted that we would feel) when we are watching him and holding him. His middle name, Sahn, is Korean for mountain. His name is our hope & prayer for his life—that he might grow to have an unshakeable faith in God, as firm and as secure as any mountain.

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That, everyone who meets him would wonder at what he might grow up to be. That, all would see the Lord’s hand is upon him.

Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.

—Luke 1:66

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That, he would have a fire in his heart to find God, in his own way. That, he would be fearlessly bold in declaring such a found faith.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.

Romans 1:16

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No one told us we would want to die for this child.

No one told us that, everything we once thought we knew and understood about love would be shattered and built back up with new bricks and new clay, all within the first moments of looking into his eyes.

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No one told us our hearts would flood with crippling anxieties and irrational fears. No one told us we were going to feel anger, that we were going to feel joy. And peace, and guilt, and that we were going to want to be everything, do anything for him.

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We’ve heard the horror stories. The crazy births. The fond memories, the shocking confessions. We heard about the 12:00AM diaper changings and feedings and the vicious cycle of laying down and waking up only to do it all over again at 12:05AM.

But how could we have ever known about the kaleidoscopic movement of swirling colors and shapes that would soon twist and bend in our hearts, showing us sights we’d never seen before, angles and spaces we couldn’t even fathom into existence?

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We are smitten.

Overwhelmed, completely.

In awe, in wonder.

Still swirling in the changing shapes and colors of our hearts.

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And we hope that ten years down the road we are still swirling.

That we never stop swirling—seeing the newness, the fullness, the richness and the depth in all this.

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Welcome To The World, Milo Sahn Kang.

We are wild about you.

We love you and we bless you and thank God that we get to have and hold and share you.

Always.

Mom & Dad

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[Photos by Shin Kang]

I Need You To Dream Until Your Last Breath

Martin Luther King Jr. was not a dreamer—he was a doer.

He was a walking, talking, reading, studying, speaking, preaching, traveling man…not a sleeping, wishing, thinking, hoping man. He was a doing man; he went for and did the things he dreamt.

Even if it meant someday being a dead man.
Even if it meant someday not living to see the dream reach its promised land.

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And I wanna tell you to be like him.

Not in a suit and tie kind of way, and not in a preacher-behind-the-pulpit kind of way. But, be like Martin, like how he was in the soul—in the fire pit of his heart, with crackling wood that never gave in, never burned out, never hissed that expiring smoke and sound.

I wanna tell the you that dreams to be like how he dared and did.

That, your dream won’t live until you’ve died, until you’ve fought to push air into its lungs, even when that meant no breath left in yours. Even in the face of beatings, in the face of prison walls, in the face of big stones cast through small panes of shattered glass.

You might not have a sermon to set the captive free, but there’s a song in your heart and you better sing it. You might not have a speech to knock down White House walls, but you have a degree and it might be the key to holding meetings that will knock on the right doors. You might not have a message to write off radicalism and racial divides, but you’ve got a warm meal and a table with empty chairs that won’t choose sides.

You’re not allowed to call it a dream unless you’re willing to actually do for it, die for it; not allowed to say that it’s impossible or that it can’t be done if you’ve never really reached for it or went for it.

It might not change the world; it might only change you. You might not live to watch it come to pass—you might not ever see the end in sight; it might, even, be the end of you.

But I need you to dream until your last breath, need you to dream until you gave your all. I need you to dream and dare and do until every valley in your life is exalted, every hill and mountain made low—until the rough places are made plain, and the crooked places are made straight. 

I need you to burn forceful and long and fierce until all that’s left is thin smoke rising, like the faint whisper of some old negro song.

Free at last.
Free at last.
Thank God Almighty—
I’m free at last.

Always a new year, never a new you.

Yeah.

Every new year works like a charm, works like magic in a show, tricking the eyes into seeing what is never going to be there.

And we let the magic work for a moment.

But the glitter and the glamour of the new year never stay long enough. They sweep away like New York City streets, dead in the middle of Times Square, no trace of the worldwide sparkle or confetti.

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And what I really mean is that, some of us fell asleep to the sound of clinking champagne glasses only to wake up to the same bills piled up in the mailbox, or the same appointments for in vitro fertilization written out on the calendar, or the same empty fridge that’s never filled with enough to feed all three kids, or the same 30 pounds choking the curve out of all our edges.

Some of us woke up with the same depression and diagnosis to carry, day in and day out, even though we take the candy-colored pills, even though we see the man with the glasses and the yellow-stripped notepad. Some of us still woke up to the same loneliness and confusion and reality that it’s always a new year but never a new you.

Always a new year, never a new you.

And no one can take the struggle away, no one can make the hard come easy or the long wait go fast. No one can turn the power on in the pills, or say secret spells to make it disappear.

“Evanesco. . .”
I’d whisper, if I had that elder wand. . .

And, if I could, I’d take that fancy elevator up to the ninth floor office where you work, or drive my car across back roads to your front door, or meet you at a table in the nearest café where the barista knows your drink by heart and hand: double shot of espresso, soy milk, and one pump of that favorite syrup.

I’d sit you down in that wobbly chair and start saying something about the days being strung into weeks, strung into months, strung into years, and I’d tell you how they slip by crazy fast and how you came from there to here in just three hundred and sixty-five sunrise-to-sunsets and how you are not the same, and how you are new in the many different mirrors of your heart. I’d go on about how you have grown—how you’ve been broken and how you’ve healed and how you’ve failed but how you’ve learned to fly again. . . how you’re not as shattered as you used to be and how that’s more than all the newness cradled in one ball dropping in front of the millions upon billions standing in a frigid Times Square and watching through a screen.

I’d tell you about how it really is always a new year, swooping in fast like a secret agent, swift and silent, and how you have to know, have to believe that it is always a new you, even when the bank account is low and you can’t afford the new shoes; even when you’re waiting on the new organ; even when you’re stuck in that old relationship, that same old apartment with the same stain on the floor; even when the debt rolls over and doesn’t disappear at the stroke of midnight; even with that body that won’t conform to the ever trending models found in hashtags and Hollywood.

No hardcore tattoo, no whimsical graphic, no quote-embedded planner will ever whisper the words deep enough. No glass, or bottle, of wine can ever drown the lie long enough.

There is only choosing to believe the truth beyond the televised message, even if we are already seven days past the first of the month and the high is already gone, already dead.

It really is always a new year and it really is always a new you—even when the scale doesn’t say so, and even when the brain chemicals won’t let you believe so. So don’t give up on that resolution that you vowed over your heart eight days ago—don’t give up on yourself, or the year, just yet.

You have your health to conquer and your heart to reclaim and new, and old, dreams to unveil.

The calendar doesn’t call the shots for this one. You do, my friend.

You do.

Then sings my soul.

It’s in every one of us.

Echoes of evidence that sing about and sign to something more, something beyond what our ears and eyes can hear and see, something beyond what our finite minds can comprehend. We are hymns in flesh, the very syncopated measures, the rise and fall of last breaths that transcend ink on parchment. We are music come to life through the strings on wood and the lips of brass and men.

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And every morning we wake, and we roll to our sides and slouch out of bed, clutching in our hands projections of the world beaming through light on a screen, telling us that its noise and its clamor are holy. Telling us that its eighth notes and trills are better than we ourselves are. And we believe it, every time. We fall for it, living and waking for these projections. They are the song we can’t stop listening to—the god we can’t stop bowing to.

We stumble in the darkness—from the edge of the bed where we’ve left our dreams, rolled between blankets and sheets—dragging out tired feet, until we are standing before the mirror where we see ourselves. Disheveled reflections, we are, brushing our teeth, splashing cold water to the face, and, some of us, coloring the canvas, sweep rouge on brushes across the cheeks, painting some warmth, like blush beneath the skin.

We scurry to our cars, whipping them into grids and intersections where we’ll hear the sound of the streets, symphonies of taxis rushing by and buses slowing to screech their terrible halts. We hear the wind slip through the twisted arms of naked trees, howls that chill us to the bone, like children alone and at home on a dark, stormy night.

The office chatter—busy fingers tapping and dancing across a map of alphabet soup, punching out words that fold sentences into emails, unfolding meetings behind glass doors.

And we hear it, all day, each day—this is the soundtrack of our lives. Bustling footsteps, the clanking of pots and pans, the pitter-patter of schoolchildren, doors squeezed open and slammed shut. We’ve come to hearing and knowing the sounds so well that we hum the tunes, we blurt out the lines as they come.

We live as though our lives are the song, never fully hearing or seeing that we are the song. We are the audible sign, we are the sound.

We look to our instruments, the cartridge carrying liquid ink that flows through nib like water through dams. Our jagged steel, serrated thin to cut layers, to trim tiers of cakes and things. The motor heart that moves us miles across space, spinning and spilling out gas—revving, roaring its own song. We call these our notes on the page, the sheet music full with arpeggios and crescendos. But, these are not the sound or the song.

We are the sound and the song. It is us; it has been us all along.

We are the sound—the sonata, the requiem scribbled out of despair, the canon composed for comical cause, the waltz penned to walk us through love. We are the staves on those antique, fading sheets, all because someone felt, and heard, and saw beyond himself. Saw into the spiritual, into the world and realm that hangs, not from high and lofty places, but that hovers right in the here and now, right in front of our eyes.

Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” and Smetana’s “Má Vlast” and Chopin’s “Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2” and Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” Even these heavenly whispers of euphonic melody—they are not the sound or the song.

The sound and the song and the symphonic breath are within us, are us. Shouting, exploding, bursting forth, like a child with holes in the hand clasped over his mouth, only to—inevitably, eventually—seep out that spectacular secret.

That we are the sound and the song, that best piece ever hummed, ever held, ever heard.

We couldn’t hold it in, even if we tried.

We will always come bursting forth, like hymns of old, untouched by the times, ever sounding, ever signing.

Then sings my soul.

A different kind of beautiful.

You don’t need a man to tell you that you’re beautiful.

When the eyes are puffy, when the roots have grown in and the color is faded, when the clothes fit tight, when the skin parts with wrinkles and stretch marks—you don’t need the makeup company slogans, and the Youtube tutorials, and the feminist manifestos or any other kind of elevated word to tell you that it’s easy breezy to be a girl covered in concealer and that, maybe you’re born with it.

MAYBE YOU’RE BORN WITH IT. . .JUST MAYBE.

. . .

What you need is the same thing that I needed:

a reminder that digs past the sleepless eyes round with bags and dark with circles; a reminder that can’t ever fade or fall out of style.

“A different kind of beautiful?” I asked my husband, the other night as we drove home talking about my stretch marks. As if I’d forgotten that there was a such thing…as if I’d failed to realize that such a thing even existed.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF BEAUTIFUL.

He was telling me that it doesn’t matter how many marks stretch themselves across my stomach as I carry our first child — he’d said that I was always beautiful to him and that I always would be.

The words hit hard against the cement wall in my brain, the lie that I surround myself more than truth.

Flawless.
Blemish-free.
Perfect.
Seamless.
Put together.
Standard.
Resilient.
Undamaged.

These words, the echoes of expectation that we’ve been told we can have, we can be. . .should be.

“You’re carrying our son,” he said to me. “Your belly is doing something that makes it even more beautiful to me,” he said.

“A different kind of beautiful?” I asked.

It dawned on me. . .

Yes.
Yes.

A different kind of beautiful.

A canvas won’t tell a story unless it’s painted over with obvious color.

So, the marks we have. The moles we can’t afford to blast away, the freckles we can’t conceal because they’re splattered all over us, head-to-toe. The burn mark and the scars from the incisions to save our life or the mutilation to take our life.

The dark spots and rough patches, the pale skin and all other things we’ve been told would fade with creams and come with tans. The stretch marks across your carrying belly, even when you put all the shea butter you were supposed to.

The shimmering grays.
The dimpled skin in places that don’t smile.
The rolls.
The ribs peeking through.
The masculine muscles.
The stubby nails.
The crippled hands and feet.
The invisible abnormality.
The amputated limb.

All of it, every crack in the clay of our hand-crafted bodies.
All of it is beautiful.

We are ALL kinds of beautiful.

All kinds.

You need you some home.

I left my job and went home to New York.

I stayed there two weeks without a man, without a care, without a worry in the world.

I’m at this exciting…thrilling…unrelenting place in my life where things are changing.

I’m changing.
My heart is changing.
My dreams are changing.

Everything, everything is changing.

You ever feel like that?

– –

Home is good for when life changes—wherever home is and however it looked or looks now. 

Home reminds you of who you’ve been; it celebrates how far you’ve come.

Home is the root, it’s the depth of you—the place that made you, sprung you low into piles of dirt, only to plant you and grow you into the tall, flowering heart and soul that you are now.

Home is the catching up with old friends. It’s the sitting around familiar tables. It’s the crossing over of acquainted bridges; the driving through memorized streets, those pathways forever etched in the recollections of your mind.

Home is nestling into Mom’s chest, even at the age of twenty-nine.

It’s walking that hidden pathway to your favorite Main Street; it’s nostalgic memories late into the night with your brother who remembers the road trips more than you do.

Home is knowing where the pots and pans are. It’s grandma’s living room stacked with moving boxes; stacked with flashbacks of Christmas trees covered with homemade ornaments and silver tinsel.

Home is the hurt and the mess and the rage and the pain.
But, so much more, it’s the healing and the mending and the memories and the hope.

Home is good for leaving; sometimes it’s good for staying.
But it’s always good for visiting.

Never neglecting.
Never forgetting.

You’re not crazy. You just care.

I WANTED TO PUNCH HER.

Wanted to slam my fist on the table, get up, and leave.

We were at a local coffee shop and we were talking about life.

She’s one of my best friends—a sister, the kind that knows your heart without ever having to hear from it.

And I was telling her about some things that I’ve been working through. Things that, really, I’ve been grieving through. Not praying, not seeking through. But shaking my fist up at God through. That kind of working through.

I told her I didn’t want to hear anyone else’s thoughts on what I believed. Told her,
“It won’t change what I think or what I feel.”

Didn’t matter. She still went on to tell me what she thought and what she felt.

She broke it down.

Talked about heaven & hell & death & my brother and all those other things that I’ve been crumbling over on the insides—all the stuff that’s made me feel

CRAZY.  LOST.  CONFUSED.  STUMBLING.
Voices in my mind; struggles in my heart.

Then she pointed my wandering back to the Truth, back to the Word, back to the stories of people who were all once in my position and back to the God who saw and saved them all.

I’m still grieving and working through it all. But at least I’m a little less lost.

. . .

So, now I’m feeling like I have to break it down for you, too. I’m feeling like, even though I don’t know what you’re grieving about, don’t know what you’re losing your mind over, don’t know what keeps your brain awake at night, what verisions of yourself you are seeing and hating when you look in the mirror.

WHAT I DO KNOW IS THIS:

The thinking to yourself, the feeling lonely, the hiding, the paranoia, the lies that are speaking louder than the truths that you know and so badly want just to believe.

NONE OF THAT MEANS THAT YOU ARE CRAZY. . .IT JUST MEANS THAT YOU CARE.

It all just means that you are seeking and searching and fighting and trying; you are desperate, you are frantic. And it’s not because you’re crazy. It’s because you care about something, someone, and you’re just trying to understand.

It’s not a good place to stay;
but it is a good place to be.

And all that I or anyone else can do about it is be there for you in the break down. Be there when it all comes slipping and sliding out the mouth. Be there when the tears, the rage, the confusion, the torment, all of it, come crashing down.

1. FIND THAT FRIEND
2. OPEN UP
3. POUR OUT YOUR HEART
4. BE HONEST
5. SLAM YOUR FIST ON THAT TABLE

And if you need a place to confess the craze, a person to talk about the cares with, this space is yours. Like a cafe, warm and dimly lit with the low hum of honest & raw conversations in the background: this space is yours.