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.

There will be miracles.

Here’s the thing about this week:

Sometimes wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” is like asking, “How are you?” in passing without ever stoping to really hear the “how” part.

You know them—those “How are you?” greetings. The ones that leave you heaving up a heaping mess—the ones that pull your strings only to let the yarn unravel a looping mess, twisting and knotting everything in sight, with no one lingering, no one to listen how, really, you are doing.

The problem, sometimes, with “Merry Christmas” is that it’s only ever been a command, but never a question. It has only ever been a hope and a sincere wish, but never a conversation, never the standing still long enough for the deep heart tugging to listen to a soul in need, in want, in hurt, in hope.

Always a greeting. Never a listening.

The wondering and the waiting around for a heart-full answer, a response of some sort—the honest kind that paints stories filled with grace and pain and poverty and heartache—every kind of heartbreak, right outside your door, behind the cash register, at the red light.

Behind the smile of the face hearing your holiday greeting is a mother bearing the weight of her child’s diagnosis. Or the persevering husband caring for his wife who cannot, for the love of God, remember his name. Or the wife grieving the memory of her husband. Or the daughter miles from home, missing the place with the fire cracking and grandma’s cherry pie.

So I will make my “Merry Christmas” a question and not some cute command.

I will make it a lingering and not just some wooden sign on the door or embellished script on a pillow.

How are you, this Christmas? 
Really.
Where in your heart is there hurt?
Where in your heart is there missing?
Who in your family is suffering?
What, in this season, is not so merry?

Spill the bucket of your heart by the galloons. Let the good out—and the sweeping hurt out, too. And I am listening. Not bustling out the door, hurrying home to wrap gifts. Not baking, not sweeping the floor. Just here. To listen—to listen hard and good and long.

And then, and only then, to remind you of the Babe and why he even came and why we sing the songs and light the trees and wrap the boxes and hug the world a little tighter.

Because he was a miracle come to bring miracles into this world.

And you, my friend, your Christmas – be it merry or not.
There will be miracles.

Miracles of joy, of salvation, of goodness, of comfort, of hope, of Him and His hereness.

Our Emanuel.

And we WILL adore Him.

You’re doing it right, girl.

Let’s talk about that something warm.
The one that tickles the brain and makes the heart beat like a drum.

The kind your probably drinking right now, all an honest attempt to stave away those Monday blues—I see a sleeve slipped around its sides to keep you safe from the burning hot of its steam seeping through.

You’re doing it right, girl. You’re doing it right.

Days like today—days that start with mon and end with day—need that extra push…they need that something warm, need that tickle on the brain to jumpstart the train of thoughts.

Yeah. Let’s make our thoughts run until they all crash and collide.

That was me last week.

A little tired, a little slow, a little crashing. But a crashing of the good kind.

I sipped down my something warm and it was like fireworks in the head and in the heart. It got me thinkin’, restless dreams racin’ all through my mind. Thoughts awakened, ideas took shape and, it was like waking the walking dead within me—like calling forth all that which I’d laid out to dry.

You need that, today.

Need that buzz, that alarm-clock-of-a-drink. That pair of hands shaking the delicate bones of your body, shaking you up from a deep, deep sleep and telling you, “Wake up! Wake up! It’s time for you to wake up!”

You need that, today. Not just for the puffy eyes but for the puffy dreams deep inside.

Mmmm.

It’s a good thing a buzz like that doesn’t always need to come from the frothy mug of your something warm. It’s a good thing that coffee—silly beans filtered with tap water and sugary syrup, isn’t what makes you come alive.

It’s a good thing that your something warm is already deep inside of you. Already roaring a loud sound within you, calling you to

Wake up! Wake up!

Don’t you hear it? Feel it? Something waking you up inside?

‘Cause, once you got that going on inside, girl…you’re doing it right.
Then, you’re doing it right.

How do you hear God?

I write a lot.

 

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I mean—like over ten years of filling a notebook every month, which equals thousands of pages, which equals millions of words.

I started writing when a counselor gave me a journal as a present and told me that I should write letters to someone dear to me who was slowly dying. So I wrote letter after letter after letter after letter and never stopped.

I wrote past anxiety. I wrote past insecurity. I wrote into strength. Writing opened up a world in myself I never knew existed, a world I never knew I wanted to explore. A world of imagination I carried within and a world of pain that I hid from.

Writing spoke to me when I needed someone to talk to and listened to me when I went astray. 

I learned that, words can fight. That, words can form reality, creating a sense of beauty to transcend reality as we see it. They can see ahead, they can see the past, they can see beyond what is. They become a friend and a foe. They are both inside of me and yet seem to come from outside of me.

In her TED talk, Elizabeth Gilbert coined the term “elusive creative genius” to name the experience of something seemingly outside of you telling you what to say when writing a book or where to move your brush when creating a painting. She explained that the Romans believed that a genius was a magical, divine entity outside of you who literally lived with the artist and assisted the artist with the work, helping to form the outcome of the work.

Genius speaks to me often. Genius speaks to me during those late nights when I am working on the novel I am writing or when I walk about town in search of something beyond what I see—genius whispers.  

I haven’t coined my own term for my genius; what I usually call it is the voice of God. I find that some words in the Bible line up with my experience, like in Hebrews 4:12 when it says, “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

I think that God speaks in different ways. And every time I write, I can hear His voice. I do believe that writing is my “way” to hear Him. To hear those sweet whispers. That gentle prodding.

However, in the image of God we are all created with unique ways of hearing what He says.

And I’d like to ask you, in what way do you hear Him speak? Perhaps it’s when you listen to a song, one you’ve heard before but can’t put a name to it. Perhaps it’s when you walk through the unknown. Perhaps it’s when you have ended a relationship and need somewhere to call home. He is always speaking, no matter how you hear Him; He will always show up. 

How do you hear Him speak?

[Writing by Erica Jo]