Author Archives: Jason

About Jason

Remote worker. Stats and analysis nerd. Soccer lover.

My Ethnical Dilemma

Before Eden was born, I looked TJ in the eyes and told her in all seriousness that I hoped our daughter would look white because her life would be easier. Her response will always be with me. There was no shock. No laughter. Just sadness in her eyes because she knew. She knew I was serious and she knew that my comment came from a place of suffering and past experience.

Fast forward a year and wouldn’t you know it, my daughter is indeed very white looking. I am both amused and shocked by how much she resembles me and that she reflects a completely different ethnicity too. But despite her appearance fulfilling a wish of mine, I’m not oblivious to the fact that she’ll still face some hardships over her ethnicity.

Back in college, when I was dating my former girlfriend, her father directed a comment about me that I’ll never forget. We were both 20, still a few years off from graduating and marriage wasn’t even a remote possibility. He sat his daughter down and told her his concerns about any future children we might have. How they’ll be half. How they’ll grow up with identity issues because of it. When we broke up, she relayed that information to me but I was too young and naive to realize what had really happened.

When my friends heard about it, they were immediately outraged, horrified and even stunned by what he had said about me for they saw what I couldn’t see. I cannot even imagine how my parents felt when I told them what happened and their sense of confusion when I wasn’t angry about it.

My parents met in England, spending over a decade of their lives away from Hong Kong, trying to make a better living out there. I recently learned that they moved back to Hong Kong before I was born because my father’s career as a doctor had reached a dead end. He had been passed over for several jobs. Jobs which he was well qualified for, but wasn’t even considered because he was Chinese. The jobs all went to Caucasians, most of them didn’t even have the proper credentials. The final straw was when he was filling in for a friend and a patient refused his service because of his “black hair”.

Being a parent myself, I can imagine the horrible feeling of hearing my child face a racist situation. The recent Jeremy Lin and “Chink in the Armor” incident has surfaced for me all the times I had been called a “Chink”. I can recall the many times I had someone reference my “squinty” eyes, even though my eyes are actually pretty round. The one that hurt the most was when someone in a mocking accent tried to converse with me with “Ching Chong Ling Long Ting Tong”. The act of making fun of my language wasn’t entirely that hurtful, but that it mostly happened in the company of people and nobody would come to my defense. Nobody would say anything. The most recent episode occurred when I had dinner at a friend’s house. Even after conversing with his family for over two hours at this point, my friend’s step elementary age brother blurted out “Wait, what’s your name again? Ching Chong Wong Wang?” My friend stepped in as much as he could, but his parents just sat there, silent and slowly kept eating.

The message from these stories is clear to me: it’s better to be white. You get the job even if you didn’t work for it. You are marriage material. You don’t get called names. So when I told TJ my hope for our daughter’s appearance, I was wishing she wouldn’t experience the same pains I did growing up.

Eden is unique. She comes from two cultures and two worlds. It has started to become more and more evident as I begin to show pictures of her deceased grandparents and teach her how to address them in Cantonese. Eden is not half. She is fully Chinese and she is fully American. But despite her outward appearance, she will not have that “easy” life that I wish for, partly because I won’t allow it.

Eden cannot grow up in this world turning a cold shoulder to my, no… her story. To the best of my abilities, I will raise her to know her Chinese heritage and her American heritage too. She will know of the plight towards her people as immigrants in this country. As TJ put it, we cannot allow her to grow up with apathy. Because she is both Chinese and American, she has a unique opportunity in bridging two worlds together bringing forth healing, reconciliation and understanding. But to do that she needs to have empathy for both cultures and that cannot happen without some pain and suffering in her life.

It pains me to say that, and while my role as her father is to protect her, I cannot shelter her from certain experiences in life even if it means it’ll hurt her. My natural instinct is to keep her from harm, but I would rob her of far more if I did.

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My Investment to Give

In the past three to four years, I cannot remember how many times I’ve read something along the lines of, “If you stopped buying a latte every morning and invested that $5 for the next 30 years,  it will be worth $149,035.94… assuming an 8% return”. Generally I believe that to be good advice. But have found it to be rather impractical in execution. Seriously, how many of us have actually read the same thing, curbed our coffee addiction and actually invested the difference? My guess is very, very, very few.

I’ve been reading more investment books recently. Part of it is because I find them to be a “fun and light” read, but also because I’m feeling a sense of conviction of how I am stewarding God’s resources and want to make sure I give Him the best return on investment through me.

I don’t think I’m actually wasteful at all. I brew my own coffee. I take 1 minute showers to save water. I have TJ cut my hair. I keep my home’s thermostat warm during the summer and cold during the winter. We don’t have cable TV (except for that one month during the summer of 2010 for the World Cup). I work out from home to save on a gym membership. I still have a pair of shoes that I wear regularly from seven years ago. But while I’m not spending much, and our giving has increased every year, I do believe that I can do more to give more.

I am eternally grateful for the people behind Sound Mind Investing for forever changing my financial family tree. They taught me how to save, how to invest and more importantly how to be generous and to give abundantly. TJ and I walked into our marriage debt free, had a fully funded emergency savings within a few months, started saving for “retirement” and started giving where our hearts were led. They taught me the value of a financial plan and how to honor the Lord and His works with careful planning and a “loose” checkbook to give.

As I mentioned before, TJ and I don’t have cable TV. The difference of having cable or not is about $50/month for us (internet bundle) and so I did the math. Just like the hypothetical latte above and arrived at: $50/month for 40 years (by the time I “retire”) at 8% will be $174,550.39. But rather than just say to myself, “Wow that’s a lot of money”, I decided to start investing it, for real.

I get play money to spend on clothes, gadgets, shoes or whatever I want every month. If I were to get cable or something else purely for me, it would come from my “allowance”. So starting today, rather than spend that $50/month for cable TV, I am investing it. As I’m writing this, my first investment went through my brokerage firm and I am on my way to “Wow that’s a lot of money” sometime in the future.

My plan for this money is simple: use it to advance God’s Kingdom. I realize that rather than investing it, I could be giving it right now instead and I firmly believe that’s a good option too. I’m choosing not for several reasons: 1.  I believe God is not asking me to do that right now. 2. I know a thing or two about investing to grow it modestly and 3. I am inspired by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

I will not have their resources by the time I reach their age. My level of impact in terms of giving back will not be at that capacity. But I love what they’re doing and their attempts to do good in this world by creating sustainable systems. It’s the very same thing that our good friend Kirby Trapolino is doing with Peace Gospel International, and we are utterly delighted to be a part of what he’s doing. I believe that I should invest carefully and prudently so that when the time comes, I can with the stroke of a pen, write a big fat check (will checks still be around then?) and create some kind of system for the betterment of mankind and as a testimony of God’s love.

I believe God gave me a serious interest in investments for a reason. I believe that I should wisely invest the money so my Master will have a decent return for his resources. I believe that will be one way I can contribute to His story of redemption. I believe I can make a difference. I believe that difference starts now with my “cable TV” money.

 


My Unsettled Heart

“Deal with it.”

That’s actually one of my favorite lines and running joke from a canceled sitcom called “Better Off Ted”. Two characters on the show start making bold choices in their personal and professional lives and their response to the controversial decisions is to simply utter the phrase, “deal with it”.

Comedy aside, I have found it be a rather profound statement in my current life. As you know, I’ve been losing my hair (literally) in recent months and random bald spots are appearing over my scalp. (See below) On good days, I am confident and unaffected by my odd looking appearance, but like most people, I also have bad days and am extremely self conscious about it.

I’m learning that dealing with Alopecia Areata is quite tricky because of the nature of the disease. It is a complete unknown factor. Medical reports are unsure of a cause or what triggers it. There is also no known cure. This hair falling episode can last for months to years. My hair may grow back in 12 months, or it may be permanently gone. More hair could fall out and I may go totally bald. The uncertainty has made this very difficult to cope with. If I knew my hair would regrow again, I would have fewer bad days dealing with it. If I knew my hair would all fall out, I could at least start processing that reality. But nothing is certain with this, and I’m just left in the dark, not knowing what’s to come and deeply unsettled.

So how then, am I supposed to “deal with it” when “it” is completely unknown? My first step was to refuse to hide it. I contemplated growing my hair out to cover up the bald spots, but decided against it. I like my hair short. Always have. Hiding our problems may make us look better to the world, but it doesn’t address the issue. I’m not advocating that sunlight exposure on my scalp will generate hair regrowth, but I don’t want to live in hiding. I don’t want to always be thinking about my hair, if it’s hiding the bald spots and if anyone notices. That is too exhausting of  a life to live. So here you are world, I have bald spots on my head! Deal with it!

My second step was to come to grips that no matter how much I try, I am not in control of my life. Once I was diagnosed, I’ve been trying multiple treatment options to both slow the hair loss process and the regrowth. None of them are a guarantee and none of them have worked so far. I attempted them knowing that, but was hopeful that just one of them might help. I don’t think that’s necessarily unusual to try treatment options, but deep down I knew that I was trying everything because I desperately wanted control back in my life again. But each day is met with more strands of hair falling out, with no sign of any regrowth and the reminder once again that I am not in control.

What’s comical about the situation is that I’ve never been in control of my own life to begin with. God orchestrated when I was born, where I would live, how I would look and every other facet of my life. Intellectually, I’ve always acknowledged that. Yes, I know that God is in control of everything but that hasn’t seemed to have made the necessary emotional connection to my heart until now. Intellectually I can acknowledge that having God in control of my life is the best thing for me and everyone. But emotionally, it’s very unsettling to fully realize that my life is entirely in the hands of someone else… but I am dealing with it. 😉


My 2011

With the 2011 calendar year drawing to a close, a quick glance over the past 12 months reveals just one word for me:

Hard.

For me personally, it has been one of the harder years that I can remember on nearly every front; spiritual, emotional and physical. While the family itself enjoyed quite a few highlights from the year, I cannot ignore the fact that my own personal story hasn’t been without some difficulties.

One of the lessons that I’ve learned from this year, and from my years of marriage to TJ is to put the appropriate weight on certain situations. I refuse to cite Romans as a quick-fix pick-me-up in times like these. I believe that would be placing the improper weight to how my year has been and absolutely trivializing what God is accomplishing through my story. Through a series of events that have happened over this past year, and from my wife’s perspective, we can see that God has been targeting three specific areas in my life that I drew my identity from: my ability to provide, my appearance and my name.

The first of these difficult moments happened in February. Somehow a liquid sac in my wrist got swollen and so inflamed that I couldn’t use my left hand to carry anything because of the pain. There was no trauma to the wrist to cause it. I just woke up one morning and suddenly realized that I couldn’t pick up my daughter. That killed me on the inside as I loved getting her from her crib in the mornings. I loved being the first person that she saw in the morning as she would great me with the most heart warming smile I have ever seen. Because I couldn’t use my left hand to even stabilize her, I didn’t want to risk dropping her and had TJ get her in the mornings.

I felt like a failure as a husband and a father as my ability to do things for my family decreased. I couldn’t get the car seat in and out of the car anymore. I couldn’t carry as many groceries or lift heavy objects around the home. I needed help when changing Eden’s diaper and with her bath.

I realize that from an outsider’s perspective, I shouldn’t be categorized as a failure. I wanted to be involved and I did as much as I possibly could, so who could find fault in me over something I had no control over? But this episode revealed something about my heart and my perception of being a good family man: I must do stuff. My identity as a good husband and father was tied to my ability to do things for my wife and daughter. Unless I provided in some way for my family, I was a failure.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Despite the wrist injury, I never fully understood what God was trying to teach me so He orchestrated one more event to get my attention. This time He removed something that I was proud of – our finances. At the most fundamental core, I believe a man should be a bread winner and provide a roof over his family’s head and food on the table. And to get my full attention, God orchestrated a serious chunk of time in the Fall where we did not draw an income.

I was gutted. Embarrassed. Ashamed. I was a failure. God – you have my attention.

Around the same time where we weren’t getting paid, there was a noticeable change in my appearance. Even though I’m a guy, I do care about my appearance and make an effort this this area. I at least make sure that my shoes and belt match and that they coordinate well with my shirt and jacket. I also have very unruly hair that’s been blessed with four cowlicks. Two in particular are very close together, giving me the Alfalfa look. So I make sure that I keep my hair at a reasonable length at all times to keep it from drawing too much attention.

Imagine the shock I experienced as I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata and my hair was falling out. It has been four months since TJ discovered a bald spot on my head, and the hair loss isn’t slowing down. In fact, this morning I found another spot on my head that’s beginning to thin too.

The hardest part about my splotchy hair loss is that I have no control over it whatsoever. I cannot hide behind my well coordinated clothes. I cannot cut my hair in a certain way to hide my bald spots. It is all exposed for the world to see. My scalp and shame is for everyone to see and there is no hiding it.

I am embarrassed. Ashamed. God – you have my attention… again.

As I wrestled with what God was doing to me and my different areas of life, it became evident that God was tearing down the name I had built up for myself. At different points this year, I was not a provider. Currently my appearance is less than ideal. The things that I thought were synonymous with my name were no longer true.

What is true of my name is rooted in its origin. My name, Jason, means “healer”. I remember looking it up a few years ago and being really excited about my name and how I would live out my name’s meaning. Somehow in the years that follow, I had gotten away from that and started tacking on other identities to my name that were not meant for me.

I believe through all of this, God is guiding me back to the origin of my name. I am a healer. But I have no idea how that is supposed to play out. In fact, it seems rather ironic that I’m a healer when my body is hit with random diseases that nobody can understand. But I do know that name name has more to do with the spiritual realm than the physical.

I know I’ve been afflicted with an assortment of ailments without a cure. That is the story that God is writing for me. Yet somewhere in that story, I am to play the role of a healer to those around me, especially my family.

I am Jason. It has been a hard year. I am a healer. God – you have my attention.


My Special Conditions

Growing up, I always disliked standing out. I always made headlines for all the wrong reasons among my peers and was routinely made fun for them. It’s why going to a school of 50,000 students where I could just blend in and hide sounded so appealing to me. I’m sure at some level it also plays a role in my desire to do work behind the scenes and not get noticed.

As I’ve gotten a little wiser, I realize that it’s not the attention that I fear, but rather the humiliation and the exposure for my inadequacies.  I generally like being in the spotlight, but only if I’m being cast in a positive light. I realize that much of my adult life is based around my attempts to avoid public humiliation. I don’t think this makes me terribly unique. I can’t imagine anyone who likes to stand out for the wrong reasons, but it is something that cripples me more than one would think.

All that makes what’s been going on in my life harder to cope with. If you have seen me since mid September, you probably have noticed that there’s something different about my hair. As in, I’m lacking some of it. I have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called “Alopecia Areata”, something that affects less than 2% of the population. In a nutshell, the disease makes my immune system think my hair is invading the body so it attacks and kills it.  Therefore, I have random bald spots on my scalp. Thankfully the disease is entirely cosmetic and I am otherwise very healthy and suffer nothing else other than an odd looking head.

I wasn’t too worried about it at first, as it was only the size of a nickel and limited to one spot on my head. But over time that one spot has grown to the size of an egg, and more bald spots are appearing too. As more of my hair is falling out, so too as my anxiety and consciousness over it. Most people are polite enough to not saying anything or mention it to me, but I know they notice it. Others are less tactful and just blurt out “Uh… what’s going on with your hair?”

While my outward appearance was being altered to my disliking, inwardly my head was also experiencing deep anguish too. I also suffer from something called “cluster headaches”, which affects only 0.1% of the population. It is horrifyingly nicknamed as “suicide headaches” as it is a neurological disease that causes an incredible amount of pain in my head. These headaches last anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours and completely debilitate me for the entire duration. Thankfully these headaches only stay with me for about two weeks at a time, but even then I am fighting through it every day, several times a day and even in the night when I am sleeping. I am currently nearing the end of my two week attack period.

Throughout all this, I have often wondered:

Why? God, Why? Why have you afflicted me with such rare diseases? Why is my hair falling out? Why are you putting me through intense agony? Why is this part of my story?

On bad days, my cries are often whiny and annoying. They only reflect me feeling sorry for myself. On good days, the last question is more reflective and purposeful. Why is this part of my story?

I have spent most of my adult life avoiding being noticed or unique. But there is nothing normal or routine with what I’m going through. My conditions are rare, special and to much of my displeasure, they make me stand out. I don’t have an answer to why this is happening to me, and I doubt I ever really well. But what I do know is that they are part of the story that God has for me. I have no idea why God has chosen to have my hair fall out. I have no idea why God has chosen for me to suffer through my headaches. God has, for whatever reason, chosen to give me two rare diseases and that is my story.

 


Who Am I?

It’s a very simple question but one that also carries a lot of weight.

Who am I?

I am Jason. I am Chinese. I am male. I am a Longhorn. I am a father. I am happy. I am a steak lover. I am afraid of heights. I am a follower of Jesus. I am a missionary.

Up until a few months ago, I would’ve confidently answered that question any of those ways that I just listed. Right now? I am unsure.

The uncertainty of my identity and who and what defines me has made me lose my voice. I have not forgotten about this space, nor have I lost interest in writing and communicating. But as my sense of identity began to fade, so did my point of view. Without that, I couldn’t put anything down. Even now, it’s hard to write this without feeling as if I’m just wasting web space.

This level of uncertainty isn’t something that I’m comfortable with. I thrive on my level of confidence and assuredness of who I am, what I can bring to the table. When I am without those qualities, I feel unarmed and exposed. The best that I can describe this is “an unanchoring” of myself. But my hope right now is to start expressing, processing and writing and in time, I might rediscover who I am again.


June/July 2011Newsletter