My Thankful Project

In the past few weeks our church has done a short emphasis on joy. In some sense, this is right up my alley and in others, this really isn’t. What I’ve appreciated from what the pastor and our Sunday School leader mentioned was this joy is a choice. I must choose to be joyful. It is me initiating my emotions and not me reacting to circumstances. The fact that is on me to decide makes it both a positive and negative for me personally. I am hopeful that I can be joyful in all things because it’s simply just me learning and choosing positively, but it’s also depressing to realize how many times I’m resentful, angry and upset and I know it’s because I’m just reacting.

In one of my late Mother In Law’s journal entries, she wrote how thankful she was that the roof just leaked a little bit today. I have absolutely no grid for that. I’ve always been privileged to have a sturdy roof over my head and I’ve never once been thankful or joyful that I’ve never had to worry about my roof leaking.

I’ve seen this done before as many of you probably have to, but I’d like to start a Thankfulness Project for the next 365 days. Every day, I want to write about something that I’m thankful for from the biggest things such as my family to the smallest things such as having running water in my home. I want to point my heart and mind in a positive direction because I know how easy it can be for me to be dissatisfied and ungrateful. I want to be grateful and I want to be thankful. And I know I can be those things if I choose to be joyful, especially when things are hard. It’s what I love about my Mother In Law’s entry. There was acknowledgement that things were difficult, but she still chose to find something to be joyful about. I very much admire her for that quality.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. (Phil 2:14)

My plan is to do this via Twitter and Facebook. You can find me there if you’d like to follow along and participate with me.

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My Generational Hope

When I first started my journey with Cru I really didn’t think that I would be much more than a spiritual guide to college students. But after five great years with Epic Movement, I’ve come to realize that I am much more than that. I am to many of my Asian American brothers and sisters, a cultural guide as well.

I had that typical Chinese upbringing where the values imparted to me where education, job and wealth were to bring me life. A good education would bring me a job of status and that would equate into a large salary. Having the means to buy anything and to take care of my entire family, across multiple generations, would translate that I was a success. That I was the pride and joy of my family and that I had done my duty as a son, husband and father.

I know I am not alone in that story. Many of my Asian American family share in a similar upbringing. Many of us believe in that gospel and put everything we have in pursuit of the Asian American dream. I was on that path – until I met Jesus.

I did not pursue my medical degree. I did not become a doctor. I wanted to do full time ministry. My parents were supportive. Their main concern was how I would get paid and would I have enough? I am thankful, everyday that I do have enough. And that everyday that I don’t go asking them for money for anything is another day that I get to pronounce God’s goodness and faithfulness to them. But I also know that this part of my story isn’t common.

I know now that I wasn’t meant to be a doctor. I do not carry the passion nor the intellect to treat a patient. It was not what God intended for me and my life – I wasn’t made to save people’s lives (not in the medical sense).  And as I survey the students that are involved in our movements and what they are studying, and what their career aspirations are, I can tell that they still cling to a dream that doesn’t necessarily reflect their passions or their own giftings.  There is still that pursuit of education for the sake of a job that pays well.

My hope and dream is that one day we’ll see a generation of Asian Americans raised up by their parents not to just pursue a career for the sake of it. My hope is that we’ll see a generation of Asian American parents who will first and foremost teach their sons and daughters about Jesus and to help them discover their true calling in life, whether that would be to be a doctor or a fire fighter, an engineer or a secretary. I want to see that generation really and truly know who they are, who God intended them to be and in doing so, know who God truly is too. To know God is to know yourself and to know yourself is to truly know God.

I sense that we are on that we are already on that path. I hope I am alive to see that dream come true, starting with my own children.


Five

(Picture by Sean Hsueh with Day 7 Photography)

I am extraordinarily late on this, but I think for this post it is actually appropriate. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed from being married to TJ is that we create our own traditions to reflect not just us, but also that we have an unique relationship. When and how we celebrate things is entirely up to us. It is our day after all. So to give you a better insight into our quirkiness, here are five memorable and random moments from the last five years of our marriage that I believe really define our relationship:

Manentine’s Day

Truthfully this is more a testimony of TJ’s awesomeness than anything else, but while we were dating TJ opted to turn Valentine’s Day, a rather traditional girl focused holidy, into a day for me. So there are no expectations for me to bring flowers, book a reservation or shower TJ with gifts. Instead there will be a steak for me on the table and some sort of practical gift that I’ve been dying to have (Kindle cover, electric shaver, extension cord, etc). Which brings me to my next moment…

Hotel Amenities

A frequent request of mine for a Christmas gift is simply a package of good toilet paper or paper towels. I really, really, really like practical gifts like that. Occasionally TJ will travel by herself or she gets sent on a night away and she will always remember and bring back a roll of toilet paper for me and if the hotel has it, a couple of travel sized toothpaste of my favorite brand: Aquafresh. It is silly, but I am like a child on Christmas morning when she pulls those guys out of her luggage. Speaking of travel…

Food Above All

A few years ago, we celebrated our second year anniversary in San Fransisco. We only had  a couple of days as we had a wedding to be a part of, so we did our best to cram as much in as possible. When we tell people of that trip, people frequently ask if we saw the Golden Gate Bridge and/or Alcatraz. The answer is “yes”, but it may not be how you imagine it. We did technically “see” them, but only while we were standing at Fisherman’s Wharf with a Dungeness crab in each of our hands and we enjoyed the view of the two iconic sights. Whenever we travel, food is Tier 1 in our priorities. If we don’t get to eat, we are not happy. While we are on the happiness note…

The Goal Celebration

One of my favorite things to do with TJ is play soccer. We play on the same co-ed team every Saturday. I generally am not ashamed to celebrate my wife at the expense of my public image. Last Fall, TJ scored a technically difficult goal and while she tried acting like she had scored before, her overly zealous husband did not. I sprinted some 40 yards, screaming at the top of my lungs,”THAT’S MY WIFE!!! THAT’S MY WIFE!!!” Then of course, I recreate one of those absurd movie like embrace where the man lifts his woman in the air. You know, something you’d find in a Nicholas Sparks’ novel (A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Dear John, The Lucky One, etc.) My teammates were (rightfully) a little embarrassed by my celebration but I don’t care. I’m a dork and I like to celebrate… and that brings us to our last moment…

Biscuit Day

Sometime after our second year together, TJ started asking me, “How many biscuits do you love me?” To this day, we have no earthly idea why she started that or what it means, but my response started at “two”, to signify the number of years we’ve been married. So today, if she were to ask me how many biscuits, I would answer “five”. So naturally our anniversary is now known to us and our close friends as “Biscuit Day” and on the morning of “Biscuit Day” we eat biscuits!

As I was writing this, I had to stop several times and just laugh at our relationship and how odd we are. And honestly, I think that’s one of the reasons that makes our marriage great. We can look back and just laugh at ourselves. I love that I can share in all these things with my wife and best friend. Happy Biscuit Day.


Five

Photo courtesy of Day 7 Photography

On Friday, Mr. Poon and I celebrated five years of marriage. I can’t honestly remember what I pictured for our future as I walked toward someone I only partly knew and trusted that God would be faithful. During the last five years, I have found that person to be much more than I ever could have imagined. Here are five people Jason has become to me since we exchanged vows in May of 2007:

Partner

Jason is my partner in parenting, in ministry, in managing the household – everything. Of course there are areas in life where we divide-and-conquer but our preferred mode is collaboration. I have often told friends how blessed I feel in this regard, since I didn’t even know to look for this in a husband. I didn’t know myself or the future well enough to fully grasp how important it is to feel like you are a true partner with your spouse.

Being Jason’s partner in life has been amazing and so much fun! Feeling like we’re in it together, whatever “it” is, has become more and more important and every day I am thankful for how wonderful it is. Which leads to number two…

Teammate

Jason is always on my side. Period. I am always on his. Period. There is no earthly relationship that ever takes precedence over ours and our unflinching commitment is to each other, in any situation. When my mother was alive, I had a rule that she would never hear me say anything negative about Jason, nor would I listen to any criticism of him if it were ever offered. (Which it wasn’t, thankfully.)

It is particularly painful to realize that your spouse is more committed to his/her parents/siblings/friends/whomever than to you. While we are not perfect, we reaffirm often that our number one priority is the family God has built with us. Particularly in the times that it has really mattered or where I felt especially vulnerable, Jason has always made it known that I come first. There is no security like it, and I praise God for its sweetness.

Advocate

I don’t think anyone believes in me more than Jason. Whether as a mom, a minister, a wife or a friend, he is always looking for ways to help me live out who God has created me to be. If I went through life being anything less than the fullness of who I was meant to be, Jason would see it as a deep loss; thus, he is committed to helping me have whatever I need in resources, time, opportunities to make my best contribution in each season of life.

Healer

Marriage is unavoidably wounding, yet profoundly healing as well. A great source of sadness for us is acknowledging how we’ve managed to wound one another in our short five years of marriage. It sometimes comes out in the way that we fight, or maybe our lack of confidence in approaching our spouse with a grievance.

Despite this fallen reality, our marriage has been extremely healing, even more than I expected. I have celebrated Jason in ways that he never believed he was worthy of. He has given me a security of love that I didn’t think existed outside of perfect performance. In this, our lives have spoken the Gospel over one another: “You are loved. You are accepted. You are cherished.” This is a piece of God’s kingdom come to earth and we treasure the gift.

Mirror

Being in intimate relationship with another is having a mirror put up in front of you. There are so many things about myself that I could never have seen without first seeing how someone else is both like and unlike me. Culturally, I take so many things for granted because they are simply how I have always seen the world; I am blind to my own lenses. This changes when I live with and rub up against someone who has entirely different lenses, and who has his own way of viewing the world.

This is sometimes a painful process, though I can also say without a doubt it is one of the most striking strengths of intimate relationship. We are better together, as we each reflect God and His story in different but complementary ways. This is not true just of marriages; it is true of all of my deep relationships.

Five years: all hard in their own way, but each sweeter than the last. Jesus, may it always be.


My Ladder Rung

I am shamefully afraid of heights. I mean, I am terrified of being elevated in the air by more than a couple of feet. Roller coasters are not entertainment but rather a torture device created by the cruelest of men. To put it into context, I get a little nervous just standing on top of a 6 foot ladder. Because of that, I’ve never been that adventurous of a person. I’d rather play it safe and am generally an overly cautious individual. I was always adverse to risk and confrontation.

Which brings this conversation I had nearly 10 years ago into great perspective. I was either filled by the Spirit or completely insane to do what I did. I sat down across the desk of a man that I had both respected and admired. He was a very spiritual man and a highly educated one too. It’s just not that often I get to sit across from men who helped found a seminary. Unfortunately for me, I had this meeting not to glean knowledge from him or to study under him. In fact, it was a “clearing of the air” meeting where I needed to bring up some ways where I felt he wasn’t entirely fair or kind regarding his assessment of me. I was deemed unworthy to be dating his daughter at the time, and his reasoning that I wasn’t “good enough” didn’t exactly register with me. How do you determine the value of someone that you’ve interacted with just twice in a group setting?

The conversation led to him drawing a diagram for me. It was a ladder. Each rung represented a level of leadership and responsibility that person could manage. The lowest rung represented the immediate community, the second lowest represented the local area and so forth with the highest two being one with a national and international capacity. I didn’t climb too high in his eyes and he saw my highest capacity about three to four rungs high. No further than a regional level. You can guess where he saw his daughter. (Hint: It was much higher than mine.)

The other thing that he told me was that I couldn’t become a spiritual leader because of my family of origin. My parents are not Christians and therefore he believed I wouldn’t have the capacity or the know how to lead a home as the spiritual leader. I mean, how could I possibly do what was never modeled for me? He saw me as being set up to fail and his daughter could not be a part of that sinking ship.

10 years later, now married and with a daughter of my own, I can sympathize with that man. If I saw some bum pursuing my daughter, I’d encourage her to not give him the time of day. Naturally, my hope is that I’ll have raised her well enough to differentiate between a quality man and an idiot so I won’t need to step in myself. Thankfully I still have a few years before I get to that point, but as I think about my future and my family’s future, I want to take stock of where exactly I came from.

Those of you who know my wife know that she is not ordinary by any means. At least not in the spiritual sense. Most of her insight doesn’t come from anything learned, read or trained. It’s mostly instinct and intuition. It is God-given and it is amazing. It is breathtaking to watch TJ in her element. I would much rather watch her in ministry than hop in a time machine to watch Pele in his prime. She is just that incredible. And this isn’t just me being her biased husband. Most of you have stopped me in my tracks just to tell me how amazing she is. It is something that’s just so evident and clear to the world around her. Which leads me to the obvious question, “Why in her right mind, would TJ marry someone like me?”

I carry with me that conversation with that man and a metaphorical ladder rung. I don’t carry it around as a chip on my shoulder and use it as a big “I told you so”. But rather I carry it around like a scar. It is healed, but you can still see the damage that was done. That conversation was absolutely brutal on me emotionally, as I would imagine for any other 20 year old. I want to remember how damaged I was so I’ll never inflict that kind of pain on anyone else, much less any suitors Eden has.

I’ve been very fortunate and blessed by the number of people who have commented on me and my marriage, on me as a husband and on me as a father. Every piece of affirmation in that area slowly tears away the wall of doubt in my heart and affirms that I am not nor will I ever be defined by that ladder rung. My spiritual legacy will not be defined by my heritage alone. I can have a godly marriage, be a godly husband and be a godly father, and even be a great spiritual leader despite my great fear in climbing high.


My Birthday Reflection

Image

It wasn’t fancy. It was just round with a very classic black and white look. It was my favorite birthday present of my childhood and quite possibly the only memory I have of my birthday celebrations. I was eight and my parents had gotten me the best gift of all, a soccer ball.

I had zero coordination and my best attempts at anything resembling a soccer move would be a painful toe punch towards nothing, but nobody cared. Certainly not me. All I knew was that I had a chance to kick a ball around with my Dad and my friends and that was plenty of celebration for me.

Which brings us to today which is my 30th birthday. Every year I try my best to play down this birthday hoopla. TJ’s been extraordinary in her efforts to celebrate me, my birth and my existence but I’ve always put up a stern resistance to the notion that my life needs to be celebrated. I disguise it as a misguided belief that it’s just a “normal day” like every other day and I’m uncomfortable with all the attention.

While there is a certainly some truth to it, what lies beneath that nonsense is that I never really felt that anybody would really care. What makes the post below from my wife and friends so meaningful is that I have rarely sensed that people know me or thought anything of me. The words of affirmation below are a strong “in your face” statement against my inner insecurities that if people really knew me, they would despise me.

I miss that eight year old version of me. Armed with nothing but a ball and no discernible talent, people still celebrated and played with me. Somewhere in the past 22 years I’ve taught myself that I needed to be more than just me for anyone to care. Some of it was from parties where very few people showed up. Some of it was from forgotten birthdays. Whatever it was, the message was always loud and clear, “You are a nobody and nobody cares.”

In the end, it was just easier to tell myself that I didn’t care, so that when my community didn’t care, I wouldn’t feel the pain. I’ve learned many things in my marriage to TJ and one of those is being truthful and honest about my feelings and to apply the proper weight to them. I’ve also learned to face my fears and insecurities with strength that is more befitting of a man, husband and father.

To my friends and family who took the time to write something encouraging to me, you haven’t the slightest clue as to how liberating those words mean to me. I am humbled that is how you experience me and that I mean something to you. Over the weekend I’ve started accumulating gifts from flowers to checks, from an aeropress coffee maker to an electric razor, and while everything is exactly what I would want, the little space below that occupies this blog is by far the most meaningful, significant and important gift to me of all. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you for remembering and celebrating me.


30th

For the past couple of years, it has been our custom to commemorate significant days in our lives with special blog posts. Aside from being ultra-romantic (right?), it is fun to publicly appreciate one another and have the chance to reflect on our blessings. Last year, for Mr. Poon’s 29th birthday, I took a cue from my sister-in-law and wrote 29 reasons why I love Jason. Since I dig upping the ante when possible, this year I wanted to do 30 reasons to love Mr. Poon, but I decided that they should come from 30 different people.

In no particular order, here are (many more than) 30 things to love about Jason:

1. He has always been gracious to me even when I do something that pisses him off. — Jake

2. He’s a great soccer coach! He taught me soccer and that takes a considerable amount of patience, so I really appreciate it! — Kathy

3. I like that Jason is interested in and takes ownership of the family’s personal finances and investments. — Drew

4. I appreciate Jason for his blunt, yet genuine and caring, honesty. — Matt

5. His ability, when necessary, to transition smoothly from humor and smacktalk to seriousness and caring — Jan

6. What I really like about Jason is how he taught me how to be a godly man. It was not through words, but through how he loved his wife, his responsible attitude regarding money, and his outlook on life when hard times come around. — Andrew

7. I love that Jason is both 1) courageously vulnerable to reveal the parts of his heart that are tender because of the pain he’s grieved well and 2) honest and witty about the parts of his heart that still have a shell because there are healing journeys God has yet to call him on. — Amy

8.  I appreciate Jason’s kindness and all that Jason does for the soccer team-which is a lot of work! — Kyla

9. Jason, I appreciate your honest love for the Lord, for your family, and for beer! Thanks for being you! — Ti

10. Jason is passionate and easy to see how he is feeling through his facial emotions. You know you can feel safe with Jason  — David M.

11. Mr. Poonicles, I appreciate two things about you: your humor and your sensitivity. I saw more of the humor when we first started working together. But as I have gotten to know you better as a friend, and as I have witnessed your interactions with your wifey and your adorable little baby, it is evident to me that you have a side that is sensitive to those around. Ultimately, it demonstrates the greatness of your love and care for others. Happy birthday Poonicles!
P.S. You have a freakin hot wife. – Sarah

12. Jason – the more I find out about you, the more of an extraordinary person I find you to be – as a husband, father, son, friend, and really, in every way.  Happy 30th Birthday! — Scott

13. Long list of talents, numerous skills and strengths, a variety of interests, athletic, intelligent, witty, passionate, hard worker, reliable, dependable, “go-to guy”, a good friend, good husband and father.  How does someone become a “Renaissance Man” at the age of 30?  Really! — Hudd

14. Happy Birthday, Jason!  Your incredible love for your wife and daughter and the way you are so committed to serving your family and others well is something I truly respect and admire about you.  Your family (and friends) are lucky to have you in their lives! — Carita

15. Jason is a man of few words but he makes them count. When he speaks, it’s usually something profound…or hilarious. He is empathetically willing to share in others’ pain with them – huge for a dude to do. When those he cares about are suffering, Jason will hurt for them AND with them. — Jen S.

16. Jason is an incredibly loyal friend.  I can always count on his ear, his support, and his godly wisdom.  — Jeff W.

17. I appreciate that Jason shoots straight with me. I know his word is trustworthy and yet he still conveys it with a good balance of truth and grace. I think this comes from his genuine love and care for others. — Josh

18. I appreciate the husband he has been for my best friend, and the friendship that he has freely given to me. — Chris B.

19. He’s just the sweetest husband and father. I respect him greatly and I’m so glad God put him in TJ’s life which also put him in mine 🙂 I wish him all the best on this birthday and every single one following 🙂 — Corrie

20. I LOVE how Jason engages with our boys!  I have pictures from when he was swinging Nate around while he was on STINT.  Great with kids! — Trisha

21. Jason, I appreciate your acceptance of me as your younger brother. You’ve taught and encouraged me from your life-experience, and you have given generously to me. In many ways, I try to be like you. I love you, big brother! — Jonathan

22. Jason, I have appreciated a lot about you the past several years I’ve known you.  What really has stuck out to me is your ability to encourage and affirm.  I think of several times where you have been very intentional in this way and I have felt very built up in how God has created me and what He’s created me to do.  Thank you for that, I’m better for it! — Joe

23. I really appreciate how encouraging Jason is. I have experienced Jason as a leader and coach and he refines through encouragement and positive feedback. He has a unique ability to be incredible honest in a gentle and loving way. He also does a great job of reminding me of the truth that’s found in Christ. He has truly made my journey through developing partners and soccer an enjoyable experience! Also, I appreciate his intentionality and generosity! — Emily

24. Some things I appreciate about Jason: easy going, focused, ambitious, adaptable, and of course good looking (with or without all his hair) — Rocky

25. I appreciate Jason’s love and passion for the important things in life- Jesus, family, financial stewardship, meat, and soccer 🙂  — Jill

26. Jason is awesome because what you see is NOT what you get… there’s so much more to him than first meets the eye. — Stephen S.

27. To Jason: For your 30th birthday, I want to share with all of Internet land that having encountered many hardships and cumbersome decisions since graduating from college, I’ve learned from you to step up to the plate and just “nut up/man up” to God’s calling in my life, which is to simply bring Him praise in what I do. — Paul

28. I appreciate that Jason is patient, encouraging, and willing to share his knowledge with us, but he’s not an overbearing jerk when we forget or don’t get it. He’s just a good guy! — Jeff H.

29. Your integrity and humility continue to be the traits I appreciate the most about you, and further see as evidence of a genuine follower of Christ. In eight years of knowing each other, you continue to remind me of what true perseverance in Christ looks like. — BMart
30. I’ve come to truly respect you. You are a man who seeks to know and understand yourself and those around you. You are a man who takes responsibility and leads well, especially in the family. — Truman

I had to edit a few for length, and there are more people I heard from so those are included in the comments. If you have something to say about how awesome he is, please join in there!