Starve Your Ego; Feed Your Soul

  

To say a lot has happened since I’ve last posted a blog is an understatement.

Exactly one month ago, Corey was climbing a well-maintained corporate ladder at a head-turning pace while I was finally starting to feel the ground again in terms of really creating momentum with my photography business. We lived in an all too comfortable luxury apartment that came with its own library and multiple heated infinity pools, our two dogs were eating the most stupid organic thing you could possibly find on the suburban Denver shelves, and we were quickly becoming the type of people I used to question and I didn’t even know it.

The funny thing about leisure is that it’s always a Catch 22. One of the many falls of this world.

(Also, a precursor: This isn’t a bash on wealth. Rather, a claim on how unfit it’s been for us.)

Had we kept this pattern going, I’m sure we could’ve been great. Defined by what and who, though?

For the first time in my life, I witnessed my husband go through depression. (Yeah, can you believe that? For those of you who know Corey personally, you know how unbelievable that sounds. He lives to make others happy. And maybe that was the problem.) I don’t know how these things start; I’m not even sure if there is a way to detect Day 1. It wasn’t until late October that I really noticed. And the thing with most men — ladies — is that they like to think they can manage things on their own sometimes. Is it pride? Is it strength? I’d honestly consider it both. Regardless, it’s false. We all need each other.

Corey’s job was taking a toll and quite frankly, I’m not sure who wouldn’t have felt the way he felt. Averaging 1 day off every 40 days or so, his body was the last thing to fail. His spirit and his mental health? They started to deteriorate a lot quicker. But with the heightened growth of my own career path and the lies thrown at us about the definition of success, the concept of really taking care of ourselves became the last thing on our list of priorities.

It was a Tuesday, I remember. Corey and I were both home (a rarity) and I had asked him what he’d like to do in the few moments we had together. He neglected any option; regretfully saying no to it all. At last when I asked, “well, what sounds fun to you?” He solemnly let out a single tear. The thing is, I don’t even think he realized he cried. He just looked off into the abyss and breathed out, “nothing.” It was then I had realized we were no longer in Colorado because of a calling we had received from the Lord. We were still there for our own sake of ego and kingdom.

The thing about changing trajectories is that, because we are such creatures of habit, it is remarkably easier said than done. I remember looking my husband in the face and telling him what I think we all need to hear every so often:

It is okay to not be okay.

Your feelings are valid.

You do not have to please your boss, this world’s standards, your expectations of who you could’ve been… You do not have to please anyone else but the Lord.

This life is too short to live another day wishing it away.

You have permission to express what’s inside.

You have permission to quit.

I think the most difficult discernment to make when in positions similar to this is wondering whether it is actually a time to change something, or if it is a test and we should see it through with persistence and endurance. I also think that, for me, a really easy way to go about answering that question is asking myself and reflecting with the Lord: How have I been practicing my role as a disciple of Christ? As in, am I going out and being the Church toward the ones around me? Have I even had the energy to? Have I found myself willing to sacrifice the time to? (Or is my life just one big bag of lousy and self-centered excuses?) Even if all else is a loss, am I at least still remembering what it means to love? Am I going out and making more disciples? Do I even remember why I am here in terms of eternal salvation? Or am I wondering why our company doesn’t offer us a better insurance package while my new order of farm-to-market produce is delivered at the door?

We learn this in high school psychology, but honestly, y’all… You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself. You need to be poured in to be poured out. Listen to the flight attendants; you can’t assist someone with their oxygen mask if you yourself is dead.

About three weeks ago, we accepted a position out in Oregon. In the middle of nowhere past all the mountains and trees, where Corey and I had met. I wish to explain how it all came to be, but that in itself would be a completely separate blog post. But let’s just say: God is great. (And He so desperately awaits us to come knock at His door because all He wants to do is save you.) Corey is currently finishing out his last week in office and will be driving westward soon to begin his new position with YoungLife. We had already moved all of our belongings a couple weeks ago and he’s been living out of our empty apartment with a sleeping bag and three changes of clothes. You’d think that wouldn’t be the most pleasant, but he’s never been merrier. I asked him the other day why and how this temporary lapse in his well-being was able to rectify so quickly, and he simply replied, “Ji, I wasn’t doing what I was passionate about. I had forgotten to ask myself that during the process of becoming successful. And that’s just it. I’m not passionate about being a businessman. I am passionate about being in relational ministry. I’m sorry I had forgotten. But I don’t think we’re supposed to ignore what God has build us all individually to do. And what I’m about to do next, I know that’s what I’m supposed to do. And the knowing of what I was made to do… that makes all the difference.”

I remember sometime during college, someone explained to me their definition of passion and it has always stuck. They said when you finally get to a place in life where you experience yourself truly passionate about something, it is that moment when the Lord has finally decided to reveal to you, specifically, a very special portion of His heart. Not all can see it because not all will be revealed to it. But the moment you realize you’ve been shown it, it is then your responsibility to do something about it. If you don’t, you’ll never fully live.

Apart from prayer and supplication, the greatest lesson Corey and I have taken from this rollercoaster is that it does no good to keep moving just to move. You can be as busy as the next person, but there is nothing scarier than a lost ghost. It does one good to have regular check-ups with yourself. Are you being filled spiritually? Are you remembering to ask yourself what you were made to do? Are you actively surrounding yourself with people who remind you of your worth? And most importantly, for my Christian friends, are you serving God… or people (including you)?

I’m including in this entry in a gluten-free vegan soup I had made.

I find it relevant and it is a mental note I want to keep for my personal files because it is made with practically nothing. I mean, okay so obviously there are things in it. But I have been living out of moving boxes for the past who-knows-how-long while waiting for our new condo here in Oregon to finish. With the minimum utensils and groceries I had, I have never felt so full. When Super Target is just down the street, you forget what real hunger feels like. Or what it really means to enjoy the things in front of you. Everything is an option; nothing is received with the heart of gratitude it deserves. This wholesome, simple, and nutrition-packed soul food has reminded me through its essence that sometimes the best way to be filled is to go back to the roots. Go back to what you know replenishes you.

Ingredients;

7 (? -ish?) cups of organic vegetable broth
3/4 cups of red lentils
1/2 cup of brown rice
2 whole carrots (diced)
2 stalks of celery (diced)
1 white onion (diced) — I prefer them larger for texture
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 can of tomato + green chiles
1 1/2-2 cups of kale (chopped)
Season with salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast to taste!

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Why I Decided to Go *GF Vegan

This is week 4 of gluten-free, vegan Ji.

I have been hesitant on making anything public regarding my recent change of regimen for two main reasons:

  1. The fear of unknown commitment to it in the future, and
  2. Never feeling as though I could do enough research.

However, a lot of my online community has inquired about it. About the why’s, about the how’s. And after a good portion of this past week spent on prayer and supplication, I feel really good about sharing with you some of the reasons why this journey has begun, and why I am very confident in my continuation of it.

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As much as it’d be nice to say it was for ethics, it honestly started because it summed up to be a healthier lifestyle for me (and eventually my husband hahaha). I essentially grew up on a gluten-free, pescatarian diet having lived with Korean parents; I just didn’t know that that is what it would’ve been labelled. When going off to college and cooking for myself as well as eating the foods on campus/in the “American” life, I realized just how out of hand my physical health had become. Understanding that it wasn’t out of my total control to take the wheel again on where my health was headed, I took a radical leap last month and I haven’t looked back.

I think the biggest concerns most express when regarding the vegan lifestyle specifically are questions such as, Where do you get your protein? and,  Aren’t you tired all the time?

And as much as I am grateful for those whom are so concerned, I’d like to eagerly inform you that:

  1. The average American intakes MORE (like, way more) than the suggested amount of protein daily. The excess actually inhibits so much of what our body wants to process naturally. I mean, how often do you hear of anyone in our country dying from a protein deficiency? And yet how often do you hear of people suffering from heart diseases and cancer from their lack of paying attention to the things they put into their bodies?
  2. Our God is certainly a creative God. There are so many ways to ingest protein outside of meat. So many ways.
  3. From my personal experience I can tell you that my energy has never been at this level in my life. For as long as I can remember.

Truly speaking, I wholeheartedly believe every body is different. Every need is different. Every life is different. So, for someone to encourage a specific regimen — whether it be vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, paleo, gluten-free, what have you — to someone else who obviously is created differently is absurd. I would never suggest someone to join me in my gluten-free, vegan lifestyle without having known the history of his or her health, eating habits, and so many more personal things that go into something as intimate as food. I just know that for me, this change in my life has alleviated so many things that I honestly didn’t even realize would be impacted. To give you some insight, here are a few perks I’ve noticed just in this first month of experimenting:

• I dropped 10lbs within the first week. Just like that. Now, I say this with caution because I don’t think losing weight should necessarily be the essential reason anyone goes vegan. It always should be something much bigger than that… for anyone to change their diet ever. It ought to stem from when one desires to work on something from the inside out. Because, let’s face it, we really are what we eat. I also should mention here that I began to regularly work out again. Someone could be a size zero and hella sexy on the outside but who’s to say what their BMI looks like? For all we know, the chica has no muscle, excess fat on her body, and is absolutely drained from energy because of toxic foods she may be inserting into her body. What I’m trying to say is that, yes, it is rather common for individuals to experience losing some weight by omitting dairy and meat from their diet. But more than anything, I think it really shows how much extra crap I was really putting into my daily routine that was truly unnecessary because my energy levels have not gone down and I’ve still been eating the same amount of calories, if not more.

• Speaking of energy levels… I’ve been jumping off the walls. I mean, not excessively. But really, you guys, it’s been unreal. I was hitting a point where having a home office, being married, and living in a place where it’s getting colder was all contributing to me becoming less and less concerned about my looks and physical activity (stupid Corey; why does he have to be such a sweet husband and call me “beautiful” all the time??). Something seriously needed to change. I felt fatigue, stress, and I finally began to understand that I, indeed, wasn’t invincible. Like, at all. Literally the shift happened after Day 1. I woke up excited (that was new). I was feeling like my optimistic, perky self again. I felt light on my feet. I felt like I could hike the highest mountain (so much so that Corey and I actually went for hikes in this lovely state of Colorado more this past month than we have this entire season).

• Waking up without feeling bloated. Enough said.

• Cooking is more fun than ever. I didn’t even know that could be possible. It’s like this weird game I have with myself. I love challenges. Especially if I am my hardest competitor (you may as well call me Monica Geller). It’s honestly such a fulfilling moment when you get to experiment with foods you’ve never even known had existed… with foods you’ve known all your life, and discover that your palette has been completely neglected as far as optimal nutrition and flavors go. And, man… when you nail a recipe (whether original or googled), it feels (and tastes) priceless. I win. I win the game against myself. And it feel so good to be on top.

• My skin has actually begun to clear up in places I didn’t realize I needed internal healing to affect the outsides. Specifically, I had some weird eczema-like, scabby situation happening at the back of my neck on my hairline. I don’t know why I never consulted with a dermatologist on it. Maybe because they’re ridiculously expensive. Yeah, that was probably why. But anyway, it’s gone. Completely. And I didn’t even correlate this event with my newly installed eating habits until I noticed my skin was feeling softer overall during a bath last night. I began to examine my body and I was quite amazed. This all may be too much information for you (but I frankly don’t care because you obviously find it interesting), even the darker spots under my armpits and weird marks I had near my upper thighs faded away. I have a feeling that this was from the gluten-free change I had made more than anything. And I am so glad that life is encouraging me to keep this path by showing me positive conditioners.

• It has caused me to dig up my own research and read up on our body, essential nutrients, and its purposes. You see, I used to be the girl who secretly (and heavily) envied people who could tell me the difference between a food that was low carb in comparison to something that was high carb, but it was complex carbs so it was okay/not okay, etc. I always thought, Man, as much as all of that nutritional stuff sounds important and all, I honestly have so many other things I need to be studying and taking the time using up my brain power with. Like, when is Dominos going to speed up the rewards process on the online pizza orders? There were always too many vitamins, proteins, oils, and such that it was overwhelming. I’d give myself a pep talk of false-pride every so often that went something like: You are so care-free and live your life to the fullest, you know that? That’s an awesome trait! The way you can eat things without a second thought of where it came from, who it was made by, what it is doing to your body… it’s freakin’ liberating… sexy, even. You’re simply enjoying the natural gifts from God! People like hanging out with easy folk like you. Because you make them feel better by boasting about how much junk food you had in the last five minutes not give a care like them Hollywood characters would. But when you limit your diet to vegan restrictions, you kind of have to know what is in literally everything. I began learning (A LOT) about what all those complicated words were on the back of cereal boxes, what was actually harming my body (by miles and miles) with each bite, and why knowing the make-up of each consumable object truly matters. They’re all affecting us in different ways. They can make us happy. They can make us exhausted. They can sometimes even have the power to mess with our hormones. Are you consenting that? It’s literally taking advantage of your body with or without your permission. How little of control that is of your own life! I simply liked knowing that with the gluten-free, vegan life, I finally am feeling like I am starting to get mine back.

• More than anything, it has taught me about self-control and serious discipline. My mind is becoming stronger and healthier and I could really cry if I start thinking hard about how reckless so many of us have gotten in terms of our well-being and contentment. Reality is, we are powerful. All of us. The amount of integrity that I have had to show for myself and practice has wholly altered my character. I choose not to cave or to take the easier path. I choose not to lie to myself about what I have and have not eaten/done/said that day. I learn what it means to treat myself gently, to give myself grace, yet enforce hard truths and face real consequences. All of these lessons have leaked themselves unto other parts of my life and seeing all of me rejuvenated from inside out is one of the most awesome things I have ever experienced with the Lord.

So. As you can see, I can really go on for a while. But I hope this echoes the gist of my reasonings. It’s not to say that it’s always been easy. Of course, I am human, cravings occur every so often. But truth be told, meats and animal byproducts really do not smell all that appealing anymore. HONEST! This is coming from somebody who DEMANDED KFC every birthday (I am not a diva but this is literally all I wanted; a single crispy drumstick from my one and only colonel). When your body acclimates to certain behaviors and habits, it could really surprise you. Almost all that we eat and do in life… they’re there because of patterns and “norms” that our culture and society has created to be “right” or necessary. When in reality, almost everything is a market, a business, a scheme. I won’t push an agenda; I never hope to with veganism. But things like milk? Cheese? Even that awesome buttery garlic bread from Red Lobster (my fave)? Your body has never needed it. Rather, there are just people out there who are paying people to tell you that you need to buy it. In fact, I have learned that there are over ten things I can list from the top of my head that can easily replace all of those few “nutrients” brought to you by these processed foods that are whole, natural, and simply better for your digestive system. But the sentiment and the addiction, that is what we often can’t get over. And that’s okay. I am just in the journey of creating a new culture and society for our home.

One day I hope to be a mother. This consumes my thoughts very often. And when it does, I pray that I am doing whatever I can even now to prepare my mind, body, and soul to be the best I can be for my child/children’s heart safety, wholesome health, and happiness longevity. I hope to be there for as long as I can, for as often and consistent as I can. And I just don’t know how much them buttery garlic breads promise me that kind of lifestyle I long for. I believe taking care of my physical body is crucial. Veganism has sincerely retaught me this. The Bible tells us that our bodies are a temple. I have been treating mine like the bleachers in the student section of a high school football field. I believe my kids deserve better than that. I believe my husband deserves better than that. I am starting to believe that I, too, deserve better than that.

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