“I breathe you in & there it is again, my heart saying thank you for this whole life that brought me here to you.”

(brian andreas)

IMG_5053I found out I was pregnant in early February of 2017. So pretty much the entire year was Ezra on my heart and mind. Being pregnant and laboring hard to bring forth this life was also the hope and motivation I needed in the midst of a year where when I looked around all I wanted to say was WTF. (And those of you who know me well know it takes a lot for me to swear). 😊

My heart ached for the world and at the same time grew with each heartbeat I heard in my womb and now with each cry, smile, and snuggle in my chest. It didn’t seem possible to keep hope, love, justice, mercy and kindness on the forefront of everything I tried to be and do without being super cynical.

But I did and I will continue to do so because at the end of the day, I am choosing gratitude. I have an amazing, loving family that would do anything for each other. I have badass friends who are smart, compassionate, and practice what they preach. (Yes, you!) I have a partner who brings light and levity into my life on the regular and who has stepped into a different place of goodness toward me since the birth of our son. I now have a child along with all children who deserve love and hope for this world and the future. And I still have a God who has continued to show me through Christ that a life of service is not one that is lived in vain.

2017, as a new mother, my heart has only expanded. So even though my heart ached more than it maybe ever has for the world and this country, you didn’t rid me of love and joy. I am indeed grateful for this whole life that has brought me here to the close of 2017.



Things I want to Remember: 39 weeks pregnant

“For a long time there were only your footprints & laughter in our dreams & even from such small things, we knew we could not wait to love you forever.”

-Brian Andreas

It feels like only yesterday that I took the pregnancy test and yelped in disbelief. Thank goodness I was home alone because I really wanted to surprise Marion when I found out… which, if you haven’t seen the YouTube video yet, I managed to do with great success.  (Click here to see it again: Surprising Marion: pregnant!)

Over the last 39 weeks, everyone has been asking me how I’m feeling and how the pregnancy is going, and my standard answer has been, “I’m feeling good! I’m doing fine. I’m tired, but good.” These are all true statements. I’m still feeling pretty good. He’s sitting cozy in there.  But now that I’m winding down toward the end and washed all the baby clothes, organized every closet, and done everything I could possibly think to do to prep for family leave from work, I wanted to take time to actually write down some things I want to specifically remember about this special time of being pregnant with my little one.

One thing I want to remember is how from the moment I found out I was pregnant, that I  felt like baby was going to be a boy. I have no rhyme or reason for this. Marion really wanted a girl and I was just so excited to be pregnant, I didn’t care either way. But I “felt like” it was going to be a boy. It was interesting because a majority of folks thought it was going to be a girl. But one night, I don’t remember how far along, we woke up one morning and Marion turned to me and said, “I had a dream about our baby last night! It was a boy!” This only surprised me because that same night, I also had a dream that we had a baby boy! We were both pretty sure at that point it was going to be a boy…and we were right.

Cravings: I didn’t really have any specific regular food cravings except in the first trimester, I wanted chocolate milk like no one else’s business. It only lasted 2 weeks, but man, was it an intensely satisfying thing to drink chocolate milk! I never bought it regularly before. It was completely random. I had days where I wanted specific foods, but the most notable thing about this pregnancy is that normally, I plan my next meal, knowing what I want to eat. This whole time, I haven’t really wanted to eat anything in particular, but also didn’t have trouble eating once I started. That was weird. Oh, and I LOVED WATERMELON the whole time.

Food Aversions: Only one. Baked chicken. I couldn’t eat chicken, which stunk because it’s a healthy protein. The smell bothered me too. Let me say, I didn’t have trouble eating it if was fried chicken…but even then, it had to be the smallest part of the chicken…like the chicken wing. SO WEIRD.

Total weight gain: I really wish I had started at a healthy weight, but starting overweight managed to get me to really focus on better eating and health, so maybe it all worked out in the end. My total weight gain at this point is 21 pounds. Which is a lot. But not as bad as I thought it would be, and I’m actually pretty happy with it. I also totally thought I would get gestational diabetes, but I didn’t. It was a miracle.

Sleep: I generally sleep pretty well except for the 4 times I have to get up to use the bathroom. I’m used to that now. The maternity pillow has been a life saver! There are nights I wake up and can’t fall back asleep. I’m sure that’s just my own anxiety.

Miss anything: Raw fish and deli meat and regular iced coffee. Oh, and sleeping on my back!

Movement: SO much movement. My belly looks like something is literally trying to come out of it at times…but I also LOVE IT. We had one scare a couple months ago where I hadn’t felt him move in 24 hours and we had to go into the hospital and be monitored. That scared the poop out of Marion. My worst case scenario that day was that I was going to have a baby THAT day. Thank goodness baby was okay. When he started moving like usual again, I spent the next day reprimanding him in my belly: “Seriously, you couldn’t even give Umma ONE little movement and had to scare us like that?!” So, I’m going to be THAT mom.

No morning sickness, a little nausea in first trimester, fatigue is my biggest complaint: Which really is nothing to complain about. And I’m definitely not complaining about it.


Labor signs: Still just the Braxton Hicks on the regular. I had one painful contraction a week ago, but it went away after moving around for a bit. I’ve been experiencing some “cramps” but I can’t tell if it’s anything…and so far it’s nothing.


Happy or moody most of the time: So happy. I know this sounds so cheesy but I honestly find myself smiling more than ever lately. Although, I did read that Brian Andreas quote at the beginning of this post and got choked up. I’m going to be that annoying person that says that I really enjoy being pregnant. (Ask me again if I hit 41 weeks).

Baby’s Dad: Marion has been so great and supportive overall. He has his daddy mood swings sometimes (haha) but every night we manage to have some “family” time and he will scratch my back and/or give me a little head massage, we read books out loud to each other, and baby will let him feel some good movements. I’ve only had leg cramps in the middle of the night twice, and both times, Marion jolted up and helped me massage them out. Marion is so excited to be an Appa, and his positive attitude and joy helps me to keep things in perspective-to really enjoy this time.

My prayer: It’s funny to notice what I’m praying for when I pray for this baby and our family. It’s rarely about the actual labor or birthing process (although I do pray that all goes well! Someone throw in some extra prayers around that for me!) I feel this urgency in my prayers for a kind, generous, and good person to be born. One that will respect all people and work toward goodness and justice in this world. I also pray he is healthy and whole.

Anyway, I’m sure there are going to be other things I want to remember, but that’s what I can think of for now. I’m spending time drinking Philz, sitting outside and writing and reading solo. I’m sure I’m going to miss these days, but I really can’t wait to meet our little one…and to love him forever.

25 weeks

I wrote the below reflection when I was 18 weeks pregnant and at the Presbyterian CREDO conference. Tomorrow, I will be 25 weeks along and the time has already flown by. Looking at it again, I decided to post it here so I could “keep” it but also being mindful of the women who are still struggling to have children or who won’t have the opportunity to be mothers in the ways that they thought. My love and my prayers for all of us on the journey.

May 20, 2017
18 Weeks

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” -Jeremiah 29:11

I’m pregnant.

Or rather, really how I want to say it every time is, “I’m pregnant!!”

I want to tell you what a rough road it was to get to this point, and how it felt super hard. Yes, it did take us a lot longer than either one of us thought it would take for us to get pregnant. Yes, we did have to go through a hell of a lot of testing and yes, eventually we did have to go through fertility treatments to get to this point. And yes, getting here felt more like a ritual or formula and definitely discipline than “That was super fun, and now we’re pregnant!”

But it did not feel hard or rough in the ways I thought it would. I don’t mean to say that to minimalize the ups and downs and “hard” that many women who struggle to get pregnant go through. I also know I do not speak for my partner. But today I begin and I’m mindful of the fact that although there were stressful moments in the process, overall, I felt a deep peace throughout the whole journey, and I want to begin there, because looking back to where I am today, at 18 weeks pregnant, I am so grateful.

I’m grateful that I’m married to someone who wanted kids as much as I did when we got married. We both “goo goo” and “ga ga” whenever we see babies.

I’m grateful that when we found out that the road might be longer than we initially thought to get there, that we talked through and prayed through the possibility that maybe this wasn’t the plan for us in the way we had initially envisioned. We even considered the possibility that we may be a childless couple, and that didn’t freak us out (too much). We stayed hopeful and committed ourselves to loving the children in our lives and to keep love for one another in different ways as we got older. After all, I have friends and colleagues that model that for me already, and we are blessed to be already a part of so many children’s lives.

I’m grateful for doctors and specialists and health insurance.

And I’m grateful to be 18 weeks pregnant. Every day, I wake up grateful for this gift growing inside of me.

And I don’t know what the future holds.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do worry. I have no idea what it’s going to be like to be a mother. Of course, I pray every day for a healthy baby. I worry about how I’m going to shift and live into a calling I LOVE as a full time minister and as a mother and in the midst of a discernment process. I worry about balance. And I worry about being called into a new direction at the same time that I’m pregnant with my first child.

But when I quoted the Jeremiah passage, of God knowing the plans God has for me, plans for a hope and a future, for me that didn’t only translate into this baby in my womb.

Rather, it reminds me that no matter what happens, in the face of so many unknowns and worries ahead, that somehow I’m being asked to trust that future into God’s hands. And it may sound trite and corny even as I’m writing this, but I also believe it with every fiber of my being. Not because I’m somehow more faithful, but because as I approach the 37th year of my life, I’m recognizing more fully how God is faithful to me. And how God has been faithful to me despite myself.

Nothing has actually gone according to MY plan, and for that, I thank God today.

It’s also a strong reminder that I need to continue to be willing to leap into unknown waters, to enjoy the life I have been given, and to soak in the moments where I am right now.

Dear Baby,
This Umma loves you so much already. Your Appa is so excited to meet you (I even have video footage of how happy he was when he found out you existed). We hope you continue to grow healthy and stronger every day.

Dear God,
You know the places between this new calling of motherhood and in my vocation where I feel incredibly called to both places. You have been faithful to me. Help me to keep trust in you, and to live each day with continued gratitude.


24 weeks


book-study-2015_2016I wrote this piece for 2015-2016 PW Horizons Bible Study, Come to the Waters by Judy Record Fletcher. It was published in Horizons Magazine, March/April 2016 issue.

Scripture: Revelation 21-22

I grew up with two wonderful parents who moved to the United States from South Korea almost 40 years ago. They moved to the U.S. in their mid-20s, and Korean is still their primary language of communication with one another. My siblings and I all speak what I fondly like to call “Konglish”-Korean and English. We move between these two languages fluidly. It probably sounds very confusing to anyone hearing us speak.

I honestly think my parents’ English is just fine, but I know they sometimes feel self-conscious about it. Comedienne Margaret Cho does many stand-up routines in which she imitates her Korean mother. I always laugh, but I am also always in awe of how carefully she must listen to be able to imitate so well. For me, I never hear my parents with an accent when they speak English. Instead, I think, I mentally auto-correct and translate what they are saying. I do not hear the incorrect grammar and wrong words. I understanding what they’re saying; I get it.

It wasn’t until my parents got an email account and started texting me that I couldn’t help but notice their particular use of words and sentence structures. It made me really happy, actually, to see them write exactly how they speak. One of my favorite words to this day-that my parents coined, and I never discovered until they used it in an email-is how they say “hopefully.” They say and write, “hopely.”

I love this word, and I think it fits in well with this final lesson in the study. The author writes that we are now living in an in-between time, “when we know the revelation of the Christ but not the revelation of the end times” (Come to the Waters, 73). The final revelation has not yet come, so this partial word-hopely seems to fit in well. God’s realm has not been revealed in full yet, but we live in an in-between space.

I think this in-between space relates well to many of us living in a multicultural, multiracial, multi religious world, which is why I must confess that I struggle a little bit with these passages from Revelation. As much as beautiful imagery pours out from it, the idea of hope coming from this vision of glory is difficult for me. In my limited human experience and limited vision, I cannot imagine a life or world without pain or struggle, where no tears will be shed. As much as this vision sounds like it is a good thing, as a “hope-ly” person, hope for me has always come from the struggle.

How do I live into hope when there is no more struggle or difficulties to overcome? Being intentional about living in the in-between spaces, in relationship with those who differ from me, requires sacrifice, compromise, truth-telling and struggle. But the beauty that flows out from that intentionality is worth its weight in gold…perhaps even streets of gold.

And along those pavements, I envision the river of the water of life that sustains different trees and different fruits. I love this imagery.

So, as we complete this water series, think about your life-giving water of hope. Where do you find it?

What sustains you for the journey in these days and in the days ahead?

How are you living in this in-between time? How do you desire to live in it?

What fruit have you been called to bear in this season of your life?

Hope-ly, we will always remember, through all the ups and downs of this life, that the gift of the water of life is always extended to us through God in Christ and Spirit. “Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as gift.” (Rev. 22:17).

Quianna Marie Photography - PakLee2016 - Family Portraits-16

The wedded details

“You will find, as you look back upon your life, that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”
—Henry Drummond

(I started this post 3 weeks ago and I’m just posting it now. I just wanted to remember all of these things).

I had one year to plan a wedding… which means I had one year to pay attention to details and figure out what I wanted to do. Questions such as where I wanted to invest $$ and the places where I wanted to invest time (i.e. not spend $$)…there were a lot of details. And I LOVE the details. Even if no one notices them, I know it contributes to the whole, and thus why I care. So, I wanted to post a blog about the details of the wedding.

  1. First, my accessories. Click on each pic to see more detail about where I got them and why they are meaningful to me.

2. The DRESS: My gorgeous dress was from Trudy’s in Campbell. The service was amazing, they respected my budget, and their expertise led me to wear a dress I would have never thought to try on…and fell in love with. I never thought I’d be wearing a more form fitting lace dress on my wedding day, but it was the right dress. I knew it the second I put it on.

3. Flowers-Soooo… I LOVE real flowers, but I did not love the price of wedding flowers. I swear, it was out of control. I decided I wanted to invest $$ elsewhere and not on flowers for our wedding. So, I had a friend of mine, Gwen, MAKE the bouquets for my bridesmaids and for the groomsmen from fabric and bling.

As for my bouquet and Marion’s boutonniere, we also went the fabric flower route, but ordered them from My Vintage Wedding who I found on Etsy and is based in Australia. They were all beautiful, and I saved beaucoup bucks. PLUS, I get to keep my bouquet forever!

As for our parents, they insisted on real flowers…so when my mom found out that the price of real flowers for just the parents would cost more than all the fabric flowers for all 14 members of our wedding party, she volunteered to make them herself. The 3 roses and baby’s breath and ribbon? She bought the flowers from Costco and made them with love.

4. Our CAKE… or rather, cakes and tons of cupcakes!

Our wedding cake was from Jen’s Cakes based in Willow Glen, CA. I wanted a simple look with some kind of flourish. I bought the black ribbon and the brooches that are accenting the cake. It was a green tea cake with white chocolate mousse filling (AMAZING!) and white cake with raspberry filling. It tasted SO GOOD (yes I ate cake at my wedding!)

We also had a church reception in which we had volunteers make cupcakes of their hearts desire…and they were all GORGEOUS! People put so much love and care into each of them, and it was so apparent. We also had a beautiful coconut wedding cake for the church reception made by a church member, Emily. I won’t lie, someone saved that cake for us and I might have been found eating it throughout the following week. It was DELICIOUS.

5. HAIR & MAKEUP-Okay, I have to admit, this was one area that I wanted to invest because I’m vain and I want good hair and good makeup. I couldn’t have asked for a better stylist and makeup artist than Ann Ho from A-List MakeUp. The other truth is, I could only hire her because we had a January wedding and we got married on a Sunday, but holy crap, she was incredible. I wanted a natural look, but of course, beautiful…and I needed my hair to be up because of the opening in the back of my dress, and she just went above and beyond. She also had someone join her do hair for some of my bridesmaids who wanted that service as well. Check it out. WORTH IT! (P.S. I got that hair piece on Ebay for $2.50)

Quianna Marie Photography - PakLee2016 - Getting Ready-17-2Quianna Marie Photography - PakLee2016 - Church Reception-50-2

6. Flower Girls & Ring Bearers

I had lots of kids in our wedding because I love kids. The flower girls wore dresses I found on Etsy through ekidsbridalusa, and no lie, each dress was only about $25.00 each! That’s a steal. I had our ring bearers wear black bow tie and black suspenders and black pants and white button up top. SO CUTE.

Since I had 4 flower girls, I had two of them throwing petals out of baskets, one holding a large oversized fake flower, and the other holding a sign that said “here comes the bride.” Our older ring bearer held the ring pillow and the younger one held a sign that said “ring security.” They were so fun to watch.

7. Ceremony details-I hand made each program (I cut so much paper), had fun ribbon wands that decorated the aisles and that were used at the end of the ceremony to wave us out (cut up crepe paper and scotch tape and sticks), our guest book was a book of our engagement pictures made into a guestbook, we had ribbon decor made by an amazing church member, and the AWESOME CRANES that came from friends and family from all over the country and world! I couldn’t have asked for more… all at the beautiful church I serve at the Stone Church of Willow Glen.

8. Our evening reception was held at the beautiful Silicon Valley Capital Club in downtown San Jose. The whole story of how we ended up booking this place is a long one…but let’s just say, it was totally a “God thing” in my book. We had struggled to find a place for a long time, and through connections and timing, we ended up booking a unique venue of our dreams!

9. The details of our evening reception included the crane theme in the name cards with tables named after our favorite foods. We also had a “selfie station” with props and a selfie stick and our wedding favors were chocolate covered Oreo pops that we made at home! They were a hit! We did floating candles and pillar candles for centerpieces and kept it simple on that front. The open window views of the city at night added so much to the ambiance in the evening, so it all worked out well!

Quianna Marie Photography - PakLee2016 - Reception-1

10. Videographer-EJ from Reel-Motions was amazing! It was actually my parent’s idea to get a videographer. We hadn’t considered that, but they asked for so little and were incredibly supportive, so when they asked me and Marion to get a videographer, we had to oblige! We were so glad we made that decision! I thought it would feel like we were on a reality show with a video camera in our faces the whole day, but honestly, I hardly noticed him and his team at all! They were awesome. Here is the highlight video he made for us! We are still waiting for our “full footage” video, but after seeing the highlight, I have no doubt that we will absolutely love our full footage video!

11. Last but not least, we hired an AMAZING photographer! We had interviewed a few photographers, but knew immediately that Quianna Marie Photography would be the right fit for us. Almost all of the images you see above were taken by Quianna! She has such a bubbly personality and passion for her work and it comes through when you talk to her. She got all the major shots and all the DETAILS that I had hoped she would capture! Getting the right photographer is so important and we definitely made the right choice with Quianna.

Quianna Marie Photography - PakLee2016 - Stone Church-31

So there you have it! All the little details that equaled a beautiful, memorable, and wonderful day!

One month ago…

 “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you…”
(Philippians 1:3-4)

“Someone asked me today how to stop being afraid of Life & I though of you, so fierce & gentle with the people you meet & I told her what you’ve taught me: let Love guide you even in the smallest things because that is what all Life is hungry for.”
(Brian Andreas)

One month ago, Marion and I shared our vows and our love with a huge community of love and support. Before I go on, click on the link to check out our awesome 3.5 minute wedding highlight video made by our videographer EJ at Reel-Motions in the Bay Area.

Quianna Marie Photography - PakLee2016 - Bridal Portraits-82

I think the short highlight in real time really captured the essence of how fun and how special that day was for us. Of course, I’m still floating from the wonder and beauty of that day. It was cloudy and overcast the whole day, but the rain did not come pouring down until later that evening.

We have always been like this, but we noticed it more prominently in our first month of marriage-and that is how much gratitude we are verbally sharing with one another for big things and little things. I think the “noticing it” part has bounced off the incredible


Honeymooning in Maui

amount of gratitude we felt as a result of an abundance of the love and support we felt around that day. We kept turning to each other throughout the day and even throughout our honeymoon saying, “We are so blessed!” And not in the fake corny way you might imagine us saying something like, but in the way where you feel it deep in your bones and you’re kind of in awe at the love and Spirit that surrounds you.

As a result, we have noticed that we have built a relationship around gratitude, not just in the past month, but in its entirety, and we verbalize that gratitude whenever we can. I am sure some people might hear us and think it’s too much… and yet, I think for us, right now, it is what keeps us strong even in the midst of conflict. It’s amazing the distance a word of appreciation can take us.

And so, my prayer is that along with love and all that good stuff can come alongside us, that we will always manage to remember with gratitude all of the hands and hearts that came together on that day…and to always think of one another with gratitude, for the big things and the small things.

Our vows

 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
(Romans 12:9-10)

“You may not remember the time you let me go first. 
Or the time you dropped back to tell me it wasn’t that far to go. 
Or the time you waited at the crossroads for me to catch up. 
You may not remember any of those, but I do and this is what I have to say to you: 

Today, no matter what it takes, 
we ride home together.”

-Brian Andreas


On Sunday, January 17, 2016 I got to publicly share my love and my vows with this wonderful guy. There is SO much to write and reflect on that day and I promise to do just that soon.

For now, I wanted to document our vows-so I can remember what it is I promised, but also so I can remember what he promised to me. It was such a special moment for both of us. The hundreds of people around us disappeared in that moment and it was just us. I’m so thankful for that. So-if you’re interested, here are the vows we shared and wrote and read.

Marion’s vows to me:

On this day, I give to you, in the presence of God, my family, and all these witnesses, my promise to love you, hold you and honor you,
I will respect you, encourage you and cherish you,
In sickness and in health,
Through sorrow and success,
For all the days of my life

I pledge to be your loving husband. To talk and to listen, to trust you and appreciate your uniqueness, to respect and honor you, and to support, comfort, and strengthen you through life’s joys and sorrows.

I take you to be my wife, loving what I know of you, and trusting what I do not yet know, I eagerly anticipate the chance to grow together, getting to know the woman you will become, and falling in love a little more every day. I promise to love and cherish you through whatever life may bring us.

I enter this marriage with you, knowing that it’s not about us remaining the same people, but following the path of change together, hand in hand.

I vow to have the patience that love demands, to speak when I should, but also stay silent when that is what’s needed.

I look forward to a future where we share everything, building our relationship and serving each other. When you fall, I will catch you. When you cry, I will comfort you. When you laugh, I will share your joy.

Under the guidance of God, I join myself to you. You are the hair spray, I am the gel, and together, we make crunchy hair.

I thank you for being so good to me, sacrificing so much and being so patient. You know me better than anyone else in the world and somehow still you manage to love me, and I will try in every way to be worthy of your love.

So today, I, Marion, take you, Irene, to be my wife, knowing in my heart that you will be my constant friend, my faithful partner in life, and my one true love.

And my vows to Marion:

Marion, anyone who has known me for a long time knows how much of a cheesy romantic I have been, pretty much my whole life. I could blame Disney movies, but my friends know I would probably be like this even without them. I just believe so much in love and believe everyone should have it and experience it…and I sought after it and kept seeking it even when it failed miserably. I was always willing to put myself out there …eventually even on a dating app where I would just swipe a screen after seeing just a picture of a handsome man with smiling eyes, and it would change my life. It is also probably the least romantic way to meet ever, but I think that’s just how God works with me sometimes. Never as I expect or hope, but always better.

I used to hate it when people told me “you just know” because that made no sense to me and still honestly doesn’t. But the truth is, from our first message exchange to our firIMG_0002st conversation to our first date, I just knew. And since then, you have made me feel more loved than I ever thought possible. It’s not been without bumps, but I love how we recover together, and I feel secure that we will walk this life together as best as we can.

So today, on our wedding day, I am honored to tell you in front of all of these people who love us, that I love you and I want to share the rest of my life with you. I take you,
and I choose you, Marion, to be my husband. I promise to stand by you and support you as best as I can. I promise to let you have wife-free time to just be with the guys or whatever.  I promise to take care of you when you’re sick, but still make you go to work when you are faking. I promise to pray for us and to keep God in the midst of our relationship. And I promise before God and these witnesses to be your loving and faithful wife. I vow not to just grow old together, but to grow together. I promise to laugh with you in good times and struggle alongside you in bad times…for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for all the days of my life. I love you. Thank you for loving me.