Achievement or Well-Being?

This morning I read a short article about how parents in the Netherlands raise their children to value education for their well being, rather than for achievement. The Netherlands has one of the top education systems in the world. Naturally, I was intrigued as to what makes it the top-ranked country in the world and what are they doing differently compared to my upbringing in the education field. One aspect that the article highlighted was students are encouraged to see themselves as they are without the pressure of performance, competing with their peers, and grades.

I grew up in a household where education was everything. You go to school to apply yourself, be the best student, and bring home only the best grades. My parent’s always reminded my siblings and me of the opportunities that were easily given to us. In Haiti, they had to pay for school, prepare their own lunch, and travel far to get to the school building. In America, the school system provided school bus transportation, free education, and depending on your home situation, free lunch. My parents would say we were privileged compared to other students across the world and they were right. Sometimes I miss those days when my only responsibility was to be a student.

However, as I think about my son and have discussions with my husband about how we want to raise him, I can’t help but wonder, is that all there is to education– going to school, getting good grades, and being the best? How about the wholesomeness of the child and how will we make sure, as parents, that our children feel a sense of completeness within themselves, despite the pressures to conform, and perform in an educational world saturated with the need to prove self-worth by achievement and accolades from others?

I must give my parents credit because they raised me up to be a passionate, inquisitive, and curious young woman. I understand I was raised and brought up in a different time period. My parents projected upon my siblings and me, what their parents always wanted from them, or what they wished they could’ve had for themselves when they were my age. So it’s not a surprise that in elementary and junior high school, my parents expected me to apply myself. In high school, I had to remain focus to be qualified for the university level. During university, the expectation was to do well so I can get a good paying job. The problem is at these crucial stages of my educational journey; I lost my sense of purpose because I was too busy competing with my peers. I saw myself in who ‘they‘ were and not in who ‘I‘ was–I think that’s something many young people can connect with.

Competition.jpgAs a young teen, I maintained a mindset of always being the best and working hard. By the time I entered high school the value of education had become a source of achievement, rather than the awakening of my mind. At Mount Pleasant High, I was not only in competition in the classroom, (that’s if I was even interested in the content matter) image also became a defining factor of who I was and how others saw me. What I wore, the style of my hair, my friends, and overall demeanor. My intellect took a backburner, and if I was in good terms with the teacher, grades were not a problem. High school was all about graduating and getting into university.

My college years were a whirlwind of emotions. I entered a different world, with student peers that had a broader perspective on life and wasn’t afraid to share their opinions and worldview in the classroom. I felt like the invisible man occupying space. I thought college was just about doing well, earning a degree, and at the end of all your efforts, getting a good paying job. The reality of it all is college was a time in my life where I recognized my achievement gaps. It was no longer about competition or image–it was about proving myself worthy of the opportunity placed in front of me. For so many years, my mindset was all about being the best and achieving good grades to be successful. It never occurred to me, till then, the importance of communication, working collaboratively with different people that are entirely different from me and the importance of learning to appreciate and utilize my voice as well as life experiences to contribute to what should’ve been my real educational journey from the beginning.

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The beauty of different seasons and stages I have encountered throughout my academic journey is the growth and progress that it has made in my well-being. My parents were right by teaching me the value of education at a young age. Although I got lost along the way, it was the many lessons I allowed myself to learn throughout my process that has shaped me into the woman I am today.

So, as I think about my children and how I hope to raise them up, I pray my husband and I will be parents that teach them how to be confident individuals. I hope our children will welcome different opinions and have the courage to stand in their convictions in what they believe to be real and authentic, while also being receptive to what others can teach them. I have no desire to move to the Netherlands, but I sure can learn from their model and apply it to my household.

Signing Out,

~Esther Lynn~

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

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Gracefully Broken

For the past several weeks I’ve been listening to Tasha Cobbs, Gracefully Broken on constant repeat. I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy with only nine weeks left before I meet my little boy. Gracefully Broken, is how I would define this journey into motherhood.

Before pregnancy, I was very active; always riding my bike, working out, hiking steep mountains, traveling–the list goes on and on. I was always doing something. Hubby and I were always on a MicNilly Adventure. When I became pregnant, everything changed.

Almost everything I loved to do became embellished with constraints. It was like I started a new process of becoming that I consistently found myself wrestling. It was bizarre because on the one hand being pregnant was a blessing, but on the other side of the coin, I had to find myself somehow within my new limitations. And I must admit at the beginning stages of pregnancy it was tough redefining routines and overall just the way in which I thought about things. I always had to be aware of the life that was growing inside of me.

Eventually, I got to a place where I surrendered the freedoms of my past (life before pregnancy) to embrace my hidden treasure wholeheartedly. In my process of complete surrender, I’ve drawn closer, like never before, to my mother. Saturday mornings are our chat days. She will often share stories about me and my siblings I never was aware of before. Through her stories, she eases my many anxieties. Reassuring me at the end of it all, I’ll look back at this time in my life with gladness. The process of life is like a never-ending cycle. It doesn’t matter how old you get, the people that were always there from the beginning will almost always be there at the end.

My mom just recently immigrated to the United States when she became pregnant with my older sister. My mom was apart from her family during her first pregnancy. It was just her and my dad. Fortunately, they established strong relationships within their church, and that’s what kept her sane throughout her first pregnancy. Years, decades later, her second child is experiencing the same thing in a foreign land. It’s beautiful that my mother can still find my heart, navigate through my thoughts, even though I am thousands of miles away. What makes these precious moments with my mom over the phone so special is she speaks to me with so much grace, admiration, and love.

So, as I reflect on my beginning stages of pregnancy to my current stage–I am so glad I had to get to a place of complete surrender. I am grateful that God had to deconstruct my independence entirely for me to be open to what this new level could and would teach me. There is a reason why pregnancy takes nine months. As the child develops within the cocoon of the womb, the woman is gracefully woven into a mother. Once the child evolves out of the darkness of the womb, gracefully broken, seeking his mother’s voice, comfort, and smell. They both blossom with unconditional love towards one another.  Carrying life is a beautiful masterpiece that can only be painted and told by the God of all creation. Yes, I’ve been gracefully broken, and I am beyond grateful for it. We are all in the process of becoming. I just live to speak mine out loud.

Signing Out,

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

~Esther Lynn~

The Fledge Method

In recent months, I have been fascinated with the mother eagle, particularly on how she cares for her young. Several times I found myself asking, how is a young eaglet taught to fly? At what stage in life do they start learning how to use their wings and eventually maximize them? At what point does the mother eagle decide that it is time to let go? I believe a series of events prompted these questions– Lately, I’ve been thinking about my son. I’ve been imagining what his childhood, adolescence, and adult years will be like and this short story was created in dedication to him.

The Fledge Method

When I was just a seed, mother prepared the nest for me. She worked diligently to find the sturdiest of branches. Gliding through the winds to build the nest that would one day house me. I was her priority, her joy, her heartbeat.

Then I was born. I was white, frail, and extremely needy. Mother nursed me; in her wings, I was comforted and warm. We delighted in each other. For me, life was mother, and somehow, mother was me. I saw the world through her eyes. I understood in part by what she seen.

One day mother started acting strangely. She flew out of the nest with a look of determination in her eyes. My eyes followed her as she soared high through the winds. That is all I could do, after all, life was mother and mother was me. But something about that day, made a chill go up my spine. Before mother left the nest, she kept repeating one thing,“The time to fledge has come.”

Fledge, the one word that kept imprinting itself in my mind. Curiosity was starting to overtake me, so I stood at the edge of the nest protected by its borders, awaiting mother. I thought maybe she just went out to get me food. Surely she will come back soon. The sun relentlessly beat against me; slowly hours turned into days, no sign of mother or the sound of her voice making way in the wind.

The fourth day I decided to peer at the edge of the nest. My feeble legs somehow lifted me to the peak. Then a blustery breeze overtook my balance. I was falling out fast, uncontrollably with no awareness as to where I would end up. Swoosh was the sound of the wind, and I found myself laying on mother’s back. “Mother you saved me!” I beamed with contentment and joy. But all mother said was, “The time to fledge has come.”

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“Mother?” I asked nervously. “What does that mean…fledge?” Her only words, “The time to fledge has come.” Mother’s wings guided us back to the nest. However, the nest that once housed me was destroyed. “Mother, what happened to our home?” Her only words, “The time to fledge has come.” “Mother, I don’t understand what does that mean? Why do you keep saying that? You’re scaring me.” She looked at me with her potent eyes and began to hover over me.

It was at that moment; I begin to be entranced by her wings. They were dazzling. It was like they were singing a song to the wind. Mother said nothing. She just simply fluttered her wings above me. I was transfixed at all that was happening. Suddenly I had this urge to stretch. As I started to extend my feathers, Mother’s flutters became faster. Her eyes glued to me and my–feathers. My feathers. I was mother and mother was me, so I began to flap them.

Mother rose higher. In the still air, she watched me intensely as I started flapping uncontrollably. Then slowly but surely, the wind lifted me. I had the look of terror in my eyes. I’m almost certain of it. Yet, I felt carried by something bigger than me. I looked away from mother, and through the distance, I noticed others; other eaglets that were taking their first flight away from the nest.

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My eyes zoned in on them. Until I finally heard mother say, It is done. The fledge method is complete.” On that day, I learned, I was no longer mother and mother was no longer me. She was my first foundation and will always be the steady force behind who I am. But she is her own entity, and the same goes for me. Her wings were taught how to mount through the dangerous of winds courageously; so that one day, she, in turn, can teach me. She destroyed the nest for me to understand life in its wildest, windswept form.

Now that I am older, I later learned more about that day when my mother glided through the winds  and just left me with the words, “The time to fledge has come.” She flew to the peak of the highest mountain to watch me and what I would do. She recaptures her side of the story with only a few words, A mother learns early on in life the art of waiting on her young.” I asked mother, “What made you decide that it was time to let go?” She simply responded, “It was time.”

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So, as I prepare for my son, I imagine his life through stages. When he is first born, I will be like the mother eagle caring intently for her young. In my son’s young eyes, he will be like his mother, and I will reflect him. But he will someday grow to become a man, and I must be prepared to release him to the winds. I will someday have to recognize when the time to fledge has come. In that realization, I pray throughout his upbringing, his father and I will help him to see himself as his own entity. I hope at an early age he comprehends the power of his wings.

Because, son, if years later you find yourself reading this short story, mama and papa always knew the weighted significance of time and you, son, was created to soar high.

-The Fledge Method-

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Signing Out,

Esther Lynn

Listen. Write. Speak.=Inklub

Hello, World!

Micah and I been active on our new youtube channel, The Inklub. Below are our latest videos on our page. Check them out!

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With a baby on the way, I’ve been thinking a lot about “pregnancy-related things.” Thus, the title shouldn’t surprise anyone. But, this poem goes beyond the anticipated birth of our son. There’s an even greater birth that I’m anticipating. Take a listen.

What makes words so powerful? Here’s my explanation. – Micah

Powerful spoken word about race relations in a foreign country. Take a listen.

One word to describe my life: Drum. – Willynn

Latest Update In the Land of the Morning Calm

This past month I’ve had a lot of cool cultural experiences. Last week, the school of the blind came to my school to give free massages to the teachers. Of course being pregnant, made me jump at the opportunity. It was a fascinating experience. As soon as I walked in the room, the chaperone for the blind students said, “This is the 원어민” (The Native English Teacher). The students gasped in excitement. One of my colleagues informed them I was pregnant and that made them even more amazed with me. I watched as the students talked back and forth about who should give a massage to the pregnant foreign teacher. I just sat back and enjoyed the scene taking place in front of me. What made the whole scenario interesting is their way of identifying who I was, and certain characteristics about me, through the art of touch and the sound of my voice.

The Best Cultural Experience Ever

It was my first real encounter with blind people. It was astounding to hear and see how they interacted with each other and with me. It’s as if I was a part of a reality show, but instead I was watching through a television screen, rather than a present part of the whole encounter. I loved every moment of it. All the other teachers had only their upper back massaged. But, for me, they gave me an arm, shoulder, upper back, and scalp massage. My hair blew them away. I heard them talking amongst themselves about it. Soon, I had three blind students crowded in front of me. “Waaw,” they exclaimed with their mouths open, as they touched, felt, and massaged my scalp. It was SO relaxing! Did I mention it was free! My co-teacher was finished in ten minutes. Before she left the room, she stopped by my chair and said, “Willynn, you must have been the special guest everyone was waiting for.” When I finally went back to the English office, I exclaimed to my colleagues, “Now that was the best cultural experience I ever had!”

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Students Behavior: End of Semester

Other than that great moment in time last week. Around this time of year, students get very antsy and obnoxious. It’s humid, sticky, and rainy. The first semester is slowly coming to an end and summer vacation is on the horizon. They talk more than listen and are always ready to be competitive during game time. Despite it all, they are still endearing and caring towards me and Baby T. Every morning, when they see me walking to school, they run to me and with their high pitched piercing voices they say, “Good morning, Willynn Teacher! Hello, baby!” I can’t help but have a smile when interacting with these little people I have grown to appreciate and admire.

 

My Stalkerish First Graders

The English office is on the second floor, which is the same floor as the first-grade classes. My first graders get really excited when they see me. In Korea, there is no such thing as staff bathrooms. Everyone shares the same bathroom, which can be overwhelming at times. A prime example of this is when I go use the bathroom; the first-grade girls become borderline stalker-ish. They stand guard in front of the bathroom stall, whispering to each other, “Willynn Teacher and baby is in there.” (As if I physically have a baby in my hand.) I appreciate my students, but, my goodness, they get taxing at times. The joys and woes of being an elementary school teacher.

The Speed of Time

The days and months go by quickly here. One day it’s Monday, and next I know, it’s already Friday. The weekends are like quick daydreams and the week starts over again. Just yesterday it was March and it’s already July. The speed of time just makes me more aware of every moment. My heart has changed tremendously for these little people. I can now value their roles in adult lives. They are the best teachers with amazingly creative minds. They have this way of transforming any adult and making them in tune with their suppressed inner child. The wonderful thing about it all is when that inner child is finally released from its confines, the world opens up to you, and you begin to see the beauty in all things.

Oh Yeah, Pregnancy Update!

IMG_4721As you can imagine, I’m getting bigger by the day. The women teachers are captivated by my baby bump. They say, they have never seen my sort of belly shape before. (Um, okay. Whatever that means. I never knew there was such a thing.) Just today one of my co-teachers said, “Willynn, your belly! It grew over the weekend! It’s more forward than wide. Wow! I never saw a belly like that before.” My only response is my baby has an appetite just like his father. “But you’re not fat,” is her response. Um, thanks. (LOL, what else can I say.) A few weeks ago we found out that Baby T is a BOY!!! That is what we prayed for and that’s what God has granted us. Micah and I are ecstatic for our baby boy.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how God brings us through certain journeys and experiences. I compare pregnancy to the process of preparing for a wedding. If not careful, the soon to be newlyweds can get caught up with only the wedding aspect and not the actual marriage. Because at the end of the day that’s what matters. Just like pregnancy, soon-to-be parents, get caught up with the pregnancy, the material possessions, the praise, baby registry, baby shower, and labor. But, forsake to look forward.

Pregnancy is only momentary, just like a wedding. After all the glitz and glamor, another life begins, and an old self-image ends. It’s something Micah and I try to constantly be aware of and keep at the forefront as we transition into parenthood. It’s not always easy, but our baby boy deserves to enter the world with parents that are prepared mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to receive him. Even an innocent child deserves wholesomeness in their environment.

We are all in our own process of becoming. I just live to speak mine out loud.

Signing Out,

Esther Lynn

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

 

Pregnant In A Foreign Country

Many have been asking the undeniable question, ”How does it feel to be pregnant in a foreign country? How does that even work?” I’m sure if I was living in the States and one of my girlfriends was pregnant abroad I would be asking the same question. So, it’s easy to sympathize with the concerns of family and close friends.

I must say long before I became pregnant I started researching and talking to different expats that had their babies here in Korea. Out of all the different women I spoke to, and all the information I gathered, nothing made me apprehensive about becoming pregnant. My biggest concern was finding an English speaking doctor that had experience working with foreign women with my past medical condition. It did not take long to resolve that issue.

My gynecologist, Dr. Sejeong Oh from Queen’s Medical and OBGYN Clinic, not only speaks excellent English but is highly attentive to me, my baby, my concerns, and has the experience I needed to trust her. I am very thankful and grateful for her. A lot of expats recommended her because of her compassionate nature towards her patients, her willingness to answer questions, her ability in elaborating on complicated medical terms and providing a comfortable place in her clinic for her patients. Dr. Oh highly recommended my obstetrician, Dr. Sumi Kim from St. Mary’s University Hospital, to deliver Baby T. Both doctors are women (which was very important to me personally) who are well trained and experienced in their fields. They both communicate effectively and have been providing me with the best possible care.

I first started seeing Dr. Oh when I was four-five weeks pregnant. After confirming my pregnancy, she gave me a form for the Pre-Natal Care Discount Voucher. It’s better known as the Kook Min Hong Bok Card. The pregnancy voucher entitles women a maximum subsidy of 500,000 KRW (about $450 USD) to pay for doctor visits and other expenses regarding the medical care of the baby. Since being pregnant, I only had to pay an equivalent of $15.00 out of pocket. The National Health Insurance System in Korea is amazing compared to what I use to have in the States.

As for my job, my contract entitles me to three months of maternity leave. Another perk is during the first and third trimester I’m able to leave work two hours earlier than usual. In Korea, government employers are very sensitive towards women who are in their early and late stages of pregnancy. They know it’s a very critical time for the baby’s development. I work at two schools after the logistics of my maternity, and early leave was figured out. A lot of my colleagues wished me well and were very excited about my pregnancy. Of course, they had endless questions that varied from personal to superficial (which I expected), but the overwhelming amount of love I received was astounding, to say the least. My country school always gives me vegetables from the school garden to take home with me. At lunch time, they always have fruits and fresh vegetables for me to eat.

My students started suspecting I was pregnant as of last week. One of my fourth-grade girls asked my co-teacher if I was pregnant and less than five minutes later the news spread like wildfire. I remember last Friday walking on the school bus, and countless students were pointing at my stomach saying, “Willynn Teacher, 아기, 아기 (baby, baby).” “Yes, baby,” I responded and then came the wave of applause and little people with excited faces.

I cannot fail to mention the extraordinary support Micah and I have at our local church, Saeronam English Ministry. I remember during my first trimester I had the weirdest form of morning sickness. I was constantly nauseous, but not to the point of throwing up. For two weeks, I had no appetite. I couldn’t take certain smells, and I was always tired. Several women from the church offered me help and support. They calmed my many anxieties. They bought me herbal remedies that helped with nausea and were always present. Not a day went by without at least one of the women from the church checking in on me. I’m so grateful for them.

Pregnancy in another country could be scary for most, but as for me, my heart is at peace. Micah and I have outstanding people in our community who have become adopted parents, siblings, and of course amazing friends. The Thompson’s are truly blessed. Of course, I miss my biological parents, especially my mama’s cooking. But even from afar, they have been a tremendous support to us by asking what we need, sending us care packages in the mail, and making an honest effort to communicate with us once a week. Sometimes I’m just blown away by the amount of love that surrounds us near and afar. Yes, it takes a courageous soul to do what we are doing. However, you never know what outcome can come out of breaking out of your shell and doing something outside of the ordinary. Following faith requires much sacrifice, but sacrifice brings forth abundant rewards that surpass the understanding of common men.

Signing Out,

Esther Lynn

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

My Hidden Treasure: Baby Thompson

In 2015, the chances of me having children were very slim. At 27 years old, the doctors found three massive benign tumors that altered my uterus and gave me no chance of carrying children, unless I had surgery. The surgery did not guarantee I would be able to conceive; the doctors informed my husband and I that the medical procedure would be risky, but that was the only chance we had in one day growing our family in the future. At first, we were very opposed to the surgery. But as the months progressed and my belly swelled with tumors (not a life), we gave up control and allowed God to take the wheel.

Long story short, 2015 brought me many tears, pain, and unbelief. However, there was such beauty and love that came out of that one historical storm. On December 2015 I had the surgery. My doctors informed us they found not three but seven tumors that were so large they did not know how I managed to carry them for so long. By the grace of God, the doctors were able to repair my uterus, take all the tumors out and give me a chance to carry a baby in the future full term; this is my story, my testimony, my joy, my impossible becoming possible and my precious treasure. God has blessed Micah and me tremendously. Through all the whirlwinds and storms that came our way, God has always kept us in his will.

Two years later, we’ve explored different cultures and are currently living in a foreign land. But the greatest adventure out of this whole experience is the expectation of our little bundle of joy coming in December. MicNilly is expanding their tribe and adding a precious little one to the village. We are so excited! Beyond grateful to God and just filled with so much love for our little peanut.

A good friend said to me,  seeing the purpose in your current place and community is always best. She told me to take this journey, tell it and live it proudly. God has blessed Micah and me with a hidden treasure. Our process to this road was long and rigorous; it required much sacrifice, molding of self, and preparation. On March 2017, God said it was time and opened my womb for life to develop and grow from within. At times I’m just astounded at all the miracles that are happening around us. At my doctor visits, Micah and I watch the monitor screen of our pride and joy actively kicking, punching, and at times sucking its thumb, with so much love filled in our hearts. Often times, after my doctor visits I’ll call my parents and ask them endless questions about their emotions when they first saw me on an ultrasound screen. I become inquisitive about their prayers for me and how they prepared to receive me. My parents share their insights on how a child changes everything any soon-to-be mother or father ever knew about love; they call it the purest element of love.

Life growing inside of a women’s womb changes everything she once knew and observed about her journey. All that matters is the healthy development of her child. The deep connection she has with her spouse. The love and support of family and friends. But, most importantly, the awareness and understanding that God has it all in his hands.

I always tell my husband, Micah, that he is a tangible expression of God’s love for me. Baby Thompson is my double portion. We both fully rejoice in our inheritance. Everlasting joy will be ours. Through the Prophet Isaiah, God spoke his word best into our existence.

“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness, I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.” 

Isaiah 61: 8-9

We are all in our own process of becoming. I just live to speak mine out loud.

Signing Out,
Esther Lynn

Sunday, June 4th, 2017