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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A Fight to the Finish

This morning I am reminded of Apostle Paul’s famous words, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Timothy 4:7) I’m reminiscent of these words because lately, it feels like I’m fighting to finish strong during my last several days at work. As of this week, I have only 30 days left until my maternity leave starts. Remaining focused in the present moment is a challenge. My son consumes my mind and the upcoming transition back to the United States keeps me distracted and staring off into space.

The difference between Apostle Paul and me is he was actually at the end of the finish line. He lived a gruesome but fulfilling life. He endured the greatest storms and not once did he recant his trust in God. He walked into situations where the result was often unknown. It’s almost like he never had his own set of expectations as to how things would turn out. He only expected God to take over and guide his path through the dark valleys of uncertainty. He had hope that God will attend to his needs as he climbed up the troublesome mountains of this world. Paul was never sure of the end result here on earth. But he knew what awaited him in glory. For him, the fight to the finish to see the greater glory of what awaited him was worth far more in comparison to the precariousness of this passing world.

I glean on Paul’s perseverance. I read his words and allow them to uplift me; as I take hold of what my present moment has to offer me. An old Haitian proverb seeps its way through my pores and penetrates my heart, “Deye mon gen mon.” (Translated in English, “Beyond the mountains, there are more mountains.”) An idiom most Americans could relate to is, “The grass isn’t greener on the other side.” As I go through this waiting period towards the finish, I must remember to keep my head focused in all situations and live in the present because that’s what dictates the outcome of my future. Endure hardships by not easily being distracted by fears of what’s to come or what currently is–I must remember to trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, and love extravagantly.

I believe what Apostle Paul was trying to convey to Timothy is a persistent pace forward is needed when running a race that feels everlasting. Emotions are misleading if one allows them to take over. His words serve as a reminder, a forecast of what can happen if one allows the anxieties of tomorrow to cloud their judgment about today. Therefore, I must keep my head above the torrent of negative thoughts and strive to finish strong. I must fight the good fight, finish the race, and remain faithful till the very end.

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

Signing Out,

~Esther Lynn~

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

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~

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

Inklub

My husband, Micah and I started a new YouTube channel called, the Inklub. Below is a description of what the Inklub is all about. I hope all my readers will check out our new channel and subscribe.

Inklub is a channel where we will share our writings to inspire, encourage, and sometimes even challenge our viewers to think differently. Most of our videos will be spoken word pieces, but we also plan to share songs, stories, and various other creative presentations.

Our writings are inspired by the world around us; whether it be our experiences or others. As we observe, we listen, we write and then speak out our perspectives.

We believe there is something undeniably therapeutic about words–the right words. That is why we are so adamant about sharing what we’ve written. We hope you enjoy this channel. Feel free to subscribe and connect with us.

Till Next time Friends,

Esther Lynn

Wednesday, June 14, 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

Life and Heart

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my process of becoming, where I have grown and areas where I am still stagnant. My life experiences have taught me the importance of reflection and awareness. So, let’s have a conversation about life and heart. How do we find a balance between the two? Balance is such a critical word, yet it is so hard to discover and do. Jesus is a perfect example of balance. He sees in us what we fail to see in ourselves. Even in our selfishness and brokeness, he loves us still the same. At times I find myself struggling greatly with God’s love. I don’t always understand it. For God to love me despite my flaws, setbacks, lack of obedience, and selfishness completely blows my mind.

When someone offends me, I hold on to it. It takes me a while to let it go. I ask God for help along my process of forgiveness towards others, but my evil mind will contort negative responses to give when the opportunity arrives. My rational is to hurt them just as much as they hurt me; to cut their wounds deeper, so that they can experience my pain. Now, I know, this thought process is not right. Fighting fire with fire doesn’t calm the fiery flames; it only ignites the spark.

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However knowing something doesn’t necessarily mean you automatically put it into action. Sometimes it takes a breaking point, a time of deep introspection to turn away from the dangers of unforgiveness. Every time I get to the point of lacking grace, God reminds me what can happen to me internally when I choose to hold on to strife. I rob myself of the ability to be forgiven from him and by others. This is why God’s love often blows my mind. His love is so deep that the moment I think I am justified in my emotions/ actions he causes me to look at myself. Once I let go of the offense and look at me first, before scrutinizing the offending party, I realize I, too,  need grace. I, too, need love and I, too, am in search of balance that is hard to discover but necessary to go in search after.

One day I will have children. I often think of them when I’m struggling with loving others. As I look forward to one day becoming a mother, I consider my thought life and heart. I think about their characteristics. I imagine the way they will interact with people. I ask myself, do I want them to lack grace or do I want them always to have a heart of love? I realized who they become completely depends on who I am now. It’s important I see people the way God sees me, flawed but loved. My emotions and actions may at times be unpredictable and out of place, but I am loved by God still the same. Just as they are loved by God in the same way. Letting go is not easy but it’s necessary for my past, present, and future.

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It’s human nature to be broken by something or someone that hurts us. It’s not unusual to feel disconnected to others and their personal views, especially when the pain runs deep. But, to find balance, we must turn away from our judgments and the wounds that hurt us. We cast it aside by not being so dependent on what once was or should’ve been. We let go of our expectations and allow life to reveal itself on its own. Harvesting strife against others is refusing to grow. Harvesting love despite its hurt contents and brokenness is to accept people as they are without hurting yourself or those that are looking up to you or coming up after you. I call this, Periods of Waiting: Periods of Trusting.

Truth is we can become something or someone our hearts allow us to become. Change is not something the environment fosters. It’s rather an internal part of what our hearts desires. Become or un-become; your heart is the only organ with the real answer.

I’m just Speaking Out Loud in my Process of Becoming…

Signing Out,
Esther Lynn

Monday, May 29th, 2017