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.

achivementgap.jpg

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

Advertisements

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.

brokenheart

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.

instrospection

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

Let’s Have A Conversation

I was taught at an early age the depths of words. I learned the immense weight that can transcend an atmosphere by the expressions, we, as people, use to express what’s hidden, stored, and felt in our hearts. I’m still a working progress, but in recent years, I have come to a conclusion, reflection is necessary, and awareness is imperative. So, I was then left with this question, what impact do our words have on the relationships that surround us. Let’s have a conversation. You and I. Face-to-face with locked eyes.

Let’s have a conversation about relationships. You see, too often we get it confused. When I speak, I often feel cross-referenced. It’s like I’m partially non-existent. Conversations unfold with what you heard and the words I actually spoke. You misguide my details, and they are often missing from the whole interaction.
Your reaction is never a response at all, but rather a flare up of raging emotions. Relations can either be existential or only sustained by vile contentment.

Let’s have a conversation where judgment is at a distance and wounds from words doesn’t exist. Let’s get past the surface fluff and reach deeper in our understanding. Where we no longer have to hold back our authentic thoughts in an attempt to save ourselves from our dismantled hearts. Let’s come together. You and I. Face-to-face with locked eyes. Let’s have a conversation to speak out loud the truths hidden in our broken places to release, the torrent suppressed underneath our emotional tides.

Let’s have a conversation where we stop hiding from ourselves; Where we turn away from our loneliness and confront our shame. Let’s have a conversation where our vulnerability has an open invitation to our discussion. Let’s come together. You and I. Face-to-face with locked eyes. Let’s have a conversation; where we stop defining ourselves by the pain that once masked us. Let’s go on this journey, you and I. Where we explore the world as warriors of light.

Let’s go deeper, where light no longer hides from darkness, uncertainty, and lies; where inner truths are spoken out loud; surpassing our outside borders. I was taught at an early age the depths of words. I learned the immense weight that can transcend an atmosphere by the expressions, we, as people, use to express what’s hidden, stored, and felt in our hearts. So, I was then left with this question, what impact our words have on the relationships that surround us.

My learned experiences taught me this: Words are learned. Words are remembered. Words are genuine. Words are expressed. Our words tell the real truth about our character. So, never neglect the importance of a real conversation.

1 Year Anniversary

I can hardly believe it today is my one-year anniversary in Korea! Wow, time really flew by! I must say this has been the most exhilarating, life changing, and challenging adventure I’ve ever been on. However, I’ll forever be grateful for this opportunity abroad because it has shaped me in ways I never would have imagined.

Prior to moving to Korea, if you did not know me well, I assume people would have perceived me as someone that was relatively quiet, snobbish, and self-absorbed. In retrospect, I would say people assumptions about me were correct. I was very much to myself and life revolved mainly around me and mine. I would say my biggest identity flaw was the “I” syndrome. Often my siblings and cousins would get mad at me for always thinking about myself and what was convenient for me. (Yeah, I drove a lot of people crazy.) Over time, I realized what caused me to be so consumed with me was the lack of not knowing who I really was–so, instead of investing time on what and who really mattered I focused on trivial things such as, image, apparel, and status.

introspection
Untold stories, untold truths, hidden deep within a soul… a voice whispers, awaken the treasures. Reach down into the deepest abyss and capture your truth.

After getting married, I realized I did not need things and praise from others to make me feel complete as a human being. My beloved husband, Micah, has taught me the art of simplicity. I learned how to be content with what I already had and to appreciate the people in my life that I hold dear to my heart. Micah not only taught me the art of simplicity he taught me the beauty of communication. He had this way of pushing me out of my head and helping me put words to my thoughts. He is my Sankofa bird, constantly reminding me to look back from time to time to see what my past has taught me in the wake of my present stage in life.

mw
He speaks truths that awakens my soul. Forever my Sankofa Bird, my Micah Josiah.
For the past year, I’ve been living abroad in a foreign land. As I already mentioned, it has been the most exhilarating, life changing, and challenging adventure I’ve ever been on. Mainly because, as a foreigner, I constantly have to speak out loud. Whatever I say or do is a cultural exchange for my colleagues, students, and friends. Community is what makes this experience abroad so enriching. The necessity to be honest about who you are, who you allow to surround you and what you want in life, rings like a clanging alarm. If not careful or aware of these things, I can slowly become self-absorbed again. Therefore, my community keeps me upright and authentic in all that I say or do. The realization that no matter what, you are a leader worth paying attention to, and what makes the attention either good or bad is completely up to you.

love.jpg
The greatest lesson that life abroad has taught me is the intensity to love.
Over the past 12 months, my heart has swelled for young children that are completely foreign but so welcoming and appreciative towards me. Of course, I had students that were the complete opposite. But the love that pressed my heart made me work harder to somehow reach them and build some type of rapport with them. There have also been people that found me, and I found them from all different parts of the world. Together we all had to bypass the barriers of language, culture, and customs to reach the truest sense of ourselves. These exploits in community have never been easy. The love and security we have found in each other have kept us pressing forward in the direction of change to dissipate our frailties that have kept us lost in our past rather than intentional about our present and future.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES                     SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The intensity to love, the art of simplicity, the beauty in communication and the enriching experience of community. All of these lessons have shaped me by making me better as a woman, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and teacher. I’m grateful for this opportunity; life is more vibrant and real because of it. What else can I say but thank you Korea and all of you that read this blog and spend time uplifting my spirit.

Signing Out,

Friday, February 17, 2017

~Esther Lynn~

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westernized Eyes

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

As 2016 quickly comes to an end, I can’t help but reflect on how my westernized eyes have changed since this year started. I started this year full of hope, ambition and gratitude. I left all that I knew behind to start anew in a foreign land. My process of becoming entered the next level. I thought the things I read in books about Korea was enough to prepare me for actually living here. Boyyy, was I wrong. Nothing can prepare you for the next level. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to be prepared and fully aware of your next move. But, experience will always trump book knowledge any day. In this blog I hope to give a brief snippet of my 2016 year abroad.

2016abroad

I made a huge mistake. I entered the Land of the Morning Calm thinking I knew everything I needed to know to live here. I must admit, I was not teachable in the beginning. In my westernized eyes, there were too many things that were backwards. For instance, the communal soap bar in the public bathroom to wash your hands, the lack of napkins in the restaurants, the extremely cold hallways at school, the twisted perception of women roles- that’s just a few things amongst the plethora of examples I can give. I thought the problem was them, but in retrospect the problem was me.

My westernized eyes valued independence; separation from the crowd and my own personal opinions. I cringed to have to do anything mandatory- to not have an option was societal suicide. Yet, I found myself living in a foreign land where the pressures of community were absolutely necessary and prevalent to life. Everyone was a part of something. When one eat, we all eat. When one speaks,  we all contribute to conversation. When one is by themselves, we all come together and join them. Community, the backbone of the Korean life. There is no such thing as independence here. Separation from the crowd means you don’t care and personal opinions, if they are not relatable to the situation at hand, keep them to yourself. My beginning stages of life in Korea was a constant collision of resistance of two different cultures battling one another, instead of learning from each other. In retrospect, I was just being stupid. Comparisons can be a deadly force, especially when the similarities are hidden behind the blind spots. Again, I thought something was wrong with them, but the real problem was me.

introspection.jpg

The first three to six months of 2016 I was in a constant battle with myself. I used to think it was the people conspiring against me- but, in reality, it was my westernized eyes. It was how I viewed them, their world and culture as a whole. I entered this new level of life abroad all wrong. As mentioned, comparisons can be a deadly force, especially when the similarities are hidden behind blind spots. In the western world, the bathrooms don’t always have soap. School buildings don’t always have heat. Gender roles in the west are just as twisted as it is in the eastern hemisphere. Personal opinions aren’t always welcomed, especially when it’s not benefiting anyone or the situation at hand. I had the same challenges when I lived in America, so what made them so different or alarming living in South Korea? It’s the fact that the experience was unknown, unfamiliar and never experienced.

unknown

As for community, in the West we emphasize the differences between introverts and extroverted people. If you like to talk, you’re a social butterfly and you’ll thrive in any situation. But, if you’re an introvert, like me, people will just think you’re a loner, snobby and super weird. I struggled with community too, when I lived in America. What makes it any different now? It’s the fact that I had to finally confront my issues with community, instead of hiding from it or acting as if it doesn’t exist. I actually have met extroverts that still struggle with community. Extrovert or introvert, it means nothing. We all have our own separate challenges. We are all somehow resisting change. We are all in the process of becoming.

2016 has taught me  a valuable lesson: confrontation with self. The ability to take a deeper look with what’s going on inside of me. My resistance to things that can actually produce growth. This year has given me a deeper understanding of my root system. My western eyes has caused much dissension with  my surroundings. But, it’s not all bad, valuable life  lessons were learned throughout it all. I can see my progress. Who I was in the beginning of 2016 is not who I am now. I have learned and understood that all created things need community in order to survive. My westernized eyes did not fail me completely. It actually opened my world view. There is more to life than just me, my experiences and culture. It’s all about being honest with yourself and seeing the purpose in the life you’re experiencing.

At the end of it all, 2016 has been a great year. I had challenges but I also had a lot of memorable moments. I still end this year with hope, ambition and gratitude. I learned so much. My process will continue to grow my character. In that regard, I end with, “Happy New Year.” Let’s learn how to be honest with ourselves, so that we’re authentic with the community that surrounds us.

I’m just speaking out loud in my process of becoming…

Date: Saturday, December 31st, 2016

Signing Out,

~Esther Lynn~

 

To The Runner

To the runner:

If God was to tell you everything that is to come, would you be able to bear it, handle it or would you run from it? Chances are you would run. This letter is to the runners. The young soul that allows fear to grip them. The women that tends to say yes, but really wants to say no. The men that struggles with consistency. This letter is to the runners that numb their senses, in order to distract themselves from experiencing reality. My message to you is, Stop running aimlessly!

runner

To the runner: you’re capable of achieving great exploits. You have the power to go above and beyond where you stand now. The problem is your motivation. You get caught up in the expectations and opinions of mere man. Don’t you know what they say about you, they actually struggle with too? Or are you so blind to their manipulative words that you fail to see the hidden truth?

To the runner: you’re better than you think. Your mind can easily twist a mere occurrence and make it bigger in your imagination. Your body lies to you too. The truth is you’re not feeling lazy or unmotivated, what’s really happening is you feel distance from what is and what potential could be…

sunset-runner

To the runner: your heart is desperately wicked. You must protect it from the lies that looms over it. If not careful, we too can be master manipulators, dictators and crazy control freaks. You think, as long as you can control a situation it won’t get out of hand. But, Usually the very things we try to control, are the very things that spiral uncontrollably. Let it go! It’s important to allow things and people to find their own way. After all, everyone has their own journey and their own process of becoming.

To the runner: you’re beautiful, you’re enough and your value is far beyond any materialistic thing that you use to define your beauty. True beauty is found from within. Take the time necessary to learn the treasure that awaits you deep within your soul. It’s in your soul’s treasure box you will find the tools you need to confront the very things you run from.

runnerconfront

To the runner: stop running aimlessly, run with purpose, run with a direction already set in mind? All runners are really messengers. You may think differently, but the way in which you portray your message, a mere onlooker will find it easy to profess your story.

Pause and think about that

Runners are stolon branches, stemming out of its ends are roots in constant development, making enough space to produce new plants. Runners are grounded, hidden beneath dark soils. Runners are a representation of this stolons growth process. Others may not see your transformation, but the be process is on the verge of becoming. Soon you will rise above the surface.

stolon-root

To the runner: Stop running aimlessly. You’re more than enough. People’s expectations do not define you. Your life is your story, be aware of your message; your be process is on the verge of becoming, Soon you will rise above the surface.  

So, Run with direction; run with purpose.

Signing Out,

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Willynn Sanon Thompson

Writer’s Name: Esther Lynn