My Race Is Not My Culture

Source: Families with Children From China – Greater NY Facebook page

I was adopted from China at a very young age.

At just over one year old, I never spoke or understood Chinese; I don’t remember China; I don’t know my biological parents. I returned to China once — about a decade ago — and honestly, I don’t feel the need to visit again.

I grew up in the greater Dallas area between two Caucasian brothers with my Caucasian parents. Naturally — or maybe unnaturally (I’m not quite sure) — most of my friends growing up were Caucasian. And I went to a predominantly Caucasian university (Sic’Em), where I joined a largely Caucasian sorority. Post-college, I got hooked on climbing, which historically is a mostly Caucasian sport.

Are you noticing a pattern, too?

I didn’t acknowledge my race and heritage for a very, very long time.

Though my parents enrolled me in Chinese class in elementary, I refused to cooperate and only lasted a few months. I didn’t want to be a weird Asian girl that spoke a foreign language and ate foreign foods, I just wanted to be normal. I just wanted to fit in. And to me, at the time, fitting in meant to embrace the white suburban culture I was adopted into.

During the height of the COVID-19 shutdown, I spent most of the month of May holed up in my apartment. Though I had never celebrated or acknowledged it before, I decided to honor the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month for the first time ever.

I called my Chinese sisters — honorary sisters who are also adopted from China — and I researched. I learned why the AAPI community is honored in May of all months. I learned about Grace Lee Boggs, a Chinese American author, activist, and feminist. I followed AAPI social media accounts. I meditated on and journaled about my adoption journey.

And for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel so ashamed and alienated from my heritage and ethnicity. For the first time in my life, I felt proud and in awe of my biological brothers and sisters, of my history, of where I came from.

My race is not my culture.

I am Chinese.

I have long, dark brown hair. I have almond-shaped eyes. I have tan skin.

I am also American.

I have a white family. I love football. Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays.

My race is not my culture.

I look and biologically am Chinese, but also simultaneously celebrate and embrace my white family and common white upbringing.

Perhaps the beauty of my adoption story is I don’t especially identify with either Chinese or American culture. If anything, I’ve almost created and even adopted my own: a culture built on kindness, understanding, and inclusivity; a culture that transcends race, language, and background; a culture where joy is infectious and struggles are embraced; a culture where no one is excluded or alone in their fight; a culture where you can come as you are.

My race is not my culture, and I love that about me.

Self-Care Series pt. 3: Find What Fuels You

Self-care is important.

And part of self-care is just finding out what fuels you — what gives you energy, life, and rejuvenation. In the first two parts of this series on self-care, I walked you through the importance of rest, and then exercising & eating well.

Today we are talking about the things that not only bring you peace, but also joy. Things that not only make you feel rested, but also make you feel motivated.

A few things that give me life are spending time outside, meditating on scripture, and connecting with others (more on the last in a post-to-come).

Opt outside

I love to be outside. Whether it’s a hike or a bike ride, a climb or a picnic, I love to soak up the sun and breathe fresh air. There is something about spending time outside that makes my soul sing.

Unfortunately, the greater Dallas area does not have much (or really anything) to offer in terms of mountains. But when I am able to escape the 214 and hop on a plane to Colorado, or most recently Utah, it’s always time well spent.

While I prefer mountains, I’m not too picky — I also appreciate the piney woods of East Texas, or the simple parks in DFW. Thankfully, being a happy dog mom means going on a minimum of two walks a day. At times they are short and sweet, but I always treasure these times in the morning and evening.

Meditating on scripture

Spending time alone with My Heavenly Father also fuels me. It both brings me peace and lifts my spirit. I will admit I am not the most disciplined at my daily quiet time, but when I prioritize a slow morning with God, I notice a tangible positive difference in my energy and attitude the rest of the day.

I have found that having a designated devotional helps me be more dedicated when reading scripture. It gives me direction and focus, and it overall helps me have deeper, more intentional time spent with The Lord.

Find what fuels you

Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe the great outdoors or a spiritual relationship don’t speak to you. Maybe instead you’re fueled by alone time, volunteer service, or long car rides. We are all different and that’s okay! We can all like different things and have different environments, activities, or relationships that fuel us.

During times of apathy or lack of inspiration, I encourage you (and myself) to find things that motivate you. I encourage you to find what speaks to you, what gives you life. Find what gives you joy and pursue it!

It Is Well: Words To My Younger Self

I turned 26 in August.

26 is a big(ish) year for me. I am no longer at a quarter-of-a-century, but over it. My 26th birthday was great: I spent the day before climbing outside with friends, I spent the day of going to law school downtown, I made a friend (Hi, Meredith!), and I ate dinner with my family. I squished my tiny nephews’ faces. And I was gifted my first pair of biker shorts, which have really been a game changer.

This year is so much more than biker shorts though, it is also a big year because I finally started law school! And when I say finally, I mean finally. Four years had passed since graduation, since my life in Nashville, since the revelation of realizing I wanted to pursue law. Lots of unfulfilled promises to myself and lots of prayer passed before I finally, finally, FINALLY began my law school journey.

And now that I am here, at this milestone of life, I am just looking back feeling overwhelmingly grateful for all of the moments that have led me to where I am today.

Here are some words of positivity and truth I’d speak to my younger self:

  • You are stronger than you think. When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I felt puny and weak and insecure. But I have since seen the benefits of living with bipolar disorder, and I have overcome so much hardship because of it.
  • You are great a taking care of others, but care for yourself, too. Learning to say no to people and yes to myself has been a great lesson that keeps on giving.
  • Cling to Jesus, and he’ll cling to you. My faith is important to me, and over the years it has become obvious that when I pursue Jesus and value my time with him, I feel his love and faithfulness and kindness even deeper.
  • Dreams are for chasing (and achieving). Finally starting law school has made me realize that chasing & achieving dreams is so utterly rewarding!
  • It takes a village. A lesson that is a continual theme on this blog, I am so thankful for the people who have encouraged and inspired and shaped me into who I am today.

A few less serious truths would be: tacos are for more than just Tuesday’s, dog mom life will rock your world and make you better, and dry shampoo is a girl’s best friend.

Self-reflection is really good for me.

It’s good for my soul to look five years, ten years, fifteen years back and to see how far I’ve come. It’s good to see who has come (and who has gone) and how they have molded me in a positive way. It is good for helping me feel blessed and at peace with where I am today.

I cannot wait for these next few years in law school to teach me even more. I cannot wait for the rest of Year 26 and even 26 years in the future. It is well with my soul today. And it will be well with my soul tomorrow, and the day after, and the weeks, months, and years to come.

A Thankful & Delighted Heart: On Non-Plans & Law School

I’m going to law school.

Let me say it again and say it louder: I AM GOING TO LAW SCHOOL!!!! Four years ago in Nashville, I decided I wanted to pursue a law degree. For the past three years, I battled debilitating depression and discouraging anxiety. I had mood swings and low dips and dark, dark moments. It was hard for me to dream and plan for my future.

Last year (and really all of 2020), I miraculously felt healed in a lot of ways. My medication finally kicked in and I have only faced a handful of depressed days since. It truly has been the biggest and most surprising blessing.

So I decided to go for it! I took the leap of faith, bought some LSAT study books, took the test (twice), did okay on the test (twice), and applied for schools. And here we are, with my dream and plan unfolding right before my eyes, as I begin classes in just over a month.

Quite literally nothing went according to plan.

In undergrad, I never planned to go to law school. I never planned to veer off from my degree and career path in public relations. I never planned to move back home to Dallas so soon.

Post-graduate degree, I never planned to have bipolar disorder and struggle on and off and on again with it. When I began to dream about law school, I never planned for it to take me three years to take action and four years to finally attend.

And even going to law school now, I didn’t plan to stay in Dallas. I didn’t plan to move back home with the parents (again), and I didn’t plan to attend UNT Dallas.

But here we are!

Even though nothing has gone to plan, I am eager and excited and over the moon at seeing this dream come to fruition. It has been a rewarding and humbling and downright giddy experience. My poor little brain was pushed, pulled, and stretched mentally as I studied for the test, wrote personal statements, and applied for schools.

Lately, I have prayed for a grateful and delighted heart. In all honesty, I am not too thrilled to go back with living with my family. I love them dearly and treasure their relationships, but I know the dynamics of being an adult at home will be difficult. And I am not too thrilled to stay in Dallas. I love this city and it will always be home to me, but I was ready to spread my metaphorical wings and fly.

But here we are! I am trying to be thankful for the opportunity to go to law school, for parents who are generous enough to welcome me into their home, for a city that houses a community I cherish.

I am trying to be delighted at the way these non-plans have unfolded, to be delighted in that The Lord has been so gracious to me during this incredible journey of chasing a dream I feared would never happen.

So here I go!

It’s just little ole me with a big-hearted dream and a big-hearted plan to do big things and love in big ways. It’s just little ole me ready and waiting for good things to happen this year, my very first year of law school and my second time around living at home since returning to Dallas.

I am hopeful and expectant and giddy and excited! I am nervous and anxious and scared and intimidated. But it will be a wonderful journey, and I am just grateful and delighted to jump headfirst into it.

The Monthly Update: June

June highlights:

  • I went to the Boho Market at the Dallas Farmers Market with my sweet friend Lauren and my darling pup Jack in tow. The Boho Market includes a bunch of locally made goods from wonderful, local people. It was nice to approach shopping in a safe and fun way.
  • I got in some good quality time with my darling fam bam for Father’s Day and the weekend after. My crazy, cute, high energy nephew Mason turned two and we sang “Happy Birthday” together. And I got to hold and snuggle Mason’s tiny and wonderful, new baby brother, Westin.

June lowlights:

  • As the potential of starting law school in the fall approaches, my stress and anxiety increase. This dream has been a longtime in the making, and I just want to make sure I am doing it right.

This month, I was filled by:

  • Some friends came over for dessert and conversation in the middle of the month. We talked and laughed and drank wine and laughed some more. We dove into some hard topics, like coronavirus and how it’s changed us, systemic racism and what we can do, but handled the conversations with kindness, grace, and transparency. It was the most magical evening, it left me feeling encouraged and empowered.

This month, I was emptied by:

  • George Floyd’s death was a catalyst for a movement that our nation desperately needed: a movement that highlights injustice, brings darkness to light, and gives a voice to the voiceless. I have been encouraged to see my friends support their Black brothers and sisters, but simultaneously heavy-hearted to see the many injustices that are present in our society today. Though my heart aches and breaks for the BIPOC community, I know a feeling of complacency only leads to inaction and neglect.

In July, I am looking forward to:

  • Even though I am late in the game in posting the June update, I was majorly looking forward to Fourth of July this year. And my high expectations were met! I will elaborate more in next month’s update.

Hand It Over: On Giving Daily Anxiety To Jesus

We have a lot to be anxious about these days.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected each individual in different ways: people are losing their jobs, losing their health, losing their feeling of security. People are worried and they have good reason, because this is a very serious situation that has taken over our world and disrupted our livelihoods.

When I talk to my friends about the situation, a word that is commonly used to describe how we feel is “anxious.”

We say things like:

  • “I’m anxious about getting coronavirus or unknowingly giving it to someone I love.”
  • “I am anxious about going to the grocery store.”
  • “I am anxious about losing my job.”

I don’t know about you, but this whole situation has left me feeling afraid, nervous, weary, insecure, lost, unsettled. In many ways I have felt shocked, in other ways I have felt numb.

The other day I stumbled upon a sweet reminder.

1 Peter 5:7 says this:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Let’s hand our worries over to Jesus.

Jesus can take them, he can handle them, he loves to love us and he loves to take on our burdens. He cares for us deeply and radically and unconditionally, and he can uphold any anxiety we may struggle with or feel.

It is through his grace and mercy that we can find a radical peace and rest for our anxious, unsettled hearts. It is through his grace and mercy that we can approach him on our knees crying out for a sense of comfort and security during these uncertain times.

These truths calm me.

The truth of God’s love and goodness and ever-kindness calm me. The truth of His loyalty to His children, His pursuit of their hearts, His gentleness to them make me feel less overwhelmed and more at ease.

We can rest on these character traits of The Lord, the promises He makes, the sovereignty of His kingdom. We can rest on His love, His goodness, His faithfulness. It is time to hand our burdens over to Him, for He cares for us.

Your Heart’s Desires: On Setting Intentions

“Set an intention.”

My friend and yoga instructor said at the start of class. “What do you want to get out of this session?”

“Maybe you want to feel joy or peace,” she continued. “Maybe you want to improve in flexibility or mindfulness.”

The intention I set for myself was: do not die. Not technically an intention, I suppose. But a goal at the least. It had been months since my last yoga class. My stiff and inflexible body did not feel prepared. My perfectionist mindset feared failure, falling face-down on the mat and making a huge embarrassment out of myself.

Here’s the good news: I did not die.

Here’s the better news: the idea of setting an intention resonated with me for more than just yoga, but also for life in general.

Outside of yoga, I have also heard the term “intention” in the Christian dating sphere–insert eye roll here. From my experience, when a guy and girl are doing a good ole DTR (Define The Relationship), usually a question that comes up is: What are your intentions?

Like in yoga and Christian dating, it is important for us to recognize our intentions and set purposeful expectations. It is important for us to go into big decisions like friendships, relationships, life-altering changes noticing where we are, what we want, how we’ll get there.

Lately, I have been addressing my intentions.

I am heading into some big life changes–like attending law school–and I want to be aware with how I am approaching these changes and what the desires of my heart are.

I think with law school, my one-word intention is purpose. I want to be purposeful with how I approach it. I want this education to prepare me well for a career in law, but with purpose and meaning.

In case you haven’t noticed, I have also been revamping this creative space: renaming, new layout, etc. I think with this new blog direction, my one-word intention is impact. I want to make an impact with what I write and what I share. I want to create positive ripples of effect by sharing wisdom that can lead to peace, wellness, hope.

Here is my call to action:

I encourage you to identify your intentions. Your intentions for your relationships, your life goals, your meaning. I encourage you to see where your heart lies and what you want and how you’ll get there.

And I encourage you to continually check-in on those intentions, see if you are straying from them or holding to them well. I believe this will make you feel more self-aware and more attune to your purpose and meaning.


Hold Onto Hope: On Easter Sunday

Lately I have felt pretty hopeless.

With all of the chaos surrounding the coronavirus, it is easy for me to feel hopeless because I can’t change/control/fix the situation. I can’t come up with a cure. I can’t tell you when social distancing will be over. I can’t heal those who have the virus. I can’t leave my home when I want. I can’t magically start my jobs up again.

I can’t do a lot right now, and it makes me feel overwhelmed and weak and powerless. It makes me feel doubtful and anxious and insecure. I’m sad, I’m down, I’m at a loss.

Ironically, this upcoming Sunday is all about hope.

Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, is focused on the hope of Jesus Christ, a hope that is radical and unchangeable. When Christ died on the cross, he left the disciples and his family and his followers devastated and confused and empty. He left behind people feeling doubtful and anxious and insecure.

But behold! He rose three days later, Easter Sunday. He rose again and proved he was the Messiah, the Savior, a being that we can put our hope and trust and faith in.

It isn’t every day a man lives and dies and lives again for you. It isn’t every day your Savior rises from the grave and gives physical, tangible, undeniable evidence of his love for you. That is why this Sunday is so special, amazing and unbelievable.

I can’t do much these days, but I can trust in Jesus.

Romans 15:13 says this:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Even though there is so much I cannot control, so much I question and doubt these days, I can stand firm in my faith. I can seek out those still, quiet and serene moments with my Heavenly Father. I can press into Truths found in scripture, I can lean into His promises.

Hope found in Christ gives us joy and peace. Hoping in Christ means I can find little joys every day, even when quarantine is hard and makes my heart heavy. Hoping in Christ means I can have peace with all that is going on, even if it is a lot to take in.

Sometimes it is hard to hope in Jesus Man. I can’t see him or hear him, sometimes I can’t even feel him near me. But the evidence of his life, death and resurrection show his love for me. They give me reason to hope. And I hope they give you a reason to hope, too.

I’ll Tell You What I Need, What I Really, Really Need

There’s a difference between wants and needs.

It’s a simple concept that I often forget. For example: I want pizza, but I need nutritious food. I want to be the best climber, but I need to practice and refine my skills. I want to do things my way, but I need to remember God’s plans my differ from my own.

Lately, I’m trying to learn the difference between my constant wants and my true needs. I’m trying to choose my needs over my wants, even when it’s hard and I just don’t feel like it.

Things I want:

  1. To run around 24/7. To see people and places and things and to go nonstop, to never experience FOMO (fear of missing out) because I’ll always be present for the best things.
  2. To hang out with my friends constantly. As a quality time addict, I wish I could be with my people at all times. They’re so much fun!
  3. To not experience hard things or heartache. I hate those things. They make me sad and mad and frustrated.
  4. To never have depression or anxiety again. I want to always be mentally fit, to never have to monitor my moods or sleep because they won’t bother me or impact my mental health.

Things I need:

  1. Rest. I always, always need rest. Physical and spiritual downtime to just recharge and recenter my heart on what matters: seeking the Kingdom first.
  2. Community. When I get quality time with quality people, I feel loved and ready for whatever life throws at me. They support, love and encourage me, they make me better.
  3. Eternal peace. Even when things get hard, even when my heart breaks, I need to rest in God’s Truths and remember this earth is not my home.
  4. Wellness. To do the things that are best for me, like therapy and taking medicine, working out and resting. To do all of these things to make my mind better, even when I’m down or anxious.

I wish I could just be this powerhouse of a woman, to always go and never be stressed or never need rest. I wish I could be the best of the best at everything I do, to be loved by everyone and to only have good things thrown my way.

But I need to dwell and abide in Jesus Man, in his word and truth and presence. I need to do what is best for me, not what I want to do or what I like to do.

It isn’t always easy and it certainly isn’t always fun or preferred, but it is good for me and I guarantee it’s good for you, too. Let’s breakdown our wants and chase after our needs. Let’s sometimes say no to fun things and always say yes to what’s best. Let’s seek wellness and wholeness and all good things for our minds, bodies and souls.

Leaving Behind & Looking Ahead

2018 is gone.

I’m not going to miss it much. Yes, there was much excitement — like becoming an aunt, solo-tripping to Prague, getting promoted, going on dates (after a long, long dry spell). But there was also a lot of hurt — saying goodbye to friends who passed, letting go of a big dream, battling depression, coping with anxiety.

2019 is here.

I’m welcoming it with open arms. Yes, there is bound to be hurt and disappointment and down days. But I’m also looking forward to those mountain-top moments and unbelievable highs. I’m expectantly waiting for every good and perfect give from above (see James 1).

2018 left me better.

As I hope to every year, I was moved and shaped and molded into more of who I would like to be. New and old friends came alongside me to push me by instilling hope, building dreams and staying steadfast.

In Philippians 3, Paul writes about how he strives for perfection, but will never be able to obtain it. He says he focuses “‘on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead (v. 13).'”

It’s time for me to let go of 2018. I will never forget my friends or the pain of losing them, but I will let those wounds heal so I can move on and look forward to what God has in store in the new year. I will remember to hope and pray and give and receive grace when needed (which is practically always).

Let’s look ahead.

This year, I’m hoping to say more “I love you’s.”

I’m hoping to pause and breathe more, to step aside when the road gets bumpy or when I’m over-excited.

I’m hoping to savor the moments in-between more, not just those mountain-top highs.

I’m hoping to give thanks more often, to my friends and family and baristas and strangers and Jesus Man himself.

And I’m hoping to spread more kindness, because a little kindness can go a long way.

Let’s start this year strong.

This week, I began the Daniel Fast — modeled after Daniel’s diet during Biblical times. Ideally, I’ll be more disciplined about what I eat, and have more desire in seeking time with The Lord.

This month, I am going to unplug a bit — only using my phone from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Ideally, I’ll start my days slower and with more intention, and end my days easier and with more peace and reflection.

Even though we’re only a few days in, I hope your year has been good to you. I hope you can leave the past behind and look forward to the future.