Tag Archive: sueihn lee


simple way

Wow! 19 months flew by, just like… well 570 days, really.

June last year, after about four months of weekly Skype calls with our present and to be future bossman Darin Petersen, the beautiful Val [tbV] and i arrived in Kensington, Philadelphia, Americaland to live and work at the Simple Way non-profit as part of the first batch of an internship program [which was later upgraded to a residency program when they saw our skills, or something]…

[a fun fact is that i was born and raised in an area called Kensington in Johannesburg, South Africa, the country and so in one sense it was a return to my roots but not really]

We joined Erica [aka Amy Winehouse meets activism], Aaron Condo…n [aka Monkman, master, my lord] and Beth [aka Beth or the Doodler, or quite possible milkwoman, altho we never called her that] who was doing a shorter three month internship and we became known as ‘The Village People’ [the house we stayed in was called the Village House, we did the YMCA a lot less than you would probably imagine]. The first internationals to be invited to be part of the program, so quite a bit of a risk really. Shane Claiborne and his new bride Katie Jo lived a few houses down the road, Darin and his wife Meeghan and their kids Just Ice [as i called him, because i wanted to give him a little space] and Madix… and then a handful more people who lived in other places but worked with us in the office… and later Sueihn Lee and Dan Brearley were added as Erica, Aaron and Beth [twice] moved on…

This is the passage that indirectly got me there, that i had been wrestling with when i chanced upon Shane’s book, ‘The Irresistible Revolution’ 6 years before, which resonated with a lot of my struggles with how church looked like now compared to then – ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’

and tonite we fly out… season over… back to South Africa to hang out with friends and family and watch some live cricket dressed as a Hobbit and hopefully get some hockeying and improv in and meet my new nephew Joshua and get to see if i was telling lies about South Africa mayonnaise for the last 19 months and have some braais and my mom’s secret birthday dessert she makes for me once a year and possibly pool party and hopefully get my dreads touched up and get some rest and relaxation and reflection and more…

before a new season begins. which will be with the same boss, different no-profit [Relational Tithe, or as it is about to be more commonly known Common Change] but the absolute same task of following Jesus [or trying to] and seeking to be a part of His kingdom growing here as it is in heaven.

and so the big question i guess, as we enter one of those reflectful times of both the end of a life season and the end of a calendar year [sorry Mayans, the Romans were right!] is how was the time? Good, bad or ugly? A combination of all, perhaps? Was the way simple?

i guess you will have to take me out for coffee [or a rack of Spur Ribs with extra basting] when we get home and you can ask that in person…

i can tell you it wasn’t easy. well, not all the time, some parts were really easy. Val and i love Kensington. we absolutely love Philly. we love so many of the people we got to meet and hang out and do life with.

i can tell you we would definitely make the same decision to do it all again – good, bad and ugly.

but it is time to go. and so later today i think we will.

i do still very much love Jesus and am hungry to see His kingdom come.

after years and years of loving Him [or trying to] and serving Him [ditto] i have found that His way, although simple in concept, is very rarely simple when you actually try to actively live it out. [fortunately He never leaves you to do it alone…]

so a new year, a new location, a new mission…
but still the continuing overall theme of ‘Love God, Love people… and all the rest is commentary!

so yesterday afternoon, after a week of staff strategic planning as the Simple Way, everyone left except for the four of us from the Village House [yes, the Village People!] which is myself, the beautiful Val [tbV], Sueihn and our newest band member, Dan from the UK [formerly dread-wearing Dan] so that we could have an extra day at the venue to bond and get to know each other a little better…

as we finished out dinner and tried to figure out what to do for the evening, tbV came up with a list of suggestions of which some were really creative and some really silly and some creatively silly and Dan came up with a suggestion of a combo of events and so each grabbed about ten slips of paper and wrote down a bunch of questions for each other and then headed out to the town and found a mexican restaurant and altho the mudslides were replaced with chocolate mousse the rest of the evening went pretty much to plan…

the idea was you can leave the question blank if you want the person who pulls it out the bag to answer it, draw a star if you want that person to choose who is going to answer it and draw a moon if everyone else except the person with the question has to answer it.

i won’t go into any of the specific questions and definitely can’t share any of the answers, but there was a huge range from raucously silly to hectically intense and it was such a solid time of connecting with each other, laughing and getting emotional and really just going a little bit deeper than a typical evening’s entertainment might have taken us.

it was an incredible evening. and a reminder that we have to make more of those moments. just in general. not necessarily all the time. but some of the time. while eating a meal, or hanging out together for a games night, or even at a community potluck perhaps. writing a bunch of questions on some paper is so easy as is pulling together a ‘the paper game’ or picking a topical conversation piece… and moving away from the typical movies, music, sport fill-in-the-time conversations that often become the only ones we safely get drawn towards.

so yeah, just a simple reminder of making the most of moments together. and insanely good to see how relationship just rockets ahead.

do you have any similar ideas of ways you have spent time with a group of people that have been simple yet profound?

[Sueihn was our housemate at the Simple Way – she has been an absolute pleasure to live with and it has been incredible to watch her connect with people and especially children on the block as well as with churches and organisations in the area – i tag teamed with her on Mondays to share lemonade with the people in the food lines as well as talk to and pray with them – i am so thankful for her bravitude in sharing part of her story here with us]

I’ve been boy crazy since the age of five, when I used to daydream about riding flying unicorns together with one of my kindergarten classmates. It only progressed from there – Leonardo DiCaprio back when he was on Growing Pains, countless other celebrities, and boys at school. Once adolescence hit and my teenybopperdom reached its pinnacle, so did my severe low self-esteem and depression, which began as melancholic sprouts in childhood. I thought the only solution would be to find a boyfriend and get married. Maybe then I’d feel beautiful and good about who I am.

As God healed me of the lies attacking the core of my identity, I also began to realize that marriage is not a cure-all. It has its blessings but also its own set of serious challenges, just as singleness has both its unique gifts and difficulties. I love the freedom that I have in making choices, especially spontaneous ones, without having to take into account how it would affect a life partner. I’ve never been in a serious relationship (had a boyfriend in 10th grade whom I dumped after a month and a half), so this freedom has given me the opportunity to have some unforgettable adventures and shenanigans in my 20s and now early 30s.

Though I enjoy the perks of singleness everyday, I also wrestle with the struggles, which were exacerbated by the loss of my dad from lung cancer in 2007. I know I’m incredibly blessed to have dear friends from all the stages of my life dating back to kindergarten, despite being horrible at staying in touch. The most tangible sign of God’s grace in my life is demonstrated through my friends’ love for me. Yet, no one loves you like parents or a spouse. You will always be the center of their universe. Since my dad died, I can’t help but to feel significantly less loved. And when my mother passes on, how much more bereft will I feel if I’m still single?

My dad was also my main source of verbal and physical affection. My mom is great at loving me through sacrifice and service, but I miss having tenderness shown to me in more direct ways. I recently saw a picture of Obama watching TV with his daughters, snuggling cozily on a couch with an arm around each of them, and it was a slap in the face since I no longer have a healthy outlet to experience that kind of physical connection. My friends are very demonstrative, but ever since my dad died it feels like embraces are too few and too fleeting. The only exception is when someone leaves a hand on my shoulder while praying for me – I don’t think others realize that this comforts me as much and sometimes more than the prayers themselves. Honestly, when couples show some PDA, I often have to look away to avoid feeling a shroud of cold emptiness wrapping around me. I don’t think that people should have to censor themselves in front of me (especially not the married couple I live in community with – that would be so unfair!), but I have to fight hard to continually abide in the embodiment of Love who lives in me.

I know that God’s attention is always on me, and that He sends signs of His affection in various ways, using interesting disguises – like the 4-year-old stranger who demanded to hug me on the street today, or the random female pastor that held me for hours while I poured out my grief at a conference last year. But I wonder if that emptiness will ever be completely filled in this lifetime because of the fallenness of this world (2 Corinthians 5:4). These days, I’ve actually been more comforted by communing with Jesus in any suffering of His, so that I might also share in His glory. I think about my trip to Jerusalem, when we visited the high priest Caiaphas’ house and descended to the tiny, dank dungeon where Jesus likely spent the night in chains before He was executed. As I listened to my professor read the most depressing chapter of Psalms (88 – it ends

with “darkness is my closest friend”), I realized that Jesus truly took on my pain, brokenness, and emptiness upon Himself. Any time I feel any twinge of loneliness, I think about Jesus’ own experience of abandonment and know that I’m not alone – my pain is a drop compared to the ocean that Jesus endured, and He went through it all to be with me forever.

Married folks, if I had to give you just one suggestion on how to bless your single friends, I would encourage you to celebrate their lives well. Weddings are very extravagant celebrations of the couple’s entire lives – complete with photo slide shows, speeches and gifts. There are also bridal showers, bachelorettes and engagement parties, along with baby showers later on. Sometimes I wonder if the only milestone in my life that will warrant this much commemoration (and money) will be my funeral. So, I decided that I would be more intentional about celebrating my own landmark moments. When I turned 30 and graduated from seminary last year, I threw myself my first party since the cake-fight incident of 1995 (my 14th birthday party). I also threw a going away party before I moved to Philadelphia. It was actually really hard for me to allow myself to be celebrated – I felt a nagging sense of unworthiness and shame. Then I saw that God is exposing and breaking down the barriers that are blocking deeper intimacy with Him, preventing me from receiving more of His love and loving Him more fully. At the end of this painful process, whether He uses marriage or not to help accomplish it, God will give me the greatest gift in existence – union with Himself.

[to read my friend Kate Hurley’s story of Singleness click here]

[For an inspirational post titled ‘I don’t wait anymore’ click here]

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