My mother was a mail-order bride from Hong Kong and I was born in San Francisco Chinatown. The street pictured above is the exact corner I crossed as a little girl. My pediatrician Dr. Low had an office right where I’m running through this intersection (the stoplight was turning yellow, so I needed to hightail out of the street!). I took this picture last weekend, because for Mother’s Day last weekend, I got inspired to return to Chinatown to begin research for a dream I’ve held in my heart since I was a little girl.
I spoke Chinese as my first language and I only learned to speak English from Bert & Ernie by watching Sesame Street. I didn’t speak English until I started Kindergarten! Who would’ve guessed that I’d grow up to become a published author?!
I’ve always wanted to write a book about the stories that shaped my faith journey growing up as a first-generation Chinese-American. But I was told no one would want to read about it cuz I’m not “famous” (it’s funny how that *one* comment can stick in our hearts, huh?). Who wants to fail right? So, I shoved that idea way in the back of heart —as a wishful fantasy, not a reality.
But, I’ve reached a point in my mothering and writing, where I want to pass on these early vulnerable stories of faith — with my children and with you — my beloved kindreds, who have supported me as an author. You inspire me to be brave in my writing!
I believe the most powerful writings are the stories that are the most personal ones — and I believe what has inspired my faith will also inspire yours!
I’m taking a bold step to begin brainstorming what this new book on faith and choosing joy will look like, no matter where the journey of life takes you, so I wanted to share this moment with you. I will be writing the book proposal after brainstorming, so pray for me!
I am choosing to believe these new stories will encourage your heart and spark a deeper beauty and joy in your life — as it’s given me! And I hope my sons through knowing my stories as a little girl will be inspired to live with greater joy and faith! Go do what you’re inspired to do, friend! You can do it! With God, all things are possible.
“With God, all things are possible.” Mark 10:27
Here below, in celebration of Asian Heritage month, the MOPS ministry (Mothers of Preschoolers) asked me to write a blog post to encourage over 100,000 moms with a story about growing up in San Francisco Chinatown. I hope you enjoy it, friend!
The Legacy of My Mail-Order Bride Mother
My father worked as a busboy at a noodle shop in San Francisco, Chinatown. My mother was a mail-order bride, whose marriage was arranged by a “mei-ren,” a Chinese matchmaker. At 17 years old, she flew from Hong Kong and stepped onto American soil, what the Chinese people call, Beautiful Country. Nestled in my mother’s womb, I also arrived in America, so that I was born six months later in San Francisco, to start a new life to pursue happiness in the land of the free.
At home, the first words I spoke were Chinese. By the time I was a 3-year-old little girl, I could hold my own rice bowl in one hand and navigate a pair chopsticks in the other to eat bok choy and steamed fish drizzled with soy sauce, julienned green scallions and minced ginger, all fresh from the farmer’s market grocery stands lined up along Stockton Street. It didn’t matter that I was first-generation immigrant growing up in financially disadvantaged circumstances. Delicious food was always prepared from daily walks to buy each day’s provision. The dinner table was the symbol of conversation, abundance, family and friendships, regardless of economic hardship.
No matter what was happening, my mother always made time to stop at the Chinese bakery, at least once a week. We would walk into the store, the air wafting with oven-baked fragrance of egg tarts to envelope us, along with honey-golden pastries like gai-mae bau (hot-cross buns shaped like rooster tails) lined up in glass counters to greet us. For a moment, all was happy and right in the world.
I always picked my favorite pastry: a peach tart. I loved how the flaky crust, buttery to my fingers tasted both sweet and crispy, and how good it felt to have a sip of piping dark oolong tea to melt warm into my tummy. My mother never said the words, “I love you,” but the feeling of receiving a shimmery-glazed peach tart from her hand, as she sat and rested across from the table from me, was how being loved felt to me.
It’s no wonder that I fell in love with my Caucasian, blue-eyed husband while sitting across from him with… (to be continued)
Would you like to read this new book I’m dreaming up for you? Thank you so much for buying and gifting copies of my books Finding Spiritual Whitespace orWhispers of Rest! Your support enables my ministry to encourage you as an author and I’m so grateful!
I would LOVE to hear your reaction, so please share a comment on MOPS by clicking to read the entire post there. Hearing from you cheers me on in this new dream of mine to write Book #3. You encourage me!
(Below is a picture I took with my sons Josh (12 years old) and Caleb (9 year old)on Mother’s Day. We did a hike at Land’s End that ended at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. I hope you had a Happy Mother’s Day, friend!)