Saying Goodbye to the Green Card – Say Cheese

The application has been filled out in black ink and capital letters.

Now, it’s time to say, “Cheese” or in my family it would be time to say, “Kimchee”.

The catch? Lots of details. Glasses on? Glasses off? Well, it depends. If you’re reading the USCIS website – off. If you’re reading the USDS website – on. Glossy. Color. Two 2×2 copies. Head has to be between 1″-1 3/8″. White to off-white background. “A” number and name printed lightly on the back. Neutral expression (I am rarely neutral), which means I actually don’t get to say, “Cheese” or “kimchee”.

I think I look angry…or like I’m posing for a traditional old school East Asian family photo. (Raise your hand if someone in your parents’ yearbook/wedding photos had this same expression on their face!) Peter thinks I just look tired. Bethany thinks I look weird.

Taking the completed application to the post office this afternoon felt weird. It’s difficult to explain. Unlike immigrating to the US and being born a Korean female, applying for citizenship was a choice. And for someone who is still asked, “Where are you from?” or “Where did you learn English?” choosing to become an American when I know very well that there are places where I will never be seen as American is a choice to engage.

Please don’t get me wrong. My faith, not my country or culture or gender, come first. But I do not believe any one of those parts of  my life is separate from the others, and neither can one single-handedly define or direct me. Does that make sense? Agree? Disagree?

Regardless, I think we can all agree this is not the most flattering photo I’ll ever have of myself. But in a funny way I think it captures well some of the many choices I’m blessed to have.

Sometimes we do get to have our cheese (with some lactaid) and kimchee (but not necessarily together but not unheard of) and eat it too.

…fortunately we still have a white wall in our home for this do-it-yourself passport-style photo…


  1. Gina Logue October 7, 2009

    People will always label, categorize, and slap a stigma on others.

    When I was growing up in Korea, my mother used to lecture me to be on my best behavior at all times so that people wouldn’t point at me and say I was bad because I was fatherless. Being fatherless automatically translated into less affluent and lacking discipline.

    That is people, no matter what country, what culture.

    Not so with Jesus. He accepts and loves us wholly (including our Korean culture part, American citizenship part, and whatever other parts that we are made up of) and the way we are. Which is why we put our hope in Him and look forward to His kingdom.

    I agree with you that different roles we play are not separate from the others. Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we are no longer a Korean, or no longer a woman, or else. But our identity in Christ trumps the rest of who we are. We can glorify Him as a Korean or as an American. My faith in Christ directs and reigns over my Korean-ness, my American-ness, and my role as a mother, a wife, and a woman.

    Gina 🙂

  2. young Owen October 7, 2009

    You have the neutral expression down pat. Perhaps you need to check to see if there are any modeling jobs calling for that particular skill.

    BTW, I am assessing which situation leaves one feeling more like some sort of alien: being an evangelical in an academic setting, or being an evangelical in a newsroom. I kinda think it might be the academy.

    Not that I am trying to compare that to either your or Twyla’s perpetual experience.

    cheerfully, o (following through on instructions to comment, not just lurk)

  3. A. Stephens October 7, 2009

    Ha-ha! Raising my hand here. I *know* that picture, and not in my parents’ wedding pics, but my very own! Flipping through my wedding album, I’ve had friends ask me, ‘why do your parents look so serious?’

    I totally agree with your comment that “I do not believe any one of those parts of my life is separate from the others, and neither can one single-handedly define or direct me.” My opinion is that it’s impossible to qualify our thoughts, experiences or views of reality from a certain or particular aspect of who we are. It makes no sense, for example, for me to say “as a Latina, I think such-and-such, but as as woman, I think this.” In reality, I can’t know what it’s like to be a Latina apart from being a woman, nor can I separate my experience as a woman from my background.

    Regarding faith, once a person becomes a believer, that ‘inseparability’ becomes the case too. I wonder, though, if there isn’t something different, and special, about *choosing* a citizenship (earthly or heavenly!). With few exceptions (the disclaimer is certainly a sign of our times!) and as you already mentioned, being born as something (sex/gender, culture, ethnicity) means that no choice was had in the matter. But a heavenly citizenship is different. Choice is involved. For that reason, I would much rather face exclusion for my faith than for my ethnicity or my gender. Just some thoughts . . . .

    Oh yeah, a related question your post brought to mind: Given the complexity of who we are (the inseparable aspects of our lives), what does it mean to say that “God doesn’t care if you’re black or white, male or female, rich or poor?”

  4. Kathy Khang October 8, 2009

    A. Stephens,
    Your related question: What does it mean to say that “God doesn’t care if you’re black or white, male or female, rich or poor?” – GREAT QUESTION!

    Maybe I’ll have to blog about that….

  5. Grace October 25, 2009

    I think you look either a) really smart or b) really mean or c) really unhappy… all that said your a total hottie. 🙂


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