I stare at the random assortment of things that clutter our kitchen island and keep me from an open space for making dumplings. Mail, school permission slips, drawings made by our six-year-old, plants that need water, and the weight of my own exhaustion pull at my attention, begging me not to shove them aside into one heap. I set the papers and clutter in another spot close to our coffee maker and gently move the plants aside.
Filling, water-gluing, wrapping, and setting dumplings down in neat rows, while teaching little hands how to follow along, needs wide open space.
It’s already taken three trips to three different grocery stores to find the simple ingredients I need to make the mandu I grew up with. It is worth it, but it grieves me that it takes a lot more gas, time, energy, and money for some of us to keep, learn, rebuild, decolonize, and pass on the details of our ethnic heritage to our children.
I grew up watching and helping my mom make gun mandu (fried Korean dumplings). They are a family favorite. Like love notes patiently put together and hand-addressed, these dumplings are full of the flavors of my Korean heritage, and more specifically, of my umma — her stories hand-wrapped, fried in oil, and stuffed into our mouths with nourishing love. My mom would always take the first few, make sure they were cool enough, then walk around the kitchen, and shove them into our faces.
When I was younger in my faith, I thought my relationship with God was confined to reading the Bible and other specific activities deemed “official” by those who I believed knew more than me. They did know more about some things. But as I’m learning through the slow “years that ask questions and years that answer,” as Zora Neale Hurston perfectly penned in Their Eyes were Watching God, and my own spiritual midlife of sorts, there’s much more depth to intimacy with God than I ever imagined. I thought having a “quiet time” was more important than passing down the sense-oriented details of my heritage, but I was wrong. They are both important, and they work together because through them God expresses love with a depth and width we were born hungry for.
The work of tending to the inheritance we’ve been given in our ethnic heritage is something we are all created for.
I love the way John describes the community of believers in his vision of heaven. He specifically takes note of the diversity in what he sees:
“After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).
His Holy Spirit-inspired writing calls direct attention to the diversity of skin color and language, and I feel hope for how our ethnic heritage will carry on beyond brokenness, working towards our collective redemption.
The word heritage comes from the word inheritance. An inheritance is a gift of importance — something to be treasured, not discarded or silenced. It is something to be tended to and kept with care. This doesn’t mean we have to keep every single, man-made cultural tradition. However, it does mean that we’ve been given unique treasures in our ethnic heritage that reflect the heart of God. When I think about the fact that God will keep our ethnicities visible in heaven, I understand how sacred the work of tending to and mending the expressions of our ethnic heritage is.
There’s holiness wrapped up into the folds of our ethnic heritage. The details of it are intentional gifts from God. But it also means that the work we have to do to keep some of those details alive, like ordering books by people like us or driving all over town and using up more than half a day for an ingredient list of five things, is also sacred. It’s work that’s full of joy, grief, and an aching weariness combined.
My daughter holds the flour covered dumpling wrapper in her small hand, lining the edges with water. Her face holds the wonder of being able to use her hands to create. Making mandu feels like sculpting, origami, finger-painting, and finding treasure all at once. I tell her about how her halmoni used to like to fold her dumplings a certain way, and how her Californian papa liked dipping his fried mandu in salsa. I remind her to look for holes along the edges where the wrapper hasn’t stuck. I feel God’s nearness as real as the hot oil dancing in the pan where I reach for the first finished dumpling and set it aside to cool, before stuffing it into my daughter’s mouth.
How do you see God in the details of your ethnic heritage?
Listen to Tasha’s words in the player below, or download wherever you stream podcasts.Leave a Comment
Robin Dance says
What strikes me about your post is you’ve challenged me to think about ideas I’ve never considered before; your closing question was jarring because I didn’t have a ready answer. Thank you for helping me to think in a broader way about the diversity of God’s people and why it matters–it’s a reflection of God Himself and a thing of eternal value!
Also, what a lovely telling of a beautiful legacy in your family. You have my mouth watering to try mandu; I’d love to be in your kitchen trying my hand at these special dumplings right along side you!
Robin Dance says
Ummm….hello…. I listened to Grace read this on the (in)Podcast and loved it so much I HAD to reply!! Yikes! Tasha!! My apologies for giving Grace credit for your words :). Bless…this is what I get for commenting before coffee.
Thanks, Robin. Maybe someday we will have the chance to eat it together. 😉
Areum Lee says
I grew up making mandu and I taught my daughters how to make it and it is one of our favorite things to do together. I love teaching my daughters about our ethnic heritage. Equally more important to teach them about all ethnicities as we are a melting pot of God’s creation.
Hi Areum – thanks so much for sharing that. I love that you do this with your daughters and give them memories and tool to know their ethnic heritage. I completely agree that learning about others is just as important.
This is lovely, Tasha. All of it. Thank you.
You are so welcome, Irene. So glad you are here.
I like the reminder that John saw diversity in heaven. I pray more people would open their hearts to embrace diversity while here on earth too.
Yes, I love that too – it encourages me so much! I often pray for the same thing.
In the delight of sudden recognition of someone else who uses oddments of not-standard-US-english words that I grew up with, but haven’t heard in decades, I can recognize what a gift it is for God to already know all about us, to know all our language, our family’s inside jokes, our soft spots, even the memories and things that no living human being knows. He’s got all of this, forgotten or unforgotten.
Indeed, what a gift it is to be known and seen. Thanks, KC.
Becky Keife says
Thank you for sharing this beautiful part of your world with us. I felt like I was right there in the kitchen with you. And it makes me long for heaven too… to hear every tongue praise God together, countenances of every hue fixed on the Savior! What a beautiful experience it will be to behold.
I’m so glad you felt like you were right there in the kitchen with us – if you had been, you would’ve been messy and folding mandu with us, I’m sure. 🙂
I absolutely love this. Thank you, Tasha.
I’m so glad to hear that, Amy. Thank you.
Velma Wilson says
I am so glad I stopped to read and listen to this today. No matter what our inheritance may be, God has given us all a way to love who we are and to share that love with others becauste that is the way he made them. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thank you for stopping by to read, Velma, and for your encouraging words.
Beth Williams says
God made us all unique. We need to embrace our ethnic heritage & pass it on to our children. They should know & understand the history of their culture. That way we can learn to embrace every one from different backgrounds & experiences. Prayerfully we can work towards racial equality. When we reach Heaven we will have ALL types of peoples there-singing & praising God. Thanks for a thought provoking post.
Thank you, Beth. I’m thankful for your heart and that you are here.