Walt + Gloria

March 24, 2018

On a summer afternoon, Walt, Gloria and I met in on the campus of Westminster Theological Seminary.  He had recently graduated but still served by maintaining the grounds. They came with pizza (really good pizza, btw) in hand, making sure I was fed and full before we started our interview.

They have an ease…individually and together.  Lighthearted banter. A bit of dry humor (on Walt’s part).  But right away I sensed a balance between them. And I was right.  They describe themselves as opposites.

Their versions of how the relationship started vary, but as upperclassmen active in their local campus ministries, they were bound to cross paths.They attended the same local campus ministry and met freshman year but didn’t connect until they were both juniors in college. 

Both were in no rush to enter into a relationship, wanting to ensure they were spiritually prepared to take the next step.  Walt knew the next woman he dated, he was going to marry. They made it official before their senior year of college, which Walt describes as a time of great transition.  He was being called into full-time ministry, deciding to attend Westminster Theological Seminary, rather than pursuing a career in physical therapy. It took a while for all the moving pieces to line up, but about 3 years later, they were married.  

They talked pre-marital counseling, children, growing up in a Korean immigrant family, and much more.  

Thanks Walt and Gloria for sharing your story.

Y:  Did you do premarital counseling?

W:  It was hardcore.  My current boss’s wife…she’s a biblical counselor.  It was one of the hardest and most awesome things we’ve done.

G:  She gets in there. A lot of your past and how it ‘s clashing now.

W:  Not in a Freudian way.  But in a very genuine way.  Understanding sin. Understanding how to love one another but there being obstacles.  She just tears up flooring and allowed us…helped me to see…I was aware that I’m very type A.  Systematic. Driven. OCD. Glo and I are opposite.

G:  Complete opposite.

W:  We were aware that we’re opposite.  There would be moments I’d be so frustrated about the dumbest things.  When we got married it was heightened because we were living with each other.  Before we got married, I’d see her car and it’d be messy. My car is spotless because my dad would harass me if it wasn’t.  I’d think, “oh man is she going to be like this when we get married?”

G:  And i am. (laughter)

W:  It gave me the tools to love, to lay down my life with my personality still being my strength.  It’s the way God has gifted me but it could also be a very sharp edge for Glo.

G:  For me it was learning how to communicate.  I’m a silent thinker. Thus, it seems like I’m silent.  We learned about how necessary it is to process and talk things through together.  Not be passive aggressive. I was not conscious of a lot of those things until premarital brought that our of us.

On communication and finding their voices:

W:  Glo calls me the golden child of my family.  I’m the youngest but I had alot of responsibilities.  I’m from an immigrant family. I remember calling credit card companies, verizon, the cable company. I remember picking out cars for my family.  Translating. My parents asking me where’s a good place to eat. Even though I was a kid, I was in some ways the leader of my family in terms of how we function in American culture.  I was always used to being heard, having a voice, knowing what I want and how to get there. I was also, through a different way, I’ve grown a keen, sensitive awareness of emotions. Glo is the youngest of three daughters.  She’s the youngest from the middle by five years and seven from the oldest.

G:  I’m the baby.

W:  Her mom would always joke when she was pregnant, “My baby’s going to have a baby”.  So even realizing how we grew up and how our voices developed. I realize that when she gets upset or when we have a conflict she gets silent.  I”m able to read the nuances of her facial expressions. I’m very sensitive to non-verbal communication. I get frustrated and I’ll ask her what’s wrong but she can’t articulate it.  

Y:  Did you have a voice growing up?

G:  I think when you’re the youngest, I didn’t have as much of a voice or it wasn’t taken as seriously.  I think that’s where I would stay silent. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing or not communicating it well or not being taken seriously.

W:  That would frustrate me more.  We’d get in this cycle whenever we’d meet conflict.  I’m trying to address the issue. I pack and unpack conflict really fast.

G:  He’d be like “Ok.  We’re good.” And I’m like “I’m not done”.

W:  Because she’s quiet and figuring it out.

G:  A couple of days later I’m like, “So about that argument we had….”

W:  I’m like what!  I thought we were over this.  So then we’re back into it.

G:  The way we grew up is so different.  We had the same background with immigrant parents but the way we grew up is so different.  

W:  Premarital counseling helped us…knowing these things, how do we love one another well and point each other to Christ.  What are the practical ways for me to lay down my life according to Christ and what are the practical ways for Glo to submit and obey.  How do we do that on an equal playing field where Glo is not suppressed and needs to submit and I’m elevated.

 

Assumptions about marriage and growing up 2nd generation Korean

Y:  What assumptions did you have about marriage and how have they been challenged?

G:  My parents are amazing people but…my mom’s advice to me before we got married was it’s more practical than biblical.  If you’re upset at Walt….hold it in and be silent.

W:  Basically the asian culture is be silent, be quiet, be meek.  

G:  My mom still functions that way.  They love each other and they’re committed but she still functions that way.  She never expresses anything. I think my sisters and I internalized that. We sometimes function that way too hence, that had to be challenged big time.

 

W: Growing up, I saw my dad rarely miss a day of work even when he was sick.  I rarely saw my mom miss a day of work. They work together. They own a breakfast joint in Philly.  Whether it’s the weather or they’re sick they’re tired…it was really rare to see my parents take a day off.

G:  When you’re an immigrant, you work.

W:  Even when they take a day off, they get work done around the house.  I grew up watching ym dad so faithful, hands always at work….with him being ok with being fully spent.  Coming home and not being angry or bitter at us. I saw that work ethic in him. If I can do half of that…you see me tearing up just thinking about they way my parents worked hard.  If I can do half of that, I think it would be a great thing for our family. That’s something I learned growing up. I have to admit I was very spoiled. We weren’t very rich but my parents rarely said no.  They always tried their best to get us whatever we wanted. They worked so hard. That’s something I tried to keep. I cut grass here yesterday and today and it’s hot. A lot of time I’ll be on campus by myself.  They’ll be time when I’m like I’m done…why do I have to work this hard?  But then I remember my dad…I’m not working for the school. I’m working for my family and this is the work that God has given me right now.  Watching my parents. No matter what the struggle was, I’ve never seen them give up. Not to make it romantic…that’s just the way it was. Along with that a negative thing is…my dad did laundry….my dad is a cook at the restaurant. 

G:  It’s very divided, the gender roles.

W:  Yes.  The gender roles are very distinct in a Korean immigrant family.  I would also see my mom, after doing everything my dad did during the day, she’d come home provide dinner and then…do whatever my dad needed.  I hated my mom at certain times. She’s so mean, she’s so strict. But now I realize, she did everything my did during the day and then came home and made the table.  I think there’s an expectation in me as a Korean man…I thought I was more American. I did realize that after we got married that I had certain expectations. The house should be in a certain order.  It’s not always but i think it’s when I”m feeling selfishly tired. I wanna go home, I wish there was a meal ready. I wish I didn’t have to worry about Timmy. I realize that laying down my life means also working hard for my family at home and being present.  It means having a godly attitude at home. That’s what has been challenged for me. The divide. That could look really dangerous for me in ministry. I could be this charming friendly guy in the public and then come home and be yelling “Why the heck is the house dirty” so I’m aware of it. I’ve heard too many horror stories about that.  I want to be cautious and aware of my character at home.

Y:  Do you have an opportunity to get alone by yourselves.

G:  We do alot of wine and cheese evenings after baby goes to bed. 

W:  We love watching cooking shows.  Master Chef is something we really agree on and love to watch together.  I’m an action movie and slapstick comedy. I still like watching superheros.

G:  Cartoons.  Superhero cartoons (laughter).

W:  It takes me back to my childhood where I feel safe (laughter).  Just kidding.

Y:  You’re not playing Pokemon are you?  

W:  I downloaded it then deleted it.  I realized you’d have to be walking around outside.  It was like a 103 outside. I can’t do it. It’s too involved.  I played it a lot growing up. It was a sweet escape.

G:  We do our best.

W:  We do cheese and prosciutto.

G:  We love food.  We LOOOVE eating!

Y:  I go to your Instagram a lot to see what you’re eating.  

W:  That’s when we’re able to turn off and be husband and wife and poke fun at each other

G:  Friends.

W:  Yea where we can be really good friends.

W:  She’s gotten to know my quirks a lot.  She points out things that are really fascinating.  My attitudes about certain things. Although their humorous and small, it makes me feel known in a really good way.  I feel like she knows me in a way that a lot of people don’t. Even since high school I’ve had a big public persona.

G:  Homecoming king.  Captain of the football team.

W:  On campus in college I was kind of the big man on campus.  I was in a band. Small group leader. But one thing I struggled with growing up was with all of that I never felt like people really knew me.  The fun public Walt was something I really had to put on to survive out there. Without getting too into it, there were a lot of different family struggles.  In house was such chaos. Although there were all of the good things I told you, there were also a lot of tough things. In a way, I developed this other side of my personality.  Life of the party.. Very funny in the public sphere. A lot of people feel very close and connected to me. Ironically, I feel very unknown and disconnected with a lot of people. When Glo pokes fun at me or I have a weird quirk…

G:  He has a lot of quirks.

W:  So even though it’s funny and I’m like “Oh man, why do you have to point that out”.  It makes me feel known.

Y:  It’s a level of intimacy that you have with her.

W:  It’s not natural.  She really worked hard at it.  I see her being intentional to know me.  In the first couple of months of when Timmy was born, we felt not husband and wife but more mom and dad.  So over the past couple of months, there are more things as we’re working through our marriage and issues she takes a lot of time to get to know me.  We’ve only been married two years. I love that she makes an effort to know me.

G: I think he is really affectionate.  You wouldn’t really expect that from a guy who played football and takes up space in a room.  Someone who’s loud and funny. But he’s very sweet and affectionate at home. He loves physical touch and holding hands.  It’s really sweet. I’m not like that. He never stops trying to be affectionate.

 

Life with a Toddler

G;  We got married April 12, 2014.  We found out we were pregnant in July of 2014.  

Y:  How have the dynamics been affected between you two.

G:  When you become parents a part of you becomes unlocked.  It’s a huge part that you didn’t know about. We are still learning so much about each other as parents.

W:  Marriage doesn’t bring you to the end of yourself.  You can always reason with your spouse. I’m tired today.  Let’s just order pizza. Can you scratch my back? I’m going to step out and run some errands.  I just want to chill with my boys. 3 months to 9 months was a tough time. He doesn’t give a flip what your life is like.  He needs you every moment of every day and he takes both of us to the end of ourselves and challenges us so much.

G:  We have a good friend Dave who came over when Timmy was 8 or 9 months.  Afterwards, I was talking to him. He said, “You guys can’t just turn off.  You can’t just veg”. I was like “Yea…no”.

W:  He’s like one of my closest friends. I consider him a brother.  

G:  When you have to always be on, it’s going to squeeze you both in ways you didn’t know you could be squeezed.  We are learning so much but it’s awesome too. When I see him as a father, it’s awesome to see how nurturing he can be and how Timmy loves his dad.  He just picked up the word Appa which is Korean for dad.

W:  WHen I’m there he doesn’t say that (laughter).

G:  He’s like 16 months,

W:  He recently started throwing tantrums.  We’re wrestling with discipline.

G:  Which battles do you choose.

W:  I see it as he’s being sinfully rebellious and defiant.

G:  I’m like he’s got the mental capacity of a one year old.

W:  We’re in the middle of parental function is very different.  I’m more alpha male. He falls. Get up. It’s not that I don’t love him.  The world’s tough, get up kid. (laughter). Glo reminds me that he has the emotional capacity of a baby.  It reminds me that I can’t be this hard on him at 16 months.

G:  Let me tell you about Timmy.  Since the day he was born, he hasn’t slept through the night.  We’ve tried everything, the sleep training, the co-sleeping. It’s been tough.  His temperament is very unique. He pushes us in the sleep department. He beats to his own drum.  We take him to little gym,

W:  We’ve done our best to put him on a schedule.  With Timmy she became so Type A. She’s NEVER been like this.  We’ll add… he wasn’t planned. It was such a mix of emotions.  Are we ready? Are we not ready? Well it’s too late now. How do we prep?

G:  Though we do love and adore him to pieces.

Y:  What do you think is the greatest accomplishment of your marriage?

G:  Other than Timmy?  Financially. We’re not like big bad and rich right now.  That ministry life. We’ve really been pushed to trust in the Lord.  I think we’ve really worked hard to trust in God in finances. Walt’s working part time, I’m a teacher.  Finances have always been a struggle for us and they might be for a long time. We’re poor but rich.

W:  That wasn’t what I was thinking but I agree.  I’m still doing counseling. It’s not marriage counseling per se.  Because of some of the traumatic childhood things, it shows alot in various ways in marriage.  Being a father and a husband. It’s not like it’s bad where I’m being abusive but I see it in my heart.  I see some of the bitterness. The uncontrolled snap of feeling frustrated or scared or insecure or angry.  I think one of the biggest achievements is that we’ve been really able to let each other be human. Not be perfect.  There’s a lot of pressure when you’re in ministry and a pastor’s wife. I think we’ve been really trying to allow one another to be sinful broken people who need the gospel, grace, cousneling, wisdom, someone to step in sometimes and love us.  I wonder so many times how non-Christians stay married or handle conflict. Are you thriving? Are you growing. Or are you just learning to dance in such a way where you’re not stepping on one another’s toes. Are you able to flourish and feel really as one as God intended in marriage.  I think we’re moving towards that by the grace of God. We really allow one another to be broken sinful people who need Jesus.

Y:  Looking forward…you talked alot about vision…what is your vision for your marriage?  When your children or others look back what legacy do you want to leave?

G:  I hope people know, not just from what they see but from what we share that we worked hard towards our marriage.

W:  We didn’t shy away from the bad.  We really tried our best to love one another in a godly way even when the other didn’t.  In the future we would want our children to say about us that they loved each other. That they were still very madly in love.  I’ve never seen my parents kiss or hug.  But I’ve seen my dad sweat and bleed for our family. Many times he could have walked out but he didn’t.  Not too much spoken but such a resolve and firmness. Hopefully our kids see that but we’d love our kids to say “Man, mom and dad are such goofballs.  They still love each other. Ewww gross!” Hopefully they can look back when they’re married themselves and wonder, “Wow. Mom and dad are still married.  How are they still smiling? How are they still in love?”

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