Sam Holland 0:04
You’re listening to the Created For podcast. We believe that everyone was created to make a unique impact in the world. Created For is a podcast to explore ideas around purpose, calling, and discovering how God is inviting you to influence the world in your own way, right now. I’m your host, Sam Holland.
Jocelyn Chung is a lettering artist, graphic designer, writer, and speaker who’s passionate about raising up the next generation of Asian American women leaders to be healthy, whole and embodied. In her Created For talk, she spoke about why it matters that we’re all made to create.
Jocelyn, I want to start by asking you, how did God confirm your calling to be a full-time creative? And has that ever not felt scary?
Jocelyn Chung 1:05
That’s a great question. Um, confirm? I don’t know, if ‘confirm’ – more than I’ve just stepped more and more into it. And as I have, I’ve experienced more of God’s joy and delight and what my friend calls the glory cloud. You know – when you’re in tune to the Spirit, and you’re doing what you feel like you were made to do. You experienced this sense of where– she describes as this glory cloud comes over you and, and you’re like, one with God, and you’re making things and that’s kind of been my journey.
Like a lot of people, I enjoyed drawing when I was younger. Like a lot of people, I did a lot of doodles and made greeting cards for fun and made my own logos for different things and drew pictures for my friends in middle school and high school, and decorations for prom or whatever. And it evolved in high school as I began realizing my love for lettering.
And no, it does not ever not become scary. Because art is continuously vulnerable and brave and the innermost parts of your soul come out while you’re creating, but it becomes more natural to feel that feeling come up of both fear and delight from God while you’re doing the thing that you were made to do.
Sam Holland 2:40
Yeah, I love that story that you told in your Created For talk about how when you were a kid, I think you told your mom that you wanted to make greeting cards for a living and like most parents, she asked, “Okay, honey, is that going to support you?” As a mother that totally resonates with me. One of my children wants to be an actor. And my heart wants to fully support them in that calling. And my culture and my brain wants to prepare them to live in the real world.
And so I think my question for you is, is that an okay question to ask? How do we ask that question? Not just of our children, but of each other when we’re encountering someone we love who wants to step into a role that feels unknown and scary?
Jocelyn Chung 3:39
Well, that’s great. I think that it depends on the person and the situation – even how old they are – right? I never particularly voiced to my mom that I want to be specifically a graphic designer or like a Hallmark card maker, but I voiced to her when I was going to graphic design school. That was kind of the beginning of it. And so I was in college at this point where she was like, “Okay, is that like– what is graphic design?” You know, I have quite a few artists and musicians in our family, which is a bit more unusual, but– and professional – they do it for a living, but at the same time, I think it was this idea of like, yeah, it’s always a worry for me – I’m not a mom – but a worry that I hear from moms of like, “Is my child going to be okay? Are they going to be able to quote-unquote, ‘make it’?” – right?
And I think it’s okay to ask those questions. I think doing it in a way that fosters more curiosity rather than maybe condemnation or squelching the fire or the inspiration that they might have. What that looks like, I’m not sure yet, but I think asking good questions that are not leading questions, but that are just genuinely curious questions towards your children or whoever it is – someone that you love, like, “Oh, I didn’t know that’s something you wanted to do?” Or maybe you did, but um, “What would you like to do with that?” Something just open ended and asking. So I think that it’s a very common thing – right?
My mom came around as I continued to explain to her what graphic design is – it’s visual problem solving, it’s a mix between art and communication. And explaining that there will always be businesses who will need logos, there will always be things in the world that need to be communicated in a visual way, that we’re surrounded by it constantly. And because of that, that’s kind of the beauty of graphic design. There’s so many different ways that we can communicate and yeah, create things that are functional in the world.
Sam Holland 6:08
Now, I’ve heard you reference your elders before, maybe on Instagram, where I follow you or just another context, but, would your mom be considered one of your elders? Or is that more your grandparents? People like that?
Jocelyn Chung 6:24
Yeah, well, yes. She is one of my elders, for sure. But yes, also my grandparents. But I think that something I particularly love about being Asian American and Asian values is that anyone who is older than you is an auntie or uncle, anyone who’s older than you is also your grandma and grandpa. They don’t have to be blood related to you to be an elder, an influence in your life. You can get called out by an auntie or uncle that you’ve never met in your life – that is just a stranger – and they will correct you. And that’s just part of what it looks like to live in community. And so yeah, when I think about my elders, it’s of course, my mom, but also my older sister, my older brother, my aunts and uncles, family friends. Yeah, my grandparents.
Sam Holland 7:18
So literally anyone older than you?
Jocelyn Chung 7:20
Sam Holland 7:23
Jocelyn. I’ve watched you step into advocacy for your elders on Instagram, especially lately, when there’s horrible violence going on in your community towards your elders. Talk about what has that been like to step into that role in your community in such a visible way?
Jocelyn Chung 7:46
You just opened up a very large can of worms. Um–
Sam Holland 7:52
Do you want to talk about it? Because we can cut that.
Jocelyn Chung 7:55
Oh, no, we can. Um, I just wasn’t expecting it.
Let me think for a second.
Yeah, stepping into a place of advocating for elders – it feels like duty? It’s not just me. It’s all other Asian Americans who are also feeling the same sense of protection because in Asian culture, we have this thing called filial piety and filial piety is this extreme level of honor and devotion and loyalty to those who are above us. Those who are again elders to us. We’re really connected and in a lot of ways feel lovingly indebted to them for the things that they have done for us. And so we will do everything in our power to protect them.
And because of that, this current moment where there’s so much violence and attacks on Asian Americans, again right now, but also for the past year as a result of inflammatory speech about COVID and the Chinese community. Yeah, it’s kind of boiled over into this point where Asian Americans are having a reckoning of our own and being able for me as a creative and a writer, and again, a visual communicator, I love that the way in which I get to function in an online way is again illustrating words and what it feels like to see our elders be hurt. What it feels like to be in a reckoning place as Asian Americans and to vocalize our pain and our grief.
But in an offline way, in my community, and with my grandparents and with organizations on the side. It’s in the way of allowing for our grief to be known. But also being near to, again, my elders, my grandparents, for instance, they live five minutes down the street. I just want to be near them as much as I can and I want to protect them, I want to make sure that they’re okay. I want to make sure that other organizations who are doing work to uplift and protect them are elevated through the work that I have, and through the online presence that I do have. So it’s quite– there’s a lot more that could be said, we could have a whole podcast about that. But it is an honor. And it’s very natural to protect our elders and to speak up about those things.
Sam Holland 10:36
Can you talk more about the relationship that you have with your elders and how they speak wisdom into your life in different areas, whether it’s spiritual wisdom, or vocational wisdom, or just however that looks?
Jocelyn Chung 10:53
Yeah, I’ll kind of tie it in, because there’s so much that I could talk about, but I’ll tie it into even just my talk with Created For about being made to create because my grandma’s a pianist, and she’s been a pianist for –oh gosh– almost 70 years? It’s been a very long time and full time been teaching and performing for like, 60 years. And so she’s a creative – right? And what I learned from her is so much about– when I think of her, I always think about the sounds of her piano echoing through the house. Whenever I go there, especially in the afternoon around 2pm, that’s when she starts playing piano. And she’ll usually play for like, two to three hours a day. She’s 85 now, but that’s just part of her routine.
And I had a more candid conversation with her just about our ability to create and worship God through making things and for her in this case making music. And something that she talked about is that she wouldn’t be alive without music. When she is deep in grief, she plays music, she pulls out a really deep, very groaning sound and minor key piece, and she plays that. When she’s really joyful, she’ll bring out some really bright pieces and she’ll play those things.
It’s been deeply part of who she is and how she’s moved through life. And I’ve learned through that – that you can make things when things feel devastating in the world. Personally, when something hard happens, my first thought isn’t, “I need to make – create things. I need to create things. I need to create something right now.” You know? I would just want to curl up in a ball and cry. It’s not a feeling where I want to make something or be inspired by something.
But I’ve learned so much from her over the years, and as I’ve been in again, proximity to her, that’s the place that some of the most vulnerable and beautiful things come out. And now that’s a part of my normal practice where it’s been something that I forced myself to just start creating, not for others, but just for myself. Just to make something in response to my grief, or in response to my frustrations or things happening in the world.
And some of the most beautiful things happen. Like a poem that I wrote about, again, about the Asian American elders who are being harmed right now. That came out of a deep place of grief. I was crying on my bed, I was alone in my room. And I just started writing. And because I couldn’t sleep – and I mean – it needed to come out of me.
And in those moments like that, I’m reminded that I’ve learned so much from my grandma. Who, in times of lightness and worship and times of lament, she just creates and she just makes things. I’m also a musician too. So I’ll bring out my flute as well, and I’ll start playing. And so um, yeah. I’ve learned a lot from her in that sense of what it means to create through the experiences of life and it being a vital part of survival as well, to make things.
Sam Holland 14:20
I love that. I didn’t know you were a musician. I certainly didn’t know that your grandma is a piano player. I’m an intermediate piano player.
Jocelyn Chung 14:29
Sam Holland 14:30
Yeah, I’ve found that it helps me be a more holy and bodied person. If I, for instance– sometimes it’s just like, I’ll watch a series that really moves me – some TV series or something. And it’s like, I can’t move on until I order the soundtrack and play through it on the piano a few times. And then it’s like experiencing it in my body, in that way, kind of letting it flow through me. I mean, it just sounds so– I don’t know how to describe it. I’m sure you understand. But–
Jocelyn Chung 15:09
Sam Holland 15:10
There is something spiritual connected to our bodies as creatives, and if we can creatively express the emotions that we’re having. But through a material object – I don’t know – there’s something beautiful and whole about it.
Jocelyn Chung 15:27
Yeah, I agree. Okay.
Sam Holland 15:33
Well, let’s talk about Scripture for a moment. In your Created For talk, your example of the woman with the alabaster flask in Mark 14:3, who anointed Jesus. You described a woman creating a holy adorning space for Jesus. And it struck me because sometimes, the categories of creativity are just so narrow, like, “Okay, well, you’re a writer, or a painter, or a dancer, these are– you’re creative. Everyone else is something else.” But we’re all creating something – right? Like, I love writing poetry on Instagram. But really, I always feel like my greatest works of art are my children – right? I mean, we create – we procreate.
Jocelyn Chung 16:23
Sam Holland 16:23
You know what I mean? So talk about those categories of creativity that sometimes we’re confined by.
Jocelyn Chung 16:31
Hmm, yeah. It stifles us, and it creates a lot of barriers for people mentally, as they’re trying to grow into who they are as being made by God and made to create in every form. You can be an accountant and creative. You can be a personal consultant, and that revolves so much creativity. You can be all these different things – an engineer that involves so much creativity. But I think that we’ve– yeah, we’ve categorized creatives are this type of person, they must have these types of characteristics, and they must be this type of moody, and they have to have had this amount of experience and technical experience with hand– mostly drawn or molded or created things. And those things are true – right? But I think that when we expand the picture of what it means to be creative, to make a creative space, there are so many different ways.
And because of that, then we can see God show up in the ways that He has made us instead of saying, like, denying our creativity. Like, “I’m not creative like that.” It’s like, “No, God has created me, but this is the way in which my creativity shows up in the world. Because this is how God has made me,” in mobilizing both in my vocation in my – you know – my role as a mom, my role as a dad, my role as a sister, my role as an aunt, whatever it might be, it creates an opening. So then we are also more conscious and aware that God is moving in the things that we’re doing in the very mundane things of life.
And that is the beauty, again, of creativity – is that it is all around us. It is an active part of our daily experiences, because it is so much a part of God. And it is so much ingrained into the very fabric and skin of who we are. And so, yeah, I think it expands our awareness of God’s hand in our day-to-day life, when we realize that creatives are not just painters and artists, but they’re every living being and how we move about the world.
Sam Holland 18:50
I have a few loved ones in my life who are nurses, who work with terminal patients a lot and love being present for people when they’re dying and present for their families and
Jocelyn Chung 19:04
Such an important role.
Sam Holland 19:06
Yes. And I was talking to my mom the other night, who is one of those nurses. And she was telling me, she told me a story I’d never heard – she said, “When I worked at this one hospital, they called me the angel of death because they wanted me there, present–”
Jocelyn Chung 19:21
Sam Holland 19:22
“–they just knew it was part of what I was made for.” And I said, “Mom, what– tell me what that was like?” And she said, “I just love comforting and bringing peace into those relationships.” And I said, “Mom– !” I think I actually said this to her Jocelyn – I said, “Mom, I think my friend Jocelyn would say, ‘that’s a creative part of you’ – you’re creating a space, a sacred space–”
Jocelyn Chung 19:50
Sam Holland 19:50
“–for someone who’s passing from one essentially one dimension into the next.”
Jocelyn Chung 19:56
Yes. It’s a powerful place. That’s– I just got chills. That’s – that’s amazing. That’s her role and that’s a place where she comes alive and also is able to usher someone from this world into the next. It’s a really important role.
Yeah, someone – my grandma just passed away a few months ago from COVID. And we weren’t able to be there with her. And so nurses have a very specific place in our family’s life, but also the lives of so many other people who’ve lost loved ones to COVID during this time – right? Because we aren’t able to be the last presence with them. And that intimacy of seeing someone leave and breathe their last breath is so powerful.
And so, yeah, hats off to your mom, because that’s a really important – emotionally draining – but also really beautiful role in what she’s, yeah, creating a space for someone to move on. Yeah.
Sam Holland 20:56
I’m sorry, you weren’t able to be with your grandma.
Jocelyn Chung 21:00
It’s a lot of other people too. You know? It’s heavy, it’s so heavy, it is a heavy loss to not be present with them.
Sam Holland 21:13
Well, speaking of the reality, that we’re still living in a global pandemic– I mean, I’m recording this from my closet, in my house here in Oregon, and my children are not far away in their bedrooms, plugged into online school. And one thing you said in your talk, Jocelyn, is that the creatives often lead the way when times are turbulent. I’ve seen you doing that on Instagram. I would love to know– oh, the other thing you said is that Jesus is building a new thing in this season.
Jocelyn Chung 21:52
Sam Holland 21:54
So, I just wonder off the top of your head. What are your favorite examples of that, that you’re seeing right now? Like, hope even in the midst of such heavy realities?
Jocelyn Chung 22:07
Hmm. You mean, of the creatives who are leading the way during this time?
Sam Holland 22:12
Yeah. I mean, because I think that is Jesus building a new thing – right?
Jocelyn Chung 22:17
Yeah. Yes. Poets. Poets are– I mentioned this in the talk, Amanda Gorman, but also so many other poets who are emerging. And again, it’s the poets and the prophets who are leading the way in our world because they tell us what is happening, they tell us who we can be. They help us express the innermost groanings of what we’re experiencing of the hard things of life.
And yeah, artist as well – right? Because social media, in many ways, is the main way a lot of us can communicate and interact with one another right now or online. Visually communicating both in photos – yeah, photography of what life looks like right now – some of the most profound photos have come out during the last year of what life looks like around the world and being able to share in the collective suffering and trauma that.
Writers have been doing that. Movie makers, documentary makers.
Yeah, I think about, again, also frontline workers in the ways in which they’re interacting with their day to day people, whether they’re ups – delivery people or nurses on the front line, people in grocery stores, I’ve just seen a lot of very creative ways in which people are bringing joy and life into one another and creating a sense of community – right?
Like, outside of my local grocery store, the greeter person who lets people in one by one, just makes it really fun. It’s a really fun atmosphere. And it’s really dreary to go to the grocery store right now. It’s a really sad feeling. It’s also kind of a scary feeling to be out and about, but the ways in which people are building community through dance through music, through creating things and in their everyday life.
I think about my mom too. My mom’s a teacher – she’s a third grade teacher, and the way in which she– I can hear her laughing in the background with her students, because she’s been so creative during this time, in how to make learning still fun for her kids. And play games with them that are interactive, like an educational version of Among Us is like one of the things that she’s been doing.
So, I see it happening in the world, not just in spaces of activism, but just creating in the world a sense of peace, a sense of belonging to one another and connectedness to one another. And that is how we will survive. And again, how Jesus is doing a new thing in connecting us and, I think, forging new memory for us in the midst of a very traumatic time. Yeah.
Sam Holland 25:26
Yeah. I love– I don’t know if it’s a resurgence of poetry, or if I’m just seeing it more now, because I’m on Instagram, and it’s there. And I’m writing poems. But one of the most powerful things, just as a Jesus follower, that I think comes with poetry – reading and writing it, is there’s so much poetry in the Bible. And we don’t talk about it enough. And it’s hard to understand. We don’t talk about that either. I think we probably try to understand it in really literal ways. And that’s not what poetry is for – right? But it’s just incredible to me that Scripture has poetry all throughout it – you know?
Jocelyn Chung 26:13
Yes, yeah. It’s a huge part. It’s a beautiful literary work – the Bible. And I’ve focused specifically on parables during this time, the Psalms during this time, and prophetic books during this time. That’s where I’ll be for the foreseeable future. Because they, again, they speak to the innermost things that are happening in our hearts and our souls. And Jesus Himself spoke in poetic ways – very poetic, image driven ways – and was not always super literal. It was always very, like, parables and storytelling and creating images – whether by telling a story or in an actual example of everyday life – using someone as an example.
So, yeah, it is a huge part of our walks. And I think that we miss out on a lot of what God has to say and how we interact with the people in the world around us when we don’t lean into those pieces within Scripture.
Sam Holland 27:34
Well Jocelyn, as we’re wrapping up our time today, if you had one invitation for Jesus followers who are listening right now, who want to step into their calling, what would that one invitation be?
Jocelyn Chung 27:52
It’s a great question.
Live a deeply rooted life. And in that, I’m also speaking to myself. Your internal life, your community life, your family life. I know that there can be a lot of complications around family and community and things like that. But family does not always have to be blood related. But be deeply rooted into the people around you, and be receiving both their invitations for growth and feedback. And be humble to those things, but also receive their invitations for you to soar, to take off, to do the things that you were made to do and listen to the ways that they call that out of you. Which is a very spiritual thing – right? To call someone into what God has made them to be. And so live deeply rooted to the community, to God, to the beloved community around you, and, I guess that would be my one thing.
Sam Holland 29:12
Are you living a deeply rooted community life? What’s one step you can take to connect into your community? Are you humbly accepting both feedback for growth and invitations to step into your calling?
Created For is hosted and produced by Cru. If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe, rate or review it wherever you listen. For more resources to continue your journey to living out your impact, check out the show notes on our website Cru.org/createdfor and follow us on Instagram at _createdfor.
Thanks for listening.
We’ll catch you again on the next episode with Rasool Berry, where we’ll talk about culture making.