Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Joy of Christmas

So I've decided to change my attitude and be excited about Christmas. I still miss my family but I will rejoice in the Lord! I wanted to share some of my favorite Christmas song lyrics. I think many times just as hymns and worship songs we forget to realize their meaning. And at least for me, it is what makes this year's Christmas enjoyable.

'Hark the Herald Angels Sing'

Hark the herald angels sing. Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate Deity. Pleased as man with man to dwell. Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Mild He lays His glory by. Born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth. Born to give them second birth. Hark! The herald angels sing"Glory to the newborn King!"

Isn't this exciting? In just this one song, we worship the Lord for allowing us to be reconciled with Him. For becoming Immanuel, the God that is with us. We recognize that He has laid down His place in heaven to come to Earth and not only live among us, but die for us and give us new life. Hark the Herald Angels sing, indeed.

'O Holy Night'

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining. 'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O, hear the angels' voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever.

This is one of my favorites. It is such a song of hope and joy and love. The world pinning for a Savior, and then a new and glorious morn brings Him into the world. Should not our reaction be to fall on our knees? And how exciting that He breaks our chains, and that all oppression shall cease. And for that reason, I will sing sweet hymns of joy and let all within me praise His holy name.

I'm thankful to be able to say in good spirits, Merry Christmas!

On a side note, something I'm learning. I was encouraged by some friends I have from college to memorize a passage of Scripture Philippians 3:7-9 is a portion of it and it talks about considering all things loss compared to knowing Christ. And at one point the woman heading up the memorization program and encouraging us each week to press on, sent out an e-mail asking us what in our lives to we need to consider as loss compared to knowing Christ. I thought about it, and it broke my heart when the answer was revealed, which is the point I guess. But I responded to her and told her that I need to consider my family loss compared to knowing Christ. And if you read verse 8 it says, 'I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him." That was a hard pill to swallow. But I think the Lord is showing me that my commitment to Him must mean that I leave my father and mother and follow Him, that I must let the dead must bury their own dead and I serve Him, that I consider EVERYTHING a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I'll be Home for Christmas... Then Again, Maybe Not

So I haven't really been excited about Christmas this year. What I love most about Christmas is being with my family. That sounds cliche because most people want to be with their families for Christmas, but up until now I've taken it for granted. It has always been the norm for me to be with my family but this year is different. For most of this month my feelings have been pretty neutral about Christmas this year, but as it draws closer I realize I'd prefer to just skip over it. Don't get me wrong, I'm so thankful for the incarnation. Nothing brings me more joy than to know that God became a man in order to have a relationship with me, and no relationship is more important to me than the one I share with Him. But celebrating our Savior with the people on Earth that I cherish the most adds so much the to joy of Christmas. I knew I would miss out on things when I obeyed God's call to go to Korea. I knew I would miss dinners around the table with my family on the weekends. I knew I would miss friends vowing to love another forever. I knew I would miss other friends beaming with pride as they welcomed new life into the world. But my first Christmas away from home is proving to be difficult. You've heard it said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but what about absence making the heart break? I spent today Christmas shopping, wrapping Christmas presents, listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas movies and baking Christmas cookies. All of these things I love to do under normal circumstances. But doing them without the people I love the most isn't enjoyable. During all of this 'Christmas' today I tried to pinpoint exactly what it is that I enjoy doing with my family so much, and I scrolled through my mind and went over all of the seasonal activities that my family shares and realized I could not rank one over another. I love shopping with my mom and sisters, and wrapping presents with them as well. I enjoy purposely making a mess while baking cookies and sneaking cookie dough when mom's not looking, and sometimes when she is. I love the smell that fills the house when we bring home the Christmas tree that took hours to pick out because everyone has an opinion of what the perfect tree looks like, even though we all know we want mom to be the one to make the decision because she loves Christmas trees so much. I love going down memory lane as we decorate the tree and talk about previous Christmas's and look at all the ornaments Granny has given us over the years while I pretend to be jealous that Jon Marc will always have one more than me because he is one year older, even though I wouldn't trade a million Christmas ornaments for the blessing of having an older brother. I miss listening to Christmas music in the house, in the car, in every store I go in, hoping that they will play 'I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas' or 'Redneck 12 days of Christmas' I love getting excited anticipating family coming in town and watching 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'Charlie Brown Christmas' and 'Miracle on 34th Street' and of course 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' I always love driving through town to look at Christmas lights and then up to Lake Lanier for the Magical Nights of Lights. I miss staying up til 4am talking with my mom, sisters and aunts. I miss playing games whether it be Rummikub with Granny, or cards or Monopoly or any of the other thousands of games we own. I love watching the pantry door fill up with Christmas cards from dear friends or people we only hear from once a year. I miss going to church the whole month of December because we sing Christmas songs and it's decorated beautifully and everyone seems to be happier and we spend time reflecting on baby Jesus and the angels that proclaimed His birth and the fact that He is Immanuel. I even miss mom telling us where to park outside the house because there are so many cars when everyone is over that it looks like a parking lot. I will sorely miss spending Christmas Eve 'sleeping' in my sisters bed which really means staying awake and talking because we are too excited to sleep, and mom reading us the Christmas story, what does 'threw up the sash' mean anyway? Oh there is so much more that I love about Christmas and they all involve at least one member of my family. Like when dad makes the world's best Chex Mix because he knows the perfect m&m to pretzel ratio.

I know that the Lord will give me experiences and lessons here that I will take with me for the rest of my life and that will impact the Kingdom. But in the moments when everything is quiet and I am alone, I desperately miss Dad and Mom, Jon Marc and Melissa, Shannon and Eddie, and Ashton

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This has been a long weekend! It started off on Friday when I went to Christian's for a pajama party. We watched a movie and I baked brownies and had a grand ole' time. It ended at 11 and I went home. When I got home I decided I wasn't tired yet and I was in the mood to go running, which doesn't happen all that often so I decided to take advantage of the mood. I wanted to find the entrance to the park from my side of the river. I had an idea of where it was, but wasn't completely sure. So I jogged to where I used to live when I first came to Korea. The apartment I not so affectionately refer to as 'The Shoebox'. Eventually I found the park which was more of a bike path and some exercise equipment than an actual park, so we use the term loosely in this situation. After wandering around a bit I decided to use the exercise equipment. Most of it looked and felt like it was pretty pointless, that it didn't really work out anything, it just makes you feel better as if you are actually doing yourself some good. Well as I learned today, I was wrong, it does in fact work your muscles, and I felt it. Saturday morning I woke up early, as I do every Saturday, and headed off to see my kids at the Orphanage. We went to the park and the zoo, and for about 5 minutes we lost one little girl. It was so scary. We had been looking at the monkeys and then we walked a few hundred feet around the corner to buy them tickets to ride the miniature ponies and when we turned around, she was gone. We had 5 kids and three adults, I don't know how we lost her, but Christian went one way and I went another and Kelly stayed with the other 4. It didn't take long before I started crying and getting worried. Korea is generally a safe place, but it was my responsibility to take care of her and I didn't. We were only without her for like 2 minutes after we noticed she was gone, Christian found her still at the monkeys and she was crying. He quickly scooped her up and brought her to me. She was still crying but otherwise fine. After a few minutes of me holding on to her she was okay and back to playing with the other kids. I hated that feeling. We saw a few other animals and then headed to the playground. Between me pushing the kids on the swings I decided to take a seat on a nearby bench. Kelly and I were having a conversation about poop of all things, and as I crossed my legs a bird decided it had to poop. Well it landed right on my leg and I immediately busted out laughing. The fact that we had just been discussing it made it even more funny, but really gross at the same time. Christian and Kelly and I laughed until it hurt, and cleaned up the mess with disgust. After a long day at the park we went back to the orphanage. I wanted to go to Insadong to go shopping and Christian wanted to take one of the boys home with him for the night. I decided that would be fun too, so I brought Seong Hyun home with me. She is a fiesty 4 year old. She reminds me of me when I was little. She will test her limits and push your buttons, but is so carefree and fun loving. We went to Insadong and to McDonalds for dinner. The kids got a happy meal and a toy and we sat there and just enjoyed time with them. As we were finishing up a Korean woman approached our table and asked if she could interrupt our conversation. We politely turned our attention toward her and she proceed to explain that she works for a radio station in Seoul that is new and plays English music. She asked me if I would be willing to answer a few questions about music I like and that it would be aired on Friday night. I was like, um... Christian will. After some discussion we agreed that all three of us, Christian, Kelly, and I would do her this favor. She was thrilled. So she got her digital recorder out and microphone and asked us what our top three favorite songs were and what they meant. It took us a while to think, but we skimmed through our iPods and came up with a list. She was so appreciative and greatful. She gave me her e-mail and phone number and said if ever I need anything while living in Seoul, please don't hesitate to call her. So nice! After dinner Christian, Sun Guk, and Kelly went home, and Seong Hyun and I went back to my place. She walked in and was like, 'wow', except in Korean, and I gave her a little tour and she jumped on my bed a little and we ate a brownie and began watching Dora the Explorer. After a couple episodes I turned it off and we said our prayers and laid down. Well that didn't last long. It was only 9pm and neither one of us was very tired, so we got up and I was about to check my e-mail, and she was watching some Korean cartoon on TV. Then Christian called on Skype. He said that Sun Guk was bored and wanted a friend. So we let them talk on skype where they could see each other, they loved it. Then we agreed that Seong Hyun and I would come over there for a slumber party. We get there and the girls were gonna be on the bed and the boys were gonna be on the floor. It started off that way but didn't last long. I was hot on the bed, and Christian was cold on the floor, so we switched. The kids were tossing and turning and the floor was so hard I wasn't doing very much sleeping. Then Seong Hyun woke up and sat up and started crying. I guess she wasn't sure where she was and she saw Christian next to her. He told her it was ok and that I was right there. She came down to the floor and I held her for a little while then laid her down next to me and she went back to sleep. Well between the two kids on either side of me, the cold floor, the hard floor, and having no pillow, I got probably a grand total of 3 hours of sleep last night. The next morning the kids were up and at 'em at 7am. Christian, having gotten more sleep than I got them fed and showered, while I tried to get another hour in, but it wasn't very successful. We planned to go to a different park and ride the skylift across the park and the zoo. It was quite cold, but we dressed them warmly in my scarf and hat and gloves, they looked precious. Well we get there and long story short we get to the top and had only bought a one way pass up thinking we could ride the tram back down. Well the tram didn't go through the zoo which is where the skylift ended, so we had to walk 1,200m through the zoo to where the tram was. The kids were tired and so were we, and all they could say was Choua, which means it's cold. So I carried Seong Hyun on my shoulders and then we got to the exit, fed them and headed back to the orphanage. It took about an hour to get back to the orphanage, and we didn't get back until around 4. It was so much fun having the kids for the day, but so exhausting. I don't know if parenthood is like that every day but if it is, parents are superheroes. I could barely make it up the stairs out of the subway by the time I got home. But when we dropped the kids off, I could see how much they enjoyed the time they spent away from the orphanage and with someone that cares about them. So all in all, it was worth it.

Pray for me as I'm still adjusting to Korean life. This past week was a bit lonely. I had some awesome time with the Lord, but missed being around people too. When I lived in the States, I was social every night of the week, and now living in such a huge city and getting off work so late, it doesn't really allow for that, and so the the adjustment is sometimes hard. Also pray that Christmas will be a joyful time. I'm not yet sure how I will be emotionally for Christmas. I anticipate I will be fine and enjoy time with friends, but I know I will miss home at the same time.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Visitors, Thanks and Giving, and Birthdays

So I realize I haven't updated in a while, and I offer my sincerest apologies. November was a busy month.
As I anxiously awaited the arrival of my Aunt Melinda, Uncle Ralph and Cousin Elizabeth I began noticing that my house wasn't quite visitor friendly. So I had to do some scrubbing of the floors and bleaching of the bathroom. Which was gross, but good because now it's spic-and-span. And also a little more decorating needed to occur to make it more like home. Typically I'm not the decorating type. I like a decorated house, but I'm just not creative, and at the end of the day to make it look how I want it to look it seems to costly and time consuming. So I usually end up decorating like a college student that isn't allowed to put nails in the wall and can't afford picture frames; tape and sticky tack are much cheaper. Nevertheless I managed to find some cheap picture frames and put some time into it, and I'm happier because it's little reminders of home and that is nice. Along with the joy of having loved ones from home coming to visit I also had Thanksgiving, my birthday and the hope of eating at the rumored Taco Bell on the Army Base where my family would be staying to look forward to. My family would be here for about 12 days and I was the tour guide. I loved being the tour guide! I wanted them to love this city as much as I do. There is so much to see and do and smell, usually unfortunately. As in any city Seoul has pros and cons, but my job was to highlight the pros and downplay the cons. I took them to a Palace and Museum an Aquarium, and a couple high rise views of the city. We ate at great hot spots and shopped on bazaar streets, pun intended. We even drove out of the city and peered into North Korea from a high hill. I knew I would enjoy the time I would be able to spend with them, but it was so much richer than I anticipated. I felt like it was almost a rite of passage. I was now an adult making a life for myself far from home and having company come to visit and it was my job to be hospitable and entertaining. I not only got to show off my home but I also got a chance to be reunited with bits of home. I know I will always smile when I recall the moment I saw the taco bell in the food court on base. I was probably more excited than I should have been, but it wasn't just a taco, it was familiarity and memories. Another memory I gained was one of Thanksgiving dinner. Because I was the only one with a refrigerator that could hold anything larger than a gallon of milk I was presented with the task of making the applesauce jello. Now for those of you that don't know this is a dish that accompanies any kind of get together that my family has. I've seen it on the table for every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and Fourth of July since I can remember, and this year should be no different. Now that being said, seeing it on the table is different than making it by yourself for the first time. But with clear instruction and all the ingredients I proceeded to pass through a family rite of passage. And I'm happy to say it was a success. I am now available for every major holiday and all your applesauce jello needs with a minimal processing fee. Also on the Thanksgiving table was something that I'd never seen on a Thanksgiving table ever. It's name was chips and salsa. The restaurant on base that was serving a Thanksgiving buffet was, on any other day, a Mexican restaurant and apparently nothing can stop a Mexican restaurant from starting every meal off with a chips and salsa appetizer. It was quite entertaining and a memory not quickly forgotten.
After Thanksgiving came my birthday. I turned 25 years old this year and you know how sometimes people ask you 'do you feel any older?' and the answer is always of course not. But this time I do feel different. Perhaps it is simply that I've been spending more time reflecting on my life and I can see different stages and growth that has occurred. I feel like I've gained a little more insight. I've learned that I don't know everything and that it is possible to be best friends with your mom, and that sisters are priceless and that the Body of Christ is beautiful and that the bond of Christ is more valuable and much stronger than diamonds and that the love between friends is wider than oceans and continents. I've seen that I was blessed to be raised in a home with a mom and a dad that are committed to each other. I have come to the conclusion that every little girl should have an older brother. I've been adored by a dad that will always be willing to help and give advice when needed. I've also learned that I communicate differently than other people, that I can't put mom's china in the microwave, that when the car says it's running hot, it really means it, that lying is always worse than telling the truth, that disobeying the Lord is never worth it and that holding on to bitterness only hurts yourself. I've been told that I have wisdom beyond my years, but if that is true it's only because of the Lord, and those people haven't seen me manage a checkbook.
As we creep into December I find myself realizing that time is flying by. I had my 5 month anniversary of being in Korea yesterday and couldn't believe it. I also enjoyed taking a walk in the snow. I hate being cold, but snow makes it worth it to a Southern girl. I also got the opportunity to go Christmas shopping for the orphans that I spend time with on the weekends. I choose two of the girls I'm closest to and went to the store and picked out things I knew they would love. It was so much fun. I hope to spend Christmas with them this year. Laughing and playing with these precious children is a perfect trade off for not being home. I remember the first time I told one of my African babies that I love them and a couple weeks ago I found myself telling the children here that I love them, even though it wasn't in their language, I know they understood me. 'I love you' will be the next phrase I learn in Korean. I love that the Lord made my heart tender to children that have no one to love them. I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. My dad used to ask me, what are you passionate about? What do you love to do? Discover what that is and then do it. Well, I've discovered what it is and hardships don't seem as hard, pain doesn't seem as painful when I do what I love to do and I know where the Lord wants me to be.

Pray for the homeless people in Seoul. It is getting very cold outside and I'm not sure if there are shelters for them to go to in Seoul.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My First Pepero Day!

Today, November 11th, is Pepero Day in Korea!! Pronounced, Pepper-O. This is the day in which all Koreans young and old give each other Pepero candy. It is basically chocolate covered pretzels, but without the salt, and not twisty. They are in stick form, a little bigger than a coffee stirrer, but about the same length. They are quite delicious, and because they are so thin and small you can eat 12 without even knowing. LOL. They are fairly cheap too, you can buy a box of like 24 for only 700 Won, which is a little less than $.70. But anyway, the funny part is that this company kinda made up the day so that they could sell more candy. Ha. They chose 11/11 because the ones in November 11th resemble pepero sticks. So lining the candy shelves in all the 711 and grocery stores you see pepero. Lots of different flavors too. I got some almond ones today from a co worker. Yum yum. They even have stuffed pepero sticks that you can buy for each other which are kinda cute if you can picture a stuffed, chocolate covered stick smiling at you. I would say it's on par with Valentine's Day. I even gave a box to my cab driver today. He was very pleased and he laughed. All in all my first Pepero Day was very tasty and I will have no problem celebrating it again next year.

Pray for the Korean people. Many of them are so lost and are turning to fortune tellers and taro card readers for direction. I've seen fortune tellers set up booths on the streets and rooms in the malls where you go in and sit down at a table and they will read your taro cards, or tell you your future. It's heartbreaking. Pray that they will find these sources empty and meaningless, and that they would choose to go to the Source that will lead them in paths of righteousness and truth, and love.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What I love about Korea

Here is a list of some things I love about Korea.

- friendly people
- beautiful scenery
- corn on the cob vendors on the sidewalk
- norebong (karaoke rooms)
- board game cafes
- finding an American restaurant in an unexpected location
- orphans
- melon popsicles
- baseball games
- learning about a new bus route that cuts your trip time in half
- english channels on tv
- being able to sleep until 11am
- pizza with corn on it
- squatty potties, they really aren't that bad
- medium popcorn and 2 drinks for $7 at the movies
- cab drivers that help me with my korean pronunciation
- little kids that say hello to you because they know you speak English and they want to practice
- dak galbi (it's this korean dish that is kinda spicy, it has meat and potatoes and chesse, so good)
- rice
- museums and palaces
- not worrying about getting lost, cause i'm really good at navigating the subway
- taking off my shoes in korean restaurants. it's real funny that in the states they are shirt and shoes required and in korea it's shoes forbidden
- endless reruns of law and order
- the hills season 2 at 2am
- chopsticks, i'm gettin really good
- taking the orphans on day trips
- making new friends
- grocery shopping at 1am
- heated floors

i know there's lots more that i love that i can't think of, but here's some for now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Retreat to a Mountain

Last week was tough. I seemed to be frustrated with my students in every class, I was getting annoyed with my friends. I had issues with what my preacher said in his semon. I just wasn't happy. Something was off. I decided to take a moment and figure out why things were the way they were. I quickly realized it was my relationship with the Lord that was off and it's like a domino effect. I recalled praying a month or so ago that I would hunger for the Lord, that I would starve without him. And at that moment I was able to really pinpoint my issue. I was starving. My spiritual body was shutting down. I was past the hunger pains and really getting sick. Once I knew what the problem was I was bound and determined to fix it. But I knew consistant quiet times, though they are the meals that sustain life, would not be enough. I needed a feast, I needed to retreat and and get alone with the Lord. Sometimes it's shaming to share my shortcomings in my relationship with God, but I know that He responds and derseves the recognition and credit for bringing me back to life. My plan was to go to the orphanage Saturday morning and then spend the rest of the day alone. I wanted to get into nature because I always feel closer to the Lord and I can see him better almost. So through some circumstances beyond my control I wasn't able to go Saturday, plus it rained so it wouldn't have worked out anyway. Sunday however, I was adament about making this happen. So I woke up and headed out to the mountain. I love hiking and it was my first chance to go since I've been here and the leaves are changing and so I was so excited to get to be a part of it. I climbed a pretty good ways up a mountain called Bukhansan that's on the North side of the city, found a rock and sat down. I love journaling my prayers because it keeps me focused and I get to look back and see where I've come and what the Lord has done. I've been journaling on a regular basis for about 7 years now and it has proved beneficial. As I was praying the Lord and I were talking different things going on in my life and then when I moved on to a particular personal topic I looked up and saw a pinecone. Now normally this wouldn't mean much but I had told a friend the day before how I miss pinecones, we don't get them much in the city. And so when I saw it I knew it was the Lord telling me He loves me. I began to cry and just allowed him to remind me that He is the lover of my soul and needless to say I've been refilled.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Amazing Race or LOST?

Here is a story of my newest adventure... Christian and I have some college friends that live in a city called Daejeon and this past weekend we had a long weekend so we decided to pay them a visit. We planned to leave Friday morning and get there around 12:30 in the afternoon. So we head to a station called Yongsan. Christian and I frequent Yongsan because it's where the movie theater is. Anyway we get there and go to the ticket counter and we're like, hey we want to go to Daejeon and they are like, you are at the wrong station, you have to go to Seoul Station. Thankfully we were on the same subway line as Seoul Station so we just had to hop back on the subway and go a few more stops. We get to Seoul Station and get our tickets and we are set to leave at 10:35. We head towards McDonalds for some quality breakfast and wait about 20 minutes for the train. When it arrives we make our way to the correct car and hop on. We take our seats and are on our way. It is supposed to take 2 hours to get there and so we proceed to nap and read the newspaper and enjoy the general splendor of the countryside. About 2 hours and 15 minutes later a woman approached us and told us we are in her seat. I checked my ticket and we were in fact in the right seat, however her ticket was right as well. So in that moment Christian and I realized that we had missed our stop. Being the train rookies that we were we naturally assumed that our stop was the last stop, we were in fact wrong. So we get up and try not to panic and decide that we will just get off at the next one and go back. We didn't know how many stops back it was so Christian decided to ask a young man if he spoke English. He said he spoke a little and we told him our situation and he said he would help us. At the next stop, Christian, new helper friend and I get off the train and proceed to the ticket counter. He spends about 5 minutes talking to the ticket man and he allows us to go back the other way without having to pay, which was nice. So we start back towards the tracks and he runs up to us and says, no no, the train doesn't leave for another hour. So here we are in some random tiny town in South Korea with nothing to do and no where to go. Now it's around 1pm and the McDonalds is wearing off, so we decide to venture out and find something to eat knowing full well we aren't gonna find anything remotely American. Also, if you know me at all you know that I over pack. So, here I am trekking through Korea with all kinds of bright pink and green baggage, looking quite adorable might I add, but still uncomfortable from the weight of my luggage on my arm. After a nice walk, but no luck on food we headed back to the train station. Eventually we got back on the train went 2 stops back and successfully made it to Daejeon. :-)

Please be praying for me. Lately I've been arrogant. I've acted and thought that because I have majored in Cross-Cultural Studies and have been trained to respect and appreciate other cultures I have somehow earned the right to a holier than thou attitude. I've allowed my knowledge to be used to judge others that may not know how to properly behave towards a host culture. Instead of getting annoyed with or looking down on people that don't have the same education I have regarding the matter, I need to be gentle and patient and realize I've been blessed by the Lord with the wisdom I have and that I still have much to learn myself. I've been overseas for three months, I'm far from being an expert and I need to respond with kindness and understanding when other people are simply acting the only way they know how to act. And if I humble myself and get out of the way perhaps, if the Lord wills, I may be able to teach them something and more importantly be able to learn something from those that I so pridefully considered out of touch with the ways of living cross-culturally. Humility is a hard thing to ask for, but so amazing when it is received.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What I've Learned

As I near my 3 month anniversary of being in Korea I would like to take this opportunity to tell you what I've learned so far.

~ Koreans LOVE to play Rock, Paper, Scissors. Even if it's just for fun.
~ You can easily buy Octopus jerky on any street corner.
~ Corn goes with everything and on everything, especially pizza.
~ You will get stared at if you are foreign and red headed.
~ Missing your subway/ bus stop is guaranteed if you are reading a book or talking on the phone or playing a game on your iPod.
~ Pollution is a way of life.
~ Korean ants don't bite.
~ The water is cold if you don't remember to push the button on the wall that turns the hot on.
~ Cab drivers will honk at you if you even think about jaywalking.
~ Throw up on the subway is normal late at night.
~ Tipping is unnecessary and discouraged.
~ Koreans bleach their skin so finding face cream is more difficult than you would think.
~ Law and Order is a favorite TV show when its the only thing on in English.
~ Subways everyday twice a day for a month is still cheaper than a tank of gas in the States.
~ Even if it is sunny outside, if it is August, it will rain, don't forget your umbrella.
~ American beef is not sold anywhere
~ Protests are entertaining, especially when the people get sprayed with blue stuff
~ It's normal not to have a bathroom sink.
~ It is impossible to go to bed before 3am.
~ Tattoos used to mean that you were in the mob, and the kids think it's funny that I have one.
~ Strangers are not shy to come up to you and ask you to correct their grammar.
~ The Lord is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Karaoke Kristin

If you like karaoke, then you'll love Korean Karaoke. There are these places called Norabong all over the city. You go to one and you rent a karaoke room by the hour and then you and your friends have your own private karaoke party. It's like your in your living room except with a nice sound system and an endless number of songs to choose from. My coworkers told me about Norabong and Christian went with some of his coworkers, but I hadn't had the chance to go yet. So Saturday night Erik and Monique, and their friends Mark and Cassie and I went to dinner and to a Norabong. When we got there they gave us the first room and so I'm sure everyone could hear us. There is a big three-sided couch with a table in the middle, and of course a disco ball as well as plenty of room to dance. My first number was Don't Stop Believin' by Journey. I rocked it! There are two mics so we had some duets as well. We sang everything from Yeah! by Usher to Your Song by Elton John to Africa by Toto, that was my pick. All in all it was a really fun night. And they don't call me Karaoke Kristin for nothing. ;-)

Sunday I got up around noon and wandered the city before church. I went to two different markets looking for whatever fun antiquey things I could find. Then I went to church. I always love church and look forward to it every week, but I thought this week was especially good. We began by singing Blessed Be Your Name which is a personal favorite and then spent some time in prayer and then Pastor Eddie began his sermon. This was the second week in a two part series on the Armor of God. Last week he talked specifically about how each piece of armor protects us. And this week he talked about the offensive piece. He focused on the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer. He spent time explaining that words are powerful. God spoke the world into existence. And he mentioned how the enemy is bound when we verbally proclaim truth in the name of Jesus. This I know from experience. He also warned us about the temptation to neglect our prayer life. He recalled the Garden of Gethsemane and how intimate and intense Jesus' prayers were. It all just really resonated with me and forced me to evaluate my spiritual life and discover what pieces of armor I'm leaving out. Another interesting point that he made is that out of all the pieces of armor mentioned, none of them protect your back. It seems valid to consider the importance of not turning your back on the enemy. After church Christian and I started our first week of orphanage training. It's kinda funny because we've been going to the orphanage for over a month now, but still need to go to the training classes, but it's good because it will help us build unity among the other people that are going to be serving, as well as understand what Korean orphans need from us. The church volunteers in three orphanages around the city and is building a relationship with another that is specifically for infants. Throughout the training we are required to read the book, The Five Love Languages of Children, by Gary Chapman. I'm so glad they chose this book because I think it will be beneficial in understanding how to best love every child, not just the orphans. I'm hoping I can learn ways to love my students as I teach them English. I'm really excited about all that is going on in this ministry and for the passion I see in others for the same things that God has made me passionate about. The Body of Christ is beautiful!

Be in prayer for this ministry. We need volunteers that are committed. Many of the orphans have been abandoned and therefore have a hard time trusting adults. We need people that will come and stay. Also pray for me and Christian. Josh, the leader of the ministry and the one that Christian and I have been working with at the orphanage is having to work on Saturday and so it's just me and Christian and the kids on Saturday and I'm a little worried about the language barrier. I want to do a craft with them, but I just don't see how it's gonna work. I'm gonna go prepared to do one and just see how it goes. I know that being there and playing with them is enough because sometimes that's all we end up doing, but I'd also like to teach them a little more about Jesus if I can.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

On a Picnic with Jesus

Today I went to the park by myself. I made a grilled cheese, packed some pretzels and an apple and headed to the river. I sat on my beloved Koala blanket and proceeded to soak in the sunshine. It was a beautiful day. When I finished lunch I did some report cards for the kids, and then just decided to spend the afternoon with Jesus. Usually I journal my prayers and I start with praise and thanksgiving for blessings and situations that He is working out, and then I will move on to prayer for myself and other people. But today was different. Today I journaled and began with praise and thanksgiving, but I never moved on from that. I've praised Him and thanked Him before in this way, but today was just different. I was simply on a picnic with Jesus. I began to understand better what it means when God fills your cup. I was overflowing and it felt so good. It was a Living Water day. He gave me joy, and showed me beauty, He allured me into the desert and spoke tenderly to me. He smiled at me and delighted in me. It was such a beautiful moment that I will always treasure. And then today at church we took Communion and Pastor Eddie preached on Communion. The praise and thanks just continued. I got to know Him a little better this afternoon, and appreciate Him for His sacrifice. I also realized something new today too. Pastor Eddie was talking about how Jesus' body was never broken and how it is one of the prophecies regarding Him. And then he referenced the breaking of bread during Communion. He explained it like this, in Communion, we break the bread in order to share it. It does not symbolize Christ's broken body, because Christ's body was not broken. It is to be shared so that all may partake and remember the sacrifice. I had never heard this said before. It makes so much sense and I think is important to consider, and I enjoyed seeing Communion in a new way. I'm reminded of the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns. "I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned unclean. How Marvelous, how Wonderful and my song shall ever be. How Marvelous how Wonderful is my Saviors love for me."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Am I Famous?

So I get stared at a lot... A LOT. Typically I don't mind, and sometimes I don't even notice. Christian points it out to me. But the funniest thing is when Koreans come up to me and treat me like I'm the $5 they unexpectedly found in their pocket. They are just thrilled to see me. Well here are some examples. Last weekend I was at a subway station waiting for Christian and this teenage boy came up to me and started talking to me in English asking me where I'm from, and what I do in Korea and how I like it here. In this situation I think he was just wanting to practice his English, which was fine with me. He spoke very well. Then earlier this week I was at the grocery store that is in the same building as my school. I was just buying a drink and about 6 middle school girls saw me and just smiled so big and kind of gasped in surprise when they first saw me. They giggled to each other and then one of them said hello to me. I smiled and said hello to her, and they all just lost it. They started cracking up and just going crazy. Then I got what I needed and started heading to the check out and one girl said goodbye and I told her goodbye and they lost it again. Then the best one so far... this morning I was at the bus stop waiting for my bus listening to my ipod and this man came up to me and shook my hand and said "San Francisco". I was a bit confused and I thought he was telling me he had been to San Francisco. And I was like, "Oh, you've been to San Francisco" and then he said something else to me that I couldn't understand. Then I realized he was asking me where I was from. So I told him, "Atlanta, Georgia", this whole time he's still shaking my hand. Well apparently being from Georgia was all he wanted to know so he smiled real big and then walked away. It's so funny sometimes that I'm such a novelty to them.

Pray that I would begin to pick up more and more Korean. I love so much going to the Orphanage, I've been three times now, but it's also frustrating that I can't communicate well with the children. I know a few phrases like hello, thank you, and some other words, but not enough to really communicate with them. I know it will take lots of time and practice, but I want to be disciplined to learn it and patience in the mean time. Christian found a free Korean Class that we are going to try to join next week, so hopefully I'll be able to learn quicker than just fumbling through on my own.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Crazy Kristin

So here's a funny story...

Once upon a time I tried to delete a post and accidentally deleted my entire blog. But thankfully I had copied all my posts and sent them out via facebook and so I was able to copy and paste them right back here. The End.

More funny moments...

So apparently the word crazy in Korea is just hilarious to kids. I'm not sure if it is kind of offensive because when I tell them they are crazy they go nuts. They laugh and are like, no teacher. And some of them will tattle when another student calls them crazy and I'm like, so, I'm crazy too, and they crack up. I like it.

Koreans put corn on everything. I ate pizza tonight with corn on it. And to be honest, I've bought steamed corn on the cob on the side of the road. I was walking down the sidewalk and decided I wanted some corn. So I bought 2 ears for a dollar.

Little unknown fact. Lots of Koreans are tone deaf, and sometimes they sing on the subway. And it's a little bit funny.

Pray for the salvation of my fellow foreign coworkers. My head teacher is a man that's in his late 20's and he lives with his girlfriend that also works at my school. They are so nice and fun, we hang out fairly regularly. They aren't the get drunk and party type which is very typical of foreigners living in Seoul. We had a lunch party at their house last Sunday and I heard Monique, the woman coworker, mention that her mother is Hindu and she is Buddhist. This broke my heart. I talk to them about church and how much I love my church here. I'm working on building a good relationship with them. I've casually invited them to church, but I really want to blanket this new friendship in prayer. I know that prayer is powerful and effective, and so I want to try to be faithful in prayer for these new friends. I also want to be an example of Christ's love to them. It's difficult not to gossip about the students or other teachers when it happens so often in our one room office. Pray for opportunities for me to be Christ to them and give Him the glory for it.

He Humbles and Restores

I have the coolest story to share about how loving God is. I'm here with my friend Christian for those of you that don't know. He and I went to college together and it just worked out that we would both be here. Well as the weeks have gone by we spend a lot of time together. And as it tends to sometimes happen we just would get frustrated with each other. As we discussed and talked things out I was just really convicted. I have not been loving and gracious towards him. It was really humbling to learn. I had been so annoyed that he wasn't understanding me that I failed to understand him. I was not serving or kind to him. Well, all that happened on Friday and Saturday we spent all day together. We went to the orphanage and to a baseball game with some of my coworkers. We had a blast. Then today, Sunday, we met our other friend Erin that just got here three days ago and went to a cook out at my coworkers house and went to church together, and again, had a great day. I really spent time praising the Lord for that restoration, but still beating myself up about my selfishness. Well just before church started I went to the bathroom. This is a very large church more than 500 people just at the English service. Well I was in line at the bathroom and a woman behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked me how many people attended the church. I told her I wasn't sure and that I've only been going here a couple months. And she asked me what I was doing in Korea and I told her. She looked to be about 65ish. Then I asked her why she was here. And she said for cancer treatments and something to do with stem cells. My heart broke for her. We talked a little more and as we left the bathroom I told her that I hoped everything went well and enjoy the city. I didn't expect to see her again. Well when I got back into church they had already started so I sat down and then noticed that her and her husband and her friends had sat near us. We smiled at each other and that was it. Then we sang a song and the worship leader began to pray. He was thanking God for being a big God and Lord over everything. And at one point he said, You are a God that heals cancer. I immediately began crying. Then he did something out of the ordinary. He encouraged us all to just pray for a breakthrough for our church. That sins would be confessed and healing and restoration would come. And out of no where I felt God telling me to go over and put my hand on this woman and pray for her. Now I have had this feeling before. I know that it is the Holy Spirit and I know to obey. In the past I have not obeyed and it hurt. So after a moment of questioning if it was the Lord I got up and crawled over like 3 people to go pray for this woman. I got to her and put my hand on her back and just began to cry and pray. It was beautiful. I did not know this woman, she had just arrived in Seoul, she had never been to this church before, I met her in the bathroom, she sat near me, and the opportunity was presented. After I prayed for her we both were crying and I hugged her and went back to my seat. I was humbled once again. This time in a rewarding way. I had just been an awful friend but the Lord still used me. Obedience feels amazing too. I don't know what the Lord will do through my prayers, but I do know that it was what I needed and I'm certain it was what that woman needed as well. After the service she came over to me and asked for my e-mail address. I told her I was hoping we'd be able to swap information and I asked that she would be sure to e-mail me. I am so thankful that God shows me mercy and blesses me. He gives the grace that I fail to give. We serve a loving God.

Pray for Onnuri Church. There is lots going on at our church and they are very excited about spreading the Gospel in all the world. We are approaching a time of fasting at the church and Pastor Eddie has asked everyone to participate. Pray that change will occur and that hearts will be restored and become more intimate with the Father. Pray that the church will be refined in the fires and that South Korea will know the name of Jesus and proclaim Him as their Savior.

Trying to Understand

I walked into work today and our head teacher, Erik, told me that our Director, Mike, was laid off today. I was shocked. Here's the story... Just after I got here we got a new owner. I actually never met the old one. Her name is Dr. Lim and she got her Master's in the States and she speaks very good English. Often when a Hagwon, which is a language school, gets a new owner they fire the director and kinda start over. They make a lot of changes and try to improve the school. This is exactly what happened here. She started changing things right way. Most of them are good changes, but she wants to try to implement them immediately which is just not possible in the middle of a session. The kids are already accustomed to the way we do things now and you can't just up and change things on them and expect them to do well. Mike knew that leaving was a possibility so he started working really hard because he knew his job was on the line. He came up with fresh new ideas and really tried to please the new owner, but apparently it just wasn't enough. Perhaps this could be just my first experience with this real world situation, but it really bothered me. Mike was the guy I interviewed with before I came and he was the first man I talked to when I came to Korea. He has been so helpful in getting my apartment situated, he even called hotels to see if they had rooms when I wanted to go to the beach for the weekend. He has a wife and a son, and I just don't think it's very fair. None of the other teachers really seemed surprised or concerned, but I don't know I really hate it. I asked Erik if it would be difficult for Mike to find another job and he said no it shouldn't be there are many Hagwon all over Korea. So that makes me feel better, but I wish we could have had a party for him, or taken him to dinner or something. As I spend time in this new culture and embrace it and am immersed in it I realize that it is a completly different world view. I guess when you see a modern country you assume, oh they must see the world as I see the world. And I've taken so many classes that have told me otherwise, but not until you are faced with it do you begin to understand the truth of it. So here I am trying to understand these beautiful people God created. Trying to relate and trying to serve. I want to go deep and make sense of their mindset. It is going to be challenging I'm sure, but worth it I'm convinced.

Pray for me as I begin to understand the people of Korea. Pray that I would have wisdom and understanding and patience. And pray that I would never forget to show them love.

First Impressions

I know I've already been here for almost 2 months, but I figured better late than never. I want this first entry to be about my first impressions and what I've learned so far.

When I first got off the plane there was a cute little man holding a sign with my name misspelled on it. I smiled took a deep breath and said to myself, "this is home". The man turned out to be a taxi driver that spoke no English. I followed him to the curb where he promptly lit a cigarette and kindly offered me one. I declined. Once we were on our way I noticed the beautiful landscapes. The mountains here are green and beautiful. I liken them to Hawaiian mountains. I offered the driver a piece of gum and he accepted... my first Korean friend. :-) It took about 45 minutes to get to Seoul and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. There was quite a bit of traffic in the city, but I didn't mind. Once I got to my school I met my director, Mike, and he and I went to my temporary residence called Coco Residence. I was on the 4th floor and there was no elevator so Mike and I got a real workout moving my stuff up the stairs. I lived in a shoebox of a room that had a bed, desk and bathroom in a room about the size of a walk-in closet. It was also very hot and humid. After I dropped my stuff off I went back to my school to meet the other teachers and observe a class. I expected to have a little more training than I did. I literally observed one class and then the next day I taught 5 on my own. Pretty scary. But it worked out. I wasn't very good at it for about the first 2 weeks, but I like to think I've gotten much better. I mentioned that I was living in a temporary residence. It was because the teacher who's position I took over was living there for the remainder of the month, so I had to wait for him to leave before I could move in. After work some of the other foreign teachers took me to eat at a Korean restaurant. This was fun! I had to take my shoes off and we sat on the floor to eat. Also, they don't really use knives to cut meat with here, they use scissors. So they brought out the meat and cooked it on a small grill like thing in the middle of our table and then we ate. I'm still getting used to the food, it's spicy and pickled, it might take a while. But I did try most everything except kimchi. It looked like bloody gauze which I'm sorry if that's graphic, but just picture it and let me know if it's something you wanna bite right into. Also, I was not good at chopsticks, but I'm getting much better. Since my first day here, I've found an amazing church that loves Jesus and loves missions and loves people. I've visited a palace and a museum. I've gone to two protests, not always intentionally. I've navigated subways and buses, not as hard as you would think. I've located Outback Steakhouse, Hard Rock Cafe, TGI Friday's McDonalds, Subway, Popeyes, KFC, Burger King, Baskin Robbins, Coldstone Creamery and 2 Mexican Restaurants. I've walked miles and miles around this city just enjoying city life and I've played with beautiful children at an orphanage. God has shown me His faithfulness when I'm lonely and homesick. He's built friendships that are proving to be a comfort and He's provided a church where I truly feel at home. I am confidant that there is more growth and experience to come and I eagerly await the adventure. I know this post is long, and the rest won't be so if you made it this far, good job. Thank you so much everyone for your prayers. I know that the Lord has heard them and responded. I see His work here and I'm so honored to be a part of it.

I want to include some ways to be praying for this country at the end of each blog.
Pray for the young women of Korea. They are obsessed with their bodies and being thin. They will starve themselves to fit into an image of beauty that is empty. They are constantly worried about their hair and make up and they only wear name brand clothes. Pray that they will find truth in what beauty really is and that they will be secure in the bodies that were created for them.