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.