The hope of deep heaven

“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then, I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”

“A great shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or water in a parched land, and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count.

In moments of darkness, I have often found myself asking the same question as Sam: “Is everything sad going to come untrue?” –probing the Almighty for proof of beauty and redemption for my burdens of sadness. It wasn’t until I found out what other words enveloped Sam’s question that I began to truly realize that earthly grief is enveloped by joy and hope. This scene in The Return of the King doesn’t take place in the moments of the deepest despair and darkness. Sam doesn’t ask this question out of fear or desperation as I thought he did, and as I often ask. Rather, in this moment, the ring has been destroyed, Gandalf has come back from supposedly being dead, and the hobbits are safe. I love the lines that describe Gandalf’s laughter– literally, music to Sam’s ears, a refreshing glass of water in a desert.

This is what joy is like- the joy we were made to know. This is what tasting the hope of deep heaven is like, water in a parched land, stabs of joy even as we stand in the density of the desert of grief.

On September 18, around 3 am, a dear friend passed quietly from dusty earth to the Country of heaven. Kevin Korobko, the man whom Andrew has been living with and caring for this past year and a half went to be with Jesus. I heard the news while I was at school- not ideal to be crying in shock and disbelief while trying to plan the next day’s lessons. I came home and the waves of sadness swelled again, and again this morning as I laid awake in bed, struggling to believe that he is really gone, asking again, “Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

But the answer is yes! Today I am reminded that everything is already becoming untrue, even now. Because death has already been defeated, we no longer fear the grave. Because Kevin so loved God, he got to run to Him today- with a resurrected body completely free from pain, limitations, disease. I try think of heaven and I can’t even fathom the depths of beauty and joy awaiting us. It helps to think of Kevin, reunited with his mother, being given the healthiest body, the memory of his earthly pain completely gone. It helps to think of his wheelchair left behind. It helps balm the sadness to think that even on earth, God so graciously stabs us with joy, gives us longings for heaven. Sehnsucht. It helps to remember that our souls were made for laughter and the pure sounds of merriment, not weeping.

A great shadow has departed from what Kevin knew of earthly life, a great shadow has departed his old body. And we cannot believe that a great shadow is now covering us in his absence.

All is just a shadow of what is to come. 

 I believe in the holy shores of uncreated light
I believe there is power in the blood
And all of the death that ever was, 
If you set it next to life
…I believe it would barely fill a cup
-ap

'God is at home. We are in the far country.' - M. Eckhart
“There are stabs of joy that are found in the presence of grief. The moment when all around is thick and dark, and then, like a splash of color on an empty canvas comes the realization that this is not how it always will be. That God is present in our pain and moved by our tears. That grief is so deep because it is foreign to souls that were created for joy. Sometimes just knowing this is enough to kindle fires of hope in the midst of darkness. …these are the stabs of joy that keep me longing for a home I haven’t yet known. They are whispers of the language of my soul, reminding me that what we see now is just a shadow of all that is to come.” {Heidi Johnston}

Andrew Peterson & Andrew Peter

Every hour is a precious boon;
Every breath is a mercy.
Every glimpse of yonder moon,
A balm upon this journey.
How vast the heavens above this place
So small beneath His glory..
Still He stooped and showed His face
And poured His mercy o’er me.
Jesus, our Messiah King
For those who don’t deserve Him!
Conquered death all life to bring,
So seek His face and serve Him
O serve Him… praise His name forever!
[Serve Him - Andrew Peterson] 
——————————————————————-

Every day here has  been characterized by unexpected, small but resounding gifts from Jesus. I have been learning to seek gratitude even when I don’t feel like it, and God has been turning my eyes up and all around to see His presence and His gifts of grace everywhere I look, and sometimes when I’m not looking.

Let me share a story of one of these gifts…
On Sunday, I left my apartment with enough time to get to church, but since I have no understanding of time and distance, I got there 15 minutes early. If you know me at all, you know how much I hate arriving to social functions early and making small talk. I took a moment to think about what to do to stall time for 15 minutes, but decided to be an adult about it and just go inside. I was greeted by the familiar faces and congratulatory welcomes for not getting lost, and then gifted by one of the best conversation’s I’ve had since arriving here. My new friend- a man from France  (my church is international) came over to me and we started talking about our weeks, our jobs… he told me he was an engineer and I started off on how my boyfriend is an engineer and this is what he’s doing right now and he is going to move to Guam and Guam is only a 6 hour plane ride from here— halfway through I realized I was rambling, as always. He asked how we were doing with the long distance, and I gave a shallow, surface-level reply along the lines of, “It’s hard but it’s good!” Something I’m being humbled by lately is how inauthentic I can be with people, because my friend’s response instantly drowned mine. He is in a long-distance-for-a-year relationship too, and as he shared the struggles and difficulties, he started sharing what God is teaching him, all that God is showing him through the hardship.
This 15-minute gift was small, short, but resounding in impact.
In short, this friend’s words echoed the words of my own heart in this shared experience. “Hard, but good” is all I could come up with, but those three words merely envelope what this experience has truly been for us- for Andrew and I and the sweet French lovers who are also apart.
What has this “experience” been like? It has been so completely difficult and so incredibly good all at the same time. My friend and I talked about the first verses of Romans 5: “…we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God,” and also, “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” This is what God reminds me of when I just want to lay on my bed and weep about how much I miss Andrew— He is so gracious to give us this time, this whole year of learning and growing. I am learning that what is true in Romans 5 is true for this one year, and it is true for the rest of my life. We will always have to persevere.
I often tell people that Andrew & I “prepared” for this year apart, but we didn’t really. All that happened, all that has been happening since spring of 2013 is God’s continual, gracious asking: “Are you willing?” To which we keep saying “Yes.” Every time He asks me, and each time I respond and step forward, my whole life shudders a little bit and I find myself standing with less certainty, less clarity, but more faith and more of God. I find I am still standing, holding on tighter to His hand, and when the dust clears I can slowly start to see all the beauty of the promises He reveals in the saying “yes.” It is the place of “Amen,” and it is beautiful. Though it is hard and scary, it is producing hope!
It is hard to think about how much time there remains between now and the time when I will see Andrew again. It is hard to sit alone in a studio apartment and think about the last time I felt him hug me. It is harder, still to have no idea what everything will look like one year from now. Simply put, it is hard to be apart…
But like my friend on Sunday said so perfectly, “God just deals so kindly with me! He is so delicate with me.” And I echo his thoughts completely- would I go back to him/her in our own country if I could? Yes! Tomorrow! I would! But then I pause in that thought and reconsider. All that God has taught me (and my friend) in this short time already has been life-changing. I lmiss Andrew terribly, my friend loves his girl with a deep, faithful and boyish love, but we both agreed we would never trade this year, these lessons, this depth of God’s presence in our alone-ness for the together-ness with the ones we love.
Like I said before, Andrew and I didn’t really “prepare” for this, though we’ve known for months ahead of time. God in his kindness and his delicate-dealing with our hearts showed us Himself in the days and weeks leading up to this year, giving us so much to be thankful for and so much to remember during this year apart. I remember one afternoon we were talking about my upcoming move and I was struck almost suddenly with a deep, and painful joy. I tried to explain to poor, perplexed Andrew where this sudden stream of tears had erupted from, but all I could muster was this; Jesus is so good to us! My thoughts then mirror my thoughts here and now: We have been given so many wonderful, beautiful times together before we have to be separated, and recalling God’s goodness to us over the past year and a half carries us into a beautiful hope for the future. We have been on so many long, fun road trips, we have seen some of our best friends commit their lives to each other, we have cried over poems and the Gospel and grace together, we have climbed to the highest peak of mountain tops and scrambled over huge rocks on more hikes than I can count, we have introduced each other to the people we love most and tied so many relationships from our pasts together, we have camped out in parking lots with friends, we have read entire books out loud to each other, we have watched fireworks together, we have knelt and held out our hands to receive eucharist together, we have prayed aloud for each other and for family and for friends, we have raced through woods, we have explored new cities, we have eaten incredible food, we have sat on the back of the car on the side of the road to watch the sunset, we have driven along 100 miles of mountain tops, we have discovered deep corners of our hearts that we didn’t know needed light until the other stepped in, and we have tasted deeper, sweeter waters of Grace.
Even still, it is by sure grace that we are now on our greatest adventure yet.. and we are oceans apart.
All I can say after a year and a half with Andrew, and after only two weeks of living across the globe from him is still, still: Jesus is so good to us. We have learned more of who He is in these beautiful times, and now He is asking to show us more of Himself in this hard time. So we will keep saying “yes!” because it is good, He is good.
(Standing on immeasurable amounts of duck poop)

(Standing on immeasurable amounts of duck poop)

Also we are really REALLY good dancers ;)

Also we are really REALLY good dancers ;)

Singer/songwriter, Andrew Peterson defines so much of our journey together (in case you haven’t noticed by now)… so here is a song I’ve been listening to on repeat that resonates with this “hard but good” and all the outpourings of grace in the midst of it all! May this be our prayer this year, and for all the years to come.

Specifics

I write these words, sitting in a freshly cleaned studio apartment while the laundry dries and the honey-scented candle flickers. Today, I worked up the courage to start unpacking my clothes and finally hung some of them in the closet. On my first or second day here I unzipped my suitcase, laid some clothes on my bed and got some hangers to start putting them away, but I couldn’t do it. I hung one shirt up and threw the rest back into the suitcase. It took me a couple of days to process why this was so hard. It wasn’t that I lacked the energy or motivation to simply hang up my shirts and skirts and pants, what I finally realized was that my clothes hanging in the closet is a sign of permanence. I put my kitchen together, organized my things on the desk, and started to settle into somewhat of a routine as school started… but my clothes stayed put. Wrinkly and unorganized. It finally dawned on me as I was talking to Andrew about it one morning: I can’t empty my suitcase because whenever I look at it, I picture it in my bedroom at home, against the wall at the foot of my bed in my favorite place in the world… and there it sits now, at the foot of my bed in Korea. It’s like my last sliver of home, and if I put my clothes away here, it means I’m actually living here. 

Well friends, I am actually living here, and today was the day I hung up my clothes and put them away. Here, in South Korea. 

You may think this is somewhat of a trivial story, but coming to accept that this really is my life now is a big deal. This week has been nothing short of exhausting, lonely, and depressing- but only sometimes. My dear friend Jess reminded me a few days ago, that ‘It’s okay to feel the hard and the good simultaneously. Often they are the same thing anyway.’ I have realized the truth of this statement in such profound ways this week, because each time I feel the waves of loneliness or depression come over me, God presses His hands of grace to cover me and I am reminded that all will be well. The pangs of anxiety and frustration that come with trying to figure out this thing called “teaching” and the stabs of sadness that come from living alone in a foreign city have always, always, been met with the peace and joy of God’s presence. He is teaching me so much! 

All that to say, here are some specifics on what life in South Korea is like so far, as well as some thoughts that I have been processing and experiencing from my first FULL week of school. I came home from school last night and sat down to write these words, so they may be scattered and messy, but I thought the best way to share my week with you would be to share it exactly as it came to me, exactly as I remembered and processed them. So here goes. 

  • Korean students are CHAMPS. Not only do they go to school all day and hagwons in the evening and study all night, but they put up with their frazzled, unorganized, unprepared english teacher. Then they still smile and wave and cheerfully skip out the door saying, “See you next time!” as if Katelyn Teacher might have actually taught them something, or as if they just might actually like her. Either that, or they’re just really happy to leave. 
  • It’s officially Korean Thanksgiving- otherwise known as Chuseuk. From 2 of my student’s parents I received a HUGE box of seaweed and a bottle of fine skin oil. (???) Hashtag blessed. 
  • A little background on my school/teaching situation: Since my sister got married on August 24, that pushed my departure date back over a week from when the school wanted me to arrive. This meant I got no training whatsoever since the foreign teacher I replaced had already left and therefore wasn’t available to help me transition, or to train me, or to help me. I was essentially starting all on my own, with the exception of one English-speaking teacher who explained how to go through the curriculum and when to arrive at school each day. That being said, I cannot say enough how grateful I am to work at such a great school. The teachers and principal have been incredibly patient and gracious with me when I make mistakes, and have given me the best constructive criticism on my work so far. Criticism of any kind has always been very hard for me to take, being as sensitive as I am, but God is giving me thicker skin, and helping me take their points as helpful and not hurtful. This has made all the difference! The difference in monday/tuesday to thursday/friday is NIGHT and DAY. From crying in the bathroom stall and praying they would fire me to practically skipping down the sidewalks after work…. I am filled with awe and thanks that God has put me in such a wonderful place with such wonderful teachers. 
  • AND THEY ARE SO GENEROUS! Grace, a teacher I work with is ACTUALLY an angel. She greeted me at my office door yesterday with an iced americano before classes started. I just wanted to hug her neck. More so, I just want to be like Grace. She shares everything, always ALWAYS smiles, and has a kindness that is almost electric. Community is a big deal here as well, and the principal bought us all dinner on Wednesday night. We sat in a classroom on chairs that were too small and ate sushi and soup and they laughed at my inability to use chopsticks and eat wasabi and I left with a stomach and heart happy and FULL. 
  • Nothing is better than getting to be “Katelyn Teacher.” I am always giddy with happiness when I hear kids say my name- I don’t know why. As a counselor, I loved being called “Miss Kate” but there’s something about hearing tiny voices with Korean accents calling out “Teacher!” and they mean ME. 
  • Fun fact: by the end of each day, my thoughts are either in simple, simple sentences, or english with a korean accent and no article adjectives. When that’s all you hear, it’s hard to even switch your mind to what English actually sounds like. So I feel like my grammar is getting way better since I constantly correct my student’s speaking/writing/conversing, but my thoughts are completely Korean-toned. 
  • That awkward moment when the principal momentarily thinks she hired a teacher who doesn’t know what a gerund is… that was a really, really tense couple of seconds. 
  • Emily, the teacher with the really good english came to me the other day and said these exact words: “The students all come to me and say ‘Katelyn Teacher is sooooooo tall!” …I just knew that would happen. Also Emily told me I have “above average feet.” And– I’m pretty positive one of my 2nd grade students one day was trying to tell me that I have a big nose. So that was cool, because every other person I pass on the sidewalk either does a double-take when they see me or they just stare. And kids point. I. Feel. Awesome. 
  • I am so thankful that my area is so easy to get around. It’s pretty much a straight shot to school, and the whole area where I live more or less revolves around a huge traffic circle, so it’s easy to locate where you are. Also, street signs are in korean AND english. Praise be to Jehovah. I’m learning where I want to go based on asking myself, “Is it in the direction of city hall?” “Is it across from the sports park?” “Is it next to E-Mart?” and it’s been so fun to wander and actually know where I am and where to go to get back home. However. The sidewalks are brick, and in most places they are pretty much falling apart, and everyone rides their bike directly at you and they don’t move out of the way until they’re about to run you over. Oh, and crossing the street (unless at a major intersection with lights) is pretty much a mad dash with a prayer that they won’t run you over. Bonus: Korean’s honk their horns like it’s their job. 

The tall one is my building! The cool mural is the International Hotel.

The tall one is my building! The cool mural is the International Hotel.

First floor consists of a plastic surgeons office, laundromat, three restaurants, and a convenient store. Second floor is a hotel, the rest are apartments.

First floor consists of a plastic surgeons office, laundromat, three restaurants, and a convenient store. Second floor is a hotel, the rest are apartments.


One last story…

This was Wednesday. I woke up depressed, exhausted, fragile, weak, homesick, lonely… safe to say it was the lowest point so far, and pouring down rain. I cried most of the morning, just feeling so sad and empty. One of my family’s dearest friends, Jennifer Thomas, sent me a message as I was walking out the door for school and simply said, “I’ll tell you what. I love that Jesus is sitting right in the room with you. I’m going to keep asking him to hold your hand super tight.” A part of me definitely thought, “nope. I’m completely alone because right now I FEEL completely alone,” and I walked out of my building into pouring rain, without an umbrella. (I headed to the grocery store to buy one, but then I remembered that I hadn’t really eaten lunch so I bought yogurt instead). I thought I would be ok, though, because most of my walk to school is underneath trees, and the rain was only a light drizzle for 20 out of the 30 minutes it takes to get there. As I was standing at a crosswalk only 10 minutes away from school, it started pouring. And I started crying… again. I hadn’t taken one step across the street when I felt someone behind me. …It was a smiling old man with an umbrella he was holding over my head. I pointed in the direction of my school, and he walked me the rest of the way to the stoplight, all the while speaking in Korean though we clearly couldn’t communicate to each other. He was laughing. I was sobbing. 

Friends, that man was Jesus holding my hand super tight. That umbrella over my head was Jesus, reminding my weary heart that He will never leave me. 

I told my mom this story today and I realized- I was supposed to be here for that moment. I wouldn’t have experienced Jesus in  all of the realness of rain and smiles and tears and umbrellas had I not been here. Best of all, this is who Jesus is for all us! Always there, always protecting and looking out and desiring the best for us, even if it’s pouring rain. The rest of the week was infinitely better after that wonderful, beautiful, gracious 10 minute walk. 

My view on my walk to school every day. I love it.

My view on my walk to school every day. I love it.

As always, thank you for your prayers…. look at what God is doing- big things through the small things. I can only attribute the fact that I am surviving so well here to God’s kindness and grace. I can only attribute the fact that I put my clothes away today to God’s mercy and strength, and much of it being ushered into my life by your prayers. May it all be for His glory. 

“So cheer up, my brothers- live in the sunshine. We’ll understand this all by and by” 

 

“…in the presence of Him who he believed, God, who gives life to the dead and calls these things which do not exist as though they did;who, contrary to hope, in hope believed” Romans 4; 17,18      

Peace.

Peace.

Wednesday evening reminders

Allow me to be vulnerable tonight.

This is hard.

This new journey has already seen me through some of the most trying days of my life. I keep telling friends or family, “I knew I would get to this point. I knew these difficulties would come.” I sit in a loneliness deeper than I have ever felt before, and I have cried out to God for Him to do something to take away this pain and emptiness and exhaustion. 

But, He doesn’t take it away. He hasn’t (yet) changed any of my circumstances. 

Instead, He breathes His spirit upon me, He whispers His promises into my heart, He sings over me. Even when I can’t feel Him, when I’m too sad to even think, I am reminded that this is truly what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. I can’t see two hours in front of me, I can’t know what will happen or how I will feel two days, or two months from now- all I have are His promises. Lately I’ve been really asking myself if that is really, truly enough. Is trusting in God’s promises enough to get me through a long lonely morning, and a busy, stressful night of teaching?

For all the promises of God in Him are “Yes!” and in Him, “Amen!” to the glory of God through us. (2 Cor. 1:20)

 I started writing this post not to share how sad I have been, or how difficult this first week has been. I wanted to share the reminders that I preached to myself tonight after this hard, hard morning and long, long night. Often when I feel empty, with no words to pray, I read through old journal entries/prayers. I flipped to a random page and this is what I read: 

God will remain true to all the promises He has kept before. My future days are only filled with hope because they are filled with promises already kept. So we keep saying “yes” to God, because all promises in Him are “yes” and “amen.” Our days are in His hands, so we have no reason to fear, or certainly not to postulate what may come, or what we may and may not do. Already, His plans are taking root, and one morning we may wake up to its blooms. 

If I can believe this in the deepest, emptiest parts of my lonely heart, I will make it through this year. 

Yes. Amen. He promises so. 

———————————————————————-

Prayer requests. 

Before I share, let me say again how very, very grateful I am that you are praying for me. Each morning, when I feel too weak and fragile- emotionally, physically, spiritually- to get out of bed, I remember your prayers. I remember how many people have brought me before the Father, and I know in that moment that He is breathing strength into me through your intercessions. So thank you, thank you, thank you! 

- Please pray for my mornings (evenings your time). Waking up, and the time before I leave for school (1pm) is the hardest, most depressing time of the day. Pray that God would give me strength to use this time effectively! 

- Please pray for my school days. I work at an academy– In Korea, they call them hagwons, after-school school, essentially. I hope to write more about my job, but please pray for daily strength as I teach classes that I feel hardly prepared for. 

- Please pray that I can get connected into a good community group from the church I’ve found here. I feel that this would be absolutely vital to my spiritual well-being, AND, I just want to talk with people about what God is teaching me! I know he doesn’t teach me lessons or show me Himself just so I can keep it to myself. Really though, I just want to talk to people in general, let’s be honest. (And not in korean-english…) 

I love you all! Thank you for being a part of my life, across the sea. 

Rejoicings

Friends and family, I’m here! I am safe, I am well. 

As you can imagine, so much has happened since I walked away from my family standing at security in Charlotte International Airport to where I am now: in my apartment in the beautiful city of Changwon, South Korea. Let me backtrack a few days, back before I left. I woke from a terrible dream last week, the kind that hangs over your head all morning. It left me with sad, anxious, fearful feelings- feelings I have had so few of this summer in preparing for this trip. I journaled that morning and prayed for Jesus to “give me a new song.” I didn’t want to keep singing (or moaning) about myself. So I read Psalm 94: 17-19, 

Unless the LORD had been my strength, my soul soon would have settled in silence. If I say, “my foot slips,” your mercy, O LORD will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, your comforts delight my soul.

This led me to contemplate something about myself: that loneliness in my heart always translates to emptiness, no words to say, write, or sing. This day, there was a silence in my soul. I prayed over this coming year, that God would remind me that this silence is not why He created me. This condition is found in the dusty valley of the already-not-yet. I am assured that heartache and sadness come and come again, but Jesus- and simply Jesus delights my soul no matter my conditions. 

My soul would have settled in silence” — The tense here reminds me that my soul may become silent sometimes, but never permanently settles there. 
“Your mercy, O LORD, will hold me up” — Future tense, and a promise that is true today and tomorrow. 

If I have learned anything so far, it’s that God plants the seeds in my heart that he will grow to fruition in His good time. These thoughts and prayers quickened my heart to new mercies as I have never known them before, and on August 26, as I sat alone at my gate ready to board to Dallas, having just hugged my family goodbye, I read Psalm 61:

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of your wings. 

He has been a shelter for me all my life, my abiding place for all my days to come. The peace in the moment of leaving my family and boarding the plane was overwhelming. I found myself physically nodding my head as I stepped onto the plane, God’s presence surrounding me and assuring me that He has called me to this. Even during the 14 hour flight to Seoul, I kept praising and thanking God- out of complete wonder and amazement, that I was completely calm. I have read Psalm 65 so many times before, but somewhere over the Pacific ocean, I read it with new eyes: 

Blessed is the man you choose, and cause to approach you, that he may dwell in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, of your holy temple. By awesome deeds in righteousness you will answer us. Oh God of our salvation, you who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of the far off seas; who established the mountains by His strength being clothed with power; you who still the noise of the seas, the noise of the waves and the tumult of the peoples; you make the outgoings of the morning and evening rejoice. 

 

He is the confidence of all the ends of the earth and of the far off seas: By grace He has called me to see and know this new aspect of God far across the sea in this new country, another end of the earth where I have never been before. 

All of this being said, when fear and sadness comes- and it has, how can I not yet praise Him? Every night before I go to bed and every morning when I first wake up I read the psalms, and I read them with new eyes. What has been illuminated the most is the call to rejoice. Yes, I am learning to trust, I am learning to be flexible, I am learning endurance (physically, emotionally and mentally), but I am learning to rejoice most of all! I keep a notebook with me to record all the blessings throughout my day and each time I go to write them down my heart overflows with God’s goodness to me, in the smallest things- He has been abundantly gracious, far beyond what I deserve. 

And now, if you have read this far: Thank you. Here’s what I’m sure you came here for….

The beginnings of the sunrise on my way out of Charlotte. A beautiful reminder of God's mercies as I said goodbye...

The beginnings of the sunrise on my way out of Charlotte. A beautiful reminder of God’s mercies as I said goodbye…

My last view of the USA

My last view of the USA

This place is just too beautiful: the view from my bus seat en route to Changwon

This place is just too beautiful: the view from my bus seat en route to Changwon

HEL

HELLO, SEOUL!

The view from my window, looking right. THE MOUNTAINS, YOU GUYS.

The view from my window, looking right. THE MOUNTAINS, YOU GUYS.

Welcome to Jasaeng Academy, folks! This is what you see when you first walk into my school.

Welcome to Jasaeng Academy, folks! This is what you see when you first walk into my school.

My sweet desk space pt. 1

My sweet desk space pt. 1

My sweet desk space, pt 2.

My sweet desk space, pt 2.

The view outside my office window

The view outside my office window

One of the classrooms

One of the classrooms where I teach 

FIGS! A gift from a fellow teacher on my first day. I've been dying to try fresh figs for so long-- such a sweet gift.

FIGS! A gift from a fellow teacher on my first day. I’ve been dying to try fresh figs for so long– such a sweet gift.

I have so much more to share… SO MUCH. But I will end here for now. Words cannot say enough how much all of your messages, texts, emails, even simple Facebook comments have encouraged my heart. On my first night in my apartment I read messages and comments over and over and wept because my heart was so full and comforted by all your kind words. And your prayers, friends, are working, powerful, and effective. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Jesus is so good and his presence is so beautiful to me- you all are a part of this process and I am incredibly grateful! 

감사합니다

[kamsahamnida
Thank you. 

 

Eucatastrophe

Today marks 4 weeks until I am in South Korea. This time next month- I hope, I’ll be arriving and unpacking and training for my teaching job. Pinch me…

The emotions of leaving my home for a year and planting myself in a foreign country waned at first, and were weak, but now as the departure approaches I find my emotions very raw, often painful, but deeply mingled with a sense of hope and rightness. Since the day I found out I had the job, I felt numb- that “this isn’t real” phase. Now, each time I laugh with my family, hold Andrew’s hand, or even walk the floors of this home I love so much, I find I am walking in this tension of soaring excitement and a tightening dread. Anxious and so excited- this paradox, I am finding out is the best place to be because it shows me a deeper glimpse of a fulfilling life, which is this paradox on an even deeper level: earthly pain — eternal joy. earthly sorrow — eternal hope. 

I was reading a blog by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Andrew Peterson today. He wrote about a term coined by J.R.R. Tolkien: eucatastrophe, “the sudden joyous turn.” To quote Peterson, “It’s that moment when all seems lost, when evil seems to have finally overcome every good thing, when the hero can go no further. Then light prevails against the darkness.” *

When I process the emotions that now swell in my heart, I always find I am in this joyous turn:
I hug Andrew in the driveway and by the time I’m on the highway headed home I am sobbing hopeful and sorrowful tears, each goodbye brings us closer to the last goodbye. eucatastrophe: I let myself think about being without him for a year+ and it is far too painful- until I rest in the hope that this pain is refining and beautiful in its own way, this journey in all its unknowns may be the greatest adventure yet. I glance around the table and soak in the memory of my mom’s face and my sister’s face and the richness of our conversation and warm coffee in my hand as the sun sinks behind us. eucatastrophe: I ache with the thought of not having these moments for a year, but I rest in the hope that they are my home and they love me no matter where I go, or where my sister goes, or where my family lives. 

When my mind becomes filled with fears of loneliness, anxious mental pictures of me sitting alone in my apartment, without a friend, not finding a church, hating my job, being too afraid to go around the city, having nothing to eat because I can’t cook, friends in the states losing touch because it’s too hard to coordinate talking around the time difference, aching with homesickness…. I think- even if that IS what my year looks like, the light prevails. It always does. Eventually, I will return home. Eventually, I will hold Andrew’s hand again. Eventually, I will drink coffee with my sister and my mom and laugh and have dinner with my family once again. The metaphor is small in comparison to the real and True eucatastrophe, but I wrap myself in the comfort that the loneliness and homesickness and ache and pain I might face in Korea only mirrors the groaning of all creation, our eternal homesickness. Hope always lies deep and sometimes silent, but I cling to it still. The only finality I know is not any of the pain or sadness or longing or loneliness this side of eternity. Peterson also said, “ Jesus’ resurrection is the ultimate eucatastrophe. When Jesus, the perfect man, God made flesh, cries out and exhales his dying breath, the sky is black and roiling, the ground shakes, the dead emerge from their tombs and haunt Jerusalem, and the sheep scatter. But Sunday morning, more than just the sun rises. Everything changes. It’s not just a story, it’s the story. A sudden joyous turn, indeed.”

Light always prevails. 

Pippin: I don’t think it would end this way. 

Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One that we all must take. The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back and all turns to silver glass. And then you see it.

Pippin: What, Gandalf? See what?

Gandalf: White shores…and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.


 “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.”  I John 1:5

 

*{The Rabbit Room – A Sudden Joyous Turn

Gifts for gifts

In my town there is an old building that once was a post office and courtroom. It all still looks as it did when it was used for those purposes; tall pillars hold up the outside frame, granite tile covers the floors, the individual numbered mail boxes all still intact. While maintaining the same look on the inside and outside, the beautiful building has since been transformed into an art center on the first floor, and on the second floor, a church. After a lunch at the cafe across the street, me + my mom + a visiting friend stepped inside to browse around the pottery studio.

I fingered some hand-thrown mugs and the artist who made them came over to me and we struck up a conversation. It’s not every day you get to talk to the artisans who create the treasures we love, but when you do- enjoy it and talk as long as you can. I was inspired by this man’s passion for slinging clay and using his hands. I was inspired by his desire to create beauty and seek fulfillment in life through cooking, gardening, beekeeping, and pottery instead of computer science (his words). We talked about the creative life and how much more enriching it is to the essence of who you are to create beauty instead of settling in the rut of a career you hate.

Then the conversation turned to other gifts of creativity, such as singing- and, long story short, me + my mom + a friend sang one verse of a hymn in three part harmony for him, and in exchange he handed me one of his favorite mugs. A gift for a gift.

Stepping out of the studio I pondered how good it is to give your gifts away. This momentary glimpse into this artist’s work inspired me enough to actually sing in his studio; three voices raised, mingled as one around the room, our voices filling the spaces around the pots and vases and sculptures and mugs and jars and bowls. The craft of our song meeting the craft of hands, exchanging the two for the furthering of beauty in these small corners of our life.

I say to myself to pursue beauty and seek extraordinary moments out of the ordinary, but I don’t always walk into pottery studios expecting to exchange a creative gift for another. When it happens, however, it is more than inspiring.

Share & give. Make & create, and give it away. The world, maybe only 4 people at a time, will be more beautiful for it.

Don’t you ever wonder why
In spite of all that’s wrong here
There’s still so much that goes so right
And beauty abounds? –Andrew Peterson

p.s. i purchased another mug from the gallery, because if an individual has the courage & vivacity to pursue creativity as his livelihood, you bet I’m going to support that endeavor. now i have a gift to pass on from this gift-giving!

and the promise remains

Image

A heaviness sits around us today. a friend passed away yesterday, a friend’s days are passing quickly, and the grief is dense, like the humidity after the rains that just poured. but the rain stopped, the clouds parted, the sun shone again. i was thinking a lot about what we term “grief” and “joy” today… how often i equate “joy” with what i think is only mere happiness, but joy and grief often go hand in hand. eternal joy is different than momentary happiness. c. s. Lewis calls this ache a “stabbing joy.” and grief hurts us because it’s foreign to us- we were made for joy in eternity. the world is broken, friends die, but we have joy because all sadness will become untrue and our joy will be realized, the mourning completely unknown. 

these words are a comfort as the promise to make the sadness untrue rings hopeful in mourning hearts. 

**

Sitting on porches since Friday while the sky
tilts like a watery glass

We wait for downpours, a drenching joy, 
a carnival sky
But what I don’t say, what I can’t say 
is that with this joy comes a mourning. 

Something left behind
blue lined, teary, mingled
I move on

All things will change. 
We wait for the rain, 
and the promise remains. 

Live life fully, peeking through fingers
slung in our hammocks, cocooned. 
skimming the water, trapezed over time
we glide like slingshot angels. 
Belly up and floating
we see the promise in the sky. 

Up to Orion’s ribs we climb this tree
and listen for our pulse. 

All things will change. 
We wait for the rain,
and the promise remains. 

I flung loosely into that world,
I stayed heavenly. 
I’ll be a Jacaranda Tree in Indiana, 
I say greenhoused and sung to. 

I pray light will leak from out pockets,
we’ll all be drenched, overcome. 
At night the fireflies, 
streamers at our sides, 
silent flaming arcs of hope. 

All things will change. 
We wait for the rain, 
and the promise remains. 

Jacaranda tree. –Josh Garrels

 

The Commencement Speech I Never Heard

Kurt Vonnegut’s Commencement Address to Butler University, 1999

My Uncle Alex Vonnegut, an insurance salesman who lived at 5033 North Pennsylvania, taught me something very important. He said that when things are going really well we should
be sure to notice it. He was talking about very simple occasions, not great victories. Maybe drinking lemonade under a shade tree, or smelling the aroma of a bakery, or fishing, or listening to music coming from a concert hall while standing in the dark outside, or, dare I say, after a kiss. He told me that it was important at such times to say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” Uncle Alex [...] thought it was a terrible waste to be happy and not notice it. So do I.

You have been called “Generation X.” You’re as much Generation A as Adam and Eve were. As I read the book of Genesis, God didn’t give Adam and Eve the whole planet. He gave them a manageable piece of property, for the sake of discussion let’s say two acres. I suggest to you Adams and Eves that you set as your goals the putting of some small part of the planet into something like safe and sane and decent order. There’s a lot of cleaning up to do. There’s a lot of rebuilding to do, both spiritual and physical. And, again, there’s going to be a lot of happiness.

Don’t forget to notice!