New Wonders

Look again, at the cross
Where you are found when lost
Make a new song of praise

Fill your cup at the mouth of the spring
New wonders we will sing
As the Spirit blows the ambers of our hearts

Tell the story of Jesus the Christ
And His promisies we write
Of the doorway of our house

Oh the mirror and remember your own face
Brother do not forfeit grace
As the Savior pleads your pardon with His blood

Oh crown every sparrow every flower
All creation sings out loud of the grand design

You are small, but you are filled with breath and life
If you seek then you will find
As the Father looks with favor on His child
Oh the Savior pleads your pardon with His blood
And the Spirit blows the ambers of our hearts

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The past few days have been hard and discouraging. Midterms week equals stressed out kids and a frazzled Katelyn Teacher. My reliance on the Lord has been slipping, and I was growing more convicted that some things need to change in my life in order to more fully grasp onto God’s strength instead of trying to fumble around on my own efforts.

Before I go further, let me tell you how fun it is to make the most random connections with people. My friend Rose invited me to a party at a popular foreigner bar across from our apartment. We went on Wednesday night and hung out with some people she had met last weekend. They invited us to go hiking the next day since it was a national holiday and we had no classes.. Of course I agreed to go hiking with 10 foreigners I’ve never met, because yes, it sounded fun to met some new people, but I just really wanted to go hiking! I had no idea what impact this beautiful day would have on my heart.

From a new perspective, as I stood on the top of the Korean mountains and looked out over the city, the coast, islands and more mountains in the distance, I contemplated my own frailty in contrast to the fullness of my Creator. The One who imagined these very ridges brought me here to experience this joy in the beauty of His creation. He is so kind to bring me to the heights and remind me of His greatness and my weakness. He is so gracious to bring me to the mountaintops to revel in the beauty around me, to allow the Spirit to blow on the embers of my heart, and to remind me of His magnificence in all the wide earth and my small, frail heart.

He just keeps pouring out so many gifts of grace… Random and unexpected from the outset, but full of beauty and mercy and joy.

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So as I said, meeting people and making relationships has been somewhat random to my feeble awareness, but just today I was comforted by the realization that none of this is random at all. In some ways, even moving to Korea was random (but that story will have to wait for another time, perhaps.) Last weekend I went to a church retreat in Busan, and had I not trekked all the way there, to another city over an hour away, I wouldn’t have met the fantastic individual that is my new friend, Courtney- who lives in the same city I do. I say this is “random,” with a full knowledge that God knew, God knew all these things would transpire.

It seems random that I met her in a completely different city, but it wasn’t.

It seems random that her host family offered to take us to Jinju (a city an hour away) at 10pm to the lantern festival on Monday, but it wasn’t.

It seems random that Courtney was waiting outside the same bar at the same night I was at the birthday party when two Korean’s came up to her and asked her a question, and it seems random that she hung out with them the rest of the night instead of going to the same party where I was, and it seems random that they invited her to go hiking this weekend, and that Courtney invited me along too, and it seems random that we spent all day on Saturday together, and it seems random that when we got to the restaurant where we ate dinner two couples from our church were there and they invited our new friends to church

…but it wasn’t.

Because that trip to Busan taught me and encouraged me more than I ever expected it to, and there God gifted me with a new friend. Because Courtney’s host parent’s took us to the lantern festival at 10 pm to avoid the crowds. Because Courtney hung out with those Korean friends and they took us hiking and bought us dinner and we got to invite them to church and talk about their stories and histories with the church in Korea and doors were opened for deeper conversations.

I looked back at this week and stand in awe of how God orchestrated every detail. His handprints are all over these days, and I just stand back and watch in amazement at all He is doing. The gift of Thursday’s hike and the fresh perspective, the gift of new friendships, the gift of abundant life, new wonders each day, it is all underserved grace!

I am thankful. Thankful for a God who shows me my weakness and His steadfastness through the grace of the great wide open, thankful for a God to whom nothing is random, everything is held in His hands and known by His will. I am thankful for this year, and the journey it has been so far, and to think I’ve only been here for a month and a half! I anticipate what new wonders the next 11 will hold.

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“Trust the twists and turns as part of the greater narrative” — Kelly Keller

Thursday evening thoughts

Today I woke up at 6:30 am. Watched the last moments of my first Korean sunrise, thought about how God does not hesitate on His promises. Fell back asleep while the cool breeze refreshed my little studio.

Woke back up around 8:30, watered my plants and swept this floor that continually stays dusty. Scrambled eggs. Sipped tea while talking to some of the four most beautiful faces in the U.S. Grace, Sarah, Sarah, Alli. We talked about what God is teaching us, some of us got emotional, we laughed, it felt like I wasn’t an ocean away.

I walked to school at 1pm, like I do every day. A little bit disappointed that the cool breezes from this morning didn’t stay, that the sun was hot, that it didn’t feel like how October should feel. No, I thought to myself. Don’t discount the goodness of this day because you’re a little bit sweaty and your feet already hurt. I was walking past the grocery story, turning right, stoping the negative, a mental 180. I was halfway across the crosswalk by the traffic circle when the thought struck my heart straight through: I’m so happy here. I don’t deserve this outpouring of goodness. I must, at all times, praise and thank Him!

You should know, I walked into my office to see a package and a letter on my desk, all the way from Chicago, from my sister Caroline. Tears, of course, because I inhale written words as a love and life source, and because she wrote, “I believed God was still good” over and over and over.

Cheap iced coffee from the first-floor convince store works wonders and gives me magic teaching powers. An evening of amazing classes flew by, mid-term week planned and prepared, then the principal pops in to ask if I’m hungry and how I feel about Chinese food, 20 minutes later there are four Korean women and one foreigner in a classroom sitting in chairs built for 7 year olds, slurping noodles up with chopsticks and dripping sweet and sour sauce all over the table, eating until my heart and stomach are filled to the brim with new foods and newer friendships that grow each time we gather. I retire back to my office to double-check some things, the principal calls me to her office and there’s an ice cream cake and they are lighting candles and she whispers, “It’s Emily’s birthday!” and we tiptoe down the hall to Emily’s classroom and sing happy birthday while she laughs and repeats “kamsahamnida!” over and over and over. We gather around the little table with little chairs once more and eat almost the entire cake. And I think to myself, “kamsahamnida” over and over and over.

Then it’s 8:35 pm and I walk home and sing the words to myself and hum the tune out loud….

“…..now all I know is grace.”

thank you. kamsahamnida. thank you. kamsahamnida.

God is good. He does not hesitate on His promises.

Gathering

A number of people told me when I first moved here, “Wait it out, once you get to week 4 or 6 things will be much better.” Oh, how I clung to the words, “It will get better!” for dear life. Coming from the girl who could hardly unpack her suitcase upon her arrival, I have to say that those words have now become a true reality for me, and it has indeed become better. Incredibly, so. Now that I’ve hit the 4 week mark, I have found myself thinking and saying, “I just LOVE living here! I love Korea!” I’m making this place my home, and every step of the way has been so rewarding: rain and tears and all.

To celebrate 1 WHOLE MONTH of life in Korea – so hard to believe!! – I thought it was about time to share a compendium of the small details of my life in this huge city. I have come to love this city and my job because of the small, somewhat mundane aspects that culminate every day into a full mosaic of beauty and grace.

So here we go- I give you: A week in Korea!

– Sunday: I’ve begun to shift my mindset to think of the week starting on Sunday instead of Monday. This is because I intentionally try to make Sundays as restful as possible; sleeping in, cooking a big breakfast or lunch, finding a nice place to read for the afternoon, church at 4pm, and ending the day with a big meal with friends from church. One of my very favorite moments all week are walking home after church and dinner. My soul is full of hope and reminders of the Gospel (from the incredibly beautiful, heart-gripping worship and teaching), my body is full of delicious food, and my heart is full of laughter and happiness after just having shared a meal with brothers and sisters in Christ. I have found that entering the week stepping forward from this day and all its goodness is a much healthier approach for me than to leave the weekend behind and decide the week starts on Monday.

– Monday: ….which is because Mondays are the longest day of the week! I teach 6 classes in a row, levels Prep (kindergarten) to 6 (students in about 5th or 6th grade). I have to be at school by 1:30, then I teach from 3:00pm to 7:50pm. As I said before, I teach at an academy (“hagwon” as they are called here), which is an evening school that almost all Korean kids attend for various lessons: math, english, etc. I am EXTREMELY fortunate to teach at an elementary hagwon that only goes to level 6 – some teachers at other academies that have high school levels teach until as late as midnight. That’s right – Korean high school students go to school until 12am (Not ok, in my opinion- but perhaps more on that later). I, however, get to leave at 8:35pm, get home around 9pm, and after making a quick dinner (but let’s be honest, I normally pick up food on the way home to reward myself), I crash. Really though, I cannot say enough how grateful I am to be able to finish so early. Things might change next semester, so I am reveling in the grace of this amazing schedule as much as I can!

– Tuesday: In my mind, the reward for teaching 6 classes on Monday is that on Tuesday I only teach 3! Then I plan lessons for the next few days to get ahead and get prepared, and I grade stacks on stacks of english journals and book reports that the students have to do each week. If you ever happen to read a random Facebook post about something ridiculous by one of my students, it’s something they either blurted out in class or something hilarious I find in their journals. By far one of my favorite parts of the job. For the past 2 weeks, the new foreign teacher at the other Jasaeng Academy branch in Sangnam (the other “neighborhood”) has been coming to school with me to watch us teach and get a little bit of training. Her name is Rose and she. is. awesome. We got lunch before school this past Tuesday, walked around the lake – one of my favorite spots, and spent the evening talking after I had finished my classes. What a gift to have another “Foreigner” here with me, sharing lesson ideas, funny things our students say, the joys of this beautiful city, our coffee obsession, Tolkien love, and overall great conversations. Rose- if you read this, know that I am really really thankful for you :) This past Tuesday was a special treat- the principals from both branches took us out for dinner at a really nice restaurant. Plenty of kimchi plus about a million other side dishes, raw fish + garlic + sesame leaves (a dish called sashimi), and soju (a vodka-like beverage). It was an experience for sure! Nothing like sitting cross-legged next to your principal with a pile of raw fish in front of you, making toasts and trying to pinch the rubbery substance with your chopsticks. Then we all went out for coffee and Rose & I walked home in the rain around midnight. Good, good day.

Kimchi, y'all.

Kimchi, y’all.

– Wednesday: 5 classes, with some breaks in between. Lesson planning in my free time, stepping across the street to the market for some snacks for dinner or the coffee shop on the first floor for a sandwich.

– Thursday: 3 classes, lesson planning for Friday and Monday, plus a little procrastinating and e-book reading on my phone. Can’t lie.

– Friday: This Friday, Emily- one of the Korean teachers who I’ve gotten pretty close with, took me to the hospital for my health check (a visa requirement), then we got bimbimbap for lunch and a quick stop for an espresso before work! Every other Friday we have ACTIVITY DAY! One of the many reasons why I love this academy is their perfect blend and balance of rigorous and fruitful education coupled with fun and ensuring the students are not killing themselves. It can be easy to do so, when your 7 year olds go to school all day, then english lessons in the afternoon, and some even stay afterwards for one-on-one lessons with the principal. I can’t imagine their exhaustion, but it becomes evident when their little heads start nodding and their eyes start drooping halfway through my lesson. I’ve started to give my students “fun breaks” every 15 minutes or so. We close our books, stand up, run around the table chanting our words of the week, or we dance, or we play simon says, or we pretend to act like different animals. Works like magic. Anyway, as I said before, the school balances work and play really well, and one of the ways they do so is having zero phonics lessons on fridays, and making crafts instead. I get to collaborate with Emily for these activity days, but she runs the show. I just make sure the kids don’t cut their hair or get glue all over themselves. It’s awesome. After that, I teach 3 classes, then it’s the weekend!

bimbimbap: one of my favorite dishes. a sizzling hot clay bowl with an assortment of veggies and rice, by the time you reach the bottom, the rice gets a little bit burnt & crispy and it's more than delicious.

bimbimbap: one of my favorite dishes. a sizzling hot clay bowl with an assortment of veggies and rice, by the time you reach the bottom, the rice gets a little bit burnt & crispy and it’s more than delicious.

– Saturday: NOT the day to get groceries, though I continually keep forgetting. Too crowded. I normally clean my apartment on Saturdays, then if I don’t have any plans, I find myself a nice park and read the afternoon away. Changwon is full of beautiful parks! If I must live in a bustling city, I know this is the perfect one because of all the sweet places to escape.

So there you have it! A scope of my days here. One of these days, I promise I’ll write a post all about my students and their hilarious, PRECIOUS, hardworking, exhausting, great little beings.

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As I have gathered up some moments from my week to share with you, I thought I would also gather some things I’ve been learning and thinking about this month. I think of the word gathering as when you throw a bunch of things into one basket- your raspberries and blueberries and carrots and radishes and daisies. Here is my Romans 8 and my Psalms and my C. S. Lewis and my Rich Mullins and my J. R. R. Tolkien and the prayers I pray and the songs I ponder, gathered in my basket of September.

9/2 — “When obedience to God contradicts what I think will give me pleasure, let me ask myself if I love Him.” –Elizabeth Elliot. Oh that sudden, gracious pang of conviction…

9/8 (journaled thoughts, contemplating that weeks sermon) — “a life characterized by repentance isn’t to be re-saved and continually checking in to be sure I am right with Christ. He has kept you, you are His. A life of repentance is to ask and ask for the forgiveness from constant sin, to remember that each time He sees you as righteous because of Christ, and to move from there to be made new and new and new so you can grow more and more like Jesus.”

9/9 — I read through Romans this month. Then I read through it again. Romans 8, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (That one’s for you, Andrew. #80percent)

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9/11 – Romans 9, “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? So much here to unpack, but I spent the day praying to be a vessel of mercy to others, and deep in thanks for those who have been such vessels to me- here in Korea and back home: in praying for me, messaging me each morning to check up on me, sending thoughtful emails, sending mail, helping me navigate the market, a welcoming community group, new friends to pray for… I’m learning the power of forgetting myself.

9/12 — the sticky note in my syllabus journal at school reads: Drink deeply from the well that is Christ, for He is all that will satisfy. 

9/14 — really good sermon.
“To know and remember God is to t r u s t Him.”
“Rest in your Sovereign Creator.”
“Let your life be a testimony that you know God.”

9/16 — songs I’ve heard 100 times take deeper depths when you listen with a tired heart:

When your spirit is hovering over the deep,
in the image of God just look into that darkness and speak:
Let there be light! Let there be love! Let there be music!

…reminded that I have to pursue the light, and stepping into God’s presence is as sweet as music.

9/20 — as soon as I stepped out of my apartment building this afternoon I felt it. The first moments of Autumn. Spent the afternoon walking, slowly and intentionally around the city, soaking in the sun and breeze and clear views of the mountains all around me. Sat under a canopy of pines facing my favorite pines, reading The Fellowship of the Ring, a festival of sorts was taking place across the street and just when I thought my heart would burst with joy, the orchestra started playing “Amazing Grace”

CAM00290+ it’s truly wonderful when lines from the story resonate with your life in that moment, when stories resonate with your life the past month…

The air was growing warm again. The hobbits ran about for a while on the grass, as he told them. Then they lay basking in the sun with the delight of those that have been wafted suddenly from bitter winter to a friendly clime, or of people that, after being long ill and bedridden, wake one day to find that they are unexpectedly well and the day again is full of promise.

+ rediscovering Rich Mullins on the anniversary of his heavenly birthday. Played “fields of green” on repeat as I made dinner.

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9/21 — Psalm 107, “They cry out to the LORD in their trouble, & He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven.” Struggling a little bit with finding meaning in teaching phonics and months and how to give directions in English and how to write an essay on an African Safari. Reminded to continually work really hard, get really tired, rest in the freedom of grace, and know that all is done unto Christ. There is meaning enough for me there.

Rereading The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis: thought a good deal about Sehnsucht this week.

“These things- the memory of our own past-  are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

Also this, “To please God… to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness… to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son- it seems impossible, a weight or a burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.” 

ps. I have started trying to learn Korean! So far I have only the courage to say “thank you” and “hello” and while I always remember to bow in greeting or in thanks, sometimes I get the two mixed up and greet the school secretary with “Thank you!” when I walk through the door.

Some new and old songs I’ve been listening to this week…

Jesus, I Come 

After All You Have Done

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (cover) 

The Far Country 

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As I say to my students at the end of each day…

See you next time! 안녕히 가세요

Wednesday morning thoughts

I prayed these  words on July 27th.

Andrew and I had just spent the weekend together, and time was beginning to slip away as my departure date for Korea raced towards us. It was during the month of July when I began to see this new facet of God’s grace- when I began to see Jesus as beautiful still, when all is stripped away, and at the same time- when Jesus became all beauty and goodness and realness and closeness to me while he lavishly poured out His gifts and mercies. At the same time. I began to see that the goodness of God is as constant in dark and trying hours as it is in times of wealth and ease.

My life on September 24th echoes the same grace, the same beauty and the same joy. Months later, across the globe. 

Thank you for laughter and music and friends and good food and cool breezes and tender mercies and warm sun and trees and joy and sleep and love. Thank you for being merciful enough to place us in all this beauty and hold us together here, and to whisper, “More to come.”

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