new things!

I love the start of a new year so, so much. Every year, at some point either on December 31 or January 1, 2, or 3rd, I weep with gladness and awe at God’s faithfulness for the year past and I am filled with giddy excitement for a brand new, fresh year full of new things and new starts. Confession: I absolutely swooned over everyone’s instagram collages and recollections this year. I love it all, because it’s such a climax to the grand paradox of this earthly life: the hard and good are almost always the same thing, and that’s such grace. Joy and pain go hand in hand. God’s goodness is lavish and abundant as much in the bitter times as it is when times are sweet.

This new year came up slowly, softly, and silently. I first felt it to be anticlimactic, but it was perfect after a year of wild crazy moves and goodbyes and transitions. Andrew and I were driving down from a wedding in Virginia to spend the weekend in Charleston with friends, and when I looked at the map and saw we wouldn’t make it in time to countdown with everyone, I all but threw a fit. My absolute favorite part of each year is watching the old slip away and cheering and celebrating when the new begins. And to make it worse, I’d missed the last 2! (Two years ago I fell asleep at 8pm, oops. and last year Andrew passed out from jet lag and I watched k-pop and fireworks on TV with our air b&b hosts when the clock struck 12). Even though I was disappointed that our road trip took hours longer than we originally planned, and most likely everyone at the house would be asleep by the time we got there, I didn’t throw a pity party for not getting to join the real party. As soon as I wanted to snap at Andrew for not driving faster, a better kind of thought snapped into my mind. Simply, this: how in the world can I be bitter and ungrateful about not getting to celebrate a small, short, 10 second countdown when in reality, the whole spectrum of 2015 has been nothing short of incredible, amazing, wonderful, mind-blowing, wild, and undeserved, abundant goodness. Andrew kept driving as I turned on my favorite Sleeping At Last song, took his hand, closed my eyes, and didn’t open them until I heard him whisper, “Happy New Year!” and we celebratory-kissed at the next red light.

So to be honest, I really only wanted to write this post to share two things, and I’m caught rambling, as usual. The first thing I want to share is an idea I will be doing this year, as daily and often as I can. The slowness in which we welcomed the new year inspired my goals and intentions for the way I want to spend 2016, and so I’m sharing here to give an idea for someone who happens to be reading and might want to try a simple practice as we begin this new year.

It’s called a daily examen. I did this every night for a few weeks when I was in Korea and I cannot tell you how profound and special it was to me! The daily examen is just a simple set of questions that help you reflect on the day, and to help stir your heart towards deeper connectedness to God (I think there’s even apps out there that are pertinent). It begins with questions and ends with a prayer of gratitude, and each time I sat down to do it, I was tired and empty and felt useless. But I would start jotting my thoughts down and suddenly, like a ripple effect, I was swelling with joy and peace and thankfulness. The practice is simple and open, allowing freedom to process however is best for you: it may be pages and pages of thoughts (my version usually), or simple bullet points (Andrew’s version most likely), but no matter how you do it (I even combine a few questions to make it even more simple), it is deeply stirring and profoundly meaningful, and it is so special to have days and weeks and months captured in such specific ways. I treasure the pages that hold these thoughts because they are beautiful snapshots of both the good and the bad, why they go hand in hand, and why they matter. So if you have any intention for growth and deepening in any way — faith-based or not! — I encourage you to ponder these things and see where they take you:

D a i l y   E x a m e n 

— Acknowledge by faith that you are in the presence of God,
who loves you unconditionally — 

[remembering moments of desolation] 
– Ask God to bring to your awareness something for which you are least grateful for today. Examine what it was about that moment that made it difficult. Be with that experience, not trying to make it better, or fix it, but holding it gently in the light of God’s forgiveness and love. – 

Ask yourself:
> When today did I feel life draining out of me?
> When today did I give and receive the least love?
> When today did I have the least sense of belonging?
> What was today’s low point?
> When did I feel saddest?
> For what am I least grateful today?

[remembering moments of consolation] 
– Ask God to bring to your awareness anything for which you are most grateful. If you could relive one moment, what would it be? Bask in the remembrance of what you experienced in that moment. – 

Ask yourself:
> When did I feel most alive today?
> When did I give and receive the most love?
> When did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, others, and God?
> What was today’s highest point?
> When did I feel happiest today?
> For what am I most grateful for today?

– Close with a prayer of thanksgiving – 

As for me, I am easing into 2016 nice and slow, but eager and hungry and with all my might. It’s going to be one of the biggest, most important years of my life, for in it I will say goodbye to the whole life I’ve ever known and begin a new one becoming one with someone else. I don’t want to rush into a year that holds that moment. I don’t want to rush into a year that will hold most of my first year of marriage. But oh, how I am thrilled and energized by the hope and excitement of that upcoming adventure!

With that in mind, here is the second thing I came here to share. I found this quote when I was reading some of my old journals tonight and it was long enough to prompt a whole, rambly blog post! This is my prayer for myself, and for those I love. Either get this whole book and read it for yourself, or take this conclusion from The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney:

Embrace your creatureliness. At the heart of creatureliness is receptivity. God is fundamentally a giver [and] to be a creature is to be a receiver. “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7). The great privilege of man is to receive everything that God gives in all the ways that he gives it, and then to know it and enjoy it and delight in it and sing about it, and to know him in it, and to enjoy him in it, and to sing about him in it. All things are truly ours- “whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future; all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor 3:21-23).

So embrace your creatureliness. Don’t seek to be God. Instead, embrace the glorious limitations and boundaries that God has placed on you as a character in his story. Embrace the fact that creation is a magic glass, the kind that allows you to see God more clearly the thicker it becomes. Embrace time and space as glorious and wise features of creaturly existence. Embrace your body and your five senses and the wonders that they can perceive and receive in the world. Embrace your heart and your mind, your ability to think and feel, your understanding and your will, that amazing image of the triune God that he has embeded in your soul. Anchor yorself in a supreme, full, and expanding love for God and then let your enjoyment of his gifts run wild.

And then, seek to be like God– generous, overflowing, lavish. Share your time, talent, and treasure with those near and far as a way of spreading a passion for God’s supremacy in all the things you have gladly received from him through Jesus Christ.

And, as a final exhortation, let me commend you to a life of gratitude. Gratitude is the proper response to an abundance of gifts. Gratitude is the posture of the soul that most readily increases receptivity. Gratitude demands humility, since only those who acknowledge their dependence, their need, and their delight in the goodness and kindness of others can be grateful. Give thanks always and always and for everything. And be specific.

To that end, my fresh thanksgiving comes from dwelling in the bright, clear, newness of a year yet untainted and unknown. I am thankful for bravery in uncertainty, for getting to hold Andrew’s hand, for my mom who serves and my dad who helps and my brothers who stir up deep laughter, for surprisingly stumbling upon Wawa and for coffee and hoagies on late night road trips, for chacos in the winter, for new sweet memories with my sister and brother in law that involve really tasty beer, for Charleston SC, for lifelong childhood friendships, for watching fireworks on the edge of a dock, for hot sauce on collard greens and black-eyed peas, for sunny, chilly mornings on the beach, for moments orchestrated far perfectly than I could ever try, and for the way Andrew and I drove into 2016 the way I hope we spend all the years to come: moving forward and side by side.

Happy new year, sweet friends!

The greatest things have yet to come.

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pasts and homecomings

A few times this Christmas season, I’ve heard criticisms of the sentiments that come with this time of year with regards to nostalgia. Personally, I don’t see the problem with this feeling– it’s one of my favorites, actually. Of course I don’t try to live in the past, but I think it’s special to feel that little ache of time gone by, mingled with the sweetness of the memory.

December is a month thick with nostalgia. I feel it when I go through the boxes of ornaments, small trinkets that we’ve pulled from the attic every year of my life. I feel it when I hear Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven,” when I smell the pine in our living room, when I sip cool frothy egg nog. Three years ago, something happened that gave this season even more sweetness, and maybe I will write about this each year- I have for the past two, but with each passing year it never gets old. Three years ago, in mid-december, I met Andrew. And my life changed forever.

I was dwelling on this sweet season a few weeks ago, letting my mind and heart feel that nostalgic feeling whenever I think about the moment I first met him. It feels a little more dream-like now — now that we’ve been together for so long, now that we’re engaged to be married so soon. But I still remember it clearly, and I play it over and over in my mind so I never lose that moment.

I was thinking about how wonderful that time of life was, and so I want to share what made it so special, and what brought us to each other, and what held Andrew and I together in the months that followed.

Oh how I could ramble on about all the goodness overflowing in my life during that season (I will try not to ramble, no promises though ;) ) but lately I’ve been processing something new that has surfaced, I think simply because it now has been quite some time and I can look back on that period from a farther distance. The bird’s eye view keeps unfolding sweetness, rightness, and clarity. It’s beautiful, and I’m grateful, and I thought it might be worth sharing.

The gentle, beautiful unfolding of God’s constant presence in my life was perhaps the best thing that I started to learn at the time when Andrew came into my life. The christmas break after I just met him was spent so much with Jesus: he brought closure to so much of my past and sweetly embraced me as I said “yes” to an unknown but trustworthy future. It was that December that I willingly told God I guess maybe someday I would possibly be ok if I had to get married. Little did I know! It was that December that I learned how trustworthy my Savior was, that there is so much to receive from His hands of grace, and yet– I had no idea that he was bringing me to my future husband. I remember telling my roommate a few months later when Andrew started pursuing me, that the walls around my heart started falling so quickly it was like I could almost physically feel a difference. Weight lifted and freedom found.

Another really special thing that I’ve been realizing more on this anniversary of that time is the very specific and meaningful loves and desires that had been planted in my life that year, that began to grow right along my friendship and love for Andrew. These things molded who I am, who I was/am becoming, and it’s just incredible to realize now- three years later, that alongside Andrew, my life has become so much more rich because of these meaningful aspects.

To name a few:

> creative nonfiction – both the reading and writing of it. I learned and experienced such sharp, deep, stabs of joy and inspiration for the first time in my life that year and the first words I ever intentionally wrote “creatively” bled out of me.

> Sally Lloyd-Jones – I randomly found a quote by her on someone’s instagram and looked up The Jesus Storybook Bible. Talk about life-changing. Creative, true, and beautiful. The power of the gospel in simple language, but profound and weighty. Her words struck me and softened my heart for the Gospel even more.

“Behind what you were doing, underneath everything that was happening, God was doing something good. God was making everything right again.” -slj

Andrew Peterson – It may sound silly how much my love for this singer/songwriter and his incredible lyrics have shaped and molded and pulled Andrew and I both closer together, and through so many seasons, but it’s true. I heard my first Andrew Peterson song when I first started to like Andrew. We started to enjoy him alongside each other, and his songs slowly started to sink into our hearts the more we grew in love for each other. When we encountered sweet times, the songs that reminded us of one another got sweeter. When we encountered hard times, the songs that reminded us of each other got sweeter. And when we encountered heart-shattering times, his songs reminded us of Jesus, and there is nothing sweeter than that.

He was driving me to meet my roommate in Virginia somewhere as I was going back to Cedarville one last time before graduating, and we were listening to one of his albums. The song called “World Traveler” came on and I remember looking to him and saying something like — ‘this is so high school but this should totally be our song.’ Over two years later, the richness of those words have grown deeper and deeper into our hearts.

And you guys — this brings me to my favorite part of why I actually started to write this post. Now, I don’t even really know how to articulate the deep joy and gladness of what the upcoming season has for us. I think it’s just so cool of God and so obvious that he is all-wise and completely sovereign: that He would bring Andrew home from Guam during the same season that causes me to so deeply reflect on our first encounter. So my heart is exploding… there’s no other way to put it!

In SEVEN days, Andrew comes home. And this massive mountain of time that we have been anticipating and wandering over since the day we met will be completely behind us. It is surreal. We have handled long-distance far from gracefully, but we are sure and confident in the grace of God as the sustainer of our weary, tired hearts. He has given us joy when there was none to be found. He has given us patience when the frustrations were rampant. And He has given us one another to remind us of his grace and kindness through every season since that December so long ago.

With all that being said, thank you Jesus. We have loved being world travelers, together and apart. But it’s time for my boy to be back. It’s just about time to get married, it’s time to walk the hills and blaze a trail in the vast expanse of our souls. If the beauty, goodness, and growth of the seeds that were planted three years ago have been any indication of what the rest of our lives might hold, then “in the grace of the God of peace let’s wade into the battle.” Yes & amen.

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Oh, I’m a world traveler
Pack your bags and dig down deep
Ride the storms and sail the seas
To the distant pole
I’m a world traveler
Into these uncharted lands
To blaze a trail in the vast expanse
Of the heart and soul
In the grace of the God of peace
Let’s wade into the battle
So come on, come on with me
And get up in that saddle

There’s a million mysteries I’m ready to unravel
Come on, let’s travel the world

— World Traveler

 

on friends and sanctification

This post is mainly dedicated to my good friend, Johnny Williams. (It’s also dedicated to the rest of my Korea fam!)

I met Johnny on Easter Sunday in Changwon, South Korea. I’m pretty sure the first thing he told me was that I had a good voice, and we bonded over our mutual love slash obsession with Coldplay and music in general, and then he proceeded to insult me for the rest of the night. He even followed me home just to make fun of me longer. I instantly knew he would be a pretty good friend… and I was right. It only took one life group at Starbucks and another walk home from church for Johnny and I to begin to have really deep conversations: we learned early on that we are awfully emotional and dramatic and we have been close friends ever since!

I was telling my mom the other day how special my relationships were in Korea because of how specifically similar of circumstances each person was in. You just kindof fall into this country and fumble around looking for the good foreign bars and the closest McDonalds and people who speak your language- or in my case, Mexican food, Blue Moon beers, Starbucks, and an English-speaking church.  I didn’t ask for much, but I remember pleading with the Lord before I left the country that he would give me just one friend: just. one.

And if you followed along with my Korean journey at all, you will know that just like he loves to constantly do, God blew my prayers right out of the water (Yes, He provided Mexican food, Blue Moon, and Starbucks). He not only gave me one really good friend, he placed me in a community that became a family. He gave me multiple friends. He gave me brothers and sisters.

So believe me when I say, I miss them. I miss them terribly. The longing to be with them came on gradually; during my first several weeks back in America my thoughts were just flooded with, “YES! I’M BACK IN AMERICA!!!!!!!!” Korea felt like a far away dream. Then, the newness of this country started to gradually fade as nostalgia started to creep in, and next thing I knew I was scrolling through every single picture I had taken in Korea, wiping tears that were overflowing from a heart that just longed to be back with my friends. I miss the mountains, I miss the view from my apartment, I miss the long walks home from school, I miss bulgogi, I miss Dan Collin’s sermons, I miss taking communion in a coffee shop, I miss Wednesday morning life group, I just really, really miss my friends.

But as I wallowed in Korean memories, it struck me that what I miss most, what I miss because I miss all of these things, is the closeness and sweetness of Jesus in that far country. Since I walked away from my family at the airport, since I boarded the plane, and since I first stepped into my apartment 1409 in Changwon, Korea, Jesus was abundantly more precious to me than ever before. For some reason, once I landed back on American soil and walked the floors of my Carolina home, the fickleness of my heart won over the rest and peace and abundance of Jesus himself. Ah. It is so foolish to admit it, still. Still, this is what happened, and it got worse and worse over the past few days.

Intertwined with this slipping into ungratefulness, dissatisfaction, and my constant, “No, thanks,” to my Creator, I was however, convicted of something else. To put it simply: I realized how much I lack treasuring the gospel in my day-to-day living. So around Tuesday or Wednesday, I decided to simply just start preaching the gospel to myself on a regular basis. Paul Tripp once said something about how you are the one who speaks to yourself the most, so you have the power to speak good or evil to yourself, it’s your choice. I’ve had a constant prayer in my heart since I lived in Korea, which is that God would show me more and more what it means to be his Daughter, what it means to be a child of God, what it means to be loved by Him. Perhaps by preaching the gospel to myself as much as I could, it would deepen my understanding of both what it means, and how to live like I really am one of God’s beloved kids.

Still, my heart is fickle, and I can hardly meditate on the greatest, truest, most beautiful news in the world for more than a few minutes without complaints and ungratefulness creeping in. Sadly, my complaints and ungratefulness went from sneaking in, to full on rushing through the pulses of my heart.

Praise God for his Holy Spirit that started raising red flags throughout my own spirit; red alerts that something is terribly, terribly wrong.

Last night, I went on my Korean church’s website and found the recording of the sermon from the day I left Korea. I couldn’t make it to church that day because I had to catch my flight to Guam. It was so strange and so difficult to comprehend that while I was on a bus headed out of the city, the people I loved were gathering together in the opposite direction to worship. The sermon was the second to last in a series on 1 John, on the verses about prayer:

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Of course, I wept through the first few minutes, completely overcome with equal parts sadness and at this point, anger, that I couldn’t sit under this teaching in real life, that I couldn’t be surrounded by my friends, that I couldn’t have this community enriching my life on a daily basis like I used to. But here is the truth and the goodness from that message:

We have confidence before the King of heaven. And because we have full, free, confident access to the Maker of heaven and earth, God hears us and God gives us what we ask, if and only if we ask in accordance to His will. And how do we know his will, and how can we ask in accordance to it? My pastor pointed out from a number of places in scripture, that it’s through the Word of God that we understand the will of God. Much like Jesus praying in the garden before His crucifixion, “not my will but Yours be done,” the Father aligns our will with his… through prayer. “Prayer has a sanctifying necessity,” my pastor said. And then he reminded: it took the death of  Jesus to bring about even the possibility of prayer. It took the death of Jesus to bring about the possibility of sanctification. It took the death of Jesus to give us access to the Father so He could make us more like Jesus.

How sweet it is that he makes it so simple for me.

Yet, how foolish I am. As soon as this sermon was over, I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to admit that this place of life I’m in is where His will has me. I didn’t want to be sanctified, so I sulked about it for a while. I texted Johnny as I wallowed, because I knew he would understand and deep down, I knew he would point me back towards the light.

I spent this morning exchanging messages with Johnny. Because he is a good brother, because He loves God and heeds the Holy Spirit, he actually pointed out the exact — THE EXACT — same thing I had heard in the sermon last night.

“Christ knew his father’s will would be done, because it meant the redemption of the sins of man and the grace of God being fulfilled. [This pain] is pursuing a glory we cannot comprehend, for God said he will finish the good work he started in us…what ever turmoil is upon you, praise God that it afflicts you because it will bring you closer to our savior, Gods will, and his plan for your life…”

Then. Then. He sent a video of him and my friends, standing outside the cafe where they gather for church, bundled up in coats and waving and jumping (haha Apa) and simply telling me hello! It was so wonderful, so beautiful, so sweet, so humbling.

Johnny helped to point out that my life is still so rich and bountiful, even if the blessings look different than they did in Korea. He also helped to point out that most of all, I was being a huge baby about sanctification. I was refusing to see that the blood-bought access to the King of heaven, to my good, good Father, was being squandered as I pushed against his will.

Ah, friends. We serve a God who is not limited by all the ways I try to block Him out. He still comes after me. It’s funny how this week, God foreshadowed this by reminding me of my need for the Gospel. Funny how He used the preaching and teaching I miss so much to remind me that it’s through the Gospel that I’m sanctified. And it’s funny how God used the people I miss the most– the very people I was pouting over not getting to be with— to extend to me His great, deep, joyful love.

This is the gospel! This is what I’ve been praying to comprehend more and what I’ve been asking God to reveal to me. Just like my friends on the screen of my phone, he’s here, he hasn’t forgotten me! And I act like a huge ungrateful child but I 1000% believe my God is a friend and Father who is all but jumping up and down and waving for my attention! He loves me. He wants to make me more like Jesus, and I can approach Him with the confidence that He will indeed sanctify me according to his good and perfect will.

I think it’s safe to say that the same friends who once showed me how to treasure Jesus are showing me Himself, still. It just looks a little different, but now I’m learning how to see it. How good he is, that it took a 10 second video to show me Himself through his people, thousands of miles away. How good he is, that though the process be painful at times, he is pursuing in us a glory we can’t comprehend.

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PS — thanks Johnny for being extremely thoughtful & making this video, & thanks for being a really, really, really good friend.

 

 

 

Anthology, 3rd edition.

Three years ago, during my junior year of college, my heart was wrecked by the life-giving reality of giving thanks. Wrecked in the best sense, of course, because once you start to realize all you have to be thankful for, gratitude spills out all over everything. That thanksgiving, I wrote an anthology of thanks — gratitude from A to Z. The next thanksgiving was a busy one, spent in Delaware and Pennsylvania with family and friends, introducing them to Andrew for the first time and making really fun memories. Little did I know that the next thanksgiving to come, I would wake up in a studio apartment in South Korea, with just a slice of pumpkin pie and no family to dine with, and a full day of work ahead of me just like any other day. Even so, that thanksgiving found me weaving together sentences and prayers just like the years before, and my heart spilling over with thankfulness. It really is true, that gratitude turns everything we have into enough.

That being said, here is my anthology part 3 — each year finds me unpredictable circumstances. Not always good, sometimes hard, but surprising, wonderful, and incredible nonetheless.

Ready? Here we go.

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  • Andrew, how thankful I am that you’ve been on the top of my gratitude lists for so long now. How thankful I am that we get to be thankful for one another for as long as we breathe.
  • Best friends, I hesitate to ever use the word “best” to describe friends, because friendship is not a thing to be ranked. But friends, you all are the BEST encouragers, listeners, sources of laughter, carriers of truth, and I am incredibly thankful to have friends both near and far (Korea, Ohio, Dominican Republic, Wisconsin, NYC, Tennessee, New Jersey, Virginia, Guam, South Carolina) — you make my life so rich.
  • Carolina, you are my current and future home (South –> North) and I really like you. Warm weather, amazing food, beautiful trees, family, what more could I need?
  • Dad (David), your southern accent still makes me giggle, but your strength and wisdom far outweighs the hilarity of how you say “Facebook.” ;) I’m so thankful it’s you who raised me, who taught me to treasure Jesus, who showed me what love looks like by serving adoring my mom, and who still has the power of a great hug when life gets hard.
  • Emily (Mom), being your daughter is just the best. I can’t believe God gave me to you, to learn something new every single day from your beautiful example of incredibly selfless love and deep joy in all things.
  • Family, near and far, blood or not, old and new, I love you and pray to love you better and more in the days and years to come.
  • Grace of God, I will never get over it for I am forever changed by it.
  • Hurst family, how I love you! Thank you for loving my family and I well, for bringing so much laughter and sweet fellowship into our lives, and for making the cutest, funniest, brightest kids on the planet. Our lives are totally better with you in it, near or far.
  • Income, I learned what it means to hold really lightly to the things of this world because of you, when you significantly decreased in value in the middle of the Guam airport. Nevertheless, I don’t deserve you but I’m glad I get to pour coffee to earn you so I can spend it all on throwing a huge party for family & friends in April!
  • Jacob & Jonathan, I hope you know how much I am thankful for you (in spite of your sometimes huge turd moments). You make me laugh harder than anyone on the planet, your hugs make my heart soar, and each time you buy me Chick-fil-A I love being your sister a little bit more.
  • Kingdom anticipation, it feels sometimes like eternity is far off, but we pray that is not so.
  • Light, you are the metaphor I have been dwelling on most lately. I pray for light to evade darkness all the time, not knowing fully what that even entails, but I am thankful for the contrast; illuminating hearts and rooms and attics and souls and pathways.
  • Mary Ellen, my sister, my matron of honor, I am thankful you have never left my side. Now more than ever in my life, I am  so deeply glad for your friendship and grace and forgiveness towards me and I am so incredibly excited for the seasons ahead of us! I need you always, and I love you forever.
  • New mercies, each and every morning I wake with the reality that God’s faithfulness begins again and again and again and again as if it were the first time, every time. Sometimes I only revel in this mercy for a few minutes and need go to bed early so I can wake up and experience grace again, but even so, morning by morning, I’ll take it.
  • Orton family, I can’t believe I get to take your name and step into your family! I am so thankful for everything you have done for Andrew and I over the past few years, your help with the wedding, your amazing letters and care packages you’ve sent, and goodness gracious- thank you for raising one of the best men I’ve ever known. I am thrilled I get to be your daughter-in-law!
  • Peace, thank you for the force that you are. I’m thankful that you are straight from the hands of Jesus that cover me and reach out for me no matter where I go or what I feel.
  • Quiet, I’m learning more about you, and I’m thankful for the gentle hand over my mouth that you are when I could say something I shouldn’t. Thank you also for meeting me in the still of the mornings, in the rush of the afternoons, and in the slow of the evenings.
  • River Crossing Church, I’m so thankful to get to worship with you each week.
  • September, I’m grateful for you although you are the most whirlwind 3o-ish days of my entire life. Thank you for teaching me how to sink my heart deeper into Christ while everything spins around me.
  • Tomorrow, because you are always anticipated in a season of countdowns. Time, because you are teaching me to be patient in a season of countdowns. Tea (the sweet kind), because the Southern in me needs something to enjoy in a season of countdowns.
  • Umbrellas, because one time in Korea an old man shared his with me and I have never been the same.
  • Very early bedtimes and very early mornings, I’m thankful for the great sleep you provide, and the sunrises I get to watch while I serve people coffee.
  • Waiting, I am not thankful for you at all, but I think I’m learning to be.
  • X-presso, foreverever thankful for you and how you taste and how you perk me up and how you are now my source of income ;)
  • You, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re probably my friend, I probably like you, and I’m thankful for you!
  • Zinger — this word, once used by my dad in a sermon, provides so much laughter in our family. Bonus points when used in an over-exaggerated southern accent by a younger brother or two. Ironically, because I have no “zingers” with which to end this post ;)

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Happy thanksgiving, friends!

You. Are. Loved.

cash money

Long story short, about 10 minutes before I walked out of my apartment in Korea for the last time and jumped on a bus for Guam, I realized that my bank transfer I had done a few days prior hadn’t gone through, so ALL of my money was still in korean won in my korean bank account. I frantically ran down to the ATM and tried to withdraw it all, but to my dismay, there was no way to get larger bills so I ended up with millions of won in 10,000 bills. So. Much. Stress. I had no choice but to throw it into my backpack and head for the airport! Later that week, Andrew and I decided to have some fun with all the money, and so we had a little photoshoot. It was such a hilarious way to loosen up and remember that even the most stressful situations can still turn out for good, even if it’s just a silly few minutes, some good laughs, and strange photos that we’ll probably look back on in 10 years and shake our heads. So today, when it’s gloomy, when we feel distant and lonely, when Guam feels especially far away, and when it feels like A is n e v e r going to return home, I pulled up these photos and remembered to laugh!

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Sidenote — in learning to hold loosely to the things of this world, right after these pictures we drove to the airport to exchange the money into US dollars, and the exchange rate was the worst it’s been all year…. I won’t even tell you how much money I essentially “lost,” but after a few f-bombs and a venting session on the matter, this is pretty much how I felt about it:

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the aftermath of the ”rain”

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let’s all remember to loosen up and laugh today, yeah? #cashmoney

Gratitude lately

Hello from America, sweet friends!

Here’s a little bit of Carolina autumn goodness I’ve been gathering since landing back on the homeland.

Lately I’ve been hugely grateful for the place where I get to live. This small town, the parks and trails along the river, the huge trees along the sidewalk in my neighborhood, it’s so refreshing after having existed in a city for the past year. So many times I find myself all but gawking at something as simple as  a huge oak or a sunset in wide open sky, and that’s when I learned- as if I’m learning it for the very first time- that the best way to move through this shifting, transitional whirlwind season of adjustment is to fix my heart on Jesus and cast my gaze towards the place where He has me.

Because guys, this place is gorgeous.

Lately, I’ve been thankful for…
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…my neighborhood and the walks I take that settle my heart.

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…Mexican food and the family around the table

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…coffee shops with window seats (and being able to order in English!)

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…library art that inspires

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…the fact that each and every one of these are in a language I can read ;)

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…coming across words that resonate just as much as they did this time last year

6 days

Six. Surprises.

At the beginning of October, I finally ventured out of Changwon and took my first intercity bus to Busan, South Korea — the second largest city in the peninsula! I was more nervous for this solo trip to a new city than I was about flying to a whole new country. Sure enough, I got terribly lost and wandered around for about an hour until I realized I could just jump in a taxi and show him the address and he would bring me to the exact location. The learning curve has been steep, friends! Eventually, I made it to my destination, and after collapsing all my bags and any pride I had left onto the floor, the next thing I knew I was witnessing someone cut pizza with food scissors for the first time and then I met one of my best Korea friends.

I share this story because it’s so indicative of my experience here: utter failure at first, but followed by mind-blowing goodness!

Looking back, I am so thankful for the month of September that I spent alone, but after Courtney stepped into my life, Korea instantly became so much more amazing. If you know her, you know she has that effect on things. I had literally just introduced myself to her and 5 minutes later she was inviting me to dinner at her home stay. The following Tuesday I got a text from her while at school inviting me to the infamous Jinju Lantern Festival…. at 11pm, and we started our friendship by running around a castle filled with hundreds of life-sized glowing lanterns and taking selfies with her Korean host mom. The next weekend we were hiking the mountains that border our city- the ones I see above the apartment skyline every day- ending the day with pajeon (veggie pancake) and makgeolli (rice wine) at a restaurant that was nothing more than tables under tents. And how could I forget- our next adventure included fresh clams, green tea in the land of green tea, street food, and mud flats…

One of my favorite things about living in Korea with Courtney was how much funnier she made our circumstances. One night I came to her home stay after work and ended up staying the night. As we were about to go to bed she simply said, “Here we are! Just sleeping in a home in Changwon, South Korea! What an average day!” A few weeks later, we were sipping coffee on the patio of a resort on Goeje Island, looking out over the sea and talking about how much we love this life we get to live. I will never forget laughing so hard as we looked out over the stunning sea and town below us and Courtney exclaiming, “What an AVERAGE view! Here we are at this resort on this island…. it’s all just ok….” 

I owe so much of the meaningful impact this year has had on me due to my friend Courtney. I’m sure I would have made it to a few cities around Korea, but it would have been a fraction of what I got to see and experience without her. Not only did she adopt me into her Fulbright family, and not only did we get to go to really cool places (The Blue House in Seoul, DMZ, Andong) but we had experiences that I will treasure forever. Courtney is intentional like no one I’ve ever met, and you better believe she made holidays and birthdays and everyday in-between days really special and memorable.

For example, on my birthday, I came around the corner to my bathroom to find the door covered in notes from my friends and family members, wishing me a happy birthday from the other side of the world.

Christmas, however, was my absolute favorite.

We borrowed our friend’s entire christmas tree and all their decor (they were in America for the holidays), shoved it all into the back of two taxi’s, and paid about 50,000 won for the driver to take us up into the hills along the coast to a cabin we had rented for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I had a massive box of food in the seat next to me, the christmas tree at my feet, and a carton of eggs in my lap, already knowing this would be a holiday I would never forget. I could tell you all the details of the night, how we got out of the taxi, how he drove away, and how the two of us stood in the cold and had no idea where we were, how we waited for our friends and trudged up a hill until we saw our place, how we accidentally set of the alarm and the old man who owned the place came shuffling down the hill to let us in, but what’s more important is how after we got everything unloaded and we settled in, Courtney gave one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given; words. Weeks before Christmas, she had reached out to me and five of our other friend’s closest friend’s and family members back in the States, and they sent her  hilarious wonderful sweet amazing videos from home that Courtney put all together and presented to us on Christmas Eve. I will remember that gift long after the memory of rice-cooker mac&cheese fades (but let’s be honest, the first taste of mac & cheese in 4 months won’t soon be forgotten)!

The rest of the year, until when she left in July, was filled with lots of late week-night dinners, Saturday coffee and breakfast in my apartment on lazy weekends, more fun weekend trips and great conversations on the bus rides back to Changwon. I’ll never get over the massive gift that Courtney’s friendship and presence in my year in Korea was and will continue to be in the States! My year here was characterized by lots of surprises and unexpected circumstances.

This was the best surprise of them all.

So, Courtney — thank you for being who you are, and for changing who I am for the better. Meeting you in Busan that day was a surprise that I’ll forever thank Jesus for. Thank you for so many months packed with so many memories in one of the weirdest but best years of my life!

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The start of our friendship…… unique from the beginning ;)

The lantern festival in Jinju!

The lantern festival in Jinju!

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Our “trip” to Boseong- our first strange adventure! If you look closely you can see mud still in our hair, but don’t…

This is often what I looked like rolling back into Changwon when the weekend was over...

This is often what I looked like rolling back into Changwon when the weekend was over…

Goeje sunrise -- we literally woke up for 5 minutes to take these pics then fell back asleep

Goeje sunrise — we literally woke up for 5 minutes to take these pics then fell back asleep

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Christmastime!! Outside my apartment, minutes before jumping in the taxi headed to the coast!

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Christmas dinner: Wine in coffee mugs, a bright red heat lamp, a massive electric blanket, a clogged kitchen sink, and stuffed peppers + mac & cheese eaten with chopsticks around the table with the best people!

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mulled wiiiiiine

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Andong adventures.

Standing on the beach between Andong Hahoe Folk Village and the Buyongdae Cliff -- we took a tiny boat across the river, hiked up the mountain, then spend the night on a sweet potato farm....

Standing on the beach between Andong Hahoe Folk Village and the Buyongdae Cliff — we took a tiny boat across the river, hiked up the mountain, then spend the night on a sweet potato farm….

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Spring — camping and biking around Jeungdo island. Shortly after this photo was taken my friend Donald and I had a conversation about how our life felt like National Geographic ;)

Making a fire in the pouring rain, aka becoming bff's with Donald and Kevin

Making a fire in the pouring rain, aka becoming bff’s with Donald and Kevin

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We woke up like this, we also literally woke up right here…

Yay weekends and coffee and breakfast burritos!

Yay weekends and coffee and breakfast burritos!

Korea problems: what to do with boxes of trash?! Courtney's last night in Korea was spent wandering her neighborhood and singing at the top of our lungs on a pagoda on a hill behind her apartment!

Korea problems: what to do with boxes of trash?! I won’t tell you, but I will tell you that Courtney’s last night in Korea was spent wandering her neighborhood and singing at the top of our lungs on a pagoda on a hill behind her apartment!

We have mastered the art of jumping-in-front-of-buddah's-birthday-tower-self-timer-photos. It's an art, really.

We have mastered the art of jumping-in-front-of-buddah’s-birthday-tower-self-timer-photos. 

Busan: Back where it all began!

Busan: Back where it all began!