Aware |vii

sleddingIn the fall I asked my students if anyone had a pink hat, we were trying to find one for our costume party because we were being the girls from Despicable Me. No one had one, my friend bought one. But Christmas week, my student comes up to me and re-tells the story of my search in October. Since she wasn’t able to find one, her mother MADE me this hat. Though the hat was not really for my costume or for me, my heart gushed at the sweetness of all of this. I don’t like hats. I hardly ever wear hats. But this hat, this hat is one that is big enough to not ruin my curls (on the good-curl-days), and so I wear it proudly with my hand-me-down earmuffs and northface (forthface) jacket that needs a desperate cleaning. My students are a blessing.

The other aspect of this picture that I want to explain is sledding. Sledding with a dilapidated piece of cardboard as my sled, on snow-packed stairs. My heart was light and giddy. I don’t think I’ve been sledding at all since moving here, and this was just a delightful experience, even though my rear froze and we were still outside for a long time. Oh well.

So here goes:

Cheers to 2014, a new year with many unknowns (even in the next few weeks!). Cheers to not making a bunch of lists and goals and just taking life a day at a time asking the Lord to change me. Cheers to the family that I belong to that hasn’t been all together in 5.5 years and will get to have exactly one breakfast together where we all overlap. Cheers to the friends that stick with me and want to see me when I’m in the states, even though I live on the other side of the world and sometimes stink at being a great long-distance friend. Cheers to local travels with neighbors and friends and the fun adventures of talking to taxi drivers over confusions in a dialect I don’t exactly speak. Cheers to the greatest customer service a hotpot restaurant could ever have, I’ll gladly take two more glasses of hot soy milk, thankyou. Cheers to grace and learning how much I need God to be transforming my selfish heart and the confidence that HE is the one who will do the transforming work.

What are you grateful for today?

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Aware | vi

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At meals, our family holds hands when we pray. One Sunday, about 10 years ago, my grandma was holding hands with Jane, another lady from our church. The lady commented on how Gram’s hands felt cold. Gram said “you know what that means”—Jane said “warm heart”—gram replied “poor circulation”. Well you know, these colder days do make for interesting times of cold hands and feet when going out and about. Yet, I’m finding there to be this calm and warmth and this work of grace happening in my heart, a softening of sorts. It’s advent and I’m loving these days of learning to settle down and not be overcome by the crazy of the season. Slow.

Cheers to the sweet voices of She & Him serenading this home with Christmas cheer. Cheers to learning more about the art I love doing and that gouache is the new ink of choice, big cheers and confetti and throw a coconut on top for this one. And oh, Cheers to Sunday nights after markets and meetings and public transportation, to find one of my favorite newlywed couples welcoming me into their home to chat the evening away. Cheers to internet in this land, which never works like….. it…. wants to. Cheers to Ann Voskamp for writing a book to set my heart on the real meaning of this season, blessing my days and life with fresh perspective. Cheers to a colleague hearing my voice and coming to find me today, and the dinner we shared, sitting on the floor of a Korean restaurant: there is a Master-weaver putting together each moment of our days.

Grateful.

That’s how we need to live.

On Earthquakes and Fear

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Fear is one of those things that each human has to face. There are many famous quotes about fear. There are many passages in the Bible that deal with fear. But I, for one, feel like fear is one of my greater struggles.

For example, in 2010 I was in a car accident that I caused because I fell asleep. Ever since then, I have had a fear of driving. I don’t have to face it when I’m abroad, because I rely completely on public transportation. Or, when I watch documentaries about food and the arguments for strictly eating organic vegetables and grass-fed meat, I become fearful of what I put into my body because there are no options for organic here.

But then there come seasons of earthquakes in a part of the world where earthquakes are not a normal part of life. The city panics. The people panic. My students are crippled with fear. In the last month we have encountered 4 earthquakes and for some reason, people in my city are convinced that tomorrow (?!?!) there will be an earthquake. They have canceled some schools, parents are coming to fetch their children, panic. The advice I was given was to buy instant noodles and water. Perfect.

How do you face a situation like this? No one really knows what’s gonna happen. Actually, there could be an earthquake anywhere in the world and God, will still be sovereign. But when everyone around you is responding to their fear in serious ways, what do I do?

I talked to some family members, they gave their suggestions for “what to do”. Yet, there are no ideal places to go here for “safe shelter”. This city is comprised almost entirely of high buildings all made with tons of concrete. I teach on a high floor, and live on a high floor. There’s not a whole lot that you can do– oh and the people on campus don’t know what to do either.

I sat and talked to my heavenly father. I wanted to turn to the Psalms but I didn’t know which one. I asked and I turned to Psalm 34, started reading, then smiled. Comfort from truth is like none other. “Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” // “Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!” This fear is a totally different kind of fear from what the people around me experience. This is a healthy fear, this is the fear that I want to have. I steady my heart on the truth of His promises, I don’t want to live any other way.

In life or death– my anchor holds. And hey, What ever happens, I’m headed to a place that won’t be shaken (heb 12:28).

My hope is not in these buildings, this city, or what people say, but in the maker of the universe. He’s got this.

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[ A little morning market action– veggies and breakfast for the win… ]

I recently saw  a little cartoon sketch saying that November is the month where people give thanks, but the rest of the year they complain. Let this not be so. Giving thanks should be a lifestyle. So here are a few of the many things I’ve encountered recently that cause my heart to give thanks.

Cheers to the neighbor who hides cake in my fridge, not one but two slices– you make my days bright with little surprises like that. Cheers to the people who just sold me oranges, yelling at me and not letting me chose what I wanted to get… you help me to see my sin and my selfishness which I’ve seen a lot of lately. Cheers to the friends that have birthdays this month, you remind me why life is such a sweet gift and worth celebrating, your lives are a testimony to faithfulness and the sovereignty of God. Cheers to the people who welcomed my father home after his many months, studying and serving abroad. Cheers to a sweet woman who has brightened this last week with her heartfelt emails. I’ve never really had a godly mentor-type woman in my life but this woman is all that and more. Cheers to the morning market breakfast stalls, fresh food is fun (who cares about cleanliness anyway?) and walking along being greeted (I mean stared at) by all of the old people is also fun.

What are you grateful for?

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is what I need. My soul needs to remember truth, remember the goodness of my Heavenly Father. Celebrating the little joys in daily life.

Cheers to the neighbor who shares their meals of Ravioli soup with me. I mean, being invited for dinner makes cartwheels happen in my brain– but when the word ravioli appears on my screen — there is no doubt that I will be there. Cheers to technology allowing me to connect with my siblings in different countries. Be it Facebook chats with the broski or Kakao calls from a sister– connecting with them makes my heart happy. Cheers to Instagram people who recommend new beats like this— my heart has been blessed by so many who have shared new songs to this girl who lives in the land of being in the dark about whats cool and new. Cheers to my Chinese teacher going downtown with me to make printing press magic happen on paper that glistens. New prints and lighter pockets make this girl thrilled. Oh yes, and she helped me find new calligraphy ink. New ink also thrills my heart. Cheers to my creator for reminding my selfish heart that life is not about me but completely and totally about His glory. Yes. My heart needs this truth all.the.time.

This is living life intentionally. Living on purpose and looking for ways to be joyful. Not necessarily happy– because happiness fades so quickly. But joy. That’s what we should be about.

Taste of Home

No. Not the magazine or website. We’re talking about living in a land that is so completely different from home and finding ways to step back and enjoy things that remind us of our homeland. I am not for a moment saying that I don’t enjoy living here, but avoiding the reality that this land is different would be foolish. Sometimes our hearts long for home, and sometimes we remedy those feelings and emotions by creating an environment that eases those desires.

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Each week I get together with my friends and each week our theme is different. We cook and bring our food together and share. Community.
I love this. I look forward to this. I enjoy creating flavors in my kitchen and sharing them with the people I’m closest to over here. This is how we fellowship. This is how we do life together.

However, after several years of recycling themes and trying some that were basically failures– I thought about that beloved combo: grilled cheese and tomato soup. Then my mind wandered to that place where we find comfort food and enjoy the calming atmosphere (when it’s not lunch rush, at least). Panera Bread.

I told my friends that this would be the theme of our dinner party. My neighbor said I needed to make a sign. So……….. I did (after a little argument between friends about whether there was a woman in the logo or bread– and there are both). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy home is tiny and my walls are covered with art, mostly made by yours truly. I guess it added to the Panera feel with low lights and calming colors.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We had soup, salad, and gourmet sandwiches– oh and baguettes for dipping in the soup: Panera style, yo.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo this is hospitality in this area. Your home? It’s not too small. Fellowship with people does not mean you have to do it all. Invite your friends, let each person bring something and enjoy each other. This is a sweet chance to try new recipes.

How often do you have people over?

 

Aware |iii

lam322-colorful-naturehues copy[hand-lettered design– by me]

It’s been an up and down kind of month. Mostly due to the lessons I’m learning about trusting God. So, throughout this I’m seeking to be aware of what He’s up to.

Cheers to my sweet student who noticed my wardrobe malfunction and kindly let me know without embarrassing me in front of my entire class–a total doll (for more reasons than this). Cheers to the magical beauties of washi tape– and the mother that blessed me with 18– EIGHTEEN– rolls of it for my birthday. I would be lonely if my desk wasn’t covered with these little rolls. Cheers to the weather not being frozen yet, the fall that is hanging around for a little bit longer this year (and the fact we aren’t slipping on frozen spit yet!). Cheers to the friend who took my mail back to the USA to send it to my sweet friends around that country. Cheers to my Korean best friend for chatting with me during my lunch break the other day. Five stars for long distance bests. Cheers to the internet for teaching me that I don’t have to grill my grilled cheese (for a crowd) one at a time but can do it in the oven. Magic.

This is how we live life aware// don’t get stuck in the mundane of life.. fight for joy! How are you fighting for joy today?

Contrary

twirlContrary to popular opinion– living abroad is not always glamorous. In fact, some days it’s pretty hard.  I know that this is where my heavenly Father has me for this season of my life, so I do really desire to see things through the lens of truth. Yet I am human and I am weak. I know that some families are rather dysfunctional and family members don’t like to talk to each other. But I don’t have a family like that. Sure we have our issues, but really– I am a blessed girl to have such dear relatives.

But you know that verse about taking up your cross, or the one about leaving family to follow? Sometimes taking this seriously means a lot of… shall we say… loss. Like not being able to attend family reunions. For many years on end. It could also mean missing weddings, when your whole family is together and you can’t join them. It’s those moments when your cousin gives birth and you can’t cuddle with it, because when you meet they’re already say… 3? Or it’s nights when they have fun being crazy.. and all you get to do is enjoy a little Facebook status and laugh, wishing you could be part of the fun. It’s those holiday when your family is feasting together on foods you can’t even access. It’s that togetherness. Don’t get me wrong, we are blessed to live in this era when we can video call and it seem like we’re actually together. But togetherness. That’s what I miss.handstandWhen my heart aches over pictures of cousins being all together.. and tears don’t stop falling. The best thing I can do is pray. Pray that they are walking in truth. Pray that they are growing in their knowledge of the Lord. Pray that they would know they are deeply loved — not just by me, but by the creator of the universe. cuz
Yes, life abroad has its ups and downs. I’m learning how to rejoice regardless. It’s in those hard moments when I think about the memories, and thank the Lord for those time we WERE together, and joyfully anticipate when we reunite. The day will come– here or in glory.

Regardless. I’m grateful to have these people in my life.

Aware|ii

gratitudeSome weeks in these parts are quiet, while some are full of adventure. Some weeks we have classes every.single.day but then we get a break. This week we’ve had a nice change of pace with a holiday that gave us a week off of teaching. For that, I am grateful.

Cheers to the “family” I had at camp this summer and the way that family-ness has carried over into the months following– to the point of getting a message that says “See you soon, mom”– these are the things that melt my heart. Cheers to the friends who came for an early breakfast today and made themselves so at home and finding my (less than comfortable //hand-me-down) sofa to be a restful place. Oh and lets not forget the ending when someone said “we should dance before this is over” and we promptly started music and danced around my little home. Love that. Cheers to retreating. The time to step away from my home and stay in a house with 25 others// laughing, crying, growing, falling flat on our faces in repentance and worship… those are moments I want to savor. Cheers to angels or something… not letting the paper lantern fall and burn up the city but carrying it higher into the clouds when it started to fall… kind of one of those “have to be there to know what I mean.. ” but yes, cheers to that. Cheers to the friend I ran into while heading to buy vegetables — he walked with me and we chatted and carried my vegetables. Five stars for you, sir. Any person that carries my vegetables TO MY DOOR gets extra cheers (okay not anyone because usually I don’t let people carry my stuff…). Cheers to the shepherd that traveled across the world to share hope with us, to bring truth and speak with such humility and grace. My heart needed that truth. So so much. Oh yes, and cheers to the neighbors who let me come hang at their house and eat their cookies with Biscoff spread — hello… where have you been all my life. You know those moments when you are at peace with the world, then suddenly your taste-buds have been overcome with a new burst of excitement. Yes. That good. I will be searching for a method to make it.

This is how we live life aware// don’t get stuck in the mundane of life.. fight for joy! How are you fighting for joy today?

Meeting

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Who reads the book of Numbers anyway? Lists of names… information about sacrifices and people constantly making foolish decisions and the discipline that comes with those choices. Who spends several months swimming through a book like this? I didn’t intend to. But I’m raising my hand on this side of the screen.I planned to spend this year focusing on the New Testament. I wanted to understand more of the depths of my savior. So, how I ended up in Numbers was quite unplanned by yours truly. But, now I must say– this book has rocked my perspective so much. What happened then in history was pointing to my sweet Savior. This book pointed me to finding my everything in Him. In Jesus.

I had a commentary on my Kindle for this book, I suppose that’s why I dove into the book in the first place. But as dry as Numbers seemed at times, the way the author connected the events with the coming Messiah– was like a child discovering that the dying iPod only needed to be connected to electricity for it to be revived. Don’t ask me where that analogy came from. However, the point of this isn’t to give a book review– it’s to talk about the end of the matter.

Life is meeting.

Life is meeting new circumstances, many of which we don’t expect and can’t control. Life is meeting new people and developing new relationships; it’s meeting new ideas, some of which may upset us. As much as we try to avoid it, life is meeting ourselves and not always liking what we see. But most of all, life is meeting God, for He’s always there, protecting us, wanting to teach, and always seeking to mature us.” Warren Wiersby

My heart was gripped by this. I can’t explain why I was so moved by this — but I was. Maybe, it’s because this is so much of what I’ve been learning lately. My circumstances are constantly changing in this land over here and I can’t.. CAN’T control things here. I want to, I try, I think I have— but reality hits and at the end of the day I have no control.

People… oh how I could spend days talking about the hundreds of people I am connected with over here. Relationships are part of my purpose in this life. Building them, deepening them, nurturing them– yes as messy as relationships get, I want to continue diving into them.

But then comes that word: me. Meeting myself and discovering who I am is a huge part of this journey. I think I know myself, but I have no idea about the depths of my depravity. I also fail to grasp the boundless oceans of mercy that have been gifted to me. I think I know I can keep my life under control, then some situation happens where I am confronted with my fears and my failure to trust God. Learning who I am and who Jesus is is a life-long process. Throughout all of this meeting I want to be awake to what God is trying to teach me. I don’t want to be like the Israelites who feared the unknown and disobeyed because they focused on their weakness and insignificance. Life needs to be lived by faith. It’s easy to say that– but it’s when the refining tests and trials come that show if I’m living by faith.

As I walked down the sidewalk this afternoon I realized just how much of life is meeting. I ran into a lady who worked in my apartment building since I moved in, several years back. This week she suddenly disappeared. My heart ached when I learned that she was relocated to a different part of campus. We hugged each other as tears welled up in our eyes. I have no idea why she has been in my life for these years. We couldn’t even communicate for most of my time here. But this I know. It wasn’t by accident that I saw her today, and it wasn’t by accident that she’s been watching me live my life for the past few years here. If God is the one going before me, He’s the one placing people in my life. After saying goodbye, I continued walking down the sidewalk only to be greeted by two of my former students. They yelled my name and were just so full of joy. We spoke and caught up a bit. Father knew I needed that burst of joy after the prior meeting.

All I can say is… Life is meeting, and I want to keep meeting.