Showing posts with label marriage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marriage. Show all posts

Thursday, December 24, 2015

New Traditions

When we talked about how to spend our first official married Christmas together, this isn’t quite what I imagined.

We talked about what traditions we’d want to start. (Ok, I talked about it. He asked for examples, since he’s basically been on his own for ages). I mentioned how I would love to spend the week before Christmas with people doing fun Christmas-y things, like making cookies with friends or watching Christmas movies together.

Which we did. We had lots of time for movies, more than I expected. And a Christmas cookie extravaganza with girls did happen, on the one day I was feeling 100%.

But spending this week-before-Christmas switching between bed and couch, trying to keep down liquids, wasn’t quite what I had in mind. (For the record, I was only sick-sick Sunday, then after a "normal" day Monday, ate something that disagreed with both SM and I, that put me back in sick mode and him in "discomfort" for the next few days. Blah!)

And no, I’m pretty sure I’m not pregnant. Though for the first time in my life, it is a bit strange to realize that the possibility is actually real. More-so, of course, than the virgin-birth Mary variety.

And so we began our first Christmas together with sickness. SM pointed out today that last year around this time, I was heading out to dinner with his friends while he stayed home on his couch sick with a flu/cold… and this year he’s headed to the candlelight Christmas Eve service where we were supposed to meet friends, while I stay home on his (now "our”) couch and munch more toast.

Let’s just hope this isn’t a tradition we’ll keep!

Despite some unplanned events of the past week, however, we have both learned a lot. This is the first time either of us have been sick since we got married in August, and I’ve gotten to see a side of my husband that I “knew” was there but hadn’t yet really experienced.

The seriously caring, tender side that takes really really good care of me when I’m sick.

Ok, call it newly-wed-ism. Maybe it won’t last, just like everyone seems to say. But all in all, I married a really good guy.

A guy who hasn't just learned the importance of Christmas movies and that Elf is actually pretty amusing, but also one who got to experience someone else miserably throwing up and not keeping anything down including water for the first time ever just days before Christmas Eve. Who learned about the Urgent Care system and even got to navigate picking up his first-ever prescription on his own, all in one day. Who has figured out the BRAT diet and learned that sprite, crackers, toast, and ginger ale are all really really good things to have around. (Poor guy never gets sick! I -ahem- feel so bad for him. ;)

All in all, as I lay here typing, listening to a made-for-TV Christmas special streaming down from the apartment above, looking at a Christmas tree filled with lights and memories of Christmases around the world, with gladness in my heart for the amazing people God has surrounded me with over the years and for His unfailing presence and love... and when I think of the reason we’re here doing any of these things at all… I remember that the first Christmas probably didn’t go quite as expected, either.

No room in an inn.

No women to surround her... only an unexperienced husband pushing past cultural norms to be there for her when she needed him most.

No place for Mary to lay her newborn, except a dirty feeding trough.

Definitely no privacy, no glamour for the virgin-birth mother, just lots of unknowns of what God might be doing and trying their best to be available and be faithful in hard circumstances.

And I remember that Christmas this year, in a comfortable home with doctors and food and clean blankets and clothing and controllable warmth - despite a few hiccups - is actually going pretty well...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Ultimate Wedding Day

It was my wedding day. A day every girl, even me, thought about sometime or hoped for even if I hadn't planned the whole day out when I was 5. A day that didn't seem quite real. After meeting a guy I really liked, leaving for 2 years and ignoring him, then talking and finally meeting again... Praying praying praying and asking friends for wisdom, dating, saying "yes" and then planning planning planning as well as making huge decisions on jobs and living locations and everything else and re-prioritizing our lives together... The day was here. And it was all a lottle surreal. I woke up just like any other day (after missing my alarm, nothing new there!) and scrambled to catch up with the goings-ons and responsibilities of the world. It was a day like any other, another wedding I was in. except that no one asked me to hold a bouquet, to tie a bow, or run and find the photographer.

And all throughout the day, I kept looking for and seeing people around me from all around the country and the world. And as I walked down the aisle with my dad, I seriously wished I could stop and spend a couple hours hugging on and catching up with each of the amazing people I hadn't seen in so long, who came just for us and who we wished we could spend a week with but instead had to walk down the aisle to the front and the start my new life. Which I was so glad for, and which was why they all were there. And yet, in my heart, I still wanted to stop everything. Yell, "Halt! Wait!" Not because I wasn't ready to take my vows, but because I wanted to treasure this moment, these people all collected in one place, these memories. I wanted to capture them all in my heart and hold them tight and paint them into forever memories to look back on for the rest of (my) our journey.

At the same time, looking around in awe at the sea of beautiful beloved faces, I could see in my mind's eye all the people who had brought us to this point, the people who had played huge roles in our stories and lives and who couldn't make it because the "world is too big and life is hard and heaven's reunion will be all the sweeter for it." I wished for my Musomaland family and friends, for people in North Carolina who supported and encouraged and mentored me and all the people around Michigan we begrudgingly had to cut from the invite list due to the lack of space available at our venue.

Someday there will be heaven, and the skies will open and Christ will be reunited with His Bride, and the celebration won't be about me (thank goodness - I'm SO not a center-of-attention person!) but on the Creator and Savior and what He's done. On His true servant leadership heart that we yearn to be more like, laid out for us in a beautiful picture of grace and love and yes a recounting of how we've used our gifts for Him in the time we were given. I can't wait for this meeting, one day, when we get to not only celebrate but be in the ceremony as the bride of Christ, His church. And when we get to experience fully His Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love*... a love that we hope our own relationship and marriage reflects for the world.

* From The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The O'Chungs

Once upon a time, when he was about 13, the man I get to be married to now moved to Seattle, Washington from Seoul, South Korea to do a study abroad with his older brother. Besides learning the all-important lesson that no middle-schooler in America thinks a proper “How do you do?” with a handshake is an acceptable greeting, he also learned that his Korean name of Sang Hoon might be a bit difficult for some people to connect with. So when his family officially immigrated to Canada a few years later, and it was time to pick a technical name, he started going by Sang Mark (slightly easier but still confusing for those Westerners who weren’t used to two first names!).

At the same time, their family had to choose a proper, English-based translation of their last (or sur-) name. Since the people translating their birth certificates were also a bit confused, they settled on one popular spelling of Chung. (Turns out, Jung would have been a lot more phonemically accurate… but who goes for accurate when there’s a new culture to assimilate into?) And so, his name became Sang Hoon Chung… or Sang Mark Chung for every-day Westerner life.

Fast forward past college in Canada, a masters in Sweden, and a job in Singapore, to where this incredibly talented designer landed a job in a little unknown town called Holland, Michigan. After about six years he met this crazy American girl on an unknown blind date… then promptly watched her leave for Africa and ignore him for a couple of years. Then she started emailing… and dating… and finally agreed (much to his relief) to spend the rest of her life with him.

About this time, said crazy girl’s mom had the chance to make her daughter a cool 3-D printed key chain with her up-and-coming new last name! And so, she did.

And all of the middle-schoolers who had heard about this crazy African-based but now in America daughter of their teacher looked at her and asked, “Her new last name will be O’Chung?!”

Upon hearing this story (and receiving the keychain), we laughed, and realized it was the perfect blend of Sang Hoon-Mark’s Korean heritage and Crystal’s European but almost non-existent Irish heritage. And it just seemed to stick. And so, with that, we became the O’Chungs. (On the non-official documents… like when we use Sang Mark. Names and filling out forms have gotten a bit more confusing these days!)

As an extension of this unique last-nickname, O'Chung fits the mix of cultures that I – and the man I love – and our marriage encompass. While neither of us have much Irish in us, we do have a fabulous mix of Tanzanian, Ugandan, Korean, Bulgarian, French, English (the British variety), Australian, American, and several other inter-continentally-confused influences pervading out perspectives. And as I we continue to transition into “oneness” and are challenged in our journeys of faith, these world influences will lend to the people, places, and perspectives we grow in Christ along the way.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Boot Camp

(It's been a bit of a hiatus since I last posted... but writing has continued along the way, and I'm excited to share a bit of it with you! This post was written July 7, 2015)

Some people say the first year of marriage is the biggest challenge.

I wouldn’t know. We haven’t started yet ;).

But for us, the challenge has been ongoing from the beginning. Not because we don’t fit well together – God is making it very clear that this is the direction of our relationship we should be taking! But because, well, He’s bringing us through some serious training before the actual marriage begins.

Yes, we come from two different cultures. We’ve lived in very different places. But somehow, God has used these experiences to bring us closer together. Our views on family, marriage, money, so many things are so similar it’s crazy.

At the same time, we’ve both been single for thirty-something years. We’ve both lived by ourselves, he longer than myself, and have developed ways of doing things that are particular to us as individuals and that haven’t necessarily been challenged by my multiple housemates along the way.

It’s easy to get selfish and self-focused as a single. Without even knowing it.

And so, when presented with how to do things in a home, how to make a meal together, how to do little and big things… conflicts discussions arise. Let’s just call them “bumps.”

And it’s been amazing. Can I just brag on my soon-to-be husband a bit? I’ve never met anyone so willing to work through hard stuff, get to the root of whatever issue we’re having, talk through it and figure out how we can do better next time. And then CHANGE. Make the changes himself, and support me in doing the same, changes that we need for a strong foundation for our future.

He’s willing to do the hard work of talking, praying, examining, letting the junk fall away as we seek to become more like Christ and more unified as we prepare for a life of marriage together.

So after all this hard work, it seems like we’d be doing pretty well. And we are! But then the last couple of months, God had some more training in store for us.

We got news that the campus where Sang Mark has worked for the past 8 years is closing down in September. He was given the offer of a transfer to Detroit, and GM started pursuing him as well. We were amazed at the opportunities before us and excited for what God might be doing – he would love to work at either of these places with the amazing people and projects and opportunities there! At the same time, we are entering our first year of marriage, I’ve not even been back in the States for a full year yet after years overseas, neither of us are big-city people per se, and he (we) have an incredible church and friend community that I’ve been adopted into here in Holland.

So the question, with 34 days till we get married, was is… do we add a move and new community to a new marriage and new job situation? Three of the biggest stresses in life all at once? And if so, where to go?

We checked out Detroit and found a couple of places we liked, but still struggled. We needed to make a decision by Monday, and then God granted an extension of a week. But pressure was still on. A potential job was in the works in Holland but not guaranteed (and still isn’t). Do we take what we know, the obvious amazing offer we have? Or do we do what we feel better about at this time of our lives?

In the weeks leading up to this, and as things changed with every passing hour of every day, God started making changes in us that showed the reason behind this difficult process. As we sorted through priorities and what is most important to us in our lives, our relationship, our marriage... we moved from being individuals to being united under one head - Christ. We pondered whether community and stability this first year were most important, especially since I’ve been through so much the past few years? Or was money and career opportunities what we valued most? And even more importantly, what exactly was God saying? Because that’s what we really wanted.

We learned to pray together – not just the happy-go-lucky prayers we’d started our relationship with, but the heart-cry for help and guidance and wisdom and surrender giving everything over to the Lord, no matter what He says, and telling Him we’ll follow Him prayers.

We learned to share what we thought God was saying. To pray for one another, to listen to what God might be telling the other person, and what they were processing themselves. We learned to be convicted by what God was saying through the other person and to change our habits, our minds, our attitudes.

Sang Mark learned that girls' tears are ok – and to comfort me when they came. We learned what it meant to be cheered on by a church of people who were rooting for us to stay, even when they hadn’t known me for very long yet – and the blessing of having them throw me a Bridal Shower just a few months after we’d all met. And give me a place to live the month before we got married when I needed a place to stay.

We learned that asking God to show us His path as soon as possible wouldn't come in our time - but definitely would happen in His sovereignty. We were some of the first people to know what the path ahead looked like job wise, which was a blessing leading up to our wedding for sure! And this difficult but precious Boot Camp time allowed us to face some of the issues and decisions that most couples go through over the first few years of marriage. Because, seriously? Why not just get it all out of the way before you even tie the knot? ;)

And in the end, 4 long, “we’re trusting in You to come through God!” days after turning down job offers with companies in Detroit, Sang Mark was offered a job on the other side of the same building where he’s worked the past 8 years. We get to stay in Holland! And we are so thankful, not only for this time of staying in one place and fewer transitions (and not trying to house hunt the month before the wedding!), but also for the ways God used this time to prepare us for whatever He has to come.