Showing posts with label the one I love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the one I love. 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...

Christmas Traditions

My husband, poor guy, is slowly but surely learning the importance of celebrating the Christmas season. Don’t get me wrong - he knows the importance of the season! But having lived as a bachelor for so many years on his own, he never got to experience the importance of traditions that (I think) make it even more special and memorable along the way.

Last year, when we were still just dating, and I was preparing to make the third of 5 moves in a year from one house to another, I lamented about not being able to decorate for Christmas. SM offered his place, at which point I was both ever-grateful for the offer and shocked he had never had a Christmas tree since coming to Holland (Michigan). How could that be?! Lucky for me, my new roommate asked me to come early to help decorate my new house with her tree, and I used my own small Christmas tree from years past to decorate with the man I would later marry.

It was fun. He loved having the ambiance of a tree, and his parents were more than impressed at this girl who brought Christmas cheer to his life, apparently. :)

Come this year, after navigating Thanksgiving across Indiana together, we’re now moving into the Christmas season as a married couple for the first time. I’m so thankful to be living in ONE PLACE for awhile ;) and to be establishing traditions together. What SM didn’t know, though, was the importance of said traditions. Putting up a Christmas tree? Yes. Candles? He’s learning ;). Christmas movies? This is a brand new thing.

I used to love watching Christmas movies on TV while making Christmas cookies at my parent’s house. Early in college, I decided to make this a tradition, and set out to acquire copies of my favorites. I didn’t realize at the time just how important this would be for my soon-to-be transient lifestyle, but I am forever thankful I did. Because Christmas. Became Christmas. When White Christmas, Elf, and Miracle on 34th Street hit the (laptop) screen. Later The Nativity Story got added to the mix, and housemates insisted on Home Alone’s presence in the lineup. In climates where Christmas falls in the hottest season of the year, and temps flux between 80 and 100 with 98% humidity and full sun, it was helpful to have little things in place that helped make the season feel a little more like, well, the holidays. We’d do things like make snowflakes out of A4 (printer) paper to put on the windows while eating fresh pineapple from the duka down the street, and watch the year-before’s downloaded Thanksgiving parade on the Saturday after Thanksgiving as we feasted on the biggest chicken we could find (since we didn’t have the day off). Or turn on the air conditioning full blast (though it didn’t really do much!) while watching white Christmas and let ourselves pretend we were in a place where things were “normal.”

But SM, poor guy, didn’t quite understand this before now. So when I mentioned watching some of the Christmas movies that we watched together last year AGAIN, just 12 months later… he was confused. “But we just watched that last year? You mean you watch them ALL EVERY year?”

Yep! I sure do!

Because when you live in places where it doesn’t “feel” like Christmas, such traditions become important.

Later, my favorite person, as he slowly accepted and adjusted to this idea of watching Christmas movies EVERY.Single.year. asked a few insightful questions.

1. Do any of the “traditional” Christmas movies have anyone of color in them?
Hmm. Ouch. Well, no. Unless you count the cook in Miracle on 34th Street, everyone is pretty much just… white. As a cross-cultural missionary and now in a cross-cultural marriage… this makes me cringe. They’ll still get watched every year… but my eyes have definitely been opened!

2. Aren’t there any GUY Christmas movies?
Again… hmm. Neither of us are huge fans of Home Alone. And I’ve never actually seen the Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation... so I don’t know if that counts. We rewatched Elf this year and he’s apparently decided that it’s a great guy movie, but we could still use some more. Someone recently suggested that Star Wars #5 has a desert/snow scene so that might work. Any other suggestions? Anyone?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Korean Thanksgiving

Happy Korean Thanksgiving! 
(Ok, this is a bit late, since it was on September 27, 2015... but this week seemed like an appropriate time to finally put this up anyway!)

Life has gotten a bit crazy the past couple of weeks months, but that didn’t stop Sang Mark and I from celebrating a special (though new to me) holiday that’s a special part of his heritage – Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving! I had no idea that such a holiday existed, and it got me thinking how in our Korean-Canadian-American-(slightly East African) marriage, we’ll have a lot of thanksgivings to celebrate each fall! Korea, Canada, and America all have their own celebrations on their own days, with their own traditions. That’s a lot of opportunities to give thanks!

Since I am still on a crash-course to learning about Korean-everything, I was curious to learn more about this holiday. We went to Korean church here in Holland to celebrate the day, with an English-version service for all the outsiders who came to celebrate, and then joined a feast of Korean food afterwards.

Later I asked Sang Mark about his memories of Korean Thanksgiving growing up. He said that people usually travel from large cities to their hometowns to spend time with family on this day. Apparently the trip usually takes hours – not because the country is large, but because traffic congestion is so bad in Seoul. (Think of our American Thanksgiving weekend traffic, in a city with 10 million people!)

In Sang Mark’s family, his father had basically raised his 7 younger siblings after their parents died, so everyone came to their house for the holiday. The women (moms and aunts) came a couple of days early to help make the food with Sang Mark’s mom – kind of like how it works in Tanzania before a wedding! I guess it’s easier (and more fun) to make large quantities of good food with people you love, all in one place… instead of everyone making dishes separately and bringing them to a gathering later, as we often do here in the States.

Traditionally, Korean Thanksgiving was meant as a memorial and time of thanksgiving for their ancestors. Since Koreans traditionally believed that a person’s spirit doesn’t die when they die physically, but stays around to protect the descendants, they honored the ancestors (charye) and returned the favor by preparing special foods for them. Sang Mark’s father did insist that they bow down to give thanks to their grandparents who had already passed… but since the rest of the family were strong believers, they immediately turned to worshipping God after this.

I appreciated the way that the Korean pastor explained about this day. He said, “Traditionally, Koreans gave thanks only to our ancestors for the harvest. But as Christians, we give thanks only to God.”

Sang Mark says Thanksgiving was always super fun. He’d come home from school, and everyone was there – all his cousins and aunts and uncles. They ate a lot of food… no turkey, but lots of different kinds of meats like gulbi (a kind of pan-fried fish) and bulgogi (a kind of Korean BBQ using thinly sliced beef). They had lots of different kinds of soups, vegetables like cooked spinach, and a kind of “glass” noodle called japchae. They ate a lot of fruits too, like Asian pears, honey-crisp type apples, and gaum (persimmon). Chestnuts were a part of the day, as well as steamed rice cakes (or songpyeon). Some of these were made with sweetened red beans and honey inside, and some with brown sugar and sesame seeds. I find them a bit bland (then again, I tried a piece alongside a super-sweet Walmart-bought cake!) but SM (and most Koreans, of course) think they’re amazing.
Source: BostonChildren'
Much like my family Thanksgiving experiences, along with all the food were fun games to play with cousins. Sang Mark played Yutnori, which is a board game. “Yut” refers to the wooden sticks, and “nori” means game. In this game you throw four sticks into the air, and let them fall to the floor. Each stick has a front and back side, with dots. Depending on the combination of dots that you get, you advance like in monopoly.

With lots of yummy food, games, and time with family – I can imagine why any young boy would enjoy this holiday! We certainly enjoyed our own American version of Thanksgiving with fun family, food, and lots of travel this past weekend... especially as our first major holiday together since being married.

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.

Monday, April 6, 2015

"So, there's this guy..." (the continuing story)

(This post is the second in a 2-part series. For the back story, click here.)

After a long and somewhat treacherous furlough, I prepared to go back to Tanzania. About this time I drove up to Holland to see and say goodbyes to some good friends from college. We were getting together with some friends for an evening, and as we headed out the door, my girl friend mentioned, “By the way, there’s this single guy coming tonight…” Wait, WHAT? I don’t know what I replied, but I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Here I was, leaving in a week for TWO YEARS... and my friends were setting me up with someone!?

But I have to say, after a walk downtown and time spent at our friend’s house, I was pretty intrigued with this guy. I’d never been interested in an Asian guy before – ever. But this guy was pretty cute. And way more important to me than his looks was his character. He paid attention, was totally respectful, and he really loved the Lord. We spent over an hour talking about our passion for the Word of God and how God speaks to us, and I came away realizing not only his commitment to the Lord and steadfast faith, but also that he really wanted to hear my thoughts and listen to me as well. I could joke about things international – like why in the world German McDonald's have amazing potato wedges but they don’t have them in America – and he got it. And we talked… and talked… and I kept thinking, “What in the world am I doing? I’m leaving the country for two years in less than a week!” But man, I was definitely intrigued!

So when he asked a couple of days later if we could get together again before I left, I politely but firmly declined (with legitimate reasons – I really had three days left to pack and get ready! – but I also didn’t want to lead him on when I was headed to another continent for a good while.) I figured that was the end of that. Great conversations, but too weird of timing. He’d be gone before I got back.

And then, soon after arriving in Tanzania, I got a Facebook message from Sang Mark. Several, in fact. Pretty much every holiday (real or otherwise) I would get a thoughtful “How’s it going?” message. He was friendly and supportive, and I greatly appreciated it. But I was working through some crazy situations with language school and then transitions in the school where I taught, dealing with sickness and amoeba and everything else, and couldn’t let myself think too far ahead to when and where I’d be back in the States (or considering what was next). I was physically in Musoma – I needed my mind to be fully there too. And so, as Sang Mark would say now, I hardly responded at all.

I was feeling more at home and settled in Musoma than I had ever felt in my life. And yet, I also felt like maybe this time in Musoma was the end – if not forever, at least for a long while, of my time of teaching overseas. God had continued to change my heart since furlough and had drawn me towards being back in the States and supporting missions from there, but I still struggled to consider leaving a place I loved and a community that had supported me and become family. How could I do this?

As I wrestled with this decision, I got yet another message from this guy I had liked (and still did) from two years back. This time I shared a bit about a recent break-in we’d experienced, and he responded with encouragement from Scripture that had helped him in the past. I talked to a few people, prayed about it, and decided 6 months until I left Tanzania might be an OK time to start chatting a bit.

And chat, we did. Our messages quickly got too long for Facebook messenger and moved to email. And then they got longer still. And despite differences in background culture, we kept discovering our values, our focus, what meant the most to us in our lives individually was more the same than I could ever have imagined. To be clear, in the midst of preparing to leave my life in Tanzania after five years, selling everything but three bags worth of stuff, and moving back to way too many unknowns back in the States, I had a few freak-out moments when I was sure I should just stop talking to Sang Mark before either of us got hurt. And I almost did, except for the wisdom of a couple of dear, much-wiser friends that encouraged me to wait till I got back to the States to make any final decisions on this guy. But here was a guy (I later found out) that was spending hours writing the longest emails of his life to me… who willingly drove down to Kalamazoo to take me out to dinner two days after I got back to the States, along with bringing me some of my favorite cereal I’d been missing the past two years and German chocolate he’d gotten me on a business trip the month before that I’d said I liked. The guy who has learned to listen while I process (and of course tries to fix everything for me, contrary to what I usually need…), who turns me toward the Lord when I’m needlessly worriing (yet again) and continues to teach me by example how to really rest and balance life well. A guy who has an incredible group of international friends here in Holland that welcomed me in with open arms... and who had me over for an amazing homemade dinner and watching Frozen for the first time when I moved up to Holland. Who was willing to talk through differences and listen and work through the hard stuff and pray and come to appreciate me through it – and I him.  Whose church I would choose for my own even if he wasn’t going there, and who let me decorate his apartment for Christmas in the middle of my own move so I could feel like I was home. Who I could talk art with – and enjoy hearing the processes he went through in his own creations – and realize we both got excited for many of the same things. And who has already turned me into a bit of a snob of inadequately-designed cars.

So, to answer a few of the questions I’ve been getting from people… No, I did not move back to the States, nor resign from Wycliffe, because of this guy. Those were separate decisions I made as I sought the Lord without knowing the outcome of this potential relationship. Yes, he’s been in the picture for awhile, but I really wasn’t sure what God was doing with it all. I’d come to terms with the fact that God might not have someone for me, and while that made me sad, I knew that I would continue to have joy and peace and everything I needed through my Savior. And that was ok, too. God has brought me families and kids, both blood-related and non, wherever I went, and while I had hoped I could do the same for other singles someday, I also knew I’d never be completely alone or without people to turn to.

Yes, we’ll be getting married this summer. (It still doesn't seem quite real - he proposed on the first day of spring just two weeks ago!) We’re both learning a lot about the wedding planning process and are thankful for any suggestions or ideas, help or wisdom you might have to offer!

Yes, my fiancĂ© goes by “Sang Mark.” It’s common for Koreans to have two first names. Yes, I’ve learned a whole lot more than I ever thought I’d know about Korean culture, and have oh so much more to learn. I'm thankful for an amazing teacher! :) No, I haven't learned a whole lot of Korean... yet. It's probably a good thing for this slow-language-learning girl that I have a lifetime to work on adding to my vocabulary! Yes, he lives in Holland, MI - he's been living here for 8 years now after living elsewhere in the States and around the world - and works as a designer of cars in a company while being a shining Light in the place where God's placed him.

No, I still don’t know what the future holds job-wise. I’m doing long-term subbing through the end of this school year and hoping to find something permanent for next fall, but we’ll see what God has planned. Because, when it comes down to it, though I’d love love love to know what’s coming, I absolutely have no doubt that what God has planned is better than I could ever imagine.

Through all the ups and downs and questions and peace, I have seen God’s hand in this story too many times to question whether I’ve made the right decision in starting the next chapter of my life with this guy. I’m excited for the path ahead and the story that will come with it, looking forward to learning to weather the storms I’m positive will come with this amazing guy God’s put beside me, and thankful for the ways He’s grown and changed me thus far along the way!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

"So, there's this guy..."

I can’t tell you how many conversations and emails have started with these same words over the last year. But before I get to that, let me give you a bit of context for the story.

Once upon a time (about three years ago), I came home on furlough from Tanzania hoping and praying to go back. I’d been teaching at an international school, and was excited to fill a different need at a two-room school-house of sorts where 8 families were working with 9 language groups and needed a second teacher for their kids. (Things have changed a bit since then, but that was the idea!) I came home struggling with the beginnings of asthma from all the dust in Dar, to the point where a grad professor told me that if I went home and discovered I had TB, I should let her know and she’d extend my due dates for papers. Yep, I was coughing. A lot. I was pretty sure I knew what I was supposed to do (in going back to Musoma), but I had my doubts. I doubted as I went to NC and had plans for meetings with small groups and churches fall apart. And then I watched as God provided amazing communities for me to connect with anyway. I doubted as I got home after being on 4 continents in two months, and decided I could NEVER.MOVE. AGAIN. (haha… right.) I doubted as I tried to take 3 masters classes, substitute part time, AND raise support to go back… and didn’t see much of the support-raising thing happening! But the desire to go back was still strong in my heart, and I kept praying, and kept seeing little and big encouragements along the way that gave me hope. A family down the street that “adopted” me and encouraged me on my journey. An amazing connection with a family that was from Holland, MI that was headed to the same place as me in Musoma. Kids giving their missions’ box money to me to support me, and the chance to connect with kids at GraceSpring Church about missions. Watching said kids get excited and pray regularly for the language groups I’d soon (hopefully) be serving in Tanzania.

Throughout this time, we moved my “leave” date back a couple of times. Email conversations with my missions travel agent sounded something like, “Could we please change my ticket date again? I'd like to change it from the imaginary date of March 3 to another make-believe date of April 25... I don't care what airline you put me on for now since it's all going to change again anyway!"

Right. I’m sure they appreciated that. But then, I wasn’t overly thrilled at the situation either. I’d moved my leave date back three months already. And then about that time, my supervisor in America gave me an ultimatum. I had something like 5 weeks to raise the final $900/month I required to meet my budget, or I wouldn’t be able to get back to Tanzania in time for language school and starting to teach when they really needed me.

And that, as they say, was that. At least in my mind. I’d spent 9 months working hard trying to raise support and seeing almost nothing change. There was no way that I’d make it now. Maybe God was saying it was time to get a job in the States and stay here for a while. My mom can attest to the many drenching tears I shed on the couch the day I received the news, and the super-fast “walk” (she’d call it a jog) we took around the neighborhood a few times to help me de-stress. And through this time, I started to see God changing my heart. I was forced to open my eyes to new possibilities and what God might be doing in my life. I realized that helping kids at GraceSpring connect with missionary kids and life around the world had become just as dear to me as teaching kids overseas. I loved having opportunities to help kids see what they could be doing TODAY – not 25 years from now when they had a steady paycheck – to impact the Kingdom around the world. And then three weeks (or whatever the dates were) later, I sat at Panera watching text after text and email after email come in on the final date that my funds were due, all from people asking if they could still contribute to my ministry. At the beginning of the day, I was well-below what I needed. And by the end of the day, I had more than the minimum required! I was going!

…about which time I realized, I wasn’t sure I even WANTED to go back. (These are the things you can’t say, but oh so feel… I had spent so much time talking to people over the past year about how it seemed God was calling me back to Tanzania, and how I was needed there, that I hadn’t had time to let myself entertain any doubts myself. But when the support all came in, I suddenly realized that all the “funny” stories I’d shared about tarantulas on walls and jumping spiders, malaria and language issues were oh so much more funny when sitting in someone’s air-conditioned living room sipping on icy lemonade. It was a totally different story to live it, in hot, interesting but sometimes miserable places.
I think it was actually harder to go back to Tanzania the second time, in large part because I was “starting over” in a new place with a new community… so I didn’t have a support network to go back to. I didn’t know all the good things about the new place, but I did know about the hard stuff, the stresses, the exhaustion and sickness and spiders and everything else that I was sure were there waiting for me. I saw all of the negative, and none of the good. And I made my trips to Meijer to stock up on supplies, packed my suitcases, and prepared to go anyway.

(More to come... don't worry! It's hard to compact a three-year story into one blog post.
So just go get a drink, sit back down, and click here to learn more about "this guy"...)