Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Coming Home

I’ve been meaning write this for some time, but I glanced back at our last blog post…and it was over two years ago. It’s overwhelming to think about catching you up to speed by delving into the details of the last few YEARS, so I’ll spare you the details and give you the highlights.

It’s so hard to put into words how I feel about us leaving Korea to come back to America. It truly is bittersweet, and I could not be more grateful to feel that way. It has been at times an overwhelmingly difficult country to adapt to and to live in. There were many times in these 4 years where I begged God to bring us home soon, and yet He repeatedly did not open that door. There were days when I cried out, longing to know how much longer we would have to endure here. During all of those dark times, I prayed that whenever we did leave, that God would bring things full circle. I prayed that I wouldn’t be in a season of simply “enduring” my time here, but that I would thrive joyfully in the abundant life He has blessed me with. It’s been such a sweet blessing to see that prayer come to fruition the last 6 months. Traylor and I have been able to see a tiny glimpse into what our purpose has been in coming to Changwon, Korea in many ways. I’ve been able to hold fast to the truth that we are indeed, “more than conquerors through Him who loved us”. (Romans 8:37)

Here are some of the highlights and joys:

Back in 2014 we met an incredible family, who were pastoring a church in Busan and had a vision/heart to plant another church in the foreseeable future. We, along with some others in our city, had been praying for months that God would open a door for us to plant a church in Changwon. In the spring of 2014 Redeemer Changwon launched in a small coffee shop and has now grown into the family that it is today. I’ve seen Traylor develop his passions, and grow as a leader and an elder. We’ve developed many close relationships with people who have come and gone, and if this alone was the reason we came to Korea – my heart is so full. Leaving this church and its people will be extremely hard. We’ve seen many people come and go, and it will be strange to be the ones leaving.

CHLOE LUNA was born on September 2015. Our sweet, fun loving little toddler loves Korea so much. It makes me sad to think that she won’t remember our time here. She has not met a stranger here, and will gladly parade herself down the street waving to the bypassers like a little princess. She has fostered my heart for Korea in many ways, and I am thankful to see Korea through her eyes when I feel frustrations arise. It’s tremendously hard to raise a kid here without family, so knowing we will be HOME with family makes my heart want to explode. We can’t wait to share her with you!

Japan. Oh, Japan. Every vacation time we look up different places to go, but always end up back in Japan. Traylor and I both have just fallen in love with that country while living here. We have no idea what this love will turn into down the road, but it’s on our hearts and in our prayers. We’ve looked into several jobs there, and visited a couple of churches and ministries, asking God to open doors – but as of right now, those doors remain closed. We are still praying though, with open hands and hearts.

We trust that whatever God has in store will be best for our family, and for right now we get to go HOME, to AMERICA in March to be with our family and we could not be more excited. We see these next few years as a time of training and refocusing.

Thank you for celebrating our coming home! It will be hard to leave, but we cannot wait to see you! We love you guys!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Year #2

Well, we say this every time.  I wish we could say it will never happen again, but it probably will be 3 months until our next blog, too : )

We’re a few months into year part 2 here in Changwon. I’ve traveled to and from America for a sweet, much needed reunion and we’ve both left our jobs together at Poly and started new jobs at different schools. Things have changed a lot for us since leaving Poly, and although we really miss our kids, we have so much more time to invest. And, we have been able to maintain a lot of the relationships with some of our kids. Just today we met sweet little Sunny and Binnie for a date at the local TGI Fridays (they insisted on treating Traylor to an overpriced, expensive steak). It was a fun reunion with my precious kiddos and their moms.  Both Traylor and I are so grateful that these relationships have stuck.

Our new jobs: Both Traylor and I are still teaching, but at separate schools. Traylor teaches a class to adults at Changwon University, which has been a great experience for him! These older Korean ladies love to spoil him with treats and kimchi. He also teaches at several after school programs at a few local public schools. Coming from Poly (very privileged, rich kids) it is quite different for him to be teaching lower level students, but he really appreciates these kids since they may not have the opportunities to learn English as quickly as other kids. I teach at an English school that does more like private tutoring, so I only teach one to two students at a time. The fun thing is that some of my Poly kids have ventured over to my new school and I have been able to continue teaching them, or at least seeing them pretty regularly.  Work, however, has still been a struggle for me this year. I can absolutely see God’s hand in leading me to this new job, and know without a shadow of a doubt that I am supposed to teach there, but there are some things about teaching in Korea that are extremely difficult. Cultural differences that can only be understood if you are a teacher here. There are days when I feel like I cannot do this again for another year and it’s difficult to find joy in my work. I’ve poured my heart out to the Lord and asked him to change my circumstances, but I have been learning that changing my circumstances might not be what I need right now.  He knows what I need to grow, and this may be another year of intense growth. And, he has called me to be a light in my school, just as we were called to be at Poly.

An anchor for my soul has been Exodus 33:14 “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Korea still tends to be a struggle, but man, when the joy comes during times of rest, it is so sweet. Another truth I cling to here: “My Grace is sufficient for you for my Power is made perfect in weakness…” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Here are some things that have “sweetened” our lives here in year #2. Before we started this second year, both Traylor and I really wanted to dive more into Korean culture/friendships since we wouldn’t be at school all day like last year. Since coming back from American in April, these relationships almost fell in our lap. I’ve developed some really neat Korean friends, which has been such a blessing. Some of them have been to America and understand our love for Mexican food, so it’s been fun to have people in our home and realize that both Korean and Americans crave some good ol’ burritos and tacos. Traylor as well has developed relationships with some guys here. He has also taken on more leadership roles within our church, which has naturally opened up relationships with the Koreans who help with the service. Another blessing!

One relationship in particular has served as a reminder for us in why we are truly here in Korea. We’ve known this family for a year or so now, after meeting our student Catherine’s dad at Poly last year. Their family has invited us on countless outings with their family (I think we’ve posted pictures of them in previous blogs) and we’ve become really good friends. He mentioned a month or so ago that he’d made a promise to God 4 years ago that if God would heal his brother of cancer, he would go to church regularly. He said God answered his prayer, but he never kept his end of the deal and asked if he could join us one Sunday. He and his daughter ended up coming soon after that, and the message that Sunday couldn’t have displayed the Gospel more clearly. I think the sermon was called, “Who is God?” or something like that. Pretty awesome. He’s come twice since then, and we would welcome your prayers as we walk through the truth of the gospel with him and his family!

If you like to read our blog, remind me please to update it. I won’t be offended J I need reminders.

Here’s some goodies from our recent trip to Seoul for Buddha’s Birthday and other random things! 

Beautiful Spring Flowers in Changwon
Lanterns for Buddha's Birthday

Seoul with my sweet
Gyeongbokgung 경복궁 Palace - Seoul

Guards at Gyeongbokgung

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A note about Traylor

Let me just tell you something.
Moving to another country with your spouse pushes your marriage to a whole new level. Being in Korea has been one of the most challenging times of our lives, and probably our marriage. I remember countless conversations about moving to Korea with Traylor before we came. How I wanted to envision what our life would look like here and how we could go through life in another country. Being here has grown my love for this man in ways I can't even count. Both of us are pretty independent beings, and we both wondered what it would be like to being together every second of the day. If I'm honest, I don't know how I would have made it through this year had it been any other way.

In ways I am weak, Traylor is a strong leader. I'm easily swayed by emotions and circumstances. Traylor's best advice ever is "Give God 24 hours." I can't tell you how many times I've freaked out about something, and he patiently and lovingly reminds me that God is always in control. If I just wait, I'll see His faithfulness.

I've needed a strong reminder of that advice lately. It's not a cop-out for him to say those words to me. His love for the Lord is real and a strong encouragement to me. He's the real deal, and even though he's not a perfect human being, he sure does want to live his life so that God will get the glory. I'm thankful for the leader he has grown to being since being in Korea.

I love the little ways that he loves me. I love when he comes into my classroom during break time to check on me and play with my kids. They love him just as much as I do.

There is nothing more tender than watching these kids at our school nestle into his lap. He is so gentle with them, although he definitely likes to pick on them and share jokes. It gives me such joy to watch what a good teacher he is and what a good father he will be to our future children.

Why am I writing all of this? I don't know why I feel so mushy-gushy, but he's been such a blessing to me--especially recently.

Love you my sweet. Thanks for loving me.

In another note, and another example of Traylor reminding me to give God time to work things out...if you could pray for us this week in regards to some visa issues I'm having. I'm trying to come home next week and I need my visit to the immigration office to go smoothly on Thursday. Everything should work out fine, but your prayers are greatly appreciated.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Korea Update

Well, let’s fast forward 6 months and here we are in February. So much for updating our blog consistently. { Sorry about this friends } Our last blog post was in August?! We’ll save you the monthly details of the last 6 months, and jump straight into the question that many people have been asking us since Christmas, “When are you coming home?” Although our current contracts are up at the end of this month, the answer is that we honestly do not know for sure.  What we can say with certainty is that God is not finished with us in Korea quite yet. I for one have many mixed feelings about staying another year, but after months of prayer and conversations, we firmly believe that it’s not time for us to go back home. In many ways we’ve only recently begun to feel at home here with relationships and the culture. God has blessed us with some really neat friendships, both Korean and with other foreigners. He’s provided for welcomed ministry opportunities within our church and within our relationships. The Lord has grown my faith in Him immensely over this year, and even though my heart is still a little anxious about committing to another year here, He’s given me a definite peace and excitement that I can cling to. Although we have been thankful for our year at Poly school, many of you know that the hours we work have been exhausting. We will not be staying with them for another year. We know God had us there for a reason, and we have loved our students like they were our own kids.  Our weekdays, however, are dominated by our work at school and our weekends are often spent trying to rest up for another week.  This year, we are asking for more time to develop relationships and God has already been faithful in answering these prayers. Traylor’s new school will start in March, and he will work for one of the nicest Korean women we’ve ever met. His hours are 1/3 of the hours at Poly—woohoo! Just a good situation all around. He’ll even get to teach a class at the local University, which will be a really good thing for him.  As for me, I’ll meet with my new director this week to sign a contract beginning in April. My good friend, Leah, also works at this school and helped me get the job, so that’s a pretty nice perk. Since my job starts in April, Traylor and I prayed long and hard about the possibility of me trying to get back to the ol’ USA for a little break in March. I wish we could come back together, but it looks like just I’ll be able to come back for a few weeks!

So, it looks like we’ll be enjoying kimchi for another year. There’s so much more for God to show us, not only of Himself, but of Korea. For starters, I really want to focus on learning Korean this year since we’ll have more time. We’ve also gotten to go pretty consistently to an orphanage our church supports, and that has been really neat. Just within these past few months, we’ve established some relationships with our students’ families, and even though we are leaving Poly, we trust that these relationships will continue. AND, I just went to my first JimJilbang 찜질방 (Bath House/Spa) for the first time not too long ago, so it will be worth to stay just for that : ) 

Thank you for praying for us this year. Please continue to do so! Sometimes I ask God what in the world we are doing here. I remind Him that I’m a weak, anxious little girl who isn’t always as confident as I should be. This week he reminded me of Moses in Exodus 3, as He calls him to go to Pharaoh in Egypt. Moses says in vs 11, “WHO AM I?!! That I should go to Pharaoh and bring back Israel out of Egypt?!” I feel like when I ask God things like that, I really just want God to tell me all of these reassuring things about myself.  That I shouldn’t doubt myself or my abilities. I’m strong enough. I’ll be ok. I’m not that weak. But, God doesn’t answer Moses like that. He actually doesn’t say anything about Moses or his abilities at all. He just says, “BUT I WILL BE WITH YOU...” Oh how I need to remember that. He will be with us. Always. He always has a plan and He already knows this year even when we don’t know what to expect.  

Thanks for journeying with us. Please see the blog before this written by Traylor on our Korean Christmas experience!

Ice Festival with our sweet Korean friends

Traylor T the pirate
Julia, my Co-Teacher

Lunch with my kiddo's moms
Great Friends

Christmas in Korea.

I (Traylor) am writing this on January 29, 2013 (Korea time) and the last blog that we did was on August. I feel both embarrassed and little bit of shame for not keeping everyone in the loop of our lives over the past…sigh… five months. Regardless, that means we have so much to share with the few people who read our blog.

Since August we have been: persevering through our job at POLY, had a handful of typhoon scares, had a number of our students leave our classes, experienced a Korean Christmas, went to the Philippines, made it safely back from the Philippines, went to an indoor waterpark for kids with an ice house carved in the outside, and somehow made it to the end of January with only four or five weeks remaining in our contracts at POLY. Hannah and I agreed to write different parts of the blog to catch up and I am first up, so I will talk about our Christmas in Korea. 

Our Christmas here really centered on what our school was doing leading up to the holiday. We get one day off for Christmas ‘vacation’, and, that day is Christmas Day. Our school has a big Christmas gathering where our morning students (3-7 year olds) sing songs for their parents and they all clap and cheer and everything is happy and fun for the parents. On the other end of that are the Korean teachers and us who started preparing for this forty minutes of chaos around our American Thanksgiving, so about the third week of November.

I love everything about the Christmas holiday: the old Perry Como songs, the lights, the trees, the stockings. I love it all. So, I started pumping Christmas music into my kids around week three of November. We chose “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” to sing and create a dance with and Hannah’s class sang “Jingle Bells”. My class also sang “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” with a dance with the other class their age. Since these kids are on display for their parents, we both ended up practicing these songs to the point where my kids were sick of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” by week two of December.

We ended up persevering through all of the stress that is put on teachers and kids for perfection (I think kids’ plays are better with a little ‘goofing around’ and when kids aren’t on-key with their voices, but that may just be me) and made it through the performance. Thankfully, I have a girl named ‘Rosie’, who sings her little guts out at everything, carried my class through the performance. She is, by far, the loudest girl at our school when she sings, or when she yells at other students. Her mom is a police officer so I think she gets some of it from her mommy.

We came back from the performance and all of the parents brought food and we had a little social at our school with all of the teachers and parents. The moms brought all kinds of food that they thought we would like: Pizza Hut pizza, fried chicken, cheese, and fruits. They also made a lot of Korean foods as well: noodles, fish, rice balls, fish balls, and a lot of kimchee. It was great sitting with our parents and getting to discuss their kids (in broken English) with them as we rarely get to experience that. The next day we had Santa come to our school. Santa was a random foreigner who was paid 50 bucks to come and give out presents to our kids that their moms had bought. Our school really tried to have a ‘western’ Christmas, and, of course, Santa is part of that. It was really special to get to see our kids opening up gifts for Christmas. A lot of our kids got a stuffed dog named Brownie (look it up) that is essentially a stuffed blue eyed malamute that you could win from throwing darts at the fair, but some marketing genius in Korea has swooned our kids into wanting it, and most of them got it. Legos are really popular here as well (Ninja-go) as well as Transformers. A lot of our girls got dresses and things like that; I think I’m ready to be a daddy after experiencing all of that.

After that we had Christmas Day and we celebrated that by having a brunch at our friends, Chris and Leah’s apartment. My awesome wife made some mean hash browns and pancakes with real syrup. Leah made bacon and eggs. It was one of the most delicious meals I’ve eaten in quite a while. It made me feel like I was in Wagener with my grandma and the rest of my family.

One of the best things about Christmas was that my friend Mark came to visit from Africa. He is working for CURE and came and visited his girlfriend over the break and they also made a stop by Changwon during Christmas, it was truly a blessing to get to see him for the short amount of time that I did.

Christmas is Korea is a little different than in America. We came into Christmas thinking it would be hard to find Christmas lights around our city and that it would be a dreary place over the holidays. Korea certainly doesn’t have the ‘magic’ or ‘commercialization’ of Christmas that the states has, but we were surprised by the amount of decorations we saw. We had a GIANT Christmas tree in the middle of our city (in the middle of a rotary) that was always lit up and our local malls had Christmas lights and trees as well so that was nice. Christmas in Korea seemed like Korea was about 30 years behind where America is on the holiday and they rapidly threw up some things regarding Christmas. Some of it was comforting for us and some of it was just comical (Santa with Angel’s wings).

Christmas Lights in Busan
Korean Santa

Christmas Program 

Our favorite 4th graders

Santa comes to Poly
Christmas Day
Marks comes to visit!

Traylor and Mark