I have no idea where to begin.
Life the past few weeks has been so, so good. As soon as April 1 rolled around and March was out of sight, I felt everything in me breathe a sigh of relief and my heart suddenly dipped into a place of peace and contentment. As soon as March was over, I felt the aches and burdens of all that winter held over me vanish into the warmth of a new coming season. I think that is why God designed seasons, because the change is always so healthy and beautiful and the shift in the weather always brings a necessary shift in my spirit. I’m so so glad spring came!
As soon as the weather totally warmed up, no time was wasted.
— Last weekend in March: Courtney Leah Hill had a birthday and so of course, since she is awesome personified, she had to be celebrated big time. Her closest Korea friends planned a celebratory birthday weekend in ANDONG, south korea and we pulled it together in a week. I am so proud of what we accomplished: we toured a traditional village, watched a famous play/dance, rode a little boat across a little river to a little mountain, hiked said mountain, took pictures with random Korean guys who thought our friend Donald was the most handsome guy alive, walked on the longest wooden bridge in the country, made stovetop pizza + mac&cheese for dinner, stayed up too late drinking sweet wine and soju and talking about our first impressions of each other, and my favorite: we stayed in a Korean home transformed into an air B&B on a sweet potato farm. HBD COURTNEY ;)
— First weekend in April: Jinhae cherry blossom festival!! I had been waiting for this festival since I moved here. The city of Jinhae is just a short ride from Changwon and the streets are lined with cherry blossom trees that are out-of-this-world gorgeous. The rain held off long enough for a group of us to drive up and wander around for the afternoon. What a cultural experience: everything I have observed and love/hate about Korea was full throttle at this festival! an abbreviated list includes but is not limited to: matching couples outfits, selfie sticks, bright colored “hiking clothes” (pants, shoes, jackets, hats), hairbows, headbands with cat ears, girls dressed like super models, pose pose pose as cute as you can, a million pictures being taken of the same thing (trees). We had some jimdak for lunch (my faaaaaaaav: rice noodles, veggies, chicken served in a massive bowl of sweet/spicy sauce), and of course, the post-meal coffee.
— Second weekend in April: I will sum it up real quick. There is a reservoir in Changwon that I have wanted to see for months, and I finally made it out there. Totally worth a 15,000 won taxi ride! Open country fields, huge body of water, surrounded by mountains, farms, and fields of yellow flowers. My sweet friend Apa and I spent the entire afternoon walking around, talking about everything, and then eventually our nice walk turned into a crazy (and probably illegal) adventure of trespassing around people’s farms and paths that weren’t really paths and jumping over creeks and running into old korean fishing men who took pictures of us. We hopped on a random bus that took us back to the city, grabbed bibimbap for dinner, watched a movie with some friends after, and I fell asleep so happy and the best kind of tired.
— Third weekend in April: friday night sleepover with Courtney (I hope my friends will always have sleepovers with me, they are the best), saturday morning run, brunch on my yoga mat, then korean barbecue with some of my co-teachers + Rose and her PARENTS who are awesome and came to Korea last week. It’s such a privilege to share this experience with friends or family, and I am thrilled to have been able to meet my friend’s family! Had some coffee with friends afterwards, then had anther sleepover with Apa. I really love sleepovers. We woke up early the next day and hopped on the KTX headed for Seoul! In spite of the cold and the rain, we wandered around Gangnam (yes, just like “Gangnam Style.” my life is really cool), had lunch (followed by coffee duh), and then sang our hearts out at the Hillsong United concert! Oh what a sweet, sweet gift that whole night was! I could probably write a novel about how powerful those two hours of worship were, how absolutely incredible it was to worship God alongside so many different people. Such a sweet and vibrant taste of heaven; I could hear some young people behind me singing their hearts out, these same songs that threaded my years at cedarville together now being sung in a precious korean accent, a group of people to my left in African clothing, to my right was a group of middle-aged/older Korean people who held their hands out in worship the entire night, and in front of me, a group of foreigners just like us — all of us, from all over the world, under the same roof, praising the same Creator. Some of these people looked totally different. Some of these people looked more like me. Some of these people look like the people I pass on the sidewalk every day. But our worship was the same and our God is the same. I totally sobbed the entire time. Totally amazed, humbled, in awe.
The best part: Hillsong has a song called “This I Believe,” which is basically the creed of our faith put to music. Before they sang it, they described what the Nicene Creed is and why it is so important for believers to know and understand what we believe. The Hillsong guy would say a few things, a Korean guy would translate, and each time the translator ended his sentence, a reverberating “neeehhhh” went up from the crowd and I broke down every time. ” 예 ” means “yes,” but it is used whenever an affirmation is necessary and I hear it constantly. To hear it in response to Jesus, in the proclamation of His glorious grace, in the lifting up of His great name, left my heart completely in awe of the body of Christ in so many different cities, countries, cultures, and languages across the globe. It was the most beautiful sound. Then, we read/recited the Nicene Creed together. Thousands of us, who love Jesus and love what He has done for us, read the words of our faith in both English and Hangul out loud. I will never forget it.
We returned home at 5am and needless to say, it took me the next 3 days to fully recover. BUT. Totally worth it.
— THIS weekend brought me to such a good, good place. A fun workout with a friend in the morning (discovering a foam roller at the gym = life made), and then a mini-trip to the wonderful town that is Jangyu to see a friend and fellow Jasaeng teacher (same school, different branch). We walked along a stream at the base of the mountains, had the most delicious pizza + pasta for lunch, walked around some more, and then sat outside a coffee shop until the sun set. Talking the whole time, filling my heart with so much goodness.
And now, here I am. The month of April has been full of so much living. A great balance of going and doing and also resting and being. It could be the iced americano I had around 6pm tonight that is making me feel so full of a deep joy almost giddy, or it could be that I am just completely content with where I am and loving the life God has given me. On my way home from Jangyu tonight I realized something of why the past few weeks have been my absolute favorite so far.
If I could categorize the past 8 months, it would look a little like this:
beginning months = struggle/pain/what the hell have I done/homesick –> peace/satisfaction in Christ/finding community/deepening trust in the Lord –> crazy fun adventures/big trips/exciting “I-can’t-believe-this-is-my-life” moments –> all the newness –> Andrew comes to Korea + ENGAGED! EVERYTHING IS AWESOME
middle months = “Oh, I have been here for a long time. I have friends. I know how to do my job better. Everything is starting to feel normal.” –> “Wait, now it is cold and everything is boring.” [intermission for trip to Guam] + [return from Guam] “Everything is terrible and I hate living here.” –> “6 months was a long time. Now I have to do 6 months more.” –> sob.
currently (do I even dare say I’m in the “final months” !???!!!?) = everything about my life here has become just that: life.
I have such amazing people in my South Korea life. I’ve been given such a wonderful South Korea community. I love my South Korea church and singing on the praise team and being in charge of the hospitality service team and meeting more and more people that join our church plant. I love my South Korea apartment and how much it feels like hom. I love my South Korea market and the kind, smiling people who sell me awesome fruits and vegetables. I love my South Korea kids that I teach and the secret handshakes we invent and the dried sweet potatoes I will bring for treats and the nicknames they give me and the funny sentences they write in their english journals and the way they will never ever be able to pronounce “turtle” no matter how hard they try. I love my South Korea city and the beautiful mountains and the parks that have given me good and bad morning runs and weird looks (and sometimes gasps) from everyone I pass.
I realized today that I have truly started to live here, to be so much more present here, to be deeply invested here. And then, I realized that I don’t really want to leave here.
I didn’t know how to begin this blog post, and now I don’t know how to end it. This is such an abundant life I’ve been given, I don’t even have words to describe what a joy this year has been so far. It has certainly been one of the hardest years of my life, but even for all the times of loneliness, or the times my heart has felt totally empty, or the times when I feel like I’m forgotten by people back home, or the times when literally every one of my fears I had before moving here became realities, nothing has been wasted. Every pain, tear, and ache will be transformed into good, if it hasn’t yet already.
This year I’ve found hope in the reality that “the best is yet to come.” There is still a whole lot of hard in my life here (I mean, I live on the other side of the world from everyone I love and the man of my dreams lives on an island far away…. not easy by any means!) ……but, there is so much, SO MUCH good.
There always is. And I believe there is even more to come.
So I will keep living here. I will keep doing what I am called to do here. I will continue to be here. The hardships will still be here, and probably a lot of the same struggles will still be here. But that is ok with me, because there is so much good. There is so much more life to be lived here, things to do here, places to be, here. Here, in this country I love. Here, in South Korea.
This song literally pulled me through every awful terrible day of March, and I still listen to it constantly.
“Because your steadfast Love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” — SO many reasons for His praise to always always always be on my lips.
Singing these words with people from all over the world changed my life.