Goryeong: Sunday, May 24

Korea in the spring…slays me.

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Photos of hikes and leafy jaunts Nate and I have taken over the past two months pile up in my folders, but for weeks nothing has really reached out and grabbed me. Nothing has given me that insistent nudge: share me. Nothing has stirred me the way that Korea springtime usually does. Who knows why. But though Spring has been around for a few months now, and is starting the uphill climb to summer, I’m only now catching up with it.

Last weekend one of our favorite families in the whole world invited us for an afternoon in the countryside. Jeong Hui and I met because she mistook me for her son’s new English teacher nearly two years ago, just after I moved to Gyeongsan. Our conversation led me and Nate to the Bible study that’s been our Sunday evening staple ever since, at a small, homey church literally two minutes from our door. She and her family are one of my favorite experiences of real, Gospel community. She and her husband Deok Si have 3 kids: Hana, the oldest, Han Byeol, who is the middle child and does nothing that anyone else is doing and thus is in zero pictures (girl, I get it. do you.), and Han Bit, who is crazy and my favorite person.

Jeong Hui invited us to visit her parents’ home last Sunday afternoon to take a half-day trip. Our awkward moment: we bought a watermelon as a hostess gift because that’s how you do in Korea, and did it without consulting Jeong Hui because we assumed that she’d insist we bring nothing, and sure enough, when we toted the monster melon out to the minivan, Jeong Hui burst out laughing and shaking her head. “No, we insist!” we gaily caroled, and then Jeong Hui said,

“My parents have a watermelon farm…”

Hysterical laughter is a great way to start a road trip.

The afternoon with her family was that proprietary blend of serenity and ease with notes of desperate language barrier awkwardness. Lots of bowing, lots of smiling. After nearly 4 years, it takes on its own rhythm and all I have to do is remember not to fight it.

We drove down to the river nearby with its winding paths and signs identifying various wildlife, and Han Bit begged to stop and see if he could find the rabbits he released last summer. He pouted when Jeong Hui, hardhearted, refused. He got over it when he stuck his head out the window to bark into the wind. (although in Korean dogs say mung-mung. Not woof or the ever-inexplicable bow-wow.)

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We took all the pictures as the men talked fishing and Han Bit tried to steal a boat. The light was magic. Everything was magic.

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Hana can smize for days.

 

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how do you say Huck Finn in Hangul?

 

I realized I hadn’t been out of the city in so long, I couldn’t even really recall the last time. Han Bit found me flowers to photograph and Mom and Daughter talked together.

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such a sweet friend.

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I didn’t want the sun to set. I didn’t want to leave.

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Every occasional car that passed overhead made the bridge rumble like a tractor trailer. Thunder and blue skies.

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This is Korea in spring, after the cherry blossoms and festivals go away, just on the cusp of scorching summer days. These bluesy-soft mountain sky edges and purple breezes, these tall grasses and velvet airs. This is what I’ve been hungering for and this is what I’ll miss so much when we go.

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This, and these.

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Note the Rice-Mask Bandit in bottom center.

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Sixteen Days

Sixteen days since I last wrote. I’ve written like ten posts in my head, which counts, luckily.

Work and life get real busy sometimes and this place slips through the cracks. because it’s easier to scroll through endless other-people-words than make some of my own. Still pressing through the need to hoard the words instead of releasing them.

Here’s what’s transpired the past few weeks.

Spring isn’t just on her way. She’s here. It’s real. I keep forgetting to take Nate’s trusty ol’ digital camera to work with me because the campus is looking purty.

hello gorgeous.
hello gorgeous.

The new season means lots of things but one of them is this: We got all the way through winter and I haven’t had a single seasonal cold. For one reason and one reason only:

braggs_acv_1

This stuff. hashtag bless. Every time we’ve felt that old throat tickle or sludgy slowdown, we’ve pounded back TBSPs of this stuff. And so far? so burninatingly good.

(Natch, both I and the Boy are feeling particularly sludgish today…so here’s hoping this post isn’t a jinx of some sort.)

The haircut urge is still on, guys. and it’s growing. I dreamed I had this gal’s cut a few nights ago. but I dreamed I gave it to myself and it turned out awesome and I loved it. So…*grabs kitchen shears*

(Of course, that same night the Boy dreamed I straight up shaved my head. He said it was ‘scary, but okay.’ *grabs razor*)

I just watched a Jeep commercial about driving around California and felt a wee leap o’ the heart.  Before the year is out, I’ll be there. (probably not in a Jeep. but who knows.)

Good things are happening at church: a new pastor’s been selected for the English service! Nate’s loved preaching but with us having an expiration date we’ve been praying so much for the next person to come in. There’s a lot to do there and we know it, but the wonderful thing is there’s a lot that can be done. I’m hopeful.

It feels so good to be hopeful.

Handel’s Messiah: December 2014

This is a bit of a throwback, but It’s something I meant to post about and never did, so let’s be trendy together and call it nostalgia. Or um vintage. Yeah, way vintage guys. Way.

One of the nicest things about The Boy is that he likes method and tradition and routines. I think this is nice because I appreciate aspects of those things without being able to maintain them myself. Kind of the same way I feel about zookeepers. What a fun job it must be that I will never ever be good at.

Tangent.

My one exception to tradition maintenance is Christmas. I have all the tolerance in the world for Christmas traditions and routines, and also very strong feelings about which ones I like to follow and which ones I will not. That’s the same thing as tolerance, right? Yes. Moving on. Nate only has one Christmas tradition he feels super strongly about, and it was a new one to me: every year, Nate goes to see Handel’s Messiah performed.

(swoon. he’s so classy.)

This was a Pagaard tradition that’s now been inherited by our 2-member Pagaard extension, so we’re keeping it going. Of course, living in Korea limits the opportunity to do so. By ‘limits the opportunity’ I mean there is ONE place in the whole of Korea that annually produces the English version of the Messiah, in a little Methodist church up in Seoul, a 2 hour train-ride north of us. Nate’s gone every year for four years.

(swoon swoon swoon.)

So we took a weekend off in mid-December to see the show and see Seoul lit up for Christmas. The company that does the production is volunteer-based, which means it’s a labor of love. (Let’s just say that this year, there was a lot of love.)

(Our pictures are also a labor of love, in that we similarly have the very best possible intentions. And yet they turn out like this.)

RIP Beard
RIP Beard

Once in Seoul we checked out Myeongdong, one of the bigger shopping areas in Seoul.  It’s insane and busy and packed and fun to wander in–when it’s above freezing.

Don't know that guy. but the pose works.
Don’t know that guy. but the pose works.

Then, gloriously, this happened. I love this place. Some of this stuff was flavored like Ballantyne…scotch? Whiskey? I am ill-equipped to answer this. and there was a Guinness milk chocolate flavor in there too. Neither of them got me tipsy, so don’t worry Mom.

IMG_0043Eventually, we got to the main event.

The choir, gearing up
The choir, gearing up

The church was full. We sat with Koreans and Americans and South Africans and Austrians and all of us were totally captivated by the movement of the music. A few of the instruments weren’t tuned properly. Nate has perfect pitch, and I grew up with people who have perfect pitch pointing things out to me, so it got a little painful at times, but you know what? It was so great. People from everywhere, crammed together, hearing this incredible story of prophecy and fulfillment in Jesus, for us, going on to the end. I’m getting goosebumps a month later, thinking about it.

Christmas isn’t Christmas because of the manger but because of the Cross, and because of the Resurrection and the Ascension and His promise to return.

Behold, I tell you a mystery;
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…

The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

I want to post all the rest of it. Because it’s just that good. But go here and read it and be reminded of the Truth.

After the Messiah we walked around Seoul to see the lights…

Seoul Christmas Light
Whimsy!
Seoul Christmas Lights 2
Festal Cheer!
Seoul Christmas Lights 3
!!!

 

 

So Festive.

Our hotel was located on this mysterious stretch of road in Seoul between some majorly bustling areas which somehow manages to be completely dead after 9pm. In Seoul, literally one of the largest, fullest-of-people, busiest cities in the whole wide world. Luckily, we found signs of life nearby (Korea has a habit of building soju bars and meat restaurants in close proximity) and ended the night on a delicious note.

Korean side dishes. Nom.
Korean side dishes. Nom.

2014 marked our final winter in Korea, so we’re a little extra aware of everything about it, and extra grateful for everything we get to experience here. It’s weird and amazing to consider where we’ll be hearing the music of the Messiah next December. I can’t wait.

 

Late Summer Pick-me-up

Late summer, you charmer. You knew I’d be running again and you put on a show for me. Don’t deny it.

You want me to notice everything and you’re not afraid to show off. In fact…you’re a bit of a hussy.

That sun, just barely still sizzly on my shoulders? I see you.

Roadside flowers, lavender and golden-yellow and bright white, nodding on tall, slender stems? Oh please. You know exactly what you’re up to.  And don’t get me started, morning glories.

True-blue sky, shot through with sunbeam-strewn, mile-high clouds? Keep it coming.

And all you green things. Vines on trees on shrubs on vines. Honeysuckle on red berry clusters. All imaginable shades of green tangling over each other in a frantic heap of last-minute growth spurts. Blooming your hearts out before fall lights you up. You might be my favorite. You leaves and branches know how to work your good side, backlit by those opportune sunbursts. Transformed. You reach out and then fall back, but I know you. You’re not shy at all. You’re flirting. You want me to want you, and oh baby, I do. So even if it makes me look a little crazy to the no one who observes me on that long stretch of road–I give in. I’ll stop and take you in and try to catch that essence of woodsy summer that makes it even here amidst high-rise construction and the occasional fertilizer plant. It’s your swan song and you’re making the most of it. You make me crave plums and ice in glasses and no-makeup days. I’d wear sundresses forever if it meant you stuck around. (I wish I could wear sundresses forever anyway.)

We both know this isn’t gonna last and that you might not even be around tomorrow. But wouldn’t you agree we had it good while it lasted? I know I would.

 

Space to Praise

Yesterday I started running. (Again.) The last time I ran was probably in June, before a summer of crummy sicknesses knocked me out and drained me of resolve. And also laziness, and hating it. But let’s be gracious to me, a sinner, and say it was the sicknesses. In the morning I skyped with two of my sisters. Our skypes are legendary bouts of face-making and laughter and all-too-accurate insults seasoned with love. we shared and cried and talked the hard things and the hilarious, and prayed together before signing off. One of the things they prayed for me was for space to praise in.

Sounds…unnecessary? or obvious. That’s why we go to church, right? That’s why we play music, full-blast when home alone or in crowds through earbuds. That’s why we read devotionals or have Bible studies. That’s why we read our daily morning Scripture and daily evening Scripture and pray our before-we-go-to-work prayers. But no. It’s the most necessary prayer I’ve heard in a while.

The truth is this: It’s hard to praise when you lead worship every Sunday. It’s hard to praise when your mind is occupied elsewhere. It’s hard to praise when you are in charge. It’s hard to praise when your focus is anywhere else but how glorious Jesus is. At home, at work, at church, in transit. Where is that space made? Where are we free for it?

I believe firmly in finding opportune moments in the small things, the little bits of life that aren’t meant to be documented or even commented on, but which are communications of joy or grace or conviction or peace or humility. Yet there should be more than small bits of time, because praise– as much as it is found in the habits of the routine– is deliberate. It’s chosen. But it’s also a miracle.

I thought about her words all day, and that evening, as I pounded away at my self-imposed regimen, I found it. Space to praise, on a little-trafficked country road in Korea. Space to praise, sweaty, sore, out of breath and out of practice with this: running and seeking the deliberate glorification of God. Panting hallelujahs between my steps. Sunset on high clouds, songs of praise on my breathless lips. And it was life.

Today I ran again, and it was harder, like the second day always is, but the sense of accomplishment bore me up. Then before lunch I got horribly obnoxious news about money (paying bills in a second language is sometimes hard. Who knew?) and freaked out. Just. Legit. As in buried my face in (I think it was) a towel and howled at the injustice of it. I DID THE THING I was supposed to do and have been doing for months and now the thing is wrong? And I have to deal with it? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING. I howled. Ask Nate. He’ll tell you. (poor boy.)

After a bit things calmed down, what with helpful friends and longsuffering husband and, you know, lunch. But now I’m facing down an afternoon full of things-to-be-done, with eyes still slightly sore from The Meltdown and legs still crazy sore from The Exercise, and both reminds me– where is the space to praise today? Where is the deliberate choice to seek and glorify my Savior without distraction? It’s here. It’s now, as I write this. Whispering hallelujahs between keystrokes. Street sounds (including saxophone records. someone in this Korean country suburb is playing saxophone records) echoing though the windows and work to be done, here, now. Space to praise in my heart, if not in my schedule.

Thank God that He comes for us. Right? I can’t be in a cathedral right now, and I can’t repeat yesterday’s sidewalk miracle. My apartment gets zero natural light right now/ever and there’s no cloudscape or sea view to get lost in. I have a glowing laptop screen and a bed to make and laundry to do and syllabi to finalize and emails to send and and and and. I have a thirst to praise God. And that is how the space comes, not through assuming it will show up uninvited, but through taking a beat and asking for it.