Thank you, Korea.

Have you ever knitted a scarf before? You are almost finished and you see a dropped stitch creating a big hole right in the middle of your soft, thick, creation and you think great now I have to unravel it because the idea of having a whole in my scarf is too terrible to comprehend. At least that’s how dramatic my thinking usually is. You unravel all the yarn and proceed to take the end of it and wrap it around your hand, because you need to do something with all of the yarn or it gets too tangled. And you wind the yarn over and over and over again, around your fingers. Around and around until the ball of yarn gets bigger and fatter and your fingers get squeezed tight and you have to pull them out of the yarn and keep wrapping, around and around again.

I feel like for the past seven years I have been wrapping a ball of yarn. Every job, every apartment, every friend, every student, every moment, a turn of the yarn goes around and around. Memories wrapped around memories, layers over more layers, creating a giant ball of life that is just waiting to get knitted together into a beautiful scarf to keep me warm (and stylish) as I move away from Korea and on to the next place.

I will never forget you, Korea. I will never forget the memories because I wrote them all out. Here. Where there is spit on the street.

Thank you for teaching me how to use chopsticks, for giving me the discipline to learn Taekwondo, and for introducing me to jimjilbangs. Thank you for assigning seats during movies, for having a top notch public transportation system, and for letting couples dress exactly the same and not judging them for it (except maybe sometimes, a little bit). Thank you for the people who love practicing their English with me, and for the adjuma who picked me up when I fell (literally), and thanks to those kind Koreans who helped me carry my stuff down the street because I overestimated my strength and got over-excited while grocery shopping. Thank you for the jobs, all the jobs. Thank you for red days, for your closeness to many other great Asian countries, and for sparking my interest in photography. Thank you for the Han River and tandem bicycles and for convenience stores on every corner. Thank you for the Lantern Festival, the Mud Festival, the Strawberry Festival, the Ice Festival, the Cherry Blossom Festival, the International Fireworks Festival, the Apple Festival, the the Ceramic Festival, the Green Tea Festival,  the Mountain Trout Ice Festival (okay those last four I have never been too, but I am still thankful for them)… Thank you for my colleagues, my students, my students parents (even the challenging ones because I learned so much about myself as an educator from them), and my masters degree.

Thank you for Korean BBQ (this deserves it’s own line).

Thank you for Han Wool. Thank you for my overseas family. Thank you for my church.

I wrote this blog 70 days ago and I forgot about it. I just now found it in my drafts. Today marks two weeks in Australia and I already have so much to be thankful for. 

Thank you God, for the opportunity to live and love and learn in cultures so very different from my own. Thank you for the appreciation this brings.

Now everyone go out and try something new! 

And now for some random pics from Korea I found in my phone^^

There are No Small Acts of Kindness.

Two weeks before leaving Korea I met a girl named Mali from South Africa (of course when I first met her I thought her name was “Molly” because I from Michigan, oh how I love different cultures). She approached me after Sunday service at our church location in Itaewon (Seoul). I was surprised that she wanted to talk to me because I was intending to seek her out. I saw Mali at the beginning of church and she was so happy and excited to be there, I thought, “I must meet her.”

Mali attends our church campus down in Busan. It turns out that she wanted to meet me because before she moved to Busan, Korea she learned about New Philadelphia Church through this very blog. Mine. THIS ONE! I am sorry. I need everyone to think that is as cool as I do, because it is so cool… right? Thank you for introducing yourself to me Mali, it was the highlight of my year (or… at least one of the highlights).


Fast forward a few weeks to another completely unrelated meeting, but one that equally blessed me (aka made me so happy). I was in Holland, visiting one of the many campuses of The Point Church,the church I went to growing up in Michigan, when someone came up to me and said, “Hi! I heard I needed to meet you. I am Kristen.” It turns out Kristen studied abroad in Australia and I heard I was moving there. She was sharing her love for the country when her eyes lit up and she said, “Wait a minute!” Reaching for her purse she pulled out a MyKi public transportation card that she had kept in her wallet for a year from when she visited Australia last. She said there might still even be money on it (there was! 4 dollars!) and it saved me the 6 bucks it cost to buy it.


What a beautiful gesture. I felt God’s love through that card in a way I can never describe with words. Not only did I not need to worry about one more thing when I got to this country, but the fact that Kristen was so excited to give it to me. Thank you, Kristen.

From Mali telling me that she read my blog and to keep writing to Kristen giving me her public transportation card, there are no small acts of kindness— they are all big to me.

 

This is Me.

You are so tiny!

Your hands are so small.

Your feet are so small.

Are you half Asian?

Is your real middle name Joy?

You are so tiny!

As someone who is currently living on my fourth continent, every time my community changes I am bombarded with very similar phrases and questions. Things I tend to forget about myself, or not think about, until someone is pointing it out to me. My brother, Travis, would often joke about me getting smaller when I would come home from Korea on vacation.

Two members of my church plant team told me they thought I would be taller the first time they met me. Apparently, I look tall in my pictures…or I always take pictures with short friends? I think it’s my ginormous personality shining through in photos.

I don’t mind it. I love the way God made me and I like having conversation starters, because I love meeting new people and talking to them. A lot.

This is me. 5 feet 1 (and a half) inches tall, size 5 shoe, size 3.5 ring finger (maybe, I always forget that one, size 4?), non-Asian, 4th daughter of 9, and yes— my middle name is Joy!

My Burning Hands: Australian Edition

In September 2012, I wrote a post titled, My Burning Hands. It’s a short read, feel free to click on that link and check it out.

In Detroit, Michigan on Wednesday, June 29, I started a 26+ hour journey, making sure I had my own hashtag #movingmeltomelbourne (I am hip), as I traveled on 3 planes to Australia. The excitement for this move has been building for well over a year as I wrapped up my life in South Korea (seven years!) and anxiously waited to join my team who launched a church campus in Melbourne (New Philly) at the beginning of April.

A few weeks before my flight I asked God to give me the chance to talk to people about who He is before I even landed in Melbourne. I normally recede into my mind and watch a whole lot of movies when I travel, and I didn’t want to do that this time. I wanted to be bold (as one might say) and actually share my faith with those sitting around me if the opportunity came up.

I woke up Wednesday morning with a migraine and my four hour flight from Detroit to L.A. was miserable. My only thought was, “I have to feel better for my 14 hour flight, I have to feel better… I have to feel better.”  All thoughts of talking to people, encouraging people, sharing about my faith and why I was moving to yet another continent, flew out the window. My flight leaving Detroit was delayed, and my layover in L.A. was already cutting it close. As an extremely time-oriented person, the amount of stress I felt stuck in insane L.A. airport traffic while taking the bus that commuted you to the international terminal, was so intense I was holding back tears when I finally reached the security check point. Staring at my watch tick by one minute after another I made my concerns known to a security guard (by way of fearfully exclaiming, “My flight is boarding now!”) who told me to take a deep breath. Well, that wasn’t helpful. I cried instead. With 10 minutes to go until my flight took off, I scooped up my stuff without bothering to pack it away and ran to my gate. I was proud of myself for remembering to put my shoes on.

I made my flight, sweaty and flustered, but I made it. The adrenaline rush from running across the airport released my migraine. Nice, right? It was. The Australian guy in the seat next to me continued to strike up conversation after I felt the need to explain why I was so sweaty and out of sorts. Our plane ended up sitting on the tarmac for over an hour, but I didn’t even notice because I chatted with my new friend, Taz, the whole time. After I told him about why I was moving to Melbourne he told me that he just finished doing DTS with YWAM (a lot of acronyms, but if you know what they mean you are probably excited, if not, it means he is a Christian, like me-fun!). We went back and forth with different stories about our life and faith and what we’ve seen God do. I ended up sharing the story about My Burning Hands (it’s all making sense now, eh? Okay maybe not yet) and how I saw my friend’s leg grow to match the length of her other leg after I prayed. Not only was Taz excited about the story, he mentioned his own back needing healing because of a slipped disc (I think? I was just recovering from a high stress situation after all) and he was worried about the pain a 14 hour flight was going to bring.

As soon as our flight took off and we both went into our own zones of movie watching and sleeping I prayed for his back. I had my hands out, palms up, in front of me and they began burning immediately. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me, but after a few minutes I almost regretted praying so soon because my hands really were burning, and painfully. I ended up praying for his back about three times off and on during the flight, with my hands burning each time (thankfully not for the whole flight.). About 30 minutes before we landed I asked him how his back was. He looked at me, “Did you pray for my back?” I smiled, “Yes!” The first time he got up during the flight he felt a release in his back and the pain was a lot less. He was so excited about it and disappointed that he didn’t tell me before I asked. “When I first got up and my back felt so much better I thought, ‘Did Melody pray for me?’ I need to ask her!”

Taz asked me more about what I wanted to do in Melbourne and ended up praying for me as well, I was so encouraged and refreshed after my 14 hour flight to Brisbane, I couldn’t wait to get on the next flight headed for Melbourne.

I believe that prayers are powerful.

James 5:16

 

10 on 10- May

How does this happen every other month? The 10th goes by and I think, “Hey, it’s the 10th!” and yet I don’t remember to post my 10 photos… and this month the date was especially noticed because one of my longest, dearest friend celebrates her birthday on May 10 (Happy Birthday April!).

In my defense, it is still the 10th in ‘Merrrica.

My 10 photos were taken in the middle of April on a day when the blossoms were in their last hurrah. This is my final Cherry Blossom season in Korea and I had to make the most of it. One of my roommates, Alyssa, came along and joined me for my mini photo shoot near the Yangjae Flower Market (a week before I saw the line of trees from the window of a taxi and had to go back!).

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And because I love bonus pictures here is just one more. This is a picture of my students taking minutes to rip up the tape that took me hours to place around the room. Our map and transportation units are officially oooooover.

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Happy May everyone! It is the best month, after all.

Jason & Dyanne: Engagement Anniversary Shoot

DSC_7622Last year in the middle of April, Jason and Dyanne took advantage of the Cherry Blossoms blooming and headed to Yeouido with me to take engagement photos. Now, I know it’s not typical to have another photo shoot on the anniversary of your engagement photo shoot— but when you have a great dress and suit and another year of Cherry Blossoms, I figure why not? Jason and Dyanne got married last July near Boston, Massachusetts, but it was fun walking around Seoul and hearing, “Congratulations!” “You look beautiful!” “What a great place for a wedding!”

It was my first time at Gyeongbokgung Palace so at one point Dyanne was squatting in her wedding dress taking photos of me (hehe). I love this couple and I am so blessed to be able to share these memories with them. Here is a little taste of our day.

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You may be thinking to yourself, I thought Seoul had a population of over 10 million people, how did she take most of those shots with no one in them? I am glad you asked. I am just that good, my friends.

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I leave you with this last shot, but it’s mostly for me. There is something about this picture that I love. The unposedness (made that word up) of it? Dyanne fixing her flowers? I could not tell you. I just feel Dyanne’s calming presence through this picture. And I love it.

Happy Engagement Photo Shoot anniversary Jason and Dyanne!

10 on 10- April

The closer June comes, the more I start to think about all the places I went to but didn’t snap enough pictures (I know right, me? Not take pictures? It happens…). This months 10 on 10 is a little bit of this and a little bit of that, half of the pictures other people took for me, so my face is actually in this monthly post much more than usual.

For starters, my friend Allison made deep fried deviled eggs. They had to be photographed.

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Can someone say delicious? Okay, I will. DELICIOUS! After eating that yumminess I also celebrated my girl, Michelle’s, 30th BIRTHDAY! She blogs over at Gold Dust & Glitter, check her out.

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I finally got the change to go to Yangjae Flower Market (at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday— not for the faint of heart my friend). After that I checked out cherry blossoms (and did a photo shoot that you will hear ALL ABOUT later) and went to a palace. This all happened yesterday on April 9th, so these pictures just make the cut (phew).

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Super proud of myself for remembering to post these on the 10th. Anyone want to give me a pat on the back? Fine. I will do it myself.