I find myself lost in nostalgia today. My dear friend Kathryn and her family are heading to South Korea in the next 24 hours to begin a year-long work that God has called them to.
I'm am so excited for them. More excited than words can say. Living overseas is one of those life-changing, soul-searching, faith-building, family-uniting, God-ordained things that cannot fully be put into words. It is impossible to walk away from an experience like that unaltered. And I know they will look back on these memories as precious, cherished, beautiful times.
As I read her blog and talk with her on the phone, I find myself reliving the 24 hours before our own departure.
I was in a panic. I had never been to Korea and had no idea what to pack. I was trying to fit our entire life (including a month's supply of diapers and toiletries) into 4 suitcases, and I was failing miserably.
I was saying what "goodbye's" had not already been said by that point. I was desperately grasping for some calm in the midst of chaos.
Then I think about the airport. My mother was crying. My husband was focused. My children were content. I was... excited.
For the 3.5 of us boarding the plane, our nerves were so jittery, none of us slept for the entire 16-hour flight. The flight attendant served my bi-bim-bap. This was my first Korean dish.
When we arrived in Seoul, Pastor Kim and his lovely wife picked us up. While we all wanted to be friendly and conversational, my family and I all fell sound asleep on the hour-long ride to our new home.
A crowd of kind-faced Samonims greeted us at the entrance to our apartment building. We were so amazed at how these little, happy women carried our massive luggage up three flights of stairs to our second story apartment. We opened the door to our wood-floor, large-window, brightly-lit apartment. There were balloons on the windows and "American style" bread on the table. A hand-made glittered poster board read: "Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God." A few dishes, no doubt donated by the Samonims, were sitting on the kitchen counters. And several large bottles of water cooled in the fridge.
Our Korean-style bedding was lying on the warmed floor in the master bedroom. A dark burgundy leather couch sat against the wall of our living room.
I was exhausted. Completely foggy-brained. I remember looking at the Samonims, who were watching us with a mixture of curiosity and anticipation, and profusely repeating one of the few words I had learned on the plane ride over: Kam-sa-ham-ni-da. Thank you.
Chloe, exhausted and overwhelmed, cried herself to sleep that night.
We awoke early the next morning to a pink princess alarm clock Pastor Kim had given us: "Good morning, Princess. Good morning, Princess."
And the adventure began.
Our first visit to the church (where, in all my pregnant glory, I fell down an icy set of stairs).
Our first trip to the grocery store.
Our first unaccompanied trip to the grocery store.
The first snow fall.
The first time I met Easter.
The first time I was invited into a Samonim's house.
The first time an American friend visited us. (Shout out to Ansley!)
The first time we toured Seoul.
Our first meal at a restaurant.
Chloe's first Korean word.
Learning to bow.
Learning to read.
Learning to live.
Each memory could be an entire post all on its own.
We learned to love the adventure that was outside our front door. We learned to cherish the respite that was our warm apartment. We learned to let go of our agendas and cleave to the relationships that mattered most.
It was hard. It was challenging. It stretched me further than I ever thought I could go.
But it was beautiful. And it was dear. And it's an experience I will live over and over again in my heart and mind.
Kathryn, my dear friend, I'm so thrilled for you and your family. You are constantly in my thoughts and prayers. May God's presence feel near, His direction clear, His works evident, and His heart revealed.