Last Days in Korea

Jeonju

Nearly 2 years ago, I was packing my suitcases and preparing to come to Korea.  Today, less than 2 months remain for my stay in Korea.  I’ve had lots of emotions.  Over the holidays, I was an emotional, teary-eyed, homesick mess.  I just wanted to hop on a plane and fly home.  I’d lost motivation…and you know how hard it is to remain in a place you don’t want to be. (This whole experience has given me a whole new understanding of immigrants living in America, especially those who want to but aren’t able to visit their families.)

Isn’t is remarkable how fast our emotions can change? Two weeks ago, they were somewhere deep and dark in the hull of a ship that seemed to be sinking (I’m not over-emotional…don’t tell me that you haven’t felt the same way).  Now, they’re top mast, facing the sun, catching a cool breeze, and headed toward a happy harbor.

Someone has been praying for me. If it’s you, thank you, because my attitude has had a great turnaround.

So, I’d just like to take a few minutes to update you on my life, and give God thanks for some of the beautiful little gifts with which He’s filled this season of my life.

Precious little gift 1: My puppy

I’ve tried really hard not to fill Facebook with pictures of my little Munk, but it’s hard (and now I can’t roll my eyes at those of you who do post endless pictures of Fido and Kitty…I know your love).  This little guy makes me so happy!

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When I came back to Korea from this year’s America Vision Trip, a fluffy white bichon was tied to the principal’s desk at school.  My heart did a somersault, and I began to repeat the 10th commandment (Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, or ox, or unbearably cute bichon).  And not only was he cute, but this furball had an immediate attraction to me (I think he could feel the American-style doggy love in my heart…not that Koreans don’t love their animals, but I’ve seen a few people glare at him like, “what is that bowl of stew doing alive?”).  I prayed that, if it was possible, I’d be able to keep him.  I made sure to show the principal how much I loved him, and that I knew all about caring for bichons (my family had Reggie for the first 19 years of my life).  And, as it turned out, the puppy (Munk), had been passed around between a few owners since his master had moved to a pet-free apartment.  My principal wasn’t eager to keep him, seeing as is wife had a baby on the way, and he asked if I’d take him.

WHA–  YES???!!

For the past three months, my house has been considerably messier, my bed warmer, I have a thrilled love-you-forever reason to go on 2…or 3…walks each day, and my free time no longer revolves solely around me.  The first few weeks were a little rough (messes on the bed, scratched doors, chewed up pens, potatoes  strewn around the room, you know the deal), and then there was that devastating moment when I walked into the hairdressers and found she’d cut off all of his soft, glorious fur, but we’ve reached a happy place now.

photo Huiyoung and Munk – post hair-cut

He’s lying on my pillow, cuddled up in a sweater fashioned out of one of my old wool vests.  And I’m here in my room on a sunday night not alone.  Thank you, Lord, for giving me something that only You knew how much I’d enjoy and love.

2) The Gym

I’ll make this one short since the last one turned out so long.  I’ve always hated the gym.  After going twice on a family pass – feeling humiliated because of my white legs and developing an immediate disgust for those sweaty machines that cause PAIN – wild horses couldn’t drag me into another gym.  I have no idea why the thought popped into my mind that I should buy a gym membership for over winter break.  I would have convinced myself out of the idea had I not promised Huiyoung that I’d get her a membership too for a Christmas gift.  Shoot.

When I’d finally resigned to the idea of sweat and muscle aches, I remembered something.  The Jjimjilbang (heavenly retreat filled with saunas and hot tubs) has a fitness center.  We signed up, and have been going strong for 2 weeks (workout for 40 minutes, hot tub for 30 minutes)! Contrary to my expectations, it’s actually quite fun,  gives me a reason to get up early, and is a wonderful excuse to spend time with my dear friend.  Oh, and the trainers are quite handsome.  They’re the first ripped guys I’ve seen in Korea.  Just saying.

Lord, thanks for directing my thoughts in a way that I never would have planned on my own, so that I could have a healthy, energetic winter break, and be able to spend more time with my friend.

3) The Weather

You know that lightheaded, bubbly, warm feeling you get when spring starts to rise out of the bleak winter? I’m feeling that now.  Lately, the days have been unseasonably warm (45 degrees), sunny, and blue-skied.  I’ve even heard some birdsong.  And, folks, this is January, for goodness sake! This can only be attributed to a Loving Father who just happens to be in charge of the weather 😉

4) My teammates

My final project as a teacher will be directing an English musical: Esther.  The students have been learning their parts well, and God gave me lots of inspiration to write the musical, but even so, the prospect can be overwhelming at times.  I usually don’t go to teacher meetings due to the language barrier, but God prompted me to go to the last one.  I shared about Esther, and how I needed help with props, costumes, and music.  The teachers rushed to my aid! And my wonderful friend, Suna (a music teacher) has some free time to help me with the songs.  (Can you feel that burden lifting?)

But then, there was the issue of choreography.  If you’ve ever seen me dance, you’ll be cringing now at the thought of me choreographing a musical.  I prayed and asked God to provide some people who could help me come up with dances.  For the past two weeks, Sofia has been helping me, and we’ve planned most of the dances.  She possesses some inner dance rhythm that I seem to lack.  I’m so grateful for her.  But, my next task is teaching it to the kids.

Imagine, for a moment, a Korean lady teaching you a complicated dance…speaking Korean.  Yeah, the kids feel the same way when I’m blabbering and stomping around up there.  Lord, how in the world am I going to teach them these dances? Send me a helper!

Is anything too difficult for God? I just learned this week that the school is hiring a young woman from church to take my position.  She just happens to be, not only skilled in English, but also choreography (she’s planned and directed countless musicals at church).  She’s starting work before I leave Korea, and readily agreed to help me! And…get this…her e-mail address is danceforgod@—-.com

Really? “DanceforGod”? Lord, you’ve outdone yourself, yet again.

5) Good teaching

Finally, let me say that I’m so thankful for the accessibility of great Christian teaching.  Without the internet and my kindle, it would be difficult for me to face struggles in a foreign country.  But, when I see myself getting (for example) overly emotional, I can easily download Joyce Meyers book, “Living Beyond Your Feelings,” and take a spiritual college course! I’m also indebted to Pastors Doug and Fiona Pyszka for making their sermons available on the internet (http://www.vcfpa.org/audio-downloads/).  I can continue to grow with believers in America while I’m across the ocean over here. If you’re having any sort of struggle right now, I encourage you to find some good teaching, take it to heart, and see the wonders that God’s truth can work in your life!

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free! John 8:32

I could continue this list, but I think I’ll save that for when we talk in person ~ I can’t wait to see you all, but I’m going to finish this race well!

If you think of me, please pray for the Korean church and Daniel Wisdom School, that I could finish my work here and leave them with more joy and freedom in Christ.

Until we meet again!

Abby

Every good and perfect is from above,

coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights

who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17

p.s. The photo is of me and my friend Jihye during our trip to Jeonju~

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Finding a Spouse — Don’t do the math

confusedOk, I’m going to say something that may be a little controversial. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about– can you guess –finding my husband. (Some of you are rolling your eyes….ahem….Rachel. Bear with me.) And while listening to the chorus of voices around me on this topic, there’s been one thing said that is very dissonant to me. I’d like to address it here.

I hear pastors quote recent polls saying that there are only 3 men in church for every 7 women. This is over in Korea; I’m not sure the case in America. But whatever the poll, it’s pretty negative for the crowd of hopeful women.

In a coffee shop, two single ladies lament the number of eligible, Christian men.

Alone at home, one of the said, single ladies, begins to fret and think of all the “what-ifs” that could happen (or, more ominously, could NOT happen) to a single woman advancing in years.

Gloominess, desperation, and fits of salty tears ensue.

Frankly, I don’t think this is the way God wants us to approach the situation. I think we should STOP doing all the math.

It’s so easy to do the math when it comes to relationships. Women, especially, love to figure out their future marriage in their minds, right down to the number of bridesmaids at their wedding, the number of babies that will come, their names, and, if possible, the number of hairs on their cute little heads.

But when does God ask us to do the math and try to arrange everything ahead of time? When does God ask us to look at the situation around us and base our future plans on what we see?

Nothing’s coming to mind.

In fact, He tells people to do the opposite.

David was instructed NOT to count the number of fighting men in Israel. This seems wacked in the world’s system, but David’s aim was never to fight the world’s way – his victories came from God’s blessing, not any number of men. When David decided to see if the odds were in his favor instead of depending on God’s power, he brought horrific damage to his kingdom (1 Chronicles 21).

God promised Abraham that he would have a child. Abraham knew his age and “faced the fact that his body was as good as dead,” but that didn’t keep him from believing God. If Abraham had approached the situation the same way many women are desperately approaching husband-hunting these days, there would have been a lot more Ishmaels, and probably no Isaac. Thankfully, Abraham believed even “against all hope,” because he was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” (Romans 5)

Ladies, whenever Jesus comes into a situation, frankly, the math doesn’t matter! Look what he did to 5 loaves and 2 fish! Now, I’m not saying that we should live separated from reality. But, as Christians, let’s depend on God and give the reality, whatever it may be, into His hands.

When we assess and reassess and try to count and figure all the time, that doesn’t show trust in God. It shows fear. Let’s have some faith in God’s good plan, and live joyfully, hopefully, freely.

Whatever you need – whether you’re waiting for a spouse, a job, wisdom for your workplace, a strategy, salvation for a family member or friend – let me offer this. Stop doing all the figures in your head. It will only give you a headache. Look up, and let God give you His promise, His strategy, and His assurance that a glory is ahead whenever we invite Him to take control of our situation.

Let’s stop doing the math and enjoy the journey with our Savior! I’ve got this feeling that it’s going to be something else.

Love in Christ,

Abby

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The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining ever brighter ’till the full light of day.
Proverbs 4:18

Momma and Mike – The Story

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Hello, it’s 4:30 AM over here, but I can’t sleep. I just waved goodbye to my mom and little (big) brother at the bus terminal. It feels like just yesterday that I was waiting on tiptoe at the airport for them to walk through those big double doors.

Watching them go is like a bucketful of tears, and, as with every good thing that must end, it’s hard. But as I was sitting in church on Sunday, thinking about their imminent departure, I realized that my time with them was all the sweeter because I knew it was going to end.

Family is one of those things we take for granted…that we will always have them. Sometimes I abuse them because I know that they’ll always love me, no matter how (ahem) hormonal I am around them. But this trip was simply precious. I’m not sure I can capture all our memories in our blog. If a picture is worth a thousand words, there’s no way I can write it all down, because my iphone is crammed with hundreds of photos (does anyone else hate those pesky your-icloud-is-full messages?).

But, you know, anything’s possible. It’s just before dawn, and I’m feeling a little early-morning magic.

Let me tell you a story.

The golden lights of Korea were beginning to glow as the two weary travelers wove their heavy suitcases through the clammering airport crowd. “The bus is just ahead!” Abby called back, “We’ve got 3 minutes.” Huffing across the street, they sank into the plush bus seats, with just moments to spare. Momma let out a sigh of relief, and reached for Abby’s hand. Or maybe it was Abby who reached for Momma’s. Finally, after 8 months of Skyping, they were together.

Mike grabbed the bag of Dunkin Doughnuts.

Little brothers.

He smiled real big, and his eyebrows jumped up to a higher level. “Nice bus! And look at those huge hotels!”

“They’re apartments.”
But Abby couldn’t make fun of him because she had thought they were factories the first time she saw them, a year and a half ago.

The bus motored south to Gwangju as the sun set, and those first moments together were like the first bites of a cherry cheesecake. Nothing has ever been, or could ever be, sweeter.

Speaking of sweet, I’m eating a tiramisu dusted with choco powder. The math teacher at school baked us nut scones, cream tarts, and tiramisu. The sun is beginning to rise, and I’m sipping some French Red Wine. It’s delectable chilled.

I don’t usually have wine in the refrigerator, but this was a special occasion. Momma and I were cooking an American meal for the teachers at school.

The menu: Chicken Marsala, oven-roasted cayenne potatoes, tossed salad, and Lemon Meringue and Apricot pie.

Mal – sal-la issoyo?” Abby asked the petite lady in the wine section of E-mart. No, there was no Marsala, but this was similar.

And there was no sour cream, but there was whipping cream. And there was no cayenne, but there was Korean gochu. And the butter was the price of gold, but it was worth it (says Momma as she drops it by the tablespoon into the frying pan).

Cooking began at 3:30, and the American chefs were confident. “We can be finished at 5:30, let’s tell the teachers.”

An hour later, teachers receive a hurried text message, “Let’s move the time up to 6:15.” In the kitchen, flour flies, oil sizzles, and there’s not quite enough pans to go around.

“Will this fit into the oven?”
“No! It will not fit into the oven!”
“I’ve got to start the chicken, now.”
“Did you remember the cream?”
“I’m not doing it like that.”
“That’s what the recipe says.”
“I’m going to do it differently.”
“What?!”

Abby faces Momma, sweat dripping, clock ticking. “We’re not working together very well.”

“No, we’re not.”

Abby grits her teeth. Momma says, “You don’t trust me. You’ve got to trust me.”

Wiping her head, Abby realizes that living alone has made her independent. She takes off the oven mitt and concedes the head chef position to Momma. Momma pours the wine and cream like a fairy godmother. The meal comes together, and the ladies (together with Abby’s friend, Jihae – a God-send who can make lettuce salad look like a Vermeer masterpiece – hurry down the stairs with steaming pans of chicken and potatoes just as the teachers arrive. It was a success. Except for the Apricot pie – too Pennsylvania Dutch full of butter and sugar for Korean taste. But the Lemon Meringue was splendid.
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Meanwhile, Mike (at camp with his Korean buddies) was sleeping in a tent somewhere with no blanket, using his shirt for a pillow. I imagine he saw a ladder leading to heaven.

Monday morning, the three decided to go downtown to buy gifts. Public transportation was alien to them (Abby: “You press the bus card, like this” –presses once, firmly. Momma proceeds to press three times, lightly. Red light beeps, door slams shut. Abby rolls her eyes. Until she remembers her first weeks in Korea.)

And Mike, well he never quite grasps Korean bus etiquette.

“Let me tell you about the dream I had last night!” His voice raises with his eyebrows as he tells about being arrested for trespassing in a library, then escaping using powers of persuasion. “And then I ran with my friends, and the sirens started blaring – “

“Mike, speak more quietly.” Abby elbows him. Mike pauses for a second.

The bus is dead silent.

“It’s like a library in here.”

“Yep.”

The dream sequence proceeds, a little more hushed. Until we get to the subway. Then it continues full volume to its climatic conclusion.
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A Korean man walks by and stares at us. He turns around and walks by us again, slowly. Then again. Momma smiles sweetly at him. “Hello!”
“Mom! You can’t be like that to people here. They’ll think it’s weird, or that you’re interested.”

Later, another man strikes up a conversation about how her children have beautiful faces. Momma nods along agreeably, while Abby surfs on her iphone. She realizes with a pang that she’s lost some of her American sweetness (maybe in all that Kimchi). She decides to let Mom be as Americanly sweet to strangers as she wants to be. With Mike along, no one would dare do anything.

Sweet Momma with Darling Heidi

Sweet Momma with Darling Heidi

It’s after 6:00 now. Usually, I’d be waking up about now, getting ready to go into school. The first day I brought Mike to school (Momma stayed in bed – jet lag lingered for over 2 weeks, but was especially difficult the first few days), it was like Captain America had entered the premises. The kids took one glance and stepped back.

Words like, “Long!” “Tall!” “Handsome!” “Wow!” jumped around like fireflies.

He stood next to the tallest teacher and prevailed.

“Can you touch the ceiling?” came a hushed query. Mike’s hand shot up. Forever, his thumbprint will be etched on the ceiling of Daniel Wisdom School.

That first morning, I called him “Sam” at least 30 times. Maybe it’s because his nose is bigger, his shoulders broader, and his adam’s apple (called a “neck nipple” in Korean) more pronounced than the picture of the little brother I’d ingrained in my head. But Mike proved that he could fit into his own shoes (although not any of the slippers at the school – we had to make a trip to the store to buy him a larger size).

Summer semester, I planned to have English book time with the kids. Momma and Mike helped me tremendously by talking one-on-one with the students about the books they were reading. I heard one little girl whisper to her friend (in Korean, which I can now understand a little) that it was fun to talk with Abby’s mom.

Wednesday, Mike and I stayed after school for an English Storybook class.

The topic: “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.”

The teacher: unprepared.

Abby hurriedly traced monkey puppet templates onto felt as Mike handed out popcorn for snacks.

The crunching dwindled, and Abby began to sweat.

“Ok, class,” she groped around for an idea…Wala! “Now it’s time to play Rock, Scissors, Paper with Mike!

A roar of hurrahs erupted from the class. Abby was saved.

As the monkey puppets were being made, Abby realized that she was one sock short. She looked at the solemn little girl and was about to suggest that she take of her sock to use as the monkey’s mouth.
“Wait a second,” Mike said, “Are you short?”
“Yes.”
Mike grabbed Abby’s monkey puppet, Marvin, and tore off his ears and eyes . He handed it to the girl. “Here you go.”
“You killed Marvin,” Abby whispered. “She’s going to be traumatized.”
“She’s going to have a puppet.”

The next day, the class asked were Marvin was. I told them to ask Mike.
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Well, I’m beginning to get sleepy. The cars outside are rumbling by. Mike and Mom are probably almost to Seoul by now. I wonder if they’ll ever come again, or if I’ll ever come again after this year. One thing I realized, is that being with my family made Korea feel like home.

I know that one day, I’ll be living overseas as a missionary. Sometimes this thought scares me, because I miss America so much. But now I see that if I’m with my family, no matter where I am, it is home.

I’m so thankful for the family that God has given me. And I trust Him to always be with me, and I expect His beautiful blessings wherever He leads me. He is so good.

4 months ago, I was in tears because I heard that my trip to America (planned for July) was indefinitely postponed. I decided to trust God. Now I see that if the trip hadn’t been postponed, my mom and brother wouldn’t have decided to come to visit. And it looks like I’ll still be able to visit America with my students in the fall!
Aren’t His ways marvelous?

And I couldn’t finish this blog without saying thanks to all my friends here in Korea who made our stay so rich with memories and love. Nearly every day, one of my dear friends took us to dinner, or shopping, or took my mother to a massage (or a Korean hospital – check out her back when you see her, it’s covered with circular bruises from the acupuncture “cupping”- very normal over here). We traveled with my dear friend Heidi to Jeju island (the Hawaii of Korea), with Heyoung and Sophia’s family to a mud beach, and with Jihae and Kim Kyung (Vince’s mother, an artist) to a Korean pottery-making village. We ate enough beef and pork ribs to celebrate 5 birthdays, and then some.

All I can say is, we are blessed. Thank you, dear Korean friends – you know who you are!

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To all my friends, may you be blessed this week ~ treasure your family, wherever they are. Know that all this is a gift from our Heavenly Father.

Love to you all,

Abby

Out of Christ’s fullness, we have all received one grace after another
And spiritual blessing
And even favor upon favor
And gift heaped upon gift!
(John 1:16)

Every good and perfect gift is from above,
Coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights
Who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

Not sure where this is going

Hello world,
I’m not sure where this is going. I made the mistake of drinking a coffee-bubble latte too late in the afternoon (a mistake I’ll likely make again when I have the chance – “bubbles” are these delightful soft, giant tapioca-like pearls that settle at the bottom of an iced coffee latte). And so I’m awake with lots running through my head, needing an outlet other than my tossed-up pillow.

First, I’d like to make a confession. Don’t judge me for this, or go the other way and say I’m too conservative. Just listen. I had the strangest thing happen to me today, and I’m sure it was a lesson from God, and a stranger. Do you ever learn lessons from strangers?

Today, I was getting ready to go out and meet my friend at a coffeeshop. I slipped into a short skirt, and it looked really darling (as my grandma would say). But, you know, it just showed too much leg. I knew it, but I reasoned that it’s summer, it’s acceptable to show lots of leg in this culture (these women have the skinniest legs), and it looked so cute. So, after almost changing into something more “safe,” I boldly walked out the door, and enjoyed the cool wind on my legs. Ah! This was the way summer should feel – jean free! I was halfway to the coffeeshop, when something began to bother me. I saw a guy smirking at me. I immediately felt self-conscious. Was my skirt revealing something? I decided to wait and see how the next person I saw would react. Maybe I was just imagining things.

A lady – a middle-aged ajuma- came at me pulling a cart. She glanced at me. We made eye contact. I smiled. Then suddenly, she stopped and burst into a stream of shocked-sounding Korean. 전도사 이에요? (are you a missionary?) she asked. I nodded, feeling my face go red. I could pick out some of what she said. “What is your church?” She continued, in a repremanding tone. It could have been something else, but I felt sure that she was talking about my skirt, and those white legs I was baring. She grabbed my hand and showed me a ring she was wearing, with a silver cross on it. My heart felt warm from embarrassment and love all at once. “조심 해요” I understood – “Be careful.”

“I know only a little Korean,” I interrupted. “Why should I be careful?” I scrunched my eyebrows and showed genuine concern – and hopefully innocence. But I knew I was at fault. When the lady realized that I couldn’t understand many of her words, she faltered, then said she was sorry, and began to walk away.

“Wait!” I said, “Please speak slower.” But she just waved and left. Leaving me feel like a little girl caught running in the road. The message to me, couldn’t have been clearer. What was I to do? Suddenly, my face was red, my heart was beating, and my meeting was 10 minutes away, but I turned and hurried back to my apartment as fast as I could.

30 minutes later, I met my friend at another coffeeshop, dressed in a cute top and capris.

God speaks in many ways – often He uses other people. Even strangers. The message seemed very clear, but I wanted to open my Bible to make sure.

Heart still pounding a little, I scrolled to my Bible app and looked at the verse of the day.

The grace of God has come forward
for the deliverance from sin and eternal salvation for all mankind.
It has trained us to reject and renounce all ungodliness
and worldly desires,
to live discrete (temperate, self-controlled),
upright, devout (spiritually whole)
lives in this present world.
Titus 2:11-12

Suddenly, I was on my Father’s knee, and He was speaking tenderly. Telling me why He told me not to run into the road.

Christian friends, I know we don’t always like boundaries, but if you feel a check in your spirit about something, please don’t ignore it. You may be fine in short skirts – but I’m just too tall and leggy. Maybe for you it’s certain movies, novels, or a pasttime you’ve fallen into that’s simply not holy.

The bold Korean lady, God bless her, hit the nail right on the head for me. I am called as a missionary. I must live by a higher standard. I must pursue holiness in all I do – including my dress. There must be no twist of darkness in this candle I hold out. Aren’t we all called to be lights?

What happened later was beautiful. I had such a delightful afternoon with my friend, learning Korean, teaching some English idioms, and laughing together over … ahem … coffee-bubble lattes.

Then, I walked to the nearby woman’s university for our last night of evangelism. Jesus opened some beautiful doors for me to talk and pray with some students. The atmosphere was pure and light.

I wonder what would have happened if the lady hadn’t stopped me? If she had just kept her thoughts to herself?

Would the night have turned out the same in my short skirt and bare legs?

Would I have been able to speak in the same way about Jesus to those young ladies at the college?

The literary bent in me imagines that danger lurked ahead on one of the street corners, and I was saved by my capris.

Or, the simple fact is, the lady kept me from shivering on an unseasonly chilly night.

I doubt that was the extent of today’s lesson, though.

To all my fellow light-bearers. Shine brightly ~

The caffeine has settled down a bit. I’m going to try to sleep.

Love, Abby

you were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light…
and find out what pleases the Lord.
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness ~
rather, expose them

Ephesians 5:8-11

Piecing together Korean – Part 2

King Sejong
Hello, welcome to Part 2 of our Korean Alphabet Lesson. After this lesson, you’ll have half of Hangul under your belt. Before we begin, here’s an interesting bit of history behind this alphabet.

King Sejong is the most esteemed ruler in Korean history. For us Americans, imagine the leadership and integrity of Washington and the innovation of Franklin all bound up together in one person, and you’ve got King Sejong – known as King Sejong the Great. He invented movable type 215 years before Gutenberg, the first rain gage, and sun-dials. But his most enduring legacy is the Hangul alphabet. During his reign in the 1400’s, Koreans were using Chinese characters. If you know anything about Chinese characters, you know that they are pretty intense. King Sejong wanted a simpler system that ordinary people could use:

The sounds of our language differ from those of Chinese and are not easily communicated by using Chinese graphs. Many among the ignorant, therefore, though they wish to express their sentiments in writing, have been unable to communicate. Considering this situation with compassion, I have newly devised twenty-eight letters. I wish only that the people will learn them easily and use them conveniently in their daily life.
[From Hunmin Chongum, 1446, quoted in Lee, p. 295]

And thus, his brain child, Hangul, came into existence. Since his time, four characters have been dropped from the alphabet, bringing the count down to a very manageable 24 consonants and vowels. In the last lesson, we learned the vowels ㅣ ㅏ , and the consonants ㅁ ㅂ ㄱ ㅅ. Today, I’d like to introduce three more vowels and four consonants.

Vowels

ㅓ – This looks very similar to ㅏ (ah), except the branch is on the left side. It makes the “oh” or “aw” sound. It’s not a fully rounded “o,” but is more similar to the beginning sound in “autumn,” “lost,” or “thoughts.” Imagine a wide-eyed person wandering through a wooded park in autumn, beholding all the leaves, lost in thought. What sound do they make in their wonderment? ㅓ, of course! You try: 머 버 거 서
Note: If this is confusing, don’t get too hung up on it now. You can simply think of it as the “o” sound – I did for several months before fully distinguishing between it and the long “o.” Which leads me to …

ㅗ – Here we have the frank, good-natured O. If you’ve studied Italian (which I haven’t but I can still tell you) you’ve run across this sound at the end of almost every other word. It’s fun to say. Note that this version of O requires lip puckering, while ㅓ does not. Give it a go: 모 보 고 소. If you sounded like an Italian Korean, you’re on the right track. (Mow, bow, go, so)

ㅜ – Flip the O around, and you’ve got “oo” as in “moose,” “goose,” “loose.” To understand the placement of the notch below the line, in the written “ㅗ,” say ㅗㅜ (O, oo) a few times fast. Notice how your air shifts up to say “O,” and then falls down to say “oo.” I just love how this all makes sense! For practice: 무 부 구 수 (moo, boo, goo, sue).

All right, let’s move on to the consonants.

I’d like to introduce one of my personal favorites, looking quite like Abraham Lincoln in his top hat:

ㅎ – Think “hat,” “hhhh.” This is the H sound, and it can’t be any easier to remember. Think of handsome gentlemen in top hats while you say, 히 하 허 호 후 (he, hah, haw, hoe, who)

ㄴ – This was confusing to me at first, as it resembles the English “L,” but it makes the “N” sound. Say the N sound a few times (not, nasty, nanny, nanonennen) and notice how your tongue pushes hard into the corner of your teeth and gum. That’s the shape of this letter, a hard corner. 니 나 너 노 누 (ne, nah, naw, no, new)

ㄷ – Phonetic-wise, this is a close brother to ㄴ. It’s the D sound, and I like to think that it looks a little similar to the american “D.” Fancy yourself in a barbershop quartet, and sing these notes for me: 디 다 더 도 두 (dee, dah, daw, doe, dew).

ㅍ – Finally, we’ll end with a very Roman-looking character. Think of the pillars of the Pantheon

Pantheon

And you’ve guessed it, this is the “P” sound. 피 파 퍼 포 푸

Whew! You’ve just covered a lot of alphabetical ground! Let’s sum it up with some real Korean words.

나도 – na-doe – “me too”
높다 – nop-dah – tall
피 – pee – blood
비 – be – rain
피곤하다 – pi-gon-ah-da – tired
하나님 – ha-na-nim – God
감사합니다 – gam-sa-ham-ni-da – thank you

Great job! You’ve already learned 13 of the 24 Korean letters. I appreciate your comments!

Abby

Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name
in all the earth!
Psalm 8:1

Thanks to this site for insight on King Sejong:
http://asianhistory.about.com/od/southkorea/p/Sejong-the-Great-of-Korea.htm

Alphabet Time

korean alphabet

I’m so excited that Mike and my mom are coming to visit me! In preparation for their trip, I’d like give them and you some lessons in the Korean alphabet.

Contrary to popular belief in the Western world, Korean is very different from Chinese and Japanese. Unlike Chinese, which is made of characters, Korean has an alphabet. Words can be sounded out, and writing it is infinitely easier (thanks to the genius of King Saejeon, who invented the alphabet in the 15th century). There are just 24 characters – 6 vowels, 4 vowel diphthongs, and 14 consonants. They have, for the most part, only one (sometimes 2) sounds per character, unlike our own highly complex, rule-breaking English letters. Plus, the shapes of the letters are delightfully sensible. They are shaped to resemble the form your mouth makes while saying the sounds.

If you want to, you could learn this alphabet in 4 short sittings. And then, voila, you’ll be able to read an Asian language!

Today, I’ll introduce 2 vowels and 4 consonants.

ㅣ- this simple guy is the long “ee” sound, as in “me,” “tree,” or “KorEan,”

ㅏ- add a notch to the right of “ee”, and you’ve got “ah” as in “water,” “father,” or simply a lightbulb moment: “ah-ha!”

Easy enough? Let’s move on to some consonants.

ㅁ – this square is the “m” sound. Notice that when you say, “mmmm,” your mouth is tightly closed, like a box. Hence, the shape. Try saying 미 –> me. Now, what would this be: 마 ? (if you made a sound like the first syllable in “molecule,” you’re right!)

ㅂ – this bugger resembles its counterpart in the English alphabet: b. Do you see how it’s shaped like an open box? That’s because, when you say “buh,” your mouth closes like the ㅁ sound, but then opens to release the ending. Try 비 and 바. Say them 5 times to a funky rhythm, and you’ve got a beat box going. “Be, bah, bah, Be, bah…”

ㄱ – this is the first letter in the Korean alphabet. You can remember it because it’s the sound we use when we say, “Korean” : K. Actually, sometimes it sounds like “k,” and sometimes like “g.” Say both sounds softly, and notice how similar they are at the back of your throat? This sound isn’t as sharp as the English “K,” nor as guttural as our “G.” It’s a savory balance of the two. Try saying “Great,” but make the first sound slightly k-ish. Great. Now try 기 and 가. Put them together, and it sounds strangely Hunger Games-esque: “Keegah” (nothing personal, Katniss and Peetah, but your names are kind of ridiculous).

ㅅ- Our final spotlighted consonant is looking quite stylish, don’t you think? That’s because she’s the beautiful “s” sound (the most alluring sound, in my opinion). Thinking about the shape of the letter, as it relates to the shape of your mouth, notice how all your air is trained at the top of your mouth. So, the Korean “s” shape consists of two lines meeting together at the top. Let’s say 시 – 사. Sound like a playground fixture from your childhood days? You’ve got it right! “See – sah”

So there you have it! In just 5 minutes, you’ve already mastered a quarter of the Korean alphabet! Here are a few real words. See any familiar characters?

밥 – bahb – rice
삼 – sahm – 3
미각 – mekahk – taste
감사합니다 – gam-sa-ham-ni-da – thank you (Don’t worry, there’s a good reason why the ㅂ sounds like an “m” ).

Thanks for taking a few minutes to learn the Korean alphabet. I hope you appreciate its simplicity and beauty as much as I do! Post any questions or comments you have ~

Until next time,
감사합니다 ~
Abby

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
God saw that the light was good,
and He separated the light from the darkness.

Genesis 1:3-4

All the single ladies

hot air balloon

Ok, it’s on all of our minds (the single ones of us at least). And, being spring, and us being another year older than last spring, probably more so now than ever. Marriage.

Before I came to Korea, I was naively full of marriage hopes. I was a girl in a bright ballon fueled by airy dreams, floating higher and higher in a sapphire sky. I didn’t know when marriage would come (or, ahem, when the guy would come), or where, but I trusted that it would come – that God had this written into my story, and that I could anticipate romance like an anticipated gift on Christmas morning.

I was a blushing school girl back then … And now I’m a blushing school teacher. Not much has changed, but some things have.

Truthfully, the atmosphere among Korean Christian women is kind of dismal, when the topic of marriage comes up.

It was about a year ago when I sat down with my Korean friend and we discussed the dating situation in Korea. The good news: there are a lot of single guys in Korea. The bad news: there are very few single Christian guys in Korea (at least compared to the percentage of Christian women searching for a husband). My friend suggested something that I had never considered before: “People are saying that we shouldn’t be so picky about our husband being a Christian. If we wait around for that, we may never get married.” I was shocked that she was saying this, but as other women around me repeated it, it began to infiltrate into my thinking. Here are some things I’ve heard:

“Character is the most important. If a man isn’t a Christian yet, but his character is good, you’ll be fine.”

“The Christian guys I met are either know-it-all or awkward to talk with. It’s better to find a guy with good character – even if he’s not Christian.”

I’ve been blessed to have many friends here, many of them in their late 20’s or early 30’s. And most of these ladies are unmarried. Sometimes, they’ve unmasked their concerns. They’re getting too old. There are not enough good men. They’ll have to wait until they’re 40. Look at all the other single women around us!

Suddenly, the air seems thinner, and my own hot air balloon of marriage dreams begins to falter.

I felt like I was being bombarded by something very unpleasant. All my life, marriage has been a beautiful, hopeful prospect for me. Suddenly, this treasured gift is being torn apart, compromised, and people are trying to tell me that it’s ok to settle for less, that it’s the reality of our situation.

Excuse me! I’m not going for this.

I decided to ask God for some wisdom, to know how to process my thoughts. One thing became very clear: the presence of fear.

It’s amazing what the atmosphere can do to a person. What changed, since I came to Korea, that caused me to start worrying about finding a spouse? It wasn’t me, and it wasn’t the number of single guys in the world. It was just one thing. Atmosphere. I started listening to the worries of single ladies, and hearing statistics that squelch hope. Boil it all down, I walked into an atmosphere familiar with fear. All that fine-sounding reasoning about character over beliefs is whispered by fear in a pretty disguise. This pretty fear says, “Honey, I just want to help you get married. Let’s think reasonably about a spouse. ” But under its breath it growls, “You’d better listen to me, or you’ll never get married.”

Check your thought processes, ladies, and make sure that they’re not being dictated by a pretty fear. God does not threaten or bring panic. When we are in line with His thoughts, our hopes for the future are liberating and sky-high. There is no room for fear when our minds are filled with the hope of God’s glory. It’s time to expose and face this fear before it controls our decisions and leads us to a compromised future!

How?

The only way to get rid of fear is to replace it with faith. Marriage, as any other issue of life, requires faith. I laughed at myself when I realized that I would trust God enough trek through the jungles of Africa, or smuggle Bibles to the persecuted church in China, or (gulp) minister in the terrorized Middle East if He wanted me to…but I wouldn’t trust Him enough to give me a Christian man for a husband? Let’s have some faith, ladies! God is the God of all our future – including marriage.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

And let’s not have little faith (dear God, if the man will just come to church with me on Sunday, I’ll be happy). Get out the big faith! Our future husband will love God passionately, he will have vision, and he will be able to hear God for himself. He will be a spiritual leader, and we will encourage each other in our walk with God. We will be a team, a dynamic force, that will reach the world with the love and light of Christ. We will be better together than apart. He’ll be tall, dark, and handsome! (editors note: I’m not sure about the Biblical accuracy of that statement, but the standards are already pretty high – why not ask?)

Don’t let anyone tell you that this is asking too much for a husband. God wants all people to have this kind of intimate, personal relationship with Himself, your husband included. If that familiar fear whispers, “These guys don’t exist,” well, then, it’s time to agree with God’s will and pray for men to rise up and get on board. Let’s not concede to the enemy by compromising. Let’s agree with God and have faith to see His kingdom advance.

Think back, remember those moments when you feared nothing because you knew God held your future. God still holds your future, so stop imagining it through the eyes of fear, and see it through God’s eyes again.

Can you see it, the picture forming? Ahead, there lies much maturing (you’re not perfect, and your husband won’t be either), growing, struggles to overcome, adventures to trek, joys to experience, love to share. And it’s all from God, through God, and to God.

Ladies, we are not marrying just so we can feel loved and happy. Happily-ever-after comes from Jesus alone. We can already live there, day by day, in His Presence. God has a glorious purpose for our marriage: love and so much more. Before they happen, even before we meet the guy, let’s dedicate our marriages to God. And let’s recognize that such a marriage is something only He can bring about.

No matter how many blind dates we go on, or how attractive we look, we’re not going to “catch” the man God has for us.

Take that burden off your shoulders, girlfriend! God is going to bring you and “he” together like an author plots the meeting of the leading characters. It’s something He delights to do, and has ordained since Adam met Eve.

But until that day, our hope is high. Not just in marriage, but in our God.

I encourage you, whatever fears you may be facing, to confront them with God’s word. The world would like to fill us with fear in every area of life – health, jobs, family, marriage – but we’re not to live by the world’s thoughts. Let’s rise up together, and walk by faith, speaking in faith. Let’s get excited again about our future, because, with The Author of Life, and the definition of Love, Himself, it’s going to be thrilling!

Abby

Thanks to Fiona Pyszka for sharing her own marriage testimony. It really encouraged me and helped me to write this blog. You can listen for yourself – I highly recommend it: http://vcfpa.org/audio-downloads/ (WOVEN May 2014 – What is your hope in?)

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength
They will rise up with wings as eagles
They will run and not be weary
They will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40: 30-31

Photo credit: Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)