Bugs for Dessert?

When my friend Jackie came to visit me in Korea, I wanted to give her a real taste of the country (pun intended), so we ventured out to the streets to find the popular Korean snack, bundaegi – silkworm larvae.

We bought a paper cup full of the intimidating-looking bugs for a whopping $2 and proceeded to spend the next 5 minutes mentally preparing ourselves; very Fear Factor-esque. Finally, on the count of three (with trembling hands) we took the plunge.

Let it suffice to say, it didn’t taste like chicken. But, I’m glad we experienced something outside of our cultural norm. Would you ever eat silkworm larvae? Have you encountered ‘exotic’ food in another country that you were hesitant to try? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Bon appetit!

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Plastic Surgery in Korea

plastic surgery Korea

Photo from Here

Today, I was in line behind a girl who looked about 27 years old and what I saw broke my heart.

It appeared obvious that she had recently undergone various forms of plastic surgery. There were bandages on both sides of her mouth and above her eyebrows. Her entire face looked very swollen and there were large bruises and bandages all over her upper thighs (she was wearing extremely short shorts).

Tears came to my eyes as I waited to order my coffee; I felt so much sadness for that girl. I can’t imagine how desperate she must have felt in order to believe that she needed all of that plastic surgery. I am positive that society drove this girl to feel unbeautiful, unworthy and unaccepted.

Everywhere you look in Korea there are ads pressuring young girls to surgically change their appearance in order to meet the cultural standards of beauty and be accepted by society. Make your nose bridge higher, make your jawline slimmer, make your eyes larger, make your calves smaller. Street billboards, subway car ads, mall posters, coffee shop brochures, it never ends.

I wonder if that girl feels worthy of love and acceptance now that her thighs are narrower and her mouth is wider. Sadly, I doubt it. For true self-worth comes only from knowing the Unconditional Love and Acceptance of the Father.

I wanted to tell her that she was loved, that she was precious, that God longed to be her identity. But, I said nothing. With tears still stinging my eyes, I ordered my coffee and walked home.

Dear Merciful Lord, forgive and restore this country. Open their eyes to the pain they are causing and the oppression they are inflicting in this nation. Heal the hearts of these young women so that they know without a doubt that they were created in Your Image; that they are beautiful and loved and accepted by You just the way they are. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

2012: Seoul Searching

God is Good! He has brought me through another year in His Victory and Grace. Here are some of my defining moments of 2012:

– Unlike any other year, I started this one in Seoul, South Korea. It was clear from the beginning that God brought me to Korea for His Purpose and it’s been an incredible year watching His Hand weave a beautiful tapestry of friendship, memories, triumphs and adventures.

– I completed my first 15 month contract with a Korean private school. Living and working in Korea was the most challenging experience I’ve had in a long time. Residing in a foreign country, not knowing the language, not understanding the culture, not being familiar with the food and the people and the traditions and the expectations was often inexplicably overwhelming. At times I would feel completely defeated when the simplest task (such as ordering food in a restaurant) became a complicated, frustrating ordeal. But God used each and every challenge to teach me about patience and humility and grace.

– Through making a lot of mistakes, stumbling and letting God help me back to my feet time and again, my year in Korea became an exceptionally rewarding experience. I was stretched emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally more than ever before in my life. It seemed oddly contradictory that I would experience deep loneliness and incredible fulfillment all at the same time. There would be stretches of missing home so badly I wanted to quit my job and fly back to Toronto on the next plane, interspersed with periods of feeling like I had accomplished something incredible and that Korea was becoming a second home.

– I became an active member of an AMAZING church in Seoul (Onnuri English Ministry) where God blessed me in profound ways with loving friends, wise mentors, inspiring pastors and an encouraging community of brothers and sisters in Christ. I was able to grow in leadership and in servant hood as God worked on my heart; refining and shaping me.

– After my first contract was done, God blessed me with the incredible opportunity to work at a Christian International School as a Kindergarten and Gr. 1 teacher. I currently work with people I truly admire and respect and I feel SO grateful every day for where God has brought me because I chose to trust in Him and His Plan for my life.

– After stubbornly defying God and trying to live life on my own terms in 2010 and facing the devastating consequences of my selfish choices in 2011, I can confidently say that God lifted my feet out of the miry clay and has set my feet upon a solid rock. Back in 2011 I wrote a contract to God. It said that I would follow Him anywhere, any time, for any reason, at any cost. Less than 2 months later, I was on a plane to Korea for 4 weeks which turned into 17 months. God sure has a sense of humour! When we lay down our own stubborn plans and trade the ashes of our will for the Beauty of His, our lives are completely transformed. Trusting Him has brought me on an epic adventure and though I honestly don’t know what this next year will bring, I am not afraid because I know He holds my future in the palm of His very competent Hand.

*       *       *       *

Nothing brings a more complete peace than the knowledge that the God of the universe, your Heavenly Daddy has a perfect plan for your life. A plan to prosper you and give you a future filled with of hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Even if 2012 was filled with shattering disappointments and bitter defeats, know that God isn’t done with your story yet. Will you trust the Author of Salvation today to pen the hope-filled pages of your tomorrow?

Stand with me in anticipation of the showers of blessing that God longs to rain down on His children. Allow Abba to take your hand and lead you into 2013 with hope, expectation, joy and trust. God is Good!

“Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” Psalm 34:8

I AM HERE

End of a Chapter

From the day after I arrived in Seoul, I have been working at Seoul English Village Gwanak Camp. It was my first time living and working in a foreign country and as such, I experienced great challenges as well as great triumphs. Over the past 14 months, there were good times and bad times; the good times made me more grateful and the bad times made me more gracious.

God has taught me so much and has grown me in many ways. I am so thankful for the wonderful experiences I had and the incredible memories I made. As this chapter ends, I look forward to the next adventure that awaits me! God is Good!

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”
– A. A. Milne –

Seoul’s Subway

The subway system in Seoul really amazes me having lived in Toronto my whole life. I’ve heard that my home city is currently undergoing an Exreme Makeover: Underground Edition, but as of right now, South Korea’s capital definitely has the Tdot trumped in this area. Here are some of the main advantages I’ve experienced riding the subway in Seoul:

1. Cell phone access! No more dropped calls as soon as you walk underground!

2. The individual cars have accessible doors between them so you can walk from one end of the subway to the other – fun times!

3. There are screens that show the location of all trains as they approach the station so you know exactly when they will arrive!

4. Automatic subway card purchasing/re-loading machines. Convenient and quick (cash only).

5.  Sliding glass doors block access to the tracks – this prevents people from falling, being pushed or otherwise getting injured!

6. Whereas the subway stations in Toronto have 1-4 exits leading to the street, stations in Seoul have upwards of 15 different exits! Although at times very confusing, this allows for a wide range of access to many of the streets above.

7. There are 14 separate lines! This means you can take public transport to almost anywhere in the city, including the airport! Very convenient!

I will say though, there are a few disadvantages. The greatest being massive (and I mean MASSIVE) crowds. During rush hour, on the main subway line, I can barely breathe, people are jammed into the cars so tightly.  I’m okay with large crowds but on the subway I definitely feel claustrophobic and usually go into my happy place in order to ride it out (literally and figuratively).

I suppose that the crowds say more about the city of Seoul than its subway system, though. After all, Seoul’s population is nearly the same as that of Canada… wow. Another issue is that because there are so many lines, the tracks were built one on top of the other so the subway is often VERY deep underground. This means you sometimes have to walk up hundreds of steps to get to street level. Exhausting, but good for the glutes, I suppose. Thankfully, there are often elevators, but not always!

The last disadvantage I’ve noticed in terms of Seoul’s subway is the advertising. Plastic surgery is rampant in South Korea and these types of ads are plastered everywhere in the stations and the cars. I can only read so many times that surgically creating a double eyelid or a higher nose bridge is the key to life-long happiness and contentment. But, this is a story for another blog post!

Here are some pics to illustrate what I’m talking about! Enjoy! 🙂

Toronto:


Seoul:


Rush Hour:

(Photo from here)

Divine Detours

I was running late for church one Sunday afternoon so I decided to take a cab. In my very broken Korean I asked the driver to take me to Onnuri Gyohway (church), hoping he understood and that I wouldn’t end up in another city. After about 10 minutes, to my relief, I saw my church in the distance. Only… the driver wasn’t stopping, he was driving right past it! I started panicking inside; with each passing second, he was driving farther and farther away from my destination! I wanted to yell out, ‘Stop! My church is right there! Turn around! Where are you going?’ But I had no idea how to say any of that in Korean, so I was forced to remain silent and hope that he knew what he was doing.

Thankfully, he did. It turns out, the driver (who knew the city much better than I did), understood that in order to get to my church, he had to drive past it by several blocks and then backtrack as there were a number of one way streets he needed to maneuver through to reach my church. It all made sense now.

Have you ever felt this way with God? I know I sure have. I’ve seen a dream, a goal, a destination right in front of me, but God seems to be taking me in the exact opposite direction. Perhaps you too, have cried out in exasperation, ‘No, God, this isn’t right! What I want is back there, you’re taking me the wrong way!’

The truth is, God will never lead us in the wrong direction. God knows the exact course of our lives for He is the one who has carefully planned out our days. “Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” Psalm 139:16. God often uses what we perceive to be detours to teach us valuable lessons that we would not have learned otherwise. Lessons about patience, trust, obedience, dependence and faith.

It has been said that God’s answer to our prayers is always one of three things: Yes, Not yet, or I have something much better for you. When we are being led in a direction that we didn’t expect, we must remember that God sees the beginning and the end. He has promised to always walk beside us and lead us along the right path for His Name’s sake (Psalm 23:3). One day, we will be able to look back on the most confusing and challenging experiences and realize, ‘It all makes sense now’. God is Good. He is worthy of our Trust. He is Sovereign, even in the detours.

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go” – Isaiah 48:17

27 Things I’m Thankful For

In celebrating my 27th birthday in Korea this week, I was encouraged to reflect on the countless blessings the Lord has poured over my life in the past 27 years. Here are but a few of them; may they inspire you to gratitude.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:1

1. God’s Unconditional Love that surrounds me, restores me and completes me.

2. God’s Unlimited Grace that receives my ashes in exchange for a crown (Isaiah 61:3).

3. God’s Word that is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).

4. The hard times which test my faith because I know they are creating perseverance within me and strengthening my character (James 1:2-3).

5. My family that will stick by my side no matter what happens.

6. My big sister whose life has taught me about grace, humility and compassion.

7. My little brother whose life has taught me about discipline, determination and strength.

8. Pastor Eddie, Daniel, Mike, Joel and Isaac – five honourable men of God who lead by example and practice what they preach.

9. Onnuri English Ministry for being God’s hands and feet – my home away from home.

10. The friends that cry with me when I cry and laugh with me when I laugh.

11. Those who reject me for they teach me powerful lessons of humility and forgiveness.

12. This blog and the opportunity to bring God Glory and encourage others.

13. Colourful flowers because they remind me of God’s Provision (Matthew 6:28-29).

14. My students who somehow always end up teaching me more than I teach them.

15. Seasons of abundance; not always tangible but always more than I deserve.

16. Seasons of drought, because they deepen my dependence on God.

17. The Victory that I have in Christ; the battle has already been won.

18. My weaknesses, because in them, God’s Strength can be made known so powerfully.

19. Sight – the ability to see and appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.

20. Vision – the ability to dream of something bigger than my own abilities.

21. The rain that washes away my tears.

22. The rainbow that follows – God’s Promise of His Faithfulness.

23. The warmth of the sun beating down on my face – like a warm embrace from my Father.

24. A heart that beats, even when it hurts, for it hurts because it has first loved.

25. Living in Canada, a country with such freedom and opportunity.

26. Teaching in Korea, where I can use my freedom to fight for those who are oppressed.

27. Jesus. My Saviour, my Lord, my Friend, my Rock, my Redeemer, my Light, my Everything.