of Grace.seen under the palm trees.

Her dark eyes looked up as i waved goodbye before leaving the teachers’ room. Several seconds later she was right behind me with a, “teresa can i give you a hug?”

She wrapped her arms around my shoulders, and i hurried down the rock path; blinking tears under the blue Korean sky.  how did she know i was emotional and lonely? 

Her dark eyes sparkled as she pulled up an extra office chair. “teresa can i share something with you? ”

She gave me a whimsical gift bag with an aqua photo album inside, and proceeded to explain how she’d felt she should bring a present to school for me, and how she prayed that i would like her ‘random’ gift. Only after she arrived did she hear a student wish me a happy birthday. God knew even if she didn’t. 

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Her name is Unhae.  Literally translates into Grace.

She is a second generation YWAM-er. Born to a  humble Ywam leader and his wife.

Unhae and her 2 brothers lived a childhood filled with kimchi and rice cakes and long skinny noodles, and together they learned to honor the elders, play traditional New Year’s day games, and worship God with the rest of the YWAM group. They traveled to New Zealand and had sublime days filled with roaming the countryside, frolicking in the streets, and only minimal amounts of school work.

They grew up and became Adults.

The twenty-three year old Sister among them gave birth to a child outside of wedlock. She named her daughter Jeiel.

The humble Ywam leader and his wife separated. He moved to Seoul. She remained on Jeju-do. DSCN0104.JPG

Jeiel grew into a fiesty child who lived with her mother and occasionally attended stressful ‘bonding’ times with her father.

In 2008 Unhae stuffed clothes into a bag and flew to Hawai, daughter in tow. It was there, among the palms and the tropical sunsets, that Unhae realized how completely incapable she was. incapable of handling her daughter. incapable of righting the life that had gone awry. She slipped from under the burden, gave her heart, her life, her future, her daughter, to Jesus Christ.

Eight years later her life is filled with insightful words, hugs given at the perfect moments, wisdom seeping out her very being.

Her boyfriend ended up committing suicide at some point, and her parents are still separated, her daughter occasionally attempts manipulation tactics, and often they do not have much in the way of money.

Still, she is in love with Jesus. and that has made all the difference. dscn1360

      “I want Jeiel to remember that i love her so much, and Father God loves her even more.”

Unhae wrote to me and shared her personal mandate from God:  [paraphrased by me]

“to teach {my students} to be free from every sin by knowing Jesus, and through His Spirit love God and love neighbors. Which makes your life simple and easier than trying to gain righteousness by {trying} to observe every single { old covenant} law. “

This woman’s life is a literal fulfillment of Psalms 1: 1-3.

blessed {are those who delight in the Lord} and she shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, and brings forth fruit in season; her leaf also shall not wither and whatever she does shall prosper.dscn0327

are you tired of allowing your circumstances to define who you are?

Allow God to fill you with Himself. delight in His beauty when every thing you trusted in has been tampered with and even destroyed.

He is full of Grace.

Am i cursing them?

{ disclaimer. i wrote most of this post while nestled happily on the Island of Jeju. Today i’m on the way to Missouri to hug my cousins and decided that it is the day to publish belated posts. happy weekend. }

———

 

Grey clouds of smoke and whistling bombs. Children with bloody fingers and expressions much to old for their bodies. innocent people falling along with the guilty ones. [ or can we please stop categorizing? we are all bodies with souls. in this we are equal.]  Shells emptied in endless rounds of meaningless shooting, and a world that is becoming ever more numb to hatred and the dripping blood of fellow humans.

for some of us, it’s easier to simply turn our eyes to more beautiful sights. we feel helpless. maybe scared. what could we possibly do in a world that is governed by hatred? how can we possibly stay the bullets, stop the bombs, put all the pieces of broken hearts back together? what can we do when even our leaders despise certain people groups and nations?

We sit at yellow tables and journal and chew on our straws and watch all the people who are so intent on their own little lives. We realize that too often we are guilty of the same.
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Yesterday morning a sparkly-eyed teacher led us in reading these verses:

“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place?  He that has clean hands, and a pure heart…………….” 

The chapter continues. but the “clean hands” part caught me and my mind keeps processing it in the quiet moments. what does it actually  mean to have clean hands? for me and for my students? Recently one of my boys and i sat at a brown table and had a discussion about what it really takes to be a Man. The topic turned to war, because military service is mandatory in this country. My heart breaks at the thought of ‘my boys’ killing people. People whom i would be just as attached to, had i gone there instead of here.  So while i wanted to preach a sermon on non-resistance, i realize that this is a much deeper issue. and it begins with me.

One of the synonyms for [Hate] :

Aversion. the act of averting. of turning away or preventing. 

Which shows that when i see a need {physical, emotional, or spiritual} and i ignore it, or turn away-even for a reason as simple as insecurity, then i am hating that soul. i am not valuing him- or her- in a Redemptive way, but rather, destructively. Basically, i’m liable to be just as destructive as the latest man-hater shooting his way through crowds of people.

Practically speaking, let’s ask God to show us what it means to have clean hands. How can we start bringing life and healing, rather than death? Even little things like facebook comments or random jokes at parties or minutes spent on ourselves when we could spend time with lonely acquaintances. tiny moments. That insecure friend- do i bring more insecurity, or do i remind her of her identity in Christ? The melancholy cashier- is he thinking holier thoughts because of your presence?

because You are the temple of the living God. 

Jesus came to bring healing to the sick, deliverance to the captive. sight for the blind.

Which means that when i see a need-need for a smile. need for hope. need for a hug.

any need. physical, emotional, or spiritual, and i ignore it [ please lets bury those excuses!], in that moment, i have denied God an opportunity to work through me. in that moment… what am i but a traitor? because if we say we believe the words of Jesus..but we don’t live them… what are we??? 

these are painful words. and i can say them only because this is what the Lord is dealing with in my own often cowardly, lazy heart. 

Are your words and your thoughts and your debit cards and your extra minutes and your smiles bringing Life today?

{Kim and the fulfillment of a Sukuma’s prophecy.}

We smiled cautiously there in the room with the giant wall-map and the stethoscopes, realizing that very soon we would be living 7.5 seconds apart for many moons. But we soon found there had been no cause for worry. The two weeks of case studies, horrifically late nights, mountains of drug math, hush puppies and pecan salads, and the beautiful worship times every morning in the quaint chapel, had me feeling relieved and excited about the months to come.

We found enough shared opinions to make us friends [ think mustard yellow and finances and a love for the bush tribes ] and enough differences to keep us in the middle of enlivening conversation. We hauled water, studied Swahili, and watched Africa’s stars together. She was grouchy every morning but one day i made her laugh at 5am. She sat in the living room to lend moral support to my substitute mommy-hood and i scrawled words on her clinic wall. We drank gallons of vanilla chai and squashed the juice out of giant spiders, Zoomies they call them.

Day after long crispy day slipped below the horizon, somewhere out behind the orchard. This girl hugged me when i missed my sisters, shared her phone when i needed to hear from my Dad, and prayed over me when i thought i couldn’t fight malaria one more minute.

Together we braved the swinging bridge and journaling in the bush and Malawi. Together we sat in a tiny hut with a sobbing Mama Ima as the Bibis dug into the floor. Tears rolled off our chins while they buried a perfectly formed man-child. Together we struggled the next morning as we observed the father of the child walking nonchalantly down the path- wrapped inside a pink kanga. how dare he, we wondered, wear a pink kanga while his wife is drinking fermented corn to drown her heartache?  Together we sat on the front step and prayed over the souls of ‘our boys’ and all the while this girl’s life stirred me into more fervent action. She listened to my wild dreams and i listened to her plans for adoption and somehow in those six months God grew us.

We fiercely hugged goodbye.  A bus carried her back to the village and perhaps the hardest year of her life. a jet ferried me into mine.

a year and a half later, here we are, once more under the same roof and i keep remembering a moment that proved me glaringly naive.

a group of Wazungu settled into two velvety couches and waited for hours while our Sukuma friends cooked for us and stuffed their babies into layers of gauzy dresses for photos. Various members of the clan wandered into the room asking all the usual questions that white people get asked. Also we discovered that even our friends in obscure parts of an African field have interest in our romantic lives. One blunt little lady wondered whether any of our group would marry each other? my voice rose from between all the hidden grimaces and smirks- ” happana. warafiki tu.” 

enter October the seventh two thousand 16.

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Obviously God has been doing lots of behind the scenes work in these last two years. and maybe i should go back to my Sukuma friends and tell them they had more foresight than i.

And so, this girl is getting married. She’s inspired me as she followed Jesus joyfully in her singlehood. As she loved malnourished children with all her heart, then gave them up again. As she came back to America and fought to readjust to Walmart and white clothes and clean feet pretty much 100 per cent of the time. As she courageously braved the odds and started being vulnerable with the vision God has given her. As she said yes to marriage even when she didn’t feel capable of being a wife.

here’s to another adopted big sister of mine. The Lord has used you to bless my life countlessly ever since that summer day at MMI . I can’t wait to see Him continue to use you and your husband -together this time.

I know He’ll receive the glory from your lives. because that is who He is. and Someday there really will be no hungry children anymore.

Kimu. nakupenda sana.

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the childhood among the mosses. {part 1}

 

The year was 1998, and it was chilly. September, then too.

I remember very little, basically just the fact that suddenly we’d left our childhood swing-set buddies far behind as we stepped into a tiny trailer in the middle of a forest. Up to about 5 years old, my memories consist mostly of Renita, whose hobby was, at that time, to chew on her big sister at any random moment. Also the swing-set buddies. for years afterward our dolls bore their names. A purple beanie-baby named Keith and a water-baby the same size named Kerri. a bigger curly haired one was proudly dubbed Krystal and Renita and i took turns being Mathew, whom i remembered as the bratty child who taught us how to be pretend deer. disclaimer: i assume this child has since grown into a respectable man and is somewhere out there doing valiant deeds. 

The years slipped away fast here in the forest. there were more babies to rock. there were new friends. there were basement live ins and employees and many tears over math lessons. there were long sunny afternoons spent under the towering pines– our tribe of 3 sisterlings. We dug moss out of the forest floor and made couches and beds and walkways and we collected pineapples in the form of pine cones. We fought over dishes and folding laundry. We stirred pots of cream of mushroom soup, and read stacks of books at Grandma’s house.

Somehow i want to grasp every memory and hold onto it tightly. i’ve been given such a gift. 

i can still hear the stories of faraway places like Romania that we read just before bed. i remember the way the swinging blind used to hit the sliding glass door when Dad closed it at night. clunk clunk. all’s right with the world.  The cherries we picked and the hot dog parties at the lake with other rambunctious families.

There was the day Mom drove slowly past the corner convenience store and there were long lines of cars stacked way beyond the gas pump. Mom, what’s going on??  It was September 11th. 2001. i was 7 years old and i remember that feeling, somehow, the haze of pain and disbelief that suddenly flooded our country as the towers collapsed in billows of black smoke and melting metal and waves of agony. 

Every few weeks we went to see Grandpa and eat venison and carry empty jars to the basement for Grandma. i  feel the cool concrete underneath my bare feet,  smell the aged mustiness,  feel the apprehension of climbing into a dark basement, and taste the ice cream bars we ate afterwards. 

and then one day in November, we stood around a bed with our cousins and uncles and aunts. we sang and we felt the Spirit of God there with us as our Grandpa took one last breath. i  see uncle Mark’s face, listening for one more heartbeat- but he was gone. no more pneumonia. no more struggling to let us understand him. He’s gone Home. 

There was the other set of grandparents and their flow of summer visitors from Germany. Rudolph and Franciska and a few Stephanies. Their loud German ways fit right into the family and there were hay rides and cook outs and long breakfasts in the sunny kitchen. Coffee for the big people and fresh milk and strawberry jam for us kids. The clock’s chime brought such a stability to my life, and hearing Grandma’s early-morning footsteps in the kitchen filled my heart with the coziest feelings imaginable. here we had pie-making parties and puzzle solving parties and popcorn parties and chicken butchering parties. here an auntie dunked me into a vat of greasy chicken water and i filled a fried pie with pickles for an unsuspecting uncle. 

Somewhere, something must have changed.

Because tonight i find myself pretty much a genuine grown up adult. flying about among the forests and mystical mountains of Virginia.

{ part two coming soon. well, the next time i can sit at Mcdonald’s to write without getting distracted by the amazingly delightful people-of-the-south. }

 

 

 

of hot hands and a bomb.

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They said we were going to a museum depicting a famous Korean pastor. i shrugged and tagged behind our crowd of 40. sure that i’d become tangled and confused amid the rows of Hanguel characters.

We stepped into the dark, fly infested room and my heart and mouth dried into speechlessness as i read-in English- a testimony that keeps coming to my memory even now, 4 months later.

Son Yangwon worked at a Leprosarium in Yeosu, Korea and was reputed for intercession and an intense love for God. He prayed so constantly  that they dubbed him, ” the man with hot hands.”

With his own mouth, he sucked pus from the wounds of the lepers and i have to wonder whether i have truly given my mouth to Jesus Christ with this level of abandonment?

Following is his heart’s cry for Aeyangwon:

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“so please let me love then truly as You the Lord loves and touches them with love.”

even now as i re read this, my heart thumps. Thumps because this kind of love is what i freely receive from the hand of God. Thumps because this kind of love is what He is asking me to freely give also. Thumps because when we give our bodies to Christ in this manner, He accepts the offering.

Pastor Son’s  two oldest children were murdered during the Japanese occupation.

Hold your breath with me as we read his prayer of gratitude after their death:

I thank the Lord for producing sons of martyrdom from the blood of a sinner like me.  I thank the Lord for choosing me, among so many believers, to have the privilege of caring for these beautiful treasures. I thank the Lord for letting me offer up my eldest and my second eldest sons, the most beautiful of my three boys and three girls.

They say it is precious to have a son who is martyred. Still more, i thank the Lord that my two sons were martyred together. They say it is blessing enough to believe in Jesus and to die a peaceful death, but i thank the Lord for letting my sons be shot to death while carrying out the work of evangelism. My eldest son was preparing to study abroad in the U.S. but i thank the Lord, because my heart is relieved to know that he and my second son went to heaven, a better place than America.

I thank the Lord for giving me a loving heart with which i have led my enemy to repentance and taken him as my son. I am thankful, because i believe the martyrdom of my sons will bear countless fruits of heaven. I thank the Lord for allowing me to see God’s love even in adversity, and for granting me faith to overcome such adversity.”

They say the funeral place became “a sea of tears” after he prayed this prayer at their funeral. He adopted the Informer-student responsible for the boys’ death, and the man became as his own son and eventually believed in Jesus. dscn1000

 

is it possible that God is trying to open our eyes to a heavenly view of Love? Love, not only in the human body of Jesus -2,000 years ago, but living alive inside of you and i—today! Love that will forgive over and over and over. Love that will leave every millimeter of our bodies under the command of the voice of God. Love that will walk through flames or smile into mentally deranged eyes without flinching. Love that will burn garbage with a smile or take time to hug that one person who never understands our heart of hearts. Love that will reach out into a hurting world rather than huddling in coffee shops away from the pain. Love that will dare to sell everything we have. Love that will give up that recreational activity and spend time begging God  to bless that someone who is hurting. or that nation who is suffering. Love that foregoes pleasure and beautiful clothes in order to give to a genuine need. Love that will stand up with the looked-down on person in your life, Love that gives with no consideration as to whether we will receive reward. Love that realizes that sacrifice involves some kind of death. 

We say we love God.

Love is moving. living. active. in verb form. impersonated in people. me and you.

This is how we know what Love is. Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 john 3:16

In 1950, Son Yangwon was killed by Communists and in Korea they remember him as:

An Atomic bomb of Love.

 

 

#themomentialmostmissed

i’m not prone to being described as “strikingly beautiful”. and most certainly not on the way home from cleaning a monstrous log cabin, with a stabbing backache and cracked lips.

Today i was all set to sail home, when i realized that i’m about to pass the gas station…and for some reason, decided i should dump a few gallons of fuel into dad’s Subaru even though there was still plenty. i hobbled out of the car and a man with flowing grey hair turns to me and in a completely sincere tone: ” you are beautiful”.  inward grimace. wow God, You must really be shining through me today. 

The debit card slid through the machine as usual and i headed out into the sunshine only to look up and see Mr. Flatterer still standing beside his shiny red truck, watching me through sunglasses. He walked in my direction and asked for my name and suddenly i realized that this was one of those God-moments. Where He is in control and He brought me to the overcrowded B and B simply to allow Him to shine into one more precious soul.

Turns out he recently returned from spending a year in Thailand. He’s traveled Asia and been confused by people who “go around sinning 6 days a week, then go purge themselves on Sunday.”

Turns out some of the hardest experiences in my life have become stepping stones into the lives of other people. hard relationships. broken-heartedly watching my friend bury her baby in the dirt floor of her Tanzania hut. feeling about to die from malaria or knowing that North Korea could send a missile to our Island and finish us all off. endless goodbyes. all these experiences are difficult and tough and we’d rather do without them.

but oh the testimony of the Afterwards. being able to look back and say, “YOU Lord. have been here. Your power has carried me through. Your Spirit has led me. i can FEEL You.”

He walked me to my car.

“I think i could be properly described as an Agnostic.”

 

people we’re called to worship the Lord every moment. and through that minute by minute awe of God, He wants to broadcast His beauty through the earth. We really are not beautiful. or amazing. or put together. our lips crack and we whine about our backs and our layers of fat and our too-small houses and broken relationships.

can we open our eyes this weekend? realize what an Artist, Redemptive Artist, He is. imagine not only creating a whole atmosphere full of living art, but also living souls. and then wanting to be with them for always? to live in them?

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||the marriage of the sister

Fog hung in the trees and a tiny breeze rippled through the tulle and  two sets of brown eyes grinned at each other as Mr Bill introduced to us- the new Mr and Mrs Jesse Kuepfer.

They clasped hands and practically floated through the multitude of people and she forgot to take her bouquet from me but it didn’t matter because she is a wife now.

interesting how a few minutes can so radically change the lives of 2 people. and their entire families. IMG_20160820_145037830.jpg

 

They’ve been married for a week now and are still gallivanting among the Tennessee hills somewhere and we are all glad it’s over but the missing-Renita factor is strong.

I won’t wax poetic now. there are some things much too deep for blogs and social media. I keep fleetingly wondering where Ren is, in those little moments when i so depended on her..

Also, apparently giving your sister away does something to one psychologically because since the wedding i have crashed into a gate and broken the mirror off.{ahem, apologies to the Subaru}.. I’ve ruined a few pans of food… I knocked the jar of charcoal over- which sent clouds of charcoal floating into the crevices and grout in the bathroom. groan. I’m almost scared to leave my room for fear of doing something drastic and having to empty my bank account just to clean up after myself.

all that to say..the wedding is over and i’ve packed up my Esl teaching props and books and we’re only several weeks away from piling a few decades worth of family belongings into a semi. After which we shall set our faces towards the mountains of Virginia. It is a truly tremendous feat and i’ll be so happy to get my familia all cozy in their new place. our new place, as the case may be. =) I haven’t really been writing much recently.. somewhere in the last 6 weeks i seem to have forgotten how to really express myself. Or maybe its just that the Lord is doing deeper things that i am not yet free to express much.

but He is here. He is perfect. Complete. 

“I will go before you and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: and I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, which call you by your name, am the God of Israel.”