Silk Road Seoul (3)

            Somewhere along the way I was informed that there would be two weeks of training at the end of October. “Cool, last two weeks of October, no sweat. I still have time.”

October 1st – I found out that I was expected to be at the Institute in Seoul on the 16th which meant I would have to leave on the 14th or 15th, due to time zone changes and whatnot, almost a week before the “last two weeks of October” that I expected…”Jesus take the wheel!”

October 2nd I was told “they” were still deciding whether they would have me join for the October or December term.

October 10th – I was a little frazzled and challenged God, “You told me to go and I’m going but you have to get me there.” I had just figured out the apostille process and sent my documents off. Without the apostille, I could not get my visa and the instructions said not to get a plane ticket until I had it. I asked if I could switch to the December term because I was still waiting for documents and at that point felt rushed and unprepared. I had not even started packing.

October 11th – My contact basically said, “we’re ready and waiting so just come.” No apostille, no visa, no ticket and just come? Sounds legit.

October 13th – I was running around like crazy.

 

October 14th – It was 1:15 am, I was spent. I was packing, unpacking, repacking and about to get frustrated so I prayed and took a break. I told my mom, “it looks like I have to get a ticket and just go tomorrow. I am unprepared but I just have to go and that is that. If God said go, He will have my back.” I figured I would check my email once more before buying a ticket and this was the message I read,

            Hi Kelli,

            I’m awfully sorry about this but one of our schools cancelled their request for a new teacher so I’ll have to move you to the next upcoming term [for] which the arrival date is set to December 16. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you.

            All I could do was praise God! I got that message the day before I was supposed to leave. My mom said that sometimes God just wants to know we are willing. Of course He knows but maybe He was making plain to me my own level of commitment and I am grateful. I could barely have imagined myself being that open and obedient. That is the type of thing I would read about and say, “wow, that’s amazing” and yet there I was taking that leap of faith. Better still, at 6:28 pm that evening I received an email that my apostilled documents had been shipped and were on their way to me. Amen! Little did I realize that Satan had been attacking the whole time and the small battles were going to escalate exponentially. It was about to get “real”.

Silk Road Seoul (2)

            I was calm, cool, and collected. This time I stepped out of God’s way. When I did that I realized that I was moving too fast and in my excitement to tackle something new, I had not thought things though. The teaching job in China would require me to work on my Sabbath, not much religious freedom in a communist country you see. It was the same for teaching jobs in Japan, except for the communism angle. Once in a while there would be an activity or sports day scheduled on the Sabbath and I just cannot compromise even if it is just once and in my experience having compromised before, it is rarely just once. It was a blessing in disguise and because I leaned on God and not my own warped understanding (Prov 3:5-6), I could discern things that I would not have if I had reacted in my usual manner. Was so happy. I felt like I was finally doing something right and being rewarded spiritually for heeding God.

            First, I started filling out the forms. Then I started working on Passport to Mission, an online course of sorts that lets the decision makers see where your head is or how you would possibly cope in a new environment. The online session had already started for those who desired to begin their missions in October and about half of my time was already gone but I pushed through and finished with little time to spare, maybe minutes before the deadline. Next I started on the identification related things; fingerprinting, FBI background check, photos, etc. Things were moving right along but time was winding up.

            September the 16th my contact at the main branch of the SDA Language institute in Seoul asked if I wanted to start in October or December. Well, things were still going fairly smoothly so I said, “October”, which was the plan since my timing for the August session was off. “Yeah, I can do this,” was my sentiment at the time. Then I hit a snag; the mysterious and oft dreaded apostille/notarization process. Getting my degree notarized and apostilled was a trial in itself and has its own blackened file in my memory. Some people I asked treated these separate processes as if they were the same, I had conflicting information, and in general no one even knew what an apostille was nor had they hard of it. I even went back to my Alma matter and they gave me the run around too.

Silk Road Seoul (1)

           I am back in the US as I type but hear me out. So after my unsatisfying jaunt through grad school, while I was pitying myself and working temp jobs, my friend Kyle said, “hey wanna teach in China for a year?” Me teach in China? Let me get this straight, you want introverted me to stand in front of a room full of people and relay information to them and you want this to happen in a place so far from my comfort zone that it may as well not even exist in the same universe? No way. Not happenin’ partnah. However, Kyle always encourages me to do things out of my comfort zone and sometimes I listen, so I told him I would apply and I did.

             I forgot all about it and was confident that I would never be chosen yet I was called in for an interview and started to get excited about doing something new and different. The interview went extremely well, which was surprising because I usually sabotage myself. Then some communication issues popped up. The company asked me for documents I had never received, I was being told conflicting information, and they took way too long to respond to me once the problems arose. There was no way I was going to feel comfortable having to rely on them in China when I couldn’t even rely on them in DC.

            Once I extricated myself from Chinagate I set my sights on Japan. “Ok God, China didn’t work out so what now, Japan?” I found the JET program online. It was government-funded and I met the qualifications so I thought I hit the proverbial jackpot. I went through the whole process; filling out forms, doctor’s appointments, shots, getting my international drivers license just in case, and running people down for recommendations. I harbored an unfounded and inexplicable affection for Japan since I was in high school so I was convinced that God was sending me there but so far, so wrong. I got the second most painful rejection letter of my life, which I saved because I want to occasionally find it and relive the pain, obviously. I did not even make it as an alternate. I heard the program was getting increasingly difficult to get into but a rare wave of confidence had swelled up in me and it quickly dashed me against the rocks of disappointment.

             “God…whaaaat are You doing?” “No, what are you doing?” was the response. Well, I was trying to circumvent God. I thought that somehow if I went through the church, I would be the lowest on the spiritual totem pole wherever I went due to religious standards I just could not measure up to but who am I to compare when God does not? So what if I not Supermissionary, no one starts out that way. I went through Adventist Mission and could not believe I had wasted so much time. As I was looking through the list of countries with mission trips available, repeatedly scrolling back and forth over Japan with the little “0” in brackets next to it and holding my breath, South Korea caught my eye.

“God, you have got to be kidding me”.

“I’m not.”

“Not Spain or Mexico? I can get by with Spanish but I don’t know any Korean and I know next to nothing about South Korea beyond K-Pop, Naver, and hanboks!”

“South Korea. Trust me.”

            I was a little upset about China, crushed concerning Japan and all God would say was, “wait”. I trusted Him and though I was disappointed, I was not angry, I did not get frustrated like I usually do nor did I whine or complain; I prayed. For the first time, I completely handed all my stuff over to God.

Dear Friend,

This is a letter I wrote to someone who just up and disappeared months ago. My mom said I should post it. I thought about it and agreed. I hope it can help someone else who is suffering.

_____________________,

How are you? If the answer is “not good”, that’s okay. In one of our ******group meetings, you shared that you have struggled with depression, so for you to disappear for so long makes me think that you are hurting right now. I too have struggled with depression. I’ve battled with it since I was ten years old. It’s been so long that I don’t remember who I was before then. Please don’t think that no one knows how you feel. Sometimes I hate myself so much I can’t stand it. I even tried to kill myself in high school and have experienced a myriad of dark thoughts of that nature. I am a lot better now but my most recent breakdown was July 2013. I stayed in bed for three days and even prayed that I wouldn’t wake up when I went to sleep. Meds, psychiatrists, psychologists, I’ve been there. I’ve cursed God, hated Him, doubted Him and tried to cut Him out of my life but in spite of all that, He still has me in His hands. Prayer, talking it out, I felt like it was pointless but I take confidence in God’s word that He is working things out for my good and that He loves my broken, incompetent self. I decided that I could not let Satan rule my life and miss out on the blessings God has in store for me, even if there was always this lingering feeling of self-hate and worthlessness. I decided to trust God and He has turned the bile of my doubt into the sweet nectar of faith. I’m far from where I want to be in my relationship with God but I am reaping benefits and blessings by giving Him the reins. One of these blessings doubles as an act of faith. I feel like God has called me to go on a mission trip to South Korea. The journey to acceptance and discovering what God wanted rather than what I wanted was long, hard, and painful but I have come through it all and will be on a flight to Seoul on December 15th. For the first time in my life I am stepping out completely on faith and for the first time I am not afraid! Living my life in fear hinders me from reaching the potential that God has granted me. Though I still do fear quite a bit, I am looking forward to this new chapter…Please just let me see you before I leave. As my departure draws near, God has brought you to mind more and more! I love you, miss you and hope to see you.

Session 0

          I have always planned to write this. It is my duty to write it for myself and anyone else who is suffering with the same problem. Alright, here goes nothing. I am 25 years old and I have struggled with depression since I was 10. Of course I did not know I was depressed at ten years old but looking back it is obvious. By age 17, I was suicidal and tried to kill myself and at 21 I gave up…mostly. I went to therapy, got me some Citalophram and dreaded going to sleep every night because I did not want to wake up the next day. The meds did not work for me so I stopped taking them after four months and decided to fake it ‘till I make it, which also did not work. I shunned (most) of my religious beliefs, I did not pray and barely went to church for almost two years because I was angry with God, myself and everybody else. I no longer cared about myself so I engaged in self-destructive behavior. I tried smoking myself to death with cigarettes and would hang around when my dad smoked so I could inhale all those carcinogens  (hoping I would get cancer) and I tried to drink myself to death. I would have daydreams of swigging from a bottle of bleach, stabbing myself, or being killed in various ways. I dreamt about my funeral, planned it all out (got kind of emo on the inside) even how I would kill myself which would be carbon monoxide or laying across the Marc train tracks and waiting for the train. At 24 I saw an ad for a clinical trial, which I joined and began taking Cymbalta. It seemed to do me a world of good. I worked myself back into church and really began enjoying it because that is the type of life that is best for me and by then I had resolved not to kill myself (still thought about it though). I had a meltdown this July at work and just left, never to return. Now I find myself back on the downhill portion of the emotional roller coaster.

          One word to describe my days now is “tepid” and I cannot see any change on the horizon. Praying, I can do that but trusting is hard because I am accustomed to doing things with what I thought was my own power. It is hard to face the realization that I do not trust God as much as I thought I did. I will go into more detail later but what I want to share the most is that despite my relationship with God (a work in progress) I still struggle with depression but it is that same relationship that keeps me from jumping out a window. Sometimes I feel like a fraud because I can write uplifting stuff while still feeling crummy inside but all my posts are true. I have grown so much spiritually but I still have a long way to go and this lingering depression is a part of that.

          A special “thank you” to Hanna, author of Purposeful Purity for inspiring me to be courageous and share. It took a while but I finally did it. I pray for your happiness and success in your future endeavors.

To Mark It, To Mark It

     Yeah, so I have been suffering with blogger’s block. My brain is so overloaded that when I try to pull out something good, everything else just falls down on top of me (like a game of Jinga). But lo and behold, I am cured! I hooked a memory with the fishing pole of my mind.

     I remember the last time Barry Black preached at my church and one of his anecdotes really stayed with me. He recounted how he was asked to preach at a young man’s funeral. He did not personally know the young man so he asked the decedent’s mother for his Bible. You see, In order to tailor his message around a person, Barry Black would skim their bible for notes, highlights, underlined portions or what have you and be able to determine what was going on in their life. He could tell who had overcome or who was struggling and with what. Amazing right? It makes sense to me. Someone who is going through a divorce would likely hold different Bible text dear to them than someone who has overcome drug addiction. Someone who is world-weary may note many of Jesus’ promises while someone who is learning who God is may have a lot of Favorites from Psalms.

     In any case, Pastor Black said that this young man’s Bible was brand spanking new. Yes, that can mean a few things; the youth simply took great care of his Bible and did not want to write in it, there was another Bible he used heavily (not the case here), he rarely opened it or he never even cracked the seal (unfortunately, this one is true). So, what was the pastor to do? I cannot remember that clearly but I think he made his sermon more general and addressed the audience as well.

     My mom has a beige Zondervan KJV study Bible and of course, I wanted one too (the commentary and diagrams are awesome). When She bought one for me, I just put it on my shelf (for safekeeping). It was too perfect and I was too much of a klutz to handle it. When I started taking the Bible more seriously and studying I decided it was time to pull it down. Even for all my “protecting” my favorite bible was damaged by the fluorescent lights of mi casa (the cover has this ombré thing going on, very trendy). Then still, I handled it delicately. Well, I got a little more comfortable and started with penciled tick marks, then asterisks, then underlines, and then (oh my goodness) PEN!

     Now I use pen to circle verse numbers, asterisk chapters and I even dog-ear pages (butter me up, I’m on a roll). Barry Black’s sermon changed the way I looked at my Bible. If someone picks it up, what will they learn about me? Could some tell how important the gospel of Matthew has been to my study? Could someone see how Psalm 92 and 119:105, 114 or 2 Chronicles 7:14 strengthen my faith? Could someone see my hopes for the future in 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17. Could someone see my daily walk in Matthew 22:36-40 and Palm 19:14? Could my struggle with putting God and his word first be seen in Ezekiel 24:15-27? Could how much I value God’s law be gathered from Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5? Is my love for God obvious, observable and evident? I certainly hope so!

     Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of us who keep their Bible in pristine condition (admirable in its own right) but there is something just as impressive about a well-worn, marked up Bible. What if I left my Bible somewhere and someone who is indifferent to its contents just picks it up and flips through it. Odds are pretty good that their eyes will fall on one of my asterisked verses and they may even read it. I will have witnessed or testified without saying a word. Who knows, that could be a life changing moment for someone (just saying).

The ABC’s of SDA’s (1)

I haven’t posted in a while and I know people have a lot to say about recent events (Osama, tornadoes, the pseudo second coming) but right now it’s draining and there will be more of the same in the future so for now I don’t even want to discuss it. Instead I will begin my first post of my SDA Fundamental Beliefs series.

What most people know about Seventh Day Adventists is that we go to church on Saturday but there is so much more to our faith including that which sets us apart from other religious denominations under the same umbrella of Protestantism. I’m sure the differences lie mostly in our fundamental beliefs.

The first fundamental SDA belief concerns the scriptures (direct Biblical text). www.Adventist.org says, “The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration through holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to man the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history”. My favorite verse concerning scripture is 2 Timothy 3:16 (largely because I memorized it as a child) which says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”. If I love God and want to live a life that is pleasing to Him, a righteous life, the “How-to” of it all is in the Bible. I consider the Bible a road map to a better, more heaven-ready “me” so far, I’ve even found scriptures for every aspect of myself I want to improve upon like my inner beauty (Galatians 5:22), self esteem (Psalm 139:13-14), and talents ( Matthew 5: 14-16).

It may seem silly, illogical, or irrational to non-religious people that Christians revere the Bible as truth. I feel that what the Bible says is eternally relevant to the past, present and future and as such, is infinitely more ridiculous to ignore. False prophecies, “wars and [rumors] of wars” (Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9), increasing ferocity and frequency of natural disasters, yup, it’s all in there. The question is will you believe in the scriptures wholly or just what seems to work in your favor?

Remember, God doesn’t like fence-sitters, He said, “so then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will [spew] thee out of my mouth” (also, because you’re nasty and have no definite flavor…) Revelation 3:16 (what’s up with this 3:16 thing?  Got to check it out). It may sound harsh but in the words of Heidi Klum “you’re either in or you’re out”. You can’t be a part-time Christian and expect a full-time God. Just as being a part-time Christian will do you no good, only believing some parts of the Bible and not others will only make you easy prey for satan and desensitize you to God’s authority, power, and will. Read the Bible, consult it, use it as a guide and an endless source of spiritual food. My beloved Sabbath school teacher said, “faith is simply taking God at His Word”, and His Word is the Bible so…boom goes the dynamite. Also, don’t underestimate the power of scripture and the fact that the devil can quote scripture too. In order to arm oneself against the time of trouble ahead, it would behoove us to get real familiar with the Word so we will not be misled by the likes of people like Harold Camping (ok, tell me why this man…ugh! forget it, I’m not even going to get into it right now).