Where We Live

After an epic battle between Erica and the concrete walls (which left both parties crumbling,) our pictures are hung!  With everything in it’s place it is time for me to show you around our place.  So welcome to our wonderful home in Seoul, Korea!

This is the view from one end of our apartment.  The hotel in the background is the nicest in Seoul and has awesome fireworks displays at new years.

Our neighborhood:  This is the view from one end of our apartment. The hotel in the background is the nicest in Seoul and has awesome fireworks displays at new years.  If you could pan below you would see the “upper playground.”

 

Our room: quilt by my mother, photos of our wedding by Dave Brandes.  Both remind me of great things God has done for me, and both remind me of people I love.

Our Room: My mother made the quilt, Dave Brandes took most of the photos of our wedding. Both remind me of great things God has done for me, and both remind me of people I love. 

Diningroom: though the furniture is all army loan, this room is full of reminders. There's a keyboard that reminds us of dear Tia Nessa, and frame off the left margin that reminds us of her sweet parents, plus off to the right a bookcase full of memories of varies people and times in our lives.  (See my homeschool closet in the back?)

Dining Room: Although the furniture is all army loan, this room is full of reminders. There’s a keyboard that reminds us of dear Tia Nessa, a frame off the left margin that reminds us of her sweet parents, and off to the right a bookcase full of memories of varies people and times in our lives. Here Kylie is making puppets using supplies from our home school closet in the back.

Kitchen/Laundry room: My last GA candle from Jenny Brown sits up on the self waiting for a really, really homesick day!  The mason jars Joanne Brandes gave me from the family farm serve many purposes.

Kitchen/Laundry Room:
My last GA candle from Jenny Brown sits up on the self waiting for a really, really homesick day! The mason jars Joanne Brandes gave me from the family farm serve many purposes but right now they store beans and the family chore lottery.  (Also, see the wine glasses Kenny won hula hooping?  I will repeat that: “Kenny won HULA HOOPING!”

Livingroom:  I plan to hang the windows which came from Kenny's brother's ancient farm house, and I love using my mom's steamer trunk from college as a coffee table, plus all the dandelions and tiny daisies the kids pick are perfect in the ikebana my parents bought me at that bed and breakfast they love in TN.

Living Room: I plan to hang the windows which came from Kenny’s brother’s ancient farm house, and I love using my mom’s steamer trunk from college as a coffee table, plus all the dandelions and tiny daisies the kids pick are perfect in the ikebana my parents bought me at that bed and breakfast they love in TN.

 

I love the girl's room- it reminds me of an antique store somehow.  The quilt on Kylie's bed was mine when I was her age.

I love the girl’s room- it reminds me of an antique store somehow. The quilt on Kylie’s bed was mine when I was her age, and the cradle next to Elliana’s was mine when I was her age.

I also love the boy's room- it reminds me of a tree fort with the map and the built in bookcase.

I also love the boy’s room- it reminds me of a tree fort with the map that Grammy Pammy bought and the built in bookcase.  Elliana is making a big deal of showing off how clean it is because this rarely happens.

The only room I didn’t get to photograph is Cody’s.  Since he just moved in his room is still a work in progress, but so far it is filled with guitars, some really neat original art work he is working on, and a teenager’s ubiquitous dirty laundry.

I was really surprised by the space and sunshine in our concrete box in the sky.  I honestly love this little home- it feels cool and sunny and quiet.  In the decor you can find reminders of Germany, Korea, Texas, and Georgia, of our families and our dear friends, and of the times God has brought us through to show us Himself.  In the old testament God told his people to gather stones of remembrance-  physical reminders they could point to to remind themselves and teach their children what God had done.  Moving to Korea helped us strip down a lot of the extra stuff in our house and of what remains almost every piece reminds us of a person who loves us or a work God has done for us.  With such decor dusting the house has become a cause for praise!  Really, I love our house, and I hope that it is always a showcase for God greatness.

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Luke 10

God I hate this! I stink at parenting. Look at her across the pool deck.  She’s about my age but she’s still bikini thin and  pretty, and she’s laying out reading a book!  I don’t even have my bathing suit on because the short people who run my life wouldn’t give me the time to change!  I want to do something I’m good at and be praised.  I want to be in charge of my own time and not feel like screaming or crying 50 % of the time.  I don’t want to do this!

Luke 10

Verse 1-2  “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.  He told them ‘the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'”

THIS IS THE JOB I AM GIVING YOU TO DO.  GO WORK IN MY FIELD.

Verse 4 “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”

IT’S GOING TO FEEL LIKE CRUD SOMETIMES.

Verse 21-23 “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to the little children.  Yes, Father, for this was for your good pleasure.  All things have been committed to me by my father.  No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’  Then he turned to His disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.  For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what  you hear but did not hear it.'”

YOU ARE BLESSED TO DO IT.

Verse 25-27  “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the Law?’ He replied.  ‘How do you read it?’ he answered ‘Love the Lord your God with all your  with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”

THIS IS WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO.

Verse 30-37   “In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers.  they stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him, ‘ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have. Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’  The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.'”

LOVE YOUR KIDS AND SERVE THEM LIKE THE GOOD SAMARITAN.

Verse 38-42  “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She has a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  She came to him and asked ‘Lord, don’t you care my sister has left me to do the work all by myself?  Tell her to help me!’  ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from  her.'”

SIT AT MY FEET.

 

THIS IS THE JOB I’M GIVING YOU.

IT DOESN’T ALWAYS FEEL GOOD,

BUT YOU ARE BLESSED TO DO IT.

SO…

LOVE YOUR KIDS, SERVE THEM,

AND STAY AT MY FEET.

All Together

“Grace, grace, God’s grace…”  Blending a family of five kids can sometimes feel like a train wreck.  Being perfectly honest and just letting what’s in my head fall into the paper today I have to admit that I fall apart over our attempts to bring our family together.  Even as I am sitting here there are things happening that are making my skin crawl, and Satan is just outside the door with a big bucketful of despair waiting for the chance to douse my heart.  A kindergartener throws a temper tantrum.  Elementary schoolers bicker, make messes, and cause more noise that our apartment can contain.  A highschooler stirs up strife.  Kenny and I have to stay up to 1 am in order to have a private conversation and stay in touch.  All the parenting advice in the world, all the self-admonition to be patient, to control my temper, all the structure and family policies- nothing can make me strong enough for this job!  I can’t get myself under control, much less my household- it’s a mess!  “Grace, grace, God’s grace.”  At a moment of blood boiling, will-this-ever-get-better-ness, I suddenly remembered that line.  “Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all my sin.”  Take out sin and plug in “family” or “kid’s foolishness,” or whatever in that moment is stopping me from resting- resting in the finished work of Christ on the cross.  My five year old just fell on the floor in a temper tantrum in the middle of the crowded subway station.  God has a plan to redeem her heart from her sinful nature just like He did mine.  I don’t need to panic.  My six year old just spoke words he never should have heard.  My God is still bigger.  My eight year old has a heart ache because of the unkindness of a sibling he admires, God knows this. He is in control of my baby boy’s life and will work all things into the fabric of Their relationship.  We only have two months before our nine year old leaves us again- it doesn’t make it hurt less, but God is with her.  Our teenager spews forth all the foolishness of youth, but God is big enough to bring him into a relationship with Him, and that alone can make his life what it should be.  I blow it and sin against a kid, or my precious husband, and I don’t have to hide because God has already forgiven me, and His plan to bless my family and grow them into strong, life consuming relationships with Him won’t be thwarted by me.  “Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that is greater.”  Greater.  Grace that is great enough.  Great Grace.  That’s our family.

Family Trip to I'Park Mall  Kenny loves malls; can't you tell?

Family Trip to I’Park Mall Kenny loves malls; can’t you tell?

We climb on statues.

We climb on statues.

The optometrist's waiting room.

The optometrist’s waiting room.

Acting out a statue at Seoul Grand Park.

Acting out a statue at Seoul Grand Park.

Bathing Beauties at Seoul Grand Children's Park

Bathing Beauties at Seoul Grand Children’s Park

Daddy daughter dance- where Dad went on to win the hula hoop contest!

Daddy daughter dance- where Dad went on to win the hula hoop contest!

David’s 100th Lesson

In the fall of the year David and I sat down at our dining room table in Georgia and I laid a copy of Sigfried Engleman’s Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons on the table between us. “David, it’s time for you to learn to read.  Are you ready?”  Boy, was he ready.  David had been determined, since he was four, to learn to read.  His brother, whom he idolizes, read late into the night every night, using the special flashlight he had earned on completing his 100 Easy lessons and David, laying on the bunk below, couldn’t wait to bask in the glow of reading.  For ten months David read almost every day.  He would start reading on the floor, book spread in front of him, then half way through he would groan, and put his hands on his back, leaning back like a little old man, and say “Oh, my back!”  Then we would move to an easy chair, with him curled up on my lap while I held the book.  David learned to be careful tracking as the text shrunk and the lines grew closer together.  He learned the special sounds made by the various blends and, his favorite, he learned about quotation marks:  “now we’re going to find out what he said!”  Reading didn’t come with remarkable ease for David.  Sometimes we took breaks from the 100 Easy Lessons, which David insisted we needed to change to “100 Hard Lessons,” and read other things until he was ready to go on, but through it all David was the most determined young reader I have ever seen.  He didn’t complain, he didn’t put his head down and give up, he just kept reading- sounding out, back tracking, and completely making things up when he got too lost.   We finished the school year at the end of May and he still had a dozen lessons left to go, so he just kept reading.  Finally, on Friday, David finished his 100th lesson!  “This is the last end,” he read, as we all sat around our table in our dining room in Seoul, Korea.  The family cheered as Kenny turned off the video camera and we presented David with the gifts that have become a tradition for this first rite of passage in our family: a cookie sheet with the number 100 made out of gummy bears, a small gift (Pokemon cards in his case,) and the coveted flashlight.  Kenny picked out David’s flashlight: a smaller version of the lights soldiers use with an L-bend in the neck and interchangeable color lenses for signaling.  It was perfect for our little warrior.  David raced to bed that first night and read a super hero book.  Then he hopped out of bed and went to his sister’s bed and read her a Biscuit book.  Eventually, we told everyone to turn off the flashlights and go to sleep, but since he learned to read David has carried his flashlight everywhere- Sonlight Kid’s Camp, church today, the bathroom- and read everything he can find.  It makes me feel joyful to see him enthusiastic about one of my favorite past times, but more than that, I’m grateful to God for the character David showed while learning to read.  He was determined, and joyful, even though the task was sometimes frustratingly hard.  I’m so excited to see how God will grow this character in David and how He will turn David’s new skill into a tool for building his relationship with God.  Welcome to the world of readers, my little joy!

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Everland

On Memorial Day our chapel sponsored a family trip to a local amusement park.  The chapel paid for our tickets, chartered three buses, and acquired two boxes of the park’s complimentary rain ponchos when our group began to be anointed by liquid sunshine.  So, just after the gates opened we joined a flood of rain coat clad Koreans pouring past costumed greeters into Everland Amusement Park.  We found ourselves in a picture perfect town square with fountains and roses everywhere beckoning us further into the park where promises of unknown entertainments a waited.  Except that, for me, they weren’t unknown.  And while other moms posed their kids for pictures in front of the gate or hunted for English language maps of the park, I was suddenly ten years old again.  Twenty years ago, when I was in elementary school, my family lived an hour or so south of Seoul on Osan Air Force Base.  Whenever my dad had a day off we used to drive into Seoul and spend the day running around an amusement park called Yongin Farm Land.  Since the Koreans usually were still in school we would run from ride to ride without waiting in a single line.  It was like having our own private amusement park and I used to imagine that I was a princess and all the rides and gardens and restaurants were just part of my palace grounds.  I can distinctly remember every ride, every character, and all the seasons of the rose garden.  Now, twenty years later, standing in the entrance of Everland Amusement Park it was like I had stepped back into those memories.  Everland Amusement Park was Yongin Farmland, grown up a little and renamed (kind of like me,) but still my amusement park where I had reigned supreme for so many days as a child.   

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Many things were different.  In fact, to be totally honest, I wasn’t even sure my recognition was legitimate until I did some research, but some things were shockingly the same.  Even, frighteningly the same, (shouldn’t they have retired those roller coasters and gotten new ones in the 20 years since I had last visited?)

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But there as a carousel, and I remember how my mom used to ride every time, holding onto the pole and smiling like a kid.  Even if we kids didn’t want to we had to ride the carousel for mom because, like the Haagen-Dazs ice-cream that you couldn’t get anywhere else, it was something about Yongin Farmland that made her smile.  Now it made me smile as my 8 year-old pretended to be terrified of the “intense” ride.

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Truth be told, I may have taken nostalgia a little too far.  Near the end of the park we came across the Amazon River ride, one that I loved as a child, and which looked just like I remembered it.  My eyes grew big looking at the entrance and remembering floating down the rapids on the big green rafts under the waterfalls and cheesy head-hunter décor, but Kenny looked at the ride with a little more trepidation.  “I don’t really want to get soaked.”  After all, it was raining and not at all warm, but… I cajoled.  “Look at the people getting off the ride, none of them are wet!”  So we rode.

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And I was right. Twenty minutes later when we exited the ride everyone walking with us was dry.  Everyone who had ridden in our raft with us was dry, but Kenny and I… were soaked.  It really was unreasonable.  We were sitting on complete opposite sides of the raft.  What are the chances that we would both just happen to be in the paths of two separate waves that zeroed in on our position with the accuracy of a homing signal and didn’t so much as spash anyone else around us.  I think someone was listening to our conversation before hand and thought it would be fun to aim the water directly at those silly Americans.

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 So, we spent the rest of the afternoon dripping all over the park.  We literally left puddles whenever we walked through a building and the Koreans we passed all caught our eyes and laughed.  We were especially amusing because we were two sopping adults escorted by three responsibly dry kids.

David enjoyed the sky ride that reminded us all of Willy Wonka's glass elevator

David enjoyed the sky ride that reminded us all of Willy Wonka’s glass elevator

Elliana liked the lily pads that spun like Disney Land tea cups.

Elliana liked the lily pads that spun like Disney Land tea cups.

Everyone liked the tiny "Lego Museum."  I let them out of the bubble eventually.

Everyone liked the tiny “Lego Museum.” I let them out of the bubble eventually.

When it was time to go home I curled up on the bus seat in a sleepy, damp heat, with my head on my long-suffering husband’s sodden shoulder and watched the signs featuring Yongin and Farmy, the same characters that used to grace the park in my childhood, fade behind us.  I felt that, in more than one way, Everland had made me a kid again just for the day and if I was a princess again, riding away from my childhood palace, I suppose that made Kenny my prince.  The thought made me laugh- because I knew how much he would be embarrassed by the sentiment and with a smile on my lips I closed my eyes for my ride back home.

Tips for American’s Visiting Everland:

1.  There are English language maps available at the help kiosks and the front gate.

2.  The menus are basically the same at all the restaurants: chicken nuggets, shrimp burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries, and the like, but the chicken nuggets have a distinctly Korean flare and several of our little ones didn’t want to eat them.

3.  On the subject of food, be warned, while you will smell funnel cakes all over the park they are not, I repeat, not actually sold here. So don’t get your hopes up and go wandering around searching desperately for them.  (Not that I have ever done that.)  Oh, and the pretzels are filled with cream cheese.  Yeah, weird.

4.  Bring wan.

5. The sea lion show is really good, even though it is in Korean.

6. Don’t miss the wild animal safari!

7. The monkeys in the monkey house are crazy and so fun to watch, but in one of the zoos they have dogs on display and it made both Kenny and I cringe a little to see man’s best friend staring back at us from behind a glass and concrete case without any toys or anything.

8.  If it begins to rain unexpectedly ask for the complimentary rain ponchos at the front gate.  Unfortunately, while the keep you drier, you will have to remove them for every ride, and, as David discovered, they won’t add height to help you qualify for the big kid rides.

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