Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Duck, duck, goose

Driving to a farewell dinner about a week ago, we passed a field of geese.  I love this time of year with its busy skies and large, mind-bogglingly airborne, chubby waterfowl.

Alas, just as my children get a kick out of the mallard ducks of Daegu and Pittsburgh, our family seems equally migratory.  Yesterday, Daddy headed back to South Korea.  He is needing to see his family, be assured of their love and wellbeing, as well as to investigate better ways to support us, discover more about himself, and find a healthy way to raise his sons.  It is love that drives him away and love that will bring him back. 

I should also mention here that this pattern is hardly novel in Asia, and not just Korea alone.  It is quite common for family to be separated by months and sometimes years as one member looks or leaves to provide for the rest.  It isn't comfortable, but it isn't rejection either.

In the meantime, we are also navigating.  Our migration this summer was good for us all.  The boys are more secure that family doesn't disappear; it just comes and goes like the seasons--perhaps exactly like the seasons because the big one is convinced that Santa Claus will bring Daddy back.

But I am reminded of the day Daddy became Daddy, of the inexplicable moment I saw love fill his eyes as he awkwardly took all four pounds three ounces of little boy and gazed at him closely for the first time.  "It was sweet bondage," he said.  Trained as an EFL teacher, I am always quick to correct misused words, but I think "bondage" over ""bonding" here might be much more accurate.  We are chained to those little beings, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

So our season apart has begun, and though it will hurt us all a bit, I have been watching migrations all my life, and I trust the goose to come home when it's time.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


"I just can't pray for that right now," weeps my friend.

"You don't have to," I say.  "God will send friends alongside you for that."

What I mean and what I'm not quite able to articulate at the moment is not that your friends can solve the problem or make it go away but that God sends a friend who has been there, done that, and knows how to pray for you, particularly when you can't bring yourself to ask for what you need.

And last night, it happened to me.  We were at a dinner with friends.  It was a goodbye dinner for my husband, who will be going back to Korea for an indeterminate amount of time.  Like so many such affairs, it was lighthearted and continued as though nothing were really out of the ordinary--until my husband left the room for a few minutes.

Immediately, our hostess leaned over to me and asked, "Are you going to be okay alone with the kids?"  At first, I was startled.  They translated for me, but it wasn't the words that were the problem.  It was the abrupt recognition that, no, not everything was normal (as I had been pretending), that my husband had told others about his plans and it was really going to happen, and that--and this was most important to me--they knew what it was like and cared about me.

I almost cried right there.  "I'm angry," I admitted.  And I hoped they understood that I'm not so much angry with my husband but with the situation, with not seeing a way out of it, with realizing that periods of absence are just going to be part of our life together.

We talked for a little bit, and I don't even really remember everything that we said.  They knew and empathized with my husband's feelings.  They had been in similar situations.  They had felt those feelings and struggled with those decisions.  Sitting in that room was a woman in nearly my EXACT situation (complicated by the fact that she is in ANOTHER country with the kids while her husband is home).  What we said didn't matter.  They understood.

For the second time in as many days, I just felt completely upheld in Korean family and friends.  Even though we can't say everything to one another, we are connected, and we care. And perhaps that is all that is required to keep going.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I am writing this post in awe.  Sometimes the way God works is too weird, but this is the third time now...

I guess it starts with a phone call.  At some ungodly hour (i.e., long before the school bus and still before the late autumn sunrise), my husband's cell phone rang.  I glanced at the phone, ready to answer, but recognized that it was a Korean number (we never answer Korean numbers but always call back using a phone card to avoid international charges--I repeat, avoid charges, not people).

Things have not been happy lately.  Not bad, per se, but stressful.  There is some work transitioning going on (where in the country isn't there?), and some of us are not transition-friendly people.  And others of us have just run out of ideas.

So, of course, in addition to brainstorming and getting stuff out there, there is a lot of praying going on. And when the praying doesn't work, I pawn it off on God and ask Him to rally the troops and have other people pray for us and remember us.  And as odd (and self-centered) as it may sound, this strategy often works.  I start praying like this, and things start to happen (apparently the troops God rallies are more effective intercessors than I am)!  And I get calls from people telling me they're thinking of me.

But this morning, my mother-in-law, a devout Buddhist, called and was the answer to my prayer. 

Yes, I know how incredibly heretical that may sound, but this is the third time we have been linked by prayer.  Nearly six years ago as God and I were having it out over a siblng for my oldest son, my MIL had a dream a boy was coming into the family.  Of course, she thought it was my SIL who was pregnant at first, but I am convinced that it gave my husband confidence that this baby was right for us at that moment (I knew it was right for other reasons).

Then, this past year, I had a vision of angels bandaging my MIL's knee, and I just couldn't shake that something was wrong in the family.  I kept hinting that my husband should call.  I didn't really want to push him over the crazy edge with a vision or the worry edge with a bad feeling, so it took a while to get him to actually do it.  But it turned out that my SIL had surgery--things were not well.  And, by the way, my MIL's knee was so bad that she stopped cleaning the floors on her hands and knees and started using a mop.  If you knew how much this woman loves clean, you would understand just how significant that change is.

Then, of course, there was this morning.  I can't tell you what this morning meant to me.  To hear my SIL's and MIL's voices coming out of the phone and to just know from the pit of my being that this was part of the response to my prayers--even though they, in their formless worried suspected the little son was the problem (who wouldn't?  In his meager 5 years, he has amassed 3-4 ambulance rides.  I swear he is trying to send me right over the proverbial edge!)--I knew it was for my husband in this time of change and that it was prompting.

And more than that, I knew it was a reminder, "Be still and know that I am God."  For almost a year God has been impressing this verse on me and it's relation to Buddhist thought.  If even a Buddhist is still, they will know (or perhaps if I am still, I will know). "You will seek me and find me when you seek for me with all your heart."

Is it synchronicity?  Am I wrongly interpreting coincidence in a bizarre case of confirmation bias or is this form of inductive reasoning right in this case?

I don't know.  But I believe.  Once again, the answers aren't neat.  They aren't immediate.  The problems aren't solved yet.

But the response was beautiful.  It was enough to keep going.

Yes.  He is absolutely able to do IMMEASURABLY more than all I can ask or imagine.  I couldn't have imagined that.  But it was perfect.