Surprised By Joy

It is yet another day of the dreary, unending “winter vacation”. Adjusting to a world where it’s culturally acceptable to need to wear big down jackets in drafty or at times downright unheated rooms for seven straight classes a day is just one of the reasons that the magic of why I adore my kids and relish this opportunity to be here is just not quite enough. I feel cranky, uninspired, and lack-lustered to the core. I want America back with its cable TV, comfy livingrooms complete with oversized couches and to eat a lunch with grilled chicken, lots of fresh vegetables and light salad dressing. Where people know what the heck I’m saying and they get my jokes. Where tanning beds are in abundance and where I can wear little AE sweaters and tights with cute slip on shoes because of the God-given gift we like to call insulation.

Why am I here, again? I ask myself as I head off to a class of particularly headstrong little girls. I don’t even try to make them smile when I walk in, just tell them to get their books out with an  I-hope-for-the-best-but-I-seriously-doubt-it mindset at the ready as I face the second half of my too-long day.

If I would have been listening, I would have heard God chuckle to Himself.

Surprised as I was, my little girls were actually not naughty at all today. In fact, they worked so hard as they grappled with grammatical concepts that my Korean, English and Google Translate combined were not enough to explain what we were learning, so they creatively switched back and forth from one language to the other until all of us were satisfied that we knew what in heavens name we were talking about. I smiled in spite of myself as I left our little class–at least that wasn’t as tiring as I thought.

An hour later, I found myself in a mini-stop with my class of 11 ten year olds and me going out for snacks to celebrate a notable accomplishment. They were so excited, they all got 1000 won each to buy WHATEVER they wanted; the poor clerk tried to maintain his Korean-style gracious composure without looking too frazzled by the enthusiastic flailing of nearly two dozen hands all reaching for him at once, and all definitely NOT listening to what he was saying. But we got it all sorted out, and left the shop rich with our feast of treats. Then little Tommy (my absolute favorite child of the year), with his squeaky voice and expressive, yet bashful eyes sidled up to me. As we walked back to school together, the cruelly-cold ocean wind sliced at our faces like frozen steel. “Teacher, here,” He shyly slipped a kimbap — a triangle-shaped, rice sandwich– into my hand.

He gave his reward to me. His run-down-the-sidewalk-as-fast-as-I-can reward. Gosh. If I was still feeling sorry for myself even a little bit, I wasn’t anymore. Things about my life that I absolutely was fed up with and then some didn’t matter. The cutest little guy in South Korea just realigned my worldview with a rice sandwich.

I’ve been reading a book by Katie Davis, an author even younger than me whose adventures overseas turned her blog into a book. She, however, has taken far greater leaps of faith than I have at this point. Her total investment in the gospel and her utter self-abandon has humbled me in ways I can’t even express. Somehow though, her very different life in a strange place has been telling me what to do in mine. Because I know where her strength came from, and her Source is the Saviour common to both of us. I want to serve, I want to love, I want to let go of my rights, and I want to be as rich as I was today holding Tommy’s rice sandwich a little more often. I wonder what that’s going to look like, but the joy I felt in the midst of my frustrations today was a pretty good sign that all of this is going somewhere really, really good.

**If you haven’t heard of the book Kisses From Katie, if necessary, stop reading my blog until you get it done and read! Reading this book may be one of the most transformational things you could do with your time. I know it is changing my heart in ways it ought to be changed. It is a story of a 19 year old girl from Brentwood, TN who adopted oprhaned African girls and is now being used to transform the future for an entire community; but more than that, it is a story of how personal, simple, and essential the gospel is and how much joy Jesus gives us when we love freely in His name.


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4 Comments on “Surprised By Joy”

  1. Jared & Amber English February 3, 2012 at 5:03 am #

    Steph, I am going to get this book on my iPad… Can’t wait to read it. Thanks for sharing… You are a jewel.

  2. derikandamandagrove February 3, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    Stephanie, this is a beautiful blog post.

    • everything but kimchi February 3, 2012 at 12:02 am #

      Thanks friend! I can’t wait to share in these experiences with you!


  1. My Neighbor | everything but kimchi - February 16, 2012

    […] their story. I can’t help but think that the gospel makes the truth unmistakably clear. The book I have been reading has influenced me to think about it this way: my “personal” calling, interests, and […]

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