“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey towards it, casts the shadow of our burdens behind us.” –Samuel Smiles
As Christmas time approaches, an eager expectation and excitement rises within me. Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love the lights, the music, and the warm feelings it gives me. I love the magic of Christmas. I love that it is in celebration of what Jesus Christ has done for us—coming to such a crazy world as something as lowly as a human being to save us from ourselves. Everyone knows life isn’t easy, and throws us many curve balls we are not quite ready to handle…or at least feel like we are not ready to handle. However, Christmas reminds me that hope really does help us through so much and brightens our lives.
Although Christmas is my favorite season, I have always seen it as a time celebrated with family. This year, I find myself several miles away from my family in another country watching all my coworkers leave. A couple of weeks ago, it was really getting to me that, for the first time, I would not spend Christmas with my family. I really wanted to go home. It was even harder hearing all my coworkers make their plans (half of them going home) whereas I was still trying to figure out mine. Oh, the relief I felt when I finally was able to make plans with a friend from high school who is currently teaching English in Japan. Truly, I am so relieved and happy that I will not be spending my Christmas holiday alone.
Soon after, I was invited to a friend’s wedding, which was exciting and added to my relief. Then I found out a cousin will be in South Korea over the Christmas break, which really brightened my whole week. I would see some family after all.
Today was the start of my Christmas break. It’s amazing to think I have been here in South Korea for four months and have not seen any of my family or friends (except a few in September) since I have been here.
It still feels surreal that I am achieving a dream that I have had since I was thirteen. I’m living in another country teaching English! Does it really take this long for it to sink in? (Ha!) I have had so many adventures since coming here, and so many struggles as well. A month ago, I really started fighting to change my circumstances because things were turning sour so quickly, and I did not want to spend this year of doing what I felt God wanted me to do crying every other night and sinking into depression.
Why was I sinking in depression anyways? Hadn’t I defeated this before?
Well, for one, working at a high-stress, intense job can be really difficult especially when moving to an unfamiliar place in an unfamiliar land. However, I had mentally prepared myself for this, because I was aware of what I was stepping into. What I had not prepared myself for was getting sick so often, reacting to the water so badly that my skin feels like it is burning, or my face breaking out worse than it had ever had before. I lost so much weight, I was basically swimming in all my pants. My acne was so bad that I couldn’t look people in the eye, and constantly tried to side-step the many questions I received from students about what was on my face (or just told them it was mosquito bites—which some of it was). Oh, those mosquitoes. I feel like I have scars on my body from those darn mosquitoes. I’m so glad they died with the incoming of snow. Not looking forward to the resurrection in Spring.
There were other mental games that I was struggling with as well. I recognized the signs of falling into depression… The grey outlook on life. The hopelessness. The withdrawal from people. The constant tears. The drained feeling. The disappointment of some unrealized hopes I had coming to Korea. When it dawned on me that I was falling back in, I knew I needed to pull myself out quickly before I fell too far.
I reassessed what I was doing. I was eating poorly, sleeping poorly, managing my time poorly, allowing my life at home to slip, not doing anything that brought joy to me outside of work, and withdrawing from people around me and at home. So, I sat down, prayed for help, and made a plan. So grateful for a God who hears and a God who helps.
It was slow. I focused on food and sleep. Focused on changing my negative thoughts to positive, and focused on reaching out to people. Maybe people would not come to me, but I could go to them. Almost immediately, I started to feel a lot better. I still struggled—still am struggling (primarily with physical problems)—but things are so much better. I am continuing to alter my lifestyle in order to change how I approached my circumstances.
Sometimes I wondered if this was the wrong choice to come to Korea. However, I cannot make myself believe that. I truly believe I am supposed to be here right now. Although I hate the physical difficulties I am facing, it is not the worst thing in the world. I don’t regret any choices I’ve made in coming here (except for a few purchases I made when I first got here—Ha!). I’m reminded that just because it may be harder than I wanted, it does not mean that it was the wrong choice. Maybe this is a battle I just need to overcome with God’s help in order to go after the dreams God placed in my heart. I already feel I’ve changed so much since coming here, but I expect to change a lot more before this season of living abroad is over.
I was able to meet with a graduate from my university that is living in the same city as I am here in Korea last week. Thank God for divine appointments! She was a God-send. I left feeling so encouraged and so inspired. She reminded me, just through sharing where she was right now in life, that even though this time spent here in Korea feels temporary, it does not excuse us from spending it wastefully. We should use this time to continue to grow towards the person we want to be and the life we live after. Time does not freeze just because we are in another place.
I found myself finally dreaming again for the first time since arriving here.
I finally caved, and when to see a dermatologist in order to seek some medical help for my skin—the acne and the after-shower rashes. I just pray I continue to get closer each day to overcoming the adversities I am facing here and am able to fully enjoy the time I spend here. I really want this to be a time of growth and not a time of being stagnant. Especially in my relationship with God.
I truly adore teaching the babies here. I love finding out a little more who I am as an individual. I love living alone and experimenting with adult-ish things. Grocery shopping is getting easier. Maintaining my life at school and home is getting better. I am slowly learning how to maintain mental, physical and spiritual health. Although I am still working on how I handle stressful situations and still figuring out how to manage my time wisely, I’m allowing myself to hope again.
Christmas can be a great time to help remind us the sweetness and simple joys of life. It is actually so sweet to me to see how God is using Christmas during this season to help heal me, whereas only two years ago it had caused me to sink to the lowest I had ever been (not because of Christmas itself, but because of what it represented and how my life was not comparing—I wanted Christmas to be a happy time and it was not).
Christmas celebrates the hope Jesus brought when He came into this earth. His birth was a sign that not all was lost. Things could still change. All we have to do is continue to hope in the Lord. For, “those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
I am truly so grateful for all Christ has done for me and for everyone else. May your Christmases all be filled with joy and peace.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
“And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).
—The Adversity Rose—
DREAM. PURSUE. EXPERIENCE. GROW.
This blog will cover travel, personal growth, and life in general.