Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tears and fears at work

(warning this is a long one, but there is some good news at the end.)

I have mentioned in the past that my kids tend to cry. Korean boys seem especially vulnerable to this tendency.
But today it was my turn. Yes, for the first time in my 11 months working at my school, I burst into tears today. It was a combination of many things. First, it is just one of those "a little more sensitive than normal" days. Also, it's the fourth and final week of intensives. This means I work a solid 9 hours a day tuesday to thursday, and mondays and fridays are a nice long 11.5 hour day. It's just a little too much. Also, last night I had a nightmare involving some of my students. In my dream, they were out of control and my boss was getting mad at me for not being able to control them.
So all that led into today. I was toward the end of my 9 hour Wednesday and it was time to teach the class that had been starring in my dream last night. I was a little tense about it since really this class generally IS out of control. So when the most troublesome kid decided to be really rude to another girl while she was giving a presentation I came up behind him and slapped in on the arm. It wasn't hard. But I've never hit a child before. In fact, I am VERY much against corporal punishment in schools. I won't comment on spanking since that is in the relm of the home and I am not a parent. But I am a teacher and I am VERY against hitting children. So I was shocked and disgusted with myself for slapping the kid. (Again, it wasn't very hard and it really was more to get his attention than to hurt him, but it still was harder than I am ok with.) The kid of course lives in a culture where it is normal for teachers to really hit children, and he is a very naughty kid, so he wasn't surprised or moved at all when I hit him. But I was. I left class for the five minute break and wandered into the teacher's room to get more copies and collect myself. I was still in shock over what I had done.
That's when the counselor asked to talk to me privately. She said she had been talking to the parents of the class that I was to teach next and they were concerned. No, they didn't hear that I hit a kid. That they would be fine with since that is normal here. No, they had heard from their kids some concerning stories from my classroom. Evidently, at some point in time, a girl's paper had fallen on the floor, presumably under the table in between the girl and me. I had moved it toward her with my foot for her to pick it up. That hurt the girl's feelings. Also, another girl got hurt when I wouldn't let her borrow my pencils or markers. Now the story there. The girl tells me she has been sick with a fever and throwing up. I ask her if it was in the past or if she was still sick. She tells me she thinks she still has a fever. I tell her that she needs to go home. She doesn't want to and the counselor tells me that she will stay in the class, that she isn't sick anymore. In my American mind, if you have a fever, you are contagious. So I, not being able to kick her out of my class, at least want her to stay away from my pencils so I don't get sick. Well, I hurt her feelings.
So the mom's, who are all really tight with each other and talk a lot, expressed their concern with my teaching. As the counselor is telling me this, I break down in tears. The counselor was shocked that I was so serious about the criticism, she really didnt think it was a big deal. But in that moment (and even now as I type) the news was too much to take. I really enjoy the class with the girls whose mother complained. I thought we had fun. But knowing that they are going to take everything I do under criticism makes me bitter. There are some teachers who don't care about how much the students enjoy learning. But I do. I really try to make my class as fun and creative and educational as possible. Which means I put tons more energy into my classes. So here I am wiping myself out each day, and the parents are complaining. It took me a few minutes to get my eyes unpuffy so I could go to class. I handed out the test the kids were supposed to take and stood over by the window, trying to put on enough make up to cover the red eyes. But I kept feeling the tears poking their ugly heads back up. So I made my way over to my purse and pulled out my bible. I knew exactly where to read. Ps 16.

"The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasent places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.
I have set the Lord before me, because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken." (v.5,6,8)

So I read those verses over and over. I was shaken. But I claimed the truth that my identity and value are hidden in Christ. That I can love these kids and serve these kids as a teacher through His power, and not through my own. I prayed and begged God to give me grace and mercy as I faced this time. And He was gracious.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Becka's Pancakes

I made some yummy pancakes this morning and I thought I would share them with you. Well, not really share, but at least show off the yumminess.
Want the recipe? Too bad. It doesn't exist! Naw, I don't really like to follow recipes and it's hard to really follow recipes here since there are no measuring cups or anything (it's really because I am too impatient to measure stuff!)
So I can tell you what I added up, and maybe if youre feeling adventurous, you can throw the stuff together and make your own version of my pancakes.
What to use:
some flour (but not much, maybe half a cup)
some oatmeal (another half a cup or so)
some museli (don't even try to ask where I found this stuff here, or how much it cost)
a little brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
a dash of baking powder and baking soda
a tiny bit of vanilla extract (thanks Ashlee for sending that over!!!)
and finally, add how ever much milk you need to make the pancake mix the right consistency)
Put some batter on the pan and cut little pieces of pancakes on top of it. They will sink into your pancakes and get warm and mushy. De-lic-ious!
que disfruta!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

doubts and fears

I felt a tinge of doubt today.
I went out to explore a part of Seoul that I haven't been to yet. It's the neighborhood near Ehwa Women's University and from everything I've heard about it, I knew I would like it.
So I set out for the hour long trip out there around 4pm, hoping to escape the worst of the afternoon heat. It was still pretty hot outside when I arrived but it was such a pleasent day with so many people out and about that I nearly forgot about the oppressive heat.
As I walked around the neighborhood, I was filled with a soft sadness that I will be leaving this place in 10 weeks. The truth is that I have found parts of Korea that I love and I will mourn losing them when I leave.
That made me think (and don't get upset grandma!) that maybe I would be happier staying in Korea. Won't I miss those parts of Korea when I am in Chile? Won't I miss the coffee culture? The way they have lot's of cheap places to get cutesy stuff? Won't I miss the food?
A hint of doubt slowly crept into my mind. I walked along the streets, thinking about all of it. All the places I have lived and loved. All the reasons I have loved the places. The feelings I have gotten as I walked down streets and the sadness I have faced as I left places. I soon put words to the fear that growing in my heart. I was afraid that I would never be truly happy anywhere. No matter where I go, I will have things about other places that I love and miss. I will miss the diversity of New York, the coffee culture of Korea, the weather of San Francisco, and so many things about life Chile. I feared that I would never find the perfect place to live.
And then I realized, I won't.
I won't ever find the PERFECT place to live because the truth is that I love so many different places for different reasons and that is a blessing. AND... all places are affected by sin and literally, there is no perfect place.
So I asked God (finally) what I was supposed to do with all this. How could I know that He was bringing me to Chile when I had such torn feelings about everywhere?
God doesn't call us to live in perfect places. Certainly, that idea can't be matched with anything in the Gospel, but He puts us places to be a part of His work in the world to proclaim His glory among all people.
So God asked me (kinda, in His special way), "Where am I putting you for the great purpose of living a life for my glory? Where will you live to be a part of what I am doing among the people?"
And I knew that the answer, at least for now is Chile. They might totally lack a coffeehouse culture, but I am not moving there so Chile can serve me. When I think about Chile, I want to be a part of what God is doing there. I want to be a part of the church planting that's going on. A part of reaching the Bellas Artes neighborhood with the amazing news of a loving and gracious God who desires restoration. The Lord may take me somewhere else, but for now I walk forward toward Chile, excited that He has led me thus far. There will be parts of me that get homesick for New York, San Francisco, and even Korea. But in the end, my home is hidden in Him. And so is my joy.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


There are some people in life that you just know are special. People who have made such a difference in your life that you couldn't imagine how you would have survived various seasons of life without this person. Michelle was that person for me throughout seminary. Our two years in seminary together taught us the necessity of preaching the Gospel to each other each day, literally. We met on the porch of Machen Building at Westminster Seminary and a beautiful friendship bloomed into what now can only be described as a sisterhood. We have laughed together, cried together, and lived together. We kick each other's butts when we are being stupid and we love to cuddle on the couch and watch movies together.
So I'd like to take a chance to say CONGRATS to this wonderful woman on her recent engagement. As the two of us have walked along a long path of broken hearts and crushes dreams in the world of romance, I rejoice now with my friend. Her fiance, Ernest is an awesome guy (I've met him on skype briefly, but I have it on good authority!) and I am SO excited that she gets to share her life with him. May they grow in grace as they learn to love and serve each other as God calls them to. And may their marriage be a testimony to all those around them.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Student Sweetness

There are many approaches to teaching. I was raised with the attitude that learning was fun and over the years as I have developed my teaching style, I've tried to keep that attitude at the forefront. I know I'm not supposed to have favorites as a teacher, but I do. I have many favorite students, there are honestly some great kids in some of my classes.

But one of my classes in particular is full of wonderful students. The class is called C3 and it's a group of girls, all around 6th grade. They are just great girls. In that class, there are a few girls that stand out, and there is one girl who I have to admit, were I to choose a favorite, she would be it. Her name is Jennifer Lee. She is just an awesome kid. She works hard, is self motivated, never puts others down but encourages the other girls to do well. She's wonderful.

So today in class I mentioned that most teachers are only here for one year. She raised her hand and asked if I was going to stay for only one year. I told her yes, that I would be leaving in November. I noticed her face drop and I thought it wasn't a big deal, so I moved the conversation along. I looked back at her a minute later and her eyes were red and puffy. She was crying! I almost laughed- it was SO sweet! I teach her sister Vivian as well and I know that I am their favorite teacher (or at least they tell me so) but this was really precious.

I love these C3 girls so much! I wish I could take them with me. Actually, I wish I could be their youth group leader and talk to them about real issues instead of worrying about their grammar. I try to get deep with them, well as deep as you can get with 12 year old girls. We've covered issues in our debate class like plastic surgery on minors, self esteem, and respect. I tease them and joke with them. We often find ourselves rolling (some of them literally out of their seats on the floor) with laughter.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Earlier this week it was Chris' birthday. He turned the big 30 and Jonathan and I decided to throw a little surprise party together. It took a ton more energy and time to do it than I expected, but in the end, I loved making my dear friend's brithday a memorable one.

Betsy and I cooked and cooked and then experimented with some more cooking (which FAILED horribly!)

Some of our cooking tools

We let Chris decorate his own cake...

and eat some of the frosting...

and I'm pretty sure I'm gonna be an awesome mom for 8 year old boys.

And now some photos from the rest of the party...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

a "heart" update in Korea

I guess it's time for a little "heart" update. The truth is, there isn't much to tell. I feel my desire to get married getting stronger and yet more controlled as I get older. I know, I'm not that old yet. I'm 27. But as my mom so graciously pointed out to me recently, that was the age she was when she got married. Thanks mom.
It's interesting being a single woman here in Korea. It seems like most younger girls have boyfriends, and the older girls are desperate for one. Unlike the states where there is a valid "singles" culture, there is none here. It is really awkward if you don't have a significant other. People will often ask you why. People will speculate about what's wrong with you. And then they will offer to set you up on a blind date. Going on blind dates, so-ghe-ting as they call it, is one of the most popular ways to meet potential boyfriends. There is a cultural expectation here that women get married by the time they are 30 (remember that I am 28 in Korea). So some of my students, upon learning my age, remind me that I need to be working on finding a husband. I think some of them have given up hope on me.
I haven't exactly given up hope. Like I said, my desire has become less of a blaring siren, and more of a dull drumming of hope that someday those desires will be met. Sometimes I catch myself watching cute couples in the park or on the subway, and I feel a little jolt of sadness. Why can't I have that? And I have to remind myself that I wouldn't want that here in Korea. I'm not staying here so that kind of relationship would just bring problems and sure heartbreak.
But more than the logistical justification for being single now, I have a reason for being in this place in this season. God has me here. I have to trust that He has control over this situation. I have to trust that He is working out His good and perfect will in my life. That no minute is wasted. If I ever marry, it will be in His timing. He could have brought me a husband much sooner, but He hasn't. He desires me to be single in this time. So I praise Him for that. I don't feel praise, but I know that I praise Him. He has never left me and He has never taken me somewhere without giving me the grace to be there. He has proved faithful before, and my hope is rested in His unfailing faithfulness in the future.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Getting personal with Luther

Sorry for the lack of posting. I am in the heart of intensives which is like the being in a deep dark pit of screaming children and crazy curriculums. Mondays and Fridays I end up at work for about 12 hours and Tuesday to Thursdays round out to a "normal" 8 or 9 hours each. Basically, Im pretty exhausted most of the time. But in the madness of the time, I get to realize some things about myself. One of the best realizations has been in the relm of theological nerdiness. I don't want to go into details, but I have come to the conclusion that I might have some personal issues with Luther. Yes, the issues may have begun in dry academic theology, but I being too much of a girl have to go and take it personally. The feelings are similar to those I might feel toward a girl in my social group who slighted me. Only, this is a guy from hundreds of years ago, and the slighting was all theology.
Luther went to great places theological places, and he led the way in some wonderful theological insights. But there is stuff that Luther said and did that bother me. The most ridiculous thing of it all is not the stuff that I don't like about Luther, but that I, being a complete and total nerd, actually care enough to be truly bothered by it all. My issues with the guy came to a head today when I was reading through his introduction to Galatians. My small group is going to be discussing it this week and I was getting some prep work done for leading the discussion. As I was reading, I felt resentment building in my chest. Don't get me wrong, the things he wrote in this introduction are good. But I have this hidden resentment, from knowing too much about the various controversies that went on around him. And that leaves me here, stuck somewhere between the high academics of historical theology at Westminster Seminary, and my natural tendency toward teenage emotionalism.
Sorry for the boring post. I'll try to be more consistent in posting, and I'll try to be just a tad less of a dork in life in general.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Sunday, August 01, 2010