...Let the Blogging Resume...

My friend, Jen Dillender, Master Blogger, Photographer, Friend, Sister, Doggie Mama, etc., kindly reminded me not to desert my blog and that the last post had been 2 months ago (oops!). So, here goes...a simple, short, photographically-full blog about our fun and relaxing weekend.

Sometimes it's the little things in life...

...like Saturday afternoons at my favorite coffee shop learning how to use my fancy-schmancy camera...that I have already had for about 2 years...

...and then practicing by taking pictures of my yummy, empty drink...

...and sippin' on a lovely Sunday afternoon beer while working on the absolute hardest puzzle of my life...

...and going BACK to my favorite coffee shop (for the 3rd time in one weekend) to spend some sweet time with the Lord...

...and Him sharing beautiful promises with me...

...and then taking funny pictures of Bwill...

...and then stalking Korean babies ...

...and having yummy 'minced chicken lettuce wraps' with your hubs for a Sunday din din...

Thank you, Jesus, for the daily blessings in my life. Open my blind eyes to be able to see them minute by minute and give YOU the thanks and praise!


"On earth as it is in Heaven!"

Well, here we go. This is Austin writing this blog entry and to be honest I am a bit nervous. Lauren is definitely the blogger in our family, and I am sure that much editing will be done by my wife before this is posted.

A couple of months ago Lauren blogged about a dinner we had with the Shin family. The father is a pastor of a church in our city, and they have 4 kids. They are an amazing family that we truly enjoyed being around. Seeing the way that they were in love with Jesus and how they have raised their kids was a great encouragement. A few weeks back we ran into them at E-Mart (the korean version of Wal-Mart). Mr. Shin (Paul) was kind enough to ask Lauren and me to come to his church one Sunday and give our testimonies, so this past weekend we got the opportunity.

When we arrived we were seated on stage behind Paul as he was introducing us. Lauren was the first to give her testimony and Paul's wife Esther translated for the congregation. I followed Lauren with my testimony as another woman named Rejoice translated for me. Throughout our testimonies we were hearing "Hallelujah" and "Amen." The string of events that followed left us with tears in our eyes. Paul had us stand in front of the whole congregation as they sang a blessing song over us... with arms outstretched toward us and voices lifted to the Lord. When they had finished Paul asked them to come down to the front to say hello. Little did we know that everybody in the church would line up and come to greet us.....from 10 year old kids to 80 year old men and women. They embraced us and would say things such as "God bless you" or "sarang hamnida" which means "I love you." We were overwhelmed by the love of Christ being displayed in these people. We had only seen/met a handful of them and they treated us as if they had known us their whole lives. Christians for hundreds and thousands of years have called each other brothers and sisters, but as long as I have been a Christian I don't believe I have felt that connection as much as I did in this moment. These were people that could not speak the same language as us but showed us a love that was undoubtably from our Lord. After we had embraced the WHOLE congregation Pastor Paul asked them to pray out loud for us for 30 seconds. As we bowed our heads they prayed for us. Speaking in Korean, we could not understand them at all, but we felt the Holy Spirit moving in that room like we have never felt before. I felt the Holy Spirit envelop us! When they had finished we sat down to listen to Pastor Paul give a quick sermon. At the end of the sermon Paul approached us with a envelope full of money. We were both shocked and did not know what to do. For a group of people who didn't know us and had heard us speak for only 10 minutes, to give us money was unthinkable. The generosity shown by these people blew us away. They did not consider their money theirs but the Lords...a lesson that I believe we all need to learn. As I thought about it, I don't think I would have given money to a couple that I had only met once and heard talk for 10 minutes. I could not believe their generous hearts. We could not accept the money and felt led to give it back to the church to use for missionaries. We have more than enough and sadly probably wouldn't have spent it in a way that would help further the Kingdom. We left that afternoon speechless about what we experienced.

As we stood in front of the congregation and they prayed for us, blessed us and embraced us my mind could only think about Heaven. What we experienced was a glimpse of what I believe Heaven is going to look like.....a love that runs that deep and a faith that is that genuine. As we thought some more about it we realized that there is a freshness in the Korean church that is lacking in the American church. Don't get me wrong, Lauren and I both have a deep love for the church, but we just got a feeling that this is how it is supposed to be. These people have a deep faith and trust in the Lord. They believe in His mighty power and what He can do. Their love for our Lord and their brothers and sisters was incredible. These are followers of Christ, not just so-called Christians. They walk the walk and it is evident. They have a passion that can't go unnoticed. They believe in God's promises and take Him at His word. They believe any and every thing is possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I think that the big difference between the Korean church and the American church is that they take God and what He says much more serious then we do. As it says in the book of James, "don't be merely hearers of the word but doers of the word." This is what lacks in the American church.....a true commitment. I say this with a convicted heart, because I feel that all too often I fall into the "hearer of the word" category. Living a committed life to our Lord is not easy, as we see all throughout the Bible, but to these people Jesus is worth it.....and He should be for us too!

We truly believe that on Sunday we saw a glimpse of what church is intended to look like. Yeah, I am sure they have their faults and struggle with things that all churches do, but what I saw was a group of people that were truly after the heart of God! These were Spirit filled, Heavenly minded, Gospel lovin' people!


What a wife thinks about when her husband leaves her

So Austin has been on a men's retreat this weekend for our church here in Busan and I have pathetically missed him more than I imagined. I guess since this is really the first time that we have been away from one another for a few days since being married it was particularly hard. So as I've gone through my days, I have realized all the little and wonderful things that he does every day that I really love:

10. He sets the alarm AND gets up to turn it off in the morning

9. He looks both ways for us and then tells me when it is safe to cross the street

8. He pays for everything

7. He cooks breakfast

6. He starts the coffee

5. He tells me to hurry up so that we are semi on-time to things

4. He turns the lights off at night

3. He motivates me to bathe and look semi-attractive

2. He locks the doors and checks the windows

1. He makes me laugh and smile a lot

Thank you to my amazing hubs that does so many little things that I appreciate every day. I love you.

Now everyone who was wanting to puke through that post, you can do so now.


Meet the Mold...Yuck

Our apartment in Korea has not only been inhabited by the 2 of us, but also gross, hairy, white, black, green and all sorts of disgusting variations of mold, for the past 8 months.

Why has this not been taken care of yet, you ask?
Well, we contacted our landlord and he sent his wife to solve the problem....Korea solution to mold: wallpaper over it! Taaaa Daaaa...because that is for sure the smartest way to handle this multiplying, sickifying and creepy creature that grows on our walls.

Sooo, after Austin and I both got sick a few weeks ago and have still not fully gotten over it, I decided to take matters into my own hands and have researched the best ways to kill mold. Some say bleach. Some say call the experts. But some also say all-natural, supermarket-shelved vinegar works just as good. Supposedly vinegar kills 82% of mold, which is up there with the stat for hiring an expert (Mold seems to be that awful evil that will never die).

I ventured up into our little loft (the mold's home) to tackle it this afternoon and all I could think about are those cleaning product commercials with the living mold people, with their own faces and determination to live. I sprayed 2 full spray bottles worth of vinegar and then remembered to snap a "before" shot because I am determined that before going to bed tonight our walls will look much different!

Austin being the fabulous hubs that he is (wearing my ear warmer around his head!!)


One, Two, Three...Pee!

It has been absolutely FOREVER since I have last blogged. Most days in my free time I stalk other people's blogs (mainly Jen Dillender, Kim Davis and Katie Davis) and then after reading their witty and super awesome blogging abilities I feel defeated and decide to not blog myself. C'est la vie, today's a new day!

I felt the need to share with the blogging world the hilariousness of Koreans' potty habits...and I do not mean to categorize all Koreans in this post (just the ones who I, myself, have witnessed having very amusing pees).

Story one (I'll start with the least funny): Austin and I live in a developing area of Yangsan City where on a typical day there are workers around our apartment building other "villas (pronounced 'beellas')," or 4-ish story apartment buildings. In the Fall, especially, it was a normal day to look out of our window and see a worker relieving himself right on the side of the road. I know, I know...men "get" to pee outside...it's just a right that they have...BUT my question is why not choose a more discrete location than on the side of a busy road and right underneath the windows of innocent foreigners. I just don't get it.

Story two: The other day Austin and I were going on with our usual coffee date at Dunkin' Donuts, which I might add is on one of the busiest roads in our part of the city smack dab on the corner of a well-traveled intersection. As I'm sipping my coffee I look out the floor-to-ceiling window next to me and see a Grandma ('adjuma') with her 2 grandkids, one being a little boy about the age of 4. As I am watching them thinking how cute the kids are, I see the grandma reach down around the waist area of the boy, tug "something" out of his pants and proceed to hold his teeny weeny for him while he straight up pees into a flower bed. Reasons why this is sooo not okay and totally hilarious at the same time:
A. It is a super busy intersection, with rows of cars stopped right next to them for a red light.
B. Dunkin' Donuts is enclosed with large glass windows...so after my outburst of laughter the entire store was watching the poor child pee.
C. I don't care how old the little boy is, he can hold his OWN penis.
D. The poor tree that was trying to grow and make the street pretty is now drinking urine.

Story three: On my walk home from school each day I pass by a large field where adjumas (old Korean women) farm and grow crops. Most days there are several groups of adjumas working together to produce anything from flowers to green onions. This field is also on a fairly well-traveled road and these particular adjumas were right next to the street. Yesterday as I was walking home from school and passing this familiar field I looked to my right just in time to see an adjuma fiddle with the string of her floral colored adjuma airplane pants and yank them down, giving me a shiny, white FULL MOON. I was startled enough just to see her butt, but she then turns toward me (with her pants around her ankles) and moves closer to the street to select the proper pee spot. She then proceeds to squat down right next to me and pee...yano, because that's normal. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt...she had probably been farming all day, was tired and didn't want to walk to the nearby restroom. BUT, benefit or no benefit.....

Not a day goes by that we don't pinch ourselves and realize, "Oh! We're in a foreign country!" Sadly, most of the time it is not us doing it but instead hiliarious Korean-isms such as these that make us know that we are no longer in the U.S. of A. Heck, we have laws against this!


The Shins

So last night Austin and I were invited by the Shin family to eat dinner at their home and meet their family. Their precious little boy, John, is a first grader at my school. (this March was all 1st graders' first time to come to school in their lives...March = new school year...first grade = first real grade level) On Tuesday, the first day of the school year, John's Dad approached me and asked if I was the foreign English teacher at this school. After saying yes and introducing myself he called his wife and said into the phone, "I found her! I found her! Come meet her!" I felt like royalty or something because of how excited he was to have 'found' me!!

Come to find out, the members of the Shin family are world travelers: their eldest daughter currently studies in the Philippines in an international school, their next oldest, Romy, will be leaving soon to begin high school at an international school in China, the mom and the two little ones will soon be moving to TEXAS for her to attend Seminary and the Dad has traveled ALL around the World to preach the gospel of Jesus. John's first language to learn was English, then Korean, and the 9th grader (Romy) speaks Korean, English, Tagalog and Chinese. Both of the parents spoke English SO stinkin' well and the little baby, Angelica (1 1/2), didn't have to talk because she won me over with her cuteness. Those of you Americans reading this might not think that their traveling is THAT big of a deal, but for us ex-pats in Korea we have learned how little Koreans travel (or have much desire to ever leave Korea). For example: I told my co-teacher about the Shins today and his response was, "Are they Korean by birth? [yes.] ...then why do they travel to other countries? Why don't they stay in Korea?" Austin and I have been shocked by how ridiculous it sounds to Koreans to travel, see the World and move to other countries for periods of time. So, being World travelers was my first obsession with the Shins!

After arriving at their house it was so apparant that this generous family truly lives out the Bible. The Dad, Paul, is the pastor at a nearby church in Yangsan and he loves and leads his family so well. He is also a photographer and has this huge super nice camera. Austin and I were pretty much in a constant photo shoot while we were there! The Mom (Esther) loved, supported, served and cared for her husband and family with such gentleness and made it apparent that taking care of her family brings her huge joy. By watching the way that this Korean married couple (who as a culture typically don't show affection in public)showed affection toward one another and were on the same page in thought and conversation, I knew that their source and foundation was Christ. I have met many Christian families in my time, but something was different about this one: the love of Christ and family closeness just kept on overflowing and pouring itself into their home. Romy, at probably the age of 15, tenderly held his baby sister and whispered prayers into her ear quietly enough to where most couldn't hear (only those who eavesdrop like me!). John proudly displayed his crayoned pictures of angels surrounding Jesus in Heaven and continuously looked at his Dad like he is his biggest hero! They talked about Jesus like a brand-new hyped up Christian boasts about the grace that he has recently found and, sadly, like we all should. They live each day asking God how they can best serve him that particular day...and last night God answered by saying to bless us Schauers and demonstrate the love that a Godly family is designed to have! Praise God.

After eating a yummy dinner of bulgogi (Korean sauteed meat), salad with fruit, spaghetti, chicken soup (yum!), and rice Esther brought out a cake with one candle in the middle. She lit the candle and said, "John, don't blow it out this time! This candle is for the newly married couple who are learning to become ONE." I could've cried right then and there, I was so touched. At that point, I knew I was in love with the Shins (especially Mama Esther)!!!

Austin and I got home and, literally, did not stop talking about this sweet family for probably 30 minutes:
"...Oh, and what about when they said that..."
"Oh, did you see the way that Romy did..."
"...I want that baby!"

I kept on praying "God, thank you. God, thank you. God, thank you." Thank you, God, for being SO good. Thank you for showing two broken sinners like us what it can look like to live for the Lord and raise a family that praises Jesus! Thank you that you send your servants to bless others like us! God, thank you! God, thank you!


I'm in love with you, Dave Ramsey...well, not really...but kinda...

So now I step up onto my soapbox and demand that every single one of you that is currently reading this silly blog should stop reading this silly blog and go and buy Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book. Or any book of his, I'm sure. I think he should bring me onto his staff and pay me because of how many people that I am going to tell to read his book.

What is it, you ask? A book about life and money and how to combine the two so that you don't end up spending your life stressed about money.

Why get it, you ask? Because it is so stinkin' practical but something that our crazy, obsessive culture doesn't teach us. Don't have debt. Ever, except for a house. Live within or below your means. Save. Give. Invest. Simple! He, obviously, goes into much more detail in a very elementary way to make us non-finance majors understand what he is talkin' about.

I think the reason why I am so obsessed with the book and Dave Ramsey right now is that while Austin and I were in premarital counseling, once we got married and recently when thinking about what we will do when we get home I am the typical woman who worries. I have been failing at putting my trust in the Lord that He IS going to provide for us and that He WILL take care of our needs. Instead, I have been convincing myself that living in a shack is worth it if we get to do ministry. Although I should not and will not put my trust and hope in good 'ol Dave before Jesus, I now have learned that as long as we are smart with our money that God gives to us and blesses us with (unlike about 98% of the Americans who have numerous debts out the wazzoo) that we will be able to live, save and give very generously. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside to know that, God-willing, if we follow his plans listed in the book that I will be able one day to stay at home with our little kiddos and not have to wonder how a day care is doing at raising my kids for me.

That's my rant. That's my soapbox. But seriously, GO GET IT. You will fall in love too. I think Austin thinks I'm crazy right now because most conversations I start begin with, "...So Dave said..." No shame, though. No shame. Go get it. Seriously.



Jesus teaches us a lot. Everyday. But recently I feel like I have been learning more than ever that Jesus calls us to be honest, even when it is really, really, really hard. I think that God probably gives the gift of realness, honesty and possibly boldness to certain people but I don't think that he ONLY calls those people to realness, honesty and possibly boldness. We, as Christians, have bought into the idea of "feel-good" love, where we are honest to those nearest to us only until the point of comfort. We will be real up to the point to where it kinda is a laughing, semi-sarcastic honesty with others (c'mon, tell me you know EXACTLY what I am talkin' about!). You know, the kind when you make a joke about how dumb it is for an alcoholic to go into a bar, hoping that that alcoholic you are talking to will get the hint. I think when we confine ourselves only to feel-good honesty with our brothers and sister in Christ, though, we are disobeying God's truth and instead serving ourselves.

Let me break it down: If we consistently choose to produce a fake, surface-level relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, I don't think it is for them. No, if we were looking out for their own good we would know for certain that God's truth always trumps. Instead, we choose to overlook others turning their backs on God just so that we don't have to put our own self-seeking, people-pleasing reputation on the line.

God, forgive me for ever being untruthful with my sisters and brothers just so that I look better. It's not about me, but you.



So the month of February (Faveuary) always make me extremely happy. As a little girl, I liked the whole idea of seeing what the Groundhog did on Groundhog Day, I get way too excited about the frilly red and pinkness of Valentine's Day, my Birthday falls 2 days after Valentine's Day and then the month is over rather quickly (being as though it got jipped with days) and then warm (hopefully) weather greets you in March.

This FAVEUARY has got to be the best, though, with having the first week off of work, celebrating a relaxing first Valentine's Day with my handsome hubby (which, I might add also fell on the same day as Lunar New Year...Korea's biggest holiday of the year), also celebrating a fun first Birthday with my handsome hubby, Brittany Mai Williams coming to join us in Koreanland and THEN having another week off of school for the last week...whoop!

Pictures of fun times...and more to come. duh. For my bday we ate dinner at the awesomely HUGE seafood buffet in the famous Jalachi Seafood Market in Busan where all of the fresh seafood is hauled in each day off of the fishing boats. We stuffed ourselves to where I didn't even want to walk...bleh.

Aside from the really fun times so far this semester...i.e. our big vaca, not working too much, holidays, celebrations, etc...I feel like Austin and I are both at that really difficult spot where we are only 1/2 way through our year here but really itching to move onto the next thing- whatever that may be. We are so eager to figure out what we are going to do for careers, where we are going to live, to be back with Ellie, for me to actually change my name (!), and to just start the next season of being in ONE place for an extended period of time and having a solid community of Christ followers around us to love on and grow in fellowship with. Just re-reading that last sentence is music to my ears and brings joy and excitement to the depths of my soul. BUT, God has us here for another 6 months for a reason. Why, God? I'm not sure right now, but He is. I am so incredibly confident that years down the road we are going to be able to go, "Aha! This is the fruit that came from being in Korea." At this point I can say that we have each grown as individuals hugely. We have learned more about what we do and don't desire in life, what brings us joy and some of the spiritual gifts that our gracious God has given to us. As a couple we have also grown leaps and bounds. Korea has allowed tons of free time to develop meaningful conversation, to do marriage studies, listen to sermons, read books and on and on. God has matured our marriage already in beautiful ways and has sooo much more to do! Lastly, we have each been taught so much about the Lord, been convicted of Sin in our life and been challenged to live each day absolutely for Christ. We are encouraged to be "doers of the Word , and not hearers only..." and to develop the spirit of discipline that creates a more godly life. God has been good. So good. Please pray that the Schauer's over here remain in the present and allow ourselves to continually be shaped by Jesus during our remaining time here. Pray that we are open to what else He has to teach us and that our hearts are in Korealand, rather than in what God has in store for us next.

Also, we would L.O.V.E. to hear from each of you, what is going on in your life and how we can be praying for you.

To the Texans out there, give the Lone Star State a big hug for us!



...You are priceless because:

- you don't eat kimchi
- you DO eat Mexican food!
- you have nice, friendly people that enjoy smiling
- you house my friends and family at the moment
- you have craft stores
- you have Cheddar's spinach dip
- you (hopefully) have jobs waiting for us
- you have my dog that I dearly miss
- you have houses with ovens in them where I could try new recipes
- you have open green space
- you have a car for me to drive
- you have coffee shops that don't look at you weird when you ask for milk with your coffee
- you have country music
- you have Rudy's breakfast tacos (more for my hubs)
- you speak English
- you are BIG
- you accept diversity very well
- you have sweet tea (also more for my hubs than me)
- you have Texas A&M
- you are....wonderful.

In conclusion, when just asking Austin what he loves most about Texas he said:
"Ahhh...I just can't put it into words. Something about waking up in Texas just feels good. I think it's just that [Texans] are badasses."

Enough said.

P.S. If you couldn't tell, this was my way of venting...!

The Schauer's miss you, Texas!


Vietnam and Thailand

It's been about a week since Austin and I got back to Korea from our outstanding 2 weeks in Vietnam and Thailand...now I get to tell you all about them :)

Our first day of travel started early in the morning with Austin and I taking the KTX (Bullet train) north from Busan to Seoul. We arrived into Seoul and then took a bus straight to Incheon Airport. Realization #1 of the trip: Austin and I are fully capable of entertaining ourselves for hours in an airport! Like, hours. We love the Seoul airport and will go hang out there any day.

Flight later that afternoon from Seoul-Taipei-Bangkok. Realization #2: Thai Airways MIGHT be the best airline in the world. We were shown to our seats, sat down and received warm hand towels, hot tea, 2 meals on a 6-ish hour flight, free movies, music, games and TV (you could even make your OWN playlist from their extensive list of music) and FREE alcohol. We also could hang out on a Thai Airways flight any day of the week. Yes, please.

Our awesome tv's on the flight

We arrived into Bangkok late and crashed in a cheap-o hotel and awoke the next morning around 4 to travel back to the airport to meet the parents! Our first sight of my parents was right by check-in and Mer cried and cried and cried....it was beautiful!

The 4 of us arrived into Hanoi, Vietnam (the capital, but not the largest city in Vietnam...which is the former Saigon and present Ho Chi Minh city in the south) in the late morning and boarded the hotel van for our most hilarious ride of the trip. Our first experience of Vietnamese driving was insane. Just close your eyes and imagine this scene: You're on a highway, no lanes, 18-wheelers, vans, buses, cars, motorbikes, more motorbikes, even more motorbikes, bicycles...all swerving in and out of one another, honking horns every other second just to let the person in front of you know that you are there...it was CRAZY, and that is an understatement. We thought Korean driving was pretty crazy due to their lack of attention to driving rules, but in Vietnam there aren't even any rules. To our amazement, though, there were very few wrecks. No one gets angry when cut off. The insanity just seems to flow and to work perfectly. Imagine that, America.

Our hotel was wonderful, situated on the exterior of the "Old Quarter" of Hanoi and complete with a comfy bed, bathtub, spacious room and super friendly staff...We loved it.

in our hotel, the Hanoi Old Quarter Hotel, with Yen...our newest best friend!

Then, we ventured out into the city for the next few days. Hanoi is a mix of old French architecture, poverty, way-too-delicious of food, wonderful touristy shops to buy worthwhile souvenirs from and warm friendly people that always greet you with a shy smile. We really loved Hanoi and the famous lake, Hoan Kiem Lake, that sits in the center of the Old Quarter. The lake is a picture-perfect hazy dreamland, complete with Asian willow trees, a pagoda in the middle and awesome Vietnamese elderly working out to TaeBo-type recorded tracks!

On our 3'rd day in Hanoi, we awoke to the early morning bus to cart us 3 hours East of the city to the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, Halong Bay. We had arranged a 2-day, 1-night boat to take us around Halong Bay. All of the boats in Halong Bay are called "junk" boats and I might be ignorant as to why they are called this, but they are beautiful! With all the 100's of boats swimming the Bay you would think that it would distract from the natural beauty of the area, but because of the natural wooden decor of each junk boat it just...works. On our boat, we were the only 4 Americans there! We met Vietnamese, Canadians, Dutch, Australian, Kiwi's, British and probably more that I am forgetting. We traveled on the junk boat for awhile deep into the Bay and then took a smaller commuter boat onto one of the "islands" that boasts a humongous cave. After touring the cave we went kayaking through that part of the Bay and even saw red-butt monkeys!! When asking what kind of monkeys they were, our tour guide said, "I don't know...normal monkeys?" Realization #3: Sometimes the sites that you see in pictures actually that pretty, if not prettier, in person!

After 4-ish wonderful and full days in Hanoi, the 4 of us boarded our trusted Air Asia flight for Chiang Mai, Thailand. When people say that they fell in love with a city while traveling, this perfectly describes our feelings of Chiang Mai. My first impression of Thailand and the city of Chiang Mai really surprised me. I expected to see more of the poverty that was so visible in Vietnam, but this country was much wealthier and very, very clean. My dad constantly made comments about how clean the streets were! Back to Chiang Mai: this city was full of tourists, expats and Thais, alike, roaming the streets for yummy Thai food, (man, I would trade Kimchi any day and everyday of the week for some awesome Pad Thai) cute cafes, golden temples and GREAT people-watching! The Vietnamese people smiled a lot, but the Thai people grinned. They were so friendly the whole time we were there. After reading more about the culture, I found that it mostly is a mask to hide their worn out, saddened lives that are taken advantage of by the Thai government. Unfortunately, from the exterior to a ignorant tourist, they seemed like the happiest people in the World. In Chiang Mai we spent a whole day hanging out with lions, tigers and elephants (oh my!) and seeing them do all their fun tricks. We also spent both nights at a great night market that had so many beautiful hand-made Thai souvenirs for dirt cheap. All in all, we LOVED Chiang Mai and flirted with the idea of relocating there after Yangsan!

Next, we ventured to the very southern peninsula of Thailand to the very famous beach destination of Phuket (pronounced 'poo-ket). My Dad surprised us 4 with a gorgeous house with its own pool and outdoor cabana in the Laguna Complex of Phuket, which meaned that we had all the access we wanted to the 5 or 6 resorts within the Laguna Complex. The first couple days were no bueno because I got sick, then Austin got sick and then my Mom got sick. It was nice having a spacious house when the sickness hit because we weren't confined to a tiny little hotel room but were able to romp around and get some space. My favorite part of the house was the outdoor bed in the backyard where I started and finished The Time Traveler's Wife in about 3 days! Phuket, in general, was suuuuper relaxing, suuuuper lazy and a wonderful wrap-up to our busy 2 weeks of Vaca. The beaches were gorgeous white sand beaches with turquoise blue sparkling water. It was idealistic!

Arriving back into Korea was a rude awakening after being in 2 super friendly and warm cultures. I don't know why the Koreans didn't get the memo about being nice...instead, there was pushing, shoving, cutting in line, making gross coughing noises...and kimchi! :)



I am overwhelmed with emotion right now as I actually take the time to dwell on the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti. How often do World disasters happen? Pretty often. How often do I really take time to think about them? Not very often. Because of the tender hearts of my friends Caroline Tigner and Caroline Fontenot for the already neglected and underprivileged country of Haiti, praise God that my heart is being affected by this awful tragedy.

All I can do right now is say "Why, God? WHY?" I don't get it. I don't get why a country that is already in so much pain has to go through more, but what I am feeling even more so right now is why I have the life that I do. I don't understand why I get to sit in a coffee shop in South Korea with a $3.00ish Blueberry tea, why I look down on my finger and see a pretty diamond, why I have clothes on my back and so many more back in our apartment...and then so so so many more back at home in Houston, why I have multiple options of things to eat for each meal of the day, why I get to leave on Saturday with my husband and meet my parents for a 2-week vacation, why I have a computer to type on, why I have healthcare...I could go on and on. I. AM. SO. BLESSED. God has had great mercy on me. For some reason that I will not understand until I get to Heaven and God shares with Believers His divine plan, I have been chosen by Him to be blessed beyond belief. I have excess. I have always had excess. But how dare me take that excess like I have earned it or deserve it and not give it away. How dare me not wake up every single day and cry in thanks about what God has given me. Maybe it's because I haven't seen with my own eyes what this life could be like and I haven't met the millions of people that can't say that they know what it feels like to have excess. How dare me forget that those people exist and that God created them and loves them just like He does me...

Friends, we are so very spoiled and have been so blessed by the Lord. What I have is not mine. What you have is not yours. I don't deserve it. You don't deserve it. Let's give thanks to God from deep deep deep in our hearts and ask that He save us from our selfish, naive, blind mind.

"Lord, give us a heart that is not blind to the pain and suffering outside of our 'world' and a voice that cries out daily in thanks for the provision that you have given us. Break our hearts for what breaks yours. Make us cry for what makes you cry. God, make us see through your eyes. Move us toward fulfilling the commands that you have given for believers: that we give freely the resources that YOU have given to us, that we love orphans, widows and the poor. Thank you so much that you have given to us so freely and that we have excess in this life. Thank you that we have food at each meal, that we have clothes to dress our bodies, that we have a roof over our head. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Now let's move. Let's help. Let's give. Let's give to where it hurts us. Let's give to those in Haiti to the point that we just might have to say "no" to some luxury in our own life in order to bless others. Let's do it!!

I am being convicted right now because it is very easy for me to hear about tragedies around the World and forget about it a minute later and never stop and thank God for His grace and pray for those hurting. But as a Christian, God desires for me to act differently. Don't let me throw my convictions on you, but do pray and see how God convicts your own heart.

Here are some websites that the Caroline's have sent to our friends that I get to pass on to you, blog readers:

Real Hope for Haiti, the organization that Caroline and Caroline raised money for a few months ago, is taking donations on their website (https://realhopeforhaiti.org/). Scroll down to the PayPal button. The biggest needs now are funds to purchase food and supplies and prices have already doubled in the last 36 hours. There are 75 children sleeping under a tarp tonight who need to eat 3 meals a day.

Red Cross An easy way is to text "Haiti" to 90999 to give $10 to the Red Cross. It will be on your next phone bill.

Compassion International. For a $35 donation you can help a family receive every sort of disaster relief they might need in this first critical week. You can CLICK HERE OR you can text "disaster" to 90999 to give $10 to Compassion's disaster relief program.

Lastly, you can purchase an awesome shirt (photo attached). 100% of the profits will go to support ministries in Haiti. You can buy them here (http://www.aaronivey.portmerch.com/stores/product.php?productid=17149&cat=0&page=1&featured)

I know there are tons of other ways to help, I just wanted to share these with some friends and family who I thought might be interested.

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, THOUGH THE EARTH GIVE WAY AND THE MOUNTAINS FALL INTO THE HEART OF THE SEA, though its waters roar and foam and the MOUNTAINS QUAKE WITH THEIR SURGING..." Psalm 46:1-3


Why hello, 2010!

Well, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years have come and gone...I feel like every year it is so awkward writing the new year on everything that asks for a date, but this year's date seems especially uncomfortable. Are we supposed to say "2010" every time we say the date... or just "10?" Saying "0-" seemed fairly normal after doing that for 10 years and now we have to change our whole date-saying mentality.

I hope that each of you reading this had a wonderful and very blessed Christmas full of great memories that you can retrieve and smile on for years to come. Christmas in Korea is interesting. The province that we live in, Gyeongsangnam-do (Gyeongsang is the name, 'nam' means south, and 'do' means province), is known for being a predominantly Buddhist area, but spotted with several Christian church of various demoninations. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, however, store after store threw up their tiny Christmas tree, holly and ornaments and changed their normal Korean music to English Christmas music. Employees at stores wore Santa hats or festive beanies of some sort and even many delivery drivers (who don't drive cars but mopeds) wore entire Santa Claus outfits. The thought that consistently puzzled me was, "Do they even know what Christmas is about?" From my experience here so far (and others might see it differently), Koreans LOVE America. If asked where in the World they would want to travel most say the US, learning English here separates you from the rest of the Korean population and makes you a prized jewel, American celebrities and culture are very talked about here and, in general, Korean see the American culture as one to mimic.

Side note: There are, of course, many Koreans who do not feel this way and are angry that the US still occupies their country.
Side note #2: I often think this mentality is crazy.

But the whole reason for sharing this discovery is that despite the fact of if certain Koreans are Christian, Buddhist or some other faith they seemed to view the Christmas holiday and all that comes with it as this faddish, cool and copy-worthy Western invention. They know how to immitate all of the exterior sights and sounds of Christmas that has gotten way too out of hand in the West, but do they know why we celebrate Christmas? I dare say that most of the American traits that Korea has adopted are only the skin-deep, materialistic and idolatrous things that we pursue on a daily basis. I pray that many Koreans know that the whole reason for Christmas is Jesus, not how many lights you can hang, what colors of ornaments to put on your tree or how expensive the gift is you buy. Sadly, the probable reason why it seems that Koreans see Christmas as a materialistic celebration is because that is how most Americans see it...how sad this must make Jesus.

On a lighter note (phew!), I read my friend Kim Davis' New Years blog and she listed her top 10 favorite things from 2009 and I thought it was a brilliant idea...so I shall copy her. Thanks, Kim!

In chronological order:

#1. Living with A-mazing girls that really love Jesus and encouraged me everyday to pursue Him more and more and more. I miss this already. Pipey, you moved out in 2008 but I'm including you in this bunch for sure.

The gals minus Candice because she wasn't there, which means...

...she gets THIS.

#2. Leading a YoungLife Small Group in the Brazos Valley. My small group girls amazed me each week and loved on me and each other so very well. I pray that through our honest time of looking in to Scripture and analyzing our lives that they were able to intimately meet with Jesus. Sadly, I don't have a picture. They're too good looking to all be in one picture together. It just wouldn't be fair.

#3. Seeing many of my friends get married. Let me try to express how much I love weddings...everything about them...going to them, planning them, being in them, watching the groom watch the bride, eating good food, open bars (yep, I said it), looking at the pretty flowers, dancing all night...oh they are just great. What is even greater? Watching the friends that you love marry their loves and have the happiest day of their lives. 2009 weddings included: the Lewis' (I know, I know it was December 2008 but since it was only 11 days until the new year, I'm including it.), the Fordinal's, the Vacek's, the Dixon's, the Cotgreave's, the Jumonville's and the Todd's.)

The Jumonville's
Caldwell girl leaders at the Fordinal wedding
The Dixon's
The Lewis'

#4. My Bridesmaid's shower and Bachelorette Party. This day/weekend brought me so much joy my cheeks hurt so much from smiling. Having my best friends and wonderful family celebrating the excitement of Austin and my upcoming wedding was more than a girl could ask for...and it produced wonderful pictures and fun memories!

What we like to call "the girliest morning ever"
My bridesmaids and me
"Whose a super freak?"

#5. My parents buying a wonderful condo on Lake Conroe where we all spent many great weekends by the lake and on the boat...and where Austin and I got to live for a month and a half before moving to Korea. Score. Thanks, Mom and Dad. Sadly, again, no picture.

#6. Austin graduating. Him graduating meant that we could get married...yay!

#7. Marrying to the love of my life. Everything leading up to our wedding, with premarital counseling, planning the wedding, showers, etc. was just so wonderful and then our wedding day was the best day of my life so far. The exciting part is that we're only at about 6 months right now and have the rest of our lives to keep on lovin' each other. yippee.

#8. Honeymooning in Cabo san Lucas. Ahhh, I want to go back to that life. Eatin' Mexican food (best Guac everrr), sipping frozen beverages, laying by the beach/pool and not having a care in the World for 2 weeks. Yes, please.

#9. Moving to Yangsan, South Korea! Being adventurous and moving across an Ocean has been the best thing for our marriage and has taught us so much about ourselves as individuals. Also, we have gotten to travel. By the end of our year we hope to have traveled to: Vietnam, Thailand, China, Japan, Malaysia (where my sister and brother-in-law (BIL) are moving!!!) and then finally London (to see Candice, Jon and my God-mother.)

#10. Learning Taekwondo. Austin and I knew that coming to Korea that we wanted to learn something new that was indigenous to Korea...so Korean Taekwondo it was. We are taking TKD with our friends in the above picture and will be taking our Green Belt test on Jan 11'th!!

Well, that's all for now folks. Hope you enjoyed my top 10 from 2009. See you again next time.