Avenues of Grace

by | Dec 8, 2020 | Features, Times of Restoration

Train passing

After graduating last May, I stayed on at Fairwood for a few weeks to help incoming students transition in September, and since then I’ve been living in Florida at Quail Hollow Chapel. It is a joy to worship next to saints who love the Lord, and I get to bask in testimonies of God’s goodness on a weekly basis as I get to know our extended KCM family. And I’m grateful for all the efforts to renovate the apartment in which I’m currently staying. What a generous God and church family I have! I asked for a sink, and I received a whole kitchen, a fresh coat of paint, a new AC unit, and new flooring! 

While looking for steady work, I have set up an Etsy shop, finished a logo, am currently working on some invitations, and designed some marketing materials for the church. I have applied to a number of jobs in retail and online. I also attend a fellowship group with David and Kayla Wargo living next door, and sometimes join them in their wonderful volunteer work with refugee children. 

My years in Dublin have demystified everyday living for me. Now I’m happily applying my practical training as I cook daily and do laundry before the weekend. I even have a stack of white dish towels with blue stripes, just like in the Main House at Fairwood! Cleaning is a breeze, and I tackle my dishes before they become oppressive (most of the time). 

But there have been trials, as well. I heed the words of Peter and state that I am not “surprised” by them. Yet I struggle to practice the words of James and count them “all joy.”

Just over a year ago, my oldest sister who lives in Korea sent a flurry of texts, letting me know that our mother’s kidneys were failing, requiring her to depend on weekly dialysis. Suddenly my parents’ ages (then 65 and 67) and my own (then just about to turn 34) were lodged in my frontal lobe like a headline marquee of dread, and I found myself unable to change the channel. These random numbers toward which I had had a cavalier attitude suddenly became heavy stones in my heart. I found my attention redirected toward what is perhaps the idol of my generation: certainty. Procrastination that used to say, “There’s always another day,” turned into, “There are no more days.” 

Finally, after several months of heavy pressure, I broke down. There, collapsed on the couch in Lisa Adams’ apartment at Fairwood, and leaning into her compassion, I told her of my burdens—how I did not want my parents to die in poverty. “Are they in poverty now?” she gently asked. “No,” I conceded—and simultaneously realized it was true. 

Specters of old trauma die in these moments. Exposing them is difficult, while living under them is far too easy, though often with heavy costs. I can talk about some of my problems, but like anyone else, I find extra tender spots that feel like potential dead-ends if explored. But I’ve also found that in the Savior’s hands, they become avenues of His grace. After my talk with Lisa, came the peace of God. 

I think now, even as I write, that this article is another one of those moments. 

When I last saw my parents and my oldest sister, it was a cold New York day in March 2004. They had been sleeping on the floor of a church for a month following an eviction. I was in college at the time, scared out of my wits about the future, and on the precipice of a nervous breakdown. On this morning, they were getting into a white sedan, headed for the airport to leave for Korea. You see, my Dad’s foreign press visa had expired several years before, and since then we had been living without documents. Illegally. 

I am now a DACA recipient (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a U.S. immigration policy). In the most vulnerable places of my heart, there is regret that I had not tried harder. Done more. Made things easier for my family. And now that I have a chance, it is all I want to do. But sometimes I start spinning, trying to determine the most certain way. There’s also a desire to say to the United States, “I am not a burden, I promise!”—but not as a cry of defiance. I want to erase the shame by earning my keep as quickly as I can. But even there I start to spin again, trying to figure out how to secure work immediately. 

For these reasons, I really wanted to write this after I had secured full-time employment, so I could present my life as neatly packaged, under control and encouraging to others on my terms. But that is not the case. Under the pressure of a decreasing bank account, and hearing an unfamiliar lull in response to my inquiries, a list of small things has grown in my heart that has made me lose steam. For example, I have gaps on my resume. I read an article about how many employers do not want recruiters to send resumes with any gaps. Assessments on resume writing sites say that my resume lacks achievements, and that I am more of a doer than an achiever, and everyone wants an achiever, not a doer!

In addition, the pool of applicants for jobs in graphic design (my specialty) has grown exponentially and internationally; some freelance sites now boast over 250,000 designers, many willing to work for pennies on the hour. If only I were just a drop in a bucket! But I’m a drop in a swimming pool I cannot swim in, or so I tell myself.

I find myself surrounded by a host of nagging little things! And the biggest little thing of all is me. I succumb to fear too much, feeling cornered by my limitations. Yet, though my anxiety tries to convince me otherwise, even this is not a dead-end. I seek to follow the example of a teacher at Bible School, telling God that “I cannot operate on hints.” And He reassures me that I’m where I need to be right now.

I also know to give my list of small things to God. Just now they do not even seem so big as I write! I’m reminded that “There is a Shepherd for every valley.” He is with me, not far off. He is not hidden in what feels like a maze of endless decision making. The Holy Spirit brings further reminders to the surface. I remember several members of the Fairwood staff telling me that I only need to do what God is asking me to do right now. I stop spinning. 

In recent months, I have cried more than I have laughed, but there’s a lot to be thankful for. I have one sister who admonishes me, and another who sends me kimchi. Over a week ago, my Dad and I prayed over the phone for each other for the first time. I am grateful to have a sister who takes my Mom to the hospital and spends time with our parents. Even though the latest headline marquees say South Korea is becoming the new epicenter for the coronavirus, God bestows His grace, and I do not panic about my family. Not even about my Mom, who often has to leave the house for the hospital.

Instead, I plead the blood over them—something I learned to do at Fairwood. I’m talking with my family more these days. I walk around with much less anger and much more understanding towards people, and I can definitely say that that’s the work of God. I thought it was an unchanging personality quirk to be so critical, perhaps even part of my gifting. Well, thank you Jesus for sending me to Fairwood! 

And there’s a final reason to rejoice: I have an amazing church family here and elsewhere along the coast. I love and ache to see all of you! Thank you for your prayers and testimonies (in person and in TOR) that lift me up and point me to Him. Now that I’m done writing this, I realize I am rich! Thank you Jesus, Mighty Shepherd, Compassionate Friend. 

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