I am so honored to introduce you to my friend Katie today, who is writing the What Its Like feature today! Katie and I have known each other for years, having been in small groups together, and spent time getting to support one another in all the rollercoasters of life. She is genuine, quirky, and kind. I will never forget the day I walked into my office at work to find a pastry sitting on my desk with a little note from her. She was in the area and just swung by a surprise while I was in a meeting. For real though, so sweet! Plus we have had so many laughs together over the years … I mean, look at our amazingly sweet 80’s attire we rocked nearly a decade ago, haha! (Sorry to pull this up Katie!)
I remember the day she shared that she was moving from Minnesota to South Korea and am so excited that she was willing to share her story with us today. Enjoy reading what it’s like to live overseas!
Moving across the world with my husband and 16 month old daughter was the absolute hardest thing I have ever subjected myself to. On the flip side, it was also the most rewarding thing I have ever done. It’s very hard to articulate my experience in words, because so much of what I felt was internal; spiritual. It’s easy to see what things look like from the outside on social media sites. “Hey look! Sean and Katie are vacationing in Thailand! Now in the Philippines! Now Vietnam!” But in reality there were so many things internally wearing in my heart and mind that I found it even difficult to be in those incredible places. But take a step back for a second, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me take you back to the beginning.
It really all started with just one word: Radical. My husband was chaperoning a youth retreat for our church when he was introduced to the book written by David Platt. That little book rocked his world and caused both of us to think out of our comfort zone and to really pray about what the Lord would have us do with the next season of our lives. It took us about five months of praying and seeking the Lord before we really knew what God had in store for us. During this time, there were many difficult decisions that were made, loosening of control, uncomfortable situations trudged through, and learning to trust the Lord in the process.
When South Korea found us, our hearts had been prepared for the next step and we were ready to walk. We didn’t know what God wanted us to do, but we had been prepared to say ‘yes.’ Anticipation began to fuel us. We were very excited for this next season of our lives. We sold our home and a majority of our belongings, packed our bags, picked up our 16 month old and headed to an unknown world. To really describe our feelings, I would say we were excited, nervous, hopeful, trusting, and ready.
However, from the first day we arrived until about the last, it felt like an uphill battle every day. The moment we were dropped off at our 24 story apartment, which would become our home for the next two years, fear, dread, anxiousness, and intense loneliness flooded my body and spirit like a tidal wave. I remember sitting in our unfurnished apartment holding my screaming baby, rocking back and forth, and crying, as the gravity of how my life had changed hit me. It was probably one of the only times in my life I have ever felt the weight of that much fear and sadness. We were literally on the other side of the world. We didn’t know how to speak Korean. We had no idea where the closest grocery store was. We had nothing but the 10 boxes we brought from America. We were hungry, tired and alone. Abandoned.
Now I could tell you of all the beautiful trips we took while living overseas, but I think what really matters is the heart of my experience. The reason why I think this is more important than telling you about the Facebook worthy experiences are because when you can experience somebody’s struggles it brings about empathy, love, and compassion. I no longer see things the same way I did before I left America. I can honestly say I know what it feels like to be alone and a foreigner. Let’s not be so quick to judge people who are moving from other countries and living in the US. Just because somebody moves from one country to another doesn’t make them want to abandon their culture to conform to the one they are currently living in. Our culture is a part of what makes us unique.
So many of my experiences in Korea were challenging. I found my job challenging, child care was difficult, daily activities were troublesome, grocery shopping was work, cooking was not always fun, church was hard, community was rare, and communicating was nearly impossible. I constantly suffered from loneliness. Even though things were hard, I never doubted that we were called to go. There was so much peace and so many open doors at the beginning that it could’ve been defined as miraculous that we even went in the first place. I have learned that sometimes, when we are called by God we may not know the reasons why. It took me a while to come to terms with not knowing actually why we went to Korea. What was God’s bigger plan? What was His bigger purpose?
You truly find what you are made of when all else is stripped away. During my time in Korea, I really began to seek the Lord. I have always considered myself a Christian. I grew up in a Christian home, and gave my life to the Lord at a young age, but I can see now that I was an immature Christian. I found myself being tested. I was reminded of Moses’ journey. Pulled away from a life of comfort, to become a vagabond, a foreigner in a far away land, only to be lead further into hardship when he became lost in the wilderness. “Remember, how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness […] to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and feeding you [and to] teach you that man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut. 8:2-4) During my time overseas, I learned to trust the Lord daily. To wait on the Lord. To eat what the Lord had provided.
I have some very fond memories of my overseas experience. Though, I will not quickly forget the struggles. Sometimes when we are stretched we may not know why it is happening but we can have faith that it will produce a good harvest when the time comes. I grew closer to my husband during my time in Korea. I also, began my journey of reading the Bible the whole way through. We were able to become financially stable. I had my second child in Korea. I had the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We traveled to 10 different countries. I experienced many different cultures and people groups. I learned to live a different way. I learned to value things differently. I learned to see people as Jesus sees them. You see, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you live. We are all searching for community, love, and a feeling of belonging.
Yes, moving to South Korea was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And, yes, moving to South Korea was the most incredible thing I’ve ever done. Do I regret going? Most definitely not. If you are feeling called out of a comfort zone, go. There are no guarantees that life will be perfect; that we won’t have struggles. But we are guaranteed that if we are obedient to God’s leading we can be sure that the plan is good even if it’s not always easy. Trust that the one who is perfect in all things will bring bring you through.
Katie is an encourager who enjoys cultivating community and connecting with women. She is a wife and mother to two small children. Katie enjoys DIY projects, home remodeling, decorating and gardening. She enjoys returning to a simpler way of life and enjoys helping women identify their worth in Christ. You can find her at her blog Love Create a Home.
PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called ‘In the Wait’!
PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cycles, raise a child with special needs, use an egg donor, be a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse, Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriage, suffer with endometriosis. experience depression, start a company, have a micro preemie, lose a parent, be childless not by choice, and have a spouse with a chronic illness. Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!