I have arrived.

At DFW International, I bought a jar of Jardine’s peach salsa, and the lady wrapped it in bubble wrap for me. I was just beside myself with joy. Somehow, my 5 a.m. brain forgot that I’d have to go through security at SFO again, and because it exceeded the 3.4 ounce rule, I’d have to forfeit my precious salsa. I made quite a sight, I’m sure, trying to talk the TSA agent into allowing me to keep it.

“But I’m moving to Korea from Texas,” I explained reasonably and with as much empathy as I could try to evoke.

She looked at me, and nodded, and for a split second, I saw her pain for me. This was a jar of peach salsa, afterall. I thought I had her then.

“And I bought it at DFW International. Here’s the receipt.” I handed it to her.

“It’s completely safe and sealed,” I reasoned.

She contemplated the receipt and the jar, and then her heart broke. I could see it on her face.

“I’m sorry ma’am. But I can’t let this through.”

And then my heart broke. I chuckled and said, “Enjoy my salsa.”

She laughed and said, “I wish I could. Have a good flight.”

When I sat down on the plane, I pulled out two cards, from two different friends, and proceeded to read them, as one had specified not to read them until I’d gotten on the plane. There is a time to plant, and a time to uproot. I only wish I could uproot all the other plants in the Texas garden and bring them with this little cactus.

Whoever wrote the old hymn “The Water is Wide” was probably an American missionary flying over the Pacific to the Asian continent. I mean, I know that song refers to the river Jordan, but I’m pretty sure they were inspired by crossing the Pacific, which is significantly wider than the Atlantic. I know this; I taught this very fact last year to my students, but it’s one of those things that you don’t know until you know.

Watch a movie, eat, take a dramaine and sleep, climb over fellow passengers, repeat, ad nauseum.

When I got through customs, and went to claim my bags, I ripped the handle off one bag. Somehow, I found an empty luggage cart and hoisted all my bags on the cart and pushed my way through the crowds. I must have made quite the sight, bleary eyed with my orange turtle shell backpack, squatting to lift all my giant suitcases. I found my driver via the old poster board system. We both excitedly greeted each other, but he knew no English, so we mimed our way through the logistics of leaving the airport. I have never been so thankful for our unit in pantomime in middle school theatre arts class. As he loaded my luggage, he was clearly exhausted, and looked me up and down and then pointed at me and then flexed his muscles. “Strong American!” I laughed and then replied, “No. Strong Texan.”

Then, he expressed concern for my romantic possibilities here. On our way to Bucheon, he was stopped at a red light and turned around and made a motion of an hourglass, then pointed and gave me a thumbs up. Yes. My driver, who was probably 40-something totally checked me out and gave me the approval. I hadn’t showered in 36 hours, had squat-lifted my luggage at two airports, survived two security checkpoints, a yoga room, and a 12 hour flight. I was disgusting, but apparently, to this guy, some beauty came through. Men are very bizarre creatures. Then, he motioned circularly at my face and said, “Fair skin!” and gave me the thumbs up and a smile and then said, “You do good here.” I laughed and thanked him. I didn’t know how to tell him I’m not here for that, and that I’m not certain how Korean men might take to a strong Texas redheaded woman. It was a nice sentiment, and not one I’ve been a stranger to in the recent weeks.

As a friend of mine put it: “Not this trip. You still need to find yourself.” I replied something like I already feel like I’d found myself. “No, not yet. You still need to relax and lighten up. You’ll stop caring as much about the things that have bothered you in the past.” I know he’s seen me at my worst in so many ways, and perhaps he’s right.

As another friend of mine said, “Don’t be offended by us wishing this [a husband] for you. In the end, you’d be happy and married. Is that such a bad thing?” But, coyly, I know, one does not have to be married to be happy. “Sure,” I replied, “That would be lovely, to be happily married and in love, with a family. But that’s not why I’m going. I’m going for adventure.” I absolutely would prefer to be going on this adventure with the man I love, but one who is ready hasn’t come along, and I’m tired of waiting.

I’ve gotten tired of waiting for life to happen to me, so I’m taking this chance. Already I feel lighter. I think it was that lost jar of salsa.

 

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Two and a half years ago, after enduring without exaggeration the worst week of my life, my small group leader and friend (and new roommate!) would pray with me when I found it impossible to even know what to pray, or seemed to have forgotten how to pray. She would say, “Heavenly Father in Jesus name…you have given us not a spirit of fear, but one of power, and love, and of sound mind.” I could not fathom walking in a spirit without fear, and nor could I imagine walking in a spirit of love and sound mind, but I prayed with her anyway, sobbing, giving myself up. Months later when my mother died, we’d pray the same prayer again, and then again when my grandmother died, and again when my Dad got sick. As the months passed, I found myself praying that prayer alone, without anyone’s help, and my faith in God to answer my prayer grew with each passing tragedy.

Yesterday morning I woke up to a text message from a friend who is moving with her husband down to Houston for an internship for her work as an occupational therapist. They’ll be back to Fort Worth in a year, when she’s finished, but it’s still a big step for them. They love our city, and our church, where they met and fell in love. She told me once she’d taped up the last box, and took a good look around at her house, and their sweet little home, she burst into tears and could not contain it. She ugly cried so hard, she said she was pretty sure she’d scared her husband. And then she said, “And then I thought of you, moving around the world by yourself, and not even certain when you’ll return, and realized man you’re brave. You’re one tough gal.” I responded with something clever, like that Texas women are tough, and that I see the same toughness in her too (because I do) and that it’s alright to cry because those who cry often are the ones who’ve held it together the longest. (And ain’t that the truth?) And that her husband should see her ugly cry because that’s what intimacy is all about. But I didn’t say what I should have.

The past month or so has been a month of goodbyes. I’ve been all over the state to see family and make memories with them; I held a moving sale; I sold my furniture, even my beloved 100 year old vanity and DIY coffee table. I boxed up the precious things and gave them to relatives to hold for me, and tossed the rest, or donated it to the missions at church. I have been so blessed along the way this month in my preparation. From my mentor showing up with her entire family to help me pack, to my dear friend who has allowed me to stay with her for the past two weeks, to the friends who have showed up at goodbye dinners and happy hours and have laughed and lived with me, I have been blessed.

But it’s more than that, you know. Everywhere I turn, I have a friend who has a friend in South Korea and wants to get us in touch, and most of them follow through. The director for my recruiting company emailed me and everyone else who signed the same time I did to introduce us all to each other, and I connected with most of them via social media, and I am beside myself with excitement to meet them and develop friendships with them.

And the biggest kicker of all, the one that reinforces to me that God wants me in South Korea, is that I have some friends who are missionary kids, and their folks are still in Asia.  We have connected, and they have messaged me and have loved on me from afar, and I know they are praying for me. In short, I know without a doubt in my mind that I am not alone, not physically, spiritually, or emotionally. The breadth of God’s family has me floored. There are people I do not yet even know who are praying for me as I type this, in addition to those who do know me and love me.

As I have walked the last few years years, I’ve faced some of the harshest lies of the enemy.

Unlovable. Despised. Rejected. Abandoned. Those were dark days.

“Because you deserve it,” the enemy said.

But the love of Christ has said otherwise. The love of Christ has said, “No, will take on the hatred, rejection, and abandonment for her. She is my sister and she is precious. She is the daughter of a King, and she will not be lied to.” And the thing is, Christ says the same thing for all of us, and when we accept this love, this irresistible grace, we become family.

I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God…You split the sea so I can walk right through it. You drown my fears in perfect love. You rescued me so I can stand and say I am a child of God.

The thing about the Israelite’s enslavement in Egypt is how sweet it was eventually to be set free. True, they screwed up later in every single way, but damn, watching the waters roll in across the Egyptian soldiers must have been the most jaw-dropping freedom. That’s what dodging marital bullets is like. That’s what walking away from the lies of the enemy is like.

To my OT friend, what I should have said is, when you experience grace and love like walking across the seafloor of the Red Sea, and really start to see and believe the freedom placed before you, it makes you do things you never thought were possible. Like move around the world and be all right because you have a family everywhere you go when you’re a child of God. He promises never to leave you nor forsake you.

It makes you tough. It makes you brave.