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Forced Rest

February 6, 2017

This past week I sprained my back. It was stupid. I sat down to conference with a student and stood up when we were finished.

Pain. Yup, definitely pain.

Over the course of two hours my back continued to get more and more stiff and the pain intensified. In fact, I was starting to hunch like an old lady because standing straight was too painful. I could feel a knot on my lower spine where it was hurt.

With permission, I left work early and headed to doctor’s the next day. By day two, I could not walk without assistance. I needed something to lean on or someone to help me along the way. When we arrived at the hospital we most certainly got a wheel chair.

Before the diagnosis, I had a few crying spells in fear that maybe I had a ruptured disc, a herniated disc or God forbid, Spondylolisthesis (a disease that is in my family). Thankfully, I only sprained my back in the same place that I had previously been injured.

By the doctor’s orders I was to have meds and two weeks bed rest. So, here I’ve been for a week and a half.

The responsible side of me has been dying inside. What about work? What about my responsibilities? What about all the meetings I had set up with people? What about…

“Rest.” I heard HIM whisper and interrupt my melancholic rant.

Rest?

“Yes, rest.”

Okay.

So, that is what I have been doing. Resting. Working only when I need to (sub plans, etc.). Otherwise, I’ve been resting. Journaling. Reading. Catching up on politics and social media. Sleeping. Praying. Laying in bed.

And, it’s been surprisingly fulfilling. I can’t remember the last time that I have stopped. I mean truly stopped for an extended period of time. Taken time to do nothing. Not travel. Not visit family. Not do church stuff. Not do work. Not do chores around the house. Just stop. Rest.

Because I was forced to rest, I had no choice. I’ve tried to fight it. I’ve tried to speed up my healing.

I did not choose this. But in some strange way, despite the incredible pain and huge inconvenience, this has been a gift in disguise.

I’ve been able to reflect, dream, remember other passions I have, finish our wedding album (finally!!!), and take time to myself.

“Create. Renew your creativity.”

His whisper is usually faint. One must be listening to hear. But in the silence of my room, it was clear. As I laid there, subject to bed rest, I knew that He was speaking to me. He wants to lead me into a more creative season that will require some steps of faith.

I have been in a season of renewing my love for the arts and now it is more than clear. It’s time to take steps of faith. The Lord is with me in it.

I will be thankful when my back is healed and well. I will enjoy being able to go back to work and move around the house effortlessly. Maybe go into a cleaning frenzy like I do now and then.

But, for right now, I’m savoring this gift. I’m fighting cabin fever and finding the joy in forced rest. 

He is renewing my creativity.

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MY CREATIVE SPACE

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Morning Hugs

January 22, 2017

The busyness of the day stole my attention.

Tasks to do.

Attendance to take.

As I made my way to set out their morning work, I almost missed the quiet question hovering in my midst, waiting for a reply, 

“No morning hugs today?”

 His shoulders shrugged as he looked directly at me, standing with anticipation for my embrace.

In the haste of my rushed and responsible adult morning, I had forgotten a very important routine: our morning hugs.

I quickly set down the papers and wrapped my arms tightly around each precious child as they entered our room– all the while secretly thanking them for reminding me of what is valuable and of high priority.

Love. Relationship. Presence.

Lord, so often I forget that you, too, stand waiting with the quiet question, “No morning hugs today? “

May I not forget to feel your embrace each day. May I leap into your arms without reservation.

shasta_gram

September 15, 2016

For our one year anniversary, Jason and I decided to get a dog. It was not a spur of the moment decision. Don’t be silly…neither of us are spontaneous enough to do that.

I have wanted another dog since forever ago. My first dog was Princess. She was a cocapoo. I loved her so much and was heartbroken when she passed. It took years for me to feel ready enough to love another dog again.

Jason never owned a dog, so he was entering new territory. But very excited.

It all started when we dog-sat for some coworkers last Spring Break. Well, really, it started long ago when we were dating and I wanted to make sure that Jason was open to having pets in the future. Kind of like that movie, “Must Love Dogs.” He seemed open enough, so I just took it as a green light. =) I’m glad I did.

We dog-sat Henley. Henley was the most well-behaved dog, who loves people, and does not bark. Did I mention, does not bark? I was intrigued. I decided to ask our friends about their dog and where they got her.

It turned out that they bought Henley from a breeder in Hong Kong. We decided to research and learn more about this breed. We fell in love with the Cavalier King Charles. Due to the fact that this breed has many health issues, we decided that going through a reputable breeder would be wise. So, we contacted the same breeder our friends had gone through.

One thing led to another and long story short: we now have the cutest little cavalier.

We decided to name her Shasta for a few reasons:

  1. I lived in California for a while and fell in love with Shasta Mountain.
  2. Shasta means “teacher” in a Native American language. (we are teachers overseas^^)
  3. Shasta is one of the character’s names in the Chronicles of Narnia (which we are currently reading).

Shasta has been such a delight to have. She is helping us learn how to work together as a married couple to train, care for, and love. She is our practice child. 😉

Follow us @ shasta_gram

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My Journey: Overcoming C.Diff. & Fear

May 7, 2016

**Please know that I will be very open and vulnerable in this post. If you are not keen to reading about sickness and things that surround it, then please do yourself a favor and don’t read this.

**I am writing this in part to face my fear and let it be completely cut off.

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March 2015

Jason and I got engaged! Woohoo!!!

Due to some states’ law for STD testing as a pre-requisite to getting your marriage license, we decided to get tested (though we were both confident due to our abstinence thanks to the saving grace of God). (and we’re STD free in case you’re wondering now. I say that to avoid judging eyes^^)

Well, my test results came back telling me to come in for medicine for a bladder infection. That’s funny, I didn’t really have symptoms for a bladder infection. So, I went in and trusted the judgment of the doctor and the test results. Who wants a bladder infection? No one.

And that’s when it all started. With a round of antibiotics to clear-up a bladder infection. (An infection I would later realize I never had in the first place… faulty testing by the doctor. Don’t you love it when that happens?)

The “infection” didn’t go away and for some reason I started feeling like I had an infection.

Another round of antibiotics. That’s when the diarrhea started and the symptoms of a bladder infection really set in… burning, urge to pee every five minutes.

April 2015

Another round of antibiotics. Diarrhea continued. I assumed it was just normal from the antibiotics.

I later researched for myself and discovered that the particular antibiotic I was taking had a side effect that results in bladder infection symptoms (burning, urgency to pee). I sigh, knowing things would have been different had I not taken the doctor’s advice.

To be sure, he gave me another round of antibiotics. (Okay, this is getting ridiculous. And why I trusted the doctor? Oh right, because who else am I supposed to go to for professional, medical advice?)

At this point, I was beginning to be very concerned. I had gone to the regular physician at least four times. He referred me to a Urologist. I had to have a urine sample taken by a catheter. If you’ve ever had that done to you, you might know how scary it is!

I was researching and learning about bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. I tried talking to the doctor about it and he refused to listen. By my fourth visit he agreed to test for antibiotic resistance. Really? It took that long? Results proved it was not resistant. Finally, some good news. But, why was I still having symptoms? (Oh, right, it was from the antibiotics… but I didn’t know that at the time!)

Meanwhile, the diarrhea persisted.

I was reaching out to friends I knew who did natural remedies. I was reading up on all sorts of stuff.

At first subtle and then not so subtle, I had allowed fear to enter.

I have never been the fearful type. Pretty fearless actually. It comes with an adventurous spirit. Maybe I’ve struggled with fear of man. But that is an entirely different kind of fear than what I was dealing with now.

It started out as small, fleeting thoughts. Then it ended up in full blown-out anxiety attacks. Fear of death. (regardless of believing in an afterlife, I did not want to die of a bacterial infection). Fear that I had an antibiotic resistant bacteria causing an infection. Fear that I’d always have pain. Lots of fear. (This is the downward spiral of a melancholy temperament at it’s worst.)

Not only was fear subtly entering my life, but so was something so terrible I could not imagine.

 

May 2015

At this point, I was researching a lot. I did not know what was wrong. By now, I had successfully caused bacterial imbalance in all parts of my body from the antibiotics. I was living in some kind of nightmare.

Close to the end of the month, while preparing for Kindergarten Graduation, in one of my botch jobs to use self-remedies, I took a probiotic. Bad. Idea.

Over the course of a few days my stomach became extremely bloated. I came down with a swollen lymph node on the right side of my neck/ear region. I was not digesting properly and the diarrhea halted. Then I had stool with mucus in it. And strangely, it was sort of green. That had never happened to me before! I knew something was terribly wrong. I became nauseous from eating, and then I was overtaken with a fever and flu-like symptoms.

Tammi (my roommate of six years) pampered me during this time, making me chicken soup and buying me carbonated water. When the fever finally broke, I still had a swollen gut and lymph node.

At this point, I went to Severance Hospital. I had already spent 1,000s of dollars on doctors bills…what’s another visit?

Please do keep this in mind while reading… during this time, I was planning a wedding, across three time zones, teaching full time, and trying to enjoy my engagement.

Fear was stealing my joy. And the worst part: I let it. I fought. Oh I fought. And others fought for me and with me. I wept in Jason’s arms so many nights before we parted ways. I wept in my room. I wept with Tammi and Stephanie. They prayed for me, they counseled me, they hoped with me, they believed for me.

June 2015

I entered Severance Hospital with hesitation to trust doctors, but a desperation for a breakthrough and proper diagnosis.

The doctor was not fully believing me when I told her what was happening. (And previously I had one doctor tell me, “I’ve never heard of this so I cannot help you.”– well, that’s reassuring.) I was desperate so I wouldn’t leave until she took me seriously. I made her feel my swollen lymph node and made her examine my gut a third time.

She responded with hesitation, “I don’t think  you have this, but I’ll run a test just in case.” Well, that’s unsettlingly ambiguous.

Now, I was giving stool samples. Yay.

A few days passed. I received a phone call and email telling me to come to the hospital immediately. My principal graciously let me leave early.

The doctor referred me to a GI specialist. I met with her to discuss my results. Apparently I had Clostridium difficile. Also knows as C. Difficile or C.Diff. Or your worst nightmare.

Remember that “something so terrible I could not imagine” that had subtly begun that I mentioned earlier?

C. Diff. is what I was referring to.

The doctor told me that in order to get rid of this gut infection I had to get on antibiotics again. Hold your horses. What?! Again?! Everything in me wanted to throw the prescription in her face and tell her what her doctors in Korea had done to me already! Fear was rising up in me. Anger even! I was anxious. I was scared. I wanted to be home. I wanted a doctor who spoke English and had critical thinking skills! I wanted to be held. I wanted to know what this C.Diff. was.

My research ensued.

So what is it? 

Clostridium difficile.

Basically it’s a spore-producing, anaerobic bacteria that is found naturally in only 1-5% of people; however, it can be picked up anywhere. The spores lie dormant until they are ingested and then they can take over your gut. When they are active and overpopulated in your gut, they create an infection and release Toxin A and Toxin B (I have no idea what that means– except that it’s really bad for you). Your body responds by creating mucus and you get diarrhea, bloating, green stool, etc.  Many people get infected while in the hospital. It destroys your GI track and each year 15,000 to 30,000 people die from this infection. Yes, you read that correctly. This is not just some simple food poisoning. This is a disease that must be treated correctly and promptly.

Some strains of C. Diff. have become resistant to antibiotics. It’s becoming a much larger problem in hospitals. Because the spores can be anywhere it makes it more concerning.

Some C.Diff. survivors never have normal guts again. Some end up with IBS or Crohn’s or other awful gut issues.

I am thankful that I do not have any of those as a result.

I am hoping that this blog post will help increase awareness as it is still not well known.

For more information click here. 

So how do you get an infection? 

Good question. In my case, too many antibiotics killed off all of my good gut flora that normally keep C.Diff. at bay. When the good gut flora died off from the antibiotics, the C.Diff. took over and caused an infection.

How did I get it? 

No one can know for sure. I might have picked it up somewhere. I might have been a natural carrier of it. Who knows.

 

NY, NY, June 2015

I was in NY for a week training with the Writing Workshop Institute at Teacher’s College. PD that people dream of! And mind you, I had an amazing time and learned so much!

But I cannot cover up the fact that it was very difficult while I was finishing up my antibiotics and dealing with fear.

How did I recover? 

I reluctantly took the round of antibiotics. I took it for 2 weeks and stopped it a few days early because by this point my tongue had changed colors (yes, it really changed colors– apparently a side effect of this particularly strong antibiotic) and my stool was so messed up, I just couldn’t take it anymore.

My stomach was so gurgly and I could hardly eat anything without it going right through me. I reached out to my friends who are doctors and asked about my health. I continued researching.

Being in NY alone, aside from a few people I knew, was very tough. I so badly wanted those closest to me to be with me as I recovered.

At this point I had lost 18 pounds. These were not pre-wedding weight-loss pounds. These were pounds shed by my body simply because it was not absorbing anything. I was shakey. I was scared. I was afraid I was going to be another C.Diff. statistic.

When I was done with the round of antibiotics my digestion did not improve. I went to one of the emergency clinics (which is so convenient, professional, and helpful btw!) in order to have a stool sample to make sure I was C.Diff. free. (and…they don’t make you poo in your hand with a plastic glove like Korea! They provide a special seat to catch it! Just FYI).

I was C.Diff free! However, I was afraid of having a false negative result, as I heard that this happens sometimes. So, when I arrived in Boston and my digestion still was not better I went to another doctor and was tested again.

C.Diff Negative.

July 2015

And if that wasn’t enough, I went to a real GI doctor. But this is worth noting: it’s VERY difficult to get an appointment with specialists last minute. Almost impossible. Dr. Trey was booked all the way until August as well as most of the other GI specialists in the area.

However, Jason found an opening for me! One that worked with my schedule! It really was a miracle! This is when you can see God working behind the scenes.

When I went to see him, it was very cathartic. I literally cried the whole time as I told him everything that had happened in Korea. I told him specific antibiotics I had taken, my symptoms, everything imaginable. I told him my current symptoms. I told him I was getting married in one week. (and I didn’t even have a wedding dress that fit! But I honestly didn’t even care. I knew God would help me find the perfect dress– yet somehow had so much fear that God wouldn’t keep me alive…).

He was so gracious. He was professional. He was an expert.

He took some samples, ran many, many tests. And he even offered to do a colonoscopy before I left for Korea if results indicated that I needed that. Bless him.

Results were negative for everything. Praise. The. Lord.

So what now? 

Dr. Trey told me that it would take 6-8 weeks to gain my water weight back and up to 6 months for my gut to heal.

I am now at 9 months since I was C.Diff. free and I still have soft stool and there are certain things I cannot eat, but overall, I am doing so much better.

I have had two scares. In some cases–a very small percent of people– will have relapses. I have been holding on to fear that I would relapse.

I have especially been scared that I will have to take antibiotics in the future for some kind of infection and relapse. I am learning to trust God.

Since last July I’ve had two bouts of diarrhea and both times I freaked out. This last time, my very good friend, Lisa, told me, “Dyanne, God doesn’t want you to have fear and freak out every time you get diarrhea. It is normal to get it now and then you know. He’s letting you get it, so you can be tested and let go of this fear.”

Boom.

I have slowly been surrendering this fear and trusting God with my life. It is HIS after-all. Never have I ever had to deal with health issues like this before. And never had I ever had gut issues. I’ve always had a stomach of steel.

I have such a deeper sympathy for those who suffer with long-term health issues. I have been learning how susceptible I am to fear and just how desperate I am for God to grow my trust even deeper.

I am still healing and believing for my gut to heal 100%.

I am severing fear in my life.

I am letting God’s love conquer all fear.

If I can offer any advice: 

On the medical side of things:  do not take antibiotics unless you absolutely need them! And certainly don’t over-do it. I wish that I would have understood the danger of antibiotics and that I would have used my own judgement rather than just blindly trusting the doctor.

And regarding your heart:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

“Do not be afraid, only believe.” Mark 5:36

“May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” Psalm 29:11

Until you are in a situation where you have to trust, you can’t say how you will react. I would have thought that I would have trusted more. But I was so afraid. I am learning how to actively lay down my fears and to trust.

I am thankful that God is gracious. Throughout this journey, He has given me several symbolic dreams to confirm my healing and the severing of fear. He has given me loving support from close friends and family.

For some of you, this is new news. I am sorry if your feelings are hurt that you did not know. Because I was dealing with so much fear, I only wanted those closest to me to know. I did not want the fear of others to be creeping in as I battled with the fear. It was not meant to be selfish by not sharing– had it gotten very bad I would have shared with you.

This journey over the last year has been very hard to say the least. I still ask WHY? I still want to know why it had to happen to me…why it was during my engagement… In the end… I might not ever fully know. But I do know this, on the other side of my whys, I found the sweet presence of God who comforted me in every moment of fear and despair.

My heart goes out to those of you who are battling illness. Take heart in the one who cares for you. Take heart in the one who can heal you. Take heart in the one who can give you peace and cast out all fear. Take heart in the one who will walk through your pain with you.

In the end, our lives are not our own. When there is nothing left to hold on to, we have HIM to hold on to. And when we can’t, He will hold us. 

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This song helped me during this journey (along with many other songs I put on repeat during this season).

 

Gardening; it’s hard.

May 7, 2016

I plant.

I repot.

I water.

I give you sun.

I wait.

I prune.

I trim.

I talk to you.

Repeat.

And you’re still dying.

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(This poor guy… I pruned him too short…I should have read about how to prune properly before butchering the already dying basil tree.)

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Recently I have taken on a plant project. Unlike Texas, where everything seems to grow wildly well, I cannot keep much alive here. I have a few hardy plants holding on, but all of my other plants seem to be wilting and some are flat out dying (I’m telling you this in humility and grief… I used to have a green thumb!).

I researched each plant… I gave some special soil they required, I’ve put reminders in my phone for how often to water different plants, and I’ve moved some more into the sun. Yet, they are still dying. Whether it’s the overcast skies preventing the sun to bathe my plants (personally, that’s what I like to believe…that or the pollution!) or it’s my sudden lack of having a green thumb… I do not know. Aside from being disheartened by the death of some of my plants, I have been thinking more about my heart in this season.

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Gardening is the cliche parallel to tending to your heart. Yet, I cannot help but think about how tending to our hearts is so similar to caring for plants. It’s a cliche comparison for a reason.

Each of us is a unique being that needs special care. Some of us need more pruning, or more water, some of us need more sun. Some of us are ready to be repotted. Some of us need a good trim. Some of us need to be harvested.

As much as we are to care for the state of our own hearts, sometimes we just need to surrender to what the Gardener wants to do. That might mean taking time to read the Word more, that might mean staying in to journal rather than going out, that might mean reflecting first before jumping into the next event. That might be shutting up long enough to hear what HE has to say. Whatever it is… we need to allow God to do His work of tending to our hearts.

Like plants, we can’t always articulate what we need or even know what we need. Sometimes we do. Often we don’t.

I am so thankful that God is my gardener. I am so glad that He knows exactly what I need — unlike me when it comes to my poor plants- God knows exactly when to water, to prune, to harvest, to repot, to put in the sun…

Instead of fighting Him, we need to cooperate and surrender. He knows best. He will keep you alive with a tender, well groomed and well maintained heart. 

What season are you in? Is God pruning you? Is He watering you? Is He repotting you? 

Stop fighting, if you are, and let Him garden and cultivate tenderness, integrity, and the fruit of the spirit in your heart. 

I am so thankful that every season is not pruning. I am so thankful that every season is not harvesting or repotting. And I am so thankful that He knows exactly what season it is for each one of us.

Gardening might be hard for me. But gardening is the natural work of our Father. 

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At least these guys are still doing well along with my ivy, bamboo, and cacti. =)

 

Why?

April 9, 2016

All my life I’ve been the kind of person to always ask, “Why?” Perhaps it’s my melancholy temperament or my INFJ personality type. My dad used to get so annoyed because I would always respond to his answer with, “Why?” (Yes, I was that kid.) I always wanted to know why things happened, why we had certain rules, why we did things a certain way, why something worked the way it did…why?…Why?…Why?…

Over the last year, the Lord has been teaching me a lot about asking, “Why?”

I was talking to a friend last Fall and she pointed out,

“Have you ever noticed that God never answered “Why?” in the Bible? Have you noticed that He never answers that question?”

She reminded me that when God responded to Job He basically said, “And where were you when I created the heavens and the earth?” She proceeded to ask,

“Why are we so quick to accept the good but not the bad?”

I felt very challenged by this.

I thought about it for a while and had to agree with her, that yes, I have never had God answer my “Whys???” (and I have a ton of them!) Usually He answers me with another question. He tells me that He loves me. He tells me that He’s for me. He tells me that He’s with me in the midst of it all.

She continued in the conversation,

“But He never, never, never answers, “Why did ___ have to die?”  “Why are children raped?”  Well, evil.  But why evil in the first place?  “Because I am God.  Period.  Thanks for asking.”In all this, I’d still rather have God on my side than anyone or anything else.  Because a confusing God who says “no” more than I think He should is still the best lover and parent source of good there ever is.

Tonight when I was praying, I started to ask, “Why?” I stopped myself and then I prayed,

“Lord, at the end of all my whys, let me find you and let your presence be enough to satiate my hunger to know why.”

There are many things that happen in our lives…things we may never know the reason for: sickness, death, tragedy, etc. Whether it’s the pure result of our sinful nature and a fallen world or if there is greater purpose (usually there is….sanctification…God’s glory being made known…etc.), we may never know the exact reason why someone had to die or why you had to go through something. That’s the hard part. Not knowing exactly why.

In the end, having the ability to ask God, “Why?” and then be satisfied with only finding Him at the end of my questions is walking by faith. It is the kind of faith that is causing my roots to go deeper to find water. It’s the kind of faith that causes me to trust deeper. To have greater courage. To hold on tighter. And to experience His love with greater measure.

So, whatever your WHY is tied to…I pray that you will find Him on the other side of your WHY and be filled with HIS peace, love, joy, and hope. I pray that you would find complete satisfaction in knowing that He’s always there on the other side. 

“Beautiful truth out of unbeautiful reality. The whys are never ending, but this truth puts them in their place– this is gold. ” – Tammi Wenzig

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” -C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

“The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.”-C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” – C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.”
– C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

“Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great theological and metaphysical problems – are like that.”- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

“Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear”- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Art Therapy: Escape from North Korea

February 11, 2016

** Names have been changed to protect identity. **

Several years ago I taught a little girl who escaped North Korea with her mother. I have held on to this story for some time and now want to share it with a wider audience for awareness. I often think about her and where she is now. Her story reminds me of why I am here in South Korea praying for this nation and North Korea.

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We were on a field trip to the park. As I strolled through the gardens with my preschoolers, I couldn’t help but soak in the joy that exuded from my kiddos. While we all hummed along with the sunshine, one of my students walked alongside me with her shoulders slumped. I inquired, “Yunsoo, what’s wrong?”

“I miss my grandma.”

“Where is your grandma?”

“We left her. I used to go to the garden with my grandma.”

The conversation halted as we arrived at the busses. I could not help but feel the sadness that Yunsoo carried.

When we arrived back to the classroom, I decided to try something to help Yunsoo process what she was feeling. I have always had an interest in art therapy. I am not trained by any means, but I figured that I could at least give her some paper for drawing. I told her that she could write down and draw everything she was feeling or thinking. Yunsoo took the paper and went to work, staying focused and drawing several pictures. She eventually came to a stopping point.

My teaching assistant helped to translate her explanation for each picture.

You can read and see her story below:

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Grandma — still in the North

Mom — pregnant with Yunsoo

Aunt — told mom to leave too

Aunt — still in the North

We lived in the same village together.

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Mom and Yunsoo saying “bye” to Grandma. Dad went somewhere to make money when I was born. There was fighting. I thought that as not real father but I thought it was a stepfather. I realized after teh fight he wa not my real father. Real father had gone to make money. Step father hit mom with a slipper. My aunt got us to leave the North. I wish I could have brought my Grandma here. I miss her a lot.

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The river’s name is Akah. It means alligator or crocodile. Crossing the river but the boat was shaking a lot so my bottom hurt.

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Bed bus is next. I vomited on the bus. I got sick on the bus. We were on the bus for three nights. The bus goes over the mountain and it was very cold.

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We got off the bus and my feet were frozen.

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The time we got off the bus and there was another man waiting for us. The gave me a piggy-back ride to cross the river. I was wrapped a lot. I didn’t get so cold. The man slipped on the rock so I fell into the river and he grabbed my hand. My mother also slipped and hit her knee on a rock and hurt a little bit. Comparing to mom, I fell down hard. The water flows quickly. The water gets higher and higher so we had to go quickly. It was the night so we didn’t know there was so much water or rocks. Rock, waterfall, river.

The water comes up to my head. It was cold but I can stand it. Mom stood on the land saying something to me but I could not hear. I wasn’t scared. Only us there. The man went back to his house in North Korea.

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We went back to the mountains. It was a sunny day. I am like an owl. I don’t sleep at night I wasn’t sleepy. But I was sleepy during the day. Mom is waking me up. Mommy sleeps at night only and I sleep during the day only. Mommy says, “I just wake up right away but you don’t wake up. Do you want me to give you a piggy-back ride?” I was only four years old.

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Mommy sleeping at night and I am awake. I am sleeping at day time. It is cold at night so I cannot sleep. I look at the stars at night. We are in China and we must not be caught by anyone in China. I’m waking up mommy because I cannot sleep and I want to sleep. My mom is snoring.

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We were caught by Chinese police officers. We had to stay in prison in China for three months. There are many people. No Chinese. Only Korea. They made us work. The police yelled at us and said, “Come out!” The food was delicious. I like pork cutlet. I like curry. I was with my mom. I can’t remember what I did buy my mom digs the land. Men dig around and the women carry the sol to some place. Women and men have to be separated. I pressed buttons with other children. From five years old you have to do this job. From thirteen years old you have to dig.

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The police officer said, “It is time. Go.” I think everyone was Korean. Everyone had a plane ticket. The airplane ticket said to Korea. When mommy said “go” I looked under and found a ticket. It said Korea. My mom’s friend gave the ticket to my mom. I met her in China. She is at the same age as my mom. It seems like they are good friends and she gave the ticket to my mom. That’s how we got to Korea. This is my house apartment #323 maybe. I think that is right.

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I sleep now in my house. We had bunk beds. I sleep on the top and my mom sleeps down. The bunk bed has a ladder and a slide. My mom bought this.

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Teaching Yunsoo was a rich experience and a privilege. I was able to see Yunsoo slowly adapt to South Korean society. When she first came, she spoke very harshly with a very direct and stern tone to others. I believe she must have picked that up from her time in prison and possibly from her life in North Korea. Over time she softened up.

There were times that I had to tell her to not talk about her experiences. I know her mother did not want her speaking of them and it was not always appropriate. I remember catching her talk about rotting food and maggots one time at lunch.

I also was able to share Christ with her for the first time. She did not believe in God as she was raised to believe there is no God. Only their leader is to be exalted. I am thankful that she now has the freedom to seek God without oppression.

Before the end of the year, her mother wrote me a sweet note and made this origami trinket at a refugee center here in Seoul.

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We must not forget to pray for those who are in North Korea and for those who have escaped. They may be sitting next to you on the subway or even in your classroom. They carry a heavy burden and deep wounds that only God can heal.

May we one day see the reunification of North and South Korea as well as the liberation of thousands of people in concentration camps and those who are living under the oppression of the North Korean regime. Until then, we are prisoners of hope.

I’ll leave you with this song that Sean Feucht wrote specifically for North Korea, “Finish What You’ve Started”: