Pregnant In A Foreign Country

Many have been asking the undeniable question, ”How does it feel to be pregnant in a foreign country? How does that even work?” I’m sure if I was living in the States and one of my girlfriends was pregnant abroad I would be asking the same question. So, it’s easy to sympathize with the concerns of family and close friends.

I must say long before I became pregnant I started researching and talking to different expats that had their babies here in Korea. Out of all the different women I spoke to, and all the information I gathered, nothing made me apprehensive about becoming pregnant. My biggest concern was finding an English speaking doctor that had experience working with foreign women with my past medical condition. It did not take long to resolve that issue.

My gynecologist, Dr. Sejeong Oh from Queen’s Medical and OBGYN Clinic, not only speaks excellent English but is highly attentive to me, my baby, my concerns, and has the experience I needed to trust her. I am very thankful and grateful for her. A lot of expats recommended her because of her compassionate nature towards her patients, her willingness to answer questions, her ability in elaborating on complicated medical terms and providing a comfortable place in her clinic for her patients. Dr. Oh highly recommended my obstetrician, Dr. Sumi Kim from St. Mary’s University Hospital, to deliver Baby T. Both doctors are women (which was very important to me personally) who are well trained and experienced in their fields. They both communicate effectively and have been providing me with the best possible care.

I first started seeing Dr. Oh when I was four-five weeks pregnant. After confirming my pregnancy, she gave me a form for the Pre-Natal Care Discount Voucher. It’s better known as the Kook Min Hong Bok Card. The pregnancy voucher entitles women a maximum subsidy of 500,000 KRW (about $450 USD) to pay for doctor visits and other expenses regarding the medical care of the baby. Since being pregnant, I only had to pay an equivalent of $15.00 out of pocket. The National Health Insurance System in Korea is amazing compared to what I use to have in the States.

As for my job, my contract entitles me to three months of maternity leave. Another perk is during the first and third trimester I’m able to leave work two hours earlier than usual. In Korea, government employers are very sensitive towards women who are in their early and late stages of pregnancy. They know it’s a very critical time for the baby’s development. I work at two schools after the logistics of my maternity, and early leave was figured out. A lot of my colleagues wished me well and were very excited about my pregnancy. Of course, they had endless questions that varied from personal to superficial (which I expected), but the overwhelming amount of love I received was astounding, to say the least. My country school always gives me vegetables from the school garden to take home with me. At lunch time, they always have fruits and fresh vegetables for me to eat.

My students started suspecting I was pregnant as of last week. One of my fourth-grade girls asked my co-teacher if I was pregnant and less than five minutes later the news spread like wildfire. I remember last Friday walking on the school bus, and countless students were pointing at my stomach saying, “Willynn Teacher, 아기, 아기 (baby, baby).” “Yes, baby,” I responded and then came the wave of applause and little people with excited faces.

I cannot fail to mention the extraordinary support Micah and I have at our local church, Saeronam English Ministry. I remember during my first trimester I had the weirdest form of morning sickness. I was constantly nauseous, but not to the point of throwing up. For two weeks, I had no appetite. I couldn’t take certain smells, and I was always tired. Several women from the church offered me help and support. They calmed my many anxieties. They bought me herbal remedies that helped with nausea and were always present. Not a day went by without at least one of the women from the church checking in on me. I’m so grateful for them.

Pregnancy in another country could be scary for most, but as for me, my heart is at peace. Micah and I have outstanding people in our community who have become adopted parents, siblings, and of course amazing friends. The Thompson’s are truly blessed. Of course, I miss my biological parents, especially my mama’s cooking. But even from afar, they have been a tremendous support to us by asking what we need, sending us care packages in the mail, and making an honest effort to communicate with us once a week. Sometimes I’m just blown away by the amount of love that surrounds us near and afar. Yes, it takes a courageous soul to do what we are doing. However, you never know what outcome can come out of breaking out of your shell and doing something outside of the ordinary. Following faith requires much sacrifice, but sacrifice brings forth abundant rewards that surpass the understanding of common men.

Signing Out,

Esther Lynn

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

Life and Heart

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my process of becoming, where I have grown and areas where I am still stagnant. My life experiences have taught me the importance of reflection and awareness. So, let’s have a conversation about life and heart. How do we find a balance between the two? Balance is such a critical word, yet it is so hard to discover and do. Jesus is a perfect example of balance. He sees in us what we fail to see in ourselves. Even in our selfishness and brokeness, he loves us still the same. At times I find myself struggling greatly with God’s love. I don’t always understand it. For God to love me despite my flaws, setbacks, lack of obedience, and selfishness completely blows my mind.

When someone offends me, I hold on to it. It takes me a while to let it go. I ask God for help along my process of forgiveness towards others, but my evil mind will contort negative responses to give when the opportunity arrives. My rational is to hurt them just as much as they hurt me; to cut their wounds deeper, so that they can experience my pain. Now, I know, this thought process is not right. Fighting fire with fire doesn’t calm the fiery flames; it only ignites the spark.

brokenheart

However knowing something doesn’t necessarily mean you automatically put it into action. Sometimes it takes a breaking point, a time of deep introspection to turn away from the dangers of unforgiveness. Every time I get to the point of lacking grace, God reminds me what can happen to me internally when I choose to hold on to strife. I rob myself of the ability to be forgiven from him and by others. This is why God’s love often blows my mind. His love is so deep that the moment I think I am justified in my emotions/ actions he causes me to look at myself. Once I let go of the offense and look at me first, before scrutinizing the offending party, I realize I, too,  need grace. I, too, need love and I, too, am in search of balance that is hard to discover but necessary to go in search after.

One day I will have children. I often think of them when I’m struggling with loving others. As I look forward to one day becoming a mother, I consider my thought life and heart. I think about their characteristics. I imagine the way they will interact with people. I ask myself, do I want them to lack grace or do I want them always to have a heart of love? I realized who they become completely depends on who I am now. It’s important I see people the way God sees me, flawed but loved. My emotions and actions may at times be unpredictable and out of place, but I am loved by God still the same. Just as they are loved by God in the same way. Letting go is not easy but it’s necessary for my past, present, and future.

instrospection

It’s human nature to be broken by something or someone that hurts us. It’s not unusual to feel disconnected to others and their personal views, especially when the pain runs deep. But, to find balance, we must turn away from our judgments and the wounds that hurt us. We cast it aside by not being so dependent on what once was or should’ve been. We let go of our expectations and allow life to reveal itself on its own. Harvesting strife against others is refusing to grow. Harvesting love despite its hurt contents and brokenness is to accept people as they are without hurting yourself or those that are looking up to you or coming up after you. I call this, Periods of Waiting: Periods of Trusting.

Truth is we can become something or someone our hearts allow us to become. Change is not something the environment fosters. It’s rather an internal part of what our hearts desires. Become or un-become; your heart is the only organ with the real answer.

I’m just Speaking Out Loud in my Process of Becoming…

Signing Out,
Esther Lynn

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Let’s Have A Conversation

I was taught at an early age the depths of words. I learned the immense weight that can transcend an atmosphere by the expressions, we, as people, use to express what’s hidden, stored, and felt in our hearts. I’m still a working progress, but in recent years, I have come to a conclusion, reflection is necessary, and awareness is imperative. So, I was then left with this question, what impact do our words have on the relationships that surround us. Let’s have a conversation. You and I. Face-to-face with locked eyes.

Let’s have a conversation about relationships. You see, too often we get it confused. When I speak, I often feel cross-referenced. It’s like I’m partially non-existent. Conversations unfold with what you heard and the words I actually spoke. You misguide my details, and they are often missing from the whole interaction.
Your reaction is never a response at all, but rather a flare up of raging emotions. Relations can either be existential or only sustained by vile contentment.

Let’s have a conversation where judgment is at a distance and wounds from words doesn’t exist. Let’s get past the surface fluff and reach deeper in our understanding. Where we no longer have to hold back our authentic thoughts in an attempt to save ourselves from our dismantled hearts. Let’s come together. You and I. Face-to-face with locked eyes. Let’s have a conversation to speak out loud the truths hidden in our broken places to release, the torrent suppressed underneath our emotional tides.

Let’s have a conversation where we stop hiding from ourselves; Where we turn away from our loneliness and confront our shame. Let’s have a conversation where our vulnerability has an open invitation to our discussion. Let’s come together. You and I. Face-to-face with locked eyes. Let’s have a conversation; where we stop defining ourselves by the pain that once masked us. Let’s go on this journey, you and I. Where we explore the world as warriors of light.

Let’s go deeper, where light no longer hides from darkness, uncertainty, and lies; where inner truths are spoken out loud; surpassing our outside borders. I was taught at an early age the depths of words. I learned the immense weight that can transcend an atmosphere by the expressions, we, as people, use to express what’s hidden, stored, and felt in our hearts. So, I was then left with this question, what impact our words have on the relationships that surround us.

My learned experiences taught me this: Words are learned. Words are remembered. Words are genuine. Words are expressed. Our words tell the real truth about our character. So, never neglect the importance of a real conversation.

To The Runners

To The Runners: (Spoken Word Version)

If God was to tell you everything that is to come, would you be able to bear it, handle it or would you run from it? Chances are you would run. This is to the runners. The young soul that allows fear to grip them. The women that tend to say yes, but need to say no; the men that struggle with consistency. This is to you, the runners that numb their senses, to distract themselves from experiencing reality. My message to you, stop running aimlessly!

To the runners: you’re capable of achieving great exploits. You have the power to go above and beyond where you stand now. The problem is your motivation. You get caught up in the expectations and opinions of mere man. Don’t you know what they say about you, they struggle with too? Or are you so blind to their manipulative words that you fail to see the hidden truth?

To the runners: you’re better than you think. Your mind can easily twist a mere occurrence and make it bigger in your imagination. Your body lies to you too. Truth is you’re not feeling lazy,  what’s really happening is the distance you feel from what is and what potential can be.

To the runners: your heart is desperately wicked. You must protect it from the lies that loom over it. If not careful, we too can be master manipulators, dictators, and crazy control freaks. You think, as long as you can control a situation, it won’t get out of hand. But, Usually, the very things we try to control, are the very things that spiral uncontrollably. Let it go! It’s important to allow things and people to find their way. After all, everyone has their journey and their own process of becoming.

To the runner: you’re beautiful, you’re enough, and your value is far beyond any worldly thing that you use to define your beauty. Real beauty is from within. Take the time necessary to learn the treasure that awaits you deep within your soul. It’s in your heart’s treasure box you will find the tools you need to confront the very things you run from.

To the runners: stop running aimlessly, run with purpose, run with a direction already set in mind? After all, all messengers are runners so be aware of your story.

I’m just speaking out loud in my process of becoming…

 

Signing Out,

~Esther Lynn~

Lessons From Cambodia 

Lessons From Cambodia: Free Exchange of Love

“Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.”-‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:22-23‬ ‭MSG‬‬-

The past few weeks have been remarkable. Our trip to Cambodia has proven to be very beneficial and legendary. When visiting other countries it’s easy to fall into the tourist trap. Before leaving your home country, you make an itinerary of all the things you want to do and see. You have a list of all the things on your bucket list you want to check off. You create a budget of all the money you want to spend. However, a tourist sometimes fail to learn from the people of the land. Accommodations are booked at lavish hotels, far from the real authentic scene of how the people of the land are living. Don’t get me wrong, nothing’s wrong with the tourist scene, in my opinion, it just doesn’t give the whole truth about the land I am visiting.  

As I visited unforeseen sights and had the opportunity to interact with the natives. I learned guide books, itineraries, hotel accommodations, traveling money- all of my efforts in preparing for this trip were aimed at the history that represented the past. Lavish beaches that somehow reflects “paradise.” Ancient Ruins that reflected endless temples built for ancient gods. Enslaved elephants parading tourist around, as if they are royality. Merchants are quick to sell their goods to foreigners, because they know they’ll get more than its actual worth. All these things happen all around us. Colluding our true sense of reality. As young children run to us tourist, trying to sell us items that takes away from their worth as young human beings. We, tourist, fail at times. We fail to see the truth. We fail to see them, the people that represent these countries, we are blinded by arrays of colors, traditional fabrics, paintings and clothing. We fail to see their daily living situations.


The greatest commandment in the Bible is to love your neighbour as yourself. The greatest exchange of love is to share life stories, experiences and virtues with the people that surrounds you. The greatest exchange of love is to listen, to understand, to gain knowledge, reflect, write and only then speak. It’s too easy to get caught up with our differences. But, if we listen intently with ears of understanding, we will realize there are more similarities than differences. 

We create the difference by highlighting them in our minds. We lose the sense of humanity, by judging how others live and conduct their lives. So much so, we fail to see our own faults and frailties. Not realizing we, too, struggle with the same things just at a different scale. Who are we to judge? Who are we to pretend we have it all together? After all, we do flock to their country to escape our realities for sometime. Aren’t we, tourist, running away from our own personal demons, while they, the people of the land live with confronting their realities, their demons daily? In many ways they are stronger than us tourist that flock to their land with loads of cash, (we really don’t have) once or twice a year.

We, tourist, need to stop painting a picture of a poor country with helpless desperate people. Truth be told that’s not always the case. The people that represent these “poor” countries are built strong. Stronger than I’ll ever be. They have learned to live life despite their limitations. They have accustomed themselves in finding joy in the small things: family, life and love for each other. They have a heightened sense  and awareness of community more than I’ll ever be able to understand. My westernized eyes use to look at them with pity. But, they have taught me the beauty of appreciation, compassion and assimilation.

This trip to Cambodia has taught me these truths. Revealing the deeper thoughts that plague my mind, saturating my thoughts and producing actions that I’m too slow to even realize. Cambodia reminded me so much of Haiti. As we cruised the streets in the tuk-tuk as I observed the landscape, the people, the hustle and bustle of daily life. As I took in the smells and observed the scene all around me, my thoughts were Haiti. Somehow the Khmer people reminded me of the Haitian people. Two completely different countries with endless amounts of similarities.

Micah and I were fortunate to find a very nice Airbnb accommodation. It was 30 minutes away from the city, 15 minutes away from the Temples of Angkor and 20 minutes away from the airport. What attracted us to this place was the fact that it was a homestay. Our host was also a tuk-tuk driver. We would have a personal guide from a native of the land. Our host name was Kosal. His sister is an amazing cook with three beautiful little girls. This family are Buddhist and Hindu believers. Our first morning in Cambodia we were awakened by the chants of the monks coming from the pagoda. 


What in the world would compel two Christ followers to stay in a Buddhist home? The answer is easy, the people. The exchange of love that can happen between two complete strangers, from different parts of the world. The knowledge and understanding one can gain when they take the time to actually listen. The real authentic stories of how life is like in the world they live and not what the western or eastern cultures tell us about them. Our intentions has proven to be very valuable, meaningful and legendary. Not only did we hear the history, we learned about their faith, we witnessed their territories first hand. Observed their daily struggles and understood. We have more alike than we think.

I’m just speaking out loud in my process of becoming…

Signing Out,

Esther Lynn

Westernized Eyes

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

As 2016 quickly comes to an end, I can’t help but reflect on how my westernized eyes have changed since this year started. I started this year full of hope, ambition and gratitude. I left all that I knew behind to start anew in a foreign land. My process of becoming entered the next level. I thought the things I read in books about Korea was enough to prepare me for actually living here. Boyyy, was I wrong. Nothing can prepare you for the next level. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to be prepared and fully aware of your next move. But, experience will always trump book knowledge any day. In this blog I hope to give a brief snippet of my 2016 year abroad.

2016abroad

I made a huge mistake. I entered the Land of the Morning Calm thinking I knew everything I needed to know to live here. I must admit, I was not teachable in the beginning. In my westernized eyes, there were too many things that were backwards. For instance, the communal soap bar in the public bathroom to wash your hands, the lack of napkins in the restaurants, the extremely cold hallways at school, the twisted perception of women roles- that’s just a few things amongst the plethora of examples I can give. I thought the problem was them, but in retrospect the problem was me.

My westernized eyes valued independence; separation from the crowd and my own personal opinions. I cringed to have to do anything mandatory- to not have an option was societal suicide. Yet, I found myself living in a foreign land where the pressures of community were absolutely necessary and prevalent to life. Everyone was a part of something. When one eat, we all eat. When one speaks,  we all contribute to conversation. When one is by themselves, we all come together and join them. Community, the backbone of the Korean life. There is no such thing as independence here. Separation from the crowd means you don’t care and personal opinions, if they are not relatable to the situation at hand, keep them to yourself. My beginning stages of life in Korea was a constant collision of resistance of two different cultures battling one another, instead of learning from each other. In retrospect, I was just being stupid. Comparisons can be a deadly force, especially when the similarities are hidden behind the blind spots. Again, I thought something was wrong with them, but the real problem was me.

introspection.jpg

The first three to six months of 2016 I was in a constant battle with myself. I used to think it was the people conspiring against me- but, in reality, it was my westernized eyes. It was how I viewed them, their world and culture as a whole. I entered this new level of life abroad all wrong. As mentioned, comparisons can be a deadly force, especially when the similarities are hidden behind blind spots. In the western world, the bathrooms don’t always have soap. School buildings don’t always have heat. Gender roles in the west are just as twisted as it is in the eastern hemisphere. Personal opinions aren’t always welcomed, especially when it’s not benefiting anyone or the situation at hand. I had the same challenges when I lived in America, so what made them so different or alarming living in South Korea? It’s the fact that the experience was unknown, unfamiliar and never experienced.

unknown

As for community, in the West we emphasize the differences between introverts and extroverted people. If you like to talk, you’re a social butterfly and you’ll thrive in any situation. But, if you’re an introvert, like me, people will just think you’re a loner, snobby and super weird. I struggled with community too, when I lived in America. What makes it any different now? It’s the fact that I had to finally confront my issues with community, instead of hiding from it or acting as if it doesn’t exist. I actually have met extroverts that still struggle with community. Extrovert or introvert, it means nothing. We all have our own separate challenges. We are all somehow resisting change. We are all in the process of becoming.

2016 has taught me  a valuable lesson: confrontation with self. The ability to take a deeper look with what’s going on inside of me. My resistance to things that can actually produce growth. This year has given me a deeper understanding of my root system. My western eyes has caused much dissension with  my surroundings. But, it’s not all bad, valuable life  lessons were learned throughout it all. I can see my progress. Who I was in the beginning of 2016 is not who I am now. I have learned and understood that all created things need community in order to survive. My westernized eyes did not fail me completely. It actually opened my world view. There is more to life than just me, my experiences and culture. It’s all about being honest with yourself and seeing the purpose in the life you’re experiencing.

At the end of it all, 2016 has been a great year. I had challenges but I also had a lot of memorable moments. I still end this year with hope, ambition and gratitude. I learned so much. My process will continue to grow my character. In that regard, I end with, “Happy New Year.” Let’s learn how to be honest with ourselves, so that we’re authentic with the community that surrounds us.

I’m just speaking out loud in my process of becoming…

Date: Saturday, December 31st, 2016

Signing Out,

~Esther Lynn~

 

To The Runner

To the runner:

If God was to tell you everything that is to come, would you be able to bear it, handle it or would you run from it? Chances are you would run. This letter is to the runners. The young soul that allows fear to grip them. The women that tends to say yes, but really wants to say no. The men that struggles with consistency. This letter is to the runners that numb their senses, in order to distract themselves from experiencing reality. My message to you is, Stop running aimlessly!

runner

To the runner: you’re capable of achieving great exploits. You have the power to go above and beyond where you stand now. The problem is your motivation. You get caught up in the expectations and opinions of mere man. Don’t you know what they say about you, they actually struggle with too? Or are you so blind to their manipulative words that you fail to see the hidden truth?

To the runner: you’re better than you think. Your mind can easily twist a mere occurrence and make it bigger in your imagination. Your body lies to you too. The truth is you’re not feeling lazy or unmotivated, what’s really happening is you feel distance from what is and what potential could be…

sunset-runner

To the runner: your heart is desperately wicked. You must protect it from the lies that looms over it. If not careful, we too can be master manipulators, dictators and crazy control freaks. You think, as long as you can control a situation it won’t get out of hand. But, Usually the very things we try to control, are the very things that spiral uncontrollably. Let it go! It’s important to allow things and people to find their own way. After all, everyone has their own journey and their own process of becoming.

To the runner: you’re beautiful, you’re enough and your value is far beyond any materialistic thing that you use to define your beauty. True beauty is found from within. Take the time necessary to learn the treasure that awaits you deep within your soul. It’s in your soul’s treasure box you will find the tools you need to confront the very things you run from.

runnerconfront

To the runner: stop running aimlessly, run with purpose, run with a direction already set in mind? All runners are really messengers. You may think differently, but the way in which you portray your message, a mere onlooker will find it easy to profess your story.

Pause and think about that

Runners are stolon branches, stemming out of its ends are roots in constant development, making enough space to produce new plants. Runners are grounded, hidden beneath dark soils. Runners are a representation of this stolons growth process. Others may not see your transformation, but the be process is on the verge of becoming. Soon you will rise above the surface.

stolon-root

To the runner: Stop running aimlessly. You’re more than enough. People’s expectations do not define you. Your life is your story, be aware of your message; your be process is on the verge of becoming, Soon you will rise above the surface.  

So, Run with direction; run with purpose.

Signing Out,

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Willynn Sanon Thompson

Writer’s Name: Esther Lynn