This fairly abruptly came to a head in mid January. A visit from Sarah and Andrew really triggered the suppressed homesickness, longings for a sense of the familiar, weariness with the cold and winter, and feelings that I had no purpose or calling in this place. All this collided with Joe's sense of rightness about Korea: fitting in like he never has before, loving his teaching position and feeling needed and called to his work and to this place.
At the same time, I was also getting the first ideas and feeling the blossoming of real excitement for beginning a quilting project. And getting them in collaboration with Joe, whose aesthetic sense often collides with my own when it comes to choosing paint colors or furniture, but when we tune into the same wavelength is inspiring and motivating to me. It was bizarre to experience these two feelings together: the despair and the creative joy, but I’m grateful. One of the things that had depressed me most was that I couldn’t bring myself to do what I’d stated was my goal during my leave/sabbatical. I was completely unmotivated. I may not have been able to feel it as God’s presence, but that creative spark was Spirit work.
I did seek spiritual direction finally. It took me too long to realize that I had been needing and missing it and Canadian volunteer at the Korean Anabaptist Center will be playing that role for me. In our first (very emotional for me) meeting, she asked me to imagine Jesus beside me. What was he saying to me? I could see and hear immediately that Jesus was comforting me, promising that he would always be with me. But that he couldn’t stop the sadness. A disappointing but understandable thing to hear from Jesus. At least for the first time, thanks to Marian’s prompting I had the sensation of a present Christ.
She also asked me, If the tears could talk, what would they be saying? I sat for a long time in silence with this question and I couldn’t find the answer then. I wonder now if they are saying: We teach you about joy. Is that possible? Is that too far fetched? But that is what I clearly hear. It was in the midst of tears that I felt that real urge to do nothing but sew and sew and sew. It is cliché, I suppose to say that feeling sorrow makes joy all that much more sweet. Those tears, now that they are past, have also helped me resolve now to be more present to the present, both in the creative endeavor and in the work that Joe and I will be doing on resolving our conflicting sense of call.
Part of what helped the passing of the tears, along with the capable care of a spiritual director, was a well timed vacation to sunny and tropical Thailand. While there we spent most of our time with the family of friends, who treated us like family ourselves, allowed us to sleep in and cared for and played with Naomi, chauffeured us to the beach, an elephant park and many, many temples and palaces.
One of the great advantages of being with locals instead of touring ourselves around, was access to the markets where Thai people shop. I went a little crazy buying fabric. It was beautiful, plentiful, and so much more inexpensive than buying fabric in the US or Korea. Mostly I bought Thai cotton prints, but some Malaysian batiks and one beautiful length of silk that’s blue and green plaid. I chose colors and patterns that I liked, thinking of possible future quilts but with no specific project in mind.
When I got the fabric home, however, and unfolded it to admire it, I kept picturing these beautiful lengths of fabric on the worship table. The red and gold at Pentecost, the royal blues and purples for Lent. I can imagine the plaid lengths of rough cotton that are traditionally used as wraps but Thai men (not that we saw anyone dress this way – I think they are used more in the countryside) for a festive communion. So the way the idea of using fabric in worship, setting the table with it, was another unexpected and welcome gift. One of the things that has been most difficult in finding a connection to the Creator in this place has been that I have never done well at being the mediator of my own spirituality. (Thus the need for direction). While my vocation has been to create the space for others to experience and learn about the Divine, my own sense of discipline has been a little wobbly. And I have just plain missed setting the table for worship, or even being a part of worshiping community that feels right.
So many gifts, so much struggle. I am on the upward trajectory. This is God’s work.
This quilt is brought to you by the letter 'N' (for Naomi, of course). Naomi is 'helping' me layout the squares of her quilt.