12.28.2010

Biometrics--a fancy name for something not quite so fancy

Today we're in Durham, NC to partake in the most wonderful ceremony of Biometrics, which is the fun part of the I-485, or Adjustment of Status, which comes after marriage and before conditional permanent residency, which will allow us to apply for permanent residency again in two years.  It's all very cryptic when you write it out here but it means that we, not really me, but Olivia, had to get pictures taken and let 'the man' have her fingerprints.  Haha.  Anyway, after a lot of cold, hard cash we are able to look forward to the soon arrival of our green card which is not quite as predictable as we might hope.

We got a Request For Evidence (RFE) recently because my mother was born in Canada of all places which has caused them to pause the case until we were able to send in some proof of their (parents') status... That actually went pretty well, got it in quickly and now we're dealing with the Biometrics part and soon, Lord willing, we'll be reaping the rewards of this whole process!  They have been good to us so far, as we have been involved in this process far less time than many many others.  I have read posts from others where they have been waiting years for acceptance and we started it all in June this year.  The good news is that we were together in Korea for a great deal of time before we decided to come back here and marry.  It's been a little less than easy, honestly, but we are blessed and count ourselves lucky.  There is still much to take care of, mind you, but much of the difficult stuff is actually behind us.  Fortunately for me, or us rather, that I had experience working at the law firm a few years ago and it gave me a head start on filing all of these documents... I guess I can say that I am quite the pen pusher after all!

After we get our green card I can proceed to get the job in the Navy that I've been amped about for quite some time.  There are quite a few things that I'm nervous about but that is true with any job.  There are many things that I am looking forward to, surprisingly.  I had for many years nearly cursed the military and sworn that I would never join but have found that with time come many different points of view and our circumstances have had a surprising impact on our direction.  I feel we're blessed to be able to go this route and we're dependent upon God to pull us through the rest of the way.  I'm excited about a career in Linguistics, honestly, and have been waiting a good while to get into it and this seems like a really great start.  This is all such a great surprise to me and to many others as well, but Korea was for me and many others much the same.

Yay for getting much of it done and here's to finishing up the process so we can go about our lives in a way in which normal people do not even think twice.  Come hither green card, and let us move on with our lives!  

12.23.2010

Immigration Hurdles and Holidays!

Well, the latest news on the immigration story is that we're going to have an appointment (biometrics) soon and then we'll be able to proceed with more waiting.  That is essentially what one has to do when signing up for this whole deal--be prepared to wait!  We, fortunately, have not had to wait nearly as long as other people I have read about on Visa Journey, as well as others, and we are glad for it.  We are hoping and praying for a green card soon since that is the last hurdle in our pre-job-tasks which will allow me to join the military... Last year I was very decided on the Air Force but as time has moved forward I have found that the job I desired most, Cryptologic Linguist (Job Description), is not as available as I had hoped leaving me exploring other options. 

After this did not work out exactly as I had planned I was much more frustrated than I wanted to be but it forced us to re-evaluate our plans a bit...This actually stretched us more than you might imagine, despite the fact that it sounds like a simple change, your future spouse might not like major decisions to be made abruptly.  In the end the Navy began sticking out as the best choice, so I spent a great deal of time researching the differences in the jobs for both branches and what it would mean for me in terms of possible deployments and pay, etc.  The Navy calls the job CTI (CTI Information), Cryptologic Technician Interpretive, and it seems like there is quite a bit more out there in terms of information than the equivalent position in the Air Force.  We decided to give the Navy a call and they were extremely helpful in getting me set up to take the ASVAB as well as the DLAB to see if I could qualify for this position.  I did very well on the ASVAB and slightly less well than I had predicted on the DLAB despite my fluency in Spanish and experience with Latin, French, and Korean.  Of course I don't really know all those languages that well, but having studied Spanish you learn more of other languages than you could even imagine, and I have taken some classes on both Latin and French.  Korean was learned from self-study and living in Seoul for the past two years and two months, of course. 

This job requires that my wife have a green card in hand and then they'll be able to move forward with the process.  I'm honestly hoping to ship out as soon as possible as I'm just wasting around at home these days and it doesn't do very much for my mind when it just cycles through looking at nonsense on the computer all day... I'm experiencing atrophy and I don't like it.

Pending quick results with immigration we hope to have our green card soon, even though we have more holidays than we would like to have during the processing of our paperwork.  The next step will put me at boot camp and we'll be very well on our way.  Of course it's going to suck being at boot camp, but it will get us a bit closer to where we want to be so I suppose we'll deal with it one way or another.  Oh, how we long for the beaches of Monterey, California!

Warring with God

I drank coffee tonight while my wife was at Korean Bible study and as a result I am up with an unusually clear mind at 2.40am.  The things we think about in extreme detail at this hour could be our clearest thoughts on the most serious matters but I feel that we simply fall asleep and dismiss the whole thing by breakfast time.

My mind has been racing, thinking about old friends, high school, life in Rocky Point, North Carolina, going to Chile, coming home to graduate, working at Mako and Associates, moving to Seoul, and now to where I am now... It is so hard some times to forget the things that we have done and learn from them without suffer any consequences or regret.  Some have immediate consequences to their actions and others seem to carry it all in a different way, a much less visible way.  Let me set the background quickly--yesterday, before my mother sent off a book to an ex-co-worker, I snuck off and read about 50 pages of a book called The Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller, (Amazon) a book which comes highly recommended by many people with brains apparently.  This book, from what I read, talks about the Prodigal Son parable(Wikipedia) from the Bible and brings an entirely new light on it.  There are many other things going on in my head now but this has struck a serious chord in me and I would like for others to get a glimpse at it since it might prove interesting or otherwise helpful...

The Prodigal Son generally focuses on the son that goes off and spends his portion of the inheritance and returns home after squandering it all away on foreign women and orgies or whatever...He decides that life sucks and that he would be treated far better if he were to to back home and beg his father to allow him the honor of being his servant, since that would be considerably better than his current situation.  We know what happens--he comes home and dad comes running up to him and lets him right back into the family.  He throws a huge party and his older, dutiful and terrifically obedient brother is angered that his father would allow him back into the family and says that the father essentially has no right to allow him back in this way.  In the end of the story the younger son, the wild one, was inside the party and the father was outside trying to convince the older one to come in and enjoy the party with the rest of them.

Prodigal really means 'recklessly spendthrift' and so this term can also be applied to the father, oddly enough, since he allowed the son back into the family without even a wink.  The book talks about how the younger son is generally the focus of this parable but it is quite wrong--the older son is really the focus.  What we have is a case of rebellion--both brothers are doing whatever they think they need to do to get what they want...Now let me explain briefly.  The younger son rebels and leaves, going crazy trying to satisfy all his desires and does it all out in the open...The older son follows all the rules and never disobeys the father but he expects that this will ultimately get him what he wants--his father's estate, position in society, etc.  What happens, after the son is welcomed home, he realizes that he's not going to get what he wanted because little brother is back, so it no longer pays to follow the rules and the relationship with his father was far less important than what he was to get out of it...He was merely obedient so that he could get what he wanted.

Essentially there are two ways many of us rebel in life--we either do it all out in the open (do what makes us happy--we get what we want, how we want it) and cause a big scene and later, if we're lucky, regret it, and make peace with all applicable parties and humble ourselves...Or, we decide that following the rules perfectly will ultimately give us our just reward and so we go through life doing everything the way it 'ought' to be done and when we realize that it won't get us what we want we are ready to throw it all away, because it was really only about us in the end, not about doing what was 'right'.  I hope I haven't butchered this awesome book by telling it in my own words!

Essentially there are two ways we rebel in life--by doing it all our way for everyone to see, or we just follow the rules and try to use the system to get what we really want.  What this story warned against was that both ways are bad, but one might actually be far worse than the other, and in the end of the story the 'obedient' and 'good' son was outside while the other son was humbled and realized that he had a problem.  This was all a response to the religious teachers of the time because Jesus preferred the company of 'sinners'.  Interesting.

Reading those 50 pages really got me thinking about how I lived my life before and in many ways how I'm living now.  I believe that I can call myself a perfectionist in many areas of my life and get frustrated often with things, especially things that don't go my way.  I'm often controlling and want it all 'just so' and feel that I have good reasons for everything I do.  It really makes me wonder why I strove for such perfection and didn't realize the value of the process or the hammering process that was, and still is in many ways, taking place.  I've done a lot of things in my 26 years on this planet and some of them are good and there are a great many things that I wish I had never done, and others yet which I wish I had never learned to desire.  I know where I am now, but I am wondering if I had hoped that if I had done it all perfectly if God would have somehow liked me better?  Some of my old friends, and perhaps some girls I knew back before I had any interest in girls at all, might have felt that I was too good for them, or they weren't good enough, and I wonder if it was some of this coming out of me?  Don't think I'm being too hard on myself because I know who I am and what I have done...

I do find it ironic that I am the firstborn son, and that is the one that is generally prone to following rules and yet I have left home and broken so many other rules that I feel I live a dual life and go back and forth between the two sons...Desiring it my way, trying to follow the rules as long as they get me what I want in life...

I want to write much more in depth about my life in Chile and in South Korea so that I can underline some of the high and low points and get out more of what is just lingering in me when I'm awake at this hour.  Getting it out helps, and it's helpful too for others to see our faults and strengths!

In my life the first 21 years I felt that I had done a pretty good job living the way I was supposed to, but then my trip to Chile really put an end to that perfection I had so badly sought after... It's difficult to pick up the pieces when you define yourself by what you do not participate in and suddenly you are a member of the opposite group but hate it because of what it stands for...Trying harder to pursue whatever it was we didn't want to do but secretly always wanted to do just leaves you with a guilty conscience in the end.  You know in the end that you're going to feel bad for even thinking the thought and if you go through with it you will remember it forever at 3am when you drink coffee and your neurons are firing at incomprehensible speeds...You pick up the pieces, or rather, we pretend to pick up the pieces, and move on hoping it will all go away or clear itself up at a later date but we can't quite get back what we've lost along the way.  Later we get a good job and feel pretty good about what we make and we just can't be satisfied because it won't ever be enough--because it really isn't.  It was always just a darn compromise in the end and we will always know it!  Going to Korea... It's hard to explain how it all happened, but I tore myself away from my life that I had created but knew it was not where I needed to be... Besides, who can keep up with a pace of 4-5 nights downtown and drinks all around and some very very unwise decisions?  I guess I really wanted it, or thought I wanted it for a while... Korea was basically the same thing but without good friends and occasional church services and much more loneliness than you can possibly imagine.  With 20,000,000 people it's hard to imagine that one can be lonely, but I was brought across the world to be pulled through some of the most trying times of my life to date... I was really on and off with God in Korea.  In America, after I came home from Chile I was largely off with occasional flickers of life, or perhaps months, who knows?  Anyway, I cannot even understand why it happened when it did, but I just woke up one day and realized I had had enough.  I really did make a decision that day--I decided not to call back a dead-end girl.  I looked at my phone symbolically and said: "Goodbye so-and-so...you were not what I really needed to begin with!" and the change began.

I have tried to recall some of the feelings surrounding that decision and why it happened at that particular time, but I believe it was the summation of several years of feelings and pressures and I cannot imagine how I had the strength to make that decision.  I seem to recall hearing that snowballs work in both negative and positive ways, and that is what I like to imagine of that time... That was the first in a series of decisions, decisions that brought me back to where I needed to be...to where I wanted to be...to where I feel most confident I belong and where my life has actual meaning.  It was still a great deal of time before I could really go to church without criticizing every single syllable that came out of the pastor's mouth, but what was most important at that time was the process... It's all about the process... After all, neither son in the story arrived at the end, or the party, without going through some very trying times!  I could tell you more about Korea and how I cursed it so many times for the pain it brought me and I have many friends who can attest to my anger, but where would I be without this memory of a short pain?  I am now back home, married, and there are so many more adventures yet to be had!

Before I wrote this note I was really beating myself up, and lately I have recalled so many details about past lives I lived and you would not believe the weight it carries!  I got out of bed, went to the bathroom and remembered that despite all those I have hurt along the way but there is still a plan and a purpose for my life and that it's not who I am now but who I am to become that will define me.  You know, it's so much better now to see myself with all my faults--it really keeps everyone else looking so much more like me, or keeps me looking so much more like them, or keeps us all on equal footing, I suppose... It's hard to make yourself feel superior when you feel like this!  That's when it's so important to remember that I am forgiven and loved (Jimmy Needham's "Forgiven and Loved"), and that thinking too highly of yourself is not a good place to be.

12.02.2010

Thanking God...When We Remember To.

This will be a short post, probably.

You know, lately I have had some good ideas but I cannot just sit in front of the computer and hope that something good comes to me.  If it is not inspired then it is just me talking without purpose, with no direction, and to be honest there is no shortage of such talk and I am not wanting to add to that unless I have to--although I certainly do it at times.  So, good ideas come and if I don't get them out immediately then they are gone when it's time to tell the world, or most likely my friends, a very dedicated few who go the extra mile to read my thoughts...or perhaps a stalker or two, but probably the first one more.

Lately Olivia and I have been experiencing life at a snail's pace, so it seems, and we're waiting for most things to happen, as we did while we were in Korea.  Why, might you ask, were we waiting when we have such interesting lives?  Well, not all of it happens at my pace, or in my timing and when it doesn't I seem to get frustrated and wonder why God is making it take longer, or why I am spinning wheels in Wilmington, and things like that.  Of course we all know that this period should serve to grow us in some capacity but it's hard to just sit here and understand that God is doing something awesome when we're unemployed waiting for Immigration to get to our documents in a stack of thousands, or perhaps millions, of applicants.  I guess this whole post is me wanting to thank God for all the things I am realizing He has done right despite the timing of them and how His timing is perfect--even though I don't necessarily find it the most convenient.

Yesterday I felt frustrated about things that I couldn't even grasp, making me wonder if I should have even been frustrated at all.  Tonight I am more calm and trying to reassure myself, and Olivia, that we are going to be fine, and that God has something very specific and probably important to teach us now and I'm just a bit too stubborn to learn it and allow it to mold me into a more whole person.

You'd be surprised at what I am opposed to.  Rich Mullins, a legendary Christian singer and someone I have a great deal of respect for, and someone I miss greatly, said in one of his songs:

"I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want Than to take what You give that I need ..." Well, that's how I feel right now.  Truth be told, there are a great deal of things going very well in my life but I haven't the vision to see them, and I haven't taken the time to sit back and thank Him for them because I've been too consumed with what I want to be and be doing in a few months.  Why do I always think it's about me and what I want to do and learn?

This is all I have time for now... If you have read this, thank you for your time.  It's a bit more religious than you might have imagined but you'd be surprised what goes through my mind.