Wednesday, June 25, 2014

On Celebrating 20 Years

Today, we are celebrating... 
... 20 years of God's faithfulness and His relentless love for our family on this occasion that we've fondly named as "our family's birthday".

I read this quote recently...
... a marriage made in Heaven is one where a man and a woman become more richly themselves together than the chances are either of them could ever have managed to become alone.
- Frederick Buechner.
At the Compassion Philippines office.

I was also reminded of this children's song by Psalty (The Singing Songbook) yesterday as we visited with Floyd's brand new great nephew:
I want to be like you, Lord Jesus, yes it's true. Give your peace. Share your joy. Show your love, Lord. How I want to be like you.

With Baby Boaz. We're at the grandparents' level now... level up! ;)

I am deeply thankful for God's gift of a life partner for me in Floyd because together, we are definitely bolder in giving Jesus' peace, sharing His joy and showing His love than we each could ever have managed to on our own.

The fact that I am writing this blog post back here in the Philippines today, the place where we were married, is a testament to this... because, as I've said before, braveness is outside my comfort zone.

Just one of the many slum communities that we drove past on our first day in Manila.

Our family is looking forward to these next three weeks and thankful for the opportunity to learn more about the different ministries that, over these 20 years, we have come to love supporting. We will be visiting the field work of the following organizations:
Compassion International: Compassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults. Founded by the Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952, Compassion began providing Korean War orphans with food, shelter, education and health care, as well as Christian training. Today, Compassion helps more than 1.2 million children in 26 countries.
International Justice Mission: International Justice Mission protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. We are inspired by God’s call to love all people and to seek justice for the oppressed.
Habitat For Humanity: Habitat for Humanity’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Our mission is to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope.
God's grace is truly a beautiful thing. I am deeply grateful.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Friday, June 20, 2014

On Being Brave...

Just one more sleep now...
And then, we're off! And I am going to go with my eyes wide open

I will be brave... and I will hold on to the promise found in these words from Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

I am going to go with my eyes wide open... because broken is the most blessed you can be!

But before I could wrap my mind around going...
... we had one BIG occasion to celebrate first. Last night, my baby boy graduated from Grade 8! 

How is it that time always flows like a relentless river? How is it that my cute little baby boy has, seemingly in just a blink of an eye, grown into a handsome young man, almost surpassing me in height already?

I am deeply grateful for God's beautiful work in his life... for growing him into a man after God's own heart, as has been my prayer for him since the day he was born! Truly, only by God's grace alone! To Him alone be all the glory!

Speaking of being brave... being a mama takes much braveness. As I danced with my boy right after the graduation ceremony, the years of being his mama flashed before my eyes. Oh, how time flies!

And the years still ahead also flashed before my eyes. I relished in the fact that this mama's work isn't done yet! In more ways than one, it is just beginning.

I am truly thankful... because this son of mine has made me mother with braveness. Because of him I have not only become a better mama, I've become that better version of myself!

It was a great day celebrating our baby boy, our Jonathan, our gift from God... as is the meaning of his name. He truly is a gift from God... he has brought great joy to his dad and me and to his big sister!
This message from us, was read to him as he crossed the stage to receive his diploma:
Dearest Jon: We are very proud of the young man you have grown up to be, one who is not only smart, but more importantly kind-hearted & compassionate.
God has especially gifted you with an intelligent & creative mind. Each day we are amazed that you have, yet again, a new personal best Rubik’s Cube solve time.
May you continue to use God’s gifts for purposes that are bigger than yourself. Keep chasing after God’s heart. We love you! ~ Dad, Mom & big sister, Alyssa.

"A mother holds her child's hand for just a short time, but holds their heart for a lifetime." ~ Unknown.

Today was his last day of school...
... as we leave for our trip tomorrow. I went to meet him at the end of the school day to walk home with him this one last time.

As we walked home, it dawned on me that as he starts high school in the Fall, there will be lesser and lesser times for me to "hold his hand".

This will require even more mama-braveness... because letting go is not easy.

But this I do know... if this boy of mine continuously strives to chase after God's heart, he will be truly great. Not great as the world defines greatness, but great in terms of Kingdom greatness
Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. ~ C.S. Lewis.

As I continue on this journey of motherhood... 
I will remember to continue to aim at heaven. And to be brave... even though braveness is outside my comfort zone.

There are those who say that this is ordinary. Don't buy that for a second. Mighty, you are mighty. Because you mother. ~ Lisa-Jo Baker.
And, as we embark on this trip starting tomorrow...
I will remember to keep my eyes wide open. And to be brave... even though braveness is outside my comfort zone.

Our yes to God should scare us.
Not to keep us immobile, but to keep us dependent on the One who asks us to say it in the first place.
Fear keeps us moving towards God.
Yes, there is fear in obedience. But peace keeps us on the journey.
And the joy that follows our yes to God is wild.
~ From this must-read blog post by Kristen Welch.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

On Going With My Eyes Wide Open...

Just 13 sleeps away...
Yes, we are going back! To that place where, three years ago, God broke our hearts for the things that break His.

The slums of Manila {Philippines}

This trip wasn't in our summer plans... or even at all. We had no plans to return to the Philippines. The trip just sort of came together because of a few different circumstances we couldn't have foreseen.

The summer initially looked very different in my eyes...

My girl was going to spend one month in Guatemala with Mennonite Central Committee. We were going to join her for a week at the tail-end so we could visit and meet Esperanza.

Then hubby's dad, our beloved Papa, who had last-stage lung cancer, got even more ill.

Then my Dad's retirement event got scheduled on a summer date which is now suddenly feasible for us to attend.

Then my girl's Guatemala trip got cancelled.

All of a sudden, our summer looked entirely different.

We mulled over the huge expense that a trip to the Philippines would entail... especially since it is still so soon after our previous trip there. But, everything seems to be pointing us towards taking the trip.

We could spend some precious time with our beloved Papa.

We could attend my Dad's retirement event.

We could visit our Filipino Compassion children and we could go see the classrooms that we raised funds for to help build!

Oh, the excitement! So, we swallowed the big lumps in our throats and purchased our plane tickets.

And then, 10 days later, on Resurrection Sunday, our beloved Papa passed from this world into the everlasting arms of our Heavenly Father. Hubby flew over, on his own, to attend the funeral.

Yet, our plane tickets aren't refundable, so we are going ahead with the trip. 

It is going to be a bittersweet time... because we won't be seeing our beloved Papa... but it will be a sweet time of remembering a man who was always good-natured, joyful and happy, content to live a simple life, was radically generous, who understood and lived this truth... “So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Matthew 20:16)

Phew... that was a long-winded intro as to why we are going on this trip!

All that is to say...
Because this trip came about so suddenly and unexpectedly, I am not prepared for it. Not in terms of packing... but more so, not emotionally.

Overlooking Taal Volcano during our previous trip to the Philippines. 

Because stepping out of comfort zone scares me.

Hubby and I were chatting the other day and I told him, "Perhaps, I will just keep the eyes of my heart shut for the entire trip... so that I won't see anything."

I thought back to the start of our previous trip there... we were only sponsoring Florianlyn and Bell Bradley at that time... hardly being stretched at all.

My girl and our LDP student, Rechelle. We met Rechelle during our last trip.
We left that meeting feeling that God was asking us to sponsor her.

In the three years that has passed since the trip, we have added Rechelle, a Compassion Leadership Development Student and four other sponsor children to our family, plus helped raised funds to build a 6-classroom structure in the remote island of Masbate, Philippines.

It has been an intense three years of God breaking our family's heart for the things that break His.

I am not sure I am capable of being stretched some more...
I am not sure I am ready to be face-to-face with extreme poverty again so soon... 
I am not sure my heart can be broken any more than it already is!

Yet I also fully know that...
God isn't done with me and that broken is the most blessed you can be and that beauty is always most beautiful in the most broken places.

This past Friday, Claire Diaz-Ortiz guest-blogged at A Holy Experience. I have never heard of her before but the blog post title caught my eye... When God Changes All Your Plans. The blog post content gripped me even more. Claire wrote:
And it was in that moment that God spoke to me in His way. With a feeling I had never had before and have never had since I was convinced He was with me.
With the certainty of that knowledge, I gave my plea.
“If you have put this place in the road to change me, open my eyes so I can see.”
Hmmm... didn't God just change all our summer plans? And didn't I just say to hubby that I am going to keep my eyes shut this trip?!?

Our sweet Florianlyn, playing on the beach with my kids.

Claire's blog post challenged me. 

To go with my eyes wide open. To see with my heart. To allow God to change me.

Because "the God who started this great work in you (me) would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. (Philippians 1:6)"

Today is a special day...

Surprise BIG SCREEN birthday greeting at church this morning! 

And I am offering up endless thanks for God's grace in my life... for the gift of yet another year to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with the One whose love for me is so relentless that He is willing to start a great work, plus bring it to a flourishing finish, with and through this life!
"A-I-M-E-E." Loved one.
God is always good and I am always loved and eucharisteo has made me my truest self, "full of grace." Doesn't eucharisteo rename all God's children their truest name:
"Loved one."
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
Yes, it's just 13 sleeps away now...
We have started packing and the anticipation is starting to build. We are getting excited. And yes... though not easy to do, I will be going with my eyes wide open! :)

Because... broken is the most blessed you can be!

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!