Saturday, December 31, 2011

Joy Forever

I’ve heard it said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Lately, I have been discovering that beauty is often overlooked. Oftentimes, more often than not, we do not gaze deep enough to see true beauty. We pass it by, distracted by the kind of ‘beauty’ that tantalizes, entices, but is nothing more than a fa├žade.


To look upon true beauty, you have to get down on your knees. Get your hands dirty and get out of your comfort zones. Let go of every material thing, forsake it all, count it as dung, and start to plunge into the muck and the mire. Dig in the trash heaps that the world has written off as garbage, and soak your hands in soapy water, grab a sponge, and begin to scrape away the layers of filth until you hit upon the treasures unlooked for, the neglected castaways. Open your eyes to the hidden gems, buried in the rubble of despair and neglect.


It will not be easy. It cannot be. To see it, you have to let go of everything you once held as dear. You will be ridiculed. They will not understand, but I tell you this: embark upon this journey, and you will by no means regret your decision. And you will never be the same.


You will see the materialism for what it truly is, stripped of all glamour and sophistication. It is superficial and utterly worthless. And you will uncover the ‘pearl of great price.’ Invest your one wild and beautiful life in others for the sake of Jesus Christ and you will find true beauty in the most unexpected of places. It will be the little things that you were too consumed to notice before – a shy smile of gratefulness from a tiny, waiflike child with a swollen belly and eyes too large for her little head. An earsplitting grin and thankful, joy-filled eyes, a father of six young children, now enabled to support his growing family with a steady job. It will be the families in your community who are overlooked, with needs unspoken. Take time out of your day to listen to the cares of the burdened heart, pray over their life, and offer encouragement. Mentor the young, care-worn mother, and begin to notice when she is overwhelmed. You will become attuned to others’ needs, and count them as more important than your own.


Many a man has set out to uncover beauty, hoping to find fulfillment, unveiling only emptiness. True beauty, the soul-wrenching, lasting, fulfilling beauty, cannot be bought. Nor can it be conjured up. It does not fade. It is not found in the obvious places. It does not rely on the senses. And it comes at a high cost.


If you have embarked upon this journey, my friend, then you know of what I speak. You see this beauty every day. Your joy is filled to overflowing. No other thing in this world compares. But be forewarned: you cannot cling to both materialism and the true beauty in Christ. You must choose one over the other, forsaking the one and embracing the other. For none of us can serve two masters. And think on this: perhaps true beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, but rather, realized when the beholder sees worth in the eyes of the beheld.


I am not of this world. I am a spiritual being in a physical world. I do not do any of this for my own gain. How could I? It was not below Christ, neither is it too much of Him to expect any less from me. Or from you. Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28

Friday, December 23, 2011

True Gifts { they keep giving }


I just finished my book, that wonderful gift from my Mom. 'I think you will like this book, Kelsey. Her writing style is similar to yours. A sort of poetry...' And so I embarked on my journey, into One Thousand Gifts, through the pages of Ann's story: her search for joy, and her discovery - eucharisteo. It all came back to thanks, to gratitude, and the giving of the gifts back to the Giver. Her words resounded in me, because I, too, have stumbled up this truth.

Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life in investing in many lives, and God simply will not be outdone. God extravagantly pays back everything we give away and exactly in the currency that is not of this world but the one we yearn for: Joy in Him.

It is when our lives become an outpouring of His unending joy that we can truly experience the fullness of the life He wants us to live. Do not hold back.

As we celebrate Christmas, let us now forget His ultimate gift. He gave everything. God laid down all of His fullness into all of the emptiness.

Christian hands never clasp
and He doesn't give gifts for gain
because a gift can never stop being a gift -
it is always meant to be given.

These past seven months have been a wonderful gift to me. Christ has lavished me with countless gifts, and the more I reflect upon them, the more I find to be thankful for. My focus is directed upward, and my love flows outward. True Christianity is a gift that keeps on giving, and never stops. A beautiful, wonder-filled, immeasurable gift from the Father to His beloved children, one that they continue to give back until the end of time.

Our expression of thanks becomes a blessing, and our outpouring of love to others is the gift back to Christ. Beautiful in its simplicity, astounding in its magnitude. The gift that gives on...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ponderings

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 For with God, nothing shall be impossible. Luke 1:37

This Christmas season, I have been pondering the Christmas story. A young virgin, betrothed to a carpenter, in a small town of no consequence, is visited by an angel. The Holy Spirit of God overshadowed her, and she conceived the Son of God Almighty, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, that a virgin shall conceive and bear a son. To all appearances, young Mary was carrying an illegitimate child, fatherless, a bastard son. Wishing to save her honor and her life, Joseph desired to put her away quietly. While it was yet a thought in his mind, an angel of the Lord visited him in a dream. And Joseph took Mary as his wife. They traveled to Bethlehem, the City of David, and Mary gave birth to the Son of God in a stable, placing him in a manger, for there was no room for them in the inn.

And thus, Jesus, Son of God, filled His tiny lungs with air, was held by human hands, inhaled straw and manure, and was wrapped in swaddling cloths to protect his body from the cold. What a lowly entrance. Such a humble beginning. Yet this is how Christ came to earth.

In my goings and comings to and from the Bennett Clinic here in Olongapo, I see many pregnant women, young and old. I have heard their babies cry out as they breathe in their first bits of air, and it is a beautiful sound. I was filled with deep sadness on the day when a blue baby girl was born. She did not cry. But we did. It was the first death in our six months of operation.

I am discovering that joy and sorrow, laughter and pain, are intermingled in our lives. As humans, we have our share of the ugly and the beautiful. We rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who weep. We have cause for rejoicing, because the clinic has just celebrated their 100th birth. One hundred precious little lives have been welcomed into the world.

Our time here in Olongapo has been a wonderful season in our lives. We have established meaningful relationships, and feel as though we are part of the Eheler’s family – as much time as we spend with them. Their girls remind me of my sisters, and they all call me ‘Aunty Kelsey.’ I love all of the midwives, and have enjoyed getting to know them during our time here. Our Aeta friends and their families greet us with warm smiles, and their shyness has worn off. They used to be intimidated by John’s towering size, but now they can joke around with him on the job. When they learned of our departure date, they all cried out in unison, ‘we will miss you!’ Part of our hearts will stay here, in Olongapo.

We can look back over our seven months of time spent in country and marvel at what we have accomplished, but all glory goes to Christ. It is in Him and through Him that we have been equipped to help the team at Mercy In Action. We have seen how He has orchestrated our lives, events, circumstances, all to further His kingdom. It has been such an honor to serve Him here in the Philippines.

During our time here, I have seen John grow, being shaped by Christ. Initially uncomfortable in his role of leadership, John stepped up to the challenges and made crucial decisions. He has taken on more responsibilities, yet he does not let the weight of it overwhelm him. In tense situations, he is the peace-maker, smoothing out the difficulties and working through the issues. He is patient, and humble, and much more than I deserve in a husband. I could not be more thankful for him.

Our lives as a married couple have been filled with joy. I feel so alive when I am with John. He is a gift from God, and I love being by his side. We have been knit even closer this year, and we are looking forward to the years ahead. While I do not know what all lies before us, I can say with confidence that we will follow Christ down whatever path He leads us down. To whatever end. With Mary, I say, My soul doth magnify the Lord. Luke 1:46

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ever Sweetness

We are coming upon our first anniversary. The occasion will mark a year of marriage, of bliss, happiness, and a time of discovery. We have both grown, and have learned much along the way. The first month was like an extension of our honeymoon, and following upon the heels of our return to reality - when we both returned to our jobs - our union continued to flourish.

It was on both of our hearts to serve people, and we had felt a desire to travel overseas to help an organization in the Philippines. When the opportunity presented itself, we followed Christ's calling and committed to spending a year in Olongapo, Philippines, to work with Mercy In Action. Only eight months into our marriage, we stepped out in faith and began a new adventure together.

Through it all, we have drawn ever closer to each and to the heart of God. I cannot say that it has been a cakewalk, but it has been a beautiful story, and I look forward to seeing how it unfolds in the years to come. I would not trade my life for anything. This joy that I have runs deep, and the love that I have for John is immeasurable. Without fathom.

These eleven months have been the best of my life. Christ has truly blessed me beyond measure, and I cannot thank Him enough. To John, the love of my life:

You told me you had no riches
No life of comfort to offer me
Nor aspirations to obtain great wealth
Fortunate for you that I care not for such things

You said that you were just a man
That you would sometimes disappoint
And I shouldn't have high expectations
I love who you are, not dwelling on who you're not

And I wouldn't change this love
Not for the world
I have never known this bliss
Until I knew you

You promised to take me places
Saying that we would travel the world
Countries in need, desperate for Christ
How wonderful that my desire mirrored yours

You gave your word to love and cherish
And told me that you'd never let me go
You always wanted me by your side
And it so happened that I was happiest with you

And I wouldn't change this love
No, not for the world
I have never known this bliss
Until I knew you

John and Kelsey, established October 10, 2010. May our love be ever sweet.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

She Says


‘When I grow up, I want to be just like you.’ They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and yet as the eight year old Maiya stood there staring into my eyes, I could hardly meet her gaze. They were shining with admiration.


I did not quite know what to say to her. And yet, if I could have found my tongue, I should have replied, ‘If you want to be like me, my advice to you is this. Follow Jesus. Love Him with all of your heart, and never turn to another. Let Him fill you up with His love. Don't try to be like me.’


Instead, I said, ‘Do you now?’ and let the comment slide, deflecting it with a flippant response. The longer I live, the more I find that the qualities I admire in others are usually a reflection of Christ. So if Maiya sees anything in me, I pray it is Him. I pray that her young heart seeks after His with a fervent passion.


I remember back when I was her age. I looked up to a young woman, a godly lady. I told her that I wanted to grow up to be like her. And now I find myself years later, roles reversed, taken by surprise. Maiya was not the first girl to tell me this. So I will continue to strive hard after Christ, pursuing His glory. If they see anything in me, may it be Him. I pray she sees Jesus.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Not About Me

In many ways, this trip to the Philippines has not turned out how I had envisioned it would. Though I tried to come over with no expectations, I have been finding out more and more that I had my fair share of them. I expected that it would be challenging, and it has been. And yet I had thought it to be more taxing physically, rather than mentally so. And that it has been spiritually taxing should have come as no surprise, but I confess that I have been taken aback several times by the spiritual attacks.

I came here and I had to start from scratch. We created an outdoor kitchen bit by bit, surviving in the early weeks on tuna sandwiches. While we have a better handle on our cooking now, it was and sometimes still is a struggle for me to be upbeat about buk-buk bugs and constant showers of bamboo powder sprinkling down on clean dishes and food items, or even cooking in the midst of Hurricane Nina's ferocity. I am learning to be thankful in every situation. I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth. It is one thing to memorize verses like these in Sunday School as a six year old child, and quite another to put it into practice in the midst of a mental breakdown. He is slowly teaching me that this is not about me.

We came to build a clinic on the property that we currently live on, and as yet, we have not begun. Three of our team members have returned home, and four now remain to work on the task that has been placed on hold due to permit issues. Frustration? Yes, at times. But Jesus is showing us how to broaden our vision. The past three months have been filled with projects, including bettering the temporary clinic by finishing out a birthing room and adding on another room in the back, almost doubling the available square footage, and fixing mechanical issues with the ambulance and other modes of transportation. We are currently in the process of building a CR on the second level, making it much more accessible for everyone. I am thankful for the blessing of concrete stairs over the roughly hewn steps in the mud, because they hold up so much better in the rain. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. Psalm 18:36

I am learning over and over the valuable lesson that people are more important than things. Things in this instance is not limited to possessions, or items, but includes my sleep, my next meal, my time. It is the putting away of my wants and my 'needs' to focus on someone else who needs to be built up and encouraged. I have been stretched further than I thought I was capable of being moved, and am learning that His ways are so much higher than mine. I am humbled by Jesus.

I really never have a legitimate reason to complain. Each Saturday, John and I drive the ambulance to the city landfill to pick up pregnant patients, bringing them back to the clinic on Bennet Road for their prenatal visits. Each week, they greet us with beautiful smiles and shining faces. Each week my eyes take in their surroundings, a fenced in area filled with reeking garbage and swarming with flies. People work in the landfill, sorting out the recyclable bits from the waste. On hot, sunny days, cardboard lies out to dry on the concrete, and on the rainy, wet days, they sort plastics into bags. Their homes are nearby, but even these sometimes make my neepa hut seem like a haven of warmth and comfort. Whenever I am tempted to complain, I am pricked by the realization that I have no grounds for my ungratefulness.

I am learning, being taught by a patient Teacher. He is kind, and He is humble, and He is ever calling me upward and onward. All to the glory of my King.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chongville

This piece was written by Kelly Chong, one of the ladies who came and worked with Mercy In Action for a month. It was wonderful to get to know her during her stay here, and to see her humble spirit and love of Christ. She will be returning to Olongapo with her husband and children in January, and I look forward to meeting them and seeing her again. To read more about Kelly's impressions during her month's stay in Olongapo, read her blog, as her writing is introspective and is a reflection of Jesus' love for His people. You can check out her writings at Chongville.

You are in the broken places;

On Bennett Road

Iram and 12th Street.

You hang out on the street corners,

And walk the alleys.

You know their names;

You formed each one

Like there was no one else on earth

For You.

Who cries out for justice?

We are so good

At shaking off the dust

And washing our feet;

As you bend in the mire

And sob

Over Your Beloved.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lighting Up: #4

He gave me lights! When I opened up our neepa hut door at dusk tonight, a soft, warm glow danced around the room and illuminated the room inside. When I looked upwards, my delighted eyes beheld four hanging orbs suspended from our vaulted ceiling. They were utterly whimsical and so lovely to look upon, and I was so surprised.

These lights are made out of shells and are formed in the shape of an octagon, similar to a soccer ball. I was enchanted by them the first time I laid eyes on them at an outdoor restaurant cafe in Olongapo. And now they cast down their mellow glow from our neepa hut.

The outer shells are pearlescent in sheen. It comforts me, having these orbs of light in our home. John is so good to me. He was pleased at my surprise...I love him immeasurably.

Rainwalking: #3

Tonight John and I walked home from the clinic. It had just begun to sprinkle raindrops as we made our way down Bennet Road, but the drops grew in size and intensity, and soon it began to rain in earnest. We were both drenched to the skin. As it pelted down on us, we took off running for shelter. We waited for the rain to let up as we stood, dripping, under out new found refuge. Rivulets of water ran down my face and collected on my already soaking shirt. My ponytail dripped onto my back. When it trickled to a drizzle, John and I made a dash for home. We still had quite a stretch of ground to cover, and the heavens opened up once again as we pressed onwards.

We arrived at our hut drenched from head to toe, chilled, with mud-caked feet. And it was oh so wonderful to be home. Home, where the lights dance like flickering candles to welcome us. Home, where the fan awaits to dry out our wetness. Home, where our bed sits invitingly, cozy with sheets and pillows and blankets. I was glad to be back, safe and dry from the storm outside.

Fairy Tree: #2

There is a particular tree here on the land that is absolutely enchanting. Every night, as dusk settles, the tree begins to sparkle with lights. In the darkness, tiny glowing lights hover around it's leafy foliage. Like a fairy haven, the umbrella tree is filled with fireflies. They gather round the treetop and dazzle us each night.

We all refer to it as the 'fairy tree.' It both captivates and sparks imagination. I have never seen anything like it. God's wonders never cease to amaze.