The smile spreads across my face as we approach the familiar path to her house. I see the looks from the others.. we're going to see her. I met her many weeks ago, her husband is sick, and she is also, though her illness is accepted. After the initial inquiry about her, they sit and discuss the treatment plan for her husband, while me and her sit and talk and giggle like kids in middle of a church service, winning the glances of the others from time to time.
She talks in Tagalog, and I catch words here and there and follow the best I can. She decided after the first week that we would be family. And just like that...we are. I pay my respects to her each week, not knowing how much is her and how much is the Alzheimer's. Every week I see and am thankful for that week's smile.
He spoke to me often, reminiscing of a time when he was stationed in the country I now call home. Speaking of the weather, the people, the food, the beauty. It was our common ground, a place that was so unspeakably special to us; it connected us, though we only spoke on my yearly visits.
Then I heard the news, he was in hospital and not doing well. There was an opportunity to go see him, while there was still time left. My parents walked in first... then after their initial hellos, I stepped out from behind them.
When he saw me, the tears came to his eyes and his breath caught.
I've never seen her, but I consider her a dear friend. She lives a similar life to me, yet in a country I've never been to.
We were introduced via email through a mutual friend. Only a few emails went back and forth and we were already dear friends at heart, uniquely understanding each other.
Three different stories, yet a very common situation. A truth that comes from only God. The LORD gave me this life, called me and led me every step of the way. And it is the LORD that is using my ransomed life.
Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see The strength to follow Your commands Could never come from me Oh Father, use my ransomed life In any way You choose And let my song forever be My only boast is You
A piece of wood is laid out.. a bridge, to allow us to cross yet another area, that is so soppy that a small black pond has started form. I think I finally have it down, I've been crossing bridges like these, in this community for 3 years now.
"Ate Brittany!!!!" a happy little voice yells and my head goes up and my balance nearly goes with it. I smile but turn my head back down, and focusing on the task at hand I cross.
Even with the bridges, on the ride home, I look down at my feet and see the mud and muck, the black on my fair skin. And, in that moment I'm thankful.
I think life can be alot like a walk through my beloved village. Life can be messy. It can be full of muck and yucky stuff. But if you look closely, if you look through eyes not your own, through His eyes, you will see absolute awe-inspiring beauty in the midst of yuck.
Sometimes we come to hard times, when it seems all we want to do is get through, and right when we think we've really lost it and are about to go face first in the muck, sometimes there can be a change. If we let Him take control, He is faithful to steady us; if we give ourselves and our mindset over to Him and see through His eyes, He is faithful to shift our gaze and refocus our attention on what HE is putting before us.
This world is dark and hard. If we look through the eyes of this world, through eyes of darkness, how can we expect to see light?
We have to intentionally look through eyes that are not our own natural eyes.
But... when we do... oh the hidden beauty we will see.... the joy we will uncover...
~ To God Be the Glory!
(Thanks to Tasha Danecki Photography for the pics)
Dear bloggy friends... I need you to all start praying... adoptive parents of Rona called us, Rona (one of our previous treasures) is in the hospital with a virus in her brain. Please join with us, standing in faith, praying in agreement for God to intervene and heal this precious little one. ~ To God Be the Glory!
I thought I grew up and learned my lessons, but I find myself learning anew a lesson I thought I already totally understood.
Let me back up before I get too into this and give you a little recent history. I was thinking on a matter the other day, and my negative 'realist' thoughts kept coming along about a certain topic I was throwing around in my head. And suddenly, it was as if the LORD pulled back the curtain to a previously hidden window; allowing light from a new angle to flood into my thought perspective. What if...?
... (Now... put that story on the back burner and fast forward a few days to when the setting for the majority of this post deals with.)
I've written and spoken countless times about this life of sacrifice I've been called to. I understood it. I willingly answered the call upon my life and gave it all to follow Him, to where He called me. All. I knew it would involve sacrifice. I gave it all. Has the term sacrifice and giving it all been several times redefined with a deeper and more overwhelming meaning each time? Yes. Was this call much more than I expected? Oh my Yes. Am I still certain of this calling upon my life? You betcha... Yes. Am I still thankful for this calling upon my life? Yes.
I've written and spoken countless times about the pain and the heart ache of this life. Seeing life and death on a daily basis. Living raw. Living at my 'limit' everyday, being on my personal 'edge' always. Seeing the true hell on earth. Knowing the evils of this world and seeing their effect in the eyes of those I love. Being so overwhelmed that there are some days in which parts of me emotionally shut off.
I've written and spoken countless time of the joy and blessings in the midst of all this still. The blessing of seeing the LORD heal those I love. The joy of seeing Him relieve those I love of their horrendous earthly suffering, and knowing they are in paradise with Him. I've written of the joys of seeing children restored, and successfully united with their families, their own happy endings.
I've written and spoken countless times about a song...Jesus Loves Me. I've sang it a hundred times. This song hit me hard with my dear Pamela and sweet Jellyn, as I sang it to them daily, nightly, sometimes hourly. I sang it to teach them the song that Jesus loved THEM.
I've rejoiced over the love my God has.. for them.
That was always enough for me.
I knew my life was meant for sacrifice. I had been blessed with such a wonderful and full of love beginning in life, that now it was my time to show that love to others and tell them that Jesus loved them.
I was taught and knew from an early age that Jesus loved us, loved me, loved everyone.
I knew it. But... I didn't.
And the beautiful amazing wonderful thing about having a Father that loves you is...He wants you to know... to really know and realize that He truly does love you.
After hearing this song several times... the words began to break open parts of me.
Part of the lyrics goes:
I realize just how beautiful You are
And, I remember the first time I really really listened to the lyrics I thought.. Oh yes, how many times have I just been left speechless at You LORD, left in awe of Your Great Name! ... and then the song continues:
And how great Your affections are for me.
To be quite honest.. even my mind is left speechless when I hear those words. Even now, trying to convey these emotions that the meaning behind those lyrics produces within me... words are inadequate. There is no justice in words and syllables to explain the blinding, take-my-breath-away, unable to move, captivated yet totally lacking sense of attempting comprehension that is happening deep within my being.
Because... it's not just the words. It's so much more than one man's gifted and talented lyrical ability... it's because... I hear that gentle whisper within me..It's true. I love you. I. LOVE. YOU.
He really does love me!
I never doubted God's love for those that I work with. I told them of God's love for them with conviction. I knew God loved them. I really knew of His love for them.
And I thought I knew of His love for me...but my understanding was flawed. I viewed it almost like I view my love for the one girl in my classes that is my friend. I love her, she is precious. Out of the whole class, she is one of the very view that has risked getting to know me, risked helping me when I needed it, risked ridicule from the other classmates at helping 'the white girl'. She had sacrificed herself for me and because of that we had a friendship, and we sat together in class sometimes and occasionally texted. While my friendship with this girl is so precious to me...there is NO COMPARISON to the love the Father has for His children, which by His grace and sovereignty I am blessed beyond measure to be counted among.
I had always been taught that God was a God that loved us, but also that disciplined us, constantly refining us and molding us. While that is COMPLETELY TRUE... my perspective was way out of focus. I saw God as 'molding me and teaching me' only... using only heartache and pain and tears for me personally. I saw every stage in life, with its pain and bittersweet moments as tools that we was using to mold me and train me for the future, ... a life full of sacrifice, which in my skewed perspective equalled more pain. I imagined myself laid out in preparation for the slaughter, giving my life so that souls might be won for Him... but He stops the arm that coming down on me, just like the angel of the Lord stopped Abraham's arm when it was about to come down on Isaac. The arm is stopped and instead of pain, I'm starting to realize that I've not been slaughtered, I've been rescued. I've been scooped up into the arm of my Father, held by the body that was already broken for me and all of His children.
I previously thought God had a tolerating and saving emotion toward me, but 'love' is so much more than that. He has affection for me. He WANTS me.
To revisit the opening scenario... the flow of new thought perspective continued:
What if... God really loves me?
What if... He is with me through all of this?
What if... instead of waiting to teach me another lesson through another let down, broken and shattered heart...what if He's on my side through it all? Carrying me every step?
And now... now I see Him taking what He taught me last year and taking it deeper, taking me deeper, drawing me closer to Him. He's taking lessons that I thought I knew and making them clearer, more real to me.. because He loves me enough to make me understand.
And you know what else.. He loves you just as much!
I know it. I know its there. It needs attention. It serves a purpose, but I must actually do something to allow that purpose to be carried out. I know I need to post a new blog, but...the words are just not there.
I wonder what I should tell you bloggy world.
Do I tell you silly stories of having issues with coping with other people? Silly, because really, they are just visitors and classmates and people, just people. But there are some days when it feels like its too much.
Do I tell you about feeling first-hand something I've heard about before but never experience, about knowing delayed grief?
Do I tell you about the callings and tuggings on my heart by my Creator? What He whispers to me?
Do I tell you about the jokes between me and my roommates? The things we find hilarious, but we realize, these things are only funny because we've lived here for so long, we see things differently than the rest of the world.
Do I tell you about going through university as the only white girl on campus? About having classmates that refuse to talk to or look at you, other than to stare when you're not looking?
Do I tell you again and again how in love I am with these beautiful kids?
Do I share with you how overwhelmed I am in the last two weeks as a new level of the reality has hit me?
I have so many things running around in my heart and head, but when it comes to share them with the world.. I. Just. Can't. I have forgotten my filter. I've forgotten what is 'appropriate' and what is not. So.. I spend many various moments looking at a blank 'new post' screen.. starting.. then deleting.. then starting again.. then deleting again. Because everything seems a little too much.. too graphic.. too raw... too personal... too depressing... too repetitive... too light... too heavy... too close to be read so far away.
So... I leave you with this small rambling post instead. Knowing something needs to come, promising to work, to try, but not promising anything will come of it.
God show me what to say. Show me what to type. Change the words and make them Yours.
A couple weeks ago, I got up, and acted like it was any other day. I intentionally kept myself busy during the day, and then that night, went out to a movie with Jordan...I intentionally acted as if it was not Mother's Day. Because I didn't want to dwell any more than normal on not being with my mother on yet another special day, and I didn't want to think about how much longer it would be till I saw her again.. so I just didn't. Mother's Day just didn't really happen in my mind. (Of course I still wished her Happy Mother's Day on fbook... I'm not that horrible of a daughter ya'll. :) ).
Another reason I didn't want to dwell on the fact that it was mother's day, was because I knew that soon enough I'd be in the position I'm in tonight.... dwelling on the fact that in a few more sleeps, I'll be on my way to pick up my mother! (And that my dear friends has me just about over the moon excited!!! )
And I realize... that's why I'm here.
Because I know how it feels to have someone in my corner constantly who loves me unconditionally. My family has been the utter example of unconditional love... and it is all because Christ first loved them and first showed them what love is.
And that's why I'm here, because I know that feeling because since I was little I was shown that love by my family before I could understand the love that I now know from my Heavenly Father.
And that's my mission, to be His hands and SHOW what that unconditional love is, so that one day they can understand a much greater mightier love from the One, the One who is the only thing that matter in this world, the One that saved my soul from death, the One that whispered that His mission for my life was to go.
They are playing around, rough-housing before bed, which they know is not allowed.. they are supposed to be laying down quietly. Innocent fun and giggles end with tears when one gets hurt and begins to cry. The little boy that is now crying is 4 almost 5 and is one of the biggest kids I take care of. The other.. a tiny petite 2 year old little girl, the smallest of the group. I tell the boy he's ok, as he surely is, and to lay down, as he was supposed to already be doing, and try to sleep. I'm doing other things, settling everyone in for the night, fixing their blankets the way each one likes it, minutes pass when the little girl comes to me. Her big bright eyes full of concern... 'Sabiko si M 'Sorry'! Sabiko si M 'Sorry'!'' ("I'm going to tell him sorry! I'm going to tell M sorry!'') I had already moved on, M had already stopped crying and was clearly moving on, but this little one, was still carrying the burden of the fact that her friend had been in pain and that it was her fault. I smiled and told her that would be an excellent idea, and she goes to him and lays on top of him saying sorry and giving him a hug and in that moment I stop and I just smile.
Her heart is beautiful, full of love and compassion at such a young age. I dream of what the Lord has in store for her... Where will he take her? What will He mold her into? How will He use her?
Oh, how He is already using her to teach me!
May I be ever mindful of my impact on others. May I be filled with compassion for those around me as she is.
I walk to the grocery store and I hear it "Ate Brittany!!", I smile and from the sound I know I need to look far.. he's yelling hard for me to hear him. And hanging off the back of the tryke that is going down the street I see him.
Walking hand in hand with some little ones, off to the clinic down the street to get some chest x-rays I hear it, "Hey Ate Brittany!" I turn my head, but my smile always beats my eyes, because as soon as I hear the "Hey" I'm smiling big, because I know this voice, and there he is at my side.
I come home from running some errands and he's there just chatting with our security guard, he comes to greet me and I smile. I ask him how he is, most days he's 'ok lang', some days he's hungry, some days thirsty, and in typical little boy fashion, sometimes he tries to get what he knows I won't give. I see the mischief in his eyes as he asks me "Ate Brittany, give me money.." Each time my answer is always the same, "You know I don't give you money. If you would like something to drink, I'll go fill a bottle of water inside for you... If you're hungry, let's walk to the corner store for some bread, or I'm sure there's some lunch left, would you like me to bring you out some?" but even though my answer is always the same, I never know what his will be. Some days, he's a stubborn little boy and wrinkles his nose "No..I don't want water.. I want Coke!!" or "I don't want food like that.. I want McDonalds!!" I laugh and say sorry.. you know how I am. But somedays he looks at me and just says a quiet "..yes". I know on those days he's truly hungry. I wonder how long it's been since he's eaten.
You see, there are many children that are left to run the streets, or are forced to rummage through the garbage and the trash of the neighbors to find scraps of metal or containers that they can use or sell. There are so many many. There are many kids also that see me and they giggle and whisper among themselves and occasionally theres a brave one that willing to call out 'Hey Joe!'.. or 'Hey .. what's your name?' ... but for some reason that only God knows, there are two little boys, brothers, that I know. There are two little faces that I recognize as familiar, there are two little voices that make me smile as soon as they reach my ears.
I don't know their stories, I don't know their pasts, I don't know where they sleep each night, but I know the sound of my name coming out of their mouths. I know that the younger one holds my hand for only seconds at a time, but each time the seconds continue on longer than before.
These last couple of weeks, walking through the grocery store, I find myself picking up an extra juice in case I see them on my walk home.
This past week, I had picked up an extra tropicana juice and gave it to him and stood as my heart melted in my chest as the younger brother asked me, ''Can I have a hug.. is it ok?'' As my arms wrapped around him and held him tight that he could ALWAYS have a hug and my mothers words echoed in my mind 'I collect hugs!' And there in that moment, I thought of my own mother. How long had I been in the world before she gave me my first hug, I certainly was no stranger to her hugs, they were the first thing I expected every morning and the last thing each night, every goodbye called for a hug, and more than anything, just walking by her usually called for one too...we were crazy about our hugs... and yet... when was the last time this little boy had felt someone wrap their arms around him in love and just hug him.
And just like that, God gives me another responsibility, I'm to be his arms literally and hug those that the world would not hug, I'm to kiss the heads of the little ones that dig through the trash and I'm to cherish every minute of it because HE, the creator of the universe cherishes them.
He cherishes Older J and Younger J.
He cherishes each of the sleeping children in this house.
Once upon a time in a faraway land, there lived a little girl with long blonde girls. This little girl lived a very happy life, with her Mother and Father and older brother. Her family watched over her and kept her safe and made sure she was loved, but even with all that they did, there was still one person she was closer too still... his name was Zachery. And even though Zachery wore the same denim-print winter 'onesie' at all times... except for the occasional spin in the laundry... and even though he stayed the same size always, never growing, he was the little girls closest pal. When the little girl and her mother would have delightful picnics in the land of the Front Yard, Zachery was always there; when the little girl and her brother would go on adventures to a place known as Grandma's House, Zachery was never too busy to join them; and even when the entire family made a long voyage to the world of Florida, traveling in a flying car... Zachery gathered his courage and braved the odd flying car, as the little girl could not think of leaving Zachery behind.
And over the years, most all the other toys were forced to eventually part ways with Zachery and the girl, some broken, some through yard sales, others given away, until only Zachery remained. And though now the little girl has grown up and has moved away from her beloved home and family, Zachery has stayed, securing his place in the girl's room, always awaiting her visits home.
The girl, who grew up and moved to a far far away place always remembered her childhood friend with the most fondest of memories. Until one day, she met a very tiny baby. She was allowed to hold and comfort this little one and was soon smitten with him... she was so honored to be allowed to be an 'Ate' to this little one... and it should happen just so perfectly, that her heart would once again be ever so fond of and her arms once again filled with a little tiny Zachery.
2 years... my oh my how things change... and oh how they stay the same.
2 years ago.. I was in the biggest whirlwind of my life. I had just met my little girl, and as quickly as I met her, I said goodbye to her. It was almost in the same breath that I said my teary goodbye to my baby girl and my bright hello to the Philippines as my home.
Now 2 years later, I feel like yet again I'm in a midst of a whirlwind. About to finish my first semester of college... again. My second 'first semester' .. Once again I'm learning this new life, this new routine. Once again I'm trying to find a new normal. And the truth is... I don't want this new reality. I liked my before normal when I completely exhausted from temper tantrums, outings to the park, having outreach in the scorching sun... I loved that! THAT was what I was called to do. Now.. I'm exhausted because I'm studying for tests and adding final touches to presentations and finishing assignments. I'm doing this now.. so that I can go back to that later.
It's a hard thing to adjust to and to come to terms with.. I had to stop what I was doing and go to school...so.. that in 4 years and a degree later.. I can go back to doing exactly what I WAS doing,.. what I love! As strange as a reality as that is.. it is my reality.
My oh my.. I could have never planned this to be my reality 2 years ago. But the very powerful lessons I learned 2 years ago.. are still in effect today. Just as it was only God who was in control then... so it now also only He who holds control. Just as He held me then, so He's still here with me. Just as He was all I had to lean on then, even more so now, He is all I have to lean on. He is the only One to whom I can run.
I've had a number of different blog posts rolling around in my head for weeks... finally... they will start emerging for public viewing. Enjoy:
Ate Brittany... they come and wake me up from a lazy holiday morning sleeping in.. 'someone is here. A foreigner. They are asking for you.'
I groggily switch quickly out of basketball shorts and into something a little better to meet someone in, all the while wondering who in the world is here. All the other executive and office staff are out this morning and so I go down to the front gate.
There she is standing, she's heard about GH through the web and blogs and has come to just find out a little more. Our conversation, standing on the front steps, lasted maybe 30 minutes. But the effects of the conversation are still felt vividly today. I had just the week ... well for multiple weeks before honestly, had been asking the Lord, what was He doing with me? What was I doing here? Why? ... So I tell her.. I tell her my story.. I tell her how God worked. I tell her how God spoke and how He moved.
Then on to another scenario...I've recently read her book, Katie Davis's Kisses from Katie.
Another scenario... I read the blogs about those coming/moving.
I read these stories and I remember feeling those emotions once. The feeling of 'This is it! This is where I'm supposed to be!' I remember that excited giddy feeling... and then.. I suddenly feel a new feeling.. I feel a gentle whisper... One that I've heard before ... You are STILL HERE... STILL where I have you..I'M still holding you.
And just like that ... a wave of giddiness comes over me again... 'I AM HERE... I'm still here.. ' somewhere along the way I became calloused to the idea of being where God had me.. I had forgotten that I am living the dream that HE put in my heart over 8 years ago. This life dream that I have dreamt of and fantasized over and over in my years is REALITY! ... And a new thought comes 'This is AWESOME!' ... This is joy.
This is joy.
Remembering. Remembering in the dark what was spoken to you in the light.
I remember talking to her, I remember reading her words, I remember seeing them prepare. . . And as I remember.. I remember the joy that HE gave... and the joy that an enemy has tried to cover rises to the surface with unthinkable force, a blinding light after too much time wandering in darkness. I remember and it is clear again... HE IS HERE. HE SEES ME. HE KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING.
It's a long road adjusting the sudden reemergence of light, but its oh so beautiful... Joy.
Tonight I rocked her to sleep, held her safe in my arms till her eyes finally closed.
Do all of the kids get this? No, with so many kids, there's no way for all to be rocked to sleep.
Does this happen every night? No
But tonight is not every night. Today was not every day.
It's hard to lose your best friend. Today was the first day without her A. She truly was J's A. They were a pair, belonging to each other. Never far from each other, knowing each other inside and out, knowing the other's thoughts. They arrived within weeks of each other, both tiny, frail and starved of life... and they healed and became whole again..together. They found new life together and learned to live together. They were always always together. Even the little things, like potty training and learning to walk... they did together. They were each other's constant.
As any best friend, she rejoiced with A yesterday playing with A's mommy and daddy. But now... the time of rejoicing with her friend is gone, as is her best friend of the last 2 1/2 years. Today I hear her mumbled words, telling me she misses her A. She's said goodbye to many friends over the last years, but this was not just any friend, this was her best friend, her other half.
While we rejoice with A and her beautiful and simply wonderful family, tonight we remember, tonight we hold each other because tonight both of our hearts are aching.