standing Brave, it’s what she does

Singing in the midst of life’s engulfing fires, fighting back the treacherous storms of her heart & dancing through the unforgiving pain of failing strength… there she stands. She is brave. Braver than most. Fierce as lions. It’s just what she does. Simply because that is who her Creator made her to be. A mighty warrior, a celebrated princess & a light in the darkness of fear.

Who do you know that matches this description? I have been blessed to have so many strong women in my life. Some are family, some are friends & others I have scarcely met for moments. All of them encourage & inspire me with their talent for finding their moment. That moment of grace where Father steps into your situation & just takes over your response to it. When you face that which is meant to destroy you, without giving in or falling back. The day you finally stand tall, despite the attacks & the traps of the enemy. Bravery. It’s not the absence of fear or even the presence of courage or strength. It comes from something truer, deeper. A place of forgiveness & grace. A place of knowing, of been there/done that. It comes out of surviving & choosing to thrive. This, this is the difference that sets apart the lucky ones that made it out somehow from the BRAVE ONES that chose to never give up or give in or give out.. ever again.

I’d be writing for hours if I sat her listing all the people (guys too) I know that are the picture of bravery tonight. Instead I will tell you about the three I am praying for as I go to bed. Please, if you pray to our Father in Heaven, mention these dear ones to Him. He will know them, so I will leave out their names.

  1. A dear sister who has stood BRAVE in the Valley Fire that continues to rage here in CA. Her family evacuated from the area only moments before their home was completely destroyed. They have only the clothes on their backs with them. Every “thing” they ever owned is gone… She & her husband pastor a church, which was also overcome by the flames. The cement steps & metal railing are all that remains… Yet she is working tirelessly to put aside her own needs, in order to tirelessly care for those around her who are also facing the pain of loss & starting over. So very brave. Because she has spent time with her Father, she walks confident in KNOWING who holds her tomorrows & who restores all “things” in His time. He gives her beauty for the ashes she surrenders to Him. Beyond what she could ever even ask or imagine. She just KNOWS. The confidence of knowing makes her brave when everything around her is in ashes. There is a peace that she knows, beyond all human understanding. The soft voice of the Spirit, telling her He is never letting go of her. Surely she must BRAVE the winds that throw the flames, as she hears only the voice of peace that guides her ‘home’. A place she knows not where. But she casts aside all doubt, in exchange for bravery born out of past experience. He will DO what He said He will do.
  2. A friend who IS my sister. (If you don’t have one, I’m praying you will soon!) This week she BRAVELY walks into new things, a new job, which brings a new lifestyle of sorts. It stretches her. It strengthens her. It launches her out of her comfort zone fast & furiously. Yet she embraces the challenge & confronts her old thinking in order to make room for newly improved approaches. She takes time to evaluate the why & where of questions like ‘How did I get here?’ & ‘Where should I be going next?’. Instead of running from the change & newly found accountability, she took on even more by telling me about it all. Knowing full well that I will also ask her ‘So how’s that going?’ in the days & weeks to come. All this while raising her children in the fear of the Lord, & serving her husband & her mother in every way. She exemplifies a life of prayer & trust. Brave is the one that walks WITH the Lord, following His lead even into the high waters where her feet cannot stand. She has an understanding that others have not reached. One that comes only from being carried through the storm(s) once (or twice) before. The fear of the unknown is not a stranger to her, nor is it a crippling distraction. Rather, it is simply a reminder to refocus on the One who leads the way, remembering that His way is straight & narrow, & there will always be grace enough to travel it. And she REMINDS HERSELF that she will never walk alone. She is BRAVE, because He is WITH her always. She is His & He is hers.
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  4. My daughter. From the moment we first saw her face we knew, this one is BRAVER than most. Tiny, frail & weak. Yet full of such power & fight. She will not back down or give up on herself or her love. She survives. At all cost. Her world has been capsized more times than I care to count. Her heart has learned to fight love to protect her, & now it’s learning to let love in… to heal her. What whirlwinds have tossed them about, She & her heart. Often they have been bruised & battered by the very ones they thought would treat their wounds. But her Creator has placed a love in her, deeply knitted into her soul, that no evil or pain could remove. Buried in the rubble of breaking trusts & stolen dreams, that love is emerging & reaching for the light. Every day she finds new strength. She is tiny, but so very fierce in wanting only to love & be loved. She has felt the Father’s touch. I see it in her eyes. I saw it before I met her & it shines brighter each day. Surviving is her gift, it birthed in her a BRAVE SPIRIT that will not quit. What horrors & sorrows she has felt, we may never know. But the love that spills out of her we recognize. The Author of her soul has written her new song. She sings for me sometimes, a song of forgiveness, a song of renewal. She sings to Him too, praises & anthems of His glory & goodness. She bravely lifts her head & walks on broken legs, into the safety of His presence. Each day we see her overcome new obstacles that once stood between us, she is not waiting for ‘someday’, she walks on. One foot after the other, with a band of brothers following close behind. Her steps are not always sure, but she will not sit still while there are stairs to climb. Up & out of the sadness, she climbs higher than she could ever dream. Far beyond what her strength allows, she swims to the depths of grief in order to bring it all to the surface. The Spirit that dwells in her deepest parts is guiding her to wholeness & healing through His mercy & grace. Not every broken part of her can be casted like her legs, but she is LEARNING that she WILL BE MADE WHOLE one day. From the top of her head to the bottom of her feet. Ten she will dance in the freedom that come from understanding how He brought her out of bondage & pain, & into the freedom of His love!

Think of the ones that inspire you friends. Tell them. Encourage them. Then go out & find that strength to face some things that are meant to destroy you. Walk in the knowledge of He who made you. Tell the mountains to move & the giants to fall. Be strong & courageous, in the face of your fears friends… BE BRAVE…

-JK

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Hope & Homes: Baja Update

My construction trip in Baja California, Mexico was a fruitful & challenging experience, thank you for your prayers and financial support that allowed me to go. The trip was very successful; our team of 90 people was able to build three homes in the week we spent in Mexico. It was touching to see how grateful the families were when we handed them the keys to their new house. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to be God’s hands and feet by working for and alongside these people to build a home for this family. I have learned that sometimes the people with the least resources are the most generous. The Martinez* family has lived in poverty for years, their 10×10 one room shack, with no indoor plumbing, has housed all 5 of them for the last 2 years. Yet, they purchased & cooked a delicious “Thank You Meal” for the tam working on their house (30 ppl) during the time we were there. Generosity in the midst of poverty. I hope to also live in a way that overcomes my circumstances.

Above is a picture of my team in front of the house we built for the Martinez* family. Their new home is about four times larger than the old shack & has plumbing for a sink in the kitchen (with built in counters) & a shower. (The toilet is in a brand new outhouse, also built by our team.) The home we built also has 2 bedrooms & a living room, as well as electricity/lighting fixtures. Each team member had a different skill set, some built bed frames, others hauled in new mattresses & still others set up lighting, door frames & windows. I mainly helped with framing, roofing & painting. Once we had a paint brush in the hand of each worker (when other projects were done) the walls were finished very quickly. It was great to have a team of variously skilled workers, to provide a comfortable home for our new friends.

On the last day of our trip, Pastor Scott Hagan (our leader) stood in front of the new house & gave a message of hope in JC, which someone translated into Spanish. The entire neighborhood had gathered there to listen. Many of the people responded, and we were privileged to lead several people into the Family. Praise the Lord!!

Thanks to all of you who contributed for allowing me to go to Mexico. Through your gift, you helped build these homes in Baja California and you helped bring hope to people who needed it. #hopeandhomesbaja #epeditionbaja


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-TK {Tryston Kwong, guest blogger for #TeamKwong}

*names changed for privacy

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T w/ P. Scott Hagan in Baja California.

It was inspirational to me that Mr. Martinez* & Pastor Scott Hagan (above with me) worked right along with us.

Only a few of us had the courage to conquer the mountain, but the view at the top was totally worth it.

Only a few of us had the courage to conquer the mountain, but the view at the top was totally worth it.

enough is Enough

~~ We didn’t fall off the planet!! Although you probably thought that based on the lack of posting & updating here. Sorry friends. — We’re still in the USA, & we’ve been on the road a lot. Like every, single, week. LOTS of driving. LOTS of miles. And LOTS of great new friends & new team members too!! It’s a joy & privilege to share our story & our journey with people every week! But between the epic, 6week long #k6eastcoastadventure in our trusty minivan, homeschooling 4 kids & all of the chaotic moments of #movingnotmoving that seem to come with our time in America… we have been neglecting this blog. *sigh* Thanks for your understanding & especially for your constant prayers that keep us trucking along on these long road trips! Anyway, in an effort to get back to this – we not only have today’s thoughts, but also a new newsletter coming in another couple days. Be sure to sign up at the bottom of this post. 🙂 ~~
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After an encouraging & somewhat challenging phone call with one of our directors/mentors yesterday, I had another good jolt upon opening my email this am. Try drinking your coffee, thinking about the huge mountain in front of you, feeling you can climb it well – but only if you continue on in the ever so careful, slow & steady pace that has so far kept you from falling off the cliff… Then try reading the following (from yet another mentor on our journey) & see if you aren’t ALSO challenged to get up & get going – faster, stronger & with deeper drive & purpose to just “Get ‘er done!”… So grateful for the mentors that Father has given us. Without them I might still be in bed sleeping, instead of working diligently to reach the flag at the top of the mountain!! There is much to do if we are going to get back HOME to our precious China before the end of the year… More coffee please!
The fulfillment of desire is conditional on the intensity of the desire to fulfill it. When we want something enough, we will move heaven and earth to obtain it. We’re all guilty of saying, “I don’t have enough time” or “I don’t have enough money.” {That simple modifier, enough, makes all the difference.} The truth is, we seem to find the time and the money to do or buy what we really, really want.
 
“Before we can be filled with the HS, the desire to be filled must be all-consuming. It must be for the time the biggest thing in the life, so acute, so intrusive as to crowd out everything else. The degree of fullness in any life accords perfectly with the intensity of true desire. We have as much of Father as we actually want.” -A.W.Tozer
-JK
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Prayer Flags on Wuzhishan Mountain.

Prayer Flags on Wuzhishan Mountain.

Painting a child with wine to avoid ghosts at the Nanshan Mountain scenic zone.

Painting a child with wine to avoid ghosts at the Nanshan Mountain scenic zone.

Marriage Isn’t For You

Mark & I are coming up on our 11th wedding anniversary. We had plans for a fun weekend getaway to Malaysia last yr for our 10th. It didn’t work out, won’t happen this yr either… but that doesn’t matter because we know the truth about marriage. It’s not about getaways, it’s about being in the moment & being ‘in it together’ – whatever ‘it’ may be from day to day. It’s about new adventures – as a family, it’s about raising children that love God, it’s about serving the poor & helpless & caring for widows & orphans together, it’s about TEAM, it’s about love… And God IS love… so marriage is really about God! — Mark & I are praying that God will encourage you, strengthen your marriage & show you the truth today!  -JK

Seth Smith also discovered the truth about marriage. Having done so, he’s decided that marriage isn’t for him…

Seth Adam Smith

Having been married only a year and a half, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that marriage isn’t for me.

Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.

I met my wife in high school when we were 15 years old. We were friends for ten years until…until we decided no longer wanted to be just friends. 🙂 I strongly recommend that best friends fall in love. Good times will be had by all.

Nevertheless, falling in love with my best friend did not prevent me from having certain fears and anxieties about getting married. The nearer Kim and I approached the decision to marry, the more I was filled with a paralyzing fear. Was I ready? Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?

Then, one fateful night, I shared these thoughts and concerns with my dad.

Perhaps each…

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