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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a Daughter for mother’s day {5k+1} – [announcement!]

Exciting news to share with all of our friends out there!!! We finally found our daughter!!!

Sounds a bit funny to say that out loud, I mean, it’s not like she was ever lost… But  after 15 years of dreaming & praying, over the last 4-5 of those years Mark & I actually began to think it was possible to have a daughter. (Of course, by ‘have’ I mean ‘adopt’, don’t get confused here. *wink*) Now here we are, in the midst of the miracle we always hoped for – God has shown us His timing & His path to adopting our daughter, the one He led us to, who is living in a Foster home China right now. Just a short 8 hour drive up the coast from us… We know who she is, we fell in love with her smile & her laugh, & we know her name!

Now we are officially ‘Pre-Approved’ to adopt a specific 4-year-old girl, who is more precious than words!!! Mark & I first saw her face last December while scrolling through list after list of “waiting children”, all with at least one “special need”… We want to tell you all everything about our sweet girl so you can enjoy the rest of this new adventure along with us… However, due to the regulations that are in place to keep orphans & their information safe, we aren’t allowed to tell you very much until we are almost ready to go get her. ((Praying that will be by the end of THIS year!)) We can’t tell you exactly where she is or even her given name… & we especially cannot share her pictures online yet. As soon as we can though, you can be sure we will!

ajk signsSo, in honor of Mother’s Day & this wonderful news – we want to share something just as special as her picture… Her new name! A name is very important, especially to God. He puts a lot of emphasis on giving meaningful names in the Bible. Many times, when there is a new beginning or a new life for someone, God gives them a new name to emphasize the changes He is doing in their lives… We also have taken great care in naming all of our children. We especially want our little girl to start her new life with a new name that brings her hope & freedom & eventually, we hope it brings her closer to God.

We also hope when you read our daughter’s ‘new’ name that you will think about & pray for all the other orphans who still need families. Maybe one of them is meant to be in YOUR family. Maybe they are just meant to have your prayers until their family finds them… Consider this:

“Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names
They are easier to ignore before you see their faces
It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms,
But once you do, everything changes.” 

– from Radical by David Platt

Now for the fun part – we have chosen a fitting name for our sweet little miracle girl:

ajk2bAnnaBelle Janae Kwong

Anna: a Prophetess in the Bible, a woman of worship, prayer & dedication to God, a woman who recognized Christ! (Luke 2:36–38) {also, Anna is MY middle name!}

Belle: French/Hungarian – Meaning ‘beautiful’. German/Spanish – Meaning ‘intelligent’. {just found out, Belle is the name of my ajkStep-Father’s late paternal grandmother!}

Janae: feminine form of the biblical male name Janai. – Meaning ‘God has answered’, ‘God is gracious’ or ‘gift’

It comes with a ton of fun nick names to choose from too! Anna, Belle, Elle, Ellie, AJ, Nay Nay, etc.

Please pray that God will continue to provide the finances for us to go get AnnaBelle! Before we committed to the adoption, we prayed for God to confirm that He wanted us to move forward. When we felt He had, we paid our application fee. When we were accepted, there was a very fast deadline for the first $3,000+ in agency fees. We prayed again, knowing if God provided for the need in the short time, it must really be His will & plan for this girl to join our family! Miraculously, God provided almost $5,000 in less than 2wks! Isn’t he great!!! Since then, He has continued to provide & over half of the fees/expenses have already been paid. Now we are praying for the remaining $20,000 that will need to be paid before we are finished with the adoption. Please pray with us!

Yes. That IS a lot of money. It is simply the cost of adopting internationally these days. The cost of a life… And we KNOW that God will provide it because He has told us He will. He has confirmed it by already providing through many of His children, isn’t the Body of Christ a wonderful thing?! — We can’t wait to pay every penny it will cost for our daughter’s life! SHE’S WORTH ALL THAT & MORE!!! Mark & I & the boys are so excited to go scoop up our little AnnaBelle & bring her home! If all the timing works out, we should have her just in time to bring her home to the States on our next trip – then she can meet so many of you that will have helped to pray her home to her Forever Family!!! Don’t you agree that every little one deserves a Forever Family to love them forever?!

We hope you will check back with us as we share more updates on our adoption journey! We have a long ways to go yet, we only have half of the paperwork phase finished. So there is much busyness around here, getting ready! The boys are very excited too, I’m sure I’ll write more about that another time…

ajk announce1 copy

If you or anyone you know would like to help us with our adoption costs, we do have a couple of ways you can do that. Please just shoot us an email & we will fill you in! (mark.kwong@na-link.com) We are overjoyed to know our daughter will soon be home!! Thank you for your love & encouragement! You all are some of the best people on the planet & we love each of you so much! We’re praying God’s grace & blessings over your families today!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!

-JK

already known… by the Father {5k+1}

A little girl in China turns 4 today. I wish I could be there to celebrate HER & tell her that she’s beautiful & amazing & full of God’s goodness! But I know God will be with her & whisper His loving words into her ears today & every day. I pray I will see her very soon & hold her in my arms for the first time. I hope it’s before her next birthday… maybe even before next Christmas… I cannot share her name, although it’s pretty just like her smile. I stare at her picture knowing I love her, but not knowing her at all. What’s her favorite color? Which toy does she treasure? How does she like her hair? Will she have a birthday cake today??? So many unknowns… but I am grateful that God knows her. He has always known her.

God’s always known everything about her. He knew her in her mother’s womb where He knit her together. He knew she would be taken to a police station & then to an orphanage when she was barely 2 months old. He knows her name & every hair on her head. He even knows if today is really her birthday… Most of all, He knows how to take care of her & protect her… & He knows how to get us to her, no matter the cost – He has the provision & no matter the obstacle – He makes the way, & He’s always on time! She lives only 6 hours away from us, but it will be months before we will be allowed to meet her. But she is in good hands because her Heavenly Father has never left her alone…

This precious birthday girl has been on God’s heart since before she was born. He has prepared for her a family with 3 brothers, a Daddy & a Mama that already love her. We don’t know her yet, but we’re on our way to bring her home. The journey will be long & uncertain, with ups & downs. We’ve already hit bumps, yet God has provided. I can’t wish her Happy Birthday this year. I don’t even speak her language. But God can & He can speak it. I don’t know her favorite food or the name of her dolly… Or if she even has one. But I hold on to what I do know. God cares for her & has asked us to care too. He has promised to make a way where there seems to be no way. God has never led me where He will not sustain me. Most importantly, I know that God has shown me that sweet 4 year old girl. I don’t know her yet, but I know…

… She is my daughter.

-JK

{5k+1} our adoption journey

looking for His will, His way

“Dear Santa, I want a little sister for Christmas!” Who knew a scribbled note on a torn piece of paper could make me tear up… Funny how God places OUR dreams into the hearts of our children. At 8yrs old, Wesley is our youngest son, he’s been asking for a baby sister since he could talk. He loved to give tender kisses to all the babies I cared for when he was a toddler. He falls in love with every little one he meets – & I’m always amazed at how quickly they fall in love with him too! Such a sweet & gentle boy. (When he’s not being wild & dangerous! Ha!)
The update on our ‘slow to start’ China adoption journey is this: We are looking for the ‘right one’ at the moment. When we find her, it will be another 8-15 months before we can go & bring her home. Certainly the Lord has already chosen our daughter… we simply trust Him & wait until He shows us when & how to make our move! We’ve learned to wait on God, He always shows us His will & His way to get things done… We shall keep you all posted if anything exciting happens! 🙂 Until then, we remain very focused on our daily lives in this big city full of people that we have yet to meet. Read on…
Living in a city where so many have never thought twice about throwing money at their problems… makes me thankful for all the times we learned to trust in Jesus when we had nothing else… Some people have never had that opportunity & the blessing of learning to trust Him so much. I pray often for the wisdom & God’s vision for reaching those folks, the ones that have all the money & none of the hope. There has to be a way to show them Heaven’s love & hope that money simply cannot buy.
These were my thoughts while looking @ local bookstores for “the Tale of the Three Trees”, our gift for a young family living in poverty in the Sub-Divided-Apartment community that we visit weekly… It’s one of our family’s favorite stories & it has beautiful pictures. We’re praying it will bring joy & the love of Jesus to this little immigrant family. They may not have any other presents this Christmas, this one will show them the real meaning of this season! Are there people around you that may need help this Christmas? Is there someone that you could bless? The bible encourages us all to take care of the poor, the orphans & the widows.
What are you asking God for? He is faithful to show us His plans & purposes for our lives, just like in the Tale of the Three Trees…

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” -James 1:27