Sunday, January 25, 2015

Come Meet This Man With 50 Kids!

Last week I wrote about...
... what it looks like to live a counter-cultural way of life, a life lived the Jesus-wayThis radical way to live out my every-days has hugely been on my heart and mind since our return from the Philippines this past summer.

I have come to see that... it is the only way to live as Christ-followers, not because of obligation or duty, but because... it is the only way we can live out that freedom for which Jesus sacrificed His very life for

It is saying YES to living this counter-cultural and radical way of life and saying NO to the patterns of this world.
Brothers and sisters, God has called you to freedom! Hear the call, and do not spoil this gift by using your liberty to engage in what your flesh desires; instead, use it to serve each other as Jesus taught through love. For the whole law comes down to this one instruction: “Love your neighbor as yourself..." - Galatians 5:13-14.
Today, I would like you to meet a man who lives this life...
I first came across David Chalmers' story during my wanderings on the Internet one day. I started watching this video that I stumbled upon and was really inspired by this man's story. A man who, like me and the rest of my family, is an avid Advocate for Compassion International. I quickly gathered the whole family and had them watch the video as well.

Friends, you can watch the video for yourself here:

{Please pause the playlist on the sidebar of this blog as you watch this video.}

Soon after coming across David's story on the Internet, we got connected on Facebook and I learned that he was spending the year (2014) in the Philippines serving at an orphanage called Ruel Foundation.

It is no secret that the Philippines is very near and dear to our family's heart. It is not only the land of hubby's and my births, it is also where we have four Compassion children and where the building-that-Eucharisteo-built now stands and where True Story was filmed, Compassion Canada's first-ever youth curriculum video series of which my girl is the face and voice of. {Side note: We are extremely excited for the upcoming launch of True Story. I can not wait to share it with you all!}

Needless to say, David's connection to the Philippines hugely piqued my interest!

As I started following David's journey...
I quickly found out that he had a book in the works and was soon going to be a first-time author. The topic of the book excited me even more... yes, he's writing about his extensive experiences with the ministry of Compassion International as a result of sponsoring the many children that he does and his travels to visit many of them!

I could not wait to get my hands on this book!

David visiting his Compassion children in the Philippines.

Friends, this book was released earlier this month and I've had the honour of reading one of the very first copies of Go Into All The World. Here are a few of the many quotes that gripped me:
One thing I love about being a servant of God is that it doesn't matter who you are, if you make yourself available and are willing, He will use you to do amazing things for the good of His kingdom. I am proof of that.
I want people, when they see my life of sacrificial generosity, to see God in me.

I was left with the profound realization that when everything else is stripped away and we're left with nothing but complete and utter dependence on God, that's when He does His best and most powerful work. 
One day we will all be accountable to God for the way we have used what He has given us. He has also given us free will. This is a double-edged sword: we have a choice to make, and with that choice comes consequences that affect ourselves and others. You can choose to use what you have been given to fund a lifestyle of comfort, convenience, security and ease for yourself. Or you can choose to make your life count on earth and in eternity by using your time, money and resources to help and invest in other people.
Aside from the gems of wisdom found in many places in the book much like the quotes above, I think the most valuable part of the book lies in the wealth of information that David shares, outlining details of his travels to visit several different Compassion projects in several different countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Nicaragua and of course, the Philippines!

If you sponsor a child with Compassion and wonder about what it looks like to visit your child or if you ever wonder about how a Compassion project is run or if you would like a sneak peek into the daily life of your Compassion child, this book is for you!

If you are looking to start sponsoring a child but have unanswered questions about Compassion's ministry, this book will answer all your questions and will inspire you to start your journey!

If you are still a skeptic and are still not quite sure about child sponsorship or about Compassion's ministry for that matter, I can assure you that this book will make you a believer!

You can read more of David's personal story on his blog. You can also check out his YouTube channel where many of the videos from his visits to Compassion projects all over the world are posted. Finally, you can also interact with David on the book's Facebook page.

So, what are you waiting for?
Friends, this is a must-read book. It is eye-opening and thought-provoking both at the same time. It will surely change your life... or at the very least, how you live your every-days.

Trust me... you will be freer and more alive and more joy-filled living with the counter-cultural and radical version of yourself! :)

There are several options to buy a copy. Get yours today!

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

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On This Path Towards Counter-Cultural Living

What does it look like anyway?
Yes, this path towards counter-cultural living, the Jesus-way --- what *does* it look like? This thought has hugely been on my heart and mind since our return from the Philippines this past summer.

With our Compassion child, JD and his family. It's so cute that JD would only hold my boy's hand. ♥

"When the worlds of poverty and wealth collide, the resulting powerful fusion can change the world."
~ Shane Claiborne.

Yet, there are days, like this past Sunday at church, when I could hardly sing these words as they flashed on the screen because the sheer intensity of their meaning almost consumed me...
Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use every power as You choose.
Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine.
Then, Author and Professor Mark Buchanan, the guest teacher at church this past Sunday, started teaching on these verses from Romans 12:1-2:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Yes, those verses. In fact, the entire twelfth chapter of Romans is pretty counter-cultural. Well, the entire Gospel is pretty counter-cultural! But let's just start with reading Romans 12 today, shall we?

You see, this is the thing --- the beautiful thing about this whole counter-cultural way of life is this... 
Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.
Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
Mark Buchanan pointed out to us that, as Christ-followers, we are called to be radically generous, to be radically hospitable and to be radically kind.

He said...
Radical generosity is... going further than just giving our stuff, our money and our time. It is making our life the very gift.
Radical hospitality is... going further than just inviting people over. It is inviting people to share in our very lives.
Radical kindness is... going further than just practising charity. It is overcoming evil by the good that we do.
We get to say an unconditional YES to God, because He said an unconditional YES to us.
We get to see the world through the heart of Jesus.
This is the thing that got me... the utterly beautiful thing that gripped me to the core: We get to do this. We get to live this. We get to say YES to God. This *is* the counter-cultural way of life!

In the days after the calendar turned to the New Year...
Our family has had a few opportunities to literally live this out. I can honestly tell you that, when push came to shove, it certainly did not come naturally nor was it easy... but one thing is sure and true: Obeying God and walking the Jesus-way is always life-giving and joy-inducing!

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when this mama sees her girl obey Jesus and follow Him right into a certain community where oceans rise {though it was intensely heart-wrenching to release her to fly}... and we end up welcoming this little boy from that very same community into our lives on the first week of this New Year, into our Compassion family?

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when both my kids earmark all of the money they received as gifts at Christmas towards sponsoring this little guy and two others in our Compassion family?

Johnrel from the Philippines, my girl's 2nd Compassion child.

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when, after writing to this boy for almost one whole year, he becomes available for sponsorship... and even though it means tweaking our family budget once again, we welcome yet another child into our growing Compassion family... for how can we not embrace him and call him our very own?

Patrick from Rwanda, our newest Compassion child.

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when hubby and I take our kids to drop by Matthew House, a home for refugee youth, because they would like to give away the movie gift card they received at Christmas so that these refugee youth can have a fun afternoon out together... something they rarely have?

Near where the Matthew House youth home is located.

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when our family can spend the first Sunday of the New Year volunteering at a Compassion Sunday event, even though it meant missing worship with our own church family... and as a result, seeing 55 children released from poverty?

The drive to the Compassion Sunday event.

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when we get to share in the lives of our Compassion children through the letters they write to us and we get to spend a Friday night writing letters back to them?

Letters from our Compassion children!

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when my kids choose to spend their Saturday afternoon at Matthew House with their youth leaders to learn more about the youth's stories and to befriend them?

Matthew House's youth home.

Life-giving and joy-inducing... for how can it not be?
For this is what it means to be a Christ-follower... it is to offer our very lives as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

For it is living, in pure grace, and embracing that what God does for us is the best thing we can do for Him --- it is the way to worship Him

For it is the only way to live as Christ-followers, not because of obligation or duty, but because... it is the only way we can live out that freedom for which Jesus sacrificed His very life for. It is saying YES to living this counter-cultural and radical way of life and saying NO to the patterns of this world.
Brothers and sisters, God has called you to freedom! Hear the call, and do not spoil this gift by using your liberty to engage in what your flesh desires; instead, use it to serve each other as Jesus taught through love. For the whole law comes down to this one instruction: “Love your neighbor as yourself..." - Galatians 5:13-14.

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

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hello there, 2015!

10 days into this brand new year...
And I'm just logging into this space for the very first time. Well, Happy New Year, friends! I hope you all had a great Christmas, one full of hope and meaning and joy and peace.

Just the other day, we were reflecting on our Christmas and the whole family whole-heartedly agreed that it was one of the best ones we've had in recent memory! Not only were we able to have a quiet and restful couple of weeks, we were also blessed to have been able to celebrate it in an others-centred and counter-cultural way!

And, in case you missed it... here is our family's year-end newsletter.

New Year's Eve family selfie.

On this Saturday after the first week back to school and work...
I am sitting here at almost two o'clock in the afternoon not wanting to get out of my pajamas! I guess I am missing the relaxed pace that we had over the Christmas holidays and I'm wanting to recreate and relive it. :)

The quiet and rest during the Christmas break also afforded me much time to think and to reflect... it was a balm to the soul for this introvert mama! I used much of that time reflecting on Bible verses to find one that would serve as a guide for me in this New Year... where a One Word can be found which would give this New Year a name.

You see, for the past few years...
I've chosen to focus on a One Word at the start of each new year and God has used each year's One Word to guide and steer me... for which I am truly grateful!

My One Word for 2012 was soar...

Soaring birds. Downtown Toronto, Summer 2011.

For 2013, it was surrender... 

In a reflective mood and deep in thought. ~ Cape Cod, Summer 2012.

And it was still for 2014...

By the Christina River, Wilmington (Delaware). Summer 2013.
Being still and capturing the beauty of God's creation on camera.

This year, it is once again an "S" word... 
I am starting to wonder what my fascination is with words starting with the letter S?!? :)


In my quiet reflection, I felt God saying to me, "When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me." --- from the verses found in Jeremiah 29:13-14.

Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal, Montreal. Thanksgiving Weekend, 2014.

But this time, my One Word didn't just get highlighted in one verse during my reflections. The word seek jumped out at me in Matthew 6:33 too, where it says --- "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

And in Matthew 7:7 where it is written --- "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."

Seek... seek... seek... 
- attempt to find (something).
- attempt or desire to obtain or achieve (something).
- ask for (something) from someone.
Yes, upon reflecting on the meaning of my new One Word... I've come to realize that it truly is what my heart and soul is craving to do this year.

2014 had been a year of many revelations, awakenings and changes...
- Work, for both hubby and me, has taken on new normals... new normals that we are still trying to embrace and understand.
- My girl is finishing high school, has started driving and will to go university this September. My boy started high school and is now quite an independent young man. My days as a work-from-home and stay-at-home-mama looks vastly different these days.
- God continued to write our family's story in ways that are vastly higher than our own... leading us to places where we wouldn't dare go ourselves.
- With our beloved Papa's home-going to heaven, we've been reflecting on the brevity of life... even when one departs this life having lived 85 beautiful years!
- God continually challenged us to keep our eyes open and to be brave... and He went on to show us more brokenness and more beautiful things and what our role in all of this should be!
- And He continued to write some more of our story and used it in a way that blew us away... such wild grace!
... and I have suddenly found myself, at the start of this New Year, in a place of seeking what God's next steps are for us this year and for the longer term.

And so, I will seek... because...
"When you seek Me in prayer and worship, you will find Me available to you. If you seek Me with all your heart and soul, I will make Myself available to you," says the Lord.    

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Our Annual Family Christmas Letter... {and the decision to still publish it}!

Merry Christmas!
It's just a few more days before Christmas now. It has truly been a beautiful season of Advent as our family read together from Ann Voskamp's new book, Unwrapping The Greatest Gift.

It has helped us to slow down each day, even just for a few minutes, in order to think about and reflect on Christmas and its true meaning.

This year, I had decided early on that I would not send out our annual Christmas letter. I would still write one for my own purposes, but I was not going to send them out or publish it publicly.

Writing our Christmas letter is a Christmas tradition of sorts for me. It is something that I have done every single year since hubby and I got married. Recently though, I had started to wonder if anyone even reads it anymore or at all, hence the decision not to send out or publish one this year.

But something happened which made me change my mind...
As I wrote our letter yesterday, another letter arrived in our mailbox. Just as I was wrapping up our letter, I started to read this other letter that had just arrived.

With this letter came a cheque for a large sum of money... intended for my girl to use towards projects she is involved with to further the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, with a preference to put the money towards Compassion International's ministry. The donor chose to channel this money through my girl because of how she dedicates her time and passion for God's work.

This letter brought tears to this mama's eyes and immense joy to my heart! Isn't God's grace just the most extravagant of all?

Maybe it's through our telling of stories and the sharing of our lives on social media that this person came to choose my girl as an instrument of God's peace to a world in need. Maybe it's through the reading of our Christmas letters over the years... 

So, yes... yes, yes!
If our family's annual Christmas letter, our telling of stories and the sharing of our lives on social media causes just one more person to join the journey --- to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God, then I will continue to tell the story of God's grace at work in our family's life. Yes, I will!

Your calling is radically this: Gloriously hijack every darkness with grace. To love mercy and do justice and follow Christ means to be The Revolutionary Guerrillas of Grace — radically turning the fallen world Upside Down.
~ Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience.
Christmas... a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices!
Merry Christmas... my dear blog readers, family and friends! Because I want to be a revolutionary guerrilla of grace, radically turning the fallen world upside down, you can now find our 2014 Christmas letter published here or you can click on the image below to read it.

Related Readings:
Archives of our family's Christmas letters from the past few years: 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013

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

Monday, December 1, 2014

On this first day of December...

The month of December always seems to have a life of its own, doesn't it? Our calendars get booked up way too quickly and it seems like there just isn't enough time to accomplish everything that needs to be done.

We decorated our home over the weekend.

Everyone is hurried... lost in the hustle and the bustle of the season.

For several years now, our family has intentionally tried to do Christmas counter-culturally... the upside-side way! Doing so isn't always easy... but doing so has reinforced in our hearts and minds what Christmas is really all about.

They grow up too fast! This girl is hanging her "Baby's First Christmas" ornament up.
This will be her last Christmas as a child... as she turns 18 shortly after the New Year!

To continue reading, please join me today over at the blog Compassion Family... I would love to see you over there!

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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Memories of Christmases Long Ago...

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...
I learned this well-known Christmas tune when I was just a child. Yet, I always wondered what the words meant. White Christmas? Just like the ones I used to know? Tree tops glisten? Sleigh bells in the snow?

Hmmm... what might those words mean? I didn't know! Because... you see, I grew up in the Philippines and all our Christmases were green, sunny and warm!

Christmas Paróls. Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Christmas meant decorating our home with these colourful star-shaped paper lanterns, called paról, which we bought from vendors who came knocking at the gate of our house.

Christmas also meant carolers frequenting our house to sing Christmas tunes right outside our gate... many of them children who live in poverty, in hand are their makeshift instruments made from aluminum bottle caps strung on a wire, looking to make a few extra pesos during the Christmas season.

Christmas also meant parties... with special yummy food reserved only for occasions such as birthdays and Christmases. Foods like the famous lechón (roast pig) of Cebu; like the delicious dessert known as food for the godsand of course, the Filipino-style Christmas ham!

Thinking back...
My most favourite Christmas memory hands-down, more than the decorations and the carolers and the food, would be helping my mom shop for and wrap Christmas presents! 

My sister and I, a 70s Christmas!
You see, my parents owned a factory back then and there were hundreds of people who worked for them. Each and every one of them were on my mom's Christmas list! 

Come Christmas-time, my mom became Santa! She made sure to start her list early and checked it twice... and oftentimes, I was her trusty elf... er, I mean assistant! :)

After the shopping was all done, she and I would stay up late for at least a week and wrap presents. I remember taking the time to wrap each present nicely, making each one special with a bow and hand-labeling each card.

As a young child, to me Christmas became all about giving... and not at all about getting.

Every Christmas, I looked forward to the big Christmas party where all of our factory workers and their families were invited to! My favourite memory of those parties is when I got to help hand out the Christmas presents!

When I was a teenager...
My parents moved our family to Canada... right before the Christmas of 1988. That was when I experienced my first white Christmas... when I finally knew what glistening tree tops look like and what sleigh bells sound like!

My two younger sisters and I. Our first white Christmas!
That was also when Christmas became all about getting.

It was so easy to get sucked into the commercialization of Christmas that this first-world society so readily promotes.

The flyers. The sales. The promos.

The crowds. The hustle. The bustle.

And Boxing Day. Yes, that! Upon arriving in this country a mere few days before Christmas, we were quickly schooled about Boxing Day... not about its true origin and meaning, but about its commercialization and how we are to participate in it!

It's The Day everyone goes shopping, we were told. Bargains and amazing deals will be hard to resist, we were told. You have to beat the crowds and head to the mall early, we were told.

And that we did. We did what we were told. We didn't question one bit where the true meaning of Christmas disappeared to...

Even after hubby and I got married... after our girl came along... even after our boy joined our family, we did Christmas no differently. We were totally sucked into the whole commercialization of Christmas!

Oh yes, all those years we packed Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and volunteered at dinners for the homeless... but at the same time, we also used Christmas as an excuse to lavish extravagant gifts upon ourselves.

We weren't celebrating Christmas meaningfully and we weren't giving generously. Sadly, Christ wasn't at the centre of our Christmas. 

But God's grace...
It relentlessly pursued us and slowly changed our hearts. Today, Christmas for our family looks much different than the Christmases of long ago. It has done a total about face. We now celebrate an upside-down Christmas...
Be brave enough to return the fake CHRISTmases and only bring home the real one that has CHRIST at the center of it.
Be brave enough to return any Christmas too small for the size of your soul — and only wear a Christmas large enough for real joy.
Be brave enough to turn Christmas upside down because this coming Christ ushered in the Upside Down Kingdom where
less is more and
weak is strong and
least is greatest and
consumers can get consumed and
giving is greater than getting.
~ Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience.
The true meaning of Christmas...
It has come to stay at our house... and we are grateful that it has! It is upside-down, it is counter-cultural, it is cross-shaped. It is how Christ-followers are designed to celebrate Christmas!

It is looking more like the Christmases from my childhood days... where consumers aren't consumed and giving is greater than getting; where doing justice and loving mercy is at its core and where walking humbly with God is key.

Friends, will you join us? 
In making Christmas an upside-down one this year? Here are a few ideas...

:: Buy a Gift of Compassion and give it as a Christmas gift. {Hint: this is a great teacher gift!}
:: Check out Advent Conspiracy... because Christmas can still change the world.
:: Give the Gift of Mentorship... a gift for our friends at UrbanPromise, a gift that will keep on giving!

Because... one of the above idea just might transform someone's dark Christmas into one that is merry and bright... in turn making your Christmas truly merry and bright!

Your calling is radically this: Gloriously hijack every darkness with grace.
To love mercy and do justice and follow Christ means to be The Revolutionary Guerrillas of Grace — radically turning the fallen world Upside Down.
~ Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience.

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

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Celebrating A Birthday...

We are celebrating a very special man's birthday! It's just another ordinary Thursday for our family... both kids are in school, he's gone to work at a client's location and I'm about to start my work day... but trust me, this man is no ordinary man!

There are a few stories about him that I would have liked to publish on the blog today... in celebration of his birthday, but it's been a busy season and blogging has taken somewhat of a backseat here.

So... I am thinking back instead to this story that I wrote about him, in celebration of his birthday last year... and I think it is worth re-publishing today... because this very much describes just how special of a man my hubby is! He truly is a keeper!

It was Friday afternoon...
He walked in the door at the end of a hard work day, at the end of a stressful work week, which must have felt longer than five days to him... and he greets me with the brightest smile he's had in days.

Coaching basketball in an inner-city neighbourhood with Ephraim's Place.

Serving lunch at a Compassion project in the Philippines.

I knew right then, even without him uttering a word, that something beautiful had happened in his day.

Then, he told me the story...
On his way to a client's place earlier that day, he saw a homeless man as he exited the highway. The man was standing to one side at the end of the exit ramp, begging. The traffic lights worked beautifully in a way that hubby was stopped right beside this homeless man.

He rolled down his window and struck up a conversation. He learned that the homeless man's name is Bruce. Bruce has been homeless for five years... since his wife passed away. He sleeps under a bridge every night, the one right by Pharmacy Avenue just down the road. Most days, he stands at this exit ramp until 6pm... getting enough money to buy dinner.

Then, the traffic lights changed. It was time to keep moving.

Hubby went about his work day and finished the job at his client's place just before 5pm. As he drove past that same exit ramp to get onto the on-ramp across the street to come home, he saw Bruce still standing there.

Instead of coming home, he drives past the on-ramp and goes to a Mr. Sub restaurant. With a foot-long sub and orange juice in hand, he gets on the on-ramp and drives towards home. He takes the first exit, turns around and enters the highway again going the opposite direction... to get to the off-ramp where Bruce was standing.

He handed Bruce the foot-long sub and orange juice. Bruce was surprised to see him, in awe that he would actually come back and bring him dinner. After a handshake, my man drives off. Exiting the highway and turning around one more time to get onto the on-ramp towards home.

As he approached the on-ramp to come home, he saw his new-found friend, Bruce... dinner in hand, walking towards home earlier than the anticipated 6pm, to his home under the bridge, the one right by Pharmacy Avenue just down the road.

And my man comes home with the brightest smile he's had in days.

He's a keeper, isn't he?
He could have driven straight home and not bother to check if Bruce was still there. After all, it's been a stressful work week and a long hard day. He's entitled to come home and relax. Besides, it's too much work to go the opposite direction on the highway, just to get to where Bruce was standing. Plus, he'd have to stop and buy the food still!

Yet, my man chose compassion over comfort... choosing to demonstrate a cross-shaped love, a Jesus-shaped love.

You have no idea how much this makes my heart smile happy and overflow with thanksgiving.

More than when he buys me flowers. More than when he washes the dishes. More than when he takes the trash out. More than when he makes sure my car's gas tank is always at least half-full.

I am truly blessed beyond measure.

Because a man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments (Psalm 112:1); a man who chooses compassion over comfort, choosing to love with a Jesus-shaped love, he's a gem. He's a keeper!
In an endless cycle of grace, He gives us gifts to serve the world. This is how to make a life great and eucharisteo embarks us on the path: "Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave" (Matthew 20:26-27).
It's the fundamental, lavish, radical nature of the upside-down economy of God. 
Empty to fill.
Here I can become the blessing, a little life that multiplies joy, making the larger world a better place.
God can enter into me, even me, and use these hands, these feet, to be His love, a love that goes on and on and on forever, endless cycle of grace.
~ Excerpts from Chapter 10, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp.

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

And, it's a wrap!

Hello, Monday!
I am having a slow start to this work week as I sit here and reflect on the weekend that just passed. It was full of action. It was a lot of fun. It was very exciting!

You see... the filming team from Compassion Canada was here with us from Friday morning to Sunday night to film the Toronto segment of the youth curriculum that they are producing which my girl is hosting for them... and at about 9pm last night, the last item on the shot list was filmed and then, it was a wrap!

They filmed the Philippine segment of this project last month... you know, that time when I wrote about releasing my girl to fly.

And fly she did... spending 10 days with this same filming team, in the Philippines, a Compassion International field country which also happens to be the country of hubby's and my births! 

She soared... on wings like eagles, drawing strength from our Heavenly Father... even when her eye migraines flared up.

It is such wild grace to see God answering this long-time prayer that I've had for my girl, literally since the day she was born... that she will live life as "a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour."

Being the face and voice of this curriculum series is truly one way I see God using her for the display of His splendour! Not only that, it is also a way that God is fulfilling her desire to speak out "for those who are denied a voice."

I am blown away... 
... by God's relentless love, His constant goodness and His amazing grace. 

As we sat at church on Sunday with the video camera rolling and filming us as we worshiped in songs... I couldn't help but reflect and give thanks and be in awe:

Because... God continuing to use a family as broken as ours for Kingdom purposes blows me away.

Because... God using unqualified ordinary people such as us to create something beautiful and radical blows me away.

Because... God choosing to use our family's story to inspire others to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him utterly. blows. me. away! 

Here are some Instagram photos... some ours and others from several members of the filming team, to give you a glimpse of this journey, both on the Philippine segment and also from the Toronto segment this past weekend.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for praying alongside with us this past month and a bit... your prayer support was truly what kept us going!

This weekend... 
I saw first-hand just how much work it takes to film curriculum like this!

I am blown away by the dedication of the entire filming team... their passion inspires me! Even though they are "doing their job" as staff members of Compassion Canada and as a Video Production Professional, it is very evident that it is more than just a job to them... I can see that they really are passionate about their faith in God and about releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name and that is what drives and motivates them!

I am deeply thankful that God has blessed our family with this privilege of working with such a passionate and dedicated team! I am very excited to see the final product and even more excited to see how God will use it!

In these next few weeks, please be in prayer for the creative team and for the video production team as they start to put everything together. Their hard work is just starting!

In these next few months, please be in prayer for the churches who are considering how this curriculum will fit into their youth programming... that God will use this for His glory and for the advancement of Kingdom work.

We truly serve an awesome God!
To Him be all glory, honour and praise... He has done great things! And the beautiful thing is... He wants to partner with each one of us to make this world a better place. Let's join Him, friends... and leave a Jesus-mark in this world!
It doesn't matter who you are, how big your audience or your bank account, you can make a mark.
You can do it. Jesus did. He is the example, the eternal Truth we love because he loved us first. We serve because he served first.
~ Jeremy Cowart, What's Your Mark?

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

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fourteen Today!

Time has its way...
... of flying by! It truly flows like a relentless river, doesn't it? Fourteen years. Fourteen! 

This boy turns f-o-u-r-t-e-e-n today!!! How is it even possible that my baby boy is now fourteen and in high-school?

Doing a Rubik's Cube demo and sharing his testimony and
talking about his advocacy of Compassion International earlier this summer
at the Canada Day celebrations in Cebu City, Philippines.

Off to his first day in high-school earlier this week!

This past year, this boy has not only rapidly grown in size... he is, at this moment, on the verge of surpassing me in height (gasp!), but has also, more importantly, grown in ways that only God can grow him in.

This mama is deeply thankful for God's grace that is clearly and very evidently at work in my baby boy's life.

He is kind-hearted. He is compassionate. He is passionate. He is generous.

He is a gift... true to the meaning of his name. Jonathan... gift from God!

This mama is blessed beyond measure because of this gift from God... this gift of a son. 

My baby boy!

As we celebrate fourteen candles today... 
This, as has always been since the day he was born, is my continued prayer for this boy of mine:
May you grow up to be... "a man whose heart beats to God's heart, a man who will do what God tells him." {Paraphrased from Acts 13:22, The Message.}
And I am deeply grateful that God is answering this prayer of mine in many ways... as I see tangible evidence that my boy's heart is beating to God's heart.

Such as what our Compassion LDP student Rechelle wrote to us about just yesterday, regarding our visit this summer... "You have been a great inspiration to our youth. They are sending their gratitude and prayers. I wish you can see just how God moved in their lives through your testimony. God has given us a generation of youth that has started to be active in God’s ministry. They have learned to be focused based on what Jon shared with them. They are quite eager to learn more from God."

Sharing his testimony with the youth at Rechelle's church,
using his gift of speed-cubing as a topic starter. 

Such as his taking over funding the sponsorship of our newest Compassion child, JD.

This is from our visit this summer. JD would only hold Jon's hand! So precious!

My mama-heart is overwhelmed with thankfulness...
Because of God's goodness and His faithfulness to my baby boy. As he grows into a young man, I will embrace turning this new page in the journey of motherhood... and I will not stop praying that his heart continues to beat to God's heart.

Because... there is no better way for a heart to beat than for it to be in sync with God's!

Because... "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:4, NIV)"

Happy Birthday, my son! I love you... so very much!

:: :: ::

As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... these are the things I am thankful for... #3216 - #3226:
:: The gift of being a mama. 
:: This son of mine, truly a gift from God.
:: Both kids in high-school for just this one year... and being in the same school again, even for just this one year!
:: An eventful summer, truly a blessing... an unplanned three weeks in the Philippines and then my girl returning (again, not originally in our plans) with Compassion Canada just a month after.
:: Seeing the classrooms that Eucharisteo built! 
:: The many things which God allowed us to see... breaking our hearts even more for the things that break His.
:: Celebrating 20 years...
:: Countless everyday blessings... which I often post on Instagram.  
:: God's sustaining grace... when life seems hard and the road seems rough and the future seems uncertain.
:: Our ongoing advocacy of Compassion International's work and the gift of seeing it first-hand again in the Philippines this summer!
:: For the many opportunities to be still this year... not easy, deeply thankful that God's grace is sufficient.
In counting grace-gifts...
I am learning to let be and be still... and to pay more attention to my Jesus... and to be ready to act on the things that He has in store for me to do... because "all there is to see is Jesus."
All the world is window. People, circumstances, situations, relationships, no material is opaque. If we are willing to see, all is transparent. All of this globe is but glass to God. Eucharisteo washes the windows. Eucharisteo, wholesale worship, is redemptive work, wiping away the soot of days cindered.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.

For more One Thousand Gifts blog posts... 

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

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Time Has Come...

Tomorrow, she will fly!
Earlier this year on her birthday, I wrote about helping unfurl her wings and releasing her to fly.

Little did I know just how soon that time would actually arrive... that God already had a plan in place... for her to fly... onto Kingdom purposes and also literally, to quite a faraway place!

And this mama's heart is not sure how to feel...

Yet, I know this for sure... that He who promised is faithful!

My baby girl... at six months of age.

Collecting seashells on a beach in Halifax. (Summer 2006)

So, this mama will release her to fly... and embrace turning this new page in the journey of motherhood... and hold on unswervingly to the Hope we profess... and cover her with prayers... and celebrate the beauty that is God's grace at work in my baby girl's life.

For many years, since the day she was born... this has been, and still is today, my prayer for her:
That she will live life as "a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour."

Blogging... speaking out for those who are denied a voice.

Learning to drive... she is driving the car that we bought just before she was born!

So... tomorrow, her wings will unfurl!  
Tomorrow she will fly... halfway around the world, for the second time this summer but without us this time, to the country of hubby's and my birth, the Philippines. This will be the longest {10 days} and farthest that she'll be away from us.

Tomorrow she will fly... with a film crew from Compassion Canada, to film a 6-week youth curriculum series on what the Bible says about poverty and justice. This curriculum will be made available next year as a resource for youth groups across the country!

Tomorrow she will fly... to be the face and voice of this curriculum series. Such wild grace to see God answering my prayer that she be used by Him for the display His splendour! It is also a way that God is fulfilling her desire to speak out "for those who are denied a voice in society. The oppressed. The impoverished. The enslaved."

Dear beautiful daughter of mine...
Yes, you are mine... but you are first and foremost, God's daughter! As I have repeatedly told you since you were just a wee little girl, "God loves you infinitely more than I ever can!" So with that in mind, your mama will stretch out her arms and release you to fly... onto Kingdom purposes which He has prepared in advance for you to do.

And I will learn the delicate balance of releasing and embracing... this not-so-easy, yet oh-so-beautiful new rhythm that comes with this exciting new season of motherhood... of letting go and releasing you to fly, yet embracing you with love and covering you with prayers.
A mother holds her child's hand for just a short time, but holds their heart for a lifetime.
~ Author Unknown.
Her most favourite place to be... sitting behind the Compassion table!

Although at times I feel like I am incapable of facing this new season, I know that our Heavenly Father will give me the grace and the strength to do so. 

Although at times I feel like my heart is unraveling just thinking about tomorrow, I know that God is unraveling His perfect plan for your life, for the display of His splendour.

At Inspire Hope last month... introducing her social enterprise, Freedom Creations

Sharing her story at Inspire Hope.

Promo cards for the youth curriculum series that she will be hosting.

So... fly, my baby girl... fly! 

Fly tomorrow knowing that I am blessed beyond measure to be called your mama and I am super proud of you... deeply thankful for God's grace in your life and your willingness to follow where He leads!

He has truly blessed you...
... with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
... with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
... with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
... with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.
{Benedictine Blessing by Sr. Ruth Fox} 
Friends, will you join us...
In covering our baby girl in prayer as she embarks on this awesome God-assignment? Please click here for her prayer letter.

And even though I am not a brave mama because braveness is outside my comfort zone, I *will* be brave... and I will try not to bawl my eyes out at the airport tomorrow. But just in case, maybe I should just bring a box of tissue along with me. :)

:: :: ::

~ To follow my girl on this God-assignment: read her blog and follow her on Twitter or Instagram.
~ Take action by sponsoring a child with Compassion.

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