Monday, January 31, 2011

Quarter of the Way Already?!?

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I couldn't help but snap this photo at church on Sunday.  It truly is precious that grace appeared... the hour I first believed!  Love that hymn... it's one of those that never grows old.  

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So... I can't believe that I am already more than a quarter of the way to reaching #1,000 with my Multitude Mondays posts!  I doubt that I will stop at 1,000 because... counting these one thousand gifts with the community at A Holy Experience has absolutely been a gift in and of itself... truly food for the soul!

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Making new friends through the One Thousand Gifts community! This past week, I "met" a fellow Canadian.  Her family is in the process of adopting children from the Philippines, the country where hubby and I were born and raised.  The world wide web is indeed a small world!

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Receiving a final letter from our Compassion daughter, Annu and receiving the very first letter from our new Compassion daughter, Florianlyn both on the same day!

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Another Compassion child with whom we can correspond with.  He is one of many children whose sponsor doesn't or is unable to write to them.  His name is Frederic, he is 10 years old (just like my son!) and lives in Africa.  You can see his photo on the sidebar of this blog.

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The role of parenting... it can get tough at times!  Thankful for grace... it keeps me going on days when I feel inadequate.

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On days when parenting is challenging for me... I am ever grateful for grace as I think of how my Heavenly Father parents me.

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My girl's RCM Grace 3 piano exam mark came in... drum roll please... First Class Honours with Distinction!  90% which translates to being in the top 2%!  I am one proud mama!!!

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Being reminded of these song lyrics: ♪♫ When answers aren't enough there is Jesus.  He is more than just an answer to your prayer.  And your heart will find a safe and peaceful refuge.  When answers aren't enough He's there! ♫♪

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A great face-to-face meeting with the Site Pastor of our new church, the Uptown Toronto Site of The Meeting House.  We are very excited about what God has in store for us as we walk with Him in this new journey.  He truly is gracious and He truly is good.  My heart is overwhelmed...

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Checking out the high school where my girl will attend in September... thankful for opportunities we take for granted, opportunities that many in this world do not have, such as getting an education.

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Two more wins for my girl's basketball team this past week... still undefeated!

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A day off from school for my kids... an early morning coffee date with a friend for me.

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An unexpected Friday night play-date for my son and an unexpected Saturday night sleepover... good times.

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A trip to the mall with my girl... I love our chats!

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An opportunity to bless 100+ homeless folks with a Chinese New Year dinner!  So blessed to serve alongside friends and family...

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And, of course, Ann Voskamp's book... One Thousand Gifts, A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You AreTruly a blessing, a gift!  My copy came this past week.  I could not put it down once I started reading... a must-read!  Food for the soul...
   
Naming my one thousand gifts... every-day blessings, one by one, day by day!

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thanks-Living

Well... guess what arrived in the mail this week?!?  My copy of Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are!!!

I've been anticipating its arrival for weeks now... ever since I pre-ordered it just before Christmas.  So... upon its arrival, I naturally cracked open the pages right away.  I read and read and read and could not put it down.  It is truly an amazing book... each page speaking to the depths of my soul.  Truly a blessing, a gift!

It is a must-read!  Get a copy today, my friends!!!

Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book... excerpts from Chapter 10, Empty to Fill, Ann writes:
Eucharisteo means "to give thanks," and give is a verb, something that we do.  God calls me to do thanks.  To give the thanks away.  That thanks-giving might literally become thanks-living.  That our lives become the very blessings we have received.

I am blessed.  I can bless.  Imagine!  I could let Him make me the gift!

I could be the joy!

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.
Beautiful words... wonderful truth!

Our family had the opportunity to live out these words last night.  We, together with friends and extended family, made and served a Chinese New Year dinner to 100+ homeless folks.  We had an awesome time... thanks-giving in action!  Thanks-living...

Tables all set... ready for our guests!

The menu.

Busy preparing the food.

Cheese and veggie tray prep area.

The soup that took almost 3 hours to boil!!!

The wonton assembly line.

Frying the wontons!

My hubby, our trusty dishwasher! :-)

Dinner is served.

Dessert time!!!
Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kaitlin's Wish

This week I came across Kaitlin's Wish.  Kaitlin is a Canadian teenager with an incurable brain tumour.  While she was granted a wish by the Children's Wish Foundation, she said her wish couldn't be about herself... it had to be one with a purpose.  This story pulled at my heartstrings... I am praying for Kaitlin.  As her sister said in this interview, their family has hope because of their faith (in Jesus Christ)!

With her Children's Wish Foundation wish, Kaitlin chose to fund a Compassion project in Uganda that would provide safe, clean drinking water for children and their families.  As a result, the Children's Wish Foundation provided enough funds to cover one water project.  

Because Compassion Canada is overseeing 21 of these projects in Uganda at this moment in time, a campaign is underway to raise enough money in Kaitlin's honour to see all 21 water projects become a reality.  At the time of this blog post, 8 of the 21 water projects (maybe even more!) have already been funded!!!

Would you consider being a part of making Kaitlin's Wish become a reality and making the world a better place for many Ugandan children and their families at the same time?  If so, please click on this link to make a financial donation.  Thank you, my friends!

This is our family's way of practicing Micah 6:8 this week!  We are...   

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Am

... a poem written by my daughter about herself.

I AM

I am kind and smart.
I wonder what the future holds.
I hear music that sends a meaningful message.
I see the diverse faces of this world.
I want to save the world.
I am a Christian and I love Jesus.

I pretend to fly.
I feel a warm feeling in my heart when I am able to help others.
I touch the piano keys lightly to make beautiful music.
I worry that I'll make the wrong choice.
I cry that war has not ended.
I am sometimes serious and sometimes crazy.

I understand that nobody's perfect.
I say, "There is always hope."
I dream that one day I'll change the world.
I try to always do the right thing.
I hope that one day poverty will be a distant memory.
I am happy and caring.

And that, my friends, is my baby girl!  She is all that, and so much more because she is God's Gal!

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Extraordinary Joy in Ordinary Places

I read this quote by Janet L. Weaver one day during my Facebook meanderings:
Every morning is a fresh opportunity to find God's extraordinary joy in the most ordinary places.
Love it!  It is sooooo true... that is precisely why I continue to count my 1000 gifts.  I don't want to miss the many extraordinary joys in my ordinary every-days! 

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Sunshine streaming into my office through the window on a frigidly cold, -16*C winter day... I feel God's embrace through the warm rays!

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Baking cinnamon buns for breakfast... oh so yummy!

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My peppermint tea... warm and soothing.

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Lovely lunch with a good friend... celebrating her birthday.

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I made a new wreath for my front door... love unleashing my creativity by making beautiful things!

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A short but welcome respite from the deep freeze we've been experiencing... a balmy 1*C Tuesday afternoon!

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Another win for my girl's basketball team!  A perfect winning record so far...

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God's faithfulness as our family's journey continues... thankful that His mercy and His grace go before us in all the new things that will fill our every-days.

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My girl's RCM piano exam went very well.  I am so proud of how hard she worked to prepare for it.  We are excitedly awaiting results!

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Our whole family watching Hockey Night in Canada... hubby and my boy snuggled under the warm quilt!

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Sunday afternoon nap... ahhhhh, bliss!

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Writing letters to our Compassion children.  You can see all 5 of them on the photo strip I recently put up on the sidebar of this blog!

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For this blog post, my 400th... can't believe I've written 400 posts in 3-1/2 years!  Thankful for grace... so evident most recently in my 399th post, and also in all the words scribbled on these digital pages!!!

Extraordinary joys... my friends, they are gifts of grace!

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why Change?

After writing yesterday's very long blog post, my mind is still deep in thought... specifically on why God orchestrates change in the rhythms of our lives.

I don't often welcome change with an open heart because I am such a creature of habit.  But when I finally allow change to happen, I see God's fingerprints all over the mystery and the beauty of change!  It has God's grace written all over it... designed to shape and mold us into the masterpiece that He's created us to be.

I am reminded of this quote by Kathy Troccoli:
I know God is speaking to me when, in spite of my initial struggle, an undeniable release and peace follows when I have obeyed His voice. When I finally do the thing He has been nudging me to do, whether it's letting something or someone go, or taking a step toward the unknown, there is a deep calm in my soul. Where my heart and mind were once filled with terrible angst, I am now filled with a supernatural peace.
I just love this!  It is just so true.

I also read this article today from the Orange Parents blog.  It talks about why change should be a constant in our family's lives, in our parenting.  I found a couple of points mentioned in the article to be very interesting.  They are thoughts on how to avoid the dangers that come with the status quo as we seek to grow our children in God's ways.

Here are those thoughts from the article:
The problem is that the status quo can easily drift from what we want it to be. And before we know it our time with our kids is up.

So what do you do to avoid this? Here are a few things that help me break through the status quo:
  • Getting a clear picture of the end in mind. I imagine my life, my kids, my family ten years from now and ask “what do I want to be true”?
  • Having a life mission bigger than me. My faith moves me to a greater vision…and having a personal Saviour motivates me to personal action. Most of what I want to do is beyond my ability, but Christ empowers in ways we can never fully empower ourselves.
When these things are at work in my life, change becomes possible. If I really focus on them…change becomes inevitable.
Great points... points that I think hubby and I already employ in our family.  Perhaps that is why God has brought change to our family's rhythm this New Year.  I am thankful that God so graciously continues to give our family opportunities to be His hands and His feet in this hurting world.  
 
Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Friday, January 21, 2011

And The Journey Continues...

2011 marks a new beginning for our family!  It has been a wild ride getting to this new beginning.  I recently read the book, Interrupted, by Jen Hatmaker.  As I flipped from page to page, and read from chapter to chapter, I couldn’t help but recognize our family’s story on the pages of this book.  Reading the Hatmaker family’s story is what actually inspired me to attempt to write a narrative of our own story.  Mind you, this will be shorter… as it won’t be a whole book!

Writing a narrative of our family’s story, however, isn’t totally new to me.  Back in January 2008, I wrote one entitled Journey, Not Destination.  It was the story of how God led our family out of the church we had called home for 15 years and plunged us into a church planting ministry, helping to start a brand new church from scratch.

The narrative I am writing today would be about how God’s mercy, grace and faithfulness sustained us through the new church’s early years and about how He eventually led us to the place where we find ourselves this day.

I ended the narrative Journey, Not Destination like this:
Thus ends this journey and the next one begins! We are excitedly and eagerly anticipating what God has in store for us through this church plant. I know that it will be a wild ride --- another journey that will grow us and mold us into the people that God wants us to become! To God be all the glory.
A wild ride it was, indeed.  We have definitely grown over these three years and God has definitely been molding us… shaping us more and more into the likeness of what He wants us to become.  I can say without a shadow of a doubt that we are not the same people we once were.

This is our story, our narrative…

The year 2008 was exciting!  We were dreaming, vision-casting and planning. This was to be a church that sought to serve the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken --- giving hope by offering help.  Hubby and I were inspired by this vision.  It was something very different from what we’ve previously seen or heard.  We felt that it was God-inspired and we loved it!

Our family hit the ground running… trusting in the promise that God had given us in the form of the verse from Joshua 1:9 which says:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
April marked the start of pre-launch Sunday services with our eyes set on September for the public launch.  This brand-new church launched to the public with over 90 people in attendance.  People were excited, eager and enthusiastic.  We were always looking for opportunities to serve the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken which resulted in us doing food drives, cleaning the park, serving our neighbours during community events, visiting the elderly and running a summer sports day camp.

As anyone who has been involved with church planting would tell you, church planting work is hard and progress is slow.  Hubby and I came to realize this very quickly but we were enjoying every bit of this challenge.  God was opening doors and things were moving along.

Around May of 2009, God gave our family a verse.  It is from Isaiah 6:8 and it says:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
This became our family’s theme verse for the rest of 2009 and for the following year as well. We were always on the lookout as to where God wanted to send us. We sought to live an on mission lifestyle as a family… as a sent people. It was, of course, very natural for us to assume that God was indeed sending us to reach the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken through the church that we just very recently help to plant/start. We were truly loving the work that we were doing to reach into the community around us for the Kingdom.

2009 was uneventful. Well, not quite (really!)… but it was ‘business as usual’. We saw attendance starting to dwindle at this new church, which resulted in waning commitment as well. Hubby and I (and our kids) continued to serve in many capacities and filled in as best we can where there was a need. Although 2009 ended with less people who called this church their home than when it started, all in all it was a good year. Our family felt that we were still where God wanted us to be… we were optimistic, we felt good, comfortable, and safe.

Shouldn’t I know from previous experiences already?!? Isn’t it when we start to feel good, comfortable and safe that God shakes us out of our comfort zone? Well, that’s exactly how 2010 shaped up to be!

Our family started off year 2010 by claiming the verse from Isaiah 6:8 as our theme verse for the year --- Here I am. Lord, send me!  After all, we had just started to get really comfortable with the idea that God had indeed sent us to minister at this baby church plant, right? To reach the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken, right?  We were in this for the long haul, right?. Wrong!!!

Little did we know, God was going to do a lot of “sending” of our family during 2010. He had a plan for us that we didn’t even see coming…

On January 12, the earthquake hit Haiti. Our family, like many others, rushed to donate funds towards relief efforts. As we watched news coverage and read about the great need in Haiti, we heard the still small voice of the Spirit say… this is the kind of place where your charitable dollars should go to because these are the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken!

Later that month, a beggar approached our family in the parking lot of Costco… right here in suburbia! His name is Ken.  We were shocked. We’ve never experienced anything like that before. Maybe in downtown Toronto, but not here in our safe suburban community! He was begging for food… his family at home was hungry. We ended up giving him some groceries that we had just purchased. That was when we heard the still small voice of the Spirit say to us… this is who you should be giving hope to by offering help because he is the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken!

In March, I attended Living Proof Live. Beth Moore spoke from Isaiah 43:18-19:
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
I came home from the two-day event asking God what this new thing is that He is doing! There were many new things happening all around me… with my job, with new ministry opportunities through the larger church planting network. But, I sensed God saying to me those things were not the new thing. So, I decided to keep my heart open and waited for God to show me His new thing for our family!

In May, a friend of mine and her hubby went on a mission trip… to Haiti! Our family had the opportunity to donate funds and buy supplies for my friend and the team to bring to Haiti. The donated funds were able to purchase a piece of land on which the Haitian people can use for agriculture. I was also able to do a month-long prayer marathon right here on my blog for Team Haiti. As we read updates from Team Haiti and saw pictures upon their return, we heard the still small voice of the Spirit say to us… these are the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken!

At this time, I don’t think we had any clue still of what God was trying to say to our family…

The summer months were fast approaching and it was time to plunge full speed into planning for the 8-week summer sports day camps that our church offers for the community around us. Similar to the previous two years, hubby and I placed all our efforts and energies into making these day camps happen. We were busy, busy, busy!

At the same time, God made our paths cross again with a young man from our previous church. We found out that he is the Site Supervisor of a summer day camp that is located in one of the neediest communities in Toronto, in the Jane/Finch corridor. The children who attend this camp live in co-op housing units and most, if not all, come from difficult family situations.

Donors have made it possible for these children to attend this day camp for free. There they are taught, each and every single day, that God loves them and how they can live a life that pleases Him. Our friend, the Site Supervisor, also told us that they do not have a budget for snacks. This tugged at my heartstrings. We ended up committing to donate snacks and juice for 75 children for all 6 weeks of the summer program.

So while we were busy running our church’s day camp, at the same time we were driving over to Camp Freedom each week to deliver snacks and juice! It was during these once-a-week visits that our family got to know the children at Camp Freedom. We came to love them! It was also during these visits when we heard the still small voice of the Spirit say to us… look at these vulnerable children, these are the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken!

That was when the light bulb lit up in our hearts! We looked at the demographics of the children we were serving at our church’s day camp… then we looked at the demographics of the children from Camp Freedom. Only one group has the children who are the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken!

We finally heard loud and clear what God was trying to say to us all along! All this time, we thought we were doing a good job ministering to and serving the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken through our church, when in fact we were totally missing the mark!

But wait, how can I forget Joe and Abby?!? In July, we were once again at Costco when hubby and I saw a woman with a sign… it said: “Family of 7. Can’t find work. Need food. No money.” Another beggar… right here in our suburbia! I remember thinking: “Two beggars in a year, that’s a little bizarre.” Long story short, we talked to her and found out about their family’s situation. We ended up buying them groceries enough to last a whole week! As we drove away, we heard the still small voice of the Spirit say to us… there are many families like Joe and Abby's, they are the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken!

We get it, God! OK, we truly get it now! Hubby and I were suddenly plunged into a crisis… it felt like a decision was imminent. Clearly, God has shown us who the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken are... that we were missing the mark all this time! At the same time, we were not seeing eye-to-eye with the leadership at our church plant in many key areas. Things were at an impasse… we couldn’t see how we could share our new found vision and gain their support with so many other issues at hand.

We prayed for God to show us the right thing to do. There were many tears and many sleepless nights… we were wrestling with God. We finally came to the conclusion that in order for our family to go where God is sending us, we would have to leave our church plant! It was a tough decision to come to… we were sad to leave the few people who had become our friends over these three years. But, it all boils down to following when God leads.

October 1 marked the official start of the new phase of this journey. We didn’t have a church to call home but we trusted God to lead us to the right one in His own time. We prayed that He would lead us to a church that supports the vision that He has given our family… and we left it at that. As we visited several different churches during the Fall months, God's objective was to keep us busy with outreach projects that helped the truly last, the truly least, the truly forgotten, and the truly forsaken.

Here are some of the places God has sent us to these past few months:

· Our son had a Backpack Drive for the kids at Camp Freedom instead of getting gifts for his birthday. We were able to give 10 children new backpacks filled to the brim with school supplies just in time for the start of school.

· We started to correspond with two children from Honduras who are part of Compassion Canada’s program whose sponsors don’t or are unable to correspond with them.

· Our kids organized the Operation Christmas Child campaign at their school for Samaritan’s Purse. In total 352 gift-filled shoeboxes were collected and a majority of these shoeboxes were sent to Haiti!

· For hubby’s 45th birthday, we invited friends and family to join us in sorting food at the Food Bank.

· Making and serving dinner to 120 homeless folks through the Out of the Cold program.

· Buying Christmas presents for all the kids at Camp Freedom.

And then, a new verse for the New Year! It is none other than Micah 6:8 and it says:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
This verse came to our family via the teaching on the first Sunday of the New Year at the church we now call home, The Meeting House. God has answered our prayer… He has led us to a church that supports the vision that He has given our family.

A new year. A new church. A new verse. A new beginning.
I want... to be great because we fed hungry mommas and their babies.  I'd like to be great because we battled poverty with not just our money but our hands and hearts.  I desire the greatness that comes from not just seeking mercy but justice for those caught in a system with trapdoors.  I hope to be part of a great movement of the Holy Spirit, who injects supernatural wind and fire into His mission.  My version of great will come when others are scratching their heads and saying, "Wow, you live a really different life." --- from the book Interrupted, by Jen Hatmaker.
This is our story, our narrative… and here is where we start the next phase of this journey!

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Newest Read, Interrupted

My newest read is a book by Jen Hatmaker.  It is simply called Interrupted.  When I bought this book, I honestly didn't even know what it was all about.  I bought it because I needed to purchase one more book from Amazon.ca so that I wouldn't have to pay for shipping.  It was the first book cover I saw that looked attractive to me!!!

Nothing happens by chance though... I think God intended for me to read this book all along, that's why I ended up buying it.  You know what the theme of the book is?  Well... it is none other than Micah 6:8!  It talks about the very same things that God has impressed upon our family at the beginning of this year.  Coincidence?  I think not!

When I cracked open the book and started reading the first chapter, I said to hubby: "You won't believe what this book is all about.  Really... not again!"  He just grinned!  He knew exactly what I meant just by my facial expression. :-)  I love how he can read me like that!

Not only that, Jen Hatmaker writes about her family's journey of being interrupted (by God) while living their comfortable suburban Christian lifestyle and thrust into doing Micah 6:8 stuff.  As I flipped from page to page and read from chapter to chapter, I couldn't help but recognize my family's story in the pages on this book.  It is actually inspiring me to journal the narrative of our own story... one of these days, maybe!

Here are a couple quotes from the book that really resonated with me:
I want... to be great because we fed hungry mommas and their babies.  I'd like to be great because we battled poverty with not just our money but our hands and hearts.  I desire the greatness that comes from not just seeking mercy but justice for those caught in a system with trapdoors.  I hope to be part of a great movement of the Holy Spirit, who injects supernatural wind and fire into His mission.  My version of great will come when others are scratching their heads and saying, "Wow, you live a really different life."

Believer, your life is too essential to waste on pettiness or word wars, greed or ladder climbing, anger or bitterness, fear or anxiety, regret or disappointment.  Life is too short.  We must run, not walk, the way of Isaiah 58, embracing authentic faith manifested through mercy and community.  Living on mission requires nothing less.  It is a grand adventure, a true voyage into the kingdom of God.  Would you lose days, months, years pointing fingers and quarreling, or would you rather break yokes of oppression?  Imagine what would happen if we all chose the latter.  Our light would rise in the darkness, indeed.
Great insights indeed.  I have much to process still... but God has already used this book to encourage me much this week.  I feel extremely blessed! 

Speaking of breaking yokes of oppression, this past weekend we had the opportunity to attend a fund-raising music concert benefiting several Haitian orphanages.  My sister and her choir were invited to perform, that's how we heard about it.  One of the orphanages is Haiti Children's Home.  I read their website and learned a bit more about the work that they do.  I will for sure be investigating how our family can further be involved in helping them in the immediate future.

The concert, by the way, raised over $34,000 in two nights!  Our family is thankful for this particular opportunity to be a part of a movement to unwrap more of God's love for these Haitian orphans... even if it is just a little bit by a little bit each day.

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Figuring Life Out, One Thousand Gifts

I am eagerly watching my mailbox, both my email inbox for a shipping notification and the physical mailbox across the street from my house.  I can't wait to get my hands on Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts --- A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

If you are looking for a good book to read... I promise you this one won't disappoint!  I've been a reader of Ann's blog, A Holy Experience, for quite some time now and have truly, TRULY been blessed by her words.

As I wait for the book to arrive... I continue to count my 1000 gifts and enjoy this sneak peek via video:

Please pause the Playlist on the sidebar of this blog as you watch this video.


Happy Monday, everyone!

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

These Ordinary Days...

I am counting bountiful blessings on these ordinary days!  At church yesterday, we sang the song From The Inside Out.  Part of the lyrics jumped out at me like never before... here they are:
A thousand times I've failed,
Still YOUR mercy remains.
And should I stumble again,
I'm caught in YOUR grace.

Let justice and praise become my embrace,
To love YOU from the inside out.
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Although my stomach is still queasy at times from my bout with the stomach flu the week before, I am back to my routines... very thankful for the strength that God provides for each day.

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A "coffee date" with a friend... although I had peppermint tea because of my queasy tummy.  Thankful that we can remain in contact and encourage one another even though we don't belong to the same church anymore.

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LEGO Mindstorm team meetings have resumed at my son's school... very cool to see how young minds think and process challenges.

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My daughter is getting new retainers for her lower teeth... progress is great after almost 18 months with braces.

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Encouraging and uplifting words from three friends all during this past week... truly evidence of God's grace for I am unable to be those words if not for grace.  Humbled.

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Basketball, basketball and more basketball.  My daughter's school team officially started competing with a full schedule this past week.  Thankful that most of the games are home games! :-)

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Wednesday's basketball game... a win at home!

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Thursday's basketball game... another win at home!  These girls are on a roll...

233.
My grandmother, who is now 101-years-old and lives in the Philippines, had a bad fall and fractured her hip.  Partial hip replacement surgery is being done as I type this.  If not, she will be bedridden for the rest of her life.  Yet she has an unstable heart which could result in a heart attack during surgery.  Fervently praying for God's grace to sustain her: "God, please give Ama enough strength for the days and weeks ahead... and please guide the surgeon's hands!"  I am also thankful for technology.  I just received a video via email of my grandma praying... it is very precious!

***edited to add:
Surgery went very well.  Grandma is now in recovery in the Cardiac Care Unit.  Praises be to my God for His goodness and His amazing grace!  Words just aren't enough... shedding tears of joy with a very thankful heart!!!

234.
An unexpected gift from hubby's aunt.  God is good!

235.
Opportunities for our family to keep remembering Haiti... one year after the earthquake.

236.
My newest read... Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker.

237.
Lovely Friday night dinner with friends!  This is a family we got to know at our previous church.  When we made the decision to leave the church in the Fall of last year, one of the saddest things for me is that we won't be able to connect anymore with the people who we have come to love.  But, God is gracious... He's allowed us to keep in touch with most of these friends.  For that, my heart is happy!

238.
Awesome time of worship and learning at our new church yesterday.  God is truly good... the journey He takes us through, although painful and tough at times, always ends up in awesomeness!

239.
Thankful for an opportunity to give towards Haiti at a 2-night fund-raising concert where my sister sang with her choir.  The beneficiaries are several Haitian orphanages, one of which is Haiti Children's Home.  Over $34,000 was raised!!!  So cool!!! 

240.
New pillows.     

My friends... these ordinary days are when God's grace is most special!  My prayer is that they are as real to you as they are to me...

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haiti - One Year Later

Today, my heart is thinking about Haiti.

It's been one year since the earthquake struck!  It seems like Haiti has been forgotten by the world, including by me!  You know that saying: "Out of sight, out of mind!"  Because the media has been so quiet about Haiti, those of us here in North America have also forgotten!  Sadly, the reality is that Haiti is still in dire need.

This past Sunday, my kids and I watched, via webcast, Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham... LIVE from Haiti!  It was a great reminder to our family that, indeed, Haiti still needs our help.  I have a feeling that they still will for a very long time... :-(

It truly impressed me that Samaritan's Purse is still actively working on the ground in Haiti one year later!  While many other international relief organizations have packed up and left, they are still persevering.

One of the things they are working hard to provide for the Haitian people right now are shelters.  These semi-permanent shelters are definitely a step up from the tents created out of cardboard, bedsheets and sticks that the Haitian people had before.

Here's a short video about how Samaritan's Purse is providing these shelters and how important they are for the Haitian people:

Please pause the Playlist on the sidebar of this blog as you watch this video.


Did you know that $1200 can provide a Haitian family with one of these shelters?  If you would like to donate towards one of these shelters, you can do so by clicking on this link.  Our family is thrilled to have been introduced to this opportunity --- we will definitely be joining hands with Samaritan’s Purse to bring a home to a Haitian family by donating funds.

Another thing our family has decided to do on this one year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti is to sponsor a little Haitian boy through Compassion Canada!  So, without further ado... please meet Bell Bradley Pierre!
   

He is four years old and has the same birthday as my son!  How cool is that!!!  Our family is very much looking forward to start corresponding with Bell.

He will be our 5th Compassion child... we said goodbye to our first one, Annu from India, because she moved away from the Compassion community. We then sponsored a little girl, Florianlyn, from the Philippines in place of Annu.  By the way, we just received the information package on Florianlyn and found out that she lives on an island just north of where hubby and I were born and raised.  Very cool indeed!

We also correspond with two Compassion children from Honduras, Geydi and Junior, on behalf of their sponsors who don't or are unable to correspond with them.  Thus, making Bell the fifth Compassion child for our family.

So... these are a few ways that our family is choosing to practice Micah 6:8 and also to keep Haiti in the forefront of our thoughts and in our prayers!

Would you please join us in remembering?
 
Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ordinary Graces...

Back to routine... back to everyday life.  God's grace still new every morning... especially on ordinary days!

213.
Reconnecting with friends over the Christmas break via email... hoping to get together in the coming weeks!

214.
My growing son... his shoe size went from size 4 to size 6 over the Christmas break!

215.
Great first day back to work for hubby and me... great first day back to school for the kids.

216.
My daughter doing very well preparing for her upcoming Royal Conservatory of Music piano exam.  She is hoping for a great result!  I am very proud of her focus and determination.

217.
Leftovers!  I don't have to make dinner.

218.
Hubby receiving a plaque of appreciation from Habitat for Humanity Toronto for his work in ensuring a smooth transition to their new home where IT and telecommunication systems are concerned.  Thankful for God's grace as hubby worked very long hours to make this happen those few days between Christmas and New Year... extremely proud of my man!

Plaque of appreciation presented by HFHT CEO Neil Hetherington.

219.
Beautiful snowfall.

220.
I was knocked-out by a stomach flu for a few days this past week... thankful for my doting hubby, my warm bed and my very understanding boss who ordered me to turn off my computer until Monday (today!). :-)

221.
Yummy congee for this sick girl's tummy!  Hubby went to buy some (twice!) even though it was snowing bad... nearest congee restaurant is in the neighbouring city.  Did I already say he's one doting hubby?!?  Each day I thank God for giving me a priceless gift in my wonderful hubby... I am blessed beyond measure... all because of grace!

222.
A reminder that as Christ followers, we are to live life radically!

223.
Finally feeling better from my bout with the flu... making Sunday night dinner and thankful that my Heavenly Father is also the Great Physician.

224.
There is finally enough snow on the ground for the kids to go tobogganing! 

Until next Monday... may you also see God's grace in your every-days!

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Compassion By Command

The teaching series at church these two weeks, Compassion By Command, has really been relevant to our family!  Here are some of the quotes from today's session:
In a world of arrogance, we are for humility. In a world of individualism, we are for community. In a world of excess, we are for simplicity. In a world of power, we are for submission. In a world of triumphalism, we are for brokenness.
– Shane Claiborne,
Forward from Simple Spirituality by Chris Heurtz
We have to possess before we can give. He who has the mission of giving to others must grow first in the knowledge of God. He must be full of that knowledge.
– Mother Teresa
Compassion is nourishment for relationships. It holds families and communities together. Relationships grow stronger through compassion. This ability to be there for others, when it counts, speaks louder than any words. When people are truly there for one another in their darkest hour, the bonds of trust and love go deep.
– Simon Fox, The Practice of Compassion
Every time you sacrifice something at great cost, every time you renounce something that appeals to you for the sake of the poor – you are feeding a hungry Christ.
– Mother Teresa
Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.
– Jesus, Luke 9:48 (NIV)
My daughter's teacher at school showed them this Sarah McLachlan music video... very relevant indeed to what we've been commanded to do as followers of Jesus Christ!

Happy Sunday, everyone!  I am finally better from my stomach flu (I think) and ready to tackle a new week.

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Radical, The Book

So... I was knocked out by a stomach flu for the past two days... confined to my bed.  I slept the first day away.

On the second day, although my body was weak, my mind was fully awake!  I decided I would not waste a second day sleeping... so I picked up my copy of David Platt's Radical and decided to re-read it again.

Can I just say... this time, words were leaping out of the book at me!  The book's message very much in line with what God has been impressing upon our family this New Year!  Amazing!!!

This is the same book that my hubby couldn't put down during our vacation this past summer.  People who know him personally would know he's not an avid reader.  So... for him to read a book from cover to cover in just a few sittings would have to mean the book has captivated him a lot!

Here's a short video about the book... 

Please pause the Playlist on the sidebar of this blog as you watch this video.


As a Christ follower, there is no other way but to live life radically! It is His command to us.  I am looking forward to hearing the 2nd part of the teaching on Compassion By Command at church tomorrow.  

When God speaks to us, we must respond!

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Stephen Colbert Quote

I came across this quote by Stephen Colbert on Facebook today. It is actually quite convicting... isn't it?  And, quite in line with what's been on my mind this first week of the New Year. 

 
Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Quotes from Sunday's Teaching

Here are some quotes I'm chewing on.  They are from the teaching at church this past Sunday... definitely some food for thought!
North American Christians need to overcome the materialism of Western culture and see poverty in more relational terms. It requires us to understand our brokenness and to embrace the message of the cross in deep and profound ways, saying to ourselves everyday: ‘I’m not OK; and you’re not OK; but Jesus can fix us both.’
– Corbett & Fikkert, When Helping Hurts

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these.”
– Jesus, from Mark 12:28-31, NAS

So fundamental to the life of faith are these twin teachings of loving God and loving neighbor that they are given top priority in God’s original handwritten instructions for daily living. Christ later underscored their central importance by declaring that the entire law is contained in these two inseparable commands.
– Robert D. Lupton,
Compassion, Justice and Christian Life:
Rethinking Ministry to the Poor

No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
– Isaiah 58:6-7, NLT

Jesus connected himself forever with Isaiah and his call. And by proclaiming it in the context of worship, he makes it clear this is a call that is to impact who, what and how we are Church. Jesus believed the words of Isaiah. They were the words of his childhood, the text of his training, the soil out of which he grew. He came to fulfill them. Jesus’ connection of himself with the words of Isaiah tell us that this is an important indicator of what Jesus is about and therefore what we are to be about.
– Karen Stiller, The Responding Church Network,
World Vision Canada

In our engagement of human suffering, we discover the relevance of God’s suffering on the cross. In our relationships among friends who are oppressed, we discover that establishing justice is something divine and human – spiritual.
– Chris Heuertz, The Cry, Fall 2008

There are different kinds of poverty in India. Some people live and die in hunger. But in the West you have another kind of poverty, spiritual poverty. This is far worse. People do not believe in God, do not pray, do not care for each other. You have the poverty of people who are dissatisfied with what they have, who do not know how to suffer, who give in to despair. This poverty of heart of often more difficult to relieve and to defeat.
– Mother Teresa

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
– Micah 6:8, NLT
Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Micah 6:8

I am thinking more about the verse from Micah 6:8 that our family is claiming as our theme verse for this New Year.  In my own paraphrase...
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!
To act justly is to promote justice, to confront injustice and oppression, to strive to alleviate inequalities... both locally and globally.

To love mercy is to love being compassionate to those, locally and globally, who are less fortunate than us, to express kindness to them.

To walk humbly with God is to live in obedience to God's greatest commands, to live in a way that is free of arrogance, judgmental-ism and self-righteousness.

Isaiah 58:7 paints the picture very clearly... in the NIV it says:
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
   and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
This is what our family will be practicing throughout this year... regularly, praying that, with God's grace, it will become our lifestyle.  It's not an easy task... but God's grace will be sufficient!

I recently learned a song by Sarah Walker and it is called Offering.  It is based on the words from Micah 6:8.  I am loving this song.  You can have a listen to it on the widget below, if you want! :-)

Please pause the Playlist on the sidebar of this blog as you listen to the song Offering by Sarah Walker. 

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!