Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spanish Pot Roast

Here's the other recipe I tried that was successful... it had enough leftovers for another night!  I like that. :-)
Spanish Pot Roast
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 6 hours
Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients:
3 lb boneless beef cross rib pot roast
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion , thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz prosciutto, diced
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1 cup sodium reduced beef stock
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 can (28 oz) tomatoes, drained
1 cup sliced roasted red peppers
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 sweet green pepper, thinly sliced

Preparation:
Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. In large skillet, heat half of the oil over medium-high heat; brown beef, adding more oil if necessary. Transfer to slow cooker. Drain fat from pan. Add remaining oil; fry onion, garlic, prosciutto and marjoram over medium heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add stock and sherry; bring to boil, scraping up brown bits. Pour into slow cooker.

Add tomatoes and red peppers; cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until beef is tender. Transfer beef to cutting board; tent with foil and let stand for 15 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, whisk flour with 3 tbsp water; whisk into slow cooker. Whisk in tomato paste. Add green pepper; cover and cook on high for 15 minutes or until thickened. Serve with beef.
Bon appetit!!!

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

Chicken and Dumplings

I am happy to report that our family has been successfully eating in {for Lent} for three weeks now.  If you know me in real life, you'd agree with me that this is quite an achievement! You see, cooking is not on the list of 'My Favourite Things'.  I cook because I have to.  It is very easy to persuade me to eat out or to order pizza. :-)

I am thankful that God gave us the opportunity to practice Lent this year.  It is definitely leading us towards developing a discipline that molds the body and the soul towards Christ and towards God's will.  For us, it is to give the same money that we would have spent eating out during these six weeks of Lent to this organization where we can help send six under-privileged Filipino children to school for one whole year!

My hope is that this is just the beginning for us... that we would be able to help send more of these children to school and committing to doing so until they graduate high school.

So... where was I?  Yes, the topic of cooking.  In the last week or so, I've had the opportunity to try out a few more new recipes.  Some weren't as successful but a couple of them were!  Here's one that we had just last night... and another one will be posted shortly.    
Chicken and Dumplings
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

3 tbsp unsalted butter
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
3/4 tsp salt
1 large onion, chopped
227-g package sliced mushrooms
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, or 1 tbsp dried dillweed
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 bay leaves

Dumplings
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk

Melt butter in a large pot set over medium.  Sprinkle both sides of chicken thighs with salt.  In 2 batches, add to pot and cook until light golden, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove to a plate.

Add onion and mushrooms to pot.  Cook until onions soften, about 3 minutes.  Sprinkle with garlic powder and dill.  Add carrots, celery and bay leaves.  Return chicken and any juices to the pot along with 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil.  Using a wooden spoon, scrape up and stir in any brown bits from pan bottom.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 5 minutes.

Stir flour with parsley, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl until combined.  Stir in milk.  When chicken has simmered 5 minutes, drop batter in 8 equal portions over stew.  Cover and continue simmering until dough rises and cooks through, about 15 more minutes.
Bon appetit!!!

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Be Lifted High

This week, I am loving Michael W. Smith's version of a song called Be Lifted High.  I've heard it before but somehow, for some unknown reason, it is resonating with me at this moment in time.  Here's a video of it...

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

These words, in particular, I am loving...
Don't let me forsake sacrifice
Jesus, You be lifted high

You be lifted high
You be lifted high
You be lifted high in my life, oh God
And I fall to my knees
So it's You that they see not I
Jesus, You be lifted high
Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

This Is Why...

... our family supports the mission and ministry of Habitat for Humanity Toronto!

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


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

Monday, March 28, 2011

Unwrapping Love, Lighting Candles

Yesterday, my girl competed in the region-wide Public Speaking Contest sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion.  She won third place with her speech on Global Poverty entitled Light A Candle!  She delivered her speech with passion and emotion... the best she's ever done before!  I am sooooo proud of her.

And... what made my heart even fuller is how she has chosen to spend her prize money!  She chose to use it to buy bed nets for children in the third world.  I am humbled by God's grace in my girl's life... God has truly given her a great heart full of love and compassion for the less fortunate!  A beautiful heart... a beautiful girl, not only on the outside, but more importantly from the inside out!  I am one proud mama! :-)

In honour of my girl's decision of where to spend her prize money, the rest of the family {hubby, myself and our boy} is joining her in buying bed nets.  Last night, we pooled together and bought bed nets worth 23 times the prize money!!!  And... we had an awesome time around the computer screen doing it... by reading stories and watching videos of how this money is going to translate into bed nets for children in Africa!  

Here she is with her award plaque... 


I came third place. :) With the prize money, I'm gonna buy bed nets for kids in Africa. I react pretty badly to mosquito bites, and I can't even imagine what it'd be like to get a disease from a mosquito bite. :/ Wanna donate to fight malaria too? You can, by clicking on this link, and watching the video below:
Please pause the Playlist on the sidebar of this blog as you watch the video.


Happy Monday, everyone!  This is how our family is unwrapping more of His love in this world this week.  Will you join us by lighting your candle?

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

New Every Morning!

The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
         For His compassions never fail.
    They are new every morning;
         Great is Your faithfulness.
    "The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
         "Therefore I have hope in Him." 
~ Lamentations 3:22-24 (NASB)
#457 - #473
~ A God-given new start each and every morning!
~ Spring is here!
~ Refreshing Spring rains... 
~ Those mini Easter chocolate eggs... yum! Where'd they go? :-)
~ Neighbours who deliver my lost mail.
~ Early Spring snowstorm {hopefully, Winter's one last hurrah?}.
~ Volunteering at my kids' school.
~ My girl volunteering to ref the Junior Girls' basketball game!
~ Good dental care... and insurance coverage from my workplace.
~ Re-done laundry room... fresh paint and new storage space! :-)
~ Singing in worship while I drive...
~ A second cup of coffee... for days when I'm sleep-deprived. :-)
~ Readily available food in stores... a blessing often taken for granted.
~ Successfully eating in {for Lent}... it's truly been a blessing!
~ My girl won Third Place in the Regional Public Speaking Contest with...
~ Her speech on Global Poverty and...
~ She is buying bed nets for kids in the 3rd world with her prize money!

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

Friday, March 25, 2011

Quiet Week

Happy Friday, everyone!  It's been a quiet week here on my blog because... I've been busy painting!  

Every now and then, I get this "itch" to re-paint different areas of our house.  I've had this most recent "itch" for a couple of months now.  So, over the last week or so when my workload got a little lighter... I jumped on the opportunity and picked up the paint roller!

What started as a small project to re-paint our two upstairs bathrooms grew into, well... a bigger project!  It took me just one day to do those two bathrooms so I figured I'd get the basement bathroom re-painted as well.  When the basement bathroom got done in one night, well... I became ambitious. :-)  

My heart was set on re-doing our laundry room next.  It's the one room in the whole house that has never been painted yet... and we've been in this house for almost 17 years now!  It still has the original builder's paint and it's in poor shape... after all, this room is used a lot!  It's not only the laundry room, it also serves as our "mud room" where everything gets deposited once we enter the house {because it is situated by the front door}!

So... this week, I set out to attack our laundry room with these two paint colours:


Here is the work-in-progress:


I am looking forward to the finished project, which should be sometime this weekend!  Two IKEA storage units still need to go up... waiting on hubby to get the right anchor hardware so that the shelves don't fall down on us! :-)

I know I am going to love the new storage space!  Before, we just had stuff piled along the wall or hung behind the door.  Now, they will have their own "home" on the shelves!  I love organizing stuff... can you see the big smile on my face?!

Speaking of organizing stuff, I am currently reading a book called Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider.  I'm not too far into it yet, but I think it's going to be a great read.  Here's a quote from the first few pages:
What does it look like for a modern-day family to live simply while still participating in afterschool sports, errand running, and getting enough sleep to not go insane?  Simple living is about living your life with a purpose that aligns with your values.  It's about enjoying the things you love and care about and not about stressing over the things that don't matter.  It's fulfilling; it brings peace; it drips with contentment.  Living simply is about being who you were made to be.
Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Loved One...

UrbanPromise March Break Camp: kids enjoying the muffins we brought!!! :-)

#432 - #456
~ Still in awe with the truest meaning of my name... loved one!
~ My boy and his LEGOs... oh what joy!
~ The sound of my girl practicing piano, and...
~ Learning to play the flute.
~ Lazy March Break days...
~ Spending a March Break morning with UrbanPromise children, and...
~ Blessing them with muffins donated by Sandy's Sweets!
~ A new chicken recipe... it's a hit!
~ Movie day with my kiddos... we watched Mars Needs Moms!
~ Large bag of popcorn and large pop... only at the movies!!!
~ Samaritan's Purse on the ground in Japan!
~ Fresh paint for our upstairs bathrooms.
~ My girl preparing dinner.
~ King David's Psalm 27.
~ My new-found enjoyment of cooking, truly a grace-gift!
~ Our accountant... so I don't have to do our taxes!
~ A good and happy marriage... which is sadly uncommon these days.
~ Sleepovers.
~ Blogging on a quiet Saturday morning.
~ The arrival of robins, cardinals and blue jays in our yard!
~ My boy's newly found amusement, Hexbugs!
~ Fun family time at the CCAA national basketball championship games
~ Uplifting time of worship at church.
~ A third bathroom re-painted!
~ An enjoyable and quiet March Break.
God gives His gifts where He finds the vessel empty enough to receive them.  ~ C.S. Lewis
Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Orange Soy Braised Pork Ribs

And here's the last of my recipe postings for the day.  I made this last night.  It was easy to prepare and was another huge hit with my resident picky eater! :-)
Orange Soy Braised Pork Ribs
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 2 hours
Makes: 4-6 servings

4 pounds pork ribs, cut up into single pieces
1/2 tsp each salt and black pepper
1-1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1/2 cup light soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)

Season pork ribs with salt and pepper.

In large pan, saute ginger and garlic with a little oil for about 2-3 minutes.  Add orange juice, soy sauce and sugar.  Bring to boil.

Add seasoned pork ribs to pan making sure each piece is coated with sauce.  Lower heat to lowest setting.  Cover pan.

Braise ribs on lowest setting for 2 hours.
Transfer ribs to platter; keep warm.  Skim fat from cooking liquid if desired, then make glaze by boiling liquid, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 15 minutes.  Brush glaze generously on ribs.
Very tasty served with garlic bread, plus veggies with dip.  Bon appetit!!!

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

Chicken with Morel Sauce

Here's the chicken recipe I tried out this past week... oh so yummy!  Another huge hit with my picky eater...
Chicken with Morel Sauce
Prep: 10 minutes
Stand: 30 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Makes: 6 servings

1-1/2 cups sodium-reduced chicken broth
1 pkg (1/2oz or 14g) dried morel mushrooms
1 chicken, cut into pieces
1 tsp each salt and pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

In saucepan, bring broth to boil.  Remove from heat.  Add mushrooms; let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper; dredge in flour.  In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat; brown chicken.  Remove to plate. Drain fat from pan.

Add butter to skillet; cook shallots and garlic over medium heat until softened.  Pour in sherry; boil for 2 minutes, scrapping up browned bits.

Add cream, thyme and broth with mushrooms, being careful not to add any grit.  Return chicken to pan; bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until thickened and juices run clear when chicken is pierced, 45 minutes.  Sprinkle with parsley.
Very yummy served over plain white rice.  Bon appetit!!!

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

Beef Carbonnade

Last week, I wrote about our family celebrating Lent for the first time this year.  I honestly thought it would be a hard thing for us to do --- this not eating out at all!  Today, I am here to tell you that I've actually been pleasantly surprised!  If you know me in person, you'd know that cooking is not my favourite thing to do... I cook because my family needs to eat! :-) 

The kids and I have been cooking together {some nights} and having a lot of fun doing it.  For me, personally, I've managed to surprise myself by trying out a few new recipes... and it's only been one week and a bit since Lent started.  These new recipes have been a hit so far... they are definitely going to become part of our family's regular menu!  I am actually looking forward to trying out more new recipes in the coming weeks.

Maybe, just maybe, our family will be able to send a few more under-privileged Filipino children to school... once I get the hang of this thing called making-dinner-each-and-every-night! ;-)

So... to help me keep track of these new recipes, I am going to post them here on my blog under a new label called "cooking".  This first one is called Beef Carbonnade... a couple more will be posted shortly!
Beef Carbonnade
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 7 hours
Makes: 8 servings

*This Belgian beef and onion stew braised with beer reheats well, so it's no-fuss party fare.  Spoon it over egg noodles, mashed russet or sweet potatoes, polenta, barley or rice.

5 large onions
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 lbs stewing beef cubes (or braising beef ribs!)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
4 thick slices of bacon, chopped
1 tsp crumbled dried thyme
1/2 tsp each crumbled dried basil, oregano and sage
1 bay leaf
1 bottle lager beer (or more, enough to almost cover beef)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Peel and cut onions in half lengthwise; slice thinly crosswise to make 8 cups.  Set aside.

In large bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper.  One-third at a time, toss beef in flour mixture to coat; reserve any remaining flour mixture.

In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; brown beef, in batches and adding more oil if necessary.  Transfer beef to slow cooker.

Add more oil to skillet enough to coat pan; fry bacon over medium heat just until starting to crisp.

Add onions, thyme, basil, oregano, sage, bay leaf and any remaining flour mixture; cook, stirring, until onions are softened, about 8 minutes.  Scrape into slow cooker.

Add beer to skillet; bring to boil, scrapping up brown bits from bottom of pan.  Scrape into slow cooker along with mustard.  Stir to combine.

Cover and cook on low until slightly thickened and beef is tender, 7 to 8 hours.  Discard bay leaf.  Serve sprinkled with parsley.
This one was a huge hit with my boy... he's my gauge because he's my picky eater!  Oh, also... during the last hour in the slow cooker, I added chopped up potatoes and carrots!  And, a bonus... this recipe had enough left-overs for another meal!  Bon appetit!!!

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

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Living Simply. Giving Generously.

A video came through my Facebook news feed today.  It is a short video published by our church.  It made me truly thankful {once again} for the fact that God has so graciously led us to call this church home in recent months.

A recurrent theme each Sunday, on Facebook posts, on Twitter tweets is the message of doing compassion, both locally and globally, encouraging us to live simply and to give generously.  Very much in line with what God has impressed upon our family... what He desires for us to do and to be.

Here's the video:
 
{Please pause the Playlist on the sidebar of this blog as you watch the video.  Thanks!}


To watch Dr. Spurrier's full interview, please follow this link.

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Emilda is Olympics-Bound!


About a month ago, I blogged about Emilda and how you can help send her to the Special Olympics in Greece this Summer.  Today, I am very happy to report that the fund-raising goal has been reached and Emilda is Olympics-bound!!! :-)

Here is her story:
Emilda is an 18 year-old sponsored child with the mental capacity of a three year-old. She lives in a squatter community in the Philippines. And she's fast!
In 2009 Emilda competed in the Philippine Special Olympics and she performed well enough to qualify for the World Special Olympics in Athens, Greece this Summer.
Emilda's parents are unable to pay her way to Greece and neither is the Philippine government. Her need is $19,857.
You can read more about Emilda by following this link.

Thank you, my friends... thank you for your generousity!
Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back — given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. (Luke 6:38 The Message)
Emilda is Olympics-bound!!!

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

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

When The Earth Moved...

The situation in Japan is occupying my heart and mind this week and I am honestly finding it difficult to process everything...

While we slept soundly last Friday {March 11}, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and powerful tsunami devastated the island of Japan.  We've all seen the video footage and the photos... the images gripped me, especially those of little children and elderly people!  Not only is the devastation unimaginable, they are now also having to deal with a nuclear emergency as a result of the earthquake and tsunami.

For a few days... our family sat glued to the TV and the computer screen with a feeling of helplessness.  This morning, I was so happy to find out that Samaritan's Purse is now on the ground in Japan!  Among many things, they are "organizing a 747 cargo jet to airlift emergency relief such as blankets, hygiene supplies, heavy-duty plastic shelter materials, and water filtration systems. The plane is scheduled to depart for Japan on Friday {March 18}."

Our family will be donating funds to support Samaritan's Purse in their mission to deliver emergency aid to Japan.  Will you join us?  Every dollar helps!!!  For fellow Canadians, you can donate by following this link.  For non-Canadians, you can donate via this link.  Thank you so much for your generousity!

As I pray for Japan and as our family donate money towards relief efforts, I am still left with this sense of helplessness.  It seems surreal to be sitting right here at my desk typing this blog post while halfway around the globe there is utter devastation!

Mothers separated from their children... families losing loved ones... people losing everything...

As I keep pondering these things, I arrive at the same place each time... there is only One who makes perfect sense... One who comforts... One who reconciles  all things.  He is the only One whom I can cling to, whose hand I can hold, whose heart I can trust!

And, I sense Him saying to me: This is the time to keep on unwrapping LOVE in this world {right where you are} because everywhere is brokenness, everywhere is devastation, everywhere is people in need of compassion!

So our family does precisely that!  This week is March Break and we've chosen the organization called UrbanPromise Toronto for us to unwrap LOVE at!  This organization offers a free March Break camp for 120 under-privileged children who live in government housing located in three of the neediest communities in Toronto.  Our family, together with two other families we know, are providing all the snack and lunch foods for this camp!

Today, my kids and I spent the morning at UrbanPromise... what a gift and blessing it was for us to witness this camp in action!  God is truly good... He is amazing... He is LOVE!

Here is my girl sitting with some of the children and their camp leaders!

I see it now... as our family continues to pray for the people of Japan and as we donate funds towards relief efforts, I don't need to feel helpless because I have a God who is in control, who's got the whole world in His hands!

All we need to do is continue to be His hands and His feet... being sensitive to the prompting of His Spirit as to where He would like us to go!

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

Monday, March 14, 2011

Filled Because Of Grace

Use me then, my Savior, for whatever purposes and in whatever way you may require.  Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel; fill it with your grace.
~ D.L. Moody
#413 - #431
~ Heart-warming sunshine.
~ My sister's home-cooking every Monday night!
~ A new slow-cooker beef stew recipe...
~ Neighbourhood all-day breakfast restaurant.
~ McFlurries...
~ Chapter 10 of One Thousand Gifts.
~ Our family practicing Lent for the first time...
~ The opportunity to send six under-privileged Filipino children to school.
~ God's protective hand... preventing a bad accident.
~ Free replacement lenses for my glasses.
~ God's living Word, the Bible.
~ Insurance discounts.
~ A productive day.
~ March Break!
~ The opportunity to pour out... to be a blessing!
Our family {together with two other families} is going to be providing the snack and lunch foods for 120 children from low-income families as they attend a March Break camp where they will learn about God's love!
~ Giving thanks for the two families {mentioned above}.
~ Back to House league basketball! My girl played a-w-e-s-o-m-e!!!
~ My boy made the school's junior boys' basketball team! What joy!
~ God is always good and I am always loved...

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

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One Thousand Gifts - Chapter 11 and Afterword

The vlog for Chapter 11 and the Afterword of Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts is now online!  I have been so blessed by this book... I truly do not want it to end!  But one thing is certain --- although the reading of this book has come to an end, the practice of eucharisteo is going to continue for me!  As Ann writes in this chapter, The Joy of Intimacy, it is God's will for us to always give thanks in all things.

Here are my favourite quotes from this chapter...
He's singing that song!  The one I really didn't believe He sang!  "He will take delight in you with gladness.  With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs" (Zephaniah 3:17).

Years of Christian discipleship, Bible study, churchgoing had been about me thinking about God; practicing eucharisteo was the very first I had really considered at length what God thought of me - this ridiculous and relentlessly pursuing love, so bold.  Everywhere, everything, Love!

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you" (John 15:4). He's calling me to graft on, to become one with the True Vine, the vine the biblical symbol of joy, festivity... fullness.  He's calling to come and celebrate being made one, and in Him, by Him, to bear the fruit of the full life round.

"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name" (Psalm 100:4 KJV).

Not take anything. Not ask anything, demand anything, petition anything.  I could simply give something to God.  A gift to Him!  Like He had given one thousand, countless, gifts to me!  This I could do!

I could bless God - caress with thanks!

... we're called to do more than believe in God; we're called to live in God.  To enter into Christ and Christ enter into us - to cohabit.  Is this why it is His will for us to always give thanks in all things - the unbroken communion?

Communion with God, what was broken in the Garden, this is wholly restored when I want the God-communion more than I want the world-consumption.
Then came what Ann wrote in the Afterword...
"A-I-M-E-E." Loved one.

God is always good and I am always loved and eucharisteo has made me my truest self, "full of grace."  Doesn't eucharisteo rename all God's children their truest name:

"Loved one."
Aimee is the name of Ann's sister... the sister whose tragic death Ann wrote about in the starting pages of this book.  The tragedy that marked the beginning of Ann's journey towards full communion with God.

Tears fell as I read the portion I quoted above from the Afterword.  This book and the practice of eucharisteo has indeed transformed me.  Eucharisteo has allowed me to see Grace every single day.  Each new day, I am on the hunt for grace-gifts!

And... eucharisteo didn't need to rename me... like Ann, it has made me my truest self, "loved one."  For my blog readers who do not know me in real life, that is my name.

Aimee --- it means loved one! :-)
God is always good and I am always loved...
Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Celebrating Lent

This year, our family is celebrating Lent for the first time!  I guess it just never occurred to us to do so in the past... I'm not really sure exactly why.  I think it's because it has never been celebrated in the faith communities that we were a part of.  It's not a big deal at our current church either.

Today being Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, my thoughts centered mostly upon why Lent is observed.  Lent --- it is the preparing of one's heart for Easter.  Traditionally, people "give up" something for Lent because the act of refusing oneself of accustomed pleasures develops a discipline that molds the body and the soul towards Christ and towards God's will.

Last night, at the dinner table, we discussed as a family what we could "give up" together for Lent.  The overwhelming consensus is a pleasure that we are very much accustomed to as a family... and that is eating out at restaurants whenever we feel like it!  So, we decided that is what we are "giving up" for Lent.  No eating out for our family starting today until Easter Sunday.

I thought: "What did I get myself into?!?  I'd have to cook regularly for the next six (and a bit) weeks! Including weekends!" :o

Today, I read a little bit more about the practice of Lent. I found out that many people "give up" pleasures and direct the money that they would have spent on those pleasures towards something worthwhile, something compassionate and/or charitable.  I like that!  Lent is starting to make much more sense to me now!

The following video offers a suggestion... one I don't think I can do because it would mean no coffee for me when I wake up in the mornings!  That would be disastrous!!!  I would be sleepy and dopey all day.  Imagine that!

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


After my many readings today on the practice of Lent, the following verses from Isaiah 58:6-9 (NIV) stayed in my heart...
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
   and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
   and break every yoke?
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?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
   and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
   and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
   you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
One of the quotes from Chapter 10 of One Thousand Gifts also kept coming back to me...
I am blessed.  I can bless.  A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.
~ Ann Voskamp.
I felt God saying to me that we can not just merely "give up" a pleasure during this season of Lent, we need to "act out" His love as well... to show love to the last, the least, the forgotten and the forsaken.  

So... buried in the back of my mind is this organization in the Philippines.  It is run by volunteers, many of whom I personally know! I contacted one of the Board members through Facebook this afternoon and I am happy to say that our family will be sending six under-privileged Filipino children to school this upcoming school year!  Might I add... for the same amount of money that we would have spent eating out in the next six (and a bit) weeks!

Now I understand the practice of Lent!  It truly can develop a discipline that molds us towards God's heartbeat!  I bet that after this season of Lent is over, our family would now think twice before going out to eat at a restaurant.  Because one meal at a restaurant for us is equivalent to sending one under-privileged child to school for one whole year... giving him/her a better and brighter future.  Imagine that!

Another thought did also cross my mind today... if we didn't eat out at all, imagine how many more under-privileged Filipino children can go to school!!!  I think I'll hold off on that thought for now.  Let's just concentrate on getting through these six (and a bit) weeks first.  One small pleasure at a time, right? ;-)

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

One Thousand Gifts - Chapter 10

The vlog for Chapter 10 of Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts is now online.  Chapter 10 is entitled Empty To Fill... it might just be my favourite chapter in this whole book!

More on that in a bit...

First off, I wanted to say that reading (in this chapter) Ann's account of her experience at Yonge Street Mission brought me back to my own experience at that same location almost a month ago now, an experience that helped me turn a corner --- one that I needed to turn but couldn't do on my own!  A grace-gift indeed... my God is truly good!

Now... empty to fill.  I love, love, LOVE this chapter because it basically sums up what God has called our family to do!  To do thanks-living!  To act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God!

Here are excerpts from this chapter...
If eucharisteo had led us to let go and open the hand to receive all His shimmering river of gifts, how can we now close the hand?

Grace is alive, living waters.  If I dam up the grace, hold the blessings tight, joy within dies... waters that have no life.

I receive grace.  And through me, grace could flow on.

I am blessed.  I can bless.  A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.

Eucharisteo is giving thanks for grace.  But in the breaking and giving of bread, in the washing of feet, Jesus makes it clear that eucharisteo is, yes, more: it is giving grace awayEucharisteo is the hand that opens to receive grace, then, with thanks, breaks the bread; that moves out into the larger circle of life and washes the feet of the world with that grace.  Without the breaking and giving, without the washing of feet, eucharisteo isn't complete.

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 could be the joy!

This is what makes us content - the contented, deep joy is always in the touching of Christ - in whatever skin He comes to us in.

Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble.  Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.  The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.  (Isaiah 58:10-11)

It's the fundamental, lavish, radical nature of the upside-down economy of God.

Empty to fill.

Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives, and God simply will not be outdone.  God extravagantly pays back everything we give away and exactly in the currency that is not of this world but the one we yearn for: Joy in Him.

Here I can become the blessing, a little life that multiplies joy, making the larger world a better place.
Amazing!  I can't thank God enough for the gift of His Word and this book... life changing!!!  Grace-gifts...

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

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On John Piper, On Rob Bell, On Parenting and On Leaving A Legacy...

If you have been on the Internet (particularly on Facebook or Twitter) this week, you would have seen an avalanche of posts and tweets regarding Rob Bell's not-yet-released book, Love Wins, and the reaction that ensued after John Piper's simple tweet saying: "Farewell Rob Bell," interpreted by many as John Piper's dismissal of Rob Bell from the evangelical circle.

My heart became very saddened upon reading the multitude of posts and tweets... many of which negatively portray Rob Bell.  For the record, I am NOT pro or anti Rob Bell, nor am I pro or anti John Piper.  I've never read books authored by either of them before nor do I follow either on Facebook or Twitter.  What I do know is that both are gifted teachers and both have growing and flourishing ministries.

I just find it very disheartening that Christians seem to be OK with attacking and judging fellow-Christians, just because the other person or group does not have the same "school of thought" as they do.

This is precisely the reason why many people do not want anything to do with the church... because Christians do not act like Christ.  There is a famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi and it says:
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
It's so true.  Sadly...

I admit that I, too, got drawn into the controversy by commenting on a Facebook post.  I found myself insinuating to people that they need to wait until they have read the book themselves before coming to any conclusions.  Whatever happened to "do not judge a book by its cover"???  People were also taking the book trailer video out-of-context... but I digress.

Anyway, all that to say... I found myself asking the question: Do we, as Christians, really need to choose between the Rob Bells and the John Pipers?  Can't both be right and accepted at the same time?  Why or why not?

God is always gracious... my answer came in the form of an article posted on the Red Letter Christians blog.  If you have the same questions as mine swirling around in your heart and mind, this is a good blog post to read!  

This is how the author ended the blog post:
So let me conclude with a portion from my own humble attempt to provoke Christians to re-engage Scripture for themselves by responding with a parable to questions that many young Christians are asking re: heaven, hell & the God revealed in Jesus:

On that day, everyone from every nation were raised from the dead as all of creation gathered around the glory of his burning throne. As the brilliance of the seraphim and cherubim circled above, humanity was separated into two groups. Some started asking each other “did you accept Jesus?” In both groups you could hear people saying:

I went forward at that rally!

I’ve never heard of Jesus!

I went to church and played bass in the band!

I was born centuries before him!

I drove out demons and did deeds of power in his name!

I was a good person, I’ll be going to heaven!

The Son of Man, frustrated with the talk of ‘going to heaven,’ interrupted the babel and confusion with a clarifying question that silenced all of creation:

“You thought this was about going somewhere else? Did I teach you to pray ‘Your Kingdom we’ll go?’ or ‘Your Kingdom come?’ I have come to bring heaven here, not to take you elsewhere. Heaven isn’t a ‘place’ that you go, it’s the very Presence of God that I bring. And now, those who have responded to God’s grace and have not dammed Heaven from flooding the earth by accepting me will inherit this kingdom of a transfigured creation.”

The seas roared with the outcry and joy from within both groups as some lamented they have never heard of Jesus let alone accepted him, while others ecstatic that they prophesied and saved souls in his name.

Then the King with a voice like lightening silenced the nations with this stunning declaration:

“You accepted me, as a child solider in Darfur, as a Thai child enslaved in sex trafficking, as a refugee seeking to enter your country, as a disabled black youth on death row, as a homeless vet on the streets, as a gay youth victimised in High School, as a drug addicted prostitute needing a meal, as an inmate needing a visit …”

As the list of where Christ had been camouflaged throughout creation went on, a shockwave rippled throughout all of reality at the realization that the two groups were not separated by their doctrines or ideas about Christ, or grace, or Heaven, or hell. They were separated by their response to the saving grace of Jesus in the most vulnerable and oppressed. The reality of this revelation for one group felt like eternal punishment. And for the other, eternal life. Eternal Life of the New Heavens and the New Earth liberated from all that does not look like Jesus’ Calvary-shaped love.

How might this conversation change if we include in the list of where “Christ is camouflaged”; the “neo-Calvinist brother” and the “Rob-Bell-reading-N.T. Wright-loving sister”?
Now on to parenting... this article has put into words what hubby and I desire to leave as a Christian legacy to our children and it is how we answer this question: What should our response be to the saving grace of Jesus in the most vulnerable and oppressed?

On the day of Christ's return, I would like my family to be standing on the side that can say we responded as Jesus would, where Christ had been camouflaged throughout creation --- in the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken!  

And, that I didn't care to engage in the debate on whether John Piper or Rob Bell is right! :-)  I'm glad that I don't have to choose either side... because I am on Jesus' team!  Hallelujah!!!

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

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Life of Absolute Love and Joy

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
~ From the hymn, Grace Greater Than All Our Sin, by Julia H. Johnston.
#395 - #412
~ A quiet, slow start to my Monday morning... a time to reflect on things.
~ The speech my girl wrote on global poverty for a Public Speaking contest.
~ My boy gathering up courage to try-out for the school basketball team.
~ March is here... Spring is on its way!
~ Watching the documentary The Price of Sugar with my boy.
~ A letter from Bell Bradley, our Compassion child from Haiti.
~ Waking up to the sound of chirping birds outside my window.
~ Honey, lemon and softchews for my boy's cough.
~ On days when my kids are sick, I'm so thankful that I work-from-home.
~ Grad photo day for my girl... she's growing up too fast!
~ An extra pair of glasses!
~ A new photo of Junior, our Compassion child from Honduras.
~ Spring rains...
~ At-home movie night with the family! Coach Carter... a must see!
~ A quiet drive with hubby up to the farm to buy fresh meats.
~ Great teaching series at our church on God's grace!
~ My girl wins the city-wide Public Speaking contest... next stop, Zone Level!
~ So proud of my girl for lending her voice to advocate for Global Poverty

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

Sunday, March 6, 2011

One Thousand Gifts - Chapter 9

The vlog for Chapter 9 of Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts is now online.  This chapter is entitled Go Lower... a reminder to me that in humility, there is joy!

Here are some of my favourites from this chapter...
How to live in a state of awe when life is mundane and ordinary?

Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing - and are filled.

The humble live surprised.  The humble live by joy.

Humility is that good humus that grows gratitude that yields abundant joy.

"He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30 NASB).

He must increase and I must decrease - not because that is burden but so that my joy might increase with more of Him!

Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, a God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty.

... the more I learn eucharisteo, the more I learn His love, the less likely I am to Israelite complain and the more I genuinely lament, complaint that trusts His heart.

While I may not always feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things, because He knows that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving.

Joy is God and God is joy and joy doesn't negate all other emotions - joy transcends all other emotions.

Joy is a flame that glimmers only in the palm of the open and humble hand.  In an open and humble palm, released and surrendered to receive, light dances, flickers happy.  The moment the hand is clenched tight, fingers all pointing toward self and rights and demands, joy is snuffed out.

Are there times that a sense of entitlement - expectations - is what inflates self, detonates anger, offends God, extinguishes joy?

And what do I really deserve?  Thankfully, God never gives what is deserved, but instead, God graciously, passionately offers gifts, our bodies, our time, our very lives.

Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace.  Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper surprised thanks.  This is the fuel for joy's flame.  Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will.

Joy - it's always obedience.
Another chapter that has successfully spoken to the depths of my soul.  I am truly thankful for the gift that this book has been to me!

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

Will You Light A Candle?

Today, my girl delivered a speech she wrote on global poverty and what our response should be.  It was for a city-wide Public Speaking contest sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion.  I am very proud to report that she won 1st place for her age group!  She will be competing at the Zone Level in three weeks' time.

I tell you... I am one proud mama!  You see, each contestant was given free choice on whatever topic they want to speak about... and my girl chose to lend her voice to advocate for global poverty!!!  This truly makes my heart smile...
Light A Candle
We live in a crazy fast-paced world, where it’s hard enough to remember the next thing on our to-do list, let alone what’s happening to someone else halfway around the globe. We turn on the tap and instantly there is water, but what about those who spend two hours of their day to fetch water? We complain about going to school, but what about those who can’t go to school? We complain about going to work, but what about those who don’t have a job? We spend $1 on a bag of chips, but what about those who only earn one dollar a day? One dollar a day!

These are realities for over 3 billion people in our world today. If your family income is $25,000 a year, you are richer than 81% of the people in our world. To us, food is a given. So is running water. So are healthcare and education. Our lifestyle is not normal. Furthermore, we are always trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” But have you ever considered that maybe, just maybe, YOU are the Joneses?

If we are the Joneses, then we should open our eyes to the many who are less fortunate than ourselves. Through modern technology, we can easily witness all the pain and suffering happening halfway around the world. We see images and read about starving children and families living in mud shacks. Most of us choose to change the channel, click away from the website, or flip the page. We have become by-standers, doing nothing. As we elementary students learn in school, to witness pain and do nothing is the same as causing the pain ourselves.

Turning a blind eye will never make this world a better place. Leaving it to “someone else” will never make the world a better place. One of my favourite analogies is: It is better to light one candle in the darkness than not light one at all. Even if it only makes a small difference, the one light leads the way and people will join in by lighting their candles, eventually eliminating the darkness.

There is a well-known quote that says: It is more blessed to give than receive. I know this to be true from personal experience as my family has had many opportunities to be involved in initiatives to help fight global poverty.

You know the commercials: one dollar a day and a child’s life is changed forever. They’ll have nutritious meals, education and healthcare. Well, I can tell you, it’s true! My family sponsors two children, Florianlyn from the Philippines and Bell Bradley from Haiti. It is an amazing experience writing to them and hearing back from them, learning about their growth, culture and everyday life. Think about it: one dollar a day changes these kids’ lives. That’s less than your morning coffee.

How about this one: $10 can save a child from dying. Here’s how: $10 buys a mosquito net which protects children while they sleep from mosquito bites that infect them with malaria. Ten dollars can save a life! That’s less than what we would pay to go watch the latest movie. These are just two examples of the many ways your money can help to fight poverty.

But it’s not just money that can make a difference. Your time can too. Do you have extra pillowcases? Did you know that you can sew them into dresses for African girls living in poverty? Another example is one that I am passionate about. It is packing Christmas shoeboxes full of toys, school supplies and hygiene items for children living in 3rd world countries. It is an awesome way to bring happiness to an otherwise grim holiday for these kids. Watching videos of the joy on their faces as they open the shoeboxes always makes me smile. As you can see, volunteering your time is just as valuable as giving your money.

Aside from giving money and time, there is one thing that all of us can do: lending our voices to those living in poverty. Speaking out for those who have no voice. It could be a Facebook status or a tweet on Twitter, a blog post or a conversation with friends. You would be surprised at how many people don’t know, but would like to learn about global poverty.

You may think that all these things I’ve mentioned are too small to ever make a big enough difference. But just like the analogy of the candles, when everyone does a small part, there is hope that global poverty can be eliminated. It’s a big dream that needs all the help it can get, and it needs people like you and me to respond and say that we will make a difference, no matter how small. Now that you have heard, what will you do?

Will you light your candle?
Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!