Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve already!  This year has gone by way too quickly... it has been an interesting year for our family, to say the least!  It brought us... hurting, unsettling, searching, deciding, waiting, growing, maturing, knowing, accepting, realizing, beginning.

Many emotions, many decisions.  But, in all... God's presence, His grace.

Truly grateful for grace!

As we look forward to the New Year, a new beginning, we are filled with anticipation of what God has in store for our family.  We hope for 2011 to be a year of unwrapping more of His love in this world for our family.

As we seek to do that, I think the best way to discover these opportunities is to live in the moment of each day, to savour each new day... in order to be intentionally aware of the pressing needs of those around us and around the world.  

I read a quote about fully living in the moment by Ann Voskamp and found it to be very much in line with my thoughts this morning.  Here it is:   
Time is a relentless river and it rages on, respecter of no one.
And the only way to slow time is this: Enter fully into the current moment and the stream of time slows — slows — with the weight of a soul’s full attention.
We slow the torrent by being all here.
Life at its fullest is this sensitive, detonating sphere, and it can be carried only in the hands of the unhurried and reverential — a bubble held in awe.
May our family be unhurried and reverential in 2011... always ready to unwrap more of His love in this world! This is my humble prayer.

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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Prayer for the New Year

I came across this prayer while surfing Facebook this morning.  I love it... therefore, re-posting it on here.  May this be my prayer for the New Year, 2011!
A New Year’s Prayer
(author unknown)
Holy Father,
God of our yesterdays, our today, and our tomorrows.
We praise You for Your unequaled greatness.
Thank You for the year behind us and for the year ahead.
Help us in Your new year, Father, to fret less and laugh more.
To teach our children to laugh by laughing with them.
To teach others to love by loving them.
Knowing, when Love came to the stable in Bethlehem, He came for us.
So that Love could be with us, and we could know You.
That we could share Love with others.
Help us, Father, to hear Your love song in every sunrise,
In the chirping of sparrows in our backyards,
In the stories of our old folks,
And the fantasies of our children.
Help us to stop and listen to Your love songs,
So that we may know You better and better.
We rejoice in the world You loved into being.
Thank You for another new year and for new chances every day.
We pray for peace, for light, and for hope,
That we might spread them to others.
Forgive us for falling short this past year.
We leave the irrepairable past in your hands,
And step out into the unknown new year knowing You will go with us.
We accept Your gift of a new year and we rejoice in what's ahead,
Depending on You to help us do exactly what You want.
I say it again, we rejoice!
In Jesus name,
Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011... Almost Upon Us!

On Christmas Day, our whole family agreed that our birthday gift for Jesus is to continue unwrapping more of His love in this world in the New Year as we've practiced throughout the Advent season with the help of Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree Journey.

My son had an additional birthday gift for Jesus, which is personal in nature.  I am choosing not to share its detail right here on my blog... but what I can say is that it made this mama's heart swell... I am ecstatically happy, extremely humbled and eternally grateful!

We have been truly blessed by Ann's words this past Advent... each night as we read together as a family, we grew together in love for each other, for others and for our God.  Truly, truly priceless... a very memorable Christmas indeed.

Our first post-Christmas act of unwrapping more of His love in this world is my son's idea.  He has decided to set aside more than 1/3 of his Christmas money to buy socks and underwear to donate to Gateway, a shelter and drop-in center for adults experiencing homelessness in the downtown core of Toronto.  Again, this mama's heart is happy!  God is growing my boy... in ways that I cannot!  I am eternally grateful for grace.

Over the Christmas break, we were able to attend the Christmas Open House at GatewayThe Open House touched our family profoundly... we knew we had to get involved and support the work of Gateway.  Unfortunately, they do not allow children to volunteer... therefore we needed to think of other ways to support them.

Hence, the socks and underwear idea.  They are the top two items listed on the list of things they are always in need of.  With my son's Christmas money, we were able to buy 40 pairs of socks and 36 pairs of underwear!!!  We have also chosen to give our yearend donation to Gateway this year.  We want to be a part of being the hand of God in the heart of the city.

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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Our Christmas in Photos...

Here's a glimpse of how Christmas Day was at our house this year... we had a very peaceful and awesome day!  God is good.  Merry Christmas, everyone!!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Graces...

Today, I am thankful that Grace came for us that very first Christmas Day...
... the angel reassured them. "Don’t be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!"
--- Luke 2:10-11 (NLT)
For Jesus... who is God, but chose to be born here on earth as a baby that very first Christmas Day for you and for me!

A warm bed to take a nap in... to get better from this cold I'm having.

Christmas baking... treats for our neighbours and my kids' excitement!

My hubby... he works hard.  I am blessed.

Take-out food... when I don't feel like cooking.

Lunch with a good friend of mine, my girl and her good friend!  Girls' day out.

A day for my son to tag along with daddy to a couple of his clients' offices.

Couple weeks off work during the Christmas break... more time with family!

Words written on a Christmas card for hubby from one of his clients... it says:
You are an incredible servant leader.  We are so grateful for you.
I am thankful for God's gift to me --- a wonderful husband and best friend! Indeed a servant leader.

Our "tame" schedule this year for the Christmas holidays... I am enjoying the serenity, calmness and quietness.

An unexpected year-end "gift" from my boss... God is good!

Christmas morning... for the thrill and excitement, but most of all thankful that Love was born for you and me!

Christmas has come and gone, but the Christ of Christmas is forever with us.  Our family is truly grateful for having gone through Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree Journey for the Advent season.  It has blessed us.  Merry Christmas, my dear friends. 

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sufficient For Me...

Today I am grateful for the words of the song Enough by Chris Tomlin --- ♪♫ "All of You is more than enough for all of me, for every thirst and every need. You satisfy me with Your love, and all I have in You is more than enough." ♫♪
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
---Psalm 23:6 (NLT)
Hot cup of tea on a frigidly cold wintry day.

God can transform anyone... that He is still in the business of making people new!  Day by day... in His time.

A sound mind.

Snowflakes... how each one is unique.  How God made each person to be unique too.

That God knows just how much I can handle... and His grace is sufficient for each new day.

Christmas cards sent to our family... all in a pile, each one waiting to be read on Christmas Day.

Wrapping presents...

Presents that don't need wrapping... such as Gifts of Compassion.  Will you consider giving them as gifts this year, too?

Grandparents visiting...

God reminding me of the verses 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.”
My girl's first basketball game with the Intermediate Girls' Basketball Team at school --- they won!

My completely healed shoulder.

School's out!  Let Christmas begin...

Delivering Christmas presents to 29 under privileged children who live in one of the neediest communities in our city.  Grateful for the families who came alongside us to help provide many of the presents.

First get-together of the Christmas holidays --- with friends, who are just like family!  This group started with the friendship of 5 teenage girls... 22 years later, we are now 30 people in total!  Very thankful for my sisters, my friends!!!

It's the week of Christmas, my friends!  Our household is bursting with excitement and anticipation.  We are nearing the end of Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree Journey and it has indeed been a great journey as we continue waiting --- as we anticipate celebrating God's gift to us that very first Christmas day!

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Camp Freedom Christmas Party

Note to my sister: This is your girl!

Last night, our family had the opportunity to attend a Christmas party.  It was a party for the kids at UrbanPromise's Camp Freedom.  Camp Freedom is located in the Jane/Finch neighbourhood of our city --- considered one of the neediest communities in Toronto.

We had a GREAT time and had lots of fun.  It started with us playing some board games and colouring with the kids; then a very active worship time; then singing of Christmas carols; then a simple dinner of chicken and fried rice, ice cream and cupcakes from Sandy's Sweets; then a SURPRISE for the kids.

The SURPRISE was the best part, in my opinion! :-)  It was when the kids were told they will each get a Christmas present to take home.  You should have seen and heard the cheers that erupted from the group.

Here's a video of when the presents were being distributed:

I am truly grateful for the families God sent to help us provide these presents.  This was a project that our family decided to take on just after Thanksgiving this year.  There were 29 children to buy presents for... it was a lesson in faith.  God was teaching me to say "YES" first to what He wants our family to do, then He will send the provision.

My sister heard me talking about this project and got the ladies in her Bible study group interested.  They generously stepped up and "adopted" children from the list of 29 to buy for.  Other friends who heard about this project from me also participated.  It was certainly a group effort --- truly a picture of Christ's church working together to be His hands and His feet for the most vulnerable of society!

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Here are some photos from last night:

Hubby striking up a conversation with the kids.
This is Julius, aka "Kuya" --- Camp Freedom's Site Supervisor.
Enjoying a game of Snakes & Ladders.
She is showing us her collection of Silly Bandz.
These girls sat at our table during dinner.
Dessert is served!
Cupcakes from Sandy's Sweets!!!
They disappeared very quickly! :-)
Enjoying dessert...
Yummy ice cream!
Note to Sandy: This is your boy!
Here I am chatting with "Kuya" on how to divert 3 of the presents.  Three of the kids on the list have left the program and three others have joined.  We were able to match presents to new kids (gender and age specific)... even details like that God had already prepared!!!  God is good.
Great end to an AWESOME evening!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Consider Gifts of Compassion this Christmas

Are you done Christmas shopping yet? I finally am!!! I try to avoid going to the mall around this time so I make sure to finish all my Christmas shopping early... I start in November.

But, there is always that hard-to-buy-for person on everyone's list, isn't there? I have a few of them on my list, too. This year, would you consider Gifts of Compassion for that special someone?

What are Gifts of Compassion, you might ask?
Well... it is an online catalog of gift alternatives for friends, family and clients. No crowds, no lines, no stress - just a gift that will help make a difference in the life of a child living in one of the poorest communities of the world. These gifts help provide clean drinking water, medical treatment, disaster relief, food supplies and much, much more for Compassion-assisted children and their families. Meet real needs and bring real joy with a Gift of Compassion.

Gifts include mosquito nets, soccer balls, chickens, goats, water filters, farm equipment, clean water and more. Gift prices range from $10 to $5000.
It will be the best gift you have ever given someone!  Or yourself... trust me. :-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Favourites From...

... C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Eustace being un-dragoned, not on his own strength, but by the grace of Aslan alone. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 7.
“Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn't that kind of fear. I wasn't afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it - if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn't any good because it told me to follow it.”
“You mean it spoke?”
“I don't know. Now that you mention it, I don't think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I'd have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I'd never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden - trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.
I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells - like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don't know if he said any words out loud or not.
I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.
But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.
Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.
Then the lion said - but I don't know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know - if you've ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me - I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on - and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again. You'd think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they've no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian's, but I was so glad to see them.
After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me –”
“Dressed you. With his paws?”
“Well, I don't exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes - the same I've got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”
“No. It wasn't a dream,” said Edmund.
“Why not?”
“Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been - well, un-dragoned, for another.”
“What do you think it was, then?” asked Eustace.
“I think you've seen Aslan,” said Edmund.

Aslan, the great Bridge BuilderThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 16.
But between them and the foot of the sky there was something so white on the green grass that even with their eagles' eyes they could hardly look at it. They came on and saw that it was a Lamb.

“Come and have breakfast,” said the Lamb in its sweet milky voice.

Then they noticed for the first time that there was a fire lit on the grass and fish roasting on it. They sat down and ate the fish, hungry now for the first time for many days. And it was the most delicious food they had ever tasted.

“Please, Lamb,” said Lucy, “is this the way to Aslan's country?”

“Not for you,” said the Lamb. “For you the door into Aslan's country is from your own world.”

“What!” said Edmund. “Is there a way into Aslan's country from our world too?”

“There is a way into my country from all the worlds,” said the Lamb; but as he spoke his snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself, towering above them and scattering light from his mane.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?”
“I shall be telling you all the time,” said Aslan. “But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder…

On getting to know Aslan by his other nameThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 16.
“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Before we go, will you tell us when we can come back to Narnia again? Please. And oh, do, do, do make it soon.”

“Dearest,” said Aslan very gently, “you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.”
“Oh, Aslan!!” said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.
“You are too old, children,” said Aslan, “and you must begin to come close to your own world now.”
“It isn't Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

Grace So Amazing

Amazing grace... I am counting them, one by one, with a full and grateful heart.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.  That saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found.  'Twas blind, but now I see.
How precious 'tis that grace appeared, the hour I first believed.
--- Words from the hymn Amazing Grace by John Newton, 1779
Beautiful walk to school with my boy on a snowy Monday morning.  I am reminded of the words from Isaiah 1:18... "Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow."  Thankful for God's amazing grace.

Thankful for The Manger and eternally grateful for The Cross...

For my hubby... who likes to play those board games that require thinking (such as Mastermind) with my boy!  So thankful I don't have to do that... :-)

The smell of Christmas cookies baking in the oven.

Eggnog!  Yummy!

Chats with my girl... she gives me perspective.

Gently falling snow.

Warm clothes for this very chilly wintry weather we are having.

The scent coming from my fresh Christmas wreath.

Our home all decorated for Christmas... and for Christmas music while I work in the kitchen!

Our family chats... on why we do the things we do and why we choose to do without some material things.  Grateful for the privilege of molding young souls and guiding them in Jesus' ways.

A trek downtown for my workplace's Christmas lunch.  Thankful that I get to work from home the rest of the year! :-)

Acupuncture... helping to heal my injured shoulder.

More hours at work in the New Year (hopefully a temporary thing!)... although it's not my preference to work more, I am thankful for God's provision through my job.

Fridays... and the looking forward to weekend activities with the family!

My hubby... his integrity and work ethic.

An unplanned tea time with a friend at her kitchen table... encouraging conversation.  I saw her waiting for a bus on a frigidly cold day this week and offered to drive her home.

Our family making and serving dinner to over 100 homeless folks with my sisters and their hubbies.  Our Christmas wouldn't be complete without serving at Out of the Cold.

Strength to do the above even with my weak shoulder/arm. Very thankful for grace...

A broken heart... having a hard time reconciling the stark contrast between homelessness and wealth.  After serving at Out of the Cold, we drove home to a neighbourhood with huge houses alit in Christmas lights... the contrast hit me very hard!  The words of the song Hosanna is ringing very true...
♪♫ Break my heart for what breaks YOURS... ♫♪
A quiet Sunday morning just to sit and reflect...

Watching a Christmas skit with little toddlers in it... so cute.

The new Narnia movie --- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Thankful for C.S. Lewis' gift of words, imagery and symbolism... and the lessons found within.

My friends... 12 more days to Christmas!  As our family continues to observe Advent with Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree Journey, each day we are more and more in awe of God's amazing grace --- His gift to us that very first Christmas day!

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Break My Heart For What Breaks YOURS...

♪♫ Heal my heart and make it clean.
Open up my eyes to the things unseen.
Show me how to love like YOU have loved me.
Break my heart for what breaks YOURS.
Everything I am for YOUR Kingdom's cause.
As I walk from earth into eternity. ♫♪
The words of the song by Hillsong called Hosanna is ringing very true for me on this Sunday morning.  Last night, our family (together with my sisters and their hubbies and a few other friends) together made and served dinner to over 100 homeless folks.

My sisters and I have been doing this for years now... I don't think Christmas will be complete without us organizing a dinner at Out of the Cold.  The homeless folks (some of whom have been back for many years) have come to expect a Chinese dinner from us every single year!  :-)

After hours of hard work... our whole group of 13 people decided to descend upon an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant where we collectively spent about half the dollar amount it cost to feed dinner to over 100 homeless folks.  We ate to our hearts' content... after all, we were hungry after working so hard!

As we drove home and entered our neighbourhood, our family was dazzled by the display of Christmas lights on some of the bigger homes in our neighbourhood.

At that moment... the lyrics of the song Hossana hit me hard.  This is what breaks the heart of God... the stark contrast between homelessness and wealth... coupled with an attitude of apathy.

At that moment... the very same thing broke my heart too.  I said to hubby and the kids... how do we reconcile this stark contrast?  While we try to do our part... sometimes, there just aren't enough answers. :-(

Our family will continue to do Out of the Cold dinners for as long as there is a need.  There will always be a need...

Would you consider doing something similar?  Starting this Christmas? 

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Here are some photos from last night...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Soul Stretchmarks

As Christmas approaches and the things-to-do and the people-to-see start occupying the pages of my calendar, I find it helpful each morning to just put things into perspective.  To sit and reflect, to read and think, to focus and pray.

This morning, I read a great blog post by Ann Voskamp on the (in)courage website.  Here are some of her words...
Mary’s stretched.
To be a dwelling place of God, a womb for Christ, means to be extended, taken to one’s outer edges… stretched.
To be a womb for God means there will be stretchmarks.
This may hurt. I may feel weary. These days may not be easy.
To be a womb for Christ, I’ll feel my inner walls, my boundaries, stretch.
Stretching the shape of a soul hurts.
I pray for the soul stretchmarks.
And I am expecting Christ.
Great words of reminder for me especially as I think back to last Christmas and feel the need to make sure a certain ugly situation does not happen again.  As I allow myself to go there, stressful and anxious thoughts flood my mind...

I am greatly thankful for Ann Voskamp's timely blog post this morning... it is certainly God's timing!  I want to be a dwelling place of God... therefore I will give thanks for soul stretchmarks.  Grace has been and is still freely given to me... therefore I must freely extend grace to those around me.

Here I am.  Lord, send me!  

Monday, December 6, 2010

December Madness

This month of December always seems to have a life of its own, doesn't it?  Our calendars get booked up way too quickly and it seems like there isn't enough time to accomplish everything that needs to be done.  Everyone is hurried... lost in the hustle and bustle of the season.

Well, I am determined to stop the madness this year!  Our family is very much benefiting by slowing down each night of this Advent season and reading a devotional, Jesse Tree Journey by Ann Voskamp, together.  It's been like food for our souls... well, for my soul, at least.  I can't speak for my whole family... but I do think they are enjoying it as well.

It has also reinforced in our hearts and minds what Christmas is really all about.  Speaking of which... I better end this blog post and start my grocery list.  

This coming Saturday, our family (together with my sisters and their families) will be making/buying food and serving a dinner for 110 homeless folks in the City of Toronto.  This is done through a program called Out of the Cold.  This is the first of two dinners we are in-charged of this winter... the second one will be in January!

I'm going to end this blog post with a question today.  So... what do you want for Christmas this year?  Here's a video to help you decide... enjoy!

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Christmas Change from Kujilana on Vimeo.

Endless Gifts of Grace

I am in awe of these endless gifts of grace.  Counting them has been a blessing to me... totally what I need for this season of my life.  Thank you for grace.
Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. ---1 Timothy 1:14 (NLT)
Writing letters to our Compassion children... a great Sunday evening activity for our family.

yummy all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ dinner... celebrating a nephew's birthday. Burp. :-)

Ice cream at Dairy Queen... that they wipe their equipment clean and re-wash their hands before serving my boy who is anaphylactic to peanuts.

That the chocolate sauce at Dairy Queen is safe for my son!  Yipee... he can now have chocolate dipped cones.

In quietness and trust... being still and knowing that HE is God.

Busy week... sustained by God's grace.

Shoulder injury slowly healing... almost back to normal.

Awesome talks by the Teaching Pastor of a church we're considering to call home.

Celebrating Advent using the Jesse Tree Journey, a free Advent resource written by Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience.  Thankful for Ann's beautiful words.

Seeing the work of Gateway firsthand as our family attended their Christmas Open House.

Chipotle Grill... great food!

Mailed Christmas presents to out-of-town family and friends... thankful for Christmas and the spirit of giving.

A lovely mid-week lunch with my sisters.

My daughter feeling good about her performance at tryouts for the girls' basketball team at school.  Praying that God gives her the desire of her heart! :-)

And HE did!  Oh happy day --- my girl made the school's basketball team!  So proud of her.

Our family being able to pack an AIDS Care Kit for the first time... great project!  Great way to give hope this Christmas.

Visiting my friend who is sick... I am awed by God's goodness and humbled by His grace.

It's been a while since I played piano for a worship service.  I did on Sunday afternoon for my sister's church... my soul is happy!

Feeling more and more at home with a church we've been visiting these past few months.  I felt peace worshiping there Sunday morning... with God clearly speaking to me about a specific thing.  God is good!

First snow fall of the season... it's so beautiful outside!

Safe drive home in the heavy snow fall... a 15-minute drive home ended up being 2 hours long!

My friends... I hope you, too, are in awe of His endless gifts of grace for you!

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December Is Here!

Well, wouldn't you know it?  December is here... which means the most wonderful time of the year will be here in no time!  Our household loves Christmas!

This year, we are actually observing Advent.  We are reading an Advent devotional each night.  It is called the Jesse Tree Journey written by Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience.  The best part of it, in my opinion, is that each day's devotional ends with unwrapping more of His love in the world --- a call to action.  Each member of our family is asked to do or give a simple thing each day --- a gift --- that demonstrates unwrapping more of God's love in the lives of people around us.

Today we are to create something with a gentle heart of love that would be good (a letter, a treat, a surprise) for someone.  Hmmmm... what should I do?  I wonder what my kids will do?

Speaking of Advent... here's a great video from the website Advent Conspiracy.  It's a great reminder to our family on how we should celebrate Christ's birth.


My morning started with a great devotional from Proverbs 31 Ministries on giving the gift of hope this Christmas.  What a way to start off December! :-)

Here are some of the ways our family will be giving the gift of hope this year...
~ We kicked off the Christmas celebrations by packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes!

~ We will be delivering Christmas presents to 30 under privileged children who live in the Jane/Finch neighbourhoods.  We are doing this with an organization called UrbanPromise.

~ We will be packing an AIDs Care Kit.  This is an initiative of the church our family is considering calling home.  The goal is to have 1200 of these kits sent over to Africa this year.

~ We will be doing two Out of the Cold dinners for the homeless, one next Saturday and another one in January.  We do this with our extended family every year... it's an eye-opening experience for our kids!
Our family is very much looking forward to Christmas!  There is just something very special about this most wonderful time of the year --- I think that's why He is known as the Miracle of Christmas!

Here I am.  Lord, send me! 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Everyday Graces...

I love the song A Place Called Grace by Phillips, Craig and Dean.  If you haven't heard it before you can have a listen to it on my Playlist on the sidebar of this blog. Here are the words...
So many years I heard it told
The story of compassion
A prodigal son who left the fold
And found no satisfaction
On my knees, Lord, I cried out to You
I'm so alone
But if there's room in Your house for one more
I'm ready to come back home

I know there is a place
Where arms of compassion welcome me home
Sweet mercy falls like rain
I know there's a place called grace

So many days I've trusted grace
Yet I have to wonder
How many times my human strength
Has kept me from surrender
The more I learn just to lean on the cross
The more I see
When I fall, I will fall to the place
Where mercy reaches me

If it seems that my courage is strong
There's just one reason
He's my rock when my faith is all gone
He holds me in His arms
Gives me strength to carry on
Long chat with a good friend about the mysteries of God and life...

A self-imposed day off.  I went Christmas shopping! :-)

Planning Christmas parties and get-togethers!

God is gradually healing my heart... it's a wonderful feeling.

♪♫ As morning dawns and evening fades... YOU inspire songs of praise... That rise from earth to touch YOUR heart and glorify Your Name! ♫♪  I am loving this song!

Val and Katia won Battle of the Blades!  So glad I stayed up until 1am to vote!!! So cool... $50,000 goes to Compassion Canada because of Val Bure!!! It is going to fund Compassion's Child Survival Program in the Dominican Republic.

Getting "re-acquainted" with Candace Cameron (Bure) from watching her husband Val skate on Battle of the Blades... so thankful for her witness for Jesus!  I used to watch her on TV as Full House's D.J. Tanner.

Bittersweet news from Compassion Canada about our Compassion daughter, Annu.

For our new Compassion daughter, Florianlyn, who is from the Philippines --- the country where I grew up!  Just maybe... we'll get to meet her in person one day.  So exciting!

Delivering food to a friend who is sick and on dialysis... tough situation... God's grace so evident.

Sharing a bowl of Korean Gamjatang (spicy pork and potato stew) and chatting with a good friend.

My cozy fleece robe on a chilly November morning.

Girls' night out with my amazing daughter --- shopping!

Fun night at an NBA game for my hubby and my boy --- amazing seats won at the United Way raffle at my workplace.

Grad trip information night at the school.  What?!?  My baby girl is going on a Grade 8 grad trip already???

Writing our family's Christmas letter... looking back at 2010... thankful for God's goodness!

Cirque Du Soleil's Dralion... amazing show!  Wonderful family time.

Onion rings! :-)

Waking up to a snowfall on a Saturday.

Learning the game of back gammon... my boy taught me!

Being able to see a chiropractor on short notice... to help me with some pain in my upper arm.

'Til next week, my friends... I hope you find rest in that place called grace!

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

holy experience

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bye Annu, Hello Florianlyn!

Yesterday, we got some good news and some bad news from Compassion Canada.

The good news... our Compassion daughter, Annu, and her family have moved away from their village because of a better job opportunity elsewhere.  This is definitely a good thing for the family.

The bad news... there is no Compassion Program in the area where they moved to.  This means that our sponsorship of Annu will have to be terminated and we can no longer be in contact with her.  This is definitely a sad thing for our family.

My daughter writes about this bittersweet feeling on her blog.

Our family will definitely miss writing to and hearing from Annu!  We were just starting to get to know her better...

Compassion tells us that Annu was in good health when her family left the village and that she has heard the Gospel during her time with the Compassion Program.  That bit of information was good to hear!

So... what now?  

Well, we got a new Compassion daughter!  Meet Florianlyn... she is 8 years old and she lives in the Philippines!!!  Our family is very excited as both hubby and I grew up in the Philippines.  We definitely plan to take our kids there for a visit in the very near future... and, just maybe, we can arrange with the folks at Compassion to visit Florianlyn and her family!  That would be just awesome!!!

In Compassion-related news, Val Bure and Katia Gordeeva won Battle of the Blades!  Hubby and I stayed up until 1am this past Sunday night to vote for them... I guess it was all worth it, wasn't it? ;-)  

Because of the win, Compassion Canada (Val Bure's charity of choice) will be getting $50,000!!!  Isn't that sooooo cool?  Compassion has since announced that the money will go towards funding their Child Survival Program in the Dominican Republic.  Now, that's what life is all about!!!

Would you like to sponsor a Compassion child too?  If so, click on the Compassion banner on the sidebar of this blog!  Better yet, click over to this website and see how you compare to the Joneses... you just might be surprised by what you find out! ;-)   

Here I am.  Lord, send me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Past Week's Graces

Happy Monday, everyone!  Here are this past week's graces... also shared over at the Gratitude Community of A Holy Experience.  I hope you will hop over there and read other people's 1000 gifts too... it has helped me to see many more beauty instead of ashes moments in my everyday!

79. a short work week... kids were off school on Friday!
80. Christmas music.
81. new layout in my home office... hubby helped me re-arrange it!
82. Monday night dinners at my sister's home.
83. eBay... great deals for Christmas gifts!
84. little children's Christmas lists... I love the challenge of looking for those hard-to-find items on my nephews' and niece's wish lists.
85. arnica gel and castor oil --- for my sore muscles.
86. a cup of hot tea after dinner.
87. being able to pay bills...
88. my work-from-home arrangement.
89. Val and Katia didn't get eliminated on Battle of the Blades.  Hoping they win the finale tonight... Val is skating to win a $50,000 donation for Compassion Canada.
90. hubby and I volunteering together at my kids' school.
91. snacks shopping for UrbanPromise.
92. supporting a worthwhile and amazing organization, Habitat for Humanity Toronto.  Our family bought a brick this past week to help build the House of Hope!  On it will be engraved the words... Here I am.  Lord, send me!
93. connecting with friends from the past through Facebook.
94. the power of The Cross!
95. buying groceries for a sick friend...
96. my children participating in the school choir... with my daughter on the piano!
97. my children brought home awesome report cards this week!
98. my chat with the school principal regarding how the Operation Christmas Child project went at the school this year.
99. grateful for his 150% support of the project... even with the possibility of "protest" from some in the school community (publicly-funded school) who do not support Samaritan's Purse.
100. thankful that no "protest" ever came to be...
101. very grateful that we were able to do this project... even if it's going to be just for this one time... as awareness has been raised with over 190 families participating!
102. for the challenge of coming up with a similar project to do at the school next year... I need God's wisdom on this.  Here I am.  Lord, send me!
103. visiting a sick friend at the hospital and marveling at how strangely God works sometimes... then visiting her at home the next day... her new life that will include dialysis everyday has started...
104. quiet drive up to Svetec Farms to buy grass-fed beef.
105. putting up our Christmas decorations and tree!
106. awesome parent/teacher interviews!  I am one proud mama!!!
107. blogging on a quiet Saturday morning.
108. Chris Tomlin's Christmas CD.
109. encouraging message from the teaching pastor.
110. my boy's fresh haircut.

'Til next week, my dear blog readers... look out for those every-day graces!

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

holy experience

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Great Talk, A New Song

The talk at church today was entitled Exiled...But Not Stranded. I was truly encouraged by it.  As our family waits on the Lord in this season of finding a new church to call home, at times I feel like we're exiles.  But we've been learning through this experience that we are not stranded.  Far from it!  God has been gracious in giving us abundant opportunities to be His hands and His feet.  I am amazed.  Humbled.  Beauty from ashes...
Also, a song has been sung at church these past few weeks... and, I'm loving it!  It is simply called Your Name. Here is a video of it and the lyrics are posted below.  Happy Sunday, everyone!

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

Your Name by Paul Baloche

As morning dawns and evening fades
You inspire songs of praise
That rise from earth to touch Your heart
And glorify Your Name

Your Name is a strong and mighty tower
Your Name is a shelter like no other
Your Name --- let the nations sing it louder
'Cause nothing has the power to save
But Your Name

Jesus, in Your Name we pray
Come and fill our hearts today
Lord, give us strength to live for You
And glorify Your Name

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Prayer, A New Friend

Lord, may I enter this day without hurry;
May I bear its burdens without complaint.
May I face its tasks without fear,
May I meet its temptations without dishonor,
May I rest at its close without shame.
And this prayer I make to Thee,
Let thy Kingdom come today in me.
- Author Unknown.
I love this prayer... it's been pinned to the bulletin board in my home office for years now. It was from a devotional I read written by Ruth Bell Graham.

My thoughts went to this prayer this morning as I prayed for my new friend especially about bearing today's burdens and facing today's tasks! She is home from hospital now to start a new life that will include regular dialysis and a new diet. The problem is... she lives alone, has no family around and has never once cooked a meal for herself!

My sister and I visited her the other night. We brought groceries and cooked food for her to last a few days. I was overwhelmed by her situation... so I can only imagine what she is feeling!  But, I do know one thing... my Heavenly Father is not overwhelmed.  For the Bible says:
See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.
--- Isaiah 49:16 (NLT)
The prayer also reminded me of one thing... that God's Kingdom can come each day in me! My new friend's sudden health crisis has banded a group of ladies like I've never seen before. This group of ladies (my sister's Bible study group) has come together, as Christ followers should, to become His hands and His feet for our new friend.  I definitely feel privileged to be a part of the action, to say the least --- truly Jesus' church at work for the furtherance of His Kingdom.

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Buying Responsibly and Eating Well

Watching the movie Food Inc. a few weeks ago really opened my eyes!  Since then, I've been on a quest... I want to know where the food I'm buying comes from and how much it has been processed.  I want to know that the food we eat is good for our health.

In short, I would like to start buying responsibly-produced food.  The benefit of this practice is, of course, a healthier family!

So, here are a few changes in my food shopping habits...

- Beef: only buying grass-fed beef as much as possible.  Cattle grown on a diet of grains (corn, soy) produces beef with much higher cholesterol content.  It has been associated with health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.  It is also more often contaminated with the E. coli bacteria.  Grass-fed beef is produced by local farmers on organic farms (no pesticides!).

- Pork and Chicken: only buying pasture-raised pork and free-range chicken from local farmers... they are fresher, healthier for us and taste better!

- Produce: still buying from the grocery store but choosing locally grown produce as much as possible... depending on availability.

- Milk: only buying non-homogenized, but pasteurized, milk from now on.  This is, surprisingly, available at a corner produce store very near our house!  There's been quite a bit of research done on the health risks of drinking homogenized milk (that is skim, 1%, 2% and 3.25%).  Non-homogenized milk is pure, not processed.  It comes from local dairy farms that are organic (no pesticides!).

- Other Groceries: avoiding the middle section of the grocery store as much as possible!  It is a healthier practice to shop the perimeter of the grocery store --- breads and produce section, dairy section, meat section!  I will be avoiding the aisles where most, if not all, of the processed foods are.

I've been shopping this way for a couple of weeks now... as a result, we are eating better as a family!  Most surprising of all, I thought buying and eating this way would be very expensive... but I've found out that it's not!  I'd say it's maybe 25% more... but, in my opinion, it's worth it!