Monday, May 30, 2011

Enfleshing Grace

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
~ John 1:14 (NIV)
With a grateful heart for The Word becoming flesh, full of grace and truth...

#677 - #696
~ Me learning to shoot hoops! :D
~ Holiday Monday trip to the garden center.
~ Running through the rain with my boy.
~ Helping him plant veggies in the backyard.
~ His enthusiasm for taking care of tender veggie plants.
~ Planting my containers with flowering annuals.
~ A lush garden... after the rain! 
~ Chipmunks visiting...
~ Details to visit our Compassion daughter starting to come together!
~ Trusting Abba, my Heavenly Father, to calm my anxious heart.
~ Looking to Him for strength and hope... in my brokenness.
~ Knowing that He will be holding my hand through some hard eucharisteos.
~ My parents visiting...
~ His grace is sufficient... when thorns litter life's path.
~ His perfect timing... making all things beautiful!
~ Restoration of relationships.
~ Writing a message for my girl.
~ New bright orange Adirondack chairs!
~ Birds, birds and more birds visiting my garden.
~ Cleaning out the garage.

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

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Message for My Girl

Exactly a month from today, my baby girl will graduate from elementary school! Since when did she grow up?!? Since when did ten years of elementary school disappear, just like that?!? Since when did she grow wings to fly?!?

Dear Time: Would you just please slow down, just a bit... just for me to catch my breath?!?

Yesterday, she came home with a note from the school asking us parents to write a short paragraph, a message... to be read as she walks across that stage, a month from today, to receive her diploma.

One. Short. Paragraph.

I stared long and hard at the small box outlined on the piece of paper where the one paragraph message had to fit into. Memories flooded my heart.  Words and sentences formed in my mind.  Tears flowed from my eyes.  My heart swollen, with many emotions, like a lump in my throat... thanking Abba, my Heavenly Father, for the grace-gift that my girl has been to us!

The amazing young lady that she has grown up to be is truly a testament of God's grace... unmerited favour... not because of who we are as parents, but because of who God is!  I am truly humbled... utterly grateful!

There is so much I want to say... yet words aren't adequate enough to express my heart.  After several drafts, I finally got the one short paragraph written.  It sat on my desk awaiting hubby to arrive home so that he can read it before I write it all down to fit inside that small outlined box!

This morning, the message is sealed inside an envelope on the way to my girl's teacher.  It will remain *a secret* until graduation night... I'm already choked up just thinking about that night... I'm not sure how I'll make it through the whole ceremony without losing it!

Good thing I don't wear make-up. :-)

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How Will I Respond?

Yesterday, I was stalking my email inbox. Waiting, waiting, and waiting some more.

And then it came... on the Tuesday after the May long weekend... pretty much right after I prayed and told God that I'm leaving all the details of this missions immersion trip in His hands.

The email I was waiting for... came!

The one from Compassion Canada's Individual Sponsor Visit Associate.

The one confirming that the Compassion staff in the Philippines will be able to host our visit this summer.

The one that confirms our planned visit to the community where our sponsor daughter, Florianlyn, lives!

I could hardly contain the excitement that welled up inside me. I said to myself, "I can't believe that this visit is really, truly, indeed happening!"

Then, another emotion... a strangely familiar one, welled up inside me as well! The one of apprehension... the one that is uneasy about change.

What if the realities I see on this trip change me?

What if the realities I encounter on this trip constrain me to give up what is comfortable?

What if the realities I experience on this trip require me to respond in a radical way?

I don't like change. I like being comfortable. I want to respond on my terms. Self creeps in...

But deep inside I know, I believe... that self has no place in the life of a Christ-follower!  For it says in Matthew 16:23-27 (NIV):
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
Above all else, I want to be Christ's disciple. I want to find life. I don't want to forfeit my soul. I want to live life, this new life... as a daughter of the Resurrection; to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.

As I prayed {earlier this week} and left all the details of this missions immersion trip in God's hands, my ongoing prayer is that I remain empty, an empty vessel... so that He can fill me with all the ways in which He desires me to respond before, during and after this trip.

With arms high and heart abandoned in awe of The One who gave me all...

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

Monday, May 23, 2011

This Ocean Called Grace

We are His portion. And He is our prize. Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes. If grace is an ocean we're all sinking...
~ from the song "How He Loves" by John Mark McMillan.
With a grateful heart for this ocean of grace...

#645 - #676
~ Spring rains and birdsong on a Monday morning.
~ Peace and quiet; a reflective mood.
~ The heart warming stories in this book, and...
~ Lost: One Green Scarf, my friend's story... published in this book.
~ Life lessons and letting go of everything that hinders.
~ God's beckoning of us... always onwards.
~ His comfort when days are dreary.
~ His provision... it overflows!
~ Warm blanket for cold, rainy nights.
~ Yummy shepherd's pie for dinner.
~ A grocer nearby where I can get missing ingredients quickly.
~ Open windows and the sounds of nature... ahhh, Spring!
~ Back and forth chirping of nesting robins.
~ Canada geese calling.
~ Sound of gentle breeze blowing.
~ Baby leaves hustling in the breeze.
~ Sister chats with Facebook messaging!
~ Sunshine!... after many days without it.
~ Then, evening rain... great for falling asleep!
~ Getting to tell our family's story to our church family.
~ Shopping for food for a BBQ party at Camp Freedom.
~ Helping a friend who's going through a tough season.
~ An after-dinner walk around the neighbourhood.
~ Family visiting... and dinner out!
~ First all-Filipino basketball tournament for my girl.
~ Long weekend!!!

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

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Weekend of Basketball!

It's a long weekend here in Canada... Victoria Day holiday on Monday! We'll be spending part of today and Sunday at an all-Filipino basketball tournament where my girl will be playing for Gladiators Basketball Club! Go G-Squad! It'll be a fun weekend... I love watching basketball... especially when my girl is on the court!

Here are some photos of my girl {she wears #2} in action {from a previous game}:

Warming up.

Practicing her lay-ups.

Catching the ball on offense.

Taking a shot!

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

Friday, May 20, 2011

This Hype...

So... unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard the hype about the end of the world supposedly happening tomorrow! Conversations about this topic took me back to another conversation I had with my then 6-year-old daughter inside a Wal-Mart store...

She and I were doing our shopping when we came upon this pair of boots sitting all by itself on the floor in the greeting cards aisle. To me, it was clearly store merchandise that somebody had decided they didn't want to buy anymore, but was too lazy to bring the boots all the way back to the footwear section.

But because it looked so much like a person just disappeared while browsing for greeting cards and leaving their boots behind, I {jokingly} said to my girl, "Look, I think rapture happened!", thinking she would get that I was cracking a joke. Well, she thought I was being serious... with a very serious tone of voice and without skipping a beat, she answered, "Of course it hasn't, Mommy, because we are still here!" :-)

I love how her faith was already so firmly in place as a 6-year-old! Her answer actually, truly, made my heart smile! :-) And, yes, I did explain to her afterwards that I was just joking... ;-)

But, the Bible does say that one day Jesus will come back and this physical world will indeed end! So, it's not just hype after-all. One day, in fact, the end will be upon us. It will come as a surprise to all, just like the Bible says it will. This illustrates all the more the importance of what you and I do each day.

What are we doing each day to stay on guard and be alert? What are we doing each day to unwrap more of His love in this world? What are we doing each day so that God's Kingdom can be manifested in our lives here on earth?

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

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sheep or Goats?

Happy Thursday, everyone! This week, I am reflecting on the verses from Matthew 25:31-46. My conclusion is an easy one to come to! I want to be one of the sheep, not one of the goats! How about you?

My daughter attended an all-day training at church this past weekend. This is for the week-long compassion trip {our church's terminology for a mission trip, I actually quite like it!} that she will be doing with 17 other Grade 7/8 kids from the church's youth group this Summer. They are not going far... just to a nearby town called Oakville... to Kerr Street Ministries, to serve at a summer day camp for children living below the poverty line.

When you mention Oakville to people here, they immediately think "one of the richest towns in Canada" and it's true! However, there is a 'ghetto' in Oakville and it is the community that surrounds Kerr Street Ministries. Here are some thoughts from my girl after Saturday's training session:
I'll be on a compassion trip with my youth group for a week to work at a camp for low-income kids in our city. Super exciting. I was at training yesterday, and the 18 of us are gonna conquer the world!!! :P LOL. We're pretty sweet. ;) We were chatting with the camp co-ordinator, and she told some pretty touching stories, such as a girl who brought a single peach to camp for lunch, or an 8-year-old boy who makes his own lunch and comes to camp himself because his mom is either working her second or third job or sleeping. These kids are in crazy situations that no kid should be in at any age, let alone eight. Please pray for these kids, the team and the camp. Thanks! :)
She told me that the verses from Matthew 25:31-46 were part of their training session. This is why I am reflecting on these verses this week... it is also an awesome preface for this coming Sunday when I am to share at church about our family's involvement in local/global compassion initiatives.

I am humbled by this opportunity to tell our story... a little nervous... in prayerful self-examination... desiring for God to increase and me to decrease. Will you pray with me? So thankful for each of you!

Related readings:
Toronto Star: Down, out and hidden away in Oakville

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

Monday, May 16, 2011

He Gives Good Gifts

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

 ~ James 1:17 (NIV)
With a grateful heart for every good and perfect gift He bestows...

#604 - #644
~ 20 years of bliss {and 20 gifts} with my best friend.
~ Breakfast with a great friend to start the week.
~ Real and honest conversations...
~ Warm, sunny days are finally here!
~ Birkenstocks, t-shirts and capri pants. :-)
~ Allergies... means a working immune system, I guess. ☺
~ Ceiling fans.
~ Many shades of green colouring my yard.
~ A good night's sleep.
~ A new camera.
~ Travel vaccinations, and
~ Insurance coverage to pay for them!
~ Electricity!
~ My girl being excited about her Summer missions trip.
~ Grand opening of the first LEGO Store in Toronto!
~ Get-together with family.
~ Re-arranging things in my kitchen.
~ Thought-provoking message at church by Chris Heuertz.
~ That God uses the marginalized to save us from ourselves.

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

Monday, May 9, 2011

20 Years!

This past weekend marked 20 years since hubby and I started dating and promised each other forever!  How time flies... it sure does that when you're having fun, eh?

Here we were 20 years ago, May 1991... we were on board a ferry en-route to The Statue of Liberty!

Here are twenty things why this man is the one that my soul loves...

1. He loves God!
2. He “fears the Lord, greatly delights in His commandments.” ~ from Psalm 112:1
3. He's my best friend.
4. He's the grace of my life.
5. He's an awesome dad to our kids.
6. He has a compassionate heart.
7. He works hard.
8. He loves me unconditionally.
9. He sacrifices for our family.
10. He makes breakfast... his pancakes are awesome!
11. He fills my car up with gas.  All. the. time.
12. He makes sure I have windshield washer.
13. He washes the dishes.
14. He takes out the garbage.
15. He makes awesome lattes.
16. He's really funny... makes me laugh.
17. He's very intelligent... a really smart guy!
18. He eats anything I cook. :-)
19. He completes me.
20. He is more than what I asked for or imagined... truly God's gift to me!

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

April Showers, May Flowers

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers — most of which are never even seen — don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?
 ~ Matthew 6:30 (The Message)
With April showers come May flowers, this week I am starting my 1000 Gifts list with all the beauty that is waking up in my garden (#577)...

#578 - #603
~ Bright yellow hue of the flowering forsythia bush.
~ Tulips emerging from the thawed earth.
~ Periwinkle almost ready to bloom.
~ Flowering ash tree.
~ Signs of life in my climbing rose bush.
~ Sedum plants making a come-back this year!
~ Lots and lots of day-lilies... time to transplant some.
~ Hydrangea bush surviving the Winter!
~ White flowers of the pachysandras.

~ Stunning election results... new political landscape for Canada!
~ My 3-year-old nephew... how he's so fascinated with trains!
~ Bidding for trains on eBay for above-mentioned nephew. :-)
~ My boy's Imperial Officer costume turning out great.
~ Three 1st Place finishes...
~ My girl's choir at the Kiwanis Music Festival.
~ My girl and her team at the regional Math Olympiad.
~ My boy at the Grade 5 The Math League contest at school.

~ A lovely lunch at my workplace's Service Awards event
~ My girl's Junior High missions trip this summer with our church's youth!!!
~ A letter from Geydi, our Compassion daughter from Honduras.
~ Sleeping-in on a Saturday.
~ Shopping with my girl.
~ Comfort foods... yummy!
~ The gift of being a mom...
~ Memories of my 96-year-old grandmother on her knees... praying!
~ Sunday afternoon nap.
~ My home-made Mother's Day cards.

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

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Such A Privilege!

What a privilege it is to be a mom!  I got these today from my kids...

First of all, this home-made digital card from my boy...

He's gotten very good at using Microsoft Paint on his laptop... using the mouse to draw and write!!!  Pretty impressive, I must say!

And, this photo card from my girl which she made on Picnik...

... with the following written on the back!
As I graduate and go to highschool...
Mama, you taught me to do the right things.
And now you have to let your baby fly.
You've given me everything that I will need
To make it through this crazy thing called life.
And I know you watched me grow up
And only want what's best for me.
And I'll try to be the answers to your prayers.
And God is good, so good.
He'll watch your little girl like only He could.
He is good, so good.
He makes promises He keeps.
No, He's never gonna leave.
So don't you worry about me.
Don't you worry about me.
~ Mama's Song. Carrie Underwood.
{I changed the lyrics a bit. ☺}
Luv, Als ♥
I am truly honoured to be mama of these two great kids!  Happy Mother's Day to all my fellow mommies!!!

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

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hello Weekend!

It's the Saturday before Mother's Day and our weekend is slow getting started.  We are chillin' at home and doing laundry... and, look who's in the clothes dryer?

This is why being a mommy is so much fun!  Oh, this boy of mine... he can always make me laugh!!!

Happy Mother's Day to all my fellow mommies!!!

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

Friday, May 6, 2011

Musings on this Mother's Day Weekend

This Mother's Day will be the fifteenth one since I became a mom. Wow, how time flies!  These past few days, I've had several opportunities to reflect upon this gift called motherhood... what a privilege it truly is!

This is my baby girl... the one who made me a mommy for the very first time!  I will always remember that mild, wintry February night... in the dark night hours between midnight and the dawn of day, she came into this world after a long labour that lasted for 27 hours.

As she was plopped down on my chest and I saw her for the very first time, I knew that being a mommy is going to be a wonderful thing... a grace-gift!

It was an indescribable moment... one that is etched in my memory for all time.  She had a glimmer in her eyes; a head full of wild ebony-black hair; perfectly-formed, most-beautiful lips; rosy cheeks; and, she was already her chatty self right from the very beginning!

And, this is my baby boy... the one who made our family complete!  He made his debut into our world one crisp and cool Summer evening in September after 16 hours of labour.  It was Labour Day Monday! :-)

As I laid eyes on him for the very first time, I knew I was in love!  He had a full head of jet-black hair, just like his sister {except his is tame}; big round eyes; chubby cheeks; precious little feet; and, a serious "I'm innocent" look that said: "Here comes trouble!" :-)

In a blink of an eye... fourteen Sundays of Mother's Day have been celebrated.  The fifteenth one will soon come and go.  My girl is now a 14-year-old teenager and my boy will soon turn 11.  Time... it truly flows like a river, relentlessly... never stopping to wait for anyone.  Today, as I reminisce, I am thankful for the precious memories and look forward to making many more!

Gone are the days of princess dress-ups and ballet lessons, of Barbie dolls and paper dolls, of imaginary friends and thumb-sucking, of poured cooking oil on the kitchen floor and bedtime stories, of Thomas the Tank Engine and VeggieTales, of washing hands in the toilet bowl and climbing the stove, of potty-training and bottle weaning.

As I step over the threshold and enter this new stage of mothering in the teen years, I embrace it with the same conviction as I did when my kids were first born... that I need to be fully here for them, to live fully {as their mommy} right where I am.

When I was pregnant with my baby girl, hubby and I made an intentional choice... that I will be a full-time mommy.  As many of you know, I do work.  But I work from my home, and only during the hours when my kids are in school.  When they were very young, I worked minimal part-time hours and only when they napped and on evenings after hubby came home.  This choice has enabled hubby and me to be their principal caregivers at all times... all these years, they've never been cared for by other people {on a regular basis}.

During those early years, a book by Jill Savage called Professionalizing Motherhood helped me to see the significance of this counter-cultural idea of a stay-at-home mom and how important it truly is if the goal is to raise kids for Biblical greatness.  I highly recommend this book for young mothers!  It was instrumental in cementing {in my soul} the principle of keeping my heart at home.

Now that my kids are older and are at school for most of the day, I have the ability to work more.  But I am still at home.  I am here to bid them goodbye in the mornings.  I am here when they come home for lunch.  I am here when they step in the door after school.  I am here to drive them places.  I am here to attend games, performances and competitions.  I am here to listen, to counsel, to celebrate, to laugh and to cry with them.

As I am physically fully here, I also vow to be totally all here {body, heart, mind and soul}, to live fully in the now... to always be their full-time mommy, not only in theory but in reality!

It's not an easy journey, this path called motherhood... traveling it well is truly only possible by the grace that God bestows.  A grace-gift (#576), indeed.

Happy Mother's Day to all my fellow mommies.  May you cherish this journey that is motherhood... it truly is a privilege to be called Mom.

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

Monday, May 2, 2011

This Week Flew By...

What if we don’t pack up Easter — but purposed to live Easter?
Why would I celebrate His resurrection power ---
if I wouldn’t choose to daily live in it?
Only by His grace alone.
 ~ Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience.
This short week literally flew by... if not for the renewed realization that I am to live as a daughter of the Resurrection, to live out Easter, I would have overlooked the grace-gifts that came my way this week.

With a heart that seeks to live out Easter, my 1000 Gifts list continues with...

#563 - #575
~ An opportunity to give towards the local food bank's Spring drive.
~ A renewed relationship.
~ Making my boy's Star Wars Imperial Officer costume for the school play.
~ Getting my work done... a huge grace-gift during short weeks!
~ A TV antenna installed on our roof.
~ Paying taxes.
~ Mindstorm Day for my boy and his friends, and...
~ The team being successful in the intermediate level.  They're in Grades 4/5!!!
~ My girl performing {clarinet} in the Durham Elementary Honour Band!
~ A visit from my little nephews... so cute!
~ Another win for my girl's all-Filipino basketball team.
~ Helping a friend with her new blog.
~ A comfy bed for my tired body...

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