Saturday, December 31, 2011

One Word for 2012

As 2011 comes to a close, some reflection is in order. It has been a year of new things, new adventures, new heights for our family... throughout it all, our God has been gracious and He has been faithful! I have no words to describe the gratefulness that I feel welling up inside of me as I reflect on the year that has been.

From our year-end family newsletter...
This year, our family can most definitely say that God’s great love never ceases, His compassion never fails, His faithfulness so great! With His unforced rhythms of grace, He has showed us what is good and what He requires of us… and that is “to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him.” (Micah 6:8)
Here are some highlights...

Practicing Micah 6:8... delivering socks and underwear for the homeless.

Lessons about grace... and counting to 1,000 gifts and beyond!

Thanksliving... serving meals to the homeless.

March Break Camp with UrbanPromise Toronto!

My girl graduating from Grade 8!

Meeting our Compassion LDP student, Rochelle... in the Philippines!

Meeting our Compassion daughter, Florianlyn!!!

Packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes!!!

Sponsoring Moses at our church's AIDS Care Campaign. 1,016 HopeChild kids were sponsored!

Gazing ahead to the year that will be... 2012, I am full of hope! One word that came to me today is... SOAR... from the verse in Isaiah 40:31 where it says:
... but those who hope in the Lord
          will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
          they will run and not grow weary,
          they will walk and not be faint.
soar (sôr)
1. To rise, fly, or glide high and with little apparent effort.
2. To climb swiftly or powerfully.
3. To ascend suddenly above the normal or usual level: Our spirits soared.
I love the first definition... to rise, fly, or glide high and with little apparent effort. 

With. Little. Apparent. Effort. 
Love it! 

In 2012, I want to soar... not with my own might, but with God giving me flight... to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him.

Happy New Year, friends! Let's soar into 2012 together... all for His glory.

Linking up with other One Word posts at:

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

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

Today is December 26 and it is a holiday here in Canada... it is called Boxing Day. I first learned of this holiday when my family immigrated here over 20 years ago. I remember thinking, "What an odd name for a holiday!" I did some research and found out why it's called Boxing Day.

Do you know why it is called Boxing Day? Here are some of the explanations behind the name Boxing Day:
:: A ‘Christmas Box’ in Britain is a name for a Christmas present. Boxing Day was a day off for servants and when they received a ‘Christmas Box’ from the master. The servants would also go home to give ‘Christmas Boxes’ to their families.
:: A box to collect money for the poor was placed in Churches on Christmas Day then opened the next day.
:: Great sailing ships when setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board for good luck. If the voyage were a success the box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents given to the poor.
As you can see, despite the different explanations, all of them revolves around charity... Boxing Day was all about giving to the poor and needy, to those who are less fortunate, to the marginalized in society. Sadly, it has evolved into something else... something quite the polar opposite of what it was originally meant to be. Today, when we hear the words Boxing Day, we think shopping... deals... bargains... more stuff for ME, self-indulgent ME! To my American blog readers, think Black Friday.

I must confess that I did go to the mall today... to buy marked down Christmas cards and gift-wrapping supplies. I also bought a few sweaters to replace some ready-to-retire ones. As my girl and I walked around the mall for a bit... we saw crowds and long lineups and people with multiple packages and kids parked on the floor eating ice cream while their parents shopped! Crazeeeeeeness!

What if, I thought... society returned to the true meaning of Boxing Day? I think the world would be a better place, wouldn't it? Just imagine...

A friend of mine posted "Just Imagine..." status updates on Facebook all throughout Advent. Here is one of them:
Imagine a day when everyone was a part of a caring community of people who loved each other.
Consider a day when everyone shared their stuff; in fact, no one believed anything was 'their stuff' but that it belonged to the whole community.
Imagine a time when no one felt the need to abuse the people in their community by taking advantage of people's kindness.
Imagine a time when everyone had someone to love and knew that someone loved them.
Just imagine!
Come Lord Jesus. Come quickly!!! It's almost Christmastime.
To read the whole series of Dion Oxford's "Just Imagine..." Advent posts, please click here.
Can you imagine a Boxing Day like that? In fact, not just on Boxing Day but peace on earth and goodwill toward all men throughout the whole year!
"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name." (Psalm 100:4 KJV)
I could bless God. 
Not take anything. Not ask anything, demand anything, petition anything. I could simply give to Him.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
As I ponder these thoughts, I continue my counting of grace-gifts, #1175 - #1187... for it is in the counting where the giving flows from... "let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me..."

:: Fun night for my boy with peeps from his youth group.
:: School's out!
:: Christmas baking!
:: Christmas photo shoot with my extended family.
:: Christmas Eve service.
:: Cooking, baking, cooking, baking!
:: Online Sunday teaching on Christmas Day... I ♥ technology!
:: Beautiful family time on Christmas morning.
:: My boy reading from Luke 2:1-20.
:: Each family member's birthday gift to Jesus!
:: Both kids opening presents from us!
:: Christmas lunch with hubby's extended family.
:: Boxing Day dinner with my family.

Click on the banner below for more Multitudes on Mondays posts... Jump in... I promise you will be blessed!

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

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's Christmas!

Wishing you a peace-filled Christmas...

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

To read our family's year-end newsletter, please click here.
Also, a very Merry Christmas from my boy... in true LEGO Star Wars style! :-)

May your days be merry and bright...

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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's Christmas Eve!

Dear Heavenly Father, my heart quietly waits in anticipation of the grand celebration that tomorrow brings. Thank You for the gift of Your Son. Thank You for redeeming grace.
~ Advent reading from Girlfriends in God devotional.
I just want to take this opportunity to thank each one of you who sponsored a Compassion child this year! Thank YOU for giving hope... thank you for making a difference in the lives of needy children, releasing them from poverty in Jesus' name!

Merry Christmas... from our family to yours!
{Please click on the photo for a larger image.}

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Giving Instead of Getting

One of the grace-gifts I listed yesterday on my Multitudes on Mondays post was this:
:: Shopping for items to pack into hygiene kits for homeless youth.
This past Saturday, our kids got together with their cousins and "almost-cousins" for our annual Christmas party. First, let me explain the "almost-cousins." :-) This group actually started 23 years ago with five teenage girls --- myself, my two sisters and our two friends who are also sisters --- us five, we're just like blood sisters! Hence, our kids are "almost-cousins."

Here we were... 20+ years ago!

So... the 14 "almost-cousins" aren't getting presents from the aunties this year. Instead, those of us who are here in the Greater Toronto Area used the money to purchase hygiene items for homeless youth who are ministered to by Yonge Street Mission! Our one "sister" who lives in the nation's capital is going to make a delivery to the local food bank!

So... Saturday was party time! What a fun afternoon we all had packing the hygiene kits!!! Here are some photos...

God can enter into me, even me, and use these hands, these feet, to be His love, a love that goes on and on and on forever, endless cycle of grace.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.

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

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Week...

It's finally Christmas week! Because my kids don't get out of school until this coming Friday, December 23rd... it seems like Christmas is still far away. In reality though... it is less than one week away!

We actually don't have much planned. It will be quiet this year, a nice change... we will enjoy the serenity and the togetherness... celebrating the birthday of our Prince of Peace.
And He will be called... Prince of Peace.
~ Isaiah 9:6.
Lord, I know there will be battles in my life, and I know that some fights between what is right and what is wrong are necessary. But help me to live in the calm and confidence that you have made it possible for me to live at peace with you.
~ Christmas Joy by Mel Lawrenz.
Here are some more photos (better quality ones) as an addendum to my post from last Thursday... Christmas Tour of Homes 2011... Merry Christmas from our home to yours!!!

And, the counting of grace-gifts continues... as we celebrate the birth of the Greatest Gift of all... #1166 - #1174 of blessings that overflow...

:: Shopping for items to pack into hygiene kits for homeless youth.
:: An Advent Conspiracy Christmas party!
:: Making new friends at Home Church.
:: A fresh haircut.
:: Wrapping gifts for the children at UrbanPromise.
:: My workplace's Christmas lunch.
:: Serving with our church family at the UrbanPromise Christmas party.
:: An almost-free admission to watch Mission Impossible 4... ♥ gift cards!
:: Sending a donation for Philippine flood victims via friends who will be on the ground there and working with local churches to distribute relief goods.
Here you can become a current in a river of grace that redeems the world. Here I can become the blessing, a little life that multiplies joy, making the larger world a better place.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
Click on the banner below for more Multitudes on Mondays posts...
Jump in... I promise you will be blessed!

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Tour of Homes 2011

10 days to Christmas, folks!

This morning, I came across this "event" in the blog-o-sphere called the Christmas Tour of Homes. It looks like a fun thing to do... so I'm jumping in and joining the fun! It is hosted by The Nester at the blog called Nesting Place.

So... please come on in, friends... get comfortable and welcome to our home!

Merry Christmas, friends!
From our family to yours...
My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
~ Luke 2:46-47.
Lord, this Christmas, give me a larger vision of who you are. May you be magnified in my soul, and may others see that you are the focus of my celebration.
~ from Christmas Joy, Mel Lawrenz.

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Giving Hope

One of the grace-gifts I listed yesterday on my Multitudes on Mondays post was this:
:: Another Compassion child sponsored!
Our family's journey of sponsoring a child with and advocating for Compassion International has truly been a life-changing experience! It has brought us to places we never dreamed we'd go... broken our hearts for things we never thought we'd care about... grown us in a way that we never thought was even possible!

To paraphrase Ann Voskamp, from her book One Thousand Gifts...

God is truly always good...
And, we are truly always loved!

God, in His grace... has brought about, through our family's advocacy... the sponsorship of 10 Compassion children in just 5 short months... truly beyond my wildest dreams... more than all we ask or imagine!

10 more children released from poverty in Jesus' name!

Today... would YOU add just one more to that total and give just one more child HOPE this Christmas season?

Let me introduce you to Lourence. He is 8 years old and lives in the coastal community of Poblacion (southeast of Dipolog City, Philippines). Most adults in Poblacion work as subsistence farmers and earn the equivalent of $100 per month.

Here is Lourence!
{Please click on the image for a larger preview.}

Wouldn't it be great for Lourence to find out at Christmas that he has been sponsored? You can make that happen! Lourence is waiting to call you "friend"!

If you are interested to sponsor Lourence, please contact me and I will promptly get his child pack off to you!!!

*Thank YOU* so much for loving on children who live in extreme poverty... you are a channel of God's love to a hurting and needy world.

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

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Ordinary

Bethlehem was like any other town in the hills of Judea. Yet, it was the birthplace of the greatest king of Israel, David, and one thousand years later, the Messiah. Honor comes to the ordinary because of God's choice, whether it is God's choice to use a town, or a nation, or even a single man or woman, boy or girl. So if this is shaping up to be an ordinary day for you - be prepared. That's the stage on which the acts of God are played.
~ Mel Lawrenz, Christmas Joy.
Bethlehem, an ordinary town. Mary, an ordinary girl. That first Christmas, an ordinary day. Today I am thankful that God chooses to use the ordinary to achieve extraordinary things!

Grace-gifts continue with #1154 - #1165... gifts given on ordinary days...

:: Visiting an uncle at the hospital.
:: Printing photos... counting memories.
:: Mailing Christmas gifts.
:: Watching my kids play basketball.
:: Watching hubby coach basketball.
:: Buying groceries.
:: Another Compassion child sponsored!
:: Running a Christmas Toy Drive at church!
:: Welcoming people to church as they arrive.
:: Sunday afternoon nap.
:: An ordinary, slow week!
:: My Advent readings...
Christ, you are the King above all other kings, the high priest who has made the ultimate sacrifice, the prophet who has had the last word. Let me be astonished this Christmas by knowing more fully than ever before, that you really have come and have changed this world, and are here still.
~ Mel Lawrenz, Christmas Joy.
Click on the banner below for more Multitudes on Mondays posts...
Jump in... I promise you will be blessed!

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

Joy To The World!

Summer sunshine over Lake Ontario.
Photo by: Floyd Esparaz

Hello there, Friday... with my Advent Reading from this morning...
Isaiah 9:2,6-7, The Message
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. 
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows — light! 
Sunbursts of light!
For a child has been born — for us! 
The gift of a son — for us! 
He'll take over the running of the world. 
His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
And there'll be no limits to the wholeness he brings. 
He'll rule from the historic David throne over that promised kingdom. 
He'll put that kingdom on a firm footing and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living, beginning now and lasting always.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!!! So thankful that Love came down that very first Christmas in Bethlehem. Have a blessed Friday, friends!

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How to Give Gifts this Christmas

On our drive home, we pass by this church with a lawn sign that often has something on it that we can laugh about... I know, I know... c'mon, but it's funny! :-) This week though, what they have on the sign is actually quite witty... thought-provoking even. It says:
Christmas is not your birthday!
I love it! Don't you?

Such a simple truth... yet missed by sooooo many! Missed by us, Christ-followers. Whose birthday are we celebrating anyway... when we smother ourselves and our children with over-indulgent gifts, focusing on "us" rather than those around us who are in need!

Greg Boyd (@greg_boyd) tweeted this today:
X-MAS INSANITY: multitudes stress out b/c they "can't find something" to buy loved ones while children in their community need food.
Ah, so true. 
So sad.
So wrong!

So... how should we, as Christ-followers, celebrate Christmas? Whose birthday is it anyway?

Off to school with Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes for his class to fill.

Deck the halls... and the window! :-)

Our Christmas tree... before being decorated.

Decorating the tree...

As we celebrate Advent and prepare for Christmas, our family is intentionally being mindful of whose birthday it is... the true meaning of why we celebrate in the first place!

All done!

This year, for the very first time... there will be less for ourselves under the tree so that we can give more Jesus birthday presents... living simply in order to give generously.
He must increase and I must decrease. (John 3:30, CEB)
... to those around us in dire need, in want, in poverty... to the least of these. This year, we will be doing Christmas radically!
Then the King will answer, 'I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.' (Matthew 25:40, NCV)
So... Christmas shopping on your mind?
How about a squealing pig, an egg-laying chicken or a milk-producing goat for the least of these in Rwanda, India, Uganda and Burkina Faso?
How about the gift of greenhouse farming, carpentry or an opportunity to start a small business for the least of these in Kenya, Ethiopia and Nicaragua?
How about a pile of books or computers for the least of these in Haiti, Colombia and Ghana?
How about vaccinations for babies, the least of these, in Ecuador and the Philippines?
How about a toilet for the least of these in Bolivia and El Salvador?

Then, hurry up and check out Compassion Canada's Gifts of Compassion... gifts that will keep on giving!
I am blessed. I can bless. Imagine! I could let Him make me the gift!
I could be joy!
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
Click on the banner below to read more Walk With Him posts every Wednesday...
I promise you will be blessed!

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

Monday, December 5, 2011

Grace and Peace

Grace and peace... always spoken together, as a blessing... in Scripture. Here is one of many verses...
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2, NIV1984)
This past week, I was hit with a wave of un-thankfulness... focusing on disappointments instead of grace-gifts... an amnesia of sorts... and I quickly realize that without the contemplating of grace... peace quickly disappears.

I was also reminded of these verses... about the fight that we, as Christ-followers, must face each day... one that we must fight well and win, with God's help...
Put on all the armor that God gives, so you can defend yourself against the devil's tricks. We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm. (Ephesians 6:11-13, CEV)
The full armour of God... that's what I need to put on... again and again, each and every day... each and every moment. I am thankful that my Heavenly Father is gracious enough for re-starts... His mercies new every morning, His faithfulness so great!

So, this week... I will focus on contemplating grace... on celebrating Advent. Here are some highlights of my Advent readings so far:
Day 1: Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King!
Day 2: The essence of being a Christian is placing all our hope in God, knowing we can trust him to fulfill all his promises --- even the ones that haven't been fulfilled yet. We are willing to wait, trusting that "God's way is perfect. All the Lord's promises prove true." (Psalm 18:30)
Day 3: "I am blessed. I can bless. So this is happiness." During this season of Advent, be a blessing to someone in need... celebrate Christmas radically, the way Jesus would want us to.
Day 4: I am blessed. I can bless. A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.
Day 5: Like your people of old, we are waiting for you, God, to fulfill all your promises. And because we remember how you fulfilled your promise to send Jesus, we know that you will fulfill all your promises to us.
Day 6: Joy is the startling realization that God has claimed territory in this world. He has taken back what belongs to him. Every day, we can remind ourselves of this revelation: reignite this joy again and again. Joy is a thirst that doesn’t want to be quenched; a hunger that knows it will go on and on. It’s a good thing, to never get enough of God.
Day 7: When we discover the Christmas shalom --- the confidence that when God's favor, his undeserved grace, rests on us, we will know a peace that goes beyond understanding. The peace gifted to us because Christ came into the world and put things in order, beginning with his birth, and completed in his sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection.
Day 8: Dear Lord, I have so much and I am surrounded by people who have so little. Show me someone I can help this Christmas. Open the eyes of my heart to see the needs of others. Make me an extension of Your lavish love. In Jesus' Name, amen.
Day 9: Christmas is about a message. It is a gospel, good news. The best news. The message transformed humankind - and we have never been the same.
And I will continue to contemplate grace by counting grace-gifts... #1144 - #1153:

:: Visiting a Home Church to present compassion initiatives.
:: A new laptop from work... a much-needed upgrade!
:: My girl doing the Vow of Silence.
:: Writing our year-end family newsletter.
:: Starting some Christmas shopping.
:: Cementing plans for our church to provide grocery gift cards to needy families.
:: A Christmas concert to kick-start the festive season.
:: Toys, toys and more toys --- toy drive for UrbanPromise going extremely well!
:: My family...
:: That God allows re-starts.

Click on the banner below for more Multitudes on Mondays posts...
Jump in... I promise you will be blessed!

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

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day

December is here! As I continue to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas during this season of Advent, I become more and more aware of the many needs of those around me who are marginalized by society both locally and globally.

This is what I read this morning in one of my Advent Readings:
We hear so often the phrase "Jesus died for me" that sometimes we forget the purpose of salvation isn't just to be glad our souls are safe for eternity; it's to follow Jesus's example --- give ourselves to others. That's what the Scripture talks about in 2 Kings, and that's what Christ did for us.
The truth is, we were saved from something for something.
As a family, you can create a giving experience by going to a homeless shelter or making sandwiches to pass out, and this is a good thing to do. But what if this year you prayed for God to send a giving experience? God is more than able to answer and would delight at your willingness to be a blessing in the life of another soul --- or many souls --- whom he loves.
~ Advent Reading from 25 Days of Christmas by Greg Johnson.
Today is World AIDS Day. This is the quilt panel I made over at the (2015)QUILT website where I pledged to continue to take action against AIDS!

Here are a few things that our family does to join in the fight against AIDS...

First, let me introduce you to Moses! Moses is 9 years old and he lives in the Mposa region of Malawi. Isn't his smile just adorable? I think so!

Well... he is our family's newest sponsor child!!! He is a World Vision HopeChild whom we decided to sponsor just this past month after Tony Campolo spoke at our church, launching an official partnership between our church and World Vision Canada.

Together, our entire church family has sponsored {to date and counting} 1,016 HopeChild children... all from the same village in Mposa, Malawi. I think that is just amazing! Don't you?

HopeChild sponsorship is a unique sponsorship program offered by World Vision Canada designed specifically to help families who live in areas impacted by HIV and AIDS. Through this program, families are better able to care for their own children as well as vulnerable children in the community, while helping more children stay HIV-free.

Another thing that our family has been doing for the last couple of years is packing AIDS Care Kits with our church family for the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

Little things... small sacrifices on our part... big impact in the fight against AIDS!

Would you consider taking action too?
To fight AIDS?
To see the beginning of its end by year 2015?

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