Monday, December 31, 2012

December's Joy Dare

Friends, here is my last 2012 Joy Dare post... I did it... counted an extra 1,000 Gifts in 2012!!! It has truly been fun, life-changing, JOY-inducing!

#1006 - #1098... December's grace-gifts... from the Giver of good gifts, the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

3 gifts white:
:: My new iPad mini... it's simplifying my life! Loving it.
:: White ribbons and bows on the Christmas wreaths on the front of our house.
:: A glass of yummy farm-fresh organic milk!

3 gifts bright:
:: The lights on our Christmas tree.
:: This smile! ♥
:: Neighbourhood streets brightly lit with Christmas lights!

3 gifts shining:
:: My boy's trombone... so proud of him teaching himself how to play this instrument.
:: The Light of the world!
:: The star on top of our Christmas tree.

a gift circling, crowning, crafted:
:: Silver ribbon circling our Christmas tree.
:: The star crowning our Christmas tree.
:: Beautifully crafted ornaments adorning our Christmas tree.

3 gifts silver:
:: Silver twirling ribbons on gift packages.
:: Huge silver Christmas balls hanging by our living room window.
:: Silvery, glittering raindrops... a December that feels more like Spring!

3 gifts sweet:
:: Cheesecake!
:: Banana bread!
:: Eggnog!

3 gifts from your Saviour:
:: Peace.
:: Joy.
:: Love.

a gift hung, held, heard:
:: Christmas stockings on the mantle.
:: Reading the Bible on the iPad.
:: Great music... ushering us into a time of worship each Sunday morning!

3 gifts ugly beautiful:
:: Serving a meal to the homeless... it will always feel ugly-beautiful.
:: A teacher being mean to my boy and him learning not to be the same.
:: Ugly = our broken world. Beautiful = Jesus being born into our broken world.

3 gifts unframed art:
:: This quote...
:: The art of giving... that extra touch to make gifts even more beautiful!
:: The art of grace... painted by the Master Artist! ♥

3 gifts ice cold:
:: A glass of ice cold Coke.
:: Ice cream!
:: A tall glass of fresh cold milk.

3 gifts berry red:
:: This Christmas plate.
:: Red Christmas Kisses chocolate!
:: The reds on our front-door wreath!

3 gifts striped:
:: Candy canes!
:: Gift packages wrapped in striped papers for our friends at UrbanPromise!
:: Striped cookies baked for Christmas hampers... to bless those in need.

3 gifts stamped:
:: Christmas letters, ready to be mailed.
:: Family Christmas photos turning out well, a stamp of approval!
:: Christmas crafts from kids at church, stamped and sticker-ed!

a gift gold, scented, bent low:
:: Gold tinsel, to decorate tables at a dinner for families in need.
:: Nice scent from greenery in Christmas urn by the front door.
:: Bent low in prayer... for families in Newton, Connecticut.

3 gifts Bethlehem-unlikely:
:: A young, unmarried, virgin girl chosen to bring the Messiah into our world!
:: Lowly shepherds chosen to be the first people to hear of His birth!
:: Today, God still chooses the unqualified... to join Him in doing Kingdom work!

3 gifts frosted:
:: Cookies!
:: Cupcakes!
:: Cakes!

3 gifts miraculous:
:: Joy to the word, the Lord is come!
:: Away in a manger... no crib for a bed...
:: Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King."

3 gifts manger-small:
:: A random act of kindness.
:: A spontaneous gesture of compassion.
:: A small expression of love.

3 gifts angelic song:
:: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
:: "Do not be afraid."
:: "I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people."

3 gifts lit:
:: Christmas lights...
:: Christmas lights...
:: And more Christmas lights! Everywhere. So beautiful.

a gift rejoicing, wonder, praising:
:: Rejoicing that Jesus is the Gift!
:: In wonder and in awe of God's great love for us!
:: Praising Him for giving us the greatest Gift of all.

3 gifts starry:
:: Dark night sky.
:: Starry eyes of little niece and nephews anticipating their Christmas gifts.
:: The star that led the wise men to the Saviour! ♥

3 gifts humble:
:: Jesus' humble birth.
:: Jesus' humble life on earth.
:: An example for us to follow...

3 gifts in Luke 2:
:: Joseph's obedience and dedication.
:: The angels' singing!
:: Mary treasuring up all these things in her heart.

3 gifts in Christ:
:: Freedom.
:: Abundant life.
:: Eternal hope.

a gift found, shared, saved:
:: Time for some Christmas baking!
:: Christmas goodies and treats for our neighbours!
:: And some for ourselves! :-)

3 gifts lingering:
:: The aroma of Christmas baking filling the house.
:: The spirit of Christmas...
:: The awe of Christmas' true meaning, lingers on year-round.

3 gifts of hope:
:: Hope in times of despair.
:: Hope in times of waiting.
:: Hope in times of joy.

3 gifts remembered:
:: A year of grace-gifts!
:: Blessings received, in abundance.
:: His faithfulness, through every generation.

3 gifts anticipated:
:: A new year.
:: New mercies.
:: His enduring faithfulness.

Click on the banners below to learn more about counting to 1,000 Gifts...
Jump in... I promise you will be blessed!

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Grace-Gifts

It's Christmas Eve morning...
And the house is quiet. Hubby and the kids are out and I'm left alone with my thoughts. I've been working on sending out Christmas greetings this morning via email and Facebook... and also finding some time to update the blog a bit as well.

Also, our family is looking forward to the Christmas Eve service at church later today... where we will get together with our larger church community to celebrate Christmas together!

And, friends, here is our family's Christmas Letter...

Merry Christmas, friends!
May your Christmas be filled with love, joy and peace... because "moments come as wrapped gifts and we simply have to trust the Giver." {from One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp} 

As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who so loved the word that He gave... these are the things I am thankful for this week... #1697 - #1703:
:: Delivering sandwiches, for the homeless.
:: His grace sustaining me through a busy week.
:: Our church family coming together to make a Christmas Dinner happen for families in need at UrbanPromise Toronto.
:: Christmas get-togethers starting!
:: God continuing to open the door towards a seemingly new opportunity for me... continuing to trust His heart, knowing that He only gives good gifts.
:: Last day of school!
:: Time to do some Christmas baking! Yum!
Happy Monday, friends!
May your Christmas week be merry and bright...
God giving Himself to me - for me - a surrender of love. "Gratitude is the most fruitful way of deepening your consciousness that you are... a divine choice," writes Henri Nouwen.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
Let's soar into this new week together, friends... let's do justice, love mercy and walk humbly!

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

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Monday, December 17, 2012

There Are No Words...

I am utterly heart-broken...
The tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut this past Friday, there are just no words! I weep at the sight of photos of those beautiful children... I cringe when the news reports how it all unfolded... I get mad reading people's debates about why guns should remain accessible to the public. {Side note: I'm glad they aren't easily accessible here in Canada and I think it should stay that way.}

Friends, the ugly truth is... we live in a broken world. A world where innocent little children can die an evil death. A world where mental illness is very real. A world where private citizens see the need to carry and own guns.

In all this ugliness, it brings me much comfort and deep joy knowing that Jesus chose to be born into our ugly and broken world that very 1st Christmas Day... and that He is going to make all things new.

As I try to process this tragedy... I've come to the conclusion that some things will just remain unfathomable and I will have to settle with shedding tears and a broken heart. But, there's been a few things I read over these last few days that have brought some comfort to my aching heart. 

Here they are... 
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." ~ Romans 12:21, NIV.
A Christmas Prayer by Max Lucado.
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." ~ Psalm 34:18, NIV.
As for our family, we are choosing to overcome evil with good. Here are our few attempts at it these past few days...

Purchasing "Gifts of Compassion" as Christmas gifts!

Preparing Christmas gift baskets for families in need.

Like-new winter wear... being donated! We don't each need multiple coats!

Grocery list... for a Christmas Dinner for families in need.

Sandwich Run... bagged lunches for the homeless.

Oh, come... oh, come, Emmanuel! 
Jesus Christ who came into this world "not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many," (Mark 10:45) will one day come again and "he will gird himself and have them sit at the table, and he will come and serve them," (Luke 12:37) and even this very day He faithfully serves that we might say, "The Lord is my helper." (Hebrews 13:6)
~ from the book, One Thousand Gifts.
As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One is close to the broken-hearted... these are the things I am thankful for this week... #1690 - #1696:
:: Dinner with new friends from church!
:: An opportunity for hubby and I to serve 'the least of these' by washing and massaging the tired feet of homeless folks at an Out of the Cold location. A humbling experience... a holy experience.
:: My son's principal... for speaking into my boy's life and as a result, inspiring him to start reading the devotional, Our Daily Bread. :-)
:: My parents, in town for Christmas.
:: A quiet Saturday, some time to slow-down. 
:: My work-from-home job, for days when children are home sick.
:: The buzz at church on Sunday morning, everyone excited about our faith community being the hands and feet of Jesus this Christmas season to an inner-city community in need.
Happy Monday, friends!
On this day when words don't seem adequate enough, this is my prayer:
Here you can enact eucharisteo; 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.
Let's soar into this new week together, friends... let's do justice, love mercy and walk humbly!

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

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Busy Weekend, Crazy Start To The Week!

Wait a minute...
Is it really Wednesday already?!? Consider this my mid-week update then, friends! The weekend that just passed was crazy busy which I'll tell you more about in a bit. It was followed by a crazy start to the week, with me being out-of-town on Tuesday. Hence, this is really the first day this week that I've been able to sit down and even consider a blog post.

So, we spent all day Saturday at the Qualifying Tournament for FIRST Lego League for our Region. Hubby and I coach our son's team. This is the first year for us to attempt FIRST's program. And, boy! True to its reputation, it's a lot of hard work!

My son and his teammate during the Robot Game where our robot failed to do anything significant!

The team presenting their Project - a handheld device for seniors called the SCA!

During the Awards and Closing Ceremonies

We faced many obstacles, few unknowns and some disappointments. We were literally "facing giants" --- as one of the parents so eloquently described our situation. We arrived at the tournament venue and quickly realized that we were up against some pretty tough competition: private schools with unlimited budgets {we're a public school with a very limited budget}, with years of experience {we have none!}, with ultra-knowledgeable coaches {certainly not hubby nor me}, teams who spent over 500 hours preparing for this {in comparison to our 50+ hours}! Giants, indeed!

We looked {and felt} mighty small and unqualified beside these giant teams. Plus, due to our lack of experience, we were unprepared for many things. The day progressed with small victories, here and there.

That one parent on our team further pointed out... when David was facing Goliath, all God asked him to bring were a few stones and his slingshot. So true, isn't it?!? Well, she and I both... we prayed hard, prayed that at least our team wouldn't be disappointed after all the hard work. I prayed that we would at least win the "Rising Star" rookie team award, or even the "Against All Odds" award which goes to a team that "improvises and overcomes a difficult situation while still making a respectable showing."

Well, a huge shock would soon confront us... in a good way! :-)

As one by one the winners were announced, our hope slipped away. We never heard our team number called... not for the "Rising Star" award, not even for the "Against All Odds" award. As participation medals were being handed out, they didn't even call us up! Being newbies, we didn't automatically know that this meant we were up for the BIG awards. We actually thought that they just missed calling up our team for the participation medals. We were going to just ask for our medals after the Closing Ceremonies were over.

I scan the kids' faces at this time, and I won't lie... they were pretty downcast and disappointed. I felt so very sad!

Then, it was time to announce the Champion Award recipients. In Third Place... and earning a spot at the Provincial Tournament, is Team 2260... Westcreek Einsteins!!!

Wow! I could not believe what I was hearing! I had to look around to see other people's reaction to make sure I did hear what I heard! The kids' faces all lit up with HUGE smiles... it was sooooo heart-warming to see! I just love it when the underdog wins, don't you?!?

Our prayers, our "five stones and slingshot"... they were truly all that we needed!

My boy posing with his medal and the team trophy!

So, that was Saturday! A pretty intense day, I must say.
Needless to say, the weekend quickly ran away from me with all that excitement. Monday was a blur... and Tuesday saw me and my girl driving out-of-town to visit the offices of Compassion Canada in London, Ontario... which is about 2.5 hours away from where we live.

My girl helping out in Compassion Canada's mail room! So much fun!

Friends, as I started out this week and inventoried the weekend's result and also what was in store for me this week... God allowed me to be keenly aware that no matter how "small" and "unqualified" we feel or think we are, He can always use us for His glory!

As I've been reading in a Christmas devotional called Joy! to your World! A Countdown to Christmas on YouVersion, I am encouraged and spurred on by Mary's example... she said, "May it be done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)"
Has God asked something difficult of you lately? How have you responded?
When God requires one of His children to lay down their will and their way for His best plan, often there is a struggle of the human will.
God is looking for... men and women who are willing to serve Him out of love. God is looking for those who willingly submit to His ways and plans simply because their heart completely belongs to Him. God desires men and women who will allow Him to interrupt their well-thought lives with His unbelievable plans!
"... May it be done to me according to your word." Is that the resolve of your heart as well?
As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who helps us when we are facing giants... these are the things I am thankful for this week... #1679 - #1689:
:: An underdog win! So awesome!
:: His grace... allowing me to face giants without fear.
:: Grace changing my heart, warming it up to desire His will on a change that He is seemingly putting in my path.
:: Our whole family serving dinner to some under-privileged youth. 
:: My girl on a weekend retreat, team building with the group of youth that she will be serving with during this upcoming March Break. They are headed back to UrbanPromise Wilmington!
:: An awesome church family whom we feel right at home with.
:: Prayer support from our Home Church family.
:: Our Lead Pastor, who texts me with a prayer encouragement on Tuesday right before I step into a significant meeting.
:: Friends and family who support in prayer.
:: My girl... for her moral support & prayers! I learn lots from this incredible young lady... so thankful she's mine! :-)
:: His mercies, new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. He is enough!
Happy Wednesday, friends!
On this seemingly shortened week, this is my prayer:
When Christ is at the centre, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks to Him, joy rains. Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all. When the eyes of the heart focus on God and the hands on always washing the feet of Jesus alone, the bones, they sing joy, and the work returns to its purest state: eucharisteo. The work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
Let's soar together, friends... let's do justice, love mercy and walk humbly!

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

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Monday, December 3, 2012

In Hindsight

On Saturday afternoon...
After a whole morning of being lazy and staying in my PJs and dilly-dallying around the house, the afternoon literally snucked up on me! All of a sudden, I realized... we're going to be late if we don't start moving! We were due, at 5:30pm, to help serve a dinner to homeless folks at an Out of the Cold venue.

We still had groceries to buy and errands to do and dinner to eat... all to be done in two short hours! Hubby and I dashed out of the house and did our grocery shopping in record time. We rushed back home and our whole family piled into the van.

We drove downtown to an area called The Danforth where a Ten Thousand Villages store is located. I wanted to take the opportunity to drop by the store and grab a few fair-trade Christmas gifts there since it's close-ish to the Out of the Cold venue where we were headed.

When I finished my shopping... my next mission was... find a place to eat dinner! We exited the Ten Thousand Villages store and there she was... hubby pointed her out to me... a homeless girl camped out by the sidewalk near the store's entrance begging for food.

I glanced at my watch... 5:15pm... and I said to myself, "No time to help this homeless girl. We have to eat dinner and get to the Out of the Cold venue, all in 15 minutes!"

As it stands... we're going to be late already... no time to waste! So, we passed her by... and headed to a restaurant where we scarfed down our dinner, in record time! My son didn't even get to finish his dinner when I announced, "It's time to go!", while simultaneously packing his rice-and-chicken-teriyaki-dinner into a take-out container so that he could eat it later, if he's still hungry.

I was herding my family along... take-out container in hand, very impatiently... the whole time ranting about how we're going to be late... it's now 5:40pm... we are late! I was literally running back to where our van is parked... my family trailing along behind me.

And, I saw her again... still seated at that very same spot. I had no intention of stopping. Honestly, I didn't. 

Just when I passed her... I heard her say, "Any leftovers?"

I literally did an about-face... I wasn't even conscious of the take-out container full of food that I held in my hands... I looked at her and realized that she was looking at the take-out container I had... at that very moment, I got jolted out of my zone... and into the moment, I quickly handed her the food... and was again, hurriedly on my way.

Then I heard her say, "God bless you!"
My response? "But there's no fork in there!" To which she replied, "Oh, that's okay... thank you!"

We were finally on our way to the Out of the Cold venue... then it struck me... "God bless you!" Are you kidding me? God bless me? For ignoring a homeless girl? For passing her by? For not intending to help her because I was in a hurry? For shoving leftovers in her hands? Seriously?!?

The irony of the moment hit me, it hit me hard... we were literally going to pass her by without helping because we were rushing to serve at a dinner for homeless folks. Why? Because the 110 homeless folks at Out of the Cold are more worthy of our time than that one homeless girl on the street?

Didn't the shepherd leave the ninety-nine to go find the one lost sheepIn hindsight... what we should have done is invite her to come with us... to enjoy this:

As I dished out rice noodles on plate after plate after plate at the Out of the Cold dinner... she kept coming back to mind. I prayed that the meager leftover rice-and-chicken-teriyaki would at least curb her hunger and asked God to forgive me for being selfish, for not stopping... for not taking the time to buy her a proper dinner, for not caring for the least of these.

After Out of the Cold, we drove back to The Danforth to look for her. She wasn't there anymore...
Let us consider a biblical philosophy of wealth... when God bestows the world's riches on any person, he is giving such people a ministry of helps. He wants them to use their largesse to lift up the fallen, to alleviate the burdens of the downtrodden. There is no choice; God expects us to share with the needy, and the more we have, the more we must share.
~ Grant R. Osborne, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.
There is no choice... God expects us to share with the needy... 

As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who is faithful even when I am not... these are the things I am thankful for this week... #1667 - #1678:
:: For grace that pardons and cleanses.
:: His faithfulness... especially in times when I am not.
:: Our family checking out the ministry of Ephraim's Place and exploring ways we can help.
:: Some organizational reshuffling at work... and trusting God to clearly show me the way.
:: His sustaining grace on a tough week.
:: Countdown to Tournament Day for my son's Robotics Team which hubby and I coach. Getting excited!
:: Fun Friday night taking family Christmas photos in our basement!
:: That God would see fit to partner with us... even when we miss the mark.
:: An amazing boss, who has been so good to me all these years! She is a gift!
:: A great conversation with her... very encouraging, her support means a lot.
:: Awesome church leadership team meeting. God truly is faithful.
:: A new week, a new beginning. His mercies, new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.
Happy Monday, friends!
Looking forward to living out this quote this week... with God's help...
And at the last, this is what will determine a fulfilling, meaningful life, a life that, behind all the facades, every one of us longs to live: gratitude for the blessings that expresses itself by becoming the blessing.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
Let's soar into this new week together, friends... let's do justice, love mercy and walk humbly!

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

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!