Monday, December 30, 2013

'Twas Truly An Upside-Down Christmas

In many ways... it was... an upside-down Christmas.
Oh yes, it was! But more on that in a bit. First off... let me say this, "Well, hello there blog! It's been a while, hasn't it?" It has been an incredibly busy month in our household and there hasn't been time at all to blog. As December comes to a close in just a bit over 24 hours, and a new year dawns... it would be amiss for me not to at least write about our Christmas.

Yes, our Christmas! This one was... upside-down. Yes, upside-down! In more ways than one, in beautiful ways and in not-so-beautiful ways... yes, in terribly broken ways... it was truly an upside-down Christmas.

Please click here to read our family's Christmas letter.

It was mid-November when... 
I read this blog post written by Ann Voskamp where she talked about a Christmas revolution, an upside-down Christmas! Her words so resonated with my heart...
Be brave enough to return the fake CHRISTmases and only bring home the real one that has CHRIST at the center of it.
Be brave enough to return any Christmas too small for the size of your soul — and only wear a Christmas large enough for real joy.
Be brave enough to turn Christmas upside down because this coming Christ ushered in the Upside Down Kingdom where
less is more and
weak is strong and
least is greatest and
consumers can get consumed and
giving is greater than getting.
Ann's words pierced my heart. I wanted to be brave. I knew I was ready for a Christmas revolution!

We put up our Christmas tree... 
Christmas music played at home and in the car. I even hung an upside-down Christmas tree by our patio door! We started and tried to keep up with Advent readings from The Greatest Gift... and failed.

We made a list and checked it twice... buying socially-responsible gifts and thinking hard about how to creatively forego materialistic gifts and focusing instead on "others-centered" gifts... and I fretted about how these radically different gifts will be received by our family and friends.

A community Christmas dinner at an inner-city ministry was in the works for our church family to volunteer at, with me being responsible for many of the details... and I stressed to no-end about it.

Days were hurried. Tiredness set in. Fuses were short. A family squabble ensued. It was ugly.

Christmas cards and letters sat on my desk waiting to be addressed and mailed... and they sat there untouched. 

The Christmas baking was still waiting to be done. The grocery list was still just a list. The gifts weren't wrapped. Christmas was a disaster! 

Where was the picture-perfect upside-down Christmas that I was planning for?

Then, an ice storm hit five days before Christmas and we lost power... for 43+ hours, along with half a million others. All Christmas preparations suddenly came to a halt!

As I sat there in the dark and shivered in the cold, I started to reflect on what Christmas really means. It is because of imperfect, broken people... like me, that Christmas came to be in the first place.

Love came down because I am a failure.
Love came down because I am broken.
Love came down because I am not enough.

The ice storm forced me to stop doing Christmas... and turned my focus on being Christmas

Christmas comes alive in us, Christ-followers...
... when we live it, not when we do it. Christmas isn't something we do. Christmas is something we live... because Christmas is who we are. CHRISTmas is Who is in us.

This is what a perfect upside-down Christmas looks like!

In the dark and in the cold, as I kept my fingers warm by working on a knitting project, I took some time to reflect on what it means to truly live Christmas...

It is getting Compassion children connected to loving sponsors.

It is enjoying the beauty of God's creation.

It is rejoicing when a child miraculously gets sponsored via social media.

It is enjoying a beautiful rendition of Handel's Messiah.

The lights {and heat} came back on just in time for Christmas Eve, just before our house totally froze over {just kidding... well, it was almost at freezing point!}. Thankfully, the lights came back on in my heart too.

Our backyard, on Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning! My boy reading us the Christmas Story from the Bible.
Two gifts under the tree waiting to be opened. Yes, just two gifts this year.
One for our girl, and one for our boy... and instead, using our gift money
to pack Care Packages for the homeless and delivering them
together as a family later this week.

Christmas finally came...
With or without adequate preparations, Christmas morning came anyway... and it was still just as beautiful and just as meaningful. 

Love came down... for you and me.

So what if the Christmas baking is a day late? So what if the Christmas cards and letters are being mailed late? So what if there are still a couple Christmas presents still to be delivered? So what if we didn't finish our Advent readings? So what if the counter-cultural upside-down Christmas gifts are met with puzzled looks?

It really doesn't matter... because Christmas is more than those things. Christmas is He who is in our hearts! Yes. it. is. 

Belated Merry Christmas, friends, from our family to yours!
There is no need for more: the heart is full of gifts that is full of Christ.
~ Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift. 
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.

Related Readings and Teachings:
:: How to Move Forward into the New Year… when you feel like you failed the last year.

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Life's Gifts, His Grace

It's Thanksgiving... again...
You know what's awesome about being Canadian? We get to celebrate Thanksgiving twice... first in October and then again in November with our American friends!

It also means, I get to write two Thanksgiving-related blog posts, first in October and then again, one more today! As I was mulling over how to write this particular blog post, this verse kept coming to mind:
I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. ~ Psalm 9:1.
Indeed! His wonderful deeds are meant to be told as an act of thanksgiving, as an act of worship... all for His glory and for His honour alone!

So, it is with a deeply thankful heart that I am writing today...
About a gift, a Grace-gift, a good and perfect gift... made only possible by God's grace alone!

It was just before the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. My girl told me that her friend has decided to nominate her for this peace medallion award. I remember thinking that I've never heard of such an award before and didn't think it was something too significant. In my mind, it sounded like a small-scale project that the school community was putting together.

So, I tucked the information somewhere waayyy over in the back of my mind.

One week after Thanksgiving, I was working away in my home office when the phone rang. I didn't recognize the number on the call display and didn't bother to pick it up. Moments later, an icon on our home phone indicated that there's a voice mail.

My girl's profile on the Peace Week website.
To read her entire profile and profiles of
fellow award recipients, please click here.
I listened to the voice mail and learned that the person was calling from the YMCA of Greater Toronto and wanted to speak to my girl... about the nomination for the Peace Medallion award, an initiative funded by the Canadian International Development Agency!

I texted my girl, who was at school at that time, and asked her to return this call during her lunch hour. A couple hours later, she texted me back saying, "I WON!!!"

Like I said above, I've never heard of this award before... so Google quickly became my friend... and I quickly found out that this award is no small deal after all! The previous years' recipients included prominent community members, police officers and even city mayors!

Mind-blowing! God has successfully knocked my socks off, yet again!

He truly does give good gifts... loves relentlessly and is always good!
Blog post for the Transform Blog.
The next few weeks was literally like a blur... she wrote a guest blog post for our church's Transform Blog, sorted through years of pictures and put together a slide show, media interviews, meetings with event organizers, rehearsals and writing her acceptance speech.

Then, it was time for the big day... Wednesday, November 20th... the Peace Medallion ceremony.

That morning, as I sat down at my home office desk to send a few emails before heading out to the Peace Medallion Ceremony, I flipped over my God in the Moment desk calendar and was in awe by what was there for me to read:
Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love, and whisper surprised thanks. This is the fuel for joy's flame. ~ Ann Voskamp.
Yes, indeed! And I smiled and I whispered surprised thanks... in awe that God would use a broken and unqualified family such as ours to bring Him glory. Just so utterly humbled... there are no words, just tears from this mama!

The award ceremony and reception afterwards was beautiful! 
My girl's friend, the one who nominated her, shared her thoughts behind the nomination. It was so beautiful! She mentioned being inspired by my girl's blog and her community work, her advocacy work with Compassion and her fundraising efforts... among other things.

For the rest of the day's photos, please click here.

Then, it was time for my girl to deliver her acceptance speech. The video of it is below and you can have a listen to the entire speech, including her friend's nomination speech... but I just want to highlight my most favourite part... here it is:
Aside from my family, only one thing has driven my passion for peace more, and that is my faith in Jesus. As I got older and started to take hold of both my faith and my passion for social justice as my own, I started to realize how these two things absolutely go hand in hand. One doesn't exist without the other.
{Please pause the music on the sidebar of this blog as you watch this video.}

Beautiful! This mama had to hold back tears... it was such a proud-mama-moment... how she is so passionate about proclaiming her faith in Jesus!
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. ~ Romans 1:16.
At the reception following the ceremony, this slide show was looped over and over again... with many of the slides highlighting the link between my girl's faith in Jesus and her passion for social justice!

In the days that followed, she gave a few media interviews and was invited to speak at a Human Rights event. Listening to her talk so passionately about her faith has truly made this mama's heart smile... I am deeply, deeply, deeply thankful for God's grace at work in her life!

Front page of our local newspaper.
Here's the same article online.

Unity in Diversity event where my girl was
one of the guest speakers, alongside
MP Chris Alexander!

MP Chris Alexander's tweet after the event.

My prayer for this girl since the day she was born is derived from the verses found in Isaiah 61:1-3... 

That, as an image-bearer of the Heavenly Father, she will be Jesus' hands and feet... to proclaim good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release prisoners from darkness, to comfort all who mourn...

That she will be an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.

Looks like our gracious Heavenly Father is answering this mama's prayer!

:: :: ::

As I continue to live out thanks and give thanks by counting grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who is always good and who always loves... these are the things I am thankful for this past month... #3093 - #3137:
:: That God would see fit to use unqualified people like us to bring Him glory.
:: For His beautiful work of grace in my girl's life.
:: His answering of this mama's prayer... in such surprising and beautiful ways!
:: My boy's Robotics Team is looking like they're ready for next week's qualifying tournament.
:: My girl passing her driving road test. She's a licensed driver now! Gasp!
:: God's sustaining grace... for a busy, busy, busy Fall season. 
:: For many opportunities to help out at Compassion events this past few weeks... and seeing hundreds of children sponsored! So, so, so awesome!
:: Winding down at night with some knitting... all for freedom! Check out Freedom Creations and you'll see why! :)
:: My boy, stepping out of his comfort zone, and agreeing to meet a boy who's being introduced to us by our previous school principal... in order to help lift this boy's spirits and to help him feel not so alone.
:: New windows for our home & God's provision for them!
:: New people at our Home Church! Love how this community is growing together & caring for each other & loving the marginalized in our community.
:: Operation Christmas Child shoe-box packing party!!!
:: Great response to Typhoon Haiyan relief, not only through Compassion Canada where to-date over $550,000 has been received, but through other organizations as well!
:: My boy emptying his bank account, literally his life savings... for Typhoon Haiyan relief. Amazed at God's grace at work in his life!
:: Winter tires & the first snow of the season.
:: Putting up the Christmas tree & decorations.
:: Christmas at UrbanPromise's Camp Freedom again this year!
:: Sandwich Runs for the homeless have started up again with our kids' Youth Group.
:: "Christmas at the Farm" --- this is beautiful! Our family is looking forward to an #UpsideDownChristmas this year!
:: Hubby giving a devotional at the Habitat for Humanity Canada National Leadership Conference and advocating for donations towards Typhoon Haiyan relief.
:: My boy's Robotics Team raising over $300 for Typhoon Haiyan relief!
:: The many more daily graces recorded in my Instagram feed
Happy Thanksgiving, friends...
Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. ~ James 1:17. 
Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. ~ 1 Peter 3:11.
Choosing to live a surrendered life... because Christ's love compels me... and giving thanks for everything that my good God so freely bestows, so lavishly gives and so extravagantly showers!

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, November 13, 2013

What If...?

In a blink of an eye...
Everything you know to be normal suddenly isn't there anymore? Everything... gone. Blown away, killed or destroyed by a super typhoon called Haiyan, one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.

I can't imagine such devastation and such heartache.

We sat still as this super storm raged and ravaged our beloved Philippines, the country where both hubby and I were born.

A place where we still have family including my parents and hubby's dad.
A place where two of our Compassion children live.
A place where, two summers ago, God broke our family's heart for the things that break His.

We breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing that our parents are safe. We breathed another sigh of relief upon knowing that our Compassion daughters are safe.

But many, many, many countless others aren't safe... just take a look at these heart-wrenching photos taken by hubby's cousin who lives right in Tacloban.

For almost a week now, our family can't peel our eyes off our TV and computer screens. We just sit there and watch in horror... our hearts broken all over again. 

For days now, I have been weepy and full of emotion. Tonight, I am finding it very difficult to put my thoughts and feelings into words... so I am just going to let some images tell you the story.

Summer 2011: Excited to arrive in Tacloban City.
Hubby has lots of fond memories of this place. It is his mom's home town and
where he spent a majority of his childhood summers. 

This is the airport today.
Photo Credit: BBC News

My kids posing outside the Provincial Government building.

This is the exterior of the building today.
Photo Credit: ABS-CBN News

At the Leyte Park Resort Hotel where hubby's family so generously gifted us to stay at.
It is right beside the ocean... such breath-taking view!

I don't even want to imagine what state the resort is in now when this is how the Tacloban coastline looks today.
Photo Credit: The Guardian

We visited this famous tourist landmark --- The Leyte Landing Memorial. So much history!

This is how it looks today. Look at the barren landscape in the horizon!
Photo Credit: NBC News

No words... there are just no words!
The above images don't even show the depth of the desperation and the pain of heartache that the people there are currently experiencing. They don't even show the faces of frightened and hungry and wounded children now waiting for days for food and clean water and medical help to arrive. They don't even show the countless people rendered homeless just wandering the streets not knowing where to go and what to do.   

There are just no words. Yet today, I read these words by Ann Voskamp... complete with a link to Compassion International's website appealing for donations for the Philippines:
Maybe watching the news and lingering on a face and being brave enough to let a calloused heart feel the ache of humanity again makes you press your heel differently into this soft earth.
In a world of need, it’s too easy to think that static gratitude is our only responsibility — instead of feeling gratitude as the electric current empowering our ability to actually respond.
To actually do something. To actually walk, live, move, respond, go into this world as though our feet are kissing the grace of the ground under us and God over us, going as an embrace to those in need. 
The Grateful are the great fuel of world change.
And I smile... and I cry some more... remembering that phrase by Ann that has become a household saying for our family... "Eucharisteo – thanksgiving – always, always precedes the miracle."

And I smile... because we are all connected together, global citizens, brothers and sisters in Christ, called to help each other especially in times of dire need.

And I smile... because many are coming alongside our beloved Philippines and donating to the relief fund and praying hard and sending love.

And I smile... because hubby's extended family in Tacloban have been evacuated safely to another city.

And I smile... because my boy decided to empty his bank account, his "life savings"... and give it all to Compassion Canada's Philippines Disaster Fund.

And I smile... because my girl writes this blog post linking arms with our beloved Philippines and writes her speech for this Peace Medallion award including in it an appeal for people to open their wallets.

And I smile... because this facility was used as an evacuation centre during the typhoon, shielding at least 28 families from the storm... a reminder to our family, once again, that God takes our meager offering, our five loaves and two fishes, and multiplies it one thousand fold.

And I smile... because of these photos posted on Compassion Canada's Facebook page.

Friends, somehow... 
Tonight, I have renewed hope. I just know... I know that our beloved Philippines will get through this. Us linking arms with them, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart, our Filipino friends will come out of this stronger, because... when our thanksgiving literally becomes thanks-living, what comes next is always, always, always the realization that a miracle has unfolded.

Will you come link arms with us?
U.S. donors, please follow this link
Canadian donors, please follow this link.
Philippine donors, please contact Compassion Philippines to see how you can help.

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

Monday, October 28, 2013

Inspiring Weekend... on celebrating 50 years!

What an inspiring weekend we had!
It was a Compassion-filled weekend which really started on Friday when my girl and I represented Compassion Canada at the Global Leadership Summit.

My girl at the Global Leadership Summit. #glscda

Connecting with churches and pastors was the main focus of the event, not child sponsorship... yet still, my girl and I were thrilled when four children found their way to the hearts of people who will now be their sponsors!!!

We packed up the booth, loaded up the car and headed home to pack some more... excited for our whole family to be headed to London, Ontario the very next day to celebrate Compassion Canada's 50th birthday!!!

And we're off!

We headed out early Saturday morning for the two-and-a-half-hour drive to London... my girl was accompanied by her knitting (of course!) and my boy by his ever-present cubes (of course!). :)

We arrived just in time to share a lovely lunch with fellow Compassion Advocates who were in town for the big event. It was so awesome to meet many of them in person... many of whom we've only connected via social media!

Then it was the big event!
It was such an inspiring evening... celebrating God's goodness and His faithfulness! Our family is humbled that God would invite us to be a part of such an amazing ministry, releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name!

It brings me to tears thinking... What if we ignored or missed God's calling? What if we chose comfort over obedience? What if we missed being blessed because we chose self? I can't even imagine *not* doing this, this not being part of our family's life... and to think that just merely less than four years ago, just before Christmas of 2009, we had no idea what Compassion's ministry was all about!

It took our girl, just twelve years old at that time, to jolt us out of our comfort zones... and onto the journey of child sponsorship... when all she wanted as a present that Christmas was a little sister from Compassion Canada

God has truly given our girl a special heart... a heart with a passion to change the world! She inspires me each and every day... to be more of Jesus' hands and feet, to be a world-changer, to be a better person and a better mama, to not be satisfied with mediocrity, to live large for God!

My girl, chatting with Wess Stafford a.k.a Papa Wess! ♥
{A big THANK YOU to my friend, Tracy Smith, for snapping this photo
capturing the essence of the conversation quite beautifully!}

I have a feeling that Wess Stafford, President Emeritus of Compassion International and more affectionately known as Papa Wess, might have sensed my girl's passion during their short conversation as he encouraged her to live large for God and to keep changing the world for Jesus... telling her that one day she, too, might be Compassion International's President!

Wow! Hearing that from Papa Wess truly made this mama-heart smile... yes, really! Well, the truth is... I had to hold back happy tears. :) Regardless of whether she becomes Compassion International's President one day or not, I am certain of this...

That she will live life as "a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor"... which has been my prayer for her {from the verses in Isaiah 61:1-3} since the day she was born!

Our family, with Wess Stafford.

With that conversation as a start to our evening...
It was impossible not to be inspired and be in awe of God's goodness as the evening progressed! 

Hubby and I even had the awesome opportunity to speak in person with Jim Mellado, Compassion International's new President. We shared with him our vision and our hearts' desire to see our home country, Philippines, have an office where people can sponsor with Compassion locally. We are encouraged to hear that progress is being made towards the implementation of it! So exciting!!! 

Shaun Groves singing "All Is Grace", a song inspired by my friend and
favourite author/blogger, Ann Voskamp!
"What a gift it is that we have something to give." ~ Shaun Groves.

"Love always costs something. To love is to give." ~ #compassionCA50th @CompassionCA
Barry & Sharon Slauenwhite were surprised by their sponsor child/
LDP student being there to celebrate with all of us!
"The world does not need more Compassion, the world needs more Jesus Christ." ~ Barry Slauenwhite, Compassion Canada's President/CEO. 
Papa Wess speaking words of encouragement!
"Do not grow weary in well doing. We're not done yet..." ~ Papa Wess.
On Sunday morning...
On a whim, we decided to head to Light Presbyterian Church where Compassion Korea's President, Dr. Justin Suh, was speaking. There was going to be an appeal for child sponsorships and there was a need for more Advocates to help staff the Compassion tables as six stations were set-up for people to signup to sponsor children!

Since all four of us... myself, hubby and our kids... are fully-trained Advocates, we knew we just had to be there! We left our hotel earlier than planned and headed out of London towards Light Presbyterian Church, which is conveniently located on our way home. 

What a blessed morning it was... as we saw 364 (!!!) children sponsored! Truly such a blessing!!! 

As a bonus, because God is just awesome like that, as we were having lunch together with fellow Advocates and some folks from the church, hubby struck up a conversation with a lady who so happens to be a lawyer and have had the awesome opportunity of working with International Justice Mission on the field in the Philippines!

My girl has been wanting to chat with someone like that as she contemplates on becoming a human rights lawyer one day and working with an organization such as IJM! {Side note: Her passion to end modern-day slavery is why she started knitting!}

Only God can arrange "coincidences" as such! Don't you just love how He knits paths together?!?

Words aren't adequate...
To relate to you, my dear blog readers, just how incredibly full my heart is and how immensely blessed I am feeling today! It was truly an awe-inspiring weekend!

I am pumped, more than ever before, to be more of Jesus' hands and feet in this world where pain, suffering and poverty can only have one solution... and that is Jesus! 

Would you join me in releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name? If so, please click here... a child is waiting to call you friend today!

:: :: ::

As I continue to live out thanks and give thanks by counting grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who is always good and who always loves... these are the things I am thankful for these two weeks... #3079 - #3092:
:: That God would see fit to invite unqualified people like us to partner with Him in Kingdom work.
:: Compassion's global ministry... releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name!
:: Compassion's vision for the year 2020... to reach 4 million children and their families with the message of God's love!
:: Compassion Canada's 50 years... such a privilege for our family to be a small part of it!
:: Fellow Compassion Advocates from all over this vast country!
:: For the many people this weekend who stepped out of their comfort zones and embraced child sponsorship!
:: The staff of Compassion Canada, for their commitment and dedication!
:: For this mama-heart, continually being stretched to give her kids wings to fly... to wherever God would send them!
:: For the united vision that God has given our family... to be Jesus' hands and feet to those most in need.
:: God's love... so vast, so relentless, so everlasting!
:: That there are no coincidences with God... He *is* in the details!
:: George Canyon, a Compassion Artist, who so graciously gave me CDs and autographed them for my boss who is a fan of his! ♥
:: God's grace... sustaining us through busy days.
:: This new week, His mercies new for each day!
Hello Monday!
As you might've already figured out, I am still on a high from the weekend's events. God has surprised me with fresh inspiration... and I am truly grateful! This quote, from Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, sums up my heart this morning...
Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing - and are filled. This breath! This oak tree! This daisy! This work! This sky! These people! This place! This day! Surprise!
Choosing to live a surrendered life... because Christ's love compels me... and giving thanks for everything that my good God so freely bestows, so lavishly gives and so extravagantly showers!

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!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Changing Seasons

This morning...
I woke up to freezing temperatures... 0*C to be exact! It might be the day that the winter coat makes its appearance and the wool socks make their debut.

This changing of the seasons is making me reflect on the seasons of life, where changes happen too. We are now in the parenting-of-teenagers season... and boy, life sure is different and busy!

When the kids were babies, friends of ours with teenagers often told us to enjoy the moments and cherish the days... because the teenage years will be fast and busy and crazy. In the busy-ness of life then consisting of diaper changes and three-hour feeding schedules and potty training, I didn't believe a word they said. Now I do... and while I most certainly miss the toddler days, I am quite loving this different and new season of life! 

So, take it from this older mom... to my friends out there with younger children... enjoy the moments and cherish the days! :)

Speaking of enjoying...
We found some time over the Thanksgiving weekend to get out and enjoy the outdoors. We were blessed with beautiful, sunny days all weekend long! We headed out to the forest right by our house and spent a few hours just enjoying each other and admiring God's artwork, which was so evident in the beautiful colours of Autumn!

Here are some photos from that day...

Hello Friday!
Today, my girl and I are at the Global Leadership Summit volunteering for Compassion Canada. And, this weekend, our family will be attending Compassion Canada's 50th Anniversary celebrations!!! It's going to be an awesome next few days... celebrating the awesomeness that is our great God and Heavenly Father... and relishing in the fact that He invites us to join Him in Kingdom work. And, all we need to say is, "Yes!"... even when sometimes, it can take us way out of our comfort zones.
Chesterton's words, "How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it!"
The joy of small that makes life large.

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On Celebrating Thanksgiving and Living Out Thanks

Hello Tuesday...
I am sitting here, trying to jump-start my week, after a four-day long weekend. It was Thanksgiving weekend for us here in Canada and we had an added bonus this year of a day off from school on Friday!

My heart is heavy this morning. Just as we finished our Thanksgiving Dinner last night, Facebook lit up with posts about a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hitting Cebu, Philippines. We have family there and our Compassion LDP student is also there. We have been able to connect with most... and are thankful that everyone is safe, though some have suffered minor injuries, loss of and/or damage to property. We are in the process of seeing how we can send help for this time of need... for such a time as this!

Through it all... all *is* still grace!
Eucharisteo means "to give thanks," and give is a verb, something that we do. God calls me to do thanks. To give the thanks away. That thanks-giving might literally become thanks-living. That our lives become the very blessings we have received.
I am blessed. I can bless. Imagine! I could let Him make me the gift!
I could be the joy!
In an endless cycle of grace, He gives us gifts to serve the world.
It's the fundamental, lavish, radical nature of the upside-down economy of God.
Empty to fill.
Here I can become the blessing, a little life that multiplies joy, making the larger world a better place.
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.
{My most favourite excerpt, from Chapter 10 of the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp... thoughts I've been reflecting on over the Thanksgiving weekend.}
Yes! "That thanks-giving might literally become thanks-living." Reflecting on these thoughts all weekend somehow prepared me for the news of the earthquake. As I read the Facebook posts and scanned the Twitter feeds, my heart was ready to live out thanks... to extend help as best we can, to be the hands and feet of Jesus!

Speaking of reflecting...
I had much time to do that this weekend as I knitted! Yes... you read that right... I learned to knit this weekend... something I never thought I'd ever do! Because, you know... isn't knitting something only grandmas would do?!? ;)

Here's the proof!

BUT... you see, my girl... she started this thing called Freedom Creations. It is a project that blossomed from her heart as she came to see that "every person is created with a purpose and made for freedom."

As she knitted, fighting slavery one stitch at a time... I became inspired. {Side note: this same girl ;)... inspired us onto the journey of child sponsorship one Christmas a while back by asking for nothing else but a Compassion sister as her Christmas present! Don't you just love how God works through children to change the trajectory of our faith path? :)}

Now... where was I? Oh yes, I became inspired... inspired to learn how to knit, so that I can fight slavery too!

I knitted the weekend away... all the while listening to this All Sons & Daughters album. As I sang along, "You are the Saviour and You take brokenness aside and make it beautiful, beautiful..." and "I will love, love, love with this heart You've made for You've been good always...", tears started to fall as I realized how God was speaking to me.

As I knitted and sang along, He was telling me that...

Just like knitting where it is done one stitch at a time, fighting slavery is a slow process. The battle will not be won overnight... that I need to just keep loving with this heart He's made, for He's been good always!

Just like knitting and how the tips of my fingers hurt bad from the needles constantly poking them, fighting slavery will be painful and will take sacrifice. It was also a reminder to me that those who are trapped in modern-day slavery live in pain, every single day of their lives... and not just pain on their fingertips. That thought definitely encouraged me to keep knitting despite the pain I was feeling.

Just like knitting where I need to keep going if I want to see a finished product, we can not give up fighting slavery. We need to set our eyes on the goal, which is freedom.

Just like knitting and the beautiful finished product that resulted from the many, many, many (!) single stitches, in fighting slavery we will see how our Saviour takes brokenness aside and makes it beautiful! 

Friends, I am happy to report that I helped to create a beautiful slouchy hat just like this one... and that I am officially a knitter, fighting slavery and living out thanks... one stitch at a time! And, please... no grandma jokes! ;)

Interspersed within the knitting lessons this weekend...
We had a great Thanksgiving, gathering with both sides of the family and some friends... celebrating communion with our church family... and enjoying the beautiful Autumn hues outdoors as we were blessed with such beautiful weather for most of the weekend!

A little friend came to visit, outside our patio door!

Chicken from the farm.

Setting up the tripod for a family photo. :)

Asking them to pose... again! :)

Love these two... so much!

:: :: ::

As I continue to live out thanks and give thanks by counting grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who is always good and who always loves... these are the things I am thankful for these past few weeks... #3063 - #3078:
:: The many opportunities to live out our thanks... to be Jesus' hands and feet in this hurting world.
:: Coaching my boy's Robotics Team and the progress they have made so far towards Tournament Day.
:: A boxful of free yarn for my girl... from hubby's cousin, just in time for the launch of Freedom Creations!
:: My boy celebrating 13 candles!
:: The start of another ministry year.
:: Organizing a 1,000-pounds Thanksgiving Food Drive at our church and being blown away by the 2,347-pounds of food that came in!
:: Helping a friend photograph her art work for an Art Sale benefiting a local ministry helping the homeless and the marginalized. Check out the link... you *will* fall in love with Katherine's art! :) 
:: Visiting a long-time Pastor-friend and his wife... and learning about their connection to Freeset bags and the women who make them!!!
:: Discovering the music of All Sons & Daughters! So uplifting and inspiring.
:: Our new Home Church... growing with old friends and some new ones too... and anticipating the things that God has in store for us this year as a faith community.
:: My boy competing at the Battle of Waterloo!
:: Going to the University Fair with my girl. Already?!? Time... please slow down!
:: Access to great medical care... as we continue to investigate the cause of my girl's vision disturbances. Praying that we can finally confirm a diagnosis of migraines sooner than later.
:: New windows for our house before winter arrives.
:: Writing Christmas cards for all of our sponsor children!
:: I am starting to s-l-o-w-l-y run on the treadmill again, after not doing so all summer long. 
Hello shortened week!
As I dive into this short week, I am being mindful of what it says in Psalms 100: 1-5 (NCV) as I seek to continually live out thanks:
Shout to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with joy; come before him with singing. Know that the Lord is God. He made us, and we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep he tends. Come into his city with songs of thanksgiving and into his courtyards with songs of praise. Thank him and praise his name. The Lord is good. His love is forever, and his loyalty goes on and on.
Choosing to live a surrendered life... because Christ's love compels me... and giving thanks for everything that my good God so freely bestows, so lavishly gives and so extravagantly showers!

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