Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What I Learned From A Homeless Man...

During my mid-afternoon break, I headed over to Ann Voskamp's A Holy Experience and read What Radical Christianity Looks Like Right Where You Are {Pt. 3} and about Baby Aleeda. She wrote:
We can’t overthrow whole systems today and empty out the sick wards by noon and mop up the whole planet’s oceans of tears by sundown and we can’t get hearts for the brokenhearted, but by God and in God and through God
We can show them God’s heart for them. 
We can rip back all these layers of busyness.
We can let the rest of the world all stampede by in this lemming lunge to suburban success. 
And we can slow.
And we can kneel.
And can take the time given to us to bear our bare, vulnerable selves, and show the broken down – the pulsing heart of God right in us, right with them.
That thundering question of Where is God? 
Is best answered when the people of God offer a hand and whisper: Here I am.
That thundering question of Where is God?
Is best answered when the people of God tear everything else away and take the time to show it: Here’s His love for you – beating right here, right here in me, right here for you. 
What else is time for but this?
Yes! What else is time for but this, friends?
As I finished reading Ann's blog post, I remembered that my kids' Youth Group is doing "Care Night" tonight! As I started to suggest to my girl that they should write cards to Baby Aleeda, she said, "That's exactly what I was thinking about just now, Mom!"

After a few quick text messages back and forth with her Youth Pastor, a plan was in motion... making and writing birthday cards to Baby Aleeda was going to be one of the care activities that the youth could choose to do at theUnderground Cares!

Birthday Cards for Aleeda!

After dropping off the kids at Youth Group...
... hubby and I had a decision to make. Where and how would we spend these two hours? Oooooo... the possibilities are endless, it's Yonge and Eglinton after-all! We can sip Starbucks. We can window-shop. We can eat cheesecake. We can stroll the streets on this unusually spring-like 15*C winter evening!

Tempting... but our hearts knew that God wanted us to be somewhere else tonight. I'd be lying to you if I didn't say I was tempted to go sit at a Starbucks and sip my Tazo Chai tea latte!

Yet, one Wednesday evening before Christmas, we did this...

And, while we promised to be back... we haven't been back since that night due to the busyness of the Christmas season and due to hubby being sick over the New Year! Tonight was the first Wednesday night we were free to go back... and so we did! Because... what else is time for but this?

His name is Justin. He is a homeless man. I wrote his name down as I registered those who were in line for the "foot spa" and chatted with them as they waited for their turn.

As hubby filled and emptied water from the foot washing tubs, one by one, our homeless brothers and sisters took their turn, their feet being washed and massaged by one of four volunteer foot-washers.

Soon it was Justin's turn. As I showed him to his seat, I asked matter-of-factly, "How was your week, Justin?" I wasn't prepared for his answer... "Awesome! I am thankful for each new day."

He went on to share with me... "Being thankful and having a positive attitude for whatever life throws at you, that's the secret to living a full life. You just have to accept and be thankful for what God gives, no matter what."

I thought to myself, "Wow! This is a homeless man talking here..." I had no words. I managed to mutter, "Justin, your thankfulness is an inspiration to me."

Friends, what else is time for but this?
Yes, hubby and I went to this place hoping to serve the homeless. And yes, we did. But, God, in turn, had a gift waiting there for me... wrapped in a homeless man named Justin. Through Justin, I was reminded that no matter what circumstance I find myself in... I am to have a thankful heart.

It's been a tough few weeks for us emotionally as a family. And it's been an uncertain several months for me in terms of the direction of my career. There have been days that I didn't feel thankful, didn't want to be thankful. Meeting Justin last night has really given me an attitude check!
Live out eucharisteo. "At that time, Jesus answered and said, 'I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.'" (Matthew 11:25 KJV) In the midst of what seems a mess, in the tripping up and stumbling down of all hopes, Jesus gives thanks.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
In the tripping up and stumbling down of all hopes... Jesus gives thanks. And Justin gives thanks. So should I.
... happiness is not just an emotion you feel, but a decision you have to continually make no matter your circumstances. God has given us the ability to do all things and make it through anything because of Christ who gives us the inner strength. 
It is not about the outside situations that you will face, it is all about what God is doing inside of you and what He has given you through His word. He gives you peace, confidence, power and true happiness that will challenge the norm of our world!
~ ReThink Life: 40 Day Devotional, YouVersion Bible.
And, taking it back full circle, to the start of this blog post... to Ann's words:
That thundering question of Where is God? 
Is best answered when the people of God offer a hand and whisper: Here I am. 
That thundering question of Where is God? 
Is best answered when the people of God tear everything else away and take the time to show it: Here’s His love for you – beating right here, right here in me, right here for you.
What else is time for but this?
In serving the least of these, we can answer for them that thundering question of "Where is God?"... yet the reverse is also true, as was my experience this very night... one of the least of these, Justin... God used him to answer my thundering question of "Where is God?"

I'm glad I said "no" to a Tazo Chai tea latte tonight and said "yes" to serving at the foot spa.

And, *I am thankful*!

Basking in the beauty of this night. 

Like standing on holy ground... and I continue on with what I was assigned to do, I jot down names, I start conversations, I squirt the soap and antiseptic solution into the foot-washing tubs, I watch as hubby fills the tubs with water and tired dirty feet submerge into them, coming out clean and refreshed... and my heart soars, in praise!
Radical is as simple as realizing God gave us two hands instead of one.
One to praise Him for the gifts given – and the other to pass on the gifts that never stop being gifts to pass on. 
God made us to be helpers, not hoarders. Conduits not collectors.
~ Ann Voskamp.

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Right Here, Right Now...

Today, I am linking up with fellow bloggers over at Ann Voskamp's A Holy Experience and writing a "Walk with Him Wednesday" post about The Practice of Radical. This morning, Ann wrote:
Is it even possible to be a radical Christ-follower — and own a mini-van, have more than one bathroom, order clothes from Land’s End, and lay your head down on a pillow when He had none? Really?
Is it? I ask that very same question every day, wrestle with my answers, and try to live this out one day at a time... walking with Him and working with Him, learning His unforced rhythms of grace.

And, He is faithful...
He patiently shows us how to do this... one step at a time. Starting from our living room to a needy child's life in India, to the remote island of Masbate, to the slums of Cebu City, to being radically changed, to stepping even further out of comfort zone, to eyes opened up to the injustices right here at home, to giving us Esperanza in Guatemala...

Yet, we still don't always obey when we hear Him say, "Go!" or "Follow me." We dilly-dally, we love our comforts, we love the status quo. Our family is definitely a work-in-progress. I am a work-in-progress! To a certain extent, aren't we all? That's why grace is so amazing, isn't it?

Here's our family's journey, thus far... of being obedient to God's call for us to be ordinary radicals. We tread this journey, one day at a time, relying on God's grace to complement our weakness...

So... is it even possible to be a radical Christ-follower? Yes, with God's grace... absolutely! I love this Shane Claiborne quote, from his book The Irresistible Revolution:
We are not just called to be candles. Candles make for nice Christmas services and for a nice peace vigil. They can remind us that God's light dwells within us and that we are to shine that light in this dark world. But we are not just called to be candles. We are called to be fire. Candles can be snuffed out by the slightest wind or by the smallest child on their birthday. But it's harder to put out a fire. We are to be fire, to weave our lives together so that the Spirit's inferno of love spreads across the earth.

~ The Irresistible Revolution, page 352.
Friends, do you want to *be fire* with me?
... to weave our lives together so that the Spirit's inferno of love spreads across the earth? Perhaps you'd like to start this journey by being in community with a child in need? That's where God had us start in this *practice of radical* --- helping us reach across to the other side of the world!

Might He be taking you on the same journey too? Right here, right now?

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

Monday, January 21, 2013


I've had to do quite a bit of surrendering this past week. Yes, yes, yes... I do remember, surrender *is* my One Word for 2013 after all!

I just really didn't think it would be this difficult, this heart-wrenching, this much outside of my comfort zone... this much trusting! There you go, I said it... I've quickly discovered that surrendering requires loosening my grip and letting God take control, and trusting Him to work things out even though I so desperately want to micro-manage the situation or the circumstance I find myself in.

After all, if surrendering requires surrendering only those things which I am already willing to let go... it's not considered surrendering at all, right? It is, of course, going to require me surrendering those things that I have a tight grip on...

Such as parenting my children. Such as the direction of my career. Such as how smoothly ministry at church should run. Such as... I could go on... 

Very. Hard. Stuff. Especially for this woman with a Type A personality.

This morning, I read this tweet by Ann Voskamp...    

Ah, yes! Surrendering is very much a sacrifice of thanks, isn't it? It is a laying down of my perspective and raising my hands in praise, in all things, always! A beautiful picture... one I clearly need to embrace and practice some more.
The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of wondrous now, joy might be -unbelievably- possible! The only place we need see before we die, is this place of seeing God, here and now.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
Many times this past week... during the messy, piercing ache moments, I've glanced over at this photo and verse on the wall of my home office... and it brought me the perspective I desperately needed to frame the difficult circumstance which I found myself in with.

Instantly, I would feel the ease of just letting go... of surrendering... then the JOY wonder would come!

As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who invites me to walk with Him and work with Him, learning the unforced rhythms of grace... these are the things I am thankful for this week... #2824 - #2833:
:: He hears my cries.
:: Lunch with a girlfriend, an encouraging conversation!
:: God's grace, so amazing... ever present, especially in the ugliest and hardest of times.
:: Our Lead Pastor's listening ear and encouraging words.
:: Productive meeting regarding upcoming church ministry stuff.
:: Hundreds of fellow leaders from our church gathering for a day of worship, vision and looking to the future! Greater things are yet to come.
:: Our whole family volunteering at Ephraim's Place score-keeping for their Upward Basketball games! Looking forward to doing it again this weekend.
:: Saying goodbye to my parents, as they end another visit.
:: God's peace, surpassing all understanding.
:: This new week, another chance to start fresh. That He makes all things new!
A new week, with this fueling me...
Praise the Lord, O my soul. And forget none of His acts of kindness. He forgives all my sins. He heals all my diseases. He saves my life from the grave. He crowns me with loving-kindness and pity. He fills my years with good things and I am made young again like the eagle.
~ Psalm 103:2-5, NLV.
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!

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

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Any Brave Parents Out There?

This parenting thing... it requires bravery, doesn't it? After an extremely challenging week in the parenting department {quite possibly the hardest thing I've had to deal with as a parent thus far...}, I've come to an even more beautiful realization of just how amazing and extravagant God's grace is! This mama is beyond thankful for grace... yes, beyond thankful!

I am also thankful for fellow bloggers writing about their parenting journey. Just two days ago, I came across a post written by Jen Hatmaker... it is entitled Brave Moms Raise Brave Kids. Reading it made me cry the ugly cry... yes, all alone here at home, in front of my computer, I ugly-cried to God. Reading it also really encouraged me... particularly this paragraph:
Being conformed into the image of Jesus is not a pretty process, because our kids are born into sin and God has messy, real work to do to transform them into disciples. This process involves sacrifice and loss and struggle and failure and courage and maybe even danger and cultivating a single-minded obsession with the kingdom. They may embarrass or disappoint or scare us as they wrestle with God, but can we see his redemptive hand in their lives even then?
Yes, even then! I've totally seen God's redemptive hand this week... yes, beauty out of ashes! And, for this, even though it involved a very difficult week {and there's still more remnants we have to deal with in the coming days, I'm sure}, I can truly say that I am truly grateful.

Friends, God's grace is a beautiful thing.
Beautiful... so beautiful, especially in the hardest and ugliest of times. As Ann Voskamp wrote just yesterday...
When it is hardest — that is when you sing the loudest. The devil flees at a hymn.
Abandon the worries… and Abide in the Word.
Abandon the fears… and Abide in the Father.
Abandon the hurts… and Abide in His heart.
Abandon the cares… because Christ will never abandon you.
And as Jen Hatmaker further writes in her blog post...
Scared moms raise scared kids. Brave moms raise brave kids. Real disciples raise real disciples.
Anyone want to be brave with me? And raise up real disciples? Abandoning worries, fears, hurts and cares, and abiding in Him as we journey along this path called motherhood? Absolutely, yes! I'm in!

Are you? 

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

When I Feel Like A Failure

When I woke up this morning, I had no idea that something was going to hit me like a ton of bricks by noon time, an interruption to my day... something that would make me feel like a failure of a mother!

It came in the form of a confession from one of my children of a wrongdoing... a major one... something that had happened right under my nose... something that broke my heart... that left me in a puddle of tears... and left me feeling like I failed, miserably failed!

As hubby and I sorted out this mess... and tried to stay positive... at first, my shock turned to anger, then to fear, then to disappointment, then to sadness, then to despair. Yet throughout the day, through my counting of grace-gifts, I kept being reminded that God is still on the throne, that He is always good and that we are always loved.

Then I read Ann Voskamp's blog post... although it was published earlier this morning, I only read it tonight as I was hardly online today due to this unexpected and unwanted interruption. As I sat down in front of my computer screen, these are the words that stared back at me:
... the most freeing place for a soul is in the abandonment to the will of God.
I want Christ. I want this mark. Christ’s people want nothing less than this.
The slaves to Christ bear the three marks:
1. their eyes see Christ in all faces
2. their lips say yes to Christ in all places
3. and their arms embrace interruptions as Christ’s directions — and all is grace. 
Ah, to surrender to God's will and to see Christ in all faces and to say "yes!" to Christ in all places and to embrace interruptions as Christ's directions - yes, all is grace. Although the interruption today was one that was very hard to embrace... yet still, because of the habit of counting grace-gifts, I can now say, all is grace! Indeed... all is grace, all *is always* grace!

And, tomorrow is a new day... a brand-new day, a second chance at this thing called motherhood... I am thankful, so thankful, for His mercies which are always new every morning! And I will sing...
The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes
You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Joy Is

... always, always, always possible!
So then as long as thanks is possible... then joy is always. Whenever, meaning now. Wherever, meaning here.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
Our current teaching series at church is called Inside Out. At Home Church last night, we were discussing which emotional pattern we tend to default to and how we can take steps towards being changed by God, with His help, from the inside out. Is it fear? Is it anger? Is it sadness?

My default emotional pattern? Yup... it's most certainly fear! And it is almost always reinforced by the "what-if" thoughts!

We further discussed the ways in which we tend to cope with these feelings and thoughts. When it comes to fear: we need our hearts to be secure in God's love... then we will feel peace; we need our minds to be renewed to know the truth... to know that we can trust God; we need a transformed life... in order to face our fears.

I shared with everyone last night about my counting of grace-gifts... how it, hands down, has been the single most practical thing that I do each day to help me feel secure in God's love, renew my mind and transform my everyday life. It has definitely enabled me to face my fears in a healthy and God-honouring way... knowing that joy is always possible! Truly life-changing!   

As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who desires for our lives to be transformed from the inside out... these are the things I am thankful for this week... #2817 - #2823:
:: Grace to get through a whopper of a week!
:: Esperanza... hope! How He always gives good gifts...
:: A fresh haircut.
:: A great time at the Provincial Championships with my boy's Robotics Team.
:: A quiet Sunday morning spent at home with my boy.
:: A quieter week coming up this week for our family.
:: The sunshine that's streaming into my office window right now! ♥
And, today? Just this, friends...
When you are a believer — and you stop counting blessings? It’s like blindfolding yourself and wondering why everything’s black.
~ Ann Voskamp.
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!

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

Friday, January 11, 2013


Hope, we all need hope...
It's Friday night and this whopper of a week is almost over! Friends, I am happy to report that, not only have I survived it, I soared through it so far... {there's still tomorrow's Provincial Championships, a 10-hour day, for my boy's Robotics Team!}... as I clung to the promise found in these verses:
... but those who hope in the Lord
          will renew their strength;
          they will fly up on wings like eagles;
          they will run and not be tired;
          they will walk and not be weary.

~ Isaiah 40:31, CEB.
And, remembering to surrender to the flow of God's unforced rhythms of grace!

At first, I was resigned to the fact that, because of the craziness that this week entailed, our family would eat take-out food all. week. long. as I tackled my enormous to-do list! I surprised myself by having enough time each and every day to make dinner. Yes, I made a healthy, home-made dinner for each night of this week! Like. A. Boss! ;-)

Yes, when you hope in the Lord... you soar! This woman with a last name that's derived from the Spanish word for hope, esperanza... should know better, right? Yes, I should... but sadly, many times I don't.

This is our reminder... each time we leave and enter our front door!

This morning, I decided to reward myself...
Since I was getting ahead of my enormous to-do list and it's Friday morning, I gave myself the morning off and went on Facebook and Twitter for an extended time!

It didn't take long for me to find out that today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. This infographic brought the stark facts of modern-day slavery to life for me...

And, this is what I posted on Facebook...

"Where do these girls find hope in such horrible circumstances?", I asked myself. And then I heard myself thinking some more, "Who's going to protect them from such atrocities?"

As I sat in front of my computer screen with these questions and these thoughts swirling around in my head, I heard a still, small voice encouraging me to click on my Compassion Advocate link. "Go ahead, click on the link that you just encouraged your 398 Facebook friends to click!"

So I did... and this face is the one that greeted me... and friends, look at her name! Esperanza... I had to blink as I could hardly believe what I was reading! And then I smiled! :-)

Friends, Compassion Canada had recently overhauled their website and when you click on my Advocate link, you are no longer presented with a whole page of children from which you can choose one. ONE is randomly chosen for you! I did not choose Esperanza. God gave us Esperanza!

My heart skipped a beat. I knew right away that God was asking us this day, on Human Trafficking Awareness Day, to add another Compassion child to our family... to protect Esperanza from the atrocities of modern-day slavery... to give her esperanza!

Also, did I already mention that her two given names, Luisa Esperanza, closely resembles hubby's dad's name? Such an awesome God-orchestrated coincidence, don't you think?

I texted my girl right away, I excitedly called my boy into my office and I eagerly showed her to hubby right away when he walked in the front door! And when my girl came home from school later this afternoon, we all gathered around my computer and I clicked "Sponsor Esperanza" as hubby prayed and thanked God for giving us Esperanza!

Friends, this has been a beautiful day!
A day full of hope... of esperanza... for our family, as we continue to learn what it means to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with GodEsperanza... hope... we all need it!
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
~ Lamentations 3:21-23, NLT.

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

This Rusty Brain...

... is embarking on a new habit!
Yes, friends... this rusty brain of mine is going to do some Bible memorization work this year. Now, I'm not sure how far I'll go or how much I'll retain or how long I'll last, but at least I'm promising to try. Yes, promising to try... to do my best!

You see, last Friday Ann Voskamp wrote this blog post... inviting her readers to memorize Romans with her this year... the first chapter, the eighth chapter and the twelfth chapter... The Romans Project!

We were in the car... the whole family, the four of us. I read portions of the blog post out loud for everyone to hear, then continued to read the bulk of it to myself. "Me? Memorize three chapters of Romans?", I heard myself thinking... "No way! That's way too crazy!"

Memorization work has always been my least favourite thing to do when I was a student. I still prefer not to memorize things to this day... I just find it very difficult!

I naturally forgot about {or chose to ignore ;-)} Ann's blog post fairly quickly... as I wasn't intending to pursue this whole "memorize-three-chapters-of-Romans-with-me-this-year-thing" at. all!

Until I heard this the following day from my girl... "Mom! Romans 8 is my most favourite chapter in all of the Bible! Will you do The Romans Project with me this year?" She read Ann's blog post, too!

Gulp! Did I really just hear that? There isn't another "mom" in this house right? Yup... she's talking to me alright! :O

Friends, remember my One Word for this year?
Yup... that's right... surrenderSurrender it is! So, long story short... I agreed to try to do this with my girl! :p

And... we suggested that we would go through The Romans Project together as a family during dinner time. The boys aren't quite on board with the memorization part yet... but at least they are content to listen in for now. :-)

Dinner on Day 1 with my first attempt at a booklet.

Dinner on Day 2 with a much better flip-style booklet.

Well? How am I doing so far?
I have managed to surprise myself! Although this rusty brain is indeed rusty {it honestly hurts after a few minutes of doing the memorization work}... I've managed to memorize the first four verses of chapter one! So. Awesome!

This handy online tool called Scripture Typer has been a tremendous help too! And, it's so much fun... and it's addicting! Better than a game of Sudoku! :-)

And... finally, a most beautiful story that made my day today! This morning, a friend of mine emailed to ask me for the link to the PDF file of The Romans Project... because she and her recently widowed mother-in-law are going to do The Romans Project together! It's a beautiful thing to fill the mind and heart with God's words, especially in times when life is difficult... so. beautiful!

As I typed a reply email to my friend... I felt my eyes brim with tears. Who am I to say, "No. Bible memorization work isn't for me!"... when the Bible teaches us to keep God's word close, in our hearts... when these words are...
... perfect, reviving one's very being.
... faithful, making us wise.
... right, giving joy to the heart.
... pure, giving light to the eyes.
... correct, lasting forever.
... true, all of them are righteous.
... more precious than gold, sweeter than honey.
... enlightening; and, in keeping them there is great reward!
So... The Romans Project, here I come! Well... at least I'm going to try. :-)

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

Monday, January 7, 2013

10,000 Reasons!

This first full week of January...
... is promising to arrive with a wallop! And friends, I'm not even talking about snow {although we have had our share of the white stuff as well...}, I'm talking about a crazy, busy, jam-packed week for our family!

After a relatively quiet Christmas break {and hubby is feeling much better, by the way... as he can scream at basketball players on the TV screen again. ;-)}... this first week back to routine is going to feel like a shock! Everything that normally happens on a monthly basis, plus some other things, seem to have all ended up to be in store for us this coming week.

I could start to list them all... such as... back to school and back to work; preparing all week with my boy's Robotics Team for the Provincial Tournament on the weekend; Home Church starting back up; worship band practice; youth group starting back up; a mid-week community dinner at an inner-city ministry; a two-day Board Meeting for hubby; a sandwich run on Sunday night... I could go on...

Did I mention that there's a work deadline I have to catch for Friday?!? Plus, fit in somewhere in there... life in general, like dishes and laundry and meals and so on and so forth.

You get the picture, right?

The only way for me to get through this upcoming week calmly would require me practicing my 2013 One Word... surrendering... walking and working with Christ, and leaning on His unforced rhythms of grace!

I love how God takes care of details... 
Before I inventoried what's on our calendar and realizing what a whopper of a week this is going to be... He already knew! In fact, He used our Lead Pastor's teaching on Sunday morning to let me know that He's got everything under control! That everything will just be a-ok!

I just love how He knows our hearts... and takes care of details like that!

Our Lead Pastor spoke on the verse from 2 Corinthians 5:14... Christ's love compels us... one of the verses where my One Word came from! And the song we sung in response to the teaching? None other than... Matt Redman's 10,000 Reasons... a song I've been humming since this New Year began!

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning.
It's time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me.
Let me be singing when the evening comes.
You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger.
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind.
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing.
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.
And on that day when my strength is failing.
The end draws near and my time has come.
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending.
Ten thousand years and then forevermore.
As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who so lovingly takes care of life's details, big and small... these are the things I am thankful for this week... #2810 - #2816:
:: Movie night out to watch Les Miserables... what an amazing story of grace!
:: A few more quiet days spent at home before routine starts back up again.
:: Visiting the LEGO store with my boy.
:: Stocking the pantry and fridge with groceries in preparation for the busy week coming up.
:: Great Sunday morning spent with our church family. ♥
:: 10,000 reasons for my heart to sing! ♫
:: Oh, how HE loves! 
Happy Monday, friends!
As you start this first full week of January, let this song minister to you as it has to me! ♫ "The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning. It's time to sing Your song again. For all Your goodness I will keep on singing. Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find." ♫

Grace, it means favor, from the Latin, gratia. It connotes a free readiness. A free and ready favor.
That's grace. It is one thing to choose to take the grace offered at the cross. But to choose to live as one filling with His grace? Choosing to fill with all that He freely gives... with glory and grace and God?
... it is a choice.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
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!

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

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Way We Wear Our Days

It's Day 2 of the New Year...
And, it's a late start to our day once again! It's been awesome to just s-l-o-w-d-o-w-n during this Christmas break. It's a good thing too that we didn't fill up our calendar with activities since hubby has been sick {flu? not sure...} since just after Christmas!

As I leisurely woke up this morning, I lingered in bed with my iPad and was reading through my blog roll... at the same time, formulating a blog post in my head about my One Word for 2013... when I came upon Ann Voskamp's post entitled How To Begin New Habits... she writes, "A habit is the way we wear our days."

So... how does one begin new habits? How do we begin again every day? Every New Year? How do we make a fresh start? What is the way how we should wear our days?

I believe it's called grace... God's grace! Grace that is sufficient for me... power that is made perfect in weakness. The appropriating of God's grace every single day... that's the way to wear our days! This gives me hope, much hope... for on my own, habits don't last... they quickly fall by the wayside.

On that note... on to my One Word for 2013! 
It's a word that God's been impressing upon my heart these last few months of 2012 as He is seemingly leading me into a new direction, a change, in terms of my career/employment.

Details are still blurry... decisions still pending... more interviews are still to be scheduled... the process has been long, started back in October and still ongoing...

At first, I wrestled with God. If you know me in person, you'd know that I don't like change. I fought God on this... I told Him that I'm perfectly comfortable and content in my current job... so I don't want this change. Yet, peace eluded me until the very moment I clicked "send" on that job application email.

I felt God saying, "Surrender to my perfect will, child. Whatever the outcome... whether this change ends up happening or not, you'll have learned the beauty of living a life surrendered to doing your Heavenly Father's will."

Okay, I get it now... I must choose to surrender. Surrendering isn't easy. Yet, it's the only way to truly live the abundant life that God promised.
sur·ren·der \sə-ˈren-dər\
:: to yield to the power, control, or possession of another.
:: to give up completely or agree to forgo in favor of another.
:: to give (oneself) over to something (as an influence).

:: to give oneself up into the power of another.
When He walked this earth, Jesus lived a surrendered life too. So, why shouldn't I?
I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me. ~ Jesus (John 6:38, The Message).
The beautiful thing is... God doesn't force us to surrender. His unforced rhythms of grace shows us the way... the way to living freely and lightly! We are free to choose whether to surrender or not... free to choose whether or not to wear this new habit... free to choose whether or not to live the abundant life.

In a reflective mood and deep in thought. ~ Cape Cod, Summer 2012.

A new habit for 2013... choosing to live a surrendered life... for Christ's love compels me... and giving thanks for everything that my good God so freely bestows, so lavishly gives and so extravagantly showers!
I’m sort of struck: A habit is what we wear. A habit is the way we wear our days.
Wear new habits and your life gets a makeover.
~ Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience.

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

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcome, Twenty Thirteen!

Happy New Year, friends!
2013 is here! Our whole family partied until the wee hours of the morning last night {or should I say, earlier today... :-)} with family and friends right here at home. It is now mid-day on New Year's Day and we are just getting up... and have just had breakfast! I think it's going to be a pajama-kind-of-day! :-)

Yummy desserts and snacks at our New Year's Eve party... 

2013 promises to be a year of milestones for our family... my boy will officially become a teenager as he turns 13... my girl turns 16 and will learn to drive {gasp!}... God is seemingly leading me into a new direction in terms of a career/employment {I am continuing to trust Him to *clearly* open and close doors on this as we enter into the month of January}... and, hubby and I will mark 20 years since getting engaged and promising each other forever!

Needless to say, I am looking forward with great anticipation to what this New Year will bring...

But, before doing that... it would be amiss not to look back and recount all that God has led myself, personally... and my family through, in the year that was 2012. So, here we go...
I started off the year with my One Word... which is soar. And soar I did! Friends, soaring with God is the most beautiful thing... relying on His unforced rhythms of grace truly gave me flight this year. For that, I am truly grateful.
Soaring birds...
The counting of grace-gifts continued throughout the year which saw me count to an extra 1,098 gifts with Ann Voskamp's Joy Dare, in addition to counting my own 515 gifts! This takes me to gift #2802 as I start my 2013 list! So. Amazing. Just. Plain. Life-changing!
January's highlight was definitely this letter from our Compassion daughter, Florianlyn and her mom, Analyn... illustrating the beautiful truth that when we let our thanksgiving become thanks-living, the world becomes a better place!
In February, my beautiful girl turned 15... and around the same time, I read the book Kisses from Katie. These two events led me to reflect anew on what it really means to live out the greatest of commandments radically as Jesus did when He walked this earth, and still does today.
Also in February, I wrote The Story of Two Houses and a New TV... and almost 3,000 people came over to read it making it my most popular blog post of 2012! So. Humbling!
The little girl whose house we helped to rebuild.
In March, I guest-blogged over at Compassion Family and wrote the post entitled Understanding Poverty. It was beautiful to reflect on just how far God has taken us as a family on this journey to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly!
June, my birthday month... saw many milestones! First off, a self-reflection and realizing anew just how good God is and how lavishly He loves! Then, this video about a Habitat Build Day that I led our church community to do together was published... I thought then that this was the extent of God asking me to soar, to step out of my comfort zone... little did I know, God had more in store for me!
{Side note: It's a good thing that God doesn't always show me the whole picture right at the start. If He did, then I don't think I'd be saying "YES!" a whole lot! ;-)}
June continued with another beautiful, heart-warming letter from Florianlyn and a nomination for "Mom of the Year" by my girl! Didn't I say June was a beautiful month?!?
July was a reflective month as it marked one year since we came home from our self-guided missions immersion trip to the Philippines! It started off with an awesome parenting conference featuring Helen Lee, the author of the book The Missional Mom, as guest speaker... which sparked a reflective blog post on my part on what it means to parent missionally!
July continued to be filled with reflections... such as A Day Of Becoming Undone and Remembering... and Seeing God Everywhere. It was a hard month... but I wouldn't trade anything for having a heart broken for the things that break God's heart!
July ended with a bang... on what it means to soar, I mean! Remember? God had more in store for me? In terms of stepping out of comfort zone? Well, July 29 {the one year anniversary of when we first met Florianlyn} saw me being interviewed at church as an Ordinary Radical. Nerve-wracking, yet truly humbling!
In August, we took some time off and spent 10 days in the Boston and Cape Cod area... beautiful!
Cape Cod beach...
Then, coming home to full-steam-ahead with the last-stretch planning of Eucharisteo: A Celebration of Joy, another one of the "step-out-of-comfort-zone, soar-with-me" things that God asked me to say "Yes!" to in 2012!
In September, my little man turned 12! He celebrated in a way that hubby and I {and his big sister} are most proud of... asking for and receiving, in lieu of presents for him, 376 pairs of socks and 102 pairs of underwear to give to homeless men who live on the streets of Toronto!
My boy's birthday party invitation!
Then, another letter from Florianlyn... illustrating {yet again} the beautiful truth that when thanksgiving becomes thanks-living, it becomes a gift that keeps on giving! Joy multiplying joy!
September also saw me writing this fun blog post... Dear Fifteen-Year-Old-Me... fun, yes! But, more importantly, it was a very reflective piece... on how much God's grace was present in my life, especially when I doubted He was!
Then, it was the eve of Eucharisteo: A Celebration of Joy... after six-months of planning! Then, the night it happened! And, the result... He who promised is indeed faithful... $30,158.42 raised and the Compassion Child Development Centre in Masbate, Philippines is now almost complete!
With Ann Voskamp, at Eucharisteo: A Celebration of Joy.
The Fall was busy with lots of new things... and through it all, God's grace sustained us... for which I give thanks! 
Wow! Thanks for looking back at 2012 with me, friends! 
Our God truly is good and He truly loves with extravagance. As I read through the above, my eyes brim with tears... for He truly is faithful and His promises are sure and true!

These words from Psalm 67 come to mind right now... words that were certainly true for myself and my family in the year that was 2012!
God, mark us with grace and blessing! Smile!
The whole country will see how you work,
          all the godless nations see how you save.
God! Let people thank and enjoy you.
          Let all people thank and enjoy you.
Earth, display your exuberance!
          You mark us with blessing, O God, our God.
You mark us with blessing, O God.
          Earth’s four corners—honor him!
As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who loves so lavishly and who proves to be faithful, especially when I am not... these are the things I am thankful for this week... #2802 - #2809:
:: A great Christmas week... quiet, relaxing, reflective!
:: Awesome Christmas Eve service at church!
:: Beautiful Christmas Day spent at home, just our family!
:: Parties and get-togethers with family and friends.
:: A few days spent with my parents who are visiting from the Philippines.
:: Thought-provoking and inspiring message from our Teaching Pastor this past Sunday, about Giving Love In A World Of Pain --- friends, if you have 40 minutes on this New Year's Day, this is a must-watch! 
:: Fun New Year's Eve party with family and friends right here at home!
:: This quiet and relaxing New Year's Day... as my boy so wisely put it, "I am loving our holiday break this year, it's not so crazy." I agree! :-)
Happy New Year, friends!
As I look towards this New Year, I am filled with anticipation for what God has in store for our family... and I am choosing to place my hope in The One who makes all things new!
God wants to partner with his image-bearers. He has made us his image. He has remade us through Christ. He has given us his Spirit. It's our move now.
We were made to bear God's image in this world. This is our unique calling; our unique enabling; our unique privilege; our unique responsibility.
~ Bruxy Cavey, Teaching Pastor at The Meeting House.
And, coming tomorrow... my One Word for 2013! Friends, may you bask in the goodness and grace of our loving Heavenly Father, not only on this New Year's Day, but throughout this New Year as well!

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