Monday, July 29, 2013

In Everything, Give Thanks...

We were eating breakfast yesterday...
We were in a hurry to finish eating so that we could get to church when my girl suddenly said, "Guys, I'm not kidding... I can't see fully from this one eye."

At first, I really thought she was joking but the look of seriousness on her face told me she indeed wasn't.

My first reaction was to get into panic mode. Do we call 9-1-1-? If not, where do we go? What do we do? All these questions raced through my head... but I didn't know where to start. As I rushed upstairs to get changed, I prayed: "God, please help us. Please give me wisdom."

As many of you know, I count grace-gifts...
Friends, I can tell you this right now... the very thing that got me through yesterday was exactly that --- giving thanks as I counted grace-gifts all. day. long. It was an extremely scary few hours... the not knowing, the what-ifs, the fear... yet God's peace was so evident, so ever-present, so comforting! It made me think how in the world others can manage to go through life without God...

I gave thanks to God for a brother-in-law who is a doctor. He was the very first one we phoned. He talked me through the different possible diagnosis and told us to go directly to SickKids Hospital where we would get top-notch help.

SickKids is Canada's most research-intensive hospital and the largest centre dedicated to improving children's health in the country. I gave thanks to God that it is a mere 30-minute drive from our house on a Sunday morning with no traffic.

I gave thanks to God for a church family who not only covers us with prayers but also covers for our roles in times like these. Yesterday, hubby was on the Set-Up Team. I was on the Welcome Team. And, my girl was on the Worship Team, plus helping out in Children's Ministry.

I gave thanks to God for our extended family who immediately covered us with prayers, sending us text messages of Bible verses, comforting us with God's words.

As we were driving down to SickKids, this is what I wrote on Facebook:

... because these verses from 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 kept coming to mind:
... pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
As we drove, my girl reported that her vision was slowly coming back. I breathed a sigh of relief and I gave thanks to God for His healing touch. By the time we reached SickKids, her vision went from a half-circle being grey to a pie-shaped grey area to just a small grey circle in one corner of her eye.

We got downtown in record time, without even speeding! ;)
I gave thanks to God for getting us down there fast! SickKids is a very busy hospital. As we've never been there before, my brother-in-law warned us to prepare to stay and wait for the whole entire day!

Imagine my surprise when I saw just two families in line before us at the ER! I gave thanks to God for a quiet and not-so-busy ER. One nurse we talked to even remarked that it is quite strange for it to be so quiet. A friend from church who works at SickKids also said to me afterwards that it is quite rare to find the ER not buzzing with lots and lots of people.  

I gave thanks to God when we were seen by the triage nurse right away as my girl's chart was marked "Urgent"... thankful that there weren't many other urgent cases in front of us.

Within an hour of arriving at SickKids, we were in a hospital room and have been seen by a doctor! Base on our past ER experiences, this is unheard of! Even when my boy ingested some peanuts and was at-risk of an anaphylactic reaction, we weren't seen by a doctor until two hours after arriving at the ER. I gave thanks to God for how fast we were seen by a doctor yesterday!

At SickKids.

I gave thanks to God as the doctor assured us that they have basically ruled out any neurological causes at this point and since her vision was back to 100% at that time, the medical team didn't see a need for further tests. Their best guess at a diagnosis is that it was a retinal migraine.

We were discharged just two hours from the time we arrived at SickKids. Record-time! I gave thanks to God for just how fast we were in and out of there... and the excellent medical care my girl received.

We are to follow-up with our optometrist and family physician this week to investigate this a bit further so that's what we are doing today. I give thanks to God for the excellent medical care we have access to in this country. Upon phoning both doctors this morning, both gave me appointments right away for later today.

As we navigate the doctors' appointments this week, at the same time our family is remembering back to exactly two years ago today when we met our Compassion daughter, Florianlyn, face-to-face! God used that meeting to spark a fire in our hearts... which culminated in our meager gift being multiplied a thousand fold. I wrote our story and published it on here a few weeks ago. To read it, please follow this link.

Sweet Florianlyn. ♥

Today, I am giving thanks to God for His faithfulness, for His willingness to use broken people like our family, to invite us to join Him in His work of reconciliation and restoration, for His relentless love that never lets us go. He truly is always good and He truly always loves.

:: :: ::

As I continue to count 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, in addition to the ones already mentioned above... #3022 - #3040:
:: His peace, surpassing all understanding.
:: My parents visiting.
:: New carpet for our 2nd floor.
:: My girl starting driving lessons.
:: A great week at Robotics Camp for my boy.
:: Time to weed the garden.
Hello Monday!
I want to see God who gives gifts in hospitals, and gravesides, and homeless shelters, and refugee camps, and in rain falling on sunflowers, and stars falling over hayfields, and silver scales glinting upriver, and sewage flowing downriver. Eucharisteo is everywhere and I want to see eucharisteo everywhere, and I want to remember how badly I really want to see.
~ 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!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Monday Mornings

This is a wondrous thing: We all make a mark. We can either mark the world or mar the world. It behooves us to leave a trail behind that leads to the better - greater life, deeper joy, more Truth.
Christ didn't leave this world until he showed us his scars and we won't leave this world until we leave our marks.
A gift never stops being a gift. A gift is always meant to be given.
~ Ann Voskamp, in the book What's Your Mark? by Jeremy Cowart.
Yes! Another summer Monday morning...
You see, my kids and I... we have this routine on Monday mornings this summer. So, this morning was no different. Yet, after this weekend's Zimmerman verdict, this particular Monday morning seems a bit darker even when the summer sun's yellow rays streamed brightly into my bedroom, gently waking me.

We discussed this verdict quite a bit over the weekend here at our house, because my girl has recently came to the realization that she might want to be a lawyer one day.

We live in a broken society... where guns are legal... and venturing out to buy a pack of Skittles isn't particularly safe. Friends, I am not even sure that there is a need for me to choose a side... George Zimmerman's or Trayvon Martin's... what I do know for certain is that we live in a broken world.

A world so broken... Christ had to be broken to redeem it.

My kids and I, we load up the trunk of our station wagon... 
Watermelons, oranges, apples, bananas, cucumbers, baby carrots, breads and bagels... and we drive into the Jane/Finch community, a neighbourhood located in the northwest end of Toronto where UrbanPromise has a community called Camp Freedom

This is the Jane and Finch neighbourhood in a nutshell:
The community has one of the largest concentrations of criminal gangs of any area in Canada. It also has "one of the highest proportions of youth, sole-supported families, refugees and immigrants, low-income earners and public housing tenants of any community in Toronto”. (Source: Wikipedia)
We pull into the parking lot of Christian Centre Church, the place where Camp Freedom calls home. Our family loves Camp Freedom and we have been frequenting the Jane and Finch community for a few years now. 

Yes, poverty is clearly evident and it definitely feels like an inner-city community. But over the years, the gangs and the violence have become less and less of a deterrent for our family venturing into this community. In fact, I can say that today I don't even think about that aspect of Jane and Finch anymore! 

It truly is a beautiful thing when God leads us to step out of our comfort zones. If you asked me just five years ago if I would venture into this community with my children in tow, all by myself, without hubby... "No way!" would be my emphatic answer!

The kids and I, we unload our car... 
As we were carrying the food into the church, a young man was exiting the front doors at the same time. Having been frequenting Camp Freedom for a few years now, what the young man said to us actually threw me off a bit. He said, "Good morning! Are you donors?"

Donors?!? I wasn't quite sure how to respond... I said something along these lines, "Yes, we're here with this week's supply of fruits and vegetables for the Camp Freedom kids."

Ann Voskamp wrote this today...
A sunrise like that could make you believe.
Could make you believe that color is real.
Yes, like that sunshine that woke me up this morning. And yes, color is real... in the larger Jane and Finch community, and particularly in the Camp Freedom family, it still is real.

Some of the Camp Freedom children.

Yes, my color labelled me as "donor"... but our family's goal is to be more than donors... we want to be known as friends, as family, as community. And our color will not stand in the way... but that love will show the way.

And the beautiful thing is this: We are friends and we have become family to the Camp Freedom community. Those who know us would say so, at least I hope they would. :)

Ann Voskamp further writes this morning...
You could believe in a world where families living in gated communities of middle class burn with the fire that they are the Esther Generation, light with the purpose that they are here for such a time as this, ignite with glory that they are here to risk their status for those outside the gate — or what will be lost isn’t just your chance to change the world — but your own soul, the soul of this land, the soul of the next generation.
There is the believing something.

Then there is to Be Living It.
Yes, I desperately want to burn with this fire! I desperately want to live it.
As we were pulling into the parking lot, a little boy, no more than 7 years old, was walking towards the front doors of the church. He was there to attend Camp Freedom. I've never seen him before. He must be new to Camp Freedom. 

As we entered the gym, he came in as well. I said, "What's your name, buddy?" He said, "Jeffrey."

Jeffrey came into the kitchen just as we were piling the fruits and vegetables onto the counter-top. He needed a drink after walking in the scorching summer sun to get to Camp Freedom. As we were leaving, I said to him, "Bye, Jeffrey! Have fun this week, OK?"

To which he answered, "Yes, I will. See you again next week!"

I love it! Jeffrey looks forward to our returning next week. Perhaps, we can linger a while and play with him? Perhaps, we can help him with a craft? Perhaps, then we will become his friend, his family, his community? Perhaps, then we will leave a mark?

As long as darkness exists...
Friends, as long as there are Jeffreys... as long as there are George Zimmermans... as long as there are Trayvon Martins... as long as color is real... as long as our world is broken... Christ-followers need to bring Christ's light into this dark world. 

We have a calling... not to mar the world, but to leave a mark in this world.

As Ann Voskamp further writes in her blog post from this morning...
I am oppressed by gratitude.
That I breathe, that there is light.
That there is always hope.
A life oppressed by gratitude lives unbound, lives broken and given.
When your life’s oppressed by gratitude — you can’t help but make your life about freedom for the oppressed.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
The light keeps driving up the greying sky.
You could watch the sun rise and know that we will rise to this.
We will do nothing less than rise.
:: :: ::

As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who compels us to love beyond our comfort zones... these are the things I am thankful for these two weeks... #3011 - #3021:
:: Slow summer days!
:: Lunch with a girlfriend.
:: Writing our Compassion children.
:: Awesome medical and dental care.
:: Dinner out with hubby... yummy Korean food!
:: Awesome personal best results at the Canadian Open speed cubing competition for my boy!
:: A completed building for Patnubay Child Development Centre, the Compassion project where our Florianlyn belongs to... still in awe that God would use our family to accomplish this! 
:: Hanging out with my niece and nephew as my sister is away on a missions trip to the Philippines.
:: My sister meeting our LDP student, Rechelle, in the Philippines!!!
:: Goodbyes... our youth pastor leaving.
:: Our friends at Camp Freedom!
Hello Monday!
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, July 10, 2013

Multiplied A Thousand Fold

We are a pencil in the hand of God. It's not about us. Our lives speak, our actions speak, far louder than our words. ~ Fred Katagwa, as quoted in the book What's Your Mark? by Jeremy Cowart.
The words struck me deep...
"A pencil in the hand of God." I sat in the waiting room of the dentist's office this past Monday morning reading What's Your Mark? as my kids had their routine cleaning and check-ups done. I scrolled through page after page of stories, of everyday ordinary people, of people just like you and me, all making a mark for God's Kingdom... in Jesus' name. Inspiring stories!

And I smiled... because just a few days before, on Friday... an email appeared in my inbox from Stephanie at Compassion Canada, an email reminding me that beautiful God-stories can unfold if we are willing to be that pencil in the hand of God.

The subject line caught my attention right away... Compassion - Completion Report. I excitedly double-clicked to open up this long-awaited email and I. just. could. not. stop. smiling. as I read the attachment that came with it.

As I read the report, tears started to stream down my face to join that unerasable smile because even though it's right there before my eyes, on hard copy... I couldn't {actually, I still can't} believe that God actually used our family to make this permanent facility for Patnubay Child Development Centre {a Compassion project in Masbate, Philippines} a reality!

Friends, here is our story...
Two years ago this very month, in July 2011, God sent us to the Philippines on a self-guided missions immersion trip. Normally, this wouldn't be such a big deal... but to this family, it was. You see, we were comfortable, very comfortable, with our North American Christian lifestyle. Hubby and I didn't see a need for a missions trip to a third-world country... we were already making a difference, right here where we are... and to us, that was enough!

In fact, if you asked people who know us, they would tell you exactly that... we are a family that's actively involved in local missions, making a difference in the lives of the marginalized right here in our very own city.

But God had other plans... and we were in it!
It wasn't easy, but it was right. "If you want to make a mark," Gary says, "go where people are having the hardest time believing God is good." Leave where you are. Go there. ~ from What's Your Mark?, Gary Haugen's story.
Seeing the Philippines had a profound impact on our entire family...
It had been twelve years since hubby and I were last there. Even though we both grew up there, we didn't really see or realize the extreme poverty that surrounded us. We were brought up to live in the security bubble of our upper-middle-class existence. We were oblivious to the suffering that was right outside our doorstep.

Street children. Manila, Philippines.

When I was seventeen, my family moved to Canada. Hubby came a few years later. We got married and happily settled into a comfortable North American Christian lifestyle, still oblivious to the sufferings of our fellow brothers and sisters back home and in developing countries all over the world.

Even when we went back to the Philippines in 1999, with our girl who was just a toddler at that time, we went as tourists... resort-hopping, shopping to our heart's content, eating all the Filipino foods that we missed... never once thinking of or even looking at the suffering that was right before our eyes.

But God is truly gracious...
He would use our girl to open up our eyes to the plight of the world's extreme poor. She was just 12 years old that Christmas back in 2009 when she asked for nothing else but a little sister from Compassion Canada. That was when our journey of sponsoring children started... and we haven't looked back since!

Two years later, we found ourselves in the Philippines... with both of our kids in tow, not really knowing what God had in store for us... just willing to be that pencil in His hand.

We met our Compassion sponsor child, Florianlyn.

We met Compassion LDP student, Rechelle, who we decided to sponsor right after our meeting.

What we saw forever changed us, breaking our hearts for the things that break God's heart.

My girl and Rechelle, inside Rechelle's house.

My kids and Rechelle, at the Compassion project where she grew up!

Our family and Florianlyn's family, inside her house.

Slums, a very common sight in the Philippines.

People... families... living on the streets, another very common sight.

Forever changed...
It's not an easy place to be... forever changed... but I agree that it is the most blessed place to be.

When we were at Patnubay Child Development Centre where Florianlyn belongs to, the Pastor shared with us a dream they have... for a permanent facility to better serve the 272 Compassion children and their families.

It's merely a dream because they did not have the funds to make it a reality.

The dream...

All they had as classrooms were these...

God's still small voice...
The permanent facility would cost about $30,000.00 to build. Somehow, hubby and I couldn't shake the feeling that God was asking us to give a substantial amount of money towards it.

A fairly substantial amount to us, yes... but still not quite enough to complete this building.  

It felt to us like the little boy's five loaves and two fishes... you know, that story from the Bible... it was all we had, yet it wasn't quite enough.

We committed that sum of money to God and waited to see what He would do with it.

What came next nearly knocked me off my feet. My first reaction? "Not me, Lord. Not our family! We are not qualified to organize something like that!"

An opportunity was dropped on our family's lap... to put together a benefit event... with all proceeds going towards the Patnubay building project. It was a lot of hard work... many sleepless nights... many nerve-wracking days complete with me having ugly melt-downs

My sister and her choir, the reason this event came to be in the first place!

My friend and fellow Compassion Advocate, Ann Voskamp, who so graciously agreed
to partner with our family to make this event a reality! She and her family are truly inspiring!!! ♥

Our family and Ann, at the conclusion of the event.

To this day, I'm not really sure how we pulled everything together... it is truly a testament of God's amazing grace! Yes, only by His grace alone...

The event raised just enough money to top off our donation to reach $30,000! The total amount turned over to Compassion Canada was $30,158.42!!!

A few days after the benefit event, it was time to write our cheque... you know, that substantial amount we felt God was asking us to give. I'd be lying if I told you it was easy. Writing a big cheque to give away hurts. But I think the beautiful thing is this: Doing Kingdom work, the expression of Biblical justice, is supposed to hurt. Loving with a cross-shaped love hurts... just look at Jesus' example.

Forever changed is not easy... but it is the most blessed place to be.
Writing that cheque meant curbing our family's eating out budget. But "millions of people go to bed hungry each night. In fact, about 1 billion people today are chronically short of food, many slowly starving to death."1
Writing that cheque meant no big family vacations for at least a couple of years. But for many of our fellow brothers and sisters in the developing world "there aren't any vacations from the hard work of daily survival."1
Writing that cheque meant delaying our home renovations for yet another year. But "nineteen thousand children under the age of five die every single day of largely preventable causes simply because they are poor. That's almost 8 million children every year, one every four seconds..."1 simply because they don't have adequate shelter to ward off simple diseases.
Writing that cheque meant delaying replacing our 16-year-old car for some more time. But "783 million have no access {to clean water} at all. Instead, they walk miles each day to dip their buckets in filthy, bacteria-ridden water that makes them sick and kills their children."1
{1. Chapter 4: Magic Kingdom, Tragic Kingdom, and the Kingdom of God. Unfinished, by Richard Stearns.}
You see, when we finally get the proper perspective for why we give away, though it still might hurt and it's supposed to, we find joy! It becomes the living out of thanks, thanks-living!

This past year, our family has found real joy in making meals together... eating healthier as a result. We have come to realize that giving of our time in serving the marginalized is as much fun, if not more fun, than a family vacation. We have come to appreciate our home as it is, and have been surprised by God's provision so that some of our planned renovations can indeed happen. We were happily driving our old 16-year-old station wagon and was content to drive it to its grave when God literally led us to a newer car, and provided us with enough funds to buy it!

Richard Stearns has this to say about Kingdom work, in his most recent book Unfinished:
It's about the thousands of daily twists, turns, detours, and choices that make up the very fabric of our lives. It's about a life well lived for Christ by those who know their destination and take seriously the role God has given them to play as full participants in his kingdom work.
So, back to that email I received last Friday...
Our meager offering, our five loaves and two fishes, God has multiplied one thousand fold... through us, weak and unqualified people... just because we were willing to be that pencil in His hand. He truly does make the impossible, possible.

To see this report, two years to the very month our family stepped foot on that bare land where this beautiful building now stands... is. just. so. utterly. amazing!

We serve an awesome God!
To Him be all the glory, honour and praise... great things He has done!
It doesn't matter who you are, how big your audience or your bank account, you can make a mark.
You can do it. Jesus did. He is the example, the eternal Truth we love because he loved us first. We serve because he served first.
~ Jeremy Cowart, What's Your Mark?

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On Choosing The Other Side of the Fence

We are the Esthers inside the gate — and the hurting and the poor, the oppressed and the ignored – is Christ on the other side of the gate. Christ is saying: "I was a stranger and you welcomed Me. I was the stranger on the other side of the gate — and you risked everything inside the gate for the One outside the gate – Me."
It’s not nameless masses of the deserving poor on the other side of the gate; It’s Christ. Every single stranger, every single disadvantaged, is Christ and if you love Him — you have got to make your life about tearing down the gates.
Ann Voskamp wrote the above words today in a blog post about her time spent with Katie Davis in Uganda a couple of weeks ago. Friends, it is another one of Ann's must-read blog posts... just. so. absolutely. breathtakingly. beautiful!

I've been waiting for this particular blog post for a few days now... since I first found out that Ann and Katie spent a few days together. You see, Ann and her book One Thousand Gifts helped me realized my truest self... and Katie Davis' book Kisses From Katie has had a profound impact on my girl since she read it for her Independent Study Unit for English class last year. So, these two women getting the opportunity to meet face-to-face made my heart happy...

The story of their time together didn't disappoint... Ann goes on to write these words:
Love is complicated and the simplest thing in the world. And that is all there is.
We could write it on a million kitchen chalkboards: You are doing something great with your life – when you’re doing all the small things with His Great love.
You are changing the world – when you are changing one person’s world.
You aren't missing your best life – when you aren't missing opportunities to love like Christ.
Yes, love is truly all there is. Loving like Christ, that is... and doing all the small things with His Great Love. It's all about being an Esther, and not staying in the comforts of the palace... but getting out there, to the other side of the gate... where Christ is. Yes, where our Jesus Christ is.

So, yesterday, it was Canada's birthday...
Our family had the most awesome opportunity to serve "the least of these" at an initiative called Refresh, an outreach event organized by a ministry called Ephraim's Place Community Centre. I must say that it was the most meaningful Canada Day celebration that we've ever had as a family!

Here we are... at Refresh, with friends from our Home Church who joined us!

I have to be honest and say that, at first, I was quite hesitant to sign us up to volunteer at Refresh. It's a holiday Monday after all... Canada Day... a great day to perhaps go to a festival... or maybe go hang out by the lake... or have a BBQ in the backyard... then go watch some fireworks?!? 

I didn't want to give up and sacrifice a "well-earned holiday", especially since we've had a very busy school year and ministry year... and I felt like we "deserved" some rest. You know, to not be an Esther... to just stay inside the gate, to just stay in the palace and relax!

Yet, something compelled me to sign us up... Christ's love, perhaps? ;-)
Refresh has been happening for six years now, every summer. It is a unique program designed to create a strong sense of community, restore local pride, and improve the living conditions of those living in homes provided by Toronto Community Housing by refreshing the homes with a fresh coat of paint.

For those who aren't familiar with Toronto Community Housing, it is subsidized public government housing provided to low-income, under-privileged families. They are almost always in a cluster on their own within a certain community. Most of these homes are in a state of disrepair. They are filthy, old, run-down.  

We arrived bright and early on Canada Day and were quickly assigned a home to paint. We were encouraged to engage and relate with the home's occupants... to have God-conversations with them whenever possible.

We arrived at the home, which is part of a four-unit housing and were told that it was the very location where a boy named Ephraim was shot dead, caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting. 11-year-old Ephraim Brown's death was why the ministry of Ephraim's Place Community Centre came into being.

We stepped into the home we were going to paint and met the sweetest lady, Joyce, the home's occupant. Joyce is from Ghana and lives in that housing unit with her five children.

The house, however, isn't so sweet... the walls filthy, with drywall falling off and paint peeling... bugs can be seen crawling in some places... the carpet dirty and old... the kitchen is in even worse shape. Yet, this is the place Joyce calls home.

So we got down to business... 
We removed wallpaper borders and washed walls. We moved furniture and covered up the carpet with drop cloth. We taped and we prepped walls. We edged, brushed and rolled paint onto walls. We cleaned and vacuumed.

It was hard work... yet, my heart felt full... it felt great to be on the other side of the gate, to be brave as Queen Esther was, for such a time as this... so glad I didn't choose to stay in the palace!

A few of us engaged Joyce in conversation, as she busied herself in her kitchen. As we took short breaks, we stood outside in her small weed-filled backyard to get some fresh air... and we were able to take in the feel of this neighbourhood.

This neighbourhood definitely feels and looks different, vastly different from the pristine and well-manicured suburbs that we call home. It feels oppressed, poor, unsightly...

Yet, we saw children playing with each other outside just like in the suburbs. Neighbours congregated outside, chatting and laughing with each other, maybe even more so than the suburbs. 

These are people, just like us... precious people deeply loved by our Heavenly Father, the same way He loves you and me. Yet... why is it that we are so often so hesitant to love like Christ?    
Love is complicated and the simplest thing in the world. And that is all there is.
Soon, we were done our work and were ready to go. But first, Joyce wanted us to try some ethnic Ghanaian food... something she had been cooking up all morning long!

Hubby went first.
Then me. My girl isn't so sure about this...
But then she decided to be brave after all! :)

So, we gather up courage and try some of this cow stomach dish... well, let's just say, it was quite an interesting adventure. ;)

Honestly though... I'd eat some more of that cow stomach dish {gulp!} any day if it means this...
You are doing something great with your life – when you’re doing all the small things with His Great love.
You are changing the world – when you are changing one person’s world.
You aren't missing your best life – when you aren't missing opportunities to love like Christ.
Oh, and my body is not very happy today... aching and feeling sore in many places... I guess I'm not used to the physical demands of painting homes?!? Who knew?!? ;) But I'd endure this again any day as well... it's nothing that Advil can't fix! :)

Because... we changed Joyce's world yesterday... it was a small thing, just a fresh coat of paint in her living/dining room... but it was done with Christ's love compelling us... 

So glad our family didn't miss this opportunity to love like Christ!  

As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who compels us to love beyond our comfort zones... these are the things I am thankful for this week... #3003 - #3010:
:: Celebrating 19 years with my best friend!!!
:: Visiting our friends at Camp Freedom and delivering a shelving unit they needed, one that we recently emptied and had me wondering what to do with. God answered my question with an email from Camp Freedom about a need for a shelving unit. :)
:: Last day of school! Summer is here!!!
:: The slower pace of life.
:: Rock climbing.
:: Sunday afternoon reading.
:: Making a difference, however small... such as in Joyce's home.
:: Baking cookies with my girl... cookies to send with my sister's medical missions team as they head to the Philippines tonight.
Hello July!
So God transfigures all the world? Darkness transfigures into Life, bad transfigures into good, grief transfigures into grace, empty transfigures into full. God wastes nothing - working "all things after the counsel of his will." ~ 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!