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!
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.

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! 
:: 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!

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... 

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.

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