Thursday, September 25, 2014

Celebrating A Birthday...

We are celebrating a very special man's birthday! It's just another ordinary Thursday for our family... both kids are in school, he's gone to work at a client's location and I'm about to start my work day... but trust me, this man is no ordinary man!

There are a few stories about him that I would have liked to publish on the blog today... in celebration of his birthday, but it's been a busy season and blogging has taken somewhat of a backseat here.

So... I am thinking back instead to this story that I wrote about him, in celebration of his birthday last year... and I think it is worth re-publishing today... because this very much describes just how special of a man my hubby is! He truly is a keeper!

It was Friday afternoon...
He walked in the door at the end of a hard work day, at the end of a stressful work week, which must have felt longer than five days to him... and he greets me with the brightest smile he's had in days.

Coaching basketball in an inner-city neighbourhood with Ephraim's Place.

Serving lunch at a Compassion project in the Philippines.

I knew right then, even without him uttering a word, that something beautiful had happened in his day.

Then, he told me the story...
On his way to a client's place earlier that day, he saw a homeless man as he exited the highway. The man was standing to one side at the end of the exit ramp, begging. The traffic lights worked beautifully in a way that hubby was stopped right beside this homeless man.

He rolled down his window and struck up a conversation. He learned that the homeless man's name is Bruce. Bruce has been homeless for five years... since his wife passed away. He sleeps under a bridge every night, the one right by Pharmacy Avenue just down the road. Most days, he stands at this exit ramp until 6pm... getting enough money to buy dinner.

Then, the traffic lights changed. It was time to keep moving.

Hubby went about his work day and finished the job at his client's place just before 5pm. As he drove past that same exit ramp to get onto the on-ramp across the street to come home, he saw Bruce still standing there.

Instead of coming home, he drives past the on-ramp and goes to a Mr. Sub restaurant. With a foot-long sub and orange juice in hand, he gets on the on-ramp and drives towards home. He takes the first exit, turns around and enters the highway again going the opposite direction... to get to the off-ramp where Bruce was standing.

He handed Bruce the foot-long sub and orange juice. Bruce was surprised to see him, in awe that he would actually come back and bring him dinner. After a handshake, my man drives off. Exiting the highway and turning around one more time to get onto the on-ramp towards home.

As he approached the on-ramp to come home, he saw his new-found friend, Bruce... dinner in hand, walking towards home earlier than the anticipated 6pm, to his home under the bridge, the one right by Pharmacy Avenue just down the road.

And my man comes home with the brightest smile he's had in days.

He's a keeper, isn't he?
He could have driven straight home and not bother to check if Bruce was still there. After all, it's been a stressful work week and a long hard day. He's entitled to come home and relax. Besides, it's too much work to go the opposite direction on the highway, just to get to where Bruce was standing. Plus, he'd have to stop and buy the food still!

Yet, my man chose compassion over comfort... choosing to demonstrate a cross-shaped love, a Jesus-shaped love.

You have no idea how much this makes my heart smile happy and overflow with thanksgiving.

More than when he buys me flowers. More than when he washes the dishes. More than when he takes the trash out. More than when he makes sure my car's gas tank is always at least half-full.

I am truly blessed beyond measure.

Because a man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments (Psalm 112:1); a man who chooses compassion over comfort, choosing to love with a Jesus-shaped love, he's a gem. He's a keeper!
In an endless cycle of grace, He gives us gifts to serve the world. This is how to make a life great and eucharisteo embarks us on the path: "Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave" (Matthew 20:26-27).
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.
~ Excerpts from Chapter 10, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp.

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

And, it's a wrap!

Hello, Monday!
I am having a slow start to this work week as I sit here and reflect on the weekend that just passed. It was full of action. It was a lot of fun. It was very exciting!

You see... the filming team from Compassion Canada was here with us from Friday morning to Sunday night to film the Toronto segment of the youth curriculum that they are producing which my girl is hosting for them... and at about 9pm last night, the last item on the shot list was filmed and then, it was a wrap!

They filmed the Philippine segment of this project last month... you know, that time when I wrote about releasing my girl to fly.

And fly she did... spending 10 days with this same filming team, in the Philippines, a Compassion International field country which also happens to be the country of hubby's and my births! 

She soared... on wings like eagles, drawing strength from our Heavenly Father... even when her eye migraines flared up.

It is such wild grace to see God answering this long-time prayer that I've had for my girl, literally since the day she was born... that she will live life as "a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour."

Being the face and voice of this curriculum series is truly one way I see God using her for the display of His splendour! Not only that, it is also a way that God is fulfilling her desire to speak out "for those who are denied a voice."

I am blown away... 
... by God's relentless love, His constant goodness and His amazing grace. 

As we sat at church on Sunday with the video camera rolling and filming us as we worshiped in songs... I couldn't help but reflect and give thanks and be in awe:

Because... God continuing to use a family as broken as ours for Kingdom purposes blows me away.

Because... God using unqualified ordinary people such as us to create something beautiful and radical blows me away.

Because... God choosing to use our family's story to inspire others to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him utterly. blows. me. away! 

Here are some Instagram photos... some ours and others from several members of the filming team, to give you a glimpse of this journey, both on the Philippine segment and also from the Toronto segment this past weekend.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for praying alongside with us this past month and a bit... your prayer support was truly what kept us going!

This weekend... 
I saw first-hand just how much work it takes to film curriculum like this!

I am blown away by the dedication of the entire filming team... their passion inspires me! Even though they are "doing their job" as staff members of Compassion Canada and as a Video Production Professional, it is very evident that it is more than just a job to them... I can see that they really are passionate about their faith in God and about releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name and that is what drives and motivates them!

I am deeply thankful that God has blessed our family with this privilege of working with such a passionate and dedicated team! I am very excited to see the final product and even more excited to see how God will use it!

In these next few weeks, please be in prayer for the creative team and for the video production team as they start to put everything together. Their hard work is just starting!

In these next few months, please be in prayer for the churches who are considering how this curriculum will fit into their youth programming... that God will use this for His glory and for the advancement of Kingdom work.

We truly serve an awesome God!
To Him be all glory, honour and praise... He has done great things! And the beautiful thing is... He wants to partner with each one of us to make this world a better place. Let's join Him, friends... and leave a Jesus-mark in this world!
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!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fourteen Today!

Time has its way...
... of flying by! It truly flows like a relentless river, doesn't it? Fourteen years. Fourteen! 

This boy turns f-o-u-r-t-e-e-n today!!! How is it even possible that my baby boy is now fourteen and in high-school?

Doing a Rubik's Cube demo and sharing his testimony and
talking about his advocacy of Compassion International earlier this summer
at the Canada Day celebrations in Cebu City, Philippines.

Off to his first day in high-school earlier this week!

This past year, this boy has not only rapidly grown in size... he is, at this moment, on the verge of surpassing me in height (gasp!), but has also, more importantly, grown in ways that only God can grow him in.

This mama is deeply thankful for God's grace that is clearly and very evidently at work in my baby boy's life.

He is kind-hearted. He is compassionate. He is passionate. He is generous.

He is a gift... true to the meaning of his name. Jonathan... gift from God!

This mama is blessed beyond measure because of this gift from God... this gift of a son. 

My baby boy!

As we celebrate fourteen candles today... 
This, as has always been since the day he was born, is my continued prayer for this boy of mine:
May you grow up to be... "a man whose heart beats to God's heart, a man who will do what God tells him." {Paraphrased from Acts 13:22, The Message.}
And I am deeply grateful that God is answering this prayer of mine in many ways... as I see tangible evidence that my boy's heart is beating to God's heart.

Such as what our Compassion LDP student Rechelle wrote to us about just yesterday, regarding our visit this summer... "You have been a great inspiration to our youth. They are sending their gratitude and prayers. I wish you can see just how God moved in their lives through your testimony. God has given us a generation of youth that has started to be active in God’s ministry. They have learned to be focused based on what Jon shared with them. They are quite eager to learn more from God."

Sharing his testimony with the youth at Rechelle's church,
using his gift of speed-cubing as a topic starter. 

Such as his taking over funding the sponsorship of our newest Compassion child, JD.

This is from our visit this summer. JD would only hold Jon's hand! So precious!

My mama-heart is overwhelmed with thankfulness...
Because of God's goodness and His faithfulness to my baby boy. As he grows into a young man, I will embrace turning this new page in the journey of motherhood... and I will not stop praying that his heart continues to beat to God's heart.

Because... there is no better way for a heart to beat than for it to be in sync with God's!

Because... "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:4, NIV)"

Happy Birthday, my son! I love you... so very much!

:: :: ::

As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... these are the things I am thankful for... #3216 - #3226:
:: The gift of being a mama. 
:: This son of mine, truly a gift from God.
:: Both kids in high-school for just this one year... and being in the same school again, even for just this one year!
:: An eventful summer, truly a blessing... an unplanned three weeks in the Philippines and then my girl returning (again, not originally in our plans) with Compassion Canada just a month after.
:: Seeing the classrooms that Eucharisteo built! 
:: The many things which God allowed us to see... breaking our hearts even more for the things that break His.
:: Celebrating 20 years...
:: Countless everyday blessings... which I often post on Instagram.  
:: God's sustaining grace... when life seems hard and the road seems rough and the future seems uncertain.
:: Our ongoing advocacy of Compassion International's work and the gift of seeing it first-hand again in the Philippines this summer!
:: For the many opportunities to be still this year... not easy, deeply thankful that God's grace is sufficient.
In counting grace-gifts...
I am learning to let be and be still... and to pay more attention to my Jesus... and to be ready to act on the things that He has in store for me to do... because "all there is to see is Jesus."
All the world is window. People, circumstances, situations, relationships, no material is opaque. If we are willing to see, all is transparent. All of this globe is but glass to God. Eucharisteo washes the windows. Eucharisteo, wholesale worship, is redemptive work, wiping away the soot of days cindered.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.

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