Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Thoughts on Lent...

Lent kind of crept up on me this year...
Ash Wednesday fell on the same day as this young lady's 18th birthday. We celebrated this milestone birthday by going out to dinner at a fairly new Korean-style restaurant in town. 

As we started chowing down on kimchi fries, mocha pork belly and Korean tacos... it dawned on me that it was already Ash Wednesday. In fact, Ash Wednesday was almost over by that time.

The day before, on Shrove Tuesday, I read a blog post by Ann Voskamp and posted this excerpt on my Facebook wall:
On this Shrove Tuesday before the start of ‪#‎Lent‬... this is my prayer and the confession of my heart...

People are dying for the faith we take for granted, that we take and hide under a bushel, that we take and paint vanilla so we don’t get persecuted.
Are we people who humbly take up the Cross and take our faith seriously — or people who seriously take and hide our faith under a humble bushel?
That’s what we get to decide and carry home, carry in our heads, carry around in what we read, what we watch, what we support, what we cheer: Cheap Plastic Commercialized Feel-Good Love?
Or Wood Passionate Cross Made-New Love? Worth humbly laying down our lives for.
I want that — I want to be counted as People of the Cross, carrying around the Cross in my head — because that’s the only way there will be real love in my hands and feet and heart.
So the People of the Cross will pray that our faith in our Saviour is worth laying down our life for our Saviour. We will pray that we don’t live lives of cheap grace but of costly Christianity.
Too long The People of the Cross have crusaded for safe lives, too long we’ve wished for comfortable lives, too long we’ve wanted easy lives of Vanilla Love instead of Cross-shaped Love.
But the People of the Cross — we are done with safe lives of comfort instead of living dangerous lives that speak of the comfort found in Real Love who hung on a Cross."
~ Ann Voskamp.
We read the entire blog post as a family after eating hubby's home-made pancakes for dinner... because that's what you're supposed to do on Shrove Tuesday right? Eat pancakes for dinner. :)

As I read aloud, in my heart I said, "Yes! Yes, I want to be counted as one of the People of the Cross..."

Early the next day, on Ash Wednesday, I read Ann's next blog post, one meant to kick-off this season of Lent... The Call for the Next 40 Days: To the Nations and People of The Cross, but I didn't take the time to really absorb its message due to the busyness of that day.

In fact, it has been such a busy season... that I hadn't even thought about what we should be doing as a family for Lent this year.

It wasn't until Thursday when I really had the time to sit down and absorb this powerful, powerful, powerful Lenten message...
On an Ash Wednesday, The People of the Cross repent of wanting to be greatly known for anything other than for loving greatly.
The People of the Cross repent of loving our agendas more — instead of interrupting our agendas because we love Jesus most.
We repent of loving You, Lord, so little because we have loved ourselves too much.
What if the next 40 days is asking The People of the Cross to do more than Give Up something — but to Take Back something?
Take Back taking up our Cross,
Take Back our time so we can turn back to our First Love,
Take Back our hypocrisy and our complacency and our apathy and Love Lavishly,
Take Back our excuses for not committing to Give Back every day in some tangible, real way — to the local food bank, to a woman’s shelter, to the refugees and the foreigners and the Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and to the forgotten neighbour next door with her meowing stray cat.
Maybe now is the time —
Now is the time to Take Back what it means to humbly and genuinely live the love of The People of the Cross.
~ Ann Voskamp.
Ah, yes... yes, I do know it... I do! Lent is not going through the motions of the supposed-to-dos... of eating pancake dinners and of reading devotionals and of giving up something.

It is more than that. Way more than that...

It is praying this prayer... it is repenting of loving God so little because we love ourselves too much.

{Please press the "play" button to hear this powerful prayer.}

Perhaps it's a blessing in disguise that Lent kind of crept up on me this year. There are no meal plans prepared. There are no devotional plans ready. There are no plans to give up anything. There are no plans of any sort lined up at all.

Except for the above prayer. A call to repentance...

One I am badly needing to pray. Everyday, for the next 40 days of Lent. In repentance, of loving myself too much... and loving God so little.

Refreshed anew with the right perspective on Lent...
Our family got ready to head out for the weekend. We were scheduled to serve as Compassion Advocates at two events over the weekend, including a huge conference for youth and youth workers.

#1000gifts ~ This SUNSHINE as we drive across the city to represent Compassion Canada at the Today's Teens conference this weekend!

Upon arriving at the event on Friday night, we were surprised to learn that my girl has been invited to speak the next day about Compassion's ministry and to promote their upcoming youth curriculum, True Story {#TrueStorySeries}, of which she is the host.

#1000gifts ~ Excited to be promoting @compassionCA #TrueStorySeries at Today's Teens conference this weekend! Check out www.compassion.ca/truestory to watch the trailer. You just might recognize someone. :) #proudmama

As I watched my girl share her heart with hundreds of her peers that day and as I thought about why we have chosen to spend our entire weekend advocating for children living in extreme poverty, it dawned on me that this, this is exactly what it means to observe Lent and to live as People of the Cross... {and I am paraphrasing Ann Voskamp}:

When we want to be greatly known for nothing else but for loving greatly.

When we interrupt our agendas because we love Jesus.

When we repent of loving God so little because we love ourselves too much.

When we take back taking up our Cross.

When we take back hypocrisy and complacency and apathy and Love Lavishly.

Let it be so... 
Let me be counted as one of the People of the Cross... one who acts justly, loves mercy and walks humbly with the God of Justice everyday and in all of my ways. This is my prayer.

I recently came across this song, God of Justice by Tim Hughes. I love these words...
We must go, live to feed the hungry,
Stand beside the broken, we must go.
Stepping forward, keep us from just singing,
Move us into action, we must go.
To act justly everyday.
Loving mercy in every way.
Walking humbly before You God.
Have a listen here...

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Eighteen Candles!

18! 十八! Napulo ug walo! Dieciocho! Dix-huit!
That's right, e-i-g-h-t-e-e-n. My baby girl, this child who made me a mama, celebrates her eighteenth birthday today!!! Just where has all that time gone to and why has it flown by this swiftly?

Time truly flows like a relentless river... I am very much undeserving of such wild grace, this immensely beautiful gift and sacred privilege of being mama to this amazing and beautiful young lady... and for this, I am humbled... and deeply grateful to my Heavenly Father for His extravagant love and unending grace. He truly gives beautiful gifts.
Every good gift bestowed, every perfect gift received comes to us from above, courtesy of the Father of lights. ~ James 1:17
Hubby and I found out we were expecting just mere days before I graduated from the University of Toronto's School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (now Daniels Faculty). I had my eyes set on a career as an Urban Planner, motherhood far from my mind. I was surprised by this gift... surprised by motherhood!

As my belly started to swell and stretch and this life started to visibly grow within that hollow space inside of me, I marvelled at the miracle of life. I was surprised by this gift... surprised by motherhood!

On that cold and wintry February day, when my body signalled to me that the time had arrived for us to meet this baby face to face... and when after twenty-six hours of intense labour, this loud yet breathtakingly beautiful baby girl joined our family, I fell in love in a way that I didn't know I could. I was surprised by this gift... surprised by motherhood!

When my eyes gazed upon the face of this sweet cherubic little human and I knew right then and there that the only way to spend my days is to raise her up to be truly great... and when, right at that very moment, becoming an Urban Planner suddenly no longer seemed important to me... and when, right at that moment, I set my heart on being at home and chose to become a full-time mama, my heart skipped a beat. I was surprised by this gift... surprised by motherhood!

Side Note: Here are two of my all-time favourite quotes on what it means to raise truly great kids, not as the world would define greatness to be, but what being great for God's Kingdom looks like...
True greatness is a passionate love for God that demonstrates itself in an unquenchable love and concern for others. ~ Dr. Tim Kimmel, Raising Kids for True Greatness.
Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. ~ C.S. Lewis.
Even though I eventually started working from home soon after my son was born, I've cherished this gift of being able, all these years, to work yet be at home both at the same time... being the first to kiss boo-boos, the first to see first steps, the first to hear first words, the first to be happy and to be sad with them... and many, many, many countless other firsts. I was surprised by this gift... surprised by motherhood!

From late-night feedings to early-morning wake-ups, from diapers to potty-training, from sleep-training to tummy-time, from mushy cereals to table foods...

From bedtime stories to good-morning cuddles, from ballet lessons to piano lessons, from meal-time struggles to bath-time giggles, from tangled hair to braided hair...

From disappointing basketball try-outs to celebrating straight-A report cards, from the first day of Kindergarten to the last day of elementary school, from the first day of high school to choosing universities...

From cheering loudly at basketball games to applauding proudly at concerts and recitals, from the first loose tooth to wearing braces, from a trike to a bike, from triple-jumps at track and field days to roller-blading down the neighbourhood sidewalks...

From a provincial writing award to a regional humanitarian award, from doing the hard thing to grappling with brokenness, from an adorable baby girl to a super-talkative toddler, from a strong-willed little girl to a determined young woman who is beautiful both inside and out...

From holding her hand to releasing her to fly... through it all, this mama has been utterly surprised by this gift... surprised by motherhood!

My prayer for this girl since the day she was born has been the verses from Isaiah 61:1-3... that, as an image-bearer of her Heavenly Father, she will be Jesus' hands and feet... to proclaim good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, 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 splendour.

These eighteen years have been pure gift, wild grace... a blessing! Motherhood has been the single hardest, yet most fulfilling, thing I have ever done. I wouldn't trade it for anything else...
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.
Happy Birthday, Alyssa!
I am forever grateful and count it as pure joy that God gave you to me, a daughter... a precious gift! You continually inspire me as you courageously and humbly live each day as an "oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour."

I love you very much... more than words can ever express {whether in person or right here on this blog}! 

I can't wait to see the brave and beautifully radical God-things waiting for you as you embark on pursuing an education, and eventually a career, in International Development {entering the University of Toronto as a President's Scholar of Excellence this Fall, at my alma mater no less! #proudmama :)}, to live out your passion to speak out for those who are denied a voice.

A photo posted by alyssa (@_godsgal4ever) on

When your daddy and I first gazed upon your beautiful face in those small hours before that dawn of day 18 years ago, we wouldn't have dared to imagine that this is what your life's work and passion would shape into. Yet seeing all that God has accomplished in your life so far, I am in awe realizing that this is the path that your Heavenly Daddy has prepared in advance for you to walk... because He is One who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine!
For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago. - Ephesians 2:10
My beloved daughter...
As you step into adulthood, your mama can't help but beam with pride... deeply grateful for God's grace at work in your life. As you pursue God's calling and continue to embrace all that He has in store for you... may this be always true of you:
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. ~ Galatians 6:14
{Please pause the playlist on the sidebar of this blog as you watch this video.}
"The words leave my lips: 'When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace. For I am Yours, and You are mine.' I'm painfully aware of what I'm saying." ~ Alyssa{Video background music: "Oceans" from Brad Guldemond's "Lord I Need You EP"}

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