Tuesday, December 18, 2018

God incarnate, here to dwell...

Emmanuel, God with us... 

This Christmas, I've been particularly struck by the fact that God was silent for 400 years before that very first Christmas. 400 years sure is a long time for humanity not to hear from God.

But was He silent? 

You see, I've also been struck by the fact that our concept of time isn't at all in sync with God's, for in Galatians 4:4 it says, "When the set time had fully come, God sent His Son..."

And, struck by the fact that, when He was seemingly silent, He was orchestrating the details of a life-changing story and actively working everything out for good.

Isn't it comforting to know that God's timing is always perfect and that He is always actively pursuing us, even when He is seemingly silent?

When God chose to finally reveal himself to humanity again, He did so first to one of the most unlikely people, a young woman—Mary. He asked her to be the vessel, to bring Emmanuel into this world. And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."

Because of Mary's yes, the silence was broken by a baby's cry that very first Christmas, the singular event that would change the course of history and afford us the freedom we now enjoy as Jesus people!

What then does this all mean for us, 2000+ years later?

As Jesus people, we now have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

As we continue to live in this broken world as people belonging to the New Covenant, we find ourselves also waiting, just like the people of the Old Covenant—waiting for that day when Jesus will once again make all things new. 

Similarly, Jesus invites us just as He invited Mary, into a partnership with Him. Like Mary, we may not feel the most qualified or think we're the most likely candidate—yet we are to be like Mary and assume this posture, "Let it be to me according to your word." 

We are to be a people who do not wait passively. As Jesus’ disciples, a people who know this Eternal Hope, we are to wait actively—working hard to see His Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.

This is the true meaning of Advent.

This is the posture our family continually wants to hold: May we be vessels for Emmanuel to come into the lives of those who are broken and longing to be whole—that Good News to the poor, that freedom for the captives, that sight for the blind, that liberty for the oppressed, just as Jesus outlined in Luke‬ ‭4:18‬.

2018 family highlights {the top 10, in no particular order}:

1. In January, Jon attached his name to the official North American Record single time for the 3x3x3 one-handed speedcubing event with a 7.57-second solve! Not only is it #1 in North America, it is also #2 in the world, just one under the World Record. You can watch that solve here.

2. In February, I had the privilege of co-leading my very first official Pastors' Vision Trip with Compassion. We headed to Nicaragua. You can get a glimpse into this trip via my posts on Instagram tagged #PastorsTripNicaragua2018. Soon after we left the country, violent protests started and it's still ongoing to some extent. The beautiful people of Nicaragua have been on my heart and in my prayers!

3. Speaking of the beautiful people of Nicaragua, we now have a special connection to one of them—our newest Compassion child, Luis! I met Luis while in Nicaragua and couldn't help but fall in love with this witty and smart boy!

4. Alyssa turns 22 in the New Year... she is currently on her placement year as part of the International Development Studies program at the University of Toronto. She had initially planned to do her placement year in Rwanda, but things took an unexpected turn. She writes about that journey here. As a result, she is doing her placement right here at home with Compassion Canada, as Writer and Communicator. I might be biased, but she is an absolutely stellar co-worker! This year, she's travelled the country and the world, speaking and writing—lending her voice to those who don't have one. I can't be more proud of how she's stewarded this God-given platform, grateful for God's grace manifesting itself so beautifully in her life!

5. In June, Floyd and I celebrated 24 years of marriage. Him and me, we’ve been through a lot of life together now. He truly has been my stego, described so eloquently by these words penned by Ann Voskamp: "Love bears all things like a roof bears the wind and the rain, like a roof that bears the burden of lashing storms, brutal heat. Real love is a roof. Real love makes you into a shelter, real love makes you into a safe place. Real love makes you safe. Stego. There is always a way forward that finds a way to love. We could be the ones who know that "the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:6)."

6. During the latter half of the summer, our church's 2nd Syrian newcomer family completed their one year of life in Toronto! It’s been one of our family’s greatest joys to have walked this journey that’s so much outside of comfort zone, and one of my greatest privileges to lead this refugee sponsorship committee over these past three years! This family has grown wings to fly. We are extremely happy for them!

7. Jon turned 18 this year... time truly flows like a relentless river. This is the first Christmas that both our kids are adults! Talk about feeling old! Jon graduated from high school this year, top of his class! We are so incredibly proud of him!

8. Speaking of being proud of Jon, just before I left for my Nicaragua trip, this boy received an early offer of acceptance to study Engineering Science at the University Of Toronto, admittedly one of the toughest undergraduate programs in the country. As I tap out this Christmas update, he is on his way to write one of his final exams. By the end of this week, he will have successfully completed 1/8 of his degree! Have I already said that we are so incredibly proud of him?!?

9. This summer, our travels brought us to Northern Thailand and Taipei (Taiwan). Our trip is well documented on Instagram as #Esparaz2Asia. We were in Taipei for Jon to compete in the 2018 Asian Championship speedcubing competition. We then side-tripped to Northern Thailand in order to spend a week with our three Compassion children there—Eakkawin, Taeng-Mo and Lili. It was such an amazing and inspiring experience, one that has ignited our family's passion anew to see exponentially more children released from poverty in Jesus' name via Compassion's ministry.

10. Speaking of Compassion, we are celebrating with our global Compassion family for the milestone of now having TWO MILLION children registered in our programs!!! This is only possible because of our partnership with the 7,000 frontline church partners across 25 field countries, as we saw anew firsthand this summer in Northern Thailand! As a family, we count it a blessing and a privilege to serve God via this wonderful ministry.

As this year comes to a close, we are celebrating 1200+ Compassion children connected with loving sponsors this year here in the Greater Toronto Area through various events and church services! We are deeply grateful for the dedicated and committed volunteers who so faithfully serve with us to grow Compassion's ministry in this region of Canada. I am personally grateful for the trust afforded to me by Pastors and church leaders across this region, as they continually open their doors to embrace Compassion's ministry and partner to see children's lives holistically changed! My family and I are truly overwhelmed and incredibly humbled… we truly serve a good, good Father.

~ :: ~

As the calendar turns to 2019, may we continue to live out the true meaning of Advent as we wait. May we be vessels for Emmanuel to come into the unexpected places—God incarnate, here to dwell.

What hope we hold this starlit night | A King is born in Bethlehem | Our journey long, we seek the light | That leads to the hallowed manger ground.
Emmanuel, Emmanuel | God incarnate, here to dwell | Emmanuel, Emmanuel | Praise His name Emmanuel.
The son of God, here born to bleed | A crown of thorns would pierce His brow | And we beheld this offering | Exalted now the King of kings | Praise God for the hallowed manger ground.
From our family to yours... 
Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

With much love + gratitude,
The Esparaz Family:
Floyd, Aimee, Alyssa and Jon

Monday, July 2, 2018

On Milestones, Medals and Musings on Motherhood...

Five days ago my baby boy walked across that stage and literally, just like they said it would be—like a blink of an eye, he's graduated from high-school.

I don't think I was quite prepared for the emotions that would flood this mama-heart of mine, because I literally had to compose myself to stop a tsunami of tears from streaming down my face!

I guess there's something milestone-ish about the youngest child finishing high-school, isn't there?

It felt like one phase of life is ending.
Like the page is flipping to a new chapter.
With a bright future about to unfold.

One that is much more vast than this mama can enfold in her arms.

I guess that's why the mama-tears wanted to flow.

Where exactly has all that time gone to anyway?

Don't blink. Parents of littles, don't blink—because time waits for no one. It truly flows like a relentless river.

I am incredibly proud to be known as this amazing young man's mama. I am truly blessed beyond measure. I have recently started using the hashtag #MotherhoodIsSanctifying on my social media posts, because motherhood truly is that!


Our gracious Heavenly Father has used my motherhood journey to sanctify me. To remake me into this better version of myself.

God's grace truly is astoundingly beautiful. For someone as broken as I am to have been gifted this extraordinary young man as a son to raise is exceedingly more than I know to ask for or could ever even dare to imagine.

He walked across that stage multiple times and I beamed with so much pride and joy each time, as he shook his Principal's hand and she handed him multiple awards in recognition of his leadership, dedication and hard work...
The Lillian Evelyn Bloom Award—awarded to graduates who have demonstrated academic excellence and dedicated involvement in school activities.
The Ontario Principal's Council Award—awarded to a graduate who has demonstrated academic excellence and involvement in co-curricular and community activities.
And this one, reserved only for the top graduate—the Governor General's Academic Medal and Dunbarton Scholarship—awarded to the graduating student with the highest average in his/her senior years of high-school.
To God be the glory, great things He has done!

This Fall, this boy is headed to the University of Toronto, Canada's top university, to study Engineering Science, one of the most selective and advanced engineering programs offered in the world.

These are undoubtedly incredible achievements and his dad and I are extremely proud of this young man.

A post shared by Aimee Esparaz (@mama2greatkids) on

I am so unbelievably proud of this kid right here. He graduated top of his class today, while being recognized with two additional awards for his leadership, community involvement and academic excellence. Many will think that this comes naturally to him, without much effort. And while God has certainly gifted him with intellect, I have also witnessed Jon’s work ethic, perseverance, tenacity and dedication at work over these past four years. I have the rare vantage point to see just how hard Jon works to excel in everything he puts his mind to, and it is one of the most inspiring things in my life. Beyond achieving top grades and being crazy smart, Jon has built a world-class speedcubing career, volunteered countless hours, formed solid friendships, built his knowledge in a plethora of super interesting things, and become quite a photographer. And yet, all those things are even less important still than the ways that he has grown and bloomed into a compassionate, kind and courageous follower of Jesus. @genius4jesus - keep pursuing Jesus with your everything. Seek first His kingdom, and all these things will be added to you also. What a promise - I pray that you will always claim that in your life. I pray that you will always know and experience his deep love and extravagant grace. As you embark on the next chapter, may your solves be fast, your baskets be swishes, your studies be enriching, your compassion be expansive, and your faith be radical. I can’t wait to see what God does next in your life from this unique vantage point I am so privileged to have as your big sis. I will be here cheering you on every step of the way. I love you, Jon! πŸŽ‰πŸ’›πŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ‘¨πŸ»‍πŸŽ“πŸŽŠ✨
A post shared by alyssa esparaz (@_godsgal4ever) on

Many have congratulated us on a parenting job well done and this is what I have to say in response: There is this quote by C.S. Lewis that has always informed and guided my motherhood journey, and it has proven to be true time and time again. It says: “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

You see, the goal was never medals, awards or academic achievements.

The goal was always this, and this alone—a man after God's own heart.

Of course, there is no magic parenting formula, but there are these words, from Matthew 6:33, that are strongly worth considering and taking to heart—"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

As much as this mama-heart swelled with so much pride and joy seeing how much this boy has accomplished in his young life, it overflows and bursts with even more pride and joy knowing how much he seeks for God's grace to be at work and manifested in his life.

Such as when he chooses to spend his day-off like this...

Or when he foregoes a significant Rubik's Cube competition which could improve his standings, so that he can do this instead—in order to see over 150 Compassion children released from poverty in Jesus' name...

Or when he leads and rallies together his peers, and as a result they raise almost $10,000 for UrbanPromise Toronto...

My beloved son...
My heart overflows with so much love for you. More than words can ever express.

Mothering you has truly sanctified me. Each day, I thank God for you. Because of you, I am a better human.

It has been and continues to be one of my life's greatest privileges to walk this journey as your mama.

As you boldly step into the future, may my prayer for you since the day you were born always hold true—that you will always be "a man after God's own heart, doing everything God wants you to do.

My son, your future shines bright.

Yes, it is one that is much more vast than this mama can enfold in her arms.

But it is one that will always be covered with prayers from her heart.