Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Letter to Haiti on this Thanksgiving Weekend...

Dear Haiti,

Simmering on my stove top is a huge heavy pot of my grandma's signature dish, her braised pork hocks in soy-caramel sauce, which I am attempting to make for the first time today because my dad is missing his mama's home-cooked meals.

Holidays have their way of making one's heart miss departed loved ones. This weekend, it's Thanksgiving here in Canada.

Soon, my sisters and their families will arrive at my house with even more food... and we will gather around the table to feast.

So will many fellow Canadians throughout this entire weekend. We will eat and we will overeat and we will fill our stomachs... and come Tuesday, many of us will hit the gym to shed those excess calories gained over the weekend.

Because that's how we are in the first world. 

We have way more than what we know what to do with.

The entire house is starting to smell delicious with the salty-sweet liquid slowly braising and the aroma of star anise and garlic fills our nostrils. I think I've successfully made my grandma's signature dish! Soon, we will be eating to our hearts' content.

Yet, somehow... eating and feasting is the last thing on my mind on this Thanksgiving weekend.

Because, YOU ARE.

You see, just over a month ago... my family and I stood on your soil and found new friends. 

Today, my heart aches for them.














  


On this Thanksgiving weekend, news is just starting to trickle out about how you fared after Hurricane Matthew hit you with its full force earlier this week.

You... still recovering from the devastating 2010 earthquake... were the subject of Hurricane Matthew's wrath. 

Headlines read...
Hurricane Matthew: Haiti south '90% destroyed'
Hurricane Matthew: Food, Water Shortages Threaten Haiti Victims
Haiti Grapples With Cholera After Deadly Hurricane Matthew Hits
My heart aches as I await word on how our friends are, our family really: our Compassion sponsor children, Bradley and Linsey and their families; our host and translator Pastor Ephraim and his family.

How about George and Remy and Arnold who all live along the shoreline and peddle local crafts for a living? I wonder how they are?






On this Thanksgiving weekend, I am desperately wanting, more than ever, to turn my thanksgiving into thanks-living.
Thanksgiving for God’s love always seeks to become thanks-living – a living and giving of His love.
Christian hands never clasp and He doesn’t give gifts for gain because a gift can never stop being a gift — a gift is always meant to be given….
God calls me to do thanks. To give the thanks away. That thanks-giving might literally become thanks-living. That our lives become the very blessings we have received.
~ Ann Voskamp.
My dear Haiti, you see... those of us who live in this first world have been abundantly blessed with much materially. We have so much to be thankful for and it shouldn't, it cannot, end at merely mouthing our thanks.

If we call ourselves Christ-followers, the next step absolutely needs to be taken and that is the living out of this thanks...

Because to whom much is given, much will be required.

Because living out a sacrificial life of grateful holiness is the only appropriate response to grace.
Go through His gates, giving thanks; walk through His courts, giving praise. Offer Him your gratitude and praise His holy name. Because the Eternal is good, His loyal love and mercy will never end, and His truth will last throughout all generations. ~ Psalm 100:4-5.
Brothers and sisters, in light of all I have shared with you about God’s mercies, I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship. ~ Romans 12:1.
I will not make an offering to the Eternal One, my True God, that has cost me nothing. ~ 2 Samuel 24:24.
My dear Haiti, on this Thanksgiving weekend... I am thankful for an organization called Compassion International, a ministry my family and I love. Compassion has been in Haiti since 1968. Today, they are partnering with more than 270 of your churches and together they take care of about 80,000 of your beautiful children and their families, including our Bradley and our Linsey!


They will rebuild Haiti again after Hurricane Matthew. I know they will. 

My dear Haiti, on this Thanksgiving weekend... my prayer is that, as fellow Christ-followers in this vast country of ours sit down to feast on their Thanksgiving meals, you will be forefront in their minds.

Just like you are in mine.








As I sit down shortly to enjoy those slow-braised pork hocks with its mouth-watering soy-caramel sauce... please know that you will not be far from my heart, my dear Haiti.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, I am remembering you, my dear Haiti... because setting foot on your soil and finding friends there and seeing how beautiful you are in your brokennes has re-membered me in ways that are profound.
Because when we remember how He blesses and loves us, when we recollect His goodnesses to us — our broken places re-collect. We re-member. We heal. In the remembering to give thanks, our broken places are re-membered — made whole.
~ Ann Voskamp.
:: :: ::

Help Compassion rebuild Haiti after Hurricane Matthew:

Sponsor a Compassion child in Haiti:

Monday, August 22, 2016

On living a life of God-worship...

When I first became a mama, my greatest desire was to give my baby girl and her little brother the best that this world could offer.

Because I wanted the absolute best for them. Only the absolute best will do.


During the early years, hubby and I pursued this for our kids. Relentlessly and religiously pursued this. Because... only the best would do.

From babyGap clothes to StrideRite shoes. From Oxford Learning pre-school to Gymboree classes. From Disney vacations to Registered Education Savings Plans. 

You get the picture. We're stellar parents raising stellar children! Or so we thought...

We entertained thoughts of moving from our nice neighbourhood into an even nicer neighbourhood with better schools, better than the already pretty awesome public school that's within walking distance from our more than adequate home.

We sought to top last summer's vacation with an even awesomer one next time.

We strove for more income because only then can we provide our kids with the absolute best.

It was the pursuit of more. But... although we considered ourselves Christ-followers, we weren't living a life of God-worship.


I am grateful that God, in His infinite grace, found us early on in our parenting journey and removed the blinders from our eyes. He opened our hearts' eyes to see that the goal isn't to raise stellar human beings, but truly great children... ones whose lives exude Kingdom greatness and ones whose hearts break for the things that break God's. 

He impressed upon our hearts that the way to true greatness isn't via wanting what the world dictates is the absolute best for our children...

... because in giving of the world's best to our children, we are in fact giving them a whole lot of the detrimental gift of entitlement and afflicting them with affluence.
Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or —worse!— stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. ~ Matthew 6:19-21, The Message.
We grappled with questions such as...
How is true greatness defined after all?
What do great kids look like?
How do we make sure we are raising our kids to be great?!?
The decision to live a life of God-worship wasn't easy, definitely counter-cultural... yet, I wouldn't trade it for anything! When confronted with research results such as the one I'm quoting below, I am especially grateful that God's grace confronted us very early on in our parenting journey:
In 2003, George Barna wrote in his research that a child's moral development is set by the age of nine. He wrote, "Habits related to the practice of one’s faith develop when one is young and change surprisingly little over time. The older a child gets, the more distracted and vulnerable he or she becomes to nonfamily influences."
Barna found that children who accepted Christ before their teen years are more likely to remain "absolutely committed" to Christianity. He stated, "It is during those pre-teen years that people develop their frames of reference for the remainder of their life." Source: Wikipedia.

Over the years, since our family started answering God with this wild nod of a yes to live a life of God-worship, it is changing many things.

In fact, it is changing everything.... from how we celebrate Christmas and birthdays, to how we view corporate worship; from how we buy clothing and food, to the decisions we make when buying bigger tickets items such as vehicles; from the way we save money for the future, to the way we give.

I have come to love this quote by C.S. Lewis...
I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them. ~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
And also this quote by Joshua Becker...
Excessive consumption leads to bigger houses, faster cars, trendier clothes, fancier technology, and overfilled drawers. It promises happiness, but never delivers. Instead, it results in a desire for more… a desire which is promoted by the world around us. And it slowly begins robbing us of life. It redirects our God-given passions to things that can never fulfill. It consumes our limited resources. And it is time that we escape the vicious cycle. ~ Joshua Becker, 10 Reasons to Escape Excessive Consumerism.
Among other things, this decision to live a life of God-worship has changed the way we spend our vacation time... that's for sure!

This year is no different.

As I wrote in my previous blog post, we are headed to Haiti at summer's end

Tomorrow, we will fly into Port-Au-Prince... and this week, we will spend a couple of days with our two Haitian Compassion children.

As Jennie Allen so eloquently wrote in this must-read guest post on Ann Voskamp's blog:
... something is happening — not a feeling or love of adventure or desire for glory but something within us that is from God, a call to more: to die — to live. My heart is bleeding and I can’t make it stop. So we are praying and willing and dreaming of living for heaven instead of the American dream, and it is changing everything. And I am strangely okay with that.
Yes, I am indeed strangely okay... strangely okay with this.







My baby boy, now a young man and almost a whole head taller than me, said to me the other day that he is grateful we chose to raise him and his sister in this way, to live a life of God-worship...

... because if not, he doesn't know if he would come to the point of choosing it for himself.  

Profoundly thought-provoking statement which made this mama's heart swell with joy! I am deeply grateful and deeply glad.

Just last week, my kids and I spent a few days soaking up the Inspire Hope Conference at Muskoka Bible Centre. Compassion Canada's President/CEO, Barry Slauenwhite, said this during one of his teaching sessions:
Children are either afflicted by poverty or afflicted by affluence.
Ah, yes! This statement is profoundly true. 

Being afflicted by affluence, the poverty of having too much, is what God saved both our children from when His grace found us during those early years of our parenting journey and I will forever be grateful.

Turns out, my kids did get what's absolutely best for them. The absolute best thing... lives exuding Kingdom greatness and hearts broken for the things that break God's. 

A photo posted by Aimee Esparaz (@mama2greatkids) on

I'll be honest... some days, this journey is hard. Many days, the struggle is real and the sacrifices tough to swallow.

Yet, I will not have it any other way. Because this abundant life in Christ is worth the hard days and the struggles and the sacrifices.

I would not exchange this deep gladness with anything else.

As we prepare to travel to Haiti for yet another one of our family's summer pilgrimages, these song lyrics have been constant in my heart and mind...
You live among the least of these | The weary and the weak | And it would be a tragedy | For me to turn away | All my needs You have supplied | When I was dead You gave me life | So how could I not give it away so freely?
And I'll | Follow You into the homes of the broken | Follow You into the world | Meet the needs for the poor and the needy God | Follow You into the world
Use my hands and use my feet | To make Your kingdom come | To the corners of the earth | Until Your work is done | Faith without works is dead | On the cross Your blood was shed | So how could we not give it away so freely?
And I give all myself | I give all myself | I give all myself to You
Have a listen to this beautiful song, friends...

Monday, August 15, 2016

At summer's end...

Quiet blog. Quite full life. So... life has definitely been anything but quiet since God called me into this full-time ministry role with Compassion at the start of this year, taking care of Ministry Relations in the Greater Toronto Area for this amazing organization.

The song You Make Me Brave has been my anthem... because since starting this role, I've had to wake up each day and ask God to help me with being brave.
I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace
You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves


And He has done just that. He makes me brave!

I can say that stepping into this ministry role is, by far, the hardest "job" I have ever said YES to.

Yes, the word "job" is in quotation marks. Because this truly doesn’t feel like a job. Truly, it doesn’t. 

I feel so blessed to be working at Compassion… never in a million years would I have imagined that this would be the path God would lead our family on. Each day, I give thanks to Him for putting me in this role. It is such a privilege!


Yet, it is not easy. It is downright hard. Everyday.

It comes with difficult losses and hard sacrifices and dictates changes to our family's life and our well-oiled routines...

but it also comes with lots and lots of amazing wins and astounding joys!

I wouldn’t trade it for anything... because I know that we are working for a greater purpose --- to see children and families released from all forms of poverty in Jesus’ name.

It has definitely required a lot of being brave. This is the truth.


So each day I draw on that fount of grace and choose braveness as my anthem. 

Each day I choose to do the hard thing and choose to stay hungry for fruitfulness.

Each day I pray and ask for God's favour and stand amazed that broken me is useful to Him.

Each day I put my hand to the plow, embrace new patterns of living and have since found this prayer to be intensely and fiercely true...
May we put our hand to the plow and work as those who have a higher calling. In the days that come, Lord, reveal to us new patterns of living where our spiritual lives and work lives become an integrated whole. May all that we do be worship to You.
We acknowledge that out of the ashes of our lives You are bringing shalom. We believe You are calling us to be a part of Your shalom work in our own cities and across the globe. We ask You to lead us and guide us. We are called to be Your hands and feet. As representatives of Christ we believe we should carry Your message of love and grace into the dark places You came to restore, the places where disease and illness plague people. Lord, do not allow us to seek safe havens, to hide the news of Your gospel; instead, call us out so that Your Good News will be evident to all.
- Chris Seay, A Place at the Table.

The more I grow in this role, the more I realize my need to fully be dependent on God and His all-encompassing grace.

It is what sustains. It is what rejuvenates. It is what restores.

I have also come to realize that, more than ever, I need God to keep the eyes of my heart open. To see and to be reminded about the bigger picture...

because it can be too easy to get sucked into the daily grind and the numbers and the spreadsheets.

I have come to realize that our family's summer pilgrimages are all the more important now.

These summer pilgrimages have played a vital role in keeping our hearts' eyes open and continually aware... to those things that break the heart of God. It has shown us that "mutual embrace of life as it can be."

It is a truly beautiful, sacred thing.

This is why... next week, at summer's end, we will pack our bags and we will head to Haiti... and we look forward to the mutual embracing of life with our two Haitian Compassion children, Bell Bradley and Linsey...

where the mystery of God intertwining our family's story with theirs will be savoured...

where we will embrace the hard and the broken, as He calls us deeper still... 

where we will see afresh the reality of our own brokenness...

where we will continue to draw on that fount of grace and continue to choose braveness as our anthem...

where we will know anew that He truly is a good, good Father... perfect in all of His ways to us.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday Reflections...

Since the New Year, blogging has definitely been relegated to the back burner as I stepped full-time into the role of Compassion Canada's Ministry Relations Representative for the Greater Toronto Area.

It's Good Friday today and I'm thinking that one way to reflect on this day and why it is called good is to blog my reflections.


It is called good because... "'Tis mercy all, immense and free; for, O my God, it found out me!"

Salvation, yes. But, in His most loving and extravagant way, our God doesn't stop there. He pursues. Relentlessly pursues. Wildly pursues. All because He wants that abundant life for us.

The other day I had an epiphany. I said to hubby, "I think I remember now the first time my heart broke for the things that break God's."

He and I just started dating. Exactly 25 years ago now. I was back in the Philippines for the summer and we found ourselves as part of a church visitation team. We were assigned to visit this man and his family. Because it was still the pre-Instagram days, I don't have a photo... but the image is still vivid in my mind.

I don't remember the man's name or even what he looks like, but I remember very vividly what his home looked like. Much like this one, our Compassion daughter Florianlyn's home.


Even though I grew up in the Philippines, up until that point in time, I've never been inside a "shanty" before. It broke me. I remember not being able to sleep well that night and feeling utterly broken the days that followed.

Then I came home to Canada.

And promptly forgot about that jarring experience.

My Heavenly Father... He was showing me that He's called His followers to so much more, that there's this abundant life to live, yet I chose the mediocre life --- content to have just my salvation.

I am deeply grateful that He is patient and didn't give up on hubby and me and our family.

Life took over and 15+ more years would pass before we were jolted out of living the mediocre life.

It has been a beautiful journey of discovering this abundant life that God calls each and every one of His followers to live.

It took travelling around the globe visiting our Compassion children for us to be wrecked and broken again and again and again.












Like a full-circle moment, even though I didn't realize it then... God brought me back to that place where, as a 20-year-old young woman, my heart first broke for the things that break His. 

It was back there in the broken places where our family together heeded the call to embrace the abundant life.

On this Good Friday, I am reminded yet again that God is still in the business of redeeming brokenness. This is why this day is called good.

Broken me, redeemed. You, too.

'Tis mercy all, immense and free; for, O my God, it found out me!


On that cross, Jesus said, "It is finished." 

I am deeply grateful that, on that cross, Jesus already redeemed everything. All He asks us, His followers, to do is to live it out... to live each and every day as redeemed people, as People of the Cross.

To live the life of true fasting...
... if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
This abundant life... it's not an easy one to live. In fact, it's excruciatingly hard... with heartache, tears and lament. Sometimes, I just want to go back to that time when I didn't know better...

But, I don't... and I soldier on. Because we all only have this one life to live and it would be a shame to choose comfort and to coast through it with mediocrity. 



May this be our prayer, not just on this Good Friday, but always:
God, we thank You for being near in a world filled with selfish ambition, where too often our tendency is to turn inward and contemplate our own desires despite the suffering that surrounds us. We live surrounded by a wealth that defies the imagination of our poorer brothers and sisters, yet we live with the fear that we will never have enough. Expand our hearts, Lord, that we may learn to truly love.

May we put our hand to the plow and work as those who have a higher calling. In the days that come, Lord, reveal to us new patterns of living where our spiritual lives and work lives become an integrated whole. May all that we do be worship to You.
We acknowledge that out of the ashes of our lives You are bringing shalom. We believe You are calling us to be a part of Your shalom work in our own cities and across the globe. We ask You to lead us and guide us. We are called to be Your hands and feet. As representatives of Christ we believe we should carry Your message of love and grace into the dark places You came to restore, the places where disease and illness plague people. Lord, do not allow us to seek safe havens, to hide the news of Your gospel; instead, call us out so that Your Good News will be evident to all.
- Chris Seay, A Place at the Table.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Embracing All That 2016 Holds...

New Year's Eve had us face-to-face with our church's first (of two) sponsored Syrian refugee family. My girl wrote a blog post about this day... click here to read it because it's definitely one that you don't want to miss.

This refugee family... four humans, who are just like us and equally loved by God, but who have been through more pain and violence and brokenness these last few years than we can ever fathom or understand.

Four humans whom our church family has committed to come alongside with for the entire first year of their life as permanent residents of Canada... an endeavour made possible by this tireless committee of people that I have the utmost joy and privilege of leading and of whom I am deeply grateful to serve alongside with.

And then... four days into this New Year, I will be embarking on an exciting new adventure and stepping full-time into the role of Compassion Canada's Ministry Relations Representative in the Greater Toronto Area.

As full and awesome as our 2015 was, as is so beautifully reflected here by my girl, I have a feeling that, because of the two new beginnings mentioned above, 2016 will far surpass it... in small and big ways that are very much brand-new to us!  

A photo posted by alyssa (@_godsgal4ever) on

For the last number of years, at the start of the New Year, I have always chosen a One Word to serve as an inspiration for me for the upcoming year... a One Word which would give this New Year a name.

In 2015, I have loved this quote by Kristen Welch:
Our yes to God should scare us.
Not to keep us immobile, but to keep us dependent on the One who asks us to say it in the first place.
Fear keeps us moving towards God.
Yes, there is fear in obedience. But peace keeps us on the journey.
And the joy that follows our yes to God is wild.
Yes, there is definitely fear in obedience and these last few weeks, the word BRAVE kept popping up everywhere... perhaps because of the out-of-comfort-zone ways that God is shaping this year out to be for me and my family.

The word BRAVE particularly jumped out at me in the verse from Joshua 1:9... 


I hadn't told anyone, not even my family, what I thought my One Word for 2016 was shaping up to be. Come Christmas morning, as has been our family's tradition for many years now, we share about our birthday gift for Jesus.

What hubby shared floored me.

His birthday gift to Jesus --- to boldly go where no man has gone before. 

You know... it's taken from that famous line from Star Trek. ;) But, seriously, he meant to boldly go wherever God leads.

I quickly looked up Joshua 1:9 in another version and this is what I found...
Yes, be bold and strong! Banish fear and doubt! For remember, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. - Joshua 1:9, Living Bible (TLB)
Amazing! Apparently, BRAVE isn't just *my* One Word for 2016... it is hubby's too! :)


I have come to love the song You Make Me Brave because it beautifully sums up what being brave is all about... it isn't because I am capable of being brave on my own strength, it's because HE is the One who makes me brave.
I stand before You now
The greatness of your renown
I have heard of the majesty and wonder of you
King of Heaven, in humility, I bow
As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in
I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace
You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way
God has orchestrated 2016 to arrive with many new things in store for our family to embrace and I know that it's going to require a lot of being brave... 
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. - Isaiah 43:19, NLT.
I think this song is going to become my our anthem this year!


And this our prayer...
God, we thank You for being near in a world filled with selfish ambition, where too often our tendency is to turn inward and contemplate our own desires despite the suffering that surrounds us. We live surrounded by a wealth that defies the imagination of our poorer brothers and sisters, yet we live with the fear that we will never have enough. Expand our hearts, Lord, that we may learn to truly love.

May we put our hand to the plow and work as those who have a higher calling. In the days that come, Lord, reveal to us new patterns of living where our spiritual lives and work lives become an integrated whole. May all that we do be worship to You.
We acknowledge that out of the ashes of our lives You are bringing shalom. We believe You are calling us to be a part of Your shalom work in our own cities and across the globe. We ask You to lead us and guide us. We are called to be Your hands and feet. As representatives of Christ we believe we should carry Your message of love and grace into the dark places You came to restore, the places where disease and illness plague people. Lord, do not allow us to seek safe havens, to hide the news of Your gospel; instead, call us out so that Your Good News will be evident to all.
- Chris Seay, A Place at the Table.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas... this weary world rejoices!

This Christmas, more than ever... I am seeing everywhere and feeling in me the lyrics of this beautiful Christmas song O Holy Night --- "A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices..."

This photo blog illustrating the Christmas story is resonating with me more than ever. Haunting. Poignant. True.

Friends, our world is weary and broken. There are wars. People are displaced and oppressed. Extreme poverty is still a reality. Children starve. Mothers cry. Fathers are absent.

This Advent, more than ever... I am understanding its meaning in the truest sense as our family, alongside our church family, await the imminent arrival of our two sponsored Syrian refugee families. Each additional day we are required to wait is another day they endure living in a refugee camp somewhere in Lebanon...


Yet, this... this is why I still dare to hope.
Gaining hope, I remember and wait for this thought:
How enduring is God’s loyal love; the Eternal has inexhaustible compassion.
Here they are, every morning, new! Your faithfulness, God, is as broad as the day.
Have courage, for the Eternal is all that I will need. My soul boasts, “Hope in God; just wait.”
It is good. The Eternal One is good to those who expect Him, to those who seek Him wholeheartedly.
It is good to wait quietly for the Eternal to make things right again.
- Lamentations 3:21-26, The Voice.
O Holy Night goes on with these lyrics...
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
:: :: :: 
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise His holy name.
And so we sing sweet hymns of joy, because our Jesus, He shines --- "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:5, NLT)"

And we continue to find ways to be His hands and His feet in this broken and weary world.
How shall I come before Yahweh, and bow myself before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
Will Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams? With tens of thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my first-born for my disobedience? The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
- Micah 6:6-8, World English Bible (emphasis mine).
Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year from our family to yours! {Our year-end family update can be found here.}

May you sense God's peace and His love, more than ever, this Christmas and throughout this coming New Year.

Click here to read our Christmas letter.

Friends, will you sing this beautiful Christmas carol with us?
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining; it is the night of the dear Saviour's birth!
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we; let all within us praise His holy name.



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

Monday, December 14, 2015

Nodding YES leads to beautifully sacred places...

I wrote this at the start of the year... yet, never in my wildest imagination would I have envisioned what God would have for our family this year:
... and I have suddenly found myself, at the start of this New Year, in a place of seeking what God's next steps are for us this year and for the longer term.
And so, I will seek... because...
"When you seek Me in prayer and worship, you will find Me available to you. If you seek Me with all your heart and soul, I will make Myself available to you," says the Lord.
Little did I know just how many yeses this resolve-to-seek-God would entail... and just how wild the joy is that would follow them. All year, this quote by Kristen Welch resonated with me:
Our yes to God should scare us.
Not to keep us immobile, but to keep us dependent on the One who asks us to say it in the first place.
Fear keeps us moving towards God.
Yes, there is fear in obedience. But peace keeps us on the journey.
And the joy that follows our yes to God is wild.
One out-of-my-comfort-zone YES was followed by another and another and another...

In the spring, we saw these two adorable boys through open-heart surgeries and experienced that wild joy of seeing a beautiful mama choose Jesus as Lord of her life! They are now back to their life in Mongolia.


In the summer, we found ourselves in Guatemala and seeing a story unfold not exactly the way we expected it to, yet finding joy in knowing God is in control of everything.


In the fall, we found ourselves unexpectedly spear-heading a committee at our church to sponsor two refugee families from Syria to come settle in Toronto. We are currently eagerly anticipating the news of our first family's imminent arrival!

this is a creeper photo at its finest but I just felt that I needed to capture this moment. you see, these are my parents. up way-too-early on a saturday morning (sleep-in day!), up to their ears in emails and to-dos and paperwork... all because in a few weeks, our church family will be at the airport to welcome one, then two, refugee families into our city and our lives. but when those instagrams of happy new beginnings get posted on airport day, I wanted this one to exist. the one of these two people up on a Saturday morning, working tirelessly together in the PJs, so that that airport day can happen. this is the example that I am so thankful has been set before me for my entire life. also, this is what #refugeeswelcome looks like in the everyday - it's not a retweet or a fb post or lobbying our gov't. it is stinkin' hard work - work that I've seen not only my parents, but so many people in our church community put in already and I know I will only see increase after airport day. literally countless individuals giving up Saturday mornings, Tuesday evenings, Sunday afternoons or even their own vacation days from work to apartment search, make budgets, source furniture, meet translators, and so.much.more. this is what all those news reports and big numbers like 25000 look like in real life - it's not always glamorous and super warm and fuzzy. sometimes it's Saturday morning paperwork in your PJs. if you're still reading this, I'm wrapping up - promise. I'll just say this: the advocate in me wrote this post to give a small snapshot into what refugee sponsorship looks like in the everyday. but the daughter in me wrote it to say this: I captured this photo because I am so incredibly blessed.thankful.proud to call these two people my parents. #realrelationshipgoals #prouddaughter #wewelcomerefugees
A photo posted by alyssa (@_godsgal4ever) on

Yet, the biggest YES that God is asking our family to say was still coming and it would come in the form of a big change for me... in the form of a new job.

I have always loved this quote by Frederick Buechner: "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet."

And, that's just where He has asked me to say YES!

A photo posted by Aimee Esparaz (@mama2greatkids) on

I am beyond excited to share that, in the New Year, I will be stepping into the role of Ministry Relations Representative for the Greater Toronto Area for Compassion Canada, an organization that our family so dearly loves and supports!

I am still pinching myself... as sometimes I still think that this can't be really happening. It is a huge gift to be able to work for an organization where every.single.day I can live out Micah 6:8 in the most tangible and realest way.

This decision definitely didn't come easy... only after much prayer, contemplation and soul-searching.

It is a scary YES, but also equally exciting!

In the early days of considering this opportunity, these verses from Ephesians 3:7-21 have been paramount as God used them to speak to me:
This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God’s way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.
And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!
All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus. When we trust in him, we’re free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. So don’t let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud!
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
There were also many markers, allowing me to see God's hand in all.of.this. upcoming change... markers that God seemingly put in place to let me know that He's got this!

Little details such as the verse from Leviticus 23:22, the verse we found bookmarked, highlighted and underlined in our beloved Papa's Bible as we sifted through his earthly belongings after his home-going to heaven.

We have since sought to live out the meaning of this verse in our family's everyday life.
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.
And I don't think it's a coincidence that this very verse is the explanation behind Compassion International's blue corner. I was absolutely blown away when I recently realized the connection. 


Or little details such as this video of Wess Stafford's story. Wess, or Papa Wess as he is fondly known to many, is President Emeritus of Compassion International. In the video, he invites everyone to join him as advocates for childrenall children. He says, "Maybe it's joining us at Compassion..." and "together, we can make the world a better place for these children."

His story caused me to look back to my childhood and it resonates strongly with me... once a damaged child, now entrusted with a ministry serving the world's most vulnerable children... evidence that God is in the business of transfiguring brokenness into something beautiful! 

And that question at the end of the video... "What about the rest of them?" That question fuels me. It is the reason our family tirelessly advocates for Compassion for many years now.


Or little details such as God's hand in ensuring that the transition from my current job is done well and that I leave with a good testimony.

This is of paramount importance to me as my manager has been such a blessing to me all these years. I absolutely count these thirteen years that I've worked for her as pure gift because it has allowed me to stay home for my children during their most formative years. Not many mamas have had the same opportunity!

I have been utterly blown away at how impeccable the timing is and how seamless the transition has been. Only God could have arranged those details... for which I will forever be grateful!

Now, a new God-adventure is on the horizon... one that is beyond what I've asked for or even imagined, just like the verse from Ephesians 3:20 says.

How awesome is it that I get to have my family along (sometimes!) with me at work? How awesome is it that they are all equally as passionate about Compassion's mission as I am? How awesome is it that we acknowledge this as God's calling on our entire family, and not just for me?

So breathtakingly awesome. More than words can even express. 

I am utterly humbled and deeply grateful... can't wait to see what God has in store!

Our most favourite thing to do together as a family!


This photo is special to me because it was taken at my last official event as an Advocate, just last weekend...
but, once an Advocate, always an Advocate! I will always, always, always be an Advocate at heart!

And did I mention that I get to work with this amazingly crazy bunch of people?
This awesome team represents Compassion Canada across this vast country of ours.
This photo was taken just last week at this year's Christmas Party.
They graciously invited this newbie and her hubby even though I don't officially start in my role until the New Year!
I am blessed. I can bless. Imagine! I could let Him make me the gift!
I could be the joy!
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.

~ 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!