Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Beauty Keeps Coming...

Beauty from ashes... life has been full of beautiful things lately in spite of the ashes!

Information about our second Compassion correspondent child arrived in the mail! A boy this time --- 7 year old Junior from Honduras. My son quickly volunteered to be Junior's pen pal! This is going to be a beautiful thing... it already is!

Operation Christmas Child was successfully launched at my children's school! I am soooo proud of my kids... this has been an awesome project for them to introduce to their school. Now we await shoebox request slips to come back from families this coming Monday... the goal is for the school community to pack 200 shoe boxes! My daughter came home from school today all excited. She told me that one of her teachers is going to get the people on her street to pack shoe boxes with the school as well... how cool is that! This is going to be a beautiful thing... it already is!

God does make all things beautiful in His own time... this is making me break into song...
♫ ♪  In His time, in His time.  He makes all things beautiful in His time.  Lord, my life to you I bring.  May each song I have to sing.  Be to You a lovely thing.  In Your time!  ♪ ♫
Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Living Simply...

One of my friend's status on Facebook said this today:
Complicated just happens. Simple takes focus and daily hard work.
This quote is so simply put, yet so profound!  I've just been pondering these few days about the whys and hows of a complicated life... whether it is a marriage, a family, a ministry, a job, or a relationship.  This quote sums it up nicely for me... it really is when we stop focusing and working hard at something that things get complicated quickly.

A simple life --- I'm sure this is something many people, including myself, consider to be the ideal lifestyle.  But isn't it ironic that more often than not, things get complicated instead of staying simple?  That's why we see so many examples of complicated living in our society today --- marriages ending up in divorce, broken families, failed ministries, stressful jobs, strained relationships!

Let's all start living simply --- staying focused and working hard everyday at the things that matter most to us!  It is the only way to live.  It is the only way to serve our God.  It is the only way to relate to people.

Here I am.  Lord, send me!       

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's Friday...

... and I'm feeling tired from what has been quite a busy and interesting week.

This week consisted of a mixture of events and happenings... mostly good, but a few emotionally draining ones too! Hubby and I are also on the cusp of a decision that we need to make imminently about ministry involvement... requiring lots of our time talking it through... making sure we are listening properly to what God is telling us. This verse from Philippians 3:12-14 (The Message) comes to mind right now:
I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward --- to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.
Looking towards the weekend... it's going to be an exciting one!  First of all, hubby turns forty-five!!!  I read something on Facebook this morning that very appropriately describes my hubby.  Here it is --- Happy Birthday to... 
... a wonderful man, who helps balance my whole world; who isn't perfect, but is perfect for me; who works hard and would do anything for me; who makes me laugh; who is my best friend; who I want to grow old with; and who I am thankful for every day!
I am blessed beyond measure to have my hubby in my life. Each day, I thank my Heavenly Father for blessing me with such a wonderful gift!

This weekend, we'll also be helping a young family organize their home. This young family is struggling... depression has hit their home. They've indicated that it would be a tremendous help to them if we came and helped to organize a certain area of their home in order to lessen the stress. I don't claim to understand depression... but my heart goes out to this young family.

This, of course, is another one of those beauty from ashes moments that God has been gracious enough to drop on our family's lap these days. We cherish each of these assignments... and eagerly look forward to the next one!

Speaking of the next one... the first packet containing information on our first Compassion Correspondent Child arrived in the mail! Her name is Geydi. She is 12 years old and she lives in Honduras. Our family is excited to start writing to Geydi on behalf of her sponsor... truly beauty instead of ashes!

Here I am. Lord, send me!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Love Jesus More


Please pause the Playlist on the sidebar of this blog as you watch this video.

This song is called Will You Love Jesus More by Phillips, Craig and Dean.  The lyrics speak what my hearts wants to say to some people right now...

As our family pursues the new direction in ministry that God is leading us towards, there are friends that won't be a part of our regular ministry life any longer... just thinking about this reality makes my heart sad!

Here is what I want to say to my friends...
But if all I've done in the time we've shared
Is turn your eyes on me
Then I've failed at what I've been called to do
There's someone else I want you to see

Will you love Jesus more
When we go our different ways
When this moment is a memory
Will you remember His face
Will you look back and realize
You sensed His love more than you did before
I'd pray for nothing less
Than for you to love Jesus more
Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Yet Another Glimpse of Beauty

I can tell you right now, this one's BEEEEEEAUTIFUL! Wow... I am in awe that God would be so gracious as to let me in on this beautiful thing!

So... here it goes. Today we visited the home church of some good friends of ours. As part of the teaching time was a skit. I recognized one of the actors right away. She briefly attended one of the Bible studies I led a long time ago... talk about "a blast from the past!"

When she came to Bible study, she was a seeker. She stopped coming after her brief time with us... she left still seeking. I lost touch and didn't know what had become of her... I wondered many times. Recently, I heard from a mutual friend that this lady had found Christ and has found a home church to attend regularly.  I was thrilled! 

Fast forward to this morning... the church we visited was that church! I approached her after the service. She could hardly recognize me... it was that long of a time ago and our encounter was that brief! I refreshed her memory... and her face lit up! She said that those few Bible study sessions sparked something in her... and this church was where "it all came together" for her.

Wow... I'm a firm believer that God does not waste anything. This morning, God allowed me to see this truth firsthand. Truly beautiful! The thing is... we wouldn't have visited this church if we were still busy with our previous ministry involvement. Interesting how God's timing works, isn't it? I say... this is one of those beauty from ashes moments!

Speaking of this church visit... we loved it! It is one of those churches that fit the description in Acts 2:42-47. It's a place we wouldn't mind calling home...

Here I am. Lord, send me!

Friday, September 17, 2010

More Glimpses of Beauty...

Glimpses of beauty are sprouting up everywhere!  I think God's intention all along was for me to have eyes to see opportunities to bring beauty to people and places around me when He recently took away an ongoing ministry that's near and dear to hubby's and my heart.  You see... taking away that ministry freed up A LOT of our time.  Time I didn't realize I was spending not bringing beauty into this fallen world.  Time I now use for things that matter more eternally.


Here are some of those glimpses of beauty...

~ With school now in full swing, I am thinking about the 10 under-privileged children who received backpacks from my son's Birthday Backpack DriveBeautiful!

~ Last night, my kids launched the Operation Christmas Child campaign at their school.  The response was heart-warming!  Everyone was so enthusiastic!  My kids have set a goal of 200 shoe boxes which I thought was a lofty goal... teachers and parents alike are saying that there will be at least that much that will come in!  I am already thinking about the children in 3rd world countries who will receive a Christmas present this year because of Operation Christmas Child and my heart smiles!  Beautiful!

~ Hubby's birthday is around the corner.  To celebrate this occasion, as a family we are choosing to participate in the Daily Bread Food Bank's Thanksgiving Food Drive by volunteering and also by bringing in non-perishable food items.  We decided that we would invite friends and family to join us!  We are overwhelmed by the response... as of this blog post, there are already 13 people signed up to volunteer and food items pledged to be donated.  Together, we will have fun, celebrate and fight hunger all at the same time.  Beautiful!

As you can see, I've been busy --- a good kind of busy!  Beauty from ashes... one family's quest to make the world a better place, one step at a time!  God is so good!

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Teaching At Home...

Ever since our kids were born, we have taken these verses from Deuteronomy (on how we should be teaching our children about God) quite seriously...
Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. ---Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NLT)
It is of utmost priority and importance to us that we teach our kids everything we believe about God... and for them to make it their own! While hands down the most effective way of teaching is by living a God-life... by modeling what it means to "be" a Christian in this fallen world, following close behind in second place is actual teaching... as in using actual curriculum kind-of-teaching --- devotionals, DVDs, books.
 
This is what we're using right now --- Focus on the Family's 10-lesson DVD-based curriculum called Does God Exist.
 
I can say that this is one of the best curriculum I've come across so far! What I truly like about it is that it doesn't assume the viewer already believes that God exists. It presents evidence... scientific ones... to prove the existence of God.
 
It is geared towards high-school kids which made me think twice about buying it. I bought it anyway thinking we'd just put it away for later if it's too "deep" for my children to understand. I was soooo wrong. Both my children, ages 13 and 10, love it!
 
We are at the tail-end of it now... a few more lessons to go and we're done. So glad I found this!!! Hopefully, I'll be able to find more of the same. Definitely, two thumbs up from me for Focus on the Family!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First Glimpse of Beauty...

Yesterday, I wrote about beauty from ashes --- how God has allowed a ministry assignment of ours to burn up into ashes and how I am looking forward to seeing the beauty that arises from the ashes.   

Well, as you know, I've been following a team of bloggers who traveled to Guatemala recently with Compassion.  In one of the blog posts, I read about just how important it is for these children to receive letters... unfortunately, some sponsors never write!

My daughter is our family's designated letter writer to our Compassion daughter, Annu.  I can't imagine us not thinking about writing even a single letter to her!  My daughter's goal is for Annu to become the coolest kid in the Child Development Centre where she belongs because she the kid who receives the most letters! :-)

So... here's our first glimpse of beauty from ashes... because of our previous ministry involvement coming to an end, we have found extra time on our hands!  That's always a good thing, right?  Well... we have signed up with Compassion to become correspondents!  

Correspondents write to sponsored children whose sponsors do not or are unable to write to them!  How cool is that?  We have asked for four children to correspond with!  When matches are found... we should be receiving information about the children in the mail fairly quickly.

We all know how powerful words can be.  Now, our family can use our words to bring beauty into the lives of these under privileged children by writing letters to them.  We can't wait to start... we'll all be writing now, not just my daughter!

Beauty from ashes...  Here I am.  Lord, send me!   

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beauty from Ashes...

Here is a verse I read last night in my blog roll...
... to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.
--- from the NIV, Isaiah 61:3
Made me realize... this has been a whirlwind several months for hubby and me. Heartache-ishly hard. Unexpectedly harsh. Painfully hurtful. Over these months, we have seen an exciting, promising, full-of-potential expectation seemingly go up in flames. Now, all we see is ashes... complete with the hows, whys and what ifs.

This was an expectation that was solid and sure... one we believed was where God wanted us to pour our life into. The work involved was hard, yet exhilarating; tiring, yet exciting; slow, yet encouraging! We were loving it. We were right in our element. But seemingly... in just a few short months... all we are left to deal with is ashes.

I went on a walk with a good friend yesterday... we chatted... my mind cleared up and I came home energized! As I sat back down and got on my computer last night, I saw the verse above... beauty instead of ashes!

I think that is God's message for me...

Because... quite interestingly, I was talking to my sister the other night about this same topic and she said to me: "In His time, God makes everything beautiful!" Coincidence? I think not!

I do see that... I really do! God has been showing hubby and me over the summer months how else He would like our family to serve Him. Very exciting ways, I might add. I just didn't think it would require us to "finish up" with one assignment in order to take on a new one! ;-)

So... it looks like a new leg of this journey is starting up. I am looking forward to seeing the beauty that rises up from these ashes. As we wait on the Lord, our family's prayer remains to be...

Here I am. Lord, send me!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Expectations...

Expectations... defined as "the act of looking forward to something."  Enthusiasm... defined as "passionate devotion to or interest in a cause or subject."

Today, I am reflecting upon the fact that when expectations fade, so does one's enthusiasm.  It is a difficult emotion to put into words... it's like one's heart is broken!  I guess it is because of our humanity... a condition that can only be made perfect when we get to the other side of eternity one day!

As I struggle with this emotion today... I am spurred on by the words found in Philippians 3:14.  These words are from The Message:
... I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward — to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.  So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us.
Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Another Great Blog Post from Guatemala City

Happy Friday, everyone!  This morning, in my blog roll, was yet another great blog post by Ann Voskamp.  She is in Guatemala City right now with a team of Compassion Bloggers.  It is, again, a must-read!  Today she writes...
Because whether consciously or not, intentionally or not --- faith is always responding. Either with indifference or with intercession, either with apathy or aid.
Once we have seen, we are responsible --- we will make a response.
One way or the other.
Maybe we don't need to know the names of the men, women, children, fastened to the edge of the world. Maybe we only have to look in our own mirrors and ask of the faces there, ask of the way we invest our money, ask of how we live and spend and steer our lives:
"Is this about Jesus' name?"
Or the comfort and ease and furtherance of mine?
Great words on which to ponder... especially in this place of abundance which we call home.  We are blessed beyond measure... I am blessed beyond measure.  How is my faith responding?  What is the way that I invest my money... how do I live and spend and steer my life?  How about you?

Here I am.  Lord, send me!    

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Way To Go, Mr. Prime Minister!

Two thumbs up today from me for our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper!  In an interview yesterday, he condemned an American pastor's plan to burn Korans this coming Saturday, September 11.  He said: 
I don't speak very often about my own religion, but let me be very clear: My God and my Christ is a tolerant God, and that's what we want to see in this world.
My two thumbs up isn't for his condemnation of the said "stunt"... well, because it's a no-brainer.  Such acts should totally be condemned!!!  It makes me sick that this American pastor even calls himself a Christian.

My two thumbs up is for the Prime Minister's public statement about his faith in Christ!  I applauded as I watched the news last night... I know, very lame of me! ;-)  But, you see... in this ever pluralistic Canadian society, it is very rare for a person in public office to let his/her personal faith be known to the public.  It is considered politically incorrect... guaranteed to garner lots of negative publicity (just take a look at the comments in the link I've provided above)!  In fact, I don't think I've ever heard such statements before in the years that I've been paying attention to the news.  

Way to go, Mr. Prime Minister!!!  This is an awesome example of not being afraid to stand up for Christ even if it's considered unpopular to do so.

May I have the courage to do the same when faced with the same choice.  

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Ann meets Xiomara

So... like I said yesterday, two of my favourite bloggers are on a trip to Guatemala with Compassion!  One of them, Ann Voskamp (a fellow Canadian!) of A Holy Experience got to meet her Compassion daughter, Xiomara.  She blogged about it today... it is a must read!  Please click here to read the story, it will surely minister to your soul... as it did mine.

My tears are still falling... what an incredible story... it made me picture what it would be like to meet our family's Compassion daughter, Annu from India.

Ann writes:
When we break our lives as bread, we don't know how long God will extend the table and how many He'll invite to the feast. What could be more to life than being broken bread?
Would you let your life be broken bread?  If so, please check out the Compassion link on the sidebar of this blog by clicking on the Compassion banner... for as little as $41 a month, you can make a huge difference in the life of a child.

Here I am.  Lord, send me! 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Return of Routine

With the start of school comes the return of routine for me! Today is Day #2 and I am getting back into the groove of things quite nicely. I have a few goals this year... and I'm crossing my fingers that they will become a solid part of my routine! They are:

~ to work only during the hours that my kids are in school.
~ to make home-cooked meals for each weeknight. (This will be a toughie!)
~ to exercise! (This will be the toughest!)

With the return of routine hopefully will come the return of regular blogging for me as well. I really do love blogging... I find that it soothes my soul! I also love reading my blog roll... this week, two of my favourite bloggers are going to Guatemala together with Compassion!!! I'll be following their journey for sure... so exciting!!!

So... I've been inspired and have signed up to start blogging for Compassion! Hopefully, each month you will see a blog post on here for and about Compassion. Our family has a daughter from Compassion... her name is Annu and she is from India!

I was thinking to myself the other day... it would be way cool to go on a Compassion trip with a team of bloggers one day! Maybe the destination will be India and I can meet Annu in person. Hmmm... maybe.

A girl can dream, can't she? Here I am. Lord, send me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Reflections on this First Day Back to School...

Hello... new school year!  This morning was bittersweet as I realized how fast my two kids have grown up... 

It's my daughter's last year at this school.  She's in Grade 8 this year.  Nine years at this school, a school accessible via a walkway few houses from ours... one more year and she's off to high school, to a school located outside this familiar neighbourhood which we call home.  How time flies...

My son is in Grade 5 this year.  Wasn't he just entering Junior Kindergarten not too long ago?  This morning, as I waited with him for the school bell to ring... he said: "You can go home now, Mom.  I'll be alright!"  Wasn't it just yesterday when he would clutch my hand tightly... not wanting to let go... because he didn't want to go to school?  :-)

The memories... the realities...  time, would you slow down just for a tiny bit?  My babies are growing up way too fast!  I don't know if I'm ready for them to leave the nest... I don't know if any mom will ever be ready!!!

Well... reflections aside, I sense that this year will be awesome.  Both kids, as they sat eating their lunch in the kitchen today, had great things to say about their teachers and their classes.  There is excitement in their voices... a good thing!

They are also going to be spearheading the Operation Christmas Child project at school this year.  They are beyond excited to have their principal's support.  It will be the first time that this project is done at their school.  They have an ambitious goal of 200 shoeboxes!!!  I can't wait to see how it all comes together...

Kids making a difference for kids... what an awesome thing.  I'm one proud mama... my heart is smiling!

It's going to be a GREAT year!  Here I am.  Lord, send me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Reflections on this Holiday Monday...

Did I already say I love the blog A Holy Experience?  I think I have!  The blog author, a fellow Canadian mom, just has this way with words that resonates deep within my soul.  Here are some words from today in the form of questions...
How can I live in anything but this humbled grace?
How can I not give but everything from these hands of thanks?
How can we glorify God by doing anything less than this?
So. Very. True.

On this Holiday Monday before the hustle and bustle of school starts up again tomorrow... it is fairly calm in our household.  Quiet.  Relaxing.  Serene.  Well, except for the sound of hubby vacuuming the house!  Yes, I am blessed beyond measure... my hubby does QUITE A BIT of our household chores!

Hubby is vacuuming, I am blogging! LOL!

So... on to my reflections.  Yesterday, we attended another church... different, but a great experience!  The message was about how to live as an irreligious Christian... even my son and teenage daughter got it... talk about a Teaching Pastor who can effectively communicate to people of all ages!

Okay, I got sidetracked there... where was I?  Yes, the message!  Here it is in the nutshell: because we have the Good News of Jesus, we are then to live an "others-centered" life... bringing goodness into existence... pursuing "loving the lost" whatever the cost!  It is how we love God... by loving others! (Matthew 22:34-40)

He had an analogy.  Christians who sit there and do nothing are like rocks!  Rocks are lifeless... they do not effect change, they do not bring goodness into existence.  We need to be Christians that "ROCK ON"... pursuing love whatever the cost.  My teenage daughter loved that analogy, by the way.  She was still talking about it hours later...

So... as school starts up again and as we discern how to best serve God this year... as a family, we will remember... to "ROCK ON" for God... to live in this humbled grace... to give everything from these hands of thanks... to glorify God with nothing less than these!

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

TEN!

My little man turns TEN today!  I can hardly believe it... where did the time go?!?  Happy Birthday, my son!  Our prayer for you continues to be... 
... that you will grow up to become "a man after God's own heart; doing everything God wants you to do." (paraphrased from Acts 13:22 NIV)
Here is a photo collage I made in honour of this day!  This collection of images makes me smile...

 

Friday, September 3, 2010

September's Here...

September's here!  This summer definitely flew by way too quickly.  Today, the kids and I cleaned up their bedrooms and my office... putting away our summer "messes"... getting ready for a new school year.  The arrival of September always gives me the feeling of new beginnings... and this is a quote from one of the readings this morning on my blog roll:
Sometimes the new life unfurling within us, the unexpected embryonic gift God’s placed within, asks us to be brave, to let God change the shape of us, to be courageous and let Him fill all of our skin and not shrink back because He’s so big.
With this particular September comes new beginnings in ministry... new definitions of how our family is to serve God... how we are to express God's love to others... may He give us courage to not shrink back!

Here I am.  Lord, send me!