Monday, November 29, 2010

Everyday Graces...

I love the song A Place Called Grace by Phillips, Craig and Dean.  If you haven't heard it before you can have a listen to it on my Playlist on the sidebar of this blog. Here are the words...
So many years I heard it told
The story of compassion
A prodigal son who left the fold
And found no satisfaction
On my knees, Lord, I cried out to You
I'm so alone
But if there's room in Your house for one more
I'm ready to come back home

I know there is a place
Where arms of compassion welcome me home
Sweet mercy falls like rain
I know there's a place called grace

So many days I've trusted grace
Yet I have to wonder
How many times my human strength
Has kept me from surrender
The more I learn just to lean on the cross
The more I see
When I fall, I will fall to the place
Where mercy reaches me

If it seems that my courage is strong
There's just one reason
He's my rock when my faith is all gone
He holds me in His arms
Gives me strength to carry on
111. 
Long chat with a good friend about the mysteries of God and life...

112.
A self-imposed day off.  I went Christmas shopping! :-)

113.
Planning Christmas parties and get-togethers!

114.
God is gradually healing my heart... it's a wonderful feeling.

115.
♪♫ As morning dawns and evening fades... YOU inspire songs of praise... That rise from earth to touch YOUR heart and glorify Your Name! ♫♪  I am loving this song!

116.
Val and Katia won Battle of the Blades!  So glad I stayed up until 1am to vote!!! So cool... $50,000 goes to Compassion Canada because of Val Bure!!! It is going to fund Compassion's Child Survival Program in the Dominican Republic.

117.
Getting "re-acquainted" with Candace Cameron (Bure) from watching her husband Val skate on Battle of the Blades... so thankful for her witness for Jesus!  I used to watch her on TV as Full House's D.J. Tanner.

118.
Bittersweet news from Compassion Canada about our Compassion daughter, Annu.

119.
For our new Compassion daughter, Florianlyn, who is from the Philippines --- the country where I grew up!  Just maybe... we'll get to meet her in person one day.  So exciting!

120.
Delivering food to a friend who is sick and on dialysis... tough situation... God's grace so evident.

121.
Sharing a bowl of Korean Gamjatang (spicy pork and potato stew) and chatting with a good friend.

122.
My cozy fleece robe on a chilly November morning.

123.
Girls' night out with my amazing daughter --- shopping!

124.
Fun night at an NBA game for my hubby and my boy --- amazing seats won at the United Way raffle at my workplace.

125.
Grad trip information night at the school.  What?!?  My baby girl is going on a Grade 8 grad trip already???

126.
Writing our family's Christmas letter... looking back at 2010... thankful for God's goodness!

127.
Cirque Du Soleil's Dralion... amazing show!  Wonderful family time.

128.
Onion rings! :-)

129.
Waking up to a snowfall on a Saturday.

130.
Learning the game of back gammon... my boy taught me!

131.
Being able to see a chiropractor on short notice... to help me with some pain in my upper arm.

'Til next week, my friends... I hope you find rest in that place called grace!

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

holy experience

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bye Annu, Hello Florianlyn!

Yesterday, we got some good news and some bad news from Compassion Canada.

The good news... our Compassion daughter, Annu, and her family have moved away from their village because of a better job opportunity elsewhere.  This is definitely a good thing for the family.

The bad news... there is no Compassion Program in the area where they moved to.  This means that our sponsorship of Annu will have to be terminated and we can no longer be in contact with her.  This is definitely a sad thing for our family.

My daughter writes about this bittersweet feeling on her blog.

Our family will definitely miss writing to and hearing from Annu!  We were just starting to get to know her better...

Compassion tells us that Annu was in good health when her family left the village and that she has heard the Gospel during her time with the Compassion Program.  That bit of information was good to hear!

So... what now?  

Well, we got a new Compassion daughter!  Meet Florianlyn... she is 8 years old and she lives in the Philippines!!!  Our family is very excited as both hubby and I grew up in the Philippines.  We definitely plan to take our kids there for a visit in the very near future... and, just maybe, we can arrange with the folks at Compassion to visit Florianlyn and her family!  That would be just awesome!!!

In Compassion-related news, Val Bure and Katia Gordeeva won Battle of the Blades!  Hubby and I stayed up until 1am this past Sunday night to vote for them... I guess it was all worth it, wasn't it? ;-)  

Because of the win, Compassion Canada (Val Bure's charity of choice) will be getting $50,000!!!  Isn't that sooooo cool?  Compassion has since announced that the money will go towards funding their Child Survival Program in the Dominican Republic.  Now, that's what life is all about!!!

Would you like to sponsor a Compassion child too?  If so, click on the Compassion banner on the sidebar of this blog!  Better yet, click over to this website and see how you compare to the Joneses... you just might be surprised by what you find out! ;-)   

Here I am.  Lord, send me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Past Week's Graces

Happy Monday, everyone!  Here are this past week's graces... also shared over at the Gratitude Community of A Holy Experience.  I hope you will hop over there and read other people's 1000 gifts too... it has helped me to see many more beauty instead of ashes moments in my everyday!

79. a short work week... kids were off school on Friday!
80. Christmas music.
81. new layout in my home office... hubby helped me re-arrange it!
82. Monday night dinners at my sister's home.
83. eBay... great deals for Christmas gifts!
84. little children's Christmas lists... I love the challenge of looking for those hard-to-find items on my nephews' and niece's wish lists.
85. arnica gel and castor oil --- for my sore muscles.
86. a cup of hot tea after dinner.
87. being able to pay bills...
88. my work-from-home arrangement.
89. Val and Katia didn't get eliminated on Battle of the Blades.  Hoping they win the finale tonight... Val is skating to win a $50,000 donation for Compassion Canada.
90. hubby and I volunteering together at my kids' school.
91. snacks shopping for UrbanPromise.
92. supporting a worthwhile and amazing organization, Habitat for Humanity Toronto.  Our family bought a brick this past week to help build the House of Hope!  On it will be engraved the words... Here I am.  Lord, send me!
93. connecting with friends from the past through Facebook.
94. the power of The Cross!
95. buying groceries for a sick friend...
96. my children participating in the school choir... with my daughter on the piano!
97. my children brought home awesome report cards this week!
98. my chat with the school principal regarding how the Operation Christmas Child project went at the school this year.
99. grateful for his 150% support of the project... even with the possibility of "protest" from some in the school community (publicly-funded school) who do not support Samaritan's Purse.
100. thankful that no "protest" ever came to be...
101. very grateful that we were able to do this project... even if it's going to be just for this one time... as awareness has been raised with over 190 families participating!
102. for the challenge of coming up with a similar project to do at the school next year... I need God's wisdom on this.  Here I am.  Lord, send me!
103. visiting a sick friend at the hospital and marveling at how strangely God works sometimes... then visiting her at home the next day... her new life that will include dialysis everyday has started...
104. quiet drive up to the farm to buy grass-fed beef.
105. putting up our Christmas decorations and tree!
106. awesome parent/teacher interviews!  I am one proud mama!!!
107. blogging on a quiet Saturday morning.
108. Chris Tomlin's Christmas CD.
109. encouraging message from the teaching pastor.
110. my boy's fresh haircut.

'Til next week, my dear blog readers... look out for those every-day graces!

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

holy experience

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Great Talk, A New Song

The talk at church today was entitled Exiled...But Not Stranded. I was truly encouraged by it.  As our family waits on the Lord in this season of finding a new church to call home, at times I feel like we're exiles.  But we've been learning through this experience that we are not stranded.  Far from it!  God has been gracious in giving us abundant opportunities to be His hands and His feet.  I am amazed.  Humbled.  Beauty from ashes...
  
Also, a song has been sung at church these past few weeks... and, I'm loving it!  It is simply called Your Name. Here is a video of it and the lyrics are posted below.  Happy Sunday, everyone!

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

Your Name by Paul Baloche

As morning dawns and evening fades
You inspire songs of praise
That rise from earth to touch Your heart
And glorify Your Name

CHORUS
Your Name is a strong and mighty tower
Your Name is a shelter like no other
Your Name --- let the nations sing it louder
'Cause nothing has the power to save
But Your Name

Jesus, in Your Name we pray
Come and fill our hearts today
Lord, give us strength to live for You
And glorify Your Name

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Prayer, A New Friend

Lord, may I enter this day without hurry;
May I bear its burdens without complaint.
May I face its tasks without fear,
May I meet its temptations without dishonor,
May I rest at its close without shame.
And this prayer I make to Thee,
Let thy Kingdom come today in me.
- Author Unknown.
I love this prayer... it's been pinned to the bulletin board in my home office for years now. It was from a devotional I read written by Ruth Bell Graham.

My thoughts went to this prayer this morning as I prayed for my new friend especially about bearing today's burdens and facing today's tasks! She is home from hospital now to start a new life that will include regular dialysis and a new diet. The problem is... she lives alone, has no family around and has never once cooked a meal for herself!

My sister and I visited her the other night. We brought groceries and cooked food for her to last a few days. I was overwhelmed by her situation... so I can only imagine what she is feeling!  But, I do know one thing... my Heavenly Father is not overwhelmed.  For the Bible says:
See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.
--- Isaiah 49:16 (NLT)
The prayer also reminded me of one thing... that God's Kingdom can come each day in me! My new friend's sudden health crisis has banded a group of ladies like I've never seen before. This group of ladies (my sister's Bible study group) has come together, as Christ followers should, to become His hands and His feet for our new friend.  I definitely feel privileged to be a part of the action, to say the least --- truly Jesus' church at work for the furtherance of His Kingdom.

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Pleasant Surprise

Coming before God in quietness and waiting upon Him in silence often can accomplish more than days of feverish activity. --- A.W. Tozer
I came across this quote in my readings this morning.  It is so true... especially in this season of our family's life as we find ourselves waiting on God to lead us to a new church we can call home.

During this past few months, while waiting (and, yes, we are still waiting)... we have accomplished much more in ministry than we have when we were "fully engaged" with our previous ministry involvement!  It certainly has come as a surprise to me... a pleasant one, for sure!  And, a valuable lesson too!

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Buying Responsibly and Eating Well

Watching the movie Food Inc. a few weeks ago really opened my eyes!  Since then, I've been on a quest... I want to know where the food I'm buying comes from and how much it has been processed.  I want to know that the food we eat is good for our health.

In short, I would like to start buying responsibly-produced food.  The benefit of this practice is, of course, a healthier family!

So, here are a few changes in my food shopping habits...

- Beef: only buying grass-fed beef as much as possible.  Cattle grown on a diet of grains (corn, soy) produces beef with much higher cholesterol content.  It has been associated with health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.  It is also more often contaminated with the E. coli bacteria.  Grass-fed beef is produced by local farmers on organic farms (no pesticides!).

- Pork and Chicken: only buying pasture-raised pork and free-range chicken from local farmers... they are fresher, healthier for us and taste better!

- Produce: still buying from the grocery store but choosing locally grown produce as much as possible... depending on availability.

- Milk: only buying non-homogenized, but pasteurized, milk from now on.  This is, surprisingly, available at a corner produce store very near our house!  There's been quite a bit of research done on the health risks of drinking homogenized milk (that is skim, 1%, 2% and 3.25%).  Non-homogenized milk is pure, not processed.  It comes from local dairy farms that are organic (no pesticides!).

- Other Groceries: avoiding the middle section of the grocery store as much as possible!  It is a healthier practice to shop the perimeter of the grocery store --- breads and produce section, dairy section, meat section!  I will be avoiding the aisles where most, if not all, of the processed foods are.

I've been shopping this way for a couple of weeks now... as a result, we are eating better as a family!  Most surprising of all, I thought buying and eating this way would be very expensive... but I've found out that it's not!  I'd say it's maybe 25% more... but, in my opinion, it's worth it!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Counting My Many Blessings

I've immensely benefited from intentionally being aware of every-day graces this past week.  Joining the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience has indeed been a very good thing for me... it has helped me see many more beauty instead of ashes moments! 

It is a time of transition for our family as we look for a new church to call home.  At times, it can be difficult to keep waiting on God.  But He is indeed gracious and the every-day graces He bestows keeps me going...

Here are this past week's graces...

#38: hearing first-hand about the ministry of Operation Christmas Child from a missionary at the grass-roots level.
#39: encouragement from said missionary to keep doing what we do each year... pack more and more shoeboxes!
#40: my kids' school.
#41: music... it soothes my soul.
#42: making music on the piano.
#43: awesome family time at an NBA game... even though our home team lost.
#44: NBA rookie, Jeremy Lin.
#45: free pizza!
#46: prayers for new friend who found out she has to be on dialysis for life...
#47: that God loves my new friend too!
#48: my hubby... for who he is!
#49: and that he takes care of the morning routine so I can sleep in. :-)
#50: sound and restful sleep!
#51: the Internet.
#52: beef stew...
#53: my slow cooker.
#54: strength for today...
#55: bright hope for tomorrow!
#56: blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.
#57: God's faithfulness... which is so great.
#58: that my children love Jesus!
#59: abundant life through my Jesus.
#60: sunshine all week.
#61: conversations with my sister.
#62: my kids help make dinner!
#63: a mango chiller from Second Cup.
#64: warm socks.
#65: leftovers!
#66: for our lawyer, who is also our friend.
#67: my boss.
#68: freedom... lest we forget!
#69: blogs that inspire me
#70: taco night!
#71: family movie night!
#72: I finally found a store where I can get grass-fed beef.
#73: Christmas shopping --- toys for some of the children at UrbanPromise whom we have come to love over this past summer!
#74: delivering 430 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to the Collection Centre... gift-filled shoeboxes packed by my kids' school community and our family!
#75: wonderful music at church today... singing with hundreds of other believers in worship of the only One who is worthy!
#76: quiches cooking in the oven for Sunday lunch... yummy!
#77: Sunday afternoon shopping with hubby...
#78: Val Bure skating for Compassion Canada on Battle of the Blades...  I hope he and Katia got enough votes to stay on for the final show!!!

'Til next time, my dear friends... may you also look for every-day graces!   

Here I am.  Lord, send me!

holy experience

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Freedom's Never Free

Today is Remembrance Day... I will remember... lest we forget... that freedom's never free!  The song Freedom's Never Free by Phillips, Craig and Dean says it very well... freedom, both here on earth and for eternity, is never free!  I will forever be grateful.

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
















Standing on a hillside
Where the river meets the sea
White crosses without number
Line the fields of peace

And each one a silent witness
Staring back at me
Every cross a story
Of another place in time
Where young men thought it worthy
To give their life for mine
And for the sake of honor
Left their dreams behind

And for the price they paid
I'm forever in their debt
Their memory will not die
'Cause I will not forget

I will stand and hold my head up high
I will dedicate my life
To the glory of the ones who had to die
I will live, live what I believe
If for no one else but me
I will remember
That freedom's never free

It was on another hillside
Outside the city gates
The battle lines were drawn
As soldiers took their place

The Father watched in silence
As a cross was raised
With freedom drawing closer
He took His final breath
He drank our cup of guilt
And took the sting from death

Heaven's Finest Soldier
clothed in human flesh
And for the price He paid
I'm forever in His debt
The cross will never die
'Cause I will not forget

I will stand and hold my head up high
I will dedicate my life
To the glory of the One who had to die
I will live, live what I believe
If for no one else but me
To remember that
Freedom's Never Free

I will walk free
I will stay free
I will live free
I will die free!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

352 Shoeboxes!

As the Operation Christmas Child project at my kids' school comes to a close... I am very humbled to share that the count is at 352 shoeboxes --- definitely more than what I asked or could have thought possible!  Truly a lesson in faith for me.

Here is a video of an Operation Christmas Child shoebox distribution in Sudan... it truly warmed my heart! 

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

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. ---Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)
Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gratitude Community

So... I've decided to jump in and join the Gratitude Community over at Ann Voskamp's A Holy Experience.  She invites fellow bloggers to start a list of 1000 things they are grateful for... one a day, maybe a few a week, even a ton of them at one time... until it reaches 1000 things... then it keeps going!

It will keep going because God's grace is sufficient.  And so I start with...

#1: it is well with my soul.
#2: the sunshine that is streaming into my office today.
#3: 106 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes we packed over the weekend.
#4: my daughter's diligence in writing her Compassion little sister.
#5: our Christmas project... gifts for under privileged children in our city.
#6: God's provision through hubby's business.
#7: teachable moments.
#8: making meaningful family memories.
#9: a cherished family tradition.
#10: great reminder from church's guest speaker that we are to live on mission.
#11: a chance to visit a new friend at the hospital.
#12: new friend's improved health... her smile... her salvation!
#13: new friend's new favourite book, the Bible I gave her!
#14: new friend told my children about #13.
#15: breakfast and chatting with great friend.
#16: manageable work hours.
#17: volunteering for my son's Robotics Team at school.
#18: listening to my daughter practice piano prepping for her exam.
#19: children growing up.
#20: beauty instead of ashes...
#21: watching my daughter play basketball.
#22: nutritious food.
#23: yummy whole milk available at the corner store!
#24: kids learning to do laundry.
#25: grocery shopping with hubby.
#26: NBA tickets!
#27: resources readily available at our local library.
#28: extra hour of sleep! :-)
#29: two great churches... don't know which one to choose to call home!
#30: a teachable heart... learning to give more and more.
#31: the lesson in contentment.
#32: a new week.
#33: discount coupon = thinking of buying warm fleece pajamas.
#34: opportunities to join God where He is at work.
#35: quiet time spent talking to my Heavenly Father.
#36: coffee when I wake up.
#37: a walk outdoors and talking with a good friend.

Until next Monday's Gratitude Journal... may you look for grace too... in your every-days!  Here I am.  Lord, send me!

holy experience

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weekend Recap...

Busy weekend... amazingly FUN and MEANINGFUL!

On Saturday, we got together with three other families (my two sisters and one of our adopted sisters!) and we had a Packing Party to pack Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. We were aiming to pack 70 shoeboxes in total... but, by the end of the evening, we had 106!!! How cool is that?!? God is sooooo good!

Here are our children (minus the littlest one) with the initial 85 shoeboxes...


And here we are... the mommies!


We had a GREAT time... instilling in our children the meaning of giving to others... an awesome family tradition... and, making lasting memories!

At church today, the guest speaker was Brett Ullman.  He spoke on "Media, Faith, Culture" and how it relates to our families and especially to our young people.  Amazing message!

He ended with a four-fold blessing which really resonated with me.  Here it is:
May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.
May that be true of our family, I pray... Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Give Hope... this Christmas!

Hope indeed is a gift.  Give it this Christmas... pack an Operation Christmas Child shoebox with Samaritan's Purse!!!

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


We are!!!  Looking forward to our Packing Party... 2 more days!  4 families.  9 children.  Lots of potluck food.  Teachable moments.  70 shoeboxes.  Tons of fun. 

Here I am.  Lord, send me!   

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

High School

Am I ready for this?  For high school?  Reality sunk in for me today.  My daughter's class visited the local high school today.  Wow!  My baby girl will be a high school student VERY soon!  Where exactly did the time go?!?  Would time please slow down for me?!?

High school.  Outside the safety of our immediate neighbourhood.  Public transit.  Walking a fair distance home.  Growing up.

Deep breath.  Me... must learn to let go.  It's almost time for my baby girl to spread her wings... to fly... to soar!  Wasn't she just born yesterday?  How is it that she's now, seemingly in just a blink of an eye, a young lady... all grown up?!?  Sniff... sniff...

As I drove up to the high school this afternoon and saw my daughter standing by the front doors... I knew that time wouldn't slow down for me.  But I also realized one thing... no, two things --- that she'll do great at high school and that my mommy heart will be alright!  All because my baby girl is known to all as "God's Gal!"  :-)

My prayer for her is that she will ask this of God...  Here I am.  Lord, send me!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trick-or-Canning



Here we are: myself (the Hippie), my son (the Jedi), my daughter (the Cowgirl) and their cousin (the Clown) all dressed up and ready for Halloween!

They chose to go Trick-or-Canning this year (instead of Trick-or-Treating) and collected food to donate to the local Food Bank.  Here's a photo of them and the "loot" they collected.  I'm sooooo proud of them...


And here's hubby (the Pirate) and me... we stayed home and handed out candies!!!


It was a fun night for all! Memories made...