Sunday, September 25, 2011

Good Gifts

God gives good gifts... I know that full well.

My hubby is a perfect example of that. (#1006) I am reflecting on that today as we celebrate his 46th birthday! (#1007) He is my soul-mate and best friend (#1008, #1009) and he is an awesome and wonderful father to our kids! (#1010) Each day, I thank my God for the gift that my hubby is to me.

This week, my 1,000 Gifts list continues with these good and perfect gifts --- grace-gifts #1011 - #1017, from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17, NIV 1984)

~ Strength for a busy week.
~ Free groceries.
~ 130 pounds of food to Yonge Street Mission {in honour of hubby's birthday}.
~ Hubby helping to build a Habitat home {also for his birthday}.
~ Seeing house keys handed over to two Habitat partner families. So cool!
~ A big box of used books from my boy's school for the children at UrbanPromise!
~ Awesome time at a Sunday afternoon church BBQ!

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Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hope...

What is hope? How can we practice hope?

I've been thinking about answers to these questions... the thoughts mainly prompted by my reading of the book UnPoverty by Mark Lutz and also by the still vivid experiences that our family lived through during our recent missions immersion trip to the Philippines.

The *HOPE* sign... in our front yard.

We arrived Manila in the darkness of night, during the hours between midnight and dawn... exhausted from travelling for over 24 hours since we left our home here in Toronto. We were very happy to finally collapse into the comfortable beds awaiting us at the house where we were being hosted at by our family.

Morning came... we were eager to get going and see Manila in daylight. Upon exiting the subdivision gates {note: security-guarded gated community}, this is the first thing we saw... well, these were the very first people we met, figuratively speaking. Talk about being confronted head-on by the contrast between luxury and extreme poverty... something that is so very evident all over the Philippines, especially in the big cities like Manila.


A little boy knocked on the window as our car stopped at the first traffic lights, just outside the gated community where we were staying. He was begging... for food, for money, for anything really. He could not have been more than six years old.

As I rummaged in my back-pack for some cereal bars to give him, I looked out the window and saw that he wasn't alone. What I saw broke my heart even more.

Holding his hand, standing beside him, begging alongside him, yet cannot be seen in the photo above because she is much, much shorter than the bottom of the car window... was a little girl. I am assuming her to be his sister. She could not have been more than two years old. Yes, not more than two years old!

Two bare-footed, raggedly-dressed, hungry, dirty and very young children. No parents in sight. Left on their own to fend for themselves...

"Where is hope?" I asked myself.

At that moment, I knew God was going to use this trip to change our family... to break our hearts for the things that break His heart.

Throughout the trip, I found myself asking the same questions over and over again. Where is hope? Where do these people find hope, see hope, experience hope? And... where do I fit in? How can I practice hope?

Then... we met our Compassion child Florianlyn and two other Compassion children, Jhon Sim and Julius. And then... we met Compassion LDP student, Rochelle.

It was through experiencing how these Compassion children and their families live life, impoverished yet full of hope, that I was reminded how hope is expressed and realized...
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1, NIV 1984)
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:23-24, NIV 1984)
They have faith, therefore they can hope.
They know The One who is faithful.
The difference truly is Jesus!

It was seeing hope in the midst of atrocity and dire poverty that spurred me on towards more love and more good deeds. My awareness prompting me to more action.

The following is an excerpt from the book Unpoverty by Mark Lutz... words that are so fitting to wrap up the thoughts I've expressed above:
So how do you and I respond to our awareness? ...broken hearts aren't enough. Awareness must lead to action.
What I find so exciting and hopeful is that it doesn't take much for us to help transform hopelessness into success. Today, most of us will use our credit cards to buy something we don't really need, the price of which would provide emergency food relief for a family in Rwanda, for a month or set someone up in Cambodia with a loan to start a business. I don't say that to make you feel guilty but to expand your vision.
In the Anglican tradition there is a wonderful liturgical refrain that is repeated by the congregation throughout particular prayers. Speaking on behalf of the group, the priest recites a brief commitment to God regarding a specific action. At the end of each statement, the group responds in unison, "I will, with God's help." This recognizes that God frequently calls us to behavior that is counterintuitive, and that we need extra grace and strength to swim against life's stream.
As I reflect on the poverty in the world and the undeserved place of privilege that I enjoy, I resolve afresh to let my own awareness prompt me to action. Will you join me?
"I will, with God's help."
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Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On Reaching 1000 Gifts!

It's been busy here... since our family came back from our missions immersion trip to the Philippines last month, our home has been in a state of frazzle-ness, abuzz with never-ending things-to-do.

This school-year seems to have started without warning, catching us {well, maybe just me!} off guard. As we get used to the swing of the many new changes that this month of September has brought us, I feel like the days are going fast-forward...

Amid all the frazzle, I found myself stumbling upon my 1000th grace-gift this past week... oh. the. joy! This calls for a pause in my busy-ness in order to blog... about reaching 1000 gifts!

I must say that this counting of grace-gifts, this hunt... it has changed me. It was in November of last year when I started with grace-gift #1... it is well with my soul. It was a time when I needed to choose joy... to live fully right where I was, to nurture a sore heart back to wholeness again. And the hunt, this practice of counting my blessings {naming them one by one} did indeed bring healing.

In February of this year, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself turning a corner.

Since then, I have not looked back... I am running the race, keeping my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith!

In the ensuing six months, God showed our family how our story is {and has always been} a part of His plan. He brought us to places we never dreamed we'd go... showed us things we never expected we'd experienced... broke our hearts for things we never thought we'd care about.

Which brings me to the now... to this moment in time... of my soul becoming fully awake to this new thing that God has led our family to... to act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with Him! (Grace-gift #999, God's requirement of us, Christ-followers, found in Micah 6:8)

And then to grace-gift #1000...
A gift I must count this one more time... 
It truly is well with my soul!

In hindsight, I can truly say that if I had to go through it again, I wouldn't change the story one bit... all the pain and frustration, all the not-knowing and fumbling in the dark, all the waiting and asking why... they are all grace. They were all necessary to wake my soul up!

Speaking of my soul waking up, I love Shaun Grove's new song Awake My Soul, from his newest album Third World Symphony. It is the song I wake up to each morning on my alarm.

Have a listen to it here...
Please pause the Playlist on the sidebar of this blog as you listen to this song.
Awake My Soul by shaungroves
Awake my soul to live this moment.
Awake my soul,
 give thanks and hold it.
Dear now. Be here now.
God is here now. Awake my soul.
And this hunt will continue... grace-gifts #1001 - #1005, with a heart bursting with thanksgiving:

~ Writing to our Compassion children.
~ Maximizing my mornings with Inspired To Action.
~ My girl making the Junior Girls' Basketball Team!
~ Relatives visiting...
~ An opportunity to talk about Compassion's ministry to fellow moms. 

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Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The True Fast

There is a global movement... to end extreme poverty in our lifetime. It is happening now and it is simply called 58:! Come join the movement... it will change your life!

From 58:'s website:
58: is a Christ-centered global initiative to end extreme poverty. The name comes from Isaiah 58 where God desires that his people carry out a True Fast, one that cares for the poor and oppressed.
Please watch this short video for more information:

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


Great initiative, don't you think? When I first heard of it a while back, I was right away sold to the idea. And, to my delight... I found out that one of organizations partnering with 58: is none other than Compassion International! That sealed the deal for me! :-)

Here's the 58: Pledge:
I will discover and live out the truths of Isaiah 58 in practical ways – today.
I will confront indifference toward the poor because poverty is not an abstract issue: it affects real people who are dearly loved by God.
I will help spread the messages of hope and possibility. Pointing out progress, sharing encouraging examples of impact and challenging low expectations.
I will strive to live the True Fast of Isaiah in acts of personal sacrifice. Simple and real. No idle words. Just authentic action in whatever small way I can.
I will invite others to join me in living 58. So that we, together, might “spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.”
Together we will form an unprecedented, unified movement to bring an end to extreme poverty in our lifetime.
I will live 58.
So, will you join me?

Yes? Awesome! Why not start by checking out Compassion International's Water of Life system? For $55, you can provide one child with clean water for life. Yes. For. Life!

Also, 58: has created a feature film that explores how we can end extreme poverty in our lifetime. It is being released in October... next month! Please help spread the word... so many more will join the movement. Here's the trailer:

Please pause the Playlist on the sidebar of this blog as you watch the video.
58: THE FILM Trailer from LIVE58NOW on Vimeo.

Let's live 58...
And end extreme poverty in our lifetime!

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Choosing Joy

In His presence is fullness of joy. He is in this moment. And if I am rejecting the joy that is hidden somewhere deep in this moment - aren't I ultimately rejecting God?" ~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
This was a tough week... probably the toughest first week of school our family has ever had. On Labour Day evening, my nephew bashed his head while running around in our basement. He ended up in the ER and needed to get stitches!

On the second day of school, my boy's class learned that one of their classmates took his own life. He was only 11 years old.  How do I make sense of that? How does my boy? How does anyone??? So. Sad! So. Tragic! So. Hard. To. Understand!

Then on Thursday, my girl badly injured her ankle at basketball. She is now wearing an air-cast and walking with the aid of crutches... and having to navigate a brand-new-to-her, bigger school!

Throughout this week, one thought kept coming to my mind... God is truly everything and Christ is truly all! I truly can not imagine a life without faith... how else does one choose joy otherwise?

With that in mind, this week's grace-gifts list continue with... #988 - #998:

~ God's protective hand on my nephew, and...
~ That his head wound is healing up nicely.
~ My girl loving high-school.
~ My boy got an awesome teacher this year.
~ A good talk with my boy about his classmate's death.
~ The gift of prayer... even when I don't know what to say.
~ Making music with my sister and good friend, just like old times!
~ God's protective hand on my girl... no broken bones!
~ She did great on her own at school the first day after her injury.
~ Her ankle healing up faster than expected.
~ Attending Beth Moore's Living Proof Live with my girl.

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Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Water = Life

For us here in North America, clean water is a given. It's just there... flows freely from our taps. Did you know that this is not the case for millions and millions of people in the developing world...?

We saw this boy and his friend in the red shirt behind the bike {during our missions immersion trip to the Philippines this summer} scooping water from the curb to drink. So heart-breaking...


My kids had the opportunity to try {notice I said "try"?} pumping water from a manual water pump. For the most part, the water that comes out of this is drinkable... but not always. Besides, it is expensive to get one of these pumps installed. Often, a whole community share one pump... most communities don't have one.


Most people get their water from a creek, river or a spring... as seen in this video... and it is definitely not clean water!

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

By the way, if you are a Compassion sponsor.... THANK YOU so much, for all you do!

Well, enter Compassion International's Water of Life System. Please watch this video... it is less than 5 minutes in length... I promise you that it is 5 minutes that you will not be wasting.

A $55 donation provides a child with safe water for life. For life. Did you read that correctly? Yes. For. Life!

Will you join in the movement to help save the life of a child who, without you, risks his/her health daily, just by drinking water?

To my Canadian blog readers, this donation is not tax-deductible in Canada yet. If you need a Canadian charitable tax receipt, here's an equally great Compassion water initiative you can donate towards... Kaitlyn's Legacy!

Kaitlyn's Legacy started with Kaitlyn's Wish. Although this young lady lost her battle with cancer at such a young age, her legacy of providing clean water for families in Uganda lives on!

Water = Life! 
Let's do our part.
Live simply, give generously.

One of my favourite quotes say, "Live simply, so that others may simply live." (This quote is attributed to Mother Teresa.) In this North American lifestyle, there is much we can do without... so that we can be in a better position to give generously. Our family is learning the lesson of simple living too... to act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with God. Join us?

$55 = water for life! It is cliché... I agree... but $55 is like one meal out for an average North American family. Will you say "Yes!" to water for life today?

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Monday, September 5, 2011

These Last Summer Days

... it is impossible to ask God for too much. His capacity for giving far exceeds his people’s capacity for asking – or even imagining. ~ F. F Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians.
Summer is drawing to a close as school starts up again on Tuesday. On these last days of summer, God's grace has been abundant, relentless, never ending... He is everything and He is all!

#977 - #987 of grace-gifts... on these beautiful God-given last days of summer!

~ Compassion children being sponsored.
~ My girl starting basketball training at the high-school.
~ Sorting photos from our trip... and remembering.
~ Attending pre-release screening of the movie, Courageous.
~ Opportunity to serve at our church... I'm terrified but challenged.
~ A new morning routine for me!
~ Fun night of bowling.
~ Fun Saturday at the Brickworks!
~ BBQ dinner with extended family.
~ Celebrating eleven candles... my boy, a gift from God!
~ Birthday dinner at his fave restaurant, Baton Rouge.

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Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Eleven Candles

Happy 11th Birthday to my boy! True to the meaning of his name, he is a gift from God. My prayer for him, as always, is that he will grow up to be "a man after God's own heart; doing everything God wants him to do." ~ paraphrased from Acts 13:22.

Since when did this sweet baby boy...


Grow up to be this handsome young man...?


I am truly thankful for these 11 years and looking forward to the coming preteen years! Knowing my boy, they are going to be funny, crazy and interesting ones!

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Another Weekend Recap Post

Happy weekend, everyone! As you can tell, I've not been able to blog consistently these past few weeks {since coming home from our missions immersion trip to the Philippines}. There are two reasons why that is the case. First, we're making the most of these last days of summer by doing a few family outings... hence, I am away from my computer quite a bit {aside from doing work}.

Secondly, one which I am still trying to get my head around... is that since coming back from our trip, it seems meaningless for me to be blogging about the mundane happenings when there are millions of people suffering in poverty. I know, I know... life has to go on... I'm just still processing everything, digesting... learning how to live out this new normal.

So, please bear with me, my dear blog readers... as I take some time to figure out how God would like to use this blog going forward.... as I continue to walk in obedience to Him! In the meantime, here's another weekend recap post... summarizing another ordinary, yet not so ordinary, week around here:
In Compassion news, God continues to amaze me by bringing sponsors my way! This week little Hadassa and little Wadley, both from Haiti, have a loving sponsor to call their own. God is truly good. Furthermore, I am going to be at a women's conference organized by my sister's church two weekends from now and they are giving me an opportunity to talk about the ministry of Compassion International! I have quite a few Child Packs {children from one of the centres we visited in the Philippines and also some from the Horn of Africa} to bring with me. Please pray with me... that these children will be connected with loving sponsors!!!
In other Compassion news, Shaun Groves has released his newest album, Third World Symphony. Shaun is a gifted singer & songwriter, an advocate traveling the world for Compassion International, being a voice for children who have no voice, releasing them from poverty. Please watch this video to hear Shaun tell you how Third World Symphony was born:
Please pause the Playlist on the sidebar of this blog as you watch. Thank you!

Shaun Groves - Third World Symphony (Ethiopia Story) from Shaun Groves on Vimeo.
I have the album on repeat and I am being comforted by the songs, like a balm for my soul... especially for this ache that I have since returning from the Philippines. I am thankful for this music... truly a Third World Symphony! Buy it... you won't regret it!
Hubby and I also had to opportunity to attend a pre-release screening of the movie, Courageous. We received tickets for being a part of Compassion Canada's Advocate Network. It is coming to theatres all over Canada and the U.S. on September 30. All I can say is, "Go see it!"... it will change your life!
I think that is everything in Compassion-related news! In other happenings this past week...
I am floored by how God continues to lead our family to serve those who are the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken. Our pastor met with me this past week and asked me to consider taking on the position of Volunteer Compassion Director! I will basically be helping people at our church learn how to live more compassionate lifestyles by serving the last, the least, the forgotten and the forsaken --- to live simply so that others can simply live! How cool is that?!?
I am excited... I have not said "yes" yet... I have a couple more days to pray, to mull this over. Honestly, I am terrified... by the *hugeness* of this role. At the same time, I feel challenged and I am remembering the verse from Joshua 1:9 which says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
So... in a couple of days, summer will officially be over as school starts up again! It is going to be a year of new beginnings for our family.

My girl starts high-school. Did I just type high-school? Really... where did the time go?!? For the very first time, my kids will be going to different schools so my boy will have to get used to not having big sister at his school and walking to/from school alone. He is also getting a new principal this year.

As for hubby and me, new things also... as he considers a Volunteer Board position with a crisis-pregnancy ministry and as I consider the role of Volunteer Compassion Director at our church! Wow... God has been busy... busy changing us, busy molding us, busy breaking our hearts for the things that break His heart!

I think it's going to be a great year of trusting God for our family... with the new beginnings that God has placed in our path! Thus, the journey continues...
... if it’s the true God we’ve been worshipping, we should be filled with a sense of new possibilities: of new tasks and new energy to accomplish them. ~ Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone, The Prison Letters
Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!