Monday, March 26, 2012

Busy Season...

After having had the gift of a relatively slow season between Christmas and March Break, our family is now entering a busy season. Our schedule was brutal this past week, with seemingly little time to breathe and, of course, very little time to blog {as you might have already noticed! :-)}.Through it all, I kept reminding myself of this saying by Ann Voskamp:
Life is not an emergency. Life's a gift. Just Slow.
Despite the busy-ness of this week, we were able to catch The Hunger Games at the movie theatre on Sunday afternoon. The decision to go watch this movie wasn't an easy one to make, on my part. I had deep reservations about the plot, its dark nature, its disturbing aspects, its underlying messages.


I spent Thursday night reading a whole slew of reviews both from Christian and non-Christian perspectives and after discussing it with hubby, we agreed to take the kids to watch this movie knowing that come Monday morning, everyone at school will be talking about it.

As expected, I was deeply disturbed... a good kind of disturbed though, I suppose. The economic injustice and the brutality of poverty that is depicted in the movie greatly disturbed me. Why? Because it mirrors reality!

Several thoughts kept coming to mind... thoughts like: Have we, as a society, become numb {just like the citizens of the Capitol} to the reality of poverty? Has alleviating poverty become just a fad to us? A cool and trendy thing to do? Do we respond to injustice only if it doesn't require us to sacrifice anything? Do we treasure our comfort at the expense of the oppressed?

At the dinner table, we were able to have a good discussion about these thoughts with our kids. Having had the opportunity to explore these thoughts with them was good. I came out of it relieved. Why? Because I found out that both my kids weren't entertained by the movie at all. They were disturbed too... the good kind of disturbed.

How about you? Will you be taking your kids to watch The Hunger Games? If you have older kids (age 12+) or have kids who are mature for their age, I do recommend taking them. It's a great segue to discussing with them about why we, as Christ-followers, need to keep doing our part in giving and sharing HOPE to those who are oppressed.

If you do go catch this movie, I hope you aren't entertained either. ;-)
By compassion we make others' misery our own, and so, by relieving them, we relieve ourselves also.
~ Thomas Browne.
The movie has reiterated to me anew just how blessed we are... how our lives must become the very blessings we have received. As I continue counting grace-gifts, these are the things I am thankful for this week... #1315 - #1327:

:: His sustaining grace on this busy week.
:: A good start to my boy's basketball season at school.
:: My girl's awesome progress report!
:: Hearing my girl's teachers praise her not just for her academic achievements, but her as a person!
:: Delivering snacks to UrbanPromise's Camp Freedom!
:: My boy reading the book Do Hard Things.
:: A friend and his son coming over for dinner.
:: Baking and icing cupcakes!
:: A get-together with my sisters and their families.
:: Awesome Sunday morning at church.
:: 277 pounds of food for our church's Easter Food Drive with one more Collection Day to go!
:: Giving more towards the Horn of Africa drought relief.
:: Deep conversations with my kids about hard things and God-things!

Happy Monday, friends!
May you be looking forward, as I am... to a week of becoming to others the very blessings that we have received!
The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.
Soaring into this new week with you, friends... acting justly, loving mercy, walking humbly with God!

Click on the banner below for more Multitudes on Mondays posts...
Jump in... I promise you will be blessed!



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

Monday, March 19, 2012

Summer Weather for this Last Weekend of Winter...

Ahhh... I am loving this weather! It was the last weekend of Winter, yet we were experiencing Summer-like weather here in Southern Ontario! What a treat for our March Break it was! And... this warm weather is forecasted to continue for the majority of this week. Just. Beautiful!

Well, it's back to school today for my kids and back to regular work hours for me. This morning, as I started my day in prayer... I prayed that my girl would re-enter well, after her compassion trip to Wilmington, Delaware this past week to serve with UrbanPromise there.

Her team came back on Saturday night. Her stories gripped me... I have a feeling my girl is changed from what God has allowed her to experience this week... from seeing a gun right in front of her... to helping kids with homework... to mulching a garden in a public park! I am so thankful that she's home safe but, more than that... I am thankful that God is doing a good work in her heart!

As I continue my hunt for grace-gifts, these are the things I am thankful for this week... #1297 - #1314:

:: The awesome experience my girl had on this compassion trip.
:: God's protection on her and the whole team throughout the week.
:: Guest blogging for the blog, Compassion Family.
:: Reflecting on this journey {to understanding poverty} that God has taken our family on.
:: Visiting UrbanPromise Toronto's March Break camp!
:: Visiting a family in mourning and bringing them freshly-baked cupcakes!
:: God's provision of many things... undeserved grace.
:: Filing our taxes. Love our accountant!
:: My boy graciously playing with his little cousins.
:: Hubby and my boy sporting their Jeremy Lin t-shirts. :-)
:: Some time to do fun things with my boy... like rock-climbing!
:: My boy shooting a lot of hoops this week...
:: Wearing out the soles on his running shoes!
:: Fair-trade Tanzanian coffee from Ten Thousand Villages!
:: A lazy Saturday!
:: First batch of food coming in for the Easter Food Drive at church! ♥
:: Lunch with my girl and my boy while hubby attends a meeting.
:: Watching and learning from Chris Seay's DVD, A Place At The Table, together as a family.

Happy Monday, friends!
May you be looking forward, as I am... to a week of seeing and experiencing more of God's goodness!
Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks, and I unwrap the gift given: joy.
Soaring into this new week with you, friends... acting justly, loving mercy, walking humbly with God!

Click on the banner below for more Multitudes on Mondays posts...
Jump in... I promise you will be blessed!



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


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Understanding Poverty

This past week, as I prepared my heart to write this blog post, many thoughts swirled around in my head... I thought to myself, "How do I even start to write about understanding poverty when I don't even think that I fully grasp what poverty truly means and stands for in its entirety?"

How do I even begin? What can I say? Where do I start?
As I began to string thoughts into words, I felt a nudge from inside of me saying, "Start with your story!" So, friends... that is where I will begin this blog post... my story!

You see, there was a time when I didn't understand poverty. 
I looked down on the poor. I thought things like, "They must be lazy, that's why they're poor." or "They should look a little harder for a job so they can dig themselves out of this hole." or "If they don't want to help themselves, then they must deserve to live like that." 

In the midst of my hardheartedness, God started to do a beautiful thing in my heart. Through opportunities to pack Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes each Christmas and through opportunities to make and serve dinner to the homeless community right here in our city, He began to speak to me. 

And, I began to see!

*********************************
To continue reading, please click here to hop over to the blog Compassion Family where I am guest blogging today.
{This post is just one part of a whole series of blog posts on the book Hope Lives. During these weeks leading up to Easter, a group of Compassion Advocates is hosting an online community read-through of this book. To read the rest of the blog posts in this series, please click here. And, don't be shy... leave a message for us in the comments section. We'd love to hear your thoughts!}

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

Monday, March 12, 2012

March Break!

Good morning, friends... can't believe it's the March Break already! It actually started last Friday for us so we've had a long-ish weekend already.

My girl is off to Wilmington, Delaware this week for a compassion trip with her Youth Group! They are going to be serving the inner city families of Wilmington with UrbanPromise. I miss her already and she's only been gone for less than one day. I am checking Twitter like crazy for updates... so far not many have been posted. :-(

Though we miss her so much, knowing that she's spending her March Break making a difference makes it all worth it.

My boy and I will be doing a lot of chillin' this week! :-) I think he's missing his sister {just a tad bit} though he won't admit it. ;-) We'll have a fun week together... though we are all looking forward to Saturday's arrival... 'coz that's when my girl comes home!

As I continue my hunt for grace-gifts, these are the things I am thankful for this week... #1286 - #1296:

:: My boy's fresh haircut... what a handsome little man!
:: Our new dishwasher finally installed.
:: Helping my girl pack for her trip.
:: Preparing to promote an Easter Food Drive at church.
:: Preparing all the paperwork in order to file our income tax returns!
:: A lazy Saturday morning.
:: Early Sunday morning drive across the city to drop off my girl for her trip.
:: Seeing so many youth excited for this week of service!
:: Great morning at church!
:: Shopping for/delivering snacks for UrbanPromise Toronto's March Break camp.
:: A simple dinner.

Happy Monday, friends!
May you be looking forward, as I am... to a week of seeing and experiencing more of God's goodness!
Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks, and I unwrap the gift given: joy.
Soaring into this new week with you, friends... acting justly, loving mercy, walking humbly with God!

Click on the banner below for more Multitudes on Mondays posts...
Jump in... I promise you will be blessed!



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

Friday, March 9, 2012

Empty

On Fridays {maybe not every Friday... we'll see how this goes}, I link up with a whole community of Five Minute Friday posts. Today's word for Five Minute Friday is: EMPTY.

Empty to fill... "empty to fill"... it's a simple phrase I learned from reading Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts... a simple phrase, yet packed with meaning.
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.
Today, would you empty yourself so that you can become the blessing... and make Fatao's heart better?

Who is Fatao?
Fatao is a Compassion child. He is six years old. He lives in Burkina Faso with his mom, dad and siblings in a home made of rocks and mud. He likes to play soccer and ride bikes. He wants to be a mechanic when he grows up, just like his older brother. Also, Fatao has a hole in his heart and needs heart surgery... an option that Fatao's family can not afford.

Fatao had to travel to India for this surgery. The total cost of his surgery, including passport, visa, travel, the surgery itself and follow-up care, is US$23,000.

We can help!
When I finish writing this blog post and hit "publish", it will only be less than 9 hours until Fatao's surgery takes place yet over $5,000 is still needed to reach the goal of $23,000.

Please take a moment and visit this website where you can make a donation and follow Fatao's journey back to full health! 

Join me!
Together we can give Fatao the gift of celebrating many more birthdays!!!

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


Linking up at The Gypsy Mama with other Five Minute Friday posts:

... where we write for five minutes flat on Fridays.
We write because we want to, not because we have to. 
We write for fun, for joy, for discovery.
Won’t you join us?

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

Thursday, March 8, 2012

This Week is Flying By...

Hello, friends! Thursday already? Can I ask where this week disappeared to?

I'm not too sure that I've accomplished much this week... as it's been a little hairy around our home lately! Our dishwasher broke, beyond repair. We bought a new one... but it's still sitting in the middle of our kitchen waiting to be installed... while waiting, we try to re-use cups and dishes as often as we can. Gross, I know! But it beats watching the dishes pile up in the sink. :-)

Hubby is a little under the weather, yet still so busy with work. It's a busy time at work for me too. Then, there's March Break coming up next week! My girl is heading off to Wilmington, Delaware with our church's Youth Group to serve at UrbanPromise... so exciting! My little man, on the other hand, has March Break plans of his own... he's informed us that he's going to design an app. Yes, an app for the iPhone/iPod/iPad! Ummm, I will be of no help in that department! ;-)

And... my fasting for Lent is failing. I've got to learn to rely on grace... for it is only possible by grace alone.

BUT, amid the chaos... God still manages to make me smile!
God is in the details; God is in the moment. God is in all that blurs by in a life. God!
When my boy came home and announced that he's made the Junior Boys' Basketball Team at school, I smile.

When I read this blog post at A Holy Experience about where introverts fit in the church, I smile.

When I email out a request for help with providing snacks for UrbanPromise Toronto's March Break Camp and I get a response {from a group in our church community} that has God's fingerprints all over it, I smile.

When my girl shows me a picture of her clay sculpture from school that is still a work-in-progress, I smile.

When I snuggle up with my boy and together we look at old family photographs, I smile.

When I stand at the sink, washing dishes by hand... and see the beautiful sunshine through my kitchen window, I smile.

When given the opportunity to talk to a group of people from our church about opportunities for them to serve the marginalized... even though my knees shake while I share, I smile.

When reading through Week 2: God Is Not Silent, of the book Hope Lives, with fellow Compassion Advocates, I smile.

What's making you smile this day, friends?
"God bless you and keep you, God smile on you and gift you, God look you full in the face and make you prosper." ~ Numbers 6:24-26, The Message.

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

Monday, March 5, 2012

First Monday in March!

Good morning, friends... on this first Monday in March! I can't believe how fast this year is going by. Soon, it will be Spring.

Our family had a busy weekend... full, but fun and fulfilling! On Friday night, we attended the graduation recital of my girl's piano teacher. My sister's choir sang at this recital. The final piece of the evening was called Revelation 21. All I can say is, "Wow!" It was so beautiful... moved me to tears!

Composer, conductor and choir taking the final bow.
The architecture of this church is breath-taking!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son."

~ Revelation 21:1-7, NIV1984.
On Saturday evening, we led a team of about 20 people from our church to serve at Out of the Cold where we prepared and served dinner to about 100 people from the homeless community in our city. 

Dinner is served!

My kids helping to serve dinner. ♥

In spite of the busyness of the evening, I couldn't help but still see so much of the brokenness and suffering! It so pained my heart. Yet, I was reminded of the words from the musical composition that I heard just the night before... from Revelation 21... "They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes... the old order of things will pass away... He is making everything new!"

What a comforting thought! One day... there will no longer be a need for us to prepare and serve dinner for the homeless.

One day... 
A day I am so very much looking forward to.
But, until that day... 
Our family will continue to make a difference... 
No matter how small.

... which leads my thoughts to why I practice the daily counting of grace-gifts. It has truly helped me in my desire to fully live out my thanksgiving... for thanksgiving to become thanks-living!

As I continue on this hunt for grace-gifts, these are the things I am thankful for this week... #1279 - #1285:

:: Close to 3,000 (as of today) have read this story... only God can make that happen, especially considering the average views each of my blog posts get is about 50! I am thankful that He has chosen this story of thanks-living to encourage so many. I am utterly humbled... speechless.
:: My boy trying out for the school basketball team.
:: Matt Redman's 27 Million... to help release those trapped in modern day slavery.
:: Reading through Hope Lives with fellow Compassion Advocates.
:: Finally finding some time to write to our Compassion children.
:: Another night at Out of the Cold... with wonderful people from our community of faith.
:: Hanging out with hubby while the kids catch a Raptors game with their Youth Group.

Happy Monday, friends!
May you be looking forward, as I am... to another week full of God's blessings and His goodness... another week of living out thanks and giving thanks away!
In the naming that which is right before me, that which I'd otherwise miss, the invisible becomes visible. The space that spans my inner emptiness fills in the naming. I name. And I know the face I face. God's! 
Soaring into this new week with you, friends... acting justly, loving mercy, walking humbly with God!

Click on the banner below for more Multitudes on Mondays posts...
Jump in... I promise you will be blessed!



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

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ache

On Fridays {maybe not every Friday... we'll see how this goes}, I link up with a whole community of Five Minute Friday posts. Today's word for Five Minute Friday is: ACHE.

Last summer, our family went on a missions immersion trip to the Philippines where we were confronted head-on with the harsh reality of poverty. We all came home changed... each one changed differently, yet all in a good way.

I came home with an ache... a heart-ache, a heart broken... for the things that break God's heart.

My heart aches for those in the Third World suffering from extreme poverty. Yet as time passed, I found my heart aching even more for those living right here in North America who suffer from spiritual poverty... so many are apathetic, lost in affluence, numbed by entitlement, blind to the needs of the marginalized, unwilling to leave comforts behind, ignoring Jesus' commands to follow.

Where are the Christ-followers?
Where are the ones gung-ho for Jesus?
Where is the compassion?

Yet I still dare to hope... because "the faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning."

This song has been an encouragement... especially in times when I feel discouraged and just want to "throw in the towel", to give up hoping for change... it is a fresh reminder that as long as I am seeking His face, I'll walk in the power of His daily sufficient grace.

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


On a related note {on the topic of daring to still hope}, a group of Compassion Advocates are reading through the book Hope Lives during these weeks leading up to Easter.

Join us?
Here's a reflection on Week One: The Poverty of the Heart to start you off. Come join us... I promise it will be a journey you won't regret taking, a journey of restoration. 

Linking up at The Gypsy Mama with other Five Minute Friday posts:

... where we write for five minutes flat on Fridays.
We write because we want to, not because we have to. 
We write for fun, for joy, for discovery.
Won’t you join us?

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

Thursday, March 1, 2012

February's Joy Dare

I am taking the Joy Dare and counting to {an extra} 1,000 Gifts in 2012! Will you join me?

#94 - #180... February's grace-gifts... from the Giver of good gifts, the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

a gift found at 11:30am, at 2:30pm, at 6:30pm:
:: My girl sleeping in... no school today!
:: Hubby and me volunteer teaching my boy's LEGO Mindstorm team.
:: Doing life with The Underground and Home Church!

3 things overheard today, all gifts:
:: "Great job!"
:: "Love you, Mom!"
:: "I'll help with getting dinner ready."

3 gifts found in writing:
:: Read on Twitter: "Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall they be saved."
:: Read on Facebook: “Blessed are those that can give without remembering and receive without forgetting.”
:: Collaborative writing, with fellow Compassion Advocates, on the book Hope Lives... coming up in March! Excited!

3 gifts found when bent down:
:: A healthy back.
:: Crumbs on the kitchen floor... means we are fed.
:: Picking up full laundry baskets... means we are clothed.

one gift stitched, one hammered, one woven:
:: Comfortable jeans, my every-day wear.
:: Swing set in our backyard... was a source of entertainment for many years.
:: Knitted sweaters, my other favourite garment of choice!

3 gifts found outside:
:: Balmy 7*C weather!
:: Beautiful sunshine!
:: Crisp air... smells like Spring-time already.

3 gifts red:
:: Delicious honey crisp apple.
:: My boy's hand-print from when he was 4! ♥
:: Beautiful red hues of the setting sun.

a gift broken, a gift fixed, a gift thrifted:
:: A camera dropped, broken. :-(
:: A camera fixed, by hubby. :-)
:: An old thrifted recipe book, one I still use so often.

3 gifts that were surprises - unexpected grace:
:: A mid-afternoon latte!
:: Beautiful spring-like sunshine and chirping birds on a February day.
:: A cheque arriving in the mail.

3 times you heard laughter today:
:: On the phone with my sister and laughing together.
:: Our family laughing together during dinner time, and...
:: On a long drive across town.

3 gifts found in working:
:: How far my girl has come in basketball by training hard.
:: Baking some herb oatmeal pan buns. Yummy!
:: My job, its flexibility and its work-from-home arrangement.

3 hard eucharisteos:
:: Certain memories from my childhood...
:: Bumps on life's road...
:: Lost friendships...

3 gifts found behind a door today:
:: Opening the fridge door and realizing we are so blessed.
:: My boy home for lunch from school.
:: Hubby in bed, asleep, early.

3 ways you feel the love of God:
:: In the letters from our Compassion children.
:: As described in Zephaniah 3:17... I ♥ this verse!
:: Through my hubby, the grace of my life.

a gift in losing something, in finding something, in making something:
:: Lost fellowship with girlfriends... resulting in digging deeper into Scripture on my own.
:: New fellowships found... over coffee on not-so-harried mornings.
:: Chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting!

3 gifts in shadows:
:: Psalm 17:8 - "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings."
:: Psalm 91:1 - "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."
:: Isaiah 51:16 - "I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand."

3 gifts found giving/serving:
:: Blessings given back - packed down, firmly shaken, overflowing!
:: Joy... the kind found deep down in the heart.
:: Discovering and knowing more of myself.

3 gifts on paper:
:: NBA tickets!
:: My pay stub.
:: A letter from our LDP student! ♥

3 gifts that were 'Plan B's:
:: Calling this church home... a most wonderful Plan B.
:: Decision to become a "Professional Mother"... a most rewarding Plan B.
:: Hubby starting his own business... a most awesome Plan B.

a gift at breakfast, lunch, dinner:
:: My morning cup of coffee!
:: Lunch at a downtown Vietnamese restaurant with my extended family.
:: Monday night dinner at my sister's house.

3 gifts white:
:: A tall glass of non-homogenized milk! Yum!
:: Snowballs that my boy throws on our front door.
:: White roses...

3 gifts that changed today:
:: The brevity of life... a challenge to live everyday fully.
:: Confronted by hypocrisy... a challenge to be authentic.
:: Lost souls... a challenge to share Christ whenever we can.

a gift of tin, of glass, of wood:
:: Potatoes in tin bucket.
:: Tulips in glass vase.
:: Scripture etched on wooden tray.

3 gifts before 11am:
:: Freshly baked muffins for breakfast.
:: My workday completed before 11am!
:: Fresh snow making the otherwise drab landscape beautiful!

a gift nearly worn out, a gift new, a gift made-do:
:: Wilting yellow roses, still beautiful.
:: New-found time during the practice of Lent.
:: Leftovers!

3 gifts seen as reflections:
:: My boy's reflection on my van's rear-view mirror.
:: My redeemed life, a reflection of God's grace.
:: My church family, a reflection of the Body of Christ! ♥

3 ugly-beautiful gifts (see beauty in ugly):
:: Rebuilding and disciple-making after the Philippine flood.
:: Hope lives... because Jesus redeems! ♥
:: A broken dishwasher, extra time spent over dishes in the sink = time to reflect, time to pray.

3 gifts from the past - that help you trust the future:
:: God's faithfulness... never failing.
:: His mercies... new every morning.
:: His grace and relentless love... never letting me go.

a gift dull, a gift shimmering, a gift cleaned:
:: Eyeglasses to help my dull eyesight...
:: Beautiful morning sunshine!
:: Dishes cleaned by hand... suds in the sink reflecting winter sunlight through kitchen window!

Click on the banners below to learn more about counting to 1,000 Gifts...
Jump in... I promise you will be blessed!




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