Monday, August 22, 2016

On living a life of God-worship...

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

This year is no different.

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

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

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







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

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

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

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

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

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

A photo posted by Aimee Esparaz (@mama2greatkids) on

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

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

I would not exchange this deep gladness with anything else.

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

At summer's end...

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is a truly beautiful, sacred thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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