Monday, April 20, 2015

Wilmington, Take 3

Hi, blog. I think I'll just save the bytes and skip the whole apology for the dust everywhere and just dust off this little corner right here and place this little update about my trip to Wilmington down. However, I'll put a little plug in that my Twitter & Instagram are far less dusty, for anyone interested in 140 character and/or snapshot updates on a more regular basis. But for right now, I'm still blown away by how Wilmington blew me away again... 

The city of Wilmington, Delaware never ceases to amaze me.

I didn't see anything new during my latest trip to Wilmington to work with UrbanPromise - my third trip. Nothing groundbreaking. I tell stories about Wilmington and they sound repetitive, same old, I've-heard-this-one-before.

And maybe that is the most beautiful thing of all.

It's been 4 years since I first stumbled upon this Kingdom-community known as UrbanPromise Wilmington. And 4 years later, they're still the same passionate, world changing Jesus-lovers that inspired me and changed my life back in Grade 9.

Yes, they're moved by Christ-like compassion, hope, and love. But what makes this community different from every other spark of passionate action for social justice is their Christ-like perseverance.

When the going gets tough, it's not "Well, we tried." It's "We're gonna get through this. Together. Because we're a family. We're the Body of Christ."

Guys, I'm just gonna skip the tip-toe politically correct business and say that it's been an especially tough year for at-risk minority youth in American inner cities. The streets of America seem especially soaked with the blood of black youth this year. Race relations, black violence - this is all real stuff all the time, and maybe it's because I'm older or maybe not, but there was a new level of tension in the air this year.

And this trip was a reality check for this girl from the Canadian suburbs, let me tell you. Because there's shaking my head at the latest on CP24 from Ferguson, and then there's sitting in a room while a teenager from Wilmington says he's literally afraid to take his little brother outside sometimes.

Because there's retweeting something social-justicey, and then there's the community at UrbanPromise Wilmington that is passionately and tirelessly working together against the grain of this broken culture day in and day out.

"What's the biggest challenge facing youth in your city?"

All three of those teenagers said the exact same thing - "Violence." "Violence." "Violence."

It runs so deep. And even though the stories are same-old, may we never take lightly the absolutely heart-wrenching, world-shaking, holy Kingdom-work that the UrbanPromise community is doing with a Christ-like hope and perseverance - kids, youth, interns, and staff alike.

I think we like quick in this culture, wouldn't you say so? Quick results, quick answers, quick LTE data.

While my generation has the power to change the world with our quick advancements, what's going to kill us is our restlessness. Our inability to stick around long enough to see the really beautiful deep stuff take root. The best stuff - hope, love, reconciliation - that stuff takes time to grow.

The UrbanPromise Wilmington community has stuck around. Beauty like that doesn't just happen. It requires trust. It requires perseverance.

And I know I'm guilty of restlessness. But my week in Wilmington taught me that there is beauty in staying, because our Father knows exactly where He needs us to be -

And personally? There's no place I'd rather be.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Wilmington Again

I owe this blog an update, I know.

This blog and I will have a good, cozy catch up soon, but it's going to have to wait at least a week... because I'm tapping out this quick little note to say...

I'm going back to UrbanPromise Wilmington again on a compassion trip with my youth group... tomorrow

Friends, I am beyond excited. Could I just ask you two favours?

Pray for me & the team. Some of my prayer notes from previous trips to Wilmington would still apply... Find those here and here.

Pray for my family as I leave them behind on their own compassion mission right here at home... Read about that on my mama's blog here. I look forward to joining back up with this compassion team when I come back home on Saturday.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for prayers. They give strength and breathe life in remarkable, world-shaking, holy ways.

Wilmington 2012:
Shining In A City Called Wilmington
3 More Sleeps

Wilmington 2013:
Wilmington, Take 2
Stories from Wilmington: Comfort & Discomfort
Stories from Wilmington: You Don't Choose Where You Were Born
Stories from Wilmington: Because It's More Than Just A Job

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The World In Which I Get To Be An Adult

Boy, it has been a whirlwind couple of weeks.

I found out I was accepted to the University of Toronto's International Development Studies, Co-op program on a Thursday. I celebrated 18 years of life the next day, Friday, with sweet girlfriends and a Frozen birthday party fit for a 4-year-old.

I turned 18 - adult age, for real - the next Wednesday.

And you know what? Until Tuesday, my birthday eve, I was totally unaware and unrelenting to the fact that, on that Sunday after my birthday party, ISIS had beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians.

And this is the world I get to be an adult in. 

A world where teenagers flee their home country, leaving their family and everything familiar behind to run from persecution, torture or death.

A world where teenagers sleep on the streets, far away from a home or a family.

A world where teenagers feel helpless to do anything about everything... They know their peers are suffering all over the world, but they just don't know what to do about it.

Happy Birthday, me - this is the world you get to be an adult in.

Oh, but wait - and lean in close for this part, because this is where it gets good...

This is also the world I get to be an adult in:

A world where I get to celebrate my birthday on Friday, then celebrate the birthday of two refugee youth at Matthew House on Saturday. And my heart could almost burst at the loving community of Christ that is surrounding these two after the most tumultuous year.

A world where I get to lead a workshop at my school about youth homelessness, encouraging fellow students to get informed and take action.

A world where my beautiful friends gift me with donations to The Refuge for my birthday.

A world where I get to watch my face flash big across a screen at a youth conference, my voice telling this room full of my peers that "We have a God who loves us. One who made a way to fix this mess and make things right again." 

And then I get three. whole. minutes. to tell these unsuspecting world-changers that they have the power to do something for their peers living in extreme poverty by sponsoring a Compassion child. And can I admit something? I came off that stage frowning, but that girl that came up to me after with "I love what you said." on her lips? She made my weekend.

A world where I get to study International Development at the top university in the country on a fancy scholarship, and my heart just wants to shout it - this world is full of crazy amounts of grace if you look just beyond the brokenness.

Because yes. This world I get to be an adult in is so. so. so. broken. Just ask Kayla Mueller. Or those 21 Christians.

But oh yes, is there ever wild amounts of amazing grace in this world, too.

I once said that we don't get to choose the world that we're born into.

But I do believe that we get to choose the world that we live in.

May we always. always. always. choose the world where we can take heart, for the world we have chosen is already overcome by the Man that hung on the cross. The Man who overcame, is overcoming and will overcome this world with salvation, peace, hope, light and love.

And may we always declare that truth with our words and our lives... We are people of the cross - people who live saved and freed, stand for peace, believe in hope, shine brightly, and love radically with a risky, take-up-your-cross type of love.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Embracing His Heart

I'm done with this whole "Jesus lives in my heart" deal.

At four-years old, I asked Jesus to come a live in my heart, but I am so over that.

Now before you call my youth pastor to report another young person running from Christianity, just hold up and hear me out for a second.

Rather than Jesus living in my heart, I want to live in His.

I am so over a Christian culture where Jesus comes to live in our hearts - but dude, like, keep your feet off my heart's coffee table, OK? And, yeah, the guest bed is in the basement.

Make yourself at home (but please stay out of my bedroom), fair trade(-ish) coffee's in the coffeepot, here's the wifi password, and I'll see you when I get back from Function/Activity/Meeting No. 24573290.


No way. That is not what pursuing, embracing, living like Jesus is about. 

We have to stop just fitting Jesus into our hearts, lives, agendas, and start living out His heart.

We're ok with the whole Christian deal, as long as Jesus moves into our lives. But what if we abandoned it all to live in the middle of His heart?

Forget about moving Him into the guest bed in the basement of our hearts and just giving Him Sundays... Imagine what could happen if we literally pulled out our entire, beating, ugly, bleeding hearts, held them out to the One who bled for us and said "Here - do what you will with this awful mess."

I'm gonna take a wild guess here and say it would be beautifully ravaging... ravaging-ly beautiful.

OK... So maybe I'm not totally over this Jesus lives in my heart thing. 

But let's be Kingdom-people who live for more than that.

Let's literally surrender our entire hearts to Jesus - give up the whole entire thing and tell Him to take. it. away.

We want to know His heart.

Let's surrender our entire bleeding, beating hearts to the One who bled for us and really mean it -

Take me to the middle of Your heart.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Meet Johnrel

"I can't get that beach out of my head." 

I'm not your typical muddle-of-tears girl [OK, I am, but it would just be insensitive not to cry through some of those movies, don't you think?], but oh yeah, I'm choke-whispering those words out though a blur.

Bless my sweet friend's soul for putting up with this.

This is October. I'm chatting with my mama a few days later and she goes, "So, are you gonna sponsor a child from that community?"

And - oh yes. This is the greatest part, you see.

I serve a God who refuses to leave me in that muddle-of-tears state. When all that grief is over and all that's left is this burden for a certain beach under a certain bridge that connects two islands that belong to a certain cluster of islands that make up a certain country... I am not left to helplessly carry this burden.

I serve a God who gives me this invitation...

"Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help."
- Isaiah 58:6-7

What a privilege, blessing, hope this is.

Believe this, friends: We don't have to serve and love the world's poor and vulnerable. 

We get to.

Because He first loved us, we get to partner with Love Himself to feed, serve, love His sheep

What could be greater in this world?

And so it is with absolute joy that I introduce you to Johnrel:

Johnrel attends the Compassion Child Development Centre that ministers to the community under that bridge. And he is my new Compassion child.

It's wild to think that just a few short months ago I was standing in his community during a filming trip for True Story: What God Wants Us To Do About Poverty, Compassion Canada's new youth curriculum video series. Did I walk by his home, his parents' place of work, his favourite places to play? Did I walk by him? 

Totally not gonna lie... I've been looking through photos from our trip for a possible Johnrel sighting. ;)

I am beyond excited about adding Johnrel to our Compassion family.

On top of that - I remain immensely thankful for the ministry of Compassion International. 

Not only for their instrumental role in enabling individuals to respond to God's call to serve and love the poor, but for their unwavering commitment to serving children, empowering the church, and most importantly, to bringing people to Christ

Because even when physical poverty is gone, hopelessness can still remain. Just ask the rich young ruler. Or better yet, maybe ask those hopeless parts of yourself? I know I have to all too often. 

But when the Hope of Christ is brought to the darkest places of this world and of our hearts... This is where poverty, hopelessness, despair, and brokenness find an eternal end. 

I think that's pretty sweet.

So, to sum this all up, I guess this just means I'll have to wander my way back over to the Philippines sometime soon to meet Johnrel. :)


Need your own little excuse to travel? Here you go: Sponsor a Child with Compassion. [Really, it'll change your life. I mean, how cool is it that we get to partner with the Creator of this universe in loving on His kids?]

Also - it's coming soon, friends... I can. not. wait. to share True Story with you!!! AHHHHHH. :)

Monday, January 5, 2015

#oneword2015: Embrace

We did this exercise at church the other week where we all formed our hands into this cupped/open hands shape to symbolize grace, and the beauty of the exercise was that it was unclear whether we were giving or receiving grace.

That's my word this year.


Or rather, embraced and embracing. Because I am embraced by the love of Christ, I can embrace others with the love of Christ.

The idea of this #oneword2015 comes from this: My soul will rest in Your embrace.

And it just started to make a lot of sense.

First off... Is that verse not a perfect transition from "less" into "embrace"?! I think so.

I've dumped it all in the trash because...

I want a heightened awareness of His ever-steady embrace, and to embrace Him more and more in return. This may start with shakily attempting to read the Bible in a year using the She Reads Truth app... or at least the New Testament + the Psalms. I think I might fail. But the point here isn't successfully reading the entire New Testament [Take note, Miss-Perfectionist-Me who doesn't fail and tends to miss the point of these things!]... the point is becoming more aware of His embrace. Giving myself more space to rest in His embrace. And that may prove to be much harder... and way more important

I want to embrace others with His {love, grace, hope, peace} more and more this year. The people around me. The people in my community who may be harder to spot. The people all around the world. I can embrace others with His love because I have been embraced by Him. And my embrace of Him is expressed by embracing His children... This all goes hand-in-hand!

I want to embrace the places, experiences and communities in which He places me this year. As I step into new communities this year after graduation in June, I want to embrace the places He calls me to as for-such-a-time-as-this moments. I want to be so aware of the people around me in these new communities that need to be embraced by His love, and act on it.

Happy New Year, friends! Here's to 2015... May we all be embraced and embracing.

What's your #oneword2015?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year In Review

"Well, that was unexpected." 

That 4-word phrase seemed to be the theme of my 2014.

I guess when you make your #oneword2014 LESS - as in less-me-more-Jesus - He fills your year with crazy, unexpected grace.

My year felt like anything but less, but in the most crazy-grace way, it was filled with less stuff and more Kingdom - and could a girl ask for anything more?

And so we find ourselves here, at the 2014 Year in Review, and I can only look back and smile... Thanks.

January brought this blog's most-read post ever - by a long shot.

February was freezing... The perfect month to cheer on Team Canada in Sochi, turn sweet seventeen, and spend a night sleeping outside for a youth curriculum on empathy?! Sure. ;)

March felt like this year's quietest month. I did officially become our family's second-fastest cuber... Although I think my calling really is in helping to run those comps, not compete in them. ;) Spring was also a wondrous time to be a Toronto Raptors fan [as it is now] and you can be sure that this basketball family was cheering loud. [Like, loud. Really. Just ask mom. ;)]

In April, my family said goodbye to my beloved grandfather, as he stepped from this earth and into eternity with our Creator. As I've reflected on his life more than ever throughout this past year, I've only become even more thankful for him, his life, and his courage.

And then it was just a whirlwind from there... One I feel like I'm still just recovering from, in every good way possible. 

June molasses-crawled its way by leading up to us getting on a jet plane headed for a certain cluster of islands that is quite close to my heart. My little bro graduated from the only elementary school either of us has ever known, this little boy named Jamson who stole my heart at a concert found a Compassion sponsor and finally, finally - we headed for the airport.

Our time in the Philippines was simply a joy. While there were many somber moments reflecting on the life of my grandpa, we knew we had so much to celebrate because of the life he lived. We met our newest Compassion child, JD, and we were able to spend time with Florianlyn and Rechelle for a second time. We visited with family, saw the field work of two of our other favourite organizations, International Justice Mission and Habitat for Humanity Philippines, and just enjoyed the relaxed pace of the Philippines.

And then... the biggest example of unexpected, crazy grace in this year makes a quiet entrance: Would I like to be the host of Compassion Canada's youth curriculum video series on poverty, injustice, and what our response as Christians can and should be? 

Uh, yes. 

And trip #2 to the Philippines ensued... this time to do some filming for the curriculum with JD, his family, and community.

The fall was readjustment back into First World culture. I grappled lots with what I experienced in the Philippines over the summer. September also brought the beginning of my last year of high school and the domestic filming of the Compassion Canada curriculum (which was also named True Story: What God Wants Us To Do About Poverty in September!).

The rest of Fall has been typical, busy Fall: university applications, Freedom Creations, speaking and advocating at Compassion events, seeing True Story begin to come together, scholarship applications, youth group, school, friends, life. Just your not-really-that-normal 17-year-old's life. ;)

I am ending this year incredibly thankful for the beautiful ways my Creator worked throughout this year. Less truly became more only through Him, and I can only marvel at the grace He continually gives.

To all of you here in the blog-sphere... I know this blog was one place where "less" was really evident this year. But thank you for reading these words when I come up with them. As we ring in the new year, the blog-shpere community is one thing I will surely be thanking our Abba Father for. Your words of encouragement, inspiration and love are so, so, so valuable to me. Thank You.

May His love, joy & peace be yours in the coming New Year! 
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