Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Disappointed or Thankful

Some days this time of year are sunny, beautiful and idyllic in the suburbs.

Other days are cold, rainy and windy, like today. The Canadian weather can change really quickly.

I had a meeting with my Women’s Connect group on my schedule this morning. I was ready to head out the door when I had this thought that I should check my e-mail one more time. I open my e-mail account and find out that the meeting has been cancelled due to the storm. My first thought was: “Noo, I was really looking forward to this meeting.” We’ve discussed a lot of interesting topics during our weekly meet-ups so far, what to do when you are broken, mad, discontent and scared in life. Today we were supposed to discuss what we can do when we are feeling overwhelmed in life.

As I was hanging up my coat in the closet again I looked outside my window and suddenly felt very thankful rather than disappointed. It’s very cold, rainy and windy out there today and I’m aware that there are more than 5000 people in this city who are homeless. Ever since I came to Toronto I’ve felt really bad about the homeless situation. Last year I had a relative who ended up temporary homeless for a while, which brought the problem even closer to home.

I want to do something to help the homeless at some point, I’m just not sure what yet, so for now I do what most of us do, I try to give these people some money or food when I see them. It’s not much, it’s not enough, but I know it all starts with feeling troubled by a situation. First we have to let ourselves get truly upset about a situation, then action will follow. My husband is my great inspiration in this area, he has already helped two homeless people off the street in his life. You can’t help everyone, but you can do something for someone.

As I stand in my window and look at the storm and rain outside I feel deeply thankful for my warm home and the warm sweater I'm wearing today. I know that all that I have has been given to me so that I can help others in return.

Monday, October 26, 2015

October Days

October is one of my favorite months of the year, but it goes by so quickly every year! I like to take a lot of pictures during this beautiful month to make it last a little longer. I plan to enjoy a couple more pumpkin spice lattes this week before fall turns into winter. I also hope I will be able to go for a few more hikes before the first snow fall comes.

Getting free from an emotionally abusive relationship

Shana's life didn't turn out the way she planned. She got married, had a baby and was living in a big house in the suburbs, but she wasn't happy. She was stuck in an emotionally abusive relationship. Shana knew she needed to leave the relationship but was very afraid of what it was going to be like to raise her son as a single mother. Today she has left her husband and is living on her own with her son, life is far from perfect, but she is still very happy.

Why Did Jesus Die?

The idea that Jesus died on a cross so that our sins could be forgiven can be hard to grasp or accept. Most of us like to think of ourselves as good people. We notice that there is a lot of evil around us and we long for justice when others have done something wrong. On the other hand, when we ourselves have done something wrong, we are less interested in justice. We think that others should be able to forgive us, but we aren't as quick to forgive those who have hurt us.

We don't want to do the wrong thing, but there's something in us that make us do what we don't want to do and that makes it hard to do what is right, The Bible calls this our sinful nature. Before Jesus was born every time God's people sinned they would have to sacrifice something (traditionally a lamb) to get forgiveness from God. Imagine if every time we did something evil we would have to pay a fine, most of us would run out of money pretty quickly. You steal something, you pay. You lied, you pay. You cheated, you pay. When Jesus died on the cross he payed the price for all our wrongs. Jesus volunteered to pay for all the wrongs humanity had done in the past, the present and would do in the future.

The moment we realize that it isn't only other people around us who do evil things, but that sin is in all of us, we become very thankful to God that he removed what we sometimes call karma and replaced it with grace. Grace means that we can make huge mistakes in life and still be forgiven by God, God won't stop loving us even though we've done things that hurt others and ourselves.

The day we decide to surrender our lives to God all our mistakes and wrongs are forgiven, every single one of them. From that day on, when God looks at us he no longer sees our mistakes, he sees a new person. That is why Jesus died on the cross, to make us spotless in front of God. The thankfulness and awe that comes from being saved is what will propel us into wanting to serve God wholeheartedly through loving God, loving ourselves and loving others. Karma means that each person gets what he deserves. Grace means that Jesus got what we deserved.

What is the Reason for Suffering?

When we look around and see a broken world we want to fix it so badly, but we can't. Humans have the ability to do amazing things but at the same time we have the ability within us to do all kinds of evil. Humans are selfish by nature, we will do what's best for ourselves. The amazing thing that happens when we start following Jesus is that we lay down our lives and let God lead. Once we stop chasing our own goals and replace them with God's plan for our lives it's amazing how everything changes.

It's incredible to think about it, that God could fix every problem in this world in one day, through each one of us. What's the only thing that's stopping him from doing that? Our free will. We all have been given the choice to either do what God wants us to do with this life, or we can choose to do whatever we want. Most people choose to do whatever they want.

God wants us to be faithful to each other, but we can choose to cheat on each other. God wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves, but we can choose to ignore our neighbor. God wants us to be generous, but we can choose to keep our money to ourselves. God wants us to be kind, but we can choose to be rude. God wants us to forgive those who have hurt us, but we can choose to stay bitter. God wants us to love Him and love what He loves, but we can choose to be selfish. The day we decide to surrender our lives to God everything changes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Workout

When I was little I used to wish I could live like Pocahontas, I've always enjoyed spending time in nature. One of the many things my husband and I have in common is our love for the outdoors. Hiking is one of our favorite things to do together during fall weekends.

Last year I bought an amazing book called "Joyous Health" by Canadian author Joy McCarthy. Joy mentions in the book that studies have shown that exercising in a forest can lower our levels of stress and reduce anxiety. Spending time in the forest can also increase our immune system function. I wasn't surprised by what the research has discovered, every time I spend time in nature I can feel how my whole body, mind and soul gets rejuvenated.

How to inspire positive self-worth in the next generation

I like what Nik Scott and her friends have to say about what you can do to inspire confidence and positive self-worth in your kids and the next generation. The women discuss healthy living, teaching your children positive thinking and how to be confident. Kids tend to do what their parents do, so how can we make sure we are good role models for the next generation?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Courage to Let Go

Christine Caine knows how hard it can be to let go of your past. Christine comes from a background of being marginalized because of her ethnicity, she grew up in the poorest area in her state and in the third poorest area in all of Australia.  Christine grew up in a government assistance neighborhood in a very run-down part of Sidney, Australia. The school Christine went to rated very low on academic achievement and very high on teenage pregnancies, substance abuse and gang violence.

Christine Caine realized that she had a very long list of factors from her past that she could have used as excuses to stay stuck in her past. Except for growing up marginalized and in a very poor neighborhood Christine was also sexually abused as a child for twelve years by four men. As an adult Christine got a chock when she found out that she had been adopted as a baby and nobody had told her about it. All these factors strongly impacted Christine and she spent many years doing difficult work to eventually be able to let go of her past. Today Christine Caine shows us all that it is possible to overcome a past that includes a lot of pain and brokenness.

Today Christine Caine is one of the most sought after Christian speakers in the world and she founded The A21 Campaign a few years ago. The A21 Campaign rescues young women and girls out of sex slavery around the world. I sometimes hear people say that The Bible and The Christian Church completely lack strong women. I personally can't think of anyone who would deserve to be called a strong woman more than Christine. Christine Caine is an overcomer and a great inspiration to all of us. We don't have to stay stuck in our past.

Katja's Story

Katja is one of the young women who has been rescued from sex slavery in Europe through the A21 Campaign. This is her story.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Laughing with Purpose

Comedian Michael Jr. discusses laughter as a medicine and how using your personal gifts can help heal others.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How to become more grateful in life

During the weekend we were celebrating Thanksgiving here in Canada. I find it really easy to be grateful this time of year. I'm grateful to get to spend time with all our wonderful family members, I'm grateful to have a warm home as the weather starts to get colder outside and I'm grateful for all the tasty Thanksgiving food we were able to enjoy.

The question is how do you keep an attitude of gratitude on days when things aren't looking so positive? It's so easy to become one of those people who love to criticise and constantly complain about everything. In this sermon pastor Craig Groeschel teaches us how to develop a heart of gratitude.

Moments of stillness in a busy world

I love living in a large metropolitan city where there are always a lot of things happening. Fall is also the season when my husband and I are usually the busiest. It's fun to be busy with work, projects and people you care about. Humans are built to live active lives, but we also need time for rest. Finding that balance in life between an active lifestyle and time for rest and relaxation is what most people struggle with in our modern culture.

It's easy to get so caught up in life that we find ourselves always on the go, going straight from one activity to the other all day long and then crashing on the couch at the end of the day. I think once a woman hits 30 at the latest her life has gotten really busy. How do you balance kids, marriage, work, home and your own health in so few hours? We can't escape the need to prioritize some things higher than others. If we live for an average of 85 years we will have time for a lot of things in life, we don't necessarily have to do them all at the same time. There's a time for everything in life.

Everyone is different so each person has to find her own routine to stay balanced in life, that's why things can get tricky if we simply try to do what others do in life. What works for one family might not work at all for another family to stay balanced in life. I think the more we can learn to listen inwards and resist the urge to constantly compare our lives with other people, the better we will get at finding our own personal balance.

I personally try to plan time for relaxation and stillness into my everyday life. If I don't take the time to be in nature or at least outdoors every week I will get miserable. Taking a morning walk in my neighborhood on a sunny fall morning can do wonders to my well-being.

I love walking over to the pond nearby and stand there for 5-10 minutes watching the wildlife and enjoying the stillness, then I walk back home feeling refreshed from my time spent in nature.

On a cold, rainy or windy day it can be enough for me to take a 20 minute coffee break from whatever I'm doing and just enjoy the stillness indoors for a little while. If you have kids at home what you need might be something entirely different, maybe what you need is to get out of the house, meet up with a good friend and enjoy an hour with another grownup for a change.

I also try to create peaceful places within my home where I can enjoy moments of stillness during my week. Our family room is one of my favorite places within the home where I love to enjoy a homemade latte and 1-2 chapters in a book I love. I think weaving in moments of stillness and tranquility into our lifestyles is vitally important if we want to live healthy balanced lives.

The Drop Box

My favorite thing to watch on Netflix right now is the documentaries. The other day I watched a documentary called "The Drop Box". It's about the powerful story of a pastor in South Korea who set up a "drop box" for unwanted babies to save their lives. Hundreds of babies are abandoned each year in South Korea due to the mothers inability to afford caring for the babies or because of pressure to give them up since they were conceived outside of marriage. The documentary also explains how babies with disabilities are often abandoned by parents in South Korea because they can't afford to care for a baby with extra medical needs.

The Pastor and his wife lived quite normal lives with their daughter until their second child was born, a son with severe disabilities. The family had to sell their home to be able to afford the medical bills for their son and spent most of their time in the hospital. As they cared for their son with disabilities they noticed how other kids with disabilities often came to them in the hospital. Once they were able to bring their son home other parents started coming to them and asking them to take in their children with disabilities. The pastor and his wife then started adopting abandoned children with disabilities and children whose parents just couldn't afford to keep them.

Later the pastor and his wife were troubled by the problem of babies being abandoned in the streets of Seoul, South Korea so they set up a "drop box" for unwanted babies at their home to be able to save their lives. The pastor and his wife care for the babies until they can get picked up by police, get a medical check-up and eventually get put up for adoption.

It's powerful to watch this couple who have given their whole lives towards caring for unwanted children and children of parents who love their children but can't afford to care for them. Today the pastor and his wife have adopted a total of 15 children, many with different types of disabilities. They have also saved the lives of hundreds of babies who have been placed in the "drop box" at their home. It all started with the birth of their second child who has severe disabilities, this child turned their focus in life toward something entirely different than what they prioritized before his birth.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Hold It Down

It's an awesome feeling you get once you have finally figured out your purpose in life. You now live life with a whole new passion and energy, but what happens when you run into some really big obstacles on your journey? It's one thing to find the purpose for your life and it's another to actually finish what you've started. How do you manage to keep your faith when you run into disappointment after disappointment or failure after failure?

Pastor Nick Nilson from Lakewood Church teaches us how to "hold it down". Nick knows what we need to be able to stay strong in the midst of the struggles in life and how we can stay on track even when everyone around us is waiting for us to give up already. I like what Nick Nilson says closer to the end of the sermon: "Oftentimes just after our greatest setback in life we experience our greatest miracle in life."

If we would have decided to give up that moment when everything seemed so hopeless we would never had gotten to see the miracle. The reality is that life on earth will include some really hard struggles and pain, but when we find the hope and strength to "hold it down" even when things look bad we will get to see the miracle at the end.

The Workout

Biking along the waterfront of Lake Ontario, is there any workout more wonderful than that during the fall season? I absolutely love taking 45-60 minutes long bike rides along the lakefront a couple of times a week this time of year. My number one rule when it comes to exercise is: "It has to be fun!" I've tried numerous different sports and different types of fitness routines but if it isn't fun and enjoyable I won't last longer than max 4 weeks before I quit.

Let's just face it, working out takes a lot of time, and I'm not going to spend that much time on something that I don't enjoy doing. I like to do different types of workouts during different seasons of the year. Biking is my favorite workout this time of year and during the later part of fall I usually prefer going for a hike.

On a day when I can bike along the lakefront trail and stop at the pier and just enjoy the stillness for awhile, that's when working out becomes really fun! I get some exercise for my body and I get a moment to just stop and breathe in the fresh air and feel thankful for this day.

Lifeline @ Lakewood Church

The Toronto Islands

One fun thing to do in Toronto in the fall is to take the ferryboat out to the islands just outside of Toronto. The view of the Toronto skyline is beautiful from the islands. The lineup to the ferryboats tend to be very long in the summer but in the fall you can get out there more quickly and enjoy spending the day strolling in the parks on the islands. My husband and I had a very nice day on the islands last week, we enjoyed the parks, the sun and the warm weather. The only minus was that there were a lot of bees flying around.

Just when we were about to head back to the ferryboats I felt some pain in my stomach. I lift up my sweater and on my stomach sits a bee that had managed to crawl up under my sweater and sting me. Unbelievable!! I mutter something like: "I'm SO ready for winter to come now, I can't wait for the day when all these bees will DIE!" We take the ferryboat back to downtown and enjoy spending the rest of the day around skyscrapers and people with no insects in sight. I love spending time in nature and I love the city!