Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Our Christmas in a few pictures

We bought our Christmas tree from the scouts again this year. I love having a real tree that fills the home with its wonderful smell.

Here's a picture of my Christmas present from my husband. Can you guess what it is?

We opened all our Christmas gifts after dinner on Christmas Eve, according to Scandinavian tradition. We also got some nice little things in our stockings on Christmas Day morning. I got some warm winter socks and lots of candy in my stocking.

The table is set for dinner on Christmas Eve. We were a lot fewer people than usual on Christmas this year, but I have a feeling that by next year we will be double the amount of people. We are eagerly awaiting some new additions to the family.

My husband is in the process of cooking us a very tasty Canadian Christmas dinner. We had prime rib and garlic mashed potatoes as our main course and Jamaican black cake and sorrel for dessert.

This year we also bought some new Christmas decorations so that we could decorate the tree outside our house. I love this Canadian tradition. It's so nice to take walks around the neighborhood when people have nicely decorated front yards. I hope you all had a joyful Christmas with family and good friends!

Possessions, Power & Perfection

New Year’s Eve is coming up and a lot of people are thinking about what their New Year’s resolution should be for 2016. I have a few ideas myself, but today I wanted to write about my resolution from 2015. My New Year’s resolution last year was what I called “Finding Freedom”. I decided it was time to choose freedom in particularly three different categories in life: possessions, beauty and career. On the other hand, it is almost impossible to break free from the culture’s expectations on us unless we replace each cultural ideal with something new.

The three cultural ideals I wanted to break free from were: materialism, perfect beauty and power&money. When it comes down to possessions we are constantly fed that we should buy more and newer stuff. Beauty is extremely important in our culture and the ideal we are all encouraged to strive towards is perfection. Our careers are one of the main things in our culture that define us and give us our value as a human being. The more power we have and the more money we make the higher value we get.

I see a lot of people talk about these negative culture ideals on social media, the biggest problem is how do you break free from the negative ideals? I see women talk about how they won’t tolerate the negative beauty ideal for example, but the following week they are considering if they should get plastic surgery. I don’t blame them, it’s almost impossible to not follow the ideals in our culture, unless we replace them with new ideals. We can’t just hate that the culture is telling us to strive for perfection, we have to start striving for something else. If we decide to stop striving for perfect beauty, power and materialism we will still move towards these ideals subconsciously. We are fed these ideals daily through commercials, advertisements, magazines, TV and social media.

Our survival instinct will naturally adapt to any surrounding, if we are surrounded by magazines that tell us we need botox we will soon be convinced that we need botox. If we are following tons of people on Instagram who believe that perfect beauty is what we should strive for we will also start striving for this ideal, whether we like the ideal or not. “You are what you eat” they say, the same is true when it comes to what we look at. Your environment will always form you, so if you don’t want to become like it, change your environment.

I didn’t want to waste any more time in life striving for cultural ideals I don’t agree with, I needed new ideals to strive towards. I decided that instead of materialism I was going to strive for the opposite: Minimalism. I changed out the perfect beauty ideal for natural beauty. I didn’t want to strive for power and money in the career category since research is showing us that neither one of these things are what bring joy and satisfaction to human beings. I decided I wanted to strive for what I call loving work in the career category. I want to love the work I do, and I want my work to give me opportunities to love others. I personally believe that’s the whole point with work, to love others as we serve others through our jobs.

As I googled the new ideals I had chosen I found out I wasn't the only person who was tired of our culture’s negative ideals. There are already a huge movement out there on social media with minimalists, women who strive for natural beauty rather than perfection, and people who want to do work they love. I personally believe that the change this world so badly needs right now is going to come through the younger generations, I’m so proud of what the millennials are doing around the world.

What I needed to do to be able to stay free from the negative ideals that I had been striving towards for so many years of my life was to make some changes to my environment. I threw out all the catalogs that came in the mail (I already have enough stuff) and I stopped reading women’s magazines filled with headlines like “When is the right time to start taking botox?”. I started reading blogs by inspiring people who love the work they do and I stopped following people on social media who strive for perfect beauty and materialism. These changes made it a lot easier to resist the urge to shop more, want to change the way I look, or choose the job that will make the most money.

During the spring of 2015, when all the magazines in the grocery store had headlines like “get the perfect body for summer”, I would think to myself “I’m perfect just the way I am, I don’t need to change a thing”. That’s a huge change for someone who has been on the border to developing eating disorders for many years. I wish I could have felt that way already ten years ago. I hate that so many young women dislike the way they look because of the negative beauty ideals our culture still feeds them.

My possessions have become a lot fewer during the past twelve months, and our home has become a lot more organized as a result of that. I love sticking to fewer pieces of clothing in my wardrobe. It’s so easy to get dressed when I love every piece I own, because nowadays I only buy something if I truly love it. When it comes to career choices I’m excited about all the new opportunities that open up when you stop looking at work as only something that will give you a paycheck at the end of the month. There’s so much more to work than making a lot of money and building up a good retirement fund. Work is our chance to leave a legacy on this Earth, to change the world as we love and serve other people. I’m excited to see what year 2016 will bring!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Shine A Light

Waking up to another life
No more sorrow and no more night
You’re the light, let it shine now, let it shine now
Burning bright cause we’re not ashamed
Got a world to illuminate
You’re the light, let it shine now, let it shine now
Nothing can stand against us
Our praise will break the darkness
We declare, Your kingdom’s here
Because our God is for us
We’re living in the promise
We declare, Your kingdom’s here
Shadows fade as you now arise
Hope is here with no end in sight
You’re the light, let it shine now, let it shine now
You’re the light, let it shine now, let it shine now


Annie's story

How Can I Resist Evil?

There are two different spiritual powers in the world, God and evil. We describe these two different sides in many different ways but nobody is denying the fact that they exist; God and evil, love and hate, positivity and negativity, love and fear, good and bad. Christians call these two sides God and the devil. We can't fight the fact that there is a battle going on in our world between good and evil. There are organized groups of people trying to make the world a better place, like churches and non-profit organizations for example. There are also organized groups who do the opposite of trying to make the world a better place, like criminal gangs or terrorist groups.

The battle between good and evil is nothing new, it has always existed in this world and it won't go away anytime soon. We see the battle between good and evil, between God and the devil, in many different forms. This battle is happening right now in the world around us, it is happening within our cities and it is happening within our own brains. You will always have a voice in your head that is against you, it tells you things like: "you aren't good enough the way you are", "you are a failure", "if you don't do this nobody will love you" etc.

There is also a second voice in your head, this voice is for you, but it is usually less loud. This voice will never yell things in your ear, it's a quiet voice that whispers things like: "you are loved", "you are beautiful exactly the way you are" and "you are forgiven".

The reason Christians are so excited about Jesus is that during the few years Jesus walked on this earth He changed everything. Through the resurrection Jesus disarmed the powers of evil, evil has lost to God's perfect love, but don't expect evil to go down without a fight. When the Nazis knew they were about to lose the second World War they destroyed everything in their way as they retreated. The evil in your own life, and in the world, will do the same. Jesus said the following about the devil:

"The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." John 10:10 NLT

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

I've been hoping for a white Christmas with snow but this year it will be a warm Christmas Eve. They are promising sunshine and +13 degrees Celsius in Toronto on Thursday. I will just have to settle for enjoying the snowfall in my snow globe instead this year. I wish you all a joyful Christmas!

Embrace the change in your life

Change is never easy. And it is rarely painless. But it is inevitable. We all go through different times and seasons that require us to change. Some changes we hope for, and other change we reluctantly go through. But often as Christians, we pray that God would change our situations, rather than praying for a change within ourselves. This Christmas, Pastor Steven shows us through the Christmas story how God takes us through change, and the promise that remains the same no matter the season we are in.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Brian's Story

Brian fell in love with skateboarding at a young age and as his career took off life felt perfect. He eventually met a girl, fell in love and got married. Everything was great at first, until it wasn't anymore. Brian and his wife would fight constantly and call each other ugly names. The couple eventually got divorced. Brian struggled with managing his anger and ended up in a lot of fights.

Months later Brian got in trouble with the police and was sentenced to community service. He did his community service at a Christian thrift store. He thought the Christians he met in the store were crazy to believe in a God they couldn't see. Brian decided he was going to prove to all the crazy Christians that the God they claimed to believe in isn't real.

After having an encounter with God's presence himself Brian eventually became a Christian and saw his life starting to change. He was surprised to find out that there were actually a solution for all of his problems in life. He later remarried the wife that he had divorced and today they have three children together. Brian is no longer filled with anger like he used to be. Today Brian is passionate about telling others about the good news of the gospel.

Jesus is ____.

Chelsea and Judah Smith continue to explore who Jesus is in the 40-day video journey. The topic for Day 6 is: "Jesus is a friend of sinners" This is great news, since we are all sinners. We have all made mistakes and messed up in life, but Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost. We can't save ourselves, Jesus came to set us free from the grip of evil in our lives.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mental Decluttering & Stress Relief

The weeks before Christmas can be a stressful time for many of us so I thought I would share this video by Coco on Stress Relief. Coco shares her best tips on what she likes to do to de-stress. It's easy to neglect our mental well-being when life gets busy but taking care of our minds is as important as taking care of our bodies if we want to stay healthy.

Jesus: God or Fraud?

Monday, December 14, 2015


Love incarnate, love divine
Star and angels gave the sign
Bow to babe on bended knee
The Savior of humanity
Unto us a Child is born
He shall reign forevermore

Noel, Noel
Come and see what God has done
Noel, Noel
The story of amazing love!
The light of the world, given for us

The Science of Self-love

If you want to buy a Christmas present for yourself this year I recommend the book: "I Heart Me: The Science of Self-love" by David R. Hamilton. We exist to love and be loved. The sooner we learn to love ourselves the sooner we will be able to experience life fully. Do yourself (and those around you) a favor by investing in this book.

David R. Hamilton explains in the book how our lack of self-love has a tendency to sabotage our lives in many little subtle ways. Hamilton also presents many exercises in the book that will help us increase our level of self-worth and our well-being. As our self-worth increases we will be able to make stronger and more real connections with other people as a result of that.

Christmas Shopping

On Saturday my husband and I decided to go Christmas shopping in Toronto. I'm only buying one present per person this year so I thought it would be quite easy to get my shopping done this year. I had a plan: eat dinner first (to fill up on energy), then do the shopping. The problem was I ate way too much for dinner and finished it off with a bowl of ice cream for dessert. After dinner I was tired from eating a huge meal and walked through the mall like a zombie.

When we were finally done with all the shopping I felt like a dead fish and decided to rest on one of the benches in the mall. As I was sitting there, probably looking like I had just finished a marathon race, I wondered to myself how other people are able to buy so many gifts for each person without crashing. It turns out I have no endurance at all when it comes to shopping.

The positive side of the Christmas shopping experience was that all the staff at the mall were super helpful and joyful. I never interacted with even one person on staff that didn't give me great service. I don't know how they do it, I don't think I could keep a smile on my face throughout a 10 hour shift at the mall. These people have definitely got a gift for serving people, their help made the day a lot less stressful than it could have been otherwise.

Jesus is ____.

Have you ever wondered who Jesus is? What's so special about Jesus? Why do people still care about a guy named Jesus more than 2000 years after he walked the Earth? Judah Smith and his wife Chelsea invites us on a 40-day-journey where they will discuss who Jesus is in a short 3 min video every day. The topic for Day 1 is "Scandalous Grace". Judah and Chelsea talk about how God's grace is a free gift that is available to each one of us, we can't earn God's love, it's freely given to every single human being on planet Earth.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Our kind of Christmas

Christmas at our house is becoming more and more multicultural every year as new people are added to the family. This year we are celebrating a Jamaican-Finnish-Swedish-Canadian Christmas. We make a Canadian dinner at Christmas Eve and then we have Jamaican blackcake for dessert. We celebrate Advent every Sunday in December with Swedish glögg and gingerbread. Thank God for Ikea by the way, living abroad as a Scandinavian gets so much easier when you can pick up all the holiday foods you need at Ikea.

When we were celebrating our first Christmas in the new house I had big plans to make homemade gingerbread and Finnish Christmas foods, then the ice storm hit Toronto and none of that happened. One thing I love about living in North America is that you can buy almost anything ready-made if you are in a hurry, it makes life a lot easier.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Occupy Your Street

Carl Lentz from Hillsong Church in NYC preaches an awesome sermon called "Occupy All Streets". Carl Lentz makes it clear that God never intends for a follower of Jesus to live a complacent life. When God saved you from your old life he did it to give you a hope and a future, but at the same time he also wants to use you to help others. Our personal story is always a part of a bigger story.

The job you have right now or the circumstance you are in right now is not a coincidence, take a look around and maybe you will notice someone that God wants to use you to help. When we become saved by God we become the hands and feet of God and we are meant to go places. God calls each one of us to a unique destiny, but he always calls us to go somewhere or do something. God will never call you to stay put and do nothing. God is very aware that this world is filled with broken and lonely people who need help and he is looking for someone he can use to bring hope to all these dark places. The call on the life of every single person who calls herself or himself a Christian is to shed light into the darkness.

Finding Freedom from Substance Abuse

Ryan Ries lived a wild life and eventually found himself stuck in substance abuse and sex addiction. He is thankful that he is alive today since he had many friends who killed themselves while high on drugs or went mentally insane from the drugs. During a tour in South America Ryan had an experience when he took so much drugs that his friends thought he was dead.

The next day Ryan realized that he had to do something drastic to change his life. He started to look through the drawers in his hotel room and found a Bible. Ryan stole the Bible from the hotel and read it for six hours straight, afterwards he felt peace inside for the first time in his life. It has been a journey for Ryan to get free from his sex addiction and substance abuse but he is passionate about living the rest of his life for Jesus and doing whatever he can to help other people. Today Ryan Ries is a part of The Whosoevers that help young people get free from sex addiction and drug addictions. Ryan also hosts a radio show that talks about topics like addictions, human trafficking etc.

Finding Freedom from the Sex Industry

Harmony Dust tells her story about how she got free from working in the sex industry. Harmony had a very difficult childhood and was sexually abused by multiple people growing up. Her mother battled an addiction and left Harmony and her brother forced to take care of themselves at a very young age. As a young adult Harmony ended up with a huge debt and eventually decided to get a job as a stripper because of her money problems. She shares about how the sex industry is very connected to human trafficking and how she almost took one of those "job offers" that would have led to her being trafficked.

After working in the sex industry for a few years Harmony eventually became friends with a Christian woman she met at a dance class. Harmony was surprised that this woman still wanted to be her friend even after she found out that Harmony worked as a stripper. Over time Harmony eventually became a Christian and wanted to quit her job in the sex industry. It took a lot of courage to quit a job that was making her a lot of money. Harmony left the industry and never went back but she had a long journey ahead as she started the healing process from her painful past.

Today Harmony Dust is part of a ministry that reaches out to women working in the sex industry and offers them support and mentor relationships if they are interested. The ministry aims to show each woman that she is loved and that there are people who can help if she wants help. The ministry pays for things like counselling for the girls etc. Harmony found a way to use her painful past experiences to help others who are stuck in similar life situations.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Game Of Comparison

Our lives are a mess sometimes, but it's a beautiful mess! Do you ever struggle with feeling bad about yourself when you compare yourself with others? Shauna Niequist is a mother of young kids and knows how easy it is to get stuck in the comparison game. Shauna gives us some really great tips for how we can all avoid comparison and look for ways to encourage each other instead. Imagine how beautiful the world would become if each one of us decided to stop competing with each other and rather decided to look for ways to lift other women up.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The End of a Season



Today it's December 1st and as one season ends the next one begins. I decided to put together some pictures from some of my favorite moments from the fall. I like to take the time to sit down and look through the pictures on my camera every now and then, it helps me feel tankful for everything I have in my life right now. We need to keep our focus on what's next in life but sometimes it's good to stop and think about what we already have.

This fall I got the chance to do a lot of fun things. The beginning of September was very warm so I enjoyed taking morning walks along the beach and spent my weekends down by the marina. During the beginning of fall I also had energy to bake homemade cupcakes that I could enjoy. In October my husband and I decided to take the ferry boat out to the Toronto Islands which created a nice fall memory (minus the attack of the bees, that is).

I also got the chance to take part in a Women's Connect group at church this fall where I met many wonderful and brave women. We had a lot of fun together as we did the "Stuck" Small Group Bible Study by Jennie Allen. During Canadian Thanksgiving in October I got to enjoy great food and beautiful fall weather. Enjoying a Pumpkin Spice Latte in good company at the local coffee shop is also one of my favorite things to do during fall. The month of November is the less fun part of fall if you ask me, but during the days without rain I enjoyed taking walks along the beach. The week after Halloween all the Christmas decorations were up all around the city and it was time to start getting ready for a new season. They say it will be a warm winter this year but I'm still hoping for a white Christmas!

Self Love Gives You Freedom

When we don't love ourselves life can get really hard. We all know that it's bad to be selfish and sometimes we think that we are selfish if we love ourselves, but it's quite the opposite. How we treat others will always be connected to how we treat and view ourselves. The better we get at loving ourselves the better we will also get at loving others. Every single relationship we have will be affected by the relationship we have with ourselves. Every time you grow yourself it will have a direct impact on every relationship in your life. You can't change other people, but you can change yourself.

One way that not loving ourselves can make us selfish is that we become obsessed with what other people say or think about us. We spend a lot of time thinking about these things. When we don't get the love we need from ourselves we become more needy with others, we develop a need for constant validation from others. We also become more easily angered and offended when we don't love ourselves. What others say about us becomes more important than it should be, so when others don't like something about us we get offended. When we learn to love ourselves we free up our minds to focus on other things. We know that we are good the way we are and understand that how others view us does not define us.

I think that one of the keys to a more loving society is each one us learning to first give ourselves the love and respect we need. Once we have learned to love ourselves our focus will naturally become less about me and more about others.