Tuesday, December 27, 2016

God's Great Gift Wrap

Pastor Charlotte Gambill from Life Church in the UK preaches a great sermon about thoughtfulness. Thoughtfulness is what Charlotte calls "God´s great gift wrap". Thoughtfulness is the language of heaven. God is very interested in thoughtfulness in every aspect of our lives. I love this quote by Charlotte Gambill:

"Thoughtfulness is where God gets involved. Thoughtfulness takes things that are the robotic, mundane and ordinary and magnify something beautiful that no one else saw or deemed was worthy of the time. Thoughtfulness is the language of heaven. Thoughtfulness is when God kisses something that is entirely average and makes it something beautiful."

Thoughtfulness stops us from being self-seeking and self-serving. Thoughtfulness places us in the shoes of others. The definition of thoughtfulness is "being mindful of others". When we live lives where we are being midful of others it changes what we do, when we do things and how we do things in life.

Just Be

Abbey's Christmas Story

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


I have a friend who works as a youth pastor and one thing he has taught me is to take a look at my past when I need hope for the future. When we find ourselves unsure about the future and worried about how things will work out our past will reveal God´s fingerprints all over our lives. If God could direct my steps in the right direction so beautifully in my past He will surely continue to do it in my future. I can have peace, hope and joy today because I know that God holds my future in His hands. I will sometimes get confused and unsure about my future but God is not confused about my future, He will continue to guide me along the right path in life with a lot of patience and grace. I can trust Him.

Today I'm in Finland visiting the town where I grew up and I decided to take a look at some pictures from my past.

Four years ago I was celebrating Christmas in Finland just like this year. We have no snow in Southern Finland this year but four years ago we had a lot of snow at the cottage.

Yesterday my husband and I took the ferryboat to the island where we have our cottgae and spent the night there. It was a lot of fun to spend time with Mom and Dad at the cottage.

I love the little island where we have our cottage.

I can't think of a more peaceful place than our cottage, it's the perfect place to relax and rest.

Nature is so magical and beautiful in the winter.

I also found some pictures of me spending time at the cottage during the fall four years ago.

Spending time in the country and nature feeds my soul.
Here's a picture from when I went on a hike in Finland with my Grand Father four years ago.

Four and a half years ago my husband and I had to spend six months apart and had a long-distance relationship. I missed him so much during this time and he sent me a teddybear in the mail that I could hug while missing him. The six months that we spent apart were hard but they made me appreciate my husband even more than I did before. I still think back at those months every now and then and feel grateful that we get to live together all the time now.

Four years ago we had a lot of snow in Finland and I wore glasses, today I don't need my glasses anymore.

This is a picture from when my husband and I went shopping at Marimekko in Finland after our six months apart were finally over, every day was awesome during this time. Taking things for granted can steal our joy, when we appreciate what we have we suddenly get overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.

Some things change. This is a picture of me at the airport before I moved to Canada six years ago. Many things have changed since then, my hair is longer and lighter. When this picture was taken I had no idea that I was going to meet the love of my life just a few months later.

Some things stay the same. Four years later black and white are still my favorite colors when it comes to what clothes I choose to wear.

Sweet memories. This picture was taken the day before our wedding in Finland.

A childhood  dream came true when I was able to marry the love of my life in the garden at our cottage in Finland. The unexpected details that life brings: I was on crutches at my wedding, but it was still a beautiful day! Life is beautiful, but it is not perfect.

Nine years ago. I was having a week of vacation in Chicago when my Mom and Dad came to visit me in the US. I was working as a Nanny in the US during this time and I had no idea that my future husband was living just a few hours North of Chicago.

That year working abroad in the US changed a lot of things in my life, I grew and matured a lot during this one year away from everything familiar. I never planned to live in Ohio for one year in my life, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I never planned to move to Toronto, I wanted to move to Vancouver.

I got a job in Toronto so I took it, I never planned to stay there more than 1-2 years max. Six years later I still live in Toronto and I love it, I have met many wonderful friends in the city and I have married the love of my life. Who knew that when life does not go according to plan it can actually be the best thing that could ever happen?

My Story


Why are you alive? What´s your purpose in life? Most of us can answer the question "What do you do?" but we are not always sure why we do what we do. We live in a culture that puts a lot of focus on what we do, we are taught that our worth is connected to our work. We often try to prove our value and worth with what we do. We live in a culture that bases success on the what. What we do, what we accumulate, what we make per month, that's where we find success. But significance is found in the why.

Pastor Larry Brey talks about how we don´t need more of something to find fulfillment in life, we need to understand why we do something. The answer to the question "Why do you do what you do?" can lead us to our purpose in life. I like what Larry Brey points out: "And the beginning place of a why is a brokenness for somebody else." We will not find our purpose in life by focusing only on ourselves. My purpose in life will be connected to somebody else´s pain. If we only look within ourselves we will not find our purpose, we might find our gifts and personal interests, but our purpose is found in helping somebody else.

Larry Brey also mentions that our why is always connected to taking a who to where. God will call each one of us to entirely different things but each one of us will be called to take a who to a where. God might be calling you to:
take women in sex slavery to freedom,
take orphans to a family,
take addicts to freedom,
take the lonely to Christian community,
take the depressed to hope in the future,
or to take refugees to safety.

Your purpose in life is about helping a who to a where. What person or people group is God calling you to serve and what place is He calling you to help these people reach? There's not one person walking on this Earth right now, not a single person that God allowed to be born, that lacks a purpose. You have a purpose, but the question is do you know what it is?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Who is Jesus?

The team from the UK travels around the world to explore God in the Alpha film. In episode two they take a closer look at the person of Jesus. People often believe that there are no evidence that Jesus ever lived but there is actually a lot of historical evidence of Jesus' existence.

Be Still

Faithful Until The End

We're heaven-spun creations
His pride and adoration
Treasures woven by his love

His careful hands they hold us
Safe within His promise
Of calling and of destiny

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Intimate and the Divine

Leonce Crump talks about the many misconceptions of Jesus. We have a tendency to either dehumanize Jesus or humanize him, which leads to us misunderstanding the nature of God. When we view Jesus as just a wise man we think that he was just like us, and we miss why he came to us. We miss the gift that God gave us through the Messiah; the gift of freedom, forgiveness and a new life.

We also tend to dehumanize Jesus and forget that although Jesus was God taking on human form he experienced everything that comes with being human. Jesus felt pain, exhaustion, fear, stress and frustrations just like any one of of us will feel in this life. Because He experienced what it's like to be human God can relate to every single thing we experience as people, although God is holy and eternal he fully understands what we are going through. In Jesus God experienced the deep sadness, fear and pain that comes with the human experience. When we come to God in prayer we come to a God who knows exactly how we feel because he felt it too at one point in history, in Jesus.

A Day of Rest

I like to start my rest day with blueberry pancakes and coffee.

After breakfast I have some more coffee and read my daily devotion in "A Fresh Infusion of Joy" by Sheila Walsh. I skip reading the newspaper on my rest day because I don't want the day to be ruined by stories about murders and other tragedies. It's enough to read about the bad news in the world six days of the week.

Two things I enjoy doing on my rest day is reading a book and watching a couple of episodes of one of my favorite TV shows.

This time of the year I enjoy being at home on my rest day so that I can enjoy all the Christmas decorations. I enjoy the music from my snow globe that I bought last year.

After it gets dark outside I like to get a Peppermint Hot Chocolate from Tim Horton's and walk around the neighborhood enjoying everyone's Christmas lights.

During a busy time of year like Christmas it can be tempting to skip taking time to rest in between all the work and chores. This year my life was busy even before the Christmas season arrived so I would never have time for rest unless I decided to plan it into my weekly schedule. Sometimes when we are entering a busy but exciting season in our lives it can be tempting to skip taking time to rest all together. I remember when my husband and I were planning our wedding five years ago, it was a very busy but exciting time in our lives. One of the best tips I got was to take one weekend per month off from all wedding planning and just enjoy each other. During the months leading up to the wedding there were a lot of things to do and if we hadn’t taken the time to “just be” it would have been a very stressful season.

The joy goes out the door when we get too stressed and too tired in life. Our human bodies and minds were not built to work at top speed for long periods of time. Life is filled with important responsibilities but I think that with a little planning we can make time for both responsibilities, rest and joyful moments in life.

I love Christmas and I don’t want to kill the joy by hurrying through the whole season. I find that starting the preparations for Christmas early (at the end of November) helps me keep a slower pace and enjoy the season. I also like to do things a little bit differently every year, if it’s a year when I have a lot of time on my hands I can enjoy some extras like baking a gingerbread house. If it’s a year when our family is busier I will choose to buy my gingerbread, lussebullar and Jamaican Christmas cake at the store instead. This year I’m not baking a single thing for Christmas, I love that I can buy everything I need in the store in Toronto, everything from gingerbread to eggnog. Next year our lives will highly likely be less busy and then I will enjoy baking a gingerbread house together with my kids.

Beyond The Bubble

December is such an exciting month of the year when we have an opportunity to be extra generous. I'm super excited to see what can be accomplished through this year's Christmas offering at our churches. I love being a part of a community of believers that all believe in loving people and in sharing what we have with others in every way we can. God didn't bless me so that I could keep most of my money and resources to myself, He blessed me so that I would be able to give lavishly to those in need. I feel so blessed and honored to get to be a part of two different churches here in Toronto that are alive and growing; our small community church and Elevation Church.

I've always dreamt of living a life where I would be able to make a difference but no matter how much I want to change the world on my own I can only do so much. When I link together with a community of people who all have the same passion as me; to love God and love people, we can do so much more together than I could ever do alone. Our community church has around 2000 people attending at this point and Elevation Church has around 25 000 people, imagine what we can do together when we come together as a church to serve the needy. This life truly is an adventure and I'm so excited to see what God will be able to do through me and my church community this year. :)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Christmas Shopping

The month of December comes with many little fun things to enjoy; the Christmas lights by City Hall in Toronto, The Enchanted Forest, Hot Chocolate and chocolate peppermint donuts and eggnog lattes. On Thursday I also got to experience a Christmas miracle when my husband and I had our Date Night at Jack Astor. I had a drink called the Christmas Miracle.

I did some Christmas shopping at the mall in Toronto on Thursday and now I only have 30% of the shopping left to do. My Shopping list seemed longer than ever this year and then I realized that we have four new people that have joined our family since last year so no wonder. I love that our family is getting bigger and bigger every year. Christmas is all about spending time with loved ones and the more people I get to love the better! :)


Decorating for Christmas

This week I've been having an unintentional social media fast, in other words our internet haven't been working properly all week long. When the internet isn't working you realize how dependent you are on it, it's a little scary how much I need it. I need the internet to stay in touch with my family in Finland and for another one million reasons. Today we still don't have any internet connection at home so I decided to head to Starbucks and blog at the same time as I have my coffee. I really appreciate free Wifi on days like these.

The fun part of the week was getting to start decorating the house for Christmas. It's finally the month of December so this week I've put up most of our Christmas decorations. Next week I will decorate the Christmas tree. We usually have a real tree but this year we bought one in plastic. Our tree is white and I'm so excited to get to put it up and decorate it in silver, gold and white. Last weekend our kids decorated some gingerbread for us that tasted great and looked beautiful. Today we will decorate some more gingerbread and enjoy some Swedish glogg and lussebullar. I love the Christmas season! :)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Never Gonna Stop Singing

You called out into darkness
You reached out to save us
You conquered the grave
You crossed the divide;
Lost in our sin
You made us alive
How can we ever hold it inside?
We can't hold back

We're gonna lift You higher, higher
Hearts burning bright like a fire, fire
Voices unite; make it louder, louder
We're never gonna stop singing
We're never gonna stop singing

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Beauty Ideal & the things we pursue

All young women, welcome to the world of adults! Let me introduce you to our beauty ideals. Step 1: Make sure you have no wrinkles, not even one. Get Botox early, you should probably start injecting it at age 19.

Step 2: The thinner you are, the better!

Step 3: Don't think you are off the hook because you are older than 40, even older women can have a face completely free of wrinkles, so don't you dare settle for anything less!

This morning I started my day with a cup of coffee and the Toronto Star as usual. Today’s sad news was an article in the Star that reported that Botox use among people under the age of 30 has gone up significantly. It’s becoming more common for Millennials to start taking Botox early to prevent aging. The Toronto-based plastic and cosmetic surgeon interviewed in the article explains that when the Millennials start to see signs of wrinkles it freaks them out and they decide to start taking Botox to prevent aging.

Toronto Star reporter Azzura Lalani reports in the article called “Millennials using Botox to hold on to young look, surgeons say” that the use of Botox has increased with 41 % among Millennials. Azzura Lalani writes the following in the November 22, 2016 issue of Toronto Star:
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reported that Botox treatments for people between the ages of 19 to 34 shot up by 41 per cent between 2011 and 2015.”

As I read the news I was saddened by how beauty obsessed our society has become. What made me react to the article was that I had those same feeling in my early twenties. When I was 20-years-old and started getting my first fine lines I remember freaking out about them. I remember thinking that I wish I had more money so that I could get Botox. Luckily for me I was a poor student and Botox was never even an option available. I grew up and the more documentaries I watched the more convinced I got that there was nothing wrong with my face. I finally realized that my face and body wasn’t the problem, but that the beauty ideal was a real problem. I learned that contentment doesn’t sell products. Advertisers want me to think that I need to look younger, be thinner and that I need to update my wardrobe constantly, contentment doesn’t sell.

It’s easy to read news like the article about Botox and feel that there is no hope for a culture that seems obsessed with beauty, power and money. Later in the morning I checked my Instagram account and I was reminded that the obsession with money, power and beauty is not the ideal everywhere. I checked the Instagram account for The A21 Campaign and read about how these people had rescued a girl from sex slavery in the US last week. The people who work for A21 have chosen to pursue something different in their lives than the ideals we are sold. I also checked the Instagram account for Amazima ministries and I was reminded once again that not all Millennials worry about wrinkles and beauty. Katie Davis was 18-years-old when she decided that she wanted to spend her life towards helping other people. Katie moved to Jinja, Uganda one year later and started helping poor children get food and education through her ministry Amazima.

Katie Davis grew up in the same culture as me, surrounded by messages that tell us beauty, money and power matters, but she chose a different path in life. Katie Davis chose to give up her comfortable life in a wealthy Nashville suburb to live in a much poorer neighborhood in Africa because she wanted to make a difference during her days on Earth. In a world that tells us that we need to pursue beauty, money, status and power Katie Davis chose something different. Katie chose to spend her life loving other people, to serve the poor and needy in the world. Today Katie Davis is 27-years-old and if you look at pictures of her you can see that she has a few wrinkles around her eyes, but I don’t think she worries about wrinkles or beauty. Katie Davis Majors is busy caring for and loving her adoptive daughters, her newborn son, her husband and all the poor families she is helping through Amazima. The A21 Campaign features a quote on their Instagram account that I like:

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
Jane Goodall

People tell me I am brave. People tell me I am strong. People tell me good job. Well here is the truth of it. I am really not that brave, I am not really that strong, and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am just doing what God called me to do as a follower of Him.”
Katie Davis Majors

Monday, November 21, 2016

Marriage Mentors

We know that about half of all marriages end in divorce, so it’s safe to say that a good marriage isn’t something that just magically appears, it seems to take a bit of effort. During my years as a married woman I’ve learned that strong marriages don’t just happen, they are built. Every year my husband and I read a book about marriage to make sure we continue to grow as individuals and as a couple. Over the past four years I have learned that every marriage needs to be cared for and prioritized to ensure it stays healthy and flourishing.

I like to learn new relationship skills from reading books but I also like to have what I call “Marriage Mentors”. My parents and friends who have been married much longer than me are my marriage mentors, I can learn many things from them. I also have three other couples who I consider my marriage mentors: Craig & Amy Groeschel, Francis & Lisa Chan and Steve & Charlotte Gambill. Craig and Amy have written a book about marriage called From This Day Forward which is one of my favorite books. Francis and Lisa have also written a great book on marriage, the book is called You and Me Forever.

Steve and Charlotte Gambill are Lead Pastors at Life Church in the UK and they are my favorite Instagram couple. I love all their funny family pictures on Charlotte’s Instagram. You can tell that even after two kids and 24 years of marriage Charlotte and Steve are still very much in love with each other. Charlotte Gambill talks about her marriage in the video above and mentions a few lessons she had to learn on the journey with Steve.

Made to Live

Our kids might just be Hawk Nelson's biggest fans! We were listening to Hawk Nelson's newest album Diamonds a couple of weeks ago and now all they want to listen to is Hawk Nelson. After listening to the same album for many hours while driving I asked them if we could put on another CD.

My children: "Okay, but if we don't like it can we then put Diamonds back on?"
Me: "Sure, we can do that."

I pick out another CD that I'm guessing kids their age might like. We listen to the new CD for about five minutes, then my children have a question for me.

My children: "Can we PLEASE put Diamonds back on?"
Me: "Sure."

I put the Diamonds CD back in the stereo and then we listen to Hawk Nelson again for the rest of the day. I think two of Hawk Nelson's biggest fans live right here in Toronto. The Canadian Christian Rock band is all my children want to listen to at the moment, every time we are driving somewhere the most common questions are: "Are we there yet?" and "Can we listen to Diamonds?" I love my kids, they are the best in the world and so funny to spend time with! :)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Love in Action

On this beautiful sunny Thursday morning I started my day with a huge cup of coffee and by reading three chapters in the book of Romans. I wanted to share one of my favorite passages in chapter 12 called "Love in Action".

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." 

Romans 12: 9-18 (NIV)

These are beautiful words to live by, and every time I read this passage I become aware of how none of these things come naturally for me. I naturally want to hate those who persecute me, I don't want to bless them. When someone does something evil to me I naturally want to repay them with evil. "Live in harmony with each other", isn't that what we all say we want? We say we want peace on Earth but I don't think we rally mean what we say, because we don't want to honor other people above ourselves and give up "the right" to repay evil with evil. I think we all want peace on Earth, but do we ever think about what that really means?

I think most of us want others to do what is right, while we ourselves get to pick and choose and mix it up by doing a few things right and a few things wrong. I don't know about you but if I'm totally honest I do not want peace on Earth most days of my life. I like the idea of "peace on Earth", but I don't like what that will require out of me. A couple of weeks ago somebody hurt me deeply, do you think I wanted to forgive this person? The answer would be NO! What I wanted to do was kick this person in the stomach, and if I was 4-years-old that's probably what I would have done, but I knew the right thing to do was to forgive and move on. I've worked with kids for many years and we all know what happens when one child hits the other, the child will hit back. What happens next is that the fight continues until an adult gets involved. The question is: Do we ever really grow out of this behavior? We might stop hitting each other with our fists but we continue to act the same way with our words.

As a new Christian I had this idea that Jesus obviously had many wise things to say but that there was no need for me to follow everything that The Bible teaches. I liked the idea of picking out the parts that I liked and leaving the rest, like a nice buffet. I think most new Christians will start out like this, but what I realized over time was that the only way my life was going to flourish was if I applied the whole teaching to my life. Picking to follow only the parts of The Bible that I personally preferred ended up not producing much change in my life. I hear many pastors say: "Knowing The Bible won't change your life, the change comes when you apply it to your life.

It would be awesome if we could continue to repay evil with evil and then get peace on Earth as a result of that, think about how much easier it would be to live like that! The truth is that peace requires us to give up what produces the opposite of peace, here's a few of those things: trying to get your own way all the time, cutthroat competition, all consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants, a brutal temper, an impotence to love or be loved, the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival etc. I love how the book of Galatians describes what happens when we choose to live life according to God's way instead:

"But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely."

Galatians 5:22-23 (The Message)

As I read Galatians 5:22-23 all I can think is "I want to live like that!" We don't have to teach our children to hit each other, they will do it naturally. I don't have to teach myself to be selfish, to hate or envy, these things come naturally, but I can choose another way to live. I want to choose the life of the Spirit.

"Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original."

Galatians 5:25-26 (The Message)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Challenge

I loved this sermon by pastor Steven Furtick from Elevation Church. Steven Furtick talks about how we have a tendency to want change in our lives but at the same time we refuse to step outside of our comfort zones. Growth and change is always very uncomfortable, so it's understandable that we try to escape it. As Christians we often come to church wanting to be changed but we don't want to be challenged. Steven Furtick points out: "Guess what? No challenge, no change!"

We often come to God asking him to change us but we also bring our list of things that we won't do and will do, and then we expect God to give us what we want based on our personal list of conditions. The problem with this approach is that change doesn't work that way. We can't show up at the gym with a long list of exercises that we refuse to do and still expect that we will get in shape. If we truly want to get in shape we are going to have to do some of the less comfortable and fun exercises to be able to develop new strength in our bodies. We have to challenge ourselves to grow strong in our bodies and it's the same way with our minds and souls.

We also have a tendency to label ourselves and convince ourselves that we can't do certain things when the truth is that we won't do certain things. One example would be to say: "I'm just not a naturally optimistic and happy person" but the truth is that we can have joy in our lives if we make room for joy and choose to let go of the negativity and pessimism. I like what Steven Furtick says: "Where you started does not have to be where you stay." 

We often fail at things not because we didn't have it in us, but because we have convinced ourselves that we don't have it in us. If you have convinced yourself that you will never be better at handling money for example, chances are high that you will never grow in this area. God can do immeasurably more than we can think or imagine in our lives but we put limitations on our own capacities.

It will always be tempting to avoid growing in the areas of our lives where we know that we are weak. Why? Growth requires us to challenge our capacities and to do the work needed to grow. We choose to settle for staying where we are, and as a result life ends up being not near as spectacular as it could be. We put limits on ourselves and our capacities instead of challenging them. We serve a God who wants to do something great in our lives but each one of us can decide to take him up on that offer or to close the door on God and settle for small and comfortable.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Sunday Funday

I can't believe it's Monday again already. It feels like time is going by at top speed during this season in my life, but I'm doing my best to take time to stop in the middle of everything that is going on and just be grateful for everything new and exciting I get to experience this year.

After six busy days my husband and I made sure we had a slow Sunday. We went for a hike in the forest during the day and then in the evening we were hanging out downtown. I love living in Toronto where you can spend part of the day in the middle of nature if you want and then spend the rest of the day in the middle of the city. Toronto is a big city but you are still never too far away from the quiet and calm in nature, I need both to stay balanced in life.

As the pictures show I also need coffee to stay happy in life. :) It's the month of November so of course we went straight from celebrating Thanksgiving and the fall to celebrating Christmas. I love Christmas and every year I start celebrating this holiday earlier and earlier to make the most out of it. I bought a new Christmas CD by Lauren Daigle on Sunday so now I'm set for the holiday season, next I need to start buying some Christmas gifts. I enjoy buying gifts for others just as much as I enjoy receiving gifts, as long as I can do my holiday shopping without stress, the key is to start the shopping early.

On Saturday my husband and I spent the whole day with the family so on Sunday evening we took time for just the two of us. We had a very enjoyable Date Night at Marche in Toronto. Fridays and Saturdays used to be my favorite days of the week before but now Sunday has definitely become my favorite day!

Priscilla's Story

Priscilla Nicoara grew up in Romania with a loving father but with a mother who was cold and selfish. As Priscilla grew up her mother kept reminding her that she wasn't wanted and that she would amount to nothing. When Priscilla's father unexpectedly passed away Priscilla became very angry with God and thought that either God is cruel or there is no God at all. Priscilla's life started going downhill from that time on but then in college she met a young man who was different from everyone else. The young man started telling Priscilla about Jesus and invited her to visit his church. The church was underground since Romania was communist at this time and the government controlled everything. When Priscilla learned about God through the gospel she was amazed by his great love for her. She became able to see herself through God's eyes and it changed her whole identity and gave her a self-worth she had never had before in life.

Giants Fall

Friday, November 11, 2016

When life has become too heavy to carry

Shauna Niequist's story about how she came to the end of herself a few years ago is a story many of us can relate to. Shauna was feeling exhausted and isolated from living a life that was too busy. Shauna finally came to a point where she realized that she couldn't go on living this way even one more day, she needed to learn to live in a new way. Shauna wanted a life that wasn't marked by competing, earning and proving herself constantly. She wanted to live a life full of love, meaning and deep connection with others.

Shauna Niequist's new book Present Over Perfect is the story about Shauna's journey from living a life that was too heavy to carry to Shauna discovering a simpler way to live that satisfied her soul. In session one of the video-study Shauna talks about how her journey started once she finally realized that it was her own choices that had created her lifestyle and that the chaos she constantly experienced in her life wasn't a coincidence.

I love that Shauna has written her new book Present Over Perfect and created the video-study, it has helped me a lot this fall when my own life started to get too busy. I agree with what Shauna says in the video, it's not only people with top career jobs who struggle with a life that is too heavy, most people believe the lie that says "If I do enough, I will be enough" or "If I do more, I will be more." We live in a society that values achievements and perfection higher than ever before so we can easily find ourselves striving for these things in search for acceptance and human value. I think it helps to know that we are not alone in the struggle, most people wrestle with these things. The good news is that once we become aware of the habits that make us exhausted, unhealthy and over-whelmed in life we can change our ways and develop new habits that will make us flourish.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Response to National Pain

We live in tumultuous times and if we only look at what we see in the news this world can seem hopeless and scary. We face many different problems in our world; political problems, climate change, human trafficking, racism, natural disasters, war, terrorism etc. It’s easy to become so over-whelmed by these problems that we become fearful, worried, angry and start blaming and hating on each other. We look for quick explanations and someone to blame for all the disasters that we together as a human society have created. Finding someone to blame might make us feel better for a little while, but it won’t make the problems we face any smaller. Each one of us get to choose if we will be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. As Christ-followers we are called to be carriers of the answer, not carriers of anger, carriers of hate, carriers of prejudice or carriers of “I told you so.”

We all have very different opinions on the situation and the tremendous problems we face but in the end the only thing that matters is what God thinks. What does God ask us to do in times of trouble and despair? Judah Smith teaches a sermon about the racial injustice in America but this message can be applied to any problem we face because it all comes down to how we choose to live.

The first thing we need to know is that our pain matters to God, God is grieved by our pain, but God is not worried or fearful. God is the answer to our pain and He is totally and fully in control. The second thing we need to know is that how we choose to live our lives matters. When we look at our problems in the world it can be tempting to say: “God, how could you allow this to happen?” The answer is simple; from the beginning of time we have been given free will by God. We are where we are today, both in our personal lives and as a society, because of our choices. We all have free will and over history we have (and we continue) to put ourselves in these painful situations because we don’t choose God and His ways, we choose our own way. The Bible calls this pride.

Judah Smith talks about how although our political systems and experts are important in our societies we will end up in despair if we put our hope in them. God doesn’t call us to believe in people, because humans can not save this world. God calls us to put our hope in Him. If we look to our experts and politicians to save this world we will constantly be disappointed and let down because we are placing a burden on them that was never meant for them to carry. It's a burden too heavy for any human to carry. God sent Jesus to carry this burden for us, so that we wouldn’t have to carry it. Jesus didn’t come to Earth just to save us from the grip of evil, he came to save us from ourselves. We tend to be quite self-destructive in our ways sometimes. It’s not surprising that we continue to end up in trouble and despair when we insist on living our lives apart from God. Outside of God’s will the enemy is waiting and he will be quick to use our free will to steal, kill and destroy everything that is good in our lives and in our societies.

Every human-being, whether expert, politician or regular person is flawed, but God is flawless. As Christ-followers we put our hope in God, not in people. Humans don’t have what it takes to save the world. We need God. There is no hope for humanity without God because the enemy won’t stop fighting to have our souls. This truth is often one of the hardest truths for humans to accept because our pride is strong within us. We want to be able to say: “We’ve got this! We don’t need God.” I’ve been in situations like this many times, where I have been insisting on overcoming a struggle on my own without asking God for help or guidance. When we act like we don’t need God it feels like swimming upstream, you work hard but you get nowhere. Children can’t make it in this world alone, every child needs his/her parents, and in the same way we were created to need God. Our pride pushes God away and we don’t want him, but that doesn’t change the fact that we need him.

We all carry a responsibility on our shoulders to take good care of the world we live in, but if we exclude God and think that we will be able to save this world on our own we will become exhausted, hopeless and fearful. We were never meant to face these gigantic problems on our own, we have a God who loves us dearly and who is fighting for us every minute of our lives. Why do we fight against a God who loves us and wants good things for us? Pride is the answer. How many times have we experienced the same situation with our own children? We know what’s best for our children and we try to help them but they don’t want to listen to us.

For some of us, the first thing we need to do in the battle for a better world is to come to God on our knees and let him carry our troubles, to cast our cares on him. We were never meant to carry these burdens alone. When we seek God’s help in our troubles He will give us His peace, joy and strength. When we take on our battles in life with the protection, provision and guidance that God offers us the journey will look very different. It won’t be an easy life but we will no longer have to live weighed down by fear, worry and anxiety. God will make a way through every storm for those who seek Him and His will for their lives. I know these things to be true not just because I’ve read about them in The Bible but because I’ve seen God do amazing things in my own life. I get tears in my eyes as I write this because I am so humbled as I think about how great God’s love is for me. I don’t deserve this great love in any way but He keeps giving it to me anyway and I will make sure I’m always ready to receive it.

Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”
Psalm 55:22

Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.”
Proverbs 16:3

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:6-7

“Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ – eternal and glorious plans they are! – will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.”
1 Peter 5: 9-11

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Slow Sunday

On Sunday afternoon I treated myself to a chocolate cupcake and a homemade latte. I love cupcakes, they always make a regular day feel special.

It was surprisingly warm and sunny on Sunday morning so my husband and I decided to go for a walk in the park.

We had our breakfast on a park bench in the sun, I had coffee and a Maple Pecan Danish.

It became a very relaxing and enjoyable Sunday. We went to church but other than that we didn't have anything planned. Sunday is going to be our rest day of the week from now on. We usually make Saturdays our rest day but this school year we have commitments on Saturdays so we're bringing back Sunday as our Sabbath day.

I love the fall because it's the time of year when many new programs and volunteer opportunities open up, I like to try something new every year. My only problem is that I tend to commit to too many things. Lately my husband and I have come to the conclusion that our weekly schedule has become too full, something has to go. During the last couple of weeks I have tried to figure out what we could skip but I've felt like we have to do everything that we have committed to at this point. I finally decided to write down everything we have committed to on a paper to get an overview of our situation. Once everything was written down it became easier to notice what we can skip and which activities we can put on hold until next year. Some projects we need to put on hold for another three years.

We live in a world with more opportunities than ever and it's tempting to want to do it all at the same time, but that's not the wisest approach. Every year I'm noticing that I get better life quality when I avoid doing too many things and rather choose to focus my efforts towards a few things per year. Toronto is a huge city with so much to offer, but there's no need to cram all the things I want to do into one year. Nowadays I write down 3-year plans, 5-year plans and 10-year plans in my journal to help myself see what I need to focus on this year versus what can wait. I don't want to rush through my life, I want to be able to stop and be grateful for everything I get to experience. I want to be able to focus more time on all my relationships; God, my marriage, friendships and family members. I need a slower paced lifestyle to be able to live a meaningful life.

My husband and I decided to cut four different things from our schedule so now our life is less full again. We also decided to make Sunday our new rest day and keep this day free from any other programs than church. I look forward to a less busy November because the month of October ended up being too busy. I tend to need to suffer a little bit before I learn what I need to change in my life. I've learned most of my life lessons through doing the wrong thing first (and feeling the pain) before I learned to do things the right way. Life is all about growing and learning new things and every year we become a little wiser. It's not fun to make mistakes but I don't think it's possible to learn anything important without making some mistakes. there's a lot of hope in that.