Friday, January 29, 2016

He Knows My Name

The Love Investment

Marriage seems to be one thing we really struggle with as a whole society. Today about half of all marriages end in divorce, so it's safe to say that we need to do something differently in the future if we want these statistics to change. I personally believe that we have a good chance at making our marriages last if we commit to doing the work needed and are interested in developing the tools we need to love our spouse well.

One thing my husband and I decided to do to "invest in our marriage" from the start was to read a book about marriage each year. During the year when we were engaged we read a couple of different books about building a healthy marriage and nowadays we read one book a year. The book we chose for 2016 is called: "The First Five Years-Make the love investment that lasts a lifetime" by Bill and Pam Farrel.

Bill and Pam Farrel write in the book that 50% of all divorces happen within the first seven years of marriage, 20% of the divorces happen within the first five years of marriage. In the beginning of a marriage we develop routines, habits and tools that will either make the love last or that will break the love. Bill and Pam Farrel write:

"The patterns you develop now-the ways you choose to view and treat each other, handle conflict and crisis-form the foundation of your life together. You can intentionally build a relationship that can withstand any challenge."

Embracing Your Natural Beauty

Christen Dominique is a youtuber who makes videos about beauty and makeup. A few years ago she used to feel really uncomfortable not wearing makeup in public but over the past two years she has learned to embrace her natural beauty. Today she feels beautiful both with and without makeup. Christen wants to inspire you to embrace all parts of yourself and learn to love yourself.

Monday, January 25, 2016

If God is real then what?

Jen Hatmaker talks about how if God is real then that changes everything, because something that monumental deserves a response. We are reminded that this life is short and that it's time to start working on things that will last and stop worrying and obsessing about things in life that really don't matter.

If God is real then what will our response be, what are we doing with our lives? How are we spending this little fraction of history that we have been given to steward? We who live now are only one small part of the bigger picture, of history, but the choices we make now will have a great impact on the future. Are we bravely taking on the work today that will change the world, or are we focusing most of our energy on things that will pass away very soon? If God's love for us is real then there is no neutral response to such an extraordinary fact.


Author and speaker Jen Hatmaker talks about her book "Interrupted" and the moment that led to Jen starting to question everything about how she was choosing to live her life. Jen started asking herself really hard questions like: "Why do I have so many advantages when the rest of the world has so few? Jen realized that the important question she needed to answer through her life choices was: "What do you care for the least and the last and the forgotten and the forsaken?"


Jen Hatmaker talks about how a trip to Ethiopia got her thinking about what the motive is behind all the shopping she is doing back at home in the US. When Jen visited a family with a very simple home in Ethiopia she was amazed by how much love was in the room. The interaction with the humble and loving people in Ethiopia made Jen want to start striving for more than just building herself a nice beautiful home. She asked herself "What if I worked harder at creating a house of love than just a house of beauty?" Jen decided she wanted her home to become a place where people love well and are loved well.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Time with people that we love

Shauna Niequist speaks about friendship and prioritizing spending time with the people that we love. We all need to surround ourselves with people who can speak life and love into our lives. Your friends should be people who celebrate your successes and who want you to do well in life. Once you surround yourself with people who can both give and receive love your friendships will become one of the main things in life that help you grow as a human being.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Purpose in the Process

If you want to be inspired this Monday evening check out this sermon by pastor Elyse Murphy from Oasis Church in Los Angeles. Elyse Murphy speaks on the purpose in the process of God’s timing. You can also follow Elyse on instagram (elysemurphy). My favorite part of Elyse's instagram is her quotes, here's a few of my favorites:

"girls compete, women empower"

"My diet could be described as "unchaperoned child at a birthday party."

"Just a reminder that you weren't placed on this earth for the purpose of having a thigh gap or a flat stomach."

That's How You Change The World

All my life I had big dreams
To do big things and make a change
And all the while, I just passed by
The simple needs right here next to me

'Cause there's a breaking heart
That's fallin' apart
And tear filled eyes lookin' back at me
God, won't you help me to see

It's the prayer in an empty room
Little things we do when nobody's around
A hand reaching out to a heart in doubt
It's the smallest spark that can light the dark

That's how you change the world


The Weekend

On Friday I started the weekend with a Date Night at Il Fornello with my husband. I enjoyed a glass of red wine and a very tasty pizza with pesto, grilled chicken, red onions, plum tomatoes and pine nuts.

On Saturday morning I enjoyed being able to relax with a big cup of morning coffee and the newspaper for a long time. The month of December was a busy month so I'm really enjoying that our weekends during January are not booked up. My goal this weekend was to have a slow weekend.

After breakfast I took a walk along the beach by the lake. It was sunny on Saturday so I got a good dosage of the much needed day light.

This time of year it's too cold outside to sit on a park bench and relax, but I still enjoy just being able to be outdoors.

Views like these are what keeps me sane, time in nature is a must-have for me to stay balanced and joyful in life.

After a makeup free Saturday I got all dressed up on Sunday morning and went to church with my husband.

In church we got the chance to listen to a sermon inspiring us to live less selfish lives and we were able to catch up with some friends after the service.

We went to Cora's for brunch on Sunday afternoon and enjoyed some more couple's time. We had brunch at Cora's for the fist time ever on our 3rd date five years ago. I love the wonderful memories that come to mind every time we spend time at Cora's.

I had Eggs Benedict with an extra side of fresh fruit. After brunch we headed to the grocery store to shop all the food for next week. On Sunday evening we continued to relax with dinner at home and some TV shows on Netflix. It became a very relaxing and slow weekend, just the way I like it! :)

The Materialism Trap

Most of us are aware that materialism is not a sustainable way of life, but it's so easy to get stuck in the materialism trap. We often find ourselves buying way more stuff than we need and spending more money than we want to spend, mostly because it's the expected "normal" way to live in our modern society.

If one of your goals for 2016 is to become less materialistic then I bet this video by Erin will give you the inspiration and motivation needed to make a few lifestyle changes. Whether your passion is animal rights, human rights or something else we could all benefit from becoming less materialistic in our approach to life. Erin Janus is a youtuber who is a passionate vegan, activist and writer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Sharing your story might help someone else

Brandon Marshall had a great career but was struggling in life. Everything started falling apart in his life but he was able to get help and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Today Brandon Marshall is sharing his story in an attempt to help others who are facing similar struggles in life.

Baby Talk and Tattoos

"Rich in Faith" is a new reality show on Oxygen that follows the life of Rich Wilkerson and DawnChere Wilkerson as they launch a brand new church called Vous Church in Miami, Florida. The show follows Rich and DawnChere through the highs and lows of life and church planting. In Episode 6 we see them talk about the challenges of facing infertility issues for the past six years. They also face some financial challenges as they plan to start the church but their friends are there for them to offer help and advice along the way.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Time is Now

No matter how much we want one, there’s no blueprint for a perfect life. Feel like you’ve hit a wall? Don’t be discouraged. Maybe it’s just a part of what God wants to help you rebuild. The Time Is Now to lay the first brick on a new foundation.

Let's take a road trip to Miami

I once heard a pastor describe the difference between heaven and this life as a road trip. Imagine you and I decided to take a road trip from Toronto, Canada to Miami, Florida. We take this road trip in the middle of winter and after driving for a few hours we stop at a gas station in Erie, Pennsylvania. We eat a snack at the gas station and then it’s time to head back to the car and continue the trip. The pastor explained that the gas station represents this life and our final destination Miami represents Heaven.

As we are walking to the car I get really cold and decide I don’t want to continue the trip to Miami. You tell me: “it’s fine, you will warm up in a while, once the heat comes on in the car.” All I can think about at this point is that it was really warm and nice inside the gas station and that I want to head back inside. I tell you that I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to go on this trip any longer because it’s cold outside and the roads are slippery. I want to stay here in Erie,PA. You look at me and tell me: “Are you kidding me? We are heading to MIAMI! You want to rather stay here than head for Miami?” I tell you that I’ve never been to Miami before and although many people tell me it’s a nice place I doubt it’s really that nice, besides I like the gas station in Erie so I’m going to stay here. They have donuts at the gas station so I want to go back inside and buy myself another hot chocolate and a donut, there’s no way I’m getting in that cold car with you.

After you have tried convincing me to come for the trip for a while you finally give up, you get in the car and head for Miami without me. I wave goodbye to you, then I head back inside the gas station and buy another donut. I’m happy that I don’t have to be out in the cold any longer, I’m happy right here, who needs Miami anyways?

This story is a parable but it explains how we often view heaven versus this life. Why think about going somewhere else when this life is awesome? I once took a walk around the marina by the lake and I saw a yacht with the name “Heaven can wait”. I understand this yacht owner’s way of thinking, he thinks like me in the parable of the road trip. Why in the world would I like to think about heaven when I can get donuts and hot chocolate right here in this place?

I have met a lot of people who are doing incredible things with their lives. One thing I have noticed they all have in common; they don’t live like this life is all there is. The same is true for historical heroes like William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela. They love sacrificially, they live like this life is just temporary and like there is a big reward at the end of all the hard work that comes with this life. It seems like the courage, the passion and the drive they have comes from a deep knowing that this is what they are put on Earth to do, and that there is good things coming for them when this life is over. They have joy and peace in their lives and they have a drive and fearlessness that I envy sometimes.

No matter what we believe about life and God none of us can escape the fact that the clock is ticking in our lives. No matter how healthy we eat or how much we exercise this life will still be short. We know that we can’t keep this life, it is temporary. What separates us the most is that some of us believe that this life is all we get, so we better enjoy it while we can, while others believe that this life is just the beginning.

I’ve been that person who loves hanging out at the gas station in Erie, PA for many years, but a few years ago I started wondering if there is more out there after all. I started thinking that maybe while I’m busy trying to enjoy all the different flavors of donuts at the gas station I might be missing out of experiencing Miami.

When it comes down to it, what I believe about life and afterlife will strongly influence how I live my life, no matter what I believe. I have come to the conclusion that I will continue to enjoy a hot chocolate and a donut at the gas station every now and then but I’m ready to head out into the unknown now. I’m not afraid of the cold and the icy roads any longer. I’m ready to head for Miami! I know I will love Miami the day when I arrive, but until then I will commit to make the best of this road trip, although it will include many icy roads and potentially getting lost along the way.

There is a scripture in the Bible that says: “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” (John 12:25 NLT) As long as I love this life a little too much, this life that I can’t keep, it will always hold me back from doing bigger things for God. If I love this life too much I will spend most of my efforts building myself the perfect life in the here and now, and I will do very little to build a better world for the coming generations.

When I love this life and live only for this life I will give to charity mostly because it calms my bad conscience. When I give to others it makes me feel better, which makes my life better. There’s nothing wrong with giving to others so we ourselves can feel joy, but what I have noticed for me is that it tends to end there.

If I think that this life is all I get I will spend all of my efforts on making me the most happy. I will spend most of my efforts on building my perfect life. I want to have the happy marriage, the beautiful and nicely decorated home and I want to take trips to beautiful places every year. I want to wear beautiful clothes and eat the best foods. Making my life better will always be goal number one.

I will only give to others when there’s something in it for me, when giving can add more joy and happiness to my own life. I will not give in ways that require real sacrifice. If I keep my eyes focused on this life, and live as if this life is all I get, I will remain stuck in my self-centered approach to life. The only way I can make a bigger impact during this life is if I lift my eyes and focus on the things to come, the things I can’t see yet.

Whether I get 60 more years on this planet or 6 more years, the end result remains the same, this life will soon be over. I want to be sure that I spent my years on this earth well. I will definitely continue to take trips to beautiful places every now and then and eat tasty foods, but I want to make sure that I don’t make my pleasure the number one goal in this short life. My clock is ticking and there is a world around me that is aching for help. It’s time to continue the road trip.

If there is one thing I want to accomplish during this short life it is making sure that the things I took part in during life on Earth made the world a little better than it was before I entered it. The day I arrive in Miami (heaven) I want to leave a better world behind for the next generations. I will probably never meet my great grandchildren, but their lives will be strongly impacted by how I choose to live today.

No Longer Slaves

Friday, January 8, 2016

Shopping Goals

We all have our weaknesses, one of mine is spending too much money on shopping. During the last two years I started to get more and more uncomfortable with the fact that I was buying about three times more clothes than a person actually needs, while at the same time kids walk around barefoot on the other side of the planet because their parents can’t afford new shoes for their seven children. I decided it was time for me to simplify my lifestyle and to take a more minimalistic approach to fashion and shopping.

I started cutting down on the amount of new clothes I would shop each year and last spring I tried having a capsule wardrobe for the first time. I was surprised by how much easier getting dressed became once I had less pieces in my closet. I’m now happy to be able to save money as I shop less clothes and live a greener lifestyle at the same time.

Few people have extra money laying around that they can give to non-profit organizations who are working in third world countries, but when we simplify the lifestyle we have gotten accustomed to, suddenly there is room in the monthly budget to support non-profits. I want to be able to support non-profits that provide shoes for kids without shoes, education to kids whose parents can’t afford school fees etc. I'd rather choose to have less stuff in my closet and more impact around the world, than to have a walk-in closet full of clothes that are right on trend. I get joy from buying a new piece of clothing but I get so much more joy from knowing that I’m taking part in creating a lasting positive change in a third world country.


Eric's Story

Our good deeds can't save us

One of the most common misconceptions about the Bible and God is that it is the “good people” who make it to heaven and those who have broken the rules in the Bible will end up in hell. I think the reason we assume this is the way Christianity works is that we are so used to this way of thinking ourselves. We marry “the one” and as long as our husband lives up to all our expectations on him and keeps all our “rules” we will love him, if he breaks a lot of the rules we will eventually divorce him. When a person in our society follows the law everything is fine, but if a person starts to break many laws he or she will eventually be thrown into prison. Us humans like the idea of karma; “you get what you deserve”, but God has a totally different way of relating to us.

When God sent Jesus to Earth it changed everything, rather than “you will get what you deserve” it became “When we do something wrong, Jesus gets what we deserve.” When Jesus died on the cross he willingly paid the price for all the sins committed of everyone in the whole world and died for us, for our mistakes. The reason someone had to pay for all our mistakes was that God is a God of justice, he won’t let any wrongdoing go unpunished. When someone murders another person God doesn’t think: “Oh that’s okay, I will just look in the other direction”.

When Jesus died he took all the sins of humanity on himself, the sins from the past, the present and the future. Jesus paid for all our mistakes once and for all, so that the day each one of us will meet God we will be faultless in front of an all-powerful perfect God. Jesus dying on the cross is as if you were being sentenced to the death penalty and Jesus shows up in court and says: “Take me instead, let this person go, I’m willing to die instead of this person.” Why would anyone do such a thing? The answer is love.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that anyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 NLT

Jesus died so that every single sin of mankind could become forgiven, but each one of us are free to choose if we want this to apply to our own lives or not. During our short lives on earth our main task here will be to either accept God and invite him into our lives or to reject God. This will be the most important decision we make in our lives, the moment we decide to accept God and invite him into our lives it changes everything, we become forgiven and washed clean of all our past mistakes. We become a brand new person (spiritually speaking that is, don’t expect your wrinkles to be gone).

We often tend to think that God wants peace on Earth today but the Bible makes it clear that Jesus didn’t come to Earth to bring peace, he came to bring division. God is interested in seeing who is with him, and who is against him. One of the places this is mentioned in The Bible is in Matthew 25:

All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.
Matthew 25:32-34 NLT 

This world that we live in today will never see peace, it will always see different forms of chaos, but when we become followers of Christ we can have peace on the inside despite the chaos that surrounds us. The good news is that this chaotic world is only temporary. The Bible makes it clear that there will be a day in the future when everything of this old world will pass away and there will be a new world where there is no more death, no more mourning and no more suffering. God will be in the world with us and we will see him face to face. The Bible talks about this in Revelation 21:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.
Revelation 21:4 NLT

The Bible also makes it clear that Jesus will come back to Earth one day and nobody will know what day that will be, we now live in what is called the end times. One day, maybe sooner than we think, we will stand in front of the God of the universe and have to answer for all our choices in life. Our days in this life are numbered, from the day we are born our clock starts ticking, we move closer and closer to death every day and we never know what day will be our last. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, we only have today. The days we are given on this Earth are our chance to decide, are we going to choose to accept God or reject God, the rest is details.

I used to work as a nursing assistant in a nursing home when I was younger and sometimes I noticed that it seemed almost like all the good people would die quicker while the really mean people would live longer. I wondered why God would let some really mean people live for so long, while others who were so loving would die at a younger age. It makes more sense to me today. Life is short for all of us, we only have a few years on this Earth to decide how we feel about God, to pick a side. Some people seem to need more time than others to make the right choice.

Once we choose to accept God and invite him into our hearts God starts to change each one of us from the inside out through the Holy Spirit. When you see someone going from being a non-believer to a Christian you might see them start doing a lot of good things, but it is important to remember that it is never a person’s good works that saves them. The Bible makes it clear that anyone who believes in Jesus, repents and asks for forgiveness for his or her sins will become saved.

Most of us understand that for example a woman who loves God and loves people will go to heaven the day she dies. We are also aware that a man who for example was a rapist and murderer and who continued to do evil up until the moment he died will go to hell. What many of us have missed on the other hand is that even the criminal who has committed many crimes but at the end of his life becomes a believer in Jesus, repents and asks for forgiveness for all of his sins will go to heaven when he dies. We also tend to miss the fact that even the woman who thinks of herself as a good person but who doesn’t accept Jesus into her heart during her life will not go to heaven the day she dies. This is radical and couldn’t be further away from how humans see things.

Humans see love as something you earn, while God loves everyone on this earth and is willing to forgive any sin as long as the person is truly regretful and wants to turn away from his or her former way of living and start following Jesus. It is not our long lists of good things we did during our lives on earth that will get us into heaven, it is our faith in Jesus that saves us. It is so simple, yet so radical. God’s love for humanity is unlike anything else you will ever discover on this earth.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What's the purpose for my life?

Today we started the study called "Restless" by Jennie Allen at our Women Connect group at church. The goal of this study is to help each woman answer the question: "What's God's call on my life? We have all gone through different painful experiences in life, we live in different places and we are surrounded by different people. Each one of us have unique gifts and passions.

When we weave all these things together; our gifts, suffering, place, people and passions, we will discover that within all that lays a purpose. It is not a coincidence that we are in the exact place or stage in life where we are right now. God is inviting each one of us to be a part of his plan to restore this broken world.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

One year in a few pictures

I like taking a moment to think about the year that has passed and feel thankful for all the wonderful things I got to enjoy during the past twelve months.

The winter of 2015 was cold and we had a lot of snow in Toronto that I could enjoy.

In February my parents came to visit us in Toronto and we decided to take a trip to Collingwood together.

We visited the Scandinavian Spa in Collingwood which was an awesome experience, I dream of going back there again in 2016.

Spending a lot of quality time with my family during the winter was wonderful, we had a lot of fun!

In March my husband and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary. We celebrated with a mini version of the same kind of cake that we had for our wedding three years ago. I love being married and I love the taste of wedding cake!

During the spring of 2015 I enjoyed looking at all the beautiful flowers in the suburbs.

I love tulips, and the park is so beautiful during the spring!

We decided to take a road trip down south during the spring, we spent a few days at Myrtle Beach, SC and a couple of days at Virginia Beach, VA.

Vacation time, my husband and the beach, what else can a girl ask for?

I enjoyed getting back to hiking again as the weather was getting warmer.

In June it was time to celebrate the Scandinavian holiday Midsummer's Eve with wild flowers, a barbeque and strawberry shortcake.

The Pan Am Games came to Toronto during the summer of 2015 and the city was filled with people from all over the world.

We took a trip to New York City during the summer to celebrate my 30th birthday.

I love being able to sit outside all night long during the summer when it never gets cold.

One of my favorite things that we did during the summer was take many trips to Wasaga Beach,ON to go swimming in Lake Huron.

During the fall of 2015 I enjoyed hanging out by the lakefront and the marina.

I decided fall was the perfect time to get back to healthy eating again after a summer of eating a lot of burgers and ice cream.

My favorite workout during the fall was taking long bike rides along the lakefront.

It was great to be back to the city life after spending a lot of time relaxing in the country during the summer.

On a sunny fall day we took the ferryboat out to the Toronto Islands and spent the day relaxing in the park and enjoying the beautiful views of the city.

Then came December and it was time to start celebrating Christmas and look forward to a new year. As I look back at all the fun things I got to enjoy during 2015 I feel very blessed and thankful. The year also brought some sad news into our lives, like when we found out that a close friend of the family had passed away very suddenly. The adoption process we started during year 2015 also ended up taking a lot longer than we had expected.

Every new year tend to come with both great moments of joy and sad seasons of mourning. Life is a journey with both ups and downs along the road, but I find it helps to remind ourselves of all the good times to be able to hang in there during the harder times in life. No matter how hard the season of life we are in is it will pass eventually.

All the hard things we are going through in life also become easier to carry when we share our pain and suffering with other people. We are not meant to do this life alone. Let's make year 2016 a year when we choose to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice, let's do this journey together!

Monday, January 4, 2016

MOPS International

How to fall in love again

Without realizing it, we often give our best to a relationship when we are dating and pursuing each other. Even after years of marriage, you can be more passionate and in love than ever before.

When marriage becomes difficult

Ernesto and Melisa share their story about some of the struggles they have endured in their lives and marriage. We often come into marriage with a lot of selfishness and when we end up with unmet needs it leads to anger and frustration. Ernesto and Melisa quickly went from being in love to fighting almost every day. Hear them share their story of how they eventually found healing for their marriage.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Pressure of Having It All

Author and speaker Jen Hatmaker shares her wisdom on parenting and keeping the balance in life. Jen says that her goal when it comes to parenting and life in general is to do a "good enough" job. If she's a good enough mom, wife or friend, that's enough! We don't have to do everything perfectly.

There's a freedom that comes when we learn to let go of everyone's expectations on us. We can also choose to stop comparing our real lives to everyone else's highly edited lives online.