Thursday, July 28, 2016

Summer in Toronto

Summer in Toronto. Date nights in the city and drinks on the patio, I can't complain! This weekend we are celebrating Caribana in Toronto, the Caribbean Carnival. :)

Minimalism has changed my life

I love this video about Minimalism by youtuber Jenny Mustard because it's so inspiring and positive! Becoming minimalist can change your life in different ways for different people. I personally feel that Minimalism has given me more freedom, less stress than before and helped me stay focused on what matters the most. Choosing to take a minimalist approach to style has helped me shop less clothes and consume less in general. Taking a minimalist approach to my dreams and schedule makes me more focused and able to invest wholeheartedly in whatever I'm doing during this stage in life. I have many dreams that I would like to fulfill during my lifetime, but I'm no longer trying to fulfill them all at the same time, there is a time for everything in life. I don't have to do it all at once.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Man, I've got a lot of issues!

Marriage and parenthood are things that really make sense to me, I feel like I partly understand why God created them. You can choose to keep friends and relatives at a comfortable distance if you want, but your kids and spouse will always be around you. Few things will help us grow more in life than marriage and parenthood. I honestly thought that I was “a good person” until I met my husband and got married, then I realized how many issues I have. It was a very sobering experience. Sometimes I wonder how in the world my husband even agreed to marry me. I was seriously self-centered, immature and negative when I got married. Today I’m still very, very far from being perfect but it’s exciting to see how far I’ve come!

My husband is my greatest cheerleader in life and he believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself. He definitely helps me grow and mature both spiritually and mentally every year, and he tells me I do the same for him. I’m assuming this must be why marriage and parenthood were created, to help us grow. Few things will be more challenging in life than marriage and parenthood, but our kids and spouse can also be our best “personal trainers” when it comes to growing stronger mentally and spiritually every year.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How Can We Find Happiness?

Living loved when you feel less than, left out and lonely

Lysa TerKeurst is the President of Proverbs 31 Ministries and a New York Times Best Selling author. In her new book, "Uninvited", Lysa is vulnerable and candid about her own personal experiences of rejection and encourages the readers that even in the midst of loneliness, rejection or pain, our importance doesn't lie in others' opinion of us. Our importance is living a life based on who God says we are.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Love with your life

Normal is so overrated

Soul Surfer is one of my favorite movies because it shows me that there can be a purpose even in the pain we go through in life. Bethany Hamilton's story is so powerful. Bethany survived a shark attack in Hawaii but it destroyed her big dream in life, to become a professional surfer. Many people would give up on their dreams at that point, but Bethany found the strength to overcome her greatest setback in life and became a professional surfer with only one arm. She was able to make her own dream come true but in the process she also inspired many other people around the world to not give up when life seems hopeless. Today there is a movie and a documentary about Bethany's life and she has inspired thousands to not stop when life gets really painful, because even in our greatest pain there can be a purpose if we do not give up. Today Bethany is married and have a young son, although it seemed impossible to her that any guy would love her right after she had lost her arm.

We all want a normal life but I have come to the conclusion that normal is very overrated. It's often the parts of our lives that aren't normal or happy that can give birth to what will become our great life purpose. The areas where we have experienced pain is often the areas where we are very motivated to make a change. There are so many different forms of injustice and poverty in our world and it's usually the people who have had some form of personal experience with the injustice who will choose to fight those battles.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a black man who became a civil rights activist because he had personal experience of racial inequality. Christine Caine has shared that she was sexually abused for many years as a child and as an adult she decided to start an organization that fights human trafficking of young girls and women. Most of the time there is a connection between the areas where we have experienced pain and the area where we are passionate about making a change in the world. The areas where we have no personal experience of pain are areas where we tend to lack the empathy needed to become passionate about fighting for change.

We naturally get more upset and saddened by a tragedy that happens in our own country than by something that happens far away on another continent. Some of us have experienced great injustice in our own lives and feel passionately about fighting for change at home. Others have been blessed with safe and happy lives and might need to educate themselves about different types of injustice around the world to develop the empathy needed to become passionate about fighting for a cause. If we are not passionate about any particular cause at the moment we can develop that passion by watching documentaries and reading books about different types of injustice around the world.

It can also be a good idea to take a look at the whole world before we pick our cause, so that we don't settle for fighting for something that would mainly make our own lives more comfortable versus taking on a cause that can change the lives of people in great need. An example would be to spend our whole lives fighting to lower the taxes in our home country, versus fighting to bring clean water to people in underdeveloped countries. It is important that our cause is bigger than ourselves.

Each one of us have so much to give to the world and we can do more if we pick a particular cause that we will spend the rest of our lives fighting for. World change is never instant, it will take many years of dedication and hard work but at the end of our lives few things will matter more than what we did out of love for other people. Few things will matter more than the choices we made surrounding fighting injustice and poverty around the world during our short lives. Each century has two groups of people, those who have little and those who have a lot. What tend to define each era is what those who had a lot did for those who had very little.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

People Don't Like Me

No matter what we do in life someone will always have something negative to say about our choices, this is the reality of the world we live in. Social media has taken criticism to a whole new level, a couple of generations ago you would get criticized by your neighbors, today you might even have people on the opposite side of the world sending you mean comments online.The youtuber "Sairassecret" talks about staying positive, dealing with people that don't like you and dealing with negative criticism in this video. Saira also talks about the importance of staying true to yourself. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Biology of Good and Evil

We all wonder what makes somebody good or evil. How can anyone treat another person so badly? Paul J. Zak gives a TED talk about the biology of good and evil. Paul mentions a few different factors that can make a human act in a way that is evil. Some humans can't feel any empathy at all, they have become psychopaths. Others have had a childhood where they didn't receive the love and care they needed which has made them not able to love others well. The third factor Paul J. Zak mentions is stress, we all know how stress can take a good person and make him/her evil in the moment. We easily yell at others and loose our temper when we are under a lot of stress and suddenly we are able to display behaviors that we would never display in a situation without stress.

The question we all ask ourselves is:"What can we do to help people become more loving and less evil?" Paul J. Zak suggests that we do things regularly that will lead to oxytocin being released in other people. We can say "I love you" often to our own family members, care for someone and help others whenever we can. That's the easy part. The more difficult part is that we also need to show love and care to those who are difficult to love if we want to see change in them. Examples of people who can be difficult to love are drug addicts, or people who have difficulty trusting others because of childhood trauma. A more extreme example is children who display what psychologists call  "psychopathic tendencies" due to serious mistreatment received from the parents. After therapy and strong loving relationships even children like these have been able to become fully functioning adults.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

When your worst enemy is yourself

Sometimes we pray to God asking him to deliver us from something that is in the world, like a disease for example. Other times we need to ask God to save us from ourselves. Sometimes we aren't miserable because of what has happened to us, we are miserable because we are stuck inside of ourselves. There is no more miserable place to be than to be stuck inside yourself, inside your own selfishness and negative attitude.

Pastor Steven Furtick from Elevation Church talks about how gratitude is what we need to find a way out of the misery. Once we get to the place where we stop complaining about what God has given us and start doing what God has called us to do we will no longer be miserable. God can use everything that comes our way to work together for good, even the messes that we have gotten ourselves into. God has a purpose and provision for each one of us but if we allow ourselves to get stuck in the now, complaining about our current situation and becoming angry and bitter, we might never make it to where God wants to lead us. A purpose-filled life isn't going to be easy nor comfortable, but if we keep an attitude of gratitude and keep moving forward nothing can stop us from fulfilling our destiny.

The people from history who we still celebrate and remember today are not the people who felt they had a right to sit around and complain and point their finger at all the problems in the world. These are the people who stopped complaining and got up and decided to do something about the problems. They didn't let anything stop them. They kept moving forward because a safe and comfortable life was never their goal. These people were more interested in making an impact than they were in living comfortably in the here and now.

God has big plans for our lives, but each one of us get to choose if we will stay put "sitting under the plant" like Jonah, or if we will get up and go do something that matters. This sermon really hit home for me personally. I definitely feel like the ungrateful hitchhiker in Steven's example sometimes. I come to God with all these demands of what I want my future to look like, rather than to just trust God's plan for me and keep a grateful attitude. I'm so glad life usually doesn't end at 30, but that we get to live for about 100 years, because I still have sooo many things to learn about life.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Bryon's Story-from hate to love

With Every Act Of Love

The Gospel of The Kingdom

The gospel of the Kingdom of God is a story that puts everything in our worldview on it's head. It's what Jon and Tim call "The upside-down Kingdom". Us humans learn early on that the way you get respect and power is to exalt yourself above others in any way possible. We try to make more money than others, be a little more beautiful than others, have a little bigger and nicer home than our neighbors etc. We learn from our culture that the more beautiful, powerful, rich and successful we are the more exalted we will become in this world. When Jesus entered this world 2016 years ago he started talking about something entirely different. Jesus talked about how God only cares about the heart, not how beautiful, powerful, rich, intelligent or successful a person has become in people's eyes.

Jesus teaches that the most powerful person in the Kingdom of God is he who is the weakest, the one who chooses to serve and love others. When God looks at us he doesn't see what people see, God looks at the heart. Do we have a cold, hard heart where we have allowed hate to live? Or do we have a warm, kind heart that is generous and loves others even when it is extremely difficult?

Jesus was sent to Earth to set an example for all of us. Jesus showed us what love looks like. Jesus showed us that true power comes from self-sacrificial love and he is inviting each one of us to follow his example. We all get to choose if we want to follow Jesus or if we want to follow the ways of this world. God could have chosen to take back the power over evil in any way he wants, but he chose to do it through free will.

It's a beautiful thing to see someone who has been chained to sin walk away from their selfish ways and choose to live life God's way. We celebrate every time someone who was lost is found again. At the same time it is devastating every time we see the result that comes when someone has chosen to run away from God and choose evil instead of love.

Blanca's Story

Friday, July 15, 2016

My Weekend Plans

This weekend I'm hoping I will be able to take another trip to the beach on either Saturday or Sunday. Last weekend was warm and wonderful and I spent most of my Sunday at Wasaga Beach. This Friday my husband and I have offered to babysit the cutest little baby boy we know, it's going to be a lot of fun! :)

I plan to treat myself to at least one iced latte this weekend. During the summer you can never have too many iced lattes if you ask me. :)

I'm also planning to have a date night with my favorite guy in the world on Saturday.

In case it becomes a rainy weekend I'm planning to lay in bed and read one of my favorite books right now: "The Good and Beautiful Life" by James Bryan Smith. This book really challenges me to keep growing with chapters like: "Learning to Live Without Worry" and "Learning to Live Without Judging Others".

I'm also hoping I will get the chance to enjoy at least one beautiful sunset during the weekend. This picture is from Sunday evening at Wasaga Beach last week. I'm wishing you all a fun and relaxing weekend! :)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Kirby's Story

The youtuber "Kirbyisaboss" shares her story in this video. Kirby was born in London, England but after her parents divorced she and her mom moved to Texas. Kirby became depressed after her parents divorced and later when her father passed away everything got even worse. A few years later Kirby also ended up getting bullied by a girl in school which made her very insecure and eventually made her hate herself. Kirby started getting suicidal thoughts and didn't want to live anymore. Every time she decided that she was going to go through with her suicide she heard this small voice in her head that said: "Just one more day, you can get through one more day."

Kirby continued going to a Christian camp every summer that her mom had introduced her to as a child. During the summer before high school Kirby had an encounter with God during a worship service at summer camp that changed everything. Kirby had many revelations during that evening and understood that God loves her and wants good things for her life.

When it was time for Kirby to start high school she had a new deep relationship with God that grounded her in a time when many of her friends ended up feeling lost during the difficult years of high school. Kirby says that her life has neither been perfect nor easy after she became a Christian but she has a joy in life now that she never had before.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Lost and Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life

Sarah Jakes had big dreams and hopes for her future but after a series of bad choices she found herself in a place in life where nobody wants to be. When Sarah's marriage ended after a lot of hurt and rejection she could have let her pain dictate her future, but instead she chose to use her story to help others find healing and redemption in life. Sarah Jakes shares her story in a very honest and vulnerable way in her book "Lost and Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life". Sarah's story offers hope and encouragement and reminds us that no matter how lost we feel in life we can be found again.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Find Your Brave

Holly Wagner teaches a sermon about the storms in life in this video. When we find ourselves in the midst of a storm in life, whether it's a marriage crisis, sickness, or a job loss, we all need a few tools to make it through the storm. The first thing we need to learn is to take control of our thoughts. Oftentimes we can't control the circumstance we are in, but we can control what we are dwelling on.

The second thing we need to learn is to "lighten our load". When we find ourselves in the middle of a storm we need to throw all excess baggage over board. We all carry baggage in life that has built up from disappointments in life or past hurts. Past hurts has the ability to trigger behavior that can destroy our today unless we learn to let them go. Holly Wagner offers us a few tips in the sermon on what we can do to let go of our baggage.

The third thing that becomes important when we find ourselves in the midst of a storm is to "keep the main thing the main thing". We need to get our priorities straight. When life gets difficult we can easily find ourselves getting distracted by things that are really not that important, and unless we learn to prioritize we will not make it through the storm. The fourth thing that Holly mentions is that we need to get our hopes up. Sometimes we are advised to not get our hopes up but the only way to make it through a storm is to keep your hopes up. Keep hoping and believing that things will get better.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Not Backing Down

The Couple's Resort

Last week my husband and I spent a few days at the Couple's resort by Algonquin Park three hours north of Toronto.

The resort is situated right by the lake and has a pool, a sauna and real fireplaces in all the rooms, all things that the Finnish person in me appreciates. :)

You can go kayaking or hiking during the day or go for a swim in the lake.

Or you can just hang out on the docks together in the sunshine and relax.

Our main reason for going on this getaway was to plan next year's budget. During our first year of marriage we read the book "Red hot monogamy" by Bill and Pam Farrell, where they recommend that you go on a getaway when you need to do important but boring things like plan your family budget or write your will etc. These are things we often avoid doing, but when you bake these things into a couple's getaway they get done. The first day we relaxed and enjoyed the resort, on the second day we spent most of our time planning the budget, and on the third day we got to relax again before going home.

I was very optimistic at the beginning of our budget planning session, in the middle of it I was very frustrated, and afterwards it felt really good to be done and have a plan for next year. It's a little funny isn't it, how much we tend to underestimate our monthly spending. Each time I plan a budget I'm surprised by how much money you can spend in a month without really noticing it. Planning a budget isn't fun to do, but afterwards you are glad you did it. It's a little like going to the dentist. :)

After our budget planning session we got to relax again and enjoy a five course dinner together. During our first evening at the resort I was wearing a very tight dress, what was I thinking? The second evening I had learned that you need to wear a loose dress when you enjoy five different courses. :) 

I enjoyed having a real fireplace in the room so much! We made a fire once or twice a day, although it was quite warm outside, so afterwards we had to have all the windows open to cool down the room. :) It's so cozy and romantic to sit in front of the fire together.

Hotel breakfasts are another favorite treat of mine. There is no better way to start off a vacation day than with a big cup of coffee and a big waffle with berries and  maple cream. :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Deny Yourself

We are all selfish by nature so to follow in Jesus' footsteps and deny ourselves isn't something that comes naturally. Lisa Chan talks about how she herself has struggled to do the will of God when she rather wants to choose to be selfish and comfortable. God will always call us outside of our comfort zone because that is where he can transform our hearts and watch us grow.

As Christians we are aware that our lives are not only about us, it's about something greater, but this doesn't mean that we won't struggle to do the will of God. When God asks us to forgive we rather want to stay bitter. When God asks us to be generous we rather want to hold on to our money. When God asks us to trust him we rather want to listen to our fears. The battle is always won (or lost) in the mind.

When we choose to do life God's way we always gain, we grow and we experience greater joy and peace in life. We often miss out on a lot of the joy and fulfillment that God has for us in life because we are so stubborn and we just won't follow his ways, we resist him and try to hold on to our selfishness. Jesus said: "If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it." (Luke 17:33 NLT)

The cost of deep relationships

If you only want to read one book this year I would recommend the book "Restless" by Jennie Allen. In Restless Jennie Allen helps the reader see how each one of us have a unique set of gifts, passions, places, relationships and past experiences that are all part of our purpose in life. If you want to figure out what God's plan is for your life and what specific gift you have that you can give back to the world this book will help you find it.

Today I wanted to share three quotes from Jennie's book Restless that points out why it's important for us to start thinking about what God's plan is for our lives. None of us knows how many days we have left to live, so figuring out the purpose for our lives isn't something that can wait. Jennie Allen has a friend named Julie who has died twice, she knows exactly how precious life is. At the beginning of Chapter 15 (pages 130-131) in the book Restless Jennie Allen writes:

"I want to tell you more about my good friend who has died twice. Julie Manning was resuscitated both times, but due to a heart condition, could die again at any point. She doesn't live like anyone else I know. She doesn't waste time with small talk. No one wastes time with Julie, because when you're eating Mexican food on her deck, life feels short.
Julie is thirty-five and has two young boys who know how to dial 911. But Julie is not afraid. She teaches us to not fear death. People who have died get to tell us to be afraid or not.
The day we thought Sarah Henry would go to Jesus, Julie sat beside her bed whispering secrets of hope and life after death. She whispered her memories.
"Sarah, there is complete light and complete peace. You will not worry about your children. You will not fear anything. You will just feel completely overwhelmed by the presence of God. Do not be afraid, friend."

We are often afraid of what we don't know or understand. We don't know what will happen after we die so most of us are afraid of dying. Julie isn't afraid, because she has already experienced it twice. Julie also has something most of us lack; she knows what matters most in life. Julie knows that she will meet God when this life is over, so she lives life to the fullest, determined to not waste any time but to love God and love people every minute of her life. Most of us don't think about what will matter after we die, so we live in the moment and we focus much of our energy on things that won't matter in the end. Jennie Allen describes in Restless how Julie's experiences have affected her own approach to life, on page 131 she writes:

"As my dear friend lay likely facing God that day, no words could ever have comforted me more. Heaven and God aren't myths to Julie; she has tasted them. So every moment we are together we make the very most of it.
Every one of us have people in our lives whom we need and people who need us. Are we intentionally spending our time in those two categories? Or are we casually bumping up against each other with no real purpose to receive or give love?
If we are honest, it is costly to love people. So you know what we do instead of doing the difficult work of loving them? We piddle. We waste the precious time we have."

When it comes down to it, it will always be easier to do the wrong thing in life. It will always be easier to see someone in need and choose to look the other way. It will always be easier to stop visiting that person in your family who is really hard to love. It will always be easier to push down that voice in your heart that says: "You need to do more to help others in the world". Love is always going to be costly. Jennie Allen mentions the cost of deep relationships in Restless on page 131 where she writes:

"It is easier to survive this life on the surface, brushing up against people gently, rather than doing the mess of intentionally loving them. Love takes risk. Love takes forgiveness and grace. Love takes effort, time, and commitment. You commit not to bolt when it gets hard, because it will get hard.
And if this is the cost of deep relationship, we just don't have capacity and space to go deep with everyone. So we have to become intentional."

Give Me 5: Love

It's year 2016 and at this time in history it might just be more confusing than ever before to figure out what is love, and what is not. It's easy to get confused and think that infatuation is love. We often call many things love that don't come anywhere close to the definition of love. Elyse Murphy shares that she is 25-years old and have never been in love.

What is Love?