Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Heart of the Song

Live Like You're Loved

I'm tellin' you somethin'
This racing, this running
Oh, you're working way too hard!
And this perfection you're chasing 
Is just energy wasted
Cause he love's you like you are!

So go ahead and live like you're loved
It's ok to act like you've been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who he made you to be

Toxic Thoughts

Craig Groeschel from Life Church talks about what we need to do to renew our minds and reject toxic thoughts. We have all been told lies growing up and over time we start to believe these lies about ourselves, we start to treat them like truth in our minds. Maybe someone told you that you were ugly, a failure or unlovable when you grew up and over time you started to believe these lies. Many years later the lies will still stick around in our minds, until we decide to renew our minds.

We combat the lies in our minds by responding to them with truth. When a lie pops up in our minds we can choose to respond to it with truth. In the beginning we might not fully believe the truth we are speaking to ourselves but over time it will sink in and the lies will no longer have power over us. If I for example have been told that I'm ugly by others I can combat the lie with God's truth and say to myself: "I am beautiful and unique because I was made by God." The renewal of my mind is not going to happen over night but over time I will no longer believe the lies in my mind. The lies in my mind will never fully disappear, but they will no longer have the power to persuade me and get me to believe them.

It's important that we take the time to combat the lies in our minds because these "toxic thoughts"  have the power to make us really unhappy. If I for example believe that I'm ugly I might spend my whole life trying to loose weight, buy more beauty products to fix what's wrong with me, and maybe even do a few operations to make my nose smaller and my butt bigger. I will do all these things because I believe a lie. I will work really hard to change my body when what really needed to change was my mind. If we take the time to renew our minds we can live more joy-filled lives and save ourselves from a lot of pain in life that comes from self-destructive behaviors.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Don't Settle When You're Dating

It's impossible to find a perfect person to spend the rest of our lives with, but settling isn't a good idea either, so how can we know if we have met the right person or if we are settling? Jefferson & Alyssa talk about dating in this video and share a few tips on how you can know that the person you are with is the one. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Four women I follow on Instagram

Who we follow on social media will influence us in one way or another. I like to follow some celebrities on social media because it's fun to see what they are doing, but my favorite group of people to follow are people who can inspire hope, perseverance, faith and compassion in me. Julia Veach, Christine Caine, Sarah Jakes Roberts and Jennie Lusko are four women whose instagram accounts always leave me feeling inspired and hopeful about life after each visit.

Julia Veach (@juliaveach)

Julia Veach lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband Chad Veach and their three children, together they run Zoe Church in LA. Julia has a daughter who has a rare medical condition.

Christine Caine (@christinecaine)

Christine Caine is married to Nick Caine and they have two daughters. Christine and Nick are the founders of The A21 Campaign that fight human trafficking and works to free women from sex slavery in many different countries around the world.

Sarah Jakes Robets (@sarahjakesroberts)

Sarah Jakes Roberts is married to Toure and has three children, two girls and one boy. Sarah is a pastor and an author. I love the wisdom Sarah shares on her instagram page, here's one quote: "Closure is not a moment between two people. It's demanding yourself to stop reliving your history & let go of the "what ifs."

Jennie Lusko (@jennielusko)

Jennie Lusko is married to Levi Lusko and they have four daughters, Alivia, Daisy, Clover and Lenya, who is in heaven. Jennie and Levi run Fresh Life Curch in Montana. Jennie also writes a blog at: mrslusko.com

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I know it's wrong, but I still want to do it!

The Bible starts with the story about Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Everything is beautiful and good in the garden and they can do whatever they want, except eat of the forbidden fruit, and of course that is exactly what they choose to do. Somehow I feel like this story reminds me of my own life. I can do whatever I want, except choose evil, and still every day I'm tempted to choose evil. I know that everything that is evil will eventually destroy me and those around me, but it can still be really tempting. I don't think anyone who decided to have an affair for example, wanted to destroy their own lives and hurt their spouse and kids on purpose, but the sin so easily entangles us.

The great news in the Bible is that on our own we will never be able to always choose what is good, but through God's strength we can do the impossible. One thing I have noticed over the years is that when you grow spiritually the sins that used to tempt you before become less and less tempting over time. As a new Christian I would have to make the choice to stay away from things I knew that were evil although it was tempting to enjoy these things. Gossip is one example. I used to love reading gossip magazines for entertainment but as I became a Christian I knew it was wrong to be entertained by other peoples' hardships and challenges in life. In the beginning I had to choose not to buy these magazines anymore although I wanted to buy them, but over time I didn't even want to buy them anymore. I started feeling bad for all these people whose private lives are invaded so that people like me can be entertained by the gossip about their lives. This is just one example. We all have habits in our lives that we know are wrong, but we find ways to justify our behavior.

The good news is that when we spend a lot of time in God's presence he softens our hearts so that our conscience comes alive again and we start to feel bad about the habits that we used to justify. When we make the choice to let Jesus into our hearts we will never be the same again, day by day and year after year he restores our hearts and fill them with love. It's not an instant change, but every time we spend time in God's presence he has an opportunity to continue to heal what is broken inside of us. Psychology and personal development is great, but it can only take us so far, but when God starts to do work in us we will be surprised by the results He can create.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Friday Night in the City

On Friday night my husband and I had booked our weekly Date Night. I was really tired on Friday evening and was tempted to ask my husband if we could rather stay at home and watch a movie together, but then I quickly changed my mind. I decided to make the extra effort and got all dressed up for Date Night at Earl's in Toronto. I'm so glad that we went out rather than to just stay at home in our sweatpants and watch TV. It's really easy to become complacent in marriage, you have already "won" the other person's heart so it's easy to start taking each other for granted.

I don't make a lot of effort these days compared to how much I would make an effort to prepare before each date in the beginning of our relationship. Marriage definitely requires making a few decisions from the start to be intentional about keeping "the flame of love" burning. Our weekly Date Night has been awesome and I hear it becomes even more of a "lifeline" after you have kids, according to the married couples I know. I love having "marriage mentors", couples who have been happily married for more than 20 years, to learn from.

Are you tired?

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

The whole Bible can be narrowed down to two main commands: “Love God!” and “Love people!” We are all familiar with loving people, we understand that loving people is all about being there for others through both the good times and the bad times. Loving God can seem a bit more difficult, how can we love an invisible God? We love God simply by spending time with him. We can talk to God through prayer and we can read his word in the Bible.

Establishing a routine of opening up the Bible and reading it for a few minutes each morning is a great way to ensure that we will start the day with a peaceful heart. Reading God’s word daily helps us stay focused on what matters throughout the day, it helps us stay self-controlled, kind, gentle, patient and loving. As a new Christian I had a hard time understanding the Bible in the beginning so I loved reading devotions, which helped me understand different passages in the Bible.

Last week I bought a new devotional book called “Peace for Today” by Sheila Walsh. This book has devotions that help me find peace every morning. A devotion is a short text about a particular topic followed by a few Bible references on the same topic. The devotion explains what a short passage in scripture means so that it becomes easy to understand it. Once I understand a passage I can see how it relates to my own life today.

This morning I read a great devotion called “When the journey is too much”. It’s a devotion about the importance of taking time to rest in between everything important that we are doing in our lives. God is not a demanding God, God understands our limits and he wants us to take time to rest. Sheila Walsh writes about how we have all experienced exhaustion at some point in our lives, even the mighty prophet Elijah in the Bible experienced this. So what did God do when Elijah got exhausted? Here’s what Sheila writes in “Peace for Today” (pages 32-33):

“Immediately after his desperate prayer, Elijah fell asleep under the broom tree (v.5); he was exhausted. And what did God do? He didn’t lecture Elijah about his calling or tell him to toughen up. No. Instead, God tenderly cared for Elijah.”

I find it helpful to know that although I live in a world that places a lot of demands on me, God is not a demanding God. God won’t ask me to push myself beyond my limits. God has given me a body with limits for a reason, a body that needs rest, sleep, food and time alone. When we learn to listen to our bodies’ signals, and choose to give our bodies what they need, we are honoring God with our bodies and lives. God is not asking us to live lives where we are constantly sleep deprived, stressed, and unhealthy. If we love God we will choose to take good care of the body he has given us.

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
Mark 6:30-31

Greg's Story

I find it interesting to listen to people's stories about how they found God. Every story is unique because every person has had a unique experience in life. Greg is a doctor who had everything he thought he needed to be happy. He had a successful career, an expensive car and nice clothes. He had also achieved success in sports like running and triathlon, but he still felt empty inside and wasn't content. Greg was an arrogant person and an atheist so his Christian neighbors really irritated him. Greg decided that he would read through the Bible so that he could prove to his neighbors that they were hypocrites.

As Greg studied the Bible he was blown away by the fact that Jesus claimed to be God in human form. He had never heard that before. As time went on Greg wanted to change in a few areas of his life where he knew he wasn't a good person, but he couldn't change himself. One day he decided to get down on his knees and ask God to forgive him for his sins and change him as a person. Greg felt a peace from that day on that he had never felt before and it became evident to Greg's wife that her husband was a changed man. Greg had started caring about other people in a way that he had never done before.

Greg explains that the difference between Christianity and other world religions is that all other religions are about people trying to reach God, while Christianity is about God himself coming down to reach people. Greg says that when you invite Jesus into your heart your life will never be the same, and the ultimate proof of Jesus being God is the change he creates in each person who has encountered him.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Life after death

There are many different testimonies out there from people from different countries all over the world who have had near death experiences. What's really cool today is that we all have a chance to hear them thanks to the internet. Some of these people share stories about being surrounded by complete peace, love and light during the minutes they were dead, a place that they believe was heaven. Other people share stories that are much more scary. They talk about ending up in a place that was completely dark, cold and where they felt a strong presence of evil. Some people talk about hearing voices and loud screams in this place. They believe that this place must have been hell.

Ian McCormack is an Australian who was a surfer and an atheist back in 1982 when he had his near death experience. He was stung by five Box jellyfish while diving and was dead for many minutes before he came back to life. Ian's story is quite interesting because while he was dead he ended up in a place that he believes was hell, then he was pulled into heaven, and later he came back to life again.

Ian McCormack was an atheist back in 1982 when he had his near death experience but his mother was a Christian. As Ian was laying in the ambulance dying he remembered the Lord's prayer that his mother had taught him and started praying the prayer and crying out to God. You can hear Ian share his story in this video.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ready Set Go

Lived so long with my eyes on me
Too deaf to hear, too blind to see
Oh, broken hearts on the city streets but
I can hear that you’re calling me to
Be the hope, be the light, be the love
Right now, starting right now

Oh, you put my life in motion
Your love makes me want to give my all
Ready set go
Ready set go oh
So no, I’m not holding back anymore

Celebrities Speak Out On Fame & Materialism

The Hot Seat

Pastor Craig Groeschel from Life Church answers tough but important questions in "The Hot Seat" about the Bible and Christianity. Questions like "Why do some people lift their hands in church during worship and others do not? and "If God won't give me more than I can handle, then why do I feel so overwhelmed?"

Sujo's Story

Sujo John was born in Calcutta, India and came to the US in search for success and money. He got a great job and was working in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Sujo was working in the North tower and his wife, who was four months pregnant at the time, was working in the South tower. Sujo and his wife both survived the terrorist attacks. In the video Sujo talks about how his experiences that day affected him for life and changed his course in life.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Love on the line

"Faith is not an event, it's a journey."

I was listening to this sermon from Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia last week called "Root Remedy" and thought about how God always offers me a solution to every problem. Pastor Chad Veach talked about how we often try to solve problems with temporary fixes in life but when we find Jesus we find a solution for the root of our problems. It sounds weird to be honest, that Jesus would be the answer to my financial problems and that Jesus would be the answer to my struggle with eating disorders, but it's true.

When I became a Christian nine years ago I thought that this event would give me answers to all my spiritual questions in life and nothing more than that. I had no idea what I was about to experience. Jesus became more than the answer to my spiritual questions, he became the solution for every single problem I had. I had been struggling with body image issues for years and been on the border to developing eating disorders for a long time, but as I grew in my relationship with God I was able to make peace with my body. I started to realize that God had made me exactly like this for a reason and still I walked around thinking thoughts like "I wish my body was more like this and less like that." I finally started to see myself the way God sees me, as a beautiful and unique daughter of His and not as an object who needs to look a certain way to be worthy of love and acceptance.

Another thing I used to struggle with was fear and worry. I was one of those people who could get worried about almost anything and let fear consume my mind and steal my joy and peace. I'm also a control freak, and controlling things was my way of trying to feel safe. I thought that I had to be in control and make everything perfect to be okay, but instead I found out that it was when I finally decided to give up control and trust God than I found a peace and security in life that I had never felt before. I know that my life is in the hands of God and he's got me. There will be moments when my trust in him waivers of course, usually when I get distracted and start to focus on everything else but God. In times like that I have to remind myself to get back to focusing on God and remember that He is in control and I am not.

The amazing thing with God's character is that he always has more for us. When we think that this is it, this is how good life is going to get, God has more for us. When I think "I'm always going to have these issues" God has more for me. God says: "No, I've got more for you, I can offer you a whole new life!" Just when you think that your marriage is over, just when you think that you can't take it another day, just when you think that your business is going to fail, just when you think it's the end Jesus shows up and says: "I've got more for you, more than you could ask for, more than you could ever imagine."

A Slow Weekend

Last weekend we had a dinner party at our house on Saturday and on Sunday we offered to babysit a little baby boy that we know. It was a lot of fun, but this weekend the introvert in me wanted to take it easy and do as little as possible.

On Saturday they promised rain in Toronto so I decided to take a morning walk before the thunderstorms would start rolling in. The same minute that I stepped out on my front porch the rain started pouring down, I was forced to stay indoors. I decided to treat myself to a new magazine instead, plus some chocolate, a muffin and a homemade latte, so that I could enjoy the rainy day.

On Sunday the weather was warm and sunny again so we decided to spend most of the day at the beach. There are only three more weeks left before Labor Day and the start of fall. I want to make the most out of what’s left of summer! 

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Stephanie Zerwas gives an interesting TED talk about how social media affects how we view our bodies. Stephanie is a clinical psychologist and an expert on the genetics of eating disorders and body image in the age of social media.

We find ourselves in the middle of a big "social experiment" called social media at the moment, but it's easy to forget to question this new lifestyle. Every now and then I try to ask myself questions like: "What parts of my life has gotten better and what parts has gotten worse after I started using social media?", "Do I need to establish some new personal boundaries on social media to feel better about my life and the world around me?" 

We need something to base our decisions on so I find it helpful that more and more researchers are choosing to look into how social media affects our view of ourselves and others. Stephanie Zerwas shares some of the findings from her own research in this video.

Another Heat Warning

Today they have issued another Heat Warning in Toronto, at the moment it's humid and +33 degrees outside. It was the month of August when I first arrived in Canada six years ago and I remember how much I would complain about the heat in the beginning. Nowadays I start to feel cold if it gets cooler than +24 degrees outside. It's funny how much we can adapt to almost any surroundings. :)

We have a UFO in Toronto, the City Hall building.

One thing I love about Toronto is the very colorful taxi cars, the bright colors make me happy, especially on a grey winter day.

You can tell it's tourist season, and I'm one of them, although I'm more of a "long-term tourist" in the city. :)

I love hanging out down by the waterfront in Toronto on a weekday evening during summer. I'm so glad this city is built right beside the lake.

On a hot day you have to drink a lot, I think I had 1 iced latte and 2 lemonades in one day when I took these pictures last week. Of course you could just drink water, but lemonade is so much more interesting than water. :)

Everybody wants to hang out by the waterfront. Another thing I love about Toronto is that this is a very multicultural city.

Many people seem to like going sailing after work, since there are so many sailboats in this picture.

I'm so glad I ended up in this city, although I never planned to move to Toronto. I wanted to move to the West Coast but I'm so glad I couldn't find a job there, otherwise I would never have come to Toronto and I would never have met my husband. Thank God for closed doors in life! :)

My city and my husband, I'm very grateful for both!! :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The gift of being single

Never Alone

In the dark You lift my eyes
For this journey You designed
Your light guiding me
Let my heart align with You
In Your Word and in Your Truth
Your voice calling me
Faith in the unseen

Oh You reign in my soul
Oh You reign in my soul
I will never be alone
I will never be alone

Chad's Story

Listening to people's life stories on www.iamsecond.com always makes me start to cry. There is something really powerful about hearing a person's whole life story in just a few short minutes, with all the ups and downs that comes with living in this broken world. It becomes very clear that we will all face some really tough struggles in this life, nobody will be able to live a life that is always easy and happy. What will matter in the end is how we handle the challenges that come our way in life.

Chad Robichaux went to Afghanistan as a marine after the 9/11 attacks on the US. What felt exciting in the beginning, an opportunity to do something noble, quickly became a traumatic experience. Having to witness the evil of mankind up close and watch what people can do to other human beings for their own selfish gain led to Chad developing PTSD. Chad was forced to quit his job and his family life also suffered from his traumatic experiences in Afghanistan. Chad and his wife Kathy eventually decided to separate and filed for divorce.

Chad became a pro MMA champion and for awhile he felt like he had found a cure for his PTSD, while he was fighting he had a distraction that kept the memories from Afghanistan in the background. As time went on Chad wasn't able to run away from his issues and trauma any longer and he became very suicidal. During this time Kathy was going to church and started praying for her husband. Kathy was asking Chad not to give up on his life or family. Chad listened to Kathy and asked her to find somebody in her church who could help him. Chad got a mentor from church who helped him start to fight for his life and family again and do whatever it takes to find healing in his own emotional life and in his marriage.

As Chad developed a personal relationship with God his PTSD became something that no longer controlled him but something he had control over. Chad and his wife continued to work on their relationship and over time God brought restoration into their marriage and Chad moved back in with Kathy and the kids. After God saved Chad and Kathy's marriage and brought healing to Chad they both felt that they wanted to help others. Chad and Kathy decided to start a foundation that offers help to veterans and their families who are struggling with the effects of combat trauma. Today Chad and Kathy have been married for 21 years.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The War

Are we there yet?

Who likes waiting for things in life? Probably nobody. I'd much rather have each one of my dreams come true without any waiting seasons in between. The reality of life looks a lot different than that, we often find that we have to spend a lot of time waiting before our dreams come true. So why does God seem to keep us waiting so much in life?

Although nobody likes waiting the waiting seasons in life are often the times when God can grow us the most, while we wait God teaches us to trust and obey him. When we find ourselves in a waiting season there is usually something God wants to change within us before we are ready to enter our own "promise land". God knows that if he would let us enter the promise land before he has changed a few things inside of us we would be in danger of ruining that next assignment in life. God works in every waiting season to prepare us for the next stage in life.

God knows what we need to thrive and be successful in life. Each waiting season usually includes an area where God is waiting for us to obey him. We often know exactly what God wants us to do next to help us grow, but we don't want to do it. I like what Elyse says in the sermon: "But I can promise you that your promise land is on the other side of your obedience."

I can definitely relate to the message in this sermon. Many times I've found myself in a stage in life where I know exactly what God wants me to do next, but I'd rather do anything else than obey His will for my life. Why? Usually because it would require me to step outside of my comfort zone or because I'm afraid. Once I've finally decided to take that step of faith into the unknown it's always been worth it.

Pastor Elyse Murphy gives us a few tips on what to do when we feel like we can't get to our promise land, when we feel stuck walking around in circles in the wilderness. Elyse teaches us what we need to do to get up, get focused and get going toward that dream that seems so far out of reach at the moment.