Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How does God guide us?

Life can be really confusing at times, but we are never alone in our struggles. God is always near and he is guiding us as we go through life. There are a few different ways that God guides us in life, in episode 7 of Alpha we learn about how we can discern God's voice in our lives.

Paul Cowley also shares his life story in this episode of Alpha. Paul had a really hard childhood and was thrown out of home by his Father at age 15. He ended up in prison as an adult and after two divorces he was starting to wonder if he could ever do things right in life. Paul ended up taking an Alpha course and over time he started seeing huge changes in his life. He was able to develop a relationship with his son again, who he hadn't seen for many years, and he even started caring for his father despite the fact that his father was still a rude alcoholic.


You gave everything to have me,
with Your fierce love
You've been wanting me even at my worst
You will never stop pursuing,
'till I am Yours
You have healed me
and you quenched my thirst
Like my lungs need oxygen,
my heart needs You
So not by will,
not by might
but by Your power
I will fight.

Made in Canada

We are all aware of the fact that slavery still exists and that a lot of what we buy in a year has been made by child labor and other forms of unethical labor. We can buy Fairtrade coffee and foods but I find it really hard to buy clothing without indirectly supporting child labor and slavery. There are some good Fairtrade clothing brands out there like People Tree for example, but it's hard to put together a whole wardrobe of clothes from these small brands with very few pieces of clothing to choose from.

I like to take a look at the tags of the clothes I wear to become more aware of how they were made. I'm happy to see that some of the big brands are starting to sell more and more clothes that have been made in countries where slavery and child labor is illegal. Many Canadian brands make their winter coats in Canada which is great.

I was happy to buy my black winter coat which is "Made in Canada" at Le Chateau last fall. Le Chateau also has a whole collection of clothes that are Made in Canada for sale in their online store. J Crew is another brand I like because they sell some things made in countries that require all labor to be Fairtrade. I like to buy my flats from J Crew that are Made in Italy. I hope to see more brands offer clothing for sale that was made under ethical labor standards in the near future. I want to be able to shop clothes, shoes and jewelry that help people get a better life, not stuff that keep people in slavery.

How to Fight Fair

Have you ever gotten in an argument with your significant other, and wondered how in the world you can make things right again? If you disagree, it shouldn't end in a breakup or even a divorce. Learn these tips and tricks to communicate with your spouse in a loving way, so that you can disagree with grace. You'll become stronger because of it!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Lynsi's Story

Lynsi Snyder, owner and president of In-N-Out Burger, tells her life story. Lynsi talks about the intense loneliness she felt throughout her life as a young woman and how searching for someone to fill that void in her heart drove her to make some choices she would later regret. Lynsi talks about the pain, the fear of being alone and the searching that eventually led her to the happy life she has today.

The Weekend

I was feeling down last week and on Friday I was in desperate need of a weekend focused on self-care. On Sunday night, I was surprised by how joyful I was feeling and I concluded that I’ve finally found some healthy strategies to help me deal with pain, sadness and disappointment in life. During my early twenties, my default way to deal with negative feelings was through comfort eating. Comfort eating feels good in the moment but tend to only add more negative feelings to life over time. This weekend I decided to fill my life with the things that always make me feel better and that are healthy ways to feel better; books, friendship and God.

When I need some good advice, comfort and motivation to keep moving forward during the heavy seasons of life I love reading books about life’s challenges by authors like Lysa TerKeurst, Holly Wagner, Charlotte Gambill and Levi Lusko. Levi Lusko has written a great book about dealing with the loss of a loved one called “Through the Eyes of a Lion”. Charlotte Gambill has written the book “The Miracle in the Middle” about not giving up on the things you are fighting for in life. Lysa TerKeurst has written the wonderful book “Uninvited” about how to deal with feelings of insecurity and loneliness.

On Saturday, I ordered myself the biggest cup of coffee you could buy at the coffee shop and decided to read a few chapters in “Find Your Brave” by Holly Wagner. I’m so glad that I decided to read this book during this season of my life. When you are dealing with sadness, disappointment and pain it’s easy to want to lay down and feel sorry for yourself but what we really need is to get that “warrior spirit” in us to come out. We need that fighting spirit if we are going to be able to choose bravery and choose to keep fighting the good fight in life. Holly’s book gave me a lot of motivation, excitement, joy and hope on Saturday when I was reading it.

The second thing in life that can always get me to feel better is spending time with the people in my life that have my back. We can’t make it through life’s storms alone so good friendships become super important. On Sunday, I treated myself to a nice dinner at Lee restaurant in Toronto. Enjoying some good food with good company can make any problem in life seem smaller than before.

The third thing that makes all the difference in life during both good days and bad days is spending time in God’s presence. I wish I was equally excited about reading my Bible every day but the truth is that it’s during the more difficult times in my life that I seek His presence more than when everything is going great. On Sunday morning, I was very encouraged by pastor Steven Furtick’s sermon “The Power of Pre” at Elevation Church. I’m so blessed to get to be a part of Elevation Church and the current series “Work Your Window” comes at the perfect time in life for me this year. Today it’s Monday and I’m excited to take on this new week with new energy and a lot of new motivation. Let’s go!

Adults Only

My husband and I were watching this sermon about marriage by pastor Leanne Matthesius during the weekend and I kept laughing throughout the sermon because so many of the things Leanne mentions apply to me. Leanne Matthesius talked about how marriage is for adults only, but we tend to bring our childish and immature behaviors into our marriages. We all have certain childish behaviors that we have kept into adulthood that keep messing up our marriages. I can honestly say that I have more issues related to immaturity than my husband, poor him who has to put up with me! Then again, my husband is older than me so I can always blame it on the age difference.

These days I don’t mind being made aware of my own personal issues, I don’t beat myself up over my weaknesses, instead I like to use my issues as motivation to grow stronger and better. You can’t change other people, but when you work on changing yourself you are changing the world, because you are a part of the world.

Leanne Matthesius has been married to her husband for 24 years, I have been married to my hubby for 4 years, in other words there is a lot of time for me to grow stronger and better. There’s no reason for me to beat myself up for what I don’t do, but I like to pick a few things every year that I can work on. If I keep adding one or two new building blocks to my marriage every year over time our marriage is going to be strong and beautiful. That’s my goal!

The Healthy Breakfast

After surfing around the internet for awhile looking for some inspiration on healthy breakfasts I finally found this recipe: organic cereal with almond milk and black berries. This breakfast is exactly what I want my weekday breakfasts to be like: quick to make and quick to eat. There are many great fitness blogs and Youtube channels out there but sometimes I find that the recipes they share are very complicated and takes a lot of time to make.

Eating healthy for me is all about finding new inspiration every now and then on how to make healthy meals. Eating healthy becomes very boring if I have to eat the same things week after week, then I tend to slip back to less healthy meals. The one thing I wish to see more of on fitness and health blogs are more quick and easy recipes. I just don't have the time to make a complicated breakfast or lunch on a Monday.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Workout

I've had a bad week and on top of that the weather hasn't been very nice lately so outdoor workouts aren't an option. My workouts have still gone surprisingly well this week thanks to great workout DVD:s and Youtube videos by some of my favorite personal trainers.

Cardio kickboxing is one of my favorite workouts during this time of the year. Kickboxing is fun, gives me a great workout and I can do it in front of the TV or computer. If you want to try a new fun workout at home this weekend I recommend this kickboxing workout from Karena and Katrina's Youtube channel Tone It Up. Enjoy!

It's Friday!

All dressed up for Date Night with the man in my life on Monday.

Good coffee + a good book = Self-care

The week started on a good note with a fun Date Night with my hubby on Monday evening, then the rest of the week was mostly difficult, painful and included a lot of sadness. This is life, sometimes it’s wonderful and sometimes it hurts. My main goal for this weekend will be self-care. After a hard week I won’t make any big plans for Saturday and Sunday, I just want to rest and be kind to myself. I plan to spend some time at a coffee shop somewhere in the city this weekend, enjoying a latte and taking the time to read “Find Your Brave” by Holly Wagner. I’ve only read half a chapter in the book so far and I already love it! I wish you all a fun and relaxing weekend!

How we view our problems matters

When we are in a season of confusion and pain in life our perspective becomes very important. God's perspective and my own perspective will be very different. Most of the time I aim for an easy and trouble-free life so it's not surprising that I get frustrated when I hit a roadblock in life. When I find myself in a painful season in life it's always tempting to blame somebody else for my pain, but I can make the choice to let the circumstance make me better rather than bitter. What looks like a problem to me might just be God's provision for my life. What may look like a failure to me might just be what God brought into my life as the training ground where he will make me stronger and better than before.

Pastor Charlotte Gambill from Life Church in England teaches us what we can do when we find ourselves in a confusing and painful season in life. The thing that can save us during a difficult season is the people we surround ourselves with. When we are going through a painful season we are always tempted to isolate ourselves, but in isolation we will only get more angry, more frustrated and more sad. We need to surround ourselves with people who won't only tell us what we would like to hear, but the things we need to hear. It's also important to not let certain people speak into our lives during a painful and confusing season in life. There will always be people who will be quick to tell us why we don't have what it takes to overcome the challenge we are faced with. We need to make the choice to surround ourselves with people who can encourage us during the difficult seasons of life, not people who add discouragement and help us stay stuck in life.

It's important to remember that although the problems we face in life can be really frustrating God's perspective is much bigger than ours.What we view as our life's biggest mistake might just be what God will use to shape us into someone who can help others more than someone who hasn't made that particular mistake in life. What we view as a threat to our plan for the future might just be God redirecting us toward a direction that will bring more good things to our lives than we could ever imagine.

Josef's story in the Bible is one filled with roadblocks but God used all the hard stuff in Josef's life to build incredible character in him. Josef was quite arrogant as a young man but after years of struggle he had become a man of great character and integrity and that's when God gave him a very influential role in the land. Josef's older brothers viewed Josef as a problem and decided to get rid of him, little did they know that the same person they viewed as a problem was going to one day save their lives. Perspective changes everything. If we keep staring at our problems all we will ever see is pain and hardship. We can choose to lift our eyes and trust that God is working in all things for the good of those who love Him. What the enemy sent our way to try to destroy us God can turn around and use it for good.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Can Handle It

I love this video! Every time I'm starting to get discouraged by my own negative thoughts this video can get me back on track again. I'm reminded that I don't walk through this life alone and that I have access to everything I need to be able to handle every challenge that comes my way in life. This year won't be easy, because life isn't easy, but I can handle it! Future challenges of year 2017, I'm ready for you now!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Healthy Habits in January

Healthy eating is one of my goals in January. My favorite healthy snacks right now are: organic granola bars, clementines and apples with peanut butter.

I don't have a lot of appetite in the morning so I usually have a small breakfast, in January I'm choosing Greek yogurt and a bowl of fruit for breakfast.

My goal is to not eat any sugar during the weekdays in January and then on Friday, Saturday and Sunday I can enjoy some sweet treats. Last weekend I treated myself to a Peppermint Hot Chocolate on Saturday.

On Sunday I treated myself to four big macaroons, I think macaroons will become my favorite dessert during the month of January.

Two of my New Year’s resolutions for this year are self-care and self-preservation. Self-care for me in 2017 will be all about prioritizing exercise and a healthy diet. I also want to make sure I don’t let my life get so busy that I don’t have time for enough exercise. If I want to live for 70-90 years I can’t afford to not exercise on a regular basis. A few weeks ago, a friend of a friend died of a heart attack, which once again reminded me that life can’t be all about success on the expense of our health if we want to live beyond 50.

I also want 2017 to be the year when I learn some important lessons about self-preservation. During 2016 I was reminded of how important it is for me to not be afraid of disappointing others. I have no problems with setting boundaries in my personal life but I’m becoming more aware of my pattern of being a "people pleaser" in work relations, which sometimes lead me to step outside of my personal boundaries. I want 2017 to be the year when I clearly define my personal boundaries and stick to them, no more sacrificing my personal boundaries to “keep the peace”. When you become "a pushover" to keep the peace you quickly enter self-destructive behavior. I think one of my mantras this year will be: “I know my boundaries, and I will protect them.”

It’s not fun to become aware of self-destructive or negative patterns that we have in life but there’s no other way to learn and grow in life, is there? Every new year brings new lessons for us to learn. We don’t stop learning and growing when we graduate high school or university. I think it’s helpful to realize that our weaknesses and faults are not something we need to beat ourselves up for, they are a natural part of life. There is not one person on this planet who has nothing to work on in life. We all need to keep growing, but we can do this while being kind to ourselves. We need to give ourselves (and others) grace.

After You

I'll be honest with all that I've been through
I've been runnin' after everything but you
And I'll be honest
Nothing satisfies
Like the love I find inside your eyes

There's nothing sweeter than your love
It's all I want, it's all I need
There's nothing sweeter than your love
You gave it all, poured out for me

So I'm not after the world
I'm after you

My Story

Britt Nicole talks about the story behind her song "After you". Britt shares a bit about her own struggle with staying focused on what matters most in life. It's always tempting to chase after different things in this world and try to find satisfaction in things that can never satisfy the soul.

Monday, January 9, 2017

I Want to Believe, But...

We can sometimes find ourselves in a place where we want to believe in God but our distorted view of God is holding us back. One common distorted view of God is that God exists to serve us. When we have this view of God we end up treating him like a genie in the bottle, and when God doesn't do what we want him to do we conclude that either God doesn't exist or he isn't loving.

Pastor Craig Groeschel from Life Church explains the difference between how God truly is and how we sometimes tend to view God. Craig talks about how God is always loving, His ways are always higher than ours and his presence will always be enough in every circumstance we will face. Many of us will experience God the most when we are at the lowest point in our lives and often it's not before God becomes all we have that we understand that God is all we need in life.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Joyful Moments in January

This January I'm joyful as I look at the pictures from our Christmas celebration in Finland. I really enjoyed spending time in the archipelago during our trip to Finland.

I don't get to spend every Christmas with my family in Finland since I live in Canada so when I get the chance to do that it's a very special time. As a child growing up I was mostly focused on what kind of presents I would get for Christmas and as an adult you realize how little stuff matters. The joy that stuff brings to life is temporary but the joy that family brings is worth so much more than all the stuff in the world.

In January I'm also enjoying the last few days with our Christmas tree, in a week or so it will be time to pack up the tree in a box and put it away until next year. Our home will be a lot less sparkly without the Christmas tree.

We have almost no snow in Toronto at this time but I really enjoy sunny winter days when I can take walks along the beach with my hubby.

January is also a time to set new goals for the future, so far the only goal I have is to get back to healthy eating and exercise. I got sick during Christmas and didn't do a single workout during our trip to Finland so now I'm really looking forward to getting started again. My goal is to do four workouts per week and eat healthy four days a week. On the weekends I want to treat myself to pancakes, hot chocolate and other wonderful winter treats.

The Story You're Building in Me

These are the things that matter in life
Living in every moment cause I can't stop the time
Tomorrow's gonna be yesterday
So I don't want to miss a thing
This is the story You're building in me

Fourteenth of December
We went and got married
Then we moved down to Nashville
Someday we'll start a family
Then we got some bad news
That mom had cancer
And if she was still here
She'd tell us remember

These are the things that matter in life
Living in every moment cause I can't stop the time
Tomorrow's gonna be yesterday
So I don't want to miss a thing
This is the story You're building

You know all of my days
My tomorrows are covered in grace
You're in the middle of it all
And I want to say I'm thankful

A Life Filled with Joy & Peace

Pastor Craig Groeschel preaches a funny but sobering sermon about our thought-life. Craig does a good job at showing us how much our thoughts will impact our well-being in life. Our lives move in the direction of our strongest thoughts. I can't let my mind be controlled by negativity, fear and worry and expect my life to still be full of peace. My thoughts matter and what I choose to dwell on will determine in what direction my life will be moving. The outcome of a difficult situation that I'm faced with will be entirely different depending on what my thinking looks like. My own inner dialog matters.

My actions will always be based on my thoughts. First we think, then we act, therefore what we think about will impact our lives in a great way. If we don't learn to take control of our thought-life our minds will be prisoners to negative, hopeless, dark thoughts that will drain us of energy and leave us with no peace. When we give our thoughts over to being led by the Holy Spirit our minds will no longer be filled with fear, hopelessness, worry, anxiety and despair. The more we are filled with and led by the Holy Spirit the more light our thoughts will become. Our minds will be filled with peace, life and joy in both good times and difficult times.

It's easy to assume that to have a life filled with joy we need a life free of difficulty but that is not the case. God offers us a peace and joy that will not leave us, a peace and joy so deep that even when our circumstances are not great we can still have joy and be at peace on the inside. I love this quote by Craig Groeschel from the sermon: "So much of life isn't about what happens to you but how you think about what happens to you."