Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Why Am I Anxious?

Ever wonder why you’re so anxious? Wish you could experience more peace and less anxiety? The answer to your problems may not be found in what’s happening to you, but in how you’re thinking about it. Discover seven reasons for why you might be anxious.

The Battle Within

The battles within ourselves can be the toughest ones to fight. But Jesus gave us a game plan that won’t fail. In this spoken word piece from part four of Bars & Battles, see how we can encourage ourselves by speaking truth.

No fear can live in the place where love is.

I am strong, where I am weak.

Where I am weak, He is strong.

In Him, every battle is won.

Monday, August 28, 2017

What you won't see on Instagram

In a world full of perfect pictures from our perfect lives on social media it hit me that there are a lot of pictures you will never see from people's real lives. The pictures you take when life did not go according to plan.

The pictures from your Renewal of Vows that turned out less beautiful than others.

The messy counters in your home. It takes a lot of food (and chips) to feed a whole family.

The "Today's outfit" picture from Love Week at Elevation Church. Hairnets might just be the least flattering piece of clothing in the whole world.

The picture you took when you realized that the location where you had planned to take your beautiful Renewal of Vows pictures is covered with bird poop. My brother has some good advice for when life doesn't turn out the way you planned: "Just embrace the poop!"

The Weekend

The last weekend of August had to include a trip to the beach, of course.

On Sunday morning we went to church and afterwards I enjoyed going for a walk in the park.

On Sunday afternoon we took a drive out to Cobourg where we enjoyed the downtown area.

I love what a cozy little town Cobourg is.

Cobourg Coffee House (in the background) is my favorite little cafe in this small town.

On Saturday evening my husband and I went on our first Date Night in Toronto in a long time. All our Date Nights during summer have consisted of a burger and a beer at home, no make up and a very casual dress code. It was fun to get all dressed up for each other again after a long break during summer.

We enjoyed dinner and drinks on the rooftop patio at Milestones.

How blessed we are to get to live here, I love this city! Next weekend it's Labor Day weekend in Canada and I'm already looking forward to the long weekend. This is the last week of summer break for all the kids, then the school year starts again.

Do We Need Truth?

We all have an innate sense of right and wrong. Where does this truth come from and do we need truth in our lives?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Forever I Run

You are, the strength of my heart
Forever I'll run, again to Your love
You are, the strength of my heart
Forever my God, Your love is enough

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Marriage is not for You

Everything from Disney movies to romantic comedies has taught us that marriage will bring ultimate happiness and fulfillment to our lives. Anyone who is married can testify to the fact that this is untrue. One reason marriage will not bring us ultimate happiness is because we marry a human-being, not a fairytale prince/princess. Real people are really messed up, we all are. We have fears and bad habits that our significant other will have to "embrace".

Marriage wasn't created by God to make us happy, but to point to what God's love for humanity looks like. A healthy and joy filled marriage is a picture that God created to point to what His love for us looks like. It's a love that never ends. It's a love that is patient, kind and not self-serving. It's a love that perseveres through hardship.

Marriage can certainly bring happiness to our lives but if we think that happiness is the point our marriages will suffer and probably end up in divorce. True love doesn't say: "what can he/she do for me?" True love is focused on serving the other person. True love will always include self-sacrifice. In a relationship where there is no self-sacrifice at all there is no real love. We will love few people on Earth as much as our own children and every parent knows that a lot of self-sacrifice is involved in parenting. Real love is not self-serving.

When you have two people in a marriage who are both focused on serving their spouse, not on getting what they want out of the relationship, you will see a marriage that flourishes. When I'm fully committed to serving my husband and meeting his needs and he is fully committed to serving me and meeting my needs we both end up happy. On the other hand, if we both choose to focus on making ourselves happy in the marriage we will end up competing with each other and have a lot of conflict. God loves humanity so much that he came down himself to die for all our sins. When I choose to model what Jesus did, to die to my own selfishness and choose an others-focused life I flourish.

You'd think that if I make my own happiness my main focus in life that would make me happy, but it doesn't. We were not created to live isolated lives but to live in community with others. When you have a community full of people focused on their own happiness, it makes sense that you will not see a lot of love in that community. When I learn to live an others-focused life and surround myself with a whole community full of people who are also focused on serving rather than getting, I end up surrounded by real love.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Love is a Choice

Pastor Micahn Carter preaches a great message in this video about love. Love is not just a feeling we have, love always requires action. It was a little uncomfortable to listen to this message because I could so clearly picture what God is asking me to give of myself during what's left of this year. It makes me a little nervous, because it will require sacrifice on my part. But God has given me everything I need in this life and more, so how can I not give to others what He is asking me to give.

We are all called to love God and to love our neighbor as ourself. Who is our neighbor? People who are hurting, people in need. Love isn't simply a feeling, to love is to do something for someone else. Love is a choice. Love isn't always going to feel good or look pretty, to love is to serve someone else by choosing to care for them when you didn't have to. Imagine how different our world would look today if we all decided to choose love. The needs in this word are many, but the people availbale on Earth who have the ability to love are also many. What if we decided to take on each new day not focused on serving our own interests, but focused on how we could love our neighbor each day.

We do alot of achieving and striving in this world but how much, in the end, is love? How much time on our weekly schedules is focused on loving others, versus striving for personal glory? We are all selfish by nature, none of us live lives that look the way we wish that they would look. But when we take the time to ask ourselves some difficult questions, and make changes to our schedules based on the answers, we will see growth every time. Love is a choice. What will you do for those who are in need this year? How will you love your neighbor?

Here's a few things that will not matter at the end of our lives: how much money we made, what title we had at work, how big our house was, how trendy our clothes were, how expensive the car was that we drove. What will matter in the end is how much we loved God and loved other people. "Love your neighbor as yourself" is all about us treating the stranger the same way that we would like to be treated. If that stranger was your son/daughter, how would you treat the person? Do that onto the stranger, your neighbor.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

3 Ways to Fight Commitment Issues

Deep and authentic relationships with people is what make us come alive and bring meaning to our lives. But to be able to have deep and meaningful relationships with others we have to be willing to commit to people. If you have been deeply hurt by people before it's understandable that you have commitment issues, but it's not possible to experience the joy of a deep relationship without commitment.

If we fail to commit to others our friendships and romantic relationships will stay shallow and ultimately be meaningless. Getting vulnerable with others is always scary, but on the other side of that challenge is the reward of joy and meaning. We are all called to love God and love people. It's impossible to really love people without committing to them.

The Workout

My favorite workout during the summer is swimming. I like to do a HIIT swimming workout just before sunset. I love doing swimming workouts in the lake because I prefer to do all my workouts outdoors. Lake Ontario and Lake Huron are my gym in the summer.

My workout routine has changed a lot over the years. In my early twenties my main motivation for working out was to lose weight or become fit, it was all about beauty. During my late twenties my motivation changed and became all about performance. My focus was on getting faster,stronger and better. I was focused on getting a better PR every year and winning medals. After getting injured a lot I decided I was done with trying to prove my worth through fitness and sports. It's astonishing what us humans will do to ourselves in the search for meaning and self-worth.

Today my motivation for working out is to take good care of my body. Some weeks I treat my body well, I eat healthy and reach my goal of four workouts per week. On other weeks I eat more cupcakes than green juices and do zero workouts. I have to admit that it was easier to find motivation to work out when what motivated me was fear of not performing well enough or fear of not looking good enough.

Today I'm very content with how I look and I no longer need to have a good PR to feel that my life has worth or meaning. The downside is that contentment sometimes leads me to choose watching TV over going for a bike ride. On the other hand, I still remember what it used to feel like to obsess about my level of fitness. A few years ago I used to work out 5-6 days per week, sometimes twice a day. Today I do 3-4 workouts per week (on a good week). I have a peace, joy and contentment about my body and performance level now that I never want to lose. My body and my strength are gifts to enjoy, but it's not what my body looks like or how fast I can run that gives me my worth as a human-being.

What can easily happen with things like a sport/fitness is that we make it the source that will give us our worth in life. We become addicted to the praise and approval we get from others when we look fit or perform well in a certain sport. But fitness isn't the only thing that can make us addicted when we start relying on it to give us our sense of self-worth. We can get addicted to things like our careers, our achievements, our social status etc. We get addicted to the approval we get from these things so we have to have them.

We know we have become addicted to something when without it we feel insecure, anxious and like we aren't good enough. Good things like our work, relationships, sports etc. have the power to enslave us if we start basing our identity on them. There is a big difference between being good at a sport and needing to be good at it constantly to feel good about oneself.

Monday, August 14, 2017

From Suicidal Thoughts to Fulfillment & Purpose

It's time to step into freedom

Sometimes, we get stuck — not just in a place — but in our own heads. But how can we follow our calling when we’re trapped inside our own minds? Learn how to escape the “stronghold” you’re trapped in and discover how God can use any situation as a setup for victory.

A Slow Weekend

The main event happening in Toronto during the weekend was the Taste of the Danforth in Greek town. It would have been fun to attend, but this weekend we felt like just taking it easy at our house. On Saturday we had a slow day at home and I was able to enjoy reading a book for a few hours. It was rainy on Saturday so it was a perfect day for summer reading.

Sunday was warm and sunny so after church we took a walk in the park and along the beach. I treated myself to a blueberry muffin and coffee for breakfast. My choice of breakfast during the weekends is all about enjoyment and not so much about health.

On Sunday Afternoon we packed our car full of bags and took a day trip to Cobourg beach. It became a wonderful slow weekend! Now it's only three weeks left of summer and I want to enjoy every moment of it! Today it's Monday and nothing exciting is happening. I think I will make some S'mores for dessert tonight, to make this average Monday a little bit more fun and enjoyable.

Friday, August 11, 2017

How Can I Know My Purpose?

Very rarely in the Bible does God command someone to stay. He opens a door, and then he invites us to walk through it—into the unknown. And how we choose to respond will ultimately determine the life we will lead and the person we will become. In fact, to fail to embrace the open door is to miss the work God has made for us to do.

In "All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know? ", bestselling author John Ortberg opens our eyes to the countless doors God places before us every day, teaches us how to recognize them, and gives us the encouragement to step out in faith and embrace all of the extraordinary opportunities that await.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Love Won't Let Me Down

When I was searching
Your love was never far
You made a way to get to me
You were the whisper 
Leading me to Your heart
Forever I belong to You

Now I can see clearly
My God You are for me
You won’t let go

Heaven on Earth

When we have asked Jesus to come into our hearts and are saved we get to experience Heaven on Earth. Now we know that we will see heaven the minute we die, but we also get the privilege of experiencing heaven right now. The Bible talks about God's Kingdom coming on Earth, God's Kingdom is when it is on Earth as it is in Heaven.

As long as we live in this world we will always be surrounded by war, murder, hate, abuse and all kinds of evil, but on the inside we can still have peace and joy when we are saved. From the moment we believe in Jesus we are filled with the Holy Spirit and the spirit gives us access to peace and joy every day, no matter what the world around us looks like.

In Heaven there will be no more evil, there will only be love and light, but until then we can have peace and joy on the inside even when the world around us is chaotic. We can experience joy and peace daily in the midst of a dark world when we spend time in God's presence, in God there is no darkness, there is only light.

We become saved when we are finally ready to surrender our lives to Jesus, the one true God. The Bible teaches us that we become saved the moment we believe in Jesus in our hearts and are willing to profess our faith with our mouths. We can profess our faith in God by praying a prayer like this out loud:

Heavenly Father, I trust you with my life.
Save me from my sins, forgive me, and make me new.
Fill me with your spirit, so I can follow you, run my race, living for you.
My life is not my own, Jesus I give it to you.
Thank you for new life, now you have mine.
In Jesus name I pray,

When we are saved we become "citizens of Heaven". Sheila Walsh and Sherri Gragg talk about what it means to have citizenship in God's Kingdom of Heaven in their book "A Fresh Infusion of Joy":

"One of the things I learned along the way is that there are both certain rights and responsibilities that go along with becoming an American citizen. The same is true for our citizenship in the kingdom of God.
Did you know, for instance, that joy is one of the rights inherent to citizens of God's kingdom? Listen to this description of the kingdom of God from Romans 14: "The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (v. 17).
That is amazing news! Think about it for a moment. It doesn't matter how many mistakes you have made. . . or how much you have lost.
It doesn't matter how much you have (or don't have) in your bank account. . . or what others have to say about you.
As a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, nothing-nothing-can take away your right to joy.
So open your heart wide today, friend. Don't wait until you think you deserve it, or until your circumstances take a turn for the better. 
Receive Christ's joy."

The Joy of Summer

What I've enjoyed the most this summer is definitely going to the beach and getting to spend a lot of time with family.

The Lovebirds, Mom&Dad.

Having my family from Norway and Finland come visit us was a lot of fun. Of course we also had a couple of arguments, that's inevitable when you have family come stay with you for two weeks in a row. But I don't find arguments to be a bad thing, as long as you solve them in the end. Arguments teach us things about ourselves. Each one of us learns where we still have room for personal growth. Nothing helps us grow and mature as much as human relationships do. Relationships are difficult because they challenge us to become better people every year.

Once I heard a pastor say: "God sees that we need to grow so he gives us a husband/wife. If that's not enough he gives us a baby, and if that's not enough he gives us one more baby." LOL. Yep, few things will make you grow more spiritually and mentally than close human relationships. :)

Another thing I'm enjoying this summer is the beautiful gifts we got for our Renewal of Vows. My stepson gave us a nice candle and my brother and his girlfriend gave us some encouragement to hang on the wall. "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain." So true! :)

My summer obsession: Watermelon lemonade. I can't get enough of this drink!

One of my favorite summer memories: Spending many hours in the sun with family at Cobourg Beach.

The Summer bummer:

Nr. 1) The bugs. There's way too many bugs everywhere in August! Every time I try to relax outdoors the bees chase me out of my own backyard! I'm so happy that they have a very short lifespan.

Nr. 2) The rain. This summer has been much more rainy than the average Canadian summer. One minute you're enjoying a nice day at the beach and the next moment dark clouds roll in and you're forced to run towards the parking lot as the rain starts pouring down. When my Scandinavian family came to visit we went to Wasaga Beach and got about one hour of nice weather before we had to run to the car. The upside of a rainy summer is that you appreciate the warm and sunny days even more. When it's weekend and happens to be sunny you scratch all your plans, pack the car full of beach toys and head to the beach. It's called "summer priorities".

The rainy spring and summer has also led to Lake Ontario being flooded. The waterfront of Lake Ontario looks quite messy at certain places.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Grace vs. Performance

When my own personal grasp of the gospel was very weak, my self-view swung wildly between two poles. When I was performing up to my standards—in academic work, professional achievement, or relationships—I felt confident but not humble. I was likely to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. When I was not living up to my standards, I felt humble but not confident, a failure. I discovered, however, that the gospel contained the resources to build a unique identity. In Christ I could know I was accepted by grace not only despite my flaws, but because I was willing to admit them. The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued and that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone.”

Timothy Keller, in his book “The Reason for God—Belief in an Age of Skepticism”

Religion is to constantly perform, trying your best to live up to a certain standard. All humans are religious beings, you don’t have to join a world religion to be religious. People tend to apply religious behavior to all kinds of things; sports, fitness, dieting, parenting, career, strict devotion to a certain ideology etc. Jesus came to end all religion, to free us from the need to measure up to a certain standard, to free us from the need to prove our worth. Ironically though, many Christians have turned Christianity into a religion too.

Religious behavior says: “to be good enough you must be able to live up to this standard (in your career/parenting/sport/world religion etc.)”. God’s love says: “I know you are deeply flawed and if you would just be willing to admit that fact, my grace is waiting for you. My love for you will never be based on your performance, it is freely given, and every time you mess up my forgiveness is already there waiting for you.” Following Jesus is simply to accept God’s love and grace. When I have accepted God’s grace I am free, I have nothing to prove. I can now be confident yet humble at the same time. I can enjoy living a life of love but when I fail I don’t need to beat myself up because I’m already forgiven. My worth is not defined by my performance, it’s defined by God’s endless love for me.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Helping Others

Every Christian is called to love God and love other people. Helping others is a way for us to let God use us for his purposes. God knows every need in the world and each one of us were created to meet one (or a few) of those needs in the world. It's not my job to save the world, God is the only one who can heal our broken world, but it is my job to do my part in helping God heal the broken parts of this world.

God has the power to create miracles, I am only an instrument in the hands of the great I AM. It's beautiful to see the change that can take place when each person within the church decides to serve and fill a need that they feel passionately about. When each person within the church decides to give sacrificially of their money, time and resources things change. When we give only out of our leftover money, time or resources not much will change, but when we make helping others one of our core values in life big change can happen. Together we can be the change.