Tuesday, September 29, 2015
In this video comedian Michael Jr. is joking about how you should pray to God. He has a point, many of us still think that praying to God has to be done in a certain way and that it needs to be very ritualistic. The truth is that praying to God is nothing more strange than just talking to him. You can talk to God just like you talk to a person. Try asking God a question and then be quiet for awhile, wait and see what will enter your mind, eventually God will give you an answer.
God longs to have a personal relationship with each one of us and prayer doesn't have to be any more complicated than just having a conversation with him. As every father longs to spend time with his children our father in heaven also longs to spend time with us one on one. The good thing is that talking to God doesn't require Skype or a smartphone, you can talk to God wherever you are and at any time during the day. God is always with you.
Monday, September 28, 2015
You read a lot about fitness goals on social media these days. I love that we live in an era today when people are more educated than ever about the importance of physical exercise and eating healthy, but there’s another side to the phenomenon. Sometimes I’m a little worried about our mental health when I see how much our culture values “the perfect body” and beauty. You can’t escape the fact that our human bodies need exercise and good food to stay strong and healthy but at the same time we also need to be kind to ourselves to stay healthy.
Our culture values physical fitness and beauty so highly that it makes me wonder what the consequences of this ideal will be. You already hear people talk about “shaming over-weight people”. It makes sense to me that in a culture where we worship being “fit” we will start looking down on people who don’t fit into that ideal. If having “the perfect body” is very important to us we will naturally start hating our own bodies and the bodies of others who don’t measure up to that ideal.
Eating disorders are still something that only happen to a minority group of women in society but when you look at the percentage of women with eating behaviors that aren’t healthy the number gets a lot bigger. A big group of women in society have eating behaviors that are neither normal nor healthy but they aren’t “sick enough” yet to get diagnosed with an eating disorder. I feel bad for all the young women who have to grow up in this culture with such high expectations and so much pressure on them to look perfect.
I remember my own late teens and early twenties as a time when I was not at peace with my own body and did not have a very healthy relationship with food and exercise. I really hope that as more bloggers and journalists bring up this important topic and decide to become good role models themselves this negative ideal will slowly start to disappear. We can’t only criticize the ideal, we have to decide to create a new more positive ideal that we follow instead.
I thought to myself “what could be a better ideal for me to follow than striving for “the perfect body” or “fitness?” I didn’t come up with any good ideas at all, but then I read a book called “Life is ____ .” by Judah Smith. One of the chapters in the book talks about Shalom and that’s when I thought “Yes! Shalom, that’s what I want!” The meaning of the word “Shalom” can’t be translated into one word in English, it means a lot of different things. Shalom means peace, tranquility, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, health and well-being.
I don’t want to waste one more year of my life striving for “the perfect body” or “fitness”. I want to strive for Shalom! I want to strive for both physical, mental and spiritual wholeness and well-being. This means that I will prioritize exercise and healthy eating but I will also prioritize time for rest, enough sleep, me-time, prayer time, time with friends etc. I want my wellness goal to be about more than just looking good on the beach, I want it to be about being whole as a person.
I’ve been a Christian for about eight years now but I haven’t been that connected to other Christians before these last two years. During my first five years as a Christian I wasn’t even going to church, mostly because I hadn’t found any church in my region that fit me. I personally think it’s important to pick not just any church but a church where you feel comfortable, safe and loved. All people are different, one person might love a small church where everyone knows each other, while another person feels more comfortable in a large church where you can meet many different types of people.
At this point in my life I’m so happy that I’ve found a couple of different churches in our region that I love being a part of and visit every week. This week I joined a new connect group for women at church where we will be doing an eight-week-long Bible Study together called “Stuck” by Jenny Allen. I’m amazed at the group of women who I get to do this connect group together with, they are all brave, humble and loving women.
It was wonderful to see that the environment in this women’s connect group is so loving, safe and encouraging that many people already opened up about their struggles with different types of loss and pain during session one. We got to hear stories of women struggling with being stuck in fear, emotional eating, domestic abuse, infertility issues, stuck in feeling worthless and stuck in the past. I’m so excited to see how God will use the next eight weeks to help each woman who is taking part in this connect group get free from what is holding her back in life.
It’s so beautiful when life works the way it’s designed to work, when you see people coming together in a close community opening up about their struggles and encouraging and lifting each other up. As I watched this group of women open up about different types of pain and loss in their lives and saw everyone respond with love, gentleness and encouragement toward each other I felt thankful to God for leading me to this connect group.
I think it’s very important to find your people in life, people who you can trust and who will be there for you when life gets though. Sometimes we think that we are better off alone but the truth is that we need other people, but not just any people, we need to surround ourselves with good people to be able to stay healthy in life.
I did some research on what different types of projects people are already doing in our community. Once I found out that there is a small church in our neighborhood who has started a food bank I felt drawn to take part in that project. We currently live in a neighborhood with a lot of middle class and upper class families but just five minutes away from where we live is a neighborhood where many refugees and poor families live. We've volunteered at the elementary school in this neighborhood earlier and I remember the organizers of that program saying that there are many kids in this neighborhood who come to school without having eaten anything. Many of the kids live with single parents who struggle to have enough money to get by, sometimes there just isn't enough money to buy food for a whole week.
Once I found out about the food bank I instantly felt drawn to start volunteering there and also contribute by giving food to the bank. There are so many people who are suffering all over the world and we can't do everything but we can definitely do something. I think we do our best work when we pick to serve in a field we feel passionate about. I personally have a heart that aches for poor children all over the world, that's why I want to serve in the food bank in our community. I also like taking part in what World Vision is doing around the world for poor children.
There are many ways to make an impact in our cities and around the world, we just have to pick a cause and get to work! :) Few things will also give us more joy, meaning and satisfaction in life than when we get to take part in actively working towards making things better in this world. Love is an action.
On Sunday my husband and I decided to have a date night. We started our day with going to church and the weather was nice and sunny in the morning. After church it had gotten very cloudy outside so we decided to go to the mall and run some errands.
We had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants that we used to visit a lot in the beginning of our relationship. We have many wonderful memories from this cozy restaurant so it was nice to be back there again.
We enjoyed some great food and each others company until my husband found a long black hair in his food. Although our server apologised twice we lost our appetite after this experience so we decided to get dessert somewhere else.
In the evening the sun was back out again so we went for a stroll along the lakefront down by the marina. I love hanging out in the Nautical village by the lakefront.
The weather was nice for the rest of the evening so we tried to forget our unpleasant experience at the restaurant and work on being in the now.
After a stroll in the village we went to a coffee shop for dessert. We had a nice time together until I managed to spill coffee all over my white top. Note to self: don't wear white on a date night or bring and extra top just in case.
Luckily for me the coffee shop was close to our home so I just had to go back home and change clothes before we could head out again and enjoy what was left of the evening. I was reminded once again that life will never be perfect, it's best to just take what you get and make something good out of it. :)
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Each one of us are gifted in very different areas but every person was created for a purpose. There is not one person on this earth who is useless, who has nothing to offer to the world. We are all gifted but it's up to us to decide if we will grow our gifts or not.
When we value our own uniqueness and decide to grow our gifts we strive for diligence and excellence. Once you connect those three things together (uniqueness, diligence and excellence) that's when you will fulfill your purpose in life.
Monday, September 21, 2015
Christine Petric felt very different than everyone else and all she wanted was to be like everyone else, to feel normal. She didn't appreciate or value her own uniqueness until she had a life-changing experience in college. Today she knows that she is different for a reason and that she is beautiful and special.
Confidence and self esteem is so important to feel good about yourself. This is a video where Chary Jay talks about how low self esteem and low self confidence can lead to anorexia and bulimia. Hopefully this video can inspire you to want to learn how to be confident, embrace your curves or lack there of, and manage expectations about your body image and self worth. Life's short, don't waste it on hating yourself!
Last week we were blessed with another heat wave in Toronto. I love the fall weather in Canada! Thursday was the warmest day of the week and that same day was the 4th anniversary since my husband and I got engaged. We decided to celebrate our engagement anniversary with a trip to Cobourg, ON.
I can't believe we were able to fit in two trips to the beach during the month of September this year. The water was still warm in Cobourg so I got to take my first swim ever in Lake Ontario. It's a little embarrassing that I've lived in Toronto for five years but haven't had a swim in Lake Ontario before this year, but better late than never! Cobourg is such a nice small town, perfect for a day trip if you live in Toronto.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
We are all passionate about different things and born with different skills. Every job is important because we are all making a difference in this world, even if it might seem like we don't at first glance. Every day you go to work you have an opportunity to impact someone's life. Whatever you do, do it with excellence, because your work matters greatly.
Everything God has created is beautiful, unique, special and created for a particular purpose. Each individual on this Earth is precious to God. Us humans love to label people; rich, poor, smart, stupid, beautiful, ugly etc. The truth is that we are all beautiful, special and precious to God. You might not love and appreciate your annoying neighbor but God loves her. You might not love and appreciate yourself, but God loves and appreciates you so much! He's just waiting for you to realize that.
When we finally find our identity in Christ we experience an incredible freedom. When we realize that we are special just the way we are, without the need to achieve something first, without owning the right possessions, without a particular status or job title, that's when we find freedom. We are precious to God just the way we are, because we are made by Him and nothing that God has created is less than amazing.
Many of us spend so much of our time in life trying to prove to others that we matter, that we are important people, but there really isn't any need for us to prove anything. We try buying more expensive things to prove our worth or maybe we try achieving more in our careers to show others (and ourselves) that we matter. But no matter how much we achieve we are not worth even a bit more than the homeless person in God's eyes, we are all equal. We are neither worth one bit less than somebody else. There is no other person on Earth that God values higher than you. You are not less worth than that successful and beautiful person you admire. No matter how many people have tried to put you down and make you believe that you don't matter, in God's eyes you are royalty.
In front of the God of the universe we are all equal, precious and important. The feeling you get when your eyes are opened to this truth is amazing! It gives you freedom to be who you are. You don't need to do more to be worthy in God's eyes, you are already loved and cherished by him. The day we understand this important truth we can stop striving for more money, possessions, achievements etc. with the goal to feel worthy. We will now have an entirely different motivation behind why we do what we do. We work hard in our careers because we want to love others, contribute to this world and make a difference. We buy new possessions simply because we need them and enjoy them, not because we try to measure up to some cultural ideal.
We accept, appreciate and love ourselves because we know that we are children of God and are very precious and special to him. Knowing this truth we find a peace, freedom and joy in life that is unlike anything we have ever experienced before. We are happy to be alive, excited about the future and eager to spend the rest of our lives serving God through loving Him, loving ourselves, and loving other people. When we have found our true identity in Christ we have also found a peace, freedom and joy that can never be taken away from us. People can leave us, people can hurt us or criticize what we do, but God's love for us will always stay the same.
God doesn't love us only when we are good, God's love for each one of us is constant and unchangeable. Even in the midst of our deepest darkness and failures God's love for us stays the same. You will not find love this pure and constant from any other source in the universe. We will go through both easier times and more difficult times in life but regardless of what situation we find ourselves in God's love for us stays the same. We are never alone. We can call on His name at any time and he will be there to offer comfort, strength, hope and a future. God will carry us through both the ups and downs of our lives. We live in a broken world, filled with broken people, but God's love has the power to make us whole again.
All the kids are back in school and I'm back to healthy eating. I love having seasons during the year when I enjoy more treats than usual, after a season like that I usually start craving healthy foods again. This approach keeps me from getting bored with healthy eating.
During summer I treated myself to ice cream for dessert many days per week and burgers and hotdogs for dinner. I also enjoyed healthier foods during summer, but only when I felt like it. I naturally eat more salads for lunch during the summer months because we grow our own vegetables both in Canada and at the cottage in Finland.
My favorite workout during the month of September is to take a long bike ride in a beautiful natural setting. Biking is more than exercise to me, it's like meditation at the same time whenever I get the chance to take a bike ride along Lake Ontario. That's life quality to me!
I love natural beauty and strive for a more organic approach to beauty every year. In this video four women discuss what their approach to natural beauty looks like. I hope this video will inspire you to find what works for you personally.
Thursday, September 10, 2015
As a new believer in God it's common to wonder what's the goal with all this? What's the goal with my faith? Is the point with me getting saved that I can be sure that I will go to heaven the day I die?
There is a peace that comes from knowing that the day you die you will be in heaven with God and with all the other people who went before you, but there is a lot more to being a Christian than that. We don't choose to spend the rest of our lives believing in God just so we can sit back and relax because we have been saved. Although, among some Christians this view still seems to be common. The point with you being saved is about something much bigger than just your life.
After we have been saved God invites us to a life following in Jesus's footsteps. Jesus was the most powerful man who ever walked on this earth, but he didn't use his power to assert himself above others, he used his power to serve others and to tell everyone the good news about God. The goal with our faith is that we too would become more and more like Jesus every year. We are called to be servants of others, to be radically generous and to love self-sacrificially. We are called to abandon our own selfishness and live to serve others everywhere we go. Loving God, loving ourselves and loving other people is our mission.
Last year our church talked about a thing called "Stages". Stages is tool that can help all Christians grow in their faith, I personally found Stages to be very helpful and inspiring. There are seven different stages of spiritual growth:
1.) Not curious (about God)
2.) Curious (about God)
3.) Seeker (Seeking the truth about God)
4.) Believer (Believing in God)
5.) Disciple (Following after Jesus)
6.) Disciple Maker (Helping others follow Jesus)
7.) Servant (Living to serve. Loving God, yourself & others wherever you go)
Each Christian finds herself somewhere on the journey from Seeker to Servant. Some Christians go all the way to Servant during their lifetime, while others may be stuck in the same stage for many years. We will also go back and forward between different stages during different seasons in life. A person who is a Disciple Maker for example might find herself back at the Seeker stage after experiencing a great loss in her life that she is working through.
You will find some Christians eager to grow in their faith and you will find others who are holding back and don't want to grow. Growth always comes with some growth pains and becoming more like Jesus also means you need to let go of some things. You will need to let go of things like selfishness, greed, arrogance etc. which can be both difficult and uncomfortable. As we go from Seekers to Servants we at the same time go from living self-serving lives to living lives serving others.
You can't become a servant without giving something up. When you become generous you start giving to others rather than to keep everything you have to yourself. When you become a servant you stop working only to get more money, prestige or power for yourself. You now work to bring more love into the world and to help those who are hurting. It's an others-centered lifestyle versus a self-centered lifestyle, that pretty much sums up why many Christians are still holding back. Us humans like to live self-centered lives, it comes naturally for us, living to serve others is something we have to learn.
I get my motivation to continue to grow in my faith from reading about what the servant stage can look like. The keyword in the Servant stage is sacrifice, it's about laying down one's life for others, just like Jesus did. The servant stage include challenges like "Pick a particular place and people group that you will spend the rest of your life serving". You might pick the homeless in New York, the orphans in Uganda or maybe it's youth at risk in your city that you feel passionate about serving.
The Servant stage also includes doing short-term mission projects and discerning God's call on your life. "God's call" means God has created each one of us with a certain set of skills and passions so that we can do a certain type of work in this world for him. Our job is to figure out what that call is. Are we called to move abroad to start and orphanage or maybe God is calling us to teach in a school in a poor neighborhood? Each call is very different because God has created us all different, the only thing we all have in common is that we are designed to love God, love ourselves and love others.
I would say that I'm probably just entering the Disciple stage in my own spiritual journey. I still have very far to go before I will be at the Servant stage, but I'm excited to keep growing every year. I also get inspired to keep moving when I hear about what other Christians are doing. I hear about Joanna Eliasson from Sweden who sold her own company and moved to Kampala, Uganda to start an orphanage. I hear about Ben and Katie who moved to Haiti to become teachers. I hear about Jessie and John who decided they were not going to have their own children so that they would be able to adopt some of the 100 000 foster children in the US who are waiting to be adopted.
There are so many stories of incredible human-beings who have chosen to abandon their selfishness and live the rest of their lives serving others. I hope that one day in the future when I have worked on my own issues and selfishness that I get to be one of those people. If you ask me, living to serve others for God is the absolute best way you can spend this life on earth.
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Diamonds are a girl's best friend. A diamond engagement ring is a symbol of love. The bigger the diamond is, the more your man loves you. These are some of the messages our modern culture has sold us.
The reality looks quite different. Time magazine did an article about the diamond industry this fall. In the Sept. 7/ Sept. 14, 2015 issue of Time magazine Aryn Baker/Tshikapa writes: "It's been 15 years since the global effort to ban blood diamonds. But the industry is still tainted by conflict and misery"
I find it really interesting that although we are more educated than ever we still fall for cultural trends and ideals like this one so easily. Although we know the diamond industry involves child labour, slavery and other kinds of misery we still happily buy our diamonds and consider them "symbols of love". In the 1820's rich people had slaves and didn't think that was wrong, today we buy diamonds and conflict minerals like gold and tungsten and don't think there is a problem with this custom.
At age 26 I myself was happily engaged with a big diamond ring on my finger, a few months later I happened to watch a couple of documentaries about the diamond industry. After watching the documentaries about the reality I felt disgusted by how I had let the cultural ideal decide what I believed about love and engagement rings. I realized that it's sometimes surprising and scary how much we conform to what the majority group is doing in our societies. We think we do things because we want to do them, but are we sure that's why we do what we do, or are we just trying to fit in and measure up to a cultural ideal?
After I had gotten married I started doing more research into the diamond industry and read up about the four major conflict minerals. Today I choose to avoid buying or wearing diamonds, gold, tin and other major conflict minerals. I'm always on the lookout for new brands that sell jewelry that is certified fair trade. I think that in today's world, where we buy almost everything from abroad, we have to be more alert and aware of what our shopping habits are supporting. Are we supporting fair trade or are we supporting an industry that continues to use child labour, slaves and involve all kinds of violence?
We were blessed with a very hot Labour Day weekend this year, with +33 degrees Celsius on Saturday.
I decided to enjoy one more iced latte, probably the last one for this summer, as we took another road trip to the beach.
It was hot and busy at the beach as usual, but I enjoyed swimming in the clear waters at Wasaga Beach soo much!
I'm so thankful that I get to live close to The Great Lakes, Lake Huron is so nice!
We also enjoyed spending some time downtown during the weekend. I was very happy to be back in T.O. after spending almost a month at the cottage in Scandinavia.
We enjoyed eating dinner downtown and had lattes for dessert. After a summer of anything but healthy eating I'm so ready to get back to healthier foods. I plan to eat a lot of salads for dinner during the month of September.
Toronto by night, home sweet home!
Friday, September 4, 2015
We live in a world with so much suffering, but there are so many things we can do to help those who are poor, hungry, lonely and sick. I once heard someone say that the problem with this world isn't that there aren't enough people who care, the problem is the distance between those who have a lot and those who have nothing. The distance makes us numb, but when the suffering comes closer that's when we start to move. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by all the suffering in the world that we don't know what to do or where to start. Other times, what we are called to do becomes crystal clear.
Today the crisis with refugees fleeing Syria is on everyone's mind and people all over the world are willing to help. Everyone wants to do something to help today because our eyes are open and our hearths are aching for all the refugees. Toronto Star posted a great news article online yesterday called "Four Ways Canadians Can Help Refugees". Read more about what to do here:
If you want to do something to help but don't have a lot of time on your hands you can quickly donate some money to Syrian refugees at World Vision Canada's website. Just click this link and make a difference:
Thursday, September 3, 2015
After three wonderful weeks in Finland I'm now back at home in Canada. The weather was +29 degrees Celsius when I arrived in Toronto so I can't complain. My husband welcomed me home with a bouquet of red roses. I'm so excited for this fall and got so much new energy from my trip to Scandinavia. Spending a lot of time with friends and family is so good for the soul.
I will be enjoying reading some fashion magazines this fall since my shopping stop is almost over now. I also plan to take many morning walks in the park during the fall while the weather is still warm. This week we are celebrating Labor Day long weekend here in Canada which should be alot of fun! Summer is over but fall brings new fun things to enjoy.