Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Healing and a Second Chance





Typical. In his own words Shane Kampe was "typical" of many other kids that grew up in the suburbs. But typical wasn't enough, he wanted something "better" than a clean-cut lifestyle. Drugs, alcohol, women. All three drew Shane's attention and he more than complied. He chased them to excess.

10 years ago Shane had an appointment with destiny. His life hung in the balance, yet he was powerless to do anything about it. It was an impossible situation that only a miracle could resolve. 


I Have This Hope





I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

So, whatever happens I will not be afraid
Cause You are closer than this breath that I take
You calm the storm when I hear You call my name
I still believe that one day I'll see Your face



Monday, June 26, 2017

32



On Sunday I celebrated my 32nd birthday with a very tasty strawberry shortcake. I can't believe it's already ten years since I came to North America for the first time! Time does not stand still.


This stranger woke me up early in the morning on Sunday.


I was served breakfast in bed, which in my world means a BIG cup of coffee. I don't have much appetite early in the morning.



Later we went to Milestone's for a Birthday Brunch. I had a Mimosa and their Prime Rib Eggs Benny, probably the best Eggs benedict I have ever had! The weather was also perfect on my birthday, in other words it was +19 Celsius and pouring rain most of the day. Summer, where did you go?? Please come back before July when my family comes to visit us in Toronto!


Saturyay!










On Saturday it was warm and sunny in Toronto so we decided to take a drive to Cobourg, ON. I went for a swim for the first time this summer. Was the water warm an enjoyable? Absolutely not. The water was ice cold, but it was still a lot of fun to go swimming. We stayed in Cobourg until sunset and enjoyed hanging out by the marina.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Singleness, Self-worth and Purpose





Sarah from the youtube channel "Sarah Destiny" gets real and honest about being single, finding yourself and knowing your own worth. Sarah reveals that it was in her season of singleness that something major happened that changed her life. If you are single right now this video will help you find beauty in your season of singleness and help you appreciate who you are.


He is Lord





Again the wind is raging
But I will not be shaken
For I know, who's in control
The greater One within me
Is more than what's against me
He's in control, for I know
He'll see me through like before
He is Lord, He is Lord
I'm not afraid anymore
He is Lord, He is Lord


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Are You Sabotaging Your Relationships?





I love Ashley's videos about relationships on her youtube channel "Ashley Empowers". In this video Ashley talks about how we can easily end up sabotaging a new relationship if we haven't healed from past hurts. When we carry around unforgiveness and open wounds from the past we give these things the power to affect our new relationships negatively.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

From Spring to Summer




Tomorrow is the first official day of Summer in North America! I feel like Spring 2017 went by crazy fast, but I don't mind at all. I'm allergic to pollen so Spring isn't exactly my favorite season of the year. This year we also had an unusually rainy spring in Toronto with very high water levels in Lake Ontario. The black flies love the damp weather and this spring they put a stop to my biking workouts. When I happily went for my first biking workout in May I ended up getting these mini flies in my nose, eyes, mouth, everywhere. I decided that biking will have to wait until Spring is over and until all these tiny but annoying flies DIE! Thank God they only live for a short time during spring!




I took this picture on a beautiful spring day when I was so happy to be able to wear my spring jacket for the first time.




This was the year when I got excited about landscaping. I got a lot of inspiration during my morning walks this Spring, as I looked at my neighbors' beautiful front yards. I love the pink tulips in this front yard! Next year I want to plant tons of tulips in our yard. This is life after 30, the things that excite me today are quite different than ten years ago. Let's just say that gardening was not an interest of mine in my twenties.




Signs of Spring. When you can enjoy a good book and an iced latte without freezing to death.




Now Spring is over and Summer has arrived, I enjoy that everything in the suburbs is so green this time of year.




One of our favorite things that my husband and I like to do together is take walks along the lakefront just before sunset and catch up on each other's day.




We enjoy the beautiful sunset for awhile and then we go home and go straight to bed. The sun goes down around 9:30PM this time of year in Toronto.




Signs of Summer. I had my first glass of Sangria on our Date Night with my husband two weeks ago, it's officially summer!



How to build a strong and healthy marriage





Craig and Amy Groeschel celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary this year. I'm not surprised that Craig&Amy have a strong, healthy and passionate marriage because they are clearly practicing what they preach about marriage. Love works, if we just commit to live it out. Pastor Craig Groeschel gives some great advice in this sermon on how we can pursue each other in marriage to make sure we stay in love. If you are single this sermon will give you the tools you need to know what a healthy relationship looks like. If you are married this sermon will give you tools to strengthen your marriage.


Craig talks about how when couples feel like they have "fallen out of love" somewhere along the way they stopped pursuing each other. We naturally pursue what we don't have, so we can't wait for a natural urge to do the right thing. If we want to keep our marriage healthy and strong we will need to get intentional about pursuing our spouse. There is no other area in life where we can be lazy and still see improvement. We can't be lazy at work and expect to do well in our careers. Why do we think we can be lazy in our marriages and still have a great marriage? I like this quote by Craig Groeschel: "In your marriage, if the grass looks greener somewhere else, it's time to water your own yard." How can we make sure we continue to pursue each other in marriage? Here's a few guidelines to live by:


1. When you think something good, SAY it.

The Bible calls us to encourage one another daily (Hebrews 3:13). Men and women respond well to different types of encouraging words. Men long for words of affirmation. Us women can gain a lot from restraining ourselves from pointing finger at our husbands faults and weaknesses. When we keep encouraging him with words of affirmation he will be motivated to grow. Pointing finger at his weaknesses won't motivate him to keep growing. Every husband wants to know: Do you believe in in me today?


2. When you think something special, DO it.

"If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them" (James 4:17). Anytime you know something good that you should do to be a blessing, do it. Be creative: fill up the car with gas, write a love note, surprise your spouse by arranging a night at a hotel while the kids are with a babysitter etc. Anything that you know will be a blessing to your spouse.


3. When you want something different, BE it.

Don't complain about what your spouse is not, focus on who God wants you to become. We will never criticize ourselves into a better marriage. Do you want something different? You become something different. You can't change anyone else than yourself. When you change for the better your new behavior will influence and motivate your spouse to change too.

If you don't like what you're getting, look at what you're giving. Instead of complaining about what you are not getting ask yourself: "What can I give to add value to our marriage?" I like this quote from Craig Groeschel: "To get what you've never had, you must do what you've never done." If your marriage was special in the beginning, it can be special again. You know what to do, you did it before. Commit to always pursue your spouse and you will have the wonderful marriage that God wants you to have.


Friday, June 16, 2017

When Women Fear Other Women





Today more than ever, it's very easy to get stuck in "the comparison game". We can't escape the fact than when we interact with people from all over the world (on social media for example) we are going to have very different world views and opinions. It's impossible to live in a way that everyone in the world will approve of, even if we tried we can't please people. What we can do instead is stop living for the approval of others.

We can choose to encourage and lift each other up and resist the urge to judge others. We can also choose to learn something new from each other's differences, instead of becoming angry or mean when someone has an entirely different opinion than we do. We can learn something from every single person we interact with in this world.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Living a Life of Meaning and Connection





Twelve years ago I was 20-years old and realized that I had no idea what life was about, and neither did anyone around me. It seemed like everyone were busy living their lives in the way they felt obligated to live. I was studying towards a Master's degree in Education, having my own appartment, dating many different guys while I was looking for Mr. Right etc. I was doing all the normal stuff, all the things my own culture was telling me was the right way to live.


At 25-years old I had just graduated from university and moved abroad. It was a very exciting time in life and at the same time a confusing time. Living abroad opens up your perspective on life. I soon realized that many of the goals I was pursuing in life were goals my own culture had taught me to pursue. It was exciting to be exposed to many different cultures in Toronto which meant many different ways to live. The only problem with more options in life is that it makes everything even more confusing. "Who am I and what do I really want to focus on in life?" Questions like these we all ask ourselves during our twenties.


I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life. On the other hand, I knew how I didn't want to live. I didn't want to get married one day and have my marriage fall apart like 50% of all marriages do today. I didn't want to jump on the wheel of normal big city life and become too busy and overbooked. I wanted to have enough time in my life to spend with my future husband, kids, friends and other family members. I knew I wanted to build a meaningful, healthy and balanced life for myself, but I had no idea what that could look like. It turned out I wasn't the only one in our society who was confused about how to create a life that leads to flourishing.


This year I'm turning 32-years old and I'm happier than I have ever been before in my life. I feel much more content and free today than I did a decade ago. My life is far from perfect and not all of my dreams have come true yet, but I still have a peace and joy in my life now that I longed for ten years ago. I'm no longer confused about my own identity and I know what my purpose is. I'm excited to spend the next 50 years or so living out my purpose. Every year I'm learning new things about myself, about other people and about God. I try new things, I succeed, fail and grow. The journey will continue through all the days of my life.


Another woman who has been on her own journey toward peace, purpose and balance in life is Shauna Niequist. Shauna's new book "Present Over Perfect" is one of the best books I've read this year! Here's a couple of quotes from Shauna's journey in the book Present Over Perfect:

"There we were, women in our thirties. Educated, married, mothers, women who have careers, who manage homes and oversee companies. And there we were, utterly resigned to lives that feel overly busy and pressurized, disconnected and exhausted.
But that's shifting the blame, right? Who's the boss, if not us? Who's forcing us to live this way? Or, possibly, do we not want to face the answer to that question, preferring to believe we can't possibly be held responsible for what we've done?"

"Some of being an adult, though, is about protecting and preserving what we discover to be the best parts of ourselves, and here's a hint: they're almost always the parts we've struggled against for years."

"I'm committed to a particular, limited amount of things in this season, and if what's being asked of me isn't one of those, then it stands in the way. That's why knowing your purpose and priorities for a given season is so valuable-because those commitments become the litmus test for all the decisions you face."



When you feel like you don't measure up





On Sunday morning I went to church online at Elevation Church. You can find the online campus here: http://live.elevationchurch.online/
I love that with today's technology I can go to church no matter where I'm at, even when I'm having a sick day at home in my pyjamas. A few years ago I was living in a city that didn't have a church that I could join, during that time I was still able to attend church thanks to church online.

Ten years ago online churches only had podcasts and videos of their sermons. Today many churches Live broadcast their services with the message, the music, the pre show and after show. Elevation church's online church also offers the opportunity to volunteer online and to sign up to an online Life Group called "e groups". Not everyone lives at a driving distance from a church but with church online it becomes easy to attend church anywhere in the world.

Pastor Dustin Stradley preached a very encouraging message on Sunday about the struggle to feel good enough in a world that often makes it hard for us to measure up. Dustin gets really personal and vulnerable in the message as he shares about his own struggles and insecurities. He challenges us to learn a new and better way to develop confidence so that we can stop the comparison game for good.


Where is the Value of a Woman?

Monday, June 12, 2017

I'll Find You






Just fight a little longer my friend
It's all worth it in the end.




Friday, June 9, 2017

Be Who You Already Are





Rebekah Lyons newest book is called "You Are Free-Be who you already are". Rebekah's book is calling women to become who they've already been designed to be. She talks about the struggles women face as they seek to live a life of meaning today. Rebekah also gets vulnerable and honest about her own battle to overcome anxiety, depression and consumer impulses. She challenges women to discover and boldly pursue the specific purpose God has for them in life.

When we let go of trying to be someone else and quit the striving, the perfectionism and the chasing after approval from other people, we find freedom. When we stop trying to please everyone and focus on only pleasing God. Complete freedom awaits us in this place, it's a place of vitality. A place where we feel full of life, full of spirit, full of passion.


What's up with the attitude?


Yesterday I was reading in the book of Job and it reminded me of how self-destructive my bad attitude can be. Every time I see someone with a bad attitude on reality TV, on the news or in a restaurant I don't like what I see. A bad attitude is ugly, rude and ungrateful. When I work with kids I don't respond well to a bad attitude, so why do I think God is okay with my bad attitude? It's easy to make up excuses and pretend like it's okay to have an attitude because I have a bad day, because I'm stressed or because someone offended me. Still, I'm aware that my own attitude is my own responsibility. When kids are rude to their parents everyone suffers. The parents get tired and irritated and the kids will loose some privileges for that day as a result of their actions. I'm thinking that it's a bit the same with us and God. I know God loves me and wants to bless my life but he can't respond with blessing when my attitude is negative, ungrateful and discontent. I am in control of my own thoughts and the words I choose to let out of my mouth. My words can either be words of complaint or words that praise God.


Job is a man in the Bible who had all the reasons to complain about his life. Job was suffering and facing tremendous pain and darkness in his life, but instead of crying out to God for help in humility he chose to complain and accuse God. Job's friends tried to give him some advice but none of them spoke wisdom into Job's life. In the end a man much younger than Job was courageous enough to speak up and he spoke wisdom and truth into Job's life. The young man's name was Elihu. Elihu wasn't afraid to point out that instead of praising God and choosing to revere him Job was complaining, being self-righteous, focusing on his own glory and what other people thought of him. Job was also showing that he didn't trust God and even took it as far as to accuse God of being wrong and unjust. My conclusion from reading through chapters 29-42 in the book of Job is that God takes a bad attitude very seriously. Here's a few of the words that the young man Elihu spoke to Job:


"Far be it from God to do evil,
from the Almighty to do wrong.
He repays everyone for what they have done;
he brings on them what their conduct deserves."
Job 34:10-11

"Is he not the One who says to kings, 'You are worthless,'
and to nobles, 'You are wicked,' who shows no partiality
to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor,
for they are all the work of his hands?"
Job 34:18-19

"God is mighty, but despises no one;
he is mighty, and firm in his purpose."
Job 36:5

"But if people are bound in chains,
held fast by cords of affliction,
he tells them what they have done-
that they have sinned arrogantly.
He makes them listen to correction
and commands them to repent of 
their evil.
If they obey and serve him,
they will spend the rest of their days
in prosperity
and their years in contentment."
Job 36:8-11

"The Almighty is beyond our reach and
exalted in power;
in his justice and great righteousness,
he does not oppress.
Therefore, people revere him,
for does he not have regard for all the
wise in heart?"
Job 37:23-24


The book of Job ends with God speaking to Job out of the storm. Job listens and repents from his sins, he realizes that he has been self-righteous, complaining and falsely accusing God. After Job prays for his friends God restores his fortunes and gives him twice as much as he had before. God then blesses the later part of Job's life even more than he blessed the earlier part of his life. Reading the book of Job reminds me to be intentional about checking my own attitude every week. It's so easy for me to slip into a bad attitude when I'm tired, stressed or having a bad day. It helps when I remember that God is always present, he sees everything I do and my life can either be honoring to God or dishonoring to God. Adjusting my attitude is my responsibility. I don't respond well when other people are ungrateful, complain and accuse me, neither will God respond well to me treating him that way. Every new day I have the power to choose to express gratitude, joy and praise to God, instead of spewing out complaints and negativity.


It's astonishing what a huge difference a change of attitude can make in my life. I had a moment two weeks ago when I received some bad news, instead of complaining about it I decided to thank God for how great he is. I prayed for God to intervene in my circumstances and decided to restrain myself from spiraling down the path of negativity and worry. A few days later I received some great news and was happy to see that my new approach had made a difference. God watches every move I make, who am I to complain when everything good in my life comes from him? He is my provider of all good things and I will choose to praise him always!



Thursday, June 8, 2017

He's a chain breaker




We’ve all searched for the light of day in the dead of night
We’ve all found ourselves worn out from the same old fight
We’ve all run to things we know just ain’t right
And there’s a better life
There’s a better life

If you’ve got pain
He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost
He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving
He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you’ve got chains
He’s a chain breaker


Monday, June 5, 2017

The Gift of Great Service


We are all gifted in different areas. No matter what your gift is I encourage you to put it to use, it will change lives. No human is more important than another, together we change the world. God calls each one of us to be servants, to serve others in love just as Jesus did. It's a great gift to others to serve them with excellence. Putting your gifts to use is practicing generosity.


On Saturday morning I woke up with pain in my neck. I have been sleeping on the same pillow for the last five years and on Saturday my neck was letting me know that I needed to buy a new pillow NOW! I was annoyed that I had to squeeze in a visit to Sleep Country on my Saturday morning since I had a birthday party to organize. Once I arrived at the store my mood completely changed, I was met by an older man who served me with excellence and gave me all the advice I needed to pick the perfect new pillow for my aching neck. We laughed and joked and afterwards I returned home with a new luxurious pillow and a feeling of gratitude for the great service I had received. This morning I didn't really want to get out of bed because my new pillow is super comfortable and sleeping on it feels like a taste of heaven to me. My point is this: whatever you do, do it with excellence! No matter what your gifting is and no matter what job you have, decide to serve people with excellence.



When we commit to giving our best to other people we change people's lives. We love our neighbor when we commit to serving others with excellence, no matter if our client is wealthy or poor. Every time the barista serves me an excellent latte at the coffee shop he/she makes my day. Every time the nurse at the hospital gives me excellent care she makes a huge difference to my week. Every time a stranger gives me a compliment in the street it puts a smile on my face and reminds me of how kind and awesome Canadians are.



Words can not describe how big the difference is between when somebody treats you as an object versus giving you their best effort. I've had doctor's visits that have made me cry because the doctor clearly didn't care about my situation and only saw me as a case number. I've had other doctor's visits that have helped me tremendously, not only because I was given great medical advice but also because I was treated like a human-being, not as an object or case. Whatever you do, do it with excellence and you will change many people's lives in the process. As you change people's lives you also change the world in a positive direction at the same time.





Drugs, Prison & Second Chances





Michael Carroll talks about how from a young age he was carrying around a lot of guilt and shame in life. The trauma that he and his sister went through as children caused Michael to become a very angry young man. He started smoking weed as a teenager and was looking for different ways to numb the pain in his life. At age 16 he became very rebellious, moved away from home and started selling drugs with his friends. Michael eventually got sent to prison which became a turning point in his life, in prison he surrendered his life completely to the Lord and started reading a Bible and getting to know God. Today Michael is serving in ministry and is passionate about sharing a message of hope and deliverance to other people who come from different broken situations.


Friday, June 2, 2017

FEARLESS







"GOD met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears." 

Psalm 34:4 (MSG)




Nothing to Prove





The level of happiness has gone down among women over the last few decades. We are stressed, tired, and struggle to feel good enough. We carry many different roles in life; daughter, sister, wife, mom, business owner, leader etc. Today, maybe more than ever, the expectations on women are heavy. Social media can add even more pressure and expectations to live up to. We have grown up in a society that teaches us that to be somebody you have to "make something out of yourself". We learn early on that we have to prove our own worth if we want to receive praise from others.


God has a completely different view of us, He tells us we are of great worth because we were made by Him. An expensive piece of art is valuable because of how famous the artist is, our maker is the most famous artist in the whole universe. We are all His masterpieces. When we understand who we are in Christ we can stop trying to prove our worth. We finally understand how precious we are to God, not because of what we do but because of who we are. It's freeing to see yourself from God's perspective. We are all important to him, we don't need titles or social status to be loved by God. God loves the woman in prison equally much as he loves the successful business woman. Our performance is not what gives us our worth as a human-being, although that is exactly what our society tells us every day.


If we try to control everything in life and strive for perfection we will end up exhausted. We are not able to live perfect lives, even if we tried. Our failures and shortcomings are a constant reminder of our need for God. We are not perfect but God is. God is the one who will fill in the blanks in our lives when we underperform or fail. If we live like we are God we will constantly be exhausted, anxious and overwhelmed. If you let God be God you are free to be you.


I am not enough. I make mistakes all the time. I fail and underperform, but then I get back up and try again. I refuse to let my failures define me because I know God has grace available for each one of my mistakes. His forgiveness and grace for me is new every day. I'm free to live a passionate life serving him without any fear of failure. When I fail God is fully able to use even my biggest mistake towards making something beautiful in the end. I'm not the one who will change the world, God is. I'm just a tool in the hands of the King of the universe. All I need to do is focus on doing my small part and watch God do the big part.



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Overcoming Your Beauty Struggles





One mistake that most of us women make is letting other people define our worth as women. On a day when we get positive feedback from others we feel really good about ourselves and on a day when others don't like us we feel worthless. No matter how good it feels in the moment when you receive praise from others it becomes destructive long-term to base your worth upon how others view you.

We are all unique, beautiful and worth everything to God. No man or woman's opinion about us matters once we fully understand how much God loves us. Our society might not consider all parts of your looks or personality valuable but God created you exactly like you are for a reason. God doesn't make any mistakes. He knew exactly what he was doing when he created you. You are unique, you are of great value and there is a purpose for your life.


Slow and Steady


"Slow and steady wins the race" a wise older woman taught me this year. I tell myself this every week: "Slow and steady, you don't have to do everything at the same time!" When I met the love of my life six years ago I wanted to get married, have babies and buy a house right away. We ended up planning our wedding at the same time as we were in the process of buying a new house. Let's just say the process was quite stressful. It's natural to want it all and want it now, but it's not necessarily the best approach to life. We are only human and nobody can do too many different things at the same time, not without getting a burn out. If we keep doing too many things at the same time it's not possible to keep a high quality in every area of life, something will suffer and fail, whether it's your marriage, your health, your career or something else.


I want to strive for excellence in everything I do in life but then I can't do too many things at the same time. I wonder if one of the reasons so many people are unhappy and unhealthy in today's society is because we live such fast lives? We want to fulfill all our dreams by age 40 at the latest and we don't want to wait on anything. My mother can tell you that I'm not the most patient person in the world. Patience is something I really need to practice. Three years ago I was still a fairly new Christian and I was excited to discover what the purpose is for my life. Today I'm starting to have a pretty clear picture of my purpose in life and I know what God is calling me to do with my life. Now when I know what I'm called to do I want to do it all at the same time of course. I have to force myself to wait and not pursue every dream at the same time. If I get around 70-100 years on this planet it's evident that I don't need to fulfill all my dreams and my life's purpose during my thirties. I have all the time I need.


I like to make a one-year-plan in my notebook in January every year and beside it I have a list of all the big goals I have for a whole lifetime. I pick 1-2 things to focus on each year and the rest will have to wait until next year, or until next decade. There's no need to overbook my schedule one year when I have so many years ahead. I want to focus on quality in whatever I do each year. I don't want to be so busy that I don't have time to have a Date Night with my husband, to spend a lot of time with the family and my friends. I don't want to be so busy that I have to skip taking care of my physical or emotional health."Less is more"and "Slow and steady"are mantras I try to live by. I also find that I enjoy life so much more when I move through life at a slower pace. I have time to stop and reflect on things and feel grateful for everything that God has blessed me with so far in life. Life is so beautiful, I don't want to miss it by being too busy or because I move too fast through life.



Worries are destroyed when we worship





Every human-being longs to be free. We all want freedom from something, whether it's to be free from guilt, shame, worry, fear, destructive thoughts, addiction or something else. The door has been opened, we can choose to walk in freedom, but are we willing to do what it takes to take hold of that freedom?

Jesus came to Earth to set us free, we no longer have to be slaves to the darkness in our lives. Jesus overcame all the darkness for us. No matter what's trying to hold us back in life, God is stronger. We have been given the gift of freedom by God but it's our job to choose to walk in freedom. Pastor Holly Wagner from Oasis Church in Los Angeles teaches a great sermon about how we can live free.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Home Sweet Home


It feels good to back in Toronto again after our road trip! This year our road trip destination was New York where we spent a lot of quality time with our family members who live there. It was also fun to spend a few days doing sightseeing in Manhattan and enjoy the spring in New York. I will share some pictures from the trip whenever I get my computer working again. The repairman still has my computer but hopefully I will get it back soon.

I love going on trips for two different reasons. I love enjoying the people, food, weather and sights in a new place and I also love that every trip gives me a new appreciation for home. It was fun to spend a week in New York but after seven days I was starting to long for the suburbs of Toronto again. I love that our neighborhood has a lot of green space and.......space, in general. I like big cities but after a while I always start to long for nature, peace&quiet and more space. I also think it's quite funny how annoyed we can get with our own hometowns until we see something different that helps us appreciate what we have. I find Torontonians to be very self-centred in traffic, until I go to New York. Every time I come home from NYC I find Torontonians to be so polite and kind, in comparison to the New Yorkers. I think it's good for everyone to get a change of scenery a couple of times a year if possible, trips and vacations give us a much needed perspective on life.

I also got very inspired from spending a lot of time with my husband's aunt who lives in NYC. She is one of those Christian women who radiates light, love and joy. She is a nurse and she treats every person she serves with the same honor and respect, no matter if her patient is a famous celebrity or a poor person. Hospitality is one of her spiritual gifts and she is using her gift to the fullest. She always invites you into her home with a big smile on her face, cooks you a meal and loves to spend time with you. She will always leave you feeling more encouraged than when you arrived.

Auntie is a social butterfly and I'm pretty much the opposite, I will never be like her, but we all have been given different gifts by God. Last time I took a Spiritual Gifts-test my top three gifts were Encouragement, Mercy and Teaching. When I see Auntie in action I get inspired to put my own gifts to use as much as she does. Auntie is 70+ but she still works as a nurse a couple of days a week, she loves people and she doesn't want to fully retire when she can continue to help others. I love how much we can learn from other people who have gone before us. Auntie is 40 years older than me and I learn so many new things from her every time I spend time with her.



Matt&Nicole




I like watching wedding videos from Forestry Films, they are so beautiful and give me inspiration for the Renewal of Vows ceremony that my husband and I are planning at the moment. It's also wonderful to watch these videos filled with love when most of what we see on the news is darkness; hate, conflict, war, despair and hopelessness. It's not easy to live in this world, but we can't forget that there is love everywhere. Where there is love, there is God.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Take Courage





Slow down, take time
Breath in He said
He'd reveal what's to come
The thoughts in His mind
Always higher than mine
He'll reveal all to come

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He's in the waiting
He's in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He's never failing
He's never failing

Sing praise my soul
Find strength in joy
Let His Words lead you on
Do not forget
His great faithfulness
He'll finish all He's begun

And You who hold the stars
Who call them each by name
Will surely keep, Your promise to me
That I will rise, in Your victory!



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Brave Women Overcome





Today we had our last session for the spring season of Women's Connect. Six different women shared their testimonies in front of the group of around 50 women. These women are brave! They chose to face their fears and stand up in front of a room full of women and share their very personal stories with tears rolling down their faces. One of my friends shared her testimony of healing. She was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm months ago and our whole group has been praying for God to heal her body. A couple of weeks ago she went to see her specialist as a last step before surgery. The specialist had some surprising news for her, the latest test results showed that the brain aneurysm was gone. Jesus still heals people today, both emotionally and physically.


The other five women shared stories about facing their biggest fears and about a hunger to be the best at something that eventually led to sick leave from work. One of the women shared about her struggle with anxiety and depression that started after she received some devastating news this year. She talked about how God has been showing her that in the midst of the darkness He is good and He will never leave her. I could relate to every single woman's story and every story encouraged me. I was reminded of how even if every individual is unique our struggles are similar. We all struggle with feeling insecure and inadequate. We struggle with letting go of control and trusting that God knows exactly what he is doing in our lives. We are afraid of getting vulnerable with each other because we fear rejection, failure and being judged by others.


Last week Jen Pollock Michael was speaking at our Women's Connect gathering and she said that she doesn't like speaking in front of a crowd because she doesn't like being judged. I thought to myself: "You are an amazing, wise and famous speaker, I don't judge you I think you are great!" Most of the time other people don't think nearly as negatively about us as we think about ourselves. Why? Our spiritual enemy, the devil, has many different strategies to try to ruin our lives but the most efficient one is when he gets to us from the inside. He speaks lies into our souls and gets us to believe that they are true. Here are some of the lies he tells us:
"You are never going to be good enough, you just don't have it in you." 
"Nobody likes you."
"God doesn't love you, not after what you have done. God will never love you."


It's hard to not listen to these lies and believe them. The enemy knows our weak spots and that's where he will strike us. The amazing thing that happens when we get into community with others is that we become very hard for the enemy to break. When we choose to get vulnerable with a group of other Christians we give God an opportunity to use people to speak truth and encouragement into our lives. There has been a couple of times when another Christian woman has spoken something to me that she felt God wanted her to tell me and I had to fight back tears because it spoke right into my current situation. These were private things that I hadn't told anyone about and the woman just shared what was on her heart, having no idea that God was using her to bless me in that moment. This is what doing God's work will look like a lot of times.


God will put people in front of you and if you choose to love them you have no idea what he can do through you. We shouldn't let people use us but the goal is to let God use us. God uses women to carry babies and then to raise up the next generation that will take over the Earth after we are gone. God uses women to love and encourage their friends and family members, even strangers, whenever there's an opportunity. God uses women to go on mission trips and save other women and children from sex trafficking. God uses women to serve meals to the poor in homeless shelters. God wants to use us. Will we let him?


Pastor Holly Wagner's airplane story is a good example. A very mean lady entered the airplane and started yelling at the flight attendant who got tears in her eyes. When the mean lady went to sit down she sat down right beside Holly. Holly felt angry at the lady on the inside and planned to ignore her for the rest of the flight. God had other plans. God started nudging on Holly's heart and asking her to talk to the lady. Holly talked to the lady but only got an irritated answer back. The answer made Holly even more angry at the lady but God kept pulling on Holly's heart, asking her to try again. Holly decided to give it another try and at that point the lady broke down and started crying. After Holly had talked to the lady for awhile she found out that the mean lady had just found out she had terminal cancer. Holly ended up praying for the lady on the airplane and exchanging numbers so that she could continue to help her. The lady got connected to Holly's church and received help to walk through this very difficult last season of her life.


If we choose to stop looking at other people as competitors/annoyances and are open to letting God use us it's mind-blowing what God will do through us. God works in many different mysterious ways but one of his favorite ways to reach people and love on them is through other believers. We are the body of Christ. We are all here on Earth to love God and other people. He never said it was going to be easy.


Monday, May 15, 2017

When you can't do it anymore





Even the strongest people will have weak moments when all they want to do is give up. Pastor Steven Furtick from Elevation Church preaches a great message in this video about those moments in life when we have lost all hope and are ready to quit. Quit on a relationship. Quit on a ministry. Quit on our purpose. Quit on our kids, maybe even quit on life. How can we go on when we have no hope for the future? Sometimes it’s not after a failure that we want to give up but rather when we have reached success in our lives. Why? Success can often require a lot more strength out of us than the struggle prior to our success. Steven Furtick mentions four different factors that can make us want to give up in life:


Disappointment

Sometimes it’s not when our dreams don’t come true that we want to quit but rather after they come true. We tend to struggle with reconciling the picture we had in our imagination with what reality looks like. We grew up watching Hollywood films about love and now our marriage looks very different in reality than it did in our dream about marriage. We dreamed about having a baby but when the baby came being a parent ended up being a lot harder than we had imagined in our dreams.


Responsibility

We want God to bless us with a great career, with children, with a husband and when we receive all these blessings we want to quit. Why? It’s not easy to live a blessed life because the blessings come with responsibility. The responsibilities we have in our lives can be heavy to carry sometimes. Life was easier before our dreams came true. It’s a great privilege to get to see your dreams come true but oh how difficult it can be to live in the blessings of life sometimes. Now when our dreams have come true we have more work to do than before, more people to love and nurture and less time to sleep in on the weekends. When we want to quit in life it’s usually not because we don’t want to do it anymore but because we think we can’t. We say “I’ve had enough” because on the inside we believe that we aren’t enough. We feel like we have done everything we can and we don’t know what else to do.


Opposition

Certain battles we expect in life but what about when difficulty arises in an area we didn’t expect? One area we often don’t expect opposition in is in our inner being. We expect opposition from other people but what about when your greatest enemy lives inside of you? That voice on the inside that tells you that you aren’t going to make it through this struggle and that you aren’t enough. It’s a lot easier to fight off opposition from others than it is to fight the enemy within.


Position

“The reason you have collapsed is not because of your situation, it’s because of your position.”
Steven Furtick

When we find ourselves in a place in life where we want to give up chances are we aren’t finding ourselves very close to God in that moment. In the midst of our struggles God whispers to us to come back to him. God has the power to turn our situation around but we can’t do this all on our own. We need God to intervene in our lives. We weren’t meant to carry all the heavy burdens of this life on our own. What we need to be able to go on when we want to quit is not a change in our feelings, we need a change in our focus.



Only Just Met You





Lost in my wilderness
In all Your tenderness
You found me hiding in the night
Reached out Your gentle hand
I did not understand
You spoke a word and there was light

You give me galaxies
Wash me in salty seas
It's almost more than I can bear
There's not a single fear
It cannot touch me here
I can’t remember who I was

And You've only just begun
And if You've only just begun
Oh, what can I do

Only gets better, only gets better
Only gets better from here
Only gets better, only gets better
Only gets better from here

For such a mystery 
It makes so much sense to me
And I only just met You 



The Story of the Bible





Jon Collins and Tim Mackie explains the story of the Bible in a very simple way with the help of an animated video. The story of God's relationship with humanity isn't as complicated as we sometimes can assume. We each have a choice to choose good or evil. We can either do whatever we want, or we can choose love. We all adore the word love, but living it out is far from easy. Choosing love will require us to go against our own natural urges many times. We choose to forgive, even if we crave revenge. We choose to practice self-control even when we want to gossip. We choose perseverance even when we want to quit on our difficult human relationships. Love is beautiful but it is seldom an easy route to choose. God helps us do the impossible, to choose love even when our whole being craves going down the evil route.


Healthy Eating Made Easy





One of my New Year's Resolutions was to focus more on healthy eating. One reason I tend to slip into unhealthy eating habits is because I get bored with eating the same foods. I used to find new healthy recipes in fitness magazines but these days the magazine industry seems to be slowly dying. I haven't found any good recipes in magazines for the last couple of years. Social media is the new place to find your inspiration.

There are tons of people on social media who blog about healthy eating and exercise but not everyone is a professional. One of my favorite youtube channels about healthy eating is Becca Bristow. Becca is a registered dietitian and I love her "What I Eat in a Day"-videos. I like that Becca's meals and recipes are simple and quick to make. I don't like when healthy eating becomes too complicated and time-consuming. If you are on the lookout for some healthy eating inspiration I recommend Becca Bristow's Youtube channel!


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Never talk bad about your spouse in public





Jeff and Alyssa talk about why it's important to commit to never talking bad about your spouse in public. We see this type of behavior a lot in movies and TV shows, it makes great entertainment on TV but in real life it will create an atmosphere of death in your marriage rather than an atmosphere of life. Our words are so powerful, we can choose to either speak life or to speak death into our relationship.

No matter who we marry our spouse will have things about them that irritates us, but gossiping about these things with friends will not make things better. Jeff and Alyssa suggest that we talk to our spouse about the things that bothers us rather than to complain about our spouse with others. It's also a great idea to have an older married couple to talk to and get marriage advice from. You can both agree on a couple that can become your marriage mentors. This couple will become the people you always go to with your struggles when you are in need of outside advice. Your marriage mentors will be a safe place to ask questions, talk about your issues and receive wisdom because you know that this couple is for you and want your marriage to succeed.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Let Your Glory Fall





A longing stirs in my soul
Draws me near
Calls me close
Deeper into this love
That won't run out
Won't dry up
Oh, let it rain
Oh, let it rain

Only now will I come
Before your throne, holy one
By your thunderous grace
Spirit flood, come flood this place
Oh, let it rain
Oh, let it rain

Let your glory fall
Overwhelm my soul
Let your presence flood my life, oh lord


Overcoming the storms of life





Toronto native, Cheryl Nembhard is an award winning Filmmaker, Playwright and Director who continues to make her mark in the Arts & Entertainment Industry. On Saturday I had the privilege to listen to Cheryl Nembhard speak at the Women's Conference at my church. Cheryl has an amazing story about overcoming pain and hurt in her life and finding freedom and healing through God. Cheryl Nembhard had a very difficult childhood. She was sexually molested by a family friend from the age of 5-12 and as a teenager she had become a very angry and bitter young woman because of all the pain she had gone through. Cheryl joined a criminal gang as a teenger which became a place for her to express her anger.

One day Cheryl was brutally raped by a group of young men and this experience left her completely broken. Cheryl later ended up living on the streets for periods of time and was rescued by the love of God through a street evangelist. The street evangelist would talk to Cheryl as she was living on the street and although Cheryl found him annoying he always reminded her of one thing: " You can run but you can't hide, from God's love for you."

Cheryl eventually decided to visit a church and when she became a Christ-follower she was able to heal from all the pain and hurt she had been carrying around for years. Today Cheryl is very successful in the Entertainment Industry, she is married and has three children. Cheryl is now using her story and her painful past to bring help, hope and healing to other people through her films and musicals and through speaking about God's love at different events.

Cheryl Nembhard talked about how we can overcome the storms in our life at the Women's Conference and I will share some of her tips in this post. Here's two of my favorite quotes by Cheryl:
"Hurt and pain unchecked will manifest into anger and bitterness."

"Do not mistake the presence of a storm in life for the absence of God in your life. He is with you and he will guide you through it."

Cheryl Nembhard talked about how each one of us will face many different types of storms during a lifetime. A life without hardships is a fairytale, it doesn't exist in this world. Storms will come but our God promises that He will be with us in the storm. The book of Isaiah talks about how much we mean to God and how much he loves us.


Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.

When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
    all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
    That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
    trade the creation just for you."


Isaiah 43:2-4 (The Message)


Cheryl Nembhard also talked about how important it is that we check our posture in the midst of a storm. The "Why me"-posture will never lead to flourishing or to freedom in our lives. Instead we can ask God: "What would you have me learn through this storm?" Storms make great teachers. There is a lesson in every storm. Storms teach us about God, about ourselves and about other people. You will learn more about God than you ever did before during a storm. Storms can tell you what needs to be removed from your life and what areas you need to work on. Storms will show you who your friends are, you will notice who is for you and who disappears when your life gets difficult.

Storms will teach you valuable lessons about life but they will also make you a teacher to others. Once God has brought you through something very difficult you can use your story to help and encourage other people. You can now become "a lighthouse" to others.



Friday, May 5, 2017

Let me introduce you to Ada Ehi





Ada Ehi popularly known as Ada, is a Nigerian singer, songwriter, recording and performing musician. The very talented Ada Ehi went to Lagos state university where she studied chemical & polymer engineering and came in contact with Pastor Chris Oyakhilome through the Believers’ campus ministry. From then on, her music ministry came alive and active, inspiring many all around the world. Ada is married to Ehi Moses and together they are blessed with two children. I love Ada's music, her great voice and how passionate she is about her work. 


What's going to happen when I die?




Atheist and scientist Richard Dawkins was asked what he thinks will happen after he dies and this was his answer:
“What’s going to happen when I die, if I met God in the unlikely event after I died, I think the first thing I would say is well, which one are you? Are you Zeus? Are you Thor? Are you Baal? Are you Mithras?  Are you Yahweh? Which God are you? And why did you take such great pains to conceal yourself and to hide away from us?”

I think Richard Dawkins has a great point. If God is real then why does he not reveal himself? It can seem like there are so many different options out there so how can I know which one is God? When we look at all the different world religions today nobody except Jesus is claiming to be God. Buddha is not believed to be God but considered a great teacher. Mohammad is accepted as a prophet. Christians believe in Yahweh and that he did reveal himself to us by taking on human flesh in Jesus. None of the leaders of the newer world religions claim to be God, except for Jesus. The older types of religions like the Egyptian gods, the Greek gods and Baal on the other hand, they were all believed to be gods.





I have to say that I’m glad that Baal is not the one true God because his followers used to sacrifice their own babies in the fire. Followers of Baal also used to slash themselves with swords for Baal to answer their prayers. I’m thankful that Baal is not God. At the same time the Christian faith does not dispute that Baal or the Egyptian gods had real power. Today we shake our heads at our ancestors who believed in the Greek gods or Baal but Christians know that there are real spiritual powers behind these false gods, and it’s not recommended that you get involved with these spirits. There is only one true God, Yahweh, but there are many different spirits and demons in the universe. The Bible warns people to stay away from magic arts or from taking part in false religions. There are real consequences to getting involved with these spirits and demons, some people have become very sick from being involved with these spirits. People in other parts of the world aren’t as stupid as we like to think that they are. If there was no power at all behind these false religions do you really think that they would keep practicing their religion century after century? People in the West tend to underestimate the powers in the spiritual realm.





Let’s go back to Richard Dawkins question. If God is real then why has he not reveled himself to us humans? This is what we know: so far in history neither Zeus, Thor, Baal or any other god has proven themselves to be real. Yahweh revealed himself in Jesus. He came down, walked on Earth for about 33 years, was killed and raised from the dead. The God of the Bible is reveled to us as being three in one: God the Father, The Son of God and the Spirit of God. Today each believer who comes to faith in God receives the Spirit of God in the exact moment when he/she believes. When we believe in the one true God the Holy Spirit comes to live within us. God is not hiding from us. God reveals himself to anyone who wants him. It’s up to each one of us to open the door to our own heart when God comes knocking on it. God will not force himself upon us, he knocks on the door of our hearts and if we choose to let him in we can develop a personal relationship with him.





We have been given free will by God and therefore it’s possible to live your whole life without knowing God. God has given us that option. I can choose to close God out of my life or to let him into my heart. I have the power to choose. This one choice will be the most important choice I will make throughout my whole life: will I accept God or reject God when he knocks on the door of my heart? 

"When you come looking for me, you'll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." GOD's Decree."
Jeremiah 29:13 (The Message)