Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Ever since I read Jennie Allen's book Restless I have loved her writing! Jennie's new book is called Nothing to Prove and I knew right away when I read the title that I wanted to read it. Most of us spend so much energy trying to prove our worth don't we? We work so hard trying to measure up, we want others to see that we are great at what we do and that we can "do it all", preferably at the same time. We risk wearing ourselves out in the process while we are running hard after acceptance, approval, attention and praise from others. We live in a culture that often tends to base a person's worth on things like career status, beauty, prestige and power. It's no wonder we are worn out from trying to live up to our culture's standard of what a successful woman's life is supposed to look like.
Jennie Allen shows us that God has an entirely different view of womanhood than our culture. If we look to the Bible we find out that we are fully accepted, appreciated, valued and loved by God just the way we are. We also find out that there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn God's love. God loved each one of us long before we were born and we neither gain nor loose his love for us based on our actions. When we become saved and are in Christ our souls are secure forever. Do you know what that means? It means that even if we didn't do one more good deed for the rest of our lives we couldn't loose our salvation. It's not our good deeds that saves our souls, it's our faith in Jesus Christ. When we are saved we are free, free to be who we are.
Yes, God will call each one of us to do different things with our lives that will help other people and bring him glory, but his love for us is not based on our actions. We serve God because it brings joy and great purpose to our lives, not because we are trying to be "good enough" for God. God's love for each one of us is a free gift, it's never earned. Once this truth sinks in we can let go of trying to find acceptance, approval and praise from other people, because we know we are fully accepted and loved by God himself and nothing compares to that. We can now love others freely, without trying to get something from them. We no longer love others in order to get attention, acceptance and approval from them but because we enjoy serving and loving others. That is the ultimate freedom.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Monday, March 27, 2017
It was rainy and windy in Toronto all weekend long so the streets were pretty empty. Ikea on the other hand was not empty. My husband and I had made plans to buy some new furniture on Sunday and I can't exactly say I found the experience to be very enjoyable. A furniture store filled with probably 2 million out of the 6 million people living in Toronto isn't my idea of a relaxing Sunday afternoon. Note to self: avoid Ikea on a rainy Sunday!
Saturday was equally rainy and windy as Sunday but much more enjoyable. I decided a rainy day is the perfect day to go shopping so I spent the day at the Eaton Center in Toronto. I bought some new workout clothes, flip-flops and a beach towel. It's never too early to start getting ready for the summer and beach trips! :)
Ah, the great indoors! On cold, wet and windy days I'm grateful to be able to spend some time at the mall. I had planned to do an outdoor workout on the weekend but it became a visit to the mall instead, sometimes sipping on a latte while shopping is the best way to spend a restful day!
One of my New Year's resolutions was to focus more on healthy eating. Three months into 2017 I can see the connection between planning and healthy eating in my life. On weeks when I take the time to look through recipes and plan a grocery list I have no problem making healthy choices. On weeks when I'm a little too busy and don't prioritize planning my meals ahead of time I end up eating more unhealthy foods.
Going grocery shopping without writing a list goes a lot quicker, but I come home with more unhealthy foods in my grocery bags. It takes time to look for new healthy recipes and to plan all my meals for the week ahead, but it's the only way that works for me. My favorite healthy breakfast at the moment is organic cereal with almond milk and blueberries.
My favorite healthy snack is green apples dipped in all-natural almond butter.
On the weekends when I'm out and about in the city I like to grab lunch at Freshii.
The Hawaiian Poke Bowl and the Vegan Chili are my favorite healthy lunch choices at Freshii at the moment.
A protein-rich smoothie is my favorite afternoon snack. I like to blend together plant-based protein powder, vanilla almond milk, raspberries, blueberries, banana and agave.
On the weekends I like to treat myself to whatever I want at dinner time, without focusing too much on healthy eating. I'm in a pasta phase right now and I love spending time with friends and family over a tasty dinner at Il Fornello. I prefer to eat as healthy as possible during the weekdays so that I can treat myself to pasta, pizza and dessert on the weekends and still have a balanced diet. This past weekend I decided to treat myself to a big slice of Red Velvet cake at Baton Rouge on Saturday. I love cake!
Four years ago pastor Levi Lusko and his wife Jennie went through their most painful experience in life so far when their daughter Lenya died. When we are faced with pain and hardship in life what comes next will depend on what lens we choose to view our circumstances through. Levi Lusko preaches a powerful sermon at Life Church about perspective and the pain in our lives.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
|What would you say gives me my worth as a human-being? Is it my looks?|
During World War II many Germans viewed the physically and mentally handicapped as “useless” to society, a threat to genetic purity, and ultimately as unworthy of life. Hundreds of thousands of handicapped people were murdered during the second World War in Nazi Germany. Handicapped infants and small children were killed by injection of a deadly dosage of drugs or by letting them starve to death. Our race did this, the human race. I continue to be shocked by how selfish, cold and heartless humans have the inherent ability to become.
Today it’s World Down Syndrome Day and I’m not in a happy mood. I’m not in the mood to wear mismatching socks, not because I’m against this tradition, but because I don’t want to pretend that our society has changed a lot since 1945. Today we have well-respected scientists like Richard Dawkins who says that it’s “immoral” for women to not have an abortion if they find out that their baby has Down Syndrome. We listen to our cultural influencers. In the US about 92% of all women who find out that they are pregnant with a Down syndrome baby have an abortion. I don’t think wearing mismatching socks is going to change how we view the value of a human-being.
|Is it what I do that gives me my worth as a human-being? My achievements.|
We live in a society that from day one places a new little human-being in different categories and based on what category you fit into we will decide how much you are worth. Today women who are pregnant can decide to abort a baby that has Down syndrome. What if in the future we can know if an unborn baby has autism, ADHD, asthma, allergies or something else, should we abort these babies too? If your answer is yes I can tell you that I would have been one of those babies, one of those people considered too different to be worth giving birth to.
What’s our goal in the end? Do we want a world free of people with any type of special needs? Or, do we want a world that is more loving? What are the values we build our lives upon? If we believe that being intelligent and high achieving is of high importance in life we will not want to give birth to a child with special needs which can hinder achievements. If we instead believe that being beautiful is of high importance in life we will not want to give birth to a child with Down syndrome or a child with only one arm for example. If we believe that comfort, ease and pleasure are highly important in life we will choose to not give birth to a child with any type of medical needs that will require us to visit the hospital often and therefore make our lives less comfortable.
|Is my worth as a human-being based on how much praise I receive from others, or on how busy my social calendar is? These are all common measuring sticks that people use to determine their own worth according to Forbes magazine.|
If we look to God’s definition of what’s important in life we learn that the most important thing is to love God and love people. If we look to God’s view of babies we learn that he knew them already when they were in the womb. He intentionally “knitted them together” in their Mother’s womb, in other words even with their special needs all children are born exactly the way God made them. If we look to God’s will for our lives we could never even consider that any type of special need would give a baby less worth as a human-being. God created every single human-being with a specific purpose in mind, to contribute to this world in a unique way.
The Down’s Syndrome Association issued a response to Richard Dawkins’s initial comment saying that people with Down syndrome can live full and rewarding lives and that they also make a valuable contribution to our society. Do you agree with them? Or do you have Richard Dawkins world view and can honestly say that you think it’s best for Down’s syndrome babies to be aborted? These are the questions I think we should all ask ourselves on World Down Syndrome Day. If I become pregnant with a baby that has Down syndrome will I want him/her, will I love this baby too, just like any other “normal” baby? What are the values I base my life upon? Is it comfort and pleasure I strive for the most in my life or is to love others? Mismatching socks will not change how we treat people in our society, changing our values will. Every action will always be based on a value that we have. A value that comes from the world view we are currently accepting and building our lives upon.
A few months ago I had a bad day, I was feeling sad and took a walk along the lakefront. Suddenly I see this little four-year old girl waving at me and saying “Hi!” I make eye contact, smile at her and say hello. The little girl runs up to me with her Mom following right behind her and takes me by the hand. The mother apologizes but I tell her I don’t mind at all. The little girl walks hand in hand with me back to the parking lot. She looks up at me every now and then with this huge smile and I feel so happy. The little girl has Down syndrome, she is a stranger I’ve just met while taking a walk in the park but she met me with a generous love like no other, with smiles and no judgement. I was in a good mood for the rest of that day. Do not tell me there is not room for children like this in our society, or in your family. If we are on this Earth to love each other then this little girl just nailed it. She is different yes, but she is much more loving than me.
Pastor Holly Wagner from Oasis Church in Los Angeles teaches a great sermon about excellence in this video. Holly talks about how God calls us to strive for excellence in whatever we do. Excellence means we won't do our job half-halfheartedly, we give it our best. It means we won't do our marriage half-halfheartedly, we give it all we've got. This is how God calls us to live our lives: "Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is,put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men" Colossians 3:23 (AMP)
Excellence doesn't mean "be perfect", excellence means we do the best we can in whatever we do. Excellence is about doing better today than you did yesterday, which makes it apparent that excellence will take more than just casual effort to obtain. Mediocre lives and average effort doesn't bring glory to God. God calls us to give our very best to whatever we do. If you are a painter do an excellent job at serving people this way, don't leave any paint stains on the windows and so on. If you are a nurse, do an excellent job at caring for the people who are your patients.
We can ask ourselves a few questions to determine how we are doing in the area of excellence. Are you treating with excellence everything that God has given you? Your job, are you better at it this year than you were last year? Are you giving it your best? If God has given you a family are you treating them with excellence, are you going above and beyond for them? Has God blessed you with a car? Are you treating that with excellence or are you just frustrated that you don't have a better car? When we serve people with excellence it pleases God and brings him glory. God gave everything to us, so how can we give Him anything less than our very best?
God calls each Christian to live a life of excellence. We are called to be examples of excellence in our speech, in loving others, in forgiveness etc. However, excellence will never be easy. Excellence always means stepping into something new. There is always work involved in excellence. We will never experience the life God desires for us from within our areas of comfort. It's not comfortable to change, it's not comfortable to work for excellence, but it's necessary if we are going to fulfill our life's purpose. Whatever you do, give it all you've got!
Monday, March 20, 2017
Tears were streaming down my face as I listened to Marky's story for the first time at Elevation Church on Sunday. Each one of us will experience a lot of pain during this life on Earth, in one way or another. We can't change that, but what we can do is decide how we will approach this life. We can decide to be fighters facing our fears and the pain in this life with great faith and courage. We don't have to give in to despair and become depressed, we have a great hope in God and we know that although this life is painful it is temporary. Eternity awaits us just around the corner and we don't know how many more days we will get on this Earth, but while we are here we can choose to either live in fear or by faith.
Jesus could endure the pain of the cross because he was focused on the joy set before him. We too can either focus on everything that is wrong right in this moment or we can choose to look ahead. No matter what difficulty we face in this life it's only temporary, eternity is what comes next after this life and that is forever.
When my soul is secure in Christ I can hold on through all the storms of life and know that one day soon there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more death and I will be with God forever. I can keep running this difficult race called life with courage and hope because I know it will soon be over. Once this life is over the only thing that will remain is what I did for Christ. Did I spend my life on complaining and arguing with others or did I take every opportunity I got to serve God through loving Him and loving people? I want to be a fighter like Marky and not waste my time on Earth on complaining about what I can not change, but rather focus my energy on loving God and loving the people God brings into my life.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Growing up in New York City, Vicki had always thought that being rich, famous, and in Women's Wear Daily would bring happiness and fulfillment. But after all those things had happened, she was still empty. Gnawingly so. Watch her story and discover how this gnawing emptiness was finally filled.
Monday, March 13, 2017
On Sunday my husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. I can't believe it's already five years ago since we eloped to Jamaica and got married!
The pictures from our wedding are becoming more precious to me every year, looking at them takes me back to that special day. I remember how nervous I was, how surreal the whole experience felt and how happy I was that I had met the love of my life and that soon I would get to call him "my husband".
On Sunday we celebrated our anniversary with a cake of the same flavor as our wedding cake, chocolate cake with coconut filling.
I got my husband a card and the perfect anniversary gift, something I know he will use a lot!
My husband got me this card plus a gift card to Sport Chek, he definitely knows me by now. :)
What's inside that bag?
Yep, I got him a stylish coffee cup from Indigo. Both my husband and I are quite obsessed with coffee and tea so I'm pretty sure he will use his gift. We exchanged gifts and ate some cake during the day and in the evening we celebrated with a date night at the Keg. Our tradition is to ask each other a few questions about our life together during our anniversary dinner. My husband's questions were: "Where do you see us five years from now? What would you like to change and what part of our life together would you like to keep the same?" I asked: "What's one thing that became different than you expected in our marriage?" and "What's one thing that became just as you had hoped in our marriage?" Our questions led to some really interesting discussions and we set some new goals for the future that I'm excited to pursue together during the next five years.
Friday, March 10, 2017
The female beauty ideal has changed drastically over the past 100 years. Marilyn Monroe represented the beauty ideal in the 50's and women would eat weight-gaining pills to try to look like her. Ten years later the ideal was no longer to be curvy but to be skinny like Twiggy. The 80's beauty ideal was all about being fit and then in the 90's it changed again and women wanted to be skinny like Kate Moss.
Today social media and Hollywood present us with a beauty ideal that is all about perfection. Women are encouraged to strive towards having no wrinkles, a thigh gap, a big butt like the Kardashians and at the same time a Victoria's Secret model body that is thin and fit. There's more pressure on women than ever before and it's leading some women to start taking botox in their twenties. Other young women are getting plastic surgery to make their butt bigger and many are developing eating disorders from going on strict diets.
I remember being very unsatisfied with my own looks in my early twenties, there were so many things that I wanted to change. I didn't have a healthy relationship with food and if I would have had access to botox when my first wrinkles started appearing I would have gone for it. I grew up in a culture that teaches you that aging is a bad thing, so of course I wasn't happy when I started to see some signs of aging on my face.
Something huge changed for me when I finally started to see myself through God's eyes. I became aware of the fact that God had created me exactly like this on purpose. There's not one other person on the whole planet who looks exactly like me or has exactly the same personality as me. I'm completely unique and I'm God's masterpiece. I'm God's most highly priced possession and when I became aware of this I started viewing myself very differently. I became grateful for my unique beauty and personality and I became content with how God made me.
The change didn't happen overnight but the more I got to know God the more it started to change the way I viewed myself. God created me for a specific purpose and as I became aware of this I was determined not to waste another year of my life on criticizing my own looks or personality. I decided to embrace who God made me to be and appreciate everything he has blessed me with; my unique beauty and my unique personality.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
We live in a culture that is highly sexualized, a couple of generations ago young people were exposed to porn for the first time in high school, nowadays children are exposed to porn while they are in elementary school. Many of these children are not seeking to view porn but end up on these sites unintentionally via the internet. Today sex is pushed on people in all kinds of contexts that it was never created for. You can’t drive home from work without being exposed to billboards with messages like: “Life is short, have an affair.”
Another interesting fact is that inside the context that sex was created for (marriage) sex is no longer prioritized highly. Every book that I’ve read about marriage points out how important sex is for a marriage to be healthy and strong. “Sex is the glue that will keep you together” or “Having sex on a regular basis will protect your marriage from affairs” are examples of quotes that you will find in books about marriage. Still, in today’s culture sex isn’t a high priority in many marriages.
I read a sex survey in a popular Women’s magazine where the majority of the couples ages 30-45 said that they have sex twice a month on average. These couples also said that they feel that twice a month is often enough for them to have sex during this stage in life. I’ve read a few different books about marriage and what they all have in common is that they recommend that married couples have sex a minimum of 2-3 days per week to keep the marriage healthy and strong.
Isn’t it quite interesting how in marriage our culture is letting sex die while in places that sex shouldn’t be happening, for example in front of the eyes of elementary school kids, it’s happening? Sex is a powerful thing that can be used for good or for evil. Sex is also a powerful tool to hurt people with. Our spiritual enemy, Satan, is always looking for ways to infiltrate our sex lives and make this area of our lives twisted. If we want to have healthy, happy and thriving lives we need clear boundaries for how we use sex in our lives. Sex without any boundaries will open the door to a lot of pain, shame and regret in our lives.
Pastor Rich Wilkerson from Vous Church in Miami talks about sex in this sermon. Rich Wilkerson walks us through why sex was created by God. He points out that God created sex for three specific purposes; procreation, pleasure and protection.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Materialism and "more is more" is what this era in history seems to be all about, this becomes very clear when you take a look at weddings today. One hundred years ago most people had their wedding ceremony and reception in their own home, nowadays weddings are becoming more and more expensive every year. I love this video by Sarah Nourse where she and her husband talk about how they decided to go against society's expectations and have a minimalist wedding. Sarah and her husband chose to have a small destination wedding with only one guest, her Mom. The wedding package cost was around 500 dollars and still gave Sarah and her husband a beautiful wedding to remember.
When my husband and I got married almost five years ago I didn't want us to end up in deep debt from trying to live up to all the expectations that our culture puts on us. There are so many unwritten rules for what a wedding reception is supposed to look like. We decided to elope to Jamaica and get married there just the two of us. We chose to stay at an all-inclusive resort for a week and the wedding package that we chose was about 700 dollars. The package included a wedding cake, champagne, flowers, the priest who married us and a three-course dinner for seven guests. We didn't have any wedding guests in Jamaica but three months later we hosted a party for friends&family both in Canada and in Finland.
We hosted the wedding party in Finland at our family cottage and in Canada we had the party in our own home, so the cost was kept very low. I love that we were able to start our life together as a married couple without any debt at all from our wedding. We had some savings that covered all the costs from our wedding and the two parties afterwards for friends and family. We live in a world that tells us "more is more" but I've come to realize that less really is more.
My favorite way to start my day is by taking a morning walk in the neighborhood. The fresh air and daylight do wonders to my well-being, especially during the darker winter days. I wish I could start every day of the week by taking a morning walk but in reality I strive to get a walk in there 1-2 mornings per week.
We are back to having no snow in Toronto again but the upside of this is that you don't have to worry about slippery roads during your morning walk.
I also make reading my Bible a part of my morning routine. On most days of the week I read two chapters in the Bible in the morning. I love starting my day with The word of God because it sets my day on the right path from start. Every new day brings thousands of opportunities to become irritated, to gossip, to lash out on people etc. When I start my day in The Word I'm more likely to refrain from lashing out on people as I remember the words I read at the beginning of my day. One passage that really stood out to me from my morning Bible reading last week was 1 Peter 3:9-12.
"Do not repay evil for evil. Do not retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. For the Scriptures say,
"If you want to enjoy life
and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The eyes of the LORD watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the LORD turns his face
against those who do evil."
1 Peter 3:9-12 (NLT)
Every day when I interact with people I have an opportunity to put more love or more evil into the world. The problem is as long as I'm focused on how other people are acting I will always find a reason to gossip, lash out on others, yell at my husband etc. It's always tempting to tell myself that it's okay to treat others in an unloving way because they started it. Then again, I can not really complain about the evil in the world if I myself am feeding the evil in the world.
Every time I choose to respond to an insult with an insult I'm adding a small dosage of evil to the universe. I can't change other people, but I have all the power over my own thoughts and actions. I'm an imperfect human-being, being a Christian doesn't mean you will never sin again, what it means is that you have chosen to "put to death your old self" and you have chosen to walk in the light. Every week each one of us will fall into sin hundreds of times, but that doesn't mean we should quit trying to choose love. Every human-being will impact the world around her in one way or another. Every time I choose love over evil matters. It's our thoughts and actions that form the world we live in.
We are never going to feel like responding to an insult with a blessing. We are never going to want to forgive those who have hurt us in the past. Nope. As long as we continue to act based on our feelings and do whatever we want the world will stay exactly as evil as it is today. Change happens when we choose to walk in the light, no matter how much we want to insult someone rather than bless them.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Everyone were crying tears of joy this morning as we had our last session of Women’s Connect for the winter season. Becky and Shauna shared their powerful stories of how God has been moving in their lives during the past two years and everyone listening were tearing up. I’m so grateful that I get to take part in this empowering and encouraging Women’s ministry at my church.
It’s powerful to get together with women from all different age groups and life stages, to gather together weekly to share in each other’s struggles and victories. We are always stronger together. No matter how alone we may feel when we are facing something difficult in our lives we are never the only person in the world facing this struggle. When we let other people come alongside us to encourage us and help us it makes life’s storms less difficult to battle.
During the winter season of Women’s Connect we did a study based on Lisa Bevere’s book Without Rival. The Spring season will be based on a video-study from Right Now Media called Teach Us to Want by Jen Pollock Michel, an author and speaker from Toronto. I’m already looking forward to the next season of Women’s Connect! I’m very grateful for the group of women that God has brought into my life through this ministry.