I love the videos by youtuber "LeahsEssence". Leah's videos are positive, encouraging and filled with wisdom. Leah doesn't just do Vlogs about her faith but she also makes videos about beauty and lifestyle. This video focuses on what we can do to overcome difficulties in our lives. Leah shares her best tips for how we can stay strong when the storms hit us in life.
My new blazer is my favorite piece of clothing right now. I love that it's spring and that I can wear my summer shoes and a blazer instead of my winter jacket. Lately I've been happy to see change in our society as well, and not just in the weather. I've noticed that some clothing brands have started making more and more of their clothes in countries with laws that require fair trade.
JCrew sells my favorite summer shoes, the Cece ballet flats, they are Made in Italy. I bought my new blazer from Zara this spring, it's Made in Spain. I'm hoping to see more clothing brands take responsibility in the future and start supporting fair trade rather than continue to make their clothing in factories that have child workers and other types of unethical labor. I'm proud to see many Canadian brands focus on making a lot of their products in Canada. Le Chateau is one brand that has a whole collection of clothes that are Made in Canada. I was also happy to read about the new Swedish clothing brand Miss Clarity that make all their clothing in European countries to ensure that the clothes are Fairtrade.
We like to shake our heads at our ancestors who supported slavery and we think that we are so much better people than them. Are we really? I don't know about you but I have a lot of clothes in my closet that are made in countries that I know use child workers and pay their workers very little money. I'm not okay with that. I'm not okay with supporting child labor and modern day slavery.
My goal is to buy more and more of my clothes from countries that accept only fair trade labor. The clothing brands that care about fair trade will be the brands that I choose. I don't care if my clothes have a designer label or are made by H&M, the only label I care about is the one that reveals where the piece of clothing was made. It's not a coincidence that our world lacks justice for all today, us in the West can buy cheap clothing because other countries continue to sell us products that were made under unethical labor standards. What we shop and how we shop will determine how the clothing industry continues to do business in the future.
When you spend time on social media it quickly becomes apparent that women love to judge each other. You will often hear people complain about and judge another woman because she is different than them. We easily get uncomfortable, judgmental and sometimes even jealous when we see a woman who is different from us.
The truth is that I'm not even a bit better than the woman who has completely different gifts, interests and priorities in her life than I do, God has made us different from each other for a reason. The world needs women who are gifted in different areas of life. Who am I to think that my type of personality or gifting is better than anyone else's? We are all gifted in completely different areas of life and instead of becoming judgmental or jealous of each other we can choose to rejoice in each other's gifts and encourage each other.
Today we had our Women Connect meeting at church and it was a very encouraging and empowering experience. We currently have women from three different generations in my group and I love the insight and wisdom that I'm able to receive from these women. Sadly our modern society doesn't seem to value wisdom from older generations that much anymore. I find that outside of my own family the church is the only place where I've found it easy to connect with people from many different generations. I've met many wise older women in my church whose advice has been very encouraging to me. I've also met people ten years younger than me in church who are much more mature than me.
The cool thing is that when we get together in a church community God is able to use all our different backgrounds and past struggles to help and encourage everyone. When I share how God helped me overcome one of my biggest struggles in the past my story can encourage somebody else who might be going through a similar struggle. It's amazing to witness how God can use your story for good if you just let him. My story can't help anyone if I keep it a secret. When I choose to get vulnerable with others my story can be used for something greater. It's powerful what God can do through a community of believers.
Women Connect is wonderful but I don't think every church has gatherings like these, what most churches do have is Life Groups. There are many different types of Life Groups; Couples groups, Women's groups, Men's groups, Young adults groups etc. One of my New Year's resolutions was to focus more on community in 2017 so at the beginning of the year I joined a fairly new Life Group for women in their twenties and thirties. We have so much fun at my Life Group and I love the wisdom, encouragement and help that these women offer me every week. Life Groups are also a great way for each Christian to "love their neighbor". We can't help our community if we never make time to hang out with other Christians. When we gather together weekly we get to share in each other's struggles and lift each other up.
Another thing I love about my Life Group is that we just randomly happen to be from very different cultural backgrounds which adds perspective and new insights about life. We are currently five women in my Life Group and our cultural backgrounds are: Finland, Korea, The Philippines, Barbados and Guiana. Our church is very multicultural so our groups tend to have a really fun mix of people. I love it!
Christian tells his story about what it was like growing up without his Father present and with a Mom who had to work two different jobs to support her family. Christian developed depression at an early age and later started using different types of drugs and alcohol. He got sent to many different psych wards and rehab centers but nothing could help him get his life back on track.
Christian eventually got sent to prison and he describes this as the best thing that could have happened to him. He was humbled in prison and started reading a Bible for the first time in his life. Today Christian is a believer and he is excited to serve God and help others find the same love and acceptance in Christ that he himself has discovered.
Alicia's childhood and teenage years were very difficult and as a result she developed depression and attempted to take her own life at the age of 17. Two weeks after Alicia was let out of the hospital after her suicide attempt a stranger started talking to her in the store where she was working. The guy shared his story with Alicia and told her that he used to be very lost before he came to faith in Christ. Alicia decided to go to church that week and ended up giving her life to Christ. God started to do a healing work in Alicia's life from that day forward and today God has rebuilt Alicia from the inside out. Today Alicia is using her faith and her music to reach out to others who are broken and struggling with their mental health, depression and suicidal thoughts.
hell are some of the least popular parts of the gospel among nonbelievers.
Nobody likes the idea of consequences for our actions and judgement for our
sins. If I would ask a young child if she would rather live in a world free of
any consequences or in a world with consequences what do you think she would
pick? What would you pick? Welikebeing able to do whatever we
want without any negative consequences. On the other hand, if I would ask a
young child if she would rather have consequences for others or live in a world
where others can do whatever they want without any consequences I’m sure she
would pick a world with consequences. We don’t like whenothersdo evil acts and get away with it. We
long for justice and when someone does something evil in our society we want to
see the person pay the consequences for the evil act, we don’t want the person
to get away with it.
who donotbelieve in God still believe in
heaven, but most people who don’t believe in God don’t believe in hell. Nobody
wants hell to exist, not even Christians, but at the same time a universe
without hell would mean a universe without justice. God is merciful, but he is
also a God of justice. If God let everyone do whatever they want and enter
heaven he wouldn’t be a loving God. Not every criminal in this world will be
captured and held accountable in a court, but no criminal will escape God’s
judgement at the end of life. I once heard a pastor preach on the topic of hell
and he said that anyone who has come face to face with pure evil in this world
can fully understand why there is a need for hell. If there was no hell, what
would hold us back from taking revenge on each other? When you have seen and
experienced pure evil hell becomes a comforting thing, because you know thatnobodywill ever escape justice in
We have all
sinned and nobody will enter heaven without having first surrendered their life
to Christ. We are not all murderers or rapists, but we have all sinned. I
consider myself to be a good person, but I have sinned and deserve judgement
just like anyone else. I don’tdeserveheaven, heaven is God’s free gift to
me when I surrender my life to Christ. I have never cheated on my spouse, I
have no criminal record, I have never killed anyone, but I’m still a sinner.
kissed a guy who was interested in me although Iknewhe was engaged to someone else, not a
nice thing to do. I was also a part of groups who bullied other kids both in
elementary school and in high school, not a loving thing to do. I used to steal
a lot of stuff from different stores when I was in high school, that’s notgood. I’m not going to
list all the sins I’ve committed in my life so far but my point is that we are
all sinners although we like to view ourselves as “good people”. I’m not a good
person, I’m an imperfect human-being and I’m a sinner. My final destination
after this life is hell, unless I surrender to Christ and accept Jesus into my
heart. When I surrender to Christ I’m forgiven for all my sins. I have access
to this forgiveness because Jesus chose to take the punishment that I deserved,
he was willing to go to hell for me, so that I would never have to experience
that. Imagine that you were sentenced to life in prison and someone shows up to
take that prison sentencefor
you, so that you are free to go. Jesus didthatfor each one of us, we are all
“sentenced to hell” for what we have done during this life, but Jesus took our
sentence upon himself and was sentenced to deathin our place.
I have no fear
of death at all, if I die tomorrow I’m ready. Don’t get me wrong, I hope that I
will get to live for many more years but I’m notafraidof death. What I’m afraid of is that
not everyone that I love will be in heaven with me one day. I’m fully aware of the
fact that only those who have surrendered their lives to Christ will enter
heaven. When my Grand Mother died five years ago I was sad, but at the same
time I had peace, because I knew that I would get to see her again one day. I
knew that my Grand Mother had faith in God and was a believer. I don’t know
where all my friends and family members stand with God, if they have
surrendered their lives to Christ or not. We all have to make that choice for
ourselves, nobody else’s faith can save our souls. Each one of us haveone lifeto decide if we will surrender our
lives to Christ or if we will choose to rather reject God. You can have all the
knowledge in the worldaboutGod but it isn’t before we surrendertoGod that our soul is saved.
The reason it takes any effort at all to surrender to God is that our spiritual
enemy is pulling hard in the other direction, keeping us away from God and away
from our purpose. One of our spiritual enemy’s most common tactics is fear, he
can use fear to keep us away from a lot of good things that God has for us in
life. Fear of what others will think of us, fear of the future, fear of pain
interesting thing that I learned about heaven and hell as a new believer a few
years ago is that hell meanscomplete
separationfrom God and
heaven meansto be with Godforever. We often imagine heaven to
look like something we have seen in the movies. Our idea of hell can also be
based on what we have seen in a movie. The Biblical description of heaven is
simply a place free of evil, a place where we are with God forever. Hell is a
place where we will be completely separated from God, which means we will also
be separated from anything that is good, anything that is love. Whether we are
Christians or not, none of us knows what it’s like to be completely separated
from God. In this present world, not all of us are interested in God but hestillloves every single one of us. God is
constantly present in our lives whether we notice him or not. None of us are
completely separated from God in this world.
present world is a mix of good and evil. There is no place on Earth where there
is only evil, there is always a little bit of good in the midst of all the
darkness. There is also no place on Earth where there is only good, evil is
always present. We can have a wonderful day at the beach with our family, until
we end up in an argument with each other. We can also be going through
something very difficult in life but in the midst of all the darkness we have a
hope that things will get better. Our present world is always a mix of evil and
good. God is with us, but our spiritual enemy is also present. The hope of
heaven is that it’s coming around the corner. When our souls are saved and
secure in Christ we have a peace and hope that nothing can take away from us.
Once we are saved we can not loose our salvation. The storms will keep coming
in this life but we can face every difficulty with confidence, hope and peace
because God is with us. If God iswithus, then who can be
I had a wonderful weekend and Easter 2017 is definitely one of my favorite Easters so far! :) I like to decorate the house with colorful flowers for Easter every year.
After a few weeks with focus on prayer and fasting it was time to start celebrating Easter on Friday. I'm quite happy that Lent is over now, even if the only thing I took a break from during the fasting season was TV. Many of my friends took a break from social media during Lent but I currently don't use a smartphone so I didn't see a need to limit my social media use any further. I usually do a rice&beans fast every year but since my iron levels have been low lately I had to skip fasting from food this year. My TV break was fruitful, it gave me more time for stillness and reflection during Lent. I had all this time leftover to spend with family or on reading books instead of getting stuck in front of the TV every evening.
Friday was a very sunny and beautiful day so I decided to take a walk along the beach in the afternoon. The sunshine makes me so happy!
On Saturday we had a family dinner at our house and my husband cooked an amazing Jamaican dinner for us. We had Boston Cream Cake for dessert plus tons of Easter candy of course. If anyone wonders why we eat eggs and decorate with eggs at Easter it's because they are a traditional symbol of rebirth. The eggs remind us of the resurrection of Jesus. The egg represents new life, just like each one of us get a brand new life when we come to faith in Christ. The old is gone, the new has begun.
The traditional Jamaican Easter bun and cheese is also one of our traditions on Easter. We still have some leftovers that I look forward to having later today. I love that we are a multicultural family with multicultural Easter traditions.
All dressed up for Church on Easter Sunday.
Easter Sunday at Elevation Church in the GTA. I'm so thankful that I get to live in Toronto where we have Canada's only Elevation Church location so far. My friend's brother who lives in the Philippines goes to Elevation via the online church, it's fun to be a part of such a large international church!
Easter at Elevation Church was incredible. I had a few moments during service when I had to fight back tears while thinking about all the amazing things that God is doing in my life this year. God, you are sooo good!
I spotted this interesting phenomenon during my evening walk in the park on Sunday, let's call it an "Easter tree". So cute and funny that someone decided to decorate the park for Easter to put a smile on everyone's faces.
Sunday was an awesome day for many reasons, one reason being that we had +22 degrees Celsius in Toronto. Hello Spring! My poor husband has to model for my blog every week because I don't want to expose the rest of my family and friends to such a public blog as this. He's a (partly) involuntary "internet star", but let's face it, a blog without any people in the pictures quickly gets boring. :)
Sunday's dessert: one glass of red wine and two Smarties chocolate eggs. Life is good! :)
Esther Fleece grew up in an abusive home and as an adult she tried to run away from her past by staying busy and by being performance-driven. When her biological Dad was released from prison and started stalking her Esther's life got turned upside down. Esther eventually decided to go to counseling, which was the last thing she wanted to do. The path to healing wasn't easy but Esther had finally developed the courage to not hide from her past any longer.
Happy Easter everyone! I’m joyful and excited this week, like a little
kid on Christmas Eve. Easter week includes so many fun things to enjoy. Today
we had Women’s Connect at church, which is always a fun and encouraging
experience. We are usually around 50-100 women per meeting and it’s a powerful
thing to see so many women come together to walk through life’s ups and downs together
encouraging each other. On Friday, my friends and I are planning to have a
picnic in the park after the Good Friday service, hopefully the weather will be
nice! On Saturday, we will have family over for Easter dinner and on Sunday we
go to church again to celebrate the resurrection. This whole week feels like a
party to me.
This week we are reminded of how amazing, loving and kind God is. We
serve a God who isn’t a distant God. God choseto come down to our level and walk with us for 33
years. The all-powerful God Almighty himself chose to take on human flesh for a
short period of time. What would you do if you had all the power in the whole universe?
My guess is you would not use it to walk in humility and
love like Jesus did.
If I was God I would be a terrible God, in the garden of Gethsemane I
would have given up and said: “That’s it,
I’m not doing this. I don’t care if people will go to hell unless I get on that
cross to save their souls. I’m NOT doing it!” Jesus was fully human, and at
the same time fully God. I’m just human, I’m imperfect. I’m grateful and in awe
that God would do what he did for me, that he would give up everything to save my
soul. He laid down his life for me and now he is calling me to do the same for
others. I’m called to stop living for my own pleasures, wants and dreams alone
and to live to love God & love people. We can’t please God without committing
to loving people. We can’t love people well without committing to God.
I have a heart that is divided. I’m loving and at the same time I’m
selfish and cold. I have strengths and I have weaknesses. I have beautiful
gifts and talents but I also have some really messed up issues. I’m a mix of
good and evil, we all are. The day I decided to ask Jesus to come into my heart
I decided to give him access to my whole heart. I didn’t wake up a
saint the next day, I still have my issues to work on, but God started to do a work
in my heart from that day forward. God will continue to transform me until the
day I die, all I need to do is spend time in his presence and let
him soften my heart and make me new. God’s spirit (the Holy Spirit) now lives
in me. The more I let God transform my heart the more the fruit of the Spirit will appear in my life.
the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love
[unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability
to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control.”
Galatians 5:22-23 (AMP)
This week is a very special week, it’s a week when I take the time to go
to church twice and praise God for everything he has done in my life and will
do in the future. It’s a time when I’m in awe of how holy, righteous, kind and
gentle God is. I’m also reminded that although the darkness in this present
world is widespread God is bigger. God has the last word. This life will be
difficult, painful and overwhelming at times but no matter what I’m going
through God will be with me giving me strength to keep fighting the good fight. Life
in this present world will be difficult, but it’s temporary. When it’s all over
I will stand in front of God and be allowed to spend eternity in heaven, not
because I’m a good person but because of Jesus’ work on that cross. Jesus’
sacrifice on the cross opened the door of heaven wide open. Today, because
of Jesus, anyone who chooses to believe and to ask Jesus into their heart will receive
the Spirit of God and be forgiven for all their sins. I can’t think of anything
more beautiful than that. God’s love for each one of us is the most beautiful
love story of all.
I love our home, it's my oasis in the middle of a big city, the place where I can find rest and stillness. A weekend getaway to a Spa is wonderful but my home is the most relaxing place I know. No matter how messy our home gets I like to keep my favorite places tidy so that I can escape at the end of the day and find some stillness and rest in one of these places. I have three favorite places in our home where I like to hang out when I'm relaxing. Nr.1: The corner. I like to sit in this corner of our house reading blogs or watching videos on Right Now Media.
Nr.2: The Family Room. This room is at the center of our house and I love hanging out here with family and friends.
The family room is also the perfect place to relax with a book or magazine and a huge cup of coffee or tea.
Nr.3: The Master Bedroom. My oasis. This room is off limits for everybody else except my husband and I. I decorated it in black, white and ivory to keep the room serene and calming. Most of the days of the month the bed is not this nicely made, but it's the place where I can always find stillness, rest and relaxation. My home sweet home!
When I'm outdoors the beach is the place where I go to find stillness and rest, during all four seasons of the year. I live in a big and busy city so I consider my calm places to be of great importance for my well-being. What we do with our lives is important but time for stillness and reflection in between all the achieving is equally important. Sunday is the rest day of the week and the time after 7PM each day is "resting time" in our house. We try to keep our schedule free from any booked activities during that time of the evening on weekdays.
On Saturday my husband and I went to the movies together, we watched "The Case for Christ" which is based on a real-life story. The movie follows Lee Strobel's journey from atheist to Christian as he tries to prove that Christianity is false. Lee's journey reminds me of my own, I remember how Christianity was thelast religion in the world that I would have guessed to be true. God knows each one of our stories and he will use different paths to reach different people, but what we all have in common is that he will call us on a journey to get to know him. Lee came to faith in God after he had looked at the historical and medical evidence for Christ, my journey was completely different. I remember having encounters with God already as a child but I didn't know what this "higher power" was, I just knew there was something out there and that there was some type of God watching over us for sure. I personally don't find the medical or historical evidence for Christ that interesting, mostly because I've experienced God's presence in such an intense way a few times in life that I don't need any additional proof to know he is real, but we all have different journeys. The beautiful thing is that no matter who we are God can reach each one of us in a unique way. The website Rotten Tomatoes describes the movie The Case for Christ in the following way: "A hard-driving journalist, Lee Strobel was exactly where he expected to be at work: on top. His award-winning investigative reporting recently earned him a promotion to legal editor at the ChicagoTribune. But things weren't going nearly as well at home where his wife Leslie's newfound faith in Christ went against everything Lee believed-or didn't believe-as an avowed atheist. Utilizing his journalistic and legal training, Lee begins a quest to debunk the claims of Christianity in order to save his crumbling marriage. Chasing down the biggest story of his career, Lee comes face-to-face with unexpected results that could change everything he knows to be true."
God wants our relationships to be beautiful, but that takes effort. Whether in singleness or in marriage, the common denominator is that we must faithfully steward what we've been given. Jennie Lusko teaches a great sermon at Fresh Life Church called "Becoming The One". We often focus our attention on finding the one but unless we focus on "becoming the one" ourselves we won't do well in our romantic relationships. We all have our issues and ignoring them won't make us happy, when we actively work on developing our character our romantic relationships will thrive. The same is true for marriage, even after we have met the one and gotten married there's no room to be lazy if we want our marriages to stay strong. Just like a garden requires a lot of work to keep it beautiful a marriage requires us to actively work on it every year to keep it strong.
I've really enjoyed the Swipe Right series at www.freshlife.church this spring. "Becoming The One" and "Worth Fighting For" are my two favorite messages in the Swipe Right series. I learned many of the same truths that are being shared in the series when I was in my early twenties and still today they are making a difference in my marriage. I won't be able to save money and keep my finances in check without a budget and in the same way I can't have a thriving marriage without building it upon wisdom. Levi and Jennie Lusko share great wisdom in the Swipe Right series that when applied will make a romantic relationship strong and healthy. I can't protect myself from natural disasters, most diseases or accidents in life but I can protect myself from relational pain by building my marriage upon wisdom.
I love this video by Sarah Nourse where she shares her best tips on how you can simplify your life. Sarah shares her best minimalist life hacks in the video and I find many of the tips to be very helpful. Creating a minimalist lifestyle is a great way to move towards consuming less stuff, living greener and saving money. Most of us live pretty busy lives in today's society so a minimalist lifestyle can also help us save time and make life less stressful.
My favorite tips in the video is to live without a car if possible and to borrow an outfit from a friend for special events like galas and weddings instead of always buying something new. I also like the idea of sharing certain toiletries with my husband like shaving creme and body wash to consume less and have less clutter in the shower. Another great tip is to buy all linens and towels in the same color so that everything matches and to make doing laundry faster and easier.
Brandon Yap tells his story about what it was like to grow up with only one hand. Hearing others tell him he couldn't do things made Brandon develop insecurities growing up. Brandon's insecurities made him ashamed of who he was and made him want to hide his arm when meeting new people. Over time Brandon developed depression and anxiety. He worked hard trying to earn acceptance and approval from others for many years and when his family moved to another state things got worse. Brandon was bullied in his new school and started to believe the voices in his head who were telling him he was worthless.
One day Brandon's sister Jennie invited him to Skull Church and from then on Brandon's life started to change in a big way. God was teaching Brandon that his imperfections could be used as his platform. He decided to learn how to play some instruments and today he is using his gifts to serve God. I love what Brandon says in the video: "I once saw myself as a victim, but God has given me the heart of a victor."
I hope you all had a lovely weekend! I had a very slow weekend which was super nice! I mostly stayed home and didn't do much else than spend time with family. My husband went out and got me coffee and a croissant for breakfast on Saturday morning and I stayed in my PJ's until it was afternoon. That pretty much sums up my favorite way to start a slow Saturday! :)
On Sunday it was sunny and +16 degrees Celsius in Toronto so I decided to enjoy a stroll along the lakefront in between running some errands. Welcome Spring, we hope you will stick around!