When my family came to visit us in Toronto we got the chance to go see Niagara Falls again. I've never visited the falls in the summer before so it was a lot of fun to take the trip during peak tourist season.
The view of the falls from the Canadian side of the border.
The big waterfalls and the tiny people in red rain jackets on the boat. Next time we visit the falls I want to go behind the falls like the people on the picture who are dressed in yellow.
We all wish we could live lives that are constantly happy and easy. Lives where we can continue to accomplish new things without seasons of struggle or rest in between. But life wasn't built that way, we all go through different seasons in life. Seasons of growth, rest, fruitfulness and preparation. We can't fast forward through a season of growth because God knows exactly what we need in preparation for the next stage in our lives. God will never send us into the next season of life unprepared. You might be going through a season in your life right now that feels uncomfortable, mundane or slow, but you can be sure that God is at work in your life. What may seem like a mundane season in your life might be exactly what you need to be prepared for what will come next. It's also helpful to remember that every season is temporary, which reminds us to stopand enjoy the sweet times in life and to not give up during difficult times.
No don't let the fear Make you feel like you can't fight this on your own You know I, I'll be there for you no matter where you go You'll never be alone, no Just fight a little longer, my friend It's all worth it in the end But,when you've got nobody to turn to Just hold on, and I'll find you Just fight a little longer, my friend It's all worth it in the end
Self-actualization, a burden or a blessing? We have all heard the stories about how hard life was for our ancestors. My grand-parents didn't have an easy life, at 21-years old they were married with a baby and started their own business. Life was very difficult at times, especially when they lost part of their property in a fire and almost had to move to Sweden to survive. The people in the village came to their rescue and gathered together some money so that they could stay in Finland. I think about that sometimes, about how much it matters to have a loving community of people around you to love on you. Living in a small town isn't always easy but when times were tough these people had each other's back. My own life at age 21 was completely different than my grand parents'. I moved abroad at 22, not because I had to but because I wanted to chase my dreams. When I met my husband at age 25 I was still in the middle of my "self-actualization journey" and as embarrassing as it is to admit I was afraid that my relationship with my new boyfriend was going to hinder me from making all my dreams come true. Yeah, I definitely had some selfishness-issues that I needed to grow out of. Marriage has taught me many things about life and one of the most important lessons I have learned is that the less I focus on myself the happier I will become. I need to love myself and take care of my own needs of course, but there is no fulfillment or satisfaction in living for myself. My selfishness is still one of my least attractive qualities but the older I get the more I learn to live an others-focused life, rather than an inward focused life. In today's world we have many opportunities so it's tempting to make life all about chasing our own dreams and pleasures, rather than to look at the bigger picture. I like Chip and Jo's outlook on life and the older I get the more I long to live like they do. I don't want to live for me, focus on becoming successful/famous and end up divorced and with children who I'm too busy/tired to spend time with. My grand parents were not famous or rich people but they loved me with everything they had in them throughout my whole childhood. My grandmother passed away a few years ago and she is one of my biggest role models in life. She was all about love and family and because of that everyone loved to spend time with her. I could visit her anytime and the moment I rang her doorbell she would stop whatever she was doing and give me her full attention during the visit. I hope to be a grandmother like that one day. I have to start by being that kind of wife, sister, daughter and mother. The love that I got from my grandparents and the rest of my family growing up is what laid a solid foundation in my life. My grandparents were happily married for more than 50 years until my grandmother passed away and I want that kind of life for myself. I know that I would have a much harder time believing in love if I hadn't seen it modeled with such excellence growing up. Today my family from Finland and Norway traveled back home after their visit to Toronto. Some tears were shed at the airport today but I'm so grateful that I get to have these amazing people in my life. I know that far from every human-being on this planet gets to grow up in a family like mine and I want to make sure that I pass this love on to the next generation. That's my job, to love God and to love people. My purpose on this Earth isn't to make my own name famous but rather to pour as much love as I can onto the next generations. It's the love we receive (or the lack of it) that make us who we are today.
When a crisis occurs, often our first reaction is to question God and ask why it had to happen. But what if there’s a better way to respond? Discover how learning the right response to a situation is often more important than learning the reasons behind it.
This week it's also Love Week at Elevation Church and there are hundreds of different events available for anyone who wants to take part in serving our city and helping others. My husband and I got the opportunity to serve by packing food for Ontario's kids in need on Sunday. It's inspiring and exciting to see the whole church come together to serve our cities at all the different Elevation church locations in Canada and the US this week. This year Elevation Church is also hosting events all over the world where people from Church Online can take part and serve their cities. Each Christian is called to love God and love other people, Love Week is one great way to live out this mission.
I walked alone, trying to find my way On winding roads and paths that I had made Wandering so far from grace I'd given up on things that I believe My hopes and dreams were buried in the sea But You were there, calling out to me Life will rise, Death will die Your love is mine, Your love is mine Stains washed white, You paid the price Your love is mine, Your love is mine
On Saturday we had our Renewal of Vows ceremony in Toronto.
It became a very beautiful celebration despite the rain in the morning.
Our pastor came to our home and we had the ceremony in our living room. Dan&Serena's wedding in the last episode of Gossip Girl was my source of inspiration for our celebration. All our guests sat on the couch and on chairs in our living room during the ceremony.
Here we are on our way to take some pictures by the lakefront.
Dad got the job as our event photographer.
The happy couple
We had the reception in our dining room at home. Today it's Monday and we are all still resting up from the party by taking a visit to the nail studio and by relaxing at home.
Taking morning walks on hot and sunny days is one of my favorite things to enjoy in July.
A bowl of fruit&berries for breakfast is a summer treat! Watermelon, strawberries and blueberries are favorites.
This drink called "Beached" from Jack Astor's is my favorite cocktail this summer. It's big enough to share with my husband. But first we had to argue about who gets the blue straw (none of us like the color green).
Breakfast outdoors in the park is one of my favorite things to enjoy every summer!
The High Carb, High Fat diet. That's the diet that I'm on during the summer.
That thing that is holding you back in life, that thing that is keeping you in bondage, when you decide to shake it off you will be free. Many times we keep complaining about being in a state in our lives that we don't like, but we are unwilling to look within and find the real solution for our problems. Too many times we are looking for outside sources to solve internal issues. Pastor Michan Carter explains it this way: "We either are complaining that someone's not doing something for us, or we are saying someone did something to us, and we use that as an excuse to never look at us." Here's the thing with the "issues" we carry around with us through life: "If you don't deal with it, it will deal with you" says pastor Michan Carter. It's tempting to avoid our own issues rather than to look within and deal with our stuff, but the price for issues left undealt with is high. They have the power to ruin our lives and hurt the people we love the most, unless we face them and deal with them. Pastor Michan Carter preaches a great sermon about how we can get free from whatever is holding us back and making us bitter during this season in life.
What is Unconditional Love? Love that never ends. God loves every single human-being on Earth unconditionally. We can choose to either love him back or turn our backs on him but he still loves us and will never stop loving us. He longs to be with us like in the beginning, like before this world became broken. One day we will be with him forever, if we choose him. I chose to marry my husband five years ago, nobody forced me to marry him. I fell in love with him so I was willing to commit my life to him fully until death do us apart, because I love him I happily sacrificed being with anyone else but him. But anyone who has been married for longer than three months knows that I won't always feellike loving my husband. Love is a choice and love is an action. Love is a verb. I choose to continue to pursue my husband and as a result of that our love blossoms. God loves me every day and every second of my life and I can choose to love him back. I love my husband but no human will ever come close to loving me as much as God loves me. Only God could fill that empty hole on the inside of me that was always longing to be loved unconditionally. God is the only one who can love me with perfect love and the more I spend time in his presence the more I learn to love others the same way that he loves me. I become a better wife from spending more time with God. I become a better neighbor from spending more time with God. I never want to become so busy or distracted in this life that I forsake spending time with God, my creator. His love is the only love that can satisfy the deepest longings of my soul.
"You have to get to a place where you see yourself as God sees you. And also love yourself like you deserve to be loved, because it's impossible to have the expectation of experiencing true love and somebody respecting you the way that they should if you don't do it for yourself." We can't find real love before we have learned to love and respect ourselves.
We are the brightest We won't come to the darkness The Lord knows when the light rises You know He's calling Crying out from the mountain Telling us to come home right now You're my brother We don't have to fight anymore Oh brother None of us win in this world Beautiful people don't you know you're made in his image The image of greatness Why don't we see His reflection inside one another And all of our faces
Ever feel unsure about God's purpose for your life? Unqualified or insecure about what He's called you to do? Watch this special teaching from Holly Furtick and discover three things you can do that will help you live out your purpose with confidence.
A picture says more than a thousands words. Yes, but it's not always what it looks like. A few examples from my own life:
Los Angeles, a few years ago. What a lovely day at the beach right? Not exactly. My husband and I were in the middle of an argument when we took this picture. We realized that we weren't going to solve the argument as quickly as we wanted so we said: "Let's just take some pictures of the beach first and then we can go somewhere and talk." Oh the joy of those first couple of years as newlyweds when you have many arguments that happen at the most inconvenient times because you don't know each other's weaknesses or sensitive spots yet so you keep stepping on each others' toes.
Here we had made up and decided to go for a hike in Los Angeles. This was a nice moment but based on what you see in the picture you can't tell the huge difference between this picture and the first picture. Pictures tell you far from everything.
I took this picture during a bike ride this spring. It looks like a wonderful day to take a bike ride but in reality it wasn't a fun day at all! The wind wasice cold and I was biking as fast as I could to get back home again as soon as possible.
This was a very nice day during the spring. The weather was warm and I could bike in my t-shirt and I loved the feeling of being able to enjoy riding my bike again after the long break during winter. I never posted the picture of this nice moment on my blog because it doesn't look very enjoyable or pretty.
Then there are those pictures of your home that will never make it onto a social media account. My husband kicked me out of our Master bedroom bathroom a year ago with these words: "You take up way too much of the counter space." I have no idea what he is talking about. Nowadays I treat our guest bathroom as my own bathroom where I can spread out my stuff as much as I want!
As I was looking at the picture of this room I realized that it's about as "cozy" as a prison cell at the moment. I never intended for this room to have such an extreme minimalist decor but let's just say it's still "in process" of getting decorated. One of these days I will take the time to hang up the curtains that I bought months ago. The blinds work fine for now. The shelf that is on the bed also needs to be attached to the wall at some point. The thing is, July is a warm and sunny month and the last thing I want to do right now is spend time indoors. Home decorating will have to wait until a rainy and cold day in September.
These pictures are just a few examples of how different reality looks from our perfectly edited lives online. We have all followed people online who seem to have a perfect, beautiful and loving family until one day the parents tell the world that they are getting a divorce. The shiny pictures that the world got to see was far from reality. We also follow people online who seem to be skilled at finding something negative to complain about in each and every situation. No matter what they are faced with you can be sure that they will find a way to whine about it on their social media accounts. We look at these people's lives online and feel sorry for them since their lives seem to be so difficult and heavy all the time. When in reality the lives of these people might actually be pretty happy and awesome, they just won't tell you about those parts. They use their social media accounts as a place to spew out their negativity.
No matter if your Facebook friends' pages are full of perfect pictures or full of negativity you can be sure that reality is neither. Reality is that life is full of everyday struggles and difficult stuff but at the same time our lives are also full of blessings and beautiful things that we will notice if we look for them. Our world is both broken and beautiful.
What's your favorite thing about summer? Mine is the beach. I love spending a day at the beach in the summer. On Saturday the plan was to get up early and head to the beach but instead I woke up not feeling well at all. I ended up spending most of the day sleeping and watching TV. I was very grumpy about the situation for half of the day, until I decided to snap out of it and make the best of the situation.
On Saturday afternoon I started to feel a lot better so we decided to take a spontaneous trip to the beach after all. We went for an evening swim and then we watched the sunset before we drove back home. Not bad for a sick day after all. Other than spending time at the beach some of my favorite things to enjoy right now is reading books on the couch while I drink coffee and planning the last details for our Renewal of Vows that is coming up soon.
It's very difficult to live a life of purpose unless we know what our gifts are. The purpose of this life is partly the same for all human-beings; to love God and love people. On the other hand, how we choose to serve God and serve other people will depend on what areas we are gifted in. God does not desire a person with very low empathy to be the one running the care ministry in the church for example. A person with low empathy won't be able to feel enough compassion for those who need help through the care ministry.
We are all gifted in very different ways but no gift is worth more than another in God's eyes. All different types of gifts were given to us by God for one purpose; to serve Him and serve other people. We aren't meant to use our gifts towards selfish ambition, but rather to help other people in this world. There is somebody out there in the world right now who is praying to God for help in an area where youare able to help. Don't waste your gift, put it to use!
When I was in the process of figuring out my purpose a couple of years ago I found it helpful to read books about purpose. One of the more obvious things we need to figure out what our gifts are is a list of all the things we are good at. I find it helpful to write them all down. Another tip that I learned from reading books about purpose was to ask yourself the question: "What makes me righteously angry?" There are many different types of injustice in our world but we will know what we are meant to change when it makes us really angry. I always get really upset when I see children who are suffering at the hands of their parents or because of our broken society. Kids in poverty and kids who have been abused is one of my people groups that I want to spend my life serving. I also get very upset when I see any type of modern day slavery in our society; human trafficking, the lack of fair trade etc. Helping children get a better life and fighting modern day slavery are two of my greatest passions.
Another way we can know what God wants us to do with our lives is by taking a Spiritual Gifts Test. We all have certain gifts that we are born with (natural gifts) and then we also have spiritual gifts. Our spiritual gifts are given to us by the Holy Spirit and the more we are filled with the spirit the more evident they become in our lives. Some examples of different spiritual gifts are: mercy, pastoring, teaching, wisdom, giving, healing, hospitality, leadership, miracles, evangelism, administration and service. Once I found out what my spiritual gifts are it became easier to see how I can help others by using both my natural gifts and spiritual gifts.
One of my top spiritual gifts is mercy. The gift of Mercy is "the divine strength or ability to feel empathy and to care for those who are hurting in any way." The gift of mercy is very helpful when I work with serving children in poverty for example. God will equip each one of us for entirely different jobs in this life but each person has been given a set of both natural gifts and spiritual gifts that God is expecting us to put to use.
I really liked this sermon by pastor Charlotte Gambill from Life Church UK about why we need prayer in our lives. The Bible teaches us to pray and James 4:2 says: "You do not have because you do not ask God." Still, I have a tendency to get lazy in my prayer life. It's so easy to put on "the independent woman role" and act like I got life covered, like I don't need God. Me acting like I don't need God is as silly as when a toddler thinks that she doesn't need her parents' help in life.
God is always present and cares for me deeply so why don't I take the time to sit down and get more intentional in my prayer life? The answer is the same as to why I don't do more strength training workouts. Prayer and workouts require time and will never happen unless I make them a high priority in my life. I'm working on becoming more consistent in my prayer life at the moment because I have seen the difference between living my life without prayer and with prayer. I definitely prefer the second version of life. There is so much unnecessary pain and complications that I could save myself from if I just took the time to seek God's counsel before making my decisions.
On Friday night I got all dressed up for another birthday party in the family.
Saturday was Canada Day and not just any Canada Day, it was Canada's 150th birthday!
We celebrated Canada's birthday by hanging out by the Harbourfront center in Toronto.
The giant rubber duckie was one of the most popular sights during Canada Day.
My Canada Day outfit. I should probably have worn something red and white for Canada Day, but I don't own a single piece of red clothing. Bright red is not my favorite color, but next summer I want to buy a red dress so that I can dress for the occasion on Canada Day.
I celebrated Canada Day with a slice of Saskatoon berry pie, but my favorite part of the day was the fireworks. The fireworks by the CN Tower was the most beautiful fireworks I have ever seen in my life! Well done Toronto!
On Sunday we took our first trip to Wasaga Beach this summer. I went swimming a couple of times and the water at Wasaga Beach was about 20 times warmer than in Cobourg. The water is always colder in Lake Ontario than it is in Lake Huron for some reason.
It isn't properly summer before you visit Wasaga Beach every year!
Sand in my flip-flops = a sign of summer!
I treated myself to a beavertail at Wasaga Beach. I had the Avalanche with cheesecake icing and Skor candy, it tasted amazing! I'm very grateful for how the weekend turned out, they had promised a lot of rain but in the end we only got a couple of hours of rain in total. It's July, my favorite month of the year, so I better appreciate every minute of it! :)