Monday, December 31, 2012

A Look Back On 2012

2012 was certainly quite the year for me.

Unexpectedly I got to do quite a bit of travelling. Chicago in March, Northern Quebec in July, Daytona Beach in September and time at camp in between.

There were sad moments. The loss of a family member and the closing of two doors that I would have rather have stayed open, one professional and the other personal. And then there were the severe forrest fires that threatened the area around my hometown.

There were a lot of changes. Our church hired a consultant and as a result of his recommendations and the Lord's leading we've made drastic changes to the way our church functions and operates and it's only just begun. I got to watch as God furthered the ministry reach of the MAD Christian Radio Show and see Him bring it to places I never thought possible.  I went from being an employee to an employer. And I re-arranged big portions of my life and schedule to pursue this dream of becoming a business owner.

I scratched some items off of my bucket list. Including buying a DSLR and pursing photography, inventing something, stepping foot on a submarine, and getting my boating licence.

And I've had the privilege of investing in and seeing relationships around me grow. With my family, with my small group, and with my friends. It's so true that the quality of our lives are hinged on the quality of our relationships.

There were some tough times, it wasn't perfect, but it was a good year. Not because of the trips or highlights, but because I can look back and say I'm not the same person January 1st of this year that I was January 1st of last year. And I consider that to be the milestone I look for in the passing of time.

That said, growth is my goal for 2013. Some great things lie ahead, including opportunities that are bigger than my wildest dreams, but my goal isn't just to grab the next big thing. There is also quite a bit of uncertainty regarding events that lie ahead, but my goal isn't to have a life that is shielded from uncertianity.  My goal is to be more like Christ with each year that passes and to keep my eyes focused on who He is and where He is leading me.

After all, awards and accomplishments amount to nothing. My life isn't about building acclaim for my name, but for His. And if one day I can look back over all of my years put together and see more of Him than me that will be my definition of a life well lived.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

HTML5, The Future Is Here

It's official- HTML5 is feature complete, which means they've added all the features that are going to be included and it's something that web designers and app makers can rely on.

As someone who does website design for a living I have to say HTML5 truly is the future of website design.  Where once for everyday websites developers were pushing things like flash and php, now the standard for websites is clearly HTML5.

So what does this mean for those who use the internet but don't design for it?  You can come to expect websites that are across the board compatible with your browsers, rather than you having to download plugin after plugin.  You can also expect to see more and more multimedia incorporated into websites and features like drag and drop for uploading files.  You can also expect, with a little help from jQuery, a lot more websites that are mobile friendly, meaning you won't have to squint to see text and images on your smartphone.

As a designer HTML5 required new learning yes, but I love what I'm able to do with it.  Want to see an example?  Check out this website I recently completed.  It was my second project done in HTML5 (the first was retracted after the client decided to go in a different direction with the layout and features) and I can't wait to work more in it!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Perfect Circumstances Don't Make For Better Holidays

If there's anything to learn from the plethora of Christmas movies out there, it's that the perfect circumstances don't make for the best Christmas holidays.

We see that when Clark Griswold bends over backwards to give his family an old fashioned Christmas, only to be stopped with obstacles at every turn.  By the end of the movie though Clark realizes, while standing in the midst of his destroyed home and surrounded by police, that sometimes the most joy and sweetest memories are found when things go not quite the way we planned.

Think about your own memories of Christmas.  Chances are the ones that stand out most to you are from Christmas' when things didn't go according to plan and it was that obstacle that made that year all the more memorable.

I know that's the case for me.  One example that stands out is our tradition of every year going as a family to get the McNulty family Christmas tree.  The year that stands out to me isn't the one where we drove out into the bush in a nice SUV that had four wheel drive and all the amenities.  The year that I'll never forget is when we trekked into the bush with an old Ford sedan that needed the "check engine" light to go on in order to run in the right gear.  Partway on the drive the heater kicked out, followed soon by the defroster.  So not only did we have no heat, but we actually had to roll down the windows or we'd have too much frost and wouldn't be able to see outside the front windshield.  We laughed more on that drive than we had on all others combined.  And it was then that the message hit home that perfect circumstances don't make for better holidays, or better lives for that matter.

Chances are this Christmas that's going to be the case.  Things aren't going to work out exactly like you or I had planned.  But the beauty comes when we look past our ideals and instead embrace every moment that we're given, whether that moment is in front of the fireplace surrounded by loved ones or stranded on the side of the road alone, as a good gift from above.

After all if Christmas was about perfect human plans, Jesus would have been born in a palace, not a stable.  Herod would have been none the wiser about His arrival, rather than angered by it.  And as for Joseph and Mary?  They would have returned home to a warm embrace by their family, rather than being forced to flee to another country with a newborn.  The first Christmas was about God's plans, not ours. And this Christmas it's my prayer for myself and my prayer for all of you that it's about God's plans, not ours.  God may bless you with the hallmark moment you envisioned or He might bless you with an the unexpected moment you'll be talking about for years to come.  We can't know which is coming, but we can start our celebrations by surrendering our plans to Him and welcoming any "obstacle" with open arms and expectant hearts.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Learning From The Best

Over the past year I've been learning a lot about what it takes not only to open up your own business, but to make it succeed.  I've been blessed to have people who have been there mentor me and allow me to learn from their knowledge and experience.  I've also been reading a lot on the subject and while I won't recap those books here for you now, I will post links to a few online articles that I've found to be favourites and are good not only for those running a business, but for employees as well:

9 Things That Motivate Employees More Than Money

Winning the Next Wave of the Internet: Mobile

How To Close More Sales Without Being Pushy

And then a couple that are related to website design:

The Top 10 Web Design Skills You Will Need

How much do you charge for web design?

Website Mistakes To Avoid

Any recommendations on articles I should be reading?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Why Church Matters

The last two weekends for me have meant work and lots of it.  Normally I try to keep my work schedule confined from Monday to Friday, but when a big project comes my way, I'm left with little choice.

And while working on the weekends means less social time, a delay in getting the Christmas decorations up in the yard, and less time to spend unwinding, one thing it's not going to mean this weekend is me missing out on church.

While some people have said that church is our way of showing obedience to God, for me it's that but it's more than that too. Church is like having the fire fanned so I can keep running the race with passion from Monday to next Sunday.  When I miss out on either Sunday morning service or meeting with my incredible small group, I feel it. And I don't like the way it feels.

I want to live my life with passion and purpose, not with mediocracy.  So meeting together with other people who get that is like giving water to a thirsty soul.

Yes church is about worship and teaching and obedience, but if you haven't found a congregation or small group where it's also like an incredible family who has your back, picks you up when you are stumbling, and cares for you, you're missing out.

So where are you going to be this Sunday morning?  It's my prayer for you that it's in a community who gets what the Christian life is all about and equips you to run your race with endurance.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Business Learning

As I'm in the process of transitioning from "employee" to "entrepreneur" I have been learning a lot about what it takes to captain your own ship and build a business that is going to not just stand the test of time, but be an environment in which I can truly thrive.  While it's impossible to share all I've been learning in just one blog post, I wanted to share some of my favourite quotes on the subject:

"The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it." – Debbi Fields

"Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming." – Richard Branson

"There is no royal, flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it. For if I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard." – C.J. Walker

"Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations." –Steve Jobs

"To the degree we’re not living our dreams; our comfort zone has more control of us than we have over ourselves." – Peter McWilliams

"People are definitely a company’s greatest asset. It doesn’t make any difference whether the product is cars or cosmetics. A company is only as good as the people it keeps." – Mary Kay Ash

"I don’t pay good wages because I have a lot of money; I have a lot of money because I pay good wages." – Robert Bosch

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Where We've Come From

I think too often we get so caught up in where we are right now that we forget where it is we came from and what God has brought us through.

Life gets busy, we have bills that need paying and people who need calling and we can get so caught up in the urgency of today that we overlook the miracles of yesterday.

I had somewhat of a wake-up call in that department myself this weekend.  It started Friday when I was reminded it was 7 years to the day that I had one of my surgeries.  This was a very defining moment in my life as those who have been following this blog for a while or know me well would recognize.  It wasn't just a moment that passed by in time, it was a defining event in my life as I experienced pain like I had never known before (or thankfully since) and as it set the course for my health (or lack thereof) for years to follow.  As I thought back on those days and made a point of going back and re-reading some of my journal entries I had a hard time believing that I actually walked through those days.  And not only walked through those days and survived, but emerged on the other side stronger, better connected with God, and so refined that my life will never be the same again.  At the time all I could see was pain and suffering and destruction, but in hindsight God was writing a different story.

On Sunday morning I got another reminder of just where I came from.  My brother was giving his testimony at his church and invited me to attend.  Sitting there listening to his story, which in a lot of ways is also my story, I was floored as I realized just how much God brought me through and just how different my life would have ended up if I didn't have Him in my life, creating purpose from the pain.  My childhood in a lot of ways was not an easy one, but when I look back today that's not the way I see it, neither do my siblings or my mom.  When we look back and remember we see the hand of God, protecting us from harm and providing us with the kind of love, support and community that we needed to walk through those days and emerge strongly on the other side.  Yes we all have our wounds, but as the years have passed I've seen firsthand those wounds turn into healing in a way that only God can.   I've also seen God cement my relationship with my family as a result into a very powerful thing.  With God, who we are today is not where we came from.  Who we are today is who we became with the God of Redemption writing our story.

As I looked back this weekend and took the time to remember, both the good and the bad, I realized that looking back is something that we all should do more of.  After all, how much stronger would our faith be for the circumstances we face today if we looked at them in light of what God did yesterday?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

13 Years

Today marks 13 years to the day that I made the best decision I've ever made and that decision was to surrender my life and heart to Christ and choose to follow Him.

Some people think that surrendering means giving up something.  In this sense I don't agree.  Looking back over the last fifteen years I don't see loss, I see trading for gain.

I've exchanged,

Feelings of unworthiness for unconditional love.

Regret for forgiveness.

Wounds for healing.

Bitterness for grace.

Loneliness for belonging.

And ultimately, death for life.

That choice 13 years ago, that decision to allow God to start working in my life set off a domino effect in my life and I've seen His Hand bring healing and redemption.

Does that mean my life is perfect?  No, far from it.  What it does mean is that I don't walk alone.  Following Jesus brings purpose, but it also provides His Presence and having that with me in this life is just as valuable as what is now waiting for me in the next.   It's an experience that not only brings me peace, love, joy, grace, and comfort, but has transformed me so that I can extend that kind of gift to others.

Does that mean I have arrived?  Hardly.  I like anyone have a far way to go when it comes to being perfect, but with Jesus I am on that journey and every year it is my goal to become more Christlike than I was the year before.

That's the Christian life in a nutshell, less of me makes room for more of Him.  And when you've experienced what having more of Him looks like, you're willing to clear up the space in your heart that's needed to allow Him in, because there's nothing on this earth that can compare to what He brings.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Something To Think About

A good reminder that problems like running out of gas or having to wait in line at the grocery store aren't actual problems...


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Florida Trip

I had booked a week off in September months ago and had full intentions of using that time to go to a cottage nearby and relax close to home, but Someone had a different idea.

At the end of August I found out that due to circumstances beyond anyone's control the cottage would not be available and just when I was ready to cancel my holidays my Mom and I were presented with the idea of spending a week in Florida and after one thing after another fell into place, we headed out on September 15.

It was a long day of travel with flights from Timmins to Toronto then Toronto to Charlotte, North Carolina and then Charlotte to Orlando, followed by a shuttle ride to Daytona Beach but I loved every minute of it.  Charlotte has the nicest airport I've ever been to, complete with rocking chairs free to use, and it was no sacrifice to enjoy a real southern lunch there complete with sweet tea.

In Daytona Beach we stayed right on the water and our room was bumped up to one with a fantastic view of the ocean.  What a view to wake up to every morning!

On Monday we spent a magical day at Walt Disney World.  The last time I was there was at the age of 8 and I was concerned that as someone in my twenties it would no longer live up to the hype, but it surpassed my expectations.  We spent a whole day exploring the Magic Kingdom and re-visiting some of my favorite childhood rides, along with some new ones like Pirates of the Caribbean.  The day ended off with the electric parade at night, followed by the fabulous Wishes Fireworks display which hands down is the best fireworks display I've ever seen and was quite a moving show with the combination of fireworks, music, and narration.

Most of the rest of our time there was spent lounging by the pool and playing in the ocean waves.  I loved riding them on my board and the water was so warm that it was like being in paradise.  

I'll be honest, it was really hard coming home at the end of the week.  And had it not been for the people and church I love luring me home, I definitely could have stayed there forever!

I'm very thankful for that trip.  

I only realized it after being there a few days, but I really needed that time away.  I'm heading into a period in my life where I'm facing a lot of changes and while they great ones, they still are changes and change can take its toll, especially when you know that some one of your upcoming decisions is going to be an unpopular one (MAD listeners worry not, I have no intention of stopping the show!).  That said it was so fabulous to be able to have a week where the only decisions I needed to make were which wave to hit or which pair of flip flops to put on.  

God knows what we need even when we don't and I praise Him for presenting me with this unexpected blessing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Killing Creativity

We've all seen it happen before.  Someone starts a new job, school, ministry, program, etc and they walk in with such fire and all kinds of great ideas.  Unfortunately often the day comes when that person loses the fire, the creativity, and the vision.  I've seen it time and time again and have experienced it as well.  Now while there could be a thousand different reasons for this I believe we shouldn't overlook one of the causes- killing creativity.

When someone no longer feels like they have the freedom to run with their ideas and do what they do best, everyone loses.

So what can we do to make sure we aren't killing creativity in those around us?  Well there is a great article here that lists how creativity gets stifled in most situations and it's definitely worth a read.  But I have one more reason to add to that list- the perceived lack of trust.

If a church hires a pastor believing he is the person God has chosen for the job but then proceeds to second guess his every decision, that lack of trust is going to tear that person down and possibly quench their fire.

If a business hires someone qualified to do a job and then over manages them every step of the way to the point that the person is not free to do what they do best, that's going to take the wind out of their sails and make them a less effective and more mundane employee.

On the flip side if we all spent more time building people up and giving them the freedom to shine than we do criticizing them and seeking to control them the world would be a better place.  Just my thoughts for today.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

If The Mayans Are Right

Last Sunday in church the speaker mentioned the Mayan theory that the world is going to come to an end this December.  Immediately on one side my mom whispered "you better book us a trip" and on the other side a friend whispered "you better start your business".  We all had a good laugh, but that conversation and the Mayan theory has stuck with me ever since.

This theory is widely disputed and it seems as though very few people buy into it as truth.  And while I in no way believe it, I have to ask: if we knew that it was true, how would that change how we live today?

Just think, if our time on earth was going to expire in less than four months, what would change in your life?

Would you spend more hours at work than are necessary?  Or would you go home on time and spend quality time with family and friends?

Would you continue to be glued to your cell phone, sending endless texts and religiously checking your email?  Or would you put the phone away and allow yourself to be fully aware and awake in each moment that you're given?

Would you allow fractured relationships to stay broken?  Or would you choose instead to forgive and take the first steps towards reconciliation?

The truth is no one, not even the Mayans, know when our time on earth is going to end.  In Matthew 24:36 Jesus makes it very clear that only God knows when that is going to happen and He gives no one on this earth a preview.  Whether that's from the end of the world or our time to die, not one of us can know when our days are going to run out.

That said, shouldn't it change the way we live?  Shouldn't we look at every year, every month, every day, every moment as if it could be our last?  Not because a Mayan told us it could be, but because we are not born with an expiration date that we are privy to?

James 4:14 teaches: "How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?  Your life is like the morning fog- it's here a little while, then it's gone."

I don't know about you, but I truly desire to live out each moment I'm given to the fullest and make my life count for something that will outlive me.  And while I don't believe the Mayans are right, I do welcome the urgency that thinking about the end of our world can bring to our lives.

Let me leave you with a few thoughts on making your life count from the book "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper:

"You get one pass at life.  That's all.  Only one.  And the lasting measure of that life is Jesus Christ."

"It was becoming clearer and clearer that if I wanted to come to the end of my life and not say 'I've wasted it' then I would need to press all the way in, and all the way up, to the ultimate purpose of God and join Him in it.  If my life was to have a single, all-satisfying, unifying passion, it would have to be God's passion."

Monday, August 06, 2012

Your Home Team

While the Winter Olympics are still my favourites, I have been watching a lot of the coverage of this years Summer Olympic Games in London.  One of the things that has struck me the most, partly due to commercials like the one at the end of this post, and partly due to the commentators, is the difference that family has made in getting the many of the olympians to where they are today.

Story after story has been told of mothers and fathers being behind their kids 110% of the way; of brothers and sisters encouraging, supporting and challenging their siblings to bring out their best; even of aunts and uncles who sacrificed to bring these athletes to where they are today.

It's amazing the difference that your home team can make.

This brings to mind something I read in the book Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist.  She wrote:

"Everybody has a home team: It’s the people you call when you get a flat tire or when something terrible happens. It’s the people who, near or far, know everything that’s wrong with you and love you anyways. These are the ones who tell you their secrets, who get themselves a glass of water without asking when they’re at your house. These are the people who cry when you cry. These are your people, your middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what people." 

I know in my own life I wouldn't be where I am today without my home team.  Some of these members are family, like my mom who would get up at 6 am on Sunday to bring me to hockey.  Others are friends and others still are employers, teachers, coaches and neighbours and each one of them have made a contribution to my life that has been invaluable to me.  

Some of my home team members have changed over the years, others have been there from day one, but they've each brought their own unique contribution in encouraging me, inspiring me, and supporting me.  And I desire to bring the same to them.  To be as Shauna put it "a middle-of-the night, no-matter-what person".  

That's not a role only reserved for Mom's and Dad's of olympians, that's a role that we each can take on to bring out the best in those around us. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

View From Space

This video, shot from the International Space Station and edited together by Knate Myers, is a good reminder of how small we are and how great God truly is.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Searching For The Unexpected

In 1 Samuel 16 we read the story of Samuel looking for the next King of Israel.  God tells him that he has reject Saul as king and will show Samuel which one of Jesse's sons is going to take his place.

Samuel calls for Jesse and his sons to join him.  As soon as his eyes fall on one of David's older brothers he thought "surely he is the one."  But God was quick to teach him something vital not only for Samuel to learn, but for all of us to learn as well.  God told him:

"Don't judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord doesn't make decisions the way you do!  People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at a person's thoughts and intentions." (1 Samuel 16:7)

As it turns out God's pick for the job of King of Israel was David, the youngest who was left at home to tend to the sheep.  Not the most glamorous job there is.

Imagine what would have happened if Samuel had went with his own perception and chosen someone else to lead Israel instead of David, the man after God's own heart?  Chance are the Israel's history would look very differently.  And it could have easily happened because often when it comes to finding potential in someone else you have to look past the surface.

This is so important for all of us to recognize because let's face it, often when we choose our friends and associates, we do so for superficial reasons.  Sometimes it's looks, sometimes it's money, other times its popularity or how we feel when we are with them.  But more often than not when we make relationship decisions based on those qualities, whether it's for a friendship, business associate, or boyfriend or girlfriend, we end up being disappointed.  Not to say that there's something wrong with the rich or popular or good looking person, but because when a relationship is built on something so superficial it's going to crash and burn.

So how should we pick our friends, business partners and signifcant others?  Well it starts with looking past the surface and instead looking to peoples hearts.  Seek out that person in the room who might be quieter than the rest, but you know there is something different about them.  Strike up a conversation with them and find out what makes them tick.  You'd be amazed at the kind of gold that is out there, maybe even in your circle of acquaintances.  I know in my own life most of my deepest and best relationships are found in people that I didn't expect them to be in.   God likes to surprise us and I think at the same time remind us that He knows things we don't.  He looks past the surface and digs out the unexpected from people.  I don't know about you, but I'd like to be doing the same.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Finding New Strength

It's been a stressful week and some of the problems I've been facing have caused feelings of discouragement to rise up within me.

But last night something within me changed.  It started when I opened my study guide to see that the chapter our small group would be going through that night addressed one of the exact issues I was dealing with.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Then on the drive home I had a good reminder from God that He is still in control and I'm not in this alone.  It's not up to me to find a solution to the problem.  Yes I have my part to play, but if I turn it over to Him, He's going to lead me and show me what to do.

This verse keeps coming to mind.  I know it's quoted often, but it's one that really encourages me and I thought I'd share:

"The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Looking Beyond Today

Living in the Canadian North, I've become accustomed to the reality of having tons of snow in the winter and it usually only melting by the end of April if we're lucky.  That's just the way life is up here and while I wouldn't trade it for anything, this winter was a different story.  

I was in Chicago at the beginning of March and within days of arriving home, our snow was gone.  This kind of weather was unheard of for us, but myself and most people up here didn't give it a second thought.  We were so happy to have an early spring that we didn't think ahead to what the downside might be.

That is no longer the case.

Over the past couple of weeks as wildfires have threatened homes and cottages and burned thousands of hectares of beautiful forest, we've seen the consequence of having a spring where the snow left and no rain replaced it.  The ground got so dry that all it took was a spark to spread flames far and wide and do so at a frightening pace.

Isn't it so easy to enjoy the moment and not even give one thought to the consequence?

We do that a lot, don't we?  Not only in broad ways like in how we view the weather.  But in very specific ways in how we live our lives.  We are quick to enjoy getting away with things at the moment, but aren't wise enough to see where the path we're walking on is leading us.

We give ourselves a pat on the back when our boss buys our excuse for why we were late today.  But we don't see where this pattern of lateness or dishonesty will lead us in a few months from now when the boss has seen right through us and has ten people lining up, ready to take our jobs.

We get a little thrill when we watch things we have no business watching on TV or the internet and we shrug off the consequences, thinking no one will ever know.  While that may be true, we fail to think about the fallout that the forbidden has on our hearts, our lives, and our relationships.  If we looked ahead to see the chaos we were inviting into our lives from those so called secret moments, I don't think we would be so quick to flip the channel or open the browser.

In his book The Principle of the Path, a book I highly recommend by the way, Andy Stanley writes:

"Prudent people look as far down the road as possible when making decisions.  Every decision.  After all, they understand that today and tomorrow are connected." (p. 39)

That is so true.  Our decisions aren't sealed in some sort of box where they occur, but are sealed in to only affect what happens inside that box.  No, our decisions are like bombs that are set off that send shrapnel flying all around us.  The good decisions, like investing in our relationships or growing in our faith or living a life of integrity send life-giving water to everyone and everything around us.  Whereas the bad decisions like cheating or lying or living a double life or being stuck on spiritual cruise control are like sharp shrapnel that can tear down and harm all kinds of things around us from our relationships to our jobs to our ministries to even our witness to other people.  As Proverbs 13:20 says "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm."

That said, we're all left with a choice.  A choice we have to make every time we're faced with a decision.  Are we going to see this decision as something insignificant or are we going to look down the road and see where this seemingly small choice is going to lead us in a week, a month or even a year from now.

"Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.  Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe.  Don't get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil." (Proverbs 4:25-26)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Praying For Rain

I never thought I would pray for rain, but with the forrest fire situation surrounding our community and the nearby town of Kirkland Lake, that is something that we desperately need right now!

This afternoon the winds shifted and smoke from a huge fire to the west of the city started dropping over the area, leaving the sky an eerie colour and changing the sun in a way I've never seen before (see photo).

Unfortunately the smoke creates an issue for people like my grandfather who has respiratory problems.

Your prayers for heavy rain and the winds to change would be greatly appreciated!

"Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!  Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops." (James 5:17-19)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Loving God

One of the first books I read after becoming a Christian was Chuck Colson's "Born Again". While it documented his journey to faith, it also helped guide me on mine. Shortly after reading "Born Again" I picked up "Loving God" and was not disappointed. Colson's writings were very influential in my early days of growing in my faith and I, like many, am saddened to hear of his passing. It is my hope that when my time comes to leave this world, I could have touched even a small fraction of the number of lives that Chuck Colson did.

"More widely read, more frequently attacked than any other book in history, generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it; dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it. Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing it more powerful than their weapons. Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints. Pieced-together scraps of Scripture have converted whole villages of pagan Indians.

Yearly, the Bible outsells every best-seller. Five hundred million copies were published last year alone. Portions have been translated into more than 1800 languages and even carried to the moon.

Literary classics endure the centuries. Philosophers mold the thoughts of generations unborn. Modern media shapes current culture. Yet nothing has affected the rise and fall of civilization, the character of cultures, the structure of governments, and the lives of the inhabitants of this planet as profoundly as the words of the Bible." (Loving God, Charles Colson)

Friday, April 06, 2012

Good Friday

Last night my small group got together for a dinner, followed by watching The Passion of the Christ. Seeing the words of the Bible brought to life for me brings such a greater understanding. It's so easy to read the words "Jesus died for our sins" and to let it pass by, being unchanged and unaffected. But when you see on the screen what "Jesus dying" really meant and the pain and agony He went through and how at any point during the ordeal He could have stopped it but instead choose to go on, it brings about a completely different perspective.

I don't know about you, but the list of people I would be willing to die for is not that long. And the list of people I'd be willing to die for under those extremely circumstances, even shorter, in fact if I was being really honest I'd say it's nonexistent. Diving in a lake to save someone who is drowning pales in comparison to being flogged then nailed to a cross, to slowly suffocate to death. Yet Jesus choose it. Jesus did it. And today you and I benefit from the fruit of His death with life. Not just eternal life in heaven for those who believe, but an abundant life beyond comprehension here and now.

That's the reason why I can call Good Friday good. Because it's about more than a death, it's about what life that death brought and how that sacrifice changed my life. Today I pray you know that life and that you take some time aside to realize what precious a gift it truly is.

"And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:8-11)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Favourite City: Chicago

I've been home from Chicago for over two weeks and I've been wanting to post a recap of my trip but instead of journaling day by day I've decided to do something different. Here are the top reasons why Chicago is my favourite city, hands down. Because of time constraints, I've limited it to the top five, but believe me there are more!

The People
There is something different about people in Chicago. The friendliness of the people make Chicago feel more like a small town than a big city. They just love their city and they want you to have a great time visiting and experiencing everything Chicago has to offer. I've had strangers offer me directions before I've even asked (they overheard us debating which way to go). We were talking to a lady at a restaurant in the park and when we mentioned we wanted to go skating in the park the next day, she told us to come back to the restaurant first and she'd leave her job, walk us to the skate rental place and make sure we got set up right so we'd be good to go. Those are just a few examples of how people in Chicago go out of their way to make you feel welcome.

The Layout
After the Great Fire burned up much of the City of Chicago, the people made a very wise decision when it came time to rebuild. They decided to leave the waterfront industry free and instead of packing it with business, they left it wide open with parks and beaches from one end of the waterfront to the other and they made sure that residents of the city would always have free access to the highlights of the city. Museums and attractions often have free days to residents, the city even offers a free trolley to bring people down to the waterfront so they can enjoy what it has to offer. Brilliant.

Also while in most big cities one skyscraper looks just like the next, that's not the case in Chicago. Each one is more magnificent than the one next to it and most have great stories behind them. We went in one hotel where they recreated the Sistine chapel and another building that had a ceiling worth $32 million dollars. Art and beauty are a big thing in this city.

The Shopping
I never used to be a big shopper, but that has changed over the last couple of years and Chicago has the best shopping I've been able to find. In fact one of the main streets, Michigan Avenue, has one mile of nothing but stores on both sides of the street, complimented by a couple of malls. Then on the other side of the River are even more stores on State Street, like the biggest Old Navy I've ever seen- four floors high.

The Out of this World Experiences
In Chicago you'll get to experience things that you'd never get to do anywhere else. At the Sears Tower, North America's tallest building, you can step off the building and stand above the city with nothing around and beneath you but glass. At the John Hancock Center, another really tall building, I went up to the 94th floor and there got to skate on a rink with the city spread out below me.

At the Museum of Science and Industry I got to tour an actual U505 Submarine that the Americans captured during World War 2. They towed this sub all the way through the great lakes, then built a special track to bring it from Lake Michigan to the museum just to have this kind of experience available. And it wasn't just like you walked through the sub. No they had audio and visual effects so that while you were in the sub you experienced what the German soldiers would have when they were under attack.

Even at the Bulls game, it was more than just watching a basketball game, it was an experience. Nothing like any other sporting event I've been too. The crowd was wild and the energy was fueled by guys doing basketball stunts on trampolines, a guy doing tricks with his dog, parachutes dropping from the ceiling with free stuff in them, t-shirts being fired off into the crowd, fireworks, even a senior cheer-leading squad that was hilarious.

The Food
Deep dish pizza, Chicago style cheesecake, Vienna Beef hotdogs, the list goes on. Chicago has tons of signature food items that you won't find anywhere else.

Let's just say we ate very well for the week we were there and it's a good thing we did a lot of walking to burn of the calories. My favourite thing I tasted was their Red Velvet French toast. It was probably one of the best things I've ever eaten.

So if you haven't been to Chicago, I highly recommend going. I've been twice now and can easily see myself going back again (and then again).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Hobby

As a northern girl, I've done a lot of the typical "northern winter things" like downhill & cross country skiing, snowshoeing, skating, hockey and snowmobiling. One I never tried out until last winter was ice fishing was because it never seemed like a fun thing to do. That was until I started doing it.

The weekend before last I took part in an ice fishing derby and even though it meant getting up while it was still dark and functioning in the cold on only a few hours of sleep, it was an incredible day. When I caught my first fish (see photo on the right) and my brother and I brought it to the weigh-in station I was thrilled to find out that so far it was in second, if not first place. So all day long we quizzed people walking by with their fish to see if theirs held up. As it turned out at the end of the day I lost out by one ounce but it was still a great experience. So much so that last weekend I went out with my family and did it again.

There's something about being out nature and the stillness and the silence (minus the distant sound of snowmachines) that is like a sabbaath activity for me.

Now I've got one more requirement for my future cottage- it must have a good spot for ice fishing!

Monday, January 02, 2012

The Blank Canvas

I'm not a big risk taker when it comes to my life. I'm the type of person that tends to play it safe. I'm predictable. Most of my decisions don't shock anybody. And for most of my life I was okay with that.

But lately something has changed. As my health has taken a dramatic turn for the better I knew that the time was coming to pursue a full-time career instead of juggling whatever part-time jobs I could come up with. And while I have been absolutely thrilled to have the energy and opportunity to do more with my life, I have to admit it was a little scary at the same time too. Because suddenly there was an awful lot of unknowns and a lot of decisions facing me down.

Should I move out of town to pursue a different career than what would be available to me here?

Should I go back to school?

Should I build on what I have been doing?

Or should I pursue something else entirely?

I have to admit somewhere deep down inside I was tempted to do something safe, something secure. Like work at a bank or something like that. But as I looked out at the blank canvas of my future I realized something. And that's if I'm ever going to take a chance, this is the time. By most people's standards I'm still pretty young. I have no big obligations or commitments like a mortgage or kids. If there was ever a moment to wander away from my typical path of taking the safest route, this is it.

And so after a lot of thinking and prayer I decided a few months ago that I wasn't going to play it safe when it comes to my career. The stability lover in me would be happy to take a nine to five job with benefits and a steady paycheck, but the dreamer in me knows that's not the path I'm supposed to travel right now.

Which is why I choose to follow my hearts desire and that is to pursue opening up my own business, something I'm in the process of doing right now.

The business? Media and design. For over 10 years I've been dabbling in web design. Over the years I've built quite a few sites for people and it was both something I enjoyed and a supplement to my income. Then over the past year I've expanded into video production and that's also been picking up steam, to the point where I think if I really pursue web design and media (such as video production) full-time I can make a go of it. Of course as anyone who has worked in the industry knows, to get where I want to be requires a sizable investment in equipment, software, and the like, which is where the risk comes in.

So yes, this is perhaps the most "unsafe" decision I've ever made in my life, but it is also one that is making me feel so alive and like I'm finally where I am supposed to be in life. Even as I work endlessly on business plans and cost projections and all kinds of things that are causing me to reopen my university textbooks, I'm loving every minute of it and I can't wait to see where this goes!

This song from Michael Paynter has become my theme song for this journey, because yes, I'm learning to love the fall.