Monday, December 23, 2013

When Christmas Isn't Perfect

Chances are this Christmas isn't going to be perfect.

Maybe there is going to be someone missing at the table.  Or you'll have an encounter with a relative who will rub you the wrong way.  Or perhaps yourself or someone you love is ill and the outlook is bleak.

Some will let this stop their celebration of Christmas in its track.  But Christmas isn't about perfect circumstances.  If it was the Son of God would have been born in a palace with a royal audience, not in a stable with no one to usher Him in but animals and teenage parents.

Christmas is about the light of the world entering our darkness and changing everything.  Bridging the gap once and for all between God and humanity and providing peace, strength and guidance for our journeys on this earth.

I pray this Christmas that will be the focus of your celebration: Jesus, who is God with us.  May His joy fill your heart even where happiness is absent.  May His peace calm your soul even where there is chaos.  And may His love be evident to you always.  Merry Christmas!

"For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Isaiah 9:6

Monday, December 02, 2013

Christmas Anticipation


Three Decembers ago at this time our entire family was anticipating the arrival of my brother and sister-in-law's first child.

People who normally wouldn't be found anywhere near the baby aisles in stores were coming home with things they picked up for the new baby. Baby showers were being planned and thrown. As the due date approached I even found myself carrying my cell phone, which at the time was very out of character, just in case my sister in law might go into labour when I wasn't at home or near a phone. There's a certain level of anticipation that surrounds the coming of a new arrival in a family. 

At this time of year we all take a time out from our regular routines in order to celebrate the arrival of a baby who came to our earth over 2000 years ago.  And I believe that if we don't add a similar element of anticipation and preparation into our celebrations we're missing out on something.

When parents are getting ready to welcome a baby into their family and the due date is coming close they have to decide what's important and what's not when it comes to their time and attention. They shift outside responsibilities away from themselves so that they are free to focus and prepare for the baby. Think about it- how often do you see soon to be parents undertaking a huge project at work or starting renovations on a house? No, usually a soon to be parent is more focused on things like getting the baby's room ready or last minute reading on delivery.

In the same way it would do all of us justice if we too stopped and examined what it is we are filling our time, energy and focus with as the days are quickly counting down before we celebrate the arrival of the Christ child.

Are we so busy with baking that we're neglecting the bible? 

Are we so focused on presents that we are neglecting praise? 

Are we so caught up in the rat race that we've forgotten what a gift of grace Jesus really is? 

The Christmas season should be a time of family and friends, but not a time when those blessings overshadow Who this whole thing is really all about and that is the baby Jesus. The One who traveled the ultimate distance just to live on this earth and pay the ultimate price for all of our sins. That is the Christmas story, that is our story, and that is something worth preparing for, anticipating and celebrating! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Like Little Children

Mignon McLaughlin once said,

"Women gather together to wear silly hats, eat dainty food and forget how unresponsive their husbands are.  Men gather to talk sports, eat heavy food and forget how demanding their wives are.  Only where children gather is there any real chance of fun."

Ten years ago I would have questioned that quote but the older I get and the more time with kids I spend, I agree.  Children don't worry about tomorrow or care about what other people think about them or spend endless amounts of time building a persona, they just allow themselves to be, to love, and have fun doing so.

I learned this lesson for the first time a few years back when over the period of a summer I spent many days looking after a five year old and I'm learning it again having a precious nephew in my life who is a toddler.  Last weekend he spent at my place and he wasn't consumed by the bills that needed to be paid or worried about what was to come, he just wanted to be with the people he loved, having fun while doing so and so we did.  We had a dance party in my office, played trains on the living room floor and pushed the monster truck around the house as fast as we could.  And where I started my day consumed by all kinds of details and plans and worries, the more time I spent with him the more those things started to fade into the background and I felt myself come alive.  So much so that I've had multiple comments since about how happy and at ease I look.

While my nephew is welcome to come over at any time and I hope we have many more memorable weekends together like this last one, I don't only want to live that way when I'm around him or the other kids that I love.  I want to take what children have taught me and live it out everyday so that my life isn't one of a stressed out individual who is so consumed by the affairs of this life that I actual miss really living it and loving those around me.

Maybe that's why Jesus is so adamant that we become like little children because it is they who see life like it is and like it was always intended to be.

"[Jesus said] truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)


Friday, November 15, 2013

It

“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Amen.” 


Craig Groeschel (It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Walk Thru The Old Testament

Last weekend my church hosted a Walk Thru The Old Testament seminar and if you haven't taken one of these seminars yet, I can't recommend it enough.

It's one day and they go over the highlights of the Old Testament from beginning to end, using memory tricks and actions to help you not only remember the stories, but the chronology and even the geography.   Before attending I was doubtful that I would be able to remember everything, but they lay it out in such a way that it's impossible not to.

They say that understanding the Old Testament is understanding God better and I definitely agree.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Unresolved Conflict

Some good thoughts on how dangerous unresolved conflict can be:

 

Monday, October 07, 2013

Finding Still Moments

This past weekend was a very busy one. It included two trips to the ER, travelling to Cochrane for a concert & interview & church, a work project, shopping, and birthday party. Yet even in the midst of running from one thing to the next I was reminded of the need to be still.

“Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!" (Psalm 37:7)

"But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me." (Psalm 131:2)

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest." (Matthew 11:28, The Message)

So while waiting in the ER waiting room I turned my smartphone off, I put away the book I had brought with me and I just sat there in silence. It was almost like letting out a breath I didn't know I had been holding. I felt my whole body relax as I just sat there in stillness and silence, allowing for a moment not labelled by a specific purpose other than silence in a weekend that was packed with oh so many moments already spoken for.

I'm thankful for those moments of silence and that was a reminder of my need to make the place for more in my life.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One Of The Reasons Why I Love My Church

Once a month our church has a special meeting called "VHS" which stands for Vision, Huddle, Skills.  It's basically an opportunity for the congregation to get together with the leadership of the church and brainstorm ideas, find more information about future plans, and learn skills that will help us all serve in ministry.

The past Sunday night we got together to brainstorm ideas for the new small groups ministry that they are launching and it was an amazing experience to be able to sit around a table with fellow believers from all walks of life and come up with ideas that the leadership can use as they try to lead our church in the direction we feel God is calling us.

It reminds me of something Andy Stanley says in "The Best Question Ever", that wisdom often comes from unlikely sources and the wise person seeks out advice and input instead of running from it.

"Wise people know when they don't know.  The fool is the person who convinces himself that he knows more than he really knows and doesn't need to ask anybody anything.  At the end of the day, the wise man breathes a sigh of relief; the fool, a sigh of regret." (Andy Stanley)

Monday, August 26, 2013

My Favorite Place

Reading by the lake.  Highly recommend this book!
This past week I spent out at the cottage and truly there is nothing like it. 

Not only is it a place to retreat to and get away from the busyness of life, but since I've been going there for as far back as I can remember it's also a spot that is chock-full of memories.

Like the time my two cousins and I camped out in a tent outside and stayed up all night laughing and having a blast while our parents were in the cottage unaware of what was going on until we were caught on our bikes at six in the morning.

Or the time when someone got spilled on by a glass of water and it turned into the biggest water fight I'd ever seen with everyone from kids to seniors taking part.

Or the year when I invited the college and careers group I was leading out for a day of Olympic Games that started with sparklers and an opening ceremony and included a canoe race to the island where you had to get out and do five jumping jacks before racing back in the canoe. It was such a hit that the following year I invited everyone back for a whole weekend and it was a memory making weekend of our own little retreat there and it's something that the people are still talking about to this day.

Or the weeks when I was younger and we'd go out with our grandparents and they would insist on doing all of our chores because "kids should have fun" and then they'd act like kids themselves with us: going for bike rides, having intense Scrabble tournaments, even playing touch football with us!

At the cottage every room has a story, every inch a memory, and to this day it's still my favorite place to be. It's also the place where I feel most inspired.

I love sitting around the campfire telling stories and sharing memories while the fire crackles and pops.

I love racing down the road that circles the lake on my bike and even though my injury prevented me from doing so this year, I loved walking and yes sometimes limping down that path.

I love pulling on my favorite sweater when the sun goes down and the temperature with it and walking through the leaves in the fall.

I love bringing friends out to experience this part of my world and seeing them come embrace it as well. 

And I love that all of these things happen at a place that isn't technically my own but feels like it is. My very generous aunt had a dream for a place that was simple and peaceful and would always be accessible and available to others and I have benefited from it time and time again. 

I once heard it said that those who are blessed enough to be at the lake are blessed enough; I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Giving Up The Balancing Act

Many times it's seemed to me that life is a balancing act. There are so many things vying for my time and attention and if I balance them just right then I can pull it all off and all is well in my world.  But what I've been learning is that the whole concept of a balancing act in many cases is nothing more than an illusion.  Let me explain.

Many of the urgent things that shout for my time and fill up my calendar at least aren't things that need to be on my plate in the first place.  Society, false messages and just ourselves can have us believe that unless we are balancing a and b and c and d, and don't forget about e, then we are somehow cheating ourselves and the people around us.  What I've been learning is that I often when I'm cheating myself, God or others it doesn't come down to my balancing skills, it comes down to filling my plate with things that should have never been there to begin with.

As a result I'm learning to define my life, and thus my time, by a very strict list of priorities, constantly reminding myself that urgent doesn't mean essential and that one day God is going to ask me what I did with what He placed in front of me and I'm going to be accountable for that; not for what I placed myself in front of or in the middle of.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hope Heals

Sometimes when it seems like one prayer after another goes unanswered it can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that there are no answers coming and things are never going to change.  But there's something that is even more devastating than unanswered prayer and that is when we our hope.

That's why this project, Hope Heals, brings a smile to my face today.  I highly recommend watching this video that tells the story of Katherine & Jay Wolf and what they are trying to do with Hope Heals.  It's also been an encouragement to me that no matter how dark things look, there is always reason for hope.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Songs I Have On Repeat

I'm listening to quite the mix of songs these days, everything from praise and worship to rock to pop and even a little country, but these are the songs I have on repeat.  Enjoy!

Never Once (Matt Redman)

I can't stop listening to this one because I love the message so much.  When it starts pouring in our lives it's easy to forgot who God is and what He's done in the past and for me this song is a good reminder.

Clouds (Zach Sobiech)
 If you don't know who Zach was, what the story behind this song was, and what lead the celebrities in the music video to put that together for him, do yourself a favour and read this now.

Brave (Sara Bareilles)


All I've Ever Needed (AJ Michalka)

Formerly of the duo Aly & AJ, AJ has branched out with a solo project and if this song is any indication it's going to be incredible.

Starts With Me (Tim Timmons)

 This song really resonates with the teaching I've been hearing at small group and church these days.  It's true that we are the change, it starts with us.

What Kinda Love (Dallas Smith)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Never Once

This song has been on repeat in my household these days.  Wonderful reminder of God's faithfulness even in seasons when we don't understand or wish we didn't have to fight this battle.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June Holidays

A few months back I was able to score a ticket to Taylor Swift's Red Tour show in Toronto, so I ended up being able to form a vacation around the trip to head down to see the show.

The original plan was to fly to Washington, DC for a few days then head back to Toronto for the concert, but circumstances left me having to change the plans and they ended up being even better.  It's amazing how God knows the timing of everything in our lives and just what we'll need and when we'll need it!

Building in the Distillery District.
I flew into Toronto on Monday (June 10) and spent the first few days of my holiday visiting with wonderful friends and their newborn son just East of Toronto.  They were great hosts and it was so nice to get to spend time with them and see both the Beaches and the Distillery District.  I'd never been to either and besides being different than the run of the mill city experience, both were a photographers paradise which made me very happy that I brought my dslr camera with me.  I loved getting to experiment with it in two uniquely different environments.

On Wednesday night I headed back to Toronto for a few days at the InterContinental hotel downtown (thank you online specials!).  It was a really nice hotel and in a good location for exploring the city.  On Thursday I headed up to the Eaton Centre area to visit with a friend and take part in a few of the activities happening in Dundas Square, including free concerts for a festival that was on.

Friday my brother, sister-in-law and nephew came down to the hotel to visit me.  They were staying nearby few a few months while my brother took some courses for work and it was great to see them and spend the day together lounging by the pool and doing a bit of shopping.  

After they left I spent some time wandering the streets of Toronto, praying for the people and asking God for opportunities to share His love and it was a prayer that He answered.  I had two really incredible encounters with strangers while I was there and it was a faith builder for sure.  I'm learning that reaching out to those around us isn't all that complicated once you cross the fear hurdle.  God wants to use us and He doesn't leave us hanging for words or details when we are both willing and in tune with Him.

Taylor performing "Stay, Stay, Stay"
Saturday was the Taylor Swift concert and it didn't disappoint.  I have been to many concerts over the years, but unlike some concerts, this was like a theatre show mixed with the music.  There was great special effects like confetti canons, sparklers and fireworks, but also amazing sets that created a different atmosphere for each number.  One moment it felt like you were at the Phantom of the Opera, the next at a Cinderella ball, and then it was like the 1920's.  The crowd was massive, sold out at 45,000 people and that really added to the atmosphere.  It was definitely an experience I won't soon forget and worth every penny!

View from my room of the waterfront and
and Toronto's island airport (right).
Sunday morning I spent reading in my room and enjoying the great view I had of the waterfront.  After check out time rolled around I snuck in a last trip to Starbucks and then headed home on a Porter Airlines flight, just in time to celebrate Father's Day with my Opa and the rest of the family.

The trip was a real mix of events and atmospheres, but it was truly what the doctor ordered.  Or should I say God ordained.  Only He could of known the timing that I would receive some really tough news that week and would desperately need time away from home to get some perspective and time to myself to start to process both the news and the implications of it.  While I'm not grateful (yet) for that phone call, I am so thankful about the way that everything worked out and for the grace that He sent my way.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

My Time As A Twentysomething: Part Four - Top Ten

On May 9th I passed from my twenties into my thirties and launched a new series as a way of looking back at both the highs and the lows (more here).  Today for the last post in the series I'm listing my ten favourite things about the decade, in no particular order.

Becoming An Aunt
I've always loved kids and spent years babysitting and hanging out with some of my friends who have kids children, so when I heard the news that my brother and sister in law were expecting their first child I was on cloud nine.  Getting to be at the hospital for the birth (not in the room mind you!) was an amazing experience and meeting my nephew for the first time was incredible and it's only gotten better.  Timothy has become my little buddy and we have such great times together. Whether that's rocking out in the car to my music (he loves going in Auntie's car), playing hockey in the house, or going for walks, I cherish my time with him.  And I love teasing him and he loves teasing me back, his latest gimmick is instead of calling me Auntie Kristen he calls me Auntie Cho Cho Train and get's the biggest grin on his face when he says it because he knows it bugs me.  Love that kid!

Relationships
In your teens as everyone is changing and going through all that high school drama, a lot of your relationships tend to be more superficial, but in my twenties I learned what real friendship is all about and have been blessed with a lot of pretty incredible people in my life.  People who have discipled me as a believer, come alongside of me during my illness, and people who I get to travel with, learn from and have a great time with.  Doing life with others is definitely the way to live and I don't ever want life to get so busy that I stop investing in the people around me. 

Ministry
During my twenties I had the opportunity to help organize a few retreats, lead a College and Careers group, speak at retreats, write a book, and see MAD go from a local show to something that is played all over the world.  It's crazy.  If someone would have told me in high school that this was what God would have in store for me I would have never believed it.  But it's happened and to Him goes all the glory!  
Bought My First Vehicle
Just over two years ago I got to buy my first vehicle: a new to me Honda CRV. It was a blessing then and it's been a blessing since.  I love driving it and the freedom that having my own vehicle brings.  I also have really enjoyed learning about vehicle maintenance and the ability to do small jobs on it myself.

Weddings
A lot of people get married in their twenties and while I am not one of them, I've had the joy of seeing many friends and family members take their own trips down the aisle.  Through weddings my family has doubled in size and I've had the chance to give speeches, be an MC, even be in a wedding party: I love weddings!

Travel
Before arriving in my twenties other than the odd trip to Toronto and a trip to Florida when I was much, much younger, I didn't have the opportunity to do a whole lot of travelling, but in recent years I have and it's been such a blessing. My first trip that started them off I couldn't even afford to take as I was in school at the time, but God provided every penny and I had the chance to go out East to attend a radio seminar and I learned so much.  I also had the chance to meet a lot of great people and take in some of the sights.  The year after again God totally provided and I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to go to Nashville for GMA Week.  After that the trips kept coming: Traverse City (2007), Holland Michigan (2008), Chicago (2008), Sheboygan Wisconsin (2008), Sudbury (2010 and 2011), Chicago (2012), Ville Marie Quebec (2012), and Daytona Beach (2012).

Books
I love to read and in my twenties I discovered some of my all-time favourite books: On A Hill To Far Away (John Fischer), The Jesus I Never Knew (Philip Yancey), Bittersweet (Shauna Niequist), Rooms (James L. Rubart), The Shack (William Young), The Real You (Kevin Leman), Kisses From Katie (Katie Davis)

Starting A Business
Since I was very young I always dreamed of starting a business.  In my very young years I thought it would be a law firm (I really wanted to be a lawyer), then in my teen years and into my twenties I thought it would be a Christian radio station.  While I haven't crossed the Christian radio station idea off my list for the future, I have opened up a business working with website design, writing, and media.  I truly love what I get to do and especially the fact that I get to work with different churches and ministries as part of it.  It's really very amazing how God brought everything together, it's a dream come true. 

My Church Family
Church is like a family and while no family or church is perfect, I've learned that there is such a richness that can be found when you are connecting with and working with others in the body of Christ.  I love my church.  We've seen some hard times, but I'm so excited about the way we are growing as a body and changing as a body.  It seems like each week there are more people in the seats than the week before and I treasure my small group from the church so much.  We've been together less than two years but they've become my brothers and sisters, my home team and it's been a privilege to grow with them.

Continued Learning
While I stopped my schooling in 2007, I've still had plenty of opportunities to further my education.  I've taken courses, attended seminars and retreats, even done tutorials online and I've loved having that chance to learn new skills and brush up on old ones.  Life without learning new things is boring and I have a long list of things I plan on learning in the next decade!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

My Time As A Twentysomething: Part Three - Not Taking Health For Granted

On May 9th I passed from my twenties into my thirties and launched a new series as a way of looking back at both the highs and the lows (more here). Today I continue this series by looking at something that radically changed me during my twenties and helped me to re-chart the course I was on and that was my battle with health problems. 

During my childhood and teen years having good health was something I certainly took for granted.  Other than cold's and flu's the sickest I had ever been was a bought with chicken pox that lasted for a couple of weeks.  But all that changed during my twenties.

In 2003 I underwent surgery to remove a mass that turned out to be a mature cystic teratoma, the fancy word for dermoid cyst.  The doctor was surprised because after they opened me up they found I had not just one, but two and I can clearly remember him saying "I've never seen that before".  Little did I know those five words would be repeated to me time and time again by medical professionals in the coming years.

Fast forward two years, nearly to the date later and I was back in the OR getting yet another dermoid removed, along with a massive liquid cyst.

Two weeks later I was back in the OR again as a post-operative infection had taken a scary hold on my body.  So much so that the only solution was to reopen my wound and leave it open to heal, while being packed and unpacked twice a day.

Six months and many secondary infections later said open wound finally healed, but in many ways my health "adventure" had only just begun.  In the coming years I was plagued by sleep issues that had me awake most of the night and feeling dead tired most of my days.  Then came other unpleasant side effects that come as a result of sleep deprivation.  And thus the story went.  Trapped in an endless cycle as one system that was off would effect another and then as soon as that was treated, a new one would pop up.

As difficult as it was, and believe me it was, looking back on that time period I am thankful.  It might not have been the story I would have wrote for myself, but I am so grateful for what I learned during that time, for the incredible people who showered me with help and encouragement, and for the opportunities I had as a result.  

I've said it before but it's true.  Had I not gone through what I did, I would have never written my first book and I would have never written my soon-to-be-published second.  My ministry would not be what it is.  And I certainly wouldn't be where I am spiritually, relationally or emotionally if I hadn't go through the Refiner's Fire that shapes us when the storms of life crash in without warning.

It's also prepared me for the journey I'm on right now that I would have been completely unprepared for if it wasn't for my past history and remembering how faithful God was to me during that time. 

So what are some of the things I learned during that time?  I'm glad you asked.  Here are a few:

I learned how lucky I am to be alive and to live in a country that provides health care for its citizens .

I learned the beauty found in simplicity and the wonder that can be found in the everyday: stopping to stare at the stars, looking out the window in awe as the snow flakes float down to the ground, taking time to stop and enjoy moments overflowing with life and love and beauty with family and friends.

I learned to never take my health for granted and that as bad as things can be, they could also be worse.

I learned that there is so much more to the word "healing" than the physical.  That God is bigger than any box I could place Him in.

I learned that the people who come alongside you when things are bad are a gift straight from heaven and these are the people who you need to invest in and do life with.

I learned that my identity isn't wrapped up in a degree or job title or what others think of me.

I learned that I am not capable of controlling my life or anyone else's and I was never meant to be.  That job belongs to God who can see the road of my life's journey from start to finish.

I learned that physical pain doesn't hurt nearly as much as emotional pain does.

I learned that life is not all about me and that my comfort and my desires should come last, not first, when serving others or God.

I learned that it's more damaging to the soul to live a life that is risk free than it is to put it all on the line and fail.

I learned that deep relationships can take a lot of vulnerability and work, but the richness that they add to a life makes it worth it every time.

I learned that things are not always as they seem and thus if I want to walk through life with clarity, I need to be looking through God's wisdom, not mine.

I learned that just believing in Jesus looks much differently than following Him.

I learned that no matter how many crazy dreams or ideas I can come up with, nothing I author will ever be as amazing or life changing as the blessings God has for me.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Time As A Twentysomething: Part Two - Nice To Meet You

On May 9th I passed from my twenties into my thirties and launched a new series as a way of looking back at both the highs and the lows (more here).  One of the best parts of my twenties was getting to know myself.  I know at first glance that kind of sounds egotistical but I'm not referring to being self-centred rather I'm referring to being self-aware.

When you're in your twenties no one expects you to have arrived yet.  It's a time of trying things out: education, different jobs, new relationships, even living in different places.  For me I loved having the chance to explore and try things out that would have never happened if I had already settled down with a family or even a mortgage for that matter.  Some of the things I tried I learned were for me and others not so much, but in either case they helped me to learn a lot about how I am wired and who God created me to be.


In the process I reconnected with my creative side that I had embraced in my childhood but completely ignored during my teen years.  As a twentysomething I learned that God wired me to create and that I look at the world much differently than others and that's okay.  Having the freedom to explore helped me to learn that creativity is not a childish thing that I should suppress, but rather a gift that I should build on.  That lead to a much different career path than what I had settled on in my teen years and I truly love what I do.  80% of it is all creative in different forms: writing, video and audio creations, photography and design.


Other bonus' that have come along thanks to the self-awareness that my twenties brought:


-I've learned and can clearly define the things I like and the things I'm not so fond of.


-I know more about my personality and have learned how to approach things from my unique perspective.


-I can now see that my spiritual health can be only as good as my emotional health is, therefore I need to pay close attention to both.


-I understand boundaries and know that it's okay to set them with myself and others.


-I can understand the difference between what other people think of me and what God thinks of me and have a better perspective on how to make decisions based solely on the latter.


-I have come to look at life (and others) in less black and white terms.  By realizing that as a human I have a limited perspective it has helped to show me that I'm not capable of fully understanding life's turns or the motives of other people.  Only God can and He doesn't expect me to.  He just asks that I love others and trust Him.


No matter what age you might find yourself at, self-awareness isn't something that only people in their twenties benefit from.  If you want to learn more two books I very highly recommend are:


Changes That Heal (Dr. Henry Cloud)


and


Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Peter Scazzero)


Thursday, May 16, 2013

My Time As A Twentysomething: Part One - Bucket List

On May 9th I passed from my twenties into my thirties and launched a new series as a way of looking back at both the highs and the lows (more here).  Today is part one, the bucket list!

I started a bucket list in my late teens but didn't actually start to cross any items off until I reached my twenties.  I realize there is more to life than what can be captured on a bucket list, I find for me having an actual list helps me to set goals and stay focused and not waste the life that God created me to enjoy.  While it would take more than a blog post to share about all my personal, professional and spiritual goals, today I'm going to focus on my fun experiences bucket list.  Here is what I was able to cross off over the last decade in no particular order:

Travel to: East Coast of Canada (June 2005), Nashville (March 2006), Chicago (July 2008, March 2012).  More travel including destinations not on my bucket list on an upcoming post.

Stay on the oceanfront (September 2012)

Set foot on a submarine (March 2012)

Bowl over 300 (September 17, 2010)

Get my boating licence (July 2012)

Go to university (September 2003)

Learn to ride a horse (July 2007)

Write a book (December 2006 with the next one coming out this year!)

Ride in a helicopter (February 12, 2011)

Have lyrics I wrote put to music (September 2009)

Work in Christian radio (January 2007)

See an NHL hockey game (March 2006)

See an NBA basketball game (March 2012)

Set foot in all of the Great Lakes (completed July 2008)

Become an aunt (December 2011)

Buy a DSLR camera and learn how to take good pictures (August 2012)

See a musical (October 2009)

Visit an art museum (March 2010)

Go fourwheeling/ATV'ing (Summer 2011)

Invent something (May 2012)

Create something that can make a whole room of people laugh (December 2011)

See in concert: tobyMac (2003), Sanctus Real (2006), Newsboys (2005), Skillet (2006), Thousand Foot Krutch (2003), Audio Adrenaline (2005), Hawk Nelson (2006), Matthew West (2006)

I still have plenty on the list to accomplish in my thirties and I'm always looking to add more.  Any suggestions? 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Saying Goodbye To One Decade, Hello To Another

So yesterday I celebrated my 30th birthday.  If you would have asked me at 20 where I thought I would be at 30 my answer would not be the life I'm living now.  My answer also wouldn't have even have taken into consideration the person I've become now, but trust me it's both a good thing and God thing!

Your twenties are certainly a time of change, of turbulence and of growth and my life wasn't the exception to that rule.  Even though there were painful times and seasons I would like to skip over, I loved my twenties and for the next month on this blog I'd like to take a look back.  Sharing some of the highs and the lows and the lessons I've learned along the way that have all brought me to where I am today.  It's my way of "passing the story down" (Joel 1:3).  I hope you enjoy the posts to come!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Not Home Yet

One thing that I often find myself hoping for is to get comfortable. Not in the sense where I kick my feet up and doing nothing at all day, but I long to be comfortable where I am in life. For things to stay the same, for my heart to feel completely secure, to go to bed at night knowing that the status quo is going to remain the same the next day. But reality couldn't be further from the truth. 

People move. Jobs don't always last. Stock markets crash. Relationships have their ups and downs. Sometimes people walk away.  Tragedies happen. And whenever we try to unpack our suitcases and settle in those places, trying to set up residence, we're going to be left feeling uneasy and disappointed. Not because there's something wrong with us if we long for something unchanging and perfect, but because we're placing our hopes in the wrong spot. 

Hebrews 13:14 tells us "For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come." 

I love how that last part of the sentence is included "which is yet to come". Our home isn't here- our home is in heaven and if you're still breathing that hasn't come for you yet. 

So where does this leave those of us who long for something more than what is in front of us? It leaves us in the perfect place to set our eyes where they are supposed to be- on eternity, on heaven, and ultimately on Christ. 

"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth." (Colossians 3:1-2) 

Lately instead of looking towards what I don't have or what I wish were different I've been applying this verse and instead actively thinking about heaven and what awaits me there.  After thinking and attempting to take in the concept of eternity in heaven it's amazing how insignificant the changes and pain we go through here become.


So the next time you find yourself in the place between the way things are and the way you want them to be, instead of rushing out to try and fill that void in things that are ultimately unfulfilling, turn your eyes instead to Christ and on what is to come. A world where the perfection we long for comes to completion and when we will come face to face with the Unchanging One who made it all happen. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Accepting Limitations

"God can and will accomplish all he wants to do in and through you. Your limitations won’t prevent that—but pushing yourself to the point of burnout just might. Take care of yourself. Respect what you need. Accept being human." 

That quote comes from an excellent article written by Holley Gerth called "Are You Sabotaging Your God-Sized Dream?".  Check it out here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Heading to Editing

Draft one of the book.
A few summers back I started writing a book about the stage in our lives between when one door closes and another opens; a stage when we are literally wandering through life wondering how we got to where we are and what we can do to move on.

After writing enough that I could technically call the book "done" something inside of me knew it wasn't quite complete.  Something was missing, but I didn't know what.  And that's probably because God knew I hadn't gotten to that point in my life where I had learned enough to do it justice, so the book remained on a hiatus of sorts.

Today I'm happy to announce that is no longer the case!

After some lessons I've learned over the last year through both closed doors and open doors, through both pain and joy, I have come to the point of coming full circle in my life and in the writing of the book.  Last week I finished the final chapter and printed out the entire book so I could start the editing process and was shocked to see how many pages actually made up that document that contained (see photo).

So what happens from here?  Well after I finish my edits I will pass it on to people who are more knowledgeable than I in both publishing and the English language and let them have a go at editing it.  Then comes the publishing phase which I'm getting very excited about- I can't wait to share what God has placed on my heart in the form of this book!

At the same time though I do ask for your prayers.  First off, that through the editing my writing would be shaped with as much clarity as possible.  And secondly that I would receive sensitivity from the Spirit over what needs to be included and what can be left out.  The scary part about writing a book like this is that often if you don't explain how you got to the place where you learned the lesson you can't help the reader to get there either.  If I had my own way I'd love to keep the stories of how I learned the hard way to myself.  I wouldn't want to share about broken relationships and broken trust.  I'd much rather keep the dark times in my faith hidden.  But I know that it wouldn't be doing the book justice or doing the God who brought me through all of that justice.  I want to testify and I need your prayers to make sure that I do that to the degree that God wants me to and that when people read what I wrote down they see Jesus, not me.

Thank you in advance for your prayers!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to our children and the poor.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Question I Often Get Asked

As I'm building my website design business, I've been talking to a lot of people and one of the most common questions I get asked is "why should I hire a professional to create my website?"  Many people want to know what sets a professional from their friend who has an interest in websites or their neighbour who knows the basics.  That's a fair question.  There are a lot of people out there who advertise their services and at first glance when it comes to the price it does look appealing.  

But here is my answer to "why should I hire a professional website designer?"

You Get What You Pay For
If you want a site that looks fabulous no matter what device it is viewed on and makes use of the most modern tools, you need to hire someone who invests in their skills and not only stays on top of, but ahead of, trends.  And with that comes the old adage, you get what you pay for.  Someone who is constantly upgrading their skills and who uses the latest technology (and thus has to buy the latest programs, gadgets, etc) isn't going to be able to afford to work for you at minimum wage.  Like any business, their rates have to not only cover their cost of living, but also cover the overhead.

This is becoming even more important as more people are accessing the internet on their mobile devices than are accessing it from desktop computers or laptops.  If your website is not coded properly it will not appear correctly on all devices and this will become a major problem for you.  This is also the reason why I no longer will create websites that are not "responsive" in design, meaning they display graphics and text according to the device that is being used.  Yes it's more programming hours at first, but imagine how you'd feel if you knew half the visitors to your website were leaving because they were unable to view the content.  That is sadly the case for many websites right now.

There Are People Who Will Bail On You
I wish it wasn't the case but I can't tell you how many people have approached me, frantic for help, because their webmaster left them high and dry.  Sometimes in the actual sense that the person quit with little notice and didn't provide them with what they needed to get someone else to take over; but often in the sense that they got in over their head and started a project they couldn't finish correctly.  Then they bailed (or were unable to do anything) when everything went downhill.  

Programming a website can be complicated and if the person doing the work isn't comfortable with that level of programming, the results can be disastrous.  I love getting new clients and helping people achieve their goals, but I really dislike getting a new client because they were messed over by someone else.  Not only is it unfair to the client, but it gives a bad name to the industry.

Bringing Visitors Back Isn't A Thing Of Chance
Professionals know how to bring visitors to your website using things like search engine optimization, but just as important, they know how to make a site into one that people want to visit time and time again.  I'm involved with one website right now who gets just as many return visitors as they do new visitors and for what they do, the amount of both is impressive in my opinion.  And here's the secret: it wasn't anything too costly or complicated that turned their visitor trends around.  It was all about knowing why people were coming and knowing why they would want to come back.  You might not know the answer to that, but believe me, if you hire the right person they will and you will reap the benefits.  

Don't believe me?  Want to put this to the test?  Contact me and for no charge I will do an analysis of your website and give you a few tips to help you out.  If it works and you want to hire me, great, but I'll leave that up to you.  I just love helping people make their websites into tools that actually work for them!

Turn Around Time & Availability 
Someone who does websites on weekends or after hours might be able to give you a lower rate, but they also aren't going to be able to make themselves available to you like a full-time professional could.  When you hire a professional doing websites is their job and it's what they have chosen to invest themselves in.  Those kind of people aren't usually the kind to make you wait for days to have your site updated or the kind that won't pick up the phone when you're calling because there is an emergency.  If you have a website that is essential to your business, church, or organization you're going to want someone who makes your business their business and is committed to making sure your site is accessible and accurate at all times.

Final Thoughts
While I could use this space as a great opportunity to promote my business, I'm not going to do that.  Instead I'm going to encourage you- if you rely on your website as an essential part of what you do, please do yourself a favour, save yourself headaches and hire a professional.  A professional who can not only program a website that works for this moment in time, but who has the vision and knowledge to be able to create a platform for you that will attract new visitors and keep previous visitors coming back time and time again!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Learning To Stand Still

"If there's a road I should walk
Help me find it
If I need to be still 
Give me peace for the moment
Whatever your will
Can you help me find it?"

Sidewalk Prophets - Help Me Find It

Our lives move at a very busy pace and I've noticed that if I'm not careful my decisions can move at that same pace.  Maybe it's because if something is happening it makes me feel better than if I'm in a standstill, I don't know.  But what I am learning is that often there's great value in doing nothing about a situation and instead allowing ourselves to stand still for a moment or two or more.

In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan wrote:

“I wrote this book because much of our talk doesn’t match our lives.  We say things like, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”  Then we live and plan like we don’t believe God even exists.  We try to set our lives up so everything will be fine even if God doesn’t come through.  But true faith means holding nothing back.  It means putting every hope in God’s fidelity to His promises.”

I don't want this to be me.  I don't want my life to be about trusting my backup plans instead of trusting God.  Or even worse, I don't want to have my life so figured out that I leave no room for God to take care of me or lead me.  After all, following Jesus should be just like that- following Him.  Not expecting Him to follow us wherever we decide we want to go.

So right now I'm standing still.  I'm making the choice not to jump ahead and figure out this section of the road by myself.  Instead I'm going to be still, wait, and not move a muscle until I know that I'm walking where God is leading.  Because what a tragedy that would be to reach the end of my days and find myself anywhere but right next to Him.

Friday, March 01, 2013

The Bible

I don't often get that excited about tv shows, but there is one series I can't wait to see: The Bible.

Roma Downey, start of Touched by an Angel and her husband Mark Burnet, the guy behind Survivor and Shark tank, have worked together to put together this 10-hour mini series that tells the story of the Bible from start to finish.  Through this series they attempt to tell "the grand sweeping embrace, the love story that is the Bible."

The series premiers this Sunday at 8 pm on the History Channel and will re-air Monday nights on Lifetime.