Yoga and Faith: A Guest Post by Amanda Newhouse…

a-blog 4I don’t do yoga. In fact, I can’t even touch my toes. So when Stand Up Paddle-board (SUP) Yoga started to grace the cover of every fitness and lifestyle magazine and the requests to put on a SUP Yoga class came pouring in, I figured “hey, those that can’t do, teach.. right?” Just kidding! I hired the best instructor in town and away we went. This added another program to my Stand Up Paddle-board business that I recently started this past summer, called Fearless Females. And now after reflecting on a great first season on the boards, I can’t help but think that sometimes my relationship with God is kind of like doing Yoga on a Stand Up paddle-board.

As mentioned, I’m no Yogi. As an athlete I can respect the flexibly aspect that can be obtained by doing yoga, but I truly believe that strength comes from the Lord, and not from a person’s centre or from “within”, so hear me out as I explain my theory and some experiences from this past summer.

Yoga is all about balance and so unfortunately, when you’re doing yoga on a board in the water,  the consequences are a little more severe when you lose your balance. Every time I take a beginner out, I make sure to explain the parts of the board, and explain “the sweet spot”- the position on the board where you will find the most balance. Too much one way or too much another and you’ll end up in the drink! Keeping this sweet spot in mind is crucial when doing yoga on the board, and this brings me to my first point… having a good relationship with God requires balance. I used to find myself way too far forward – always worrying and fretting about what was next, trying to control the future, and getting ahead of myself instead of staying balanced and leaning on God. I’m often too far to the right – consumed by friends, social gatherings, fitting in, or I’m too far to the left and lusting over the things of this world instead of focusing on His kingdom.

I continually tend to find myself trying to do everything on my own; in turn taking a step backwards and leaving that prefect balance and sweet spot with God. This reminds me of my favorite (and most hilarious) fall of the summer – it was almost slow motion as one of the girls began to lose her balance and took a step back, this was accompanied by a panicky “No!”, and another step back again with a frantic “No” as the board started to move forward! She continued to take a few steps backward until there was nothing left but open water! This made for a lots of great laugher and fun, but I can’t help but think that I continue to find myself taking those steps backwards and landing flat on my back, only it’s not water, and it’s not so funny. Luckily, with God’s grace, just like in paddle-boarding, we can hop back on, find our sweet spot in perfect harmony with the Lord, and continue on our journey.

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Me about to fall in the water in 3, 2, 1….

After our first couple of classes I couldn’t help but laugh every time I saw the perfect image of a girl doing SUP yoga. Not a ripple in the water, a prefect sunny day, the girl standing on her head.. completely dry.. sureeee! This makes for a lovely picture, but when you show up to the lake with a group of eight+ excited participants and that strong north wind is blowing, some adjustments need to be made. We quickly and resourcefully solve the problem of drifting away from each other and blowing into shore by posting up in the weeds.. yes we park ourselves right in the thickest, most potent weed patches we cab find – the thicker the better! Nothing like breathing deeply inches away from warm seaweed, and dead floaters to create that “Zen” yoga atmosphere and truly connect with nature.

Magazine Image

Magazine Image

Actual SUP Yoga.. in the weeds

Actual SUP Yoga.. in the weeds

Sometimes it’s easy to portray this prefect image of being a Christian by going through the Christian motions; showing up to church every Sunday, saying things like “I’ll pray for you” and conveying this spiritual images that on the outside all look fine and dandy and right with the Lord, but really when we take a second and think about it – our relationship is “in da weeds” (great Jamaican saying for “in trouble”). Busyness consumes our spiritual time, praying and talking to God seems farther and farther apart, and our bible seems to be getting buried farther and farther in the bottom drawer. There has definitely been times, dare I say seasons, where I’ve been doing life with God “in the weeds”.

I’ve come across every excuse in the book on why people can’t come paddle-boarding, but then they give it a try and volia! Some direction, words of encouragement, a little guidance when the water gets rough and they are paddling like champions! Sometimes, I’m the one with all the excuses and doubt as God tugs little strings and puts different ideas, things and people on my heart. But again with some direction from his word, encouragement and guidance from other believers and mentors …and Volia! However, even when I fail or fall off, with God’s grace he continues to pick me up and encourage me as I climb back up and try it again.

Did my yoga skills improve this summer? Probably not. I still can’t touch my toes and I will again have to hire someone next year to teach the class, but we had fun, shared great laughs and survived our first season of SUP yoga! Who knew yoga could teach me so much about faith?!?

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431513_473219552696636_274994554_nAmanda Newhouse is a young entrepreneur, running her own company called “Fearless Females” which aims to link ladies in Niagara to action, adventure and actives! In the summer you can find her out on the water – running her Stand Up paddle board programs or with wakeboard in hand, and in the winter she enjoys hitting the Slopes with Snowboarders for Christ . Keep up to date on the all her Fearless Females activities by liking them on facebook: Fearless Females Niagara and visiting SFC online. 

 

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My Favourite Things To Cure Those Winter Blues…

It’s freezing cold outside. My car reminds me with an annoying “ding ding ding” sound every time that I start it up that it’s too cold to move. It’s easy to feel blue and down when the days are long and cold, so here’s some of my favourite things that bring some warmth to my heart and maybe will bring some to yours too…

olympic_collection_fullzip_hoodie40.jpeg.size.xxlarge.letterbox1. The Winter Olympics are almost here and there’s no better way to support Team Canada then to wear the gear while cheering them on. 4 years ago I bought one of the Team Canada hoodies from The Bay and 4 years later it’s still in great shape. There’s a great selection of sweaters and although you might pay a little bit more, the clothing is great quality, will keep you warm, and celebrates our great country and its athletes! Go Canada Go! I feel like I should start singing the “I Believe” song! 😉

51o43qenbpl-_sx500_2. It’s that time of year again! Most of us who are Downton Abbey fans have been counting down the days until season 4 and finally it has arrived. If you haven’t gotten into the show, I highly recommend it. The other seasons are on netflix and available at Wal-mart and Best Buy. Catch up and enjoy season 4 along with me on Sunday nights at 9pm.

tetley-earl-grey-vanilla-tea3. In my opinion, this is the best tea in the world! It’s got the taste of the classic early grey, with jut a touch of vanilla. It’s perfect for a cold day and will warm your insides, while delighting your nose with it’s calming smell.

williamfitzsimmons-2404. Winter storms call for a night in your pj’s listening to some sweet melodies. What do I recommend? William Fitzsimmons! And here’s the great thing, you can sample his stuff for free, it’s available for you, for FREE right here. Get to know the Noisetrade website, there are a ton of amazing artists that you’ve probably never heard of, and their music is available for you…for free! Doesn’t get any better than that!

733961206739_p0_v2_s260x4205. I’m a big Jane Austen fan but I’ve never given in and purchased the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth) because it’s always been out of my price range. Well, not anymore! Wal-mart is selling the BBC version of P & P for $15.00…what a steal! It will make for a great night of entertainment….and really, can it get any better than P & P???

url6. I love make-up because it’s fun and can add some colour to the greyness of winter. I’ve been experimenting with different products and colours but I’ll share with you my favourite blush of all time. It’s called Orgasm – sorry for the name, not my choice, I assure you. It’s made by Nars, a very popular brand for make-up. The unique thing about this blush is that it works for every skin tone. It’s subtle and adds just a bit of colour to highlight your cheeks. Give it a try, you won’t regret it!

CaramelPecanCrunchFrozenYogurt7. I love ice cream but unfortunately ice cream just doesn’t go along with my attempts at living a healthier lifestyle. I’ve found that frozen yogurt is a much healthier option. On those days when I’m struggling with a sore throat, all I want is something cold. So my favourite snack of choice is Caramel Pecan Crunch. 96% less fat and oh so yummy! It’s bound to make your taste buds happy!

single-woman-cover8. I love to read. Although it’s hard to find time for it while I have so much reading for school, I like to slip in some time for my own personal reading before I go to bed. This book won’t really hit home for any of my male readers but it’s a light hearted and encouraging read for the ladies. It’s a book called “The Single Woman: Life, Love, And A Dash Of Sass” by Mandy Hale. I highly recommend putting it on your bedside table for some before bed or early morning reading sessions. The chapters are short but leave you with lots to ponder.

9. – Laughter is medicine for the soul, especially when we are feeling down. This post is bound to make you laugh. Check it out here.

2.5.13.simplyorange10. It’s the season for sore throats, coughs and the sniffles. Make sure you are taking your vitamin c! Another great source of vitamin C is orange juice. My favourite brand is Simply Orange Juice – pulp free. After trying a few other brands, it is hands down my favourite brand of OJ. Grab a bottle at your local grocery store and keep those winter colds away!

So what are your favourite things to cure your winter blues?

Dying Grace.

734117_10153674637135594_718303557_nRight before Christmas my 84 year old Nana had a stroke. She’s a feisty one. She lives alone, still walks to her part-time job and stay up until all hours of the night. She called 911 herself when she felt her speech starting to slur. It’s a miracle she’s still alive. She’s been left almost paralyzed on the right side and she’s quite weak and tired but we are so thankful she’s still with us.

We’ve been spending lots of time at the hospital with Nana. My mom and my uncle are there pretty much everyday. A little while ago my Mom and I spent the afternoon with Nana. We washed and cut her hair because the length was bothering her. We painted her nails and massaged her legs with cream and we chatted while she went in and out of sleeping.

At one point I sat and watched as my mom fed her mom dinner. I listened as she spoke softly to Nana and encouraged her to eat just a little bit more. I watched as she adjusted the blankets on nana’s bed, brushed her teeth and took her dentures out for her. As I watched daughter care for mother, I could not help but think that it was Nana who gave birth to my mom and now here they are years later in a hospital room with roles that are very much reversed. Isn’t life a funny thing? The way that it changes us from child to adult, from daughter to mother, from receiver to care-giver. The way that it takes from us before we’re ready to let go. The way that it gives us gifts when we least expect it. Isn’t it funny how life ebbs and flows?

Life is not static; it never stays the same. Life forces us to change and to adapt. The tension makes us fight and cry and search for safe places and arms to land in. It’s the tension that makes me hug my mom a little longer and tell my dad that I’m so glad he has life in his veins. It is the tension that makes me search for joy and laughter because we need more everywhere. No, life does not stay the same.

As I watch my Nana struggle to recover, I’ve been thinking about our bodies and how they get to a point when they just won’t work like they used to. They grow tired and slow and it’s kind of like they are longing for heaven, to be new again. Being young, I struggle to appreciate this. But my Nana is 84 years old and she has earned those wrinkles. She has lived a full life and while I dearly hope that it’s not her time to go yet, especially because she’s told me she plans to be at my wedding, (and only Jesus knows when that day might be) I realize that her body and her mind are starting to long for heaven. And it just might be harder for me to think about letting her go than it is for her to think about going home to heaven.

I’ve heard about this thing called dying grace. It’s extra grace given to those who are getting ready to die. It’s this type of peace that those of us without it just can’t understand. It’s the kind of grace we all hope to have when our time comes. Even now I can’t understand it because I long for life, a long life lived to the fullest. I hate death, I hate thinking about loss and separation. to the point that I feel great anxiety when I start to ponder these things. But as I have begun to watch my Nana in the last stages of her life, whether it will be weeks, months or a few years that she has left, I have become so aware of the beauty there is in aging. It’s this helpless type of beauty that breaks down all of society’s notions of what beauty is. Aging creates a longing for heaven in a new way. One day, and I do hope it’s a long way off, I hope that when my grandchildren look into my eyes and speak with me in my last days, I hope that I will long for heaven. I hope that my years of living life fully will bring me to the time where I long to go home and walk beside my saviour.

My prayer for my Nana is more life here on earth, but if God’s plan for her is life in heaven, then I ask for dying grace for her. I ask for a deep longing for heaven to exist in her soul, one that surrounds her with peace and a deep excitement to meet Jesus face to face. Dying grace that takes away her fear of dying, her fear of separation and any longing for this world.

While I pray for dying grace for her, I pray for living grace for the rest of us. Grace that reminds us to live fully while we can. Grace that allows us to keep going when we feel the separation and loss of those we love most. Grace that reminds us that life ebbs and flows and our seasons of grief will not last forever. Grace that whispers to us that we’re not alone.

So today, this evening, this morning, this afternoon, wherever you find yourself, I pray that you will experience living grace, right where you are. And may you hear Jesus whisper to you that “you are not alone”.

Start Again.

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I have come to believe that sometimes in life you have to give yourself permission to start again.

After finishing a rough first semester where I failed miserably at life, I am now embarking on my final semester of my undergrad (insert shouts of “finally” here). As the Christmas season is over and the new year has been ushered in with the clinking of glasses, the kiss at midnight and echoes of things we will change this year. As 2013 is no longer, I have been thinking about what it means to start fresh.

I think there are many of us who aren’t very good at letting ourselves off the hook. These are the sensitive, guilt-ridden worrying types. These are the overachievers, the perfectionists and the ones who think too much. They are the ones who have grace for others but leave little for themselves. We feel the weight of expectation, when in fact the heaviest burdens come from the expectations we have for ourselves. We are our own worst enemies. And this year, in 2014, it’s time for a heavy dose of grace, for ourselves. Because sometimes it’s ok not to have straight A’s. It’s ok not to take on every burden that passes your way, and it’s ok to make some time just to breathe and just be, in fact it’s time you did that.

So in 2014 I’m deciding to start again. I’m choosing to create some margin in my life. Margin for coffee and sleep and a good book. Margin for seeing the gifts right in front of my eyes, margin for visiting my Nana in the hospital, margin for dinner with my Mama, margin to be more aware of Jesus and the ways he’s moving in my life. And maybe 2014 is your year for creating some margin in your life. Maybe you need some margin to stay in your pyjamas all day, margin to go the gym or take that cooking class. I’m starting to realize that it’s in the margins where we often find Jesus, and when we don’t make time for them, we so easily miss him. And it’s our loss.

So here’s to a fresh start, here’s to creating margin, and here’s to giving myself permission to let myself off the hook every once in a while. Because I don’t want to miss the life that comes from creating margin.

Welcome 2014, let’s start again.

Imagine: A Guest Post by Natalie Frisk

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I love John Lennon’s song “Imagine” minus the first verse. I just don’t want to imagine “no heaven.” I like heaven. But imagine: no countries, no religion, no possessions – sounds a whole lot like the kingdom of God, doesn’t it?

I don’t think Lennon had any idea or intent to point to a kingdom theology in his song, but he sure does. No international borders, no religious trappings, no possessions that stand in the way of relationships – this is the kingdom of God. This is what Jesus declared, unlocked the door to, and laid down his life to usher in.

And so, when Jesus said love your enemy, I think he meant it. I think he also showed it with incredible implications. The cross is often pointed to as the ultimate act of enemy love – Jesus died for all people. Imagine. People who warred against him. People who insulted him. People who hurt him.

But Jesus also does something incredible the night he is betrayed. A mob is coming to take him to his death. (A mob, in fact, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders – imagine your church leadership sending a mob after someone.) As this happens, they take hold of Jesus and one of his disciples busts out a sword and lops off the ear of the servant of the high priest.

Jesus practices enemy love. He is in the act of being arrested. He knows that his arrest will lead to painful things and end in his death, and yet, here he is stopping a scene from going from bad to worse to more bloodshed. Jesus stops them from further violence. But he doesn’t end his efforts there.

Jesus restores. Despite the fact that the injured man was coming to arrest him and lead him to his inevitable end, Jesus stops the violence and heals this man. This enemy. He doesn’t leave him wounded. He doesn’t simply help this man find a bandage. He restores him.

Imagine.

Imagine if we took a play from Jesus’ book. Imagine if we could lay down our own feelings of betrayal or pride or hurt and seek the same kind of restoration. What would that look like?

I know there is a cynical voice somewhere who says, “But I’m not Jesus.” You’re right. Thank God you aren’t. But we are called to be more like him each day. And what does it look like to be more like Jesus? To lay aside our own feelings of personal injustice, of pride, or of betrayal and love unconditionally?

It looks hard. It looks like work. But it isn’t impossible.

“You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will be as one.”

Imagine.

And then live it.

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485743_484959431574895_2036711021_nNatalie Frisk is the Curriculum Development Pastor at The Meeting House Church – a multi-site church in Ontario, Canada, and an ordained minister with the Brethren in Christ denomination in Canada. She is married to Sam and together they have an awesome daughter, Erin Penny.

Read more of Natalie’s writing at nataliefrisk.com and follow her on twitter @NatalieFrisk.