God-Guided Growth

Growth is defined as the process of increasing. Some synonyms are: expansion, extension, development, progress, and advancement. We either live stuck or growing and both options are challenging.

Students often say, “I am not organized person” or “I cannot do questions like that.” The connection between thoughts and ability is enormous and often our own thoughts prevent us from growing in areas that would greatly benefit our loved ones and us. A growth mindset approaches problems and skills with the belief: I have the ability to learn and improve in this area. Research shows having this thought about any challenge increases motivation and resilience insurmountably.

Grit is the number one indicator of a person’s long-term life success. It’s not intelligence, looks, grades, charisma, or charm. It’s grit – and plucky character emerges from the cultivation of a growth mindset.

This week – I moved and swayed at hip-hop dance lessons with the thought – “I can grow in this.” The truth is – growth is struggle and it takes courage. Sometimes, I try new things in areas my natural talent doesn’t flow. Let’s just say, dancing is one of these areas. God must have smirked as he mixed the love of dance with two left feet in my make-up. This concoction makes for excellent conditions to practice a growth mindset – and for frustration to creep in along the way too! When I was practicing one move at a time, the great big mirror was my friend. However, as soon as teach decided to mix knee movements with hip thrusts and heel taps– my goodness! My reflection became my enemy and everything in me wanted to quit. It was good for me to feel like a fool and relate with frustrated students when we approach a new concept in class. It was good for me to choose to believe I could grow if I kept going, practicing, learning and trying … and I did. We all can.

The old saying, “You get what you expect in life” is tried, tested and scientifically true. Thoughts, actions and behaviors are all connected. As you choose to think and act today, your brain will be blazing a trail of neurons that are in alignment with those thoughts and actions – you get to choose how these trails are forged.

In her book, The Broken Way, Anne Voscamp writes, “What if the point of everything is simply this: change your life expectations to focus on what life expects from you – and your life changes.” In order to start focusing on what we can offer in life we need to step into novel situations with confidence that we can do everything God is asking.

The Bible teaches us to live with this kind of a mind. It says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…” – 2 Peter 1:3. We have all we need to bring God’s life on earth in creative ways and unexpected places, as he leads us. As we learn to hear his personal instructions daily, a growth mindset allows us to adapt and keep going. This is not pointless advancement but is God-Guided growth and is the gateway to becoming more likes Jesus. The world could use a lot more of Him.

Evolving Identity

I recently sat with celebratory noodle bowls and this sweet friend to marvel at the beauty of her baptism! I noticed how she spoke differently to me than she did to her Nigerian friend on the other end of her cell phone. This prompted my question, “What is it like to live in two different cultures? Is it confusing at times?” She began to expound the culture identity struggle she has experienced – and how she has found great rest, freedom and joy in her own unique story! I wanted to share her words with you …

Evolving Identity

Have you ever been in a group and been asked to tell who you are: your name, age, place of birth and your family? These are the simple parts of who we are but our identity is so complex, and is made up of more than we can think of in five minutes. I decided to ask Wikipedia (where all earthly answers to lifes questions can be found!) what identity is:

“In psychology, identity is the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and/or expressions that make a person (self-identity) or group (particular social category or social group).The process of identity can be creative or destructive.

Our sense of identity is fluid (a process), we get older, have new experiences and our sense of self evolves. Our identity is too often shaped by things that are beyond our control: where we were born, where we grew up, the family we were born into, our past and present experiences. I think most of us are too aware that our sense of identity can be strong and healthy or destructive, and this has monumental impact on how we live life.

The world labels and categorizes people – male, female, Caucasian, Hispanic, African, athletic, artistic, funny, smart, rich, poor, skinny, fat etc. I’m certain there are over 50 words that can be used to describe every single person. A lot of these labels are based on outward appearances, or our relation to others. Certain expectations come with such labels, and this can become burdensome!  It is ironic how our sense of self can be so tied to others and their perceptions.

As a teenager, I moved across continents to begin life in a new country. As I began to adopt the ways of a new culture, I also was never more aware that I was different, I stood out and sometimes I just wanted to blend in. At the same time, I had these two worlds that I wanted to fit into, the culture I was coming from and the one I was settling into. So I struggled with the thought that I was not being authentic because my sense of identity became dependent on who I was with at the time.

It is my belief that our struggle with identity happens when we have an “others focus” instead of a “God focus”. We tend only to see the negative parts of our identity or the parts we don’t like, and we let that define our entire sense of self. We fail to see that our value and who we are is determined by the one who created us, GOD. We are priceless because we were formed by the greatest artist of all. Psalm 139:14 describes us as wonderfully complex, God’s workmanship which is marvellous (an NLT paraphrase). God created us so intricately, with many unique parts – Jeremiah 1:5 says He formed us in our mother’s womb, set apart to fulfill God’s purpose. On this journey, we need to embrace all of who we are and in that moment, recognize that we are always evolving. We need to welcome the Holy Spirit, who at various time convicts us to change, grow and adapt . God loves us just the way we are, but His love for us is too great to leave us where we are at.

-Tomison Olaniyi

Princess Talks

Princess talks. Groan! This has often been my response to talks about “real beauty”. Many are tired of the pretty stuff and the fluffy words that can feel inauthentic and lack depth.

Last night girls of all shapes and sizes with varying interests and abilities filed into a buzzing auditorium with snacks, colors, music and some random dance. Nametags were distributed and shy uneasiness was broken by table questions and introduction challenges. We were together to talk about beauty.

So, why is beauty important to keep talking about? What is it, anyways? Webster says to have beauty is “Possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about … delight the senses or mind.”

Part of your purpose is to appreciate, value, and delight in beauty. The right kind of beauty – the real stuff.

The definition of Biblical beauty is closely tied to God’s glory. God’s glory is found where God “dwells” or where he “settles in.” God’s glory and beauty is evident in all he created. To be made in His image means to be like him. One way humans are like God is that we recognize and appreciate beauty. We were made to see it, to admire it, and to value it in the world, and in one another.

When God got busy creating – he invested his own characteristics in humans – we were perfect. Biblical beauty is the redemption story – the process of things being restored after Adam and Eve opened the door for beauty to be tainted and twisted. When Jesus died and rose, he released the restoration of beauty on earth – because we were given His Spirit – which dwells in His people.

Real beauty is process of you being restored – becoming the person God created you to be. Real beauty is doing the things you were created to do without shame or insecurity or fear. It is the remarkable process of genuine transformation and growth – the restoration of a broken heart, a hurting family, a desolate situation or a dark city. Beauty is the invasion of the Kingdom of God in a world desperate for hope. This kind of beauty spreads through people and dashes madly and wildly as people recognize and value the beauty of their life, in light of God’s life. When people recognize the beauty of God-dwelling, God-settling in their hearts, homes, and lives – empathy springs and relationships are restored. A family becomes beautiful with laughter, celebrations, quality time, peace, and elastic joy! A community becomes vibrant with engagement, new ideas and authentic connection. A city becomes the birthplace of hope and a beacon of light in a world crying for it – with politicians and leaders who care genuinely, leaders who inspire, students who are challenged and employees and business owners who invest in their work. Yes, life emanates from people who believe and recognize this kind of beauty.

Last night, I got to talk about real beauty with tons of beauties. Beauty is living at one’s full potential, and feeling fulfilled and satisfied – just like God intended in the beginning. God himself is where this kind of beauty comes from. Can you imagine a world that defined beauty like this? I look forward to arriving there one day. Until then, may our world recognize and spread real beauty more and more. With this kind of beauty in mind – let the princess talks roll!

 

 

Who I Am

Nyla joins us this week with a story that unleashes the weight of God’s mighty care and his massive love…

Who I Am

Do you know what I regret about my wedding?

It’s not the fact that the ceremony started an hour late, or that the bottom of my dress is now stained with red and yellow from the leaves we trudged through to get some beautiful photos. No, the thing I regret was forgetting to look up at my soon to be husband as I walked down the aisle towards him!

“I always look at the groom when she’s walking,” I’ve heard people comment before, saying it’s their favorite part of the wedding, to see the way the groom is gazing at his bride to be.

But me? I totally forgot to look at him! I was following other instructions, from the pastor’s wife who had moments before fluffed my dressed. “Savour this moment,” she’d instructed into my ear. “It will go by fast.” So cherish it I did. I remember smiling wide as I met the faces of co-workers, past Bible study friends and fellow workers at Bible camp. They were all intermingled, his friends and family and mine.

A few days after our wedding, I realized what I had done, the moment I had accidently missed out on. “How could I forget to look up?” I moaned to my new husband multiple times. “I’ll never get that chance back!” I shed a few tears and chided myself for not taking the opportunity to see how Mark had looked moments before we became husband and wife. But you know what? God cares about every detail of our lives and is a compassionate God. As I was journaling about our wedding later that week, I began to read some of my previous entries.

One was all about “The Look”, dated nine months before we got married.

“I believe God told me that I’ll be married at 25… makes me wonder if it’s Mark I will someday walk down the aisle towards. Oh, what an expression that Mark would be wearing. Definitely The Look I catch him giving me now as we date. A look I can only describe as similar to the way I believe Jesus will have upon greeting me at Heaven’s gate. Delighted. Accepting. Joyful. Adoring….”

How amazing is that? That God would hear my groans of regret and lead me to read something that would comfort me? To tell me exactly how Mark was looking at me that day as I walked down the aisle in my lace dress to him? “It’s the way he always looks at you, Nyla,” God was telling me. “He gave you his special look that day.”

And you know what, reader friends? You have someone who is giving you The Look everyday of your life too. But a thousand times more intensified. I have struggled since elementary school, and even today in my mid-twenties, with body image issues. Unsuccessfully trying to find my identity in the way my body looked and in the way others looked at me. If I was skinny, fashionable or fit, I identified with being of more worth and being beautiful. If people praised my social media posts or my writing and singing abilities, I identified with being enough.

But that is just plain wrong! My identity is not in the shape of my body or in how others see me. It’s in how God sees me, how God looks at me.

Because I am who The Great I Am says I am.

Because I am who The Great I Am looks at me like I am.

I am loved.

I am chosen.

I am cherished.

I am adored.

I am an artist’s masterpiece.

I am enough.

And so are you.

Identify with that, world. It’s true through and through. True for today and true for the remainder of your days.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

-Nyla Wiebe

Nyla Wiebe spends her days working as an Educational Assistant and loves writing, fitness and being outdoors. She and her husband live in Saskatoon and have been married for five months.