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For the sake of beauty: How to invite beauty into your everyday life

When I was a little girl, I spent most of my childhood hidden away in the pages of a book or wandering in the woods listening to the birds and trees whisper stories. I was drawn to beauty and mystery in equal parts. I liked to think I was unique, set apart somehow by the things I loved, my senses alone tuned to beauty.

iola bloom

I know now that I was never alone in my loves, and certainly not the only one attuned to beauty. We are all hardwired to seek it, know it, and name it. Like many children, I was drawn to stories and art and the natural world. Others are drawn to bodies in motion, bounty at the table, or the beauty of friendship and intimacy.

By nature, we desire what is beautiful, having an innate awareness of it. We’re drawn to the lovely, the sublime, the evocative. Beauty fulfills our longings, however imperfectly, providing a feast for our soul and our senses.

Our love for imperfect beauty arises out of our desire for perfect Beauty itself, which is the beauty of Christ, the Kingdom of God in its fullness.

As an adult, it’s easy to overlook the beautiful in life for pressing daily tasks and imagined urgency. I find I have to work at beauty, both in seeking and creating it. I must offer it an open invitation. I return to these simple steps when my vision clouds and I imagine I need to overhaul my life. Instead, I open my eyes to the beauty in front of me.

Perhaps you need to issue an invitation to beauty as well? Here’s how:

Expect Beauty:

Live expectant, open handed, wholehearted in all things. Allow Philippians 4:8 to guide you as you extend your invitation. “…Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Perhaps you’ll discover beauty in nature, in a circle of sister-friends, in the work of your hands, in cooking, in children, in stories, in order, in design, in peace-making, in justice, in art.

Not all beautiful things carry an obvious form of beauty at first glance. Truth may be painful. Light may expose what’s hidden in darkness. Justice may reveal wrongdoing. But, beauty is what happens when the Kingdom of God enters in, when we see with the eyes of possibility, when redemption is at the end of the story.

Capture Beauty:

Practice new ways of capturing surprise or smallness or symmetry. Look for the odd, the original, the otherworldly. Photography, journaling, letter writing, old-fashioned crafts, collections, or capturing snippets of life using social media can help us focus and capture the beauty we might ordinarily walk past without thinking.

Return to your first love. What did you gather and collect as a child? What shimmered in the rough of everyday life and caught your eye like a magpie? Did you squirrel away small collections of shells or pressed flowers or scribble long lists of favorite lyrics? Did you write terrible teenaged poetry? How did you capture beauty when you were half-formed? When the earth and sea and sky and friends and fireworks and uninhibited play left their fingerprints on the wet clay of your soul?

How could you invite those loves back into your life today?

Practice Beauty:

The more we embrace and capture beauty, the more inspired we become to create. We are made in the image of God: the original Life Artist, the Creator of all things. Embrace your role as co-creator—participate in the naming of the unnamed. Call the world around you beautiful with defiant acts of creation.

Allow your creation to complement the beauty you discover elsewhere. Reject comparison. There is nothing new under the sun, but your unique perspective offers fresh inspiration to the rest of us.

Give us yourself and your best work, for the sake of beauty.

 

Kimberly Coyle is a freelance writer and an adjunct professor of writing with an MFA in creative non-fiction. She has written for publications such as In Touch Magazine, Fathom Magazine, (in)courage, and Grace Table. When not writing or teaching, she dabbles in photography and can be found on Instagram as @kacoyle.

She writes regularly online at www.kimberlyanncoyle.com

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Books for the armchair traveller

by Kimberly Coyle

As an insatiable lover of travel, I often find my bank account and my everyday commitments can’t keep pace with my desire to wander. While my chest beats with a gypsy heart, I also have three children, a job, and a geriatric dog who believes movement of any kind should be incentivized. Travel often falls to second place behind the demands of orthodontic bills, folding laundry, and grading papers.

However, as a lifelong reader, I find my wanderlust is temporarily satisfied through the pages of a good book when rooted in a specific place. As a child, I sat in the buggy beside Anne Shirley as we passed through the White Way of Delight on Prince Edward Island, and I braved the unpredictable weather and challenges of farm life in the American Midwest with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Books became the means by which I experienced a world larger than the boundaries of any map or my limited imagination.

After many years spent living abroad and traveling as an adult, I’ve tasted much of what the world has to offer, and it has only fanned the flames of desire. I discovered wanderlust is a love affair possessing an incurable nature. Four years ago, after a number of years spent living in Switzerland, I found myself, once again, deeply rooted in ordinary life in suburban America.

Again, I turned to the stories of writers who create magic with ink and paper. Their words are the buggy, the ticket, the invitation to worlds I may never encounter anywhere but in their experiences or their imagination.

For a few good reads guaranteed to transport you without the cost of airfare, look no further.

From my bookshelf to yours, your invitation to wander through lands near and distant is waiting.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, click the pictures to buy the book on Amazon.co.uk and the title links to buy on Amazon.com

Non-fiction

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr:

Doerr’s work is stunning, and this non-fiction book on his year spent living in Rome as an American ex-pat is beautiful. While I connected personally to his life abroad in Europe, armchair travelers will experience Rome intimately through his prose. This book is the perfect companion to his novel All The Light We Cannot See, another gem of a book with a defined sense of place and belonging.

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber

This memoir ticks all the boxes: excellent writing, intriguing setting, a journey of faith, romantic literature, and copious literary quotes. (Word nerds: head straight to your local library) Weber lived a life I frequently fantasize about as a PhD candidate in Romantic Literature studying in Oxford, England. Weber brings Oxford to life in a way I wish I could experience personally.

The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich

Readers follow the author on her journey from heartbreak to healing as she leaves behind her life as a filmmaker in California for ranch life in rural Wyoming. Ehrlich finds herself in Wyoming as part of a temporary film project, but after a personal loss, she decides to make Wyoming her home for an indefinite period. Ehrlich chronicles her journey back to love and life, through numbness and grief, against the backdrop of a dry, spacious, empty place. Wyoming’s wide-open physical spaces work like balm for her wounds, and they might work as a balm for readers too.

Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy

In her memoir of place, Purifoy recounts the first four seasons she and her family spent living in Maplehurst, a well-loved Victorian farmhouse without the pleasure or pain of an actual farm. She describes home and rootedness in a way that is fresh, poetic, gentle. She writes of the everyday, ordinary circumstances through which God used this home to help her discover where she belongs, and in turn to grow deeper in her belonging to him. As a lover of old homes, wild gardens, and the restoration of broken things, this book holds a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf.

Fiction

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

This classic novel is the coming of age tale of a girl called Francie, set in the immigrant communities of Brooklyn in the early 1900’s. I’m always surprised at the timeless nature of stories, and this book is no exception. I saw myself in Francie, despite the time and life circumstances that separate us. It also gave me a renewed appreciation for the challenges faced by immigrants coming to America, as it paints a unique portrait of life in the tenements of New York City.

Gilead by Marilyn Robinson

Gilead is the story of minister John Ames’ journey to his eternal home as he looks back over the past seventy-six years of his life in Gilead. The town of Gilead is itself a character in Robinson’s book, and as I read, it became as real to me as any home I’ve known. I journeyed with Ames from Iowa to Kansas, from childhood to old age, and back again. While the book is epistoliary in nature, Robinson creates distinct descriptive scenes within the journal itself, allowing readers a glimpse into the rural landscape of her characters’ lives. This is a book to savor.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This epic tale of the Price family, new missionaries to the Belgian Congo in the 1960’s, is both cautionary and redemptive. Readers travel beside the Prices as they attempt to transition to primitive life in the Congo from a sheltered life in small town America. Told from the perspective of the women in the family, we see postcolonial Africa in all of its danger and complexity. Kingsolver’s book is one of my top five favorites of all time. Unforgettable.

Kimberly Coyle

Kimberly Coyle is a freelance writer and an adjunct professor of writing with an MFA in creative non-fiction. She has written for publications such as In Touch Magazine, Fathom Magazine, (in)courage, and Grace Table. When not writing or teaching, she dabbles in photography and can be found on Instagram as @kacoyle.

She writes regularly online at www.kimberlyanncoyle.com

 

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For those who live in a land of deep shadows

Having been a school nurse for a number of years, I was well aware of the increasing rise in the number of children and teenagers struggling with incredibly complex mental health issues.

However, I was totally unprepared when we found ourselves facing this issue in our own family.

I remember the feelings of total helplessness when I was called into school because my own precious child had caused physical damage to themselves through extreme self-harm.

I felt that somehow, I’d failed as a parent. How could I, as a trained nurse, have missed this? We had known that they were struggling with some issues, but we had put it down to hormonal teenage mood swings.

Having not experienced any mental health issues myself, I struggled to really understand how my child was feeling. I had prided myself on having a good relationship with all our children and being a family who could talk openly and share our problems. Yet during this time, I felt totally unable to reach my child.

They were completely trapped in a dark prison of despair and isolation and I was powerless to help them.

In their desperate search for a way out, their behaviour and life choices became very destructive and caused us all more heartache and sadness.

We spent many hours at difficult doctors’ appointments and counselling sessions, but nothing seemed to be changing. To my shame, I often resorted to angry outbursts and very unhelpful comments and suggestions. My frustration was overwhelming as I grappled with my desire to ‘fix’ them.

Out of protection and care for them, we found ourselves carrying a huge burden which we were only able to share with a very few people. However, our family and close friends really did an amazing job of consistently standing with us and supporting us during the darkest days.

Living with someone who is battling mental health issues really does affect the whole family. We felt like we were walking through a minefield every day. The pressure on us all was exhausting, as we never knew what might happen next.

I went through a range of emotions each day as I faced the reality of our home life.

Ultimately, I was angry and frustrated at God. We had read all the ‘right’ Christian parenting books and followed their advice as we had brought up our kids. This was not part of the plan and it wasn’t fair. I ranted and railed against God; why us, why my family, and ultimately, why me?

Although I had been a Christian since my childhood, what I really wanted from God was this;

‘It means no worries
For the rest of your days
It’s our problem-free philosophy Hakuna Matata!….
(The Lion King 1994)

However, I was finding following Jesus didn’t mean that our lives were a fairy tale story. In fact, Jesus said that we will all encounter the storms of life as we journey through it.

‘In this life you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.’
John 16 v33

I had read these words, spoken by Jesus to his disciples many times over the years. But it was only during this time, I felt that I came to understand what they really meant.

In the times when I felt I was losing faith in my heart, I discovered a greater depth of God’s love and He met me in my brokenness and pain.

He was and is my Saviour. He healed my heart and He gave me new hope and strength to face another day.

It was during this time that we first heard about Karis house.

This amazing place was to be part of God’s healing for our precious child.

The God centred holistic Xchange programme at Karis house combines counselling and prayer ministry alongside medical care & practical support.

God gives us this promise from these words of truth in Isaiah 9;

‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—light! Sunbursts of light! 
The Message.

God broke into the land of darkness and shadows where our child was trapped.

His light shone and we saw a miracle happen- our child who had been paralysed by fear and despair was released into a new freedom towards health and wholeness.

Our family journey continues; often the roads can be unfamiliar and at times very hard to navigate. My story is that we never have to face it alone; regardless of how difficult the path.

Jesus is the light of the world and His love can reach us wherever we are no matter how dark it is.

Charlotte Osborn

Charlotte is an evangelist at heart and she’s passionate about sharing the good news of God’s love & hope with the world. She is a speaker & event facilitator who seeks to encourage others to find creative ways to share their own stories.

As a qualified nurse, she runs her own home care business, supporting people through the many changing seasons of their lives. She has 3 fantastic grown-up children who she counts as friends and she lives in the beautiful Cotswolds UK with her equally fantastic husband!

www.livemovebe.org.uk

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Motherhood. One season of many

At age 32, I gave birth to the last of my eight children. I can honestly say there is nothing I have loved more, than being a mother.

But like most moms, I did not always love everything that came with it. For me, laundry was one of those things I dreaded most.

 

I can laugh about it today, but my most memorable pathetic mom moment was the day my husband found me crying in twenty+ loads of laundry. He most-likely interpreted my pathetic-mom-moment as a desperate-mom-moment. So being the macho coach that he was (and still is) he took action and went for the game-winning point. He helped me up and said, “I need to get you out of here.” “I don’t think there’s anything more life-giving to a worn-out and wrung-out Mom than the gift of time.” I packed my weekend bag, got in my car, and drove to a bed and breakfast about an hour away from our home. It was an unexpected gift that my soul desperately needed. And although a get-away is wonderfully helpful, the reality is that the mundane is where we live out most of our parenting days. What I wish someone would have said to me during those early years are these three things:

1. Hang in there, Momma! This is but one season of many.

2. Be careful that you don’t neglect your own soul while caring for everyone else’s.

3. Don’t you know that you are more than a mom?

One Season of Many

As a young mom, the days are long indeed when you’re knee deep in mounds of laundry and other daily demands. There seems to be little time left to do anything else. I remember thinking “someday” my creative “other” life will return to me. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned a carved wooden sign sitting on a shelf, high out of reach, gathering dust that read:

my life

“One day.” I thought, “I will be able to bring her back down, dust her off, and help her get back to doing those things she never had time to do.” But that day seemed far off in the distance future. I was a restless creative and I felt as though I was neglecting her. I wanted to do other things besides laundry and cooking and cleaning. In the life of a mother, every mundane moment counts. And because it counts, it’s imperative that we make sure we are giving from a full cup and not an empty one.

Care for Your Soul

One thing that saddens me greatly is the number of women who struggle with their personal identity and worth. By the time their children leave home, they don’t know who they are or what their purpose in life is because they neglected the whole person God made them to be. I so appreciated the act of kindness my husband showed me that day in my laundry room. But there were many days when relief could not be found. I’m thankful for my mentor friend, Andrea, who encouraged me to create space in my life to do those things I enjoy. It’s not a matter of finding the time, it’s a matter of making time in our lives to do those things that God wired us to do. caring for your soul is a gift you not only give to yourselves, but to your entire family. Our children (and husbands) deserve healthy, balanced moms (and wives) who give from a full cup, not an empty one. As women, we must discover what that balance looks in our lives so that even in the mundane, we find joy, and fulfillment, and purpose.

You’re more than a Mom!

May I gently remind you? You are more than a mom! You were designed to glorify God with the gifts he has entrusted to you. There are things hiding inside you that must come out because that’s the way God wired you. Find a way in your hustle and bustle momma life, to feed the part of your soul that makes you come alive. Don’t do it at the expense of your family – do it around your family. Make it a priority because it will help you be a better mom and it will help you prepare for your empty nest life after kids. My life was not on a shelf…this was my life. I needed to learn how to become more of who God made me to be in the mundane of everyday motherhood.

What about you lovely lady?

You…who stand right there in the thick of it and persevering in the mundane of it. How will you become more of your true self in the midst of the mundane of motherhood?

Betsy Stretar

Elizabeth Duncan Stretar, (Cleveland, Ohio) is the mother of 8 married adults, grandmother to 16, and enjoys spending her empty-nest time with husband, Frank. She is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary (MACL), Young Life’s first national director and currently working as a major airline Flight Attendant. Stretar’s passion is to help others live an above and beyond kind of life, by encouraging them realize their untapped potential, discover their life-purpose that strives to make a difference in the lives of others.

She’s a published author of children’s book, Acorn Gert & Brother Bert (Halo Publishing, 2016) and blogs at Elizabeth Duncan Stretar: Above and Beyond Mid-life www.betsystretar.com

 

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God is in the whisper

Elijah, prophet, and speaker for God, had just come from the mountaintop – literally and figuratively. He had defeated the prophets of Baal in a dramatic display of fire and power on the Mount of Carmel. A declaration of God and His true power was on display for all of Israel to see. In the next chapter, we find our prophet, not on the mountaintop reveling in the victory, but in the valley. Under a tree. Depressed and sad. Feeling alone. In fact, he wanted to die.

He thought he had found God, there on the mountain. On the mountain, Elijah experienced a miraculous victory. God revealed His awesome power by consuming Elijah’s sacrifice, soaked in water, with a burning fire straight from the sky. Elijah surely thought: God is here. So when his life was threatened by a jealous and evil queen, he didn’t respond in triumph, he ran.

After this, Elijah found himself in the valley. Literally, Elijah fled to an isolated place with no water or food. It was an empty place, and he wished to die. I was surprised the first time I saw those words, but the great prophet of God spoke to God: “O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” The lowest a human can reach. To want to die is a deepest darkest pit, no one should experience. Yet so many do.

Are you in this pit? Read on to find how God meets Elijah here in the depths of his heartache….

God sends an angel. Not to give him a “pep talk” or a reprimand. God gives Elijah food. And sleep. I find it extremely comforting knowing God knew the physical strain depression an take on a body. Sleep is often the first thing to evade us when we suffer from darkness. God provided sleep and food for Elijah. Then He asked Elijah to go into the wilderness. It was time Elijah separated himself from his job, his friends, and his people. He already felt alone, but God was bringing him to a place where he was really alone.

So think about this with me: Elijah had been given a miraculous victory, then plunged deep into the depths of despair. An exchange happens between Elijah and God after all of that:

God: What are you doing here, Elijah?

Elijah: I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.

God: Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’ presence.

The next few verses are where we see where God is. Is He in the mountains? The valleys?

And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. I Kings 19:11-12 (KJV)

A “still small voice” can also be translated, “a soft whisper. God is in the whisper.

What does God tell Elijah? After all of that, the victory, the depression, the wilderness, the show of God’s power, God’s message to Elijah is the same message He has for us: You are not alone. And God still had work for Elijah. The close of I Kings tells how Elijah went back to work, and then {don’t miss this!!} he found Elisha. Here is what Elisha did for Elijah:

Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him. I Kings 19:21

Find God the of the glorious ordinary and walk the road of life leaning onto each other. God didn’t leave Elijah, and to show it, God sent Elisha – a friend – to comfort and walk with him. When Jesus calls us to abide with Him, He doesn’t just mean in the hardest days, but in mundane messy days.

What mess are you facing today? How can God meet you here, in the middle of the mess?

Does hardship weigh heavy on your heart? How can you hear God’s whisper in the night?

Are you feeling alone and forgotten by everyone, even God? How can you reach out to someone today?

Our God isn’t in the wind.

Our God isn’t in thunder and lightning.

Our God isn’t found in the majestic, but the mundane.

During the raging storm, He is both the waves and lighthouse. During our times of immense grief, He sits with us in the darkness, growing and molding us. During the hardest times of our lives, if we have seen His hand in the faithful small days, we can find Him in the darkness.

We want God to be grand and big {and He is}, but more and more I’ve been seeing God in the ordinary days. He is a whisper in the middle of the night. He is the quiet when I choose to be still in prayer. He is in the way the sun shines through the trees. He is in the laughter. He is in the faithfulness of the oldest saint in church who prayers. He is in the last leaf, hanging onto the tree.

It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God, but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people and this is not learned in five minutes. – Oswald Chambers

Sarah Frazer

Sarah E. Frazer writes and lives in a brick house at the end of Thomas Road with her husband, five kids, a cat, a dog, and five chickens. Motherhood is her calling but her passion is to inspire focus and encourage deep-rooted Bible study for the busy mom. Life is full of seasons, but every season can be made more peaceful when time is spent in God’s word. Join Sarah on her favorite social media space: Instagram. Or you can find her on her blog, www.sarahefrazer.com.

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On having a heart of thanksgiving

Psalm 100
Shout for joy to the Lord,
all the earth. 
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever, his faithfulness continues through all generations.

In the hustle and bustle of life, shouting for joy to the Lord doesn’t feel like it comes naturally. Entering his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise can seem like a strange concept in our fast-paced world and busy lifestyles. How is this shouting and joyfulness supposed to fit into our daily lives? Thanksgiving, however, is vital to our relationship with God and was designed to be our lifeline. It is not merely a word of gratitude but true thanksgiving is our spirit agreeing with all who God says He is. It is our need and God’s supply lining up perfectly. This is what we were created for. Our hearts align with His when we come before Him joyfully. When we worship Him with gladness no matter what comes our way, then we are able to take advantage of our circumstances rather than our circumstances taking advantage of us. 

Our default mode can be anxiety, worry, fear, anger or frustration because of our situations and oftentimes those things become greater than Christ in us. However, when we intentionally fill up with thanksgiving, then it begins to rise up out of us. As it rises up out of us, it leaves little room for the overwhelm of negativity. It doesn’t mean all the problems go away but rather, they are put in their proper place. They are no longer shackles that hold us, prisoner. When we worship with gladness, it is the ultimate form of engagement with God and we are set free from the lies that bind us. All else fades away when we come before Him with thanksgiving until it is only us and Him left. It is there where our hearts are able to receive the revelation of knowing He is the Lord our God.

This portal to our hearts to receive allows faith to rise up in us and we can experience the revelation of how wide and high and deep His love is and always has been for us. His perfect love is what drives out the fear, the anxiety, worry, anger or frustrations about our life’s situation. Be intentional and ready to give thanks. I’ve created a playlist to help do exactly that. Take some time to come before Him with joyful songs. Do not hesitate to give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His love endures forever. Know He is the Lord your God and you are His.

Give thanks playlist

Libby John

Libby John is a creative artist of many forms. As a singer/songwriter, she debuted her first EP in 2016 and her first album in Oct. 2017. Libby is also a choreographer who works for local universities and high school musicals and she teaches hip hop and modern dance classes. She has a passion to spur others on to be an influence on the culture through their faith & artistry which led her to create the podcast “Art & Faith Conversations”. Libby is a lover of small beginnings and finding beauty in the ordinary.  She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with her husband and 3 daughters.

Libby can be found sharing her creative journey and prayerful devotionals through songs at www.libbyjohnartandsong.org.

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Explore, Dream, Discover: Kelowna, BC, Canada

Kelwona BC

As much as I adore traveling, the thought of coming home always sets my soul at ease, causes me to exhale, fills my heart. Comfortable yet captivating, the city of Kelowna in British Columbia has been our home for twenty-three years and its natural beauty still takes my breath away on a daily basis!

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Maya Angelou

In 1995, my husband and I packed up our two-year-old daughter and embarked on the audacious adventure of emigrating from the UK to Canada. After arriving in Vancouver on the west coast, my husband had a job interview in a picturesque city about four hours inland, nestled in the Okanagan Valley. We knew absolutely nothing about this Kelowna, but as the April sun glistened on a cobalt lake surrounded by welcoming snow-tipped mountains, it took us all of three seconds to decide this was where we wanted to settle and raise our family!

Kelowna, with its current population sitting at 127,500 has also become the vacation destination for our British family and friends time and again, and we have the privilege of proudly showing off the many attributes of our city. One of my most cherished aspects of living here is that we thoroughly enjoy all four seasons. And at the start of each one, I proclaim it my favorite—until the next season rolls around…

Kelwona BC

SUMMERTIME is pure perfection here unless you dislike copious amounts of warm sunshine and idyllic leisurely lake-living. The climate is actually semi-desert (who knew that was a thing in Canada?) and therefore much free time is spent boating, swimming, sailing, water-skiing, or windsurfing on the expansive 84-mile length of the Okanagan Lake. We are famous for our bounty of local fresh fruit, which can be found at markets and fruit stands, and there’s nothing quite like an evening stroll along the downtown boardwalk watching the sunset, followed by some delicious dining lakeside.

The crisp FALL air is a welcome break from the heat, and a perfect time to take in a winery tour at one of over forty local wineries. From the intimate family operated to larger facilities with first-class restaurants and stellar lake views, it’s worth taking time to peruse and sample some of our national and international award-winning wines. You won’t be disappointed!

If you’re looking for a WINTER wonderland experience, Kelowna has it all. A short winter season compared to much of Canada, we usually have ourselves a very merry white Christmas, which as a Brit, I thoroughly appreciate. If some serious snow sports or even après-ski activities are desired, the world-renowned Big White Resort is less than an hour out of town, where the ski-in-ski-out village also offers shopping and dining for those not downhill or cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, snowmobiling, tubing, or doing any other snow-ish activity!

Kelowna BC

When SPRING is in the air in Kelowna, there is a definite spring in the step of the locals. With snow behind us and sunshine ahead, the air is fresh and the orchards heavy with glorious blossom. Perhaps the perfect opportunity for some hiking or biking at one of the numerous trails.

Parks, waterfalls, mountains, or railway trestles— every age and agility level is catered for.

Whether you take advantage of our numerous golf courses, enjoy wandering around our Cultural District downtown, checking out galleries, theatres, unique shops, and fine dining, or prefer an action-packed adventure on the lake or up the mountain— Kelowna truly has something for everyone. It’s been the perfect place to raise our three kids to adulthood, and we are in absolutely no hurry to ever move from this stunning little gem in the vast, spectacular country of Canada.

Here in Kelowna, I happen to believe there’s always more to explore, dream, and discover.

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

Laura Thomas

Laura Thomas is a published Christian author with a heart for inspiring and encouraging readers of all ages. She is a multi-genre writer with a published Christian teen fiction trilogy, marriage book, middle grade novel, children’s stories, devotionals for Union Gospel Press, articles in magazines and online, musings on her blog, and currently has a three-book deal for her Christian romantic suspense novels. Living in Kelowna, B.C. as an empty-nester, Laura is a mom of three, married to her high school sweetheart, and is passionate about faith and family—and chocolate.

laurathomasauthor.com

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Choosing Brave

At the end of every day, I collapse onto the couch and make the most of my evening with Netflix and a glass of wine or warm cookies or salty, buttered popcorn, glad to waste brain cells and time until I crawl into bed and fall asleep. My husband died three years ago, when my son was two years old and I was still pregnant with my daughter; being a single mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Quite often when someone finds out I’m a widow, the conversation comes to a grinding halt. I watch as their eyes glaze over and they enter the foggy land of “what on earth do I talk to her about when my hard stuff could never compare to being a single parent of young children, grieving the loss of a partner?”.  I really wish we would stop comparing hard stuff; the challenges you face in life are daunting for you, just as mine are for me, and nothing gets any easier when we insist on making life the saddest type of competition.

In the last five years, I’ve lost my dad and my husband, given birth to two children, and learned to live with my chronic anxiety and depression. It has been incredibly challenging and tremendously rewarding. I have learned what it means to live bravely.

Ten years ago, if you asked me what it meant to live a brave life, I would have described something along the lines of giving up worldly possessions to live in the deepest, darkest jungles like the Swiss Family Robinson. Or to join an elite military squad, risking my life just to do my job. Or to escape a human trafficking or other abusive situation. But I never would have used the word brave to describe what happens after a loved one dies.

I would never have said it’s brave to keep living.

As I explore what it means to practice courage, I realize that brave and heroic are not the same thing. Parenting my children when I’ve lost the person I built a family with is brave. Getting through my daily routine when I’m in a brutal depressive spell is brave. Breathing through a panic attack and remembering it will end is brave. Celebrating another life milestone without my dad or my husband to cheer me on is brave.

Going food shopping when we could have cereal for dinner, but we’ve already done that for a few days is brave. Maybe not, but that last one sure feels like a giant accomplishment.

Grief and anxiety pull my thoughts towards the past and depression makes survival seem impossible. But I’m learning to dream again because loss and mental illness don’t mean my life is over. There are more good things to come. Dreaming and hoping are brave.

Anyone can be brave. Courage doesn’t require an extra chromosome or special coursework. It simply (but not easily) requires the choice to be brave. Maybe your brave thing is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Maybe you need to say no to something. Or say yes. Brave can be admitting life is hard, but choosing not to give in. Or acknowledging the broken parts of your heart and pursuing healing.

I wasn’t born brave and neither were you, but we can choose to live bravely, together.

Becky McCoy

Becky L McCoy lives on the Connecticut coast with her two precocious and hilarious children. She once enjoyed teaching high school physics and now tells her story of loss, grief, and joyful living on her blog. Having struggled with depression and anxiety and experienced several seasons of grief and struggle, Becky is passionate about creating an online community where people share their stories and encourage one another to choose to live bravely and authentically through disappointment and discouragement.

You can find Becky on all forms of social media @BeckyLMcCoy, on her blog at BeckyLMcCoy.com, and her podcast Sucker Punched.

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iola bloom playlist

The new issue is coming this September 2018! We are so excited! This issue will have the theme of bloom. Like last issue we have a themed playlist that goes along with this iola Bloom issue, and whilst you are patiently waiting for the next issue to be available, we thought we would release this playlist suggestion to get you excited about the coming issue. Now you have a playlist to listen to through August while you have the kids home from school or whilst on one of those long road trips, or relaxing by the pool or on the beach! Introducing the iola magazine  bloom playlist.

iola magazine bloom

We love these songs by these artists and think they suit the themes of articles coming in iola but the inclusion of these artists in the playlist doesn’t suggest they have endorsed the magazine!

So if you have Spotify you can listen to this playlist here:

If you don’t have Spotify just search out these songs on your favourite player and create your own playlist – we are sure you will love them!