2018 was the year of growth. When we started out the year blissfully unaware of all the change that was about to occur and push us to be better versions of ourselves, we had no idea what we could accomplish or how at peace we would end this year. It was really the last 6 months of the year, God started to create a shift in our hearts.

This was the year God searched my heart, He saw where I spent and gave my time, my anxieties and struggles and He reminded me I was made for more than where I was at. He loved me too much to leave me there and I am grateful (now) for the pushes He gave me. I’m a number 2 on the Enneagram, which is “The Helper” — there’s definitely some accuracy, not every bit of it, but it was cool to learn about it. The unhealthy version of the Two is that they can be people pleasers. The problem with that, is that I felt pressure to say yes to things and people and when I said yes to those things, that made less time for me to focus on my marriage, truthfully myself and our home. That became a huge priority for me, especially in the last half of the year and I became unapologetic about it. God taught me I needed boundaries, I couldn’t be everything to everyone at all times and give the crumbs to myself, or my marriage. I had to show up fully and I had to let go of trying to help others, when they are on their own journey to figuring life out for themselves.

In the summer, more than a few of my family members were struck with life-threatening illnesses. That really set the tone going forward. I started to become a lot more intentional about where I put my time — learning and witnessing family struggle physically will do that to you. I wanted to place more of my time on less trivial things and give more to them in any way I could: supporting my family, praying, visiting, comforting and that trickled into my personal life and projects. What did I want to do with my time? I’ve always been pretty self-aware, but I would say there were still some things I was missing. I’ve never been too open about “serving” on here, because a) I don’t do it for credit or recognition and b) we should do our good deeds in private, knowing our intention is to not get the “applause” — we should all just do good. I just felt my spirit convicted that I needed to be responsible with the platform I have been given to raise awareness about issues close to my heart. They’ve always been there, and I’ve put my time and serving to these causes, but I wanted to be able to help them more with my platform. That for me was donating 10% of each sale of our clothing to efforts in ending homelessness in our city. I’ve briefly touched on this before, but I have a personal connection to this, as one of my family members lived on the streets for many years. He is now back in our lives (after suffering a stroke). It’s not my story to tell, but I can tell you it affected me deeply early on in my life and impacted me for years after. I shared more about this here. The other, was being able to share our work with World Vision Canada in a unique and fun way. Child sponsorship is something we’ve supported since 2015 when Neal and I got engaged. These are the projects I was really proud of this year. I wanted to really make a message about shopping with purpose. So much of what I do is sharing clothing, decor etc. (that’s available to you to purchase, if you need or are looking for pieces and I love being that resource) but I am also deeply aware of conspicuous consumption and that’s not something I wanted to push. My website is a resource for more things than just “shopping,” I hope when you come here you feel inspired by topics of faith, relationships, positivity, creating a loving home (not just a fancy coffee table), inspired to give back and serve, travel the world and see new things, and appreciate different cultures from your own.

Some of the intentions put in place for 2018 were the following:

x Making more time to pray for, visit and serve my family (the immediate little one I have: Neal & Lucy) and the extended one (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles etc). I am so grateful my grandmother is alive at 98 years old, and I’ve always been good about visiting her, but in busy seasons I would miss time and that was not okay with me. Make the time. Spend less time doing other distracting, non-life giving things (tv, phone etc.) and spend more time with the people who matter the most because we really don’t know how long we have with them.

x Setting boundaries with technology. I am on my phone/computer for work and that’s not something I wanted apart of my downtime (instead I wanted to read, visit family members in the hospital/nursing home, be present, go on a date with my husband, clean my home). I think it’s so easy to fall in a pattern of scrolling or binging on Netflix (we can all have a binge day, I’m not the Netflix police). My point is, if you don’t shape your relationship with technology it will shape you. I can’t say technology leaves me any more filled up with the good stuff, unless I seek out life-giving podcasts, blogs and inspiration, but it all comes with it’s limits. I let myself get way too distracted by technology this first half of this year (I think a lot of us do, more than we’d like to admit) and I found that when I set some boundaries in place I was able to create more, serve my community and causes that matter (rather than checking up on what everyone else was doing), feel lighter and rested. I frequently put my phone on Airplane mode and sometimes delete Instagram off my phone to have some breather time or to focus on projects (like our clothing line) and people who matter most (my husband and family).

x Setting boundaries with people. Like I said I’m a number 2 “helper” on the Enneagram and often felt like people would be upset with me if I didn’t show up or answer their every need. Guess what? The good people in your life will understand and honour that you have to take care of yourself. Saying “no” is totally okay. Taking care of yourself should not be a problem for people who truly love and support you. I can’t be everyone’s everything and I surely don’t feel the need to anymore. I’ve always admired this about Neal, and everyone still adores him! The “love” I get from other people should not be determined by what I do for them. This was a huge lesson for me, and honestly, released me of a lot of guilt and anxiety I was carrying. My anxiety can manifest into nausea and make me feel physically sick, so really, this is not a joke for me when I say I needed to take care of myself. People who truly care about you, your mental health and well-being will not be demanding or make you feel bad. I released myself and a lot of other people in the past who have hurt me when I realized that it was me who needed to have better boundaries. Everything in life is on you! Your happiness, contentment, disappointments etc. that is all on you. It might not be what you want to hear, but once you realize other people don’t have to be a certain thing for you, when you realize that you can control how you react to certain situations and respond to them authentically (while still being kind), that is when you can really have peace in your life. Now I feel God is saying to me, “now we can begin the work.”

x While I can talk about boundaries you need to set with people, I also think this was the year Neal and I wanted to pour into people the most. Everyone from the mailman, to family or friends God has placed in our lives, we really wanted to make sure we used our time and words wisely to breathe life into them. It’s not enough just to “be” in people’s lives, we really wanted to be a presence and a vessel for God to encourage and lift them. Invest yourself in people, look up from your phones and care to ask questions and answer thoughtful ones back to theirs. The people placed in your life are no mistake and that good word you bless them with could change their lives. Be open with others and wrap them in grace. More people need life breathed into them with positive words. There is enough complaining, whining and badgering people give one another and bond over on a daily basis.

x Strengthening our marriage. Neal and I have been together for 10 years and married for two. We got married, moved in and started working together full-time all within the same year (that’s a lot of change to throw on newlyweds). We came off a really hard year personally when we first got married (we had a lot of deaths in our families and there were other external things that occurred I won’t get into) but it was a lot. We also come from two different cultural backgrounds (with different faiths) and upbringings and created our own life together, with our own vision. We got baptized together in 2015 at a non-denominational church. Neal’s family is Sikh, and my family is Orthodox Christian. Our faith looks totally different than the ones we were brought up in. I am really proud of the relationship we have today, but it did not come without struggle or adversity. God really placed an importance on our connection this last half of the year. I am thankful we had resources and people to guide us through the challenges. I want to tell you all something: there is nothing wrong with seeking mentorship, guidance, counselling and prayer. We are meant to live in community, which ultimately builds up strong marriages (or at least should). I know for a lot of people, they turn to their friend or parent (and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that), but I truly believe that there are some things that are sacred and should stay between you two. Sometimes the best person that can help is a professional or a pastor. I am so grateful for the firm rock we stand on in Christ – it saved our marriage in many seasons of life (good or bad) and made it bear even more fruit. We are imperfect people: flawed, selfish, human and in our own flesh, trying to live in our spirit. I am so grateful God delivered us, strengthened us and put people in our lives to lift us up. It has been like a fresh drink of living water poured into our relationship. Our marriage is the most important thing to focus on because it’s the pillar of how we can serve our communities, family, friends and God-willing children one day. If our marriage isn’t strong, everything else suffers. That’s what we learned this year, and that will be a priority for us going into this new year as well. That means doing what is best for you as a couple, and not what everyone else expects of you.

I read this year, with great purpose comes a great preparation. I felt God preparing me for something during the launch of our clothing line, For Such A Time As This. I prayed this from Psalm 139:23-24 and boy did He ever do this (so watch what you pray for, haha): “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” It wasn’t easy to be searched, but I remembered that even though I have sinned and have made mistakes, I remembered who God says I am (and who you are, should you believe in Him).I am chosen, called of God, being changed into His image, forgiven of all of my sins, healed by His wounds and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Save this image as a wallpaper to your phone…

I want to tell you something. At times, I gave into the enemy putting guilt on my heart and let myself get anxious, but I fought it by listening to the Holy Spirit and the convictions put on me and what I needed to change, where I needed to grow and ultimately He delivered peace through that. Anxiety is really just me resisting change, and trust me, the devil doesn’t want to see you change or be a better person. He wants to hold you in fear and lies to keep you right where you are at suffering, to make you fall into a deep depression. God has not given you a spirit of fear and anxiety, but of love and of a sound mind. Peace is a promise Jesus always keeps – He did not say life would be perfect and there will never be trouble. He promises to give us peace while enduring all that is to come. So I don’t know what 2019 holds, but at this time, I feel total peace. I trust you Lord, and I commit my plans over to you for the year.

My word for 2019: TRUST

I am trusting God for many things, some I can’t share yet, but pray He will bring to fruition. There’s going to be a lot of trust required of me in this next season, but I know He is faithful. I trust my finances, life, marriage, health (my own and my family’s), businesses and every other part of my life with you Jesus. It’s yours. Not mine.

Wishing you all a happy new year! Thank you for being here, reading this blog, double tapping on my posts, commenting sweet words and writing me the kindest emails. Thank you for letting me share what I’m learning, and for teaching me things as well. I am so grateful for all of you and I pray blessings over each and every one of you reading this.

Love, Stephanie