Delicious drink makes excellent gift (or treat)

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My Sahlab order :)

My Sahlab order 🙂

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Names of God

This morning I finished my 30 Day Praise Challenge devotional but there were some extras at the end as well.

[If you’re interested, you can get the book on Amazon: 30 Day Praise Challenge by Becky Harling]

I blogged about a book I’d finished reading before, but this will be different because I’m not really reflecting on what I read, I just wanted to share it with you.

The first addition to the daily devotions was a list of the names of God. There were over 100 of them! I thought it was pretty cool, so I’m going to share that list with you. This can help in prayer, or else just be a reminder. *Note: Becky Harling divided the list into the names of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, but I will just share the whole list as one in alphabetical order. Also, any doubles were Names on multiple lists
Abba – Mark 14:36
Advocate – 1 John 2:1
Alpha and Omega – Revelation 1:8; 22:13
Author of Life – Acts 3:15
Blessed Controller of All Things – 1 Timothy 6:15 (Phillips translation)
Branch – Zechariah 3:8
Bread of Life – John 6:35
Breath of the Almighty – Job 33:4
Bridegroom – Luke 5:34-35
Christ, the Son of the Living God – Matthew 16:16
Consuming Fire – Hebrews 12:28-29
Cornerstone – Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6
Counselor – Isaiah 9:6
Counselor – John 14:16
Creator – Colossians 1:16
Creator – Isaiah 40:28
Deliverer – Psalm 70:5; Psalm 144:2
Deliverer – Romans 11:26
Desired of All Nations – Haggai 2:7
Eternal Life – 1 John 5:20
Eternal Spirit – Hebrews 9:14
Everlasting Father – Isaiah 9:6
Everlasting God – Isaiah 40:28
Faithful Witness – Revelation 1:5
Father – Isaiah 64:8
Father to the Fatherless – Psalm 68:5
Firstborn from the Dead – Revelation 1:5
Fortress – Jeremiah 16:19; Psalm 144:2
God Almighty – Genesis 17:1
God Most High – Genesis 14:18-19
God My Savior – Psalm 18:46; Habakkuk 3:17-18
God My Stronghold – Psalm 144:2
God of All Comfort – 2 Corinthians 1:3
God of Glory – Psalm 29:3
God of Peace – 1 Thessalonians 5:23
God of Peace – Hebrews 13:20-21
God Who Sees Me – Genesis 16:13
God, Forever Praised – Romans 9:5
Guide – Psalm 48:14
Head over Everything – Ephesians 1:22
Heir of All Things – Hebrews 1:2
Helper – John 14:16 (NASB)
Hiding Place – Psalm 32:7
High Priest – Hebrews 4:14
Holy One – 1 John 2:20
Holy One – Isaiah 43:15
Holy One – Luke 4:34; Acts 3:14; Revelation 3:7
Holy Spirit – Acts 20:28
Holy Spirit of God – Ephesians 4:29-30
Horn of Salvation – Luke 1:69
Husband – Jeremiah 31:31-32
I AM – Exodus 3:14
I Am – John 8:58
Image of God – 2 Corinthians 4:4
Immanuel – Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23
Jehovah Jireh (the LORD Will Provide) – Genesis 22:14
Jesus – Matthew 1:21; 1 Thessalonians 1:10
Judge – Psalm 75:7
King – 1 Samuel 12:12
King of Israel – John 1:49
King of Kings – Revelation 19:16
Lamb of God – John 1:29, 36
Life – John 14:6
Light – Psalm 27:1
Light of the World – John 8:12
Lion of the Tribe of Judah – Revelation 5:5
Living Stone – 1 Peter 2:4
Lord God Almighty – Revelation 15:3
Lord of All – Acts 10:36
Lord Who Heals – Exodus 15:26
Man of Sorrows – Isaiah 53:3
Mediator – 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 12:24
Messiah – John 1:41
Mighty God – Isaiah 9:6
Morning Star – 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:6
Nazarene – Matthew 2:23
One and Only – John 1:14, 18; 3:16
Passover Lamb – 1 Corinthians 5:7
Physician – Luke 4:23
Power of the Most High – Luke 1:35
Priest – Hebrews 5:6
Prince of Peace – Isaiah 9:6
Redeemer – Isaiah 54:8
Redeemer – Job 19:25; Isaiah 59:20
Refuge – Deuteronomy 33:27
Righteous One – 1 John 2:1
Rising Sun – Luke 1:8
Rock – 1 Samuel 2:2
Savior – Luke 2:11
Shepherd – Psalm 23:1
Shield – Psalm 18:2
Son of God – Matthew 27:54
Spirit of Christ – Romans 8:9
Spirit of Faith – 2 Corinthians 4:13
Spirit of God – Matthew 3:16-17
Spirit of Sonship – Romans 8:15
Spirit of the Lord – Judges 6:34
Spirit of Truth – John 14:16-17
Spring of Living Water – Jeremiah 2:13
Strength – Exodus 15:2
True Vine – John 15:1
Truth – John 14:6
Way – John 14:6
Word – John 1:1

 

Anyway, I hope you can be blessed by this list!

PS, in case you’re wondering what I will use for my daily devotionals next month, I have been stockpiling emails for a long time so I might go through those. They have reflections on verses, or on passages, or some specific messages such as “Girlfriends in God” and “Devotions for Students”
Becky Harling’s book also includes “Praising using the Psalms” and “Praising using Revelation” so I might use that.

Forty-Three. September.

Well, now August is quickly coming to an end and I want to share just a quick update on some things that have happened this month and some of the things that’ll happen next month.

As mentioned before, we went on two trips this summer; we spent one week on Round Lake with friends (and that’s where we celebrated my birthday) and then we spent a week in Cape Cod, Massachusetts with family and some other friends.

The first week was, unfortunately, kind of miserable. On Monday the weather was alright for swimming, so we did have a chance to enjoy the lake somewhat, but after that it was cold, and windy and rainy… We did have good company though so it was still nice to be out there, away from all the technology and noise.

And my birthday was nice because we had lots of people come to join us. It was the biggest party I’ve ever had for my birthday!

Then we drove down to Cape Cod. It was a long drive, and no, I didn’t help my dad… My mom is still uncomfortable with me driving so my dad had to drive all the way there! The weather was mostly nice almost all week so we got to enjoy a few beaches. We also had a bunch of fun activities planned.

Cousin, Uncle, Cousin, Me, Dad, Mom, Aunt *Photo credit to Leonid Gilman

Cousin, Uncle, Cousin, Me, Dad, Mom, Aunt
*Photo credit to Leonid Gilman

On Saturday and Sunday we were with my aunt, uncle and two cousins, as well as a friend of theirs and while we were mostly eating during those times when we could be together, it was very nice to see them again and catch up with each others’ lives. We had planned to go to an aquarium all together but one of them was closed for the day and the other one had gone out of business recently… so instead we watched some seals play around the men unloading their fish.

On Monday we went whale watching! That was an amazing experience. We’ve been to many aquariums and while it’s definitely nice to see the whole animal swimming under water through the glass, it’s different to get on a boat and go out into the wild to see whales swimming wherever they want! There’ll be an album for that posted later.

On Tuesday we went to Boston/Cambridge and we enjoyed our day so much, we want to go back to spend a few days concentrated there. 100_2821While in Boston we saw the New England Holocaust Memorial, which was beautiful, and I’ve posted a separate album for that. [*That’s one of the new things this trip inspired, instead of one huge album with over 1000 pictures to go through, I will try to break them down into themed albums as much as possible so that I go through my photos faster… I haven’t forgotten about my European pictures that I’ve yet to post.]

Another highlight from our trip was the Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich. Such a beautiful place there! They also have what I believe is a permanent feature there; a collection of classic cars. I don’t enjoy talking about “cars” much but these oldies were really amazing!! So much so, that I posted an album with 120 photos in it! [Yes, I did cut that down from the total.] So here you go, I’m pretty proud of this one: Classic Cars [There will be another album for the rest of the gardens]

One new thing our time in Cape Cod inspired was for me to post some random reviews. They would just be quick blurbs of my thoughts on restaurants, activities, books, movies, etc… whatever I can think of. There will be a separate page for these.

Anyway, it was an excellent trip!

In other August news, MY KEYBOARD IS FIXED! I had ordered a new keyboard online before we left, and it came sometime last week to my brother’s house, so yesterday we went to the shop and they installed it for me pretty quickly! They were so friendly and helpful – they’ll be getting a positive review [eventually] ! But more importantly, now I can type normally without hitting backspace every few seconds… but now I do need to break that habit too.

On to September news!

Well, as I talked about for August, I challenged myself to read one chapter of Proverbs every day, and I’ve been doing that, but I was also thinking about what I would do for the next month because I didn’t want my spiritual growth to stop after one month of daily devotional time. Today I got a link in my email for an ebook called The 30-Day Praise Challenge because it’s free on Amazon at the moment. I’m going to follow that for September I think, and we’ll see how that goes.

Obviously school is starting up again in September. It’ll be very strange for me because I’ve just spent a year in a totally different environment. It’ll be hard to get back into Journalism mode… I only have classes Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with Wednesday being my busiest day. In fact, I have pretty much all of Tuesday off, just one class in the evening.

With that schedule in mind, I applied to work at the daycare center on campus!

I’m very excited about the opportunity to supply there because that has been a dream of mine since I started at Carleton.

Anyway, I think that’s all I wanted to share with you guys right now.

I hope you all have some exciting changes coming up!

As always, know that I love you, but God loves you more!!

Be Blessed!

Forty-Two. Driving.

Contrary to its title, this post is not about driving.

This time, driving, specifically my journey with driving this past month, is an example, a testimony.

And just in case you didn’t notice, I didn’t have to start out by apologizing for not writing 😛

Anyway, what do I mean by my journey with driving being a testimony?

 

I’ve touched on this before, and many people have heard my story but I really want to post this so I can come back to it anytime, and maybe I’ll be able to encourage someone else with it too because I think the principle is applicable in other things in life.

As most 16-year-olds do, I went to get my G1 pretty much as soon as possible. Many people go the day of their 16th birthday, I waited four days.

[For anyone who doesn’t know how Ontario Licensing works, we have a graduated system. At 16 you are allowed to take a written theory test and provided you don’t make too many mistakes you earn your G1. (There is a handbook you can study too if you want, but most things are pretty common sense.) With a G1, you can start learning to drive. You can take Driver’s Ed if you want, you can take lessons and you can actually get behind the wheel of a car provided you follow some general restrictions. The thing is, your license will expire in five years and it is generally accepted that you get your full G license within that time. With Driver’s Ed, you can take your road test after eight months, if not, one year. Then you get a G2. In another year you take another road test and you get your G. Each level has fewer restrictions than the one previous. For more information visit: Ontario Ministry of Transportation or “Get a G Driver’s License” (or else use Google).]

I did think about actually driving a few times but “practicing” with my dad in a parking lot confirmed that I was not ready to be in control of something expensive that could cause damage to people or property or else be damaged itself. A nervous driver is the worst driver. Instead I just kept my Driver’s license so I could easily prove my identity.

So here I am, soon turning 21 [for those not following, 16 + 5 = 21] and I’ve been enjoying my ID [Driver’s Licenses seem to be the most widely accepted pieces of ID for everything] but it’s about to expire! It was expensive and I hate wasting money [even though I didn’t pay for it, thanks Dad!] so it was time to learn to drive and get my next license so I don’t have to start all over again.

The problem was, I had been too scared to drive for the first four years and in my last one, where I no longer had a choice, I lived in Belgium.

Coming back to Canada, at the end of June, I only had July and half of August before my license would expire. I had to learn to drive well enough to pass the road test in a month! [We already knew we’d be going away for two weeks in the middle of August and my license would actually expire while we’re in the States.]

I procrastinated on calling an instructor, I tried desperately to avoid driving with my dad, I didn’t even want to talk about cars.

And in all this, I haven’t mentioned God yet…

See, that was my problem.

I was thinking about myself and my fears and I was crippled because I told myself I couldn’t do it. I filled my head with negativity. I stopped myself from the possibility of success.

But when I was “at the end of my rope” – in this case meaning, I had no more time to fail at driving – I turned to God and I prayed more than I can remember praying for a long time. I was practically in tears confessing my fears.

It worked.

I pray a general prayer every night anyway, so I included pleas to the Lord to help me with my driving and every time before I sat behind the wheel I prayed an extra, special prayer for protection, for peace, for communication, for perfect conditions and anything else I could think of.

Eventually I got more comfortable, I practiced more and I as I calmed down, my driving got better. Coming back from a drive, I would thank God for being there.

Yesterday, Friday August 8th, I passed my G1 exit test!

I’ll be honest, in the days leading up to the test I felt fine. I felt confident enough and I figured there would be no reason for me to fail. But seconds before my tester came out to talk to me, I sat in the car and I started crying. I hadn’t realized I was that nervous.

I had to pray.

Throughout the month I had to be reminded through God’s Word that He has not given my a spirit of fear, that I don’t need to be anxious for anything, that He is my loving Father, my Provider, my Protector, my Peace, my All.

Listen, God is so faithful and so completely awesome! We can and should go to Him with all of our requests, big or small, serious or silly. He already knows what we’re thinking, but laying down our burdens, our fears, our needs before Him and asking Him to fill us with His spirit and His blessings makes such a huge difference!

I’m different now than I was a month ago not because I have a G2 driver’s license, but because I traded my fear for God’s peace [that surpasses understanding], I traded my negativity and worries for God’s loving promises.

And I want to encourage you to do that too.

No matter what’s going on in your life, bring that to God! He listens, He loves and He blesses you so much more when you press into Him.

God Bless!!

PS, That ended up being a lot longer than I expected, but the idea of being able to come to God with any and all of our problems, while it isn’t novel, is so important and through this challenge [well, challenge for me anyway] was really impressed on me.

PPS, On Monday, we’re going to a cottage, so no Wifi. I can promise I won’t post anything 😛 But I do have a post planned, so I will hopefully find time to write it and maybe it’ll be up on Friday? Aren’t you all just super lucky this month 😛

PPPS, Coffee with Rita has a Facebook page! One of the things on my “bucket list” is to have a following of strangers for this blog, because right now it’s mostly family and friends who read my posts, and while I appreciate every single one of them for their support, I would love it if this blog could spread out beyond people who do actually know me. So following, liking, sharing, commenting, recommending, etc., are all really helpful 🙂 Thanks!

Thirty-Seven. Challenges.

Recently, a friend emailed me and asked what God’s been teaching me while I’m in Belgium. I was a little worried because I thought I would have to write “nothing” but I didn’t want to give that as an answer.

Before I could even consider responding to him, I had about fifty other emails to send out because I’ve entered a time of sheer lunacy at school.

As an exchange student, the first 2-4 weeks of the new semester are very crazy. They say there’s lots of help available, but in reality, no one really wants to help you.

You’re left floundering in a sea of confusion, trying desperately to choose courses that satisfy the host school’s rules and also satisfy your home school’s program requirements. You also have to consider the amount of credits, the level of study, the language barrier, the pre-reqs, etc… It’s all such a headache.

On top of that there are other things going on in life too and it can quickly feel overwhelming.

If you’re someone like me, you’re used to having it all together, having all the answers and people relying on you for information and support.

You can’t really support others when you feel like you’re lost and drowning yourself.

But in the midst of all that, God is good! He is always good!

That’s what God’s been teaching me – “Rely on me; Trust in me; Lay your burdens down at my feet; Take rest in me, take courage, take heart. I AM your peace. I AM in control.”

It’s an incredible reminder that the Creator loves me despite or in spite of my failings, short-comings and imperfections.

I don’t always have to have it all together because He does. And sometimes us perfectionists really need a good kick in the bum to remind us that we’re human and imperfect.

No matter what happens with school, or work, or our social lives, God is sovereign, He is love and we don’t need to worry.

I want to encourage you that no matter what ridiculousness you find yourself stranded in, God knows exactly where you are, what you need and He knows the outcome too. He loves you and He wants you to lean on Him.

In other news,  this is one of my shortest posts ever I think. But more importantly, I spent two days in England last weekend. It was my very first time in the UK and it was very exciting!

And recently I’ve come to realize how common it is to have to dodge dog poo on the streets. It’s a daily struggle really… but it’s even worse when you’re trying to get home but have to consciously avoid large piles of dog poo, trees, construction and traffic… It’s actually quite terrifying. And very dangerous.

I also almost stepped in vomit on my way to school… But thank you, drunk person for, at the very least, taking a bus…

Thirty-Five. Transients.

Well first of all, a very belated happy New Year! Hope everyone had a good time over the break with friends and family, and I hope this year will be amazing 🙂

Sorry I haven’t written in forever, I was away and then I had exams and such…

So last time I told you about my trip to Paris and how nervous I was to be travelling alone. Turns out I was right all along, travelling alone kind of sucks. I think it’s good to do it once in your life, but mostly so that you can complain about it properly. Sure it’s nice to “be free” and do whatever you want to do, however you want to do it without really considering anyone else.

But I don’t need that kind of freedom. I’d much rather spend time with people I love, deepening already meaning relationships with people who’ll actually be a part of my life for longer than just the trip.

A lot of people really like travelling alone because they get to do and be and love and think about themselves… I’m definitely not like that. I missed having someone to share good times with, someone to make amazing moments even more memorable, someone to help me make decisions or to make suggestions, someone to reassure and comfort me if something went wrong. I missed having someone to hug before saying goodnight.

I felt pretty lonely while I walked the streets of Paris by myself. Sure, they were beautiful – it’s a gorgeous city – but there’s something special about sharing the sights. Sometimes I’d catch myself wishing I was back at my hostel sleeping, or on the internet trying to connect with someone I could talk to just to pass the time before I finally got home. But I had to remind myself I could be in a way worse situation… Sure, no one wished me a merry Christmas on the 25th… but I was in Paris! So I did make myself smile and enjoy my surroundings.

It still would have been more enjoyable with a friend.

And with less rain.

A lot of people like travelling alone because they feel like they meet more people that way. Maybe I’m just unlucky but whenever I’m on a plane, I’m either with my parents, next to an empty seat, next to someone who’s asleep or next to someone who doesn’t speak English – so plane rides are pretty lonely. I also don’t see many other people wandering the streets by themselves so I don’t have many opportunities to talk to and connect with other single travellers.

On this past trip (I’ll post the link to the album at the end of my post) I did get a chance to meet someone during a free walking tour of the city. I overheard two people talking behind me in line and the girl said she was Canadian. I decided we had something in common so I could insert myself into their conversation. Thankfully it worked!

Throughout the tour Sogal and I took pictures of each other and we chatted in between the guides stories, telling each other about our lives and how we ended up where we were [as a point of interest, she’s originally from Toronto but she now lives and teaches in London, England].

After the tour, Joe, the other guy we were talking to, had to leave to catch a bus or plane because he was leaving the same day. Sogal asked me if I had any plans and I said that I didn’t have any specifics plans. I had thought about going up to Montmartre but I couldn’t turn down the chance to walk around with someone – even if we were going to the same places I went to alone the day before.

Actually, it was kind of funny to hit the same sights as I had already passed the day before, but this time with a friend because it really solidified in my mind that travelling alone is awful. My second day in Paris was definitely more enjoyable than my first.

Anyway, Sogal and I walked around a lot, did some dangerous street-crossing (sorry mom!), had a lot of laughs and wasted far too much time for two people who would only be in Paris for a few days. Eventually we realized it was getting late and I had to leave early the next day to catch my plane, so we decided to get back to our hostels. Though we weren’t at the same hostel, we were actually just down the street from each other, so getting back was pretty convenient!

Anyway, we also wanted to get some dinner because we’d been on our feet all day (the tour started in the morning and we hadn’t sat down at all).

Why is it important to mention the fact that we went to eat together? Because something amazing happened and that’s really the point of this blog post.

We wanted to eat at Sogal’s hostel’s bar/cafe but the kitchen closed about half an hour before we got there (we were very late getting back) so we just went to the nearest McDonald’s. As we ate our burgers and fries, Sogal told me that Joe had been pickpocketed twice in Paris! Then she asked me how I’d feel about it and the conversation turned into our outlooks on life.

I told her I honestly don’t worry too much about my possessions because I believe in a God who loves me, protects me and makes sure everything I need is provided. Is it still possible someone will steal my stuff? Absolutely, but I can also be assured that I would survive such an ordeal. I told her I stay in hostels, bring my laptop and don’t have a lock to close it up in a cupboard somewhere but that I don’t think about it much… [If anyone’s interested, I’m not opposed to bringing a lock to a hostel, I just didn’t have one and I am opposed to wasting money. I’ve brought a lock back from Canada with me though, so I will have one from now on.]

I told her I would probably feel angry or upset at first, but I’d get over the anger pretty quickly and I wouldn’t really keep thinking about revenge or making sure I’m the one who brings the thief to justice.

Sogal was really surprised and really impressed by my attitude but she wasn’t entirely convinced and challenged me a couple of times. She said she was kind of the opposite and absolutely would want to make the thief pay.

Because I mentioned God in my reasoning she asked me a few follow-up questions about my faith but not before she added something I’ll never forget.

“I don’t usually talk about politics or religion or anything because it makes people angry or they get offended but I’m really interested in what you think. I want to know more.”

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (NIV)

“Always be prepared to give an answer”

A friend of mine mentioned in a Facebook chat a while ago that he was concerned about his speech. He said that other than with me, he rarely spoke about God. He said it made him kind of ashamed because whatever we’re most eager to talk about is most likely where our deepest passions lie.

I think he was right, but I didn’t quite realize how right he was at the time.

Thinking about my own life, I didn’t really pay attention to what I talk about most. I tend to talk a lot so I figured, sure I talk about God, but I also talk about Survivor or food and as long as I’m speaking in love those are all good things I think. But since I’ve begun actively reflecting on my speech I realize my two most talked about topics are children/babies/my job/my future plans for my life as they regard my own offspring and God.

I was pleasantly surprised.

So I was really happy Sogal asked me about what I believe and I was able to share with her even though it was probably too quick.

Sogal is one example of someone transient in my life. We meet transients all the time and often disregard the opportunity they present us. I will likely never meet Sogal again in my life, but at least for the brief time we spent together, I know she was told at least part of the Gospel. Even though I will likely never see or hear of her accepting Yeshua into her life, I planted a seed, or watered a seed and she heard the Good News. The rest is up to God.

Don’t be afraid to answer people when they ask you questions! I have a hard time evangelizing randomly because too often I’ve been met with, “I don’t want to talk about this,” or “I don’t care,” or an exasperated, “That’s great for you…” and I get the feeling people don’t like when Christians approach them. I don’t particularly like when people I disagree with come up to me with the sole purpose of telling me about their beliefs. If it comes up in conversation, that’s great, but if I’m reading, or studying, or checking my Facebook while I’m sitting alone on campus, I wouldn’t really appreciate someone coming up to me JUST to talk about their faith.

This is not to knock random evangelism, it really can work and it’s happened many times that there have been amazing results because someone was willing to talk to a stranger and engage them in a conversation about God, but it doesn’t really work for me.

So I wear my Messianic Seal of Jerusalem at all times and often people are curious about the symbol they don’t readily recognize so they are the ones to ask me about it. I try to make sure I’m always smiling and seem approachable so people who want to ask, feel like they can.

In fact, I wandered into a Christmas market on my first day in Paris and a man was selling some coated nuts and nougat. He called me over to his stall and offered me some samples. The treats were delicious and while I was standing there, and he was trying to sell me his products, we had a little friendly chit-chat going on. It was cold and I had my coat zipped all the way up.

I left without buying anything.

The next day, when I was out with Sogal, I started thinking about the nuts because they were so delicious! Since we went to all the same places I had been before, I told her about them and I said we should go find the stall again so she could try them. I also really wanted to buy some and bring them home for my family.

Eventually we did find the man and he recognized me right away! He was so happy I came back, he kept giving up free samples and he kept the conversation going with me and then he noticed my necklace. It was much warmer so I had my coat open.

He recognized the Jewish symbols and asked if I was Jewish and I was able to tell him, “Oui, mais…” [“yes, but…”] and I gave him a very brief overview of my faith.

It was a very short interaction but we’ll never know what those few exchanged words could turn into in that man’s life. Maybe he’d never heard of Messianic Judaism before and what I said would prompt him to look into it. Maybe he’d never met a friendly believer before and his outlook would change. Or maybe he forgot instantly and we’ll never know if he ever gave his life to Yeshua.

Either way, always be ready to give an answer.

That’s what I want to encourage you to do. Don’t be afraid to talk to people about what you believe. As long as you’re speaking in love and you’re not expecting them to agree with you right then and there, the conversation should be fine. It’s not your job to convert people – you can’t.

It can be hard to talk about God with family, for example, because if they do get offended [I wrote about being offended before] you don’t want there to be tensions. And for some, it can be hard to talk to strangers because you don’t want to seem annoying or pushy.

But transients are perfect to talk to!

Listen, everyone needs to hear about Yeshua, but it can be really hard to open up. It’s uncomfortable and our human nature is to shy away from uncomfortable things. If you really have a hard time sharing with people, try this first. The more you share, the easier it will become.

And when someone else is the one initiating the conversation, you’re golden! Go for it!

Anyway, I’m really tired. I’ve had a hard time falling asleep for the past three nights because of my exams. I’m glad I finally got back to my coffee breaks though 🙂 I have at least one more blog planned, (I had another one but I forget what it was now) so I want to promise I’ll write again soon… but we shouldn’t make promises we can’t keep. I’ll just say, be prepared for another post within the next week or so (hopefully).

Love you!
God Bless 🙂

PS, I almost forgot, here’s my Paris album 🙂 Enjoy!

Thirty-Four. Updates.

Well that plan failed. I had every intention of writing another blog post last month, I had an idea and everything, but life sometimes has a way of getting out of hand. I feel like I’m busy without being particularly busy… That didn’t make any sense.

Anyway, I’m sorry for the lack of posts, I’m sure you would love to read about my adventures here in Brussels.

For the most part, I find life is similar to life back home… on a general level. You know, you wake up (often before the sun comes up) and get ready for work or school, do what you do there and come home. There’s eating in between, wasting some time on the internet maybe and you have your hobbies. Or you have homework. Or maybe a report for work or something.

Some people have sports or special lessons a few nights per week.

Some people have date nights.

I didn’t have any of that back home, and I still don’t here. But I also don’t have as many demands on my time. So on a personal level, I’m much more relaxed here.

Back in Canada I had a lot of work to do for school and, being in Journalism, a lot of running around chasing stories. Here, I’m not studying Journalism so there’s none of that. They also evaluate very differently here, so the workload is different. Instead of tests and assignments throughout the year, most of my grades will be based 100% on the final exam. That’s very scary and I’m not a fan of this system.

For one course, we had a small bibliography assignment, a slightly larger but still small writing assignment based on the bibliography (due next week) and a final, oral exam. For my MA level course we have two written assignments (30% and 60%) as well as 10% participation.

But my other three classes all have one final exam. My grammar course exam will only have one question on it. (And two hours to answer that question.)

So in terms of homework throughout the year, I haven’t had any except reading.

I don’t have any job(s) while I’m here which is a nice break from the three jobs I had last year. Between supplying, tutoring and caring for kids on Wednesday mornings, I was busy. I also had a volunteer commitment every week having to prepare the slide show for church, and once a month preparing the bulletins.

It might not look like all that much really, but it certainly felt like it and, to be honest, I was kind of happy to have the opportunity to drop everything and get away. I felt really worn out.

Now I feel like I’m having fun because I get to spend time with friends (usually the guys I live with) and I get to relax and enjoy my time doing things that I like doing, like reading or writing or watching shows/movies.

And somehow, despite all this free time I supposedly have, I haven’t been travelling as much as I’d like (admittedly, I travel way more than the average person, but it’s less than I had envisioned for myself before I actually got here), and I definitely haven’t been writing as I thought I would.

In my mind, I’d have crazy stories to share on this blog, and I so wanted to write for the French department at Carleton, but for some reason, things didn’t go quite as I had planned. Sometimes it’s because I like the guys too much and spend a lot of time with them, sometimes it’s because I made other friends and want to go out with them and often I’ve found that I just can’t sit still long enough to write out coherent thoughts worth writing and sharing.

So I’m sorry.

But, now that I’m procrastinating from those writing assignments, I feel like putting out a little update on my life.

November 29th – December 1st/2nd, I was in Stockholm, Sweden for a friend’s birthday. What an amazing experience! Seriously, go up North sometime; visit a Scandinavian country! It was so beautiful. It was cold, yes, but so worth it!

My fingers were cold and it got too dark too quickly, so I couldn’t take as many photos as I normally would (only about 315 for three days) but here’s a small album with pictures of me and my friends: Tony’s Birthday in Stockholm; and here’s a much bigger album with pictures of the city, the harbor, the Christmas decorations, the buildings, the scenery: Stockholm.

It was really an incredible experience and there were so many memorable moments for us. The most important thing about travelling is who you’re with. That way, if something bad happens, there’s someone else there to make it easier to deal with, and if something good happens, there’s someone there to share it with. There were so many laughs throughout the weekend and no picture will ever be able to capture how much fun we had together.

Last week, I also had the chance to go with some students for a small unofficial tour of Brussels, but not just Grand Place where everyone seems to go. (For the record, we walked through it, but we didn’t really stop there at all except to gether the group together again.) We saw some beautiful places on our route, the Grand Sablon, the Petit Sablon, a big Synagogue, a beautiful church, and lots of lovely Christmas lights. It wasn’t quite as decorated as Stockholm was, but it was nice. We ended up in the Christmas market at Sainte-Catherine.

Here’s a small album from our walk: Christmastime in Brussels. It’s not very good because my camera really doesn’t like taking pictures in the evening, but there it is.

Now, we have one week left of classes for the semester so everyone’s working on final projects/assignments and preparing for exams in January. People are also really excited to go home for the holidays.

Originally, because of strange and complicated flights/connections/plans, I was supposed to leave Brussels on Dec. 26th to fly back to Canada via Paris and Philadelphia. Instead, now, I’ve booked myself a train ticket to go to Paris a couple of days early. I’ll be there for Dec. 24th and 25th and I’ll still be going home on the 26th.

It’ll be a challenge for me to travel alone because as much as I love travelling, and as much as I love Paris, I love people more. I like doing things with friends, I like talking and laughing and sharing moments with others. Alone, you can’t really do that so much… All my pictures will be selfies and those are never as good as pictures with friends and I won’t have any input as to what others want to do. I’ll be wandering the streets and getting lost all on my own.

As nervous as I am, I’m also kind of excited for what possibilities there will be for me. Sure, there’s potential for loneliness, but maybe I’ll feel more confident and independent and I’ll end up meeting some wonderful people! Who knows?

Anyway, I think that’s about it for now. I do have a new project I’m working on, but it’s a secret. The only reason I’m mentioning it is because it might take away from writing here. But considering I haven’t been writing regularly anyway, maybe you guys wouldn’t even have noticed.

We’ll just have to see where life takes me.

God Bless you all!

See you soon, Canada!

Thirty. One Week In.

So I’ve been here for a week now. And a day, but you know, doesn’t count.

I talked about the important things I still had to do in my last post, and I said I’ve already registered at school, but they don’t have class registration, so I still have to figure out what to do about a schedule. They have “JANE” on the 12th (Journée d’acceuil des nouveaux étudiants) and faculty orientation on the 17th, so hopefully I’ll figure out all the last details.

I’ve also ordered a SIM card so I’ll have cell service really soon. It’s actually amazing here because my “plan” costs 9 euro/month, no contract, 120 talk minutes and unlimited texts!

I also had some bank and school things to deal with back home, but that seems to be taken care of now too. So, since I have no more tasks to complete, I have nothing to do.

It’s nice to have this time of freedom though, so I can relax before school starts. Instead of doing useful things, I’ve watched two seasons of New Girl. For those who don’t know what that show is, it’s about a girl who moves in with three guys. That’s my living situation too, but I’m sure my life will be nothing like her’s. It was a funny show though.

I’ve also now uploaded seven new albums to Facebook from my vacation with my parents.
Links: Aachen, Cologne/Koln & Bacharach, Burg Eltz, Beilstein & Cochem, Brussels, Clervaux, Trier & Burg Satzvey, and Maastricht & Gemund-Schleiden.

Wow, this is my thirtieth legitimate post and I feel like I don’t have much to tell you. I have a lot of individual stories I could share, but they’re short and not connected.

Story One

One time, while I was walking home, a couple stopped me and asked me, in French, if I spoke English. I said yes, but they kept talking to me in French. The guy also asked me if I spoke Chinese but then started laughing and I said no and he said something that sounded like he didn’t really mean to ask that… We also talked about Celine Dion and Garou, and they wished me a good school year and an easy move/transition.

Story Two

So far, everyone that I’ve talked to has been really friendly and willing to help. We noticed this on our vacation too – especially when we first came to visit Brussels. We weren’t sure about parking so we asked two old ladies. They didn’t drive though so they told us to asked the butcher. The butcher helped us too, but while we were looking for the store he told us about, we saw another old lady. She was so wonderful and friendly because she explained how the parking worked, gave us her blue Brussels parking pass and gave us directions.

We also stopped other people on the street on a couple of occasions to ask for help, and we were always greeted with a smile.

Story Three

One time, when I needed to make some photocopies of some of my documents for the local authority, I walked down the street to find a copy shop. I walked into the first one I found. It literally said “Fax, Copy and Telephone” on the windows and sign, so I thought that’s where I needed to go. I explained to the man in French what I needed. He answered me in English and said they don’t do that there, I have to go next door to the night shop – which is closed until later in the evening, hence the name “night shop”

My question is, why have “copy” written on your store if you don’t do that…

Anyway, I found a different shop a little further down the street and that was fine.

Story Four

On another of my walks I needed to go to the bank to sign some papers. I knew the way so I just started in the right direction but eventually I realized I either missed a turn somewhere or else I walked right past the bank entirely. Instead of turning around, or asking for directions I took the first right I could and walked to the next big street. I turned right again and felt really lost because I couldn’t find any street signs. Eventually I found where I was supposed to go and found the right street to turn right on again. I made a really long, really silly loop. When I left the bank to go home, I realized I really did just walk right past it the first time because it’s literally a straight line down the street…

Story Five

On one of my first days here, I walked into a “snack” place (like a deli or a sandwich shop) and I was studying the menu. The lady behind the counter asked me what I wanted and I looked at her, turned red and explained that I didn’t want anything… I had just moved in so I was looking around and checking the prices. I told them I’d be back and they thanked me… but I still haven’t gone back.

Story Six

The very first time I tried to leave the house, I wanted to test my key before I accidentally locked myself out. so I had the door open and I tried to work the lock. It wasn’t working so I thought, “maybe the door needs to be closed for the lock to work.” So I stepped outside and closed the door. Before I even locked the door, I tried to open it and get back inside, but it automatically locks as soon as the door shuts. That was really scary, but I had a key right, so no problem… Well the key didn’t work.

So I thought I might be able to find a way in through the back… no dice, there’s no access to the backyard. A neighbor opened his front door to smoke so I tried to ask him if he knew Christine, my landlady, and he said no. So I walked some more, I grew more panicked and finally I stopped in the middle of the street and prayed really hard over the keys and the lock. It didn’t work so I prayed again and tried to calm down and finally, the door opened! That was a really scary experience though, and from then, I always carry phone numbers with me so I can call someone if I need help.

Story Seven

When you hear the front door making intense creaky noises at midnight, and you’re alone in the house – that’s really scary. I was lying in my bed, reading before going to sleep and around midnight someone was at the front door trying to get in. It sounded like they were trying to break in. It was actually one of my housemates, Leo, and his key is harder to use than mine is.

Here’s a quick update, I’m not alone in the house anymore! Marc moved in on Friday (that’s why Leo had to break in the night before) and it’s really nice to know there’s another human in the house with me. Leo went back home, but he should be back probably Wednesday-ish and I think he’ll be staying then. Stan will also be back soon I think.

Next weekend I plan to go to Brugges with some friends, so that should be nice.

It’s actually pretty weird that these friends are here. When we first moved to Nepean way back 13 years ago, I was friends with a girl named Sarah. We were friends throughout grade school but then kind of grew apart and lost touch. We never really stopped being friends, I guess, we just stopped hanging out, but kept each other on Facebook. Anyway, I’m also friends with her sister and around the time I posted that I’d be moving to Brussels in August, they also posted that they’d be moving to Belgium because their dad works here.

Seriously, who goes to Belgium?!?!? So anyway, I’m very lucky to have them close-by. It’s really comforting to know that if I really need something, they’re around to help me out 🙂

I think that’s about it for now…

Oh, as I’m writing this, it just started to rain outside! I was promised a lot of rain in preparation for moving here, but instead it’s been a ridiculously intense heat-wave all week. Now it’s finally raining!

Thanks again for everyone who loves and supports me, and prays for me back home. All your thoughts and well-wishes are really helping me stay positive and feel less alone.

God Bless!

Twenty-Nine. Getting Here (Post-prep)

I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner, I’m very easily distracted.

I was reading over my last post and I noticed I didn’t write anything about packing… probably because I wasn’t done at that point.

Well obviously that’s in the past – but I can tell you this, I was very lucky.

Before officially coming to Belgium, I was on vacation with my parents for two weeks. The first week we spent with family, and even my brother came, so between our stuff and presents, we could bring four large suitcases out of Canada.

That was really handy since I took up more than two all by myself. One was for [mostly] just parents’ stuff and one was full of presents for our friends and family in Belarus. My brother took his stuff in a carry-on because he didn’t have very much.

Then, between my parents and I, we had six available carry-ons (three suitcase types, and three “personal items”). Well, who’s going to tell a lady her purse is “too big” to be a personal item… Anyway, I had my own stuff and one of the carry-ons my parents brought was also filled with my stuff.

The reasoning was that I’d be living here for 10 months…

Now my reasoning is that I don’t want to do laundry, so I’m glad I have lots of clothes that I can go through!

Mostly I packed clothing, shoes and toiletries, but I didn’t bring something I now wish I had made room for…

Back in first year of university, when I lived on res, I brought tons of physical family photos and I taped them all over the walls near my bed.

I wasn’t even far from my family, and I went home every weekend, but it was nice to see them, and to personalize the space.

It was also a good way to talk about my family to other people because I could point to the people I was talking about, or even remember the actual circumstances of the picture.

Now, I don’t have that…

But I have plenty of empty wall space which I could have filled up with pictures of people I love.

One more note about packing, people will tell you not to pack too much because you’ll buy clothes once you get here and leave with more than you came with, but I’m on a budget here. The priorities for where I spend my money are rent, food and necessities for school – not clothes! Anything extra will be for entertainment and memory-making.

On to things that are not packing-related.

As excited as I was for this opportunity, it’s still hard to leave all your friends and family back home and come to a new country, with a new language and a new culture all by yourself. Having never experienced it before, I didn’t know what to expect, and while I’m still happy to be here, it’s tough.

I’m incredibly blessed back home, surrounded by people who love me, but here, at least for now, I’m alone and it’s kind of boring. There’s no one to talk to, no one to visit or explore with and no one to share anything with… Thank God for the internet!

Skype has been really useful to talk to friends and family wherever they are in the world and now I’m back to writing here. I share pictures on Facebook (and I’ll add the links here for those who don’t have Facebook so you can see the albums too). Email is a great way to stay connected, and regular mail exists too. It was so nice to come home on my second or third day alone and see a postcard for me from Canada!

Speaking of posting letters, I have some postcards to send home, but everything I’ve read makes the posting system seem complicated and inconvenient. I think I might have passed by a post office on one of my walks, but it might be a challenge to find it again 😛 Hopefully I’ll get this sorted out soon enough.

As I mentioned, I’ve been walking a lot. This serves a few purposes; one, to save money; two, to learn a little bit about where I actually live – this really helps me to feel more at ease and ultimately more at home; and three, it doesn’t hurt to lose a little weight/take in some sun.

I’ve had quite a few important things to do as well. I’ve registered at school (classes start on the 16th), I’ve registered with the local/communal authority (an officer still needs to come to my house and I need to wait for my ID card in the mail), and I’ve set up a bank account.

Eventually I’ll set up something with my cell phone… if I can find a place around here.

And soon enough, school will start so I’ll have some kind of routine. At the moment, it takes less than 25 minutes to walk to school (though this will depend on which building I’ll have to go to) and it seems like all my classes are two hours, from 8 am to 10 am on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays and two classes a little later on Wednesdays. That seems pretty manageable 🙂

I don’t want to guarantee those times though because they don’t have class registration here, and everything’s a little complicated so nothing is certain until you’ve been doing it for a few weeks.

Anyway, some other general impressions include cute houses all over the place! But also a lot of public urination because public bathrooms cost money… I think it’s cruel to charge people to use the bathroom.

I’ve seen a lot of hairdressers here too. Way more than necessary.

And just today I caught myself walking with my head up and smiling, but I thought about it, and I’m not sure why. Is it something I’ve noticed people here doing so I want to fit in and make a good impression? Maybe. But I’ve also seen a lot of people who don’t do that at all. Am I just trying to make myself feel better because smiling release endorphins? I don’t know…

One thing’s for sure though, I’ve greeted a lot more people here than I normally do at home. And everyone I’ve spoken to has seemed genuinely friendly.

Anyway, I think that’s all for now. I’ll try to post updates more regularly. Also, watch out for French posts. I was asked by the French department at school if I’d be willing to write some short blogs in French about my experiences here, and I did, so I’ll send those to Carleton, but also post them here 🙂

So far, I have an album of my house here: New House
and an album of plants/flowers here: Flora
(I know it’s a big album [200 photos] but some of them turned out really well and look almost professional)

So for now, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy my updates from Brussels!

Until the next time I sit down and make myself write, God Bless! Love you all ❤

Twenty-Six. Tears.

This post is long overdue. It’s about something I noticed at work, but the event happened a few weeks ago.

Anyway, for anyone who has, works with, or had ever been around kids, you know they cry for a variety of reasons. Usually (at work anyway) they cry for silly reasons like, “Wait your turn, let your friend play with it for five minutes.” or “Is it nice to hit your friends?” Sometimes they cry because they miss mommy and daddy, which is perhaps more legitimate than those other two (not getting their way or getting in trouble) but since you know they’re safe and all their needs are met, it’s not a cry that truly registers. And sometimes they fall or bump into something and cry from pain or shock.

But a cry from terror – now THAT registers.

We had a fire alarm go off just after nap one day and seeing some of the kids cry because they were scared was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve seen in a long time. I almost started crying.

It made me think about tears, fears, strength and compassion in ways I’d never really thought of them before.

Particularly tears.

Tears are such strange things. According to Wikipedia there are three categories of tears. There are also different triggers for tears. And there are different interpretations of tears too – like social acceptability dependant on gender/age/situation. I don’t want to get scientific about tears though. The triggers are what I find interesting, as well as the benefits (or consequences) of crying.

A lot of people can tell who is crying by the sound. I found that while I can’t necessarily place a child with a particular sounding cry, the sound and the visual together indicate why the child is crying and elicit different responses – ones I don’t consciously control.

It reminded me of the most common reasons I might start crying (and I happen to do that a lot). Often I laugh too hard. Sometimes it’s because I’m watching some emotional movie or something. And other times I’m remembering something particularly sad, like the death of my grandparents. Rarely, I cry from the pain of my headaches/migraines.

Another reason I cry sometimes is from stress/anxiety. I’ll over-think things sometimes and start freaking myself out with possibilities whether past (could have/would have/should have) or present (what-ifs).

Whatever the reason for crying (though less-so with the positive reasons), crying has always seemed healthy to me because it’s a physical release of something you might be feeling and it can really help you heal or overcome whatever is bothering you.

If I hadn’t cried over my grandparents’ deaths, I might still be shaking on the inside to this day.

There’s a beautiful song by Laura Story called Blessings and some of the lyrics talk about tears:
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
The ‘You’ she is referring to is God.

In the most challenging times I’ve faced in my life I often try to be “strong” and just talk through the problem without crying but alone in my bedroom at night, I can’t sleep, so I pray. I just lay it all out for God – who already knows what I’m going through but listens anyway – and I start crying uncontrollably. Then I feel better.

It’s amazing how quickly letting negative emotion or negative thoughts flow out with my tears can help. Crying can bring peace and calmness in very trying situations.

So I encourage you to cry out to God. Maybe you’re a man and you feel like “real men” don’t cry… Well to God, you’re another child of His and He sees your pain even if you’re not willing to admit it or show it to anyone else.

Time and time again my closest friends remind me that crying is healthy and it can heal. I truly believe that’s true. I also believe tears are more powerful than we give them credit for.

Anyway, I just wanted to share some thoughts I had about tears with you all – I don’t know if that’s something people ever talk about.

This seems like a shorter post than usual. That’s probably not a bad thing.

Remember He loves you and He can deal with your tears so cast all your troubles, worries, fears, problems and emotions at His feet, come to Him as a small child would go to their parent and cry until you feel better.

You can also cry from laughing too hard because joy is beautiful!

Thank God for the emotions He gave us and for the ways in which we can express ourselves.

So, as usual, I hope God Blesses each and every one of you abundantly.

PS: I GOT MY BELGIAN VISA! It came last week, no questions, no problems! I was a little worried – but more about that in my next exchange prep update, which should be my last one because at this point, I only have one step left (finding somewhere to live).