Forty-Nine. I’m not dead!

As I often must, I’ll start with an apology. It has been over two months since my last post. I knew November would be hectic and I knew I’d likely not post anything, but I had so many ideas for December…

Anyway, that’s in the past, I got busy, I’m sorry.

So what have I been up to? Well school mostly.

I had a tough semester, and I felt very busy throughout the entire 3 1/2 months.

But I finished surprisingly well.

I know it was God blessing me far beyond what I deserve because I know what I was like on those final assignments and my exam… I was there, but only as a shell. I did work hard, but I was so tired, conventional thinking would suggest that I shouldn’t have been able to perform.

I also know I wasn’t alone in that boat though. Many, if not all, students feel completely exhausted by the end of a semester. They’ve come to the end of their abilities. I’m so thankful I didn’t have to rely solely on my own abilities.

When I’m in a tough spot with school work, I always pray that God would give me peace. I ask that He would help me remember the things I already know. I ask for favor with whoever will be marking my work as well. But mostly I thank Him that no matter the outcome, I am loved, I am valued and that I’m not defined by academic success – it doesn’t change who I am.

But not all students turn to God in those times.

I would encourage everyone to do that, not just students but anyone going through any kind of trial.

Anyway.

Back in August I decided to pay more attention to my daily walk with God. I realized that at 21 I’m responsible for my own choices, my own actions and I would be held accountable for my own relationship with my Creator. I couldn’t ignore Him but expect to grow and learn and change…

As often happens with resolutions, I was strong for awhile, but eventually I stopped being so intentional.

For two months I read and wrote nearly every day but I don’t have many reflections in my notebook from October. I still read, but not as often and not carefully.

Then I decided to follow along with Calvary – the new church I started attending in September – reading one chapter of the Bible every day, starting in Genesis and going right through. I started in Joshua.

I have definitely noticed an incredible increase in the ways in which God blesses every area of my life.

I can only attribute this to intentionally pursuing a deeper relationship with Him.

Since then, I’ve also added another part to my daily devotions. “Coffee with God,” a daily devotional by Sarah Arthur, has been a great way to start my time with the Lord by giving me something to think about. She writes her thoughts on something and I can respond in my own journal.

I’ve really loved spending more intentional time with God.

In other news, Church on Wednesday, a new initiative that started in September at the University of Ottawa was hugely successful, and this semester they’ve started Church on Thursday as well, at Algonquin College. I’m very excited about both of these chances to meet with other believers and to worship the Lord in public ways on post-secondary campuses where perhaps God hasn’t been welcome.

Basically, my life looks like classes Mon-Wed, and going to church four evenings a week, Wed-Sat.

I love it!

One time, back in either first or second year, I was challenged to think about how I spend my time. There are only so many hours in a week (168, thanks Google!) and some things are unavoidable. People need to sleep (I’m told there’s a hoped-for six hour minimum) people need to eat… and people need to be people (ie, bathroom times and other hygienic things, time to just be, time to move (and other transportation/commuting), time to think, etc). For students there’s also a minimum of in-class hours and of course time for homework, studying, or in the case of journalism students, running around the city interviewing people! (The alternative would be people who work instead of go to school.) Then there are also other commitments or volunteering things people might be involved in and of course hobbies… etc.

With so many demands on our time, it can be hard to see how God fits in. That’s why many people are content with going to church once a week and they feel good about their block of time so that God makes an appearance for like three hours during their week.

The challenge to me was, if we say we love God so much, if we say we shouldn’t compartmentalized Him and put Him in a “church-only” box, but that He should be present in every part of our lives, if we say we owe Him everything… then why does He only get three of our 168 per week? Now some people do a little better and will hopefully find one hour each day to spend time alone with God (although that was sorely lacking in our little experimental survey of the students at the table).

I realized that I didn’t want that life.

Knowing that God desires to spend time with me, I really wanted to get to know Him more, to let Him into more of my life.

That’s why I’m trying to get involved. That’s why I’m trying to be intentional.

It’s not easy.

It’s not something I can do on my own.

And I’m not perfect, so it’s not something I can promise to achieve 100% all the time.

But thankfully there is grace in Him.

There is forgiveness in Him.

There is LOVE.

All I can say is that I’ve been so blessed. I’m discovering things in the Bible I thought I knew but hadn’t read in so long, or, in some cases, hadn’t read at all myself. I certainly feel like I’ve grown and leaned and changed for the better.

I often talk about part of my transformation occurring in throughout first and second year of university, but does God ever stop working on us? Has He ever completed His work on someone and left them to wander the earth as seemingly perfect creatures? I don’t think so! When He’s done working in us, He calls us home!

So while I’m still here, every day of my life is a living testimony of His goodness, of His love, of His healing, of His transformation, of His restoration… He is constantly at work.

But He can’t work if you won’t let Him in.

He can’t work if you reject Him and push Him away or enclose Him in a box.

You need to open yourself up to Him in all areas. You need to let Him have your time and your heart. He needs you to want Him, so that He can meet you and begin to better you.

I don’t know if that can help anyone… I mean, who am I to share this kind of stuff?

All I can do is share my story, my experience… All I can do is encourage each person to make good choices. God is always the right choice, the best choice.

That’s all for now friends. Hopefully it won’t be another two months before my next post.

God bless!

Forty-Eight. Recovery

I had a goal to write two posts per month. I like fulfilling my promises.

Well, October has been intense.

I’ve had so many assignments, and an increase in my own activities that it’s been hard to keep up. I slept a lot less, I was home a lot less, I lost track of time, but I had a lot of fun too!

I started going to a new church about two months ago and I decided quite quickly that I like it. The people are great, it’s nice to be with more young adults and there are lots of kids!!

That’s probably my favorite thing about this new church, that I’m able to serve God by doing what I love and what I was called to do.

Last week was my first time helping out. It was hectic because it was an”extended service” so we had more kids than usual, for longer than anyone’s used to. There were a lot of new faces, including me as a new teacher/helper. It wasn’t perfectly smooth, but everyone survived and we all had a good time.

My TV class has also been keeping me very busy. My partner and I have to co-ordinate with each other and whoever we’re filming to get enough material for our pieces. It’s been fun, but also stressful.

My other classes are labor intensive too. I’m in a fascinating literature course, but I have to read tough books in French pretty quickly. And do the essays. My political science course is really reading-focused, as well as having essays to write and a group presentation to plan. And my other journalism course started out as one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had to deal with.

It might not sound so bad – we all had to write a 500-600 word story every two weeks for a community newspaper – but with the number of people working within our particular constraints, it was a lot harder than anyone expected! There was a collective sigh of relief when that weight came off our shoulders. [The semester was split into two parts, and for us, the practical aspect came first, so we’re now in the ethical part of the course.]

I’ve tried to spend some quality time with friends too, and of course some down time to remember to relax every once in awhile. I went to a butterfly exhibit on campus with two girlfriends and I have been spending an awful lot of time at Shawarma Palace with all the new friends I’ve made in the last two months (at least 50 new people) as well as a few house parties.

Between life, those classes, the new church, Church on Wednesday (a new gathering that started in September to have a church service and fellowship time mid-week) and social stuff, I’ve also gotten more involved in some activism for causes I believe in.

I care a lot about life.

Everyone knows I love children, but I’m also passionate about saving the unborn. So this month I participated in a beautiful display on Parliament Hill to plant 100,000 pink and blue flags. The lawns looked gorgeous, but it was also a very sad display because each flag represented and aborted child. It gave me a lot of hope too though because there were so many young people there!

Flag Display, Parliament Hill. Photo from ARPACanada, via Facebook

Flag Display, Parliament Hill.
Photo from ARPACanada, via Facebook

 

Tomorrow I’ll be participating in a campaign called “40 Days for Life” by praying silently outside an abortion clinic.

I’ve also been doing a lot of reading on pornography, another cause I care about.

I’ve started a special initiative, for myself but anyone can join me, about bus prayer. I waste a lot of time riding the bus everywhere (I’ve been finding myself downtown way more than I’d like to) and some people talk kind of loudly about various things in their lives. Whether they’re chatting to neighbors or on the phone, you don’t have to be listening intently to hear about their struggles.

I don’t know anyone names and I don’t bother them but I make a mental note to pray for them when God opens my eyes, ears and heart to understand their brokenness and pain. One woman, I call her the purple-haired girl, was telling her friend about a trusted friend who raped her at a party and how seeing him still made her uncomfortable and brought back painful memories. Other girls were talking about a secret abortion clinic operating in what looks like a Curves gym/store.

So I pray for these people.

In all of that busyness I do get tired but I try to focus on bringing glory to God in all that I do.

Sometimes though, it can be hard to recover. Either by going from an extremely relaxed atmosphere to a fully packed one, or vice versa.

I feel that that has happened to me.

Last year, while I was in Belgium, the school system was very different and I didn’t have assignments or readings throughout the year. So it was very relaxed. I also didn’t volunteer and had far fewer responsibilities.

This year, starting in September, I was thrown into a very stressful and busy school year as well as getting myself involved in all kinds of things.

Neither extreme is really good, and both have positives and negatives to them.

But the recovery is tough.

there are all kinds of recoveries we might have to go through in life. After a surgery or illness there’s a recovery period. After travelling there’s a different kind of recovery period. Sometimes it’s easy, like switching time zones, for me. But sometimes it can be incredibly difficult, and even disheartening.

After medical issues, the best tool for recovery is usually time. [I hear laughter helps too.]

But sometimes you don’t have time to make an adjustment when your life takes a dramatic turn and changes quickly from one pace to another.

You hit the ground running and you have to catch up with yourself but you can feel your feet flying out from under you!

Throughout any period though, one thing remains constant.

God.

He loves you.

No matter what you’re going through, whether you’re busy or completely relaxed, whether you’re feeling 100% healthy or even if you know you’re dying, He is there, He loves you and He is the only One you can count on.

I needed to call on Him for strength and stamina, for focus, for time-management, for confidence, and for grace if/when I might fail.

You can too.

Whatever you  might be recovering from, whatever you might be going through, don’t do it alone.

I hope this can be as encouraging to someone as it was and is for me.

God bless!

Twenty-Seven. Thoughts.

As per my previously, accidentally, established pattern, this should be an exchange prep post – but it’s not because basically all the prep is done and there hasn’t been any change since the last time I mentioned apartment hunting really. I’ll mention it briefly later, but in the interim I felt like I’d tell a friend some general thoughts about things.

It’s also been almost a month since my last post and I know some people – though just a few – actually enjoy reading my posts and gaining some insight into my life 😛

Perhaps you are feeling some caffeine withdrawal.

Anyway, July has dragged on for me. It’s been a very slow month and I think it’s mostly because I haven’t been working. Also, nothing exciting has happened so I’ve had no specific inspiration for a new post.

Why haven’t I been working? Well, it’s a long story…

Basically, there was some confusion at work about my shifts because back in June I was told that I couldn’t cover one coworker’s two-month vacation since I would be gone for one of those months also. July was looking pretty bleak at that point because I only had one week booked for the whole month.

Then, I was called into work for the last week of June, and again for the first week of July in the same room. There were rumors that I was actually scheduled for the entire month! But no one from the office had approached me so on Friday I asked if I should come back on Monday. They confirmed that yes, I was indeed booked for the whole month. (This meant I couldn’t work the original one week I had been given back in June though.)

I showed up on Monday to see another supply teacher in the room and I was greeted with confusion in the office. Eventually they sent me home due to accidental over-booking and told me they’d “play it by ear” and call me if I was needed.

I actually called them on Tuesday, and again on Wednesday, then they basically told me to stop calling because they would call me. They never did.

Then, I had to email my boss a request for a separate issue but I thought I’d ask about the week I had before – to see if I could still work there.

She responded that my “heart isn’t in it” so I wouldn’t be receiving any more shifts for my remaining month of availability.

It would have been enough to tell me I wasn’t needed or I simply wouldn’t be getting any shifts – a simple “no, we booked someone else for that week” – but that comment felt like a huge slap in the face, like she’d spit on me or rubbed salt in my wound.

I felt so underappreciated at that moment. I started to cry.

People who know me really couldn’t understand the logic that led to that conclusion at all because no one knows anyone who’s more dedicated and more passionate about work than I am. I’m always excited to go to work, I love to tell stories about my job and I come home with a smile. I definitely put my whole heart into loving those kids and doing my best to help them grow and develop.

Oh well.

It’s been a few weeks since then, I still think it was a silly thing to say, but I was called in three times – twice before the email though – and even though two of those shifts were short ones, I really enjoyed being back at work. I also chose to remain positive and joyful.

On the whole, July has been extremely uneventful. My newfound free-time couldn’t be filled with friends because anyone I like that’s still in Ottawa does have a job so we couldn’t hang out.

There’s also been no improvement on the accommodation issue for when I move to Belgium.

By the way, I’m leaving in about 15 days and I don’t know where I will live. I found an excellent place but they stopped responding to me.

It’s a house owned by a non-profit organization, it’s a 15 minute walk to my school, the rent is actually affordable and there would be six other students living there too! The only “catch” is that I’d have to agree to work together with the other tenants to complete a project for the organization but Arc-en-ciel is an organization that works with children, so it would actually be a perfect fit for me!

But, I’m very hindered in house-hunting since I don’t live anywhere near Brussels and can’t physically meet people. No one seems willing to take up my offer of a Skype date and I’ve been met with quite a bit of inflexibility.

Amazingly enough, I’m very calm.

Growing up with my family, our vacations were always pre-planned and everything was already decided months in advance. The accommodations, the transportation, the entertainment, everything would be planned ahead of time, but here I am, about to go off on a crazy adventure and I don’t know where I’ll be sleeping.

The “old man” (woman) would definitely be crying and ripping her hair out, but somehow, I’m overcome by patience and peace that surpass understanding. That’s from faith in a loving, Heavenly Father who provides everything I need.

I know this trip is from Him and if He wants me there, I’d better go no matter what obstacles are in the way. It might not line-up with the timing I’d prefer, but I know He will provide an amazing place for me to live.

I still want and hope for the house I talked about, but maybe if I keep waiting on Him, He’ll show me something even better I just haven’t found yet.

Hopefully this caffeine-fix has been a good one. Maybe you can be encouraged by my positivity. Faith in God is truly a wonderful gift, and I’m so thankful I responded to God’s call in my life. I can’t imagine where I’d be or what I’d be doing/thinking/feeling if I couldn’t lean on Him.

Well, that’s about all I have to talk about for now.

As always, thanks for reading! God bless you!

PS. I want to add a prayer request section to my blog. I’m not 100% sure how it’ll work yet (if at all), but I would love to provide you all a way to ask for prayer (anonymously) and I could even post the requests for other readers to pray about too.

PPS. People ask me a lot if I’ve started packing or not yet, and just in case you wanted to know – no I haven’t. I wrote a list of everything I want to bring way back in probably April, but I still have to live in Canada for the next two weeks and living here requires clothing so I can’t pack up 10 months worth of life just yet.

Thirteen. Life and Death.

What can I say, I have failed miserably in both my blog and my YouTube vlogging. I definitely meant to post things about myself more often but I get so busy sometimes. Those are the most interesting times, so that’s when people might want to hear about some of the crazy things that go on around me but those are the times I can’t seem to find time to actually write a blog post or make a video. I make plans to do them though.

Well, since the end of last October lots of things have been happening. Obviously. But I don’t know that listing them now would do any good whatsoever.

My dad and brother have their birthdays in November, that’s pretty nice. But December is always a more interesting month.

As a Messianic Jew, I attend a Messianic congregation which meets on Friday evenings. I’m the only member under 40 but it’s my home. I’ve literally grown up in front of those people’s eyes. I think I was about a year old when my parents started attending. There used to be more young people but due to life moving on, so too have they.

This has left me as the only person to take care of children. We’ve gone up and down with kids coming on  Friday nights but I’ve always been there at a moment’s notice to help out or teach or whatever was needed. We once had a family with 5 kids from 1-11 who didn’t speak much English that I had to try to teach. That was a challenge but it was nice to have consistent numbers and we managed to get some lessons planned and input some routines.

Then they left.

For some time there were no children or if any would come it would be very sporadic – usually for holidays. Why am I even talking about this? I’m clearly talking about something from way before December. But it prefaces what I’ve been doing recently.

We have a new family attending our congregation now, and they have two daughters. They’re from South Africa but they lived most recently in Australia. They’re very sweet.

I’ve been left completely alone to prepare lessons for them or teach them something off the cuff. I’m not saying that so anyone feels sorry for me though, I actually don’t mind teaching on my own… it’s the planning and stuff that can get pretty demanding.

I’m a full-time student in journalism at Carleton – and if you ask anyone, that’s an incredibly tough major. I’ll add to the assurances that it is a hard major to pursue. On top of that, I’m actually in a double major with a minor as well. But that would have been ok if I took on less responsibility outside of school… Unfortunately, I have a hard time saying no.

So, on top of being a full-time student and teaching kids on Friday nights, last semester I accepted a paid volunteering job on Wednesday mornings. I’ve also recently accepted becoming someone’s tutor on Tuesday evenings. I also have a job – though thankfully I’m on-call so it’s not a weekly task. I’m the tech-person at church. I’m involved in an Evangelical Christian group on campus and we have a meeting every Monday. And I belong to another youth group which meets on Thursday nights. I also come out to morning prayer at 7 in residence.

How can I make time for all of this? Where do I find it?

Rest assured I operate on the same 24-h cycle you all do and I’m 100% human meaning I need to eat and breathe and sleep just like you.

But I have something extra to be thankful for. I have a higher calling, a different purpose in life… Something to look forward to. My reward isn’t here on earth, it’s in Heaven, The things I do, I do to being glory to my Father. And He sustains me. He gives a supernatural rest and supernatural strength so I have only Him to thank.

I guess That wasn’t necessarily about December but it’s definitely something I’ve noticed a lot more recently and December just seemed to make a good place to talk about all of this. I definitely wish I did more for the girls though – but it’s really tough to get all my homework done on top of planning weekly things to talk about so mostly I just try to encourage them as we talk about our lives.

Other stuff happened in December but I’m not talking about Christmas as many people would. Not even Hanukkah.

Classes ended really early in December, officially Monday the 3rd, but my one Monday class didn’t meet anyway. On the 2nd, my parents went on a cruise, leaving me seemingly alone – which I hate. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I detest being alone. I get bored and lonely when there are no other humans around and my house is too big to be empty (even though it’s really small).

It just so happened that on that particular Sunday I was invited to a Christmas party which was very nice. Sunday night was awful because I came home and there was no one there but Monday, instead of going to class, our professor invited us to her house for dinner. After a fun night out, I met with a couple other friends and we went back to my house where they stayed for the week. Then on Thursday they left, I went to another Christmas party and when I came home in the evening, my parents were back! The timing just happened to work out pretty well.

Then came exam time. I dropped one class and one of my other classes doesn’t have any exams so thankfully, I only had three to worry about.

They were pretty spaced out with one on the 13th and two on the 18th (but one of those was an online test). Let’s fast forward to Monday the 17th, the day before I had TWO exams, the day I should have been studying the hardest (not that I do that too often). I woke up to one of the most awful sounds you can possibly imagine.

My mom was sobbing hysterically just down the hall from my bedroom.

That’s the sound I woke up to.

My grandmother in Belarus had had a stroke and when she fell, she hit her head.

Now, my grandpa had been sick for a long time so mentally everyone was preparing for his imminent passing. About a week before this happened he became paralyzed in his legs due to diabetes complications. My grandma was his primary caregiver.

He was fully aware of what happened; his wife of fifty years had fallen and she wasn’t responding to him. But there was nothing he could do to help. He had a cellphone with him so he called my aunt.

She came to the house but the door was locked, she didn’t have a key and neither of my grandparents could let her in so she had to break a window. If you know anything about Canada, you know our winters can be brutal. Well it’s worse in Belarus. Breaking the window was not ideal but at least my aunt made it inside and could figure out what to do.

So my grandma was in the hospital and they didn’t know if she would survive the night.

That’s why my mom was sobbing.

Obviously I got upset and all studying stopped before it began that day. My mom was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to write my exams but I told her I didn’t want to ask for a deferral. Come Tuesday I thought I could keep it together, and I managed to sit two hours to write my French literature exam but I started crying so I knew I had to leave. Thankfully, I’d written something, and all I could do was hope it was enough.

My online test went quite quickly so soon it was time to relax and enjoy my break.

I had intended to spend my day reading but when I woke up, my mom called home from work to ask if there’d been any news about grandma. I told her there was nothing. She called back again, but there was still nothing new to tell her.

Around 11 am, my aunt skype-called us and told me my grandma had died.

That was the first familial loss I ever experienced. At first I was so shocked, I didn’t know how to react but it soon hit me how heart-broken I was. As soon as I got my dad downstairs the tears started flowing and it was pretty hard for me to stop them.

You might remember the first post I wrote for this blog. My dog Benji died. As sad as I was then, this was something entirely worse. Growing up it had been my wish that my grandparents would be at my wedding, all of a sudden, I knew that could never happen. Worse than that even, the next time I went to visit my family, she wouldn’t be there. I would never see her again.

I didn’t know how to deal with that. My mom rushed home from work and we tried desperately to find a flight for her, but because it was right before Christmas, there was no way she could make it in time for the funeral. Life stopped for a while. I was thankful not to be called in to work. Except once, but I told them I was grieving. The atmosphere in my house was definitely not what you would expect for the holiday season.

It’s now been almost a month, but it seems like yesterday.

I’m incredibly sad but life has to go on and we had to get back into a routine, back into a mode of interaction with others. It was hard, it still is, but I’m thankful for comfort and peace from Above as well as my brothers and sisters in Christ who supported my family with incessant prayers. I’ve never known what to say to people when they tell me of a tragedy such as a death in their family, and to be honest, I still don’t know what I would say to anyone else. I just know that I couldn’t have recovered if I didn’t know people who loved us were praying for us.

My only encouragement to anyone else in this situation is that when someone offers to do anything to help you, ask for prayer. God can heal the hurt in your heart and though nothing will take away the loss, He can restore joy.

My grandpa has since been fighting to regain control of his legs, so we’re thankful he hasn’t given up. The situation is still difficult, but we’re getting through.

This was a really long post, sorry guys. That’s what happens when you’re away for so long.

Just to wrap up here, school has started again in full swing, but this semester is looking to be a pretty good one – though it will be busy and tough. I also finished my application for the exchange (way back in the beginning of December) and I finally decided that Lyon would be my first choice, Paris my second and Brussels my third, so keep coming back to read about my exciting new life living abroad.

I love you and I want to encourage you to seek God because He is the only source of power we can trust. He sustains and restores. He reveals Himself in the most amazing ways.

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