Fifty-Three. Reality.

Time to get back in the game.

I haven’t written in far too long. At first, I was super busy, but then “not writing” became a habit. A bad habit.

Now I feel like it’s time to get back to my own reality – one which includes more writing.

Since I’ve graduated university, I’ve been thinking about the future, and what I’d like to do for work, or even just in general with my life.

I keep coming back to the same conclusions, I want a family, and I want to write.

Neither of those come easily though, so in the meantime, I have to find another job.

But I also have to write!

I have so many ideas for books (I even have an idea to open a publishing company!) but the reason so many people say “author is just another word for unemployed” is because writing with a purpose actually does take a lot of time, effort and dedication, and often there really isn’t room for much else.

People who live full lives tend to have a lot of responsibilities and therefore not a whole lot of time, but if you’re using your time well and enjoying the moments you can, at the end of the day, when you’re winding down, you can feel good about what you’ve accomplished – even if it wasn’t 100% of your to-do list.

There are also different seasons in life when your load will likely change.

The important thing is to take stock of the things you have to do, want to do, and can actually do. And if there’s something you want to do but it doesn’t necessarily fit into your current available time, you might have to make some decisions about what to cut out. If I want to write, I might have to pencil in an hour block of time where I can concentrate on that.

None of that was news.

It was just something on my heart as I’m in this season of transition.

The most important thing I’m working on right now is trust.

Trusting God to provide everything I need in this uncertain time of my life. I may not have an actual job right now, but I need to actively look for work, and I need to devote time and effort to the projects I’ve accepted to take on. I also have to maintain good habits of reading the Bible and praying daily.

I need to trust in God’s timing, provision and direction. I’m thankful to know that He is faithful.

Honestly, He does listen to prayer and He does answer, and it’s been wonderful to see it happen again and again in my own life. In particular, three days ago, I had a rough day, I was feeling very discouraged but I kept praying about it, and the very next day felt so much better. All of a sudden, I was seeing things more positively, I had a lighter heart, I was more focused and I just felt an inexplicable peace.

Anyway, this was just a short note to update my friends and family, to help ease me back into writing and to see if anyone’s still reading my thoughts.

I hope God blesses each and every one of you, and I want to encourage you to pray through whatever issues you’re facing.

No matter what season you’re in, no matter what responsibilities you bear, the King of the Universe, the Creator, our Lord and Savior, desperately wants you to run into His arms to seek comfort and peace and strength in Him. He is listening, He does care.

Fifty-two. Growth.

Nothing earth-shattering today friends…

…just truth that has been hitting me over and over again.

It’s been two weeks into the new year and so far, I’ve been doing well with my daily bible readings — thanks, YouVersion 😉 — and my little daily devotional reading. It’s been such a blessing to actually take time to read God’s Word every day.

I remember when I tried to do this before, and it was a chore. I was doing it by myself, I felt like it was just something that had to be done, it took up too much time…

Now, it’s actually such a joy.

My perspective has completely changed about daily Bible reading.

I’ve been really convicted to work on personal growth right now. And I’ve been praying about joy.

Joy isn’t the same as happiness, it’s not a temporary feeling but a state of being, and it’s something I desperately wanted to feel when connecting with God through reading His Word by myself.

For people who know me, you know I love to be with others so I get intense joy from corporate worship and fellowship and studying together, but I was struggling with trying to read and study and my own.

Right now though, it’s actually something I look forward to every day! I am absolutely loving it. I do feel joy when I’m meeting with God in this way!

The scriptures are so rich and every time you read a verse, God can reveal something new and mind-blowing to you (even if other people aren’t quite as impressed) and it’s exciting!

Sometimes I’ll read something I’ve read a hundred times before but something new will stand out to me, or will confuse me, and I’ll go look it up to see what others have said. Like the story of Noah’s nakedness when he curses Canaan, because of what his own son, Ham, had done. (Genesis 9:20-27)

It’s helpful, too, to have external encouragement from friends 🙂

Also, I picked up a book this week that I have not been able to put down (perhaps to the detriment of my school studies…)

It’s called Loveology, it’s by John Mark Comer and it’s great!

Seriously, pick up a copy (I’m borrowing mine from the OPL). [Also, a bit of self-promotion here, I’ve been so impressed by this book, I’ve instagrammed a few pages (among other great photos!) and you should check me out 😉 ]

Anyway, it’s a book about God, Love, Marriage, Sex, etc… and everything that goes along with that including waiting, and singleness.

Without going into all the convicting things in the book, the idea that struck me was how much time we spend on listing the qualities we expect out of a potential spouse, but we tend not to think too much about becoming that kind of person ourselves.

That’s why I’m so excited to devote more time and energy and effort into growing in my own relationship with the Lord.

Hopefully I’ll become a better person.

Anyway, this was another short one, just to encourage you to invest in your relationship with Christ.

Love you! God bless!

Fifty. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV)

Today is my last day of freedom (for a while anyway) and this one is hitting harder than all the ones before because I’m coming out of a fantastic summer. That’s why I was thinking about Ecclesiastes today.

I’m passing from one season to another (both literally and figuratively) and it’s scary.

But I want to take some time to praise God for the amazing experiences I had this summer.

First, anyone who knows me knows I love the summer because I’m out of school so I’m less stressed, I get to work and I love my job, and I get to travel and see my family. This summer delivered on all counts!

Mom, Dad, uncle Dima, aunt Julia, cousin Jessica and Elizabeth (in the front)

Mom, Dad, uncle Dima, aunt Julia, Jessica and Elizabeth (in the front)

In June, my parents and I went to Pennsylvania. We were staying around the Pocono Mountains and Shawnee Valley area. My aunt, uncle and two cousins from New Jersey came to see us (and we went on a hiking trail), and we took a few side trips too. We went to Philadelphia (we’ve been before, but it was still cool) and an awesome sculpture park.

Jessica, and Alex with Liza on his shoulders :)

Jessica, and Alex with Liza on his shoulders 🙂

At the end of our trip we went to see their new house in New Jersey and my brother even joined us 🙂

At the end of June and into the beginning of July, we had our annual cottage week with our family friends. This year we were at Charleston lake.  Two of my best friends joined us for a few days, and my brother came by too.

The couples: Khaviches, Urievs, Ghazals - all relaxing by the lake

The couples: Khaviches, Urievs, Ghazals – all relaxing by the lake

I actually stayed in Ottawa for pretty much all of July but I got to spend lots of time with the best people. Two of my best friends were in Ottawa, and one of my other best friends came to spend a weekend with us. We shared a lot of laughs and became inseparable!

In August we went to Las Vegas and I got to celebrate my 22nd birthday there. People are often shocked to hear about my family going to Vegas so often because it’s known as Sin City but there’s plenty you can do there without getting into any trouble too. Like meeting up with family friends, seeing fantastic shows, eating amazing food and marvelling at the gorgeous (and extravagant) hotels!

This is indoors!

This is indoors!

Also indoors

An indoor waterfall

An indoor waterfall

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Seeing Terry Fator (AGT)!

Souvenir pictures from Pampas

Souvenir pictures from Pampas

I’m really grateful my parents value travelling. We’re able to see the world, experience culture and adventure, create memories and spend quality time together. Life won’t always be like this, so I’m happy for the time we have.

As soon as we got back from Las Vegas, Lindsey and I joined Justine at her family’s cottage on Belmont Lake, in Havelock, ON. The girls surprised me for my birthday with delicious cupcakes by the fire.

11866385_995967960455017_345829462079769578_nWe slept under the stars (literally took our sleeping bags and slept outside on the deck), went to Toronto to see a Blue Jay’s game (Lindsey’s and my first baseball game ever!) and laughed way too much. I always have such a good time with these women. 11850618_10155996787990714_37859395553056815_o
3296Romans

Our next trip was a combination trip, but my brother came with us for the whole thing! We drove to Washington, D.C. at night-time (easier for my dad, who’s used to working at night) but stopped in New Jersey to leave my dog with our family. My grandparents from Israel came to visit for a few weeks and were staying with my aunt and uncle. After a quick rest there, we drove on to the capital of the U.S.

My brother and I took a few tours together and went to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum (that has been on my bucket list for a very long time!) before joining my parents for the rest of our touring time. We went to an incredible spy museum, saw and heard so much, walked way too much and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

With my brother and my mom in front of the White House

With my brother and my mom in front of the White House

After three and a half days in D.C. (we were actually staying in Alexandria, VA though) we joined the rest of our family for a reunion in Naples, NY. We had a great time relaxing at the cottage there, swimming in the pool, hiking along a river (and trying not to die as we jumped from slippery rock to slippery rock across fast-moving water!) and just generally enjoying some time to catch up with relatives from around the world.

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I’m so thankful for the time I got to spend with family and friends, the new places I got to see, the experiences I was able to have, and all the laughs and fun memories that will last forever. I’m so thankful for such a full and wonderful summer, for health and joy and peace, for the beauty of life.

And I need to hold onto these happy times as I’m heading into a scary time.

I’ve been taking swimming lessons this summer and tonight is my last one – so I’ll be tested to see if I’ve learned enough. I guess that’s not particularly scary. It’s actually been fun, even if a little embarrassing. But any kind of test is stressful.

Tomorrow though, I have my first day of classes in my last year of school. I’m looking at my schedule and some of my classes fill me with fear and dread. I feel like I’m doing this alone because my best friends aren’t at school with me.

I have to focus on the blessings in my life though, and praise God through all the storms I’ll face over the next eight months. I’m going in as a different person than I was last time around and I know I’ll come out changed again.

Whatever is coming, I’m glad I have the Lord guiding me through and the support of family and friends around me (even if they’re not going through it with me right now).

I hope that whatever kind of summer you’ve had, whatever is about to come around for you, any new jobs, locations, or a new stage in life, or maybe you feel stuck, remember that there is a time for everything.

I’ve just come out of a season of fun and freedom, of friends and family and I’m heading into a season of hard work and stress but through it all, I will praise the Lord! I hope.

God Bless!

(PS, check back, album links will be coming… hopefully. And yes, Ireland is still in the works.)

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!

Forty-Five. Full Circle.

As promised, continuing my last post.

So God continued to prove that He takes care of things best!

Later the same week as that third-year/fourth-year mess, I was waiting for a response from a professor to approve my story plan. Our deadline for plan submission was at 5:00 pm. I had sent it in at 2:45. I expected a quick answer, or at least something by 5 o’clock, but the time came and went and I had to leave for our Friday evening service. I had expected to see something by the time we came home, but around 9:30 or 10:00 when I checked, there was still nothing from my professor.

So I sent another email, double checking which email account I was sending from, who I was sending the message to and how I had formatted my subject line.

Everything on my end was fine.

I went to sleep expecting to see a response in the morning.

Around 7:30 the next day I checked and I still had not received a reply so I was getting nervous and I started to worry about the plans I had for that evening.

I told my friend that I hoped to see her but I was dealing with a stressful situation so she agreed to pray for me.

Then I decided that since this was another situation I could do nothing to change, I gave it up to God and asked Him to deal with it.

Then I posted lyrics from “Whom Shall I Fear [The God of Angel Armies]” (by Chris Tomlin) as my Facebook status:

And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in your hands
I’m holding onto Your promises
You are faithful
You are faithful

That was just after 10 am.

I went to check my inbox and wouldn’t you know it, there was the approval I had been waiting for!

And then I had one of the best Saturdays of my life.

I met so many new people and truly had a good time, and I can only thank God for that.

God’s timing is actually just so mind-blowingly perfect. He does exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.

It makes me wonder why it’s so hard for us to trust Him sometimes.

To bring this all full circle, or back to my decision about baptism anyway, I’ve started on a new and exciting journey of actively growing in my faith. It’s hard, but it’s rewarding. Or rather, I’m just being blessed more and more.

God is really faithful, and He really cares! This is not an earth-shattering revelation or anything, but He has shown me that I can come to Him with any request, big or small, and He is listening! It’s something we often say, but I wonder how many of us have experienced this, and truly believe in His power, in our prayers and most of all, in His unfailing love.

That’s why I want to be baptized, as a marker for my decision to give everything up to God. I want to experience His love more deeply, and more frequently than I was before. I want to let Him into every part of my life. I want to die to my old self, even though my old self was a Christian.

It’s time to grow up and take responsibility for my faith. It’s time to mature as a woman and realize that I need to come to God as a child, completely dependent on Him, and trusting Him fully to take care of me.

I hope this can be encouraging to someone.

I truly believe that as easy as it is to say, praying fervently is really the best response to all our situations, good or bad.

Worried? Stressed? Stop that! Give it all up to God, your Father’s got your back!
Lonely? Cry out to Him and claim His love and comfort.
Feeling weak? Or helpless? Let Him be your strength!
Succeeding at work or in school? Praise Him for His favor!
New romantic relationship? Don’t shut Him out, praise Him as a couple and continue to ask Him for guidance!

When everything feels like it’s going well for you, remember to rejoice in Him! Sing, Dance, Laugh and Pray!

But when things get hard, know that He’s there for you. He loves you and wants you to come to Him.

It has been amazing reading the Word every day for the past month and a half. I wish everyone could do this. I wish I had started ages ago!

Anyway, I feel like I’ve calmed down a bit now, I’ve said what I had to say. I want to finish with one more thought that I’ve confessed to many of my friends already, but I have to keep reminding myself of. (Bonus point: When you’re convicted of something (as in, not a felony but when God has laid something on your heart) or when you’ve identified something you’re weak in, tell people so they can encourage you and keep you accountable!)

“If it’s God’s will, it’ll happen, despite my best efforts to ruin it. If it’s not God’s will, it’ll never happen, even if I do everything “perfectly.” Just trust in His plans, His timing, His direction, and everything that needs to be, will be.”

So friends, remember how much God loves you. Don’t shut Him out. In darkness, He is your Light! In the light, rejoice in Him!

“God is good, all the time! All the time, God is good!”

Love you,
-Rita

*tl;dr: I’m getting baptized not because I just came to faith, but because God is good and I want to mark the next leg of my journey with Him!

And no, I don’t know when or where the baptism will be yet.

Forty-Four. God is Awesome!

I almost named this blog “Rough Start.” or else, “Baptism.” because so much has happened, but no matter what, God is Awesome!

I couldn’t think of a more appropriate title not only because it’s true, but because He proves this over and over again, even in the smallest of ways.

Last month I started my devotions by going through the book of Proverbs. We read more than once that it’s about Wisdom. As I finished reading the book of Wisdom, I moved into my new devotional plan, The 30-Day Praise Challenge, and the first item of praise was for God’s Wisdom.

God’s timing is just amazing. It was a great flow from one devotional to the next and

I also came to a new conclusion that as I embark on a new journey of actively growing closer to God, as I seek after wisdom, that I truly am re-dedicating my life to the Lord. That’s why I decided to get baptized.

I was asked if I was interested in being baptized but I didn’t think I was. To me, it seemed like the kind of thing you do closer to the beginning of your walk with God but I’ve been a believer for a long time so I felt like if I did it now it would just be because someone happened to be offering to do a baptism…

Anyway, as I was going through my devotional one night, I was praising God for His wisdom and thanking Him for allowing us to access that wisdom… and also repenting for waiting so long to take advantage of that gift.

See, I’ve been a believer for a very long time (my parents came to faith when I was a year old so I was raised in the Ottawa Messianic Fellowship, and then I really dedicated myself to the Lord at my bat-mitzvah) but I hadn’t been actively strengthening or deepening my relationship with Him, or trying to grow in my knowledge of Him.

I was content in being stagnant. I felt like I could just go along and keep doing that.

For many people, or I guess I should say for many American young adults, their 21st birthday is a mark of “being allowed to drink, legally” but for me, it was more like, “I’m actually an adult. I need to take responsibility for my own faith.”

So, I am interested in being baptised to mark a new chapter in my journey.

It’s really been amazing to look back and see where I was and where I am now. As a child, I went to church because I had a few really good friends there. I’ve had a hard time with friendships in the past so I really clung to people when I could, when I felt we had a connection… but I wasn’t clinging to God as tightly, and I certainly wasn’t going to church with the right mindset, or the right heart. Then I decided, at my bat-mitzvah, that as a “woman of God” I needed to step up my game. I needed to do it right.

It was born out of a sense of “I have to do this now” rather than “I want to do this” but it did start to change my heart and I was more interested in going to church to learn. I still clung to my friends but I would be ok if they didn’t show up one week too.

That continued throughout high school and it was slow but there was a bit of growth there because as I grew up, I was given more responsibility and I became more active in certain ministries.

Then I got to university and it was a whole new environment. I was an adult, I was so much more responsible for myself, I had to make new friends and new habits and I had to decide what would be important in my life. I knew God had to be front and center, so I sought out solid Christian friends. And I found some.

And they pushed me hard!

I changed a lot in that first year, and then continued to grow through my second year as well.

Last year, as you all know, I spent ten months in Brussels, Belgium. I was far from “home” (the meaning of which has since come into question), but more importantly I was far from my parents and spiritual family.

I learned a lot, about myself, about life, about school and about my Heavenly Father.

Now I’m back in Canada, and I know I want to keep growing!

Back to God being awesome and having the best timing for things, (as well as an explanation for the alternate title, “Rough Start”) I’m actually a fourth-year student. But having gone away, I was set back a year in the Journalism program. So I’m taking third-year courses right now. But I’m still a fourth-year student in the systems at school.

So I missed an important email sent out to third-year students.

And therefore missed a mandatory equipment training workshop.

This launched two days of hell for me.

I was beyond stressed out, I felt guilty for something completely beyond my control and I was scrambling to find a solution but I felt helpless. I was so discouraged. I reached out for help but was met with weak excuses or complete silence for a long time. Finally, a friend agreed to help me out, and then one other person dared to be kind and offered to help, though she felt unqualified.

And eventually everything worked out.

Genesis 50:20 tells us: “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good […]” (NKJV)

That was so true in this case. I felt overwhelmed and attacked and useless against forces working against me, but God turned it around, used it to teach me, and really made everything better than I even could have hoped!

*To be continued in the next post (kind of like last month, it’ll be up very quickly after this one)

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!

Forty-One. August!

In my last blog, I left you with the promise of my last Belgian adventure!

I’ll keep it short because this keyboard is really annoying me and I do have some other important things to write about.

Basically, the guy who was helping me with my cellphone was really cute and we’d exchanged some flirtations throughout the year but as soon as I cancelled my service (which we both said was sad) I added five euros to my account (they moved me from a monthly service to a pay-as-you-go type service) and I sent him a little text complimenting him on his smile and thanking him for his friendliness. So uncharacteristic of me.

He replied.

We continued to flirt via text a little more but that was the end of that, I’ll likely never see him again.

But it was fun, and makes a cute story (especially if you know me at all, know any French [I still have our text messages saved on my phone] or like almost-love stories).

Moving on, my parents picked me up from Waterloo and we spent two days in Paris. Our first order of business when we got there though, was to throw out some of my stuff and sort out our bags! Let me tell you, moving somewhere and living there for ten months definitely means you’ll accumulate new things and wear out some other things!

And now I’m finally back in Canada – whether home or not – and the first thing I did, take driving lessons! That’s right, my G1 license will expire soon but we’d already paid for the exit test. But being a chicken, I never wanted to learn to drive (I just liked having an incredibly convenient piece of I.D.) and when I got back at the end of June, it was crunch time! I was so nervous, I didn’t even want to look at a car. I had zero experience (well, I tried to drive in a parking lot three times maybe, but I was awful at it) and my first time driving, on Thursday, June 2nd, actually wasn’t too bad.

Anyway, I have one lesson left and my driving test is on Friday, August 8th – ONE WEEK!

I have to say, I’m proud of myself. I didn’t think I could do it, I never thought I’d get to the point of being able to admit I could drive and I feel pretty confident for next week. I have to admit though, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without God who protected me and my friends and family who encouraged me. Every time, before I got into the car I would pray and pray and pray some more and every night and every morning as part of my prayer routine, I would pray for my driving too.

I’ll let you know how that goes 🙂

So why is this post called August when today is only the first of the month?

Because I have lots going on and I’m excited about it!

Now usually, I would be excited about working during the summer, but my timing didn’t work out this year, so I didn’t work and won’t get a chance to either. I arrived back in Canada at the end of June, after Canada Day I called work and they were excited to hear from me again, but I got no calls, so I actually walked in to work and I was greeted with hugs and questions and promises of shifts, but nada. It’s ok though, as boring as July might have been for me, August will be great!

As mentioned, I will have my driving test next week, and I will be devastated if I fail, but everyone, including me, is pretty confident I can do it 😀 That’s on the 8th.

On the 11th, we’re going to a cottage on Round Lake for a week (we get back on the 15th). This year, we’ll be spending my birthday there and it’s shaping up to be a bigger event than ever before!

On the 13th I turn 21!!! Obviously in the US this is a bigger deal, but it stills feels special and exciting to me.

On the 16th, we’re off again, this time driving to Cape Cod, MA. We’re meeting some old friends there and looking forward to enjoying a week exploring Massachusetts! [As a bonus, I’ll already be 21!]

On top of my own birthday, the OMF was born in August two  years before I was, so we’ll be celebrating as a congregation and this year, we have a special event planned that’s open for anyone to come and join!

Whew, ok, so that’s the stuff that you all might be interested in because they are events, with dates and there will be pictures and stories and they could somehow affect you…

But what else is going on in August? Well, I’ve decided I want to be more productive this month. Why this month? Because It’s a new month, it’s no longer July, I will turn 21 this month, and it was about time! [Also, August has 31 days, so it’s perfect for starting new things…]

I’ve been meaning to start reading my Bible more often. I mean daily. I wasn’t doing it often enough before and I really wanted to get into it. So today I started with Proverbs 1. [I’m doing that month-long reading plan where you read one chapter of Proverbs every day because 31.] I’m starting small to form a habit. I forget how long experts quote it takes to develop a habit, but hopefully 31 days will be a good start 🙂 [Just looked it up. Google says 21 days. Thanks internet!]

I won’t be writing about my readings every day because they are for me. Getting into God’s Word daily is personal, between me and my Father, but I can share that today I was reading about wisdom and knowledge. I opened my time with God in prayer and I asked that my spirit would be open to hearing something new from the Lord this morning.

I did.

It was simple, it was personal, but it related to the things that have been going on in my life recently and it was an amazing confirmation of God’s love and the fact that He does answer us! He is listening and He responds!

I want to encourage you to get into God’s Word more often too, and approach it, not as a chore, but as a blessing. Even if it starts out feeling like a chore, push through the laziness, push through the boredom and keep at it. If what the internet says is true, in three weeks it will be a habit and you will be blessed by what God has for you! I only just started today but I already feel better than I did yesterday.

God is good!

Anyway, I’m sure I have more I could tell you about, but I think I’ll stop there for now. As always, please feel free to ask me things, you can submit prayer requests if you want (there’s a special page for that), and I love reading comments too!

I hope each and every one of you is blessed today and everyday!

I love you! God loves you more!

– Rita

PS, I also love writing, so I’m definitely going to try to do that more often, I know I say that a lot, but now I have a goal to post two blogs per month and this doesn’t count as my second post for August. I don’t know if I’ll be able to post while we’re away, but I might write the blogs and just post them when we get back. Also, I hope you guys like my new picture. I worked on it for awhile until I was satisfied with it. That’s my own photo, the first time I was ever asked for my name in a Starbucks (in Paris!) and, more impressively, they actually got it right 🙂 Thank you, French language for making the t in Rita actually sound like a t and not a d.

PPS, I went to Belgium to “improve my French” but when I got there, people told me my French was perfect anyway, no one had any trouble understanding me at all (unless I used the wrong word and accidentally talked about condoms in food) and in fact, as with the other English-speakers I met while abroad, my command of spoken English has deteriorated. Hopefully I’ll make a full recovery soon!

OK, now bye for real!! ❤

Forty. Back from the dead.

I have really missed writing for the last two or three months… however long it’s been. Sorry.

A lot has happened…

Back in Belgium, I finished my exams. They were tough and there were tears… I did end up failing one class in second semester, which was really disappointing, so overall, I failed two courses this year. That’s not at all like me…

For anyone who knows me, they know I’m usually a very strong student. I’ve always had good grades. But the system in Belgium really caught me off-guard and was a lot harder than expected.

It’s not exactly set up to promote student success. Normally, in any given class there will be assignments, readings, homework, tests… something to have some kind of feedback from the teachers, something to indicate if you’re keeping up or not. But in Belgium, I sat in classes, listened to teachers lecture (many of whom didn’t use any kind of aids to make it easier for us to follow along) and at the end of the semester, I had one exam worth 100% of my final grade. Needless to say, I was struggling more than I, or anyone else, realized but it was too late to fix the problem.

All I can say is, thank God my report card has no effect on my admittance to Heaven!

Anyway, that’s enough about academic disappointment. I will add one anecdote though and maybe you will better understand why I haven’t been writing.

My hardest exam this semester was probably the one for political economy. I was up late studying as best I could with about 50 downloaded documents to work with. Often, when I’m cramming (which I know you’re not supposed to do – spare me the lecture) I forget about basic human needs. I sit in a room (not my bedroom) and I study non-stop, taking micro naps (2-3 minute session where I close my eyes and rest) and I rarely move. I forego eating and sleeping and even going to the bathroom as long as I can help it. But this time, I wasn’t studying alone. My roommate, knowing that I won’t feed myself, convinced me that taking a break to eat a little soup would be good for me. So I was prepared to go downstairs to feed my brain and body a little but she also suggested me relax a little and watch something silly. We didn’t/don’t have a TV kitchen, obviously, so we brought my laptop downstairs to watch something on Netflix…

Soup was spilled.

My computer immediately started misbehaving to the point where I couldn’t use it at all for the rest of the night…

I did not need that kind of stress at that moment, but thankfully one of my other roommates answered my panicked midnight phone call and let me use his laptop.

I still failed that exam.

To this day, my keyboard doesn’t work properly, double-typing many of my most-used keys so lengthy essays aren’t much fun right now.

Moving on.

So what else has happened?

I didn’t really get to go on any more trips because I need three things to travel: time, money and a partner. The first two, I would deal with on my own, but that third one, a partner, that’s a different need because that person (or people) also need time, money and willingness. I had one really close friend who was willing and had time, but money was a bit of an issue, I had another good friend who had time and money, but no desire. And of course, not to try to be funny or anything, but seriously, I had another friend with money and desire but no time 😦

So back in April I went to Ireland, the Netherlands, Israel, the UK (photos are not up yet) and those were my last international trips until my parents picked me up at the end of June. I did have a chance to go to Antwerp, another city in Belgium that came highly recommended.

May was basically all about exams, and then June was down time. My lovely friend and adoptive family put on an amazing wine and cheese as a last goodbye party.

Don't we all look classy at a wonderful wine & cheese party! Amazing food, excellent wine and even better company <3 A perfect way to celebrate a fantastic year abroad!

Don’t we all look classy at a wonderful wine & cheese party! Amazing food, excellent wine and even better company ❤
A perfect way to celebrate a fantastic year abroad!

I had a bunch of legal-type stuff to take care of, the reverse of everything I had to do back in September, but everything was fine. I had to give back my residence card, that was sad; and I had to declare taxes because I’d lived in Belgium so long… The man helping me with that didn’t really know what to do with me since I hadn’t worked at all, had nothing to declare and would actually be leaving before tax season was even over. But we figured it out and all was well.

We also had to work hard to clean the house from top to bottom to pass inspection and settle accounts and then the tears came as one by one we parted.

It’s so hard to live with someone for ten months (or five months in some cases), to form a close bond and friendship with them and then to say bye to them for an indeterminate amount of time… perhaps even forever. I don’t know when I’ll see my housemates again, and that makes me cry every time I think about it. I’m crying even now.

And then I decided to leave the house in Brussels a little early to spend two days in Waterloo with my adoptive family before my parents came to take me away from Belgium, to take me out of Europe and to bring me, as some would say, “home.”

In those last two or three days in Belgium, I did have one more funny adventure, this one through technology.

BUT, I will break this post up because this will get far too long otherwise.

You won’t have to wait long, I promise. I’ve already written part of it, I just cut it from the bottom of this one and I will post it right after this one, so you’ll read a second deluge of my thoughts in just a few minutes (or you might accidentally have read them before this post if you’re just scrolling down my homepage)