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.)

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Forty-Six. Surrender and trust.

Remember when I wrote about how God is Awesome, and I started out with “coincidences” which are obviously God’s orchestration and not mere coincidences…

I’m always amazed by the little ways in which God confirms that He’s with us, that He’s listening.

For example, one day I was listening to “Whom Shall I Fear [God of Angel Armies]” by Chris Tomlin, over and over again. Then I went to a new church for the first time and A, saw that I actually knew many, MANY people who went there, and B, the first song they sung for worship was “Whom Shall I Fear!”

That might not seem like a big deal, but for me, it was a reminder that God is ever-present in our lives and takes care to speak to us in ways we understand.

Similarly, in other aspects of my life, I just see God’s Hand so clearly. When my grandmother in Israel, my friends in Canada, my random thoughts that seemingly come from nowhere, and my devotions all line up to speak something to me, I know that’s a message from God.

So often in my prayers I tell God that I must be blind, deaf and dumb or else incredibly unobservant because I miss His instructions. I’ve often asked for “neon, flashing signs, that only I can see but that I will know beyond a shadow of a doubt are for me.” [Yes, I have quite literally used those exact words more than once!]

But as I’ve been reading His Word every day and growing in my faith and strengthening my relationship with Him, maybe it’s getting easier for me to understand how He’s working in my life, how He’s instructing me.

See, each of us is unique, but God can keep track of exactly who sees what, who needs what, who understands certain things, etc. He created us! He knows us intimately! In fact, He knows us better than we know ourselves!

And for me, He often uses “coincidences” because I guess I pick up on their pattern in my life… or else my brain is just wired to make strange connections that aren’t actually coincidences at all, who knows…

Anyway, for those who’ve ever met me, there are a few things you find out incredibly quickly. Some are silly, such as my love for earrings, some are personal history, which is interesting, because I’m often asked about my family name or where we’re from, etc… so I readily tell my parents’ amazing story of immigration.

But one of the more important things people usually find out fairly quickly is what I would like to see happen in my future. Mainly the fact that I love children and have worked with kids for 12 years, so I’m looking forward to having my own one day. I also add that I’d like to have six kids, if that’s possible and I would like to start sooner rather than later.

This also leads into me talking about my strong desire to be married because I like to do things in order. To have kids “soon,” I’d need to get married “soon,” and that means I’d have to meet someone “soon” too.

This is somewhat trickier because I’ve been single for 21 years. I’ve never even had a first kiss.

This used to be a problem for me, I thought I was missing out on something, I thought something was wrong with me.

I’ve changed a lot in that regard, especially in the last three years. I have some friends who’ve been with me through that journey and I’m sure they’d agree.

Love is a particularly serious topic for me.

Since I’ve chosen to place God firmly at the forefront of my life, I’ve made Him number one before all else, I’ve had to make the commitment that boys, or I supposed “men” is a more appropriate word, would always have to come after God’s will in my life and I shouldn’t be distracted by random males who pique my interest.

One book I read awhile ago suggested that when we feel an attraction for a man because he is physically beautiful, we can acknowledge the fact that he is good-looking, but remember to praise God for His handiwork and then move on. I always thought that was cute, and quite funny.

Anyway, along with my desire to not be overly distracted, I don’t like making mistakes or wasting my time.

I don’t believe in “casual dating” or “dating for fun” because you invest so much of yourself into relationships and if the next “Joe-Shmo” who walks by and asks you out is not a believer, for example, and you know you could never marry him, I’m of the belief that it’s not worth it. You risk so much by allowing transient loves in and out of your life. If I know I could never marry a person because they don’t share my faith, I wouldn’t date them either. So I have guarded my heart. Or at least, I’ve tried.

Many of my friends have told me I’m wrong and I need to do things their way. I’ve been told making mistakes is ok, and even good because you learn from them.

My mistakes happen when I don’t trust God, and I’ve done that enough times to know that in this serious area of my life, I truly need to trust Him 100%. I screw things up when I try to do them on my own, but He never does. So I’m waiting.

I’m waiting for the man to whom God whispers my name.

This is not to say that I’m perfect and never look at men and fantasize or whatever, in fact, quite the opposite. I’m very guilty of looking lustfully at men. But now, through God’s grace, I’ve been able to look at the other aspects of my life and worry about becoming more like Yeshua instead of worrying about my singleness.

But the point I was getting to (and this blog went way over what I was expecting when I sat down to write) is that my grandma and my friends and my thoughts and my devotions reminded me today of my commitment to the Lord.

I’ve felt so much pressure to “be in a relationship” or to do something to change my singleness but in my heart I know that I need to surrender to God and let Him handle this for me. Some people act as if it’s my fault that I’m single, and perhaps to some degree it is. Maybe because I don’t “put out” or give off vibes of being desperate “boys” aren’t interested in me, or maybe there are a million reasons and I am actually doing something to put them off…

But I’m not worried about it. I used to be.

Now I’m free from worry because God is worth so much more! He will bless those who “give something up” to Him. Matthew 19:29 says, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” (NKJV)

If we love God above all else, above our families, our parents, our children, our spouses, above our possessions, above our desires, He will bless us. I’m holding onto that promise because I don’t want anything to get in between me and God. I’m waiting for His perfect gifts.

I’ve heard this story so many times, about a little girl whose dad gives her a necklaces made of plastic beads. She loves that necklace and wears it all the time, she takes good care of it, she treasures it above all her other things. One day, her dad asks her to give him the necklace. She hesitates, because she loves her necklace, she doesn’t want to give it up. Her dad asks her if she trusts him, she says yes, and eventually she does give up her prized possession.

Then her dad gives her a pearl necklace.

When we surrender the things we hold most dear, like for me, my desire for a husband and children, when we trust our Heavenly Father, we can know that He will bless us far beyond what we could imagine.

So today, I want to encourage you to surrender. Give up to God your possessions, your desires, your life, and let Him bless you! It’s ok to wait sometimes, as long as you trust in Him.

I love you, and God loves you more!

-Rita

PS, when I started this post it was A, going to be about “waiting” and “how long is too long?” or “how do you know you’re waiting for the right thing?” because those are all questions that have gone through my mind very recently, and I don’t have those answers… and B, it was supposed to be short because initially I thought I would just post those questions and start a discussion.

But I hope these unplanned words are God’s words to someone who needed to read them.

PPS, when I discussed my thoughts on love with my grandmother, she told me I’m old and don’t believe in love.

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-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)

Thirty-Nine. Love.

First of all, I’m so sorry I haven’t been writing lately. It’s like I’ve been entirely too busy, without having a lot of something specific to do.  I’ve really missed it, but I’m finding I don’t have as much time to sit down and write when I’m inspired as I did before. I’ve talked about this before, how it’s both a good thing and a bad thing that I have less time to “waste” – or rather, to use for personal interests.

Second, I’m sorry I haven’t posted all my newest photos yet… I have five more albums to put up: the Carnavale in Alost, my trip to Ireland, my trip to Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, my time in Israel and my trip to the UK. BUT, in my defense, four of those albums have over 600 photos! I have nearly 3000 photos to go through (2914 if someone needs the exact number). So, I’m sorry they’re taking so long, I will work on it… I’m sure I’ll get around to sorting through photos when I’m procrastinating on studying for exams 😛

Also, I had another blog post going up in mid-March, I wrote the draft for it and everything, but I wasn’t happy with it, so I didn’t post it.

I’ve found I have my best blog post ideas when I’m walking, but it’s weird for me to whip out my recorder and talk into it in public and I can’t always walk and write safely, so often, my best ideas get lost, or partially lost. I need a “notebook” that’s attached to my thoughts o I can think of what I want to write and have my exact thoughts available for later. Or else I need to get over my awkwardness in talking into a recorder in public…

But I digress, onto what I really wanted to talk about today (and I’ll add a little update on my life at the end).

Is it the month of love? No, I guess that’s February.  Well, at my house (back in Canada) May is pretty sweet too because it’s my parents’ anniversary! (29 years this year! – Congratulations!! I LOVE YOU!!!)

But that’s not even the kind of love I want to talk about right now… that was just my attempt at an awkward transition or introduction or something… Sorry.

I actually wanted to talk about love languages because I’ve had a few interesting conversations about the topic recently.

If anyone hasn’t heard of Love Languages, they are the five ways in which people understand and communicate love.  Usually, perhaps because we’re selfish, we think of how we prefer to receive love. But we also need to think about how we communicate love to others. [If you want to know more, you can Google “Love Languages” or go to 5lovelanguage.com]. One of the best things about love languages is that they’re for more than just romantic expression, they’re applicable to every relationship we have 🙂

When I first moved to Belgium, I asked my roommates to do the test “for fun” – well, I was also curious and wanted to know how I could best communicate love to them. Only one actually did it, and it was so long ago, I can’t be 100% sure, but I believe his results showed words of affirmation and acts of service as his top two.

My top two were, very obviously, physical touch and quality time. No one needed a test to confirm that though 😛

Anyway, I’m not in love with my roommates, but I do love them and knowing that I’m probably the only believer they’ll interact with, I was really encouraged to show God’s love to them – I know that’s part of why I was sent to Belgium in the first place. So it wasn’t as important to find out how I understand love as finding out how to adjust my communication of it towards them.

So I had to make a conscious effort to hug a little less, leave them alone a little more, say thank you often and do kind little things without being asked or expecting anything in return.

I learned that you can actually train yourself to accept and communicate love in a way that wasn’t entirely natural before.

While I’m still working on it, I’ve been trying to accept compliments more and I’ve been learning to let others do little things for me too. I’d like to think that, just as I had to learn to accept compliments, my roommates had to learn to accept hugs – at least a little bit more.

In every relationship love is a two-way street and it’s important to accept and understand each other’s differences.

I think it’s also important to recognize areas you might be lacking in and work on them if a particular relationship could use a bit of strengthening.

One of my friends recently started a new relationship and one person loves physical touch, but the other, not so much. I would hope, that for the sake of their relationship, they’d both be willing to work a little bit to learn to like other love languages. It’ll be a slow process and it won’t be easy, they might not even ever get to the same comfort level, but I think love is worth working on.

I guess I had just accepted that there are different love languages and that different people appreciate some more than others… but it struck me to realize, as I looked back at myself when I first came to Belgium, to see the differences in my own life with regards to how I communicate love.

Well, I hope you can take some encouragement from that and perhaps a little advice (in case you’re in a relationship that’s struggling to effectively communicate love) and I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts about love languages too. Or love in general, love is a pretty awesome thing to think about 🙂

God Bless! LOVE YOU!!

P.S. for those interested, I’m hoping to go on a few more trips in the next two months (like to Rome and maybe Marseille and/or Barcelona) but I have to finish up school first. I have one paper, two oral exams and two written exams to get through; everything will be done for me on June 5th. I leave Belgium on June 26th… I’m pretty sad to be leaving so soon, but it will be nice to see some old, friendly faces again, back in Canada. Also, I will try to write again soon…

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!

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Had a wonderful [Canadian] Thanksgiving celebration here in Brussels.
I’m so thankful for family… not just biological family who I know love me even from far away; not even just my family in Christ from all around the world who provide so much support. I’m also thinking of friends who’ve ‘adopted’ me into their family and even the complete strangers I find myself sharing a house with.
I’m thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had in my life and this one in particular has allowed me to experience something completely new… and incredibly amazing!
I love all the people in my life!
God Bless you all. Hope you take some time to reflect on the many things you have to be thankful for!