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!

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Forty-Seven. Simplicity and Steadfastness.

Recently, life has been very busy. A lot of assignments have been due, a lot of events have been going on and I don’t feel like my life is simple anymore.

I’m always juggling things, I’m sacrificing one thing (like sleep) for other things (like writing essays), and all the different choices are tough too.

Life is complicated.

But I suppose that’s how it should be.

When life is complicated, we appreciate the simple things so much more.

Recently I’ve been having a few conversations with different people about writing. Not only do I write essays for school – I am studying journalism and literature after all – but I also love to write, as evidenced by this blog, and I appreciate language, I love sophisticated vocabulary and complex (but properly used!) grammar is exciting.

But not every sentence has to have 53 ideas crammed into and not every word needs to be the most obscure thesaurus entry for what you’re actually trying to say.

In fact, when you’re writing for others especially, your sentences should only have one idea in them and you need to use the best word to accurately describe what you’re trying to explain.

Make sure you understand your own thought.

Make sure you’re being clear and straightforward.

“Simple” is not a bad word.

There seems to be a stigma against using simple words and writing simple sentences. I don’t know why people think that as university students they have to prove how much better they are than high school students, for example. You should always be getting smarter, yes, and you should be growing your vocabulary and your techniques as you learn. But if you can’t fit all 87 words into a sentence that makes sense, don’t!

Just break it up.

If people can’t understand what you’re trying to say, they won’t be seeing your fancy words, they will think you’re trying to cover something up. Either you don’t really know what you’re talking about, and you’re just as confused as they are, or else you think you’re too good to explain things to the likes of them.

I had a teacher once who knew their subject. They REALLY knew it. But they forgot that the students they were teaching weren’t at the same level. They went too quickly, used unfamiliar words and concepts and seemed unsympathetic to people who couldn’t keep up. It’s hard to understand new things sometimes. Experts need to remember that they didn’t always know everything.

I had another teacher who also knew their subject better than anyone would ever need to know anything. But they were so good building up the students. they gave the basics first and made sure everyone got those concepts before moving on and building in the next part. They did what teachers are supposed to do, teach.

I think we need to do that same when we’re writing or speaking. The point of communication is to communicate, but that’s a two-way street. Someone puts out an idea and someone takes in that idea. If person A meant to say “apple” but person B understood “orange,” there was a breakdown in communication. It could be person B’s fault, but if you are person A, make sure you tried to convey your idea is the best way possible.

One of my journalism professors this semester has two rules for us in our writing.

1. NEVER use the word “very.” He wasn’t very tired, he was exhausted.

2. Don’t use the word “and” to make your sentence longer and more complex. (I’m kind of bad at this one.)

I wish we could all remember that.

I wish “simple” didn’t have the negative connotation is being “stupid.” Simple is not stupid. Simple is effective. Simple is kind. Simple is beautiful.

When I started writing this post, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to talk about, but something else came up too.

Going back to “when life is complicated, we appreciate simple things,” we also appreciate steadfast things. (In case “steadfast” is a new word for you, it means, “resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering” but I do touch on what I mean in the next sentence.)

 

We appreciate the things that don’t change, we appreciate the things we can trust, we appreciate the things that shine like bursts of light when we feel depressed, powerless, lost, alone, or in the dark.

When life is complicated, we can always lean on God, and while He’s not simple, He has taught us to accept a few simple truths.

1. He loves us. We don’t have to understand why, but we do have to understand that it’s unconditional.

2. He is always there for us. This one is hard for our minds to understand sometimes, but when we pray, we’re not talking to a wall or the ceiling, God is listening and He does answer. Believe that He hears you, don’t be afraid to cry out to Him.

3. He is unchanging. His love for us does not change, He does not abandon or forsake us, He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

All of those concepts can be complicated when you try to unpack and understand how and why they are, but the truths there are gifts to us, and we can simply believe. There’s no test for us that asks, “Why does God love you?” or “When does God change?”

I’ve been really stressed out recently because I’ve had a lot of schoolwork to do. On Wednesdays, when my classes are over, my work isn’t, but I enjoy going to “Church on Wednesday” to meet with friends, to worship God and to get into His Word.

A few weeks ago one friend asked how my week went, and I said I was stressed and tired. He asked me two things, “Did anyone die?”

“No.”

“Is Jesus still on the throne?”

“Yes.”

“Then everything’s fine.”

He was right. In the midst of my stress, I could still look to God for strength, for peace, for comfort. He is everything.

Whatever you’re going through, remember that He is King of all.

Remember that He loves you.

Remember that He is unchanging.

Go to Him, cry to Him, lean on Him.

Anyway, that’s what has been on my heart and I wanted to share that with you, to hopefully encourage you to look at your life.

Where are you trying to complicate things?

Have you been forgetting that God loves you?

Well He does, more than I do.

God Bless,

-Rita

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-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)

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-Five. Transients.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It still would have been more enjoyable with a friend.

And with less rain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Always be prepared to give an answer”

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

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

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

I was pleasantly surprised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I left without buying anything.

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

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

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

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

Either way, always be ready to give an answer.

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

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

But transients are perfect to talk to!

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

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

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

Love you!
God Bless 🙂

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

Thirty-Four. Updates.

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

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

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

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

Some people have date nights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I’m sorry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless you all!

See you soon, Canada!

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!

Thirty. One Week In.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story One

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

Story Two

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

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

Story Three

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

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

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

Story Four

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

Story Five

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

Story Six

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

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

Story Seven

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

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

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

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

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

I think that’s about it for now…

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

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

God Bless!

Twenty-Four. Trust.

This might end up sounding kind of silly but I was reading a Christian romantic suspense story last week (Broken Crowns by Tamara Shoemaker) and one of the main themes was trust. Obviously they were in a very difficult and dangerous situation, different from any situation I’ve ever been in, but the point remains, how much do I/we trust God?

In the story Jeff and Jill were brought together under terrible circumstances. Jill’s boss was murdered and Jeff’s sons and sister were kidnapped after his brother was shot. The two were targeted by a witch coven from Jeff’s past so they have to work together to get Jeff’s family back, etc., etc. I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone who might want to read it but I wanted to establish the kind of situation they were in.

They both had to trust God for a lot of things.

Since my grandpa died almost two weeks ago, I haven’t had much appetite and my head has been hurting much more than usual. Normally, I try not to complain about my headaches because it would get kind of annoying and depressing to hear about someone’s pain every single day. If I ever do say something, it’s because my head is really bothering me. Usually the pain is at a manageable level that I’m used to.

Since my grandpa’s passing though, I guess my body is reacting in a sort of negative way, but I didn’t really know what to do. Well, I guess I always knew what to do, I just never did it.

I’m really blessed with a spiritual family who loves the Lord and who loves me too and truly believe in prayer and God’s power. They have a prayer meeting every Monday night and I know many people pray for me daily too.

I didn’t really want to “bother” them with my head though because I figured, I’m just stressed out right now because of two deaths so close together and the visa application, so it’ll pass on its own.

I don’t think it was necessarily a lack of trust, but I wasn’t willing to ask for help. That’s something I’ve struggled with a lot in the past as well, but that’ll be a post for another time. I was definitely feeling that I should trust more though. God is the ultimate healer but when my pills weren’t working, I still didn’t turn to Him for some reason.

Finally, my pain got to a point where I felt like I couldn’t handle it at all anymore so I made a quick phone call to ask for some prayer.

God works fast.

Just a few minutes after I hung up I felt lighter and my pain decreased significantly.

I might not have been in a life or death situation like Jeff and Jill but trusting God is applicable at all times, in any situation, for any reason.

Anyway, I want to encourage everyone that God is worth trusting. He does listen and He does respond. He doesn’t get annoyed with our prayers and there’s nothing too insignificant for Him. It seems self-evident, but I think it’s worth remembering or being reminded of every once in a while.

So pray friends, about any and all things. Pray all the time.

God Bless!

Oh, one more thing I realized I had planned to talk about, but forgot (I was wondering why this post was so much shorter than my other ones).

I was scheduled to work everyday last week (I’m a supply teacher, so I work on-call and I appreciate every single shift I get) but on the Friday before the ladies in the office realized they had hired two new teachers who would be starting on the Monday. They said they didn’t need me so they took all my shifts away.

I was really bummed.

As it turned out, I went to the doctor, got my tests done and I got one step closer to finishing my visa application, so the week off was actually very useful. I was also able to sell an old textbook and meet some new friends who are also going to Belgium.

This small example of God’s perfect timing was an amazing reminder to trust in Him always. He knows exactly what we need and exactly when.

He is also amazing at providing whatever money we need so I know I don’t have to worry about what I lost from the week off (over $550) because if I really needed it, He would give it to me!

So anyway, in all things rejoice in Him. Give thanks. And pray!

God Bless!

PS. I’ve been working on my visa application and Carleton paperwork, everything seems to be moving along. I’ve gone to the doctor and done some tests for the medical requirement and I’ve gone to Carleton to give in my course list and to get my bursary from the French department. More on that in my next exchange prep post 🙂