Fifty-two. Growth.

Nothing earth-shattering today friends…

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

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

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

Now, it’s actually such a joy.

My perspective has completely changed about daily Bible reading.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully I’ll become a better person.

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

Love you! God bless!

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

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica, and Alex with Liza on his shoulders :)

Jessica, and Alex with Liza on his shoulders 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is indoors!

This is indoors!

Also indoors

An indoor waterfall

An indoor waterfall

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Seeing Terry Fator (AGT)!

Souvenir pictures from Pampas

Souvenir pictures from Pampas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless!

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

Forty-Nine. I’m not dead!

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

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

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

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

But I finished surprisingly well.

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

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

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

But not all students turn to God in those times.

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love it!

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

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

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

I realized that I didn’t want that life.

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

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

It’s not easy.

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

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

But thankfully there is grace in Him.

There is forgiveness in Him.

There is LOVE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless!

Forty-Eight. Recovery

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

Well, October has been intense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I care a lot about life.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

So I pray for these people.

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

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

I feel that that has happened to me.

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

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

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

But the recovery is tough.

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

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

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

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

Throughout any period though, one thing remains constant.

God.

He loves you.

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

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

You can too.

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

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

God bless!

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. 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!

Eighteen. Updates

I haven’t written in a while. Sorry about that.

March was exceptionally busy between school – the year is almost over – and my exchange many things have happened and I haven’t had much down time to write. I also haven’t been able to stay up until 2 in the morning procrastinating on my homework.

Anyway, I feel bad about not sharing anything, then I read another friend’s blog and another one and basically I feel like I’m failing at this blog thing. It would be easier to actually meet up with someone who’s interested in my life and to chat with them over coffee. Or something like that.

Well, I did share that my parents were away. They’re back now.

They had a good time and brought me back a bunch of earrings, which is awesome because I love earrings. They said I lost weight while they were gone… I think it’s safe to say I’ve gained it all back now that they cook for me.

School’s wrapping up now. I’m actually really happy summer is coming, but not because I hate school. It’s more about loving my job. In the meantime, I have three more essays to write. Between now (I should be working right now anyway) and next Tuesday I need to finish at least two because my teacher said we could  hand in the last one on the day of the exam. I don’t want to do that. He also changed his mind about how many essays (or essay preps) we had to do. My french class is pretty confusing.

But the main thing is, I’ve known about these essays all year and yet, I find myself in a crunch now trying to write about books I don’t remember anymore. Why? Because of priorities and self-discipline – or lack thereof.

My teacher doesn’t believe in due dates, dead lines or penalizing someone for handing in their work late. This might sound wonderful at first, but trust me, it’s actually harder. When the time came to do homework, the things with due dates took precedence over these French essays. We were warned not to leave them until the end of the year, but many of us did not heed those warnings.

So until two days ago in the early hours of the morning I had finished none of the four essays. At least I got one done, but I still have three more… but now I have even less motivation than I did all year. Knowing it’s my fault doesn’t make it any easier to write.

Having homework to do DOES make it easier for me to write about my life though, as shown by this post right now.

I’ll probably write something about proper time management in the near future.

What else has been going on…? I guess I can update you about my exchange process.

So the application I was doing at the end of 2012 was to Carleton’s exchange program. Then I heard I’d been accepted and tentatively placed at ULB but I still had another application to do for them. I’ve finished that now, it was stressful and I made a little mistake along the way, but it’s done and now I have to wait for confirmation from Brussels. Even though I’ve haven’t officially been accepted, we’ve started planning the trip.

Also, I’ve been getting to know the two other girls from Carleton who are going to ULB. It’s much more exciting knowing I won’t be going alone.

Two days after my birthday we’ll fly to Belgium. We’ll spend one day there before flying off to Minsk, Belarus for a week. Since my grandma died in December we didn’t have a chance to go – specifically my mom didn’t get a chance to go be with her family, so we’re going now. Then we’ll get back to Brussels but the hotel we’re staying in is actually in Germany. But my parents will stick around for a week, we’ll do some touring around northwest Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands (Holland is not a country).

They will fly back to Canada on August 31st and leave me to fend for myself. Hopefully I’ll have somewhere to live for ten months by then.

So that’s the stage I’m at now, planning flights/activities, looking into rental places, thinking about work, thinking about school, all while not doing my last assignments from my second year of University.

Anyway, for the next few posts, or maybe they won’t be the next ones in a row, I don’t know, I’m planning on writing a series on my exchange plans and preparations. Obviously, when things come up in life, I’ll write about that too, but I kind of want to share all the stuff I went through, or will go through as I prepare for a year abroad before getting into posts about actually living abroad. Which I will do. I will also, probably, be writing some blogs in French for Carleton’s French department – more details to come as I find things out.

Finally, one more update. I really like supporting my friends and a lot of people have blogs of their own. Some are Christian, some are not, but have a look.

Alyssa Bethke, I don’t know her personally, but she has a great Christian blog: http://blog.alyssajoy.me/
My friend Hope, she’s Christian: http://unveilinghope.com/
My friend Sarah, she’s also Christian: http://acupeoftea.blogspot.ca/
My friend Anna, she’s in Journalism and she’s also a Christian: http://notwithink1.wordpress.com/
Emily is also in Journalism, and also a Christian: http://livetotelltheworld.wordpress.com/
Cassie is not Christian but she’s in Journalism and she’s a really good friend of mine. I even made it into one of her blogs:) http://cassieontheedge.wordpress.com/
Nip is Australian, I met her at school while she did an exchange here. She’s studying Journalism too: http://nipwijewickrema.wordpress.com/
My [Christian] friend Keenan is writing a book chapter by chapter: http://godthrowscrazyparties.wordpress.com/

So, go ahead, read some or all of their stuff or just know that I’m supporting people I love ❤

Love you too, reader, whoever you are. But remember that God loves you more ❤

Sixteen. Loneliness.

I’m not talking about being single in this post. (Although I guess that might be kind of part of it.)

I’m actually talking about living alone. Being physically alone.

That’s where I am now. And it sucks, so I decided to write about it. Sometimes that makes me feel better, but more than that, I want to share encouragement with anyone else who might feel something like what I’m feeling now.

I’ll preface the rest of the post by saying that I’m a people-person. I also [probably] have fear-of-abandonment issues.

Everyone who knows me, knows that I love being with others, even if we’re not doing anything in particular. Just proximity with other humans who know and care that I exist is the best feeling to me.

Right now, I’m in my house entirely by myself.

Many people my age would be rejoicing, but I’m usually crying. I legitimately cannot hold back tears when I think about my parents being away.

My brother moved out of the house last January and he’s 26 now so it wasn’t as if he rebelliously wanted to leave our family or something devastating like that; it was just time for him to move out on his own.

When he left, I cried – even though I wasn’t living at home at the time and no matter what, he wasn’t leaving me alone. But thinking of him going made me sad. Now, even though I’m used to him not being in the house, I can’t wrap my head around his lifestyle. If I try to picture myself in his place, I actually just can’t. He lives in an apartment building, alone, and he doesn’t know any of his neighbors or anything like that.

I can’t imagine living that way.

Right now, my parent have gone on vacation and when I came home from church this evening, I unlocked the door to let myself in and the tears came, unbidden, before I’d closed the door behind me.

I walked into a dark and empty house. No one said “hi,” no one cared, not even my dog is home to bark and jump and wag her tail excitedly.

This isn’t the life for me.

But now that I’ve described what, to me, is one of the worst situations in life, let me tell you what is encouraging me as I write this.

God.

His presence, His spirit, His love.

As I was crying I kept telling myself to stop, to get it together. I told myself that I couldn’t do that every time I crossed the threshold.

That wasn’t helping me. I kept crying.

So I prayed instead. It was raw and desperate but it worked.

I called out loud, “God, make me feel your presence. Press in on me so that even though you aren’t physically walking beside me, I will feel and know that you are with me. God, come into this place.” I kept repeating things like that and just as I hadn’t known I was going to cry, I didn’t need to make myself stop… I just did.

All of a sudden, there is a warmth around my shoulders and I’m able to smile, laugh and even though I know there are still no people – or pets – in my house, I don’t  feel alone. It’s a very strange feeling, knowing I’m physically alone, knowing I’m never truly alone but actually feeling that truth.

It’s one thing to say you believe something, it’s entirely different to experience the undeniable truth of God’s promises. He said He would never leave me, and while I believe it before, now I’m feeling it.

That’s incredible and encouraging and all of a sudden, the next three weeks don’t seem so bad. I’ll still have times of loneliness and sadness, and I’ll cry some more too, but I can always think back to this evening and call out to God again and trust that He will answer.

He does press in on you when you ask Him to.

He does show Himself to you call for Him.

Dads are great. Moms too. Having parents who love you and want the best for you, who provide for you and care for you is an incredible gift.

It’s even better to be a cherished son or daughter of a king. I am loved by the Creator of the Universe.

And so are you.

This is the encouragement I want to extend to you, whoever you are.

God loves you.

It’s a real love.

No matter what your situation is like, no matter what kinds of relationships you have with anyone, parents, siblings, friends, extended family, significant others, whoever and whatever the nature of any of your relationships, a relationship with the one true God is so much better. He is so perfect. He provides more than enough.

Walking in that truth changes everything.

Before today, and especially earlier today as my parents rolled their suitcases out the door, tears were streaming down my face non-stop and I had no idea what kind of month I was about to have. Nothing made me feel like I’d get through the time alone.

Now I have worship music playing on YouTube, I have a comforting warmth around my shoulders – yes, it is a physical warmth and light pressure on my shoulders – and I’m smiling! I’m writing about the Creator of the Universe as my best friend and I’m joyful. In His presence, there is true peace.

Anyway, some of you might think I’m crazy, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m feeling God changing my life right now. It might even seem small and insignificant but God meets us where we need to be met. He steps in when we come to the end of ourselves. If I’d been praying earnestly for comfort earlier, maybe my month wouldn’t have seemed so horrible. But I needed to get to a place of desperation before I cried out and called to my Father.

He responded.

He loves me.

And He loves you too.

When you need Him, He’s there. So call on Him.