Fifty-Four. Blessed

I have my share of complaints about the world. I think we all do, and I think that’s ok.

But I also think it’s worth acknowledging problems and moving on from there instead of dwelling on negative thoughts.

Easier said than done.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. – Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

What an important reminder, but it can be a major challenge some days.

Many people know I started a new job recently. I have a lot of complaints now–about my schedule (I’m out of the house for 10 hours!), about people who can be difficult to work with, about not getting paid enough, about being tired all the time–and sometimes it might seem that I don’t like my job or that I’m not happy with where I am in life.

That’s simply not true.

It’s not the ideal job, I’ll admit. I’m not doing what I love. But there are so many wonderful things to be thankful for.

The very fact of being employed is something worth celebrating. My coworkers are lovely people who laugh and share and make my day brighter. I even have the opportunity to be creative and play with graphics for social media! (I’ll be posting my creations on a separate page.)

I complained that the cost of my bus pass went up but thank God I’m employed and can still afford it, and it has allowed me to ride previously express routes so it can sometimes be a little easier to get to work. (*It still takes a long time and I was perfectly satisfied with paying less than express pass people and only using the 95… but that sentiment didn’t fit the tone of this post.)

I complain ceaselessly about winter, and while I still can’t find anything good to focus on about this awful season (the snow stops being pretty when it’s on the ground), I can be extremely thankful that my parents are as wonderful and generous as they are. I’m so blessed by them, especially this season because I hate spending money on myself, even for things that are necessary, but they love me and want to make sure I’m dressed appropriately for the harsh weather we experience daily. My coat was old and ugly, didn’t fit my arms, the hood didn’t cover my head properly and the pocket was ripping, so my mom bought me a gorgeous new coat for an obscene price (although apparently good coats can actually cost more than $200 so maybe I should be thankful mine was less!). My winter boots are falling apart so I’ve been wearing fall boots and while I can layer socks to keep my feet warm, I can’t keep them from getting soaked. So my dad took me to buy new winter boots, again pricey, but now I’m comfortable, warm, dry and I can be thankful for all of that.

Constantly reminding ourselves of all the bad things we experience might feel therapeutic in the moment, we might feel a righteous anger and therefore justified in our complaints – and likely, they are completely valid issues that should be addressed – but I’d like to challenge myself to spend more time and energy being thankful for the good things.

Complaining usually won’t solve the problem anyway (although sometimes if you talk to the right person, they might be able to change something for you), but it will bring your mood down and it can rob you of joy.

At least it has for me before.

Listen, winter is terrible, but it does end eventually. And perhaps all it’s good for is helping us appreciate the other seasons more. But can you imagine spending 6 months making yourself miserable by thinking only about how awful this season is? Is that going to make it any less disgusting? Is that going to speed up time so it passes more quickly? (*Winter is officially only three months long according to the calendar, but it definitely lasts longer in practice… but not always 6 months… sometimes it’s even more!)

I’m thankful we have the freedom to complain, but I’m even more thankful for the endless blessings I experience daily and for the opportunities God gives us to rejoice and praise Him.

Be blessed and know you are loved.

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Fifty-Three. Reality.

Time to get back in the game.

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

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

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

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

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

But I also have to write!

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

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

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

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

None of that was news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica, and Alex with Liza on his shoulders :)

Jessica, and Alex with Liza on his shoulders 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is indoors!

This is indoors!

Also indoors

An indoor waterfall

An indoor waterfall

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Seeing Terry Fator (AGT)!

Souvenir pictures from Pampas

Souvenir pictures from Pampas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless!

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

Forty-Eight. Recovery

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

Well, October has been intense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I care a lot about life.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

So I pray for these people.

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

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

I feel that that has happened to me.

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

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

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

But the recovery is tough.

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

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

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

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

Throughout any period though, one thing remains constant.

God.

He loves you.

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

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

You can too.

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

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

God bless!

Forty. 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-Seven. Challenges.

Recently, a friend emailed me and asked what God’s been teaching me while I’m in Belgium. I was a little worried because I thought I would have to write “nothing” but I didn’t want to give that as an answer.

Before I could even consider responding to him, I had about fifty other emails to send out because I’ve entered a time of sheer lunacy at school.

As an exchange student, the first 2-4 weeks of the new semester are very crazy. They say there’s lots of help available, but in reality, no one really wants to help you.

You’re left floundering in a sea of confusion, trying desperately to choose courses that satisfy the host school’s rules and also satisfy your home school’s program requirements. You also have to consider the amount of credits, the level of study, the language barrier, the pre-reqs, etc… It’s all such a headache.

On top of that there are other things going on in life too and it can quickly feel overwhelming.

If you’re someone like me, you’re used to having it all together, having all the answers and people relying on you for information and support.

You can’t really support others when you feel like you’re lost and drowning yourself.

But in the midst of all that, God is good! He is always good!

That’s what God’s been teaching me – “Rely on me; Trust in me; Lay your burdens down at my feet; Take rest in me, take courage, take heart. I AM your peace. I AM in control.”

It’s an incredible reminder that the Creator loves me despite or in spite of my failings, short-comings and imperfections.

I don’t always have to have it all together because He does. And sometimes us perfectionists really need a good kick in the bum to remind us that we’re human and imperfect.

No matter what happens with school, or work, or our social lives, God is sovereign, He is love and we don’t need to worry.

I want to encourage you that no matter what ridiculousness you find yourself stranded in, God knows exactly where you are, what you need and He knows the outcome too. He loves you and He wants you to lean on Him.

In other news,  this is one of my shortest posts ever I think. But more importantly, I spent two days in England last weekend. It was my very first time in the UK and it was very exciting!

And recently I’ve come to realize how common it is to have to dodge dog poo on the streets. It’s a daily struggle really… but it’s even worse when you’re trying to get home but have to consciously avoid large piles of dog poo, trees, construction and traffic… It’s actually quite terrifying. And very dangerous.

I also almost stepped in vomit on my way to school… But thank you, drunk person for, at the very least, taking a bus…

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!

Twenty-Seven. Thoughts.

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

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

Perhaps you are feeling some caffeine withdrawal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazingly enough, I’m very calm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, thanks for reading! God bless you!

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

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

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 🙂

Twenty. Passion (Exchange prep one)

So I want to keep a fairly detailed account of how this whole exchange process thing goes.

For myself just as much as for others.

I was thinking about where to start and I realized, it all starts with a dream. That sounds a bit too philosophical or as if I’m trying to make this bigger than it actually is. So maybe “a dream” is an overused phrase, but you do have to have a desire to go somewhere before you actually do.

A lot of things influence whether or not you’re interested in things like traveling or what destinations you’re most interested in. Your parents and family situation, the media, your socialization, ect, all shape your thoughts in some way.

My parents, for example, worked really hard (and still do) but they didn’t buy fancy clothes or brand name items, they saved, they budgeted, they planned, and they stretched every dollar so we could go on amazing vacations. They instilled a love of travel and adventure in me.

Unfortunately it didn’t rub off on my brother…

They also put me into French immersion in school. This was hard, and when I was younger, I was probably pretty frustrated with them because no one spoke French, so if I needed help, I was on my own. Thankfully, I was gifted with an aptitude for language (and English isn’t my first language) so I always did well in French, but imagine if I didn’t have to practice every day?

I wouldn’t be doing most of what I’m doing now. I’m able to tutor others in French, I’m able to double-major in French (and Journalism), I’m able to travel, I’m able to adapt, I’m self-reliant (kind of) and now I have this amazing opportunity to study for a year in a French-speaking country all because I picked up a language as a child.

French classes through the years have exposed me to a lot of French culture as well. Movies do that too. In North America we really like Europe so portraying French culture as beautiful (as one example) was easy and common.

Without this background of French culture, would I want to live in France for a year?

Probably not.

Now, I’m not actually going to live in France, which is a bit of a bummer for me because I am so hooked on French things, but my French speaking abilities, and love of Europe are still putting me in an awesome place, both to live and gain access to other adventures.

If I didn’t have a desire to go get out of my little box, if I didn’t have a love for people, for Europe, for adventure, if I didn’t have a penchant for language, for culture, or any of the things I like now, would I have applied to go anywhere? So maybe I won’t be in France, but being in Belgium doesn’t stop me from going there… and then going to other paces too. The things I love are applicable outside of France.

Anyway, passion is one thing, you also need to seize opportunities and believe you can achieve the things you want. You have to believe you deserve them and that’s it’s possible for you to get where you want to get to.

It wasn’t enough for me to say in ninth grade that I’d go to Carleton for Journalism. I had to write, to practice it and fall in love with it. I got involved in my school newspaper, I took extra English classes, I took classes that would compliment what I wanted to learn about later. And then I had to apply.

That can be scary for people because of the reputation the program has and the fear of not being good enough. How could I be where I am now if I let my own self-doubt stop me? Imaging myself somewhere without actively pursuing that goal is useless.

The same applied to my dream of living in Europe. I wrote it really high up on my bucket list (it’s #4, right after family related goals) but if it just sat there would I ever have a hope to achieve it? I have “Go to the Moon” on the list too, but that’s not entirely realistic… I’m not pursuing any kind of astronaut related stuff. It would be super cool though.

Anyway, I had to apply for the exchange program despite knowing the competition there is, despite not having amazing grades, despite any doubts that I wasn’t good enough or that I didn’t deserve it. So I did and while I didn’t necessarily get the result I wasted most, I’m able to experience something other people only think about or dream about.

So I would say the first step to going on an exchange is to want it. Then you set about actually doing it, but that leads into the second step of research/filling things out and the actual program application which I’ll talk about in the next post.

I don’t know if this was a particularly helpful “first step” but it was something I wanted to say. For me, this exchange is a big deal because I love traveling and I like going on adventures. For someone else, this might be kind of a cool idea, but not something they would be excited about themselves.

Anyway, God Bless!

Oh, a few updates, I managed to get the three essays due for the 9th done. I think they were ok 🙂
I’ve written my first exam, the one I said would be my hardest and the one I had the least time to study for… I think it went well actually, despite the lack of study time, and I’m a little worried it might turn out to have been my easiest actually.

I’ve discovered a love for the old TV show, Boy Meets World (thanks Esther), and I also started watching House of Cards two days ago (I’ve watched 8 episodes), so I really don’t want to study or think about school related stuff at all.

I still have one more essay to write and two books to finish reading before my exam on Friday.

I get to start working again! Unfortunately, my life is too complicated to make work schedules simple so I have two half-days and one full day planned for the next three weeks, which isn’t much and cuts into my sanity and peace of mind, but I’m doing it anyway (not enough time to study before my last exam).

I’m at the hard part of exchange planning, more about it later, but let’s just say bureaucracy is awful! I’m trying to apply for a visa, and get tickets and insurance and stuff and everything is complicated and costs a lot.

And I think that’s it for now.