Beginning with Blessings

I suppose much has happened since I last blogged, but I will not waste your time or my brain cells trying to recount it. “But boy, do I have some things to say.”See original imageHaving grown up in church, I have been accustomed to the change that the New Year brings not only to my daily life but also to my spiritual life. In Pentecost, it is normal to shake things up at the beginning of the year and search God’s guidance for the year to come. Well that is what happened here in France.

Prayer & Fasting

We (the Châtellerault church) designated three weeks as a time of fasting and prayer; we had two prayer meetings during the week, but every week, the days of those meetings were changed, in order to fall out of the habit that we, as Christians, can so very easily fall into. These days of prayer were very important for the church, as well my family, we wanted God to reveal to us His plan for the church and for our life. Our family’s position as AIMers can be rather unstable at times and we just do not know what step we should take.

To continue on the topic of blessings, throughout this special month, I have seen God bless either our family or our church in several ways; my mom had been waiting for a very important document for over a year, and it finally arrived, my dad was offered a job as a teacher in Poitiers, Dominic and I were able to purchase our very first phones, and a family that I had been praying for, started the New Year in church. My God is powerful and can do all things!

img_0715Our American Visitors

Now… it was my absolute pleasure to have been able to meet Sis. Cylinda Nickel and her daughter, Seanna, when they made a special trip to our part of Europe this past weekend. After they arrived on Saturday, we brought them into Paris, parked under the Louvre, and walked around the gardens before getting a Starbucks in the basement of the Louvre.

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Seanna and I in the fairy tale village

In order to show them a variety of sights in the small amount of time had, we took them on a boat tour. And because food is important, we ate on the terrace of a kebab shop on a small Parisian street.

Sunday afternoon, after our church service, we took our new American friends to the little village of Angles-sur-l’Anglin; they said it was like walking through a fairy tale (and it was).

On Monday, I accompanied my dad bringing Sis. Cylinda and Seanna back to Paris so they could catch a quick plane out. We stopped along the way at the “hunting lodge” of Francis I, and strolled around the grounds as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Upon arriving in Paris, we had some time to spare, so we took them on the metro.

Filling up with French pastries!

Filling up with French pastries!

We got off at Trocadero, where we took some pictures and ate French waffles and crêpes in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

Then it was time to leave… 😦 We braved the Parisian traffic and the little men on mo-peds, and arrived at the airport. We said goodbye, and they were on their way. I was so happy to have met these amazing women, and I am thankful for the time they took to visit and encourage us.

 

Parisian adventures and Melun

“Paris is always a good idea” -Audrey Hepburn

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Paris by night

My dad goes up to Melun every month to teach at the France’s national Bible school, and this time, I decided to go with him.

The drive up

Since my dad had to teach on Saturday, we decided to leave Friday morning that way we could spend the day in Paris. The time it takes to travel from Châtellerault to Paris is about three hours,

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happily being “attacked” by pigeons

which is not that bad when you have Disney and Israel Houghton albums to blast through a speaker (I am an awesome car ride companion). After singing “friend like me” and “zero to hero” to the best of my abilities, and waving to random truck and bus drivers we finally arrived to our destination.

Paris

We parked the car in one of those nice underground Parking lots with great acoustics and went to wander around. We walked in front of Notre Dame, where pigeons attacked me (just kidding), and then strolled past the Hotel de Ville, which is not your simple North American parliament building. We then turned left, and started down the Rue de Rivoli  where I entered an H&M and walked out somewhat let down. Dad and I continued down the same street and found Forever 21, where dad followed and acted as a portable hanger as I aimlessly meandered through the maze which is Forever 21. I must admit, after an hour, I might not have walked out with everything, but I did not walked out with nothing…*yikes*

img_6397After my satisfying shopping trip, dad led the way to the Galleries Lafayette where I would see my very first fashion show. It was a great first experience, however, it never ceases to amaze me was fashion designers can come up with. After the show, we descended a few levels to where there was a Starbucks; there we sat, ate a cookie, drank a frappuccino, and watched the little people browse around.

We saw the Garnier Opera House, the Mogador Opera House, where we were supposed to see the play “The Phantom of the Opera” before it ironically was canceled because of a fire. When we decided it would be a good idea to eat, we stopped at a restaurant, where we ate outside; img_6400everything was great except for all the Parisians smoking around us.

Then it was time to see the Eiffel Tower; you cannot go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower, plus I had never seen her lit up before. We rented some bikes and whizzed through the Paris traffic.Then there she was, tall, lit up and sparkling. It was beautiful, definitely worth almost getting lost by myself…

Church in Melun

img_6406Let’s fast forward to Sunday shall we. Dad was scheduled to preach in the Melun while Bro. and Sis. Nowacki were away, and he had asked me to find something that we could sing together, so we sang. Having caught a cold while in Paris, I was a little worried about sounding stuffed up, but everything went just splendidly. I have, in a way, quieted down since arriving in France, and for most people here, it was their first time hearing me sing, some told me they were pleasantly surprised (as was I), but I received the compliments with as little blushing as possible. After an incredible time in the presence of God, I was invited to eat at the church with the young people; and what an amazing and talented group of young people they are as well.

In the closure of this somewhat lengthy post, I would like to thank the young people in Melun who are always so kind to me and make me feel welcome, it means more than you know.

Summertime Sadness

Well my friends, summer is over and fall has begun, what a sad thing to think about.img_6342

My summer has been rather upside down. Because I had started school late last year, spent a prolonged Christmas and New Years break, and took a couple weeks off in March for my special visit back to the Great White North, I spent a lot of my summer vacation catching up on my schoolwork.

I still got my summer vacation, and I thank God for it, however it carried on until almost October. The reason being that I had to wait for my books to arrive from the U.S. and so I waited, very patiently I must add, until I realized that September was almost over. Towards the end I grew anxious, knowing that the later I started, the later I finished. img_6318

Finally, earlier this week, we heard a knock on the door… and a French gentleman, that smelled distinctly of smoke, carried in three, nice, book-sized boxes, “enfin!”.  Ever since, I have been slowly setting up my workstation (home-schooled), organizing my school books and binders, buying tissues for the many meltdowns to come (just kidding, I’m more like Elsa, “don’t let them in, don’t let them see), and preparing to start a new year– a process many young people know, love, and cherish. *ahh ha ha*

img_6341So as I materially prepare for school to start again, I am also mentally preparing myself. At the moment, I am excited to start school again, but I am also sure that excitement will not last long… it never does.

When ever I think about the future projects, reports, and essays, I remember that I only have two years left in grade school, then I will have to face the decisions that will shape my future, and once those decisions are made, I will look back and see just how easy I had it in high school.

 

Pas de Pluie à la Puye

This past weekend we (dad, Timo and I) went to a farm… a french farm, which really is not any different than your average farm.IMG_6122

This was not the first time that I had been to this lovely, private estate in La Puye, a little village about 30 minutes from the house. However, our reason for being there should be mentioned, seeing as it explains why we were at a random French person’s house.

One day, dad found a “help wanted” sign on a website, obviously curious, he clicked on it. The ad belonged to a French couple who were looking for a caretaker to look after their animals while they went away. Well dad likes animals and decided to contact the couple and they got him to give them a hand!

IMG_5841Bringing us back to the present; This past weekend was dads’ third time at the farm and my second time. We arrived on Saturday, with the animals already taken care of for the day, giving us the whole day to kick back and relax. This private French farm allowed the boys to do some swimming. I, on the other hand, preferred to stay in the shade, under the protection of the trees, so I sat in a hammock and swung as I read a book and listened to some tunes.

There is something about the country that drags people to their beds earlier than normal. I went to bed at 10:00. Fun fact: if you ever stay in a medieval French house, with stone walls, pray you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night; you will be walking through a black void.

IMG_6099(It is 6:30 a.m.) *peacock crows* yes, that is right, I said peacock. I am not saying they didn’t have a rooster, in fact, they had several, they just were not loud enough. The peacock was the one that woke us up for the Sunday morning chores. We had to feed the goats, chickens, pigs, sheep, and the two monstrously large great Danes. Then we had to bring hay to the horses, watering it down first because Gracioso has allergic reactions (uggh, needy horse).IMG_5889

We did it though, even if all I was able to do was follow and watch as the boys zig-zagged from pen to pen. We finished up the chores and headed back to the house to pick up the rest of the family in time for church.

 

Cherish Conference

All-righty, I said in my previous blog that I would expand on how my last Cherish conference went.

Cherish conference had always been one of the highlights of the year for me. It was a time where girls from all around the district could gather and just be girls (with the exception of Friday night, when boys escort the ladies down the aisle). 

The conference was always spread out over the weekend, from Friday night to Saturday afternoon. Since the conference started on Friday evening, it gave the girls from all over the district time to travel from their homes to Saint John (my home town) where this occasion was held. Since I was already in the region, I had all day to “prepare.”Matt_V

Friday night came. For the first ceremony, each girl was escorted down the center aisle by a handsome young man (good job, guys!) with the exception of the “no boys allowed” group who would rather skip the boys, and walk with each other. Once every girl had walked down the aisle, we blessed the food and went to fill our bellies. Following the meal, we returned into the sanctuary to hear some great words from Sis. Kathy Leaman.crown_H

The final part of the service was the coronation ceremony, the most emotional time of the conference. Each 15 year old girl is called up to the platform while someone reads a couple words that describe her, what she likes, and how she is serving God. Every girl then receives a rose and a crown, symbolizing that they are a daughter of the king, and then files down to the front of the altar where they are prayed over.

I am not an emotional person but there was something that hit me in that service: I would not be coming back to future Cherish conferences… this was my last one.

Saturday was really where all the activities happened, there is always a theme and this time the theme was Treasure… as in buried treasure.choir_B

The two workshops I chose to do were (a) Sunday-school decoration and (b) choir. At the end of the day, every group got to perform/present what they did in their particular sessions.

Then it was over… “now what?” ; my coronation was a sign that I am growing up. Sure that part of my life is over, now it is time to see what else God has in store for me.

the return

 

For some who do not know I have been the Canada for the past two weeks, I went “home.”

For the first five days my mom and I stayed in Moncton and visited with my grandmother, and my uncle & aunt. The days  we spent there were probably the most relaxing days out of the whole two weeks; for me at least.

Wednesday is when all the excitement started happening. The plan was to drive down to Saint John and be there in time for church, but…. it just so happened that the church’s annual business meeting was that night so there would be no youth service. I was obviously disappointed by this turn of events and was talking to one of my friends about it. She decided that she would try to round up some of the scattered youth. Well, after we had finished with the appointments my mom had scheduled for Wednesday, we headed to MY big meeting. IMG_4337

We all met at Starbucks, (of course) where I got to reconnect with my youth group again and nearly gave my best friend a heart attack. All in all it was a great night.

Cherish conference was the next big event on our schedule and the main reason for our trip, but I will talk more about that in a second post… see ya soon!

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IMG_4579Sunday night had to be one of the highlights of “the return”.  After an amazing church service we (the youth and I) went to Boston Pizza. Seeing as there were a lot of us spread across a long table, my desire to talk to everyone was limited. When most of the people left around 11 p.m. a couple stayed behind and we talked in the almost empty restaurant until midnight. It is times like those that I treasure.

IMG_1555The time did come for us to leave, and though it was a little hard to leave again, this place would always be my home.

 

 

Dog-on-it … vs … Doggonit

“Dominic, Timo, wake up it is 7 a.m. we have to walk the dog.”

Yes, the dog that I have been wanting since I was a child well… we have him. Some people might have heard of our attempt at being dog owners last August; to say the very least it did not really turn out, making it harder to convince momma to give the “dog thing” another chance.

IMG_4106The story starts with my dad looking on Chatellerault’s animal shelter website and coming across “Pollux,” a gray, three year old, fluffy canine. His description had listed him as a Tibetan Terrier even though the employees were not 100% sure.

Well you can probably guess what happened about a week later… What I was not ready for, was being woken up by whining and barking at 12:30 in the morning; making the first few days hard and frustrating. Since then he has stopped and I have been able to get my beauty sleep, (thank the Lord.)

Having to re-train him to our family’s rhythm will be the most challenging part, of course, but you know what? I am happy.

I have never been happier to be forced outside before 11 a.m…. or 12 a.m… or one… it’s at those times that I’m tempted to say “doggonit!”

Le Quiz, again?

Today, Châtellerault hosted approximately 20 young people from the churches of Bordeaux and Romilly-sur-Seine.

I had started quizzing when I was just a little girl, and at the time didn’t really enjoy it; one might put it this way, it took up too many of my precious Saturdays. My brother and I had quizzed together for several years before we decided to stop because of reasons I truly do not remember. After that we didn’t quiz again… until this past November at the youth convention. Can you guess what we did? We signed up for Bible Quizzing.

Well, we started to learn our Bible verses, which are in French might I add, a language I am still learning. Any how, my dad communicated back and forth with the quizzing coordinator and they arranged for a quizzing fun-day & training time here in Chatellerault, with a couple of exhibition matches thrown in for good measure. Today was the day. We got up early, headed to church were we met the Youth from Bordeaux, and after some train delays, the youth from Romilly also arrived. We played (quizzing) games, competed in several match-ups, and fellowshipped; just a completely wonderful day, even if it rained.

When I was young I didn’t know just how important quizzing was, now I appreciate and understand its concept. To hide God’s word in your heart is very important for a Christian. Yes, I still think it is a lot work, but this work is worth your time!

Proud Girl

You have probably heard those jokes and stereotypes about Canadians and I am here to tell you… they are not all false.

I have heard quite a few Canadian jokes and stereotypes and even aid my brothers in coming up with new ones. Here are a couple common things Canadians are known/stereotyped to be:

Canada, Canadian, OCDTo a lot of People we are the “invisible country” full of overly nice people, who

  • dominate Winter Olympics,
  • live in igloos or
  • use a dog sled, a polar bear, or a ski-doo to get to work.

Our speech is also very different; to some people our “About” sounds like “aboot.” We tend to over use the word “sorry” and like to end our sentences with “eh…?

Listen, you can call us snow-people, Eskimos, or even Lumberjacks, but you can’t call us late for a Tim Horton’s date! *badum tssss*. Sorry, lame joke, but I couldn’t resist.Vimy Ridge, Vimy, France, Canadian War Memorial, WWI

Still on the Canadian subject. This past Friday, on our way back from Belgium, we stopped in Vimy, France, and saw the Canadian War Memorial. The memorial was dedicated to the memory of 60,000 Canadian soldiers that died while seizing Vimy Ridge from the Germans in 1917 (World War 1).

Sure there are a lot of jokes on Canada but I am still a proud lumberjack… uh I mean Canadian. Now if you will excuse me, I am late for a Tim Hortons appointment. *jk… I can only wish, since there are no Tims here (as she softly cries in despair)*

Vimy, Canadian war memorial, France,

Now… one last thing… I decided it would be a cool idea to have a logo for my blog and this is what we came up with. What do you think?

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Forever learning

I have been playing piano for most of my life, which by the way is not anywhere near some peoples experience. But guess what… I am still learning.

I started taking piano lessons at the age of five; and for five years I practiced classical music until circumstances caused us to find another piano teacher. We did find a new teacher and that is when everything changed. When I was younger I had imagined what it would be like to play in church, and with a jazz teacher this was about to become possible. He helped me with the cords I didn’t know, as well as how to fill in the gaps between the cords; little did I know, by preparing me for youth services (which wasn’t such a big deal) he was preparing me for my main job here in France. I am nowhere near defining myself as a pro but I will continue in bettering myself in this instrument that I love.IMG_3600

Piano is not the only thing that I am learning.  I have recently started picking up the guitar. Part of my wanting to learn guitar — other than it being  a beautiful Instrument– is probably wanting to be musically versatile.  Having a brother that plays is very handy for my newest project. I am happy to say I don’t think I am half bad, I’ve received no complaints as of yet.

I have an imagination and this is just one of the things I’ve envisioned. Now I’m seeing it become real.