Friday, October 21, 2016

Life Changes

There are exciting developments underfoot! First, if all goes well, I will be extending my stay beyond the one year that would have ended in February 2017. Being here has been such a wonderful experience for me and I somewhat selfishly am not ready for it to be over yet.

This week, I finally felt like I was settling properly into my new role as secretary to the president. When I made my bucket list I wanted to be an executive assistant at a mainstream SDA college. I am still amazed when I realize that God answered that desire of my heart by bringing me here to MEU! While I originally came to help with administrative tasks, I had no idea that the executive assistant's position would open up or that I would naturally transition into it.

As I look back on how God has personally guided me to various work and service opportunities, there is a common thread throughout those experiences. Each time, God had prepared me for the work so it was not a completely new thing to learn, and each time He had placed me in the right place at the right time. There was never any question about each of the jobs that I undertook. Whether it was registrar, medical secretary, program coordinator, or now executive assistant, each position was one where I felt confident in His calling.

Now, as I prepare to stay long-term, I once again have peace that this is where God is calling me. I can't see the future, so I do have to exercise trust, but I know without a doubt that this is the right thing to do. I'm thankful for God's confirmations and how He choreographs my life's dance.

In choir we are excitedly gearing up for our Christmas program in the beginning of December. We're also singing for Week of Spiritual Emphasis and that song is a difficult arrangement of We Have This Hope. We spent 40 minutes last week just learning 6 measures! Though we have about 25 women and 8 men, it is sounding quite lovely and I'm looking forward to the actual performances. Every Sabbath we now sit on the lawn and have a delightful potluck together and with the fall weather here to stay, it's so peaceful to sit under the trees and breathe deep the fresh air.

My social life has calmed down somewhat. When I first came, I hurried everywhere and did everything so it felt as if I'd seen about half of the safe zone we travel in! Now I've transitioned from trying to connect with everyone to building quality friendships with a closer circle of friends. The highlight of my week is always when I get to spend time with the twins as they are now in their 6th month and just getting more adorable by the day.

One thing that weighs heavy on me is how to connect to the community outside our little bubble. I know it's important to support each other as Christians, but I also think it's equally or even more important to be able to relate to those who are not of our faith. I want to have challenging conversations where we learn and grow in our personal faith rather than try to proselytize everyone to make sure they are converted. I'm thankful that here I have a good friend who has friends in the community so I'm slowly getting to know them.

I can't see the future, even though I'm happy to be settling in to one that will be more certain. Yet I'm thankful because I trust my Father's hand to keep me close to His will and His heart.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Not One but Two Blessings

I've been keeping a prayer journal since I came in a little green notebook that my best friend LaVonne gave me. While I'm normally not one to keep a prayer journal, I knew it would be helpful to write down my prayers so I could see God answer them. I was curious whether the verse that says all God's promises are Yes and Amen through Jesus Christ was really true (2 Corinthians 1:20). I can now say without a doubt that God has answered the majority of my prayers with a Yes. Some prayers were small, like I needed new tennis shoes to exercise and I didn't know where to buy them. Others were big, like trying to find direction for my life after this year is up. Regardless of the prayer's status, I saw time and again how God distinctly and uniquely answered each prayer.

Yesterday, I prayed a prayer I don't often do. I asked God for connection. I'd been feeling somewhat disconnected from people, partly due to processing some personal things, and partly because I'm in a transition stage right now between groups of friends. It's funny but even in my 30s, there still are cliques and favourites and all that. It's tiring but it's there.

After writing out my prayer, I promptly forgot about it. My day was full with work and when I came home in the evening I had a schedule already mapped out. I was going to grab supper to-go, walk with the guys til 7, then go and see my friend and the twins. After that, I'd check out the volleyball game and perhaps join people if they went to Mr. Cocktail for fruit juice. God, on the other hand, had a somewhat different plan for me.

After walking, I headed to my friend's place. The twins were up and kicking vigorously and I scooped up one while my friend fed the other. I walked around with him draped over one arm while I tried to eat my supper, and later, after my friend rocked him to sleep, I held him close as he sank into baby dreamland. I've been privileged to watch them growing up from little tiny babies to now-6 month-olds and I think this stage is just the nicest. They are so responsive, smile easily, and enjoy being held.

As we sat, holding babies and chatting, I savoured the precious moments. My friend told me I could put the little one down, but I shook my head. I didn't want to give up my time holding the sweet baby. We enjoyed a couple of hours and then I left to catch the volleyball game before it ended.

When I reached the courts, I realized my friends weren't there so I headed back up to my dorm room. I messaged Shiloh to see if she was up and wanted to talk and for the next 1 hour and 45 minutes we laughed, reminisced, and shared life and its moments with each other. When I finally hung up, I realized that God had answered my prayer from the night before with not just one but two special blessings.

I shared a worship talk about prayer several weeks ago and I am thankful that God continues to show me the value of prayer. Now, I'm starting to pray for bigger things. Things that require faith. Things that will take longer to answer. Things that may change someone else's life. It's somewhat daunting but I know God is able to work if there is even the smallest seed of faith. So I encourage anyone who reads this post to try it out, to test God, and to see how He will answer your prayers. Because I know He will.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Of Pimsleur and Life

I'm learning Arabic! I can say "Afwan, inta b'taaref Ingleezee, yah ach? Ana ma'baaref Arabi." This would be me saying to a taxi driver, for example, "Excuse me, do you speak English, sir? I don't speak Arabic." And he could reply, "Ana ma'baaref Ingleeze. Inti b'taarefi schwaye t'Arabi, yah anisay? Naam. Inti Amerkey? La, ana Breetaaneyah" Or in other words, "I don't speak English. Do you speak a little Arabic, miss? Yes. Are you American? No, I am British."

I'm so excited. My sister bought me a belated birthday present of the first 15 lessons of Arabic Pimsleur. I downloaded it onto my phone so I can listen to it anytime and it's a really great way to start learning. Well, for me it technically isn't learning the language from scratch because it already sounds familiar to my ears. I just can't understand beyond very basic everyday conversation.

I'm not being paid to promote Pimsleur, but I do want to share why it's a helpful way for me to learn the language. Two weeks ago I sat in a formal Arabic language learning class but after an hour and a half I felt like I knew even less than I had before. Through no fault of the teacher, but because my learning style is very much perfectionistic along with hands-on, I wasn't learning very fast.

Pimsleur takes a basic conversation and breaks it down into syllables, then builds it back up again with a lot of repetition by a native Arabic speaker. Because I'm a perfectionist, I enjoy the challenge of trying to match my pronunciation to the speaker. I also don't want to sit for long so the 30-minute lessons are perfect. I loved that after going through the first lesson, I could perfectly understand the basic conversation that was given and repeated again at the end. I've now added some words to my vocabulary and in the second lesson I'm building on what I learned in the first.

Language learning is a very slow process. I did it naturally, when learning French as a child from ages 4.5-9 where my friends all spoke French. I did it formally, when learning Spanish for a year in high school through a correspondence course with tapes to listen to and in college where we watched a fun soap-opera type of dialogue for class and memorized Bible verses in Spanish. Now I'm combining my natural picked-up-from-9-years language with a formal process but the actual learning process is more organic. Of course, the true test comes when I actually get out there and try to speak what I've learned. I may actually make sense but then after the first couple of sentences I will have run out of what to say!

In a way, language learning reminds me of life. Life isn't easy and to achieve anything worthwhile we have to be persistent, keep practicing what we know, be willing to make mistakes in order to get better, and surround ourselves with people who are comfortable in the areas we are weak so we can learn from them and grow. This is my experience here. At times it seems I'm stretching beyond what I would have imagined possible but I'm thankful for this growth because it helps solidify my beliefs while at the same time learning to accept others without judging them.