Monday, January 15, 2007

Preon(g) Yesoos sralang ne(k)!

The first sentence I coined after my first Khmer class last week (that's the language from Cambodia). Indeed, I'm now tackling this unique language, and it seems a bit overwhelming at the moment. The languages I've known so far all work with the latin alphabet. But not Khmer. Above is a transliteration of a very old sentence... using our alphabet. But the Khmer alphabet has 33 consonants, 23 vowels, each consonant has a leg-form (sorta like our upper/lower caps... but used differently), and the vowels are placed around the consonants. Letters are shaped so different from latin ones! Very artistic.

So far, I've memorized the first 24 consonants, and hope to have them all tackled by the end of this week. Gloria has taught me the song "eagles wings" in Khmer (which transliterates from Khmer as "sla(p) untree"), and I'm getting used to the different sounds of the language. Me/I/my is pronounced "khnyom"; think of how often we'd have to say that in our often egotistical North America...

So that's quite the challenge. Plus, starting up piano lessons with Sandra again, so I can learn how to teach what I know, and maybe joining some dance practices with the youth as well, at least for a few months... This is a year of new beginnings!

Speaking of "new" again, that was one of the themes of our awesome Mid-winter Meltdown conference we just had at our church this weekend. Tracy Stewart came from South Carolina as our guest speaker, and it was sooooo good. I could write down everything she said here from my notes, but I'll just recommend for you to order the tapes. It was a mentality shifting word, and I know God touched many people's lives through it! It was so cool too, cause, being a lead worshipper, music and praise and worship mean alot to me. I was so excited this weekend to have two of our own house-written songs as the theme songs for the weekend. "Prepare to be Amazed" was the bomb!

Frances Coker, our youth leader, woke up at 3 am Thursday night and heard a song in her head, full orchestra, everything. She wrote it out on paper, and, in the morning, played it for those who were at the morning prayer on Friday at the church (we're having all morning prayer every day of the week for this month). They liked it. Then, she played it for Sandra, and she liked it too. I was leading the music team on Saturday night, for the conference kick-off, and when Sandra told me about the song, I asked her to teach it to me so we could try to do it on Saturday night.

When I heard the song, I liked it, but wasn't too sure about it. It sounded different from what I'm used to playing, but I thought we'd give it a try. That is, until the team started playing it together. Suddenly it went from almost sounding a bit cheesy to becoming a majestic, praiseful, lifting-up-the-mighty-name-of-our- awesome-Lord kinda song. Needless to say, it was beautiful, and add several hundred people singing it out passionately to God, and it sounded like something straight from heaven. And the coolest part is that it was written in 5 minutes, with God literally downloading it into Frances' mind. Love it!

With all these new things happening, new songs, new focus, new miracles, I'm really excited for what God has in store for this year. It's gonna be good. God is touching the lives of people all around me, in my life group, in our church, at work, and, I believe, even in my family. We just can't always see it right away, but it doesn't mean it's not happening.

Anyway, just so you know, today's blog title means: Jesus loves you. That doesn't mean that those who know Him and trust in Him will never have trouble... quite the opposite. Rather, He says we'll never have to go through it alone - and the blessing in the end, after having gone through it, keeping our faith in Jesus, is more than we can imagine!

Preon(g) protiempo ne(k)!

Thursday, January 04, 2007


There's something exciting about the "new". Remember when you were a kid; that new toy, the new bike, the new grade... and then growing up; the new friends, new haircut (at least, for girls...), the new computer, the new vacation... But "new" also brings a bit of apprehension sometimes... I remember many of those "new"s too, like moving into a new house, a new school, or even a new province. Or starting a new job. You just don't know what to expect. It can be very intimidating, even overwhelming... I remember a dream a friend shared with me. She was on a stone path, in the middle of a forest, late at night. It was very dark; she knew what her surroundings were somehow, yet she really couldn't see them. The only light around was a small beam lighting the stone just in front of her, which would allow her to take only one step. But then what? Although feeling afraid and alone, she decided the only thing she could do was to step on the lit rock. She'd figure out the rest later. Yet, as she did so, the beam moved ahead one stone, so she could take one more step. She did. And the beam moved ahead one other stone. And so, she started walking along the path. She soon realized someone was moving that light so that she could always keep walking in safety, yet without being able to go ahead or see any farther than that next step.

Life is often like that dark path. You just can't see ahead far enough to start running along. Even if you do run, you'll find the unexpected hiding at every corner. Yet, there's a special promise given many years ago. It's from the book of Jeremiah (29:11): "For I know the plans I have for you", says the Lord,"plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

As strange as it may sound, someone has already walked that path you're walking, and is looking at it's beginning from its end. But, just like my favorite scripture (Prov 3:5-6) says, if you want that amazing person to help you out, you have to let him. How? Well, you need to ask him, first of all, and then, you need to do what he tells you to do. It's sorta like playing Marco Polo, except he's not trying to trick you or to run away, but is wanting to lead you to safety. He's the only one who sees the road fully...

As we enter this new year, my confidence is in my Lord, who's seen this year already. There are no surprises ahead for him.

But there are plenty for me. My heavenly Dady is delightfully planning surprises, both good ones, and difficult ones (just to keep working on my character, to keep me well disciplined). This is the year of "new": new life, new salvations, new friendships, new trips, new challenges, new disappointments, new joys, new growth, new direction... And I have no idea what lies ahead... I mean, I have some ideas of what I've planned, but when all is said and done, I really don't know.

And it's just as well that way. I'm not anxious, but I trust in my God's promise that He'll never leave me or forsake me, that even if I walk through the valley of death, I don't need to fear any evil, cause He's with me. Even if I hid in the deepest parts of the sea, I still could't get away from Him. He knows me entirely, every secret, every thought, every mistake, and yet He loves me fully, every inch of me. It's too awesome to really understand...

I'm facing 2007, and all its "new", with much anticipation. Not thinking of it as a lonely, tortuous path through a dark forest, but rather like a little girl enjoying the trail, riding on her daddy's shoulders!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Back to my roots

That’s probably the best way to summarize my Christmas holiday week. After an eight hour drive through rain and freezing rain, along the highways and confusing Montreal exits, I arrived at my parents’ new home in St-Agappit, QC, early Saturday afternoon. We lived there around fifteen years ago, my mom, my brother and I, so it’s kinda funny to winde up in the same small middle-of-nowhere town that was my carry-over spot from English speaking Iowa to my French roots of QC. I was so young at the time, and nothing looks like what I remembered…

My parents’ home is a small, typically French Canadian house. Following tradition, the front door leads straight into the kitchen and eating area. There are four bedrooms upstairs, which is pretty good for the two adults and five children living here… but it gets a little crowded when you add a grandma and a big sister. Still, it turned out pretty well.

My family is well known for it’s large size and strange names. The youngest, Cassylia, almost 3, is a little doll. She reminds me of Shirley Temple, and she’s a smart cookie. She’s had to learn fast to survive life with big brothers and sisters. Here's a picture of her after Elodia straightened her hair... so cute.
Ysaac is the next one in line, now 9 yrs old. He’s a handsome little guy and, and he's pretty clever. He can be really sweet, when he isn’t teasing. Maika is 11, and she’s the monkey of the family. She’ll climb anything she lays her hand on. She loves to dance and to be in the spotlight. Isadora, on the other hand, 13 yrs old, tends to be more quiet. She’s the artsy one, both in talent and in style. And she loves cats. Elodia, 14, is a sports queen. She’s really impressive at basketball, and I’ve never seen her miss a serve in volleyball. She’s like a second mom to Cassylia, like I was to her when I was her age.

Then, there’s Jael, 22, who just got married this summer. We’re the closest in age, and we grew up together, through thick and thin. It’s been an adjustment to relinquish that friendship to his bride, Emily, but I guess the process took place over a few years, so I’m ok with it now. He’s a talented musician and songwriter, and also excels in sports. Emily is studying to become a doctor. When they first met, and Emily started falling for him, she thought she’d never have a chance with the cute Jael cause he kept telling her how she reminded him of his sister (that would be me). Who wants to date a girl who’s just like their sister? Well, apparently, to my brother, that was meant as a compliment. It’s true that we are alike a lot in personality, interests and compassions. Her heart is to be an overseas doctor, and mine is for missions… And I guess we look a like, a little bit… but she’s much prettier.

Oh, and then there’s me, the eldest. And my Chiropractor mom, and my step-dad, who's a carpenter. And there’s also my grandma, with a nose ring. She’s kinda funky like that. And that’s my family.

Saturday night, mom and I drove out to Jael & Emily’s house. They couldn’t spend Christmas with us this year, as they’re driving out to her family in Sept-Iles, on the East coast. But it was nice to catch up with them over a cup of herbal tea.

Christmas Eve morning, we went to church. It’s the church my family attends here, and the church I grew up in for most of my childhood. Many of the friends I grew up with are now missing. I just found out that one of my childhood friends got married this summer, around the same time as my brother. It was kinda weird seeing some of younger ones again, they were just little kids last time I saw them. Marie-Helene was the one that surprised me the most. She was born on my birthday, when I was eight years old, and I remember it so clearly. I remember babysitting her and her sister and brothers when she was just a little redheaded girl. Now she’s grown up to be such a beautiful young lady. And, to my joy, she plays piano and sings absolutely beautifully. Of course, the service was hardly over that we were sitting at the piano, playing and singing in harmony some of the songs we both knew.

Christmas morning was opening-the-gifts time. The highlight of the event, at least for me, is watching as Cassylia would pick up a gift and we’d try to decide who it belonged to. We’ve never spent that much on Christmas gifts, as it’s not the true reason for the season, but this year was especially frugal and simple. Yet it didn’t matter. It was still enjoyable, and the kids were grateful for what they had… praise God!

Tuesday, after several days of rain, freezing rain, and bare ground (which is a very uncommon scene for QC), we awoke to a world covered in a blanket of white. At some point between 2am and 8am, snow started to fall, quickly covering the ground with its thick, fluffy whiteness. By evening, there were several feet of sparkling snow. We spent a couple hours outside, shoveling and playing in it. As much as I don’t like the cold and look for any opportunity to escape to warmer weathers asap, I must admit that snow is really beautiful, especially sparkling in the starlight; and if you dress the part, it really is a lot of fun to play-fight and bury your siblings in it…

Wednesday morning we headed out to another childhood spot: les Chutes–de-la-Chaudiere. I have many pictures and memories of picnics, hide and seek and long walks in that park. We even sometimes swam in the falls. That day, it was even more beautiful after the fresh snowfall. We started off with some time sliding down a large hill, and Ysaac and Maika impressed us with their snowboarding skills.
Then, we headed out for a walk on the olden days’ trail. Except that Maika and Ysaac gave us a bit of a scare when we found them attempting to climb down the high precipice, trying to salvage something they’d dropped down below. Kids often don’t realize when their lives are in danger – they had no clue that they could’ve died… I guess that’s why God made parents!

The rest of the walk was very pleasant, with beautiful winter scenery. I would’ve loved to stay all day… but we didn’t.

In the evening, the adults all headed out to a prayer meeting at the pastor’s house. Another set of childhood memories flooded my mind as I walked in; even though the house has changed a lot, and the children too, I could remember coming over for many social events, dinners, or babysitting. Marie-Helene and I got to sing one of my favorite songs, and then spent a good portion of the night exchanging favorites and singing some more. She still blows me away with her piano skills; light years ahead of me! And Elizabeth, I remember her as a little girl, just a few years old. Now, she’s also growing into a lovely young lady, playing songs like “Take it all” (Hillsong) on the bass and the guitar. She’s the same age as my sister Elodia… and I can hardly believe how fast they’ve grown… I guess that makes me sound (and feel) old…

Marie-Helene, me and Elizabeth

Thursday, mom finally got her cross country skiing in. He headed out, her and I, along skidoo trails, just the two of us, in the beautiful winter afternoon. Growing up, cross country skiing was one of my mom's favorite winter activities, and I think she's passed that down to me a bit.

The closure of my week in Quebec was a game night with my younger siblings. Pictionary is alot of fun with kids that are too young to understand some words, it was a riot.

Then, the 8 hour drive home, and I was back in Oshawa. I love my family, and QC is a beautiful place, and it was nice to return to my roots for a week, but I'm glad to be home. Now, looking forward to the new year!