OK, I know it’s been almost one year since I made the commitment to write a daily blog post. And I know this might have ment 300 post by now.  I also know no one is reading this but I felt the urge to try again, and maybe, just maybe this time I’ll stick to it more than a week.

So what happened this past year? Well, mainly life happened. We started thinking about relocating around Christmas, we narrowed the options to Belgium and started looking for jobs here, by March we had landed two freelance software developer jobs, moved to Brussels, the moved to Wépion (they have the strawberry museum, who wouldn’t want to live there), and finally moved to Sambreville and then enjoyed the summer.

It was fun but I’m happy we stopped moving at one point and finally settled. It was difficult to find a furnished rental in the Belgian countryside, not to add that we work 40km away from each other but God was good, and He gave us a cozy apartment in an old mill outside a small village near my husband’s office. The owners live in the rest of the house and we share a cute yard and are surrounded by woods. It’s quiet, green, flowery and rather cold due to the fact that we are in a valley (a stream passes just under our windows). We love it!

I started keeping a journal a couple of weeks ago (after a long pause of a few years), and I really hope that bringing writing back in my life I will be able to channel all the thoughts that flood me daily into something creative and structured. Indeed, I feel overwhelmed at the quantity of ideas and thoughts that pass my mind each day and I cannot help regretting that most of them are forever lost to me since I do not take the time to reflect upon them and make sense of them.

So, I pray at his new beginning that God may lead me where He knows I should go and that I may become more like Him as I strive to live a more mindful life.

Isn’t this what we’re all longing for? Isn’t this what we call success? Doing what you love and loving what you do? Being passionate about all the parts that make your life. About your personal life as well as your career.

Some might argue that doing work that you don’t feel as ‘work’ is not necessarily the best thing that could happen to you. They point out that it is good for you to do stuff that you don’t like and that you do because you have to. This is supposed to teach discipline, humility and self-control. These same people might also say that it’s not that bad to do work that you’re not passionate about, after all none of our ancestors really had a choice, and they all ended up loving the work that was imposed to them by family traditions and other circumstances.

But, let’s be serious do you really have to continue in these patterns even if you do have a choice. For you could hardly say that in today’s world opportunities are missing (I’m talking about the privileged part of the world). Even if there might be little market demand for your dream job, passionate people have such an extraordinary way to create their own market and to reshape the world. So, in theory, we are free and have the means to pursue our interests and lead a passionate life. Why then, are there so few of us who truly find accomplishment in the work they do each day?

One of the reason that I’m going to talk about here is the fact that we are programmed out of this freedom.

What are you being taught when going to kindergarten and told you have to draw even if you would rather listen to a story, or that you have to play when you would much rather draw? This starts small but continues to gain importance as the years go by. After, for the past 12 years or more of your life, you have been told you should better do some math than dance, or chemistry when you’d rather read a novel, you find yourself in front of a choice, the only one allowed to you in such a long time. Choose a career! You remember all the things that you were passionate about at one moment or another but your interest in them has been crushed. They don’t seem that important anymore. What’s important is where the high paying jobs are, and that is all you can hear around you.

So you choose, and choose the same thing each and every day, until you get sick of it or so used to it that it doesn’t matter any more.

You lay try hard to become passionate about what you do, and you might succeed. Or you might one day choose to let yourself go and let your interests lead you. Who know where they may take you?

 

It was love at first sight. The first time I read about the concept I was conquered. Maybe because it expressed some of the aspirations and convictions that I had deep down inside me but was not able to express.

This is such an amazing, life-changing, revolutionary and yet so simple concept. Unfortunately, we don’t think, talk or meditate about it enough. If I should make a wish for my children’s education it would be this: that they be lifelong learners. This implies so many aspects that are dear to my heart.

For the lifelong learners learning is a way of life. They love to learn and do not dread it as a school imposed activity. Their creativity and spontaneity have not been stifled by institutions. They’re curios, hungry-minded and aren’t afraid to ask questions. They love experimenting and pursue their interests with determination. Most of all, they have found a meaningful purpose for their life and they are passionate about making the world a better place.

I want this for my children (and for all the children in the world) but I also want it for myself (and all the adults in this world). I may not have started quite right but it’s never to late to fall in love with learning.

This is too important to be ignored and left at the charge of others even if they are passionate teachers. You have to take charge of your own education, because you’re the only one who has a real interest in being successful at it. Start today!

You know that feeling that grabs you when you’re about the get out the door for a two weeks vacation away from home? “Did I forget something?” That’s not the best start for a relaxing holiday, now, is it?

Let me share with you a couple of tips that will make your life easier when packing your bags for any trip.

  1. Use your body as a checklist. To make sure I don’t forget any major clothes category, I use my body as a checklist. Now don’t start getting any funny ideas. I start inventorying my body to make sure I have packed all it needs. You can do that toes to head or in any order. I start with my feet (socks, shoes) and go up (trousers, skirts, panties, belt, t-shirts, blouses, etc), not forgetting the hands (gloves), to my neck (scarf) and head (hat, sunglasses). You get the idea. Visualizing yourself during the trip will automatically help you think of any item that you might need.
  2. Make a list. And if you’re an organizing junkie you can divide it into categories (Clothing, Toiletries, Electronic equipment, Books etc). Not only will you avoid forgetting stuff, you will be able to spot any exaggerations (5 skirts don’t take up so much space but if you see them on your list for a 3 days trip you will start asking yourself if it’s not too much). The bonus is that the list will be very useful when you pack before returning home. It will serve as a checklist for the stuff that you had with you. This way you avoid making unintentional presents to the cleaning personnel of the hotel.
  3. Don’t leave it to the last minute. The last few hours or the night before are really the worst times for packing. If you leave it to the last minute be sure you will either bring to much stuff or forget something. Plan ahead and set yourself up for a relaxing holiday.

Bon voyage!

I little more than a year ago we relocated to the French Riviera. It’s a wonderful place to live and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

I couldn’t say I had anything close to a cultural shock but living among French people has left me “bouche-bee” quite a few times.

It seems that the customer is often an unwelcome irritant.

You must know I suck at bargaining over stuff and I usually avoid to to it if I can. I also consider myself a fairly reasonable person. But I find it difficult to deal with shop keepers who practically throw you out of the store 15 minutes before closing time, that being no later than 7PM. Not to mention their opening hours 10AM – 7PM. So for someone working the normal 9-6 schedule, those 15 minute are really important. I might have taken it more easy if it was at 10PM.

Calling a public service for information at 12:05 you will be greeted with “Spit it out quicker it’s already past 12!”. I wouldn’t have called if the opening hours on their website mentioned a noon break.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t believe the customer should always be right. The Chief Happiness Officer gives 5 reasons why this shouldn’t be your customer service golden rule. However, his point is that when dealing with abusive customers you should protect your employees at the risk of loosing the customer. This, of course is said in the context of a culture that knows the basics of commercial common sense and can distinguish between obnoxious customers and nice ones. Let me tell you France has a long way to go to make that the norm.

So I wasn’t surprised at the advice the leading actress gives to her British friend helping her as a waiter, in the movie A good year: “Remember, no matter what, in France, the customer is always wrong!”

“for God loves a cheerful giver …” [2 Corinthians 9:7]

I have recently been asked for help by a friend. She is not the one in need but a family from her church is struggling with financial problems.

They have been in a financial ditch for the past couple of years. She and her husband are nice people, they have two wonderful daughters and are trying to figure out how to best live their life. They have a debt that is eating away most of his paycheck, and she just got a job after a long period of unemployment.  Moreover, from what I understand they are far from wise when it comes to finances and budgeting. None the less, until a year ago we and a couple other families have been helping them with a monthly sum of money.

So, you see, my friend was kind of embarrassed to ask us for help in their name. But they are in a desperate situation; they have not payed their rent for some time now and are threatened with eviction.

We will help them, both with money and with our prayers, but what is bothering me is that little voice in the back of my mind, that says “They don’t really deserve it” or “Don’t give them too much, they won’t manage it well anyway”.  I guess it’s human. Judging others, I mean. It comes naturally. Although we’re hardly in the position to judge.

That got me thinking about giving, and the reasons and motivations behind it. And then I couldn’t help visualizing  the one gift that I value most. The gift of Life, God’s gift of His Life so that we can have it abundantly. And I wondered what if Jesus had the same voice popping out in the back of His mind saying “She doesn’t deserve it, none of them deserve it”. Oh, I’m so grateful that He didn’t pay any attention to it, and gave Himself fully, knowing there was the risk that we mistreat His gift.  And what is even more intriguing is that He didn’t attach any conditions to this gift.

When helping people that “don’t deserve it” there is this temptation to make them “sign a contract”. You feel that if you force them to change one or two things that are wrong in their life in order to benefit from your gift, that will do them so much more good.  You know, like “OK, I’ll help you out this time but I want to see a monthly budget and I want you to commit to it”. Don’t get me wrong, these are good things and the motives might be laudable. But this just isn’t the way God gives.

He just gives. To those who appreciate it and to those who don’t. To those who deserve it (is there anyone? not the last time I counted ) ant especially to those who don’t. If there is a string attached to his gifts it’s only his invitation to get to know Him. He builds relationships. And hopes that if we hang out together we will end up learning a thing or two from Him. He hopes, he doesn’t impose. And you know what he does if He doesn’t see a return on investment? He just continues to give, His love, His blessings, His care. And He continues to hope.

After all this thinking, I feel much relieved and cheerful about giving to those in need whether my alter ego thinks they deserve it or not. I also feel compelled to completely model Christ’s generosity, by building a relationship with those we help. By giving them more than just money, by giving them love and a part of ourselves. Offering them our friendship and sharing tactfully practical wisdom that we have gained from our own struggles in this area. And most of all praying for them.

I have been invaded by contradictory feelings since I read this morning that Sara has joined her father alongside Jesus. I have known her through her blog for a while now, though not keeping up with it regularly. I remember when I first discovered her, I couldn’t get enough of her posts. It was so wonderful to see joy shine through her life, despite all the reasons she had to abandon joy. It was a tremendous encouragement for me, a complainer by nature and by training.

I no longer want to complain, I no longer want to get upset over the little annoyances of life, I want to be able to choose joy, just as Sara did. And it should not be that hard because my life is not nearly as hard as hers.

Thank you for inspiring me, thank you for living your life connected to the Lord and for sharing the strength and joy that He shared with you. You have taught me so much. My heart and my prayers are with all those that loved you and that miss you.