Thursday, December 22, 2011

Relaxation At Last

I'm in Germany since Friday, and I'm so glad to be here. I had a train ticket for Thursday already, but circumstances beyond my control have led me to change my planning.

Last Wednesday, we received the following message from our Human Resources Manager:

"The public sector will be on strike tomorrow, Thursday, 22 December...there will be no public transport (including train, metro, bus, tram, flights). Belgian schools will be affected. In addition, the main entry roads to Brussels might be blocked by garbage trucks..."
Ok, wonderful. That the trade unions in my adopted home country like to strike (or do these "action days" - or "Journées d'Action" as they call it in French) is nothing new, but if they do it two days before Christmas, it's exceptionnally damaging (that's why they planned it that way of course). My first thought was: "Thank God I'm booked on Deutsche Bahn (German railways); they will get me out of Belgium." However, it's not that easy. They have to use the infrastructure of the Brussels raiway station after all. So they promised a bus service between Brussels and the city of Aachen. However, I anticipated chaos with this kind of arrangement, so I decided to cancel my train ticket and rent a car instead - the best decision I could have taken. I stayed in Brussels on Thursday, relaxed, and did my preparations for the journey. Friday morning, I left with a Fiat 500 (one of those tiny little cars they would laugh at you if you would drive them in the US), and safely arrived in the early evening. No problems whatsoever on the road; it only took me longer than expected, since I decided to take more breaks.

Christmas with family was a blast. In fact, I think it was one of the most harmonious Christmas evenings I've spent with my folks. We were a rather small group, since my older brother and his wife were visiting with her family. So it was my parents, younger brother, aunt, uncle, cousin and grandmother. We played and sung as ususal, and I was asked to share a couple of hymns. One of them my mother even knew from the Lutheran hymnal, and so she joined me with her tenor voice. It was lovely.

Yesterday, we continued at my grandmother's house with our traditional Christmas lunch. Today, there will be yet another family event, as we are going to visit my younger brother in his new apartment and then go for lunch to my parent's house again (since he doesn't have enough seating at his place).

From Tuesday, I'm going to attend a prophecy seminar at one of the retreat centres of our church near Stuttgart. It's a one-week seminar, however I will only be able to stay there through Friday, as I have already registerd at this New Year's retreat in Bad Kissingen. But I would like to go to both events, and so I have to make concessions. I'm really glad that I have the car now, as it would be really difficult without. So I'm looking forward to these last few days of 2011.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Night Shift

It's after 1 AM and I'm sitting in my living room. Of course this is not a time when I'm usually up and running, however I woke up after midnight. I really don't know what happened - whether it was a dream or maybe I was just lying on my left arm, but I started panicking because I thought I couldn't move one of my fingers anymore. Strange.

So I got up and took the opportunity to call a friend in Tennessee. It was nice talking to her for a little while, and I'm feeling better now. However, I'm still not sleepy enough to go back to bed, so I thought I might as well continue with my ramblings.

So where were we, ah yes: the church service. Communion was very blessed. Our new Pastor preached one of the best sermons I've ever listened at such an occasion. One of the main messages was that we can overcome sin. For most of my fellow church members, this is a rather new thought, and thus the "Amens" were only far and few in between. Nevertheless, I'm really happy that we have a Pastor who is into Present Truth.

In the afternoon, we had a special children's Christmas program. I didn't stay through the end, but I was impressed how well they had prepared everything. All of the little ones were dressed in white garments, and some even had angel's wings on them. I think they really liked their outfits! They sang a few songs, and maybe later on they opened some gifts (at least I saw that they had prepared some wrapped items for them).

But I was not feeling too well. The week had been a bit exhausting, and so I felt I had to take it slower now. I spent the rest of the afternoon partly outside, and partly at home, just recuperating. In the evening, it started raining again, later on mixed with a bit snow. At about 7 or 8 PM, I took a long walk at one of the side streets in my quarter. It was very wet, but nice. Those streets are really quiet, and I like Belgian architecture.

On Sunday afternoon, the sun came out nicely, and I even went outside two times. The first time, I did my usual "round" on the nearby University premises; and the second time I walked to Woluwé Park, which is about 15 minutes away. I saw a group of geese eating some grains or bread crumbs somebody had dropped for them. It was such a cute picture, but unfortunately I hadn't brought my camera along. In the evening, very thick snowflakes came down. It was a nice picture and I'm curious how it's going to look like in the morning.

Anyway, I will try to calm down now a bit more. Maybe I'll feel sleepy enough to go back to bed at some point!

The angels/princesses are getting ready to perform

Just before marching in


They sang very nicely

Pastor Lucian preaching

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I know I haven't blogged for a while - wasn't really up to it. More about that in a moment.

It's already mid-December and we haven't had any minus degrees yet (I'm talking about 32 F or lower). In fact, November was said to be the warmest one since the beginning of weather recordings. However, it has been raining a lot lately, and these dark clouds tend to really annoy me. As a surprise, it suddenly started snowing last night. The first snow this winter! However, in the morning, rain fell on top of it, and by now almost everything is gone. At any rate, I've been trying to catch every ray of sunlight possible - which can get rather tricky here!

The last few days at work are coming up (in fact, for some of my colleagues the end-of-the year break has already begun), and I'm going to leave for Germany on Thursday morning. I really look forward to this time off. I'm going to spend the Christmas days with my family, and for New Year's I'm going to attend a retreat in a German spa called Bad Kissingen. It's a very nice area in northern Bavaria, and this retreat is organized by a group of young adults of different churches. I just received the list of participants and figured out that I'm going to see some old acquaintances there. People I have gotten to know at seminars or other meetings in Germany at some point, some of which I have only recently seen on Facebook; so it will be neat to see them again in person.

I haven't mentioned yet the health talk on the frontal lobe of the brain that I gave at my work place. It took place on Tuesday at lunchtime. Unfortunately, December is a very busy time in our offices. So many things still need to be finished before year-end, and also many Christmas lunches are taking place. So I had about nine people attending, however two of them left even before I finished the talk (the only two male attendees - maybe they didn't like what I shared about coffee or alcohol). Anyway, the toughest part is always the Q&A at the end, and so one of the colleagues asked me a question related to evolution. I couldn't give her a satisfying answer other then saying that I didn't believe in evolution, and that science is split here. I really felt a bit clumsy and awkward. Other than that, the presentation went pretty well. Of course there is always room for improvement. However, right after I was not encouraged at all. I thought that I had completely messed up. I also started doubting and getting anxious about our planned health work in Brussels and about many other things. The exceptionally ugly weather did the rest.

On Wednesday night however, I went to church for prayer meeting. I had been wanting to attend for a while, but I would always find a reason not to go. However, this time I had promised to meet our first Elder there to give him a hand-out on health work that he wanted to copy. We were only six people, but it was really blessed. Somehow, this cloud lifted, and ever since I've been feeling so much better - although the circumstances haven't changed at all. I cannot express how relieved, happy and encouraged I am. These are the kind of experiences that really strengthen my faith.

So if you feel down or discouraged for any reason - just hold on a little longer - there is light at the end of the tunnel!

This morning at church was also very blessed - but this may become another rambling...

"To all who are reaching out to feel the guiding hand of God, the moment of greatest discouragement is the time when divine help is nearest. They will look back with thankfulness upon the darkest part of their way.. From every temptation and every trial he will bring them forth with firmer faith and a richer experience." The Desire of Ages, p. 528

Friday, December 2, 2011

One Thing After Another

So many things have been happening lately that it's difficult for me to keep up with blogging. My Thanksgiving party last week turned out a blessing. Although a lot of my colleagues had other commitments that evening, I had eight people at my home, including some former colleagues, as well as the two other ladies from church who also work for the EU. My guests liked the vegan food (although there was no turkey), as well as the alcohol-free champaign (although some of them would surely have preferred the real thing!), and we had a nice time together. I shared a DVD about the medical-missionary project in Serbia that I have been supporting, and I also shared my personal experience related to it. The result was that I raised 165 Euros for the project (two of my colleagues even donated something the day after when I brought some left-overs to the office). So this year, Thanksgiving was really a happy event.

I'm also thankful about the outcome of my cooking class, which took place last Sunday. For this event, I also had eight people at my home, even a lady from my neighbourhood. I showed them some healthy options for sandwich spreads, and it was well received.

The next big event will be another health presentation I'm going to give at my workplace on December 13. This time, I will have the opportunity to speak on the frontal lobe of the brain. A highly interesting topic, but also quite controversial. I guess some people will not like to hear that things like coffee and alcohol impair the functioning of this part of the brain. I still have to prepare quite a bit for this. May God help me.

This coming Sunday, we are going to have our first meeting for our planned health expo next April. Valérie Dufour, associate director for health ministries at our Division, is going to take part, so that we can get this started. I'm thankful that I was able to establish contact to some of the members of our second French speaking church in Brussels. They conducted an expo back in 2008, so they already have experience with this. The two brothers I got in touch with seem to be very motivated. So I really hope that we can get this organized. It will not be easy, but I pray for the Lord's guidance.

Anyway, I'm glad it's Sabbath. There was a big strike in Belgium today. Tens of thousands of people have marched through Brussels to protest against new austerity measures brought on by Europe's financial crisis. I didn't see the demonstration, but I had to cope with the ramifications of it, as it also resulted in a partial transport strike. There was absolutely no metro and no bus going from my place, and I had to walk to and from work, which was about 40 minutes each way - and I had to walk briskly! So I really got in my exercise in today, and I think I'm going to sleep very well tonight!

Some of my Thanksgiving guests
My friends from church: Viliam from Croatia and his wife Jana from Slovenia,
who works for the European Council. To the right: Agnieszka from Poland,
who works for the Secretariat-General at the Commission
My cooking class attendees
The sandwich spreads - and a zucchini cake in the background