For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth. Colossians 1:16

Monday, December 17, 2012

I really love the season of Advent.  There are many reasons for that, including: I love Christmas decorations and music, it is a season of preparing for something so wonderful I still cannot comprehend it all, it brings hope.

One of my favorite songs is O Come O Come Emmanuel, particularly the Sufjan Stevens version.  I've been thinking of that song a lot lately, and last night I ended up listening to it on repeat for a solid half hour.  But really, have you looked at those lyrics?  Here's the first verse, taken from the Covenant hymnal:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

God's people, Israel, is still separated from their freedom to live in community with God fully.  They are waiting for the Messiah, the Savior, to come and bring them away from their captor and restore them to the unity with God that He intended for them.  And even in their captivity, they can rejoice because they know and they have the true hope that this Savior, Emmanuel- God with us- will come for them.

Verse 2:

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Day Spring.  The beginning, the first light, the dawn.  In light of recent tragedies especially, how desperately do we need the dawn to come?  To forever chase away the clouds that darken our eyes and dampen our spirits, to not be in fear of suffering or dying, how much do we long for that?  What hope that is!  I don't even know how to explain the beauty of true hope.  Hope that things will not stay as dark as they are.  Hope that healing will come with the light of the new day.  Hope that nothing can separate us, ever, from the love of God.  Rejoice!  It is coming.

 Verse 3:

O, come, thou Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Bring Your wisdom to us, LORD.  While we, the people of God, are still walking in the night, we need guidance on where to go, and how to go there.  I don't just mean literally walking, but in our actions and words.  When the Israelites were leaving Egypt, didn't God go before them in fire and in smoke so they could see the way to go?  They didn't know exactly where they were going, but they knew that God was leading them somewhere better.  They had true hope that God would bring them to where they were meant to be.  He gave them, on the way there, guidance on how to live so that they would stay within the presence of God.  Rejoice!  He still does that, and it is coming!

Verse 4:

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Unite us in Your love, in Your truth.  Remove our disagreements, our prejudices, the things that tear us apart rather than make us one to stand in Your Presence and be protected and saved from the enemy.  Be yourself our King of Peace, so that we have neither fear nor pain, just as You promised in Revelation.  Rejoice, O Israel!  He is coming! 

Seriously, this song if so full of the promises that God gave- and gives- throughout the Bible.  He holds to those promises and He's not going to let us stay in darkness forever.  He's going to save us and bring us to His Kingdom to be eternally with Him.  And it started long, long ago, and came together in the birth of Jesus Christ.  That is what Advent is about: preparing for Him who rescues us from the darkness.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

O, Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
How lovely are your branches!

Well, this is my first year as a real adult for Christmas, and I must say, as much as I love the French, I'm seriously disappointed they don't often decorate their houses!  On December 8th, there's a tradition of putting up lights and candles n the windows, but it's usually just for that night.  So, I don't have lights on my house, and I have yet to buy garlands for the banister, though I'm planning on it, but I DID buy my first Christmas tree!

I decided to go with a little guy that I found at Au Chan.  There's such a vast difference in the sizes of small trees available; it was either one five feet tall, or a little nugget of a tree, holding itself tall at 60 centimeters.  I went with the latter.  Now, what's funny about this one is that it is most assuredly meant for kids.  How do I know this?  It came with ornaments, and the three choices of ornaments were Disney princesses, Disney's Cars, or classic Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.  I figured that the classiest of these was Mickey and Donald.  And so, for my first grown-up Christmas, I have a Disney-themed, two-foot high tree, and I must say, I love it!

This year, as an early Christmas gift, my parents gave all of the kids something we have never and, but (at least I) have always wanted: stockings!  All growing up, we never had stockings, so the idea of "Stocking Stuffers" is entirely lost on me.  I have hung mine, handmade by my awesome Mom, with care, not by the chimney, but on the window handle in my living room.  It even matches the purple furniture!  How perfect is that?

Monday, December 10, 2012

On Thursday, I had the great joy of receiving two wonderful guests into "my" house.  One of my friends from college has been studying abroad this semester, and in her final weeks, she decided to travel with a friend.  A month or two ago, Kyla asked me if they could come and visit me for a few days, and boy was I overjoyed to say yes!  I love having people over, cooking for them, hanging out with them, and I was so excited for the chance to continue the hospitality that this house has long offered. 

On Thursday, we made dinner, drank hot chocolate and watched a movie.  Very chill, very lovely.On Friday, we got up early for a cinnamon roll pancake breakfast.  Kyla and Kaylen were generous enough to clean up breakfast as I took a little rest (I've been sick this past week) and then we were off to see the Christmas market in town.  We wandered about, looking at the delicately painted nativity sets, stuffed animals, ornaments, smelling the delicious cinnamon apple cider, vin chaud, and of course the churros and waffles that come out at these markets.  It may have started to sleet, but it was a marvelous way to spend the morning.  After lunch, we made over 200 cookies for the Kid's Club on Saturday, and as they were baking, Kaylen read The Hobbit out loud to us.

The Kids Club was so much fun, decorated with all kinds of lovely Christmas ornaments and garlands.  The kids who came seemed like they and a really good time: playing with each other and the volunteers, balloon battles, enjoyed a magic show and a puppet show, doing Christmas crafts.  So, so much fun.  When we had finished up, one of the little nuggets from the church tried to get one of the puppets out from behind the stage, so I went and grabbed it.  I started to make it talk to her and oh, how she was surprised!  The fact that the puppet was about the size of her didnt help, but the other kids started to play with it too, talking to it, even giving it hugs!  It was so, so much fun.  Kyla and Kaylen had fun balloon battling with the kids (something you can do in any language), and they were a great help setting up the snacks and making it look pretty.  After the club, we pulled a total American dinner and devoured two pizzas, chips, and cookies.  We got things ready for the Agape after church and just chilled the rest of the evening.

In traditional French style, the Agape after church lasted until about 4:30-5, and after getting things back in order, we finally headed home around 6.  I can't imagine that happening in the States, and it is so much fun!  I remember it being such a shock when I went to one two years ago, but I have definitely come to love them very much.  Being full of food, when we got back to the house, we rested a bit and as Kaylen finished up some assignments, Kyla and I played round after round of a Dutch Blitz.  My goodness, I love that game!  We found that the game went far too fast with just one deck each, so we doubled the decks.  Now THAT was quite a game.

It was such a wonderful weekend, full of laughter, friends from home, loved ones from church, and God's many blessings.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I have an amazing family whom I love with all my heart.  This past weekend, my family increased to include a new sister-in-law, and oh, what a blessing that is!  I absolutely loved being with my family and some good friends from the States.  Now, the downside about having gone back for the wedding is that I was reminded how much I love my family, which made it very tearful to leave again.

The first flight wasn't too sad though, because I knew that my friend Julie was waiting for me in Chicago to take me out to lunch.  When she pulled up, though, I received a fantastic shock or bliss to see that my dear friend Jenny was in the car with her daughter Charlotte.  During my last semester of college, I had the joy of hanging out with that cute little now-two-year-old, and I've only seen her twice since then!  We went out to Chipotle, laughed, and talked, and then they brought me back to the airport where I bought my second Starbucks of the day.

As I was waiting for takeoff, I felt the tears coming, and as I saw the faces of loved ones going by in the photo album of my mind, I pulled out my journal that I use for praying in color, and I just started praying for the people I was leaving.  By the time I closed my journal, I was well into the flight and I was no longer tearful.  It was a wonderful weekend, and why would I cry because I had spent time with people I love?  Now, I'm or saying that I'll never miss my family and friends, nor that I will never cry again (we all know THAT will never happen), but I'm just saying that instead of crying because I miss someone, praying for that person is a much better thing to do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Have you noticed that when you are really excited for a certain day or event, time seems to move fantastically slowly? This weekend, I get to see a number of people whom I love dearly and likely wont see again for quite some time.  I've been looking forward to this weekend for about...15 months, ever since my brother proposed to the love of his life, who has been like a sister to me pretty much since they started dating.  I've had my bags packed for about a week now, and all that is left is to wait.  Sigh.

Though it is up for some debate, I fully believe that the Christmas season is upon us.  It may not be Advent yet, but the time for preparing for the coming of Christ is possibly my favorite time of year.  I graduated college in December, and given that there were not many of us, there wasn't an outside speaker for the ceremony.  The president of the university spoke compared the college years as the preparation period for the life into which we would enter as adults to the season of Advent as the time of preparation for Love itself coming down to the earth to bring us into the life that God designed for us.

Waiting for something that you are excited about is a slow-going process.  But when it finally arrives,  all of that waiting proves itself to have been worth it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My home church has this fantastic tradition on Thanksgiving.  The church building is across the street from a lake, and every Thanksgiving morning, there is a hike around the lake followed by a time of sharing and hymns.  I just absolutely love it.

This has been such a weird week.  Not for any specific reason, but just knowing that the rest of my family was together this week and I wasn't.  It's not like I don't enjoy being here or I don't love what I do, it was just weird to know that my siblings were at my parents's house!  A couple days before Thanksgiving, I went to a choir rehearsal with a friend, and I got to meet the director and some of the other choir members.  When I was talking with some of them, they noticed that I have an accent, and when I said "I know, it'll always be there" they said "Oh but it's so charming! Don't you think it's charming? It's charming!"  I'm glad they think so, because I think it's obnoxious! :). After the rehearsal, I noticed that the percussionist looked nothing like a Frenchman (given that he had blond hair).  I asked him if he was American, which he was, and when I said that I was too, he said "Oh cool! Wait. Happy Thanksgiving!"  It is so funny to find other Americans here.

After finishing up work on Thanksgiving, I thought, "That's it. I need to make turkey and mashed potatoes tonight!"  So, I cooked a couple turkey fillets (not like the other year when I had to chop the head of the turkey-gross), mashed a few potatoes, and gravy and watched a Thanksgiving episode of Gilmore Girls.

I started thinking about this past year, and for what I was thankful.  As Josh Groban sings, "There's so much to be thankful for".  As I was thinking of God's faithfulness, how He has provided in sending me back here, the people that have been in my life, the generosity of different people, my family, the chances that I have to read and be creative, music, and all of a sudden, I found myself singing one of my favorite Swedish hymns: Thanks to God For My Redeemer.  It's such a beautiful hymn.

"Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!"

I just love that hymn! Over this past year, I've been trying to be more thankful, and living more in light of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Even when things do not go as expected, I should always give thanks with a grateful heart to the Holy One.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

This morning I had the pleasure of doing something that I haven't done in a while: I took a walk with God. I discovered the utter joy that comes from literally walking with God and talking to Him last January.  I was up at camp for a few weeks, just for fun, and I was walking along the snow-covered trees heading to a friend's house, and I just started talking to Him, thanking Him for different things, telling Him what I was stressed about, enjoying, etc.
A friend of mine stayed over last night, and this morning I ran out to pick up some pain au chocolats, and as I was walking, I just started talking to Him.  In the months that I have been here, I have re-realized just how important prayer is. Pretty much any time I have been out with a friend, before we part ways, we pray together.  In the time by myself as well, it has become ever-increasingly evident to me that prayer is desperately essential and brings about peace.  When your heart is being filled with God's peace, your whole body can turn to peace, and strength to face the problems that arise daily, the mountains that appear when you don't expect them, and the difficulties from simply living in a world that is ever seeking God (even if they don't know it) can come, always through the grace of God.  Never, never, underestimate the power of prayer.
In the fifth chapter of Luke, he tells us, "But [Jesus] would withdraw to desolate places and pray."  I often find that I have the mindset that I can do things on my own.  But Jesus himself went to spend time with the Father everyday.  As a friend pointed out to me recently, when Jesus came down to be born as a human to save us all, it was the first time that he had ever been separated from God.  I find it terribly difficult to even spend this much time without seeing my family, but imagine not only being separated from your family, but also your best friend, as well as leaving a part of your very self.  And so, Jesus would leave those he was with, to commune with God.  We as Christians say that we follow Jesus, and perhaps it is just me, but I know that I don't commune with God like he did and like I want to.
How very deeply do I want to try to do just that.  Not just ask God for things, not just request that He care for others, but truly commune with Him.  And how great a gift it is to be able to pray.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

During this week of playing with kids, one little boy latched himself on to me.  We were playing a round of Duck, Duck, Goose (though we called it Tomato, Tomato, Catsup- yes, I still do refuse to spell it "Ketchup" unless I am talking about the actual Heinz product), and after being picked to run, he ended up next to me.  We were talking and all of a sudden, upon seeing that I had blue eyes, not brown like his, he began to recite a poem about the meaning of the different eye colors.  It was too cute, and my heart just melted.  After he finished saying the poem, my first thought was "Wow.  They sure do start the charm when they're young over here."

This week has been tremendously full of emotions.  Saying (temporary) goodbyes to dear friends, being filled with joy through talking to loved ones, working with wonderful but draining kids, and trying to get into a rhythm of daily life amidst changes.  Yes, you can most assuredly say that this week has been a roller coaster.

After spending a week in English at a wonderful conference, I was launched right back in to nonstop French.  That is, after all, one of the reasons why I am here.  Over the past three days, I've been helping with a Kids Club in the area.  It was a circus theme, so I painted a whole lot of little faces like tigers, bunnies, lions, dragons, and-because girls will be girls-princesses and butterflies.  Don't really going along with the theme, but it was cute.  On the first day, the kids rotated between three stations of gymnastics, juggling, and ribbon/scarf dancing.  I led the ribbon group and my, oh, my, it was like being in first grade again.  In elementary school gym class, we would have units on scooters, ribbons, tumbling, and all of the fun things little nuggets do.

On the second day, the kids chose which group they wanted to be in for the show they would be putting on for their parents on the last day of the Club.  I got a group of the elementary school kids who were super excited to play with the ribbons.  After letting them play for a while, we got in a circle and each kid got to pick one thing to do with the ribbon.  After every kid picked something, we put it all together and created a routine.  The scarf dancers would do their routine in the middle of the circle while the ribbon dancers made figure eights, lassos, serpents, spun around in circles waving their ribbons high in the air.  After we practiced a few times, I could tell they were getting bored, so we jumped around like different animals whilst twirling our ribbons above our heads, getting them tangled around our arms, and just had a grand ole time.

On the last day, after hearing the end of our story for the week, painting faces, making posters for out circus, and practicing once more for the show, parents arrived to watch the production on which their kids had worked so hard.  The kids did a great job and they were so proud of themselves!  It was a major success, and such a joy to be a part of it.
A few months ago, a friend of mine gave me a book entitles A Jane Austen Devotional.  Each day has an excerpt from a Jane Austen novel and then a reflection correlating to different passages of Scripture.  This morning's reading was entitled "Letting Go of Worry".  Now, I didn't really care about the excerpt from Emma, but I really loved the message of the devo.  Here is a bit of it:

A second-and equally important-consideration is that time spent worrying is time not spent trusting God.  That energy would be so much better put to prayer!  The Bible tells us, "Don't worry about anything; pray about everything. (Philippians 4:6)

I've typically been a worrier on my life, primarily about things that don't matter much, and as much as I have wanted to, I have yet to conquer worry.  Yet even though I have spent years trying to let go of it, it remains a daily comfort to know that God can change worry to peace through giving it to Him and allowing Him to change the heart.  It's just the giving it over part that is a difficulty.  Yet, it is the thing most people who struggle with worry want to do!  Why is it that the hardest things to release are the things that get us down?  It is so easy to forget that people love us and enjoy being with us, and always so hard to forget when one person said something that hurt us.  "Don't worry about anything; pray about everything."

Friday, November 2, 2012

I grew up in the Midwest, the land of corn and wheat.  When we would take family vacations, driving across states to see extended family, all we would see for miles and miles were rows of corn.  Very few hills.  Very few lakes.  It's farm country.  Two years ago, when I studied in France, I saw mountains for the first time.  We were up in the Alps at a retreat, but it was rather foggy and we didn't see very much.  Occasionally, the clouds would clear and we could see a little bit, but not very far.

A few weeks ago, I went to Annecy and saw the Alps for the first time clearly.  I always thought that I liked mountains, but now I really know.  Over the past five days, I had the chance to spend time with some truly wonderful people up in the Swiss Alps.  Every morning, we were able to see a double sunrise.  Obviously, Switzerland is not on Tatooine, so what do I mean by a double sunrise?  We were somewhat in a valley, and so when the sun really did start to rise, we couldn't see the sun because the mountains were blocking it.  We saw the dark sky start to melt into the colors of daylight, and then during breakfast, the sun would begin to crest the mountains outside of our hotel a d the light shone into the valley.

Yesterday morning, when I came downstairs and looked out at the mountains, I saw an overcast sky, snow atop the mountain peaks, and clouds resting above the valley but below the distant mountain peaks.  How great an artist is the LORD!  I could try to replicate the streaks of snow over the dark blue face of the mountain, but it would most assuredly fail to capture the beauty.  The greatest artist, greatest photographer, the most talented replicator, none could truly capture what God has made.

Monday, October 29, 2012

After preparing to go to the conference in Switzerland, tidying up around the house, and skyping with some very dear friends, I got to spend the evening with my friend Elisa.  She hadn't been over before, so I showed her around and she was immediately drawn to my coffee table.  Basically, everything on the coffee table describes my life.  I have a Bible, knitting patterns (including my Jane Austen pattern book), a magazine just on William and Kate, and I had a coffee mug too.  We looked through some knitting patterns, oohed and aahed over how beautiful some of the things were, and then I showed her the hat that I'm making.  She said, in her very practical lawyer way, "Okay. Teach me to knit." Because I don't particularly like standard needles, I prefer circular or double points, I didn't bring my usual needles with which I teach (not to mention I'm pretty sure my neighbor from college still has them).  Therefore, Elisa learned how to knit or circulars and with sock yarn.  Now, as much as my French continues to improve, there are some terms that just rarely come up in daily life: such as "cornstarch", "stitches", "needles", and "upside down".  All of these I have needed to know at some random point in the month that I have been here, and I have had NO IDEA how to say it. However, thanks to the French education system, most of the people with whom I have interacted have known a little English, or I have been able to describe what I was trying to say.  

After some time listening to the Rat Pack and knitting, Elisa suggested that we go out to dinner at a really great Japanese restaurant in town.  I have only had sushi once, and that was the week before I came here.  When we were looking at the menu, I definitely had a flashback to my first week in France when I was studying.  A group of us international students decided to go out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner, and the menu was in-naturally-Chinese and French.  We had NO idea what we were ordering!  Luckily this time, I had a native French speaker with me who was able to explain what the different dishes were.  This place was INCROYABLE.  For €15, you could get five different things.  I have yet to master the art of French eating and very often I find it difficult to finish everything on my plate, particularly when there are multiple courses.  Needless to say, in a very improper way, I didn't finish everything in front of me.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kids are just wonderful.  Yesterday, Francoise and I met up with some people from another church in a neighboring town to promote and invite the Journées Récréatifs during the first week of November.  Basically, we went to a park outside of an apartment complex and we just started playing with one of those giant parachutes (the ones we all played with in kindergarten gym class) and kids started joining us.  We jump roped, we played Steal the Bacon (I still haven't the foggiest what the name of that game is in French), we had a snack, and then invited them to come to the J.R. In November.   Now, it isn't like we just snagged kids off the street; Francoise spent some time talking to the parents and some of the kids knew some of the adults that were with us.  

At the second place we went, there was a whole group of upper elementary school aged boys playing with toy guns and at first, they weren't too in to playing with the Parachute with us.  However, when they saw us playing Steal the Bacon a little later, they happily laid down their "cool" toys and played with us for the rest of the afternoon.  When we took a snack break, the kids were all talking to each other, trying to convince me to give them another piece of cake, etc. and one little boy came over to talk to me.  I asked him a question and he asked me to repeat it, and when I did, he said "Vous êtes Québécoise?"  Someone actually mistook me for a native French speaker! And after dinner with some dear friends, complete with Monty Python and the Muppets viewings on YouTube, I don't think my day could have been any better.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Some people may call it crazy, but I love waking up early.  The sun slowly changes the color of the sky, the trees and hills begin to come into focus as the stars slip away with the night, drinking coffee as the temperature rises, it is just my favorite time of day.

Before breakfast yesterday, I took a walk down to the boulagerie in town.  As I walked down the road past the French houses complete with hedges and gardens with thensun rising over the hills and the sky turning a dull pink, I thought how very blessed I am to live in a beautiful part of a country I love. Combine the scenery and the shifting light of a beautiful sunrise with the aroma of freshly made bread, and you have got yourself a wonderful start to the day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Last week, I finished reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  It has been YEARS since I last read it, and-as always- I just loved it.  To quote the truth of Nora Ephron's You've Got Mail, "I get lost in the language.  Words like thither.  Mischance.  Felicity.  I'm always in agony over whether Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are really going to get together."  Oh, I just love that book!  One thing that I particularly enjoy about it, though, is that people are invited over for tea.  I don't know about you, but the last time I went to someone's house just for tea was for a tea party when I was about six years old.

Yesterday, my friends took me over to their neighbors' house to meet them.  When we got to their house, we were immediately invited to sit at the dining room table, and we were offered tea or coffee.  We were encouraged multiple times to have another cookie to accompany our tea too.  We chatted and debated American politics (I personally have had enough of that thanks to Facebook, but hey, people are interested) and after a time, their plumber arrived to do some work.  He too s invited for coffee before he started work.  After perhaps 45 minutes or an hour, we said goodbye and returned to my friends' house.

It is just the loveliest idea to me to be invited (or invite others) over for tea and cookies.  It is so wonderful to know that people still invest time into one another, and in the setting of a home rather than a coffee shop.  To be clear, in no way am I opposed to meeting up for a coffee.  There are few places I love more than coffee shops, and I don't think there is a beverage I love more than coffee.  Being in the setting of a home, though, not only presents the opportunity to show hospitality, as Paul instructed the Romans to do, but it also creates communion with one another that the hustle and bustle of a restaurant or café cannot offer.

And, of course, I will always jump at the opportunity to bake cookies or cakes, which brings even more delight to the idea of inviting others into my home.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Oh I need to get better at blogging! This past week has been full of all the twists and turns that keep life interesting.

On Saturday night, I went to the Young Adult Group at church.  This is the first time since I was a sophomore in high school that my church has had a dairly large number of people my own age.  It is a bit of a change, and I love it.  After the actual Bible study part of the evening, we had dinner and somehow we ended up talking about TV shows from when we were kids.  This, naturally in the era of smartphones, led to Philippe and Fred looking up the theme songs to a myriad of shows.  Given that by the end of a night, my brain is thoroughly exhausted, I could not figure out how to ask if the had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles here in France.  Luckily, after some theme songs I didn't know, Inspector Gadget, Care Bears, and Rescue Rangers, TMNT came on and I ever so slightly made a fool of myself because I was so excited about it.  It was great though, and a wonderful evening spent with wonderful people.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It has been observed that after spending a few weeks in another country, particularly one that has a different language, one's brain begins to be overwhelmed and altogether stops working.  Well, that is quite true!

Being a bit out of practice with my French has its pros and cons.  Well, one pro, and a few cons.

1. I get exhausted quicker than usual because my brain is going back and forth between languages.
2. Sometimes, I haven't the foggiest what someone is talking about.  I spent an entire conversation thinking that I had to come up with a craft for a Kid's Club that included a Christmas Queen (I don't know all French customs, I thought this could be a Jeanette Isabella thing, like the Christms Carol) when in reality, she was talking about doing a reindeer craft.  That is a big difference.
3. I'm getting to be less eloquent, and the more I try to sound eloquent, the more I sound like an absolute donut.
4. Every time I open my mouth, I realize that my accent is atrocious.

1. I can understand, for the most part, what I am hearing.  Therefore, I am getting better at listening to others since I can't respond very quickly.

Listening is a dying art, for lack of a better term.  Even with the names of things in the recent past, MYspace, iPhone, iPad, iPod, people are subconsciously led toward inward focus thereby causing them to primarily talk about themselves more than listening.  I'm not saying that I am awesome and never talk about myself or what's been going on with me (as evidenced by this blog).  I'm just saying that there are many people who are out of practice with the art of listening.

Monday, October 8, 2012

On Friday evening, Randy suggested that we go to Annecy for the afternoon on Saturday.  After we finished up at church in the morning, we picked up Anthony (one of the guys from church) and headed out for the Alps.  After a little bit of a drive, we arrived in a town that was straight out of Beauty and the Beast.  It probably wouldn't have given me the slightest surprise if townsfolk started popping out of the upstairs windows singing "Belle" while we walked about town.  But alas, I don't live in a Disney movie, so we began a walk around the lovely lake there which reflected the tops of mountains and sailboats bobbed up and down with the waves.  About every five minutes, Anthony would call out to Randy to wait because I had stopped to take pictures.  I may have looked like a tourist, but hey, I was.

 After an hour or so of walking along the shoreline, we walked through town, over quaint bridges that every American who ever thinks of a small French town imagines, past old stone buildings, brightly painted apartment buildings, and dozens of souvenir shops.  While we were standing by a bridge trying to figure out if we needed to make a reservation at the restaurant at which we wanted to eat, a woman came up to me and asked if I spoke English.  Without thinking, I said "Oui, je parle Anglais."  Because that's helpful. Luckily, I had nodded as I answered and she was so excited about how lovely the town was that she didn't noticed I had answered her in French.  I took a couple pictures for her, and we started chatting about what a lovely town Annecy is, and found out that she was from D.C. and beginning a little European tour with a friend of hers.  After a little while, she continued on her way and we went off to try to get into a restaurant for fondue.  Unfortunately, this particular restaurant required reservation a week in advance for Saturday nights!  So, we found another restaurant but they weren't going to be open for another forty minutes.  And what is the best way to spend forty minutes before eating fondue?  That's right, getting ice cream.  We stopped at different stands, got our ice cream of choice, and waited on a bridge near the restaurant until they opened at 7.  Randy and I explained to Anthony that in the U.S. restaurants would open around 4 for the early dinner crowd, and throughout the course of one evening, tables could be turned over five or six times.  Here, the table that gets taken first is basically that party's table for the night.  Just one example of the cultural differences.

Neither Anthony nor I had ever eaten fondue before coming to Annecy.  I mean, I've had chocolate fondue, but never cheese fondue.  Good gracious me, it was delicious.  After a lovely meal, we headed back to the car, bid farewell to the lovely town that had entertained us for the afternoon, and started the drive home.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ah, the woes and joys of being an adult.

Because I like to be left with happy thoughts when less than joyful ones arise, I'll start off with the disastrous apartment adventure.

Last week, I went to look at a place across the street from church.  It was the perfect location, good sized kitchen, two balconies, newly finished bathroom, just perfect.  It was also a really good price, and would cut down my transportation costs since it was so close to church.  I got all of my paperwork in, it was approved and everything, and they said they'd call by Wednesday.  We didn't hear from them by this morning, so Randy stopped by after an appointment downtown.  So, he stopped in and asked.  Well, the guy ran upstairs to check with the person who had contact with the building owner; when he came back, he told Randy that since I was only renting for seven months, they wouldn't rent it to me.  Randy said "Uh, no.  She's renting for a year."  The guy ran upstairs to relay the message, and when he got back he told Randy that the owner thought the apartment was too big for one person, so he wouldn't rent to me.  Maybe this is just an American mindset, but wouldn't someone with an empty apartment want it rentd as soon as possible?  So, I'm back at square one and the longer it takes to find an apartment, the more difficult it will be because I'll be renting for a shorter time.  It's hard enough to figur out how to be an adult back home, but throw in a culture barrier, a language barrier, and my inability to perceive time and space, and bah!  But, after some consolation chocolate and a search for more locations with Sandy, let me tell you some of the joys of being an adult.

I absolutely LOVE my job.  Today, I worked from home.  This meant that as I worked, I got to watch How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days and Sabrina, not to mention spend the afternoon on a hillside working there.  Right now, I'm in the brainstorming stages of my job.  I only started yesterday, so the exact parameters haven't been determined.  I do have a few responsibilities now though.  Number one: lead the art/craft portion of the Kids Clubs that go on.  It's a monthly thing, so I have time to plan.  Today, in coming up with ideas and needed supplies, I got to spend some time on Pinterest.  Checkmate.  Responsibility number two: window art.  The church moved to a new location about a year and a half ago, so people in the neighborhood are still kind of getting used to them.  People here tend to be a bit skeptical of churches (or so I've understood) so one thing that some people at the church (myself included) do, is just sit by the door and leave it open.  Randy has been doing this for a while, and he always smiles and says hi to passersby.  It's down the street from a school, so parents will walk by to pick up and drop off their kids four times each day.  In one of the windows, there is a table with some kids Bible books and Bibles and information on the church.  People actually do stop and read the Bible that is there, so the Elders thought it would be good to change the window around. Evidently, I enjoy doing art, so I said that I could do some artwork for the windows.  Today was spent looking up Bible passages and doing some sketches for pieces that I could do once I have supplies and meet with the Elders.

So, while the technicalities of being a responsible adult may not have come to reality yet, there are things that make up for it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A few quick things I really love about living here:

-Meals.  I don't just mean how delicious the food is, but I mean having meals with people.  Back home, everyone is always in such a hurry, eating as fast as they can so they can more on to the next thing on their list of things to do, and often times they don't appreciate the company of those with whom they share a meal.  Even at lunch here, you wouldn't dream of leaving the table for at least an hour.  You take your time eating and enjoy the conversation and laughter.

-Greetings.  The French are so personable.  When you go somewhere, you always greet those you know and introduce yourself to those you don't.  Now, let me clarify.  I'm not saying that when you enter a restaurant you say hello to every person who is eating.  But, at church, you greet everyone.  The second clarification: greeting does not mean just waving and saying "Hey".  Rather, you bisous each other (kiss each other on each cheek). Women will always do this, and men will shake hands with other men.  I may miss hugs, but the warmth and friendliness of greetings here is a pretty good substitute.

- Good gracious, it is lovely.

- Produce.  Yes, produce.  While grocery shopping yesterday, I stopped over to look at some of the fruit.  Here are some things that caught my eye: grapes from Italy, pineapples from both Ghana (!) and South Africa, bananas from North Africa.  So much good, beautiful fruit!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Quelle joie dans mon coeur!

I just returned from a truly wonderful weekend with my church here in France.  On the one hand, this could have been fabulously overwhelming, jumping straight into a full on weekend of non-stop French language, meeting dozens of people, and trying to remember the customs of this lovely country, all while still jet lagged.  However, there could not have been a better way to start off my time in France.  There were some familiar faces, some new ones, and I could not have imagined more gracious, loving, and compassionate people.

I hung out with Sandy when people were arriving, and there were a number of people who recognized me, or at least had an idea of who I am, but I reintroduced myself regardless.  One man, Jean-Luc, said when I introduced myself, "Je te connais Madame." which means "I know you, madam."  It just is such a comfort to know that people here still remember me, even after two years.

Throughout the weekend, there were a number of worship services, and much like retreats at camp, there was a speaker as well.  Even if I couldn't translate to someone the whole message, I did understand just about all of it.  After each message, we got into groups to answer some questions and pray for one another.  It was such a great joy.

Yesterday afternoon, we took a hike around the area.  Good gracious me.  It was straight out of a fairy tale.  This is such a lovely area!  Once I find my camera cord, I'll put up some pictures.  We walked for about three or four kilometers through the countryside where we passed beautiful stone houses, mushrooms big enough for the Smurfs, and several farms.  It reminded me a lot of the UP which is probably why I like this area so much.  Once we got back, Christelle and I got a group together to play cards.  If you want to practice any language, play cards with native speakers.  Often times, it will be the same games you've been playing throughout your life, but you pick up on different phrases and words which will really help expand your vocabulary.

The camp where we stayed, Camp Teen Ranch, is kind of an Old West style place, complete with a Saloon, horses, teepees, and a totem pole.  It was a little odd to see a place like that here in France, seeing as I have never been to a place like that back in the States.  One card games Christelle, Sylvain, Cedric and I played was called Wanted.  In my head, I thought "This is just too funny!" because everything was straight out of a John Wayne movie!  There was a sheriff, les hors-de-loi (outlaws), and a traitor.  It was a pretty straight forward game, but seeing as I didn't know things like "draw two cards" it was a little difficult at first, but I managed to get through it and even won! (I think. I ended up killing the sheriff, but it could've been one of those games where the point was not to die)

And of course, as per usual in France, the food was incredible.  Breakfasts were simple: a bowl or two of coffee, bread and croissants with jam and butter, and maybe some yogurt.  Lunch and dinner both had salads, a main course, and dessert, served with wine and water and the quintessential bread. So good.  Saturday's dessert after lunch was eclairs.  Oh good gracious.  There were a couple left, and Bernard, one of the elders of the church asked me if I wanted another one.  I hesitated, but then everyone at the table said "You're in France now!" so naturally, I helped myself to a second eclair.

As I said, this weekend had the possibility of frustrating me because I haven't spoken French regularly for so long, but it was just so encouraging!  If I didn't understand something, they would explain it or grab someone who also spoke English to translate a word.  They were all so gracious and patient with me, and a few of them even said "You speak French very well!"  When I told Randy that, he said "Those are the people who will be your friends for life."  I'm cool with that.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Day one in France.

After sleeping for roughly eleven hours, I awoke to the sound of laughter upstairs.  Wayne, my "British Dad", was over planning the worship with Sandy for the weekend retreat.  After breakfast, I figured out a few Internet things over here, and then had a delightful true French-style lunch with Randy and Sandy, lasting about an hour.  One of many things I love about France!

We went over to the church so I could familiarise myself with the neighborhood and the building in which I will be spending much of my time.  We had an appointment with a real estate agent to look at an apartment right across the street from church.  It was really lovely!  An interesting thing about the French apartments (and houses I think) is that in the kitchen, there is rarely cabinets and appliances.  So in this kitchen, there was a sink and a radiator.  That's all.  However, Sandy was on the phone with a woman from church who said that they still have the cabinets from their old place that she would be happy to give me.  What a wonderful church family I have here!  The rest of the apartment was really lovely too.  Two bedrooms, a dining/living room, two balconies, built in closets (hard to find here) and a newly-redone bathroom.  The price was well within my budget, and literally a two minute walk from church.

Randy and I went to see another apartment in downtown St. Etienne this afternoon, and it was quite charming.  It was on the top floor, had a number of skylights, and a complete kitchen with appliances and all!  It had some lovely woodwork which added some nice colour and a great loft area.  However, seeing as it was in the center of downtown, there were a number of guys smoking and hanging out in the doorway before the courtyard.  After overhearing what the guys were saying when we were waiting for the realtor, he said "I would not be a happy pappy dropping you off here."  I'm sure my own parents would feel similar too.  It may have cost less than the first place, but with the cost of transportation, it basically would even out.

I feel a little like I'm on House Hunters International!  I think I'm going to take the first place!  It couldn't be in a more ideal location, seeing as I'll be at the church nearly every day, it's a safe neighborhood with good people there, and it's close to a number of people who go to the church.  Plus, it really is quite lovey!

It may be rainy today, but it has been a wonderful first day back here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I arrived at Heathrow at 10 this morning.  After half an hour in security, 20 minutes trying to connect to the Internet (without success, thereby forcing me to pay £1 for ten minutes on the public computer), I finally got to relax and eat a muffin.  The flight was pretty rough.  The momentum of getting ready to leave and the nerves of actually leaving left me feeling rather sick, which is not fun when you're on a seven hour flight.  Hopefully the flight to Lyon will go better.

I spent a while looking around Heathrow.  There are many fun little shops!  Of course, most are expensive, so I won't be buying much, but it is fun to look.  All growing up, we always drove on vacation, so I'm not totally used to airports.  At least, not by myself.  In the past two years, I have flown more than the rest of my life combined.  Including to and from France, Sweden, England twice, Ireland, Turkey, Greece, a little island off the Greek coast, and now tonEngland with a hop over to France.  So, yes, I have traveled a decent amount, but weird things happen when I fly alone.  Like the time when a man with a grizzly beard and peg leg started talking to me, or when I had to put on an oxygen mask on the plane.  Most of the time though, I have had someone waiting for me on the other side of baggage claim.  Not today, which isn't bad because Randy will be picking me up once I get to Lyon!  But you can quickly run out of things to do when sitting at an airport alone for six hours.  I just don't know what to do in airports.  I people watch (I'm pretty sure the guy sitting across from me is Swedish), I try to use some subtle accent that isn't traceable, but its noticeable, and I try to find celebrities (there's a woman by Starbucks who looks like Jamie Lee Curtis) and I write. Or read. Basically, everything I already donat coffee shops.  As I previously said, I do of course meander about, seeing what cool things there are to buy, but you can't do that for five hours.

*I apologise if this is not entirely coherent.  I'm running on one hour of sleep since Sunday night.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Two days. TWO DAYS!

There is so much to do, I can't even handle it.  Well, that's not true.  Let me rephrase.  Ahem: there is so much to do, I don't even know where to start.  I've always been a big fan of lists, and naturally, I have made them.  But the problem more lies within the question "What should I pack?"

First off: clothes.  I know what some of you may be thinking, "They're just clothes.  Who cares?".  It's not necessarily that I'm super particular about what I'm packing, it's more the fact that clothes are HEAVY.  I'd like to stick to just one suitcase and not buy anything while I'm there.  But then again, being in France and not at least buying a scarf?  The thought reminds me a little of this scene from Gilmore Girls:

Second off: things for my own peace of mind.  I was talking with a friend the other day who works with a number of missionaries, and she asked me what I would be taking to help me when I get homesick or need a bit of comfort.  I decided on a couple things: a couple of my favorites mugs, my Camp blanket, some knitting things, and of course crayons.  Thankfully, I found out that my library allows checking out e-books so that cut back on my books!

I'm almost done with packing, so now it's just about what to do until I leave.  Cleaning around the house, baking some treats for my family, drinking as many pumpkin spice lattes as I can, watching my favorite movies that I don't actually own like You've Got Mail, Wall-E, and Notting Hill.  I also need to finish reading one more book and making a scarf from this great yarn that I got when I visited my sister  and brother-in-law.

And then of course, there is so much to think about once I get there!  Finding an apartment, opening a bank account, getting my brain to function in French again, and of course, the reason why I'm going there: working with the wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ.  There is so much to think about and so much to dream about!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

There's nothing like moving to a new place to decide that it is the ideal time to make all those changes you've been saying you'll make.  What do I mean?  Let me tell you.

I have a deep love of Pinterest.  I also spend far too much time on it.  I enjoy spending time drinking coffee, looking at craft ideas, homes I will never be able to afford, places I want to visit, recipes I want to try, and work out routines that all claim they will make you thinner in no time.  Pinterest is basically the perfect place to find every New Year's Resolution and details on how to accomplish those goals.

In six days, I will be moving to St. Etienne.  When I first went to college, I thought "I'm going to work out five times a week, take a ton of exercise classes and I'm going to be super healthy. Yes.". That didn't happen exactly as panned.  The whole non-athlete for my entire life/actually having classes and relationships to which I needed to pay attention got in the way.

During Lent two years ago, I decided to begin a discipline of Praying in Color each day. I absolutely loved doing this, and I still have the journal in which I prayed in my room.  During the Lenten season, my home church has two Communoin services on Wednesdays: one very early in the morning, and one in the evening.  I had made it my goal during Lent to go to the early morning Communion service each week.  It was wonderful.  But as happens with most good intentions, once Lent was over both times, I stopped.

While I'm in France, I really would like to get into good habits to be wholly healthy. This means exercising regularly, walking and biking everywhere, and spending a good amount of time praying each day. It's amazing how quickly prayers become wish lists rather than praise and thanksgiving.  A friend of mine told me about the ACTS Prayer a few years ago, and if you find praying difficult because it tends to point to yourself (don't feel too terrible, it happens to us all), this is a really excellent tool.  Hopefully, if I get deeply rooted into these habits, they'll stick with me even after my year in France is over.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Goodness gracious, me oh my!

There are so many things to do before I leave, it's ridiculous!  Now that I have my visa, my plane ticket, and 92% of my support, everything seems to be happening at once.  Here are a few things that have yet to be completed but must be done in the next week and a half:

1. Raise the last 8% of my support.
2.  Figure out what I'm bringing with me for one year of French life. i.e. books, crafting supplies, cookbooks, pictures, etc.
3.  Send out prayer cards.  Unfortunately, Snapfish has gotten fabulously slow with deliveries.
4.  Finish the series I am currently reading so I can eliminate those books from my packing list.
5.  Get all of the last CrossWorld details together.
6.  Watch You've Got Mail as many times as I can since I don't actually own it and thereby cannot bring it with me.
7.  See friends and family as much as possible.
8.  Remember to journal through what I am feeling and thinking.

Now, let me explain that last point.  The other day, I was sitting in the living room reading while my Dad was flipping through channels.  A commercial came on for some product, and I suddenly thought, "I'm not going to see American commercials for a year!" and thus began a series of realizations about things that I won't be able to do and people that I won't see for a year.  Of course, the things that I will miss are not actually a big deal at all, and I'm not actually worried about not seeing or talking to people because I know that I will communicate with them even if not in person.  It just struck me that this is a big change in my life, and every great change brings about nerves, excitement, and (sometimes brief) uncertainties about the choice being made.  A very similar thing happened to me when I went to college, when I started working at camp, and every other wonderful thing that has happened in my life. 

And then I think, "I'm going to be living in France in a matter of weeks." and I give a contended sigh.  I will be immediately going to the Alps for a weekend church retreat and I will be able to see wonderful old friends and meet new folks from the church.  I can't wait to be there once more.

Friday, September 7, 2012

All praises be to the King of Kings!

Today.  What a day!  Allow me to explain.

When I was getting ready to study abroad in France a few years ago, it took two tries to get my visa approved.  On the first go around, I thought I had all of the documents I needed, so with complete confidence, I walked up to the desk when my name was called only to learn that I was missing a very important document.  The woman working asked me where my form was and when I pointed out it out, she said "No.  The form you need you will receive after sending in a cash order to [an office I cannot remember] in Washington D.C.  You can come back when you have it."  With that, I had to go home empty-handed, figure out what I needed to get, sent in the order, drove back up to camp, and then had to try again at the end of the summer.  The second time I applied, I knew I had everything I needed, but I was still overwhelmed with nerves are kept thinking of what would happen if it didn't go through.  Thankfully, it did go through and I got to study in France, meet wonderful people, and gave a very amazing wake up call to God's work in my life.

Since then, I have been working towards going back to France.  It was a challenging time in my life, with so much change happening at home and in my own personal life while being in a different country.  But, the greatest challenges bring about the greatest growth, and without growth we are unable to see or even begin to understand God's desire for our lives.  There are two things that I love to do: hang out with kids, and organize things.  I think that kids can teach us so much more than we can teach them, and if we are discouraged or frustrated with what is happening in the world, the best thing we can do is spend time with kids who will, in the end, be the ones who can change things for the future.  As to organizing, well...I'm just a bit of a nerd and enjoy putting things in order, and I love to come up with different ideas for events.  I have the change to do this in France at GBSE!

You can imagine then, since this is something I so greatly have wanted to do, that remembering how difficult it was to get a visa last time has caused me to be rather anxious.  Over the past few weeks, I have quadruple checked every component of getting a visa, talked to people in France, at the CrossWorld headquarters, and those people have talked to people, just to make sure everything I had was correct.  Between that stress, daily construction outside my house starting at 7 in the morning (who does that?!), and having a bit of a cold, sleep has not been my friend.  Last night, I was wide awake well after midnight, woke up in the one o'clock hour, around 3:30, and finally when my alarm went off at 6.  Well, after a train ride, a water taxi, walking a few city blocks, and waiting in line, I am overjoyed to say that I was approved for my visa, and could be in France within a matter of weeks!  Ahhh!  God is so good.

In order to get there though, I still have 13% of my monthly support to raise, which is about $370 per month.  So, if you are in need of cards or knitware, or just want to donate a dollar or two, let me know!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Today was full of beautiful things.

This morning began with going to church and being commissioned to go forth and do God's work He has laid before me in France.  Upon arriving at church, I found that some dear family friends (my first pastor's daughters and their families) randomly decided to visit our church on today of all days!  I have known those girls since I was an infant, and what an unbelievable blessing to see them there and have them pray for me before I start this new stage in my life!

After church, I hurried off to celebrate the upcoming marriage of my college roommate, Marlee, and her wonderful fiance, Derek.  They have such an incredible story, and truly are an inspiration and an example of a Christ-centered couple.  They go on all kinds of adventures, support and care for each other through all things, and above all seek God's direction for their lives together and individually.

My dear friend, Monica, and I had lunch over the summer at one of the most wonderful restaurants by school.  While we were sharing a cardamom cinnamon roll, she told me that if I was interested, she would like to play a concert at my house.  Well, tonight, she and her band-to-be came and filled our house with such wonderful heart-inspired music.  Friends and family from my church and from college came, and through God's grace and the gift of music He bestowed upon Monica, Helen, and Ben, $355 was raised for my support while I'm in France.  Thanks be to God.

I know that I sound very "Pollyanna" in posts sometimes, but in the recent months, I have realized that spending my time being sad and sharing words that do more harm than good is an incredible waste of the breath God has given me.  So, while I do have bad days, I would rather share with you the joys and lovely things that come to my daily life.  And, as Roald Dahl said, "If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Last week, I told my mom that 73% of my monthly support has been pledged.  After a moment of great excitement, she said "This is going to start moving very fast.  Just you watch."  Well, she was right.

I'll be setting up my appointment at the consulate this week, gathering together the last forms that I need to get my visa, and looking at plane tickets.  My pastor is even looking at a number of apartments for me!  All that will be left is raising the last 21% before I'll be back in France!  How crazy is that?  It's all is God's perfect timing, even if it hasn't always been easy.  So, what have I learned in this season of my life?  Let's think back.

God is always good.
No matter where you go, you will find family.
Stress over money is obnoxious, and won't help a single thing.
You're never too old to to set a new goal or dream a new dream. (Thank you C.S Lewis)
Mario Kart is addicting, but great.
Momentary frustrations are hard to remember a month later.
Technology certainly is an astounding thing- you can see the face of someone to whom you are speaking when they are on the other side of the world.
Cooking is fabulously fun.
Creativity is wonderful and those muscles can always be stretched.
Reading in a coffee shop is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.
Prayer goes farther than you may think.

Those are just some brief reflections on what the past eight months have been.  I'm excited to see what the next season will bring!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Slowly, but surely, and dollar by dollar, I am so close to having the funds to return  to France!

It's been an amazing thing, to wait as the money has been generously donated.  What strikes me most, and what I think has been the most encouraging, are the anonymous donations that have come in.  About twice a month, I receive notice that an anonymous donation has been given and often for very unusual amounts.  I have gotten donations for $18, $69, $38, $29, and even $4 among others.  It's very puzzling, but I am overjoyed that there are people who perhaps don't even know me personally who are partnering with me in the ministry I will be doing in France.

The funds are seriously SO CLOSE to being reached!  As of this moment, 73.3% of the monthly support has been pledged, and from different conversations, I know that I will have enough by the end of the week to apply for my visa!  Yikes!  I was talking with a missionary friend a few weeks ago, and she said that once the visa is set or the plane tickets are bought, the remaining funds come in rather quickly.  I pray that is true!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

This week has been full of so many of my favorite things.

Favorite thing number 1:
A friend of my brother was visiting this week, which meant that I got to pretend I had a bed and breakfast.

Favorite thing number 2:
Because he was visiting, I got to make breakfast every morning. Often times, I'm the only person awake around breakfast time, so it's a little silly to make a full out breakfast just for myself.

Favorite thing number 3:
I normally babysit for two families every week, but this week they're out of town.  Therefore, I had plenty of time to read and decided to start re-reading the Harry Potter series.

Favorite thing number 4:
 When I was a kid, my dad would always take us bowling on Saturdays when he didn't have to work.  My brother recently found out that a few times a week there is $1 bowling at the local bowling alley.  We ended up going a few times this week, and had a lovely time.

Favorite thing number 5:
My dad is a big fan of golfing, which is something that my siblings and I never really got into, though my brothers go occasionally.  We all, however, thoroughly love mini golfing; ergo, after bowling, we went mini golfing.

Favorite thing number 6:
While I have some food cooking, I'm watching Meet Me in St. Louis.  Ah, Judy Garland.

Favorite thing number 7:
A friend of mine got two tickets to the Cubs game for Tuesday this week, and knowing that I've never watched a game at Wrigley, he gave them to me!  As if that wasn't wonderful enough,my big brother came with me to the game!

With all of that going on, how could it not be a good week?

Friday, July 13, 2012

I love getting up early.  I know, some say that's weird, but here's the thing, early quiet mornings are just the best!  If I wake up between 6 and 6:30, I am guaranteed to be in a good mood all day and typically I'm happy the moment I wake up.  Between 6:30 and 8, though, it takes me a while to wake up, I have to stay in my room for at least 15 minutes before I interact with other humans otherwise I will most likely be very snappy with them, and I am very disoriented for a while. 

This morning was particularly fine.  My alarm went off at 6:15, I put on one of my favorite green dresses, and I went to make coffee and eat chocolate chip waffles.  So far, pretty great, right?   By 7, I was on the road to pick up surprise coffee and doughnuts for one of my favorite families.  My friend Steve got a couple Cubs tickets for me, so I had to drive over and get them anyway, so why not stop at the Dunkin Donuts on the way?  My friends' have four wonderful kids, all of whom I have known since they were less than five days old.  I hadn't seen them in a few weeks, and I was going in serious withdrawal.  Since it was so early, I didn't think that the kids would be awake, but when I got to their house, lo and behold, three of the four of them were awake, and I got to spend the first part of my day hanging out in their living room, listening to stories, looking at drawings, and enjoying the company of my dear friends.  Is there really any better way to begin a Friday?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I know, I know, I need to get better at this whole blogging thing.

This week, I am nannying for two wonderful pre-teens.  My first day with them was full of things like playing at a park, playing board games, and watching a movie.  One of the games we played is something I saw on Pinterest.  Basically, I found a Jenga set (set? game?) at a garage sale and wrote get-to-know-you questions on the pieces.  They range all over the place, but one of the more serious questions was "What is one good thing happening in your life right now?"
Here are a few.

1.  I get to hang out with stellar kids all the time.
2.  I'm getting ever closer to being in France.  Only 34% more to raise of my monthly support!
3.  My friends and family are incredibly encouraging every day.
4.  A friend of mine gave me two free Cubs tickets that he got from work, which means I FINALLY get to go to a game at Wrigley!
5.  (the most important) God is always good.

Have a wonderful day, my friends.

Also, if anyone has a copy of One Thousand Gifts that I could borrow, I'd appreciate it!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Some people I love dearly (you know, my sister and brother-in-law) are in the adoption process.  My sister has always felt called to adopt internationally, and they are trying to adopt from the country of Ghana- from which I even have an elephant hair bracelet!  They are two of the best people I have ever known and will make some of the greatest parents ever to be seen.  For those who don't know, adoption is a very long and rather expensive process, but it is an incredible blessing as well.  Our country has what it called an Adoption Tax Credit, which has helped people adopt since 1997.  However, should Congress not act, it will expire this December, making it even more difficult to bring children into loving and caring homes through adoption.  There are kids all over the world who are in desperate need and deserve to have loving families.  We may not all be called to adoption, but we can help those who are.  This is from an e-mail my sister received last week.  Please act on it, and care for these kids who may be without families and may not know our great Father in Heaven.

Dear Supporter of Adoption,
If Congress does not act, the Adoption Tax Credit, as we now know it, will expire on December 31, 2012.
If the adoption tax credit helped you or someone you know to adopt a child or if it could help you in the future to adopt a child, PLEASE CALL YOUR U.S. CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE TODAY and urge that he or she cosponsor the bipartisan bill H.R. 4373, the Making Adoption Affordable Act.
You can reach your Representative by calling the U.S. Capitol Operator at 202.225.3121 and asking for your Representative’s office. If you don’t know your Representative’s name, go to and enter your zip code in the box provided.
  • I am a constituent in your district and the Adoption Tax Credit is important to me. (It matters to me because…)
  • I urge the Representative to become a co-sponsor of H.R. 4373, The Making Adoption Affordable Act.
  • If Congress does not act, the credit as we now know it, will expire in December 2012.
  • H.R. 4373 is bipartisan and it supports all types of adoptions (domestic private, foster care, and international).
  • This tax credit has made adoption a more viable option for many parents who might not otherwise have been able to afford adoption, allowing them to provide children with loving, permanent families.
  • Thank you for your support of H.R. 4373.
To learn more about the adoption tax credit go to
You can also, “like” the Save the Adoption Tax Credit mission on Facebook at:

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Every week, there is a French Market in my town.  I've always loved going down in the mornings, even if it's just to look around.  It is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, handmade jewelery and clothes, cooking oils, juices, flowers, and all kinds of other lovely things.  This morning, I stopped at one of my favorite stands to pick up a loaf of banana bread.  This stand is always full of beautiful bread and French pastries made by nuns.  Some that I have met are French, which offers the lovely opportunity of using my French.  When I was in France last, it was always nice to hear my native language, and the nuns have said something similar to me in the past.  I can't wait to speak French all the time again!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Last week was spent up at Covenant Point Bible Camp, volunteering for the first week of camp.  The week was full of everything I love: Jesus, trees, kids, crafts, cooking, studying the Bible, playing, laughing, and friends.  Seriously, how could you not be happy when you get to see this in the morning?

I got to hang out with the Wilderness Week, which was planned by my dear friends who are serving as Trips Directors this summer.  This program is similar to the Mainland, except activities are much more nature-based.  Some kids got to look for aquatic life- they LOVED catching salamanders!- while others did a Nature craft or learned Orienteering.  We took a canoe trip to another beach, played in the nearby bog, and even chased a few ducks.  Look how happy this kid was when he found a cocoon!

Such a wonderful week.  If your kids need something wonderful to do this summer, send them to camp!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cards for sale!  Cards are $10.

Birthday card
For You
Blue squiggle
Thinking of you...(written inside)

Baby feet



The littlest birds

Teal raindrops

Time for cake

It's a girl


Yellow flowers

Peach with lines

Orange and plaid

Camp hi

Camp hey

Brown birds

Hot air balloon

Silver lining

Blue flower

Geometric flower

Geometric pinwheel