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

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.”