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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Lovely news!  37% of my monthly support has been pledged and I am less than $2,000 away from having my outgoing expenses covered!

Slowly but surely, I am getting closer to getting back to France!  I am so excited, I can't even describe it.  So, instead of trying, here are some pictures of wonderful times in France.

A hike up in the Alps

At one of the lakes in the Alps

Class lunch

Bible Study

Making dinner

Fete de Lumieres

Snowball Lane, as named by Chelsey
With Georges, our grammar professor

One day, these guys were at Hotel de Ville playing "It's Raining Men"

Friday, April 27, 2012

I graduated college last December, and I can honestly say that I have missed it in the past few months as I have been waiting and preparing to go to France.  I've always been a studious person, and for the most part, I've enjoyed my education since Kindergarten.  It wasn't just about feeling cool because I was learning the things that my siblings new (literature, calculus, the events of various wars, etc.), I just really enjoyed learning.  It helps that I have loved nearly every single one of my teachers too.  In fact, my mom was worried on my last day of 3rd grade because she thought I'd cry because I wouldn't see my teacher for three months.  In my 13 years of public education and 4 years in a private college, there have been a handful of teachers who have influenced my life in profound ways. 

In high school, I had two of the best French teachers I could ever imagine.  They both had fantastic patience for their students who took a little while longer to understand what they were teaching, and they had so many fun ideas to make us practice our French.  In fact, I still use some of their methods and songs when I am teaching French to high schoolers and college students.  These were the two teachers who also took a deep interest in my college choices and on many occasions talked to me during lunch hours to help me figure out what I wanted to study, what to do with my life, and what kind of a person I wanted to be.  There are a number of things about me that stem from those conversation I had with M. Laird and Mme. Mores.

In college, I had the chance to have even deeper relationships with my professors.  During my Capstone course for Biblical and Theological Studies, Scot McKnight had us write shorter papers throughout the semester defining how we have changed throughout our time at school.  The last of these papers asked us to describe how we have changed personally since we came to college.  For me, the majority of this paper was dedicated to the influence my professors had had on me.  I started off with Business Management as my primary major, but very quickly realized business was not my strong point, seeing as the class gave me anxiety attacks.  I was enrolled in Introduction to the Bible that semester, and I was taught by a new Bible professor, Mary Veeneman.  When I told her that I wanted to write my first paper on the differing theories of the Johannine writings, she asked "Have you considered bring a Bible major?  I think you would really like it."  With that, I enrolled in two more BTS courses for the Spring semester, taught by Joel Willitts and Scot McKnight.  To say that these professors are tough is a grave understatement. They both assigned a great deal of reading, gave us exams, papers, and reading quizzes on a weekly basis.  Even in the midst of that though, I knew that Mary was right and I really did love those classes.  During the first or second week of my next semester in school, I officially became a BTS major and started it off with two theology classes, one taught by Mary again, and one taught by one of the most brilliant men I've ever had the honor to learn from, Brad Nassif.  In both of these classes, I had to define what it is that I believed about different components of the faith and give Scriptural evidence for why I believed it.  In the spring that year, Scot was once more my professor and taught me more about the man Jesus was and is than I had ever learned.

At the end of that semester, Joel Willitts sent a number of BTS students an e-mail encouraging us to think about taking a class with him the following Spring.  This wasn't just any class though; it was an on-sight study of Paul and John in Greece and Turkey.  I ended up taking that class the semester after I studied in France, along with my first Old Testament class with the one and only Boaz Johnson.  This man is very dedicated to teaching the Old Testament and how it influenced the New Testament and still impacts our daily lives.  This is not his primary goal in class though; Boaz loves his students and wants us to take each class we take and make it personal.  He wants to know his students so that he can better pray for them and teach them.  As for that class Joel taught, well, I could fill up an entire blog about how that class influenced me.  I'll just say that there is no way I would be who I am or have such an excitement for returning to France if it had not been for Joel, Justin Hardin (the other professor on the trip), and the other students who traveled with me.

I wasn't just influenced by the BTS professors during college.  There are two other professors who taught me during the exact months that I needed to learn from them.  Kurt Peterson, for example, taught the History of the Church when I was having honest struggles with understanding other Christians.  During the first class, he told us "Ask questions.  Always ask questions."  He wasn't referring to misunderstanding an assignment or the syllabus, but rather understanding the views and beliefs of other people as well as defining who you really are.  The other professor who changed my life forever was a Philosophy professor who taught the class "Intentional Christian Community", Greg Clark.  I had little interest in community at that point, and Greg daily reenforced how vital community is to survive.  He brought out class to a Christian Community every week and because of those people, I fell in love with community once more.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am going back to France because of the teaching I have had from these amazing scholars.  They have taught me more about what it means to walk in the footsteps of Christ and in the love and grace of God the Father to the corners of the Earth than I ever thought possible.  They showed me what living your faith actually looks like and how the smallest words can change a person forever.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

One of my friends from college suggested to me after I graduated to babysit for donation to my outgoing expenses.  Two of my good friends took me up on this right away, and I get to watch their two youngest kids every week.  It has been so much fun hanging out with them and playing with them every week, and I can't wait to see them again today!

People from my church and friends of my parents heard about my babysitting and also house cleaning for donation.  I absolutely LOVE cleaning.  I know, I'm such a dork for that, but I love it!  It was a chore, of course, when I was little, but I so thoroughly enjoy it now.  Putting things away neatly, using fun cleaning tools, ah!  It's the best. 

In addition to my love of kids and love of cleaning, I really love to cook.  I'm more of a baker than a cook, but making meals has gotten progressively more fun.  One family has hired me as their personal chef until I leave, all for donation to France.  One or two days a week, I make three lunches, two dinners, and a few healthier snacks for them.  It's so much fun to use my recipes from Pinterest that I know my family won't eat.  Yesterday, I make a lentil soup, a goat cheese-pesto-veggie pizza, a shaved fennel-grapefruit-arugula salad, a black bean salad, zucchini-oatmeal muffins, and a few other salads.  So much fun!

Who knew that doing the things I love would raise support?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Boy, do I have a story.

Two of my good friends, Scott and Angela, are host parents for two international students from China.  They go to the local Christian high school, and I see them at church, but I don't know them terribly well.  Yesterday, Angela came up to me after church and said "Did my girls find you?"  When I said no, she said "They need to find you."  One of the girls has a deep love of old movies, so I thought maybe she found a great one that she wanted to show me.  A little while later, Scott pulled me aside and said "The girls have something to tell you."  I looked at them, and they each handed me $20.  One of them said, "This is to help you go to France."  I had no words, so I hugged them instead.  She said "Our school gives each of us $20 to help people and we wanted to give it to you."  Scott explained, "When we asked the girls what they wanted to do with the money, they talked about it and said that they wanted to help you get to France."  Of course, I just about started crying and all I could say was thank you about 20 times.  Scott said to the wonderful girls "See how happy you made her!"

Amazing blessings in unexpected places.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

This week has been quite a week.  I babysat nearly every day for some very energetic kids, I have been crafting all over the place, and some of my very dear friends came to visit.  At the beginning of the week, I was getting super frustrated about support not coming in as quickly as I thought it would.  But then last night, an amazing thing happened.  Yesterday alone, 6 donations came in, bringing my monthly support up to 33% pledged and only $2304 short of my outgoing expenses!  God is faithful and I am overwhelmed by His grace.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

One of the things I love about my town in France, St. Etienne, is the scenery.  Most of Europe is known for its architecture, as some buildings have been around since the Middle Ages.  St. Etienne was a mining town, so in terms of buildings, it's pretty basic, no ornate details, towers, etc. like you may see in Paris.  This, though, is a picture from my dorm building when I studied there.

This view is spectacular at night.  It looks like fireflies are resting on the hills, and you can still see stars.  There was one day, probably in November or December, when my friends and I got to our afternoon class early and I looked out the window, and I could see snow on the hills.

I LOVE hills!  Being able to see the tops of them, and on a clear day the foothills of the Alps, just brings me so much joy!  (See the tall building on the right? That was my dorm where the first picture was taken)  I probably like it so much because the hills remind me of the UP, although the Alps are a little more magnificent than the Porcupine Mountains. 

My university did a wonderful job of arranging excursions for us on the weekends.  One weekend, we got on a bus and drove for about an hour to Le Puys to go to a Renaissance Fair.  Now, it wasn't like the ones we have here in the States where everything is organized and there's an agenda for everything.  Here, people showed up in costumes they already had, on horses, setting up booths to sell their goods, and music groups dressed in costumes could be found in various corners of the streets.  This was the view from the top of a statue of Mary with baby Jesus.

I just love it in this part of the country.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I promise, I really will get better at blogging.

Last Saturday, I spent a few hours at Starbucks, journaling and brainstorming fundraising ideas.  As I listened to a lovely mix of Michael Buble, Muse, the Avett Brothers, and Jadon Lavik, I came up with these ideas:

1. A vision night- meet at a friend's house, provide coffee and French pastries from Whole Foods or something like that (I haven't learned to make that stuff yet!), share pictures from France, stories from my time there that made me want to go back, etc.
2. Knitted goods- socks, baby headbands, baby hats, etc.
3. Crafty things- not like robbing a bank, but more like handmade cards, cookbooks, etc.

My friend Jayne and I get together every week, and she showed me how to make little books out of brown paper bags.  Her brilliant idea was making them with pockets, and then writing recipes on cards and keeping them in the pockets!  That way, you can still take out the recipe and pin in up as you're cooking, and still have a cute little book to keep them in good shape.  Brilliant, right?  So my thought is making a bunch of knitted things and craft things and have them at the Vision Night available for purchase. 

These are a couple of the things I've made so far:

 Recipe book and recipe
Baby headbands
One (of many) cards

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Days are amazing things.  I don't mean the 24-hour period that is a Tuesday, but rather how remarkable it is for someone's mood to change drastically between the hours that begin and end a day.  The beginnings of the week are not typically my favorite, because they start another week of waiting to be in France.  Waiting to be with my church in France, waiting to work with the beautiful elementary schoolers there, and just waiting to be back doing something that makes a difference.  This was my mood this morning, and it carried into the afternoon.  Thankfully, my brother is around to make me happier as well as point out when I'm being stupid.  That's what big brothers were made for, right?  Anyway, my melancholy lasted for quite a while, actually up until a few minutes ago.  I know I sound like a broken record, but gratitude journals are brilliant.  For instance, at my gym, there is a sauna, and I enjoy saunas.  Saunas by yourself though, as with many things in life, are not that fun.  I kept thinking "Man, this is boring without other people." as well as "Why do I always forget to take off my metal necklace when I go in saunas?!"  In this solitude, I started thinking about Holy Week. 
During my last semester of college, I took a class on John (not the man himself, but the book of John) and we spent an insane amount of time just on the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17).  Although, I'm a total nerd and loved studying every minute of it.  In case you're unfamiliar with Holy Week, it starts with Jesus entering Jerusalem to a chorus of "Hosanna in the highest!" which is often reenacted by little nuggets at churches on Palm Sunday.  Four days later, we remember Maundy Thursday on which the Last Supper and the Upper Room Discourse took place.  This is Jesus' final message to the disciples, his last chance to share his wisdom, his comfort, and his love with those whom he loved so dearly.  At the end of the night, after praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, he is taken away by soldiers to be judged and on Friday, he is crucified, giving his life as atonement for the sin of humanity.  The following Sunday is Easter, when he rose from the dead, triumphing over death and sin.
While thinking so much about this week of Jesus' life and how it has affected us living in the world which he conquered, I started thinking about what this week means for Jesus himself.  I found myself praying, just talking to God, but I was interrupted by the metal on my necklace finally becoming unbearably hot.  I kind of forgot about that part of my day until I was reflecting on today and writing in my gratitude journal.  Even though my melancholy and frustration carried on most of the day, now as it is nearing its close, I'm just happy.  I am grateful and blessed, and I don't even know why.  Never underestimate what can happen in a day, my friends.