My apologizes for the delay in part two... Life, specifically germs and small children, has made this a bigger pause in the story than I anticipated! If it's been so long that you've completely forgotten what I wrote in part one, you can do that here.
But in a nutshell, after a rather long cross Atlantic flight and then an additional stay in London, I finally arrived in Paris. My job for the next school year would be working as an English assistant in a city called Rouen, which is part of Normandy. It came recommended to me to choose for the program since it wasn't too far from Paris but wasn't actually Paris (only the lucky few who promise their first-born children actually get Paris) and probably because it's beautiful in it's own right. Of course you have to like rain and cows but seeing as how I'm from Oregon, I figured I could handle it.
I'd like to be able to tell you my first impressions at the train station, what brilliant thoughts I was thinking; but truth be told, I had only one thing on my mind: finally meeting my crush. The second I managed to finally drag that beast of a suitcase down those trains steps, I turned into a complete girl (my apologies to any feminists reading this entry). Our story is a story for another day but the short version is that I had been in contact with a French American seminary student living in Paris at the time. Seeing as how we'd sort of 'hit it off' via email for the past few months, when he offered to organize a weekend for me in Paris before heading out to Rouen I quickly said yes. Of course everything was all very proper, mind you, so get your heads out of the gutter. :)
But back to the station... All I can remember is seeing each other pretty quickly and doing some sort of semi-awkward hug (can it be any other way when it's someone you've never met before?). His voice was higher than I'd imagined and I think we walked in circles in that train station (him trying to multitask and me cluelessly having no idea where I was going) before we finally found the metro entrance. He insisted on doing the gallant thing and taking the beast off of my hands. Seeing him struggle with that thing up and down flights of metro stairs I knew that only one of the two would survive this trip: our new, not-even started relationship or my suitcase.
Somewhere in the midst of small-talking, Matt let it slip that he had accidentally double-booked himself with a bible study at his church that evening and would I mind attending? I said yes because I liked the guy, I like bible studies in general, and he knew how to get me to the place where I was staying for the night so I really didn't have much of a choice. So we grabbed a sandwich at a stand and headed over to his church. Once there I learned two very important lessons: 1) by 'bible study', I had assumed he meant a group of 5-10 people all sitting around looking at different parts of the bible but in French evangelical circles the definition can be a little looser and in this case it was about 40 people looser and 2) as a member of the opposite sex, you should not show up with the pastoral intern--soon to be assistant pastor--if you don't want to cause a bit of a stir. I instantly had the eyes on me of just about every woman over 60 (and I'm guessing the ones under 60 too; they were just a little more discreet).
I caught all of two words the whole evening: Abraham and mountain. For the first time it really struck me; the rest of the world functions perfectly fine without speaking English. Sure, I knew that other people in other countries spoke different languages. But it sounded like gibberish. What I don't think I fully got until moving to a foreign country was that their words and their conversations could have just as much meaning as my own. Their jokes could be just as funny (unless you're German--haha just kidding that's totally a joke!), their conversations just as meaningful, and their bible studies just as deep. At least at the time I was assuming it was deep because everyone looked very thoughtful and nodded every now and then. I tried not to look like the excluded idiot I felt like and nod too but it quickly got old and I think that eventually I pulled out my own bible and just read that for the rest of the session.
I figured out the session was over because everyone around me started standing up. I wasn't really sure of what to do so I stood too. I guess the lady in front of me took that as a sign because before I knew what was happening she started planting one on me. Yep, she started kissing my cheeks. And that, my friends, is how this small town girl awkwardly discovered the 'bises', aka the cheek kissing. Yes, they really do that here. And I really did want to slap her until I saw everyone else doing it to. Strangely enough, I would learn later that the French consider a hug much more intimate than a little ol' cheek smooching. I personally didn't want to do either with her but I mentally weighed my options and decided not to make everyone hate me on my first night in France.
As people were all filing out I was blown away at the number that spoke English with me, some even with no accent at all. (I had yet to learn that Paris is quite the melting pot and there are several bilingual people of multiple nationalities that live here) One person told me a very hearty 'bon courage' and when I looked at him as cluelessly as I felt he explained that it basically meant 'take courage' or 'take heart' (it's used frequently as 'good luck' too). It felt very Saving Private Ryan-esque and I realized that I still had a lot to learn about this culture that I had just thrown myself into.
Matt, who hates to impose on anyone decided to ask his boss, the senior pastor of the church, for a ride to the location I would be staying for the night, such was his by now obvious dislike for my horridly huge suitcase. Already the wheels had begun to wear completely off under the impressive weight of all those books and he was half dragging it everywhere. Thankfully for the future of our relationship, the pastor graciously agreed. It felt strange to combine two completely opposing activities: driving, which felt so familiar and comfortable; and Paris, a city where mopeds find red lights more of a suggestion than a rule and the streets can at times only comfortably fit a barbie jeep. I had previously only taken public transportation in Paris and this was a very different feeling. To be honest, riding in Paris was a bit of an adrenaline rush; it felt like an obstacle course where at any minute something new could pop out from behind even your most innocent looking Boulangerie.
And that is where I'm going to leave it for now friends. Try as I might, I'm just too dang wordy! I promise that next time's part three will be the end of this little saga (the best things come in trilogies, right?). Until then!
10 years ago this month I packed a ridiculously heavy and large bag to set out on my French adventure. I would be leaving for a full school year and kindles and laptops were still in the minority. So as to not get bored, I packed all of my favorite books that I'd want to have on hand. I bought the biggest suitcase I could find and I vacuum sealed my clothes like a crazy person. Somehow it was cheaper to fly into London and I had what I considered to be the world's best idea: book a hostel overnight and see London while you're at it! What could be better, right? I flew right into the city center. I hauled that big beast of a suitcase out those airport doors like a boss.
No one but fancy people had gps on their phones then (I didn't even have one of those!) but I whipped out my mapquest directions like no one's business. I tried to look very confident because you don't want people in a big city to think you don't know what you're doing or anything--they might try to pickpocket you. Just a hunch but 10 year older me thinks that the enormous suitcase and paper directions just might have given me away. Thankfully Londoners were kind to the helpless American girl with too much stuff.
I walked those 10 or so blocks to the hostel. I remember being so glad to finally get there as the last 5 or so had been completely cobblestone. I was wrong, however. I had only reached the check-in desk. My room was located at the other location back 4 blocks in the direction I had just come. Feeling like an odd combination between Wonder Woman and Popeye pre-spinach I gritted my teeth and pushed 'the beast', as I was starting to yell call it in my head back those darn 4 blocks and up the stairs to my private suite that I would be sharing with about 8 other people in what can only be considered as the world's biggest dorm room.
Unfortunately, the internet café that the hostel provided was located back at the check-in office. I briefly contemplated letting everyone back home consider me MIA at least for another 24 hours but decided my mom just might swim the whole Atlantic Ocean if she hadn't heard that I'd landed safely. Funny to think about in the age of Whatsapp, Viber, and instant everything. So I dutifully wrote and told everyone that I was okay. I wrote another email that night too. There was this cute guy that I had been emailing now for a few months. It had started off as a random French contact and had evolved from there. I told myself that it was only a little crush, because after all, how can you actually have a crush on a guy you've never even met before. (I know, I was the one girl in school who didn't have a crush on Leonardo Di Caprio after Titanic came out) That's what I was telling myself because not so long before I had crashed and burned after falling for my best guy friend in college. There was no way I was playing the fool twice and Cautious Carol had now become my name. I did, albeit very reluctantly, throw in that he would know how to spot me the next day in the Paris train station (oh, did I mention he had arranged my whole Paris stay?) by the fact that I'm just under 6 ft tall (1m80). I had kind of been avoiding that little factoid due to the fact that it tends to scare most boys off. But I figured that short of chopping off my calves and replacing them with peg legs my height would become obvious soon enough.
I'm assuming I fed myself somehow. Not sure when or how but clearly I didn't starve. I do remember not having factored in my big heavy suitcase to lug around during my little "London visit." I couldn't just leave it unattended. Someone might steal my fabulous book collection. Thankfully I made a temporary friend who looked nice enough and she agreed to watch my suitcase for an hour or two. I did some sort of bridge walk along the bank of the Thames (which I wouldn't learn for a few months yet is actually pronounced as if there's no H). I walked by famous monuments having no freaking idea exactly what I was looking at. It took me forever at one point to realize I was staring at the London Tower. finally made my way back to the beast after doing way more walking than I thought was possible and somehow found the force within myself to drag it to the train station.
Back then, before the age of terrorism, security with the Eurostar was nothing like it is now. I just about died of embarrassment when I couldn't get the beast up onto the shelf reserved for luggage and the gentleman next to me had to do it for me. And then I really wanted to just sink into the floor when he loudly declared for the whole cabin to hear, just how heavy my luggage was and what could I possibly be bringing that could be so heavy? I should have made up some ridiculous answer but all I could think of was the truth and that made him look at me even more incredulously. I took my seat and promised myself that I would wait a few years before coming back over the channel. By then maybe my embarrassment would have waned a bit.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I was actually hoping to see the water from the train windows once in the tunnel. I don't know what I pictured, maybe one of those viewing floors you find at an aquarium? Clearly I was quite the seasoned traveler by that point. But one thing is for sure, I successfully managed to get off that train and step onto French soil which turns out is a decision that would change my life from that point forward.
It's hard to believe as I'm scrambling to pull out sweaters and rainboots for my girls that summer was only just one month ago. And yet somehow, despite the pouring rain out our window, not so long ago we were lathering sunscreen and soaking up some rays (okay the soaking up part probably shouldn't be taken literally since there isn't a whole lot of soaking up that goes on with a toddler on the loose!). Like the good adopted Frenchies/real Frenchies that we are, we fled the city this past summer for a little R&R on a little known island called Groix.
If you're looking for an international travel spot and want to get off the beaten path a little, then might I suggest Groix Island? My husband's French family has been coming to this island for generations and I, for one, totally get why. It's not a very big thing, only 8 kilometers long (roughly 4 miles) and 3 wide (a little over 1 mile) with about 2,300 residents year round. Of course that number changes a lot over the summer months when a ton of Parisians and local Brittany folks flood into town for some summer lovin'.
There's just a charm about this island. You instantly feel like you've been transported back to a time when most people ride bikes, sit around a table drinking hard cider and savoring a good book at the beach. People just aren't too busy to have fun the old school way.
So without further ado, some of the best things to do on this island should ever you consider it as a place you might want to go:
1. Rent bikes. Even if you aren't a hardcore bike rider, everyone does it (cars are pretty expensive to bring in on the ferry) and since the island isn't very big it's very doable via bike (we just did it this last spring with 4 adults and 5 kids 5 and under). Plus it's such a beautiful island that you'll get to actually take it in this way.
2. Go to the beach. There are literally tons of little known beaches all over this tiny island and the discovering is totally part of the fun. If you want the classic sandy beach (aka less rugged) then go to Les Sables)
3.Visit Penn Menn. A historic lighthouse on the cliff side of the island, sunset on a clear night is breathtaking.
4. Water sports: sailing, paddle boarding, fishing, and kayaking are all done regularly here.
5. Grab soft serve ice cream (a tradition in our family) down by the wharf as the ferry boats come in.
6. Go folk dancing! I've totally done this, and it was really fun. It was kind of like a celtic form of square dancing. This is only available during the summer months though.
7. Picnic! Buy some brie cheese, a baguette and a bottle of wine and go take in a picnic (there are picnic tables all over the island or you could just find your own spot).
8. Go to a creperie and eat real authentic crepes. A word to the wise: the way it works in France is you order a savory one and then after a sweet one for dessert. They usually come with a light green salad and cider is the traditional drink to order with it.
9. Hike--there are trails all over the place for short walks or more intense endeavors.
10. Go visit the glass blowers shop! It's a boutique as well as artists studio and you can actually watch them make their glass creations right there!
11. Go eat 'moules-frites'. Basically you get a giant pot of mussels along with a big ol' batch of french fries. Personally, I'm not a seafood fan but my husband loves this dish.
12. Visit Hell. Well, it's hole actually. It's called the 'Trou de l'enfer' :)
14. Sleep in the trees. Yes, it is as awesome as it sounds. Its a room up in the trees that you can rent by the night. Get your inner Swiss Family Robinson on.
Check it out here.
15. And lastly, go check out Parc a' Bout! It's owned by the same people who own the tree houses and it's all kinds of run. Your inner 10 year old will run rampant.
Some things to note if you go:
1. The only way onto the island is by ferry. Cars are freakishly expensive to bring across so you're better off using bikes. You catch the ferry in Lorient, France. There is a taxi service and a local bus:
taxi: (33)7 68 79 13 80 bus
2. I think the best time to go is in the summer when the island is alive but if you want a more secluded experience, then your best bet is more in the spring.
3. In Brittany there is a saying that you get all four seasons in one day; in summer the weather is generally nice with some rain showers thrown in so if you're looking for Riviera kind of weather, you should probably head to Nice. Basically bring layers and expect anything.
4. There are tons of rentals (from houses to hotels) during the summer months but they book up fast so reserve early. Google "maison de vacances + ile de groix" (houses) or "hotels/chambres d'hote + ile de groix" (hotels and B&Bs)
Wounds are interesting. Forgiveness is interesting. Why is it that in my head those two things are tied to an action that happens and then is done with? Like eating a sand which. Or buying your kid that toy at the store. But real wounds are messy. Real forgiveness is messy. Wounds are more than just the moment when you get hurt. It's the days, weeks, years of healing. Why is it that I think that forgiveness shouldn't be repetitive? That there's something wrong with giving it back to God again and again? If life is a journey, then why not forgiveness?
Earlier this year I felt hurt by the actions of a coworker. I talked to her, told her how I felt, and we agreed to move on. I didn't have to agree with her choice in order to forgive her in my heart. After the talk I felt complete peace about the situation...for about a week. Until there was a new reason to remember an old hurt. God, with the ultimate sense of humor, kept putting her in my path. And so back I went towards forgiveness which I thought was quite the done deal by now. And back. And back. At every reminder of the original hurt.
Just the other day I sighed a happy sigh because although our relationship is very different than years previous (and I have no inclination to change that), I had finally gotten to a place where my head and and my heart could finally agree to move on.
And then something happened this morning to rip that scab right off. It makes me sad that this will yet change our relationship even more. There is a time and a place for everything and our friendship will move towards simply a professional one. But I will release the hurt once again. I will release her once again. I will know that I am loved by a big and incredible God and that nothing can change that. God loves me like crazy and that is why I can be okay with knowing that God loves her just as deeply. Feelings are meant to be acknowledged, just not bowed to. God knows that it hurts me to forgive and I know that it's the only way to move forward, even if my 'forward' comes with a few steps backwards mixed in.
Anyone had one of these days recently? Being a pastor’s
wife, Sunday often has me outnumbered in the fight for a civilized world.
my best to counteract it—lunch is hummus and picnic goods and dinner is always
pasta and spaghetti sauce to keep my sanity afloat.
Back in the dark ages (okay
like 6 months ago) I used to slave away Sunday morning trying to scrounge up
some form of after church meal Martha Stewart worthy until my husband finally
knocked some sense into me and convinced me that while our children might not
suffer too badly forgoing a weekly pot roast (and let’s be honest—three fourths
of the time I’d forgotten to either grab the meat out of the freezer to thaw or
to actually prepare the crockpot more than five minutes before we walked out
the door) , they just might suffer from dangerously crabby mom syndrome. Can I
please get an amen?
So simple and repeated meals became the law of the land and
I haven’t look back since. Except, maybe, when I see Isaline covered in red
sauce despite all my best full body bib efforts. Alas. Sigh. Momma said there’ll
be days like this.
Before you think that I’m
going to pull any holier than thou stuff on you, you should probably know that
just last week while walking home from Livia’s school I discovered a spoon
floating around in my blouse. Said spoon had somehow been dropped in by my one
year old while I was holding her and getting ready to leave the house about an
hour an a half prior. So yes, I had walked to her school, chatted in detail
with her teacher and had managed to get about halfway home all before I
realized that a spoon had accompanied me. And before you think that it’s an
isolated incident, just know that I collect spoon incidents (not to be confused
with the false rumor the I collect small spoons but I digress) about every
other day. Clearly, I have issues. Clearly, I do not have my stuff altogether.
Now that confessional is
over, lets move on to lent (I’m in a Catholic mood today, I guess). Recently my
husband, Matt, and I decided to experiment with Lent this year. I know that
Easter feels long behind us, but it’s taken me a little while to get my
thoughts together on this (I blame mommy brain and sleep deprivation). As an
evangelical protestant, I had never actually done Lent before now. For those of
you not really familiar with it, Lent is the 40 day period leading up to Easter
Sunday every year. The idea is to choose to take out something (or somethings)
during that time that you feel is taking an unhealthy presence in your life and
to replace it with more of what is supposed to be there, i.e. God. Not that the
‘something’ in and of itself is bad but the priority that it’s taking in your
life is unhealthy.
For Matt and I, it was
screens. Because let’s be honest here: with littles in the house, when bedtime
has finally rolled around and passed, you have about all the leftover energy of
a slug. I felt so often that I needed some screen time to ‘unwind’ because I
didn’t have any oomph in me for anything else. I also knew that, when repeated
night after night, I was starting to have the sneaky suspicion that there was
more to life than blogs and netflix subscriptions. There was this after a
junkfood binge type of feeling and it depressed me to look too closely at how
often evenings slipped through my fingertips.
So I, alongside my husband,
decided to do a lent experiment: eliminate all tv/netflix except for 2 nights a
week. One was for me on a night when Matt had evening meetings (a frequent occurrence
for a pastor) and one episode we would watch together. We also allowed for
about a half hour of morning news before work everyday. Maybe this sounds like
still a lot of tv to you but for us it was like moving to some remote part of
Here’s what I learned:
1)It actually wasn’t as hard doing it as it was thinking
about doing it. Like I thought it would be the techie equivalent of cutting out
sugar from my diet but I didn’t go into extreme withdrawals like I thought I
would. Sure at times it was hard, but
mostly it was just a question of “well what do I do instead?”
2)Which leads me to point number two: I actually
got bored. Which could seem confusing with what I just said about it not being
as hard as I thought but bear with me. It actually wasn’t that bad to be bored.
Because more often than not, I decided to just turn in and go to bed instead.
It’s like all this time I’d been subconsciously needing to prove that I could
hack sleep deprivation when really I could have actually—gasp—been getting a
full night’s rest (or at least a darn good start...Isaline is currently teething
after all). Low and behold, extra zzz’s gave me energy for other things, like
tackling that closet project or reading a book that had been on my list since
the beginning of time.
3)I rediscovered anticipation. Remember those tv
nights back in the day? In college I and my roommates would all pile onto our
hand me down couches to watch an episode of Gilmore Girls together. It was so
much more than just tv; it was the chance to hang out, eat junk food and discuss
in detail the inner workings of Rory’s latest love interest. Now I sit in front
of my computer to watch Netflix on demand. And that 14 seconds before the next
episode starts automatically? Killer…
4)Life got really slooow. Like super slow. Instead
of my precious “the kids are finally in bed” time flying by, the evening
suddenly felt twice as long. I realized that I (like a lot of folks out there)
have gotten trained to equate fast with better. To think I needed constant
entertainment or else I’d just fall to pieces. But slow felt really good. And
really restful. It gave me margin on the edges of my sanity when previously
mentioned one year old got ahold of her sister’s flower pot and turned it
upside down. It made me feel like a better mom and a less cranky wife. It fed
5)This is the part where I’d love to tell you that
God just popped into my living room one night and gave me this awesome lent
epiphany. But if there’s one thing I learned throughout my screen binge, it’s
that slow can be good. And though I didn’t hear the angels singing, I know that
with his grace, I’m inching my way closer towards him. Clearing out the screen
clutter has been like clearing out some of the clutter in my soul to make room
for more of his voice, his love, his lavish grace in my life.
I may or may not have binged on Netflix episodes the week
after Easter. I plead the fifth. Now that lent is over I don’t want to just go
back to my old ways. But neither do I feel like I need to be beaten down by a
rigid system. Christianity is not about systems or rules or spiritual whips. So
it’s going to be a bit of dance. Me, my tv, and the Holy Spirit. I can’t
promise perfection but I’ll let you know what we figure out!