Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fresh Baguettes or New Mexico Chile? That is the question.

I leave France in less than 24 hours. My bags are packed and we're headed to the airport first thing in the morning. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this whole idea. Here are some very important very real ways my life will be changing.

Things I'm leaving behind:

  • Ridiculously long meals
  • Cheese
  • Wine
  • Chocolate
  • Baguettes
  • Everything in the Boulangeries
  • French food.
  • Humidity
  • Pretty things. So many pretty things.
  • Greeting everyone with bisous
  • French accents
  • Having legitimate reasons for not understanding anything that is happening around me
  • Being able to correct everyone's English and have them thank me for it. That'll be a tough habit to break!
  • Paris and museums and public transportation and fashionable French people
  • Delightfully old, beautiful, and full of character buildings

Things I'm looking forward to in the US of A:

  • Having extraordinarily clean bathrooms available everywhere I go. In public places even! 
  • Coffee-Mate coffee creamers. Stop judging me. They're good. 
  • My mattress
  • Parking lots. Everywhere. You guys don't understand.
  • Being able to cart my groceries to my car and drive them home instead of carrying them home. 
  • Target
  • not taking the bus. It's not fun anymore.
  • That unique smell of chile and mexican food that is always there to greet me when I fly into the Albuquerque airport
  • Huge heaps of personal space
  • Functional elevators. Those are nice too
  • Driving
  • Being able to carry around giant coffee cups everywhere I go without attracting horrified stares
  • New Mexico sunsets

Yep. These are the things I'm thinking about. Now you know me much better, don't ya?

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Why I Will Forevermore Take The Stairs

You know those moments when you have a sudden suspicion that you shouldn't be doing something but the chance of consequences seems so slim that you do it anyways? I had one of those moments yesterday. Here's how it happened.

Every other week I find myself walking up to a tiny elevator with three other people behind me and thinking that it sure would be nice if the elevator were a bit bigger. I mean, four people in a tiny room about six feet long and three feet wide doesn't quite give me that three foot radius of personal space I like to keep. With that in mind, I'm sure you can imagine my hesitation in getting into said tiny elevator with five other people instead of the usual three. When all six of us walked up and stood in front of those ominous metal doors, that's when it happened. I had a sudden (and strong) suspicion that it was in my best interests to not get on that elevator.

"Um... Do you think we're all going to fit?" I ask.

"Oh yeah, we'll all squeeze in!"

This is the part where the voice in my head yells, "Kelsey! Take the stairs! You wanted more exercise anyways, right?"

The doors open and I suddenly remember how this particular elevator gives that uncomfortable lurch every time we reach our destination. Should I take the stairs? Or maybe I should at least go in last so that I'm the first one off? Nope, I'm closest to the elevator. What could go wrong anyways? I walk in first and squish myself into the back corner to make room for the others. Thankfully, we all fit just fine, though one additional person in the 6 foot x 3 foot x 7 foot death trap ... cage ... metal box  .... transportation device... would have made it really uncomfortable.

Before I can voice any more concerns, someone pushes the button to take us to level three and the doors close. The metal box starts making normal elevator noises, only we don't have that sensation of going up. We slowly sink several feet and then the noise stops. A whole lot of buttons are rapidly pushed, but nothing happens. It's then we realize that we are trapped.

This is the normal part of the story for people to start panicking, right? Or at the very least, to grumble at the uncomfortable circumstance. So it's totally logical that as soon as I realize we're stuck my first instinct is to laugh, a lot. It was at this point when an epic battle was waged between two sudden and extreme urges: the urge to laugh until I cried because, really, who gets stuck in an elevator?, and the urge to hold very still and demand that every one else stop laughing, talking, yelling for help, and breathing so that we don't run out of air.

In the end, we didn't run out of air, and we were only trapped in the big metal box for an hour before an elevator-fixer-upper came to let us out. But in the meantime, here's what I learned during my hour-long adventure stuck on an elevator:

1. You know in the movies how there's always a way for you to slide the ceiling tiles to the side and escape from a tiny hole in the ceiling? Lies. All lies. There is only one way into the elevator, and one way out.

2. The button you're supposed to push in case of an emergency? Useless.

3. When a sticker in the elevator says that there's video surveillance? Probably not true.

4. The telephone number you're supposed to call for repairs is mostly used as a way to taunt you during your helpless state. Cell phone signals are not to be had while trapped inside a metal box.

4. Weight limit signs on elevators are to be taken seriously. When no weight limit sign is posted, take the stairs.

5. On second thought, just always take the stairs.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

8 Months and Counting....

Only one month left. Well, three and a half weeks really. This is probably the part where I'm supposed to say 'I can't believe how fast the time went!', but I really can't say that completely truthfully. Sometimes it felt like the days passed quickly, but mostly it felt like the weeks were crawling by and I was just surviving from moment to moment. Nevertheless, things are consistently getting easier. I can leave my house without worrying about what unforeseen dilemma might come up. And believe me you, there used to always be unforeseen dilemmas.

Yesterday whilst speeding through the French countryside, I had a sudden revelation. We were racing down the highway weaving in between traffic, windows rolled down, fresh air whipping through my hair, slowing down only to wind through the narrow lanes in the little towns with the tiny stone houses and bright shutters on the windows.... It was a beautiful day and I was soaking up every last drop of the moment when the revelation hit.

I'm going to miss this.

 I'll miss all the friends I've made here. I'll miss all the adorably small houses, and how the French make such a big deal out of every single meal they eat, and how we can walk two minutes to get to the local Boulangerie for a baguette and a pain au chocolate. I'll even miss the kiss on each cheek that is an obligatory hello and goodbye for every person in the room.

I'm often tempted to look back on the last eight months and evaluate them to see if they were 'successful' or not. I've come to discover that it's not a helpful exercise. I look back and ask myself, "how many people did I tell about Jesus?" or "how many lives did I change?" or even "what kind of a difference did I make?" In reality, I should be asking myself questions more along the lines of, "Did I obey Him?" "Did I find Him as the only answer to my every problem?" "Did I learn to love Him more?" "Did I seek Him?" "Did I fully enjoy every single blessing He sent my way?"

Do you see the difference? I'm tempted to evaluate my life based on me, what I'm doing, what I'm accomplishing, how I'm living.... when it's all about Him. What is He doing in me and in those around me? Do I seek Him? What has He done in my life? What has He taught me? What was His plan for me? I always want to make my life all about me, but my life is so very much better when it's all about Him. Everything just... works, and a happy Kelsey goes to bed at night.

When I look back on the last eight months of my life, it's so evident how God has held my hand and guided me every step of the way. There were hundreds of times He helped me through situations I was anxious about, times when He fixed the problems I couldn't solve myself, when He was a listening ear and a friend when it felt like I couldn't properly explain myself to anyone. When I think of who He is for me, what He's done for me, on a day-to-day basis and in light of eternity, I realize that there's no way I could possibly survive without Him. If not for His comforting and guiding hand, I would have had a breakdown here in France. I would have called it quits months ago and packed my bags and gone home. I would be a mess. And as I realize this, I think of the millions of people here who are still living without Him. I think of the hurting, lost, confused, purpose-less people, and I can't help but feel that they need a Friend like mine.

I felt that way before I even came to France. My heart ached for those who don't know Him. Only now I have names and faces to ache for. It's become so much more personal for me, and it makes me sad to leave in a few weeks knowing that so many of my friends still don't know Him. And at the same time, I've also learned that it's not all about me. He's the One that does the work, and He can do it whether I'm in France or not. Isn't that wonderful?

As my time here in France is oh so slowly drawing to a close, that bittersweet taste in my mouth is stronger than ever. I'm so very anxious to return home, to a culture and a language that is familiar. But one can't spend nine months in a country without being changed by it. I'll always have a bit of France in me wherever I go now, and a bit of my heart will always stay here. I guess that's just how things work in life.

C'est la vie.

Monday, May 7, 2012


"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

A couple weeks ago I went to a conference in Dublin on discipleship multiplication. It was fantastic. There were quite a few different GEM missionaries, and they even brought along national partners!

Arnaud, a French pastor, me, and Cyril, a French believer

Talking to missionaries and other believers and hearing about the work that the Lord is doing in their different areas will never cease to be one of my favorite things.

We talked a lot about church planting and discipleship and evangelism and at the end of every session my brain felt numb from taking in so much thought-provoking material.

They taught us about a lot of different things that I couldn't possibly explain in one blog post, but I still found myself coming back to this one verse over and over again. 

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.

Kelsey, don't wait for disciples to come to you, go and find them. Kelsey, don't wait until people ask you about Me, go and tell them first. Kelsey, go and teach people about Me, tell them what I've done for you. Kelsey, go. 

Go and make disciples. Believe it or not, it's still sort of sinking in.

Added bonus to the conference? Doing Irish things like eating fish and chips and taking pictures with guys dressed up as Vikings-- something that all Irish people do, I assure you.

After the conference was over, I stayed a couple extra days to hang out with Linda and see more of Ireland. I really love that country. It's pretty spectacular, and so complete opposite of New Mexico in so many ways that I don't know what to marvel over first.

An old friend of mine from Bible school in England joined us for a day too. Not that Richard is old. Or from England. He's from Northern Ireland, and he's not that old. Nevermind. Hi, Richard.


To my utter surprise and delight, coming back to France started to feel a little bit like coming home. It's taken me a really long time to start to feel settled here, but it's finally happening. Too bad I'm leaving in two months! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Seven Months and Counting....

Life here is never very simple. Just when I get the hang of things, something happens and it throws me off  and I once again realize that I don't know anything. Anything. The last seven months have been an adventure. In my opinion, adventures aren't always all we crack them out to be. Usually when something unpleasant, uncontrollable, terrifying, and/or horribly confusing happens but we make it out the other end, we turn around and say, 'Wow! That was an adventure!' And that word sounds like so much fun that we completely forget about how unpleasant the entire experience was to begin with. 

That's my life in France. An adventure. Except for now, when unpleasant, uncontrollable, terrifying and/or horribly confusing things happen, I'm learning to laugh at it and make it sound fun before I'm out the other end.... because He always pulls me out of them. 

Yesterday I had to get from my little house south of Paris to my friend's house north of Paris. Sounds simple, right? Ha. So I looked up all the information I needed: the names of 4 different train stations to go through and the different times, etc. It should have taken an hour and a half. But then one train was late. And I didn't make it to the next fast enough. And then I couldn't find the right train at the next station. So my well-planned hour and a half journey turned into double the time, with the additional benefit of my rolley suitcase breaking so that I had to carry it everywhere I went while I wandered around tying to figure out how to get to the right place. 

Nothing goes quite as planned. No matter how well I think I'm prepared for something, there are always unexpected happenings throwing wrenches in my plan. That's just part of living in a different culture, part of life. But I'm learning.... not to sweat the little things too much, not to panic when things aren't going as I anticipated, not to freak out if I don't know where I am or which train I'm on or where the right bus stop is, not to look like I'm lost when I really am, and to trust that He always, always has my back. 

Seven months and counting and... I am sometimes surprised by how much I still feel like a stranger here, and am sometimes surprised by how natural I feel at other times. At seven months I'm still learning to let go and trust, learning that He has a plan even if mine falls through, learning that there's always more grace. I'm learning that it's a journey and a race, and that I'm not there yet. I'm learning that He'll always meet me at the next step with love and patience in His eyes. 

Oh. And I'm also learning about discipleship and church planting and evangelism this week in Dublin. Our conference starts tomorrow, and I am stoked. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I've been thinking about death this week. Morbid, I know. For some reason I agreed to see the Titanic in 3D because I momentarily forgot how utterly depressing it is. Don't ask me how one forgets that, one just does. And while surrounded by a plethora of French teenagers snickering at the unconventional deaths of hundreds of people, all I could think about was the fact that people die. Whether they die in a tragic shipwreck and freeze to death while others selfishly row away or whether they die aged 102 and in their warm beds, they all die. It's a truth that I oftentimes forget about. A truth that I was still thinking about two days later when I found out about the sudden death of a friend's wife. She started having heart problems on Wednesday and by Friday she was gone, just like that. And suddenly all of the other funerals I've been to started flashing through my mind and I am once again faced with the reality that everyone dies.

Nancy was telling me about a conversation that she had with a woman in her 20's about Christianity. The woman admitted that she rarely thinks about what happens after death because she's so young, and it will be so long before she dies.

Mr. Strange Starbucks Guy refused to answer my questions about what happens after death because I apparently am always asking 'Why?' and 'What happens next?' and I shouldn't. He admitted that he was getting older, his body was starting to fail, and yet when faced with the questions of what happens when that inevitable physical failure comes, he has decided it's not important to think about.

I was reading a blog about a woman who just discovered she has breast cancer. And while there's a good chance that she'll be a survivor, she too was caused to think about the fact that someday, our bodies all fail us. The most we can hope for is a long, full life and a death that's not too terrifying or painful. No one I've ever met has stated that they think their current body will live forever.

Some day, I'm going to die too. It could be tomorrow or it could be sixty years from now, but eventually it will happen (unless Jesus comes first, which would totally be awesome). And with this reality in mind, I ask myself, what am I going to do with that knowledge? What is a life well-lived? What is the point of it all? How can I make sure that I don't waste a single second of it?

Sometimes (okay, most of the time), I feel like I'm not doing enough. I feel like I need to be a better Christian. I feel like I should be praying longer, loving harder, learning faster, and accomplishing more. It's like I have this list of '50 Things Really Great Christians Do', and when I don't meet my own expectations then I feel like a failure. Shouldn't I know more people here in France? Shouldn't I see conversions? Shouldn't I share the gospel with more people? I mean, who cares if they don't want to talk to me? I should make them listen! Right? And yet.... and yet that's not how the Christian life is designed.

Over and over again during my stay in France, God has continually brought me back to one specific lesson: be with Him. Look to Him. Follow Him.

I'm always trying to be and to do and to strive and to accomplish, and yet the facts are that it's not enough and never will be. I will never make myself a 'good Christian.' I will never deserve or earn a relationship with Him. But thankfully, wonderfully, He always brings me back to the facts. The Gospel. Him.

And so I realize, when I'm pondering death and how I can make my life enough, that really all I have to do is keep giving myself over to Him, again and again. I realize that devoting my life to anything else is completely useless, because people die, money disappears, beauty fades, fame is pointless, governments will always become corrupt, and humans will always be born as sinners.

Death is inevitable. Every ambition in life is futile. Except for Him.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man's all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil. 
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Starbucks Encounters

A wonderful thing has happened. There's a Starbucks. Open. Near me. NEAR ME! 

Normally that isn't a cause for all that much excitement. Believe it or not, when I'm in the U.S. I don't actually go to Starbucks all that often. I just make a big deal of it when I do go. But American coffee is something that I miss a lot (a lot) here in France. You see, they drink their coffee in these itty bitty cups and it's strong and bitter and they rarely give you milk for it. So Starbucks when here in France is like a big, tasty home-in-a-cup. 

Today I was sitting in Starbucks with my French friend Sophie. We were speaking English, because, you know, even though my level of French surpasses that of most French people now, *cough cough* I find that I still like English more. And then suddenly this older gentleman walked up to us, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Are you American?” 
I was silent for a moment as I debated how exactly I should answer that question. You see, being American can bring about quite a few different responses, ranging from wildly enthusiastic to ‘I-hate-your-stinking-American-capitalism-guts- now-go-away-and-stop-polluting-my-air!’ Of course, I’ve never gotten the latter reaction, but the possibility never quite leaves my mind. Unfortunately, I could tell by his accent that he spoke English far too well for me to deny my nationality successfully. So I smiled and nodded.

And then he asked me why I’m in France. I’ve been told the word ‘missionary’ is often heavily misunderstood, so I gave him the same answer I give everyone else. “I’m working with an evangelical church here.” 

And then something scary happened. His eyes lit up in delight. That can only mean one of two things. One, he’s already a Jesus-follower and he’s ecstatic to meet another. Or two, he thinks following Jesus is a load of rubbish and has just been dying to disillusion some unsuspecting, naive American girl. 

Turns out that it was the latter. It usually is here in France. I think. Okay, well actually I knew immediately he wasn’t actually French because French people never discuss religion! and certainly not with strangers! Buddy pulled over a chair, made himself comfortable, and for the next hour attempted to make us look stupid for our inability to read Hebrew, being conditioned by our society, and asking silly and unimportant questions like, ‘What happens after we die?’ 

He also told us that Starbucks is poisoning our society with sugar. I would have to disagree. I think Starbucks is making people do happy dances inside one cup of coffee at a time. But I didn’t tell him that. He asked us if we consume sugar. Sophie, being the health conscious person that she is, said “No.” She was being honest too. Imagine a life without sugar.... (Insert shudder here)

Then he looked at me, as I had expected he would.

“Do you eat sugar?”

“Yes, lots of it.” I just barely restrained myself from adding, ‘And I love that I eat it! Every day. Always.’ In case you don’t believe me, I’m currently drinking some extremely sugary coffee and consuming my second ‘pain au chocolate’ within the space of five minutes. Yes, that’s right. That’s probably 2,000 calories stuffed into my digestive system in just a few minutes. I should be feeling regret. Or a sugar high, in the least. But for some reason all I feel is satisfaction.

Anyways, that’s not really the point. The point, is that the crazy old man then told me that I was fat, and that if I consumed less sugar I would get skinnier. And then he oh so kindly warned me not to get too skinny because I needed to make at least several Christian babies. And come to think of it, why wasn’t I married and making babies already? 

What does one say to that? My initial reaction was to laugh, and then I couldn’t think of anything to say after that so I laughed again. It’s been several hours now and I still can’t really come up with a different response.

It was probably one of the more bizarre experiences I’ve had here in France, and that’s saying something. One never quite knows what to expect when they leave their house in the morning. It reiterates the fact that even when you feel like you're entirely prepared to step in a new culture, there's always going to be something to throw you off.

Oh, and have I mentioned the pure, unadulterated bliss I feel at the fact that a Starbucks has opened just two miles away from my house? No? Oh, let me tell you about that....