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.... 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Six Months and Counting...

I've now passed the half way mark. Sixty percent of my time here in France has finished, and I have only 4 more months to look forward to. I love these monthly posts that allow me to reflect, to see what God has done so far, to see where I've come from and where I'm going.

I've gotten better and better at rolling with the punches, at starting to feel okay with having no idea where I am or what I'm doing, of realizing that I'm absolutely going to mess up with communication and cultural etiquette, and that probably it will be extremely embarrassing, but I'll definitely live through it.  Being outside my comfort zone is starting to feel a tiny bit more comfortable. At first, the constant pressure of not being in my own culture was exhausting, overwhelming, and frustrating. But now He has grown me to handle it. When I am most discouraged and ready to give up, He places into my hands a gift that reminds me that He is in control, has a plan, and is doing something with my life.

It's just a few days past the six month mark, and I'm hobbling around like an old woman. No seriously, I am.

Here's what happened. The other day I went over to some fellow American's house so I could help them clean up a bit after their remodeling. I had been there about fifteen minutes, and had barely done anything when suddenly I sneezed!.... and threw out my back.

That's right, I seriously injured myself by sneezing. Thank you, father, for the exceptionally powerful sneezing I have inherited from you.

At first, I thought the pain would go away and that I might be able to move normally again. Wrong. I could barely walk, and once I sat down there was no getting back up. So here I am now, a few days later, better than before, but still hobbling around and doing these tricky rolls out of bed so that I land on my feet and can straighten up. I should probably be more concerned by my current situation, especially considering my primary means of transport involve a lot of walking. But in all honesty, I find this rather hysterical. If only you all could have seen me try and get out of bed this morning.

...on second thought, just take my word for it. It's funny.

And I'm also trusting that God will do the cool things He does and that by the time He's ready to send me on the next task, my back will be more than able to handle whatever it is.

So other than being a temporary cripple, the six month mark finds me thankful and expectant. I'm thankful for the breakthroughs in various relationships that He has given me in the last month. I'm thankful that He sent my Chelsea friend out to visit and encourage me for a couple weeks. I'm thankful that He works out everything for the good of those who love and obey Him. And I'm expectant that He'll keep doing just that- working things out for good. I'm expecting Him to take me by surprise, to teach me things, to use me in other people's lives. I'm expectant that He'll.... well... do something, even though I can't foresee just what it might be.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Today I went to my "Grande Debutante"(very beginner) French conversation group at the University. The other people in the group are all English speakers, but from all sorts of interesting countries. Today, it was just me, a Nigerian man, a Chinese woman, and the French and English speaking instructor from Romania. After class we had (in English) the most hysterical conversation involving the word 'dude.'

Nigerian man: It's like an American word that men use for other men.

Me: Well, actually....

Instructor: Oh good I don't like that word at all! I would hate to be called that!

Me: *quietly* Well... In America girls use it too...

Instructor: Ohhh, don't call me that! It sounds so ugly!

Nigerian man: Do they really?!

Me: Welllll yeah... I might occasionally use it myself.

Nigerian man: But you only call men 'dude' right?

Me: Um... No you can call anyone 'dude.'

Nigerian man: *very excited* So I could walk up to you and say, "What's up, dude!?!" ?

Me: *laughing* Yes. Yes you could.

I'm not sure if anyone else will find that conversation as hysterical as me, but I left that conversation with my heart especially warm. It's fascinating to see how other people view my culture, and discussing its many oddities is sometimes the quickest way to connect with people. In other words, if you go to France and make fun of America, they'll love you in a second. :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A List of Ten Mildly Interesting Things

1. I smelled a man coming from over 50 feet away the other day.

Here's what happened. I was walking along this sidewalk around this lake... and suddenly I smelled cologne. I was really confused, because there was no one in front of me for as far as the eye could see. Then I looked behind me. No one. But it was definitely the smell of cologne. Sure enough, ten seconds later this older gentlemen walking his dog suddenly walked out from between two buildings.  It was him. I was definitely outside of normal smelling range, so either this guy wore way too much smelly stuff or I have one good sniffer.

2. French people have pouty lips.

Whenever I take pictures of them when they're speaking, the camera always freezes their lips in a pout. I don't notice it so much when they're talking to me. Just when I freeze the moment. Don't believe me? Here's some proof.

3. Walking two and a half miles instead of taking the bus sounds like a good idea until you've gone the first five minutes. Then you realize that now you've started you have to finish and two and a half miles is really not as close as it sounds. But then five minutes after that the endorphins start to kick in and you begin to wonder why you're not walking around France everywhere you go always and forever all the time!

4. Really cold weather (i.e. anything that is freezing or below) makes me want to curl up in a ball and never leave my bed unless it's to get hot coffee.

5. I write the best things in my mind when I'm walking or running (but usually walking), and then I always forget them before I come home.

6. The best way to get a French person to stop staring at your embarrassingly baggy American running clothes is to to stare back.

Don't they know Americans aren't afraid to stare? I used to feel awkward when they would look at me curiously and wonder what it was about me that made me stand out so much. Then I realized that if I return their curious look and add a teensy bit of a smile then they would feel ten times as awkward as I did and look away real quickly. Sweet, sweet retribution.

7. There's a Starbucks opening 1.7 miles from my house, and I do a happy dance every time I think about it.

8. A French woman said that I was tall the other day. I seriously giggle every time I think about that.

9. Sometimes when I've been speaking with French people for long enough, I start using their accents... in English. Eet ees so confuusing, I tell you....

10. I thought I was a moderately intelligent individual until I came to France. Then I realized I'm a dunce when it comes to learning French (not false modesty, I assure you) and I can't speak no English either. For instance, what on earth is the actual definition of 'tingling,' and what's the difference between walking up a street and walking down a street, and why do we say 'first one, second one, third one, fourth one...'? Nothing. I know nothing.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Five Months and Counting...

I get frustrated, because I can't help them all. I can't comfort all the hurting people. I can't feed all the hungry children. I can't help bear all the heavy burdens. I can't wipe every tear. I can't tell every soul about Salvation.

Sometimes I look at all the need in the world, and I feel so small. I go through the Paris museums and read about all the history, I hear about all the people who died in war, I think about all the impoverished that died because they were given no bread, no shelter. I think about making a difference, but then I remember the millions of people throughout earth's history that already have made a difference, they have effected change.... But nations once again become corrupt. Poor people still die. Millions never hear the name of Salvation. Was there a point in all they did? Sure, some were saved. But look at how many more were not! It seems so futile to me sometimes.... trying. 'God,' I ask, 'What are You doing? What's the point if we can't reach everybody?'

And then I realize that I'm thinking about it all wrong.

I'm mad because they won't all be saved. I'm heart-broken because there are people who are not loved. I'm indignant because there are children who are murdered before they are given the chance of life. I feel that I need to do something about it, and I am furious when I cannot.

Do you see what my problem is? Do you see how my thinking is all wrong? I want to help them because I see a need, and I've gone and tried to make this little world all about me.

Should I be feeding the poor because they are hungry? Should I be loving the unloved because they are unwanted? Should I be speaking up for the unborn because they do not have a voice for themselves? Should I be telling everyone I meet of the God-Man who can save because they need salvation?

No. Even this thinking isn't entirely correct.

I should be feeding the hungry because He feeds me. I should be loving the unwanted because He loves me. I should be speaking up for the unheard because He speaks for me. I should be telling everyone I meet about His salvation because He saved me. Because He is wonderful. Because He is merciful. Because He is powerful and sovereign. Because He is more than I can imagine. Because Him.

My words run out. My comprehension only goes so far. But He has taught me this lesson. It's not about all the problems that need fixed. It's not about the fact that I have a responsibility to fix them. It's Him. He has taken selfish, imperfect, broken me and has paid the price for me, speaking up on my behalf, and now He is equipping me with all the tools I need and arraying me in the most beautiful clothes because I am beloved to Him and He is letting me join Him in His work.

All of a sudden the world seems so much smaller. I don't seem to care that I can't reach every person, because I'm with Him and He knows what He's doing. I still feel small and incapable, but it's okay because I know He is powerful and mysterious, and He is working even when I cannot see it. I am tempted to look at how broken I am and give up, but then I remember that He hasn't given up and He never will, that He sees me like He sees His Son.

Yesterday marked the day when I was exactly half way through my time here. It's certainly not been how I expected it. Sometimes I feel like a failure when I consider how much I've done and how much more needs done. But then He teaches me lessons like I wrote of above, and so I settle back into that comfortable place of trusting, following, watching, waiting, imitating, learning....

At half way through I've reached that inevitable point where the romance and glamor begins to fade and reality sets in like a persistent smog. I walk around my neighborhood and suddenly I don't see funny little cars and charming French apartments and fashionably dressed people. Now I see angry drivers, boring apartments, dog poop all over the sidewalk, and fashionably dressed people who can't seem to stop staring at my rather American wardrobe. Many people I know who were so kind and interesting before have now become in my eyes ordinary and a bit impatient. The cute and funny quirks of the French sometimes drive me up the wall now. The inconveniences that come with a life in France and do not come with a life in America that were so easy to bear before have now become tiresome and frustrating. My French debit card stops working. It's still annoying taking the bus everywhere I go. Making lots of friends with the private and guarded people surrounding me? Progress is better left unsaid most of the time. Sharing the Gospel? They avoid discussions of religion better than the desert avoids the rain. Loving them? It was so much easier before I was mocked, stared at, laughed at, ignored, and manipulated.

Of course, that's not to say those have been my only experiences in France. They just tend to be the first ones I think of before walking up to a complete stranger and striking up a conversation.

These are the realities of living in a foreign country. I am an alien here. I will never blend in. And since I'm on an honest streak, I'll also add that I will (hopefully) never blend in when I am in America either, since I'm an alien there too. His presence is my only true home, and He is changing me slowly and surely to resemble Him more than I resemble any human.

Perhaps it's just the American in me, but I'm always subconsciously trying to balance out a comfortable life with a life of service to God. Here's what I'm learning: As children of God, we are called to serve some messy, broken people. Our experiences will never be perfect. If we're hoping to fix anyone and everyone we come in contact with, we will be bitter and disappointed. Life will never be truly comfortable for those who have determined to follow the Jesus who stands out in a crowd, never ceases to be mocked, never has a place to really call home, and whose primary goal is to love people who don't love Him first.

I'm half way through my time in France and the novelty is fading. I would never have the strength of will to keep this up, to keep loving a people that may not ever love me in return, if my motivation for doing this is either them or me. I've come to realize that I can only keep running this race when my eyes are locked on Him. Not on myself. Not on those around me. Just on Him. And when I do that, everything else just falls right into place.

Monday, January 23, 2012

When you lose your ride in France...

Sometimes when in France, your ride calls and says they can't pick you up. Since you really hate figuring out which buses you need to take, and detest waiting at the bus stop, you decide to walk instead. This seems like an especially good idea since you were just thinking about how you didn't exercise that day but probably should have.

So you leave your house at 4:50 knowing that you're supposed to be somewhere at 5:00 and it usually takes twenty minutes to walk there. You reason that you should probably just walk faster and that being five minutes late is fashionable in France anyways.

About two minutes after you've left the house you've realized that you forgot your umbrella. While five minutes late is fashionable, nine probably isn't, so you decide to proceed without one. It's cloudy, but it probably won't rain.

Two minutes later a tiny rain drop falls on your face. You think about finding the nearest bus stop, but you're not really sure what bus you need anyways. Probably you can beat the rain, so you just keep walking. Unfortunately for you, though, you still bear the New Mexico curse (which means it always rains the one day you opt against an umbrella), and it, well, does start raining. Except for it's more like a mist, and you're not getting completely soaked, so you just walk faster. This is a good thing anyways. Since you hate most cardiovascular exercise, you were tempted to slow down as soon as your heart rate sped up, but the rain makes you walk faster.  You also feel glad that you didn't succumb to a rare urge to straighten your hair that morning, seeing as it would now be a giant mass of unsightly frizz. You do, however, decide to pull out a bright red headband from your purse so that you can keep your ears warm even though it really clashes with your pink and yellow scarf. The French people passing by stare at it strangely, but you don't care because your ears are warm and you're walking fast to get out of the rain.

The major downfall in the whole scheme, however, is that once you make it to your destination, you walk inside and wonder how the entire country of France suddenly got so hot. This, of course, is not what had happened. In reality, walking fast made you exercise more which made you much warmer and a teensy bit sweaty.

The point of the story, one might ask? Clearly figuring out bus lines and waiting at bus stops must clearly be avoided, and carrying an umbrella is still quite optional. The moral of the story is that one should not walk any faster because of the rain because it makes you unusually warm and especially because it stopped raining as soon as you arrived at your destination.

Friday, January 20, 2012


The day is so cloudy that I have to use the lamp on my bedside table even though it's not yet five o'clock. It's cloudy and drizzly, just how I tend to like my days best. The noise from the television which so often invades my room and disrupts the peacefulness is silenced. Everything about this afternoon is stillness, peacefulness, listening, prayer.

One of the women I usually meet with every Friday afternoon is probably sitting in a funeral service as I write this. She just lost her grandson, who was never able to take his first breath. Her daughter was only five months pregnant with him, and he is gone before he had a chance at life. My heart hurts for this family. She's even asked me for prayer, this woman who has carefully avoided the topic of religion better than anyone else I've met in France. I am praying, for her and her family. I'm praying that through this experience they will come to realize their need for God. I'm praying that I will have an opportunity to share the Gospel with her when next we meet.

My head is finally beginning to feel less cloudy this afternoon too, now that I seem to be recovering from the cold my body's been fighting the last few days. With the absence of noise, of distraction, and with the presence of peace and listening, I find myself swimming around in deep thoughts.

I've been coming to this one question over and over again since September. Do Christians need a 'special' calling to the mission field, or has the Bible already given us all the calling we need?

In truth, I had that question answered in my mind long before I asked it. We have every reason in the world for missions, namely, every single soul out there who has never heard His good news and never will unless we go to them, like He came to us. This peace, this joy, this life, this mercy, this forgiveness, this Salvation that He's given to me.... it should be shared. I should not keep silent. They need to hear, they need to know. Whether they accept it or deny it is not in my power to determine nor is it my responsibility. So then what is my responsibility? To go. To tell. To love like He loves. And all because He loved me and so I love Him.

So that answers my question. Do Christians need a specific, special calling? No, though sometimes God in His grace gives them to us.

I tremble at this reality as well, because now I've had a taste of the sacrifice and self-denial involved. I know that when one crosses those borders for the sake of evangelism, one is still the same person that left home. I know that every day there are still choices to be made. I know now that working with the title of 'missionary' can bring a person face to face with their own sinful flesh in a way no one wants to experience. I know that it requires, every single little day, even the ones when one feels sick or tired or lonely or whatever it may be, it requires picking up a cross and denying oneself. But then... that is not only the requirement for missionaries but for all who desire to follow Christ.

I think about these things as I watch the sky darken until it is night, and I don't come to any conclusions. I don't know where God will take me much past July 31st of this year, except that it will be only into further levels of self-denial and communion with Him. I'm tempted sometimes to worry and to plot and plan, but He lulls me into a restful trust. When the time comes to make a decision, He'll make it clear to me. He always has before.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Four Months and Counting....

I'm not going to write about how fast the time is going by, or that I can't believe it's already four months, because then I'd be writing that every single month and that would be a bit repetitive wouldn't it? What I will say is that, though it sometimes may not feel like it, God is using every second of my time here to count for something. He has purpose in this, in me being here, in my ministry, in my life.... When I stop to think about it, that thought blows me away. Sometimes I don't see the purpose, but every now and then He allows me to catch some glimpses and I am reminded all over again to trust Him. He really knows what He's doing.

This last month has been full of all sorts of blessings. I'll name five. Okay, six.

1. Visiting with my family....

Photos taken by my brother-in-law Jon. Edited by moi.

I've got about a gazillion pictures I could share of all the fun we had. Plus my nieces are the cutest nieces in the whole entire world ever. Just sayin'...

2. Having Kate come to visit me in France....

This is especially great because God has used us in each other's lives to further lay the burden of France on each of our hearts.

3. Our trip to Ireland....

It was good. Really, really good. I want to go back there, I liked it so much. And God used our time there in a way to give me fuel for coming back to France.

4. Getting better connected with Frenchy friends.

Kate and I did some good quality hanging out with some of them, which is really how the first gospel seeds are planted here. There's one young woman in particular who really opened up to me on Sunday, thanks to all of God's magnificent orchestration of course. She doesn't believe in Jesus, but I have a feeling that He's softening her heart.

5. And Him. There's always the blessing of Him. A blessing so awesome I can't really comprehend it. Just when I feel like I've received all the grace I can, He goes and dishes out some more for me. His presence is the sweetest thing. I crave Him more every day.

Going home for Christmas was something I needed after all, and He knew that, so He provided a way. It was a short break somewhere near the middle that made it so I didn't have to go ten months straight through without familiarity. I know people do it all the time, but I think He's having me do baby steps. I'm okay with that.

And coming back to France? It was a bit hard. A bit harder than I expected, certainly. I'm more impatient than I would have liked to think, and so it's hard for me sometimes that ministry in France is so slow going. I was starting to get discouraged that I wasn't going to have anything to show for my time here. Where are the dozens of new contacts? Shouldn't there be at least one new believer? Why is learning French so hard? All these different questions kept popping up in my head and I began to doubt the point of being here. But He reaffirmed me, like He has so many times before. He has a plan. He has a purpose. He used different people and different circumstances to remind me that He's the One that's really doing the work, not me, and that sometimes I can't always see it.

And after all those sweet reminders, blessings, and refreshers, He gave me an added bonus.

6. A new contact! I found a website... and received an email from a woman who wants to practice English... and she came to Café Anglais yesterday. It sounds like such a small thing, I know. But it's a little victory for me, a milestone, a gift from God. It's like He's winking at me and saying, "See? I'm still working." Work away, Lord. Work away. :)

And in the coming months, I have a lot to look forward. Like more visitors, more French skills, more friendships, more opportunities to share Him, and more of His presence. When it's all put into perspective, I can't imagine not serving and worshipping Him. Isn't He so good?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I. LOVE. Ireland

I'd like to tell you a story, that begins with me looking at those handy and highly entertaining screens which show you approximately where your airplane is currently located and then the story ends in a lot of pictures.

"Hey Kate, let's go to Greece."


There were so many places listed on the map, and I just couldn't sleep.

"Hey Kate, let's go to Switzerland."


"Hey Kate, let's go to Holland."


"Hey Kate, let's go to Ireland."


"K cool."

And three days later that's where we found ourselves.

That's not exactly how it all went down, but it's pretty close to the truth. That handy and entertaining and dangerous little map that they were displaying on the airplane got me thinking, and since we were planning on going away from Paris for the weekend anyways, and since it was surprisingly inexpensive to fly from Paris to Dublin, and since neither of us had gone there before, and since they speak a form of English in Ireland... Well you get the picture. The itch for travel and adventure which had struck us while together so many times before took over again, and I was in for an unexpected treat.

love Ireland. A lot. It was surprising how much. I was expecting to just appreciate the fact that they spoke English and have it be nothing more than that, but what I found was so much more. I had never given Dublin or Ireland much thought before, but it's a really great place.

It's kind of like the opposite of France. That doesn't mean I don't love France, but a girl can love opposite things right? The French are private, serious, fashionable, and quiet. The Irish are outgoing, hysterical, much more casually stylish, rather loud, and so much fun. We found a couple leprechauns, a couple street preachers, no fairies, and some international friends while we were there too.

And I must say, the street musicians? Amazing.

And we also went to a dinner titled 'Food, Fairies, and Folklore.' It was well worth the money we paid. The guy playing the guitar in the picture below, Ollie, gave us a lot of history about, well.... fairies and folklore... while we ate food. And we also had the opportunity to get to know the five Brits and two Danes at our table.

 And it just so happened that while we were walking along the main shopping street we came across a street preacher. I'm fairly certain that God orchestrated the entire thing, because at that very moment we realized that it was necessary to stop and wait at that exact location for a while. We went up to the preacher afterwards to thank him for preaching the word and he invited us to church the next day.

So we went. And clearly God knew I needed to be there. We learned more about the church in Dublin, met quite a few Irish believers, as well as a German couple, a girl from the Chicago area, a girl from Bulgaria, and a French woman married to an Indian man.

Here's what I learned. The Irish believers really want their fellow countrymen to come to know God, but very few do. I'm still not certain of actual statistics, but the vast majority of the Irish are strictly the type of traditional Catholicism that never hears the gospel preached. It's kind of hard to believe that there's an entire nation of English speaking people that has such few true believers.  I'm glad to have learned how better to pray for Ireland, and hope to find out more about the state of the church there soon.

 Another really great part about visiting that little church in central Dublin was meeting the French woman, Cristelle. It was so encouraging to hear a French believer's story of salvation, and to be reminded that it takes time for seeds to be planted and watered in France, but that doesn't mean it's useless. She told me not to be discouraged, not to give up, that God is still using all of His ambassadors in France. Amen!

And to top it all off, it was a wonderful time with my friend Kate, walking around the city, seeing the sights, thinking about things, and feeling grateful to God that He gave us such an opportunity.

We really like old buildings and stuff. 

 And I really love city life. All the people. The music. The excitement. The crisp air. The thrill of travel.  The different accents. The foreign smells. Wonderful. It's all wonderful.

My Jesus really knows how to show me He loves me. :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Weird things happen.

And you wake up with your hair "really dark brown," or, as some say... black.

But the funny thing is that even though you didn't intend it to be 'really dark brown,' you kind of like the end result anyways.

Weird things, alright.

P.S. You may or may not be hearing things about Ireland in a few days time. Maybe.

Monday, January 2, 2012


I'm not sure what it is about that one little number at the end of the date that changes once a year.... but it always causes a surprising amount of reflection, dreaming, hoping, and remembering. Everyone tends to think about what went wrong, what went right, what was good, and what was bad about the last year, while resolving to do something different for the next. I'm no different than the others. While I've only ever come up with a New Year's Resolution for the sake of being able to have something to talk about with other people, I find myself this year spending a little more time in reflection about what God has done in the last. 

The last year has been... predictable and unpredictable all at the same time. It's been as expected, yet so very unexpected. It's been hard at times, so unrealistically easy at others, and always good. 

I finished up my time in Colorado, and said those bittersweet goodbyes to the people I grew to love so much. It was unexpectedly hard, and unexpectedly wonderful too. There's something beautiful about seeing so many people you love sent out to do the work God's called them to. And then there was this summer, which was nothing I could have ever expected. Losing Gideon will be something that I will never forget, and always be changed by. I learned to love a little deeper, care a little more, and hope a little higher. I learned that sometimes we can't see it, but God is always good. And I spend most of the summer fundraising for France, which at times was fun, exciting, encouraging, and faith-building. But at other times it was hard, discouraging, frustrating, faith-testing, and grace-growing. I can't say I'd want to repeat that process in a hurry, but I'm glad I went through it. And then there was France.  It's been hard. It's been an adventure. It's tested my faith and grown my love. It's caused me to stop looking so much at the things I always depend on and instead to look at Him. I expected all those things, but it doesn't make them any easier when you're actually going through them. I've come face to face with idols in my heart I didn't know existed, and I've had decisions placed in front of me every day that challenge my faith, my belief, my love for God. It's the same as when I'm in the USA, really, except for there's something about being in France that just gives you a different perspective. 

And right now? How am I starting the New Year? Not in France, but at home, in New Mexico, with family. I've been here two weeks now, and I head back to France tomorrow. It's been two weeks of rest. Two weeks of time with family. Two weeks of my own culture, which is a much bigger deal than one ever realizes until they're in another. 

I'm thankful that God gave me this year. I'm thankful that He's given me opportunites every single day to experience Him, to love Him more, to be loved by Him. I'm thankful for the hard times and the easy times. I'm thankful that He's never left me. I'm thankful that He's guided my every step. And now? Now I look forward to what He's got planned this year. I now know from experience that He'll guide me, that He'll love me, that He'll be there with me. I'm eager to meet the people He'll bring across my path, to learn the lessons He has in store for me, to receive His gifts, to accept the challenges He puts in front of me. It's the most wonderful thing in the world, knowing that I can trust Him even when I don't understand, knowing He's in control when I'm not, that He has grace and mercy and that He never changes. 

I'm learning more and more about Him, and the more I know, the more I like Him. Twenty twelve. Wow. It's going to be better than 2011, and I'm looking forward to it.