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.