Fall Days

100_1642

Fall in the Alps, more specifically in Vizille, France, in 2015

It’s been a busy few months since I last wrote. I haven’t quite figured out how being a mom and a blogger work together particularly with a snuggle bug baby. ūüėČ I’m only writing now because she’s finally settled down for a nap in her bed. Although I hear it all the time to sleep when she does, I needed a little quiet on the couch alone doing some writing.

Motherhood seems to have settled in much as fall seems to finally be settling in here in Middle Tennessee. I often still feel in awe that I’m a mom. Other times, I’m sleepily trying to talk to my husband while we’re both sleep deprived from a fussy, hungry, growing, teething baby and understand somewhat what other moms call “the fog”. Our little darlin’ is as cute as she can be and quite attentive to all that’s going on around her. As several have noted, she has quite the observant, inquisitive stare, particularly when she meets a new person. She’s sitting up, trying to figure out how to crawl, and putting everything she can grab into her mouth. Her giggles and smiles bring us so much joy and light, I’ve begun to wonder how we ever lived without her.

iYOZ81GwR9SNwJxMlqAWlA

Playing with her teddy bear

Everyone tells me that it goes by so fast. They mention how theirs are all grown, and it feels like just yesterday when they were as small as our little one. I smile and nod and figure I’ll one day say the same when our little girl is grown and off on her own. My Granny told me on the phone about this time last year that you’re always a mom, it never leaves you, even when your oldest is in his sixties. She was referring to my dad and said that when he was a baby, she used to hold him up in the car window, so people they passed could see the cutest baby that ever was. I feel much the same way about our little girl and know I share that feeling with mothers before me and all around me.

Fall, in particular, brings back a lot of memories for me from times both abroad and in some of the other places I’ve lived. It’s this time of year when I miss seeing the trees changing in the Alps and miss strolls in Happy Hollow Park up in Indiana. I also think of a beautiful October walk with George when we were still dating. What will I remember from these days of early motherhood in the fall? Oh, I’m thinking of chilly, long walks with George pushing the stroller as leaves stick to the wheels on the paved trails in the park. I’m thinking of our baby staring in wonder up at the trees and turning her head to hear the birds singing and flying about. I’ll remember our trip to Lake Tahoe in early October where trying to count how many shades of blue, gray, and green one could see on the lake seemed nearly impossible and how sweet it was to have some walks hand in hand alone with my husband. Perhaps it’s the smells and colors of fall which make it so perfect for making memories.

I think I hear the baby stirring. I better end for now, but tell me, what things do you think of when you think of fall?

Advertisements

A Little Nose and Little Fingers and Toes: Reflections on Becoming a Mother

It’s been a little over a month since our little one made her appearance. How does time pass by so quickly and so slowly at the same time? She’s growing and changing as little babies tend to do. She’s smiling more and trying to coo as we talk to her and make eye contact. How beautiful it is to have a baby.

Although the birth was much more challenging and difficult than George and I had anticipated even with all of our preparation, that moment of finally holding her and looking into her eyes for the first time was one of the most precious moments of my life. She was so alert and looking around like she was trying to take it all in. I felt so relieved to finally be holding her after 33 hours of labor. I had reached a point in labor after hearing a newborn cry down the hall that I began to wonder if my baby would ever come, if the pain would ever end. It was still a while until she finally came, but I’m thankful God gave me strength to endure. I’m also thankful for my wonderful husband who coached me through it all and helped me feel confident that I could do this. He’s continued to care for us both in the weeks which have followed. Our little girl sure does love her daddy and will often stop fussing as soon as he picks her up and starts talking to her.

For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a mom. I even dressed up as a mom in kindergarten when we had a “Dress As What You Want to Be When You Grow Up” day. When I did grow up, I struggled with being single as I saw others around me getting married and starting families. I wasn’t sure if it would be God’s will to be a wife and mother, and I had to learn to trust He knew best. All along He was writing a beautiful story and continues to do so while teaching me through it all.

It’s been two years of such big though wonderful changes that sometimes it feels overwhelming. I remember feeling especially overwhelmed at the thought of becoming a mother knowing how important a parent’s role is in shaping a little person’s life as they grow up. I’d just become a wife and now, I was a mother-to-be. How would we know how to raise a little one? The grad student in me wanted to do all the research and read all of the books, but I knew that though I’d find good tips, none of them would tell me what I wanted to know because I need to know who my child is and how best to raise her. God knows best, and He’s given us a sweet little girl to love and raise. If we seek Him, He will show us the way.

There have been some rough times when baby blues have crept in, and I’ve not been sure if I could do this. This especially happens when she’s fussing, and I don’t know what’s wrong. Then, she looks up at me and grins and coos showing her love in her little baby way, and I relax and realize I need to just take it one day at a time. She’s growing and changing and experiencing a lot of firsts, and I know she’ll grow up fast. It’s a sweet though challenging time, and I do cherish her littleness though I often yawn wishing I could also get more sleep.

I can’t say I know much yet about being a mom, but I’ve realized, at the moment, a lot of it just involves love as we care for our little newborn. I began life with George with a new last name to get used to, and now, we have the sweet blessing of getting used to our new names: “Mommy and Daddy”.

The New Chapter: Wedding Day & Beyond

Two years ago, I had no idea that my life was about to change in so many ways. My last post from nearly a year ago also spoke of coming change as I prepared for this new chapter. It’s mainly because of those big and wonderful changes and the resulting adjustments that I ended up taking a break from blogging. George and I just passed our engagement anniversary on New Year’s Eve and also our six month anniversary was just a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on our wedding day and all the prayers that were answered as we planned last year. I wish to share some details and pics from that blessed sunny summer day in July when George and I became husband and wife.

The Planning

We decided fairly early on that we wanted something simple but elegant that would, most importantly, bring glory to God. We wanted the focus to be on Him and not on ourselves. This desire affected every decision and also kept the stress level down for the most part. George was a tremendous help in this area since we worked as a team planning, and he helped me especially relax when some details and decisions became stressful. It still amazes me to look back and see how God helped us through all the details and provided answers and solutions when we ran into unexpected problems or complications.

So many of our dear friends and family stepped in to help make our day the special blessing that it was. I’m especially grateful to the dear ladies who helped us with the flowers! We didn’t realize that we ordered a completely DIY package from Bouqs that was quite literally do it yourself. We had originally thought it was DIY in the sense of picking out colors and flowers. I watched so many videos on how to make corsages and boutonni√®res that I was dreaming of flowers and ribbons in the couple of weeks leading up to the wedding. However, these ladies came in and helped us get it all put together the day before the wedding!

I think it’s true of many brides though that there reaches a point during wedding week when you’re just ready for the day to be here. Sometimes this point comes because of a certain level of feeling frazzled and exhausted with last minute details or the unexpected situations which tend to come up. I reached that point the afternoon before the wedding about the time we finished with the flowers. It was time, I was ready, George was ready, let’s get married. Just a few more hours I told myself as I sipped tension tamer tea under orders from my maid of honor and younger brother to relax the night before the wedding.

The Big Day

The morning of the wedding wasn’t nearly the flurry that one might have expected. We were a pretty laid back bunch. Several of us in the wedding party shared an Airbnb house since we thought that it would be more fun (and less expensive) than getting hotel rooms. Sure, there were a few downsides like an astonishing lack of coffee mugs O_O, but most of the issues we ran into were easily handled or fixed. There was quite a bit of laughter, some hugs, and a few statements of disbelief that the day was finally here. I did have some bride nerves when I first got up, but those quickly diminished especially after exchanging a few texts with George. This helped me stop and realize that all the rest was just details compared to the vows we were about to take. Everyone knew what to do and where to be. It was all going to be fine.

untitled-4115As we started getting ready, I felt so much peace come over me that I just felt relaxed as a friend did my hair and makeup. Then, the moment came to get into my dress and veil. As my maid of honor helped me, I thought about how I just couldn’t wait to see George at the end of the aisle. We all laughed and hugged as we finished getting ready. untitled-4168These are the moments I remember sweetly from just before the wedding: the contagious joy all around as we all smiled and hugged while standing in a large bathroom finishing up those last touches on makeup and hair. I had some wonderful bridesmaids who helped with last details and helped me relax. One of our biggest wishes and prayers for our wedding day was that stress would be minimal and that all of us would feel calm and joyful. God answered that prayer abundantly. When Mom and Dad came to see me after I was ready, I could see love and joy in their faces. The day was really here, and it was just about time to leave for the church.untitled-4194

Meanwhile, over at the church, George and the groomsmen were finishing up getting ready, and our guitarist Jimmy was setting up to play for the entrance of the wedding party. I found out later that as they stood outside waiting, George asked the ministers to pray before the ceremony began. This meant a lot to me, and I’m glad George asked them to do so.

untitled-2450

untitled-2482

All was in place and the guests would be arriving soon. The time came for us to leave for the church. Dad and I sat in the car and watched the last of the guests go in and through the windows, we saw the wedding party begin going down the aisle. My nephew Chase, one of our ushers, soon signaled that it was time for us to come stand at the doors. As Dad and I stood alone outside of the church, we were both feeling rather emotional as we waited for the church doors to open for us to go in. We only stood out there for a short couple of minutes, but time seemed to pause as through those doors held a beautiful and wonderful new beginning. Dad is not one to usually get emotional, but this was the precious moment we had both been waiting for for a long time.untitled-4274¬†I’m so thankful for moments like these which you hold onto for a lifetime, the ones when feeling and love speak louder than words. The doors opened as the congregation stood and began singing “Alleluia,” one of the four hymns we picked out for the ceremony.¬†It was beautiful hearing the singing and seeing the faces of all our friends and family who were gathered to witness this special moment.
untitled-4271-2My favorite moment came as we rounded the corner to the aisle! There he was at the end of the aisle, my dear groom! I’d always wondered if I would be nervous walking down the aisle, but no, I wasn’t, my eyes were fixed on George the entire time. When we reached the front of the church, I thought of just how handsome he was and saw joy and love in his face. At the end of the hymn, Brother Shannon, one of our officiants and our pastor, asked Dad the traditional question of who gives this woman to marry, and Dad answered that he and my mother did. George then reached for my hand and the two of us held hands in front of Brother Shannon and Brother Tom as Brother Shannon said the opening prayer. Afterwards, the second hymn we had chosen was sung. This particular hymn entitled¬†Lloyd is one of my favorite Sacred Harp songs, and one I had always wanted sung at my wedding one day. Call me biased, but the singing of Lloyd on this particular day was the most beautiful I had ever heard in all my years of singing Sacred Harp. The acoustics of the old wooden church coupled with the blending of the congregation’s voices in harmony created the feeling that we were catching a tiny glimpse of what the singing will sound like in heaven. It almost seemed as if the angels were joining in with us!

untitled-4299Brother Shannon delivered the charge reminding us of our duties to one another as husband and wife and to serve God together. He exhorted us to remember our romance as well as our Redeemer. His charge was, I felt, to the point and what we needed to hear and be reminded of before taking our vows. Another hymn “My Soul with Joy Attend” was sung next. This hymn speaks of the beauty of when Jesus speaks, and His care and sovereignty over His sheep. Brother Tom, while holding a small rope, began explaining how the rope of three strands is not easily broken. In a marriage, the wife holds onto the husband and the husband holds onto the wife and the two are held together by Christ. On this day, we were being united together as one with Christ as our center. He gently bound our wrists together and had each of us hold one strand of the knot he had just loosely tied for us to tighten. He then smiled and said to the congregation that we had just tied the knot.¬†untitled-4319

He untied our wrists and began the introduction to the vows and the importance of them. He asked for George to face me and repeat after him as he began with the first vows, and then in turn asked for me to do the same. We had read through our vows beforehand and each of us knew the gravity and importance of the vows we were taking before each other and God.untitled-4331-2

As we exchanged rings, I felt a small catch in my throat because of just how sweet and important this moment was. The rings being a symbol of our love and commitment were now on our fingers as we finished the last part of our vows. All I could see was love on George’s face as I finished putting his ring on his finger and saying my vows.

untitled-4342

untitled-2605

untitled-4343Brother Tom said the closing prayer and after he said “Amen,” he told George that he could kiss his wife. My heart leapt! His wife–I was now his wife!

untitled-2611

The new Mr. and Mrs.!

untitled-2621As we walked back down the aisle, the congregation stood and sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” a hymn we had both wanted sung. God had truly been faithful to us throughout both of our lives up to that point and had richly blessed us in bringing us together. The love story He wrote in our lives is truly more amazing than anything I could have even tried to conjure up on my own. That’s how God often works though, and it is a lesson to me to not question His ways. He always knows better. I pray that as we continue our lives together through all the adjustments, challenges, joys, trials, and changes that we will always keep Him at the center of our marriage.

What followed after we exited the church? Euphoria, of course!

untitled-4389Well, that and plenty of laughs too!

untitled-4444

We also, of course, had so many sweet moments of staring into each other’s eyes feeling so very thankful for each other and so very happy for this special day! We even had a sweet little dance just the two of us, our first as husband and wife.

untitled-4770

I will say also, we had quite a fantastic wedding party! They were relaxed, fun, and ready to help in any way they could through it all. We asked each of them to be part of our day because of how much they have meant to us in our lives thus far. I treasure the memories we made that day and in the days leading up to the wedding. Plus, I know for a fact we had some of the cutest flower girls and quite a dapper ring bearer, all of whom did a wonderful job doing as they were asked and looking  incredibly adorable while doing it.

untitled-4577

We both have also been blessed with sweet, loving families who were a blessing throughout the planning and the day itself. I’m particularly thankful that all of my siblings were able to be at the wedding because it’s never easy to get us all together with our being scattered across a few states. We’ve mentioned to each other more than once since we first began talking how thankful we are for our families! Our families were such an important part of our day, and we’re thankful for each member who was there and each one who willingly took on a role when asked whether it was to be an usher, a bridesmaid, a groomsmen, a flower girl, a ring bearer, or to help with the timing or the host of other duties that go into a wedding.

untitled-4600

untitled-4637

God has been so good to both of us, and I am thankful to have a new family to also call my own. I am also thankful that my family has welcomed George with open arms. It is always so much better to have both families behind you filled with joy and prayers supporting you in a marriage. George also won approval from all four of my brothers which was no easy feat. I think a round or two of around the world ping-pong and some good laughs helped in that endeavor. ūüėČ The time soon came to leave for the reception because as you can imagine by this point, we’d all worked up quite an appetite.

Our reception took place at a French restaurant just about ten minutes away from the church. We were both amazed that we were able to find this place so nearby since our ceremony venue could not host a reception. Monsieur Cadot, the chef, is from France, and was a pleasure to work with.We had both wanted there to be some element of France involved with our wedding, and I’d say we definitely succeeded on that score. One of my requests was for the song “La Vie en Rose” sung by Edith Piaf to be played as we walked into the reception, and he made sure it happened. The lyrics of this song so often makes me think of our story which was why I chose it. You can listen to it here, if you’d like to.

The food was delicious and in my opinion, some of the best I’ve ever had at a reception. This was partly because the food was amazing and also because as we began eating, I realized just how hungry I was. Monsieur Cadot did an amazing job on the lunch, the service, and the cake! Plus, you can’t beat hearing French spoken by some of the waiters. It was all such a scrumptious blessing!

untitled-2845

untitled-2928

I’m thankful for each of our guests who were able to make it on a very hot day to join in our celebration and also pray with and for us as we began this big step together. The only downside, I thought, after we left was that I was not able to sit down and have a long conversation with all of our dear friends who had come many from a long distance to be with us. We left amongst cheers, clapping, laughter, colorful ribbons, and smiles from all of our sweet friends and family. As our photographer mentioned later, these are some of her favorite moments to photograph–the “finally” moments. Finally, the planning is over, the vows have been said and rings exchanged, the cake cut, and the bouquet tossed. Finally, it is time to embark on this new journey with all of the love and joy from those around us to give us a good sendoff.

untitled-5006

What comes next? God knows for sure, but I can tell you from the six months we’ve had already together that we’ve had plenty of adventures, some big changes and adjustments, and many laughs and memories made. I have a strong suspicion our biggest adventure is yet to come though. May He ever guide us every step of the way as we journey through life together with all of its up and downs.

untitled-4393

Special Note: All photos in this post were taken by Rebecca Grimmer Photography РCopyright 2017.

Coming Change

It’s been a calm Saturday today. Spring has finally come to Indiana, at least it seems to have come. I cannot always tell how the weather will change or if there’s still a little bit of winter left to come. It’s not unheard of to have snow in April. However, today, spring is here. I opened up my balcony door, turned on my ceiling fan, and just enjoyed having the sounds of spring and fresh breezes waft through my small apartment.

I have had plenty to do today with empty boxes filling my living room which need to be filled to move soon. There’s a paper which needs to be written, homework to be done, exams to grade, wedding plans to work through, and I should maybe eat something soon. This week was so incredibly busy and overwhelming with so much due and so much going on. This afternoon, I decided to take some time to just sit and listen and be still for a little while. Deadlines are there, but I have found that I do much better if I also take breaks and take care to not overdo.

So much change is in the air beyond just the changing of the seasons. They’re good changes, yes, and I’m so excited about them, but with change comes a time of readjustment as well. Thinking back over the last five years of my life, change has been a constant. From moving across the country to start a graduate school program and later, moving across the world to teach for a year, to now preparing to get married and start a new life in another state, it’s been quite a beautiful adventure so far. Not to say, there haven’t been struggles and problems along the way because there definitely have been. I’ve loved how unpredictable it’s been in many ways, and how I never could have dreamed it up on my own how this story would unfold so far.

I remember in my childhood learning quite a few lessons about change.¬†We moved from Georgia to Texas when I was young, and it took me a few years to fully adjust and start identifying as a “Texan”. {Come on, we’re talking about Texas here, y’all, it’s hard to live there and not just become a Texan.} Through it all, my parents taught me some valuable lessons about following God’s direction despite the changes it might involve.¬†God knew us three younger kids would need that lesson as we’ve all experienced moves into areas which are unfamiliar through trying to follow His direction.

As I ponder all of the upcoming changes, I sometimes wonder what’s ahead in life. These thoughts bring a mix of emotions to my mind both of fear and of anticipation. A thousand “What ifs” cloud my mind sometimes. The more I experience changes, the more I am thankful for the Lord who is my firm foundation and who changes not. No matter the changing belief systems of our governments and cultures, He never changes and His Truth never changes. No matter what’s ahead and whether those “What ifs” come to pass, He is still good, He is my Rock.

One of my favorite hymns I learned while I was in France (pictured isn’t all of the hymn) is a prayer for God to teach His child no matter what comes. It asks that He might guard our hearts even in the midst of a storm and give us strength and comfort throughout life. “Teach me” the title says. This song touched me as I sang it with some of my dear Christian friends there.
100_4091.JPG

 

I’m thankful for His leading and His care over His children. I’m thankful we can trust in Him who changes not.

Enseigne-moi, Seigneur!

The Correspondence: A Prologue

A year ago today, I was busy getting through a long Wednesday of teaching at Universit√© Grenoble-Alpes. They had at least lightened my load on Wednesdays after I just couldn’t handle the long nine hour teaching day anymore. It was a beautiful spring day! The Alps¬†were still covered in snow but the grass was getting greener and the birds were cheerfully singing. Life in France at that time was full of strikes and drama in the school administration although I had not yet seen the worst of it. It was just a happy spring day, and I was in the middle of preparations for my return to the U.S. in the summer. Little did I know as I finished up my teaching day and went back to my apartment to fix supper that my life was about to change. As I slept that night, a certain someone sent me an FB message which simply read: “Salut, Stacey! √áa va? ūüôā ”

100_4069

Now, I’ll pause here a second and explain that I had my misgivings as this was not the first time a rather unfamiliar gentleman had sent a message. I really should write a book about some of my experiences on that score, but let’s just say some of the messages I received in the past were genuinely just friendly conversations while others were obviously sent¬†by someone on a wife hunt. So, when I first saw I had a message from this particular gentleman when I got to school the next morning, I did hope this was not a repeat of some of what I’d already been through before. I quickly sent back a couple of lines in French and continued on with my day.

The response which followed included his phone number and a request to call him when I got a chance as he wanted to talk about a trip to France. My eyebrows went up as this was not exactly the response I had expected. My impression was he was looking for recommendations for places to visit in France of which I did have plenty of ideas. I couldn’t call the U.S. from my mini French phone, so I offered to Skype. I also threw out some suggestions of places to visit, asked more specifics on what he wanted to know about, and mentioned as an example that I was at that moment researching a trip up to the D-Day beaches for the week I had off at the end of April. I’d been unable to get that trip to work up to that point because to visit the Normandy beaches, one really needs a car,¬†and I did not have that option at my disposal. I was still trying to work it out though. I wanted to go so badly since my grandfather had landed there. Turns out there was a reason that particular trip I was trying to work out just wasn’t working, a very good reason.

We set up a time to Skype that following Saturday. During the actual call, he was in his car in a grocery store parking lot which is partly why the conversation only lasted about 10 minutes. Those few minutes of our Skype conversation laid the foundation for a trip to Normandy. After we got off of Skype, I sat there on my bed staring out the window wondering if I were nuts….

A guy I barely met in Memphis several years ago is coming to France, and I’m meeting up with him to go on a trip? Maybe I better ask someone about what kind of a person he is. I need to pray about this too!

So, I did both. Thankfully, I have some friends who know him well and were able to give me a good report a couple of weeks later. I prayed too that God would help me guard my heart and to close the door if we were not meant to go on this trip. I wrote extensively in my journal at the time just trying so hard to keep myself from getting my hopes up and to be sure to keep the proper perspective. Jane Austen knew women quite well when she famously said in¬†Pride and Prejudice:¬†“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

Looking back over those couple of months before he came to France, I do have to smile. We messaged almost daily and often talked on Skype on the weekends. I remember one particular time when we talked for nearly three hours on Skype just because we lost track of time as we talked and talked. It was a blessing getting to know each other better as we started sharing prayer requests and stories while also working on trip details. It was exciting! We were both amazed as answer after answer came as we prayed and worked through the details of the trip.

I think what I loved most through all of our¬†correspondence was that there was no pressure and no expectations other than friendship. I felt relaxed and free to change my mind about the trip if something didn’t feel right.There was also no manipulation whatsoever. He had become my friend, and I just couldn’t wait to meet him in person. I prayed that our first meeting would be relaxed and that we would feel comfortable. I’m so thankful to say that that’s exactly how our first meeting was! I prayed also that God’s will would be done and that whether we parted at the end of the trip as good friends or maybe something more, that we would be content to follow His leading.

The morning I boarded the train to go to the airport, I remember feeling so nervous because I both knew and didn’t know what was ahead. I sat in a rather open area on the train next to the baggage racks surrounded by a couple of French couples probably in their sixties who were quite amusing as they talked about this and that. I watched the French landscape rush by in the windows and just prayed and prayed and wondered. After I changed trains though for the last leg of the trip, I could barely sit still. I really felt for the man sitting next to me as I fidgeted quite a bit and got up a lot to walk around. As I got off, I looked for George on the platform, but he wasn’t there. I wondered if he were lost or what had happened. I pulled out my phone about to call him and then glanced up to see him standing up on a platform above the train station. I smiled and got onto the escalator to go up to meet him.

And then, a new page began¬†in the prologue of a beautiful story….

Our Story: from the D-Day Beaches to Rainy Strolls along the Seine

Some stories have a starting point that you don’t even realize is a starting point for¬†sometimes as long as 70 years after the fact.

Our story truly began in June of 1944.

My grandfather landed on Utah beach on June 6, 1944 and began the long struggle through to Munich and the end of the war in Europe. George’s¬†grandfather was a pilot who was shot down a few days after D-Day who was saved by the French underground, particularly a family who put their lives on the line to hide him from the Germans. Both our grandfathers’ stories are much longer and amazing than I’ve mentioned here. However, George and I reconnected because of their stories. I wanted to see Utah beach and George wanted to visit some dear friends, the French family who saved his grandfather and had become like family.

Let me back up a little though.

George¬†and I actually first met at a church meeting in Memphis, Tennessee, on New Year’s around 2009 or 2010, neither of us can remember the exact year. It was so very brief as he just sat down and started singing with some of us who¬†were singing between services. I remember thinking when I first saw him, just how handsome I thought he was and loved how “professorly” he looked. However, we never talked beyond introducing ourselves,¬†and though I saw him at the same meeting¬†in years to follow, we still didn’t have much of an opportunity to interact. Fast forward to this past March when he sent me an inquiry about a trip to France and well, that’s when this whole love story with a French twist began.

It’s a long story full of answered prayers of exactly how we got from his inquiry about a trip to France to¬†my boarding a train in Grenoble to meet up with him at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris on May 27th, but for the sake of time, I think it would suffice to say that God worked in all those details. We both had a strong desire to conduct ourselves in a God honoring way, otherwise, I don’t think either of us would have been okay with this sort of a venture. We met up, and our adventure began as we made our way from the airport to Saint Lazare train station to catch our train to Lisieux.

dewey-and-stacey

At Normandy Cemetery the day after we met up

As we met up and stayed with the¬†granddaughter of the man who saved George’s grandfather, that’s where our story really began to unfold. God knew George¬†would need a translator and though I have no professional training as a translator beyond being able to speak French and English, I’m thankful I could be there to help.¬†It was truly remarkable to me how the French family just took me in, a complete stranger, as family. It had been many years since they’d seen George, and they were overjoyed to have both of us over that weekend. We were able to attend a family celebration and eat one of those long traditional French all day meals with them. They told George¬†and me over and over that we were always welcome and that the ties between their family and his were as strong as chains. They did all they could to help us, feed us, and make us comfortable while we were in the area. It was truly an experience I will never forget.

George¬†and I grew closer as we drove through the French countryside and talked about the Lord, and I picked his brain on various Bible questions I had. He was so sweet and willing to answer my many questions. He gave me a much-needed hug when I felt overwhelmed at the Normandy cemetery. He was also there when I knelt down to put sand from Utah beach in a bottle to give to my mom who has always wanted to see where her father landed. I was able to be there when he again saw the field where his grandfather’s plane crashed¬†as well as¬†the stables and houses where he was hidden. God¬†began weaving our love story as we sang a hymn in the car as we left that field. He brought¬†us closer as we prayed for each other and yes, also did lots of laughing together.

He first offered me his arm as we were walking up to Mont Saint-Michel. We enjoyed stacey-and-dewey-mont-saint-michelwalking up to see the old Abbey and eating at a caf√© there. I’d always wanted to see it, and it felt like a dream come true being there and getting to share the experience with him. The next day, we boarded another train and were back in Paris to spend a few days. I feel like things really started falling into place as we strolled along singing and walking arm and arm under an umbrella next to the Seine. Those moments were some of my favorites despite how unseasonably cold it was. So much of it seems like a dream or something out of a musical. We explored Paris together just enjoying being there without getting too mixed up in all the touristy stuff. We went to museums, sang some Sacred Harp with some of the French singers I befriended, had some amazing French cuisine, went up into some of the monuments,¬†and tried to get more of the local feel of Paris. I practically floated down the Champs-Elys√©es when he offered me his arm and later took my hand. It was on a cloudy, bitterly cold night after standing in line for quite a while and waiting for the lights to come on at the¬†top of the Eiffel Tower when we officially decided that we both felt that we wanted to pursue a relationship. I never knew what it meant exactly to feel like you’re the only two people on earth, but that night, I knew. We were surrounded by a huge crowd of people hurrying this way and that, but it all faded around me as he held my hand while we got onto the metro.

dewey-and-stacey-arc-de-triomphe

On top of the Arc de Triomphe after that unforgettable walk up the Champs-Elysées and just before eating wondrous goblets of ice cream.

The night before he left to return to the US, and as I sat there willing myself not to cry as he was¬†getting ready to go, he told me to not feel sad because this was just the beginning of a beautiful story. I’ve never forgotten that. It helped us both through those weeks dealing with a seven hour time difference. We talked quite a bit over Skype and Facebook up until¬†my return to the States. I bid farewell to France in July¬†and was sad to go and to say goodbye to my friends there, and I did cry for part of that plane ride back.However, I arrived in the US and walked right into the arms of George¬†at the airport. Life truly is filled with mixtures of joy and sorrow.

This beautiful love story has continued through a long distance relationship as we currently live about 400 miles apart. On our various visits together, we’ve enjoyed hikes, coffee chats, perusing art galleries, speaking in French together, talking for hours and hours and hours, sitting next to each other in church, singing together in the car, studying the Bible together, Skyping, laughing until we can’t breathe, visiting family, and most of all, learning the true meaning of what it means to love someone but love God more. The Lord has blessed us in so many ways and has been so good to us. In fact, we love to sing the hymn “The Lord Has Been So Good to Me” together.

The story that began way back in 1944 when both our grandfathers bravely went through unimaginable experiences still continues as we remember them and do our best to honor them and give thanks to God for sparing them both.

And…

Just a couple of weeks ago on a rainy, beautiful night¬†on New Year’s Eve, George got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

deweystacey-9908

Copyright 2016 -Taken by Rebecca Grimmer Photography

I said yes!

deweystacey-9933-2

Copyright 2016 -Taken by Rebecca Grimmer Photography

He planned it all so well taking me to a botanical garden and proposing in an art gallery. He had our friend Rebecca Grimmer shadow us without my knowledge to capture the moment and take pictures afterwards. Though I know rain wasn’t in the plan, I don’t think it would have been right not to have rain since I started falling for him as we walked in the rain under an umbrella in Paris…

I know neither of us know what all is ahead as we soon begin our life together, but, oh, mon cher Georges, I look forward to being with you through all of it.

It’s only the beginning of a beautiful story…

deweystacey-9936

Copyright 2016- Taken by Rebecca Grimmer Photography

These Last Quiet French Days

I remember sitting in the airport crying and crying after having said goodbye to my mom¬†and my younger brother.¬†I’m not a big crier particularly in front of strangers, but let’s just say the floodgates opened as I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake. A year in France!? Was I crazy? How would I ever make it? My first instinct was to run back through the airport, chase after mom’s car, and run home to all that was familiar and comfortable. I realized then¬†I would regret it for the rest of my life if I chickened out now. I dried my tears and prayed for God to give me grace and strength as I boarded the plane, and He did.

What a story has unfolded from day one.

{I mean, you can’t quite beat getting lost the first day trying to find your residence followed by tripping over your suitcase and falling into your room while trying to tell your landlady how much you love the purple walls. My landlady wasn’t entirely sure what to make of me really.}

French life has calmed down considerably in the weeks following the end of the semester. I believe this is one of the first times since I started graduate school five years ago when I’ve had time to just rest.¬†I’m trying to take advantage of it as much as possible now because in the next few weeks, life is going to get crazy busy again, and it’s not going to let up¬†for the foreseeable future.

So, how does one spend days like these among the French?

100_4114Well, let me tell you. You figure out what your favorite type of baguette is and pick up the French habit of keeping a ready bread supply on hand. You sit in the park with your journal and listen to some elderly French ladies argue about what kind of tree it is you’re sitting under (not sure they came to a conclusion on that one). You smile as little French kids run by chasing their siblings and screaming in delight. You pick up as much slang as you can on the tram and feel content and maybe slightly perplexed you can understand some of it even if you’d never repeat a lot of it yourself.¬†You spend a quiet hour with a friend over a cup of tea. You laugh with friends over dinner. You take long walks around town and breathe in the scent of flowers, coffee, and bread and just soak up the sunshine. You answer countless questions about the American Presidential election because suddenly, several want to know who you’re voting for {In case you’re wondering, I don’t know yet}. You find people to speak French with to keep practicing with native speakers, and yes, some days you just stay home and read with the window open to let that Alpine mountain breeze in. You try to take mental pictures of these kinds of scenes because a camera just frankly can’t do justice to what the eye sees.

100_4306

No, life among the French has not always been enjoyable or easy. It’s often been, frankly, the opposite, but it has been worth it to come. The adventures are definitely not over yet, but¬†I can see the curtain beginning to fall as this act reaches its conclusion and the next act prepares to begin. I both long for and dread the end and coinciding beginning.

However, I have learned a valuable lesson in these months of being far from home. That is, when you set all fears and doubting aside and trust God to write your story, the result will be far better than anything you could have imagined to pen yourself. That doesn’t mean¬†everything will work out how you think it should¬†or that you won’t suffer pain, loss, and disappointment, but it does mean you’re not alone. It means there’s a purpose and an unquenchable hope in how your story is unfolding. He also tucks in blessings that you might not be expecting along the way.¬†He knows exactly what you need both of joy and sorrow as He molds you and helps you grow to be more like Himself.

I wish I could go back to the crying Stacey sitting in the airport and reassure her that she’d be just fine, that she’d make so many dear¬†friends, that she’d have experiences beyond any she could have imagined, and that God was, is, and shall be with her every step of the way just as He is¬†with each of His children. I think I knew even if my mind was flooded with fear of the unknown. I knew deep down this was going to be a journey of a lifetime even if I hadn’t quite reached Bilboesque excitement to yell “I’m going on adventure!” as I boarded that plane.

Next up on my blogging agenda {which does tend to change, so bear with me}: Paris and singing Sacred Harp with the French.