Fall Days

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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. 😉 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.

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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?

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Lengthening Shadows

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The sun is setting here in my French home. The last little shades of pink on Belledonne are fading away. It’s been a rainy couple of days as evidenced by the clouds, but the sun has been trying to peek through from time to time. Another day is almost finished. Another lesson for tomorrow is almost put together, only lacking a few finishing touches. A cup of hot peppermint tea sits in front of me with the curling steam coming up from the cup as I try to battle the early symptoms of a cold.

I was reflecting on a question a friend asked me over Skype the other day. He asked me to describe my best experience in France so far and also what had been my worst experience. As I think back now to some of those tough days as well as those days of triumph, it strikes me as my friend also remarked after I shared both of how intense both have been. Those first three months after I arrived were probably some of the toughest I’d faced. It’s inspiring to me though to look back over some of those dark, rough times and see where the Lord sustained me, carried me, and taught me to trust Him even more fully. He held me as I mourned with France and then when I mourned for a couple of dear friends back home who passed away around the same time. He helped me through the frustrations of dealing with the administration and trying to figure out teaching in a completely different context to completely different students.

By contrast, He allowed me to soar when I finally started being able to better understand the fast-paced French being spoken around me. He gave me the excitement of having lessons go well and to see some of my students start to grasp some of the concepts I was trying to teach. He allowed me to see spectacular scenes that even my eyes couldn’t even quite take in all the beauty. He gave me those quiet mornings spent with a friend over a cup of tea just talking about how good the Lord is and how faithful He is. He gave me the ability to hear His Word preached and read in French. How beautiful it is to see His love transcend culture and language. Every step of the way, He has been there.

I realized tonight as I was working on lesson plans how short my time is here. My landlady even asked me a couple of days ago what my departure day is as she needs to know for planning purposes. I could only give her an estimate. I’ve started having more and more details start to come up about my return. Registering for classes, housing, plane tickets, moving just to name a few.

I do beg an interest in your prayers. I remember how overwhelming the details were just trying to come over to France, and I know it’s going to be quite involved getting back to my starting point. However, just as a dear friend reminded me over a year ago as I shared with her all of my fears of trying to go France, “Well, God worked out every single detail of you moving to Indiana. Do you think He can’t handle this? Trust Him!”

He has been my Rock. Just as those mountains I look at each day have stood there for thousands of years, so is He unmovable and constant. Maybe that’s why mountains always make me think of the Lord and His grandeur and majesty.

Long Days and Mountain Air

I was yawning and scraping the last bit of my fromage blanc (kind of like yogurt) mixed with a little honey and canned peaches out of a bowl when my landlady walked into the kitchen. I looked up and said a tired “Salut”. She mentioned she was tired as she opened a cabinet for a glass, and I agreed that I was too. She looked at me and then said in her typical fast French (had to get her to repeat herself as usual) “Your days are too long! Way too long! This is not good for you.” She’d been observing for the first time some of my school routine during the week. I slowly nodded in agreement and told her that I was trying to see if I could change my schedule a little for the next semester, but I’d have to wait and see if it would be possible. She nodded and said that I definitely should change it up because it just doesn’t seem healthy to be working those long hours. Oh dear, good thing she hasn’t seen me during a typical semester back home.

Things have been incredibly busy and in many ways quite difficult over the last few weeks. I keep coming to terms with the fact that at least while I’m in France, life will most likely not be simple or absent of complication. Though really, why am I so special to think that it would or should be so? I’ve strangely grown accustomed to things not working anyway. o_O On the flip side, I get extremely excited when something does go smoothly.

Happily, I’ve lately received a couple of big answers to prayer. I finally received my medical appointments for the validation of my long stay visa and (1) neither of them are on a Wednesday and (2) they came before I have to leave the apartment for three weeks (long story). I was concerned about retrieving the letter with the appointment dates if I didn’t have access to the apartment mailbox. Thankfully, they came through email. Both were specific requests I prayed for as I waited and waited for my appointments to come. God does indeed work in the details! 🙂 The first appointment known as the “Awkward Chest X-ray to Prove I Don’t Have TB” (in true French form that would be the acronym: ACXPIDHTB pronounced as”AX-PID-HiTiBi”) is on Monday, and the second medical visit is in January. Don’t ask me why they’re spread out like that as I have no clue. After all the trouble I went through to get these appointments, I’d rather not say anything for fear of it all falling apart resulting in my being shipped back to the States before I’ve finished my contract. I’m just so happy to finally be making progress with this long administrative nightmare I’ve been going through since my arrival.

Since my last update, the weather has gotten quite a bit colder. It’s been snowing high up in the Alps! Beautiful isn’t it? The natives are happy because some of the ski slopes have now been able to open. They’d been rather concerned with the Indian Summer we’d experienced that the ski season would start later than usual. 100_1861

It reminds me of how the Alps looked my very first time in Grenoble nearly seven years ago. Maybe I really should try out skiing here this time. The weather is rather chilly but not unbearable. I can still feel my face and don’t have to wear five layers to keep from getting frost bite. 🙂 Can you tell I’ve spent the last two winters in Indiana?

French is also coming along. Sometimes in conversation it feels like I have a little person up in my head going through all of the French files in my brain trying to find words or phrases to try to express what I want to say. This file searching often causes a delay leaving me looking at the person I’m talking to with a deer in the headlights look as I’m mentally urging the little person frantically throwing papers out of filing cabinets to hurry up because I really need that sentence structure/word NOW! This results in a few papers being thrown my way to “make do” which causes the French person I’m talking with to smile and tell me that they understand me but that one should really say it this other way. The little person in my head usually has a sulking expression after his efforts as he makes note of the correction and files it in the MISC cabinet before finding an easy chair to collapse in {Yes, I do think they need to make another version of Inside Out devoted to the multilingual brain}. Sometimes it does get discouraging, but I’m glad to have seven more months to keep on trying.

In any case, there’s so much to look around and be thankful for despite all the long days and obstacles I seem to run into! I have food in the pantry and the ability to make hot coffee in the morning (important skill there). I have family and friends who love and pray for me. I have dear friends here that mean the world to me. I get to wake up each morning and see the Alps outside of my window. I can make myself understood even if it’s not always “grammatically correct”. I have somewhere to go to hear the gospel preached and have fellowship! These are just a few of so many blessings!

Life may not be perfect here, but it is a blessed life because I know Who has given me life and from Whom these blessings come!

Storms in the Mountains

Today I saw the rain come. It began as dark distant clouds that little by little crept up and enveloped the mountains. The lightning began followed by the deep roll of thunder. The rain poured and the mountains were no longer visible. If I looked intently, I could just barely make out the outline of one of the mountains. Otherwise, there was nothing but the white of the cloud and the sound of the rain as it began to fall heavier than before. We kept our window open in the office and remarked how the Bastille which one can usually see on the mountain was also no longer visible. Little by little the clouds dissipated and the outline of the mountains became yet again visible though it still rained. Days like these in the mountains remind me of how majestic and yet how unpredictable these mountains can be. I thought rain shafts only existed back home in Texas, but I have seen them dancing on the mountains these last couple of rainy days.

I’m often asked why I chose to come back to Grenoble. I usually respond with how much I love the Alps and the region. Those who have always lived here seem a little surprised that I would have chosen to come back. I suppose, if you’ve always been in an area, you aren’t as likely to notice anymore what makes it unique because it’s always around you. I’m as guilty of that in my own hometown back in the States. But, oh, these mountains! How often I just sit at my window gazing at them trying to take in all the beauty I can that I might recall them to memory for years to come.

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The view from the rooftop of the quiet between the storms.

Rainy Days and Finding a Routine

I woke up this morning and couldn’t believe that it’s been almost exactly a week since I first embarked on this new chapter. How hard those first couple of days were. This past week has been filled with many new experiences and has required quite a bit of patience in regards to getting life set up here. If you’ve ever seen the movie Anna and the King, the line often said to Anna in the movie “Everything in Siam has its own time, Sir.” pretty much sums up my experiences lately. Everything in France definitely has its own time.

It’s true, the French are very helpful, but I think some of them are over specialized to some degree or just not very well organized. Though maybe their definition of organization vastly varies from mine. Things tend to have a domino effect, and they’re very likely to claim that they sent you forms to fill out months ago that you never filled out (I never received such forms, believe me), and they’re also very likely to send you to another person if you have more than a couple of questions. Yesterday afternoon was spent going from office to office to office on campus trying to find out some information relating to my life at the university. I did find out a lot of answers though I am still confused about when classes start exactly as I’ve heard at least two different dates and still don’t know what I’m teaching exactly or when or even where I’m teaching. However, I did have a lovely conversation with one lady who was fascinated by weather in the U.S., particularly tornadoes, and also told me about all of her favorite American shows that she watches to practice her English. She wants me to come back soon for another chat about life in America. That was probably one of the highlights of yesterday. Among visiting several offices, I was warned that the man I needed to speak to in human resources had a reputation for being rude. So, I walked in a little timidly to his office expecting to have my head bitten off to instead be greeted by a smile and a “Bienvenue!”. He was delighted to answer my questions and even stopped me from leaving too soon because he thought of a couple of other important things for me to know. I suppose, I must have found him in a good mood or maybe I just looked lost. In any case, I’m glad he didn’t soil my so far favorable impression of the French in regards to them not fitting the common stereotype of being rude.

Life otherwise has been going well. It seems strange to be back here again after having had my first experience abroad here six years ago. Returning here made it more real how much I grew during the three months I studied here and how much I’ve grown in the time since being here. The only trouble is that I think I know the town, but instead I know just enough to not get woefully lost but still be frustrated to be able to picture a place in my mind but not remember precisely where it is.

Today is a sleepy day. It’s cloudy, cool, and rainy which is a nice change from the heat. Fall is in the air though you can only feel a small hint of it. A stray leaf here and there, a cool breeze, and just a general feeling that the heat of summer will soon be gone. I can’t wait to see the mountain trees begin changing!

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I have been keeping it optimistic by enjoying little triumphs here and there. I figured out (I hope) how the washer works to wash my clothes. I guess I’ll find out when it finishes whether I followed the directions correctly. I finally figured out where to take the garbage out (I seriously could not read my hostess’s handwriting on the note she left). I’ve been able to make myself comprehensible in French during my long series of errands. I do try so hard to speak French correctly, but ultimately, I’m 100_1535satisfied if they understand what I’m trying to say. They do correct me from time to time though which is what I want in order to improve. I’m also picking up new vocab like a sponge though the timing of that isn’t always the greatest. I am also beginning to make a few friends. Nothing makes an experience abroad more delightful than to see a familiar face and hear a cheerful greeting. Though I’m still getting used to the French bisous (air kisses on both cheeks) again. They do that instead of shaking hands around here.

Today’s plans mainly involve more errands, hopefully more answers, a stop by the store, and clean clothes…I hope. 😉