Saturday, December 12, 2009

when your internet oasis lands at mickey d's...

Okay, super behind! Lots to cover and not much time to cover it! Haha. Let's see... it's been since... the first of November... hmm... well, a lot's happened since then! Seems like ages ago!

- I'm pretty sure it was the second of November that Jacob came to visit. We then left on the fourth for Athens, Greece. What a crazy city!? :) Pictures are so helpful when trying to remember details:

The parthenon is the most important and characteristic monument of ancient greek culture. It's dedicated to the patron goddess of Athens; Athena Parthenos. It was really beautiful. The Acropolis is kind of a plateau with these incredible ancient monuments and the view of all of Athens AND the Sarconic Coast!

the beautiful greek flag! flying high!

Here's a photo of the Areopagus (Mars Hill), like most city-state institutions, continued to function in Roman times. It was HERE that the Apostle Paul delivered his famous speech about the identity of "the Unknown God." (Acts 17)

We made our way to Gylfada while we were in Greece. Athens was beautiful, but crazy chaotic and the Athens Marathon was happening that day, so we decided to get some fresh air and go to the coast. :)

Jacob's from Oregon, where there's no sales tax, and was kind enough to pick up a camera for me! I spent our time in Athens practicing... well, I still am trying to get it down, but yeah.

I would TOTALLY recommend anyone traveling to Athens staying at Pagration Hostel. It was super affordable, clean and friendly! The people who were staying there were so great.

And our last day there we managed to make our way to the Olympic Stadium of 1896.

- Thanksgiving was pretty good. I was so relieved to feel at home and part of the family I work for. I stayed with them Thanksgiving evening and we had a nice family meal. It was so nice to feel comfortable and like I was part of a family for the day. Thanksgiving is a terrible day to feel like an orphan.

-And as I sit here at McDonald's I'm reminded of the reality that I don't have any internet or phone connection at my apartment anymore. As liberating as it is, it's kind of annoying at the same time. McDonald's is not my favorite place in the world and it's the closest location of wi-fi I know of.

That's all for now... more later. Perhaps from home!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I simply cannot wait to have time to LIVE! These 11 or 12 hour days are for the birds!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I'm overwhelmed. So, what where do I go when things get to be too much? That's right, denial. Mmmmhmmm... and here I sit blogging away as if the world wasn't whizzing past me at a zillion miles a minute. :)

*Sunday was the first of November and what does that mean for me so far away from home and comfort and familiarity? Exactly. Break out the Christmas music!!! (The countdown is officially at 45 days until I get to see my beloveds in the beautiful land of Iowa.

I've just enjoyed my first episode of the new reality of my life. It's entitled, The Revolving Door. (Name courtesy of Doug.) It takes place at my apartment and it's got lots of incredible characters who take temporary residency here in Ferney-Voltaire, France... conmigo! (<-- wrong language.) The first stars of the show were Doug and Tricia.
...I only met Tricia a year ago, we worked together at Kitchen Collage in Des Moines. She's so wonderful. :) She and her friend Doug came to explore Switzerland for 10 days or so. They had an AMAZING time exploring and hiking around central Switzerland. Their photos were absolutely breathtaking and apparently didn't even do justice! Here are some photos of us celebrating Tricia's birthday in Montreux at the château de Chillon:

 ^Who would have thought we'd find PALM TREES near the Alps?!
We also took a trip to Gruyères, Switzerland where we all enjoyed our first experience with raclette, a Swiss dish meaning 'with all the trimmings'.

Tomorrow I head to the airport to pickup my friend, 'Rhino' (some call him Jacob). Needless to say, with a name like Rhino, Aedan's super duper excited to meet him. He'll also be here or in Europe for about two weeks. We leave for Athens on Friday for a long weekend.

Aedan asked me today if there was a baby in my tummy. Talk about a shot to the ego. I mean, I've gained weight while being over here, but c'mon kid. Gosh. I found out later they'd been talking about his aunt who's expecting and how there's a baby in her tummy and Aedan just thinks that's the coolest thing in the world. He's so excited to have a new baby cousin.

Then there's Chloë. She was just sitting there eating her breakfast when she reached over to give me a hug and said, "I don't want you to go to your apartment, just stay here all weekend." O man. Then last week she was giving me a hug when she said, "I just love you so much."

Alright, that's about all I've got for now. Sorry for the complete and utter RANDOMNESS and for the lack of interesting information and ideas. Next time should be better! ;)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

the flat

How in the world does anyone keep up with a blog?!?! Time just keeps passing by without informing me I'm missing out! Bah!

I can't recall all that's gone on since I last posted anything on here... but currently I've got photos of my sweet apartment. Thanks to my wonderful Hannah, I've been mulling over the thoughts of what it means to make and have your home as a sanctuary. A place you WANT to go home to. A place where you're able to RELAX and leave your troubles outside the door. :) A place where you can SIT and just BE. A place where you can really focus on things that are more important than what's 'going on'. A place where you can cook and bake and be at home. A place where you can walk around looking like a fool. :) Here are the photos I'd promised weeks ago:

The lovely living room looks out over Mount Blanc... and the Geneva International Airport. ;)

Kitchen and Laundry. :) Probably my favorite room.

Take note of Elvis keeping everything in line over on the microwave. He's a keeper.

Pictures of my Aidan boy all over to make me smile. :)

WIDE OPEN windows in the summer.

Showa un gowa.

...and, of course, the WC.

More later. I'm pooped.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

'It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.'

While my parents and I were in Montreux a few weeks ago, my dad pointed out in the Château de Chillon a door called 'the eye of the needle' or 'the needle's eye' and we got to talking about the passage in Mark.
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle,
than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:25)
So, I took this picture and decided to do a little investigating.
Not a super picture, by any means, but you get the idea.
So, here's what I've learned: (I was going to put it all in my own words, but it's so clear here that I've just copied and pasted the key information. To find the whole story go to .)

Most Christians realize that the Gospels weren't originally written in English. Some think they were written in Latin, most believe they were first written in Greek. Very possibly though, some if not all were written in the language of Yeshua and His followers, Estrangelo Aramaic. This language was all but forgotten until about a hundred years ago, which is why few students are familiar with it. Dr. George Lamsa, who has written extensively about the language and in his book entitled "Gospel Light" clarifies for us the probable meaning of Yeshua's words concerning the eye of a needle. I will quote from page 167.

"The Aramaic word gamla means camel, a large rope and a beam. The meaning of the word is determined by its context. If the word riding or burden occurs then gamla means a camel, but when the eye of a needle is mentioned gamla more correctly means a rope. There is no connection anywhere in Aramaic speech or literature between camel and needle, but there is a definite connection between rope and needle."

Most English versions of the Gospels came from Greek texts by translators who may have known nothing about Aramaic. Thus "camel" would have been translated instead of "rope". It takes little effort to imagine Yeshua, while walking along the sea coast, pointing to a rope and saying, "It is easier for a camel [a gamla, a rope] to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God".
 Now let us venture beyond which was actually spoken by the Lord. Let us consider, in the context, what our Lord was meaning by His illustration. His context has to do with entering the kingdom of GOD. In the previous chapter He had warned that "if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire". Then a few verses before the one we are studying, He said, "Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein". We all know the eagerness and excitement children have for learning. What parent hasn't tired of hearing their child ask, "but why"? If we are to discover that hidden kingdom of GOD, we also must not only remove from us anything that may offend, but also we must with childlike meekness ask to receive answers and knock so as to have doors opened unto us.

As we continue reading the record in Mark's gospel we come to our verse in question. A wealthy man had come to Yeshua seeking what he must do to "inherit eternal life". After hearing Yeshua's response, Mark wrote that the man "was sad at that saying, and went away grieved". He was sad and he was grieved because Yeshua's response was not the answer he had hoped for. He didn't realize that greater wealth then he had ever dreamed of could be his if he accepted Yeshua's answer. This man was as the seed sown amongst thorns. He was acquainted with accumulating "great possessions" but he was not acquainted with laying up "treasure in heaven". He may have known "the commandments" but he didn't know the Word of GOD.

It is interesting that before Yeshua gave him his answer, the Scripture says that Yeshua "loved him". That is always why the word is sown. That is why the word is sent. But too often it is rejected. Yeshua wasn't desiring to deprive this rich man of his wealth. Yeshua was showing him the way into the kingdom of GOD. Yeshua was offering him treasures vastly superior to any that moth and rust could corrupt. Thus, three times, as if trying to drive the point home to His disciples, Yeshua said, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God...It is easier for a camel [rope] to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God". For Yeshua to declare this warning three times, speaks loudly to those who have ears to hear. The desire for riches is not to be underestimated in its ability to deceive and divert one from the narrow way that leads unto life.

Many people living in the Bible lands at the time when the Gospels were written, erroneously believed that all wealth was a blessing from GOD. If one was poor, then the people believed that he must surely be cursed by GOD, but if one was rich he must surely be blessed by GOD. This is why the disciples "were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?" (Mark 10:26). They thought that if the rich found it difficult to enter the kingdom of GOD, what chance did the rest of them have? Much of Yeshua's teaching endeavored to correct the false assumption that wealth is always a blessing from GOD. The truth is more the other way. Usually the pursuit of wealth insulates us from the workings of GOD in our lives. It can choke the word sown in our hearts and rob us of eternal treasures our heavenly Father desires for us to obtain. Hence, it is difficult (not impossible) for a rich man to enter the kingdom of GOD. Many stumble at this and are sad and go away grieved, having found no answer that pleases them. A few however are willing to set aside secondary pursuits and seek with all their heart to know HIM who knew them "before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4).

Mark 8:35,36 "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it;
but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Best of the Best

My parents are officially flippin' adorable.
I just had the wonderful opportunity of spending 10 days with them here in my current home, SwitzeFrance, and Italy. Honestly, they're cuter than I ever remember.
I don't remember them being so kind and warm towards each other. I don't really remember thinking of them as a 'team'. I don't remember them being affectionate towards each other. Now, I may not have ever noticed these things simply because I'm selfish and I was always preoccupied with whatever was going on in my life or because I didn't really have an idea of what marriage ought to look like... could be any number of things, whatever it is, I'm glad my eyes were opened and I can see my parents for the amazing duo they are.
I wish I had written this sooner, as I'm forgetting some of the things that really tickled me... The biggest thing that really opened my eyes was when Mom came out into the living room with Dad and me and announced she had had a revelation: something needed to change with Dad's appearance. Haha. You can imagine his anticipation to the rest of this revelation. Turns out, she decided Dad should grow his hair out (he had LONG hair before they were married) and wear it in a pony tail. She could keep his beard trimmed so she could see his face and he'd be content as well. She went on about how she had been the selfish wife who just wanted him to be clean cut, but then he was unhappy, which in turn, made her un happy... so when the idea came to her for him to grow a pony tail... she ran with it. --and for that, I'm grateful. :)
Love them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Italia with the Parentals

DAY 1:
Napoli, Pompei, Sorrento and Capri were on our list of exploration at the beginning of the week. It didn't take long for us to realize things weren't going to play out like they had on most of our previous vacations. We left my apartment to find a traffic jam. Got to the airport to find we really didn't need to be rushing around as there was a mysterious delay. Flew through a thunderstorm (or something of that nature) and experienced our first ever borded landing. (The landing gear was pulled down then pulled up!) Once we were on the ground the whole plane started applauding (all but my mother who was holding her 'barf bag' in her hands.) We found out later from some new friends in the AirForce that in spite of the rain, the pilot had 'overshot' his landing. Yikes. Anywho, the weather that day was fitting for the mood. Naples is... let me think... scary. Chaos is the best definition. We flew into Naples hoping to arrive in Pompeii in the early afternoon. No such luck. The train station was taken over with construction and not employed by very helpful employees. We stepped on our train only to be directed OFF our train. The FFSS informed us that we couldn't get there by our train. We got to a stop somewhere between Naples and Pompeii and sat in the rain (under an awning) for... a while. We sat and watched the train we wanted to be on zoom past us. A half hour later we were on the wrong train, headed to the wrong side of town. Once we made it to the 'Circumvesuvia' we were famished - this is a great part of the story, just FYI - we walk in the sprinkling rain to Zeus's for some stone-fired Italian pizza. Our waitress was delightful *heavy sarcasm here, though she did warm up before we left*. Once we place our order the rain was coming down in SHEETS. I'm talking heavy Iowa thunderstorm rain. It was intense. But we were warm, dry, sitting and anticipating some of the best pizza in the world. We enjoyed our pizza... a lot, and pressed on to find our hotel. (Remember how we were on the wrong train, headed for the wrong side of town?) Somehow the directions we'd printed out from the hotel weren't getting us where we needed to be! We waited for the bus for two hours, occupying ourselves by finding GINORMOUS lemons and peeking in at the ruins.
The bus never came, so we started walking, and walking, and walking, and walking... then I got ice cream...
took some pictures of the architecture in the center of Pompeii... and then we walked some more. Dad then took matters into his own hands, asked a cop where our hotel was, then continued on our hunt. We peeked around every corner. We read every hotel sign. We were ready for defeat. Then finally, the glorious moment had arrived, HOTEL DIANA.
We entered to find the most delightful individual we'd seen all day. We sat in the courtyard to regain our bearings, made our way into our great room with a bidet/foot-washer) and continued to explore Pompeii by way of grocery shopping. A great bottle of wine, Celtic beer, chocolate and a banana. You wouldn't think it would be a difficult purchase, but after the day we'd had why would we expect anything less? The gal behind the register threw (no exaggeration here) the banana back at Mom and made some less than friendly commentary to her in Italian. Much to Mom's surprise, you're to weigh ALL your produce before getting to the counter... hmm... back at our hotel we met a lovely couple from Britain. They sat with us enjoying their Brandy and tea while we enjoyed our Italian Merlot.  
Day 2: The breakfast at Hotel Diana is nice. Ace juice, milk and cereal, croissants and rolls, peaches/nectarines and grapes and the best cappuccino I've ever experienced. Dad and I went on a search for an ATM only to find you have to be a part of the Secret Service to enter a bank in Italy. We then retrieved Mom and were on our way to Sorrento. In Sorrento we got lost on our way to the port... things like this happen when there are no straight roads OR street signs. Apparently Mom passed as a part of the Secret Service and she stood in line at the bank for a good 20 minutes before she was able to cash her travelers check. ONWARD. We made it to the port! We were able to meet some of the other guests who were residing at Hotel Diana. We found out the price of the ferry to Capri was not what it had been advertised as online. Mom and I purchased some lovely Pashminas. We had to wait to actually buy our tickets, so we had a DELICIOUS lunch.  
The server at this restraunt was really great at his job. We watched as the restraunt kitty corner from them got turned down time after time while the restraunt we ate at reaped all the benefit! We did catch the ferry to Capri. It looked like a ship headed for America... cars and LOTS of people. Once in Capri, we took the feniculars to the top of the mountain. Gucci, Armani, Dolce & Gabana and stores of the like lined the streets. Finally we got out of the crowded 'downtown' area of where we were and found ourselves on a path along the coast of this mountain, walking through trees and resorts and brilliant homes. TBC...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Buffalo Grill

Today has been fun. :) Mom and Dad arrived from their long journey across the world. Mom was loopy as ever and Dad was ready for a rest. Mom joined me for church this morning where she was able to shake hands with a few of the important people in my life here in Ferney-Voltaire.
This afternoon we all ended up taking naps. It was the perfect Sunday afternoon. :) When we woke up we had some fruit, cheese, bread and wine, of course. For dinner we ended up at a restraunt called "Buffalo Bills" because EVERYTHING this side of the border is closed on Sundays... including restraunts. The food was not very good... in fact, I still smell like it. :-/ But the service was highly entertaining. We had, by far, the funniest French man as our waitor. He came to our table and was GOING OFF in French. Apparently he had a special bit of information he's to share with people as they sit at their table... Dad asked him if he spoke English. He wanted to know if we were on holiday - note to self: just say yes. "You live in France and you don't speak French?!" Not the first time I've heard that, and I admit, I HATE being the ignorant American... but I don't really have the time, energy or resources to just whip the language out at the moment. There was a point tonight when Mom and I were looking at the menu and he had gotten in the booth behind us, popped his head up between ours and said, "You need help?" It was fun. My brain's escaped me, it's nearly midnight... we leave for Italy in a few hours! :) Yahoo! 

Saturday, September 12, 2009

12 September 2009

Still don't have a phone... but learned yesterday there have been 23 suicides of FranceTelecom employees since February 2008. I've decided to be thankful I'm on this side of the mess rather than that side. :-/

Nice! Beautiful South of France...

*sigh* First, I have to apologize in advance for the detail... part of the reason I wanted to create a blog was so I could look back and recall memories and lessons I've learned... so, I'm going to try to get as much captured as possible. :)

This summer has been really great... but it's also been tiring. The time I spent with the family I work for was, for the most part, really successful. I was able to spend more time and one-on-one time with Aedan (he'll be returning to school when they get back from Iowa). I met some really lovely people. I experienced le Tour de France. I got to go to the pool a fair amount. I moved into this amazing apartment and was able to spend lots of Sundays with good friends. Looking back, I had a really good summer. How better to end a really good summer than with a really good holiday? ...make that the perfect holiday.
The picture above is my favorite beach photo taken in Nice. Everything was perfect. I went with my friend Amanda, from North Carolina. Thankfully, we were in the same mindset of what the holiday needed to consist of: relaxation. And that's exactly what we did.

Wednesday morning we got up at 5 and drove to the airport to catch our flight at 6:40. Little did we know, we had to leave from the French side of the airport (as opposed to the Swiss side). Makes sense... just didn't cross our minds. So we get to the EasyJet kiosks and our flight wasn't an option. After hunting someone down to explain why our flight wasn't available we discovered we needed to be on the French side. We get to the French side and have the same problem, only this time, there's no one there to help us. Argh. The lady we asked to help us told us we were too late (EasyJet doesn't wait if you're late) we explained to her we had been there for 15 minutes trying to check in (obviously unsuccessfully). She must have had pity on us or something because she then helped us get checked in and we did make it to our flight. (We weren't the only ones who had this trouble.) We thanked God for getting us on the flight and on our way down to Nice. We were fully expecting to just have to catch a bus or make fun here in Geneva.
The flight was the first perfect thing of the trip. I hadn't slept much the night before as I was excited and had lots to do (wrapping up other things I had been doing the previous few weeks), so when I dozed off and woke up over the coast of the French Riviera, I was on cloud nine. We got to the airport and had a little trouble finding the bus to get us into town. We did eventually and asked the driver which stop we needed to get off at to get to our hotel. He told us and we were on the lookout, but didn't register until after he'd pulled away from the stop. He stopped the bus in the MIDDLE OF THE ROAD and told us this was where we needed to get out and that our hotel was just up the road (just know this is NOT something that would happen in Geneva/France - here the drivers don't even wait for you if you're right outside the door!) We were so impressed and pleased.

We got to our hotel and had to ring the doorbell. The man who runs it answered the door with sleep lines all over his face and definitely disoriented. We couldn't check in quite yet as it was only 8:30 or so, but he did let us leave our bags while we went to the market.
The market was great. There were probably 50 different salts! (Even lavender salt! ^ Lavender is HUGE in the South of France.) I have been looking for whole nutmeg for months and finally found that down at the market. During the day there's a produce and flower market and at night the old town comes alive with an arts and crafts market! Both are amazing and beautiful.

After the market we explored the beach. With little sleep the night before we decided a café crème was appropriate. (Above: the lovely Amanda!) We found a little cafe across from the beach and enjoyed our coffee and talked about how amazing it is that we're living in France. Needless to say, this was a highlight for me.

We made it back to our hotel and settled in then set off to explore the beach! It is so beautiful!! The water is this breathtaking blue - unreal! We went sea kayaking and then swam in the water. Did you know the salt helps you to float? It was so much fun!
Wednesday night we went out and ended up having dinner at this cute Indian restaurant. On the way we met Michael from Belgium (blonde in the front) and he organized a super random photo as you can see. One of the best things of this holiday was that everyone there was on holiday... so everyone was happy! People didn't mind being bothered just to chat. :)

Thursday was a great day for meeting people. We met some Canadians on our way to the market. Some delightful Brits (above from left: Carole Ann, moi, Jim, and Dot) at lunch and a cute Irish couple at dinner! Then we met up with a friend from chruch who was biking through to Corsica with a friend of his from home (New Zealand).
We had so much fun Wednesday sea kayaking, we decided we'd go back for more. Only this time we decided to parasail... it was AMAZING! It was like a dream! We had the most incredible veiw of the coast and of this breathtaking water I mentioned earlier. Just cruising. The driver of the boat dipped us in the water every once in a while, which I enjoyed, but Amanda was just being dragged across the water... less enjoyable. :-/ At one point we were sailing up there and a cruise ship was beneath us, so we waved while the whole ship waved back at us... it was like we were in a movie or something! *sigh* Did I mention it was amazing?! Haha. Then we just enjoyed the beach and eventually made it to a lookout for the sunset. For dinner we found a restraunt called "Pasta Basta". YUM. Amanda and I both got gnocchi, Amanda had hers with a 4 fromage sauce and I had a basic tomato sauce. This is where we met the couple from Ireland. They were super cute too! After dinner we met up with our friend Michael and his friend Jeff, we introduced them to the famous Finocchio's ice cream shop. They've got more than 100 flavors of ice cream including avacado, black olive, tomato basil... seriously. I didn't try any of those... but I did have my fair share. :)
Friday was kind of bittersweet. We were still in paradise, but we knew our return to reality was approaching quickly. :( We made the best of it. We had these yummy salads for lunch, just chef salads at a little place called "Granny's". We made our way to the Marc Chagall museum. It was really great, unfortunately I didn't have my ID on me, so I couldn't recieve the under 26 discount OR the audio commentary. I loved that the photos they had of him and his family they were all smiling. I think of Frida Kahlo and Picasso and the depressing lives they lead, but this Chagall seemed to really enjoy his life and used his gift of creativity to share that joy with others.
This is a photo of his piece called "L’Arche de Noé " or "Noah's Ark". Chagall chose to paint the inside of the Ark rather than its construction. "The meaning of this biblical episode is in the gathering of humanity and its delivery, arranged by God, to a new life, cleansed by the anticipation of a baptism: the Flood." I think it's so great how he focused on the new birth of humanity after the flood. I love a change of perspective. :)

After the Chagall museum we made our way back to the beach for a final farewell. We also made a pitstop (or two...) for some more ice cream before returning to reality. Here's a photo of my favorite place we found ice cream. It was fluffy and perfectly delicious... not to mention beautiful!
Goodbye, Nice. Until next time. :)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

22 August 2009

Umm... so, like other things time-related... I'm not very good at keeping up with this. I do have good reasoning this month though. FranceTelecom is the communication company around here and they've been really difficult! I didn't have internet for a good chunk of time and I still don't have my phone line up and running. Frustrating. However, on the flip side, I've moved into my new 'flat' or apartment as we say in the states. :) And it's perfect! I'll post photos as soon as I find my USB cord. ;) Well, it's beautiful out and I can't stand to be cooped up any longer! I'll write more later!

Monday, August 3, 2009

25 July 2009

25 July 2009
Okay... rewind one week – 18 July 2009. A friend of mine has been in the Geneva area for nearly two years and is preparing to head back home to the states early September... naturally, she’s got the urge to do as much traveling as she possibly can in the next few weeks. She invited me to join her and her boyfriend on a day trip to Turnio, Italy. Of course I wanted to go! Well, as life is, plans changed, the weather was uncooperative and one day just simply wasn’t enough and funds wouldn’t allow quite as big of a trip as Italy, so we toyed with some other ideas and ended up in Lyon, France; "Gastronomical Capital of the World". It was super fun... they had rented a car and were surprised with an upgrade (VW SUV). I’ll put up pictures up on Facebook as soon as I can... that doesn’t mean soon, but yeah. Lyon has beautiful European architecture. We made it to the market as it was closing down. I enjoyed an empenada from Chile and this amazing nameless pastry– this amazing dense cake-like bottom, nearly cheesecake consistency, with a meringue-y top. I should have written this last week, so I could really give you good details... my apologies. We explored the downtown area and hit a sale at Promod. This is where the excitement began, we headed toward a little mall specifically for food vendors or retailers, this area reminded me a lot of Pikes Place Market in Seattle. It was inside, but beautiful and alluring to all your senses. Here we sat down for a glass of wine and some bread then picked ourselves back up for more exploring. I had my first macaroon experience. O, wow. We hiked up probably a thousand steep stairs to find a gorgeous cathedral and this breathtaking view of Lyon. Here we enjoyed our macaroons. Yay. For dinner we went to a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called "Le Petit Fleur". It was authentic French cuisine, I wasn’t super impressed by the food, but the ambiance and the company were definitely stellar. :) We then headed home. That’s my adventure to Lyon in a very small nutshell.
This has been a pretty exciting week:
- Lyon on the weekend
- an amazing message over trials at church Sunday
- started the moving process to my new apartment in Ferney-Voltaire
- Le Tour de France where I saw Lance Armstrong in the flesh - serious
- girls night, Saturday market, magic bars, and a lakeside BBQ tomorrow after church
So, Thursday 23 July 2009. The family I work for kindly took me on an adventure to Annecy, France to experience le Tour de France! It was SO much fun. I got to sit between the kids on the way down just holding their hands and talking and singing songs with them. The parents were really fun as well, joking and conversing with me. Not terribly surprisingly, we had to find a new entrance to Annecy as the traffic was bad and major roads were closed. We were afraid we’d only get as close as the security guards keeping everybody out. We did make it to the race, with plenty of time to spare. The sun was shining and we had to park pretty far away from everything, so we were confident and didn’t bring the rain boots, rain coats, and umbrellas we’d packed for the kids. Bad idea. It ended up hailing. Haha. That was short lived though and it was still warm out. We watched the race for a while and ended up asking someone when Lance Armstrong was expected to come around. They gave us the details and we prepared ourselves as best as possible. We had planned that I would take a video and Brendan, the dad, would take continuous shots to make sure we didn’t miss this big deal. So, Lance was coming around the bend and everyone around us were getting super excited. American flags started popping out of nowhere. I was ready for number 22 to come along and grace us with his presence. He was zooming, zooming, zooming... I had my video ready and taping. The excitement and adrenaline were nearly unbearable. As I watched my camera and tried to keep an eye out, Julie said, "Number 34? What?" So, I wanted to preserve my battery to make sure I did get Lance on video. Then I saw him, right before my very own eyes. Yep. It was real. I yelled in slow motion: "Nooooooooo...." I had missed the moment. Major disappointment. I still can’t believe how it happened. Honestly. But, it was clearly out of my control. It was bizarre how once the race was over, EVERYTHING shut down. I had hoped to find a mug or a t-shirt with le Tour de France on it... but all the souvenir shops were closing up. We were on our way to the carousel for the kids when we noticed a crowd of people around this gate/fence thing. I asked if I could go check it out... I weaseled my way to the front of the gate to see a big white truck. Boring. Everyone was excited though, so I stayed, it was a good spot. I had my camera out. I was read y for whatever what happening. Then out of nowhere, my second chance presented itself. Lance Armstrong walked around the big, boring white trailer/truck/bus thing. I started saying, "Fellow American" then realized that was creepy and strange. He was still red and sweaty. He was tiny. Much smaller than I had expected. I suppose he has to be to be as fast as he is. He signed maybe four autographs then disappeared into a black Volvo. The family and I went to a park for a bit then ended the night perfectly at Subway where we not only ate these amazingly, delicious sandwiches and cookies but were also able to listen to wonderful American music on the radio (‘November Rain’ was one of them!)

I'll add photos as soon as I can! As of right now... I'm about to be kicked out of McD's!! =-o

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Knight in Shining Armor

So, I've been just a bit more America-sick than usual lately.

It's mid-July, definately camp season. This is the first year since I decided to live for Jesus that I've missed camp. I never thought this day would come. I always saw myself as a little old woman spending my summers at camp. *sigh*

Although I still miss camp... God has provided the best therapy.

Aedan is this amazingly brilliant 4-year-old -- I was telling my friend, Lindsay, last night over dinner how I'm pretty positive I've had better conversations with Aedan than I have with a lot of adults. Crazy, but true.

Point being: he's extremely interested in my stories from Canyonview Camp specifically, (because of the animal names). Last week he said something about a turtle, which lead to me talking about my days as a camp counselor by the name of, 'Turtle', and him asking ALL about all of my friends from camp and their names and their best qualities (seriously!). He asks me to retell stories and remembers crazy details and says things like: "Lauren, remember when you sang the Squeegee song at camp?" Aedan's favorite animal is the Lion because it's the most powerful -- so, of course, he wants to know whether there was a 'Lion' at camp. There most definately was and probably still is, and I was able to tell Aedan that 'Lion's' brother, 'Rhino', is coming to visit... O man, this nearly set him through the roof. Haha. The last three days he says, "So, when's 'Lion's' brother, 'Rhino', coming to visit? I just can't wait to meet him." Ah, he's so flippin' cute!

All in all, while in my heart I'm missing camp (Canyonview and Willowbrook, mind you) something fierce and terrible, God's provided an outlet to let me release all of my longings with this wonderful little person; Aedan.

[sidenote: Today I was looking for my shoes and Aedan was certain they were in my car. He goes, "Don't you move a muscle! Don't even walk anywhere! I'm going to get your shoes, I'm positive they're in the car!" I told him one day he was going to be someone's 'knight in shining armor'. His response: "Well, yeah, but I'm missing one thing, aren't I?" I'm thinking, "What? What could he have in mind?" When I least expected it, he chimed back in to tell me, "A horse. I can't be a knight in shining armor without a horse. I just can't, can I?" Love him.]

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Just wanting to record some highlights from Saturday... it was a lot of fun. :)

I watched Aedan and Chloë while their parents went sailing... we did the whole night-time routine... but it was just really nice, really refreshing. Haha.

So, I get there and Chloë has got this delightful, rock-hard hair from putting soap in it earlier in the day and Aedan has this wonderful BROWN design of something on his forearm. Needless to say, they needed baths. Chloë had hers first. We went to McDonald's for dinner to feed them and get some energy out.

At McD's: we get to the counter and Aedan informs me that he wants a 'pickle burger'.

Aedan: "...and make sure it's got pickles on it, okay?"

Me: "I'll do my best, Buddy."

(Keep in mind, I have to order the meals in French... I did mess up on their drinks, somehow ordering cola... and I had already brushed their teeth in case they fell asleep on the way home... so they had to wait a bit to have water from home.) Anywho, they both got cheeseburgers, as norm. Aedan starts opening his up and says, "I'm just so excited for this pickle burger! I cannot wait to find that pickle!" 

Seriously, I love these kids.

Aedan and I decided his Christmas present from me will be a big jar of pickles. He's stoked.

Then, there's Chloë. :) She was just this sweet little lovebug all evening. She was clearly exausted from the day, but she didn't give in to the usual crankiness from exaustion. Just before she hopped into bed and zonked out in record time, I caught this shot of her twirling like a ballerina:

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Psalm 111:4-6 (New International Version)
4 He has caused his wonders to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and compassionate.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;

he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works,

giving them the lands of other nations.

Though this whole experience of being thousands of miles from home, on my own in a foreign land has been extremely difficult... Not once have I had to wonder if God had forgotten about me. He is so loving and kind to me, when logically as far as any human relationship operates, He has every right to just shut me out.

Friday I recieved my phone bill. It's supposed to be a flat rate of 50€ a month. It was a whopping 216,89€. Ouch. I wasn't exactly sure what my financial state was as I don't have any way of checking to see what transactions go through... so this was just a bit shocking and stressful. I went to the bank today to find that I just have the right amount in my account. A friend offered to call the phone company since I am never available when they're open. My cupboards are fully stocked with food... (I got a bit ambitious Friday before I got my mail and bought rice and lentils and muesli.) Let's see... o! I have a friend moving to the states in September and she's offered to let me have her wardrobe and pots and pans and such which is perfect since I'll be moving into a different apartment at the end of this month. I've been kind of discouraged that I haven't been able to do more traveling since I've been here and was offered to join in a road trip in a few weekends to Torino, Italy. Seriously. This all happened within like 4 hours.

This morning at church we had a guest speaker come from Youth for Christ in Bologna, Italy. She spoke on success in God's eyes being love and faithfulness to Him. The world measures success as reaching goals and numbers and visibility... not that these things are bad or that we shouldn't set goals or hope for a change that is noticable from our efforts, but first and foremost, our allegiance is to God. When we practice love and faithfulness to God we win favor and good success in the eyes of God and often in the eyes of man as well. God opens doors and it's my part to stay faithful.

Hebrews 12:1-3 says, "1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

This is just a paraphrase of the first bit I shared. I read it and realized it is exactly what I'm thinking this evening. :)

Psalm 111:1-10 (The Message)
Hallelujah! I give thanks to God with everything I've got—
Wherever good people gather, and in the congregation.
God's works are so great, worth
A lifetime of study—endless enjoyment!
Splendor and beauty mark his craft;
His generosity never gives out.
His miracles are his memorial—
This God of Grace, this God of Love.
He gave food to those who fear him,
He remembered to keep his ancient promise.
He proved to his people that he could do what he said:
Hand them the nations on a platter—a gift!
He manufactures truth and justice;
All his products are guaranteed to last—
Never out-of-date, never obsolete, rust-proof.
All that he makes and does is honest and true:
He paid the ransom for his people,
He ordered his Covenant kept forever.
He's so personal and holy, worthy of our respect.
The good life begins in the fear of God—
Do that and you'll know the blessing of God.
His Hallelujah lasts forever!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ah, Independence Day. Do we really know what that means? I realized the other day, I had no idea what FREEDOM really was until I found myself captive, in bondage. Dramatic, maybe, but seriously. Never before have I lived so far outside any real system of authority. I'm here in France and the 'law' that I'm under is not one of authority. It's not of the country of France. It's not of any legal government. It's a piece of paper that continually changes, making my ability to stick to it that much more difficult. Never before have I felt so restricted, so enslaved, so confined. I never knew the beauty and power of the law.

The Word says, "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple." Psalm 19:7. *sigh* Lately I've been thinking of how the law was made for our benefit. We are children of God and just as children need boundaries... so do we! Those boundaries give us freedom, they allow us to live fully without being overcome by anxiety and fear. They protect us just as our parents protected us by giving providing boundaries.

This one is a little farther off topic, but there is a vital connection somewhere. Here on earth we are called to follow the law of whatever government is in authority of us. It is generally pretty good, but still flawed. God has provided a perfect law and it's been written on each and every one of our hearts. He loves us like crazy and wants us to live deep, meaningful, amazing lives. Sometimes that means times will be difficult and hard, but through those times He is ever so faithful. Through the times of despair and hurt and confusion God stretches us and teaches us. He builds our character. (Most of this is me preaching to myself...) He provides opportunities for us to learn to become more like Jesus.

I've been listening to Air1 for encouragement and to make me feel a little closer to home. I was listening this morning and three of the songs were so real to my life right now. Jaymes Reunion has a song called, "Fine": You never really loved until you watch it fall apart And you never really lived until you felt like you can die And you never really stood until the weight has pushed you over Your pickin up the pieces just to find Your doin just fine... I'm trying my darndest to make the best of the situation I've been put in and to seek God with the dilemmas I find myself in. I'm learning to appreciate so many things I had never really thought about before.

Next song is by the wonderful band, Kutless. It's called, "To Know That You're Alive". It may sound kind of dark and dim... but it's a great song and it just struck a chord within my heart this morning. I know your pain is for a reason You need to feel just to know that You're alive. I am alive.

The third song is called "By Your Side" by Tenth Avenue North. The first wonderful thing about this song is that it takes me back to Des Moines when I was living with Haley and Hannah. :) Haley's dad really liked this song and so she was learning to play it on her guitar. It's now my promise from God. "I love you, I want you to know. I love you I'll never let you go. I'll be by your side where ever you fall in the dead of night whenever you call please don't find these hands that are holdling you.

If you're reading this today, you're probably pretty far away, phisically from me... I just want you to know that I miss you right now and really, truly want to give you a great big hug! :)

"If you abide in my word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32. Truth. Truth is concrete. Solid. Unchanging. Truth is absolute.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Today I'm Sad. Hurt. Frustrated. Annoyed.

I wake up everyday ready to give my all to a family who I knew nothing about less than three months ago. I've come to love these individuals which makes it much more difficult when days like today come along.

The children's grandparents arrived yesterday from Oregon after not seeing the kids for probably a year and a half, clearly an exciting event. Yesterday was filled with activities (horseback riding, out to lunch, soccer...) so today, returning to the norm, was a bit difficult. I was stressed trying to keep to the schedule and activities laid out for me with the kids wanting to spend time with their grandparents and the grandparents wanting the same. The grandparents were extremely kind and encouraging, I loved having them there. This afternoon, we (the grandparents and I) took the kids on a little hike and the kids were having so much fun when it was time for me to go, the g'parents decided to stay up with them a bit longer. I was feeling great about life and my job, I actually felt appreciated, as if I was perhaps making a difference. Then I got back to the house to find that all my hard work just isn't quite enough.

I was so encouraged to find this poem written by my dear friend Emily Reicherts.

I don’t understand
But I guess I don’t have to…
To know that You are Good and
Kind and Just and Faithful.

I don’t understand
But I guess I don’t have to…
To be held in Your arms
Quieted with Your love
Transformed by Your Word
And taken by Your Presence.

I don’t understand
But I guess I don’t have to…
To walk with You
Remain in You
Believe in You
And be strengthened by You.

I don’t understand
But I guess I don’t have to…
To trust in Your
Promises, Purposes,Plans,
and Precepts.

I don’t understand
But I guess I don’t have to…
To step in Faith
Holding Your hand
Knowing the hurt today
Will lead to a Glory
That surpasses all
Understanding tomorrow.

Emily Reicherts 6-09

I will press on.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

brief update!

Just FYI: This will be short as it's already past my bedtime, but my dear Aunt, Lisa, kindly reminded me today that my blog needs a little more attention. She's right. My theory as to why I've avoided/neglected it for a while is 
A) I have this idea that I can only write the wonderful things that are happening here in SwitzeFrance and the incredible things God's teaching me... when honestly, it's really been a hard, difficult, challenging month. I will do my very best to keep myself honest on here, without completely pouring my heart out on the world-wide-web. 
B) There aren't enough hours in the day!!! Haha. But isn't that the case in every season of life?
God's ever faithful. He's been teaching me and stretching me. He's blessed me with this completely beautiful, amazingly wonderful church ( As a matter of fact, tomorrow night I'll participate in a small group going through Blue Like Jazz, one of my very favorite books! :)

Yesterday I enjoyed a solo train trip to Zermatt, home of the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn is a beautiful and unique mountain, quite possibly the biggest tourist attraction in Switzerland. Unfortunately, the Matterhorn hid behind a cloud ALL day long. I guess I'll just have to go back!

To the right is a photo of me in Sion, a town on the way to Zermatt. In the background is Château de Valère. It's where I had intended to end up, but instead I found myself in the Basilique de Valère, a Catholic cathedral. Apparently, it's home to the oldest functioning organ in the world - from the 14th century.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mr. McCoullough

Ah! So much catching up to do! First things first, this one I don't even have to think about! :) ...I wrote it down in my journal. I've titled it: Mr. McCoullough.

A perfect example of active imagination time with Aedan:

This one day, he comes waltzing down the stairs after his noon quiet-time. His special dinosaur blanket is draped around his shoulders, clearly the cape of a superhero. In his deepest, most grown up voice, we have this conversation:

Lauren: Well, hi there, Aedan. You must have had a good rest... it's been cut nearly 15 minutes short!
Aedan: I'm not Aedan -- he's still sleeping.
L: Oh, okay. So... who are you?
A: I'm Mr. McCoullough.
L: What are you here for Mr. McCoullough?
A: (still in his deepest, most grown up voice) I just wanted to see your food. I'm seven years old. I also wanted to see your house and learn your name.
L: Fair enough, my name is Lauren. Here is the house. I like food as well. Where are you from Mr. McCoullough?
A: I'm from Silvokia. (A little background information: Aedan's best friend Alex is from Slovakia. Everytime he says Slovakia... it starts out with the syllable 'sil' and ends in just a bunch of other crazy syllables. Pretty funny. Pretty cute.) I know a person named Alex from Slilvokia -- I came to pay him a little visit. (<-- a="" air="" and="" cape.="" cape="" don="" fly="" his="" hold="" honest="" i="" in="" it="" just="" m="" me="" my="" need="" p="" really="" seat="" should="" someone="" super-hero.="" t="" take="" the="" then="" throws="" up="" with="" words="" yes="">L: (Trying to contain my uncontrollable laughter inside!) Of course.
A: Thank you. I heard Millie's party is in seven weeks.
L: Oh, really? Where did you hear that?
A: Yes, really. Alex told me... I'm seven years old.
L: Well, if Alex told you, it must be true. Say, Mr. McCoullough, I need you to go upstairs and find Aedan. He needs to be back at school in a few minutes.
A: Aedan's not here anymore.
L: Well, someone's going to have to go to school for him or Katia, his teacher, is going to be very upset and worry about him. I think you look much more like him than Chloë or I do.
A: Nobody will know who I am.
L: Well, then you'll have to introduce yourself.

It carried on like this for a while...

...I told his mom about this before I went to pick him up from school. The next day she said she addressed him as Mr. McCoullough during his bedtime routine while he was having trouble listening/following directions. Haha. She said it TOTALLY caught him by surprise. He said, "How do you know Mr. McCoullough??"

My days are so unbelievably entertaining. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

God is GOOD.

As I was driving home from the big party this evening, this huge smile made it's way across my face and I started to belly laugh. God has such a knack for details!

This morning I was to be at the Pocock's home just before 9 to leave for Signal de Bougy (HUGE park) for Chloe's birthday party. I was the 'activity director'. We arrived early and Julie was preparing nametags and came to deliver mine when she said "I don't know what to put on yours." I was confused, it's a nametag - obviously my name needs to be on it. She could see that I was confused and explained that everyone has their name and who they belong to/their title on it. (ie: Aedan - Chloe's brother) She said, "I thought about putting 'child-care provider', but that just sounds stuffy and impersonal... too distant. Then I thought we could put 'nanny', but that isn't family." I was honored to hear what she said next. "If you're up for it we can put 'Kids Favorite Girl'... or really we might as well put 'My Lauren', since that's what Chloe calls you anyway." We never did come up with an official 'title' since people started arriving and chaos began to break loose, but I just felt so loved at that moment! Haha. 'Kids Favorite Girl'... 'My Lauren'... Have I really only been here a mere three weeks?!

The party was lovely. Families from playgroups were there and I was able to get to know names a bit better and see siblings who don't usually come to playgroup or parents when I'm used to meeting the au pair/nanny. There was more than enough food, it was all delicious. Chloe (celebrating her 2nd birthday) did an amazing job opening her huge heap of presents and was genuinely excited about each and every one of them! (Pretty good for missing her morning rest!) We then went outside and played games... Yikes. Haha. I was in charge of directing the games for 15-20 kids ranging from 11 months to 6 or 7 years old. Duck, duck, goose was a big hit as it's surprisingly not played in Europe. Limbo was entertaining as most of the children didn't grasp the concept... Hot potato went over like a lead zepplin -- I'm pretty sure it didn't help that I couldn't remember the tune, so I made one up... Haha.

Once the families dispersed and the party was cleaned up, Aedan, Julie and I played miniature golf and enjoyed a cup of cafe and creme. Julie and I were able to talk about relationships and communication and psychology and possibilities for the future. We also talked about our families and how amazing it is for such different personalities to come together. Leaving Signal de Bougy was slightly difficult since Aedan and his four-year-old attitude thought it would be a good idea to use hurtful words towards Mom to get his way. (Signal de Bougy's his favorite place in the world and he didn't want to leave.) I hope he found that very wrong. We got onto the highway and he was out. Cold. We started heading home and Julie told me about vineyards Dad should go to (he's coming out in only 6 days!!!) She also mentioned that one exit would lead to Burtigny, Switzerland where my friend, Rachel, is currently attending 'University of the Nations' (a communication school through/connected to YWAM). We started just looking to see if we could find signs to Burtigny when we did find one we thought it a shame to get so close only to leave and we just kept getting closer and closer and closer until I was standing in Rachel's dining hall asking her friend Jose where she was. :) It was absolutely delightful. Such a pleasant surprise!

I love how Julie sees the world and life -- so much like I do! It blows me away how God puts everything together. BLOWS ME AWAY. Even the detail of her leaving Iowa to go to school in Oregon! She loves music and flowers and animals... she loves LIFE. She loves to explore and learn. Ah. I just am so blessed to be serving such a great God... especially in this way! I'm working with kids (who have stolen my heart, mind you.) LIVING in France. Learning crucial things about life and people and family... things you can really only learn through experience. It's just amazing.

While on our way home, Julie and I were talking. She's an amazing listener. She asked when I started getting involved with the church, a slightly difficult thing to answer. I think it was kind of a progression. Anyways, I shared with her a few highlights of my journey through life: when I was in second grade I had a WINGS teacher who when asked how she knew she was going to Heaven responded, "I don't think any of us really know we're going to Heaven, we just have to hope we make it there and do good until we find out." I shared with Julie how if that's really the case, there's no need to even consider Heaven. What's the point if we can't have any assurance, it's like working towards the lottery, you don't know what you're going to get. I then jumped ahead to the summer of 2001 when I heard the truth of Jesus and how you can actually have a personal relationship with him. I told her how I had learned this from the Bible and not from someone sharing their own opinion or experiences. That was pretty huge for me. I was then able to share with her the amazing story of how God provided a camera for me via my sweet Michelle. (I started praying hesitantly for camera and God provided one the NEXT day.) She asked why Michelle offered her camera without me even asking and I told her Shell's response was, "You need it more than I do." Julie said she had never heard that phrase. She said it was amazing and selfless and beautiful. :) God is so GOOD.

I wish I could share more details... but that would probably bore you and I've got to get back at it in a mere 6 hours. If only there were more hours in the day! Ooo... or even better yet, a day designated to rest... WAIT, there already is, I'm just a fool who forgot to do just that!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Here's a little glimpse into last Friday night for me:

...So, here I am, it’s Friday night. I’ve been here 2 weeks and still have no phone or internet to my name... so contacts are few. I’m sitting in my water closet (emphasis on closet) when I see a piece of garbage on the floor. I bend over to pick it up (seeing as how I don’t have a trash can in the WC just yet...) Snap up to go throw it away... or something. Well, the door is open a bit and as I snap up to throw my trash away, the door knob to the WC catches my head. I’m keeled over, holding my head as if it’s about to fall off (thinking of how nice the pressure feels on my sore spot,) start walking to the kitchen to throw away my trash... I look at my hand... only to find BLOOD. "Seriously," I think to myself, "Rainy Friday night and all I can muster up to do for fun is crack my head open on the doorknob of my water closet?! Is this some kind of sick trick?!" *sigh*

Earlier this week I thought it was a good idea to purchase a bag of frozen chicken cordon bleu for when I’m in a rush and need a quick meal... I quickly found that it was not the best idea... HOWEVER, during the recovery period of my little incident I am able to put the chicken cordon bleu to good use as my ice pack!!

Not every day is quite this exciting... but I have been surprised by quite a bit since I've arrived! :)