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! :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Alright! Here I am, Echenevex, France. Whoever would have thought?! I’ve been here for a week now and am starting to feel as though I’m settling in. :) I had been taking notes at the beginning of the journey in hopes of having a chunk of time for internet access BEFORE now. I’ll warn you though... it seems as if I’ve been here FOREVER... or at least like 3 weeks... maybe longer... it’s possible this will be a LONG blog. Brace yourself.

So, last Wednesday was the beginning of my departure... my life here in Europe. I was running behind, of course, the grandmother of the children I’m caring for had invited my parents and I to stay at their house Wednesday night to get acquainted with them and to ease our transition a little bit. We got there two hours late. Cheri, the grandmother, had angel food cake covered in whipped cream and strawberries ready for us. She did a beautiful job of sharing photos and stories with us... creating excitement and anticipation in me. The night was difficult though, knowing Thursday I’d be leaving my family and friends for another year. I wasn’t able to sleep because of nerves and mom and I decided to sleep in the same bed, so we snuggled, of course.
Thursday I was terribly nauseous and scared. I had no idea what I was getting into and had not had a good record of flying as of recently. Much to my surprise my travels were the best I think I’ve ever had! :) Once I got to Detroit I ran into Deb Dulin, a friend of our family’s from Cedar Falls. I was going down an escalator and she was coming up... it was definitely a pleasant surprise!

The Detroit airport was fascinating! When I got to the bottom of the escalator I was in this amazing tunnel with the moving walkways and such that most normal airports have... but there was also this crazy, techno elevator music and matching moving lights! I got to my gate and made myself at home for my 3 hour layover... I was able to call my sweet friend/big-sister Nikki in Portland and talk to her for a while, she reassured me that it was good for Momma Carole to be stretched in this way. :) I’m pretty sure we all know this to be true.
While waiting for my flight from Detroit to Amsterdam I made friends with an older woman named Shirley. She really enjoyed sharing her thoughts... about everything. :) Shirley was a drama director for a children’s theater and was on her way to Vienna for a drama conference. Before we said our ‘good-byes’ and boarded the plane she gave me her card and told me how she had better hear from me! She was so extremely excited for me she gave me a brochure on a children’s museum of some sort in Italy - Reggio Emilia. I’ll have to add those details in the next blog.

Shirley wasn’t the only friend I made during my travels. Many of the people I met I wasn’t able to get their names, but wow, they really made this step much less nerve-wracking. My next friend was a pretty young woman a couple years older than me who had previously lived in Paris. She worked for the Assembly of God in Paris and was on her way to two good friends’ wedding. She had said while she was living in Paris she was so frustrated with the language she took 21 credit hours of French at the local university and only when she was done with that was she comfortable communicating... yikes. Doesn’t exactly shed much hope on the topic for me.
Finally, it was time to board my FIRST flight to Europe!! The man I was seated next to was an angel... I’m sure of it. Haha. Well, he was remarkable if not quite an angel. He was from the Netherlands and had a very pleasant accent. He works for Nestle and Purina and has lived in St. Louis for the last year or so. He travels from St. Louis to Amsterdam once a month. Wow. He was a fantastic conversationalist. We talked of culture, people in general, the world, education, religion, life in Iowa and Europe... lots of things! I wish I was writing this right after I got off the plane so I could share the details! Ooo! He shared with me the beauty of Geneva and how it was nearly the best place in the world to live then asked me where I recommended to see while he was living in the states. Of course, I told him Oregon. He had already seen Iowa, don’t be offended. I told him how Oregon was like having the whole world at the palm of your hands! The Pacific to the west, desert in the east, the valley of Salem, lush green life all along the west, mountains throughout... ah, the beauty. :) It was getting to a point where most people were trying to sleep so I was looking for a movie to occupy myself. I was far to uncomfortable to actually get any sleep. I ended up watching "Slumdog Millionaire" and most of "Marley and Me" both were pretty good!

In Amsterdam I was under the impression I only had 25 minutes to catch my flight to Geneva. Thankfully, I had my new Dutch friend to help me out. I then figured out I had closer to an hour, but had to stand in line for customs for pretty close to forever... Shirley and my red-headed friend were there to keep me company though, and I got my first stamp in my passport!!! :) Woooo hooooo!!!

As for my next friend, Giles, he has lived in Switzerland for the last 18 years. He was really funny; he referred his two-year-old daughter to a character in the movie, ‘The Omen.’ Seriously, he did. He moved here from the UK and informed me nothing has come up that would ever make him want to live elsewhere. As far as he’s concerned, Switzerland is the perfect place to ski and provides a way to easily travel anywhere in Europe easily. He also gave me his card in case I had an emergency of some sort.

Finally, I landed in Geneva!! It was so bazaar! I retrieved my luggage FAR too easily... it was there before I was! That NEVER happens! I was not so pleasantly surprised to find myself on the other side of the security wall with no stamp in my passport, no customs, no English and worst of all, no Julie. :( I tried and tried to figure out how to get a pay phone to work, but it wouldn’t take my Euros and I was not coming in contact with any of the many English speakers I had heard so much about. Not to say it’s okay for me to be an ignorant American walking around a foreign country expecting everyone else to fit my needs, however, I was not operating well without those things as I had expected. :-/ While I was attempting to use the payphone I caught a glimpse of a cute little family that matched the photos I had seen in my emails. It was the Pocock’s. Praise the Lord. I was on the brink of tears... well, not really, but probably would have been had I been given another hour or so! We sat down and had tea and my first croissant! It was phenomenal! :) I got a bit loopy from the jet-lag. I was thinking I’d be sleeping when I got there... not the case. Haha.

Julie took me all around Geneva in hopes of familiarizing me... I don’t think it worked, but it exposed me to the sunshine and fresh air and kept me moving: all things recommended for jet-lag recovery. She took me to my apartment so I might drop off my luggage. We also went to their house so I could get to know the kids and herself a bit. I was able to take a shower and the most glorious nap that afternoon. After my nap the kids and Julie took me to the library to get my very own French library card!!! So exciting! :) For dinner they took me to Chavannes - a mall semi-nearby with a park outside one of their restaurants. It was delicious. I had lamb and pears, black lentils... I tried a little thing labeled ‘miso’ but I’m pretty sure it was chicken stock- not exactly delightful. Chloe surprised me after dinner and picked out strawberry ice cream. I can’t hardly turn down already purchased ice cream from nearly strangers! It was fabulous, heavy on the strawberries and light on the cream and other stuff. Yum.
That was just the first... probably 36 hours of this adventure... I'll try to trickle in some more details of what’s going on in my upcoming blogs... it’s been really great! I MUST learn French! MUST!!

...and just to let you know... this doesn't even cover a fraction!! I'll try to update things... it's all very exciting!!