An Hour Of Wolves, And Shattered Shields

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Happy Lent, everyone! For all of you who are observing it, stick in there – it WILL be worth it! For those of you who aren’t, have fun watching us for the next 40 days.

For those of you who aren’t of the Christian persuasion, I guess I should probably tell you about Lent.

“Ok, Google – cheat for me:”

Lent is a 40-day period of preparation for Easter Sunday and one of the major liturgical seasons of the Church. A penitential season marked by prayer, fasting and abstinence, and almsgiving, Lent begins on either Ash Wednesday (for Latin Rite Catholics and those Protestants who observe Lent) or Clean Monday (for Eastern Rite Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) and ends on either Holy Thursday or Holy Saturday.

Lent comes in many different forms. Some people give up food as a community, some people fast (or give up) things they feel like they’re placing before their spiritual lives (maybe you’ve seen some people bowing off social media) and others do none of the above. Like me.

To clarify – yes, I am fasting. But this year I felt like I needed to do something a little different.

Enter dramatic pause

So, I’ve decided to do a 40 day negativity fast (#notreallyworthadramaticpause).

Rather than Googling what this “means” I’ll tell you what it means to me.

The Bible has a lot to say about how Christians interact with the world around them. There are verses about loving, about caring, about serving – and then the ones we’re not quite as eager to discuss: The ones about turning the other cheek.

This is not a green light for people to come and punch me in the face, because for the next 40 days I won’t punch you back. I will punch you back.

What I’m talking about is on a spiritual level.

See, I’m a fighter by nature.
When I was little, more than anything, I wanted to be an Amazon woman (thanks for the documentary, PBS). I wanted to fight in battles, and conquer kingdoms and learn epic archery skills (the last of which I did start). I wanted to fight. I’ve always wanted to fight.

And it took me a really long time, as Christian, to realize that’s okay.

I think a common misconception about Christianity is that women are supposed to be these meek and gentle creatures sitting in the corner knitting.

And while I do knit, and I love its cathartic values, that’s not my idea of the life of faith for a woman.

NOTE: Being meek, gentle and sweet are NOT bad things, for those who are naturally that way.

But I’m not.

I’ve always preferred to think of myself as someone who follows more the example of the biblical Deborah. For those of you who don’t know the story, think badass awesome chick who leads armies and generally dominates at life, because men aren’t stepping up to the plate. (Judges 4)

But something to remember, even for us fighters, is that there are times when you need to find peace in the uncomfortable places or times God calls you to. Sometimes, we reach a season of needing to learn trust.

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

A great, totally hypothetical, example of this is when you’re, I don’t know – living in a foreign place, and being COMPLETELY out of your comfort zone. Exhibit A: My life.

For me, natural instinct says to kick and scream and punch people (metaphorically) – but God tells me to rest.

So I sit.

I “rest”.

I pout.

I complain.

*For the record, sitting in a corner complaining isn’t finding rest in a situation.

France has been hard, harder than I ever could have imagined. But it’s in this place that God has told me, for now, to rest. And over the past few months I have been doing the very minimal value of that.

More than anything I’ve been complaining, I’ve been self-pitying and I’ve been finding every excuse to sit on my bible, rather than read it. Because, hey – I’ve been through a lot (factual). I deserve to be able to curl up in a ball and listen to angsty music!

But if God wanted me to listen to angsty music for a year, I think he would have given me a time machine back to my high school self, not told me to move 5000 miles away from home.

So, with this in mind, I’ve decided to dedicate my Lent period of time to fixing the deep seeded problem that has become my perspective on my life.

Where there is self-pity, I will look to serve others.

Where there is anger, I’m seeking peace and self-reconciliation.

When I want to outwardly project my fears and insecurities, I will take them instead, and leave them at the feet of my Saviour.

Where there is doubt, I’m remembering the promises that brought me to this place.

And where there is winey-ass (sorry mom) me, I will remember that there is purpose to every breath I am given.

Lent started on Wednesday, so I’m only a few days in, but I can already tell you one thing – it IS NOT easy. Human nature wants to complain. Why? Because, to be honest, it feels good. And it’s societally acceptable. Just look at how many social media outlets we’re given to FML our lives.

But my challenge, over the next month is to remember where I came from, and who fought on my behalf to bring me here.

It wasn’t by accident that I landed in Paris for a year – no one accidently lands in Paris for a year. This year was a pretty hefty detour from what I had “planned”, but that doesn’t mean I’m not on the path I’m supposed to be on.

So, join me, will you? Let’s strive to look at our lives and the world around us with a different lens. Let’s begin to uncover and unmask the places in our hearts that have brought us into areas of complaint, instead of action. And most of all – let’s fight a good fight.

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Welcome to Orleans, France

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Last weekend me and another fantastically awesome au pair, who lives in a town near me, went to explore the closest “big” city – Orleans, France! I’m not going to lie, it stole my heart. The city is stunning, and has a historical background to match up to it’s amount of awesome. Known for a famous battle, won by my childhood hero Joan of Arc, I loved being able to walk the streets and just simply marinate in the culture and beauty. DSC_1045     DSC_1036 DSC_1037 DSC_1038
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The Holy Trinity

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Church.

Like any given Sunday in the life of moi, this morning I went to church. Being a Christian, and it being Sunday, that fact is a fairly unexciting statistic. But, what made today different, was that “going to church” meant going into a gigantic medieval style stone structure filled marble carved statues (we’re talking 8-10 feet high, including a skeleton reaper which is #hellapunk) in a small French town. Oh, and that it was Catholic. Which I am not.

Now you may think there would be some cultural differences for an American Protestant girl who ducked her way into a party where no one speaks her exact verbal or spiritual language, and you would be right. But overall I felt incredibly refreshed by the experience. The reason I was there in the first place was because it’s the only church within 30 miles of where I live. Not gonna lie – the lack of options is kind of a bummer.

The church service was as traditional and conservative as you could probably find anywhere, complete with a pipe organ and higher than usual pitched singing. It reminded me of church coronations/marriage scenes from Elizabeth or Ever After. But, overall I loved the service. It was pieced together with biblical scriptures and interval hymns (In French, of course, which was amazing) and I loved that it constantly engaged those who were there to worship.

Afterward, I stopped by the flower shop across the street and bought a little purple flower bush to bring some life to my room. It worked. I’m so much happier seeing my little plant ward every time I walk in the door. It really is just the best for someone, like me, who is obsessed with the natural world.

The final excitement for the day happened when I logged in to my favorite websites, Hulu and Netflix, to relax for the evening. Then, to my utter astonishment, from BOTH websites, I was told that they did not work within the country I was operating. As in – there was NO Netflix, Hulu or Pandora in THIS WHOLE COUNTRY. Try to grasp my horror. It was quite severe and really couldn’t have been worse. I’m not ashamed to say it, I adore all of these websites, and being able to relax and watch a movie is essential to bringing together my feeling of home.

I’m starting to realize more than ever that, sometimes it’s the littlest things that make home feels like home. Like Netflix. Or a random little shrub in your room.

I am sorry to sound like a spoiled American brat, but when I first found out I would have no access to Netflix, Hulu or Pandora I was pretty seriously considering booking it out of France…ok, so I wasn’t, but I was pretty upset. I don’t have many of my movies with me here in France, so it’s really important to have these resources. Would I die without them, no. Would I be a lot less happy about life? Yes. LUCKILY, I have amazing friends who let me in on the secret of Chromzising websites and making them work with Hola. I couldn’t be more happy.

Today has been a full and relaxing day, overall. I actually had the guts to tell my host family I didn’t want to go with them, the kids and their grandparents to the park, a decision which needed to be made since it’s my day off and they keep trying to “include me” on these days – which is nice…but I’ll be with the kids this week 7am-7pm every day (school doesn’t start until next week) so I think I’ll have quite enough kid time for the week without going out on my day off. Instead I stayed home and wrote letters to any and everyone I could think of. I ran out of postcards, but I plan on getting more on my next trip outside this petit-chateau.

Also, if you’ve asked me to send you a letter/postcard please please be patient. I’m mailing out the first bunch today, but there are still some people I’ve missed that will have to go out the next time I have the courage to go into the post office and ask for stamps.

Oh, yeah…I have a sauna in my bathroom. As in, the bathroom is only for me and there's a sauna in it. Awesome.
Oh, yeah…I have a sauna in my bathroom. As in, the bathroom is only for me and there’s a sauna in it. Awesome.

Checklist for France!

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Glasgow, Scotland

This week, for some reason, it’s been really tough for me to feel like I’m accomplishing anything. Although I’ve been plugging away for months to get everything for France pulled together, it’s still hard to envision my work paying off, since that won’t be for a few months.

With that being said, here are some of the things I’ve finished up lately/I’m working on to get ready for France!

1. Doctor’s appointment: There are several steps in the process of applying for a French Visa. I had no idea how complicated this process would be, but I’m slowly finding out that you have to really WANT to go to France in order to move there. There are a million hoops to jump through before you can even think about applying.

One of these necessary steps is getting a  doctor’s note (aka Medical Evaluation) that states that you aren’t dying. This visit also has to be within three months of you leaving for France so it wasn’t until this week that I was finally able to make the appointment! Yay!

2.  Birth Certificate: Somehow I lost my birth certificate. I have no idea where it is and I need an official one to copy before I move, sooooo I ordered a new one this week. It’s surprisingly easy to get.

3. DuoLingo-ing the world: I know that’s not a word, but it is now. Every day I spend about 1 hour(ish) on Duolingo practicing my French. I used to dream of the day when I’d be at more than 20% word knowledge, and then I looked at my screen yesterday! I’m satisfied.

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 10.29.44 AM 4. I’ve been kind of obsessed with French Romantic Comedies lately. They’re just so much better. If you haven’t watched any I highly suggest these:

5. French Magazines are my new favorite thing to read! I can’ t seem to get a copy of a French Vogue, but I’ve been going through French Elle and Marie France

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6. I finally started to actually go through my belongings and get rid of stuff: I’m trying to get rid of probably somewhere around 60ish% of my belongings so I’ll only be keeping essentials here in storage (20%) and taking the other 20% with me to France. Numbers, numbers, numbers.

7. I’m loaning out my fish to my little sister while I’m gone: My two goldfish, Octavius and Pyro, have been with me for about 5 years, now. But, since I can’t take them with me, they’re going to go live with my little sister until further notice. She better not kill them like she killed my bamboo I had her “take care of” last time I moved.

8. Dentist: Because I don’t know what the situation will be in France, I went to the dentist this week to get my mouth at 100% before leaving. Four shots of anesthetic later, and we’re good.

9. College application: I sent in my college application last weekend so I’m waiting to hear back from them! Hopefully I’ll be able to take classes there over the next year. I really hope I get in, but who knows?? Fingers crossed!

10. Growing out my f^$&^@! hair: Anyone who knows about curly hair knows that it is a beast that doesn’t want to be tamed. Anyone who has tried to regrow out a mowhawk knows it’s just awkward. Add the two together, and you have a recipe for disaster. Which is pretty much where I’m at right now. I almost get my hair re-shaved pretty much every day. But luckily, I have a hefty dose of Irish/Scottish stubbornness in my blood and if I said I’m growing it out – I’m damn well going to.

11. I bought a tablet! With layovers etc. I’m going to be traveling for like 30 hours when I go to France, so I bought a tablet so I can take it with me, to read/watch movies, when I travel. It’s coming in the mail today, hopefully, so I’m super excited!

12. I’m emailing a church in France to try to get connected with one near where I’m living.   Being able to keep connected with people who share my faith is so important to me, and I’m really hoping that I can connect with some fun people in France. One of my way too awesome friends was in Paris, and he found some people to connect me with at the Hillsong plant in Paris. I’m excited to see what connections I can make 🙂 (This had been high on my list, so I’m so glad to have some kind of lead finally)

And that’s “all” for now! Ah! Only 3 months!

Also, one of my friends left yesterday for his Au Pair-ship in Australia. Check out his awesomeness on his blog!