Plus Belle La Vie

A More Beautiful Life

Dear Roommates

<< ABBEY, AMY, & NIA >>

I have been meaning to write this for a while, and now seems a good a time as any. I write this as we are driving to Ohio, to be more specific we have crossed into Ohio 10 minutes ago, screaming loudly. With that we have left our first quad (a.k.a. quarter) of our 2nd year at Wheaton behind us. The last 2 months spent with each of you has been some of the most joyous and forming times of my life.

You each have shown me what it means to love my neighbor, but even
more than that, y’all have shown me that we as Christians have the innate ability to display the love of Christ to each other. We have had to learn what it means to share each others burdens, to cry with each other and hold each other, to take the time to laugh with and at each other, to have wild dance parties for the sake of a study break, to find the most efficient way to wash dishes (i.e. music, someone washing, and someone drying), to unabashedly scream how incredible theother looks across campus, how to articulate our fascination, appreciate, and need for coffee, etc.

I am asked constantly how it is possible for 4 girls to live in one small room. All I think is, well I now have three additional closets, if I am ever bored then one of them will be available, memorizing everyones schedule is difficult, adventures are always entertaining, and so much more.

I praise God, for He knew what He was doing when He made it possible for us to live with each other. I dont remember every detail clearly of how we got to this point, but I remember a few details of how we each met, began our relationships, and how we now have the opportunity to live together. We don’t have every aspect in common, nor are even the same majors, but what we do have in common goes so much deeper and will last so much longer than any other relationship. That commonality is the relationship we have with our Heavenly Father.

A few days into the semester when I was dressed and ready to go to breakfast, thinking that I was ready for all the day had in store for me. I was about to walk out of the room when I heard Nia holler after me, “Belle! Did you do your Quiet Time?” At that moment, I knew that it was going to be a good year. I saw that no matter what came up in my life y’all would point me to Christ and remind me that my life is first in foremost dictated by God. You would remind me that my identity is not in my grades or how long it takes me to graduate, or what clubs I was in, but that we have each been created to glorify God and that is all that ultimately matters.

As I sit here typing this to thank you. I dont want to forget this quad (with all of it’s joys and challenges) or this road trip to Ohio (Abbey driving, Amy navigating, and Nia sitting to the my right doing her Econ homework). I dont want to forget us belting our hearts out to Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Hannah Montana, and so many other throw backs as we navigate to Columbus. We all needed this car ride for different reasons. I am excited to spend this break with y’all, but also to return to the room that we have made our home and finish out this semester and year strong.

I could say so much more, but I hope that you know that I love you all so much. Looking forward too many more memories.

With Joy that is only found in Christ,


P.S.If you have read this and are not one of my roommates, then you now know how incredibly blessed I am.

Mom – Maman



Not the name I first knew you as. To me you are “mom”.
I only have ever called you by your given name when you were distracted – a.k.a. doing something else and not giving your undivided attention to us.2015_08_27_07_42_070001

When I was in 6th grade, I was at the age where thinking y’all (my parents) weren’t cool. So being a person who idolized the mainstream, I didn’t appreciate you. After being told by many of my friends that you were awesome. I decided I would give you a chance to prove it. Today and forever, I am happy to say that y’all are my best friends and I regret not appreciating you sooner.

You weren’t just a mother to me. You were a mom to many of my friends as well. It is no wonder that a majority of the youth group called you “Mamma Lyzette”. It wasn’t just because you fed them, but because you listened to them and advised them.2015_08_27_07_42_070011

Countless times my friends asked me to come over, but not to hangout with me – to talk with you about what was going on in their lives and to ask for your opinion.

Thank you mom for always being an encouragement to me. A role model. Someone whom I am proud to say, “Yes, that is my mom.”

2015_08_26_07_59_540011Thank you for sacrificing so much for me, my siblings, my friends, our family, and even people we didn’t know at the time (because after a interaction with said person they were immediately invited to be apart of our family). You have shown me what it means to be a servant leader. You have helped me become the person I am today. Continually encouraging me to love our Saviour and unselfishly putting me in his hands knowing that I am safe there.

I miss you so terribly much. Enjoy your Mothers Day with the family.

I love you.

VACATION \vā-ˈkā-shən, və-\ noun

Miriam-Webster Definition : a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel

Being overseas for the past seven months has not been a long vacation after graduating high school. Even though it does make me sad thinking that it will be all over in 2 and a half months and I will be returning home to start college/university. I have been to many places, but many times I just think about how much I would like to be home and how much easier it was to be at home compared to life overseas.

I have had the opportunity to visit many countries, which of course is absolutely incredible. But being in these countries hasn’t been a walk in the park. There are multiple challenges to visiting/living in different countries. I have had to overcome many challenges living in France and one of them that comes up a lot is that I just have to be okay with not knowing what is going on 95% of the time.

I may not be attending college/university at this moment in time, but I am constantly learning. I have a French lesson every Monday and Wednesday (which I am thinking of changing to just once a week soon). After the lessons, I am left with homework that takes me awhile to complete. Besides the proper French lessons, I am learning more about the French culture and language just by living in a French family and really just being immersed in the french lifestyle. Another way I am learning is that I am constantly reading books (I take a bus back in forth from where I live to where I work everyday and it is a hour 30 min journey each way) and studying Gods word (currently going through “Abide: A Study of 1, 2, 3 John” by Jennifer Wilkin). I can definitely say compared to my peers, I am not in college/university but I am indeed learning a fair share that will stick with me for the rest of my life. These lessons are even motivating me on my next steps in life after this year has ended.

I do not currently have a paid job, which makes life difficult financially. I have had to learn how to budget well. Learning to decide what is important and what I can live without. I have learned what it means to appreciate money, appreciate the generosity of those that give money, and the complete joy of finding a euro on the road.
In Marseille, most of my time is spent working at schools. Sometimes I have selfish thoughts and think that it doesn’t matter the effort that I put into the day, I am not getting paid. I typically nip those thoughts in the butt real quick, and think of how I can be a encouragement and a light of Jesus to those around me, because money shouldn’t affect my attitude or how I work/show love to others. It should be that I am loved by God and can thus show this to others. So with that, I do something that I don’t have to do. It is encouraging to the other teachers that are really tired from a long day of dealing with children.
I am teaching myself how to teach English and in all honesty, I love it. I hadn’t really ever seen myself being a teacher, but now I am thinking that this is the carrier path I want to take. I, also, help some French kids (age 6-7) with mathematics and French grammar. I help them in french which makes me really exhausted at the end of the day.

In the beginning, when I had no idea what was ever happening I learned patience and self-control. Also, in the beginning I tried sleeping in through the family breakfast (which is at 7:30am) because I didn’t want to listen to more things I didn’t understand, but then I made a decision that the way to learn and build relationships with the family I live with is to participate in all that they do (Even if that means waking up and having breakfast with them when I am not obligated to).

When I made the decision to go to Italy to visit the Spotos, it wasn’t because I was looking to have a vacation in Italy, it was because I wanted to see what it meant to be a long-term missionary in a different country and to see a couple that has been sent out and supported by my home church in action. 

When I decided to spend Christmas in France it was, because, yes, I wanted to see my best friend and meet her family, but it was, also, because I wanted to see what Christmas meant to the French.
Maybe, definition wise what I am doing looks like a “vacation”, because I am traveling a lot, but it isn’t. It is a mission trip. Sometimes I forget what it means to be on a mission trip in the chaos of living, but when I take a quick stop and breathe, I remember that to be able to devote this year of my life to God is a incredible opportunity that most people my age or any age don’t have. In the beginning, I thought being on a mission trip was what I could do for others, not that I would be learning from and being served by others in return.

Mission trip and Vacation are not the same thing. Some days I wish I could be on vacation and just travel around France just soaking in France as a tourist, but unlike a tourist I get to see things that are not just on the surface, but what is really in the heart of French people. Their struggles, hopes, dreams, etc and be able to share in them. That for me is greater than just going to Paris on my birthday.

Skiing and Snow

I was excited when I heard the news, “This next week you are going to be going skiing.”

Then it hit me when I was all done up in the skiing gear. I was putting the ski boots on and was being explained how to lock my shows into the skis.

2016-02-09 11.10.43Right then I started to move and my body tensed and I had a heart attack like none other. Here I was learning how to ski (in french). I never had much experience with snow and now this. Margot helped me the first few minutes then she left to conquer the bigger slopes.

It was just Dany and I. She explained what I should do and it felt awful. My legs were dying and my body was just screaming for me to stop this suicide mission.
I was standing there and then I started going down the mountain (in my mind being a Florida girl, turns out it was “just” the “kiddy” slope).
My heart was racing, I had no idea what was going on. I heard Dany yell “STOP”, and at that moment I realized I didn’t know how to.
So I just toppled over. Dany comes to me and I feel like I am going to throw up.
She says “C’est pas grave.” which basically means it isn’t a big deal.
I just stared at her. I tried making up some excuse about my feet hurting (They were hurting, but that was because I had no idea how to function in them). She responded the way a mother would, “Ok. We can sit for a few minutes then try again.”

After awhile I got used to my legs being in one position and not knowing exactly what was happening. Also, attempting to dodge little children that were obviously better at skiing than me (I think it might be because kids are fearless or something like that).

I was excited to ski when I woke up the next morning. I was getting pretty good at the kiddy slope, not quite ready to move up a level but was definitely gaining confidence. Margot asked if I was bored. I responded, “How can I be bored when every time I go down it is a new experience.”

The rest of the days it rained and took most of the snow away. Basically not enough snow for a good ski.

So that was the conclusion of my skiing experience, but while we were there we made a snowman and went sledding. Over all a really good experience in the snow.

2016-02-10 13.47.36

After this experience I would like to go again.

2016-02-10 13.48.11

In Christ Alone

When I was in India this song “In Christ Alone” was constantly in my head. I would be singing it while I took a bucket shower or humming it as I was walking through a Buddhist temple or just singing it with my team as we drove through the foothills of the Himalayas.

This part of the song is something I think on especially today:

And as He stands in victory
Sins curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

I rejoice in this.

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a lifes first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

I pray constantly for Gods Will to be done in my life, but then when something happens and it doesn’t go according to what I want Gods Will for my life to be I get upset with him. How could he do that to me? His child? I left my home for him. I left my everything for him. Why couldn’t he just do this one thing for me.
Then during my tantrum I see what I have done. I have made a hypocrite of myself. I told him one thing, but in my heart I was in a since trying to bribe God. Look at me, a good little Christian girl serving in France. NOW, give me what I want, but I will wrap it with “Oh, Let your will be done.”

Sadly, I say that I do this more often than not. Do I do the things that I do because I want to use it as leverage towards God (as if I could actually have leverage against him) or do I do them because I love him? I can be so childish and forget what he has already done for me. He doesn’t OWE me anything. I OWE him everything. My breath. My family. My friends. My finances. Nothing is mine. It is all his.

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand

I just think on this. That there is nothing that can take me from his hold. He is not the God of solely the United States, He is the God of the World. He created it. He holds it firmly. His will is being done even when it doesn’t seem that way (example of Joseph being sold into slavery).

I stand for him, because of what he has done for me. Every now and then I remember that the reasonfor me being in France is called “a mission trip”. I guess I had to leave my home to see it clearly though, because for me now this is not just a trip for a few weeks, build something, do a bible lesson, have a good time with my youth group (Not saying that any of that is a bad thing).

This is life.

I think we can forget that we are all on a mission field. That each of us, in Christ, have a mission. That mission is to spread the Good News of who he is and what he has ultimately done for us. When you go to work, to school, pack your kids lunches (or don’t), or do whatever it is you do (like lay in a eno all day). Do not think you are any less important than the person next to you or that they are any less important than you, because I have some Good News for you.

Whether you think so or not, you are a sinner, but the Good News is that there is a way to not be condemned for it. CHRIST IS ALIVE. God has made a way. I advise you take it, cling to it, and in return, Live for it. No, you don’t have to tell every person you meet (because when you don’t speak the same language that makes things a little complicated), but you have your hands, some kind of talent, so SERVE.

God sent me away from my home to realize this.

Enjoy your Easter my family and friends.

Squiggles, Lines, Circles, Dots

It’s strange how a random order of letters after awhile doesn’t look so random, but starts to make sense. Also, how strange sounds and similar words have new meanings and start to become clearer in your mind.

But that doesn’t happen without many mistakes.

I was telling (well, attempting to tell) a story about why I am afraid of lizards.
I was telling one about how I was sitting in a class before taking a test and I reached down to scratch my leg and I ended up with a lizard in my hand. I squealed and threw it.
As I was telling this story I accidentally used the word for “ham” (jambon) to say my “leg” (jambe). Everyone started laughing, even I did, but still it was embarrassing.

A mistake that I do often is using the word for “wind” (vent) when I count for “twenty” (vingt). I have told a few people that my sister is “wind” years old.

More often than not I say ‘yes’ to things that I don’t really want and ‘no’ to things that I do want.
Someone will ask what I want and I don’t know what they are asking so I just give a response and hope for the best.

I have a few inside jokes now in French, which is encouraging.

I understood a conversation talking about gasoline which was nice.

I understand what Pauline, Margot (Paulines Sister), and Dany (Paulines Mom) say most of the time, but when it comes to Didier (Paulines Dad), I neither understand his French nor his English.

My first few weeks my head really hurt, I think it was just the transition of not being able to understand anything and not being able to communicate. Now, I can understand quite a bit, but I still can’t respond very well. I relatively understand instructions, but when it comes to conversations I can get lost.

I was taking a face to face French lesson once a week, but now I am taking a online French lesson twice a week.

It is kind of ironic, being a legal adult and learning things now as a child again.

Moving into Week 3

For the past two weeks I have been trying to figure out how I was going to update all of you. I started a few times and ended up deleting the drafts, because I just didn’t know how to put it all.
When I arrived it didn’t know exactly what I was doing and to finally be here was just a shock in it of itself. France is beautiful and full of so much history. I look out my window in the mornings and think about what new things I will learn that day.
Marseille is unlike any other place I have been thus far.
It is strange to have my own room and to have something that is going to be relatively consistent for the next 6 months.

2016-01-15 11.05.20
Since arriving I have seen things I never even dreamed of. I walk just about everywhere; plus, take the metro and the city buses to get around. It takes me about a hour and half to travel to where I work and attend a church (same building) in L’Estaque (a different section of Marseille).

2016-01-17 12.25.58
On these journeys I read and listen to music. Never thought I would be one of those people that walks around a city with headphones in, but I am.
I enjoy just looking out at the sea and breathing in the salty air. It is absolutely stunning to just watch a sunset over the sea and a sunrise over the mountains.

On Fridays, I help out at Dany’s (Paulines mom) school. Her kids are so cute and they are constantly hugging me, giving me kisses on the hands and cheeks, it is really adorable. Plus, they speak French like 20 miles an hour and can barely catch what they are saying. The kids are 6-7 years old.

The school I help out with in L’Estaque is small but nice. The kids I help with the most are 2.5 to 5 years old, they are so cute and very funny.
On Thursdays I help with an English class for children that have English speaking parents. In March I will start teaching this class, which makes me a bit nervous. It is 5 girls whose ages range from 7-10 years old. They are very sweet smart girls, but I have never taught formally before so this should be interesting.

French is very difficult with all of its conjugations and the pronunciation. I stay quiet most of the time, because I either do not know what is being said or I do not know how to put input into the conversation or I just don’t know the culturally appropriate reaction.

I have been having a lot of headaches recently and have been very tired. I believe it is from everything that is culturally shocking and the fact that I don’t know what is going on 45% of the time.

I miss home, my family, and my friends. These 6 months will pass by quickly I am sure. By the time it ends, I probably won’t want to leave.

Continue to keep me in your prayers. It is hard being a Christian in France, especially when you fall under the Protestant umbrella.

Some Things are Hard

As of right now I am on my trek from Llanelli, Wales to Marseille, France.

The last few days have been very hard for me emotionally. Yesterday, I found out that a woman that used to be my neighbor, my mothers friend, the mother of my brothers best friend, just a great person to be around had passed away. I had recieved this news right after giving a presentation/speech on what I will be doing in Marseille.

My trainer took me aside to tell me this news. Before this, I was smiling and so full of joy, as I was ready for this new adventure. When she told me she recieved a email from my mother, I knew. There was something awfully wrong. She said there was a death. I laughed in her face because I couldn’t believe what she had just said. She told me the name and I stared at her. Just sat there staring at her. Then I just started to sob. It was true.

I fixed my hair, dried my tears, and drank the rest of my coffee. They told me to take as much time as I needed, I didn’t have to go to class. 

I smiled at them, thanked them for their curtesys  and went up stairs to my joined room. Once the door closed behind me I fell to my knees and sobbed again. Questions flooded my mind. My mother must be in pain. My family must be heartbroken. What can I do from so far away? Her children are now orphans. What will happen next? Why now?

I picked myself off the floor and went for a walk outside. I didn’t make it far, I hadn’t told my teammates yet. So I just sent them a text “I need your help…”. They came running, no coats on out into the cold wet weather of Llanelli. For over an hour we talked and prayed and ate cake and walked.

They supported me during this hard time. 

Today, I talked with my bestfriend back home. She told me that her mother is in the hospital and has been there for awhile now. This broke me more. How can so much tragedy be happening when I am a ocean away, countries away, time zones away? There is nothing I can do.

One of my trainers came to me after hearing this news and told me that I was a strong person. She said that it showed real character for someone to pick themselves up and to just move forward. What she didn’t know is before she walked into the room I had been crying for a good 30 minutes. Kind of pitieing all of these situations.

I saw all of this because, yes, it is fun being overseas, it is fulfilling to serve the Lord, but it is also hard. You learn a whole new level of trust in the Lord.

You trust that he will put his arms around your family, since you can’t.

You trust that his ways are perfect and there is a time for all things. No, I do not know why. But I do know this, that my God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow and he loves his children dearly.

You, also, realize that life doesn’t stop when you leave. Things are constantly changing and growing. Babies being born, people getting sick, others getting married, people experiencing joys, and others experiencing sorrows.

There will be more challenges in France. I will miss things back home, but I will be finding new joys in new places.

Please, pray for my family, Jackie Haas’ Family, my bestfriends – Aliyah – mother, and me. Thank you.

The Little Things

I am now back in Wales for a few days finishing up some last minute details for my stay in France (I will be back in France on the 14th of January).

During my last 4 months, I have seen different characteristics of God.

A recurring one is the fact that he loves me and listens/cares for even the little things that I pray for.

With traveling I am not guaranteed much. A place the charge my phone, a nice place to sleep, food that is familiar(or food period), someone that speaks my language, a nice person, etc.

To be honest I have mini heart attacks every time I start traveling. Fears start arising. “What if I miss the bus?” “What if it doesn’t even come?”, “What if my plane is delayed, which means that I miss my bus.”, “what if…”, “what if…”, “what if…”.

In Lakeland, I didn’t have these kind of fears. I had a lot of certainty. If my car broke down I could call my parents. If my parents couldn’t come, then my grandparents would. I see now that I took those things for granted. They didn’t have to do that and many people around the world don’t have people in their lives to do that for them.

I don’t have certainty 100% of the time now. Certainty is not a everyday guarantee, but there is one thing that I am certain of now when times get complicated. That God is with me. That he listens to my prayers and he soothes my fears.

Many, many times, I have been afraid of different things going on. But God shows me that he is in control of the situations.

When leaving Italy I had purchased train tickets to leave from Avigliana to Torino, Torino to Savona, then Savona to Marseille on the 19th of December. Well, I missed the train from Torino to Savona, but luckily for me Jim (the missionary in Italy that I was staying with) was with me. He told me as we got off the train that the Italians are not known for their customer service. So as we were walking up to the customer service counter I prayed intently for a nice understanding gentlemen.
That is what we got.

When our number was chosen, a very nice man helped us sort it out, I would have to leave the next day, but it was sorted.

The next day, I missed the first train from Avigliana to Torino.
Truns out the train schedule for a sunday is different than the other days of the week.
Again, luckily for me Jim and Lori were at their home so they drove me to Torino in just enough time to catch the train to Savona.

With that… I had no idea what train it was that I was to take to Savona. I ran over the the customer service area – praying that the man that helped me the day before was there. He was. So I walked straight up to him. He told me to train. I found it. Got on it and sat down.

For me, just the fact that God put different things in my life to help me through the challenge was a blessing, as well as, the fact that he answered my prayers, even the little ‘petty’ ones.

There has been so many other occasions that he has answered my prayers.

From this I have learned that God loves each of us and he answers our prayers (with a yes, a no, or even a it is not time yet).

I feel very blessed to have this certainty, when nothing else is. I am grateful to have such a loving and compassionate God.

Pray for me as I make my way back to France on Wednesday and live there for the next 6 months.

13 Days in Italy

Back in May, when I was just graduating from Polk State Collegiate I met Lori and Jim Spoto.

Pauline and I introduced ourselves to them after Jim gave a “charge” speech to the graduating seniors at our church.

Once introduced, I told them about what I planned to do this next year and they invited me to stay with them over Christmas break since I was not going home.

So with that I went to Italy and stayed with the Spotos in Italy for 13 days.

I went not knowing any Italian and left knowing quite a bit about the culture, the people, the customs, and a few pounds heavier from all of the fantastic food.

I saw many beautiful things in Italy, such as:

The city of Torino (Turin)

The Mole Antonelliana in Torino

The Sacra di San Michele (also, while here I saw the Alpes)

I was able to see and be apart of a blossoming church, which was established by the Spotos. When the Spotos were speaking about their church back in May, I didn’t entirely understand the gravity of having a church in Italy, but since being there and experiencing it I now know what it means to be a missionary, and to be one in a different country with different cultures and being seperated from your family.

While staying with the Spotos I was invited to many different dinners, along with them.

I had such good food, such as:

A genuine Italian Pizza


and Gelato

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

I loved my time in Italy and had fun meeting so many people. The only awkard thing was doing the kisses on the cheeks.
At first I didn’t know which cheek to start the kiss on and then by the end I was so used to the kisses that when someone gave me a hug I was rigid, because I didnt know what they were doing.

I love Italy and pray that I can go back one day and see the Spotos again. I don’t think I will ever be able to thank them enough for their kindness and generosity toward me during my stay in Italy.

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