Plus Belle La Vie

A More Beautiful Life

Category: France

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.

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After this experience I would like to go again.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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.

The Event – A Taste of France

On Saturday August 22, my mom came to my room at 6:30 a.m. and told me it was time to start our day, a day filled with cooking, cleaning, and speaking.

We had prepped the food the night before so it was time to start cooking.

My mother started on the Ratatouille, while I worked on the crepes (which in the end took me 6 hours straight to make all of them).

We were preparing a meal for 100 people. Only 75 had RSVP, but we were hoping that by the grace of God more people would spontaneously show up to support the trip.

The food had taken us the whole day. My mother worked diligently on the Ratatouille and Chicken to make it perfect for all of our guests, while Mrs. Tracy Lafler set up the decorations in my home church’s Stadium room to ensure that the guests felt like they were in France or at least close enough.

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The event turned out to be a success. No, a hundred people did not show up, but with the people that did we had a great time of fellowship and each of us enjoyed our meal and the time just to be in each others company.

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When it came time for me to give a little speech on the trip, I was extremely nervous. One of my best friends, Emily Strickland, told me “Belle, just act like you are talking to me. Whatever you think I need to know, tell me. You will do great.” That is the best advice anyone has ever given me. Since Emily and I have been friends for over 6 years now, I was comfortable talking with her, thus I was comfortable talking to the crowd.

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When I stood in front of the crowd of my friends, family , fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and some co-workers. I told them about my passion for the calling that God has given me to go to France and I was not nervous anymore. Words flowed from my mouth and questions were answered. I was excited. I wanted to tell them every single detail, but I knew they wouldn’t want to be there all night. I had only spoken in front a classroom full of students for college twice, and those speeches I gave were not as fulfilling as telling my loved ones where God will be taking me and what his plans are for my life.

When the whole evening was over and many people generously helped us clean up. I went home, read notes that people had left, and counted the amount that people had given. After the food costs and all other expenses were paid for, the event profited $1,080 toward my trip. When I sat at home that night counting the money I was expecting maybe a couple hundred. I was praying for at the most 200 dollars.
And then there it was $1,080. The generous hearts of many that came out that evening had not only supported me by writing beautiful notes (which I have scanned into the computer to take along with me) and attending, but by, also, giving financially.

I still need more support, but for the time being I can say that I have been more than blessed.

Thank you all who came out on Saturday to support the mission trip I am attending. Also, thank you to all of my friends who served alongside my family and I that evening by serving the meal, cleaning up, greeting people, and so much more.12 days and counting.

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MARK YOUR CALENDARS – August 22 @ 6pm

Fund Dine 4 Belle

Welcome to My Blog

Hello, all. I have made this website for my friends and family to stay posted on my life as I go off this year. Starting this fall I will be getting on a plane and flying overseas to go through missionary training. While I am away there will be a five (5) hour time difference, nine (9) hour and thirty (30) minute time difference, and a six (6) hour time difference. I hope that this website will close the gap between my loved ones and myself. This website provides a way for everyone to read from my blog page the same story the same way, as I won’t have the time to call each person individually everyday. I expect that this next year will be a extreme challenge and will test my faith more than any other point in my life.

I have attempted to make this website easy to utilize and have the capability to answer all of your questions thoroughly. If you still have more questions you can contact me via the contacts page.

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