Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the final door closes

The last attempt to gain a visa for me to live in France for a year was unsuccessful. It's been quite the journey these last few months as I have been seeking God's plan for the next year of my life. When I was first approached about this huge opportunity I really had a hard time wanting to do it. After much prayer and wrestling I decided my only reasons for not going were selfish and God wanted me to prove my willingness to go wherever He sent me. I had after all promised Him at 16 that if He sent me somewhere I would go. If He was calling me to France for a year could I not? So I moved forward. Then the au pair visa roadblock came up. This kind of surprised me and threw me off guard a bit as it seemed pretty bizarre and we took a step back to see what could be done around it. We finally came up with a plan B but now that door has closed as well. I feel a bit like Abraham must have, first God told Him he had to sacrifice His only son PROMISED to him by God Himself, only to get all the way to the top of Mt. Moriah and have the angel stop him. I suppose this was God proving me, whether or not I was serious about going where He sent me, only in this case He didn't see it as actually necessary to send me. I am sure there are plenty of lessons to be learned from this experience and maybe some that won't become apparent for years but for now I wait to see what God brings along next.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

the next step

I haven't blogged in awhile mostly because I haven't really had time but a lot because I didn't have anything newsworthy to share. There have been some developments in the France saga but I realized I hadn't shared any of them so a lot of people don't know what's going on and since it's kind of a complicated story it seems smart to type it out and then everyone can just read it yes?

In order to stay in France for longer than 90 days (legally) I must have a visa of some kind. I emailed the French consulate in Houston and explained my intentions and they pointed me to the "au pair visa". This visa requires me to bring papers including a contract signed by the family I would be staying with and also by the DDTEFP (please don't ask me what it stands for because I don't remember). My France family asked the DDTEFP what all was required in order to get this contract signed and was told by the lady who has to sign it that I must have had prior French education to come under the au pair visa. This was a surprise because we hadn't seen that listed anywhere and after further questioning she insisted I must have had 300 credit hours of French. We were a bit stunned. As far as I understand they checked around and while this is NOT a written requirement, since this lady has to sign the contract and she decided I needed to have had the 300 credit hours she can pretty much say what she likes and we have to follow it. Since it is physically impossible for me to get that much French in and apply for a visa before September we scratched the au pair visa off our list.

The only other real option this left us with was applying for a non-professional long stay visa. The tricky part to this is that they want to see proof that I can financially support myself for a year and not be a burden on the state as I'm not allowed to get a job while I'm there on it. We have notarized documents from my France family stating they wish to sponsor me, proof of their finances etc, but the Houston consulate also mentioned they wanted to see proof that I had financial means to support myself. They didn't give an exact number but considering I have nothing...I'm not expecting it to pass muster. We are proceeding with the application though and I have an appointment Friday morning (June 24) at the consulate. When I first said I would go I had no idea there would even be any problems with this part of the process, and now it seems the doors keep closing. To be honest it really messes with my emotions suddenly having everything seem so up in the air again. The last few months I've heard of a lot of problems from others trying to renew their carte de sejour, missionaries who have been in France for 20 years now, and the college students they work with having trouble being able to stay in France.

It doesn't look good but I know if I'm supposed to be there God will make it happen, and it will be dramatic evidence that France is where I'm supposed to be. If I'm rejected for my visa though I have to admit I'd feel a lot of relief as the idea of moving to another country seems rather daunting. I know though that if God calls you to it He will see you through it and just the other Sunday we had a sermon on God giving grace for His calling on your life. I have to confess as I sat there I was not feeling the grace to go and I told God that. I've always asked Him through the years that if He had something for me to do that my whole heart would be into it, that I'd want it. I haven't felt that way this time but I didn't have any real reasons to not go other than selfish ones that were all about me. It was like God was saying "can you not give up a year of your life for someone, for Me?" So I moved forward thinking this is what I was supposed to do. The instability of it all makes me unsure of everything since I wasn't totally confident beforehand. I'm determined though that if I manage to get this visa that I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

So Friday morning at 9:00 I'll be at the consulate and I would love your prayers that God directs through them what He wants to happen in September. If it's that I go to France, that I would also have the grace and peace to move forward. If it's that I don't that I would still be listening for what He has planned for me this coming year. I have some ideas of things I'd like to pursue but I do not know yet what He wants. Thank you for your prayers and support!

Friday, April 1, 2011

and the winner is....

So the poll was great fun and I loved all the comments that were made and IM'd me about the options. :) What I found to be most amusing is two of the most vocal and opinionated voices were males (both happened to vote for this case as well) and I got a kick out of their reasoning. It was also interesting to note how many friends voted for this saying it was "just me" when this was actually a completely last minute addition. Apparently France has already become part of my identity. I'm watching the site to see if iPhone cases will go on sale within the next couple of weeks because I also have a $10 coupon and I'd like to combine if possible. I will post a picture as soon as I get the case. :)

While on the subject of France, I have submitted my passport for renewal and we are trying to learn exactly what documents we need to have for my visa. It's kind of confusing (wow apparently government bureaucracy is the same no matter what country you are dealing with!) exactly what they want but we're working on it. I will be so glad to have that part figured out and done!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

decisions, decisions

I am notorious in my family for my lack of decision making ability. The more that hangs on the line for the decision the longer it takes me to decide on something. So this time when I couldn't make up my mind I thought maybe I could make a game of it! This is the kind of thing people expect from a blog anyway right? So I found a bunch of really cute iPhone cases on a site called Zazzle.com and want to get one but I can't pick which one to get. Below are the choices with a number below each and to the right column side just beneath the "About Me" section close to the top is the poll. You have one week (or less) to vote for your favorite. They are all customizeable so if you see one YOU like just click on the picture to be taken to the site so you can see what it looks like with your name or initials instead of mine. :)











Thursday, February 17, 2011

and so it begins...

So they say that "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step" but it began for me with a Facebook message...a proposition from a sweet family I met in France last year to come nanny for them as they pray God blesses them with a new little one. I was definitely surprised and completely honored to have been asked but after just a couple of days of pondering it, I could not see myself moving so far away from my family for a whole year and told them regretfully that I would not be able to help. I must admit that as I finished the message and moved my cursor to hit "send" I hesitated for a moment. It bothered me to tell them no but at the same time I felt it would bother me more to say yes. I tend to have difficulty saying no anyway and assured myself it was okay, that I couldn't help EVERY one.

A second request came, asking me if I would please pray with them for three weeks about it? Well surely I could handle that! If it really wasn't for me then there was no worries and I would definitely want God to send someone that could help them. But almost instantaneously a strange feeling of uneasiness began to bubble up inside. I found myself uninterested in praying seriously about whether God wanted me to go and was instead jumping straight to "God since You know I can't do this could You please send someone else?" The struggle grew within me because I knew this wasn't how I was to pray...I wasn't even allowing that God might be sending me, I was telling Him what I wanted Him to do. I knew this wasn't the right attitude to have but I felt like the more I prayed the harder I was clenching my fists shut and God was gently saying over and over "you have to open your hands". Somehow I knew though that if I did it would mean I had to go...

During this time I shared some of my thoughts and feelings with a few close friends trying to find some direction in just talking it through and secretly hoping they would have good reasons why I shouldn't go or help me think of some. So far the only reasons I had come up with on my own were primarily selfish. Of course God uses friends to speak to us and instead of giving direction either way the first few days the messages repeated themselves from more than one source--you promised to pray for three weeks about this, you have to follow through. Then a second insight that first started in my own heart but was confirmed aloud by another friend. What is your reason for being so sure you don't want to go? Well, I just can't leave my friends and family! Is God not enough? I was stunned at this one. Of course God is enough! But He gives us people for a reason, I argued. Are you not willing to let them go for God?

On and on I wrestled. My emotions swung like a pendulum back and forth, back and forth. One day I thought He was saying go and the next I just really didn't think I had that "peace" everyone said I would have because I couldn't get over what I would leave behind. But the true turning point came when one day I decided "since I don't have an obvious peace about going, I should just stay then". This lasted an hour or two and then the more the day went on the more uneasy I became. An older, wiser friend who happens to be my boss had made the statement that this opportunity was just made for me. I would be able to be a missionary as well as doing what I love helping with children and ministering to a Christian family. Of course she was right, but I was still having trouble unclenching my fists. As the days went on I realized more and more I really didn't have any good reasons to not go. Finally Sunday, the day before the three weeks ended, we heard a lesson at church from Dr. Charles Stanley on prayer and almost every point was confirmation that God had been giving me an answer all along, I was just choosing to not accept it. I wanted it to be easy and God doesn't ask us to do easy things. If we only did easy things we would never learn or draw closer to Him.

Of course it came back to my mind more than once how much I loved the French culture, food, etc...how I had told people when I came home that if it weren't so far away I could easily live some place like that. Oh yes, I did say that. It's probably in this blog somewhere too. I did find the language barrier to be quite troublesome but overall I liked the French life. And the clothes! It wasn't like God was asking me to go to China, or Africa, or India...places that I would surely find difficult to grasp the culture or language easily. He was sending me some place relatively "easy".

I messaged the family on Monday and let them know I had prayed about it and felt God directing me to move forward. The reply I got was so precious. They were thrilled to hear I would come. To hear them talk about it I was completely humbled. Who was I that the Lord chose me for this assignment, to be the answer to so many prayers? I felt like crying and knew more than ever I'd made the right decision.

So I begin this journey and wonder what all lies ahead. My previous trip to France felt so completely removed from my normal reality that I would probably liken it to stepping through the wardrobe to Narnia. I'm excited to go back and yet I know it won't all be fun and a piece of cake. There will be moments of loneliness, of homesickness, of missing the people I love...but He is enough. I would greatly appreciate your prayers and support on this new adventure. I'm definitely going to need it. :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I realize I haven't blogged very much since I've been home. Part of this is a lack of a desire to really type anything that has been running through my head and part is that I've kept decently busy. I do think though that it is only likely to get busier from here on out. I've been keeping a darling 14 month old girl named Emma for the last couple of months and this coming week she goes to Montessori school. Later in February I will begin working full time for a new family. It will be the first time I consistently work 40 hours a week and I'm a bit anxious about that transition. I don't do nearly well enough keeping up with my responsibilities at home as it is and I'm about to have even less time. I did join a local singing group and I'm excited about that. It will definitely be a stretching experience musically and I know there is a LOT I have to learn, but I'm thrilled to be able to do it.

There is a rather big decision looming before me though that I'd really covet your prayers on. It's definitely something I never dreamed being a possibility and probably an opportunity that won't come up again. At the same time it's a huge step and would be insanely hard for me to do even with God's grace enabling me. If you think about me please pray for God's absolute crystal clear direction. Preferably in a handwritten note from God. ;) Just kidding. I am praying about this until February 14 and want to have absolute peace on whether or not I'm supposed to proceed. If it should become apparent this is God's will for me I will certainly be letting you know. :) (Mamma if you're reading this I promise to tell you about it next time I see you) God is good and He is always more than enough but sometimes it seems like He asks us awfully big things. Isn't this crazy thing we call life an adventure???

Stumbled across this tonight and I liked it a lot and wanted to share.

"What can it mean? Is it ought to Him
That the days are long, and the nights are dim?
Can He be touched by the griefs I bear,
Which sadden the heart and whiten the hair?
About His throne are eternal calms,
And strong glad music of happy psalms,
And bliss unruffled by any strife--:
How can HE care for my little life?

And yet, I want Him to care for me,
While I live in this world where sorrows be.
When the lights die down from the path I take;
When strength is feeble and friends forsake;

And love and music which once did bless,
Have left me to silence and loneliness;
Then my life-song changes to sobbing prayers,
And my heart cries out for a GOD WHO CARES.

When shadows hang o'er the whole day long,
And my spirit is bowed with shame and wrong,
And I am not good, and the bitter shade
Of conscious sin makes my soul afraid;
And the busy world has too much to do
To stay in its courses to help me through;
And I long for a Savior - can it be
That the God of the universe CARES FOR ME?

Oh, wonderful story of deathless Love,
Each child is dear to that heart above'
He fights for me when I cannot fight;
He comforts me in the gloom of night;
He lifts the burden, for He is strong;
He stills the sigh and awakes the song;
The sorrows that bear me down HE shares,
And loves and pardons because HE CARES.

Let all who are sad take heart again;
We are not alone in our hours of pain;
Our Father looks from His throne above
To soothe and comfort us with His love.
He leaves us not when the storms are high,
And we have safety, for He is nigh;
Can that be trouble which He doth share?
Oh, rest in peace, for the Lord DOES CARE."
(Hugh Miller)