I can't believe we've hit the one year mark for being in France. We left last year on the 28th and arrived on the 29th. A little over a year now! I've made many attemps at writing this post but keep stopping because I haven't really been able to put my thoughts together from this crazy year. Here goes...
This has been a year of major growth, learning, and humbling. I'm a creature of habit and really struggle with change, so when we moved to France, about 95% of my life was competely turned upside down. The first 3 months were the most difficult of my life as I struggled with major culture shock and living a completely different life than I was used to. However, one of the greatest things I've learned this year is that I can't (and shouldn't) try to do everything on my own. I'm used to living a pretty independent life and coming here, I had to start asking for help and be willing to accept it when offered.
As the time has gone on, it continues to get easier. Apparently it takes around 5 years for someone to be fully integrated into a new culture and to feel like they understand the place, language, and see it as a "new home." Now that I'm a year in, I think that statistic is totally legit... It's a long journey, but I look forward to continuing closer to that mark and each day feeling more French and at home here.
Will and I have worked really hard to make this transition as easy as possible and to keep making changes to make this feel as homey and normal as we can. Even for Will, it has been overwhelming. He hadn't been back to France long-term in 5 years and this time was bringing his wife with him and living a different way than before, so there were definitely adjustments for him as well. We have a long way to go but when I look back on the first few months here, I'm grateful for where we are. It can be lonely to be in a new country, only knowing a few people and not being able to meet anyone new because they speak a different language. Throughout this year, God has put some incredible French and English speaking people into my life to show me that I'm not alone and that there are really great people everywhere. As a side note, I encourage you to love on the foreigners that you know! There's a good chance they are home-sick, lonely, or just wanting to know that there are people there that care.
We met some friends (another young couple) through church and had them over for a game night last night and were laughing at how small this world really is. They are from Indiana but lived in Cincinnati for two years, at the same time Will & I were living in Cincinnati. (Only about 10 minutes from us!) So there we were, both couples coming from Cincinnati and now living in the same city in an entirely different country. Pretty cool!
I'm especially grateful for the ways God has used this year to build Will and I's marriage. We were only married 5 months before moving here so it has been really cool to go through this crazy journey together and to be challenged more than we would have ever been if we had stayed in the US. I've also been able to understand and know Will better as I learn more about the French culture. Here's a small example: I never understood why he didn't ever used napkins when he ate, and now that I'm here, I know it's because French families don't use napkins. (It's weird.) The more I learn about the people here, the more I can understand things about Will that I haven't understood before, because of the culture differences.
There are many things I miss about the US, but there are also many things that I love here as well. I miss the convienence of the American life, but I love that the French are less busy, and take more time to slow down. I miss having my car, but I love that I live a more healthy and active life walking every I go. (I average 5-7 miles a day! Crazy) I miss having a huge community of Believers around me and an incredible home church, but I love that God has connected us with others who love Him and are also here because they've been called to share the Gospel. I miss Cincinnati, but I love Lyon and am happy to have two "homes" in two different countries. I miss our old first apartment, but I'm obsessed with the old buildings in Europe and love walking outside and getting the incredible view of the river and city.
I still have a long way to go, but I rejoice in the small moments that show me that I've made it so much further than when we first arrived in France. Initially, I spoke only a few words of French. Now I understand bits and pieces of conversation, baby-sit two French girls, can give simple directions, and can have small talk with other dog walkers when I walk Joey. Before France, I had never used public transportation by myself. Now I'm able to go most anywhere in the city using the bus, subway, Tram, and walking. I remember crying my first time in the grocery store because I was SO overwhelmed, and now I grocery shop every week with no issues. For the first few months, I was too scared to go shopping by myself in fear of not being able to communicate, if needed. I can now work my way through most stores and places I go without problems. Simple but BIG accomplishments for me.
I really am looking forward to 2017. This was a hard year, but I am grateful. I think this year set the foundation for our time in France and for the exciting things that will come next year and even further into the future. Will and I have focused this past week on thinking about our hopes and dreams for 2017 and have set goals to make this a year of personal accomplishments and for taking steps to accomplish goals we had when we decided to move to France. We want to be intentional in all areas of our lives.
We are excited to watch God plant and grow seeds in the lives around us, to grow in our relationships, and not just to live our lives here in France, but to thrive and flourish.
Through all we've been through this year, we can continue to say, "God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good!"
On a lighter note, I wanted to share some pictures from my favorite adventures from the past year. We had many!