Bonne Année!!! Happy New Year!
I wish you all many blessings and joys as you enter the new year! (beware it’s a long one- but worth it!)
Last we left off, I was planning my vacation home (like, U.S., home) and was preparing to take the last of my exams. So that happened and I
did all my Christmas shopping (my favorite of which was a handmade little Alsacien house made of porcelain that you put a candle in to light it up- for my mom). Then came the packing, which I managed to do pretty impressively I’d say- everything into my backpack. It was an interesting thing, preparing to leave Strasbourg for Christmas, it almost felt like I was leaving home, and that was a strange feeling. I realized that though there were a lot of times that I said I wanted to leave and wanted my family and my country (and my language) back, I still really loved where I was in life, which is pretty awesome.
So our last dinner we ate with the soon-to-be priest who was staying with us for a few days, and I told my host family that my real family has no idea what they look like and that I needed a picture. So we all gathered in front of the sapin and took a family photo. Our friend the frère took a lot of pictures, so we have some funny candids, one of which (posted below) really describes the family I live with and love, especially the look Jeanne is giving her mom and the fact that my host dad is showing me that he has a little American flag on his sweatshirt. It’s a little crazy how much I love living here; I remember being so nervous that my host sisters wouldn’t like me or that Martin would always look at me like I was an intruder, or that Francois would always politely nod every time I said something, which I knew meant he didn’t understand one word that I had said. But I can’t believe the transformation from strangers to family we’ve had, and I am so immensely blessed by that, I hope by the end of the year, I will have communicated how strong that love is for them.
Cubilles et moi in the family picture, aren’t we cute???
(From left to right: Francois, me, Alice, Jeanne, Isabelle, Martin (in front), and Betrand)
Then us kinda just being normal (notice how Francois darts the second he can ;D)
Going home was an experience- I am proud to say that I successfully traveled completely alone and succeeded at it. I got to do all the travelly stuff and make it through customs and even chat with people on the plane a bit. But the best part of the travel was at American customs when the guard asked me what I was doing in France/how long I stayed/blabla and I had never been so happy to speak to someone ever. I was so full of joy to see my family and to be in my country and had the ability to speak with friendly people in our native language, you would have thought I had lived away for 5 years, not months. But I will not tell myself that what I was feeling is an overreaction because this is the craziest, scariest thing I have ever done and I am succeeding like a star.
Christmas at home was amazing. Exactly what I needed. I was so blessed to see so much of my family and many friends between our annual Christmas party, mass, and gatherings. I baked French dessert (my family can testify that though I can make a mean yogurt cake and bredele, I still need some practice- ask Olivia about the mousse or mom about the dry dough…) and told everyone not to worry about my safety abroad due to the attacks. It was so nice chatting and seeing all the support I have at home and all the wonderful people that love me. I had a wonderful Christmas and great sejour aux Etats Unis.
Our own sapin!
Leaving my family was incredibly hard, especially my mom. It is so sad to see someone else so upset over my actions, even if they are for my betterment or well-being. And I know my mom wants me to do this and knows I will benefit greatly from it, but it was really really hard sitting in the airport and watching my family walk away. It’s interesting because that is probably one of the saddest things I can think of that affects me, but it is so temporary and makes for one of the best things- reunion. Not to mention, we bit the bullet and bought my mom a plane ticket to France for April!
Getting to France to spend New Years in Paris and then go back home to Strasbourg was roughhhh. I loved being with new friends who were studying in Spain as well as with Renata, but I felt really upset about leaving home and Paris wasn’t exactly the remedy that I needed. Though I had a great New Years and rang in the year with amazing people and a sparkling Eiffel Tower, it wasn’t until the train to Strasbourg when I opened a text from a friend that I suddenly had this huge weight lifted off of me. Mary reflected my feelings exactly despite not knowing how I was feeling exactly: scared, and doubting that I should have gone back home, but worse, doubting the decision to go back to France. And her advice was amazing: “Tell God that. Tell him you’re scared and why you’re nervous and anxious.” She shared her own experience and I kid you not, I cried in the train as I felt amazing knowing that this was okay and feeling like I could finally let God into this hurt. I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing her words, but I want her and others to know that those words literally changed everything about how I was feeling. From that moment on, I started getting excited to see my host family, who, when I saw them, were incredibly welcoming and fun and I feel closer to them than ever (the kids were literally lined up at the door). I know that homesickness doesn’t go away overnight (and if it does, it’ll come back) but I can’t believe how blessed I am to live with this family and to have this opportunity to be challenged and stretched and for God to be with me the entire time. I hope that anyone abroad still unsure of what the heck they are doing would reach other to loved ones (or me!) because, as I thought, looking at the Eiffel Tower on New Years, this is the bravest thing I’ve ever done. And not only are we all going to get through this, but we’re going to flourish.
Um, so yeah, I needed to share maybe:) But I hope you all enjoyed that window to my soul and I am happy to report my level of joy here is a good one. So bonne nouvelle année and remember you’re loved!
Love and Peace-
PS To everyone that has supported me even with half a word- I appreciate you more than you know.