this is a monet.
today is bastille day.
it feels like yesterday i was in france celebrating bastille day. it was 2004. i was 5 years younger. matthew and i were only friends. i was different then. better in some ways, worse in some ways. but i was different. i would be a completely different person if i didn't go on this trip. and i would live every moment of it again.
i was there with my wonderful team. brad, rachel, becky, and me. we were the best and weirdest team ever. we were gone for 6 months, our first 3 months were spent in saint louis, france. i never felt so lost in all my life. i remember getting off the plane in zurich, switzerland and feeling this incomparable rush of adrenaline. like i could go forever. as soon as we got our bags packed in the van and started to drive, i started hallucinating. the first few days are a blur of jet lag, headaches, and upset stomachs. the veteran missionaries told us the key is to not sleep, just stay up until it is bedtime. one of the many suggestions and rules and advice they rattled off to us in our first few hours of landing that we were not in a physical or emotional state to really listen to.
in the next 3 months i learned more about myself then i ever wanted to. and more about my team than i ever wanted to. everyday i was faced with my ugliness, the darkest parts of my heart. my teammates saw it too, and they loved me still. i saw theirs, and i loved them still. we were all we had. God shaped me more in that 3 months (and then again in the 3 months that followed in timisoara, romania) than He did in my entire life previously, or even since. But God doesn't change, He remains the same. always. there was something about that place, about that team, about that situation, that gave me the desire to change, the power to do it no matter how much the pain, and the will to not give up. if i had not gone on this trip, i would be a completely different person.
in fact, i think that every believer in Christ should experience cross cultural missions in some capacity. rejecting this experience is rejecting a blessing that God is offering to you, it is rejecting a chance to grow and become more of who you were meant to be.
here we are. becky, me, rachel, brad. no matter what happens, no matter the miles, or the disagreements, or the lack of contact, they are my family. i will love them til i die.
we ate. we ate alot. doner kabobs, anyone? how about a fresh baguette?
we shopped. we didn't buy much, but we were sure looked. we even had a pretty woman moment in louis vuitton. that mean man made us cry and feel worthless. but that didn't stop us form shopping and dreaming.
mostly, we just lived. we rode our bikes, we took the bus, we took the train, we walked, we didn't really drive. we cleaned the toilet, we made dinner, we took family walks. we read, we read a lot. we did puzzles and played cards, and took classes and studied, we worked and played and slept. and we did it all together.
we visited vineyards. we saw lots of the, there are grape fields in the alsace, like there are corn fields in nebraska. they never got old. they were beautiful every time.
we visited castles, and ruins of castles, and castles that had been reproduced. they kind of did get old.
we visited quaint french villages. they looked like beauty and the beast to me. exactly like a fairytale.
and we went to paris. oh, did we go to paris. rachels parents couldn't stand it that we were so close and wouldn't be able to go. so they gave us one of the best gifts of my life. they sent us money, and told us to go to paris. we did. my life was changed by that alone.
i dream about the eiffel tower. oh, do i miss the eiffel tower. it might be my favorite place int he world. when i first caught a glimpse of the eiffel tower, i cried. in fact my eyes are welling up a little thinking about it.
the french people were not cruel, they did not hate us because we were american. they loved us. everyone we met wanted to cook for us, and talk to us, and be our friends. they wanted to really know us, and wanted to know about america. they were filled with passion, and love, and heart. we could learn something from the french.
the european cup was going on while we were there. the countries play each other in a huge soccer competition. every time france won, the streets would erupt in fire works, and cheers, and honking horns. one of my fondest memories is riding our bikes home in the dark after a game. french flags were waving everywhere, "viva la france" being yelled from every window. it was perfection, like a dream.
there were hard times in france too, but now, i can hardly remember them. i only remember the best parts. i remember growing, and changing, and becoming me. i remember family walks on the trails, and long bike rides to school. i remember the wheel of my bike falling off in the middle of street, and teaching brad how to shuffle cards. i remember the castles, and round point, and loafs of bread falling out of the packaging trying to ride them home from the grocery store on our bikes. i remember coffee, and books, and school. and i remember my team. i remember the french. and i loved it. i loved every minute of it. i would relive every minute of it, even the bad, again, because it really was some of the best days of my life.
so today, on bastille day, i say "VIVA LA FRANCE!" and i say i love you and miss you edge team.