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Friday, January 12, 2018

Au Revoir Paris: Until We Meet Again

It's our last full day in Paris after 10 months of living here. We fly out tomorrow morning and will sleep in our own home in Desert Hot Springs tomorrow night. That is such a weird thought. For sure, this has been a year of unexpected pleasure, challenge and meaningful interactions. The American Church in Paris has been a place of growth and joy and even after such a short time, feels very much like a church home, one that we will long to return to in the coming years. There is no doubt that we will miss the worship services and seeing the students who have burrowed deeply into our hearts on a regular basis. We will remain curious about how they will develop and where their lives will take them. We will miss our colleagues who have invited us into this staff in the most affirming and inclusive manner. The church is clearly what has made our time here so special and all of the wonderful people that we've been privileged to know but of course, the backdrop of Paris, added rich dimensions that are worthy of reflection. So here's a bit of a review of the past 10 months.
What I Will Miss The Most:
French Butter. I know, bizarre. But it is better. And the stuff with salt crystals in it is beyond delicious. I am packing a kilo to bring home in my suitcase.
Walking and Wandering. Paris is by far the most fun city to wander around. Lurking around every corner is a beautiful building, an inviting bistro beckoning one to sit and watch the world go by, and beautiful parks and green spaces that urge people to stop and enjoy the surroundings. 
Lifestyle on Foot. While I am excited to drive our car again, I will miss being able to walk to the store, walk to our bakery, walk to go out to lunch, etc.
Public Transportation. Having a car is great for many things but it's also awesome to have the option of avoiding car use when you so desire, like when you go out to dinner and want to have a drink, or don't want to fight traffic or have to find a place to park.
Easy Travel to Beautiful Places. France has dazzled me this year. In short amounts of time from Paris we've been to the mountains and the coast, surrounded by vineyards and taken in amazing views. It's all fantastically lovely and I will miss having it all at fingertips.
Our Local Bakery. They tolerated my inability to speak French, they helped me navigate the choices, they were kind and lovely to me. Buying a freshly baked baguette for about a $1.50, biting off the end as I walked home, slathering it with the above mentioned French butter...the only good thing that could come out of this is that all bread in the US will now taste bad and so I'll be able to cut back on carbs!
Randomly Seeing the Iconic Monuments of Paris. I love that I've seen the Eiffel Tower most days. I will miss spotting the gold dome of Invalides knowing my home and church were just down the street. I will miss seeing Sacre Coeur from random places in the city and the little thrill that came with seeing it each time I did. The bridges that crossed the Seine, Notre Dame, The Louvre and the d'Orsay museums...all spectacular buildings that I never wearied of seeing.
The Food. Restaurant favorites, outdoor markets and the good ol' grocery store will be missed. The food here is just so darn good. It's fresh, it's carefully made and prepared and it's has ruined my palette in a good way.

Cheap, Good Wine. Available in the grocery store. All the time.
Living in A Country with A Sane Leader. No commentary needed. Emmanuel Macron makes me proud. The other one...not so much.

Of course, there is so much more. But these things do stand out. But alas, lest you think living in Paris is perfect there are some things that I won't miss and definitely some things that I am looking forward to in returning to the US.

What I Won't Miss
Not Knowing the Language. I have never lived in a country where I didn't learn the language and this has been tough. I have picked up a fair amount of French vocabulary but having not really studied the language with any degree of seriousness, I don't know how to conjugate verbs or put together a cohesive sentence. Well, that's not entirely true. I did master Je ne parle pas français perfectly. The best I did was learn to read a menu, which proved to be very helpful.
Limited Recreational Options. One of the things I am most looking forward to are the recreational opportunities that CA offers to us. Access to water we can swim in is one of those things. Having tennis and golf in our backyard. And lots and lots of sunshine. Paris is crushingly gray this time of year and I'm ready for a bit more warmth and sunshine.
Living in An Apartment. While I have greatly appreciated the wonderful accommodation that ACP has provided for us, I am excited about living in my house again. Our house is still relatively new to us and we are excited to enjoy the large yard, eating outside, my big beautiful kitchen, gas stove, outdoor grill, king size bed, robotic vacuum, and having all of my favorite things at my finger tips.
We've embraced our life in Paris with vigor and joy. And we've been the grateful recipients of incredible experiences that we will treasure for a life time. But our job here is now finished and it's time for us to return to CA. We will miss many things and welcome other things. We will long for our life in Paris at times even while revelling in the CA lifestyle that we also enjoy. We're thankful for it all and I suppose in our hearts, kind of know that we'll see Paris again one day.
So we join Rick from Casablanca, and thousands who have gone before us, in saying, "We'll always have Paris."

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 in the Rear View Mirror

One year ago Doug and I had were ringing in the new year in our home in California with friends we had met in London, having absolutely no idea that a few weeks later we’d be moving to Paris. Such is life when God leads the way! As this unlikely year comes to a close, I could not be more delighted with how it unfolded. The opportunity to live in Paris, join a phenomenal staff at the American Church in Paris while shifting ministry gears to focus on youth and young adults have been the gifts of this year. 
 What a great adventure it has been. 
We have loved hanging out with kids again and discovered that we still have quite a bit of kid inside of us! 
Working with young adults has always been a joy of ours and to be able to journey alongside of so many young people, who are interested in living lives of significance and service all the while seeking a deeper faith has been wonderful. We will treasure this year in ministry and miss our colleagues, the kids, and the congregation very much as our interim ministry comes to a close in one week. ACP will welcome a new youth and young adults pastor in the coming weeks and we are excited for what awaits everyone! We will return to the desert on January 13 and begin a brand new that we have no idea about right now! 
And as weird as this may sound, we actually got through 2017 without the death of an immediate family member. It’s been too many years in a row where we’ve lost someone near and dear to us so we are thankful for the health and well being of our family at this time.
Of course, having the opportunity to actually live in Paris and not merely visit has been a dream. Paris is the ultimate wander around and discover cool stuff city! I’ve greatly enjoyed stumbling through a new area and discovering yet another thing that stands out in this dreamy city. Indulging in the cuisine scene, drinking so much rosé last summer that my skin turned pink, walks along the Seine, discovering real crêpes Amorino ice cream, café cremes, and of course, the bread and the butter in all its glorious deliciousness...I will miss these things! Got to check going to Roland Garros for tennis off my bucket list. 
And of course, I was able to get two trips to Disneyland Paris in during these months! 
Additionally, the opportunity to take short trips in order to discover more of France has provided us with more beauty than I can adequately express. And the challenge and depth of walking the Chemin de Saint Jacques from Paris to Chartres will continue to linger in my mind’s eye. France is a truly remarkable county and while we’ve seen a lot of it, I still feel like there is so much more to discover! 

We’ve been blessed to have many visitors here in Paris, each person sharing in the joy of our life together. In addition to our travels throughout France, we’ve also visited friends in Belgium, Luxembourg, and returned to Stockholm for a glorious visit last summer. Additionally, the added bonus of attending yet one more International pastors conference in Vienna, Austria and Bratislava, Slovakia was icing on an already wonderful cake.
So as we end this year and begin another one, I do so with an open heart and mind to what 2018 has in store for us. It is a real gift to be able to be open to whatever possibility might present itself. We are so thankful for our beautiful home and we look forward to living there again. The promise of deepening relationships with those in our community awaits us and this brings us joy. 
We will miss ACP. It has been a wonderful church to work at but more importantly, a wonderful community to be a part of. It has felt like home in much the same way Stockholm did and we have benefited from being part of a warm, healthy, vibrant, worship filled place. We do not look forward to the challenge of finding a new church but we do feel we have a much clearer sense of where we want to land.
So we wish you a very Happy New Year...and this year we also say bonne année! 
We’ll be drinking the last of the bottles of Champagne from Champagne and savoring every sip. 
Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful new year and great adventures ahead in 2018.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas in Paris

     What joy it is has been to journey through these Advent weeks in Paris. It's always so much fun to experience the Christmas season in a new city, taking in their traditions and decorations. Paris has certainly not skimped on the decorations, it is after all, the city of lights and the Christmas lights here are nothing short of fabulous. The French Christmas markets have also been charming and delicious! Having the opportunity to sneak two Belgian markets, Brussels and Brugge, on our way to Strasbourg, the mother of all markets, evoked my childlike wonder in a big way. The windows on display throughout the city are incredible. 
When I first saw these beautiful bears in the Ralph Lauren windows on Saint Germain, my breath was taken away. Who knew a bear could be so elegant?! I even caught a glimpse of Sweden in one shop window! 
One rainy afternoon we ventured out to the La Défense Christmas market. It was lovely but a bit marred by the rain and chill. We warmed ourselves up with vin chaud and good friends. I still need to get to Notre Dame area and wander around there a bit. Thus far, Avenue Montaigne has dazzled the most with its over the top fashion houses and the stunning Hôtel Plaza Athénée. The Champs Élysées has beautiful lighting but overall, it's just a bit too commercial for my taste. 
   Last Saturday, a group of young women who have been working with our youth came around to bake cookies for our youth Christmas party. Church received a basket of foie gras and terrines and other delectable items that we shared one lunch time. Chocolates have been given as gifts. We've had some lovely dinners out. We've shared some special time with the dearest of friends who took time for a weekend in Paris. Much laughter and joy shared around our table. All in all, it's been very festive and fun.   
     At the center of it all however has been the American Church in Paris, a joy-filled festive place with worship services and a Christmas concert that truly lifted us on high. It's been great fun to be part of a big traditional church, with big and bold music, gorgeous sanctuary decorations, and a festive spirit all around The contemporary service has introduced us to some wonderful new Christmas music as well. The lighting of the Advent candles, the music of the season, a memorable Sunday with the children leading's all added up to a very meaning advent journey.
     We also shared in memorable end of semester Christmas parties with both the youth and young adults at church. These young folks have blessed our lives beyond expression and we are so happy that we've had these months to share with them.
     Now we're on the precipice of a big Sunday...4th of Advent combined with Christmas Eve, an oddity of the calendar. We will share in one traditional 4th of Advent worship service at 11.00 a.m. where I am preaching, followed in the afternoon/evening with 3 Christmas Eve services: A family service at 4.00 and two candlelight traditional services, on at 7.30, the other at 10.00. Both are preceded by a half hour prelude of magnificent music and the 10.00 pm is followed by cookies and egg nog as we anticipate the dawning of Christmas morning!
     Christmas day will start with a quiet morning, just the two of us in our cozy, remarkably undecorated apartment followed by Christmas dinner with our senior pastor's family and our intern and his wife, people who are more like family than friends here in Paris.
     I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to journey through this season at ACP and here in Paris. And while the mornings are dark here, the afternoon daylight stretches out much longer than the days in Stockholm did so I haven't felt the darkness bearing down on me as I used to. It's been unusually warm as well, which I'm thankful for given that we don't have our super warm winter clothes with us. Sure, a snowy Paris would be magical, but let's face it, it's all pretty magical, with or without snow.
     Merry Christmas! And may you have a happy New Year as well.