Blessed to be a Blessing

In order to encourage my kids to love reading and spend more time doing it, we recently started gathering on my bed at night and reading together for a time, followed by a time of individual reading. Many of you have been doing this for years and I say, “Bravo!” I just couldn’t do it in the younger years. I was exhausted by bedtime, and the process we went through to get the four of them happily in their beds took what was left of my mental and physical energy. So I do it now, and it works, and it’s great. No guilt.

Choosing the first book was tricky. I wanted to choose something that would appeal to boys and girls as well as 5 year olds and 10 year olds. I finally settled on The Secret Garden, one of my childhood favorites. But as I continued thinking about how this evening ritual would go (continued meaning about 10 seconds later…because this whole thought came together in about 45 seconds as I cleaned up dinner) I wondered why I wouldn’t read from THE book, the Bible. So in that intense 45 second planning session it was settled, we read one chapter of the Bible and one chapter of The Secret Garden each night together, and then they read one chapter of a book on their own before dozing off.

In my attempts to read the Bible in a year, I have read the book of Genesis more times than I can count. But the thing that got me so excited about studying the Bible several years ago is how I can read the same passage 10 times, and still find a fresh lesson or insight…For the word of God is living and active. Hebrews 4:12.  This time through Genesis 12:2 hit me like a ton of bricks.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 

One of the chief lessons instilled in me as I learned the inductive method of Bible study was to look carefully at words like therefore, however, thus and so that. So in reading this passage with my children, I stopped and examined the words so that. God was talking to Abram and making a promise to bless him..SO THAT he could be a blessing.

God’s promise to bless was not just a reward, it was a challenge…a sending out.

My mind has literally been blown by this idea. My whole life, including the years that I have walked closely with the Lord, I have perceived blessing as a reward. A sort of pat-on-the-back from God Almighty. More recently, after reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, I began to see blessings as a tangible sign of God’s overwhelming grace. But never in all of these years did I think of blessings as a call to action. But that’s exactly what they are.

Can I just stop here and say that I understand that as a Christian I am called to be generous? I understand that living a life that follows hard after Jesus involves giving generously of my money, talent, time, energy… I get that, and I try to live that way. But this is different. A new point of view.

Sometimes when I’m trying to live selflessly, I feel like I’m all tapped out. Kind of like when my kids were babies and nighttime rolled around. There just isn’t anything left to give. But now I think I’ve been going about it all wrong. I’ve been taking the blessings the Lord has given and soaking them up for my own comfort, my own joy, and then finding myself empty when attempting to serve others. I think now that God is saying, “First serve others, and then see how much more is left for you.” In Luke 6:38, Jesus says,

“Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will it be measured back to you.”

If I take the blessings God freely gives me…not as a reward because seriously, what have I done to deserve a reward from the Creator of the Universe???…and use them to bless others, God will measure it all back to me and then some. It’s like a game you play with a toddler. In this case, I’m the toddler. I go out and try to use up everything God gives, but He just keeps giving more. But I keep trying, like a toddler who won’t give up, and God, fully enjoying Himself in this interchange as any parent would, keeps pouring on more and more and more…

Jesus said later in Luke 12:48,

“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.”

This isn’t an ultimatum…this is part of the game! I am blessed to be a blessing. The more I am blessed the more I can bless others and so on and so on and so on.

The problem with this new point of view is that it takes faith. I have to believe that God means what He says in order to spend my blessings on others. The world tells me to use what I have on myself first, but that’s not the way the game works. God won’t fill a jar that hasn’t been emptied.

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

So now the questions become…Do I believe God? Do I believe His word? Will I step out in faith and empty my jar of blessings on others SO THAT He will fill it to overflowing? Or will I continue to take His blessing and selfishly use it for my own comfort and miss out on the greatest game of my life?

And you? What will you do?

xo, Elly

Quality vs Quantity

If I ever say consistency is a gift of mine…laugh…because I am definitely joking. 54 days since my last post. Really? 54 days?

We have just returned from “Home Leave”, our annual journey back to the States. It’s funny that it’s called Home Leave considering something I realized while we were there…

My best friend and I were having a conversation totally unrelated to me living in Geneva when she mentioned that 5 years from now her son will be 13. Not a big light bulb moment for most, but it got me thinking.

In five years, Seth will be 15, just three years shy of college. Then I started thinking about his childhood compared to mine.

I lived in two houses in one town from birth until college.

Seth, at the age of 10, has lived in three states and one foreign country.

Let’s say we stay in Geneva for three years. So Seth will be approximately 13 when we make our next move. If we stay in that location until he goes to college (big if), that’s still only 5 years.

So where is he from?

Where is his home?

It would be a tough question for him to answer. It’s a tough question for me to answer. I get asked all of the time where we are from. My answer? “*deep breath* Well, we moved here from North Carolina, but we only lived there for 2.5 years. Before that we were in Southern California for 6 years, but Jason and I both grew up in Central Illinois.”

Where are we from? We just spent 24 days in Illinois, the place Jason and I consider home. The kids have two sets of grandparents, three aunts, one uncle, two great-grandparents, countless great-aunts and uncles, about a million other extended relatives and…most importantly…7 first cousins (10 if you count Jodi’s kids, which I think we do!).

They. had. so. much. fun.

We swam (A LOT), we played games, we took day trips, we had picnics, we watched movies, we had sleepovers… It was awesome. My kids consider their cousins to be some of their best friends. In a life of inconsistency, their cousins have been a constant source of friendship, love and fun times!

Jason grew up with about a thousand cousins all in the same town (exaggeration? maybe.). One of his greatest internal struggles has been raising our kids so far from family because it was such a huge part of his childhood. While I didn’t grow up with many cousins, I have friends that I have quite literally known since birth, and my internal struggle has been raising our kids in a way that does not foster lifetime friendships.

God has blown us away once again with his provision and His abundant grace in giving us both our hearts’ desires in the form of cousins. Close family bonds AND lifelong friends.

24 days of talking Pokemon, getting piggy-back rides around the same pool I swam in as a kid, jumping off the pontoon into the lake, more Pokemon talk, Pinky’s ice cream, fireworks after the Chief’s game, hikes at Starved Rock, dinners at Perdue’s, sitting in the clubhouse (talking about Pokemon), playing catch in the pool, exploring the Riverfront museum…filled all of our hearts with joy! This is what home feels like.

Our kids are experiencing the world in a unique and amazing way. The experiences they have had through our moves are priceless, and we wouldn’t trade them for anything. God knew before they were born what their lives would look like and what their experiences would be. In his perfect plan were 7 (make that 10) lifetime friends also known as cousins.

2015 Summer 158 2015 Summer 061 2015 Summer 062 2015 Summer 104 2015 Summer 109 2015 Summer 120 2015 Summer 121 2015 Summer 146 2015 Summer 147

So how can you see God’s blessing and provision in what appears to be an area of sacrifice? Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

xo, Elly

Lighthearted Living

I love Geneva.

Ok, not in the way that I love Jason or the kids or God or my friends and family, but you get it.

The past three months have simultaneously been the most amazing and most challenging of my life. I have been stretched beyond what I thought possible, and blessed beyond measure.

I have been living the good life. The spoiled life of the expat wife, some would say. My children have all been in school 8:30-3:00, so I have had time to enjoy the gorgeous weather and get to know my new friends and new city. 

For example, yesterday I went stand-up paddle boarding on Lake Geneva with three girlfriends. We followed our time on the water with lunch at a lakeside food counter. It was a perfect day!

Every day as an expat (or any other person, for that matter) isn’t that grand or perfect.  There are days that I spontaneously burst into tears for no other reason than I can’t find an ingredient for a recipe at the market, or (like the other day) I got a ticket for parking incorrectly in the lot at school, and the ticket was in French so I had no idea what to do with it (Shout out to Vincent, the head of security who let me off with a warning).

But happiness is a choice. Before we moved here we decided we were going to love it. We don’t shove our bad moments or insecurities under the rug, but we also don’t let them overtake the big picture. Every new experience has a learning curve. We’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to get lost, we’re going to get stuck in the rain for 30 minutes after taking the bus to a restaurant that was closed (Jason and I on our anniversary…we laughed harder than we have in a long time.). But we’re also going to find ourselves on a board in the crystal blue water, surrounded by the Alps and the Jura, laughing with new friends and feeling pure joy and peace.

Wednesday’s devotion in Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling said this…

“I rejoice when you trust Me enough to enjoy your life lightheartedly.”

I choose to trust Him that much. Loving Geneva is not a difficult choice. Realizing that in the midst of confusion and chaos is. God, help me keep my perspective in check!

So how do you choose to live lightheartedly? How do you reign yourself in when negative experiences and emotions threaten your perspective? I’d love to know…you know, for the next time I burst into tears in the baking aisle. 😊

xo, Elly

PS I think the post covers the funny and he frustration. The best French phrase I’ve learned this week is 

Je voudrais…

Which is how I say, “I would like…” in a shop or restaurant. Very important!

Viva l’Italia!

Oops… I guess it has been a while since I updated. In a way that’s a good thing. It means I have been about the business of living in Geneva. In a way it’s bad because I have a strong desire to use my time here to develop my writing by doing it often. Oh well. Moving on.

It has been almost three months since we moved. Although some still ask me how I am settling in, for the most part I am not considered the new girl in town anymore. We have hosted guests in our home, been to birthday parties, pulled weeds, gone to the pool and a host of other normal experiences we could have had living anywhere else. There are days when I don’t even consider the fact that I am in a foreign country, and I imagine those days will become more frequent as time marches on.

But there are days when we get to experience things that absolutely couldn’t happen if we lived anywhere else. For example, two weeks ago our children had a four-day weekend. It happened to have been Memorial Day weekend in the States, but it was the celebration of Pentecost here in Switzerland that provided a holiday on Monday paired with a teacher work day on Tuesday.

I have to stop here and help you understand the mindset of many in Geneva. Only 1/3 of people in the city are Swiss. Another 1/3 are foreign nationals and the final 1/3 expats like us, only expecting to live here for a handful of years. Our International school is composed primarily of the final 1/3. Because so many of us are only here for a time, we see long weekends as a chance to travel to the surrounding areas. So when a long weekend approaches, the question isn’t, “What will you do this weekend?”.  It is “Where will you go this weekend?”

Our answer? ITALY!

We planned a last-minute, driving trip to Milan and Venice for the long weekend, and it was every bit as fabulous as it sounds. It was made more special by the fact that none of the 6 of us had ever been there before (so often Jason has had the opportunity through work to see the places we later visit).

So that Friday night we drove to Milan, which took about 4 hours, including over an hour wait to enter the wonder of the Mt. Blanc tunnel, a 10 mile long tunnel through the tallest mountain in the Alps. The drive was stunning, to put it lightly. Made even more so by cascading waterfalls everywhere due to freshly melted snow. Italy lived up to every bit of its reputation of beauty. Another reputation in lived up to was the welcoming spirit of the Italian people. Everywhere we went we were told by strangers what a beautiful family we have, and were applauded for having many children. We found that most Italians spoke enough English to communicate well with us, but we also found that between Jason’s fairly good knowledge of Spanish and our beginner level French, we could pick out the meanings of many Italian phrases and come up with a coherent response. This was a nice change to feeling completely ignorant when being spoken to in French (I speak only for myself as Jason and the children have left me in the dust when it comes to speaking and understanding the language of our new home). I could literally write for days about our experiences in Italy, and probably I should start a travel journal that we can look back on when this experience is over, but I will simply list the highlights, post some pictures and tell you that if you have ever wondered if a trip to Italy would be all that people say it is…IT WILL! And this is from a four-day trip with no tour guide, very little scheduled activity and four children. If you have the chance, take it.

This is Seth stretching his legs while we waited to go through the tunnel.


One of many waterfalls.
1. EXPO 2015. Milan is currently hosting EXPO. I didn’t know what this was until someone told me it is the World’s Fair. What a great opportunity for our kids to be living in a foreign country, visiting another foreign country, and learn about all the countries! We only spent a day there, but we could have spent at least two if not three. There is a theme this year of food. Specifically what will countries do to feed 9 billion people in the world in the near future? So each country’s pavilion focused on that theme. Food everywhere! Most countries also took the opportunity to show the world their culture and strengths. Obviously we didn’t have the time to go to every pavilion (especially considering the lines for the popular buildings were at least an hour long), so we chose different areas of the world and went into one: Japan, Qatar, United States, Spain, and Ecuador. And although we didn’t go into the pavilions, we had Dutch pancakes (topped with Nutella of course…we are in Europe after all!) and Italian pizza for dinner. I gave the children the challenge of learning to say “Thank you!” in each of the languages and they did. Overall, EXPO was an incredible event to experience and a perfect day spent in Milan.

Here is your first “F” for this post. It’s Funny.

On the subway headed to EXPO we got about three stops away when an announcement came over the speakers in Italian. The train stopped and several people got out, but most stayed on. As we sat waiting for the train to continue, a group of Asian tourists came and asked if we knew what was said, to which we replied no. We quickly realized that everyone who did not get out was a tourist headed to EXPO, and none of us understood the announcement. A few confused minutes later, the train began moving…IN THE OTHER DIRECTION! Apparently the announcement said if you’re going to EXPO, get out and take the next train. In the end we made it, and also had the opportunity to speak to some other Americans as we figured it out. Live and learn!

2. Venice! Really, need I say more? We continued another 2 hours from Milan to Venice, which is probably the most incredible city I have ever experienced. And we did experience it! We probably walked 10 miles and 500 bridges in our two-day visit. And because the location of our hotel was not convenient to the location of our transfer back to our car, we did all of it with luggage! Huge shout-out to Jason for that! (Note: I knew we would have our luggage for at least a portion of our walk around the city, so before we left Milan I condensed what we needed into 1 duffel and 1 rolling backpack. But still…huge shout-out to Jason for lugging it around!) The only ticket we bought was for the Peggy Guggenheim collection. We introduced our children to Picasso, Salvador Dali, Jackson Pollack and other modern, abstract artists. They liked it and understood the significance at least a little, but their favorite parts of Venice were running around Piazza san Marco while Jason and I sat and enjoyed a drink (this is where I learned just how different my children are from me…they did everything they could to get the hoards of pigeons to land on them…EW!), playing at a small park near Piazzale Roma (where land transportation drops you off), decorating their masks (which cost me 1 euro a piece, and…GELATO!!!! In the end, kids just want to be kids wherever you take them. And if for the rest of their lives they don’t remember the beauty of St. Mark’s Basilica but do remember playing tag in its shadow, I’m ok with that.


The GPS in our car is broken, and although it’s not a huge charge, our phones are roaming if we leave Switzerland. This left us at the mercy of mapquest. Remember the days when you weren’t reminded a quarter of a mile before your turn? When you didn’t follow a moving dot on a map and when you didn’t get rerouted if you missed a turn? We do. And we are so thankful for GPS!!!!!

3. Milan! After an incredible two days in Venice, we drove back to Milan for our final night. We really only spent a few hours in the city of Milan. We entered the breathtaking Duomo, and I introduced my girls to my good friends Louis Vuitton and Versace. The craziest thing that happened in Milan was while the boys were walking around looking for a good place for lunch, Seth heard his name being called. Turns out one of his classmates was sitting at one of the outdoor restaurants with his family. Seriously, this world keeps getting smaller! What did the kids ask for in Milan? They wanted to go to a park they had seen on our walk to the subway, and they wanted to eat at McDonald’s. Do these requests make me think we wasted our time and money taking them to Italy? Not in the least! I think it’s great that they can truly experience and enjoy a new place and yet be content just playing and having a cheeseburger.

Italy will be a place we visit again. We’d like to go to Florence and Tuscany, Pisa, and Rome at the very least. Between the people, food, wine, history and family bonding it may be my favorite trip ever.


But really it’s because why would I write about Italy and then teach a word in French? 


xo, Elly

Stepping Out

The chaos is dying down. We are settling in to our house and our life. I humbly admit that there is a world of knowledge I have yet to acquire regarding life in Switzerland, but as for survival I feel like I am gaining proficiency every day. My french teacher says I am doing very well; although when I leave the comfort of my lesson I can’t say I believe her. I must make a face that gives away my confusion when people speak to me in french, because almost immediately they stop and wait for me to say something (That something being “Je ne parle pas francais.”). But thanks to google translate I am managing even the language barrier in most cases.

So now what? It’s time to get on with life in Geneva. It’s time to discover and realize who I will be during our time here.

Before we moved I made a list of things I’d like to do now that my children are in school. Writing was on top of that list, so I’ve done well with that so far. Other items included joining a Bible study, exercising more regularly (possibly learning to play tennis?), and learning french. Other than my weekly french lesson, I am not doing as well on this portion of the list. Why? These activities involve stepping out of my comfort zone into the unknown. In order to join a Bible study, I will have to walk into a place full of unfamiliar faces. In order to join a gym, I will have to first find the gym, and then take my chances at whether anyone there speaks english. And in order to learn- really learn -french, I will have to use the very little french vocabulary I have with people who speak french.

I do not want to do any of these things. Let’s just get that out there right now.

But I do want to be in a Bible study where I can learn and grow spiritually and make like minded friends. And I do want to be a member of a gym, get myself into better shape, and maybe learn to play a new sport. And I do want to be able to speak the language of my country of residence.

Now this is a pickle… what to do?

In Matthew 14, Peter was in a pickle, too. The man who he called Lord was standing on water amidst a great storm calling for him to come out of the boat. Why would he do that? What on earth would make him step out of a boat in the middle of the sea? In the middle of a storm? Sometimes I skim over that part. Sometimes I don’t think about how crazy it was for Peter to actually listen and obey Jesus in that moment. But he did. Peter went over the side of the boat and…wait for itWALKED ON WATER!  No joke. Peter is one of two men that we know of who has ever walked on water.

A miracle happened when he stepped out of the boat. He was walking on water, staring into the eyes of God incarnate. Yes, he did learn a valuable lesson when he looked away from Jesus and began to sink. But guess what? Jesus was there with His hand out to help him up.

For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

It has been a good long while since I have felt this penetrated by a Bible passage I teach to three-year-olds.

I need to get out of the boat.

How will I ever know what a great tennis player I am if I never start playing??? I will never experience the miracles if I don’t take that first crazy, why-in-the-world-did-I-decide-to-do-this step. I will never have the opportunity to be comforted by the Great Comforter if I stay in my so-called comfort zone.

So one-by-one I will try the things on my list. Some may be amazing, and some may not be for me, but I will never know if I don’t get out of my boat.

So what’s on your list? Do you feel God calling you out of the boat? Or maybe like me, you have always wanted to try something. What’s keeping you from that first step? Together let’s ignore the storm and waves, keep our eyes on the Savior and…go!

xo, Elly

Week of April 20-Three F’s

1. Funny: Last week I went to a fabulous lunch with new friends. We went to a little bistro in a very cool area of Geneva called Carouge. We were being very European…taking the tram to get there and taking our time with our meal. By the time we were finished, we were pressed for time to pick up our kids from school. So we hopped on tram and headed that way, knowing we would cut it close but make it (public transport in Geneva is always on time). About halfway through our trip, the tram’s brakes slammed and the two of us nearly fell over. We thought we had hit something, but the tram continued on….until about a minute later when the intercom made an announcement (in French of course) the doors opened, and everyone got off. Oh boy! So there I was…dressed for lunch out with friends complete with boots and a rather large purse, running down one of the busiest roads in Geneva. Running. Picture it. It’s funny. My new friend and I laughed loudly and hysterically as we huffed and puffed up the hills toward the school, calling on another friend to save our children from the embarrassment or fear of us not being there. In the end it was fine. I realized how out of shape I am, and learned my lesson not to cut it that close, even with the strict timetables of Geneva.

2. Frustration: No move is perfect, and this one is no different. We have some things broken or damaged. We have some things sitting in the house that should have been sent to storage. But the most frustrating right now is figuring out all of the things that should be here but are apparently in a storage facility in North Carolina. Those of you who know me well will appreciate that my greatest frustration is not being able to find my Norwex cleaning cloths. NONE. OF. THEM. I have torn through boxes thinking certainly they must be somewhere. They are nowhere. Grrrrrr.

3. French: First of all, I was recently introduced to an amazing feature of Google translate. I push the camera button, and hold my phone over any piece of mail, restaurant menu, public sign, etc. and Voila! I can magically read it in English. It really is magical, no joke. But, my favorite French phrase I have learned this week is,

Je ne sais pas. Meaning…I don’t know. And so often I don’t.

Choosing what is better.

Just as we were settling in to life in the apartment, we got word that our container had arrived! This is the fastest I have ever heard of a sea shipment arriving to inland Europe, and I am extremely grateful for that (and extremely sympathetic for those who are not as fortunate).

Our apartment was nice. It afforded plenty of space for the 6 of us and was furnished adequately with the things we needed. We had a nice view from our 6th floor balcony of the Jura Mountains and the famous Jet d’eau.  Aside from having to tiptoe and whisper at all times, it completely worked for us.

But our home is AMAZING. Although we live about 20 minutes away from Jason’s work and the kids’ school, the location is perfect. We are just outside of a small village close to the French border.  We have an unobstructed, gorgeous, amazing, perfect-in-every-way view of Lake Geneva and the Jura. Our home sits about 50 yards off the lake and there is a path just in front of our house down to a swimming, kayaking, canoeing… area.  We have a rooftop terrace with an outdoor kitchen and dining area, and lounge chairs to lay in and enjoy a glass of wine and the sunset over the water. The home was built a few years ago by a family who thought they would live in Geneva forever. This home was their labor of love. They personally attended to every detail down to picking each piece of marble for the floor. Unexpectedly, they had a job transfer to Paris. They are a lovely couple who have been helpful in every way during our transition. Moving in is exhausting, slow and chaotic, but it is the kind of chaos that will lead to greater peace, which makes it bearable. I squeal with excitement each time I see a room coming together.

(I know many family members are anxious for pictures. I will try to have some for next week’s post!)

What if we had stayed in the apartment? We were doing fine there. We had everything we needed and life was good. In fact there were times that I thought, “Why move AGAIN? Why not just stay here?”.  Think of all I would have missed out on.

How often do we do the same thing in life? We choose what is good rather than seeking what is better.

In the gospel of Luke, Martha was doing something good. She was preparing her home for all of the people coming to listen to Jesus. She was making a meal, probably cleaning, moving furniture around… all for a good cause. So when she saw Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, she got understandably upset. This was her sister, the person who should have been her partner in the preparations, just sitting around presumably doing nothing. Martha made the bold request for Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help.

But hear Jesus’ reply, “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 (NIV)

Today as you go out into your part of the world, don’t settle for what seems good…choose to go after what is better! Sit at the feet of Jesus and just listen. Relish in a moment playing a game or having a snack with your precious little one. Enjoy the beauty of Spring. Look past the to-do list and see what God has planned for your day!  I’ll never forget something Pastor Tom Holladay said several years ago,

“What is important is not usually urgent, and what is urgent is not usually important.”

Dear friends, God desires us to have a rich, full life. Seek Him, and He will show you what is better.

xo, Elly

Three F’s

This week’s three F’s…

1. This is actually from Raleigh, but I forgot to post it earlier. My kids have always loved escalators. Maybe it’s a kid thing, but they always make me go up the escalator at the mall, even if all we do is come back down. So imagine their excitement on our journey to Geneva at all the escalators in all the airports. Granted this time they had backpacks and carseats to maneuver, which made things a bit more interesting. Exhibit A. Anna’s first experience with a “moving walkway”. Clearly her experience with escalators was no preparation for this crazy thing. If you’ve ever seen Elf, you can imagine Anna as she *attempted* to board the moving walkway. Doing the splits while her backpack continued on it’s journey was enough to make her cry, but the rest of us burst into hysterics (She understands now how funny it was, and has conquered the moving walkway over the last month.). Exhibit B. Aiden on the escalator. We were all carrying a lot. Each of the children had a backpack and a carseat, Jason had his laptop bag, I had my very large purse and we had a rollerboard. Before we started our first escalator we told the kids that if something got away from them, just let it go. Unfortunately about 4 or 5 escalators in, Aiden forgot that piece of advice. His booster fell off his backpack, and in an attempt to grab it, his backpack also fell, which caused him to dive (yes, headfirst) downward on the escalator. I was helping Megan with something and I looked up to see Aiden’s face at my feet as his feet continued upward. Oh boy! I think we are seasoned escalators (said in a very French accent) now!

2. While on our trip, I was very frustrated with other tourists who thought it was ok to push my children! I assure you that it is not ok to push my children.

3. I started my French lessons this week! Yay! The most basic thing I learned was C’est, which means “this is”. I will use that phrase a lot, so I am very thankful to know it. (I also learned my alphabet and how to count to 20…feels a bit like kindergarten!)

What are we waiting for?

Before we moved, those who had gone before us gave us some advice…plan your first vacation asap! So, last week we went to Paris! Yes, we just got in the car and drove right to Paris.

I will never get used to that.

There is so much hype about Paris.  It is referenced, if not showcased, in thousands of books and movies, I have friends who have been there who rave, I have seen pictures, I have studied it in school… It was time for me to see for myself.

We started our trip at the Palace of Versailles. It was breathtaking! I was blown away by the architecture, designed and built with no modern technology, yet more beautiful than any modern building I have ever seen. Walking the same paths as Marie Antoinette, Louis XIV, and so many others blew my mind…truly.

The following day was in my opinion the best day my family has ever had together. We spent from open to close at Disneyland Paris!!! Some of you know that we consider ourselves Disney aficionados, having had annual passes in Anaheim for several years, but this was different. Not because it was Paris, not because the rides were different or more exciting, but because the six of us were together all. day. long.

And it was incredible!

We rode roller coasters, sang It’s a Small World, ate at Planet Hollywood, watched the parade, ate popcorn, drove Autopia cars, and ended with a spectacular fireworks/laser/video show! I have very few pictures, but memories that will last forever.

Next stop…the Louvre! After a brief debacle with the should-be-amazing Nintendo 3DS guides (DO NOT get them should you ever visit the Louvre), we saw THE MONA LISA! I mean, we saw a lot of really cool stuff there, but seriously, we saw the MONA LISA. Bam.

After the Louvre we found a place to eat and ordered escargot for all! Everyone liked it, although I couldn’t really get past the fact that I was eating snails…

The next day was the day we’d been waiting for. I could say I’m not that much of a tourist and that there is so much in Paris other than the Eiffel Tower, but I won’t. I was psyched to see the Eiffel Tower. I had on tennis shoes, carried a backpack, and took pictures around every corner on the walk there…I was screaming tourist, and I loved it!

We chose to take the stairs to the second level (in Europe the ground is level 0, so we went up two levels, which is as high as the stairs will take you). The kids were champs! There were A LOT of stairs, and we were basically chasing them the whole way. After reaching the second level, we took a lift to the top. (insert jaw drop) Even though it was freezing cold and very windy, the views were astonishing, and the kids loved it.

We ate more great food, saw Notre Dame cathedral, walked along the Seine, and finished the day by going back to Disney Village to Rainforest Cafe (Feeling totally European, we didn’t get our food until after 9:00.).

The next day was Easter, and we went to The American Church of Paris, which is a multidenominational church right on the Seine in the heart of Paris. It was the first church planted outside of the US by Americans. It’s beautiful, and the service was very special; a nice combination of liturgical rites and contemporary worship. It was the perfect way to end our trip

Something struck me as we drove home though. As phenomenal as our trip was, there were a lot of lines. It was Easter weekend in Paris, people, the lines were no joke. The longest line we waited in was for the Louvre-over two hours in the pouring rain (but we saw THE MONA LISA!!!!). We played more rock, paper, scissors and thumb wars than I care to admit, and two bags of jelly beans were completely cashed! The Eiffel Tower wasn’t much shorter, and then there was a line to get on the lift, and a line to come back down. Lines kept us from going into the Notre Dame, and lines dictated which rides we could do at Disney without wasting too much of our day. When I think of our trip, I don’t think of the lines. The lines were nothing compared to the experiences after the lines.

There was one place without a line…Church.

On the way home I couldn’t help but notice that the one place we walked right in was church. Why is that? Of the thousands of English-speaking people visiting Paris that weekend, why didn’t the American Church have a line around the corner to get in to Easter Service?

The truth is, I don’t know why people are willing to wait hours in the rain to view a hundreds of years old painting of a modest looking woman, but choose to sleep in or simply not acknowledge the work of Jesus done on the cross thousands of years ago. I don’t know. But I know this…

As a Christian woman, it’s my job to show people who Jesus is. Not by beating a Bible over their heads or preaching at them, but by following His example of love. Maybe if people saw more Christians loving each other and everyone else the way Jesus loved and loves, they would line up outside churches around the world to see for themselves. Because of all the things I know to be true, this is the greatest…the experience waiting at the end of that line is one no one should miss.

xo, Elly

PS I’m posting the three F’s in a separate post each week. Stay tuned…


Is the Honeymoon Over?

Week two is in the books. The kids had a full week of school, our air shipment arrived, we found a used car to purchase, and Jason and I even went on a lunch date. All’s well in Geneva…

But in the interest of maintaining the original premise of my blog, I need to be transparent. This isn’t Facebook where everyone’s everyday is a kodak moment. I have no time and no tolerance for pretty masks that cover up real life and make other people think it’s somehow possible to be perfect, and wonder what they are doing wrong. We’re in this together, friends, and life isn’t perfect. It wasn’t perfect in the States, and it’s not perfect here.

Look, I have SO MUCH to be thankful for, so I won’t sit here and write you a list of complaints. That doesn’t bring glory to God in any way. I have life. I have eternal life which I do not deserve. I have no complaints.

But being fake and hiding behind a facade of perfection (if you know me at all, you might be laughing…perfection and I are not related) also doesn’t bring glory to God. God wants us to share real life together. The good, the bad, the ugly. When we struggle and come out on the other side, God gets the glory! Paul says,

“So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles that I suffer for Christ, For when I weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

I’m not sure I’m at the point of taking pleasure, but I’ll share nonetheless…

Living in another country is hard. Constantly being around people who do not speak the same language is hard. Not knowing the difference between a 10 cent piece and a half-franc is hard. Not buying yogurt because I’m not sure if it’s actually yogurt or if it’s sour cream is hard. Only being able to speak one language in a culture where many speak three or more is kind of embarrassing. But more importantly, only talking to my best friend once a week if I’m lucky instead of every day is hard. Forming new friendships as a person who struggles with small talk is hard. Helping settle four children is hard. And keeping my marriage from turning into a business partnership among the massive amounts of paperwork and “to-do’s” is hard.

So what’s an American girl in Geneva to do?

Well, today I was wallowing. That seemed like the best thing to start with. I was wallowing in failed attempts to contact a credit card company, and failed French in speaking to a mobile phone company. In the midst of my wallowing I received an email from someone who arranges our stateside billpay. After answering my question, she remarked that she loved the Bible verse attached to my email.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

My life verse.

I started reciting this verse to myself multiple times a day when my children were very young (like 5,4,2,1 young). I told myself that all of my diaper-changing, nose-wiping, sandwich making, and disciplining would pay off someday with a harvest of toilet-trained, nose-blowing, independent sandwich-making, well-behaved children. That has pretty much been the case, although my child-rearing days are far from over.

Along the way I realized that this verse is applicable in so many situations! There are so many arenas in which growing weary of doing good things is possible if not probable. And here I am.

I am weary of paperwork. I am weary of setting up bank accounts and mobile phones, and even more weary of change of address notices. I am weary of my feeble attempts to speak French. I am weary of small talk. I am weary of figuring out when I can talk to my friends back home.

But this person, just doing her job and answering an email, changed my perspective. There will be a harvest! I will have a bank account and a mobile phone. I will get to the end of my address changes and learn to speak at least enough French to get by. I will find relationships, just as I have in all of the places I’ve lived and loved. And I will establish routines with keeping in touch with Stateside friends and family. The harvest is coming. And when the harvest comes, I will be so thankful that I didn’t give up. (And God will get the glory, because as I said, I chose wallowing. Only God can get me out of the chocolate and back on the phone.)

So thank you, banking consultant, for your words of encouragement today. My honeymoon with Geneva is not over.

This week’s three F’s:

1. I had a hilarious encounter with a postal worker. It was one of those “in hindsight it’s funny” kind of things. I was trying to ask him how to get a package that I knew had come. After my typical French greeting of, “Do you speak English?” and “I don’t speak French.”, he proceeded to talk about 10,000 miles a minute IN FRENCH for about 3 minutes. Finally ending with, “Oui?” I gave him a look like, “Are you kidding me?”, but said, “Oui.” And that was that. (The package was delivered today…Thanks, Mom!)

2. This post sort of describes my week’s frustrations… I am incredibly frustrated by any interaction with US banking/credit card companies. Although Jason has had to bear the brunt of these encounters, that only makes me more frustrated because I have more time! What I don’t have is access to a phone to make international calls. Very frustrating.

3. The kids are on break! Why? Not because it’s Spring but because it’s EASTER! As a Christian, there is very little that means more to me than this holiday that celebrates my Savior defeating death for me and all of you! His grace is a free gift. I am not perfect, no matter how many amazing facebook pictures I post over the next week… and I cannot be perfect. But HE is, and he offers to substitute His perfection for my imperfection, so that I can spend eternity in Heaven, in the presence of a perfect God. So friends, today I say…

Joyeuses Pâques! (Happy Easter!)

xo, Elly