Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Morning Commute

We live in the quietest little suburb outside of Paris at the tail-end of La Grande Rue that runs through town.  It's a single lane street with about three places for passing.  When two cars turn down the street at the same time, one must give way to the other.  

It's a quiet French town like the one Belle sings of, yet almost every morning when people begin their morning commute you can hear the horns honking impatiently.  It's so funny.  There's not much that anyone could do to make the situation move any quicker, but still, they honk.  And it all feels very French.

Monday, January 14, 2019

What's in Our Suitcases?

The Pugh family has landed in Paris with our eight suitcases and various carry-ons.  One of Noreen's sons was here to help us bring in our luggage, and he couldn't believe what we traveled with.  What do we bring back with us from our home country?

  • Christmas gifts - Going home at Christmas does mean we carry back lots of generous gifts, which this time included boots, books, and board games.  They take up a lot of space and weight.
  • Homeschool Curriculum - James was ready for the next year's Math books, and I picked up several other workbooks for writing, science, coding, and my personal favorite:  juggling.
  • Gifts for friends - baby clothes I couldn't resist for new babies in our midst here; gluten free cake and cookie mixes; candles and books
  • Snacks - I've found that coming back with a supply of our favorite protein bars and Pop Tarts brings a lot of joy and a sense of connection to our home country during the first few weeks we're back in our new home.  This year's offerings included Ortega taco sauce that Ella has acquired a taste for. 
  • Make-up and Toiletries - I stock up on our favorite deodorant and toothpaste.  I buy face wash and lotion that I can read the back of in my own language.  I buy my favorite razors as well as any new product I want to try that I can't find outside of the U.S. 
But honestly, between the four of us, this time around our weight and space was mostly taken up with books and board games.  

If you have friends who live outside their home countries, maybe this could spark ideas of what to send them.  Having small things from home around gives me an extra sense of well-being and contentment.  And the fun thing is that this begins to work the other way, too.  When I found Wensleydale cheese with cranberries at a supermarket in Alabama, made in Hawes--a place we visited several times--I got a great surge of happiness.

Monday, January 7, 2019

End of Trip Reflections

We've entered the last week of our Christmas visit home, which means we're feeling all the feelings.  I feel grateful for such a wonderful time with family and friends in Florida and Alabama.  I feel sad at saying good-bye and for the ocean that will soon separate us.  I feel a little homesick in advance for pine trees and for how warm and friendly every single stranger is.  You don't really meet strangers in the south, and I feel a tinge of reverse culture shock sharing laughs with women in public restrooms after the anonymity of the streets of Paris.  But I love it.

I feel excited for all 2019 holds in Paris.  I'll be happy to get back to our church and my friends, and I'm excited about all the visitors we'll be having pass through Paris in the year ahead.  I'm happy to be spending another year with K.J. Pugh.  As hard as it is to leave the holiday season behind, it's also nice to think of new year goals, new year routines, and fresh starts.  

Yesterday was the sweetest time hearing K.J. preach at our home church and talking and connecting with old friends.  The next three days are full of doctor and dentist appointments, play-dates and girlfriend dates, and last-minute trips to Target and Old Navy.  I am so thankful for friends and family who fill us up with encouragement and love.  Sometimes you need to pull out the King James Version and say, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits..."  

Monday, December 31, 2018

December Days

December 1 - Ladies Bible Study and Ornament Exchange

December 2 - Picking up a Christmas Tree in the City

December 3 - December's Read Aloud to the Kids

December 4 - Best Biscuits I've Made in a While

December 5 - EIC Ternes Home Group

December 6 - A 5-euro Nespresso Maker

December 7 - Christmas Party Spread

December 8 - Artwork by Ella

December 9 - Rain Clouds over Paris

December 10 - Sunbeam

December 11 - A Winter's Walk

December 12 - Christmas Market Dining

December 13 - Steeple at Sunrise

December 14 - Out My Window

December 15 - US of A

December 16 - Florida

December 17 - Santa Fe

December 18 - Home for Christmas

December 19 - Antique Store Browsing

December 21 - So Southern

December 22 - Family

December 23 - Biggest Present

December 24 - Gift Exchange

December 25 - Christmas Morning

December 26 - Yard Full of Cousins

December 27 - At the Movies

December 28 - Reading to a Sick Cousin

December 29 - Brunch with the Girls

December 30 - Cousins at Church

December 31 - Double-Duty Hairdresser

Happy new year to all!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Wonderful Year

2018 was a year of big transition for me and my family:  a move to a big city in a new country, our first time living in a country that spoke a language different from our own.  

At first, only having the language skills of a two-year-old made me feel vastly vulnerable and at a loss.  When I waited in line at Office Depot next to an elderly gentleman who turned to me and commented on the length of the wait (I can only presume!) I could only smile and nod.  I was unable to read the descriptions on food packaging at the grocery store.  I had to learn how to shop for groceries without a car, only buying the amount of things I could transport home in my little rolling cart.

I used my deductive reasoning skills at the supermarket
to figure out this was buttermilk.

There's always Arabic on the buttermilk in France.  Why?
Do Arab nations use a lot of buttermilk in their cooking?
One more thing I've yet to Google...

I had to work out a system for getting on and off public transportation with kids:  adult, kid, kid, adult.  This way if the doors close on the Metro no kid is left alone.  I had a new city to learn my way around, a city filled with beautiful architecture, famous landmarks, and lots of people, as well as sirens, horns, and cigarette smoke.

The year brought new friends and new relationships, the birth of a new church, and new routines for my kids as we went back to full-time homeschooling.

our first "practice" service at EIC Ternes on a snowy March Sunday

And how did we fare with all these new things?  With so much grace and kindness from the Lord, I'm happy to report!  There were some moments of holding back tears in a large crowded supermarket one night, unable to find what I wanted and unable to read the instructions on how to use the scanner to pre-scan your items.  Even when a kind stranger took the time to tell me, he spoke quickly in French, and I couldn't understand.  

a screenshot from the kids' Duolingo lesson

I don't know if they've ever used this phrase.

BUT, there have been so many wins along the way:  when I was able to tell the lady at the flower stand in French that I didn't understand French well, and she graciously said, "How about English, then?"  I found it true that if you try speaking in French, people are usually happy to try their English with you if they can.  And for some reason, the people at the Monoprix bakery always compliment my French.  (Maybe they hire the nicest people.)  And on my last trip to the grocery store before we came home for Christmas?  I had a long conversation (for me) in French with the lady at the checkout.  I felt so triumphant and thankful.

The community of people at Emmanuel International Church has made making new friends a joy.  The new church plant has seen people come through the doors from countries I've only heard about on the news, and I love to hear the stories and see the evidence of God working in people's hearts all over the world.  

In addition to meeting new friends from faraway places, God brought another American missionary family to us who have six children.  They bless us with their seven years' experience living in France and with friends for our kids who understand our kids' experiences.  

Any end-of-year reflection would be incomplete without marveling at God's provision for housing for us in France.  We spent five months living in the city and five and a half months living in a suburb just outside of Paris.  In both places the Lord not only provided a place for us but a family to be a part of and to love and serve.  When you're walking by faith, you sometimes walk like Abraham, not knowing where you're going.  But when you obey like Abraham and go anyway, you really do get the immense joy of seeing the Lord provide just what you need.  Living with the Lowe's in the city gave us the chance to really get to know Paris.  Moving in next door to Noreen gives us the joy of serving her and a connection to England, someone to drink Yorkshire Tea with.  

And maybe it's because I watched It's a Wonderful Life last night, but I can't help but agree.  There is struggle and heartache and tears, but there are good friends and laughter, and grace.  And it really has been a wonderful year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Since the time we began preparing to move to England four years ago, packing has been a constant theme in my life.  But not just packing for a vacation or short trip.  Packing for me has involved making lots of decisions all at once about every single item in my house.  I've never read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I've heard about it, and I feel like I've been through it except for me the categories have been:  give away, sell, store, or pack.  And having to make so many decisions like that in a short amount of time takes a toll on my brain's mental capacity.  Decision-making is not my strong suit.

The first time I went through this process I didn't think it was so bad.  I felt kind of glad for it.  I thought, "Everyone should do this once in their life."  It seemed like a good exercise in letting go of things, holding material possessions loosely.  And it was.  We arrived in England with eight suitcases:  clothes, toys, a few books, my good silverware, notebooks, homeschooling supplies, and snacks.  

When we moved into Capstick Cottage and unpacked our suitcases, the shelves felt bare, the new items I'd bought at IKEA unfamiliar, not really mine.  I learned firsthand what a character in Jan Karon's To Be Where You Are thought about the things that made up her life:  "How could people let go of their old things, when each told a part of their story?  Old things were a literature, a narrative."  In leaving behind most of my things, I felt a little un-moored from my life.  I no longer used the dishes bought for me by the women who surrounded me in my church as I grew up.  I no longer pulled the covers up over my head at night bought on a trip to Target with one of my first friends in Tuscaloosa.  I was no longer surrounded by the books from my childhood, old and dear friends.  Everything was new in my life, both outside the walls of my home and within.

Now, living where we did in England is the best place to live when you're in need of new possessions, pictures and plates and books to turn a house into a home.  Charity shops abound there.  And slowly my walls and bookshelves didn't look so bare anymore.  And with our last move that brought us to France and the smallest place we've ever lived as a family of four, we're surrounded by the new things that make up the newer chapters of our story:  books collected in Whitby and York, curtains bought at Wal-Mart on a trip home and carried across the Atlantic.  

Storage space is limited here so this week we're sorting again.  What do we want to give away?  What do we want to keep but can take back and store at our parents' houses?  We're really thankful our parents have opened up their homes to our possessions we didn't want to part with forever.  Maybe one day we'll part with some of those things, too, but for now, the favorite chair left at my mom's house tells a part of the narrative I don't want to part with yet, the chapter where an engaged 22-year-old me used my paycheck from Wal-Mart to purchase furniture for the home I looked forward to sharing with my soon-to-be husband.  Sometimes our possessions are like the stone Samuel laid called Ebenezer, "Thus far the LORD has helped us."  They call our minds back to times and places, provisions and graces.  And of course, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens...a time to plant and a time to uproot...a time to keep and a time to throw away..."  It comforts my heart tremendously to know there is a time for everything.

And now it's time to start school and keep packing.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Remember, Remember November

For the past four years that I've had a newer iPhone I've taken more pictures of our daily lives and put them all together each month, mostly because I realized I probably took at least one picture a day without even trying.  It's a fun way to be reminded of all that has happened at a glance.

I'd forgotten how many sunny days we had this month until I put these pictures together.  Ella and I joked that we could probably post a picture of beautiful fall leaves from every day this month because we took so many pictures whenever we went out.  

November 1 - Current Read-Aloud with the Kids

November 2 - Picture of Fall Foliage #1

November 3 - Sunny Saturday on the Seine

November 4 - A Favorite Quote (and justification for buying more books)

November 5 - A Little Frolic in the Forest 

November 6 - Walking the Dogs

November 7 - From the Outside Looking In

November 8 - Fall Foliage #2

November 9 - Making my own half and half 😊

November 10 - Pork Roast, Butternut Squash, and Broccoli in the pressure cooker (I put the roast back in for a few more minutes.)

November 11 - A Rainy Day Drive to Church

November 12 - Finally found the oatmeal and brown sugar in our local store!

November 13 - Fall Foliage #3

November 14 - Walking to the Grocery Store (Fall Foliage #4)

November 15 - Found a Charming English Bookshop

November 17 - Book Club Treat

November 18 - Bathroom View (Fall Foliage #5)

November 20 - A Cold Sunny Walk (The fall foliage has fallen.)

November 21 - Staff Thanksgiving

November 22 - Thanksgiving Fun

November 23 - All the leaves are gone.

November 24 - Reflection Pool

November 25 - It's Christmastime!

November 26 - Brought down the Christmas boxes from the attic

November 27 - I love my red wreath on my green door.

November 28 - Girls' Night

November 29 - Backyard Sentinel

November 30 - A Walk in the Park

This is our 310th day in Paris.  The year has felt full and good and fast.  I love this month of thankfulness before the calendar rolls over to all the Christmas sparkle and fun.  It's like a quiet pause, a chance to catch your breath.