It Takes A Village

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Wow, it has been a WHILE since I’ve caught everyone up on the crazy that is my current life! Throughout the past weeks I’ve been moving, working, applying for jobs, moving AGAIN and trying to keep my head from spinning so hard it falls off.

Luckily, I am #blessed (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) with the best community a girl could ask for. Sanity saved.

So, what HAVE I been up to? Well, I’ve moved into my permanent housing situation in a beautiful Seattle neighborhood that is close to nature, parks, Puget Sound and a short bus hop to downtown. Sometimes I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. I’m so happy to be back home, it seems surreal.

The whole moving escapade has been quite the adventure because I started off staying with a friend on her bedroom floor, my first week back (thanks Claire!), graduated to a temporary living situation with some rad Seattle chicks. And a month later, I was lucky enough to land (kind of bumpy, but I’m still in one piece!) in my current abode. I’m living with a couple of fantastical chicks, now, and I’m sloooowly pulling together my heavily Pintrest inspired living space.

I would just like to reiterate that none of these things would have been possible without the amazing community I’m a part of. I have the best friends a girl could wish for, I’ve had more support and love than I could have ever imagined, and my mother has been a darling bringing down/moving boxes. Oh! And this time I’m in the same country as these people so I can actually hug them and say “Thank you!” You all have made the miracle of this transition happen. Thank you thank you thank you!

What’s up with the rest of my life? Well my job has been keeping me on my toes, and is filled with fun every day, my housemates are awesome, I GET TO HANG OUT WITH MY FRIENDS, and I get to see my family whenever I want to. Sheesh. It’s all just too much. When they say “cup overflows, “ I think I finally understand what it means.

I am so incredibly happy to be back in my city. But I also recognize that my joy in being back is amplified because of the adventures I’ve been on abroad. While it might seem like regret for leaving Seattle might be a feeling that hits right about now, that’s not the case AT ALL! I’m just so happy to be where I am right now.

Will this be my forever stopping point? Who knows. But in these moments I am happy. I love being surrounded by people I love, and I love having the adventures that pop up and meet me every day.

Enough with the frilly stuff??

Okay. Fine.

Just know that moving back to one’s own country, after having adventures in another one, CAN be done successfully. It takes a lot of hard work (A LOT), and a lot of patience with yourself, but it can be done.

One of the biggest things I’ve been learning, lately, is just to let go of my trying to control my circumstances, and to really dig deep. I have so many things I could stress out about, but taking a step back and approaching them each individually has proved to be so much better than curling up in a ball and trying to hope the problems go away.

Not only does glorifying stress not help solve the situations at hand, but it prevents me from enjoying the beautiful little things around me in my day to day moments. Yes, I am so thankful to finally be back, but that doesn’t mean things have been easy every step of the way. AND THAT’S OKAY.

I’m fine admitting that I don’t know what’s going to be the next step, moving forward. I mean, I didn’t even know where I was going to live until weeks before I would have been homeless.
BUT.
Something always comes up. And I have faith that it always will; because in the end, my fate and my future are not in my own hands. While the hard work is mine to dedicate myself to, the direction I’m heading is from an always-faithful Father.

This life is crazy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m back! I have no idea what the next step is in half of the areas of my life, but I know I’m on the right track, and FINALLY that’s enough.

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2014: The Year Of Courage

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My New Years Resolution from last year for 2014

Although Facebook has tried to “review” my year, I’m not satisfied because this year was ridiculously packed with good, bad and everything in between. So, sorry Facebook but here’s MY review of my year.

January: I spent an amazing New Years Eve with best friends while being hit on by a Norwegian guy who couldn’t take a hint. I had my septum pierced and it was awesome. Complete with a mohawk, freshly painted tattoo and rebellious piercing – I’d say I was kind of a badass.

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Dec 25th 2013
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I started working at the Boys And Girls Club!

February: I signed up on an au pair website as a joke, and signed a contract 1 week later. Careful what you wish for. Valentines day was ridiculous, and spent with some pretty awesome friends that I seriously miss.

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March: I learned that my friends are way cooler than people I was trying to impress. Sisters before misters, ladies. Never forget.

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One of the best friends I could ever ask for.
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One of my friends had a BABY!!!

1660285_10202655062031122_2009325527_nApril: My big brother and I were reunited. I always forget I’m related to people, until I get around him. It’s absurd. I went to my first Sounders game. It was pretty cool, but the people I went with made it way cooler.

984029_10202938957408329_2285092849423330472_n988872_10203031577003761_5003727285002521486_nMay: I was a nanny for a family that, in many ways, I felt closer to than my own. They were incredible and I was so blessed for being able to work/live/laugh/learn/be crazy with them for over two years.

10403273_10203246959468188_4260201586568979666_nJune: We lived and we laughed, and we sailed on boats.
We learned what loss was. We were shaken, but we weren’t moved. Our family was tested, but we stood together stronger than ever. #PrayForSPU

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Two of my very favorite people in the world.

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July: I painted my heart out, I hosted a billion people from Couchsurfing and enjoyed the hippieness of my hometown. I met a boy from Germany who loves to cycle around the world. 10456011_10203351752407946_3655178518403346691_n 10360557_10203439734327439_9000043357953367137_n10513315_10203503567643232_6590504214116406302_nAugust: I went to San Francisco (July also). Twice. French politics. But I made some amazing friends from around the world. A bunch of nomads coming together for 48 hours making a little family of memories.

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September: I made a ridiculous adventure to get to France, including four airports (late August) and landed in central France. Literally the middle of nowhere. I became friends with a Spanish girl who gave me the courage to stand up for myself.

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10730952_10204307034129392_696922551305332530_nNovember: We made Thanksgiving happen and I got to host all of my beautiful new friends as we all made our homesick way through (for many of us) our first holiday away from home. We learned that family doesn’t just mean DNA.

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December: We finally started to feel like we could find our way around France. Maybe this life could work. Maybe the leaps of faith weren’t as ridiculous as people said. Maybe we could come out of this stronger, wiser and happier than when we went in. Just maybe, we weren’t quite as crazy as people thought.

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2015: TO BE CONTINUED….

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When Being An Au Pair Goes South

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In life there are heroes and villains. Personally, I’m the type of person who likes to believe most people are the former. But, sometimes, you end up tricked into a situation where the ‘heroes’ turn out to be anything but.

Note: Before reading this (mom!) note that I am fine, I am safe and I am completely happy, now. 

When I arrived in France I could tell from the start that something wasn’t quite right with the family. It wasn’t immediately apparent, but after seeing the way the parents interacted with the kids, I knew something was off. As the weeks went on the yelling escalated and eventually the physical aspects of abuse started to show themselves.

Part of me knew that I wouldn’t be able to work in a family where there was physical and verbal abuse prevalent, but another half of me almost didn’t want to believe that it was happening. There was a lot of tension in the house, and the littlest things would set the parents off on tyrannical rampages.

When I finally decided enough was enough, I sent my letter of resignation to the father. His email responses were aggressive and ended with the words I had come to dread after weeks of “talks” : We’ll talk about this tonight. That night I was yelled at for close to three hours, and while the mom tried to defend me she was violently told to shut up as the father roared for me to get out of his house (it was 11:30pm) and to give him my keys. It was the night of September 19th – my birthday.

Crying and shaking, I went downstairs to pack my bags. The mom followed when I was about halfway done to tell me he “hadn’t meant it” and that “I had to understand” what had started his behavior. She convinced me to stay one more night, since I had planned on leaving for a weekend in Paris the next morning, anyway. I’ve never been so scared in my life, and I knew as soon as I came back I would leave immediately.

When I told the family I had found a replacement family the following Tuesday the dad “informed me” that if I left the house before HE TOLD ME I could, he would call the next au pair family I wanted to move to and would tell them I had abused their children (which is, of course, not even remotely true) so I wouldn’t get hired. I was so scared I would have panic attacks throughout each day, but I knew I had to leave.

So, I waited until the kids were safely at school on Thursday and both of the parents were at work, and then I packed my bags and called a taxi. I sent another emailed letter of resignation, as well as leaving a written one (and the keys), to the family. This is the abridged version of the story, of course, but I’m trying to keep it brief while not omitting any details.

The reason I’m writing this is because I want any other au pairs or nannies who find themselves in this situation to know that it is not ok for a host family to ever yell at you, demean you or threaten you. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to have the courage to pack my bags and leave. I was so incredibly scared for my safety, but that fact alone was an indicator that it was necessary.
My mind told me it was my fault for getting myself in the situation, and the parents told me I had “a responsibility to the children” to stay. But those are both classic indicators of abuse (whether verbal, emotional, physical etc.), and if you find yourself thinking either of these things while you’re employed with a family there is one option – leave.

If you’re reading this and you don’t know how to leave, or you don’t feel like there’s anywhere else to go, start telling people outside of the family about your situation (message me, even!). Pull your resources. I didn’t think my French was good enough to call a taxi, so I went to the visitors center in my town to have them call and schedule the taxi for me. I didn’t have a ride to my next host house, so I used a carshare website (blablacar.fr) to ask for a ride. I had friends through Couchsurfing that offered me a couch in their houses, and places to keep my luggage if I needed to travel light.

I AM SO THANKFUL FOR YOU ALL. You know who you are if you’ve been supporting and encouraging me throughout the past weeks. You are invaluable and it is because of you that I’m now in a safe place.

Oh, and there is a happy ending to this story!!
I am now living with an awesome family in Paris and I already feel like part of the family. The mom is a professional artist (painter!), and we’ve already been able to visit her gallery, in downtown Paris, and talk about art and the life of an artist. There are four boys and they are all awesome (ages…get ready for it… 21, 18, 8 and 5). It’s kind of fun being the only girl in the house (other than the mom) although there are, of course, some things that remind me of the fact (toilet seat: put it down).

My room is lovely, there are three beautiful cats (2 gingers!) and there is always jazz music playing 24/7 in the house (which is also beautiful and covered in the mom’s giant graffiti style art).
Oh, AND I’M LIVING IN PARIS. As in, I can see the Eiffel Tower from my street and I’ve learned that I absolutely love living in the city. It really is where I get my strength and inspiration from, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Monday I start French lessons (finally!), which the other family had also refused to let me attend, and I’ll be starting painting lessons (IN PARIS – Eeeeek!) soon also. This weekend I’m also going to try and visit Hillsong Paris – I seriously CANNOT wait!

Life is so much better, fuller and more alive than it has been for the month I was in France, and I’ve only been here a couple of days. I’m just so in love with Paris, excited to be working with an awesome family and I CANNOT wait to spend my year here.

Dust From The Ground

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Glasgow, Scotland

What makes a life memorable? With today’s world of online clutter, award winners, inspirational people and political voices,  it’s hard to really know what impact even means, anymore.

But, a couple of days ago, I read an article about a girl who died when she was 22. She didn’t have any Nobel Peace Prizes or Olympic gold medals. What she did have, were friends who were willing to write her story after she was gone. And, as I scrolled through the piece, tears started to fill my eyes. After I was done reading, I had to stop and ask myself, “Why does this matter? I’ve never even met this person. So, why am I mourning?”

You make beautiful things out of dust.

These lyrics have been haunting me for a couple of days now. They come the band Gungor, but I don’t think I ever let them sink in, until today.

Before, when I listened to this song, I thought about the scientific realities. From dust we come, and to dust we will return.

But today, I let my heart speak for a moment. I started to think over the past couple of years. They weren’t great. With the exception of the last four months, I would go as far as to say they were probably the worst in my repertoire. Nothing seemed to work – ever. I felt like life kicked me again, and again and again, until I was broken down and bloody on the ground. Life was shit, and it didn’t seem like it was ever going to get better. It was chaotic, it was unfair, it was overwhelming, and it was filled with pain, tears and sitting on my bed asking, “WHY?”

But now, looking back, I see that it was dust. Those things that happened, each pain filled moment, was merely dust preparing to be formed into beauty.

See, I serve a Creator who takes dirt and molds it into lives that matter. A God who raises up leaders out of the broken and the weak. When doubt fills my mind, and chaos is all I can see, I know that, through the storm, there is beauty waiting to be made. Beautiful things are rising up out of the ground.

I feel like doubt is one of the greatest killers of dreams. We doubt ourselves, so we make do with what we have, instead of pursuing what we’re called to. We look at ourselves and think, “There’s no way. I’m too [flawed, imperfect, scared, tired, messed up, broken, weak, insecure, unlovable, insignificant, unsure, inexperienced] to ever see this through. It’s not even worth trying.” And guess what? You’re right. You are. But, that’s not the point.

Regardless of beliefs, I think the creation story found in Genesis is beautiful. In it we’re told that God takes dust from the ground and forms it into man. Maybe it’s because I’m an artist – but this is significant. For every other living thing, God speaks them into existence. But for humankind, he takes them and forms them out of the dirt of the ground.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried making pottery, but let me tell you – it’s hard. Your hands get dirty, and your arms get tired. It takes hours and hours to make one pot. You sit there staring and carving, smoothing your surface and lovingly putting in each detail you desire.

We were worth God’s time. And that means something.

In life today we don’t get to see God physically making people out of dirt, but I almost wish we did. We don’t have a physical manifestation so, instead, we have to pay close attention to see the remaking of beauty from the dirt that life produces.

Because, when it comes down to it:

In order to truly understand love, you have to experience pain.

To truly appreciate the value of laughter, you have to know the heaviness of silence.

To relish the comfort of restful sleep, you have to know the anguish of tear filled nights.

It’s not that our lives are perfect which makes us matter, or important, or significant or able. It’s that our lives are poignant.

Why did that 22 year old’s life matter, when I read her story? Because, the words she left behind sparked curiosity and enlightenment in those she spoke to; she set her mind toward goals, and her hard work inspired others to do the same.

Her life wasn’t beautiful because it was spotless, it was beautiful because the ripple effects of her existence are still echoing through space and time. Her zeal for life, her passion for engaging fully with others; those were her legacy.

Those were the stories that continued to be told and retold and retold until they ended up on my laptop screen. She lived a life worth writing about.

And, even if it was through the testimony of others, she inspired me to remember that it’s not always about the prizes, the recognition and the success of our endeavors. Sometimes, beautiful things don’t come out of perfection – they come out of dust.