Just like that, it’s my one-year anniversary of being an expat in France. In some ways it seems like only yesterday I walked through security and into France after 30 hours of airport hopping and waiting around terminals, but also a lot has happened since. In no particular order, I moved ten or so times, was near a bombing, carried a pony, gave out groceries, baked many cakes, was in a car accident, experienced the strangest film night of my life, travelled to Spain and Italy, was stalked, witnessed to students, attended Bible college in French, survived a pandemic, met many incredible people, cooked and served lots of food, nearly broke my leg twice, prayed a lot, climbed a couple of mountains, and learned too many things to list. I’m a different person than the one who came to Grenoble twelve months ago, and hopefully, I’m a wiser one for the things I’ve experienced. Right now, it feels as if I’m starting a sequel. I’m not the new arrival anymore. Things which were once new and foreign have shifted into the familiar.

Plus, the world has changed. Between the pandemic, protests, and the changing relational dynamics of my own life, the future looks different than it did a year ago. Though the horizon has been on fire for a while, people are being more vocal. In consequence, polarisation is even more of a serious problem. Grace for others and fortitude in our own beliefs are needed in abundance. We aren't meant to walk in worry or fear but do the right thing no matter what. We can only make a difference if we have the courage to hold onto our convictions, act accordingly, and help those most vulnerable around us. In rightly walking the path put before us, I believe we experience the difference between surviving and thriving.

In the last year, I have learned and changed, and I’m especially thankful for the time I have been given to serve God in France. Although I’m not totally sure what’s ahead, I can’t wait to see what year two has in store. Whatever happens, Psalm 103:2-5 is a good reminder:

Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.
No matter what we go through or how weary we may be, we are crowned in love and compassion and our strength is renewed.