Tuesday, September 25, 2012

He will hold my hand

It creeps up slowly, hardly noticeable at first.

It begins as a second thought, then it grows into doubt, worry, anxiety.  Then it hits you full force, right in the face.  FEAR.

Fear.  It is something I struggle with.  Somedays more than others, but it seems to always be there, just under the surface, waiting to rear its ugly head at the first possible chance.  It attacks at random, unsuspected moments.  It comes in your dreams. It robs you of spiritual victory.  It hides itself and then shows up at your most vunerable times.

And so it happened to me again. 

While John and I were rejoicing about finally getting our tickets for Togo (we were so thankful for the great price the Lord provided) I went to bed that night and it began.

 I laid there for what seemed like  hours talking with God.

 Asking Him again,  "Are you sure we are the family you want to send to Togo?  Don't forgot God, that IS in Africa.  Far away Africa.....hot Africa......Africa without WalMart....Africa with huts and Typhoid......Africa with malaria and mambas......Africa.  Really God?  Are you sure you weren't talking to someone else?  Maybe we didn't have a good connection.  John's not a preacher.  I'm just a mommy.  We are no one special.  Don't forget God, we do have 3 kids.  You really want us to pack them up and take them all the way to Africa?  What if they get sick?  What if a snake gets in the house?  What if Aiden picks up a scorpion and sticks it in his pocket?  What if they get some weird parasite?  Really God......are you sure you want US, the Groenevelds, to go to Africa? Are you sure you have the right people?  I am scared.  I don't think I can do this."

And then, in the quiet stillness of the night,

He whispers to me, "I am there".

There...... with me as tears fall down my cheeks onto the pillow as fear plagues me.

There...... as my mind wanders, again asking God, "Are you sure?"

There....as my heart races with fear for my children.

There....as fears threaten to take my breath away.

There.  He is there.  He will be with us in Africa.....with the parasites.....with the mambas....with my sweet children.  There is no better place for them than in the center of His will for our family....even if that means in Africa.  So as fear plagues my heart, I remind myself of these promises:

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:  I will strengthen thee: yea, I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Is 41:10

For the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not: I will help thee. Is 41:13

Did you catch that?? God said He will hold my hand!

So as we venture further into the fearful, what better assurance do I need to calm my fears than knowing that God,

the God of all the universe,

the God who placed each star in the sky,

the God who watched over sweet baby Moses,

the God of Abraham & Isaac,

the God who was with Daniel in the lions den,

the God who took on human flesh,

the God that knew me before I was formed,

the God that knows the number of hairs on Eliza, Olivia, and Aiden's head,

the God that promised to go with me

....will be holding my hand!!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

We saw it!!!!

Yesterday we had an outing.  One of our professors took a group of us students to explain how to use the train system in France.  It is essential to know how to get around on the trains with the very intricate system.  So she took us to the train station and took us into Paris!!!  Then we went on a little boat tour with her and the other students.

After the boat tour, we had the option to stay in Paris or go back to the school.  Since it was the first time we have been anywhere(other than the grocery store and church) since we arrived, we decided to stay and look around.  We walked around the city for a while and made our way to.....

......the Eiffel Tower!!!!

It was actually getting a little late when we got there, but we wanted to go up to see the view of Paris.

Apparently, we got in the wrong line, because we ended up WALKING up the stairs.....all 674 of them!!  Needless to say, we had to stop a few times to rest!

     This was the view from the 2 floor up.  It was quite breath taking.

This is on the very very top of the Eifel Tower.  After all the stairs, we had to take a tiny elevator that seemed to go up forever.  I kept asking John, "Aren't we to the top yet?".  When we got out at the top, it was absolutely freezing and the wind was blowing pretty hard.

After we made our way down the elevator and ALL those stairs, I was happy to be on solid ground!  I turned around and looked up, and this was our view of the tower.

But the fun didn't last long.  Today we were back in class and this was my view.....all day.  And now, John is doing his homework (for nearly 2 hours) and I am study for my test tomorrow.  But at least we have our memories of a wonderul day in Paris.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Weekend

Nothing too exciting happened this weekend. 

Laundry was on the top of my to do list.

The laundry room in the basement that we all have to share. 

Obviously, the settings are all in French.  I don't know if we set it wrong, but it took 2&1/2 hours just to WASH the clothes and another 1 & 1/2 to dry.  So I sat there....the whole time......and studied!

We did have a little cookout with all the other students Saturday night.  That gave me something to look forward too......the days seem so long without the kids to fill my time. 

John playing with Josiah, one of the other missionary family's little boy.

We all had to bring something to grill and a side dish.  So I figured the best "American thing" to bring to a cookout was good ole potato salad!

I wasn't sure if all the other nationalities would like it....but it was all gone so I guess it was okay!

This was a salad an Australian girl brought.  I hate to admit, I didn't try it.  I am really not adventurous when it comes to food.  Although I did try the salad that the Korean family brought and it was great!

Then today we went to church with another couple, Jeremy and Mattie, who are headed to Togo.  We hit if off with them since we have the Togo connection! 

The church was in Paris (don't worry, we didn't see the Eifel Tower) and it took a train ride and quite a bit of walking to get to it.  I understood a few words here and there from the pastor's sermon, but it was pretty difficult sitting and trying to listen so intently for 2 hours! 

There were around 60 people there and I was struck by the fact that they all have to travel so far (some travel well over an hour) to attend a fundamental Baptist church.  Such a beautiful country...but such lost people with a great need for the Gospel.

After lunch we both studied for a while.  I have a test in the morning over the first unit that my class has covered.  Alot of it is review from what I already know,  but I am still nervous about a test!  It's been 10 years since I was in a class room.  I hope I remember how to study!

This evening we were able to watch Faith, our home church's morning service.  There is a 6 hour time difference so it works out nicely that we can watch it live.  We are so thankful for our home church.

And then, the highlight of my day.......

I do not know how I would get through being apart without being able to Skpye the kids!   It has been such a blessing being able to see them and talk to them every day.  I realize that we could NOT have internet access so I just wanted to thank the LORD for such a tremendous blessing!

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Little Get Together

Today after class, the school chaplain and his wife (Phillipe & Rosemary) had all the students over for a little tea and cake so we could all get to know each other some outside of class. I think there are 39 students that are from all over the world.....Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, Korea, Iceland,England, Germany, Swizterland and Scotland. There are only a few Americans so it is fascinating talking to the other students and seeing what their plans are after French study. Almost everyone here is going into missions, mainly in Africa. I think the only person not going into missions is a professional rugby player from Georgia...the country, not the state!!  It is amazing to hear their testimonies and see how the Lord is leading them into missions. Being among fellow missionaries is very refreshing. There is a sense of commraderie that is so encouraging. It was also nice to be in an English speaking environment!!

Some of the pastries Rosemary had for us.

For some reason, Rosemary seems to have taking a liking to us.  So after the get together, she called me into her kitchen and handed me some pastries she had boxed up and in her Scottish accent she said, "I wanted to send these home with ya, but don't let the others see!"

This is my friend Petra.  Her and her husband are from South Africa.  John and I really enjoy being around them.  Martin, her husband, calls us his American comrads.  They have one son here with them and 2 older sons back home. I think she tries to keep an eye on me because she knows I miss the kids!

After the get together, we walked back to our room and did a couple hours homework of phonetics, grammar and conjugation.  We also we able to Skype the kids....which was wonderful.  Our brains are fried after just 2 days so I am off to bed.  I can only imagine how my head will feel next Friday night after a full week of French!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

1st Day of Class

We just finished our first full day of French classes and did a couple hours of homework.  All I can say is "WOW!!!".  The approach the proffesors take is quite interesting....no English!  It is true immersion.  99% of what they say is in French!   I have to listen very intently to understand. In our exercise books, the directions are in French so sometimes I have to pull out my French-English dictionary to even know what I am supposed to be doing!

 Thankfully, quite a bit of what I knew before is coming back.  But we sure have alot to learn.  It is a bit discouraging if you look too far ahead, so we are looking at one day at a time.  I have reminded myself many times today that with the Lord's help I can do this; however, if I try to do it in my own strength, I will surely fail!  SO thankful for the Lord's promises of grace and strength for each day and each circumstance we face.  I am also so thankful for all those who are praying for us.  Each day, I can feel the prayers of those back home.  We are so blessed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Long days

Today we do not have classes.  Apparently, local schools are out every Wednesday so we do not have classes to allow those with children to be with their kids.   It's nice not to have class.....but it makes for such a long day.  I hear and see the other families together and my heart aches.  The time passes so slowly and the quietness in our room in deafening.  It is so lonesome without our little people here.  Maybe this was what our life was like before we had kids.  I guess I don't remember those days.

John was sensing I was needing to get out a bit, so he suggested we go to Cora which is store like WalMart.....but bigger.

It is rather overwhelming.  You don't know where anything is.  Everything is in French.  Most of the brands are European.  You can find American brands but they are more expensive.

This made me smile.  It's Mr. Clean!!!

We were looking for something to send to the kids.  I found a couple little things so tomorrow after class we will venture out to find a post office(I hope they have a box to put the stuff in!) and send it off to the kids.

Since we have to walk every where we go, I was hoping we had killed some time by walking to the store and around the village. But when we got back to the room and I looked at the time, I was greatly dissapointed. Not as much time had passed as I had hoped for. It may sound odd, but I am just ready for classes to be in full swing so these days won't seem quite so long.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Our Journey to France

The journey started yesterday as we said goodbye to our 3 kids. All morning I cried. I tried so hard not let the kids see me upset, but it was impossible. The night before, I showed Aunt Jeana where all their clothes and things were, told her about Eliza's breathing medicines and reminded her about some of the kids special things. That night, all three kids fell asleep in bed with me as I held them as tightly as I could. The girls asked lots of questions and I tried my best to be upfront and honest with them. Livi said, "You have to go to France to learn more French so we can tell more people about Jesus." She about broke my heart!

We decided not to have them take us to the airport. I just felt like that would make it worse for them. And something in my mind didn't want them to see us leaving. So instead, we said our goodbyes at the grandparent's house and their Aunt Jeana took them to the zoo. It was worse than I could have imagined. The girls cried. I cried.....and I mean the ugly-shoulders shaking-couldn't catch my breath cry. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. Aiden was a big boy. He was just happy he was going to the zoo. And John was my rock, reassuring me that we were doing the right thing for the kids. After they left, I had a few more minutes to ugly cry and then we had to head to the airport. Tears were abundant and my heart truly felt like I couldn't take it. I really think the prayers of so many people got me through.

We boarded the plane in Des Moines and taxied out to the run way only to be stopped due to weather in Chicago.  We sat for about 30 minutes, got clearance and then were stopped again because Air Force One was taking from the same airport and no one else can be in the same airspace as the president.  Finally, after about an hour sitting in the plane we took off.  And I cried again.

When we got to Chicago, we stopped and exchanged some money so we would have some Euro's when we arrived in France.  Then we got something to eat.  I was still very tearful.  John disappeared for a few minutes and then showed back up with this.  A caramel apple!!  One of my favorite things.  He was so sweet and patient with me through all the crying.  He laughed when I took a picture of it.  I said, "I can't take pictures of the kids so I'll just take pictures of everything else".
When I saw our plane pull up in Chicago....the tears started again and my heart just raced as I realized what we were about to do.  I whispered a prayer begging the Lord to give us the strength to do this impossible task.  When we boarded the plane, we were pleasantly surprised at our seats.  The Lord knew I needed some encouragement!!  We had the best seats (other than 1st class) that we could have gotten.  It was something little, but I know it was the Lord!
We flew about 8 hours through the night.  So they served us dinner and breakfast.
When we landed in Paris....the adventure began!  We had some instructions from the school on how to get to the campus, but it was a challenge trying to figure it all out.  I commented to John that this would have been really hard for the kids if they were with us.
John insisted on carrying all the bags which were all close to 150 pounds. 
We had to walk a good bit, but finally found our train.  We had over an hour trip on it....so long that we were the very last ones on it!  Kind of makes you nervous.....like you missed your stop!
After the train,  it took about another hour walking around trying to find the bus we were supposed to be taking.  All this time John, sweet John carried those heavy bags.  We should have thought better and packed something with wheels, but we had no idea we would have to walk so much.  We rode the bus for a little while.....and missed our stop!!!  A sweet older lady must have noticed our confusion and tried to tell us where to get off.  So we got off at the next stop and walked some more.....poor John!!  The weather is cool, but he was just drenched after carrying the bags so long.  And finally, after stopping several people, and using our broken French.....we found it!!!
Needless to say, John was happy!  They left a little note on the door for us.
Sabrina, one of the French teachers, gave us a tour of the grounds and showed us our rooms.  I was fighting back tears the entire time.  It really hit me that we are here.....for 8 weeks.....without the kids.  It didn't help that there are other families here (that will be here a full year) with their small kids, playing in the garden.  John keeps telling me, we did the best thing for our kids.  My heart is so heavy.
We have 2 little rooms.  One with a bed and sink.  It is about 10 feet by 8 feet.
And a separate room that has a couple chairs, a desk and a little kitchen with untensil.  It is very small, but will be nice for just the 2 of us.

After our little tour, we were wore out from all the traveling.  So I cooked a fancy French meal,  Ramen Noodles, that we brought with us and then we took a nap.  We were both just drained from the emotions and the days events.
After a short nap, we realized that we needed to find some more food.  Most everything is closed here on Sunday, but we went for a walk into the town and found a little grocer with fruits and veggies.  We bought some strawberries and peaches.  And we found a little bakery and picked up a couple croissants and a little loaf of bread.  We brought some peanut butter from home, so we might be living off Ramen and PB sandwiches!
Now that we had some food, we walked back to the campus. It was nice getting to see the town we will be staying in.  So much to learn, but we know the Lord will help us through each step.
When we got back to our room, we were able to video Skype the kids.  It was choppy, but it was simply amazing being able to see them.  They were giggling and playing with their auntie and Papaw. They seemed happy.  It was just what I needed after the last 2 days.

My family

My family