(This post was originally published on my personal blog, Of Postcards & Ink, between 2015-2016.)
Arriving in Strasbourg was like stepping out onto a fine tightrope between France and Germany. It’s a city of thriving contradictions and idiosyncrasies – where French, Germanic, medieval and modern influences meet in a melting pot of culture, history and architecture. Strasbourg houses an entire city centre (Grande Île) that has been classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, stands as the official seat of the European Parliament and boasts of a widespread reputation for… excellent gingerbread and Christmas markets (so it appears that you can have it all!) and its name fittingly identifies itself as the “town at the crossing of roads”. In my few days here, I’ve wandered through streets and along bridges that feel like they came straight out of a Grimm fairy tale, explored cornfields and flower (and bicycle)-lined rural lanes and gazed up at the Gothic grandeur of the town’s main cathedral. While it hasn’t been for long, Strasbourg has perfectly ushered me into the waiting arms of Germany that will fill the next few days.
While Skyping with my family, my dad jokingly commented that “a lot of places in Europe seem to end in ‘bourg’/’burg’. I’ll try and keep a tally throughout the year ahead for you, Dad, but for now, here are some glimpses of Strasbourgs’s Petite France neighbourhood, cathedral and the fields of Alsace.
In other news, I turned twenty yesterday! After leaving Strasbourg and arriving in the Black Forest region in south-west Germany, I was sitting atop a forest hill of pine trees that overlooked the quaint village town I was staying in (more on that in the week ahead) and found myself in such a state of introspection – reflecting on the past 365 days and dreaming about what the next few hundred will hold. My today consists of a vast array of yesterdays and whether they were happy, sad, hopeful, lonely, exciting, scary, adventurous and gloomy days, I am thankful for them all. I can’t know what my tomorrows will bring, but I do know that each and every one of them will be a beautiful gift from God that He has perfectly prepared for me and me for them.
It’s been a week since I left Sydney, and what a week it’s been. Filled with beautiful places, faces and only a couple of existential crises ;) I am so thankful to God for each and every one of you. I have been so overwhelmed by love, prayer and support from people in Sydney this week and I have treasured the time you’ve taken to check in with me, listen and also share about what’s been happening in your own life. Staying in touch has been a great comfort to me, particularly in those moments where I’m feeling lonely and so far away from those I know and love.
Thank God for His provision, protection and guidance over the past week. Navigating foreign countries has been such a humbling reminder of how there are so many things in life that are beyond my control (no matter how seemingly well-prepared I am) and has ushered me into a place of prayerful reliance on God. Thank God for teaching me this lesson – in Sydney, I think it was much easier to be unconsciously lulled into cultivating a false sense of self-sufficiency, particularly in the seemingly mundane.
Thank God for kind strangers. From the lady in Appenweier who exchanged two €10 notes for my €20 note for ticket machine purposes (despite initially struggling to communicate in broken German/English respectively and lots of miming, we realised that we could both speak French and proceeded to get to know each other/chat while waiting for the train, which was lovely!), to the German woman sitting next to me on the (long) train ride to Berlin who shared bits and pieces of her life with me, who helped me watch my luggage and who voiced her willingness to answer any questions I had; God has been so gracious in using these people as instruments of His kindness over the past few days.
Please pray that God might continue to help me to adjust to the travelling/”nomadic” lifestyle, where I can rarely call a place home for more than a few days before moving on. I’m looking forward to arriving back in Paris in mid-August and being able to settle down properly in my little studio apartment. While I was still in Paris earlier this week, I paid a visit to the neighbourhood that I’ll be living in and this is what my courtyard looks like (see below – apologies for the lower resolution). Thank God for providing me with such a lovely and (from what I gathered) friendly neighbourhood to live in while I’m studying in Paris for ten months.
Please pray that I might continue to be faithful in my walk with God and continue to grow in my personal godliness, despite being physically apart from church and the support/accountability networks that I’ve left in Sydney. I’m looking forward to being able to join a church long-term upon my return to Paris, but in the meantime, will be working out how to spend my Sundays/do church a little more unconventionally via sermon downloads and the like.
While catching up over Skype, Iris and I spent some time marvelling at the transcendent power of God’s word and how He never fails to meet each and every one of us where we’re at through it. Praise God for the way He actively speaks to us through His word and sustains us by His Spirit! Here’s a little something that I’ve loved being reminded of this week:
“But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you…
Let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O LORD;
you cover him with favour as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:7,11-12)