(This post was originally published on my personal blog, Of Postcards & Ink, between 2015-2016.)
I’ve always been a listmaker. To-do lists, shopping lists, to-read lists, to-write lists, to-cook lists, to-bake lists, to-reply, to-visit lists…you get the idea. Whether they find their home in my phone’s Notes app, hastily written on random pieces of grid paper (#frenchlyf #linedpaperisararecommodity), neatly dot-pointed in a Word document, or carefully curated in my Moleskine, you’ll find figments of my thoughts, my worries, my burdens, my dreams and my reflections threaded through them all.
November has been a month of a lot of things. A lot of deadlines, a lot of emotions, a lot of Sciences Po student solidarity (the month is inherently associated with assessment-related breakdowns), a lot of books, a lot of words, a lot of security checks and a lot more cold. And all of these wonderful things unfortunately came hand in hand with a notable absence of blog posts (I’m sorry!) and limited photo opportunities, but I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things next week, when I’ll be gallivanting around Paris in holiday mode (and a copious number of thermals and layers).
In lieu of writing a long and convoluted recap of everything that’s happened over the last four weeks, I thought I’d just share a few of the experiences and memories that have stood the test of time insofar as dwelling in my heart and on my mind.
GBU Weekend de Rentrée (‘Deviens ce que tu es’) – At the beginning of November, I spent a weekend away with fellow Île-de-France GBUers about an hour and a half south-west of Paris and it was such a breath of fresh air (metaphorically and literally). We looked at the theme of identity/what it means to “become who you are” in Christ in 2 Corinthians in talks, discussion groups, workshops and prayer sessions. There was something equal parts hard and yet familiar about being on a Christian camp in a completely different country, with a group of people that I didn’t know very well at all and in another language. It was greatly encouraging and humbling to see and experience God’s work among French students and young workers, and I really valued having this opportunity to get to know some of the other students, workers and GBU staff members better. On a more banal note, by way of camp food, we also enjoyed three-course lunches and dinners with a seemingly endless supply of baguettes at hand in typical French style, haha (I think it’s time to up your game, Merroo!).
- A fun fact for the WSCCC youth/youth leaders back home: On the first night, we had a session of games/ice breakers and the fictional story line for the games we played basically revolved around the idea that we were all secret agents and the threat at large involved an anonymous force trying to steal our identities…sound familiar? #identity2013 – I couldn’t help but laugh! Either great minds think alike, or there just aren’t that many viable identity-themed story lines out there ;)
Beautiful stories of God’s redeeming work among the nations – While at the GBU weekend away, I met a lovely girl (H) who’s currently a young worker. While we were chatting, she shared that she actually spent a year in Sydney on exchange at UNSW back in 2007, which led to some unexpected reminiscing about the 13-storey library, Basser Step struggles, various courses offered by the International Relations department and the like, haha. But it gets better. What she told me next filled me with enough joy and excitement to burst. H came to know, love and follow Jesus through CBS’s FOCUS ministry while she was at UNSW on exchange! And it all started with her receiving a CBS flyer on the main walkway at O-Week. Having often heard FOCUS staff members share about their ministry among international students and the amount of time and prayer invested into equipping new Christians to stand firm and continue serving God and His people after they finish their exchange, leave Sydney and return to their home country, it was incredible to see the fruits of their labour still flourishing years on. I’m incredibly thankful to God for giving me the privilege of witnessing the way that He is using my home university’s ministry to radically transform the lives of people around the world in so many different ways.
My La Géopolitique Depuis la Fin de la Guerre Froide subject – Goodness me, this one took a lot out of me. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to divide the subject’s assessment scheme into two assessments worth 50% each which occurred within a week of each other at the end of the semester is definitely not in my good books right now. In the space of a week in the middle of November, this subject saw me writing a 3,000 word essay about the evolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while memorising a semester’s worth of content about the geopolitics of seven regions in the world for a closed book exam. All in French. It was quite the stressful and sleep-deprived ordeal, to say the least.
Making sense of senselessness – So much has been said about the attacks that shook Paris on the 13th of November. That night was a long one – filled with a whole host of emotions, shock, prayers and concern for dear friends here in Paris. In a city that’s only around 9km in diameter, with a densely packed population and the relative number of people who had suffered in the attacks, the devastating span of risk and loss hit terribly close to home. While receiving news of Sciences Po classmates who had been injured and who had even lost friends, the senseless violence and evil of what had happened was a heavy weight for us all to bear. As such, it was particularly hard to see and read the crushing articles, Facebook statuses and voices of criticism being posed by so many people (particularly those not living in Paris) in the aftermath. While there is, of course, some degree of validity in many of those comments, I couldn’t help but feel a sad and aching sense of resentment towards the insensitivity of some of their detached criticism, as I walked through the streets of a city that was profoundly united in deep, deep mourning and grief. Amidst the confusion and the fear, I was really thankful for church the Sunday right after the attacks. There was a heaviness in the air, but also a sense of hope. The sermon was on Romans 8 and was a timely reminder of the rightness of mourning for the brokenness of this world, but also the importance of looking up – to God’s goodness and the eternal hope we have with Him, and of the world’s desperate need for Jesus. As more and more time passed and as emotions began to level out, it was helpful to have opportunities to discuss what had happened at my church and GBU bible studies and be reminded of the enduring truths of God’s goodness and the gospel – this world is broken and it isn’t our true home and when senseless violence and evil comes frighteningly close to knocking on our door, we can rest secure in God’s promise that we are eternally His.
A trip down memory lane – My Humanitarian & Development Aid subject was probably my least academically-rigorous subject this semester, but one that I enjoyed immensely. A combination of a lovely class, a professor with an off-beat sense of humour and creative/practical assessments made it a nice way to start off my Friday mornings (even the one 8am make-up class we were forced to have was redeemed by the fresh croissants and pain au chocolat kindly brought for us by our professor that day!). For our final assessment, we were required to put together a creative work that communicated the nuances of a particular topic that was discussed during the course. Armed with the knowledge that my professor was an avid Tintin fan, I took the opportunity to indulge myself in a trip down memory lane (I grew up loving the Tintin franchise) and created my very own Tintin comic book called ‘Tintin in Tregoria’ (Tregoria was the name of a fictional country used in one of our class’ practical and analytical simulations) and even managed to weave Thompson & Thomson, Rastapopoulos and Bianca Castafiore into the story line. A bit of a nerdy highlight, but there you go.
My first Thanksgiving – The last Sunday of November saw my church pull out all the stops to put together a mammoth American Thanksgiving meal after the usual service, which brought around 80 people together for an afternoon of food, fun, good conversations and reminders of how much we have to be thankful to God for. The night before, I also popped over to Jessie’s place to use her oven (oh baking, how I’ve missed you!) and got to catch up with her while preparing a dish for Thanksgiving, which was lovely. The Thanksgiving afternoon itself managed to stretch out until sunset and played host to some warm and wonderful conversations, reminders of the blessings that God has lavished upon us and a crowd of very well-fed people.
And there you go – before I knew it, I was saying hello to December. I think I’ve successfully out-listed myself in this post, so thank you for bearing with me! I hope you’re all having a wonderful week and for those in Sydney, that you’re enjoying the sunshine and spending all the time at the beach and on the coast that I sadly can’t, haha.
Prayer points will be back in next week’s post (I’m currently quite occupied with studying for my final exam on Thursday, but felt like I just needed to get this post up and published!), but thank you so much to those of you who have been staying in touch via other means throughout the month of November and keeping me in your thoughts and prayers while allowing me to do the same for you. Below are some photos from the GBU weekend away – enjoy! x