Tuesday, May 31, 2011

reality check

On Sunday around 9:00 my time (about 3:00 eastern standard time), my parents and I met for a date we'd been planning all week--on Skype, that is. They were up at Lake Burton for Memorial Day weekend with Meme so it was the perfect time for a group date! Seeing everyone's faces and knowing they were eating dad's pork chops and an Italian cream cake made me a little sad and maybe a little jealous. But then I remembered....I'm in Paris.
That sort of hit me tonight when my friends and I were out for dinner at this adorable little Italian cafe about 10 minutes away from our dorm. We were sitting there drinking wine and attempting to keep our voices down (all of the Frenchies are so quiet...I personally find it impossible) when we looked out the window and there was the Eiffel Tower, sparkling in all its glory. And all of a sudden, I became so aware that I was living in Paris, eating supper at an Italian cafe on the corner of the street with a group of girls that have quickly found such a special place in my heart. And I was quickly reminded of how blessed I am at this moment, how blessed I've always been. It made me want to be more aware of that, because failing to do so is failing to recognize God.

A blog with adventures and pictures will be coming soon--maybe tonight, actually. If I can keep my hands off my new jar of Nutella long enough to write something.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sundays in Paris

This morning I woke up much earlier than I expected to. I'm not sure why; maybe it was the tolling of the bells 100 feet from our window. I'm not kidding--we literally share a dorm with priests.
Anyhow, it was sort of nice to start my day early for once. And for the first time this whole trip, I went for a run with my roommate Janna. It had been entirely too long since I'd made my legs move at a pace faster than a power walk, so endorphins literally started running throughout my body the minute my feet hit the pavement. We made our way to Luxembourg Gardens; apparently this is where people in Paris come to run, because it's definitely not on the sidewalks.
The temperature was perfect. It was cool with a chill in the air, but no so cold that you needed anything more than shorts and a t-shirt. And as I began to run alongside others in the park, I felt like a Parisian for the first time. I didn't feel like I stuck out like a sore thumb, because I always do. And the gardens are spectacular, so that wasn't so bad either.
After we got back, the girls and I ventured off to try a place called Lux Coffee that we've been dying to try. We all had omeletes and crepes for brunch, afterwards setting out to explore the city some more. Actually, we were looking for a good ice cream place to hit up later on and ended up shopping instead (story of my life here). It was the most beautiful, relaxing day, and I soon decided that Sundays in Paris are one of my new favorite things. Although...what day in Paris isn't a good one?
This past weekend the whole group took a weekend trip to Normandy, France. We visited a memorial museum, Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc, the American and British soldier cemeteries, and Bayeux.



 So many emotions come with visiting these places. There's awe, there's sadness and pride and even love for the people that I know gave their lives there. I was snapping pictures on the beach in my tennis shoes and rain jacket, knowing that over 60 years ago there were men taking their last breaths at the very spot where I was standing. It's humbling, to say the least. But it made me even more grateful for the sacrifices made.
To change the subject completely, my nutella obsession is worsening by the minute. Peanut butter is so last week--mom, you might want to go ahead and have a jar ready for me when I get home!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

life in Paris

I am very aware that my blogging has been sub-par...but I'm having a hard time making myself sit down and write when all I want to do is explore Paris. I haven't even been here a week and I'm already so in love. I don't know if I could ever afford living here (maybe I should start playing the Georgia lottery more), but I would love to.
On Sunday we traveled to Champs-Elysees for...take a guess...shopping! It's a really touristy area, which has its positives and negatives for sure. Positive: stores for days! I myself headed straight for the H&M Paris. Along the way I passed Louis Vuitton, Chanel and the likes--definitely walked right past those. Negative: everything is expensive. I mean everything. I went to get a crepe (go figure) and it was 8.50 euros. That's almost $13.00, y'all. Are you kidding me? I get mine for 3.50 euros at crepe stands on backstreets, so I wasn't fixing to drop that on an afternoon snack. Anyways, you get my point about the ups and downs.
On Monday we ventured to Montmartre, a part of Paris known for its vintage shopping and, most importantly, the Basilique de Sacre-Coeur.
The basilica in itself is absolutely gorgeous, but it sits at the highest point of Paris, so you can see the whole city when you're there.
It was crazy for me to imagine that this place was built so long ago for the same God I love and worship today. For me, this just goes to show how He is everlasting and unchanging--always has been and always will be.
Yesterday we made our way to Luxembourg Gardens for the afternoon. It was beautiful and quiet. Even the toddlers are quiet. They make Americans look obnoxious, honestly. Regardless, our time spent in the park there was so nice and relaxing; it was nice to be off of my feet for once. Speaking of feet...mine are disgusting. They are covered in blisters from walking so much, and I feel like there's this constant film of  dirt on them. One of the first things I'm doing when I get home is getting a PEDICURE.
Today almost our whole group went to the Notre Dame together. The Disney movie just really didn't do it justice. It blows my mind that people were able to create something so intricate and gorgeous that long ago. (I don't have my pictures uploaded now but I will tomorrow for sure--this is me being lazy.) My friends and I are going to mass there on Sunday and I am ecstatic! Mostly because it's mass at Notre Dame and also because I've never actually been to a Catholic mass before. I don't know how, but I haven't. We're also planning on going back on the first Friday of June, because apparently they will be displaying some of the thorns from Jesus's crown. Seriously...can you imagine? I need to find a pack of Kleenex before I go.
On another note, a group of girls and I just booked our vacation that we'll be taking in a couple weeks. We're going to Nice for four nights; it's a beach city in the south of France on the Mediterranean Sea and is so, so beautiful. Where in France isn't??
So excited! I'll post tomorrow--I promise--because I know I've been bad about it. I'm finally over jet-lag and getting settled in so hopefully I can make myself sit down for more than 5 minutes at a time now. More to come!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

lost in paris

Day 3: I'm obsessed. The food is to die for--I don't understand how everyone here is so skinny?? It's probably because they walk everywhere..I probably walk an average of 3-4 hours a day, if not more. That's just getting from place to place. So I don't feel bad getting desserts at every meal!
Today I woke up and had to remind myself that I'm in Paris. I then set out with a couple girls (who I already love) to explore the city. We headed straight for the Longchamp store, which is only about a ten minute walk from St. John's (dangerous!) And let me tell you...first of all, the people working there were men. Very different from the U.S., where I feel like women definitely dominate the working positions in designer stores. These men were very fashionable and nice and polite and...handsome. (They're French, what else do you expect?) AND the prices are so much cheaper than in the U.S.! I guess because it's not an imported good here, but good grief my heart sang the minute I saw those price tags. 
We then set out for the Louvre to meet Janna because she had gone out for lunch with one of her friends who was in Paris for the weekend. Well, we thought we knew the general direction to go in, but after one whole hour of walking we were suddenly back where we started. You can imagine our disappointment...so we tried again. And succeeded! After wandering through many backstreets and markets, we finally saw the light; or rather, the Louvre. To say that it's massive is an understatement; I cannot wait to go back for a whole day with my Speech Communication class in a couple weeks. 
I wish I had pictures, but my camera has somehow already managed to die. So I'm charging it through an adapter right now and will hopefully have some color for my blogs by tomorrow. Thank you for all the prayers and well wishes!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

jet lag...

So. tired. Can't. function...
But I'm HERE!! I can't believe that I'm finally in Paris--it is only now that it all finally seems real. Since I couldn't blog on the plane, I wrote in my journal what I wished I could be blogging. Here are my excerpts from the sky:

   "Currently above Canada on Delta Flight 28, making my way to PARIS! The flight is right over 8 hours--my legs will be ready to run another half-marathon by the time I get off this plane. I'm sitting by my sweet friend Janna Chapman who's doing this whole study abroad thing with me. And I'm so excited about exploring Europe with her! We cannot stop pouring over our French guidebooks and saying, 'Merci beaucoup!' to each other every chance we get (mostly because that's about the only French we know). The food on the plane looked disgusting and probably had enough sodium to cause a minor heart attack. No thank you. So I ate my Luna Bar and will eagerly anticipate my next meal--in France. Still so crazy to think about! By the time we arrive at Charles De Gaulle Airport, it will be about 7:00 a.m. Paris time, 1:00 a.m. U.S. time. Essentially I will be awake for over 24 hours straight. This calls for shots of espresso when I get there! Speaking of a lack of sleep...Janna is napping beside me. Smart girl. I guess I should try that too. Au revoir!"

Just to follow up...I was never able to fall asleep on the plane, so I got strong, strong coffee the minute I was given the chance. I almost accidentally ordered a shot of strong espresso but, thankfully, someone knew that wasn't what I meant and corrected me. I have found that being in a place where you don't know the language and have no idea of your whereabouts is really, really hard. The French people seriously don't appreciate that we don't know their language. Not good for me. Needless to say, I've gotten the stink eye more than once today. But I'm really trying, and a lot of Parisians appreciate Americans trying to speak French even when it sounds terrible.
Today after our orientation a bunch of us set out for the streets of Paris to see what we could find. I found a plethora of stores to go back and visit, a raspberry tart which was divine, the Eiffel Tower, and a homemade personal pizza that took my breath away. (pictures later!)
I wish I could say more...but I'm so jet lagged. I have now been up for over 30 hours and am slowly approaching delirium.
So much more to come!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

countdown

It's here: I leave for Paris TOMORROW! Have I finished packing?...absolutely not. For the past 6 days now, I've slowly transitioned from Athens to home to the lake to home to--almost--Paris, and my packing progress is sad...

However, I'm the kind of person that can get things done when it's absolutely necessary. I may put something off for a while, but in the end I will buckle down and get in done in record time. Trust me, I'm a college student. 
I am ecstatic about spending the next few weeks of my life in another country for a number of reasons:
   1. I always find it so intriguing to see another part of God's Earth. For me, it's so easy to get wrapped up in where I am that I forget that God created a whole Earth with different countries and landscapes and cultures and people. Going to a place where I'm completely outside of my comfort zone will make me aware of that, which is something I desperately want.
   2. I anticipate that being out of my comfort zone will make my relationship with God even stronger. When no one understands the language I'm speaking, He will. When I'm lost and scouring maps to figure out where in the world I am, I will know that He knows exactly where I am and is protecting me from all the Parisian crazies. 
   3. Food. Good food. That's all I need to say about that.
   4. Adventure--I'm ready for a good sense of it. And I'll be blogging about all my adventures while I'm there! I told my Meme this could be her way of living vicariously through me while I'm gone.

Obviously, there are more than four reasons. But my suitcase is still empty, so first things first. 
Au revoir!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

i'll be back, burton

Today officially marked the end of my last weekend at home before I leave for Paris; thus, I was the one who got to choose where I wanted to have one last "hoorah" with the family. And where else would I want to spend it? (Hint below)
Lake Burton! God's Country, Heaven on Earth, etc... So we all packed up and headed to the lake for the weekend. I just couldn't resist having one last meal up there (I swear food tastes better at the lake). Dad grilled his famous chicken and mom baked sweet potatoes and sauteed squash and green peppers and onion and made strawberry salad..woah! That's a lot of food. Then we finished off with coffee and key lime pie yogurt for dessert. It was the best, really.
And though it wasn't sunny the whole time, we were still able to catch some rays. Besides, who cares if it rains at Lake Burton?
a. In my opinion, there's always basically a 60% chance that it will rain there on any given day, so to not expect it is setting yourself up for disappointment.
b. Even if it does rain, you can sit on the porch and read or snuggle up for a movie. I'm not complaining.
While I was on the dock I got some good reading done. A little heavy for hot weather if you ask me (weird, I know), but it was so good I couldn't put it down. It's called The Case for Faith, by Lee Strobel. If there is anyone in your life who doubts the existence of God or aspects of who He is, put this book in their hands. It holds some of the most compelling arguments for Him I've ever heard.
It always seemed to stay hot while I was outside, but the minute everyone came down to the dock the clouds swept in. Mom didn't enjoy this, obviously.

Going up there made me realize how much I'll miss it over the next few weeks. At the same time...I'm going to Paris. So I'm not that sad.
Also, be prepared for a blog post about the chaotic packing (that has yet to be started) in the next couple days. It will be yet another form of procrastination as I try to avoid packing for 6 weeks in one suitcase. What a joke...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

bittersweet

I write this from home in Habersham, and I have to be honest; it's a little bittersweet. I'm so glad to be home for a while (only for 7 seven days though--I leave for Paris in a week!), but it was really hard to leave all of my friends today. After one last night together and quite possibly the best breakfast I've ever had at Mama's Boy this morning, it was time for good-byes. I hate those. But we said them anyway, knowing that we still have another year together.
(Here is Amberleia waving me off as I finally was able to make myself leave our house *tear* I'm going to miss her so much!)
And as I was giving my last big bear hugs to everyone, I realized just how much I love Athens. I love the neighborhood I live in; I love the food...love the food; I love the music scene; I love the shopping and the people and my school and the sports. I realized that I don't want one more year left there; I want four. Maybe I'll stay around for a while?...if my dream of living in Charleston doesn't become a reality first.
I mean, who wouldn't want to live in Charleston? Especially in one of these guys? Yeah...in my dreams.

Although it was hard to leave Athens, I couldn't have been more sure that this was one of the best years of my life. I have been so blessed in so many ways, grown spiritually and emotionally, and feel stronger and more hopeful that God's plans for me are great than I think I ever have. And let me tell you, I took full advantage of my final moments in Athens. My last week there consisted of three meals and two pieces of cake from the Grit, five trips to Yoforia, a day at the lake, my first meal at Mama's Boy (new favorite), and hours of talking about life and love and everything in between with my best friends. Best week ever. Here is one of mine and Amberleia's meals at the Grit. If you've never been, these pictures will make you go. If they don't, you're not human.
Ambo's black bean burger and tabouli salad with lemon-tahini dressing. (side note: I had that menu item memorized. Sad).
My dinner: hummus platter with hot pita and veggies and a side of tofu. YUM!
Oh my goodness...how am I going to go seven weeks without this?
So here I sit, missing Athens but glad to be home, knowing that in a week I'll be missing Athens and home but glad to be in Europe! Getting more and more excited and nervous and ready to leave everyday.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

here's to you, mother and best friend

I know it's after midnight, so technically it's Monday. But I'm still at the end of my Sunday, so it's still Mother's Day to me. And I promised a post completely dedicated to the woman God ordained to create and to have me, so here it is.
Before I type another word, know that this is a very condensed summary of my feelings for my mom. I could literally go on for days about her, but my hands would develop carpal tunnel before I could even begin to skim the surface of who she is.
I also have to begin by referencing God's love for mothers and the importance He places in them. From the very beginning of the Bible, God makes it clear that the first woman ever made will be the one who will give life to everyone who is to come: "Then the man--Adam--named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live." Genesis 3:20. Adam gave her this name because "Eve" sounds like a Hebrew term that means "to give life." Can you imagine the responsibility of knowing that you are essentially the beginning of the world's population until the end of time?...I might think twice the next time I get overwhelmed with what to eat for breakfast.
God even compares the way He comforts us to the way a mother comforts her child, and I think this is no coincidence. "I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child." Isaiah 66:13. Though we can never truly understand just how much God loves us, He uses a mother's love to give us an idea, in human terms, of the vastness of His love for us; that's pretty significant if you ask me.
Might I also point out the way in which Jesus was put on this Earth? God didn't use a man--Mary was a virgin--but instead put Jesus in the womb of a woman of God, making her a mother. Mary played a huge role in the life of Jesus, never leaving Him, even as He took His last breaths on the cross. Here, a mother's love is truly comparable to God's love for us.
And through my mother I have seen the love of God every day of my life. She is incredible--seriously the most kind, selfless, compassionate, giving, hospitable, loving, caring, fun, Godly woman. Even my earliest memories of her are so good; most of them are spent snuggling in bed with her on Sunday afternoons or having her sing me to sleep when I had bad dreams or making cinnamon rolls with her on Saturday mornings.
As I've gotten older, our relationship has only gotten better. As she talked me through my middle school and high school boy problems (and maybe my college ones too), helped me pick out every prom dress and never missed a single basketball game or football game to watch me cheer, I saw her love for me so clearly. She loves me so well, and in the best ways. And that goes for my whole family. She has always been, and continues to be, such a Godly woman in every aspect of her life; I know that this has so much to do with why she is such an incredible mom.
Now that she is not only my mom but one of my best friends, we can talk about even more (if that was possible). She is the one I want to call when I'm sick, when I'm upset or frustrated or confused. She gives the most sound advice--not always the easiest to hear--with a wisdom I know I can trust. She also gives the best back scratches and head rubs...I got those today, actually. And on Mother's Day! I told you she was selfless.
I just love her.. I love the food she cooks. I love to cuddle with her. I love the way she smells. I love the way she decorates our home. I love the way she loves my dad. I love her cute little ponytail.
And I could seriously go on for days. But I'll stop here before this post becomes a novel.
Thank you, mom, for being who you are and for making me who I am. I hope to be the wife and mother that you are one day, God willing. I am forever grateful that God put us together.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

this and that and a really bad sunburn

WHAT a week!...It begin with the very last day of real classes for my junior year of college. (deep breath) (pause) (another deep breath) And then there was reading day, a day that is set aside as the one day without classes or exams so that students can dedicate themselves completely to studying. What a joke. My friends and I began a tradition last year where we go to Kaiti's grandma's lake house on reading day--it's our way of preparing ourselves for exams. And reading day was great! We laid out and skied and Grandma made us lunch and I left the lake feeling like it was officially summer, even though it wasn't and sadly still isn't. (In case you think you're feeling a sense of deja vu, you are. I talked about the lake in my last post.)
I did not realize when I wrote my last post, however, how unbelievably burnt I was from the lake. The burn that was--I kid you not--the slightest shade of purple had not yet set in. But it did at about 3 o'clock Wednesday morning. Needless to say, I am short a bottle of aloe vera and preparing for more than one layer of my skin to start peeling off at any minute. Gross, I know.
Anyways, Wednesday began the dreaded process of studying for exams. Luckily, I was able to squeeze in one last lunch with my precious small group from this last year at Taqueria del Sol. I am going to miss them so much, as well as the baked goodies that somehow always managed their way to small group through one person or another and the games of pictionary that we dominated. God blessed me through that group in so many ways, and the greatest part about it was that I was actually
assigned to a different small group but somehow ended up visiting this one for some random reason and sort of chose them. That's called God making things happen for a reason--thank goodness He does that for me!
Back to my week. Although studying was draining and I'm pretty sick of the subjects I've been pouring over for the last three days, I have also been making sure to spend time with the people I love before we all go our separate ways for the summer. There has been a lot of movie watching at the Hampton house, a lot of Grit cake and Yoforia, a lot of really, really long conversations, a lot of talks about the future and just how much we love each other. So...would it be crazy to say that I sort of love exam time? Questionable, but I am. I love exam time.
One last thing before I hit the sack..tomorrow is Mother's Day! I just love Mother's Day because I believe mothers are such a gift from God. And not to brag, but especially mine; she is so, so wonderful. I won't go into detail because I'll save tomorrow's post just for her. But here's a sneak preview of the Mother's Day moments our family has already spent together--precious!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

back to reality

It's official: Summer is HERE! Well...almost. Technically I am two exams away from summer, but today I water skied for the first time this 2011 year, so...yes. It is summer.
I must follow that statement with another that is (sadly) just as true: It is exam time. I could not be more serious when I say that it is truly unfortunate that these two are currently overlapping in my life.
And as exam time arrives, so does stress. And relief, oddly enough. And, for me, a deviation from any kind of regular schedule. I woke up this morning feeling like I hadn't had a really good moment with Jesus in a while. I've been so distracted with finals and portfolios and wrapping up my junior year (oh.my.gosh.) that I've failed to just sit and spend some quality time with Him. You know how you feel when there's this really great friend you have and you love them so much and have the best time when you're with them, but suddenly you're so busy and they keep asking you to hang out but you keep having to say no and you feel terrible because you miss them and you know they miss you and...you know? That's how I feel right now. I feel terrible. Both because I'm better when I'm with Him and because I feel guilty. Bad combination, those two.
But, here's the great part: Jesus misses us when we don't spend time with Him, but He doesn't hold grudges when we don't. He doesn't call off the friendship because we've been a sucky friend. He is still there, still so excited to spend time with us when we finally decide to make the time. This is not an excuse to put God as a last priority just because we know He'll still love us; you don't ignore friends and not feel bad just because you know they'll still love you in the end, and God is no different. It's just a reassurance, really, that God is ready to pick back up right where you left off no matter how shady you've been. Thank God for that, literally.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

absence makes the heart grow fonder

17 DAYS until I leave for Paris! It still doesn't seem real, and I don't think it will until I'm actually on the plane headed for Charles De Gaulle Airport in France. And then I still think it might not until 8.5 hours later when my plane lands and suddenly I can't understand a single word being spoken around me. I'm often not one for change, but the idea of being so out of my comfort zone now thrills me. 
As I become more and more excited about spending part of my summer abroad, I also start to think about all of the things I'm going to miss about my home sweet Athens. The first is the precious little house I live in. It was definitely questionable in more than a few ways before we moved in, but after many, many hours of cleaning and painting and scrubbing and polishing, it looked as good as new! (maybe new isn't quite the word I'm looking for...) It has become the best little home, and I will miss it so very much while I'm gone.
I will also miss the little neighborhood I live in. There are always women pushing strollers or playing with their babies in the back yard, couples planting flowers along their sidewalk out front, men taking their big, beautiful, perfectly-behaved Golden Retrievers out for a morning run. Literally, it's the most perfect little place and I wouldn't mind at all raising a family in this very neighborhood one day. 
I'm also going to miss the incredible Athens food. Yes...you knew that was coming, didn't you? Mostly I'll miss the Grit..oh goodness, I'm just now realizing how long I'll have to go without it. I'll miss my treasured Spiced Chai from Jittery Joe's and those huge tubs of yogurt from Yoforia and being able to eat Mexican outside at Cali and Tito's. 
But more than the things I will miss are the people I will miss. I'm going to miss my friends that I'm so used to seeing everyday, so used to living with and baking with and having conversations for hours on end with. I'm going to miss my family...sensitive subject. Yes, I'm 21, but I have never been away from my family for this long so that will probably (definitely) be the biggest and hardest adjustment. I installed Skype on my mom's laptop the other day--is it just me, or does this seem like role reversal?
Realizing all of the things I love and am going to miss once again reminds me of how very, very blessed I am. I notice more and more how God is able to show me that in so many ways. 
So although there are things I will miss about the place that has quickly become my second home (remember, home is always in Habersham), I am so ready for what God is going to do with me in Paris. This morning in church our pastor said, "It's not about where you live; it's how you live." How true, and how good to know that it doesn't matter that I'll be seemingly a million miles away from so many things and people that I love; it is only how I live while I'm there that matters.