Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Down to the wire

I have exactly a week and a half left in this wonderful country of France... and that means mixed feelings! I am now back in Toulouse (it's a constant game of "Where's Abby" lol!!!) after spending 2 weeks in Northern France in Arras. I spent most of my time there typing things up and doing work on the computer for them although we did spend a day doing some deep cleaning at the church as well. I also helped a little bit with the that was an experience! I got there on a Monday, and they have midweek on Tuesday night. So that first Tuesday evening Bro. Valery (the pastor) asked me right before church to help with piano. As most of you know I am not someone that normally plays by ear or is all that great at playing by ear...but I said yes and he made sure to sing 2 songs that I knew. That went fairly well with only minor mess ups. The first Sunday I was there their regular piano player was there so I was able to just enjoy the service. The 2nd Tuesday night we sang without piano (he sang a couple songs I wasn't familiar with). Then this past Sunday, the piano player was out of town so Bro Valery asked me to play again. I agreed to if we could practice on Saturday evening so I could write out some chords for myself. Well we didn't end up practicing so Sunday morning rolls around and there I am on the piano plunking it out by ear again lol! We sang 9 songs that morning and there were at least 5 of them that I had never even heard before in my life! So the way we figured those out were he would tell me the key (say key of D for example), I would hit a D chord and wait for him to start singing since I had no clue if it was a fast song, a slow song or what the chord progression would be lol! I am proud to say I survived. It was not easy and was definitely not always pretty but overall I think it went rather well considering I don't really play by ear (well maybe I just learned that I do, I just need to practice it!). I normally would have been completely mortified by this situation and humiliated, but strangely enough I was only mildly embarrassed and was able to move on quickly from that instead of dwelling on it and beating myself up about it all day long like I normally would (I think this means that I've learned or grown or made some kind of life improvement or something cool like that! Self abasement is leaving me!!!! YAY!) Then before he preached Bro. Valery had me come up and say something. Again I feel like this was another little test from the Lord, like with the piano playing (was I going to say "yes" and risk humiliation doing something I'm not good at or was I going to be stubborn and proud and say "no" to save face?!). He had given me the option of speaking in either English or French. My first thought was to do it in English...but then I got rather disgusted with myself. Regardless of my lack of confidence in my French, the fact remains that I am capable of writing something out and saying it in French, and if I don't then I am a coward and a cop-out (2 things I strongly dislike) (Oh and I consider this healthy self-loathing...). So on Saturday evening I sat down and typed a short little word of encouragement out in French on my iPad and when he called me up I believe I shocked the whole room when I delivered it in French and didn't even stare at my iPad the whole time! Lol! It was a small victory in the life of Abby, but a victory nonetheless! I'm learning how to be brave! :D

So now to catch you up on some of the fun stuff I did during my 2 weeks in Arras. First of all Arras is a VERY old city. And beautiful. Here's some proof of that:

So obviously I took in a little bit of the town center, while eating some of the most delicious ice cream I have EVER tasted! We also went strawberry picking one day... we were going to visit the former pastor of the church and his wife (who are both elderly and he is not doing very well healthy wise) so we were going to take them some fresh strawberries :) It was fun! I hadn't gone strawberry picking (other than in our own garden...which isn't nearly as exciting) since I was little! The strawberry picking was on my first Friday, on my first Saturday Sis. Sophiat took me to the Louvre in Lens.. Len is a town close to Arras and 2 years ago they opened their own little "Louvre" it is obviously MUCH smaller than the Louvre in Paris but still had some great art!!!

The next week (Monday or Tuesday... I don't remember anymore) we toured the underground of Arras... it was pretty incredible! It's been around for centuries, dating back to the Middle Ages and Roman times!!! They used to mine rock from there and then once the city started building above where they were mining they stopped and then used it to store vendor's goods (mostly food) during the weekly markets to keep it cool and preserved. Then they used it to shelter the city's citizens during both World Wars while the city was being bombed (large parts of the city were destroyed 2 different times during the 2 World Wars). People would live down there for 4 or 5 days at a time sometimes. Then during World War II it was also used by the military. They hid 24,000 British soldiers in the tunnels until the right moment when they came out and charged the German trenches a few kilometers from Arras, catching them by surprise during breakfast and driving them back. So that was pretty amazing right?! Now some of the restaurants that are above the tunnels get to use the underground space beneath their restaurant for their wine cellar! How cool is that! You're getting to store your wine in an underground room/tunnel that's been around since at least the 1500s! The entrance to the underground tour is inside one of the cathedrals in Arras, so after touring the underground we headed to the top of the bell tower, where we were treated to a full, gorgeous view of Arras. Sorry there's so many pics in this post, but here's a few more lol!

Thursday evening (I think it was Thurs....) we met up with a friend and her fiance in Belgium for dinner. It was my 2nd time being in Belgium. I find it to be a beautiful country with terrible roads lol! You know the second you've crossed the border into Belgium because your car starts getting swallowed by potholes every 2 minutes... After a dinner of a delicious burger, a lot of fries and some peach ice tea we walked around the city for a bit before heading to Lille, France to see the city by night :) How about some more pics? Lol

The final touristy thing we did was visit a Canadian World War I Memorial. That was probably my favorite thing that we did. The monument was beautiful, we got to walk in the trenches built and used during World War I, there are giant craters in the ground from bombs and the area is all still fenced off with electrical fencing because there are undetonated bombs out there! They rent herds of sheep from surrounding farmers to stick in those fenced in areas to eat the grass down because the ground is so uneven (due to the war) and since there are still bombs out there they can't mow the grass with a lawn mower. If the sheep were to set off a bomb and be killed they would then have to pay the farmer for his dead sheep. I found it somewhat comical! I was seriously trippin when I was getting to walk through the trenches!!! Such a huge part of history and I was getting to experience it! If you know me AT ALL you know that I LOVE history and especially history related to the 2 World Wars. 

And now that I have thoroughly inundated you with pictures and stories you are all caught up on my 2 weeks in Arras! I flew from Arras to Toulouse on Monday morning and will be here for the next week. We went out yesterday to buy stuff for decorating and stocking the Sunday School room and will be working on painting the new building and getting the SS room put together while I'm here! I can't believe that this trip is already coming to an end.... it still feels like I just got here! Honestly though, thanks to my bucket list, I am a little bit excited to get back home because now I have all of these projects that I'm super excited and motivated to start and new things to learn and do! I know that for whatever reason, God wants me back home in MN right now, so I will go back and jump right in! My logic is that the faster I accomplish whatever it is that He has for me Stateside, the faster I can come back to France :) Lol! But to all of you that were hoping I'd find my French husband on this trip 1. I am sorry to disappoint you (I tried my best to prepare you for disappointment, so if you're still disappointed then it's your own fault... I told you it wasn't going to happen!!! lol!!) and 2. I'm happy that I didn't because that would majorly complicate and hinder me from accomplishing all the things I want to on my bucket list lol! So sorry you are all going to have to wait a while longer 'cause this girl has places to go and things to do before she's willing to settle down ;) I will try to get one or 2 more posts in before I get home! So until then.....

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Beautiful....what does that mean?

The word "Beautiful" means something different to everyone. Everyone has their own opinion on beauty and what makes things beautiful. What is beautiful to one person, is not to another.... Why am I blabbering on about beauty? Because I am trying to understand it and what it means. I am your typical girl, and I want to feel beautiful. Before you all start rolling your eyes or jumping on my case, let me just clarify this is not a post trying to get compliments and/or attention. I am being completely honest here about my self views and would appreciate it if you would respect that. I have never thought of myself as beautiful. But nor have I ever viewed myself as ugly. I feel like I am your common, average person and I am quite content with that. Well maybe "content" isn't the correct word because I don't think anyone, anywhere in the world, is 100% "content" with how they look (whether it's facially or physically). The way I describe how I view myself is as the person you pass in the mall and don't look twice at, because they are just another person. You don't double take because I'm stunning, nor do you double take because I'm just that ugly lol! You might double take if I have my hair down, but I've always said that my hair was my best attribute ;)

I have those days when I feel pretty....those days when your hair turned out great and you put together a fabulous outfit.... I love those days :D and then I have those days when I dodge mirrors because I'm scared of what will be looking back at me lol! After scrolling through Pinterest for about 10 minutes today I found myself repeatedly thinking "I wish I looked like that!", "I wish I could pull that look off", "I wish my hair would do that" (my hair has a mind of it's own...), "If only I had an outfit like that". For once I want to feel like a carefree, beautiful gypsy with a flower crown in my hair, a pretty princess in a frilly shirt and tutu skirt, pull of the sophisticated, on-the-go look, or my all time fav: a 20s flapper with finger waves, feathers and glitter...and feel beautiful while doing it. Sometimes the things that I tend to love and feel beautiful in are the same things that make me feel conspicuous and self-conscious when I'm out in public... like they're "too far out there"... Maybe that's just me caring too much about what other people think, but who doesn't care a least a LITTLE bit. I tend to not care THAT much but I do hate feeling like everyone's staring at me. Here are 2 examples of pieces that I LOVE but always feel like I get stared at continuously when I'm wearing them:

Top photo is of a dress that my mother and I tag-teamed (I was running out of time before a trip I wanted to take it on) and made it. The 2nd photo is a jacket that I bought in Prague...It's not a matter of styling either. I feel confident in my sense of style. I don't buy clothes that I am not ABSOLUTELY in love with and that don't look good on me. I love fashion and might just love shopping a little bit... ;)

I want to, for once in my life, feel comfortable in front of a camera. I always love getting professional pictures done every couple of years but at the same time I dread it because I feel SO self-conscious in front of the camera and NEVER know what to do with my face, my body, my arms, etc. I feel awkward, uncomfortable and like everyone is watching and critiquing me... I always hope for a photographer who is a "take charge and tell me exactly what to do and how to do it" type of photographer otherwise it becomes a struggle and I leave feeling like a complete flop and hoping that they are somehow able to salvage whatever they got and come out with at least a couple cute pics! I don't even like taking pictures by myself on vacations and stuff with family and friends. Honestly you will have a hard time finding a picture of just me taken by someone else. Why? Because I feel awkward and uncomfortable. I will grab someone I just met and barely know so that I don't have to take a picture by myself. I regret this when I get home from trips... I have pictures of all of these amazing places, but no pictures of me in/at those amazing places.

I hate this self-conscious, insecure part of me...because that's not my personality...that's not who I usually am. I am normally a confident, independent, self-assured person. I have a strong, outgoing personality. I am confident in who I am and what I do... just not what I look like?! Does that make any sense?! I think it is extremely important for women to view themselves as beautiful and I am always encouraging those around me to see the beauty in themselves and find it so easy to find and point out all the ways that they are beautiful... yet have a hard time seeing it in myself. This in no way reflects on my family, they are more than loving and supportive. My dad loves to tell me that I am the "most beautiful blue-eyed, blonde in the world". :D  

So to all my girls out there... if there are any of you even reading this silly blog of mine.... any recommendations on how to overcome this? I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this or feels this way about myself... it's a curse to women and quite frankly, I'm very sick of it. I want to feel beautiful and confident in my own skin.... even if other's don't view me that way...because as I said before, what's beautiful to one, isn't another. I don't expect others to view me as beautiful, but I need to view me as beautiful.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Bucket List

I always thought bucket lists were dumb.... because most bucket lists I saw had completely  unattainable things on them. I get having extravagant dreams and wishes but why make a list of them and torture yourself?! Well I had some extra time on my hands today and was doing a lot of thinking... (dangerous...I know...) and the realization hit me that there are so many things that I am always saying "I want to learn how to do that" or "I have always wanted to do that/go there" and a lot of them are completely attainable things! They are crazy, out there, cost a ton of money things. I just have never worked them into my budget or my time. I tend to live the crazy day-to-day life, getting caught up in the moment and not making time for the things that I really care about....therefore I end up not accomplishing that much and rarely doing things that I truly enjoy or things that better me.

Sooooooooooooo I started writing a bucket list in my journal.... it's already 2 full pages (front and back) long... and I keep adding to it....I am for sure leaving a 3rd page blank because I know I'll keep adding... But the beauty of it is: it is full of things that I can start crossing off as soon as I get back home and other things that are attainable but may not happen for several more years, things that require classes and learning, things that will make me a better person and things that are purely for enjoyment, there are places to visit, goals to achieve.... yes, there are a couple things on there that may never happen but they are not unattainable things they are just far out things that depend on the path my life takes. Right now is the best time in my life to have a bucket list and start crossing things off of it. I am young, I am single, I work a good paying job (therefore I have spending money....something I hear disappears once you get married....) I may not have A LOT of free time but the free time I do have I can spend as I chose. I have bills and responsibilities but nothing that is completely tying me down to one place or keeping me from going and doing. Therefore I am determined to start taking advantage of my youth and single-hood and start doing and learning those things I've always wanted to do and learn! I think it is healthy to write out your goals and dreams and to then be able to physically see them be crossed off. If you don't you never really realize ALL of the things you have achieved! I was looking at other bucket lists today and saw so many things on there that I have been privileged enough to have already experienced and accomplished, such as visiting the Eiffel Tower, seeing Mona Lisa, living abroad for 3 months or more, going to London, seeing the Grand Canyon, owning a car, learning a 2nd language, reading a book, getting a degree, and the list goes on, do something you love (job speaking).... but I wouldn't have ever thought of myself as being all that privileged if I hadn't first seen them on someone else's list, not yet crossed off.

So I say Carpe Diem and let the living truly begin!!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lessons Learned

As I close in on my final weeks in France I can say that I have learned more than I thought possible to learn within just a few months. Has this trip been what I expected it to be? Not at all. But am I happy that it turned out the way it did? Yes. Am I a better person because of it? Absolutely.

Lesson #1: learning to deal with unmet expectations.
- from the minute I got here things were not going "as planned" with last minute housing switches and then me eventually spending most of my time in different cities.
- this was definitely stressful at first and I had my moment of initial panic, disappointment and frustration but because of it all, I have gained a deeper relationship with God and regained some of that trust and faith that you somehow lose along the path called "adulthood" when you start to rely more on yourself than God. He was the only person I had to talk to/vent to/cry to since I was an ocean away from from my family and friends.
- Just because things don't go as planned, doesn't mean that they are going "wrong". God knows exactly what He is doing and He will always accomplish His will, even if it means messing up your "plans".

Lesson #2: Living by faith
- I have always been the "fly by the seat of your pants" type of person. I do things last minute and don't tend to plan things out THAT well.... but I usually have a rough idea of what I will be doing tomorrow, or a week from today...
- I have learned the art of day to day living and taking things one step at a time. There have been so many unknowns and and last minute changes, and I have had to just learn to adapt to the situation, keep my eyes on the step I am currently taking and not worry about what the next step will be. I heard a fabulous message on this at BOTT in Copenhagen and have taken it to heart.
- When I got back from Copenhagen I was only going to be in Melun for a few nights so we weren't exactly sure how or where I was going to be housed and when one of the guys at church asked me where I was going to be staying I said "I'm not really sure..." and he said "you don't know where you're sleeping tonight?!" To which I replied "not really..." He then asked "you aren't worried or concerned about that?" and I could honestly say "Nope!" He just looked at me, shook his head and said "Now that's what I call faith!" I knew I would't end up sleeping outside, so what was the point in worrying about it? I am currently staying in my 6th different place... and that's been in 2 months worth of time. I have learned the art of taking it one day at a time and while I can't say that I've perfected the whole "not worrying" thing I am doing much better than I ever have!

Lesson #3: Standing up for myself
- Now most of you are probably thinking that I already had that lesson down pat.... which to an extent I do. But there are certain situations and times when I always roll over and play dead, so to speak. Well guess who has been put in those situations on this trip....?! Yep, you guessed it, me! So guess who was all by herself and had to decide if she was going to just let this happen or if she was going to say/do something?! Now I'm not talking dangerous or improper situations, so nobody freak out. For example.... I will go hungry if I think it's going to put someone out if I ask for food...ridiculous right?! No one should go hungry...who cares if it means that person has to go a little bit out of their way! You can't just not eat all day! Or if I am in a situation where I'm not completely comfortable, I used to always just kind of let it slide, say it will pass quickly, whatever... well not any more! This girl is tired of being uncomfortable and tired of trying to never make a wave.... I'm gonna start a tsunami!! Lol! Ok, not really, that's pretty extreme, but I think you get the point.

Lesson #4: Bravery
- Again, I have always been somewhat of a "brave" person, but there are different kinds of brave. I am learning the bravery of being solely independent, with nothing and no one to lean on or help you. The bravery of traveling the world all by yourself.
- Traveling all by myself in areas and places I didn't know used to make me a little anxious. There were always so many "what ifs" but if I had another person with me I wouldn't think twice and would jump right in. Well I have been traveling all by myself, all over the place these past 2 months and can honestly say that  now when I go somewhere new, where I won't even know the people picking me up at the train station I am fine, confident and at peace. No more butterflies, no more thinking about all of the "what ifs"
- I know how to catch and take a taxi by myself, I can find my way around a brand new city after being there a day, I'm not afraid to wander and see the sights, sometimes the thought of getting lost in a new city actually appeals to me!

Lesson #5: Schedules are important
- With all of my coming and going everywhere I have realized how much I miss my regular, set schedule....that thing that I normally HATE when I'm at home....yeah, that thing. Every new place I'm in, there's a new schedule, a new regime to learn, new "policies and procedures".
- While I can't say that I enjoy super rigid, overly structured schedules, I can now say that I do like having some kind of a normal schedule that I can fall back and rely's like having a little clock in the back of your mind just keeping you on track

Lesson #6: Seeing the good in everything
- Every time I am faced with a new frustrating, disappointing or confusing situation I have begun to ask myself, "Ok, so what am I suppose to be learning here?" Or "What is God trying to do right now?" instead of just complaining, hating my life and whining about it (although I sometimes still do a little bit of that) I have tried to find the positive in the situation, know that this too shall pass and learn/gain whatever it is that I'm suppose to be getting out of that situtation.
- I rest in the knowledge that everything happens for a reason and God sees and knows exactly what it going on and why. And that's all I need to know.

Lesson #7: Patience
- As aforementioned there have been a lot of unknowns on this trip. Therefore there has been a lot of waiting. Patience has never been my strongest point but it has been tested and tried on this trip! I feel like it has been a small part of every lesson learned. And trust me I'm trying my hardest to learn it so that I can stop with the "tests"!

Lesson #8: The value of a true friend
- I have "friends" here but none that I was extremely close to or knew very well. Therefore when I was going through everything that I've gone through on this trip (which most of it can't even be described or explained as they were mostly personal battles) I had no one that I could easily talk to. While I could skype and text family and friends at home I often had to wait until they were awake, or off of work and it's still just not the same when it's not in person. I thank God that I went to Toulouse for the month that I did because while there I gained a dear, and true friend. Mikki was there for me to have "girl talk" with, serious talks, to answer pressing questions, to help speak into my life when I would get down or frustrated, she is always encouraging me and believes in me. You never realize how much good friends mean to you and how much just their presence can do for you until you are without. So thank goodness I found a good, solid friend here in France that I know I can always count on to tell it to me straight and then pick me back up off the ground and dust me off ;) lol!

Lesson #9: Life on the road is lonely
- I had never felt homesick or technically "missed" family or friends before this trip. But now I can say that I definitely know what it means to "miss" someone and to feel homesick. And when I return to the States in a few weeks I will very quickly feel homesick for France and miss all of the wonderful people and friends that are here. It's a bitter life that I live. Never quite happy wherever I am because half of the people I love are on the opposite side of the world from me.
- To tag on to lesson #8 I quickly came to realize that bouncing from place to place and never staying anywhere for very long was indeed a lonely life. You never quite get settled in, it's always new people, learning new towns, routines and lifestyles. You have no one with you to talk to, to help bear the stress and understand the different frustrations that you are facing and feeling.
- Everyone's automatic response was that I needed to find myself a French husband.... Which everyone was predicting and hoping for before I ever left. I am in the business of proving people wrong though ;) Therefore I will be coming home single!!! Which leads me to my next, and final, lesson learned:

Lesson #10: All I need is Jesus
- What is the best and most important lesson that I've learned on this trip?.... that I can make it through anything as long as I have Jesus. I think that is why I had all of my friends, family and comfort zone stripped away from me.... so that I could get to the place where I had nothing to distract me, nothing to occupy my free time and no one to talk to and therefore had to rely solely on God for my companion and time consumer.
- Of course as a 20 something that gets harassed about getting married and finding a French guy almost 24/7 my first thought during the lonely times was "ok, God, maybe a husband wouldn't be such a bad idea right about now!" But I have come to the conclusion that God won't (and shouldn't) give me (or hopefully anyone else) their significant other if they can't first be content with it just being them and Jesus. And I don't know that I truly was content with that until this always want that physical presence of another person with you.. But after experiencing the times of prayer and absolute peace that came during and after those times of prayer... the amazing, quiet mornings reading my Bible (and actually taking something away from it.... not just reading it to check it off my list and feel good about myself) while sipping coffee... knowing that He has been there with me through each and every step, knowing that GOD believes in me enough and trusts me enough to call me to this place, to go through these things, and that He isn't through with me yet.... there's still more to come, He still has a plan for my life. I can now truly say that all thoughts of finding that perfect French guy are out the window (not that I was really counting on it to begin with...) and I couldn't care less if he walked up to me tomorrow because right now I am blissfully walking through life, hand in hand with Jesus and He is all I need to make me happy and to make it through this crazy thing called life.

There have been other lessons, both hard and easy to learn. I have never been this "in the dark" before about my life and what was happening next (the next minute, day, week, etc)... but I am coming out a stronger person. As it nears the end of my time here I find myself ready to head back home, yet a little apprehensive because I feel like I am returning home a different person than that who left. When you learn and grow, you change; you no longer view things the same way, you no longer do things the same way. Your priorities change and that reflects in many different areas of your life.

After reading this you may think that this hasn't been that great of a trip for me, but let me assure you... it has been hard, but it has been amazing! I wouldn't trade it for the world! I was having a rather bad day a couple of days ago and while skyping with my parents I started to cry and said "Now that I know I'm coming home in August I'm just ready to come home, I'm just done!" (this was of course said in a moment of frustration ... I'm  not really THAT ready to come home...) My mother began to explain a lesson she is going to be teaching in Kenya in a few weeks... and while I can't remember all of it, there are a few things she said that completely cemented themselves in my mind and they are:
1. God demands you to step out of your comfort zone.
2. As you move towards your dream things get worse and worse and worse. These hardships help us to remember who the dream is about. It's not about us.
3. God is more interested in developing the person than accomplishing the dream.
4. You have to learn to love the Dream Giver more than the dream.
5. God clarifies our calling in times of failure.
6. The dream will cost us our life and will appear to others as folly right before God does the impossible
7. There's no resurrection without death... death of your dream, death of your insecurities, your pride, your agenda.
And that my friends, has been the story of my life on this trip in a nutshell.... stepping out of my comfort zone, things seeming to get worse and worse and worse, God developing me, me deepening my relationship with God, God clarified things to me at BOTT, and dying...yeah there's been plenty of times when I've felt like I was dying the past couple months lol!!! But if the death of my dream means that it will be resurrected in an even bigger way, then so be it.

I can't wait to come back to France, whenever the Lord may allow that, as I know there is still much for me to do here and this IS where the Lord has called me to be... whether that is only for this season of my life or for good, I do not know yet, but I am up for either! Because of the Times conference in Copenhagen only strengthened my burden for the country of France. God is about to do some amazing things in watch out Africa, Asia and South America because your revivals are about to be blown out of the water ;)

A Viking's Life For Me!

Where to start?! Ummmm let's just say that Copenhagen = mind blowing! It was EXACTLY what the doctor ordered for this girl! I got there Tuesday evening, grabbed some Starbucks at the airport before catching a taxi and heading to my hotel. I hadn't had Starbucks in almost 2 months and let me tell you...that iced caramel macchiato tasted pretty much divine.

After I got settled into my hotel and skyped my parents to let them know I was alive and well I messaged Alexandra and she met me at my hotel with Angelique and Audrey. They showed me around a bit and we grabbed a bite to eat before heading back to our hotels to get some sleep. I was in love with Copenhagen from that very first night of wandering! I would have never just thought of visiting Copenhagen... it's not exactly a huge vacation destination or anything, so I guess I was a little surprised at how much I liked it and how many tourists there actually were! 

Tivoli is the 2nd oldest amusement park in the world and is the inspiration for the Disney parks. I did not go in though... I get sick on rides and it was rather expensive to get in so I didn't feel like wasting money on something I couldn't enjoy... But I walked past it every day and could see through the fence and it was super pretty and looked like fun for those who can enjoy rides! 

My first full day in Copenhagen, Wednesday, I met up with the girls again and we were off to find a good coffee place. We ended up finding this award winning bakery that was simply divine. I grew up eating Danish Kringles from a Danish bakery in Racine, WI but eating the real deal, from an award winning bakery in the actual country.... Oh. My. Goodness. Those kringles were to die for. And their coffee was fabulous as well! We walked around a bit more, visited their Lego store and then headed off to catch a boat tour! The boat tour was incredible and it was the perfect day for it! (The weather was actually perfect every day I was there...) But as a result of that perfect, glorious weather this girl got toasted!!! I was sooooo burnt by that evenings service! My forehead finally started peeling a bit just a couple of days ago and it's been a week! Here's Alex and I on the boat tour:

After the boat tour we got lunch and then went to get ready for the first night of Because Of The Times! Bro Mangun spoke that first night. The next day the morning sessions started at 9:30 am and there were 3 speakers back to back, starting with Terry Shock, then T.F. Tenney, followed by Bruce Howell. I don't think my mind could have taken any more in! They were all soooooo good! That night's service had 2 speakers as well, Terry Shock and Mike Williams. That service was pretty much life changing! God really spoke to me in all of the services, but I must say that night was the most impacting of them all. Between the 2 speakers Bro. Mangun got up and had all of the men on the platform (the main speakers and the superintendents of the different countries represented) form a prayer line with their wives across from them and had all of the missionaries and their families walk through and be anointed and prayed for/over. So I stayed in my seat, praying for them with the rest of the congregation when I look up and see Bro. Nowacki motioning for me to get in the line while he is praying for people... I was like "ME?!?!!" Alex and Audrey were like, "Yes you! GO!" So I went down and through the prayer line and let me tell you.... being anointed by Bro. Mangun and then prayed for by people like T.F. Tenney and his wife, Bro and Sis Howell, Bro and Sis Shock, the Nowackis, the Tuttles, etc is life changing in and of itself! I couldn't stop shaking for like 10 or 15 minutes after I sat back down! The message that followed that, by Mike Williams, was also on point. Alex took a video of  me going through the prayer line and emailed it to me! (She's super sweet like that! I didn't even know she was going to video it!)

The next day was another fabulous, full day. That evening there were several guests that received the Holy Ghost and they took a fan with a few of them back to the church to baptize them! Exciting things are happening in Europe! Revival isn't just for Africa, Asia and South America! 
Saturday we didn't fly out until 8:20 pm so we spent the day wandering around, buying some souvenirs and presents and then sitting in the sunshine by the water relaxing. Alexandra and I got up to go explore the Royal Library and ended up finding this gorgeous little garden tucked behind the library. That was probably my favorite place!

I felt right at home in Copenhagen... everyone was blonde and I LOVED it!!!! For once I was not the minority! The people were extremely nice and I definitely bought a little Viking statue to take home :) Lol! I am Scandinavian and Norwegian, so those were my ancestors! Being in Denmark, and loving it there, really made me want to visit Sweden and Norway. I think it's good to go back and see where your family and heritage came from. I've been to the Czek Republic where my mom's family came from, and I've been to England (we have a little bit of English - hence the last name....) and now I've been to Denmark, which is one of the Scandinavian nations. So I just need to get to Sweden, Norway, Germany and Ireland and I will have seen where all of my ancestry is from! ;) This is me just making up good excuses to travel the world.... :D

We flew back into Paris that evening and thus began my last 4 weeks here in France. I Sunday and Monday in Melun, Monday I worked in the church office and then Tuesday I hopped on the train and headed to Northern France where I am now!

 I will be here in Arras for almost 2 weeks, before heading back to Toulouse to help them get their new church building painted, floor laid and Sunday School room set up. I will be doing some of the same here in Arras as well. I can't believe I'm in my final month... only 23 more days to be exact. I feel like I just got here... but it's ok, because if this is how fast 3 months go buy then Christmas won't be as far off as it seems and I will soon be back to celebrate Christmas and New Years in my favorite place ever..... Paris!!!! :) 

Monday, July 14, 2014

A month has passed already?!

So I bet you all think that I've been back in Melun for a week now... Ha! Tricked you! I just got back on Saturday evening! What started out being a 2, maaayyyybbeeee 3 week, stay in Toulouse turned into a 4 week stay, and I must say that I enjoyed it. I already miss my little family there but I know that it was not the last time I will see them or be in Toulouse. As I had mentioned in previous posts, I was suppose to ride back to Melun with the group from Canada 2 Saturdays ago... but alas, there were some complications with that (they were given a smaller rental van than what they had requested and then there were some lodging issues for my return, etc) so I stayed in Toulouse for another week and took the train back Saturday. We still went to Bordeaux that Saturday for the youth service and to spend some time with the group from Canada. It was a great night and I absolutely loved Bordeaux! It is an incredibly beautiful city and the drive there was breathtaking! Vineyards on both sides of the road and rolling hills, with a random old castle/fortress thing on the side of one of the hills... pretty much everything you dream of when you think of Southern France and wine country. I didn't get any pics of the trip there but here's a few of Bordeaux:
Oh yes and then there was me with the reenactment soldiers ;) lol!!! 

I got my first taste of translating that night and let me tell you it was terrifying! The youth leader asked me to translate from French to English for the Canadians. I agreed to do it if I could stay in my seat and just turn around and translate for them. That was fine and dandy and going well until the 2nd row said that they couldn't hear me..... soooo alas I had to use a microphone. 2 people sitting by me agreed to help me if I got stuck. Everything went well for the first 4 or 5 translations and then I got stuck halfway through a sentence, so Dina and Tim helped me out... well after that every time the youth leader would say something Dina and Tim would automatically start translating it for me, so I was trying to listen to Jeremie, translate it myself and then hear what they were both saying and it was too confusing and distracting so we ended up having Toky take over and translate the rest of it. I was proud of myself for even doing it though. It was really intimidating because there were a lot of people in the room that knew English and French so if I messed up they would know! Translating is hard, especially when you weren't expecting to have to do it and aren't 100% fluent! I am completely comfortable translating one on one or like when I was turning around and saying it to the 2 rows behind me because not every one can hear you and so if you mess up or skip something no one will be the wiser lol!

Saturday I started the journey back to Melun. I took the train and in order to get a cheap price I took the train that stopped in like 5 different cities, therefore taking 7 hours to get to Paris....but I was in first class soooo it was a sleeper car with "beds". I was in an upper berth and was able to sleep off and on the whole way there and be nice and comfortable. It was an uneventful ride (thank goodness) and when I got to Paris I took a nice 10 minute walk from one train station to another, and from there caught the direct train to Melun (look at me just knowing how to navigate my way around lol!). I hadn't realized how much I missed Paris until I took that little walk. It was soooo good to be back! Something about Paris just makes me feel alive and completely happy. I never get scared of getting lost because for whatever reason I find the city easy to navigate and am totally comfortable wandering around whether it's by myself or with friends. Anyways, so I left Toulouse at 10:45 am and pulled into Melun at 6:45 pm. The next morning, Sunday, was of course church. It was great to be back and see all those familiar, smiling faces. They were short on praise singers so Justin asked me to fill in, so I did. Praise singing in French is probably one of my new favorite things :) I ended up singing that night as well...which was fine with me. I'm here to work/help, so let's work! After the evening service I went out with some of the young people and watched the final game in the World Cup...sadly Germany won, but I have to hand it to them, they were the better team. So as much as I hate to say it, congrats Germany.

Now the new and latest adventure is Copenhagen! I fly out tomorrow afternoon and will be attending my first ever Because of The Times conference! I love how I have never gone to one in the USA but they hold the very first one ever in Europe and I go lol! I just finished checking in for my flight online and just need to pack my bag today and then I will be all set! I am a little nervous (traveling by myself always makes me a little anxious....there's just so many things that could go wrong lol!) but am also very excited! It's going to be 3 days of amazing sessions and services and can't wait to see what God is going to do! I'm flying completely solo on this trip (literally... the flight, the hotel... everything lol! I'm staying at a diff hotel from everyone else I know) so I'm thanking the Lord above that most people in Copenhagen speak English! Not that anyone I know would speak Danish anyways...but it's better to be lost and confused with someone else than by yourself lol! No, I don't plan on being lost or confused. My hotel is a 10 minute walk from the convention center and I am sure it will be full of other Pentecostal people going back and forth. Know what I am SUPER excited about?! Starbucks. I've only had it twice since I've been here. There weren't any in Toulouse and there isn't one in Melun and other than my short 10 minute walk in Paris I haven't been in Paris since the beginning of my trip with Amber. I have a layover in the Amsterdam airport and I know they have Starbucks from the last time I was there. And they have them in Copenhagen as well... I googled it. :D Be prepared to see pictures of my delicious Starbucks because I will be that excited about it.

Friday, July 4, 2014

America The Beautiful

It's the 4th of July. And I'm not in America. I don't like that. This is the 2nd time I have spent the 4th of July in France and I don't like it anymore this time than I did last time. It feels wrong being in a different country on Independence Day... As much as I may complain about America, while there may be many things about it that I don't like right now and the direction it is headed as a country is not the way I want it to go, the fact still remains that I am American and America is still the greatest country for so many reasons! I am fiercely proud to be an American! There are times while I've been here in France that I have thought to myself "You should have said you were from Canada..." in order to escape the political conversation that ensued after hearing I was American (the French LOVE to talk politics and get my opinion on Obama...they're always shocked when I automatically answer with "I do not like him at all." Of course they're shocked, he's a socialist and they live in a socialist country so they don't see what's so wrong with him...) but after that thought passes through my mind I always laugh to myself and say "yeah right! I'm American, proud of it, and will claim to be nothing else! Even if that means suffering through pointless political conversations that will end on 'agree-to-disagree' terms". I can't imagine not being American. Even if one day I do move to France for good, I will ALWAYS be an American living in Paris (or somewhere in France lol!). Which also happens to be the name of one of my favorite classical pieces... "American in Paris" go look it up and take a listen :)

In honor of this great and wonderful day I will be as American as possible (as I do every year, even when I'm in the States). I sadly don't have any red, white and blue clothes with me right now (I only have part of my clothing with me since I was only coming down here for 3 weeks). Well I have my France soccer jersey which is red, white and blue and I will be wearing that later when they play their soccer match, but it's not the same, especially since it says France on it lol! I have been listening to country music all morning and when we go out this afternoon to pick snacks up at for tonight's soccer matches I will try to find something American to eat. I will miss the bonfires, flags flying, fireworks, hotdogs, hamburgers, watermelon, ice cream and root beer floats.... So I guess you will all have to enjoy them a little extra for me :) Think of me while watching those fireworks explode over one of our great 10,000 lakes and sing "God Bless America" just a little bit louder to make up for my missing voice! Soak up the Americanness of it all because there is a little blonde American an ocean away wishing it was her. Happy 4th everyone! Let Freedom Ring!!!!!!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Whole Lotta Bittersweet

I'm coming to realize that perhaps the term used most by me in conversation (whether vocal, text, or email), my own personal writing and then writing here on the blog, is "Bittersweet". So many things on this trip have been bittersweet...and I'm approaching yet another one of those bittersweet moments. But before we get to that let me back track and fill you in on the last week or so of my life.

I have been doing some of the same, just helping out with whatever Mikki needs me to do church-wise and then helping with the kids and around the house to free her up to get her own stuff done. Last week we went to the center of Toulouse on Wed. evening to do a little street evangelism. The 3 guys split off and went to find people to talk to and it was Mikki and I with the 2 kids. We weren't exactly sure how this was all going to work out seeing as how we had a 2 year old and 2 month old in strollers that we had to take care of as well... we saw a fresh orange juice stand in front of us and Mikki asked me if I wanted to get some. I had just been thinking how I was thirsty and forgot to bring a drink, so I readily agreed. We walked over and Mikki asked for 2 orange juices. I was pulling money out to pay and said in English "I've got it Mikki." Which of course caught the man's attention so he started asking where I was from, etc. So we started talking, come to find out he had spent 3 months in...wait for it....Lincoln, Nebraska (of all places in the USA why there?! I have no idea.). He asked if I was working here. I had been giving short answers in French to him but at that point I turned to Mikki and said "How do I explain that?!" So Mikki kindly took over and began explaining why I was here and what I was doing. He happily proclaimed that he too was a Christian and it opened the door for us, well rather Mikki, to talk to him for a while. He said that he had been about to pack his stand up and go home for the day but felt like he should hang around for another 10 minutes and then we walked up, so it must have been God! We left with his name and number and while I don't know what will come of it hopefully something will!! We took the kids to a play area where Mikki was able to connect with another lady there and get her name and number so all in all it was a fairly successful time for us even with the kiddos!

Now onto the bittersweet part: tomorrow is my last full day here in Toulouse. I have very thoroughly enjoyed my 3 weeks here. The bitter part will be leaving these lovely people on Saturday, the sweet part will be getting to see the people in Melun that I've missed these past few weeks! Being around Mikki these past several weeks has been such a blessing to me. She has been such an encouragement to me and someone that I know I can trust and talk to about life. We oddly have very similar, yet different, pasts. Sooooo different in many ways, yet sooooo alike in so many others. When it comes to our love for France and our roads that led us here our stories are very similar. It's just rare to find someone that you can so easily connect with right off the bat. Yet oddly enough she's played a pretty big role in my France dream since 2011 when she prayed over me at the Pentecostal Convention and confirmed my burden and passion for France and this trip has been no different. She is determined that I am never returning to the States and is also determined to get me to move to Toulouse to help out :)  We shall see what the Lord has in store!!! It's been a wild ride so far and shows no signs of stopping so I've stopped trying to figure out and predict what will come next lol! I'm buckled up and along for the ride!

We are fully prepared to enjoy tomorrow though! We already have our list of snacks to buy for during the 2 soccer matches and we have dinner figured out and can't wait to cheer our 2 teams on to victory!!! It's been a weird 2 days without soccer....we've found other ways to amuse ourselves though :) I will be sad to go but I know we will stay in contact and I know that I will be back down, even if only for a visit!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Love of Soccer

What am I suppose to do with 2 days of no soccer?....why blog about it of course!!!! So as I am sure you are all painfully aware, the USA is indeed out of the World Cup. I however am not. I have been cheering for 3 teams all along: USA, France and Brazil. Obviously the USA held my loyalty, but now that they are out I am first for France and secondly for Brazil and would be happy to see either of them win it all! You still may be thinking that I am some kind of turncoat or traitor, trust me last night was painful. If it hadn't been for Tim Howard (who deserves some kind of national medal/award/statue/holiday/etc for his AMAZING performance) we would have been completely obliterated, instead we were able to avoid a complete walk of shame and leave the match with some dignity and honor left. He's definitely my soccer hero.

Now to convince you all to join me in cheering  for France. Let me just lay out a few good reasons to cheer for France on Friday when they face off against Germany. They are as follows:
- They are obviously a very good soccer team.
- They're from France
- They have a hobbit playing for them. You doubt me?! Go look up Valbeuna... he's totally a hobbit....and a good soccer player as well. How can you NOT cheer for a team that has a hobbit on it!? (Yes I do call him a hobbit while cheering him on)
- At least half of the team is highly attractive. Don't believe me? Let me give you a few examples:
      - Olivier Giroud. He's basically the next David Beckham. Fabulous soccer player with a fabulous face. He already does modeling for Hugo Boss and is one of the stars of the France team. See for yourself:
Ok fine I won't go through the list posting pictures of ALL of them but there's Mathieu Debuchy, Hugo Lloris, Antoine Griezmann, Patrice Evra, Yohan Cabaye, and Morgan Schneiderlin. You can look them up if you don't believe me :) 

And then there's Brazil. I cheer for them because not only are they a very good soccer team it's also home territory for them and I don't like the see the home team least not right away....if France ends up playing them I probably wouldn't care as much. And then there's Neymar Jr...why yes, like all girls that are keeping up with soccer I have jumped on the Neymar bandwagon...and yes, he's 2 years younger than me. He's just adorable though. And for being only 22 he's quite the soccer star already! Don't know what all they hype is about...well this is what all the hype is about:

Anyways I am very much looking forward to Friday because France plays Germany at 6 pm (my time) and then Brazil plays Columbia at 10 pm. All of the games in this 2nd round of play were SUPER intense! I don't think any of the teams scored in the first half of any of the games. Almost all of the games went into overtime tied at either 0-0 or 1-1. And 3 games for sure ended up going to penalty kicks. Which just makes everything ten times more intense and exciting! SO I can only imagine that this next round of games is going to be out of control! I will be on the edge of my seat, beating the poor couch to death, yelling and eating a LOT of snacky food (when I get stressed out I need to crunch and munch on something). But I am a little sad because Friday will be my last night here in Toulouse and I will miss watching the matches with Mikki and Toky! We've got our little nightly soccer routine down and it'll be weird to have to watch the last several matches somewhere else! But at least our 2 favorite teams are playing on our last day together.. They like Brazil as well. So we shall go out with a bang on our last night of soccer watching together :) 

Oh and here's my new ringtone for my phone :) Have a dance party and enjoy the wonderful music that is played going into and out of every commercial break while watching the matches! I don't know who did the lyrics but a few of them are def wrong lol!

And that ends my obsessing over soccer for the night. I am sure you will hear more about it on Friday when my Facebook feed starts blowing up at 6 pm and doesn't stop til after midnight lol! Sorry about that by the way. I'm sure you all get sick of seeing me update my status every hour about soccer....can't help it. When I love something I'm passionate about it. Comes with the territory folks.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Still finding me

You know how you think you know yourself?! Yeah I though I knew myself pretty well too...and I did/do, but I have been learning new things about myself non stop on this trip! I started making a list of them on my phone the other day as I realized them. Some of them are just funny little things and others are bigger, more meaningful things. So here's the list that I've come up with so far of new things I've learned about myself in this last month that I've been in France:

     - Hard times create discipline.
     - Nervous habits of mine include: chewing the inside of my bottom lip until it's raw and cracking my knuckles literally non stop. (I've always cracked my knuckles but it gets out. of. control. when I get stressed or nervous apparently...)
     - I am braver/stronger than I give myself credit for and more of a chicken than I thought... (sounds contradictory, but trust me, it's the truth.)
     - I am actually a HUGE soccer fan! I went into this World Cup "liking" soccer and excited, but have become a little bit obsessed...
     - I am not a very good piano and bass player when compared to those around me....but oh wait! I'm not doing that whole comparison thing anymore... I am who I am, and my abilities are what they are, and if that is not good enough for someone else, then that's their loss. And that comparison is mostly based on the fact that I don't really play by ear and everyone over here does....therefore that makes Abby feel like a failure, when the truth is: I can play the bass by ear, the piano is harder for me and I couldn't necessarily do it on the spot in a service, but when I'm at home I can pick chord progressions out to songs and figure them out when I have the patience and time to do so. AND it's an ability that you either have or don't have and you can't beat yourself up about something that you weren't born with.
     - While I enjoy change, and sometimes welcome it, I am not the biggest fan of CONSTANT change.
     - I know more French than I thought I would but am most comfortable speaking it with people I actually know.
     - I over think/analyze everything... oh yeah, I've been doing that for years. And it makes me angry.
     - I am a confusing person....I have the confidence to up and leave my family, home, job, friends, etc and travel half way around the world by myself to someplace where I hardly know anyone and am perfectly fine with that...then I get there and don't have the confidence to just go out and speak the language. I don't get it. Anybody have any great insight on this?! Lol!
     - I am a very self-conscious person.
     - I am slowly, but surely, becoming okay with not knowing what's coming next, where I'm going next, or what I'm doing tomorrow.
     - I can't do anything, but God can do everything.
     - I found out what it means to "miss" someone.... as weird as this may sound, I had never once in my life felt homesick or missed my family. Talking/skyping has always been enough for me. But those first couple weeks here that were really rough for me...yeah I found out what it meant to miss home and your family. And while I may not be "homesick" anymore I can now say that I know what it feels like and it was probably something that I needed to experience/learn.
     - This whole traveling the world by yourself thing gets lonely. I've always been a loner and been ok with that but this trip has been different in SO many ways. While I may have friends here, there is no one here who REALLY knows me, no one who understands me, knows my quirks, no one who I feel like I can fully open up to (yes, I have trust issues....and good reasons for it learn not to touch fire after getting burned a few too many times right?! Just apply that to friendships and there you have it.), no one to vent to when I'm having a bad day or frustrated, no one to talk to about what I'm going through in that moment, etc. For whatever reason that didn't really matter last time, but this time it's been a much bigger deal...I guess 3 years can change a person more than you think! Thank goodness for Skype and apps that let you text people for free but it's still not the same as having someone there to experience everything with you and talk to in person. I guess that means all of my friends need to move to France for the next 2 months ;)
     - I MISS MY DOGS!!!! Ok, that's nothing new, I've missed them all along and knew that I would when I left... I just had to throw it out there though.
I am sure that this list will keep growing as the trip continues...but that's already quite the list for only being here a month! So there you have never stop learning about yourself...but then again, we're humans and we never stop changing and growing. Cue "The Circle of Life" from the Lion King... :) Still one of my all time favorite movies and I am not ashamed to admit that...or to admit to loving the soundtrack. And if all of the flies died I would be totally ok with that because I am SO sick of them landing on me right now!!!!!!!!!!! ARGH! Have a wonderful Tuesday everyone!!! :D

Monday, June 23, 2014

Under Threat of "Man Up"

Yesterday, Sunday, was somewhat of a stressful day for Abby. I had decided that if I had to give a testimony/word of encouragement at church that I would write it out in advance, have Mikki edit it and then do it in French. Didn't sound scary when I decided it was a good idea. But then as Sunday rolled around and the reality that I had to read what I had written out loud, in French, hit and it wasn't such a happy idea after all lol! But I had earlier in the week told my brother that I was planning on doing this and he said "You better! If you don't I'm going to make you go on a Man Up Adventure and learn about facing your fears!!" So under threat of having to hang out with a bunch of stinky guys for 5 days and eat gross food like brats (not that they would actually probably let me come on a trip....) I decided to face my fear and do it. It was a little awkward since I had to just read it off of my iPad so I couldn't really make eye contact with people and since I was nervous I was somewhat speed reading....buuutttt I survived and now that I made it past that milestone hopefully next time won't be as bad and then eventually, someday I won't even need the iPad. I sang and played "Because of Who You Are" in French as well (it was the only song that I could remember ALL of the lyrics to in French off the top of my head). Singing and playing isn't that scary for me...I would MUCH rather do that any day than speak. So not only was it scary that I was speaking in front of people, it was scary because it was in French and I am extremely self conscious about my "American" accent when speaking French. I have struggled with comparing myself to others my whole life and feeling incompetent and thought I had gotten over most of that but on Sunday it definitely reared it's ugly head. I always second guess myself. Me and Jesus had a little talk about it and by the time church started I was feeling a little bit better... it was like the closer it got, the less stressed I got. Regardless I survived, even after Mikki so kindly told me right before church that she was going to video it on her phone lol :P (I haven't seen the video and don't know if I want to....) I did say that I would do whatever was asked of me, whether that meant speaking, singing, etc sooooo I guess God's already putting that to the test lol! He thinks He's funny..... We had church at the house because there was going to be a party afterwards, so here's a couple pics from Sunday! It was great because even though it was a HOT day and we were having church in a house one of the visitors had tears running down her face as we sang "Your Presence Is Heaven To Me"!

After church there was a joint birthday party for Mikki and one of the guys in the church so while everything was getting set up the guys started up a round of karaoke...they finally convinced me to do it, but I made Mikki join with me. We sang "He Wants It All" by Forever Jones. It was my first karaoke experience lol! Look at me just breaking out of my shell/comfort zone...first I spoke in French, then I sang karaoke...what is this world coming to?!

Saturday Toky and Mikki took me into Toulouse to see a few of the sights and walk around. We started the day out at the market and I wandered around there for a while and Toky bought some delicious, fresh cherries that we ate in the car. From there we grabbed lunch at a Chinese buffet and then headed to the city center!

Toulouse is a very pretty city! They call it The Pink City because of the reddish/pink bricks that they used to build with. It was a really hot day (I mean it's Southern France after all....I'm not far from Spain so summer = HOT here!) so we didn't wander far from the center of the city. We stopped into a couple of souvenir stores so I could pick some stuff up and then headed back home.

The update on the World Cup is that we now have our nightly tradition of turning the 6pm (our time) game on via Internet and having that on while we get dinner ready. That game ends right around 8 pm, which is perfect because that is Zoe's bedtime, so she gets put to bed, we grab a snack, get changed, etc and then are ready for the 9 pm game...which is usually the game that we actually care about lol! We happily and loudly (although not TOO loudly since Zoe was sleeping) cheered France on to another victory!!!! I stayed up last night to watch the USA vs Portugal game, which started at midnight here. That was a pretty intense game. Sadly it ended tied 2 - 2, since Portugal got a freak goal with 30 seconds left in the game. Disappointing I must say, but that's ok, we're still in it and next we play Germany...that's gonna be a tough game! And that is the latest and greatest news in the life of Abby! Nothing TOO crazy, but that's probably a good!