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January 8, 2014

Belgium | 10 Years Ago Today

You know those pivotal moments in your life?  Decisions that are made, trips that are taken, people that you meet… well, 10 years ago today I was beginning one of those pivotal moments but as usual, had no idea just what kind of impact it would have on me.

Ten years ago today, I landed at the Brussels airport completely sleep deprived and worn out from sitting in a middle seat in the back of the airplane.  The missionaries I would be working with picked me up from the airport and all but forced me to stay awake the entire day.  It was torture!!  It also provided much entertainment for them and their kids as well as several embarrassing stories for me.  I won’t recount them here just because it would take too long to explain, but the next time you see me, just ask.  They’re hilarious.  Sleep deprivation totally wreaks havoc on everything you try and do!

So as not to bore you with my reminiscing, I’ll give you a short list of things that were life changing while I was there.

  • Trusting God with your next steps may be scary and challenging, but it will be far more rewarding than you could ever imagine.
  • Living – not just visiting – in another country opened my eyes to other cultures in a way I hadn’t seen before.
  • Teaching English as a second language is a lot more difficult than you might think.
  • Befriending a Muslim woman and her daughter and seeing them as people and not just their head coverings opened my heart to see them as God sees them, not as the media sees them.
  • Being forced to use French when out and about was the best thing ever to improve MY second language.  Hopefully we’ll have that chance again one day!
  • Iranians are super competitive when it comes to games like Uno and Spoons!
  • Living in Belgium where they make Belgian chocolate is the reason I’m a self-declared chocolate snob :-) (sorry, Hershey’s!)
  • Getting to know a missionary family and have them welcome me as part of their family not only bonded us and provided a foundation for these last 10 years of friendship, but also prepared me for meeting and marrying Ben who grew up on the mission field.  It just gave me an extra level of understanding of what it was like to grow up as an American in a different country.  Obviously I’ll never fully understand since I wasn’t a Missionary Kid myself, but I believe getting to know Christen and Brandon and walking through some of their lives with them gave me a different perspective than I ever would have had otherwise.
  • Butch and Nell (the missionaries) were worried about me and Arica living together and working together 24/7 for the semester we would be there.  They figured we would either love each other or hate each other!  Thankfully we got along beautifully and she quickly became one of my best friends!
  • Traveling became second nature to me.  With most of the countries in Europe being so small and the train system being so amazing, we would hit up a different country for a weekend without a second thought.
  • Living in Brussels gave me a confidence that I didn’t know I was missing. It wasn’t until March of that year that I decided to venture into the center of town on my own.  I remember leaving the center where Arica and I were living, going to the metro, riding it to the same place we always did to go to the Grand Place.  But it was so strange because NO ONE was with me.  As I walked towards the Grand Place, I stopped in a shop to get a snack and there were two British women in there speaking English with the lady behind the counter.  When I walked in she welcomed me in French and then PROCEEDED TO SPEAK NOTHING BUT FRENCH TO ME!!  Y’all.  This was huge.  So many times I’ve been in a larger French speaking city and had someone answer me in English – even though my French was totally fine.  But this lady didn’t do that.  Even though there were two English speakers in there already!  I was pumped!  And left with a HUGE smile on my face!

So much of that semester shaped me and prepared me for now, ten years later.  And I could never thank the Lord enough for that experience.  I could never thank the Greens enough for taking me in and being patient with me.  I could never thank Arica enough for her friendship and laughter and tears over these past 10 years.  It’s actually really difficult to imagine my life without these people in it.

And since I didn’t have a digital camera back then, here are a few shots of my scrapbook (that still isn’t actually finished… one day!).

It kind of blows me away that I got such clean and crisp photos with my camera when I didn’t really know how to use it!

I haven’t been back to Brussels since 2004 and I so much want to take Ben!

The photo on the left is what we saw from our windows as well as the little bit of snow fall we got!
The flyer on the right is what we helped pass out to advertise for the English classes Arica and I would be teaching.
“Do you speak English?
We will have classes for everyone age 13 years old and older.
Classes (with the times)
Duration, 5 months
Starting, January 19 or 20 (depending on the day of the week their class was)
Price, 15 euros
Location”

And then, almost 8 years later, they were thankfully still in the states for our wedding!

They might kill me for posting this… but I love this one from the Shutterbooth!

And then Ben and I got to not just be at, but photograph Christen and David’s wedding last spring.  My heart was so happy and full!

I love this family… grandparents and all :-)

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