Transition from Hungary to France

Saying “szia” to Hungary

It’s always hard to leave people and places that you love. Goodbyes do not get easier. Sometimes, even with practice, we don’t get better at saying goodbye or hearing goodbye. However, God has taught Stephen and me something that helps to ease the sorrow and challenge of transitions: prayer.

And so, last Saturday night, around 23.00, Anna, Stephen, and I prayed together. We thanked God for such an amazing English Camp. We praised Him for the joy and fun of spending time together as the three of us. We thanked Him for the unexpected gift of being able to see Shakespeare in Love performed live in Budapest (completely in Hungarian, of course! And since I (Abby) basically have the story memorized, it still made complete sense to me. 😉 ). We praised God for the 9 students who made commitments for Christ at English Camp and for the chance to hear the refugee story of an Iranian brother in Christ.  We praised God for the joy of Gateway Christian Fellowship, a church plant in Budapest where Anna is a member and where God is bringing the nations together to expand His kingdom. We thanked God for the joy of talking and spending time together in the same place, without needing the miracle of technology (although we thanked Him for that, too). And ultimately, we surrendered our plans and our friend into His hands, knowing that He loves Anna more than we ever could, and His plans are so much higher and better than ours. We asked Him to help us all to listen more closely to His Holy Spirit and to always be ready to respond. And thankfully, we also prayed for safe travel for Stephen and me. 🙂

After prayers and goodbyes, Stephen and I loaded our stuff into our Bla Bla Car driver’s van for the 11-hour drive to Strasbourg. For those of you unfamiliar with Bla Bla Car, it’s a great website/app for carpooling in Europe. You type in your original location and your desired destination and your desired day of travel, and you select whichever price, time, and driver works best for you. It is typically way cheaper than both flying and taking a train, and it offers the opportunity for great conversation! In fact, within about 2 hours of our drive, I got to answer the question, “So, have you always thought this way?” with my testimony! It was so cool. Granted, we were also jolted awake by the van bumping into the guardrails a couple of times, but that was apparently due to the power steering. And we were totally fine! Jazzed on adrenaline, but fine. 🙂 And we arrived safe and sound in Strasbourg, France, around 11am on Sunday. (PS Crossing boarders in Europe with the European Union is totally anti-climactic. No one really cares. Zero extra stamps for driving all the way through Austria and Germany. Trying not to be bitter. 🙂 )

A new language

Approximately 10 minutes after we disembarked from the Bla Bla Car van in Strasbourg, I (Abby) was geeking out about being in France. After studying French for about 6 years (high school and college), I had used it in Niger for a total of 6 months (sporadically) and Paris for a total of 3 hours (still worth it). And then, Sunday mid-morning, there I was searching for any open shop to buy something with our large Euro bill so that we could actually pay our Bla Bla Car driver. I went from nervous to excited to elated pretty quickly as I bought a croissant and a bottle of juice from the lovely Madame who ran the small cheese-and-drinks shop. It was so great!!

What wasn’t so great? Stephen’s transition to the French language. I wasn’t in translating mode yet, and Stephen has only briefly, briefly studied French. By Monday evening, Stephen was exhausted and kind of frustrated with how challenging and isolating it was to not understand a language that other people are speaking. And really, Monday evening it was Stephen, 1 other couple (French), and me. Not understanding the language was really frustrating.

Thankfully, that experience has led to some great reflection and conversation for us, hala Istennek. By Tuesday, I focused more on translating the conversation into English for Stephen and translating Stephen’s contributions into French for our hosts (more about them in a second!). We’ve also been able to think about the future when, Lord willing, Stephen and I will be in some kind of formal language school for wherever God has called us to serve long-term. Stephen and I learn differently and will need to give each other space for that. We’ve been able to gain wisdom from our dear friends, Justin and Jenna, on that different-learning-styles topic already. Also, it was just good for Stephen to be honest and share his frustration (even though it’s not wrong to be frustrated) and for me to apologize for not being more aware of him (even though it’s not wrong to not translate everything). It was a good opportunity to practice communication and grow in our relationship together. #marriage

Highlights so far

I’m trying to break up all my thoughts (there are usually a lot) into a couple of posts, or at least shorter posts. 🙂 So for now, I’ll sign off. I’ll try to write soon, though, to give more details about how God has blessed us this week in France. Here’s the summary so far:

  • Church with the Dodsons, completely in French!
  • Learning directions in Strasbourg, the hard way. 🙂
  • Meeting Jean-Pierre Pozzo, Dad Morris’s Timken colleague, and staying with him and his wife, Jocelyn, at their lovely home in Colmar.
  • Resting and relaxing in Colmar, enjoying the slower pace before heading back to the States.
  • Wonderful conversations with the Pozzos about religion, church, Stephen’s new job, and why we read the Bible.
  • Equally wonderful meals with the Pozzos. 🙂
  • Fun and great conversations with the Dodsons, including their almost-6, 3, and 1 year-old daughters. 🙂

Yes, Mom, we are still coming home on Saturday. 🙂 But we are also still enjoying our trip, still in love with each other, and even still content with walking most places that we want to go. God is so gracious, and we are already praying that this trip and these experiences continue to change us and influence how we live our lives and follow the Holy Spirit when we return to our comfortable, familiar Ohio home. Thanks for praying with us!

***If you have any interest in pictures from our trip, check out Stephen’s album on Facebook called: Angol Tabor and Europe Trip

 

Waiting in Pittsburgh

PittsburghairportAs we sit in the Pittsburgh airport, Stephen and I are reflecting on how God has blessed us this past week with great times of transition and preparation.

Almost a week ago, last Thursday, Stephen finished his last day at FedEx! We are praising God for the job, the experience, the lessons, the provision, and the friends that Stephen gained from FedEx. We are also praising God that the 2am-10am season of life is coming to a close. Stephen started as a package handler at FedEx in the fall of 2014, and he finished as a manager last week. It has been a tiring, refining, sanctifying experience. And through it all, God is so good.

Minutes after Stephen got home from his last day at FedEx, we hit the road to visit my family in Michigan. We enjoyed most of 5 days up in the Mitten, watching two yellow labs terrorize each other, sitting on the back deck to enjoy the summer weather, and spending as much time with our sweet 6-week-old niece Jane Marie. We had a great time recharging, chatting, laughing, and creating even more ridiculous Cline memories. We had the privilege of catching up with both Grandma Cline and Papa Sears on our trip, which was a blessing. And we’re so grateful for Monday morning when Mom’s EBS ladies took the time to pray for us and our trip. You know, even though the Cavs lost and Pittsburgh won, it was still a great visit. 🙂

After driving back to Cuyahoga Falls on Monday, we had a little over 24 hours to pack ourselves for our 3-week trip. And we learned about our packing habits:

  • Abby
    • List-maker
    • Bag-stuffer
    • “last-minute” means the day before
  • Stephen
    • Stress-free
    • More relaxed fit
    • finishes packing an hour before we left the apartment
  • Both
    • Pile-makers
    • Clothes-rollers
    • Willing to trust and appreciate the packing style of the other (What a bonus!)

 

Post-packing, here are our carry-on items:

carryonpacked

And now, we wait. We should be boarding in about 40 minutes, and everything is still running on-time. But Stephen and I have both experienced missions before, so we know the one essential trait: flexibility. And we’re so excited. We’re excited for what else we’ll learn about ourselves and each other, beyond simply our packing practices. We are looking forward to what we’ll see and learn and experience as we partner with Hungarian and French believers. And we’re so excited for what our faithful, good God will show us and work on in us. I’m also so excited to see Anna! And yes, we’re looking forward to airplane movie watching– that would go in the “both” column, too.

Thank you for your prayers and interest. We’ll update when we get the chance on the ground in Hungary!

A Month Later

Laziness. Fear. Time with family. Unrealistic expectations. Lack of confidence in my ability to effectively explain my life. I think these are the top reasons why it’s been a month since I’ve written for my blog. I’ve had some ideas of what to write. I’ve certainly had ample opportunity to actually sit down and do the writing. But I haven’t—until now.

Since it’s been so long, this will be a fly-by of reflections, thanksgivings, updates, and processing. Sounds like most of my conversations, to be honest…

 The Time Warp Game

My mom likes to play a Time Warp game. (I just made up that name for it, though. There isn’t actually a name for it. This is just how my mom thinks. 🙂 ) She’s frequently saying, “Can you believe that a week ago today, you were finishing your last semester at Cedarville?” or “How crazy is that two weeks from right now, we’ll be in Pentwater again?” Sometimes it really does boggle the mind, thinking of how quickly life can change. I’ve been playing the Time Warp game in my mind the past few days because a month ago today, I was in Paris, en route to Michigan, leaving Niger. When I verbalize that, it makes more sense why my mind and emotions feel discombobulated.

It’s been a crazy, good month. Hard, certainly. My first night home, I wept myself to sleep. (Crying doesn’t do it justice. This was tears galore, not trying to stop it, just allowing the act of weeping to exhaust me into sleep.) I miss my friends. I miss my roommate and our neighbor. I miss my students. Gosh, I miss them. I miss the warmth, the skirts, the constant refilling of water bottles, the planning and collaborating of our teacher workroom. I miss both planned and spontaneous prayer sessions. I miss that level of community and courage and dependence. I miss Sahel Academy like crazy.

However, it probably isn’t surprising that I’ve kept myself rather busy. Here are some fun (albeit exhausting) facts about what December 2014 included in the life of Abby Cline:

  • 3 countries on 3 continents—Niger, Africa; France, Europe; USA, North America
  • Finishing my student teaching and consequently, my undergraduate degree
  • 9 months of dating the man I love—and being reunited with him after 4 months of legit long distance 🙂
  • 8 different states—MI, OH, PA, NY, CT, MA, VT, and ME—en route to the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Kurt and Molly Stultz. 😉
  • Christmas with my entire family together
  • Continuing registering as a substitute teacher, you know, for that grown-up, real life thing
  • Saying too many goodbyes
  • Just a crap ton of change.

 Truth reminders

For my fellow Hunger Games fans, I have an analogy: please think of the beginning of Mockingjay. So, Katniss is a hot mess of emotions and confusion, right? And she’s repeating to herself the few facts that she feels she can trust: “My name is Katniss Everdeen. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped.” Etc. (If you’re that curious, read the books. You’ll thank me later.)

Let me clarify first that my life transitions have not been traumatic. I was never in a life-threatening situation. (No, Ebola still has not reached Niger.) But I’m still finding myself in need of some reminders, some reassurance, I suppose. So, here goes:

My name is Abby Cline. I am 23 years old. I live in Freeland, Michigan, in my parents’ house. I just taught for four months at an incredible school in Niamey, Niger. I spent 3 cold, early morning hours in Paris, France. I have friends in Niger, Hungary, Maine, Ohio, and various other states and countries; I don’t know when I’ll see them again. Oh, and by the way, I’m slightly terrified of my future.

You may have noticed some important truths that I left out. I think that’s why I’m terrified of my future—substitute teaching, looking for an actual teaching job, navigating living at home again, being an “adult.” Let’s try the truth reminders again:

 My name is Abby Cline. I am a sinner, redeemed by Christ’s atoning sacrifice. This is not of myself; it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8-9). I serve a faithful, loving God who will never leave me nor forsake me (Joshua 1:5). God has a plan (Eph 1:7-10). I am part of that plan.

I need more truth reminders than I realize. It’s almost like God knew that, so He decided to give simple, forgetful humans the Bible. Crazy, huh.

More to come

This whole processing thing is going to take a while. I’ve decided that I do want to keep up with this blog, even though I’m back in the States where my life is “boring.” (I don’t actually believe that, don’t worry.) There may be some more in-depth, reflection-type posts in the future. But I’m going to try to be realistic and not promise anything. 🙂 For now, this is the update. And here are the pictures. Because my internet is now processing more than just KB per second. Weird. 🙂

My wonderful, amazing, gracious roommate and friend, Kathy. We took this picture right before I left for the airport (hence the jeans).

My wonderful, amazing, gracious roommate and friend, Kathy. We took this picture right before I left for the airport (hence the jeans).

At one of the Indian restaurants in Niamey, hours before they took me to the airport. L to R: me, Hannah, Rachel, Mal, Susan.

At one of the Indian restaurants in Niamey, hours before they took me to the airport. L to R: me, Hannah, Rachel, Mal, Susan.

I was actually there!

I was actually there!

Mom, Sarah, and I went to see WICKED in Detroit my second weekend home.

Mom, Sarah, and I went to see WICKED in Detroit my second weekend home.

While there wasn't snow on my first New England winter voyage, there were still breathtaking views.

While there wasn’t snow on my first New England winter voyage, there were still breathtaking views.

Stephen and I at our friends' wedding in Portland, Maine on Dec 19th.

Stephen and I at our friends’ wedding in Portland, Maine on Dec 19th.

One of my trips to Ohio included quality time with my dear friend Pat.

One of my trips to Ohio included quality time with my dear friend Pat.

While wrapping Christmas presents, I tried to stay modest while practicing some Niger skillz.

While wrapping Christmas presents, I tried to stay modest while practicing some Niger skillz.

A Long Overdue Update

I should stop being a hypocrite. I’m having my students in World Literature write Personal Essays (which I’m loving, by the way), and I’ve realized that I’ve been slacking off in my own commitment to write.

Also, I read the note from Amanda Custer labeled, “Open when you haven’t blogged in a while.” Oh, hello Conviction. I was wondering where you’d been. It’s so nice to have you back.

But really, thanks, Amanda.

Since we’re working on organization in World Literature, tone in English 9, presentations in ICT, and editing in Yearbook, I’m feeling quite a bit of pressure to make this a good blog post. Here goes nothing.

First, the bad.

My awful week

Last week was a terrible week. It just was. I went home sick on Monday after throwing up and feeling like I might faint. Wednesday contained one of the worst classes ever—complaining students, feeling like I hadn’t prepared them well, not knowing how to handle classroom discipline issues, etc. Then on Thursday, I dropped the Yearbook tripod on my toe, causing it to bleed and me to almost pass out. All of this, combined with sheer exhaustion and expert pity partying, resulted in my lying on my bedroom floor last Thursday evening, heaving with sobs and wondering what I’d done wrong. Why was this week so hard? Did I slip into pride again? Was I trying to do this by myself? What was God teaching me through this? And how could I change so that I never ended up with another terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week like this one?

Then my dear friend Hannah spoke wisdom and life into me: “I don’t know, Abby. I don’t feel like it’s anything that you’ve done wrong. Sometimes, you just have to be. You just have to be.

I allowed those words to scare me first. I did one of those chuckle-sobs or giggle-cries, when you’re still upset, but you know that you’re being ridiculous. “But if I didn’t do anything wrong, then I’m really not in control of this situation.”

At that moment, God brought to mind some key truths for me to cling to:

  • Christ is all I need. (If you know Cedarville and Dr. Brown, then you know the tune to which I heard this truth.)
  • Christ is more than enough for me.
  • I want Jesus to be my everything.

All of that from a crappy week of human failings and insufficiencies. I hope that I remember last week. I hope that I remember just how broken I was, how heavy my head was with the weight of my sinuses and my shortcomings, how red my face was after I finally just cried the tears til they stopped. I hope that I remember the liberating peace when I believed God at His Word. I choose to believe that Christ really is all that I need, even when I’m a hot mess of selfish emotions. I pray that I remember that.

Thankfully, my week did improve from there.

Professional Development Day

We didn’t have school on Friday due to a Professional Development Day. I want to clarify what this is, for both the educationally-minded and for those of you who no longer live by a school calendar. Typically, these days are painful, boring, and filled with teachers whining about how much grading and planning they could be doing instead of sitting in pointless meetings. Super cheery and encouraging, huh? I know that the issue is mostly attitude, but I also just have to say: Sahel has good PD days.

The recipe for an uplifting PD Day

  • Start with at least 30 minutes of praise, worship, and prayer. Communally, as the entire staff.
  • Add practical teaching advice and demonstrations from the secondary and elementary principals.
  • Gently stir in some teambuilding activities.
  • Allow the staff to simmer as they eat delicious fried rice and nems.
  • Thoroughly mix all ingredients with a collaborative discussion about classroom management, after a week when you were the poster child for a mis-mananged classroom.
  • Then finish the day with a time of chatting and prayer with your mentor and other mentees.

So yeah. Not only did I not have to plan and teach for Friday; I also had the chance to benefit from the wisdom and conversation of those older, wiser, and infinitely more experienced than I.

Sunday with M. Grandouiller

Last Sunday I had the immense privilege of spending the day with my friend M. Grandouiller. I had no idea how encouraging and revitalizing time with M. Grandouiller would be. The first time I saw him here in Niger, I felt my smile all the way down in my toes. He was someone from home, even though he’s not from Michigan. He’s someone who knew me before July 31. And he’s someone who was excited to see me, too.

Sunday was full of cultural experiences, good food, and great conversations in French, Tamajaq, and English. We went to church together at a very multicultural church where one of my student’s fathers is the pastor. Then we went back to the compound where M. Grandouiller was staying. A Tamajaq friend of M. Grandouiller’s brought us lunch: ground millet and gambo. (Spelling is questionable at best.) While I still don’t remember our guest’s name—something along the lines of Attahar—it was wonderful to speak some hesitant French with him, and it was great to see the joy with which he and Monsieur talked.

Then in the evening, after the English service, Monsieur took me out to dinner. While the nice Italian restaurant was closed, we had a great time at Dragon D’or (The Golden Dragon). We missed you, Madame Grandouiller, but we still had a great time eating nems, watching France 24, and discussing Cedarville, theology, ideologies, and life on the mission field. I hope that you read this, Monsieur, and I hope that you realize that I so appreciate the time that you spent with me. I also hope that my daddy reads this. My time with Monsieur reminded me of our Daddy-daughter dates, and, well—I miss you. But it’s a good kind of missing. It’s the I-can’t-wait-to-see-you kind that still allows me to live here, in this moment, full of joy and contentment. So, Daddy-daughter date in December? 🙂

An edTPA update

First of all, I need to say thank you. Thank you so much to all of you who are reading and listening to me as I whine and complain about the edTPA project. For those who have been fortunate enough to miss out on the obnoxious levels of anxiety that I associate with this assignment, here’s the reality:

The state of Ohio and Cedarville University want to make sure that I’m a good teacher.

Bam. There it is. Consequently, I have 3 Tasks to complete before November 7. I have a rough—I repeat, rough—draft of Task 1 completed. Which means that it isn’t really complete. But still. I have started and almost finished filming for Task 2. Let me just say, it is pretty hilarious to rewatch some of this film. I should probably be critiquing myself more, but to start with, I was just cracking up at all of the side conversations. The gems:

  • the level of acceptability of airline food
  • ebola in the States
  • the necessity of wearing seatbelts and calling an ambulance
  • requests for making music videos in class
  • requests for making parodies of music videos, also in class
  • reasons why the humans should have won in Avatar
  • A question, “Wait, there’s a movie of The Joy Luck Club?”
  • Followed by the passionate exclamatory: “Then why are we reading the book?!”
  • Followed by throw-your-head-back laughter.

Sometimes all I can say is, “Yes, this is real life right now.” Then I smile. 🙂

So the edTPA is still coming along. And I’m so grateful for the prayers that are shepherding me through this challenge. I can’t even call it a trial, mostly because I knew it would be coming and it’s part of my homework this semester. Filming today went so, so well. I seriously thought, in the middle of class, “So many people must be praying for me.” So thank you.

More ways for us to pray:

  • Please pray for the end of the Ebola crisis here in West Africa. No, it still isn’t in Niger, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be pleading with our Father to end this crisis.
  • I need to surrender my anxiety and my desire for control. Again. The edTPA is not going to ruin me unless I let it.
  • Pray for my students, please. Some of them have struggles more real than I can comprehend. Others just need help and guidance as they grow up and –hopefully—mature. Pray for patience and wisdom for me, too, please.

Just a few reasons to praise God:

  • He is all we need.
  • Fall Break is just around the corner (Oct 11-20). 🙂
  • He has surrounded me with great people who are becoming my good friends.
  • I’ve had some really encouraging texting and phone conversations with friends and family over the past two weeks.
  • The cross was enough.

Eh. That was a weak organization. Hopefully my editing worked. The presentation was poor again, due to my lack of photographing skills. As for the tone, I hope that my frank yet positive diction (vocab word) allows my readers to sense a content, joyful, finding-a-home-here kind of tone. How’s that for teacher talk?

Sometimes I just can’t turn it off.

Bonne Arrivée

That’s how she greeted me this morning, with almost more smiles than sounds: “Bonne arrivée, bonne arrivée.” As I sat under the carport eating the hard-boiled egg, blueberry muffin, and banana that my wonderful housemate, Kathy Miller, set out for me, I met Lynlee, Kathy’s house worker. (I’m very unsure of spelling at this point, and I’m only partially confident on the sounds of her name. 🙂 ) We exchanged a few more phrases en français, and it was great! Then I got to pet one of our neighbor’s cats—a very skinny tabby who looks like the “after” version of my cat at home, if my cat ever did a weight loss program. It wasn’t even very hot under the carport, around 9:00 this morning, after it rained yesterday. I’m sure, though, that the heat will be coming. You know why?

 

 

Because I’m in AFRICA!!!

 

Praise the Lord, I arrived safely in Niamey yesterday evening. (For those of you wondering, “bonne arrivée” literally means “good arrival.” Lynlee was welcoming me to Sahel. 🙂 ) My baggage even caught up to me this evening, so that is another huge blessing. In the mere day and a half that I’ve been here, I’ve already felt completely welcomed and embraced. Here are some highlights from yesterday, my first time ever in Niger:

 

  • John and Nancy DeValve personally picked me up from the airport and drove me to Sahel. They basically gave me a driving tour, which was marvelous! And they explained the railroad-down-the-middle-of-the-street. Well, when I say they explained it, I mean that we talked about how it doesn’t make a ton of sense. 🙂
  • Kathy welcomed me to her home, introduced me to the dog she’s taking care of, and guided me through Sahel’s campus over to the staff dinner where…
  • … I had the chance to meet a lot of wonderful people!! And eat some great food. And just sit. Without being airborne or in an airport. Marvelous.
  • Kathy and I took Lady, the dog, for a night walk through the campus. Kathy gave me the low-down on the buildings and a few of the ins-and-outs of Sahel.
  • Then, sleeping. Enough said. 🙂

 

And today has been great. I had the chance to walk around and talk with Dietrich, my cooperating teacher. I finally met Mikki Schmidt face-to-face; she is my supervisor for this student teaching experience. Kathy coached me through making deviled eggs, and then the single women who work here at Sahel came over for dinner here at Kathy’s! It was wonderful. There are 3 other new female teachers this year, two of whom are right around my age. Three of the twenty-ish aged single ladies live in one of the houses really close to mine, too, so that’ll be fun. 🙂

 

So far, it has been so great to settle in and meet some of the other people who help make Sahel the amazing place that it is. The conversations have been encouraging, insightful, and hilarious at times. 🙂 I’m so excited and so blessed to be here!

 

In summary, please praise God with me that

  • my luggage arrived! I could have made the two-and-a-half outfits from my carry-on last for a while, but we’re all grateful that I have more clothes now. 🙂
  • I’m staying healthy so far. 
  • I truly am enjoying this experience. Yes, I still get nervous about teaching, but it is so good to be here. Truly, we all need to praise God for this.

 

And join me in prayer for

  • Balance as I allow myself to settle in while also looking ahead to what I’m going to teach, how I’m going to teach it, and how I’m not going to ruin these children forever. Just kidding. 🙂 But really.
  • Peace as I figure out time for teaching and time for grocery shopping and laundry (another praise, we have a washing machine in the house!) and making meals and normal human functioning things.
  • Wisdom as to how much time I spend here on the Sahel campus and how much time I venture out into Niamey. (No worries, Mom and mom-like figures—I will not be venturing by myself.) It is kind of a mini-English-speaking community here all to itself. As I get busier with school, I’m just not sure how the balance of Sahel life and Niger life will work. Good thing God knows!

 

Thank you for your interest, your support, and your prayers! Oh, and please be praying for all the teachers and students as we prepare for another school year. There are lots of details to straighten out before August 13th. Thanks!!

 

[Also, I’m still figuring out internet here. At the moment my pictures and my internet are not getting along. I’ll get pictures up as soon as I can!!]