Part of me wants to say, “Enjoy this picture,” and leave it at that! This has been a long and difficult week, but also one full of surprises.
It’s just now that I’m starting to really miss my animals. I’m still not sleeping the best at night, and I can’t help but think it’s probably because my warm fuzzy companions of eight years aren’t snuggled against my back. I’m also starting to miss being around horses, especially since I still often feel culturally and linguistically clumsy. Horses are a language and culture I’ve spent more than eleven years learning to speak, and while I’m certainly still awkward with them, it’s a far more comfortable situation than the one I often find myself in with French.
To be honest, the end of this week was really rough. I wanted to be with people, especially people who knew me well, and instead I found myself holed up at home drinking cocoa and pretending to study. I was discouraged that I felt too fragile to forge my way finding friends on campus.
But then came a surprise—two of them, in fact. The first was that one morning, another student got on the train just south of my village. We spoke in French all the way to campus. Afterwards, I realised just how unusual it was for me to have felt completely comfortable chatting for an hour with someone I’d never spoken to before, and in French too! That led to the second surprise—the realisation that even though I’m far from being a social butterfly, I’m also far from being the Anna whose social anxiety used to be so high that she’d avoid going anywhere without someone she knew.
Yesterday, Yaciana and some of her friends participated in The Mud Day Swiss, and I went along to watch. The course was tucked away in the mountains of the Gruyère region, where I snapped the photograph above. (Afterwards, we ate an absolutely delicious fondue at a restaurant in Bulle.) Because of the race, Yaciana slept in this morning, and though I was planning on going to church, I was very tempted to stay curled up in bed when my alarm went off. I weighed whether or not I felt up to going by myself, but decided that if I was feeling the need to be around people, I should probably go. Indeed, I found myself encouraged not only by being able to talk with the wonderful people there, but by their support for me. “How are you doing?” each one asked. I attempted to sound lighthearted as I told them how much I missed my family and how difficult it seemed to find francophone friends at school. Everyone encouraged me to continue seeking francophone friends, citing the Swiss tendency toward reservedness and reminding me that the Swiss students have already established their friendship groups over the years while I’m starting from the ground up. But something they all mentioned was how good it was that I’d found some awesome anglophone friends. “You do everything in French,” they said. “You go to school in French, you do your homework in French, you have church and Bible study in French, your roommate speaks French . . . it’s okay to have some anglophone friends. It’s important for you to have people you can count on at school, regardless of what language you speak when you’re with them.” Until being told this, I didn’t realise that I’d been chiding myself for speaking English. I’d been subconsciously putting a lot of pressure on myself that didn’t need to be there, and I’m so thankful to have that weight off my shoulders!
In the midst of this long week, I’ve failed in many ways. I’ve had moments of giving in to despair, and I’ve had moments of clinging far too tightly to idols that God has asked me repeatedly to lay down. Yet God is gracious and faithful. In church we read a portion of Lamentations, and I was amazed to see that in the midst of a very difficult passage proclaiming the shortcomings of God’s people, it is written:
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
How great the grace of my God! Each day here is full both of failures and of victories, sometimes great and sometimes small. I’m thankful that the grace of God cannot be diminished by my frequent need of it; the challenges ahead of me might be new every morning, but so is the love and the mercy of God.