Carte de Séjour & God’s Faithfulness!

This is a post about God’s faithfulness. It’s also a post about how stressful living in a foreign country can be, but mostly it’s about how God really shows you when He wants you somewhere.

Most of you reading this probably do not know all about how I came to live in France. Long story short: my husband is French, and when we got engaged we kind of procrastinated on the fiancé visa, therefore we had to come up with other alternatives on how to legally get married. Moving to France a month after our wedding was actually the most practical and flexible way to go, since Matt could work and we would both be able to travel internationally. Fast-forward a year later to this past May: Matt has been approved for his green card and we are finishing up paperwork for that, he has a job he loves, I am much more adapted to living in France and, although I am by no means bilingual, I can now speak and understand a decent amount of French, and we enjoy spending time with our family and friends here. However, in June my visa was due to expire and I discovered two weeks in advance that I should have gone to renew it/apply for my carte de séjour three months before the expiration date! (Aside: a carte de séjour is the equivalent to an American green card) This was because I foolishly expected OFFI, the immigration organization I had been contacted by when I first moved here, to contact me again about it. But no, I now needed to get myself to the Prefecture ASAP, and for you Americans who are unfamiliar with the Prefecture, it is the DMV on steroids (you go there for identification cards and driver’s licenses, because they are not the same here, car-paperwork, green cards, work permits, basically anything related to immigration, and I even think associations have to register at the Prefecture as well). Imagine that your local DMV looks like The New York Stock Exchange on the inside, with people everywhere, numbers being announced on screens and intercoms, babies crying, you get the idea… (I kid, I kid…that’s just a little Dark Knight Rises humor for ya).

Anyway, after I realized the gravity of my situation, I panicked. I have never been one to react calmly in dire situations: I either avoid dealing with it, or I panic. However, over the past 5 or so years God has really been helping me to trust Him instead of panicking, and so, after my initial 10-second breakdown, I immediately had the urge to pray. And for the next three days I prayed HARD. I found all this out on a Monday, and we couldn’t go to the Prefecture until Thursday, so I had three days to either worry myself into developing an ulcer, or to fervently pray, fast, and seek God. And let me just say, for anyone with doubts: never underestimate the power of prayer. The Bible says:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 4:6-7

By the end of that Monday, I had already begun to feel this supernatural peace over myself and my visa situation. I had confidence in that fact that, no matter what happened, whether I was able to renew my visa or not, that God’s will would be done, and that’s what I prayed for. I could have simply prayed out, “God, PLEASE allow me to get my carte de séjour!” but I wanted more than that. I prayed, “God, if it is YOUR WILL (remember Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane? “Not as I will, but as You will.”), please allow me to get my carte de séjour…” And from that moment on I knew God was there no matter what the outcome.

Before I get back to what happened at the Prefecture on that Black Thursday (Ok, ok, that’s my last Stock Exchange joke), I have to say something about fasting, because I didn’t just pray unceasingly that week, I also fasted. Last semester during one of our Remix meetings (Remix is the student ministry we are involved with here in Grenoble), we discussed fasting. I came to understand that it is not depriving ourselves of things to please God, but it’s an act of expressing to God that we want Him more than anything else. And I just love that image, and so I fasted that week to express to God that, above all else, I wanted His will to be done, even if that meant I would have to go back to the U.S.

And I should tell you the list of things I prayed for before I went (and even during my visit) to the Prefecture:

  • That I would be able to receive my carte de sejour
  • That I would have all of the documents I needed
  • That I would at least be seen by someone (I read that in Paris, you can wait all day and not even be seen before closing time)
  • That the employees would be friendly, helpful, and compassionate (people with prior experience at the Prefecture or even the DMV, feel free to laugh)
  • That I would not have to pay any extra fees for being late
  • That Matt would be able to return to work in the afternoon (he only took half a day off, and he still had things to get done for a meeting the following day)
  • That my sister-in-law would be able to find someone to watch my niece for me while I was still waiting (I babysit her two afternoons a week, while her parents are at work)
  • That we would not get a parking ticket (because our meter expired ~20 minutes before we left)

So we arrived at the Prefecture at 9:15am, just fifteen minutes after opening time, and we were already #44 in line. I brought a book to keep me entertained during the wait, but all I could really do was look around and continue to pray for everything to go smoothly. Finally, after 5 long hours, we were seen, and let me spoil everything for you readers by saying that EVERYTHING ON MY PRAYER LIST WAS ANSWERED. EVERYTHING.

The agent who met with us was very friendly (what!?), and even compassionate because–and here’s the most amazing part of the story–although we were missing a couple of proofs of residency, she let us mail them to her after our visit. When does something like that ever happen? When can you go to the DMV, not having adequate proof of residency, and STILL get your driver’s license? I did not have to pay any extra fees, I was not declared to be a “situation irrégulière” (which could cause problems if/when I want to become a dual citizen)…I was given my récépissé (basically a temporary card that lasts for 3 months) and told I might have to come back and get it renewed if my actual carte de sejour does not arrive in time.

And on top of all that amazing news, my sister-in-law was able to find someone to cover babysitting for me (because if not, I guess she would have had to miss work or we would have had to leave the Prefecture early?), Matt did get to work later than he wished, but it turns out he didn’t have much to do after all, AND, although our parking meter had expired nearly half an hour before we left the Prefecture, there was no ticket (although there was an ad for a florist stuck in the wipers that nearly gave me a heart attack).

This all happened at the end of May, and yesterday I went back to renew my récépissé and it turns out that my actual card was ready and I only had to wait 45 minutes to pick it up and pay the 106€ fee (which is still cheaper than the American green card fees we’re paying for Matt)!

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Finally! I no longer have to carry my passport around! AND, it’s much smaller than a regular French ID card as well! Much more practical.

And what did I learn from all of this? That God is faithful. That He provides. That if He wants you to be somewhere (like France), He will make it happen (by bestowing upon you more than enough grace). That there is NO prayer request too little, too insignificant, too impossible that He will not hear. That prayer and fasting are powerful, and they deepen our relationship with God. That the French system is not as scary and unforgiving as the internet will have you believe. And lastly, I finally realized that God wants us here in France, and although we were planning on being  back in the States by Christmastime, I think we’ll be holding off on that for a little while :)

So there you have it. I know this was long, but I hope it was entertaining and inspiring enough. And for anyone who is in the process of getting their own carte de séjour, please feel free to ask me any questions about my experience, or even for my advice (but definitely do things a lot sooner than I did!).

Greater Things Are Yet To Come: Connect 2013

Last month, Matt and I were blessed to be able to attend an annual SfC (Students for Christ) conference in Germany called Connect. Before I write anything else, let me just say that our lives were changed. I have been to two other types of conferences before (Clarity and SALT) and neither one had that much impact on my life. The conference is aptly named Connect because that’s all I did: I connected with God and I connected with people.


On our way to Germany!

Let me start with how I connected with people. Now normally I am rather introverted around new people, especially in large group gatherings when I don’t have any close friends nearby. Before we even packed for Connect, though, I had started praying for God to help me really meet and get to know people. I did not want to spend any time hiding out in my room or only staying around the group I came with, and God radically answered my prayers because at every meal, in every workshop and meeting, and in-between every service, I sat with, talked with, played sports with, and generally spent time with people I had never met before arriving in Germany. And it was INCREDIBLE. I made some sincere relationships with missionaries and students from all across Europe and I am already looking forward to meeting up with them again next summer!


A FEW of us getting excited about playing Ultimate Frisbee (there were at least 20 other people playing with us as well)!

Connecting with God was obviously something I was expecting to experience, yet I was surprised at how HE continued to connect with ME after leaving the conference (I’m still amazed at how surprising God can be–He’s ALWAYS doing the unexpected in my life). The biggest “take home” I got from Connect was the desire to be a prayer warrior. This wasn’t even a desire I realized had been developing in my heart until after I was almost home, yet when I think back on all the different services, I see a common theme of prayer emerging.


The last morning worship was led by the children’s ministry!

One speaker really touched my heart as he shared his passion for ministering to peoples in Afghanistan, and how it is essential for a ministry to have a prayer network. Before listening to him speak, I knew nothing about Afghanistan, besides the media-induced stereotypes that had influenced me to dislike it. Now, I know in what areas to be praying for Afghanistan, its peoples, and it’s missionaries…but more than that, I now have a desire to pray for those things.


Prayer for the Nations

One night was spent praying for the nations, and I experienced something I still don’t understand. There were flags from every country represented at the conference spread across the meeting room floor: flags from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas. We were encouraged to first pray for the countries we were currently living in, and so I began praying for France but all along I had this desire to go pray for the U.S. When I finally walked over to my country’s flag, I was overcome with intense emotion and I began weeping before I could even sit down. I still don’t understand why, but I experienced the same emotions with a few other countries as well.


Me–before the prayer time–posing with the American flag.

On the last day we broke off into our individual countries and talked about our personal experiences with God and with others during the conference, and then we discussed our plans for the coming school year. One thing I was really excited about is a potential SfC France retreat, when the different SfC groups across France will get together–we have groups in Paris, Grenoble, Toulouse, and Marseille.

France Group

The French teams–with a few absent.

France Group

Silly pose!

Overall I am extremely grateful to have attended Connect. It was incredibly hard for me to say goodbye to all the friends we had made during our week and a half there, but as I said before, God has continued to speak to me about my trip. He has influenced me to pray fervently for all the students and missionaries I connected with, and I have decided to make a prayer map to encourage me to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).


Our American friend (currently living in Germany) Taylor whom we hit it off with the very first night at Connect!


Our Spanish friend Carolina! We laughed so much with her!


A large group shot of most of the students on the last night.

I can’t wait to go back next summer!!!!

Retreat Weekend in Bourg d’Oisans!!

Matt and I are blessed to be apart of a student ministry here in Grenoble called Remix. It’s similar to Chi Alpha (the student group we were apart of in the U.S.), but quite different at the same time because it’s in France. This past weekend we went on a leadership retreat about an hour away in Bourg d’Oisans where we began planning and discussing upcoming events. The most significant thing for me, however, was the time we took at the end of the retreat to encourage and pray for each other. It was moving and interesting because not everyone knows one another very well, but that didn’t keep us from lifting each other up.

During one of the women’s retreats I went to while I was in Chi Alpha we had a night of encouragement too, but there were around 25 of us total, so you can imagine the tear-fest we had!

While we were in Bourg d’Oisans we also got to PLAY IN THE SNOW! And there was tons of it. I’ve been skiing before but I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much snow in my life. We’ve been so excited for Solo to be able to play in the snow, because we were absolutely certain that he would love it. And we were right! He played for hours and hours outside by himself, and the best part was that since he couldn’t dig or play in the bushes, he didn’t get dirty. The snow would stick to him in little balls, though, but he would lick them off of himself!

I was all excited about taking pictures but after the first 60 or so I realized that I had somehow set my picture size to SMALL. Like 640×360 pixels small. I was really upset because I had taken some nice photos, but I took a lot more later to make up for it :)

Here are some of the best pictures from this weekend, both small and large (I only took pictures outside):

This is what it looked like before we played in the snow.

This is what it looked like before we played in the snow.

His bright blue eyes make this picture perfect!

His bright blue eyes make this picture perfect!

Solo leading, like always. He actually wasn't too fond of people riding the sled. When Matt and I went together he ran behind us and barked the whole way.

Solo leading, like always. He actually wasn’t too fond of people riding the sled. When Matt and I went together he ran behind us and barked the whole way.

Bourg d'Oisans


Matt after he made a bunch of snow fall of a tree--onto himself ;)

Matt after he made a bunch of snow fall off a tree–onto himself ;)

Herbal Essences Commercial?

Herbal Essences Commercial?

Snow puppy!

Snow puppy!

This was Solo's stash of firewood...

This was Solo’s stash of firewood…

I love that you can see the curves of the mountains so perfectly!

I love that you can see the curves of the mountains so perfectly!

Beautiful drive home :)

Beautiful drive home :)