Having a kid in France: Part II

This whole pregnancy thing is going by so fast. I am in the 37th week now and I guess Baby Boy Bennett could arrive anytime from now until the 42nd week. Everyone asks if we are ready, and honestly I don’t know how to answer. Yes and absolutely not is probably pretty accurate.

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The growth of Baby Boy Bennett and me…

In this post, I wanted to share about how people interact with a pregnant lady here in Paris (case study: me). I can’t compare it to how people treat pregnant ladies in America, so feel free to comment and let me know (I’m curious). Maybe it’s exactly the same. But before being pregnant, and even in the first 25 weeks or so, I was treated like everyone else. Paris is a big city, and like most big cities as a general rule, you DO NOT make eye contact with strangers and you DO NOT talk to strangers. There are exceptions of course, and sometimes Parisians will surprise me with how polite they can be. But it’s a big place and we are all crossing paths with so many people everyday; there is a sense or maybe even a right, that each person has a degree of privacy and personal anonymity in public. This can cause some who aren’t used to the city to experience people as cold and rude, and while they can be at times, as an introvert I often like this personal privacy, because if I interacted with every person I saw, I would be exhausted all the time.

But things changed somewhat when I became visibly pregnant. Here are some highlights to demonstrate how people interact with me differently now.

  • Everyone looks at me, which I mention first because it is strange to go from no one looks at you to nearly everyone does.
  • People offer me their seat on the bus and the subway, and if no one does, normally someone else who is standing will boldly suggest that someone needs to offer me a seat. Sometimes it is embarrassing, but I appreciate the gesture.
  • Many strangers talk to me. In French, instead of asking if I’m pregnant, they will ask “if I am awaiting a child” (“Vous attendez un enfant?”). Many people also enjoy asking or guessing whether it’s a boy or a girl. So far only one has guessed correctly.
  • My new favorite question is “C’est pour bientôt?” or “C’est pour aujourd’hui?” which are different ways of asking if I am due very soon or maybe even today.
  • Lastly, often people will ask me questions with the goal of giving me some kind of advice. They want to make sure I am talking to the baby everyday, or inquire about whether or not I plan to breastfeed or have a natural birth. I don’t mind this, but it is striking to me how in a culture where people don’t typically dive in with personal questions (especially with strangers), pregnancy seems to be an open invitation to ask or say anything to me. It can be rather comical sometimes.

I’ve heard that this openness can continue once people have young children, and I am hoping it’s true. If having a kid helps open the door for giving and receiving more warmth from the people we meet, that can only be a good thing, right? Although, I may have to get out on my own occasionally so I can still experience the solitude and privacy that is also needed sometimes.

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Ryan’s first sermon in French

Ryan preached his first sermon in French a couple weeks ago. A lot of people, myself included, were very proud of him and he got a lot of encouraging feedback. He spent a good 2 months preparing, studying the passage and coming up with his ideas and outline, writing the whole thing in French, and practicing it so he could know it backwards and forwards. I wanted to share a little clip with you in case you wanted to see him in action.

The message was on Genesis 12:1–3

“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.””

The main points of the message were:

  1. God has a plan to fix the world
  2. His plan works through a people
  3. Through Christ, we can join God’s plan to be a blessing to the world

If that video was too short for your liking, you can listen to the whole message here.

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Whirlwind June: Paris Prayer Conference

I wanted to tell you a little about the annual Paris Prayer Conference. It had also been 5 years since we got to be a part of the prayer conference because last year we were still in language school. But let me tell you, it was awesome. It was a week in length and during that time the group visited a church on Sunday, they heard from some of the most prominent Christian pastors and leaders about the state of Christianity in France, and they visited several World Team projects (there were also opportunities to eat well and explore too, the perks of being in a world-class city). World Team projects are churches at all stages of maturity, ours is the youngest, but there are a couple projects a few years ahead of us, and several that are 15–30 years ahead of us. And of course the main purpose of the prayer conference is to pray, so the participants spent a lot of time investing in the work of prayer.

Throughout the 19 years the prayer conference has been happening, there have been many amazing answers to prayer, some of the most prominent being when the group went to locations where there was no church and prayed, and within months, leaders were mobilized and projects started in those locations. Many people think it’s strange to go on a missions trip where prayer is the focus, they would rather build something or help in another very tangible way, but the reality is that prayer is a big part of the work here. France is a very spiritually dark place and there are a lot of strongholds that need broken before the outpouring of God’s loving presence really takes root. A main prayer focus for this year was (and is) for God to send & equip more French workers into the harvest. Of course, we need workers from everywhere to everywhere, but a huge need here is for more French leaders to be raised up to work alongside us. It is a prayer we can be bold and confident about because Jesus himself told his followers to ask for this and that he would grant it. So if you’re curious about this annual event, let us know. For us, serving at the prayer conference in 2010 was one of the key moments God used to call us to come back.

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Our Director, Jerry, introducing Daniel Liecht, a leading scholar who has done amazing work on the statistics of Christianity in France (much harder considering the government doesn’t collect any religious statistics)
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The participants getting to work, praying for France in light of what they just learned
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Some of the group in our neighborhood, learning about and praying for our project

 

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Shining the light of Christ through music

World Team France had the joy of welcoming college band “Damascus Road” from Cairn University for a few weeks. They traveled around Ile de France (the greater Paris area) putting on concerts and music workshops for kids. They kept their spirits high even as they battled fatigue and a bad cold that circulated throughout the whole group.

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In France, there is a lot of interest in Gospel music and American music in general. So the free concerts were a great way to invite people from different communities to come out for a good time and also get to hear a little bit about who God is, and about new churches that are starting in their neighborhood. The band also ran a kids workshop where they played for the kids as well as showed them a little bit about how to play each instrument.

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It was a great experience both for us on the ground here and for them, and as we sent them back to the U.S. this week, we pray the Lord continues to bless the band and direct each one of their lives! And if you’re reading this, you’re in a band, and you are thinking “I want to do that,” let’s talk.

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Having a kid in France: Part I

Ryan and I are excited to start this new adventure of parenthood, although it’s also true we really enjoyed our time pre-parenthood. We never viewed having kids as a necessity for a full life, nor as a decision that was fully ours. But we wanted to know if it was God’s will that more “Bennetts” exist in the world, and he seems to have answered our question. We know that from the first day of conception to the last day our child has on earth (prayerfully a long time from now), we are not in complete control of anything… but even just the idea of playing an important role in molding and shaping another human being is pretty cool and unreal. I’m sure once he is here, it will feel like even more of a privilege.

This is the basic “carte vitale” to show you have insurance.

But that’s probably enough deep stuff for now. One of the first questions people ask us is “Our you going to have your baby in France or go back to the U.S.?” And to be honest we never even considered going back to the U.S. for it. As far as we’ve heard and experienced so far, France has a very capable and good health care system. And not that $$ is the only thing to consider, but it seems to be less expensive in France. They tend to view a child coming into the world as a right, and a right that shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. We have basic health insurance in France, most people here also have what’s called a “mutuelle” through their employer, which is additional coverage. But even with the basic insurance, so far I’ve had to pay a fee for each Dr’s visit and prescription (which has varied between 6-60 Euros depending on what it was). But from the 6th month onward (which has just kicked in for me), everything is 100% covered by the basic insurance, including labor and even some after labor services. I don’t know exactly how much it is in the U.S. since this is our first, but from what I understand it varies a lot depending on how good the insurance of your employer is. Here, it seems to be more standardized.

There is a hospital in Paris called “The American Hospital of Paris” and we did consider that briefly just because then we could do everything in English. But we decided we are ready to handle it in French. We have many fine examples of expats going through it before us, so lots of friends help out by sharing about their experiences. And several of our French friends are “par hasard” (coincidentally) in the same life stage, two of them just having had their babies last week, so they help us understand the French system as well.

But even though our French is quite functional now, sometimes we still miss things. For instance, my mid-wife was going to examine me “down there”, and I didn’t know the word for “down there,” so I said “Great, and what or where is that?” so she explained in French (which was sufficient, I got it), but just to be sure, she also drew me a picture. Doing anything in another country and language is an adventure, and giving birth will be no exception.

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A glimpse of Christmas in Paris

All the main streets had lights on display
Little bread shop not far from us
Christmas markets throughout the city
Get your onion soup and omelets at this one
The  famous Champs-Élysées
Chocolate shops
Awesome window displays
And animated window displays for kids!
The  famous Galeries Lafayette ceiling & upside-down Christmas tree 
More street illuminations
Each design is different
The lights are paid for by the shops on each street
Peppermint chocolate donuts & countless other yummy treats 
Fun parties with friends and teammates
Christmas Eve candlelight service
Our humble tree 
…and the Notre Dame Christmas tree

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Reflecting on the season

This year marks our second Christmas in France and also our second Christmas away from where we grew up and family. Last year we went to Strasbourg, France right before Christmas which was such a treat to see Christmas lights decorating that beautiful town and to visit all the Christmas markets that lined the squares and streets. This year we are staying in Paris, but we are all settled in our apartment, which feels more and more like home (although home feels like a less clear concept these days). Paris is lovely this time of year. All the main streets have lights running across them, each street’s display is unique in color and design. And there are large Christmas markets the whole month long in several locations. There is mulled wine, bratwurst & sauerkraut, oysters, Champagne, chocolates, and all kinds of gifts. It’s been a pretty full Christmas season, more so than we anticipated, since we have met several new friends in recent months and have been interning at a church in central Paris. Tonight we will go to a candlelight service with some friends, and tomorrow will be a low key day at home as we rejoice and reflect on Christ’s coming, eat good food, Skype with loved ones, and open some presents as well. 

We’ve started observing Advent more and more the last few years and it really helps me to remember each day what it means that Christ came and what it means that he will come again. This year the word Immanuel or “God with us” has been my focus. Tim Keller’s message on God with us was really helpful for me. The message is about: “The meaning of Christmas is that the Creator of the universe has become a human being. It means that the terrifying God who appeared in the Old Testament as a whirlwind and a fire has become a vulnerable baby in order to be close to us. What, in turn, will we do in order to be close to Him?” It is really worth a listen if you want to better prepare your heart this season or if you just want to better understand what Christians believe.

Merry Christmas and may God’s loving and merciful presence draw you closer and closer to him. 

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My first French Association

‘Associations’, or clubs, are a vital part of life and culture here. Not everyone, but many people, are involved in one or more association. And you can find an association for just about anything; sports, art, activism, cooking, choirs, wine, hiking, the list really goes on and on. In just our section of the city, there are hundreds of different groups. To help people choose a group, each September there is an Association Fair where many clubs get a small table to promote their groups. Ryan and I went with our friends in September and we were excited but nervous. Although we had prepared beforehand (which took hours to look at hundreds of groups and their descriptions in French) and knew which groups we wanted to talk to, when we arrived there was so much activity, we couldn’t find any of the groups we had planned to search out. 

The Association Fair, booths were lined both outside and in the Mayor’s building
We saw a few weddings finish up as a few newlywed couples
exited the building to loud cheers from their friends and family

After an hour and a half or so of exploring and talking with different club representatives we were starting to reach saturation point, when I noticed a very simple and discreet table with a small sign that said “new community garden in the 15th.” I had thought about a gardening association and had even noted a few that I was looking for, but this one was brand new. So I worked up the courage to go over, and waited patiently as 2 or 3 others pushed their way in front of me (this happens a lot to me, I am often too timid in situations like this). But once I made it up to the front, I had a nice chat with the woman, the President of this new association, and she said I was in luck as they still had space available and the garden was just a couple minutes walk from where I lived. I just had to write a 1 Euro check to the association to reserve my place. So I joined! 

A couple weeks later, I went to the first ever meeting for the association, and tomorrow, I will go and get a key to the garden. It is in an enclosed park space, but it will be open for the public to enjoy a few afternoons a week, and also when any of us are there to garden, we leave the gate open so nearby neighbors can come check it out. It will be a team gardening approach, so for each plot, 3 people will work together to plan, tend, and one day share in the harvest. I am still a little nervous, but mostly eager and excited to both get my hands dirty and to get better acquainted with several others who live nearby.

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The Summer of 2014

Today’s post is just a short and sweet “let’s get back on the blogging horse” post. Things have been going well. Summer in Paris was beautiful and very different than at other times of year, especially during August, when most of the city’s residents left for vacation and were replaced by tourists from around the globe. We enjoyed the slower-paced Paris and watched free movies in the park, visited other parks, read several books between us, and put several afternoons into decorating our place. We also went to Budapest, Hungary in August for a European Conference with our organization. It was refreshing to drive there and see a bit of Germany and Austria along the way, and it was fun to explore a new city for a couple days. The conference was on leadership development and we took home a lot of new skills, which should serve us well. 

As soon as we got back, it was “La Rentrée” in France, which is the kick start to the new year here (both scholastically and professionally as many families returned from their month-long vacations). It felt like “La Rentrée” for us as well as we jumped into an internship at a French church, started a (much lighter) course load of French classes, and began meeting with our ministry team to start discussing all the BIG ?’s like the why, what, when, and how we plan to start a community of believers in our neighborhood. But all these activities are going well and as we dive into the activities of the church, where we are interning, we are starting to build some relationships and feel more settled. We also have had the chance to get to know some of our neighbors a bit better too which has been great. 

But more on all of these topics soon… maybe?! Summer photo montage time…

Free movies at Parc Villette
Exploring Paris parks, there are so many great ones 
Ryan having fun climbing giant rocks at Fontainebleau forrest
Kids playing in fountains at Parc Citroen, 
totally ignoring the sign saying it’s forbidden
Visiting our first medieval castle in Pierrefont 
Paris Plage (beach along the Seine for 1 month in summer)
Walking around the St German de Près area
Parliament building in Budapest
Tour of Budapest
Nightlife in Budapest

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