Ashley Leightenheimer is a wife to Jesse, mother to 3-year-old Asher and 1-year-old Rowan. Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, she and her family now live in Lyon, France.
The first couple of weeks living in our new city were filled with excitement, exploring, eating as many croissants as possible, and putting together our home and Instagramming this magical life. Everything around us was so beautiful. The weeks went on; time passed and the honeymoon stage ended. I love this city and how the Lord has called us here, but France isn’t just bread, cheese, wine, and people wearing stripes.
It’s physically exhausting. Not having a car is hard especially when you need groceries. Some days I don’t want to leave the apartment because it takes me 10 minutes to get the stroller down the stairs and fit everyone in our tiny elevator.
It’s emotionally and mentally exhausting. I hate not knowing the language, not being able to understand sermons or being able to sing at church. Not being able to communicate is hard and draining. I can’t understand or talk to anyone. ANYONE! I just want to have a conversation in English and hang out with my friends and family (or go to Target!). I want to be able to do everyday errands like go to the post office, grocery shopping, or register my son in school on my own without having help from Google Translate or friends who graciously give up their time and energy to help me. At times, I doubt everything, everyone, and why we moved here.
In those moments of weakness, things that are comfortable and familiar seem bigger than they should and I begin feeling entitled to things. (Cue every lie possible.) It clouds my eternal mindset and the reasons the Lord called us to this city. Everything I get upset about has one common denominator: MY comforts, MY desires and ME. I have to constantly remind myself that if we still lived in the States my life wouldn’t be perfect. Life would still be hard and we would still be on mission.
Getting all my comforts stripped away has reminded me that all I have is Christ, and apart from Him I can do nothing.
"Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" Isaiah 30:18
The Lord is kind and crazy gracious to my selfish heart. He reminds me over and over of the things He has done in the last six months. The other day my 3 year-old son sadly said, “Momma, I can’t speak French.” My heart broke in a million pieces for him. I want to protect him from the emotions, suffering and sin, so I reminded him of all the French phrases, words, and numbers that he knows. He can even order a croissant in French and will start school in September!
In the same way, the Lord has to gently remind my stubborn and forgetful heart of all the things I have learned and the ways I have changed over these last months. I am learning to celebrate the little victories as we continue to figure out cross-cultural living. Small but important things like ordering from the butcher (I can now order two kilos of boeuf hache like a boss!) or navigating the metro by myself with the boys. Big and necessary things like having a great love and bond between our small group and us at church with the only explanation being the Holy Spirit and our common bond in Christ (Colossians 3:14). We have been to our neighbor’s apartment, are forming relationships at local coffee shops, and meeting other families from our son’s school. Our friends at our Boulangerie made our son a giant croissant for his first birthday (I mean what else would you want!?)
God called us to France knowing that we would have hardships. Before we moved, we heard multiple times how Satan would attack us - whether it was through our marriage, health, children or other circumstances and we have seen members of our team get rashes, sickness and stomach bugs for weeks on end. Knowing that we would suffer was both terrifying and peaceful. It was terrifying because we were walking into something that would stretch, grow, challenge us and completely change our boy’s lives. But I also felt at peace knowing the Lord had provided so much for us to move; so I know He is faithful and has called us here.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17
Right now my suffering is ever before me as I am continuously reminded of how uncomfortable my life is while living here. I am learning not to strive for perfection, but to be faithful where the Lord has me. My friend sent me a quote from Ann Voskamp based off Romans 8:32. It encourages and reminds me of how our Lord will provide for us and not withhold good from us.
“God gave us Jesus . . . If God didn’t withhold from us His very own Son, will God withhold anything we need? If trust must be earned, hasn’t God unequivocally earned our trust with the bark on the raw wounds, the thorns pressed into the bow, your name on the cracked lips? How will He not also graciously give us all things He deems best and right? He has already given us the incomprehensible.”
What does suffering for Christ look like in your life?
Are you striving for momentary comfort or are you striving to know the Comforter?
Where do you need to trust God and say yes to Him?
It’s hard to find a balance of how to portray my life. On one hand I want to reassure my friends and family that we are well and display the beauty of our city. But some days when I am homesick, even Facebook and Instagram are hard, making things lonelier to see the things we are "missing out" on. But the truth is, we aren’t missing out.
No one who says yes to God is missing out.
We aren’t missing out because we are getting to experience His presence more deeply and acutely than we would had we said "no" to giving up comforts that we once knew. So be reminded that regardless of where you live, when you are uncomfortable to reach for the Comforter. And when you see posts and pictures of friends serving in different places, take a moment to stop and pray. Pray for their hearts, marriages, family life, health and spiritual lives. Most importantly, pray against the enemy because he wants nothing more than to make us feel like we are all “missing out.”