Olivia Joy Leigh ~ Class of 2014

I’m calling this newsletter Olivia’s graduation announcement, since the ceremony doesn’t exist here (and the French kids are darn jealous!) So I’m honoring her with my words that will have to replace the cap and gown. Here she is in a recent snap as the only senior girl with her junior girlfriends during Dress-up Day in the chateau, looking towards their bright futures:

Chicé 2014

Some of you may remember that our first supporter card, sent in 2000, compared our call to France to the Normandy invasion. Is it mere coincidence that June 6th was her very last day at school and the 70th anniversary of D-Day? I was able to catch parts of the day-long celebration on a friend’s TV after my teaching hours, and I was very proud, which is just how we feel about Olivia:

  • She has shared her room and lived graciously with kids from all walks of life that we have hosted over the last 10 yrs. 
  • She volunteered to teach introductory English to the third graders each week and together we created a Duplo curriculum, where each student got their own bag to manipulate, while they learned all the vocab around it. She’s got my gift and got the bug, thanks to her angelic class, lucky girl!
  • She led worship at church or school every month this year, while taking voice lessons. She’s going from glory to glory!
  • She grew spiritually, thanks to her mentor Alana, and stayed true to her convictions, including guarding her heart, so as "not to awaken love before its time." as she promised during her blessing/purity ceremony when she turned 13.
  • She has started taking her 2nd round of baccalaureate tests and all is well after getting familiar with the process last year. A big thanks to Anna for making sure she passed her sports Bac. Unlike us, Anna is much more of an athlete, so she became Olivia’s personal coach for running and badminton!
  • She is enjoying her driving lessons with a good teacher and will have her license by July (and we managed to get it all paid for!)
  • She was afraid she had waited too late to find good housing in Strasbourg, (where she’ll study multiple languages,) but 3 choices opened up at the last minute. Jesus made it clear that her place was a beautiful residence for Christian students run by Mennonites not far from campus, and where she already knows 3 other students!
  • She faithfully kept up her household chores this year without needing reminders, making her well-prepared for life in a dorm. Now who’s going to clean the litter box when she’s gone???
  • It seems that this year in particular, she’s ready to embrace adulthood, taking steps that she would never have dared to do a yr. ago!
  • One of those was the conviction to get publicly baptized. We have no baptistery, so we roll out a bathtub as needed, and perform a "bathtism," as I like to call it, which is NOT cool amongst the 16-20 somethings. So since we were into June (1st!), the 6 candidates insisted on going to a mountain lake instead.

Olivia's Baptism 007

I’m not thrilled with the bathtub option either, but this lake has zero convenient facilities. My memories of Rachel’s baptism there in 2005 were abysmal, as we weren’t warned or prepared. Anna was also disheartened when she found out we didn’t do godmothers or give gifts, and a more intimate gathering afterwards sounded meaningless without family. There was also the pressure of providing picnic food that was festive enough to suit the occasion AND Olivia-friendly. (She tolerates my vegan salads.) The weather forecast was also iffy. Would there be a good turn-out? Would it be too cold? The pastor wanted fathers to participate in the dunking and David was still trying to get his head clear of infection. On top of all that, Olivia also had her English oral Bac test early the next morning, distracting her from the sweet anticipation of sharing the moment with her best friend (the 2 of them on the far R.)

Well, after all this wrestling over an event that I couldn’t really plan or control, I woke up Sunday morning in a bad mood and I kept quiet during the hour long drive to the lake, still trying to decide if I wanted to get in the water. Rest assured that we brought everything necessary to insure our comfort: portable chairs, a large sheet to hold up as a changing room and bathroom, towels, changes of clothes, picnic food and a blanket. We dragged it all from the parking lot to halfway around the lake and found the crowd of people who had come early to reserve our spot.

And you know the rest – God came through. All her friends made the drive from different churches to make up for lack of family. The weather was cloudy and cool, but the sun came out later. My girl was the only one who thanked her parents in her testimony, (sorry, it was in French) and I pulled myself out of my slump by doing the honors. Here’s the film! The women marveled at my courage, but it wasn’t as cold as they imagined, and how exhilarating to give birth to your offspring twice!! When all the candidates were dry and dressed, they got lots of prophetic words to walk out, and then the 4 of us hunkered down to an American meal of fried chicken, broccoli salad, and cherry pie. (Alsace got a bumper crop this year!)

The next day when the test examiner saw that Olivia was bilingual, she quickly suspended the formalities and they just had a long chat about Olivia’s life. An easy A.

Happy Pentecost!

Angela

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