Two Years in France

An incredible memory from Year 2 – our oldest son being accepted into Seconde, the last three years of French high school, at a prestigious school after arriving with no French 2 years ago. 


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New Blog Post – 2 Years in France!

Year 2 Memories:  Baseball in London 

-John Hugh

We’ve been in France now two years.  In some ways, it feels like it.  In other ways, it doesn’t.  Time moves rapidly with a lot going on.  Time moves slowly when you feel you can never get ahead.  We’ve felt both, or at least I have.  In these two years, how have we changed?  Have we changed?  Again, it’s both yes and no.

We are here as church planters, and we have now started a new church.  People do always ask and we have a church newsletter, that most of our partners receive, to write about and show the weekly happenings of this new church, EIC Rive Gauche.  We also have a new church Instagram  & Facebook  page.  Yet we write more here about our family life here, and our personal challenges and accomplishments of life here.    This blog is more about perspectives, learnings, and self-awareness.  The good stuff.  Pushing back the curtains to see real life.

Where to begin?  For me, year two has been better than year one.  A big reason is the formal ministry of a formal church having begun.  Yet that can be a bad thing too.  Because you then see how much you define yourself by what you do and the role you play.  And if you don’t have it, who are you?

Some of us men like to mitigate this by saying we’re supposed to work: ambition is good; we’re hard workers; and even that we’re made to provide.  Yet some people I greatly admire now are simply stay-at-home Dads in France, while their wives have more “high-powered” jobs in international finance or diplomacy.  And for me, moving here, my role had to change if we were to stay long term.  What that means is Linda needed and still needs much more help with the kids, with everyday life, with our son Logan, with navigating basic paperwork and life in France more than ever in the US.  So there is a lot more “Mr. Mom” to play and being a servant in the family, and that can be very challenging.  It’s challenging because it’s basic, often boring, and humbling.

On other notes, French language is fine.  Definitely not bi-lingual here, but getting to be fairly bi-functional.

French life is actually harder.  The logistics of getting to-and-from places still frustrates me.  Your schedules and weeks are compressed due to 1 hour commutes.  On top of that, France being a Socialist country.  There’s a difference.  The customer is not king.  From health-care, to visas, to education, it is a system to navigate.

Church is great because of the many different people, it’s fully heterogeneous – racially, culturally, socio-economically.  There truly are so few Protestant evangelical churches, that everyone has to come together where there is one.  We have deep relationships now with people from the Philippines, India, Brazil, Iran, Venezuela, France, China, Liberia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.  We are grateful.  That has changed me – being in more relationships with non-Americans than Americans.  It’s changed my ideas and perspective of church too.  How is that?

I once heard a talk at a Gospel Coalition Conference, given by Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  He said (and I paraphrase), “sometimes I think God looks at North America and says – I’ve given you 400 years of favor and now it’s moving elsewhere.”  That was in 2015.  It is a fair point, one other scholars have noted with church growth primarily occurring now in Asia, Africa, and South America.

Yet also in looking backwards at church history, whenever the global church has become more and more connected with financial, cultural, and political power, its spiritual power diminishes – from Constantine on.  Regardless of the time or century, platforms can be hard to let go of, especially when you’ve put your life into building them.  Russell Moore, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, recently said he felt the future of the church would be more and more bi-vocational pastors, where your primary job is outside the church.  This therefore gives pastors more freedom to speak truth to power in and outside the church.  That’s a fair point as well.   All this can mean is that there, here, and elsewhere, there is more and more of a need for pastors and churches pastoring people and cultivating growth amongst other Christians.

Amidst other differences and challenges, life is simpler, or has become simpler here.  Life is slower here and relationships are more distant (both our relationships in the US and our relationships in Paris because of actual physical distance).  There is more time to reflect, read – the Bible and French – pray, walk, and visit.  In fact, much of the country literally shuts down in August – the cafes, restaurants, car garages, hair salons, small businesses all close up for a month.

Yet above all, I’ve most grown in two years time in my marriage.  That’s the tip of the iceberg. A mid-life, bi-cultural move is not in the works for everybody, but if it is to work for those that do it, everyone in the family has to change.

For me, it’s been a change in worldview.  Moving to a more fully formed biblical worldview – that there really are no accidents in Christianity.  I know many Christians who don’t fully believe that, and I understand.  When faced with situations, sicknesses, relationships, events, seasons in life the world would term bad, it’s hard to wrestle and admit they are planned too or there is a grand plan overarching those failures, disappointments, suffering.

So yes, I have asked, more so here than there, why did I marry this person?  Or, it’s not supposed to be this hard, is it?  Many of us are okay, especially in ministry, admitting that once, or a rough patch, but over and over again?  I started to realize those questions are based in a lack of faith.  To transcend them, I have to have a real, robust faith that  this is God’s plan for us both, together.  I was forced to confront ideals and dreams that are really idols.  I was forced to push back the curtains and look deeply into who I am and what is really real – in my marriage and family – and what is not.  And then start eradicating what is not.

Now, two years in, our marriage and family have changed for the better.  There is still much work to do.  Robert Downey Jr, who knows the mountaintop of fame and the valleys of addiction and despair, said once, “you must get to a point where you’re willing to hug the cactus of your life.”  To be honest and embrace the limitations of your life, your humanity.  Only then can you fully feel the pain, tell the truth, and give it to God.  And you see more there are no accidents, and nothing in your life will ever go to waste, it will all be used.  Two years in France have helped me get here, admitting I need to embrace all the years before in order to look forward with great hope and more peace to what is ahead.


After a hectic 2nd school year in France (2022-23), I took the summer to relax.  We planned 2 vacations to Spain and Switzerland, but we only took one, to my husband’s disappointment, but to a much needed boost to our family life.

Our oldest had the summer of his life.  Just a few of his highlights were a trip to London for a Major League Baseball game; proms including a James Bond theme for the British/American sections and a prom across 14 language sections – very unusual to find these American style high school traditions in France; a 2 week Spanish language program in Alicante, Spain to boost his confidence and meet people from all over the world; a surfing and sailing trip to southwest France with school friends; a church camp in Switzerland with youth from English-speaking churches across Europe like Rome, Frankfurt, and Poland; a rafting and kayaking camping trip in the French Alps; and then the luxury of heading into Paris on a whim for a fun day of food-tasting, walking the streets with his friends, or checking out new stores or watching a movie.

Our oldest did join us on a family vacation to Mallorca and Costa Brava, Spain, but I don’t think it matched the wonder of meeting new teenagers from all over Europe or hanging with his new growing circle of friends based in Paris.

I needed time to reflect because our 2 year mark coincides with 2 key personal milestones:

  •  Getting closer to 50 as a female  – and realizing I can’t keep up an unhealthy pace of neglecting my physical and emotional health.
  • Our middle autistic son traversing through adolescence and seeing some dreams I unconsciously held onto as a mother having to die as the present reality sets in.

I planned all of my oldest son’s summer.  I made sure he had special friends join him on different trips.  Even our trip to Spain that was planned at the last minute, I have found I can be creative and resourceful for a jam-packed vacation full of great peak experiences.  I can keep everyone in the family going from mountain peak to mountain peak by organizing, planning, rushing to get all the details done to keep everyone happy.

But the physical toll of motherhood creeps up from behind.

In the past 4 months, I have taken long stretches to just sit and reflect – and trained my family to do lots of tasks to allow me this seeming luxury.

There were moments where I would dip into a short depression as I processed many latent feelings as a special needs mom and saddled with a complicated family of origin history.

There were moments of great clarity as I embraced my new “luxury” as normality and taught my family that Mark 10:45 means they are called to serve me in very concrete, simple, and consistent ways – consistent being the key word.

There were moments of puzzlement as I looked at my schedule and wondered how I can maintain this double life in France – trying to stay connected with one foot in the US, and yet learn French well, help my children navigate a bilingual life and school, and help plant churches in the Paris area.

I continually return to the number one rule I had upon arriving in France 2 years ago:  no complaining.  John Hugh stated above that he has had a worldview shift.  For me, my worldview has remained in tact, but I haven’t had the gumption or courage to live it out fully with my most intimate relationships because I have either gotten tired of the same old fights or have felt guilty to insist on things – even good things that benefit everyone – when the resistance is strong.

My children and my husband have had to embrace this rule of mine – no complaining – which has unearthed false world-views, forced integrity in all situations, and caused all of us to experiment with new hobbies, resurrect good habits, and establish life-giving rhythms because when you are stuck complaining, you are stuck.

I don’t think my situation is different from many women:  many women who intuitively know the right path forward, but perhaps through conditioning feel our voices are less important; perhaps through guilt and shame from lingering family of origin issues, we shy away or have no idea how to resolve conflict constructively or holistically; or perhaps because no one has fully seen that woman in all her splendor and gifts, she can shirk from courageous acts even in her own home.

I met many women in Mississippi I deeply admire – which may surprise many due to Mississippi’s reputation in some circles.  Yes, I met women who were catty, shallow, and small minded, but I find those women trapped by their own insecurities wherever I go in the world.   Some of the Mississippi women I loved the most had deep roots in their families yet could see generational sins and wanted to fight for better – in their homes, in their communities, in their schools, in their churches, and in their state.

After 4 months of wrestling internally, I am starting this new school year (French school starts 1st week of September) feeling very clear-eyed.  I finally have genuine time to keep up this blog because my family is sacrificing for me.  I finally have time to go to French class again, and I am so excited to expand my world with French.  I finally have time each day to lie in bed, read, journal, or just ruminate in my thoughts while my children are cleaning the kitchen (to my standards – key) or my husband and kids are pitching in to make a healthy dinner because I was running around all day from meeting to meeting.  I finally have time to text old friends in Mississippi and the US, and keep up personal face-to-face time with my newfound friends in France.

I am ready for Year 3.


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Leave a comment!

  1. I love hearing your raw, honest updates, and how God is on the move in the midst of all the uncertainty and change. Love and prayers to your sweet family, and YAY on the official church plant!!

    • Hi Susan,
      Thank you so much for your encouraging words! Yes, we feel authenticity is often missing in this life – and ministry too. So we try to write honestly. Love to you as well. Would love to see you soon – we are back in MS in Oct. Let us know if you are around and able to meet up. Blessings to you! John Hugh

  2. Love this whole newsletter. Proud of you guys and with you in the mire of church planting, particular challenges in parenting, and the struggles of marriage throughout it all. You’re doing good work, both within and without. Praying for you all now with much love and affection.


    • Hey Stephanie,
      Thank you so much for your encouraging words. Yes, we really try to write openly and honestly. We are here for you guys too! So thankful and honored to walk alongside the Roth crew! Helps me feel connected to Copenhagen. I hope Christian is feeling better. We are in USA for 2-3 weeks in Oct. The apartment is always yours for first dibs if you want. Let us know! Do want to do a pulpit swap too though! Blessings to you all! John Hugh