Carte de Séjour & Immigration in France (Part I)

As you can imagine, the immigration offices here in France have played (and continue to play) an important role in our transition. Since we are staying in France for more than three months, we were required to get a visa while we were still living in the States. Getting our visa involved putting together a large portfolio of documents detailing our purpose in France, how long we intended to stay, proof of income, proof of health insurance, and more. We currently have a Visitor visa which allows us to live in France, but we are prohibited from working for an employer here in country. Getting our visa involved a trip up to the French Consulate in Chicago. While tedious, it was a fairly straightforward process (find our blog post about our visit to the consulate here).

So, where does that leave us now? When we received our visas while we were still in the States, we also received a form that we had to mail into the immigration offices in France within 90 days of our arrival. This form tells the immigration offices, called L’Office Français de L’Immigration et de L’Integration, or simply OFII (pronounced O-Fee), that we want/need to get our carte de séjour. The carte de séjour is required for anyone staying in France over three months. (Note: We have heard that if you are staying in France for over three months but less than a year, that you might not need a carte de séjour. As this does not apply to us, we never investigated further, but if you find yourself in this position, it would be worth checking out.)

We mailed our form into OFII within the first few weeks of our arrival in France (mid-January). Pre-2017, the process to obtain a carte de séjour involved one visit to an OFII office to receive a medical exam and submit additional paperwork, such as proof of residency and payment. As of January 2017, the procedure changed. Instead of one visit, there are now two visits. Essentially, OFII split up the medical exam into its own appointment and the administrative side into another appointment.

We received our letter stating the date for our medical exams was in late March. With Maddie in tow (the older girls were in school), we headed up to an OFII office in Montrouge (~ 1 hr commute by train/bus). Our appointment was scheduled for 1 pm, but we were advised by others to get there early because a line starts to form. The “appointment” is a large group appointment where about 40-50 people are taken in for their medical exams, so it’s essentially first come-first serve.

Thankfully, we were near the front of the line and ushered in pretty quickly. As part of the medical exam, the nurses took our height, weight, blood pressure, and checked our vision, but the crux of the appointment was the x-ray that checks for tuberculosis (TB). At the very end, you are called into a doctor’s office where you are informed of the results of your x-ray, and then get a special form with an all-important stamp signifying that you have passed the medical portion for the carte de sèjour.

Glen’s whole process went flawlessly. He was done and had received his stamped paper in less than two hours. For Jessica, it was not so simple. Everything went fine until it was time to discuss the results of the x-ray with the doctor. She informed Jessica that her X-ray showed some abnormalities and that she would have to take more. To make a long story short(-er), Jessica ended up getting 6 x-rays that day over 4+ hours, and instead of leaving with the coveted stamped paper like Glen, she left with a referral to a pulmonologist to follow-up on her x-rays.

So this is where the Glen and Jessica’s OFII accounts differ. A few weeks after the medical exam, we both received letters notifying us of our second appointment where we were supposed to receive the carte de séjour in our passport. We collected all the required forms and papers, and went to a different OFII office in Créteil (1.5 hrs by bus). When our names were called, we went into a small office with an administrator who reviewed our paperwork. Jessica had received a medical form from the pulmonologist stating that she had “passed,” which is what she brought to the appointment. However, the form given was not the official form that had to be in the dossier. So, unfortunately, no carte de séjour for her yet. Thankfully, Glen had everything (and on the right letterhead with the right stamps!), so he could get his carte de séjour in his visa.

(As a side note for those who might need to go through this process, since we’re on a visitor visa, our carte de séjour cost 500€ total (250€/each). You must pay via timbres, which can be purchased online through the OFII website or at Tabac shops which are in all the cities in France. We opted to buy ours online.)

Where does all of this leave us with our carte de séjours? Obviously, Glen is good to go (praise God!), and we just need to look at renewing it before the end of December. For Jessica, she is currently working on getting the correct form with the right stamp from the first OFII office in Montrouge where she had her medical exam. Thankfully, we have a wonderful woman who works at our language school who has been helping us with phone calls and understanding the ins and outs of the system. Once Jessica receives this form, she must go back to the second OFII office in Créteil to get her carte de séjour.

It hasn’t been as straightforward and as easy of a process as we would have preferred, but moving to another country is never without it’s challenges. We are especially thankful for the friends who have helped us watch the girls on the days we’ve had our appointments.

The title of this post indicated that this was just Part I, so once Jessica’s situation is resolved we’ll follow-up with the results. Our prayer is that this will come quickly and without any more hiccups. If you are in the process of moving to France and need more details on the immigration process, please feel free to reach out to us with questions. While we can’t promise we will have the answers, we can always help you to find those who do!

Don't search for good soil, be of good soil


One of my favorite things here at our language school is the opportunity to offer meditations en Français. With any kind of preaching or teaching of the Bible, the first challenge is to truly grasp the message. The second challenge is to be able to package it in a way that honors its truth while also making it easy to understand. Finally, you must be able to deliver it effectively to your respective audience.

Let me tell you, putting your thoughts into another language truly forces you to hone in on these steps! This is especially true when you are new to this other language, because you must simplify the message for yourself before doing it for your audience. Call me crazy, but I love it!

Near the beginning of April, I had my second opportunity to offer a meditation to our class. I chose to lead the class through a passage I love to teach: Matthew 13:1-23, the parable of the sower. I like this passage for many reasons. Parables are always interesting, challenging, and meaningful. Additionally, Jesus discusses why he uses parables in his teaching, which is valuable knowledge for tackling the Gospels in general. Finally, Jesus not only tells the parable, but in verses 18-23 he also explains each element. As such, this is an easy message to simplify and focus in on.

When I offered these scriptures as a meditation here for my French class, there were two points that I focused in on. The first had to do with the seed that falls on the path. It is snatched up due to a lack of understanding. I reminded our class that with reaching people in another language, we have taken on a serious responsibility. We do not want our abilities to communicate in French to keep people from being rooted in the truth of Jesus.

I also made the point that we are not told to go seek good soil. Honestly, if that is what Jesus was saying, then some may argue that France is not where we should go. Many describe it is a spiritually barren wasteland where nothing can grow. I think that Jesus’ point is not that we are to search for good soil, but that we are supposed to make sure that we are the actual seeds which have landed in the good soil. Don’t read that parable with yourself as the sower (at first). Read it as though you are a seed and you need to decide where you are going to fall. It is easy to want to diagnose others who seemingly fall on paths, rocky ground, or in weeds, but we must evaluate ourselves in these matters. We are to protect ourselves from a lack of understanding of the Gospel (the path), from the challenges of difficult times in life (rocky ground), and from the dangers of worldly cares and desires so that we can sprout and grow (weeds). Only then can we even think about sowing.

Do not get hung up worrying if you are sowing in good soil. Instead, focus intently on being a product of good soil. Reap a harvest in your life through faith and faithfulness, sow seeds wherever you find yourself, and trust God to make it all grow.



26.2 Miles Later

On April 9, I ran my first ever marathon in Paris. It was a truly great experience, and I wanted to share it with you all who follow our family on here. I’ve always loved running as a means for staying in shape and relieving stress and somewhere along the way the marathon became “the goal” attached with my hobby.

As life went along and Glen and I kept transitioning between jobs and cities, and kept having these girls pop into our lives, the dream of a marathon kept getting pushed to the back. Thankfully this changed when I got more intentional about running last summer and worked my way up to running a half marathon in November in Indianapolis. This motivated me to search for a good option for a full marathon, which is how I found the Paris Marathon. I knew that it would be difficult to achieve “the goal” only four short months after moving to France, but I also knew it would be a great way to bring a part of my life in the States with me to France. My training certainly suffered a bit through the past few months, but thankfully, mainly through Glen’s support, I got most of my runs in every week.

Obviously being able to do this in a city like Paris was motivation by itself, and the route was truly phenomenal (click here for the route video). I could see some of the iconic monuments and sites of Paris, including the Louvre, the Bastille, Place de la Concorde, Notre Dame, and of course, the Eiffel Tower. So with 57,000 other runners who registered, I attempted to conquer the route.

To get to the starting line of the race, I took the train from Massy into Paris early in the morning. When I ascended the stairs from the train station and first caught a glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe and the sun rising in the background, it was completely breathtaking. Immediately I was amid a sea of runners and spectators, and there was a buzz of energy circulating. All I could do was try and soak all of it in. The race started on the Champs-Élysées just down from the Arc and, luckily, it never felt too overwhelming with all the people thanks to how well the event was organized. With that said, if you are not a crowd person, I wouldn’t recommend the Paris Marathon as a runner or a spectator.

I’m struggling to find the words to describe the excitement I had when I crossed the starting line and my race officially began. Needless to say, I was on cloud nine! The first half of the race is mostly a blur. I had plenty of energy, the weather was good, and around mile 3, Glen, the girls, and my mom were there to cheer me on. I started dragging a little bit after the half way point, but had a much-needed pick-me-up when I saw my family again at mile 15. At this point I was running down along the river Seine (again, the course was amazing!), and they were perched up on a bridge above me. I may have shed a tear or two of happiness at the sight of them! Unfortunately, my energy reserves started tanking again around mile 18. I am very glad for the water and food stops all along the course, because whenever I hit a wall or would be close to it, there seemed to always be relief around the corner.

Now I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was by this, especially given that Paris is a major tourist destination and the Paris Marathon is just huge by itself, but during the route I heard a lot of English being spoken. In a way it was refreshing, but it also felt really weird after immersing myself in French for the past four months! It was nice to have some encouraging words thrown my way in English along the way while also hearing ‘Bon courage!’ and ‘Allez!’ from the French supporters.

The day of the marathon was beautiful, but it was also the hottest day we have had yet this year. Unfortunately, this meant that throughout the entire race I heard many sirens going off as the medical teams were dispatched to help someone along the course. The heat didn’t seem to take its toll on me until about mile 18 or 20 as I was reaching the west side of the city. Along the west side of Paris is the Jardin d’Acclimation, and it was around here that I struggled. Honestly, I was just beat. It was at this point that I had to stop and walk a little bit. I alternated between walking and running for a couple of miles until I got to mile 25 or so.

The last part of the marathon is through a forest where you feel very separated from Paris. There was a point in the route where one moment I was surrounded by trees and in the blink of an eye I was back in Paris. At this point, the size of the crowds started increasing and I could hear the cheering coming from the finish line. When I first caught sight of the finish line, my energy levels soared! This effect was multiplied when I ran by my girls and they were cheering me on. The feeling of crossing the finish line was almost euphoric. I knew that my body and mind were exhausted, but all I could feel were happiness, pride, and excitement rushing through me.

A lot of people have asked me if I see myself running more marathons in the future. The honest answer is that I’m not sure. It was an incredibly memorable experience, and by that I’m not just talking about the race itself but also the months of training. The biggest surprise to myself that I discovered through my training was that most of the battles I had to fight were mental and not physical. With training miles going up to 16-20 miles, I expected my body to fight me more on those distances, but I had to keep my mind in check more often than my legs!

As a final thought, I cannot say enough how important it was to me to have the encouragement and support of Glen, my girls, and the rest of my family and friends throughout the whole process. As it takes a village to raise a child, I would say that it also takes a village to make a marathoner. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I truly mean it when I say that my crossing the finish line would not have happened had I been pursuing this goal all by myself.

~ Jessica ~

Our trip to the doctor's office

You know what is never fun? Taking your sick kid to the doctor

You know what’s even less fun? Taking your sick kid to the doctor… in another country… in a language that you are still learning

Our youngest daughter, Maddie, woke up this past Monday with goop coming from her eyes, and immediately Glen and I guessed that she had pink eye. Unfortunately, Maddie has had the roughest time with being sick ever since we moved here. Those cute kids in the nursery like to share everything, but germs seem to be their favorite! Amazingly enough though, this was the first time that we’ve had to take her to the doctor.

Thankfully I could make an appointment online at the local hospital for Maddie to see a pediatrician that same day. Here in Massy, the hospital is broken up into its specialties, with pediatrics being one of those. Maddie and I found the pediatrics wing and then the doctor’s name on her exam room. A difference that we have observed in regards to medical offices here in France, is that doctors are responsible for much more of the office/administrative side of their practice than they are in the States. It’s not uncommon for a doctor to be their own receptionist / intake coordinator / billing department / and more. 

Shortly after our appointment time, our doctor came out into the hallway and led us into her exam room. The exam room had a desk, some file cabinets, an exam bench for Maddie to sit on, and a couple of arm chairs for parents to sit. There were one or two posters on the wall, but for the most part it was relatively plain. The doctor we visited with was older and reserved in her mannerisms, but once she started examining Maddie I could see that she had a heart for children.

Throughout the exam, the doctor encouraged me to hold and cuddle Maddie as much as possible since Maddie was very unsure of the whole thing. I couldn’t blame her though because I don’t particularly like going to the doctor either. Even though my French is still limited, the doctor didn’t write me off because of it. She tried to explain things as best as she could using terms that I could understand, and occasionally she would try to use English if she felt comfortable doing so.

At the end of the appointment, she wrote a prescription for Maddie for two types of eye drops, and she also wrote a prescription for her next round of vaccinations. Now the vaccination process is definitely something that is different here in France than in the States. Here in France, to get vaccinations it is a three-step process. First, you go to the doctor for the initial visit and they do a general check-up to make sure your child is healthy and growing. The doctor then writes you a prescription for the appropriate vaccines. With that prescription in hand, you go to the pharmacy and pick up the vaccines. After the pharmacy, you make another appointment at the doctor’s office for the actual administration of the vaccines. It’s not as convenient, but is also helps to keep costs down for the doctor as it reduces their overhead and staff that they need to have on hand to manage vaccines / medications kept on site. Just an observation for you parents and medical professionals out there.

Finally, we paid the doctor while we were at the appointment. There’s a list of appointment types posted by the doctor and their corresponding costs, and it’s expected that you pay your fee at the time of your appointment. Our appointment cost €31 and then the medicine at the pharmacy cost around €25. So not bad at all! Currently we have private insurance, but eventually we may be able to be covered under the national health care.

While it wasn’t “fun,” our trip to the pediatrician went about as well as I could have hoped. And even though I had to miss my language classes, I was still able to practice French and learn more about how life is done in France. And most importantly, Maddie is doing better!

~ Jessica ~

It's testing time

Every three months our language school has a larger series of exams, written and oral, to see how much we have progressed and if we can move onto the next language level. Well… that time has come! At the end of this week and continuing into next week, we’ll have our first series of these tests.

In one sense, it’s very intimidating to sit down for tests that will directly impact the progression in our language studies. I can’t say that I’m feeling stressed (or at least not yet, but maybe the stress will come), but there is a certain degree of pressure I’m feeling. Our ability to do ministry in France hinges almost completely on our ability to learn the language. So, you know, that’s some pressure!  

In another sense, we have both progressed so much in the past few months. When we first moved to France, I dreaded having to talk to anybody because I could not understand anything that they were saying. Seriously, nothing! Thankfully that has changed! Certainly, there are still a lot of times where I’m clueless, but with each day I can tell that my ears are getting more accustomed to the language.

For me, the tests are important, but as we all know tests cannot measure everything. I want to do well (the perfectionist in me wants to do REALLY well!), but even more than scoring high marks on a test I want to be able to communicate freely in French. Please pray that the Lord continues to bless our efforts in language learning, that he helps our ears and mouths get accustomed to hearing and speaking French, and for patience for our instructors, neighbors, and French friends as they cringe through all our mistakes!

~ Jessica 

Of Trolls and Happiness


Certain movies tend to become irremovable from your childhood. The obsessive, incurable ability for children to view a movie time after time after time creates an unshakable connection. For such movies in my childhood, I would point to Aladdin and Toy Story, and the first such movie for Elizabeth and Hannah was Frozen. Now all three of my kids are obsessed with Trolls.

If you haven’t seen it, you should. It has great music, is warm-hearted, and is legitimately funny. Also, the storyline truly intrigues me. There are these people, called the Bergens, who are incapable of finding happiness outside of devouring adorable, little, colorful trolls. (SPOILERS!) They eventually discover, with the help of the trolls (irony?!) that they can experience happiness sans troll feast. The obvious assumption made by the movie is that the Bergens naturally desire happiness.

Shifting to the real world, I wonder if this is a fair assumption for people today? Do people truly desire happiness for their lives? I am not so sure. As an example, let us look at a story involving one of Jessica’s favorite people: Ree Drummond. This mom/cook/TV personality is someone that Jessica has been following for years, and we have enjoyed many of her recipes in Chez Shady.

This morning I read an article citing how she is “under fire” for one of her episodes. In this episode, she tries to serve her husband and some others spicy Asian chicken wings. It is important to know that Ree’s husband is a classic Texan, meat and potatoes, actual cowboy. Basically, a modern John Wayne of sorts. As such, it is not surprising that he was a bit hesitant to engage in something as “exotic” as spicy Asian chicken wings. Additionally, it is also quite natural that he is excited when Ree reveals that she also made classic buffalo wings.

So…Ree Drummond is under fire for insulting a dish that reflects Asian-American culture. The conclusion must be that she and her husband are racists.


So, back to my question. Are people truly seeking happiness? No. Many people are seeking a fulfillment of sorts, but it is not happiness. Instead, they seek grumpiness topped with complaining accompanied with a side of griping. Why? Because it works. Defining yourself by your woes is such an easy road. It is possible to seek attention through sharing how hard your life is or by preaching on how terrible other people are. It is possible to find comfort in the blanket of darkness. I truly believe that these complaints against Ree Drummond are a sad attempt to gain a sense of self-importance. By announcing the supposed lowliness of someone else, such a person hopes to elevate themselves. I believe that such actions are a power play which forces others to take notice and raise concern and get angry over non-issues in the name of tolerance.

I am certain that you see this every day. I am just as certain that you struggle with this at times. Being positive can feel like such a steep, uphill climb against the grain of everything around us. Why not curl up and roll down the hill with everyone else?

Oh to be like the Bergens in Trolls. They are willing to change in order to obtain happiness. Oh to live in a children's movie, where the goal is so simple to see and easier to obtain. I truly believe that God enjoys when your life bumps into happiness, but I also believe that he has asked us to focus more deeply. 

So if you are up for the challenge and desire to be a true rebel, counter-culturally rejecting the road of negativity, there are some basic steps to take.

  1. Make Jesus your Lord and become a Christian (if you are not already).
  2. Remember that with Jesus you have more than you could ever deserve. Trust me, it could be much, much worse, but the author of the universe has already written a beautiful ending to your story. 
  3. Choose gratefulness. There is always more to say thank you for than to pout about. Also, actually say your "thank you's" out loud. To God and to others. Make it a habit, but don't take it for granted. 
  4. Seek joy. Trust the ending of your story, get on the road lined with gratefulness, and live every day knowing that joy cannot be stolen from you. God has secured it. There is nothing so negative that it can steal away your life's meaning, purpose, or hope.

We live in negative times. Can you please stand up and reject this trend with me? Let us all together venture down the road of gratefulness, clinging to the joy of knowing our destination. You know what will be great? Without yearning for it like Bergens, we will find a lot of happiness along the way. 

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

-     Romans 15:13 (ESV)

13 Que le Dieu de l'espérance vous remplisse de toute joie et de toute paix dans la foi, pour que vous abondiez en espérance, par la puissance du Saint Esprit!

-     Romains 15 :13 (LSG)

~ Glen 


A Day in the Life

One of our goals with this blog is to give you a glimpse into our life in France, however crazy and chaotic it gets at times. We’ve been here for almost two months now, and are definitely in a rhythm with our new schedules and life. So, what’s a typical day look like for the Shady family?

6 am – Glen and Jessica are up… or at least that’s the plan. The snooze button on the alarm may get hit a few times sometimes. Who’s counting, though?

7 am – All the girls are up. Hannah and Maddie are our early risers and normally wake up before 7. Elizabeth is a teenager-in-training and would sleep the morning away if we let her. As I’m sure is true with all families with young ones (or at least I’ll tell myself this to make me feel better), our mornings are a blur of making sure the kids’ clothes match, everything’s in backpacks, hair’s brushed, teeth are brushed, etc.

8:10 am – Off to school for everyone! 8:10 am is the goal, but realistically it’s closer to 8:15 or 8:20 because someone has forgotten their backpack or is taking forever to put their shoes on.

8:35 am – The girls are all where they need to be and our language school class starts. Our mornings are normally technically-based. We are taught the fundamentals of the French language, grammar, phonetics, pronunciation, culture, etc.

10:15(ish) am – Break!!! I put this in because this coffee break is absolutely essential to my sanity. Or maybe I just have an unhealthy relationship with coffee. Who can say?

10:25(ish) am – Back in language class. Our teacher is absolutely fantastic and makes the class time very dynamic. Every day is different, and I guarantee that I learn a ton each day (even when it doesn’t feel like it!).

11:20 am – Classes are done for the morning! With French schools there is the option to either pick the kids up during lunch or let them stay at school for what they call “cantine” and recess. Our girls stay for cantine on Fridays, but we pick them up the rest of the days and eat lunch as a family. We all get two hours for the lunch break.

1:35 pm – Back at the language school. Here’s where our days vary a bit. Each afternoon is a bit different. So I’m going to give you an example of a typical Tuesday. On Tuesdays at this time, we meet in the chapel at the language school and have a group worship time with all the students in the school. Different students lead the worship time and a different student (or guest speaker) leads the meditation/devotion time. This is such a wonderful and enriching time for us!

Note: The worship time in the chapel is entirely in French as is all of our time at the language school. We are encouraged to only use English if we have to, and to try to practice our French as much as we can.

2:00(ish) pm – Back in our classroom for some more technical French training. Normally our afternoons are our time to practice speaking French. Most of the time we break up into small groups and carry on mock conversations on whatever particular subject matter we’re studying at the time. I have to admit to you that normally I go into this time dreading it, but afterwards am normally pretty thankful for the extra practice.

4:00 pm – Classes are over and it is time to pick the girls up from school. Thank goodness because normally at this point my brain is fried! One thing that I definitely underestimated was how mentally exhausting learning a new language (via immersion!) can be. I specify “via immersion” because you never actually get a break and your brain is working non-stop on processing the new language. It’s really good, but also extremely draining!

Between picking the girls up and having supper, we normally just have down time for all of us. So whether we hang out at the playground, play some games at home, or choose to be lazy bums and watch some TV, we just all take a mental break.

6:00 pm – While this is early for the French, our girls are normally dying for dinner at this point. After dinner, we work on homework, do bath time, story time, and help the girls wind down.

8:00 pm – Bed time for the girls. I probably shouldn’t admit to you how much I actually look forward to this time. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my kids! Love them!!! But I also love getting a couple hours of time without them too. With that said, normally this is the time that we do our homework and clean the house.

10:00 pm – Hahaha… I wish. More like by 11:00 pm or later we make it to bed. I normally always regret this the following morning. One of these days I’ll learn and become a responsible adult that goes to bed on time. Someday…

OK… so that’s our life right now. I know, it’s not that exciting, but that’s kind of the point. Sometimes when you’re purposefully working on a goal that God has set in front of you, it’s not always exciting. Sometimes, it can feel exhausting, monotonous, challenging, or whatever else you’re feeling. But just as there is purpose in our everyday life, even when it feels like my brain can’t take any more French, I am confident that we are where we should be for our service to the Kingdom of God.

I pray that this has encouraged you to look at your daily schedule for God’s purpose and guidance through it!

~ Jessica ~

Our first break

We survived the first session at our language school and have been on break for the past week! It has been so nice! I love our language school, but I know that it will be hard to go back to class tomorrow. It has been wonderful to be able to spend time as a family without the looming thought of homework or assignments for any of us.

Our older girls actually had two weeks off from school, so spent the previous week in a “loisir” center, which is basically a city-run activity center. Each day they would go somewhere new like a farm, playground, or the pool. Even with so many fun things planned for them to do, I think that both of our girls were happy when Friday came around and we were ALL on break together.

During the first half of the week we were able to spend a lot of time outside enjoying the beautiful weather, visit Notre Dame and the Arc in Paris, and try a new gelato shop! Unfortunately, the second half of the week Glen and I caught a flu/cold hybrid, which left each of us down and out for a few days. While it felt like a waste to be sick on break, I would much rather that then have to miss classes.

Now we didn’t completely take the week off from language study, but Glen and I both chose to do things we wouldn’t normally do in the classroom. We watched some movies and TV shows in French, read some books in French (or at least tried to!), and have tried challenging ourselves to have more conversations in French to practice.

While it will be tough to wake up in the morning to head back to class (I’ve been enjoying our relaxing mornings this week!), I’m looking forward to diving back into our French studies and getting back into a routine. My prayer is that we see just as much, if not more, progress this next session as we did our first.

~ Jessica ~