25 November 2015

I was walking the path to pick up Jane for lunch when I heard the voices of the school-children over the village walls. They were singing about togetherness. They were singing for Paris. They were singing for the world. 

I just about broke down right there. This verse is on my heart, today:

"O people, the Lord has told you what is good, 
and this is what he requires of you: 
to act justly, to love mercy, 
and to walk humbly with your God." 
Micah 6:8

24 November 2015

A Place to Begin

In Morocco a couple of weeks ago. We walked through an ancient yet alive city with a local guide. He shared his faith and his culture with us with pride and kindness and intelligence.

As we walked, children were flocking to him for a hug and a smile. ("They are orphans," he told us. "I love them.")

We shared about our own Judeo-Christian faith and his eyes reflected comprehension and respect.

And we talked. And we laughed. And we were sober and concerned for the world. For humanity.

When we parted ways, he was still Muslim and we were still Christian. Naturally. But we were also still simple humans, hearts burdened for so very many of the same things.

Commonalities are a wonderful place to begin.
"Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." 
Philippians 4:5

16 November 2015

De La Paix: Paris

Hello, Friends. Life has been busy and the blog often becomes a good intention. To be honest, I forget about it sometimes and am always surprised (pleasantly) when someone emails to ask after us, because there hasn't been a post in a great while. Thank you.

And in these last few days we've received many emails and notes asking after us, following the recent events in Paris. We are well and safe, but hurt and confused ... like much of France ... like much of the world. I really lack words, so I will share the note I sent to friends and family:

It is evening here in France. Candles are lit in windows to signify the hearts of this country. Seek peace. Walking through the streets, looking through windows ... people sitting. candles lit. hearts in grief. prayers for peace.
Pray that the hearts of France somehow stay soft and sensitized in the wake of horror. That we not grow accustomed to a disregard of life. That peace will be pursued and wisdom desired.

Thank you for your kindness and prayers. In all things, somehow, incredibly, God is good.

25 September 2015

Life in Motion and Two Milestone Birthdays

This man that I love. Yesterday he turned 40. When we first met as teenagers, life seemed an impossibly long continuum. And here, after almost 25 years together, it is racing by. Each day I am thankful for this man who asks for so little and gives so very much. He is a wise, kind, loving, brilliant man. 

And this little gem. She turned 10 a few days back. She tackles each day with a vigor and grace that leaves me humbled and joyful.
Life is beautiful and good and difficult and hard and nutty and perfect right now. There is so much to say and record but there is too much life in motion for me to always pause and do so. 

For the moment, I am just grateful ... and for these two in particular.

29 August 2015

Getting Settled In

We've made it to our new home in our new village. And we are in love. It's market day today ...

17 August 2015

Switzerland: Alpine Days

 Switzerland is a stunner of a country. Truly, it's breathtaking no matter where you turn. We were here three years ago, and since, we've all been longing for a return.

Even though the weather has been cold and very foggy, it's hard not to be content. (Some days the fog has been so thick visibility is limited to 20-30 feet! It's a shame not to see the view every second.)
 Today we took a bus for our excursion. (It was a complete joy to ride and avoid driving the perilous switchback roads ourselves. When Pops' eyes widen and he takes a sharp intake of breath ... you know it's scary.)

And this is where we ended up. The hills were alive with song, as the cows on hillside had bells that sounded orchestral as they grazed. Magical.
We are staying in St Luc in the Valais region, or Val d'Anniviers. This is Lac de Moiry and is a glacial mineral depository. 

And this is Pops wearing a sweater with another sweater tied over his shoulders. I think he looks great, but he sighs and says he's been living in Europe too long ... 
It's been a very good thing for us to have some of this time to unwind together. All the preparing, cleaning, shipping, and planning required for our move was rather exhausting. Not to mention that on our way here, we managed a flat tire (but a miraculously fast, praise God, fix at a garage) and an incident with a scary road rage man. Still shaking that one off.

And of course, once we get to the south, we will have all of the adjustments that come with settling into a new locale and getting the children set up for school. It's been busy.

So our time here, together, is both a luxury and a necessity. Funny how the two can go hand-in-hand.
Preparations, for us, must included planned down-time. Even though we are doing some nutty, crazy stuff ... we really aren't a thrill-a-minute kind of family. We hit a wall pretty quickly if we out-pace ourselves. It's not about planning everything out perfectly ... it's just about knowing it won't all go as planned and it won't be perfect. And that's okay. 

And that is where down-time/family-time becomes a non-negotiable. (And it doesn't have to be a Swiss-vacation. I'm a big fan of stay-cations, too.) 
We have just a couple more days here until we press on.

Pops told me he is already dreaming of returning. He doesn't usually talk that way ... it must be the air up here.

04 August 2015

A New Kind of Adventure

 It's rather incredible we've been here a year. So very much has happened, been accomplished, struggled through, and deeply enjoyed. It is with mixed emotions that we complete our time here at La Cressonnière and move on to the next adventure.
I have never lived in the country before. Never observed the rhythms of farm life nor experienced the pace. And French country life has a uniqueness of its own. Cows taking a walk down the street, ancient stone barns being repaired, fishing at the la petite rive down by the old mill, taking walks after dinner and moving aside to let the tractors pass.

 It has been a blessing living here. We have been grateful for the space to roam and a peaceful respite from a busy world.
And yet, we are ready. This last week has been full of some rattling hiccups requiring hurried mental adjustments. Namely, we have discovered (for a variety of bureaucratic reasons), that we can no longer drive in France after October 1st. It's a long story. The American in me could not conceive of existing entirely without a car and I had a full two-day panic attack. For serious. A major kink in the plans.

I am still wrestling with nervousness, but we have come to a place of peace and trust in the Lord that this too is part of His plans for us. We are moving to a location where we can approach life on foot, bicycle, bus, and train. Not completely what we planned on, but possible. If we had planned to stay in the country ... impossible.
And God is good.

We pick up our visas next Monday (oh have mercy, let them be there and ready) and depart on Wednesday. With renewed visas in hand we will be able to exit and re-enter the country and have plans for a stop in Burgundy and Switzerland as we work our way down south. We shall enjoy the freedom of driving while we have it and prepare ourselves for a new kind adventure ahead.

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, 
may your ears  hear a voice behind you, saying, 
This is the way; walk in it ..." 
Isaiah 30:21

22 July 2015

After France We're Buying This Boat & Sailing to Cyprus

Portofino, Italy
Just kidding!

Do you have any go-to conversation starters? Talking points or tricks to keep things interesting or surprising? Do you ever find yourself like me ... interested in people but when conversation runs slim ... babbling needlessly about nothing ... or worse ... about oneself? Oh boy.

In the States, it seems that after basic introductions, the next question always is: "And what do you do?" It's our go-to conversation starter. Does it really start conversations? Sometimes, I guess. But I think it's mostly a habitual question.

In France, it's considered borderline rude to ask this question. The idea is that this question facilitates an instant "sizing someone up" based on their profession. Within seconds there is an assessing of their level of education, salary, esteem, worth, etc. Très gauche. I'd never really thought about this before, but ... it's rather true. It's not a conscious thing for most of us, but we're zeroing in on just one facet of a person as the basis to understand someone.

Certainly French people find out each other's professions ... but not necessarily the first time you meet someone. In a way, you earn access to the "inner layers" as time and conversation continue. So, with "what do you do" out of the picture, what do you ask??

We all need ice-breaker questions. It's weird when someone starts off asking about your innermost feelings five seconds into the introduction. Talking about the weather is benign and acceptable, but it seems the real key is to ask a question that offers opportunity for follow up conversation threads that you can both participate in. That's the real cache, right there.

I run dry and feel dorky just like the next person. But I've been trying to be more thoughtful about my conversations and it takes practice! Here are some of my favorite conversation starters, both my own and swiped from others:

1. Memory: Tell me about the house you grew-up in or associate with your childhood. Or, Where did you live in 3rd grade? Be specific!
2. Location: Do you live around here can actually open up discussion if you follow it up. Suddenly, there is opportunity to talk about where they grew up, if they like living where they do, if they've ever moved or would like to travel. All sorts of options.
3. Funny Fib: I had fun showing people the above photo I took in Portofino and telling them that after France, we were "considering buying this boat and sailing to Cyprus". Heh, heh. But it did lead to to lots of "would ifs" and "can you imagine" conversations.
4. LastsWhat was your last book read/board game played/movie watched/hike/ice cream cone ... 
5. RandomWhat was your last online purchase? If you wrote a book, what would it be about?
6. Compliment: This is tried and true, but always nice. Who doesn't like to be complimented on their shoes or shade of lipstick or even their cute baby.
7. ObservationYou seem like a (outgoing/introspective/thoughtful/mindful/well-read/humorous ...) kind of person. How would you describe yourself? This is such a better alternative to "Tell me about yourself." You've started with an observation of your own, a compliment (hopefully), and you are then asking them about their own perspective.

So, after initial niceties, what are the fun, juicy, lively questions you like to ask or have been asked? Do any of these ideas above register with you? I'm genuinely curious!

Converse with me!

15 July 2015

A View Through: Le Coq

Don't you just love a little spy-through window? Makes the view awfully exciting.