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!

Humor or funny fibs, seems to be a conversation starter often employed over here. It's in jest but opens up a lot of "would ifs" and "can you imagine" conversations. It's not said in a jester like fashion, in fact the opposite. Typically dry and slightly mischievous.

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. Kind of refreshing, actually.

15 July 2015

A View Through: Le Coq

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

13 July 2015

Tour de France en Normandie!

The Tour de France was everything we expected and more.

To be honest, we didn't really know much about it prior to this summer other than it was a really big bike race. It is a really BIG bike race! It's an obsessive sport culture and if you are into cycling,  you will be riveted to the event. And France is waaaaaay into cycling.
 What was so incredible was that the race was coming through just down our road! I'm not sure that it has ever taken that route and it hasn't come through the main city in the region for 30 years!
 The racers and their massive entourage were set to come by at about 2:30 pm but we were encouraged by our neighbors to set up a picnic site by 11:00am.

The caravans come through for a couple hours before the racers in very elaborate vehicles tossing candy and trinkets. What was nuts was the speeds at which they were racing through (60-90km/hr!). There is absolutely no shoulder to these country roads and kids were skittering and diving all about for the loot. After about a minute of participation, I told the kids I would just buy them some gummy bears if we could please watch from our chairs and spare our lives. (Apparently, kids get seriously injured every year!?!)

But really, the people watching and excitement in the air were just fascinating. I could have happily sat there for more than the 4 hours that we did.
 Just before the racers were to arrive, 5 helicopters raced overhead and landed in our neighbor's cow field. Presumably, media helicopters?

My mother was texting me from back in the States and watching the racers live and giving me a play-by-play so we would know when to expect them. We heard a roar from the crowd and suddenly, there they were, whizzing by!
 And in a blink ... they were past! Was it worth all the excitement and anticipation for just the few blurred moments? Oui, oui!

One of the most fun days we've had. 

09 July 2015

Village Preparations: Tour de France

It's Tour de France season here and if you can believe it, the race is coming right by us! Literally a 5 minute walk from our house. C'est incroyable!

The whole village has been bustling with activity to get everything show-ready and the excitement is palpable.
 Everyone is decorating their homes and sweeping the walks.
 The tell-tale neon arrows up to assure the riders ... keep pedaling this way!
And every old bicycle from every old barn has been unearthed and set up for display. It's the 102nd year of Tour de France!
There are RV's already lining the road from Tour de France groupies that apparently follow the race throughout France. I guess they just sleep on the side of the road and are ready for the next day when it comes!
Our road into town will be completely shut down tomorrow, so we made a voyage in today to pick up groceries and such. We have plans for a long road-side picnic tomorrow to join in the festivities. We're told to set up 3 hours early for a good spot and to see the caravans that come through beforehand.

Off to watch some highlights of today's race on the telly ... à bientôt!

07 July 2015

A Beautiful Woman on Market Day

It was market day and this beautiful woman had some shopping to do. And doesn't she look elegant?

In general, I think aging is a more respected process in France. It's a sign of honor to be referred to as "Madame" and when in doubt, always preferred to to the younger address of "Mademoiselle." Mademoiselle is for younger women and girls. As a friend explained, "Why would you want to be referred to as a girl? It's a pleasure being a woman!" Isn't this refreshing?

My husband's smart and gorgeous grandmother, Gigi, once told me she didn't like to be referred to as "cute," even when meant as a compliment. I didn't really understand the comment at the time, but I think I do now. Cute in exchange for beautiful or elegant or attractive has a different ring to it altogether. We don't cease to be women once we've left a certain season of life.

While certainly youth has it's signature beauty and aging has it's trials, no matter the country, I love the respect and appreciation given to women of "advancing stature" ... whether that is at 35 or 85. I love that women can present themselves with confidence and be considered beautiful at all ages.

Isn't this a good mindset to take on and habit to pursue?

05 July 2015

From France, Happy Independence Day!

 We were able to celebrate the 4th of July this year with our dearest friends here in France. The weather was gloriously cooperative and we tried to show them a good time with an over abundance of food and general lounging about. You know, American-style.

Somehow being gone for American holidays, like Thanksgiving, has seemed even harder than mutual holidays, like Christmas. So we made sure to find a way to celebrate the 4th. It's always more fun with friends.

And while we had a hard time finding certain things (hello, corn on the cob!), we did our best to dish up some summer BBQ grub. Our friends had never roasted anything over a fire before and the kids were particularly keen on cooking up their own hotdogs.
 And my beautiful friend dove right into the marshmallow roasting herself, telling me "It's just like the movies!" That made me smile. She's great like that.

Incidentally, marshmallows here are in the candy aisle. They come in packages, are a bit smaller, always seem to be a mix of white and pink, and are a bit more soft. They melt really quickly. Gotta' be on your marshmallow game when it comes to roasting.
While the children played, the menfolk chatted about all measures of things. The Franco-American kinship continuing to flourish ... perhaps because they did help us win our Independence, you may remember! 

 I'm not quite sure how we always seem to find such quality people to be friends with. In spite of our flaws, neediness, and general gooberish-like qualities ... they seem to appear and stick with us.

And thank goodness for that!
We do miss home. Even though we are loving our adopted nation, being away from the States has reminded us how much we appreciate about our own imperfect country and the fact that we are truly proud and grateful to be Americans. America has a history of sacrifice and bravery that has won and offered up freedoms and alliances for her citizens. In many, many ways, not unlike France! It's a remarkable thing to unite cultures and countries in peace and friendship.

Whether home or abroad, we have much to be thankful for. Today, in particular, American and French friends, alike.

02 July 2015

Street Art in the Village

I was out and about today at a nearby village dealing with some visa business and found myself loving these temporary art installations. Four-sided, with different art on each side, the structure was hiding what I think was some sort of construction on the interior. Isn't that beautiful and brilliant at the same time?
I was caught in a massive thunder and lightening storm and had to take cover at a covered café to sip some coffee (most pleasant rainstorm ever). Off in the distance you can see another art panel.
And here's one more. I actually really like street art. It can run a fine line with graffiti sometimes, depending on it's location, but how great to give these artists a platform that is constructive rather than destructive. And to turn a construction zone into an art zone!

01 July 2015

Last Day, Tous Les Enfants

Oh my, will you indulge this mama?

Today was the last day of school. I lack adequate words to describe the bravery and dedication these three put forth this year as they dove into French school. New language, new culture, new environment ... these kids have some serious gumption. Not to mention that their teachers all told me of their kindness and hard work in spite of all the inevitable challenges. Goodness, I just want to high-five the world, right now.

I think back to the first day for Jane and the first day for Peter and Lucette and I marvel. I just recently told them how I used to drop them off and then pull over to the side of the road and cry and pray. I was so scared and nervous and worried for them. And yet ... I continued to feel a peace that they were where they should be and He was walking through the day with them. 

Thank you, Jesus. I'm just about bursting with gratitude and pride. 

29 June 2015

Home: As I Come and Go + A Giveaway!

It's fun to go new places, isn't it? I kind of have a thing for it.

But with recent visits from loved ones, our next move just around the bend ... and our return home to the States sometime after that ... well, it has me thinking about home again. 

It's been such a joy having these adventures and fascinating to live in different locations. But it isn't quite the same as having your own curated items and furniture and bath towels all around you. It has it's advantages (fewer things to worry over and take care of!), but sometimes I miss the fussing about that comes in your own space.

So. I've been Pinteresting. Are you into this? I get it if you are not ... but I'm kind of in love with it. Clipping and saving images and ideas ... you essentially create your own virtual space. (Like when we all used to cut out photos out of magazines ... but without any of the scissors, glue-sticks or three-ringbinders, hallelujah). And since when we move back we won't even have a house to move back too ... ideas are what I've got to work with!

And plus. It's led me to re-discover Minted. I already knew they made incredible invitations and announcements. (Minted's wedding options are particularly charming.) But they've gone beyond that and and have created a venue for independent artists and offer art pieces just perfect for the home.
Just look at these! Foil stamped maps! I am enraptured and think they would go perfectly with just about any other home item I have shoved into our Stateside storage unit. I love maps ... they help take you where you want to go. 

This one above shows the streets of Paris. I see where my favorite hotel is and the Jardins de Luxembourg!

And the motherland! Ah, sweet U.S. of A. It took me leaving your shores to realize that I really am a proud American. So much I took for granted or never even knew to appreciate. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, perhaps? 
And our adopted country of France. France, you are a crazy, beautiful, beast of a lady, but I love you too.
So, which one would I pick? What represents home to me? Hmmm ... that's up in the air.

Because truly ... no matter where you go, which houses and apartments you visit or live in ... home is where your family tromps about and gives you a smile and a wave. It's the best place to start.

Thanks for letting me share this post I happily partnered in with Minted. And lookie ... a $50 giveaway credit! Leave a nice comment below and a winner will be chosen at random on Thursday, July 2!  CLOSED: Random winner chosen. Comments turned off. Liene, you've got mail!

**Giveaway Includes Free Shipping ... and that means US and international readers! 

27 June 2015

Visa Renewals and Going Batty

I took this photo of my file-folder awhile back ... because I'm just so darn proud of it.

We are in the middle of a visa renewal right now that included a trip to the regional prefecture, armed with new documentation and ... the trusty file-folder above. Originals and copies of just about every important piece of data ... we treat it with such tender-loving care, we call it our fourth child.

Living in France requires an initial visa process that is so brutal, I'm convinced it's meant to weed out the people who don't want it enough. Before they will even begin consider your general worthiness, you have to jump through so many hoops, fill out so many papers, go to so many appointments, wait in so many lines, and pay so many fees ... a good measure of people bail before they've begun. I totally understand why they might.

And even once you get here, the saga continues.

It appears the children's renewed documentation is ready for pick up. Yea. Ours, however, is supposed to be ready on the 13th of August. We move south on the 12th. After several stilted conversations later, we seem to be permitted to come in on the 11th. And this will be good ... as long as we actually get our carte des sejours at this time. We've heard stories of getting a temporary piece of paper instead and still having to wait for the real deal. And without the real deal ... we can't leave the country -which we have plans to- and we have to come back to pick up the les cartes when they are ready ... except that we will have relocated 8 hours away.

This stuff makes me so batty. But I am trying to remind myself ... one more opportunity to see God's hand of provision at work.

Know the feeling?