I am the first to acknowledge my grief, angst and utter confusion at the overall chaos our world is currently experiencing. “Appalled” could be an appropriate word for the injustices that I see and read about taking place in every corner of the globe. From the halls of the rich to the tents of the impoverished, discord & injustice can be found and heard discussed openly, often with much vehemence. However, what I find to be quite disheartening is that this “vehemence” is also becoming commonplace in the pews of the church. Social media is rampant with ongoing conversations over injustices and horrible atrocities taking place inside of the church that need to be exposed.
Now, please hear me clearly. I am in no way stating that these conversations are inappropriate. Instead, on the converse, I would state that there have been voices that have been squashed for so long by the powerful that indeed should be brought to the table and given a chance to represent the voiceless. However, being the person that I am, and knowing my limitations with argumentation and debate, I will leave these discussions to other people more qualified to express thoughts much more eloquently than I.
My encouragement today, however, is to Christian parents during this time of confusion and angst. I had told myself that I would never dole out parental instruction in written form, because “who am I” to be an authority in one of the toughest jobs around? One is always learning under this job description called “parenting” and anyone who communicates otherwise is not being truthful or they are utterly deceiving themselves! ;)
But, can I humbly, yet firmly, give one small piece of advice during this time of global upheaval, specifically in regards to the Church? Parent, teach your children to love the Church. Our children will hear about so many evil injustices going on within the Church, whether it be talked about around the kitchen table, on christian radio in the car, or on their various Twitter feeds as they are doing their daily scrolling. Even for me, a now older woman, sometimes the verbiage can be just too much! The flow of information is continual and therefore, it also can be very discouraging, bringing rise to possible cynicism or the lack of hope.
But as a parent who has now become a mentor/coach to her grown children rather than a constant parental guide, I humbly encourage young parents to love the Church. Seek ways to minister to the Church together as a couple, if possible. And then, turn around and teach your children to do the same.
Are there horrible stories that need to be told and injustices that need to be revealed? A resounding, Yes! The Twittersphere and other social platforms will continue to flood the media with information and many times, rightly so. But if we were having coffee together today and I could give maybe just one bit of advice to you as a young parent:
The Church, His Bride - it is the one and only thing for which Christ died. May we never, ever fail to exhibit that Christlike love to one another, even when horrible examples of injustices continue to abound. (This is where the characteristics of Romans 12:9-21 need to be personally begged for by the Lord). And then, with every fiber left in our bones, may we teach it to our children, so that they might in turn rise up one day and do the same.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
As one impatiently waits for their visas to be processed by the governing authorities of their home country, they most likely have no concept of all that lies ahead of them as they embark on this new great adventure of living abroad. The excitement of the times prevails, amidst the stresses of a myriad of decisions that should have been made yesterday and all the emotion of the goodbyes that will be said tomorrow.
This “Christian’s Survivor’s Guide to Successful Expat Living” contains only three items to check off the list. One might breathe a sigh of relief, since most lists they are currently contending with are pages long. But no worries … only three items are on this list and they can be easily read through. Yet, I hesitate to say to the anxiety-laden traveler that the items on this list actually might take years to complete.
#1. Before boarding that plane bound for adventure, make sure months in advance that you have obtained every document pertaining to your very existence in quadruplets. Marriage License; yours and your kids medical records; birth certificates; financial records going back several years; and even the possible verification of your current residency might be required. Most of these documents need to be notarized originals and will require a miniature current photo of you measured to the exact requirements. So, in order to check this item off your list, double check everything in your document file and smile often for the needed passport-sized photos. #detailsdetailsdetails
#2. Whereas, #1 needs to be completed prior to boarding the plane in order to avert any unwarranted stress, #2 is the trait of an Adventurous Spirit and you will need to take this with you as you leave the airport in your new country. Many people might think that they truly have a wanderlust for adventure as they watch an exciting travel program on TV in their favorite armchair at home. But, it could be a different story as reality starts to sink in and they see that living abroad is actually going to take some work on their part. So, in order to check this item off your list you will need to mentally prepare yourself that living in another country goes far beyond the instagram stories and photos. It will require work on your part to learn the language and the culture of this country. To live successfully in another country, one needs to have an adventurous spirit to try new things, experiment life with possibly a whole new food palette selection, and the fortitude to dig down deep when all you might want on a certain day is just to sit on a patch of luscious green grass, rather than the spiky brown weeds found in your yard that are growing on top of the hardest soil known to man! #notfortheweakofheart
#3. Warning: #3 will take years to complete and might never be fully achieved.
A huge dose of Humility is needed to complete this “Christian’s Survivor’s Guide to Successful Expat Living.” One might state that this is a very unusual requirement to live successfully in another country, when so many other items could be placed on this list. But in fact, IF this trait is NOT exhibited or sought after (beginning with your descent down the airplane steps) then I might boldly predict that your time within your adopted country will not be pleasant for yourself or for those around you and that it will not be truly successful.
In order to live successfully in another country, one needs to realize that it requires them to be a learner, because life now will NOT be working the same way that they had experienced in their home country. In order to successfully survive, one needs to DAILY realize that sometime within that very day, they will have communicated something incorrectly or stood in the wrong line, or offended their neighbor unknowingly and that they might need to quickly backpedal out of an embarrassing situation.
Living life abroad requires humility to survive and to survive well. It requires the person to stop, to look, and to listen to the cultures around them. It requires them to put the way others do things (or to NOT do things) first. For example, if you come from an individualistic society and are now living in a group-oriented society, it might drive you crazy that everyone goes to the same toll booth when there are three lanes completely open! OR that your adopted country’s spacial closeness is WAY to close for your own personal comfort! So, in order to check this item off your list you will need to realize that to live successfully in another country you will need humility to adjust and to live well. #humblenessbeforepride
Maybe #3’s quality of Humility is just a quality that is needed everywhere, whether you move abroad or not? For societies to stop, to look, and to listen to one another and to exhibit humility and gentleness is something that the Apostle Paul wrote about to the new Christians in Colossae. He encouraged his brothers and sisters in the faith to clothe themselves with several qualities as they interacted with one another in order that harmony would be achieved and that God would be glorified through it all.
So if you are boarding a plane to some far-flung destination or walking across your street in your own neighborhood and you claim the name of Christ, may your humbleness and gentleness of spirit be seen by all so that Christ would be glorified. … and as a piece of advice? Even if you remain in your own home country, it just wouldn’t hurt to have all those documents in quadruplets. Who knows when you might need them?
2020. It will become known as the year that the entire world grieved in unison. Moving from the East in Wuhan, China to the farthest parts in the West - people all over the world have been found grieving together. The Coronavirus, or later to become known by the COVID-19, ravaged through towns and cities, refugee camps and palaces. This invisible disease swept through the tents of the lowest in our society, to the lush bedrooms of our wealthiest, quickly alerting us that it was no respecter of persons. The hardest part of all has been the fact that people realized that they actually were not in control. They were faced with the fact that they were not the masters of their fate, or the “Captain of their soul.” People around the world were confronted, maybe for the first time in their lives, that they were actually created to be a “Dependent” people. Dependent on their Creator for the very breath that they take next.
And so the people grieved. They grieved the death of loved ones that were pronounced to the fate of dying a death not surrounded by those they loved, but instead encompassed by the noises of the infirmed and scurrying heroic medical staff that daily were trying to save many.
They grieved over the realization that they would not be given the right to say their last goodbyes or even the privilege of properly burying their loved ones.
People grieved over mass confinement - some more than others. As the various governments strove to contain the deadly disease, people struggled to remain within the parameters set by authorities.
They grieved not being able to celebrate special events like birthdays, births, weddings, baby showers and graduations. Life was put on hold for the betterment of society. And the people grieved for what they missed. Freedom.
People grieved loss. Loss of loved ones dying alone; loss of freedom to do as they pleased, and when they pleased, loss of jobs & the ability to adequately provide for their futures, or even their daily needs. They grieved the loss of the knowledge that they were not the captains of their own souls.
But in the midst of this worldwide grief, there began to rise another voice that sung in unison. It was at times faint from fatigue or maybe even fear, but it was still heard among the many. Like the small “Who people” living down in Whoville in the Dr. Suess children’s book The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, a beautiful song began to rise above the noise of the masses.
It was the voices of those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ singing out and communicating to the grieving world the Hope that is found in Christ. They sang the song of the Redeemed, amidst their own tears of grief. It was heartfelt yet firm, all the while knowing that they serve a good, good Father. And I am absolutely confident that those songs of worship, even though they have been sung with tears in the eyes and a stutter in the voice, they have brought glory to the One Who is Worthy.
2020 is the year the world grieved in unison. But it also has become the year the Redeemed have stood up from every corner around the world, from all the nations the Lord has made, and have come and worshiped before Him bringing glory to His name. (Psalms 86:9)
And the world watched. And the Redeemed continued to sing.
Once upon a time, my life looked totally different. I was the young mother of three growing kids. Homeschooling them by day and falling asleep on the couch with my husband to the soothing hum of the 9:00pm news by night. We had even purchased equipment to grind our own wheat & bake our own bread. We were becoming more self sufficient as we approached the years prior to Y2K and we enjoyed teaching the kids about the more holistic essentials. Life had a rhythm to it that as I look back seemed hectic at the time, but in hindsight 20 years later, it looks … well, rhythmic.
I chose at the time to follow the 30-day freezer meal style of cooking, causing me to go to the store alone armed for battle; buy a month’s worth of groceries; come home ladened down with supplies and then begin the arduous task of cooking 30 meals to put into the freezer. What was I thinking? However, this type of meal prep allowed for less hectic days of wondering what was for supper and gave me the opportunity of focusing on teaching the kids and dealing with any mishap our 100 pound Labrador might get into. Life was different.
Midstream in life, God made a change in our lives. He called us to an average size town in the south of France to have the privilege of pastoring a wonderful international church here. But not only did our location change and our work change, but our lifestyle was what really changed! Gone were the days of the huge American refrigerator with a freezer space like none other. Back 15 years ago, the French refrigerator was purposeful in allowing people to store food not for 30 days, but instead for only the week ahead. The average French woman would go to the grocery store at least once a week and sometimes more often, allowing her the ability to get fresh foods and vegetables as needed. I quickly realized the days of the frozen casserole were gone, and a road to a different type of cooking laid ahead. (insert: The entire family at this point rising up to cheer!)
Today, April 2020, we are in the 5th week of an eight-week government lockdown. Going to the grocery store is limited to necessity. People line up outside of stores to be given permission to enter. They are wearing homemade masks and gloves to ward off any virus contamination. Here, toilet paper isn’t what is being hoarded, but instead the pasta and flour aisles are empty and one cannot purchase a bread machine anywhere because they are entirely sold out. In fact, Amazon itself is completely shut down for the moment, so life has seemed to come to a stand still. However, the essential French chocolate aisle in the grocery store is fully stocked, so in my opinion, life will continue. ;)
Tomorrow, the clock will rewind for me. Tomorrow, I will be pulling out that electric wheat grinder (called the “Whisper Mill”, but in fact sounds like a jet engine taking off). I will be plugging it into our 40 pound transformer and I will be turning the hands of time back to the days of bread baking; applesauce making and 30 day cooking sprees. The year of 2020 is a year of being flexible and remembering how to complete tasks that we haven’t done for years. It’s a year of learning new skills and helping others to do the same. The year of 2020 is a year where people are stopping to talk more to one another via the internet and being willing to get their hands dirty with flour again in order to make ends meet.
Sixteen years ago, as we left the United States for the first time weighed down with 10 suitcases; 3 kids; and 1 freaked-out gerbil, the phrase we said over and over again to one another was, “It’s not weird, it’s just different.”
The year 2020, my friend, is not weird… it’s just going to look different. We might need to rewind the hands of time and recall skills that our grandmother’s handed down to us. We might need to pull out that old sewing machine to make a needed mask or open those weathered cookbooks in search of how to make your own bread. But, if I could pose a bit of encouragement to myself and others - let’s enjoy the journey. When the year 2021 comes, we will have so many stories to relay to one another of fallen cakes; tooth-breaking breads; and weird but effective homemade masks. We will stand a different people. But we will be standing.
And remember that when frustration strikes yet again… the chocolate aisle is stocked full. You’ll probably see me there.
Europe is currently the epicenter of the Coronavirus. People are experiencing a myriad of feelings, both expressed and unexpressed, during these days. For most, the reality of the severity of this virus causes concern and understandable anxiety. After the governmental instructions were communicated, and even though there remains an atmosphere of some unsettledness, one can also feel the spark of unity among the people as they prepare together for an unknown situation.
Prior to the shutdown, one could find people scurrying from store to store trying to accumulate all the needed supplies for the next weeks ahead. People were standing in long lines outside the stores in order to take their turn to enter, all the while trying their upmost best to keep an adequate distance between themselves and the people around them. (Social Distancing has become a key phrase nowadays.) However, with all the tasks needing to be completed before the deadline struck 12, one could actually get lost in the overwhelming process that was in front of them. With the shutdown looming and the potential sickness all around them, people seemed to be coping best by keeping their head down and just completing the tasks in front of them in order to prepare sufficiently for what is about to occur.
Unfortunately, these are all too familiar experiences for the peoples currently living and working in Europe. But for the expatriate living abroad there is another stark reality that is quickly sinking in. They have a choice to make which can be reflected in the title of a 1981 English song, “Do I stay or Do I Go?” For if the expat chooses to remain in the country where they are studying or working, they are hit with the reality that their attempts to reach out and tend to their families’ possible future needs during this crisis would be near to impossible as the border crossings begin to close. The expat is closed in (for understandable reasons) along with the entire national population but, they are also closed out from their family ties during a world crisis - unable to get home to give help or to personally receive comfort from those they love. Feelings of loneliness, loss of control, and fear are normal feelings which we are finding people are wrestling with, including ourselves.
But as we speak truth to ourselves and to those christians around us, we remind ourselves that God is still on the throne. He is a God who sees. He is a God who hears. He is a God who heals. And He is a God who is present, amongst an infinite list of other character descriptors.
In our ladies bible studies, we had been studying about the names of God. As God began to reveal Himself to humanity, how did He describe Himself? What names did He call Himself to help to communicate His character to a needy world? Our thesis was that as we study how God describes Himself we would then be able to know God and His character more and more, and as a result, cling to and walk in the truth of Who God is.
As many of you know, I am not the preacher in our family. However, perhaps these words can be of encouragement to either the expat struggling with being quarantined in a foreign country and cut off from the physical support of family OR to those who are struggling with anxiety during this global crisis. God is present. God sees. He hears. He acts. That is how He has described His character. My encouragement to myself and to others during this time is to cling to the God who has revealed Himself; trust in Him who pursues us with a faithful love and then praise Him as He continues to draw all men to Himself. Over and over again in Exodus, God communicated to Moses these words, “… so that you will know that I am the Lord your God.” During this time, may our roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love and may we have the power to understand, as all of God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep is the love of Christ. (Eph. 3:17-19)
Do I stay or Do I go? My answer? I will remain rooted in these truths whether I live quarantined in a foreign country or if I work through this virus living next to family and friends. For me … You will find me clinging to the Vine, allowing my roots to soak up His truth in the midst of a chaotic world.
When one steps off that airplane and begins his new life in another country, whether it be for education, work or retirement, the changes that are about to occur in his life are unknown to him at the time. Life around him at times will be so totally different from anything he would have ever imagined. As well as, at times those experiences might not actually be so different from home after all, causing in him a potential unsettling in the mind as he makes unconfident decisions on a daily basis. Each new day can be filled with both successes and failures. However, without a doubt, those days will be filled mostly with large doses of needed humility in order to survive. But survive they will. Adaption to a different culture is needed anytime someone ventures to live abroad.
But take a peek into what happens to the christian who desires to continue to worship in an international church while living in another country. The experience is extremely profound and yet can be quite unsettling for most. For as we desire to begin living abroad, we cannot deny that we bring “who” we are with us to that new culture, even from our own church background.
The United States is often seen as a “melting pot.” Peoples from around the world came to the US in years past and struggled to make this new country their home, all the while assimilating to those around them. Amidst all the change, they still retained “who” they were to some degree. Greek Town, Little Italy, Chinatown - these pockets of immigrant societies sprang up around the country in the US helping to retain a small portion of the immigrant’s culture and way of life.
In the church as well, we have church cultures and traditions that we grow up with, even if we are unaware of them. We have denominational traditions, ways of “doing” church, church dress codes whether they be stated or unstated, as well as, christian vocabulary that we don’t even think twice about until we leave our church culture and begin to try to assimilate into another church in another country all together. It’s at this point that the expat christian can begin to feel uncomfortable because their cultural “cues” are no longer in their new place of worship. International church ministries at times can be quite unsettling for the expat.
However, it’s at this point an international church has the potential to bring such spiritual life to any christian! As people come to an international church from all around the world, they bring with them their church expectations and traditions. They bring with them their church culture, just like any expatriate going into any country around the world would do. Global diversity in the church can breed a plethora of noise, leading to possible chaos. Yet, one of the greatest joys of international ministries is the stripping back of all the extra cultural verbiage and ways of “doing” church in order to reveal the bare essentials of the Bible. An international church does not have the luxury of some of our various cultural traditions, because they would not be understood by all of the congregants. Each Sunday morning one will find cultural diversity literally between every seat. The ONLY thing that binds this mélange of peoples together is the blood of Jesus Christ and His gift of redemption in which an international church has to cling and stand firm in.
It is very easy and normal for an expat to long for the homogenous church culture of times past in their own country. But the fact remains that an international church has the, at times, unsettling position and yet extreme joy of stripping back all the traditions of man and seeking to be faithful in proclaiming the pure Gospel, revealing the only thread that binds such beautiful diversity in the first place - the very Word of God. That is our starting point. That is our finishing point. What an unsettling, yet thrilling way to worship - bringing diverse people groups from around the world together to worship the Word of God and standing firm with our hope fixed on only His grace. #heaven.
Expectation. It penetrates the moments surrounding us during this time of year. Often, we look forward to the holidays for a myriad of reasons - the lights, the ambience of the season, the special traditional foods that are prepared only one time per year, as well as, the joy of possibly having family and friends around to help celebrate.
Expectation. For me, now being a mother of adult children and living on a different continent than her children and her parents - the holidays often bring me to a heightened state of expectation and excitement. The days I’ve waited for in which I could literally look my children in the eye and physically hug them are coming ever so close. There’s SO much to prepare for. The rooms have to be made ready so that when they arrive they will feel welcomed home again - clean air-dried sheets, brightly mopped floors, and the removal of all the clutter that has seemed to accumulate since their leaving last. The finishing touches will involve placing in each room a small bowl of Spanish/French clementines which help quench any lingering airplane food issues.
Expectation. Our world markets and feeds on our hunger for this anticipation of the coming holidays. The infamous U.S.-based "Black Friday" has now come to France in full force - making it now "Black Friday Week" as we continue to prepare for the coming days. Yet I wonder if we stopped and thought a bit, if we as the Bride of Christ have the same or hopefully even an exorbitant greater expectation for the coming of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ? Do we daily anticipate His arrival as we prepare our hearts and lives spiritually? Are we “making ready” our lives for His imminent return? Are our hearts expectant as we think of our rejoicing at seeing Him soon?
I’ve written before about the image of young children and how so often they will place their little noses and dirty fingers right on the windowpanes in anticipation of the arrival of family or friends. So often we as mothers will scold and chide them, as we see only the work involved in cleaning those dirty windows again. But… what if, what if we as the Bride of Christ, all over the world, young, old, rich, poor, people from every tribe and nation …what would it look like if we would become a people who were not afraid to place our noses right up to windowpanes in anticipation of the soon arrival of our Lord and King? After reading again the story of the priest Zechariah found in Luke 1, I’ve been struck by the thought that after he was able to speak again after 9 long months of silence, who in the world was going to stop Zechariah from declaring the coming of the Lord? Who? I am sure that he spoke passionately about Christ’s imminent first coming until the day of his own death.
The day is coming soon when I will be able to place my arms around those people whom I love so much and have been preparing to see again since the days I saw them last. To be honest, I don’t care much how silly I might look in that expression of anticipation… because I will see some of my family soon.
My encouragement to the Bride of Christ around the world is that we remain counter-cultural in our view of the coming events. The world woos us to remain focused on the glitz and glamour and the allusion of the season. Yet the scriptures, softly but ever so strongly, whisper to us to lift our eyes to the skies, place our noses right up against those windowpanes and look for the coming of the Lord who has graciously offered to you adoption into His family.
My desire and deep longing is to remain at the window - ready for His arrival. There are days when I falter, but I believe that’s where the Body of Christ comes in to surround one other and to help keep each other focused in our waiting.
There’s plenty of window space next to me… and my prayer is that we may globally make a mess of those windows as we firmly expect and anticipate our Lord’s imminent return. See you at the window!
In many ways, our world has become smaller and larger all at the same time. It appears smaller to us because of global transport and digital technology. One can at least feel as if they can reach out and touch the world, if not literally doing so. The world has become larger in the sense that the choices that our children now have before them seem infinite. They no longer need to remain within the cultural boundaries of generations past. Our children can now choose to travel the world for educational purposes; job opportunities; or just for that newly defined term called “wanderlust!”
Over the past 14 years, our thoughts about Ladies Ministries within the international church setting have blossomed & transformed. We have gone from a time of weekly bible studies where community was found within the church walls, to now experiencing that international ladies ministries need to flood over those walls and become life-on-life with one other.
As women come to Montpellier from every corner of the globe and for all types of reasons, we have the opportunity to provide a welcoming home and a fertile ground for the gospel to be rooted and lived out in the ladies’ lives. Robyn has been teaching this group of transient women over the years through bible studies, as well as, seeking to provide wise counsel throughout the week.
But going past the input of our knowledge about God, we have found that international church ladies ministries is a dynamic test tube to communicate that in fact, we serve a living, faithful and watchful God. Most of the women have left family and friends to live in Montpellier for a set period of time. They have set aside culture and comfortability and therefore, sometimes can struggle with one’s understanding of God and His love for them personally. So ladies ministries revolves around not only biblical knowledge about our God, but daily life-on-life experiences and conversations that help to “flesh out” that reality.
This year, Montpellier has been awarded the #2 Incubator City of the World for Business Innovation and we feel that in some way our small group of ladies has its own incubator element. Women are able, in a loving environment, to wrestle with the truths of the Gospel as they hear the Word of God taught and as they are able to see with their own eyes what the Word says. But then as they encounter spiritual conversations or the hardships that expat living provides, it is then that “spiritual roots” are able to go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love and our prayer is that they “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that [they] may be filled with all the fullness of God.“ (Eph.3:18-19) … With the end result that Christ would be glorified in the church and to the ends of the earth!
Thanksgiving. I grew up with a certain concept of what Thanksgiving looked like in my family. Each time this holiday rolled around, my mom would be preparing a few days in advance for the family celebration that would occur. On Thanksgiving Day, all my aunts, uncles and cousins would gather at one of my relative's home and we would spend the entire day enjoying each other’s company, the food that was prepared, the football games on the television and the various table games that would ensue a few hours later. What a brave aunt I had that she would invite such a gangly crew of us to invade her home in the middle of November in upstate NY! Many a year we came fitted with snow boots and gloves on ourselves and with snow tires already placed on the cars. All 80-some people would traipse through those doors bringing the snow and cinders and would be greeted by the chattering in the kitchen or the men discussing the football games that had already begun. We came to celebrate family and holiday, but most of all we came as a family to thank the Lord in heaven for all His provisions that past year. Thanksgiving.
Years later, a continent away, and another setting entirely, John and I brought our church family together to share with them the traditions us Americans grew up with in celebrating this special day. One would have laughed if they were to have followed us around Thanksgiving week! From going to the butcher and ordering 3 turkeys and hearing the “Ah oui! La grande fête pour les Americans.” Oui. C’est ça. And then bringing those beautiful French turkeys home and immediately seeing they must have been “runners” because their legs would just not fit in our standard-sized oven! Désolé, mais… off come the legs! (I secretly named them Louis I, II & III)
Another element that we wanted to bring to the table to share with people was that strange entity called cranberry sauce. How great is some homemade cranberry sauce with the turkey, stuffing and gravy? It brings just that needed tartness to the entire meal. Unfortunately, this is one berry that needs to be imported in France and is hard to find. So, six stores later I eyed just a few containers of cranberries, did a little jig in the store and proceeded to scoop them all up. Perfect!
Now for dessert… Did you know that Libby’s canned pumpkin is not found readily outside the United States? I laugh because I grew up on the convenience of Libbys, but have found I enjoy the real pumpkin purée so much better than my old friend, Libby. However, when you are cooking for a crowd, convenience takes priority. So we turned to the classic apple!
But you know, even though there is excitement in sharing one’s culture with the people around you, there is a greater thrill to be able to share one’s deep thankfulness to the Creator God for all that He has done. What a joy to be able express thankfulness to God for His faithfulness in generations past and for His faithfulness to generations yet to come. During the course of the night, John had us all read Psalms 100 together. And verse 1 commands “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” All the earth… Being thankful to God is a characteristic that all people’s of the earth are to exude. For us that know Christ personally, wherever we live around the world, we have the honor of walking daily through life with a thankful heart.
As I reflected on this truth throughout the night, I realized that I was not really sharing the ultimate Thanksgiving experience with these wonderful people. They already had that opportunity each and every day on their own - to be thankful and to walk in that thankfulness. I was instead just sharing with them a traditional day in my culture that would help to turn our hearts toward thankfulness. … and also maybe sharing the oddity of cranberry sauce!
I am a novice gardener, with an emphasis on the word “novice.” There is something therapeutic for me to be working outside in the garden, rather than tending to the needed desk work that seems to be always piled high. Call me crazy, but when we lived in Chicago and were renting an older home, my thrill was to get on the riding lawnmower and mow the 3 acre yard! Maybe it had to do with the enjoyment of putting in the earplugs and shutting the world out or maybe it was the idea that this was my 2 hour escape from the life of being a young mom? It probably was both. ;)
But as we have come to southern France, I have continued my love for the garden and have enjoyed getting to know the various plants that grow well in this soil. And as Fall has arrived, it has come time to get out and survey the damage caused by the severe lack of rain, high temperatures, and an unexpected hospital stay this past summer.
My attention was focused this past week on a certain bed that needed immense work. In years past it has been filled with lavender plants. But because of the combination of us being gone for 7 weeks, high temperatures here in the area and the plants being the perfect height for our dog to relieve himself on, the poor plants needed to be replaced. However, as John and I began to work the soil, discouragement began to set in for me. The hard earth was filled with rocks of every size that were interspersed with weeds that I’m sure have their root system all the way to China! The soil was so difficult to manage and till.
Yet, as I was working with the hoe in my hand, my thoughts began to think of the spiritual fields here in Montpellier, as well as all over the world. The spiritual ground at times can be like cement as the world’s persistent voices and opinions speak so loudly to us. Our hearts grow hard and some of those pesky “roots” of wrong decisions or bad habits make the “soil” of our lives visibly rough.
But God calls us to faithfully persist in hoeing the solid ground of our hearts and replenishing it with the needed nutrients and rich dirt that God so generously supplies. With these commands in view, John and I continue to till the soil here in Montpellier. We keep picking up the needed utensils to break up the fallow ground of our own hearts and then also coming along side those God has given us to serve. But we not only seek to faithfully hoe the ground, but we want to make sure that the needed nutrients of God’s Word is being poured lavishly into the soil so that the ground of people’s hearts would produce the most beautiful and fragrant “spiritual” garden for the Lord’s glory and pleasure.
As I continued working in the flower bed in our yard that day, my thoughts no longer lingered over the hardness of the ground, but my eyes began to see the end result of the fragrant lavender that will begin to grow and blossom in this rocky, clay soil. My mind likens it to the fragrance that I have delighted in as I have watched people who have turned to the One and True God and have allowed the Master Gardener to till up the fallow ground of their hearts and produce in them a fragrance that is none other than heavenly. … Oh, how fragrant heaven will be!
Keeping my eyes on the end goal changes the way I view today’s hard work in the “fields.”
“… and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Wife, mother, teacher & friend who loves to "do life" alongside others as we journey together in seeking to know God more fully and deeply. Feel free to join with us as walk through a few "French fields" ...
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