Springtime. It is only one word, but yet so many thoughts tend to come to the forefront of our minds when we linger over the memories of this season.
Springtime in the south of France is one of the loveliest times of the year. Flowers are blooming, trees are budding and everything is green. Because this is a semi-arid area, the summer months bring less of the color green and more of the earthy tones of browns and yellows, with just splashes of color here and there. But for right now, vivid "green" is on display for all to see.
On my daily walks, I have been struck by not only the new budding plants and weeds, but also by the textures that they display in our world. With the beautiful green weeds growing right alongside the wild roses or the quintessential red poppies of the South, one needs to stop and just look at the beauty that is found in the “texture” of the picture.
This image of texture in nature, draws me to linger on the correlation of texture that we find in our ministry to the international community here in the region. People from all over the world come to our city and what a wonderful sight it is to behold. Just sitting on our city tram and observing people, one can take in a myriad of cultures, languages and ethnic differences. Much can be learned about a culture by just sitting, listening and watching!
But for me, as much as I enjoy seeing the “texture” that is displayed by the people around me as I walk into the city center, it does not compare with the beauty showcased in the depth of “texture” as I walk through the doors of our church. That is beauty, my friend. Not because we have all the elements that make for grandeur or elegance in our facility. No, instead the beauty actually comes from those who walk through the doors with us. People from every tribe, nation and language, worshipping the Lord together. Unity amidst diversity… Beauty found in the texture…
We have often described our ministry as a small glimpse of heaven. John and I will recount to people the vivid image of the scene set in Revelation 7 where those who know Christ as their Savior will be found worshipping at His feet and around His throne - A myriad of people from every tribe, nation and tongue. What a humbling honor and extreme privilege we have to be able to catch a glimpse - if just only a fleeting glimpse - of what God will see before Him on that day… beauty found in the “texture!”
One of the purposes of this blog has been to help people understand and experience what life is like living in the south of France. We have sought to describe many of the cultural differences and life experiences that we have had since we moved here twelve years ago with three kids in tow. We have enjoyed writing about many of the area festivities that we have seen, the local wildlife that we have encountered, and the thrill of experiencing God’s Creation with all the diversity that fills it.
However, there is one event that we continually experience here in our “field” that we have deliberately chosen not to focus the spotlight on. It has not been for the lack of words, or even for the lack of material that we haven’t expressed these occasions. Actually, it has been because … frankly, sometimes it just hurts too much. But in order to paint the fullest picture of life here “in the fields,” we thought that it might be necessary to take you out “into our field” and not shield you from some of the hurts that we regularly feel. So in order to get the true experience, we invite you to take off your shoes with us and virtually walk through the dirt & rough stones and feel the various emotions that come along with our walk.
It’s true that the vineyards in our area are just so beautiful. Even Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president, enjoyed the fruit of these vineyards as he served as Minister to France back in the 1780’s. In his personal wine cellar at his home in Monticello, there is reported to have been many wines from our area.
But as you know, when we speak of “our field” here in France, we are referring to people and to our ministry here among the expatriates in our region, rather than the local vineyards. Because our work is among those who are foreigners in France, this means that they are often just temporarily living here. So, for us, some of our hardest moments is having to stop over and over again to say good-bye to those who are leaving us to move to another part of the world. As we take our barefoot walk together today, we are compelled to call you to linger at the various forks in the vineyard with us. We can look around at fields in our area which look so pruned with the gnarly vines gradually beginning to blossom with green leaves and knowing that eventually they will produce some luscious fruit. But as we look at God's field here in the south of France we too, can see the luscious fruit that God is developing in people's lives. And it's a beautiful sight. But yet ...even still ...the fork remains and a good bye is necessary. People today tend to define these events as “times of transition.” Frankly, we just bluntly call it “pain.”
You see we have found that amidst the joyous celebration of watching the fruit ripen, there are also days when we need to tearfully part ways with people from other countries & cultures who have become like “family” to us and to bless them as they move onto another “field” somewhere else. It’s during times like these that we cling to the “blessed hope” that is before us, knowing "sans doute” that one day we will see each other again in our heavenly home … and possibly together have a very long conversation over a very short strong cup of coffee reflecting on all that God has done.
So, it’s on days like today that we focus on what God has been doing in ripening His fruit in this field and give our international family members a huge hug and say, “à bientôt” (we will see you soon), and through the tears we try and look straight ahead into the eyes of the Author and Finisher of our faith. You see, this is His field and we just have the privilege of “tending” to it.
Thanks for taking a walk with us today…
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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