Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Exploring Paris

My weekend was full of sniffles, tissues, and lots and lots of sleep. I caught a cold, and it wasn't terribly pleasant. But Madame R took good care of me, making sure I ate and took some medicine (both of which I would have willingly neglected. Who needs food and medicine?). She did not need to encourage me to sleep. I did that just fine on my own. I was so tired, and I knew that I needed to get better fast. Paris was calling my name, and on Monday I was going to visit the City of Lights with two new friends. 

 I woke up on Monday morning feeling much, much better. Unfortunately though, when I went downstairs to make breakfast, Madame R asked me how I was and all that came out was a squeak.

"You have lost your voice!"


"I realized I can't make it on the 26th."


"Are you still going to Paris?"


I was determined to go, voice or no voice. Luckily it came back to me, though a little froggy sounding at first.

I hadn't actually seen much of Paris since coming to France. (I know, so sad). It's so very close, and so very tempting for me to hop on a train and explore the city all by myself. But I've been warned that I should make sure I go with someone else, so I try to heed good advice.

 I love Paris. All the people. All the bustling about. All the colors. All the smells, sometimes wonderful and sometimes not so wonderful. All the history It's a city that could be explored for decades.

And it was really great getting to know the two girls I went with a little better. One of them I met at Café Anglais, and she also comes to church with us occasionally. She invited me to go into Paris with her and her younger sister since they are on holiday this week. Her sister is named after one of the first ever French martyrs. I think that's the coolest thing ever. And I'm excited to see where God might lead my relationship with these two girls.

In a couple of days I have some more exploring to do. We're headed down to a Bed & Breakfast in some fascinating town in Burgundy. I'd love to tell you where, but I can't remember..... despite the fact that I've been told at least a dozen times. Those French names are just so hard to remember sometimes....

After the Bed & Breakfast, we're headed up into the Alps for a GEM France retreat. Yep. That's a retreat for the Greater Europe Missionaries in France. I'm really excited to meet everyone and explore the Alps and learn more about other mission work in France and see the cool things God can make out of rocks.

Yep, that's me in front of the Louvre. No big deal. 
I spy something strange hanging from a window of the Louvre... Ten points to whoever can tell me what it is!
Bonne semaine à tous!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Others May, You Cannot

I was trying to think of the words to share part of what God has been teaching me this week, when I remembered that they had already been written out much better by someone else. I pray that the words of G.D. Watson will be as challenging, convicting, and encouraging to you as they have been to me.

Others May, You Cannot

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 
(Matthew 16:24-25) 

If God has called you to be truly like Jesus in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience that you will not be allowed to follow other Christians. In many ways, He seems to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.  

Others who seem to be very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and scheme to carry out their plans, but you cannot. If you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent. 

Others can brag about themselves, their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.  

Others will be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or having a legacy left to them, or in having luxuries, but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury. 

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward while keeping you hidden in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade.

God may let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit, but He will make you work and toil without knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done; this to teach you the message of the Cross, humility, and something of the value of being cloaked with His nature.  The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over.

So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you.

God will take you at your word. If you absolutely sell yourself to be His slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other people say and do many things that you cannot. Settle it forever; you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue or chaining your hand or closing your eyes in ways which others are not dealt with. However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven, the high calling of God.

By G.D. Watson

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Portraits: Monsieur J

I met him less than 24 hours after I first arrived in France. Everyone was new to me, every face unfamiliar, and every story yet unlearned. I don't think I remembered a single person's name that day. But I remember that I could tell that God was doing something in him. Indeed, He really was doing something. Less than two weeks later, I watched as this man prayed to put his faith in Jesus Christ.

Five years ago he used to mock his sister for her faith. I can't imagine how she must have felt, the anguish she must have gone through that her twin brother mocked the God she loved, that he rejected the only One who could give him life. I hear she often worried that he would die before he gave his life to Jesus. But five years later.... five years later he believes! Does not your heart rejoice at His great faithfulness and mercy?

God's still working in him so very deeply. It's just one of those things, where I can look at him and I can just tell. And it's certainly not because he has told me so. His English isn't so good, and my French is awful. We don't really converse much past the 'bonjour' and 'au revoir' even though I see him several times every week. In addition to our language barriers, he's extraordinarily shy. He doesn't say much. He's never the center of attention. And I don't really know, but I have a feeling that when he does speak, it's when he's got something important to say. Although I can't really test this theory, because usually I only hear him speak French.

He doesn't have a job, and until recently, not much of a social life either. He loves mechanics, and hates celtic music according to his sister (she loves it). He's eager to study the Bible and learn more about He who is Savior. From what I can tell, he takes every single little opportunity he can get to know more about Him.

My vision? I want to see him know God better than any other man in France. I pray that He will have a never ending thirst for Him, for His Word, for His life. I hope to see him become a great teacher, preacher, and theologian. I hope to see his life forever changed and marked by Him. I hope to see a man who forsakes everything to follow, who picks up his cross daily, who goes ever deeper into fellowship with his God. I  can't make this happen in his life, but I can pray, and I'm quite sure God will be happy to do it. Will you pray with me?

Monday, October 17, 2011

One Month and Counting....

Thirty days. One month. Four weeks.

And counting.

I can't believe it's already been that long. The time has flown by. It feels like only a week ago I stepped off of that airplane onto French soil looking forward to the adventures that would take place (and maybe a warm bed and a cup of coffee). I had a feeling that time would go by really fast. It generally does when you're in a new and exciting place.

Living in a different culture is difficult. Every moment is an effort, every day is learning a new lifestyle. Things which took no thought before suddenly become mini crises, and some things are learned the hard way. "Note to self: when going grocery shopping, please remember that everything you purchase must be brought back via bus and quite a bit of walking." Some things about France I really, really enjoy. Some things I'll never understand. Like the fake-kiss thing you have to do with every single person every single time you arrive and depart somewhere. I can't even tell you how many complete strangers I've bumped cheeks with while making kissy noises. And however awkward that might sound, the French make it so natural. And perhaps it is natural, because it's a tradition that's been passed down for centuries I'm sure.

I feel like I never really know what's going on. I'm not usually quite sure if I've said or done the right thing, or if I've done a silly American thing that hopefully everyone will forgive me for. I desperately hope that people won't speak French to me, even though I really need to practice. Even though I know a few phrases here and there, the thought of actually using them makes me a little panicky. And while I can usually pick up on the general gist of the conversation (if the people are Americans or maybe even French talking extremely slowly), I don't really know exactly what they're saying. An effort, every moment is an effort.

A few days after I got here, I had a moment of near horror as I was watching the many high school aged students walking by on the street below. I wanted to talk to them, to share Jesus with them. But then I realized that even if I did somehow miraculously get the chance to talk to them, I would only be able to speak to those who knew English. It broke my heart thinking about it. Only those who speak English....  Who is going to share the gospel with them in French? How are they going to hear? 

I feel helpless here. But it's kind of okay. Because this feeling of helplessness has caused me to lean on Him like I never have before. That's the best. thing. ever. I wouldn't trade my position in Him for anything. And I'm so glad I'm in France.

Sometimes on my walks, I watch people go by, and my heart becomes so heavy when I think about the fact that there's a 99% chance that they don't know Him, because only 1% of the population really does. And I feel like they're all little droplets of water that slip through my fingers, because I just can't reach them.

There's an excerpt from one of Amy Carmichael's books that I read recently that resonates deep within me. It seems like she looked into my heart and scripted the way I see the people here. One month into my France adventure, and this is how I feel....

The tom-toms thumped straight on through the night, and the darkness shuddered round me like a living, feeling thing. I could not go to sleep, so I lay awake and looked and I saw as it seemed, this:
That I stood on a grassy sword and at my feet a precipice broke sheer down into infinite space. I looked but saw no bottom–only cloud shapes, black and furiously coiled; and great shadowed, shrouded hollows and unfathomable depths. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth.
Then I saw forms of people moving single file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding onto her dress; she was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step; it trod air. She was over and the children over with her. Oh, the cry as they went over.
Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters–all were blind, stone blind. All made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks, as they suddenly knew themselves falling and a tossing up of helpless arms catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly and fell without a sound.
Then I wondered, with a wonder that was simply agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground. And I could not call; though I strained and tried only a whisper would come. Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals, but the intervals were far too great. There were great wide unguarded gaps between and over these gaps the people fell in their blindness quite unwarned. And the green grass seemed blood red to me and the gulf yawned like the mouth of hell.
Then I saw, like a little picture of peace, a group of people under some trees with their backs turned towards the gulf. They were making daisy chains. Sometimes when a piercing shriek cut the quiet air and reached them, it disturbed them and they thought it a rather vulgar noise. And if one of their numbers started up and wanted to go do something to help, then all the others would pull that one down. “Why should you get so excited about it? You must wait for a definite call to go. You haven’t finished your daisy chains yet. It would be really selfish,” they said, “to leave us to finish the work alone.”
There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get more sentries out. But they found that very few wanted to go, and sometimes there were no sentries set for miles and miles of the edge. Once a girl stood alone in her place waving the people back; but her mother and other relations called, reminded her that her furlough was due. She must not break the rules. And being tired and needing a change, she had to go and rest for a while. But no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell like a waterfall of souls.
Once a child caught at a tuft of grass that grew at the very brink of the gulf. It clung convulsively and it called, but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of the grass gave way and with a cry the child went over, its two little hands still holding tight to the torn-off bunch of grass. And the girl who longed to be back at her gap thought she heard the little one cry. She sprang up and wanted to go, at which they reproved her reminding her that no one is necessary anywhere. The gap would be well taken care of they knew, and then they sang a hymn.
Then through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million broken hearts rung out in one full drop, one sob. And a horror of great darkness was upon me for I knew what it was–the cry of the blood. Then thundered a voice, the voice of the Lord, and He said, “What has thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground.”
The tom-toms still beat heavily. The darkness still shuddered and shivered about me. I heard the yells of the devil dancers and the weird, wild shriek of the devil-possessed just outside the gate. What does it matter after all? It has gone on for years. It will go on for years. I make such a fuss about it. God forgive us. God arouse us. Shame us out of our callousness, shame us out of our sin.
The Cry of the Blood from Things As They Are by Amy Carmichael

Oh God, convict the hearts of France.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Portraits: Madame R

Today I feel her pain, this woman who I can hear shuffling things about in the other room.

God coordinated our meeting, I'm sure of it. You see, she's friends with a woman who is friends with the couple who were looking for a place for me to stay. When she found out that an American girl was looking for a room to rent from someone, she offered to house me. She didn't know me. She didn't know what kind of person I am, or whether I would be a good person to live with. She said that if I didn't rent from her, she probably wouldn't rent to anyone else. She just wanted to help me. And so here I am, living with her.

Her husband died in December. I hear he was Protestant. I sincerely hope that he knew Jesus when he left this earth. When I look at his pictures, I'm certain that we would have been friends. He had one of those smiles that makes you just know you could get along with him. And the house is filled with evidences that he loved both photography and traveling. See? We would have gotten along splendidly. But he's not here anymore.

That thought actually makes me kind of sad for his loss, even though I never met him. And as I'm struck by the fact that me, a complete stranger, is saddened by his passing, I'm overwhelmed when I think of how much she must miss him. There's a notepad on the refrigerator that was his at one time. It has his name printed on every page. The other day, as I was standing there thinking about breakfast, I noticed that the current page had his name scribbled out. My heart ached so much as I wondered what she must have been thinking, feeling when she did that.

Part of me feels glad that I'm able to live here with her so she doesn't have to be quite so alone. But then, part of me feels bad about it too. I wonder if every time she sees me she remembers that she once lived with someone else. I know that I will never be able to bring her the happiness that I'm sure he once did.

But He can, and more so.

And so now you better understand my desire for her to know Him. Perhaps she does already, I'm not sure. Is her involvement in the catholic church a result of her loving Him and serving Him, or is it a result of tradition and perhaps boredom? I can't know, but I will pray.  Will you pray with me?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"How is life in France?"

I've been trying to write a new post for almost a week now. I've been wanting to answer the question, "How is France?" which I have been asked so many times and have never yet given a satisfactory answer to. I've already written about three different posts in the last week, actually. But none of them have been quite worthy of the "Publish" button. I'm not sure why, except that maybe I can't seem to make my words capture the wonderfully intricate and difficult things on my mind and in my heart. I sit here and cry as I think about what part of my journey thus far I want to share with you. And I don't want you to think that they are tears of regret, self pity, or hardship. Rather, they are tears of joy, of love, of burden, and of hope.

I've been crying a lot since I came to France, but never for the reasons one would expect. You see, people praying and worshipping in other languages makes me cry. Just imagine trying to get through a church service entirely in French! And when I pray for the people of France to know Him? I cry. Because I want them to know Him so bad. And when I dream of  what God might want to do in this country, what they've needed for so long, I cry, because it is so merciful of Him. And perhaps all this seems normal to you, but it's not for me. I'm not a crier, and I laugh as I write this because it seems like there have been a lot of tears in my life for the last year, and so probably no one believes me anymore when I say that.

Sometimes being in France makes so much sense. Sometimes I feel like God made me just for this. But then, other times I feel so inadequate, like there would be someone else who is so much better at this that God could have sent instead. Like maybe someone who is good at small talk and speaks French.

One of the best things about fundraising was the fact that when people gave money to the ministry, I knew that they would also most likely invest with prayer. And that is such a comforting thought to me, because ministry in France is so hard. I need prayer, and every single person I come across needs prayer. It's a burden too great for me to bear. Indeed, it's a burden that I'm not meant to bear alone. Living in France is hard. But it is so good, and I wouldn't change any of it for anything. I'm so glad that it's hard. I'm so glad that it's too  much for me to handle. I'm so glad that I'm in way over my head, because these are the circumstances that God loves best to display His glory and power, and I want to see that so desperately.

The last several days God brought me nearer the Refiner's Fire. I don't quite know what to say when people ask me what I did over the weekend, because quite honestly I spent nearly the entire time (except for church and skyping my family) locked in my room with Him. How do you explain that to someone who would claim that God does not exist? It's crazy even for many who believe in Him. But it was so much better than anything I could have dreamed up myself.

He allowed me to better understand Himself and the gospel, and it was so sweet and convicting. When I look at Him, it is so obvious to me that I do not and cannot add up. I try so hard, but I cannot even comprehend what He has done for me. What levels He has stooped to in order to rescue me! What humility He had in Himself to die, for me! What grace, what mercy, what love. And now, that I can be with Him, that He can look at me and call me 'beautiful' because He has dressed me in His Son.... To know that it is not anything that I have done or can do, and that His love for me is not dependent on my actions or goodness. I am so humbled. I am so unfit for the Kingdom. I was clothed in filthy rags, but the story doesn't have to end there. I can never measure up, but I don't have to anymore. That reality makes me yearn to serve Him and worship Him more than anything else. Yes, He brought me nearer the Refiner's Fire, and I think I've decided to camp out there for good. Of course, that doesn't mean I am to pitch my tent. But if the Fire moves, I'm moving with Him!

I love that I see Fall when I look out my window

He's teaching me just to be with Him. He's teaching me that I don't have to perform in order to bring Him pleasure. He already looks at me with love in His eyes, and that's all the motivation I need. But oh, just to sit with Him. Just to walk with Him. Just to be with Him.... You'll never understand until you have tried it.

So, "How is life in France?" you ask me. Hard. Because they don't love Him. Tearful. For so many reasons. Overwhelming. Because there are so many who need to know Him. But never lonely, because He is with me. Never bad, because He is with me. Never too much, because He is with me. I have peace, and joy, and love, and stability, and kindness.... all because He is with me. Don't worry about me, just pray that here in France, we'll come to know Him. Some of us will come to know Him more. And some will come to know Him for the very first time. I smile at the thought.

 “You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; You have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes, With a single strand of your necklace.” (Song of Solomon 4:9)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I had heard rumors (mostly on the internets) before I came about how French people just do not smile at random strangers. Unfortunately, I also heard rumor (also on the internets), that if you do happen to accidentally smile at a passing stranger in the street, they usually think you're making fun of them in your mind (if they're female) or welcoming advances (if they're male). This effectively caused me to plan to never make eye contact, especially if it involved smiling, with a stranger in France ever. Ever ever. 

The beautiful roses that greeted me when I first moved in
So that was my brilliant plan. And it absolutely failed almost the moment I stepped foot on French soil. I was just so happy to be here, finally, and so filled with joy from the Lord that I wanted to smile at every single person who walked by and tell them through my expressions that there is Hope and Life and Love! 

 My third housemate: Echo
Of course, not all of my smiles are well received. In fact, very rarely do I have a smile well received. Usually people don't even look at you when you pass by. They sort of pretend you don't exist. Occasionally someone does actually glance at you, and it's usually kind of scary because they're analyzing you and you feel like they just know all of the stupid American things you've just done and are about to do. And then there's the occasional scowl I receive in response too. But mostly people just don't look. Not even the children. 

I've made it a personal competition with myself to see how many people I can get to smile in response. So far it's been two or three. 
A lake about five minutes away

One evening, when I was walking around this lake, there was a woman walking towards me with a content expression on her face, and she was.... humming! I knew I was going to get a smile out of her. I could feel it. So as she got closer, I looked up at her and smiled, and she smiled back! And I just about did a little victory dance in the middle of the walkway because I was so excited. 

But I refrained. No need to worry. It was at that moment that I resolved that I would not hold back another smile from anyone. Not only is it difficult, but why should I try to hide the joy that He has given me? I just hope and pray that people don't think I'm mocking them or asking to be hit on. Oh the horrors. 

I'm obsessed with these trees.
In other news, the weather has been exceptionally lovely ever since I've arrived. 

It's kind of ironic, really, considering that the New Mexican in me has been craving the rain. Apparently they had a really cold, rainy summer. And then the last couple of weeks in September and beginning of October were really warm (for Paris) and extremely sunny. But today we finally got the weather I craved: overcast with a hint of rain. More rain tomorrow too, which is quite exciting. Maybe I'll even get to use my umbrella!

It takes me about 20 minutes to walk to the University where I am studying French. I'm not actually a student there, I'm just taking part in this language learning program they have there.

I've also finally learned how to use the bus system. Why, oh why, don't we have better public transport in the United States? It's quite wonderful not having a car. In fact, I rejoice that I don't have one here. Especially when I see people parallel parking.  :) What wonderful blessings He gives me.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Glory of God

Over a year ago, we listened to a sermon that deeply impacted me. I'm not even sure how it happened, really, since I didn't understand more than half of it. The only explanation I have is that God was grabbing hold of me and showing me something important. The sermon was called "Ten Shekels and a Shirt" by Paris Reidhead.

 I remember being so convicted as I realized that I really couldn't care less about God's glory. All I cared about was me. My reputation. My glory. I was not willing to be seen as a fool that God might be glorified.  I wasn't willing to be made less.

I'm so thankful that He brought this conviction to me, for He disciplines those whom He loves. That day was the first time I asked God to cause me to care more for His glory. I wanted to care. I just didn't know how to make myself.

I'll never forget the first time I realized that He had been answering that prayer, only a couple weeks later. I received a letter from a friend who had just returned from 6 weeks in France. As I read about her experience and learned how very few people worship Him, all I could do was cry and say, "God, they don't know You. God they don't know You. God, they don't know You!" I remember thinking that something had to be done. How could a people not love Him, this One who is everything to me? My heart was broken in two, and I was outraged that their Creator, Sustainer, Father, Friend, Savior is not given even the slightest acknowledgement or recognition by 99% of the country. It just isn't right.

And now that I'm here, my passion for His worship has only grown. It bothers me so much that they act like He doesn't exist, doesn't care, isn't worthy, isn't able, doesn't see.... And sometimes I just want to scream to everyone, "He's here! He's watching! He's holy! He's just, and He's made a way for you!"

Truth be told, I have no idea what I'm doing. These people are so closed off, and to speak of religion is the worst offense. Even if I were to bring it up, I am powerless to change their minds.

And so I pray, and I ask for God's help. Because the same God who convicted me of my sin of self-glorying can convict them of theirs too. I am so bothered, but I know the only Answer. His name is Jesus.  And though I don't know who I may meet while in France, or what difficulties I will face, or how to bring up the gospel and make them understand it.... none of it is an issue because I have Him. I'm living, breathing, thriving, growing, learning, exploring, and in France because of Him and for Him.

Praise God!