Saturday, January 26, 2013

Happy Birthday to our 4 year-old!

I can't believe this little boy is 4.  It's been a long but fun day, and he's now happily asleep in bed.  It truly is an honor to be his father.  The last 4 years have been 4 of the best of my life.  A short look back as our little man has grown from a (africa-born) courageous lion into a (europe-dwelling) tender knight.  Love him.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Of Friends and Family

Surrounded on all sides by groomed green space and accessed by a pebbly dirt road rests a simple, elegant country house.  Inside, a fire crackles and warms the wooden living room adorned with wood-carved furniture of a bygone era, spacious red floor rugs match the couch and chair cushions.  Quiet music emanates from the decade-old stereo speakers, the only hint of technology in the room.  A wisp of cold passes through as the family patriarch opens a door to retrieve more firewood, but the door closes as quickly as the shivers of cold arrived.  The inhabitants of the room are sipping hot tea and laughing.  Elsie is dancing.  Sawyer is asking for a requin in his efforts to win a game of Go Fish.  The adults (and less-young kids) are stuffed from their abundant dinner of pasta: full of chicken and local mushrooms, walnuts, herbs, olive oil, and parmesan. My kids are full too, mostly on baguettes and French cheese.

With no distractions, no work at hand, and no worries, we dance, sing, laugh and giggle.  Our hosts continually compliment Sawyer's French pronunciation, "he has no foreign accent at all, that's amazing!"  They don't realize what we hear: "your accents are so thick it really is unthinkable that someone from your bloodline and family could speak with any clarity at all."  But the compliments flow to us as well, so we accept them and know that in this home we are welcomed and loved.  Our friend, one of the first that we considered as family in France, is ecstatic to show us her childhood home.  The next day, we go for a cold walk through a park and peer into the city.  We're all happy here.  We feel a part of a family, and we're far from the urban noise of our home (although the homeowners complain of the noisy highway recently built near their house... I slept in the room closest to it and do not remember hearing a sound).  Following our walk and playtime through the park, we return for another home-cooked delight by the wood fire.  Guinea fowl and gratin dauphinoise served en famille warms us up and the stories continue.

Following the meal, we part ways, thanking this precious family profusely for their welcoming.  We return to Marseille: to the traffic, the noise, the crowds, and the littered sidewalks.  We prepare for the Capital of Culture party which saw 400,000 in the streets in one night.  We call up our local friends, enjoy a weekend full of birthday parties, and make plans for more gatherings and excursions.

Not a day goes by here that I don't thank God for my French friends.  Without these copains (and their families) that welcome us in as their own, we would not survive this life away from all we've ever known.  And yet, we say au revoir far too often.  People move.  Internships come calling.  Opportunity knocks.  Life paths cross and then uncross and separate.  Only our Salvation and Sustainer remains constant.  But with the hurt of goodbye comes the absolute joy, the richness of having family that spans the globe.

God sustains, but in so doing He gives us persons of peace, families of faith, and friends with whom we can journey, even if only for a time.  And we do cherish the moments, every one.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Change of Focus

Oh hey there blog, you're still around?

It's New Years!  Hooray!  Odd, a holiday I've never really understood or seen much cause to celebrate seems to be a pretty big deal here in France.  The streets are more clear today than they were on Christmas.  Text messages have been rolling in all day long with well wishes for 2013.  So let's celebrate!

Yesterday morning I sat down with my Bible to read and pray.  Where to start?  In the middle of a French reading plan but on break I was at that moment of not knowing exactly where to turn.  A wise man once impressed upon me the importance of Psalm 27:4, and suddenly I felt the need to turn there again.

"One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple."

And in reading a familiar verse again, I knew exactly what I want my life to look like throughout 2013. In a world of multi-tasking, multiple degrees, accomplishments, hats, and titles, I would like one simple thing to define my life this year (and forever?).  Dwell in the house of the Lord, seeking Him and Him alone.

I remember vividly back in my university days common challenges issued by passionate speakers concerning sacrifice, commitment, and idols.  Am I willing to forsake all for the cause of Christ?  Do I have any idols in my life?  Is there anything that I would not be willing to part with?  At the time, I remember fighting with guilt over aspects of my life, even if generally good, that I simply didn't feel I could part with.  Then I eventually came to a point where I thought I could give up anything, if God asked, but that didn't mean I wanted to.

You know, as I age, I find the whole spectrum changing.  I don't feel guilt much anymore regarding the pleasures of my life.  There are things I simply enjoy doing, and many of them I believe God created and placed out there for us to enjoy.  I love hiking in His creation or soaking up the sun from a finely trimmed fairway.  I gain energy from parties with friends or time in a music studio.  But I am now finding that I actually enjoy more the time I spend at the feet of the Father in worship, or walking the streets in prayer more than the other stuff of life that I've always loved.  As I pour into Him, a lot more is slipping away.

Until I forget how much I enjoy that time with Him, that is.  Which seems to happen about every 3 days and then takes a week(s) to remember again.

I pray this year that I'll forget less, and habitual dwelling in His house will begin.