Friday, June 28, 2013

Between Cultures

I ate half a loaf of French bread for breakfast and I'm not sorry! My gums are a bit sore, though. You know you're eating real French bread when you cut your gums on the crust. It's all part of the fun. French bread, as opposed to the American version of French bread, has to be chewed. It doesn't melt in one's mouth. Real French bread is toothy, crusty, and hearty. And oh-so-delicious!

Our many visitors from North America re-awakened our appreciation of the goodness of French bread as they ooh-ed and ahh-ed over bakery items that have become commonplace for us. Those same visitors also brought to our attention various cultural adaptations that we have made as a family; most of which were entirely unintentional on our part.

Several people noted that we all eat with our forks in our left hands and knives in our right. We don't switch back and forth like Americans. None of us made a conscious choice to change the way we eat; yet somehow all of us have changed.

By American standards, we eat dinner "late." By French standards we eat dinner "early." It seems that a 7:30 p.m. dinner hour is a cultural compromise. Again, not an intentional one--just the way things have worked out.

And then there is the pace at which we eat, savoring both the food and the conversation. Last week I took my niece and her two friends on a picnic. I had packed a light lunch and we stopped to eat it at a road side park on the way to the château we were going to visit. After what had to be like 10 minutes, they all dusted the crumbs from their hands, stood, and started walking towards the car. I sat at the picnic table stunned, trying to figure out what was happening. Then it dawned on me--they had finished their food and were ready to go. I was lingering over my water bottle, enjoying the ambiance, just settling in. But they we done and gone.

We are living life between two cultures--both changing and being changed. Which, of course, makes me think of how I am being changed by Kingdom Culture as well.

I hope that as I immerse myself in the Word of God, as I spend time with Jesus, and as I live life for his glory, I am picking up his holy habits along the way. I hope the small changes that are being wrought in me testify to the fact that I am a citizen of Heaven. Because as a Christian, we are called to a life between cultures--to be changed by the work of Christ in our lives AND to affect change in the world in which we live.

The changes may be subtle--even unintentional, for the Spirit changes us from the inside out. But I hope that if you were to come to my house you would notice something more significant than changed eating habits. I hope you would notice a spirit that is gentler, a faith that is stronger, a love that is greater, and a joy that is brighter than the last time we met. I would hope that the same would be true for you, too. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

By the Numbers

The number of different people who have slept in our house over the past three months

The number of different people who have eaten a meal in our house over the past three months 

The number of nights we have had guests sleeping in our home over the past three months

The number of guests currently in our home

The number of times I have been to Paris in the past four weeks

The number of major projects that I neglected postponed until our guests left

The number of days that I have to complete said projects

The number of school days remaining for Graham and Chandler

The number of days until we go to Ireland for our summer vacation

The number of books on my Amazon wish list

The number of books I am currently reading

The number of puppies that were recently born to Gemma's mama

The number of puppies we will be getting

The number of cats in our house who are happy about that

The number of chapters that will be in the book that I am writing

The number of chapters that I have actually written

The number of hours I have spent working on said book over that past 6 weeks (see top three numbers)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Why not rather be wronged?

Ah, the sweet grace of conviction. Though it comes with a sting, the initial twinge fades quickly, leaving a space for grace in its wake. Confession flows from my heart reflexively--I'm eager to be rid of the poison of my sin. Repentance is a different story. How I do I walk it out?

I have recently been convicted of a negative and critical spirit. I am so grateful for the grace that revealed it, and I have confessed my negativity and criticism as sin. But the sinful behavior in which I have participated has created some residual complications. Though my sin is forgiven, there are challenges in moving forward. How do I navigate them in a way that allows God to change me. How do I cooperate with his redemptive process?

The first step is staying sensitive to the holy spirit. Because I have cherished my sin for months (yes, I have been negative and critical habitually), I can easily fall back into that sinful pattern. The moment I am convicted, I need to choose confession and repentance AGAIN. To repent literally means to turn and go the other way. When I feel the urge to engage in negative and critical thinking, I can ask the Lord to help me to turn and go the other way: With his help, I can choose to dwell on whatever is right, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is good. Believe it or not, we are not victims of our own thought patterns! With God's help we can change them.

I have not only been critical in my thinking. Sadly, I  gave word to those sinful thoughts. I said things I should not have, and my words have been destructive. Sin makes a mess, and while God faithfully forgives my sin, he often uses the consequences of my sin to refine and purify me--which, though painful at the time, is his grace-filled way of making me more like Jesus. In other words, he forgives the sin, but leaves the mess that it created. Then he patiently shows me his plan for dealing with the mess and invites me to engage in the process--not as a means of penance, but as an opportunity to walk in righteousness.

And so, with my figurative broom in hand, I am seeking his wisdom for how to move forward through my mess. I can't un-say the things that I said--you can't un-ring a bell. But I can acknowledge to the hearers that I regret saying them. Here is the tricky part: while my thoughts and words were critical, they were not untrue. In fact, the things of which I was critical remain unresolved and bothersome. But that is not the point! The point is, God wants to free me from thought and speech patterns that are corrupting my soul and pushing me toward pride and self-righteousness. He wants to teach me to extend grace in the midst of wrongdoing, and not just when others have cleaned up their act! The Lord has challenged me with this:

Why not rather be wronged?
I Cor 6:7

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul admonishes believers for suing one another in public courts of law. He is appalled at what this sort of behavior is doing to their testimony. He is disgusted that they are more interested in their civil "rights" than their moral obligation to love and forgive. So finally, in an exasperated tone he asks this question: Why not rather be wronged?

Oh how that rubs against the flesh, the flesh that resists being wronged in any way. But Paul insists that it is preferable to accept being wronged than to sinfully pursue my "rights." What about liberty and justice for all? What about calling others to account? What about speaking the truth? What about God's standards or righteousness?

I'm sure Paul knew all about those things when he penned these words. And still he penned them.

Why not rather be wronged?

Jesus said it another way: 
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
The challenge begins in choosing not to retaliate in the midst of being wronged, but It doesn't end there. The real challenge is realizing that demanding my "rights"--even when I have the right--can be wrong.

We have reduced "turning the other cheek" to simply ignoring bad behavior and not hitting back. In fact, "turning the other cheek" was much more than a refusal to retaliate--it was acceptance of yet another blow. To prefer being "wronged" to having "rights."

And so this is the path of repentance for me. To shut up even though the injustice remains. To choose to accept future injustices rather than insist upon my rights. To willingly be wronged--which is not the same thing as being victimized, for a victim has no choice in the matter. Rather than "sue" my brother--rather than verbally abuse and discredit those believers with whom I have a dispute, I am called to turn the other cheek.

Lest you think I am being spiritually superior or disgustingly unselfish, let me assure you that everything in me wants to justify my negativity and criticism as merited. And as if that were not sick enough, I have not even alluded to the possibility that I could actually be mistaken in the matter. What if my criticisms are not justified? What if they are, in fact, slander? What if I am not being "wronged" but am actually IN the wrong? All the more reason to pursue the path set out before me. For if I choose to turn the other cheek, and find a kiss in the place of an expected blow, will I not see all the more clearly the error of my ways?

So prayerfully, I inch forward, rejecting the critical thoughts and choosing pure thoughts instead. I entertain the idea that though I feel like the one who has been wronged, it is possible that I am deceived in the matter. I turn the other cheek--anticipating the possibility of a sting, but trusting that God's grace is greater. And when I sense the flesh spurring me to demand my rights, I will ask myself this question: Why not rather be wronged?

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Tearful Goodbye

I left my niece crying on the Paris Metro.

Sarah and I, in a café at Versailles, where we waited out a thunderstorm with a cup of chocolat chaud.
She was off to another adventure in Europe and I was heading back home to Loches--each of us was eager for our next destination. But tears welled up in our eyes as we rocked and swayed with the rhythm of the train, silently counting down the stops to our impending farewell. When we arrived at my station, I kissed her moist cheek before working my way through the swarm of commuters. 

Though it was hard to leave her, I have not a single worry about her capacity to find her way--she will be fine without me. It's just that our time together passed too quickly and the precious memory of her gentle presence still lingers like a sweet aroma. 

And I am thankful.

Thankful for family.

Thankful for shared joys.

Thankful for long trips and heavy backpacks and new discoveries.

Thankful for the love of a dear niece, who spent her valuable time and hard-earned money to visit me, her Aunt Jenn.

Thankful for tearful goodbyes, which always remind me that relationships are to be cherished.

Five Minute Friday

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Taste of France

I'm feeling like a bit of a tourist in my own backyard! It is so much fun to share our beloved France with visiting friends and family. In the midst of sharing a few of our favorite haunts, I am making a few delightful new discoveries.

Take, for example, this delicacy:

In a trip to Paris last week, I was introduced to a lovely little restaurant on the rue de Rivoli just along the Tuileries, called Angelinas. Their specialty is a dessert called the Mont Blanc, which has a meringue base, whipped cream filling, and a covering of chestnut flavored je ne sais quoi. It was totally delish! I loved it SO much, I plan to take my niece and her two friends there later this week. Yes, I am going back to Paris this week. What kind of aunt would I be if I didn't act as tour guide for a dear visiting niece and her darling friends? It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.

On Saturday we took the girls to Clos Lucé, the house where daVinci lived (and died). The gardens contain models of many of daVinci's inventions, like the double-decker bridge pictured above.

On the way home from Clos Lucé we stopped in the quaint village of Montrésor. I will never tire of quaint. In Montrésor we ate a goûter of pastries purchased at a local bakery. It does not suffice to simply see the sights in France, one must taste the treats. It's an essential part of the experience.

Friday, June 14, 2013


She perks up when she hears the creak of the front gate. No matter what kind of commotion is stirring around her, no matter what she is doing, no matter where she is in the house, she never misses the sound of the gate. And when she hears it, she stops whatever she is doing to head to the front door to greet me.

She abandons everything, and she runs. For me. Because I am her world, her master, her dearest love.

And when I come through the door, she wriggles with joy, leaps up, and kisses my cheeks. My dog worships me. I think I could learn something from her.

If only I listened for God like Gemma listens for me. If only I were willing to drop everything at the sound of His voice. If only I ran to be in His presence. He is my world, my master, my dearest love.

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

For the Love of "Likes"

It is not good to eat too much honey,
nor is it honorable for people to seek their own glory.
Proverbs 25:27

I love honey, so it's hard for me to know when I've had too much. Unfortunately, the same is true of glory.

I read that verse this morning in my devotions--just AFTER checking for "Likes" on Facebook and "Comments" on an article that I wrote for an on-line magazine. It's almost like God caught me red-handed! Yes, indeed, I was seeking glory for myself. 

I like to be "Liked!" I love to be "Favorited!" and I almost go gaga over "Comments." There is something seriously wrong with that. 

I could honestly say that my heart's desire is to bring honor and glory to God; yet, there is this remnant of my fallen humanity that still seeks glory for herself. Why? What value is the praise of men when I have the love and acceptance of the Father? It feeds the old ego, that's for sure. 

But really, what's the harm? So I get a kick out of people "liking" my status. Who is it hurting anyway? 

I go back to the verse for my answer. The proverb begins with a comparison. Too much honey.... Honey isn't bad. A bit of honey is downright delicious. In the same way, praise in and of itself is not bad. We are called to encourage one another and to speak well of one another. The problem comes from the seeking of it. From the addiction to it. From the need for it. 

And so I think it is okay to smile when I see that someone has commented on my blog or "liked" my Facebook status. But it is not okay for me to work diligently at writing a blog or crafting a status update for the purpose of soliciting the praise of others. Its not okay for me to find my identity and my worth through those venues. Its not okay to get depressed and eat 5 Magnum Bars when no one "favorites" my tweet. 

So what's a girl to do when her status sits unacknowledged by all her social networks? 

I need to take my eyes off the screen and turn them to the Savior. He does so much more than click "Like" or "Re-tweet!" Jesus "Favorited" me the day he died for me. He "shared" his status with me by making me his joint-heir. He "links" me to his goodness and grace every single day. What more could I possibly need? 

May everything I post and tweet and blog be for HIS glorious praise. He alone is worthy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things

While I like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, I can't say that they are my favorite things. So I've compiled my own list. Maybe next week I'll set it music. 

What do I love?
  • Chatting on Facebook with my nephew Alex, who happens to think that I am the coolest aunt in the world (and who just might be right about that).
  • Going to Paris with my friend Patti, which I will get to do tomorrow! We're on a quest to find the best gelato in the City of Lights. I'll let you know what we discover.
  • Playing fetch with Gemma, who never tires of the game. 
  • Making crazy bird calls to get Chandler's attention when we see him in his science classroom across the street from our house--which is super fun now that the school has their windows opened during the school day. (Think Three Amigos).
  • A freshly mopped kitchen floor!
  • Learning to live in community, even when it costs me something, because I am convinced that this is how Jesus meant for us to live life.
  • Flower boxes the are bursting with color and overflowing with blossoms.
  • Spontaneous kisses from a husband in passing. Watching an episode of M*A*S*H with him while snuggling in bed. Hearing his voice when he picks up the phone. Seeing him wink at me from across the room. Holding his hand as we walk to church. Making him laugh.
  • Teenagers who say, "Hey, can I talk to you about something?"
  • Running (with a friend) around the ramparts of the medieval city in which I live.
  • Speaking French.
How about you? What are a few of your favorite things?

Friday, June 7, 2013


Today I explored the château at Villandry with a friend who is visiting from the States. Actually, we explored half of  France on our way there as the maps on my GPS are slightly outdated! It was worth the trip!

The inside of the château was lovely and well furnished--but alas, no flash photos are permitted so you'll just have to come and see it for yourselves. And as glorious as the château was, the gardens were even more glorious!

They were terraced on three different levels and comprised of herbs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. 

This isn't just a pretty water feature, it is a working irrigation system!

The Château Villandry is definitely worth a visit!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bienvenue !

Welcome to the newly designed Four for France blog! Didn't Emily from Designer Blogs do a great job? I am so happy with her work!

(If you receive this post by e-mail, be sure to click on over to see our new digs!)

Here is a quick tour of some of the new features:

  • First, glance up at the tab on your browser and feast your eyes on the cutest little FAVICON ever! Isn't it adorable? I'm lovin' my fleur de lys!
  • Second, take a look at the bottom of this post. Each post will now have a plethora of SHARING options. If you like something that you read here, you can simply click on one of the buttons below and share it with the people in your networks your dearest friends. 
  • Third, notice the SOCIAL NETWORKING buttons on the sidebar. Those buttons will take you straight to my other Internet haunts. I'd love to be able to connect with you through those venues, so be sure to link up with me if you're in the neighborhood.
  • Finally, feel free to grab my BUTTON for your blog! If you are a fellow blogger who would like to provide a link back to Four for France, the HTML code is yours for the taking right there on the lower part of the sidebar. 
Well, those are the highlights! Let me know what you think! 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Little Birdie Told Me

An American who hears something through the grapevine might say, "A little birdie told me..."

But in France, the saying is "Mon petit doigt m'a dit..." or "My little finger told me..." No matter how you say it, I've got some news!

But first, can you believe my rose bush? It is absolutely exploding with blossoms! My secret? I totally ignore it year round. I don't know a thing about rose bushes, but this one seems to thrive on neglect.

Speaking of neglect, I have been remiss in maintaining a visually pleasing blog. I'm all about the words. So David and I began considering some options for "sprucing up" this little corner of the world wide web, and I am pleased to tell you (via little birdie or little finger, whichever you prefer) that Four for France is being professionally redesigned this very moment. For better or for worse, verbal content will remain pretty much the same; but most everything else will be receiving a much-needed face lift! All sorts of new features are being added, and once the new design is active, I'll give you virtual tour. I am SO excited!

In other news, we made a recent trip to the US Embassy in Paris. We had to go there to renew the boys' passports, which expire next month. The place was packed to the gills with tourists looking to replace lost or stolen passports. Doesn't anyone watch Rick Steves anymore? Pay attention, people! Paris is PACKED with pickpockets, and I promise you this: they can spot you a mile away. Travel wisely, my friends. Then you can spend your time in the Louvre, atop the Eiffel Tower, or strolling the Seine rather than wasting away in a boring bureaucratic building!

Gemma went with us to Paris, but she was not impressed. Too much traffic for her taste. She and I had a nice stroll along the Tuileries where we were confronted by a strung-out man looking for some money (which, by the way, I had none). I was just about to be afraid when a friendly Gendarme came by and shooed the man away. Suddenly I had a bit more sympathy for the shaken tourists at the Embassy. Clearly, my brave guard dog was not very intimidating! Here's Gemma at a Paris café, where we happily waited while David and the boys explored a nearby guitar store. Not every puppy gets to go to Paris!

Chandler, who is in Seconde (the French equivalent of an American Sophomore) is required to do a two-week internship in June. Since he would like to be a doctor, he was hoping to find something in the medical field. Privacy laws, however, made it complicated for any General Practitioners to take him on. After much prayer and a fair bit of asking around, he will be doing his internship at the local Lab. The doctor there was happy to take him, and since most everything in the lab is processed anonymously, there was no problem with privacy issues! So June 17-29 Chandler will be working at le Laboratoire de Loches. Cool stuff!

Both boys have school until the end of June and David is back working on his Master's of Divinity full time, so I will be amusing myself by entertaining guests from the States! Today my friend Patti (who is really more like a sister) arrives! Next week I'll have the joy of hosting my niece, Sarah, and two of her friends. Its a tough job, but someone has to do it. :)

Well, that's all this little birdie has for today! Check back soon for the NEW and IMPROVED Four for France!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Forgiven, again

Just when I think I'm growing; just when I think I have finally grasped something about what it means  to belong to Jesus; just when I think that maybe I'm actually doing that thing he made me to do, I fall face first into the reality of my own brokenness.

I trip over an eagerness to please.

I stumble over misplaced trust.

I am overtaken by a critical spirit; I criticize myself most of all.

I am too easily wounded; too easily discouraged; too easily paralyzed.

I am steeped in awareness of my own sin; bogged down by the burden of my selfish motives; drowning in despair over yet another failure.

Flat out guilty, I ask Jesus if he will forgive me.

He says, "yes!"

(He always says, "yes.")

Then he lifts my chin and waits.

He's waiting for a willing heart. He's waiting for renewed trust. He's waiting, not for perfection, but for acceptance of his grace, his goodness, and his mercy. He's waiting for them to seep into my soul.

I unwittingly resist because I want to somehow be worthy. Or close to worthy. I'd like to find something in myself that merits this unrelenting grace. This goodness that never ends. This mercy that never asks, "Really? Did you have to do THAT again? When will you learn?"

He knows I may never learn. And still he forgives.

Finally his love wins out, breaking down the barriers to my brokenness, filling in the cracks with the salve of his his grace. Goodness and mercy follow me, no matter how often I tell them, "Go away! I'm not worth it!"

And then the joy breaks through, like the first beams of the rising sun. The joy of a soul set free, a heart bathed in redemption. Gratitude overwhelms as I once again grasp the truth of the gospel: I am forgiven.

Finally, I lift my eyes to meet his gaze. No hint of condemnation, no shadow of disappointment. Just delight in a daughter he adores.

I will never understand why he loves me, but I am so glad that he does. 
Five Minute Friday