Sunday, December 19, 2010

An Evening with New Friends

Last night we spent the evening with new friends, and we were so profoundly blessed. But let me back up....

Back in September David and I joined a community choir. While we love to sing, our reason for joining had much more to do with the COMMUNITY part of the deal than the CHOIR part. Being new in town, we were looking for a place to practice our French and make some friends.

On our very first night, a fellow tenor asked David what he did for a living. David replied, "I am a pastor and a pilot." He said "pastor" because missionary would have been WAY too hard to explain. The man looked directly at David and said, "Being a pilot, that is very interesting. Being a pastor, not so much." And that was our first conversation with Bernard.

We continue to go to choir, and little by little, our ability to converse has grown. We still stumble over our sentences, but we comprehend most of what is said--which makes us a pair of really good listeners. We ask a few painfully produced questions, and then we let people talk.

But until this past weekend, we have not had anything more than passing conversations with anyone in our choir. We exchange pleasantries, comment on the weather, share what we did last weekend...that kind of thing. This is partly because the majority of our time at choir practice is spent practicing. And, of course, because getting to know people just takes time.

So on Wednesday, when we received an e-mail from Bernard and his wife inviting us to their home for dinner on Saturday night, we were delighted. This was the first time that David and I have been invited into the home of a French family; but, it is the reason we came to France...because we LOVE French people. Because God LOVES French people. And we have loved them for a long time from a distance, but finally, finally, we got the chance to begin to love them up close and personally.

And loving them is not very hard at all, because they are absolutely wonderful people. When we arrived at their home, we were pleased to see that one other couple from the choir had also been invited. We were greeted at the door in the way that friends in France greet each other--with bises--or light kisses on each cheek. Women greet each other this way and men and women greet each other this way. Men, unless father and son or some other VERY close relation, greet each other with a hand shake. I LOVE the "bis," and could think of no greater start to the evening than getting to kiss four new friends. David is still getting used to the "bis," but his sense of propriety urges him on, and he graciously doles out the "bises" when social etiquette demands them, as was the case last night.

Next we were ushered into the living room, where the cork was popped on a bottle of champagne. Six delicate glasses were sparkling with bubbles when Bernard lifted his glass to toast new friends. Next our gracious hostess brought piping hot appetizers from the oven--puffed pastries with various fillings--and offered them around. And then the conversation began in the most normal way imaginable, "What do you do?"

David explained that he was a pilot and told about the opportunities that he has to fly once he gets a handle on the French language. The question continued around the circle: I explained what I had done as grant writer for the Red Cross, we learned that both men were Information Technology Engineers, that one woman was a nuclear scientist, and that our hostess was a house wife (also an amazing cook and an accomplished artist...but those things came out later in the evening). And then Bernard came back to David and asked, "But didn't you say that you were also a pastor?" Ah, so he hadn't forgotten. "Well," David explained, "we do also plan to work with local protestant churches, helping them to plant other churches. So yes, I have two jobs to do in France." And then that was the end of that conversation.

We moved to the dinner table, where our first course of bread and salad was served. The salad consisted of endive, some kind of cheese, some pear, some walnuts, and a wonderfully light but flavorful dressing. The conversation turned to food and stayed there for much of the meal. American fast food was berated, but all expressed love for Americans in general. They even said that French spoken with an "American accent" is "charming." Who knew?

After the salad, the main course was served. I ate (and LOVED) something that I have never had before, but hope to have again: Fois Gras! It was served warm with a side of warm pear slices, and everything was rich with butter. A white wine was now opened, and small glasses were poured--it was a perfect compliment. I took full advantage of the French practice of mopping one's plate with a crust of bread, so as to get every drop of flavor!

Next came the cheese course. Six varieties of cheese were served: soft, hard, mild, strong, every texture and potency was available. A red wine was served with the cheese. Lest you be concerned about the alcohol consumption, let me assure you that quantities were small. The wine is served to compliment the meal and to enhance flavors. Though all six adults were served, neither the white wine nor the red wine bottle was emptied.

It was during the cheese course that Bernard declared to me, "You are not a true American!"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

He explained that Americans do not like all of the French cheeses, but he noticed that I was clearly enjoying each one. Ohhh, and I did. I was, however, exercising a little restraint, because I knew that a true French dinner takes marathon-like endurance, and we were not yet at the finish line. Dessert was still coming.

Chocolat mousse and a tarte au sucre. MMMmmmmm.

Finally, we moved back to the living room for tea and coffee, where the conversation moved from "places we have been" to "places we must go" to "holiday plans." As it dawned on our hosts that we only plan to live in this area for our year of language school, they seemed truly disappointed. They began to discuss ways for David and I to continue singing in their choir even after we move to another town. They even offered us a room in their home for the night of rehearsals if we would drive down, and I don't think they were kidding.

After gathering coats and another full round of bises, we walked though the snow back to our car. It was 1 a.m. Much to our surprise, we had spent five hours getting acquainted with new friends. It was a "Tangible Kingdom" kind of evening, and we are truly, truly thankful.


  1. It sounds like such a wonderful, incredible evening! What an awesome experience!

  2. The whole evening sounds truly decadent. New friends, fabulous food and a sense of being included makes my heart happy for you. Love you friend.

  3. Thank you for such a detailed description of your wonderful evening. I felt as I was reading a wonderful book. I am praying for you and your family as I know this has been an exciting but challenging year. Thank you for your comment about DeAnn and BBall. I covet your prayers with this.I also think it is so interesting that you and I can talk from such a long distance. I Look forward to hearing about your happenings in the coming year. Blessings!

  4. Wow! In my opinion I love France, it seems like a great place! :)

  5. Sounds like a wonderful evening and you have remembered to let them ask the questions. I pray God will keep them coming back with more questions to be answered.
    Have a Merry Christmas and I hope the snow doesn't get too bad.