The world can be such a merry-go-round at times!
When I was little, I hated when it was my turn to “push” my friends on the merry-go-round. I’d run and run until I could hardly keep up with the momentum I’d created. While my playmates cried, “Faster! Faster!” my heart and head screamed, “LET GO!!!”
Sometimes I still feel that way. I want to say, “No really. You guys go on ahead without me. I’ll catch up soon…honest.”
But in the same way that I instinctively knew I’d better not let go of the merry-go-round (or I’d face certain destruction) I know I need to just keep running with the pace of the days at hand as well.
We returned home a week ago today, but in many ways, our time in France seems like a life-time ago already. We came home to many activities (not the least of which has been our daughter and son-in-law, along with 21 month old son, Elias and brand new son, Declan staying with us for a while). VBS was already in full swing, laundry, illness, appointments and so forth have all clamored for my attention when what I really want to do is collect my thoughts and write them down before they fade into the haze that is becoming my memory.
Someone asked my husband what his one biggest impression of his time was. He answered that the work is vast.
I would agree with his assessment, but with so many swirling thoughts I don’t know that I could have come up with one answer!
We worked with two different missionary families, and their approaches to their work could not have been more different, but I learned a great deal from each of them. We spent a little over a week in the city and almost a week in the country. We saw every day, ordinary life and we saw special events. All of it was good and all of it taught us much.
I loved watching my children have opportunities to be their own, individual selves, with unique gifts and struggles to work through. I was happy to see them rise to challenges and scared to death a few times when they were facing them.
I felt inadequate and victorious at the same times. Inadequate because I knew I had so little to offer, and yet victorious over little things – like communicating in a combination of English and French to the point of real understanding.
We were exhausted and exhilarated by the quick pace and the many tasks we were asked to do. We never really slept enough or well to feel rested, but we got up each morning with enthusiasm for what the day would bring.
I came away with a new appreciation for the transition that happens when you move to a new country. Everything – E-V-E-R-Y T-H-I-N-G, is hard. Buying a train ticket is hard. Going to the grocery store is hard. Learning the traffic rules is hard. Speaking the language is hard. Meeting new people ALL the time is hard. There are so many “comforts” that we take for granted when we are familiar with our surroundings. We know the route to take to get to the bank and we know when it will be open. We know where the pharmacy that is open 24 hours is (we know that there are pharmacies open 24 hours!). We know where the best places to get produce, or meat, or pizzas are. We know what restaurants are good and which ones to avoid. We know where our friends life – we have friends! We know how to use the telephone – we can understand and be understood on the telephone!
All of these things are new and strange to navigate in a different country. We found these things to be difficult when we lived in England, but we were at least able to understand (mostly) the language. In France, all of this was compounded by not only a language barrier but a real cultural difference in how we even approach these things.
In France, all the houses we went by had a tall fence or hedge along the front of the property. You could see the tops of houses, but not too many front doors or yards. The fences and hedges said, “keep your distance.” How do you share the Good News with people who don’t want to let you in?
A suspicion of strangers was palpable – how does one become known to a people who seem to say, “stay away”?
All of these things are every-day struggles for the families we stayed with and worked with, but they have both found beautiful ways to overcome them.
I have much to learn, and am so thankful that they were willing to spend their time and efforts teaching us what it is like to live amongst and love the French people.
More thoughts to come… but dinner and laundry call