Tag Archives: Christianity

Filling the Spirit in Limoges

(And why, one wonders, is worshiping spelled with one ‘p,’ but shipping is spelled with two?)

But anyway, the end of March was blessed with a ladies’ retreat of the AECM community of churches, in French. I was privileged and delighted to be a part of this, and encouraged that I was able to participate and follow a significant percentage without the printed notes this time. It is wonderful to sing and worship with so many different Christian women from all parts of France.

Friends, some of whom I carpooled with.

Friends, some of whom I carpooled with.

Our group from the Toulouse area.

Our group from the Toulouse area.

Making a joyful noise to the Lord!

Making a joyful noise to the Lord!

Creating prayer calendars

Creating prayer calendars

Sunday lunch, after worshiping at the church in Limoge.

Sunday lunch, after worshiping at the church in Limoge.

Before returning to Toulouse, our carpool chose to make a visit to the ceramics museum. I get to add yet another museum to my list! I really need to make a page to collect my museum visits. I enjoy going back and remembering them.

The Museum of Limoges Porcelain, March 2014

The Museum of Limoges Porcelain, March 2014

My friend Dita in a porcelain sculpture outside the museum.

My friend Dita in a porcelain sculpture outside the museum.

The museum, decorated with enameling.

The museum, decorated with enameling.

Limoges is also known for its stained glass manufacture.

Limoges is also known for its stained glass manufacture.

More detail of the museum.

More detail of the museum.

One of many giant platters decorating the exterior wall.

One of many giant platters decorating the exterior wall.

You can see a few of my favorite displays here. Continue reading

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Holidays in France 2013

I definitely wanted to document our second year of holidays in France. For one, we made an American Thanksgiving for people here who made an impact on us and made us feel very welcome. It was a big meal in a small kitchen, but every person there was a gift we were thankful for!

A lively table of food and conversation.

A lively table of food and conversation.

We weren't just thankful for us old fogeys, either.

We weren’t just thankful for us old fogeys, either.

And I was super especially thankful that my oldest daughter had arrived from the States to join us for more than a month!

And not just thankful for the help washing dishes. Folks were pretty amazed we had no dishwasher here.

And not just thankful for the help washing dishes. Folks were pretty amazed we had no dishwasher here.

My friend Brigitte brought adorable little costume additions that we photographed the group with. I added them to our centerpieces!

A centerpiece with extra oomph!

A centerpiece with extra oomph!

We had a quiet Christmas at home, but left the next day for Paris. I’ll include the Paris photos another time.

 

Joyfully celebrating the Christ-child's birth!

Joyfully celebrating the Christ-child’s birth!

The big reveal. I am sure Theo was grateful his sister came. His dad and I are sort of boring on Christmas morning.

The big reveal. I am sure Theo was grateful his sister came. His dad and I are sort of boring on Christmas morning.

New Year’s was celebrated early, with Italy, and minimally, with a toast of sparkling pear juice. Party on, people!

So that was our Bonne Année, and I think next year we will get to have some of it back in the good ol’ USA.

 

 

 

 

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Albi and Adding Another Art Museum

Our last tourist trip this summer was to Albi, this time a daytrip date without Theodore. It was a really lovely city, and as clean as anything in Switzerland. It is also home to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum, so I have another to add to my collection. I was quite surprised at how much of his work was on, essentially, cardboard panels. Much like my sound-suppression paintings at the apartment, only studies for great artworks. Or not even studies! Starving artist isn’t always a cliché.

At the entrance to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum.

At the entrance to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum.

Coming up on Albi's centre ville.

Coming up on Albi’s centre ville.

The cathedral here is supposed to be the largest brick cathedral in France. Apparently most are made of stone.

cathedral plaza

cathedral stairs

Stoney going in.

cathedralstatues

Ornate stonework.

It may also be the gaudiest interior in France, although my sample size is rather small still.

It may also be the gaudiest interior in France, although my sample size is rather small still.

Impressive organ.

Impressive organ.

Albi’s cathedral and T-L’s museum were next to the Bishop’s home (actually, I think the museum was in the bishop’s home), and you could tour his garden. It was a little marvel.

The other side of the city in the distance.

People lining the walkway.

We considered a river boat tour, but I chickened out at the last minute.

We considered a river boat tour, but I chickened out at the last minute.

We were actually there on a holiday weekend, so there were some shops closed in spite of its touristy nature. One was the bookstore pictured, which I would totally have LOVED to see! We did manage, for dinner, an interesting wood-fire cooked pizza, in which the mushrooms were served large and entire. The pizza shop was right across from the carousel. Fun date!

The evening's entertainment.

The evening’s entertainment.

bookshop

Sad moment.

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The Oldest Basilica in Toulouse

Although we’ve been here nearly a year, we still haven’t seen a lot of the local sites. So on a recent date night, Stoney and I toured the Basilica of St. Sernin right here in Toulouse. I’ve seen quite a few basilicas at this point, so I was wondering if I would find much “new.” Well, yes…

the mix of stone and “pink” brick

the multi-tiered bell tower

the soaring barrel-vaulted ceiling, in a very old basilica

the upper gallery

Looking toward the bell tower.

Looking toward the bell tower.

Following Stoney inside. This basilica began as a Romanesque church.

Following Stoney inside. This basilica began as a Romanesque church; its construction spanned five centuries.

This thing is huge for such an early church. It even has a second-floor gallery--the first I remember seeing.

This thing is huge for such an early church. It even has a second-floor gallery–the first I remember seeing.

The organ is quite imposing.

The organ is quite imposing.

There are concerts here on occasion, and I have hopes of attending one. I am very curious what the acoustics are in here. It made for a lovely date, and a cool escape from warm weather.

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Interrupting the Tour of Italy…

to bring you a glimpse of my Ladies’ Retreat! Last weekend, our church organization sponsored a spiritual retreat for the French churches of South France with the theme of Free to Serve Him. Aside from an interest in the topic, I loved the idea of learning and worshiping alongside my sisters in Christ here. The one big hesitation I held was, well, it would be a French retreat in French. I’ve been working on this language for 10 months, but I still can’t say I speak it. One of my French friends who was attending, though, and who translates, offered to let me ride with her and the pastor’s wife, and she would make sure I understood the teaching. YES!

One of the joys of being a part of the family of God is that, where ever you go, regardless of cultural or language differences, the Holy Spirit in each of you is able to communicate a bond that transcends these barriers. Poor tribal women in the mountains of Mexico who know the Savior lit up at meeting a white, clueless English believer in Christ (and vice versa), and it is the same in France. I sang songs in French, whose lyrics I could only mostly comprehend, but some I knew in English, and what a joy! I prayed with women in French, and enjoyed 3-course French meals preceded by lovely songs that were benedictions, like we used to do in camp! And I was able to follow French Scripture readings in my English Bible.

Good food and conversation at a French retreat is a given, I guess.

Good food and conversation at a French retreat is a given, I guess.

We gather to practice a song for the host church's worship service Sunday. It was the French version of "Open My Eyes, Lord."

We gather to practice a song for the host church’s worship service Sunday. It was the French version of “Open My Eyes, Lord.”

And folks, the liberating grace and mercy of God is the same in every language! It was a first for the women of the region, and I pray it will double in size next year.

It was a mercy and a delight, though, to find that a third of the ladies in attendance, while speaking French for the retreat, were yet native English-speakers. And additionally, the matron who was caretaker of the retreat location was an  American missionary who had come to France long ago to minister to lovely French people. The world of the family of God is small indeed! I had an abundance of help with the material, and people who were ready to talk about Jesus in my own heart language, too. I did sometimes grow weary of all the foreign-ness. It is hard work and a constant alertness to focus on a foreign language, and it wasn’t just a few hours with French class. It was definitely a weekend that helped my language listening skills, though.

The location was a retreat in itself, too, though. Maubourguet is a quaint ville, and this building the retreat met at was right on the market square. Looking at the solid wall facade that faces the square, you’d never guess all the courtyard and home behind them.

The courtyard, with bedrooms, the kitchen, and a meeting room facing it.

The courtyard, with bedrooms, the kitchen, and a meeting room facing it.

This is a lovely canal that runs behind most of the building, and actually UNDER parts of it. Very cool, and the babble of the water was refreshing.

This is a lovely canal that runs behind most of the building, and actually UNDER parts of it. Very cool, and the babble of the water was refreshing.

I definitely hope I have the privilege of attending again next year!

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The Basilica di Santa Maria Novella

The first great basilica in Florence was Santa Maria Novella. It was finished in the 1300s. We visited this our last day, and it was inspiring. And just another reminder, that many of the photos I post can be clicked on to open individually, allowing you to click again to enlarge parts. This is how I found the paintings of the apostles and saints in each small arch above the entrance at the Byzantine church in my previous post. It’s like a “Where’s Waldo” for architecture!

The front of the basilica. The back is apparently what you see from the train station.

The front of the basilica. The back is apparently what you see from the train station.

These churches all seem to have a courtyard of some sort. I think they are beautiful.

These churches all seem to have a courtyard of some sort. I think they are beautiful.

The Italian courtyards have design elements as intricate as any inside the building. The window beside Stoney lead to the Spanish Chapel.

The Italian courtyards have design elements as intricate as any inside the building. The window beside Stoney lead to the Spanish Chapel.

A close-up of the columns.

A close-up of the columns.

The frescoes in this section are quite damaged; to be expected, I guess, in an area exposed to the elements.

The frescoes in this section are quite damaged; to be expected, I guess, in an area exposed to the elements.

See inside the chapel and basilica here

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Churches in Florence

My one great regret in Florence occurred at the end of Sunday, walking back to our hotel after a long day on our feet. It was growing dark, and singing was wafting from a recessed doorway. Suddenly Theo realized the tune was familiar. I stopped dead, recognizing an often-sung praise tune. Oh joy! Brothers and sisters in Christ, worshiping here, in Italy! I know this should not be a surprise to me, but I wasn’t looking for it here, in this non-descript stone building. My legs almost carried me up the dark stairs to the low light inside, but my tired guys had only paused. I was torn, knowing I would not be unwelcome in that body even if none spoke English (highly unlikely from my experience), but I followed my exhausted fellows. Only later did I realize that I could have gone in and let my traveling companions proceed without me. I really think I could have found my way back to the hotel myself. It is the one thing I did not do that haunts me. But what a reminder that the true Church is not these massive towers and domes of stone or brick. All of the houses of worship we visited house that Body; they are NOT that Body!

Any European city seems to be riddled with churches, most of notable beauty. Florence was no different.

A beautiful church door.

A beautiful church door.

Many of them have these cool domes along with the bell towers.

Many of them have these cool domes along with the bell towers.

Ornate carcing on a church otherwise much covered, in the process of being refurbished.

Ornate carving on a church otherwise much covered, in the process of being refurbished.

Pretty much all the churches we saw charge to come in and look around, and considering the serious brand names of the contributing artists in the churches of Florence, I can see why. You have to pay for wear and tear after all that foot traffic somehow. But as a result, we only went in one…

The ? cathedral.

The Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, opposite the train station.

I’ll save all my Basilica di SMN photos for another post. My favorite church we only stumbled upon accidentally, returning from our iffy bus ride, and never even got inside its gate. It was a tiny little Byzantine-style Orthodox church.

I'm pretty sure this is the Chiesa Russa.

I’m pretty sure this is the Chiesa Russa.

The onion dome spires were distinctive, and this rainy day doesn't really bring out the vivid colors.

The onion dome spires were distinctive, and this rainy day doesn’t really bring out the vivid colors.

Beautiful entry! It shimmers and glows even in the rain.

Beautiful entry! It shimmers and glows even in the rain.

So next time, I’ll share with you our tour of the Basilica di SMN.

 

 

 

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Easter in France

Our first Easter in France has been interesting. It is noticeably more low-key than in the States, with the exception of the chocolate. The section for Easter chocolate is at least as big as the Christmas chocolate, and definitely more artistic and creative. Sure, there are your bunnies and your eggs; but the chickens and roosters were a little surprising. I love the hens ON eggs! But why all the other farm animals? And why the FISH? I was so mystified, I went looking online for an answer…

I found some here… but also asked my Thursday French teacher, who explained the link to Lent and the fishes. But she also confirmed the strange April Fool’s prank of the paper fish on the back of an adult, with much giggling and calling of “poisson d’avril!”

Theodore’s Easter chocolate:

These are his chocolates from us. Notice the chocolate pig is atop a pile of fish.

These are his chocolates from us. Notice the chocolate pig is atop a pile of fish.

The piggie with his fish collection.

The piggie with his fish collection.

When the neighbors came for dinner, they brought us these bells. (See the website for why bells.)

When the neighbors came for dinner, they brought us these bells. (See the website for why bells.)

Inside Theo's little bell...surprise!

Inside Theo’s little bell…surprise!

Our bell had a surprise, too!

The Lindt bunny is from the grocery, but the bells were from a chocolaterie in our ville.

The Lindt bunny is from the grocery, but the bells were from a chocolaterie in our ville.

I like the quieter Easter. The yards of the homes in our neighborhood ring with the sounds of children playing, as friends and family gather together. I only wish we could marry the simplicity and relationship-orientation of the French observation with the purpose and depth of the true purpose of the holiday I experience at home. In the States, there is a clamor of opposing observances, and even sincere followers can become distracted.

This holiday, this holy day, is a measured walk from death to life, from dark to light, and from hopelessness to hope and joy realized. Our church had set up a stations of prayer for Friday and Saturday, with guided reflections on the hands of Christ. It wsas profound and beautiful. It would be a perfect marriage with our Kansas church’s Good Friday service, worshipping and reflecting through song and Scripture from light to dark. Without the garish circus surrounding this day, I really got to grow in my gratitude. Thank you again, my Jesus, for taking my place.

 

 

 

 

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Making a Difference in One Life

I haven’t given an update on our Compassion child in quite a while, so I thought this would be a good opportunity. I really wasn’t sure what to expect when we first began our sponsorship. We hoped to make a difference in the life of a girl in India, to help one girl at least to realize her innate value to God, and to grow strong because of it. (You can read about our Compassion journey under the Category “Compassion” to your left).

I pray we are succeeding, but through her correspondence my hope has grown a bit. First, I can SEE with my own eyes that we have made a physical difference in Pavithra’s life! Theo and I chose her out of so many little girls in India in part because she looked, well, hungry. She seemed thinner than so many others, and hollow-eyed. She was a rural child, and our reading led us to believe that her female-ness might be even less welcome there than in an urban family. This winter we finally received an update photo, and she has filled out beautifully! She is wearing clothes our gifts provided, including shoes, which she mentions in her letters, and her cheeks are filled out, and her arms look strong and healthy. I nearly cried to see the difference in her! If we have provided nothing else, we have supported the means to help her live strong and healthy through Compassion’s aid. I would show a photo, but I really want to protect her, even her image.

Second, I hear a difference in her letters. She has grown from fill-in-the-blank response sheets to interactive conversation. She writes a half page, and tells about things in her life, and responds often to something mentioned in ours. I can tell she is beginning to grasp this concept of a conversation over time in print. And delightfully, we are beginning to hear a little about her family, too! And this opens my dreams up…are we influencing her whole family toward Christ through Compassion? Not one child, but four people? What an encouraging thought, and how it has expanded our prayers! I begin to see in her letters a sense of a dream, a desire to do and be better. How I pray that I might encourage that and feed those young sparks of flame!

Our last letter was hand-carried back to the States with my husband and mailed from there (it has to go to Colorado for processing, and so much cheaper and surer to send it from Kansas than France). It was the sort I couldn’t do as an email letter: one side was a cut-out of my hand, and the other, Theo’s. Accordion-folded between them was a yard of paper with the verse “You are loved with an everlasting love” printed on. It should be unexpected and unusual enough to grab her attention, and I hope it delights her. I also hope she gets it before Easter!

I am glad God pointed us to Compassion International.

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The Cloister Garden in Barcelona

Beside the Cathedral is incorporated a cloister garden. It has a lovely fountain and pond, and for the holidays, a large nativity.

A shepherd watching wise men come to visit the baby Jesus. I know...not the Biblical chronology, but it saves time.

A shepherd watching wise men come to visit the baby Jesus. I know…not the Biblical chronology, but it saves time.

A frog fountain in the lovely pond.

A frog fountain in the lovely pond.

Why the lovely pond? Because traditionally the cloister is home to 13 geese. This cathedral is dedicated to Saint Eulalia, a girl martyr who is reputed to have stood for her faith against the Romans, and was martyred at 13. One goose for each of her years. Here is one…

A picturesque little goose perched on the pond. A dozen more out of sight around the corner.

A picturesque little goose perched on the pond. A dozen more out of sight around the corner.

Theo descending to the resting place of the martyred girl, beneath the raised altar area.

Theo descending to the resting place of the martyred girl, beneath the raised altar area.

The garden is surrounded on most sides by little crypt alcoves. One had a most dramatic carving atop its stone sarcophagus-thingie, and I had to try and record it for myself, but I couldn’t get a good photo. For one, the expectation is that you will show respect for each crypt area and not treat it like a celebrity photo opportunity; and for another, they are all seriously gated off to protect the MASSIVE amounts of gold leaf in so many of them.

Christ retrieved from the cross, in the arms of Joseph of Arimethea, and mourned by weeping women, presumably one of which is his mother. I wish I could have studied it closer and longer!

Christ retrieved from the cross, in the arms of Joseph of Arimethea?, and mourned by weeping women, presumably one of which is his mother. I wish I could have studied it closer and longer!

Next I’ll take you up in the Cathedral’s elevator (which probably isn’t original, I’m sure).

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