Tag Archives: personal

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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Sometimes Experiments Fail

But it’s the experience that matters, I remind myself. I am always telling my students (and their parents) that what we learn in experiencing art is as important as the product, if not more so. I hope so here, as I don’t think much of the product this time.

It all began with a striking photo I saw on a “flyfishing in Ireland” website. It was a river tumbling down a bit of a cascade with gray rocky outcrops and green and yellow moss and shrubs. The water in the photo was almost entirely white with the flow; it looked almost ethereal.I’ve done paintings with flowing water before, to good effect, using white ink.

A non-experimental study for a painting I did for a friend.

A non-experimental study for a painting I did for a friend. Even as just a study, better than the new one.

And then I wondered, with the yellow in the plants and moss, what if the stones had more purple? So I undertook an experiment, trying to add more drama with the high contrast. And then I found that I, apparently, didn’t bring my ink. I have watercolor; I have acrylic. No ink. Could I make it work with what I have?

Not working, for so many reasons.

Not working, for so many reasons.

Well…I am going to say “no.” It’s interesting, but no, it is not what I was looking for. The actual river in Cork is much more compelling. I might try again, returning to the gray stone, once I return to the States and find my white ink. But oh well.

By the way, the photos are with a new camera my sweetie bought me. No shadow marks and spots! Thank you, Love!

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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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How Far is Too Far?

I’m a pretty game person. By that, I mean that I usually try to take what God gives each day and do the best I can with it. Some days I’m more successful than others, usually in direct relation to how closely I walk that particular day with God, honestly. Some days, though, are just hard. Whether I can count the day a success or not, whether it was fruitful or productive or a waste of space on the time continuum, some are just plain painful. That’s how life is, right? You overcome the obstacles you can, and embrace and be embraced through the ones you can’t.

That’s why I hate distance. Physical distance.

They say the world is getting smaller every day, but it’s an illusion. It may seem smaller, news near-instantaneous, a friend’s sonogram and joy shared around the world in the same virtual minute. But sometimes you can’t replace the up-close and personal. A parenthetical virtual hug doesn’t warm and lighten your heart in quite the way a real squeeze can. And sometimes I’m just too far away.

The power of human embrace.

The power of human embrace.

My husband has traveled a lot, more or less, with work. We’ve lived on both coasts at one point or another, while family, friends and other loved ones are pretty centralized. Our children had this special talent for saving illnesses for Dad’s work travel. Juggling the responsibilities of three or four young children is taxing enough alone, and then you find yourself caring for a baby with a high, unresponsive fever, or juggling two children fighting asthma in the night and taking turns on the nebulizer. Before the times of instant texting…heck, before we even carried cell phones!…that distance was concrete. There was a wall thousands of miles wide. I once tried to track down my husband in my crazy, sleep-deprived state, through friends I thought he might be having dinner with at some point on a business trip because I had no other contact point with him, including a hotel phone number, just so I could cry and yell at him for abandoning me with these sick children. The fact that they were entirely healthy when he left was lost on my delirious brain. I’m not proud of it, but there you are. He was too far away.

At one point while we were living in Georgia, my mother became sick with her third, most virulent cancer. It had invaded her brain, and I was desperate to get to her, to do anything I could to help. I had four young children and responsibilities to divest myself from. It took two weeks for me to make arrangements to leave and two days to drive to her with the kids. I felt desperately that I was too far away.

The virtual distance between me and my loved ones really has decreased over the years. We have cell phones and free long distance, skype and interactive xbox gaming. I can see my children, and play Risk with them, even though we have moved an ocean away. I don’t feel as distant as I really am most of the time, but occasionally it is just overwhelming. Now would be an example.  My precious husband went back to the States for work. A couple of days into his trip, his family called him to come, as his father was dying. Now, I am so glad my husband was only a few hours’ drive from his father, but I was an impossible ocean away from my husband. There was no way to get to him at all. I wanted so much to hug and comfort my husband, and it is impossible.

At times like this, I just wonder how I can have been ok with traveling so far. I’m ready for teleportation stations. That would so beat skype.

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Making Your Happy Place

Anytime I set up digs in a new place, I have to find ways to make a physical house feel like a home, a place where I and my family belong, as quickly as possible. While this, of course, happens naturally with time, it is better if you can begin to feel that sense of connectedness to a place, that “home-iness,” soon after moving in. It helps overcome the strangeness of everywhere else.

For me, it is a very visual thing. I have nooks now where my heart feels lighter just seeing them. Before these places were established, I really had no sense of comfort here, but now I have heart touchstones in my home.

Happy Place #1:

Happy daughters! happy me!

Obviously, seeing my beautiful daughters every day lights up my heart, but it doesn’t hurt that I did. not. have to build one STICK of this piece of furniture! Woohoo!

Happy Place #2:

My little workspot here enjoys prime morning light, on another piece of furniture I didn’t build. Well, mostly. The little bear is Theo bringing me a daisy. Awww….. It’s a place of my own. It needs light at night, though. I am looking for a lamp, which I will probably place on something I put on the floor to the left. I want the height to highlight, not obstruct, my Starry Night.

There you go…home! What are your home’s happy places?

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The Insidious Tide of the Unfamiliar

I love beach life. there was a point at which we lived on the US West Coast. The stretch of beach near our home was a fairly safe place to play. The sand was wide and flat, even at high tide. The drop in the surf at low tide was significant enough, though, that warnings were occasionally posted at the entrance advising of rip tides. This isn’t something you see coming; it sneaks up on you below the surface, gripping you and carrying you off to dangerous depths.

A rising tide can overwhelm you, too, though, if you are on a coastline that isn’t all open. We visited parts of the California coast north on Highway 1 that hosted beautiful tidal pools among rocks, sometimes piled up against low cliffs. If not watchful, you could get so absorbed in the tide pools that you could get trapped by the rising tide.

I share this perspective of the beautiful Pacific coastland because that is what life here in France has put me in mind of. Most of the time this land is beautiful, the people are gracious and welcoming, and exploring is a fun adventure. But occasionally, the tide of unfamiliar things and experiences pile up, like mounting waves, and before I know it, I am knocked off my feet. This morning was the high tide of one that had been building since the day before. It was my son’s actual 13th birthday, and a boxed cake mix nearly did me in.

I know how to do laundry. Washers and dryers are familiar. But here they are different. First of all, they vent out front. That would be *into your house.* I open the back door and window to encourage the heat to leave. Of course, when your third dryer load just won’t come dry, you troubleshoot. Door lint filter clean? Check. Other lint filter clean? Check.  Water condenser thingie empty? What? What water condenser thingie?

Our dryer, with indecipherable French instructions and manual (thankful for translate.google), with the water-thingie extended. You pull this out and dump the water, which I discovered this morning when last night’s clothes still were a tad damp.

The stove-top had an English section in the manual. Thankfully! Because it is induction. I had barely even heard of a stovetop that cooks using magnets, and NONE of the pots or pans we brought has the correct metal core to work. We were able to find a converter to place under the pan.

Note the space-age touch controls. At first, I thought they were indicator lights only, and surely the controls themselves were elsewhere.

Well, in the mornings, I need my coffee for clear thinking, so I started up the new Senseo coffee maker. We went with the Senseo led by the coffee aisle at the grocery store. There was a narrow section of just your regular coffee, then there was a wiiiide section filled with a variety of Senseo coffee filter pacs, for not much more. Then there was another even more narrow coffee section with alternative maker cups, like K-cups, which were kind of expensive. Looking that over, I decided to get a Senseo machine.

See any problem with my American-sized coffee mug? Most of the mugs in my beloved collection are two-handed sized. It makes for a psychologically warm hug from your aromatic cup cradled in two hands.

And so, drinking my short cup of coffee, I made a birthday cake for my son. I had given up on the from-scratch American style cake when I couldn’t find, the night before, baking powder. I now know the French name, but threw in the towel last night and grabbed a box cake mix, French style. The side showed the addition of 3 eggs and some milk, and that sounded achievable. I didn’t count on my French oven. It is really complicated. It bakes, broils, convections, and even rotisseries. It probably would have mixed my cake had I known how to ask it. This manual defies translate.google. It makes little sense even translated. I got my cake out of it, though, so I must have done something right.

And lastly, such a tiny thing, but when so many things have piled on to make simple things more difficult, even these little anomalies become exasperating:

No doubt unique in my little apartment, but why can’t I wash my hands with WARM water after using the WC? Is the space two small for two pipes?

Well, there you go…my little rant on a morning that was almost more than I could manage. But then, such wealthy problems I have! What an easy life, when complicated mystery appliances are the troubles that weigh me down. Thank God instead for the amazing church of people to whom we took the little cake I baked, and who all sang happy birthday to my son, devouring his cake. Life is good here in France, after all.

 

 

 

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France is a Bargain

For a couple more days, anyway. Apparently sale seasons are prescribed in France, and July is one of the months retailers can hold sales. EVERY. SINGLE. STORE. is on sale.

Case en pointe: if you are a Toulousainne ballerina, it would make sense to buy your toe shoes in quantity this month. Stock up!

Wouldn’t it have been nice to have bought some things included in these all-store sales? But mostly, no. Our washing machine is the floor model, so we got it marked down. And IKEA gave us store credit for so much spent on pieces in a certain series, although I don’t think that actually counted as a sale, so they can probably do that any time of the year.

All sales end July 31, so I am thinking we need to get shopping!

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Relationships in a Nomadic Life

This week, mornings Monday through Friday, I have led craft-making at our church’s Vacation Bible School. This required a fair amount of lesson planning and preparation in the weeks prior. Four days after VBS wraps up, we board a plane with loads of luggage and relocate overseas. I chose this. In fact, I insisted on it. Speculation over my sanity or lack thereof has been rampant. Some have lauded my dedication. Really, it’s none of the above.

See, I love the people at my church. I have the most wonderful church family, and I don’t want to lose a minute I could be serving with them.

I love me some church ladies!

I work with the best!

The thing is, when you move, there is a tendency to take your time getting involved in a new community. And there is a tendency to emotionally disconnect from those you are moving away from long before you have actually left. But it is the people that make a PLACE your HOME. People are a community: take those people out of their buildings and they can still be a community. If I don’t find ways to connect and make relationships as quickly as possible in any move to a new location, and ways to maintain some of the relationships in the location I am leaving, then I lose the depth of meaning to the life I live. God calls me to community in a worldwide, eternal family, and to draw as many others into that family as He cares to connect me to. How can I waste a single day of that?

That is why I committed to lead crafts for VBS when I knew I just might have to leave around then. I have five days of serving with dozens of people I love and admire. I have seen former art students that passed through my station, that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen this summer at all. I got to rejoice in one little girl joining this amazing family of God! And I am playing arts and crafts with around 90 kids, possibly for the last time for several years.

My buddy Barry the shark, whom I made for the Great Barrier Reef-themed craft room.

VBS-made soncatcher

Making memories with kids.

I can overlook something in the packing, but I WILL NOT overlook people in the moving. It is just too, too easy to do, though. Saturday we will throw an early birthday party for my youngest son, so that he can do this same thing…strengthen the relationships he hopes to maintain to some extent after the relocation, and emphasize the importance of his friendships. When you rarely live somewhere more than five years or so, relationships have to become deliberate.

Do you have friends from childhood that you maintain across distances? I do. Not many, but I do have them. Do you have friends you have maintained from communities you used to live in? I do, although not all of them. It takes work from both parties to keep up with one another regardless of distance. Thank God for the many digital connections that bridge that gap, though! And thank God for friends who work with me to keep in touch! I love them so much, everywhere I go.

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Chalk Up Another One!

I have added The Art Institute of Chicago to my museum list!

A long line waits for admission outside the museum July 4, a free admission day for Illinois residents, which we are not.

Well, some of it, anyway, because that place is HUGE!! I was floored by the size of the place. Theodore, on the other hand, was profoundly dismayed. He was a reluctant visitor to begin with, and upon seeing the size of the museum, he apparently felt exhausted before we even began. I am sure rising so early for a 6 am flight to Chicago had nothing to do with it.

The sculpture in the distance behind Theo is maybe 20 feet tall. The scale of this museum is enormous. Note the joy in the face of our young visitor.

Click here for the rest of our tour

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