Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Lord, our Provider

(We'll spare you our cheesy rendition of that Jesus-people kletzmer classic "Jehovah Jireh, my Provider", to those of you who are..ahem...fortunate enough to understand the obscure subcultural reference, but...)

Break out the champagne! *

Oh yes, we've got cause to celebrate. That is, we're clear to grab Abbey's visa in Chicago and head off to France. Even more than that, we are astonished and delighted at the Lord's clear provision in every area of our lives. We've had cell phones up and running down to our last day in the US. We have had a lovely place to stay over the past month. And plenty of food for mind, soul, and body in the wilderness. This is because you have all been praying so diligently on our behalf and we'd like to thank you.

We feel acutely that this is not the end of our struggles, but perhaps the beginning. That is, we anticipate Paris to be an intensely beautiful place to live, but also immensely challenging in terms of our spiritual lives. Please continue to ask the Lord to provide for us in the ways that only He can.

Much love until we write again.

(From Paris.)

* Thank you, Nikki and Jordan!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Distance learning

By next Monday, Abbey is supposed to be standing up in front of her English class in Paris and teaching them how to make sounds like "th".


It turns out we were the ones who still had some learning to do. First of all, the administrative delay that keeps us on the familiar side of the Atlantic has turned into our first French cultural lesson. That is, in a country with such astoundingly intricate bureaucracy, a piece of paper is really nothing more than a needle in a haystack. It doesn't seem to matter how "URGENT" (oor-jahn) the issue claims to be. All's fair in love...and French governmental offices. Get in line.

To your average person dealing with the necessary papers for living life over there (of which there are many - you thought the IRS was cryptic and longwinded!), these sorts of delays are a natural - admittedly unpleasant - part of life. It's like running into bumper-to-bumper traffic on your way to an important meeting, coming down with a nasty strain of flu, or getting your picnic rained on. Everybody French politely fumes on your behalf, emphathizes, but eventually sighs and reigns themselves to the fated situation. And expects you to do the same.

Where have all the plucky peasants with pitchforks who stormed the Bastille gotten to? They must've been held up by paperwork, too....

Every few days, we receive an email from the University in Paris: "many condolences...hope to see you soon." Without malice or sarcasm, we can still say the same. But our patience begins to wear thin. Why, why, why?

Above all, stop asking why. We must remember that Job tried taking that tack, and got quite the earful. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned whose eternal weight is infinitely greater than starting a new job on time. Ah-ha! - entirely possible. Yes, we are learning to pray together with some fervency. Yes, we are learning to run into each other's arms for comfort when we're depressed. Yes, we have been reminded of how thoroughly and admirably our loved ones live their lives everyday. (You know, not everyone has the fortune to return to the family nest(s) as an adult and tag along for a few weeks. There are amazing things we've seen in the way of love and wisdom that would have sailed right over our heads as kids.)

"Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country" (Proverbs 25:26). Hence, we have been checking the email rather obsessively. But Proverbs also says: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." How much can the heart take? We are learning the emotional practicality of reading our Bibles first thing, then checking the email for news. We watch for the Lord and wait for Him to move on our behalf.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

No, this is not Paris.

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. So, if we’re asking Chesterton to define adventure for us (as well we might), it has begun, and in no uncertain terms. Regardless of the fact that we are not leaving today for Paris as planned. Soon, but not yet.


A few weeks ago, with growing uneasiness over the ambiguous status of bureaucratic necessities – such as visas – we contacted the French consulate regarding what remained to be done. To our horror, we discovered that papers had not been pushed to their proper bureaucratic cubbyholes before that all-important European holiday known as August.

Consequently, we set out on a journey to the exotic city of Chicago, where the French visa service holds court. On our midnight bus, we read a little Charles Spurgeon to pass the time:

The grandeur of the arch of heaven would be spoiled if the sky were supported by a single visible column and your faith would lose its glory if it rested on anything discernible by the carnal eye.

As if on cue, our bus broke down in the middle of wisconsin, smack dab in-between a cheese shop and a cornfield. Far, far away from Chicago, where our hopes rested on a 9 o'clock appointment at the French Consulate. With nothing else to lean on, the Lord was extremely near. It turned out to be a beautiful day to trust in Jesus. His peace held firm in our hearts, and his timing was perfect. Though five hours late for our scheduled appointment, our abrupt arrival as haggard travellers in their prim downtown offices prompted quite the scuffle and investigation into our situation. The result? We leave for Paris sometime within the next couple of weeks, after Abbey goes back down to Chitown after everything is reglé.

Yes, Chicago! Since we were there, we made the most of being in one of America’s most fascinating cities, a first time for the both of us. We heard some free jazz saxophone at the Cultural Center, gaped at the wonderous Millenium Park, happened onto the Art Institute’s free Thursday evening, rich with treasures, had martinis in a swank lounge, ate large sandwiches with an astounding amount of meat and cheese, and consequently slept like babies on our bus back home to Minneapolis.

The Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park may need elegant curves and arches to support the state-of-the-art sound system. But God has so fashioned our lives that our faith must rest on nothing visible, making it worlds more glorious than anything we could dream up.