My blog silence has not been entirely on purpose. We’ve had problems with the Internet connection for the past week – sometimes slow, sometimes not working. And then yesterday it stopped all together. We are sort of at the mercy of two phone companies – one which owns the line and the other which provides the service. Getting this thing sorted out will probably take some time since both will have to come and verify their portion of it to see where the problem lies. After trying three cafés in our small town this morning (one which had Internet but it was not working, two which didn’t offer it), I finally ended up here at McDonalds in the commercial centre. Just livin’ the French dream, right?
And I had meant to write yesterday to share pictures of the children’s school carnival, and to tell you that my book was free on Kindle (yesterday). But few things happen in my timing.
I believe in signs. I’ve been reading the book “What’s So Amazing About Grace” and was struck by the good people are doing around the world – sometimes in the name of Christ and sometimes not. They are supporting unwed mothers, helping AIDS victims who are nearing the end of their lives, serving lepers, providing clean water, feeding the hungry . . . the list goes on.
In our own church we have a weekly sandwich distribution for the homeless people in various parts of Paris. However, our family can rarely take part because of the English classes and our other weekend activities. Another friend of mine works with elderly people and keeps them company, serving them and listening to them. She had one die just when she was bathing her.
Sometimes I feel so helpless. I mumbled a vague prayer about how I longed to serve in a way that was possible for me, given my time and energy limitations. Despite these limitations, I want to abound in good works too – to do something to ease the suffering of people around me.
As I was about to pull up to the first café this morning, an elderly woman waved at me from the other side of the crosswalk. I rolled down the window and asked if she needed help. She did. She was trying to walk to the next town over (at least two miles). She was using a cane.
So I offered to drive her. I guessed that she was Portuguese from her accent, and she confirmed it. She told me that she had to go to the cardiologist as a follow-up to her heart operation. When the bus didn’t come, she started to walk, hoping for some help from the “Bon Dieu” – the “Good God.” She said her husband had died years ago, and when I asked her about her children or other family, she said that they were all dead.
“Alors, vous êtes toute seule!” I cried out (perhaps not wisely). “So you’re all alone!”
“Oui. Je suis toute seule.” Her voice broke.
I brought her to her appointment and gave her my phone number in case there was anything else I could do for her. I had been free at just that moment to help her – not at home behind the computer or busy with teaching or the children. Afterwards I returned to my fruitless efforts at getting Internet before returning home.
There has been a lot that has improved in our situation over the past week. But there has also been a lot of fruitless labor. In terms of improvement, we did put Hunter up for adoption, and we actually got a call about him last night. I burst into tears. And, although we are still keeping him up on the adoption site for now, in spite of the fact that Juliet cried herself to sleep, we are not going to give Hunter to this particular person. She lives in an apartment and works all day until 6PM. Even with a wooded area near her home and her obvious love for his particular race, I knew he would not be going to a better situation than what he has with us, and that’s the only thing that could get me to agree to give him away.
There has been a slight easing of the financial stress lately and we are even able to go on vacation in April – my husband and I alone for 5 days visiting the Loire Valley, and then a weekend as a family at a nearby (relatively cheap) water park. We managed to find a solution for Hunter for both both periods.
My husband did the ironing one night. I swear that was hanging over my head, and I’ve been carrying the full laundry basket around on my conscience for weeks. It was such a relief that he did it all cheerfully. “I used to iron all my own stuff before I met you!” he said. (This is true, but he also works much longer hours than I do and I feel like it’s my responsibility).
And I finished all those marketing documents I needed to work on – that, and I decided to give up on the idea of a fixed blog schedule. I will still write about all my usual topics, but just when I feel like it and on a less-regular basis. I need time to start writing something lengthier, which I think my creative spirit craves.
And someone has to dig up all the dandelions in my yard.
So my stress has been considerably reduced (and my husband doesn’t have immediate plans to travel), but I’m still operating at half-mast in some areas. Well, there’s the obvious – the Internet. I spent so much time this past week waiting for a connection, just staring at four different open pages and waiting for something – anything – to happen.
And that’s not all. Our dishwasher is broken again (for the third time). And my husband just doesn’t have time to fix it. He really doesn’t have a spare minute. So that means that cooking and cleaning is much more labor-intensive. I have to first unload all the clean dishes piled up to make room for the dishes piled up in the sink so that I can start washing everything. (I would sound like a complete idiot if I were writing this in the 19th century. Like duh. Is that how you do the dishes?)
And then there’s the car. Nine years ago, we bought a 1992 Toyota Corolla and it has never failed us before. It’s still working just fine, but the radio has gone kaput. It keeps starting and stopping suddenly so that I find myself trying to hit the bumps hard so that I can drive accompanied by Chérie FM Pop Love Musique. It’s so much more pleasant to drive listening to music.
It struck me as no coincidence that everything is sort of stuck right now – not running smoothly. It seemed like a sign that I was trying to push through life on my own strength (the Internet loading because I sat there and willed it, having to hand-wash everything instead of letting a machine do it, trying to drive the car in a way to force the radio back on). It seemed like everything I was doing on my own power was simply not working effectively.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labour in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat –
for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127)
I have been neglecting God in the things I’m doing. I stay up late trying to work out just another marketing venture for my book. I am huddled in front of my computer trying to accomplish just one more thing (a cheap vacation, putting Hunter up for adoption, reading friends’ blogs) so that I get impatient with my children’s incessant questions.
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither –
whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1)
I throw out half-formed, anxious prayers, but there is little meditation on God’s law. There is little delight. And nothing I’m doing is prospering! Believe me, I’m not complaining – I know I’m blessed. But I know what it looks like when I am surrendered and at peace with what life throws my way, and these past months have just not been it.
Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint (Proverbs 29:18a)
God has given me signs to remind me that I’m not planted by streams of water. And all of his revelations are waiting for me when I open his Word. And I can see that I’ve cast off restraint in the ways I give in to my frustration and short temper when life’s accomplishments move at the speed of my broken Internet connection.
I’m not feeling negative about any of this – please don’t think so even though my tone implies it. On the contrary, I’m feeling free. Because it takes so little to get rooted again in the streams of living water. And a plant that looks near-death from a drought will plump right back up again after a dousing rain. It will radiate greenness.
And even a vague, half-formed prayer to abound in doing good can be answered by a little old Portuguese lady who is all alone in the world and just needs someone to come at the right time and remind her . . . that actually – she is not.