A sliced onion

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:3

"Que la grace et la paix du Seigneur... " the benediction melody still played in my mind. I sang this song of grace and peace, of God's light in our lives all the way to the Prefecture. My simple goal - to license our car. This being my FOURTH visit I was overconfident as I passed all of the precious documents I'd collected in the past weeks. The lady looked at me over her glasses and asked, "Is this ALL that you have? You're missing..." Heat rose up my neck and my entire head was absorbed in frustrated anger. How could this be? When they canceled my registration in Germany they didn't give me any special paper. They just stamped my title, that's all. And why would I have to visit the French department of tax collection for a vehicle I purchased in Germany while living in Germany?! I was so furious.

As I drove home to look up the address for the French department of taxes, the melody still played "Que la grace et la paix du Seigneur" The song sounded in my mind as a gentle reminder. But I couldn't choke out the words. Sitting at a stop light I closed my eyes and imagined myself back in front of the ice cold lady behind the glass. And then I raised one hand toward the windshield and voiced the blessing to her out loud. Slowly, I started singing the song anew.

Walking to the French department of tax collection I had some time to pray. God, I could never live this life without you. I asked him to forgive me for getting so angry, and recognized again my utter dependence on Him. I'm re-reading Ken Sande's book The Peacemaker right now, poignantly timed.

Of course, there were no taxes to pay for the used car I purchased two years ago while living in Germany. And I didn't have to pay anything for the simple slip of paper they gave me. Though didn't Einstein prove that TIME is MONEY?

May the grace and peace of the Lord be upon you, upon your hearts. And may His light shine on your lives in the name of Jesus Christ!

Silas beside his dinosaur birthday cake

 

Penelope was a third culture kid. Her fathers job led him to international assignments and growing up she lived in Egypt and Portugal. It was only after graduating from high school that she returned to France. At first, she didn't like being back. All of her siblings live abroad. But she now lives in Rennes and has a boy, Nathan, in the same class as Silas.

It's awkward - to say the least - being a foreigner just beginning to learn a language. You can't be yourself because so much of who we are is self expression. Yet people are reaching out to Silas. May and Penelope talked together at the park after school while Silas and Nathan played 'chat perché' tag. Nathan also has a younger brother the same age as Efrem. Pulled by her third culture identity, Penelope invited Silas to go to their house for lunch between school periods.

Yesterday Silas had lunch with a French family. Isn't that brave?! They played dinosaurs together and Silas told them all about his birthday cake. Penelope said that when he speaks French Silas doesn't have an accent. So he's learning well! It's really hard for us to know how much he understands. He always tells us he didn't understand anything. Yet when his friend Nathan wants to play tag and says "You're it!"  Silas asserts "Non, c'est toi le chat!"

Walking home after dropping Silas off at school is hard. He's with his teacher and classmates 6 hours a day. Will they be kind to him? Will he be teased or hurt? Does he feel lost all day? Silas is learning and adjusting well. Our prayers are being answered. And now I ask myself - how well am I learning and adjusting? How about you?

Paris street sign saying "Our visas are in!"

 

May was cleaning in the kitchen, the music blaring, and Efrem was sitting in the bathroom yelling "phone!" After running to answer May heard Madame Herrmann from the consulate leaving a message. We've never figured out how to pick up a call that's gone to the answering machine, so she listened helplessly to the one-sided conversation. Our visas have been accepted and we can pick them up! Instead of taking a day to drive up to Frankfurt we're going to mail our passports - oh Lord protect them - to have the visas put in.

Now the whirlwind begins. We plan to load the moving truck Wednesday of next week; Dan will ride with it to Rennes and unload Thursday, then come back. Then on Saturday the 23rd our whole family will drive to our new home.

We thank God for answering ours and your prayers for our visas!

Please pray for the myriad of tasks necessary in the next 11 days: deregistering our car, canceling all of our accounts and bills, finishing packing, preparing the boys to go, saying goodbyes.

Campus team in the wine cellar

 

Markus took us into his family's vineyard, first owned by his Grandpa. He started studying to be a wine producer, cellar-meister, ten years ago. Now he runs his family's winery and another larger one nearby. Our campus team was on an outing, and he talked to us about how they prune each vine, leaving one branch growing. The vine itself looks ancient and somehow fragile, with a single branch about the thickness of a finger growing up through the steel lines that support the plant. Then Markus bent the branch down, and we could all hear it cracking as he wound it around the bottom most line. They do this to every plant, he explained. New shoots grow upward from the branch. If they didn't bend and break it, only a couple new shoots would grow. After it's been broken, the whole branch produces new shoots, thus more grapes.

Some of the vines had not one, but two shoots. We asked him why? If, when you're bending the branch down it breaks off, then you have another he explained. Markus attends one of the churches here in Kandern. He referred to John 15 where Jesus says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." Being in the vineyard and hearing Markus talk brought John 15 to life.

We saw the enormous steel wine press they use. He said the lower the pressure, the better, because it doesn't damage the skins and seeds, making the juice bitter. When you juice red grapes, the juice is white! So where does red wine come from? To make red wine they leave the skins in with the juice as they let it ferment. The red skins all rise to the top while the wine sits below. Then they pump the juice from below and put it back into the top of the tank so it mixes with the skins, giving it its color. It was fascinating.

Markus then took us into a room in the cellar filled with oak barrels. The oak was from France, the U.S., and Germany, medium 'toasted' wood. Their best wine ages in the barrel for two years, bringing out the heavy flavors. In America they let producers put oak chips into a steel barrel and they get their oak flavor much quicker, but it's not allowed in Europe, Markus says. He then showed us some ice wine. It must be precisely -9 degrees in the field when it's harvested, and -7 degrees at the press. When the conditions are just right they start early, three in the morning, working with flood lights to bring in the grapes. Since they're frozen, the juice is much more concentrated and has a higher sugar level. You never know if you'll get iced wine, it's always a gamble. Elsewhere the grapes are harvested then placed in a freezer at a controlled temperature. But that's illegal in Europe. It's unspoiled by progress, as some would say. We can learn a lot about the mindset of a culture observing and asking questions, and also about our own culture!

A signpost saying: "This way, that way, the other way."

 

Impact - what impact will our short lives have? Reach - how far will our partnership with God advance His Kingdom? Are we listening to and obeying He who both commands and empowers? I will be happy if my two boys grow up to walk with God. What will He call them to, and will they listen and obey? I want to set an example, enlarge their view of God, and increase their faith. 

More about our decision...

While in Birmingham I was wrestling with - can I imagine myself living here? The culture there is vastly different. I can truly say that if that is where God wants us I could say yes. The UK ministry is moving, fueled by inspiring faith. The people there are fantastic, and it was so refreshing to have spiritual conversations in English. They would love to have us with them. But do they need us there? In Rennes most of our conversation centered on ministry. The French ministry is not strong. They have very few staff and struggle to gain momentum. They have faith filled hopes and God sized dreams, but they have an uphill battle. They too would love to have us on their team. Do they need us? Incredibly.

Where will we make the most impact for God's Kingdom? Where can we our skills and experience reach the farthest? Where does God want us to move? We believe the answer to these questions is Rennes, France. 

When this move will happen is still in question. On one hand we're enjoying every moment here in the Black Forest. On the other, Silas would benefit by learning French as soon as possible. The relief of making this decision is quickly replaced by other questions and details: housing, visas, transporting our stuff, and timing. But God is guiding us through it all. We really appreciate you lifting us up in prayer through this process. It's a great blessing to have you standing with us!

Efrem at the top of a playground slide

 

"Want to hear what your son did tonight?" is a phrase any parent dreads to hear. Efrem has a classic raggedy andy style doll with thin yarn for hair. May a few evenings ago heard Silas, the informer, warning her that... Efrem was shoving baby's hair up his nose. She pulled a piece of yarn out of his nose. Then another was showing, which she pulled out, and another, and another. She eventually got out the tweezers and dug out 8 strands of yarn from the boy's right nostril! What, oh what was he thinking?! We've been in Getting Things Done mode lately. You know what that's like, when your to-do list has categories, subheadings, and chapters! We attack that list with fervor, but today May and I both realized we're burnt up. We want to just do nothing for a change, but that's plain boring. I wonder what God thinks of us sometimes. Maybe sometimes He says, "What are they thinking?" even though He already knows. We run out of fuel and don't know what we're supposed to put in our tank.