France 4: On Pansies and New Beginnings

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Thus concludes my reprise of posts from France. These posts covered our first six months. Perhaps later, I’ll share some more. I pray they’ve been instructive for you! If you’d like to read more about our time in France, click here to receive the free missing chapter of Thin Places.

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The past two months, I’ve been going through a fear funk. Normally, I am an outgoing type, inviting folks to our home for dinner, enjoying meeting new people, going out of my way to make relationships and sustain them. But lately I’ve been a mole in a dark hole, not wanting to emerge in the light of day. I’m afraid. Afraid I’ll make language mistakes (and they are a-plenty, believe me!). Afraid I’ll get worn out by others. Afraid of simply connecting with others.

I’m just not myself. And it makes me weary and sad. Two people said this about me in one day, “You just don’t smile. I wish I could see you smile.” Of course, that made me sad too. The truth without candy-coating is this: it’s hard to move away from home. It’s hard to move to a new culture. It’s hard to be in a place of intense spiritual warfare. It’s just plain hard.

But before I leave you in the doldrums, I have a story of grace to tell you.

Yesterday, Diane, our South African neighbor two doors down, came to my home carrying light purple and dark purple pansies. She handed them to me. “For new beginnings,” she said. Then she asked if Aidan was planning on attending a birthday party for a girl in his class. I shook my head. I didn’t have the courage to call another French person and try to say yes he’d be coming to the party! I’m such a wimp!!! And I knew that if I brought him there, I’d be asked to sit awhile and have tea or coffee (that’s the custom in French parties–parents stay for a spell and talk to the hostess).

Diane smiled at me again and said firmly, “You need to go, Mary. I won’t make you, but you need to do this.” It was hard to hear. It was hard admitting how fearful I’d become, that I didn’t even want to make a short phone call. But, Diane was right. I needed to connect. I needed to take Aidan to that party.

So, with the pansies of grace as a backdrop, I called Nadine, Alexia’s mom, and said Aidan would be coming to the party. Patrick and I drove him there today. Nadine offered us hot drinks–a good thing since it snowed again today–and chatted with us in nice, slow French. We met another father who was a real estate agent, and I had a chance to connect with my new friend Kate from England. Aidan had a good time at the party, other than not liking the cacophony of squealing girls. And I gained a bit of confidence.

Diane loved me enough to push me when I felt uncomfortable. I am so grateful. I had nearly forgotten that aspect of friendship because I’d been in survival mode here, but Diane’s words and flowers reminded me that friends do kind things and hard things because they love you.

Looking back, I see something else significant. Once I dialed Nadine, I called two other women. Both had needs. I prayed for both women on the phone, sensing the Holy Spirit praying through me. Then, another friend came over and I prayed for her. Then a family came for dinner, we watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition together and Patrick did a short devotional. I played worship songs and prayed again. It was as if the Lord was waiting for me to emerge so He could bless me by allowing me to minister to others.

I smiled.

I’m still afraid. But I’m energized. Sometimes it just takes one teeny tiny fear-filled step. And one persistent friend.

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