Category Archives: France/French

Things I am learning in France : The One where I am a Mature Student (read ‘Nerd’)

I’ve been attending a language school for the sum total of three days.  I’m repeating French words ad nauseum (at times not even full words), doing grammar exercises, writing a crime novel, creating a weather report for a radio station… and LOVING it.

The highlight of my time in France so far has not been the weather, nor the great food, nor even the beauty of arriving in a new city at the most stunning leaves-turning Autumn, nor has it been (sorry) meeting the people I’ll be working with – although all of that has been incredible, I hasten to add!  The highlight of my time so far in France was an hour long lecture in a darkened room looking at slides (yes – SLIDES – as in the small individual plates of glass with pictures printed on them, not as in powerpoint) of Roman-built churches.

I began the lesson in confusion – what on earth did Roman churches have to do with French Culture (the name of the class), never mind my study of the French language?  It doesn’t help that I’ve been put in a class who are already one month into their syllabus.  However, half way through the lesson I found myself on the edge of my seat; eyes wide, nodding eagerly, smiling even with head buzzing and heart pounding – it was incredible.

For a second I saw myself through the eyes of my 19 year old student self, through the eyes of the majority of the undergraduate students around me – I was a Mature Student, ie a Nerd.  Drinking in every word and idea that was being conveyed, turning it over in my mind, poking it and turning it and revelling in the process!  Every so often the teacher would say “Its VERY interesting, isn’t it?” and I could hear my 19 year old self laughing – he was talking about how people used to build buildings for goodness sake!  I almost rolled my eyes instinctively.  And yet – and YET! – it WAS VERY INTERESTING!!! I was fascinated!!!!!

What captured me most, I think, was the passion with which the teacher spoke.  The way in which he had evidently lived and breathed the architecture of the time, he spoke authoritatively but philosophically.  He communicated with his whole body – I have never seen anyone perform a lesson in a such a way as to evoke the language of dance.  I could hear my 19-year-old self laughing and mocking his eccentricity – he was a grown man pretending to be a wall for goodness sake!  I almost nudged the person beside me instinctively.  And yet – and YET! – I have never before left a class feeling so inspired and alive!!!!

To lower the tone slightly… The experience was made all the more special when I noticed he was wearing the kind of specs that rather than having legs which balance them on your ears, they were simply balanced on his nose.  Brilliant.

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Filed under beauty, culture, France/French, happiness is, story

“Behold I am doing a new thing…”

Autumn is a great time to move somewhere new.

The trees turning from green to red to golden are not only so beautiful as to make the heart ache with joy, but they also serve to remind that change is the way of the world, and it is good.

Change brings many little deaths – the fare-thee-well of the green of well-known places and faces, the see-you-soon glowing ambers of goodbye tears and warm wishes – but autumn comes so that springtime can, in time, flourish once more with fresh growth and vigour.

Winter follows Autumn.  It can be cold and dark with unfamiliarity, slippery with icy loneliness, seemingly interminable.  But Winter has its own surprises.  Comfort found in a steaming mug.  Hope alive in clear skies and starlit pinpricks. Rest in watching and waiting the approach of new birth.

“Behold I am doing something new!  Now it Springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isa 43:19

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Twist in the Tale

I’ve been reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.  Its largely about the idea that our lives are stories, part of the Great Story written by God.  Reading Miller often does great things in my soul and this one has not been a disappointment.  In recent chapters he has been talking about our responsibility to engage with life and make our stories memorable and worthwhile and full of God encounters.

I guess this has struck a chord with me because I feel like other stuff I’ve been reading and thinking about is all playing into this idea, but also because I’m on the cusp of fairly major change in my life story.  I’ve been raising financial support to go work for a church in France since March-ish and today is a deadline date where the mission council will decide if I have enough support in place to go at the end of October.

It has been a long and at times painful journey.  Its a lot of money and I’m raising in a fairly rough time in global economy and if there’s one thing I struggle to talk about productively, its finance.

This afternoon brings another blow.  Yesterday due to counting miscommunications, my total shot up by 5% making it look like I’d surely be given the go ahead.  This afternoon another discrepancy was discovered but this time not in my favour, leaving me with 1.5% less than I thought I had before it shot up yesterday.

Buoyed by much tea and binge-proportions of fruit cake (seriously – it was the best option in the house!  But it is damn fine fruit cake.), I’m trying to think of this occurrence as a great twist in the tale of the story being written here.  Every story has a great moment of disappointment and tension where it looks like it might not turn out okay in the end.  I mean, can you imagine how great an anecdote it’ll be when I tell the story in the future?  “It all looked like disaster might strike, but suddenly God turned up…”

Come on, God – let’s see what you can do!

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The Sea, The Sea

I have never lived away from the sea.  I grew up just north of Belfast which meant that – whilst Belfast Lough isn’t exactly open ocean – I usually saw the sea at least once a week even if I wasn’t a real coastliner.  I went to University and lived in a seaside town, my year out was in Marseille on the south coast of France where the sea comes right up to the city’s main thoroughfare and now I live back up the north coast just a short drive from the sea.

But I’m soon to move away…  I’m exchanging the sea for a river and lots of castles.  I know it’ll be lovely – its a great city and there are some great people there and I’m looking forward to it for sure, but I wonder if I’ll get claustrophobic?  Out walking today (easy done when you work 3 hours a day 🙂 ) I was glorying in the joys of seaside living… wouldn’t you???

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Happiness is…

… an unexpected picnic of olives and wine by the banks of the river Loire on a warm summer’s evening in July.

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Gratuitous post

Its been a while.

I’ve been visiting my wp dashboard (read: stats) regularly and inwardly bemoaning my lack of writing of late.  It makes me a little sad, as I really do enjoy the old blogosphere.  I guess I’ve been hit by a kind of blog-block – a lot of things crossing my mind to write about, but never quite discovering the time to write.

So, here I find myself scribbling a quick hello to my faithful reader(s??) – realising that perhaps its because I was too lazy to search through the too-slow-for-words on screen tv guide on my digibox, thus resorting to switching the tellybox off that indicates that facebook is not the only stealer of my life and time, but rather the tv.  Hmmm… AND I don’t even like it that much!

Life to the fool…

There are, I suppose, many things going on for me in my small corner – plenty to be keeping the wee head ticking over.  Like, I spent some time this term thinking about biblical inspiration and interpretation.  I thought about blogging about it, but figured my regurgitation of the scholarship of others may not exactly be all that riveting.  But perhaps some sort of summary of my findings or my journey might be helpful to me and… er… well, interesting for you (if you’re into that sort of thing!).

I’ve enjoyed hearing some stuff about the Incarnation; I’ve been surprised by some teaching on self-esteem I thought I was going to hate;  I’ve had to distill some of my thoughts on singleness in order to try and ‘teach’ some stuff to recent graduates; and I’ve embarked on a voyage of 100% support-raising to go work with a church in France…  All in all, yes… there’ve been some big things going on.  AND my friend cut me a fringe.

Its all go over here.

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Filed under bible, blogging, discipleship, France/French, random

The Return

The city awaits

Like a held breath and butterflies.

A longing of which

The anticipation is half the pleasure.

Familiar territory made strange by absence,

Laden with memory,

Exotic with change.

I will come again to your streets

Much-paced,

Long-lingered,

Where I will be free once more

To lay bare the secrets you once exhaled,

Whispered to a younger soul

Much lighter than mine.

My feet are no strangers to your streets,

Nor my eyes to your sight.

But who it was that took them there is a mystery

That I alone cannot fathom.

Change, when it is not height,

Can only be measured

By omniscience and eternity.

And so it is that I come;

An estranged wife,

A tourist in my own hometown,

A vagabond who dropped something

And came back to search.

There are glimpses of me

But only as I see her:

T-shirt in winter

And him:

Hairwaxed swagger

And them:

Wizened hands sticky,

Still fishing, still selling,

Unchanging.

Change, when it is not height,

Can only be measured

In light of the

Unchanging – not because it is simple,

But already taller than height,

Wider than width,

Deeper than depth –

Perfection.

And so I leave those streets behind.

There where the unknown meets the unseen,

The is meets what has been,

And what will be, will be…

I Am.

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