another little house

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We were walking down the street, late on a quiet Sunday afternoon. The older kids were far ahead on their scooters. Nathan was carrying Kody whose sore toe was hurting again and Ezra was happily kicking in his stroller. And, as we like to do on many of our walks we were looking at houses, analyzing their character, their features and their style.

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We walked past the tiny house on the corner and watched the lady who lives in it working in her lovingly planted garden. Her house is tiny, which is certainly not unusual in France, but this one draws our attention. White rendered, simple rectangular shape with just one shuttered window and a few steps up to a wooden door on the front, a couple of windows and a door at the back and one tiny window on one side, The roof is steep enough to very probably have loft or an attic but there are no windows for it. On the side are a few narrow steps down to a cellar, probably so she can store her surplus preserved fruits and vegetables from her garden. The block the house is on is quite large and the garden has been lovingly planned around it. A row of fruit trees along the front boarder, lawn paths winding between patches of this vegetable and that, plants requiring stakes at the back of the block. The garden is big and I’m sure it is quite productive. Or rather it will be, because you see, this house and garden are brand new.

 

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And we wonder at that. We remember that as the building was being constructed we’d noticed how small it was and wondered what the building would be. As it became more obvious that it was a house we wondered if perhaps this was just the first stage, maybe it’s just a granny flat and they’ll build a bigger one to go along side, there was certainly room for one. But before the house was even finished the garden was beginning to be planted and it became obvious that there wouldn’t be a bigger one and we wondered why they had built it so small. There are many small houses around Orleans but they are almost all very old or built to fit into tiny spaces. Why, if they had the opportunity to build a new house on a large block, didn’t they build it bigger?

But yesterday as we walked past and saw her working in her garden, we realised. You know, maybe she chose to make her house small simply because she didn’t need it bigger. And we marvel that we wondered at it.

exhale: five minute friday

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I haven’t blogged in ages so here’s a quick catch up to get me back into the swing of it… Breathe in.

Life is full on. All the usual- pretty much.

Several weeks of sickness. Several kids in our bed night after night coughing and crying alternately.

My birthday. 30th!! Cake, the crazy fun of magic candles, failed day-trip to Paris, train strike, beautiful day wandering Orléans centre with the family and my camera.

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Kid’s last week of school. Teacher’s gifts (they did Aboriginal-style dot paintings of Australia with the “more places you’ll go” Dr Seuss quote) Tears, goodbyes.

Broken apartment lift. Work seminars. Job applications. Lost toys. Birthday parties. Church picnics.

End of school fair. Guess what? French bureaucracy starts at school. Line up at gate to buy tickets- 2 types, one for food and face painting etc., one for games, line up for games, win and earn different type of ticket, loose and probably get a ticket anyway, sometimes win a lolly also. Line up for food, pay with different amounts of one of the ticket types, try to figure out which ticket is for which. End the night with a handful of winning tickets and suddenly realize they are redeemable at the prize stand, rush to line up so the children can redeem a toy. A friend asks me, “Do you understand how it works?”

2 year old two-ishness. (I think I just found inspiration for another post, watch this spot)

Crazy weather, storms, rain, sunshine, sunburn, iceblocks, rain, storms, hail, lightning, sunburn.

But now: It’s the holidays!
Exhale …
(maybe)

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(part of the five minute friday challenge run by one of my favorite bloggers over here)

 

incorruptible beauty

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANathan pointed the camera at me. Usually I’m behind the camera, I like it that way, I like trying to capture stories, moments in time, beautiful moments to remember in future years.  But sometimes I wish I could see me in the story of our life. And so I ask Nathan to take the camera.

I took a step back. I’m not very good at being on this side of the camera. I’m too self conscious, my expectations are too high. My imagination of what I want reality to be isn’t capturable with a camera. And I know it.

I sigh in frustration. I know I should keep quiet but why does he have to take a photo of me so close, step back and the imperfections will blur, why can’t he realize that I look better from the other angle, that a different view would highlight my better parts and hide some of my flaws.

“Well, what do you think the best parts of me are?” I ask a little annoyed.

The tiniest moment of tense quiet and then a little voice speaks up clearly and confidently from between us.

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let it be
the hidden person of the
heart,
with the incorruptible beauty
of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is very precious
in the sight of God

 

And I realise that a message I’ve been so careful to send to my beauty conscious little girl over her 5 years, I may well have undone in an instant. But I didn’t because her beautiful strong heart knows better than to just listen to the complaining of her mum.

“Well that’s what God says mummy”

“oh… I’m sorry Tiggy, Thankyou for reminding me.” and I reach for her hand and continue our walk.

Take the camera. Use it to capture the beauty of our hearts.

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“I can see me reflected in your eyes”

 

a new morning

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A few of my friends have had or will have big changes or moves in their life recently. This is for them: 

Change is coming again and it’s difficult, scary and overwhelming. There is so much to do, so many people to care for, so much to think about.

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But right now, bigger than the uncertainty and excitement for what is to come, is the sadness.
Sadness for those you’ll leave behind, the many people you love, who you have real relationships with.
Sadness for your children who, perhaps for the first time, perhaps again, will experience the intense pain of leaving friends.
Sadness in leaving “home”. You already begin to ache when you say “Good morning” to the barista in your café, chat with teachers, laugh with the school mums, take your afternoon walk through the park.
Sadness in leaving the work you do, the people you’ve served with cheerfulness and love, the people you want to continue to be there for.
Sadness because despite best intentions you know deep down that many of those relationships, memories and traditions will fade and end, and it hurts, it hurts so much, for you and for them.

You long to stay because His purpose for you to serve in this place has rightly became your desire and His blessings have poured into your life as you so faithfully served him. You loved where he called you to love and served where he called you to serve. Now, He calls you away from these people and this place where he previously called you to be, to serve in a new way and love new people. And as you leave them in His hands, and once again make His purpose your desire, know that He also holds you with eternal love in His hand and His unchanging goodness and blessings will be with you forever.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

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stories of history

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“Doesn’t it make you feel like you need to be wearing medieval clothes!”
“Not really. Everyone’s just wearing normal clothes”
We’ve spent the last 2 weeks enjoying festivities from the “ Fêtes de Jeanne d’Arc” including parades, medieval markets, demonstrations and re-enactments. One thing that struck Nate and I was how authentic the whole thing was. So authentic that the children just saw it as normal. This last weekend (partly to encourage some creative writing in the children) We each spent a bit of time writing about the festivities.

Through the archway (by Penelope)

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Through the archway is another world. An ancient world. A word where dreams and imagination have become reality. Where colour, smells and sounds combine to bring the past into the present.

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A world where children forget their countless toys at home to play with wooden balls and metal disks on the street in endless fun.

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A world where women dance and laugh in genuine uninhibited joy.

Where men play lutes and sing with smiles on their faces.
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Where shopkeepers sell cheese cut directly off the large cheese-wheels, handcrafted jewelry made while you wait and homemade sweets in paper bags.

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Where mothers teach their babies to clap their hands in time with the street musicians

Where fathers help their children draw arrows in their bows.
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Where tavern owners make potato and sausages or pig on a spit for friends gathering around the courtyard looking for a meal to eat.

Where jokers entertain the gathered crowds for hours on end with simple songs and ancient tricks.
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Where despite the façade made necessary by the passing of the ages, the joy, the excitement, the friendliness, the community, the imagination and the dreams are genuine in a place, through the archway, where time stands still and people just are.

 

The Last Arrow (by Miles)

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I won, I won I hit him with the last arrow.
We were fighting because we were in a war.
The English people were fighting the French people.
They tried to shoot us with a cannon but missed.
It was easy because I was in a really good position.

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Seven Medieval Minstrels (By Nathan)
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My attention was drawn to the sound of archaic instruments that was blown toward us on the wind. We followed the sound to find a band of medieval minstrels within a growing gathering of people. We found a place in the crowd where we could see them, looking as if they’d just stepped out of the Middle Ages. The instruments they were playing not only appeared foreign, but the sound we heard was as if it was being transported to us from centuries earlier in time. I became captured in that moment by the sheer authenticity of the scene before me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy now, surrounding the musicians was a big crowd, many of whom were moving to the music and it was hard not to follow along. I was giving Kody a piggy-back for a better view and we were both getting into it. It was certainly a memorable experience and made me think about the life of a travelling musician in medieval times. It also made me realize how timeless music can be. It may have been simple in structure, but it was emotionally moving, energetic and engaging and carried the sentiment of times long ago.

 

 

Fighting then Friends (by Antigone)
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I was fighting and I was trying to kill someone with a sword. There was a war. I was an Australian fighting all the French. At the end I was fighting one French person. I had a sword and 3 guns. The French person only had a sword. Then I stopped fighting and became friends with all the countries.
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what’s so important about it anyway?

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The spring sun is dropping lower in the sky, the sunlight flickering on my table is lightly filtered through the birch tree outside. I can see the jar of fading tulips out the corner of my eye behind my computer, the smell of warm sultana scones is in the air and the children are playing nicely, happily and quietly, all four of them. Together.

I think they must be pleasantly exhausted and relieved. Today has not been a good day.


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Traces of the disaster lay on the table and floor. Frustratingly ripped scraps of paper strewn around. Worksheets angrily scribbled over, even the odd pencil thrown across the room, empty iced coffee glasses and bowls of unfinished lunch.

Today was Wednesday. A school free day in France and the day I’ve chosen to make our “English” day. The plan is to work together, reading and writing in different ways for an hour or two every week. The plan is that it’ll be fun, that we can learn new things and talk about things together and keep up with our English at the same time for a few hours before we go out, play or do some other jobs. That’s the plan.

Today the children didn’t feel like it. They couldn’t do it, they didn’t know how, writing is too hard, they would not do it, there was no point. There were tears, arguments, yelling, and criticizing. We had a refreshing break from not doing our work for lunch, and then we got back to working hard at not doing our work again.

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Generally there are two responses we get to taking children overseas, even to France. 1. You will have to make sure they keep up with their peers back home. And 2. Wow, they’re so fortunate, they will learn so much. When I have days like today I have both thoughts running through my head. I wonder if it’s necessary, I wonder if it’s worth it, they’ll learn it eventually anyway, and they’re already learning amazing different things, but what if they get behind? what if it’s too much for them when we do go home? I have to make them learn, isn’t it important? But they hate it. Surely it’s not that big a deal? So why are we going through this?

The truth is, it’s not super important. But it is good for them. And it will benefit them in many ways.  Many things are more important than being totally up to date with their English, like learning to try, learning to struggle, learning to be bored, learning to obey, learning to take responsibility, learning to encourage each other, learning to deal with frustration and anger, learning to work, learning to do different things, learning to be patient, learning to value knowledge and learning to love each other. Things that ALL of us learnt a little bit better today.

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And we all feel that our terrible day has been a success now that work sheets have been completed and afternoon tea has been eaten. The late afternoon sun provides a beautiful light to play under and ironically I get a chance to relax with writing my blog, as the tulip petals drop to the table. One child voluntarily approaches me and says “You know Mum, I think you’re right, learning to write is good for me, I could do it and I should have done a better job today.” I almost cried.

make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1)

 

P.S 
I wrote this post last week and just wanted to say this week was a whole different story! :
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winter to spring: the stability of change

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I love the colours of a French winter, the pale browns and tans of the cobblestone maze, the earth-red chimneys scattered among the greys and blues of the slate-tiled roofs. Spindly shadows of browns and white of naked branches and occasional splashes of green from a flowerbed high on the sandy old walls.

I love walking along the stone ground by the river, which flows by that ancient town in the motley shade of a great deciduous tree.

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Now spring is here. Everything I loved about winter is changing, but I love the changes too.

I love seasons. Each time the seasons change it reminds me that life changes, life continues and each and every one of those changes is good and necessary for me to grow and become the person God wants me to be.


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I love stability. I always have. For me change is scary. But when change, like the seasons, becomes a normal part of life, and is controlled by our unchanging, loving God, it becomes a new, wonderful and secure stability. After all, that which doesn’t change with the coming of the spring is not maintaining stability, it is just dead.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

From our perspective, change is a risk; sometimes a big risk, uncertain and unknown. But for God it isn’t. It just isn’t.

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Stunning winter into beautiful spring. The warmth of spring spreads through our life and I pray for change. Change us too, grow us too, always. Because in change there is life, love, security and true stability. And I want that.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

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painting france: five minute friday

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today’s word: Paint

We live in France, a country known for its countless rules and crazy bureaucracy but also for it’s amazing history of progressive art. Such an extraordinary mixture of rules and freedoms.

I don’t know how but the entire country seems to emit creative inspiration. (It seems so contrary to Frances modern culture. maybe in this way the country is stubbornly holding on to an era of kings, royalty, romance and castles.)

It’s an inspiration which we let effect us as much as possible.

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Watercolouring in Paris

We have one rule when we paint as a family: Be Free. There are no restrictions, there is no bad, there are no instructions or guidelines, There will be no criticisms, create what you want with what you have. Paint, draw, photograph the way you want. In our creativity we are free. The Freedom is the rule. Be Free.

It is in that rule of freedom that the paint can truly flow, that the truth of our expression can be released, that the work we do can be enjoyed, that we can learn, that our artistic-ness can grow, that we can create.

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Rules are necessary and good in life but our painting paints a picture of how God has called us to be free. A good freedom. A Freedom for our faith to express itself through love.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”

Be His.

Be Free.

 

(part of the five minute friday challenge run by one of my favorite bloggers over here)

 

 

Just write: five minute friday

I’ve decided to do a blog challenge run by one of my favorite bloggers. It’s called 5 Minute Friday. The aim is to follow a word prompt and write solidly for just 5 Minutes once a week. Kinda like those photography challenges that some people do, but with writing. The writing is spontaneous, and on any topic and not necessarily well thought out, (here I am putting a disclaimer- typical me) but I’m looking forward to doing it and at least it’ll help me keep a bit more up to date with my blog.

so here is todays:

I haven’t done this before. I’ve thought about it, wanted to, I think it’d be good, but I haven’t gone there. I’m scared. I don’t know if I CAN do it. I don’t know if it will work. I don’t know if it will be interesting. What if people think I’m stupid or, what if I think I’m stupid.

Just write, let it come, be honest, be open, write from the heart. Just for 5 minutes. Don’t worry, don’t keep back. Just write. Each week it’s a different word, often I think I’ll give it a go. Each time, a little fear takes over.

But today is different. the word: “It’s MIGHTY because you are” and I think…

I’ve done things before that I was too scared to do. I’ve stepped out and done them. My fear has been overcome and Mighty things have happened. What was it that made it happen? Am I mighty? CAN I do it? How do I do these things? What makes the change?

In a way I guess I am mighty. Because He made me. Because He guides me, Because he loves me. Yes I suppose I am mighty. When I follow him. When I obey Him, When I love him. But it’s not my might…

Yes, I can do mighty things because HE. IS. MIGHTY.

The Might you see, is His Light shining on Me.

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oh là là

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I realised a few weeks ago that i could share some of our language learning with you all via video. So here is a clip of the kids playing.

Some interesting language learning facts:
~As mentioned in the clip, the kids (mostly Tiggy) make up “french” words to fill gaps.
~the kids learn’t how to talk French in their context relatively well before they started learning how to translate.
~Nathan is better at speaking French and understanding the grammar
~I’m better at understanding a conversation, but can’t literally translate the individual words or respond very well unless it’s in Frenglish.
~We’re both quite good at speaking English in words and grammar that the French can understand. I’ve been told several times that my “English is very good”. Most people can understand my English-French style better than my poor attempt at French.
~I think our aussie accent is weakening. we have to speak so much clearer and without any slang here. The other day an British holiday-er thought I was from England.
~My first attempt at videoing the kids had to be rejected because of the high occurrence of the words “pipi” and “caca”
~The little kids don’t speak much of anything (including Kody) I don’t know if he’s partly slow because of the language exposure or if it’s just his personality. Here they are getting some Aussie language/culture learning. Thanks to old playschools on youtube.

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