(This post was originally published on my personal blog, Of Postcards & Ink, between 2015-2016.)
For the most part, this week’s been a bit of a slower one for me. Most days have trickled by, with classes, meetings, errands and catch ups waltzing past in the same way that raindrops trail uncertainly down a window pane before finding a friend or gust of wind that suddenly picks them up and whisks them away into the world of the past.
In some of the more mellow moments, I’ve found myself wandering down memory lane, absentmindedly following the familiar faces beckoning me from photos taken and memories made weeks, months and even years ago. At times, I’ve found it hard to treasure memories and develop a renewed appreciation for the beauty of Sydney in a healthy way, so as not to breed discontentment with the challenges and growing pains of my current circumstances. After all, I have so much to be thankful for – I’m living and studying in Paris, for goodness’ sake!
So, with one foot planted noncommittally in the present and the other being wooed by the familiarity of the past, I’ve been thankful for this week’s reminders to be joyful, grateful and present.
Uni has been much of the same, though it’s a little surreal to realise that we’re about to enter Week 5 which means that we’re already a third of the way through the semester! It’s also been really lovely getting to know some of my peers better and reaching a point where we now recognise each other as familiar faces when crossing paths on campus. However, despite the fact that the classes themselves have largely been very interesting in and of themselves, I can confirm that doing readings, assignments and CP doesn’t magically become more appealing by virtue of doing them in another country.
At church, we’ve been continuing through the book of Ephesians and last Sunday, we specifically focused on Ephesians 1:7 – a proclamation of the redemption and forgiveness that is ours in Christ. Particularly in light of the moments of incompetency and inadequacy that I feel when trying to discuss complex theological truths and thoughts in French, it was a wonderfully refreshing reminder of the fact that my value and my salvation is not borne from my own skills or competency, but from Christ’s blood, shed at the cross for me.
In addition to Bible study (where we’ve been working our way through Jesus’ “I am” statements in John), I also made my way to Interfac on Friday night – a weekly GBU meeting where Christians from central Paris and the surrounding suburbs/areas come together and spend time being taught from God’s word (picture a mixture of TBT and CORE Theology), hearing testimonies and praying together. Spending time at church and GBU continues to be an incredibly humbling experience, particularly as I face each meeting with the knowledge that I could come out feeling really positive and encouraged, or really inadequate and discouraged, simply because of the fact that I still feel a little clumsy when trying to articulate sophisticated/complicated thoughts spontaneously in French.
I’ve also had the pleasure of being reunited with Isa this weekend, as she’s come to stay with me in Paris for three nights! I’ve been particularly thankful for this opportunity for us to catch up and share deeply about how we’ve both been finding exchange (a month since properly arriving in our respective cities), especially given the feelings of pre-exchange apprehension and homesickness we both experienced before the semester began. It’s been lovely being able to host her, recommend different places to visit and do little things like cook meals and open up my home to her. Yesterday, we woke up to absolutely beautiful weather in Paris and ventured out at lunch time to a cafe near Canal Saint Martin, which had been described to me by an Australian friend as something of a sanctuary for expats and Parisian hipsters (read: they actually make real flat whites and even recognise the existence of cold drip coffee – yep, cue the mouth-watering). In case you weren’t already aware, the coffee in Paris (and perhaps France more generally) is, for the most part, certifiably terrible, such that cafes have to go out of their way to advertise that they have Australian baristas in order to appeal to any hardcore coffee connoisseurs (I’m not even kidding – don’t take your coffee scene for granted, Sydney!). Coffee rant aside though, lunch was really lovely – soaking in the scent and taste of good coffee, delicious pancakes, chill vibes and rustic decor that wouldn’t have been out of place on Crown Street was a strangely confusing but wonderful experience all at once! Being able explore an area of Paris that I haven’t spent much time in before was also a source of renewed appreciation and child-like wonder at the lively culture, history and personality that lives and breathes in this city.
While continuing to learn contentment and to invest myself deeply here, I’ve been thankful for all of the familiar faces and little pieces of home that have found their way into my life this week.
P.S. I’m sorry for the distinct lack of photos in this post – I have photos that are sitting on my camera at the moment, but which I’ve been unable to transfer to my laptop due to unforeseen SD card-reading issues that my laptop’s been having :( I’ve been kept fairly busy this weekend and haven’t had a chance to sit down properly and try and work out what’s causing the problem, but will hopefully get around to doing so in the next few days and have a post filled with photos for you next week to make up for it, haha. In the meantime, I’ve included a few random assorted snaps (some from my phone – apologies for the relatively lower quality) taken over the last few weeks for you to enjoy.
“I hear religious-minded people say all the time with good intentions, “God will never place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot carry it.” Really? My experience is that God will place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot possibly carry it alone. He will break your back and your will. He will buckle your legs until you fall flat beneath the crushing weight of your load. All the while He will walk beside you waiting for you to come to the point where you must depend on Him.“My power is made perfect in your weakness,” He says, as we strain under our burden. Whatever the burden, it might indeed get worse, but I know this – God is faithful. and while we change and get old, He does not. When we get weaker, He remains strong. And in our weakness and humility, He offers us true, lasting, transforming, and undeserved grace. It is this grace that enables us to do more than survive in this world. Grace enables us to thrive in the presence of this world’s suffering while magnifying the One who breaks us with affliction – that He might equip us with comfort, compassion, and strength to give to others.” (Greg Lucas)
I’ve been feeling a little heavy-hearted this week. A lot of seemingly small things have had the power to discourage me and I’ve been finding myself feeling anxious and stressed about different uni-related deadlines and errands that need to be run. When I’m in this sort of negative head space, I find that I’m particularly vulnerable to slipping into a state of discontentment and renewed homesickness, as I cast Sydney life in an exaggerated positive and desirable light, to the point of it being quite unhelpful. The final session of Interfac was a time spent in prayer, where we broke off into groups of four and went around, sharing “un sujet de reconnaissance” (something that we’re thankful for) and “un defis” (a challenge we’ve been experiencing), so here’s one of each that I’d love prayer for in the coming week:
Thank God for the opportunities I’ve had this week to learn from others at Bible study, church and Interfac, and for the opportunity I’ve had to host and spend time with Isa. They’ve all been sources of much joy and encouragement and helpful reminders to keep my eyes fixed on the big picture – God’s kingdom.
Please pray for discipline and intentionality. Discipline in using my time wisely (from uni commitments and daily housekeeping to my quiet times and periods of rest) and intentionality in investing deeply in relationships with people here. I’ve been struggling to find a healthy and Godly balance between maintaining and nurturing my relationships with people in Sydney, and being present and deeply invested with people I’ve met here (the latter of which has been exacerbated by the knowledge that I’ll eventually be leaving). Please pray that God might help me to love and care for people here well, without being hindered by the temptation to selfishly compose these friendships on the basis of what I think I’ll get out of them in the long-term.
And finally, praise God for how He is the God of this universe. Living in Paris has allowed me to grow to understand the magnitude and reality of this truth in a way I don’t think I did in Sydney. To see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears the way that He is radically transforming the hearts of people here in France – people who live, speak, think and learn in such a different culture, language and society to my own – has been awe-inspiring, to say the least. Reading, hearing and discussing the gospel (and the Bible more broadly) in a completely different language has also filled my heart with an immense sense of appreciation for and amazement at the richness of God’s word and how its life-changing, redeeming truth transcends language, time and culture. This week, it’s my prayer that you might also continually reminded of the magnitude of our God and that you might cling to Him and the grace that is yours in Christ in every moment of joy, sadness, strength and weakness ahead.