(This post was originally published on my personal blog, Of Postcards & Ink, between 2015-2016.)
Sorry for the radio silence last week, friends! The precise reasons themselves have already started fading into the shadowy recesses of my memory, but each day was passing in a blur of highs and lows, accumulating such that my mind was filled with distraction and scattered thoughts and my heart felt increasingly weighed down by seemingly little things. As such, by Sunday, it was a struggle to sit down, reflect and try and force paragraphs of words out of myself. Anaïs Nin once said that “we write to taste life twice”. I think that it’s a beautiful gift – to be able to taste again the bittersweetness, joy and melancholy of the experiences we’ve lived and breathed by crafting words, letters and stories in all of their intricacies and often discover a richness and depth we didn’t initially recognise. But it can be painful, hard and even exhausting sometimes. For me, I risk being caught up in a vacuum of introspection and self-analysis, the escape route from which is then blocked by a barricade of ruthless perfectionism – it can suck the joy out of the whole creative process sometimes. So, as I found myself sitting in front of my laptop last weekend, watching the cursor blink against the blank white box before me with my fingers hovering uncertainly over my keyboard, I was reminded that sometimes, things don’t need to be tasted twice. And that’s okay.
Thankfully, this week’s welcomed some slower moments into her wake; filled with reminders to rest, to be present and to be content. Coming to the end of it was also particularly joyous, as Friday afternoon marked the beginning of my autumn break (mid-sem break) – cheers all ’round!
Last weekend, Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre (an annual festival celebrating the grape harvest, which involves hundreds of wine-makers and food artisans setting up stalls along the streets of Montmartre and various parades, etc.) took place and I made it out to the Sacre Coeur to watch the annual fireworks that take place after sunset. The firework display was themed around the environment and was accompanied by music and voice recordings that operated in tandem with the design of the fireworks themselves to raise awareness about the environment (#COP21). The display itself was beautiful and enhanced all the more by the pale stone structure of the Sacre Coeur being illuminated by the vast array of colours and sparks. The crowd experience was perhaps equally memorable, but for much less attractive reasons! They say that French people tend to be more reserved and distant as far as strangers are concerned, but my experience has found at least two physical exceptions to this rule: the metro at peak hour and at these fireworks. I’m not exaggerating when I say that no part of my body (except perhaps my neck/head) wasn’t touching at least five different people who were packed like sardines alongside me at the foot of the Sacre Coeur. It’s safe to say that the night felt significantly less cold for the duration of the fireworks display!
Church has also moved to a new location and time (we now meet at 11am and follow the service with lunch) and we had the privilege of hearing from Portes Ouvertes (Open Doors) last Sunday. While I had heard and read about the injustice faced by the persecuted church from Open Doors before, doing so in French was particularly valuable and insightful in refreshing the reality of their suffering to me in a new way and reminding me of how the profound unity we share in Christ ought to drive me to feel the weight of their suffering too. Over lunch, I also had some really lovely chats with a few different friends – I’m thankful for these blossoming friendships.
The uni week was fairly uneventful, though Paris has taken a distinctively cold turn over the last few days and there’s now a certain bite in the wind that wasn’t there before. Seeing a weather forecast invariably locked in the single digit range (accompanied by the occasional “feels like 0°C” statement in the weather app) is prompting a buzzing sense of anxiety in me for what’s to come…but seriously, it’s not even November yet! :( A few days ago, an internet technician came to my apartment to check/fix my internet modem which has been playing up recently and in our small talk, we were commenting on how cold it had gotten and I mentioned that I was from Australia and was therefore, by definition, in no way equipped to cope with it all. He responded by chuckling and good-humouredly wishing me luck. I guess we’ll see, hey?
My Tuesday was sweetened by a Skype session with Tuesday TAG (my Bible study group in Sydney), during which we were able to share laughs, encouragement and prayer points. Being able to drink in the scene of all of them gathered in Betty and Tez’s living room with smiles on their faces, ears to hear and voices to share brought so much joy to my afternoon. Community – even across oceans – is a beautiful thing. Dear friends and family in Sydney, thank you for all that you are, and all that you do.
Wednesday was a particularly long day that began with a one-off 8am class and ended with my last class finishing at 9:15pm. What could otherwise have been a recipe for a fairly mediocre day was brightened, however, by afternoon tea with Lucy and supper/wine/dessert at Samara’s with a group of friends. Afternoon tea was spent in equally honest sharing and light-hearted conversation and reminded me of how thankful I am for the common ground and fellowship that being (a) one in Christ and (b) Australians on exchange (seriously) brings. Lucy and I joked about how this was effectively the first time that we had sat down and properly gotten to know each other, yet had already been referring to the afternoon as a “catch up”. Hearing about all that God has taught her during her time on exchange was a great encouragement to me, and offered new nuances of insight and perspective regarding this whole experience that reminded me of the big picture. The night at Samara’s was also a source of warmth and light-hearted fun, as we all enjoyed supper and apple/blackberry crumble, while chatting away into the night. Some of us (Aussies) also introduced some of our German, Canadian and Irish friends to YouTube videos of boxing kangeroos and John Oliver’s “informative” video about former PM Tony Abbott, which were greeted with mixed reactions of great amusement and mild disbelief.
And last but not least, Saturday morning saw me heading over to Miri’s place for breakfast and a time of reading the Bible and praying together, which will hopefully become a weekly thing. It was so lovely to spend time with her, catch up and wrestle with Bible passages and spontaneously formulated prayers in French. As we came together from completely different countries and Christian contexts to grow together in our walks with God, the morning gave me such a beautiful glimpse into the glory that will be fully realised when Jesus returns.
All in all, I think this week has been a reminder to be thankful for the little things, and to cultivate contentment, peace and joy in the present. Despite the ups and downs, I’m so thankful for God’s strength that He so faithfully gives each day. In all of my moments of weakness, weariness and homesickness, I’ve been reminded again and again of how beautiful it is to come to Him receive, again and again, mercy, grace, love and strength.
Thank God for sustaining me through the first seven weeks of uni! Finishing class on Friday to be greeted by the mid-sem break was accompanied by a particularly acute sense of victory, since I had two oral assessments to complete that day. The last seven weeks have left very little room to stop and purposefully rest in many ways, and it wasn’t until I got home on Friday afternoon and sat down on my bed in a state of mingled relief and exhaustion, that I actually took and moment to recognise and acknowledge that. So, thank God for this opportunity to rest, recharge and prepare for the busy-ness that awaits in November. I’ll be spending part of my mid-sem break in Lyon and Annecy with Isa, which is super exciting and I’m looking forward to days spent doing life and exploring together again.
Please pray that I might spend more time this week in God’s word and that the break might be an opportunity for me to grow in this discipline in anticipation of the heightened workload that November will bring. I’d also really appreciate prayer for wisdom as I think through whether to register for and attend a GBU weekend away in November. The decision is proving to be a bit of a hard one, particularly because saying “yes” involves saying “yes” to putting myself in uncomfortable and humbling situations, as I know that self-criticism/my own sense of language inadequacy and the fact that I have quite a few deadlines around that time of the month are likely to cause experiences of anxiety and stress. On the other hand, I want to be critical of my natural instinct to stay within the limits of my comfort zone – for all the potential discomfort, I know that it’ll be a wonderful opportunity to love, serve and encourage others, and to allow my relationships with God and brothers and sisters to flourish.
Thank you, as always, for your prayers :) It’s been a joy to continue hearing about how God has been working in your lives and committing you – in our joys and struggles – to Him. I’ve recently started reading Galatians in my quiet times and this verse blows me away every time, so I’ll leave it with you now:
“Ce n’est plus moi qui vis, c’est le Christ qui vit en moi. Ma vie en tant qu’homme, je la vis maintenant dans la foi au Fils de Dieu qui, par amour pour moi, s’est livré à la mort à ma place.” (Galates 2:20) / “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)