Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter pics & our French church Siloe (pronounced See-low-way)

Brollier Family 2011 Easter Sunday

Communion - bread and wine like the Last Supper of Jesus (Luke chapter 22)

Praise and Worship

Kid's Sunday School Class

All dressed up with their Easter smiles too!

Our French church - lots of conversations

Claire in pig-tails and a pretty dress

Outside the front church doors where tables were set up for the feast

Church front doors

Lots of yummy dishes including quiches!

Standing in line for food after saying a prayer of thanks.

Lots of good eatin'!

Fun with French speaking friends

More kid fun!

The walk home begins...

Quick shot of the front of the church building

Claire walking home

Stop at the park on the way home for some pics

More of the nice walk home

Ahh... a clear day - nice view on the walk home
Hope you all had a wonderful Resurrection Sunday (Easter) where we remember that Jesus died for all of our sins and rose again on the third day! Hope you enjoy seeing our French Easter Sunday.
Here's part of Luke 22 mentioned above in the Communion pic:
 14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
 17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pics from Carnival time (late in coming)

So I'm guessing that Carnival here is similar to Mardi Gras back in the States - though MUCH tamer. It's a family-fun-day with a parade and costumes. Here are some pics from the day that happened before Lent. (It's now the day before Easter, please don't shoot me for getting these out so late. *smile*) Enjoy & be thankful for our Lord today!

Yay! Flags!

This group had an awesome beat!

Japan represented

USA's Wild West even represented here

Cool Drummers and floutists - love the costumes

Strange person (resembling a devil) on stilts with a blimp following behind

West Africa (I think Burkina Faso) men on stilts with cool shields

My family in the crowd - lots of people dressed up (Ethan was a baseball player and Claire a princess, but it was too cold to keep the jackets off.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The resilience of kids

Kids have tons of energy that we wish we could bottle and use to power our homes, our cars, anything. My kids seem to be especially spirited. We're talking non-stop. Well, there is a stop, when they are asleep or engrossed in a book or movie. Otherwise, it is constant motion and curiosity. It's amazing to watch, and slightly tiring sometimes especially for those of us who have the privilege of watching them. They are a gift, a cherished gift. Often I forget to be thankful for their boundless energy when mine is waning. It is what propels them in life to explore, to befriend, to enjoy.

Today I am reminded to be thankful for my spirited kids. They make friends easily with other youngsters here - even the shy ones. They will befriend a stranger if it means they might get to run around and play. I arrived a little early to pick up Ethan from school, and I saw him initiating a game of tag with the other children. He spoke with a flawless French accent as he taunted the other children to try to catch him. It made me smile. Children are resilient. Instead of being overwhelmed and infuriated about being taken from his home in the States and plopped down in a school where he doesn't know much of the language, he has already learned how to adapt. His friendliness and his need for movement regularly aide him in fitting in and learning language in this foreign land we currently call home.
ABSOLUTELY love this silly kid! Praying for wisdom in training & guiding him.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What must die to let something else grow?

I did some soul searching this past Sunday when our pastor talked to us about a seed needing to die for something to grow. I reflected into my heart as if I were looking into a pool of water. What is deep within? Do I speak/act with love, joy, peace... are my fruits of the Spirit evident even in my relationship with my spouse and my kids?  

What lately have I allowed to die in my life in order to allow the Fruit of the Spirit room to grow in my life?

I thought about how long it takes to grow fruit and what that process might involve. Then I thought about the opposites of the fruits of the Spirit: 

Galatians 5:22-23a 
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control."

To let Love grow in my life, I must not hold on to hatred.
(Prov. 10:12 &1 John 4:7-8 or check out 1 Corinthians 13 on your own.)
- "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs."
- "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

 To let Joy grow in my life, I must throw off the spirit of heaviness - throw off sorrow.
(Isaiah 61:2)
-"...a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

To let Peace grow in my life, I must let go of anxiety and fear.
(Phil. 4:6-7)
- " Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

To let Patience (long-suffering) grow in my life, I must be willing to wait, to endure - to let my impatience die.
(James 5:7)
-"[ Patience in Suffering ] Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains..."

To let Kindness grow in my life, I must not act wickedly or be vengeful - I must not be mean or harsh.
(1Thess. 5:15)
-"Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else."

To let Goodness grow in my life, I must be cleansed of indecency, anything unwholesome - mean or wicked.
(Ephesians 5:8-10 and Psalm 5:7)
-" For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord."
-"[God,]You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with You the wicked cannot dwell."

To let Faithfulness grow in my life, I must not be inconsistent, disloyal, or apathetic.
(Matt. 23:23)
-(Jesus said:) “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."

To let Gentleness grow in my life, I must be merciful and not rough or harsh or rude.
(Philippians 4:5)
-"Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near."

To let Self-control grow in my life, I must have balance and self-discipline and have no part of self-indulgence or intemperance (drunkenness).
 (Romans 7:5 & 8:6)
-"For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death."
-"The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace..."

So the choices I make allow life and death...  Hmm.
Whatever I choose to water in my life will grow.
Whatever I "forget" to cultivate will not grow.
Whatever I purposefully neglect or inhibit will not grow.
I have a choice.
If I live by the Holy Spirit, allowing His water to flow in my life, His fruits will grow. It will be hard and may even require some things to die in my life, but it will be worth it!

Thanks for listening to my thoughts on this, and may we both cultivate spiritual fruits with the aide of our Lord.

Transparancy & Whitewashed Tombs - WHAT IS THIS LIFE ABOUT?

Who knew that going to a foreign country for Language Learning would be a major Lesson in Life as well!

As I try to fit in an adapt in this new culture without completely changing myself, I am learning amazing life lessons from the Lord. I notice that here in a land that seems closed off to God that there is an abundance of beauty. Some of it is incredible, but there is also an abundance of the kind of beauty that is skin deep - superficial, temporary. Let's face it -our skin is temporary. We will not live in this body forever. One day we all turn in this sack of skin (whether it's fresh and firm like a baby or saggy and wrinkled with signs of time etched in it's folds). We turn in our outer shell and what is within remains in eternity - either with God or without. So why is it that this outer shell holds our interest for so long (yet in the light of eternity such a brief vapor of a moment)? Why do we, Americans included, strive to improve only what people can see at first glance if first impressions are often wrong anyway?

In my first few weeks here, I noticed a big difference in the way I dressed and presented myself when I compared myself to the French. That, of course, was my first problem - comparisons. Never-the-less, I noticed. I started seeing myself differently. I am one who was never much concerned with makeup or fancy clothes. I've often been content just to find clothes and shoes that fit since I am of tall stature. I also come with slightly larger feet than most the population (even in the US). I like to think of my large feet as serving a purpose to keep all of my height standing firm. Now when I compare, these things morph and adapt to fit someone else's standard. I begin to see myself differently. It's like someone is holding up a standard - a unit of measure- that I will never reach, and I am bending and jumping to try to attain this goal, a goal only valuable in the world's eyes. I once again must reset my focus.

This is not my standard.
"Do not conform yourselves any long to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (found in Romans 12:1-2).
I Must THINK. I must renew my mind. It is a battle-field.

So once again I begin to evaluate my life by the standards I've learned from the Bible. How does God see me? Am I a white-washed-tomb?

Mathew 23:25-27
  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
   27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Am I pretty and presentable on the outside but smell of death on the inside?

Sobering thoughts. Necessary reality check.

I look deep into my life. Past makeup, past neatly fashioned hair, past matching clothes. Past how I appear... to deep within my soul. To who I really am when this skin, this envelope, is torn open and cast aside. What of me will remain? Is it valuable?

I look again and see areas of my soul that need some major house cleaning and others that just need some dusting. Let's face it. We all have these things that need airing out sometimes. So here comes the transparency part. I started thinking about my interactions with my family, and found myself...  falling short.

Then I read an excerpt from something written by Ann Voskamp that made me cry because it explained exactly how I felt I that I am falling short. Here it is. "Because what will the math really matter if they are bitter? If the house is immaculate — but my attitude a mess? If they can count — but they don’t know how to count all things as joy? If we get the lists done, but have lost happiness in Him? How can any grammar skill outweigh the fact they don’t know the language of grace and thanks? What good will it be if they can recite all the major British battles — but they don’t know to see beauty? What am I teaching our children if I’m not living simply, quietly this: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8). Focusing on what is beautiful, good, true – isn’t this the truest education?"

This explains what I regularly wonder. Am I training these precious little ones well? Am I interacting properly even when I am irritated by their harmless but tangible quirks or when their less-than-angelic attitudes appear? I know we all have these things, and I am certain my parents had to deal with my own faults just as my husband now must deal with some that still linger. I'm a work in progress. So I think that they must be also. Most definitely. So I tend to these thoughts and my reactions regularly, and sometimes have to apologize. The same is true for my marriage. I constantly wonder if I am living as a godly wife. Did I bless my husband today with my words? Were my actions in line with the Word? Did I encourage him? Have I helped him? After all I am his help-meet. I don't know how to do it on my own & often I fail.

So once again I forcibly take my face in my own hands and shift my focus to the cross and what the Bible says I should be like. I turn to the One who can help me. I've been trying to change my heart in these areas through prayer and find it is an on-going battle with my flesh - this skin that is so temporary, but so clingy! However, my flesh is the first thing I am faced with each day when I look in the mirror- so it must be dealt with daily. It's fine to look nice, but the heart of me must match. So I must continue to deny myself - deny my flesh and it's worldly (yet seemingly normal sometimes) cravings. I must deny myself to truly live a full and joyous life.  Living each moment in love, with my eternal future in mind. To live in a way that will last forever because I am following in the footsteps of my friend, Jesus. It's a big standard to live up to, but by grace we are capable with His help.

He can help us live each moment right. Each precious moment.

What if all your moments were numbered and your number would be up soon? I think about this in my life a lot as I try to understand how my folks must feel as my dad battles cancer. My dad's an inspiration to me. He's always been great even with his own faults, but now he has this piercing focus - he knows what really matters. He's apologized to me; he's encouraged me; he's talked to me about what God has said to his heart; he's shared the important things in love and tenderness. He knows that we live life but briefly and we must not live for ourselves. I know this too, living it out is a tougher battle.

Now each day, I re-live moments in my head. Did I speak harshly? Was that kind? How can I encourage my spouse, my kids, my neighbor, myself?  It makes sense to let go of comparisons and worldly standards and to reach for the standard of joy. Joy in serving the One who lifts me up to meet His unit of measurement. One who raises my head when I fall short and feel I can not try again. One who gives fullness of joy. When we figure out the proper focus it all adds up to joy.
JOY = Jesus, Others, You

"The joy of the Lord is our strength."

Looking at each day as if it could be your last always seemed crazy and sad to me before. I understand now. It's not crazy or very sad (though it can be a bit). Living each day as if it were my last feels like a touch of strength. Does that make sense? Living today as if I had no tomorrow in this skin, really propels me towards what really matters.

It's all about focus. What am I looking at? Am I looking towards what I can do in my own power to improve myself? Am I looking at my circumstances? Am I looking at others to see if I match up? Or am I looking deep inside my heart?  Where God's spirit dwells - deep within me.

I want to be living each day as if it were my last - reaching for eternity.

Reaching for God. He is the giver of joy in this life and the next. It's His opinion that matters. He will be the One to decide if I've done well. I'm His - there's no question, but what will I do with this gift of LIFE?

Will I let this gift of LIFE decay as it waits in this shell...?

Or will I hand this life over to the One who made me, and ask Him to shape it into something useful for Him?

Even though the shaping can hurt, it is worth it.

Just like a sculptor chips away at stone or wood to make something useful or beautiful so God chips away at the hardness in my heart and creates a new and wonderful thing. Carve me today, Lord, in the likeness of Your Son, Jesus.

I am thankful for the gift of today - for each breath, for the amazing and even sometimes unsightly moments that slip through my fingers. Thank you for the opportunity to learn and to try again. Thank you for the joy of being Your child, Your work in progress. Help me to be who You want me to be.
Love, Laura

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fun Mistake!

Quick entry:

Went shopping as per usual & bought the necessary items. Then for fun thought I'd get some munchies for myself and the kiddos. (Brent is not a "snacker" really, though he loves to eat - A LOT. He just likes big meals.) So I grabbed a bag of what I thought was similar to America's Cheetos (crunchy cheesy snacks). I read the bag and put it in the panier (basket). Well, when you've been shopping for a while in a different language you get tired and aren't always on top of things because of the miriad of distractions. Are you familiar with the feeling of "zoning" in Wal-Mart? Try a type of Wal-mart in another land & language - it's sensory overload! None-the-less, we have our crunchy snack, but it is NOT cheesy. Our kids like these a lot - so no harm done!  Take a look at the pic and see if you can figure out what we got.

It's peanut butter crunchies!  Just like Cheetos but PB instead of Cheese!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Love: the International Language

After living in France for just over two months, I have learned some French but by no means do I speak it well. We've been attending a home prayer group connected with our church here, and since I do not speak well, it feels like pulling teeth for me to attend sometimes. I don't understand everything, and sometimes nothing at all. I want so badly to connect with fellow Christians here (or just other people in general) that I force myself to go even on nights where I've biked home from an exhausting day of class only to eat dinner and head out again. I forced myself to go last night when I was tired even though I knew I would have to drag myself out of bed in the morning for early classes. Dark circles are starting to linger under my eyes on days like these. None-the-less, I long for connection with the Body.

So we went & spent some time chit-chatting. Basically, I listen and say, "Oui." or "Non." Then they began to ask some delicate questions aimed at spiritual growth. I was amazed that I understood this time. Finally, I was able to speak! It was my first time speaking in the group. Mind you it wasn't great French, but it was comprehensible and even followed by questions that indicated I relayed my point well. YAY! I felt like jumping up and down. Maybe I did internally, just a bit. *wink*

Then the true miracle of the the evening happened right in this completely routine other-cultural setting. Another member of the group shared her experience and requested prayer for growth (like the rest of us had). Only, I did not understand most of what she said. I felt lost trying to join in the conversation. Finally, the Spirit of God tugged at my heart and asked me to step out and minister in French. I felt like jerking my head around as if to say, "WHAT!??" I didn't of course (that would have been strange). I simply acknowledged the gentle prodding I felt so many times before in the States when the Lord has led me to share something. Times when He's stepped in and walked on my words to touch the hearts of those who needed it most. This was a time like that.

The only thing I understood was that this woman needed a friend to help her walk with Christ & that she was having some problems with her husband (though I have no idea what). She trembled as she spoke and I could tell this was a difficult thing for her. So again as I was nudged so gently by the most tender invisible hand, I spoke. I ministered to her completely in French (though I had no idea I could say these things and half wondered if I should speak in another tongue and allow the Spirit to take over - ok, if you're not into that, or used to that, stay with me -that's not what happened). So I spoke normal words in French when I was scared out of my wits. God spoke through me.

I told her, "Though I haven't understood everything you've said, I would like to tell you that you're not alone. God will raise up Christians to pray for you." Tears slipped down her cheeks and she quickly brushed them aside. I'm not sure it was anything I did. I simply spoke with conviction because I know that to be true. Just that morning, God woke me up from a dead sleep and called me to pray for a fellow Christian. So then I offered her a tissue and came to sit by her. Next, I did something so natural to me. I hugged her. I wondered if this was odd for the French culture, and then I dismissed that thought and said to myself that I was stepping into another realm. The realm of Love. Where God steps out and touches humanity through tangible hands like mine or yours. The hug was understood. The love was accepted at she wept in my arms with her shoulders heaving. Then the peace came.

She met with God through a new friend last night. And I fulfilled a part of my calling. I am called to "Be a missionary and to take care of His children," whether that be in the deepest parts of Africa or in the country of France. France, who's been slumbering, her people just beginning to awaken, is ready to embrace God's Love. His Love is here in me & in you all through the world. His Love reaches out through us in any language to melt away the stiffness of slumber or to awaken hearts with fire.

Thank You, Lord, for speaking through an ordinary girl like me. Sustain my new French friend and let Your Love continue to spread through the world. Amen.
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