Thursday, August 16, 2007

South of France Day 8

Well, life has been incredibly hectic and stressful around here lately, and I haven't had time to finish posting about our lovely French holiday! This is the longest vacation we've taken since our honeymoon.

Brian celebrated his 28th birthday in France. Our friends kindly offered to babysit, so Brian and I went off on an adventure all by ourselves. It was really a perfect day, definitely my favorite of the trip, and it was really cool that it just so happened to be on Brian's birthday.

We decided to head for the Cote Vermeille, which was our original destination the day before when the Pyrenees lured us off track. :) The Cote Vermeille is the section of coastline where the Pyrenees hit the Mediterranean Sea. The coastal road we drove on was amazing. We decided to stop in the old fishing village of Collioure which was the inspiration for many artists, including Henry Matisse. There is a strong artistic presence there to this day with many small galleries and artisans working in the village.

This is yet another one of those border towns with heavy fortifications. The Knights Templar built the castle.

We seriously toyed with the idea of renting one of these kayaks, but it was only about 9am and the water was coooold!

I'm art!

Since it was so early in the day, the town was still peaceful and quiet. These cafes are right on the edge of beach.

This old chapel is on a promontory jutting out into the harbor.

This is the view from the back of the chapel.

The harbor, with the Pyrenees in the background.

After exploring Collioure and relaxing in the completely wonderful Mediterranean atmosphere of it all, we continued down the road. Brian decided that it would be fun to have a birthday lunch in Spain.

The hillsides of this region are covered with vineyards, which is not at unusual for southern France but the steepness of the hills makes these grapes especially hard to cultivate. They are called Banyuls grapes and are used to make Banyuls wine which is a desert wine. We stopped at a vineyard to have a look around and we bought two very special bottles of birthday wine to be saved for a special occasion.

This is where we stopped for lunch. It was just a beautiful day and such a beautiful setting. We could see everybody on the beach while we ate our meal.

After our meal we headed for the sand and had a quick dip (in water that was still cold!) before heading back to France.
Once back in Laurens, we rendezvoused with our friends at the river that all the locals swim in. We were so glad to see Iain again! Everyone had taken wonderful care of him and he was quite happy.
Iain is terrified of water, though he is slowly warming up to the idea. He thinks it is interesting, but it scares him to death. I did get him to go in a few inches voluntarily by stacking up some of the large rocks from the river bottom. He liked making rock towers, clacking the stones together, and also enjoyed the satisfactory plunk they made when he threw them in.

Yay, rocks!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Waiting for Zion

God wanted me to get up and pray this morning.

At about 7:20, some plastic bags that have been sitting up top of the wardrobe for ages, fell off and hit me in the bed. Startled, I couldn't go back to sleep. I got up and turned on the computer, but it wouldn't boot up. DOS gave an error message that the boot was damaged. Could our repository of so much information, our link to home, our relatively new computer have had it? This is so not the time for this, I thought bitterly. How could you, God? Why do you have to make things so hard? Do you enjoy frustrating your children? I saw my oft-neglected Bible on the shelf. Is that what you want, Lord? I'm not sure I want to talk to you right now. Alright, alright. What do you want to tell me?

It pains me to write that. Is that really how I talk to the creator of the universe, my heavenly husband, my precious savior? Oh dear Lord, please forgive me. I'm so sorry for taking you for granted.

I opened up to Romans which I am reading through on the rare occasions that I make time for God's word in my day.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. " Rejoice? Why? I don't feel like rejoicing God. Everything is crap right now. You know that. You made it all happen. What do I have to be happy about right now?

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Oh Lord. You do see me. You do remember my circumstances. Thank you.

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." That's it, isn't it God? That's what I'm supposed to rejoice in when life sucks. It really is a great salvation.

This put in mind of that passage in Hebrews about God chastening his sons, so I looked that up too.

Hebrews 12

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." What horrible awful opposition it was. The ingratitude of humankind is immeasurable. Forgive me, Lord.

"In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
'My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.'

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." This is just what I do with Iain, small as he is. He gets so frustrated when he can't do what he wants, but he has no idea how much I love him and want the best for him. I do want to share in God's holiness. Oh how I need to remember how temporary this life is!

"Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees." Thank you Lord for remembering that I am weak.

"Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son." How like Esau I can be! He was so short-sighted and the only reality he lived by was the present temporary situation. I don't want to look at those things. I want to value the eternal.

"Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: 'If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.'The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, 'I am trembling with fear.'

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Hallelujah!

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.' The words 'once more' indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire'."

Praise the Lord.

See, it wasn't just the computer this morning. I've had a bad week in terms of my health. And I've recently gotten the news that I have another cyst growing, this time on the left ovary. And it is just hard. I get frustrated with the dizziness, the fatigue, the pain and the very grossness of it all. It's funding time again, and as we wait to hear back about where the money that we'll be living on is going to come from, it's stressful. The Lord has blessed us beyond our means with trips, but we have the least amount of money we've ever had, and we didn't have a great deal to begin with. We don't know how long we'll be here or where we'll go after this. We don't know anything and we are literally strangers in a strange land missing the familiar things of home.

But praise the Lord. All of that is nothing compared to what He has done for me and will do for me yet. I cling to Him and thank Him for His mercy to me, even as I try to push Him away. Today I'm going to stop being short-sighted like Esau and by the Lord's sweet grace, rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Praise God, He is coming! O Lord haste the day!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

South of France Day 7

Well early in the morning our small family headed off to the Spanish border, which was about 3 hours from where we were staying. Or so we thought! We were making good time and kept seeing signs for Andorra, which is a small country tucked away in the Pyrenees. Brian had really wanted to check out Andorra and I really wanted to see some mountains, so we made a last minute change of plans and head for the hills. This was the view that enticed us away from sunny Spain. Little did we know how beautiful it was going to get!

We picked up lunch at a grocery about 10 minutes before it closed at noon! Shopping in 10 minutes on a budget with a baby in a store where nothing is in English is fun. No seriously, I enjoyed the challenge and managed to triumph! I also accidentally stole a Euro from two French ladies in the parking lot. This was before I went into the store. I needed a cart, but the carts there require a little token to unlock them and I didn't have the correct change to buy a token. So I found these ladies unloading their cart and offered them what I thought was the equivalent of the value of the token. They were very reluctant to give up their cart, but finally did. It was only on coming of the store that I realized that I'd cheated them out of a Euro! Poor ladies!

As drove closer and closer to the Pyrenees, it got irresistibly beautiful. We just wanted to stop and stare. So as soon as we came upon a view point we stopped and hopped out.

As we headed further up the road we came across beautiful mountain meadows and fields where horses grazed, villages perched, and wildflowers grew.

Then we came to the heart of the real mountains. It felt very much like what I'd always imagined the Alps to be like. I almost expected to see Heidi and Peter leading the goats down from a pasture.
This is the road that leads into Andorra. We only visited the first town on the border and we didn't like it very much. Apparently Andorra specializes in tax free shopping, so it was a bit the duty-free shopping section of the airport, but all over the town. We quickly left and ate our at a stopoff on the road next to a trickling little stream running down the rocks.

We stopped at this village (which I unfortunately no longer remember the name of) on the way back. The whole city was enclosed in heavily fortified walls.

We drove straight to Beziers to meet up with everyone else for dinner. We had decided to go out to eat to celebrate Brian's birthday, which was the next day. Most other days we were able to cook or pack our meals ourselves. They had a set menu from you could an appetizer, main dish, and dessert for a good price. Here's Brian's appetizer! It looks like a meal in itself. I don't know if you can see it, but it includes escargot (snails)! Brian said they were good, but I didn't try any.

Anthony, getting ready to enjoy his meal.

Iain, doing likewise.

Brian and I enjoying each other.

Monday, August 06, 2007

South of France Day 6

On Saturday morning we headed off to the local village of Pezanas to check out the local weekly market. There were stalls selling second hand clothing, hot food, produce, flowers, meat, fish, handbags, soaps, and jewelry. I bought a really nice pink straw handbag there that I really love. You'll see it in later photos. This statute was on top of a fountain in the middle of the market.

After checking out the market, we walked around the town looking at all the shops. Here are Lizzie and Sophie taking a ramble.

There was a beautiful chocolate there in the town and I bought a very limited supply of these candies just for a taste. They're chocolate, but they're made to look like olives. They had a nut at the center for a pit! Yum!

I loved the pretty old doors in Pezanas. Here's me with my new purse!

There are lots of shops in the narrow streets of this old town. We walked around for awhile and then stopped for tea and ambled about some more. I thought these were really great paintings. If Brian and I had more money we'd be buying art on our travels.

Iain sampling the wares of a local children's shop.

Tea break!

After having a leisurely lunch at a cafe, (Savory crepes are tasty!) we split up. Brian, Anthony, Iain, and I headed to Beziers to check out the Canal du Midi. Before railroads, this was part of a network of canals that allowed manufacturers to ship their goods quickly and cheaply across the country. England has many canals as well. Today they are mostly used for pleasure boating.

This section of the canal had nine locks! We got to watch several boats go through, which was noisy and interesting. Iain didn't like it because her got sprayed with some water. He started crying and Anthony took him a little further away from the action.

After checking out the locks, we walked further along to this nice quiet dock. Iain and I waited here while Brian and Anthony rented a little boat.

The canal had trees planted on both sides as far I could see. I don't know who did this or why, but it is beautiful.
Iain didn't put up a fuss about the lifejacket, for which I was very thankful. I thought he looked especially adorable in it.
Iain was fascinated by the view from the boat. (Well, for the first portion of the journey, anyway!)

Look who's driving!

Well, ok, with a little help from Papa.

Ah, relaxing on the boat!
After the view got old, Iain enjoyed trying to blow his rescue whistle.

It was getting cloudy and chilly during our boat ride, but it didn't rain on us. Here is the view of Bezier from the canal.

After we finished boating, we headed into the old center of Beziers. We drove all round the crazy old streets fitting the car down narrow passageways that we weren't entirely sure we'd fit through and finally made it to the cathedral which was our goal. It is high up on the hill in the center of town. The view is beautiful.

Anthony and I took a quick peek in the cloisters and sanctuary at the cathedral.