Sunday, May 28, 2006

Jimena's Thinks A-Z

Apple animals ball beautiful believe better Bible big blue Bonaire brothers children Christ church come communicate complete content crepes dad days dinner down eat faith family father Flamingo flowers forget France french friend garden girl God good guy happy heart heaven Holland help home hope house interesting Jesus jimena keys Lekker life like little live Love mean mom morning mother music nice notify objectionable old one paint paragraph Paris peace peacock people person pretty pictures pleased Pray prayer present previous profile ¿Que? quiet read remember right room sad sand school seemed share sing sister song sun talk text think thought three time tree trip Turquoise two uncle vicky wallaby walk work Ximena yes year you young Zebra

Some words taken from my posts so far. snapshirts will also do it for you, but I thought I'd type mine ;)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Crepes, Taize and thoughts on Love: day 6

Ok, I'm really almost done with my Paris posts, but there are still 1.5 days to go. I was happy that there wasn't really anything planned for day 6, at least not until later in the evening. I spent the morning reading, and not doing much else. Delphine suggested we have crepes for dinner and Raphael thought it was a good idea so off he went to the kitchen. I can't really generalize but I think most French people enjoy cooking. I'm not sure, but I do know that French cuisine is famous world wide and that this family loves to cook. They enjoy cooking together and love to sit around the table to eat and talk, laugh and drink. I think it's one of the reasons they are such a close family. Delphine was busy with school-work so Raphael made the crepes. I was supposed to help but I was more interested in observing and taking pictures. I love crepes. My favourite kind are spinach with cheese crepes. Lekker! There is a very nice restaurant in Paris where you can get a whole menu for 8 euros. You get a dinner crepe, a dessert crepe and a jug of apple cider. Anyway.. here are some pictures I took.

He made two kinds of crepes. Salty crepes for dinner, and sweet dessert crepes. Each type is made with a different kind of flour.

This texture looks so playful and innocent. Oh, if dreams were but only made of things as these. I find it fasinating to see how things transform.

This was my only contrubution... apart from eating of course.

He didn't actually mix the ingredients but put them in the blender. Might be a guy thing though.

Oops, maybe he did mix after all. I think I was too busy taking pictures that I can't remember why he first blended and then mixed... never mind.

It was put in the fridge for a few hours. A few hours because we left to go to a Taize prayer meeting before dinner.

In the evening we all (except Delphine) went to a church where they were having a Taize meeting. A Taize prayer meeting is basically a meeting where people come together to sing songs from Taize, and silent prayer. I went to Taize some years ago, and found it all very interesting. There were a lot of young people and I liked the music. The songs are a line or two taken from Scripture and they are sung in different languages. After singing they have a quiet time when you can pray. The first time I was there the prayer time was a bit difficult, because it seemed like a very long time and it wasn't easy for me to sit so quietly, but by the end of my stay there (5 days) I realized that I could actually pray about a lot of things during this time and it didn't seem that long anymore. I was enjoying the quiet time to just talk with God. There weren't a lot of people at the church, but there were both Catholics and Protestants there. We all sat down and sang a few of the songs. Some people read Bible verses and some prayed out loud. I had been feeling quite well. My trip to France really was a great blessing and I was very thankful for it all and these were my thoughts that evening. Then we had the prayer. I started my usual prayer... "Thank you Lord for this day... bless so and so, and so and so, thank you for this and that..." and then all of a sudden I felt like I was being stopped. I had my eyes closed but in my mind I was remembering acts of love... I was remembering times when people had been kind to me. There was one person sticking out in particular; he was sitting right behind me, playing the flute and clarinet that evening. I could see his hands helping me when I needed help, or a shoulder I could cry on if I was sad, or encouraging words to lift me up, and it was as if I was hearing the Lord say, "Why do you push me? Don't you know all good things come from me? I can't describe it but I was crying like a silent baby. See... how many times does this happen? Sometimes I take love for granted, or feel indifferent about it because I'm too busy with my own thoughts and my own life. When somebody cares for you and wants to give you a hand to help you or comfort you in Christ, isn't rejecting it or not being thankful for it, like pushing Christ away? I was really sad because in my heart I was saying... "No, I wouldn't push You away, I do love You." But, if we love God, we are also to love our brothers and sisters in Christ as well. Being with Him is an intimate relationship, but... even though some of us see and intimate relationship as being a "just the two of us" kind of relationship... as soon as you are getting all comfortable God says... "be right back" and in come a hundred people, because God loves His people and we are to love them too, and rejecting them, or pushing them away is like pushing Him as well... I don't know if this makes sense, and I didn't really understand all that was going on inside me that night, but it did make me realize that we are here to build each other up in Christ, and this means that we must do so even when those people are not present. We are always to speak words of kindness about them, and not joke about them in any way that is meant to make me look good, or strong, or put them down or so. It's about standing up for each other like a close family would. It's about seeing them just as Christ sees them, in His light. It really is about loving them. Anyway, the prayer time didn't last very long, or maybe all this was happening too fast, but I know my heart was touched that night. At the house we had the crepes, and later on when all was quiet I was able to ponder all this in my heart.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

"The Pursuit of God"

I think I think a lot. And this morning I was thinking about God. I have been a bit sick for the last two days, so today I'm going to take it easy. As I was going down to have breakfast, I grabbed one of my favourite books, "The Pursuit of God" by A.W. Tozer. It's really a great book in my opinion. Anyway, I went on to read the preface, which I tend to skip in some books, but I really like this preface, and as English is not my first language I seem to understand some things better or discover something else each time I read it. I read something that I hadn't understood before, and needed to hear. These couple of last days I have been sort of fighting with my Spirit. I've been discouraged by a few things, I have felt weak in my faith, and I have experienced how rebellious my heart can feel towards God for no reason! I had also been discussing religion some weeks ago, and this isn't always very uplifting. Many things were discussed and I learned some things, but God, and the things of God were missing in all that theology. I could just feel it in my heart. I decided on purpose to not get into a Bible quoting argument, because I wasn't trying to prove anything, I just wanted to understand where this person was coming from, which maybe isn't a good thing to want after all. I don't know my Bible very well, but I know that I feel confident in my walk with God. My confidence is not in me as I know how weak I can be, but in God's love towards me. It's about trusting the Holy Spirit guides us in our walk, and in being able to discern what is and what is not of God. So, I was reading the preface and this is what he says:
"Current evangelicalism has (to change the figure) laid the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seems satisfied to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel. But God be thanked that there are a few who care. They are those who, while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice, are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the "piercing sweetness" of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing."
I think I can apply this to my life. There is this "program", this "order" that I can come up with or get from someone that will make me a better Christian, and I could stick to it and feel "safe", within my well structured and healthy program. And, well... it may or may not be safe, it's better than being indifferent, but will it really really feed me? Will it satisfy me? Will it make me grow?
"For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts."
To me it means that knowing God is not all about going through the motions, but about a personal experience, an intimate relationship, and just as any relationship we may have it can grow, improve, be lost, suffer, and so on. I like this, because it's about an interactive God. About a living God. I've always known that He was this way, but I have not always known or understood that it can also concern me, and these times. After going through this little short desert in the last days, I realize that when my soul is quiet and rests in Him, there is no better place to be, even if there is sand blowing in your face, and that we must be careful of all the mirages we may encounter in a desert. The only real oasis is in Him. The book is also online in case you want to read it. It really is a good one. "The Pursuit of God"

"Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." - 2 Corinthians 3:17

Friday, May 19, 2006

Still on day 5 :(

I was thinking that I should hurry up this mini France trip as I've been back for two weeks now, and a lot of other things are happening right here. So, ok... on day 5, which was on a Sunday, Raphaël and I went to church in the morning. I mentioned before that I was understanding French better so I was able to understand the message quite ok. I don't remember the name of the church. I figured I was going to go to a quiet church, where you sat quietly, sang quiet songs and listened quietly. The preacher that morning was a pastor from another church. I don't know where he was from as he didn't look French to me, but he spoke with a clear deep voice, his eyes twinkled as he shared and everytime he asked people to sit down he would put his palms up, smile and bow his head. He shared about Jesus' resurrection. I know there were two points he wanted to share but I don't know if I understood completely. I think the first point was about how Jesus rose not for himself, as in, not to prove something, but he rose for us. Actually, now that I think of it, I don't know if I have this right... but it was something along these lines, and the second point was about how Scripture supports this...?... I hope he doesn't read this blog. :( I don't really remember well as I couldn't really understand everything, but I was very blessed to be there. This church was indeed a very quiet church, but it was very active as well, and they even clapped their hands when somebody stood up to thank the preacher for sharing with them. Somebody else also stood up and mentioned how it doesn't commonly happen that they clap their hands but that he was (touched?) by the message... It's funny because before going to church I was hoping deep inside that I would get a chance to clap my hands in church. Anyway, these people were just standing up and sharing prayer requests, commenting on the message, reminding each other of the weeks activities, and it was all good. I was happy to be there.
After church we had some lunch and then went to meet Raphaël's parents and his grandmother at the grandmother's country house. When we had dinner with her some days before she had invited me to see her country house. The house is 150 years old, and it has every good thing you would want to find in an old house. A fireplace, a well, old books, wooden beams, old trees and much more. Here are some pictures.

The entrance.

Front of the house.

Mrs. Pinson working in the garden.

A well!!! A well!!!...

The back of the garden. I thought the little flowers looked so pretty on the ground.

The garden has several fruit trees.

In the grandfather's studio I saw some very old books! This history book is from M.DCC.XLVIII. (1748) To think that this is already a history book.

Then I saw the cutest little house. This is the house where Raphaël, Delphine and their cousins used to play as children. It was actually a place to keep rabbits but they made it into a play house. It's been years since any children have actually played in it, but when I walked in and heard the stories I could just see it all before me.
You might have to close your eyes to picture this, but this little room used to be a restaurant. Yes, the chairs and table were used to seat and serve the costumers. You can see the kitchen in the back the menu on the counter. A busy waiter answering the telephone, making more reservations. But other times, this was a perfume factory, filled with flowers, liquids and little containers. I can see little hands smashing delicate petals to make yet another great French perfume. Of course not all perfumes could be just as good, so judges had to decide the winner! I can hear laughter, fights, songs, see tears, smiles, more yelling but most of all "fun" noises.

After the tour I helped Mrs. Pinson in the garden. She was telling me about birds and had me hear all the different sounds they make. It was funny because when I was busy planting I didn't hear anything, but as soon as she pointed it out, I could hear them all around us. The name "Pinson" is actually also the name of one of the birds they have there. I think the English name is Finch or maybe Sparrow, but I'm not sure as the bird doesn't really look like either to me. So, you would think it wasn't either either... right? That's the translation I get. Anyway, while I was working I was enjoying not only the sound of the birds, but there were worms in the ground as well. I was digging with my fingers and there were pink worms wiggling around. I had never experienced that before. I didn't take a picture because my hands were dirty, but then I took pictures of some mushrooms I found.

I had to press the grass down to be able to take these pictures. They look so cute hiding there.

When I was a child I only saw mushrooms in books, so I like to look at them.

When Delphine saw this picture she started to blow on the screen. You should try it.
That evening Raphaël was invited to go to a birthday party, so he invited me to go as well. I didn't take any pictures of the party but there are some things I do want to write about. See, I have been to France a few times and the scariest thing about the French to me was that they seemed to be so unpredictable. I couldn't put my finger on it, but there was something soooo very... strange. But well, now I know that there was nothing wrong really. I just didn't know much about them, and now I've concluded that they are just peculiar. Back to the party.

When going to a French Birthday party (at least in Paris) know this:

1. You will be kissed by everyone. People that know you, know your friends and people that have no idea who you are. You will be kissed, twice usually, thrice if they know you come from Holland, and four times if they really like you or your friends. By the fifth time, if you are still standing there, they have either lost count, or there is something else going on. Most of us would offer a hand, but here it can be seen as being rude. Yes, I've been rude in France. But please note that if it is a business meeting you should not kiss the people you are meeting. This is not correct.

2. When you enter the house and are greeted by the B-day girl/boy, do not, do not give them the Birthday present you brought for them! What? Yes, it's true, infact... hide it as best as possible. Under the coats, under the table, under the couch, in the oven if it's not being used, or sit on it. If you are thinking, "Oh, they like to play 'hide-and-seek the presents' games"... no. It's just so that giving the present right away is not fitting. So you sort of walk in with a present in your hand, you 'kiss' and wish the person a happy B-day, and then continue to walk in as if you never intended to give the present. So when do you give the present?

3. Nobody seems to know exactly when is the right time to give the presents, so just keep your eyes open for the "right" moment. When in Rome do as the Romans do, or the Parisians in this case. In this party they turned off the lights and came with the B-day cake all lit up and sang a Birthday song. Then when the candles were blown out, the lights came on, and you could see the first gift concealer going back to his hiding place and soon everybody else followed. Coats flying all over the place, paper bags opening, tables being turned over... ok, maybe not the last part.

{4}. I don' t know if this is normal, but there was no music at this party. All you could hear was people talking and laughing and that was pretty much it. Little groups were formed and some people kept walking form one group to the other. But really, no music. I put this one in brackets as I don't really think this is a norm.

5. This one is for sure. If you happen to be the French person getting the present, you do not kiss the person that just gave you the present. At least not until you have opened it first. Which in my opinion is not really good for two reasons. First, it shows that you don't kiss because you got a present, but because you liked it, which you always must appear to have, as you have to kiss the person anyway! Which brings me to the second reason. Isn't it easier to kiss a person before you know what they got you, rather than after you've opened the present and you don't really like it? Oh, the complications of our cultural social behaviors.

6. The part I really liked was that most people brought something to eat to the party. I liked this idea of sharing very much. However, I don't know if people were asked to bring something to share, or if people just bring things without being told to.

I found everybody at the party to be really friendly and even met a few people who also spoke Spanish. This was one of the longest days I had in my trip. I woke up early and went to bed quite late, but it was a day full of good experiences that I was thankful for.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Day 4 from France to Sri Lanka

One of the great things I noticed while I was in France was that I was understanding the language much better. This certainly made things much easier somehow. Well, on day 4 we decided to go to a Butterfly garden called LA SERRE AUX PAPILLONS. I was looking forward to this as I had never been to a butterfly garden before. It was a bit hard to find it as it was hidden in a nursery, but we found it eventually. Well, I was really happy when I walked in, and started to take pictures of the butterflies, which was kind of hard.
They were lovely and were flying all over the place. I was really impressed by the way the flew. It seemed so effortless and light. As I was able to take a closer look at them and I noticed how much bigger their wings really are compared to their body. They didn't really have a large variety of butterflies, but they had some very beautiful ones. I think I counted about 8 different kinds, but maybe there were more. So, at first I was quite happy, but then I started to notice some odd things. For one, after walking the whole place I noticed that it was very small, then I noticed that it was kind of crowded. Then I saw that some of the butterflies were missing parts of their wings. Then I saw a man walk in with his kids and he was blowing hard on one of the nocturnal butterflies. If he had been one of my kids I would have given him a time out. I think his kids were behaving better than him. So, after this I wasn't feeling so good about the place anymore. I was kind of feeling sad for the butterflies. They didn't really have a lot of room to fly and there were so many people they could have even stepped on them. So, I wouldn't really recommend it. Raphael also told me that he was disappointed in the place. I managed to take some nice pictures of some of the butterflies, but I also got a few pictures of broken wings like this one. :( It was really a shame, but I know that there are some very nice healthy butterfly gardens in other places so maybe I'll get to go to one one of these days. Although I think I would prefer to see them out in nature. It was still very nice to have seen some, and I had fun taking pictures. The brown butterfly you see here is actually a very beautiful blue butter fly. When it opened it's wings to fly you would see this beautiful bright turquoise and dark blue butterfly, but a fast one as well, so I never really managed to take a good picture. Except of one that was dead. :(

After that we drove to a village called Montfort l'Amaury. It's a lovely little village which has the ruins of a medieval castle. When we arrived it
was a bit cloudy, but when we got out of the car it started to clear up and it was just beautiful. It had the kind of buildings you would find in a very old city with made everything seem much smaller and cozier. There were a lot of elegant tea houses with cute little tables decorated with pastel coloured tea cups and tea pots. I even saw some people eating big pieces of dark chocolate cake with tiny silver forks... I didn't get any.

Dogs are pretty much cute everywhere in the world.

Then we found a cemetery. It had this plaque at the entrance. Under it you could see that it had been carved on the wall in old French. This is what it says :
"You who pass by here, pray to God for those who have passed away. That which you are they used to be. That which they are one day you'll be."
It really does make you think before you walk in. Anyway, it was quite beautiful inside. I didn't look at all the tombs but it was interesting to look for the oldest ones. We even saw some knight tombs. I think mostly rich people were buried there.

This is a picture inside of one of the little... I don't know what to call it actually. It looked like a prayer room, but I'm not sure. I liked the window.

I really enjoyed the blue in the sky.

Moi :) not smiling, but never mind. The interesting part is the medieval castle ruins in the back. There were three teenage girls up there singing french songs. I guess when you live in a village like this, this is the cool place to hang out. (Raphael took this picture, and I think the one of the plaque as well)

Then we went to the Sinhalese dinner Delphine and a group of people had organized. Delphine is one of the founders of an organization called "Association Ceylandemain" It's an organization that helps people in Sri Lanka that have suffered from the Tsunami. It was a dinner to show the work they have been doing and to raise money. I thought it was well organized. There were different traditional dances and some musical performances for entertainment. After the dinner they also showed us a short movie about the trip they made to Sri Lanka. I was really impressed and touched as the people organizing this are mostly very young. Delphine is 20 almost 21; the others are also really young. What I found great was how these young people are so serious about helping others and raising money for them. I really felt like they were doing a great job and you can just see how the people in Sri Lanka were also appreciating their help. I was touched to see the happy faces of children there, and yet... Delphine said something to me that I found interesting. She told me that when she got there she saw how happy the kids were, and she thought to herself and they didn't really need her to be happy. They were already happy. It just really makes me think about how spoiled some of us really are, and how easy it is to forget what really matters in life. I was also especially touched as at the end of the movie, in the credits, I read something like "Thanks to Ximena for the Expo's" - I was a bit confused to see the name, and then it hit me... That's me! And I was glad.

This is Delphine in the middle. She is as cute as a flower.

This is one of the expos I made for Delphine the night before.