We’re home in France! I am sitting in the chaise lounge behind the house, drinking a cup of chai tea from my favorite mug bought in Aigues-Mortes two summers ago, with my Bible and prayer list and freshly cut ‘belles de nuit’ sitting on the little wrought iron table beside me.
This is My. Place. With. You. Lord. Being alone with You in our backyard in Rochetaillée, sipping tea in the morning while doing my devos or sipping wine and popping nuts in my mouth for apéro in the evening, as I did last night.
It is a perfect late summer day, the sun gradually creeping up to warm my toes. Soon I will have to move the chaise to the shade on the right, but for now, I am happily ensconced in the wonder of being home.
We are sleeping in the guest suite behind the house and that feels perfect because we are, in a sense, guests in our own home. We’re back here after a whole year in the US filled with so many unexpected things in our lives and in our world. We thought we’d be there for four months, but life and Covid and many other events, both delightful and difficult, changed that.
But now, right now, we are back and we are taking time off. This is a delight.
I remember Paul’s labor of love to turn this big old garage into a spacious suite for our newlyweds, Andrew and Lacy, eleven years ago. Since that time, countless others have enjoyed the rest and refuge and simple beauty of this room, not the least of whom are we, are us! A little haven and retreat where we are surrounded by reminders of Your goodness and faithfulness to us, where every photo and quilt and piece of used furniture tells a story of Your provision throughout the years. This is the story of our guest suite, of our home, of our lives in France serving a God who cares for His children, a God who provides.
I smile, seeing Paul’s handmade wooden frames that surround pastels of water scenes from some of our favorite places in Europe that we’ve been privileged to visit:
There are little candle holders from Athens and dried hydrangeas from the yard, held in old wine bottles and vases given to me at book events or picked up at a neighborhood garage sale. The birdhouse and wrought iron bird candle holder, gifts from our good-bye party in Montpellier all those years ago, chirp at me from atop the old armoire, one of the first pieces of furniture we bought in France at the used furniture store near our apartment home in Montpellier way back in 1990.
It is these simple things, Lord, that bring such joy.
After I finish my devotions, I step inside the house to where Paul is reading his Bible in the green leather chair that we won—yes, we won—from a furniture store that was just opening its doors when we first moved to Lyon seventeen years ago.
Paul looks up at me with those tender, kind, loving hazel eyes and says, “Thirty-eight years ago—no, thirty-nine years ago—today was the day we met.” And I grin and kiss him and we say, almost in unison, “The best almost-forty years of my life.” We stand in awe of the God who brought together two starry-eyed recent college grads, ready to change the world for Jesus.
All these years later, we know, we know, that WE are the ones Jesus has changed. By His grace.
And now, I’m sitting in my Writing Chalet, my sweet tool shed that I redecorated last year during the pandemic, the place where nine of my novels have been penned and where I’ll soon be editing the newest one. It is another delight to look out the window at the newly-mowed lawn and see the geraniums perched on the well. We returned to a complete jungle and have happily spent the last few days taming our garden.
Yesterday, we received a What’sApp video from Andrew of the grandkids’ delight—especially eighteen-month-old Lena’s—as they played with a bucket filled with little frogs. Then Andrew called us on Zoom and we spoke en francais with him and Lena. He speaks only in French with her! Yes, we miss our family, but how we rejoice in the full year we were able to be near them.
Later in the evening we zoomed with the new newlyweds, Chris and Ashlee, home from their honeymoon and living for one more week with my sweet Daddy. We plan to host them here next summer in the ‘nuptial suite’! For now, we listened as they shared about shipping all their belongings to Boston where they’ll be moving on August 31, our 36th anniversary.
And we talked with my father. He was the hardest to leave, especially because of the shock we received right before Chris and Ashlee’s wedding. Daddy has pancreatic cancer. In God’s kindness again, I was able to go with him to see the surgical oncologist the day before we flew back to France and hear the doctor reassure me that I should return to France for a brief time, that my father is doing well right now. But, oh, it was hard to leave him.
Paul and I will be back in the US by mid-October because we have two conferences with our mission scheduled on the West Coast, conferences that had been postponed several times due to Covid. And we’ll stay for awhile, who knows how long? At least through January, 2022, when Baby #5 is due to arrive for Lacy and Andrew!
But for this month, the leadership at our mission has mandated a time of rest and refreshment and renewal for Paul and me, a time away from our usual responsibilities of pastoral care for workers around the world. We are grateful for their concern, for seeing the signs of fatigue and burn-out that have been hovering around us for quite a while.
A month to reflect and read and sit before the Lord, to take some vacation. A month to rest.
Letters to the Lord will be paused for the next four weeks as will my presence on social media. Oh, I may pop in with a photo or two now and then. Or not. It is hard for me to take a break. But I am really, really going to try. Because I need it.
And I’ll just bet you do too.
You may not be able to take time off right now. But my prayer for myself and for each of us is that, no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in, we can take a deep breath, pause in our spirits, and thank our God for His goodness and faithfulness so far in our lives. Doing just this simple act of worship changes things, doesn’t it?
So much is wrong in this world, but our God is right, and we can find rest in Him.
“Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62: 1-2
May you find rest for your souls this month, dear ones!
ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog