Monday, April 29, 2013

Taking Back Paris

Three years ago, I was laying in my backyard sun, listening to French language podcasts in anticipation of an upcoming trip to Paris. I spent days perfecting my bechamel sauce, delighting in the endless combinations of cremes and cookies for homespun French macaroons. I steeped myself in the culture as an appetizer for what I hoped to deeply taste on the other side of the sea.

I read a few books, and flipped through a travel resources of things to see and places to eat. I surely wanted to do the city right. But, in honesty, I was even more occupied with the company I would be keeping. I let all of my hopes for to-dos fade into the backdrop of a reunion with my boyfriend at the time, who had been across the pond for almost a year at that point. After a visit to his homebase, our plan was to take a four day Parisian detour. What a romantic idea, what a dream, right?

This is a cautionary tale. This is a story of sorrow and regret. This is a story of prayer for redemption.

The trip began with promise. A strong espresso at Gard du Nord, an impromptu accordion serenade on the metro, and a silvery sky started Paris and I off strong. But, within hours, a grumpy hunger tainted the mood. A subpar first French meal (which proved more of a disappointment than I could've imagined) and a heavy conversation lead us to a stroll by the River Seine. As I looked out on the river, and beheld the grey-washed City of Lights, I cried. A sniffly, embarrassed, looking-the-other-way cry.

Where was the magic? Where was the ease?

The questions I asked during the next four days, the additional tears I cried, and the inner turmoil I suppressed, all turned out to be more prophetic than I was willing to admit. I was in Paris, for Pete's sake. The city of romance. But, what was happening, if I'd been honest, was the very beginning of heartbreak. It was the first scrape in what ended up being a deep and painful wound.

Of course, had it been that obvious, I would have spared myself. But, the beauty of Paris blurred the truth. I was walking the streets of Montmarte, hand in hand with a well-dressed gentleman. I was standing in line, picking out macaroons at the very birthplace of the crispy wafery delight. I was experiencing little forgetful joys all throughout. But, underlying, I would be dishonest with myself not to admit a deep sadness.

Paris is for lovers. But, make no mistake, it is for life-long committed lovers. It's for those who've made a promise under God's love banner that come what may, covenant remains.

Sure, the city is a certainly the epitome of lovely. Even with the heartache and difficulty, the streets managed to charm me around every corner. The beautiful hours of sunlight well past dinner, and the full-flavor of wine-soaked steak. Yes, these are sweet memories. It is those memories that beckon me to return, to redeem a wearied heart, to put another nail in the structure of re-awakened hope.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

You Can't Take It With You

For this past Lenten season, I gave up superfluous spending, online shopping, incessant lusting after things. Pinterest has been no small thorn in my side when it comes to desiring to decrease my appetite for things. I want to stop wanting, but every time I see the colorful inlay, the rows and rows of beautiful things and spaces and foods, I can feel the drool of desire dripping down my chin. Sometimes it seems like the subliminal message of our culture is just this colorful conniving version of untruth.

What you have is not enough.

During the fast, my aim was to put a stop to the spending, and thus, abate the ravenous hunger for more. I've grown so accustomed to seeing a book title that catches my eye, clicking right over to Amazon, and adding to my cart without batting an eye. That one-two motion is almost completely thoughtless, instantly gratifying, and utterly selfish.

This six weeks, I thought, will be full of generosity, others-centeredness, and God is enough-ness. Those good intentions surely did pave the way. I set out on the journey, only to find myself in a mess of unforeseen expenditures. Sure, I wasn't buying cute dresses and kitchen utensils, but I was forced to start shoveling out money for individual health insurance, for doctors visits, for bills. And then irony of all ironies... on Easter Sunday, due to a vehicle-devastating wreck a week prior, I had to purchase a new car. How's that for learning how to conserve my resources?

In starting a new job and adjusting to paying taxes as a small business owner, I've been riding the wave of a million little learning curves. Money in and out of my meager bank account has come to resemble the pastel colored currency of a child's game. But these hundreds and thousands are not-so-easy come, eaasssssy go. While I've been extremely busy with my letterpress work and with baking three-ish days a week, the only dough I find myself rolling in is for the Bourbon and Pecan frosted Sticky Buns.

But, I have not gone without. Not for a minute. Not for a meal.

I'm not worried about not having my needs met. The Lord has proven Himself fit for the task of providing again and again. What I pray, in this season, is that no matter how much I spend on the necessities of living and learning to run business, that I am truly taught the meaning of going without for the sake of lavishing generosity outside of myself.

May my rekindled relationship with Pinterest not create in me an insatiable desire for things at the cost awareness of the needs of others. And, may I always hold my money, my successes, my failures with a loose grip.