Monday, 16 May 2011

The Lord's timing is perfect-down to the last second

June 2010 was quite the month for me in France. It is the month in  which my daughter gave birth to my first grandchild-Ella. It was not the same as actually being there with her but I made the most of the free calls from France to NZ and shared in her hours of labour as she breathed through the contractions until  Ella's father could be there with her. Although there are incredible miracles that surround this experience I am not going to add them here because they are her experiences as well as my own. I do want to share more of my journey in France as I approached the date the Bishop set aside to decide whether I was staying or not.

I was just a little nervous as D-day in June 2010 approached (Lol that sounds like a soldier in WWII could have written that in 1944). It was like seeing through a glass darkly. I would like to have had more idea of my future and a clearer picture for my journey. With the approach of the deadline I was excited however that one way or the other the Lord would now need to show His hand.

And He did-just not in the way I expected! A phone call brought me to an interview with the Stake President. He explained that his father was very ill, most likely dying and that his mother was in need of assistance. He proposed a situation of mutual advantage where I would move into their apartment, provide moral and physical support where needed and I would be able to remain in France and continue my quest to find work. I was absolutely devastated even though it was an excellent idea. As I prayed about it that night the answer came as a definite "yes" and I balked at it. Not because it was an illogical idea but because there was this element of pride in it. Like as in, "You mean I have sold everything, left my children behind and my country and you want me to do THIS?? I had built my hopes on the idea that the Lord would provide me with a definitive answer as to why I was sent here but this was not it! I wanted meaning and I wanted something to be meaningful. But I had come this far on obedience-this was not the time to rebel.

The next few weeks were incredibly difficult as I moved to the other side of Paris, away from my wonderful ward, my friends,  and most especially my one remaining child with me who stayed on in Cergy to be close to the university. Why did the Lord keep taking away any comfort blanket that I had? The couple were so wonderful to me but I was struggling. Claude was in the hospital when I arrived and my first weeks were spent driving Liliane backwards and forwards to the hospital to spend time with him each day and then to help her with day to day tasks. As his condition deteriorated I knew I needed to stay as close to Liliane as possible to provide support as she came to the slow realisation that her husband was not going to make it and 24hr/7 was taken up in her care.

I keep having these tests of my faith about being here in France and this was really the largest one-I looked ahead of me and saw no way out. I didn't have the opportunity to look for work under these circumstances and there was no other possible option that I could see to improve the situation. It was in this frame of reference that I was struck hard with an impression to seek for a priesthood blessing from a particular American missionary Elder in Paris, the husband of a missionary couple. I am so, so, so grateful that I followed that inspiration.

Much of Elder Stover's blessing is very personal to me and I won't share it all on this public forum. I can say that it became clear that the Lord was asking me to give service at this point in time, that this was not the time to seek the success of the world. What I didn't expect to hear however was when he said that I would be re-united with the spirits of my family members in the spirit world. I was also told that I was in the right place, that coming to France was the will of the Lord and that He would go before me and would be at my left hand and at my right hand. I was reminded that I was not to forget it. My first reaction to this was, "Am I going to die?" No-one in my family was ill at that time. A peaceful, wonderful spirit enveloped me however and I was suddenly not worried.

The very next day I was travelling in the train in Paris on the way home and I was reading in the Book of Mormon, a chapter in Alma 40 which was talking about the spirit world after death. This was purely by chance because this was where I was up to while undertaking a challenge to read the Book in the 90 days of summer! At that moment I received a call on my cellphone. It was my mother to tell me that my father had suddenly died while the two of them were on their holiday in Holland. Although it knocked the wind out of me and I had to get off the train at the next stop so that I could breathe better, the words of Elder Stover's blessing just sang in my head, over and over. WOW, I thought-the Lord's timing is perfect, down to the very minute!!

It was wonderful to be with family during those days of saying our goodbyes to Dad. However, Elder Stover's blessing became an important reinforcement for me again as the night before the actual funeral service my brothers and sisters spoke to me to urge me to go back to NZ, that my children were suffering and that no-one in my family supported me being in France. Once again the blessing came strongly to me and an incredible peaceful feeling overwhelmed me-"I will go before you and be at your left hand and at your right hand." I truly felt it that night. I understood all too well that using logic they were right and there was no answer that could have or would have satisfied them. I was not on my own that night-I walked back to the hotel just surrounded by the spirit. I am sure it will remain one of the most defining moments in my life.

That same day I also received word that Claude had died. I bid a tearful farewell to my Dad, said my goodbyes to my family and headed back to Paris for yet another funeral.

Although Dad dying was a shock and difficult to accept, the experience was a pivotal one in my journey here in Paris. It was during that trip to Holland that I became aware just how completely I gave my life to the Lord to do with it whatever He wanted. There was no holding back now. It was an incredible, freeing feeling oddly enough. Exhilarating in the understanding that my life could now go in any possible direction-wherever the Lord was going to take me.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Point of No Return

I get to write this blog in the most unusual of places-this time a train trip between Brussels and Paris when boredom was setting in. I am getting to some difficult bits to discuss in this voyage to France and I was not sure whether I wanted to go any further with this but I have decided to be brave in case there are others out there in the same situation as I found myself. So....

Once I had sent Joshua off to NZ in January 2009 I was faced with yet another "little" obstacle. The reserves of money that I had brought with me from home were fast running out. Although we managed to get out of the hotel temporarily, towards the end of March I was confronted with the stark reality that there was just enough money left to fly Aaron and I home. I phoned our Bishop in France to tell him goodbye but I received the unexpected response (hmmm or perhaps by now the predictable response) to "Pray about it Marianne." My first instinct was to ask, "Pray about what? There is only one option that I can see."

However, after a good night's sleep, I knelt in prayer and asked the Lord what He wanted of me. The answer came back in such an unmistakable way, "I want you to stay in France." My wonderful Bishop met with me and informed me that he was going to throw his weight in behind my decision and support me, at least until June when Aaron's university year would end. I took a very deep breath as I used the last of my money to pay for our next month's expenses. They talk about leap of faith and that image has not meant much to me personally before but it was all I could think about at first. I was leaping off a very dark cliff with no idea if I was going to be caught at the bottom. I call this point in my journey to France, "My Point of No Return". There was no going back on this decision now.

With that decision made, I went back to work looking to get the business functioning, once again expecting that if the Lord wanted me to stay then the doors would be opened and I would get the business up and running.  But has June approached rapidly nothing had changed-still no work! I resigned myself to heading back to NZ-YET AGAIN lol! By now I should really recognise that the Lord answers in His own way and in His own time. I am reminded of the scripture in Isaiah 55:8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are my ways your ways saith the Lord."

So what happened? I will write that one in my next blog :)