40 ACTS ::4

ACT 4: MEET UP

Once you start opening your heart and hands to the needs of others around you, you’ll find you want to open your home, too. Invite people to get together, either at your house or elsewhere. Use it as a chance to pray for each other or just a chance to be hospitable.

Green: Offer to share your table, wherever that might be.

Amber: Send round the invitations to your place and get the kettle on or arrange a meet up at a café. If you get tongue-tied when it comes to talking about your faith, the Talking Jesus course will help.

Red:Offer your home to meet up once a week through Lent, and perhaps beyond – you could use our 40acts small group studies as a focus. Also, HOPE’s giveaway magazine HOPE for All makes a great conversation starter with guests – leave a copy on your coffee table.

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others…” (1 Peter 4:9–10 NIV)


But what is the heart of this Act? I need Helen Saying !
Her comments on 40 Acts last year always seemed to get to the very heart of the Acts, instead of skimming the surface like I do! I suppose this is about being willing to be open, to be vulnerable and to share your faith. But somehow I find the meditation and the Acts a bit disparate – they don’t really mesh together that well…
STILL…whether or not I complete this act, as long as I continue to be open to being generous in other ways, that’s fine.
As for yesterday’s Act, I made some biscuits for friends; but they were disappointingly “meh” (the biscuits, not the friends!), so we’re not giving them. What a shame, we’ll have to eat them ourselves…
But we are aking a couple of friends, Louis & Odette, for regular readers) to join us tonight at the restaurant next door. It re-opened with new owners yesterday, so we’re going to show our support. Also, as L&O saved us a lot of problems by lending us their car when Happy-the-Fiat died, we want to buy them dinner to say Thank You.

40 Acts :: 2&3

Oh, goodness! I’m already playing the “catch up” game, and we’re only on day 3!!

ACT 2: HANDS IN

It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get stuck into situations that need your help. Over-flowing bins? Empty toilet roll on the holder? Don’t think twice, just sort it. Easy fixes are good practice, but if the task takes you out of your comfort zone, even better.

Green: Do the washing up – even if it’s not your turn.

Amber: Whether it’s emptying the bins or cleaning the toilet, do that one job nobody likes.

Red: Offer to do some gardening for someone who’s been struggling to manage it or help declutter a room.

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.(Proverbs 11:25 NIV)

Last year, I was able to take the opportunity to wash up the cups at the language school where I work…since then, they’ve got a dishwasher, so there’s no washing up to be done! I did clear up a bit of debris left by the school children who are having an intensive course, but there wadn’t much else to be done…

I filled the staplers (yes, usually, if they’re empty I’ll tut and use a paper clip!!) as Claire complained that she’s the only one who does it! But it was hardly a difficult job.

And I tried to cheerfully put away the washing up that had been done at home, but not been put away. I’m not sure I quite managed the “cheerfully” part, but at least the only person I moaned to was God, and he can survive that!

But I think this act is certainly one of the ongoing ones – it’s not like tomorrow I’m going to walk past those things that need doing, because we’ve moved on to a different act! They’re still going to be there to do tomorrow…and the next day…And God will continue to remind us to do those things…

ACT 3: TREAT

If you’re in the blessed position to receive a salary, the few days between being paid and the bills going out offer a great opportunity to give a ‘payday treat’ to someone else. Instead of focusing on your needs and obligations, turn your attention to someone nearby. Not in work at the moment? Join in with friends and think home-spun.

I made a box and I can’t get rid of it!!!

Green: Take cakes or biscuits with you to share.

Amber: Suggest drinks or dinner after work to celebrate the end of the month.

Red: Think of someone who’s in need of a treat and get them something special or take them out to the cinema or for a meal.

“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’”

(Mark 12:41-44 NIV)

This came a bit late for me to action today – an early start on Friday means I’ve left the house before the email pings into my inbox. I’ve only just read it (I have a break between lessons, giving me a chance to do some admin and write this blog post) so I think this act will be held over. I’m not working on Monday, so maybe I’ll make a cake or some biscuits then, to take into work, or over the weekend I’ll make something as a treat for someone…It’s not a difficult one.

The reflection (click on the link above to read it)  does link back to what I said on Wednesday however: I think for me the last part “when it is in your power to act” is important: I need to recognise that I can do more than I think I can (monetarily, as well as giving time or talents) I have a tendency to think “I can’t afford it” and to keep my hands in my pockets…but we probably CAN afford it.

This isn’t asking for an enormous outlay, but it is asking for something, but it’s a something I can afford. There’s a few families at church that are probably struggling more than I really know. Perhaps a MacDonald’s gift card would be a nice gift for one of them. While I don’t think that MacDonald’s is the healthiest of options, the kids would probably like it!! I don’t think I’m going to church this week, but I’ll try and sort it out for the following Sunday.

And we’re off! 40Acts :: 1

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”
(Proverbs 3:27 NIV)

 

This is the verse to hold onto through this year’s 40 Acts.

I think for me the last part “when it is in your power to act” is important: I need to recognise that I can do more than I think I can (monetarily, as well as giving time or talents) I have a tendency to think “I can’t afford it” and to keep my hands in my pockets…but we probably CAN afford it.

This always makes me pause for thought:

It reinds me that while I don’t feel wealthy, I am indeed richer than 92% of the world. That is a sobering thought, when I tell myself I can’t afford to give to a charity, or help someone, or buy a trteat for a friend…

So, this verse will be with me through 40 Acts

Live Car?

If you remember, a few posts back I told you that our little Fiat 500 died on us

We had to decide what to do, so having looked at a few cars, we’ve decided that we’re going to have to bite the bullet and buy a new car.And so the next thing was which one we’re going to buy. We test drove one on Wednesday night, and it seems a good medium sized car, with enough “poke” for motorway driving.

Dear Mr FD was going to try to organise the finance and hopefullyeverything will work out.

I don’t believe God is a “God of Parking Spaces” (that is, miraculously providing parking spaces when prayed for) but I do believe he takes an interest in the minutiae of our lives. So I prayed that we’d find the right car for us, as it’s necessary for us both to have one; as soon as I saw this one, it felt like I would be very happy driving this car.

Let’s hope things fall into place…

Does it come with an Itty Bitty Kitty too?!

ETA: there has been a problem with this car, afterall. Mr FD has unearthed the fact that it hasn’t had regular oil changes, which could have caused long term damage to the engine. So, the search continues…we’ll find The Right Car at some stage.

Exactly where I need to be…

Recently I’ve been starting to wonder if I’m too “comfortable” in my relationship with God…

I’m not feeling challenged.

I’m not feeling uncomfortable.

I’m not feeling edgy.

I’m feeling loved, and contented, and safe.

I’m not feeling “on fire”.

I’m not feeling called to “do” stuff.

I feel as though I’m “being”.

But then it struck me that the well known and well loved Psalm says:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters…

He makes me lie down, he leads me by quiet waters. Yes, there are valleys of shadows that need facing, but there are also green pastures to lie in.

A good shepherd isn’t always challenging his sheep to go higher, further…Yes, if it’s necessary for food, or for safety, then he will lead them somewhere else, but if they need to lie and recuperate, and “be” then he allows them to do that.

In the past couple of years I’ve been through quite a lot: my breast cancer, the treatment, the recuperation, the going back to work, the side effects of the hormonetherapy, the worry of Mr FD’s unemployment benefits ending, some financial crises, the changes at church that have meant I’ve taken on more preaching responsibilities… All of these things have taken their toll on me, and I think that God is telling me to just rest, and relax and enjoy the peace.

I am exactly where I need to be.

And instead of fretting and wondering and thinking about what I think I should be doing, I should be resting, as my Shepherd wants me to do, and feeling contented in the love of my Father.

Pet Patrol Rescue!!

I was driving to church last Sunday, quite early as I was taking the service.

As I was going a tad below the speed limit on the motorway, I saw a small black cat hunched up close against the central reservation, obviously terrified.

Very similar to this

By the time I had clocked it, processed what I’d seen and made the decision I couldn’t leave it there I was probably over a kilometre further down the motorway. So I did what any cat lover would do…

I drove to the péage (tolls), drove on to the next exit, exited the motorway, drove back onto the motorway, went through the tolls, drove up to the next exit, exited the motorway, went through the toll, turned round, went back through the toll, drove back onto the motorway, and stopped on the hard shoulder.

Then I walked briskly along the hard shoulder to where I’d seen the cat.

There it was, still as could be. I waited for a break in the traffic (Sunday morning, there wasn’t very much traffic) and then scurried over. To where a wet and soggy scarf was lying all scrunched up..! I’d driven 30 minutes and 30 kilometres out of my way to rescue a scarf!!!

When I told the congregation why I was only just on time for the service they thought it most amusing!

Dead Car

Don’t worry! This isn’t us!!

Last Friday I had set off for work nice and early (7.15) as I had a lesson at 8.30 in Clermont. About a kilometre before the junction onto the motorway there was a small clunk and the engine stopped running. I drifted over to the side of the road, and tried to restart.

A-huh-a-huh-a-huh, wheezed the engine without coughing into life.

Happily we had just signed up for a good breakdown package which had kicked in on the Monday before (looks a bit suspicious!!), so I was able to phone through for a breakdown truck. However, with me, these things are never quite as simple as they might be: it was one of those push button 1 if… helplines, and so I had to phone & listen about 5 times before I could work out which I needed! I finally chose the right one, and it went onto a website where I filled in my details (I do ask myself what one does if one doesn’t have a smartphone, or you don’t have internet access…) Having done this, I was told that my emergency locator wasn’t turned on, and please enter manually my position.

With fingers rather numbed and clumsy through cold (it was about -2°) I somehow managed to say that I was located in a road in a town in department 91 (we’re in dept 42!) and was cheerily told that my location in dept 91 had been logged and a breakdown truck would be with me in 45 minutes.

 

“What?! No!! Oh *$#*!”# ” I spluttered and tried phoning the helpline again.

Of course, there is no instruction “Press button 6 if you have inadvertedly sent a breakdown truck to the wrong department” (or if there was I didn’t understand the instruction!!) so I panicked and got a bit weepy. But then, pulling up my big girls’ knickers I thought about it and found another number on my bit of paper to phone. I explained my dilemma, was told not to worry and so relieved that the resue mission in dept 91 was going to be cancelled, I restarted my cry for assistance. I seemed to manage to enter my location successfully, received another text telling me that the breakdown truck would be with me in 45 minutes.

I settled down to wait. Even though the car was on the side of the road, with its hazard lights flashing, I thought it best not to wait in the car in case of being shunted by one of the reasonably infrequent but heavily laden lorries that whizzed by, so I walked briskly up and down to keep warm. Thankfully, by 8.00 the sun was coming up and the air was becoming warmer. Then my phone rang.

“Hello, Madame? You are located where on Rue Whatever?”

AARGH. The resue mission hadn’t been cancelled and somewhere in department 91 a breakdown truck was looking for me!

I explained the situation and he was very understanding, telling me not to worry. He rang off, and I started to wonder if in fact my second call had been correctly logged. By now it was 9.00 and customer services was open, so I rang that number. I was right: it hadn’t been logged, so the wpman at the other end of the phone took the details manually… and within 20 minutes a breakdown truck from Noiretable (16 km from our village) had turned up.

He loaded the little poorly Fiat onto the back and off we went.

At first he thought it was something straightforward, but more investigations proved it was more serious. I called a friend to pick me up, while the Garagiste did more diagnostics. The final upshot is that the timing chain (which is the equivalent of a cam belt) has broken. It will cost at least 1,000€ to mend, but it could be more if it has damaged other parts of the engine when it broke.

We have to decide if it’s worth doing, if we want to do it, if we can afford to do it, and if we don’t do it what we are going to do…we need two cars as we work in oposite directions! For the moment, a kind friend has lent us his second car, but we can’t rely on it for too long.

Hey ho.

Work Experience

Every year, the young people who are in troisième – the last year before they go to Lycée – have to do a stage, which is basically a week of work experience, in a shop, a business, an office, or wherever they can find. Most schools have them doing this round about the same time, so you can imagine that it’s sometimes quite hard to find somebody who is willing to take on a stagiaire, who hasn’t been already metaphorically reserved by someone else!

A few year’s ago, my friend’s son, Flynn, (bi-lingual) was able to go to the UK (his parents paid for flights, obviously!) to spend a week with his uncle, who is a plumber. He then did his oral report (which counts as part of the Brevet – GCSE equivalent) in French & English. He got 100% in his grade. The hope was that his sister, India, would be able to do the same, but to follow her Aunt, who works in sales. Unfortunately, due to business trips & prior engagements, this didn’t work out, so she asked if she could follow me instead. I agreed, and so it was all planned. Last week, she was “my” stagiaire, and this was the planned timetable:

MONDAY 5 hours
 
09.00 – 12.00 Group lesson

(Bonjour World)

12.15-12.45 Yves (BW)
12.45-13;30 LUNCH!!
13.30-14.00 Olivier (BW)
14.00-16.00 PAUSE
16.00 – 17.00 Paul (BW)
TUESDAY 5.5 hours
 
09.00-10.30 Jean Luc (BW)
10.30-12.00 Cedric (BW)
12.00 – 13.30 PAUSE
13.30-15.00 Roman (MF)
16.00_17.00 Pascal (BW)
WEDNESDAY 7 hours
 
10.15 – 11.45 Yvalda
11.45-12.30 PAUSE
12.30- 13.15 Valentin
13.20-14.20 Adam
14.20-15.20 Yannis
15.20- 16.35 PAUSE
16.35-17.20 Maelan
17.30- 18.30 Lilou
THURSDAY 4 hours
 
10.00-11.00 Charlene (BW)
11.00 – 14.00 PAUSE
14.00-15.30 Audrey (MF)
15.30- 17.30 PAUSE
17.30 – 19.00 Aicha (MF)
FRIDAY 5.5 hours (or 4.5)
8.30 – 10.00 Rachele (MF)
10.00- 11.30 Sylvain (MF)
11.30-12.15 PAUSE
12.15 – 13.15 Conversation Class (MF)
13.15- 14.45 Lionel (MF)

It all started quite well… She would see how an English teacher worked and how I buzzed about to different companies for my lessons.

Monday was fine, as the pause gave her a chance to ask me questions, and to have a look round Bonjour World.It started to fall apart on Tuesday – we had the two lessons in the morning, but the student at 13.30 wasn’t starting until the following week, so we had a 4 hour gap to fill! We visited the Metaform main office, so she could compare the two, and we ate our lunch there…Then what to do? Finally we went to Noz, and wandered round as slowly as we could, then we sat in the car park and watched half of the movie “Ghostbusters” on Indie’s phone   until it was 16h and time for the next lesson. We arrived in the company, only to find the student had forgotten the lesson (or couldn’t be bothered cancelling it) and was out on business…We’d hung around aimlessly for 4 hours, when we could have gone home. OK, I’m getting paid for the 1.5 hours of lesson, but not for the four hours of wasted time.

On Wednesday, I had two students cancel too – in good time, so there’s no penalty for them – so again, we had 3 hours to kill. So my stagiaire on “work experience” came to Lidl with me to do the shopping, then we went to the hospital to make my appointment for a check up, and then to McDonald’s for an ice cream!!

The day did have its compensations though, as India was rather taken with one of the young men I teach! I think he rather liked her too, as there was some mutual blushing going on!! As India is trying to decide which Lycée to go to, I think that Adam may be a draw to one in particular!!

On Thursday plans went awry too – the afternoon student had to cancel (in good time) for an important meeting, so we were left with 6.5 hours to kill. So I took her for lunch…

Burgers in the Garden Ice Café (which were very delicious!) and then we went shopping…

By 16h we were both flagging so we went to the Metaform Centre Ville office, where my next lesson was, and relaxed on a sofa with a cup of tea and a book. India fell asleep, but I failed to get a photo of that! My student arrived promptly, so we had the lesson and then went home.

Friday went according to plan (save for no Conversation Class) and as we had finished by 14.45 we decided to go to the pictures! We went to see Jojo Rabbit, which we both really enjoyed. Mark Kermode, whose opinion I trust, was, however, less of a fan. In my opinion, his description of the imaginary Hitler as “more like a petulant schoolboy than a murderous dictator” misses the point; I think the Imaginary Hitler was voicing Jojo’s thoughts and so when Imaginary Hitler was questioning Jojo’s reasos for doing something (in a petulant manner) it was Jojo himself questioning his own motives. And when Jojo finaly turned on Imaginary Hitler, he was turning on his own Nazi beliefs… But maybe I’m wrong. I found it balanced the tragic with the comic well, and made us sympathise with the young boys and girls brainwashed by the Nazi propaganda. I’d recommend it.

The film had just finished, and the credits were rolling, as I turned my phone on – immediately I got a call. It was one of India’s teachers calling to see how her stage had gone. I almost answered by saying “Excuse me, we’re in the cinema…” but luckily didn’t! I answered the questions with a good report – after all, she had done well, helping with games and answering/asking questions, so there was nothing negative to say.

I finished the week popping into see India’s mum for a glass of wine!

 

What do we eat in February?!

I have just spent a good 30 minutes or so, writing a witty post. I then carefully saved it. I then, just as carefully deleted it.

Maybe I should blame the cat…

I can only promise you that the previous post was much better written than the following. How tragic that it is lost…

SO…

It is difficult enough to try to lose weight in France, with the delicious cheese, and patisserie, and charcuterie and bread. Temptation is at every turn, whatever season of the year it is. But I’m starting to believe that there is a secret Government conspiracy to make it particularly hard to stick to a diet in the early months of the year…

You have made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight! Hah! I spit on your resolve! I will break you like a twig!!

First of all, in January, the French celebrate Epiphany with a Galette des Rois – or King Cake. I think these might take different forms in different regions, but here in 42, the most common is this:

It’s basically a puff pastry pie, with a filling of almond paste, which is delicious; it’s usually eaten with a glass (or two) of cider, at a family event, or a get together with friends or colleagues. The Galette should be divided such that each guest receives a slice, plus an extra, symbolic slice for any unexpected visitor, or poor person, that should pass by.

In each Galette a fève is hidden. This was originally a dried bean, but is now a porcelain or plastic figurine; in the past a King, but more and more they are of Disney characters, or Asterix, or other things. The person who discovers the fève in their serving is declared le roi (the king) or la reine (the queen) and gets to wear the golden paper couronne (crown) that is always provided with the cake. If it’s a mass produced Galette it will be in the box, if you buy it at the boulangerie, the crown will be handed over with your purchase.

To avoid accusations of “King fixing”, it is traditional during the slicing of the galette to have the youngest child at the gathering sit underneath the table to call out the name of the person to receive each slice – Le prochaine c’est pour Papi – so the server can’t be accused of playing favourites!

I remember my first experience of a Galette des Rois was with my first night school class, in about 2009: they fixed it so I received the fève, and I still have the little plastic King on my desk.

Here’s our collection of fèves – all rather high quality ceramic ones, except my King – a green chicken with gold stripes, a porcelein advertising plaque, a smart green boot (I’d like a pair of these in my size- though obviously not in ceramic!) and a curious black cube with A, Z and C on its sides. We keep these on the kitchen shelf.

We’ve not had fèves recently as it’s now possible to buy mini-Galettes, just enough for two people, which, although they are just as delicious, don’t come with the crown, or the fève.

So having recovered from eating puff pastry and frangipane, we move onto Candlemas, 2nd February, when it is traditional to eat pancakes, or crêpes.

The tradition of eating crêpes at Candlemas is attributed to Pope Gelasius the 1st, who had pancakes distributed to pilgrims as they arrived in Rome.

It is also said the tradition of eating crêpes started as it was a good way of using up the extra wheat before a new harvest. Symbolically, as a round crêpe looks like the sun, it was also a good reason to rejoice as the days started to get longer.

As well as eating pancakes or crêpes during Candlemas, all candles in the house are lit, and the feasting takes place by candlelight. Also on this day, the Nativity scenes are put away as it signals the end of the Christmas season. I’ve just noticed that the Christmas lights around the village have been taken down – I noticed them a couple of weeks ago, but now they’re gone, presumably for the same reason. Mind you, some communes keep the lights up all year round, but just don’t illuminate them until December!

But not only is one supposed to prepare your pancakes by candlelight, you also need to flip the crêpe in the air with your right hand, while holding a gold coin in your left hand, and ensuring that the crêpe lands properly back in the pan.  The symbolism attached to this way of flipping your crêpe dates back to the late fifth century and is linked to a fertility rite.

It is also said that the first crêpe made should be put into an armoire (wardrobe) to ensure your plentiful harvest later in the year. I don’t know how long said pancake shoud remain in the wardrobe, but I have to say that as my first pancake is usually a disaster a better place to put it would be in the bin!

So, if you have feasted on Galettes, and then pancakes, what’s next…?

Once Candlemas is over, in our region at least, the bugnes start arriving. Bugnes are rather delicious little doughtnutty things…

A French social media site tells us that bugnes are: Languette de pâte boursouflée par la friture et servie saupoudrée de sucre. On les appelle merveille ou oreillette selon les régions. – Mon grand-père faisait des corbeilles de bugnes au printemps. (Trans: strips of batter puffed up in hot oil, served with icing sugar on top. They are called fritters or little ears depending on the region. My granddad made baskets of bugnes in Spring)

I like my bugnes dipped in jam!

If you want to practice your French this site explains a little more, telling us that indeed bugnes are only from the Auvergne-Rhone Alpes area, and giving recipes too.

Bugnes are around until Shrove Tuesday, when, of course, all delicious things are given up for Lent. Or not, depending on one’s religious leanings…At least you can take 40 days before the chocolate feasting begins…as the flying bells drop chocolate into your garden.

What?

Flying Bells?! What about the Easter bunny?!

Well, Church bells are – or used to be – an intrinsic part of French life, but they are traditionally silenced on Maundy Thursday, then on Good Friday, no bells in France are rung in honour and remembrance of Jesus Christ being crucified.

It’s believed that the story of the flying bells was created as a fun way to explain the absence of bell ringing to young children. Parents tell children that the bells sprouted wings and flew to visit the Pope in Rome for a blessing. Once there, the Pope presents the bells with delicious chocolate bells and eggs. On Easter morning, the bells fly home to France. Then laden with chocolate, but needing to ring out for Easter Sunday, the bells drop the chocolate treats in the gardens all over France for children to find.

Bells? Bunnies? Who cares…it’s CHOCKLIT!!!!

PS The title of the post comes from today – I saw there were bugnes on sale at the Boulangerie as I bought bread, so I bought six for a treat. I came home with the bread and the bag of bugnes.

“Wotcha got there?” said MrFD as he spied the bag.

“What do we eat in February?” I replied

BUGNES!” we said, in unison.