Searching, Searching…

Just in case you thought we were here in La Somme on a nice little winter holiday… we have been busy searching for long-term accommodation: an unfurnished flat or house in or very close to Amiens.

While being here in the countryside is lovely, it does mean we are about 45 mins drive from Amiens and 15 mins drive from a reasonably-sized supermarket (in Flixecourt), which means we do a lot of driving.

We began by researching all the local estate agents (agences immobilières) and trawling lots of websites. After looking at some places and finding a house we really liked, within budget and in a good location, we quickly had a big reality check. Because we are volunteers and not employees, to rent through an agency we basically need a guarantor (or garant, in case we stop paying the rent), which we don’t have.

So on the advice of various friends we then turned our attention to websites which connect you directly with a landlord/owner, not to an agency (le Bon Coin being the most useful): sometimes it is possible to find a property owner who is willing to rent to people like us, who can show we can afford the rent even though we don’t have an employment contract or a guarantor.

Here we are, then: searching, searching… for a miracle in reality!

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Bien Installé

Well we made it back to France fine on 2 January, with just a little delay at the tunnel but not much, and a very easy drive down to the valley of La Somme. We settled into our gîte (holiday cottage) very well, warmly welcomed by our lovely hosts.

gite-frontYes, that really is a tennis court in front of the building! We don’t expect to be making use of it during our stay, though…

We are in the depths of the countryside near Domart-en-Ponthieu. Since we arrived it has been cold. I mean cold: minus 7 degrees C first thing in the morning, with a “feels like” of minus 17 (with wind chill). This is a panorama from the back of the gîte:

gite-pan-backAnd over nearby fields:

gite-nearThe countryside is achingly beautiful and very quiet. We can hear several owls in the evenings in different parts of the valley and the stars are just incredible.

A couple of days ago we were immensely privileged to see a female wild boar and ten (yes, ten) young ones, running through some woodland in the valley, all in a big long line. Beautiful creatures!

So we are incredibly blessed with our temporary accommodation, which is also beautifully warm. As the French would say, we are bien installé, meaning well settled in.

Thrive!

Be encouraged by this great song from Casting Crowns, entitled Thrive:

Here are some of the lyrics:

Here in this worn and weary land
Where many a dream has died
Like a tree planted by the water
We never will run dry

So living water flowing through
God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls
With one desire

Just to know You and
To make You known
We lift Your name on High
Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive

Joy Unspeakable
Faith Unsinkable
Love Unstoppable
Anything is possible

In the worn and weary land that is France, God is calling His people together, to make Him known and to lift His name on high, He is calling His people to be what He made us to be: those who THRIVE!

We are so looking forward to getting back to France on 2 January, because what God is doing is so exciting! This is God’s time for France, time for His kingdom to move forward powerfully. It’s time for us as His people to take our stand against the darkness in the all-powerful name of Jesus and to see the darkness run and hide as the community of God grows and grows. Wow!

Moving Day

Today is our last day in Massy (sob, sob). Our tiny studio is littered with bags and boxes, which we hope will all fit into our car… Gulp! Next up for packing is the computer, then get everything stowed away and off to the tunnel and Bromley!

Should We Be Scared?

snowploughSeen outside our local supermarket on Wednesday afternoon. Do they know something about the weather forecast that we don’t? Should we be worried?!

(It was really just the Essonne Département showing off their lovely new maintenance equipment. It has been getting quite a bit colder though…)

Following The Shoal… Or The Spirit?

Whilst out for a walk yesterday, part of which was along the Bievre river (in reality a stream) I noticed some turbulence on the surface of the water. To my surprise, even though the water is not that deep, there were shoals of tiny fish, just 5cm to 10cm long.shoal

I watched a particular shoal for a while. Normally they sort of lay in a shallow depression in the stream bed. All of a sudden they would all dart forwards at high speed, for about a metre, then stop. A few seconds later they would all dart off again, back the way they had come, to their little depression in the stream bed. After a short while they would do it all again. And again. And again. And again…

There seemed to be no purpose to their little excursions whatsoever. And they all followed the shoal without question. Apart from one or two rebellious fish, that is.

You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? Are you just darting here and there with the shoal, following everyone else, even though what everyone else is doing is achieving little or nothing for the Kingdom of God?

Or are you listening only for the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit? When you hear His voice, are you willing to swim off in obedience, in a different direction, even though all the other fish think you’re mad?

When we read the Bible, it’s very clear that God’s plans are often radically different to the plans which seem naturally sensible to men and women. It’s the rebellious crackpots (in the world’s eyes) who help to push the Kingdom of God forwards:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29, NIV)

I’m determined to keep swimming against the shoal and to see the Kingdom of God push forwards powerfully here in France. If that makes me a rebellious crackpot, so be it!

And you…?

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Joanna exited the bathroom in an excited state. She could hardly contain her joy. “The heating’s come on!” she exulted.

Like a very significant part of Massy, we are on the communal heating system, or chauffage collectif, which provides hot water and also heating. Except the heating is turned off in the Spring. As described earlier, the hot water goes off for about a week in August too, so they can clean the system. It’s all done through giant rubbish incinerators on the outskirts of town. Not a bad idea.

We naively thought that the heating would return sometime in September, probably in the middle of the month at the latest. Nope. OK, end of September then. Nope. To be fair, September was unseasonably warm and we didn’t need heating… but the last week or so has been getting chilly. We’re back in fleeces and jackets outdoors, after weeks and weeks of me in particular only wearing a T-shirt.

So the news of the arrival of the chauffage has indeed made our day beautifully frabjous 🙂

(The title is from from Jaberwocky by Lewis Carroll.)

Because God loves every person in France