Friday, March 10, 2017

Un Jour Chez Hahn

Chloe asked:
“What's an average day look like for your family right now? Have you guys discovered any great French food? Are you going to a French church or is there an English service you attend? What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? (Kidding, but really, I'm super curious about life-in-general for everyone. We miss y'all!)”

Let me answer the most important and pressing question first.  The air speed velocity of an unladen European swallow is 11 meters per second (or 25 MPH). At least according to this website.  Couldn’t tell you about an African swallow.  And, I still cannot figure out where they are getting all of these coconuts, but that is life. 

Now to answer the rest of your questions. 

Our Day
The nice thing about being in language school is that we have a very predictable schedule.  It is a lot like being in high school again.  Except in high school I did not have a wife and 3 kids to care for.  But our typical day looks like this:

0430: My alarm clock goes off.
0439: Reset my alarm clock for 5.
0500: Jen and I wake up and study/do homework (actually Jen got up at 430).
0700: Kids wake up and the rush to school begins.
0710: I drag any remaining children from their bed.
0750: Try to walk out the door for school.
0805: Actually walk out the door.
0845: Kids have been dropped off and our French classes commence.
0900-1615: Learn French in class (we have a nice lunch break with the kids)
1630 to end of day: Get kids home, make dinner, eat, put kids to bed, Jen and I have enough time to say hi and reset for the next day and go to bed. 

We both really enjoy language school.  Learning a new language is a hard, but a good, challenge, and we are beginning to grasp French.  For Hannah school is significantly harder.  She is 100% immersed in French in class, every day.  She is in a local school and they speak only French. This is hard for her but she is coping well.  

We talk a lot about the resilience of kids, but I don’t know if what we say is always true.  People like to say things like, “they’ll be fine kids bounce.” Yes, kids bounce, but that is just because they are closer to the ground, and don’t have much of a choice.  When children go through difficult things they hurt just as much (and sometimes worse because they do not have the context and wisdom of age) as we adults do.  To write off their pain as “Oh, kids are resilient, kids bounce,” minimizes the reality of their difficulties and pains. 

However, I do not believe my job as a parent is to keep Hannah from the difficulty and pain of life.  It is my job to lovingly expose her to the pain of life, and walk with her in it.  In this way my resiliency will inform hers and teach her how to struggle well in pain. With rich humbling pride I boast in the faithfulness of God to see Hannah struggle well and grow in the midst of this time.  She is not the little baby we had in the States.  She is now a little girl.  Funny how they grow up like that.  (Jen wouldn’t let me keep her in the cryostasis chamber I got for her.)

The Food
I love the food here.  But, to be honest, we have yet to eat in a bonafide French restaurant.  This is partially because real restaurants are not designed for three 0-5 year-old girls.  Secondly, we have made the conscious decision to do as much as a family as possible.  So nights off, and weekends off, we do things together. 

That is not to say we have not had opportunity to see and appreciation the French food.  The bakeries are amazing.  We get fresh made bread like every day; because that is what you do in France.  The food here is treated with a high degree of care and respect.  There are significantly less preservatives and food conditioners interfering with the taste.  As a result, we frequently have to go to the butcher twice a week, the vegetable vender weekly and the baker every other day.  (I have lost 20 pounds because of the freshness of the food (and the walking).)

The French love their food.  Food is not so much the infusion of carbs and proteins, to get you through the day (like we have in the States), but an expression of life.  We have had some opportunities to eat at peoples’ houses.  A good meal will take 5 hours or more.  There are usually five courses: aperitif, entrée (our appetizer or salad), main dish, cheese course, and dessert.   There is talking throughout.  This is a time to catch up, philosophize, and express hospitality and friendship.  This is all done through the care taken to prepare, present, and partake in the meal (three point alliteration can you tell I use to be a pastor?).

Our Church
We attend a local French speaking church.  And by local, I literally mean 3 doors from our front door.  They are a lively congregation. They understand that there are many missionaries in attendance, who are at varying stages of French language learning.  So about once every month or so they will play one or two songs in English.  Every time I am blown away with how important the expressions of worship, through music, is to my soul. 

Nearly every time (English songs are played), I am trying to sing and hold back an overwhelming flood of tears.  I cannot tell you why I want to cry. However, I can tell you what it feels like. 

It feels like I have been lost in a really big crowd and I am alone.  I don’t know I am even lost or even how scared I am.  That is, until the hand of my Father reaches down, with a firm security, and finds me.  I feel His hand on my shoulder first.  Instantly I know it is Him, because I recognize His warm strong grasp.  Then I can look up into His eyes and feel free from the fear for the first time. 

I experienced this feeling with greater intensity the first time I sang a French song and understood the words.  The song had meaning and depth and I again felt His familiar hand.  There was a big difference between the French song and the English songs.  The English songs were comforting as I looked back.  To experience the heart of worship, in a French song, meant that I am not lost as I move forward.  He is leading us well.  I didn’t just foolishly move my family across the world, to face the difficulties of multi-cultural life, because I was a fool-hearty escapist.  We did it because our heavenly Father is lovingly leading us forward.  In that moment, as I sang in French, I felt Him lead me forward. 

Forward is the spiritual lesson I am learning right now.  This year I am reading through the Bible.  I just finished the Torah (the first five books of the Bible).  I was angry at the Israelites.  At the first sign of difficulty they looked back at the land of their abuse and imprisonment and longed to return.  God literally brought the greatest nation to its knees, and moved heaven and earth to free his people, and just 3 days after the awesome crossing of the Red Sea they are complaining, doubting and questioning whether they will survive the journey (Exodus 15:22-25).  They beg pitifully to return to the land of their slavery.

I get angry at the Israelites because they cry out with my words.  They say, “Wasn’t the slavery we had before, better than what you have for us now?!”  I was looking back.  Over the past year, I was looking back to what I left.  I struggled to look to where I was being led.  God was faithful and patient to me as I looked back over the Sea.  He healed my heart and now a new joy is germinating as we begin to look forward. 

I am excited to see what will happen next as we learn French, and prepare for Africa.  I know great things will happen as we enter the land God called us to.  We go eagerly for His glory. 

Thank you Chloe for your questions.  We miss you guys so much and cannot wait to see your new addition, when we return again to the states.  We are praying for you as often as we think of you.  Please pray for us as we continue to prepare for the next part of our journey. There is so much to do between here and there.  Pray that everything will all fall into its proper place.  Also, pray that we continue to learn the language well.  Though our comprehension is greatly increasing, our ability to speak needs to catch up (that is more so for me than Jen, she has always spoken better than me).  (Sometimes when I speak it feels like all of the words are trying to get out at once, so I end up saying nothing.)  All in all, we have nothing but praise for God’s goodness to us during this time.  We feel ready and waiting for the next stage of this journey with the great commission. 

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