We slept better last night, and instead of having to wait until 6 a.m. for Starbucks to open, I had my first cup of coffee within minutes of the alarm. (Last night, we borrowed a coffee grinder from Sophie downstairs.) I have a feeling this post won’t be as grouchy as the last one, considering that yesterday I sunk to an altogether new low, even for the first time using the word sucks.
It is Murphy’s Law of the Michel family that when we travel, someone gets sick, and it’s usually with the kind of persistent cough that makes it impossible for anyone to sleep who is female and over the age of eleven (um, that would be me). While Ryan and the children sink heavy into their pillows and drift into a dreamy oblivion, I (and the coughing child) keep watch over the sleeping house. I do a lot of my praying lying there awake, pleading passionately for the coughing child to sleep. And for good measure, I add to those prayers thanksgiving and praise, reasoning that God may just as well grant what I’ve asked since I’ve been so noble as to muster gratitude at 2 a.m.
The sun wakes early here in Montreal. By 5 a.m., the third floor of our flat floods with sunlight, and we can hear the city come to life below us as buses, cars and delivery trucks begin their urban pilgrimage. The children stumble from their rooms bleary-eyed when the clocks read 6, their bodies telling them that it might not yet be time to begin the day but the sun announcing otherwise. The only toys we’ve brought with us are some legos, books, and one orange ball, which is getting considerable playtime. But the ball doesn’t see action until after the children return from day camp in the afternoon. We’re trying as best we can to stay on good terms with the family two floors below us.
Sophie and Emmanuel and their two children, Ariel and Mathéo renovated this building in 2007, and when, in his characteristically hard-to-understand Quebecois French, Emmanuel describes the geo-thermal heating and cooling system that they installed at the time of the renovation, I smile and nod, pretending that I have in fact understood.
During the summer months, Sophie and Emmanuel rent this flat on the second and third floors to families like ours (well, probably not QUITE like ours), and then in September, they move from their first floor apartment into the more spacious and sunny space above.
It’s by the sheer providence of God that we’ve landed ourselves here, not just in the middle of a hipster French neighborhood, but above Sophie and Emmanuel whose two children, by yesterday morning, were already making plans to play with our kids. Neither speak English: better luck yet. Mathéo and Colin needed no words for their indoor soccer game yesterday afternoon, and Camille is uber-confident after her first year of French. She asks Ariel casually, “Qu’est-ce que tu veux jouer?” They gibber about legos, choosing names for the animals and people, and Ryan is mesmerized by Camille, eyeing me as if to say, “Can you believe it?”
And I can. At least kinda. Because following Jesus is hands-down a wild ride, guaranteeing to cook up its surprises. Who would have known two years ago that we’d live in Canada, that our children would learn French, that we’d be spending a chunk of our summer here in Montréal? (And our lives are dull compared to so many other friends, like Jeneson and Sandy Abraham, who after delivering their fourth child in their concrete block home in Sierra Leone, two and a half hours later they left to treat victims of a bus accident at the local clinic where they’re serving the local community with their medical expertise.)
When my friend, Chris Smith, reads my blog post yesterday, feeling it serendipitously timed for his work on the book Slow Church where he uses the metaphor of improvisiation to describe the Biblical drama, I am not at all shocked by the irony of the exchange. How completely improvisational of God.
And how good to realize that God’s surprises are always better than our well-laid plans, which is a lesson I’ll need to keep repeating to myself over this next year when I’m needled by the constant desire to put on paper something permanent of this life. I want to know what life holds for us in a year and five and ten, but those answers elude us. It is a wait and see game sometimes with Jesus, and that’s the kind of weightlifting we do to build muscles of faith.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” I’ve been writing elsewhere about the Lord’s Prayer and like all the writing I do, it speaks primarily to me. I remember that we don’t stockpile the goodness of God. We learn to walk in trust daily, asking, believing that whatever is in store for today, it is sufficient grace.