Alas, if my grandmother had known about facebook!
She was the faithful correspondent, sending weekly updates about the homefront. Every morning, she’d write several letters to friends and distant family. Even though we teased her, I’m
proud of her deep love of people that extended everyone she met, including a woman she’d met at a campground on a family vacation more than 40 years before.
What would she do with knowing that I’m reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen in 30 years? The memory of her priceless giggle is my treasure.
As the facebook phenomenon travels the globe, I find that I’ve got a lot of catching up to do! This morning was not the first
time I’ve received a similar message: “So Apryl, do tell me about your life and how you ended up in France? It almost seems surreal, dreamlike...25 or so years from me being a 16 year old...a lot
of living has passed...I would think your story, how you started painting would be an interesting one.”
Interesting or not, how often do we stop to consider our own story? Moments in time, perhaps, but how did I get from here to there?
It's funny, I was just saying to someone last night that maybe if I'd have known in 1980 that I'd be living in France 20yrs later, I'd have studied. (Said with the eye-rolling that's equated with adolescence!)
These questions are totally separate, but so related.... You knew an extremely confused & divided heart when you met this 16yr old. I was an absolute passive-aggressive nightmare! So typical of the majority of my classmates, most of us had plenty of dreams, and they clashed violently with the reality of growing up in our little part of the great big world.
I wanted to study the arts from early days, but when it came time to choose my courses for the 9th grade, I was strongly advised that art was okay for a hobby, etc, but it was time for me to get serious. I was still much too young to realize what that meant. I only knew what I saw, and that meant carrying my cross through the painful road to graduation.
So, music was my saving grace through high school, and then I chose to major in English at Beaver College (sadly, it's called Arcadia now).... Meanwhile, I was funding myself through designing knitwear--aha, you see: the arts!-- so I switched over to the business department…and because there were all of 4 profs and Beaver was feeling a bit claustrophobic, they suggested I consider Bowling Green State (near Toledo, OH)... and the business dept at BGSU was super... and I was required to take Calculus... so when I discovered the fashion merchandising program, I hopped right on board! Too perfect: excellent profs, total American liberal arts education, so I had art & business all in one package! And rubbed shoulders with other girls who were also working on their MRS degree....
Tim & I had been dating since Oct '82, and we were married in the fall of '88. He graduated from DeVry and popped right into a job with KLA in Silicon Valley. In the spring of '89, he was asked to spend a month in Seoul (Republic of Korea) for 1 month, so I took a leave from my job at a fabric shop, and we spent 4 months there.
You’ve seen those lottery ball machines? That's how we lived until 2000. It was great to pop around, wondering where we'd end up next. Tim was making enough money for the two of us, so I was his personal assistant & model housewife and mother (my children were born in the UK). I'd design clothing & do alterations, lead tours for visiting associates, and take the occasional arts or craft course as a "hobby." (cringe!)
I knew nothing about Aix-en-Provence before we moved here in 2000. Coming from Dresden (Germany), I found the place chaotic and filthy. I did not expect to find... well, I had no idea what I'd find!
We'd been pretty good American-model Christians, finding good comfort & succor in English-speaking worship services. (Korea was the best!) But how was my life any different from any other well-intentioned citizen? So, as I did in my freshman year in University, in response to the 'does God really exist?' question, I went back to the book. I started reading the One Year Bible in 1998. In conjunction with Max Lucado cassette tape sermons on "If you want to change somebody, start with the one in the mirror," I started to discover those lies that I'd fallen for back when I tried to be what was expected of me.
So, back to what we were discovering in Aix... Oh, there's so much to tell! To simplify, we've become part of a community, both local and International. This is a university town from September to May, so it has that open-mindedness. It's always been the Parisian's playground and summertime tourist magnet, and that keeps it from being too stagnant. At the same time, I'm totally blessed in my relationships with people who've lived here for generations, and we don't tamper with what we love!
I wish that I could explain the spirit of this place. This was another discussion that I had last night. (A friend who was passing through spent the night.) As with so many returning friends, this is often a topic of conversation. There really is a tangible intangibility here! Perhaps it's because it's not an easy place to live. French bureaucracy is notorious, nothing gets done unless there’s a threat of invasion, then it’s loudly debated until trouble passes--remember the “don’t change a thing” rule--and foreigners ARE change…. Well, it really makes you question who you are, and if you don’t know, then you have no right to exist.
Who am I, indeed? By the time I figured it out, I’d been studying in a studio here for 2yrs. Finally, 25yrs later, I’d come full circle! The difference now is that I am taking responsibility for the one in the mirror. That’s not been easy. I’d played right along with those expectations of me, so breaking from them is a daily endeavor. This is the phenomenal element of the Christian community here! Although we hold an American-style ecumenical worship service on Sunday nights, we don’t fit the proper church model very well. There’s a whole lot of breaking-of-bread and passing the cup in unlikely venues… but that Spirit flows, and we know it! We look to the One who is greater, and we support one another in his uniqueness…most of the time….
It’s all about letting go of your AIXpectations, isn’t it? Oh, there’s so much more to it than that, but it really has to start there… and that’s the truth!
Since 2005, I’ve been compiling everything I find on life-transformation—well, the relevant bits, anyway—and now I’m releasing it on my Sunday & Weds blogs. Each individual is created in the image of a Great Creator. In order to see ‘Him’ more clearly, we need to recognize the unique creation in everyone. So many of us are confused and distracted, and living in the world’s image. As an artist, it’s my message to ask everyone to seek and nurture that spark.
FLAGRO NON COMBUROR!
Thanks, my friend, you’ve helped me write today’s blog! I try to stay ahead of these things, but Friday being “describe Apryl the artist day,” I was stuck. I knew something would turn up, but I was starting to stress. Life lesson #1: relax and let it flow from the Source.
Now, it’s your turn! Are you where you thought you’d be 25yrs ago?
All the best,