The French Collection by Kim Louise Clarke

The French Collection

 

About the Book

In this series of devotions, the reader travels through Paris with the author on her vacation and her journey of faith.

Six days are spent exploring some of the city’s lesser known sites, in anticipation of meeting up with her daughter for another three days of sightseeing.  Together reader and author become familiar with the fascinating history and culture of the city of Paris.

Certain moments stand out above all others from the vacation.  They are more intense, or more amusing, sometimes more embarrassing, or even more fearful.  Kim has written about these moments, developed them around the sights and history of Paris, wrapped them in Scripture and turned them into The French Collection.

 

Book Excerpt

From Chapter One – Stepping Out in Bijou

My mom used to say that a vacation that started off badly would be a great trip. I never took this seriously, and certainly never purposefully attempted to do something foolish before a trip if nothing bad had yet happened. I also do not remember her saying this after she became a

Christian, and not surprisingly, I can’t find any Scripture to substantiate this idea.

It was a few days before I flew to Paris, and my feet were resting comfortably in bubbling, silky warm waters: I had finally used my gift certificate for a pedicure. From the wide selection of colours, I chose a deep pink called ‘Bijou’, which is French for ‘jewel’. My silky smooth feet would soon be strolling around the exotic streets of Paris.

With a sense of enchantment, I stepped back out into the shopping mall but the feeling of specialness quickly began to fade as the tinges of a migraine that had been lurking around the back of my head grew painfully obvious.

I took meds but they proved ineffective and, as I passed a few stores, every movement emphasized the headache’s onset. I began to feel extremely ill. While I made my way over to one of the comfortable chairs clustered throughout the mall, I dug out my cell phone to tell my husband that I didn’t think I could drive home. A prisoner now in my favourite mall, I sank low in the huge chair, convinced I’d either pass out or vomit if I made any attempt to get up. Relentless mall noise whirled around me from all directions, and time crawled forward in slow motion.

What relief I felt when Ian’s voice came into the mix, and what a sense of gratitude that he had dropped everything to rescue me! I was unsure about my physical stability, so Ian stepped into a nearby store to ask for a plastic bag. After a few moments, I moved to get out of the chair.

How life’s situations can change so quickly. One moment I’m a lady exiting an expensive salon; the next, I’m a crumpled heap in a chair, vomiting into a bag.

            I can’t go to Paris. How am I going to manage on my own for six days, when I can’t even get home by myself from the mall?

Later, near midnight, with my headache well under control, we returned to the mall to retrieve my lonely car. We had no problem finding it on the deserted field of asphalt.

Most of the time, my migraines are manageable. It’s rare to have such a rapid descent into the pain with nothing able to ease it. Deep down, I knew nothing could stop me from going to Paris. Nothing could hold me back from almost a full week on my own in the warm August sun, seeing whatever I chose, all at my own pace. Topping it off would be the most wonderful highlight: meeting up with my daughter, Hannah, and touring around Paris with her for another three days. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and Notre-Dame were on our list to explore together. This freed me up to visit some of the lesser known historical places in Paris on my own, so I threw myself into the research about places to seek out. Being on my own was usually not a problem, but I really didn’t like the idea of being alone and ill. I brushed up on many French phrases, but I hadn’t yet worked out, “Can you please help me? I think I’m going to be sick.”

The next day, feeling tired but better, I went over my migraine medication with my doctor. It gave me a certain peace of mind and more confidence physically. Of course I could have thought back to my mother’s old adage and taken some comfort in considering that, since my trip had the markings of a bad start, a great vacation awaited me—but I’m not superstitious so there was no comfort there.

Having been a Christian for more than thirty-five years, I knew that real comfort lay in knowing God would be with me at every step. Scripture verses came to my mind that promised God’s presence. These were promises meant to be claimed, meant to comfort, like Jesus’ promise to be with us “always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

But I didn’t feel comforted, despite my inner theological voice saying, “Of course, God is always with you. You’re indwelt by the Holy Spirit.” I desired a special sense of God’s presence. I felt oddly insecure and wanted to feel assured that God would be with me in Paris, but that didn’t happen.

I told myself to get a grip. My travels were not to a country torn apart by civil war. I didn’t have to pack my mosquito net and malaria pills to join up with a tropical mission team. My path wasn’t the sacrificial kind where one might think a Christian would require a special sense of God’s presence.

What reassurances of God did the average tourist need? There was nothing heroic about the path of a person fully intent on sitting at outdoor cafes in Paris, visiting fine museums, buying a lovely scarf or two. I would be just another tourist like millions of others, with Euros, credit cards and a return ticket home.

I was fairly sure I wouldn’t have another migraine episode, and I didn’t believe that I would pass out on the banks of the Seine. But then I started to imagine myself passing out on the banks of the Seine. I also saw myself vomiting and collapsing on a park bench far away from my hotel. Being a short, slight-of-frame, middle-aged woman on iron supplements, I wondered if I’d even be noticed if I did collapse.

Then I realized the heart of the problem. I was assured about God’s presence, in the sense that He would be somewhere in my vicinity. But even after so many years, I doubted that He would actually be close to me personally. I doubted His loving care for me. I doubted my importance to Him.

But I had to believe that God would be as close to me as He would be to any of His children, that God travels alongside the vacationer. He wouldn’t dismiss me or forget about me while I went on a holiday where it appeared that I wouldn’t be doing much spiritually, as if He would be back in touch with me upon my return. Blessings are not suspended until we’re back to work, back to ministry, back to what some call real life. God is the God of all of our times, the God of all moments. He has met me in the darkest times of my life and I needed to believe He would be equally with me in the brightest times. He is the God of the good and the exciting, not only our pain and sorrow. I need such a God, because when fun opportunities come along in life, I want to enjoy them. I don’t want fear, worry or guilt to dampen those joyful times.

Any reassurance I wanted had to be by faith, believing God saw me as important. I knew that wherever I went in the world, even if it was only across the street, desiring God’s presence was okay. He promises His constant presence. And constantly is how often I need Him. I had to believe and start packing.

Kim Clarke

About the Author

Kim Louise Clarke became interested in writing in 2010, challenging herself to write a mystery novel, which today still remains in draft form.  She finds writing creative non-fiction to be her niche, and several of her essays and devotionals have been published.  The French Collection is her first book, which she published after the manuscript was shortlisted in the 2015 Canadian Women’s Journey of Faith Contest. Kim lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband and they have two adult children. She is a member of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship and has a Bachelor of Religious Education Degree from Prairie College (Prairie Bible Institute). Visit her website.

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