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Balanced Equations 5

Balanced Equations

August 9, 2018

In 1557, Robert Recorde, a Welsh physician and mathematician, invented the equals sign, written with two parallel lines (=), because “noe 2 thynges, can be moare equalle”.

I confess. A math nerd at heart, I actually enjoy solving a complex algebraic equation. I take comfort in knowing everything on the left side of the equal sign has an equal value to everything on the right side of it. In other words, an equal sign creates balance.

But equal does not always mean same. Both in life and in mathematics, things that look and feel very different can actually have the same value. This is a key lesson I learned during my first few months in Paris, France.

After tearful farewells, I boarded the plane for Paris. I had one suitcase, funds from a cashed 401k account, and a heart full of dreams and expectations. Life had been full in the United States. I naively assumed life in Paris would be the same…except in French.

At first, I was enchanted with the city and my mission. But my enthusiasm soon waned in the face of the many challenges of living in a foreign country.

First, I had to face the fact that my college French was inadequate for life in France. Language and the words we use are driven by habit. While I could easily discuss French literature and grammar structures, a trip to the bakery or grocery store reduced me to tears.

I also sensed a loss of connection. I came to Paris with a group of people whom I knew well, but not deeply. Determined to plant a French church, we committed to speaking only French. Unfortunately, limited language skills make it nearly impossible to develop deep, meaningful relationships with others.

Next, my role in the church took a hit. My former leadership position in my U.S. church came with satisfying responsibilities. But I found it difficult to read or even recognize Bible passages in the French Bible. How could I lead Bible study groups here?

But the clincher was my employment possibilities, or should I say impossibilities? In the states I had been blessed with a thriving accounting career. A former boss arranged an interview for me with the Paris office of an American accounting firm. Since I had started my career with a similar firm, I believed this was God’s open door. Disillusionment followed the interview, which I bombed miserably. Again, my lack of professional French language disqualified me.

A chance meeting with a woman on the French subway led me to an au pair (nanny) position. In exchange for light babysitting responsibilities, I received room and board and the flexibility to enroll in French language classes. However, the new job did not cover all my expenses. Helplessly, I watched as my savings account balance decreased at an alarming rate.

My breaking point came on a rainy day. Walking through the streets of Paris, my shoes literally fell apart. My heart sank as I realized they were my last pair. In desperation, I called my friends in the United States and asked for help. But I didn’t call it “help”- I asked if they could send me some money to buy shoes as an early birthday or Christmas gift.

Gratefully I accepted their gift, which covered much more than a new pair of shoes. But something inside of me shattered. At home, I was the one others came to for help-both financial and spiritual. Honestly, it didn’t feel good to be on the receiving end.

Not too long after this, a wise friend and her husband came to encourage and strengthen our group. As we talked, I expressed my longing for the life of abundance I had known in the states. I ached to be able to teach others the Bible again, to use my talents and abilities, to pay my own way, to help others financially, and to enjoy deep, meaningful relationships with others.

After listening to my story, my friend gently said, “Shirley, you have known what it is to live in plenty. Now God is teaching you how to be content on the other side of the equation.”

At my puzzled expression, she quoted me Philippians 4:12-13:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” (NIV)

Later, as I poured over this scripture, I wrestled with unbelief. I wondered, Is it even possible to be content when I feel so stripped of everything?

Finally, I simply prayed, Lord, I do not understand how this is possible. How can I be content in this situation? But because your Word says I can, I am deciding to believe You. Please strengthen me so I can learn to be content.

And He did. I came to enjoy being a nanny. I threw myself into my language classes with new enthusiasm, even volunteering to do the first oral report. Immediately following my presentation, a fellow classmate approached me and in her halting French asked, “Are you an American?”

Suppressing my frustration (did my accent always have to give me away?), I smiled and replied, “Yes, I am.”

Her next question took my breath away, “Are you looking for a job?”

Her husband, a high-ranking employee for the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, requested the United States for his next post. He needed an American to help him learn American English. Although the hours were part-time, he was offering a full-time salary.

With this job came blessings that pushed me once again to the abundant side of the equation. But I never forgot the lessons I learned on the side of living in want. Receiving help from others created a vulnerability in me that led to deeper relationships. No longer able to rely on my skill set, I learned to cultivate new skills, namely working with children and teaching. Skills needed, I realized later, for a future assignment from the Lord.

But ultimately I learned the secret of contentment lies in surrendering our plans to those of God. Contentment comes when we believe His plan is best, freeing us to enjoy the journey.

As I have continued my journey on the road less traveled, the Lord has reminded me of this truth many times. Wherever you are in your journey, I pray He does the same for you.

Balanced Equations

August 9, 2018

Balanced Equations 5

In 1557, Robert Recorde, a Welsh physician and mathematician, invented the equals sign, written with two parallel lines (=), because “noe 2 thynges, can be moare equalle”.

I confess. A math nerd at heart, I actually enjoy solving a complex algebraic equation. I take comfort in knowing everything on the left side of the equal sign has an equal value to everything on the right side of it. In other words, an equal sign creates balance.

But equal does not always mean same. Both in life and in mathematics, things that look and feel very different can actually have the same value. This is a key lesson I learned during my first few months in Paris, France.

After tearful farewells, I boarded the plane for Paris. I had one suitcase, funds from a cashed 401k account, and a heart full of dreams and expectations. Life had been full in the United States. I naively assumed life in Paris would be the same…except in French.

At first, I was enchanted with the city and my mission. But my enthusiasm soon waned in the face of the many challenges of living in a foreign country.

First, I had to face the fact that my college French was inadequate for life in France. Language and the words we use are driven by habit. While I could easily discuss French literature and grammar structures, a trip to the bakery or grocery store reduced me to tears.

I also sensed a loss of connection. I came to Paris with a group of people whom I knew well, but not deeply. Determined to plant a French church, we committed to speaking only French. Unfortunately, limited language skills make it nearly impossible to develop deep, meaningful relationships with others.

Next, my role in the church took a hit. My former leadership position in my U.S. church came with satisfying responsibilities. But I found it difficult to read or even recognize Bible passages in the French Bible. How could I lead Bible study groups here?

But the clincher was my employment possibilities, or should I say impossibilities? In the states I had been blessed with a thriving accounting career. A former boss arranged an interview for me with the Paris office of an American accounting firm. Since I had started my career with a similar firm, I believed this was God’s open door. Disillusionment followed the interview, which I bombed miserably. Again, my lack of professional French language disqualified me.

A chance meeting with a woman on the French subway led me to an au pair (nanny) position. In exchange for light babysitting responsibilities, I received room and board and the flexibility to enroll in French language classes. However, the new job did not cover all my expenses. Helplessly, I watched as my savings account balance decreased at an alarming rate.

My breaking point came on a rainy day. Walking through the streets of Paris, my shoes literally fell apart. My heart sank as I realized they were my last pair. In desperation, I called my friends in the United States and asked for help. But I didn’t call it “help”- I asked if they could send me some money to buy shoes as an early birthday or Christmas gift.

Gratefully I accepted their gift, which covered much more than a new pair of shoes. But something inside of me shattered. At home, I was the one others came to for help-both financial and spiritual. Honestly, it didn’t feel good to be on the receiving end.

Not too long after this, a wise friend and her husband came to encourage and strengthen our group. As we talked, I expressed my longing for the life of abundance I had known in the states. I ached to be able to teach others the Bible again, to use my talents and abilities, to pay my own way, to help others financially, and to enjoy deep, meaningful relationships with others.

After listening to my story, my friend gently said, “Shirley, you have known what it is to live in plenty. Now God is teaching you how to be content on the other side of the equation.”

At my puzzled expression, she quoted me Philippians 4:12-13:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” (NIV)

Later, as I poured over this scripture, I wrestled with unbelief. I wondered, Is it even possible to be content when I feel so stripped of everything?

Finally, I simply prayed, Lord, I do not understand how this is possible. How can I be content in this situation? But because your Word says I can, I am deciding to believe You. Please strengthen me so I can learn to be content.

And He did. I came to enjoy being a nanny. I threw myself into my language classes with new enthusiasm, even volunteering to do the first oral report. Immediately following my presentation, a fellow classmate approached me and in her halting French asked, “Are you an American?”

Suppressing my frustration (did my accent always have to give me away?), I smiled and replied, “Yes, I am.”

Her next question took my breath away, “Are you looking for a job?”

Her husband, a high-ranking employee for the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, requested the United States for his next post. He needed an American to help him learn American English. Although the hours were part-time, he was offering a full-time salary.

With this job came blessings that pushed me once again to the abundant side of the equation. But I never forgot the lessons I learned on the side of living in want. Receiving help from others created a vulnerability in me that led to deeper relationships. No longer able to rely on my skill set, I learned to cultivate new skills, namely working with children and teaching. Skills needed, I realized later, for a future assignment from the Lord.

But ultimately I learned the secret of contentment lies in surrendering our plans to those of God. Contentment comes when we believe His plan is best, freeing us to enjoy the journey.

As I have continued my journey on the road less traveled, the Lord has reminded me of this truth many times. Wherever you are in your journey, I pray He does the same for you.

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