Last Sunday, Liz & I celebrated our 23rd anniversary.
23 years of kisses & great coffee.
23 years of moments we’re proud of… & some less so.
23 years of hopes… & sometimes disappointments.
23 years of trusting in a faithful God.
Today I’ll tell you a little bit about our anniversary getaway and one of the lessons that we were reminded of in the process.
After church last Sunday, we had lunch and forewent our Sunday afternoon nap in favor of making a quick getaway. Our destination, Montecler Manor just outside of Saumur, along the Loire River Valley, where we’d spend the next two days.
Montecler Manor is owned by Ms. Brigitte Carpentier. She and her husband bought it when she was only 35 and her husband passed away only a few short years after that. She’s known a lot of grief but was a joy to be with and has spend the last 46 years making the house a welcoming spot. She joined us each morning for breakfast and put on an incredible supper for us one evening… escargot-stuffed mushrooms, duck à l’orange and a local desert: cremet d’Angers. It was delicious.
Between Covid-19 and soaring temperatures, meals were served on the terrace, beside a little fountain among the still-blooming Queen Elizabeth roses.
Mme Carpentier knows how to dress a table, let me tell you. It was the first time I’d had my coffee in a silver coffee cup (think “grandma’s silver service set”). Note: difficult to drink out of such cups since silver is such a great heat conductor… the handles were as hot as the coffee.
She even joined us for our romantic dinner for two. 😉 It was not necessarily as we’d have planned it, but you can tell that she revels in the company of her guests and it gave us the opportunity to not only tell her about what brought us to France, but to pray with her as well.
Fontevraud Royal Abbey
On our second day, we made the short trip to the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud. It’s a royal abbey because the remains of King Henry II, his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine and their son Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199, King of England who also had numerous noble titles in France) are buried there.
The abbey glows in the bright Tuffeau stone, typical of the region. It’s a type of limestone that is used extensively in historic construction and is easily carved. It thus lent itself to the ornate decorations of noble homes, castles and church buildings.
Fontevraud was established in 1101 and grew both in size and in purpose over the years. Oddly enough, it was likely its use as a prison, beginning in the 1800s that saved it from destruction or decline – the fate of as many as 50 other abbeys in the region.
I mentioned the Tuffeau stone used to build the abbey that we visited on Tuesday, our second day, but I haven’t yet said what we did on our first day… Monday.
We visited the Pierre et Lumière (Stone and Light) exhibit, just a couple of kilometers from the manor. This is an underground tunnel in the cliff-side, where self-taught sculptor Philippe Cormand spent years carving scale models of numerous regional monuments.
Since you’re already familiar with Fontevraud… here’s his carving of the abbey’s cloister, carved into the tunnel wall.
Here’s where today’s blog post title comes into play…
Small Step, Repeat…
In order to achieve such an amazing accomplishment, M. Cormand (the sculptor), spent the equivalent of several years in dark, damp, and sometimes cramped quarters, chiseling out each of the 18 sculptures. In some cases, he spent as much as a full month, working in a kneeling position. Larger sculptures were between 3 and 6 months, all in underground temperatures that rarely get above 12˚C (54˚f).
The carving that impressed me the most was of the Saint-Gatien Cathedral, located in the city of Tours, 45min north of Châtellerault. This carving is at 1/30th scale and took six months to complete. Would you look at the detail in this piece!
How did he do it?
He began with a huge block of tuffeau stone and made a series of small cuts… small steps. In some case the small step was removing a large chunk of stone to get the initial shape. In other cases, as the work progressed, it was removing much smaller bits of stone in order to form the detail in the rose window.
Over time, big cuts and smaller ones, taken together, produced a masterpiece.
It’s not unlike a marriage… 23 years worth. We’ve removed some big chunks and some little ones and things are beginning to take shape. With time and as the Lord allows, an even clearer shape will emerge as we, with Him, keep taking small steps, together. Today we take a small step toward becoming more conformed to His likeness…. tomorrow, we repeat.
It’s not unlike serving God… Whether in missions or at home. God has a perfect will for your life and as you spend time with him, through his word, with other Christ-followers and in prayer, that form – that image will become clearer. As you allow God to remove both big chunks and small ones… a once unremarkable block of stone reveals a masterpiece.
God is really the best sculptor. It takes time and even though the conditions aren’t always as ideal as we’d like them to be, if we’re patient and trust Him… he’ll bring out the masterpiece.
God bless you and thanks for stopping by.
Entrust your life to the hands of the artist today.