A roof over our heads!!!

The BEFORE picture!Well, if you’ve been getting our prayer newsletters (sign up here), you’ve seen various permutations of this sad site:

It’s the back of our house…focusing specifically on the “open wound” of the corner of our roof. For the uninitiated in this long-drawn-out-melodrama that is the back of our house, there used to be a sort of run-down “stable” connected to the back of our house. It dates from when it was all one property in our little conglomeration of buildings…a long time ago. Well, the new neighbors (understandably) tore it down. It needed to come down, but it has provoked a bit of consternation on my part because it exposes to the elements “unfinished” parts of our house. Now I need to finish them and I don’t know how nor do I have the money to have it done.

Enter some friends we’ve made here who DO know how and have offered to do much free or cheaply…when they have time. The blue tarp in the picture is thanks to one of them at least putting a “bandage” on the open wound until he could find free time to actually do the roofing work needed.

I became convinced that he was not going to be able to get around to it and asked if he would recommend a contractor who might work with my limited budget, paying on time, etc. That, apparently, lit a fire under him and he said that it would still be way too expensive for me and he finally set a date and we decided to do just the roof part. (there’s a ton more to do but the roof was necessary before autumn set in!)

Another BEFORE pictureThe roof we never had...at 2pmSo, Wednesday of this week Jacques and Didier came over and took off the tarp and “cleaned the wound”…

Then I played “go-fer” for the next 4-5 hours or so while Jacques and Didier worked their magic. Now and then I did a menial task for them but mostly I just prayed for them as they danced up high and for our unsaved neighbors from Turkey, in whose courtyard I stood. I couldn’t help but want to say to them, “But really, I do know how to do things…like build web sites…code SQL…repair and program computers…etc.” But I don’t think it would have impressed them. They were “real men” doing “real manly” things (you know, power tools, heavy lifting, physical creation, etc.) It was a bit like watching God create the world!

At last...and AFTER pictureWell, about 7pm, we finally had this! Very little of it is brand new (a few pieces of wood under the tiles) but it feels brand new to me! The ironic part of this is that we can’t even see it because we don’t have access to this courtyard. Oh well, hopefully the neighbors will enjoy it!

Thank you Jesus that even though You didn’t have a place to lay Your head, you care about giving us one!

(and now, to replace our broken washing machine…no really!) ;c(

…the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him…

Our house is in the middle. Note shuddered windows of previously vacant apartment next door.We moved into our house in July, 2004 (moving report). Our house is a “duplex” of sorts and dates back to 1900. It’s a hodge-podge of an Alsatian home, attached to the structures on either side of it, like most of the buildings in the town center here in Soultz. Due to its odd dimensions, several of which have drawn blood from my 6′ 2” scalp, we call it our “Hobbit House”…when we’re affectionately disposed toward it…

One of its oddities is that on its right side, where it’s joined to the house next door, there isn’t a single dividing wall that goes straight up and down between the houses. If one could see it in 3-D from that side, you’d see that the living room goes father into “their side” than, say Olivia’s bedroom just above or the kitchen next to it, etc. Truly bizarre… My architect friend James Skaines tried to measure our house once and there was much scratching of heads trying to make sense of how it’s laid out. In fact, I’m sure it was not “laid out” but probably was a single home with the neighbors and then just split up at some point.

This isn’t about bizarre architecture though…

The house next door, as far as we can tell, is comprised of 2 or 3 apartments. For our first year, at least one, maybe two of those were vacant and the other taken by, as we heard, a flight attendant who was rarely there. It was practically vacant as far as we were concerned.

…’tis no more…

Somebody moved in this summer. Due to the nature of how our entry-ways are placed and our non-intersecting lives, we never see their comings and goings (not even sure what they look like!). But, lately, we’ve been all too aware of their presence. Why? Because of a smell that permeates our living room. The smell of stale cigarette smoke comes and goes in our living room through some porous opening somewhere between the two houses.

Not to criticize those who smoke, it’s just that the smell drives me fairly crazy! I can live with cigar smoke (really!). Pipe smoke can even be pleasant, but cigarette smoke is more than I can take. (definitely more difficult in Europe at the moment than in the US where anti-smoking laws have been circulating much longer).

One night recently, when I was smelling “fresh” cigarette smoke in our bedroom (a slightly different but equally annoying smell that has started to occur there as well!) while laying in bed, I felt God saying that this would be an excellent opportunity to pray for my neighbors. So, now, while still racking my brain to figure out how I can better seal our house from “odor-attack”, I’m trying to use my nose to trigger my prayers! It’s not easy, let me assure you!

I’m reminded that Paul told the Corinthians (way back before they thought that deodorant was cool), that God “…manifests the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” and that “…we are a fragrance of Christ…” For me, as I get smacked in the nose with this reminder to pray for my neighbors, I wonder, what fragrance do my neighbors smell? Here’s an American family with 3 kids, several musical instruments, 2 cats and a loud car (needs serious work!). Personality-wise, we’re not individually in anybody’s face since we’re all mostly introverted, but it’s obvious that we stick out a bit and I’m sure that “sore thumb” might be an apt description at times!

My prayer right now, is that we could have some contact with these neighbors (and all the others around us) and that we could begin to build relationships and that the fragrance of Jesus might be the overriding olfactory sensation in this neighborhood!