La Garde de la Croix puts on its party hat June 15th every year and doesn’t take it off till the end of summer. I cannot help but be swept along. One summer, a famous TV personality, a game show host, chose our village for his vacation. All the merchants fluttered about, attributing “best friend” status to him and his entourage. In the midst of all that, he seemed to be a genuinely nice guy.
Val saw him sitting alone in the Place de Mairie on Bastille Day and went over to talk to him. She leaned on the table with one hand and on the back of his chair with the other. Talk went through town like wildfire that she really was his best friend, I mean, look at the way she talked to him. But that’s Val. She doesn’t know any strangers. He said he would dine at her restaurant before his vacation ended.
The next Thursday afternoon we were having a Bible study in the restaurant when the phone rang. A woman made reservations for two for Mr. and Mrs. Brunner, the name of the game show host. Just then Ivan and Jeanne arrived for a friendly cup of coffee. They joined in the excitement that a celebrity was coming to dine at Le Chameleon. A vacationing Belgian—another restaurateur—also dropped by for coffee, and an animated discussion took place.
Roger, drawn by the noise, joined us from the kitchen to protest Val’s scheme because, of course, with her dynamite personality she wanted to make a party out of the occasion and hire a musician. I was all in favor of it because I love it when that musician, Lionel, comes to play. Only Roger and the vacationing restaurateur were against the hiring of the musician, and they had good reason. Why eat up your profits with extravagance? A celebrity! Who could resist?
Val called Lionel, and miracle of miracles, he was free! Someone had just cancelled his entire weekend! We cheered and celebrated in advance! But Roger was not moved. He conscientiously explained his reasoning, and being an ex-restaurateur myself, I had to agree. I said, “Roger, then say no to Valerie.”
Everybody nodded their heads in agreement. Val grabbed the phone and called Lionel to cancel. After more animated discussion, she thrust the phone at Roger. He took it with great reluctance and a sigh of capitulation. Lionel was coming.
It occurred to me later, there we were engrossed in a Bible Study, and we didn’t even pray about the reservation or the party we were creating. I invited a friend, made reservations, and when we arrived, Val seated us practically next to the famous diner, who wasn’t there yet. After thirty minutes or so of chatting with my friend, I noticed a couple was seated at the famous guest’s table, but surely that young kid could not be he!
As Val whisked by, I grabbed her elbow, “Where’s you know who?”
She laughed and told me the story. A couple had come early, eaten outside and when they paid their bill, Val noticed the name on the credit card was the same as the game show host. She asked the woman if she had called for reservations and the woman said yes. All that drama had taken place over a mistaken identity! I told my friend, “Isn’t that just like the devil? He deceives us with someone or something that he convinces us is of great importance, and it turns out to be smoke and mirrors—nothing of substance at all. He wants to turn our attention away from the Lord. The funny thing is, God wants us to have a good time more than Satan does, only God’s good time is wholesome and satisfying.” That’s what we had that night, a wholesome, satisfying good time with good food, good friends, and good music.
Marcel, always acting with mercy, found the game show host in another restaurant in the village and explained the situation to him. He graciously told Marcel to tell Val he would come see her the next night. So, Lionel was engaged again for the following evening, to which news Roger smacked his forehead with his palm.
The next night I worked on my radio programs, but about 10:00 p.m., curiosity took me to Le Chameleon. The French eat late in summertime, on weekends midnight is not an unusual hour to dine, so when I arrived, Lionel was just warming up. Val had saved a table near him for Marcel, myself, and whatever other friends dropped by. I asked where the celebrity was seated.
“Oh, he came by about seven for a cup of coffee, but he definitely made reservations for Wednesday.”
“Is Lionel coming on Wednesday?”
Val laughed gaily, “Of course!”
We had another great evening of music. Lionel plays jazz and sings like the crooners from the 40s. I requested “It’s Very Clear, Our Love Is Here to Stay,” and I was in heaven. All those great old love songs were really written to be sung to Jesus, and that’s what I did right there in the restaurant. The love between Jesus and me is definitely here to stay. I can hardly wait for the music in heaven, but how it can be better than Lionel, I don’t know.
About 1:00 a.m., I was helping by drying some glasses and heard the phone calls come in one after another. Neighbors complaining. The doors were all open, seeking the village currents of air, and the buildings were so close that the restaurant must have seemed just down the hall, so I couldn’t blame them. Then finally, the police called. Val was up front telling Lionel to tone it down when the phone rang one more time.
Roger appeared on the staircase, having retired for the night. I motioned to him that the phone was ringing, and he crossed the room with such purpose it seemed he was translated from one spot to the other without crossing space. Next to the phone was the electrical box and instead of answering the phone Roger pulled the lever, cutting off all electricity.
For one brief moment only the candles flickered, and silence reigned as the shock registered on the patrons. Then, like guilty teenagers, when he put the lights back on, everyone shuffled to pay their bill and spill out onto the street. Lionel apologized profusely, and Val pouted. But Papa Chef had his way.
Too wound up to sleep, I watched “Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Every love story can be equated to Jesus. Holly Golightly couldn’t commit herself to loving Paul because she was always looking for the billionaire and finding only rats and super-rats. Jesus stands at our door, flowers in His hand, love in His heart, the best gifts for us in our path, and He knocks, and He knocks, and He knocks. Thank God He doesn’t stop.
Holly finally committed herself to love and her life changed. When I committed myself to the love of Jesus, my whole life changed. I only remember two earlier occasions that I came close to answering His knock on my door, once when I was sixteen, another at twenty-two, and when I was thirty-nine. Thank God I answered and found the most wonderful love I could ever imagine. I kick myself for not answering when I was sixteen.
About 3:30 a.m., when I finally hit the pillow, the thought went through my head that I should move my car. It was parked in the Place de Mairie, the plaza right under my window where the village stages many of their summer events. I remembered having that same thought twice during the evening. Exasperated, I determined that could not be possible because that would make three weeks in a row in which parking was forbidden in the Place de Mairie on a weekend.
I slept like a rock until 7:00 a.m. when the Holy Spirit abruptly woke me. Looking out my window, I saw my car and three others in a lot for fifteen automobiles, tables were stacked ready to set out, and the barriers were up against the cars. Whipping on my clothes, I went down and reparked my car. The Senior Citizens had already gathered to set the tables and they glared at me as I moved the barrier so I could remove my car. There was no friendly wave, no replacing of the barrier behind me, so I had to get out or my car and put it back.
The Third Age (Troisieme Age) as they are called here, had planned a Paella Festival. As my head hit the pillow again at 7:10 a.m., I heard winches grinding and realized I had just escaped the tow truck from physically removing my car. God is so good! I’m down here enjoying myself, and He makes sure I do all the appropriate adult things that need to be done. He’s a good Daddy, a good Papa Chef.
Try as I could, sleep was not on my agenda. The band for the Troisieme Age started at 9:00 a.m. right underneath my window. Three story buildings surround the Place de Marie. I’m on the third floor on that side; however, my front door is on the second floor on the other side since the whole village is going up a mountain. With no other place to go, the music amplified up the three stories, made an abrupt right turn and barged through my windows. I could not hear my television, my music, or my telephone. But it was a blessing. What was the one thing I could do? Write!
I peeked out the window from time to time. The paella looked wonderful. The Seniors sat in the shade of the six Plane trees at paper covered boards masquerading as tables, chatting, while some danced. And to what were they dancing? A guitar, an accordion, and a sound board adding the percussion churned-out polkas. Mainly. My heart started keeping three quarter time.
As my heart skipped to the music, I was just glad to be alive. From my chair against my inside wall I could look through my two large windows. The tops of sturdy shoots from the Plane trees nodded to me as the foreground to antiquated roofs across the Place. Stones on the roofs held down ancient, rust-red tiles from the torrents of periodic mistral winds. Beyond I could see the mountains and the little villages just like mine nestled on the tops and in the crevices.
No doubt, in every village there was a woman like me, trapped in her dwelling by summer festival music, music I know I will never hear in heaven! But I was so glad, so privileged to see this little part of life. I had a glimpse of what God sees. God sees it all. There isn’t a heart He doesn’t know. There isn’t a life He doesn’t want for His own. There isn’t a person He doesn’t love. Even those who were disturbed that my car wasn’t towed, He loves them. Even the neighbors who complained about the fun we were having, He loves them. Nothing compares to His love—Nothing.
Writing has been in my blood, so to speak, but when I surren-dered my life to Jesus Christ and He told me to write, all my trepidations rolled away and I began in earnest! After all, if God Almighty says it was His idea that I be a writer, who am I to stand in His way? My hope is that you not only like what I write, but that your life is moved by it, and that your party to Jesus and with Jesus turns your life into days of Heaven on Earth.