We went to Talloires France to celebrate my 36th birthday. It was a last-minute decision. In the middle of my husband’s job searching, financial pressure, my 33 weeks’ pregnancy, searching for short term accommodation for my parents-in-law who are coming to visit us in less than a month, we didn’t plan much for my birthday other than my husband was going to cook me a nice dinner.
I didn’t have much time or mind-space to think about or feel about this birthday.
However, the morning before my birthday, I felt quite overwhelmed with all we were facing as a family. It required a lot of faith, yet I happened to feel my “faith tank” was running low. I wanted to escape somewhere for my birthday other than just staying at home, even though my husband already had some plan that day. I expressed my thoughts to my husband, and he’s hesitating. I interpreted it as his lack of love and empathy for me. So I locked myself in our bedroom, cried to God. I desperately needed some love and encouragement. My husband was in the living-room with our son. Though it’s not intentional, I was sure my sobbing was loud enough to be heard in the living-room.
I remembered the people of faith from the Bible, Esther, David, Daniel… I was reassured that we were not forsaken, that God was still with us and leading us in the midst of it all. About half an hour later, I decided that I would give my birthday to God and be submissive to my husband and his plan.
I went to the living room and found out that my husband’s searching online for accommodation in Talloires. It’s a beautiful old little French town located by Annecy lake with mountains all around. We had visited there over two years ago for our “babymoon” when I was eight months pregnant with our firstborn. We stayed in a spacious victorian-look room in Villa de Rose— a historical, gorgeous mansion overlooking the lake, with a big rose garden. We had a great view to the lake and mountains through our window. I remembered almost every detail of that pleasant stay in Talloires. I didn’t mind going back.
My loving husband heard my cry and took some action. He changed his plan and booked a room in Villa de Rose and said to me: “ let’s go to Talloires for a night to celebrate your birthday. ” Of course, I happily accepted that.
We drove to Talloires. About 1.5 hours later, we found ourselves in a room in Villa de Rose, a similar style but slightly smaller room to the one we had last time. As a pregnant woman that I was, I went for a nap while husband’s taking our son for a garden explore. It was close to 4 pm. While it’s bright and sunny out in the garden, it was quiet and calm in the room, and I fell asleep quickly. Then, a thought and a verse came to mind. The thought was: “ Even the best human effort will still fall short. ” And the verse was Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Waking up, pondering about the verse, I believe it’s the Holy Spirit speaking to me. Thus I started to think about the glory of God.
Romans 3: 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
As believers, we once fell short of the glory of God because of our sin. Now in Christ, we are forgiven, redeemed, and in the process of being restored to the glory of God. The expression of the glory of God is diverse and enormous. As we form the Body of Christ, we each carry a different manifestation of glory. The challenge is to live out the facet of the glory of God that we were born with, in this redeemed life, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I guess on this birthday, I was given this quest for a better understanding of the facet of glory for me to carry and my part of function in His Body.
The demonstration of His glory is always from inside-out. I know I won’t be ready for any outward work expression if I’m not ready inside. On the inside, I need to align my value and belief with God’s, allow myself to be led by His words and consistently choose to make the right choices that please Him. Do the next right thing. Thus in due time, the glory will reveal itself from the inside to the outside, which can be seen in our fulfilled desires, answered prayers… Then, there are testimonies to be shared to encourage and inspire others; praise, honor, and thanks to be given publicly to the name of our God.
I recently heard a Chinese hymn from our church, and the lyrics went: “In this weak and unworthy vessel, glorify your name, God. ” I thought, how can the glory of God be seen in or through us if we fail to grow stronger by His grace, by making the right choices daily? We certainly dare not to forget who changes us for better and makes us stronger, nevertheless dare we remain weak or keep making unworthy choices.
For our evening time in Talloires, we reserved a dinner table at the Abby hotel, which used to be a monastery. The building has been there for a thousand years and now transformed into a 4-star hotel. The decoration inside was simple and elegant. Dinner was lovely. So far, my birthday celebration had been good.
But the real “wow factor” didn’t come until the next morning, my birthday morning. After we checked out and put all our luggage in the car, my husband suggested having some tea at the restaurant/ bar area of a hotel just across where we’d stayed. I agreed, without overthinking. I didn’t expect it to be any better than the Abby, or better than the lake view we’d already seen.
Entering into the gate of the hotel and walking through the well-decorated hallway, I saw a wide-spaced patio on the other side of a large sliding glass door, stretching down to the lake. I hastily walked towards the courtyard and voiced out a sincere “wow!!” Very close to my eyes was an angle of the lake I hadn’t seen before. Several layers of mountains were standing in the lake, near and afar. The lake looked like a giant emerald, reflecting the bright morning sunshine. The patio was built along the lakeside with sturdy and comfortable outdoor furniture orderly and thoughtfully placed. Some roses were blooming on the side. There was a small pond at the center of the patio with some trouts swimming around. We picked the table and the armchairs with cushions under the shade of a big cypress tree, placed about 10 meters from the water. We ordered tea and coffee, and they came with a fancy presentation: a teapot, cups and plates, and some delicious handmade chocolate. Our son happened to be sleeping at that time, which gave us some luxurious quietness in such a paradise.
Sitting there, feeling the breeze and taking some deep breath, I inhaled the blessings from the Father—- my birthday present from Him. He surely knew the highway to my heart. None of us were sure if we could come to this place since we didn’t live in this hotel. But they welcomed us. None of us knew the courtyard of the hotel would be this stunning—- you really can’t tell from the outside. What a pleasant surprise! Like a little girl found her secret garden, my heart was flooded with deep joy and contentment. I felt deeply comforted by the love and glory of God. That morning, I read, “I will make Zion prosper and satisfy her poor with my provision… my glistening glory will rest upon my chosen ones.” (Ps.132:15,17 TPT)
My faith tank was filled again. Without knowing much detail for the future, there is grace enabling us to keep walking the path of faith, where the glory hides.
On the way to Talloires, I kept playing the song “Highlands” over and over again. I even said to my husband that it’s The Song of my birthday. I’d like to share the lyrics with you, for it has been the prayer and meditation of my heart in this season. And you can listen to it here.
Highlands (Song Of Ascent)
O how high would I climb mountains
If the mountains were where You hide
O how far I’d scale the valleys
If You graced the other side
O how long have I chased rivers
From lowly seas to where they rise
Against the rush of grace descending
From the source of its supply
In the highlands and the heartache
You’re neither more or less inclined
I would search and stop at nothing
You’re just not that hard to find
So I will praise You on the mountain
And I will praise You when the mountain’s in my way
You’re the summit where my feet are
So I will praise You in the valleys all the same
No less God within the shadows
No less faithful when the night leads me astray
You’re the heaven where my heart is
In the highlands and the heartache all the same
O how far beneath Your glory
Does Your kindness extend the path
From where Your feet rest on the sunrise
To where You sweep the sinner’s past
O how fast would You come running
If just to shadow me through the night
Trace my steps through all my failure
And walk me out the other side
For who could dare ascend that mountain
That valleyed hill called Calvary
But for the One I call Good Shepherd
Who like a lamb was slain for me
Whatever I walk through
Wherever I am
Your Name can move mountains
Wherever I stand
And if ever I walk through
The valley of death
I’ll sing through the shadows
My song of ascent
From the gravest of all valleys
Come the pastures we call grace
A mighty river flowing upwards
From a deep but empty grave