Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Peach Fuzz

I have something in common with my twelve year old son. We have both recently reached the age and place in life where our hormones are stimulating the growth of facial hair. It was a few months back that David bought Graham a razor and taught him how to use it. It was yesterday at the salon, while having my eyebrows waxed, that the kind eschetician not-so-subtly-suggested that it was her "professional opinion" that I should also have my upper lip waxed. It was a little bit more tactful than, "Lady, you have a mustache" but it was clear enough that there was no way I was going to walk out of that salon without having it done. While waxing my lip, she tried to rebuild my deflated self-esteem by complimenting me on all sorts of random things, like the fact that there is not any other unseemly hair on my face, that my pores are practically invisible, and (I am not making this up) that my fingernail beds are very nicely shaped! Are you kidding me???? Is there anything worse than a twenty-something cosmetologist starting your day off with "Hey there aging woman with the peach fuzz on your upper lip, those are some elegant looking nail beds you're sporting there!" Let's just say I was not encouraged. But, alas, I had a haircut scheduled immediately after my wax, and if anything can boost my mood it's a good haircut. So, as my stylist, Kara, washed my hair, I began to hope that she was going to work a miracle and transform me into a picture of beauty. However, all my hopes were quickly dashed. As I sat wearing a black vinyl cape with no other choice but to stare at my own reflection in the mirror while Kara snipped at my wet hair, I had my second moment of horror for the morning. It seems that in ripping the undesirable fur from my face, the young purveyor of beauty had agitated my sensitive skin, and where very fine blond hair once grew, I now saw a massive patch of bright red skin. I had a cherry-red mustache that made me look like I had just consumed a gallon of kool-aid. Maybe next time I should just ask Graham if I could borrow his razor.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Growing Pains

David and I must be about to have a marital growth spurt! Like the growth spurts we experienced as teenagers, our marital growth spurt is being heralded by symptoms such as mood swings, awkwardness, and voice changes! As we begin to attempt to do some of our "missionary" stuff, we have realized that we have to work together much more closely than we have had to in the past. I mean we get to work together more. Now don't misunderstand me. We aren't headed for counseling. Yet. I still like David and he still likes me. I just don't understand why he always wants to do things the wrong way. I mean differently than I would do them. We seem to approach most decisions and tasks from completely opposite directions; yet, amazingly, we discover after rational conversations (sometimes disguised as heated arguments) that our desired outcomes are often exactly the same. So why is it, that if we both have the same destination in mind, we have such a hard time agreeing on the mode of transportation? By the grace of God, we have been able to maintain our sense of humor in this process. As we are preparing to speak at my parents' church for the first time in our role as "missionaries" the conversations go something like this:

David: Let's practice what we are going to say this weekend at Mt. Park Church.

Jenn: Okay.

David: Here is my two page outline complete with scripture references, statistics about France, and key facts about GEM. Jenn, why are your lips disappearing?

Jenn: (Un-pursing lips) What?

David: Your lips are disappearing, what's the problem?

Jenn: Oh nothing, I just thought we could kind of 'wing it.'

David: But I don't want to be unprepared. We need to honor these people by having a plan. Why are your lips disappearing?

Jenn: (Un-pursing lips again and thinking but not saying: Does boring them with facts and figures honor them?) I don't want to stifle you, David, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how our two styles are going to fit together.

David: (with pen in hand ready to make changes to his outline) Just tell me what you want to say, and I'll put it in.

Jenn: Well I don't really know exactly what I want to say, I just kind of want to tell our story.

David: So tell it. I'll take notes and change the outline.

Jenn: I wasn't really planning on working off of an outline.

David: Well then how will we know who is going to say what and when? And your lips are disappearing again.

Jenn: (un-pursing) Can we work on this tomorrow?

We have had an exchange similar to this almost every day since last Thursday. David has given up on bringing his outline to the discussions, and I am spending more time concentrating on my facial expression than really figuring out what I want to say. We still have five days. A lot of growth can happen in five days. But it probably wouldn't hurt if some of you started to pray.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Flight of the Aviator

About 7 years ago, my amazing husband quit his stable (read: boring!) banking job, to follow his dream of becoming a pilot. Actually, his becoming a pilot was every bit as much a calling on his life as his becoming a missionary has been. As a manager of a flight school, he still loves to fly and wakes up every day grateful for the joy of responding to that call. So as it became more and more clear that the next phase of our life was going to be in France, and possibly take David away from flying, I asked him if he was afraid of losing his wings. He shook his head and said, "God gave them to me once, he can give them to me again." So true. Nevertheless, through a seemingly random (read: God-ordainded) set of meetings and circumstances, David has been in contact with a Fixed Base Operation just north of Paris where he may be able to recreationally pursue some flying opportunities. God is so good. There is a famous saying that goes "When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window." My experience has been "When God closes a door, He blows a hole in the other side of the house!"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Want a slice?

This is the pie that I made yesterday afternoon. Isn't she lovely? It's a lattice-top apple. I could not have made a pie to save my life a year ago, but after being inspired by the pie-making genius of my friend Gail, I decided that learning the fine art of pie-making would be one of my goals for 2008. My family has loved every delicious moment of my endeavor, giving me their input and direction along the way, and happily eating even my greatest disasters. For years I have been perplexed by the expression "easy as pie" because I have never found pie making to be easy; however, thanks to more than a few helpful insights and shared recipes from Gail, pie has become my favorite thing to bake. Without a doubt, apple is the family favorite, but I have also made blueberry, blackberry, mixed berry, and one disastrous attempt at butterscotch meringue. I need pie weights.... Anyway, in learning to make pie, I have found a new passion, and there is something very life-giving about pursuing a new passion, even one as trifling as pie-making. When I look at that pie, I feel a sense of accomplishment. Satisfaction. Elation! And I'm already anxious to bake another, hopeful that the next one might be even better. It makes me wonder if this is how God feels when some aspect of my character that He has been shaping finally begins to bear fruit. Perhaps He even looks at me and says, "Isn't she lovely!"

Keep me as the apple of your eye...Psalm 17:8

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Basking in the Blessings

Swan Lake. Not the ballet, the place. This piece of property has been in the Williamson Family since David's great grandfather purchased it in 1934. Nestled in the mountains of northwest Montana, it is a place where fun comes first--that is to say, if dinner is ready at the exact moment that the lake calms for a perfect ski...dinner can wait! It is also a place where God's grace abounds in natural beauty, rejuvenated relationships, and pure relaxation. Here is just a glimpse of how we pass the time at the lake.

Hanging out on the water...

Reading a good book...

Skiing, skiing, skiing...

Casting a line...

Helping a brother...

Taking a dip...

Skipping rocks...

Driving the boat...

...loving life.

Monday, July 21, 2008

White Water Williamsons

We just spent the weekend in Montana celebrating David's Dad's 70th birthday with a white water rafting trip in Glacier National Park. Without a doubt, this is EXACTLY how I hope to celebrate when I become a septuagenarian. Eleven Williamsons rode the waves, paddled vigorously, and conquered the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Our fearless guide, Jordan, led us confidently while sharing interesting bits of history and geology all along the way, making the adventure both thrilling and educational.

In my opinion, this was the birthday party to beat all birthday parties--Chuck E. Cheese eat your heart out! And it couldn't have been in honor of a better man. My father-in-law, Len, has a huge heart, a wealth of wisdom, and a generosity of spirit. He can be both deeply thoughtful and wildly daring all in the course of a single afternoon. He lives his life with integrity, but even more inspiring is his ever-growing joy in Jesus. Thanks, Len, for letting us celebrate with you! Can't wait to see what you do for your 80th. Bungee jumping anyone?

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I am not really much of a TV watcher. It either bores or offends me most of the time, so I just don't bother with it. (Of course I should mention we don't have cable, because if we did, I could watch HGTV 24/7) But last week David was out of town, and in lonesome desperation, the boys and I turned on the TV one evening. There was this show on ABC called Wipe Out where contestants compete in practically impossible obstacle courses to win $50,000. The show lives up to its name, as most participants seriously wipe out and end up covered in mud, suds, or water. Then of course there is the replay of all the wipe outs, complete with commentary by the funny and rarely inappropriate hosts of the show. Now to tell you the truth, I don't think that I would have liked the show had I been watching it alone, but watching it with two pre-teen boys was entirely entertaining. They were laughing so hard, that I caught myself being amused. I'm just waiting for one of them to start creating their own obstacle courses in the yard...perhaps I should increase my insurance policy!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Letting Go!

Chandler calls this a "no-hander." I haven't mastered this trick. I can let go for a few seconds while coasting, but I always falter when I try to pedal without holding on to the handlebars. But Chandler can ride forever with no hands. The only complication is that he has little or no power to steer. As long as he is content to go wherever the road takes him, Chandler can ride for miles with his hands high in the air, the wind in his face, and his heart fully free!
My bike isn't the only place that I have a hard time letting go. I am a recovering control freak who still struggles with not always being able to steer my own life. God in His wisdom is much more capable of determining the best path for me, yet when I feel like I am faltering, it is so hard to trust Him and resist the urge to grab the handlebars and take control. But I really do want to let go.
I want to let go of my children...and trust that God will keep them.
I want to let go of my things...He knows whether or not I need them.
I want to let go of my dreams...believing God can redeem them.
I want to let go of my life, raise my hands, and know His freedom.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17

Friday, July 11, 2008

Burning Questions from Inquiring Minds

Dear friends, we realize that our first missionary letter, which many of you have recently received, left some of you with a few unanswered questions. A follow-up letter is scheduled* to be sent later this month to answer those questions. (*disclaimer: see previous post re: our ability to schedule a mailing!) However, since we know the agony of burning questions--having inquiring minds ourselves--we will attempt to answer the most FAQs here and now. But if you read on you must promise that you won't be disappointed when you receive our next letter and it all sounds redundant. Being "in the know" has its downside.

How Much $$$ ???

Not surprisingly, the questions we seem to be asked the most concern money. Fundraising. Or what we have been taught to call Ministry Partnership Development. Our financial needs fall into two categories: A Launching Fund and Monthly Support.

Launching Fund—Expenses covered by the Launching Fund include a Fundraising Training Weekend in Dallas that only David will attend, a two-week exploratory trip to France for the whole family, eight weeks of culture and mission training in North Carolina, moving expenses, tuition for one year of language school for both David and Jenn, costs related to setting up house including the purchase of one vehicle, and a small reserve fund.

Monthly Support (Living/Ministry Expenses)—this amount is set by GEM and is determined by the current exchange rate and the cost of living for a family of four. It includes our monthly salary, plus health and retirement benefits and a small percentage of administrative fees to GEM. Out of our salary we are expected to budget not only for personal expenses, but also for ministry related expenses, such as teaching and worship materials, and outings with people with whom we are building intentional relationships to share the Gospel.

If a supporter can begin to make monthly contributions now, those funds will help to build our Launching Fund, and then once we are released to the field, that same level of funding would translate into regular monthly support for our mission work in France. GEM does not release missionaries to the field until they have their entire Launching Fund and have received pledges for 100% of their on-going monthly support.

We are happy to share the specific dollar amounts for both our Launching Fund and our Monthly Support, but it does not seem prudent to post such figures on the World Wide Web. So if you feel the need to know exact amounts, just ask, and we will share those in a one-on-one format.

How can we give???

The specifics of how to give and all the possible options for doing so will be covered in our next letter, but if you already know that God is calling you to give, you can donate on-line now. Our tax-deductable donations account is set up at the Greater Europe Mission website:

  1. Click on the "Become a Financial Partner" link on the right hand column of the blog. It takes you to the secure GEM donations web-page.

  2. Click "Give Now." After filling out your contact information, page down to the section entitled "Missionaries and Projects."

  3. Click on the drop-down menu and select "Missionaries." A sub-category drop-down box will appear.

  4. Scroll down to select "Williamson, David & Jennifer: 47910."

  5. Complete the rest of the fields to finish the transaction.

Through GEM's on-line giving you can make either a one-time contribution or set up a recurring gift. If you do donate, will you please let us know? Because if we wait to hear about it from GEM it may take several weeks, and we want to be able to thank you in a more timely fashion.

When will you leave???

The long answer to this question is found on on a previous blog posting. (See June 8, 2008) The short answer is probably not until late in 2009.

How are the boys feeling about this???

Graham is ready to go. He is excited about living in France and learning to speak French. He regularly checks out books about France from the library and he is saving his summer lawn-mowing money for our exploratory trip to France in October.

Chandler is willing to go. He belives that God is calling us to this, but he is a little nervous about it. He loves his life here and has a hard time imagining what life might be like abroad. We think the exploratory trip will be very helpful for Chandler.

What will you do with your house???

My house. My house. My beautiful house! I love my house. Nevertheless, we will sell the house. It is tempting to try to rent it out, but since we are aware of the possibility that we may never return to it, it seems unwise to do so. We will cherish every single moment in it until we leave. When our fundraising approaches the 100% mark, we will put it on the market.

What about the pets???

The cats will come with us for sure. Libby will come as long as our living arrangements can accommodate a large dog, which we sincerely hope they will.

How long will you be gone???

We have committed initially to four years in France--or one Full Term. GEM long-term missionaries are on a five-year cycle that consists of four years on the field, and one year on furlough at home. We are not sure what we will do after that, but we are open to the possibility that we will return to France for subsequent years.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Poo Poo Brain Rock

Back in 2003, David and I had been to Spangle with a real estate agent twice to look at our house before we brought the boys out to give their opinions. I felt like I had completely assessed the property and taken note of every detail. I was wrong. When we arrived at the house, the first thing the boys did when they jumped out of the car was climb up onto a huge boulder that is located in the front yard. Until that moment I hadn’t noticed the giant rock, large enough for several children to stand on simultaneously. The tulips I noticed. The brown paint color I had seen. The rock—the first thing to capture the attention of my children—had been entirely overlooked by me.

From the day we moved in, this giant rock became the center of play. It was command central, a place for captives, the top of the mountain, or just a place to sit and make plans for the next adventure. In the early days of living here, in the midst of some series of games, the rock was given the name Poo Poo Brain Rock. Wouldn’t you know this was the name that stuck? In their defense, the boys were six and seven years old at the time, and now at the ripe old ages of eleven and twelve they deny ever giving the rock such a silly name. But it will live forever in my mind under that name, a name which inspires both glee and disdain. Glee: because I love the carefree whimsy that it represents. Disdain: because, well, that one is not hard to figure out.
But the thing that boggles my mind most about Poo Poo Brain Rock is that despite its enormity, despite the grandeur of its presence, I failed to notice it until my children were standing directly on top of it. Each day I look out my front window at that rock, and wonder how I could have missed it. It makes me wonder what else I’m missing. What phase of life will suddenly surprise me when I see myself or my children standing on top of it? What is looming in my life, large and significant, but unnoticed by me? Or perhaps even more importantly, on what am I standing right now?

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

I will never forget how my boys ran to that rock in the front yard as if it were a magnet. They couldn’t have stopped themselves from clamoring up on top of it. Touching it wasn’t enough. Being near it wouldn’t do. They had to climb it, and not just sit, but stand on it. Even today, though they jump off it, sword fight around it, and hide behind it, Poo Poo Brain Rock remains a sort of Home Base for every thing they do.

Like Poo Poo Brain rock is the central feature of my yard, Christ the solid rock is the central feature of my life. I, too, find that just being close to Him is not enough; I need to be in constant contact with Him. I am drawn to Him like a magnet. When I am standing on the Rock, I know that I am at Home Base. Safe. For the Psalmist the Rock was a place of comfort. For Moses the Rock was a source of life sustaining water. For many the Rock was a stumbling block. The rock in my yard has a meaningless name riddled with absurdity, but the Rock of my life is called Wonderful! Counselor! Mighty God! Everlasting Father! Prince of Peace!

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:2

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

God is a GREAT Choreographer!

We mailed our first missionary support letter on July 3rd--according to our plan, this was exactly one week LATER than we wanted to mail them. But the photos didn't come on time, and so we had to wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. I don't love to wait, but wait we did. And finally the photos came, and finally we mailed the letter. Late. Or so we thought...

Most of our friends here in Spokane received our letter on Saturday, July 5th. Then on Sunday, July 6th, our pastor just happened to be preaching on Acts chapter 8. In Acts chapter 8, the disciples are scattered to the nations to share the gospel...thus the first missionaries are born. In preaching about this, our pastor actually referred to us--by name--and our call to France. In a church of over 4000 members, in a church that supports dozens of missionaries, it was quite an amazing coincidence that the day after many of our friends received our first letter, our pastor talked about US!

I commented to David that the timing almost appeared choreographed. He smiled and said, "What do you mean almost?" He is right. It was choreographed, just not by us. As the saying goes, God's timing is seldom early, but NEVER late.

Secret Fears

Okay, its confession time. I like to think of myself as a brave and adventurous woman, but I harbor a secret fear. I am afraid to check out a book from the library if I am not familiar with the author or if it has not been recommended by a friend. I am scared I will wind up with a loser book, and due to my "finish what you begin" upbringing I will dutifully read the whole torturous tome. But I believe that God wants me to overcome my fears; so, to that end, I have decided to choose at least one "unrecommended book by an unknown author" each time I go to the library this summer. Yeah. You said it. Jenn is LIVING ON THE EDGE, BABY!!! Up until last week, I hadn't checked out any total loser books, but I hadn't found anything great either. Then I checked out Home to Harmony by Philip Gulley, and found myself asking, "Why hasn't anyone told me about this book?!?" It was pure delight in a dust cover.
The author is a Quaker minister, and he writes about a fictional Quaker minister in a small town in the Midwest. The book is completely wholesome and clean without being tedious or "churchy." And in chapter 8 I laughed so hard that my family thought I was going to hyperventilate. If anyone has ever served on a church committee in any capacity, you will fully appreciate chapter 8, where Gulley writes about the Elder Committee at the church in Harmony:
  • "If we accidentally appoint a saint to the elder's committee, by midyear we have broken them of all Christlike tendencies."

Can you relate??? As an added bonus, there was actually a mention of my nephew's Indiana college, Earlham, in the story. The best part? This is the first of a series. The worst part? Tomorrow, when I go to the library, I can no longer classify Philip Gulley as an "unknown" author, so I will have to be brave once again!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Regarding the Garden

I am very much a novice gardener; however, I learn new things each year, and my crops have become progressively more plentiful and predictable. The first year David and I attempted a garden, we tilled up the ground in a part of the yard that did not get enough sun. Cold crops, like peas, radishes, and lettuce did okay, but I was hard pressed to get a full grown zucchini, and the corn and green beans completely failed. The next year we moved the garden. By “we” I mean David and my Dad. By “moved the garden” I mean, they cut out eight hundred square feet of sod from the new garden plot and used that sod to fill in the old garden plot. It was a labor of love, for it was I who did not want to have two large tilled up areas in the yard. The new garden was larger and in a much sunnier place. That year we had a bumper corn crop, a steady stream of green beans, and our first experience with the well-known zucchini surplus phenomenon. But the tomatoes were few, and the cucumbers—nonexistent.

I was advised by my sage neighbors that my problem with the tomatoes was that I did not prune the suckers. They explained that there are many branches on a tomato plant that are lush and leafy, but have neither the means nor intention of ever producing any fruit. These unproductive branches steal nutrients and energy from the productive branches of the plant and can reduce overall tomato production. They are called suckers because they suck up food and water without giving anything in return. That was why my very large and healthy-looking tomato plants yielded only a handful of edible tomatoes. The next year I vigilantly pruned my tomato plants, and while they tended to look more haggard and lank overall, their branches were absolutely heavy with tomatoes. Success!

But still plaguing me is the challenge of the cucumber. Even in the sunnier garden location, when I plant cucumbers they never grow. The seeds go in the ground at the right depth and spacing, but nothing ever spouts. I have even planted them a second time in the same season when it seemed the first attempt failed, and still, no sign of germination. Last year I thought I would beat the system and I bought cucumber plants from the Future Farmers of America. When I brought them home, both plants were strong and already sporting blossoms. I carefully transplanted them into my sunny, fertile garden, and watered them well. I had high hopes for those cucumbers. They were completely dead within a week. And no one can tell me why.

I am utterly perplexed by my inability to grow a cucumber. I have asked neighbors where I am going wrong, but they don’t seem to know. I have asked experts in garden shops to no avail. I have even sought out the teacher of the Future Farmers of America, and while he could not solve my problem, he assured me that his wife’s cucumbers were prone to the same fate as mine. At least I’m not alone. I have looked up answers on the Internet, but nothing I find seems to help. It appears that cucumbers are my gardening weakness.

I’ve heard that Amish quilters, famous for their brilliant craftsmanship, put an intentional flaw in every quilt as a reminder that only God is perfect. And it is not God who needs the reminding—it is us, the flawed. While I am fairly certain that I will never have success with cucumbers, maybe I should continue to plant them as an intentional flaw in the patchwork quilt of my garden. I can sometimes have visions of grandeur that belie the reality of my fallen condition. Next time I think too highly of myself, I can just take a walk through the garden and ponder the fact that I no matter how great my accomplishments, I cannot make a cucumber grow. And I will find peace in this simple reminder, for there is great assurance in knowing that God is God, and I am not. He never fails, His perfection is predictable, His excellence can be expected, He is flawless forever, and yet, He cares for me!

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

McMurphy Family Reunion

We just got back from three glorious days on the Oregon Coast where we met up with about 50 relatives on my father's side. We have this reunion once every three years at various locations across the United States. Ironically, not a one of us has the last name of McMurphy, but we are all descendants of my great grandma and grandpa Mac--thus the reason it is called the McMurphy Family Reunion. As part of the fun-filled weekend, we were randomly divided into three teams for a series of games...our Family Olympics. It was a friendly competition for the most part, until the water fight broke out at the end. In this picture we are playing the hula hoop relay, where each team had to join hands and with out letting go, pass a hula hoop all of the way down the line and back. My team...named SOLAR POWER (since we were the yellow team) won the gold medal at the end of the day, but that was not my proudest moment. No, I was most proud of Graham--who led his team in the food eating relay, Chandler--who was the highest scorer of anyone at ladder golf, and of course David. Why David??? What other 38 year old man would display such team spirit by wearing a blue sparkling wig? Yes, folks, that's my husband!!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Learning the Art of Mass Mailings and other Novice Missionary Endeavors

As newly appointed missionaries, our very first assignment is to begin building a team of ministry supporters. Can I just tell you, we have SO much to learn! To begin, we had to compose our first support letter. Now I realize that as a Grant Writer, I fund raise for a living, but asking General Motors or Bill and Melinda Gates for money is VERY different than approaching 250 of our closest friends, with whom we hope to remain friends throughout this process! Fortunately, this first letter is all about sharing information and asking for prayer. And boy do we need prayer! After carefully wording and rewording the body of the letter, we discovered that the writing of the letter was actually the EASY part! We have spent countless hours gathering and updating addresses, learning to use the mail merge and label making features of MicroSoft Word, ordering photos from, folding letters, stuffing envelopes, peeling and sticking labels (making sure the names on the envelopes match the names on the letters), peeling and sticking return address labels, peeling and sticking stamps, and peeling and sticking envelope closures. This has been a team effort, with every family member doing a part, and even so, the entire endeavor has taken us weeks to complete. And apparently, thanks to modern advancements...we have it much EASIER than the missionaries of the past! Without mail merge, we would've had to hand address everything. And without peel and stick stamps and envelopes, we would probably all be hospitalized for glue poisoning. In addition to the physical labor involved with this mass mailing, we have been experiencing sticker shock over the cost:

Printer cartridges needed to print 250 letters--$50
Letterhead from our sending organization--$20
Family Photos from SnapFish--$58
Peel and stick envelopes--$10
Peel and stick address labels--$15
FINALLY getting our first letter ready for the mail--PRICELESS

In the very near future, we hope to be able to do the majority of our supporter contact through e-mail. This will be both a time and money saving advancement, especially once we are overseas. I can hardly wait!