Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Welcome to France

Well we most certainly hit the ground running, and it is a good thing because the red tape in France is abundant! For example, Tuesday went something like this:

We went to a cell phone store to purchase cell phones, as we feel quite inept without a modern mode of communication. We were told (very kindly) by the store manager that it would be quite impossible for us to purchase phone without first having a French banking account, as we would need to sign up for a service plan, and that requires a bank account.

No problem (we thought to ourselves) and we took out 500 Euro from the ATM and went to the bank to open an account. We were told (very kindly) by the banker that it would be quite impossible to for us to open a bank account without an address. He gave us an application form of sorts, and also a list of required documentation. We meet with him again on Friday.

In the meantime, we went to look at houses, only to find that (of course!) we will need to have a bank account before we will be able to rent a house. Do you see our vicious circle????

Ahhh, but there is hope. Next we went to our language school, who patiently helps foreigners move to France every year. They gave us a letter to give to our bank that testifies that the SCHOOL address is a valid address for us to use. Hopefully, the banker will find this sufficient enough to grant us the supreme honor of storing our cash with him for safe keeping.

On the house front...we did find one that we would like to rent. We meet with the realtor on Friday afternoon to make an application, but she also gave us a list of about 25 pieces of documentation that she needs from us. We have some of it. Some of it is documentation that simply does not exist in in the United States. Some of it we HAVE, but not WITH the past three years' tax returns. So if the house is to be ours, we will need some help from above. Thankfully, He IS our ever-present help, so I think that things just might work out!

And if/when things do work out, we will be settled in Massy and ready for language school. Here is a picture of the shopping center close to the house we want to rent...where I will buy groceries, etc. Isn't is wonderful?

Don't you wish you could visit me?


Monday, July 26, 2010

On Dry Land

We arrived in Southampton at 6:30 a.m., disembarked from the fabulous Queen Mary 2 at 9:30a.m., and took a bus to St. Pancras Station where we are currently awaiting the 16:02 Eurostar train to Paris Nord. The Internet on the ship was expensive AND slow, so I was reluctant to post very often. But now that I am enjoying free wi-fi, I will try to take this time to bring you up to date.

The Queen Mary 2 was tremendous. One of the highlights of each day was dinner in the Britannia Restaurant, where the dress code was quite formal.

We are all smiling here because our photo was being taken by a man in a kilt. Did you know that it is impossible NOT to smile when your picture is being taken by a man wearing a kilt?

We really did spend a LOT of time eating, and we savored every morsel. When we weren't eating we found time to read books, nap, play games, go to concerts, watch movies, and swim.

Another highlight of our trip was a mid-Atlantic rendezvous with a tiny canoe and the four men in it who are trying to beat the world record for rowing from New York to England. We waved and cheered them on. The record is 55 days, and when we met up with them they had been rowing for over a month. In that time they had capsized twice, lost one man overboard (but recovered him quickly) and had performed surgery on an ingrown toenail with a Swiss army knife.

The QM2 launched one of its fast rescue boats to greet the canoe--a spectacle in and of itself--and then they took some photos while greeting the rowers. We purchased one of these pictures for three reasons: 1.) They got an amazingly cool shot! 2.) It shows the size of both boats relative to each other, which is mind-boggling in both respects, and 3.) If they break the world record we were witness to an historic endeavor. Unfortunately, we only have a paper copy of the photo, so I can't upload it until we have our scanner. But trust was SO TOTALLY AWESOME!

The name of their boat is the Artemis Investments--you can Google them if you want more info.

Well our train is getting ready to board. So much more to say, but it will have to wait. TTFN!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Greetings from the Atlantic

I was told by many dear friends who have traveled by ship that I need not worry about motion sickness, that I most certainly would not feel a thing. Let me just say that I am quite glad that I have taken Bonine every day, as I definitely CAN feel the movements of the ship and I would surely be ill were it not for my preventative measures. Even so, I find that I walk like a drunken sailor due to the constant rocking of the boat and I have many bumps and bruises for awkwardly wobbling into various stationary items such as deck chairs and railings. It doesn’t help that clumsiness comes naturally for me.

All that aside, the voyage has been absolutely delightful. We sleep in late each morning, eat food fit for kings, and lounge by the pool all afternoon. Yesterday evening we went to a classical guitar concert that thrilled us all. We are looking forward to seeing the Shakespeare play, “The Taming of the Shrew” tomorrow.

Most of our time is spent enjoying each other and our fellow travelers. I met a woman who used to own a book store and chocolate shop in Costa Rica and now aspires to be an author, David met a man who is bicycling around the world for the SECOND time, and we eat dinner each night next to a wonderful British retired couple who have taken more cruises than a navy admiral.

There are many nationalities represented among the passengers, and announcements are made in English, German, French, and Spanish. Nevertheless, my guess is that should a tally be taken, the Brits would outnumber us all. I have daily encounters with the fabulous British sense of humor. (Or should I say “humour?”) My favorite (favourite) was yesterday morning: I was heading to work out and found myself in the elevator with three portly elderly English gentlemen. One asked, “What floor?” so that he could push the button for me, and I replied, “Seven” and then, suddenly uncomfortable with my attire I added, “I am going to the gym.” There was a heavy beat of silence before one of the men said dryly, “I went to the gym once.” and then all three of them burst out laughing. I laughed with them, charmed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day One at Sea

The ship is extravagant. Opulent. Elegant.

When our cab dropped us at the terminal, our bags were immedately taken from us and we did not see them again until we arrived in our stateroom. We boarded with ease to the tasteful music of a live String Quartet. (Aside to Coders: You should look in to what it takes to get THAT gig!)

Once we found our room, we immediately headed to lunch in the King’s Court. This is a large cafeteria-style restaurant that serves food 24 hours a day. We patronized the Asian food section, ate our fill, and set off to explore.

We located the library, the gym, the theater, and the main restaurants, and then we hung out at the pool closest to our room until it was time for the emergency drill.

For the emergency drill, we had to grab our life vests from our room and head to our designated “Muster Station.” It was then that we learned that three of our life vests were assigned to Muster Station E, while one was assigned to Muster Station F. The staff allowed us to stay together for the drill, but informed us that we should ask our room steward to find another Station E life vest because if there was, indeed, an emergency, the person with the Muster Station F life vest would be separated from the rest of the family, and that would clearly NOT be our preference.

Nevertheless, the life vest situation sparked conversation about which member of our family would use the Muster Station F life vest if we had to abandon ship before the change was arranged. An interesting question to ponder, no doubt.

Following the emergency drill, the boat set sail.

There are no words to describe the spectrum of emotions that I felt standing on the deck of the Queen Mary 2 as she moved out of Brooklyn Harbor, past the Statue of Liberty, under the bridge, and out into the open seas. Leaving American soil in such a majestic fashion felt appropriate, for in this way we could not overlook the profundity of the moment. It was a departure of the grandest kind, with the grandest people, for the grandest reason.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The End...and Once Upon a Time

It has been a month of "goodbyes,"

"So longs," and "See you laters."

We have hugged our families,

and wondered when, indeed, we will see them again.

We have had amazing moments of goodness, like a Hawk Nelson concert,

where the boys got to go backstage and meet the band. (Here they are with Jason Dunn, the lead singer!)

And now we are in New York, about to head to Brooklyn Harbor and catch a boat to Europe.

It is a day of endings and beginnings. We are thankful.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Like Moths on a Flame

Well folks, Jennifer Williamson is finally, officially FREAKING OUT!

The peace of God, which is supposed to be ruling my heart, is in there somewhere. I feel its warmth and light in my core. But I am not sure it is RULING.

The stresses of these final days swarm like moths on that light. Shadows flutter, dark winds blow. They plan a mutiny--the Army of Anxiety ambushes my soul.

Will peace win the day?

When peace like a river attendeth my soul
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
"It is well! It is well, with my soul."

Oh yes, my soul is well. My redeemer lives and my eternity is secure. I am loved. What more could I possibly need?
  • Well, $10,000, for starters. Our outgoing expenses are expected to reach $64,000...and we currently have $54,000.
My family is well. We are healthy and happy. I have a husband who adores me and two sons that bless me daily. What more could I possibly need?
  • I need about $250 in monthly support pledges. We currently have $8150 in monthly pledges, and these supporters are giving faithfully. We are SO grateful. But we are expected to need close to $8400/month to live in France.
I am surrounded by dear friends, a community of faith, and a cat who doesn't have a worry in the world. What more could I possibly need?
  • I need the title for David's motorcycle to arrive in Norfolk, Virginia in time for our shipping container to leave the country as scheduled. It was supposed to be there on Friday, but apparently the Washington State DMV just mailed it today.
So you see, in the BIG things, in the things that really matter, I have peace. But those moth-like worries of this world... they are swarming.

What are your moths? Can I pray for God's peace to RULE in your heart? Will you pray the same for me?

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Col.3:15

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Top Ten Indicators that You are in the Thick of Transition

10. When you wake up in the middle of the night and you have to go to the bathroom, it takes you a full minute to figure out where you are and where the bathroom is.

9. You haven't purchased real food at a grocery store in more than three weeks.

8. When you go to send a note in the mail, you have absolutely NO idea what to put as a "return address."

7. Any and every item is evaluated based on its portability.

6. Every day that you can do laundry is a "special" day. Clean clothes are worth more than their weight in gold.

5. You have plans to be in 16 different cities, 4 different states, and 5 different countries by the end of the month.

4. You spend more time reading maps than novels.

3. You eat each bowl of Lucky Charms as if it were your last, and wonder how long it will be before you taste Lucky Charms again. You actually conduct on-line research to assess the availability of Lucky Charms in European countries. You learn that "Lucky Charms" is the name of a popular crib mobile for nurseries in France.

2. You know how to ship a cat internationally.

1. Tallying "lasts" is a daily event. Anticipating "firsts" is also a daily event. Grief and joy mingle...and both are somehow comforting.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Let the Healing Begin

Yesterday morning David and I were taking our morning walk and I asked him, "What would you say you have learned so far on this journey?" He shared several life lessons that God is teaching Him through this fundraising/becoming a missionary/moving around the world process. And then he asked me the same question.

Oh how I love a lesson learned. Unfortunately, I have not made it to the mastery stage of any of my lessons. I am still flunking the tests, and I fear I may never "get it!" And then I remember that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it...and I look forward to becoming all that He made me to be, in His time.

Of this I am sure: God IS at work. I know this NOT because I see progress in myself, but because I am increasingly aware of my shortcomings. Right now He is hard at work at on my pride.

Conviction is a gift, even though it stings. In fact, if I stopped feeling convicted I think I would worry. It is God's tool and it leads me to Him. Conviction works like this: When God decided it was time to deal with my pride, words that I had spoken for years suddenly rang harshly in my own ears. Attitudes that I had cherished suddenly felt repulsive in my heart. Behaviors that used to be comfortable suddenly offended me. In a lot of ways it seemed like I was getting worse, but in reality, I was simply being awakened to how prideful I've always been.

Now the healing can begin.

I know that a loving God only put His finger on my pride so that He could free me from it. It is disturbing and delightful to stand in the light of His presence. Now that my eyes are opened to the ugliness of my sin, I can no longer casually overlook it. Unfortunately, neither can I immediately overcome it. So here I sit.

I believe that by the power of the Holy Spirit, I can learn humility. I also believe that my flesh has to give Him room to work. I am not instantly humble. But now, when I walk in pride, I receive the gift of conviction and I have a choice to make. Will I embrace the conviction or spurn it? Will I persist in my pride or turn from it? Will I confess my pride as sin or defend it? Moment by moment, thought by thought, action by action, these are the choices I must make. And as I said before, I regularly get it wrong.

Lyrics from the band Tenth Avenue North say it best:

Sparks will fly as grace collides
With the dark inside of us
So please don't fight
This coming light
Let this blood come cover us
His blood can cover us

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

I long to be free from my pride. Pride makes me deaf to the wisdom of others. It blinds me to the grace of God. It keeps me from intimacy. It leads me to despise the very people God has called me to love. I know that humility is freeing and life-giving. Still, the flesh dies slowly. Sacrifice seems costly. And pride creeps in daily, looking for safe harbors.

Oh Lord, heal me. Free me from the bonds of pride so that I can live fully in your light. I want to live for you.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The past three days...

...were spent packing...

...and loading...

...and cleaning an empty house...

...and we are very, very, tired.