Thursday, December 29, 2011

Whatcha Don't Know...

You already know that our first Christmas tree tuned out to be a disaster.

Whatcha don't know is that we actually un-decorated it, took it down, and put up a SECOND Christmas tree. David believes that the problem lies in the fact that the French do not sell tree stands that allow for the tree to be watered. Within 10 days of buying our first tree it had lost 50% of its needles and it looked like a fire hazard. David figured out a way to get some water to the second tree, and it still looked pretty good Christmas morning. 

You already know that my boys are smart cookies.

Whatcha don't know is that Chandler made le tableau d'honneur (Honor Roll!) at school. At FRENCH school, where he is doing 90% of his class work in FRENCH! This achievement represents a heap of hard work, a pile of prayers, and a gathering of grace. Way to go Chan.

You know that I LOVE to cook and that we like having a full table for holiday celebrations.

Whatcha don't know is that we were blessed to have 12 people at our home for Christmas dinner: 4 Williamsons, a fabulous family of 6 (friends from Spokane who currently live in Germany), one of the American interns from the school across the street, and the intern's mother, who was in France visiting him for the holidays.

I would count this Christmas among my all-time favorite Christmases. Highlights included working together as a family on a Carol Service for church, receiving wonderful letters and family photos in the mail (they're still coming!), seeing the boys--by their own volition and with their own money--buy thoughtful gifts for each other, and a lovely, memory-making 3 day visit with the aforementioned cherished friends.

You know I enjoy writing about our adventures.

Whatcha don't know is how much I love and appreciate your feedback, prayers, and well-wishes. Thanks for your support in 2011!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


This Christmas I decided I would make a small gift to put in each of my boys' stockings. 

For David, I made this scarf. I am a beginning knitter, so I followed a very simple pattern that I found in a knitting book that a friend gave to me before we left the States. I made it during the weekend that he and Graham were out of town at a concert. I had hoped to make him a matching hat, but I never could find the right sized needles.  The scarf is far from perfect, but it was made with love, and David seems to like it.

For Graham, I crocheted these gunmetal grey finger-less mitts. I made them on a day when David and I took the train to Paris for a church-planting training seminar...I crocheted one mitt going up, the other coming home. It was a fun, quick project, and Graham loves them! I followed a pattern that was available for free on-line. 

But without a doubt, my FAVORITE project of the season was the Angry Bird hat that I crocheted for my video-game-loving son, Chandler. I finished this project during Chandler's last days of school before the Christmas break.

 Pattern found here:
I admire pattern-makers, as I would never be able to create a pattern. So I do not mean to sound critical when I tell you that this pattern is a bit rough around the edges; that is to say, it had some errors in it. I would only recommend it to experienced crocheters, who will be able to read between the lines and figure out some missing information in order to make it work. Also, at David and Graham's advice, I made the beak on Chandler's hat smaller than the one in the pattern.

Here is Chan decked out in all his favorite Christmas goodies: A hoodie from Grandma Jan, an airsoft gun and goggles from Dad, and the Angry Bird hat that he found in his stocking. 

Want to venture a guess as to what David gave me for Christmas? He gave me a gift certificate to the local yarn shop! What should I make next?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I don't know what hit me....

 ...but I'm sporting a shiner this Christmas. 

I think it adds color, spunk, and sparkle to my face. And no, I am not talking about my nose ring. I am talking about my crazy black eye. I woke up yesterday morning looking like a 3 year old who got into her mother's eye shadow. It does not hurt. But WHY oh WHY do I have it?  I am pretty sure I would remember if I got hit in the face. I have not been in a fight all week!

But seriously, folks, can someone please explain this phenomenon to me?

Thursday, December 22, 2011


A few days ago, during a Facebook chat, I typed the sentence "God is good." As I hit the 'enter' button, my eyes welled up with tears. I realized that it was the first time in a long time that I said those words and meant them.

Well, I suppose I always meant them in that I knew they were true. But through many of the challenges of 2011 it was difficult to see God's goodness. I saw His refining fire, and I trusted that it was for my good, but it sure did not feel good. I saw His hand of discipline, and I know that He disciplines the one that He loves, but it did not feel loving. I struggled through major battles, and I hoped that He would save me, but it did not feel like His rescue would be in time.

I can ALWAYS say that God is good, but I can't always feel it.

For months I did not feel it.

Then the other day, in the midst of a casual Facebook chat, I type the the letters "G o d  i s  g o o d" and something deep down in the very fiber of my being jumps up and shouts, "YES! YES! HE IS GOOD!!!!" The truth of God's goodness resonated within me--and my heart, my mind, and my spirit were of one accord.

GOD is good. God IS good. God is GOOD!

I suppose there will be future days when circumstances, sin, or brokenness once again impair my ability to feel this truth. And in those times, knowing it is enough.

But for today I cherish the joy that comes with knowing and feeling the truth.

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:13-14

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I always wonder what to do with leftovers. I hate to see anything wasted.

I had a hodge podge of left over yarn from various projects which shall remain nameless until after Christmas, so I decided to use the remains of the aforementioned projects to make myself a cozy pair of much-needed mittens. 

Since my goal was to simply use up leftover yarn, the biggest decision I had to make was how I wanted to order the colors that I had. I never would have chosen these colors were I buying new yarn for this project, but I am happy with the end result. 

I used this free pattern:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Trip to the Doctor

Today I had to take Chandler to the doctor. He has been sick all week, but insisted on going to school (crazy kid) and then stayed up and partied with us last night until after midnight. When he woke up this morning he could barely speak, barely breathe, and claimed that his chest hurt. I decided that a trip to the doctor was in order.

First, since I hate speaking French on the phone and since we live approximately two blocks from the doctor, I walked to the office to see if I could make an appointment for Chandler. Our doctor sees patients from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays by appointment only. The receptionist said that they really did not have any opening, but that if I brought Chandler back at 11:30 a.m., the doctor would probably find a way to fit him in. She just asked for his name, and the appointment was made. 

When Chandler and I got back to the office at 11:30, we were directed to a waiting room, where an ailing aging woman was eager to discuss all of her maladies with us. I did not fill out a medical history form. I did not give any insurance information. I did not sign a HIPPA disclosure form. Nichts. Nada. Zilch.

The elderly woman was called into the doctor's office at 11:40. About fifteen minutes later, the doctor came for us. It was the doctor himself who invited us into his office. No nurses in French doctor's offices. The room had a curtain divider in it that separated the examination room from an office with a desk. We were pointed to the office side, where the doctor asked what the problem was. Chandler explained his cold symptoms. Next, he asked to see our "Carte Vitale," which is the card that French people have for their socialized medical system. I said that since we were foreigners, we did not have a Carte Vitale. He simply said, "D'accord." Okay. 

The doctor then invited Chandler to the examination room, but left the curtain open, so I was pretty much present with them. He listened to Chandlers heart and lungs, felt his glands, and looked down his throat. He then declared, "Ce n'est pas grave." It's not serious. 

The doctor returned to his desk and Chandler returned to my side. The doctor asked Chandler his birth date. Chandler gave it. The doctor did not ask if Chandler was currently taking any medications. He did not ask if Chandler had any drug allergies. He did prescribe three medications: a pain reliever, a cough syrup, and a nasal spray. He did not prescribe antibiotics. We have never had a French doctor prescribe antibiotics, whereas it seems we can't leave a doctor's office in the States WITHOUT a prescription for antibiotics.

He printed out the prescriptions right there at his desk, signed them, and gave them to us. He then asked if I would like to pay by cash or check. I told him I would pay by cash, and he wrote out a bill by hand for 23 euros. I gave him a 50, and he gave me change from his very own wallet. 

He walked us to the door, wished us a good day and Merry Christmas, and we left. 

Did I mention that I did not fill out ONE form?!?!?  That I did not sign ONE thing??!?!? Don't you find that shocking...and strangely refreshing?

After we left the doctor's office Chandler walked home and I walked to the Pharmacy. Again I was asked for a "Carte Vitale." Again I explained that I did not have one. The pharmacist noted that Chandler had not yet had any prescriptions filled there. But when he entered our last name into the system, MY name came up, as I am the only member of the family who has had prescriptions filled at this pharmacy. He didn't want to have to bother to enter Chandler's name and address, so he just put the prescriptions under my name. I am pretty sure THAT would have been illegal in the States. 

The total for all three prescriptions came to 10.09 euros. The pharmacist said 10 euros would be fine. He did not want to be bothered with making change. 

I was home with the prescriptions by 12:20 p.m. That's right, I left my home to take my son to the doctor at 11:25 a.m., and an hour, 33 euros, and ZERO paperwork later, I was home with three prescriptions. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm dying to tell you about...


...and this!

Though the two are totally unrelated.

But alas, I have not time to blog today. Tonight we are having a little party for the youth. Graham and Chan have invited friends from our village, and I have LOTS of food to prepare. Hopefully, I'll have time to tell you all the latest in a day or two. 

Until then, know that we are all well and happily enjoying the holiday season! Hope you are the same.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Difference #57

Today we needed to drive to a shopping center. We walked out our front door, and then we both came to a sudden stop.

I turned to David and said, "Where in the world is our car?"

He thought a few seconds and then he replied, "I think it is around the corner."

He was right.

Here in Loches we go several days, sometimes even a week without using our car. Since we do not have a garage, we just park it in any available space on the street. Which means that when we finally do need to drive someplace, we often find ourselves having the above conversation.

In the United States, I felt completely handicapped if I had to survive one whole day without my car.

Life is just different here.

I like it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

 I have just two things to say:

  1. I appreciate having a house big enough for a Christmas tree, especially after going without one last year.  They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder...indeed, my heart is fonder than ever of le sapin de Noël.
  2. Writing out the title of this post gave me the overwhelming urge to remind my English-speaking friends that "A LOT" is ALWAYS TWO WORDS! The gift of a little grammar lesson right here, on my blog, free for the taking, just because I love you--Merry Christmas. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Flashback Re-Post


This week my kids are having a Secret Santa gift exchange at school. They are each figuring out ways to bless the person whose name they have drawn while keeping their own identities hidden. Such fun.

Their Secret Santa thing took me back to my own youth. I think I must have been in fourth grade when I first played the Secret Santa game at school. I was so excited by the whole idea, and as the teacher walked around the room with the basket of names, I had only one request: "Anyone but Harold, anyone but Harold, anyone but Harold," I silently prayed, as I reached up to draw a name.

Harold was, well, not very popular, to say the least. His thin hair was a little on the overgrown side and horribly greasy. His clothes always looked two sizes too big and way past their prime. He had a persistently runny nose, an annoying personality, and total disdain for personal hygiene. I wasn't particularly mean to Harold, but I did not go out of my way to be nice to him either. And I certainly did not want to spend my Christmas season shopping for presents for Harold. No-sir-ee! Anyone but Harold would be fine with me.

I pulled out the folded slip of paper and waited for the teacher to move on before opening it. Stealthily covering the name with my hand, I peeked to see who I had drawn. Harold. My heart sank. I glanced over at him, only to see him wiping his nose on his sleeve before reaching into the basket himself. Yuck.

At recess all of my friends were talking about whose names they had drawn. I didn't want to tell them, for fear I might be shunned. I haughtily told them thatSECRET Santa meant that we weren't supposed to tell, and kept the name I had drawn to myself. I contemplated throwing the slip of paper away and "forgetting" about the whole thing. But even my calloused heart couldn't execute that plan when I imagined everyone in the class having a treat from a secret pal except for poor Harold.

I pouted all afternoon, disappointed that I would have to be Harold's Secret Santa for two long weeks. One thing I determined for sure--I would be the Secretest Santa EVER, for I certainly did not want to be caught doing anything nice for the class outcast.

When I got home, I began to explain to my parents the tragedy of my day. I somehow expected them to sympathize with my plight--no such luck. They were (rightfully) appalled at my uncharitable attitude and insisted that I take a gift for Harold every single day of the Secret Santa game. Not only that, they took me to Winn's to hand select each item, and then home to wrap so that every gift was ready to go--one a day--until Christmas break. They were determined that Harold was going to be spoiled by his conceited Secret Santa.

I remember trying to be the first one to class each day so that I could slip Harold's gift into his not-so-cute handmade stocking without being seen. Day after day, Harold's stocking was loaded. He was the only kid in class who got a gift every day--which was quite a shock to everyone, including Harold. He loudly (and obnoxiously) paraded his loot around for all to see, as if he had accomplished something great by simply finding a treat in his stocking.

I was counting the days for school to get out so that I could be finished with my task. At the same time, I was dreading the moment when I would have to reveal that I had been the one filling Harold's stocking with all the goodies. I was no dummy--I knew that it would be instantly assumed that I was IN LOVE with Harold, and I would be the victim of playground teasing for the duration of fourth grade. Such agony.

Finally the moment came when all Secret Santas uncovered their true identities. Actually, only a few had managed to remain anonymous for a fortnight, but I was one of the few. When I quietly owned up to having been Harold's Secret Santa, I was not surprised by the "ooooooooooohhhhhhhhs" that rumbled through the classroom. Giggling and knowing glances rippled across the rows of desks, as my face turned beet red. I wanted to shout, "My parents made me do it!" But just then, Harold caught my eye. He had a look of gratitude like I had never seen before, and he ever so subtly gave me a nod of "thanks." I didn't know Harold had subtlety in him. I certainly had never witnessed it before. Almost imperceptibly, I nodded "you're welcome" back.

Mercifully, the Christmas Break dulled the memory of the Harold thing for most of my classmates, and the dreaded playground taunting was never realized. Well, almost never. For the rest of the year Harold followed me around, declaring his undying love for me everywhere I went. All subtlety was gone. Funny thing is, it didn't really bother me. I can't say I returned his love, but I endured it fairly kindly.

As I look back on my Secret Santa experience I can't help but wonder where Harold is today, and hope that he not only has a blessed Christmas, but that he has found someone to return his love. Even better, I hope he has found the One whose love makes life worth living. Because if the truth be told, I AM a Harold: dirty with sin, poor in spirit, and frankly, obnoxious at times. Yet, in my unlovable state, my Savior died for me. He fills my life each day with gifts I don't deserve, and sometimes I parade them around as if I have accomplished something great on my own. He gives, and gives, and gives. And while I can give Him nothing in return, I want to spend the rest of my life following Him around, boldly declaring my love for Him. The best part is, He really loves me back.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mini Mascarpone Cheesecakes

Whilst on our cruise, we were served a bounty of toothsome treats. By far, our favorite dessert was a mascarpone cheesecake. So it wasn't surprising that when I asked Graham what kind of cake he would like for his birthday he requested, "that one we really liked on the cruise."  

God bless the Internet! How did a mother survive when foreign recipes could not be found with a simple Google search? Thanks to the world wide web, I had an assortment of recipes from which to choose. I selected one that looked simple, but elegant, found on

The recipe is for one (1) mini-cheesecake. I multiplied it by five (5), but made only four (4) mini-cheesecakes with the ingredients. 

2 digestive biscuits
10 g butter
1 T honey
100 g mascarpone
1/4 lemon
1 T icing sugar


  1. 1 Crush the biscuits into small pieces and combine with the soft butter and honey. Place this mixture into one small metal cutter ring and press firmly and evenly on the bottom of the ring.
  2. 2 Add the lemon juice and icing sugar to the mascarpone, whisk for around 2 minutes, being careful not to over whisk as this can cause the mixture to split.
  3. 3 Spoon the mixture into the rings and using a flan/palette knife press the mix well into the ring to prevent air gaps. Remove the ring with either a hot cloth or blowtorch.
  4. 4 TIP: If you find it difficult to remove from the ring, use a flat/palette knife to cut around the cheesecake.
  5. 5 Place the cheesecakes onto a large plate or individual ones and decorate with the fruit of your choice!

Read more:

For my American friends, "icing sugar" is, of course powdered sugar. As for the "digestive biscuits," I used a cookie called, "Speculoos" which is sort of a cross between a ginger snap and a graham cracker. I think graham crackers would work, but you will have to play with the proportions. I had to use like double the number of cookies that the recipe called for in order for the crust mixture to be firm enough to hold its shape. For the gram conversion, 250 grams equals about one cup...I'll leave the rest of the math to you.  But for this reason it may be helpful to do a bigger batch. 

We used frozen berries to garnish. Happy Birthday, Graham!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Our Weekend Plans

Today is Graham's 16th birthday, which is really quite amazing since I am certain that I was 16 years old three years ago. Where does the time go? In the US he would be taking a driver's test  today. In France the minimum driving age is 18--Graham has no permit, and no license in his foreseeable future. It is yet another reminder of how strange our lives have become. But while he may be grieving the fact that he is not having a "normal" 16th birthday in some respects, he is aware of the fact that our abnormal life has its advantages. One advantage is that his FAVORITE band, Skillet, happens to be touring in Europe right now, so Graham's birthday present from us is that he gets to go to Germany with his dad to see Skillet in concert this Friday night. How many American kids get a trip to Germany for their 16th birthday? I'd say that's pretty SWEET! Happy Birthday David Graham--you bless me more than words can say. I am proud of your passion, your generosity, and your desire to do all things well.

While David and Graham are road-tripping to Germany this weekend, Chandler and I will be holding down the fort and taking care of Jack--who is in need of special care at the moment. It seems our cat has (for the FIRST time in his 8 years of life) FLEAS. Jack is an indoor cat, but he has been playing Houdini lately. When we fail to close the front door completely, Jack sneaks out. He doesn't venture very far, he barely leaves the front steps. Nevertheless, he has managed to become the unhappy host of unwanted vermin. It isn't even flea season! And why does finding fleas on my cat make ME itch?

 As if caring for a flea-infested feline wasn't fun enough, I will have the mathematical antics of Chandler to entertain me this weekend. He has taken to creating math problems based on the 12 Days of Christmas. For example, if the gifts were compounding--that is to say if on the second day of Christmas my true love sent me TWO turtle doves PLUS another partridge in a pear tree, and on the third day of Christmas my true love sent me THREE french hens PLUS two MORE turtle doves, plus ANOTHER partridge in a pear tree, etc.--how many birds would I have by the end of the week? OR, again assuming the gifts were compounding, what would I have the most of?  Yes, this is how my second son entertains himself. Should I be worried?

Along with the fleas-a-leaping and the boy-a-counting I will have the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree to keep me company. Today we hope to buy our first ever French Christmas tree. We did not get one last year because, honestly, there was no place to put a tree in our 800 sq. ft apartment. So I am downright giddy with the anticipation of getting a Christmas tree and decking the halls. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Got NyQuil?

I never (hack, hack) get sick.

Well, (sniff) almost never.

I'm currently on day three of this cold, and I'm feeling deeply grateful that our Thanksgiving celebration is behind us because I'd hate to be cooking in this condition. Nothing like sharing the holiday germs.

So, I've broken out the Christmas movies, made the left-over turkey into turkey-noodle soup, and huddled up for a few days.

But what I really want is hot Tang. Tang does not exist in France. Neither does NyQuil. I could cry about that today.

Before I get to whining, (Aah-CHOO!) I'm gonna go lay down.

Do you have any tried and true cold remedies you'd like to share with me?

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I love the Fall. I love running at sunrise on crackling leaves, I love scarves and sweaters, and I love football! My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and this year we have much for which to be thankful.

We had the joy of opening our home to 34 people on Saturday for an early Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is an all-American holiday, so here in France, Thursday and Friday are regular work/school days. Our celebration was authentic in every way--except for the date.

We had a pot-luck, so I was only responsible for the Turkey (I roasted three--one the night before, and two the day of) and the gravy. But all the traditional goodies were on the menu--mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, and rolls. Oh yes, and an abundance of pies--apple, pumpkin, and pecan. I was most impressed with the pumpkin pie because Libby's Canned pumpkin does NOT exist in France. This pumpkin pie was made from scratch--starting with a raw pumpkin. 

Many of our guest were Franco-American families (one spouse is French, the other is American, and the kids have dual citizenship), but we also invited two American interns (single guys) who work at our boys' school. It was a full house!

Just before David said the blessing he told everyone that our family tradition is to take a minute to share something that we are thankful for while we eat our Thanksgiving meal. He encouraged our guests to to do this once they were seated. But we only had table space for those with small children, the rest of us were eating on our laps in the living room, with conversation moving in currents. By the time I sat down, I had forgotten David's instructions, and while the conversation was interesting and lively, we never got around to sharing what we were thankful for. Later, while in line for dessert, one of our teenage guests (a Franco-American kid) asked me, "What did you say that you were thankful for?"

 "Oh," I sheepishly replied," we forgot to do that! Did you guys do it?" 

He said, "Yes!" and then he proceeded to tell me what he had shared. 

It turns out that all of the teenagers, along with the two interns, had gathered in our game room to eat their meal--and they took turns saying what they were thankful for! I was delighted, not only by the fact that 7 guys, aged 13-22 took time to be thankful, but that they were so blessed by the activity that they were asking the others--the adults--what they had shared. 

After we ate, we played games. Many of the guys (including Graham and Chandler) went outside for a game of American football. They came back rosy-cheeked, skinned-kneed, and ready for a second go at the dessert table. I stayed inside for a rousing game of Scrabble.

This Thursday I'll be missing friends and family back home, but I will also be counting my blessings from afar. Blessings like the joy of celebrating Thanksgiving with new friends in France.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Small Private Victories

It's drizzling outside. Meanwhile, I am curled up in my favorite chair with Jack and a warm blanket, trying to convince myself that it really would be a good idea to tackle the humongous pile of ironing that sits in the closet.

The inner debate begins: Ironing doesn't save souls. Ironing doesn't win awards. Ironing doesn't have any real eternal value...or does it?

The other day I had a lovely conversation with a friend about the importance of being faithful in the small things: Things like daily Bible reading, like being intentional about spending time with your spouse, like playing games with your kids. Things like choosing to believe the best about people, like praying for those who have hurt you, like focusing on your husband's strengths rather than his weaknesses. And yes, things like taking out the garbage rather than cramming one more thing into the bin, like cleaning out the cat litter when it isn't even your job, and like ironing. None of these things are seen or applauded by the world around us. They do not earn us income, nor praise, nor fame. They are what Steven Covey calls, "Small Private Victories."

SMALL...they are the simplest activities of my day. None of these tasks take intelligence, skill, or talent to accomplish. They are not world changing in and of themselves; rather they are basic building blocks.

PRIVATE...they are not done on a stage or broadcast on the television. No one asks, "Jenn, is your ironing caught up?" No one really cares, except for maybe my mom. They are the tasks that only God sees me do.

VICTORIES...they are a triumph over sin and death! The doing of these seemingly small and thankless duties is a chore, but once I decide to do them...I have won. "Won what?" One more battle in the war between my flesh and my spirit.

Paul put it this way in Romans 7:21-24:

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!

I have heard the word "integrity" defined as "who you are when no one is looking." That is to say, does who I really am match who I show myself to be on my blog? at church? at work? in the market? Or more simply put, when it is just me and God, do I choose to live by my flesh or by His spirit?

Oh, its actually pretty easy to do the right things when everyone's watching--the PUBLIC victories. With those come strokes, accolades, encouragement. But how are you doing with the PRIVATE victories? I am convinced that they are the ones that really matter. For it is in the quiet, still, lonely places that God does His best work in our lives--if we cooperate.

With that being said, I am off to do my ironing. I choose to serve my family rather than sit and indulge my inner-sloth. But you will never really know if I actually went and did it. Nor will anyone else, other than the Williamson men for whom I wield my Rowenta iron. This itty-bitty private victory will be for Christ alone--by His strength and for His glory.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Odds and Ends

We finally received our Cartes de Sejour! This is a long-stay visa which is good for one year--and it took us six months to get them. Since they expire on the APPLICATION date rather than on the date that we actually received them, and since you are supposed to start the application process 90 days before the current one expires, in three short months we will have to begin the renewal process all over again. Fun, fun, fun! 

Actually, we have high hopes that our renewal will go much more smoothly next year when we can do the whole thing in Loches, and when we don't have to changes addresses in the middle of he process.

My friend Emma stopped by the other day. We spent some time coloring together, and then a big, ugly monster (David) chased us around. Emma is terrified of Jack, our cat, who happens to be the sweetest creature on the face of the earth. I hope some day they will be friends. Emma is a much-loved member of our community who lives here in Loches with her Grandma. They are from the Congo.

Chandler brought home this dialogue that he had written for his English class. He was marked down a point for NOT using a swear word. Oh the life we live! I daily have to entrust my boys to the Lord's care are rely on His Spirit to be their true teacher. Chandler appreciated the irony of being corrected for NOT swearing. What's a lower grade when your own integrity is at stake? Way to go, Chan!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Contest You May NOT Want to Win

Who is this strange family, and WHAT?!? on earth are they doing?

The photo is actually a still shot from a video. The video will NOT be made public. However, IF and only IF you can NAME the song that we were yodeling singing, I will send you a link that will allow you to view the video. Of course, I won’t MAKE you view it. I don’t believe in torturing my friends. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Counting it all Joy

In the past week...
  • we received an unexpected bill for a French tax for over 1000 euros ($1400) 
  • our hot water went out
  • our clothes dryer stopped working
  • our oven malfunctioned
  • our son  was unjustly penalized at school
I was awake last night praying over these and other issues, when I realized that in the midst of it all, I have joy.

I think, maybe, I am growing. Maybe I am learning. Maybe I am being changed.

In my last post, I  joked about how difficult this year has been. I am not exaggerating when I say it has been the hardest year of my life. And not just because of circumstances like those listed above. Those sorts of annoyances have been a part of most of our weeks this year, but they are just the external challenges. The harder challenges are the internal ones: The nagging fear that we are going to fail at being missionaries; the painful reality that our boys are suffering from loneliness and discouragement; the overwhelming feeling that God has abandoned us.

My faith has been tested in this Refiner's Fire, and a lot of impurities--MY impurities--were revealed. Impurities such as pride, selfishness, doubt, and anger came to the surface, each one uglier than the one before.

I surrendered to the work of the Holy Spirit, though I will admit to kicking and screaming in the process. The lessons learned from this year are like seeds that have worked their way deep into the soil of my heart,  and I am beginning to feel them germinate.

The first seed to sprout is joy!  I know that we are told in the book of James to "count it all joy when you face trials of various kinds," but I guess I did not really know how to do that. I mean, I could've SAID all the right Christianese words and plastered a smile on my face in the midst of my trials, but I would have been faking it. I, of course, did not do this. Rather, I fell into depression, questioned my faith, and yelled at my husband. (No, I'm not proud of that behavior.)

But what I am learning is this: I do not have to deny the reality of my own pain and suffering in order to "count it all joy." If I were to do that, I would actually not be "counting" at all, I'd be avoiding. Instead, I can freely acknowledge that I am frustrated by unexpected bills and broken appliances. I can even admit that I am struggling with my faith. I can tally up my trials, and put them in the JOY column.

Let me explain. Pretend you were to keep a ledger of Joys and Sorrows. There are many items that you could legitimately put into the "Sorrows" column: your sins, global hunger, abused children, the Seattle Seahawks--you get the idea. And God has a plan for dealing with the "Sorrows" column. He shares in those sorrows. But God says, whatever you do, don't throw your personal trials into the "Sorrows" column, they count towards "Joy." Why is that? Because the things in the "Sorrows" column are things that need a redemptive work of God in order to be made right, but the things in the "Joys" column are the things that God has already redeemed.

Yes, what I am learning is that God has already redeemed my trials. I know this because the verses in James say what the end result of trials will be--and the end result is GOOD. And if the end result is good, then the trials will eventually add to my joys, not to my sorrows.

Ah, but I had confused the process with the end product. My joy need not be in the process--improperly cooked food and falsely accused children are certainly not reasons to rejoice. My joy is in the end products--perseverance, maturity, completeness.

Perseverance is one of those qualities for which it can be difficult to see the benefits. Last week in the Alps God gave me such a lovely picture of the blessing of perseverance. There was a certain hike that went up into the Alps which ended on a bluff overlooking mountains and valleys for miles. The fall colors were at their peak, the sky was blue and the air was crisp. I made the walk up to the look-out point with a friend. All along the way, we passed people who were huffing and puffing. Some stopped along the way, others turned back, unable to reach their desired destination. The walk was tiring for me, but I realized that my weekly running discipline afforded me an advantage. I was able to reach the top and enjoy the beauty. Never once in my daily  drugery of running did I imagine that the perseverance that I was building in my lungs and my heart would enable me to better enjoy a hike in the Alps.

I often think of perseverance as work. But the truth is, God wants to take us to the High Places--places of indescribable beauty and grandeur--and perseverance is His means of getting us there. 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Friday, November 4, 2011


Here are the many ways that I was not allowed to begin our annual Christmas Letter. My husband wisely censored me.

To Whom it May Concern: Due to an unexpected amount of discouragement and grumpiness we regret to inform you that this Christmas letter will be devoid of any merry-making or glad tidings. 

We have had a really challenging year. I say "challenging" because it doesn't seem right to say "crappy" in a Christmas letter. 

The romance of living in Europe is gone, and all that remains is an on-going wish that all the people who ride the Paris Metro would learn the value of a daily dose of deodorant.

All I want for Christmas is my Carte de Sejour!

I'd like to tell you that my vacuum cleaner sucks, but unfortunately it is about the only thing in our life that doesn't.

No wonder the French drink so much wine...

Ah, but I jest. In the end, the writing of our Christmas Letter always turns me towards God in gratitude.  I am no longer looking at the circumstances (which ARE difficult), I am clinging to the Lord (who saves). His faithfulness is enormous and His mercies are new every morning. The TRUTH is that God is good, all the time, and He is worthy to be praised.

Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Psalms 126:5

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mischief Makers

We are currently snuggled in the fabulous French Alps at our annual GEM France Field Retreat. One of our field directors woke up this morning to find his car covered in post-it notes. I have no idea who the instigators of such a prank may have been. Okay, so maybe I do. Perhaps I even know some of them personally. Actually, I'd even say that their effort made me proud!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Learning about Joy

We sat at the stern, watching the wake that our boat was leaving across the Mediterranean. It sounds romantic. Exotic, even. But the truth is, we were sad. I sat focused on the bubbles trailing behind us, unsure of what to say.

Our kids were reading and playing games back in our cabin, my parents were on a sun deck. David and I were hiding, trying not to ruin the dream vacation, all the while wondering why the pain of past failures rears its ugly head in moments like these. Probably because in leaving the busy-ness of our day to day lives, those thoughts that we had shoved around like unwanted peas on a dinner plate were all that remained.

We sat close to each other, but truly, there were miles between us. Each one needing comfort and hope that the other could not offer. In that silence, that screaming, painful, silence, God spoke. He did not vanquish the pain or belittle the failures that we were grieving. He simply said, "This is where it begins."

What!?! What is that supposed to mean? What begins in grief? What is born from failure?

To those questions I have no answers.

In the end, we did find peace and take genuine pleasure in our vacation. We played, we explored, we ate, we relaxed, and we had important, heartfelt conversations. We "processed." Through these experiences I am learning that joy can be found in the midst of trials--in fact, it is mingled throughout them. This joy is no less real, nor is it diminished by co-existing with challenges and grief. I claim it, I embrace it, I enter in to it, bringing whatever sadness along. And I am blessed.

The JOY of the Lord is my strength.

Monday, October 24, 2011

All Aboard!

It all started back in May, when I received an e-mail from Costa Cruise Lines offering an incredible fare on Eastern Mediterranean Cruises during the month of October. I already knew that my parents were coming to visit during the month of October, and we had been talking about traveling to Greece together while they were here. When I looked at the cruise deal—October being “off-season” and all—it turned out to be the most economical way to go. So we booked it, paid for it, and practically forgot about it. But God must have known how much we would all need a vacation right about now. We are so very, very grateful.

We began our journey with a two-day road trip to Venice, which was our departure port. We had less than 24 hours to enjoy Venice, but we made the most of it.

Venice is AMAZING. David snapped this shot of me as I got my first glimpse of the city. I don’t think my expression changed the entire time we were there.

Our one evening in Venice also happened to be my Dad’s 77th Birthday. 

The day of our departure we had time to wander to the Ponte di Rialto…

…and to explore the banks of the Grand Canal.

It was sunny and about 65° Fahrenheit when we boarded the ship. We sailed at sunset; how romantic is that?


We anchored off the coast of the Greek Island of Santorini. As we took in our surroundings, we felt completely spoiled.

We recently heard of something called “the m&m phenomenon.” It is a phrase used to refer to things that only two categories of people get to experience: Millionaires and Missionaries. We fall into the latter category, obviously. Living in Europe, it feels like so much of the world is within reach, and the delights of such an existence are not lost on us. That doesn’t mean that our life is a bed of roses. We have had a very difficult year in so many ways. But the challenges in one arena do not prevent us from appreciating the joys in another arena. Right now we are drowning in appreciation.

As you look at this picture of Santorini, you see that the village is situated on the top of the island.

Here you can see the winding path that leads from the docks up to the village. We opted to make the journey on donkeys.

Or perhaps I should say, “Donkey.” Singular. While every person ahead of us and behind us was given their OWN donkey, for some reason Chandler and I were required to SHARE a donkey. We felt like the Three Two Amigos. I am not sure the donkey was all that happy about it either. The saddle—which was meant for one person—was horribly uncomfortable for two. And of course that meant that we had only one set of stirrups. I got the stirrups, Chandler got the handlebars reins.

Both of us felt rather wobbly, and the donkey didn’t seem all that stable either. We were on a steep path with no guardrails!

It would have been terrifying if we had not been laughing our heads off the whole way up. If I never ride another donkey as long as I live that will be okay with me.

Oh but it was worth the trip!


It is a strange feeling to walk on an island that is referred to in the Bible. Rhodes is mentioned in the book of Acts when Paul is being transported as a prisoner of Greece. For many years Rhodes was ruled by Turks (you can see the coast of Turkey from Rhodes) and all the churches on the island were either destroyed or turned into mosques. It was also a headquarters of sorts for the Knights Templar. Rhodes is famous for the giant Colossus that once towered over its port.

Here are the remains of Aphrodite’s Temple:

A couple of us took a dip in the Mediterranean; at least until we saw this sign. In an effort to avoid an International Incident, we decided to limit our swimming to the pools on deck of the ship.

The shopping was good in Rhodes. I picked up a few keepsakes like a small pottery bowl, a linen table runner, and our traditional deck of playing cards. Our family buys a deck of cards in every new place that we visit. We are getting quite a fun collection, and every time that we play a game that requires multiple decks we feel as though we have the world at our fingertips.
In the midst of all the wonderful ports, we had plenty of time to relax. I read 3 books, we saw 3 shows, and I probably gained 30 pounds. It was a wonderful vacation.