Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bienvenue Chez Williamson

We needed a house in Loches....

We wanted a house with a guest room....

We hoped for a house that would have a game/music room....

We prayed for a house that could be used to bless the youth in Loches, preferably near to the boys' school: A home that would become gathering place, a God-filled place, a grace-full place.

And this is the Lord's generous answer:

It has 5 (FIVE!) bedrooms, a giant living room, and a downright palatial dining room. The rent is $200 month less (LESS!) than we are currently paying for our two bedroom apartment. It is located right (RIGHT!) across the street from St. Denis--the boys' school. God is so good!

Today we signed the lease, but our move-in date is not until September 15.

And the little village of Loches is charming beyond words. I mean, seriously, don't you want to come and visit this medieval city?

Our door is open! Our guest room is available! We are now taking reservations for the fall. Bienvenue Chez Williamson!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sneak Peek?

This... a peek at the house that God may have for us.

We'll know more on Thursday!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Chandler has a headlamp which he uses often. It cracks me up. Truth be told, it's one of the reasons I have failed to buy the boys a light for their room--because I get a kick out of Chandler wearing his headlamp. He never complains about the lack of light. He hardly seems to notice the inconvenience. The sun sets, and he straps on his headlamp. Problem solved. Second children are so accommodating.

David just bought his first pair of jeans in Europe--having worn holes in unseemly places in all the pairs of jeans that he brought from the States. He bought his new jeans at Cora, which is basically the French version of a Super Walmart in that it has everything from appliances to clothes to books to groceries. Only differences are that there are no greeters, it is not inexpensive, and the employees wear roller blades. But Cora is no Nordstrom, if you get my drift. Anyways, these new jeans (which were moderately priced) may be the best looking pair of dungarees I've ever seen on my man. French jeans. From Cora. Who knew?

The puppy search is on hold. It seems that between moving and travel plans, there is not enough time for a new pet in our immediate future. So I am happy to wait. Jack does his best to spread his affection between us, and I find myself beyond grateful for that silly orange cat.

The other day, when we had our electronic keyboard set up, I started playing an OLD Keith Green song. It was not a song that my kids have ever heard. After listening for just a moment, Graham started playing along, creating this wonderful guitar solo over the chords that I was playing. Spontaneously. Effortlessly. Playfully. I caught David's eye, we shook our heads. Where does talent like that come from?

As for me, I am deliriously happy with my new kindle and the abundance of free books available from I have already read Jane Austen's Emma, and I am working on Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days in French. Yes, in French. Amazing.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

La Natation

Tomorrow will be my last day of language school. Although I have had the luxury of dedicating a full year to learning French, I can't help but feel that I have only just begun to scratch the surface of this rich and beautiful language. Don't get me wrong. I've come a long way. Its just that I still have so far to go!

I am both delighted and terrified that our church planting training in Loches will be entirely conducted in French. I know that in this way I will be forced to continue to build on the basic skills that I have acquired so far.

At least I have the constant aid of Graham and Chandler, who correct me relentlessly--at my own request. Having been immersed in the French schooling system this year, they quickly learned that it was "sink or swim," and I can say with a great deal of assurance, those boys have swum.

Me? I feel like I can keep my head above water. But like a child learning the breaststroke, my style is far from elegant and painfully inefficient. A limited vocabulary means that I must sometimes talk circles around an idea that I wish to express due to an inability to name it directly. My horrible accent means that even when I have the right words in mind, they do not always get pronounced in a manner that is understood. And with about 19 different verb tenses, talking still takes an amazing amount of thinking. Sadly, I am not used to thinking before I speak. If only language-learning came with a life jacket!

As I find myself knee deep in this analogy, I am amused to realize that I LOVE both swimming and speaking. I have no memory of learning my first language. As with most children, I learned to speak rather effortlessly as part of my normal growth and development. I do, however, remember learning to swim. I lived in south Texas as a child, and we had a pool in our backyard. Swimming was a daily activity for most months out of the year. I remember that as my abilities grew, my privileges in and around the pool also grew. No one expected me to dive into the deep end and swim a perfect freestyle in my first year of swimming. I stayed in shallow water. Oh but I looked with great envy at those who moved easily through the deep waters. I was not going to be limited to the baby pool forever. I would work hard to make sure that I could eventually explore the whole big pool, and even try my skills in lakes and oceans.

I suppose that is the way it will be with French. For now, I must contend myself with shallow conversation, clinging to the walls of a limited vocabulary. I will enjoy the cool waters, but I will not settle into them! I look longingly at those who converse in the deep waters, I will struggle until I have earned the right to join them.

Monday, June 20, 2011


We drove down to Loches for the weekend to meet with the team there and to look for houses. On our way, just 19 km from our destination, we happened upon a chateau. How much do I love living in a place where one regularly stumbles upon a castle? Oh, I love it VERY much. 

Having a little extra time on our hands, we decided to take the tour. It did not disappoint. 

There are some lovely woods with walking paths surrounding Montpoupon. We hope to go back and explore them. Nice to start getting to know our future stomping grounds. 

Friday, June 17, 2011


I am no longer the only one in my family who has been the victim of a  pickpocket.

Yesterday, when Graham was leaving school to meet us for lunch, he had his iPod forcibly taken from him by some older teenagers. He tried to resist, but unfortunately, he was outnumbered. One pushed him against a wall while another literally took his iPod from his pocket. Seven to nine other kids in the gang stood by watching. After taking his iPod, they told Graham to get lost.

Graham pretended to comply, but only really moved a few feet and immediately called David, who was just a block away at the time. He told his dad what had happened, and that the thieves were still there. David hurried to Graham's side, but when the culprits saw David coming, they bolted. David and Graham chased the group of hoodlums for a few blocks, but eventually they lost them.

After coming to get me, David, Graham, and I drove around Massy for awhile looking for the guilty parties. When we could not find them, we went back to our language school and asked our teachers for advice. They instructed us to go to the police toute de suite.

At the police office, we filed an official complaint with a kind and sympathetic police officer. Graham was able to give very detailed descriptions of both of the teenagers that had attacked him. The officer then had Graham look through files of pictures of people that fit his descriptions, but none were matches. As we left, she asked how long we had been in France. When we told her that it had been just under a year, she commended us on our French. I must say it was rather amazing to listen to Graham give his account of the incident in French.

I doubt we will ever see that iPod again. C'est dommage, because it was a rather expensive iTouch that Graham had bought with his own money just before we left the States. And since Graham had it locked, it is very unlikely that anyone else will ever be able to access it and use it anyways. But if, by some stroke of luck, the thieves do figure out how to open it, I hope they take the time to read the Bible that Graham has loaded on it. He has both French and English versions of the Bible on his iTouch, as well as hours worth of Christian music. So maybe I hope they do figure out how to use it. It just might do them some good. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ain't Missin' You

People often ask me what I miss most from the States. Of course there are some things that I long for from home, most of which either have names and faces or are magically delicious. But lately I have been surprised by the realization that there are some things that I really DON'T miss. Things that were a big part of my day to day life back home.

It is funny to me, for example, that I have not had a sip of Starbucks Coffee in almost a year. I used to go to Starbucks twice a week. Okay, maybe twice a day. Whatever. Let's just say, I went to Starbucks a lot when I lived in Washington. It was what some might call a "habit." But without experiencing any separation anxiety, with ZERO withdrawal symptoms, I have survived (almost) a year without Starbucks. I have not, in any way, given up coffee. Rather, I have discovered the French way of enjoying coffee--VERY strong in teeny tiny cups--and I have discovered that I actually PREFER French coffee that I can brew in the comfort of my own home to my old Starbucks stand-bys. So, dear vendor of the Venti Latte, I bid you, "Adieu!" You aren't even missed.

What else am I surprised to be living happily without?

I am surprised to feel so liberated by having only one car. I thought it would be limiting, but it is, in fact, quite freeing to only be responsible for the care and upkeep of one vehicle.The public transportation systems in Europe are so fantastic that we prefer to use them when at all possible. And if we need to go in two (or three?) different directions, there is always a solution. For example, David has a lunch meeting today in Paris, but the boys need to get picked up from school at 12:30. No problem. David will take the train into Paris for his meeting and I will have the car to pick up the boys. I hope we never need two cars again.

Finally, I am delighted to have discovered that I don't miss sour cream. I don't miss sour cream because crème fraîche is not just a decent substitute, it is a superior replacement. I have tried to figure out the difference between the two, and from what I can find it appears that crème fraîche has more fat and is slightly less soured. It also doesn't separate when it is cooked. I am one who used to buy the big tub of sour cream at Costco, and we would easily get through it all before it went bad. I was sure that I would miss sour cream. But I don't. Not one bit. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Very Boring Post about Multiple Trips to Government Offices, a.k.a. A Journey into French Bureaucracy

To stay in France for more than three months, foreigners must obtain a Carte de Séjour. Each Carte de Séjour is good for exactly one year, and can be renewed annually. Our first Carte de Séjour expires on June 20, 2011. We began the renewal process in April.

David, who is attentive to details, scoured every possible Internet site to determine what we needed to do to renew our Carte de Séjour. He talked to teachers and co-workers. He meticulously assembled heaping piles of paper work. He printed off an official list of places that we could go to submit our application. The top two locations on the list were the Préfecture in Evry and the Sous-Préfecture in Paliseau. On May 3rd we started our adventure.

The following is a true story:

Attempt #1: Tuesday, May 3, 2 p.m.-We arrived at the Préfecture in Evry. The receptionist told us that we had to come in the morning to submit an application for renewal. We asked what time we should arrive and we were told, "We open at 9 a.m." We left.

Attempt #2: Monday, May 9, 2 p.m.-Since we have classes in the morning, we decided to see if the Sous-Préfecture in Paliseau accepted applications in the afternoon. We stood in line for 2 hours. We did not move one inch. We left because it was time to pick up our boys from school.

Attempt #3: Thursday, May 16, 8:50 a.m.-We returned to the Préfecture in Evry. Since we arrived ten minutes before opening, we assumed we would be two of the first people in line. We could not have been more wrong! Piles of people were already in the queue, and David noticed that some people had numbered tickets in their hands. At 9 a.m. they opened a gate and started calling numbers. People with numbers were let in, and then the gate was shut again and all officials disappeared. Hundreds of foreigners were left standing outside, and they were very angry.We went to nearby police officer (many were standing around, obviously there to "keep the peace") and asked about what had just happened. He told us that the Préfecture only lets in 150 people per day, and that only those with numbers get in. We asked when the numbers were distributed and he said, "They start handing out numbers at 7 a.m."

The following Monday David had to go to a Church Planter Training Seminar in Switzerland for two weeks. We had hoped to have our Carte de Séjour renewed BEFORE he left, but alas, it was not to be. It became priority 1 the minute David returned to France.

Attempt #4: Monday, June 6, 6:30 a.m.-We arrived at the Préfecture at Evry and joined about 10 other people who were already gathered outside the main entrance. It seemed like we were well positioned to get one of the 150 available entry tickets. At 6:45 a.m. some policemen came by and told us that the line for those who needed to renew their cartes de séjour was around the back. We casually walked around to the back of the building, only to find that the line stretched for 75 meters and had over 250 people in it. UGH! We got in the line to see how it all played out. We met Todd, a fellow American. We asked people towards the front of the line what time they had arrived at the Préfecture. We learned that those who were poised to get tickets had been standing in line since 2 p.m. THE PREVIOUS DAY. Todd and David came to the conclusion that they were going to have to spend a night in line if we were ever going to get tickets. They exchanged phone numbers and decided to do the overnighter together.

We talked our colleagues, Bill and Kristie, who were also needing to renew their cartes de séjour, and we formulated a plan. David, Bill, and Todd would spend Tuesday night together in line, and Kristie and I would join them on Wednesday morning, since husbands and wives can get in on the same ticket.

Attempt #5: Tuesday, June 7, 8 p.m.- David, Bill, and Todd met outside the Préfecture. A group was already gathered and an unofficial sign-up list was being passed around because the police would not permit anyone to line up until 9 p.m. At 9 p.m. the guys got in to the queue. David was grateful for the conversation and camaraderie. He was also thankful for the local Kebab owner who dropped by at 5 a.m. and handed out free sandwiches to everyone in line.

Wednesday, June 8, 6:30 a.m.-Kristie and I make a run for café and croissants before joining the men. At 7:00 numbers were handed out, and our group of guys received numbers 42, 43, and 44. It was a cool morning, and the crowded line offered some insulation against the weather. Finally, at 9 a.m., they started calling numbers. Once we were "in" we were told to wait in the Pre-Accueil for our numbers to be called. Thirty minutes later, David and I were at the window. A woman looked over our documents, gave us new numbers: 718 and 719, and directed us to another waiting room. There were 6 windows, but only 2 were opened. At 11:30, one of the windows closed. At 11:45, Bill and Kristie's numbers were called. We were next. After a few minutes, Bill and Kristie were waving us over. They were still seated at the window, and they were being told that they could not renew their cartes de séjour at this Préfecture. They were being told that they had to go to the Sous-Préfecture in Paliseau. And that the same was true for us. We protested. We told them that THEIR website said we could come here. They informed us that the website had not been updated, but as of May 1 of this year, people who live in our villages must go to the Sous-Préfecture in Paliseau. Why didn't the woman at the first window tell us this? Who knows. Then they handed us a piece of paper with the NEW rules on it. They stamped it, signed it, and told us to take it to the director at Paliseau. (Todd's application was accepted.)

Attempt #6: Wednesday, June 8, 12:00 p.m.-We went to the Sous-Préfecture in Paliseau. There was no line because the Sous-Préfecture does not do Cartes de Séjour renewals on Wednesdays. The receptionists told us this in no uncertain terms. Then we showed her our piece of paper with the stamp from the Préfecture and she called her boss. He was at lunch, but she told us we could come back in two hours.

Attempt #7: Wednesday, June 8, 2:00 p.m.-We returned to the Préfecture in Paliseau. The director was in. He listened to our tale, looked at our stamped piece of paper, and told us to come back on Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. He told us to get in line and to take a ticket, but that would just be a ruse to keep up appearances for all the other who would be waiting. He promised that he would come and find us and take us in first thing. He said to make sure that all of our documents were in order. David asked the director if he would look over our dossier to be sure that we had everything that we needed. He looked. Yes, he assured us it was in order, save one thing: Photocopies of David's pay stubs needed to be in my dossier as well as in his. We thanked him, and then went straight home to make the copies for my dossier. David, who had been awake for thirty-some hours, went to bed early.

Attempt #8: Thursday, June 9, 8:30 a.m.- When we arrived at the Sous-Préfecture there were already over 100 people in line. At 9 a.m. they opened the gate, we were poised to get numbers 114 and 115, when the director appeared and waved us around the crowd. He sent us to the back of the waiting room and discreetly handed us numbers 1 and 2. Bill and Kristie got 3 and 4. Within a few minutes he called David back. While David was with the director, two or three different people approached me, asking for information about the process at the Sous-Préfecture. I apparently looked like I knew something. I knew nothing. Ten minutes later, David came back out, shaking his head. One of the required documents for our dossier is proof of address. The instructions say that you can use an electric bill for this. David printed off three months worth of paid electric bills, but apparently they would not accept on-line billing. The director said that we needed something more official. Like receipts for our rent. He told us to get them and to come back tomorrow, same time. He promised to meet us at the gate again. (Bill and Kristie had their application accepted!)

Attempt #9: Friday, June 10, 8:30 a.m.-David and I lined up once again in front of the Sous-Préfecture with another 100+ people in search of a carte de séjour. We had brought our rent receipts, and made all the necessary photocopies for our dossiers. As promised, the director was there to meet us at the gate. The place was a total madhouse. He took both our dossiers, and asked us to be patient. He came back at 9:30 and asked if we had had our Marriage Certificate translated into French. David assured him that we did, and that there were copies of the official translation in both of our dossiers. He nodded and left again. At 10:00 he came back again and asked us if we had a bank account in France. David said yes, and asked if wanted proof--which David had brought along. But the director did not want our proof. He asked how our money got from our US account to our French account. David explained. The official seemed satisfied. He asked us to wait a few more minutes. At 10:15 he took David back to his desk. David signed a few things.He called me back next and I did the same. The director assured us that our application was complete. He took our phone number in case they needed anything else. He explained that we would receive notices when our cartes de séjours were ready to be picked up. Next, since out current cartes de séjours expire in ten days, he gave us documents that will serve as our official papers until our actual cartes de séjours are received. By 10:30, it was finished.

And it only took 30 hours of standing in lines.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ahhhhh Paris

Feeling the need for a good old fashioned American Hamburger, we made our way into Paris to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe.

The Hard Rock Cafe PARIS is near Montmartre, so after devouring our delicious (though dreadfully overpriced) burgers, we walked up to that famous artist's district.

We watched an agile man juggle a soccer ball while climbing a lamp post. It was so impressive that we put a coin in his cap!

Next we saw a living statue. It was 85 degrees out, and I have no idea how this guy managed to keep up his act in that incredible heat. I was sweating just looking at him.

From Montmartre there is an incredible view of Paris, La Tour Eiffel is always poised for a picture!

Enjoying the sights, but overwhelmed by the heat, we set out looking for some ice cream. On our way we saw this woman performing with her Hertie-Gertie, which is a hand-cranked music box. She was singing traditional French songs, and the nostalgia was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

Ice cream cones in hand, we took a stroll through the artists colony, where painters paint and sell their creations. Pictures of Paris lined the streets, in every color, every medium, and every style. Around the corner, children sat for portraits and caricatures, while adoring parents smiled in anticipation.

Ahhhhh Paris.

Friday, June 3, 2011


"I used to think that God's gifts were one above the other, and the taller we grew in Christian character the more easily we could reach them. I now find that God's gifts are on the shelves one beneath the other and that it is not a question of growing taller but stooping lower."-F.B. Meyer

I am learning to stoop. 

The challenge of learning to stoop is that I cannot find a "Stooping" section in my local Christian bookstore. It seems that few people write books on stooping, hold Stooping Summits, or teach seminars about stooping. I haven't found a 12 Step Stooping program, a "40 Days to a Low-Stooping Life" workbook, nor a Stooper's Prayer. 

The absence of such resources tells me two things. One, "stooping" is not a highly sought after attribute. And two, people who actually learn to stoop low are not inclined to teach others--they have instead assumed a permanent posture of teach-ability. In other words, those who really "get it" are set free from the need to make sure everyone else "gets it" too.

What I do have is the example of Jesus, who is unarguably the greatest stooper of all:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross! PH 2:6

He made himself NOTHING. 

All our lives we are taught to make SOMETHING of ourselves. No one teaches us to make NOTHING of ourselves, and I am convinced it is the harder of the two! 

And we get a further description of his nothingness-- "taking the very nature of a servant." I have been asking myself, "What is the nature of servant?" I suppose that a servant exists for the purposes of another person. In essence, a servant's prime (maybe only?) objective is to do the bidding of another. 

What boggles my mind is that Jesus chose to serve those who were, in every way imaginable, beneath him. He was smarter, richer, more powerful, and more righteous than those whom He served. He existed for THEIR purpose. For OUR purpose. He deserved to rule. He chose to serve.

So how, I wonder do I take on the nature of a servant? In the past we as a family have done things like served meals at the Union Gospel Mission, collected toys for needy children, and handed out Thanksgiving Dinners at the Salvation Army. I am glad we did those things, but they were momentary. We did them, and then we went home. It was sort of like borrowing the apron of a servant rather than taking on the very nature of a servant.  

I can serve without having the heart of a servant. However, I can't have the heart of a servant without serving. To take on the nature of a servant means that I am changed from the inside out. Clearly, I need heart surgery. I need a heart transplant. I need a servant's heart.

Truthfully, though I hate to admit it, I think I am still living life for myself, for my own satisfaction, and for my own glory. The evidence? I find myself frustrated or annoyed when things don't go my way. I hold dearly to my ideals--to things that I think are good--even when it seems that God is leading another way. I get my feelings hurt when I am not validated by the praise of men. I struggle to submit to the authorities that God has placed in my life. Those are not the ways of a servant.  

The servant delights in doing the will of the Master. I am still trying to convince the Master that my will has some merit. I stand tall. I refuse to stoop.

Yet, there is hope.

I used to live next to a wheat field. Do you know how the farmer knows that the wheat is ready to be harvested? When wheat is young, its head points straight up, tall and proud. But when the plant matures, the head bows down. When the head bows, the wheat is ready.


I am growing weary of being something; weary of standing tall and proud. I think I feel my head beginning to bow. 

"How so?" you ask. 

In little ways, really. I used to resent the fact that David is so particular about how he likes his socks folded, but I have recently found inexplicable joy in folding his socks exactly the way he likes them. I used to despise the fact that this apartment does not have a dishwasher, but lately I turn down my sons' offers of help with the dishes because I am truly happy to do them. I used to want to be a famous speaker and writer, but nowadays I find myself content with anonymity. I wonder if these things are indications that my head is beginning to bow. 

And perhaps a bowed head is the beginning of stooping.