Sunday, August 31, 2008

We Blew It.

It wasn't the first time. It won't be the last time. But today, David and I blew it. You see, all summer long our boys have been asking,"When will we go to Silverwood?" Silverwood is this great theme park and water park in Sandpoint, Idaho. Both of our boys had earned a free one-day pass to Silverwood for reading for a certain number of hours during the school year, so they were anxious to enjoy the fruits of their labor. All summer long we have struggled to find a day when we could go together as a family. The passes were about to fact the water park (which is the best part) closes at the end of August. So we PROMISED the boys we would go today. This morning, we got up and got ready to go. We had the swimming suits packed. We were heading for the car. I went to retrieve their free passes, and my heart stopped as I read, "This ticket is not valid on Saturdays in July and August." We can't go tomorrow because David leaves for Dallas at noon.

So, what to do? We gave the boys several options, apologizing for our error. They were gracious good sports (recovering quickly from their initial devastation). We offered to do a number of things that would cost the same amount of money that David and I had been prepared to spend on our entrance fees to Silverwood. They chose lunch at Royal Panda followed by a couple of games of Laser Tag at Laser Quest. We did have fun, albeit not the fun we had planned. David won laser tag, and the boys got like 5th and 6th place. Despite my amazing killer instincts I came in 22nd out of 25 people. Some kid (code name: McLovin') kept tagging me.

I think the best part of Laser Tag is the code names you get to choose. See if you can figure out which of us chose which code names. We were:


"Dark Knight"



(Hint: I was NOT Maverick!)

Friday, August 29, 2008

More Civilized Conversation

Oh, the things I learn at dinner. Tonight the conversation took a turn towards the wild side right about the time I spotted a spider crawling on the salad bowl. No one did anything about the spider, who is still roaming around my house somewhere. I live with boys. They don't care. But someone did ask about the protein content of spiders, just in case the little bugger made it in to the salad bowl and became part of our dinner. David then began to discuss the palatability of live spiders, and how it might wriggle going down, when Graham said, "Worms not only wriggle going down, they try to crawl back out."

All heads turned, because suddenly the conversation went from speculative to authoritative. "And when have you eaten worms?" I asked, not sure I wanted to know the answer.

"Actually it was night crawlers. I ate ten of them at camp...with whipped cream."

Did I mention we were eating spaghetti for dinner? Spaghetti that suddenly felt like it was trying to crawl back out.

"The secret to eating worms," Graham continued, slurping a fat noodle, "is not biting down, because then you just have a lot of little worms."

Something was definitely crawling back up my throat.

"The secret is just swallowing whole. They go down much easier that way. By the way, I need hair gel and cologne."

My head was spinning a this point. I didn't even know that Graham knew what cologne was. A headline flashed across my mind: "Two Days of Junior High Transform Worm-Eating-Boy into Well-Groomed Young Man."

As I choked on my pasta, the spider long forgotten, David was much quicker on the uptake. Sometimes I don't think I could make it through dinner without him. "Who are you trying to impress?" he calmly asked his oldest son.

"What makes you think that? Maybe I just want hair gel and cologne because they're flammable!"

That's my boy!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Longest Day

I swear the absolute LONGEST day of the year is the first day of school. I simply do not know what to do with myself when the boys aren't around. One thing I have learned...I am not going home! Not until I pick them up after school and can take them with me. The house is WAY too empty without them. So here I sit in one of my favorite family owned coffee shops drowning my sorrows in coffee and scones. I did not cry AT school, but I did lose it while driving them there. I prattled on with sentiments that were entirely lost on eleven and twelve year old boys who were more concerned about what they would eat for lunch and the fact that middle schoolers no longer get recess.

I do LOVE their school! I have never been a parent at a public middle school, but as about 15 parents hung out in their classroom this morning, not wanting to leave, I could not imagine that scene playing out in a public school. Instead of shoo-ing us out, their teachers invited us to participate in their ice-breaker activity, which we all did without humiliating any of our kids. Finally, it seemed as if they (the teachers and the students) wanted to get on with the day, and unless we wanted to go to math class, it was time for the parents leave.

Well, it's 10:38...two hours and eight minutes down, four hours and 37 minutes to go. Let's see. I do have some errands to run. And then a lunch appointment. And then probably more sorrow drowning in coffee before 3:15 pm and my joyful reunion with my boys. I think I need a hobby!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Last Hurrah!

Doesn't this look like a scene out of the movie, Stand by Me? It is actually the scene out of my living room window this morning. Five of the best boys ever spent the night in our home last night. We had a sort of spontaneous slumber party celebrating the last days of summer break. Yesterday they spent hours outside in the rain fighting each other with big sticks. They watched the long version of one of the Lord of the Rings movies, and argued over various fine points in the series. They challenged each other at video games, with one person always making the classic statement: "I play winner!" They consumed mass volumes of food. (It appears my kitchen has been swarmed by locusts.) And this morning they are back outside with their sticks, walking the tracks down to the park.

Given the verbs used in the previous sentences:"fighting," "argued," "challenged," "consumed," one might think the evening was full of strife, but the truth is quite to the contrary. The tough-guy-eleven and twelve-year-olds were actually full of camaraderie. They were polite and courteous to David and me at all times. Honorable young men!

Tomorrow, they all go back to school. My boys are betting that I will be the only mother of middle-schoolers that will cry on the first day of school. Since I ALWAYS cry on the first day of school, and they never see any other moms cry, they think this is a pretty safe bet. I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Salamanders, Leeches, and Snakes. Oh My!

Our home could be considered water front property. That is, if you believe the contents of Spangle Creek could be called water. In reality, the creek is more of a long, skinny mud puddle, which is hardly visible through the tall reeds that grow along its banks. The bottom of the creek is so mushy that if you step on it (which I have only done once, and will never do again) you sink down to about your knees. Many of my children’s shoes have been ingested by the creek, but since they always seem to come home with their feet still intact, I hardly feel like I can complain. And did I mention the charming wildlife that live among the reeds in our lovely creek? Mudpuppies, crawdads, frogs, salamanders, leeches, and of course, your friendly neighborhood snakes. My son Graham can spend hours down at the creek investigating its endless mysteries. His younger brother Chandler acts more in the role of “research assistant,” eager to run up to the house and fetch me whenever Graham has caught something that they know I will find particularly vile.

When I am taken outside to view whatever awaits me in their trusty bucket, I do my very best to under react. A wise mother of boys once told me that the only way a mother of boys can escape being eternally harassed is to simply be un-harass-able. That is to say, if I scream and wail and freak out, it only makes it all the more fun for them. I like to show interest in their discoveries, which is not difficult, because I am sincerely interested in their creek findings. I may even utter a gasp out of genuine awe. But when I peer into their bucket, even if everything in me wants to squeal like a little girl, I do my best to maintain my composure and calmly ask:
“What is it?”
“Where did you catch it?” and
“What do you think it eats?”

I never know what I might see in the bucket. Sometimes the creatures are actually cute, like the frogs and tadpoles. Sometimes they are ugly, but completely harmless, like the mudpuppies. Other times what I see is really rather frightening, such as the leeches, which can actually cause a great deal of pain and discomfort. No matter what is in the bucket, it usually stays in the bucket unless Graham decides to take it out. He holds the bucket, and the stuff in it can’t hurt me as long as he is in control.

Some days life is like that. I have woken up to circumstances that made me feel like I was staring into a bucket of something vile. Some circumstances are ugly, but completely harmless…like a flat tire or a plugged toilet. Other circumstances are really rather frightening…like discovering that a loved one has a horrible disease or getting laid off from a much needed job. How can I face such things without completely falling apart? The truth is, sometimes I do fall apart. But then I remember who’s holding the bucket.

There isn’t a circumstance that comes my way that hasn’t been approved for me by God and He doesn’t bring anything into my life that is out of His complete control. I love the saying, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” The things that come my way—the good, the bad, and the ugly—are held by the hand of a loving God, who promises to use all things for my benefit and His glory. I can either focus on what is in the bucket or on the one who’s holding it.

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

Garden Goodies

Corn. Green Beans. Carrots. Sugar Snap Peas. Tomatoes. Green Onions. Squash. All picked from our garden this weekend. God does good work! He is a master of colors and flavors.

The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Psalm 85:12

Friday, August 22, 2008

16 Years Ago Today...

David seated his mom, with glistening eyes. And to think, just a couple of hours before this tender moment he was stuck at a gas station, having locked his keys in his car for the first and only time in his overly-responsible life. No worries, someone happened to have a slim jim handy for the nervous-looking guy in the tux who was humming "Get Me to the Church on Time!"

Dad and I were smiling and relaxed. The tension had just been broken a moment before, when my eager wedding coordinator, aiming to straighten the train of my veil, pulled the whole thing off of my head and sent it flying halfway across the church. The wedding march was played over and over while my veil was retrieved and placed back on my head. At last, "Here Comes the Bride!"

Such joy, such bliss...And finally, the Kiss!

And today, sixteen years and two great kids later, I'd do "I DO" all over again with you! Nothing thrills me more than waking up each day next to the love of my life. Just like our wedding day was filled with unexpected surprises, our life together has not always gone according to our plan...but given the option, I wouldn't change a thing!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Last night I was reunited with an old and dear friend, and I am so delighted! It was a surprise reunion, planned for me by one of my newer friends. It all started a few weeks ago at my Writer's Group. We somehow got on the topic of favorite childhood toys, and I went into a reverie turned rampage about the Fisher Price Little People. When I was a young girl, I would spend hours playing with my Fisher Price Little People. I had the house, the school, the playground, the airplane...loved them all! My favorite Little People was the blond girl in the blue dress with the white collar. I named her Sally. I had all the Little People, but only Sally had a proper name. Everyone else was Sally's mom, Sally's dad, Sally's baby brother, Sally's best friend, Sally's teacher, etc. (I know. Many of you see this behavior as very incriminating evidence that self absorption began at an early age for me. In retrospect, it is quite telling to me as well!) Anyways, through the years, my family no longer called these toys the Fisher Price Little People, they were affectionately called "the Sallys" at my house. So this was the reverie part of my sharing. The rampage part of the story came when I explained that years later, when my niece Sarah (who is now 17) was turning two, I went to Toys R Us to buy her some Sallys. But I discovered at that time that they no longer made Sallys. Oh there were these fat plastic toys called Fisher Price Little People, but they did not have the cute little shape of the old wooden ones. Apparently, Fisher Price changed the design of the Little People because children had choked on the smaller (but far superior) originals. David was with me and can testify to the fact that I stood in the aisle at Toys R Us and cried. I gave up all hope of ever seeing a Sally again.

So when I showed up at my Writer's Group last night, and the leader of the group, Gena, surprised me with this gift, I was overwhelmed! She had listened carefully to my tale of Sally, and it triggered something in her memory. She went home and dug this Sally out of an old toy box in her home. It seems Sally wasn't so treasured by her daughter, and so she graciously gave her to me! This IS Sally! The REAL Sally! She looks a little worn, but then again, so do I! Her hair used to have braids, but they have broken off. That's hair has gotten more brittle over the years, too. I have already played with her a bit, but when we are not playing together, Sally will have a very special spot on my Shelf of Treasures, which hangs in my bedroom.

I think she looks happy to see me. Don't you?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

That is SO Blog-able

Okay. I'll admit it. I am a blogging addict. It is my latest obsession. I think about it way too much, and my family tolerates me with great patience. They do, however, offer their guidance as to what parts of their lives are considered "blog-able."

Take David. He doesn't want me to publish the blog about the many self-portraits he has given me through the years, but when he was away at an airshow he took a picture of a woman with a cat on a leash, and told me that I should blog about it. Cat-on-a-leash is funny, but not as funny as his self-portraits, which sit in my censored file.

Graham, who does not appreciate having the details of his life splashed across the Internet for all to see, has made me promise NOT to post certain photos of him on my blog. Awesome pictures, sit unpublished on my desktop so as to NOT offend my oldest son. I spent five minutes this morning trying to talk Graham into letting me post a picture that David took of him in an Incredible Hulk pose, but he wasn't having any. I even offered to pay him, which piqued his interest, but what he wanted to charge me (something close to what People Magazine paid for pictures of Brad and Angelina's twins) was not in my budget.

Chandler, however, is much more willing to be the topic of my blogs in both picture and story. But I realized I had even pushed his limits last night while we were watching the Olympics. During beach volleyball snippets of music are played in between volleys, and during one such interlude, Chandler stood up and started dancing. His dance looked like something from a chorus-line, and Graham commented, "Chandler, you don't dance the can-can to rock music!" I burst out laughing, and Chandler turned to me sternly and said, "Mom, that is NOT blog-able!" Oh but it is! Not so much the fact that Chandler was dancing the can-can to Led Zeppelin, but the fact that he knew I was already composing a blog about it in my mind!
By the way, Chandler did relent, and this blog was posted with his consent.

Monday, August 18, 2008


These two hundred and eighty seven letters, hand signed by every family member, were carried two blocks to the Spangle Post Office today. My index fingers are blistered from hand folding each one--but don't worry about me, I will recover. The letter that was posted today asks for financial support for Four For France. The text book that David has been reading about raising support states that a poorly written fund raising letter receives about a 3% return rate, while a well written letter might garner 14%. In our case, and assuming our letter is well written, 14% would be only 40 responses. Forty for France would be nice...but if only 40 respond, each would have to pledge $187.50 per month in order for us to reach our monthly fundraising goal. I keep trying to do the figure out how in the world God is going to get us fully funded. I play mind games like: 40 people at $187.50/month, or 75 people at $100/month, or 100 people at $75 month, or 8 people at $250/month plus 50 people at $100/month...on and on, trying to puzzle it out. But it simply isn't up to me. It isn't even up to a "well-written" letter. It is all in God's hands. The money. The timing. And the people. In fact, we know that the people are of greatest importance to God, and He will call those who are to give and those who are to pray every bit as surely as He has called those of us who are to go. And so now we wait.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Separate Vacations...sort of

This week the Williamsons had adventures in three different locations:

Graham spent Monday through Thursday at Dickey Lake Bible Camp with his cousin Austin. Dickey Lake is nestled in the mountains of Northwest Montana, just west of Whitefish. They had all sorts of Junior High fun, including witnessing the consumption of worms, all out paintball wars, and wet-sponge-dodge-ball on a greased tarp. He also said that the worship was good, the teaching was great, and he got a boost in his relationship with God.

Chandler and I spent Monday through Thursday back at Swan Lake, doing all the usual Swan Lake stuff, and some fun extras. On Tuesday we went tubing down the Swan River, which we had never done before but hope to do again. Then on Wednesday night, David's mom treated both of us to a play at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse, where we saw Paint Your Wagon. As we were waiting for the play to begin, Chandler spotted one of the actors and recognized him! The guy had directed this year's Missoula Children's Theater Production at his school, in which Chandler played the Town Crier. Small world!

David spent the week here at home. But he was not alone. He spent most days at work, but he spent the evenings getting to know our new laptop computer. They are now very intimate. Almost inseparable. And he took Thursday off...because our dear Libby was dog-sick, and he didn't want me to come home to a mudroom covered in, well, dogsickness! (Yes, I felt very loved!) Not exactly a vacation for David, but he does bring home the bacon and hold down the fort like a trooper.

Today we are all back home, so happy together. We are looking forward to a weekend dedicated to getting our second missionary letter ready to mail on Monday. This one will go to over 300 families and churches, and it invites people to give financially. God's work in France is going to require a strong team of many supporters. We are excited to see who God is calling to be a part of His team. We pray that Four for France becomes Forty for France...or even Four hundred for France!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Almost Harvest Time

He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
Luke 10:2
This is a picture of the view out our kitchen window. The wheat is almost ripe...and in just a few weeks we will certainly see Farmer Bob harvesting his crop. He planted the seed, he cared diligently for his fields, and he would be foolish not to reap the fruits of his labor. But he doesn't harvest by himself. He brings in a crew of friends, family and neighbors, and for several weeks, they all work together from dawn till dusk to harvest the wheat. If the workers didn't do the work when the wheat was ready, all would be for naught.
This is also a picture of the view of France that God has put in our hearts. We believe that He has already been working to till the soil, plant some seeds, and tend their fields. But harvest time is coming...and the workers are few.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
"Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Isaiah 6:8

Friday, August 8, 2008

Willow Creek Leadership Summit

Our home church, Life Center Foursquare, is a satellite host of the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. Every year, this conference provides fresh, meaningful, and relevant teaching on Christian leadership. David and I spent all day today at the Summit, and will be there all day tomorrow as well. It always feels like such a hassle to fit these two days into our busy summer schedule, but I am so blessed when we decide to go. This kind of teaching is critical to God's kingdom work, and yet rarely is it done with such excellence.

I cannot begin to convey the vast wealth of wisdom that was shared today. I am just so thankful that my God, who knows the limits of my wretched heart and my puny mind, somehow seems to highlight the insights that He really wants me to grasp. Two things resonate in my spirit from today's messages:

1.) Leaders need to be authentic. Transparent. i.e. I gotta be me! But not because I want to be seen or recognized. I gotta be me, because in being the Jenn that God created, I am best suited to reveal His Spirit that lives in me. What it really means is that if I am transparent...others will see Jesus. When I try to be anyone else or do things I am not called to, then I put a mask on, and His light can't shine through me. He made me to be a unique beacon for His light, and He shines through the brightest when I am content with who I am in Him.

2.) Jesus did not come to make us safe, He came to make us BRAVE. Why do we always pray, "Lord, keep us safe"? Jesus never said, "Follow me, and I will keep you safe." In fact, He promised us quite the opposite:

"All men will hate you because of me...." Matt. 13:13
"In this world you will have trouble..." John 16:33
"Consider it pure joy when you face trials..." James 1:2

From now on, I am going to ask God to make me brave. I am done with safe.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Fishermen

On Monday Graham was invited to go fishing with two friends. These aren't friends from school. He didn't meet them at youth group. I guess you could say they are a couple of guys from the neighborhood that have the same summer schedule he does. Plus, they have something none of his other friends have: a fishing boat.

When I dropped him off yesterday morning, I advised him that he should listen to the counsel of the more experienced fishermen. I told him that if he wasn't sure of something, ask. And, I reminded him that they had years of fishing wisdom under their belts, so he should take advantage of this opportunity to learn a thing or two about catching trout. He assured me that he would pay attention to all that they told him to do.

So as the story goes...the more mature gentlemen did start the day by giving Graham some fishing tips. Their insights must have been right on the money, because Graham came home with 5 fish: three rainbow trout and two cut throats. But his friends were completely skunked! Neither of them caught a thing. Graham said that they were pretty free with the advice-giving for the first part of the day, but after a while they told him, "Don't listen to us, just keep doing what you're doing!"

Mmmmm , Mmmmmm. They sure were good!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mt. Park Church

While we were in the Portland area last weekend, David and I had the joy of sharing our call to France with two different Adult Sunday School Classes at Mt. Park Church (MPC). This is the church I attended while in high school. David and I were married at MPC, and we were a part of the "Young Marrieds" class there from about 1992-1994. My parents still attend Mt. Park, so we still have many friends and connections there. In many ways, it felt like we were going home.

This was our first attempt at presenting our vision together in front of large groups of people. We struggled with the preparations, unsure of how well the two of us were going to work together. In the end, we realized once again that God is in this...and that is and will always be more than enough. While I think we articulated our missionary calling to France in a fairly clear and concise manner, I believe that we received much more than we gave. We were so blessed by the people of MPC who ministered to us with great wisdom, as well as genuine words of encouragement. We were able to re-connect with the Body of Christ at MPC, and as we drove home that afternoon we were struck by how amazing it is to be a part of the corporate Body of Christ. We may no longer attend church there on Sunday mornings, but because of Jesus, we will always be family.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Not What We Expected

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Romans 11:33

Sometimes (okay, often) I have a hard time figuring out what God is up to. I try to follow Him. I do my best to seek His will. Yet, many days I step out in faith believing myself to be moving in the right direction only to find that nothing is turning out the way I had planned. Then, when things appear to be going wrong, I assume one of two things: either I made a mistake, or Satan interfered with the plan. It is possible that there is a third option. That is what I learned this weekend. The third option is this: God wants me to learn to trust in His goodness, His sovereignty, His faithfulness, and His ability to always and no matter what work all things together for good according to His purpose. Even if I blow it. Even if Satan is at work. Here is how I know:

Our dearest friends in Portland planned a gathering so that David and I would have an opportunity to share our vision for France with a large group of people. They made gorgeous invitations and planned an all-french menu. But as the day approached, no one was responding to the invitation. So here come my assumptions. Either we weren't supposed to be having this gathering, or Satan was keeping people from coming. But as we prayed, David and I felt like we wanted to get together with our friends, even if those hosting the party were the only ones who could come. So rather than cancel the event, they simplified. When we showed up Saturday night, we were greeted by fabulous chalk-art in the driveway. The friends who were there were the friends with whom David and I had been in a home Bible Study years ago when we lived in that area. They are the kind of friends who have seen you at your best and at your worst and they still love you. We laughed for hours, picking up as if David and I had never moved away. They asked us tons of questions about France, and we were able to tell them everything...even stuff that would not have really been appropriate to share with a larger group of less intimate friends. We would go from deeply moving conversations to bouts with hilarity without skipping a beat. And then, before we got up from the dinner table (where we had sat contentedly for over three hours) they told us they wanted to pray for us. Perhaps most precious to me was that NO ONE asked if they could pray, or even how to pray. They know us and our hearts so well that they didn't have to. They prayed effectively, lovingly, and with such ease, that it was immediately evident that Jesus himself had been in our midst the entire evening and we were simply turning the conversation His direction. He had shared in our laughter, and as we prayed, He was sharing in our tears. The evening was not at all what we had expected, but it was clearly better.

Thank you Lord, for orchestrating that evening NOT according to what we thought we needed, but according to what you knew we needed more.