Friday, January 29, 2010

Our New Addiction

Old Original Bookbinders Apple Pecan Pie

1 3/4 C all purpose flour
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 cold, unsalted butter
5-6 T cold water
  1. In medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and cinnamon until well blended.
  2. Cut in butter.
  3. Gradually add cold water, tossing flour mixture w/a fork until all ingredients are moistened.
  4. Gather dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap and chill for one hour.

1 c granulated sugar
1/2 c all-purpose flour
pinch salt
16 oz sour cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 t vanilla extract
6 baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (8 cups)
  1. Combine sugar, flour, and salt. Mix well.
  2. Add sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Stir until blended.
  3. Pour over apples in large bowl. Mix gently until apples are coated.

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Roll out pastry on well-floured surface. Fit in to 10 inch pie plate. Trim and flute edges.
  3. Pour apple mixture into pastry shell.
  4. Place on baking sheet.
  5. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 more minutes.
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 t cinnamon
pinch salt
1/2 c unsalted butter
1 c chopped pecans
  1. Mix brown sugar, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. Cut in butter.
  3. Add pecans and mix well

Crumble topping evenly over filling. Continue baking at 350 degrees for another 20-25 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

I would love to give credit to the publisher of this recipe, but I cannot because I do not know from wence it came.The recipe is written out by hand on a sheet of notebook paper. I know that I found it in a magazine at a friend's house many years ago and copied it down. While it looked delicious, I didn't make it for the first time until this past Thanksgiving. It has been the most requested dessert in our home ever since.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Random Facts which Might Cause You to Doubt my Sanity

My sons have spent the last two weeks looking for a mummified chicken that is buried somewhere on school grounds. I fully support this use of time. I am hoping they find it.

I am having a recurring nightmare about France which involves me, a hair salon, and a language barrier.

I have been working on my Lena Lamont impersonation, and I really think I have it down. "People?!? I. Ain't. People. I am a shimmering, glowing star in the cinema firmament."

I am on a crusade to discover comfortable sleepwear. Nightgowns bunch at my waist. Flannel pants get all twisted when I roll over. And it is too cold for my summer solution....This issue is compounding the effects of my chronic insomnia. Between the pajama problem and the France nightmare I think I only got about 6 good hours of sleep last week.

I frequently attempt Triple Salchows (the ice skating jump) in my hallway in anticipation of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. David is pretty sure I am going to break something.

I am on a serious quest to learn how to pray, and yet this is the kind of conversation I find myself having with my mother:

Mom: "Your father is going fishing today, so pray for him."

Me: "Um, okay."

Mom: "Good. Because your sister (the vegetarian) is praying for the fish."

(I realize that the sanity of many may come into question in the previous exchange. Blame it on genetics. And may I add that I find it extremely difficult to go deep in prayer on either side of the fishing request? Come on, people! Throw me a bone! "What's wrong with the way I (pray)? Am I dumb or somethin'?" And yes, that was another Lena Lamont impersonation.)

I am jealous of my cats. They sleep effortlessly. Probably because they don't have the whole "pajama" issue with which to contend. Which really makes me wonder about the expression: "Well, isn't that just the cat's pajamas!"

I was recently informed that in the song "This is Home" from the Prince Caspian soundtrack, the bridge does NOT contain the phrase, "I've got a brand new mustache." My talent for misunderstanding lyrics was once again exposed, as my children informed me that the correct words are, "I've got a brand new mindset." I was close. VERY close. And I was reminded to schedule a wax.

So that's about it. Boy. That was a lot of work. In the words of Miss Lamont, "If we bring a little bit of joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel as if our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pros and Cons

Last week we had a family meeting to discuss the pros and cons of the various schooling options that are available to our boys in France. I labeled pieces of notebook paper with headings such as "Home School Pros," "Home School Cons," "French School Pros," etc. Each family member was given a different colored marker to write personal thoughts and opinions on each page. As we wrote, we discussed. We also had a page for questions. I found the exercise very enlightening, and both boys, while open to Home School or Boarding School, expressed an aversion to going into the French school system, where language would be an obvious handicap. After the conversation, we agreed to pray about the options for a week, and then talk again.

In the meantime, David and I had scheduled a Skype appointment with GEM's Educational Specialist who lives in Budapest. This woman knows all there is to know about educating American kids in Europe. A few months ago she had sent us an Educational Profile Packet to fill out for each of our boys. This packet asked questions to help us identify Graham and Chandler's learning styles, personality types, and academic strengths and weaknesses. While we already knew most of that information about our own boys, we did not know how it would play into their education as expats.

In our conversation with the Educational Specialist, we learned that boarding school is not permitted in the first year abroad (happy dance from mom) and that homeschooling would inhibit the boys' integration into the French culture (an obvious con for missionary kids). Her recommendation was that we put the boys in the French public schools, but have no expectations on them for grades; rather, allow them to spend the year focused on learning the language without academic performance coming in to play. She said that we may choose to supplement with some homeschool basics such as Math and English, but given their ease with school in general, we would not have to worry about pushing them too much.

Today we had family meeting number 2 about the schooling issue. David and I simply shared with the boys what we had learned from the Educational Specialist. I was nervous about informing them that the very option they despised was the one that came most highly recommended. They listened. They asked questions. They took it in. And then we, again, agreed to pray for another week, and then continue the conversation.

And that is where we are today. Please pray for our family as we make this most critical decision. God has a great plan for Graham and Chan, and it is our job to discover that plan. We trust Him.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

If I Forget to Tell you Later...

Those in my generation can probably complete the above quote and name the movie it was from. I was reminded of this line as I dropped my kids off at school today. Ironically, our drive in was particularly uneventful.

When we were leaving the house, I was overloaded with more than I could carry. The boys, without being asked, instinctively reached out to help me carry my bags. As I started the car, I realized I had forgotten something, and Graham ran back into the house for my forgotten item. We traveled most of the way in our normal companionable silence, and in the silence I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude.

When I first held my baby boys I knew I was in love, but I had no idea how very blessed I would feel for the awesome privilege of being their mom. Parenting has been the biggest challenge I have ever encountered, and I have had my share of struggles with feelings of inadequacy, fear, and discouragement. The journey of motherhood is not always a walk in the park, and in many ways, every child is a new experiment in parenting wisdom and techniques. There are no guarantees, no warranties, and no certainties. And still, I wouldn't change a thing.

My boys are well past the days of strollers and playpens. In all the years that I toted their "gear" around, it never occurred to me that they would one day help tote mine. They now choose their own clothes, make their own lunches, and have opinions about the way their hair is cut. They can stay home unsupervised, make plans with friends, and post status updates on Facebook. In many ways, they are independent. And yet...I have the feeling that our job as parents has only just begun to move towards its pinnacle. With the dawn of the teen years, I can hardly stand how completely wonderful it is to have these amazing young men entrusted to us for this time. And just as I did not foresee the helpfulness they would offer me during these years, I also did not foresee the wisdom they would offer.

As a family we have agreed to read the same passages of scripture in our daily devotions and then discuss the passage at dinner. We have started the year by reading through the book of Luke one chapter at a time. Each night, the boys share their thoughts, and I marvel. I marvel at their insights. I marvel at their questions. I marvel that they even read the passage in the first place. And I marvel at what God might do through their reading of His Word.

All of these thoughts were going through my head as I drove my boys to school this morning. When they hopped out of the car, ready to face another day, I found myself wiping tears from cheeks. Tears of gratitude. And then I whispered to them, though they were already gone, "If I forget to tell you later, I had a great time" being your mom.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hair, Eggs, and Treadmills

I would rather change dentists than hairdressers. If I went to the dentist, that is. And while I may neglect the professional care of my teeth, I am much more attentive to the professional care of my hair. I only wish our insurance company would allow me to apply what I am NOT spending at the dentist towards the care and maintenance of my mane. Don't you wish there was hair-insurance? I can just imagine sitting down in the salon chair for "triage:"

"Well, Jenn, our professional opinion is that you are in dire need of highlights."

"Is the treatment painful?"

"No, but it will require follow-up appointments. We'll have to monitor your hair growth closely so that we can avoid the negative side-effect that plagues all our hair-color-alteration patients. The curse of the untouched roots."

Oh! Oh! And products like mousse and gel could be "prescribed" and therefore also covered by insurance. I think I just hit on a fantastic business idea. I could build an empire on the promise of hair-insurance.

But alas, since I am an un-hair-insured American, I had to choose between cut and color this month, as my budget certainly could not stretch to cover both. Given the darkness of the drab days of winter, I went for the highlights. This was a risky decision because my beloved hairdresser, Kara, has recently moved away (sniff, sniff) and I was having my first appointment with my new gal. Getting highlights on a first hair appointment is almost like proposing marriage on a first date. I mean, highlights are a commitment! Nevertheless, I went for it. I actually went all the way, and got some lowlights, too. You know, to mix it up a little. But enough about my hair....

On a completely different note, egg flipping has become like an Olympic sport in our house. Ever since we rented Julie & Julia and I learned that I simply needed to approach the eggs with confidence, I have been an avid egg-flipper. My boys were impressed at first, but not to be outdone by mom, immediately decided they had to try their hands at it. I think we are now cooking eggs just so that we can flip them. Until today, there had been no misses. Sadly, this morning Graham flipped his eggs directly onto the burner of my glass-top stove. He somehow managed to salvage his egg, yolk and all, and I reminded him: "Better to have flipped and flopped, than never to have flipped at all."

And now a word about treadmills. I have been running outdoors for years, and never taken a spill. Mind you, I have always kept it simple. I don't even run with an iPod. It's just been me and the pavement. But now that I have ventured into the world of treadmill-running, I am beginning to fear for life and limb. At the gym, I notice that many of my fellow treadmill trotters are aerobic multi-taskers. They read books or magazines while listening to music and occasionally glance at big screen TVs that glow before them with closed-captioned writing.

The thing is, if one gets distracted, the treadmill keeps rolling. There is no way to slow it down or stop it without pushing buttons, and, well, that can prove dangerous for some. I knew that reading would be beyond my limited coordination abilities, but I thought that I could review my memory verses while running. I thought wrong. On Tuesday, 3x5 cards slipped off of the magazine holder on my treadmill and flew in every direction. I instinctively bent down to pick up my scattered note cards, and was instantly conveyed backwards, spilling off of the end of the belt and joining my memory verses on the floor. The treadmill, however, continued dutifully working out without me. I gathered my 3X5 cards, and tried to figure out how to get back on a moving treadmill, when I noticed a bright red STOP button on one of the side bars. Stop it, I did. Fortunately, I don't think anyone noticed. Who could, with iPods blaring, magazine pages gleaming, and TVs flashing?

In the meantime, I completely blocked this incident from my mind. I didn't mention it to David or the boys. I conveniently forgot that it even happened. A couple of days ago I showed David a painful bruise that "mysteriously" appeared on my calf. Together, we wondered where in the world this bruise had come from. Today, it dawned on me. The bruise is undoubtedly from my treadmill accident. Man, I miss pavement.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pray for Israel

Israel Antoine is an eight year old boy that we sponsor in Haiti. He lives in an area that was badly affected by the earthquake. Our sponsorship is through Compassion International, but we have no way of finding out if Israel and his family are okay. Our hearts are heavy for this child that we have never met. Please join us in praying for Israel's safety and for the many Haitians who are suffering from this horrible tragedy.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dear Abdominal Muscles,

I have not seen you in ages! You can imagine my surprise when you showed up last week in my aerobics class! I had no idea I would find you at the gym. Have you been going there for a long time? I'm brand new to the class.

Perhaps you remember the last time we spoke? I think it was almost 13 years ago, after the birth of Chandler, when I coaxed you into helping me lose some baby fat. You were a ton of help with that. Thanks a bunch. But then it seems like you disappeared and I haven't heard from you since. Hey, don't be such a stranger!

By the way, while I have missed you, I am finding that our recent re-acquaintance has been laced with bits of resentment. I am sorry for more than a decade of neglect, but must you bring it up every time I giggle? Laughter should NOT be painful! Remember the old love song, "Reunited and it Feels so Good?" I'm ready for some of those GOOD feelings. Enough with your bellyaching.

If we are going to be friends, we are going to have to invest in this relationship. I beg you to let go of your bitterness and give us a fresh start. We're both too old to hold grudges. So, what do you say? Friends?

Oh, and if you see my glutes will you tell them I said, "Hi?"

Love, Jenn

Friday, January 8, 2010

What's the Point?

I am having an identity crisis. Well, not me personally, but me on behalf of my blog. As I am on a journey to lose myself for the sake of Christ, I can't help wondering if blogging is just a self-absorbed love fest that feeds the "all-about-me" syndrome from which I am longing to be healed.

I tried to step back over the past couple of days and ask myself, "What's the point?" "Why do I write a blog?" and "Is THIS blog fulfilling its mission?"

The point of Four for France, or at least the intended point, is to share our adventures as a modern-day missionary family from the time of appointment, through the deputation process, and (eventually) as church -planters in France. To share with whom? Well, anyone interested I suppose, but especially those who support us through prayer and donations. I wanted to create a place where supporters could have as much information as they wanted on who we are, how we spend our time, and where we are in the whole process.

Now clearly, not every post directly pertains to France. This is partly because we are not there yet, but also because the missionary journey has as much to with what God is doing in us as it does with what He might do through us.

I have been a journaler all my life, and my blog has become somewhat of an extension of that habit. I write because it helps me to gain perspective on my life and to examine my walk with the Lord. Writing, for me, is an evaluative tool. It's an analytical process. It's (sometimes) verbal diarrhea. And since I can only write from my perspective, much of what I write is all about me.

Is there a difference between a well-examined life and a completely self-absorbed existence? And on which side of that line would I fall? While I must admit that every single bit of feedback, whether in the form of a comment or an e-mail response, is like a Jolt Cola for my ego, I honestly believe that I would write my blog even if no one ever read it. I wrote journals for years, and no one has ever read those. So I assume that I write more for me than for anyone else.

So why not just journal? Why put it out there for the whole world to read? Well besides giving supporters the option to have a "play by play" on our lives (should they want it) I also have a hope that somehow my words might just point someone to Jesus. I try to be pretty transparent about both my strengths and my struggles, and I guess I want other people to see the enormity of God's grace through the evidence of my depravity. Yes. That is what I want the point to be.

Is this blog fulfilling it's mission? While much of it, for many of you, is probably TMI, I take great comfort in knowing that no one is making anyone read any of it. Do my words point you to Jesus, or do they merely point you to me? Inquiring minds want to know. Okay. Really I'm the only one who wants to know. And here we are back Oh bother! The struggle continues....

Monday, January 4, 2010


I will confess that I was one of probably 97 million Americans who started off today with a new exercise plan. What is it about a new year that inspires us to sweat? I have no grand goals. I am not training for a marathon or planning to climb Mount Everest. I simply want to keep moving forward in my life long pursuit of wellness. GAG! Okay, I'm just kidding. What I really want to do is find a way to support my ever-growing cheese habit.

As I placed seven different kinds of cheese in my shopping cart at Costco last Saturday, I found myself wondering if that sort of lactose-loving behavior was normal. And If you only knew how many other cheeses I wanted to buy and didn't! Only seven varieties were purchased because I realized at that point that about 20% of my grocery budget was going towards cheese, and I needed to exercise some restraint.

Perhaps I will resolve in 2010 to try EVERY cheese sold at Costco...and to do so BEFORE we leave for France. It would be like a warm-up for French living. It probably should be a pre-field requirement for missionaries serving in France. Anyways, would it be so sinful to make such an indulgent resolution? Is it wrong to resolve to do something completely decadent? Do New Years Resolutions ALWAYS have to involve pain and sacrifice? Maybe I should pray about it.

Now honestly, is that the sort of thing the great prayer warriors of this world take before the throne of God? I NEED to know! Is there some great value in talking to God about my cheese issues? I mean, I know that He loves me and all, but is this truly a matter for prayer? Not that I don't talk to Him all the time about even more trivial things, but I do it in a conversational "here's what's going on in my life" sort of a way, not in a "folded hands, eyes closed" sort of way.

Speaking of prayer, I started the day off with a time of prayer, and I think I made some progress. Progress meaning I haven't been having a dedicated time of prayer, but today I did. So if "just doing it" is progress, then I made some. I did not pray about cheese. What I did was I used the Lord's Prayer as a frame work, and sort of filled it in with some specifics. For example, under the "Your kingdom come" heading, I prayed about God's kingdom being enlarged in France. I prayed for some pastors and missionaries who are already there, working towards that goal.

There were no great epiphanies. I didn't feel any different. I don't mean to sound ungrateful or irreverent, it just wasn't a life-changing moment. Or maybe it was. Maybe it was one of those "every great journey begins with a single step" moments. Really, it felt like a very small step. Still. It was something. God could use it. And I'm willing to do it again tomorrow. I'll let you know if cheese comes up.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010-The Year I Learn to Pray

I am about to confess something that is probably quite obvious to everyone: My prayer life sucks.

But there is good news. In His ever loving but completely convicting way, the Holy Spirit has shined His light on this weakness in my life. And that really IS good news, because He doesn't convict me to condemn me (there is therefore now NO condemnation!), He convicts me to cleanse me. I am hopeful that I will look back on 2010 as the year in which the Lord taught me how to pray.

I began to realize how messed up my prayers were back in May, when I noticed that I mostly approached God with a wish list, almost like a child might approach Santa Claus. All my prayers were desperate cries for help, though I really was in need of nothing. I just WANTED my life to be easier. This realization caused me to do something that you may find sort of shocking. I stopped praying.

I stopped praying because I finally realized I was doing it all wrong, but I didn't know how to do it correctly. Now before you feel the need to remind me that there really isn't a "wrong" way to pray, let me explain my struggle. My prayers had primarily been requests for God to work my life out in a way that is pleasing to me. But the more I know and understand about God, the more I realize that the best way to live would be for God to work my life out in a way that is pleasing to HIM. In Romans we are told told that God's will is good, pleasing, and perfect. Why would I ask God to do MY will, when clearly, HIS will is better?

The problem is, I don't always know the will of God. Which means I don't always know how to pray. Which is why I stopped praying. Mostly. I would still talk to God, but in short, obscure, non-specific ways. I would pray things like,"Good morning, Lord. I am glad to know you. Thanks for being such a good God. I trust you to do what is best today."

But throughout scripture we are told, even commanded, to pray ALL THE TIME. I was conflicted because if God's will is good, pleasing, and perfect, why would He ask me to offer up suggestions of what I thought He ought to do in any given situation? On the other hand, mumbling, "thy will be done" through every twist and turn in life seems sort of complacent. Why would God want that?

I truly believe that God is able to do all things, with or without my prayers. Yet, scripture is clear about the power of prayer. This is another paradox that boggles my mind. It appears to me that while God could work His will apart from prayer, He has chosen for prayer to be the vehicle through which He accomplishes His will. In this way, my prayers are clearly offered not to influence or change the will of God, but to enact it. Talk about power! Does it amaze anyone besides me that the Lord of Heaven and Earth would choose to use the clumsy words of humans to accomplish His purposes?

I have so much to learn about prayer, and a flaky heart that cannot be trusted. While I marvel at all that prayer is and can be, in all honesty, I have always found it sort of boring. I will confess that for now, I am simply willing to grow in my prayer life. I am not eager. I am not excited. It will be a discipline for me. A discipline that I trust the Lord can change in to a passion. I am going to study His word, and discover all that He has to say about prayer. You know, He must've known this would be a tough one for some of us, because Jesus even bothered to specifically teach His disciples how to pray. How can it be that I have said the Lord's Prayer my entire life, and still not understood the riches of its words?

Lord, thank you for calling me to pray. I trust you to teach me all that I need to know, and I am thankful that when I fail, your grace is sufficient.