Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Loving the Olympics

I LOVE the Olympics. Truly I do. But may I just say that I find it very difficult to take a sport seriously when it has a key element called a "twizzle" section? This simply should not be. Other than my issue with the so-called "sport" of Ice Dancing, I have found myself completely captivated with all of the events in Vancouver. Biathlon? Awesome! Moguls? Sweeeeeet! Snow Board Cross? Cool! Speed Skating? Slick! I even like watching Curling. Half-Pipe totally rocks my world. And don't even get me started on the Alpine events! I'm addicted. I can't get enough. I have just one complaint. Why, oh why, when the Olympics are finally being held in my very own time zone must I watch tape-delayed events into the wee hours of the night? So. Not. Fair.

While our whole family has been glued to the T.V. since the Opening Ceremonies began, our lives have not been at a constant stand-still. Chandler is spending his afternoons in play rehearsals, having landed the role of Long John Silver in his school's production of Treasure Island. Graham is busy trying to get an audition for the Junior High Worship Band at church. David is planning our spring break trip to the French Consulate in San Francisco, where we all must go to apply for long-term visas. And I am preparing for a whirlwind fundraising tour of the great state of Texas which may require me to do a twizzle section of my own. Never a dull moment in the Williamson household.

Many thoughts are swirling for future blog topics, including Tiger Woods, Tarte aux Pomme, my latest crochet project, our still unaccounted-for Compassion child in Haiti, Bach on electric guitars, and Olympic Fashion Faux Pas. I'll probably choose the one that allows me to use the word "twizzle" the most.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Every once in a while I have a realization that is so profound it revolutionizes some aspect of my life. These epiphanies rarely strike in an instant, like a noisy bolt of lightening; rather, their truth is revealed gradually over time, like a glorious sunrise, silently bringing warmth and light. I recently found myself in the midst of one such realization. It came to me in the realm of parenting, and it is an "aha!" that has been years in the making. While I am far from perfecting its implementation, I am certainly convinced of its value and truth.

As a parent, it is my job to train my children in righteousness. Correcting behavior is the easy part. Changing hearts is much more challenging. I do not expect perfection, for my boys are infected with a sin nature just like their parents. But what I do expect is genuine repentance when wrong-doing has been revealed.

In an attempt to lead my children to a place of repentance I have tried many tactics. I have tried arguing them into repentance. I have tried shaming them into repentance. I have tried guilt, control, and disappointment. More often than not, the result of all of these tactics is the same: a forced apology from a kid with a demeanor that communicates anything but remorse. Not a very satisfying result.

Then, a while back, I came across this little verse in Romans 2:4:

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

God's kindness leads me to repentance. His kindness. Not guilt. Not shame. Not arguing. Kindness. If this verse is true, and I believe it is, then I wondered if kindness would lead my children to repentance.

The idea is truly twisted. It would mean that when they sin, when they disappoint me, when they are in the midst of ugliness and inappropriate behavior, I would have to show them kindness. When everything in me wants to chastise and criticize, I would have to be kind. And I would have to do it without abdicating my authority or abandoning my responsibility to train them in righteousness. It was, to me, a truly novel concept. But one I was willing to test because I was sure that what I had been doing in the past was not leading my children to repentance, it was leading them to contempt.

The thing about parenting that continues to amaze me is how much God uses it to change ME. Talk about on-the-job-training! My poor kids have a rookie for a mother, and I have so much to learn in this process. For example, it is absolutely impossible for me to show kindness in the face of ugliness without serious heart-work on my part. If I have selfish motives, ego issues, or a sense of self-righteousness, I can't be kind. But if I am willing to humble myself, God gives me the strength to bless those who persecute me...even when the persecutors are my dear children.

Over time, I have had some opportunities to test the kindness theory. Often I blow it and get sucked in to an argument, but when I stick to kindness the results are always better. Better for the boys and better for me. Take last week...

My son had woken up late, and when he got out of the shower his breakfast was not ready. With an uncharacteristically bad attitude he asked, "What am I supposed to eat?" You see I usually make his breakfast, but that morning I, too, had been running late, and I neglected to cook his eggs. Many points came to my mind immediately. One, he is quite capable of making his own breakfast. Two, he has no right to talk to me that way. Three, it wasn't MY fault he was running late. Somehow, God quieted my mind and this is what came out of my mouth (in a nice tone of voice, I might add!): "I am sorry I forgot to make your eggs. Would you like for me to make them now?"

His response? In a rather rude tone, "Well now I can do it, but I'm going to be late for school."

It occurs to me that the bad attitude needs correction, so I say (again, as kindly as I can), "I am happy to help make your breakfast, but the way you are talking to me is disrespectful and inappropriate." To which he replied (rudely) "No it's not."

And that is where I wanted to lose it. A bad attitude is one thing. Denying it is another. He was baiting me, and boy did I want to roll up my figurative sleeves and get in the fight. After all, he was wrong and I was right. God would be on MY side. Or would He?

Ironically, the verse I had been working on memorizing that morning was Romans 12: 14, which says, "Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse."

"Lord," I silently prayed, "show me what it looks like to bless my child in this circumstance. It is my job to teach him right from wrong, but I don't want to get in to an argument. If I am kind, Lord, will you please lead him to repentance?"

Now if I really believed that my son did not know that he was being disrespectful, I would have had a different issue on my hands. I was, however, fully convinced that he knew that his words and tone were unacceptable, and so I chose not to quarrel. I said nothing else to my son until we were in the car on the way to school. Mind you, the last thing he said to me was a denial of his disrespect towards me.

As we neared town I asked him if I could stop and get him a drink at Starbucks--a rare luxury in our daily commute. It was the kindest thing I could think to do. He resisted the offer at first, but eventually, he accepted. When I dropped him at school he thanked me for his caramel machiato, but he still had not apologized.

When it comes to kids and apologies, I have come to realize that the adage "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" applies. You lead a kid to an apology, but you can't make him truly sorry. I wanted an apology, but I wanted it to be genuine. I wanted God to bring him to a place of true repentance, and I am beginning to accept that fact that sometimes that just takes time. I watched him go in to school, and I trusted his heart to the hands of a very capable God.

Later that night my son was back to his normal, congenial self. After a few casual exchanges, I said, "It seems to me that we have one unresolved issue from this morning. When I confronted you about the way you were speaking to me, you argued. Did you really believe that it was appropriate to speak to me in that way?" Our eyes met for a moment--and I saw it. Repentance. Sorrow for sin. God-given remorse. "No, mom. I don't think it was appropriate. I wanted to call you earlier to tell you I was sorry, but I didn't have a phone. Will you forgive me?"

"Yes! Yes!" A thousand times, "Yes."

And it was over.

No yelling, no belittling, no tears.

Kindess. A little patience. True repentance. We did it. God, my son, and I.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A "Wait"ress in the Making

Patience. I thought I had it. I don't.

If I could make things happen with a snap of my fingers, then in the next 5 minutes we would be finished with our fundraising, and on our way to France. I would also have sculpted arm muscles. Nevertheless, I do not have the finger snapping magic I desire, and so for funding and fitness, I must wait.

God, though exceedingly patient, does have the ability to make big things happen in the blink of an eye. In fact, He could have had our fundraising completed the day He called us to France. He chose to allow it to be a process. A time-consuming, resolve-testing, faith-building, nail-biting, character-shaping process. And so we wait....

But in stark contrast to the waiting one does at the post office or the DMV, this waiting is a very active process. Like a "wait"ress who "waits" on tables, I am hard at work. I am poised, notepad in hand, countenance focused, ready to take His order and do His bidding. There are noises and tasks all around me, demanding my attention. But until I get His order, I must not move. I am tempted to tap my foot. Roll my eyes. Check the clock. I think I am ready, but He alone knows if I am, or when I will be. So I wait. Expectant.

And I am thankful. Still not patient, but definitely thankful that in spite of impatience I am able to trust that this process is part of His plan to prepare me for all that lies ahead. Well, today I am thankful. Yesterday I was whiny--which is why I decided not to write a blog post. (You're welcome.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Top 10 Things I Like About Being 39

Though I was the result of an unplanned pregnancy, and though the details of my birth are fraught with controversy (mom claims I was breech, dad says I wasn't), I have always felt quite loved and celebrated as a result of my birth. Today I turn 39, and I have a lot to be happy about!

Here are the Top Ten Things I Like about Being 39:

10. It isn't 40!

9. One day I may say, "When I was 39 years old, we moved to France."

8. Paid-for cars.

7. Teenage sons! (And the daily dinner conversations that ensue) (And the rock band in my living room.)

6. Having a marriage that only gets better with age--better in every way.

5. The grey-streak in my hair.

4. A waning interest in the Pottery Barn Catalog.

3. A growing interest in eye-cream and retirement savings.

2. Finally being comfortable enough in my own skin that I can genuinely appreciate the gifts and talents of others.

1. No matter how old I get, I'm still a child of God!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Question

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" Luke 1 :45

I want to believe. I intend to believe. I mean to believe. But sometimes, I really have a hard time believing that what the Lord has said to me will be accomplished. Is it really belief if I simply CHOOSE to believe, even when I am plagued by doubts?

I believe that He has saved me from my sin. I believe that He has redeemed my life from the pit. I believe that He loves me. I believe that He works all things together for my good and for His glory. I have a great deal of joy and peace in my life (read: BLESSED) because I do believe that all of these things that the Lord has said will be accomplished. But....

I doubt the things that He has said to me in the quietness of my own heart. I doubt the things that cannot be verified in the scriptures. And in the darkest moments of my doubt, I hear the same question that Eve heard in the garden: "Did God really say...?"

God had spoken to Eve, but she lost track of what He had said, and she let the enemy turn it all around, and she fell.

God had spoken to Mary, and she treasured His words in her heart, and she was blessed.

Neither could open their Bibles and find God's unique plan for her life written there plain as day.

A wise woman recently told me that when things get tough, it is important to go back to the call that God gave to us. I think I shall take her advice. Would you care to take a trip with me down memory lane?

October 2007: David and I go to Paris to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. We both come home burdened for the French people. We are united in our belief that God is calling us to share His love in France. Our unity is the first confirmation of the call. 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

Winter 2007/2008: We share our thoughts with wise friends and family members, welcoming their input and seeking their counsel. Each one (without exception) prayerfully agreed that God appeared to be leading us to France. Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. Proverbs 19:20

June 2008: After a lengthy application process complete with theology tests, psychological tests, and intense interviews, we are appointed through Greater Europe Mission to plant churches in France. Their commissioning is another confirmation of the call. And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:15

September 2008-Today: Fundraising. Steadily, over 100 individuals have joined our support team. Each contribution represents another confirmation of God's call on our lives. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 2 Corinthians 8:3-4

He is doing this thing. So why do I have such a hard time believing that what He has said will be accomplished? He has shown Himself faithful over the past two years, the past two months, the past two weeks, the past two days, the past two hours! He IS accomplishing His work in us and through us.

But that darn question, "Did God REALLY say...?" lingers. Casting doubt. Feeding fear. Stirring anxiety.

And so I say, "YES!" God did really say. He said go to France. He said to love the French people in His name. He said to proclaim the Good News to the lost. He said, "Go!"

He who called us is faithful. He will do it. I will choose to belive that what the Lord has said will be accomplished. I will no longer entertain the question.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Post in Which I Mention my Unmentionables

I recently took another one of those personality profile-type tests. This one was called the SOI and it is meant to reveal my style of influence, whatever that means. One of the things that this test proved to be true about me is that my preference for detail is low. I am better with long-term vision and big-picture thinking. I can develop steps for implementation of a a point. I can even build teams and delegate responsibilities to accomplish a big-picture goal. But if I get caught in the finer points of a planning process, eventually, the minutia kills me. Or I kill it, I'm not sure which.

So, being made aware (once again) of my weaknesses where details are concerned, I also came to the conclusion that I would probably NOT put much effort into improving myself in that area. I rationalized that since I do not tend to lose things or miss appointments, I am functionally organized and therefore not very motivated to learn to pay more attention to details. Besides, when the rubber meets the road, David IS a detail person, and he usually takes care of enough details for both of us...filing things that need filing, balancing the checkbook, alphabetizing books and movies, and maintaining our database. (I have headache from just listing those things. Attending to them would push me over the edge.)

The day after I had completed this personality assessment, I was getting ready to go to the gym to work out. Being aware of my full schedule for the day, it occurred to me that I would need to shower and dress at the gym once I completed my workout. I packed a bag with my clothes, hairdryer, and make-up, put on sweats, and headed out.

After my Step-Aerobics class, I showered and got dressed. Or rather, I tried to get dressed. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that I had forgotten to pack certain unmentionables. I boldly decided that I was a big girl and I could go commando for a day without anyone ever knowing. Moving on, I reached into my bag for my shoes and pulled them out. The left shoe was brown. The right shoe was black. Suddenly, I was seeing the value in learning to pay closer attention to details. My tennis shoes did NOT go with work clothes I was wearing, and I did not have time to go home before my first appointment. Oh bother.

And here is why my husband deserves the Husband of the Year Award: His patience with me endures FOREVER. Yes, he delivers. He met me at my destination, a black shoe in one hand and unmentionables in the other. No chastising. No exasperation. No eye-rolling. Just a knowing grin.

But perhaps I will work to improve my attention to details. Because there are times when the details really do matter and really do depend on me. This is my lesson for the week.

Monday, February 1, 2010

End Run

This past weekend we had a visit from Ken, who is our supervisor at GEM until we are on the field. He is the one who has guided us through the fundraising process, and he came to help us plan and strategize. You see, as much as Ken likes us, he is eager to be rid of us! He wants us to be on the field in France, where the need for the gospel is great, but the workers are few. We are in the final phase of our fundraising process, and it is time to make the end run.

As of this moment, we have a little less than $2000 in monthly support to raise in order to be at 100% of our support schedule. At 90%, we can purchase our one-way plane tickets to France, trusting the final 10% will come in after a departure date is official.

Ken suggested that we establish a target date to move towards, and so, (drumroll, please)...will you please pray that God would help us raise the final 23% of our support by May 1? We will do our part...set up appoinments, share the vision, and invite people to support us. God is the one who moves the hearts of the givers.

Our hope is to be in France sometime during the month of June. Oh. My. Goodness. It's starting to feel very real. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.