Saturday, April 30, 2011


Typically, when I encounter other runners in the park, we either avoid eye-contact or we glance quickly at each other and mumble a perfunctory, "Bonjour." Actually, I have never heard anything other than a basic "Hello" shared between passing runners whether in the U.S or in France.

Until today.

This morning, when I was halfway through my final mile, I saw a runner with the body of a Kenyan marathoner approaching at clip. He had a bandanna wrapped around his brow to gird up a fantastic bushel of dreadlocks, which were thus sprouting out of the top of his head. He sort of resembled one of the green-onions from Veggie-Tales. Except he wasn't green.

When we were about three meters apart, he shouted to me, "Bravo! C'est super! Bon courage!"

In stunned surprise, I said, "Merci," but he had already flown past me. In all my life I have never had anyone make me feel so happy to be running. I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of my route. I think I may have even picked up my pace.

Encouragement. It just feels good, doesn't it?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mad Mom Blogging (read at your own risk)

I am spitting nails. SPITTING. NAILS.

I learned during lunch today that Chandler's English teacher (in the French school) thought that it would be a good idea for her 13 and 14 year old students to watch and write a report on an episode of...are you ready for this?...DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES.

How am I disgusted? Let me count the ways:
  1. I am disgusted that this horrific show, which shamelessly mocks righteous living, is a major hit in both France and the United States.
  2. I am disgusted that many Christians have contributed to this show's popularity and success.
  3. I am disgusted that this show's portrayal of suburban America is being exported to the world.
  4. I am disgusted that 13 and 14 year old CHILDREN in France are being exposed to the attitudes, morals, and values of Desperate Housewives.
  5. I am disgusted that sinful behavior is found (at best) amusing and (at worst) amiable, and that such behavior is glorified through a television series.
In some ways, I am sad to be singling out Desperate Housewives for this rant. The airwaves on both sides of the pond are full of broadcasting that is in direct opposition to the kingdom of God. Are you letting these programs into your home? Are you accepting them? Supporting them? Applauding them?

David has always set himself as a sentinel in our home, vigilantly opposing most television shows and many movies. He takes a stand when indignant teenage sons state, "But all my friends have seen that movie!" He takes a stand when weak-willed wife whines, "I just want to know what everyone is talking about." He says, "NO! That garbage will not be allowed in our home," and he does not bend. And I love him for it.

Lest you are thinking... (whoa, if you doubted that I was going to preach, there's no denying it now; I just used the word "Lest!")...Lest you are thinking, "Yes, that is inappropriate for children, but I am an adult, and therefore I can handle watching such things" let me remind you that Jesus made no distinction between what is right for children and what is right for adults. We are told to keep ourselves from moral filth (James 1:21) and to fix our thought on Jesus (Hebrews 3:1). Tell me honestly, is it possible for anyone to do these two things while watching an episode of Desperate Housewives?

I know that we live in a fallen world. I even know that I contribute to its fallen-ness. But there is a difference between acknowledging the existence of sin and throwing a party for it. I even know that my boys have to live in this fallen world, but there is a difference between preparing them to face immorality and confusing their understanding of what is immoral in the first place.

Actually, in all of this Chandler has been above reproach. He said, "I knew that you would not want me watching that, but I did not know what to do about it." I asked, in what I hoped was a non-threating way, "Chandler, did you want to watch it?" He thought a minute, shook his head, and said, "No. Not really." I am not worried about Chandler being corrupted. Chandler has Jesus. But what about all of those other teenagers? What about the ones who are searching for meaning and significance? What about the ones who are trying to figure out life, and looking for answers in Hollywood? What about the ones who simply do not know that God has so much more for them?

In the words of the French, "Aie, aie aie."

An Insightful Article

I don't usually post links, but David and I both thought that this article from The Economist was quite insightful. While it is indeed a financial article, it speaks intelligently about French culture. The video, which is embedded in the article, is worth watching as well. Pay particular attention to what Jacques-Antoine Granjon has to say about Bill Gates' hiring philosophy as compared to the French hiring philosophy, for there-in lies a fundamental difference between an American way of thinking and a French way of thinking.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Clarifying our Call

We have arrived back home after a lovely week in the Normandy region of France. We are rested, refreshed, and even a little bit suntanned. During our time away, I had the opportunity to reflect on the many things that God has been showing us lately. Here is just a glimpse of ONE of the things we are pondering:

Our week of vacation immediately followed a crazy-busy week of back-to-back training conferences where David and I had been learning about church planting models, about how to apply those models in the French context, about leadership development, about ourselves, about our mission organization, and about many things which are big and far beyond the scope of our imagination. In the midst of that week, when I was feeling overwhelmed by the quantity of information that was coming at me, I found a moment to sneak away by myself.

Feeling completely ill-equipped to be a missionary and thoroughly under-qualified for the enormous task of reaching France for Jesus, I flopped on my bed, put a pillow over my head, and prayed.

"Lord," I moaned wearily, "we are here to do whatever YOU want for us to do. But I really wish you would show me what that is!"

His answer came immediately, in the form of a picture. I saw, in my mind's eye, a young child gently blowing on a dandelion, and tiny seeds being carried away on the wind.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I know that this one spoke volumes to me. First of all, we had been learning about Church Planting. Since David and I are not pastors, we have been trying to figure out how God wants us to participate in planting churches in France. During our time in Germany, we met some young seminary students and graduates who are called to plant churches in France, but they were unsupported, floundering, and weary--though they had only JUST begun. David and I feel like God is leading us to support and encourage these young French church gently blow on these "seeds" that God already has in France...and to help them get to the place where they are carried by the Spirit to plant His church.

I am struck by the fact that this calling, which had been weighing heavily on me, was shown to be child's play! The vision--to reach France with the love of Jesus-- is still HUGE, and bigger than we can conceive. But the task--to encourage French church planters--is now something that we can grasp. David and I must stay close to the Father to know which "dandelions" He has chosen for us and which "direction" He would have us to blow. Oh the joy of feeling called to the impossible by a God for whom all things are a God who turns a daunting task into child's play.

I shared the picture with David, and it resonated as deeply with him as it did with me. This is our call. This is why we are in France.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Le Mont Saint Michel

An abbey located on an island just off of the coast of Normandy...

A cherished visit from in-laws/parents/grandparents...

A glimpse of the French flag flying high...

Quiet moments of reflection in a courtyard...

Life emerging from stones...

A beautiful door to a place unknown...

The silhouette of a boy that I love, framed by the ocean...

Enjoying the sun with the world at our fingertips...

A quaint village filled with color...

And a dash back to the car, which was parked in a lot that is covered by water at high tide.

That was our day at Le Mont St. Michel.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

There are some things...

...for which even I have no words.

Omaha Beach

American Cemetery

Normandy FRANCE

9837 American Soldiers


Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring Break

After back to back conferences, we are finally ready to relax and enjoy our Spring Break. A while back I posted a picture of an incomplete puzzle and indicated that when it was finished it would depict a place that we planned to visit during Spring Break. Unfortunately, our plans for our puzzle were never realized. We came home one day to discover that our dear Jack had tried to work on the puzzle, and, well, let's just say that cats are not very good at assembling puzzles.

Despite the unfortunate demise of this puzzle, our plans for the break have held firm! Tomorrow morning we will drive to NORMANDIE, where we plan to visit the American Cemetery, learn about the making of Cidre, and explore Le Mont Saint Michele--the subject of our puzzle. We will also see the world famous tapestry at Bayeux and tour the charming harbor town of Honfleur, which inspired the great impressionist painter, Monet.

Finally, Spring Break has arrived!

Monday, April 11, 2011


During our time in Frankfurt, we were blessed by the wonderful hospitality of some of our GEM associates. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how quickly perfect strangers can become cherished friends! I was overwhelmed by the fabulous meals we enjoyed, the lively conversations we had, and the wonderful Sunday afternoon walk that we took. Here is a picture of me with my new friend, Wendy.

Our Church Planting Course ended at 12:30 this afternoon, but our flight back to Paris doesn't depart until 20:30, which means that we had a few hours to explore the historic/modern city of Frankfurt. We walked for hours, ate Thai food for lunch, explored ancient ruins, strolled along the Rhine, and shopped in the pedestrian zone where we bought our traditional travel souvenir: a deck of playing cards.

David and I spent the day hand in hand, reflecting on all of the things that we learned while wondering, hoping, imagining what God might have planned for France. We were mostly feeling humbled. Humbled because we met several French Christians over the weekend, and each one thanked us (THANKED us!) for coming to Europe to help reach their country with the love of Jesus. They want us to be here. They want our help. I am so very, very humbled by their gratitude.

We want to be here, too. Perhaps now more than ever.

I am now sitting in the airport waiting to board our plane, and looking forward to the next few days of training. Though I think my head and my heart are getting so full that they just might explode!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

From One Classroom to Another

Since Spring Break starts today, David I are...taking a class.

We went from intensive language studies in France to intensive church planting training in Germany--talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire. Holy Smoke!

We have much to share, but it will have to wait. After 10 hours in class each day, we have a project we have to work on in the evenings. Even Sunday is a "work" day, as we are expected to attend services at 3 different church plants in Frankfurt.We are excited to be here, but we are exhausted in every way. Please pray for us to receive all that God wants us to receive in this place.

When we leave here on Monday night, we will go directly to a leadership training class in Ecouen, France that goes from Tuesday morning until Thursday evening. It is hectic week, to say the least, but there is a saving grace: Spring Break in France lasts for 2 weeks, and we are dedicating the second week of our Spring Break to total R & R.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Very Long Post in which we Seek Your Advice about a Very Important Decision

During the next few months we have to make a MAJOR decision. This decision will significantly impact our children and the course of our ministry in France.

Some find decision-making daunting. Others find it thrilling. I am of the "thrilling" mind-set. When we are at a crossroads we seek the Lord with great tenacity. Our family conversations seem to be electrically charged. Our spiritual ears perk up; our spiritual eyes are peeled. We pour over scriptures; we pray without ceasing. We know that God will lead. We wait expectantly.

The first thing we did before diving in to the decision-making process was revisit our priorities. As a family, we have prayerfully reaffirmed a commitment to these three things:
  1. We are called to nurture, encourage, and care for each other as a family.
  2. We are called to the people of France.
  3. We are called to the task of church-planting.
In the context of fulfilling our call to the aforementioned priorities, there is a great deal of what intellectuals and professionals might refer to as "wriggle-room." And there-in lies the rub; for with "wriggle-room" comes a need for direction.

I wonder if you would join us in seeking the Lord's direction. Will you pray with us? Will you share your wisdom and experiences with us? We believe that God can use your prayers and wisdom to help guide us into His good, pleasing, and perfect will. To that end, we invite your input.

The decision that we have to make pertains to the education of our children. While many options are available, they are not all available in the same location. Thus, in choosing a mode of education we may also be choosing our place of ministry. And while our focus will be on church planting, how and with whom we engage in that work will depend on where exactly we are living. Do you see the rippling effect one decision can have on another?

Given our priorities, we are convinced that priorities 2 and 3 can be honored anywhere in France, while priority 1 demands that we live in a place that has a schooling option that contributes to the care and nurture of our boys. Therefore, with the blessing of our field directors, we are exploring a variety of educational opportunities in various French cities. I will share with you the options that are on the table and what we see as the pros and cons of each option. Keep in mind that we have not fully researched all of these options, which means that there may be pros and cons of which we are not aware. Please share your thoughts/ideas/impressions with us. Most of you know us and our boys, and your perspective will be very helpful to us!

Option #1 Home-school/Correspondence Classes
Pros: We could choose the curriculum, it would be fairly inexpensive, we would get to engage in the learning process as a family, we could live anywhere, we could travel at will, and we could set our own schedule.
Cons: We would be less engaged in our community, it would be harder for the boys to further their French language skills, and it would be more challenging for them to to make friends. The French do not home school their children, so there would be no local support for this endeavor.

Option #2 French Public School
Pros: The boys would continue to improve their French, they would be around kids their own age who need Jesus, it would be free, and we could live anywhere in France. Also, if the boys complete high school in France and receive European diplomas they could attend any university in Europe for free. (European diplomas are accepted by American universities as well.)
Cons: There could be a dark spiritual atmosphere, teachers would use shame as a tactic, and the boys would not be progressing in their English, which could create some challenges should they choose to go to a university in the States. The boys do not feel like their skills, gifts, and abilities are well represented in an all French environment.

Option #3 French Public School with Supplementary English Classes
Pros: The boys could continue to progress in French while also having some classes where English is used, such as history and literature. They would have social opportunities and they would have the possibility of earning a European diploma. The only school that we know of with this option is in the village that we have been intending to move to after language school, and where our team feels that we can have great impact.
Cons: The majority of the classes would still be in French, and the supplementary classes may just feel like "extra work" to our kids. The French system of shame would still be exercised. There would also be some costs associated with the supplementary English program.

Option #4 Private Bilingual School
Pros: These schools are geared towards kids who speak two languages, which means our boys would be able to continue to progress in French, while also gaining ground in English studies. They would still be eligible for European diplomas. Because most of these schools are Catholic, there is a chance that the spiritual climate would be a little better than that of the French public schools. Our boys would be around other kids who speak both French and English, which may make it easier to make friends. One of these schools is located in a village that has some ministry opportunities that absolutely thrill all four of us.
Cons: There is a tuition, and while it is reasonable, it would require us to raise some additional funds, which is hard to do from the field. Teaching methods may be just the same as in French schools.

Option #5 American Schools
Pros: The boys would be educated by Americans using American teaching methods. They would be in an environment where it is very easy to relate to the other students and to make friends. The boys would be able to preform to their full academic potential in the absence of all language barriers.
Cons: As with homeschooling, we would be less connected to the French community, and the boys' French language skills would probably stagnate. Also, tuition at these schools is cost 25,000 € per child per year.

Option #6 Christian Missionary School
Pros: Black Forest Academy has an environment exactly like the Christian School that the boys attended in the States. Making friends would be very easy. The teachers are all believers and the kids are all children of missionaries. Everything is in English, and the boys would be on an American college-preparatory track.
Cons: This is a very unique school, and it is actually located in Germany. As it is in a border town, we could technically live in France, but it is not in a part of France that is very strategic, and our field directors feel like we would be too isolated. Also, it would make engaging the French community VERY challenging. The boys would not progress in French. There is a tuition at this school that would require some fund raising on our part, but it is not too much.

So there they are, all of our options. We have already visited some of these schools and we have plans to visit others in the coming weeks. The visits will shed more light on the decision. No matter what we decide, we will have to move this summer, so the sooner we know where we are going the better. Please, oh please pray with us. And please, oh please, share your wisdom! We appreciate your companionship on this journey!

Saturday, April 2, 2011


April is National Poetry Month. While I am not much of a poet, as a lover of words I feel compelled to participate. One of the simplest forms of poetry is the haiku. A haiku is a poem that consists of three lines. The first line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7 syllables, and the third line has 5 syllables. Generally, a haiku is about nature.

This morning as I was running in the park, I saw an entire colony of spider webs which inspired my first haiku for NaPoMo:

Diamond dew drops hang
Like tiny gems strung on silk
Capturing the sun