Thursday, December 29, 2011

Whatcha Don't Know...

You already know that our first Christmas tree tuned out to be a disaster.

Whatcha don't know is that we actually un-decorated it, took it down, and put up a SECOND Christmas tree. David believes that the problem lies in the fact that the French do not sell tree stands that allow for the tree to be watered. Within 10 days of buying our first tree it had lost 50% of its needles and it looked like a fire hazard. David figured out a way to get some water to the second tree, and it still looked pretty good Christmas morning. 

You already know that my boys are smart cookies.

Whatcha don't know is that Chandler made le tableau d'honneur (Honor Roll!) at school. At FRENCH school, where he is doing 90% of his class work in FRENCH! This achievement represents a heap of hard work, a pile of prayers, and a gathering of grace. Way to go Chan.

You know that I LOVE to cook and that we like having a full table for holiday celebrations.

Whatcha don't know is that we were blessed to have 12 people at our home for Christmas dinner: 4 Williamsons, a fabulous family of 6 (friends from Spokane who currently live in Germany), one of the American interns from the school across the street, and the intern's mother, who was in France visiting him for the holidays.

I would count this Christmas among my all-time favorite Christmases. Highlights included working together as a family on a Carol Service for church, receiving wonderful letters and family photos in the mail (they're still coming!), seeing the boys--by their own volition and with their own money--buy thoughtful gifts for each other, and a lovely, memory-making 3 day visit with the aforementioned cherished friends.

You know I enjoy writing about our adventures.

Whatcha don't know is how much I love and appreciate your feedback, prayers, and well-wishes. Thanks for your support in 2011!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


This Christmas I decided I would make a small gift to put in each of my boys' stockings. 

For David, I made this scarf. I am a beginning knitter, so I followed a very simple pattern that I found in a knitting book that a friend gave to me before we left the States. I made it during the weekend that he and Graham were out of town at a concert. I had hoped to make him a matching hat, but I never could find the right sized needles.  The scarf is far from perfect, but it was made with love, and David seems to like it.

For Graham, I crocheted these gunmetal grey finger-less mitts. I made them on a day when David and I took the train to Paris for a church-planting training seminar...I crocheted one mitt going up, the other coming home. It was a fun, quick project, and Graham loves them! I followed a pattern that was available for free on-line. 

But without a doubt, my FAVORITE project of the season was the Angry Bird hat that I crocheted for my video-game-loving son, Chandler. I finished this project during Chandler's last days of school before the Christmas break.

 Pattern found here:
I admire pattern-makers, as I would never be able to create a pattern. So I do not mean to sound critical when I tell you that this pattern is a bit rough around the edges; that is to say, it had some errors in it. I would only recommend it to experienced crocheters, who will be able to read between the lines and figure out some missing information in order to make it work. Also, at David and Graham's advice, I made the beak on Chandler's hat smaller than the one in the pattern.

Here is Chan decked out in all his favorite Christmas goodies: A hoodie from Grandma Jan, an airsoft gun and goggles from Dad, and the Angry Bird hat that he found in his stocking. 

Want to venture a guess as to what David gave me for Christmas? He gave me a gift certificate to the local yarn shop! What should I make next?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I don't know what hit me....

 ...but I'm sporting a shiner this Christmas. 

I think it adds color, spunk, and sparkle to my face. And no, I am not talking about my nose ring. I am talking about my crazy black eye. I woke up yesterday morning looking like a 3 year old who got into her mother's eye shadow. It does not hurt. But WHY oh WHY do I have it?  I am pretty sure I would remember if I got hit in the face. I have not been in a fight all week!

But seriously, folks, can someone please explain this phenomenon to me?

Thursday, December 22, 2011


A few days ago, during a Facebook chat, I typed the sentence "God is good." As I hit the 'enter' button, my eyes welled up with tears. I realized that it was the first time in a long time that I said those words and meant them.

Well, I suppose I always meant them in that I knew they were true. But through many of the challenges of 2011 it was difficult to see God's goodness. I saw His refining fire, and I trusted that it was for my good, but it sure did not feel good. I saw His hand of discipline, and I know that He disciplines the one that He loves, but it did not feel loving. I struggled through major battles, and I hoped that He would save me, but it did not feel like His rescue would be in time.

I can ALWAYS say that God is good, but I can't always feel it.

For months I did not feel it.

Then the other day, in the midst of a casual Facebook chat, I type the the letters "G o d  i s  g o o d" and something deep down in the very fiber of my being jumps up and shouts, "YES! YES! HE IS GOOD!!!!" The truth of God's goodness resonated within me--and my heart, my mind, and my spirit were of one accord.

GOD is good. God IS good. God is GOOD!

I suppose there will be future days when circumstances, sin, or brokenness once again impair my ability to feel this truth. And in those times, knowing it is enough.

But for today I cherish the joy that comes with knowing and feeling the truth.

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:13-14

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I always wonder what to do with leftovers. I hate to see anything wasted.

I had a hodge podge of left over yarn from various projects which shall remain nameless until after Christmas, so I decided to use the remains of the aforementioned projects to make myself a cozy pair of much-needed mittens. 

Since my goal was to simply use up leftover yarn, the biggest decision I had to make was how I wanted to order the colors that I had. I never would have chosen these colors were I buying new yarn for this project, but I am happy with the end result. 

I used this free pattern:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Trip to the Doctor

Today I had to take Chandler to the doctor. He has been sick all week, but insisted on going to school (crazy kid) and then stayed up and partied with us last night until after midnight. When he woke up this morning he could barely speak, barely breathe, and claimed that his chest hurt. I decided that a trip to the doctor was in order.

First, since I hate speaking French on the phone and since we live approximately two blocks from the doctor, I walked to the office to see if I could make an appointment for Chandler. Our doctor sees patients from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays by appointment only. The receptionist said that they really did not have any opening, but that if I brought Chandler back at 11:30 a.m., the doctor would probably find a way to fit him in. She just asked for his name, and the appointment was made. 

When Chandler and I got back to the office at 11:30, we were directed to a waiting room, where an ailing aging woman was eager to discuss all of her maladies with us. I did not fill out a medical history form. I did not give any insurance information. I did not sign a HIPPA disclosure form. Nichts. Nada. Zilch.

The elderly woman was called into the doctor's office at 11:40. About fifteen minutes later, the doctor came for us. It was the doctor himself who invited us into his office. No nurses in French doctor's offices. The room had a curtain divider in it that separated the examination room from an office with a desk. We were pointed to the office side, where the doctor asked what the problem was. Chandler explained his cold symptoms. Next, he asked to see our "Carte Vitale," which is the card that French people have for their socialized medical system. I said that since we were foreigners, we did not have a Carte Vitale. He simply said, "D'accord." Okay. 

The doctor then invited Chandler to the examination room, but left the curtain open, so I was pretty much present with them. He listened to Chandlers heart and lungs, felt his glands, and looked down his throat. He then declared, "Ce n'est pas grave." It's not serious. 

The doctor returned to his desk and Chandler returned to my side. The doctor asked Chandler his birth date. Chandler gave it. The doctor did not ask if Chandler was currently taking any medications. He did not ask if Chandler had any drug allergies. He did prescribe three medications: a pain reliever, a cough syrup, and a nasal spray. He did not prescribe antibiotics. We have never had a French doctor prescribe antibiotics, whereas it seems we can't leave a doctor's office in the States WITHOUT a prescription for antibiotics.

He printed out the prescriptions right there at his desk, signed them, and gave them to us. He then asked if I would like to pay by cash or check. I told him I would pay by cash, and he wrote out a bill by hand for 23 euros. I gave him a 50, and he gave me change from his very own wallet. 

He walked us to the door, wished us a good day and Merry Christmas, and we left. 

Did I mention that I did not fill out ONE form?!?!?  That I did not sign ONE thing??!?!? Don't you find that shocking...and strangely refreshing?

After we left the doctor's office Chandler walked home and I walked to the Pharmacy. Again I was asked for a "Carte Vitale." Again I explained that I did not have one. The pharmacist noted that Chandler had not yet had any prescriptions filled there. But when he entered our last name into the system, MY name came up, as I am the only member of the family who has had prescriptions filled at this pharmacy. He didn't want to have to bother to enter Chandler's name and address, so he just put the prescriptions under my name. I am pretty sure THAT would have been illegal in the States. 

The total for all three prescriptions came to 10.09 euros. The pharmacist said 10 euros would be fine. He did not want to be bothered with making change. 

I was home with the prescriptions by 12:20 p.m. That's right, I left my home to take my son to the doctor at 11:25 a.m., and an hour, 33 euros, and ZERO paperwork later, I was home with three prescriptions. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm dying to tell you about...


...and this!

Though the two are totally unrelated.

But alas, I have not time to blog today. Tonight we are having a little party for the youth. Graham and Chan have invited friends from our village, and I have LOTS of food to prepare. Hopefully, I'll have time to tell you all the latest in a day or two. 

Until then, know that we are all well and happily enjoying the holiday season! Hope you are the same.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Difference #57

Today we needed to drive to a shopping center. We walked out our front door, and then we both came to a sudden stop.

I turned to David and said, "Where in the world is our car?"

He thought a few seconds and then he replied, "I think it is around the corner."

He was right.

Here in Loches we go several days, sometimes even a week without using our car. Since we do not have a garage, we just park it in any available space on the street. Which means that when we finally do need to drive someplace, we often find ourselves having the above conversation.

In the United States, I felt completely handicapped if I had to survive one whole day without my car.

Life is just different here.

I like it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

 I have just two things to say:

  1. I appreciate having a house big enough for a Christmas tree, especially after going without one last year.  They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder...indeed, my heart is fonder than ever of le sapin de Noël.
  2. Writing out the title of this post gave me the overwhelming urge to remind my English-speaking friends that "A LOT" is ALWAYS TWO WORDS! The gift of a little grammar lesson right here, on my blog, free for the taking, just because I love you--Merry Christmas. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Flashback Re-Post


This week my kids are having a Secret Santa gift exchange at school. They are each figuring out ways to bless the person whose name they have drawn while keeping their own identities hidden. Such fun.

Their Secret Santa thing took me back to my own youth. I think I must have been in fourth grade when I first played the Secret Santa game at school. I was so excited by the whole idea, and as the teacher walked around the room with the basket of names, I had only one request: "Anyone but Harold, anyone but Harold, anyone but Harold," I silently prayed, as I reached up to draw a name.

Harold was, well, not very popular, to say the least. His thin hair was a little on the overgrown side and horribly greasy. His clothes always looked two sizes too big and way past their prime. He had a persistently runny nose, an annoying personality, and total disdain for personal hygiene. I wasn't particularly mean to Harold, but I did not go out of my way to be nice to him either. And I certainly did not want to spend my Christmas season shopping for presents for Harold. No-sir-ee! Anyone but Harold would be fine with me.

I pulled out the folded slip of paper and waited for the teacher to move on before opening it. Stealthily covering the name with my hand, I peeked to see who I had drawn. Harold. My heart sank. I glanced over at him, only to see him wiping his nose on his sleeve before reaching into the basket himself. Yuck.

At recess all of my friends were talking about whose names they had drawn. I didn't want to tell them, for fear I might be shunned. I haughtily told them thatSECRET Santa meant that we weren't supposed to tell, and kept the name I had drawn to myself. I contemplated throwing the slip of paper away and "forgetting" about the whole thing. But even my calloused heart couldn't execute that plan when I imagined everyone in the class having a treat from a secret pal except for poor Harold.

I pouted all afternoon, disappointed that I would have to be Harold's Secret Santa for two long weeks. One thing I determined for sure--I would be the Secretest Santa EVER, for I certainly did not want to be caught doing anything nice for the class outcast.

When I got home, I began to explain to my parents the tragedy of my day. I somehow expected them to sympathize with my plight--no such luck. They were (rightfully) appalled at my uncharitable attitude and insisted that I take a gift for Harold every single day of the Secret Santa game. Not only that, they took me to Winn's to hand select each item, and then home to wrap so that every gift was ready to go--one a day--until Christmas break. They were determined that Harold was going to be spoiled by his conceited Secret Santa.

I remember trying to be the first one to class each day so that I could slip Harold's gift into his not-so-cute handmade stocking without being seen. Day after day, Harold's stocking was loaded. He was the only kid in class who got a gift every day--which was quite a shock to everyone, including Harold. He loudly (and obnoxiously) paraded his loot around for all to see, as if he had accomplished something great by simply finding a treat in his stocking.

I was counting the days for school to get out so that I could be finished with my task. At the same time, I was dreading the moment when I would have to reveal that I had been the one filling Harold's stocking with all the goodies. I was no dummy--I knew that it would be instantly assumed that I was IN LOVE with Harold, and I would be the victim of playground teasing for the duration of fourth grade. Such agony.

Finally the moment came when all Secret Santas uncovered their true identities. Actually, only a few had managed to remain anonymous for a fortnight, but I was one of the few. When I quietly owned up to having been Harold's Secret Santa, I was not surprised by the "ooooooooooohhhhhhhhs" that rumbled through the classroom. Giggling and knowing glances rippled across the rows of desks, as my face turned beet red. I wanted to shout, "My parents made me do it!" But just then, Harold caught my eye. He had a look of gratitude like I had never seen before, and he ever so subtly gave me a nod of "thanks." I didn't know Harold had subtlety in him. I certainly had never witnessed it before. Almost imperceptibly, I nodded "you're welcome" back.

Mercifully, the Christmas Break dulled the memory of the Harold thing for most of my classmates, and the dreaded playground taunting was never realized. Well, almost never. For the rest of the year Harold followed me around, declaring his undying love for me everywhere I went. All subtlety was gone. Funny thing is, it didn't really bother me. I can't say I returned his love, but I endured it fairly kindly.

As I look back on my Secret Santa experience I can't help but wonder where Harold is today, and hope that he not only has a blessed Christmas, but that he has found someone to return his love. Even better, I hope he has found the One whose love makes life worth living. Because if the truth be told, I AM a Harold: dirty with sin, poor in spirit, and frankly, obnoxious at times. Yet, in my unlovable state, my Savior died for me. He fills my life each day with gifts I don't deserve, and sometimes I parade them around as if I have accomplished something great on my own. He gives, and gives, and gives. And while I can give Him nothing in return, I want to spend the rest of my life following Him around, boldly declaring my love for Him. The best part is, He really loves me back.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8