Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On the road again...

I am on the go these days and finding it hard to catch my breath, much less blog! Almost all of the travel is ministry-related and I LOVE my job; but, just to give you a glimpse of my comings and goings:

Jan 16-21 Vienna
Jan 22-29 Loches (HOME!)
Jan 30-Feb 2 Paris
Feb 3-Feb 13 Loches (HOME!)
Feb 14- Feb 20 Portland, OR
Feb 21-Feb 28 Spokane, WA
Feb 28-Mar 1 Seattle, WA
Mar 2-Mar 19 Loches (HOME!)
Mar 20-Mar 21 Paris
Mar 22-Mar 24 Arcy sur Cure
Mar 25- ? Loches (HOME!)

In the midst--before, between, and after these jaunts--we have the joy of hosting friends from all over. Basically if our suitcases aren't packed then our guest room is occupied! And we are so happy about that!

We are looking forward to visiting friends and family stateside for the first time in two and a half years. Oh how I hope that I get to HUG a whole bunch of you in the next few weeks!

PLEASE pray for us during this hectic season! Pray for good rest, healthy habits, needed conversations, joyful spirits, and travel mercies.

In the meantime, I will do my best to post a blog or two each week. My little French computer travels well, and we will be needing your on-going prayer support.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


We might have

the cutest god-daughter

in the world!

And I get to see her again next week! Oh, how I LOVE being "Auntie Jenn" to this bundle of joy!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The long way home

My trip to Vienna was absolutely wonderful! I had a lovely time reconnecting with an old friend and discovering a delightful city. There is much more to be said about my first visit to Austria, but for the time being I think I will tell you the tale of my 27-hour journey home.

Maren dropped me off at the Vienna Airport at 11:30 am. My flight was scheduled for departure at 1 pm, so  I had plenty of time to get checked in and to the gate. When I tapped my reservation number onto the "self-check-in" screen a red message suddenly appeared: Your flight has been cancelled.

Paris was covered in snow, and 40% of all arriving AND departing flights from Charles de Gaulle had been scrapped. The best that Austrian Air could offer me was "stand-by" status for a flight that was scheduled to depart at 5:30 pm; however, they encouraged me NOT to check my suitcase because if I did not get on that flight, it would be next to impossible retrieve my bag for another night in Vienna.

I texted David to let him know the change of plans and I informed Maren that I might be begging a bed for another night.  Even IF I did get on the later flight, I would have long missed my train from Paris to Tours, where David was planning to meet me to drive me home to Loches. David did a quick internet search and found that there were NO trains from Paris to Loches later than the ETA of the flight.

Thankfully, we have friends in the Paris area. Dear friends. The kind of friends who, upon receiving a text about my predicament, reply, "Of course you are staying with us!" and "If the weather holds we will even pick you up at the airport." and "Will you need dinner?"

No matter what, I would have a place to sleep that night, so without a worry in the world, I waltzed my way through the Vienna Airport, eating chocolate, drinking cappuccino, and surfing the web on free wi-fi. An hour before the scheduled departure I went to the gate, but the attendant didn't arrive for another half hour. As he settled in behind the desk a line began to form--the stand-by-ers, vying for position.

Each of us heard the same response, though it came to us in varied languages, "I will tell you if you have a seat in 15 minutes." Meanwhile, boarding began.

Finally, one by one, names were called and boarding passes were issued. Never in my life was I happier to receive a middle seat in the back of the plane. 26B was fine with me! I quickly texted my Paris friends with an arrival time of 7:30 pm, turned off my cell phone, and made my way to my awaiting seat.

It was a calm flight, totally uneventful. I did get reprimanded for failing to turn off my Kindle before take-off; but honestly, it did not occur to me that my "book" was an electronic device. On the ground in Paris, before the plane even reached the gate, I got a call from my Paris friends. Snow had been falling again for the past three hours, and though they attempted to drive to the airport, the journey proved impossible. I would have to get a train to their village.

I thanked them for trying, and headed straight to the train station in the airport. I was relieved to hear French and thankful 1. That communication for the rest of the evening came easily and 2. That I am familiar with the public transportation system in Paris. Two years ago, if I had found myself in this very position, I would have been a little anxious and slightly overwhelmed. Instead, I was rather bemused and totally at ease.

In some ways, there is a sort of fraternal feeling among travelers on crazy-weather days. There are shared sighs, smiles, and snickers. Even ticket agents and airport employees seem to be graced with an extra dose of compassion. I felt a strange sort of "belonging" in the community of weary voyagers, and not once did it bother me that I was, indeed, traveling alone.

At the railway ticket office I booked a train to Chantilly, which required a change at Gare du Nord. All familiar ground for me. I then purchased another ticket for the following day--from Chantilly to Tours. This would require taking the train from Chantilly to Gare du Nord, the Metro (Pink line 4 direction Port d'Orleans) from Gare du Nord to Montparnasse, and then the TGV from Montparnasse to Tours. Again, all familiar ground. Paris is my playground.

Tickets in hand, I headed for the RER B, my ride to Gare du Nord. Few people were on the train, so I settled into a window seat, placing my suitcase at my side. I texted my friends to tell them my ETA.

Two stops later--at the convention center--the train filled to the gills. I have been on crowded Paris trains before, but I have never seen anything like this. People were squished 2 to a seat, sitting on the backs of seats, and literally hanging from the rafters. For the next several stops no one could get on OR off the train, because the bulk of the crowd wouldn't budge.

My seatmates and I began discussing our desired destinations, and discovered that all of us were heading for Gare du Nord. We assumed that most would be getting off at this major hub, and dared to hope that it would be possible to leave the train when it arrived there. After several "weather-related" delays, we arrived at Gare du Nord, and the crowd did budge, but not as quickly as necessary.

And so this is the point in the story for which I had to repent. I really did not want to go past this station and get off and catch a train back. I would already be running to catch my next train. And so when I heard the buzzer that warns that the doors of the train are about to close, and saw a wall of people who were trying to get ON the train, I picked up my suitcase, held it in front of my body like a battering ram, and shoved my way out of the train. Big men, little old ladies, women with babies, I cared not a whit whom I hurt on the way. I WANTED OFF THAT TRAIN! Oh Jesus, forgive me! Fortunately, I do not think there were any real casualties, just a few frustrated commuters who would have to wait for the next train.

My assertive, aggressive, assault method worked. I did get off. The young man who had been my seat-mate also escaped the train, but after seeing my wicked ways, he scurried away from me with a look on his face that communicated both fear and respect. No matter, I had another train to catch.

I ran, but my efforts were futile. I missed the train to Chantilly. How it left on time is a mystery to me! It seemed every train on the board was showing a delay. The next train to Chantilly was due in 20 minutes, but it was already listed at 10 minutes late. I had 30 minutes to kill. At least. I texted my friends to tell them that my arrival would be delayed, and that I would let them know when I was actually, finally ON the train to Chantilly.

You know its a bad travel day when SNCF is giving away free coffee, soft drinks, and water at Gare du Nord. I wandered over to the table to ask for a cup of water. An older gentleman served me and asked me all the typical traveler questions--he noted my accent, and wondered how far I had traveled that day. I explained that I LIVE in France and that I really hadn't traveled far at all--even though I'd been traveling for enough hours to have crossed an ocean. After hearing my traveling tale, he offered to take me to his apartment for the night. I thanked him for his generosity, but explained that I'd rather stay with my friends. Still, its nice to know I had options.

Finally, my train arrived (15 minutes late in the end) and I boarded without causing bodily harm to any more travelers. It was a 20 minute ride from Gare du Nord to the Chantilly station, during which I spoke to my husband for the first time all day. I told him my arrival time in Tours on the following day, and wished him a good night.

At 10 pm I was eating a warm dinner and holding my beautiful goddaughter, who so sweetly waited up for me! I slept in a lovely bed and had a delightful Dutch breakfast. At 9:15 am--wearing all the same clothes from the day before--I was back at the station, and at 12:31 pm my dear husband met me with a great big hug. A 40 minute drive to Loches--and at last I was home.

Home again, home again, jiggety jog.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sacher Torte

Perhaps you have heard of the delicious Austrian dessert called "Sacher Torte." Did you know that it is named for the hotel that invented it? Yesterday, Maren and I had coffee and Sacher Torte at the original Sacher Hotel!

The photo does not do it justice! Chocolate cake with an apricot filling and the richest, chocolate-i-est frosting ever! The whipped cream is only slightly sweetened, and the cappuccino was a perfect compliment. 

Outside the snow was falling ferociously, and we had quite an adventure getting back home with a baby in a buggy and a crippled public transportation system. I am certain that this cozy moment fortified us for the day ahead!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Adventure to Austria

Adventure is a wonderful thing!

Tomorrow, I get to embark on an adventure. My dear husband, who knows me well, gave me a ticket to Vienna for Christmas. I am going to visit a friend that I have known for 24 years, but have seen fewer than 5 times. We met in 1989, when Maren came to the United States on an exchange program and stayed in my home for three short weeks. We were fast friends and have stayed in touch across the ocean and through the years. She has three children and a husband, all of whom I am anxious to meet!

While I have a degree in German, I am sad to say that the French has crowed out the German in my head! I can understand a fair bit of Deutsch, but I fear I may be unable to form an intelligible sentence. Maren's English in tip top, and she speaks French as well, so I am sure we will communicate just fine.

One treasure I hope to bring home with me? These delicious Austrian chocolates that Maren introduced me to back in 1989!

I hope to post pictures from Vienna, where snow is in the forecast! Meanwhile, David and the boys will be back at home,eating guy food and watching movies with a lot of explosions missing me severely. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hooray for les SOLDES !

I do not shop for clothes very often. Seriously. I go clothes shopping about once every two years. But when the urge hits it is unstoppable.

Yesterday, while I was walking Gemma around town, I noticed all the SOLDES (SALES!) signs in the shop windows. In France, all the stores....stores of every kind....have their sales the same weeks of the year. This week was the week of winter sales, and as pairs of shoes and sweaters started catching my eye, I knew that I was feeling the call of the feminine wild:


I took Gemma home, placed a calm arm on my husband's shoulder, and announced, "I don't mean to shock you, but I am going shopping."

He didn't bother to protest. After 20 years of marriage, he knows how I roll. He sees it as one expensive day that comes around every 24-30 months. Like a bi-annual tax of sorts. He told me which account to use and set me loose.

It was, honestly, the first time I've gone clothes shopping since we moved to Loches. I met the nicest women who eagerly offered advice each time I exited the tiny fitting room. I loved the shopkeepers, who could tell me what size I needed depending on whether the piece of clothing was made in Italy or France. I got a dress, a jacket, a skirt, a sweater, a turtleneck, two pairs of tights, a  necklace, a pair of shoes, and a pair of boots.

Now I will go through my wardrobe and see how my new pieces can integrate with what I already have to make multiple new outfits. I will also weed out pieces that are outdated, tired, or neglected.

Just because I don't shop often does not mean that I don't love clothes. Au contraire ! Je les adore ! I just seem to function on a fashion cycle that I myself cannot predict  or anticipate. Because of its infrequence, I choose to just go with it. And I am typically very happy with the results.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

How I've Grown

Yesterday morning at prayer, we were asked the question, "How have you grown in your faith over the past year?"

Not "How would you like to grow?" but "How have you grown?"

I want to GROW. Every year. Every day. I know this. But I rarely take the time to consider whether or not growth has actually happened. Am I different on January 8, 2013 than I was on January 8, 2012? Oh, I hope so! The last thing I want to be is unchanged.

"How have you grown in your faith over the past year?"

Memories flashed before me like a slide-show displaying the challenges and joys  that marked our last trip around the sun. I have my answer.

Most of life I have wanted to live for Jesus. I have sung songs like "All to Jesus, I surrender, all to Him, I freely give", and "Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord for thee." I meant it. But I didn't do it. It would have been more accurate for me to sing, "Most to Jesus, I surrender." or "Take 90% of my life." I have always held a little bit back.

A little bit of my money. A little bit of my time. A little bit of my energy.

I felt the need to keep a reservoir--a safety-net. In reality, I had not been trusting God enough. I did not really believe that His grace was sufficient nor that His mercies were new every morning. Oh, I would have SAID that I believed those things, but my life sang a different song.

But this last year, I learned to go to empty. I learned to give my all. I learned to hold nothing back. I gave when I felt poor. I served when I felt spent. And I discovered that Jesus really IS all I need.

It was scary to take down the boundaries that I had spent so many years carefully constructing. I wondered, at times, if He knew what He was asking of me!

I want to spend my life being emptied for Him; poured out like a drink offering. I know He will be faithful to fill me again

Friday, January 4, 2013

Ten Totally Trivial Tidbits

  1. The boys just got home from skiing/snowboarding in the Alps. They had fun. I stayed home and read books and watched movies and knitted. I had fun, too. 
  2. I preach this Sunday in both the French and the English service. We are starting a series on the Five Functions of the church: for example, the church as a school (a place of learning); the church as a hospital (a place of healing); the church as an army (a place that fights evil). My topic is the church as a cradle (a place that welcomes spiritual babies). 
  3. Our house in the States needs a new roof. We knew this was coming...but still! 
  4. As we begin to make plans for 2013 we believe a trip to the States is in order. We are not sure when this will happen, but we are looking forward to re-connecting with our loved ones on the other side of the pond.
  5. I ran intervals this week, and I am still sore. By "intervals" I mean rather than running my usual 3 miles at a steady pace, I sprinted for one minute, then walked for three minutes, and repeated that cycle 7 times. Ouch. But a good ouch.
  6. I fasted from caffeine, sugar, and alcohol for one week. I have not gone back to caffeine, and I have adjusted my thinking/habits about sugar and alcohol. Rather that thinking of wine and desserts in terms of "servings per day", I am thinking of them in terms of "servings per week." My new normal is to have wine with dinner 3 times per week and dessert once a week. I think its a good plan. 
  7. My ONE dessert last week was a delicious dark chocolate "snail" with a creamy hazelnut filling that Graham gave me for Christmas. These "escargot" are only sold during the Christmas season, and they are one of my all-time favorite French treats.                                                                                                
  8. I just finished reading the most delicious novel! Thank you, my dear mother-in-law, for introducing me to Ivan Doig! My fellow literature lovers, you have got to read The Whistling Season! It is incredibly well written, with delightful characters and a sweet, yet surprising story. 
  9. I have memorized my first few verses in French. I will add a page to this blog where you can see which verses I am working on. Join me, if you want! You can memorize the passage in any language you wish, though I will confess that the first passages I have selected are very familiar--ones that I have had memorized in English for years; however, I wanted to have them in my heart and my head in French as well.
  10. I have been praying about my "word" for the year, and I think I have my answer! But for the first time in my life it came to me in the form of a picture rather than a word.