Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Blessing upon Blessing

In our short trip to the States, we have seen blessing upon blessing!

We run around from the wee hours of the morning to the latest hours of the evening, having anywhere from 3 to 6 different appointments daily. Our resting place each night is a haven with this lovely view--the home of dear friends who have been spoiling us with fabulous breakfasts, rich conversation, and  sweet encouragement!

It would be impossible to list the many ways that God has blessed us over the past two weeks, but here are a few highlights:

  • We have had the JOY of reconnecting (face to face!) with about 65 of our supporting families and two of our supporting churches.
  • Graham and Chan have gotten to hang out with their cousins and their best friends.
  • We have enjoyed the gracious hospitality of dear friends--and we have eaten some wonderful meals and desserts. 
  • We have seen God's faithfulness in providing for our ALL of our needs--exceedingly, abundantly MORE than we asked or imagined!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Back in the USA

I am dreaming in French. Every single night.

I don't usually remember my dreams, but I am pretty sure that when I am in France, I dream in English half the time and in French half the time. Here, I only dream in French.

I passed someone while running this morning and said, "Bonjour" before thinking. It just came out. It was sort of weird.

The food here feels really heavy to me. It tastes fine going down, but then it is as if it just sits in my gut for days. I won't go into the ways this is being manifested through bodily functions, but suffice it to say that I am having culture shock in the digestive department.

Nevertheless, the suitcase is filling up with Lucky Charms, Jelly Bellies, Pop Tarts, Girl Scout Cookies, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and all sorts of other distinctively American delicacies. Of course, they are not all for me.

We keep marveling over things like the fact that every store is open on Sunday and that nothing closes down during lunchtime. Traffic lights seem to be more plentiful than we remembered, and we have driven more kilometers miles in the past week than we did in the previous seven months combined.

Food and clothes seem cheap and gas seems expensive, until we remember that the price is for gallons and not liters. My mom asked my Dad to set the oven to 400 degrees, and I nearly fell off my seat. Then I remembered that her oven works in Fahrenheit and not Celsius.

I keep being surprised by who is on Facebook in the morning, wondering why people are up so late, and then I remember that I am in a totally different time zone.

TV commercials are so bizarre. And annoying. And sometimes sickening.

Strangers smile. Sweatshirts abound. Sadly, I still seem to stumble over words when trying to communicate. We are definitely back in the good old U.S. of A.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Amsterdam Adventure

We arrived in the States about a week ago, which is a good thing, because for a while there we wondered if we would ever get out Amsterdam.

When we checked in at Charles de Gaulle at 5 a.m. on Valentine's Day, we were told that they could issue us boarding passes for our flight from Paris to Amsterdam, but that we would have to go to a transfer station at Schiphol in order to get our boarding passes for our flight from Amsterdam to Seattle. We had an hour and a half to make our flight, so we didn't question that plan.

When we landed at Schiphol we headed for the transfer station, where we got in a long line of travelers who all seemed to be receiving the same response from the ticket agents: "Take a number and stand in another long line." However, when we reached the agent, she took one look at our itinerary and said, "Wait right here."

She stared at a computer screen with a confused look on her face, and tap, tap, tapped on a keyboard. 

The clock was ticking; so, having a hunch about the source of her confusion, I stated, "There are two 'Davids."

The light of understanding dawned in her eyes. 

At this point in time, I'm starting to wonder if we might be the first people who have ever named a child after his father. How could such a common phenomenon cause this kind of confusion?

"May I have the 'Davids' Passports?"

We handed them over.

She scanned them, handed them back, and said, "If you don't get to the gate, you are going to miss your flight. I can issue you three boarding passes, but the fourth one is going to take some time." Certain that we were not going to leave our eldest son in Amsterdam, we shook our heads. "Well then, all of you go to the gate, I'll call ahead and alert them to the problem. You'll get your boarding passes there."

"All four of them?"

"Yes," she assured us, "all four."

We headed toward our gate and discovered that a we had to go through passport control on our way. Of course, there was a long line. David began his "worst-case scenario" prognosticating. Chandler nervously checked his watch. Graham wondered if he could survive for 18 days alone in the Amsterdam airport. I shook my head and pretended I didn't know any of them. I am, unquestionably, the calmest traveler in the family in all situations except severe turbulence. 

Inching our way toward the agent, we said a prayer for all the "juniors" in the world and the price they pay for inheriting another's name. Our flight had been boarding for 20 minutes, and was scheduled to depart in 30 more.

Finally, it was our turn. We handed over our passports and answered all the basic questions:

"We plan to be in the States for 18 days."

"We are traveling for pleasure."

"We live in France."

And then we were asked something that we have never been asked before: "May I see your residence cards?"

Now WHY a passport agent in Amsterdam needs to see the French residence cards of Americans who are traveling to the United States is really beyond me. Could he keep us from leaving Holland because of a French visa issue? Rather than giving voice to our questions, David and I simply handed over our Cartes de Séjour. 

He scanned them, and then asked to see Graham and Chandler's residence cards.

"Sir," we replied, "France does not issue residence cards to minors."

"Why not?" he asked us. 

So there we were, harried Americans trying to explain French bureaucracy to a Dutch immigration officer. Which is something that cannot be done by the average man. It requires a Ph.D. in International Relations. 

David was about to collapse from stress when the immigration officer shook his head, mumbled something about "the French" under his breath, and stamped our passports.

Walking at a clip, we jumped on a moving sidewalk, which ten seconds later decided to stop. Our pace was slowed by weary travelers who had hoped to be riding rather than walking the concourse. At last we reached our gate. 

The screen was blinking "GATE CLOSING" as we gave our reservation number to the ticket agent. Of course, our boarding passes were not ready. Again, confusion. Again, the unsettling assurance that three boarding passes could be printed, but not four. Again, we shook our heads. Finally, an archaic solution arises. One agent prints three boarding passes on her computer and a different agent prints the fourth on a different computer. Why this works is beyond our understanding; but, at this point we don't care. 

We all had boarding passes, and we were on our way!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Confessions of a Last-Minute Packer

I really don't like packing. Actually, I hate packing. In our house it is referred to as "the 'P' word."

My aversion to boxes and suitcases has been with me for years. Every summer, when my parents came to move me out of my college dorm room, they arrived to find my room fully in tact: not one poster off of the wall, every item of clothing hanging in the closet, books neatly stacked on their shelves. My father (who is the son of a moving man) could hardly believe his eyes!

Close friends know one of the secrets of my happy marriage: David does the packing.

Sometimes I put the things that I wish to take with me out on the bed, and let David takes care of the rest. Sometimes I sit on the bed and tell him what I want in my suitcase.
A few times he has packed FOR me completely, with almost no consultation whatsoever.

But when we became missionaries and travel became more of a regular activity, I decided it was time to put on my big girls pants and get with the packing program.

Still, I procrastinate. I am often zipping my suitcase  at the very last minute, stuffing in one last book on the way. Speaking of books, my packing priorities are somewhat skewed: Books and shoes monopolize a disproportionate portion of any bag I pack. Who needs underwear or deodorant when you have a good novel and a pair of chic boots?

No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to sort out in advance what things I am going to need. How do I know if my skin is going to dry out and need lotion? How can I predict whether I will be in the mood for jeans or a dress?  Should I just throw in all my earrings, or try to decide in advance which ones I am going to want to wear? I get overwhelmed by the details, and end up forgetting the essentials. Many a gracious host have given me a toothbrush, loaned me a hairdryer, or shared their slippers with me.

And then there is the dilemma of running clothes. If I take them, I never seem to use them. If I leave them behind, I find a thousand opportunities to use them. AAAGgGGGGHHhhhghg! Its too much pressure!

Inevitably, though I really do try to keep it together, the act of packing puts me in a really bad mood. A sad commentary for a girl who loves to travel.

I find deep breathing and dark chocolate help to ease the sting. Since we leave tomorrow for a whirlwind trip to the States, I suppose its time to grit my teeth, grab some Milka bars, and face the dragon of packing. See you on the other side!

Friday, February 8, 2013

What do you do with sin?

What do you do with sin?

Not you personally, though that, too, is an interesting question. But I ask this in the corporate sense. The French "vous." You--the church. You--the community of faith. You--the prophetic voice in your town. What do you do with sin?

Do you ignore it?

Do you preach against it from afar, keeping a safe distance?

Do you cover it up?

Do you just wish it would go away?

Do you glorify it?

Do you look down your nose at it?

Do you excuse it?

The fact is we live in a world of sinners, ourselves included. God has told us what to do with sin, but many times the church falls short. We've gotten very good at using our pulpits to decry the evils of sin; yet, we rarely grieve our own sins sincerely. We preach about healing and redemption; but we fail to walk people through the steps of repentance and reconciliation. We are called to this. It is the right thing to do with the wrong things we have done.

We have bought into the lie that sin is a private affair. We have been tricked into thinking that we do not need to confess our sins to one another and that we are showing love when we turn a blind eye to the sins of those around us.

YES, there is a time to overlook a sin. I can reply kindly to a rude remark and leave it at that. I can pick up my husband's dirty laundry and never mention the offense of laziness. I do think that we have many opportunities to show grace and love in the face of non-habitual sins.

But there are also times when we, the body of Christ, must deal with sin. And not because we are superior. Not because we are perfect. Not even because it is just the "right" thing to do. We must deal with sin because it is the loving thing to do. It is the godly thing to do. It is the redemptive thing to do. It is the hopeful thing to do.

Imagine this:

A guy walks into church, and says he is interested in learning more about God. He sounds sincere. He smells of alcohol. He looks broken, desperate even.

He needs Jesus; but where to start?

A listening ear. An invitation to study the Bible. An encouraging word.

And he keeps coming.

Eventually, the plot thickens. It turns out that this man is the father of five young children. Their mother is a woman that he has never bothered to marry. The mother of his children is disgusted with him; ready to leave. His interest in religion is only exacerbating their problems.


Sin is messy.

What do you do?

What do you do with sin?

It can't be coddled! But can it be confronted? Can it be confronted even before one comes to Christ? Is truth TRUTH, regardless of belief? Can love be communicated in the context of confrontation?


In fact, I am not sure what we communicate when we do not confront sin, but I am pretty sure it is not love. If we really believe that God's way is best, shinning light into dark places is the most loving thing that we can do.

We must confront sin with a desire for redemption and not a desire for condemnation.

We must be broken and grieved over then sin, but warm and compassionate toward the sinner.

We must hold out the promise of healing and forgiveness without minimizing the gravity of the offense.

We must remember that Jesus already paid the price; once for all.

What do you do with sin?

The man in the story hears the truth of his situation--the truth is, he is living in sin. He is told that God loves Him and that God wants him to love the mother of his children. God wants him to become the shepherd of his family. And that if he gives his life to Jesus, Jesus will help him to become the husband and father that God made him to be.

He listens. He bristles. He ponders.

The next week he comes to church. He sits in the back row. He hears a gospel message. He weeps. He raises his hand. He goes forward. He gives his life--his very messy life --to Jesus.

As he take his first communion, I realize that he is not the same broken man that walked into church a few weeks earlier. He is saved. A scripture comes to mind:

Naked and poor, wretched and blind I come...,clothe me in white!

The great exchange: we trade our brokenness for His righteousness. He wants to set us free from our sin; Jesus can make us whole. We do not have to be afraid of sin--the debt has been paid in full. Proclaim it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

If I had time to blog...

Things I would blog about if I had the time:

  • Before we can do the work of God, we must have the character of Christ!
  • Running through train stations
  • Schönbrunn
  • Un Stage
  • What do you do with sin?
  • Baby booties
  • Losing Weight, Gaining Healthy Habits
  • Friendships, both foreign and domestic
  • Confessions of a last-minute packer
  • My new favorite fromage: La Tentation !
Sadly, I don't have time to blog today. Maybe tomorrow. By the way, IF I miraculously find the time to blog tomorrow, with which topic shall I begin?