Friday, May 30, 2008

Jump or Dive

I grew up in South Texas, and my family had a pool in the backyard. Swimming was our favorite form of recreation nine months out of the year. All backyard games revolved around the pool, whether we were playing water volleyball, Marco Polo, or just seeing who could hold their breath the longest. One of my favorite pool games was a game called “Jump or Dive.” In this game, one person would run to the end of the diving board and spring up high into the air. While that person was at their fullest height, a competitor would yell either, “JUMP!” or “DIVE!” At that moment, the person in the air would try to adjust their body to accommodate the command. Some of the funniest bodily contortions I have ever seen were the result of this game. Legs flail, arms wave, torsos twist, but in the end, more often than not, the result was an all out belly flop. In order to be successful, the jumper had to accurately predict which call the caller would make. The caller, however, had the advantage of being able to see what the jumper was anticipating, and make the opposite call in the air. It seems, in retrospect, the commitment to either jump or dive is made before leaving the board.

Sometimes in life I feel like I am playing a game of Jump or Dive. It works like this: I wake up and shower, knowing that I have Bible Study in the morning, and then a lunch date, followed by an appointment with one of my clients. I know that I will have just enough time after my client meeting to pick up the one ingredient I need to complete my dinner plan and still be on time to pick my son up from school. I know that I will then go home, fold a load of laundry, cook dinner, and if all goes well, still have time to read a book before falling in to bed. I am ready to JUMP.

But as I get out of the shower, I hear my son tell his father, “I only have a half day of school today, I’ll be out at noon, and I bet mom lets me play extra video games!”

Out at noon? He’ll be out at noon? What about my lunch date? And my client meeting? Did someone just yell, “DIVE!”?

I reach for my phone, and wonder if it’s too early to call a friend about a change in lunch plans! While pouring a bowl of cereal, I calculate what I can make for dinner with the ingredients I already have in my pantry. I can dive. Really. As I put the phone to my ear, I hear the signal that tells me I have a message. I dial my code only to hear that the message is from the receptionist at my doctor’s office, who called yesterday to remind me of an appointment for 11:30 a.m. today, and by the way, “don’t forget to fast before you come.” I spit cheerios from my mouth while I frantically try to figure out how I can gracefully not only cancel my lunch date with my friend, but ask her if she would be able to pick up my child from school, since he gets out early, and I have a doctor’s appointment that I forgot about. Am I diving? No. Clearly I’m belly flopping.

I love the verse that says, “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord!” I find great relief in knowing that SOMEBODY knows the plan. Mid belly-flop, I often find myself wondering if this moment could have been avoided. Someone once said, “My Plan B was God’s Plan A.” When I feel like all of my plans have been usurped, altered, ruined, or frustrated, I can be confident that whatever my plan is being changed TO was the plan that God had in mind all along. I do wonder, though, how often the contortions of my will and my heart and my spirit could have been avoided had I simply consulted God FIRST. You see, unlike the caller in the game Jump or Dive, God is not out to trick us. He doesn’t always lay out the whole plan in advance, but I need to remember that He will always tell me which way to go just at the right time.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Civilized Conversation

"What's the grossest thing you've ever eaten?"

This was the beginning of our dinner conversation last night. I should tell you that since David teaches a class on Wednesday nights, I was sitting at the table with three boys aged 11-12--my two sons, and one of their friends. Of course the conversation progressed from there, much to the horror of my younger son, Chandler, who would classify half of the things I cook on a regular basis as "gross." The friend at the table admitted to having tried dog food, but seemed uncertain as to whether or not that would be the "grossest" thing he ever consumed.

My son Graham then asked, "Has anyone ever eaten cow liver?"

Immediately, my nose began to twitch, as if trying to avoid the pungent memory of the smell of Liver and Onions. When I was growing up, my parents heard somewhere about the health benefits of eating liver and they went on a crusade, relentlessly serving Liver and Onions for dinner EVERY Thursday night for what felt like 47 years. And they wonder why my oldest sister is a Vegetarian?!?

I am a fairly adventurous eater, but in my opinion, liver falls outside of the realm of the enjoyable. However, I have heard (repeatedly) that the French eat EVERYTHING and make it taste good. I wonder if a French chef could make liver palatable for me? One thing is for sure, the smell would have to be thoroughly disguised. To date I would have to say that the grossest thing I've ever eaten (on purpose) is liver.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Nice to Meet You!

Hi! My name is Jenn Williamson and I serve with Greater Europe Mission in France. I am the spoiled wife of a very patient husband, the fumbling mother of two brilliant boys, a beginning knitter, an avid reader, a reluctant runner, and a frequent blogger.

Before coming on the mission field in 2010 I was the Director of Women's Ministries at Life Center Foursquare Church in Spokane, WA. I used to be able to list off my passions, giftings, and callings, but over the past few years God has completely rocked my world, turning my attention to this:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing....

All of my life I've wanted to make something of myself, but it turns out that God has called me to make nothing of myself, and I'm convinced it's the harder of the two. Frankly, I'm not very good at it.

This blog is the story of my flawed journey to become nothing in hopes that he will become everything. I don't have any answers, just a heart that is open to learn from the master. I hope you'll join me for the trip.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Roller Coasters and Hidden Pictures...

Did I mention that we were expecting a few twists and turns on this missionary adventure? This afternoon I received a call from the GEM headquarters explaining, very apologetically, that they were going to have to postpone Candidate Orientation from this June to sometime in the Fall. We were all ready to go on June 7-- we have scheduled time off work, bought our airline tickets, and arranged for my parents to come here and hang out with the boys ...I guess you could say we're all dressed up with no place to go!

This roller coaster picture came out of the children's magazine, Highlights, and there is more to it than is seen at first glance. Hidden within the drawing of the roller coaster are several other pictures, such as a top hat, a pencil, a boot, and a penguin. As a child I used to love to sit with my Dad and search out all of the "Hidden Pictures" in my Highlights Magazine.

I think today it's time for me to sit with my Dad--that is my heavenly Father--and search out the hidden pictures that are surely a part of this twisting and turning roller coaster ride. I know that even though I am disappointed about this apparent delay in our missionary journey, He has great things for me hiding in His perfect timing. I love the BIG picture, but I don't want to miss out on the secret delights that come from trusting God to show Himself in the details.

Look--I think I see an ice cream cone!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Jenn's Reading List

*** Starred items are books that I would recommend to a friend
 Crossed out items are books that I did NOT like at all.
Blue items are books that I read in French

King's Cross***, Timothy Keller
Cultural Misunderstandings***, Raymonde Carroll
The Serpent and the Moon***, HRH Princess Michael of Kent
Uncle Tom's Cabin***, Harriet Beecher Stowe
Day after Night***, Anita Diamant
In the Presence of my Enemies, Gracia Burnham
St Francis of Assisi***, G.K. Chesterton
Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit***, Francis Chan
Junia is Not Alone, Scot McKnight
Smart Builder***, Stephen Beck
Movements that Change the World, Steve  Addison
Four Letter Words, Bill Giovannetti
The Price, Alexandra Sokoloff
The Final Assault***, Steve Smith
Erasing Hell***, Francis Chan
Timeline***, Michael Crichton
The Secret Holocaust Diaries***, Nonna Bannister
Surprised by Oxford***, Carolyn Weber
Diriger avec Amour***, Alexander Strauch
Dog Logic***, Joel McMains
Why Not Women***, Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton
Heaven is for Real***, Todd Burpo
Year of Wonders***, Geraldine Brooks
Pet Owner's Guide to the Cairn Terrier, Ron and Brenda Birch
There is no Time, J. Paul Nyquist
Mockingjay***, Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire***, Suzanne Collins
The Lotus and The Cross, Ravi Zacharias
The Hunger Games***, Suzanne Collins

The Mountain Between Us***, Charles Martin
Making Peace***, Jim vanYperen
Anne of Green Gables***, L.M. Montgomery
The System, Jack Kreigs
Humilitas***, John Dickson
Le  Petit Prince***, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
In the Name of Jesus***, Henri J. M. Nouwen
I Have to be Perfect, Timothy L. Sanford
Moi aussi je voudrais croire ! Mais...***, Raphael Anzenberger
The Hiding Place***, Corrie ten Boom
Humility***, Andrew Murray
The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents that Will Propel the Future Church, Fritz Kling
Tour du Monde en Quatre-Vingts Jours***, Jules Verne
The Judas Strain, James Rollins
T4T, A Discipleship Re-Revolution***, Steve Smith with Ying Kai
Abundance, A Novel of Marie Antoinette***, Sena Jeter Naslund
The Kite Runner***, Khaled Hosseini
Radical***, David Platt
In the Company of Others, Jan Karon
Emma***, Jane Austen
The Fourth Reich, Robert VanKampen
Invading Secular Space***, Martin Robinson & Dwight Smith
The Septembers of Shiraz, Dalia Sofer
The Emotionally Healthy Church***, Peter Scazzero
One Thousand Gifts***, Ann VosKamp
Falling Into His Grace***, Rebecca Petrie
Lost & Found, Jacqueline Sheehan
Decision Points***, George W. Bush
The Twelfth Imam***, Joel C. Rosenberg
Why Pray***, John F. DeVries
Called to Conquer***, Derek Prince
Cutting for Stone***, Abraham Verghese
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet***, Jamie Ford
Her Daughter's Dream, Francine Rivers
Her Mother's Hope, Francine Rivers
Toujours Provence, Peter Mayle
French Lessons, Peter Mayle
From Duty to Delight--Finding Greater Joy in Daily Prayer***, Ron Parrish
The Tangible Kingdom***, Hugh Halter and Matt Smay
The Paris Option, Robert Ludlum
The Last Battle***, C. S. Lewis
The Magician's Nephew***, C. S. Lewis
The Horse and His Boy***, C. S. Lewis
Missional Church Planting***, Ed Setzer
Radical Leap, Steve Farber
The Other Queen***, Philippa Gregory
Adam, Ted Dekker
Blessed are the Cheesemakers, Sarah-Kate Lynch
I Once Was Lost***, Don Everts and Doug Schaupp
The Wildwater Walking Club, Claire Cook
Sarah's Key***, Tatiana De Rosnay
The Appeal, John Grisham
The Book Thief***, Markus Zusak
Simple Genius, David Baldacci
Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs. Dave Barry
The Help***, Kathryn Stockett
Long Train Passing***, Steven W. Wise
My Life in France, Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme
Unleashing the Power of Rubberbands, Nancy Ortberg
The Piano Teacher, Janice Y.K. Lee
Appointment in Jerusalem***, Derek and Lydia Prince
Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl, Lysa Terkeurst
The Welsh Girl, Peter Ho Davies
The Prayer of Jesus***, Hank Hanegraaff
Doing Church as a Team, Wayne Cordiero
Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown
Mrs. Miracle, Debbie Macomber
Crazy Love***, Francis Chan
The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein
Marley and Me, John Grogan
Same Kind of Different as Me***, Ron Hall and Denver Moore
Wrapped in Rain***, Charles Martin
Epicenter***, Joel Rosenberg
The Hole in Our Gospel***, Richard Stearns
Fat Chance, Deborah Blumenthal
The Midwife***, Jennifer Worth
Finding Tom Connor, Sarah-Kate Lynch
Cold Sassy Tree***, Olive Ann Burns
Muslims, Christians, and Jesus***, Carl Medearis
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society***, Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
Blink***, Ted Dekker
Angel of Wrath, Bill Myers
Ministering Cross-Culturally***, Sherwood G. Lingenfelter
The Lacemaker and the Princess***, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Cross-Cultural Connections***, Duane Elmer
The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, Christian Speaker, Aged 45 3/4***, Adrian Plass
Twenty Wishes, Debbie Macomber
Signs and Wonders, Philip Gulley
The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass (aged 37 3/4)***, Adrian Plass
Beneath a Marble Sky***, John Shors
Three Weeks with my Brother***, Nicholas Sparks
A Quest for Answers, Josh McDowell
White***, Ted Dekker
Red***, Ted Dekker
The Lord is my Strength, Lynn N. Austin
Moloka'i, Alan Brennert
Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Chuch***, Nancy Beach
Black***, Ted Dekker
A Man Called Blessed***, Ted Dekker and Bill Bright
Blessed Child***, Ted Dekker and Bill Bright
French Women for all Seasons***, Mireille Guiliano
When Crickets Cry***, Charles Martin
Animal Farm***, George Orwell
A False Sense of Well Being, Jeanne Braselton
The End of Reason***, Ravi Zacharias
Suite Francaise***, Irene Nemirovsky

Jenn's 2008 Reading List

Shepherds Abiding***, Jan Karon
Almost French, Sarah Turnbull
The Organic Church***, Neil Cole
Recapture the Wonder***, Ravi Zacharias
The Friday Night Knitting Club, Kate Jacobs
The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield
A Tale of Three Kings***,Gene Edwards
It***, Craig Groeschel
Maggie***, Charles Martin
The Dream Giver, Bruce Wilkinson
The Long Walk Home, Will North
All She Ever Wanted***, Lynn Austin
Pride and Prejudice***, Jane Austen
Where the River Ends***, Charles Martin
Just Shy of Harmony***, Philip Gulley
A Woman's Place***, Lynn Austin
The Dead Don't Dance***, Charles Martin
Sisterchicks Say Ooh La La***, Robin Jones Gunn
West with the Night***, Beryl Markham
Walking with God***, John Eldredge
Home to Harmony***, Philip Gulley
Me and Mr. Darcy, Alexandra Potter
Losing Kei, Suzanne Kamata
If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat***, John Ortberg
Pride and Prescience, Carrie Bebris
There is Room for You, Charlotte Bacon
The Shack***, William P. Young
The Copper Scroll***, Joel C. Rosenberg
Believing God***, Beth Moore
Sisterchicks in Sombreros***, Robin Jones Gunn
Persuasion***, Jane Austen
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction***, Eugene H. Peterson
The Miracle at Speedy Motors***, Alexander McCall Smith
The Collectors, David Baldacci
Guide to Road Racing***, Katie McDonald Neitz
Ireland***, Frank Delaney
A Year in Provence***, Peter Mayle
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See
The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Kim Edwards
A Train to Potevka, Ramsdell
French Women Don't Get Fat***, Mireille Guiliano
The Divine Mentor***, Wayne Cordeiro
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn***, Betty Smith
Ezekiel Option***, Joel C. Rosenberg
The Shadow of the Wind***, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Three Cups of Tea***, David Oliver Relin
The Last Days***, Joel C. Rosenberg
Passionate Housewives Desperate for God***, Jennie Chancey & Stacey McDonald
The Last Jihad***, Joel C. Rosenberg

Buckle Up!

Ladies and gentlemen, please remain seated with your seat belts securely fastened at all times. Keep your hands and feet inside the roller coaster for the duration of the ride...

Right now I am enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon in my Spangle home. I have spent the day going to church, watering my garden, reading a good book, and hanging out with my boys. But in less than two weeks, David and I will travel to Monument, Colorado, where we will attend a Candidate Orientation at the Greater Europe Mission Headquarters--the final step in our appointment process to become missionaries in France. I feel like right now, while the roller coaster hasn't left the platform, we could still change our minds, jump off of the ride, heave a sigh of relief and wipe the sweat off our foreheads. That is, we could jump off if we weren't completely convinced that God has called us to this ride. But we are convinced. And so instead of jumping off, we have decided it's time to fasten our seat belts!

I actually love roller coasters. But I love them because while the twists and turns are wildly exciting, I am sure, every time I get on one, that I will arrive at the end of the ride safe and in one piece. I put my faith in the knowledge that the theme park owners take great pains to make sure that their rides do not result in injury or death. So I wonder, on this adventure to become a missionary in France, where have I put my faith? What do I know about God that compels me to get on the ride? Not only am I getting on this ride with my husband, but we are taking our amazing pre-teen sons with us. How does one leave the safety of the platform when so very much is at stake?

The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it.
I Thessalonians 5:24

He will do it! Not me! Not my strength! Not my power! Not my goodness (or lack there of!). I can do this thing because I am not doing it--this is the delightful paradox that is wrapped up in all of God's giftings and callings. How thankful I am to simply be invited to the ride by the Faithful One himself. Buckle me in...He will do it!