Friday, February 27, 2009

Bail Outs

Today while watching the morning news, I found myself wrestling with the idea of bail outs. But the news story I was watching at the time was not talking about the economy. It was talking about a single mother of fourteen children--eight of which were just recently born. Day after day I have watched the media criticize and scrutinize and pass judgement on this woman for her lack of discernment. I am not saying I fully disagree. I am not sure why a single woman who already had six children would go to extreme measures to become pregnant.

Nevertheless, I am at a complete loss as to why this woman is being given the third degree, while bank CEOs, car companies, and congress itself are given a pass. They have not received half the criticism and scrutiny. They get an obligatory slap on the wrist one second, and billion-dollar hand outs the next.

Meanwhile, we as a nation have closed our fists in a self-righteous fit, adamantly denying this single mother any help or resources she might need to care for her children. We have decided that she made her bed, and now she can lie in it.

We are willing to let her fail, but not the banks. Isn't that backwards?

I firmly believe in the power of failure. There are times when I have grown much more from failure than I would have from being rescued. I think we should let banks and corporations fail, but I do not say that with spite or naivete. I believe they would be better off in the end for lessons learned.

On the other hand, I can no longer sit back and watch this woman get torn apart. She clearly needs help--not judgement. Lives are at stake--failure is not the best option! She needs a bail out package. I should know. I've needed a few myself. I serve a God who can redeem anything and anyone. He is a bail-out God. When my own sin condemned me, He paid a very high price to bail me out. The Bible says that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. His kindness, which comes to us even when we have blown it, leads us to repentance. It is a redeeming love, and those who receive it, those who truly grasp it, are changed by it.

The banks weren't changed by their bail out. We've all seen the reports of lavish vacations and corporate jets that were ordered after receiving the bail out dollars. Government money in this situation is what I would call "pearls before swine." There was no redemptive power in those bail outs.

But it could be different for Nadya. And I am not saying the government should step up. I am saying WE should. We who have been changed by the bail outs we have received. It's all about grace.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No, No. Really. I'm Fine.

What's that? You say my voice sounds scratchy? No, no. Really. I'm fine.

The kleenex littering the floor are just my new decorating concept. Do you like the look?

Cough cough cough. Just (hack) a little frog in my throat.

I'm sorry, did you say something? My ears are plugged. Must be the altitude.

I don't get sick, you know.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The In-Betweens

Have you ever been "between?" Between jobs? Between houses? Between destinations? Have you had those times in life when you know you aren't staying where you are but you haven't yet arrived where you are going? When you have moved far enough down the road of life that you can no longer see your point of origin, but your destination is still beyond the horizon?

Yes, I'm talking about me. Again. But I also know I am not alone in this experience.

Even in the Bible there are numerous examples of people who received a call from God, and then had to wait for that call to be fulfilled. The disciples were promised that they would receive the Holy Spirit, but they had to wait ten days after the Ascension before the Holy Spirit showed up. Then there was David, who was anointed King of Israel in his youth, but spent years running for his life before God actually placed him on the throne.

I wonder why God likes lag-time. Why does He lay out the plan and then wait to bring it to pass? I am beginning to think that the in-between time is not so much an in-between as much as it is a destination of its own: A pause with a purpose. A gap with a goal. A respite with a reason.

I heard a sermon last summer about God being the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. The pastor talked about how easy it is to see God at the beginning of a call, and how we always see Him in the end result, but that there are often times when we are at step 4, or 5, or 6, or 34, or 67, or 324 and we wonder where God is. I could relate to this message.

For me, it in the depths of the in-between time that the enemy comes to me and whispers his favorite lie, "Did God really say...?" Yes, the same old lie that he used on Eve, he uses with me.

"Did God really say you should be a missionary?"

"Did God really say you should move to France?"

"Did God really say you should sell your house?"

And there I sit, somewhere in between the call of God and the fulfillment of His promise, trying to remember what God did REALLY say. I need truth--the only antidote to the poison of the enemy's lies. And I need to stay constantly connected to the one who gave the call in the first place. He is not far off. He does not sleep. He has not forgotten me. He promises to be with me ALWAYS--that means the beginning, the middle, and the end.

The road is long, and actually, all of life is an in-between. When we finally move to France it will just be the beginning of another adventure with God. There are no destinations. Which is why I want to learn to appreciate the joy in the journey.

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. I Corinthians 1:7-9

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I must confess, I'm a fan of the Elizabethan bard. He can be somewhat crude--unfortunately his linguistic genius is tarnished by his fallen estate. But lights of brilliance still shine out of his darkness. This past weekend I watched (on DVD) one of my all time favorite Shakespeare plays: Much Ado About Nothing. May I share a few of my favorite lines? They need no explanation, though I will hardly be able to restrain myself from commenting on each. I only hope my humble attempts to expand on the words of the great poet do not detract from the profundity of his wit.

"Silence is the perfectest herald of joy. I were but little happy, if I could say how much!"

To create a superlative form of a word like 'perfect' is sheer perfection in and of itself. And this sentiment rings so true with me. Deepest joy, for me, is not expressed in high pitched screams and clapping hands; rather in powerful, sincere silence.

"I do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is that not strange?"

I can imagine my husband speaking these words to me. We are SO different, as most couples are. Yet, we love each other fiercely. I can also imagine Jesus speaking these words to me. And yes, it is strange that the perfectest son of God would love a wretch a like me!

Beatrice: But for which of my good parts did you first suffer love for me?
Benedick: Suffer love! A good epithet! I do suffer love indeed, for I love thee against my will.

I know that we are taught that love is a choice, which is why we can be commanded to love in the Bible. But I have also found myself in this predicament of loving against my own will. Typically with kittens. I definitely suffer love for kittens.

"Why what's the matter, that you have such a February face, so full of frost, of storm, and of cloudiness?"

What a great description of a downcast person: A 'February face!'

"...for man is a giddy thing. This is my conclusion"

Giddy! I love that word. Definition? 'not level-headed and sensible, but likely to act impulsively or behave foolishly.' I never heard a truer description of humanity!

Monday, February 16, 2009

It Pleased God

Chandler's drama teacher is a cancer survivor that has been bald for seven years as a result of chemotherapy.

The other day Chandler came home from school and told me, "Mom, Mrs. Leach's hair is growing back! Can you believe it?"

The next time I saw Mrs. Leach it was evident that her hair was, in fact growing back. When I commented about it to her, she said to me, "I don't know why, after all these years, but it pleased God to give me back my hair, and I am truly grateful."

It pleased God. Those words have stuck with me. If I were that woman I would have been a lot more focused on what pleased ME. I spend so much time, energy, and money trying to please ME. I rarely look at a circumstance and consider that God was acting for His own good pleasure. But I want to take this perspective when it is right to do so, for it is a sweet truth.

God is pleased to do good things for us. And His timing, His perfect will, His great patience, His compassion, and His abounding love all play into His good pleasure. At the same time, not everything brings God pleasure. While it pleased God to cause Mrs. Leach's hair to grow at this point in time, it is not right to assume that it pleased Him to have her go bald for seven years, or even that it pleased Him for her to have cancer in the first place.

Scripture is clear that God does not delight in the suffering of humanity. Oh how we search and search for the answer to why there is pain in this life. I don't have those answers, but I know God tells us over and over not to be surprised by trials and tribulations as long as we live in a fallen world.

I wonder, though, why we seldom seem surprised by the blessings in our lives. For some reason, we expect them. We know that every good and perfect gift comes from God, but the question remains: Why does He give us good things? We, the undeserving. The fallen. The broken. The prideful. The wicked. Truly, the fact that we receive any blessings at all is by far the greater wonder than the fact that we face suffering. Why does God ever bestow goodness on us? I guess because He loves us, warts and all! His blessings do not flow out of pity or compulsion. He certainly doesn't owe us anything. It simply gives Him pleasure.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love is...

...sharing m&ms with Jeskia.

...Jen N.'s homemade frosted sugar cookies.

...chatting on-line with Sharon in Germany.

...pinochle with Mara and Kylan or Keith and Karin--it's been too long!

...seeing Hannah and Cayleigh on Skype.

...Carey's chocolate chip cookie bars.

...a pedicure with Becky.

...having a banana flavored froo-froo drink with Kacey.

...knitting/crocheting/quilting with Keri.

...running with Holli.

...David's guy-pals who tolerate my often girly blog--shouts out to Bil, Paul, and Pastor Brad!

...thrift-store shopping with Kathi.

...Nordstrom shopping with Mom.

...shoe shopping with Robin.

...lunch with Val--usually Mexican.

...strangers who read my blog.

...speaking of strangers, a spot of tea with Barbara--who loves that her name means "stranger."

...playing cards with Chandler.

...gardening with Dad.

...soaking up sun on Swan Lake with Heather.

...talking fitness with Cherie H.

...talking skiing with Cherie W. (but NOT camping!)

...water-skiing with Len.

...a word of encouragement from Carol.

...writing with Gail and Gena. club with Karen, Sherrill, Heather, and Heidi.

...teachers who love my kids.

...listening to 80's music in the car with Graham.

...schmoozing over a cup of coffee with Janica.

...MPC Community Groups lifting us up in prayer.

...studying Daniel with an AWESOME group of women.

...generous donors joining in God's plan to save to France.

...knowing Joyce and Marge are praying!

...being introduced to Ravi by Tim and Tara. Oasis teams...amazing women of God.

...a long talk with V.

...a friendly e-mail from Bonnie.

...a PERFECT piece of flair from Patti.

...praying with Tanya EVERY Friday morning.

...memorizing scripture with Jules.

...laughing with Heather S. e-mails from Mickey.

...books with Shawna--the only person I know that reads as much as I do!

...the warm affirmations of Niki, Vanessa, and Karon.

...the grace given to me by everyone I love to pieces but did not mention here by name.

...ANYTHING and EVERYTHING with David.


Happy Valentine's Day with LOVE! You are a blessing to me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dealing with Discouragement

What do you do when the ugly discouragement monster rises up from your belly, pushes itself through the giant lump in your throat and makes you scream, "I CAN'T DO THIS!"?

Well, I know what I want to do. I want to curl up into a ball, eat mint chocolate chip ice cream, and decide never to leave the house again. But I also know that if I make that choice the monster wins. So I guess I'll have to fight, darn it.

I don't get discouraged easily, and mostly I don't stay there too long, but I hate how it feels--like a kick in the gut. Sometimes I am discouraged by my own stupid choices, like realizing I have blown a diet for the 9,827th time. Other times discouragement comes from a source outside of myself. This week, that was the case.

I mentioned in an earlier post that while we were in Colorado, David and I had to take a Language Acquisition Aptitude Test. I, who have a college degree double major in English AND German, totally bombed the test, while David ACED it. Apparently, according to the test, David will pick up French easily, and I will have to work a lot harder at it. I found these test results to be extremely discouraging.

I love languages. I don't want to be told that I am not any good at something that I actually enjoy a great deal. I feel like those horrible singers who go on American Idol, really believing themselves to be gifted divas, only to hear Simon blast them for their hideous rendition of "Stand By Me." (Idol Fans: think William Hung or Sanjaya)

In the midst of my discouragement yesterday, I went to watch Chandler play in a basketball game. Chandler is an excellent defender, but he rarely makes a basket. He hadn't scored yet this season, though almost everyone else on the team has some points on their stat sheet. Late in the game, Chandler was thrown the ball, and he was the only person on the other team's side of the court. He had a wide open shot, and he took off toward the basket with a profound look of determination. As he neared the goal--no defenders in sight--he tripped over his own feet, fell to the ground, and dropped the ball out of bounds. As he stood up, I saw tears springing to his eyes--causing me to become verklempt. What is a mother to do?

As the other team took the ball back down the court, Chandler caught my eye, discouragement written all over his face. I silently prayed, "Lord, help him fight the monster. Don't let the monster win."

Two seconds were left on the clock, and Chandler was, once again, the only person on his team who was open. He got the ball, turned, and on the buzzer, and took a shot. Nothin' but net! The shot was made after the clock ran out, so his basket didn't put any points on the scoreboard, but it sure racked up some points in his spirit. He left the game believing that it was possible for him to succeed at basketball. He was--praise God--encouraged.

I am so glad that Chandler did not let pride keep him trying again. I am so glad that his competitive spirit motivated him to work harder. And I am so grateful that God honored the simple prayer of his impassioned mother.

The moral of the story is this: My son reminded me, through his persistence, that I am not defined by my own skills and abilities (or the lack there-of); I am defined by the one who calls me "beloved." He takes my best efforts, given as an offering to Him, and He uses them for His purposes. And that is what it's all about, after all. HIS purposes. HIS glory. HIS kingdom. Either I'm ALL for Him, or I'm nothing at all. Amazingly, He can use me in spite of my weaknesses. God does not NEED me to be good at French. He simply invites me to bring what I have, and promises to make something good out of it.

Nevertheless, mom--yes, YOU, Barbara Dennis--I would appreciate your prayers for my French studies. I think God has a tender-spot for the impassioned prayers of mothers!

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
I Corinthians 1:26-31

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Little European Joke

Q: What is the difference between European Heaven and European Hell?

A: In European Heaven, the British greet you at the gate, the French do all the cooking, the Germans are in charge of the schedule, and the Spanish and Italians are in charge of the fun.

In European Hell, the French greet you at the gate, the British do all the cooking, the Spanish and Italians are in charge of the schedule, and the Germans are in charge of the fun.

Four For France Appointees

Here is a photo of David and me with seven other GEM appointees. Among them are a couple headed to North Africa for long term service with Muslims, a woman who develops Christ-centered curriculum for teaching English as a foreign language, a young woman who is going to teach preschool in Bulgaria for a year, and a young man who will serve in the Czech Republic for the summer. Fast friends. Fellow pilgrims. People who I will never forget, even though I may not see them again until Heaven.

Our week in Colorado was super intense. We were loaded with information, enlightened by seasoned missionaries, and bathed in prayer. We were officially commissioned as church-planters in France by the president of GEM.

I am both delighted and petrified. I am both eager to go and reluctant to leave. I am both hopeful and humbled.

The following words reflect the call that God has placed on my life. Yours, too. You see, with or without a formal appointment to missions by a sending agency, if you are a follower of Jesus, this IS your life's work:

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
II Tim. 4: 1-5

Friday, February 6, 2009

Again, I say, "YOU SO TOTALLY ROCK!"

I just have to tell you how amazing you are. Apparently, according to the word around Greater Europe Mission Headquarters, our Ministry Partnership Development (i.e. Fundraising) has been phenomenal! That is to say, our funds are coming in at a faster rate than average in a weaker-than-average economy. THANK YOU!

God has a plan in France, and God has clearly called us. Not US--the Williamsons. US--YOU and the Williamsons. All of you who pray and give, as well as David and me and Graham and Chandler, and even GEM--we all are partners in the Gospel, joining with God to reach France.

It is a privilege to be on a team with you, each of us playing the position that God chose for us. Please join us is sending up a great big, "Thank you, Lord!" He is the true victor.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Orientation Begins

David and I were pretty confident that we had chosen the right sending agency, but now we are completely sure. Stable but not stuffy. Functional but still fun. Spiritual without being spooky. Ambitious with no hint of ambivalence. We love GEM's approach to missions (it's all about people) their approach to evangelism (it's all about relationship) and their approach to process (it's all about Jesus). I feel like I have a new extended family.

Last night we had a nice welcome dinner at the home of GEM President, Henry Deneen. I just can't wait to see where God is leading with all of this, because at every turn there seems to be a new layer. Last night the new layer emerged when Henry (I don't think he would mind if I called him Henry) pulled David aside after our introductions and began to speak with him about some potential flight training opportunities that GEM may begin to develop in--yes, you guessed it--France! This is a project that is in the early-idea phase, but I would not be the least bit surprised if God has some aviation opportunities lined up for David yet. Amazing.

Today was a long and full day. We started the day with worship, and then we had a seminar on the spiritual climate of Europe, followed by an intense time of prayer for the people of Europe. Next we were indoctrinated with what GEM believes about God and the Bible, which was so theologically right on and taught with such passion that it made me want to get saved all over again.

After lunch, things got a little more intense. David and I and the other long-term candidates had to take a language aptitude test, which would help GEM to devise our language acquisition plan. I have a major in German, but that test was stinkin' hard. It took about an hour, and my brain felt like mush when it was over.

The day ended with--dum da dum dum--our psychological evaluations. Last year David and I took all sorts of psychological tests and profiles, and today we met individually and as a couple with a psychologist to review the results. We were both declared sane, and our marriage was deemed stable enough for mission work. He did give us some indication, based on our personalities, where we might struggle in integrating into a foreign culture. But he seemed confident that we would weather the storm and find smooth waters on the other side.

Yes, we did get to watch the Super Bowl--what a game! The perfect way to decompress after a gruelling--but good day.