Monday, August 30, 2010

Falling with Style

We continue to be without a permanent address, and if I may be candid, I am really weary from this battle. I know the truth, which is that God has it all under control. I trust Him. I know that in His perfect timing He will reveal the answer to our housing question. I even know that TODAY, in the midst of the waiting, He is at work in us and through us and for us.

But I am weary.

I wait on the Lord, but I do not feel like I am soaring on wings like eagles--no, I am definitely not soaring. How can I experience the promises from Isaiah 40:31?

I just finished reading the final book in the Narnia series: The Last Battle. In that book the children are able to run forever without growing tired or breathless. Somehow they had accessed Aslan's endless strength. They did not grow weary. They renewed their strength.

Not me. I am completely winded from this race, and the finish line is nowhere in sight.

After our last rental application was denied, my dad sent me a two word instant message on Skype: "Chin up!"

Chin up.

And somehow, at his gentle command, I could do it--with tears in my eyes, but a determined strength in my heart.

That dad is camping this week, but I have another Father who speaks the same words to my slumping spirit as I type: "Chin up."

His goodness makes it desirable, while His strength makes it possible.

And when my chin is up, my eyes are no longer fixed on my feet of clay, but on His arms of love.

I still don't feel like I'm flying, but maybe, like the beloved Buzz Lightyear, I am at least falling with style. And I trust that if I never get to flying, my Jesus will always catch me when I fall.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tickets, Purses, and Towels...oh my!

We recently bought a DVD of the Flintstones (called Les Pierrafeu in French) to watch during down times. I'm sure you've seen this cartoon classic. Do you remember that Fred's car was powered by his own feet? And do you remember how long it takes for Fred's car to move after he starts running? He seems to run in place FOREVER before that car will budge. Well that is exactly how I feel about our housing situation. We are just a-runnin' as hard as we can and we are going absolutely NOWHERE! Still, eventually I believe the car will move. For the time, however, I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say that since language school starts next week we are moving in to a furnished apartment in Massy for hopefully 2 weeks, after which we will to move (with our stuff) into a place of our own. In the meantime, our container will arrive and be unloaded into a storage unit. Running, running, running.... This waiting business is hard work!

So while I have little to report on the housing front, I have much with which to regale you in other arenas. Not the least of which is the man-bag debate that has surfaced in our family. You may or may not know that it is quite common in France for men to carry--well--purse-like bags. They also wear skinny jeans, but that's another story. Anyways, I would say that at least 50% of the men I see carry, um, bags. This was somewhat funny to me, though not completely foreign as my father-in-law has been a bag-man for years. What IS new to me is the apparent reason behind the evolution of the man bag: the French passion for paperwork. To drive our car we have to have a Grey Card with us. This is, as our car salesman put it, the car's passport. It is not something we can leave in the car because we need to have it in case someone steals our car. But as I said before, you are required to carry it with you when you drive. It is approximately 4"x6" when folded--larger than the average man's wallet. So there's that. And then there is the French driver's license, which we do not yet have, but is also rather large. And then there is the Carte de séjour, which is like a green card, which we also have to have with us, which is also quite large. All of this is no big deal to me. I have a purse for all that stuff. But David is a bit befuddled, and thereby contemplating... dum, da dum dum, duuummmmmmm...getting a man bag. There. I said it. My husband is in the market for a purse. And I think he is man enough to pull it off, if he must.

In other news, we received some interesting mail yesterday: two letters, very official looking, all in French. They were speeding tickets. Yes, both of them. Here is the funny thing, neither David nor I are speeders. We both ALWAYS go the speed limit. When we know it, that is. I guess we need to learn some French rules of the road. We even knew that there were speed-cameras all over the place--and we thought we were being careful! In Paris there is one camera that generates 1 Million Euros in revenue each year--which is probably how they can afford socialized medicine. Providentially, we can't tell which of us was driving the car when said tickets were merited. We are not going to try to figure that out either. It's just better not knowing.

Yesterday brought some good news, too. We started the process of registering our boys for school and found that the Adaptation Class (the one for non-French speaking students) does not start until October. Between now and then the boys have to take placement tests, etc. In the meantime, our language school had two openings in the beginners class, which means the boys will get a jump-start on their French by going to full-time language school with David and me for the month of September. We also visited their school, and while Graham and Chandler were reluctant to start that daunting process, by the end of the day both boys were feeling like it was not going to be as bad as they had originally thought. They were encouraged, which in turn, encouraged me.

Now if I could just figure out where one goes to buy towels in France, I would feel on top of the world. Our towels from home were getting old and funky, so rather than pack them in the container, we tossed them and planned to buy new in France. Easier said than done. There is no Target, no Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and no JC Penney. I saw towels in the Cora--which is sort of like a Fred Meyer, but there was not much of a selection. There are all sorts of specialty stores, but I have not landed on the towel store yet. We will need them by tomorrow, so this is my great quest for the day. Towels or Bust.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Château de Pierrefonds

Apparently in France it is easier to find a castle to tour than an apartment to rent.

So while we continue to struggle with the difficulty of one, we embraced the ease of the other.

Built in Medieval times, this castle has it all: a draw bridge, fireplaces large enough to stand in, and long spiral staircases.

It sits high on a hill, overlooking the village below:

To get there we drove for 40 minutes through charming villages and a wonderful fairy-tale-like forest. I couldn't help but watch for dwarfs!

We learned that parts of The Man in the Iron Mask were filmed at this castle, and now that I have been here I want to see that movie again!

Speaking of movies, does this picture make you think of Hermy and King Moonracer in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? You know, when they are on the Island of Mistfit Toys? Maybe its just me....

If you come to visit us in France, this is definitely one of the places we will take you. I promise.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Things in France that Make Me Smile

We spend a lot of time driving from the north side of Paris (where are are staying) to the south side of Paris (where we are looking for housing). We never go directly through Paris--which would be a traffic nightmare--we always skirt around it. Nevertheless, as we drive I often catch a glimpse of this beautiful icon. And EVERY time I see it, I smile. Wouldn't you?

On a sunny Thursday at Versailles, we saw this adorable couple dashing through the gardens. I do not know if they were there just for pictures or if they had actually been married somewhere on the grounds. Either way, it was the essence of romance! And even though I have no idea who they are, when I saw them I just had to smile.Wouldn't you?

I recently received my debit card from our French bank, and much to my delight, my name appeared with the title MME, as in madame! I love being Mrs. Williamson, but MME J Williamson sounds even more delicious. This is one of those little things that makes the move to France seem real at last, and for that reason, when I saw my bank card, I smiled. Wouldn't you?

Oh the bread! Certainly I do not need to tell you how scrumptious the bread is in France. I knew this from our previous visits. What I hadn't realized it how wonderfully CHEAP it is. Can you see the price below? A LARGE baguette costs a measly 45 euro cents. Other things that are surprisingly cheap? Wine (most wines are about 3-4 euros a bottle), GOOD cheese (unbelievably good cheese costs about half of what we paid for similar cheeses at Costco), and olive oil soap (which is about 1 euro a bar). When we buy those things we smile. Wouldn't you?

All over France, in cute little boutiques along ancient looking streets, we often see plastic-ware with this label: ZAK Designs. These products, which appear to be hot sellers in France, are made by a company in Spokane, WA--our home in the USA. So whenever we see ZAK Designs, we feel little tug of nostalgia and we smile. Wouldn't you?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Every Marriage Needs a Coxswain

Tomorrow David and I will celebrate 18 years of marriage.

18 years of loving, 18 years of learning, 18 years of changes, 18 years of sameness, 18 years of yielding, 18 years of growing, 18 years of trusting, 18 years of failing, 18 years of grace.

We have not arrived...but we are happy to be in the adventure together.

On Thursday at Versailles, Graham snapped this photo of David and me in the row boat.

I am captivated by it because it is a perfect snapshot of our relationship right now. We are in the same boat (foreigners moving to France), but our perspectives are completely different. We are in the same place on the lake, but if you asked us each to describe the view you would hear two completely different descriptions.

We have had a rough time lately because each of us has been relying entirely on his/her point of view. We are certain of what we see, and blinded to the fact that the others' perspective is not only also valuable, it is also right. Worst of all, neither has their eyes where they should be.

You could blame it on our natures--we each have a strong independent streak. Or you could blame it on the stress--we are in the midst of a major transition. The real problem is this: we took our eyes off the coxswain.

Have you ever watched rowing in the Olympics?

COXSWAIN - Member of the crew who sits stationary at the stern of the boat facing forward. The coxswain may lie in the front of the boat. The coxswain’s main job is to steer the shell. He also calls the race strategy, helps the coach and motivates the crew.

The coxswain is the only one who can see where the boat is going. His perspective is really the only one that matters, after all, He's the one who is steering the boat. He is the motivator. He calls the strategy.

Pop-culture might tell us that we need to focus more on each other. We have decided that we need to focus more on Jesus--our coxswain. We both trust Him. And when He leads us, the whole journey is a lot more purposeful and fun.

Today David and I recommitted ourselves to following our coxswain more closely. Of course we know that in doing so, our love and enjoyment of each other will only increase all the more.

P.S. to David--Thanks for sharing your boat with me. And thanks for always pointing me back to our coxswain. I love you too much.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Gardens of Versailles



to stop


smell the roses,

because there is



in the journey.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

I have avoided posting details about our housing situation because I had hoped to be able to eventually tell the WHOLE story from start to finish, which requires, ahem, a FINISH. But seeing as there is no end in sight to our domestic dilemma I have decided to share the hairy journey with you up to today. If you like resolutions and nice neat endings, you will not enjoy this post one bit. You will, however, have a very real peek into the lives of four travel-weary vagabonds who are on day 52 of suitcase-searching, laundry-mat loitering, and hot-plate cooking. If you want to continue with a dreamy vision of us skipping down the streets of Paris without a care in the world, I warn you, STOP READING RIGHT NOW!

First, let me assure you that although you may sense a bit of whining on my part, we are quite certain that God does indeed have a place for us (sing with me, "somewhere a place for us..."). We have each pitched our fits in turns, gotten over it, and reminded each other of God's faithfulness. Finding a place to live has been an exercise in patience, trust, and hope. We do not doubt that God is FOR us, and that His plans for us are GOOD. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.

The day after we arrived in France (July 27) our field director told us enthusiastically, "I think I have the answer to all your problems! I found a house in Massy that is being totally remodeled, it has three bedrooms plus an office, a fully equipped kitchen, and is available September 1. We have an appointment to go and see it tomorrow."

Go and see it, we did! It was a darling house, close to our language school, with a wonderfully large (by French standards) kitchen and dining room. We learned that in France, in most rentals the kitchen is not equipped, which means it does not have any appliances or even any cabinets for that matter. This house had it all, and we immediately submitted an application.

One week later we learned that our application was denied. We believe (though we are only guessing, for we were given no explanation) that our income was not considered sufficient by the rental agency. You see house number one cost 1400 Euro/month, which was greater than 1/3 of our income, which is the general standard for determining if a renter is qualified.

No worries. David and I set out on a massive Internet search, selecting only houses that would be in our price range of 1100 Euros a month or less. We looked within a 30 kilometer radius of our language school, and came up with 9 viable options. Our field leader took to the phones to make appointments for us to see these rentals. He is very good to us that way--since we don't speak French yet.

We were able to get appointments to see four of the nine. Of the four, one stood out far above the others for a number of reasons, including the fact that it was available immediately, it had 3 bedrooms PLUS a basement room that we could use for storage, and it had two toilets. It was a row house, so it even had a nice patio and a tiny yard. There were draw backs--for example, there was space for a dishwasher OR a washing machine, but not both. There was room for a refrigerator OR an oven, but not both. There was NO place for a clothes dryer and we were pretty sure that our queen sized sleigh bed would not fit into any of the bedrooms. But we decided the positives outweighed the negatives, and we were certain this was the best one we had seen in our price range, so we submitted an application to rent it last Thursday.

We called on Friday--no word. We stopped in on Saturday--no answer. We called twice on Monday, and the agent did not return our calls. We called on Tuesday morning, the agent was out. We stopped in yesterday afternoon and found our agent outside her office smoking a cigarette. She told David, "Non" and explained that they found another applicant who was a "better fit." We really have no idea what that means, nor do we know if she ever would have bothered to call and tell us the answer. But one thing was clear--house number two was no longer an option.

Our shipping container was due to arrive in France on Wednesday, the 18th of August, and so we had a bit of a sense of urgency in finding a place to live. In an effort to take the next visible step before us, we went to the apartment that was third on our list and submitted an application. As with all the others, this one has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it is absolutely FULL of charm, it is on the large side, and is has space for every appliance a girl could want. On the other hand, it is about 25 minutes from the language school, on the third floor of a building with NO elevator, has no parking, and has not one iota of storage space. Not even a closet.

Apartment number 3 is available immediately, and the agent seemed positive enough about the transaction that she told us that if we got our insurance (you have to have this before you can rent a place) she thought she could give us the keys when we met on Saturday to sign papers.

And so it would seem that we could have a place to live. None of us are very excited about it, but at least we wouldn't be homeless. And in that frame of mind, we began our drive back to the north side of Paris where we are being temporarily housed. We stopped off at IKEA to look at armoires and other creative storage pieces. And we tried to encourage each other.

"It's just for a year."

"Once we're moved in the stairs won't be an issue."

"It IS really cute."

"It sounds like we can rent a parking space half a block away."

We are all trying to be content. And we all believe that IF this is where God wants us, He will give us the grace to enjoy it. But then again, what if this isn't where He wants us?

And why would we think that? Well, there seems to be the possibility that an apartment in Massy--1 km from our language school--might become available. It might not. All we have heard are whispers and rumors. No one is saying anything for certain; yet, our field director seems to be urging us to wait a few more days before committing to apartment number 3. We have no idea what the place in Massy looks like or if we would want it if it did become available. But we all seem to like the idea of being closer to the language school, so we think that waiting might be a good idea.

When we arrived back at our crash pad last night David got a call from the shipping company. It seems that our container, which was supposed to ship on August 4th, did not leave the states until August 11th. This means that our belongings are still in transit, and we probably won't get them until the 28th of August. Is this good news or bad news? We really don't know. We are anxious to have our things, but we want them when we have a place to put them. Could the impediment of our shipping container be a holy hold-up? A divine delay? A providential postponement? C'est possible.

And so today we wait and pray. Actually we played a grand old game of Hand and Foot, trusting that while we were at play, God was at work. He's always at work.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

7 Days, 7 Ways

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know from this post that prayer is not exactly my strong suit. You also know that I have felt a call to make a greater investment in prayer and that I am actively pursuing what, exactly, that looks like. Well, at annual conference, I attended a workshop on prayer which motivated me (hopefully through divine inspiration) to establish a new prayer discipline.

One of my barriers to prayer is that I get easily overwhelmed by the vast amount of needs. Because there is no way to pray for EVERYTHING, I rarely pray for ANYTHING. This is, indeed, a faulty approach for several reasons, not the least of which being that God has commanded me to pray. So I asked God to help me discern what and how He would like me to pray, and the answer came almost instantaneously. He broke my assignment down into 7 things to pray, 1 for each day of the week. Here's my new regime:

On Sunday I pray for FRANCE as a nation. I ask for God to draw the hearts of the French to Him.

On Monday I pray for my FAMILY. I ask for God to ever increase in the hearts of David, Graham and Chandler and I ask that their lives be spent for His glory.

On Tuesday I pray for FRUIT. I pray that God would take the work of our ministry in France and use it to build His kingdom. I acknowledge that WE can't produce the fruit, we can only bear it. I also pray that we would do everything by His power and for His glory.

I call Wednesday WARFARE-day. I ask God to break down the spiritual barriers to the gospel that have gripped France since the days of the so-called "enlightenment."

On Thursday I pray for FAITH. God says that with faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. I ask Him to strength our faith and and then enable us to use it to build His kingdom in France.

On Friday I pray for FRIENDS. I ask God to help us build genuine relationships with unbelieving people so that we can share His love with them. I also ask that God would use friendships all across France to build networks that will become the basis of a church planting movement.

On Saturday I pray for FEET. This one needs some explaining! I pray that our family would be the hands and feet of Jesus in France. I ask God to open our eyes to ways that we can "wash the feet" of the French people by meeting tangible needs.

In order to help build prayer into my life as a habit, I decided to attach this discipline to one that is already well established. For the past few years I have been working on scripture memorization. I keep my memory verses on 3x5 cards that are spiral bound (thanks Niki!) and I review them daily. I decided to write out each of my weekday prayer focuses on one of the 3x5 cards in the BACK so that after I go through my verses, I can flip to the back and pray for that particular day's theme. So far, it is working great.

I don't get down on my knees, and sometimes I don't even close m eyes. I probably only pray for a minute or two each morning, but then I find that as I go through the day God brings the theme for the day back to my mind frequently, and I end up praying for variations, nuances, and specifics pertaining to that theme all day long.

I know that none of this is earth-shattering or revolutionary. But then again, it might be. Because I really DO believe in the power of prayer. I really do think that God has chosen to enact His will through the prayers of His people. So I look forward to walking in this new discipline and watching to see what God will do.

I am almost starting to get excited to pray. That just might be the first miracle!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Clé en Main

"Key in hand." This is the phrase that the salesman used to tell us the final price of our new car. In a providential misunderstanding due to the language barrier, David inadvertently negotiated a lower price. Those who know David well know that he would never purposefully ask for a lower price. That is usually my job. But thanks to our inability to communicate in French, we saved a whopping 1000 Euros off of the sticker price--bringing us in at 2,500 Euros BELOW our car-buying budget! Way-to-go, David and Thank You Lord!

And while I am thanking people, let me say with heartfelt gratitude, "Merci Beaucoup" to all have given money to Four For France over the past two years. It was the accumulation of your gifts that allowed us to pay cash for this car, and we are deeply, deeply grateful.

Now to all who want the gory details (Dad!), here are the specs on this beauty:

It is a 2007 Opel Zafira with 47,500 Kilometers (which is just under 30,000 miles), has had only one owner, and has never been in an accident. There are seat belts for up to seven people, which means when you come to visit we can cart you around in style! The 1.9 Liter Turbo-Diesel engine has a lot of get-up-and-go, and we have discovered that diesel fuel is actually cheaper than unleaded gasoline in France. We love the manual transmission--all 6 gears. Opel cars are made in Germany, but I believe they are owned by GM.

Love it! Love it! Love it!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Still in Transition

We continue to be in transition, and any form of "settling" is still not close enough to have a date attached to it. Perhaps this is because we are having a hard time finding a place to live. We did not get the house that we initially wanted to rent--for reasons that are yet unclear to us. There are very few places available in Massy, the town where our language school is, and so we are broadening our search to surrounding areas.

Even so, there is absolutely nothing over 100 square meters (about 1000 square feet) and most homes and apartments in our price range are about 70 square meters (700 square feet). In France you have to use a Realtor to find a rental, but the Realtors have so much business that they do not bother to return phone calls. We are still more bemused than frustrated by this process, but the shipping container with our stuff is due to arrive in France next week, and it would be nice to be able to give them an address for delivery!

Building on this post about transition, let me add a few to the list:

You know you are in the midst of transition when... have been living out of a suitcase for 6 solid weeks, and your clothes have forgotten what hangers are. go to a church for the first time, and friendly people welcome you and ask (in English), "Where are you from?" and you stare at them blankly because you really do not know how to answer the question. can't part with your cell phone even though it has been "out of service area" for a good four weeks. You dream of owning a cell phone that will work, but for some reason this seems to be an impossible dream. enter the place where you are staying and begin looking for your pets, and then remember you don't have any pets with you at the moment and you haven't had pets with you for a month. grocery shop for one meal at a time because you are not exactly sure where you are going to be the next time you need to eat. finally have a checkbook, but it doesn't look like an American checkbook, and so you have to call a friend to ask HOW to write a check in France. Then you hope that you can spell French numbers correctly.

...every day is an adventure. You no longer know how to plan a day or anticipate events. You go with the flow, because you simply do not have a choice.

On Monday we found ourselves without any hope of meeting with a Realtor, in the midst of a waiting period for getting our car, and discovering that the cell phones we want to buy have to be ordered from another store. Realizing that it would be impossible to check any tasks off of our to-do list, we decided to head in to Paris for a day of R and R.

We went to see Napoleon's tomb and a War Museum, then bought crepes and ate them in this garden behind Notre Dame. After lunch we stood in line for an hour to see Sainte Chapelle. Then we grabbed a scoop of ice cream before hopping on the Metro and a train back to Chantilly.

Today we are back on the hunt for a homestead and the venture for a vehicle--wondering if "transition" is our new normal.

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Paradigm Shift

Our trip to Poland was refreshing and exhausting all at the same time. Yesterday we made our way back to France, but poor Graham spent the entire trip home battling a very painful stomach virus. Chandler commented (somewhere between the third and fourth mix-up of the day, while we were in YET another line trying to get our itinerary sorted out), “I hope nobody takes this the wrong way, but I am really SICK of traveling.” David and I were in our own states of fatigue, but holding it together for the sakes of our boys, who were clearly being troopers of their own. Needless to say, sleep came easily last night.

This morning I am going to hit the laundromat with a mountain of dirty clothes while David tackles step number 43 of the 87 step process required to obtain a cell phone in France. Living in Europe can be so glamorous…and then there are days like this!

But before I decide which book I am going to read while I wait for the rinse cycle, I thought I would share with you my BIG take-away from the conference in Poland. It isn’t earth-shattering, but it is a major paradigm shift for me. After an amazing teaching on the parable of the talents, our speaker asked, “What is God expecting you to do this year?”

It was one of those moments when I knew the answer as soon as the question was asked. This year God expects me to learn, to follow, and to listen. Do you see how contrary those things are to the things I have been doing? I have spent the past few years in ministry teaching, leading, and speaking. Now the teacher must learn, the leader must follow, and the speaker must listen.

I have often lamented the fact that there is no such thing as a Follower-ship Conference. Leadership is taught all of the time, but we are rarely taught how to be good followers—even though before ALL else we are supposed to be followers of Jesus.

I feel the gentle but firm tug of the Holy Spirit, reining me in, slowing me down, and turning my head. He is inviting me to move from my comfortable place in the front of life’s classroom to a small desk in the midst of a giant lecture hall. I am sensing a need to pack all my knowledge and experience away for a season—don’t worry, it will keep—and open a fresh spiral notebook, expectant.

I must change my entire approach to life. I can no longer filter events, insights, and information through the sieve of a mind that is called to teach and lead others. Right now I need to be a sponge, for I have no way of knowing how God wants to use the events, insights, and information that He has planned for me to experience in the upcoming year. I do know that He only allows us to be sponges for a time. Eventually, He plans to wring us out.

Please do not misunderstand. I do not think that roles of teacher and learner are mutually exclusive of one another. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin. God is asking me to flip the coin for a while, allowing the role of learner to dominate. I just hope I can do it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Loneliness--Level 1

I am NOT joking when I tell you that the American song "All By Myself" is playing in the hotel lounge as as I write this post. I feel like my life is being set to music as I sit alone, preparing to blog about my first wave of loneliness. I guess God knows that humor goes a long way with really, the song made me smile.

Let me start with a question. When you go swimming, are you the type of person who likes to ease gradually into the cool water or are you the type who goes straight to the diving board and jumps in head first? Those who know me well will attest to the fact that I'm a jumper. I know it is going to be cold, I just prefer to get it over with quickly.

But there are times in life when even though I know I have to go in to the deepest coldest part of the pool, God puts up a NO DIVING sign, and I am forced to enter slowly, one small, painful step at a time, which is why I have called this post "Loneliness--Level 1."

While today I wrestled with my first bout of loneliness, I am keenly aware of the fact that I have barely scratched the surface of the depths of loneliness that I will feel in the coming weeks and months. I wish I could just "dive in" and get it over with, but it doesn't work that way. I will have to face each level as it comes, trusting that God has prepared me for that which He sets before me. Believing that I will see His glory on each step. Knowing...but experience in new ways...that He truly is sufficient. More than enough. Everything.

Today's loneliness had nothing to do with missing friends and family at home. I am sure those days are coming, but it was not the case today. Nor was I actually alone today, until now. In fact I was surrounded by English-speaking, God-loving women of faith. I'd like to think that I would feel right at home in such a crowd. Instead, I felt like a total outsider.

Don't get me wrong, the people here are wonderful. They are open and accepting. I have met women that I truly hope to count as friends--eventually. I think I was just hit with the realization that it will be a while before I have kindred spirits here. It will take time to get to know people. And it will take time for people to get to know me. And I think that the latter was the part that really made me feel lonely today.

Remember the old Cheers song? "You want to go where everybody knows your name." I have never been the most popular girl in the world, but it is weird to be in a place where everyone else seems to know each other and I hardly know a soul, and those I do know I only know at a very surface level. I also wonder if anyone will ever want to know me. Oh brother--that really sounds pathetic! I can't believe I even wrote it. Nevertheless, there is something woven deep in to the fabric of my being that LONGS to be known by another.

And then I consider two things:

1.) My God knows me. We have established intimacy. Is it possible that in being removed from a place where I felt known by many, I will find a place of deeper intimacy with God? An old worship chorus just came to mind (Thank you, Holy Spirit!):
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And helps me when I call

Truth. Reality. Hope. He IS drawing me closer. Helping me learn to lean on Him.

2.) My God also LONGS to be known. And isn't that why I am here in the first place? Perhaps this longing to be known is a gift. Perhaps I am getting a glimpse into the heart of God. Perhaps this pain is my tutor. Perhaps God is preparing me for ministry.




Today I did get a hug from a dear woman who serves in Spain. She was tender but genuine when she told me, "I know what you are going through, and this is just the beginning." In other words, I have deep waters of loneliness yet to experience. I can't dive in and get it over with, but I can look for Jesus each step of the way. I know I found Him on level one, and I have barely gotten my toes wet. I trust He will meet me in the depths.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wisla, Poland

We are currently nestled in the mountains of Poland at a lovely hotel with 300 other GEM missionaries who are all here for our organization's annual conference. Meanwhile, Graham and Chandler are at a Youth conference at a different hotel in the same town with all of the 13-18 year old GEM missionary kids. I haven't seen or heard from them in two days, but I have been told by some of the youth leaders that they are having a wonderful time and making great friends.

Our conference has been TOTALLY inspiring. There is more to tell than I have time to share at the moment, but I am overwhelmed with the feeling that we are dead center in the middle of God's plan for our lives. We have vision, passion, and tremendous hope. These things are critical because in all other possible ways--mentally, emotionally, and physically--we are completely out of our element. For example:
  • I am 39 years and last week someone had to show me how to fill out a bank deposit slip.
  • Our field leader had to "babysit" us through the rental application process because of the language barrier.
  • AND, as IF having a language barrier were not alienating enough, I do not even understand French pictures. Here is a road sign we often pass. What, oh what, do you think it means?