Monday, November 29, 2010


...for a place to call home,...

...for amazing friends, both near and far,....

...for a snowy day at Versailles,...

...for 15 years of David Graham!

Between Thanksgiving and Graham's birthday, I am full! Full of food, full of gratitude, and full of the joie de vivre!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

En Français

Si vous voulez, vous pouvez traduire ce message sur Google Translate.
(If you want, you can translate this on goolge translate. Click here, and then copy and paste the rest of the post. Just remember, while my French is not perfect, Google Translate is not perfect either:))

Parfois, je veux écrire en français. Je trouve que je pense en français plus en plus. Je crois que je rêve en Français, mais je n’est pas sûr parce que je ne me souviens pas de mes rêves. Mon français, c’est certain que ce n’est pas parfait. Oui. Je suis une debutante. Mais c’est un bon exercice pour moi. Donc, je veux éssayer.

Aujourd’hui David et moi, nous avons eu un gros test. Je pense que j’ai bien fait malgré ma petite rhume. Nous aimons bien les étudiants et les professeurs à l’ecole. Ils nous plaisent beaucoup. Ils sont intelligents et ils travaillent dur.

Demain matin je vais parler avec Caroline. Elle est ma première amie française. Chaque mercredi nous avons un rendez-vous. Nous nous parlons de beaucoup choses. C’est très bien pour moi, parce que c’est une conversation normale. Caroline est française, mais elle a assez de patience de parler avec moi. Elle est sympa.

Demain après-midi, notre famillie va aller au cinema pour la première fois en France. Nous allons regarder un film en anglais. Nous avons regardé deux films en français sur DVD. Vraiment, nous avons compris beaucoup. Pas tous, mais beaucoup.

Je suis très fatiguée car hier soir nous avons eu notre répétition de la chorale. C’est une bonne chorale et j’adore chanter. Mais je n’aime pas la répétition lundi soir jusqu’à 23 heures. C’est trop tard dans la soirée.

Je vais me coucher maintenant. Bonne nuit, mes amis.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holiday Hopes

The holiday season is upon us, and while we continue to strictly forbid any Christmas movies or music until after Thanksgiving, a debate has surfaced in our home as to whether or not we will permit caroling after Thanksgiving occurs in the States; or, if we will postpone the debut of jingling any bells until after Sunday, November 28--the day on which we will be celebrating Thanksgiving here in France. Either way, we are all looking forward to our seasonal favorites.

But first, we WILL celebrate Thanksgiving. It is truly my favorite holiday, and it has been no small task figuring out how to celebrate it here in France. To begin, Thanksgiving is not a French holiday, so while all you stateside pilgrims are watching football and carving turkeys, we ex-pats will be going about business as usual. Its a normal school day for the the four of us, as is Friday. Therefore, as I just mentioned, we will feast on November 28th. We have invited some new but dear friends to celebrate with us, and since these friends are Dutch, it will be a first Thanksgiving for them.

Besides having to find a day to celebrate Thanksgiving, we also had the task of finding a turkey. I have heard that turkeys are sold in the supermarket around Christmas time, but they are not out now. So I went to my neighborhood butcher and asked if I could order a turkey. I mistakenly used the word dindon, which is a male turkey, only to learn that the French use the word dinde, or female turkey, when speaking of the edible bird. Despite my linguistic faux pas, the butcher knew what I wanted and he assured me that I could order one for the 28th of November. He then asked if I would like for him to cook the turkey. "Oh no," I told him, "I will cook the turkey."

Hours later I returned home, saw my teeny tiny oven, and smacked myself upside the head. What was I thinking?!? Of COURSE I would like for the butcher to cook the turkey. So I learned how to say, "I changed my mind" (J'ai changé d'avis) and I marched back up to butcher shop and asked him to cook my turkey. Its a good idea no matter how you slice it (ha ha) because not only do I lack the oven space to cook a turkey, I'm not sure I know how to cook one. My dad usually handles that part of the feast even when I am hosting the meal. Thus, thanks to a butcher who will cuire la dinde, the problem of the Thanksgiving turkey seems to be solved. I pick up a roasted Tom, or Thomasina as the case may be, at noon next Sunday. C'est parfait! Our guests arrive at 1 p.m.

As for the rest of the meal, there are still some loose ends. Libby's canned pumpkin n'exsite pas en France, and I'm not sure I am up to figuring out how to make a pumkin pie from scratch. I suppose good old Apple pie will have to do. Boxed bread cubes are also an anomaly, but given the abundance of fabulous bread, I think I will attempt stuffing from scratch. I plan to spend Wednesday--my day off of school--toasting bread cubes. Finally, Ambrosia salad, that old family favorite, will have to undergo some major modifications in order to make an appearance at a French Thanksgiving table. There are no marshmallows in France and I think canned fruit is illegal. I will do what I can with a fresh pineapple, fresh mandarins, fresh grapes, and crème fraîche, but it just won't be the same without the marshmallows.

Oh and I'm sure that the moment the last piece of pie is eaten we will be eagerly decking the halls of our cozy little apartment. We are a family that revels in the all wonders of Christmas, so here at chez Williamson we plan to put up a tree, hang our stockings, and savor the advent as much as always. But the culture shock experts have stressed the importance of planning carefully for that first Christmas abroad, as it is a notorious season for arousing a nasty bout of homesickness. So we have also begun to make some special arrangements for the holidays to ensure that our first French Christmas is both meaningful and memorable.

That's all I'll say about that just now. After all, Christmas is a great time for a few surprises.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I never get sick. At least I never used to get sick. But this first year abroad has our poor immune systems working hard at getting acquainted with all the French germs, and at the moment, our immune systems are taking a beating. The entire Williamson clan is malades. We are huddled in blankets and one-upping each other with sniffles and coughs, because while none of us feels great, all of us know that the most able-bodied of the bunch will get sidled with the care-taking duties.

I made Paula Deen's Homemade Chicken Noodle soup for dinner last night, but it merited no improvements. We are eating oranges (from Spain) and garlic (from Italy), drinking water, washing hands incessantly, and familiarizing ourselves with the French selection of cold medicines and words like mouchoirs (Kleenexes). Oh the joys of the foreign cold.

Perhaps the one redeeming quality of a full blown cold is the pleasure of indulging in guilt-free reading while one suffers. I mean, no one can be expected to conjugate verbs between sneezes. As my selection of novels in English is dwindling (I am reading my last one now), I am exploring the selection of books in our school's library that are labeled, "En Francais Facile" (in easy French). In the first one, La reine Margot, it has taken me about 3 days to read 5 pages; yet, somehow the process is enjoyable to me.

Well, I best get back to my tea and tissues. All this typing is taxing my joints. Feel free to send your prayers and sympathies our way!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I am being de-constructed. As a result of reading the Tangible Kingdom, I have been reevaluating my approach to life and ministry, and I have come to the realization that I am being called in a new direction. I do not think that this new direction is "higher" or "better" or for the "more spiritually mature." I just think it is different. And I need to figure out what it means for me.

I have spent most of my adult life working in the church, both as a volunteer and as an employee. I loved every single minute that I gave to ministry. I thought that this was how God would always use me because I don't have the gift of evangelism. I thought only evangelists worked outside of the church walls. I am changing my mind on that one. Or God is changing my mind. Whichever.

Now I have the label "missionary." I really don't even know what that means. But from the time I set foot in this country I have felt a pressure, maybe even an expectation, to join all sorts of existing Christian circles in France. For some reason, I am resisting this pull. I think I need to get out of the holy huddle. I am feeling the pointed gaze of my Coach. He's asking me to get in the game.

Don't worry. I haven't forgotten that I need the church. I haven't forgotten the command NOT to give up the habit of meeting together. I know that I need teaching, accountability, support, and a community of worship. I am not going to stop going to church. I AM going to stop JUST going to church.

I am feeling called to be with those who are on a journey towards God--those who may not even know that they are indeed on a journey. I want to be with people who are far from God. I want to allow people to experience the goodness and the love of God in the places that they live and work, and I want to stop expecting that one must dawn the doors of a church to get a glimpse of God's kingdom. I want to take the kingdom of God to the world.

I realize many of you are doing this now. You are living out your faith at work, in your communities, with your friends, everyday. I never denied my faith or hid what I believed. I just found myself spending the majority of my time with those who are like me. I found it comfortable to be with other Christians who didn't challenge my thinking or threaten my beliefs. And I made little effort to make friends or build relationships with those outside of my cozy little circle.

But God has busted me out of those cozy circles, and while I love and miss my wonderful friends at home, I think He is asking me not to run back to the safety of the holy huddle. A huddle which I found ready and willing to take me in here in France. A huddle of lovely, well-meaning people. A huddle of people who may be doing exactly what God has called them to do. A huddle of people that I love, but I am not called to serve.

Oh it would be so easy to link arms with these groups. I could be the Jenn in France that I have been in Spokane. And really, she wasn't that bad. Perhaps she was exactly who God wanted her to be in that place for that time. But that Jenn is not who God wants me to be in France. And so that Jenn is being de-constructed.

I am not sure who will be built in her place. I only know that God has a plan, and I am willing to become whatever He wants me to become in order to do that which He has called me to do.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Le Boucher--A Post that Every Vegetarian Will Hate

I have many deep and profound thoughts going through my head, but I have been unable to put them into words. So instead of waxing poetic, I will take you along with me on a trip through the meat department of our favorite grocery store. Here I can find pretty much all the varieties of meat that are found in the States, plus a few extras.

Boeuf is beef. Not too shocking, unless of course one is ordering in a restaurant, where beef ordered bien cuit or "well done" will be served red in the middle. The French idea of "medium rare" is when the edges are still pink. And if you'd rather eat your beef completely raw, you can. Just order the steak tartare, and you will receive something that looks like a slab of uncooked hamburger meat--commonly served with a raw egg on top. Steak tartare is sold in the grocery store. It must be a very easy dish to prepare. I can imagine the instructions. 1. Open Package 2. Place meat on plate 3. Serve.

Cheval is a type of meat that I have never seen in an American grocery store, but apparently the cheval sold in this store was raised just north of the U.S., in Canada. It grieves me to tell you that cheval is horse. Our French teacher tells us that it is her favorite meat and that it is very tender and very flavorful. I cannot bring myself to try it. Not yet. Maybe someday it will just be served to me, and I will eat it in ignorance, and then I will make a sound judgement. For now, I can only picture Black Beauty when I stroll past the cheval section. Poor Black Beauty.

Porc is, of course, pork. The porc section in France is huge. They have all the chops and roasts that I am accustomed to seeing. However, while I have been a lifelong fan of ham, I had no idea how many varieties of ham existed until I went grocery shopping in France. They have two or thee aisles dedicated to hams and sausages. I have only begun to sample the options, and I have not found a loser yet. And no, I do not think of Porky Pig when shopping for pork. And even if I did, it would not keep me from buying pork.

I have eaten veau de lait, or veal, but I have never prepared it. I also do not think that I have seen it in American grocery stores. Here veal has an entire section, and there are even different cuts of veal, which I did not even know existed. Do you cook veal? How do you prepare it? I might be able to bring myself to eat itty bitty baby cows.

My sisters kids have been raising sheep for the fair during the past few summers. Due to an illness that prevented said kids from going to the fair this year, that family has been eating a great deal of lamb this fall. Lamb, or agneau, is a fairly common dish in France. I plan to buy some next week to make a Shepherd's Pie. I do like lamb, but I have to work really hard at NOT picturing cute fluffy critters in order to enjoy eating it.

Poulet is chicken. In France, there is chicken, and then there is Bresse chicken. According to Wikipedia: The birds are highly valued for their rich, gamey depth of flavour, yet with fine, tender flesh and delicious, clean-flowing fat. Roughly 1.2 million are raised annually, but such is the demand inside France that few birds make it out of the country. As a premium product, they sell at a premium price: Poulet de Bresse command around 15 euro ($21) per kilo at fine food markets. I love to roast a chicken, and will one day bite the bullet and spend the big bucks for a Bresse chicken, just to see if it is worth all the hype. I'll let you know what I discover

I have only eaten duck--canard--once, and that was when I was 17 years old and traveling in China with my parents. We had Peking Duck, and it was horribly oily and I did not care for it. I have heard, however, that in France duck is quite lovely. I will give it another shot in a restaurant someday. If I like it, I may attempt it at home. Do you like duck?

Last but not least, there is the lapin. Last week I asked a young French woman what her favorite traditional French food was and she answered in an instant: Lapin. I am absolutely certain that I have never seen this meat in an American grocery store or even at an American butcher's shop. I would try this before I would try cheval, but it does challenge my sensibilities a wee bit. After all, I did once have a pet lapin. Do you know what it is?

Not yet seen in the grocery store, but often seen on menus in French restaurants are snails (escargot) and frog legs (cuisses de grenouille).

So, what's for dinner?

Saturday, November 6, 2010


No, I still don't have any pictures hung. But despite our bare walls, I decided to let you see the rest of our apartment. I had to stand in the corner of each room (where the unhung pictures are piled) in order to make it appear as if we have fully moved in.

Here is our cozy living room. The doors open to our small garden, which would be perfect for a small dog, which Graham and I are ready to go get today but which David is not yet convinced we need. David is usually right. But Jack, who has never been an "only pet" does behave as if he needs a little friend. I'm just sayin'!

Here you see our dining room, where the bare walls are so completely blaring I may actually get motivated to hang some pictures today. Or not. Again the doors open to our charming garden.

Our bedroom also has doors that open to a small garden, which is sort of like a back yard. A teeny tiny back yard. But a big enough back yard for a teeny tiny dog. By the way, if one were to be in the market for a small dog, what breed might you suggest to such a person? Not that I'm looking.

This is our laundry room, which is amazingly large considering the fact that our entire apartment consists 800 square feet. I love this space--we have room to store luggage, a place for the vacuum cleaner, and even a spot for Jack's litter. It's not pretty, but I can't imagine life without it.

I still have not shown you the boy's room (they were still sleeping when I took the rest of the pictures), our dressing room (imagine sharing a closet--with THREE boys) or our bathroom--which is actually two rooms because in France the toilet always gets its own room. It's no castle, but it almost feels like home to me. All it needs is a little dog.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Worship in the Alps

So here is a little sampler of one of our worship times. Warning: this is one of those videos that is mostly for the grandparents, and quite frankly it makes me feel rather self-conscious. But my boys all three, THEY ROCK!

It was fun to lead the worship. I also was grateful for the training, fellowship, food, and setting of this wonderful retreat. Much more later on what God has been showing us about His plans for us in France. Right now, seeing as our classes resume tomorrow, I best start doing that homework that I have postponed until the very last minute!