Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Journey in Jello

Yesterday we arrived in Poland for the GEM Annual Conference. I like Poland. I struggle with Polish food.

I really am NOT a picky eater. I could even be called an adventurous eater. And I did at least TRY each of the delicacies in the photos below. I tried them, but I couldn't like them.

Today at lunch, one of the options in the buffet was this little lovely. It's translated label said, "Cod in lemon jello." MMMmmmm MMMmmmm. Actually, it was better than what I had for breakfast, which was....

...tuna and corn in jello. I asked one of the missionaries who serves in Poland,"Why do they put meat in jello?" (I did not add, "And WHY would they serve it for breakfast?!?")

She explained to me that back in the days of the lords, the peasants would only receive scraps of meat from the land owners. To make it go further and to make it prettier, they came up with the bright idea to..., to..., well..., to put it in jello. She concluded by pointing out the nutritional benefits: gelatin IS good for the hair and nails. Even knowing all that, this crab and olive jello was hard to swallow.

So far we have had three meals at the hotel. There have been MORE than 3 meat jello options at every meal. Fortunately, potatoes are also a staple. And they just peel and boil those. No jello is added. I am eating a lot of potatoes.  

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Gift of Self-discipline

Last Sunday I didn't want to go to church.

I was, quite frankly, a little angry with God. I want to do and be things that God is not allowing at the moment. So I was pitching a fit. I am such a spiritual toddler at times!

When in I find myself teetering on the edge of self-absorption I depend on this saving grace: self-discipline. My wise mama always told me, "There are some decisions that you only make once...and then you just stick with them." In this way, she taught and modeled discipline.

In our family one such decision/discipline is that we go to church on Sunday. It is a non-negotiable. Slumber parties, sporting events, and recreational activities are not permitted to interfere with our decision to go to church on Sunday. We always go. So despite my feelings and personal desires, out of sheer discipline, I went to church last Sunday. And I am glad I did. Because sometimes I forget that life is not about what I want to do and be. Through worship, fellowship, and teaching,  I was reminded that life is about God, and He is always worthy of praise. That little discipline of going to church protected me from a whole day of wallowing in self-pity.

I wonder if discipline could be compared to a fence around your backyard. Perhaps it provides a boundary that keeps good stuff in and bad stuff out. Sometimes it takes work to build and maintain a fence, but in the end, its all for your own good.

For me, running three days a weeks is a form of self-discipline. I decide in advance which days I will run, I decide ONCE, and then I stick with it, rain or shine. I do not rethink it in the morning--because if I did I would never go! I always dread going for a run, but I never regret having gone. I never say, after my three little miles, "Gosh, I really wish I hadn't gone running this morning." On the contrary, all day long I reap the benefits. I feel better, I sleep better, and I even eat better.

The problem is that I am easily deceived. I can be convinced that the comfort of my home on a rainy morning is preferable to a good work-out. I can be convinced that I will feel better after spending a Sunday morning in my bed than I would feel after having gone to church. But my own thoughts and feelings betray me. Self-discipline is simply heeding God's wisdom instead of my own.

How often have I refused to lead a disciplined life because it seemed too hard? I'll be honest, self-discipline is hard. For years I have admitted that the most difficult part of my run is from the bed to the front door. It is in those few meters that I am exercising my "discipline" muscle, and that is the muscle which, after over 13 years of running, still continues to be the weakest!

But no matter how hard is is to lead a disciplined life,  the undisciplined life is harder! Consider the consequences of undisciplined spending, undisciplined eating, undisciplined TV watching, undisciplined drinking, or undisciplined children!

II Timothy 1:7 says, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."

Two things stand out to me from this verse:

  1. It is very interesting to me that power, love, AND SELF-DISCIPLINE are GIVEN to us. We have them. How eager I am to unwrap the gifts of power and love, but I keep the gift of self-discipline in its box. Spiritual disciplines, like reading the Bible, praying, fasting, tithing, and caring for the poor can seem like burdens. Yet, the more I yield to the wisdom of using the God-given gift of discipline, the more I see His goodness and grace for ME. In tithing I am set free from the love of money. In caring for the poor I am set free from the clutches of envy. In praying I am set free from the need to control. In reading my Bible, my eyes are opened to truth. Self-discipline is a gift, an often unopened gift, but a gift that is available to every believer.
  2. It strikes me that the spirit of power, love, and self-discipline is contrasted with the spirit of timidity. I had not realized that self-discipline could act as an antidote to fear. Yet, it makes sense doesn't it? When I think of self-discipline as that fence around the backyard, I see how it can provide security and confidence. 
And what is self-discipline but a decision to yield to that which God has called me to do. Lord, help me welcome the gift of self-discipline!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why I am Not a Blogger

I am not a Blogger. I am a missionary who blogs.

My goal is not to become "discovered" as an author. I do not aim to teach, inspire or instruct. I do not care to convince anyone of anything. I have NO desire to promote my blog, and I am certainly not trying to gather a following.

I have three very simple goals for Four For France.
  1. I want to chronicle our journey, so that we, as a family, have a way to look back and remember the things that God has done for us. 
  2. I want to provide a way for friends, family, and supporters to know what we are doing in our day to day lives so that they can share in the adventure and pray for us.
  3. I want to proclaim the goodness of God. 
So, I have some questions for you. I would be much obliged if you would take a minute to respond. 
  • Am I accomplishing the aforementioned goals? 
  • Do my posts provide you with enough of a glimpse into our life that you feel equipped to pray for us?
  • As a reader of this blog, would you like to see any changes?
I truly appreciate any feedback you can give me. I believe that I am called to write this blog, and I do so out of obedience to God. Nevertheless, I would also like to honor those of you who regularly read my ramblings. I am not seeking your approval (I am approved by God!), but I would value your input. 

And if I forget to tell you later, thanks for sharing in our journey.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How to Avoid Packing

Packing is no fun and must be avoided at all costs.

The best way to avoid packing is to fill your time with things that seem more urgent, like, for example, preparing meals. But if cooking normal meals does not take enough time, bake extras that everyone will LOVE so much that they fail to notice that you have not been packing any boxes. Baking bread is a really good option because it takes a lot of time. Yesterday I made these cinnamon rolls:

Recipe found here:
Of course, when in a sugar comma from eating cinnamon rolls, one could not be expected to pack, therefore, by making and eating cinnamon rolls, you will have effectively avoided packing for at least a day and a half.

Another good way to avoid packing is to play games. Long, drawn-out, on-going tournaments work the best. Chandler and I have been having daily Cribbage matches. He adds to our fun by creating Lego creatures to adorn the Cribbage board. We generally play three games a day, and the best two out of three wins the day. Chandler is a fierce competitor, and now that I have taught him all my pegging tricks, he gives me a run for my money. Or at least he would if we played for money. Which we don't.

Chandler is always blue. I am always red. But we have broken all of the red pegs,  so I play  on the red track using the green pegs. Clearly, Chandler was winning this one!
Sometimes a free evening can result in packing. To avoid this possibility, make sure to be aware of any free community events that you could spontaneously attend. Should you find yourself staring at empty boxes in the early evening hours, you can jump up and say, "I just remembered, tonight is the monthly meeting of Bankers for the Preservation of Under-Water Basket Weaving." Never mind that you are not a banker. Nor do you weave baskets.

We chose to go to the local Bastille Day Celebration. It was free, walking distance from our apartment, and a fantastic excuse to postpone packing.

If all else fails, start writing a novel. That's what I've done. I am horrible at writing fiction, but I'd rather wrestle with words than bother with boxes. So far I have a list of characters, though I have no idea how they are connected or what they are going to do. But at least they all have names. My favorite so far in an accountant named Lionel Richie who capitalizes on the name he shares with the famous singer by putting really dorky advertisements in the local newspaper. You know like, "I'll work on your taxes ALL NIGHT LONG" and "HELLO? Is it a CPA you're looking for?" Go ahead and groan. I told you I was lousy at fiction.

Still, writing a novel, albeit a bad one, does keep one free from the filling of cartons. And in the end, it's not really about telling a good story, it's about avoiding the pain of packing. So given that goal, my book is a soaring success.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today we left the United States to travel to Europe.

It feels like it has been a year. Not 10 years. Not 3 months. But exactly like one year, if, indeed, a year can be "felt."

After a year, I can't remember what Speed Limit signs look like in the United States. I don't have a library card, a gym card, or a Costco card in my wallet. I miss Mexican food.

On the other hand, it seems like we have always had a baguette with dinner every night. Oven temperatures in degrees Celsius no longer confuse me, nor do prices in Euros, nor weights in kilograms. I always remember to take my own shopping bags to the grocery store.

I recently dreamed that I was speaking French at the Safeway on the South Hill of Spokane and I could not figure out why no one understood me. I am not sure what that means.

What I do know is this: One year ago today, I left the United States. And I will never be the same.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Locks of Love

The other day, while walking hand in hand through the Tuileries Garden, David and I come across this sculpture. For a moment, I am not sure I understand it. 

Then, I glance across the lawn, and see what is really a very common sight in Paris parks. I am fully enlightened. The sculpture makes perfect sense.

Public displays of affection abound in the city of love. Couples wrap around each other, completely oblivious to the world around them. They are often deep in conversation, and the lock of their gaze appears to be even stronger than the lock of their embrace. 

I am charmed. Delighted. Inspired. I find myself scanning the park for an empty bench. I wonder if David and I need to experience this aspect of the French culture. "When in Rome...," I think to myself. But alas, we are on our way to meet some friends for lunch. Our cultural experiment will have to wait for another day.

Then, after a wonderful meal, we discover further evidence that romance reigns supreme in the city on the Seine: Bridges peppered with padlocks that proclaim love.

We ask a near-by vendor about the sudden appearance of locks on all the bridges. In all our days in Paris, we had never seen anything like this. We are told that the trend was spontaneously started just a few days prior by an anonymous pair. Their simple gesture strikes a chord, and lovers from around the world are compelled to join in. 

I find myself wishing I could read the story behind each lock. I feel as though I have stumbled upon a million private moments that have culminated in a public display of affection en masse. I cherish the experience, keenly aware of how special it is to love and be loved.

David and I did not add a lock to the collection, though we were both smitten with the idea. Maybe next time...after spending some time locked in each other's arms on a park bench. 

Updated July 20, 2011:

We did it!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Born to Fly

Some people were born to fly. My husband is one such person.

He is a pilot; flying is as natural to him as breathing, and almost as essential.

But because of God's call on our lives, David has sacrificed his love of flying for the sake of sharing the gospel in France. He left a career he loved, not knowing when, or even IF he would ever fly a plane again. But he hoped....

This week David met with a man who sells Cirrus Design airplanes in France. David has done some work for Cirrus in the states: as a Certified Flight Instructor, David delivered Cirrus Airplanes to new owners and then trained the owners in their new planes. It turns out that since Cirrus planes are manufactured in the United States, when a French person buys a Cirrus plane, it arrives in France with a US tail number. With his FAA certification, David can train pilots anywhere in the world as long he is training them in a plane with a US tail number. All of this to say...the Cirrus salesman has asked David if he would be willing to train Cirrus owners here in France, just a few days each month.

Of course, it is no simple endeavor. Issues like insurance and work permits have to get worked out and David needs a few hours of retraining to be "current." But both parties have happily agreed to begin the process.

Both GEM (our mission organization) and Raphael (our church planting mentor/trainer) have encouraged David to pursue this VERY part-time employment opportunity:
  • GEM is encouraging David to fly because they have found that Europeans are suspicious of people who do not have "real" jobs. By spending a few hours a month pursuing a respectable career, David will gain credibility in our community. We will have an easier time making friends with unbelievers and we will have more opportunities to integrate into French culture. GEM has discovered that having missionaries IN the marketplace increases both the depth and breadth of their effectiveness. 
  • Raphael is encouraging David to fly because most of French pastors who are trained as church planters in France MUST be bi-vocational. New churches here can rarely afford to pay their pastor a salary. If David spends some time working as a pilot, he will be able to model bi-vocational living. It will allow David to live a life that other church planters can seek to emulate. 
Perhaps David is getting his wings back. We shall see what God will do. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Got Nothin'

What to say when there's really nothing to say? Perhaps days like today are better left unblogged. I mean do you REALLY care what we are having for dinner (Chicken Marsala), what color I painted my toenails (Parisian Pink), or how many books I have on my Kindle (14)?

I could ramble on about the complications of ordering from Old Navy when you live in France but have an American credit card. Seriously, I have spent half of my day on that issue. Doesn't it sound exciting?

I suppose I could let you in on my internal debate about whether or not I want to try to drop 10 pounds this summer. As if pounds DROP off. Ha! If they did it would take no effort at all to LOSE them. Unfortunately, unwanted pounds CLING to my body with a death grip. Not that you should care.

I mean, really, you have better things to do than read about the hair removal cream that I tried on my upper lip (Oh, but it DID work nicely!), the price of pineapples at the Carrefour  (I bought 2!), or my new favorite website (, which is like a French version of At least I HOPE you have better things to do. 

You certainly have no need to know about our broken bathroom sink, the watercolor painting we recently bought on a Paris street corner, or the fact that we finally got a European DVD player so that we no longer have to use our computer to watch DVDs that we have purchased in France. Because I truly can't imagine that any of those tidbits are of interest to you. They barely interest me. 

So I suppose I ought not to blog today. I got nothin'.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Road Trip

Graham was invited to spend a few days with a friend who lives near Kandern, Germany, which is just south of Strasboug, France. At the same time, I had the opportunity to spend a few days with some friends and colleagues who are getting ready to leave for a one year furlough in the States. My friends live in the Alsace region of France, just across the border from Switzerland. In the morning I helped my friends pack a few boxes, and in the afternoon they took me sightseeing around the area.

The first afternoon we ventured into the village of Riquewihr, France. Due to politics and wars, this region of France has, during many eras, actually belonged to Germany. Thus much of the architecture and language has a Germanic flavor.

After exploring Riquewihr we drove to an area that is known for it's stork population. If you look carefully at the following photo, you can see storks in the trees; I guess I didn't realize that storks nested in trees!

Some storks apparently prefer the suburbs:

Can you imagine having a nest like that on your roof? They are pretty birds, but I didn't any who were on baby-delivery duty! Perhaps it was a slow day.

Today we drove into Basel, Switzerland. I had never been to Switzerland before, and while I loved every bit of the foreign experience, we couldn't resist having a little taste of home:

But just in case you are wondering, I still have not had a sip of Starbucks Coffee in a year. My cup was filled to the brim with a Chai Tea Latte.

The Rathaus in Basel is a piece of art. I do LOVE a red building.

Tomorrow, Graham and I will head back to the Paris area. Funny, I've been in three different countries in three days. The joy of living in Europe!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Comfort vs Calling

Oh how I love the good old U.S. of A! I am shamelessly patriotic. My entire house used to be decorated in Red, White, and Blue. There is a 25 ft. flagpole at the end of my driveway at home. Last year, on the Fourth of July, I wept while singing patriotic songs on the lawn of parents' church--knowing that in a few short days I would be leaving the "land that I love" for foreign soil. My citizenship gives me rights and privileges that most of the world envies. And I am truly grateful.

But having lived abroad now for almost a year, I have had the opportunity to see things from another perspective. Nowadays, I can actually spot Americans on the streets of Paris before I hear the inevitable English spoken from their mouths. They are usually wearing white tennis shoes and  talking very loudly. They look confident and they smile a lot. I am not ashamed when I see them, I am one of them. But after a year in France, I find that we blend in a little more. People, French people, will stop to ask us for directions, not realizing that WE are Americans until we speak French with our Yankee accents.

And after a year here, I am beginning to understand how Europeans view Americans in general, and specifically, how European Christians view American Christians. Their perspective is rather fascinating...and, well, sometimes convicting.

Let me give you an example:

The French pastor/evangelist who will be training us in church planting recently asked me, "Do you know John Smith?" (Okay, so his real name isn't "John Smith," but since he is a very well known American Christian leader, I changed his name. While I believe this story is true, it is just hear-say, and I have no desire to gossip or slander. Besides, the real name is not relevant to the story.)

I answered, "I certainly know OF John Smith, though I've never met him personally. I have read some of his books."

Our mentor was integral in inviting this American Christian leader to Paris to speak to a group of French Christian leaders. But John Smith would only come on the condition that he could stay in a hotel with a king-sized bed. A king-sized bed is a VERY rare thing in France, even in Paris. Perhaps such a request is not extravagant in the United States, but it was a major conundrum here. They scrambled around and found a way to accommodate him, but I can only imagine the head shaking and eye-rolling that went on in the process. Because the real issue wasn't the bed. It was the attitude that said, "My willingness to minister in France is contingent upon my own personal comfort."

Yes, we do love our personal comforts.

In fact, last night, while having dinner with some friends, we were told that American Christians have a reputation for determining the will of God based upon ease. Our European friends explained that Americans are known to retreat from a calling when opposition presents itself. Shrugging, the American says, "It must not be God's will, or these doors would not have closed." Our friends asked us, incredulous, "How is that Biblical? What person in the Bible, when given a call from God, did NOT face opposition?"

I wonder, is this just our excuse? Is this the way that we avoid having to go outside of our comfort zone? Do we assume that if God is going to ask us to do something He is going to make it easy?

So as I hear these stories and process these impressions of my fellow countrymen...of me, really...I find myself convicted. Just yesterday, I was whining because my life was lacking comfort. We have had several un-budgeted expenses lately, mostly related to traveling back and forth from Paris to Loches to figure out housing and to prepare for our move. This has resulted in a need to economize in other areas. Yesterday I found myself grumbling through my entire grocery shopping trip. Rather than being thankful for the fact that we would have plenty of food to eat, I was irritated because I could not buy the KINDS of foods that I wanted. Rather than praising God for His faithful provision, I expressed disappointment for having to pinch my pennies. My basket was full of food, yet my heart full of ingratitude. I am a spoiled brat.

I could conclude that IF God is really calling us to Loches, it would be easy. There would be no need to "tighten our belt" financially. In fact, IF this is really God's will for us, then wouldn't the house be available BEFORE the kids start school instead of 2 weeks AFTER? Wouldn't God make all the pieces fall perfectly into place with no effort on our part, and certainly without asking us to make sacrifices of time, money, or convenience? After all, He's God, so wouldn't He make it simple AND comfortable for those who are seeking to do His will?

Not necessarily.

Maybe its more about obedience than comfort. Maybe God allows the opposition to help develop perseverance  Maybe He allows it so that His glory can be revealed. Maybe the opposition is from the enemy, who seeks to thwart the will of God. Maybe He wants us to fight. Maybe He has already won the battle on our behalf, but instead of engaging, we retreat, and therefore we never see the victory.

Where oh where does God say, "Follow me, and you will have smooth sailing all the way!"? He doesn't promise comfort. He actually promises the opposite. So why do we cling to the idea that we can follow Jesus without getting up from the LaZboy? Christianity is not a spectator sport. It is not supposed to be comfortable.

If you are feeling comfortable with your Christian walk, then whatever you do, DO NOT READ the book, Radical, by David Platt. It doesn't just "enlighten," it meddles.

But if you do read it, please let me know what you think. Our family is now reading it together, and when we finish it we are going to decide if we, as a family, will take the challenge that Platt presents at the end of the book. I have a hunch that the Williamson boys will be "all in."

I will tell you this, it is no small challenge. Not if  it is taken seriously. It will mess with our worldview and it will disrupt our lifestyle. We will not be able to continue as we are. It will not be easy.

What about you? Have you read Radical? Will you read it? If you do, and if you decide to take the challenge, let me know. We love to make journey with you.