Monday, January 30, 2012


Today I remarked to two different people at two different times that after 18 months in France, I finally feel like we are out of transition/crisis mode. We are all finally settled in and able to put our full energy into ministry. We are finally in a place where we can look beyond our family's needs and begin pouring out into others.

And then the phone rang.

And we learned from our renters that our house in Spangle had flooded. Again.

I lift my eyes up...from whence cometh my help? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of Heaven and Earth.

And tonight I say to you, we WILL put our trust in the Lord; we WILL lead the service at church this Sunday, as scheduled; we WILL reach out to those around us who are in need. We will not return to crisis-mode. We will not let the enemy use this "light and momentary" trial to rob us of our joy or to thwart the work of the Lord.

Our God is greater, our faith is secure, our hearts are at peace.

Please pray for our renters and for insurance adjusters and for all the practical pieces of this puzzle. And then sing a song of praise to the Lord, who promises to work ALL things together for our good and His glory.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"How do you do it?"

Have you ever had someone look at you in amazement and say, "I don't know how you do it!"?

Today, as I was leaving the church to go for a run, a dear friend said those very words to me. She was referring to my running, which, honestly, is hardly more than a belabored trot. I am quite possibly THE WORLD'S WORST committed jogger. Yes, I go faithfully. But its not pretty.

How do I do it? Messily. Awkwardly. Imperfectly.

I do it only by the grace of God.

If I had to be GOOD at it, I wouldn't go.

I am learning that God's grace doesn't enable me to do all things excellently.  It enables me to do excellent things. Do you see the difference?

  • Leading a women's prayer meeting in French is an excellent thing to do--even if I do it imperfectly.
  • Running a few times a week is an excellent thing to do--even if I do it awkwardly.
  • Loving people in our community is an excellent thing to do--even if I do it messily.

Oh, how the enemy used to paralyze me with perfectionism. If I couldn't be the smartest, the best, or the fastest then I didn't want to play. How prideful is that?

Then I began to understand grace.

Grace opens the door so that humility can enter in, and finally, FINALLY, I am set free to do the things of God. I don't do them perfectly. I just do them, leaving the perfecting to Him.

"How do you do it?"

By grace and grace alone.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fur for France, Canine Edition (or Canine Addition)

As some of you know, I had to leave my dog, Libby, in the States. She was a giant schnauzer that needed room to roam and was not suited to French city living. I found her a very good home, but still, I cried many tears--it broke my heart to give her up. David, who knows that I am a dog lover, agreed to get a dog here if it is SMALL enough to go wherever we go. I was delighted, but quickly discovered that I was in for a challenge, as I tend to prefer the personality of BIG dogs. I needed to find a big dog in small clothes! After months of research, we finally found a breed that met David's size requirements and my temperament requirements.

Today we reserved a puppy! It is a Cairn Terrier, a breed which was made famous by Dorothy's beloved Toto. The cairn is the essence of terrier; plucky, spirited, bold, inquisitive, hardy, clever, stubborn and scrappy.

To get an idea of how our puppy will look when she is full grown, here is picture of her parents. Her mom weighs about 10 pounds and her dad weighs about 14 pounds--too big for a purse (thank God) but small enough for a lap.

Are you ready to meet our little darling? Here she is! She was born December 9th and will not be fully inoculated and able to leave her sweet mama until the middle of February. We plan to bring her home on February 18th.

Now she just needs a name! In France, pure bred dogs are named according to the year in which they were born. Even though our puppy is not a formally  registered dog, she is a pure bred cairn terrier, and so we will follow their naming guidelines. All dogs born in 2011 are to have names that begin with the letter G. We have narrowed down our list to 5 names, all of which are easy to say in French. If you want to let us know which of the five you like the best, feel free to participate in the survey on the sidebar of my blog. 

Isn't she just the cutest thing you ever saw?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

La Groupe de Prière des Femmes

I was asked by our pastor to take on the leadership of a women's prayer group that meets twice a month. I like prayer; I like leading; I like women. So why did  I hesitate? The French. Even though I think my conversational skills are improving (slightly), I still find it horribly difficult to pray in French--which requires using the subjunctive form of most verbs.

But how will I ever grow if I only do the things that are already comfortable for me?

So of course, I said, "yes."

And of course, God has met me, once again, in my weakness.

Typically, there are about 6-8 women there. Most of the "regulars" are members of our church, but the group is open to anyone, and it is almost NEVER the same group of 8 women.

It is a group of gracious women who are willing to let me lead them despite my broken, child-like French. They gently correct me (at my request). They greatly encourage me (out of their own kindness). And when it is over I find myself wondering if I could have possibly blessed them as much as they blessed me. Probably not. But that's okay, because its not a contest.

When I stop and think about it, I am amazed. When I left my job as Director of Women's Ministry at Life Center, I wondered if I would ever again have the joy and privilege of serving women in that way. I put anything that I considered a "gift" or a "calling" on the altar, and I asked God to consume them all with His fire. I did my best to empty myself, and I sincerely sought to be simply available--available for God to use me in any way He chose.

And what did He do?

He asked me to serve a group of women. I suppose that shouldn't surprise me, but it does, in a most delightful way.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Or, more accurately (though less catchy), guess who came to lunch!

We were blessed by a visit from Pastor Joe, the pastor of our home church in Spokane, WA. He is spending January in Europe as the chaplain for a traveling class of Whitworth graduate students. One of their stops was Paris--so on a free day, Joe took the train down to Tours, where David met him and brought him to our house in Loches. It was a little like show-and-tell for David and me--as we walked through our village showing and telling Joe all about our life and ministry here.

So. Much. Fun.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Education of Graham and Chandler

As you know, we have been on quite a journey to figure out the best scenario for Graham and Chandler's education.

We finally made the decision to take Graham out of the private French school here in Loches and enroll him in a US based ACSI on-line High School called NorthStar Academy. Chandler will remain at Saint Denis, at least for the remainder of the school year. We feel like the Lord has been faithful to reveal His plan for each of our boys, and each one has a feeling of optimism and hopefulness going forward. They both completed the first trimester with strong grades and positive reports from their teachers at Saint Denis. But Graham is certain that he will go to university in the States and would rather follow a US curriculum to prepare for that. Our church community here has been very supportive of this decision. 

NorthStar has a teacher-led distance education program that is fully accredited and they offer many AP classes that appeal to Graham. He is already off to a great start, and we are thrilled to see him enjoying school once again. On-line education seems to be tailor-made for people like Graham; he is motivated to learn, he works well independently, and he can move at his own pace. 

We are not blind to potential challenges, such as a lack of social interaction and diminishing French language skills. In order to try to address these issues head-on, Graham has committed to participate in our church community's morning prayer meetings Monday- Friday as well as a small group Bible study with a group of young men that meets once a week. Both of these activities are entirely in French, and good for the soul as well as the mind. Graham has also developed a rigorous exercise schedule which includes working out with a friend at least once a week.  

Both schools have tuition charges. We have received so many generous donations to help us cover these expenses, and we are thoroughly grateful--because the boys' ability to succeed in school is paramount to our ability to minister in France. We still need to raise a little more support to cover their tuition through the end of the school year, but we trust that the Lord will be faithful to provide. He always does.

Thanks so much for your love, prayers, and support. And thank you for loving our boys. We appreciate you!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Insomniac in the House

I am a chronic insomniac. My mother does not sleep well. None of my sisters sleep well. I've had trouble sleeping since the age of 16. But I am in the midst of a particularly long stretch of sleep-depravity. In the past 9 days I would estimate that I have had a total of 25 hours of sleep...less than three hours per night.

Poor me.

Typically I function pretty well on few hours of sleep, but darn it, I'm tired! David went to the pharmacy today and picked up a natural sleep remedy that was recommended by a friend...its called Valerian Root. I'm hoping it works because my old stand-by--Benedryl--has not been helping at all.

Graham offered to hit me over the head.

In the mean time, between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., I have been getting a lot done. I've read books, practiced praying in French, and last night I analyzed David's breathing patterns. This morning I told David that I think that he is taking too shallow of breaths while he is sleeping and that he needs to work on breathing more deeply in his sleep.

He appreciates my concern. He urged me to consider Graham's offer.

This afternoon I tried to take a nap, but I my body wasn't having any of it. Warm bed, quiet house, cozy jammies, and...nothin', nada, zilch. I'm doing everything I can imagine: I've cut out caffeine, I've increased my running distances, I even had my blood drawn yesterday to see if my thyroid levels are out of whack again. 

I feel like a zombie.

Will you please pray for me to sleep? There's something in it for you--because if I could see past my own exhaustion I could blog about exciting things like how our church planting training is going, big decisions we've made about the boys' school situation, my current puppy considerations, and the wonderfully full schedule for our guest room. Instead, for now, you are stuck with a post so boring that it could put a person to sleep. 

Hey, maybe I should try that! Reading my own blog could be sleep-inducing.

... for he grants sleep to those he loves. Ps 127:2b

Thursday, January 5, 2012

10 Things that either made me laugh or cry...

The following is a list of ten things that make me feel like laughing or crying. Can you figure out which ones put a smile on my face and which ones brought tears to my eyes?
  1. The on-going battle of the fleas, and the sleep I am losing over it because when I crawl into bed I feel itchy all over--even though the only place I have seen any fleas is on Jack's body.
  2. The fact that Chandler ate left-over Brussels sprouts for breakfast the other day because there really, truly was nothing else available. (Yes, I did go to the market that day and refill the bare cupboards!)
  3. The crooked smile that French people give me when they hear my American accent.
  4. The overwhelming generosity of our  friends and supporters.
  5. Finally feeling free from my love of being front and center, only to discover that starting in February I am going to be teaching in church about once a month. 
  6. Bob
  7. The love note that David tucked into my purse just before he and the boys left town for a few days.
  8. Having Graham correct my French.
  9. The AWESOME new game that my sister sent our family for Christmas, which we have already played like seven times. (This is a trick question--because sometimes games DO make me cry)
  10. The fact that I burnt the caramel corn.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What's New

New Year's Day 2012, and I am thankful for a God who promises to make all things new.

During 2011 the Lord did a lot of hard work in my life. Hard for me, that is. In fact, He was so busy working on my heart that I don't know how He had time to manage angels and run the universe and all that jazz. I guess that's why He's God and I'm not.

Anyways, looking back, I wish that God had put one of these signs on my forehead:

Like most businesses, I did not have the luxury of "shutting down" while God was remodeling me. Life kept coming, and people had to deal with me--dust, sandpaper, stray nails, and all. I'll admit it. I wasn't pretty, inside or out. I am not excusing my bad behavior, just acknowledging that when God peeled back the walls of my life, some major flaws were revealed. He had to expose them to fix them. 

So I spent much of 2011 feeling like this:

And many people kindly tolerated my mess. (thank you)

What follows are my reflections on God's specific work in my life. I needed to write them down to process it, to acknowledge it, and to begin to understand it. I continue with the above analogy, imagining myself as a home, and God as a construction worker. Be warned, this may not be very entertaining reading. I share it not because I find it amazing or informative, but because I LOVE it when, after a particularly dark season, God gives me a glimpse of what He's been up to. Here's the work that God was doing in my darkness, as far as I can understand and verbalize it:

My pride was like termites, eating me away from the inside out. Few could detect its sinister presence, but it was there, destructive and painful. When God fumigated, my pride scurried, and perhaps it became more obvious to those around me that I had been harboring such an evil pest. I could no longer conceal pride's sense of entitlement, superiority, and self-righteousness. I thought I myself might suffocate in the extermination process, but God sprayed just enough to kill the pride but spare its willing host. Pride keeps trying to take up residence again, but now that I've been rebuilt and I know what it looks like, I'm a much less susceptible target.

In addition to the termite-like pride, a major crack was discovered in the foundation of my faith. I experienced struggles where I could not see God's goodness nor feel His love, I began to question His very existence. When I could not deny His existence (my logic won't allow it), I began to question His character. The trials of 2011 did not cause my foundation to crack; rather, they revealed a crack that had been there all along. The crack in my foundation was the faulty belief that I could define God based on my experience of Him. I cannot. God ripped out that foundation, and replaced it with the true Cornerstone: Jesus. In the end, I cannot explain painful circumstances or wayward feelings. But I can trust that God is who He says He is, and that He never changes. His love was demonstrated on the cross...and I'd bet at that moment, he wasn't "feeling" the love either...He chose, instead, to LIVE it, to DEFINE it, once and for all.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
Finally, God has been tearing down some walls. I  spent our last several years in the States in jobs that allowed me a considerable amount of autonomy. I LOVED my autonomy. I loved setting my own hours, being my own boss, choosing my own activities. I could give you all sorts of spiritual language to justify the ways that I had successfully compartmentalized my life. I would quote books like "Boundaries" and point to the verses that talk about Jesus retreating into a quiet places to be alone. In the end, my life had become my own, to live as I pleased. It was clothed in Christian garments and described in Christian language, but truly, it was designed for my pleasure more than for His glory. My autonomy had become my insulation--my walls--protecting me from losing myself. The problem is, Jesus asks us to lose ourselves. He has asked me to lose myself. To do this, I have to let Him tear down my walls.

Our family now has the tremendous joy and overwhelming challenge of living in community. We pray with others at 7 a.m. every morning. We pray with others every evening at 6 p.m. we meet in small groups where we confess sin and hold people accountable. Our house is free game. Our time is not our own. Everything we have is shared. Our services are called upon...daily. Sometimes hourly. I have scoured my Bible looking for verses to uphold my belief in things like "personal faith" and "private spirituality." They do not exist. Christianity cannot be separated from community. I am certainly allowed to have time alone with God, but I am never excused from being in fellowship with others. Real-life--nitty-gritty--always messy--"can I borrow your car?"--"will you give me a ride?-- "can you feed 3 three more?"--"will you drop everything right now?"--fellowship.

I have no walls. Sometimes I am given the grace of moments alone, but when the solitude is broken, there is no where to hide. The good news is, Jesus can tear down all our walls and yet keep us sheltered. He can wring us dry of all we have to give each and every day, and still leave us feeling satisfied. He takes our greatest treasures, and just as we realize we're broke, He provides for us more extravagantly than we could have provided for ourselves.

I am grateful for His work in 2011. I am able to see His fingerprints on my life and delight in the changes He is making. I'm still a work in progress, thankful for His patience, His grace, and His Spirit. He could have left me full of pride, with a misguided faith, living for myself. Instead, He saved me.

And He keeps saving me.