Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Little more French

Guess what these are!

Here are some hints:
*They are good for life.
*We each had to surrender something that we've had for 25 years or more in order to get them.

These are our brand new French driver's licenses. 

They are coveted commodities in France because they are normally expensive and time consuming to acquire. The French have intense driving classes and then an exam that makes a driving test in the States seem like child's play. Between the course and the test, a French license has a price tag of about $1000. 

We did not have to go that route. 

About 16 States have an agreement with France that allows for a simple exchange of driver's licenses. No class. No test. No fees. We learned before we left that States that Washington is NOT one of those States, but Colorado is. Since the headquarters of our mission organization is located in Colorado, we were permitted to use their address to get Colorado DLs.

Once in France, one is permitted to drive with an American driver's license for about one year. After that, a French license is required. 

Yes, I know we have been here more than a year. We actually started this process a while ago, and have been driving with official "extensions" while we jumped through the hoops. One such hoop was having our US licenses officially translated into French. 

But on Friday we went to the prefecture in Tours, paperwork in hand, and stood in line. Once it was noted that all was in order, we had to give them our US driver's licenses. For keeps. It felt like we parted ways with some dear old treasures. An American wallet just doesn't seem complete without an American driver's license. We felt a small twinge as we surrendered yet one more piece of our American selves. 

The good news? A French diver's license is good for LIFE! No renewals for us. Ever. 

On all my French documents, my maiden name appears more prominently than my married name. Williamson is mentioned as an afterthought to Dennis. While I LOVE my married name, I like having this on-going reminder of my roots. It somehow makes me feel connected to a past that seems far away in both time and distance these days.

Funny thing: The woman who was typing out our French licenses was referring to our Cartes de Sejour for the information that she needed (name, address, birthday, etc.). When she was finished, she pointed out that on David's Carte de Sejour, they had misspelled his birthplace, and it reads "Washnington" instead of "Washington." We told her that she was indeed correct, they had made a mistake. She smiled a little smugly, seemingly proud of having found this little error. Then she handed David his new license. Notice anything?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


When I asked for blogging ideas, my friend KK sent me a bunch of great questions to answer. He asks really good questions because he has lived abroad for a number of years and he understands many of the things that we experience as ex-pats in France. I always appreciate his comments and his input. 

Each one of his questions could merit the space of an entire blog post--and while I may elaborate on some of my responses in future blogs, I thought it would be fun to give short answers to all his questions together. In this way, it sort of feels like I am being interviewed by a reporter who really knows what to ask! 

So, what follows are KK's questions, exactly as he posed them, and my attempt to answer them. 

KK: Describe the thoughts and questions that go through your mind when you consider the people that financially support you. What sort of thoughts dare you not share?

JW: I have mostly thoughts of gratitude and appreciation for those who support us. We pray for our supporters in general terms almost every night, but if we know of any specific needs, we pray for those as well. We think about their lives, their families, their ministries, and their friendship.

I sometimes wonder what each family is sacrificing in order to give money to us every month. I wonder if they realize how integral their generosity is to our ministry. I wonder if they know that we really think of them as our partners--they are our teammates! I wonder if they feel God's pleasure when they give. I also wonder if they ever feel disappointed in us. Are they satisfied with our efforts? Do they regret giving to us? I wonder if they feel like they KNOW what we are doing, that is to say, do they feel informed? Included? Engaged? Do they pray for us?

As for thoughts I "dare not share,"...well, I usually dare. I dared to share when we took a Mediterranean cruise, even though some might have thought it an extravagant vacation for missionaries. I dare to share my feelings of frustration, even though some might think me incapable of the task before us. I dared to share about David playing in a bar on St. Patrick's Day, even though some might frown on such a "ministry" as too worldly. I share because I value transparency. I know there is some risk involved.

KK: What things would not have happened at your congregation if you hadn't been in France?

JW: How can we know? God is over all, and He will do what He will do. Sometimes He uses us, but He certainly doesn't need us. We lead worship, we preach, we teach classes. But if we had not been here to do those things, someone else probably would have done them.

KK: What other sort of feedback did you receive after preaching in French?

JW: David was really proud of me, and the boys told me that they only heard a couple of mistakes. A dear British friend, who is absolutely fluent in French, told me, "There is NO WAY I could've done that after only being in France for a year and a half!" Our pastor was not there the Sunday that I preached, but he told me that he heard from other sources, "Tu as déchiré !" Which literally means, "You tore it up!" I think that's a compliment. Also, the day after I preached, a guy who has been coming to prayer pretty regularly for about 3 months told David that he had been thinking a lot about what I had said and that he was on the verge of making a decision to follow Jesus. He did, indeed, make that decision shortly thereafter.

KK: What percentage of your congregation speaks absolutely no English?

JW: If you are only counting the French congregation, 90% do not speak English.

KK: Have you experienced any anti American sentiment from those inside your church? From those outside the church? Has anyone hinted at these imperialistic Americans coming to shove their faith down our throat?

JW: We have not  felt any anti- American sentiment from those in our church, unless you count the way the Brits razz us about our American accents! Neither do we feel any anti-American sentiment from the French at large; Quite the contrary--we feel very welcome here. No one has accused us of being imperialists. MANY French Christians get tears in their eyes when they thank us for coming to help reach their country for Christ. They are overwhelmed that we would care enough about their fellow countrymen to leave our own country to share the Gospel.

KK: Do you feel people contentedly look past your accent and speaking and grammar and pay attention to the msg you try to communicate?

JW: Yes, but they still correct me! :)

KK: Do you do anything now that you live in France that you would not have considered doing while in the USA? What caused the change? Would you stop doing those things if you ever moved back to Les Etats-Unis?

JW: David has joined all French men in taking the liberty to stop anywhere along the auto route to relieve himself. We cannot drive ANYWHERE in France without seeing at least one man watering the grass. David's change is due to the fact that this behavior is culturally acceptable in France. I think he would use rest stops if we were back in the States, but who can say for sure!

I do marketing twice a week, and we eat a lot of locally grown fresh food. I did eat fresh veggies from my own garden in the States, but other than that, I would hit Costco twice a month for the bulk of our food. We started marketing more often because we do not have very much storage space in our kitchen. Now we can actually tell the difference and appreciate the freshness of the food.

We walk everywhere, and one car is more than enough for our family. I don't think we could have gotten by with one car in the States. We changed because we only had the budget for one car here, but two would be silly! We barely need the one car!

I always take my own sacs to the grocery store here, and YES, I would do that if I ever moved back to the States, though I did not do it before we left. We made the change because the stores here charge for sacs!

I am sure there are other things, but I can't tell you what they are because life here just seems normal now.

KK: Describe what it is like to sing the English lyrics to a song while everyone else around you is singing the same song with French lyrics.

 JW: We never sing English lyrics in French worship services. We have actually forgotten a lot of the English lyrics to songs. Sometimes, when we are at conferences with Americans, where worship is being led in English, we sing the French lyrics--because we can close our eyes and sing in French, but we have to look at the words to sing in English. When this happens, I smile inside, because it is one of the few places in life where French comes easier than my mother tongue, and it feels--for a moment--like the language of my heart.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Le Marché

Tous les samedis et tous les mercredis... y un marché à Loches!

On peut acheter n'importe quoi et toutes les choses là-bas !

Il y a des legumes, 

des bijoux, 

des écharpes, 

des savons d'huile d'olive,

et des fruit.

Quand nous allons au marché, nous cherchons aussi notre pain quotidienne, comme nous faisons chaque jour de la semaine. Notre boulangerie préférée est souvent occupée. Néanmoins, nous patientons, parce que nous adorons leurs baguettes traditionelles.

Nous achetons des champignons.

Voici où nous achetons notre fromage de chèvre préférée et aussi des oeufs.

On peut même acheter les chausseures, si on avait envie.

A la fromagerie, nous choisissons des fromages.

Aujourd'hui nous avons acheté un fromage de brebis et un part de fiouve.

David et les gars aiment les saucissons ! 

Merci de venir au marché avec moi! Nous y allons deux foi par semaine, avec Gemma, bien sûr !

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Guest Blogger

I asked--and YOU answered! THANKS for all of the wonderful Blog ideas!

One of my favorite suggestions came from my dear friend SP, who asked if perhaps one of the boys could write a post for me. So I have asked Chandler to write about his experience in the French School. Without further ado...Heeeeeeeeeere's Chandler!

Well, I guess I'm here to talk about my 9th grade life, which is called "Troisième" or Third. Obviously, one major difference is that the school teaches most stuff in French (insert gasps of amazement here). This may seem like a lot to you, but it's really not that difficult. Really!... Well, okay, the French classes (I mean French language classes) go in one ear and out the other, but other than that it's somewhat easy. 
One thing that I notice is respect. I don't know how it is in the States, but over here respect depends on the teacher. For instance, the History teacher is always listened to, but English is so-so, and the Physics teacher has no control at all. 
Another thing is the tests. Two things are interesting: 1. It's the only time that the class is sure to be quiet, and 2. When the teachers hand them back, they usually say the grade out loud. For the good grades, it's worth bragging about; if not, then it's a shame (unless you don't care about the class). 
Now some of you know that I live across the street from the school. This may sound cool at first, but the entrance there is actually reserved for teachers, so I have to walk around to the student's entrance. If one of my teachers happens to be at the entrance, then I can enter with them, but that doesn't always happen.

This year is important in the French system, as the test at the end of the year, called the Brevet, determines if you will pass into "Seconde" (second) or not. I will take it, but I've a handicap because of the three subjects (Math, French, and History or Geography), in two of them the other students have an advantage because the language. I would like prayer in this, because it does a whole bunch. 
Thanks for having me as a guest blogger, Mom!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Little Help

Help! I need some inspiration for my Blog.

What kinds of things would you like to hear about?

Do you have any burning questions about our life and ministry here?

Is there something about which you would like to know MORE?

Is there a particular type of writing that you would like for me do?

Give me your ideas--I'm having writer's block. Please, throw me a bone!

Monday, May 14, 2012


It has been over a week since my last Blog post. I guess you could say that I am going through a bit of a dry spell in terms of what to write about, and I really don't think there is much point in recounting the day to day details of our lives (exciting though they may be!). At the same time, it might be a bit of an understatement to say that our days have been quite full lately.

I say "full" but others might describe our lives as "busy." I have issues with the word "busy." For me, "busy" carries connotations of being pressed for time, unsettled, and discontent. I am none of those things! I like the word "full" because it conveys a sense of satisfaction and peace, while also indicating that there is not a whole lot of free space. Our days are full.

Last year when we were in language school I tried to imagine how I would possibly fill the hours in a day as a missionary. Now I find myself trying to imagine how I could possibly find more hours in a day!

But in the midst of these full days, there is a great deal of satisfaction and peace. We are in one of those phases where everyone in the family seems to be in their sweet spot. We each have our challenges, but we are pressing into them by the power of the Holy Spirit and we are seeing progress by His grace. We are excited about what God is doing and we feel privileged to be a part of it. We are humble, hopeful, and hearty.

In the past, when all seemed right with the world, I would be haunted by a feeling of impending doom. I would think to myself, "Well, things can't be good forever. When is the next crisis going to hit?" After all, Jesus said, "in the world you will have tribulation...."

Now I simply thank the Lord for the grace for today, and trust Him for the grace for tomorrow. Whatever tomorrow holds, my Jesus will be in it with me, and that will be enough.

I know that my circumstances are not a reflection of God's love for me. When life is hard it is not because God is loving me less and when life is good it is not because God is loving me more. He is on the mountain top and in the valley, and both places I receive His constant love and His abundant grace.

But today life is full AND sweet, and I am grateful.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ten Totally Trivial Tidbits

  1. Today David finished his first class in his Masters of Divinity program! He enjoyed the course very much, and he is planing to take three more classes this summer. 
  2. Jack has been relieving himself in very interesting places recently, and we are not sure why. Any ideas of why a 9 year old cat who has never had an aversion to his litter box would suddenly be choosing to urinate elsewhere? He does it while he is alone downstairs at night, never when we are with him. We are not quite sure what to do about the problem. He is acting perfectly normal in every other way.
  3. Gemma knows three words, "yard," "potty," and "Siberia." "Siberia" is what we call the laundry room, where Gemma has to go for a "time out" when she is misbehaving, which typically involves pestering Jack. If we say, "Do I need to put you in Siberia?" she almost immediately stops whatever she is doing; OR, she does the naughty thing one more time and then runs away from us as fast as she can. This results in an exhausting game of "catch me if you can" before someone finally nabs her and takes her to to the Gulag.
  4. Graham has started drinking coffee. This morning he made Homemade Vanilla Syrup from a recipe found on my friend Laura's Blog, and right now we are both enjoying hot, fresh, Vanilla Lattes.
  5. We feel very grateful for the 80+ people who support our ministry with monthly financial donations. We are humbled and blessed by their generosity. We could not do this work without them!
  6. Today is Election Day in France. They have presidential elections every 5 years. The two candidates are incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist challenger François Hollande. In the preliminaries three weeks ago--where there were 10 candidates--Hollande came out on top. 
  7. Chandler bought a "classic" (read: "old school") video game for the Wii called Dr. Mario. I might be addicted to it. Sadly, he absolutely kills me every time we play.
  8. I lost my watch back when we were living in our apartment in the Paris area, but a few weeks ago I found it in the bottom of a book bag. Now I just need to get a new battery for it and I'll be back in business. Nifty!
  9. A friend is coming to visit next month and I am so excited I can hardly stand it!
  10. We will not be making a trip to the States this summer as we had hoped. While we are thankful for God's faithful provision during the months when our house went without renters, we exhausted what small savings we had. We need to try to rebuild our Emergency Fund and then start saving again for travels. Hopefully we will be able to visit for Christmas. We shall see....

Friday, May 4, 2012

Who's Teaching Whom? Part II

So I did it! I preached my first ever sermon in French, and I lived to tell about it.

My language helper, "Marie" came to hear me, and much to my surprise and delight, she brought her best friend!

Question: When was the last time that you invited a non-Christian friend to church?

Honestly, this is not something that I do on a regular basis. Of course, I don't have that many friends here yet. But still. I was sort of, well, challenged by the fact that this woman, who herself is seeking God, seems to be better at evangelism than I am! She brought a friend to church.

On Tuesday I met with Marie. She wanted to continue getting together weekly, even though I no longer needed her help with my sermon. Graciously, she offered to keep helping me with my French, but she also wanted to keep learning more about God and the Bible. I suggested that we study the book of John together, and she was pleased with the idea. So we have started a study called "The Seven Signs of John." At the end of the study, Marie will have the opportunity to give her life to Christ, if she hasn't done so already.

As we did the first lesson together, I found myself feeling like I was more of an observer than a participant. God is so clearly drawing this woman to Himself, that I just try to stay out of His way. As we discussed the wedding at Cana, I realized that she was enamored with the scriptures.

Question: When was the last time that you were enamored with the scriptures?

Yeah. Well. I wish that I could say that I am always enamored with the Word of God; but I think I take it for granted. Most days I rush through my daily Bible reading as if it were a bothersome chore that I just need to check off my list. I don't marvel. I rarely linger. I fail to cherish the precious words of life.

Our conversation about John chapter 2 was inspiring to me. With each passage in the book of John, we answer the same four questions: What does this passage teach you about human nature? What does this passage teach you about Jesus?  What aspect of your life does this passage address? With whom can you talk about this story? She appreciated each question and gave very thoughtful responses. I was blessed by her insights.

Throughout our 90 minutes together, she patiently but authoritatively corrected my French. I wrote down my mistakes and their corrections, fascinated by the symbiosis of our relationship. Each one searching; Each one growing; Each one engaging; Each one giving. We seamlessly exchanged the roles of teacher and student without ever feeling an interruption in the lessons we were learning. Who could say which of us is more blessed by this friendship? We both acknowledge that God has brought us together.