Friday, September 28, 2012

Ten Totally Trivial Tidbits

  1. Did you know that the marshmallows that go in Lucky Charms are made by Amish people? Did you know that they sell whole BAGS of the reject marshmallows (poorly shaped, slightly discolored pink hearts, yellow stars, blue diamonds, etc.) in Amish stores? Did you know that my sister brought me a giant bag of reject Lucky Charm marshmallows? I pour them over my Rice Krispies to have a make-shift magically delicious breakfast.
  2. Gemma is obsessed with her micro tennis balls. OBSESSED! She can jump up and catch them in the air, she'll play fetch for hours, and when no one will play with her, she carries one ball in her mouth while playing soccer with a second ball. We have to take them away from her and hide them because she gets so focused on playing that she has accidents. She cries when we hide her balls.  
  3. Our family (all four!) went to check out a community choir this week to see if it was something we wanted to join. We (all four!) LOVED it. I am in the alto section, David and Graham are singing tenor, and Chandler is a bass. The people were great--very welcoming; and, they sing a nice variety of music, from classical, to madrigal, to contemporary. So this year, we (all four!) will be spending Tuesday evenings with Les Baladins.
  4. A 17 year old neighbor boy asked David to give him voice lessons, so David encouraged him to come try out the choir with us. He enjoyed it, and will be joining Chandler in the bass section.
  5. I am working on writing a summary of a chapter of a book on church planting. The book is in English, but the summary needs to be in French. It is a good challenge for me.
  6. After three weeks in school Chandler is the top of his class in both Math and History. I hate to brag (okay, really I don't mind bragging about the boys!) but he is even pulling a decent average in French! How does he do it? With a smile on his face and a song in his heart! I am sure that his daily prayer times with his friend Josiah are helping, too. 
  7. Last weekend we had the privilege of attending the baptism of our dear friends' eight year old son. We spent Saturday night in their home and talked and laughed well into the night. It is such a blessing to have friends that feel like family--especially when living so far from real family. 
  8. Speaking of baptisms, this Sunday our church will baptize three people! We will have the baptisms at a nearby lake, and a barbecue afterwards to celebrate. Pictures to follow....
  9. David has joined a small local gym where he can work out and play a weekly racquetball match with a friend. 
  10. Last night I taught Graham how to roast a chicken. Today I am making chicken stock. The house smells amazing! 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Jack and Gemma...

...have moments of sweetness!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Plum Shawl

Remember this?

It's finished!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Deus Absconditus

Our Bible reading this morning was about the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years. The desert: That is where God has me right now. It is a hard place to be, and frankly, I am weary. I am parched. I am desperate for a touch from God.
To God, my defender, I say, "Why have you forgotten me?" Psalm 42:9
I am learning what it means to "embrace the darkness," which initially looked like this: I walk in obedience where the path is known, and I stand in readiness where the way is yet unclear. And I wait.

Days. Weeks. A month. Three months.
How much longer will you forget me, Lord? For ever? How much longer will you hide yourself from me? Psalm 13:1
Deus Absconditus--the God who is hidden.

One friend reminds me, "God does good work in the desert."

What "work"? I wonder.

Another friend sends me a chapter from Richard Foster's book on prayer. He writes, "Through our barrenness of soul, God is producing detachment, humility, patience, perseverance."

I feel all of these things clamoring for my attention, but I don't want them. I prefer the warm-fuzzy feelings associated with a father-hearted God that holds me in an eternal hug. I prefer acceptance to detachment; competence to humility; satisfaction to patience; and ease to perseverance.

Lord, help me to want what You want!

Perhaps "embracing the darkness" is not as simple as I first imagined. Perhaps my approach of "obey and stand ready" is more like "enduring the darkness." To "embrace" it, I need to welcome all that it brings with it, and not just hold on until it's over.

So I open the door of my soul to blessed Detachment, who promises to wean me from every source save One.

I bow to sweet Humility, letting every sense of competence scurry out into the night.

I invite dear Patience to make herself at home, trusting satisfaction to come when Patience has done her work.

And finally, reluctantly, I set a place at the table for the mighty Perseverance. He always comes hungry, and I just know he'll eat me out of house and home. But I'll have to trust that the One who sent him will supply me with all I need.

So while God remains hidden, I entertain his craftsmen--I embrace the darkness. I allow their painful chisels to chip away at my heart and transform my life. It's hard, and it hurts.

But in embracing the darkness, I embrace Deus Absconditus. I hug a hidden God. Or perhaps, more accurately, I let the hidden God hug me. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Alarms, Pajamas, and Card Keys

Last Saturday I arrived in London around lunch time. After many delays, my sister got to our hotel just before midnight. Of course, we did not go right to sleep! We chatted for at least an hour before turning out the lights.

Then, at 4:14 a.m. we were awakened by a loud alarm. In shock and confusion, we pushed every possible button on our cell phones and watches before realizing that it was our FIRE alarm going off. Certain that it was malfunctioning, and horrified that it might wake slumbering neighbors, my sister tried to call the front desk. The line was busy.

Out of curiosity, I peeked out our door and discovered that, in fact, the hotel's fire alarm was going off and people were hurrying towards the fire escape. I grabbed a sweater and my room key, my sister grabbed her purse, and we joined the calm crowds in the stairwells, exiting in a collective haze. As we slowly gained consciousness we realized two disturbing things:
  1. Everyone else seemed to be fully clothed, while we were scantily clad and shivering in our jammies; and
  2. What my sister believed to be her purse strap was, in fact, a bra strap, which means that she had a bra hanging conspicuously on her elbow. Of course, we had no pockets in which to stash said bra.
We huddled together in the brisk morning air for about 25 minutes, watching the arrival  of fire trucks but seeing no evidence of fire. Finally we were permitted to go back to our rooms. Anxious for our warm beds, we were dismayed to discover that our room keys no longer worked.

Going against the flow of traffic, we walked the stairwells back down to the lobby (the elevators were packed to the gills, so walking seemed the wiser choice.) As mortifying as it is to stand outside in the dark wearing one's night clothes, I can testify that is it much WORSE standing among fully dressed crowds in a brightly lit hotel lobby. But stand we did, as it seemed every card key in the hotel would need to be reactivated. 

When we reached the desk--which was being run my ONE (yes, one) rather distraught night clerk, we learned that there had, in fact, been a small fire in one of the upper rooms. She did not have any details, but seemed rather traumatized that the only instruction that she had been given throughout the entire ordeal was to NOT leave her post. 

Bra in hand and room key re-activated, we hoofed it up the stairs back to our cozy room. We drifted off to sleep thinking about fire alarm fashions and the beauty of a bathrobe!

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I just returned home from Oxford, England, where I spent three wonderful days with my oldest sister, Barbara. Barbara is a professor at Indiana University and she was invited to present a paper at a conference on Ethnography at New College. While at Oxford, we walked and toured and shopped and had tea--activities that were sewn together by one long three day conversation spanning numerous subjects. It had been over two years since we last saw each other.

Here we are at Christ Church College, where some scenes for the Harry Potter movies were filmed--most notably those which took place in the Great Hall. Sadly, there were no floating candles, no magical ceilings, and no moving portraits.

We stopped for a pint at the Eagle and the Child (more commonly referred to as the Bird and the Baby). As you can read in the sign, this pub was the place where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis hung out! Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me.

Oxford is a beautiful town, and the weather was perfect. My big sister spoiled me by treating me to many meals. My kids are grateful for some favorites (like Jif peanut butter) that she schlepped across the pond for us. Last night--after 5 hours of travel on 3 different trains--I arrived back in Loches. Today Barbara flies back to the States. I am so very grateful for our time together.

Monday, September 10, 2012


On Saturday morning I took the train to England! I am here to spend some time with my sister, Barbara, who has hopped the pond to present a paper at a conference at Oxford University. We were supposed to meet up in London Saturday morning, but her flight from the States was cancelled and she did not arrive until late Saturday night. So I tackled London solo.

There is much to appreciate here, not the least of which is the people, who (much to my delight) keep calling me, "Love." As in, "Can I get the door for you, Love?" and  "Here you go, Love" 

I caught the official Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.

Our hotel was right by London Tower, a delightful part of town despite it's infamy for being the stomping grounds of Jack the Ripper.

And I took a wonderful tour on an open-air double-decker bus that was decked-out to my liking.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Small thing

I'm kind of going through a dry-spell in my walk with the Lord.

So yesterday I prayed, "Lord, it would be really great if you showed up today--if you just did some small thing to let me know that you have not completely forgotten me. Please!"

That afternoon we had to run to the store to get some school supplies for Chandler. When we got to the car, David noticed that it was unlocked. My bad--I failed to lock it when I came home from my knitting group the day before. As we opened the doors, we realized that someone had been rummaging through things, and that our GPS was gone. David looked in the back and noted that our CD collection--a case with 400 CDs in it-- was also missing.

I thought back to my prayer. I did not feel the divine hand of love and protection.

David called our insurance company and learned that since the car was unlocked the stolen items were not covered by insurance.

I thought back to my prayer. I did not see the goodness of God.

David went down to the police station and filed a report. They took all of our information but they did not seem hopeful that anything would be found.

I thought back to my prayer. I hadn't asked for much. I'd have been happy with an encouraging word, a friendly phone call, or a simple e-mail from a supporter. Instead, I got the joy of being robbed along with the knowledge that it was my own fault for leaving the car unlocked.

Ten minutes after David got home from the police station, the phone rang. They thought they had recovered our CDs, could David come and identify them? Sure enough, they had found our CDs! But they could not yet release them because they had paperwork to do. David returned home, encouraged.

Ten minutes later the phone rang. They thought they had recovered our GPS, could David bring down the serial number to verify that it was ours? Sure enough they had found our GPS!

I thought back to my prayer. Yes, I know that the recovery of a GPS and a few antiquated CDs is a small thing. It's a small thing. But isn't that exactly what I asked for?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back to School

Today Chandler goes back to school. Graham starts his classes tomorrow. I am wondering not so much where the summer went, but where the years have gone.

I always get a little nostalgic this time of year, unable to relate to the moms who kick up their heels as their kids board the bus. 

And my boys--neither one have ever looked back from a classroom with longing eyes. No, more often than not, they have had to gently shoo me from their sides on the first day of school. They, like their parents, are the independent type. Capable. Strong. 

Still, the moment always feels monumental: The First Day of School. A new chapter. A fresh start. Stiff blue jeans. Shiny sneakers. Pencils that have never been sharpened. Anticipation so thick you can cut it with a fork. 

It turns me into a puddle.

I realize that my days are numbered, and I cannot stop the relentless passing of time. With both boys in high school I am painfully aware of the fact that it is the beginning of the end. And that fact makes me hugely grateful and profoundly sad.  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

ZooParc de Beauval

We are zoo people. We LOVE animals and we LOVE zoos!

So you can imagine just how thrilled we were to discover that the 15th BEST ZOO in the WORLD (yes, the WORLD!) is just 30 minutes from our house. We spent the day there yesterday, and we were not disappointed.

The Zoo in Beauval has 4,600 animals. 

The animals come from all corners of the earth.

The zoo was very well laid out and habitats were beautiful! Heck, I'd move in if they'd let me!

They had a fantastic bird and sea lion show which was completely packed out.

Isn't this sea lion (named King) amazing?

Beautiful birds were everywhere!


And for the first time in my life, I saw a real live koala bear! Actually I saw 5. Did you know that they eat about 40 different varieties of eucalyptus? They have to order eucalyptus bouquets every week for these cuties.

The Lion and Lioness were having an afternoon snuggle.

But my favorite part of this zoo was all the BABY animals; They have over 300 births a year at Beauval, and we saw babies of several species! There was a joey!

A baby elephant!

A baby gorilla on his mama's back!

And several species of baby monkeys!

I look forward to going to the ZooParc again.