Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Caught in a total downpour. Not a drizzle. Not a sprinkle. A DOWNPOUR.

I was at the park in Loches with 11 cute kiddos ages 4-10. We don't normally do Sunday School in the summer months, but the sermon was going to be on the topic of Spiritual Warfare and our pastor thought it might be a bit scary for the younger ones. So Chandler and I took them to the park for a game of Hide and Seek.

During the third round, drops began to fall. By the time everyone had been found, it was all-out raining. As we huddled under a tree, contemplating the 10-minute walk back to church, the downpour began.

These are the kinds of moments that test my leadership abilities. Ask me to choose a Bible study curriculum for women, and I'm all over it. Looking for someone to plan a retreat? I gotcha covered. But strand me in a park during a monsoon with 11 small children, and I'm at a total loss. What to do?

So I asked the kids, "Would you rather wait out the storm under this tree, or run back to church through the rain?"

"RUN!" was the unanimous response. And they took off.

It was one of those "I'm their leader! Which way did they go?" moments. Maybe this is why I'm not asked to teach Kidz Club very often. 

Chandler took off after them, corralling the sprinters, while I lagged behind, prodding the stragglers. Once we were all reunited, I gave them a little clearer direction. I thought it might be a good idea to return to church with the same number of children I left with, so I did a quick head count. Then I said that we would jog back, but in an orderly fashion. I took the lead, and Chan took the rear, and the 11 chicks were required to stay between us.

Rivers of water ran through the streets as we sloshed and splashed our way through the village, garnering sympathetic looks from people huddled under awnings and in door frames. Sopping wet, breathless, and happy as can be, we finally arrived at church. I numbered each one as they skipped past me into the church, but declined to enter myself.

Horror of horrors, I was wearing a thin, white summer t-shirt which no longer provided me with a stitch of modesty. Crossing my arms, I nodded to David from afar, signaling my intention to head home. Chandler, who was just as soaked, joined me.

I wrung myself out, toweled myself off, and snuggled into my PJs. Twenty minutes later, David and Graham walked home in the shining sun, perfectly dry. You gotta love summer storms! 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Three years ago today...

...we arrived in France.

Has it already been three years? Has it only been three years? Both questions, though seemingly contrary, echo sincere sentiments.

I'm struggling to find words to summarize what God has done, but I'm not at a loss for emotions.

In his wisdom, he called us.

With his kindness, he leads us.

Through his faithfulness, he keeps us.

By his strength, he restores us.

For his kingdom, he employs us.

To his glory, he transforms us.

God is doing his work all around us--sometimes through us, sometimes in spite of us. And while I can see his hand on our ministry, I'm most overwhelmed by how he's changed, redeemed, and liberated me in the midst of it all.

And isn't that grace?

Jesus calls us to serve, then he uses our paltry efforts--our little loaves of obedience, and he multiplies them.

In nourishing others, I am fed.

 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." John 4:34-35

Yep. I get it. I finally get it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Memory Lane

This is an oldie but a goodie--something I wrote long before I started blogging, but a piece that may end up in the book. Hope you enjoy it.

In 2001, when my husband and I were in our early thirties and had two young sons, we took a major risk, fully believing that we were following God’s lead. When I say “a major risk,” I don’t mean we changed laundry detergents or got a dog.  No, we quit our stable jobs, sold our house, and cashed in all of our savings, including our retirement account, so that my husband could follow his dream and go to flight school to become a pilot.

At the completion of his flight training, David took a job as a flight instructor in Spokane. He did not want to be a flight instructor forever—this was just a way to build the 1,500 hours of flight time that were required in order to be hired by an airline. Flight instructors don’t make enough to feed and house a family, so I took on some part-time grant-writing work. As we gritted our teeth to endure the financial stress, we told ourselves it was just a season. We figured we would be in Spokane for a-year-and-a-half and then back to Portland with a job with Alaska Airlines, living on easy street. That’s what we figured. 

But September 11, 2001 changed the path of our lives. Following that day of terror, airline companies suffered major organizational setbacks, massive pilot lay-offs, and even bankruptcy. Still today, few have recovered. David realized that his prospects for a career as an airline pilot diminished significantly in the wake of 9-11. We felt like the Israelites who thought that God had forgotten them after they followed Him into the desert on their way to the Promised Land. We had been willing to take a big risk to go where we felt like God was leading, but when we saw where He had taken us, we wondered if He even cared at all. 

David heroically hid his frustration and confusion as he watched his big dream turn into a nightmare. He never spoke a discouraging word, but sometimes, when he thought I wasn’t looking, I saw the shadow of discouragement darken his brave demeanor. Though he was praised as a great flight instructor and worked every chance he got, his income went from bad to worse as winter weather set in and limited his ability to fly with students. By December we were drowning in bills. 

“David” I said, knowing we had to have the conversation we were both avoiding, “between rent, the car payment, and the electric bill, we need about $1,200 to get through this month. And that doesn’t count groceries. Did you get paid today?”

Slowly he took his paycheck from his pocket, unfolded it, and slid it across the table to me: $187. There were no more words, only silent prayers. I was disheartened. David was defeated. God was silent. 

Finances were strained through the rest of the winter and into the spring.  I took more grant-writing work, and David moonlighted on the nightshift for UPS. Each month we barely made it. I, who had been raised to shop at Nordstrom, learned to shop at Goodwill. David learned to cut the kids’ hair himself. We ate whatever was on sale that week at the grocery store and discovered that a fun family outing could be had for free: a trip to the library followed by an afternoon at the park. And still, God was silent. 

Spring turned to summer, the weather cleared, and David was able to fly more hours as a flight instructor. We were finally getting close to breaking even financially, but our hearts were so weary that we hardly felt like celebrating. I longed for a day when money was plentiful and fantasized often about what it would be like to have a million dollars. Then, I told myself, I would finally be happy.  Then I could take life easy and do whatever I wanted. Then my husband would not be stressed. Then I could give my children their heart’s delight.  Then I could believe once again in the goodness of God.

There was no way we could afford a real vacation that summer, but we did find a few days to visit David’s parents, who live on a lake nestled in the Swan Range of the Rocky Mountains in northwestern Montana. One sunny afternoon, after I had been water-skiing (which is one of my favorite things to do in the whole wide world), I lay on the beach reading a book. David was out on his windsurfer, letting the physical activity wash away the tension that had been soiling his soul. My children were playing happily in the sparkling lake water. For an instant, I forgot the distress of the past few months, and I let myself take pleasure in the perfection of the day.

I realized, in that instant, that I had everything I could ever want.  I knew then that even if I had a million dollars sitting in a bank account, this moment could not be any more precious. I was keenly aware on that summer afternoon, with hardly a dime to my name, that there was nowhere in the world I would rather be and nothing I would rather be doing. My husband was relaxed. My children were delighted. And my God, though still silent, was as He had always been—good. It was then that I stopped focusing on what we didn’t have and started appreciating all that God had given us free of charge.

From a financial perspective, the next year wasn't much different—but I had changed.  I started to see “million dollar moments” in each day. You see, I don’t think teaching your son to ride a bike without training wheels is more rewarding if you have a million dollars. I bet reading The Chronicles of Narnia as a family is not more thrilling if you have a million dollars. Snuggling with your husband is not more satisfying if you have a million dollars. God’s voice is not louder, His love is not surer, and His grace is not bigger if you have a million dollars. The funny thing is, if God had given me a million dollars, I might never have known how unnecessary it really was.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Once Upon a Time...

Once upon a time a blog author decided she would write a book. For weeks and weeks she dedicated hours to her book proposal.

Every night as she slept, a fairy godmother from a far-away land edited her manuscript. The fairy godmother was a wizard with words, and she cut out redundant unnecessary superfluous words, eliminated! excessive! exclamation! marks!, and suggested better superior descriptive words.

When the blog author awoke each morning she marveled at what the fairy godmother had done with her magic editing wand. The she wrote and wrote and wrote some more.

During that time she used up all her words on her book proposal and had none left for her blog.

Poor blog.

The book proposal would soon be complete, and the blog author would return to her beloved blog once more. And then blog will again be the repository for all her words. And they will live happily ever after.

Friday, July 12, 2013


This is one of those rare days when I think I *should* blog, but I don't really have anything to blog about. Which is fair warning that what follows may not be worth reading. Proceed at your own risk.

I checked my blog stats the other day day and discovered that Four for France has quite a following in Russia. I'm like the David Hasselhof of Moscow.Well, not really.

Today Chandler checked the stats of an online video game and discovered that Black-Ops enthusiasts have (virtually) killed 197% of the world's (actual) population. I have no idea how many of those enthusiasts are from Russia, but three of them live in my house.

I am thinking of entering a Tyndale Publishing writing competition, but  have to have a book proposal ready by August 1 to do so. I have an absolute God-send-of-a-friend helping me, but I'm still not sure I can meet that deadline. Plus--newsflash!--writing a book is hard! Who knew?

As I spend hours everyday writing/editing/staring blankly at the computer screen, I find that I exhaust my verbal resources for the day. And I get uncharacteristically quiet. It turns out that if I don't talk during dinner, no one does. I knew I was the biggest talker in my family. I now suspect that I may be the only talker in my family.

We have a young, smart, vibrant French girl staying with us through the weekend. She has just finished her university studies and is seeking the Lord's will for her next steps. Through a friend of a friend, she heard about the church planting training center in Loches and is considering  joining us in the fall. I think she would be an awesome addition to a church planting team, so I'm finding it hard to pray unbiased prayers on her behalf! 

I am SO ready for the weekend. Sadly Gemma does not do a good job of observing the Sabbath. She wakes up at 6 am on Saturday just like every other day of the week. She's a perfect heathen! 

Well, folks, that's all I've got. My head is pounding, words are slurring in my head, and I have got to get away from the keyboard. Love and blessing to you--and  for all mu Russian friends, Спокойной ночи.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I spent most of today editing my sorry attempt at a book, and as much as I love writing, I am feeling a bit weary from it. I didn't know I could tire of text. Believe it or not, my well of words has run dry. 

So I instead of composing something new tonight, I'll just put out some leftovers. This is a portion of the book that has been cut from the manuscript. I hope you like it!

I am a “Ready. FIRE! Aim” person, more interested in action than accuracy. As you can imagine, this can get me into trouble. I once promised my young son a fabulous adventure traveling by train. When we arrived at the station for our departure, I learned that I had bought bus tickets by mistake. I had one very disappointed little boy on my hands, and I wasn't too thrilled about it either. Another time I accidentally bid $2500 for a Lego set on eBay. Oops! I've gotten my car stuck on railroad tracks. Really stuck. And I've never successfully packed my own suitcase. Somehow details like prescription drugs, underpants, and toothbrushes escape me. My husband has a lot of grace.

It seems my life is more about speed than direction; but thankfully God has opened my eyes to the problem and he has graciously been slowing me down.

It began one day when I was sitting in a friend’s kitchen drinking a cup of coffee while she tended to her breakfast dishes. We were having a nice conversation, but I was distracted by her washing. She carefully lowered plates and bowls into the sudsy water and she seemed be caressing them with the cloth. Her movements were gentle, deliberate, and slow. I was captivated because when I do dishes I do them quickly, like a whirling dervish, often breaking things in the process. I don’t dawdle over the task, I charge through it. I never considered dish washing—or any other chore, for that matter—something to be savored.

But as I watched my friend, I began to wonder if maybe I was missing something by always rushing through life. Is there pleasure to be found in the mundane tasks that I approach with disdain? And perhaps fewer broken plates as well?

While I willingly accept the plans that God puts before me in any given day, I tend to reject his pace. Proverbs 19:2 says, “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” Zeal? I have it! Hasty? That’s me! Miss the way? Sadly, yes. Another version of this same verse says, “He who hurries his footsteps errs.” The word that is translated as “errs” is “châtâ’” in Hebrew, and could also be translated as “sins.” This does not mean that it is a sin to hurry; rather, that when I hurry, I often end up sinning. Or breaking dishes.

So I am learning to move through my days at God’s pace, matching the rhythm of my steps to his. If I pay attention, I can sometimes sense the weight of his hand on my shoulder, gently giving me pause in moments when I am tempted to rush. Responding to his touch, I change my posture. I slow my speech. I choose to wait. I still to listen. I linger over a much-needed hug.  And I find that his pace is far superior to mine. Food tastes better, conversations are richer, colors are brighter, relationships are stronger.

Learning to live an unhurried life will be an on-going journey for me. I fear that “fast” is my default setting. But a patient God accompanies me on the path, giving grace in the process. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

An Invitation

I have just embarked on a spiritual journey, and I am looking for a few traveling companions. Think you might be up to the trip? It is not a Bible Study, though it definitely incorporates Bible reading. I am using it for my daily personal time with the Lord, but it has required me to significantly increase the amount of time that I am dedicating to that endeavor. I'd say it requires an hour minimum per day.

Here is the book that I am using:

It is called, The Exercises, Volume One: Conversations By Brian K. Rice. It is available in hard copy or on kindle. I am using the kindle edition.

What I have found is that the busier and more involved that I get with ministry, the more difficult it is to dedicate time to my own spiritual growth and well-being. But this creates an obvious problem, for if I am not saturated with the Word, I can't be wrung out for his glory! Through The Exercises, I am getting refocused, learning what it means to "abide," and falling back in love with my savior. 

I am absolutely thrilled with this book. It is like nothing I've ever done before, incorporating reading, journaling, active listening, and other often neglected spiritual exercises such as silence. 

Perhaps, like me, you can relate to this quote from today's reading:
"I now know what I didn't know then. Very simply--I didn't have much of a spiritual life. I had a ministry life, a church life, a professional life...but a spiritual life? That was distressingly elusive and disastrously absent. I didn't have much of a relationship with God. I would eventually find out I wasn't the only one struggling with this problem."
Anyway, if you are interested in joining me on this journey, I have started private blog in hopes that we could share what God is teaching us. Each day I will simply post a few quotes from the book that stood out to me--no analysis, no reflection, no creative writing. (I'll be doing that in my journal.) Then, in the comments section, I will share at least one Take Away from the day. That's where you come in. If you want to join me you cannot be a lurker, you have to participate. I would ask for you share (also in the comments section) your Take Away from the same section of the book. Everyone can move through the workbook at their own pace. We would not have to be on the same days as each other--as long as I stay a little ahead, you would just need to find the blog post that pertains to the section that you read that day and post your comment to that particular post. If this seems confusing, I promise it would make sense if you were looking at the book.

I will keep the blog private, which means only those that I have invited can access the blog and comment. This is so that people will hopefully be committed and keep it real. So if you look at the book and you think you would like to participate, either e-mail me or leave your e-mail address in the comment section. 

If you are in ministry in any way, either professionally or as a volunteer, I can almost guarantee that you will be blessed.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Beauty of Cross-Training

The super-buff woman in my Pilates DVD always says, "Engage your core."

So I suck in my gut and and ask my midsection, "Core, are you engaged?"

And I hear my belly bellow back, "Engaged? I'm not even dating!"

I wonder if it is possible to do Pilates with a core that has commitment issues. Probably not. Maybe I should switch to yoga.

Thus goes my fickle friendship with the world of cross-training. I prefer the simplicity of my relationship with running, where the only question is "Which way shall we go today?" I'm not saying we always get along, but we have found a working rhythm after 16 years. 

The thing is,  I've broken into the realm of (cue spooky music) MIDDLE-AGE, and I've heard that I need to consider things like bone-density, flexibility, and strength training. Forget the fantasy of cute leggings and stylish hair bands, it's not about the accessories anymore! I'm feeling my age, and to tell you the truth, I think forty-two feels pretty good. Still, that stretching work-out this morning nearly killed me. When did my toes move so far from my fingers? 

Gone are the days when physical fitness was about beauty. This is about survival, people! I suppose my core needs to end its fling with Hazelnut Gelato and start looking for a life-partner. It's time to get engaged.

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Dragon of Comparison

It was only her third time leading worship, and I thought she had done a fine job. So when it was time for me to offer feedback, I tried to encourage her. I wanted her to know how blessed I was by her efforts. I wanted her to know that she had led well. Above all, I wanted her to feel God's pleasure in her service.

But as I spoke, tears welled up in her eyes. Sadness overtook her, and I let her feel its weight before I sought her gaze with questioning eyes. Finally she spoke.

"I just don't understand why God would ask me to lead worship when there are so many others who are more qualified."

The monster of comparison had reared his ugly head. I wanted to be the wise mentor that she needed, but the truth is, I haven't fully slain that dragon. I don't give him free reign in my life, but he keeps a steady growl going in the corner of my head, spewing flames that often reach their target.

"You'll never write as beautifully as Ann Voskamp, so why do you bother blogging? Besides, she has super spiritual music and great photography on her blog. You just have soundless pictures of your cat. Give. It. Up!"

"You'll never teach as powerfully as Beth Moore, so why do you bother teaching? Besides, she has an incredible wardrobe and  nifty sets. You just have last-year's Capri pants and a candle. Give. It. Up!"

"You'll never knit like Margaret...."

"You'll never evangelize like Becca..."

"You'll never run like Nicole..."

"You'll never cook like Holli..."

"You'll never...you'll never...you'll never..., Give up! Give up! Give up!"

Unrelenting flames from that old dragon who would just love for me to think that what I have to give is not good enough.

Good enough for whom?

That, my friends, is the question. Because I am deceiving myself if I claim that my gifts are not good enough for God. He is, after all, the one who gave me the gifts that I have. He chose to gift me just so much--more than some and less than others. But he certainly isn't expecting me to produce something beyond the capacity of the gifts which I have been given. That would be silly.

No, God is quite pleased with what I have to offer when its offered by his strength and for his glory. I am the one who is disappointed. I want better gifts. I want to be better than I am. I want to be better than others. Not for his glory. For mine. And that is what feeds the dragon.

After Jesus rose from the dead, he had a picnic with his disciples. In a quiet conversation, Jesus tells Peter a bit about his future. Peter is given a pretty awesome responsibility, but he also hears that he will die a painful death. When he hears of his future demise, the comparison monster shows up on the scene:
Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them... So Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 
What about him? What about her? Why can't I be like them? Jesus knows how to slay the dragon! The power is found in his response:
Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”
In other words, we are not to concern ourselves with God's plan for others...what is that to you? Peter's problem started the moment he turned around--taking his eyes off of Jesus and putting them on his friend. The solution Jesus offers is simple--quit looking at others and follow me.

When my eyes are fixed on Jesus I can't compare myself to others. When my eyes are fixed on Jesus I can only marvel at his goodness and grace. When my eyes are fixed on Jesus my greatest desire is to get lost in the praise of his glorious name. When my eyes are fixed on Jesus, I offer all that I have and all that I am without any concern for how it compares to gifts that are being offered on my right and on my left; I only delight that he is receiving ALL the gifts! I marvel that he gave me a gift in the first place--just so that I could have the joy of throwing it at his feet.

And with that, the dragon dies.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Note from Our Supreme Commander, Jack

Life is intolerably hectic around here! I have only been getting 20 hours of sleep a day, and I'm not sure how long I can survive on that sort of deprivation. But my leadership is required, and so I press on. Due to my superior intelligence and great cunning, I  manage to maintain some semblance of order in this  crazy kingdom of mine. 

Each morning I survey my dominion, assessing threats both internal and external. I loathe the presence of that canine infiltrator so I continually plot her demise. Sadly, she misinterprets my prowess as playfulness. Idiot.

My morning ritual is extremely taxing, resulting in the need for a little relaxation. I do struggle to to unwind--the stress in my life is impossible. Some days I can't even find a lap throne to occupy. 

Other times I am required to share my lap throne; a prospect that completely disgusts me. Doesn't that dog know I'm the boss? Everyone else seems to have figured it out. They feed me, they pet me, they clean up after me. Yes, the humans are adequate as servants. But Gemma needs to learn her place.