Fall Follow-ups

Our title reflects the fact that I am updating previous stories mentioned in past newsletters. So for the convenience of our new or forgetful readers, I’ve included links to the newsletter I’m referring to. You’ll notice the format of our letter has a lighter, cleaner look that matches our newly designed website. I think the best improvement is the Support page. We hope you can navigate easily and find whatever you’re looking for. (Noah and Olivia’s pages are still under construction.)

Autumn leaves on our window sillTo celebrate the beautiful fall weather we’re having, I’m including a photo of some common vine leaves that decorate much of Soultz. Does anyone else have pale pink leaves in their neighborhood? Our region is also enjoying a phenomenal grape harvest, producing huge apples, and an abundance of walnuts and chestnuts in the woods. Those who prayer walked and prayed around Alsace last summer are taking some credit for this, as it is not like this all over the country!

Follow-up on August Activities:
David and I are always trying to improve our fitness, and last (school) year’s country line dancing class was comical. While the French women, in tight jeans and cowboy boots, were enjoying the catchy country western melodies, we were cringing over the R-rated lyrics. Once in awhile we translated for them, adding to their amusement. Since the class only met every other week, I would forget the dances by the next session, which were painfully hard for me to learn in the first place! David had an easier time of it, and now we can dance the “Cotton-Eyed Joe” together, though I’m not sure how often this skill will be put to use!

This (school) year I’ve signed up for an exercise class that incorporates a little of everything, giving lots of variety, with great music, and a great location. David and Noah were hoping to shoot some hoops on the courts outside during my all-female class, but we learned that school-owned courts are not open to the public – surprise! – due to liability. Could this happen in Indiana?? What’s a Hoosier boy to do?!

Follow-up on Only in France (popcorn trauma):
I just wanted to let you all know that salty popcorn is now available at our nearest multiplex! Thanks for praying! ; )

2007-2008 4th Grade English ClassFollow-up on Confession #1:
This year, half of Cyril’s infamous class graduated to 4th grade. That means I now have them for English. Their teacher and I were both a little nervous. But before my first class happened, I remembered to pray instead. Then I walked in with peace and authority and love for those 14 kids, while sending 4 of them out during the hour. What makes this class a joy is that the overly energetic ones are the most motivated students, adding a lot of positive energy to the games, crafts, and songs. (We’re avoiding worksheets due to low reading levels.) Even the thumb-sucker in the back row is amazing me! Usually, the least motivated are the loudest and creating a lot of negative energy, but in this class, those are “the invisible kids.” Here they are in all their glory.

Follow-up on Confession #2:
Within a couple of weeks of writing about our mountain of hand towel laundry, the director went out and ordered paper towel and soap dispensers – and no, she hadn’t read my newsletter!!

Follow-up on health remarks:
My migraines were cropping up 3x/week by the end of the summer, and my doctor decided to put me on a daily beta-blocker regimen that is really working. Can you say “Hallelujah!”? This, combined with alleviating my anemia, has had such an impact on my life that I feel like I’ve been born again, again!

Speaking of which, I can tell my iron levels are up because the thought of doing a little home improvement doesn’t sound insurmountable anymore! After pricing linoleum, I quickly decided we needed to continue improving the walls. Big rusty flowers with brown leaves on a field of gray have stood their ground in our bedroom while all of the other hideous paper has been ripped from the walls. For me, this wallpaper is screaming that we haven’t paid enough attention to our marriage since we moved in; otherwise, we would have made our “little haven” a priority. (However, for David, the paper’s screaming, “Back off, ’cause if you take me down, I’m takin’ the wall down with me!!” and he is not interested in sleeping in a construction zone.) But this year, we’ve really started shoring things up relationally, and the wallpaper needs to reflect our efforts and surrender. My French friend of 30 years will be coming for Thanksgiving this year and she has offered to help me put it up, which means I now have a deadline for getting the walls ready, (and David has a deadline for getting the room rewired!) God confirmed my timing the other day at a bargain bin store, where I stumbled upon some wallpaper that I fell in love with for only $2.50/roll. Now I’m really motivated! (Before and after photos soon to come.)

Click on the image for a close-up look at our hallway Last laugh: Can you imagine a stranger just walking into your home, mistaking it for a business? Doors can be rather anonymous in a village and it happened to us this week! As you can see in this night time shot, we don’t have curtains in the door windows because we’re so desperate for all the light we can get. And the hallway goes all the way to the back of the house with closed-off rooms coming off of it. So you might think our front door was an apartment building entrance, like a meter reader did once. I’d considered putting our name on the letter slot in our front door, and now I’m thinking this might be a good idea, esp. since the lady mistook us for the local undertaker down the street!

Next month: How our little church took a giant step of faith…

Love, Angela

No man can be called friendless…

…who has God and the companionship of good books.”
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This nice little quote sums up our summer very well. With no major departures or arrivals planned, our family was able to settle into a rhythm that restored our souls. It started every morning at 9 am for family time. I picked out 2 books that David and I had read, but I knew that the kids were each ripe to receive something from both of them. The first was Rick Joyner’s Final Quest and the second was Praying the Bible by Wes and Stacey Campbell. Rick’s book had them on the edge of their seats, while the Campbells hammered the title home, leaving us no excuse to stay in our prayer ruts. It was a grace-filled time that is producing an autumn harvest. Rachel has returned to school to find many friends and staff with the same desires to see God move more strongly in the school. Noah is committed to reading the One Year Bible and is much more content about his classes this year. David hung a swing in the attic for Olivia recently, and it is now her favorite private place to pray aloud to her Heavenly Father. I decided to test the book’s theory by joining David in his thrice-weekly prayer times at the church. As you may recall from my confessions last year, this was a big step for me. But we applied what we learned, and they were the most liberating prayer times I had ever had in a public setting!

A verse we focused on

This comes on the heels of our church expanding to the building next door, which housed lots of different spaces, including a nightclub. The youth are working towards making it a place where life-giving music is played and produced on weekends, and that we could use as a house of prayer and worship during the week. We look forward to teaching how to pray the Bible to the youth in this context!

Our English bookshelf also served to refresh a single South African friend named Helen this summer. She has lived in France for many years as a Huguenot returning to her homeland. Her mortal body has been her struggle since childhood, but American missionaries had a huge impact on her spiritual life. She felt called to teach at our school after coming to intercede one weekend, but she had a very difficult year, esp. living in one room in the chateau without an elevator for her handicap. This summer she became a foster mother for Emilie, who is Olivia’s age and whom she’s known since birth, while the mother finishes a prison sentence. She also moved into a place of her own, for the first time in 4 years. All of these events involved our help, whether with childcare, the move, or just loaning a good book or movie. Some of these books, authored by Francine Rivers, were given to me by friends last spring. They have touched the hearts of not only Helen and myself, but also to a French friend who speaks English well and wants to get them translated into French!

PettingFish.jpgOne day we got our noses out of our books and had an adventure together while David and Rachel were prayer walking. I had agreed to do a friend a favor and drive to Besançon, an hour away. I decided to ask Helen and Emilie to come along to spend the day there with us to see the sights while we were there. As someone with a poor sense of direction, the trip would have stressed me out, but with Helen beside me, it was “easy peasy.” Olivia and Emilie also bonded that day, making it easy to give Helen a break and keeping Emilie whenever needed. We know that God is using this difficult time to enable Emilie to attend our Christian school, keeping her on the path of life when she could easily go astray in all of her pain right now. (Here are the girls spending lots of time at the fish petting exhibit!)

GermanAfricanCropped.jpgHelen returned the favor by keeping Olivia for us so that David and I could get away last weekend to minister 3 days and nights in Germany with French and American friends. This was another big step for me: One look at the calendar told me that this was physically the worst weekend to have quality time with my husband. On the other hand, I knew that God wanted me to start accompanying David on trips like this. (Read his trip report here) With Olivia graduating to middle school, I realized that my kids are no longer an excuse to stay home. My mothering days will soon be over and David and I would only grow apart if didn’t start joining him, migraines or no migraines. So I responded to the voice of the bridegroom in Song of Solomon who says, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along.” I decided to trust Him. And it was magnificent – David and I really enjoyed each other’s companionship, and I had no migraines. Comfortable beds and good food was provided by the hosting church, who were released in dance during the tri-lingual worship times. (This photo, taken on Sunday morning, was a beautiful image of the international flavor of the church.)

On our return, books came to the forefront again. All the kids’ schoolbooks have to be covered in protective plastic, and a dozen makes an evening’s work!

In parting, I leave you with a hilarious must-see on YouTube that shows how people in the Middle Ages reacted to the first book, similar to our reactions to computers. (In Norwegian with subtitles) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQHX-SjgQvQ

More back-to-school news on our re-designed web site next month!

Love, Angela

Rachel Rites

Dear Family and Friends,

This is Rachel, writing for the month of June! I have begun my summer vacation ahead of the rest of my family, courtesy of the American school calendar. As many of you know, I now attend Black Forest Academy (BFA), an American boarding school in Germany with other missionary kids.

As I look back, just about everything that has happened to me since last summer has been a brand new experience. I am incredibly grateful for BFA as a catalyst, a place where no one remains stagnant. Part of this may come from the fact that no one finds much time to stand still! I am amazed at the number of exciting, memorable events that happened in one year, and overjoyed to have one more go-around – as a senior! God has been at work every day of this year, sometimes in ways I am only now beginning to realize. Here, I think, are some of the reasons He placed me at BFA, accompanied by some of this year’s artwork: (Hover mouse over images for details)

Part of a video I did as a tribute to the seniors in my dormThe chance to learn from those who teach for no other reason than their love for God, their students, and their subject matter. All of my classes have been excellent and inspiring because of this passion. Outside the classroom, I have been blessed to see staff reach out to the students in tangible ways – one of my teachers frequently offers small paying jobs. The pastor and his wife, former missionaries to France, regularly invite French-speaking students like myself to their home so that we can all keep up the language.

Stage backdrop I designed for the Junior-Senior banquetThe chance to connect with my generation! Learning to be a friend and to be accepted as a friend have been huge places of growth. I have also come to appreciate some diverse cultures, thanks to BFA’s international student body.

A logo I created in Graphic Design class for our family. Look for a LeighWeb re-design soon! The opportunity to try my hand in my primary area of interest – graphic design. I was able to design several things this year, most for a wider audience than I have ever had! It has meant so much to me to be guided and given responsibility in this area. Along with learning German and gaining familiarity with music theory, I know I am acquiring skill sets that will be very important in my life and calling.

The circumstances to make me realize that accomplishing what God desires for me will require time and purposeful action; in other words, if it doesn’t appear on my schedule, it isn’t real. My time with God is easily stolen, and I know that I must be more protective of it. Paper-cutting from Art I, in the style of by Henri Matisse.

Some of this year’s highlights have been musical, mainly: Playing in my first rock band! So what if our one performance only lasted ten minutes… some special friendships came out of it, and we all grew musically. Playing in a pit orchestra of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, playing on a chapel worship team, and doing percussion for the high school choir, were also pretty unforgettable. It was wonderful, too, getting to know my roommate at the dorm – we overcame our differences, and now are each other’s biggest allies. God knew we would sharpen each other, as most of our “edges” were in completely different places!

BFA feels very much like home, and I am still adjusting to being back with my family in France – let’s just say that the degree of independence I acquired away from home suited me very well! This summer will be devoted to refocusing spiritually, learning some new skills, updating web sites, doing our church’s prayer walk with Dad, and summer homework for AP English next year!

Love,
Rachel

V-E Day or What We Did on Our Spring Vacation

As much as we loved seeing so many of you in person last month, it’s still good to be off the road and back on the keyboard. The tears I cried over France when we first received our call always return during our descent over Paris. My mother tells me that every time she meets a transplanted European, they say, “Yah, Europe is a great place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.” My sentiments are the opposite: “America is a great place to visit, but…”

This week we Europeans got a day off, (except the Germans, that is) to celebrate the end of WWII, thanks to the American invasion – a convenient theme for this newsletter as we relate how Americans have been invading our lives all spring.

Peoria 2007 team.jpgBack in early March, a high school French class from Peoria, IL came out for their third annual visit during one of our many school breaks. It was a smaller group this time, coming during a school break. Since we were the only staff on-site, our family connected well with them. With the students gone, they were able to do lots of spring cleaning projects with great enthusiasm. They worked hard to speak French, and were also a very musical and artistic bunch, joining our worship team on Sun. morning. They invited us to come visit their school in April, which we did.

UsWithLucManuCropped.jpgA few weeks later, our French church sent us off with visions of angels before us and relational bridges to build, money to spend, and secured promises that we would return! The stress of preparing to leave the house for a month suddenly got lighter. (photo w/pastoral couple)

With 2 layovers, the door-to-door travel time takes about 24 hrs, and it gets harder with every trip! I have great admiration for my in-laws who have made the trip regularly for the last several years. I also have grace for my parents who can’t conceive of a voyage of that magnitude. I guess we fall somewhere in between – once every 5 years is about all we can take! (And thank God we don’t have to make the trip by boat!)

Back in America, we were treated like returning soldiers during the entire visit. In Kansas City, a couple we’d never met graciously squeezed us into their home for a week and juggled cars with us, even though they were already housing another family of three, and had a daughter who needed a quiet house during the day for sleeping, as she does the nighttime prayer watch at IHOP. Speaking of which, we were all touched by the spiritual atmosphere there in some way. The highlight for me was to spend a few hours with Lenny LaGuardia, director of the children’s ministries there, and he gave me all 16 of his teaching CDs – worth $80! He has a very different paradigm of Sunday school that I want to tap into, if God should use me that way.

IMG_0384.JPGThe second week we had hoped to fly to Las Cruces to be with my family, but we couldn’t afford the outrageous last-minute ticket prices. We were all very disappointed and will have to make that visit on a separate trip. Instead, we all got in the car and headed for Illinois to visit the 2 Christian high schools that had visited us. We were thrilled to stay with one of the chaperons and meet the rest of her sweet family, and we got to share our lives and pictures with lots of kids. We squeezed in a mini-Leigh family reunion while in the area before the week was out, celebrating my niece’s first pregnancy together. (photo)

IMG_0518_cropped.jpgIt was good to finally be in a familiar city during our third week in Indianapolis. David’s parents had invited more than 30 people to come over for our one-night-only Powerpoint event. Many had declined early on, but then changed their mind the day before, and we had a hard time fitting everyone into the family room! David was thrilled to reconnect with his old high school gang who came from all over to reunite for that evening. (photo)

The other important event was saying good-bye to my grandparents. They were having good days and awful days, and God gave us such a gift – our visit fell on a very good day. Rachel played her violin. Olivia played a piece on the piano. We sang in French, German, and English, and despite Alzheimer’s, my grandfather quizzed us lucidly about our life in France. Afterwards, we enjoyed a relaxing dinner with my brother and his wife. I received news of my grandmother’s death 2 weeks later, soon after we returned. I can’t wait to see them on the other side…

IMG_0549.JPGLeaving Noah behind to have his own adventures, we drove the girls back to Kansas and shipped Rachel back to Germany with her new contact lenses. Then we got on a plane to Denver with Olivia and stayed with old friends for our final week. The Sunday morning service at New Hope Church went smoothly and again, lots of old friends showed up that we didn’t expect to see, and almost didn’t recognize! I highlighted my desperation to renovate our house, in hopes that one of the many skilled laborers there would come and help us one day, and a very generous offering was taken up before we shared a French potluck meal together. It was just the beginning of so many special meals with special people, giving at every turn. I even had favor with the gynecologist as a new, self-pay patient: She only charged me half the cost of a regular visit, she gave me all the free samples of migraine drugs and estrogen patches that she could lay her hands on, and she gave me her personal e-mail so that she could send me more! But the best thing was that my finger prick revealed anemia! The count was so low that she did it twice, and I have never been so motivated about taking my “Women’s Ultra, Mega Dietary Supplements” with the hope of renewed energy levels!

Needless to say, it was hard to leave Denver. Noah felt the same way about his visit. He met up with us at the airport in Kansas after a 3-day getaway to friends in Mississippi and a weekend with his cousin-in-law(?) who is an adult Lego designer and builder. We heard all the details over our “last meal” at Outback Steakhouse before heading to the airport – I boosted my iron levels, Noah tasted his first BBQ ribs, and we finished with a dessert called “Cheesecake Olivia!” Thank you again to everyone who made our trip so memorable – we have never felt so loved and supported by so many people than we do now, and that’s saying a lot for a family that doesn’t get back very often.

IMG_0666_cropped.jpgBack in France, David hit the ground running, with 20 intercessors coming to our church 5 days later from the US, the UK, and Germany, and many details still to organize. Also the one immediate family member on David’s side that we didn’t see in the States was coming to visit at the same time – our 21 yr.old nephew who is studying in Spain this semester. Rachel also came home to be in on all the action, and everything fell together beautifully: The cousins were finally old enough to enjoy each other and bond well. The UK worship leader Godfrey Birtill had us worshiping in a 4 hr. frenzy and gave us new depths to plumb in our expression of worship. The new French president was fully covered in prayer. There were extended times of US-French reconciliation prompted by the new president’s call for a renewed friendship with the U.S., and much more…

The same day we got the last of those troops off to their home shores, another batch of Americans came in the form of 5 students from Oklahoma with their principal. Helping out at our school for a week is the focus of their Senior missions trip, and the one female is staying with us while the boys bunk at the local campground. If they run out of things to do, I’ve got my house renovation project list on standby…

Next week we have another 4-day weekend to celebrate Christ’s ascension, and David takes off to lead worship for a Christian educator’s conference in Switzerland with a friend. I will be in a prone position on my couch, listening to my Lenny LaGuardia CDs during that time. Should you have the urge to call, do not be surprised if you get the answering machine…

Praising God from whom all these blessings flow,
Angela