Family Joys and Sorrows – Dec 2018

Merry Christmas Everyone,

Ours was a peaceful Christmas for 2 as guests cancelled and Olivia decided to celebrate back in Indy to keep the ties she made last year.

I’ve just been home two weeks (after five weeks with my parents) and we’ll be returning again on Sunday to celebrate David’s father’s life. He left us suddenly but peacefully on Dec. 5th after 2 years in Memory Care at the retirement village. Looking back, we are so glad that we were able to help care for him 2 yrs ago, when he was much more responsive.

Then my mother had heart pains during my first weekend with them and so we spent it in the hospital while she had a heart catheter done; another confrontation with mortality. No surgical intervention was needed, so we happily went ahead with plans to drive the 6 hrs to Scottsdale the following weekend for a Thanksgiving family reunion and 2 weeks of house-hunting. A big thanks to my sis for graciously keeping all of us in her big new house! Unfortunately, my parents didn’t find anything suitable within their budget.

Longerbone Thanksgiving 2018

On our return to Las Cruces, they showed me the local retirement village options and we viewed more small homes that were in their price range. The one we fell in love with and put an offer on fell through just before I left. But I had an absolutely delightful visit, getting a daily dose of sunshine, hugs and kisses, good food, old memories and mom’s companionship during our many outings. I had the time to get familiar with my parents’ routines, preferences and limitations, and mainly hang out with seniors. All of that helps me be empathetic as we touch base weekly about their continued search.

Las Cruces Home`

 At the same time, the trip felt like a real shift: For the first time, I missed speaking French and I wanted to stay in touch with all of our French friends, sending photos to those not on Instagram, so they could meet my family virtually. 

The trip also reassured me that David and I are making a good proactive decision to move into a smaller apartment earlier, rather than later. Everyone’s bridge loans have finally been approved and the house-signing should happen in January. By the time the renovations are finished, Olivia should be graduated and out on her own.

And finally our visit with Christiane, described in my last newsletter, was also our last. She passed away mid-Oct. and her beautiful funeral was so well-attended that we had to sit in the tiny narthex. (We were just happy to be there because of our conflicting visa renewal appointment.)  I can’t bring myself to delete her string of sweet text messages on my phone, but I also love knowing that she is looking down on us and interceding for France as fervently as she did here on earth. (And we are glad for it – the last terrorist attack in Strasbourg was a little too close to home, as the shooter was killed in Olivia’s suburb.)

Over the Mennonite church entry where Christiane’s service was held, was written Jer. 22:29:  Land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord!
Amen!  We want to be here when this beautiful land receives the word of the Lord with open arms!

Happy New Year, Angela

Pure and Undefiled Religion – Sept 2018

I’m walking in my maternal grandparents’ footsteps this fall, caring for the orphans and widows.  In this day and age, where most singles and couples live without extended family support, these terms can apply to a wide range of people. And I think that this is one of the main roles of missionaries worldwide: Being financially supported, our time is more available for the needs of others. Kind of like stay-at-home mothers used to be for society. And because “acts of service” continues to be my love language, even with lower energy levels, Jesus makes my day when He puts together connections in serendipitous ways!

Let me share some recent examples in detail:

I had just delivered homemade soup to 2 English-speaking friends: Ben’s wife was out of town and had a sick daughter. Helen struggles with chronic pain and exhaustion and I launder her bedding twice a month. That day she also gave me her duvet to get cleaned. Ma Belle lives close to the laundromat and dry cleaners, so after checking prices and hours, I went by her apt. and no one answered. Looking at my watch, I realized that she would be walking home from a HoP set at church, so I headed that direction, spotted her and pulled over.

Since I had given away all my soup, I asked if she was hungry. She was, and since it was a sunny day, we headed to McDonald’s and had lunch out on the patio. Out of the blue, she asked me if I would help her deal with her chin hairs because her sister told her, without mincing words, that she was ugly. So we decided to go back to my house where I could give her disposable razors and show her how to shave. Her hair was pretty greasy too, so she took me up on a shampoo and trim as well! Happy day – She looked like a new woman! The root of the problem seemed to be a broken water heater (again) and no shampoo, so before taking her home, we stopped at a discount shop and got cleaning supplies, not only for her body, but also for her apt., since she warned me that it wasn’t in very good shape. Others had told her that her kitchen bins were the problem, but she seemed unable to tackle it. I hadn’t come by all summer, so it was time for a visual.

Upon entry, I was dismayed at the state of the kitchen. Despite lack of hot water and clogged sinks overflowing with dishes, we managed to get the floor and trash cans to an acceptable level of clean, (thanks to her bathtub) in about an hour. Her bedroom was heading down the same path, so I gave her a deadline to get on top of it or else I would come do it myself. I simply cannot imagine allowing all my hard work last year to be wasted. Her pride keeps her from asking, and she doesn’t like me working for nothing, but she admits that my occasional interventions really help her.

I’m putting on the pressure because I’m off to visit my parents for the 5 weeks around Thanksgiving and I want to make sure she’s in good shape for the winter before I leave. This brings us to the biggest crux in missionary life – while caring for others, we aren’t around to care for our own parents. In early September, my parents needed my support for the first time, but airfare and soon-to-expire visas don’t make it possible to fly out on a dime. Jesus got them over the hump, but I feel compelled to go out anyway. I think our family was last together in 2004 and I miss them. I’d also like to help my parents find a place closer to my sister before the next emergency. They are 78 and 82, so I don’t think I’m being too hasty.

Mitzia and real Italian coffee!Another precious moment happened after I had texted Christiane on a Sunday, our friend now in palliative care with lung cancer. I told her we missed her, esp. as she was the most faithful attender of David’s HoP sets and sent her a photo of the latest church wedding (see photo below.) She said that Mitzia, (a real widow) had wanted to come visit her as well, but needed a ride and Manuela (her daughter, our pastor’s wife and part of our house project) was in Israel.  Maybe we could bring her on Monday, esp. as it was a Mitzia’s birthday. That was also a day when the intercessor scheduled to minister to Christiane was unavailable, so we could come without tiring her out.

So I called Mitzia Monday morning. She had no plans and invited us over for coffee beforehand. That morning, I also received cash in the mail from my pen pal (who was returning my efforts to contribute to all the gas she used during our vacation together.) So I ran to the florist for flowers for Christiane and to the bakery for some birthday tarts. David agreed to drive and bring his guitar. What a sweet time of sharing and worship we had that came together so easily, falling on a day when I was also rested and had the energy to pull it off. That’s what makes these days even more special – all these “widows” have more bad days than good ones, so I give Jesus all the glory for orchestrating these moments of mutual blessing.

Mitzia’s great grandchildren are the ones I will be living with, and they fit in the “orphan” category when mom needs extra help with babysitting and after school pickups, esp. when Grandma Manuela is out of town. (I’m really starting to feel like a member of the family now!) And we had another “orphan” over for lunch yesterday: “Ling” married into the church family last year (the 20’s wedding). Since then they have moved from the polluted, noisy city of 20 million in Beijing to an isolated Swiss village of 700! During the week, she lives in the school chateau with her husband’s parents (the pastor’s sister) and takes French classes, while her husband works in Switzerland. The last time we crossed paths, she said she missed speaking English and Chinese food. So we had her over and heard her fascinating life story: A rare first born girl who wasn’t aborted and has a brother, whose parents divorced and left her to fend for herself at around 14. Unwilling to conform to the Asian societal mold, she studied in England for a few years and then found her Frenchman when she returned. The quiet strength of his faith and family has brought peace and stability to her, though God is still a foreign concept. We planted more seeds when she asked why were in France.

All the handsome boys at church, who were Rachel’s age when we moved here, have fallen for and modeled a Christ-like love to orphans like her and won them over just before marriage. It is clearly our church’s most successful outreach program! So for Ling, it’s only a matter of time… Here’s Clementine being overwhelmed by Vincent’s vows of unconditional love that we witnessed this month as well.Vincent and Clémentine

If any of you are near Scottsdale or Las Cruces next month, let’s try to connect! Looking forward to eating turkey in the sunshine this year!

Love, Angela

A Long, Hot Climb – August 2018

The summer felt like a long, hot climb, which is something David and I would never choose to do in the natural, but apparently God wanted to give us lots of opportunities to grow in patience and joy in trials! (But watch Paul, Apostle of Christ to put your petty complaints into perspective!)

Amanda and her honey, goat duck pizza!

A month without a living/dining room was pretty constraining, but the room was presentable just in time to host Amanda, our old babysitter from Denver.  As a French teacher, she comes through every 5 years or so, but we’d always missed each other till now. And boy, did she pick the perfect weekend: Bastille Day fireworks on Saturday night, a casual church service in the mountains and the French World Cup win on Sunday!

A few weeks of repaving our local streets during the summer heatwave was also taxing: Opening windows for a breeze was out of the question with bulldozers inches away and access to our door and parking was a daily adventure. The narrow sidewalk in front of our house was one of the last sections finished and immigrants were doing all the grunt work. I offered to freshen up their water bottles and gave them a hearty “Merci beaucoup” when the last shovelful of asphalt was applied and they walked off into the sunset.

It was also during this time that we drove 4 hours to see our pastor’s only daughter marry, staying overnight in a B&B that couldn’t even offer us a fan. After a lousy night’s sleep, the temps dropped and the magnificent outdoor setting and ceremony pulled us out of our misery!

Olivia got to experience the heatwave the following week as a key player at her school chum’s wedding: 5 days sweating it out at the bride’s parent’s house with 12 others and 2 bathrooms. Her roles included cleaning a dirty reception hall in advance of decorating, decorating, being a witness for the mandatory civil ceremony, leading worship with a band she’d never played with before, keeping the potluck buffet table full and doing the dishes afterwards. A ventilator kept the hall under 90 degrees, but the candles were still slumping over! Thank God she was joined by a great group of friends who laughed their way through it all. (But we made a mother-daughter pact that if she married in France, she wouldn’t do it in the summer!)

In the meantime, we were apologizing for the heat to more weekend visitors – our old friends and supporters, Tim and Sue, with their friends, came through after their ministry time in Switzerland with Athletes in Action. (The baker on our street just opened up an Airbnb this year to make ends meet. So they were able to stay a few doors down and sleep in air-conditioning – they highly recommend it!) Once visitors were cleared and the temperatures dropped, we painted the woodwork in the salon. And the room is finally starting to look the way I envisioned it!

The future M and Mme Vairet!

In my last newsletter, I mentioned that we wouldn’t be vacationing this year, but it seems God always comes through to make sure we celebrate our anniversary! Our American friends, the Byerlys, did a house swap during their summer furlough with the Hinson family from DC and I was their on-call person for any needs. So I did the cat-sitting for a month when the Hinsons traveled to Italy, did an afternoon of babysitting and then house-cleaned at their departure. And they were extremely generous in return. And the couple to whom we gave pre-marital counseling also surprised us with an unexpected big gift! So we booked a cheap flight and flew to Biarritz last week, where we were housed, fed home grown food and generally spoiled to death by Corinne, my pen pal of 40 years. In the end, David was sick most of the week and I caught his bug just before we flew back, so it wasn’t the couple time we had hoped for. But it provided a lot of much-needed girl time, as she is going through a difficult season and really needed a listening ear. Our friendship is becoming more precious with each passing year as she looks to me for more spiritual input into her life.

With Corinne at the Biarritz beach on the Atlantic.

If you ask David, his “long hot climb” this summer has been applying weekly for jobs. For the first time, he’s experiencing a lot of rejection in an unfamiliar business world, which is pushing him to lean hard on God, rather than his own understanding. Corinne was able to give him insight into the French recruiting mindset, and along with our dear intercessors, I am cheer-leading him on, knowing there is a perfect post waiting for him to find.

On a final, happy note, my chronic fatigue recovery has been less of a climb than I thought it would be. 2 months later, good sleep, extra supplements and mega-vitamins seem to be doing the trick! I also noticed that I felt much less achy in Corinne’s newly built house than I do at home, probably signaling mold sensitivity – another reason to move. At the same time, I have been delivered from all chocolate and sugar cravings, mainly because the side effects are so not worth it!

Ready for fall, Angela

Banishing Missionary Guilt – July 2018

After lots of glorious weather, we’re finally getting a couple of days of rain – no heat waves, fires or lava flows here, thank God, and a good day to write a newsletter while the neighborhood streets go quiet to watch France in the World Cup quarter finals.

Backing up, the biggest event of May was David’s trip home to stay connected to family, while I stayed back to help host a team of 7 middle-schoolers and 3 adults from Bethel Redding Christian school for 10 days. My role with this team was to welcome them from the airport with refreshments, house a mother and daughter and manage the church work day. Because we didn’t have a lot for 14 yr olds to do at church, except pull out the ever-present Japanese knotweed in the parking lot, I came up with some other projects. One was to empty Ma Belle’s basement storage area and the other was to start attacking the ceiling of my living/dining room.

The new kitchen walls

I had spent the entire winter looking at Pinterest photos and imagining how I wanted to decorate our future apt., when suddenly the blackened wallpaper and outdated ceiling paper that I’d lived with for 14 years started screaming at me. At the same time, 2 of our neighbors renovated their facades, giving our corner a huge facelift. Then we got a letter from the mayor saying that our surrounding streets were all going to be repaved this summer - that’s like getting a free, new driveway, for us! God was obviously working hard to give us better street appeal and it upped my motivation to overcome inertia for the interior by updating the living/dining room and kitchen walls.

With my neck issues, ceiling work was out of the question, but I noticed that quarter round had been nailed on both sides of our 6 ceiling beams and that would have to come off first. So that’s what the director of the school and 2 boys did for me in under 2 hours. With that jumpstart, last month I hired the neighbor kids to help me rip the paper off the walls, and then Olivia spent a week scraping the ceiling and helping strip the kitchen paper. David followed by rewiring the room; it had only 2 ancient outlets with exposed wiring. Then when we decided to pull the wainscoting off one wall, we realized we were in over our heads, and we were all tired. I had also thought I was capable of working 3 afternoons stripping and repainting a quarter of the kitchen, after a retiree from church blessed us with a little finishing work. But I ended up in bed for three days with exhaustion and brain fog. It scared us enough to put a name to my gradually worsening symptoms and start treating it:

Chronic fatigue syndrome.

In the meantime, David called in a professional for advice, and miraculously he was able to estimate the work quickly and had men available this week, which allows it to be habitable before our guest arrives next week!

So right now I’m working on Step 1 of my cure from www.endfatigue.com: Get 9 hours of sleep every night. I also got another Sozo to deal with my missionary guilt, among other things. God showed me the smiling faces of some of the hundreds of people I have served over the last 19 years of ministry, whether through teaching, healing, counseling, housing, babysitting or cleaning. It is enough and at 56, I’ve earned a rest. Now I believe it.

So I’m feeling much lighter, giving myself permission to take a real sabbatical from meeting everyone else’s needs. We’ve never been able to take real 2-week vacations like the French do, but I’m hoping the money spent on a new, white living room will get me through this last year here in better shape, especially during the dark winter months. I expect my real renaissance will happen with the move, where we will be enjoying long summer evenings dining al fresco on our terrace instead of inhaling plaster dust behind closed windows to shut out the asphalt rollers and yelling neighbors. Happily, I am cat-sitting this month for friends in a quiet neighborhood with a garden, allowing us an escape and a taste of the future.

This spring we also hosted English prophet Anne Griffith and attended a prophetic arts weekend. The events confirmed that we had served well, but it was time to rest, and for me to start writing the book I’ve dreamed of that will bring about my healing, as well as healing for others, as a new ministry for me that will be life-giving instead of life-draining! Fortunately, our pastor and his wife are all about making sure that we find our God-ordained place now to thrive in this intense season that we are walking through.

So David is still applying for jobs, while mentally pulling back from future church leadership and I have just taught my last Sunday school class. A couple of young ladies agreed to replace me after my formal announcement, but they are looking for reinforcements so that no one has to miss more than 1 Sunday per month, something I was never able to achieve. It’s a struggle to leave a ministry position if we don’t see our replacement lined up, but we have both learned that if it’s time to move on, no one can take your place until you vacate it first! One of the young mothers (who gave me my Sozo session) thanked me for serving and sitting for her children these past 5 years with a couple of lovely outings recently. I’m thrilled that she lives in the village that we will be moving to so that our friendship can deepen.

Let the healing begin!

Building Up The Body – April 2018

I’m looking back over my Feb – March calendars in order to find a theme and all I see are first names! It’s pretty obvious that we are focusing on community and relationships right now:

I continued helping Ma Belle weekly through February and I’m pleased to announce that she’s now maintaining her place on her own. The apartment odor hasn’t changed unfortunately, probably because she has 6 large bags of her son’s unwashed clothes still stacked in her salon. After 6 months, I don’t think he’ll be back to retrieve them, but she’s not convinced yet. She still has junk stored in her basement that she is ready to part with, but the stairs are intimidating for both of us. I’m hoping that we can take care of that in May, when some young teens from Bethel Christian School come to visit for a week. Sounds like a perfect missions project for them.

She bought herself a paperback French-English parallel Bible awhile back and I’m not sure why, except maybe because of her affinity for me. I admired it greatly as something I would love to own as well, but couldn’t justify buying when I can get any language on my Bible app for free. What a surprise to unwrap it for my birthday last month! She was given a used, hard back Bible recently, and decided it would be more durable and lighter to carry around. I was touched!

Speaking of my birthday, quality one-on-one time with 8 different girlfriends spread out over 3 weeks is my favorite way to celebrate! David and the kids inundated me with books from my Amazon wish list and Emilie, our boarder, made sure I had a homemade dessert complete with a candle to blow out along with her gift. This relationship has also been a real gift for both of us. She has expressed that our home has been a safe place to heal emotionally and physically, and I love having someone “in house” to correct my written and oral French!  We will miss her when she has to move out next month (so that our Americanized Olivia can move back in!)

At church, our discipleship efforts are going well. The young adults chose the adult with whom they wanted to serve and confide in. Mine is a young lady that will be moving back to Paris this summer to be part of a new Christian school project. So I’m not raising up my replacement for Sunday school, unfortunately. David, however, has 2 disciples in the technical department who aren’t going anywhere and the love and respect is mutual. He also just supervised another young man from our church, who spent his internship analyzing our sound needs as part of his studies in audio engineering.

On top of that, no less than 5 couples are marrying from our church this summer and one of them has asked us to do their pre-marital counseling. What a refreshing challenge it will be to spend time with a couple in love, instead of the hurting ones we’ve ministered to in the past. Our first church baby in 4 yrs was just born last month too – a precursor to a big shift coming to our little church’s age demographics! Needless to say, this discipleship thrust feels like God’s perfect timing and forming home groups will probably be the next one. The building renovation work is finally moving forward as well, so it feels like our church is being prepared for the coming harvest. Europe shall be saved!

Our annual 12 hours of worship happened on Easter Sat. this year. I tend to do the prep work in advance, creating spaces for personal encounters and then playing with the kids that attend for a short time. But David is fully engaged with logistical planning AND the entire day of the event between running sound, projecting words, leading a worship team or playing an instrument for other groups. Then on Sunday, he had a wedding to attend, while I manned Sunday school. So it was the first year I didn’t make a big Easter dinner – Emilie had a simple, delicious meal waiting for us when we got home and it felt very good to simply receive. (As an added bonus, Easter Monday is also an official holiday in Alsace!)

In other news, we were disappointed to be turned down for French nationality last week. This means that after David finishes his US taxes this week, and then his French taxes next month, he has to start preparing another dossier to renew our 10 year residence permit. Will he still be able to do this at 67, 77, 87 yrs of age? This is what we were hoping to avoid, but God knows better. Apparently, the government needed to see more French income. Wish they’d told us that up front. And because we will soon lose boarding income and IT freelance work is still sluggish, David is now actively applying for part-time telecommuting work with other companies. (And if he goes with a French company, we may re-apply for nationality again in a few years.)

Happy springtime to all of you, Angela