A Curious Christmas – Dec 2016

Greetings from sunny and warm New Mexico, where I am celebrating Christmas alone with my parents – our first one together since Olivia was born back in Denver 21 years ago. I’ve always wanted a break from the exhausting pressure to make everyone happy and everything beautiful, and I’ve finally gotten my wish. I am downright giddy to have nothing more to do this week than to help my dad, shop with mom, eat at new restaurants and write this newsletter.

I’ve earned it this year, though you wouldn’t know it since I haven’t written since mid-Sept. That’s because I had a crush of people that needed my support: a friend who was having knee replacement surgery, a new missionary kid who started 5th grade at our school without basic French and needed my intervention, a hoarder who needed help throwing out before her move to a new apt., lessons that needed to be created for a new year of Sunday School, on top of weekly Sozos, church council meetings and House of Prayer sessions.

Florence and Angela LeighDavid and Jim LeighThen at the end of Oct, David’s dad, Jim, had a stroke, stealing his memory and making him less stable. Once he was back home, it was clear that they needed to make the anticipated move to a retirement village. But David’s mom, Florence, would need a lot of support to make that happen and everyone in the family was working full-time. So we volunteered to fly out mid-November and stayed 5 weeks. It was truly a grace-filled time: I cooked and de-cluttered and made sure Jim’s brain and body got exercised daily on the therapists’ off days. David led us in daily worship and prayer and did lots of administration for his mom, while keeping up with his own part-time work responsibilities. Florence dealt with Jim’s more personal needs and starting sorting thru 9 years of accumulation. The bonus was being with family for Thanksgiving for the first time in 14 years and celebrating 4 family birthdays in person!

Once David’s parents were settled in their new apt., the cold weather hit hard, so David was eager to fly eastward to be with Olivia for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to fly out west.
My parents are doing pretty well, but very isolated from family out in the desert. I’ve enjoyed this time so much that this needs to be an annual trip, as they are usually alone at holiday time and my kids aren’t nearly as sentimental about being together then.

However, our absence was harder on Olivia than anticipated because our church went through a tragedy while we were gone. A young family of 7 moved into our village/church/school community a few years ago (4 girls and a boy, ages 2-11, the youngest having serious heart defects.) Guillaume was a teacher at the school and was being groomed to take over as president of the school board. His wife Flavy was a beautiful stay-at-home, vegan mom that I had befriended as a neighbor. Her kids filled half of my SS class and she had just taken on the preschool program at church this fall. Then to everyone’s shock, she caught a flu and died of meningitis 5 days later. Of course we weren’t getting any emails to pray until she was in the hospital, so the news was very sudden and hit the day before Thanksgiving, making us very grateful to be near our family.

Our church contacted a respected French woman who had witnessed a resurrection in another country for her testimony. Eager to start living out Jesus’ promise that we would do greater things than He did (even in France!) they fasted, prayed and worshiped around the clock for a miracle until the moment she was lowered into the ground 3 days later. Apparently Guillaume has dropped everything to father his kids, as their extended families live on the other side of France. His mother stayed until she landed in the hospital as well with another problem. I haven’t heard what he will do for the long term, but I am relieved that we had flown out before this happened because it would have been very difficult to leave at such a time of need. People are needy everywhere, and so few have free time to help. I am so glad that I can be that person, as a supported missionary, whether at home or abroad! (And any resources on accompanying children through grief would be much appreciated!)

In happier news, Olivia now has her dual citizenship and showed me her French passport over Skype this week! David and I hope to ride on her coat tails, applying for citizenship next year before our ten year visa expires. This will reduce the time we spend on bureaucratic paperwork and allow us to vote – the candidates are looking promising!

A blessed 2017 to all of you, Angela

Traveling Mercies? Done! – Aug 2017

Russian school

Our last newsletter described our spring trip back to Indy and traveling mercies continued throughout the summer…

In July, our intrepid Olivia took buses, planes, taxis and trains to get herself to a language school in Petrozavodsk, Russia. It is near the Finnish border – a 1700 mile trip even from the eastern border of France! While I was having flashbacks of “Taken,” she was befriending wild dogs in the park, making a video with her Italian classmate (far L) in a restaurant as a homework assignment, and discovering dill as an all-purpose seasoning. I believe it rained almost everyday, but she had a great host family set-up, learned A LOT of Russian (see the video for proof!) and got to speak at a church while seeing iconic Moscow on the way home. Putin’s anti-terrorism legislation went into effect while she was there and she was able to encourage evangelical believers there who had been fasting and praying against it. Why? Here’s the scoop for the uninformed.

Once Olivia was safely home, our Anna, who boarded with us in 2013-14, returned to spend her last days of vacation with us while we house sat in the countryside the first week of August. David completely unplugged from computer screens and relished passing his days creating music for pleasure and devouring our nephew’s first novel! I relished the peace and quiet without traffic or neighbors, drying clothes in the sun, taking care of pets, a yard and a garden and eating out on the patio everyday. With Olivia in recovery mode, I think the girls enjoyed doing absolutely nothing!

The following weekend we were invited to give our testimony and speak about the spiritual state of France at the YWAM base in Freiburg, Germany during one of their evenings open to local friends of the base. It was a lovely time of connection with about 20 people, complete with crepes. The base leaders housed us and fed us and the next day we took the scenic route towards Zurich to meet up with Tim and Sue Ellis who were in the “neighborhood” for an AIA (CRU) mission trip and to celebrate their 30th anniversary. They were married 2 weeks before we were and David and Tim were each other’s groomsmen, so it was fun to be together to mark this milestone!

Our own 30th anniversary trip was the grand finale this summer. In a newsletter 2 years ago, I mentioned that I wanted to do the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg one day. But David thought it would be too expensive since the 10 hr train trip would demand more than a long weekend stay.

And then we heard about a “Worship Vacation” offered by the Salzburg HoP – Free room and board for each day that you do 2 hrs in their prayer room, and perfectly located for sightseeing. Suddenly, a week in Salzburg was feasible! Not knowing the comfort level or privacy of the rooms, nor the food quality, we reserved 3 days there and our last 2 nights in a nice studio for guaranteed romance.

Salzburg HOP Prayer RoomThe trip exceeded all our expectations! The HoP is in a Catholic missions base that is beautifully decorated and backs right on the Salzach river. Bike and pedestrian paths pass right between the river and the HoP and they were still constructing an entrance where the public can walk in or have a drink in the adjoining café. We loved worshipping mainly in English together and praying into the river of worship joining the physical river to touch everyone passing by! Staff were busy with a leadership seminar that week, but the young people in attendance were delightful to share meals with. The icing on the cake was that our room was hotel quality, freshly renovated, overlooking the river! HoP entrance will be on the right!

After re-watching The Sound of Music, reading reviews and checking the weather forecast, I booked the 3 things we wanted to do the most in advance and David made sure we got there at the right time with as little walking as possible. I had fallen twice over the summer and couldn’t walk more than 5 min. before feeling discomfort in my foot and leg. But the city is small enough that transport is reasonable and convenient. A taxi got us to and from the hotel and Mozart dinner concert. A cable car got us up a mountain and we LOVED the Fraulein Maria Bike Tour! I unconsciously started singing The Sound of Music songs as soon as we arrived and they carried me through the week! Salzburg romance!

Now that we’re home, David is working furiously to get our new website up and running before he has to return to school briefly to orient his IT replacement.

And it is now possible to give to us on-line through the Bread of Life church website! Thank you supporters, for your generosity this summer that allowed us to celebrate our 30 years so well!!

Till next month, Angela

Blest be the Ties that Bind – May 2017

I have a good reason why you didn’t hear from me this spring – the last couple of months were spent planning the details for a trip to Indianapolis to surprise David’s parents and I couldn’t talk about it!

It had been 4 years since our last 6-week marathon visit and David’s mother in particular was feeling it. So after friends here reminded us that God cares about our family connections as much as our missional life, we overcame our own reluctance.  We decided to believe that God would cover the finances needed, that our kids and parents needed real hugs and that we could still survive 15 hours of travel with 2 layovers, jetlag and high security pat-downs. We timed it around Memorial Day weekend for David’s mother’s birthday, the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 and our kids’ move to a smaller rental in town. We limited the trip to 2 1/2 weeks in one city to keep it simple, praying that my parents would be able to fly out to see us from New Mexico.

We wrote to our intercessors in April to keep us and my parents covered and started preparing a 30 min. video of family memories to show at the surprise birthday party that also honors David’s parent’s 60th wedding anniversary this year. It was a wonderful heart exercise to go through 30 yrs of photos and videos and see the generational blessings that have come from a drama-free family of faith.

At the church, David was organizing a HOP conference for the weekend before we left. I deep-cleaned 2 large renovated bathrooms we needed to open in order to host a larger group of people for the Friday-Sunday event. We also housed a member of the team that came from Geneva. So when we got on the plane on Tuesday, we were definitely ready for a long, boring sit, reassured that Olivia had the house covered in our absence. Here’s the 10 biggest highlights:

  • The travel day wasn’t nearly as painful as before, and it was good to leave our cold, rainy weather behind. Summer arrived here only yesterday!
  • David’s mother’s reaction upon laying eyes on us was priceless, and she’d also always hoped that someone would create a memory video for her.)
  • We got to love on David’s dad, who is losing his memory but not his dignity, and made sure David’s mother was coping well as the caregiver.Leigh reunion 2016
  • In return, David’s parents rented us a new Chrysler to make the hours criss-crossing the city a lot less stressful, and I got to bond with my 2 amazing grand nieces up close and personal.
  • Rachel was grateful for our help with the last minute push to get their previous rental cleaned, painted and the basement junk cleared out, and David got a break from the work when he was given a great seatAirport reunion! and chauffeured to the race by an old friend.
  • And another friend’s mother, who was still missing her husband taken too soon by cancer, graciously welcomed us to sleep in her basement after we moved out of Rachel’s house, perfectly located to be near my parents, who were staying at my brother and his wife’s house.
  • My parents did make the trip, despite physical attacks, and were so glad that they did, and my dad got on Instagram to strengthen our long-distance connection!
  • Glasses repaired!And when I broke the frame of my glasses, my brother was right there able to weld them back together perfectly with a laser machine at the jeweler’s where he works, saving me $800 for a new pair.
  • We got to experience Rachel’s art world first-hand all together and we were treated to lots of artsy, healthy meals in funky restaurants all over town. (And David was totally pain-free the entire trip, despite not keeping to his diet!)
  • Sweet vulnerable conversations were had with several family members, local supporters and friends that don’t communicate well at a distance.
  • And finally, our spirits were also ministered to during visits to three small congregations that were pursuing real intimacy with each other and the Lord, giving us an encouraging view of a shift in American church life!

Fun news about Olivia’s world next month!

Happy summer,

Angela

Eleven Days of Celebration (in the midst of tragedy) – March 2016

With my 54th birthday falling a week before Easter, I celebrated life in biblical proportions this month – Here’s a flashback of my calendar to prove it…

17 March  – My 3-month wait for a gynecology appointment finally arrives and I leave with a year’s worth of hormones in hand for a total of $10! I am believing that all of the physical and emotional struggles of the last couple of years will soon be a distant memory!! An early birthday box from my mom provides a new outfit for the weekend!

Family corner with banners, percussion and manual activities

18 March  – The church council decided to rearrange the sanctuary to create a corner especially for all the young families so that they have some breathing room with their toddlers. I spend the morning taping down the carpet, decorating it with an Easter theme and setting up multi-sensory pre-school worship activities. This kind of project gives me lots of life!

Afterwards, I take Nadine out for lunch for our monthly quality time to celebrate my hormonal reboot and we happily bask in the warm sun on the terrace afterwards.

Carpool lunch break!Standing room only on the arena floor!

19-20 March  – We drive to Ludwigsburg, Germany with friends for Bethel Music Worship Night! Nothing pumps me up more than joining the voices of 5,000 Europeans singing my favorite worship songs with my favorite worship leaders (in English,) living out the Psalm that says, "I will sing your praises among the nations!"

Finished half bath with artificial grass flooring!Glass blocks and painted walls and stairs

21 March  – We finish covering the knotty pine paneling and stairs with paint – our dark Alsatian house is transforming! Here are the promised photos of the half bath and the glass blocks reflecting the new paint!

I open Olivia’s and my mother-in-law’s gifts – prophetic encouragements to remain joyful and childlike: sidewalk chalk, a Belgian children’s film, and a 2006 Newbery Honor book!

"Bloom" A birthday gift22 March – How dare the terrorists try to ruin my birthday (and our pastor’s trip to Africa!) My French penpal sent me a miniature spring garden that serves as a lovely In Memoriam for the victims. Our pastors got re-routed a day later. I go ahead with my plans to spend the afternoon shopping for Easter needs in Germany with Jocelyne. It is our first "girls day out" together – delightful!

Topping off the day, Nadine and Alana come by for a surprise visit with flowers and gifts – My friendship cup overfloweth!!

23 March – I get a new haircut, then bring lunch to share with Helen during our weekly get together. She gives me my third bouquet of flowers! Then I’m off to do a sozo and finish the evening with a Skype with Rachel.

24-25 March – These are big prep days for our Sat. tabernacle and Easter guests, esp. since everything is closed on Good Friday. David spends these days and more re-organizing the stage for better sound with the new sanctuary arrangement and coordinating all the details needed to make 6 groups and 12 hours of worship go smoothly for tomorrow’s event. Each year he does it with more grace!

Pierre-Nicolas de Katow, David, Samuel Olivier

26 March – Our church’s annual Purim 12 hr tabernacle.

This year we had the privilege of 2 nationally-known French worship artists doing a set since they were already in the area playing for the big annual youth conference at the local mega-church! Their drummer was sick, so David had the thrill of playing with them and I got to feed them dinner before they went back for their evening concert. The council felt that this year’s event carried more weight than past years, considering the times we are living in. With our pastors in Africa, we were proud of ourselves for carrying off this event smoothly in their absence. I was thrilled to have the energy to participate in all of it, which I couldn’t have done a week ago! It was a 14 hr day for us, so no Sunday service was scheduled after that colossal effort!

Prophetic moment for oppressed women!

Easter lamb w/roasted veggiesEaster Sunday

Olivia declares that her 20th Easter basket is the best one ever (thanks to G’ma for contributing a Serbian NT and marshmallow Peeps!)

We changed our clocks today and I almost didn’t get the lamb in the oven in time! Our 3 singles (too far from family) arrive at 4 and when the discussion turned towards wine or French literature, I feel like I am living out a scene in a French film!

We finish the evening off with a showing of The Little Prince – an award-winning French Canadian version that came out last year and is stunning in its spiritual truths and artistry! (You Americans can catch this gem on Netflix!)

He is Risen!

Angela

Out With the Old, In With the New

So many huge changes in our lives have come with the ringing in of the new year!

We are anticipating great things, even if it did start off with David and I getting a flu that kept us from being able to celebrate Olivia’s 20th birthday properly last weekend and my getting this newsletter out sooner!

So let’s start with Olivia: She finally had her interview for French citizenship this week and it was friendly, but they have a year to give her a final response. We fully expect it to happen before 2016 is out.

P1010324But her cat Gumdrop fell gravely ill just 6 weeks after Chester’s death. It fell to me to support her and have the vet put her down while David was out of town. We had been dreading this moment for years. (Here’s proof of their long and intimate relationship on the left.) But thanks to our new intercessory SWAT team, it was trauma-free. This cat was slightly neurotic and ran from everyone but Olivia, so we are thinking Chester’s disappearance, power tools and strangers in the house, combined with Olivia’s recent prolonged 3-week absence were more than her nerves could take. Now I can redecorate without fear of traumatized cat repercussions and we start the year with just one peaceful goldfish.

And speaking of renovations:

oldwcIMG_0223

Our old "water closet" is now a new half bath with a real door, sparkling white tile and green trees replacing the black mold. But 10 weeks later, the toilet is still not installed correctly and we’ve been without flooring on the entire landing. This delay has put a damper on my joy and David has reached his grace limit as well. Hopefully I can post my "secret garden" next month…

IMG_0077IMG_20151121_063531

Above was the end of the den where David’s desk was located. But it had to be moved to the spare bedroom in order to remove the old gas furnace on the L side. The new furnace (L) was installed in the laundry room (behind the above wall) and the den will have to wait its turn for a complete overhaul before we can move back into it. (David has cleaned it up and is using it as a temporary music room, at last clearing our living/dining room of all his growing gear!)

David also moved out of his office at the school at the end of the year and has been spending extra time with God trying to feel out a new schedule with new priorities. Noah followed in his footsteps, graduating in December with little fanfare and will start his first full-time job this month with Rolls Royce as a data improvement specialist.

So though we took on debt for this renovation last year, we can see God completely providing for our children and intervening to reduce our expenses this year. The government will give us a tax credit for our energy-efficient furnace. We no longer have pets with expensive health issues. We recently received free water-saving shower heads and taps. And the utility companies wrote out of the blue to say that we would be receiving a subsidy for our bills this year!

Back WC removedfinishedback

The back of the house is the most marked change from old to new and it’s no surprise that the timing matches a new relationship with the neighbors! The follow-up event was when I went back over and talked to them about our church Christmas party, but I only had room in the car for 1 child. So the night before the event, the whole family came to the door to say that they were leaving the kids with "mamie" to go Christmas shopping and couldn’t guarantee that they would be back in time for Noémi to come. She was despondent. So I offered to babysit for all 4 of them. The kids begged, saying how much nicer I was than "mamie," and then she actually pulls up and insults them with "What kind of b*s* are you kids up to?"

Sitting on the stoop with the kids draped over me, I corrected her by testifying that these kids were making me feel more loved than anyone on earth at this moment in time and then got up and went back into the house.

The parents got the picture, so the next afternoon, the kids were dropped off, meeting and falling in love with Olivia and her bestie Barbara. We made chocolate-dipped pretzels and Rolo Turtles to take to the party, did hair and painted nails. Then I took the kids to church an hour in advance, asking church friends to bring my family later. Another couple from church met us there and helped me and the oldest boy, Lucas, do some last minute decorating. He has a beautiful servant’s heart, which speaks my love language! Then my Sunday school kids arrived for a last minute rehearsal of a banner choreography of Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant. By the time people started trickling in, we had a tree up, candles lit, hot apple cider simmering and luminaries lining the drive to welcome them.

Every year we do a variety/talent show and then have a potluck afterwards. This year the sanctuary was packed out, with a strong youth presence, bringing lots of energy and enthusiasm to the evening. Everyone had heard David testify about my autumn party and they were thrilled to see the kids there. They were like chattering spider monkeys on our laps, but easily greeting others and cheering the loudest when David and I were singled out for our contributions that evening. Their favorite act was a rap/breakdance of O Holy Night. The evening ended with a circle dance and the kids joined right in. When their parents picked them up out in the parking lot 6 hrs later, I was ready to collapse. (Sorry, David had been too busy on the tech team to take souvenir photos.) But it was so much richer not to keep the love and joy to ourselves this year! (And the bonus is that now I have the mother’s cell phone number and don’t have to knock unexpectedly on the door anymore!)

And that’s not all that’s new about the house – we used Christmas money from my family to finally buy some proper mattress support for our latex mattresses that we’d thrown into our old waterbed frame where they were slowly suffocating (and we weren’t sleeping that well either!) As of this week, they are breathing happily on adjustable and repositionable IKEA slats and we are loving the difference!

Our outlook on life has also been radically changed simply by altering the lighting in several rooms. In summary, 2016 is already looking much brighter!

Happy New Year to all of you, Angela