How to Survive a French Heat Wave

affiche_caniculegp__2015_765x570 We love Alsace because of its mild climate. (The older generation tells us that it wasn’t always that way.) But we usually get at least one week of serious heat each summer, and we’re living that right now. "Aren’t we all," you say, rolling your eyes. "It is July after all."

Indeed. But for those of you who have not yet visited Europe when temps are hovering around 100F, I thought I would share some of the culture shock that still happens as we sweat through this week without air conditioning at home or in the car.

Here’s the government’s official suggestions found on our village website:

  • "Spray your body with water and use fans.
  • Keep your shutters closed during the day. (Yes, they are functional here!)
  • Stay in touch with loved ones, (esp. the elderly.)
  • Don’t forget to eat.
  • Don’t drink alcohol. (In France? Ha!)
  • Avoid physical exertion. (Gladly.)
  • Drink water regularly. (Tepid is healthier!)
  • If you feel bad, call an ambulance."

As an American, I’d like to add some the glaring omissions to this list:

  • "Don’t run your dryer!"

Admittedly, only a tiny minority of French people have a dryer, but we do, mainly to deal with cat hair. We are enjoying the novelty of lugging our laundry to the attic for flash drying!

  • "Ride your bike to get around!" Much cooler than walking or sitting in a hot metal box!
  • "Get out of your dark, shuttered house because you live like that all winter and you must take advantage of 16 hrs of sunlight while you can!"  Honestly, the shutter trick only works for the first 4 days in an old stone house anyway, esp. if it doesn’t cool down at night.

The big question is where to go for maximum coolness in a country where central air is available but very costly. The malls don’t cool the corridors, just individual stores, which quickly dissipates with wide open entrances. What about a coffee shop? Sorry, only in major cities with a student population. Grocery stores are the coolest, but only 1 has an eating area. The local pharmacy is a good option because they cater to the elderly with abundant a/c and chairs for waiting. With other businesses it’s hit and miss. My podiatrist and chiropractor were operating yesterday with shutters closed and a small fan and offered me a glass of tepid water before I left.

At the beginning of the heat wave, we were at a big bank for over an hour to open a new account and get our home repair loan. We had to complain in order for the banker to turn on the air in her office, at the lowest setting. And just as I was getting comfortable, she turned it off again. I excused myself to find the water cooler and it was empty. Hot flashes compounded my utter desperation as I begged an employee to change the bottle, only to produce… another cup of tepid water. Which leads us to…

  • "Make ice cubes and use them!" 

When central air is not an option, I can make do with ice. But that is also asking a lot in Europe. In the train stations, the only drink options are in chilled cans and bottles. What is refreshing about buying a drink that will be warm before I finish it? McDonald’s has been especially cruel because on more than one occasion I have raced in to relieve my light-headedness only to find that the ice machine is broken. Do they apologize? No! Because you’re getting more soda for your money (no free refills) and no one misses the standard 3 ice cube allotment anyway!

So if you are coming to France in the summer and are craving a Big Gulp, here is the best travel tip you will ever receive: Find a Subway. There are 67 in Paris and 450 more throughout France. Nothing sounds worse than a cold sandwich in the winter, but in the summer, our local Subway is heaven on earth: This is one of the only chains where ice and drink machines are accessible to their customers with one generous cup size. The furniture and décor feels like a coffee shop. They sell salt and vinegar chips. Their bathrooms are big and clean. And they are the only restaurant I have seen with ceiling fans to spread the a/c love around to everyone. I need to send them a love note…

  • "Bring your hand fan to church and hope for a meditative worship set."

Last Sunday was tolerable; this Sunday should be unbearable. The Catholics may still be comfortable in their windowless stone cathedrals, but the Protestants are not so lucky. (But we have better heating in the winter!) We don’t even have an electric fan to stir up the hot air created by our 8 huge windows! The women’s group organized a picnic for the 4th of July, which falls on the final blazing weekend of the heat wave. They didn’t schedule it on a major American holiday on purpose, but it would be nice to be with a group of friends that day. I may suggest carpooling to Subway instead!

Warmly, Angela

Summer of Transition

The hot weather signals the winding down of my roles here. My last Sozo trip happens in Lyon next weekend before a summer break. My French student is sending in her final work. A Pinterest-worthy Father’s Day card will crown our last Sunday school (no VBS here.) My nanny job also ends as the parents are both teachers and la grand-mere will take my place next fall.

This suits me fine. I am ready to scale back on the busyness and experience more of a sabbatical year with the Lord and my own personal projects. Without official missionary furloughs, I see that we have to discipline ourselves to take seasons of rest and David is onboard. He attended the France En Feu conference in Bordeaux last month and the Lord confirmed his desire to withdraw from IT work at school. When you are spinning plates all the time, it’s hard to keep your eyes focused on the beauty of the Lord! He brought home 4 books by IHOP’s Corey Russell, who was the key speaker and they are feeding the fire in both of us!

It is fun to see our ministries dovetail: I had some powerful healing sessions with a woman recently who had quit attending our church several years ago and with her healing, I’m hoping that she will return to the flock with her husband. In the meantime, she was willing to attend our HOP set and even brought a friend. Our set clearly ministered to her spirit and her friend, a counselor at the local mega-church, wanted more info on Sozo after hearing her testimony!Our 4 generation team for this trip!Sozos were done in a classroom of this beautiful high school for future arborists and gardeners

My trip to Switzerland last weekend was also amazing. The Sozo ministry is the one thing I will continue with next fall as it isn’t as physically draining as childcare and demands no extra preparation time like teaching.  Our team looks different for each trip and this was the lightest trip ever! The Lord delivered 3 out of 8 women of demonic oppression and the remaining 5 also had glorious breakthroughs. I learned that there are a lot of strongholds in those beautiful mountains – pockets of witchcraft and a strange mix of occult and new age beliefs blended with Catholicism. Those who practice healing with these powers are even called upon by medical professionals, especially for their help with burn victims!

Olivia’s first year of college also came to an end all the way back in April, but she’s certainly not twiddling her thumbs. Here’s what her summer of transition looks like:

-Apply for French nationality!

-Be a pillar of support to her high school pals who are living the baccalaureate stress right now.

-Get her driver’s license, please!

-Translate a book from Bethel Church into French.

-Tutor a 7th grader in German.

-Spend a few days in London with Alana!

-Lead worship as needed at church and youth group.

-Attend 2 different spiritual events in Germany: Awakening Europe with us in Nuremburg and Reformation 2.0 with French and German youth together. (We’re very excited about both of them!!)

And finally, we would like some prayer support for our final bit of transitional news: Back of our house!

We have wrestled and waited for 10 years now to do some major renovations on our house and we are in agreement that we must start the work for the sake of our health (mold problems) and the integrity of the outside walls. We now have an estimate of $16,500 by a company ready to refinish the back of the house, move the toilet (exposed  cinder blocks above the new glass blocks) and replace our furnace.

Unfortunately, this is only the beginning, but it may be enough to sell the house for a better price than what we were quoted a few months ago. We have heard that American citizens may have difficulty getting a bank loan of this amount in France, but in order to secure the work for this fall, we need to acquire the loan by the end of June.

Unfortunately it falls at a very busy time for David, so as in Zech. 4, we ask you to join us in crying, “Grace, grace!” to this mountain through the end of the month! Thank you!

Happy Summer!

Angela

A British Birthday

Alsace gets Easter Monday as a holiday, and that means everything is closed. So after cooking the big meal yesterday and washing all the dishes this morning, nothing feels better than sitting in the desk chair all evening to share my trip to England with all of you!

I had a lot of anticipation about all God wanted to do during this trip, even tho’ we were flying right after the suicidal plane crash in the Alps (just another reason to continue inner healing!) It was the first European Sozo summit for Sozo leaders and those desperate to get the ministry going in their nations and there were about 60 invited to come. It was also close enough to my 53rd birthday that I expected some surprises from my Father as well! I am very excited about this birthday because my mother was menopausal at 53. Pre-menopause threw me into a boxing ring 7 yrs ago, and has knocked me down every time I got back on my feet. So now the countdown has begun and I’m standing over my first 50 yrs with Jesus holding my gloved hand in the air, believing that my life is about to get recalibrated for the second half!

The summit was a huge injection of hope, encouragement, prophecy, and quality time with the Trinity. The hosting church spoiled us to death with free gifts and resources. The speakers were amazing and made themselves available to us. The connections with so many like-minded women my age were life-giving. My dream to write a children’s picture book was re-ignited. I learned more about financial sozos, children’s sozos, and educational sozos.

IMG_2826 (2)And Jesus did not forget my birthday: I didn’t get flowers this year, but when I walked into the church, the table centerpieces were spring bouquets of my very favorite flowers! And each attendee got a handmade prophetic card upon arrival. Mine had crazy stickers all over the front and read, "Daddy says, It’s party time!" I noticed others were much more serious in nature!

My love for the English increased with every warm encounter. I’m sure the common language helps me feel less like a foreigner than I do in France, where I’m often wondering if I’m saying or doing something offensive, nervous about their cool demeanor. In comparison, England feels like visiting Grandma’s house and heading straight for the candy dish: buying clothes that actually fit my curves (French clothes are cut for anorexics,) enjoying my favorite British treats, worshipping corporately in English guilt-free and never feeling afraid to approach a stranger for help!

A concrete picture of this contrast was when we went to see Selma in Colmar on my birthday. I chose a seat in front of a man who promptly let me know indirectly to his wife, but in a loud voice, that I had made a lousy choice. I ignored him and he repeated it. Then the film started, coincidentally about the impact of hateful words on a whole race of people. It kinda tainted the whole evening. But the next day, I was at the grocery store where we shop every week and Jesus healed my heart when four different strangers initiated contact with me in positive ways while I was roaming the aisles! Jesus was showing me that I have no reason not to walk in confidence – He has called me here to love and heal, and certain people will be attracted to it and others will be repelled. It has nothing to do with me and I cannot take it as personal rejection.

We don’t advertise Sozos – it is purely by word of mouth. So all of my clients are initiating the contact and all of them are Christians, trusting that I will help them. No risk of rejection there. But I am getting restless for more. – I want to bring more of the Kingdom of heaven to my village! So I’m taking baby steps again after my painful disappointment with families at the school. And I’m starting to experience some favor. But I’ll save those details for my next letter…

He is Risen!

Angela 

Welcoming the Nations

February was an exceptional month – there was no Sozo travel, la grand-mère usurped my babysitting earnings, and David’s computing skills weren’t much in demand either. Obviously, God had freed our schedule so that we had energy to host 3 different teams and do some reconnecting with YWAM!

Through our HOP connections, our church welcomed a YWAM team from Brazil to come and do manual labor on our building as one of their outreach projects. (Small teams coming through a few of times a yr are a real shot in the arm to our renovation work, even if they aren’t skilled and don’t speak French!)

I was thrilled to have 6 young women who could help me with some deep cleaning and de-cluttering of certain areas of the church.  I kept 2 of them that spoke English and learned how YWAM schools were helping them to get back on track after their lives had gotten derailed. They were equally interested us, especially our love story! But the highlight for me is often food-related: During the FIFA World Cup last summer, I was reading news stories about the Brazilian culture, rather than keeping track of winning teams. A foodie article about a popular dessert caught my eye that was made by simply heating sweetened condensed milk with cocoa and butter until it was thick enough to roll into balls. David and I have been off dairy since then, but I still had a can of milk unloved and forgotten in my cupboard. Who would have guessed that 6 months later a Brazilian would use it to concoct that very dessert for me in my own kitchen!! And yes, they are delicious!

Brigadeiro2015BrazilGirls

The 3 young men on the team had no construction experience and they were so proud of the bathroom drywalls they learned to put up. Then on Sunday morning they were all in tears after dancing with us in worship and receiving prophetic words that were right on target. Having lived through YWAM outreaches, I wanted to bless the girls for their hard work and great attitudes. So on Monday, I made sure they got in some shopping since this was their only moment in France. Needless to say, they left beaming…

2015JeffFountainCedricPalentino2 weeks later we had the honor of housing New Zealander Jeff Fountain, director of YWAM Europe for 19 yrs and his Belgian translator Cedric. They spoke to the high schoolers during the day and to a packed house at our church that evening. We mentioned spending a week with him at a YWAM camp in Switzerland in a 2005 newsletter and David continues to receive his weekly musings about European issues. Jeff graciously thanked us for his 36 hr visit with a copy of his latest book – Deeply Rooted.

We got the bed sheets washed and dried just in time to welcome two Chinese grannies. The backstory here is that our church supports one missionary – a local boy named Yohann who has spent the last 20 years in Hong Kong. He comes to visit every few yrs and this time he wanted to bring 12 of his Chinese church family with him and tour this region together for a couple of weeks.

We were told they just needed "bed & breakfast" from Fri. night to Mon. morning,  but plans changed at the last minute, and I was seriously concerned about their level of English faced with longer encounters. I had to feed them Friday night supper without the support of David and Olivia, who had rehearsal at church. They didn’t seem too excited about my chef salad and conversation was awkward.

Then Saturday Yohann decided the team was tired and needed to sleep in and wouldn’t start sightseeing until after lunch.(!) So we spent the morning huddled over my iPad as I tried to use images of Hong Kong to bond, esp. food images! I really hadn’t decided what to feed them, but they were begging for rice. Then "Judy" wanted to visit a grocery store, so we took a quick walking tour of the village in freezing rain and chatted up the owners of the local Chinese restaurant, but much to my disappointment, they didn’t want to stay for lunch.

Then back at home – surprise! Judy unzips her suitcase and digs out 3 cans of apparent emergency rations from home and asks if she can make lunch for us! Relieved, I eagerly volunteer to make the rice, (since they had no idea how to do it without a rice cooker!) Then alarmed at the lack of vegetables that could help us force down what looked like warmed cat food, I offered some cabbage, peppers, mushrooms, oyster sauce and a wok, and she got to work. We ate heartily and happily and didn’t learn until the next day that Judy is a RESTAURANT CHEF back home! Another food highlight!

2015HongKongJudyMeiling2015HongKongJudyMeiling2

An-jo-la in ChineseAt church that evening their pastor explained that their church didn’t know what a missionary was until Yohann arrived and now they have formed their very own mission to get food and clothes to poor mountain villages in the Philippines, showing a video to prove it, with our Judy in several scenes. Then at the end of the service to thank the host families, the pastor painted our names in Chinese characters on silk scrolls and they look absolutely gorgeous hanging in my hallway…

What a privilege to be able to touch 4 nations in 3 weeks without leaving home! (Though to be honest, by the end of the month I was so fatigued that I might as well have flown to Asia and back!) But at the end of March, I’ll be flying to England instead, while David nurses Olivia after her wisdom teeth extraction, so stay tuned for more international adventures!

Angela

A Little House in the Village Christmas

little-houseOlivia was given the Laura Ingalls Wilder collection last year from family to make sure she cultivates an appreciation of her humble American ancestry. I remember being slightly bored by the stories as a child, so tossed my yellowed childhood paperbacks when we moved to Europe before she could grow into them. But reading them now, just as she is growing in independence, she is connecting better with that pioneer family better than I ever did. She starts most of our weekend conversations in the kitchen with "Mother, guess what Laura had to live through this week!" And we gasp together.

Christmas looks more like their 1880 version for us this year: My lack of school involvement means Christmas programs, decorating the chateau and teacher banquets has ended. Our village mayor asked us to decorate our front windows each year, but our newly elected mayor seems to have dropped the initiative. Two Sozo weekends this month also put a damper on my time and energy for other activities. But the good news is that the problem neighbor backed down and okayed 6 glass blocks, so we cut back on gift-giving in order to get the job done before Christmas. Here’s how we are living out the Christmas chapter:

  • "The days were short and cold, the wind whistled sharply, but there was no snow."  Olivia is currently living this out, being on foot in Strasbourg this year. But the city holds the most popular Christmas market in Europe and and she is basking in the ambiance this month!Strasbourg - The Capital of Christmas
  • "They pressed their noses against the squares of glass in the windows that Pa had made, and they were glad they could see out."  The glass blocks and water heater replacement have resembled a giant DIY advent calendar this month, as every few days our handyman opens the door and makes a big mess while inching forward with the work a few hours at a time. A clean house for company, natural light and hot water will be our big gifts this year. (But you’ll have to wait till next month to see the finished result!)
  • "They plunged their hands into the stockings again, pulling out 2 long sticks of peppermint candy, striped red and white."  Noah is actually packing US candy canes for Olivia, as they only come in fruity flavors in our corner of the world.
  • "And in the very toe of each stocking was a shining bright, new penny!" Olivia got news this week that her scholarship money had cleared the administrative hurdles and is finally on its way.
  • Church Christmas Tree"That was a happy Christmas."  I’ve always been pretty disappointed in our church’s Christmas decor, thanks to the poverty spirit behind it. So I jumped at the chance when asked to do it this year. David had misgivings and didn’t want me to do it with my traveling, but with no Thanksgiving and unable to decorate the house properly during renovation, I needed at least one creative holiday project! So I used the tithe of my Sozo earnings to buy and light a 7 ft tree for the sanctuary to grace the youth group’s winter ball, the December tabernacle and the Christmas fete. Ahhhh… I got my fix and honored David by not overdoing it, spreading it out over 3 days.

    Of course the greatest satisfaction came from bringing inner healing to 20 different people during this advent season. The Wonderful Counselor protected me and my amazing teammates well during our marathon weekends.

Christmas blessings from our Little House to yours, Angela