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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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…
2 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!
At 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!
Olivia 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!
- "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.
- "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
David and I will be traveling on Thanksgiving weekend, so the closest thing to a celebration this year will have to be a thankful newsletter. (David will be accompanying the Sozo team as an intercessor to Belgium for our first training weekend there and I’m excited to have him along for the first time. Olivia will have a tiny feast for 2 with Alana, now her youth pastor and the only other American friend here.)
So instead of just recounting the events of the last several weeks, I will write them as if we were sharing around the Thanksgiving table, "This month I am thankful for…"
- A gorgeous Indian summer that lasted through the first week of Nov.
- The chance to enjoy it (and avoid a 2nd car) by being able to bike to church, to the dentist, to the grocery and to friends.
- The low cost of social medicine with 4 dr. visits and 2 dental visits this month.
- A text message testifying of physical healing after a Sozo with me!
- A better outlook on life by fasting the news and feasting with the Spirit.
- The chance to share my love of the French language with an American teen every week.
- New and faithful support from old friends and continued love and support from family in so many ways.
- 4 hours of pure joy with an 18 month old every Monday morning (before his brother comes home for the afternoon!)
- France continuing to resist the celebration of Halloween, (even tho’ we got egged this year!)
- A Sunday school class with just 6 kids who are more compatible age-wise than last year.
- Being able to bless several lonely Christian French women in different ways.
- A large, thick 100% wool rug given to us that will warm up our salon for Christmas, covering the old, cold linoleum.
- Learning that the value of our ancient French house has dropped by 1/3 in the last 10 years. This knowledge answers the nagging question of whether to sell or stay and make it more livable while avoiding the major renovation needed. Now, David and I are in agreement to purposefully bless this house that He provided until we have the means to buy something better suited for our future needs.
As I was looking for an image for the newsletter title, I just realized that the Anderson children’s genders and birth order matches ours perfectly. And doesn’t Robert Young make a great image of Father God surrounded by his adoring children?
That is the Father I’m referring to here, and I am happy to report that He is already hard at work to bring light into the darkness we described last month on many levels!
It all happened on a recent Monday morning:
At 6 am we heard yelling in the courtyard behind our house and police forcing their way into the apt. of some discreet Muslims that we have never met. I hear a woman inside complaining of domestic violence and a few minutes later, a pious-looking man in a long robe with flowing beard was led out in handcuffs.
At 10 am the mayor’s office rang to tell us that our work permit was ready to be picked up.
At 11:30 am, on my way home with permit in hand, I crossed the mother of 4 that lives in the apt. next door to the Muslims. The incident gave us a reason to have our first real conversation and it was miraculously warm. Let me remind you that most of the time she looks oppressed and I hear too much daily family dysfunction to be able to approach her without an agenda to "fix" her! So for the last 6 years I have smiled at, cried over and prayed for the sad kids playing in this courtyard, offered some random acts of kindness, and silently forgiven the parents weekly for the angry outbursts, stinky trashcans, exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke that invade our home through the open kitchen/bedroom windows 7 months out of the year. We have never complained, assuming that they won’t or they can’t change without the Father’s intervention, but ever since our conversation, this family has been much less invasive!
That very evening, David sent a separate e-mail to two overly busy friends of ours in the construction business, asking them to come by at the same time to talk about combining the glass block work with insulating the toilet room and plastering/painting the back of the house. The miracle was that they responded immediately and were at the house within a couple of days! We are now waiting on an estimate from them, believing our Father will provide the finances needed as well. Continue to declare with us that there will be light and that the landlord of these two apts. will give us no more trouble, or else agree to buy the house for a good price!
We were trying to please our Father by organizing a second Love After Marriage seminar, but it has fallen flat with only 4 registrations one month out. Cancelling was difficult, especially since we hear about struggling marriages in our sphere of influence every week, our neighbors not included. What was more disheartening was that 3 of the 4 registered couples were not even French! But I suspect that our Father knows our limits and allowed this "defeat" to protect the health and sanity of us and the other couple we were organizing with! Frankly, this gives us some breathing room to get our own houses in order, literally and figuratively! Here is what is currently keeping David plenty occupied, (besides still boiling water in a kettle to wash dishes while waiting for the new water heater!):
- He is craving more time beyond his 8 hrs/week to develop musical creativity with the Lord in the House of Prayer (HOP) setting. He also enjoys meeting and connecting with others called to this ministry to establish strong foundations relationally for healthy growth.
- David is streamlining and updating our outdated leighweb site, as well as working on new websites for the church and the HOP. He still diagnoses sick laptops for friends and helps out with worship most Sunday mornings.
- He has a motivated IT intern (the pastor’s nephew) working full-time with him until the end of Nov., so he is currently doubling his normal working hours at school. This intern is also a guitarist and is happily being discipled musically by David during his HOP sets as well!
- Olivia’s scholarship money did not come in due to mixed-up income figures and re-doing her dossier was another time-eating task that fell under "energy-sapping money management between 2 countries and currencies with multiple bank accounts."
- People are starting to ask us for help with different relationship conflicts. I guess this shouldn’t surprise us since the Father has healed and equipped us with a ton of relational tools in the last 20 years! Our initial efforts to help a few people as a couple were encouraging, but in truth, David is a teacher, not a pastor, and jumping into people’s messes is not life-giving for him. So I am getting curious to see what the Lord has in mind for us together in future ministry for families, if LAM does not take off here in France.
Our Father also knew that the LAM seminar would happen during Olivia’s fall break, which we didn’t know when we scheduled it 8 months ago. Now she will go back to school with her "love tank" filled up, just like the Anderson kids, instead of coming home to a week of pitching in for her parents’ ministry. And Noah comes home for his dose this Christmas!
Now hit "reply" and tell us how the Father is showing how "He knows best" in your life!
In my last mailing, I mentioned that Olivia and Anna would be attending "Camp Impact" and Olivia experienced just that spiritually and emotionally. A week later, on fire, she joined another group of 200 French teens organized by Youth for Christ to impact their local cities in the streets with free BBQs, concerts, spontaneous prayer, random acts of kindness and nursing home visits. Olivia was on that team and adored her 4 days loving on the forgotten generation.
In the end, we were all impacted this summer:
We started impacting our bodies when David visited a nutritionist who analyzes the blood to see if we could age more gracefully. The diet is simple, well-balanced and good for me too, falling at a good time when we don’t have to feed any more finicky teenagers! We also want to join a fitness club that finally opened up close enough to make it convenient. Join us in declaring that we are getting stronger and stronger!
-Babysitting nine hrs every Monday in ENGLISH for two adorable boys, Joseph (3) and Tobias (1). What a joy when all I have to think about is keeping them safe, happy and stimulated – even lunch is prepped for us!
-An old friend from Denver got back in touch and has asked me to teach her 2 homeschooled teens 2nd yr FRENCH via Skype!
Our house was seriously impacted when our kitchen water heater died. It was attached to the wall at the end of our dark hallway where we keep a light on 24/7 in order to to find the stairs! To remove the appliance, the handyman had to destroy the paneling, exposing a small window that had been covered over. Hyperventilating at the thought of more sunshine in my life, I encouraged him to knock out more of the wall in anticipation of glass bricks. Well, the owner of the property behind our house came by and started yelling. "Need a work permit… historic building codes… No glass blocks… I’ll take you to court, etc." followed by a registered letter forbidding the work.
The intimidation was a first and it was scary. This was the the only home improvement project we could afford that would have a huge impact on daily life. I started looking at real estate listings while David marched off to the mayor’s office to apply for a permit and get the legal scoop. Apparently, there is no reason why we can’t install glass blocks once the permit goes through and because this man is an immigrant from Turkey, we learned that we are probably coming against the spirits behind Islam. This man serves us kebabs in his local restaurant and has no reason to hate us, but as Christians, the spirit of Islam certainly does. Join us in declaring, "Let there be light!" in all aspects of this situation!
The Sozo ministry will also have a greater impact this year as our team is fully booked for the next 10 months with training weekends all over France, Switzerland and Belgium (starting this Thursday)! One of my current clients is a young psychologist who travels to me during long weekends so that the Holy Spirit can impact her own issues! 🙂
Olivia moved to Strasbourg this week and we definitely felt the impact of attending the 2nd largest university in France in the center of a large international city! No information is handed to you on a platter and yet most students confront the confusing maze of websites, registration and orientation without parental hand-holding. We dutifully walked 10 paces behind as the only parents on campus and after moving in her stuff, we mainly interceded in prayer and kept her hydrated during each failed attempt to run the bureaucratic gauntlet. No less than 2 days later, after more long-distance coaching from David, she texted us with news that she was officially enrolled. David and I reserved a lovely bottle of Merlot to celebrate getting the last baby bird out of the nest!
In closing, I’d like to let you know that you have a new way to stay more in touch with our daily life through personal photos via the social network Instagram. Noah (noahleigh), David (mrdleigh) and I (wannaworship) are all posting pics weekly if you’d like to follow us! David also tweets on occasion!
Enjoying a gorgeous Sept. after a cold, wet August!
God has brought us through so much since last month’s newsletter. I am so grateful for the responsibility of communicating His goodness to all of you because I’ve never been a fan of personal journaling. I’m much more motivated to write knowing someone else will read it and public memoires are therapeutic in that they help me adjust my critical outlook as the Holy Spirit shows me the Father’s grace in all that this missionary life throws at us.
- Olivia continued to be the center of attention when the German teacher decided to honor our first graduating class with a German senior tradition (since the French don’t have one.) She organized and invited teachers, friends and parents to a formal dinner/dance. What a blessing that I didn’t have to do a thing, and it finally gave us a reason to buy Olivia her first fancy dress – her dream come true.
- The exam results weren’t announced until a few days later, and Olivia’s overall final score was an impressive 17.78/20, which is well-rewarded by France, if not through ceremony, at least financially. Based also on our income, she will automatically receive scholarship money that covers her living expenses for the next 3 years and since college is practically free in France, her education is covered! Can you see our American heads spinning with disbelief??
- In stark contrast to my satisfaction as a parent, the year ended with a fizzle for me as a teacher, summed up by the sheets of rain that plagued the school fete this year. Instead of a much needed exit interview with the director to verbalize my frustrations and talk about solutions, I got a good-by bouquet that did not speak my love language at that moment! The French word for “failed” is “raté,” which describes how I looked and felt when I left the fete early, soaked through.
- All the happy closure I didn’t get at school seemed to come in twos:
We post grades a full 2 weeks before the last day of school, which is definitely a form of middle-school teacher torture.
2 of my students didn’t bother to even show up for those last 2 weeks, and only 2 out of the original 13 will return next year.
The only parents that showed any appreciation were just the 2 to whom I had offered extra free tutoring.
Just 2 students searched me out to say their final good-byes at the fete. Did they fall on their knees and beg my forgiveness for making learning impossible this year? Only in my dreams…
- Thank God, closure happened 2 weeks later while attending a seminar for the staff. We studied DISC personality types in the context of staffing a school. This topic was life-changing for me when it was covered during our YWAM schools in the past. It was no less so this week, as all the reasons behind my frustrations became crystal clear. During an exercise on understanding each other’s communication styles, the director and I were finally able to talk honestly. He not only asked forgiveness for being unable to work with my communication style, but also asked for a sozo! I’m not the only teacher leaving this year and Christians who are willing to teach without pay are hard to come by here, so he sees that he has to confront families who are not a good match for our school.
- Our year with Anna is also coming to a close accompanied by lots of exciting events: We got our first live glimpse of the Tour de France, as they just rode through our region for the first time in 8 yrs. She’s also enjoyed watching Germany progress through the World Cup on a jumbo screen in the village square with her German teacher buddy. She got prayer and prophecy at church Sunday and we blessed her publicly as well. It’s not our last good-by though because she’s coming back in 2 weeks to do a French/German youth camp with Olivia to continue building Christian unity between these nations and redeem history!
Can’t wait to report all our new beginnings in September!
I’m calling this newsletter Olivia’s graduation announcement, since the ceremony doesn’t exist here (and the French kids are darn jealous!) So I’m honoring her with my words that will have to replace the cap and gown. Here she is in a recent snap as the only senior girl with her junior girlfriends during Dress-up Day in the chateau, looking towards their bright futures:
Some of you may remember that our first supporter card, sent in 2000, compared our call to France to the Normandy invasion. Is it mere coincidence that June 6th was her very last day at school and the 70th anniversary of D-Day? I was able to catch parts of the day-long celebration on a friend’s TV after my teaching hours, and I was very proud, which is just how we feel about Olivia:
- She has shared her room and lived graciously with kids from all walks of life that we have hosted over the last 10 yrs.
- She volunteered to teach introductory English to the third graders each week and together we created a Duplo curriculum, where each student got their own bag to manipulate, while they learned all the vocab around it. She’s got my gift and got the bug, thanks to her angelic class, lucky girl!
- She led worship at church or school every month this year, while taking voice lessons. She’s going from glory to glory!
- She grew spiritually, thanks to her mentor Alana, and stayed true to her convictions, including guarding her heart, so as "not to awaken love before its time." as she promised during her blessing/purity ceremony when she turned 13.
- She has started taking her 2nd round of baccalaureate tests and all is well after getting familiar with the process last year. A big thanks to Anna for making sure she passed her sports Bac. Unlike us, Anna is much more of an athlete, so she became Olivia’s personal coach for running and badminton!
- She is enjoying her driving lessons with a good teacher and will have her license by July (and we managed to get it all paid for!)
- She was afraid she had waited too late to find good housing in Strasbourg, (where she’ll study multiple languages,) but 3 choices opened up at the last minute. Jesus made it clear that her place was a beautiful residence for Christian students run by Mennonites not far from campus, and where she already knows 3 other students!
- She faithfully kept up her household chores this year without needing reminders, making her well-prepared for life in a dorm. Now who’s going to clean the litter box when she’s gone???
- It seems that this year in particular, she’s ready to embrace adulthood, taking steps that she would never have dared to do a yr. ago!
- One of those was the conviction to get publicly baptized. We have no baptistery, so we roll out a bathtub as needed, and perform a "bathtism," as I like to call it, which is NOT cool amongst the 16-20 somethings. So since we were into June (1st!), the 6 candidates insisted on going to a mountain lake instead.
I’m not thrilled with the bathtub option either, but this lake has zero convenient facilities. My memories of Rachel’s baptism there in 2005 were abysmal, as we weren’t warned or prepared. Anna was also disheartened when she found out we didn’t do godmothers or give gifts, and a more intimate gathering afterwards sounded meaningless without family. There was also the pressure of providing picnic food that was festive enough to suit the occasion AND Olivia-friendly. (She tolerates my vegan salads.) The weather forecast was also iffy. Would there be a good turn-out? Would it be too cold? The pastor wanted fathers to participate in the dunking and David was still trying to get his head clear of infection. On top of all that, Olivia also had her English oral Bac test early the next morning, distracting her from the sweet anticipation of sharing the moment with her best friend (the 2 of them on the far R.)
Well, after all this wrestling over an event that I couldn’t really plan or control, I woke up Sunday morning in a bad mood and I kept quiet during the hour long drive to the lake, still trying to decide if I wanted to get in the water. Rest assured that we brought everything necessary to insure our comfort: portable chairs, a large sheet to hold up as a changing room and bathroom, towels, changes of clothes, picnic food and a blanket. We dragged it all from the parking lot to halfway around the lake and found the crowd of people who had come early to reserve our spot.
And you know the rest – God came through. All her friends made the drive from different churches to make up for lack of family. The weather was cloudy and cool, but the sun came out later. My girl was the only one who thanked her parents in her testimony, (sorry, it was in French) and I pulled myself out of my slump by doing the honors. Here’s the film! The women marveled at my courage, but it wasn’t as cold as they imagined, and how exhilarating to give birth to your offspring twice!! When all the candidates were dry and dressed, they got lots of prophetic words to walk out, and then the 4 of us hunkered down to an American meal of fried chicken, broccoli salad, and cherry pie. (Alsace got a bumper crop this year!)
The next day when the test examiner saw that Olivia was bilingual, she quickly suspended the formalities and they just had a long chat about Olivia’s life. An easy A.