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.
A brief summary of Bethel Church’s impact on us as missionaries to France:
– 4 yrs ago, we traveled to Germany to see Bill Johnson, the pastor of Bethel, in person, where I received a personal breakthrough that I still carry today.
– 3 yrs ago, our marriage was reignited by Bethel’s marriage ministry.
– 2 yrs ago, we visited the Bethel campus and found out everything we heard about the church’s revival culture was true.
– This year, 5 of our church leaders who can read English are going through their on-line leadership development program and are becoming the most faith-filled folks in the church. David and I plan to do it next year.
– And last month, (in the magical month of April,) Bill finally stepped foot in France.
The timing couldn’t have been better. It was a tough month for the following reasons, (but thank God I live with two joy-filled teenage girls whose presence has kept my head above water!):
- I was battling depression most of the month, feeling like a failure in almost every area that I had given my energies to during the school year. I know now that this is a lie.
- Daring to express my opinion at school brought relational conflict for the first time. Ow.
- Deeper involvement with the church leadership has revealed issues that I have been ignorant about until now. Yuck.
- David is currently down with a 3rd round of a vicious flu in the span of 5 weeks. (For those of you waiting for his prayer bulletin, here it is: Please pray for a stronger immune system for David and grace to finish well the last 8 weeks of school for Angela!!)
I thought the trip to see Bill would be the perfect escape, (and fortunately it fell during one of David’s healthy weeks!) But David did NOT want to do the 8-10 hour drive in our aging car especially without A/C or cruise control, and going by train or plane was impossible because it was taking place in the middle of nowhere! Even worse, internet reviews of the local hotels were atrocious, and looking on Google street view, I didn’t see a single restaurant within walking distance. In this kind of setting in Europe, I thought the organizers would be lucky to get a couple hundred in attendance! But as rough as it sounded, we wanted to be there to witness the event.
So the group going from church decided to carpool and book fully-furnished cabins at a campground in the area. Oh boy. In my mental state, I really needed to spend that drive time unloading on my sozo teammates and then falling into a freshly made bed with some local wine and cheese. Instead, I made the best of being in a car with 10 hrs of small talk with 3 other women acquaintances. David jumped in a separate car with friends when the pastor had to cancel due to a shoulder injury. We shared our cramped cabin with one of the ladies, and on arrival we realized that the campground ended up being 35 min. away from the convention center on picturesque, but winding, carsick-inducing roads, which meant that in a 72 hr. trip, we ended up being in the car for 24 of them!! (However the title is misleading – the weather down south was gorgeous.)
But all of this was worth it when we pulled up to the vast, gravel parking lot… it was filled to overflowing! Attendance was 1,300 – an amazing number in a country where Bethel podcasts, music, and books have only gotten translated into French in the last couple of years! The early arrivers had signed us in and saved us seats up close, and French women I had sozoed from all over France came up for hugs! I’ve never felt so at home in a new place.
The first word the French would use to describe Bill is "humble," and that impresses them because they have been so disillusioned with self-promoting superstar ministers who come expecting to be honored and served. In 5 short sessions, Bill shared about the power of the testimony to reproduce miracles, transforming cities by serving local leaders without a agenda (like Daniel did in Babylon) in order to bless believers and non-believers alike, hosting the presence of God (we bought the book), and how to sustain long-term revival that will usher in Jesus’ return. His church is living out all of this in California, and it looked like this sector of the French church is ready to start being a solution to France’s growing crises, rather than "throwing stones of judgment and criticism over the walls of the city from a distance," as Bill put it.
I’ve been looking forward to connecting with you all on this my birthday weekend, giving myself the luxury of spending the whole afternoon in self-expression. Birthday greetings fill my inbox and here is my favorite, written in adorable English by a French woman who attends our LAM cell group:
Sorry for my late! I hope that it was a great day for you, yesterday!
Thank you for who you are! Thanks for your giveness …your joyce, your faithfull, your fire! You’re so precious for France and for the church!
One hundred kisses!
PS : All my family say to you : "Happy birthday, Angela!"
At our Sunday dinner table today, I was struck by the wide range of European delights represented: the main course was an Alsatian spaetzle hash with veggies and sausage. My birthday gift from David supplied the cheese course – a Dutch-made cheese curler made especially for my favorite Swiss cheese called Monk’s Head. On the box, it states: Enjoy life~Explore cheese! Will do.
On Friday, Anna had made me Emily Dickinson’s Coconut Cake, so we had a slice of American history on my English Wedgwood plates for dessert. This was accompanied by a cup of instant German chocolate cappuccino mix served in the matching English tea cups with some French dark chocolates on the side. I am feeling VERY European as I embark on my 52nd year!
Now that I’ve got you salivating, let’s talk about my job… I haven’t mentioned school since September and it’s time for an update, esp. since this was the theme of this year’s supporter thank you cards. (We wanted to mark our ten years of volunteer ministry at Daniel Academy that will come to an end this year for me with Olivia’s graduation.)
To be honest, it’s been a very rough ride for us middle school teachers. The question comes up every year: Are we a MASH unit for the wounded or a bomb shelter for the healthy Christian kids? This year the scales tipped toward those who have no fear of God or man at the tender age of 14, and have even scared away two healthy kids from our school! Out of 65 middle schoolers, we have had to expel 2 students, and had 3 pairs of kids leave campus without permission for hours at a time (since they go outside between classes and during lunch break, it’s easier to run off here than in the US.)
So in essence, we are operating a hospital without qualified staff – our Christian volunteers are only comfortable with happy, motivated students like they once were. They react with shock and anger at the rampant disrespect, but punishment only adds fuel to the fire. This is the first year where the kids are expressing strong resentment towards the teachers and the school. (Thankfully at the high school level we only accept soft-hearted kids that want to be here.)
I am teaching 7th-8th graders who lack motivation to tackle the 2 mandatory foreign languages demanded during these squirrelly years. (I was given the privilege of starting French in 7th grade as a good student – what a difference!)
So I end up doing triage with my inner healing tools from the moment they walk into my classroom, bleeding all over everyone. To cleanse the atmosphere, I play worship music and bind spirits before they even enter. I celebrate good responses with high fives, kisses and smiley faces. I hand out candy for good behavior and play lots of games. I deal with bad behavior by looking them straight in the eye and addressing their spirit and soul, calling out their best rather than using shame and anger. I pray for them before every test and have even given a few private sozos to one student.
I even reduced my class size: two girls moved to a higher level, one student was expelled, and my Oceane had to return to her local public school when things went downhill with other host families. I have also started sending weekly emails to parents with attached homework assignments and behavior concerns so there is no excuse for lost homework and warning slips that need to be signed.
That leaves me with nine students who do not hate me or my class. Half of them have even spent time in my home. But they still don’t do their homework and I still have to send an unruly student out of the room every week. I have been reviewing the same limited set of vocabulary all year and only 2 students passed the last test. Ouch.
I have told the director that the best use of my energies in supporting the school in the future will be to focus on inner healing and marriage ministry. And I hope our administration will start insisting that families applying to the school get counseling if their child is struggling, rather than looking to the school to make up for poor parenting. Christian French families need a new paradigm and Danny Silk’s book on child-raising is something I want to start promoting. Thank God it willl be released in French next month!
But let me close with an encouraging testimony: A shy Christian girl transferred to our school as a junior this year in hopes that smaller class sizes with believing teachers would help her with her lifelong struggle with school. When nothing had changed by Dec., she started spiraling into depression about her future. When we were asked to "keep her in prayer" during a teacher meeting, I got mad. Learning that neither the family nor learning disabilities were the main problem, I hunted her and her mother down and asked if they would be interested in a sozo session. They eagerly agreed. It felt like a light 45 minutes of forgiveness, but a week later, she was beaming. Olivia and the director both testified that she had become an outgoing class participant. (Tho’ Olivia just reported that she may be ready for a second one, and I hope we can go a little deeper!)
The spiritual climate over France isn’t helping with intensifying attacks on traditional families and private education options. However this persecution has motivated Christians to start primary schools in record numbers this year, but we are still only one of two Christian middle schools in the country and it feels like we suffer alone. But we can do more than weep and gnash our teeth.
Are you ready to pray for France? Well, it just so happens that the annual 3-week prayer initiative has just started and PrayforFrance.org is ready to send you a daily e-mail that includes all the above issues and more in English, that David helped translate!
Believing for breakthroughs, Angela
We met with our Love After Marriage couples this weekend and handed out 55 different ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day organized under the five different love languages. (I’d include them in this newsletter, but it’s in French!) By checking the ideas that each one likes the best, they discovered their love languages if they hadn’t already. Then they had time to discuss their differences and how best to celebrate this year. Afterwards, the husbands have something concrete to refer to for future special occasions!
The American celebration of Valentine’s Day is very different from the French, which is reserved for lovers only and focuses more on "eros" than "phileo" love. It was a revelation for one couple to realize that this holiday could be sanctified and redeemed for married couples! It was a big hit, esp. with tables for two set up with heart-shaped candles and cheesecake brownies to enjoy during their discussions.
I already know that one of David’s love languages is "words of affirmation," so I’m going to do just that in this newsletter as my Valentine gift to him.
"27 Reasons Why I Love David After 27 Years of Marriage"
2 As a worshipper, he is living out his Biblical namesake as he brings people into God’s presence when he plays and sings.
3 I admired him behind the drum kit at age 14 and I still do!
4 He has a good reputation and has never burned a bridge.
5 He lets me know that he is still attracted to me.
6 He does not take for granted everything I do for him.
7He is constantly deepening his knowledge of things that are important to our family and our mission.
8 He grew up in one house and dislikes change, yet was willing to move 5 times in 6 years with 3 kids in tow in order to be where God wanted us.
9 He has given up job security and grown in his faith in God as provider.
10 He manages our little world of international finance without getting grumpy and has kept us debt-free for the last several years.
11 He has always paid the tithe first and given generously beyond that. (Thank you to his parents for being role-models!)
12 He knows how to put his own wants on hold and make do until God provides.
13 He can handle any computer crisis.
15 He has taken the kids (plus other’s kids) to school almost every weekday for the last 10 years, allowing me to stay in bed.
16 He tells his children regularly that he loves them and is proud of them.
17 He has modeled the love of Father God accurately to our children so that they have few hindrances in their own relationship with Him.
18 He prays over me regularly and blesses my spirit and body.
19 He is not comfortable when we are disconnected and is quick to reconcile disputes.
20 He has washed the dishes by hand almost every day since we left our dishwasher in America.
21 He can make me laugh in 2 languages.
22 He is in active pursuit of his dreams, visions, and personal growth.
24 He is vulnerable and transparent with me in every area of his life.
25 He is slow and steady, dependable and thoughtful.
26 I can always spot him in a crowded room.
27 He has made my dreams come true.
"Agape" love to all of you,
I introduced the 12 Days of Christmas to my English students last week and thought I would continue the theme here!
"The first joy of Christmas was Olivia’s text to me… that she passed her the-or-y." Her driving "code," as it is called here, was originally scheduled (by the local government) at a bad time for her and she was nervous about passing. Then the test was cancelled due to teacher strikes (proving that God can use anything!) And when it was rescheduled a week later, Olivia was ready! Can you spot the verse hidden in her last practice test sheet where she only missed 4 out of 30? (You can click on all photos to enlarge.) Now she gets behind the wheel!
"The 2nd joy of Christmas was when Nadine said to me, ‘2 Sozo trips!’" This is a photo of Honfleur, Normandy, where we ate dinner along the port on Thanksgiving evening before 2 full days of sozoing. 2 weeks later we drove to Chavornay, Switzerland, coming back laden with chocolate. Great timing for earning some Christmas money and my "clients" were equally blessed with some beautiful breakthroughs. Unfortunately, our team attracts some physical attack after these trips, but this only confirms that we are considered dangerous by the enemy!
"The 3rd joy of Christmas was when Unaferm installed… 3 new windows!’" The remaining single-pane windows were in the den (L), the living/dining room (R), and in our bedroom. Since we live in those rooms during the holidays, the ambiance was always affected by draftiness, neighbor/street noise and condensation. The difference is already palpable with new roll down shutters as well ~ snug as a bug in a rug!
"The 4th joy of Christmas was when Anna said to me, ‘I’ll decorate!’" She comes from the Saxony region in Germany where all the traditions of the holiday must have surely originated. She received several sentimental packages from home to insure her daily dose of Christmas: no less than three Advent calendars, mini Advent candles, wooden and paper décor, Stollen Christmas cake (below) and myriads of other German treats. She is shocked and dismayed at the number of French houses lacking Christmas decor and the cold blue and white lighting that predominates in France. The school is lucky to have her this year as she was the only one with the desire/energy to decorate, and her hands have been very busy adding warm Germanic Christmas touches to the Chateau!
"The 5th joy of Christmas was when Rachel said to us, ‘I’m com-ing hoooome!’" She paid her own way to come and will even take Olivia on a little Norwegian adventure while she is here. Last weekend we sang in 4 parts "Lo How a Rose ‘Ere Blooming" for the church Christmas party talent show. It was divine to relive happy high school choir moments with my own girls! (Noah is staying in Indy where he has just gotten another round of excellent grades, has applied to attend Bethel’s ministry school, and has just nabbed a job for the spring as a graduation photographer!)
"The 6th joy of Christmas was when Olivia sang to me, ‘Ave Maria!’" As music lovers, a free concert at a local cathedral is always a highlight of the season. In addition to Olivia’s performance at the music school recital yesterday, our American missionary buddy Alana also directed her adorable children’s orchestra, and I got my dose of live Messiah with 3 solos performed by the mature female voice students. Here’s a post-concert snap taken by Alana:
(For dinner afterwards, I whipped up a festive meal of frog legs and snails so that Anna could say she had tasted them before she heads home today bearing gifts of cheese and local wine!)
Hoping your joys are just as numerous, beloved readers!
Angela, David, Rachel and Olivia
This month I want to give you an update on the "Markedly reduced parking" concerns that I wrote about last June. I am thrilled to report that those worries were completely unfounded and wanted to share God’s amazing intervention…
If you will remember, parents picking up kids at school had to wedge their cars (on packed dirt) between huge beech trees, whose massive trunks also created blind spots when trying to back out onto a busy street. And because it rains a lot, the area was often one big mud puddle by the time 4:30 pick-up rolled around. We had also begged the mayor to install something to slow traffic at the entrance of the school to make it safer for the kids to cross (and cars to back out during rush hour) but to no avail. I dreaded pick-up everyday for the last 10 years because of this miserable combination.
Well, the new bike path has literally changed our life! Everything they have done to coddle cyclists benefits our school with no cost to us:
- It does not use up all the parking space, but just narrows and defines it, so that parking is more orderly than before.
- Visibility has been improved with the decision to remove of two of the trees!
- They also spread a new bike-friendly surface over the dirt that resembles a mixture of sand and concrete – No more mud!
- Our family has also benefitted personally because this bike path continues halfway to our village, making biking to school a safe and pleasurable option for the first time.
- And for the grand finale, they installed speed bumps at the entrance of the school!!
The other parking problem at church isn’t resolved yet, but I had a ball making a dent in it a couple of weeks ago. Let me describe the nightmare in greater detail:
- The lot is being overrun by Japanese knotweed. The Brits call it the most invasive species of plant trying to overrun the whole country. It can grow 10 feet in 10 weeks. Cutting it down without immediate herbicide treatment will encourage it to spread underground. It is billed as the biggest problem facing the UK construction industry today because it will grow through concrete and brick. I recently asked the pastor if he was aware of this menace to our building and he had no idea.
- The 4 mechanics that share our parking lot fill the spaces that are legally ours with cars to repair, along with empty jugs of motor oil, beer cans, air filters, broken glass, windshield wipers, bench seats… You get the picture.
- To make matters worse, a clothing donation bin was also put there and it seems to be a magnet for people who want to dump unwanted stuff around it. The creepiest thing was a bird cage, dead bird included!
Well, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve taken on Sunday school at church and the love is mutual. To teach the kids the joys of servanthood, I wanted to take them out to the lot to collect the trash, but I needed a good weather day. A big motivator was that one of the mechanics had recently cut down a ton of knotweed and left them in huge piles, making it easier to see and access the trash. (And it already looked better with the jungle eliminated temporarily, as I doubt he invested in the gallons of Roundup it would take to kill it for good!)
So last Sunday morning it was warm and sunny. I didn’t expect many kids during fall break, and no other lesson was gelling in my spirit. So I grabbed some extra gloves and trash bags and looked forward to enjoying one of the last days of a beautiful fall. I asked the kids what they thought about the parking lot and told them that God memorializes every kind deed done on earth in heaven, so we’d be creating something beautiful in heaven at the same time that we picked up trash. I prayed for protection from injury and then we joyfully went at it, even happier when we came upon little creatures whose habitat we were improving with every sack filled. They even got to practice their recycling skills, putting bottles and cans in one bag and car parts in the other!
When we were done, we stood in a circle and said prayers and sang songs to bless the mechanics and the land, and blew bubbles to prophecy future beauty and symbolize our prayers going to heaven. Then back in the classroom, we had a snack where between the 9 children, they could count our crackers in 5 languages! I love Europe. Then I had them all lie down with pillows and quietly ask Jesus to take them up with Him on a cloud to show us His view of the parking lot. They saw beautiful things. During that time, the sun vanished in a rainstorm and as we left the church, a magnificent rainbow filled the sky. I know at least one little girl received it as a confirmation of God’s joy over their servant hearts that day.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for decent parking, for they will be filled."
I think I’m living The Sound of Music. It was a family favorite while the kids were growing up and the true story is equally fascinating. We need to hop over to Austria and do the tour someday. But in the meantime, I am currently relating to Maria on many levels.
As you may recall, I was delivered from menopause symptoms this summer and saw a lot of healing in Oceane last year. I had been a tiny bit critical of teaching/discipline methods at the school last year as they affected Oceane, and I wanted to put my money where my mouth was, as over the summer, I discovered some innovative teaching methods on the internet that convinced me that learning can actually happen in a middle school classroom!
Then I got a Holy Spirit download for a new way to do Sunday School for our handful of 5-10s that attend sporadically. This has been a very weak area of our church because all our energies go into the school week and "teachers" needed a Sabbath too. But I knew parents were getting frustrated and it kept our church from attracting new families. So I proposed my ideas to the elders and they were thrilled. Another mother said she would alternate Sundays with me, so I have dropped worship-leading and cleaning in exchange for this new role.
When I learned that our school is teaching languages by levels this yr and they needed an extra teacher, I let them know I was up for the challenge! So 2 days before school started, they decided to give me the lower level 7th-8th grade class to teach 3 hrs/week, along with my hour of conversation with the sophomores. (I also volunteered to be study hall monitor for 24 sixth graders.) Even though they are not familiar with the film, my students can now sing, "So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good-bye," because I sing it whenever I need to send a kid out of the classroom! (Oceane is my best student and should move up a level, but she doesn’t want to leave me!) So like Maria, I am feeling suddenly surrounded by children under my influence several hours per week! And even though I am creating all my lessons from scratch, I am operating in a new grace and wake up in anticipation most days!
Our new boarder, Anna-Elisabeth, arrived by train from Dresden at the end of August and she also reminds me of Maria: conservative, servant-hearted, positive, and full of songs! As a walking German dictionary with a desire to master English and French, she is a perfect companion for Olivia! Her presence has lightened my housework load and made it easy to run off to Lucerne without Olivia feeling abandoned…
I had organized housing and tourism this summer for a couple from Indianapolis who wanted to visit during the 2nd week of school. At the end of their time, they wanted to treat us to a weekend in Lucerne before going on to Italy. This is German-speaking Switzerland in the Alps, where young guys are riding the city bus dressed in "Lederhosen" to go to work for the tourists. It might as well have been Salzburg. On the way back, we stayed at a retreat center where the hills came alive with the sound of cowbells echoing off the mountains – the most magical and calming sound in the world for me. David had lost his Swiss army knife the week before, so he had the thrill of buying a new one there with free engraving. It was a total 3-day escape from the back-to-school stress that we both needed and our belated anniversary celebration.
The Sound of Music shows the struggle against evil and finishes with a wedding. Last week we felt equally harassed before our first Love After Marriage cell group. Just a few days before, not only was our pastor hospitalized with kidney stone pain, but our LAM co-leader also had her 2nd big MS flare-up and was suffering from the side effects of the cortisone treatment. Yikes! We started the meeting letting the enemy know that we would not be intimidated, and I think everyone left feeling encouraged!