Apologies for the 3 month silence – it took some time to recover from all the highs and lows we’ve experienced, (especially the lows) and our roles for this new school year are just starting to take shape. Here are my diary highlights:
July 1st: Just returned from my last all-school mountain camping experience with 100 kids. No quaint wooden cabins here. Just another rundown, spartan hotel structure with a confusing maze of hallways, obviously conceived so that one could hose the whole place down after a group came through! My roommate was a deaf mother, lucky woman. Every whisper resonated off of the tile floors and plaster walls. When I tried to find a sympathetic ear, everyone laughed me off and said that this was the stuff of wonderful childhood memories for them! The fun started by making the kids hike 4 hours to get to the place. Then after eating poorly and staying up most of the night, lots of kids were too sick to hike back. They can’t wait to do it again next year! This was the last hurrah for Olivia’s ninth grade class, (they got to sleep in tents) many of whom have been in class together since she arrived at age 7. All but 5 will move on to public high school/trade school settings.
July 20th: David and I are “worshipping with the Word” together during the week at church and I am starting to get new revelation about Jesus as we sing “new songs” based on a section of scripture. David has another blood test and ultrasound due to increasing discomfort. Results show that the culprit is his gall bladder. What a relief to finally have a diagnosis!
July 30th: Enjoying several days of painting at the school to spruce up the neglected primary building with “toxic” paint I bought a yr ago at 1/2 price. Changed my mind about using it on my stairwell and am migraine-free as long as I am outside. I had only planned to paint a couple of doors, but the paint went a long way, and I ended up doing 12 doors, a bench, and the walls of the play hut before the cans were empty. I’ve asked to be let go of my Janitor for Jesus role, and this is my final offering.
Aug. 18th: We schedule gall bladder surgery in Colmar for Sept. 6 and David gets pain meds so that he can enjoy our up-coming getaway. We receive a large gift that really helped with dr. bills and back-to-school shopping and check-ups for the kids.
Aug. 26th: Happy 50th to David – He’s in good company with our pastor and his wife also born in 1961!
I am attending my first YWAM staff conference with David and really enjoying it with him, despite sleeping on the floor and eating on cheap plastic for 4 days. YWAM France has had a huge growth spurt in the last year, so there is lots of young energy here with new implantations after years of stagnation with aging staff at the 3 bases. Now that these French-speaking teams have met us and know where we are, we hope to welcome them in future outreaches to help with our school and church needs.
Aug. 29th: We are leaving the conference a day early in order to celebrate our 25th wedding anniv. tomorrow. On the way to our B&B, we drive around Verdun to see some WW I sites. Now I know where all the fathers of France are buried – there are hundreds of thousands of them here.
Aug. 30th: Our romantic getaway was all we’d hoped for and the luxuries were so much sweeter after roughing it at the conference. God’s hand stayed my PMS migraines and David felt good. Thank you, Jesus!
Sept. 6th: David’s surgery reveals a very sick gall bladder stuck to the liver, so more invasive probing was needed. He will stay an extra night. Happily, a friend at church is a nurse at the hospital, which is 40 min. away, and she conveniently transports him during her commutes. My friend Helen (that I help weekly) is also rushed to the hospital with blood clots.
Sept 8th: Helen and David come home (and his surgeon goes on vacation.) I learn that Olivia’s class doesn’t have an English teacher and can’t figure out why no one has told me about it. After talking to the director, I decide to accept the position for the first semester, but will not start until the end of the month, after their class trip. This turns out to be a smart decision…
Sept. 11th: The devil seems to be partial to this day. At 1am David wakes up with increasing chest pain and I call an ambulance when it becomes unbearable. He spends the night in the local emergency room and an x-ray reveals a chest full of gas bubbles. His care is delayed without his surgeon available and slower test results on Sundays (?!) I go over after a few hours of sleep and try to comfort him – I have never seen him so miserable and the morphine is not touching it. I can’t believe how well he is communicating in French in the middle of it all. In the meantime, Helen was up all night praying for us without knowing why.
He is transferred back to Colmar at 11am and I go straight to church from there with a tear-streaked face. Announcements are being made and I am called up to the front immediately for prayer and hugs. I learn from another nurse that these gas bubbles are a side effect that is very painful, but they must pass out of the body naturally. I go home relieved, and when I visit him with the pastor that evening, he is much calmer and feeling better.
Sept. 12th: We learn that he will stay for testing and observation for 3 more days. See his blog for the gritty details!
Sept. 14th: I make 3 dozen Hungarian cookies for Olivia’s fund raiser to go to Budapest. I notice that the cat is scratching his ears too often. I attend a Sozo team meeting to organize new recruits who need to start observing sessions.
Sept. 15th: David has been brought home when I return from a heavy Sozo session this evening and he needs to unload. I listen for one more hour. Olivia has a terrible cold 4 days before her departure and found a louse on her scalp. The cat definitely has ear mites. Noah is wanting to come home for the weekend. My PMS has started. I am running on fumes. I douse the cat with vinegar water, smear mayonnaise on Olivias head and pop her a Nyquil, refuse Noah’s request, and go to bed until my exhaustion, migraine and depression passes a few days later.
And that brings me to now. I put the photo of David serving me coffee at our B&B on our desktop to remind myself that this was not a dream.
You may be asking, “How would you rate your first socialized hospital experience and how much did it cost?”
“Did Olivia survive her trip? Is teaching English to 5 sophomores easier than keeping a chateau clean?”
Well have more complete answers for you very soon, so stay tuned till next month!
Hate v. Love :
Our school here has remained France’s best kept secret for 25 yrs until we came under the French media spotlight last week: A beloved teacher and church member of 10 years who had renounced his homosexual lifestyle, secretly starting living it out again last summer. When reconciliation was impossible, the school had to let him go. He had found a job in the public schools, but suddenly decided to take his story to the press and file for discrimination. When interviewed by the press, our pastor was very honoring and respectful of Cyril as a person while still drawing a distinct line about the values we could and could not support as a private Christian school. Yesterday, Cyril sent an apologetic e-mail to our pastor, not realizing how far it would go (hate mail from the public, re-opening the wound, twisting of the story by the time it reached the French AP, etc.)
So during our Sunday service, we worshipped victoriously – Love had won!
The free publicity has put our school is on the map – Will we draw more families with hearts to support our values and efforts?
Our pastor also forwarded to us all the e-mails of support from Christians and pastors all over France, Belgium, and Switzerland. God is using this to separate the sheep from the wolves and build unity to strengthen the French church for future attacks!
And the timing of passing this “test” the same week that we gained ownership of our church building was not missed by our pastor either. We celebrated crossing the Jordan and possessing the land! Details below.
The Kingdom of the world v. The Kingdom of God
In 2007, a Christian businessman bid on an abandoned 4-story building and won as the only bidder. He was willing to rent it to us, and we managed to renovate one floor for our sanctuary. When we needed more space, but we weren’t willing to invest anymore as renters, and he wasn’t willing to sell…until the economy collapsed a year later. Then a small group of capable church members set to work on how we could finance not only the purchase, but the renovation as well – not an easy sell to the banks, considering the size of our church. After each meeting, it felt like they had taken 1 step forward and 2 steps back, but 2 yrs later, (covered by lots of prayer and faith declarations,) the purchase is complete with the bank willing to count the sweat equity already invested as a large part of the down payment for the loan. Our intention is to create 3 stories of multi-purpose, rentable spaces, generating the income needed to pay back the mortgage.
We sit in an industrial zone of ugly buildings that are empty or being rented by a humanist organization, a Muslim mosque, and 3 mechanics (whose cars fill up our parking lot space.) So after a final hit from the enemy on the school side last week, God hit back with a KO that stood for Kingdom Ownership! And with that comes authority and advancement not only in our little zone, but for our region!
Death v. Life
The Sozo ministry has had its heavy moments for me with teenagers in particular. When they spend years in our Christian school and still carry a spirit of death, you know they are hiding something. One girl, recently baptized, had had 3 sessions and had stopped cutting herself, but still struggled spiritually and emotionally. Because I knew her family dynamics, I wondered if it was worth continuing, knowing it would be a miracle if her father would ever seek help for his issues that were hurting his daughter. Then lo and behold, after her last session where she finally confessed her darkest secrets and we finally gave a death blow to her self-hatred, her father walked in to pick her up and asked if we knew how to break off a death curse that was put on him! “Why yes sir, we do! When would you like an appt.?” But it gets better.
Her troubled guy friend finally got expelled from school 2 weeks before the end of the year (and his absence really helped seal her last healing session.) After all I had heard, it was all I could do not to march into the principal’s office and set him straight – we had to stop accepting students from families who wanted us to fix their kids without fixing themselves because at this age, they were a terrible influence on other vulnerable kids like this girl. This boy’s father was also on my radar screen all year, but now that they were no longer at the school, it seemed too late to help them, and I’d said, “Good riddance.”
Well, Thank God Jesus is on the throne and not me. He has used it all to His glory. It turns out that the boy’s expulsion got his dad’s attention enough to admit that he doesn’t know how to love his son and he is asking for help now. The boy saw such a change in the girl the next time he saw her that he is considering a session as well. And the girl’s father and another friend of the family both admitted that her transformation in the last few months has accounted for them wanting help for themselves. I thought a girl’s life was being sacrificed on the altar of male egoism, but like Jesus, her sacrifice is bringing 4 people to life! (In fact, I found out later that it was prophesied over this girl at birth that she would be the key to her dad’s healing!)
Now weren’t those better than the State of Florida v. Casey Anthony? We’ll keep you posted on the developments as they unfold!
Our summer has just gotten started and I’m trying not to think about this being our last one with Noah. It also marks the end of jr. high for Olivia, which is capped in France by passing a nationwide exam on the year’s learning. After a year of constant harping by the teachers and 2 formal practice exams, this hand-written test is graded by a human, but not returned, nor given a precise grade when results are viewed on the internet. Just “passed,” “average,” “better than average,” or “very good.” (If you fail, they don’t even bother to list your name. In Olivia’s class of 17, 2 failed, several only passed, and only 1 did very well.) Olivia did “better than average” and our “baby” will be the first to tackle 3 yrs of French high school. We’d like to reward her with a set of books she’s been drooling over: the Anne of Green Gables series.
Because they are expensive in euros from amazon France, we thought we’d ask if any of our readers had copies that they would like to pass on to her? She would also like to sell the first 11 books in the Mandie series (great Christian mysteries for pre-teens, like new.) Are there any takers for $30?
Until September, we’ll be having fun with a few family day outings, sprucing up the primary school building, installing new (used) computers in the lab, continuing 2 hours of mid-week worship, getting Noah ready for his senior year, and attending the annual mandatory YWAM staff conference in Champagne at the end of August, while simultaneously trying to celebrate David’s 50th and our 25th anniversary!
Our readers have been pretty quiet this year – Do stay in touch!
Imagine attending a church where almost everyone grew up in a dysfunctional family.
Now imagine that half the congregation consists of older single women. This reflects a particular dynamic in France’s history where everyone was married in the Catholic Church, but many were not living out any kind of real faith. If the woman, who is typically more spiritually sensitive, had a born-again experience, she was often rejected by the family and depended on the evangelical church for emotional support after the marriage dissolved. Those who converted at a younger age have lacked godly young men to choose from, and also remained single. Those who were born into an evangelical family are rare indeed.
Next, imagine most of the married couples struggling so much that only one spouse attends regularly, and the pastor never teaches on marriage for fear of putting off all the singles. (And we’ve noticed that any seminars offered occasionally by ministries in the area are lightweight weekends that do not address serious issues.)
Now picture the behavior of the children of these single moms and limping marriages.
Finally, imagine that same church without a paid, trained family or children’s pastor on staff.
Welcome to the average French church, ours included.
Yes, I have bragged about our radical worship and our big faith for our big building, but our body was still full of hurting people in self-protection mode and our vision to impact our city would go nowhere fast unless some healing happened. Well, we turned a corner this month , and I am so honored to be one of the drivers. It’s time to tell the whole story…
12 years ago, when we were being sent out on the mission field by our church, I received a prophecy that I would be involved in counseling. Like Abraham’s wife Sarah, I laughed. I wanted breakthroughs for myself and others, but not enough to go back to school in order to be qualified. I also hadn’t heard a single person say that counseling changed their life, but that it simply facilitated a lifelong process.
During our 2 years running YWAM schools in Scotland, I saw that pastoral care was such a necessary component that students with those giftings took on the role for other struggling students when they saw it lacking in the staff. I started getting hungry.
Then 2 years ago, Janet Richards brought the Sozo inner healing ministry from Bethel Church to our church and trained some of us who were around during the summer and could follow English. (This is a Greek word meaning “saved, healed, and delivered” used in the Gospels to describe Jesus’ impact on people.) It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. The tools were simple to learn and use, and after a gentle 2 hours or less, most people experienced an intimate encounter with the Trinity that started them down a new path of walking in confidence as a beloved child in the arms of their happy heavenly family, whose every need will be met. And for a culture who had no emotional needs met as children, this kind of healing must follow salvation in order for them to be a healthy part of the Body of Christ. (And now you know why the Parisians have such a bad reputation!)
In the last 9 months, as the first Sozo team in France, we’ve led 30 other people down this path, and we have a 3-month waiting list. We’ve offered these sessions without charge to our body,
and I fully expect that we will have ministered to almost everyone at least once, by the end of the year. And as it expands outside the church walls, I anticipate this as a source of additional income for us as people recommend us to friends and family members.
That corner I mentioned, was turned when we held a Sozo testimony night at church recently. I had already testified about my personal victories over rejection and our healed marriage, but that night, I had something even better: I had just returned from visiting my family in Phoenix and had the privilege of doing sessions with my parents and my brother. I tearfully announced that my brother was healed and delivered of the shame and guilt that had plagued him his whole life, and our relationship, that was stolen over 30 years ago has been completely restored!! He celebrated his own resurrection on Easter Sunday this year and I am completely undone every time I think about how God aligned everything that allowed me to be part of it.
This was followed by several more testimonies and by the end of the evening, there was a definite shift: Up until that night, we all had to be very discreet and people were ashamed to admit they needed help and kept the experience to themselves. After the service, people flocked for an appt., and at a gathering the next day people talked freely about their specific struggles with me that they hoped we could address. FREEDOM!! Another person remarked that love was growing in the atmosphere in the church!
We are offering training next month in order to enlarge our team and better equip those who pray for the sick in our healing rooms. We’ve also just started to invade the school by leading groups of kids in “heavenly encounters” (quality time with Jesus through visits to heaven in their imaginations) and doing mini-group Sozo sessions to close doors of fear and hate in their lives. It beats the heck out of a flannelgraph story.
Do you sense an acceleration towards the end of the age with increased instability, natural disasters and shifts in economic and political powers? But at the same time, God is releasing more effective evangelism through media and technology, greater supernatural gifts, and quicker inner healing so that we are ready to be victorious in our assignments that will hasten Christ’s return!
Are you getting ready?
PS: The other goal of my trip home was to have Noah do some college visits, and God set this up as well: Not only did Noah firmly decide on the School of Informatics at IUPUI (Indianapolis) to study an aspect of game design, he also met a soulmate at Rachel’s young adult group who will start his studies there next year in the same program! They both got prayer and prophecy for their futures and want to impact gaming for the Kingdom of God. He also benefited from a Sozo while home and will finish his junior year wearing his first suit to the big school Spring Banquet with his first date.
When your testimony revolves around a healed marriage 15 yrs ago, it’s easy to coast and think, “We’ve got that covered.” We’ve had a couple of boosts since then, but nothing like what happened to us 2 weeks ago. The Richards highly recommended this 5-day version of an 18 week course, started by a couple from Bethel Church 3 yrs ago called Love After Marriage. This is the same church that has fueled our inner healing ministry and whose teachings have transformed our minds and spirits in the last year. So when we found out that a bi-lingual training course was happening over in Germany, we eagerly set aside the week (to celebrate our 25th anniv. + my birthday a little early) and watched the 1100 euros come in to cover all the costs!
The actual course is well-described on their website. Here is OUR testimony from 50 intense hours together:
I discovered hidden self-rejection that was hindering my ministry and my marriage, got rid of it, and have tools to attack it if it comes back!
We learned to stop trying to solve relational problems with our minds, which fed arguments and rarely worked. Now we ask the Holy Spirit for revelation instead. Wow – it came in waves that week. We could suddenly see the spiritual roots of our behavior and attacked the evil spirit attached to that sin (often in our family line) instead of each other.
We learned a method to reconcile with each other to heal important wounds that were 25 years old and that we had given up on ever resolving. Behold, He really can make all things new and it’s even better when it happens in the springtime when creation is doing the same thing!!
We were asked to write and then read a letter from Jesus to our spouse, with the help of the Holy Spirit. David had me in tears as he recounted how much Jesus loves to dance with me. The bonus was that our 10-hr days of sitting were broken up by learning to dance as a couple to a certain romantic worship song, and by Friday, we were in perfect sync, like I’d always dreamed of!
We were reminded that our physical intimacy is of high importance to God because it is a declaration of the restoration of being emotionally, physically, and spiritually “naked and unashamed” with each other and with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus. We “nailed to the cross” a list of issues that have kept us from having “a more perfect union” and we have invited the Holy Spirit into our bed to break us out of old patterns and help us walk out the Song of Solomon in deeper ways…
I have heard that the French tend to believe that passion can only exist in a context of adultery, so one of our “ministries” is marital public affection. We are a very visible couple in the church, so our actions give a model for the youth and create hope and desire in the broken marriages around us. Our pastor and school founder is desperate for help in this area, knowing full well that healthier couples mean happier students at our school.
We also know that when we lead worship with deeper love and unity between us, it can only enhance greater intimacy in worship for our church body, and we saw concrete evidence on the Sunday of our return: the husband/father of the little boys that I help care for unplugged his computer recently to focus on writing music. He had also gone through an inner healing session with us about a month ago. His countenance and demeanor have changed drastically and his song that we sang could have been an advertisement for what David and I had just lived! We have been waiting a long time to see the French write their own intimate worship songs from healed hearts (instead of singing translations) and it has happened! And the second time it was played (in the context of our 12 hr. tabernacle) couples started waltzing to it!! It brought tears to my eyes…
This year’s royal wedding in Britain has become a prophetic sign for me – William and Kate decided to wed at the same time that God is restoring us for the second half of our married life! What a wonderful reminder that God is preparing us all for the ultimate royal wedding with King Jesus. The marriage at the end of Revelation takes us back to Genesis: access to the Tree of Life in the garden await us in the new heavens and the new earth, but now the snake is forever trapped in his lake of fire. We will spend eternity naked and unashamed with everyone else who has ever said, “I do” to Jesus while on the earth, but why not join us and start living eternity now ?
Noah and I leave for Phoenix on Saturday. I will miss David like never before…
Over Christmas, we made a little film of our life here and it includes an abbreviated tour of our house. We are very excited about it and we hope it will give our supporters a better idea of what they are supporting. I used to complain about my house and our inability to make it the home of my dreams, but now I know better. If I bless my house, it will bless me. I also read a book recently by a woman who gets visions of heaven. She reports that we will have the house of our dreams to enjoy for eternity, (and has cool testimonies to back it up,) so I am no longer worked up about where I live for just 30-40 more short years!
But back to our theme, it seems that in the last couple of months, God has been using my house to communicate deeper things with me, and there’s nothing like a secret message to liven up a housewife’s day! Let’s start with the trash…
I have 15 wastebaskets in my house, thanks in part to all the recycling we have to do. Ten years ago, during our time in Germany, this new idea took a huge amount of mental and physical energy. Now it is second nature. In my kitchen alone, I have a trash can for non-recyclables, a pedal bin for biodegradables, and a bag for collecting paper, plastics, and aluminum. Under my stairs, I store the bags until pick-up day and have a bigger bin in which to collect my little cornstarch bags of biodegradables. In another small closet nearby, I collect my glass in a cardboard box and toss regular trash bags into a normal trash bin. But to encourage better recycling and make collection fees more fair, we will be given a new bin next month with an electronic chip. On collection day, it will be weighed and we will be charged accordingly. And what message is coming from all of this?
Well, January has been a quieter month, so I’m taking advantage of it and feeding a lot of good books that are making me hungry for more of God. If I’m serious about pursuing that, I have to look at how I spend my time. Having my trash weighed every week is a good reminder for me to weigh in where my time was wasted. A line from a favorite worship album is my new mantra: “I’m makin’ plans to waste my life on You…” And God seems to be using all the bottles in my house as a visual aid right now. It seems they are all getting empty at the same time: the oils and vinegars in my kitchen, the laundry detergent and softener, my shampoo, my astringent and face cream, the hand soap. Having this many nearly empty bottles make me a little nuts because I need to buy the replacements, but have no convenient storage for them while waiting to finish those last drops. So my house feels cluttered for a few weeks until the switch is made. God has done a lot of work in me in the last year, but compared to what I’m reading in these books, I feel like one of those bottles, and I am restless to get filled up with more of Him.
In stark contrast to the trash cans, I have only 6 windows in my house, and 3 of them need to be replaced. 2 of them are the front windows right on the street, so they let in lots of noise and cold air. The French literally shutter themselves in at night for privacy, but I like to keep the shutters open so that passers by can see the life going on inside. (But in the winter, there is so much condensation that they see nothing! ) So in order to keep out the bad and still be a lighthouse in the neighborhood, I’m allowing window salesmen to come to the house for estimates. This has been very entertaining because they are some of the few non-Christians to darken my door, and I love sharing who we are and how God provides for our needs, just to see their reaction!
Moving on to my cramped cave-like laundry room, I have a top of the line washer and dryer, which I justify, since laundry is one of my ministries here (see the dvd.) Anyway, you might recall that we had a generous Christmas this year. I just wanted to mention that the house, via the washing machine, contributed to that when it stopped working and started blinking at us to check the filter. We dug out $9 in change! None of us keeps loose change in our pockets, so that was a real mystery. That was only 1 of many financial miracles in the last 2 months and God just keeps reinforcing the fact that He will continue to provide for us in a myriad of ways.
And then in my kitchen, I had hung this image taken from a French picture book. The theme was “Don’t worry, be happy!” (and this positive outlook is extremely rare in French children’s literature.) It was a very powerful and prophetic story for Noah and I ten years ago when we were really struggling with his schooling upon arrival in France. So I decided to frame the image and keep it before me until joy was a permanent reality in lives. Well, over Christmas I spontaneously grabbed Noah’s hand and asked him to dance with me while worship music was blaring in the kitchen, and he did! It was then that I knew that God had done a that work in both of us and that it was time to take the picture down. Another thing worth noting is that Noah has outgrown our house this year: There are 3 places where anyone over 5’10” has to duck. David has an automatic sensor, but my son was hitting his skull on a regular basis during his 3 weeks at home. Combined with the positive changes I saw in him over the break, this physical manifestation reassures me that he is ready to move on to “bigger things!”
In the verse, “As for me and my house(hold), we will serve the Lord,” the Hebrew word for “house(hold)” really does include the physical building. The French tend to decorate their homes with impersonal and generic art and decor, but chez nous everything on the walls has a story and testifies of God’s personal touch on our lives. What is your house saying to you and the world?
I have discovered “faisselle.” I’d seen this product in the dairy aisle, but because I didn’t know what it was and had become intolerant of milk and yogurt, (as well as coffee, tea, and o.j.) I never bought it. Then a friend ordered it at a restaurant and I had a spoonful. It’s a sour cream look-alike in complex packaging, but is actually a cheese. They like to eat it with honey for dessert. So why am I happy? Because honey in “sour cream” is a new taste sensation and I can digest cheeses! The recipe in the packaging recommended dumping it on french toast and sweetening it with maple syrup instead – YUM – Breakfast is fun again!
A YWAM intercession team of 8 came to our living room to pray for us and our house specifically. The timing was perfect because I had just had a rare attack of fear come on me after seeing x-rays of my neck with proof of encroaching arthritis. We kicked fear in the head that day.
Olivia is working at giant fish store for this year’s “sta-ahge,” as she continues to explore career paths the French way. She made an excellent choice since this is the coldest week of the year and the building is naturally heated and humidified by hundreds of fish tanks.
My son’s e-mails have become downright affectionate. As a freshman, he signed off as “Noah.” As a sophomore, he warmed up with “Love, Noah.” But his last e-mail finished with “I love you!” My cup runneth over.
I got to see the Christmas lights along the Champs Elysées with my own eyes in the middle of a rare Parisian snowstorm. We won’t talk about what happens when drivers abandon their cars and descend to join the throngs in the subway. Obviously, I lived to tell about it.
While I was shlepping around Paris, helping to plant the sozo inner healing ministry there, my husband was pulling off a handyman tour de force in my tiny laundry room. He has made Jesus’ words a living reality for me: My (laundry) yoke is now easy and the burden is light!
In preparation for Rachel’s much anticipated Christmas homecoming, I’ve done lots of decluttering and redecorating. Aaaaah!
I volunteered to set-up/decorate tables for the teacher’s Christmas banquet, but I’ll have my creative/tall kids around to help me!
We received a generous gift and a big inheritance check both this month!, so I am not shopping at the Salvation Army this year!
We get to give our family testimony during the church Christmas service with all 5 of us present and wearing new clothes!
I know France has gotten a lot of negative press lately, but we feel far removed from it in our little corner. October has been filled with wonderful inner healing sessions twice a week and making sure my cleaning moms are in place and appreciated. David has been actively trying to work less and create more margins in daily life for God to move. Now we are in the middle of our 2-week fall school break and it has been full of Kodak moments! So this month I’m replacing a wordy newsletter with a mini-photo album.
I want to dedicate this month’s newsletter to Larry McKim and Laurie Spicer who passed away on the same day earlier this month. Larry and his wife Penny have been our faithful financial supporters from the day of our departure for Europe and hosted the church missions support group for a season. Laurie was a faithful reader who never failed to reply to every newsletter with an encouraging comment, even while battling cancer. We will miss them both.
September is the month when we ask God to help us lay out a new schedule for the school year. Keeping our focus sharp and narrow for the long haul is always a challenge. This year our roles could best be described as the title above, in that we’re cleaning up dirty spaces of all kinds. There isn’t a good translation for "janitor" in French. The dictionary offers "gardien" and "concierge," but those sound like positions with some semblance of authority over the building. (The French words are probably closer to what I’m writing about this month, but "Concierges for Christ" sounds a bit stuffy.)
This summer I saw a real jump in my joy, energy, and intimacy with God, so I was ready to give more at school this year, but I didn’t know where. Then two hours before Back-To-School night, I learned that the woman who had organized all the school cleaning for the last couple of years had quit. Keeping in mind that we have no school janitor, I quickly came up with a simpler way to organize the parent volunteers, because it looked like this task would fall on me. (The director had called me the day before asking for help without knowing the ball had been dropped completely.) Knowing that this meeting is the only time we have most of the parents all in one room, I knew that an enthusiastic American pep talk was key to getting parents on board and jump-starting a cleaning schedule. So David blessed my Martha anointing from his sick bed, and I dashed off to the meeting, unable to get ahold of the director to warn him of my rash decision. Based on the applause following my 3-minute speech, I think I made an impact and at least everyone knows who I am now! With the blessing of the directors and Jesus making the yoke light, I’m having fun creating attractive correspondence and posters (+ making sure that each area is well-stocked with supplies) to make it feel more like teamwork than indentured servanthood. The humbling part is that everything I write has to be proofread by a French person! Out of 75 families, 22 serve the school in alternate ways and 17 are unavailable (so they opt to pay a $200 fee instead.) This leaves me with 36 moms to organize, 16 of whom have still made no commitment 2 weeks later. I don’t know if that’s an improvement or not, but Jesus has it under control!
By continuing in our role as worship leaders, we are still cleaning up the spiritual atmosphere of the country. Most of time we’re breaking out in a sweat while we do it on Sunday mornings, which means our job must not be done, and I sweat just as much while I continue to do the monthly cleaning of our physical sanctuary! Our church body also seems to be in a season of bringing the dirt into the light. It is considered taboo to interfere in private family life here and attending courses for help is an admission of failure, so they suffer in silence until it is too late. Because several quiet families have suddenly imploded in dramatic ways in the last few months, the elders are eager to start the inner healing ministry next month. We’re seeing the spirit of death trying to invade our school families too, and hope to use our tools to clean out that domain as well!
David is continuing in his IT role at school. His current conundrum is that when he turns on an internet content filter for the student computers, it disrupts the wireless connection in the chateau that is vital for the profs and residents, who all use laptops. The enemy is obviously involved in that mess and David is still trying to find the most efficient product to deal with it. On that note, I volunteered to keep the computer room floor swept so that I could intercede at the same time, joining David in taking spiritual authority over this corner of the chateau. We also continue to enjoy well-timed extra pocket money earned by cleaning out dirty PCs for reasonable rates.
Olivia has also jumped in on the cleaning frenzy at many levels: from new levels of personal hygiene habits to replacing facebook time with God time. We’ve also removed the stress of music school this year and bathe in listening to her play and sing worship songs in the evenings instead. We are hosting her classmate Pauline 2 nights/week again this year and hope to have a greater impact on her life. After a year, she’s suddenly gotten a breakthrough in understanding us during casual conversation and we hope this is a prophetic sign for more in other areas of her life!
With new teammates arriving this year, our cleaning power will be even more effective – so stay tuned for the results!
Love, Angela Joy
SMOOTHIES INVADE ALSACE
The end of June annual school fete became an opportunity to introduce the concept of “smoothies” to the French in Alsace. Angela bought the 4 ingredients, the local McDonald’s provided the cups and straws, and the neighboring Children’s Home provided the blender. By word of mouth, sales of the new strawberry-banana drink picked up briskly during the hot afternoon, after a slow start. It started to resemble a cooking class, as several stood around to observe the process, ask questions concerning variations, and jot down the recipe.
Commercial smoothies have just started appearing on French supermarket shelves in the last year, but have been overlooked, not only because of the high price, but perhaps because the word is unpronounceable for French speakers. McDonald’s offered their own artificial-tasting version this summer and called it a “frappé,” which rolls off the tongue much easier.
CHRISTIANS ENERGIZED IN CHAMPAGNE
Last week, the Leighs upgraded their car for a week by trading with friends, and drove 5 hours to the nearest YWAM base in the Champagne region. The goal was to lead daily worship for a family camp for friends/alumni of YWAM. Olivia brought a friend and accompanied on the keyboard. Noah operated the English/French song lyric projection. Angela introduced “the 7 Hebrew words for praise” to warm up a receptive audience of mixed ages and cultures early in the morning. Many attendees were spiritually and emotionally drained on arrival, but a large staff enabled the camp to roll smoothly and needs were attended to with private prayer each afternoon. Daniel Schaerer, the founder of YWAM France, was the week’s speaker and clearly a spiritual father for the French. By the end of the week, the attendees were worshiping with gusto and left restored. The Leigh family enjoyed being together for a rare family vacation, sharing meals outdoors with old and new friends, and receiving daily appreciation for their ministry contribution. David will make the same drive again one week later for the national conference.
TEENAGER MATURES OVERNIGHT
A few days later, Olivia Leigh embarked on her memorable trans-atlantic journey. She gained a new self-confidence in asking strangers for help in getting around airports. Family witnesses declared that one would never have known that she had been separated from her sister for 18 months with a 7 year age difference. Olivia brought a breath of fresh air into the house and the girls bonded immediately. Many good seeds were planted during her camp, even though a virus swept through the 2nd week. This was a blessing in disguise for Olivia, as being ill facilitated sleeping several hours during the long solo flight back. Now home, she’s receiving new revelation about how others feel – God is exposing her “normal” egocentric thoughts supernaturally so that she can live out the Golden Rule sooner.
“Mom, it must be the worst feeling in the world to know that your teen is embarrassed by you. Seriously.”
RENOVATION GETS GREEN LIGHT
In early August, a Christian construction professional came to the Leigh home with drawings, and an estimate to pour new stairs and install a downstairs half bath to replace the primitive toilet room on the 2nd floor. The Leighs believe that God is in agreement with this timing, and can’t wait to see how He provides.
TEEN WORKS WITH GOOD ATTITUDE
Noah Leigh engaged in a summer of service, not only helping around the house and with worship support, but also helping 2 families move and joining a Canadian construction team for 2 weeks of work at the school, finishing an additional classroom. “Too bad it won’t count for the community service credits that I have to earn for school,” Noah laments. “Now they have to be earned during the school year.” He will be starting his junior year next week, which includes the traditional class trip to Normandy and Paris in the spring. He also looks forward to being on Yearbook staff. Next summer will be his turn to fly to the States for a college visit.
Olivia is head-over-heels in love with Tim Burton’s latest film Alice in Wonderland. She’s seen it in English and in French in the theater and David and I finally watched it with her, albeit on a small screen, this weekend. Considering what Olivia is living right now, I completely understand her reaction. And I’m compelled to fill all of you in, especially now that she has starred in a film of her own!
In case you haven’t seen it or read the books, the film is a combination of both books about Alice by Lewis Carroll, but with more of an actual plot than the original stories. I’d call it an improvement, but then I’m not a big fan of fantasy literature. In this movie still, you see Alice, looking more like Joan of Arc, facing her greatest fear. If I think of Olivia and take this image further, I see the White Queen resembling the Holy Spirit and the Mad Hatter as Jesus, standing with her. (Great spiritual armor too!)
And that pretty much sums up Olivia’s last few months as an 8th grader. Up until now, she’s been enjoying her role as the baby of the family and it was easy to treat her that way. But this spring, the French school system demanded that she stare adulthood in the face. Dealing with one fear after another in quick succession has been exhausting and exhilarating, but God made sure she had a real spiritual breakthrough with Him in order to get through it all in one piece!
The first hurdle was a test of her piano-playing called “Fin du Premier Cycle” that is taken after achieving a certain level on your instrument. After 6 years of study, this was the first time her playing had ever been judged, so you can imagine the stress. She received the equivalent of a “B” and I would call that a fair assessment, considering how much she’s struggled this year with her teacher and her classical pieces. Her final recital was last week and it was a beautiful performance, closing this chapter of her training. From here on out, her focus will be improvisational worship-leading, which she has already gotten a taste of in the context of our monthly tabernacles. Have a peek here!
The next hurdle was “The Stage” (pronounced with a French “ah.”) This is when all the 14-16 yr. olds in France must descend on businesses who agree to let them observe the workplace for 3 days. They are taught to write a formal letter of inquiry to 5 businesses of interest and await a positive response. The stress started when all of Olivia’s contacts refused her request (and her self-esteem took a dive when all her other friends got several affirmative replies!) This meant we had to start cold-calling at the last minute, and frankly, calling a French stranger on the phone makes all 3 of us quiver in our boots. But God had mercy on us – Olivia reluctantly agreed to consider the local Christian radio station since she knew a classmate had gotten accepted by them but ended up choosing another option instead. I had a friend who did translation for the director of the station and she gave us his personal e-mail. So in the nick of time, Olivia was taken on, and it turned out to be a dream internship, where she was showered with attention by the employees and learned all the secrets of radio. She has to do this again next year, but now she’s looking forward to it!
Now about her screen debut: Our school decided to enter a Christian short-film festival this spring that had to be based on the 10 commandments. The script was conceived by the 8-10 yr olds and Olivia’s classmates were the primary actors. The theme was “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” illustrated through the parable of the banquet in Luke 14:15-20, and they needed to cast a rich man and his wife. Apparently, all the girls were extremely reluctant to be seen on screen as the wife of a boy in their class, except for Olivia. The film won third place – the “love at first sight” award by the judges, partly because this was the only one of the top 12 finalists that was done by students! They spent 3 days shooting for an 8 min. film and happily, the only French is the introduction of the story in the first minute, so read the parable, be prepared to put it in a modern day context and and enjoy a taste of our school and local surroundings!
Her final hurdle will happen this summer when she flies to America without us. Our friend Alana (Olivia’s activities also get good press on her blog) will accompany her almost to Indianapolis, and then she will take a direct flight home alone from Chicago one month later. As if that is not scary enough, she will also travel to Kansas City during that time to attend a 2-week camp where she won’t know a single soul. Of course, time with her sister after 18 months apart and with grandparents after 4-6 yrs apart will be a fabulous recompense for conquering the fear of a month’s separation and international travel. (I just wish I could surgically attach her passport to her body for safe-keeping!) Prayers on her behalf during the month of July would be much appreciated!
In summary, I think this quote from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland sums up Olivia’s life quite nicely right now:
“…so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.”
Love from a proud mama,
PS: My trip to Paris was wonderful in every way and the escape I needed!!