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!!
Reading back through old newsletters, I realize that I have never mentioned that April has been a real spiritual mile marker for me over the years. God had me on his calendar again this year, and here’s a little history to prove it: (Good thing I took some notes – my memory isn’t that great!)
Are you convinced yet? Has anyone else seen a pattern like this in their life or is it just me?
Last month, I gave out enormously in every domain: substitute teaching at school, strangers hosted every weekend, trying not to over-parent Noah home for spring break, and overtime babysitting for the pregnant mama living on the 4th floor during the days surrounding her delivery. (He was due on my birthday, but stayed put another 4 days!) It continued into April with a big Easter and David playing worship the following week at a nearby camp, while I spent my mornings with one of Olivia’s classmates. (He’s got a learning disability that the French won’t diagnose and book reports have been a nightmare for the family. So he and I digested an easier book together and regurgitated a book report while his mom was at work, saving her sanity.)
Let’s all sing together now, shall we? “Fill my cup, Lord, I lift it up, Lord…”
What kept me from total meltdown was knowing that it was APRIL and I knew God had me penciled in. David, Olivia and I were booked for a 3+ day conference with Bill Johnson (pastor of Bethel Church) at a church in Germany, 2.5 hrs away. We had been feeding on his books and Sunday morning teachings on the Internet all year, and we were eager for the anointing of a live experience. And we were so grateful that he was coming to us. Neither David nor I can fathom surviving air travel from the east side of France to the west side of America. Isn’t that almost half way around the globe?? But by the end of the conference, we felt like we had done just that!
I don’t know if you remember the details of my trip to England last fall, but it was so bad that I compared it to being a D-day soldier. I’d venture to say that this trip was just as tough. I know God would not call our family to Europe and then make travel an impossibility, so I must conclude that the enemy is trying to make us believe that this is the truth. What he doesn’t realize is that I will NOT stay trapped in my dark little house and miss what God has for me through the nations at my doorstep! I know that God uses me to bless my family and others with my home, but MY needs are not met until I lock up all the daily demands with my house key and walk away rolling a suitcase behind me.
Back to the trip. I justified plagiarizing St.Luke’s book title because though we didn’t have to endure shipwrecks and beatings, we did have to deal gracefully with volcanic fallout and constant combinations of weakness, colds, and migraines.
We David also made the round trip twice. This was because the conference ran from Sat. night to Tues. night, and Olivia decided school would be more fun than hanging out at an adult conference with a sick, grouchy mother and a tired dad. We couldn’t blame her. The big name worship leader couldn’t fly in from Ireland and Bill was delayed, driving instead of flying from Norway! So we drove home Sunday night and drove back Monday morning, after a refreshing night’s sleep, glory to God. Though physical struggles continued, we hung on every word during the teachings, enjoyed a few meals in outdoor cafes with old and new friends, and I got a breakthrough I needed after Bill’s impartation by laying on of hands to every one in attendance. Another big blessing/healing for me was the German’s embrace of English. (I have issues about German because everyone in the family has studied it except me, so I feel like the village idiot whenever we visit!) They worship with just as much energy in English as they do in German and everyone speaks enough to get by. Have I mentioned that this is not the case in France? And because our hotel owner spoke so well, we were able to pray with her when we checked out. She was very receptive, as a fully booked week had just gotten canceled because of the volcanic activity. What a privilege to be able to take what you have received and give it back out to a hurting world…
As soon as we got back, the demands clamored for my attention: I got calls to do more substitute teaching, to host visiting students from Holland, and to help out my 4th floor family, who were all sick as well. And I said “NO” to all of them. (But I did attend a prophetic art seminar on Sat. and worked through those pesky mother/son issues with pastels and mixed media. Aaaaah…) Now I’m looking forward to a week to recover and reflect on all I’ve received before I hop on a train next Friday and escape for some “Paris in the Spring” tonic with girlfriends during the France en Feu conference. Will the devil give up and leave me alone this time? You’ll just have to stay tuned to find out!
I felt strongly that God wanted me to set aside Feb. for Him – Call it an early Lent. I had already started fasting all sweets in January and the church asked us to fast in some way during Feb., so I continued and David fasted solid food on Mondays. Thanks to a book called Listening Prayer, I also discovered the pleasures of journaling at last, really enriching my time. With a 2-week school vacation this month, demands were light, making it easy to spend most mornings in my “new” leather recliner, tasting the joys of being filled up with God on a daily basis. Even though I had an amazing grace for the fast, I was slightly disappointed that it didn’t alleviate a few migraines, nor did I lose a single pound, though it did break my snacking habit! February ended up being the calm before the storm, as now I’m deep into a month chock full of hospitality, accompanied by loud construction in the courtyard that jars my “quiet time.”
The church had also planned an extended tabernacle on Feb 27th from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. that coincided with Purim and ended our fasts. David and I were among the handful of people that attended the entire 12 hours. This is still part of our vision here, so we gave it our all. It was miraculous that I was able to prepare all week and still have energy to participate fully – Another benefit of my fast? While I did most of the work ahead of time to transform the church in the visible realm, David was sweating it out as it happened, making sure the invisible ran smoothly in the technical and sound areas. When we were down to our last musical group change, he was finally able to step down and accompany on the drum set, worshiping with the last bit of strength he had left. So what does a 12 hr.”sacrifice of praise” look like? Here’s a handy step-by-step illustrated guide:
65 years ago this month, American GIs rolled into Alsace and declared freedom from German tyranny. This moment is refreshed for the citizens every 5 years with a parade, complete with men driving US military vehicles while tossing chewing gum to happy spectators. This year when they rolled by, I couldn’t stop the tears. And while visiting the temporary exhibition of articles, photos, and war paraphernalia, I learned 2 more details that hit me emotionally: The Nazis entered Alsace on my birthday (years before me,) and US soldiers used Barbasol Shaving Cream that was proudly made in… Indianapolis. That tube and box, and the first aid supplies displayed next to it provided the only English text in the hall. I’m glad people walk away from that glass case thinking that America was part of the healing. And here I am walking in the same role spiritually where God has sent us 60 years later. Enjoy the photos and roll over them for more details…
I think I also connected to the event because I had just discovered a French author, Joseph Joffo, that Olivia recommended to me. The first book was called ” A Bag of Marbles ,” and is the true story of he and his brother spending a year outrunning the SS as anti-Semitic activities encroach on Paris. Though they were not practicing Jews, it was clear that God had His hand of protection on them, and it was nothing short of gripping. In the sequel called ” Foosball ,” he describes a much calmer life after the war as a teenager, but befriending a certain American soldier added adventure to his days that were otherwise filled with dreams of becoming a famous boxer in Las Vegas like Joe Louis. Even though I had to wade through mountains of French slang used in that era, it was quite a history lesson. It also made me proud to be an American. When I speak to a stranger here, often they will assume that I’m English. When I correct them, without fail, their countenance changes completely, and they are eager to talk. I have no doubt that those friendly, generous GIs unloading post-war supply trucks to desperate Europeans paved the way for me.
We are also celebrating a personal milestone at the same time – 10 years on the field – and I am suddenly seeing a lot of parallels to these books. I am so grateful that God finally intervened in our small, selfish lives, healed our marriage, put us on the path of serving others, and broke my heart for France. And when we started to feel our way there independently, it looked a lot like Joffo and his brother, living on the thrill of not knowing what the next step would be until it was time to take it, and watching God lead us in supernatural ways through the highs and lows of German family training, Slovakian outreaches, Scottish life as YWAM school staff, language students in the Alps, and more staffing in the south of France. Those boys grew up fast in that book and our faith grew at the same pace during those first 5 years. But now that we’ve arrived at our “promised land,” life has become more routine, much like the second book. With our gradual assimilation into this culture, we also started struggling against the influence of the negative spiritual forces here. And just as the GI blessed Joffo and his corner of Paris, visits by other Americans (and English) have been crucial to keep us strengthened and encouraged personally. But this year some of our reinforcements are coming to stay, not just to visit, and this is the dynamic we’ve been waiting for. I wonder how much of our service here has been done in the flesh, because our bodies feel like they have aged a lot more than just 10 years! With teammates who model an interior life that knows how to listen and wait on God to win our battles for us, we hope to be much more efficient in this next season!
Unfortunately, Joffo’s dreams of tasting America’s riches never come to pass, but at least 14 of our church members have traveled to the U.S. and other countries in the last year to drink from other spiritual wells needed to hasten freedom from their French mindsets that can keep them from moving forward in their walk with the Lord. This is such a clear picture of how desperately France needs input from “the nations“- the unique callings and giftings of people groups that contribute to the rich diversity of the body of Christ – in order to have a full understanding of their identity and role in the Kingdom of God. “Freedom!” was the prophetic word declared over me during our sending-off service 11 years ago. And as Jesus works that out in me in deeper ways, I pray that I will be part of the spiritual liberation of this people in ways that will make the events of 1945 pale in comparison!
This year, Olivia is thrilled to have an English class tailor-made for her alone, thanks to Beckie – a British college student who is spending a year at our school to complete her French degree. In December, they read "A Christmas Carol" together while the rest of her class struggled to master the present continuous tense – Ha! I confess that I approached Christmas with a Scrooge-like attitude this year, based on past experience:
You may recall that last year we were sick and broke the week before Christmas. The year before I moaned about my husband’s inability to fill my stocking. Earlier years in Europe went unrecorded in my newsletters, but in general, they were a real adjustment for my kids, living in quarters too cramped for a nice tree, missing Rocky Mountain snow, and getting cabin fever with everything closed and no family to visit, which every other French person is obligated to do at this time of year. Going back even further, our pre-missionary holidays in Denver were still very hard on me since Christmas was couched between Noah, born on his aunt’s birthday in early Dec. and Olivia, born on my mother’s birthday in early January 2 years later.
So this year, the Ghost of Christmas Past took up residence in my soul and convinced me that this was another year to dread: Rachel would be at a rare gathering of my whole family at Christmas in the SW and I would not. Almost 14, Olivia was mourning the end of "Christmas Magic." I imagined Noah would come home bearing only dirty laundry and an attitude. I was sure we couldn’t escape some version of the flu due to miserable weather of the rainy kind, and was extremely skeptical about the timing of Christmas money with the supporting church transition. So I announced to everyone in October that it was high time that the family started thinking about how to meet Mom’s needs for once, and threatened to leave the country if necessary (at least an hour into Germany for a day at the thermal baths!)
Then on Dec.12th I walked into a Salvation Army store and saw the Christmas gift of my dreams – a comfortable leather sofa for $200. (Our furniture was shipped with us from Denver and is starting to show its age.) When David said we couldn’t afford it, the Ghost of CP said, "I told you so," and I came home instead with Christmas shirts for him and a funky coat for me. When I relayed the story to my parents that evening, they had the money waiting in our Paypal account the next day with a message saying, "Enjoy your couch!" And suddenly, I didn’t need to go to Germany anymore.
The next day I got to "pay it forward" by playing taxi for 2 friends. One is a very pregnant mother of 3 who lives up 4 flights of stairs with no elevator, whose husband is working Mon.-Sat. and whose car died during the coldest week of the year. She is pretty trapped because her youngest needs to be carried down the stairs and her hips are so loose that it would be easy to fall in the process. She called when her cupboards were bare to see if I could take her and the 2 youngest to the grocery store. Fortunately I was feeling energetic that day: up 4 flights of stairs, mittens and hats and coats, down 4 flights of stairs, install car seats, load carts with 2 weeks of food, load sacks into the car, entertain the kids in the car while she makes a 2nd stop, unload groceries and boys, 4 flights of stairs x 4, help put it all in the cupboards, down 4 flights of stairs, remove car seats, head home. Two weeks later she needed to do it again. This time, I paid Olivia and her friend to babysit the 3 kids while we did it, and fortunately her husband was at home when we returned to carry it all up for us!
Back at the Salvation Army the next day,I was told that my dream had already been sold the week before, (but hadn’t been marked,) and the GCP started snickering again. However, there were at least 20 other couches in the store and several were leather, so I tried them all. I loved a butter cream leather recliner the most, but it wasn’t marked either, and I was afraid to ask about it for fear of disappointment. But first I settled on my second sofa choice and the manager came down $20 since it was in slightly worse condition than my first choice. That gave me the courage to ask the price of the recliner. "$20." As my jaw dropped, I kicked the ghost in the head and headed to the cashier. They would deliver them 4 days before Christmas and take our old one with them.
The same week, I was doing my Christmas week grocery shopping and suddenly heard live accordion music while putting a bag of frozen frog legs in my cart. Looking around, I spotted a man wearing a Santa hat playing by the entrance. It was an epiphanal moment that broke through the daily grind. I suddenly realized that I’m living my dream – celebrating Christmas in France. I got a little emotional and couldn’t wait to thank the man on my exit. Alas, by the time I got there, he was gone. Live music in grocery stores is pretty rare – I think he was Gabriel in disguise giving the GCP one more kick.
A few days later, we picked up Noah, who thoughtfully brought back a library book for Olivia’s pleasure, and did not pack an attitude! And magical weather of the snowy kind kicked in for the first weekend of Christmas break packed with festive events, completely unhampered by the flu.
When the delivery men showed up on Monday, I’m sure they had never seen an American get so excited about used furniture. And when Olivia caught a news blurb that a Salvation Army Major was shot in front of his adopted children on Christmas eve, we were both adamant about writing a letter to his family and contributing to the memorial fund – what a sobering example of the body of Christ giving their very lives to provide for others…
While it’s true that our Dec. deposits were delayed until after New Year’s, our den became a PC emergency room that month, (with Noah working the night shift,) providing a steady stream of euros. More angelic activity was evident when all our Christmas packages and last-minute Internet orders arrived by Christmas eve!
I end with a new rendition of Psalm 23, which lends itself nicely to a eulogy for burial of the Ghost of Christmas Past:
The Lord was my Christmas Shepherd, and I did not want.
He made me lie down on leather furniture. He led me beside downtrodden mothers.
He restored our souls. He led me in the path of gratefulness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though we walked through the cold, snowy streets of Guebwiller,
We caught no flu for You were with us. Secondhand coats, they comforted us.
You prepared a Christmas table before us in the presence of many froggies.
You anointed our heads with patience, and now our provision runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy has followed us all these 10 years in Europe,
but we can’t wait to dwell in the house of the Lord forever (with all of you.)
Happy New Year,
It’s obvious that God is still eager to see us mature in our trust in His provision to a greater degree – this month was almost as excruciating as the Channel crossing last month!
- The day after I sent the last newsletter, my dad was rushed to the hospital with chest pains. The bad news to go with this bad news was that they had just driven to their rental home for a couple of months where they have no land-line or Internet, so I was only able to talk to them once in the ICU during the whole 5-week episode.
- Black Forest Academy was closed down for 4 days with swine flu by the German government.
- I had spent a lot of money on fancy wall treatments for my long, dark, narrow hallway entrance (aka “the tunnel”) and the materials only covered 1/3 of the walls and I hated the result. Now what??
- A couple of years ago, a woman rented a room from the church and created some shadowbox frames with verses and paintings of Biblical scenes surrounded by dried flowers in a dated 70’s style. She was asking $25 – $100 and guess what? They didn’t sell and the rent didn’t get paid. She left town and her wares behind. We boxed them up and they sat in a corner gathering dust for a year.
- During Thanksgiving week our missions coordinator let us know that with the restructuring of the church under a new pastor, they would not be able to continue handling our support income, and as we mentioned last month, deposits have been pretty haphazard ever since. Our bank accounts were hitting new lows!
- At the same time, we got 2 parking tickets within days of each other. Then I drove to BFA to sell at their flea market to try to make a little grocery money. I actually lost more money than I made because I was caught speeding on radar. When we received that ticket in the mail along with the bank’s overdraft charges, we had to pray ourselves out of utter despair!
- Then it was time to celebrate Thanksgiving with 17 other English people. My British neighbor initiated it and it sounded fun… 3 weeks ago. She made it sound simple – she would deal with the turkey and hosting stress. I would make the pies and cranberry salad. The other families would bring simple side dishes and drinks. Then her husband got a job promotion, so she was really excited about it! Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out how to buy the ingredients I needed and get in a party mood as the hosting American.
And now the happy endings that prove that my Redeemer lives and He loves to redeem everything!
- Because my parents were in Phoenix instead of Las Cruces, they were close to my sister and a fine hospital. Dad was this close to a heart attack, and 4 stents later, he is a new man. Rachel will join my family for Christmas at their home this year. Wish I could be there to celebrate life with them!
- Noah escaped the swine flu and any other flu, for that matter, while the majority of his dorm-mates suffered to some degree. (Not having a roommate probably helped.) David just drove over to celebrate his 16th birthday with him. The gift he wanted the most was… an 8GB USB key. I miss going to the toy store and buying brightly colored things that move! His classes are a good fit this year and he is aiming high in his choices for college.
- A handyman friend showed up out of nowhere with a sudden interest to help me redeem the situation, even though he is completely renovating his own house. He re-plastered the entire “tunnel” in one day! Now I’m really taking my time to decide how to finish it, so as not to waste anymore money.
- I was going to offer to buy one of her frames from the church at half price in order to frame something of my own, and then I realized that I could recycle all of them. I have a dresser that is filled with nothing but artsy calendars, cards, and papers that I’ve collected over the years and done very little with. This was perfect – with no investment I could sell them for much less and split the profits with the church to redeem the situation. This has also provided some much needed balance in my life – doing something I love to do, rather than just what I should do. So I re-created 18 and sold 10 this weekend. Because our church here is aware of our tight transition, they graciously said that we could keep all the profits and buyers were complimentary and generous!
- For administering our support income, it looks like we may have found a new church connection, so for those of you who give regularly – please don’t send any further support to Denver after Dec. 15th. We’ll be sending new information as soon as possible.
- Thanksgiving was still tough going for me all the way around, but my salad was a big hit and our guests left happy! I even found “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” on DVD at the local grocery store a few weeks ago – nothing short of miraculous! By the way, we’ve just learned that our favorite grocery store is closing and this is hitting me harder than I thought it would. It’s the only place where I can always find foods that we really value: high quality (and some hard-to-find) fruit and veg, popcorn, natural peanut butter, and pecans. I’m not familiar with the store that will replace it, but I need some redemptive action here!
- And I’ve saved the best news for last: We are officially in the French healthcare system! Our expensive mandatory private healthcare only covered major medical, so now we have much lower premiums based on what David is earning, and we are enjoying regular reimbursements for my migraine meds and dr. visits. The timing couldn’t be better. Now we’re climbing the next administrative mountain. In France, families receive regular child benefits for school-aged children. Since the first hurdle took 5 yr. to accomplish, we just hope this one happens before Olivia moves out…